27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
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:
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Garland, Sir Charles Adermann, Mr Foster, Mr Kelly and Mr Killen.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition from certain residents of the western suburbs in the Sydney Metropolitan area and surrounding districts respectfully showeth:
That due to an expanding passenger air travel business together with larger and more powerful jet aircraft, aircraft noise has already become a serious problem for people living in the vicinity of airports.
That jet aircraft operations have a detrimental effect by way of air and noise pollution on the environment and airports should be situated so as to preserve the environment of populated areas.
That protest should be made against the proposal to establish an 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 appropriate steps to ensure that the Government does not proceed with the proposal to site the second, twenty four hour international airport for Sydney at Richmond or anywhere else in the far western suburbs of the metropolitan area. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Armitage, Dr Kingman and Mr Luchetti.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned electors of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That on December 10, 1948, Australia signed the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, Article 25 reads: ‘Everyone has the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age and other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.’
Yet, 23 years later, in our country of great national wealth and abundance it is to the nation’s shame that many thousands of our people live in a state of being inconsistent with the dignity and worth of the human person - languishing in poverty and want, neglect and the lack of proper care necessary for their health and wellbeing.
We, the undersigned, respectfully draw to your attention that the conscience of the nation is not at ease while the records of our country show that social services are not comparable with that of other advanced countries administering such services, therefore, we call upon the Commonwealth Government to immediately legislate for:
Base pension rate - 30 per cent of the average weekly male earnings, all states, plus supplementary assistance and allowances based on a percentage of such earnings. Unemployment benefits equal to the foregoing.
Completely free health services to cover all needs of social service pensioners - hospitalisation, chronic and long-term illness, fractures, anaesthetics, specialist, pharmaceutical, hearing aids, dental, optical, physiotherapy, chiropody, surgical aids and any other applicances.
Commonwealth Government to promote a comprehensive national scheme in cooperation with the States and make finance available to provide for the building of public hospitals, nursing and hostel-type homes necessary to effectively meet the special requirements of aged people, in conjunction with a comprehensive domiciliary care program 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 general activities which now include social welfare, health, conser- vation 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 inquiry 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. byDr Cass, Mr Griffiths and Mr Whittorn.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That there is a crisis in Aboriginal Welfare in the South West Land Division of Western Australia resulting from a population explosion, poor housing and hygiene and unemployment and unemployability.
That there is a need to phase out Native Reserves in the South West Land Division of Western Australia over the next three years.
That town housing must be provided for all Aboriginal families where the bread winner has permanent employment or an age or invalid pension entitlement.
That such housing must he supported by the appointment of permanent ‘Home-maker’ assistance in the ratio of one home-maker to every eight houses or part thereof.
That incentives of housing, ‘home-maker’ services and training facilities must be created in centres of potential employment for those who are currently unemployed or unemployable.
That insufficient State or Federal assistance has been made available to meet these requirements.
That adequate finance to meet these requirements can only be provided by the Commonwealth government.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament asembled will give earnest consideration to this most vital matter. And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Kirwan.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Will the right honourable gentleman give an undertaking that he will withdraw immediately all Australian military personnel from Vietnam, particularly those personnel known as military advisers? Will he do this to prevent any further loss of Australian lives in the Vietnam conflict?
– I will not give the honourable gentleman any undertaking whatsoever. But we are very carefully watching the position of Australian personnel there; we will keep this problem under continuous observation. What I can say is that the lives and interests of the Australian people will be placed on the highest possible level and we will take action if we think it is necessary.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. The Prime Minister will have heard of, or seen by way of Press reports, a statement by Archbishop Loane yesterday in which he blamed the Government for the twin evils of inflation and unemployment. Will the Prime Minister inform Archbishop Loane that although Australia’s performance is not perfect it can safely be claimed that we have done better than almost any country in the Western world in attacking these twin problems which are indeed endemic to all democratic systems? Would he also inform the Archbishop that a prelate lecturing politicians because of the presence of these twin economic evils is similar to politicians criticising prelates for the continued presence of sin,which has been around the place for even longer and seems to be growing even faster?
– I know that the House and particularly the honourable gentleman will forgive me for not replying to thelast part of that question. I say that because the Archbishop is well and favourably known to me and I regard him as a personal friend. If I may answer in substance the 2 questions asked, it is obvious to me that the Archbishop does not have a very great knowledge of the problems associated with inflation or for that matter unemployment. As to inflation it should be known, as I am sure it is well known by the House, that fundamentally or basically the problem is due to wage and income causes and certainly is not due to excessive demand. Action the Government has taken to try to rein in inflationary pressures due to wage causes includes, wherever we have had a right of audience, appearing before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the Public Service Arbitrator. We have taken action in terms of productivity to restore the investment allowance and we have taken action to boost the research and development allowances. On the tariff front, a matter of long term concern, the Minister for Trade and Industry made a statement relating to unused preferences and the Government is examining in detail the problem associated with restrictive practices reforms. In other words, over a very wide area we are watching the problem and taking whatever action we can. If there are excessive wage increases beyond productivity limits there is an in-built pressure and no-one can overcome that problem.
As to the problem of unemployment, it should be well known that in a monetary field over the Christmas period we took off as many monetary restraints as was practicable. Following the Premiers Conference a large amount of money was injected into the income stream. At the same time the Government made a big increase in the unemployment benefit and provided funds to reduce unemployment in country areas. Recently in this House my colleague the Treasurer made a statement relating to the economy. That statement was fundamentally directed towards increasing demand and stimulating growth in employment and therefore reducing unemployment. I shall make certain that His Grace the Archbishop is informed of what the Government has done and that he has every opportunity to form a better view. As to the second part of the honourable gentleman’s question on Australia’s performance, I agree with the sentiments he expressed.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. When the Government decided to make provision under the Broadcasting and Television Act to require health warnings to be included in cigarette advertisements in those media, why did it not decide to make similar provision under the Post and Telegraph Act, as was suggested in the notice given last year by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory, and require health warnings to be included in cigarette advertisements in publications given postage advantages under that Act?
– I am not aware of the notice that was given by the honourable gentleman as to what should be done in terms of notification on packages. The Government agreed with submissions made by the Department of Health and the Minister for Health. In fact, the Government agreed in full with the Minister’s recommendation.
– I address my question without notice to the Minister for Labour and National Service. In view of the fact that the arbitration system has been bypassed as a result of a recent agreement between waterside workers and their employers, will the Government ensure that any increased costs will not be passed on to users and that increases in freight charges and other costs will be absorbed by the employers? Is the taxpayer to be continually required to pay increases in the cost of goods and services simply because private arrangements such as this one are entered into?
– They are bleeding the country white.
– An honourable member, by interjection, said that they are bleeding the country white. That interjection is perhaps the first sentiment which one might express in this House. There is no doubt whatsoever that the recent agreement entered into between the employers of waterside labour and the Waterside Workers Federation is an agreement which has no regard to the public interest. Therefore, when the honourable member for Balaclava expresses concern at the impact which this agreement, if ratified by the Waterside Workers Federation, will have on costs throughout the general community, I respond most vigorously by saying that that sense of concern is very much shared by this Government. The Government has made it patently clear that it is most critical of the 2 major parties involved because of the irresponsibility which the making of that agreement at the present time represents. Surely this is one of those instances in industry where an agreement is made in relation to wages and conditions on the basis that the parties concerned recognise that they can pass on those costs by way of increased prices throughout the community. This is one of the very real difficulties which face the Australian community at a time when cost-push inflation is of such critical importance.
The honourable gentleman asked what action can be taken. This is a very sensitive area. It is an area which is, of course, outside the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and in which the powers of the Commonwealth are extremely limited. But the matter is receiving continuing and urgent examination to see whether there are areas in which action can be taken in the short term.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral and relates to the high cost of telephone calls for pensioners and retired persons. Will the Minister have examined the possibility of granting concessions on telephone call charges and further concessions on charges made to pensioners and retired people on the installation of telephones which are often required for medical calls? Will the Minister undertake to have made a complete review of concessions to pensioners and retired people in this field and to have concessions granted in keeping with those citizens’ restricted incomes? In view of the steeply increased charges of the Postmaster-General’s Department, will the Minister withhold any action against any pensioner who is unable to meet these charges until a review takes place and concessions are made retrospective to the last increases?
– The honourable gentleman will be well aware that the present position is that concessions on telephone rentals are available to pensioners throughout the community and that concession is certainly availed of by them. In relation to concessions on telephone call charges, the honourable gentleman will appreciate that that is a policy matter which I will correctly refer to my colleague in the Senate, the Acting Postmaster-General, who will provide the honourable gentleman with an answer in writing.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister and relates to the question just addressed to him by the honourable member for Wakefield. Will the Prime Minister invite Archbishop Loane to supply him with a report on the degree and nature of hardship suffered by certain sections of the community in the Sydney diocese, derived from the information available through the welfare and pastoral services of his church, with a view to providing appropriate and more adequate aid to those who are suffering hardship?
– I will ensure that either I or another Minister will contact His Grace, the Archbishop, to see whether we can get the statistics mentioned by the honourable gentleman in order to determine whether we can be of further assistance.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he has condemned an agreement on stevedoring as contrary to the national interest without seeing the agreement. Has he claimed that it will increase overtime payments without knowing the increase, if any, in overtime to be worked? Has he deduced that political strikes have been legitimised by the agreement whereas in fact they were lawful without the agreement? Has he implied that only a Full Bench of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission can decide the full economic implications of a reduction in the hours of work in a key industry, and, if so, what evidence is there that a Full Bench has ever done so to the satisfaction of the political parties now in government? Has he told the National Industrial Council that he opposes wage increases which would add to cost inflation without qualifying his remarks by reference to increasing productivity in the relevant industry? Has he suggested that the new agreement will place the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority in a financially untenable position without having had consultations with the Authority and before the matter has been considered by the Stevedoring Industry Council?
– The honourable gentleman poses a series of questions, and I am sure he will understand that it is impossible to comprehend all the questions and provide answers to them at this time. But in part he suggested by reference to political parties that this may be a matter in which this Government would seek some sense of satisfaction from the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I respond to the honourable gentleman quite vigorously by saying that this is not a matter which concerns the question of satisfying political parties or political opinions. It is a question which concerns the total community because of the impact that increased costs will have in one sector and also because of the fact that those increases will have a flow-on effect, which the honourable gentleman conveniently tends to ignore. As for my statements which the honourable gentleman has picked up, perhaps he ought to pay more attention to the many statements which have been made in relation to the need for an increased productivity performance. The honourable gentleman may be interested to know that, according to the latest figures which are available, for the OctoberDecember quarter of 1971 the average hours worked on the waterfront in all permanent ports was 30.2, for a gross earning of $90.92. Does the honourable gentleman intend to suggest in this House that the conditions which have been superimposed on that set of circumstances are conditions which represent some sense of responsibility? Of course they do not.
So far as the matter of basic hours in this country is concerned, this Government takes the view which apparently is not shared by the Opposition, that this matter is of such critical importance to the Australian community that it should go before the appropriate arbitral tribunal. It is not a matter on which an agreement should be reached directly between 2 parties which have no responsibility for the effect which such agreements can have across the nation on people who are not directly concerned in the negotiations but who are very much concerned with the effect which such wage negotiations can have on them. I think of the pensioners and the superannuitants - the fixed income earners. I particularly recall the interjection which the honourable member for Wakefield made about the implications which the negotiations will have for the rural sector. But of course the Opposition would not know what happened in the rural sector. There is not an Opposition member who has earned his livelihood in the rural sector, and that speaks volumes for the experience of members of the Opposition in that sector. As for the totality of the concessions. I have here a 14-page document issued by the Waterside Workers Federation. Of course I have read that document, and I have read it with concern and alarm. If the honourable gentleman has not read it I suggest that he do so. I suggest that he also reconsider his position. I will be happy to provide him with a copy of this document after question time.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Works. Can he advise what progress has been made regarding the re-design of the Darwin central zone sewerage scheme and the subsequent referral to the Public Works Committee of a new scheme?
– I am advised by my colleague in the Senate, the Minister for Works, that several evaluations are being made of this scheme by the Departments of the Interior, Works and Health and that an announcement on the scheme is expected at an early date. The matter will then immediately go before the Public Works Committee for hearing.
– I address my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. He will be aware that statistics are published concerning what is called the labour force and the relationship which the civilian population aged 15 years and over - the potential labour force - bears to the actual labour force. I ask: Is he aware that according to the latest issue of these statistics published early this year and giving the position at August 1971, the time of the disastrous Budget, what the Commonwealth Statistician calls the ‘participation rate’ in the labour force has declined in respect of both males and females and that on a seasonally adjusted basis these trends ought to have been evident from the beginning of 1971? Does the Minister agree that these trends are still continuing and are confirmed in the latest issue of ‘Employed Wage and Salary Earners’ which shows that from February 1971 to February 1972 total employment grew by only 27,000 despite a potential growth in the labour force of nearly 200,000? Does he believe that there is anything to indicate a lessening of the disposition of males and females to seek gainful and socially productive employment or has there been a lessening of the absorptive capacity of the economy for total employment? Finally, if the latter is the case, why does he not persuade his colleagues the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to call a high level conference of representatives of labour and industry to discuss what appear to be significant structural problems in the economy?
– Order! Questions asked and some of the answers given today have been far too long. I ask honourable members to co-operate if they expect Ministers to give shorter answers. Some of the questions that have been asked today would have been much more suitably placed on the notice paper. In any event I ask for the co-operation of honourable members in shortening their questions and I ask the same of Ministers in relation to their answers.
– -It is certainly true, as the honourable gentleman suggested, that there has been a slowing down in the rate of increase in total civilian employment during the period of which he spoke, and particularly in recent months. But this is in part due to a fall off in the migrant component. To the extent to which at the same time it represents a reflection of the general economic situation, the honourable gentlemen is well aware that the Government understands the position entirely and that action has been taken. Recently, as the honourable gentleman will recall, and certainly in the announcements which were made at the time of the Premiers Conference, the Government has made it clear that it is confident of an improvement in the rate of growth in employment in the months ahead. I believe that that will be substantiated. Of course there are necessary time lags which must follow the introduction of the various diverse initiatives which the Government has taken.
The honourable gentleman has often stated that there is a deep seated structural problem in the Australian community. The Government rejects that statement. There are structural problems and there have been for some time, but they are far less serious than the honourable gentleman suggests and they are far less serious than those in most other countries. The Government has taken 2 approaches to the structural imbalance in the labour force. I will not refer in detail to other statements I have made. In the short term, in the first place a number of retraining programmes have been introduced. In the second place, the Commonwealth Employment Service has been geared to deal with the uneven geographical spread of employment opportunities. Thirdly, the various grants which are made by the Commonwealth take on board the question of structural imbalance. The Government has under examination a series of manpower policies which will seek to look at the problem in the long term. But the Government does not believe that at the present time there is any deep structural problem in the economy.
– Can the Minister for Education and Science state how much of the unmatched special grants for teachers colleges has not been taken up by the various States? Will it be necessary for the States to use their entitlement by June next year or abandon their entitlement?
– In the last financial year the Commonwealth had allocated, I think, $llm for building teachers colleges within the States. In spite of the fact that quite considerable notice had been given of the extension of this programme, only about $2. 5m was spent in that financial year. Discussions going on over a period of several months between my Department and various State departments have assured us that, by the end of the triennium, the States will have spent the full allocation available to them under this programme for the provision of additional places in teachers colleges. By that time the Commonwealth’s funds will have provided an additional 12,000 teacher training places, compared with the previously existing 16,000 places. One of the unfortunate factors of the slow rate of expenditure in this area is that the new facilities could have come into operation earlier if the funds had been spent more quickly and therefore additional teachers would have been provided earlier. However, the States do expect their full entitlement to be taken up by the end of the triennium.
– Has the Minister for Customs and Excise received representations from the honourable member for Cunningham relative to the adverse effect on employment in the Australian sheet metal rolling industry of recent imports of tin plate? Can he inform me of the results of his inquiries and of any action he proposes?
– I received a telegram from the honourable member this morning and, minutes before or after question time began, I received a letter from him about this matter. In the meantime I made inquiries and the only concrete information I have at the moment, other than from the honourable member, is a story from the Illawarra ‘Daily Mercury’ which contains a statement that 30,000 tons of tin plate has been imported which has imperiled the positions at Australian Iron and Steel Pty Ltd of, from memory, some men and 40 women workers. This matter actually belongs to my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Industry, because there presently is no embargo on the importation of tin plate. There is a tariff item on it of 7i per cent general and free preferential which, in the free flow of things, would allow people to import tin plate provided they have paid or are prepared to pay that duty. Only in the event of a shortfall of products could it be admitted duty free. However, because of the implications of the honourable gentleman’s question and because it is a matter of fundamental Government policy, I will be pleased to bring it to the notice of my colleague, the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry, and any other appropriate Minister.
– Has the Minister for Shipping and Transport seen a statement alleging that wool and other export industries suffer freight disabilities as a result of Commonwealth Government shipping policy? Is it not a fact that, to the contrary, Government policies have enabled the wool industry to secure cheaper freight rates for the next 3 year period?
– Yes, I have seen such a statement and I must confess to being somewhat surprised at the tenor of it, having regard to the fact that the wool industry has secured freight rates for the next 3 years that in fact are cheaper than those which applied in preceding years. I am reminded somewhat of the barnyard story of the pussycat. I am sure that we would have heard much more from this writer had the wool industry in fact been unable to secure the freight rate that it did secure. The Commonwealth Government has encouraged the regularisation of shipping lines and conferences to Australian shores and I believe that it has been out of this policy that the wool industry has been able to secure the cheaper freight rate. The facts are that 5 or 6 container ships can do the work of 10 times that number of old-fashioned conventional ships at a much lower cost, the turn-round time has been halved and the labour savings, to say the least, have been immense. I know one thing for sure, and that is that the wool industry itself will be very delighted that, at a time when inflation is a continuing problem to those engaged in that industry and those engaged in other exporting industries, these negotiations have produced such a result.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. Did Queensland Mines Limited confer with the Government or the Department of National Development before entering into a provisional contract with Japan for the supply of 2,230 short tons of uranium oxide? Did the Peko-EZ Industries partnership secure Government permission before tendering for contracts to supply 10,000 short tons of uranium oxide to Japan? If so, are the terms of the contract and the tendering, particularly in regard to the price, favourable to Australia? If not, does the Minister intend to instigate inquiries? In view of Australia’s interest in a centrifuge uranium enrichment plant, is the supply of uranium oxide to foreign countries considered to be justified and sensible?
– -Perhaps 1 could answer the last part of the question first simply by saying yes, we must seek, where possible, markets for uranium in various forms and that is exactly what the producing companies are doing at the present time. The question gives me the opportunity to indicate to the House that there is in the uranium industry a building up of a greater degree of co-operation both on the production side - in the field of the provision of infrastructure - and in the field of marketing than perhaps in any other industry in Australia at the present time. This is being actively encouraged by the Government. My Department and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission have been in almost constant contact with the producing companies and prospective producing companies to try to bring this about, because we believe that there can be a tremendous advantage to the Australian industry if we can have established some form of orderly marketing system. On a number of occasions discussions have been held within the industry and between Government representatives and the industry within Australia. We participated in discussions which were held recently in Paris with other producing countries. As I have indicated in this House, I have had discussions with producing countries such as Canada and the United States. Also, we have had discussions at the official level with other producing countries such as South Africa and European countries. These discussions have been held in an endeavour to produce in the world industry some basic orderly approach for the future which will be to the ultimate benefit of the producing countries and the consuming countries.
The letters of intent which have been reported to have been signed by Queensland Mines Ltd and the endeavours by the Peko-Wallsend company to obtain contracts overseas for uranium in some form - in the form of uranium oxide, U308, or in some other form - will, of course, be actively supported and encouraged by this Government. We have not yet had officially submitted to us for consideration, as will have to be done in accordance with the export controls that exist, the details of such proposed contracts. When they are submitted we will examine them very carefully with 2 things in mind: Firstly, the ultimate benefit to Australia in the long term future and, secondly, the need to ensure that at the same time the safeguard conditions are applied.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, refers to the recently released statement by the Minister for Civil Aviation on the proposed visit to Australia of a Concorde supersonic airliner in June. In his statement the Minister said:
The Concorde could fly at supersonic speeds only over remote areas of Australia. The exact routing has yet to be determined.
Will the Minister please note that the flight of a Concorde supersonic airliner over any part of the land mass of Australia is not acceptable to any of the people underneath the flight path.
-Order! the preface to the honourable member’s question is far too long. I suggest that he ask his question.
– I am just coming to the question. Who will pay the compensation for the disruption of the environment, loss of use of land, and for shock and physical damage caused to the property and livestock of the people who are developing these remote areas?
– I certainly had the opportunity to read the statement which had been put out by my colleague the Minister for Civil Aviation. It stated that approval would be given for the visit of a Concorde aircraft to Australia in, I think, June, but of course I cannot indicate to the House what routes could be flown at supersonic speed over the land mass of Australia. That would have to be worked out by the Department of Civil Aviation, and an indication of the routes would be given before the aircraft arrived in Australia. Of course, most of the operations of commercial supersonic aircraft, if eventually they go into commercial operation to and from Australia, will be across water, as far as Australia is concerned.
But I should like to draw attention to the fact that we talk about the operations of commercial supersonic aircraft as being something entirely new to Australia. It is a fact that military operations of a supersonic nature have taken place fairly extensively both for training purposes and also for moving aircraft out of Australia for operational purposes. There have been extensive operations of a supersonic nature over certain areas of Australia, as well as over water, although, of course, for obvious reasons I think that most of the operations take place in areas closest to the sea. But in view of the fact that the matter has been raised in this form by the honourable member, I will see that it is referred to my colleague in another place and that a suitable reply is obtained for him.
– Was the Prime Minister asked by the Australian Table Tennis Association to express formal Government approval of a proposed visit by a table tennis team from the People’s Republic of China? If so, when was he asked and how did he reply?
– I know that the honourable gentleman would not know how a Prime Minister’s office is run or, for that matter, I am told, how any other office is run. Two letters were sent to my office - the first one at least was answered by the Minister for the Navy on my behalf. It did ask that some official action be taken by the Government, and the reply was given by my colleague. I am not certain of the actual contents. The second letter that was received set out the draft of a statement prepared by the ping pong association to be issued with my approval. That was not agreed to. I can add no more than what was said by my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs when he set out the Government’s policy attitude to this problem.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether consideration has been given to increasing both the Canberra allowance and the travelling allowance paid to honourable members of this House. The Prime Minister will be aware that the Canberra allowance has remained at the rate of $15 a day for some years. No increase has been granted to honourable members and a recommendation was made, as the Prime Minister will recall, some months ago that these allowances be increased. I ask the Prime Minister whether this matter has been considered by the Government and whether it is proposed to take any action.
– I have received representations from both the Opposition and the Government parties to have a look at the travelling allowance and the Canberra allowance. I have tried to treat this matter as it is normally treated, that is on a completely bi-partisan basis, as I know the Deputy Leader of the Opposition wishes it to be treated. I have given it very careful attention and have conferred with Treasury officials, particularly with my colleague the Treasurer before he went away. I hope to have leave to make a statement on the matter immediately after question time.
– Did the Minister for Primary Industry make a statement at the end of last week in which he said that Australia possibly would not be able to meet the quotas for the supply of beef to the United States of Amenca because of the recent development of other markets throughout the world? If he did, does he have any suggestions or plans to promote the Australian beef industry so that as a nation we may take advantage of the markets offering to this country?
– When speaking to a gethering of the Central Coastal Graziers Association in Rockhampton last week I referred to problems facing the beef industry at the present time. The United States increased quota is, of course, a tremendous challenge to Australian producers. There is no doubt that we have a capacity to meet the increased quotas subject to certain prevailing conditions. One of the present problems is the degree to which changing standards of inspection laid down by the United States Department of Agriculture have placed on the industry some difficulties in trying to continue to export from all killing works throughout Australia. The honourable member for Griffith will be aware that only last week, as a result of an inspection by the United States inspector, the Cannon Hill abattoir was suspended for the time being from the export of beef to the United States market.
I referred also to the difficulties that the beef industry faced in trying to meet the various outlets that have opened up, all of which are paying quite reasonable prices for Australian meat. The satisfaction of each of these markets meant that an added demand was being placed on the Australian industry at a time when it had a responsibility to meet the added quota entitlement of the United States. It is my belief that the Australian meat industry has the capacity to fill the import quota. I believe it has a responsibility to try to do so. I only hope that the industrial unrest that has broken out in some quarters of the meat industry does not in any way disrupt the producers’ intention and desire to meet this objective.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Did he announce before his recent overseas trip that ‘his land transport discussions will be particularly concerned with urban rapid transport systems’? What did he learn appropriate to Australian conditions whilst abroad, particularly when he was in Madrid? When did he last travel on a public transport system in one of our Australian capital cities? Is his Government now belatedly going to give some help in this critical area?
– It has been common knowledge for some months that the Australian Transport Advisory Council ministerial meetings have been discussing the problems of urban transport and that the Bureau of Transport Economics, which is part of my Department, has been assisting these studies by making investigations into the financial requirements of general transport systems, including the part particularly referred to by the honourable member - the urban transport systems. It is true that when I was overseas I took the opportunity of having discussions on these various matters so that I can be in a better position when I meet my ministerial colleagues to discuss in a more informed way the problems of urban transport. The facts are that urban transport systems are business undertakings of the States and therefore they have to compete with the other priorities set by State governments when the States are making up their budgets on an annual basis.
The Commonwealth has helped considerably in regard to the total transport needs of the States, both through the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act with a sum of $ 1,252m over this 5-year period and by grants and loans totalling $249m which have been given to the States - about 50 per cent of it by grant - to assist them in the standardisation of their rail tracks. This has been of considerable benefit to the States. Any decision taken by this Government in regard to urban transport would, of course, be a matter of policy and would be announced by the Government at the appropriate time. - Mr BARNES (McPherson)- Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
– Does the honourable member wish to make a personal explanation?
– Yes, Mr Speaker. An article which appeared in the ‘Australian’ of Monday 24th April made a suggestion that I had:
It was referring to Mr Howard Richter, the Country Party candidate for McPherson at the next election - of conducting a misleading campaign on the closure of Gold Coast post offices.
This article is based on an article which appeared in the ‘Gold Coast Bulletin’. This article is mischievous and misleading. But I would add that the ‘Australian’ evidently recognised the high qualities of this young man by conferring a knighthood on him.
– On Friday last the Sydney Mirror’-
– Order! Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented and does he wish to make a personal explanation?
– Yes, Mr Speaker, I do. The Sydney ‘Mirror’ of Friday, 21st April last carried a remarkable story, the substance of which it attributed to the honourable member for Chifley. In part that article states that I had forgotten a conference held earlier this year between myself and 3 other Ministers - the Ministers for Civil Aviation, Air and Defence - about the re-evaluation of HMAS ‘Nirimba’ as a civil airport. The article went on to state:
Speaking on the adjournment debate last night, Mr Armitage said it was an extraordinary coincidence that Dr Mackay had forgotten about the Nirimba’ talks and their purport, while admitting he was visiting ‘Nirimba’ later in the day.
No such conference ever took place. I have never had a conference with these Ministers on this subject. This has been amply demonstrated- in a statement made by the Minister for Civil Aviation to the Press to correct this matter. I table that statement which indicates the complete context of this matter, which was trivial compared with the nonsense that is in this report and which was spoken in my absence by the honourable member.
-Order! The honourable member will not debate the question.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do. I claim to have been misrepresented in a statement issued to the Press by the Minister for Civil Aviation, Senator Robert Cotton, on 21st April. As far as I know that statement has been circulated to all members and senators. It refers to my speech in this House on the adjournment debate last Thursday evening concerning the conflict between answers to questions that morning both in this chamber and in another place given by the Minister for the Navy and the Minister for Civil Aviation in respect of the possible use of Schofields aerodrome, HMAS Nirimba’, as a civil airport. The Minister stated that the question directed to him in the Senate, as I pointed out last Thursday night in this chamber, had been asked by Senator Mulvihill.
-Order! The honourable member has the indulgence of the House to make a personal explanation to show how he has been misrepresented.
– That is what I am about to do.
-Order! The honourable member should come to the point. At this stage the honourable member is starting to debate the question.
– I should like to quote the Minister, who said that the question directed to him by Senator Mulvihill at my request “was framed to attempt to elicit a form of words which would suggest differences between another Minister and myself’. That was not the purpose. My purpose was to obtain the truth. I was quite sure in my mind that the information I had heard was correct and that the aerodrome at Schofields-
-Order! Again I remind the honourable member that he has liberty to make a personal explanation to show how he has been misrepresented but I will not allow further comments outside that.
– Very good. Let me just say that the conflict in the answer to the question which finally resulted in-
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume this seat.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the Leader of the Opposition claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. At page 1871 of Hansard for Thursday last the honourable member for Denison made a personal explanation because, as he said, I had imputed or suggested or implied - he used those 3 terms - that he had been associated with people who in turn were, associating with extremists’ views, if not actions, in this community. The House will remember that I had quoted from a weekend newspaper, the ‘Review’, which had said that at a public meeting the honourable member had stood in front of a slogan which read in Serbo-Croat ‘Glory to the Fuhrer of the independent state of Croatia, Ante Pavelic’. The next edition of that paper, issued this past weekend, in fact published a photograph showing the honourable gentleman in front of such a slogan and the words-
-Order! The purpose of a personal explanation is not to debate the issue concerned. So far I have failed to see how the Leader of the Opposition has been misrepresented. I ask him to come to that.
– The honourable gentleman said I had misrepresented him by reading that quotation. Therefore I think I am entitled to point out that I did not misrepresent him. The photograph to which 1 have referred shows that I correctly quoted from the standard before which the honourable member stood at a public meeting.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I am reliably informed that an alternative interpretation of the Croatian words which were written on the wall is ‘Lest we forget the leader of the independent state of Croatia’, which to me is a much less emotive form of words than that chosen by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr- Whitlam).
