27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m. and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth :
Pre-school and after-school education facilities are in urgent need within the Australian community. The shortage has become more acute as more mothers join the work force.
In advanced countries pre-school and afterschool education are recognised as essential aspects of education for all children.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to provide the necessary finance to enable State education departments and local government authorities to establish:
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Armitage, Mr Bennett, Dr Cass, Mr Enderby, Mr Fulton, Mr Grassby, Dr Jenkins, Mr Keating, Mr Kennedy, Dr Klugman, Mr Martin, Mr Morrison and Mr Webb.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth humbly showeth: That the undersigned believe:
That hunger, illiteracy, abject poverty and injustice are intolerable anywhere in the world.
That the knowledge, skills and resources to change these unjust conditions now exist.
That to obtain justice among peoples, world financial and trading systems can and must be changed.
That Australia has the capacity to play a more significant part in enabling the developing countries to achieve improved social conditions for all their people.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that:
Australia’s Official Development Assistance in 1972-73 be increased to at least $240m.
Australia’s aid policies be reviewed so that aid given provides maximum benefit to the peoples of developing countries.
Australia’s trade policies be reviewed to provide more favourable conditions for developing countries. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Nixon, Mr Enderby, Mr Reid and Mr Staley.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned electors of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That on 10th December 1948, Australia signed the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’. Article 25 reads: ‘Everyone has the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age and other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.’
Yet, 23 years later, in our country of great national wealth and abundance it is to the nation’s shame that many thousands of our people live in a state of being inconsistent with the dignity and worth of the human person - languishing in poverty and want, neglect and the lack of proper care necessary for their health and well-being.
We, the undersigned, respectfully draw to your attention that the conscience of the nation is not at ease while the records of our country show that social services are not comparable with those 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 (he average weekly male earnings, all States, plus supplementary assistance and allowances based on a percentage of such earnings. Unemployed benefits equal to the foregoing.
Completely free health services to cover all needs of social service pensioners - hospitalisation, chronic and long-term illness, fractures, anaesthetics, specialist, pharmaceutical, hearing aids, dental, optical, physiotherapy, chiropody, surgical aids and any other appliances.
Commonwealth Government to promote a comprehensive national scheme in cooperation with the States and make finance available to provide for the building of public hospitals, nursing and hostel-type homes necessary to effectively meet the special requirements of aged people, in conjunction with a comprehensive domicilliary care programme to enable aged people to stay in their homes.
Mental illness placed in the same position as physical illness.
Substantial Commonwealth increase in the $5 subsidy a day per public bed pensioner patient in general hospitals. 10 per cent of Commonwealth revenue to local government for general activities which now include social welfare, health, conservation and other community needs. Commonwealth subsidy for the waiving of rates for pensioners.
Commonwealth Government to increase the non-repayable grant to the States for low rental home units for pensioners.
Royal Commission or other form of public enquiry into Australia’s social welfare structure that Australia may be brought into line with accepted world standards of the most advanced countries.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Dr J. F. Cairns and Mr Garrick.
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, 24 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 Klugman and Mr Luchetti.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we are concerned that young people in the 18 to 20 years of age group are deprived of a vote at elections of the Commonwealth Parliament.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will immediately Introduce legislation which will grant the vote to citizens of 18, 19 and 20 years of age.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Armitage.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, we, the citizens’ of the Commonwealth of Australia, residents in the State of Western Australia do humbly petition and pray that all levels of Government responsible in Australia will take note of the wishes of we, the citizens, in so far as we request:
That the Commonwealth Government give urgent consideration to granting taxation concessions to those mothers who are forced to pay fees to have their children retained in Day Care and Family Cere Centres.
That these mothers and children are being disadvantaged by the economic circumstances where no concession is made for the charges which must be paid to have their children so looked after. In fact it means that a single parent is working for a subsistence wage and receiving a lower income than many who are living on Social Service at a cost to the community.
That these mothers’ efforts to maintain themselves and their families should be rewarded by taxation concessions for fees paid in recognition of their initiative and diligence by not placing their burden upon the community and so allow them to retain their dignity and standing in the community.
That single and married mothers are contributing to the community by the establishment of their home, the cost of which has become affected by inflation and so must continue to work to make the future for the children who are so cared for.
Therefore we ask that all these aspects be taken into urgent consideration and that taxation concessions for all child minding fees be granted to ease the burden.
We, the petitioners humbly pray that the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled would take immediate steps to ensure provision of this taxation concession and your petitioners as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Bennett.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, we, the citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia, residents in the State of Western Australia do humbly petition and pray that all levels of Government responsible in Australia will take note of the wishes of we, the citizens, in so far as we request:
That the Commonwealth Government give urgent consideration to the return of the land compulsorily acquired from the Shire of Belmont for defence purposes namely lots 313, 314, 324 and 325 bounded by Alexander Road, Belgravia Street, Esther Street and Daly Street.
That the land be returned to the Belmont Shire for the purposes envisaged of constructing an aged peoples village and a community development.
We further believe that this site is one of the choicest sites for residential development remaining in the Belmont Shire and we feel that the Shire has lost a large proportion of its rateable land to the Commonwealth Government and that this will in some way compensate for the resumptions which have taken place and the lack of opportunity for community development which exists because of those resumptions.
Therefore, we urge that the matter be given urgent consideration so that proper planning and development of the Shire can continue. Your petitioners as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Bennett.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned employees in Parliament House Canberra respectfully sheweth:
That the inadequacy of the present parliamentary building is resulting in unpleasant, inefficient and inconvenient working conditions in the House itself.
That the fragmentation of staff at West Block and other offices in the City due to the inadequacies of space in the present building causes inefficiency in staff control and working relationships.
That although the present patchwork extension system results in better accommodation for some sections of the working population in the House it has worsened the accommodation in other areas by shutting out light and ventilation.
That the older sections of the House, besides being cramped, are affected by extremes of heat and cold and quite out of keeping with modern office working conditions.
That the House lacks proper records storage facilities, and other facilities, especially related to staff comfort, a requirement highly desirable in view of Parliament’s extended working hours.
That the present extensions, as with past extensions, have been costly to the taxpayer and economically short-sighted and will merely relieve the most pressing needs for a very limited period of time due to the inevitable growth of the business of this Parliament.
Your petitioners therefore most humbly pray that an early decision will be taken by the Government to build the new and permanent Parliament
House which will, in the long run, be a more economical way to house the Parliament and which will, at the same time, be an impressive and proud symbol of Australia’s progress and national unity.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Enderby.
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 Commonwealth Public Service Board policy in reviewing Allowances paid to Officers of the Commonwealth Public Service stationed in remote localities of the Commonwealth, does not embrace fully the ambit of disabilities in those remote localities and in addition, is being reviewed only after lengthy periods of time.
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 Fulton.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners, therefore, most humbly pray that:
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pr*y. by Mr Morrison.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question concerning his statement that the Government was considering the draft terms of reference for the inquiry into poverty and would then decide on the person or persons - 1 emphasise ‘person or persons’ - who would carry out the inquiry. The right honourable gentleman will have read the submission by the Australian Council of Social Service - the acknowledged professional body - that the inquiry should be held into social welfare and not confined to poverty and should be held by persons with skills and knowledge from Commonwealth, State, local government and voluntary agency fields though not acting as representatives, experts in social welfare and user and citizen members and that the issues are too complex and the skills required too diverse for one man or woman alone. I ask: Has the Government finished its consideration of the terms of reference and, more particularly, does it agree that the inquiry should not be entrusted to one person alone?
– So far, at least until the last few days, the whole of the recommendations or pressures coming to me have been foi an inquiry into poverty and already the Government has approved of the terms of reference for a poverty inquiry. We have also decided that that poverty inquiry will be undertaken by one man. We have one man in mind but as yet we have not been able to make contact with him because he happens to be out of Australia. My colleague, the Minister for Social Services, is doing all he can, not only by telephone but I believe too by telex, to contact him. We have been informed that he will be back in Australia by, 1 believe, Sunday or Monday. As soon as he is back the full terms of the poverty inquiry, which is what the churches asked me to carry out, will be announced and the name of the person will be announced at the same time.
As to the second part of the question, I have not taken this matter to the Cabinet but 1 do emphasise the point that poverty is the critical matter which I have been asked to inquire into and 1 have taken the responsibility of stating in this House that the inquiry will take place as soon as possible.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Bearing in mind the concern expressed by many Australians regarding the aftermath of the war in Bangladesh, I ask the honourable gentleman whether he has any information regarding the magnitude of the recent natural disaster in the Philippines. Can he say how far international resources have been mustered to cope with it? In particular, can he indicate what aid has been and is being given by Australia? Finally, how does he perceive our relationship with the Republic?
– The floods in Luzon in the Philippines were very disastrous floods and led to widespread damage and some loss of life. International aid is being organised on a substantial scale and various countries bilaterally have been sending aid to help the flood victims. As far as Australia is concerned, our immediate action was to send $20 in cash. That was done on 20th July. That was an immediate gift.
– Twenty dollars?
– Twenty thousand dollars. I thank the honourable member for the correction. 1 appreciate his interjection. The honourable members interjections are generally of a humorous character but on this occasion his helpful interjection is welcomed. I do stress that our immediate gift was one of S20.000. This gift has followed the normal principle of Australian aid, that is. that speed and rap.dity of response immediately to the troubled area is the important thing. However, I would not like the Australian people to think that that is all the aid we are giving to these flood victims. There does seem to be an impression - I have heard people asserting it - that this is the only aid we are giving. In answering the honourable gentleman’s question I should inform the
House that on board ship at present is the next part of our aid. It is 2.300 tons of flour valued at about Si 76.000. We are currently marshalling a further shipment of 10,500 tons of wheat to go to the flood victims, this aid being valued at over $500,000. Our total aid to the Republic in the current financial year will be of the order of S2m. The impression that is sought to be created that Australia is slow or gives too little in its response is quite false. In this instance, as in the Bangladesh instance, we are ranking well up by world standards.
As to our relations with the Republic of the Philippines, these were the subject of close discussion between General Romulo and myself when he was recently in Australia.’ I am sure that they will develop very favourably.
-I address my question to the Prime Minister. On 30th July the honourable member for Chisholm, claiming to speak on behalf of the Federal Government, at a meeting of the Victorian State Council of the Liberal Party said that the Government was examining the possibility of lifting the 211 per cent sales tax on oral contraceptives. The Victorian Council supported that proposition. Last week, on 16th August, speaking on the Macquarie radio network the Prime Minister said on behalf of the Government: ‘We did not look at the question of the abolition of sales tax on contraceptives.’ Will the Prime Minister take any other steps to reprimand the honourable member for Chisholm for giving incorrect information to such an. important although unrepresentative body?
– In answer to the last part of the question, I certainly will not reprimand the honourable member because I regard him as one of the most valuable and intelligent members we have in the whole of the House.
– Do we take that to mean that there is no other intelligent member on the other side of the House?
-Order! Is the honourable member for Sturt rising to a point of order? I think the honourable member knows by now that he does abuse the
Standing Orders of the House quite frequently in relation to points of order. In future I will ask the honourable member to state his point of order and not to debate the matter or make comments on it.
– As to the substance of the question asked by the honourable member, the answer has already been given by my colleague the Treasurer in the Budget. In forming the Budget we looked at the whole question of a reduction of indirect taxation. We studied the cost involved and the value that might accrue if there is a reduction of the kind that the honourable member mentioned. In this instance we thought it was preferable to devote the money involved to other causes rather than to implement a reduction in indirect taxation.
The second point I make is that matters such as that mentioned by the honourable gentleman are involved in a book of recommendations that are presented to the Treasurer. I understand that the subject that the honourable member mentioned was referred to in that book. However, naturally, when we looked at the general question and decided against it we did not go in detail into each one of the problems involved.
– 1 ask the Prime Minister: In view of widespread speculation as to the date of the federal election, will he give the House and the people the benefit of his thoughts on this most important matter?
– There has been a great deal of speculation and many statements about whether there should be an immediate election. In my view, the Treasurer in the Budget presented on the Tuesday before last introduced the most wide ranging and humanitarian series of policy changes relating to social welfare for the removal of poverty, assistance in nursing homes and similar matters that I can remember for many years. I believe that my recollection would be shared by most other sensible members of this Parliament. In a case like this where a promise in fact has been made I express my unqualified opinion that promises of this kind must be put on the statute book before any date for an election is announced and that those who are entitled to the benefits that the Treasurer mentioned should receive the benefits as soon as is practicable and is possible. That is my view and it is one to which I will adhere. Of course I have given very careful consideration to the date of the election. However, as the Deputy Prime Minister said, this is my decision and I will announce that decision at a fit and proper time and I will do so in this House. As to the general aspect of the question, I can say that I watched with great pleasure the Deputy Prime Minister on television last night. I share his enthusiasm that when we have the election the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party will go into it with confidence, and I believe that we will have the support of the majority of the Australian people.
– Does the Prime Minister recall my asking him a question near the end of the last sessional period regarding a promise he made earlier in the year to have prepared a White Paper on prices control? Did he promise to bring the question to the notice of the Treasurer? Is he aware that the people are now very concerned that such concessions as are contained in the Budget could be whittled away in a matter of months by the further inflation which the Budget Speech anticipates? Can the Prime Minister now say when the White Paper can be expected and when the Government is likely to adopt the Labor Party’s proposal for a prices justification tribunal?
– The honourable member is not accurate in the quotation. What I did say was that I would ask the Treasury to prepare a document on the history of prices-incomes policies in various countries and would show how those policies had failed, and that this could be the basis of sensible and informed discussion in this House. Honourable members must know that the Treasury has been under tremendous pressure. It has been faced with so many matters of a novel and important kind - such matters as the Budget - that it has not been able to complete a paper relating to the history of prices- incomes policies. I have on various occasions asked the permanent head of my Depart ment to contact the Treasury. I know that the Treasury is doing its best to have a paper prepared, and as soon as that paper is prepared it will be presented by me or by the Treasurer for debate in this House.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. If the Australian dollar were to be revalued upward, what effect could be expected on the flow of international tourists to this country?
– Yesterday, in answer to a question, I stated what would be the effects of an appreciation of the Australian dollar on secondary industry, rural industry and our mining industry. I did not mention the tourist industry, but it is true that such a revaluation would be injurious to the inflow of foreign tourists to this country. The capacity of the Australian tourist industry to compete with the tourist industries of other countries would be diminished because the purchasing power of the currencies of the potential tourists’ countries would be less in relation to our dollar. When a country has a tourist industry worth some $150m to $200m, as Australia has at the moment, an adjustment of the currency means that that country becomes less attractive to tourists because their money does not go as far.
– What about Australians spending money overseas?
– I see that his policy is to encourage Australians to go for holidays overseas rather than spend their holidays within Australia and thus give advantage to the domestic industry. Yesterday when I was answering a similar question I revealed that the Leader of the Opposition had clearly and unequivocally stated that he believed the Australian dollar should be appreciated. This was a grave error on his part. It revealed a lack of understanding of economic affairs. It showed that his intellect did not extend to economic matters; I am sure that he would not have made such a statement if it did. As I mentioned, this would have serious consequences for industries.
I did not mention the most serious aspect - it is almost a political crime - that is, putting the Australian dollar into the area of speculation. It should be a cardinal rule, and must be a cardinal rule, for any person holding a responsible position in a government that can influence the value of the Australian dollar not to speculate on anything that might alter the value of the currency. We must rigidly stand behind the present value; otherwise we would alter the investment rate within the country and the flow of money in and out of the country, and put pressure on the Australian dollar.
The Leader of the Opposition has announced to the rest of the world that the alternative Prime Minister believes that this is a measure that should be implemented. It does not matter how much he may deny it or alter it or what declaration the Australian Labor Party may make concerning a reversal of this policy, the fact of the matter is that the alternative Prime Minister said it. The only way in which retribution can be exacted for this political crime is for the Australian people to reject the Australian Labor Party completely at the next election or, as the only alternative, for the Labor Party to change its leader.
– I ask the Deputy Prime Minister, the Leader of the Australian Country Party, a question supplementary to that which he has just answered. Does he think it was irresponsible and criminal for the Reserve Bank Board to make to honourable members and the public the comments that it made last week on the dollar being under-valued? In particular, 1 ask the Minister whether he applies the same judgment to the view expressed by such members of the Reserve Bank Board as Sir Frederick Wheeler, the Secretary to the Federal Treasury, and Sir William Gunn, a very prominent member of the Australian Country Party. Thirdly, will the right honourable gentleman disown the suggestion made last night - without doubt it was made with his knowledge - by the honourable member for Murray, who has held very high office in the Country Party, that the Australian dollar is over-valued and should be reduced in international terms?
– It is quite obvious that the Leader of the Opposition is not running away from the issue and remains adamant in his point of view. Now he tries to justify his point of view by making reference to the Reserve Bank bulletin which predicates on the question of capital inflow and talks about methods that might be used to control the inflow of foreign capital. It used this argument as one of the methods, but did not recommend it as the method to be used. It merely put forward the argument that an adjustment of the value of the currency would tend to reduce the inflow of foreign capital. Because of the statement of the Leader of the Opposition, over the next 2 months or until we have an election the Australian dollar will be under attack by the international monetary bandits who know that they can speculate on the possibility of a change of government and an alteration in the value of the currency. In other words, these bandits are being allowed to raid the Australian dollar in order to make a profit because of the error of the Leader of the Opposition.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In view of the great importance to many of the older people in the community of the new nursing home benefits and hostel accommodation, will the Prime Minister -arrange for an early detailed statement to be made in this House so that the proposals can be debated fully?
– One of the most beneficial reforms introduced by the Treasurer in his Budget was that relating to nursing home attention and home nursing attention, together with assistance that can be given by various organisations. I personally regard this as one of the reforms that deserve a great deal more publicity because so many people can benefit from it, I believe that it has taken a load off the shoulders of very many people. Not so long ago we agreed that there should be an increase of $10.50 a week for nursing home attention, and in this Budget we have agreed also that the Government will pay a subsidy of $10.50 a week in some cases - and in Victoria of $22.40 a week - to assist people in nursing homes. We have made changes with regard to ordinary as well as intensive care patients; so much so that now not only can a pensioner himself or herself retain portion of the pension but also there will be no gap when sensible charges are made for nursing home attention.
We have made provision also for organisations to have their subsidies - in particular, their subsidies for specialised attention - upgraded, and provision has been made for $14 a week to be paid when home attention is given by people who have professional ability and who can provide regular treatment. The Budget goes further than that with regard to people who are not pensioners. I believe that this is so important that I will have discussions with my colleague, the Acting Minister for Health, to see whether a statement can be put down in this House so that the Australian public can know how valuable the policy changes are, who will benefit from them and how they can go about getting the benefits.
– I repeat my previous question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Will he restrain the takeover of Australian companies and resources by dissociating himself from the view expressed last night by the honourable member for Murray, a former State President of the Country Party, that the value of the Australian dollar is too high?
– I will neither confirm nor deny the remarks of my colleague, who is a private member and can make comments as he wishes. A Minister of the Crown or an alternative Prime Minister of this country is not allowed this luxury. If he were then we would create exactly what I said-
– The Reserve Bank has the luxury and we have not.
– The Reserve Bank of Australia merely put various propositions forward; theirs was an intellectual approach to a problem and seemed to ignore the very great problems that exist in our society for certain industries and regions and the social problems involved. It is the responsibility of us people - the parliamentarians -to take an amalgam of all these considerations and make a political decision; not to take the intellectual Une which some people believe should be taken and so ignore the humanities.
– I ask the Minister for Supply: What action has been taken to measure the fall-out in Australia from the recent French nuclear tests in the Pacific? Can the Minister inform the House of the results of any such measurements?
– The Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee since 1956 has monitored fall-out through some 26 stations in Australia and one in Papua New Guinea. That was carried on through the period when, it will be recalled, in 1961 and 1962 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and in 1962 the United States of America exploded a large number of nuclear devices which caused a far greater fall-out throughout the world than has happened since. Since 1965 in Australia the fall-out containing long-lived radio isotopes, strontium 90 and caesium 137 has fallen markedly year by year. Today only 2 countries are exploding nuclear devices in the atmosphere and they are China and France. France has had a series of explosions in the South Pacific every year except 1969 since 1966 and we have collected the results of those. The Committee reports to me and to the National Radiation Advisory Committee and 3 of its reports have been tabled in this House since 1971. Measurements taken have shown extremely low levels of radioactivity in those isotopes. The levels as a result of the 3 explosions which have taken place in 1972 - on 26th June, 1st July and, it is believed, 28th July - including the third explosion the effects of which reached Australia a few days ago, have been of the order of onefiftieth to one-hundredth of the levels of last year. So far there has been no evidence of any short-lived radio isotopes in milk in Australia as a result of the 1972 tests.
– Now that the Prime Minister has given us the benefit of his thoughts on an early election, I ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether he will make a frank statement of his thoughts on the same subject.
– I should have thought that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would keep himself informed by reading the morning’s newspapers.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. As many members of the Opposition in this House have stated through the years that they are socialists and are proud of it, and as some of them have recently been requesting certain referendums, will the Prime Minister arrange for an early referendum in which the people of Australia will be asked whether they desire to be governed under socialist rule, or does the right honourable gentleman consider that the coming Federal election is tantamount to the submitting of this question to the people of Australia?
– Of this I am certain: Increasingly it becomes obvious that many members of the Opposition are left wing socialists. Some of them are obviously closely associated with public disorder and are publicly associated with deriding this Parliament and, therefore, deriding the very instrument by which the policies of democracy are carried into effect.
– I take a point of order. Mr Speaker. The statement made by the Prime Minister that many members of the Labor Party are associated with violence is a deliberate lie, and I challenge him-
-Order! The House will come to order. I suggest that the honourable member knows as well as I do that the word he has used is completely unparliamentary, and 1 request him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it and say that it is a deliberate untruth. I challenge the Prime Minister to name the people or to withdraw that statement.
– The word ‘violence’ was not used. Secondly, if I may use this-
– 1 rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. Have I any privileges in this place to tell the truth? The Prime Minister is a liar, as far as I am concerned.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. To answer the honourable member’s question, he has.
– As to the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question, the people of Australia, at the forthcoming election, will have the opportunity to say whether they want a government of Liberal inclination that believes in the right of the individual or whether they want a government that is composed largely - or to some extent anyhow - of socialist left members who believe in centralised control, who believe in telling the people exactly what they should do and who want to ensure that a system of socialism will prevail in this country.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. Has his attention been drawn to a report in the Australian’ of 19th August headed ‘STD faults put up our Telephone Bills: Thousands pay more, says union’, in which it was stated that postal union officials alleged a number of defects in the subscriber trunk dialling metering system? If so, has he had the allegations investigated? If they are correct in whole or in part, will he reconsider a number of cases of greatly increased telephone accounts following STD installations which I have submitted to him for adjustment, without success?
– I understand that some comments have been made in certain technical areas or by people with some technical knowledge who are employed in the Post Office. 1 believe that they have not indicated to officers of my Department what these defects are. I would have thought that they had a basic responsibility to inform the Department so that it might have the opportunity to overcome these defects, if in fact they exist.
– 1 address my question to the Treasurer. Are there any examples in the world scene of a currency crisis that has been affected by unwise remarks by political figures?
– The facts are, of course, that many currency crises have been stimulated by unwise comments by political leaders. The most recent such comment was made by the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great Britain, Mr Healey, on 20th June this year. He said - I do not remember the exact words - that the pound sterling was over-valued. Within a very short period of time a great number of changes started to occur on the markets. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr Barber, presented with this problem, argued that there was no need for the movements which were occurring. But those people who are in control of international currency, which has an immense capacity for movement from one country to another, were not affected by what the Chancellor said. Very real pressure was put upon the pound sterling. In due course the British Government found it necessary to float the pound sterling. The pound sterling is today still floating. The British economy has been subjected to very real difficulties as a result of the statement made by the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that lack of sewerage hygiene right across Australia is adding to pollution and undermining people’s health? Is the imputation of some authorities true that machinery, material and labour are readily available but the finance is not and that the right honourable gentleman could not care a damn because the electorate of Lowe is almost 100 per cent sewered? For this purpose will the right honourable gentleman consider taking the legislative action necessary to enable the Government to create a revolving fund to be financed out of the interest being received and cancelled from Loan Fund finances under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement, thereby absorbing unskilled and semi-skilled unemployed labour and at the same time providing to hundreds of thousands of home owners and occupiers of homes a long awaited, important household amenity?
– It will be known that at the last Premiers Conference substantial increases in financial assistance were given to the semi-government authorities and that we increased the limit of the amount that local authorities can borrow without reference to the Commonwealth. These were very substantial increases indeed, and it is by this means that we hope to ensure improvement in sewerage and other types of services. I resent the use of the words: could not care a damn’. In fact the very action taken by the Government itself and the kind of action we have continually thought about are designed to ensure that so far as the environment and the quality of life of people in the metropolitan and urban areas-
– The beaches of Sydney are being polluted with sewage and the Prime Minister knows it.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Reid.
– I can assure the honourable member for Reid that I have given more detailed study to this problem in recent months than he has given in recent years. But the matter is one that is constantly under the attention of the Government. I will give consideration to the particular problem raised by the honourable member.
– My question is supplementary to others already asked this morning and it is for the purpose of clarification. I ask the Prime Minister whether there has been any change in the Government’s policy on revaluation.
– I think it is appropriate that I should state a Government view on the problem of revaluation, or devaluation. Last year this matter was considered in depth by the Government. Initially I took the view that there should be a revaluation of 6.32 per cent of the Australian dollar against the United States dollar. I adhered to that view. This was the decision that was made by the Government.
We took that view for various reasons which I have already announced on television on at least 2 occasions. While I concede that there are reasons why in pure monetary theory there might be some revaluation - that is an appreciation - pure monetary theory does not alone determine what the Government shall do. We also had to take into consideration the position of the primary industries that had to compete with countries with currencies that are devalued. We had to take into consideration the interests of mining companies for which every 1 per cent of appreciation meant a loss of $8m in foreign exchange and earnings. We had to take into consideration the position of manufacturers who had to compete with imports and manufacturers who had to export overseas. We had to ask ourselves the question of what in fact would further revaluation do to confidence in this country at a time when we faced the problem of unemployment.
Above all. confidence was important to us. I certainly had the very strong opinion, shared by my colleagues, that the proper limit was 6.32 per cent. I believe that the decision we made then was right, and I adhered to that decision. T see no reason why it should be changed today. Tn recent days 1 have had discussions, of course, with my colleague the Treasurer, who has functional control of problems of this kind, and also with the Deputy Prime Minister. They share my view that the decision we made then was right and will be adhered to.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. I refer to the instant policy making of the Minister for Trade and Industry at question time yesterday speaking for the Government when he bluntly rejected appreciation as a means of regulating the level of our foreign exchange holdings. As the Minister also ruled out tariff adjustments, does this mean that Cabinet has overruled the Minister’s earlier stand in defence of substantial tariff cuts plus devaluation as an alternative to appreciation? Will the Prime Minister advise the public what measures are left to control the damaging effects of externally induced inflation and the cheap takeover of Australian resources by foreign paper money?
– As my colleague the Deputy Prime Minister said, the Leader of the Opposition has confirmed his statement that he believes there should be an upward revaluation of the Australian currency. I do not agree with him and neither does the Government. The second point is whether an instant policy decision was made by the Minister for Trade and Industry and Deputy Prime Minister yesterday. Obviously the honourable member did not hear me answer the previous question because I have already stated that 1 had had discussions with both the Deputy Prime Minister and the Treasurer about this problem. Thirdly, as to the matter of tariffs, on this also we have to take a national point of view. Normally while we accept recommendations of the Tariff Board we do not accept those which we believe can do harm and can create unemployment if they are immediately introduced. We take a wider view than the Tariff Board can take. I certainly believe that, in relation to those Tariff Board recommendations which we think could create great problems not only for manufacturing industry but also in respect of unemployment, we as the Government should make the decision. We will do so decisively. We will carefully consider Tariff Board recommendations but we are not bound by them.
– I rise to a point of order. The Prime Minister has not addressed himself to the main points of my question at all, especially the point requesting information as to what will be done to protect the economy.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. I have said on several occasions, as I think the honourable member knows, that any Minister may answer a question as he thinks fit provided the matter is relevant to the question. Therefore there is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– May I seek your guidance?
-Order! 1 have asked the honourable member to resume his seat. There is no substance in the point of order.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In reply to a question asked of him, the Prime Minister said that some members of the Opposition supported violence. If he does not exclude me from the term ‘some members’ I will demand an apology. Otherwise I will say that he is an unmitigated liar.
-Order! The honourable member for Sydney will withdraw that remark.
– No, not unless he does so first.
-The honourable member will withdraw that remark.
– If he withdraws his first. ,
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw the remark.
– No, I will not.
– Mr Speaker, may I please intervene? I regard the honourable member for Sydney as a valuable member. I do not believe for one moment that he would ever condone violence.
– Now I withdraw my remark.
– I rise similarly, Mr Speaker,
-Is the honourable member rising on a point of order?
– I am rising on a point of order. I suggest that the Prime Minister should withdraw his statement-
– I cannot hear the honourable member; I cannot understand him. I ask the honourable member to state his point of order.
– The Prime Minister in answer to a question this morning referred to members on this side of the House as being associated with-
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. There is no substance in the point of order. Points of order were taken at the time.
– I will have another go in a minute.
-Order! There is far too much conversation in the chamber. I am getting tired of appealing to honourable members for their co-operation during the presentation of petitions and immediately question time is over. I think it is becoming a disgrace to the Parliament. It is impossible to hear the Clerk when he is reading petitions. I have made this appeal on 3 days this week. When Ministers rise to present papers it is impossible to hear them speak because of the chatter and display of amusement, in the House. I ask for the co-operation of honourable members; otherwise I will take action in regard to the offending members.
– Pursuant to section 9 of the States Grants (Pre- school Teachers Colleges) Act 1968-1971,
I present a statement of payments authorised under the Act during the year ended 30th June 1972 and projects in relation to which the payments have been authorised.