– by leave - In response to representations from both sides of the House, the amounts of travelling allowances paid to members of Parliament have been reviewed. Along with his recommendations for increased salaries, Mr Justice Kerr in his report tabled in Parliament on 8th December 1971 recommended that travelling allowances payable to members and to Ministers and office holders be increased. The Government subsequently decided not to proceed with any of the 3 Bills relating to increases in parliamentary salaries and allowances. That remains the position. Travelling allowances are not covered in this legislation and can be regarded separately from salaries, electorate allowances and ministerial allowances. The travelling allowance, or Canberra allowance, paid to members of Parliament for living expenses and outofpocket expenses incurred in attending parliamentary sittings has been $15 a day since 1968. Mr Justice Kerr recommended $22 a day. In several areas of the Commonwealth Service in Canberra in the less senior grades, the travelling allowances now paid is higher than the Canberra allowance paid to members of Parliament. It has been put that to meet members’ increased living costs in Canberra and the increased costs of outofpocket expenses, the current rate of Canberra allowance should be increased. It has been decided to accept this view and to increase the allowance to $22 a day as recommended by Mr Justice Kerr.
Mr Justice Kerr made recommendations about the payment of Canberra allowance for party and committee meetings held when the Parliament is not sitting. These recommendations will be accepted. It was also recommended that the conditions of payment of travelling allowance be clarified. With this objective, a review of the conditions of payment will be undertaken. As part of his general review, Mr Justice Kerr recommended that members of Parliament residing in the Australian Capital Territory should receive half the Canberra allowance. As this matter is now being treated in isolation, it has been decided that members of Parliament residing in the Australian Capital Territory will not receive any increase in Canberra allowance but will not have the allowance reduced. These members will continue to receive $15 a day. Mr Justice Kerr recommended increased travelling allowances for Ministers and office holders. In general, the amounts of these allowances have not changed since 1964. The allowances are paid for travel away from Canberra on official or parliamentary business. The recommended allowances were:
Prime Minister . . $42 a day
Senior Ministers and the Leader of the Opposition . . . . $36 a day
Ministers, the Presiding Officers, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate . . . . . . $33 a day
Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and the Leader of the Second Non-Government Party in the Senate . . . . . . $28 a day
These recommended amounts of travelling allowance will be paid. The current travelling allowance of $21 a day payable to members of some parliamentary committees for meetings away from Canberra will be increased to $25 a day. Travelling expenses will be reimbursed to Assistant Ministers to a maximum of $25 a day. The new rates will be payable from tomorrow.
– by leave - On behalf of the Opposition I support the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). My Party considered Mr Justice Kerr’s recommendations concerning travelling allowances for members of Parliament when His Honour’s report was tabled and resolved to support those recommendations.
– On Thursday last I supplied to the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) a reply to his question concerning office accommodation in Parliament House. Unfortunately an error was made in the calculation, and revised statistics have now been prepared by my officers and are being supplied to the honourable member. A document showing the corrected figures will be also incorporated in Hansard. (The document read as follows):
The following answers have been prepared from information furnished by the President of the Senate showing the position in the Senate both prior to and after construction of the western wing and from information supplied by each of the other Parliamentary Departments.
The total area of office space available prior to the occupation of the western wing was 62,322 sq ft excluding the area occupied by the Press. The comparable figure when the western wing is completed will be 71,046 sq ft. These figures arc divided between the Parliamentary Departments as follows:
The division of the House of Representatives accommodation between (a) Parliamentary office holders, (b) Ministers, (c) Ministers’ staff, (d) private members and (e) clerical officers of the House of Representatives Department both prior to and after occupation of the western wing is as follows:
Similar details for the Senate are as follows:
The average floor space occupied by Ministers and private members in the Senate and the House of Representatives is as follows:
Assent to the following Bills reported: Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1972. Repatriation Bill 1972.
Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill 1972.
Public Service Arbitration Bill 1972.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act J 969, I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
No. 2 Stores Depot RAAF at Regents Park, New South Wales.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-I have received letters from both the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) and the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) 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 Herbert, namely:
The urgent need for the Government to take immediate steps as a matter of public importance to plan for the protection of the Australian meat industry against the probable future influx of synthetic or imitation meats on the Australian market or Australia’s overseas markets following recently announced developments overseas.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places).
– I have a very definite reason for raising this matter of the production of protein foods - I have seen them and I know that some members of the Opposition have seen them - which have been labelled as synthetic meat because I feel that it is a matter of national importance and one which should be raised at this time. One of the main reasons why I wish to direct the attention of the Government and the public to this matter is the steady encroachment of synthetic materials into our primary industries. I need give but 2 examples which are enough to underline the seriousness of the situation. The first example is the introduction of synthetic fibres for the manufacture of material, which has seriously affected and will continue to affect our wool industry. The other example is the production of synthetic sweeteners, which must have had some adverse effect on our sugar industry. Now the production of what is termed synthetic meat, in my opinion, will have an adverse effect on our meat industry if the increased production of this article is allowed to gain any momentum. Since the end of the last World War there has been a tremendous increase in the production and distribution of synthetic and imitation substances, which through the medium of intensive advertising campaigns the public has been educated to accept instead of the genuine article. In fact in some instances the public prefers the synthetic article mainly, I would think, because these substances can be produced at a much lower cost to the consumer.
The Australian meat industry is widely known and respectfully accepted throughout the other trading nations of the world, and it is one of the largest export income earners that we have in Australia. Apart from this, and more importantly, it maintains hundreds of thousands of our people in constant employment. Therefore I have no wish to see an imitation product quietly creep into our meat markets and force us to accept a lower distribution of our meats on the domestic and world markets. I am not saying that this could happen overnight, but we all know that once a well advertised product has gained a foothold in the market it is difficult to control its expansion. In all probability it would take some years for a synthetic or imitation meat product to cause any real danger to the industry if allowed to go unchecked, but the danger exists, and in my opinion it is better to offset this threat in the early stages than to wait until we are really forced to do something about it to protect our own interests.
We all know that proteins are substances which are essential for life and that meat supplies much of our protein requirement in a palatable form. We know that to achieve an adequate diet proteins must be edible and digestible. We are also told that the best sources of the best proteins for this purpose are the normal protein sources such as meat, eggs, poultry, fish, milk and cheese, but there are other vegetable proteins which, while being inferior to those I have just mentioned, could fulfil the protein requirements of the people of quite a number of countries. Among these vegetable proteins, soya bean appears to be the most universally acceptable. I am informed that it is soya bean flour which is the main ingredient in the manufacture of synthetic or imitation meat. In the process of manufacture I believe that it is flavoured, coloured and made up to taste and look like meat, bacon, chicken, hamburgers or other types of meat foods. I am also informed that because the price of the ingredients used would be below that of similar meat products these synthetic meats could be marketed to the consumer at a cheaper price. At the moment, however, the type of industry that produces such imitation meats is in its infancy and the cost of manufacture is fairly high mainly, I would say, because the industry has yet made no definite impact on the meat market. But this is not to say that this cannot happen. In fact I predict that in the near future a gigantic effort will be made by the manufacturers of this product to make a substantial impact on the meat markets of the world.
I am not saying that these imitation products are not good food. They are. The well known fact that there is a world shortage of protein, expecially among the underdeveloped countries, leads me to believe and confirms my thoughts that a definite attempt will be made to capture a great share of the world meat market. All due respect must be paid to the men who devised this product and to the manufacturers who produce it. I am not for one moment advocating that any attempt be made to prohibit the manufacture of this product, because it could fulfil a definite requirement among the peoples of some of the underdeveloped countries. But what I am advocating is that steps be taken to limit the effect it may have on our own meat market and our overseas meat markets. This could possibly be done by insisting that the product be labelled correctly. That is to say, the label should state that no meat is contained in the article and should make no reference to the word meat’. The product may resemble meat, taste like meat and have a high protein content, but the public should be universally informed, and well informed, that it is not meat. Therefore the labelling of the article as synthetic meat or as an article that is the same as meat, in my opinion, is completely wrong and should not be allowed. No reference should be made to the word ‘meat’ on the label. I also feel that import restrictions should be placed on this product in order to protect our own domestic market and that more definite meat trade agreements should be established with our customer countries.
I mentioned that hundreds of thousands of our own people depend on our meat industry for constant employment. I do not exaggerate. There are numerous other industries which the meat industry supports, for instance, the grazing industry, the railways, abattoirs, meat works, processing plants, air and road transport, the steve doring industry and the shipping industry. One could go on and include the butcher shops which deal directly with the consumer. So I do not exaggerate when I say that hundreds of thousands of people are dependent on our meat industry. For those industries to have their production or their distribution rate lowered would be disastrous to our work force, apart from the effect it would have on our national economy. I feel that if the demand for meat were reduced in any way purchasing costs would be increased and, in all probability, the price then would be beyond the reach of our average consumer. I feel also that an increase in production, with a lower consumer cost price, coupled with a forceful advertising campaign showing the many advantages for a healthy way of life, of eating meat would assist tremendously in offsetting any influx on the market of imitation products.
I do not think it would be difficult to educate the public to the advantages of eating meat, especially if they were informed that the meat proteins were of the highest quality, that meat contains all the minerals needed by the body and that it is particularly rich in iron and phosphorus. It is a natural food and improves the value to the body of other foods. Because it is a natural food people would prefer to eat meat that is free from preservatives or chemicals. Because of the world famine in protein substances manufacturers of the synthetic article could use this known fact to increase their production and make a determined onslaught on markets in the countries that depend on imported products to maintain the protein requirement of their people. The manufacturers of this imitation product have no seasonal problems to concern them such as we experience with our general meat industry. This could lead to their being able to produce a continuous and cheaper product which would be acceptable to the people and it is something which must be countered.
I have endeavoured to prove that, in my opinion, there will be a threat to the meat industry within the next few years and that there are ways to counter this threat. I have mentioned only a few of the possible ways and means to do this and the repercussions which may be felt if this imitation product is allowed to invade our markets unchecked. Of them all, I think that educating the people in the value of meat as a food, increasing the production and lowering the price to the consumer which would make genuine meat products available to the people to a much greater degree, are the most important ways. I strongly urge the Government to investigate all ways and means of producing a suitable plan to counter any threat to our own market or our overseas market for our great and important meat industry which must be protected from the introduction of spurious, synthetic - or, to use a better word, imitation - meat products.
– The urgency of action in Australia on imitation meat is indicated by the fact that, on present forcasts, by 1980 one million Australians, 20 million North Americans, 20 million Japanese and 5 million Britishers will be eating ersatz meat products. At present promotions of imitation meat are being launched even in the country areas of New South Wales. Only 2 days ago I received a protest from the city of Albury pointing out that the virtues of imitation, ersatz or plastic meat - whatever term one likes to use - were to be extolled at a public demonstration. By its lack of action the Government has suggested that this matter is not urgent and important. I would say that there is an urgency and a need for action, and this has led the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) into his minor revolt today. Obviously, the honourable member and his colleagues are saying very bluntly to the Government that there is an urgent need for action and that there has not been sufficient action on this matter.
The terms of the matter of public importance indicate criticism of the Government. They read:
The urgent need for the Government to take immediate steps as a matter of public importance to plan for the protection of the Australian meat industry against the probable future influx of synthetic or imitation meats on the Australian market or Australia’s overseas markets following recently announced developments overseas.
When the matter was put by you, Mr Speaker, to the House as a matter of public importance and you asked whether a sufficient number of honourable members supported it, you would have noted that the members of the Opposition were quick to rise to their feet and support it and we were glad to encourage the somewhat sluggish members of the Government parties to do the same. This stricture oh the Government is well earned, because the matter has ‘been under consideration for some considerable time. As a matter of fact, some months ago I raised it with the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). This led to some questioning, particularly by honourable members opposite, as to whether I did the right thing in raising the matter and querying whether sufficient action had been taken at Government level. We now see that there is deep concern among members on the Government benches. 1 welcome this expression of concern. I welcome the minor revolt which it indicates. On 21st December I raised this matter with the Minister for Primary Industry, following the importation of a consignment of $28,000 worth of synthetic or filler products. I wrote to the Minister in the following terms:
I have been provided with samples of imported synthetic beef, ham and chicken, which I am informed was part of a $28,000 consignment brought in by an overseas cannery operating here, as a filler for products so labelled as to indicate they included meat.
I am concerned that this could lead to a flood of similar imports of synthetic meat, and I am also concerned that if the name ‘meat’ is to be used at all it should be used only to describe the genuine article whether included in such products as canned foods or meat pies.
It is my assessment that the synthetic meat is actually a soya bean product
Mr Speaker, you might recall that some time ago during an adjournment debate some honourable members who were interested and I had a little midnight supper with some of the synthetic ham, chicken and beef products I brought along. The tasting was an unqualified success as I had endeavoured to indicate that this was an inferior product from the point of view of taste. I have also established that imitation meat is a soya bean product. Soya bean is a very fine product of our countryside - not very much is grown, unfortunately - but it is not meat. I was glad to hear the honourable member who raised this matter today say that there was no intention of denigrating the soya bean. We accept that the soya bean is a very versatile product of the countryside, but a very serious principle is involved here. It is perfectly in order to have a soya bean product such as a soya bean loaf. There is no argument about that at all. But it is perfectly improper and an exploitation of the housewife to have that product labelled ‘meat’ when it is not so.
I drew attention to this matter and 1 pointed out that the Australian meat pie was under attack, that the canned meat product on our market was already under attack and that the attack on the fresh meat market was just beginning. In Australia today there is already on sale synthetic meat in the form of sausages, hamburgers, meat loaf and poultry, mostly in the canned form. At the National Agricultural Outlook Conference in Canberra recently the chairman of the Australian Meat Board, Colonel M. H. McArthur, reported that in the United States last year the production of substitute meat was greater than the total meat imports. He called on meat producers to fight the spread of the ersatz or imitation product. The annual report of the Meat Board for 1971 called for urgent action to prevent the word ‘meat’ from being used to describe these ersatz products. The Board asked that 3 principles be adopted: Firstly, the meat consumer is entitled to protection so that what he buys is genuine; secondly, the consumer should be informed if substances of vegetable origin replace any meat in the pack so labelled; and. thirdly, no variation of existing limitation of non-meat content should be permitted without an appropriate change of labels. This is a very fair submission on behalf of the Industry - not only on behalf of producers but also on behalf of consumers. I would urge the adoption of those 3 principles that have been put before the Government.
But what in fact has the Government done? The Minister for Primary Industry advised me that all States have been requested to examine their existing legislation to ensure that the definition of meat clearly specifies that it is a product derived from animals. That was a fine first move but that was last year and the situation in relation to market penetration by imitation meats advances steadily. There is an urgency about this. The figures that I quoted at the beginning of my address to the Parliament this afternoon indicate that urgency. It is not good enough simply to deal with the matter on one occasion at a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council and say: ‘That is the situation’. Australia has a import position to consider. We have had what basically was a pilot introduction, the samples of which I have brought with me into the House. That pilot introduction was by a multi-national corporation which naturally was interested in maximising its return. It will go ahead with the operation if it proves worth while.
We need action to protect not only the producer but also the consumer. The crying need in Australia at present is to see that the Australian housewife is adequately protected and she is not being adequately protected at the moment through the poor labelling not only of meat but also of other products. Perhaps one of the most glaring examples of bad, inadequate and misleading labelling relates to the citrus industry. I have a whole file on products which would give one the impression of containing citrus juice. Indeed, some of them give the impression that they are pure and unadulterated citrus juice and nothing else. However, on analysis, it can be found that they contain no citrus whatsoever. That is an example of misleading advertising and this also applies to the sorts of synthetic meat products that we are discussing this afternoon.
It is not good enough to leave the housewife to her own devices. She is not in a position to analyse the products. She is not in a position to go to the supermarket, select a range of products for her family table, take them along to the friendly neighbourhood research chemist and ay Give me a rundown on the actual content of what I am supposed to have brought’. So, it is not just a passing matter of abstract interest; it is a matter of very real importance. From the producers’ point of view, the meat industry is making a major contribution to Australian exports. We were told in the House today by the Government spokesman on primary industry that there was a challenge to the meat industry to rise to the export opportunities. I am sure that if the producers are given a reasonable deal, they certainly will rise to any market challenge that the Government or anyone else puts to them but, at the same time, it is improper to have the meat producers of Australia undermined by permitting the sale of wrongly-labelled synthetic meat products.
I feel that, nationally, we should be taking a fresh initiative with the States to introduce the reform of labelling which will give the consumer and producer protection. It has been pointed out that the imitation product just is not as good as real meat. If any honourable member has any doubts as to whether this product is good or not and as to whether it tastes well or not, he is welcome to join me in another meal - perhaps not in the chamber - of ersatz products. I am sure that this would convince honourable members of the inadequacy of the taste of synthetic meat and also of the undesirability of taking a vegetable product, adding some chemicals to it, giving it a chemically simulated flavour and saying: ‘Here we have something that is equal to or better than meat’. That is the situation that exists at the moment. These things are being done and I and my colleagues have grave concern about this matter, particularly in relation to the import situation. We can see the very real possibility of the imports of these products, particularly for processing purposes, being expanded.
It is as well to place the figures in relation to overseas countries on record. I have given the projections up to 1980. British consumption has risen just recently to 1,500 tons and a recent survey of 40 of the major food suppliers in the United Kingdom revealed that these suppliers expect a 5 per cent penetration of the meat market by 1977, a 10 per cent penetration by around 1981 and a 25 per cent penetration by 1990. I stopped my projections at 1980. The continuing attack on the market by these synthetic products is illustrated by that set of figures which was provided by the Rural Bank of New South Wales. Production of substitute meat in Japan has doubled in the last 2 years to 24,000 tons. In the United States at the moment 26 firms are producing ersatz meat and the United States Department of Agricuture has estimated that by 1980 meat substitutes will displace up to 20 per cent of the meat now being used in meat type food preparation. All this adds up to one great challenge to the consumer and the producer - to the producer because bis home base is being undermined and to the consumer because Mrs Housewife is being misled again.
I would join the revolt by Government supporters against the Government’s lethargy in this matter to ask that it take a new and further initiative. It is not good enough to leave the Australian meat industry exposed to this unfair penetration. I stress that we are not talking about discriminating against someone who is a vegetarian. The Assistant Minister assisting the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr King) who is sitting at the table might well be a vegetarian. I do not know. If he is, I would be very happy that he has made that dietary choice and I would not dream of denying him the sustenance that he seeks. However, I would like him also to be sure that when he buys meat - I am only using this as an example, of course - he gets exactly what he asks for and is not misled. As I said, I join in this revolt and ask that there be a new initiative by the Government to ensure that the 3 principles that have been requested are adopted as a matter of urgency and that there is justice and truth in labelling for the consumer and the housewife. We on the Opposition press for this and want to see it brought about as a matter of urgency.
– I congratulate the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) for bringing this very important matter to the notice of Parliament because it could seriously affect one of our greatest primary industries and one of our great export earners. Red meat has been considered immune to market penetration by substitutes. Consumers like meat, and it has been difficult to duplicate meat’s flavour, texture and nutritional qualities, particularly in an affluent society, However, a very real threat comes from the use of soya beans in simulated meat They appear to have the most nutritional value. The only other source of processed protein to be used on a commercial basis has been wheat in Japan. Experiments are being conducted in other countries with petroleum by-products.
The United States and Japan are the 2 main producers of simulated meats and account for most of world consumption. Small quantities have also been marketed in some of the Western European countries and in South Africa, Canada and Australia, but vegetable protein meat substitutes on their own do not appear to be making much progress except among vegetarians, and there are many of those in these various fields. The United States of America, Japan and the United Kingdom are the countries in which developments must be continuously watched because, firstly, they are important markets for Australian meat, particularly manufacturing meat, and, secondly, they are the countries with the most developed vegetable protein production. Reports from the United States on the soya bean speak highly of its qualities, especially when it is used as an extender in sausages, hamburgers, ‘hot dogs1 and bacon pieces.
In the United States, where the cost of beef is high, substitutes compare favourably on a price basis. Therefore, substitutes are at present much more of a threat to the meat trade in the United States than in Australia where meat is appreciably cheaper than the simulated product. This is one reason why Australia’s low-priced manufacturing type beef sells well in the United States. Meat substitutes were becoming a threat to the American meat market. There is no doubt about that, lt now is possible in the United States for soya bean protein substances to increase the normal hamburger mix by 25 to 30 per cent while maintaining the palatability of the end product and reducing the price from around 65c per lb to 53c per lb. The United States Department of Agriculture has estimated that by 1980 substitutes will displace 15 to 20 per cent of the meat now being used in meat-type food preparations in both institutional and retail markets. It is in this area that these developments could have significant effects on imports of Australian meat.
The Japanese Government encourages the production and promotion of the new protein foods, and technical progress in this field is proceeding at a rapid pace. The local trade expects that Japan will produce a product that will be difficult to distinguish from natural beef and pork cuts within 5 io 10 years. Producers are concentrating on beef substitutes because of the shortage of natural beef in Japan and also because of its extremely high price. Japan is one of the best markets, as you would know, Mr Deputy Speaker, for the export of Australian beef. Indications at this stage are that substitute meats are not yet acceptable to consumers due to their flavour but they have a potential in the domestic market when blended on a percentage basis with natural meat. In the United Kingdom, which is a very important market for Australia, a survey of 40 of the major food suppliers has revealed that these suppliers expect a 5 per cent penetration of the meat market by new protein products by 1977, 10 per cent by about 1981 and 25 per cent by 1990. They are very significant figures in terms of the effect on our meat trade.
A number of factors have contributed to the recent interest in meat substitutes. These include: Firstly, adverse publicity in developed countries over the use of animal fat in the diet; secondly, a public desire to remedy nutritional deficiencies among low income groups; and thirdly, the low cost of vegetable protein and the subsequent advantage of its use to upgrade the diets of low income groups throughout the world. Sales of meat substitutes at present in Australia are considered to be insignificant and have had a negligible effect on the Australian meat industry. Their marketing is largely confined to specialist health food shops. This is a dangerous situation in which to find ourselves with a complacent view because it is expected that in the long term synthetic and imitation meat will have very serious effects on the meat industry.
It has been said that rising incomes and populations and changing tastes should continue to have a positive influence on the demand for natural meats and this should at least tend to partly offset any substitution effect which may arise from a greater availability of more acceptable simulated meats during the next few years. However, sufficient progress has been made in the development of simulated meats to suggest that they are potentially important competitors, particularly in processing uses - an area of major concern for the Australian meat export industry - and that they are a factor which needs to be taken into account when framing research programmes and policies relating to the production and marketing of natural meat. Simulated meats do not appear to match natural meats in terms of palatability, despite the considerable advances that have been made in simulating flavour and texture. Palatability problems seem to be especially apparent in items derived from the less expensive production processes.
It appears that any significant competition from simulated meats which may occur will initially take place in processed meat-type products where shortcomings relating to their palatability are less apparent. In particular, processors may make greater use of simulated meats by blending them with natural meats. Blends of this nature are subject to government regulations in major meat consuming countries, but the controls are aimed mainly at ensuring accuracy in labelling rather than at limiting the usage of simulated meats. Increased competition for natural meats in processing uses would be of special significance to Australia because a high proportion of our beef and mutton exports are used for manufacturing purposes. It is evident that at this time it would be to our advantage for the Australian meat industry and the Government to investigate the possibility of the meat industry joining forces With these new proteins and, by using their advantages, promoting meat products on a wider front and a more profitable scale. Development is the order of the day, and if the meat industry accepts the challenge of these developments an expansion of animal agriculture, rather than a contraction, can be expected.
Last year the Australian Meat Board looked into canned meat substitutes on sale from both imported and local sources. These substitutes are sold mainly by retailers of vegetarian products. The Board was concerned very much about the word meat’ appearing on the cans. I understand that the Board recommended to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) that it was desirable that Australia have uniform labelling legislation to ensure that the word ‘meat’ cannot appear legally on any package unless the package contains a recognised animal meat product. This whole subject should be carefully analysed and looked at by the Government and the meat industry because, although it may not be of very great significance at the present time, in the long term it could be most damaging to one of Australia’s great primary industries and export income earners.
– There is one difference between this matter of public importance and most other matters of public importance which are introduced into this House, and that is that both sides agreed that it should be raised. Wc on this side appreciate the interest and concern of t’.e honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) in raising this matter in this Parliament today. The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) has already raised it on several occasions. There is no doubt that this matter has the complete support of honourable members on both sides of this House in an endeavour to find ways and means of meeting the threat to our meat industry by what are called , synthetic or ersatz products.
I will deal firstly with the threat of imitation meats to our meat industry. The pattern has been set in the United States of America and we should take note of what is happening there. It should be a warning to our industry, this Government and the State governments. For instance, in 1970 the United States produced 580 million lb of soya bean protein which is used in producing synthetic meat. Already big organisations such as General Foods and Du Pont in the United States are developing synthetic meat. It is no longer a minor industry in that country. In the United States in 1971 the production of substitute meat was greater than the total meat imports. Other synthetic products have eaten deeply into established rural industries. In the United States of America about 30 million people a year now drink synthetic milk. In recent times synthetics have played a major role in the decline in wool prices. The honourable member for Herbert mentioned the impact on the sugar industry of artificial sweeteners.
In the United Kingdom consumption of substitute meat has risen to 1,500 tons and, as the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) mentioned, a survey of 40 of the major food suppliers in the United Kingdom revealed that the suppliers expect a 25 per cent penetration into the meat market by 1990. Production of ersatz meat in Japan has doubled in the past 2 years to 24,000 tons. If synthetic meat gains a foothold in Australia it will be seen first in hamburgers, hot dogs and sausages, and then will extend beyond those items into other meats. For instance, in the ‘Bulletin’ issue of 17th July 1971 there was an article under ‘Market Outlook’ entitled ‘Soya Beans Challenge to Meat’. The article reads:
In a bold move, Courtaulds plans to invade the difficult synthetic-foods market, until now dominated almost exclusively by American concerns, by the end of this year or early in 1972 Courtaulds plans to market synthetic meats made from soya-bean filaments both in the wealthy United States and in some of the underdeveloped countries short on the protein content in their staple diet.
Courtaulds has a great array of competitors facing lt There is reference in this article to 6 great world producers. The article continues:
The more optimistic estimates for the North American synthetic-foods market run up to 20 million tons a year (more conservative estimates are closer to the IS million tons a year mark). The range of synthetic foods marketed is wide, including synthetic fish, beef, poultry, ham, bacon and fruit and nuts.
All are made from soya-bean filaments, and synthetic-foods manufacturers claim that thenproducts are almost indistinguishable from the real thing in appearance or taste. This is achieved with the aid of artificial coloring and flavoring added to soya-bean filaments, which can be woven into any shape or form.
I have quoted these facts concerning what is happening around the world in order to indicate the threat which the synthetic meats pose. If a firm like Courtaulds is sufficiently interested to enter the synthetic meat field, then it must realise that there is something in it, particularly as far as profits are concerned. I turn to the economics of the question. A specialist from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, a Mr N. D. Honan, has said that soya bean proteins are a much cheaper source of protein than animal products. It is now possible for soya bean protein extenders to increase the normal hamburger mbe by 25 per cent to 30 per cent while maintaining the palpability of the end product. This has resulted in a price reduction of from 65c to 53c per lb in the ingredients of hamburgers. That is a frightening reduction, and if it can be achieved what an impact it will have on our highly priced meat products in the shops.
It is obvious that an imitation meat industry in Australia would seriously affect our meat industry. Our meat industry comprises thousands of producers running 180 million sheep, 22 million cattle and 6 mil lion pigs. It produces 1,948 million tons of meat a year. For instance, in 1970 our exports of meat to the United Kingdom where the use of synthetic meat is increasing, amounted to 76 million tons of frozen and chilled meat and 6,908,000 tons of canned meat. In that same year our exports were 264 million tons to the United States of America and 67 million tons to Japan. It meant that 76 per cent of our total exports of meat products wont to the 3 countries where the use of synth.’tic meat is increasing rapidly. Our meat industry is a massive industry, and any inroads made by synthetic meats would be serious and they would be felt right throughout the meat industry. There has already been a drop of 10 per cent per person in the consumption of beef in Australia.
How can we handle this threat posed by synthetic meats? Firstly, as has been mentioned, there is a necessity for labelling legislation, both in the Commonwealth and the State spheres, so that synthetic meat is labelled for what it is not, and that is meat. In the Senate on 30th September last year, Senator Drake-Brockman, in reply to a question asked by Senator Drury, stated:
I saw the annual report by the Australian Meat Board. The report stated that the Board was conscious of the threat being posed by the development of synthetic or imitation meats. It was making every endeavour to alert the industry to the dangers of this development. It made the point that immediate legislation was desirable to prevent the use of the word ‘meat’ in connection with the importation, manufacture or sale of any product other than a recognised meat product.
In April of this year the Australian Meat Board and the Minister for Primary Industry wrote to the State Ministers responsible for primary industry asking them to examine their respective legislation concerning the labelling and description of such products to ensure that the misdescription with respect to the use of the word meat’ does not occur. Currently, the States are reviewing their legislation.
In fact, I think that the States should outlaw the use of the term ‘meat’ when applied to substitutes, and this is also the opinion of Colonel M. H. McArthur, the Chairman of the Australian Meat Board. Secondly, the producers of meat, the processors of meat and the retailers of meat must concentrate on quality in order to answer the threat and challenge of imitation meat. They must concentrate more on flavour and tenderness because this is where they will be beaten to the punch by the people producing synthetic meat. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation currently is examining ways of improving what it calls the chewability of our meat products. I have a report before me on that question. As far back as August 1971, Colonel M. H. McArthur suggested that a conference of the world’s major meat producing countries should be held to consider ways of combating the challenge of synthetic meat. He also urged all concerned to watch the price factor because, as we all know, housewives are sensitive to price and if a thing looks like meat and it is cheaper than the real meat product they will most certainly buy it. In the ‘Courier Mail’ of Sth August last year Colonel McArthur is reported as having said:
I forcast a world shortage of beef after 1975. If this were linked with dangerously high prices, it would encourage synthetic production.
These are some of the factors that we want tho Government to consider. As we are all in favour of action being taken in this matter, the Government has every reason to take such action.
– I join my colleagues in supporting this matter of public importance. I am glad to see that the Opposition also is supporting it, although I take the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) severely to task for indicating that when the Speaker called on those members supporting the proposed discussion to rise in their places, Government supporters’ did not jump madly into the air. I point OU: to the honourable member that Government supporters rose in the normal manner to support the proposed discussion.