Pursuant to section IS of the. National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1966-67 I present the 49th Annual Report on the operations of the National Debt Commission for the year ended 30th June 1972. I ask for leave to make a short statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The National Debt Commission which was established in 1923 has general control of the National Debt Sinking Fund of the Commonwealth and States. Its operations are governed by the National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1966- 1967 and the financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. Within the National Debt Sinking Fund separate accounts are maintained for the Commonwealth and for each State. Income of the Fund is derived largely from statutory contributions from revenue by the Commonwealth for the Commonwealth Sinking Fund and by the Commonwealth and States for the States’ sinking funds. Payments out of the Fund are made in accordance with decisions of the Commission. The Commission’s report for 1971-72 shows that receipts of the National Debt Sinking Fund in that year amounted to $300m. Expenditure of the Fund during the year also totalled $300m, of which $178m was on behalf of the Commonwealth and SI 22m on behalf of the States. The cash balance of the Fund at 30th June 1972 was Sim, approximately the same as at 30th June 1971.
Expenditure of the Fund in Australia amounted to $244m and expenditure overseas to $56m. In Australia some SI 39m was applied to redemption of Treasury notes, $89m to redemption of maturing securities, $8m to market repurchase and $7m to redemption of miscellaneous securities. Expenditure on redemption and repurchases of debt overseas included $13m in London, $28m in New York and Sim in Canada and the Netherlands. In addition, there were repayments of $13m to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Total expenditure of the Sinking Fund in respect of Commonwealth debt since the inception of the Fund in August 1923 has amounted to 2,867m. Expenditure from the Fund in relation to States’ debts up to 30th June 1972 amounted to Sl,709m.
Motion (by Sir Reginald Swartz) agreed to:
That the House take note of the paper.
– by leave - This statement explains the new initiatives the Government will implement in the current financial year through the Department of Labour and National Service as the next phase of an ongoing programme to extend the scope, and improve the quality, of training in industry and commerce. They are estimated to cost $1.9m in 1972-73, and are additional to the initiatives introduced in previous years. In the Government’s view, vocational training is a cornerstone of productivity improvement on which commercial competitiveness and higher standards of living depend. The pace at which training can be extended and improved influences strongly the rate at which the overall effectiveness of the labour force can increase. Promotion of better training practices in industry and commerce is the objective of the tripartite National Steering Committee on Training that was appointed last year. The scope of training and retraining opportunities available to individuals facilitates structural change in the labour force to meet the emerging requirements of technological innovation, and is the avenue through which individuals can seek higher job satisfaction and occupational fulfilment. This is the function of the employment training schemes and of improved occupational training being developed through my Department.
The philosophy underlying the Government’s initiatives is that improved training practices by industry and commerce, and advanced occupational learning by individuals are best achieved through voluntary, co-operative effort involving governments, employers, trade unions, educationists and supervisors, through to the individuals concerned. The effectiveness of training and of learning depends on conviction concerning their necessity and the understanding that rewards emanate from a high level of personal excellence in one’s vocation. Consistent with this philosophy, the Government has been - and will continue - playing its part in improving the scope and quality of training in co-operation with the States, with employers and trade unions, and individuals. It will continue to expand training opportunities and stimulate their maximum use. It is encouraging that to date co-operation has been freely given by State governments, by the unions, and by employer bodies. This is exemplified by their representation on the tripartite committees which oversight the development of training improvements in industry and commerce and of the employment training schemes for individuals.
The gathering impetus to the training task is helping to close the gap that existed between our efforts and those of other advanced industrial countries such as the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Japan, Sweden, Germany, The Netherlands and, latterly, New Zealand. It is against this background that I now describe the new initiatives under 3 main headings, namely, Improving Training Practices in Industry and Commerce; Improving Occupational Training for Tradesmen and Supervisors; and Broadening Training Opportunities under Employment Training Schemes.
The National Steering Committee on Training for Industry and Commerce has almost completed its organisational arrangements and can now work expeditiously in collaboration with my Department.
The Committee will increase its promotional activities, and will have available the sum of $20,000 which it sought from the Government for the purpose. It will be disseminating information demonstrating to employer organisations and individual employers how improved training practices, including on-the-job training, bring the reward of higher efficiency, contribute to job satisfaction and stability, and assist managementworker relations.
The Committee believes, and the Government accepts, that the rate of training improvement will be strongly influenced by the rate at which additional specialist training officers are appointed by, and spearhead the development of training over, industry and commerce generally. The Government has, therefore, accepted its recommendation that the appointment of trained staff by industry organisations be stimulated by the offer of a subsidy. Appointment of trained staff by industry organisations should advance industrial training improvements in 2 ways. First, these organisations should be better able to assist small establishments which cannot justify full time training staff to improve their practices. It is hoped that advisory services will emerge, and specific training programmes be undertaken for personnel from small firms. Secondly, the trained staff should encourage industry organisations to make faster progress with surveys within their separate industries of the adequacy of existing training arrangements and of the occupational skills necessary to meet their technical requirements now and in the future.
Industry surveys of this nature are regarded by the National Steering Committee as fundamental planks for future planning; the Government endorses this view, and my Department will increase its resources to assist in the task. I expect that the National Steering Committee will be in a position to report progress by the end of 1973. The specialist staff in industry organisations will be designated Manpower Development Officers, and the Scheme known as the ‘M.D.O. Subsidy Scheme’. Under the Scheme, industry organisations will be reimbursed SO per cent of salary costs, to a maximum of $5,000 per annum for each separate appointment which meets the requirements of a job specification to be released by the National Steering Committee. This job specification will emphasise the development of the training function in individual establishments, the conduct of industry surveys of training needs, the adoption of systematic training practices, and the conduct of training courses for small firms. Personnel currently in training under the Commonwealth’s Training Officer
Scholarship Scheme will be available to industry organisations for appointment, among other staff, under the ‘M.D.O. Subsidy Scheme’. Appointments during the next 3 years will be eligible for a subsidy, which in each case will continue for 3 years from the date of approval of each appointee.
The Government accepts the principle that the availability of personnel trained in the art of instruction is fundamental to better training practices in individual establishments. It has already given expression to the principle in the training for training officers provided in the Department’s training centres in Sydney and Melbourne. Experience to date has demonstrated, however, that these facilities, although offered at below their considerable cost, will not be sufficient to produce trained training officers quickly enough, and that medium-sized establishments are still being inhibited by the time and cost involved in this highly specialised form of training. The Government has, therefore, decided to give further impetus to the training of training staff. First, it will suspend the charging of fees for its own courses for a period of 2 years. Training will be available from its centres, free of charge, for training officers and job instructors. Consistent with its philosophy of cooperative effort, the Government expects industry to make suitable people available for this form of training. Second, to maximise the use of training facilities in management institutes, employer organisations and training institutions, approved courses provided by these organisations for training officers and job instructors will be subsidised on condition that they exclude any profit element in the fees charged. This subsidy arrangement will operate until 30th June, 1974.
Improving Occupational Training for Tradesmen and Supervisors The traditional Australian method of training tradesmen is by means of the apprenticeship system, administered by the States and co-ordinated through the Australian Apprenticeship Advisory Committee. Two apprenticeship initiatives this Government introduced last year will continue. Under one, the States are now being assisted financially to employ apprentice training advisers whose function it is to visit industrial establishments and assist in improving on-the-job training practices. They advise employers on maintaining a co-ordination between theory and practice during apprenticeship training. Under the second initiative, the Government will again arrange for Commonwealth departments to engage 50 apprentices additional to their immediate requirements. Thus, by the end of this financial year, 100 such extra apprentices will be in training spread over the States.
The new initiative this year will be the introduction of a’National Apprenticeship Assistance Scheme’. It will relate to the employment of youths of apprenticeship age in all industries. There is, as honourable members appreciate, no opportunity for adults to train as tradesmen under this system because of trade union policies. The Australian Apprenticeship Advisory Committee has reported to both Commonwealth and State governments that apprenticeship training has been losing its attractiveness to employers for some time. It confirms that there is no lack of youths seeking to enter skilled trades, but asserts that the reduced rate at which employers are offering apprenticeships will not ensure an adequate supply of tradesmen in the years ahead. The Government is determined to increase opportunities for youths to train as skilled tradesmen. The alternative of semi-skilled employment for an increasing number of youths is unacceptable. The Government has adopted the AAAC advice to provide subsidies to employers as an appropriate form of incentive to arrest the relatively slower rate of apprentice intakes. It is believed that the subsides will encourage employers with proper training facilities to increase the number of training opportunities they offer.
The subsidy will be towards the wage cost of an employer’s intake of additional apprentices in each year, and will apply to all trades. Further incentives will be available to employers who consistently contribute to the training of skilled tradesmen by employing apprentices in numbers the scheme specifies. The amount of subsidy payable in respect of each eligible first-year apprentice will be$1 94 per annum to metropolitan employers, and $388 to country employers. The double rate for country employers aims to make a decided impact on apprenticeship opportunities for young people in country centres and to help country centres meet their needs for tradesmen. The existing Country Apprenticeship Scheme will be incorporated in the new scheme. The special livingawayfromhome allowances for country apprentices will be continued, and extended to cover country apprentices in all trades. For the purposes of the scheme, all areas outside of the metropolitan areas as defined by the Commonwealth Statistician will be classed as country areas. Employers must apply in an approved manner for a subsidy for each additional first-year apprentice employed. Employers whose total number of apprentices is 25 per cent or more of the total number of tradesmen employed may apply for subsidies in respect of all the first-year apprentices they take on. At the present subsidy rate the latter employers should be able to take on one additional apprentice for approximately 6 normally recruited without increasing their wages bill. The scheme will operate from 1st January 1973. Employers may apply for subsidies in respect of first year apprentices already in their employment on and from that date, but there will be no retrospective payment for any period of employment prior to that date. State apprenticeship authorities will be invited to participate in the administration of the scheme. The details, including the approved manner of applying for subsidies, will be publicised as soon as possible but not later than 31st October next.
In-company Training of Supervisors
Supervisors are key personnel in on the job training and in productivity improvement generally at the operation level. They are known by various titles in industry and commerce, for example, foremen, officersincharge, junior managers, and like designations. The Productivity Promotion Council of Australia has persistently drawn attention to the urgent need for more extensive training for supervisors. It recently announced that a survey it conducted had shown that some 64 per cent of supervisors in Australia had not received any form of training in 1970, yet they were believed by virtually all employers in the survey to have needed further training. One factor inhibiting supervisory training raised by knowledgeable commentators is the scarcity of training material that is available and appropriate to training within establishments in specific industries.
This is not a criticism of training institutions. Indeed, professional and employer organisations and educational institutions offer essential general and theoretical training which managements should support more extensively. To achieve real effectiveness, however, this type of training for supervisors must be supplemented within each establishment by practical follow-up training in the context of its own operating policies, technology and production processes. To encourage this follow up training for supervisors, we shall arrange for the preparation of skeleton outlines of training sessions in basic practices. The training material will be presented in a form which any management or employer organisation can adapt or have adapted to its own particular needs. It will be prepared by persons with industrial experience. It will be published as it becomes available. It will not be copyrighted but will be offered free on application direct to the Department of Labour and National Service or through appropriate professional and industry organisations.
Training Within Industry TWI Programmes for Supervisors
To supplement all the foregoing, the existing courses known as Training Within Industry Programmes for Supervisors will be re-developed. Trainers will be taught to implement these special programmes. Trainer training for TWI programmes will be made available without charge through the Department and other approved qualified bodies which will be subsidised. This arrangement will continue until 30th June 1974, after which it will be reviewed.
Assistance from the Commonwealth Government has been available to a wide range of people in training at tertiary and secondary institutions who have not experienced any interruption to their academic lives. Financial assistance has also been available to certain persons in training whose employment has been interrupted for one reason or another. Until relatively recently, those eligible for this assistance have been persons whose employment had been interrupted through service with the armed forces, persons who have been disabled, and women who had been widowed. During the last 3 years, financial assistance for persons seeking retraining has been progressively extended to defined categories of persons whose employment has been interrupted for industrial or domestic reasons. The assistance is in the form of payment of fees at approved institutions, payment of fares, and allowances for books and equipment. For eligible persons in particular circumstances who opt for full time training at training institutions, a training or living allowance is payable equal to that provided for national servicemen under the national service vocational training scheme. At present, it is $50.90 per week tax free, based on the minimum wage determined by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Part time training is available for persons who enter full-time employment.
In addition to institutional training whose provisions I have just described, there is the alternative of on the job training on the principle of the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme that applied after the last war. Under this option, eligible persons can elect training in the form of work experience with an approved employer who agrees to pay the appropriate award wage in return for partial reimbursement from the Commonwealth. The standard subsidies adopted are: 30 per cent of the award wage for the first 3 months; 25 per cent of the award wage for the second 3 months; 20 per cent of the award wage for the third 3 months; 10 per cent of the award wage for the final 3 months. The objectives of the employment training schemes are clear. They are to aid reemployment, to facilitate structural changes taking place in the labour force in the light of economic, technical and social change, and to enable individuals who wish to do so to seek higher job satisfaction. I wish to emphasise the phrase ‘individuals who wish to do so’. Retraining must be voluntary on the part of the trainee. The Government’s responsibility is to provide retraining opportunities and make them known; ‘this it is doing. It is for the individual to decide whether to undertake the effort of retraining.
Existing employment training schemes for persons whose employment has been disadvantaged for industrial or other reasons are available for Aborigines, married women wishing to return to the labor force after having been restricted by domestic responsibilities, persons displaced by technological change and persons reorienting themselves as a result of rural reconstruction. It is regrettable that, because of trade union policies, adult apprenticeships cannot be made available. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has indicated, however, that, subject to agreement with separate unions, tradesmen who lose their employment because of technological change may retrain in an alternative trade; for example, an eligible toolmaker or compositor may re-orient his skills under the appropriate employment training scheme. It is presently possible for tradesmen and others to seek training as technicians, for manual workers to train for clerical work, for any type of worker to apply himself to . computer work, for totally unskilled people to seek training in semi-skilled work, and for semi-skilled workers to change their skills. Through the training opportunities already available, and the following 2 new initiatives the Government believes that retraining will be sought progressively by a growing number of persons wishing to improve their occupational skills.
Employment Training Scheme for Persons Displaced by Redundancy
The first new initiative in employment training schemes will extend training opportunities for suitable alternative employment to any person displaced or disadvantaged in employment by any type of redundancy. It will cover persons affected by both large and small scale redundancies from such events as liquidation of a company, company mergers or reorganisation, closure of an establishment or mining venture, changed markets or marketing strategies, decline in demand for a firm’s products, and related causes. Certification of redundancy will be required from the former employer. The scheme will not cover people retrenched for disciplinary reasons, or who change their employment of their own accord. The benefits available under the scheme will be similar to those contained in the employment training scheme for persons displaced by technological change. The details of the scheme are set out in Appendix A.
General Employment Retraining Scheme
The Government is concerned to ensure retraining opportunities for persons in a section of the labour force who are often under-employed in terms of the potentional contribution they could make. They are persons who for a variety of causes or reasons accumulate a history of unemployment. The unfortunate consequence is that the longer the period of unemployment the more difficult it is to persuade an employer of the person’s employability. It is proposed to introduce a special scheme foi such people. It will provide for on the job training or, if you so wish to describe it, for the re-orientation of employment skills. Co-operating employers will be eligible for a very much higher level of subsidy than is paid for such training under the existing schemes for 3 months’ training. To participate in this ‘General Employment Retraining Scheme’, as the scheme will be known, employers will be required to notify their job vacancies to the Commonwealth Employment Service.
The scheme will cover persons who have been registered for employment at any time within the immediately preceding 12 months and had remained unemployed for a total of at least 16 weeks or a single period of at least 10 weeks, or have currently been registered for at least 4 weeks and are declared by the Commonwealth Employment Service as having little prospect of obtaining suitable employment within the next 6 weeks. When an eligible person is placed by the Commonwealth Employment Service for training with an approved employer, he will be paid, by the employer, at least the appropriate award wage for the occupation. The employer will be reimbursed 60 per cent of that wage for the training period which can be approved for up to 12 weeks. Employers with suitable job vacancies will be required to submit systematic job instruction schedules for departmental endorsement. Details of this scheme are contained in Appendix B. It will commence on 15th September 1972.
Employment Training Scheme for Aborigines
In the light of these new employment training schemes the Government has decided to increase the subsidy rates available to employers under the Employment Training Scheme for Aborigines. These ensure the retention of the advantage that Aborigines have already been shown to have under this particular scheme. The new subsidy rates under the Employment Training Scheme for Aborigines will be: 60 per cent of award wage for first 3 months; 30 per cent of award wage for the second 3 months; 25 per cent of award wage for the third 3 months; and 20 per cent of award wage for the final 3 months. 1 should observe also that Aborigines are eligible to participate in any other employment training scheme, if they qualify.
The development of training practices is essential to meet the economic and social objectives of which I have spoken. I can well appreciate the impatience of people who wish to accelerate the pace of improvement.I can appreciate also that there are people with little or no experience in the field of manpower planning or manpower development who make general observations about the direction training should take. This Government has been acting vigorously by practical means. Through my Department alone, it is estimated that expenditure on the promotion and implementation of vocational training will be $5. 367m in the current financial year. It will continue its progressive extension of action in this field at a pace the community and its institutions can absorb. The new initiatives I have announced will help to accelerate the gathering momentum that has already been achieved in vocational training in industry and commerce. The next phase of development will depend on studies and discussions that are already in hand. I ask for leave to have the appendices to this statement incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows) -
EMPLOYMENT TRAINING SCHEME FOR PERSONS DISPLACED BY REDUNDANCY
The Scheme is for persons who have been displaced from their employment, or who are likely to be displaced, as a result of redundancy.
Persons who. as a result of redundancy are retrenched from their employment and are without prospect of immediate alternative suitable employment, or are retrenched from their employment and, before retraining under this Scheme, find their new employment unsuitable, or are under formal notice of retrenchment or transfer to an unsuitable job and are without prospects for immediate alternative suitable employment.
Applications for training must be made within 6 months of the date of retrenchment or transfer.
A (a) Examples of possible causes of redundancy situations include: closure of a plant, shop, office, mine, etc.; liquidation of a company; merger or 2 or more organisations; reduced demand for particular products.
‘Alternative suitable employment’ means occupations for which the affected person has stated a preference and in which the Commonwealth Employment Service assesses that employment will be available within reasonable distance of the chosen place of residence.
Alternative employment may be unsuitable because of: excessive daily travel to work; a need to consider change of place of residence so as to be near the alternative employment; downgrading of a job; alternative employment subsequently found unsuitable for understandable personal reasons
Selection for Training
Selection for training will take into account whether applicants: are registered for employment assistance with the Commonwealth Employment Service; are unable to be placed immediately in alternative suitable employment; are requesting training for occupations in which there are known employment opportunities; propose a course or programme of training which is available in a school or with an employer, can be completed within the maximum training period under the Scheme, and can lead to alternative suitable employment; are considered to have the capacity to complete the training proposed.
Kinds and duration of training
Formal training for a period of up to 12 months involving an attachment to an approved employer for on-the-job training, or a course at an approved technical school or vocational training school full-time, part-time or by correspondence, or a combination of on-the-job training and a course at a technical college or vocational training school.
Training will normally be for a period not exceeding 12 months but. at the discretion of the Advisory Committee, mav be extended a further 12 months in special cases.
Note - Where entry to a training programme depends on additional educational requirements, an opportunity may be given to acquire the prerequisite qualifications up to a maximum period of one year. Such preliminary training will be additional to the training period previously mentioned.
Trainees in on-the-job training with an approved employer must be paid not less than the appropriate award rate for age and job classification by that employer. Reimbursement to employers will be as follows: 1st 3 months of training - 30 per cent of award rate of pay 2nd 3 months of training - 25 per cent of award rate of pay 3rd 3 months of training - 20 per cent of award rate of pay
Final 3 months of training - 10 per cent of award rate of pay.
While undertaking an approved full-time training course at an approved training centre, and not available for employment, a trainee may be paid an allowance as follows:
for adult males, a weekly training allowance of $50.90; for women, and trainees who are minors, the award rate of pay for their previous occupation with a maximum training allowance of $50.90 a week; if a trainee receives, in the period during which the allowance is payable, income from employment other than vacation employment, or from investments other than savings bank deposits, the amount of the training allowance payable each week will be reduced by the weekly equivalent of that income net of taxation;
payment of all necessary tuition fees and examination and certificate fees;
reimbursement of fares incurred travelling to and from the place of training;
an allowance for essential books and equipment to a maximum of $80.00;
additional to the training allowance a contribution of $10.00 a week towards expenses for a married person, when he or she is obliged to live away from home to attend a full-time course.
While undertaking an approved part-time or correspondence training course at an approved training centre and presently in employment:
payment of all necessary tuition fees and examination and certificate fees;
an allowance for essential books and equipment to a maximum of $80.00;
reimbursement of fares incurred travelling to and from the place of training.
Employers who allow part-time trainees time off with pay for compulsory attendance at the institution at which training is being given will, in appropriate cases as defined, be reimbursed on application for the wages cost involved up to a maximum of 3 hours per week.
Note - ‘Appropriate cases’ are those in which the trainee has opted for full-time training but later receives approval from the Department of Labour and National Servide to transfer to parttime training so as to accept full-time employment which has become available, classes in his preferred training not being available at times other than during working hours.
THE GENERAL EMPLOYMENT RETRAINING SCHEME
To assist people with a history of unemployment to develop employment skills which will enable them to obtain suitable employment.
Features of the Scheme
Length of training - a maximum of 12 weeks.
Type of training - on-the-job in any industrial or commercial establishment, or in a training school or unit attached to such an establishment.
Applications for training - persons registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service will automatically be considered for training. The Commonwealth Employment Service will ensure that they have the opportunity to apply.
Choice of occupation - applicants will choose the occupation for which training is preferred, within the practical limitations of employment situations providing such training, and their personal capacity to undertake it.
Persons Eligible for Training
Persons who had been:
during the 12 months immediately prior to being offered training, registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service but had been unemployed for a total of at least 16 weeks or one unbroken period of 10 weeks;
registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service but had remained unemployed for an unbroken period of at least 4 weeks and had been assessed by the Service as having little prospect of obtaining suitable employment within the following 6 weeks;
away from full-time education for less than 12 months, have been registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service and had been unemployed for a total of at least 16 weeks, or one unbroken period of 10 weeks.
Employers participating in the Scheme must: (a) have notified to the Commonwealth
Employment Service vacancies in which they offer training opportunities;
allow the CES reasonable access to trainees during the training period.
Order of Referral for Training
Employers’ Job Instruction Schedules
Payments to Trainees
Reimbursement to Employers
on having the good sense to accept the recommendations contained in the paper and on having read it so well to the Parliament. He is very good at reading papers. Whatever ability he may lack, he is an excellent reader of documents prepared by his Department.
I congratulate the departmental officers on the paper because it follows very much along the lines of a similar document written by the Australian Labor Party’s Federal Conference in Launceston last year and recently elaborated upon by my good self in a paper that I delivered to the Industrial Relations Society of South Australia. I supplied a copy of that paper to the Department of Labour and National Service in the hope - it was a forlorn hope at the time - that it might see fit to follow the excellent propositions that I put forward in that paper. I am more than happy with the response that has come from the Department to the propositions that I put forward.
This paper read by the Minister contains propositions which have gone still further than the propositions which I spelt out in liner detail in my speech to the Industrial Relations Society on the 7th of this month. I must say that, in the main, I agree with what is proposed here. I do not agree with all of it, and 1 shall touch upon some of the points of disagreement, although there are not many. I may not have time to deal with all of them, but really they are minor.
I am glad to notice that the Minister has come to recognise the importance of job satisfaction. It is true, as I said in my paper to the Industrial Relations Society, that job satisfaction today is terribly important. A man’s working environment has to be treated as part of his total environment, because a working man spends more than half his waking hours in the workshop. Therefore it is important that those hours are made as congenial as possible, that they are made as interesting as possible and that where tedium and monotony can be eliminated from the work place that is done. The Government, if need be, ought to meet the cost of controlled experimentation at the factory floor level by those firms which are willing to engage in experimentation of this kind.
Apparently the Government has not gone quite as far as I would like it to go in that direction. But it is a very refreshing and healthy change of attitude on the part of this Government. I wish that the Minister had taken up his present portfolio many years earlier, although I would have preferred him to concentrate on this subject rather than some of the other aspects of labour and national service that he has seen fit to poke his nose into over the last few years. On this aspect of labour and national service he is as good as he is bad on all the other aspects of the Department’s activities. He is very sensible in recognising the need to gather together a task force of training personnel, lt is no good having students until we have the teachers. The Minister has recognised this fundamental truth. The Government states that it accepts the recommendations of the committee that the rate of training improvement will be strongly influenced by the rate at which additional specialist training officers are appointed to spearhead the development of training over industry and commerce generally.
I make the point that it is remarkable to me that after something like 20 years, during which time all the other more advanced countries had come to recognise the need for retraining and the very urgent need for meeting the skilled labour requirements of modern technology, we in Australia, one or the most advanced countries in the whole world, have only now reached the point where we have come to see the need. Better late than never, I suppose. I would like to use the ordinary cliche ‘too little, too late’, but that would not be fair. Maybe it is too late, but one cannot say fairly that it is too little because, having regard to the teaching facilities, the amount of money earmarked for the first year of the proposal i« reasonable, and to earmark more than th; amount indicated perhaps - I use the word perhaps’ because I do not have access to departmental working papers on it - would be just a waste of public money. I do not condemn the proposal as being too little too late. It is teo late but the Government has made a very worthy though belated effort to meet the very great problem that we have to face. The Government is quite right in saying that it will provide subsidies to employers as an appropriate form of incentive to arrest the relatively slower rate of apprenticeship intake. This is one of the great problems in Australia today. An important and very great gap in our industrial affairs is that employers are unable to see the advantage of training apprentices to become tradesmen for their competitors to take off them the moment the apprentices complete their training.
– Like shearers.
– Like shearers, as the honourable member for Wakefield interjects, except that - I am surprised he does not realise this - a shearer does not work for the same employer all his life. H. works for 3 or 4 weeks with one employer and then moves on to another employer. So the interjection is not as intelligent as the person who made it looks. Nevertheless, this is a subject to which we have to pay proper attention. The Government has been realistic in recognising this fact. It has been realistic enough to appreciate that, ii employers are to be encouraged to put on the number of apprentices that industry will need in the future, somebody has to make a move and it seems to me that the Government is the only one that can make up the loss entailed in employing apprentices over tradesmen who have been trained by somebody else.
The country apprenticeship scheme which already operates has. I am pleased to say, been incorporated within the new scheme. It is only proper that this should be done because if we are to do what we should be doing in our country we must face the fact that the country areas need a lot more attention than hitherto governments of any political party have seen fit to give them. The Swedish Government pays a tremendous amount of attention to preventing people in the sparsely populated north of Sweden from drifting into the south. It goes to no end of trouble :o encourage industries to remain in the north because it realises that not only is it important from a decentralisation point of view as such but it is also important from the defence point of view for a country that has an extremity which is vulnerable to attack from the most likely enemy of that country. It realises that it would be mad if it did not ensure that that part of the country was occupied so that it could be defended.
Just as the Swedes recognise that the northern part of their country is the part most vulnerable to attack from the enemy most likely to attack it. the Soviet Union, we in Australia should be thinking not only of the need to look after country areas everywhere but in particular of the need to look after the country areas in the north - that is, in Queensland and if need be in the Northern Territory and the northern parts of Western Australia. I do not think that the cost of this effort should matter to a government that has its eye on the possible defence needs of the future. It could very well treat the cost of training and the cost of assisting those industries situated in the north as part of its defence budget. I see every justification for what is being done. When the Labor Party is in government it will set up at Townsville a pilot programme which will make the best use of the facilities that Townsville offers in the form of harbours, the natural advantages it would provide for industries in that area, its connection by rail and road systems to other parts of Australia and its connection by sea with all other parts of the world. Townsville could very easily become our most important northern port for the export of goods to the now most suitably situated markets in Asia. A Labor Government will, therefore, give attention to setting up a retraining programme of this kind in the Townsville area. At the same time it will give the necessary subsidy to industries that are prepared to go into that area and work with a Labor government’s defence and industrial strategy.
A Labor government will continue the scheme that is now indicated by the Minister but with some variations. This scheme is a first start which a Labor government would have had to make in any retraining scheme which it introduced. It has some slight disadvantages which I dare say represent the Minister’s way of exercising his authority over the Department of Labour and National Service and letting its officers know that they cannot make all the policies. So he ruined the scheme here and there by insisting on the normal McMahon approach to industrial matters. But that is a small price for the departmental officers to pay in order to get balance in the general kernel of the scheme adopted by the Government which has taken 23 years to move as far as it has. I do not, for instance, agree with the proposal that $50.90, tax free, should be the amount paid to those undergoing training. What is the position of a working man and his family? How can he afford to enter a scheme if he has to live on $50.90, tax free, a week? The tax free part does not mean anything to him because he would not pay tax on that amount anyway. He should be paid a higher rate than is here proposed.
The scheme should not be limited to a subsidy for 12 months only The subsidy should be extended over a longer period because in my view it is quite possible that we will not get the number of apprentices necessary to meet the whole of our needs for tradesmen and it will become increasingly necessary to retrain tradesmen in other areas of tradesmen’s activities. The Americans estimate now that a tradesman will need to be retrained 4 times during his lifetime. The Swedes, French. Italian and British have adopted the modular system of training where instead of training a man to become a tradesman capable of doing any one of 200 or 300 complicated operations, of which number he may have to do only 3 or 4, they train him to be very proficient and efficient in perhaps one or two of those operations, adding another module in each year or period when modern technology calls for the additional module of specialised training. I am pleased to note that the Minister has seen the need to give special attention to married women wishing to re-enter the work force after having passed their most fertile child bearing period so that they can come back into a work force which has changed very much from what it was 10 years earlier when they left to commence their child bearing activities. This is an important recognition on the part of the Minister. The Minister has always been noted for his interest in the ladies, and I am pleased to know that his interest goes beyond flirtation and whatever other little oddities he displays towards the fairer sex. He has now demonstrated that he is a man who is really prepared to go right to the depths of the problem.
– Mr Speaker, I think the honourable gentleman is being most offensive.
– I am not being most offensive. The Minister looked very pleased about it and he has every reason to look pleased because he knows perfectly well that what I say is true. I am glad to notice that the Australian Council of Trade Unions has relaxed its attitude towards adult training and adult apprenticeships. I suppose the word ‘apprenticeship’ is offensive and almost a swear word. The ACTU has reined its altitude towards the retraining of tradesmen. This is important. A too’.maker can be retrained to become a technician, a pattern maker or some other highly skilled tradesman. Once a tool maker, who is one of the highest skilled tradesmen in the metal industry, has completed his apprenticeship training he has qualities and learnings - he may not be aware of them - which he carries with him. They make it much easier for him to adapt to the retraining needed to become a tradesman in some other area of activity.
I notice that the Minister has asked about company mergers and reorganisation. He used the text, almost verbatim, of the Australian Labor Party’s federal platform. 1 compliment him on doing so. I did not know that he had been reading it with such avidity. It is certainly to his credit that he has begun reading the platform and that the Government is slowly adopting the propositions contained therein. I believe that another fault in the scheme - not a basic fault because the scheme generally is a good one - lies in the fact that it will cover persons who have been registered for employment at any time within the preceding 12 months and who have remained unemployed for a total of at least 16 weeks. The people who are most likely to benefit from this scheme, in the sense that employers are more likely to get the best type of trained people, are those who are already working in industry but who have a desire to improve their status. I refer to the bright young men who missed the opportunity of becoming apprentices at the time when that decision had to be taken and who decided that they would like to avail themselves of the opportunity for moving further up the scale.
I think that the Minister would have been wise to have allowed people already in employment to change employment if they wanted to or to accept the possibilities which this training scheme might give them. A lot of the people who are unemployed for the periods that the Minister speaks about have not the same adaptability for retraining which those who are still employed have. It might be that, with an expensive retraining scheme like this, better results would be gained for industry if anybody was allowed to participate in the scheme irrespective of whether he was unemployed. To the extent that those who are now employed participate and make a success of the retraining, the vacancies created in the more menial tasks they are now doing could perhaps be much more easily filled by those who are registered as unemployed than by taking those people into the training centres instead of moving them into the gaps caused by the retraining of bright, ambitious and intelligent young men who want to avail themselves of an offer which, 6 or 7 years earlier in their lives, they did not have the wisdom to accept.
I must compliment the Government on the decision to give special assistance to Aborigines. This is a good decision which must be applauded by all people who have some interest in the Aborigines of our country* I think that more could have been done, but this is a lot more than has ever been done before. That is the important thing and we have to be fair enough to acknowledge it. A Labor Government would continue this scheme and would improve upon it. The Minister said: 1 can appreciate also that there are people with little or no experience in the field of manpower planning or manpower development who make general observations about the direction training should take.
That was a fair enough retaliation, I suppose, for my paper which said that we had not had a Minister for Labor and National Service for more than 20 years who had a grass roots knowledge of the trade union movement. I suppose it is his way of saying: Also, we have not had a Minister for Labour like myself who has the specialised knowledge that I have of running employment services. I congratulate the Minister on his knowledge of it and on the way in which he is able to acquire that knowledge. I would like to see him apply it to the whole of the Commonwealth Employment Service, because if he could tell the Commonwealth Employment Service all that he knows about employment agencies we would have the best Commonwealth employment agency in the world. This is one thing in which he is really expert. It is not good enough to say that training and retraining are the sole responsible of industry and are not the concern of government.
– We have not said that.
– No, I know that. But I say it is not good enough to say that. The Minister is agreeing with me that it is unreal - and I agree with him - to expect one employer to meet the cost of training labour for his competitor’s workshop. Yet is this not the very thing that is happening all over Australia at this moment? This is one of the happening all over Australia at this moment? This is one of the reasons we are in our present predicament. I believe that the cost of training and of relocating labour will need to be looked at. This is something which the Minister seemed not to deal with. 1 do not condemn him for that; he cannot do everything at once. But the responsibility of doing those 2 things so obviously rests on the Government that I think it is almost an absurdity that I have to even mention the fact here today.
In Sweden the Government trains, or has the facilities for training, 100,000 employees every year. It is a country with only 8 million people, a much smaller country than ours. When the plight of an industry in any one region of that country necessitates it, the Labour Market Board, as it is called there, sends a task force of experts into the area to ascertain the special needs of the area concerned. Sometimes the need might demand government assistance for the purchase of new plant or for the retraining of the labour force to operate the plant in that region. Another situation might call for taxation concessions or for better and cheaper transport. This is an important thing in countries like Australia and Sweden where people have long distances to travel. In odd cases in Sweden the situation might call for the relocation of the industry, shifting it not from the region altogether but from one part of the region to another part of the region - to a better fiord if you like or some better place for people to live in. But whatever the need, the national Labour Market Board in Sweden is deemed to have the prime responsibility for its resolution. Enormous sums of money are devoted to the national Labour Market Board in Sweden to enable it to carry out its real task. A lot more money has to be allocated to the Department of Labour and National Service in this country if we are to do our job as we ought to do it, acting in the public interest and in the best interests of our people.
The United Kingdom spends something $800m a year on retraining, $300m of which is obtained by a levy on all employers towards the cost of giving those employers willing to undertake retraining schemes the financial assistance that is needed. I am not recommending a levy on employers here. I dp not know what the figures would reveal if one had access to Treasury papers and to the working papers of the Department of Labour and National Service. I wish I could see all of those working papers that are pushed onto the Minister’s desk from time to time and which he usually rejects as being inappropriate. I would like to see them. They ought to be indexed so that the public can have a look at them and see whether the trouble in the country is due to a Minister refusing to act upon good advice or due to a Minister taking a decision on bad advise. We ought to know more about it.
– You would be confused with facts.
– The Minister says that I would be confused with facts. I do not know about that. Up to date the Minister cannot give any instance in which he has ever confused me with facts, because he is singularly notorious for being very shy of facts and does not like using them if he can avoid it.
The community is investing very heavily in educating the young and in expanding elementary education, vocational schools, training colleges and secondary education. This, along with the gearing up of the whole of higher education, will give rise each year to changes in the supply of labour. The big increase in labour resources occurs in the age group from 20 to 35 years. The people in this age group have a much higher average education level than those belonging to the generation before them. There is now a generation gap in the labour market, with better education giving to those of the younger generation a decided advantage over their elders. Unemployment figures show also that the majority of long term unemployed people are older men. This is a trend which is rising each year. It is very difficult for a person in middle age, such as myself, to get a job in industry, unless an employer knows the special intellectual qualities I, for instance, possess.
Others who are very hard hit are the handicapped people and married women, who the Minister recognises have a special problem when they want to re-enter the work force. It may be thought that a woman who was employed as a typist for 10 years and who wants to go back into industry as a stenographer ought to be able to do so quite easily and without very much re-adjustment, but even in clerical work the systems have changed and the machines have changed. Ten years ago there were not very many electric typewriters. Computers were pretty primitive 10 years ago. The layout of a letter 10 years ago was different from the layout that employers insist upon in letters today. There is now no indentation of the first word of a paragraph as there was in those days. These little things, if a woman is not aware of them and has not been trained to meet them, will make her appear to be incompetent and unsuitable for employment.
The proportion of married women in the work force is lowest in the lowest age group for the simple reason that when married women are young they are having their children and they have to look after their babies. The greatest number of married women in the work force are between 35 and 44 years of age. Having reared their children to the point where they can be cared for by friends, neighbours or in-laws after they finish school and until the mother returns home, these women are in a position to go back into the work force. Another point that nobody seems to worry about is what has been the impact upon the children whose father and mother are both working in industry. Do we really understand the psychological impact upon children who have never known what it is to walk into the kitchen when they come home from school and say: ‘Hello, mum. I am hungry. 1 want some bread and jam. Give me a biscuit. Can I have something else?’ These are experiences we have all had. I often wonder whether my attitude to life would have been different from what it is if I had not had this deep affection that I could always get. I was not really conscious of the fact that I was getting something special when I walked in from school, threw my school bag on the floor and asked for a biscuit or something which only a mother can give.
– You would have had golden syrup.
– The honourable member say that we had golden syrup. We could not afford even golden syrup. If honourable members want to know, all we could afford were tins of honey, at 7s a tin. which the tobacco curers would not take because the honey was too black and too tainted with things like yakka gum. That is what we had. But it was my mother - not somebody else’s - who was giving it to me. I would rather have my mother give me treacle, syrup or black honey when I came home from school than go to somebody else’s home and be given a feed of roast turkey, because a mother can never be replaced. We have to understand these problems and do more than we have done to understand them. I believe that we ought to provide industrial psychology services to employers and trade unions who are concerned with production practices. Factory environment, as I said earlier, must be treated as part of a person’s total environment. A good environment at work is just as important to a good workman as a good environment in the home is to a good husband or a good wife. 1 am sorry that I have to cut my speech short. I see that the Leader of the House (Mr Chipp) has come into the House to remind me that I promised to keep this speech down to 30 minutes. Therefore I will need to leave the rest of what 1 was to say for another time.
To better understand the needs of job motivation and to match the experimentations that are taking place in other parts of the world, a Labor government will subsidise the cost of capital expenditure on controlled experiments designed to test production practices and new methods of producing job satisfaction. Naturally enough, employers are unwilling to embark upon experimentation of this kind because failure can be too expensive to justify the risk. The kind of experimentation I am talking about relates to the switch from assembly line production to group production methods of running a factory. The cost of the experiment, if it failed, would be astronomical. The employer or firm willing to engage in this kind of controlled experimentation should be assisted. When I say ‘controlled experimentation’ I mean experimentation under the control of the Department of Labour, whose officers will have the right to inspect and make suggestions as to modifications of the .scheme. Provided that were done, a Commonwealth Labor government would meet the cost of it.
To anyone who may criticise the Minister, on the ground of cost, for bringing forward this training scheme let me say that the cost of training is only a very small fraction of the contribution it will make towards the growth of productivity. To work harder and work longer is not the best way to increase productivity; the best way to increase productivity is to make the best use of modern technology. That means finding some way of providing the skills which modern technology demands. We will concern ourselves about the increasing number of people who are unable to obtain work. As I said earlier, a large number of middle aged and older workers who still have many years of working life ahead of them are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with the younger workers if they have not received training. Many of them, particularly the older workers, have a poorer education. Some of the women are not terribly well educated. The migrants have not the education they need to compete in the mad rat race which modern technology represents. These, and especially handicapped people, are the ones who have to be given a better opportunity to have the same opportunity of choice of a job as other people are able to have.
I believe that the community must aim to offset these developments by investing in a major expansion of adult training designed to reduce and bridge the educational gap between groups and between the various generations. Quite apart from the humanitarian requirement that unemployed human beings should be restored to productive activity, unemployment is very expensive both directly and in the form of the social expenditure. Reckoned as a capital investment to achieve a higher growth rate, the government expenditure which I propose for training will give a satisfactory yield and amortisation of capital if it only augments the rate of growth by a fifth of 1 per cent per annum. Some countries say one can justify it if one can show an increased growth rate of one-tenth of 1 per cent a year.
I wish that I had some time to deal with the question of absenteeism, the question of excessive turnover of labour in industry, the way of reducing the incidence of absenteeism and labour turnover, because both of these factors are costing Australian industry very dearly. One should always remember, 1 think, that productivity of a modern economy rests upon something more than available raw materials, levels of technology and physical capital resources. The efficiency of output in an economy is always affected by the intelligence and willingness of its labour work force. While better industrial relations are crucial to increased productivity, the elimination of labour wastage caused by forced unemployment and by avoidable industrial accidents and disease is even more important. Last year the amount of production lost through strike action was higher than normal. It was 3 million man days for the whole year. This was nowhere near as much as it was during the same period last year, but it is still higher than it ought to be. However, rauch higher still than the amount of production lost through strikes has been the amount of production lost through avoidable industrial accidents and disease. This amounted to something like 4 million man days a year. But greater still has been the amount of production lost through unemployment. Unemployment accounts for something like 20 million man days a year. If we add absenteeism to that as well, then we realise the number of man days lost is even greater.
I wish that I had time to deal with the Government’s failure to establish a positive and progressive labour market policy with an efficient employment service geared to implement that policy. But time does not permit me to deal with that fascinating subject. However, I believe - I can say this much - that the objective must be to make the Commonwealth Employment Service the central agency for information about the whole labour market. I think it is a scandal that so many employment agencies are able to exist by charging employers and employees for services which could and should be made available without charge by the Commonwealth Employment Service.
I shall have to skip the next 4 pages of what I wanted to say and make the following point: The mere size of a nation’s work force is not significant in itself. What is important is the extent of labour force participation in relation to the population as a whole. Given ad:quale labour statistics, the labour force participation rates can be calculated to determine the proportion of the population working in different geographic areas. When labour force participation rates are available over a period of time they can provide valuable indicators for informed policy making. They can, for example, be used to locate untapped sources of labour supply.
– What are you quoting from?
– I am quoting from a gentleman called Clyde R. Cameron, Labor’s shadow Minister for industrial relations.
– Who wrote it?
– Clyde R. Cameron wrote the paper himself. As yet I do not have speech writers. I hope to have them at the beginning of the year. When I do my speeches will not improve but 1 will be able to make more of them. The prime object must be to give every person in the community the right to work. It is vital, too, that each individual should have a free choice of employment according to his interests and inclinations and to make that choice in the open market. Why not? What can be more important than making the lives of human beings - all human beings - more satisfying and therefore more enjoyable? That seems to be a good note on which to end this speech.
– I seek leave to make a very short statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I would like to congratulate the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) who is the de facto Minister in charge of the retraining of displaced workers in Australia. I think that the training of workers displaced has taken a step forward by the expression of views already put forward by the honourable member for Hindmarsh and by the present holder of the office of Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch). However, I do not really think that a substantial step forward will be taken in this field until there is a change of government. The measures that we have already seen in operation, such as the one that was discussed earlier this year concerning people replaced and made redundant by technological change, show that the schemes of conservative governments just do not seem to work. I do not know whether this is because their hearts are not in it; I do noi know what the trouble is. However, in my view we have to adopt a much more serious attitude towards people who are displaced by the increasing rale of technological change. I think that the Department of Labour and National Service might almost have to take a paternalistic attitude in the various States. I believe that not only do we have to act as one within the States but also that there should be coordinated national action to assist people who are displaced. I refer particularly to the motor vehicle industry in South Australia which I have referred to many times in the House. I believe that we will have to take concerted action which might even involve the relocation of workers from one State to another. I do not think it is too much to ask in a country as affluent as ours that we should try to help people find suitable employment and maintain full employment.
I want to say a couple of words about the apprenticeship scheme. I welcome the announcement that it is proposed to assist employers in regard to apprentices. However, I would like to say that this assistance is too little; even more I would like to say that it is too late. On 9th December 1971, during a debate on unemployment relief, I said:
I think that perhaps as an emergency measure we might have to do something to assist the intake of apprentices in the forthcoming year -
That is now this year - because if the economy does improve for some reason in the near future we might find that apprentices will still not be taken in. The reason for this is that there have been many retrenchments of tradesmen in the vehicle building industry in South Australia, and if the industry picks up it will be those tradesmen who are taken on first because the apprentices are not immediately productive in the first couple of years of their indentures. I think the chances are that if many of the boys are not taken on as apprentices in the next couple of months they will lose their opportunity of having a skilled occupation throughout their adult lives. 1 think that some emergency programme should be started to help the intake of apprentices.
This situation has been brought about because nowadays apprentice training is done in the employers’ time and with the employers’ money. This change came about about the same time as the recession brought on by last year’s Budget. There is the danger that if the apprenticeships are not taken on the people concerned will forever forego their chance of getting a skilled occupation. I wish that the proposals before us had been introduced a year ago. I believe that I have been vindicated by an answer I received from the Minister for Labour and National Service in reply to a question on notice earlier this year which showed a sharp reduction of unfilled vacancies for apprentices registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service in 1971-72 compared with those registered in 1970-71.I ask for the leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard extracts from 2 tables.
– Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I think those extracts illustrate my point fairly clearly. Although we on this side welcome the scheme to provide help to apprentices I wish it had come one year ago. We would not have had this great loss of working opportunity and loss to the economy, which we now have, if this scheme had been introduced then.
– by leave - I move:
Thatin accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1972 leave be granted to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works to meet during the sitting of the House on Tuesday, 29th August 1972.
I thank the Opposition for its co-operation in this matter.
– Hear, hear!
– I am sure that the honourable member for Hindmarsh will agree with me when I say that there is no harder working or less appreciated committee of this House than the Public Works Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Anthony, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
As announced in the Budget Speech, the Government has decided that the capital of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation should be increased from $4m to $8m. The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to that decision. The last increase in the capital of the Corporation was in 1965 when it was increased from $2m to the present level of $4m. Since then there has been a substantial increase in the business being written by the Corporation and, as a result, there has been a corresponding increase in its contingent liabilities. The face value of business underwritten has increased since 30th June 1965 from $160m, with contingent liabilities of $83m, to a face value of $622m with contingent liabilities of $375m as at 30th June 1972. These figures clearly show the rapid growth of the Corporation’s business. They illustrate the important role being played by the Corporation in assisting exporters, through the provision of a specialised range of payments insurance facilities and guarantee facilities, in expanding and developing overseas markets.
Although the liabilities of the Corporation are fully guaranteed by the Commonwealth, the Corporation is charged to conduct its affairs on a commercial basis. It is appropriate, therefore, that the Corporation should have sufficient capital to support the growth in its business. The Corporation has estimated that its contingent liabilities will increase by at least $45 m per annum over the next 3 years. In order to establish and preserve a ratio of reserves to liabilities which would provide a reasonable basis for the Corporation to support its growing business, it is considered that an increase in capital of $4m is necessary to enlarge the reserves available to the Corporation. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.44 to 2.15 p.m.
– I move:
The purpose of this motion which I foreshadowed yesterday is to provide for additional sitting hours which will be necessary if the House is to deal effectively with the very heavy legislative programme ahead. This year it is considerably heavier than it was in other recent election years. We have a heavy volume of legislation flowing from decisions announced in the Budget. As stated yesterday about 37 Bills stem from the Budget and in addition there is a considerable number of important nonBudget Bills some of which, it is anticipated, will require considerable debate. In addition to the earlier sitting hour each day as set out in the motion we propose that the time set aside for meals should be slightly shortened as follows: Lunch from 1 p.m. to 2.15 p.m.; dinner from 6.15 to 8 p.m. This will mean truncating both meal breaks each sitting day by a quarter of an hour.
The honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) has mentioned that on 13th September it is planned to hold a dinner for the distinguished right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell). He has asked whether the House could rise at 6 o’clock that night and I suggested to him that with your consent, Mr Speaker, we might accommodate the Labor Party on that score. The net effect of the proposals will be to add 6i hours of debating time to each of the future weeks in the session. We realise that honourable members will suffer some inconvenience because of the new arrangements but I think it will be preferred by all members to the alternative of sitting additional days, either Mondays or Fridays, or in the weeks off that are planned. Perhaps I should add that we cannot rule out the possibility that at a later stage in the session it may be necessary to consider sitting additional days. We also hope - I have a very firm feeling on this and I am sure that most honourable members would agree - that we will avoid late sittings as far as is practicable.
My final point is that the motion indicates that the House will meet on Tuesdays at 11 a.m. ‘or such time thereafter as Mr Speaker may take the Chair’. This is to provide some flexibility to meet unusual circumstances such as a fog at Canberra Airport. In this way changes to members’ normal travelling times can be kept to a minimum.
– The Opposition does not oppose the motion. I indicated our attitude to the House yesterday when we opposed a motion introduced by the Leader of the House, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp), relating to government business taking precedence of general business. At that time 1 foreshadowed that the Opposition would not be opposing the alterations to silting times now moved by the Minister. As I indicated to the House we believe that if it is necessary to provide additional opportunities for honourable members to debate the legislation that will be coming before this Parliament, it appears to be a reasonable way in which to approach the problem. For this reason we do not oppose the motion.
In explaining his motion to the House today the Minister did not take the opportunity to indicate to members on this side of the House whether he would be giving them an opportunity to speak on Grievance Day. As I said yesterday, this is one of the traditional means by which members can raise private matters in this House. The Minister also did not indicate whether members would have an opportunity to discuss general business matters after the Budget debate has been terminated. The Minister will remember that he said yesterday that it was necessary to suspend Grievance Day and general business debates until the discussion on the Budget had been concluded, an argument I did not have an opportunity to hear at the time.
I am hopeful that the Minister will indicate to the Parliament that when the Budget debate has ended an opportunity will be presented again to members of this Parliament to participate in Grievance Day and general business debates. 1 have already indicated that the Opposition does not oppose extension of the sitting hours. I can only reiterate what I said yesterday in relation to the impending election, to which the Minister referred. We hope that the election will be held as soon as possible. Indeed, I indicated to the honourable member for Mallee (Sir Winton Turnbull) that if the Government was good enough to bring down in one day legislation to amend the social service, repatriation and taxation laws we would be happy to pass that legislation as soon as possible.
– What did 1 say?
– The honourable member for Mallee had his opportunity yesterday. He concurred with me at that time that the legislation which was brought into the House ought to be given a swift passage. We will be looking forward to the election as soon as possible. The Minister may be able to gain some satisfaction from what I have said in this respect. Any legislation coming before this Parliament that will provide additional benefits for the people outside will be given as swift a passage through the Parliament as is possible for members on this side of the House to provide.
I hope that the Minister will give an assurance about the points I have raised in relation to Grievance Day and general business. We raise no objection to amending the sitting hours. If the Parliament must rise for an election at some time in the near future, any additional time which can be made available to honourable members to debate legislation in this Parliament ought to be made available to them. We have never opposed this practice in the past and we do not oppose it on this occasion. I agree with the points that the Minister made about 2 other matters. We do not consider it necessary, at this stage anyway, for the House to meet on either Mondays or Fridays. Further, we will resist any pressure by the Government to extend the sitting hours beyond the normal rising time of 1 1 p.m. each day.
If the Minister has in mind introducing a motion later in the session to suspend the 11 p.m. rule, I give notice at this stage that we will be opposing any such move.
– That will depend on the cooperation of all members on both sides of the House.
– I repeat my assurance that as to most of the legislation honourable members on this side will co-operate. We are anxious that any benefits that will accrue to people outside the Parliament will be available to them as soon as possible. We support the motion moved by the Minister for Customs and Excise.
– I am interested in what one might call the Chippian’ definition of co-operation. As I understand co-operation in this place, it means that those who have the numbers have the say and make their decisions absolutely. I do not recall any such operative word being behind any actions from the people opposite in the 16 or 17 years that I have been here. There is an assumption that those who sit on the front benches of either side of the House have some absolute right and that the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) has some even more absolute absolute right. I am tired of this place being used as a Prime Ministerial whimsy operation. At present, we are discussing the meeting hours of this Parliament. I do not mind how often the Parliament meets; I do object to meeting late at night. I do not care how many days the Parliament meets but I believe that when we have taken a long time to consider the meeting hours of this Parliament, through the Standing Orders Committee and its report to this Parliament and the deliberations thereon, it should not be necessary to alter the hours just to fit in with the whims of the moment. That is no way to run an institution which is not responsible just for what goes on here. The moment we make a decision to alter, in mid-stream, the Parliament’s sitting hours, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, for instance, has to rearrange its total programming for those parts of Australia which receive the parliamentary broadcasts. All sorts of other people will have to rearrange their programmes.
I agree that at this stage it is undesirable to meet on Mondays or Fridays. Each one of us has programmes for those days. What is the present situation? My colleague, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp), who has some estimable characteristics but who has not demonstrated any in his capacity of Leader of the House, has said that we need more debating time. My arithmetic says that it is about 1040 days or thereabouts since the last election. In that time, according to the notice paper, we have met for the remarkable number - we must add one day for the day that we came here to open the bowling back in 1969- of 186 days. What has happened to the other 900 days? I do not know when we are going to learn. This is about the 140th session of this Parliament. I learnt once that, according to some experiments, people were able to teach cats something after 30 repetitions, dogs some thing after 40 times and worms something after 800 times. It looks as though the Government has about another 670 repetitions to go. It is always like this, but it is inexcusable when we take a look at the sitting times of the Parliament that in all that time we have met for such a small period.
Therefore, 1 object on the grounds that the procedures that have been adopted after long deliberations and quite furious combats in this place will now be changed from those of the last session because the Government needs to fit in its programme. We do not know what the Government’s programme is. At some stage this Parliament will be dissolved in accordance with the appropriate section of our Constitution - I think it is section 28. The GovernorGeneral will decide to dissolve the Parliament - upon the decision of the Prime Minister. I believe that this is a rather eccentric way to run a national Parliament. We should have a fixed time for elections. The Parliament should be dissolved before that time only in certain circumstances. I believe that it is quite wrong for the Parliament to be used in this political way. Therefore I believe we on this side should not have accepted this proposition. I am one member of the Opposition who did not accept it. I do not believe that I was properly consulted and, from all our experience, I do not think I will be extraordinarily happy and comforted if, in the future, co-operation means that we on this side of the House are going to be heard on those matters of great moment.
In the last few weeks the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) has presented a lengthy paper on defence and some discussion followed that presentation. The Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) produced 2 very lengthy documents. The honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) was able to speak from this side of the House rv> each of them with some brevity, in one instance because of the Standing Orders. However, the rest of us who are involved in these matters will have no possibility of discussing them effectively, as indeed will be the case in respect of innumerable other matters that are on the notice paper. I believe that we are just demonstrating here this afternoon the continual incapacity of this Government to handle the affairs of the Parliament as the forum for discussion of national affairs. The Government has a complete disregard for the convenience of the Citizens and even for the members of the Parliament.
It is suggested that the Parliament should resume at a time when Mr Speaker takes the chair. Mr Speaker is a man of estimable and good judgment in almost all matters except politics, and I can accept the view that the Minister for Customs and Excise has put forward. But it is a rather erratic way of running a place which makes national decisions. Mr Speaker may well decide that, on that particular day, he ought not to take the chair at all, and while I would honour his judgment in that matter 1 would reject any claim that he had that power. This is the Parliament that, in successive years, has taken time off for the Melbourne Cup. I believe that we have our priorities totally wrong. 1 believe that, as a forum for the discussion of national affairs, as a Parliament considering national matters in public manner, as we do here - and this Parliament is almost unique us a national instrument inasmuch as its proceedings are continuously broadcast - we are operating not as the Parliament of Australia should but as a third rate progress association in the most benighted Country Party area might.
– Might I just say that I thank the honourable member for Wills for his gracious compliment. It is very true that, as the honourable member for Phillip, I should know something about politics but, as the Speaker of the House, I leave politics behind when I take the chair.
– I think that the motion before the House is a very reasonable one. The Government wants to get its Budget through as soon as possible. Yesterday the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) said, when 1 was speaking: ‘If you put the election on straight afterwards, we will let you get the Budget through tomorrow’. That is true. Of course, I replied to him: Yes, this would suit the Labor Party very well for the simple reason that it would not give the members on the Government side the opportunity to explain to the people the great benefits that are contained in the Budget’. That is why I interjected when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was speaking and said that he had offered this to us. Although he did not answer my interjection, I have the opportunity to refer now to the matter.
The only other matter to which I wish to refer is the complaint of the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) about the Parliament taking time off to listen to the Melbourne Cup. It must be remembered that the members of this Parliament are a cross-section of the community Some of them might like to hear this horse race and some might not. It must be conceded that the Melbourne Cup is considered all over the world to be the greatest sporting event of the year in Australia. There is no doubt about that fact. Yet here is a member of the Federal Parliament complaining about the Parliament standing adjourned for about 10 minutes - the race takes only a few minutes to run - so that its members can listen to, on the wireless, or see on the television, Australia’s greatest sporting event.
– He was only narked because he backed Tails and it did not win.
– I do not think that he was narked at all, because I know him pretty well. The honourable member for Wills has the sort of inflexible idea that the Government should always operate along the same lines, irrespective of the circumstances. This does not work either inside or outside Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Second Rending (Budget Debate)
Debate resumed from 23 August (vide page 615), on motion by Mr Snedden:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Whitlam had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘The House condemns the Budget because it fails to define adequate economic and social goals for Australia; and in particular because it provides no programme for restoring full employment, no means of checking the costs and prices of goods and land, no framework for improving the standards of education, health, welfare and public transport and no national plan for our capital cities and regional centres’.
– I should like to congratulate the Government on this magnificent Budget, which has been received so very well over Australia, and for good reason. I should also like to congratulate the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) on his tremendous efforts to reform the social service or welfare area dealt with by the Budget. There are many factors involved here that I think are most important. The important thing from our point of view and for a country - I think this is a concern of all Australian’s - is to preserve all these benefits that we have received in the Budget. The social service grants have been increased splendidly. We have had the promise of the abolition of the means test over 3 years. Incidentally, this will mean a tremendous amount to many farmers because, although their asset situation is great, their income situation is very poor indeed. They will be in a position, when the abolition of the means test eventuates, to support themselves on their farming operations at least until seasons improve and prices increase. The important thing is to preserve these magnificent increases and our prosperity generally. There are danger signs before us, even problems for the Government now in office. But there will be serious implications if this Government is not returned and another one comes in.
I should like to mention the announcement by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) that he favours a revaluation of the dollar. This would be a disastrous thing for the Australian people - for some more than others. It is quite extraordinary that so many members on the other side of the House, including the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) and the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), who represent areas of primary production and export industries, should support this proposal. This is particularly so in the case of the honourable member for Riverina, as the dried fruits industry and the canned fruits industry are in a very serious situation. Revaluation could put them completely out of business; yet we have a member of the Labor Party advocating revaluation. How can a man like this claim to represent the interests of primary producers? The honourable member for Dawson represents a great sugar growing area on the central coast of Queensland. The sugar industry faces problems arising from the entry of Britain into the European Economic Community. It is concerned about the slight devaluation of British currency last year, and many people have advocated the payment of compensation.