The cattle industry is one of Australia’s most important sources of export income. Our colleague the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) has just given some up to date figures concerning the cattle industry, but the figures which I have show that in 1971 there were 24 million head of cattle in Australia, of which 20 million were beef cattle. The total production of beef and veal in that year was more than 1 million tons. I will not waste time by referring to more figures concerning the Australian cattle industry.
In 1971 there were l.S million head of cattle in the Northern Territory. The figure has fallen slightly during this year due to droughts on the Barkly Tableland and in the Alice Springs area. But in 1971, 14,000 tons of beef were produced in the Northern Territory. That does not sound very much, but it must be remembered that more than $20m worth of cattle on the hoof were exported from the Northern Territory during that year. There was also a rise, to $710,000, in the production of buffalo meat, which must also be included in the genuine meat production market.
The greater proportion of our beef and veal exports goes to the United States of America, but Japan also is becoming a market for these exports. In 1971 we exported 30,000 tons of beef and veal to Japan. But it must be remembered that these 2 countries are the countries in which meat substitutes are gaining ground; they are being used in greater quantities in those countries than in any other country. Also, a great quantitity of our third grade beef is exported to the United States, and this market ls very important in bolstering our overall meat export trade.
The substitutes which have been mentioned during this debate currently are not forming a very great part of the market in Japan and the United States; they represent only 0.5 per cent and 0.2 per cent of the markets in the United States and Japan respectively. But I turn to the vegetable protein food products which resemble beef - and I think that that is a fairly accurate but unwieldy description of them. Some of these products are valuable seed crops. Everybody has emphasised the use of soya bean, but it must be remembered that cotton seed, peanuts, safflower, sunflower, casein of milk, wheat and even grass and leaves are also used in the production of imitation meat. Apart from grass and leaves, many of these seed crops are very valuable adjuncts to Australia’s agricultural production programme. In the further production of these imitations, in the long run the cheapest is quite likely to be a single cell protein which is produced from fungi, bacteria or yeast-type actions. This process was used in the old days for making bread out in the styx. Even ginger beer is made with a yeast. But the most economical of all these imitations could well be sewage sludge. Can honourable members imagine scraping the top off the contents of a septic tank and turning out single cell proteins which ultimately are used for the production of imitation meat?
– That is recycling.
– That is taking recycling down to the nth degree. The use of carbohydrates such as rotting vegetables, which are used in making yeast for bread, potato peels and so on also could be considered. If we take the matter further we come to the use of petroleum products.
We should think of these things when we are biting what is supposed to be an imitation chicken or a piece of plastic rump steak. These imitation products have a high protein content as compared with choice beef which has 40 per cent protein and fat pork which has 36 per cent protein. Textured vegetable protein, which is what I am referring to, contains about 60 per cent protein. The fat content of these products is 58 per cent, 61 per cent and 20 per cent respectively. Various other things have to be put with the proteins to make them of use to the human body. Amino-acids can be added to these imitation sources of food such as plastic beef. These acids initially are not in the imitation substances as they are in the natural beef product. This is something that will present a problem to the makers of imitation meat.
In the few minutes remaining I point out that imitation beef is not endangering our market at the moment. The Government should be looking very hard at what it and the meat industry can do to meet the conflict which will arise in the same way as a conflict arose over imitation fibres that have come into competition with wool. We should be doing research on how to use our own products in this regard because there is no earthly reason why we should be just confronted with this problem on an overseas market. I do not see why we cannot develop these products and put them onto overseas markets ourselves. These products would be suitable in India, South East Asia and other areas whose people have low protein diets and cannot afford to buy our meat anyhow. This is what we should be doing.
There should be uniform strict legislation throughout Australia controlling these products and insisting on the correct and accurate labelling of them. Other honourable members have dealt with this aspect at great length. I underline their criticism very strongly. Even if one buys a shirt, in some cases it may contain 50 per cent wool and 50 per cent rayon. A suit may have 75 per cent wool and 25 per cent polyester or some other rubbish in it. But these facts are stated on the label and we know them. However we will not be able to tell what these steaks, chops or chickens, with their plastic breastbones and wishbones, contain. The percentages of soya bean, peanut, sewage sludge or other products I have mentioned that have gone into the making of these imitations should be shown on the labels of these products. This is something all honourable members have stressed. Housewives and all other citizens should know exactly what is in these products when they see them in the supermarket. I do not know whether most people can tell ox beef from buffalo let alone plastic meat from rump steak. So I urge that these products be labelled. Once again, we should remember always that just to our north and very close to my home port at Darwin there are millions of people in South East Asia.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I join with my colleagues in supporting the proposal introduced by the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett), namely, the urgent need for the Government to take immediate steps, as a matter of public importance, to plan for the protection of the Australian meat industry against the probable future influx of synthetic or imitation meats on the Australian market or Australia’s overseas markets following recently announced developments overseas. Having listened to the statement by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) about importations of these synthetic or imitation meats into Australia I do not know that I agree that the word future’ suggests some time very far in the future. This is a matter which concerns most members of this House. On a number of occasions the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has mentioned this subject. I think the last occasion was during the debate on the meat industry research levy. He then referred to the need for development and investigation. 1 agree with most other honourable members who have spoken and who have said that the buying public is entitled to know just what it is buying and that the ingredients of imitation meats should be clearly indicated on the labelling. This should be the case with all products whether they contain animal fats or vegetable fats, whether they are margarine or butter, or whether they are meats, lt has been suggested that the labels should clearly indicate that the products are not meat. The honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham), in whose electorate the largest meat works in Australia are situated, has indicated that some people avoid such a requirement by having the words: This excellent product contains no meat’ in small lettering on the packaging. I do not know whether this sort of deceptive advertising can be allowed but I believe that there is a need for legislation requiring all products, particularly food products, to have the contents indicated on the packaging.
A long time ago Robbie Burns wrote:
Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it; But we hae meat and we can eat, And sae the Lord be thankit.
I think the question here is: Is it meat that we hae eat or is it imitation? I think this type of protection can be given by the State and Commonwealth governments to make sure that there is a nationwide protection of all types of foodstuffs, not only meat. The word ‘meat’ has been used to describe types of food and I feel that the problem can be tackled only on a national level: We strike problems when it comes to dealing with competition from imitations on our overseas markets. We know already that in Australia meat consumption has dropped some 10 per cent over the last 10 years, I think, as mentioned by the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie). I believe that greater promotion of meat should be undertaken within Australia. Perhaps the number of migrants coming into this country who do not eat as much meat as we do is responsible for the drop in consumption. Again, perhaps it is the price of meat sold locally that is causing this falling off in meat consumption in Australia.
There is a shortage of meat in the world. Even meat producing countries like Chile and Argentina have introduced meatless days on which meat is not available for sale. I do not know whether this system could be adopted in Australia. However, the majority of people in Chile and Argentina do not possess refrigerators and therefore the practice of having meatless days is a successful one and enables these countries to have enough meat to fulfil their export requirements. Because of such restrictions there is an opportunity to sell imitation meat even to meat producing countries. The western housewife who can afford to buy meat is often offered these new foods as something different to break the monotony of meat. The honourable member for Paterson raised the question of: ‘If you cannot beat them, join them’. We have to ask ourselves whether we should sell to countries to which we cannot now sell our meat or which have not enough money to buy our meat, products which contain additives and a portion of our meat. Products which come readily to mind are such old lines as the Aberdeen sausage and Dutch pork which do not contain a great percentage of meat - they were certainly not made wholly of meat.
– What about haggis?
– Haggis is another product which comes readily to mind although I am not quite certain what goes into it. Some honourable members have mentioned that most of the imitations are made from very high protein foods. Through various means of propaganda we have become diet conscious and protein conscious. Countries such as Japan and the United States of America have concentrated on the production of these imitations. They have been helped along by the high cost of real meat and also by the improvements in the chemistry side of this business. It is said that chemists can produce almost anything and that it is very hard to discern the difference between the real and the artificial product.
In my travels around local shows I have met purists who support the British breeds of cattle and who would not look at a brahmin. They have said to me that brahmin beef is too gristly and that one cannot eat it. I do not know whether these people ever have knocked back a steak because they believe it to be brahmin. My teeth or taste buds are not so good that I would attempt to discriminate in this way. But these people have assured me that they are capable of telling the difference. I notice that one of the meat research committees has carried out investigations into the measuring of tenderness. It indicates that although tough meat may have its origin in the life history of the animal or the procedures of the slaughter floor, it does not follow that the cure must lie in the same areas. The committee looked into the various ways of achieving tenderness. It suggested that a far simpler solution would be a method to make all meat tender. One such method to achieve this is that of ageing. This is the traditional method of hanging meat - to the point of ripeness in the case of game. Someone told me that to make jugged hare one hangs it on a hook and when it gets down off the hook it is time to cook it. This certainly makes meat tender but there are problems and dangers in carrying this out. I understand that the Australian Meat Research Committee is undertaking investigations in this regard.
Mention was made in the Committee’s report of fungi. It says that there are uses for fungi in the manufacture of synthetic or imitation meats. The report mentions that meat can be made tender by adding enzymes extracted from plants or fungi. The report states:
The traditional softening of steak wilh paw paw juices underlies the practice.
The report goes on:
Thus, a plant enzyme like papain is best suited to quick cooking as in grilling steak, a fungal protease to slower roasting.
Therefore, fungi could act in competition. The honourable member for Paterson has something by suggesting that there could be ways in which we could supply a protein, meat hungry world. We could do this by joining the genuine and synthetic product. I do not think that this would need to be the case in our traditional markets, but certainly it is one suggestion which could bear some investigation. I hope that the Government will give some consideration to the suggestion when it takes note, as I hope it does, of the matter of public importance that has been raised today.
– I rise to support this matter of public importance that was introduced by the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett). The matter is in the following terms:
The urgent need for the Government to take immediate steps as a matter of public importance to plan for the protection of the Australian meat industry against the probable future influx of synthetic or imitation meats on the Australian market or Australia’s overseas markets following recently announced developments overseas.
Although I support the proposition I am sorry that the honourable member did not include in what I have just read a protection for the Australian consumer because, after all, it is the Australian consumer who is major purchaser of our meat. The proposition of the honourable member would not have been necessary if the Federal Government were carrying out its responsibilities to the people of Australia as it should be doing. The fact is that the Government should have taken steps long ago to ensure that synthetic meat or imitation meat - call it what you like - would not be an attractive commodity to the Australian housewife and her family or consumers of meat in Australia generally. Surely the only reason why imitation meat could be attractive would be the cost factor. If genuine meat is no dearer or very little dearer than synthetic then it is a pretty safe bet that the genuine meat will remain in full demand and will never be endangered by the production or importation of synthetics.
Even if synthetic meat looked attractive and even tasted the same or similar to the real thing there would still be considerable resistance to its purchase if the cost was somewhere near the same. I feel quite certain this would be so. I would be very surprised if any housewife or mother would even consider offering synthetic or imitation meat to her family while she was in a position financially to purchase and serve real meat. I believe that cafe and restaurant owners and such people also would be disinclined to serve imitation meat unless the cost of the real thing got out of hand. If this is so, the best protection we can give to the industry and the consumers is to ensure that the cost of genuine meat does not rise to a point where it ceases to be attractive for financial reasons.
At the same time the cost of meat, particularly beef, to the consumer is rapidly reaching the stage where the consumer will be forced to look for an alternative - either something other than meat or otherwise, if available, the types of meat referred to in the proposition before the House. A breadwinner on anything less than the average wage just cannot afford to buy good steak or good sirloin or such meat because of its high cost. Let me say right now that I do not believe for a moment that either the grower or butcher is receiving or charging as the case may be any exorbitant amount beyond what he is entitled to receive or charge. It is well known that the grower’s return from lamb or mutton is well below an economical figure yet there is a very considerable difference between what the grower receives and what the purchaser pays at the butcher shop. Certainly there is a great deal more than should be the case if the butcher paid only the amount which the grower received plus a reasonable margin which, of course, we can expect him to add to the purchase price payable by him.
As we all know, most butchers do not purchase direct from the grower and as a result pay a higher price than would be the case if there was a direct purchase. It seems clear to me that if the grower received for his lamb and mutton a price equal to his cost of production it would mean, if the present differentiation applied, that the cost at the butcher’s shop to the consumer would be almost prohibitive today. This suggests to me that there is an urgent need for an inquiry to be held to ascertain at what stage of the transaction between the grower and consumer there is either an unnecessary or inflated charge or percentage take. The same thing applies with regard to beef. The difference between the return to the grower and the charge to the consumer would appear to be much more than it should be. I may be wrong but if I am I know that many thousands of other people are equally wrong. I suggest that there is a general belief that somewhere along the line there is a charge or percentage take well above what it should be. This applies especially in the domestic market. Alternatively, there is a stage in the handling which might be looked at and perhaps bypassed. It must be remembered that the domestic market is our major market for meat. The domestic market absorbs approximately 85 per cent of meat produced. It accepts all pig meat and approximately half the beef, veal and mutton produced. Therefore the Australian consumer is the main consumer to be protected. To do this it is necessary for the Government to take action to afford that protection. Even if there were no danger of synthetics making inroads into the market it would still be necessary and proper that the Australian housewife, the Australian families and Australian people generally, wherever they obtain their meats should be protected against unreasonable and prohibitive prices. On the other hand we must consider the growers’ position. If prices are allowed to continue to increase such as they have with beef it will not be long before we are facing difficulty in selling meat and gaining a proper return not only locally but also overseas. Beef and veal production in Australia is steadily increasing. However, prices are increasing too and I should like to quote some statistics. About March 1970 the number of cattle in Australia reached 22.2 million head, an increase of 8 per cent over the previous year which itself had been a record. The figures for March of last year showed a further increase in the number of beef cattle to approximately 24.4 million head due largely to a decrease in dairy cattle herds. In 1970-71 beef prices generally were higher than for the previous year. In April 1971 the average price for first grade and second grade export beef was something like $2.50 per 100 lb dearer than it had been in 1969-70. If the existing circumstances continue prices will increase accordingly. It might well be that it is necessary for the price of beef to rise to match the increased cost of production. This Government has done nothing to halt increased costs of producing beef and if something is not done soon in that regard continual increases in production costs will force many people out of the industry.
Much has been said about proper labelling of synthetic meats so that housewives will not be fooled. I agree with what has been said but a necessary move is to ensure that housewives can buy genuine meat at reasonable prices. While housewives and other consumers can do that there will not be the same danger of a severe intrusion into the genuine meat market as might happen otherwise. I agree, as I said earlier, that synthetics should be properly labelled so that their real and actual contents are revealed. However, that will not prevent the purchase of synthetic substitutes if the price of the genuine article is beyond the buyer’s purse. I trust that the Government will take urgent steps not only to protect the future of the Australian meat industry but also to protect the consumer. Action of the type I have suggested would go a long way towards protecting the industry.
– Order! The discussion is now concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Garland, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Gold Mining Industry Assistance Act was last amended in 1970 when its operation was extended for 3 years until June 1973 at unchanged rates of subsidy. The Government then expected that this would enable gold mining activity in Kalgoorlie to continue to phase out gradually without serious disruption to the population and the economy of the area. The recent weakening of the demand for nickel in world markets has, however, made it difficult for prospective producers to obtain sales contracts. As a result the commencement dates for a number of nickel projects have been deferred.
Following representations by the industry to the Government and those of Western Australian senators and members the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) announced on 14th December 1971 that it had been decided to increase the maximum rate of subsidy paid to large producers under the Act from $8 an ounce to $12 an ounce, with effect from 1st January 1972. Further representations were subsequently made that that measure of increased assistance would not enable Kalgoorlie producers to maintain production beyond the end of 1972. In order to sustain employment and activity in Kalgoorlie for a longer period, the Government now proposes that subsidised producers also benefit to the extent of one-half, instead of one-quarter as in the present legislation, of the premium by which prices obtained for gold exceed the official price of $31.25 an ounce. This increased benefit would also come into effect as from 1st January 1972. The Bill now before the House will amend the Gold Mining Industry Assistance Act accordingly and will also extend its period of operation until June 1975.
Approximately $32m has been paid to gold producers by way of subsidy since the inception of the Act. This assistance has been supplemented by a complete exemption from income tax of profits from gold mining. Under existing legislative provisions, expenditure on subsidy this financial year was estimated at 31.9m. Increasing the maximum subsidy rate for large producers to $12 an ounce is expected to increase expenditure in 1971-72 by about $400,000 and in a full year by about $lm. JJ premiums above the official price continue at the present level of about $8 an ounce, increasing the share of premiums retained by subsidised producers to one-half would increase subsidy expenditure in 1971-72 by about $300,000 and in a full year by about $800,000. The Bill also includes a provision to give the Treasurer discretion to extend the period of time within which a large producer must apply for approval in order to become eligible for subsidy. The Act already provides that the Treasurer may allow an extension of the period within which large producers may elect to claim subsidy under the small producer provisions of the Act and the proposed amendment would confer a similar discretion in respect of the initial approval of large producers for subsidy purposes. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Lynch, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1972 contains the most significant amendments to the Act since 1947. This Bill is being brought down when our system of conciliation and arbitration has been undergoing severe strain against a background of increasing industrial unrest and serious wage-induced inflation. In December last year, I made a comprehensive statement to this House outlining proposals for amendment of the Act designed to improve and strengthen the system. I stated then that our aim was to ensure that the Act would provide for the orderly conduct of industrial relations in this country, benefit both workers and employers and protect the interests of the entire community.
Since that time, I have had the opportunity of considering a wide range of representations from many individuals and organisations. This was in accordance with what I indicated in December - that my statement would ‘provide the opportunity for the development of an informed public mind’. Indeed, the whole intent of the statement was to encourage the presentation of views so that the Government would have available to it a broad crosssection of opinion before determining its final position. It was most desirable, Mr Speaker, that the far-reaching, amendments I am now proposing should have been the subject of consideration in depth by the Government and interested parties. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act is one cf the most important statues of this Parliament. The Bill will be recognised by the community as evidence of the objective, balanced and constructive approach taken by this Government. That the review of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act undertaken by the Government has been comprehensive will be evident from the provisions of the Bill itself. The Bill deals with every significant Part of the Act.
Before outlining to honourable members the salient features of the Bill, it must be seen in its proper context. A speech of I his nature should not simply be a catalogue of what the Bill itself contains. Its provisions are part of a total approach to conciliation and arbitration. Our system of conciliation and arbitration does not exist simply to serve the parties to industrial disputes. The Act gives a special position to organisations of both employers and workers. That arrangement serves many purposes. In the ultimate, however, the system cf conciliation and arbitration exists to serve the community. It follows, therefore, that the behaviour of the organisations which use that system to assist them in the resolution of their differences should not be contrary to the interests of the community as a whole.
In many respects our system is a unique one. A heavy responsibility rests upon those who take part in its functioning. Although the Government is not directly involved in the day to day affairs of the system as are the immediate parties, the Government’s role is no less important because it represents the community and not simply the immediate parties. The Government cannot be merely an interested bystander. Employers and unions simply cannot be permitted to resolve their differences without regard to the effect on those groups who are not themselves directly involved. Moreover, the role of the Government in this area certainly has become more significant in recent years than at any time since federation. With its responsibility for the management of an increasingly sophisticated economy, the Government cannot leave entirely to the immediate parties to industrial relations the settlement of industrial disputes, even though its intervention may be seen on some occasions as unwelcome. There are 3 parties to the industrial relationship - employers, trade unions and government, representing the community interest.
Our system of conciliation and arbitration has been subject to considerable criticism. As I emphasised in my statement to the House in December, no institution can be free from criticism or from the need for change. Largely, the operation of the system will be as satisfactory as the parties themselves permit it to be. In one sense, they are the system. The Government, however, has a total responsibility for the economy of the country. What happens in the field of industrial relations between employers and unions can be of profound significance for the community. The Government must, therefore, seek to ensure that in the prevention and settlement of disputes and in the determination of wages and conditions of employment, proper account is taken of the national interest. The achievement of this aim is conditioned by a number of factors. Only 40 per cent of employees are covered by Federal awards and there are separate industrial tribunals in each of the States. There are limits placed on the Commonwealth by the Constitution. There is the need to preserve the statutory independence of the industrial tribunals. There is the need to ensure freedom of action by unions and employers, consistent with the need to protect the public interest.
It would be a mistake to overlook the fact that every action taken within our system of conciliation and arbitration affects individuals. I am not speaking here simply of the results that flow from decisions of bodies such as the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The legislation is concerned also with the activities of union and employer organisations in relation to their members and the activities of members within those organisations. Union and employer bodies exist primarily to protect and advance the interests of their members. It is the members who must determine the affairs of these organisations. Honourable members will note, therefore, that this Bill pays particular attention to the provisions of the Act which aim at ensuring democratic processes and affect membership control in organisations registered under the Act.
Productivity growth determines the improvement in the level of our standard of living. It is essential, therefore, that there be a minimum of interruption to production of goods and services through industrial action. With our system of conciliation and arbitration there need be no interruption. It is essential that employers and trade unions resolve their differences by means which do not disrupt production. The inescapable fact is that there are far too many strikes in this country and far too many man-days are lost as a direct consequence of them. My statement of 7th December indicated the deplorable loss in working time and wages because of the upsurge in industrial unrest during the 2 preceding years. The official figures show that working days lost in 1971 increased by 28 per cent over the loss for 1970 and wages lost increased by 46.5 per cent. Already, this year has seen several serious disputes such as that inflicted on the State Electricity Commission of Victoria. That dispute undoubtedly contributed heavily to a very substantial loss in man-days for the month of February.
The effects of industrial disputes on the community are not simply measurable by the loss of man-days. This only represents the tip of the iceberg. Strikes and other forms of industrial action cause hardship to workers not directly involved. This is graphically illustrated by the SEC strike in Victoria. While only 11,000 SEC workers were actually involved in industrial action, the strike resulted in up to some 200,000 workers in Victoria and some thousands in other States being stood down for varying periods of time. Furthermore, many employees who were not stood down were not productively employed for long periods as a result of power restrictions and other adverse effects of the strike. These losses are not reflected in the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures of man-days lost because he records only the losses in establishments where strike action takes place. Nor do the statistics reveal the disruption to business and commerce, including the effect on employment caused by direct industrial action, such as the loss suffered by businesses within the Sydney metropolitan area as a result of the Atlantean bus dispute in the latter part of last year.
Then there is a danger to the economy from the wage-induced inflation associated with industrial unrest. This can pose a long term threat to economic growth, the balance of payments and full employment. This wage-induced inflation derives from industrial unrest brought about by union militancy and by employers who are unable or not prepared to resist union tactics and claims. Together, these are important factors in the acceleration which has occurred in the field of prices in recent years. The Government has taken positive economic steps to deal with the problem of cost-push inflation in this country - the most important economic problem facing Australia - and I do not need to dwell in detail on the action that has been taken to determine this question. An important element of the Government’s policies in relation to inflation has been to encourage wage restraint. As part of this approach, it has intervened in hearings before the Arbitration Commission and it will continue to do so in cases with major economic implications. There are those who for their sectional interests may resent this intervention. The Government makes no apology whatsoever for exercising its statutory right to place its views before the Commission in appropriate cases. The Bill is an integral part of the steps this Government has taken and is continuing to take to ensure a sound and well balanced economy.
I now outline to the House the salient features of the Bill. The amendments to the Act can be classified under 6 main headings: Firstly, the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes, including the structure of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, the separation of the conciliation and arbitration functions of the Commission, and appeals and references; secondly a strengthening of the sanctions provisions of the Act, including a review of all penalties provided by the Act; thirdly, the regulation of registered organisations established by the Act to ensure more effective democratic control of those organisations, including provisions as to secret ballots in relation to industrial bans and stoppages; fourthly the role of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in dealing with matters of particular significance to the economy of this country; fifthly, the amalgamation of organisations; and sixthly, a wide range of other provisions of the Act which are not without their own special importance to the operation of our system of conciliation and arbitration.
The Government believes that it is important to enhance the influence of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The Bill provides for the separation of the Commission’s functions of conciliation and arbitration with a view to making more attractive to the parties to industrial relations the prospect of settling their differences within the system. Honourable members will note in particular the clause in the Bill which would insert a series of new sections dealing with the role of the Commission. These proposed sections deal with the functions of Conciliation Commissioners, Arbitration Commissioners and Presidential Members. Honourable members will note that the Bill will expand the role of Presidential Members of the Commission. No longer will these members of the Commission be mainly concerned with reserved matters (section 33 of the existing Act) and appeals and references (sections 34 and 35). They will now play a greater role in the day to day activities of the Commission. Along with the Commissioners, they will be intimately involved in settling individual disputes and will be responsible for what might be referred to as ‘task forces’ within the Commission. The proposed new section 23 will enable the establishment of these task forces of the Commission or panels as they are termed in the Bill. The President will assign an industry or a group of industries to a panel of the Commission consisting of a Presidential Member, at least one Arbitration Commissioner and at least one Conciliation Commissioner. As far as practicable, the functions of the Commission in relation to that industry or group of industries will be exercised by members of that panel. This will bring about more speedy attention to disputes arising in industries and a broadening of the Commission’s familiarity with the affairs and problems of industries coming within the scope of the panels.
When a dispute is reported to the Commission, it will go before a Conciliation Commissioner. He will have the power to call a compulsory conference if this be necessary. If the parties can reach agreement they will be able to make a memorandum of their agreement and request the Conciliation Commissioner to certify that memorandum as an award or, alternatively, request him to make an award or order giving effect to their agreement. The Conciliation Commissioner will be required to satisfy himself that the agreement reached by the parties is in the public interest. That provision, therefore, continues a like provision to that in the existing section 31 of the Act. If the parties do not reach agreement, a Conciliation Commissioner will report that to the Presidential Member responsible for the panel. An
Arbitration Commissioner or a Presidential Member will then proceed to deal with the dispute or matters remaining in dispute by arbitration. Nevertheless, we recognise that parties may even resolve their differences at this late stage. If they are able to do so at the arbitration stage, an award can be made by the Commission as if it were made pursuant to the conciliation process I have just outlined.
The Bill widens the criteria for appointment of Presidential Members of the Commission. Except for the office of President, for appointment to which legal qualifications will be required, it will be possible, on the Bill becoming law, to appoint as a Deputy President a person who is or has been a barrister or solicitor of the High Court or of the Supreme Court of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth of not less than 5 years’ standing; has had experience at a high level in industry, commerce, industrial relations or the service of a government or an authority of a government; or has, not less than 5 years previously, obtained a degree of a university or an educational qualification of a similar standard, after studies in the field of law, economics or industrial relations or some other field of study considered by the Governor-General to have substantial relevance to the duties of a Deputy President. The Government believes that these new provisions will greatly assist in bringing to the Presidential Bench of the Commission men of the widest range of experience and practical knowledge. The Bill also provides for the retirement of future Presidential Members at age 65 instead of 70 as now. The tenure of office and the existing standing of the Presidential Members of the Commission who now hold office will not be affected. The House will note that the Bill contains provision for an increase in salaries for the Commissioners. I have no doubt that this provision will be supported by all members of this House as a warranted recognition of the valuable service given to the community by the holders of that office.
By the proposed new section 31, the Bill will extend the matters which, under the Act as it now stands, may be determined only by a Full Bench of the Commission. We believe that there are certain matters which arise in industrial disputes that, because of their very nature, should not be determined on a piecemeal basis. They are matters which can have wide ramifications for the whole of industry. There should be a co-ordinated approach to them and every opportunity given to parties, including the Government, who may not be direct parties to a particular dispute to express their views to the Commission. Only in this way will the Commission be able to form the best judgment on how disputes over these particular matters should be settled. The proposed new section 31 will, therefore, reserve for determination by a Full Bench the questions of standard hours of work, national wage cases, the minimum wage, equal pay except where an alteration in rates of pay is in accordance with principles determined by a Full Bench, annual leave and long service leave.
At this point, it is convenient for me to refer to the provisions of the Bill as to Full Benches of the Commission. The Bill has rationalised these provisions so that a Full Bench will consist of at least three members of the Commission, each of whom is either a Presidential Member or an Arbitration Commissioner, and shall include at least 2 Presidential Members. In respect of the reserved matters mentioned already, at least three Presidential Members will be required to sit on a Full Bench. The Government has taken the view that there should be a widening of the provisions relating to appeals. The proposed new section 35, therefore, provides for appeals against awards, certain decisions in relation to awards and agreements and it extends appeal rights to the whole of section 41(l.)(d) of the Act. At present, the Act does not permit appeals against decisions made under the whole of that paragraph of that section. The Bill will extend the time in which appeals may be lodged from 14 days to 21 days. There will be provision for appeals where the Commission has made an award that affects or supersedes a previous award and that new award is binding only on some of the organisations or persons who were bound by the previous award. An organisation or person bound by the previous award but not bound by the new award will be permitted to appeal against the new award, provided the Commission is satisfied that the organisation or person has a sufficient interest to justify the institution of the appeal and that the matter is of such importance that in the public interest an appeal should lie.
In my statement of 7th December, I indicated that the Government intended to provide that a Full Bench of the Commission must review a conciliated award if the Commonwealth referred such an award on the issue of public interest. After careful consideration, the Government has decided not to proceed with this proposal. This clearly indicates the responsible manner in which the Government has undertaken the task of reviewing the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. We have decided that, on balance, the earlier proposal could have been detrimental to the proposed new conciliation process. We are of the view that the public interest will be adequately protected by the Commonwealth’s statutory right of intervention before full benches and by the expanded appeal provisions I have outlined. Moreover, I shall be referring later in this speech to the provision in the Bill which will require the Commission to pay regard to the state of the national economy. The Bill proposes a new section 20 of the Act which will encourage parties to agree on procedures for preventing and settling further disputes between them by discussion and agreement and to have those procedures incorporated in awards or agreements. The parties will have for guidance the principles agreed to in May 1970, by the ACTU and the National Employers Policy Committee.
In December, I outlined the Government’s philosophy on the question of industrial sanctions. It is important to remind the House of the principal features of that part of my earlier statement. I stated:
The central element of our system is that industrial disputes as to remuneration and other conditions of work should be the subject of settlement by an impartial tribunal, the decision of which shall have the force of law. Arbitration is a form of legislation. No law can be effective unless it is enforceable. No law can be enforceable unless there be a sanction for its breach. Any system of industrial relations such as ours which provides for industrial awards to regulate with the force of law the relations between employers and employees and the conditions under which workers may be employed must also provide judicial support for these awards to have legal force. The Australian system aims to prevent direct action in industrial disputes by providing for conciliation and arbitration. The basis of the sanctions is that the terms of awards must be capable of being upheld at law. Awards of the Commission grant benefits but they also place obligations upon the parties. Employers are bound to apply the provisions of awards to their employees. Both unions and employers are bound to observe the settlement of the disputes which awards bring about.
I indicated then that we did not propose to make changes in the level of penalties provided by section 119 of the Act. I also indicated, however, that we would strengthen the provisions of what is now section 32a of the Act by stressing that the first obligation of a presidential member in dealing with a notification to him under that section would be to bring about a cessation of the conduct which has given rise to the notification. If he could not achieve this, he would be required to issue a certificate unless he was clearly of the view that a prompt settlement of the dispute was likely. That proposal of the Government is given effect to in the Bill by the proposed new section 33.
Beyond this, I would draw particular attention to the fact that in this clause of the Bill it is provided that presidential members to whom, as now, applications under the section are reserved, will be able to exercise the functions of both conciliation and arbitration despite the general separation of these functions. This clearly indicates the Government’s consistent policy that sanctions are a last resort and that every reasonable endeavour should be made to settle disputes by the traditional methods of conciliation and/ or arbitration. Only when these processes have been of no avail should sanctions proceedings be instituted. I believe the sanctions process of the Bill demonstrates a restrained but vigorous approach on the part of the Government to this question. I emphasise, therefore, that, if organisations find themselves the subject of sanctions proceedings in the Industrial Court they have only themselves to blame. Even at the late stage of proceedings under the proposed new section 33, an organisation will still have the opportunity of withdrawing from industrial action in favour of the processes of conciliation and arbitration. The Government realises that on some occasions industrial action takes place before Federal and State officials of organisations are aware of or are able to control it. The legislation will give officials who find themselves in that position an opportunity to rectify the situation. They have a clear responsibility under our system to meet that obligation. If they are not prepared to accept the responsibility, their organisations must accept the consequences. They will have been given every opportunity to avoid proceedings in the Court by behaving in a responsible manner. lt is because of this that 1 re-emphasise the Government’s clear intention indicated by me in my statement of December last that the Government will ensure that all future fines imposed under the sanctions provisions of the Act are collected. There are now none owing under the provisions inserted in the Act in 1970. As further evidence of our determination in this respect, I draw attention to those provisions of the Bill which require registered organisations in future to keep the Industrial Registrar informed of the location of their bank accounts. The Bill contains provisions giving effect to the intention announced in my statement last year that there would be a general review of the penalties provided in the Act. The Bill updates those penalties in the light of changed money values.
The Bill includes new provisions as to the holding of court controlled ballots in relation to industrial disputes. I believe that, in very many instances, industrial stoppages do not have the support of rank and file trade unionists. Consistent with our aim of ensuring maximum membership control of organisations, we believe that the rank and file should have every opportunity of being consulted on the fundamental question of whether they should withdraw their labour by striking and so suffer loss of wages with consequent hardship to their families. At present, the Act only empowers the Commission to order that a vote be taken of the members of an organisation where it considers that this would assist the settlement of a dispute. This Bill will develop this provision so as to enable the Commission to order a ballot where a strike or ban is threatened or exits. There are detailed provisions in the Bill as to the conduct of such ballots and for penalties on persons who may commit offences in relation to them. 1 have already emphasised the implications that decisions of the Commission can have for the national economy. Therefore, the Bil] proposes an amendment of section 39 of the Act to ensure that, when the Commission is constituted to deal with appeals and references and with the reserved matters under the new section 31, it shall, in considering the public interest, have regard in particular to the state of the national economy and the likely effects on that economy of any award that it might make.
The Bill contains provisions designed to assist in the democratic control of registered organisations by their members. The Act already contains many provisions towards this end. I instance those provisions as to the holding of what are commonly called court controlled ballots, inquiries into elections conducted by organisations and provisions as to the rules and to the enforcement of the rules of organisations. We believe that these provisions need to be developed further. Thus, the Bill proposes amendments to sections 140 and 141 of the Act which deal with the requirements as to rules and to directions by the Industrial Court for the performance of rules.
We have provided that where, under section 140 of the Act, the Commonwealth Industrial Court makes a declaration as to the rules of an organisation, those rules should be amended in a manner which, in the opinion of the Registrar, in light of the Court’s judgment, brings them into conformity with the requirements of the Act. The Bill goes on to provide that, if the organisation concerned does not attend to this within 3 months of the Court’s declaration, the Registrar may, after inviting the organisation to consult with him, determine such alterations of the rules as will bring them into conformity. The existing provisions of the Act will apply as to appeals from a decision of the Registrar. The Government has decided to bring down this amendment because it believes there is presently a weakness in this respect in section 140 of the Act.
Similarly, we believe there is a need for amendment of the section because it does not permit the Court to make interim orders when proceedings have been instituted under the section. It is clear that, if a member claims before the Court that the rules of his organisation are oppressive, unreasonable or unjust, he should be able to secure, if he can satisfy the Court, an interim order from the Court which would preclude some action being taken by the organisation before the Court has had a full opportunity to examine in detail the complaint brought against the rules. A like provision is made in the Bill in relation to section 141 for precisely the same reasons.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I seek the leave of the House to move an extension of time for the Minister.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Suspension of Standing Orders Motion (by Mr Swartz) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for Labour and National Service speaking for up to an additional 30 minutes.
– We have also provided in the Bill for inquiries to be instituted into court-controlled’ ballots. This is no reflection upon the officers who have conducted these ballots over the years. Rather does the amendment stem from the Government’s view that it is preferable that Court-controlled’ ballots be subject to inquiry by the court instead of those ballots being made the subject of proceedings under section 141 of the Act as has been the case particularly in recent years.
I said in my statement in December that we would widen the scope for granting financial assistance in relation to proceedings under sections 140 and 141 of the Act. My colleague, the Attorney-General, and I announced recently that we would widen the existing provisions by regulation. A new regulation has been promulgated. As we indicated in a joint statement, recent cases arising under the existing regulation have revealed deficiencies in that regulation. Moreover, it is more desirable that these provisions now form part of the Act itself. Thus, the Bill contains 2 new sections, 141a and 141b, giving effect to our intentions. As will be seen, we have extended the existing provisions to embrace respondents in actions under sections 140 and 141 where hardship is involved.
I also announce at this point the Government’s intention to amend at an early date regulation 139 of the Conciliation and
Arbitration Regulations to reduce to 250 or 5 per cent of the membership of an organisation or a branch of an organisation, whichever is the less, the number of persons who may make a request for a court-controlled’ ballot in an organisation. The existing provision is 1,000 or 10 per cent in the case of an organisation or 500 or 5 per cent in the case of a branch. These provisions which are intended to ensure better government in organisations and to provide greater opportunity for rank and file members to protect their interests where they believe that those interests are not being properly served by the manner in which the affairs of their organisations are being carried out. I am certain that they will be welcomed by rank and file members of registered organisations.
I turn now to the provisions of the Bill which are covered by the proposed new Part VIIIA of the Act - Amalgamation of Organizations. The question of amalgamation is an important one. lt was the subject of submission to and discussion by the Tripartite National Conference on the Conciliation and Arbitration Act last year. Following the Conference, it was under consideration by the Government at the time of my December statement but, at that stage, the Government’s consideration of it had not been finalised. It has also been the subject of representations to me by various parties. Although I was not in a position specifically to refer to this subject in my December statement, I subsequently made it clear, however, that the question of whether there should be changes in the legislation to specify more clearly the procedures under which organisations could amalgamate was one which the Government had under detailed examination.
The primary intention of the new Part VII IA, therefore, is to lay down clearly the processes that should be followed by organisations which propose to amalgamate. As the Act and the Regulations now stand, there is no specific provision for amalgamation though that can be achieved under those existing provisions. The Government recognises that amalgamation of employer organisations and of unions is a characteristic of industrialised societies in the Western world and that there are benefits for the members of organisations in combining together their resources to undertake more effectively their responsibilities in the field of industrial relations. We believe quite firmly, however, that, before amalgamation takes place, every opportunity should be given to the members of the amalgamating organisations to express their views about that amalgamation in a democratic manner.
In light of the Government’s firm view of the importance of amalgamation to the membership of the organisations concerned, we have provided in the Bill that, before an amalgamation is approved, there must be a clear indication that the widest- possible vote of the membership has taken place. For an amalgamation to succeed, therefore, it will require a vote by at least half of the eligible membership of each organisation and a vote in favour by more than half of those voting formally in each organisation. Thus, if the eligible membership of an organisation is 1,000, 500 will be required to cast a vote and, assuming that that 500 vote formally, 251 or approximately 25 per cent will be required to vote in favour of amalgamation.
The new Part VIIIA provides for a total scheme of amalgamation to be submitted to the Registrar by the organisations concerned. There is provision for objection to be made to the scheme insofar as it involves the registration of an organisation, the change of name of an organisation and the alteration of rules or deregistration of an organisation. The Registrar will be required to decide these objections. If he decides that they are not sustained or if they are resolved before him by the objectors and the organisations proposing to amalgamate, he will be required to refer the amalgamation to a ballot of the members of the organisations. Such a ballot will be ‘court-controlled’. It will be conducted, independently of the organisations involved, by an officer of the Registry or by the Commonwealth Electoral Office. Each voter will receive a copy of the scheme of amalgamation with his ballot paper and there is provision for cases for and against an intended amalgamation to be sent to each voter. The detail of this is spelt out in the Bill.
We have also provided for the Industrial Court to inquire into alleged irregularities in or in connection wilh an amalgamation ballot. If an amalgamation is approved at ballot, the Registrar will be required to fix a date from which the amalgamation is to take place. In fixing this date, he will be required to consult with the organisations concerned so that the most convenient date is fixed. This will enable the organisations to place their affairs in order by that date. There is one particularly important provision of the new Part VIllA. It will provide that an amalgamated organisation will be bound by awards that were binding upon organisations which amalgamated with it. This will make it unnecessary for proceedings to be instituted before the Commission to have the respondency of awards changed. I am sure that both employers and unions will welcome this provision.
There is provision in proposed new section J58r for the Minister to direct that expenses incurred in running an amalgamation ballot be borne by the Commonwealth to the extent that those expenses amount to more than the expenses that would have been incurred by an organisation if it had conducted the ballot itself. The Government believes that the new Part VIIIa is an eminently sensible one and that it should leave organisations in no doubt as to what will be required of them under the law if they wish to enter into arrangements directed towards amalgamation.
Before turning to a new subject, I want to refer to the proposals as to compulsory unionism that 1 outlined in my statement of 7th December last. Since then, the Government has given very careful consideration to this matter. On balance, we are now of the view that disadvantages and practical problems associated with amendments of the nature we had in mind could outweigh the advantages.
Two further very short Bills will be introduced in this session. These propose amendments to the Seat of Government (Administration) Act and the Northern Territory (Administration) Act. Honourable members will recall that I also foreshadowed these amendments in my statement of 7th December, 1971. They provide that no longer will the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration
Commission in the ACT and the Northern Territory be limited to dealing with industrial disputes. The Bills to amend these 2 Acts will make possible the extension of the Commission’s jurisdiction in these 2 Territories to disputes involving persons in employment, whether or not they are in an industry, in the Constitutional sense of that word. The amendments proposed to these Acts, however, will not interfere with existing arbitral arrangements applying in the 2 Territories by virtue of legislation other than the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. In other words, the jurisdiction of arbitral tribunals set up by Ordinance and the jurisdiction of the Public Service Arbitrator will continue in the normal way.
I also indicated in my statement of 7th December that the Bill would contain a number of other provisions which are not without their own special importance to the operation of our conciliation and arbitration system. I shall now deal briefly with those amendments. The Bill contains a provision for amendment of section 145 to provide that a member of an organisation may resign his membership by notice in writing if the notice is given not less than 3 months or not less than such shorter period as is specified in the rules of the organisation before the resignation is to take effect and any requirements of those rules as to payment of dues to the date on which the resignation is to take effect are complied with. These amendments are designed to overcome difficulties that have arisen as the result of proceedings in the Industrial Court.
The Bill will enable awards to be made allowing for the unlimited accumulation of sick leave and this should be of considerable significance in reducing time lost in industry through unauthorised work absences. There are in the Bill proposed amendments to section 125 of the Act to strengthen the powers of arbitration inspectors. The amendments proposed will enhance their authority to enter premises and to require persons to make available documents for inspection. These amendments are proposed because the Government believes in the importance of the awards of the Commission being upheld. This is consistent with our attitude to sanctions. The amendments will also assist towards our ratification of International Labor Organisation Convention No. 81.
So far in this speech, I have spoken of the principal features of the Bill. The Bill is a long one and. of necessity, I have not been able to dwell in detail on all its provisions, many of which are consequential upon the main provisions to which I have drawn attention. The detailed provisions will, of course, emerge in the course of the debate and in Committee.
I refer to the amendments which relate to the problems thrown up by the Commonwealth Industrial Court’s judgment in the case of Moore v. Doyle. I refer also to the Government’s further consideration of this matter. As 1 indicated in my statement to the House on 7th December 1971, the problems emerging from this case are complex. The Government believes it is important that the Commonwealth take legislative action in connection with them. The implications of the Court’s observations have been under detailed consideration by a working party formed under the auspices of the National Labour Advisory Council. That Working Party consists of representatives of my own Department, the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, State officials and representatives of the employers and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. I understand that the working party is close to completing its task and that proposals for legislative action by the Commonwealth will be available shortly for exa/nination by the Government. This Bill, however, contains amendments to section 141 as foreshadowed by me in December. Shortly stated, they will place a time limit upon the institution of proceedings under that section in relation to the election of office bearers in organisations. The Government will consider the final suggestions of the working party for further amendments to the Act and I anticipate that a Bill will be presented to Parliament at the earliest possible opportunity.
The Bill shows clearly the total and detailed nature of the review of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act that the Government has carried out. Without doubt, the Bill represents the most sweeping review of the Act since 1947. I emphasise again, however, that the success or otherwise of its operation must depend on the attitudes that the parties themselves adopt to the manner in which they make use of its provisions. The extent to which those parties make a genuine effort to have the new provisions operate successfully will mark the extent to which the community itself enjoys the results of better industrial relationships in this country. Our system of conciliation and arbitration is a sophisticated one and I believe it extends to the parties to industrial relations every facility to enable them to resolve their differences amicably and without disruption to the community. The system itself has been the subject of continuing controversy in recent years. The Government for its part has shown that it has not been unresponsive to the many views that have been expressed to it about the system. The legislation now before the House and certain representations that have been made to the Government will necessitate consideration by the Government of other Acts such as the Public Service Arbitration Act and the Coal Industry Act. A review of these Acts, including consultations with interested parties, will be undertaken on the Bill now presented being passed by Parliament.
In this connection, I should also point out that, whilst the separation of the functions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has been carried through into Part HIA of the Act which deals with the Flight Crew Officers Industrial Tribunal, no attempt has been made to extend other major changes in the Act to that Part. I indicate now that I shall be inviting the parties involved in the industry covered by the Tribunal to consult with me on those matters.
Conciliation and arbitration system is a dynamic institution. It evolves according to changes in community standards and needs. It has always done so and will continue to do so. Touching as it does the very life of the community, it must be responsive to change. In these circumstances, the operation of the changes now proposed will be kept under the closest scrutiny by the Government. The Government will welcome observations from interested persons and organisations on how the new system functions and any suggestions they may have for further improvement. Some of the provisions of this Bill will not be capable of introduction immediately. That is why the Bill contains provisions for its progressive implementation. Nevertheless, the administrative tasks that will need to be completed before the revised system comes into operation will be carried out with the greatest possible expedition. Moreover, it will be essential that those most closely involved in its operation secure a clear understanding of the meaning of and intentions behind the various provisions of the Bill now before the House. Therefore, on the Bill being passed by Parliament, I shall arrange for s.n explanatory booklet on the Bill to be published and given the widest possible distribution. 1 shall also take up with the appropriate authorities the question of the Act, as amended by the Bill, being published in consolidation form. I commend the Bill to the House.
– Before I move that the debate be adjourned may I ask the Minister when he proposes to have this matter called on again and whether he intends interested parties to have an opportunity to look at the Bill before it is called on?
– That is a matter for consultation between the Opposition and the Leader of the House (Mr Swartz); but it is not expected that this Bill will be delayed in its passage through this House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 20 April (vide page 19S4), on motion by Mr Hunt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Charles Jones had moved by way of amendment:
That ail words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill this House condemns the Government for having failed to amend the Navigation Act to comply with International Labour Organisation and Inter-governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation Conventions, modern shipping practice and effective safety operations, as promised by the Minister for Shipping and Transport in August 1967, and for failing to introduce a Bill to provide for an Australian Register of Shipping’.
– I support the amendment. The Opposition is critical of the lack of action in this field of navigation, particularly since this matter was fully debated in 1967 and amendments were moved by members of the Opposition. The Parliament was urged to take action on recommendations from the Labor Party Transport Committee after consultation with the parties concerned in the industry, but no action has been taken. Nobody will deny that a revision is necessary. This applies to all legislation. As time progresses, modern innovations come to hand, methods and speeds vary and in this case crewing requirements change. It is imperative that these matters come before the Parliament for amendment as soon as a system changes. In this case we have had a tremendous change in the types of packaging of goods carried by sea. We have seen containerisation introduced, with all its encompassing equipment. We have also seen the change to bulk handling and bulk cartage. There has been an enormous increase in vessel tonnages, with a decrease in crewing per ton. But with all this change no action has been taken to review the provisions of the Navigation Act in relation to these matters. I am not saying that the current regulations are sufficient to cover all aspects of national or international navigation needs as they are affected by Australian standards.
Let me instance the incident involving the S.S. ‘Hannah’. This vessel was cleared from an Australian port by an Australian surveyor; yet it was soon to become an abandoned hulk left floating to menace other vessels - both passenger and cargo vessels - threatening the lives of seamen and public alike. We would all agree that the legislation is deficient when this can occur. It is in itself an exposure of the deficiency of the legislation which can allow such a situation to exist. Of course, some would say that existing provisions can prevent such an incident recurring, but I do not accept this because no person in Australia would be so deficient in his duty, so negligent or so callous of life as to allow the incident concerning the S.S. Hannah’ to recur.
So I must reiterate that the legislation itself is deficient. It is so deficient that it allowed a rust bucket bought for a song to be placed under a flag of convenience by its new owners and to come to the land of all foreign comers take all’ - Australia. It was rejected by one licensed surveyor in Australia as being unseaworthy for carrying a cargo of wheat, then accepted by a specially found surveyor and cleared at another port for carrying a cargo of ilmenite. All the time the only real protesting parties to this were the maritime industry unions, not the Government. Finally, this potential death trap was allowed to leave an Australian harbour, under Australian legislation, and to be abandoned at sea in comparatively calm waters. The lives of the crew were saved because of the favourable weather, not because of Government action. What a scandalous situation.
A further display of Government neglect was that the floating hulk was left drifting in the sea lanes. Where was the Australian Navy in this instance? It should have constantly plotted this ship’s course or destroyed the hazard. I feel sure that this is one field in which the Navy would welcome the practice. Why did not the Government take action? I prefer to believe that the legislation was deficient enough to prevent the Government from taking action. But on either count, the Government stands condemned for not taking immediate action to introduce legislation which would have rectified the situation. In the first instance the Government in fact should have been able to prevent this ship from sailing. What subsequent inquiry has been held and what has the result of that inquiry been? It is no wonder that the unions take issue on safety factors, though this may create unnecessary discord in the industry. 1 say ‘unnecessary’ because, if the Government was doing its legislative job, action by other parties would be unnecessary. Let us have a public inquiry into this matter. Let the facts on all aspects as to who was at fault - the legislation or the people concerned - be made public. If the people were at fault, let us ensure that the same mistakes are not made again. If the legislation was at fault, then let the Government take immediate action to correct the anomaly.
To continue to allow ships of convenience, which take a flag of convenience in order to avoid obligatory safety standards, national and international wages obligations which they have to meet under the laws of Australia and other more stabilised countries, and the repatriation of seamen, to come to Australia and not be challenged effectively on their standards by our navigation regulations is a national scandal. But further, to leave it to the trade union movement alone to protest is only compounding the folly. The only people other than Labor members of Parliament who have raised their voices in protest publicly have been the maritime unions who are concerned about Australian trade, and the Australian workers affected. They have protested at flags of convenience utilising island seamen on minimum wage standards and conditions, thus taking away most, if not all, of our inter-island trade and benefits generating from such trade. They have expressed their alarm to such a degree that it has led to the support of their attitude by the Australian Council Of Trade Unions which, in February this year, passed a resolution which is far reaching and comprehensive in its condemnation of all of the malpractices associated with this section of the industry.
But what do we have from the Government? We hear of no thought, no statement, no examination of the facts and no revised legislation which would adequately protect the Australian citizen. We hear of no legislation to protect the Australian ship owner or to ensure that even the ships of the Australian National Line have a security or rationalising of cargo. We hear of no guarantee that cargo sent overseas as aid will be transported in Australian ships. The United States of America ensures that at least SO per cent of aid cargo must be carried by United States vessels. Recently we had the situation where our aid to Bangladesh was carried in a Japanese ship. We have absolutely no legislation in Australia to provide such a guarantee. No doubt the Government will say that it is not necessary. How ludicrous this is, when one realises that so many countries have found it necessary to legislate to this end. Some 22 non-communist countries have legislated to cover not only this aspect but also the question of a registry of shipping and other questions. Our shipping lines should be covered by the mantle of similar protective provisions as other countries have. We should not place Australian shipping lines in the disadvantaged position in which they find themselves today.
Let us look at what we need to do in order to compete with ships of other countries. Argentina provides that a minimum of SO per cent of all goods carried under any international commercial trade agreement, government cargoes, purchases by official departments, state enterprises and dependencies, municipal and provincial governments and also companies in which the state has a minimum investment of 50 per cent are to be reserved for Argentine national ships. Argentina imposes additional tax and grants import duty concessions to the extent that export credits granted by Argentine banks may include only 85 per cent of the freight element if Argentine transport is used. Argentina also has a number of bilateral trade agreements with other countries which contain clauses providing for the carriage of cargo on a 50/50 basis.
Let us look briefly at the provisions in other countries. In Bolivia 30 per cent, rising to 50 per cent, of cargo is reserved for national ships. In Brazil imports and exports by federal, state, municipal and public departments and public enterprises are reserved for national ships. It also has a number of bilateral agreements with other countries which provide for the sharing of the carriage of cargo on a 50/50 basis. In Chile 50 per cent of imports and exports have to be carried on Chilean ships. In Columbia a minimum of 50 per cent of all cargo must be carried on Colombian ships. In Ecuador all government and official imports must be carried on national ships, although this requirement is not strictly enforced. In Ghana insurance clauses are annexed to import licences requiring importers to use ships of the state-owned line. Other countries having similar provisions in favour of their own shipping lines are Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, the United Arab Republic, Uruguay, the United States of America, Venezuela and the Latin American free trade area - but not Australia. This is an incredible situation which must be rectified in the immediate future by appropriate legislation.
No doubt it will be claimed that certain protection does exist. But anyone noting the laying up of the Australian National Line ships and the cargo carried from Australian ports by regular overseas lines and ships carrying flags of convenience will know the truth of the situation. The cries for protection of the people who work in the industry have so far been ignored. For just this once let some Government action be taken before this question becomes a real issue of dispute between workers, employers and the Government.
Turning to the people who are employed in the shipping industry, recently I had cause to make an inquiry on behalf of a constituent who wished to improve his standing and employment opportunity by obtaining the necessary certification for the merchant marine. He had achieved the best he could in Western Australia, which was coastal master, officer’s competency certificate. He found that to obtain his second rating for foreign seagoing ships he had to undertake a 3 weeks’ radar instruction course and a 16 weeks’ general study course but these courses were available only in Melbourne, Sydney or Newcastle. A portion of the courses could be undertaken by correspondence. What an incredible situation, for a State which has the naval training base of HMAS ‘Leeuwin’ to have no training facilities for private industry. Let us look at a student who must travel 2,500 miles and incur heavy travel costs, loss of wages and living costs. It makes it impossible for this Western Australian to follow what is bis natural career to which he is adopted. So he is lost to the industry.
It is no good saying that the State may take action to assist in this matter because in fact the Commonwealth provides the standards and the examinations. It is regrettable that this matter has not been rectified; that some facility for training in conjunction with naval facilities has not been provided. This is a factor which must be considered when eventually this legislation is comprehensibly revised. The Government must consider the question of the education standards of the officers and men in service training using Commonwealth facilities, and not rely on the personal sacrifice of the individual. If it is to be accepted that the trends in size, design, equipping and reliability of ships will eventually call for fewer certified personnel, in relation to the tonnage of those ships, who will need wider skills and training in management, many ratings or gradings will disappear.
Ideas differ on the appropriate training and qualification for each level of crewing. Some consider that the future lies in the integrated crew, including the dual-purpose officers who are equally at home in the engine room and in deck departments. Others consider that eventually the large, automated oceangoing ship will need a single senior engineer officer of graduate standard assisted by technicians and mechanics. Again, there is some doubt whether there will ever be more than a few openings for a full career at sea for men of graduate calibre. Japan, with its rapidly improving position in the world shipping field, employs, in greater numbers, personnel who have been educated to graduate standard, and in the United States merchant marine it is becoming increasingly common for the engineer officer to have a degree. But whatever the final outcome of progress, the people who must be involved, who must be listened to and fully represented in the formative stages, are those who will actually work in the industry; and this will be done through their recognised organisations. It is only in this way that progress with industry stability will be achieved, and this is in the national interest.
Our Australian shipping lines are not only our first line in commerce trading, nationally and internationally, but also are our first line of defence. No-one would imagine that any nation could have operated in World War I or World War II without the great contribution given by the merchant navy. So while being a commercial venture it is an industry venture which warrants constant Government assistance and attention legislatively. It is because of this, and for other reasons, that I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) in these terms: whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill this House condemns the Government for having failed to amend the Navigation Act to comply with International Labour Organisation and Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organisation Conventions, modern shipping practice, and effective safety operations, as promised by the Minister for Shipping and Transport in August 1967, and for failing to introduce a Bill to provide for an Australian Register of Shipping.
This amendment highlights the alarming laxity of the Government in the field of shipping protection. Let us consider again the shipping register question. One of the features of recent years has been the development of fleets by nations which previously were dependent on the services of others. Many developing countries, in particular, have aspired to own and operate national fleets on the grounds that large tonnages of their national products are carried by sea and that the possession of their own fleets will give them independence and, by saving foreign exchange, will contribute to their balance of payments. They have, therefore, encouraged the development of national shipping companies. In many cases the emphasis has been much more strongly on the development of liner services than on operating tramps or tankers.
Existing members of conference lines serving these countries have admitted new national lines to a share of the trade. In some cases they have given these countries technical assistance in developing their businesses. The major point is that these countries have developed their national shipping registers to ensure that the registration of their ships under their national flags confers benefits and, of course, some obligations. The registering power grants protection in various ways to the owner of the ship itself and all who sail in her, wherever she may be trading throughout the world, and also upholds the power of her master to command the vessel in accordance with that country’s national law. In return it imposes regulations concerning safety and other matters, including the welfare of passengers and crew. This is a most desirable form of protection for the citizens of any nation.
The effect of flag discrimination on trade can be dramatic. Let me instance a few proven cases of the effect of flag protection legislation by various nations. After the legislation I previously mentioned had been enacted and enforced, the proportion of liner traffic from the United Kingdom to Uruguay carried by United Kingdom operators almost halved between 1962 and 1967. On the United Kingdom to Brazil route it declined by almost a quarter between 1958 and 1967. After negotiations took place and under threat of further discrimination, new agreements in conference line arrangements came into operation. This decreased the United Kingdom share of this shipping even further. In both of these examples the nation legislating for its national lines has been the country to gain, although there is always the problem of some loss of trade to ships travelling under flags of convenience. This applies mainly to private cargoes. Of course ships of convenience have operated under charter to augment the expanding fleets of these national lines.
Australia, an island nation, situated in Asia with dependence on the sea to ensure that its trade functions effectively, has stood idly by and allowed new and independent nations to outpace it in respect of national interest and legislation. It is far past the time when this situation should be reversed. Must we wait until a newly independent New Guinea shames us by taking legislative action to recapture its own island trade and to expand and operate profusely in Australian waters? Foresight not hindsight is what is required urgently. We need action, not explanations. We expect action of the Government. People can be assured that a Labor government will take the necessary urgent action.
I support the amendment and condemn the use of flags of convenience which have been described by the 1958 Maritime Transport Committee of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation as:
The flags of such countries as Panama, Liberia, Honduras and Costa Rica whose laws allow and, indeed, make it easy for ships owned by foreign nationals or companies to fly these flags. This is in contrast to the practice of the maritime countries (and in many others) where the right to fly the national flag is subject to stringent conditions and involves far-reaching obligations.
Thus the country of registry of flags of convenience has neither the power nor the administrative machinery to impose effectively any government or international regulations. Nor has the country the wish or the power to control - the companies themselves. It imposes no national standards for the safety or conditions of service of the crew, as there are no national trade unions protecting the seafarer with which the operator need negotiate. Thus we urge the Government to support the amendment or to take other urgent action to rectify the existing situation.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
– The Bill we are considering seeks to alter the Navigation Act. This is a tremendous Act in size and importance. It was consolidated in 1956 as 291 pages and there have been 7 amendments to it since then. I can sympathise with the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) and bis Department who have taken on the job of revision. 1 will not be critical in any way because this revision is not achieved quickly. 1 think it would be very foolish to rush in and quickly amend the Act. However, as I have said, this is a very important Act. One of the very important parts of it is the section which makes it obligatory for goods for interstate carriage to be transported in Australian ships.
T think it is worth having a look at the effects of this policy. I have some figures which were given in evidence before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works in Darwin. The Committee was told that the estimated cost to ship cement from Townsville to Darwin- in a foreign owned vessel was $2.30 a ton and the cost to ship cement from Townsville to Weipa, which is less than half the distance, is $25 a ton in an Australian owned vessel. Therefore we have to pay a tremendous price to ship goods under the Navigation Act as we know it at present. I notice that last week the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) mentioned that it cost less to carry salt from Australia to Japan than it cost to bring it from an Australian port to Sydney. 1 was interested in that figure because my figures are similar.