What will happen if we have revaluation as the Leader of the Opposition has suggested? It will ruin industries in the wide areas of Australia which are prosperous and which produce the real wealth. I refer to our export industries, whether they are associated with mining, agriculture or manufacturing. Our manufacturing industries have built up a tremendous record of export over recent years. All these industries would be affected by revaluation, as is evident from the answer to a question I asked this morning about possible effects on the tourist industry. Revaluation would affect the flow of tourists to Australia. It would affect all these areas. Obviously revaluation would defeat, to some degree, the protection given by tariffs to Australian industries and would affect the workers and their jobs. This is one area where there is danger ahead and where we could lose, if the Labor Party gains office as it says it will.
Another matter I wish to deal with is the inflationary situation brought about, to a great degree, by our industrial problems. I know that this is a difficult area. I believe that every wage earner in Australia is entitled to a fair share of the gross national product. But how does one arrive at what is a fair share? I believe that the only way to determine this is through our conciliation and arbitration system. If we have an attitude of blackmail, which today seems to be prevalent in Australia, with great favour shown in the negotiated agreements which are approved by honourable members opposite, 2 great power groups - the people who control our large industries and our large industrial unions - can come to an agreement to suit themselves their attitude being: ‘Hang the rest of the community who have to pick up the tab’. I cite the case of the Waterside Workers Federation. That union came to an agreement with the employers on a 35- hour week, increased wages, 4 weeks annual leave and so on. This agreement will cost S9m, according to official figures. Who will pick up the tab? The community will. Our exports will be affected. The cost will be spread through the whole community. The Government has to take a stand on these matters. This Government has not done a very good job in this respect. Most people who support the Government are concerned that it has not made stronger efforts to halt this spiral of costs.
Another factor is unemployment, a lot of which stems from industrial turmoil. Recently I mentioned the power dispute in the Latrobe Valley of Victoria where, as a result of strikes, $24m was lost in wages. That is only a fraction of the actual loss. Even in Queensland workers were stood down because they could not obtain the necessary parts for motor cars which were made in Victoria. These disputes have repercussions throughout the community and obviously affect employment. If we do not stick to conciliation and arbitration we will be in serious trouble. Australia has built up a great record in arbitration. A recent article reads in part:
The system of conciliation and arbitration deserves to be retained for 2 fundamental reasons.
The system is traditional to Australia and, while it is full of imperfections, nobody has succeeded in suggesting any real alternative.
The second, and equally important, reason is that there is no other way of preserving the relative position of the minimum wage earner and the very large number of workers close to this category.
In his recent book, ‘Labour and Inflation’ Lord Balogh, economic adviser to Britain’s Wilson Government, points to an oft forgotten principle - that just as wage and salary earners as a whole are entitled to a fair share of the Gross National Product, it is equally important that there should be justice between different categories of workers. He wrote:
Free bargaining increased in equality, it resulted in a relative worsening of the position of the poorest paid and least aggresively organised classes of society . . .
Trade union action was successful in certain instances in increasing the share of certain privileged or closely organised groups, such as tally clerks, dock workers and so on.
The lower paid, the defencless and the handicapped, despite the declamation of the unions, have not been protected.
The same point is made by J. H. Portus, in Australian Compulsory Arbitration 1900-1970’, who suggests in guarded terms that one major consequence of the Australian system has been to ensure that compared with the United States, members of weak unions (and members of no unions) have received a fairer share of the cake than they would otherwise.
The practical liquidation of the system of Court sanctions as a weapon of last resort, since the O’Shea case in May 1969, has not only led to a rapid increase in strike dislocation.
Even more importantly, it has caused a widening of wage disparities between workers in privileged industries and the lowest paid, whom the arbitration system no longer effectively protects.
It is a major indictment of the present control of the ACTU that average weekly wages in Australia are now estimated to be more than $90 per week and the minimum wage is approximately $47 per week. So, there has to be a lot of straightening up in this regard. I do not think any honourable member on this side of the House wants to see the worker without his fair share of our gross national product, but when wages rise faster than productivity the whole community loses - even the wage earner himself, because his increase in wages will be swallowed up by cost increases and inflation. Surely this is a situation which most people can see.
These great power groups - I refer not only to the unions but also to large industrial organisations - for the sake of peace make agreements. But I say again that the community has to pay. I believe that the Government should have a much stronger role to play in this regard than it has at present. The amalgamations we have seen recently pose a great threat to our community. As a matter of abstract principle, unions are as entitled to amalgamate as companies are to merge, either by takeover or by winding up procedures, but it should be on the same essential condition - that the individual proprietary rights of members are safeguarded. Where companies are concerned, no shareholder can be divested of his shares in the course of a takeover other than by his own agreement, except in certain extraordinary cases where at least a 90 per cent majority of shareholders is in favour of the takeover. Equally, if a company is to be wound up, the various Companies Acts require extraordinary meetings, special resolutions, and specified majorities. Why should the proprietary right of an individual member of the union he contracted to join be made the only right not protected by special provisions by placing that right at the mercy of union officials who conduct their own ballots with their own returning officers?
The practical truth is that the programme of union amalgamation is not directed, as its protagonists claim, to reducing the number of small, non-viable unions. Approximately 65 per cent of Australian unionists are in fact already members of 21 unions. The amalgamation programme we have seen recently is aimed at bringing together large and medium sized unions, which are already perfectly viable, into more concentrated bodies for political reasons, even more than for industrial reasons. Leaving aside the problem posed by the communists and members of the extreme left in the unions, the building of monoliths, in unions as well as in business, encourages bureaucracy, not efficiency.
When industrial correspondents quote Britain’s vast Transport and General Workers Union as an example to be followed in Australia, they ignore the severity of troubles generated by its shop committees at the London docks and the airports. On the one hand, these arise from a breakdown of administration in the union itself owing to its very size. On the other hand, communist factions in the shop committees have used this breakdown of administration to foment major strike situations. With one or two exceptions, the principal impetus behind the amalgamation programme is centred in the communist and extreme left groups. As far back as the 1940s. Lance Sharkey, the then National Secretary of the Communist Party, in his book ‘The Trade Unions’, made it clear that the purpose is not primarily to bring about economies of scale and an increase of power in industrial relations, but rather to increase the political power of unions as revolutionary weapons - an objective which ought to be alien to trade unionism and which is essentially political and subversive in character.
These are the problems that lie ahead. These are the problems with which this Government has to deal, and it has not been dealing with them too successfully. But what will happen if the people on the other side of the House come into power? No attitudes have been taken by the Leader of the Opposition on the oil strike and all the other frightful industrial situations that have watered down our well being. If we are to maintain the benefits contained in this Budget, the people of Australia must see that this Government is returned to office.
Another matter about which I am concerned is migration. We have seen pressure brought to bear on Australia to take the unfortunate Asians from Uganda. I do not see that Australia has to pick up the pieces in this operation. It has come about because of previous policies on the British Government in Britain’s former colonies, which brought in outside work forces to develop a country. Uganda is not the only country in which one can see this situation. One sees it in Fiji; one sees it in Mauritius; and one sees it in British Guiana. In these countries one sees the tragedy that has been left behind.
– The Aborigines say that Australia is full of them.
– Here is an indication of why we do not want more minority groups. This is the situation that we have to meet. I appreciate what has been done by the Minister for Immigration (Dr Forbes). The Government has been under pressure to allow into Australia people of non-European origin. I believe that we are now reaching the stage where we will have to curtail this migration. We had the changes when countries became independent. Part Europeans and people of mixed race from Burma, Ceylon, Mauritius and elsewhere have come to Australia. In a sense they have our culture or part culture. This is the key to the situation. It is not because a man is black, brown, yellow or inferior or anything else; it is because he is different. It is our cultural situation, whatever it is in Australia, that we want to preserve. Are we to let these people in? I have fears in regard to the Opposition. I wish to quote a statement issued by a man in the Opposition for whom I have great respect, the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly). He issued this statement following the Australian Labor Party’s Federal Conference at Launceston:
My view on Labor’s immigration policy and particularly on non-European migration, should be very well known as I have expressed them publicly on many occasions.
Following the Launceston Conference of the ALP, when a slight change was made in the wording of the policy, I expressed my opinion on its interpretation and was promply relieved of my responsibilities as ‘shadow’ Minister for Immigration, or in more colloquial terms, ‘sacked’.
My views on its interpretation have not changed.
The Minister for Immigration (Dr Forbes) speaking on behalf of the Liberal-Country Party Government has left no doubt as to their policy on non-European migration.
There is, however, evidently some doubt as to the policy of the Australian Labor Party on this subject - or at least on its interpretation. The confusion appears to exist not only in the minds of the public but also some members of the ALP.
It’s time, and repeat it’s time, that a statement was made on behalf of the Australian Labor Party indicating precisely just what is Labor’s policy on non-European migration because the people of Australia are entitled to know the intentions of a prospective government on a matter which can have far reaching effects on their society and way of life.
So, even the honourable member for Grayndler is concerned. I say again that this is why we must preserve this Government.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I think the best that can be said of the speech of the honourable member for Mcpherson (Mr Barnes) in this Budget debate is that it is a typical one from the Government side; that is, confront the unions and then put fear into the people of Australia by misleading them about the policies of the Australian Labor Party. 1 noticed that the honourable member for Mcpherson used the expression ‘It’s time’. As most people know, It’s time’ is the Labor Party’s slogan for the forthcoming Federal election. The only way in which it should be used is in these terms: It’s time for a change of government. I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) which reads in part: the House condemns the Budget because it fails to define adequate economic and social goals for Australia; and in particular because it provides no programme for restoring full employment, no means of checking the costs and prices of goods and land, no framework for improving the standards of education, health, welfare and public transport and no national plan for our capital cities and regional centres’.
Our annual Budget is more than a social document. It must be judged on wider grounds than: Where does it gather money for the Government and how is the money to be spent? It is also an economic docu ment. It is one of the most important measures in the hands of the central Government for regulating the level of economic activity in this country. In short, the burden of my contribution to this Budget debate is that I am not happy with this Budget as a social document in respect of where the money is coming from and where it is going to. But more than that, as an economic document I believe it is a disaster and I shall concentrate on that point.
Firstly, what does the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) say about the economy? Frankly, very little. In fact the economic information in this Budget document is totally inadequate. There is no economic arithmetic of the sort we should expect in a Budget Speech and in the accompanying documents. And well might this be. The Treasurer knows very well that the few extra goodies that he has in his basket this year have been more than paid for by the unnecessary hardships has has inflicted on the community over the last year and which his predecessor inflicted on the community in the previous year. Last year’s headlines on the Budget make interesting reading. There were headlines such as Snedden Budget is Belt Tightener’, ‘No Party - but only Horrors in the Budget. The income tax levy went up *2i per cent to 5 per cent, there was a 3c to 4c rise in the cost of a packet of 20 cigarettes, a 2c a gallon increase in customs and excise duty on petrol, the combined television and radio licence fee was increased by $6.50 to $26.50. the patient’s charge for a prescription went up 50c to $1, telephone and postal charges went up and so on. May I remind the House that of all those imposts only one - taxation - has been lifted.
The Australian people must be reminded that this was the medicine inflicted on them this time last year and the tragedy is that it was the wrong medicine for the economy at that time. The Australian Labor Party roundly condemned that policy at that time and pointed out that the Treasurer and the Government were about 4 months out of date. Stagnation was by then the problem, not inflation. The previous stop in the Liberal-Country Party’s stop-go syndrome had caused this. I refer to the Gorton measures of February 1971 which among other things slashed public expenditure.
The Labor Party was supported in its diagnosis of the economy by most economic commentators at that time outside the Government. For instance, it was supported by the Melbourne University’s Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research, by W. D. Scott and Co. Pty Ltd and so on. Read the speech on the Budget delivered by any Labor member at this time last year and it will be seen that we were right.
It is nol good enough to say, as this Government says: ‘Oh, it was not our fault - there were such overseas factors as the currency crisis and wool prices and so on’. It was precisely because of the currency crisis and wool prices that we should . have had an expansionary and not a deflationary Budget. By the time this Government had woken up it was too late. There was a mini Budget introduced in the early part of this year which attempted to redress the balance and to overcome the tragic mistakes of last year’s Budget. There were some more emergency measures announced in April. But all of these were too late. Confidence was shattered, unemployment grew steadily until it reached the tragically high level of 2 per cent that we are suffering today - the highest in 10 years and the highest since that depression in 1961-62 which was induced by a previous Liberal-Country Party Government.
I make no apologies for outlining this recent economic history. It is extraordinary that the guilty men of this Government should think that the people of Australia are so gullible that they will be happy with this Budget when it is merely attempting to redress the horrors which the same guilty men inflicted on our people. But there is an even more important question than that. What effect will it have on the economy from here onwards? The citizens we represent realise that we must all be much more interested in the level of economic activity, including the level of unemployment, than in any temporary dollar or two whichthe Treasurer may have decided not to take from us in taxation. Let me describe the economy because so far I have mentioned only unemployment figures. I read from the publication of W. D. Scott and Co. Pty Ltd entitled ‘The Australian Economy’. It describes the Australian economy in the following way:
The Australian economy in 1972 is moving sluggishly. Overall, demand by both consumers and business even when added to growing government demand is still insufficient in aggregate to fully employ available resources. Demand slackness has reached such proportions as to rank equally with inflation as a national problem. In particular consumer spending on retail store items is declining the building and motor vehicle industries
In my own electorate of Adelaide we are particularly concerned with the level of activity in the motor vehicle industry - are facing lulls in demand as both business and consumers are delaying expenditures
Then there is the view of Dr Peter Sheehan of the Australian National University who described the economy in a recent paper on the Budget as an economy which is experiencing stagnation and inflation and is yet awash with funds as a result of an unprecedented rate of increase in foreign exchange reserves. But the most marked feature of the economy of Australia is the bad rate of growth, The lack of real growth per head of population. In the Treasurer’s words, that growth was 3 per cent. However, there is a great deal of doubt as to whether the growth was as high as this. Dr Peter Sheehan went on in his paper to say in respect of the June quarter national accounts:
The picture these accounts present is a very sobering one, one which is not conveyed by the Treasurer’s simple statement that growth in 1971-72 was only 3 per cent. In fact the growth in real CNP in 1972 was 3.2 per cent, or $890 million in 1966-67 prices. Of this $890 million, the change in the statistical discrepancy provided $252 million and the increase in net exports $571 million, so that what I call domestic demand rose by only $67 million, or 0.2 per cent.
This should be compared with the Treasurer’s figure of 3 per cent. Supporting evidence for the contention that the growth rate of this country is poor and that there is scope for increasing the rate of economic growth in Australia can be obtained from the most recent United Nations Year Book of National Accounts Statistics. This shows the average rates of growth in gross national product for a number of countries from the early 1950s to 1968. Although I have not been able to speak to the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay), who is at the table.
I have spoken to the Leader of the House (Mr Chipp) and accordingly I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a table headed ‘Growth in Real GNP per Head in OECD Countries, 1950-1968’.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows -
– It will be seen from this table that Australia’s average annual rate of growth in real gross national product per head from 1953 to 1968 was 2.5 per cent which is low by comparison with the rates in most of the developed countries. For example, of the 22 countries in the Organisation for Economic Development for which data are available, only 4 had lower average annual rates of growth in real gross national product per head than Australia. They were Canada, Luxembourg, United Kingdom and the United States of America. Two of these - Canada and the United States - began and ended the period with an average gross national product per head of population well above that of Australia. Of the remaining countries 8 had average growth rates between 3 and 4 per cent a year and 7 had rates exceeding 4 per cent. This is the situation in which we find ourselves. This is the most important feature of our economy today. It seems to me that it is only the Treasurer and his followers who think that this Budget applies itself satisfactorily to that most important feature. In short the Treasurer says that the economy needs stimulus. At least he agrees with that even though he does not mention that it is his own actions which have caused the situation. Then he says that we must be careful not to go too far in giving this stimulus. Finally, without any justification whatsoever, he says that a $60m domestic Budget deficit will do the trick.
I repeat: He and his followers in this House seem to he the only ones who think so. Professor Warren Hogan, Professor of Economics at Sydney University, does not think so, judging by the report of his remarks on the Budget at the recent conference of the Australia and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science held in Sydney. Dr Peter Sheehan of the Australian National University, whom I referred to earlier does not think so. I would like to quote once again from his address. He said:
In my view, the 1972-73 Budget will be a failure in respect of what I take to be its main aim, to stimulate growth so as to reduce the level of unemployment without leading to an increase in the rate of inflation. Further substantial stimulation, and other measures, will be required to achieve this.
He goes on:
I am amazed, then, to find so many people prepared to argue that we can measure part of the initial stimulus of the Budget by the calculated $436m cut in income taxes, these being funds injected into the income expenditure stream’ to use a common phrase. … I am unable to see how a purely nominal tax cut can ‘provide a significant stimulus to demand’ except through psychological effects or ‘add substantially to disposable incomes’.
These are the opinions of experts. Finally I quote from this morning’s ‘Australian’. Under the headline ‘Economy in Need of Further Stimulus’ the article reads:
The Australian economy needs some further source of stimulus if it is to maintain an acceptable employment situation and a confident level of business activity.
That is not the view of an academic economist; it is the view of Dr Harold Bell, economic adviser to the Australian Mutual Provident Society. He said that yesterday at a luncheon for the New South Wales division of the Australian Society of Accountants.
I make no apologies for dwelling so long on the economic aspects of this Budget. In my view, it is these aspects which are absolutely vital. Furthermore, I do not hold the cynical view of the Australian people apparently held by the Government and its supporters. I believe that the Australian people will judge this Budget as a totally inadequate economic measure as the level of activity continues to be slack and unemployment grows over succeeding months. An alternative to this ad hocism is offered by a Federal Labor government. Planning is the key. Emphasis on this No. 1 plank of the Australian Labor Party’s economic platform has been a feature of what I have said during Budget debates in the short time I have been in this Parliament. I want to say a little more about it in the short time I have left today.
Ait the present time we have government by confrontation. We saw it demonstrated in the speech of the honourable member for Mcpherson. We have a LiberalCountry Party Government which seeks to divide, seeks to blame the unions for inflation, fails to do anything worthwhile about inflation and fails to bring people together in a spirit of co-operation. Labor’s attitude is in marked contrast to this. We are proud to be socialists, seeking by planning to institute policies of co-operation for the benefit of all people but particularly of those people who need help in our society. Co-operation not confrontation’ is one of our slogans. Economic policy within Australia at the present time is formulated on the basis of the advice and determinations of a number of distinct authorities that at times may advocate conflicting policies. The key bodies include the Treasury, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Primary Industry, the Tariff Board, the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and, more recently, the Bureau of Roads and the Commissioner of Trade Practices. As well, the Government regularly seeks advice from representatives of industry, commerce and the trade unions, but what happens to that advice is not so clear.
This complex of policy making bodies in Australia has been described as a ‘hydrahead’. The fact that the Commonwealth Cabinet receives advice - often conflicting - on economic policy from numerous bodies and interest groups is by no means unique to Australia. The notable fact is the absence in Australia of an advisory body or government department responsible for comprehensive medium and long term assessments of national economic policies and prospects. In this regard Australia, as I have said, is unique among Western economies. The most extraordinary phenomenon we are witnessing at the present (time is that business, the unions and the financial Press want the sort of approach I have just mentioned - an outside planning body. The only one resisting this at present is the Government. I draw the attention of the House and of the people to a paper delivered by the Treasurer to the forum of the Committee for Economic Development of Australia in Melbourne on 28th June last in which the Treasurer rejected the planning concept which I and my Labor colleagues advocate.
This Budget must be judged as an economic document as well as a social document. Even as a social document it is a rich man’s Budget. To illustrate this, I ask leave of the House - I have already obtained the permission of the Leader of the House - to incorporate in Hansard a document in a paper delivered by Professor Hogan, Professor of Economics at the University of Sydney on the 1972-73 Budget. This sets out the impact of tax adjustments.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– This table shows that the percentage rise in after tax income is markedly in favour of the higher income groups. That is why we have called the Budget a rich man’s Budget. As an economic document it . is even more so a failure - unable to help those whom I represent in the city and suburban seat of Adelaide to improve their standard of living and to get some of them who are out of work at the present time back to work. A Federal Labor government offers an alternative. I gave the House a very quick outline of that alternative when I referred to planning. The alternative is co-operation through planning. We look forward to the people of Australia giving us the opportunity shortly to apply our ideas.
– The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) referred to co-operation and economic planning, but it is significant that neither he nor anyone else on the Opposition side of the chamber has attempted to reply to or rebut the charges made last night by the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay) in respect of what the Australian Labor Party’s programme for Australia would be. They have not denied, for example, the Minister’s charge that they would nationalise the banks, insurance companies, hire purchase companies and so on. They have not denied the Minister’s charge that the Labor Party would wipe out all taxation deductions other than family allowances. In other words they would wipe out deductions for education, life assurance, medical allowances and expenses incurred in earning income. If this is to be denied, let us hear the denial. They have not denied the Minister’s charge in relation to the radical resealing of income tax. The Minister said that the Australian Labor Party would radically rescale income tax so that it would be, in the words of the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns), a means of enforcing a restructuring of society. If that is not true, let them deny it. The Minister said also that businesses would be radically reconstructed. If that is not true, let it be denied by honourable members opposite.
The honourable member for Adelaide referred to only one plank of the Australian Labor Party’s platform under the heading of ‘economic planning’. As I see it, quite frankly, it seems that honourable members opposite are deliberately avoiding reference to the unpopular planks under the heading of ‘economic planning’. I have already referred to two of them. We seldom hear anything about the nationalisation plank except from the more frank and more outspoken members of the left wing of the Labor movement. Nor do we hear anything about what they would do in relation to the re-defining of ‘income’. It is clearly set out under the heading of ‘economic planning’ that the Labor Party would re-define income’. As far as 1 know in the course of this debate nobody opposite has said anything about the Labor Party’s plan to redefine ‘income’. The purpose of that redefinition of ‘income’, if one analyses the Labor Party’s platform, is that they clearly intend to impose a capital gains tax. This has been referred to on earlier occasions. If honourable members opposite want to deny the truth of what I am saying they have every opportunity to do so.
It has been very disappointing indeed to hear another dreary denunciation of the Budget such as we just heard from the honourable member for Adelaide, rather than a constructive alternative conception. Surely that should be within the ability of the range of thinking of honourable members opposite who hold themselves out to be the alternative Government of Australia. They refer to growth but they put forward no plan for improving it. They refer to productivity but they put forward no plan for increasing productivity. They put forward no plan for containing inflation. These are very important matters for the economy. As the aspiring alternative Government, this is a golden opportunity for honourable members opposite to tell the people of Australia exactly what they would do to remedy the present situation and put things right, instead of roundly condemning the Budget presented by this Government. For the most part, they avoid reference to political strikes, despite the fact that some leading members of the labour movement have been, through political strikes, robbing Australians of some of their money, undermining the standard of living of the Australian people and adding to the unemployment pool, lt is true that the honourable member for Adelaide referred to unemployment. So did the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and so have some other honourable members opposite.
– What about nuclear fallout?
– I know that what I am saying is hurting the honourable member and that he does not like listening to it. He has no solution to the unemployment problem. AH honourable members opposite do is weep crocodile tears and hope that the unemployment pool will grow larger because they see in it some political advantage for themselves. I leave the Australian Labor Party now and come back to the Budget. The 1972-73 Budget has been widely acclaimed throughout Australia, and rightly so. The Treasury White Paper published in July indicated the need to pump some $400m into the private sector of the economy in order to boost consumer demand and restore growth. I believe that the Budget will do this. Growth with stability is still the basic approach of the Government. It is undeniable, as the honourable member for Adelaide has pointed out, that the recent growth rate of 3 per cent is just not good enough, but let us find a solution to it. We have to approach this problem in a positive frame of mind. I do not think anyone would deny that this rate needs to be at least doubled to give real strength to the economy.
Another worrying factor, of course, is inflation. It is not unique to Australia; it is common to many countries throughout the world. The only good feature about inflation at the moment, as the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) pointed out in his Bud-et Speech, is that there has been some decrease in the rate of the inflationary spiral in recent times. Let us hope that that trend will continue. Chapter 2 of the Treasury White Paper of July gives a detailed analysis of what is described as the intractable problem of inflation. It deals with the complex of factors involved and argues that the dominant exacerbating factor in Australia’s recent experience has been excessive wage settlements. There is no doubt in the minds of many that this is correct. The position has been aggravated by a series of industrial stoppages which have caused loss and hardship to many thousands of families and have, as a result, retarded our economic development.
I feel that the Institute of Public Affairs and the Productivity Promotion Council of Australia should be commended publicly for the excellent job they are doing in endeavouring to spotlight the need for higher productivity. An excellent little booklet entitled ‘Better Living - the Key is Productivity’, which was produced jointly by these 2 bodies, in my view should be read by every household in Australia. It points out that productivity - in other words, production per person - is important because our standards of living depend upon it; that only by raising productivity can the purchasing power of pay envelopes be increased, and that productivity is not rising rapidly enough compared with the growth of money incomes in Australia. In other words, the cost of production is rising too fast. Over recent years productivity has risen at approximately one-third of the rate of rises in salaries and wages, and one of our major aims economically must be steadily to close this gap. This does not simply mean that the employee should work harder. Let me be quite clear on this. As I see it, it means that management and labour must aim to produce more efficiently and to work more closely together for the common good.
The continuing pressure for a 35-hour week, which is supported by honourable members opposite in their policies, means, if granted across the board, that the cost of production will continue to rise and our prospect of containing inflation will steadily become dimmer. The principle of a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay is still an essential basis for a thriving, prosperous nation. We live in a keenly competitive world, and if we are to retain our place among the top 12 trading nations and maintain decent living standards we must ensure that our production costs do not rise faster than those of other countries with which we are competing. Bulletin No. 233, issued by the Australian Industries Development Association this month, strikes a hopeful note when it states:
While many important areas of industrial production are still languishing, a closer analysis of the latest indicators does suggest that the overall trend in industrial activity may be turning upwards.
It proceeds to give figures covering a wide range of commodities to demonstrate that during the period from January to June 1972 a greater number of items showed a rise in production and a smaller number of items showed a fall in production. Under the caption ‘Recovery on the Way?’ the bulletin continues:
This analysis of recent production statistics, although admittedly based on relatively short term trends, does give some indication that industrial production may indeed be picking up and that the economy is showing a greater degree of confidence, along with some increase in consumer spending.
Returning to the actual provisions of the Budget, I think we were all struck by the Treasurer’s pithy summing up when he said:
Taxes down; pensions up; and growth decisively strengthened.
For the first time Commonwealth expenditure will reach - indeed exceed - $ 10,000m in a 12-month period. This is not, as alleged by honourable members opposite, a rich man’s Budget. This can be clearly seen by anyone who reads it objectively and fairly. Virtually every section of the community will benefit from the proposals now before the House, with the greatest benefits going to those most in need of relief.
Slightly more than one-third of the Commonwealth’s estimated outlay in the current financial year will go to the State governments. I have said on other occasions, and I say again, that I believe that the States should be enabled to raise a higher proportion of their own revenues than they do at present. If it were not for a High Court ruling that sales tax is in the nature of an excise tax and therefore under section 90 of the Constitution must remain with the Commonwealth, I for one would favour the Commonwealth vacating this field of taxation in favour of the States. I am particularly pleased that the Government has decided to appoint an independent expert committee under Mr
Justice Asprey to inquire into and report on the overall tax structure within the Commonwealth’s jurisdiction. This committee, needless to say, has a very big task ahead of it, and its report and recommendations will be awaited with great interest. In the meantime, as the Treasurer intimated last May, the Government has decided to make such adjustments as it considers necessary in the field of taxation.
The incidence of Federal estate duty and Federal gift duty will be greatly reduced when this Budget takes effect. The proposal to double all statutory exemptions means that approximately half of all estates that would be subject to Federal estate duty will be exempt in future. There is no gainsaying that the present rates of death duties throughout Australia are too high and cause hardships to many families. Another pleasing provision of the Budget is the decision to allow a deduction for income tax purposes of up to $400 in respect of expenditure by a taxpayer on his own education where the expenditure is related to his career. This is something for which many of us have been pressing for quite some time, and it is indeed welcome. Most welcome of all is the proposal to reduce personal income tax rates by an average of 10 per cent. Present rates are most certainly too high and have been acting as a disincentive to many people. The plan to restructure the tax scale to ensure maximum percentage reductions on lower and middle incomes is, I believe, proper and equitable. In future those with a taxable income less than $1,041 will be exempt from income tax and, as the Treasurer pointed out in his Budget Speech, the proposal will exempt from tax liability altogether about 600,000 taxpayers - among them part time employees, including married women and students working in vacations.
Income tax at present rates has been placing too heavy a burden on the family man, but under this Budget the family man will benefit very considerably in a variety of ways. Time will not permit me to mention all of them. Let me mention a few. All taxation allowances for dependants are to be increased by $52. Families throughout the country will be greatly helped by the provisions of this Budget not only in regard to taxation but in the whole field of social welfare. Increased financial assistance for education will he’p schools, technical colleges, teachers colleges, universities and colleges of advanced education. The very substantial increase in Commonwealth scholarships of all kinds will help many thousands of students. There are major improvements also in relation to health, housing, child care, social services and repatriation.
The most spectacular feature of all, of course, is the Government’s promise to abolish the means test within the next 3 years. It is right, I believe - I think we all are of one mind on this point - that this penalty on thrift should be removed as soon as possible and that, in the meantime, the application of the means test should be further liberalised. I remind the House that it has been Government policy for a number of years to liberalise the means test year by year. I believe it is also right and equitable to provide that pensions shall be subject to taxation, otherwise people on higher incomes would, as the Treasurer has said, benefit disproportionately and this would be unfair to everyone else. The Treasurer mentioned that the Government is currently reviewing policies in regard to capital inflow into Australia and I believe that this need for review is in line with the general feeling in the community. Most people, I think, agree that overseas capital is necessary for our national development but feel that appropriate steps should be taken to preserve an Australian equity. I am confident that the Government recognises this fully and that it will act accordingly. I oppose the amendment moved on behalf of the Opposition and I have very much pleasure in supporting the Bill now before the House.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). The honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury), who just resumed his seat, commenced his speech with an unwarranted and dislocated attack upon the policies of the Australian Labor Party. From what he said, it is quite obvious that he gets his facts from his imagination. It is clear that he did not listen to what the Leader of the Opposition had to say on Tuesday night, to the speech presented by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) or to the speeches of those members of the Opposition who have followed them.