A short while ago a statement was made, in regard to a Tariff Board report on chlorine, that one could ship Australian salt in an overseas vessel from the gulf in South Australia to Japan and back to Sydney for less money than it cost to ship it from an Australian port round to Sydney. So it is quite clear that a tremendous price has to be paid for the operation of the Navigation Act. I hope that the Minster, when lookng at this revision, will keep what I have to say in mind. One of the reasons for the inordinately high Australian cost is the nature of the manning scales. For instance, a chief steward on an Australian ship is paid $7,685 a year for 32 weeks work a year. He receives 20 weeks holiday on full pay. His salary works out at $240 for each week of work. 1 understand that in addition he receives his keep. An assistant steward receives $6,095 for a 32-week year and receives 20 weeks a year holiday. His salary works out at $190 for every week of work. Also, he receives all the fringe benefits. I understand that rates higher than this are paid on many other ships.
I believe that the Seamen’s Union of Australia is asking for an award or an agreement whereby its members in this category will work 26 weeks a year and have 26 weeks holiday. This is the kind of price that we are paying under the present system. Our manning and accommodation standards are lavish in the extreme. The point 1 want to make is that someone is paying for this. None of us in any area of politics ought to pretend that there is such a thing as a free feed. Someone has to pay. The price that is being paid for the present feather bedding of Australian seamen is that development all over Australia is being limited and people living around the coast of Australia are paying an inordinate price. All of us in this House are keen to see development. Some honourable members make fine flowing speeches about the necessity for it. But a prime factor inhibiting development is the high level of freight. Under the Navigation Act as it stands at present the level of freight is a very limiting factor of development.
Having said that, I think it is proper that 1 should make a suggestion. It is obvious that the people of Australia feel that this country ought to have an Australian shipping line that would carry Australian goods in Australian vessels. If this is what is wanted, why not tackle this matter a different way? Why not have a freight subsidy paid by the taxpayer to bring the Australian cost into line with the overseas costs? Such a system would have 2 benefits. Firstly it would lighten the load in regard to the cost of development which is impossible to achieve under the present system. Secondly, we would have an additional advantage in that the Seamen’s Union and those people who man the ships would not so easily be able to bold the whole system to ransom.
Consider what happened recently in Tasmania when the whole economy of that State was threatened by a foolish and irresponsible stewards strike. If there were a subsidy system the Australian carrier who received the subsidy would be able to compete on equal terms with overseas carriers. This subsidy would operate in the same way as do other subsidies paid to other sections of the community. If a subsidy were paid it would be much more difficult for irresponsible strikes, such as the one we saw last year, to be held. It would be much more difficult for the union concerned to hold the Australian economy, and particularly the Tasmanian economy, to ransom. If it were known that an overseas ship could pick up a cargo if there were such aa irresponsible strike this fact would inhibit the likelihood of such strikes. I am putting this suggestion forward to the Minister in the hope that when the Navigation Act is being revised in detail, as he said it would be, these very serious matters can be taken into account.
It is clear that a great price has to be paid for our present system and that this price is inhibiting and limiting development throughout Australia. It is limiting our ability to expand in the areas where we could expand if we had a lower freight structure. The present system also is placing us very much in the hands of irresponsible industrial action on the waterfront. Therefore I hope that the Minister will listen to what I am saying and regard it as a plea. The present system, I think, is fraught with danger and will become worse as industrial action becomes rather easier in the future. For Australia’s sake and for the sake of development we must have a careful look at the Navigation Act in due course. The Bill before the House does not deal with the general subject. It introduces a different method of assessing tonnages. It is an amendment that is needed and I give it my full blessing. I support the Bill but I shall oppose the amendment.
– If anyone in this Parliament or in the nation feels there is a better advocate for the quid a week and keep policy than the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) I should like to hear his nomination. I feel that the honourable member for Wakefield is living in the past. He believes he is a member of a government that has provided for us a better way of living and a better way of life than that enjoyed by people in most of our neighbouring nations in the Asian area. The honourable member feels that we would be better off living on their low wage standards rather than competing as a nation in the transportation of the goods of Australia. He believes that we should leave the carriage of our goods in the hands of others. The honourable member has failed to recognise that in doing so we are leaving ourselves wide open. Apparently he would rather see Australia in that position than see Australia participating in competition which would result in Australian seamen and others associated with martime unions receiving higher wage rates for their involvement in foreign trade. He is concerned that the Australian community might be asked to contribute something towards maintaining high standards and therefore he believes that we would be better off using slave labour and the low wage conditions of other countries.
The Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) on behalf of the Minister for Shipping and Transport, has introduced amendments to the Navigation Act. Those amendments do not actually deal with the matters to which the honourable member for Wakefield referred. They introduce a varied means of measuring the tonnage of ships and in effect will reduce the tonnage of several Australian ships competing with vessels of other nations on the trade routes of the world. The Minister said that the registered tonnage of a ship is used for assessing harbour dues, docking fees and such matters. I recall the time when ships using the Suez Canal often had spaces in their hulls sealed off so that they might be excluded from the net tonnage of the vessel as it was on the net tonnage that fees for the use of the canal were charged. The Australian Labor Party does not oppose the provisions of this Bill. On Thursday last the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) moved an amendment, which provided:
That all words after That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill this House condemns the Government for having failed to amend the Navigation Act to comply with International Labour Organisation and Inter-governmental Martime Consultative Organisation Conventions, modern shipping practice, and effective safety operations, as promised by the Minister for Shipping and Transport in August 1967, and for failing to introduce a Bill to provide for an Australian Register of Shipping.’
The Navigation Act was introduced in 1912 and since then on various occasions piecemeal amendments have been introduced. 1 invite the attention of the Pari Lament to the fact that the Government of New Zealand, another island nation, has seen fit to accept in total the provisions recommended by the British Board of Trade. Those provisions are recognised throughout the world and cover navigation, navigation requirements, suitability of vessels for survey and other matters. 1 understand that in Australia several interstate conferences have been held particularly in regard to survey and other requirements of the Navigation Act. These conferences have discussed the type of vessels, the requirements for vessels and the requirements to be met for vessels plying on the intrastate and interstate trade along the Australian shoreline. The conferences were called for the purpose of recommending amendments to the Navigation Act. In 1967 the Minister for Shipping and Transport, the honourable Gordon Freeth, promised that the Government would introduce certain amendments. In reply to the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) who had proposed amendments suggested by the Opposition Members Transport Committeee, the Minister said that the proposed amendments would be considered. He agreed to quite a number of the amendments put forward but expressed doubt about others and he said that he understood the Parliamentary Counsel was preparing some amendments to the Act. He said that though he thought some of the amendments put forward by the Opposition were acceptable he felt that it was not the time to introduce them. That was almost 5 years ago, on 21st July 1967. Since then we have seen one amendment made to the Navigation Act and that related mainly to the construction of ships. A considerable number of smaller vessels, constructed in Australia, operate along the Australian coastline. The Minister would be aware of these vessels and would know that many of them are under 200 tons, which is the qualifying tonnage for a shipbuilding subsidy. The Navigation Act, as it stands, does not apply to these vessels.
My understanding of the Act is that there are 3 distinct requirements regarding various types of vessels. The United Kingdom legislation, accepted by New
Zealand, provides for many more classifications and sets out the types of vessels which may operate within certain waters. Australia does have classifications covering navigation of the River Murray but outside those waters the same classifications apply to ocean going vessels as apply to other vessels operating within restricted waters. The United Kingdom legislation applies to the operation of vessels within certain seasons. This does not create any great problem. The Minister for Shipping and Transport had some experience in this field when he was in charge of meteorology as Minister for the Interior, and he knows that along certain parts of the Australian coastline at certain limes of the year there are potential dangers to shipping. The United Kingdom Navigation Act provides for regulations governing the operation of ships within certain times in the North Sea and in other waters off the British coast and restricting shipping to within certain distances of the British coast. I believe that similar provisions could be worked out to control the operation of Australian ships at different times of the year.
But it goes even further than that. I noticed recently that the Minister, when speaking on the occasion of the establishment of an air-sea rescue body, indicated that some charge should be made on the owners of the number of small craft operating along the coast to cover the operations of air-sea rescue. Most of these craft are trailer-drawn boats which in some cases operate outside our territorial waters, even if one accepts the 12-mile limit and certainly if one accepts the 3-mile limit. We all agree that the Commonwealth at various times has been put to expense by people who operate small craft which normally should not be out in certain weather. Nevertheless they are, and sometimes they are caught because of the inexperience - sometimes a complete lack of experience - of the operator. This has put the Commonwealth to expense in conducting searches and rescues.
The achievements of Mr John Fairfax and his companion, Miss Sylvia Cook, in crossing the Pacific Ocean in a lifeboat do not need to be duplicated. These people deserve congratulations for what they have achieved, but I hope that this will not be an encouragement to other people to take unnecessary risks by going to sea in craft that are not seaworthy, particularly in certain weather. The cyclone which hit the Queensland coastline between Brisbane and Gladstone over Easter and in which 2 vessels were lost - one a trimaran - indicated the necessity for a uniform Navigation Act which would apply to vessels operating within certain waters at certain times of the year. From my experience of the Queensland coastline, in another month or so it will be quite possible for small craft to operate with reasonable safety in that area, but in the cyclone season from December to the end of March or even to the middle of April there are extreme dangers to people operating these craft.
We should have a Navigation Act which lays down quite clearly national requirements in regard to the operation of vessels, particularly for the benefit of surveyors of vessels. These amendments to the Navigation Act, which are being introduced in a piecemeal fashion, are not giving the Australian public the protection that it requires. I do not believe that the surveyors of vessels are given the authority that should be given to them in the control of the operations of vessels. The honourable member for Swan (Mr Bennett) mentioned a vessel which was not cleared on inspection and could not obtain a certificate in one port but apparently was cleared in another port. It was eventually abandoned by the crew in calm water. We can be thankful that it was calm water at the time that this vessel was abandoned. We have had along the Australian coastline numerous cases in recent times - and these have been brought up in this Parliament - which have amply shown that the Navigation Act is not stringent enough. As the honourable member for Swan has said, in most of these cases the objection to these vessels operating in the first place was raised by maritime unions. I mention this in order to refute the argument put forward by the honourable member for Wakefield to the effect that members of these unions do not act responsibly. From my experience, particularly with regard to the margins of safety, they do act responsibly. Perhaps there have been a few cases - and thank God there have been only a few - which have proved that their objections were not based on false grounds. We can be thankful that in those cases there was no loss of life.
The Commonwealth should conduct an urgent inquiry into the Navigation Act. It should act quickly. The experience of the United Kingdom Board of Trade is there and can be accepted in total. It will be a vast improvement on what we are trying to do new. It will introduce into Australia a Navigation Act which will be to the benefit of most Australians and will be in their interests. There may be some cases where alterations will need to be made. But, as I recall most of the amendments which have been introduced while I have been in the Parliament, they have been almost chapter and verse the provisions of the United Kingdom Board of Trade. If it is good enough for New Zealand to accept these provisions - and we are getting closer and closer to New Zealand - particularly in relation to the operation of small craft we will be serving the country well if, instead of having lengthy discussions about whether we should do this or that and whether we should introduce small amendments which mean very little at the time they are introduced in this Parliament, we accept the provisions of the United Kingdom Board of Trade whose Navigation Act has been drawn up from experience and making allowances for particular seasonal conditions. These provisions can be readily put into operation along the Australian coastline.
There should be uniform laws regarding the survey of vessels. This applies particularly to fishing vessels which operate between New South Wales and the Gulf of Carpentaria. Uniform laws regarding the survey of these vessels would contribute much to the welfare of the fishing industry. As I said before, the people who are engaged as surveyors should see that the Navigation Act is complied with in regard to the measurement of ships, bearing in mind particularly the safety of operations. They will know exactly what is required of them; the owners of the vessels will know what is required of them, and so also will the men who are obliged to man these vessels in their operations.
– We have heard a great divergence of opinion and a straying away from the Bill that is before the House tonight. It was refreshing to hear the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) say that a subsidy would accentuate the freight and other costs that would have to be charged by any Australian shipper in competition with the ships of other nations. As I understand the position, the tonnage measurement and the registration of ships provisions in our legislation existed in the British Merchant Shipping Act of previous times. This Bill will give power to the Commonwealth, through the Navigation Act, to make regulations for the measurement of a ship’s tonnage in the way provided in the tonnage mark scheme. These provisions are unique in Australian legislation. The measurement of ships’ tonnages is a subject that has never before been dealt with by this Parliament. It was previously covered by the British Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 as it applied to Australia. By measurement we can establish the criteria for the ship’s size by volume as a basis for the levying of dues and charges. A ship’s net tonnage is arrived at by subtracting from its enclosed volume of space the area that is not used for cargo. Pending new Commonwealth legislation being introduced to supersede the British Acts as they apply to Australia, the Bill now before the House will provide Commonwealth power to make regulations for the measurement of ships. Australian ships engaged in overseas trade are at present disadvantaged because of the tonnage mark system in vogue in most countries of the world.
I do not think it is necessary to deal clause by clause with the alterations contained in the Bill. It strengthens the position of Australian ships plying to foreign ports and gives the Commonwealth power to deal with foreign ships that are not registered under the tonnage mark scheme. The opportunity has been taken to effect amendments to 2 other matters within the Navigation Act. The first of these amendments, which is dealt with by clauses 3 and 4. raises the minimum age at which a person, including an apprentice, may be employed at sea under the Navigation Act from 15 to 16 years. The minimum age in practice is already at least 16, and whilst covering this the amendment will put Commonwealth law on the matter in an even better position in relation to relevant International Labor Organisation conventions.
The Bill we are dealing with is a simple one. There is no need to explore it to the full. The Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) stated in his second reading speech that new registration legislation will be placed before the House in due course. In the meantime we are protected under British laws as they apply to Australia. They provide protection in some ways. I commend the Bill to the House and oppose the amendment.
– 1 rise to support the amendment which criticises the Government for its delay in bringing down comprehensive amendments to the Navigation Act. I join with my colleagues on this side of the House, the honourable members for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), Swan (Mr Bennett) and Wide Bay (Mr Hansen), in their criticisms of the Government for not having brought these amendments down earlier. I remember handling amendments to this Act on behalf of the Opposition in 1967. In May 1967 I wrote to the then Minister for Shipping and Transport on behalf of the Opposition Members Transport Committee regarding the amendments that were proposed to this Act. We had some serious discussions with the then Minister before the introduction of the Government’s amendments. On 21st July he wrote a letter to me in my capacity as acting chairman of the Opposition Members Transport Committee setting out his views of the proposals made by the Committee. In the third paragraph of his letter - I shall quote it because I think it is very important to this debate - he said:
In connection with the suggestions that relate to provisions of the Bill or the Navigation Act, I would like to point out that the Bill at present before the House was intended to cover only amendments of the Act necessary to incorporate the provisions of the Safety of Life at Sea Convention, with the addition of 3 or 4 other matters for which amendments were required as a matter of urgency. I am aware that a number of other amendments of the Navigation Act are desirable, and 1 hope that the amending legislation to give effect to them will be introduced during next year. Because of this approach I feel that virtually all of the amendments which the Opposition have suggested would be more appropriately considered for inclusion in a Bill dealing with general amendments rather than the present one which is designed principally to give effect to an international convention.
That letter was written on 21st July 1967 - almost 5 years ago.
– I was not Minister for Shipping and Transport then.
– I know you were not, but the letter I have quoted shows how this Government dallies in regard to these very important matters. We are still waiting for those amendments which were promised nearly 5 years ago. In the second reading speech of the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) reference is made to new registration legislation being introduced as soon as possible. The delay in bringing down amendments to the Navigation Act as promised so long ago does not show much concern on the part of this Government for those who go down to the sea in ships. The Government should show more consideration. A lack of concern about the men of the sea has been apparent throughout the lifetime of this Government, which is now happily coming to a close. The fact that a new International Labour Organisation convention was adopted in 1960 to replace the 1948 convention, and the fact that the Government waited until 1967, 7 years later, to bring down the necessary amendments illustrates the lack of concern of this Government. The present amendments, of course, have been similarly delayed. There is an obligation on this Government to act much more quickly on important matters such as these.
The Navigation Act has been on (he statute book for over 60 years, and during that period it has been amended 19 times. When it has been amended delays have occurred in implementing some of the amendments. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), by way of question, on many occasions has drawn attention to these delays. Although the Act was amended in 1958 to ratify the conventions of the International Labour Organisation, considerable delay was experienced in making the regulations necessary for the proclamation of the Act. The comments at the bottom of the Act show how these were delayed and how they had to be delayed pending regulations being introduced. The Leader of the Opposition raised this matter on several occasions and was told about the difficulty in framing the regulations. He was still raising this matter in 1964, 6 years after the amendments were inserted in the Act.
The Government has also been slow to implement the recommendations and conventions of the International Labour Organisation. Some of them have not even been ratified to this date. For an example of this unwarranted and unnecessary delay one needs only to look at the delay which was revealed in implementing the International Regulations lor Preventing Collisions at Sea. These regulations were drawn up in London in 1960 and they were to come into force on all the seas of the world by 1st September 1965. In some of the States the legislation did not come into force until after that date. When this matter was raised with the then Minister for Shipping and Transport he stated that it was necessary for the State governments to undertake to introduce complementary legislation before the Commonwealth could adopt the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea which were drawn up at the 1960 convention. Five years later the States were still being reminded of their international obligations. This delay could have meant that Australians who travelled by ship and those who travelled in Australian waters were deprived of the additional security provided in the international regulations. The Minister concluded his answer by saying:
In any case, however, the British High Commission has advised that a new order made under the British Merchant Shipping Act 1894 applies the new International Collision Regulations to all Australian States except Queensland.
If this applies it means that ships which are engaged only in intrastate trade are still registered and operate under the British Act. This is revealed in the Minister’s second reading speech. This is another indication of how slowly this Government acts on important matters such as this.
On 4th May 1966 I asked the then Minister for Shipping and Transport - I am not referring to the present Minister - a question which appears at page 1497 of Hansard. His reply was non-committal but the question was extremely important and I draw attention to it. I asked:
The Minister replied as follows:
The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
lt is impossible to answer this question without expression of opinion on questions of law. 2., 3. and 4. The Government does not contemplate seeking any amendment of the Constitution in relation to matters referred to in these questions.
What a shocking answer! The reply was non-committal but I draw attention to the importance of the question. It appears that ships engaged in intrastate trade only are still registered and still operate under the British Act - the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894, which was amended by the United Kingdom Parliament in 1958. But the amendment does not make it clear whether it applies to British ships registered in the Australian States.
I pose this question to the Minister: Can this Parliament pass laws concerning these intrastate ships? The former Minister did not seem to think so. I wonder what is the opinion of the present Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon). Can the State parliaments pass laws concerning these British ships? It is not clear whether they can or not. The Minister should be prepared to answer these questions when he replies. If the States cannot pass these laws, it would appear that the only government that can do so is the United Kingdom Government. 1 draw attention to the reply of the former Minister for Shipping and Transport in the debate on 17th August 1967. He said: f mention to the honourable member for Stirling that we are asking the State and Commonwealth Standing Committee of Attorneys-General to examine the very complex legislative position which exists with regard to a number of matters such as the constitutional arrangement, the legal position in regard to small craft and a number of other matters.
That is all he said. Have these conferences taken place? If they have, has anything been reported to this Parliament? I do not think so, and I doubt very much whether the matter has been discussed by the States. It may have been, but we should have been told about it.
The Australian Parliament should have the same power over all Australian shipping as the Canadian Parliament and the United States Congress have over shipping in their countries. Obviously the Australian Navigation Act should be applicable not only to the Commonwealth and its territories but also to the States. There is a strong case for uniform legislation, equally as strong as it is in the field of civil aviation. There should not be any divided legislative power over navigation in Australia. All vessels going to sea - whether intrastate or interstate - should be covered by the Australian navigation law. His Honour Judge Spicer in the marine inquiry into the sinking of the dredge W. D. Atlas’ in May 1966 referred to the complicated position that exists in Australia because of the division of power between the Commonwealth and the States. I draw attention to what he said. He pointed out that doubts can arise as to the applicability of the Commonwealth Navigation Act, and that these doubts should be eliminated. The Judge suggested that navigation and shipping is a field in which uniform legislation applicable to all aspects of navigation and shipping in Australian waters is desirable.
The delay by the Department of Shipping and Transport in carrying out international conventions is in sharp contrast to the speed at which the Department of Civil Aviation is able to give effect to them. High Court decisions given in 1965 in the field of civil aviation have made it clear that the constitutional powers of the Department of Shipping and Transport are much greater than it thought they were. The Department could have acted much more quickly on amendments to the Navigation Act that have been delayed for years. In some cases we have waited years for regulations to be framed. Time after time matters have been raised in this House by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and other honourable members on this side of the Parliament. In some cases regulations have never been framed.
I would like to refer to the registration of overseas trading vessels registered in Australia and referred to in the amendment proposed by the Opposition. The Commonwealth Year Book for 1970 at page 344 shows that there are only 7 Australian owned, Australian registered ships operating as overseas trading vessels. All the other Australian owned ships trading overseas are registered overseas. This is to be deplored. The Commonwealth Government should encourage the registration in Australia of all Australian owned ships. The registration of ships in Australia would mean that they would acquire a national character. All Commonwealth countries except Australia have such legislation. Many of these countries require the same qualifications as the United Kingdom requires - that is, a ship must be owned by a British subject or subjects or a body corporate having its principal place of business in Her Majesty’s Dominions. India requires that a proportion of shares shall be held by Indian citizens. Persons qualified to own Australian ships should be Australian citizens, and bodies corporate should have their principal place of business where the Commonwealth of Australia has jurisdiction.
I recommend to the Minister that urgent consideration be given to these matters. We require legislation giving Australian ships that qualify a national character. Many ships prefer overseas registration. They like to operate under flags of convenience. There are advantages-
– Somebody on the other side said: ‘Hear, hear!’
– The honourable member for McPherson said he did. There are advantages andI will tell him what they are. They are advantages similar to those that would operate on the station he owns - the advantages of cheap labour. No migrants are brought to this country on ships flying the Australian flag. In fact the Australian Government is subsidising these shipping lines by giving passages for as low as $25, paid by the Australian Government to other countries operating ships with cheap labour. The Minister should impose terms that would prevent ships from coming to this country under a flag of convenience and breaking rules that apply to Australian ships. This Government has been responsible for the loss of all those ships that used to trade on our coast flying the Australian flag - the ‘Manoora’, the ‘Manunda’, the ‘Kanimbla’, the ‘Westralia’ and the ‘Wanganella’. The sale of the last 2 of Australia’s coastal passenger ships - the ‘Kanimbla’ and the Manoora’ - marked the decline of the Australian shipping industry during 1961. In all. 12 ships were sold overseas that year while many other ships were sold later.
The greatest tragedy of the ships sold in 1961 was that most were not old. Three were less than 15 years old. The ‘Baroota’ was 9 years old, the ‘Borda’ was 10 years old and the ‘Cronulla’ was 13 years old. The working life of a ship is 25 years, but these ships were sold overseas. Somebody should write a book about the rise, decline and disappearance of the fine fleet of Australian passenger ships built up between the 2 wars to serve the coastal trade. It would make a fascinating story. The ‘Manoora’ was sold to Indonesia. Four ships - the Wanganella’, the ‘River Norman’, the ‘River Glenelg” and the ‘Kaponga’ - weresold and registered in Hong Kong for operations in and out of Australian ports, using cheap labour. They operated under flags of convenience. Too many foreign ships are granted permits to operate on our coast to the detriment of our coastal ships. When permits are granted does the Minister check whether the ships granted the permits comply with section 287 of this Act? I draw his attention to the Act. Section 287 states:
A ship shall not engage in the coasting trade which is receiving, or which under any arrangement is to receive, or which in the immediately preceding 12 months has been receiving, directly or indirectly, any subsidy or bonus from any Government other than that of a Commonwealth country.
Is that ever checked? I guarantee it is never checked. Most foreign governments now subsidise their ships and if they are subsidised by a foreign government, they are not supposed to be granted a permit to trade on our coast. That is the position into which the Minister shouldlook.
When the question of flags of convenience was considered by the International Labour Organisation in 1958 the representatives of the Australian Government, the employers, and the workers joined in condemning the practice. In fact, the recommendations were brought in by the representatives oi the then Australian Government. The Government often speaks with its tongue in its cheek when supporting proposals for reform at TLO and condones breaches of such proposals when it is administering it departments. The case that I have quoted is an obvious case. Any vessel operating for reward between Australian ports could be required to pay Australian wages when licensed or on permit. There is obviously a similar provision in the New Zealand Shipping and Seamen’s Act. The policy of this Government of permitting British ships with Indian crews to carry coastal passengers has destroyed the Australian coastal passenger fleet.
When it is suggested that Australia should have its own overseas shipping line there is an immediate cry from the Government that the cost would be prohibitive. I suppose the honourable member for Mcpherson would support that view. The Government says that the cost of building and servicing vessels in Australia and of manning them with Australian crews would add such an enormous burden to the operation of the ships that our ability to trade overseas would suffer dire consequences. Arguments such as this ignore many relevant factors. Vessels of all trading nations ply to our coast. They come from England, the United States, New Zealand, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Holland, France, Russia, Canada, Japan, India and Greece. Many governments have decided that the operation of a nationally owned fleet is fundamental to independence and defence. In many cases, governments own a majority of shares in shipping companies. This policy is based in the need to preserve and develop trade by retaining a measure of control over freight rates and so prevent another country from forcing a nation’s shipping out of the competitive market because of high freight rates. Another factor is the possible need to move troops in case of emergency.
Many newly emerged countries have acquired their own international fleets. India is one example. Newly independent African countries have done the same. The United States has realised the importance of a nationally owned fleet. It is part owner in the President Line and it heavily subsidises shipping in the national interest. The United States Federal Maritime Board has pointed out that out of-
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Before I commence my speech on the Navigation Bill I would like to pass a few remarks on comments made by previous speakers. The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) suggested that all overseas ships should be owned by Australian interests.
– I said all Australian overseas ships. There is a difference.
– I accept the correction - all overseas Australian ships. Naturally, I was talking about Australian ships. Surely the honourable member for Stirling must remember the old Bay Line of steamers. This was an overseas shipping line owned by Australia. With all the good intentions in the world, what happened to that line?
– It was given away.
– It was given away. Why was it given away? It was because it came under the influence of the unions and its ships were tied up. It could not operate under the existing conditions. Ships cannot be run under these circumstances. The honourable member for Stirling is advocating that all these ships should be Australian owned. If this were to happen and the unions did what they have been trying to do over the last year or so, there would not be a ship leaving the coast of Australia.
While I am on the subject, I will mention the Australian National Line. It is a well conceived shipping line and is very well operated. However, the same thing is quite likely to occur with the ANL. The ANL is running ships around Australia and is getting into overseas business but several ships of the ANL are tied up. Why are they tied up? They are tied up because of some spurious argument about radio operators or about stewards who happen to be working between Sydney and Hobart, Sydney and Launceston or some other ports. An overseas shipping line cannot be run like this. No shipping line and no business can be run like this. This is what will happen to Australia, whether it is in shipping lines or in transport. People must do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. Things seem to have changed; people now are supposed to get a fair day’s pay without doing a fair day’s work. Life just does not operate in this way and it certainly does not operate the way the Australian Labor Party wants to operate it.
By all means, let us have our Australian owned overseas ships. They are well run. The crews are top class. The ships are well built. But let us not think that we can do it Unless we alter the whole approach of unionism and the ALP towards what Australia is doing. Otherwise it just cannot be done. One sees ships coming into a port such as Darwin, tying up and unloading 5,000 tons of cargo in 48 days. That is absolutely fantastic. They might have been old time ships but a worker could lift that amount of cargo off on his back in that time. What are members of the Labor Party talking about? They are talking about running these ships and are asking why the Government is not doing this or that. Honourable members opposite must ensure that their unions and their supporters do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. That is the first thing that has to be done.
– I was replying to what members of the Opposition had said.
-The Chair allowed that indulgence, but I suggest that the honourable member might now come back to the provisions of the Bill.
– The purpose of this Bill is to alter the method for the measurement of ships’ tonnage. The Opposition does not disagree with the proposal. The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) referred in his speech to 2 ships on the Australia to Japan run. He said that the charges in accordance with the tonnage of these ships will be reduced. The point I make is that these new tonnage measurement regulations will reduce the charges. I have already referred to the main shipping charges. It is cheaper to take a ton of bauxite from Gove to Venice than it is to take it to somewhere along the Queensland coast. Under the Navigation Act charges can be levied and certain demands can be made in respect of the shipping of cargoes. The Government has been castigated and in fact the honourable member for Newcastle has condemned the Government for its failure to bring down substantial amendments to the Navigation Act. The
Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) has stated that, although the Act has its foundations in the British Merchant Shipping Act of 1894, various amendments, which have already been referred to, have been introduced, and that a detailed plan has already been drawn up under which the Act - one of the largest on the statute book - will be revised in part.
– But when?
– It is being done now.
– The Minister has told the honourable member what is being done. The honourable member spoke in this debate last week.
– We were told that we would get amendments, but we have not got them yet.
– I am just trying to help.
-Order! The honourable member for Newcastle will cease interjecting.
– The honourable member had his say last week, when he demanded all sorts of things. He is demanding things which he knows are already being done. Returning to the provisions of this Bill which is designed to alter the method of measuring ships’ tonnage - and if I may say so, Mr Speaker, we heard earlier about an awful lot of other things - it is really a fairly narrow Bill. This debate has been used by various honourable members, especially on the Opposition side, to go on side, to go on with tirades about what the Government is doing and what the Government is not doing.
– That is what we on this side are more concerned about - what the Government is not doing.
-Order! There are far too many interjections in this debate. I suggest that honourable members cease interecting, particularly those honourable members who have already spoken in the debate.
– This Bill is an extension of a very old law under which ships were measured by an entirely different system. Australian ships are disadvantaged by this old method. The Government has realised this and that is why this Bill has been introduced. Previously ships’ tonnage was worked out on gross volume plus area that was not used and so on. I think that the honourable member for Newcastle, who is an expert on shipping, said that it was previously worked out on a very complicated formula, and it was too. The Government is keen to replace the old method. This is why this Bill has been introduced. It is a matter of urgency to adopt this new method because we are trading in areas where ships are being measured by different methods. I refer to Japan and the United States. The United States has a different system again. I think it is essential to bring in a new method of measurement in relation to Japan in particular. This Government is aware that different methods are used to measure ships’ tonnage and this is why the Government is doing something about it.