However, I want to talk about the Budget. This Government should be described as the stop-go-stop Government. Last year the brakes were jammed on hard. This Budget releases them. But how long will it be before they are jammed on again? As the Leader of the Opposition said, there is not a word from the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) acknowledging the mistakes of the last Budget. There is not a word to imply that any of the economic setbacks and human hardship created then were of the Government’s own making. Nothing is said about the fact that the last Budget was responsible for a loss of $800m in production. The fact that the Government was responsible for creating a pool of unemployment in excess of 100,000 lies to its eternal discredit.
This being an election year, the Government hopes that a spending spree will cause the people to forget what occurred 12 months ago and the repercussions that flowed from that. The people are not fools. They will not forget the misery and suffering created by the Budget strategy of last August. The handouts in this Budget, of course, are accepted with a grain of salt because the people are aware, as the Leader of the Opposition said, that what has been given can so easily be taken away if this Government remains in office. The increase in pensions does not even restore their value. The age and invalid pension under the Chifley Labor Government was 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. It was 19.6 per cent of average weekly earnings last year. Under this Budget, if average weekly earnings rise by 9 per cent as is anticipated in the Budget, the pension will be 19.7 per cent of average weekly earnings. A large number of people have been - and are still being - shabbily treated. For the life of me, I cannot see why a civilian widow should be treated any differently from a war widow. It is true that a war widow has lost her husband as a result of his war service. However, there are many widows receiving a civilian widow’s pension whose husbands served in war but who could not prove that his death was due to war service. The onus is always thrown on the widow to do this. She does not get the benefit of any doubt.
In my view all widows should be treated similarly. No means test is placed on a war widow’s pension. I have seen some pitiful cases of civilian widows who have taken a job to try to earn something more to give their children a better education. Because they have earned a little more than the allowable income, their pensions have been reduced. They then have to earn more and suffer a further reduction of pension or reduce the standard of living of their families while the amount that they have been overpaid is repaid to the Department. The latest increase in this Budget gives war widows and civilian A class widows the same pension. But, while there was an increase in the mother’s allowance for the war widow, that increase was not given to the civilian widow.
This is the situation: Under this Budget a civilian widow and a war widow both get the same pension of $20 a week. The mother’s allowance for a civilian widow is $4, while the mother’s allowance for a war widow is $8.50. The child allowance for a civilian widow is $4.50 and for a war widow it is $7.35. This means that the civilian widow receives, including the allowance for one child, a total of $28.50 and the war widow receives a total of $35.85. It costs as much to feed, clothe and educate the children of civilian widows as it does in the case of the children of war widows. On top of that, of course, the war widow is not subject to a means test. I agree that she should not be subject to a means test. But I believe that all these conditions should apply equally to the civilian widow.
Consider the position of a B class widow - that is, a widow aged between 50 and 60 years with no children. Under this Budget she will receive $17.25 a week. However, a war widow in similar circumstances receives $20. The age pension for a married couple is to be $17.25 each on the ground that 2 can live more cheaply than one. How does this argument apply to a B class widow? The pension of $17.25 paid to a B class widow is about $6 below the recognised poverty line. How can the payment of that sort of pension be justified? The Government claims that it has taken another step in the direction of abolishing the means test. But, in fact, has it? The allowable income has been increased so that a single pensioner can earn as much as he gets in pension; that is, he can earn $20 a week, provided he has not more than S419 in the hank. In 1954 he was in exactly the same position. He could then earn the same amount as his pension. So we are back to the 1954 standard as far as the relationship between the pension and the allowable income is concerned.
Let us take the case of married pensioners. In 1954 they each received the same pension as a single pensioner - this is not the case today - and they were allowed to earn the same amount in allowable income as twice the single pension. On today’s figures they could earn $40 a week provided that they had no more than $839 in the bank. This Government was responsible for reducing the married pension as compared to the single pension. Married pensioners are worse off now comparatively than they were in 1954. Under this Budget they can still earn as much as the pension but the pension for the single pensioner has been reduced. Therefore the socalled easing of the means test has not been improved since 1954. As a matter of fact, it has been reduced to some extent in the case of a married pensioner couple. The most that can be said is that both the single and married pensioner can earn as much in allowable income as they get in pensions. As I have said, they could do this in 1954.
The increase in age, invalid and widows’ pensions is not near enough. The Australian Labor Party believes that the pension should be set as a percentage of average weekly earnings. We believe that at present the standard rate should be $24.50 a week and should be adjusted automatically in accordance with movements in average weekly earnings. If there is not some automatic adjustment it means that increases will be swallowed up by inflation. The present increases will disappear in increased prices before very long if something such as this is not done. Unemployment benefits remain at $17 for a male plus $8 if he has a wife and $4.50 if he has a child. A married man with 2 children would receive $13 below the recognised poverty line under this arrangement. One would have thought, having in mind that this Government has the unenviable reputation of having created the largest unemployment pool for more than a dec ade, that there would have been more sympathy for the victims of this vicious policy.
We have an unemployment pool of over 112,000. For every job vacancy there are about 8 people out of work. Close to 43,000 people are on unemployment benefit and the Government keeps them below the recognised poverty line. Onethird of those who are unemployed - over 32,000 people - are under the age of 21 years. Yet this Government gives a lousy $7.50 a week to those between the age of 16 and 18 years and $11 a week to those between the age of 18 and 21. The only concession which this Government has made for the victims of the August 1971 Budget was to provide $200,000 for their fares while seeking employment. The amount of $200,000 for 112,000 people unemployed will mean less than $2 each per annum. What a callous disregard the Government displays for those for whom there is little hope in the future under its administration and its policy of keeping a percentage of the work force unemployed.
As I have pointed out in recent debates, Western Australia has a special case for financial assistance in its unemployment crisis. In that State there are over 9,000 unemployed in the metropolitan area and less than 3,000 in the rural areas, yet the funds which the Commonwealth has made available for projects to relieve unemployment have attached to them a tag stating that the money must be spent in the rural areas. So no additional financial assistance is available to get our people back to work in the metropolitan area. Requests by the Premier of Western Australia to the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) for special financial assistance were for a long time ignored and then finally refused. The Federal Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) in reply to a question has admitted that the problem arose during the Brand-Court government’s term of office. During the last year of office of that Liberal Government the number of unemployed in Western Australia increased by over 2,000. So it is useless to blame the Labor Government in Western Australia, which has been in office for only 18 months. Various factors have been responsible for increased unemployment in Western Australia. The McMahon Budget strategy of August 1971 contributed to it but in addition we had the downturn in the mineral industry due to international demand falling rapidly. Western Australia’s work force was built up for the actual production of minerals, but once construction work was completed there was a fall-off in demand for minerals and there was nowhere to absorb the work which had been released. We did not have the secondary industries to absorb those workers, many of whom had come from other States to Western Australia to work in the mining industry and building industry. This is why Western Australia needs added financial assistance. The only source for this assistance is the Federal Government, but because of narrow political prejudice it is denying the State of Western Australia this assistance.
In my remarks on social services I interpolated to emphasise those points. Let us have another look at social services. Let us have a look at one or two of our shrunken social service benefits. Maternity allowances have remained unaltered for 29 years although costs associated with the birth of a child have risen 500 per cent. At one time the maternity allowance paid for all the costs of a confinement. The existing rate of maternity allowance was fixed by the Curtin Government in 1943. Child endowment for the first child has remained unaltered for 22 years and for the second child for 24 years. Families with 3 children in 1949 secured in child endowment a sum equal to 11.5 per cent of average weekly earnings. Today a family of the same size receives in child endowment a sum which is less than 4 per cent of average weekly earnings. In 1948 the basic wage was $11.60 and a family with 5 children received in child endowment $4 a week. In order to receive the same monetary value in purchasing power today a family of that size should receive $17.60, but it receives only $8.25. Let us look at this from a different angle. In 1949 a man with a wife and 2 children, On the minimum wage, paid $1.60 a year in income tax. Under the revised scale of tax deductions issued with the Budget papers a man on the minimum wage of $51, with a family of the same number, will pay $2.36 a week or $132.98 per annum. He will pay more income tax in a week than a family of comparable size paid in a year in 1949.
One would have thought that if the Government had wanted to do something about prices and inflation it would have reduced sales tax on a lot of commodities. Sales tax is the hidden thief which takes our money and adds to the cost of about one-third of the goods which are sold in Australia. This financial year the Commonwealth will collect from each man, woman and child in Australia about $59 in sales tax, which is more than $1 each a week. The bigger the family, the more sales tax is paid. Sales tax more than swallows up the 50c child endowment for the first child and $1 for the second child. Most people are unaware that they are making this contribution to the Commonwealth Treasury. Do they know that they pay sales tax on toilet soap but not on dog soap? Leading a dog’s life has a different meaning these days. People pay sales tax on biscuits which they buy for their babies but not on dog biscuits. The mark-up, according to the Cosmetics and Toiletry Manufacturers Association, is being operated by the Government to the tune of 55c in every $2 spent on everything from hair cream to contraceptives. There is a 27i per cent sales tax on face powder, face cream and the like. There used to be an old song entitled ‘Love Makes the World Go Round’. I do not know whether that applies today, but if it does there is a 27i per cent tax on it. What was once a luxury tax now increases the cost of everyday necessities. It is an unfair tax because a man on $12,000 a year pays the same tax on razor blades as does a pensioner who needs to shave. Sales tax adds to the cost of living and therefore it adds to the cost of production and inflation.
I was wrong when I said that there had been no reduction in the sales tax. I apologise most humbly. There has been some reduction. I forgot about it. The Budget states that exemption from sales tax will apply to imported works of art which are exempt from duty under various provisions in the customs tariff such as paintings, drawings and pastels executed entirely by hand and having a value exceeding $50 each; original engravings, prints and lithographs and original sculptures and statuary. They will be exempt from sales tax. What a vague idea of value. Imported works of art are exempt from sales tax but school requirements, including exercise books, are subject to a 15 per cent tax. I have mentioned how sales tax inflates prices. This Government does not propose to do anything about prices. It believes in giving to those who fix prices a free rein, lt is not a question of price control or no price control; it is a question of who controls the prices in this community. At the present time a mere total of 200 companies control prices in Australia. They meet in the secrecy of their board rooms. No evidence is given, no witnesses are called and there is no thought of the public interest. How different it is when the workers want an increase in the price of their labour; the workers have to appear before a tribunal, call evidence, call witnesses and the Government submits evidence in opposition to their claims. Even if they do prove their case in support of an increase it can be refused because it is not in the public interest.
While the Prime Minister was calling on the unions a few months ago to practice restraint the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd put up the price of its steel by 5.3 per cent. That increase was reflected in almost everything, including food because these days a lot of food comes in cans which are made from BHP products. With the increase in the price of steel, building costs went up and also the price of motor cars. During the past 3 months the cost of living has jumped by nearly $1 for a family living on ! the average wage. The Federal Government cannot escape the responsibility for the diminishing value of the dollar. As prices rise each dollar buys less. Taking the value of the dollar as being 100c in 1950 its value has dropped to less than 40c today. In 1950 a person could buy 1 lb of rump steak for 25c; today we would have to pay 120c per lb. A 2 lb loaf of bread cost 7c in 1950 but it now costs 25c. The cost of posting a letter was 1.7c but it is now 7c.
The Australian Labor Party believes that as we have a system of wage justification we must also have a system of price justification. A Labor government will introduce 2 measures to implement its policy on this. Firstly, it will establish a price justification tribunal. Secondly, it will establish a parliamentary select committee on costs and prices. That committee will identify, publicise and otherwise expose unfair prices or practices and the exploitation of consumers.
It will recommend to the Government any legislative or administrative measures which should be taken to prevent unjustifiable price increases and to protect Australia from excessive inflation. The Australian Labor Party also will take other necessary measures to deal effectively with the great concentration of foreign and local monopolistic power which exist in Australia and to eliminate trade practices which restrict competition and produce inefficiency and inflation. We can help to control inflation not only by justifying wage and salary increases but also by ensuring that price rises are justified.
The Government, knowing that it is on the way out, has tried to retrieve the position. Its 1971 Budget deliberately created unemployment. It now realises that unless it can retrieve the position in the few weeks before the election, it has had it. The lesson of 1961 has been learned too late. The McMahon Government is on the way out. The in-fighting that has occurred indicates that it has more wings than a centipede has legs. Its wings are about to be singed. This Government will have a rough landing on polling day 1972.
– We have listened with varying degrees of attention to a speech which seemed to concern itself with a number of very minor and petty anomalies and not to concern itself with the basic issues which the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) has put before the House in this Budget. I believe that the Budget has greatly advanced the national well being of Australia. I believe that the Budget makes significant advances in relieving distress amongst the Australian people and I have heard nobody from the Opposition deny that they are very significant advances. The Budget makes advances in providing incentives to people to work in that it reduces the amount of taxation levied on their wages and salaries. It makes a proper approach in existing economic circumstances to stimulating consumer spending and stimulating the Australian economy generally.
These are 3 most important matters for any Budget to deal with. We have now reached a stage in this nation - a stage which other nations have reached - at which a Budget is only one factor among a number of factors which will decide our national economic progress and the well being of our Australian people. It is not by itself the only matter which can achieve that result, but it is a significant matter and on this occasion it has taken the 3 steps which I have stated.
I will enumerate why I believe we have made these advances. In the area of relieving distress I believe that the introduction of the proposal to help those people who have to spend long periods in nursing homes is one of the most significant advances recently made. Every honourable member must have many experiences of constituents coming before us and explaining the difficulty they are experiencing because they have elderly relatives not in hospitals but in nursing homes which have greatly increased their charges. In many cases the nursing homes are forced to increase their charges in order to pay their employees and to pay for the facilities they must have to run the homes. Not only has a great deal of distress been caused to individual Australians as a result of the high cost of maintaining people in nursing homes, but also a great deal of anxiety has occurred amongst Australians who fear that at some future stage they may be unable to meet their commitments without great hardship to themselves.
This is a logical extension of action which this Government has taken in the past to ensure that people can stay in hospitals indefinitely without being overcharged. The Government has enabled people to insure against an indefinite stay in a hospital. The provision of insurance in respect of people in nursing homes and the additional assistance given is a great advance and I do not believe that anybody could reasonably deny that that is so. I believe that the acceptance of the principle of child minding centres does the Government great credit. It will be of great assistance to very many Australians. The proposal is that working mothers will have places where their children can be properly cared for while they work.
Some people argue against this concept and say that it will encourage mothers to go out to work and that that is a bad thing to do. Presumably the people who argue that way, although they do not say so, would be logically bound to go on and say: ‘Because we think this we do not care what happens to children who are left without mothers, whether they are locked up in the home without proper supervision or put in improper places where they do not get the correct supervision while their mothers are away.’ I think all honourable members know that at least 240,000 women are in the work force. There is a requirement that their children be properly cared for while the mothers are at work unless we wish those children to be at risk of growing up as delinquents. This is another action which has been taken by the Government in this Budget.
I hope, Sir, that I may be forgiven a very small diversion on these matters at this point, because I would like to put on the record that I do not believe that these are new policies, as is claimed. They are newly implemented policies but the fact that they have been part of Liberal thinking is indicated by the knowledge that the proposal for assistance to nursing homes was part of the policy put forward by the Liberal-Country Party Government in the 1969 election campaign. The child minding centres proposal was part of a policy speech during the 1970 Senate election campaign. That ought to dispose of any suggestion that these ideas have just been thought up at the last moment for the purposes of this election. I hope I will be permitted to say that there is some personal satisfaction for me in seeing these proposals included in this Budget.
These are significant and perhaps more dramatic steps than many of the others which have been taken, but the other measures in this social welfare Budget - and that is what it is - are also sensible and helpful. I refer particularly to the proposal for home nursing care for those people who otherwise might have to be sent to a hospital or a nursing home. Under this proposal they may stay in their own homes and receive nursing assistance there. It has not only the humane advantage of ensuring that people who have grown up in their homes and are left alone because of the death of a partner, who have memories of their lives in those homes and want to remain there will receive proper care, but also has the significant economic benefit that it is much cheaper to keep such people in their own homes with nursing assistance than to move them out to hospitals or nursing homes. So it is on both humanitarian and economic grounds a provision in the Budget which should not be overlooked. It will provide immense satisfaction to very many Australians.
It is a social welfare Budget. Not only has it taken steps for this year; they are steps which are necessary, which are irrevocable and also will be felt in years to come. This Budget is charting a course in social welfare which cannot ever be reversed. Stemming from the Budget is the most important statement that the means test will be further ameliorated and tapered and will be completely abolished within 3 years. When this plan for the abolition of the means test was first put forward 1 argued against it, I must admit. I argued on the grounds that it would be preferable to make more money available to the lower income people before that plan was implemented, although the first step was taken towards abolition. But now that we have seen the costing and the result of taxation being levied on means test free income, the situation is different. We should not lose sight of the fact that this proposal was never put forward by the Opposition. The Opposition never suggested that means test free income should be taxable and this does make a significant difference to the amount of total funds available both for this and real poverty levels. I believe that this is another great advance forward.
Look at what the abolition of the means test will do. It will give an incentive to the aged to work and earn more than they otherwise would do because they will not have their pensions reduced until they have earned a considerable amount. When the means test is abolished, there will be a great incentive for people to continue to work and to produce, and, therefore, not to rust themselves as individuals - this is significant - but to increase the productive capacity of this country. That is one result of the abolition of the means test. It will also provide an incentive to save more than there has been before, so that people could pay more into a superannuation fund or save in other ways. This will provide an incentive in that area lacking before the abolition of the means test took place. There will be removed a temptation to refrain from declaring an income which is earned when people get to a certain age because, as a result of that income, they may lose some of their pension. This too, as a by-product, is extremely good.
Of course, this Budget does not solve all areas of poverty. I do not think that any single Budget could hope to do that. But associated with the Budget is the statement that there will be a proper inquiry into poverty and, presumably, the reasons for poverty in Australia and this will cover not just an area of pensions but also areas of health and other reasons which can lead people into conditions of poverty. There will be an inquiry of that kind and that will chart a path along which we can move in the future in attacking this problem. The fact that we have here an enormous move in this year surely should be full indication to the Australian people that when that path is charted we shall continue to move along it. This too is something which has flowed from the Budget and which will be of great benefit.
In addition, as I mentioned, there is the question of providing an incentive by reducing taxation. Argument has been advanced that it is unfair to reduce taxation in the way in which it will be reduced, even though taxation on the higher incomes will be reduced by a lesser proportion than taxation on the smaller incomes. I do not believe that this is a proper or a valid argument. It is usually sought to be backed up by saying that somebody on a higher income will receive more in dollars as a reduction than somebody on a lower income will receive. Of course, that is true; but it is only part of the argument - only a fraction of the argument. Of course they will receive more because they are paying infinitely more in dollars before the reduction is applied. Surely it is the percentage reduction that must count and the percentage reduction on the lower incomes is, in this Budget greater than that on the higher incomes.
We do need to avoid any kind of approach which suggests that people who earn more should not get the benefit of those earnings because, in this country, tor purposes of productivity and for purposes of justice, those who are considered to be worth more in salary should not be reduced to one common mould after taxation, which I think is sometimes suggested by the Opposition and which 1 fear would happen should the Opposition become the government of this country. I do not want to digress too far in this but, from what I have heard the shadow Treasurer on the Opposition side, the honourable Member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), say, it does seem to be a recipe for increased taxes al! round, more particularly increased taxes in that area where increasing taxes will bring in less revenue than it would from any other area but where it would have the greatest dampening of incentive to produce. However, in this Budget, the opposite is the case. Here, the incentive is given and surely that in a country crying out for productivity must be necessary.
Is it not true that a reduction in taxation for a man earning wages or salary means infinitely more in real terms than an increase in wages of the same amount would be, because that increase in wages not only attracts taxation but also puts up prices on what is being purchased, whereas a reduction of taxation does neither but would mean a much greater increase in take home pay than would be a much higher amount added to the wage cheque each week? In fact, I would hope to see, as years go by, the question of taxation reduction being discussed in conjunction with possible wage claims for the future so that they would not be in separate compartments as they are now. This might - I put it no higher than that - be one means of approaching the problem about which I now propose to speak, the last one that is left.
At the end of his Budget Speech the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) very properly sounded a note of warning. Having made these enormous advances in social services, having given the great incentives that were given by taxation reductions and having thereby undoubtedly stimulated the consumer demand which is required by our economy at present, he nevertheless said and said properly that we still had to grapple with the problem of cost-push inflation because a budget will not cope with that. It is true that if we do not grapple with that problem and overcome it, a great part of the benefits of the taxation reductions and a great part of the increased pensions given throughout the Budget will lose their value. Therefore this is still a task facing us. It is not a part of a Budget to do this, but it is a very proper thing for a Treasurer to point out when he has introduced his Budget, that that still large remaining task is for the community as a whole to tackle. This must be in these next years a problem which is attacked and beaten. I believe that it can be attacked and beaten only by co-operation by labour, employers, consumers and government. I do not think that any one of them alone can lay down laws and say: These must be followed and they will have the effect that we will require’. 1 think we must seek to achieve that co-operation.
I ask honourable members: Who would the people of Australia think were most likely to tackle the problem of cost-push inflation? Would it be those who support or at least do not condemn crippling strikes which come quickly on the scene such as, perhaps, we have seen in the New South Wales Branch of the Builders Labourers Federation, which not only stop production but destroy that which has already been produced? Would those who attack a government for putting before an arbitration court arguments indicating what it thinks the economy of this country can properly bear, and people who object to proper economic arguments being put before a tribunal, help to keep down costpush inflation or would they help to increase it? Would people who do not condemn strikes which stop production - I am not talking about all strikes but about strikes which stop production and which destroy that which has been produced - be likely to attack cost-push inflation more than this Government would? I really believe that not only is this Budget great but also that the important problem facing us of increasing productivity and keeping prices down for the benefit of all is unlikely to be solved by the Opposition. I believe that, on the evidence of this Budget, it is likely to be solved by a Liberal-Country Party government and I believe that the people should take that fully into their consideration when they decide not only that this is a good Budget but also what is going to happen to this country after this Budget, although when they will get the opportunity to do so seems at the moment a little clouded.
– I wish that the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) and the former Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), who has just spoken, and their colleagues could really understand why the people of Australia have lost faith in this Government. I think they sell the Australian people short if they think that they can buy back their support for a couple of dollars. I have no doubt that the assistance that was granted will be welcome, but that is not really what it is all about. Money is important - very important. Jobs are even more important. But that is not why the people are deserting the Government. They simply do not trust the Government any longer. They have no faith in it. They have no faith in its judgment, they have no faith in its integrity, they have no faith in its honesty and they have no faith in its motives. They have no faith in its capacity to handle any of the massive problems that face Australia today. This Budget only further confirms their view that the Government is unfit to govern. After its incredibly inept performance over the past 3 years the Government thought it could make them forget by giving them a bribe. What a shabby gesture. What does it take Australians for? Does it think that they have no pride? Does it think they are fools? Does it think that the Australian people cannot see what it is at?
The people want to know that the Government cares, not only about them but about everyone - about the poor, the black, the aged, the new arrivals, and about where they live, what they live in and how they live their lives. They want the Government to take them into its confidence, to trust them and to let them know how and why it makes its decisions. They are sick and tired of the cloak of secrecy that separates governments, the Public Service and the public whose lives so vitally are affected by their decisions. They want a government to stop treating them like children about what they read, what they view and what they do in the privacy of their own bedrooms. They are tired of a government that gets its policies from the gallup poll; that reacts to every test of leadership and statesmanship by playing on every prejudice and fear lying dormant in the community; that acts in every national or international crisis only in terms of the political advantage it can squeeze out of it - whether it be China, South Africa, Bangladesh or French nuclear tests, or whether it be poverty, industrial relations, racism or rural depression. They want a government with guts and they want leadership with backbone.
My greatest disappointment is the complete failure of this Budget to show any sense of direction. There are no national goals and there is no rational leadership. If the Government were going to increase expenditure by over SI, 000m, it could well have devoted a large portion of this and more to tackling the deep seated problems that face Australia in the 1970s. Australia can be a great country, not because of the yardsticks of the past, but by a vision of the future. Our greatness will not be achieved by military adventure but by our willingness to help the less fortunate both at home and abroad. It is absurd to suggest that we cannot abolish poverty in Australia if we have the wit and the will to apply ourselves to the task. For years we have been told that the poor will always be with us and that the abolition of poverty was a Utopian dream envisaged by an irresponsible Australian Labor Party. We shall never hear the question ‘Where’s the money coming from’ again. The Australian people now know that when an election is nigh the money can be found, just as it could be found back in 1964 when we started our arms expenditure for the Vietnam war. Money in the pocket alone cannot solve the problem of poverty. People are poor in an affluent society if they lack adequate facilities and social amenities. We must have a Federal government that has a vision of what a great society it could create if only it were not so hog tied to outdated laissez-faire philosophies that oppose any form of planning as an instrument of socialism.
The problems of Australia are the problems of the cities and their immediate surrounds. Burgeoning populations are spilling over the edges. Inadequate, almost nonexistent urban planning by free enterprise governments, whose sympathies lie more with the developers than with those they are supposed to serve, has led to a chaotic urban bungle that is slowly destroying the fabric of family and social life within our society. Cars now choke the roads, spewing forth their poisonous fumes as public transport, through lack of finance, grinds to a halt. Suburbs spill over into one another and become one endless, mindless sprawl stretching for over 30 miles in nearly every direction. The result is that communities lose all identification and the people lose contact with one another. Disaffection, alienation, drugs, alcohol and delinquency are the final end products of such a society. Experience and experimentation elsewhere document the past, the present and the future.
In earlier times the inner city areas were peopled by those who worked in the city and the nearby industrial centres. As industry and commercial redevelopment gobbled up workers’ homes in the inner city areas and young couples commenced their families, they were forced to leapfrog over the middle class belt that surrounds the city to the outer urban areas. Initially, the attraction was cheap land and the chance to own their own home. The poorer they are the further they have had to go to achieve this Australian dream. The Blue Mountains, the Central Coast, Emu Plains and the Hawkesbury area now contain far flung commuter suburbs for Sydney. The result is that hundreds of thousands of workers now live in communities so far away from their work that they are forced to spend from 3 to 4 hours a day in uncomfortable travel. Is it any wonder that there is such pressure for a reduction in the working week? If a person lives in Darling Point it must be difficult for him to believe that thousands travel from Woy Woy, Springwood, Campbelltown or Richmond and back to the city every day.
My own area in the electorate of Robertson, known better as the Central Coast, is the perfect site for a great social adventure. For it is here that one sees a microcosm of most of the problems that face Australia today. A choked and polluted metropolis coupled with massive increases in the price of land have meant that many young people have moved to the outer urban areas of Sydney. They have even gone past Sydney to the Central Coast for the rare opportunities it offers to escape the visual ugliness and urban chaos of that exploding city. They find here a peace and tranquility, a natural scenic gen tleness, a rural and marine environment that have long since disappeared from Sydney. It is as idyllic for children as it is for parents. This recent migratory phenomenon of young commuting families to the Central Coast, that commenced with the electrification of the railway to Gosford some 7 or 8 years ago, is only part of the reason for the massive growth rate of the Central Coast. Since World War II and before, older generations have known of its uniqueness as a haven for their retirement. They discovered it long ago and they came in their thousands. Today one in every 3 adults in the Central Coast is over 60 years of age. There is no area in Australia with such a demographic mix.
It may be asked why, if it is such a paradise, I sound such warnings. Unless initiatives are taken soon by governments at all levels the opportunities to build and plan effectively will be lost forever. We shall recreate what we chose to escape. In 1968 the New South Wales State Planning Authority forecast a population of 500,000 by the year 2000. In 3 years since 1968 the population has risen from 74,370 to 89,057 in 1971- an increase of almost 20 per cent. Undoubtedly the SPA’s forecast is proving accurate, but with what results? The past history of the Central Coast is a monument to indiscriminate ad hoc development. In earlier years councils, anxious to increase their rate revenue, allowed developers to rape the landscape. Subdivisions were permitted along the majority of the foreshores of the beaches and the lakes, permitting a privileged few to capture the most desired sites that should have been permanent public property. Dozens of different sized developments were permitted without any coherent plan and without any consideration of the facilities or amenities available. Hugh areas of land were carved up without proper roads, water, sewerage, telephones or recreational, educational, cultural or social amenities.
The Central Coast occupies a physical area roughly the same size as the Sydney region. Dozens of small communities, many of them village or hamlet-sized, were allowed to spring up at the whim of the developers without any consideration of the enormous cost of providing the infrastructure. A number of these communities exploded into sizable towns; others remained village sized. Virtually uncontrolled planning permitted many of these towns to merge into one another, recreating many of the worst features of the Sydney urban sprawl that the newcomers had hoped to escape - narrow, single-laned transport arteries; unsealed, unkerbed residential streets; unplanned, choked shopping centres; large, unsewered areas dependent on septic or effluent removal systems; and much of the area without water and telephones. To this can be added the visual ugliness of a multitude of advertising hoardings, massive destruction of trees, ribbon development shopping centres and the indiscriminate siting of a number of industrial complexes. There emerges a clear picture of a scene that must stand as an all-time memorial to ad hocism. ineffective town planning and laissez-faire free enterprise. The visual ugliness is obvious; the social shortcomings are less so.