We have heard from the honourable member for Swan (Mr Bennett) that under this Government no legislation exists which gives protection to cargoes in Australian ships. He read out a list of countries - about 25 of them - which have a government guarantee for about 50 per cent of cargoes to be carried in ships owned by those countries. The honourable member castigated this Government for the laying up of Australian ships. He is a Western Australian. He is no doubt thinking of the Western Australian State Shipping Service which virtually refused to carry cargo from Wyndham to Darwin because its ships were not making money. Who was making these trips expensive? My friend the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) and his wharf labourer friends were doing just that. They slowed down the turn-around of ships. Under the Navigation Act they could stop a ship by saying that a derrick on a ship was licensed to carry 5 tons-
– That is not what we are talking about.
-Order! The honourable member for Sturt will cease interjecting.
– I will just-
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Sturt.
– Because there were no brackets around the ‘5X5 tons’ on the derrick of a ship they could under the Navigation Act go on strike and stop the ship, and they did stop it. Why is cargo tonnage falling in Darwin? It is falling because of this irresponsible attitude. One cannot get around the Navigation Act because there are so many little details in it to protect the seamen. Possibly in the far off days of sailing ships the seamen were disadvantaged, but by heaven they are not disadvantaged now. They are doing hardly any work each day compared with a lot of other men in similar circumstances.
– What about returning to the Bill?
-Order! The honourable member has already spoken in the debate. I remind the honourable member for the Northern Territory that the main purpose of this Bill is to insert in the Navigation Act power to make regulations for the measurement of ships’ tonnage. This Bill does not give the honourable member the opportunity to raise industrial matters.
– Mr Speaker, thank you for your guidance. I realise that it is most important to bring in a Bill to provide for a new method of measuring ships’ tonnage for ships on the Australian register; but there had been so much reference to the Navigation Act that I felt I had to bring to light some of the arguments that had been put up quite erroneously by the Opposition. I reject the Opposition’s amendment entirely and I support the Bill.
– Although we on this side of the House are not opposing this Bill, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) has moved an amendment which I think clearly outlines some of the aims of the Australian Labor Party in seeking a new Navigation Act. It is quite obvious that there is a need for a complete review of this legislation. As the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) has mentioned, as far back as 1967 a new Navigation Act was promised, but it has not yet come to light. This Bill is more or less just altering a very small section of the Act.
I know that most of the points concerning the amendment and the main sections of the Bill have already been covered by various speakers tonight, and I do not want to say a great deal about that. But one point I should like to mention is that, although we are not opposing the Bill, there are many things connected with shipping around the Australian coast that give cause for concern. Perhaps one of the greatest things causing concern is the number of overseas ships operating around our coast. I fully support the honourable member for Stirling in what he said about Australian ships trading overseas being owned in Australia. I certainly oppose the viewpoint expressed by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), who said that one of the things that is killing Australian shipping is the excessive demands made by the Australian shipping industry. He said that we cannot afford this.
It is interesting to note that the United States has a very strong Navigation Act relating to shipping to and from the United States. I think that any comparison made between the conditions applying to Australian shipping and the conditions applying to the United States shipping would indicate that the United States is a long way ahead of us in this regard. I think that the argument advanced by the honourable member for the Northern Territory about the cost of supplying crews for Australian ships is erroneous.
One matter that does concern me and, I think, members of the maritime unions at the present time is the number of Australian ships that are being laid up along the Australian coast. We know that while this is happening overseas ships are operating around the coast to the detriment of our own seamen. Perhaps I can mention a few ships built in various shipyards in Australia that are laid up. There is the Australian National Line ship ‘Mount Kembla’ Of 13,700 tons and the ANL ship ‘Mount Keira’ of 13,710 tons. There is the ‘Wollongong’, which is an ore carrier of 16,520 tons owned by Associated Steamships Pty Ltd. Those 3 ships are laid up and Australian seamen are out of work. But while this has been happening the bulk carrier Iron Somersby’, which was built in Belfast, has arrived in Australia. Apparently this ship of 105,000 tons will replace some of the Australian ships that are laid up. I understand that Australian crews were to man this ship, but there is a bit of a dispute over this question. Apparently this ship is to operate under a 5-year charter. But of course nobody knows the arrangements concerning this charter or what agreements have been made. We do not know whether the same conditions will apply to this ship as applied previously to some oil tankers. When those overseas oil tankers were brought to Australia to operate on the Australian coast, the oil companies had to agree that they would replace those tankers with Australian built ships within a number of years.
I think that this question of shipping generally on the Australian coast involves not only our trading position but also the people who man the ships on the Australian coast. I think it should be our aim - it is the aim of honourable members on this side of the House - to ensure that Australian built ships, manned by Australian crews, operate on an equal basis with overseas ships that operate from the Australian coast. At the present time there is a lot of hesitancy on the part of our ship builders because they do not know what lies ahead for them. 1 know this to be a fact. I had the opportunity to speak to the people at the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd shipyards at Whyalla, which .:s in my electorate. They are the largest shipyards in Australia. The people there told me that if they do not get another order within 3 months it will mean that their forward planning will be disrupted, and (his will result in a possible shortage of work. I understand that the Tariff Board report on the subsidies provided to Australian ship building yards has been in the hands of the Government for some months now.
-Order! I ask the honourable member to come back to the Bill. 1 have already told 2 other honourable members in this debate that this Bill does not cover the whole ambit of industrial relations and ship building. The main purpose of the Bill is to provide for a tonnage mark scheme. I have allowed the honourable member some leniency, but I would suggest that he should come back to the Bill.
– I did intend to elaborate on that particular point, but as you, Mr Speaker, have informed me that 1 would be overstepping the mark if I did so, I will not transgress again. I return to what the honourable member for Stirling said about proposed amendments which were talked about in 1967 still not having been brought into operation. I think that most of the questions that were raised earlier by the honourable member for Newcastle and the honourable member for Stirling concern matters which we would hope to introduce into a new Navigation Act when we become the government.
– You mean ‘if’.
MrWALLIS- No, I said ‘when’.
– What has that got to do with tonnage?
– It has something to do with the amendment. I should like to return to the point that I raised earlier, and I hope that I will not be transgressing in doing so. I refer to the Ausralian ships that are laid up along the Australian coast. I feel that this is a matter about which we should be very concerned. Whilst our ships are laid up we are allowing more and more overseas ships to operate along our coast, and I fee] that this is against the best interests of Australia. It is something which I would hope we would be able to rectify when we become the government.
– My purpose in rising to speak to this Bill is to answer some of the points that have been made by honourable members opposite. I appreciate that the main purpose of this Bill is to insert in the Navigation Act power to make regulations for the measurement of ships’ tonnage in the way provided by the tonnage mark scheme, but I do not thing that it will help our shipping industry very much because there are fundamental problems involved. I listened with great interest to the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) and to other honourable members. I recall in my lifetime our great Australian shipping industry. It was our cheapest form of transport round our 10,000 miles of Australian coastline. But what happened to it? It was wrecked by the left wing unions - the seamen’s union and the waterside workers union - which by a series of disruptions and industrial strikes ended up smashing the whole of our shipping industry.
– You sold it out to Lord Inchcape.
– The honourable member for Stirling mentioned the ‘Manunda’ and the ‘Manoora’. Let him listen to this and he will hear why we sold it out. These were the last great passenger ships operating on the Australian coast. I can recall many of my friends booking return passages on these ships to Cairns and to other north Queensland ports which are so attractive in the winter time. But these people would get to north Queensland and there would be a strike between the Stewards union and probably the seamen’s union and they would have to return by train. That was the end of the passenger ships on the Australian coast line. Today we do not have one passenger ship on the Australian coast and we do not have one general cargo carrier operating in this area.
Shipping is a vital matter to Australia with its 10,000 miles of coastline. We want an efficient shipping service, but the left wing unions have seen to it that we have not been able to provide an efficient shipping service. I recall that under our Federal system a Labor government had the left wing unions controlling the railways and the Communist unions controlling the seamen and the waterside workers. This tied up transport. Thank God that because of section 92 of the Constitution they could not tie up motor transport. But for that provision we would have been held to ransom. So this is the situation. According to the Press, watersiders say that they will not unload ships of flags of convenience coming from overseas. I think the only answer to our transport problems today is to open our coastline to foreign flags.
Members opposite have spoken about unemployment among waterside workers and members of seamen’s unions. I am perfectly aware of the situation in Queensland ports. Mackay is a great sugar port. It is represented by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), a Labor member. At Mackay 300 waterside workers were employed. Because of industrial trouble at our sugar trading ports ships could be delayed for up to 6 weeks on occasions. Obviously the industry could not support this sort of situation; so bulk loading was introduced. What has been the result? Today there are 28 waterside workers at Mackay as compared with the previous 300. Through these senseless strikes the men have put themselves out of work. This is what has happened in Australia.
Australian seamen enjoy excellent conditions. I agree with high wages being paid for productivity. If a man is willing to work and do a fair day’s job he can earn high wages. Let us consider some of the wage rates that apply. The master of the Australian Endeavour’, for instance, gets $14,570 a year. He does a wonderful job, but the master of a British ship is paid $6,800 to $8,300, about half of what the Australian master gets. An Australian able seaman receives $6,977, almost the same as does a United Kingdom master. I do not object to this situation. 1 am all for high wages, and men can earn these wages if they do not cause ridiculous industrial trouble on the waterfront for which the Australian community must pay. Those who suffer most are those involved in our export industries. The people who export are the people who earn Australia’s real worth and they must suffer the burden caused by waste and industrial lawlessness by the left wing unions who have wrecked the Australian shipping industry.
It is of no good saying that Australia must have a Labor government and that we will then have only Australian ships. God help Australia if this happens. We will cease to export at remunerative rates. 1 was the Minister responsible for the Northern Territory but the Northern Territory was strangled by these ridiculous shipping and industrial activities. The only way in which the Northern Territory can advance is by having overseas shipping coming to that area. The same applies to all Australian ports. In north Queensland shipping rates are virtually impossible. People are forced to use motor transport and railway transport which, in other countries, is the most expensive type of transport. Because of industrial lawlessness, supported by the Opposition, the Australian shipping industry has been wrecked and ruined and today no Australian ship is operating off our coast. For this reason I suggest that the Government should open our ports to ships flying foreign flags.
- Mr Deputy Speaker - -
– Keep to the Bill.
– Not one Government supporter has mentioned the Bill. The honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) talked about wages. Allow me, if I may, to put the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) straight. He said that the wharfies in Darwin - incidentally, I understand they voted for the honourable member - went on strike because there were not 2 brackets around a notation on a ship’s derrick. I do not think they would have gone on strike if the 2 brackets did not appear on a ship’s derrick. A safe working load is 5.5 tons or 10 tons but the honourable member would not understand the significance of this. The attention that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) is paying to me at present indicates that he would not know either. But what does this safe working load mean? It means that where there is a reference to a 10-ton load on a ship’s derrick and there is no bracket on it, you can work at that load providing the angle is right, the blocks, plates and all the runners and so forth are OK. But if brackets are around the notation, what happens under the regulations? The safe working load, for the benefit of the honourable member for the Northern Territory, is one half of 10 tons.
– That is very technical.
– It is not very technical; it is very simple.
– There is no need to go into all this.
– Order! The honourable member for the Northern Territory will cease interjecting.
– That is right; pull him into gear. He does not know what he is talking about. If he wants to reveal his ignorance in debate in this House, that is OK with me. It has been my sorry and unfortunate lot to have to visit the homes of men who have lost their lives under moving loads and derricks, and it is not a very pleasant experience. In fact, those responsible should have to do that type of work. I refer now to the last report of the Australian National Line. It is most interesting and it is somewhat significant in the light of what another Minister said this afternoon when he introduced a Bill dealing with industrial relations which we will have to discuss probably within the next few weeks. In the report of the Australian National Line the following passage appears:
The industrial unrest prevalent at the present time has highlighted more than ever the need for rationalisation in the number of unions, seven in al), involved in the manning of Australian flag vessels. Apart from being a cause of disharmony, the multi-union manning also has made more difficult the task of introducing training programmes and increased productivity. It is to be hoped that in the not too distant future it may be possible to reduce the multiplicity of unions.
And in its stupidity the Government is bringing down legislation to prevent this.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
– Sit down. I will come to the Bill if that is all you want.
– 1 rise on a point of order. The honourable member for Sturt is not speaking to the Bill at all but is reading from a report of the Australian National Line which has nothing to do with navigation.
– If the honourable member were to look at this report he would be interested to see the number of seamen employed by the Australian National Line as compared wilh officers and whathaveyou. I draw the attention of the House to this fact although the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) waffled on and did not deal with the Bill other than to quote several passages from the second reading speech of the Minister for Shipping and Transport. So much for the honourable member’s competency after he retired from the bank and came to this place! I refer now to the report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review which was presented in 19S9, when the honourable member’s Party was still in office. That Committee devoted pages 57 to 65 inclusive of its report to the powers of the Commonwealth in respect of the Navigation Act. For the honourable member’s benefit I point out that the Navigation Act is one of the largest Acts in the Commonwealth, but it says little. I think that the honourable member would know even less about it than that. The fact is that nothing has been done about it. This matter has been outstanding for many years. It is an indictment of the Govern ment and of the Minister for Shipping and Transport that this is the first time this matter has been placed before the House. I do not disagree with the Minister on that point. I agree also with the honourable member for Mitchell who earlier spoke about this situation. It is an indictment of the honourable member, as a member of the Government parties, that this is the first occasion on which this legislation has come before the House.
The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) dealt with the whole long line of broken promises of Ministers as far as 1967. He referred to the Minister’s promises of meetings with State AttorneysGeneral. It is hardly necessary in the light of a changing world - hardly necessary in the light of a changing concept in relation to shipping. I will not go into what the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Barnes) said about Australian flag ships. If he wants to do what Lord Bruce did and give away Australian shipping to Lord Inchcape or his descendants, well and good; he might do that.
Let me quote one or two matters regarding the shortcomings of the Government on this. I refer to section 460 which appears on page 64 of the report from the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, 1959. The section states:
Ratification problems arise in connection with other maritime Conventions. For example, Australia was represented at the Conference which drafted the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil which was held in 1954. That Convention has now come into operation, but Australia has not ratified it. Briefly, the Convention imposes obligations on contracting governments relating to ships registered in the territory of the contracting State. It seeks to prevent pollution of the sea by oil by prohibiting discharge of oil in certain prohibited zones including, apart from a few exceptions, ‘all sea areas within SO miles from land’.
What has this Government done about this matter, to bring about the necessary constitutional review and changes to protect the coastline of this country from oil pollution? Bear in mind that this is 15 years old. Also, the tonnages per unit that are operating adjacent to the Australian coast today in the carriage of oil are not to be compared with those in 1957 to 1969.
There is a recommendation in the report in regard to what the Commonwealth ought to do. The recommendation sets out what parts of the Constitution ought to be altered to meet the requirements of an ever increasing and ever changing world of transportation. The honourable member for Mcpherson - if I may chip in quickly - had something to say about road transport being costly and local lines suffering losses on the coast in Australia. Has he ever thought to take time off to have a look at the management of some of these lines and to see the road transport tie-up they have? In fact, if he looked at the Australian National Line area be would see something significant in regard to someone who recently retired from a very high position. He knows I am right because this is why he is continually interjecting. There is, of course, a tie-up here of interests. So there we have it.
In addition to that, there is the farcical situation where an Australian National Line vessel lost a cool Sim last year.
– Thank you for the interjection. I must answer it, Mr Deputy Speaker, although what I have to say might be a little wide of the Bill. The honourable member asked: ‘Why?’. I shall tell him. The ANL vessel was in the Japanese conference trading between Australia, Japan and Australia and was entitled to carry IS per cent of the traffic. Is that right? Get that into your head. Because the vessel exceeded that percentage and carried 19 per cent the ANL had to pay back to the conference $lm or a little more than that. That is where the $lm went - it went back to the Japanese conference. If honourable members do not believe me I suggest that they read the report which is under the signature of the manager of the ANL.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) to cease interjecting. Also, I point out that the remarks of the honourable member for Sturt are a little wide of the Bill on odd occasions and he is being assisted in going a lot wider by some of the interjections coming from my right.
– Thank you for your tolerance, Mr Deputy Speaker. What then is required of a responsible government in regard to the Navigation Act? There ought to be a complete and absolute review of the Act. Let us get away from the old story that a meeting of Attorneys-General - they have been going on for many, many years - is needed to achieve this. I would say with a great deal of confidence that there are 3 very responsible State governments in Australia that would not haggle on this question. I refer to the State governments of Western Australia, South Australia, and now, of course, Tasmania. They would readily agree to any proper, sensible, responsible-
– It is Victoria’s island.
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Riverina that the honourable member for Sturt needs no assistance.
– We would have no difficulty there. For too long we have had tragedies on the Australian coast in regard to anchored oil rigs and what-have-you that have resulted in the loss of life. Such incidents have been nothing, as it were, but constitutional headaches. They have been headaches for the next of kin in respect of claims for workers compensation. The payment of wages has still to be resolved. In fact, many workers have still not received adequate and proper compensation for injuries received in accidents that occurred S years ago. Is this good enough?
The Government says that it is introducing legislation to tidy up this Act. It is introducing legislation in 1972 to cover up mistakes made or shortcomings of what an Act spelt out in the 1880s. Supporters of the Government ought to be tugging their forelocks and straightening their smocks in regard to the manner in which they have brought this matter before the House.
I have not gone into an area in which a great deal of vexation and inadequacy arises - that portion of the Navigation Act which deals with loading and unloading regulations. This portion is very considerable and is in need of overhaul. In fact, any responsible navigation officer operating in any one of the ports - and I direct my remarks to the Minister - would not disagree with what I have to say. The Minister has a smile on his face. He evidently does not recall the occasion on which I suggested that he take action regarding a vessel called the ‘Marlil’ which was at the time in Adelaide.
– I took the action.
– Let me finish. I commend the Minister for the action that he took on that occasion.
– That surprised him.
– The Minister deserves commendation because I think - having raised this matter myself, if I might say so - the lives of seamen were in fact saved on that occasion. The Minister knows that. He knows full well about the rotten, lousy state of that ship and the intolerable conditions under which seamen were forced to work. He knows of the intolerable financial burden with which they were faced because they were not being paid. He knows about the refusal of the master and everyone else to grant them the right even to go to a doctor or a dentist. He knows about the type of conditions they had to put up with. The condition of the vessel generally was absolutely shocking, to say the least, and this is not an isolated incident. Surely we as a trading nation ought to expect that we should have an Act that is strong enough to protect people who come to the shores of this country in the pursuit of trade.
I would say, so far as flags of convenience are concerned, that the statement of the honourable member for McPherson, who preceded me, was a shocking one. 1 hope that the Minister, in his reply, dissociates himself from the remarks of the honourable gentleman. What the honourable gentleman had to say went wide of the Navigation Act. It has already been mentioned, of course, that it has something to do with civil aviation.
What regard is being paid to it by this Government? There has been none, or virtually none, at all. What regard has the honourable gentleman had to the Bill other than the matter that he referred to tonight - he brought it here because he was pressured to do so on one particular aspect. What does the Government propose to do about the ever increasing types of cargo handling equipment that become available from time to time and protect people from injuries resulting from the use of this equipment? This has not been mentioned. The Government has not done any thing about it. Have a look at the safety record of this industry. I think that the Minister will find that it is one of the worst in the whole industrial scene, lt is necessary when tidying up the Navigation Act to do the things I suggest ought to be done in the interest of life and safety and also for the protection of the cargo itself.
Transgressing somewhat for the benefit of the honourable member for Mcpherson - seeing that he mentioned the point I think that I may be permitted to reply to it - the honourable member suggests that the cost of freights to the farming community has been brought about by seamen. Let the honourable member go to Tasmania and see whether the waterside workers exceeded the rate. Yet the honourable member’s Government has denied the apple growers of Tasmania a bounty. Has he forgotten that? 1 raised this matter last year with the Minister and his Government did not have the courage of its convictions to help them out. It did nothing, and the grower had to export his apples at a loss because of freight rates. The shippers started as pirates on the high seas 200 years ago and they still come as pirates to this country under the protection of men like the honourable member for McPherson. The honourable member knows it. He talked about tonnages in Darwin. He knows full well that there has been an alteration in the WhOle concept of shipping into the Port of Darwin. He knows full well that the Australian National Line and the whole container system has brought more internal arguments and more line demarcation disputes overseas at Tilbury and for the Port of London Authority than anywhere in Australia. He knows that full well and it is quite false for him to do otherwise.
In addition, he should look at the troubles and problems of containerisation in Australia by comparing aerial photos of Rotterdam, which has a proper concept of containerisation. He should have a look at the conglomeration in Sydney and Melbourne - built at tremendous cost to everyone in the community. He cannot lay the blame for that in any one particular sector. I do not say they are blameless but the blame cannot be laid on the worker.
The honourable member said that because of high wages their opportunities are limited. Does he suggest that ANA and TAA are going out of the airways business because pilots receive a decent wage? In effect, that is what he says. However, I do not intend to follow up the argument put by the Tories opposite. They have been here for so long that you can almost hear their arteries hardening. They are devoid of any thought of progress. They have not produced a legislative programme in this House. In 1969 when the GovernorGeneral opened this Parliament, he took just a minute and a half to introduce the Government’s programme and to deliver us into the hands of God.
In conclusion I would say to the Minister that he is responsible for the passage of this legislation and he should not forget that. I support the amendment without opposing the Bill but I suggest that the Minister should, as an act of responsibility, ensure that the Navigation Act is looked at in a proper way. I ask him to take into consideration the report of the Constitutional Review Committee of 1959 and to have a new committee further look at the subject in the light of changes that have taken place since that date. This will not be an easy task and it will not be completed within a matter of weeks. However, if some effort is put into it and there is consultation at all levels it may be found that the task is not as large as it appeared to the Constitutional Review Committee in 1959. I suggest that the Minister should acquaint himself with the industry so that in turn he may advise the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), who wants to dot the i’s and cross the fs, what the position really is.
– Last week when this debate started it was confined almost to the matters set out in the Bill. The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) kept fairly close to the Bill. However tonight for some reason or other, and I acknowledge the generosity of the Chair to some extent, members on both sides of the House have spoken on the subject of navigation generally and have given philosophic thoughts on the shipping industry, views on the waterfront, suggesting what some people can do with it, and views about the Australian coastal shipping line and the Australian National Line operating overseas. I have found the debate most intriguing and interesting. I thank those members who have contributed to the debate, particularly the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) who did confine himself to the Bill. In fact, the honourable member was the only speaker today who did confine himself particularly to the Bill. I ask the Chair to allow me some degree of tolerance so that I may answer some of the matters raised as questions to the Minister, even though they are not directly related to the narrow confines of the Bill.
-Order! Provided the Minister stays within the provisions of the Bill and the amendment I think he will be as much in order as other members who have spoken.
– I thank the Chair for its tolerance. It is a fact that the Navigation Act is one of the major Acts of this Parliament. It covers some 400 pages and has some 40 sets of regulations. There have been general complaints raised by most Opposition members who have spoken on this Bill. They are concerned that at this stage the Government has chosen to amend only one or two sections of the Act. The House will know that on a previous occasions I said that I had arranged for a special consultant to be employed by the Department for a re-vamping of the whole of the Act. That work is now well under way. I was hoping to introduce into the House one major section of this work during the present session. The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) suggested that no Government business has been dealt with during this session but I remind him that so far more than 70 Bills have been dealt with. The legislative programme has been very full indeed. Having that in mind I am sure that the House will recognise the massive task that lies before us when we are asked to consider the whole of the Navigation Act and I am hopeful that that consideration will be in the not too distant future. I am hopeful also that that section of the Act relating to the Australian registry of ships will be dealt with if not in this session then in a later session of this Parliament.
There has been progress in reexamining the whole of the Navigation Act. Both the honourable member for
Newcastle and the honourable member for Swan (Mr Bennett) were critical of the Government for not having assisted in a more permanent fashion the training of seamen. The honourable member for Newcastle should know that last year I circulated a booklet entitled ‘Training for Work at Sea’. This booklet was forwarded to unions, shipowners and educationists all of whom are studying it as are members of my own Department. I hope that out of that consideration will evolve a programme for training seamen for sea work. Perhaps I should say that there is a great deal of resistance by some of the more old fashioned sea-goers who oppose this modern approach to training seamen. I should like the honourable member for Newcastle to know that it will not be an easy task to convince the trade union movement that it should accept a modern approach to training of this type.
With regard to a revision of the Navigation Act, we cannot simply incorporate in our legislation great lumps of the British Act. Our constitutional system is quite different from that of the United Kingdom. For instance, the United Kingdom does not have 6 States as we have and also its legal system is somewhat different from ours. Therefore the Australian Government has adopted the policy of consulting the unions, the industry and the departments concerned so that when amendments are introduced there will be general accord on the changes required in the Navigation Act. Last week the honourable member for Newcastle raised the matter of the vessel ‘Esso Macquarie’, a ship registered in Australia under the United Kingdom Act but owned in the Bahamas. The master of that vessel is being prosecuted so the matter is still somewhat sub judice. The point made by the honourable member for Newcastle is not valid. The facts are that Australian registration would change the situation of the ‘Esso Macquarie’ only if Australian ownership were conditional upon registration and if the courts took a different view of prosecuting the owner than the master. Therefore it is a legal question and not quite in the context put forward by the honourable member for Newcastle.
The honourable member raised also with me the matter of ship repairs. This bears on what the honourable member for Mcpherson (Mr Barnes) said in relation to coastal shipping practices generally. The cost of ship repairs in Australia is extremely high. We do have a shipbuilding policy of subsidising yards to a marked extent so that shipowners are not disadvantaged by building here rather than overseas. However, that subsidy applies only to the construction of new vessels. There is no subsidy for repair work. Recently the Shell company asked 10 shipyards to tender for certain modification work. Five Australian yards and 5 overseas yards were asked to quote. One Australian yard declined to quote, another provided an estimate for part only of the specifications and the lowest Australian tender was 24 per cent above and 10 days longer than the lowest overseas tender. The second lowest Australian tender was 143 per cent dearer than the lowest overseas tender. So, if we are to keep our coastal ships in a competitive position we have to bear in mind that particular problem because costs are paramount and central to the whole problem. The honourable member for Newcastle also asked a question about docking facilities. As I have said before, there is an inter-departmental committee report on dry docking facilities. This will be dealt with by the Government, with the Tariff Board report, when the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) returns to Australia in a couple of weeks. I hope that announcements will be able to be made by the Minister for Trade and Industry on the Tariff Board report and. by me on the dry docking report before Parliament completes this session.
The honourable member also raised the question of the ‘Iron Somersby’. This brings to mind again the great problem of costs. Permission was granted to bring in the ‘Iron Somersby’ in January 1971. That was long before the down-turn in the coastal shipping trade. She came in and, of course, has been tied up. She is presently the subject of a dispute which is before Mr Justice Franki. Let me slightly correct figures given by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly). He said that at the present moment those who are working on ships like the ‘Iron Somersby’ work for 32 weeks and have 20 weeks off. The honourable member for Wakefield is cf the view that they want to work for 26 weeks and have 26 weeks off. The position is actually worse than that. What the men are seeking is 20 weeks work and 32 weeks off, including 4 weeks annual leave. One can see the tremendous impact that it will have on costs if this claim is agreed to: but 1 am unable to comment upon it b any great depth because the dispute is before the court.
– What is the wage for a 20-hour week?
– 1 do not know the exact figure, but the honourable member for Wakefield quoted the wage structure. The ordinary seaman is getting 56,000 or $7,000 a year.
-He gets $6,800.
– I am told that the figure is $6,800. The seamen are flown to their home ports and receive all sorts of fringe benefits. The Government rejects the amendment moved by the honourable member for Newcastle simply on the facts and for no other reason. The facts are that in regard to international conventions, to take the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation for a start, 11 conventions have been drawn up. There are only 6 in force and 5 of those have already been ratified and action is in hand to ratify one more. So the Government rejects that part of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Newcastle. 1 also reject his criticism of our alleged failure to comply with International Labor Organisation conventions. Only in his speech - in no other speech from the other side of the House - did we hear any details of the complaint about the conventions that we have not agreed to. The fact is that 6 of these have been ratified already and the ones in respect of which there is some delay have been delayed because we have to reach agreement with the States. The honourable member for Swan referred to the ship ‘Henna’ and the honourable member for Sturt was rather critical of our survey team.
– No. I was not critical in the sense that you are putting it.
– I beg your pardon and I apologise. The honourable member for Sturt was not critical of the survey team for the work it does. He talked about the problems of survey, but he was not critical of the team. I accept the correction. But the honourable member for Swan and the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) were critical of the survey team. I have explained the position in relation to the ‘Henna’ before. She came to load grain in South Australia but the Department of Shipping and Transport, when it inspected the ship, would not approve her for the loading of grain. So the captain sailed the ship empty to Western Australia where she was loaded with ilmenite at Albany. The ship was inspected by the harbour master and certain repairs were forced on the master of the ship in order to meet the requirements of the classification society. When those requirements were met the Commonwealth had no power to detain the ‘Henna’ further. Once the classification society, which is an overseas society, accepted the ship as being safe to sail and because the ship was an international ship, the Commonwealth had no further power in the matter. The ship sailed. She was an international flag ship and met the international requirements laid down by her classification society. The Commonwealth had no further power.
The honourable member for Stirling complained about the loss of coastal passenger ships. This complaint was answered very effectively by the honourable member for McPherson who pointed out that in point of fact this loss was caused by the demands of the seamen and the activities of the waterfront in respect of the coastal passenger ships. This occurred before my time; 1 have never had any experience of it. But I believe that one could take a very delightful journey from Melbourne to Brisbane and back or to Western Australia. It is a pity that these coastal passenger ships have departed from the coastal trade. But this was caused by the demands made by the Seamen’s Union and the Waterside Workers Federation who tied up the ships in port. This is one of the tragedies of the shipping business.
The only point that I want to make in commenting on the speech of the honourable member for Sturt is that I do not doubt for a moment that he has a great deal of personal experience on the waterfront. I understand that that was his previous occupation. He brings to this Parliament an expertise on the waterfront that perhaps no other honourable member in the House has. However, he is just a little wrong in one fact and I would like to correct him. He talked about the Australian National Line having to pay back a great sum of money in the northbound conference to Japan. The fact is that there was a rearrangement of the share in the conference so that when the agreement is finally worked out at the end of this year the ANL will have worked through the credit it gained by over-carrying. So the millions of dollars which were spoken of by the Opposition were never paid back and never had to be paid back. The Government rejects the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Charles Jones’ amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– The Professional Radio Employees Institute has an arrangement whereby ships in excess of 1,600 tons will always have a radio operator on board. We know that under the tonnage mark scheme the tonnage of a ship can be reduced to a figure that is about 40 per cent less than the gross registered tonnage. The Institute is concerned about this new legislation. I thinkI know the answer to their query, and the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) also would know, but I would like him to confirm that the Institute’s concern is unfounded and that under the tonnage mark scheme ships with a gross registered weight of 1,600 tons or over will still carry a radio operator in accordance with the Navigation (Radio) Regulations. Regulation 4(1.) of the Navigation (Radio) Regulations makes reference to various types of ships. A class I ship means a passenger ship carrying or authorised to carry more than 250 passengers. A class II (a) ship means a passenger ship that is not a class I ship. A class II (b) ship means a cargo ship of not less than 1,600 tons. Regulation 4 (3.) provides that a reference to the tonnage of a ship shall be read as a reference to the gross registered tonnage of the ship. On behalf of the Institute I ask the Minister for an assurance that the tonnage mark scheme will not in any way interfere with the present arrangement between the Department of Shipping and Transport, the shipping companies and the Institute. If the Minister can give me that assurance I will be quite happy.
– I am able to give the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) an assurance that the adoption of the tonnage mark scheme will make no difference to the Navigation (Radio) Regulations that apply at the present time whereby a ship under 1,600 gross registered tons does not have to carry a radio operator. I am sure that this is the point of concern in the mind of the Professional Radio Employees Institute. The purpose of the Bill is to enable a ship’s tonnage to be measured in a different way for the purpose of meeting charges in port. Great savings will accrue to our shipping lines as a result of this provision. The introduction of this amendment to the Navigation Act will not affect the present regulations that govern the use of a radio operator.
– I would like to direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon). He has Indicated that he is looking at amendments to the Navigation Act. My question follows on from the question asked by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) and it relates to the manning scale. I know that this is a matter which has caused concern to some of the smaller merchant unions. 1 refer particularly to the Australian National Line ship ‘Echuca’ on which there were some accommodation troubles and some disputation, as the Minister is well aware. 1 have a particular interest in the cause of the ship’s carpenters in relation to accommodation on this type of vessel. Can the Minister indicate whether the manning scale is to be reviewed in the proposals that he has received for amendments to the Navigation Act, and can he indicate whether this will be amongst the amendments that he has suggested could be introduced before the end of this year?
– No. The manning of ships is governed bv manning committees which have been set up and are chaired by an officer of my Department. The unions which are concerned in the discussion are represented on the committee. There is nothing in the amendments to the Navigation Act that will affect that situation. The manning commit tee has proved to be very successful in settling disputes concerning the number of seamen and the number of officers that ought to be employed on a ship. The honourable member mentioned the ‘Echuca*. There was some great disputation as to whether or not the ‘Echuca’ should carry a radio operator. In the event it was found that there was, first of all, a lack of accommodation and, more importantly, it was agreed by the seamen and the other unions involved that it was not necessary from a safety point of view to carry a radio operator. Finally, after a great deal of dispute, the ‘Echuca’ was able to sail. The manning committee will continue to function separately and distinct from the Navigation Act, and it is not part of the review of the Navigation Act as a whole.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon) - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 29 March (vide page 1 328), on motion by Mr Chipp:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate on this Bill is resumed I would like to suggest that it might suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering the Excise Tariff Bill, the Excise Bill, the Distillation Bill, the Spirits Bill, the Diesel Fuel Tax Bill (No. 1) and the Diesel Fuel Tax Bill (No. 2), as they are associated measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of the 6 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
– Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering these Bills? As there is no objection, I will allow That course to be followed.
– Basically, the purpose of these Bills is simply to convert into metric equivalents the various quantities and weights and measures that come within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Customs and Excise. Traditionally we operate under the imperial system in which lengths are measured in inches, feet and yards. I do not think that we have too many miles within the jurisdiction of the Minister. Similarly, quantities are expressed in ounces, pounds and tons, and we have the rather odd unit of the gallon which will be converted to a litre. These are the kinds of things that are embraced by these measures. We are not altering the law; we are simply converting the various measures. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) said: 1 can assure honourable members that where rounding off has been necessary, cure has been taken to ensure that neither the public nor industry will be disadvantaged by any variation in absolute duty collections. Overall in fact the changes will represent a very slight reduction in Commonwealth excise receipts - approximately $30,000 in a full year or, expressed another way, a reduction of 0.003 per cent.
I think that that statement is fair enough. We are trying to get the nearest equivalent. The Minister gave one or two examples. For instance, he said that one gallon converts to 4.54609 litres. There we are getting into the realms of 5 and 6 places of decimals. This is certainly much different from the currency conversion which was relatively simple. The only problem there was the 5 over 6 or the 10 over 12. But here, whilst we say that a kilogramme is equivalent to 2.2 lb, it is not exactly 2.2 lb. Nor is a kilometre exactly five-eighths of a mile. The first annual report of the Metric Conversion Board, which is the only issue, says that 1972 is seen as a year of increasing public awareness and involvement. At least the Minister and his Department have got off the mark early. As he pointed out, about 90 per cent of world trade is conducted in terms of the metric system and we would be foolish to delay the conversion very much longer.
Recently most honourable members received a document called the ‘Backgrounder’ which is published by the information service of the British High Commission. It was dated 28th March and con tained an article headed ‘British White Paper on Metrication’. It indicated - I agree with this - that the advantages of the metric system far outweigh any cost that may be attached to it. This document and the report of the Metric Conversion Board say that it will be several years before we finally get this scheme off the ground, lt is a much more comprehensive scheme than the decimal currency one was because there are so many things that have to be changed. Some changes have already been made. As all honourable members know, medicines are now calculated in grammes and milligrammes and medicine glasses are calibrated in accordance with the metric system. Recently 1 heard someone say that he had a high temperature. I think it was said to be 45 degrees Centigrade. As we all know, the old figure for a high temperature used to be about 103 degrees. It is going to take us some time to become adjusted to all these sorts of things. The report indicates that it is hoped to get the school system on metric calculations operating during 1973. I notice that the British paper is a little more conservative than that. The British paper suggests that teaching in the imperial system is expected to continue for some time as a working knowledge of these units in everyday life will be needed over some years. I suggest that that is a more realistic appraisal of the situation than suddenly to base our mathematics in schools on the metric system in 1973. There are a lot of loose ends to be tied.
The Minister for Customs and Excise took the opportunity in his speech to give a very interesting aside about the determination of proof figures in relation to spirits and I am sure that it blew a lot of illusions held by some people, particularly Queenslanders, who refer to 100 per cent proof rum. Apparently the proof figure has been a fraud upon the public because what appears to be 100 per cent is only somewhere between 0 and 175. The system provides a scale of 0 to 175 in which 0 is pure water and 175 is pure alcohol, so that what is described as 50 per cent proof or 100 per cent proof is very far from being more alcohol than water. I suppose that it is wise that that is the case because there are certain dangers in drinking too much alcohol too quickly. I am sure that nowa- days we have better means of calculating proof figures than by using the gunpowder test. However, it was an interesting aside.
There are one or two matters in relation to these Bills that I wish to raise, although perhaps they are not quite relevant to the particular matters under consideration. I was very impressed by the amount of work that has been done in Australia, as indicated in this first report of the Metric Conversion Board. I pay tribute to the Chairman of the Board and his Committee for the zealous way in which they are going ahead to facilitate the conversion to the sole use of the metric system of weights and measures with the aim that this should be substantially completed by the end of 1979. That is still a long way off and that is why it would seem to me that perhaps we are starting a little soon in converting completely to the metric system in our schools
In its report, the Metric Conversion Board listed conclusions of the valuable report of the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures. It is interesting to find that the Senate is becoming useful rather than merely obstructive. One of the conclusions of the Senate Committee was:
About 90 per cent of the world’s population already use metric measurement and this use is increasing.
This of course is much more so in international trade as compared with internal operations. I suppose that if we had very little international trade it would not matter much whether we calculated our monetary measures in terms of cowrie shells or something else. I noted the other day that Singapore will no longer handle documents unless they are expressed in terms of the metric system and therefore the Minister is wise to be moving quickly in this field. Another conclusion of the Senate Committee was:
About 75 per cent of world trade is carried out in metric terms. Some 70 per cent of Australia’s export trade is to countries using or converting to metric weights and measures. This proportion will increase as Australia’s trade with Japan and South East Asian countries grows.
Of course, that is what is happening. Another conclusion was:
A metric system would improve the teaching of mathematics and science, reduce errors and save time.
I think that this will be so but I am sure that we will still have errors and we still occasionally will waste time. Another conclusion of the Senate Committee was:
It would provide an opportunity, to improve industrial and manufacturing efficiency by rationalising existing practices and reducing unnecessary varieties in sizes and components.
It is to be hoped that we will achieve some degree of standardisation in the industrial field, particularly in the building industry. I recently read a document from the building industry indicating that it hoped to convert quickly to metric units. Another conclusion of the Senate Committee was:
Introduction of a metric system was widely regarded as a natural consequence of Australia’s earlier conversion to decimal currency. The full advantages of decimal currency would not be experienced until decimal weights and measures were also used.
I think that is a little high kite flying but nevertheless, I suppose mathematics will be somewhat simpler when we are using metric weights and measures as well as the decimal currency. 1 congratulate the Minister for Customs and Excise on moving early in this field because I think he acknowledges that, as the Senate Committee rightly pointed out, in the international field Australia is at some disadvantage when it quotes in the imperial system rather than the metric system. The Opposition offers no objection to the passage of these Bills. They are being dealt with together because they relate to the same matters. I thank the Minister for the way in which he introduced these Bills and also for the sorts of examples he gave as to the real savings that it is hoped will follow the introduction of these measures.
– As the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) just indicated, there is very little question of debate on the Bills we are considering. These Bills provide less room for manoeuvre than any item 1 have ever seen come before this Parliament because all that is happening is that we are converting our present imperial system to the metric system. However, the Bills do give us one or two thoughts. Apart from the convenience which will occur in world trade because of the metric system of weights and measures, we must consider what will happen with our own internal trading. I will never get used to it. I will never be able to get used to the idea that if I were still in business and dealing with spirits as I was a long time ago and I had to work out an order, instead of saying $2.69 per lb, I would have to say $5.93 per kilogramme.
There are 2i pages as a schedule to the Bill that indicates that people will have to learn a whole new system. The benefits in the long run must be advantageous to our whole living. It will obviously be much easier for school children to be able to handle these measures, although when I was at school we learnt the metric system. We learnt in tens, hundreds and thousands and so on and thought it was very easy. However, we had to learn the other things as well. I understand that the idea in the schools now is to take the rulers away from the children. The rulers that I have always used have had inches on one side and centimetres on the other. But the idea now is to move right away from that. The new method of teaching mathematics today is to give the children little sticks of different lengths so that they are able visually to see just what are the differences. Once everybody gets used to the metric system it will be very much more simple to be able to make calculations. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports mentioned, when he was speaking about the report of the Metric Conversion Board, that the changeover would not be completed until 1979. To me that seems a very long time. I would rather see a much more expeditious changeover. If we are to make a break, then let us make the break expeditiously. To be quite candid about this, I would have a lot of trouble in making calculations in pounds, shillings and pence now that I have become accustomed to using the decimal system in relation to money.
When it comes to liquid measurements, which are the subject of these Bills, it must be easier to handle these calculations according to the size of containers. It seems to me to be a little ridiculous that we should change hogsheads to something else because the contents are to be so many litres converted into dollars and cents. Surely it would have been much easier for us to have started off with the smallest measure of a one-pint milk bottle and change it to a one-litre milk bottle and then go on with the other sizes so that when we came to hogsheads and the other larger sizes used in commerce it would be a lot easier. 1 presume that cost is one of the troubles. Just think of the enormous number of beer barrels throughout the whole of Australia. Most of these barrels are 9-gallon containers, with a few 18-gallon containers. But these barrels are in existence, so we have to make use of them. This is why we have adopted this most complicated system of changing over from, for example, $1.1375 per gallon to the converted figure of $0.252778 per litre, although the capacity of the container is not a definite number of litres. It is a certain number of litres plus something. Surely we should be making this changeover - if this is possible - in one step.
One thing on which I would like to have a little more information is what will happen when eventually we reach the stage where we will be producing containers which are tailored to the metric system so that a container will be so many litres and contain so many kilograms instead of having measurements of one pint and so on. In that situation deliveries of goods will be made to people in 2 sizes. We can see this in the supermarket where 2 bottles are alongside each other but there is a slight difference between their sizes. The price is to be adjusted so that a person pays according to the number of units. But it will look as though the larger bottle is the better buy. This is the sort of confusion that must arise with this changeover. If it is humanly possible, I would like to see us get over that step as quickly as we can.
Certain industries have been anticipating what they will be able to do with the changeover to the metric system. I refer to the engineering field. Although we are not dealing with this field tonight, I mention it in passing and only as an example. This is a field in which tooling up is now being done according to the metric system and industry has found that this system suits it. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports pointed out that this has been done in the pharmaceutical industry for a long time. We have all had to buy a new measure with which to pour our medicines. This was done in a very simple operation. Today it would probably be very difficult to go around and buy an ounce measure, but one can buy very simply the equivalent in the metric measure.
I just drawn the attention of the House to the great difficulty that could be experienced unless we make a very clear break in this changeover. The only other comment I would like to make is that this legislation is an indication of the thoughtfulness of this Government. It is purely a machinery measure but, if anything, the Government will be the one that loses.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Chipp) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Chipp) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent orders of the day Nos 3, 4,5, 6 and 7 for the resumption of the debate on the second reading of the Excise Bill 1972, the Distillation Bill 1972, the Spirits Bill 1972, the Diesel Fuel Tax Bill (No. 1) 1972 and the Diesel Fuel Tax Bill (No. 2) 1972 being called on together and a motion being moved that the Bills be now passed.
Consideration resumed from 29 March 1972 (vide pages 1328 and 1329) on motions by Mr Chipp:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
Bills (on motion by Mr Chipp) passed.
Debate resumed from 12 April (vide page1519), on motion by Mr Garland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to save my friend the honourable member for Melbourne Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) some embarrassment with his colleague the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson)? It is really too early to adjourn the House.
I know that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports might be less prepared than he would want to be to take part in this debate, but because of his co-operation and the co-operation of the House 6 Bills have been dealt with much quicker than we thought they would be. So we would appreciate the continued co-operation of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. I am sure that in the circumstances his colleague the honourable member for Dawson would not mind the honourable member for Melbourne Ports leading for the Opposition in the debate on this Bill.
– The Bill before us provides for a payment to the State of Queensland, under section 96 of the Constitution, through the mechanism of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. It makes Queensland the third recipient of assistance in this way. At one stage recently Tasmania was the only survivor from the earlier days, but as a result of a Premiers Conference held some 2 years ago, South Australia again became the recipient of assistance in this way. Now Queensland, as a result of suggestions made at a recent Premiers Conference, also has applied to receive assistance in this way. It is proposed to give Queensland assistance of the magnitude of $9m.
A short special report by the Commonwealth Grants Commission regarding the request for assistance by Queensland was tabled the other evening. I must pay a tribute to the Commission for the quality of its annual reports which contain a great deal of useful information about the functioning of our federal system, as far as Commonwealth-State relations are concerned. Obviously this latest report was prepared fairly hastily but, nevertheless, it raises one or two matters of some significance. Paragraph 4 on page 5 of the document states:
The arrangements made at the Premiers Conference in June 1970 for payment of an additional grant of $2 per capita to New South Wales and
Victoria in each of the ensuing 5 years. Queensland stated that ‘this obviously affects the standard of comparison and caused the then Prime Minister to invite any State that felt it was injuriously affected by that decision to go to the Grants Commission’. It submitted, however, that Queensland’s needs ‘go beyond the payment of a grant of this magnitude’.
Queensland indicated a number of disabilities that it felt it had to endure, and stated that because of the vastness of the State and the dispersement of the population it was more costly to provide at very remote points services, such as the railway service, the police service and the hospital system. On the other hand, in rebuttal the Commonwealth pointed to a number of areas in which it believed that the State could have raised more revenue for itself than it did. One matter that seemed to me to be of some significance raises certain basic problems. It refers to the utilisation of natural resources. Paragraph 24 on page 11 of the Grants Commission’s report states:
The Commonwealth Treasury suggested that the value of mining output might give some indication of capacity to raise mining royalties. This would suggest that Queensland’s capacity is above standard: and as the royalties collected per head of population in Queensland are below the average per capita for the standard States it would appear that Queensland makes a relatively low effort in this field.
Sometimes I think that in some respects the States, with a certain amount of justification, complain a lot about the constitutional responsibilities which they are still asked to bear, and this is true in such significant fields as education, health, public transport, irrigation, electricity generation and so on. They claim that they have to bear these responsibilities, which is so, and that they lack the resources, both in terms of annual grants and capital grants, to make the necessary expansion that the increasing population demands. Often, the increase in popolation is the direct result of Commonwealth policies, particularly with regard to immigration. However, on the other hand, sometimes the States seem to overlook the fact that they have certain sources of revenue which might be successfully exploited, but which are not.
I know that it is easy not to impose taxes. You raise nobody’s ire if you do not impose taxes, but you certainly create a lot of disturbances if you do impose taxes. In some respects the States have not been as venturesome as they might have been, par ticularly as regards adopting a sensible policy of taxation on land. Whatever can be said sometimes about a particular company establishing itself in one State rather than in another because particular inducements are held out, land cannot be shifted from one State to another. If a certain population is working in a particular State, it wants to acquire land for residential purposes in that State. It is no good saying to people who live in Melbourne that land is cheaper in Perth. That is not a negotiable sort of a proposition.
What has happened recently is that, because States have not exerted much initiative in land development, there has been an acceleration of land values both in the metropolitan areas and in the provincial cities, and even sometimes in some of the country towns. This is something about which the States, with a little more initiative, could have done a lot more themselves. I think that quite a large amount of unearned increment has gone to land speculators simply because the States have claimed that they have not had enough ready capital to regulate the thing themselves. I have always felt that when a State, such as Victoria with the resources that are available to it, say, through an organisation like its own State Savings Bank, claims that it cannot mobilise enough capital to acquire land for the State on reasonable terms, it is not showing initiative at all. Equally, I believe that when we come to the development of natural resources, such as iron ore in the case of Western Australian and coal, uranium, copper and so on in the case of Queensland, the States have let off very lightly those who wanted to exploit the development of the minerals.
After all, in one sense minerals are under the ground; they are on Crown property, to start with. Yet we seem to ask for very low royalties for the development of the minerals. We somehow seem to think that those who exploit the minerals are doing a great service. We are so pleased that they are taking the minerals out of the gound that we do not impose reasonable royalties. I think that this is what was hinted at in paragraph 24 of the Grants Commission’s report. Queensland, in particular, perhaps could have demanded a higher charge for the royalties for the development of coal and other natural resources within its boundaries. I know that these things can be arguable and that there is a certain amount of bargaining power. I feel that the same applies with respect to foreign investment. No foreigner invests in Australia unless he thinks there is something in it for him. On the other hand Australia should not welcome development unless it thinks there is something in it for Australia. At least there is a bargaining area with advantages each way. I think that we have sold out too easily to those who want to invest in view of the very real powers that the country which owns the natural resources has by the mere existence of those resources. These are the kinds of things we must be careful about in the future.
In some respects we seem to have wanted to welcome investment, internal or external, on any terms. We have been glad to have it without asking that it should pay a reasonable rent, reasonable royalty or reasonable price for utilising what is really the public domain. Be that as it may. the Commonwealth Grants Commission made no very firm decisions on some of the fundamental problems that were raised. It realised that Queensland, to an extent, had a case. All that has been done here is to pay what is called a preliminary grant and to leave the final grant to be assessed later in the year. It hopes to find answers to some of the unanswered questions in the meantime.
– It will have the actual figures.
– That is so. All I am suggesting is that this is the first hit - the first tentative approach. I appreciate the difficulties. Nevertheless there have been suggestions that the scope of the Commonwealth Grants Commission should be extended. My own Leader has suggested that greater use could be made of the methods and mechanisms of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I think that if this is to be done both the staffing of that organisation and its standards of assessments will need to be greatly refined. In the long run, of course, whatever recommendation is made by the Commission has to come before this Parliament for final ratification. But the fact that Queensland, an expanding State, should have to come to this kind of body for a sum as small as $1Om indicates that we still have not successfully arrived at adequate mechanisms for adjusting the disparities between the financial dominance of the Commonwealth and the functional responsibilities of the States. As has so often been suggested, in this arrangement the poor relation - the local authorities - is sometimes neglected altogether. I do not want to go too much into this aspect tonight because I argued about it a week or so ago and, as I said, I did not really want to talk about this tonight but the task has been thrust upon me circumstantially. Nevertheless, what we have before us tonight is indicative of the unsatisfactory arrangements that still prevail for equating financial dominance on the one hand and financial responsibility on the other hand.
At present there is some talk of a convention of States and the Commonwealth. My Leader again has suggested that it would be incomplete unless local authorities also were invited into the discussions to try to work out some more satisfactory pattern in the future for doing the kinds of things that need to be done in order to develop the Commonwealth. Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that in many respects Commonwealth, State and local authorities are fairly arbitrary divisions of functional responsibility, but at each level there are people represented in the social equation. As has been said here over and over again, whether we like it or not the majority of people in Australia still are contained within the capital cities of Australia. The census figures that have been published within the last few weeks show that the capital cities have grown faster in terms of population since the last census than has the rest of the Commonwealth. At least in a democratic society we have some responsibility to look after the needs of people.
The means of financing the needs of the citizens within the boundaries of local governing bodies are scarcely adequate any more. We are still tied to a rather curious system of property rating which has a lot of inequities in its application. In the rural areas there certainly are a lot of real problems concerning land values as they affect actual farming. One of the matters that was pointed out in this special report in relation to Queensland was that an examination of probate or estate duties revealed that Queensland was not quite as wealthy comparatively with the other States per capita as sometimes was suggested.I would suggest that that is a fairly rough index of relative prosperity.
At the moment there is much discussion about the inequity of what rather loosely are described as probate and estate duties. It seems that in most cases what causes the most injustice is not the operation of the Commonwealth Government in this field but the operation of the States. The impact on rural properties of these duties is the difficult problem. Sometimes these strands should be separated. Some 2 years agoI pointed out, when we were discussing an amendment relative to Commonwealth probate duty, that it would not matter greatly if the Commonwealth vacated this field altogether. I think it yields about $50m to $60m in revenue, which is pretty insignificant in terms of total revenues amounting to almost $9,000m. I drew attention to the fact that in Great Britain, when they were assessing properties other than suburban properties, they gave a total exemption to rural properties because they realised there were some difficulties - that there could be a system that virtually forced the breaking up of smaller farms which forced good farmers off the land and tended to aggregate land in the hands of large scale developers of a company kind. I think this is a real difficulty in most Australian States. I would hope that some of this silly, sentimental stuff about it being a Federal tax, which is wrong, was clarified. After all, a member in another place got there by complaining about these duties. The real problem that he is trying to solve will not be solved in this Parliament. It will be solved in the various State parliaments. Yet this is the curious kind of emotional atmosphere that sometimes one can build around a problem of this kind.
– I think the problem has been solved.
– His problem is solved for 6 years. I think that he is here for 6 years and his views on everything else, I suppose, do not matter at all. But the one matter that he came here for really is not in the province of this place to resolve. I hope that isone of the things that will be discussed at this convention, if it ever assembles.
As I have said, 1 had not wanted to speak this evening. The hour is 11 o’clock. The Opposition offers no objection to this payment to the State of Queensland, but simply points out that this sort of thing ought not to be happening if we had more satisfactory means of equating finance to function in our federal system.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
F111 Aircraft - Sea Searches and Rescues - ‘Peace with Freedom’ Organisation
Motion (by Mr Garland) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– 1 wish to raise during the debate on the motion that the House do now adjourn the problem of freedom of expression in the Commonwealth Public Service. Earlier tonight I came from a public meeting which was called by the Council of Social Service of the Australian Capital Territory. It was intended that the meeting would discuss the question: Do we need a health, education and welfare authority in the Australian Capital Territory? It was a public meeting which was advertised, and it was attended by 50 or so people. After the discussion was over, the point was made that a number of the participants in the audience were public servants and the fact that they were public servants had hindered and made it difficult for them to participate in discussion on the subject of health, education and welfare. If that is true - and I believe it is true - then it is a shocking state of affairs.
This problem is concentrated and very much emphasised in Australia. We have enactments, the best known being regulation 34(b) of the Commonwealth Public Service Regulations, section 55 of the Commonwealth Service Act and sections such as section 70 of the Commonwealth Crimes Act. The net result of them is this: Public servants are restricted unnecessarily in their rights as citizens. They just cannot come out and comment on matters on which, as citizens, they have a right to comment. It is not as though the right to comment, if they exercised it, would interfere with the proper performance of their duties. They are in effect muzzled.
A number of representations have been made to government by various public service organisations over the years. One set of representations to which I wish to draw attention emanated from the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations. This body commenced its inquiries as long ago as August 1970 when certain representations were made to the then Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, urging that the Public Service regulations be amended in order to remove these unnecessary restrictions on the right of public servants to make public comment.
As far as I am informed, no profitable result was produced by those representations. Submissions then were made to the Public Service Board and were completed in June 1971, again with no apparent result at that time. On 15th March 1972 a deputation from the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations attended on the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), again with no profitable result from the exchange of views that took place. But one thing followed from it. Following the discussions a letter dated 16th March 1972 was written to the Prime Minister and it has not even been acknowledged, let alone answered. The letter complied with certain undertakings or promises that had been given at the meeting. Amongst those undertakings was some information that was supplied to the Prime Minister on the American experience - the way the Americans solve this problem, or at least approached it. The American approach contrasts very, very favourably with the miserable way in which we approach the problem in this country.
There is, for example, a United States Freedom of Information Act which should, I suggest, be adopted in Australia. The Act requires that there be set up systems within the public service which would make available to the public all sorts of information that here one just cannot get at. In other words, it pierces the shroud of secrecy with which we surround our public service organisations. AH descriptions of central and field organisations in the United States have to be on public scrutiny and available to the public. Statements of the general course and method by which the functions of such a federal agency are channelled and determined, including the nature and requirement of all formal and informal procedures, have to be made available. All rules of procedure and description of forms must be readily available. All substantive rules of general applicability adopted must also be made available to the public. These are elementary things in the United States as indeed they are in other countries. The United Kingdom has made great progress in this area of the relationship that should exist between a public service and the public without any detrimental effect on the public service. No-one hears of criticism in the United Kingdom about this more open approach to the workings of the public service, yet here we do nothing about it notwithstanding that representations have been made now, going back to something like August 1970.
The most recent case that has been brought to my knowledge is one in the Northern Territory which concerns Mr Wesley Smith who, it would seem from reports of the ‘Northern Territory News’ of 5th and 6th April 1971, is an agronomist working in the Northern Terirtory and employed by the Primary Industries Branch of the Administration. His work does not bring him into contact with the Aborigines of the area. He is a man who would seem to have strong views, as indeed any citizen is entitled to have, on the question of Aboriginal land rights. In his capacity as an ordinary citizen he chose to make a statement about Aboriginal land rights. This statement was critical of Government policy.
One would have thought that as an ordinary citizen, whether he be public servant or not, in any enlightened country he would be entitled to make such a statement and not be stopped, hindered or subjected to any criminal law. But things do not happen that way. That man, whom the editorial writers of the ‘Northern Terirtory News’ described as a champion of Aboriginal causes, found himself fined $20 for each of a number of offences he was alleged to have committed by making public comments on Aboriginal land rights. It was something that did not concern his work at all and was outside his duties of employment. He was found to have infringed regulation 34 (b) of the Public Service Regulations and section 55 of the Public Service Act. As I have said, he was fined.
Surely this is a deplorable state of affairs. Not only have representations been made persistently by the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations to government over a very long period of time with no result but now, at this late stage of the day, we find people like Wesley Smith, who is apparently a very highly regarded public servant of the Northern Territory and who has taken it upon himself to express interest in matters of public concern, are being treated virtually like criminals. Mr Wesley Smith has had a black mark placed against his name although he was acting not in the course of his professional employment as an agronomist but in another field altogether.
I recall the case of Murray Syme in New South Wales some years ago. He was a lawyer in the Deputy Crown Solicitor’s Office and he chose to associate himself with the moratorium movement. Because of speeches he made about moratorium campaigns at that time in Sydney he was disciplined and steps of a punitive nature were taken against him under what I call notorious regulation 34 (b). Murray Syme chose not to put up with that. Being a lawyer having an earning capacity outside the Public Service he resigned and sought employment elsewhere. In this way a fine young man who could have contributed a lot to the Public Service went into private practice. I ask the Prime Minister to give serious and sympathetic consideration to the representations made by the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations so that Australia may be brought into line with the enlightened thinking overseas in the United Kingdom and in the United States of America. It is not as though this has not been talked about previously in this country. There have been several articles published in learned journals. Professor Whitmore wrote an article entitled ‘The Public Servant as a Citizen’ based upon a comparison of the way public servants are treated in Australia and in overseas countries. A general summation of that article is that the quality and efficiency of the public service does not suffer at all but rather is improved because of enhanced morale that results from the opening up of the system foisted upon us.