When one in every 3 adults and one in every 4 citizens are over 60 years of age, when a large number of the remaining people are young families, when an area has over one million resident tourists per year, when it has the highest motor vehicle accident rate in New South Wales - caused by the Pacific Highway running through the area - and when it has a high incidence of marine accidents, then there is a great demand on its health facilities. When hospital accommodation of 218 beds is operating at 110 per cent capacity, then there exist the perfect ingredients for suffering and tragedy. Patients are being rejected from the hospitals when they should be admitted. They are being asked to leave prematurely to make way for others, and in some instances people cannot get in at all. Officers and officials of the hospitals are at their wit’s end to know where to place patients and are now using holding wards, corridors and the casualty ward for patients who cannot be placed in the normal wards to which they are entitled. Local doctors are now reluctant to phone up unless a patient is critically ill, for they are aware of the dire circumstances that exist in relation to bed capacity.
The permanent population of the Central Coast is near 100,000, rising to 250,000 during the peak of the tourist season. Gosford and Woy Woy hospitals combined provide 218 beds. Whilst the State average is 5 per thousand - and it may be argued that this average is created by a number of hospitals not being fully utilised - it is conservatively estimated that a district must have a minimum of 3.5 beds per thousand. Gosford has the lowest rate in the State, namely, 2.18 per thousand - less than twothirds the minimum required. If the situation were normal, the bed ratio would be extremely bad; but in the Central Coast the situation is abnormal for the reasons I have outlined already. Seventeen per cent of the patients are geriatric, against a State average of 10 per cent. Normally 10 per cent take up about 40 per cent of the beds; here they constitute between 65 per cent and 70 per cent of the patients.
There is no alternative hospital to Gosford District Hospital between Hornsby and Belmont, as there is in other metropolitan areas where a patient can be fitted in somewhere else if he cannot be accommodated locally. To further emphasise the critical position, let me point out that the average stay of patients in Gosford Hospital is 6.2 days. Almost every other hospital in the State has an average of between 8 and 12 days.
However, even if a person is in the peak of physical condition and amongst the 20,000-odd people who have retired to the Central Coast, he is not necessarily guaranteed a full and varied retirement. On the contrary, the very nature of retirement to a new area entails leaving family ties and life-long friendships. Tragically, retirement is often followed shortly afterwards by the loss of one of the partners. Even if it is not, loneliness, boredom and a feeling of not being a useful member of the community are common ailments that cannot be measured in dollars and cents. An area suffering the development problems of the Central Coast is primarily concerned with the basic amenities I mentioned earlier. Councils in the past have been reluctant to provide the funds necessary for social amenities for the aged. Although the number of retired people is twice the national average, there is not one senior citizens centre. Older, more established communities can provide these centres in abundance. In the electorate of Barton - I see that my good friend the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds) is in the House at the moment - there are 7 senior citizens centres.
The State Grants (Home Care) Act, which was passed in 1969, has used less than one-third of the moneys appropriated for these purposes. Because of the complexity of the Act and the numerous governmental bodies required to act to achieve a finished product, as of now there is not one single senior citizens centre in the Central Coast. After a continuous campaign lasting 3 years the Wyong and Gosford shire councils have allocated $75,000 from their 1973 estimates for the provision of these centres. Of this amount, $60,000 comes from the Wyong Shire Council. They have been forced to allocate resources from their budgets for social welfare when this should have been the responsibility of the Commonwealth. This same Act allows the Commonwealth to subsidise half the cost of a social worker. Could there be any area in Australia with a greater need for social workers than the Central Coast? Yet the Commonwealth provides not one cent in the Central Coast for this purpose. There is no assistance to cultural pursuits, sporting and recreational activities, or the special health needs for the rehabilitation and care of the aged.
The problems of the retired are matched by those of the tired - the employees. Due to the huge influx there have always been difficulties associated with finding work. Over 7,000 workers now travel by train to Sydney. Many thousands more go by private car. Most are anxious to find employment nearer to home rather than spend 4 hours per day commuting. They readily accept minimum wages rather than suffer the tedium and invasion of their leisure that travelling 60 to 70 miles by slow, cramped and expensive trains entails. Fares were recently jacked up 60 to 70 per cent by the Askin Liberal Government. A number of unscrupulous employers take advantage of this desire of workers for employment near their homes. Wages are often the bare minimum award wages and there is a ready queue of replacements should a worker get ‘too uppity’. Any idea that the traditional employer’s behaviour has softened over the ages is soon dispelled by some of the actions of Central Coast employers. There are some scandalous examples of workers being told to work overtime without pay or else.
In the Central Coast the phrase ‘pool of unemployed’ has a very real and sinister meaning. The situation has never been good, but since the 1971 Budget it has deteriorated rapidly. In 1970 the average number of people unemployed was 615. For the first 6 months of 1972 the figure was 859, an increase of 40 per cent. These figures do not include the many thousands of women who would like work if they could get it or the retired who would like a parttime job to supplement their meagre pensions if it were available. The central coast has the worst unemployment in the New South Wales country area, with the exeption of Dubbo, and unless something dramatic turns up it will worsen. A further 200 employees were laid off from the Gosford abattoirs the other day. What contribution has the Commonwealth made to decentralisation? Absolutely none. What contribution has the Commonwealth made to improving the transport system? Absolutely none. The problems of the area and of Australia generally are caused by the Government’s apathy and indifference. They are just a few of the reasons why the Government has lost the support of the people of Australia.
In the last few minutes available to me 1 want to deal with another matter. I want to put forward an idea for public discussion that would be, I believe, a major contribution to world peace, to humanity, to Australia’s relations with the rest of the world and to the morale and efficiency of our defence forces. I believe that we should consider the creation of a special unit within our armed forces for the sole purpose of dealing with civil disasters both at home and abroad. Regularly, the world witnesses major natural disasters that are terrifying in their intensity, rapacious in their destruction and heart-rending in terms of human misery and suffering. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and cyclones occur with regularity in countries near and far. The floods in what is now Bangladesh are estimated to have claimed half a million lives. In recent weeks the Philippine floods left approximately 400 dead and 2 million homeless and starving. A considerable amount of time and energy is now being expended by agencies of the United Nations in exploring ways of coordinating a plan to prevent disaster occurring, to provide emergency relief and to assist in reconstruction afterwards.
My proposal is that a special force be created by the Australian armed forces consisting of at least one battalion of our Army and sections of the Royal Australian Navy, Royal Australian Air Force and medical camps to be trained specifically for this type of international civil disaster. It should be available to fly to any trouble spot in the world at 48 hours notice. It should be a highly mobile unit consisting of Hercules transport, helicopters, small watercraft, road and bridge building engineers, fire fighting units, medical teams, communications experts and general rescue expertise for all types of natural disasters. It would have stockpiles of drugs, food, clothing and protective cover ready to accompany such an exercise. Such a unit could play a major contribution uplifting to Australia’s reputation among the new developing nations.. It would be an angel of mercy exercise welcomed by all those who feel for the suffering when such great civil disasters occur. It would be-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I agree with the comment of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) that this is one of the best Budgets that this House has seen for many years. It is an excellent Budget indeed. It is a Budget for the average man; it is a welfare Budget. I pay a tribute to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) who is sitting at the table for the tremendous effort he put into making this an average man’s Budget and seeking out the areas of greatest need and doing his utmost to assist those areas. He has done it so successfully that even the public media which has endeavoured to attack the Government and the Minister has been unable to do so effectively. In other words, as the Sydney Morning Herald’ said, the Budget pulled the rug completely from under the feet of the Opposition. The pathetic speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) - surely one of the poorest speeches he has made in any Budget debate - is evidence of how completely this was done, that is not just my opinion but also the reluctant opinion of some of the public media. Perhaps the speech of the Leader of the Opposition was exceeded only by that of the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) who has just spoken but, after all, he is very inexperienced in this House and has a great deal to learn.
As a representative of a rural area I was a little surprised at the attempts made by the public media to suggest that this was not a country man’s Budget, I do not think I have ever heard anything more ridiculous. I wonder what the public media expect. I was even more surprised to see one or 2 rural newspapers and one or 2 very ill-informed leaders of rural industry take the same line. This Budget marks one of the greatest advances ever made by rural industries. It is to be found in the promise of the provision of long term finance for rural industries. This is something for which I and my colleagues have fought over the years and it is extremely significant. It is a vital need of rural industry in almost all its fields and I am delighted to see that the Government has recognised this. We are not asking for any gift; we are not asking for a handout. We are asking for the type of finance that suits our industry and which is vital for our industry. The attempt to suggest that the $20m which has been set aside will be the total amount is ridiculous. The Treasurer (Mr Snedden) in his Budget speech said:
The Budget provides a sum of $20m to be appropriated for purposes of facilitating the increased availability to farmers of long-term loans. The measures to be adopted have still to be finalised; the intention is to bring down legislation in this session of Parliament.
We are looking forward to the legislation which will give the industry that muchneeded finance. Primary industries in this country are subject to fluctuating seasons and prices and it is vital that we have this sort of finance. We are prepared to pay the normal commercial rates of interest provided the term of the loan is long enough. Short term finance is totally inadequate for the development of a property, to pay off debts or to buy equipment when there is the problem of fluctuating seasons and prices. I wish to quote Dr Harris again - I have quoted him over and over again. He said that a loan of $10,000 at 5 per cent over 5 years would mean the repayment of one-fifth of the capital each year and it would be necessary to earn 23 per cent on the capital to service the loan. That is quite impossible. That loan at the same rate of interest but over 10 years would require a return on capital of 13 per cent in order to service the loan. The same loan over 20 years would require an earning capacity of about 8 per cent on capital and if the loan were for 30 years the earning rate on capital would need to be 6i per cent and this would enable payments of interest and repayment of principal. That is the sort of long term loan we are looking for and which we feel primary industry can justifiably receive.
Unfortunately this sort of finance has not been available. I suppose we cannot blame the trading banks which have been restricted to charging Ti per cent interest on rural overdrafts when they can earn 20 per cent and better through advances on hire purchase. How many farmers have had the experience, no matter what the state of their overdraft, of going to their bank because they want to buy a tractor or some other necessary replacement plant and being informed: 1 am sorry, we have no finance’? They are sent around to the bank’s hire purchase counter or to an associate company where they pay 12 per cent or 14 per cent flat, which is equivalent to 20 per cent. This alone would justify the Government in putting this provision in the Budget. Do not let us forget that rural exports still earn approximately SO per cent of our gross export income and about 70 per cent of the net export income of this country.
The other provision in the Budget that has been of tremendous value to the primary producer has been the reduction of estate duty. It is the policy of the Australian Country Party to move towards the eventual abolition of estate duty. We believe that it is one of the great deterrents to progress and we can prove that governments actually lose money over a period through the loss of taxation revenue by the application of estate duty. Estate duty inhibits development and, of course, the
Government loses in production and, therefore, taxation. It compels us to take out heavy life assurance which is tax deductible and this in itself reduces the funds available for development. Estate duty has broken up many a family property which has been run efficiently for generations to the great advantage of the nation, the district and the people in it. It has been one of the principal causes of debt reconstruction and any rural member will know that of the problems that come across our table debt reconstruction caused by the application of probate is one of the most important. One of the first things a bank manager says to a man who has to pay probate and is short of money is: ‘I am afraid there will be no superphosphate this year’. Consequently down goes production again and down goes income tax revenue. The farmer cannot diversify because he cannot get the finance to do it and he cannot replace the plant which it is necessary to replace. I have seen properties on which noxious weeds and animals have got out of hand because there was no finance to employ labour to keep them in check. Estate duty forces the sale of properties. But to whom? The better improved the property is the more likely it is that some professional or business man will buy it to save tax.
Death duties were introduced by the socialists to break up large estates and distribute wealth but it had the opposite effect because the wealthy and the owners of the large estates were able to take steps to avoid this. It has hit hardest of all the small business man, the small farmer and the provident wage and salary earner who has attempted to save something for his old age. It has caused the bankruptcy of some of the best citizens of this country and forced many of them to resort to debt reconstruction. It is an unjustifiable tax; it cannot be justified on any ground. The Federal Government has made a substantial move in the right direction. But Federal estate duty is only a fraction of State probate duty and we must now do all we can to persuade the States to reduce probate duty in the interests of the nation as well as the people who are the backbone of this country. Another thing that has benefited the primary producer tremendously, particularly the primary producer who wants to hand over to his family property that he has gained and built up Over the years by sheer hard work - incidentally, he paid taxes on any income earned - and who then has found that he is unable to provide for his family, has been the relaxation of gift duty.
The Budget contains many benefits for the primary producer and I cannot understand the altitude taken by some people towards it. The Budget contains support for the woo] industry. I do not need to elaborate on the success story of the wool industry. Honourable members will recall the state of the wool industry not very long ago when we had a great fight to get sufficient funds to keep it financial and afloat. That fight has been more than justified. Today the wool industry is back on its feet. One of the attacks made on the Government for not providing more money for the primary producer related to a drop in subsidy. Why was there a drop in subsidy? It was because the wool industry did not seed a subsidy, the action of this Government having put the wool industry back on its feet. We set out to make our primary industries independent and able to stand on their own feet, and we have done this extremely successfully in regard to the wool industry. The Government is also supporting the wheat stabilisation plan. We know that this is a success story, despite the attempts of certain members of the Opposition to make wheat a political weapon. For political gain and for no other purpose they handed to the Chinese a stick with which to beat the Government.
– And the wheat grower.
– And the wheat grower. We have sold more wheat without China’s custom than we have ever sold. China did not want our wheat. When I hear people like the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) talking about wheat being really political as far as the Chinese are concerned I want to know how he can explain the fact that the Chinese are buying increasing quantities of sugar. God help us, we must keep him out of China and out of Russia or he may mess that one up too.
– And get him out of sugar too.
– And get him out of sugar too. Sugar, steel, manufactured goods and equipment are all being sold to China in increasing quantities. Are they not political? What a ridiculous argument, but the honourable member for Dawson is still using it, and that is what astounds me. The future for coarse grains and oilseeds has never been brighter. The phosphate bounty will continue at $46m. This is a very vital part of rural production. In this country nothing is more important in most of our rural areas than the adequate use of superphosphate. The application of adequate quantities of superphosphate has made this country the great producer it is. The Budget refers to the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty. The dairy industry will receive $33m and a support price of 34c per lb. Whichever way one turns, one finds that the Budget provides more assistance in more areas for the rural industries, which are now on their way back to prosperity. There is prosperity in almost every industry except tin and dried fruit where there is a peculiar problem.
Large sums are provided for rural reconstruction - an increase of $16m - and for debt reconstruction. As I said before, there have been many reasons for the necessity for debt reconstruction. One of those reasons was probate and estate duty. Let me refer to one of the things that debt reconstruction has done. I have seen this and I am sure that all honourable members who live in and represent rural areas have seen this. I have seen a man who has been demoralised because he owed money to people in bis town or village, to the suppliers of all the commodities he required. The reason for this may have been probate; it may have been buying at the top of the market, with the approval of the financial institutions. They come out from under now, but they approved at the time. It may have been a run of bad seasons; it may have been a drastic drop in the price of his product. This man has been taken up by the Rural Reconstruction Board in New South Wales and given what we are asking for - in effect, a long term loan. He is given 20 years to repay that loan. His small debts are paid. He has been able to walk up the street and look the tradesmen in the face. He has gone back with new enthusiasm and new energy to work his farm, and he is working better than he has worked it for years. Surely that is tremendously worth while.
Perhaps the most useful part of the rural reconstruction programme has been in the farm buildup area. We believe that it is a permanent cure. Through over-subdivision - the socialist governments have a lot to answer for here - we have been in trouble over and over again, particularly after the First and Second World Wars when unpractical theorists in our departments based the size of too many rural properties on what they considered was a living area when the seasons were good and the prices were high. That is just not normal in this country. Dry periods and fluctuating prices are the normal thing in this country. Almost all of our settlement schemes have been in trouble because the margin has been much too narrow. What we are endeavouring to achieve in farm buildup is to help the man who is in an impossible position or is too old and would sooner get out, to sell his farm to the younger man who can make what was an unviable area a viable area. I am always amazed when I hear members of the Opposition opposing this sort of thing. Do they want to see a peasant population in this community? We cannot condone a peasant population in the rural industry when we have such high wages and such a high standard of living throughout most of our country.
We want to see closer settlement, redesigned and redeveloped on a realistic scale so that those who are involved in it can do an effective job. We want to see a living area that makes it possible for a man to live decently and to repay what he owes. Some of the best citizens this country has had, some of whom went overseas and fought in 2 world wars, have had their hearts and their pockets broken by the sheer stupidity of theorists, bureaucrats and unpractical people who tell the other fellow how to do it when many of them are in the departments because they failed on their own properties. I do not condemn all of them but I condemn a great many of them. The people who built up this country in its hour of need, who fought for it and who have improved their properties were all the time up against an impossible problem because of the small areas in which they were involved. Under farm buildup in the Budget we now have 30-year terms. As I said earlier, long term finance for rural industries is a vital need in this country. Again I emphasise that we are not asking for a subsidy. We are not asking for a handout. We are not asking for cheap money. We are asking for the sort of money that this industry needs, and needs urgently.
If this Budget has done nothing else for the primary producer, the promise by the Government that legislation will be enacted before the close of this session to provide long term finance at reasonable rates of interest for the primary producer, will have done something extremely worth while not only for the primary producer, not only for all the people who live in the country towns and who depend on it, but also for the nation. The primary producer is still the most important single economic unit in this country. I strongly’ support thi Budget. There is much more I would like to say. I hope to have a’ chance to speak on social services in the Estimates debate because I have been closely involved with the Minister for Social Services and I know what effort he put into it. I am delighted with what we have been able to achieve. I believe that this is one of the best Budgets that this country has seen for many days.
– This Budget is an act of desperate men. ‘It is better that we spend the money than Labor under Whitlam’ sums up the mentality of the desperate group of men who framed this Budget. One has to recognise that because this Government is desperate there are within the Budget some steps towards progress. I will not deny that. To say that the 10 per cent reduction in income tax on lower and middle incomes is not a step in the right direction is wrong. My criticism is that the reduction was not equitable and that people on lower incomes should have received far in excess of the average reduction of 10 per cent and those in the middle income bracket should have received a percentage reduction far in excess of that given to those on higher incomes. In money terms those on high incomes will receive the greatest benefit, and they do not need the assistance.
There has been an increase of $2 in certain pensions. I will support any increases given to pensioners by any government at any time, but it cannot truthfully be said that the increase granted in the Budget was a great handout. I know that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) will follow me in this debate. If he wants to examine the figures he will see that in 1950- 51 the single pension was $5 and average weekly earnings were $23.20. So the single pension was 21.6 per cent of average weekly earnings Today, when average weekly earnings are about $101, the single pension is $20 or 19.7 per cent of average weekly earnings. So, the pension as a percentage of average weekly earnings is less than what it was 23 years ago. The pension for a married couple, as a percentage of average weekly earnings, in 1950-51 was 21.6 per cent. It is only 17 per cent now. I am grateful that this Government could at least see fit to make the handout it has made on this occasion to the pensioners, who need it badly.
The proposed abolition of the means test is, to some extent, a bribe offered by the Government. It is now promising to do in 3 years something it could not do in 23 years. All honourable members know that action in regard to the means test has been long overdue, but many people who are on superannuation pensions and have been paying into retirement benefit funds are deprived of the benefit of receiving the age pension. I repeat that the means test h now to be abolished in 3 years when it could not be abolished in 23 years. This will eat the inside out of our Federal priorities. All members of Parliament must recognise this point. I recognise it. I know what the policy of my party is, and of course we will have to judge our priorities accordingly.
I ask all honourable members in the House - 1 do not care on what side of the House they sit - or any member of the general public who examines this Budget: Where does it contain any mention of the environment, the problem of controlling urban land prices, the problem of housing in both the public and private sectors, the real problems of urban transport, the problems of trying to control the over-building of the central business districts of our capital cities by major insurance companies and foreign investors and the problem of providing sewerage in our cities, particularly in the cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Perth? In what way is the Government dealing with these matters? What is it doing about the much discussed matter of regional development? What has been said in this Budget about these matters? It is a negative Budget in those aspects. Wc have to give attention to the cities. Eightyfive to 90 per cent of the people of Australia live in the cities. This Budget does not deal with their great social problems.
I wholeheartedly support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). In speaking to this Budget I shall deal with the environmental aspect and the priorities of this Government. The Budget is the product of men who are totally lacking in vision. The Government has decided to place an excise tax on liquefied petroleum gas used for the propulsion of motor vehicles. The excise of 3c per litre is equivalent to 13.6c per gallon. This decision is a cruel blow to the people of the cities of Australia. Motor cars account for at least 60 per cent of all pollution of air in Australian cities. From an environmental point of view, LPG is a blessing to city air, while petroleum is a curse. LPG can lower hydrocarbons by 70 per cent, carbon monoxide by 80 per cent and oxide of nitrogen by 60 per cent, compared with petroleum. The Government has the audacity to suggest that the advantages of LPG, to quote the Treasurer (Mr Snedden), ‘will be diminished as emission control standards are implemented’. This assumes that 1973 standards will achieve a great reduction in air pollution. They will reduce somewhat the levels of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. However, even when they are most effective, they will only result in ambient air standards for carbon monoxide and hydro-carbons in Australian cities equivalent to about the 1966 levels. The United States standards which are to be introduced in 1976 seek a return to the ambient air quality of the early 1940s.
In addition, the auto emission standards ignore oxide of nitrogen - a key ingredient of photochemical smog which is directly affecting Sydney and Melbourne now. We all know of the smog over Sydney and Melbourne. This is caused to a great extent by the motor car. LPG more than halves the oxide of nitrogen emitted per mile by the motor car. Finally, with LPG no additives are necessary. The most important of those additives is tetraethyl lead. There is now irrefutable evidence accumulating that lead in petrol is a major health hazard. In the United States of America President Nixon is taxing it out of petroleum. Why have we not introduced a tax on petroleum with a high lead content? My information is that we are considering setting up at Botany Bay a plant to manufacture tetraethyl lead.
In Australia we are petroleum poor. This is a field in which the Government lacks a broad plan. We are LPG rich. Recently some very large supplies of gas have been located on the northwest continental shelf of this country. A planned approach to our problem would involve the setting up of gas liquefication plants in the northwest, the transport of LPG to the cities and the conversion of virtually all cars in the cities to LPG. However, this Government just does not have the imagination to conceive such an idea. This budgetary measure indicates how seriously the Government considers the problems of the cities and the environment of Australia. It also indicates that the Government fails to see that everything is interconnected with every other thing. It treats LPG as a separate entity. It ignores the environmental impact of petroleum on city air. It ignores the fact that if LPG powered most of Australia’s cars our oil imports would diminish to almost nothing. One wonders whether the decision to impose an excise on LPG used in motor cars, so symbolic of so much lack of imagination, was not made to keep the oil companies happy.
The Commonwealth Government does not have the capacity to lead. Recently in Canberra on Northbourne Avenue concentrations of carbon monoxide of 55 parts per million were recorded. Canberra is a city with absolutely no dirty industry. The culprit, of course, is the motor car. In Los Angeles, where there is slow-moving, heavy traffic on the freeways, the reading is about the same as in the planned city of Canberra. We need leadership from the Government. It should encourage people in Canberra to use LPG in their cars, not discourage them. For a start, the Commonwealth could set an example by converting government buses and government cars to LPG.
One wonders about this Government. On 24th May last, speaking on behalf of the Government, the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson) said that all Federal action would require an ‘environment impact statement’ about future legislation. What a sham. If one had been prepared for the decision to remove the tax exemption on LPG this tax surcharge would not be on it today. This tax on LPG indicates that decisions are made in the Treasury and to hell with the environmental consequences. Under Labor this will change. Decisions will be made environmentally-wise’ irrespective of who makes them. We will set up the necessary machinery to ensure this. What is more, we will do it without building a huge monolithic environment department and it will not act as a ‘big brother’ to other departments, the States, the municipalities or private industries. We will work in cooperation with all Australians for a better environment as a whole. When I talk about the environment I include those people who live in cities and whom, I believe should not be strangled by car exhaust or industry emissions. Consequently we need control in this area.
I now examine some of the problems in regard to spiralling urban land prices. This Government has wiped its hands completely in regard to land. Yet, the Government has said that one of the reasons why it has increased the homes savings grant from $17,500 to $22,250 is rising land costs. What will Labor do in this area? A Labor government will do something positive about urban land costs. It will enter into direct negotiations with the States to acquire large tracts of land. It will do this in 2 ways - by a short term and a long term policy. In co-operation with the State authorities it will acquire land so as to try to alleviate the problem quickly. A Labor government will purchase that land and will be able either to sell or lease it. If the land is sold Labor will make sure that the subdivisions are divided in a way similar to that done in Canberra although electric light wires will be installed underground. Further, a Labor government will make sure that subdivisions are tree planted and landscaped in such a way that aesthetic quality will be derived. Also, it will make sure that if people wish to buy that land they will not be exploited by the fringe banking institutions and have to pay interest rates of 13 per cent. When they acquire the land through the Commonwealth and State authority the interest rate will be about 4 per cent.
On the other hand, if people want to lease land, all they have to pay is the first year’s land rental. The Labor Party’s long term policy is that it will acquire large tracts of land on the fringes of Sydney, Melbourne and all the other capital and provincial cities and build planned communities such as we have in Canberra and in Europe, the United States, the United Kingdom and other places where every progressive government is taking some action. These cities will be places of human dignity just as we have in Canberra. If we can build corridors of development such as those in the Woden and Belconnen Valleys in Canberra then this same development can be carried out on the fringes of Sydney and other capital cities. These are the positive things that Labor will do.
In regard to the public sector of housing, the Labor Party will ensure that it will meet the commitment of public housing and return to the Chifley CommonwealthState Housing Agreement. Labor will make money available to the States to enable them progressively to catch up with the backlog. Already in New South Wales alone 40,000 people are on the lists of the New South Wales Housing Commission for Commission homes. Throughout Australia there are between 90,000 and 100,000 families waiting for public housing. This is the situation we have under the present Government. No real priority is given in this Budget to the private sector of housing. We will ensure that the record amount of money that is now in the savings banks will be loaned to people at reasonable interest rates. A Labor government will ensure that an adequate first mortgage loan will be made for people to cover their commitments. For instance, the average cost of a dwelling plus land in Sydney today is about $20,000. The average price of land is $9,000 and the average price of a dwelling is $11,600. Yet, the maximum first mortgage loan given by the Commonwealth Savings Bank is $9,000. This is despite the fact that there is a record amount of money in the savings banks. A Labor government will, by government action, increase the first mortgage loan from $9,000 to at least $12,000. It will make sure that at least the interest rate will be reduced from 6i per cent to 5i per cent.
– Even that is too much.
– I agree with the honourable member for Wills. However, a Labor government would reduce the interest rate to 5) per cent, which was the level prior to April 1970. However, it will progressively reduce the interest rates not only of the Commonwealth Savings Bank but of other lending institutions.
I want to make a few comments on urban transport. This Government has permitted the over-building of the central business districts of our capital cities. There has been a concentration on over-construction of office buildings in the central business district. Consequently, in Melbourne and Sydney-
– What has the Commonwealth Government got to do with it?
– The honourable member asked what the Commonwealth has to do with it. Most of the money that has been required to construct these buildings has been provided by insurance companies and foreign investment. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table which sets out the selected assets and liabilities in Australia of life assurance statutory funds.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Bury)Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– To give the House some idea of the amount provided by insurance companies for the construction of office complexes in the centre of cities, the table indicates that at 31st December 1961 $144m was invested in office buildings and as at 31st March 1972, $994m was invested. This represents an increase of 588 per cent. During this time the assets of the insurance companies increased by $2,200m to $6,300m which was an increase of 190 per cent. As I have said, there is an overinvestment and a glut of buildings in the centre of capital cities. The figures on foreign investment are even worse, but these details have been denied me by the Treasurer and Prime Minister.
The point I make is that people have been forced to use public transport systems to go to work. These transport systems are geared to a peak load. Workers who live on the fringes of the cities are forced to use this transport. In fact, 35 per cent of people who live at Campbelltown in Sydney, which is some 35 miles from the central business district, work in or near the central business district of Sydney. This is bad planning. The Commonwealth Government wants to build a centre at Wooloomooloo which will house 15,000 employees. This will aggravate an already bad situation in Sydney. A Labor government will stop this development. It will build this complex either at Parramatta, Liverpool, Penrith or Campbelltown so that a balanced load on the transport system can be achieved. A Labor government would make money available to the urban railway systems not only of Sydney but of Melbourne. Last week I was in Melbourne and I saw the poor rapid rail transport system which runs to Dandenong; 75 per cent of the rolling stock was acquired before 1928. No money has been provided in this direction. Of course, the facts are that there has been no planning and no financial help has been given. The Government has the control over insurance companies and foreign investment to stop the over-building of the centre of cities. This trend is destroying our cities and consequently forcing people to pay increased fares to get to work. For instance, the fares in New South Wales increased by 52 per cent to 79 per cent last year alone.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I ask honourable members to support the amendment.
– I think there is general agreement that this is the most notable Budget that has been brought into this House for many years. It makes provision for the needs of the States and the needs of defence. It makes provision for taxation reductions. It provides a stimulus to the economy and it includes the biggest welfare packet that has ever been brought into a single Commonwealth Parliament.
It is impossible in the time available to me in this debate to cover all these aspects, and I intend, if I may, to devote my time solely to the welfare aspects; but even then I will be unable to cover the full range that is contained in this Budget. I will have no time to say anything about the education or the repatriation proposals, the child care proposals or the housing proposals. They are all contained in the Budget and I have no doubt that other honourable members will be speaking on them.
This afternoon I should like to concentrate rather on social services and on the associated measures in the health field which deal with the same kinds of problems and take advantage of the same kinds of opportunities. Later during this session I will be explaining in more detail the social service proposals when I bring in the Bills to give effect to them but at the present moment let me endeavour to give to the House some kind of conspectus.
In the Government’s social service and associated proposals there are, I think, 3 main aspects.
First there is the raising of the basic pension rates. Second, there is the special provision for the ailing aged. Third, there are the measures taken for the liquidation of the means test. I would like to deal, if I may, with each of these 3 aspects.