– I desire to take the opportunity tonight to reply to some remarks made late on Thursday last by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). Unfortunately I had no knowledge that the honourable gentleman intended to speak about that matter so I now take the first opportunity to set the record straight. The honourable member said I was incorrect when I said that Australia has a fixed price per aircraft for the Fill aircraft of $5.95m and that would be less than the cost of the same aircraft to the United States Air Force. The honourable member could easily have obtained a copy of a statement which I put out on 16th December last outlining in full the costs associated with the Fill project. In that statement the honourable member would have seen that the basic cost per aircraft is $5. 95m. Of course, for 24 aircraft the total basic cost would be $ 142.8m. Escalation which occurred between 1965 and 1968 adds $24. 8m. Configuration changes made, including heavier undercarriage plus extended wings, added $3. 8m. Modifications - there have been some 100 modifications which have improved this aircraft enormously - totalled $35m. This brings the total cost for 24 aircraft to $206.4m.
That cost is fly-away cost, making the cost per aircraft $8.6m. The honourable member for Blaxland has mixed up the fly-away cost with the project cost. The total project cost, as previously announced, is $334m. That total is arrived at by adding to the $206.4m the cost of spares, $58.8m, ground support equipment and other support costs, S64.3m and a contingency of $ 14.6m. Honourable members will be aware that spares usually cost about half the total fly-away cost of aircraft. The honourable member for Blaxland suggested that the $3 44m is not a total or final cost and to that should be added the cost of the leased Phantom aircraft. I cannot understand how he seeks to add to the cost of the Fill aircraft the cost of hiring the Phantoms which were leased as an interim measure. The Phantom aircraft have provided the
RAAF with a most useful interim capacity and when the Fill aircraft are delivered the Phantoms will be returned.
The honourable member said that the RAAF is pushing for the acquisition of a tanker. It is quite wrong to suggest that the F111C needs a tanker to satisfy range requirements. The FI 1 1C as it is more than satisfies Air Staff requirements. It does this in range both with and without external tanks and it satisfies Air Staff requirements as to speed and bomb load. It is true that if we had a tanker the performance would be even greater, for 2 reasons. The aircraft could take off with a full bomb load from a small airfield and be refuelled in the air or alternatively it could be refuelled in air to give it incredible range. However without a tanker the specifications of the RAAF will be more than met. It is true that the Air Force is examining the question of replacing the C130A Hercules aircraft. Naturally when examining this sort of thing all aspects are considered. One aspect is whether we could get an aircraft with a transport role which could quickly be transformed to a tanker role. When the time comes this will be assessed and a decision made. If a decision is made to obtain a tanker the performance of this extremely good aircraft will be very fine indeed. To suggest that the cost of a tanker should be added to the overall project is quite wrong.
The honourable member said that the Fill is not a strategic deterrent without its nuclear bomb. To try to prove this he read from an article in a United States Armed Forces Journal’ and he endeavoured to denigrate the Fill. In fact the article, entitled ‘The Swing Wing May Surprise You Yet’ is most laudatory about the Fill. There is no conflict whatsoever between the statements made by the Government and those reputed to have come from the United States Commander-in-Chief on the so-called shortcomings of the FU IB range and payload limiting its performance from a strategic point of view. There is no conflict between that and the fact that for the particular role for which the RAAF is purchasing this aircraft, it is undoubtedly the finest aircraft in the world today, and will fit in extremely well with our requirements. I should like to quote some of the things which the honourable member did not read from the article to which he referred. The article said:
Based on current experience with the Fill and other aircraft in SEA it required 5.91 Phantom sorties to attain the target damage obtained by a single Fill.
Despite the cost and problems associated wilh the Fill it still stands alone as the best aircraft yet developed for night and bad weather attack missions deep inside enemy territory. It is unique in its unrefuelled range capabilities. No other fighter in the world can cross the Atlantic unrefuelled which means that the Fill alone can be rapidly deployed almost anywhere in the world without waiting for tanker support.
There were other parts of the article which the honourable member did not quote, obviously because they were favourable to the Fill aircraft. It is easy merely to pick out unfavourable things and quote them. The article said also that one Air Force officer involved in the Fill programme had said that the FI 1 1 would look like a bargain in a few years. The article goes on to say:
It carries more bombs than any other fighter and surpasses all other known fighters for automatic navigation accuracy, weapons accuracy, maintainability and short or rough field operations. As a single ship attack aircraft it can operate as no other can without extensive air cover, tanker and electronic counter measures support. In addition it has a 24-hour attack capability in bad weather, giving it an 80 per cent advantage over other aircraft in the Europoean theatre.
So there is no doubt whatsoever that we are getting a bargain. Finally, the honourable member for Blaxland said that when we ordered this aircraft we did not get offset orders. The aircraft was ordered in 1963. It has been the policy since 1968 for the defence group to pursue a course of action leading to reciprocal purchasing. But the fact that we have done that extremely successfully since 1968 does not mean that we can go back to a 1963 order and expect to get offset orders. The honourable member said that we will repent at leisure. I can assure him that we will not repent. We will realise that we have an extremely good bargain in these aircraft from the point of view of both cost and cost effectiveness.
– I wish to refer to a statement made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) on the 19th of this month at the opening of the new Marine Operations
Centre in Canberra. A statement released by the Minister on 19th April read:
The Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr Peter Nixon, said today he was ‘intent on finding the means of having all seafarers, including yachtsmen and fishermen, contribute to the cost’ of search and rescue operations.
This was because it seemed ‘less than equitable that the community as a whole should pay for search and rescue actions, especially those which result from the less than responsible approach taken by some adventurers’.
On 2nd October last year a ketch by the name of ‘One and AH’ foundered some miles ofl the Australian coast. In reply to a question which I asked the then Acting Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Hunt), he informed me that the cost of the search was something in excess of $200,000. At that time I was very critical of the fact that this vessel was allowed to go to sea. Not only was I critical, but the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) was too, and the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) asked a question on the subject. But the honourable member for Griffith and I in particular were critical of the fact that this ketch was allowed to go to sea in the condition it was in. On 12th October I asked the Acting Minister for Shipping and Transport a question and it and the reply are reported on page 2146 of Hansard. I do not want to quote all the reply. In the latter part of the Minister’s reply he said: 1 cannot give any indication at this stage of whether there will be a marine inquiry. Detailed discussions are taking place at present, as I said previously, but I want to make this point clear: At a meeting of the Commonwealth and State Ministers for Transport on 24th September the Ministers agreed that there are several areas in which co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States could lead to more efficient marine administration. Such an area is the safety of private yachts and pleasure craft. It is under current consideration.
That question was answered on 12th October 1971. Yet here we are today, 26th April 1972, and to the best of my knowledge no statement has been made by the Minister or his Department about what happened to that marine inquiry that was being conducted by the Department into the foundering of the ‘One and All’. The people involved in this incident sold the story to the newspapers. I do not know what they got out of it, but I do know’ from the Minis ter’s statement that the search cost the public purse in the vicinity of $200,000. I agree with what the Minister said at the opening of the Marine Operations Centre, namely, that something positive has to be done about small craft today.
Under the Navigation Act and under load line legislation which was introduced here in 1968 or thereabouts, pleasure craft are specifically excluded. I believe, and on that occasion I said that pleasure craft should not be excluded from the provisions of the Act because it is in this field that many people are losing their lives today. People sometimes have to be protected from themselves. Let us look at some of the information that is available. The Commonwealth Department of Shipping and Transport reported 266 incidents in 1970, of which 21 were considered to be major incidents. In New South Wales in 1970-71 there were 39,007 boats registered which were capable of a speed of more than 10 knots and which were less than 65 feet in length. There were 67,704 licences issued. In New South Wales in the same year there were 144 accidents - 110 on inside waters and 34 in the open sea. On inside waters there were 59 injuries and 15 fatalities; at sea there were 12 injuries and 8 fatalities. This makes a total of 144 accidents, 71 injuries and 23 deaths. For the other States it is a little difficult to get information; but Western Australia does an excellent job in the preparation of its statistics. However, I have not time to go through all of them. The interesting figures which the Western Australian statistics disclose are that on the ocean there were 55 accidents and 9 deaths and on rivers and lakes there were 7 accidents and 2 deaths. So boating results in quite a number of fatalities.
When the number of vessels registered is compared with the number of motor cars registered there is probably something like the same proportion of people injured and killed in boating accidents as in motor car accidents. So I go along with what the Minister has said. Unfortunately, however, the position is that if I want to hold a licence to drive a boat in excess of 10 knots all I have to do is pass an oral examination based on the information in a book called Boating in New South Wales’. Having done that, I can take my boat to New Zealand if 1 am silly enough, or I can go even to England. Some people would probably think that would be a good place for me to go. The fact is that if 1 was silly enough to want to take a boat to New Zealand I could do so.
– We are all wondering when you are going to leave.
– I would probably get a good cheerio call as I was leaving. To do this 1 would not need to have any knowledge of navigation or to know a thing about the boat. I need only pass this oral examination, which is not a difficult examination, and away I could go. I could get on to the open sea, where I could get into a bit of trouble. It could cost John Citizen or John Taxpayer, as it did in the case of the ‘One and AH’, a couple of hundred thousand dollars to find me. This is not good enough. People who are silly enough to go to sea like that have to be protected from themselves, and so do the men who have to go and look for them have to be protected. People get into trouble mostly in inclement weather, when there are storms and the like. In Queensland recently there was a fatality at the height of a cyclone. I do not want to dwell on that, but there people went to sea in a cyclone. We all know from having flown in aircraft that it is not very pleasant upstairs when there is bad weather. One of these days one of the searchers could lose his life and this matter will blow up again. I support in principle what I think the Minister is trying to do.
I hope there will be a dual system of licences. One should be for people who want to use boats in estuaries, rivers and lakes where they need just the basic knowledge of to whom they give way, what they have to do when approaching or overtaking another vessel and what they have to do when people are fishing, swimming or skiing. For a boat that goes to sea some basic principles should be laid down and the person responsible for the boat should be required to hold a licence. To gain a licence I suggest that the person should be required to undergo an examination to test whether he has a simple knowledge of meteorology and whether he understands the reading of a barometer and how clouds form so that if he sees certain clouds form he cay say: ‘It is time I was not here. It is time I got into sheltered waters’. It may be necessary to insist that he have some basic knowledge of navigation and probably even some mechanical knowledge of the motor that is driving the boat he has because so many marine accidents occur when the engine in a boat breaks down. Other requirements should be that the boat has on board a 2-way radio, flares and floats and some form of life jackets to make sure that if the person gets into trouble at least he has the means of getting out of it. The boat should be fitted with at least the safety equipment that is thought necessary by people in the industry who know what should be on board. If a person is going to sea he should prepare a voyage plan showing where he has in mind going, whether, for instance, he is going to fish at a particular point and then return to port. He can give a message to the representatives of the Maritime Services Board or its counterpart in the various States so that the people who are running the country will know where he is.
– The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) a few moments ago referred to a speech I made during the adjournment debate last week concerning a reply he made to a question asked by the honourable member for Bonython (Mr Nicholls) in relation to the costs of the Fill aircraft. I might say at the outset that this question was asked on a Thursday and that in the evening of that Thursday I went to the Minister’s office seeking the green Hansard copy of the question and the answer, but his offices were closed. I still intended to speak on the adjournment but - you will recall, Mr Speaker, that there has been some discussion about this incident since it happened - both the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds) and I were virtually silenced because the Deputy Speaker put the motion that the House do now adjourn, he got up from the chair, walked out of the chamber and left us standing here. That was the reason I did not deal with this matter on that night. However I did go to the Minister’s office.
On the Wednesday of the next week I raised the matter in the House. The point I raised was that the honourable member for Bonython asked the Minister the following question:
Can he say what was the estimated cost for each plane in 1963 and what is that figure today? What was the total cost of the order in 1963 and what will be the total figure on delivery?
The Minister replied that the cost had not escalated as much as the costs of other products may have escalated and said:
In fact Australia has a fixed price per aircraft of $5.95m and this will be less than the cost to the United States Air Force. So Australia has an extremely good bargain. I am informed by all the people who advise the Government that the Flit is still by far the best aircraft available in the world.
The point I wished to make was that there were 2 parts to the question - one about the unit cost of the aircraft and the other about the total cost of the project. The total cost of the project in 1963 was $11 2m. and that had escalated, on the Minister’s own figures, to $344m, discounting my remarks about the Phantom and the tanker aircraft. In the Minister’s statement on 16th December he said that the new estimated project cost for the 24 F1I1C aircraft was $344m. That figure represented a 300 per cent increase on the original total estimated cost. So that put paid to the Minister’s statement that costs had not escalated. A 300 per cent increase is an appreciable increase in price.
The other aspect is the unit cost of the aircraft. The $5. 95m was secured as a basic price after negotiations with the United States Government in 1967, 3 years after the order was placed. If my memory serves me correctly, when the order was placed, the figure spoken of was around $3.5m. After debate in the House and in the country had taken place during the 3 years from 1964 to 1967 the Government, to save its bacon, got this price of $5. 95m per aircraft, but that had escalated from the $3.5m. Now tonight the Minister has said that the fly away unit cost of each aircraft is $8.6m. So it was not fair for him to say that $5. 95m was the price we secured from the United States and that this price was lower than the price at which the United States Air Force will be acquiring the aircraft. The fact is that the Government entered into an open ended contract with no provisions relating to lack of performance of the aircraft or escalating costs, and we have been left holding the baby. As I have said in this House before, the Government bought in haste and we have been left to repent at leisure. The basic aspects I raise are that the project cost has gone up 300 per cent and that the unit cost has appreciated from $3.5m to $8.6m now.
The other aspect I raised related to the Phantom aircraft. I think it is valid to say that if we had had delivery of the Fill within the period specified by the Minister for Defence at the time of the purchase, Mr Townley, we would not have had to lease the Phantom aircraft. So it is fair to say that the Phantom costs were additional to the costs of the project and that if the project had been completed we would not have had to lease the Phantom aircraft. When the cost of leasing the Phantom is added to the project cost of the Fill the total cost is well over $344m.
The other aspect the Minister raised was my criticism of the Fill in comparison with the bombing performance of B52 aircraft as stated in the United States ‘Armed Forces Journal’. The Government has talked about the Fill aircraft having a prime role as a strategic deterrent, not as a tactical fighter-bomber. There is a very great difference. The aircraft of the United States Strategic Air Command carry nuclear weapons on a 24 hour basis. Should the United States be pre-empted in a nuclear attack the aircraft of that unit of the United States Air Force are targeted on places in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and other countries. Therefore they have a strategic job to do. The Fill, in the Government’s view, is a strategic aircraft, and it was purchased to fulfil a strategic role at the time of confrontation with Indonesia. But my point is that it is not a strategic aircraft unless it carries a nuclear weapon, and the bomb load of the Fill in far too low for it to be considered as a strategic aircraft. I think it would do the Minister good to read last week’s Time’ magazine, in which United States journalists have written about the effectiveness of the massive bombing by B52 aircraft in Vietnam. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) has said in this House on many occasions that the massive bomb loads that are being dropped on Vietnam have not seriously diminished the capacity of North Vietnam to prosecute the war in South Vietnam.
The B52 aircraft, which are dropping 30 tons of bombs per aircraft - this is quite massive by comparison with the capacity of the Fill - have failed as strategic aircraft. So talk about the Fill being a strategic aircraft is not valid because it is just not in that class. I do not mind talking about tactical fighter-bombers, but when we purchase 24 aircraft which have a stated unit cost of $8. 6m and a real unit cost of $14. 3m, we have been taken for a ride, particularly as our own aircraft industry can develop aircraft that will fly at mach 2, supersonically, as the Mirage aircraft does and as the Mirage replacement probably will. There is nothing to say that we could not be building fighter-bombers should we require them. The point I was making was that on accuracy of bombing the Fill, according to the ‘Armed Forces Journal’, is only marginally better than the B52.
I summarise in this way: The unit cost of the FI 1 1 has gone from $3.5m in 1 963 to $8.6m now. The Minister said that it was only $5.95m. In my estimation, that was not correct. The second point is that the total cost has gone from $112m to $344m, on the Minister’s own say-so - an increase of 300 per cent. On top of that 1 believe we should add the cost of the Phantom because we leased that aircraft as an interim measure when the Fill had not been delivered. My last point is that if it is considered to be a strategic aircraft, as the Government has referred to it in the past, it is clearly not worth the money we are paying because its bomb load is very small for a strategic bombing aircraft. Admittedly, it has a long range, but nothing like the range that was ordered in the original specification. Not only that, it is such a sophisticated aircraft that ,X must have colossal back-up facilities. t the moment the aircraft will be stationed only at Amberley. Its radius of operation from Amberley would seriously restrict it even for a tactical role.
So, in my view, this nation has been taken for a ride. We could have had much better value for our money. Perhaps we could have established an aircraft industry in Australia, comparable with that in Sweden, and we could be designing and developing our own fighter bombers suitable for our own requirements with the massive coastlines and the great distances we need to cover, instead of falling for this furphy of trying to tie in with United States equipment and having five or six Ministers for Defence trying to defend this project and finally saying that we got a bargain and we are getting it cheaper than the United States can get it. I would, like the House to know that the General Dynamics Corporation has made $3 50m profit on the FI 11. So I think that everything the Labor Party has said on this matter in this House has been vindicated. Lastly, I would like to remind the Minister again that I did go to his offices but they were closed. I would have spoken on this subject that evening but for the fact the Deputy Speaker decided to vacate the chair.
-Order! I must say, in deference to the Deputy Speaker, that I understood he put the question ‘That the House do now adjourn’ on that occasion.
– I agree, Mr Speaker, that the Deputy Speaker put the question but, my word, he was really quick that night. Tonight I want to raise a matter that is of some concern to members of this House. It arises from an article which is being circulated around both chambers and which has been published by the Australian Union of Students. The article is headed: ‘Federal Minister Betrays Party. Secret National Group.’ I was somewhat alarmed by this because I feel that in a matter such as this the person - a member of this House - who is named by this newspaper should have an opportunity to refute the allegations that are made in it. They are indeed very serious allegations. The secret national group referred to is known as the Peace with Freedom group.
The article says that the Minister for Housing (Mr Kevin Cairns) has been associated with that group in a number of secret and clandestine meetings over a number of years, lt associates a Minister of the Government with an organisation which has been opposed to the present Government in the sense that it has laid down certain proposals at certain meetings that have been held from time to time and which had for their purpose the limiting of the number of members of Parliament on the Government side who would be returned to this chamber, thus determining the majority the Government would have. Is it by coincidence that the paper reports that a determination was made that the Government, because of its defence policy, ought not to receive a huge mandate from the people in the 1969 election and should be held down to about a majority of 6 or 7? This is a deplorable state of affairs and one which should be cleared up.
May I say as an aside that we on this side of the House have become used to being attacked for the associations we may or may not have or which we may or may not keep from time to time. The Minister who is referred to in this paper has not been far behind in kicking the Communist can and suggesting that honourable members on this side of the chamber are more closely associated with Communism than he or other honourable members are. The paper goes on to ask:
Has Kevin Cairns fed confidential information to this group?
How much influence does the … Cairns group have on the Liberal Party and the Commonwealth Government?
How can Kevin Cairns justify his membership of an organisation which seeks to promote a political party opposed to the party in which he holds a senior position; that seeks to reduce the majority of bis own party; that seeks to defeat fellow Ministers?
How can Kevin Cairns justify his membership of an organisation which seeks to pressure and manipulate the Government in which he is a member?
With whom do Kevin Cairns’ loyalties lie - Peace with Freedom or the Government; the DLP or the Liberal Party?
This situation cannot help but to embarrass the Prime Minister, Mr McMahon.
He faces the most difficult election since the Liberal Country Party, Government won office in 1949. He must be aware of the danger to the Liberal Party and to the Government that Kevin Cairns and his association with the . . group represents.
The paper then goes on in some great detail about the internal political situation from 7th to 9th March 1970. It continues:
Main Objectives of Political Actions during 1969.
In order to secure these policy objectives, there were 5 desirable objectives in the October Federal election:
Four of these objectives came about. The. single negative factor was the . . . decline in the DLP vote.
The article then implies that the group was associated with the move made last year by certain Press elements such as the Packer Press to remove the then Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton).
I do not think that these statements ought to be made and ought to appear in the Parliamentary Library and be a subject for discussion around the House unless the person named in them is given an opportunity to deny the allgations. The article continues:
The position in the ALP.
Believe that Whitlam did notrise, so much as Gorton declined and pulled Whitlam up, therefore the pulling down of Whitlam by identification with extreme Left both possible and necessary.
Mr Speaker,I think you will agree that some of the tactics outlined in this paper run pretty much parallel with the tactics that have been employed in this House by various members of the Government. The article says:
That must be Communist Party control; surely it could not mean Country Party-
In other words, what is being discussed here is whether or not this particular group has arrived at the situation of saying: ‘Perhaps we have hammered the communist can too much. They have split. They have divided. There are some 5 or 6 different factions within the Communist Party. Now we have to look for something else to keep the ALP out of office. We have to look for some way of pressuring the Ministry. We have to look for some way of pressuring the Government, by the threat to its DLP preferences, to do certain things that are not, from the point of view of most thinking members of Parliament, the best in the national interest.’
The article refers to manipulators. A number of people are named on the first page of this document, but I will not go into that aspect tonight. The article says that the manipulators see themselves as manipulators, in the true sense, of the Government by the threat to the granting of DLP preferences. In the last 12 months quite a number of issues have been raised in this chamber whereby, because of threats made by the DLP, action has been taken by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) down the line. Last week I referred to the appointment of assistant Ministers. I said that they were over-protected because by carrying the tag ‘Assistant Minister’ they would not be opposed at the election by Liberal Party or Country Party candidates. Mr Speaker, I see that the person who deputised for you in the chair that night - the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) - is nodding in acquiescence with what I have to say in that regard. So, I will listen with a great deal of interest to see whether the Minister for Housing makes some attempt either to justify the allegations which have been made in the paper from which I have read or to dissociate himself from them. If he does dissociate himself from them, I would think that he would be prepared to be questioned on a number of matters that have been raised in this publication which is being circulated around the chamber.
– I was interested to hear what the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) had to say. If there is any substance in any of the allegations which he has made, he can be assured that an opportunity will be taken to reply to them. It also is clear that a number of allegations have been made in another place tonight about me. An appropriate opportunity will be taken to look closely at what the honourable member has said, if that is necessary, and to look closely at what has been said, if necessary, in another place and, at the appropriate time, an opportunity will be taken to deal with those remarks.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.51 p.m.
The following answers to Questions upon notice were circulated:
Nation-wide Survey of Educational Needs (Question No. 5007)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
MrKatter - The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australian Army: Cost of Training Infantrymen (Question No. 5464)
asked the Minister for the
Army, upon notice:
What is the present cost of training an infantry soldier to the stage where he can take his place as a full member of a fighting unit (Hansard, 16 March 1971, page 955).
MrKatter - The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The present cost of training an infantry soldier to the stage where he can take his place as a full member of a fighting unit is of the order of $4,200.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
MrFairbairn - The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
Can he say how many casualties have been suffered by the American Forces in the war in Vietnam; if so, how many (a) have been killed (b) were wounded (c) are missing and (d) have been taken as prisoners of war.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
United States casualties in Vietnam from 1st January1961 to 1st April, 1972 were:
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
What (a) number and (b) percentage of (i) Government (ii) Catholic and (iii) other nongovernment secondary schools have received assistance under the States Grants (Science Laboratories) Act and the States Grants (Secondary School Libraries) Act.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The information given covers the period 1 July, 1964 to 30 June, 1971, for the Science Facilities Program and the period1 January, 1969 to 31 December, 1971, for the Secondary Schools Libraries Program. The information requested is set out in the following tables.
Not all of these schools will receive assistance at any stage under both the Science and Librarires Programmes, as they include schools which are predominantly primary but which have, in many cases, a very small secondary enrolment. Some basically primary schools with a small secondary enrolment would receive library book grants but no assistance for either science buildings or apparatus. Information supplied by the States indicates that for both Programmes, virtually all of their schools regarded by them as having a secondary enrolment sufficient to justify assistance, have in fact received some measure of assistance.
asked the Minister for Edu cation and Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Universities: Research Activity (Question No. 5187)
asked the Minister for
Education and Science, upon notice:
Can he indicate which universities, through their educational research units, have undertaken the activities he reported in answer to Question No. 2275 (Hansard, 23rd September 1971, pages 1590-1).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The research activities reported in answer to Question No. 2275 and the universities with educational research units that have undertaken these activities are shown as follows:
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
However, it is anticipated that the University might enrol about 1,600 students by 1978.
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
So far as the Commonwealth is concerned eligible pensioners, irrespective of their state of residence, are entitled to 50 per cent concession of the rail fare on Commonwealth Railways for interstate or intrastate journeys except at Christmas and Easter Holiday seasons.
asked the Minister for the Environment. Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) My reply to Question No. 4796 by the honourable member provides information on a meering held in Perth on 3rd December 1971. The following Press statement was issued at the conclusion of the first meeting of the Australian Environment Council held in Sydney on 7th April 1972:
The Australian Environment Council acknowledges that waste disposal is the most pressing environment problem facing Australia today and decided to study the problems of sharing the cost of waste disposal.
The wider environmental problem facing Australia and other countries was the setting of criteria for chemical and other pollutants. The Council is undertaking studies on this question, particularly with the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in mind.
The Council held its first meeting in Sydney today.
Council members attending were:
The Honourable Peter Howson, M.P., Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts.
The Honourable Ralph Hunt, M.P., Minister for the Interior.
New South Wales
The Honourable J. G. Beale, M.L.A., Minister for Environment Control.
The Honourable V. O. Dickie, M.L.C., Minister for State Development.
The Honourable J. Bjelke-Petersen, M.L.A.. Premier and Minister for State Development.
The Honourable R. Davies, M.L.A., Minister for Environmental Protection.
The Honourable G. R. Broomhill, M.H.A., of South Australia was represented by Dr Inglis and The Honourable E. M. Bingham, M.H.A., of Tasmania was represented by Mr Pottinger.
The meeting was chaired by the N.S.W. Minister for Environment Control, The Honourable J. B. Beale.
The Council felt waste disposal was an area where the “polluter pays principle” could apply.
It recognised that for an interim period a need ma)’ exist for government financial assistance may be ‘necessary to overcome a backlog of pollution problems.
The Council discussed the problems of nonreturnable containers and packaging generally and it agreed that the problem of such containers was increasing and noted that the problem was being researched in a number of States.
A Sub-committee of the Council has been directed to carry out a review of the problem and possible solutions with the packaging and container industry.
The Council decided that a specialist committee would be set up to investigate and report to it on national emission standards and guidelines to protect the environment.
The Council expressed its concern about the need for uniform monitoring of environmental conditions throughout Australia. It took steps to ensure that monitoring techniques should be based on a uniform approach.
A sub-committee will assemble information on monitoring currently being undertaken by State Governments and the Commonwealth. It will investigate co-ordination methods of measurement and analysis.
The Council was formally constituted after Mr Howson announced that the Prime Minister and all Premiers had agreed to its formation following the meeting of Ministers held in Perth last December.
Iti indicating their agreement to the Council, New South Wales stated its constitutional responsibilities.
It was recognised that the great majority of environmental problems come within the jurisdiction of the States.
The Council resolved that individual States and the Commonwealth accept the merits of decentralisation as a means of environment improvement.
It recommended that the States and Commonwealth, iri considering the Commonwealth-State Officials’ Report on Decentralisation and action flowing from it give special consideration to environmental factors.’ j Railways: Melbourne-Albury-Junee (Question No. 5536)
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as followed:
The need for substantial shareholders, whether foreign or not, to disclose their interests in Australian companies was considered by the Company Law Advisory Committee in its second interim report which was tabled in this House on 20th May 1969. Legislation in accord with this report has been passed in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland and it is expected that other States will shortly be introducing similar legislation. An Ordinance with respect to this matter has been made in the Australian Capital Territory and will shortly be in operation. A Bill with similar provisions will be introduced in the Northern Territory Legislative Council in the near future.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
Does a widower, 70 to 80 years old, who is receiving a full age pension with no assets or other income, practically bedridden and residing with his daughter and son-in-law who receive less than the average wage, qualify for any other social service benefit or is his married daughter who cares for him entitled to some allowance for caring for her aged and invalided father.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
A widower in the circumstances described by the honourable member who is paying rent or board and lodging could, in addition to his age pension, qualify for supplementary assistance and receive, fortnightly, a pension cheque for $38.50. He would thus be in a position to make a material contribution towards the household expenses.
The question as to whether the daughter is qualified for special benefit would be determined in the light of the adequacy of the son-in-law’s income to provide for the reasonable maintenance of himself and his family.
Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications (Question No. 5522) Mr Whitlam asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
Will he bring up-to-date his answer on the meetings and publications of the Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications (Hansard, 21st April 1971, page 1852 and 8th September 1971, page 981).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Since 23rd August 1971, the Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications has met formally as a full Committee on 22nd September 1971, 20th October 1971, 25th November 1971, 17th December 1971, 10th February 1972 and 9th March 1972. All of these meetings took place in Canberra.
The Committee has published no further booklets to date. However, manuscripts of 5 additional booklets are currently with the printers. The professions covered are:
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
Can he say what are the detailed criteria for permanent entry into and settlement in:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Detailed information covering the policies of the countries listed in regard to entry for settlement into their respective countries is not held.
Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Question No. 5644)
asked the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
Will he indicate:
I invite the honourable member’s attention to information about staff provided in reply to Question No.5013. Clearly, it would be inappropriate for me or officers of the Department to investigate specific environment problems which arise locally and exclusively out of activities within the constitutional responsibility of the States. Consultation and co-ordination between the Commonwealth and the States on appropriate environmental matters take place through the Australian Environment Council and its Standing Committee.
RuralPo . eduction (Question No. 4956)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Rural Reconstruction employment Training Scheme has been introduced to help farmers who cannot be so assisted to transfer to suitable employment away from the farm. Also, under the Rural Reconstruction Scheme loans made availableto the States may be used by them to provide financial assistance to eligible producers who experience personal hardship and are obliged to leave the land. The upper limit of this assistance for an eligible producer was recently increased from $1,000 to $3,000. In addition, the Government’s grants to the States for the encouragement of non-metropolitan employment will be of material assistance.
Department of the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Question No. 5013)
asked the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Eight of these positions are at present occupied. In addition, the Public Service Board has now agreed to recommend the creation of 12 new positions.
Co-ordination of federal actions;
Co-operation with the States - in particular, through the Australian Environment Council; International aspects.
I propose to make a statement on the general environmental objectives of the Government in the near future.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 April 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1972/19720426_reps_27_hor77/>.