Firstly, let me deal with the increase in basic rate pensions. The standard rate of pension has gone up by $1.75 to its present figure of $20 a week. The rate for a married couple has been increased by $2.50 and it is now $34.50 a week. But in addition to this a new provision has been brought in under which wives of pensioners, whether they are age or invalid pensioners, will be entitled to a pension at the married rate. So that if there is a man who is entitled to the age pension and who has a young wife who is not entitled to the pension she will now come in with full entitlement, and the same provision will apply in the invalid pension sphere. I think the House will agree with me that this is a humanitarian measure the effect of which will go far.
Now I come to the increase in the supplementary assistance which is paid, as honourable members know, to those pensioners who incur rent and who have virtually nothing beyond their pension. That rate has gone up from $2 a week to $4 a week. But in addition there is another increase in this field. Until now this supplementary assistance has been payable only to single pensioners. The new proposal is that the rate of $4 a week supplementary assistance will be available to married couples also.
If I could just put this into some kind of perspective, in the 12 months just gone the latest figures show that in the cost of living - the consumer price index - has risen by 6.14 per cent; but in the 12 months between the 1971 and the 1972 budgets the standard rate pension has gone up not by 6.14 per cent but by 15.94 per cent, the married rate has risen by 13.11 per cent and the supplementary assistance rate by 100 per cent. This follows the practice which has always obtained in the time of our government, that the pension should rise quicker than prices, so that the real value of the pension - its purchasing power - continually increases. This is something which I think is fair and reasonable and it is a principle which we have fully endorsed.
I draw the attention of the House to the fact that we have given extra help to those at the bottom of the income scale, so thai those pensioners who need most help will get most assistance. Among those who have nothing else beyond their pension and who are paying rent, and who are therefore in the most need of help, no single person will get below $24 a week and no married couple below $38.50 a week.
In this Budget the total increase for a single man is $3.75 and for a married couple it is $6.50. I do not want in any way to slur over the importance of these increased rates or on the contrary to give the House the impression that pension rates are everything. They are important, but they are not everything in the social service field.
I come now to the special provisions we are making for the ailing aged. Sick old people should be able to follow their own preferences; they should be forced as little as their health permits away from their normal living into dependent living. This is a principle which we should follow and will follow and hence we are giving the ailing aged help in their own homes, in hostels and in the nursing homes, covering the whole spectrum, partly through social services and partly through the measures which my colleague the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) is administering. Let me come to these 3 aspects.
Firstly, I refer to what we are doing for the ailing aged in their own homes. We are increasing by some 34 per cent the subsidy which we give to the domestic nursing services - the services which are manned very largely under the control of voluntary organisations and which do so much.
Next, we are instituting with the States consultations to increase domiciliary services all round to improve such things as senior citizen’s centres, emergency home help, paramedical services and all these sorts of things.
Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, we are bringing in the subsidy of $14 a week extra without applying a means test, for people who maintain, in their own homes, an aged parent or ailing relative who is in need of nursing care. This provision, which will be administered by my colleague the Minister for Health, will be brought into operation as soon as possible, although it will take some time to set up the administrative machinery. The proposal breaks new ground and is really one of the major matters in this Budget.
I refer next to assistance for the ailing aged in hostels - that is in aged persons homes run on a non-profit basis, where the residents have their own private rooms but come together for meals and have special services done for them. We have raised the personal care subsidy for those over 80 years of age - nearly half of such residents - by 100 per cent, and it is now $10 a week. This, together with the increase in pensions, will enable these hostels to pay all their expenses and still leave to the residents out of their pensions enough for amusement and a decent life.
The importance of another aspect of this part of our programme has perhaps not yet received the attention due to it. We are instituting a special 3-year crash programme for an increase in the number of hostel-type beds in non-profit organisations. 1 emphasise that this is not in substitution of our present aged persons homes scheme. It is an addition to that scheme. I believe that by this new programme we will make good the deficiency of hostel beds, which are the beds we most need.
Many of these non-profit organisations were in existence before the introduction of the Aged Persons Homes Act. They have received no subsidy. They need not give us any more evidence of their bona fides. The fact that they have been conducting these organisations for so long is absolutely conclusive evidence. We are saying to them that for every unsubsidised bed that they now have we will give them up to $7,800 a bed for 2 more hospital beds, without their contributing anything else; that is a total of $15,600. In this way they will be able to expand their hostel accommodation. We are asking them for only 2 things. First, in regard to the special beds in the crash programme we ask that they should not accept any private donation. Second, we ask that they should allocate the beds in accordance with a schedule of need.
This is a tremendous advance. We are getting the kinds of beds we most need. We are allocating them to the people who most need them and we are putting their administration into the hands of those institutions which over the years have given, by their actions, conclusive evidence of their fitness to control them. I believe that it is one of the really significant provisions of this Budget and its significance has not yet been appreciated. When I introduce the Bill I will explain the proposal in greater detail. Now I simply draw the plan to the attention of the House. 1 have referred to the provision for ailing aged people in their homes and hostels. I turn now to nursing homes. This plan is to be administered by my colleague the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson). Hospital insurance benefits will be payable for those not on pensions and for the three-quarters of the patients in nursing homes who are pensioners and who draw upon the pensioner medical service the Government will pay the full extra benefit without insurance. The extra that they are to be paid will come to $10.50 a week in the case of New South Wales and greater amounts for other States. There will be supervision of fees in profit making nursing homes so that the benefit will go to the patient.
In summary, those people who have nothing but their pensions and are entitled to light nursing benefits will receive in all at least $59 a week. If they are entitled to intensive nursing benefits they will receive in all at least $80 a week. That is the least they will get. In Victoria, for example, they will receive almost an additional $12 a week. When the scheme becomes operative it will remove from the aged the hardships of sickness and from many of them it will remove the terrors of terminal illness.
This again is a tremendous improvement. It is part of the plan that the Government has been pushing forward for so long. It does, through the nursing home benefits which we have given, make so much difference to those people who would otherwise be in quite considerable hardship in their declining years of ill health. I have spoken of the ailing aged.
I want to say something now about the means test. The Government has committed itself to its liquidation within 3 years for people who are over the age of 65 years. It is a firm commitment that the age pensions which are being paid today will be free of the means test within 3 years and paid to all qualified persons, over 65, irrespective of means. The Government has not committed itself to the proposition that it will take the full 3 years to achieve this result. I heard the Prime Minister say at a meeting only a few days ago that it was his personal hope that the full 3 years would not be needed. The Government is about to set up a committee to inquire into the aspects of the means test and to give us also the hope of establishing a supplementary national insurance scheme.
This liquidation of the means test is a continuing process. We have been dismantling it through the merged means test, the tapered means test and now by this step, which I think is the greatest and most significant step we have yet taken; but this is not the final step.
While these measures are being implemented we are not doing nothing in this means test sphere. We are immediately raising what is known as the ‘free area’. Single persons are to have their free means entitlement raised from $10 a week to $20 a week; for married pensioner couples the increase is from $17 a week to $34.50 a week. The general rule is that a full pension will be drawable by those pensioners whose means, exclusive of pension, are equal to the pension rate. A partial pension will be applicable to people whose means excluding pension are up to three times the pension rate. Maximum pensions that will be drawable by single people who have outside means of up to $20 a week and by married couples who have up to $34.50 a week so that their total cash incomes including maximum rate pensions, will be $40 per week and $69 per week respectively. The ‘vanishing point’ - i.e. the point beyond which no pension is payable - will be $60 a week for single people and $103.50 a week for married couples - i.e. three times the pension rate. To these figures twice the special allowance for children will also be added.
The Government has increased by 50 per cent, that is from $4 to $6 a week, the special means test allowance for children. We have also decided to make special arrangements about superannuation pensions and annuities, which will be of particular benefit to those people in the upper age groups who have suffered by reason of inflation and rising prices.
This Budget contains a combination of what can be achieved in the welfare field. The means test liquidation is not an alternative to raising pensions and increasing special services. They go hand in hand. This Budget shows humanity. It is not the end of the Government’s social service programme. I know that in the 4 years that I have been Minister for Social Services, we have made great advances. I am sure that in the next period we will make greater advances yet.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hallett)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Naturally enough the Australian Labor Party would be quite prepared, as it has already indicated, to support those beneficial measures contained in the Budget in respect of social service recipients. To do otherwise would be to deny all the representations that I and many of my colleagues have made over many years. I would not like to suggest that the measures that are contained in this Budget meet anything tike the requirements of the Labor Party. However, during the debates on the particular measures we will indicate our misgivings in that respect. I have to remind the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) that despite what he has outlined as a wonderful social welfare programme, the simple fact as contained in the Budget papers themselves indicate that this year we will be spending an only slightly higher proportion of our total domestic outlay on social welfare compared with expenditure in the 2 previous years. Cash benefits to persons in 1970-71 were 23.1 per cent of our total domestic outlay; in 1971-72 they were 23 per cent of the total domestic outlay; and in 1972-73 expenditure will be up to only 23.9 per cent. There has been an increase, but it is less than 1 per cent.
The Minister laid heavy emphasis on the abolition of the means test. I have to recollect that my illustrious predecessor in the constituency of Barton, which I represent, the right honourable Dr Evatt, promised back in 1954 to abolish the means test completely within 3 years. Unfortunately, Dr Evatt and the Labor Party missed out on being elected to the government of this country by a matter of about 600 votes over the whole of Australia. That is to say that if we had been fortunate enough to have been elected on that occasion, the means test would have been abolished 15 years ago. Now the Government is trying to take credit for having promised to be rid of it before 1975. Of course, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has already indicated that the Labor Party has given a solemn undertaking that it will abolish the means test within that time. That will be consistent with our promise in 1969, when we said that we would abolish the means test within 6 years. At that time, of course, as was the case in 1954, the present Minister for Social Services, along with many of his colleagues, completely rubbished the idea. They branded it as financial irresponsibility. So, many people have been denied the abolition of the means test for all those years because of the Government’s reluctance.
This Budget is one of short term political expediency. It is a Budget of desperation. I refer honourable members to a headline in the ‘Australian’ to an article written by Kenneth Davidson, the economics writer for the ‘Australian’. This article appeared on 16th August and was headed:
Snedden lights slow fuse. Bonanza can only bring savage curbs next year.
He went on to quote his evidence for saying that there is likely to be such a cutback if the Government is returned. We have seen this before. Benefits are given on the eve of an election and, immediately after the Government is re-elected, it is followed by savage increases in both direct and indirect taxation. As his evidence to support this headline, Mr Davidson wrote:
Statement number three of the Budget papers, which discusses monetary policy, has dropped a fairly broad bint that this injection will have to be countered next year by a strong reversal in monetary policy.
In other words, he forecast that, without the Government’s interference, there is going to be another spurt of inflation and a further increase in prices and many of the goodies that are contained in this Budget will lose value overnight.
What kind of development is the Budget aiming at? This is indicated in Statement 1 attached to the Budget papers. It states:
As well as relieving the tax burden the aim is to stimulate private sector activity without at the same time adding unduly to the rate of growth in public sector expenditure.
What does this mean? We can only look at the Budget itself. It means that there is going to be any kind of stimulation for the private sector of the economy but practically nothing for the public sector of the economy. In the Government’s view private sector activity is preferable to the building of schools and hospitals, for the carrying out of sewerage and water reticulation works that are so urgently necessary in so many of our urban areas, to the relief of choked up public transport systems and the building of housing by State and Commonwealth instrumentalities. All these things will go by the board in order that this Budget can give hand outs that the Government thinks might win enough votes to enable it to stay in office after 23 years. So, what we are asked to accept is that instead of having all those things that I have just mentioned - all those great public utilities for which the community cries out - it is preferable in order to increase employment to concentrate on more takeaway food shops, more pizza bars, more petrol stations and that sort of thing. This is not the sort of thing that builds a nation. In previous Budgets, even under this Government, we have had enumerated to us, especially on election eve, great national projects, great road building works, great highway systems, railway works and the like. None of that is contained in this Budget; it is terribly deficient. As a matter of fact, this Budget is more notable for what it does not contain than for what it does contain.
One of the things that is very obvious - this was not raised by the Labor Party - was pointed to in a recent survey of Austraiian businessmen which was recorded in the ‘National Times’ survey on 7th August.
This survey was conducted by objective businessmen. In fact, it was conducted by W. D. Scott and Co. The poll states:
The poll showed a sweeping affirmation for increased national planning. Ninety-five per cent of businessmen surveyed were in favour that Australia, as a nation, should have specific growth objectives for, say, the next 5 to 10 years.
Do honourable members see any reference to any long term planning or any national objectives? Is there an example of the Government getting together with business and with the employed classes in the community and working out some kind of objectives? No wonder we have these stopgostop Budgets. We do not have national goals. Most other countries around the world - even governments of this kidney - have national planning objectives, but not so Australia. The businessmen reminded the survey that businessmen in increasing numbers are engaged in medium term and long term planning with specific growth objectives. Many a businessman has said to me: How do you think I would get on trying to plan my output over the next 3 or 4 or 5 years if I did not have some kind of systematic plan about it? I would go broke.’ But not so the greatest enterprise in this nation - the Commonwealth Government. It is completely devoid of forward planning. In some sectors, notably in tertiary education and a few other spheres, we do have our 3-year plans, short enough as they are. But at least they are forward plans. Why do we not have a national economic policy for Australia?
Professor Ronald Henderson recently described the kind of government we have as instant government’. He said:
We suffer from too much ‘instant government’. Measures are taken to deal with an urgent problem in one part of a sector without due consideration of their effect as a whole. Often, indeed, it is difficult to discover any coherent strategy for the whole, so conflicting are the individual acts of government.
Professor Henderson instanced as an example the hotch-potch of measures that the Government has taken in regard to the inflow of foreign capital into this country. There has been a fog of uncertainty as to just what is the Government’s policy on foreign investment. At times it seems to encourage foreign investment - most of the time it has done so - without any regard to what effect it has on Australia’s equity and its own nationhood. At other times, the
Government has arbitrarily intervened against foreign takeovers, as we will recall, with MLC and Queensland Mines Ltd.
Much the same kind of incoherence involves such things as our mining policy, our urban policy, the development of our cities, to which my colleague, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) referred a while ago, the capital market in this country, inflation, unemployment and transport. We seem to be devoid of any coherent overall national policy on any of these national issues and so we get into the kind of trouble that we are now in. Professor Henderson went on to suggest - the Government might take this up - that we need procedures to evolve a coherent national economic policy. He suggested that these procedures should involve politicians, businessmen, professional men, public servants and academics. This is not new, as I said. It is being done in most advanced countries: but somehow we lag behind. We have far too little in the way of economic and social research in this country. Canada employed 100 professional men - lawyers, academics, economists and so on - to work out a taxation policy. I wonder whether we will be as ambitious as that when we get down to the job of trying to sort out our taxation policy, let alone trying to arrive at some kind of coherent national economic and social policy, lt is this kind of cooperation that is needed and it is this kind of co-operation that the Labor Party is espousing, not some bureaucratic structure. We advocate a structure of co-operation with all people who are involved in the development of the economy. Professor Henderson went on to suggest that there were 3 aspects to this process. He described them as inquiry, research and discussion. I quote him further:
First a commission must inquire into what is already known by various informed people; then this must be put together, and often it will reveal yawning gaps that must be filled by research. Finally the material must be analysed and discussed.
As he said, there is an obvious need for a much greater amount of economic and social research in Australia.
As I said at the outset, this Budget is devoid of many important policy points. I defy anybody to find in this Budget any reference to what is to be done about price inflation over the months ahead. There is no suggestion of it. The Budget is stunningly silent with regard to the threat of inflation and what can happen to even the goodies which are contained in it. Over the 2 years ended in June of this year we have seen inflation running at the rate of 6 per cent a year. The consumer price index figures for my own city of Sydney show that there it was raging at 6.7 per cent. In the year before it was 5.3 per cent. So the position is worsening. AH the unemployment and business stagnation that has occurred over the last 12 months has been pretty much in vain. The reduction in the price spiral has been infinitesimal.
Among the items most worrying to the people I represent and those whom most other honourable members represent is the rising cost of houses. The cost of houses increased in the June quarter of this year at the rate of 9.6 per cent a year. That is a tremendous increase. Land prices are an absolute scandal. On average, land prices have trebled in the last 10 years. Average municipal and water board rates, as registered by the Commonwealth Statistician - not on somebody’s say-so but by objective measurement - have increased at the enormously high rate of 16.4 per cent per annum. This is getting out of hand. I instance also transport costs and fares, and the cost of running a car. All these things are eating into people’s savings and into their earnings. No wonder we have industrial confrontation in our community. No wonder the voice of protest has to be raised so often. So we could go on.
In this Budget there is no reference concerning what is to be done about the price increases and inflation. The Budget assumes that prices will increase at a rate of at least 5 per cent a year. What will happen to the sprinkling of goodies which are contained in this Budget? I asked a question about the paper the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) promised would be ready early in the year concerning an historical account of the prices and income policies around the world. Here in August there is no sign of the paper. He said: ‘The Treasury is pretty busy; we have not got it to hand’. This signifies the priority the Government gives to price stabilisation. Another unhappy feature of the Budget is the fact that we still have 100,000 people unemployed hi Australia. When wives and dependent children are added to this figure, one can say that there would be a minimum of 250,000 people either unemployed or dependent on unemployed persons.
The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), who preceded me in this debate, had a lot to say about social welfare programmes, but he did not say what was being done in the Budget about the unemployment benefit. It is not being increased one iota. The people who have had to accept the consequences of the Government’s economic policy over the last 12 months have received nothing from the Budget. An unemployed man, with a wife and 2 children, receives $38 a week to live on - $14 a week below the poverty line. The Government expects inflation to go on and it assumes that unemployment will continue at a substantial rate during the year. If it anticipates that, the chances are that this trend will be even greater.
What are the prospects of school leavers for the next few months? I can imagine the debate that went on in the Cabinet room yesterday about how soon the election should be held. The Prime Minister must be worried about what will happen when all these youngsters leave school - many of whom went back to repeat 6th form simply because they could not get a job last year. I am told that it is expected that by the end of this year, or by February next. 215,000 school leavers - school leavers are classified by the Statistician as not only those who leave high school but also those who leave universities, teachers colleges and similar institutions - will be looking for jobs.
We still have a continuing immigration programme. AH these things must aggravate the situation. Not only has there been a tremendous sacrifice by those who have been unemployed, but the effect has spread through to the rest of the economy. It is estimated that in the last 12 months unemployment has cost no less than $800m in lost production. We have all heard businessmen complain bitterly at how sluggish business has been. This is the tremendous cost of the Government’s misguided policy of 12 months ago. Why should the people of Australia have faith in it for another 3 years? Any business which made the miscalculation that the Government made 12 months ago would have gone on the rocks. This is the position we are in.
I do not have time to go in any detail into taxation as referred to in the Budget. The Government made great-to-do about the reduction in taxation. The simple fact is that this year income tax revenue will be $439m more than it was last year while the total tax receipts including direct and indirect taxes, will be $556m more than they were last year. From 1962 to 1963 pay-as-you-earn income tax has had an average rate of growth of 17.4 per cent annually. These figures are in the Budget Papers. This colossal escalation of taxation has been going on year in and year out under this Government, yet the Government is trying to make a virtue out of giving some tax concession in this Budget. What will it mean to the average family? It will mean about $2 a week to people in the $4,000 to $5,000 income group. Imagine being given that in an industrial award. It would be thrown back in the courts’ face. With no tie on prices and no tie on escalation into higher income brackets through the inflationary process I have referred to, wages will have a rise to meet increasing prices and people will still be escalated into a higher tax bracket.
There are no proposals concerning indirect taxation - sales tax and so on. The simple fact is that many people will find themselves a lot worse off should this Government be returned to office and its economic policies sustained. The right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) this afternoon was quite elated that there was a provision in this Budget for child care centres. The provision is $5m for the whole of Australia. How many children will that look after? The fact is that mothers who go to work have been most anxious and demanding that they should be allowed the cost of accommodating their children in child care centres, $8, $10 or $12 a week - as a taxation deduction. But that is not so in this Budget. I strongly support the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition. I look forward to the advent of a Labor government, with new policies and a refreshing approach to Australia’s economic and social problems.
– We have just listened, as we have done on other occasions today, to a long list of woes that can be foreseen by the Opposition, and nobody is better at being a prophet of doom than the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds). I think he would almost enjoy seeing an unemployment rate of 200,000, which was forecast by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in his speech earlier this week. Nothing will be further from the case, and I am certain that the people of Australia will not fall for this incredible list of woes that the Opposition keeps portraying to the nation at this time. I want to deal with a much more pleasing, happy and joyful subject. I want to tell the House something of the great activities that are taking place at this time in the whole field of the arts throughout this nation.
Last October, the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) outlined to the House the Government’s programme and philosophy for the arts in Australia. He said at that time.
The Government sees the arts in a multitude of expressions and forms -
Not as an adornment, but as an integral part of life -
Not something exclusive to the hours of leisure, but as a force, penetrating and enriching every aspect of human affairs -
Not as a preserve of the rich and the sophisticated, but as a source of delight for all.
This evening I wish to inform honourable members of the progress being made in the development of that programme. There is throughout Australia abundant evidence of a continuing and enlarging public interest in the arts in its many forms. While so much of this interest springs instinctively from the people themselves, Australian governments, both State and Commonwealth, by financial and other means, are contributing significantly to the progress being made. In its own field, the Commonwealth Government continues to give increased financial aid on a substantial scale. Through its several agencies it continues to act as a catalyst in encouraging and supporting the creative effort of artists in their varied fields and providing new outlets for their talents.
If I do give some emphasis to the Commonwealth’s financial contributions I also want to stress that this is not the limit of our interest or the only measure of development in the arts. The real measure is the enhanced quality of life for our people and the progress being made within our society towards standards of excellence in all art forms of human endeavour. In this financial year the Commonwealth plans to spend a total of $7,854,000 on the arts. This is made up of $5.7m in support for the performing arts and $1.7m for assistance for art, literature, film and composition. The balance is for salaries and administration for the Australian Council for the Arts. The total increase in funds for all these purposes this year is $2,364,000 - continuing evidence, to my mind, of the Government’s involvement and encouragement in all these fields.
I want first to remind honourable members that in the next 15 months we will be moving into quite a spectacular period of activity in all these areas. We will see the magnificent Opera House in Sydney opened for its first performance - an opera house which has attracted world attention and which will be the home of our national company. I remind the House that since last September the Government has been promoting the Australian Opera and its associated orchestras by increasing financial assistance to ensure world standard for the opening season in the Sydney Opera House next year. Also in the next 15 months, a start will be made on building the National Art Gallery in Canberra. Already plans are being made by my Department to increase the treasures it will house and to arrange for displays of art in it from many parts of the world.
The Australian Ballet, which this year celebrates its tenth anniversary, will aspire to new heights on the international scene and at home. An invitation to visit Moscow and other Eastern European capitals, and possibly London, next year is at present under consideration. If this tour can be made, it will do much to enhance our growing international reputation in this art form and also provide the company itself with a matchless experience which will be reflected in new standards of excellence in ballet for Australian audiences. Proposals are being examined for a film version of Rudolph Nureyev’s ‘Don Quixote’, to star Nureyev, Sir Robert Helpmann and the
Australian Ballet and to be made in Australia towards the end of this year. The Film and Television School will be established, and the interim training scheme is about to begin. New incentives are also being introduced for Australian writers and composers on a scale far outstripping assistance previously given. Turning to the detailed activities of the Government’s various agencies, I begin with the work of the Australian Council for the Arts, which is the Government’s financial agent and adviser on the performing arts. This year’s appropriation is $5.7m - an increase of $l.Sm on last year. In the early years the Australian Council for the Arts has given priority to the establishment of professional companies in order to hold our top artists in Australia and to provide quality performances in opera, ballet and drama.
However, professional peaks cannot exist without a broad base of activity and public interest. So, this year we propose to strengthen the growth of regional organisations. Drama, ballet and opera companies, which a few years ago were small amateur groups have now become, with the help of Government funds, companies operating on a stable professional basis. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) has emphasised this point also. They are providing opportunities for full time employment in the arts on an unprecedented scale, attracting local interest as well as State government support. This year we propose to provide $320,000 for assistance to smaller companies throughout the various States and we hope also to provide funds for programmes designed to develop new audiences, to support creative artists and to help experimental work.
An interesting development in our support for the performing arts was the establishment in Darwin last financial year of an Aboriginal Theatre Foundation whose aims are to preserve and encourage traditional skills in this field. Details of expenditure last financial year and appropriations for 1972-73 are shown in a table, which I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hallett)Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– To satisfy the demand for professionals in all fields of the performing arts, increased funds will be provided for national training programmes. From a $58,000 allocation in 1968-69 - 4 years ago - this year’s allocation has risen to $465,000.
Referring now to progress in the field of the visual arts, special attention is being paid by the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board to the planning of collections of works of art and exhibitions for the National Gallery which should be completed early in 1976. During the past 12 months the collections have been extended in depth and range. The historical collection of Australian art is already close to being complete up to the present day but is under continuous review, so that the works of quality of emergent young artists will be represented year by year as additions to the existing collection.
We expect the displays of the art of the Australian Aborigines and the arts of the Pacific Basin, including the rich art of Melanesia, embracing Papua New Guinea, to be of world standard and a revelation to all exposed to them for the first time when the Gallery is opened. We are getting together a collection of the arts of South East Asia; it is still small but is growing quite reasonably. I hope that among the first international displays in the new gallery will bc a great loan exhibition of the art of Indonesia which has never before been displayed overseas. In short, it is the Governments’ intention to make the National Gallery the great showplace of arts for our region and to attract to it a series of loan exhibitions of the highest quality from other countries.
It is not an over-statement to say that leading international dealers are now looking to Australia and works of major importance are being offered to us because of the opening of our new gallery. In this Budget the sum of $797,000 has been set aside for the acquisition of works of art and for the conservation of the national collection. This is more than double the amount spent last year. The amount to be spent on exhibitions of works of art in Australia and overseas is $88,000 this year compared with only $23,000 in the past year. The value of these grants, particularly for overseas exhibitions, is seen in the international exhibition in Sao Paulo, Brazil, last year. There Australian art was represented by the works of Mr Gunter Christman and Mr David Aspden. Mr Aspden was awarded a gold medal. The House will be interested to learn that this was the first gold medal awarded to an Australian artist since Sir Arthur Streeton received his at the Paris Salon in 1905.
The Commonwealth Art Advisory Board now proposes to move into a new phase of creative patronage by the direct commissioning of paintings, sculpture and high class craft work for specific purposes and locations. For example, a commission for an important piece of sculpture to be sited in the sculpture garden, between the National Gallery and the shore of Lake Burley Griffin, has been offered to Mr Clement Meadmore. It is important in this field to look to the future. I have received suggestions from some members of the Art Advisory Board that the Government should examine at not too distant a time whether it will be possible to establish in Canberra a great museum and a national portrait gallery which would aim to reflect important aspects of Australia’s history. Such institutions could present an emotive pageant of Australian historical events and national figures to Australians visiting Canberra, inculcating in them a greater national pride and appreciation of our heritage.
I come next to the Australian Film and Television School and the measures we are taking to promote a viable Australian film industry. The Tariff Board is examining film production and distribution in Australia and its report and recommendations will be of considerable help to us in assessing prospects for the industry. We are proceeding with our plans for the Australian Film and Television School and an interim training scheme. The interim training scheme is now in its final planning stages. Applications for scholarships for the first course close on 15th September. Mr Storry Walton, an Australian film and television producer and director with wide experience, has been seconded from the Australian Broadcasting Commission to become the executive director of the interim training scheme which I expect will begin before the end of the year.
It has been designed as a 12 months’ course in film and television, and will offer 12 scholarships to young people who have had some experience in film and television production. The value of each scholarship will be $2,500 plus $500 living away from home allowance where required. The successful applicants will do 6 months film and television training and a further 6 months on attachment to a film or television studio. Up to 3 graduates may be given a further year’s scholarship overseas. The aim is to produce junior film and television directors, writers or technicians who can play creative roles in the Australian film and television industry and in educational institutions. Planning for the film and television school itself is well advanced. Negotiations for a site are nearly complete and discussions on building plans have begun.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was outlining to the House some of the exciting developments that have taken place throughout the whole field of arts activities in the Commonwealth of Australia, and dealing particularly with the developments in the film industry. On the production side the Australian Film Development Corporation has made sound progress since its establishment in 1970. It has taken part in 23 film-making projects, of which 15 have been completed. Already, one of these feature films has recovered its full production costs and is now making a profit. The Corporation’s activity has attracted other Australian investors on quite a significant scale. The Corporation will continue to seek to demonstrate that filmmaking can be a profitable enterprise and by so doing accelerate the growth of a selfgenerating Australian film industry. In the past year the Corporation committed $950,000 out of its initial fund of $lm. In the Budget it has been allocated a further $950,000, thus reinstating the fund to its original level. This additional money, together with anticipated returns from investments and loans last year, will enlarge the Corporation’s assistance to the industry.
This year also heralds a new phase in Commonwealth support for Australian writers, with special attention to young writers. The Government has approved programmes totalling $300,000 compared with the provision of $170,000 for the preceding year. Five major literary prizes are to be available this year for the first time. They will be: $10,000 for the best book of the year by an Australian author; $2,500 in each of 3 categories for the best book of the year by a young writer; and $2,500 for the best children’s book of the year. Other major changes this year will be increases in the number .ind kinds of fellowships and other forms of assistance available to writers with, in particular, an increase in the value of fellowships from $6,000 to $8,000 a year. For the first time, 2 special fellowships will be reserved for writers under the age of 25. Increased support is also provided for literary magazines, including promising new journals, particularly those produced by, or devoted to, the work of younger writers. I think the House should know that many works of importance produced in the past 30 years would not have been written, much less published, without the support of the Commonwealth Literary Fund. Australian poetry, in particular, has been almost 100 per cent supported by the fund.
I come now to the Commonwealth’s interest in helping Australian composers to have their work published and to promote it throughout this country and overseas. The grant this year has more than doubled to $140,000, a dramatic increase from the modest provision of $10,000 made when the scheme began in 1967. It reflects the response that the scheme has produced and the wealth of talent seeking encouragement and outlet which this country possesses. The number and value of awards available to composers will be increased and the value of general fellowships lifted from $6,000 to $8,000. The extra funds will also enable more works to be commissioned from Australian composers. I conclude by saying I believe that today the arts in Australia are in a ferment of change and growth. This is exciting and stimulating for all those who share an interest in them. Throughout Australia audiences are growing. The enthusiasm for the arts is not confined by any means to the big cities, the big companies and the big galleries of the Commonwealth. There is intense regional interest which is being fostered by the Commonwealth and by local funds and enlivened by the enthusiasm of the people concerned. I am sure that the philosophy outlined by the Prime Minister is getting, and will get, a fuller and freer expression as each year goes by. By such means do we establish a cultural identity for Australia in the eyes of the world - an identity which is wholly Australian, notable for its diversity, vitality, originality and quality, and one which will give us enduring satisfaction as we develop on this continent one nation and one society.
– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). The principal objective of this Budget is a blatant attempt to hoodwink the electors of Australia by a desperate Government - a Government facing extinction at the end of the year. But despite the Government’s sudden interest in such matters as social services reform and income tax reform, the Budget has serious deficiencies that should not occur in any well formulated national Budget. It is a Budget which is once more an extension of the Liberal-Country Party Government’s confessed unco-ordinated, ad hoc policies in relation to the management of the nation. It is a stop-go Budget, a Budget which gives concrete evidence of the illconceived policies enunciated by the Government’s budget 12 months ago, when such sensitive items as sales tax and Post Office charges were deliberately increased, without justification, as time has shown. Instead of the budget 12 months ago being designed to stimulate consumer spending and reduce the rate of inflation, it in fact dampened spending and increased inflation with the inevitable result of widespread unemployment in certain sectors of the economy.
When first announced, the income tax cuts appeared to be a major gain to income earners. But when the position is scrutinised more closely in relation to inflationary trends, it becomes apparent that once again the Government has been deceitful, by not revealing all the facts. The Government did not tell the people that the income tax reduction for which it has provided means that the higher the income of a taxpayer the greater is the rate of increase in his net income after the tax has been paid. This move by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) is a cunning device, easily recognised by those familiar with income tax structures and the incidence of taxation at various levels of assessable income. Thus, although the Treasurer is correct in asserting that the percentage reductions in the amount of income tax payable are significant to the family man on a low income, once again the greatest beneficiaries are those on higher incomes.
I want to say a few words about the controversy over the revaluation of the Australian dollar in relation to the value of other world currencies which we have heard so much about in recent weeks. Most of the controversy has been initiated by academic economists who have put forward for consideration learned points of view in journals, newspapers and other forms of the media. They are perfectly entitled to do so. But recently we saw the intrusion of the Reserve Bank of Australia into this controversy to the degree that the Reserve Bank had come out in favour of appreciation of the Australian dollar on the ground that the dollar is undervalued. The Reserve Bank is a vital arm of the Federal Government. Its policies are closely tuned to the policies of the Federal Treasury, as they should be. The Federal Treasury is the supreme policy-making department in the Commonwealth. On the Board of the Reserve Bank is the Secretary of the Treasury, Sir Frederick Wheeler, who is one of Australia’s most powerful financial policymakers and adviser to the Federal Government.
Even though the Reserve Bank’s analysis was confined largely to the problems of regulating the inflow of foreign money in relation to inflation, its pronouncement that the Australian dollar is undervalued is in fact a general pronouncement to the world of serious economic content. It has been interpreted by the Australian public as such. It no doubt has been interpreted by world financial authorities as such. I believe that this public pronouncement by the Reserve Bank, an arm of the Commonwealth Government, even if correct, is highly irresponsible. It can only lead to confusion and speculation both in and out of Australia. Experience has shown that the level of the value of a nation’s currency is a highly emotional issue of great economic significance. Any sudden major change in the value of a nation’s currency can lead to great gains in wealth on the one hand or bankruptcy on the other. Unless it is an integral part of a world-wide realignment of currencies by the principal trading nations, general depreciation or appreciation of the currency, as distinct from devaluation or matters attached to the gold standard, should be avoided under present economic conditions.
Let me first state a fundamental principle of currency appreciation as it affects Australia’s exports and imports. If the international value of the Australian dollar is raised - appreciation - the prices of Australian exports rise and the prices of foreign imports into Australia fall. Thus a reduction in exports and an increase in imports can be achieved, which over time can progressively diminish the surplus of foreign exchange reserves. Translated into practical action, appreciation will reduce the profitableness of all Australian export industries - rural, mineral and manufacturing - as well as associated industries, such as tourism, which earn export income. The degree of move, of course, depends on the elasticity of the particular factor being varied. Certainly, appreciation would discourage movement of speculative money into Australia, but it would allow a greater volume of cheap imports into Australia. Some economists argue mat a significant increase in cheaper imports not only would reduce costs in Australia but also would allow for the transfer of labour and capital resources from high cost industries into the so-called low cost industries often referred to by the Tariff Board. These economists conclude that by a better allocation of the nation’s resources the nation’s real income is increased, and inflationary forces are dampened.
This, in my opinion, is an academic argument. It is an academic approach which ignores the fact that a major increase in cheap imports following sudden appreciation could cause the bankruptcy of small manufacturing industries which employ thousands of men and women throughout Australia. At the same time the general increased competition from imports could cause a loss of production from large Australian manufacturing firms whose competitive position had been protected by the former level of the exchange rate in relation to the tariff, that is, in relation to the tariff which would not be altered. It must also be remembered that the burden of any appreciation of the Australian dollar would fall more harshly on Australian owned companies than on foreign owned companies operating in Australia, because Australian owned exporting companies need to earn Australian dollars to pay dividends to Australian shareholders. Unfortunately, it is a fact of life that it is most difficult to write contracts for Australian exports in the mineral field and the primary industry field, whether we speak about iron ore, bauxite, sugar or whatever it may be, in Australian dollars.
In summary, a sudden appreciation of the Australian dollar relative to other world currencies would mean an immediate loss of Australian dollars for the Australian export sector, which would be felt directly and indirectly in the rural and mineral areas of Australia and indirectly in the manufacturing areas of Australia including the cities. A higher level of foreign imports due to their increased financial advantage over Australian produced goods would lead to reduced production in some Australian manufacturing industries. So, in both the export and the import competitive sectors Australian confidence could be shaken and the rate of investment by Australian companies in these sectors of the economy would suffer. Another effect is that the rate of unemployment could be greatly increased in many sectors unless some sort of instantaneous re-allocation of resources took place. It must be remembered also that when we contemplate depreciation or appreciation it is very difficult to write long term contracts with foreign countries for minerals at a particular level or particular contract price, when they insist that they be written in foreign currency.
It could be argued that all of the above factors will dampen down the forces of inflation and reduce costs in Australia through a reduced level of economic activity. In addition, a deliberate discouraging of speculative money coming into Australia would be achieved by appreciation. That is admitted. But such drastic policies, although perhaps appealing to the academics, who do not see industry disruption and unemployment in the same light as governments, oppositions or politicians in general see them, do not meet the criteria of responsible government, which has an obligation to make decisions in the national interest. Decisions in the national interest are heavily weighted in favour of the effects on the economic lives of people. For example, it would be most difficult to substantiate a case for appreciation in the State of Western Australia at the present time. It already has one of the highest levels of unemployment in Australia. Any economic attack on Western Australia’s export mineral industries would intensify unemployment, as would any increased inflow of cheap imports into Western Australia because they would undermine established manufacturing firms. It is possible, of course, to argue that unemployed people in Western Australia could suddenly be moved to the eastern States. This is how some economists argue. But in practice it is most difficult to tell a man that he and his family must sell their house and get out of one area and go to another area.
Appreciation of the Australian dollar, in my opinion, is not the answer to Australia’s inflationary problems or the inflow of foreign money; nor, of course, is depreciation of the currency. All the evidence from a practical and a government viewpoint suggests that if other countries do not alter the value of their currencies Australia should not take any drastic action by altering her exchange rate up or down just to correct inflationary forces and to minimise the inflow of the so-called speculative or hot money. The value of the Australian dollar, in my opinion, should remain at its present level, given the existing levels of the value of other major currencies. At the same time positive exchange control policies should be implemented to regulate and control the level and nature of foreign moneys coming into Australia. In addition to positive exchange control, intelligent domestic monetary and fiscal policies in association with action to regulate prices in Australia such as a prices justification tribunal should be ancillary to sound exchange control. My principal objective here is to criticise the Reserve Bank of Australia for its irresponsibility in making public highly speculative policy pronouncements which can cause damage to the stability of the Australian financial system. I also suggest that it is high time the Government and the Reserve Bank took positive action to identify the nature of foreign money coming into Australia and exert sound exchange controls as is practised in the United States of America, Japan, Canada, Germany and other European Economic Community countries.
I have not tse slightest doubt that the smart alecks in the Australian Country Party, and perhaps in the Liberal Party, will attempt to misconstrue my thoughts on revaluation as a repudiation of my leader, the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Whitlam). The Leader of the Opposition made it perfectly clear to the Labor Party, to the Parliament and to the Australian people that his personal opinion on revaluation did not in any way commit the Labor Party in opposition or in government. He gave what he believed to be a perfectly honest answer to a complex question which in no way whatsoever could be interpreted as being the official policy of the Australian Labor Party now, or at any time in the future. He is entitled to give his personal view just as I and other members of this Parliament are entitled to give ours. Last night the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) gave his personal view. He is in complete favour of general devaluation.
It is a great pity that the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) and members of the Country Party, who see the statement of the Leader of the Opposition as some cheap opportunity to gain political capital, do not take some responsible action on their own behalf. All that their organised attacks on the Leader of the Opposition are doing is causing speculation throughout the coun try about the future of the currency. What right has the Country Party leader to throw stones at the Leader of the Opposition. It was the leaders of the Australian Country Party who only last week announced that the Government was to establish a national rural bank. This is not Government policy; this is not a decision made by Cabinet; this is the personal opinion of the Deputy Prime Minister and of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). They were giving their personal opinions, just as the Leader of the Opposition did. What did the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) do? He repudiated any suggestion that there will be a national rural bank. He repudiated what was said by the Deputy Prime Minister who expressed a personal opinion.
Let me make lt clear in the time remaining to me that the Labor Party is a responsible party. There has never been any suggestion on the part of the Labor Party to make any decision on the revaluation of the Australian currency. That is the role of government and that is the view also of the Leader of the Opposition. We are in opposition. We are not the Government. We recognise that this is a most delicate and complex matter. It is a highly emotional issue and it is essential that the best possible Australian and international advice is available before any decision is taken. When Labor becomes a government it will make decisions on this most complex issue always in the national interest, and these will be responsible decisions.
– It is remarkable, listening to the debate on the Budget, how the same set of figures can be interpreted in so many widely divergent ways. I listened with interest to the speech of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) who expounded his views on the currency levels. We in this corner of the chamber who represent people on the land, understand his great difficulty in reconciling the well held and well advertised views on currency levels of his leader the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Whitlam), with the interests of the cane growers whom he represents. This Budget has been outstanding for the low level of criticism which has come in from all quarters. The last newspaper that I had my hand on this afternoon was the Sydney ‘Daily Mirror’. The editorial of that newspaper described the Budget - these are not my words but those of the editor - as a ‘successful Budget’. It went on to say: ‘The Budget has had an extremely favourable reception’. I think that is well stated. Honourable members become accustomed to receiving the usual spate of telegrams and letters following the presentation of a budget. So far as I was concerned, they were conspicuous by their total absence. Of course disappointments were expressed; there always will be disappointments. These disappointments have been registered in some sectors of the community. I have encountered them in primary industry, in local government bodies and in connection with estate duty arrangements. But when we look into these things I find that the disappointments are mostly based on a misunderstanding of the real position. In some rural industries comments were made by apparently responsible men such as: ‘This is a city man’s Budget and there is nothing for the man on the land’. This is the type of criticism that is made. I would like to point out to some of these people that payments to rural industries in this Budget of $233m are the second highest on record. If wool deficiency payments were deducted from last year’s figures for the purpose of comparison, the remaining phases of primary industry could have attracted a record appropriation again this year.
Why were deficiency payments in the case of wool not catered for? This was because when the industry itself called to the Government to put a floor into the wool market at a level of 40c a lb the Government showed its confidence in this great industry by putting a floor into the market, not at 40c but at 36c. Whatever the full and detailed reasons for the recovery of the woo] industry eventually turn out to be, the action of this Government and its provision of $52. 8m last year was a major contributing factor in this recovery, to say the least. To such an extent was the Government’s action a success that in the provision for 1972-73 there is only $lm set aside for this purpose. Looking at the trend of the wool market, even if it stays as it is, it is doubtful whether anything will be needed out of this fund. I will have more to say about wool later.
Let us look at what happened in this Budget in the primary field. Some $20m was set aside for the provision of long term credit, and I intend to speak more about that later. In addition, S46m was set aside as a subsidy on superphosphate fertilisers, and another $10m for nitrogenous fertilisers. There is an investment of $56m on the part of the Government which it will get back time and time again. It is an investment in the future of our rural industries. There is S56m for rural reconstruction. This condenses the funds set aside for a 4-year programme into a 2-year programme. An additional Si 5m has been set aside for assistance which might be approved in the latter portion of this financial year and carried over for payment into the next year. An amount of $47m has been set aside for wheat stabilisation. Despite the fact that only Sim has been set aside for wool deficiency payments, an extra $32m has been set aside for wool industry research, promotion and marketing assistance. Further, there is a $28m subsidy for butter and cheese. An amount of $9m has been set aside for the reconstruction of the marginal dairying industry and the marginal fruit growing industry.
The Budget provides for a $4m grant towards the eradication of brucellosis and tuberculosis. I think that money expended in this area is particularly well spent. The eradication of diseases will serve in keeping up the supply of our meat exports. I commend the activity of the research committee of the Australian Meat Board in relation to the disease cystercycosis which will, I fear, threaten our future exports of mutton and lamb if it is not controlled. Funds have been set aside also for research into other industries such as wheat, tobacco, wine and barley. In reply to the critics of the Commonwealth Government who say that this Government has been inactive in the field of decentralisation - this afternoon I heard this comment from honourable members who sit on the other side - I point out that an amount of $27m is to be expended on petrol price equalisation. Honourable members may ask: ‘Is it enough?’ Of course it is not enough. It never is. We have almost reached a holding position for the man on the land but some areas of some industries will require continued assistance from the Government and co-operation between the industry and the Government. But in all fairness and in all truth it cannot be rightly said, as some say now, that there is nothing in this Budget for the man on the land.
There are still some major rural problems. Tonight I want to refer to 3 of them. Firstly, there is still much to be done for the wool industry. Secondly, we have to find a solution for long term rural finance. Thirdly, a new deal for local government finance, particularly in rural areas, is badly needed. On the question of wool marketing, it is well known that the Government promised recently to guarantee the floor price for another year to 30th June next year at 79.37c per kilo. I congratulate the Government on this move. I doubt whether the industry will need funds or will need to act on the guarantee but this decision has definitely served to put confidence not only into the industry itself but into the whole business community and those who depend on wool. The Government has promised an amalgamation of the Australian Wool industry conference and the Australian Wool Commission, and the new authority will prepare a plan in detail which will give to the authority a detailed acquisition scheme. It will be given powers of acquisition should it require to use them. I emphasise the words ‘should it require to use them’. But it is not generally recognised that the nature of the factors which have to be decided by any authority when it is set up are complex. A decision on these factors demands continual consultation between industry, State governments and the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth has no power at all to act on its own in this matter.
I think lt is as well to enumerate some of these factors, which were well set out in a speech delivered by my leader, the right honourable J. D. Anthony in Western Australia not long ago. I think these things ought to be considered. He said:
At what point is Tse wool to be acquired? How will wool be delivered to the Corporation’s stores? What clip preparation standards will apply? How will wool be received into store?
If we ask anyone these questions we will get a different answer to most of them. He went on to say:
What will be the future role of brokers, private traders and other commercial interests?
That is an important one. He continued:
What’s to be the basis for appraising and valuing wool under an acquisition scheme? How are growers to be paid - a single payment, or advance and final payments? What provision should there be for arbitration of disputes over appraisal or valuation?
There is not one of these questions which does not require an answer before the legislation is brought in. The Minister continued:
What are to be the handling procedures in the store - interlotting, bulk classing and so on? How are deductions for handling, selling and so on to be made from growers’ accounts? What methods of sale are to be used?
He asked whether we would throw the auction system overboard. He asked whether the method of selling would be done by open tender or negotiated prices. The list of questions goes on in that speech, but I think I have given enough of them to illustrate the factors which have to be decided before we could get such a scheme off the ground.
Those points partly explain my concern about the time factor in this operation, which is of fundamental concern to the wool industry. Normally it takes weeks, as we in this House know, to complete the debate on the Budget and the debate on the Estimates, and the legislation to enable the setting up of a wool authority cannot be debated until the debates on the Budget and the Estimates are concluded. I hope that the Government will give some priority to the wool legislation when general legislation is introduced, because after it is passed by both House of Parliament and receives royal assent the members of the authority will have to be chosen to enable the authority to go to work. This lapse of time has to be cut right down to a minimum, consistent of course with the application of due thought to such a radical charge in marketing arrangements in an industry which is of vital importance to the whole Australian economy. I know that the Government will keep in mind the importance of this legislation.
I turn now to the second point 1 want to refer to, that is, long term finance for rural industry. It is now generally accepted - 1 think I am correct in saying this - by most people in the industries, including most of the industry leaders, that the need in this field is to concentrate on the long term rather than on the question of interest rates which I predict are likely to be at ruling commercial rates when they are brought out. The Government has set aside $20m for this purpose. The Budget Speech says that the Government took this action after completing an intensive review, which it did. The Budget Speech states:
The measures to be adopted have still to be finalised; the intention is to bring down legislation in this session of the Parliament.
There has been some criticism of the small amount of money appropriated when compared with the magnitude of the requirements. I look back to the birth of the Commonwealth Development Bank. I think that Bank started off with a capital of £5m or $10m. It is now a very strong instrumentality; I think its capital is in the 9-figure range.
Many people had the same misgivings about the sum of money which was set aside for rural reconstruction. 1 was one of them and I expressed my dissatisfaction in this House, but very quickly the funds allotted for the 4-year term were condensed into a 2-year term and in effect this doubled the potential of that scheme. I hope that the new scheme - and I strongly favour a separate form of rural bank - has the sama rate of growth and success as did the Commonwealth Development Bank and the rural reconstruction scheme. We should let the funds of those instrumentalities work where they are now being used, because this sum of $20m is designed for use in another quarter altogether. I refer to the majority of rural producers who are solvent at this stage but who will need further capital to enlarge their undertaking or to increase their productivity on existing areas. Ali this is in the interests of the nation as a whole. I am encouraged by the statement made by the Prime Minister during question time this morning when he referred to legislation on long term credit. The Prime Minister said that the legislation which has been promised in the Budget should be put on the statute book before the election date is finalised. Those were his words, as I remember them.
My third and final point concerns a lot of men who are in responsible positions in local government - men who are there because they were elected by their fellow men and who work in a voluntary capacity. It is not true to say that the Commonwealth does not already greatly assist with local government finance. I used a double negative. One would say it is true to say they do already greatly assist with local government finance. An amount of $ 1,252m has been allocated for the next quinquennium under the Commonwealth aid roads scheme. Direct grants for local government assistance in the financial year just completed amounted to S245m and this year it will rise, according to this Budget, to $279ra. Notwithstanding this, whether or not the funds come from the Commonwealth or the States where the constitutional responsibility lies, local government authorities have reached a position where under the present rating system some ratepayers cannot pay their rates at all. Some have paid to date but cannot stand any further increases. In any case, there is an ever-growing body of opinion amongst ratepayers which claims that the rating system, coupled with tha present valuation system, is inequitable. I am a member of what the Australian Council of Local Government Associations refers to as its Canberra Committee. The experience I have gained on that committee coupled with my electoral experience, makes it easy for me to be aware of the financial problems of local government that are borne by these men who act in a voluntary capacity.
I am speaking of rural areas because it is in those areas that I am familiar with the operations of local government. My remarks could apply equally elsewhere. Local government bodies continuously put forward their problems. The Stuckey report, which some honourable members may have studied, has made a great contribution. It was produced by a man who covered the whole field, right throughout the Commonwealth. On 20th July last an historic event occurred in Canberra. I would like to read the comment on that occasion which appeared in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’. It stated:
It was a significant occasion when the Prime Minister met a deputation from the Australian Council of Local Government Associations in Canberra last week.
The deputation was introduced by the leader of the Committee, the Minister for the Army (Mr Katter) who is now at the table and Senator Davidson. The report went on:
This deputation was the first from local government to be received by a Prime Minister in more than 20 years. The meeting could prove to be an historic one if it turns out to be the harbinger of a new deal for local government. While Mr McMahon gave no promises be did make an important acknowledgment of the role of local councils in our system of government. Mr McMahon backed the request by local government to be represented at the coming constitutional convention.
What happens at this convention? What will come from it? That lies in the future, but I can say to members of local government bodies that I will be taking an active interest in the preliminary moves which are starting now for a renewal of the Commonwealth aid roads scheme for the next quinquennium, after the present quinquennium finishes next year. If I am informed of State approaches to the Commonwealth for special grants I will certainly give them the support they deserve. In my opinion the financial load on the local government bodies in all fairness must be relieved. I support the motion and I dismiss the amendment.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I claim to have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) in his speech on the Budget. He claimed that I had spoken in favour of devaluation. That is not correct. During discussion on the canned fruit industry last night I indicated that from the point of view of that industry Australian currency was too high. That is recorded at page 627 of Hansard. I did not say and I do not say that I believe our currency should be devalued.
– The honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) has just made a good turnabout. It is a wonder that he did not make his explanation this morning after question time at the time of the controversy. He may have cleared the air a little, but he remained silent then. Very obviously there has been some discussion between him, his Leader and the Liberal Party since question time this morning. The important point which emerged from the speech of the honourable member for Calare (Mr England) was his advocacy of the role of this Government in local government finances. Most people in the metropolitan areas would agree that local government bodies virtually have no role. I represent an area which needs finan cial assistance for local government more than any other area because within it there is a greater growth of population than in any other area. I refer to the far western suburbs of Sydney running out through Blacktown, Mount Druitt and those areas where the great growth of population in the metropolitan areas is occurring.
Local government bodies there cannot get any assistance whatsoever from this Government to finance the building of roads, playing fields, civic centres, community centres and the requirements of youth. In that area there are more young children than in any other area in the State, but we cannot get assistance. As for Commonwealth aid roads grants, they are not even called by that name these days. I remind the honourable member for Calare that they are now called special grants. As far as my area is concerned, the size of the grants has diminished despite the inflation which has occurred under this Government. The grants to the outer metropolitan areas have been reduced dramatically ever since the Commonwealth aid roads system was introduced. I invite any honourable member opposite to visit the Blacktown Municipal Council and find out who approached me about this problem within the last fortnight.
On the surface this Budget appears to acknowledge some of the requirements outlined by the Labor Party for many years. It also appears to correct - I say ‘appears to correct’ - some of the mistakes of the Budgets of 1970 and 1971 which were the genesis of the growth of unemployment in the community. However, a careful assessment of increases in revenue, of taxation reductions and of the social service concessions shows that it is a sleight of hand Budget which takes more in taxation this year from the people than it gives in tax reductions or social service concessions. For example, the Budget Papers reveal that had there been no tax reductions revenue would have risen by $1,03 6m or 11.7 per cent this year.
The Budget Papers also show that after the tax cuts revenue will still rise by $602m or 6.8 per cent. Therefore the value of the tax concessions is $434m and the public will still pay more taxation this year than they paid last year. I give an example of this sleight of hand. The Government estimates that wage rates will rise this year by 9 per cent. A person without dependants on the average annual income of §5,000 can expect his income to rise to at least $5,400. On $5,000 he would have paid $1,026.53 in taxation had there been no tax concessions. Under the new scale he will pay $1,050.50 on an income of $5,400, the income that the Government anticipates he will receive this year. That is an increase of 8 per cent, even less than the anticipated 9 per cent. Therefore the Government will still get about $24 more out of him this year than last year. Is it not a mirage to believe that taxation has been reduced? A man on the average weekly earnings will still pay this year more taxation than he paid last year.
Furthermore, the tax concessions benefit mainly people in the high income groups. For example, a person with a wife and one child receiving $4,000 a year will have his tax reduced by $104.15. A man receiving $5,000 will gain $140.96. A man receiving $10,000 will have his tax reduced by $295.08. A man on $20,000 will receive a reduction of $667.78. In other words, the man on $4,000 saves in taxation only $104.15. The man on $20,000 saves $667.78. In that circumstance surely Government supporters cannot claim that it is an equitable taxation scale. Obviously the scale is designed to assist the high income groups and not the middle and low income groups. The same is true of concessional deductions for a wife and child. The greater benefit is received by the high income groups. The higher the income, the higher the actual tax concession. I cannot for the life of me understand why my wife should be worth approximately twice the amount in taxation deduction - in actual tax saved - as the wife of a person on $4,000. I do not consider it equitable and I do not consider it justice.
As I stated, the Budget appears at first sight to correct some of the tragic mistakes of the Budgets of 1970 and 1971 which caused the massive unemployment which now stands at 2 per cent of the work force, or 108,000 people. However, as I have said, a careful assessment shows that the Government will still pull more revenue from the people than last year, and there are no large scale developmental proposals or incentives which would give the much needed impetus to the provision of employment, such as large scale public works and a reduction in sales tax on motor vehicles. A good example of an industry suffering from the present recession is the construction equipment manufacturing industry. This industry has suffered a 25 per cent decline in sales and needs an uplift in its activities through such measures as large scale public works, which are completely absent from this Budget, to overcome this decline. A planned highway construction programme of magnitude to overcome the chaos on our roads would help, not to mention if the Government were to purchase its heavy construction equipment for its armed services and works programmes in Australia and not from overseas. Incidentally, why does the Government not pay import duty on equipment of this type which it purchases overseas? By not paying duty it places the local product at a disadvantage, with the result that the local product cannot compete with the overseas product in regard to price, simply because the local product in effect does pay the duty while the overseas product does not. This Budget offers virtually nothing to help the 25 per cent decline in this industry and the consequent unemployment, and the picture I have shown here - it affects an important industry in my electorate - is repeated in industry after industry.
I now wish to turn to some of the social service aspects of this Budget. Whilst some of the glaring anomalies in social services are to be corrected, the section most in need of help is neglected. I refer to civilian widows with children. Admittedly, they form a very small section of our community with little voting power, and apparently are accordingly ignored by the Government in this election year. The position of these people should strike the conscience of every member in this House. In these days of intense living one never knows when a husband may be struck down at a comparatively early age, leaving his wife with a great economic problem and with more than twice the responsibility - I say deliberately, more than twice the responsibility - for bringing up her family than she had before her husband’s death. Also, one should keep in mind that nearly half the women on the A class widow’s pensions - that is, civilian widows with children - are deserted wives. This fact is not generally realised. Yet the Government has given an A class widow an increase in pension of only $1.75 a week without any increase for her children, let alone an increase in child endowment. In other words, a woman could have 6 children but, under this Budget, the only increase she will receive will be $1.75 a week.
A widow or deserted wife with 3 children still receives a pension of only $39.50 a week. This is ridiculous. No woman could be expected to stay at home, where she should be with her added responsibilities of parenthood - I stress the words ‘added responsibilities’ - and bring up her family on that amount. In other words, by its parsimonious attitude the Government is forcing women to go out to work, irrespective of the interests of the children. I know that some women wish to work, but other women do not; they wish to look after their families and I do not think that it is right or just that a woman should be forced into this situation, particularly when she does not have a partner to share the responsibilities of parenthood. Incidentally, there is also to be no increase in dependants allowances for the children of invalid pensioners. Thi; is another area which this Budget has neglected.
The supplementary allowance for pensioners paying rent is to be increased from $2 a week to $4 a week, the first increase since 1965. Superficially this seems to be a magnificent decision. It represents a 100 per cent increase in the allowance while according to the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures, rents of privately owned dwellings, have risen only 53.6 per cent since 1965. I think that most people who have bad any experience with younger people who have been looking for homes would find h hard to believe that rents of flats and cottages have increased by only 53.6 per cent in 7 years. To look deeper into these Issues, 1 looked up in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald’ the rents for unfurnished flats and found that in an average working class suburb - not the affluent suburbs - the cheapest rent for a small flat was $25 a week. Based on the Statistician’s figure, which we will accept, of an increase in rent of 53.6 per cent since 1965 - as I said, this is a conservative figure - the rents of these flats have risen by approximately $8 a week. In other words, after 7 years a pensioner now receives an increase in the rent allowance of $2 a week to compensate for an increase in rents of at least $8 a week. Therefore, this apparently magnificent concession in reality is a mirage.
Another anomaly in social service pensions which has not been corrected is the requirement that a deserted wife will not receive a pension from the Commonwealth until she has been deserted for 6 months and has taken maintenance proceedings against her husband. It is impossible to understand why the Commonwealth will not accept its responsibility immediately the wife is deserted - keep in mind, some of the States do - and it is equally impossible to understand why the Commonwealth insists on her taking maintenance proceedings against her husband, keeping in mind that the maintenance is seldom paid, before it will concede her right to a pension. These maintenance proceedings very often are the straw that breaks the camel’s back and makes it impossible to reconcile the couple owing to the bitterness surrounding such maintenance proceedings. Why does the Government insist on these archaic requirements?
The Budget also does nothing to help the family by way of increases in child endowment. As I have said before in this House, my electorate contains more young children than any other electorate in New South Wales, and probably, Australia. Couples with young families are struggling to raise their families and I know that their main demand in social welfare is an increase in child endowment. This is the only way in which mothers who wish to stay home to tend to their children can do so and not be forced to go out to work when they do not want to. Why has this injustice - the refusal of the Government to update the value of child endowment - been perpetuated? How can Government supporters then say that this is a family Budget? Is it that the Government wishes to perpetuate the socially wrong concept that each family must have 2 incomes and not one to survive?
The Budget provides $5m for child care centres which mainly is to be allocated to centres catering for one parent families. This amount is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the problem of providing centres properly staffed by competent people for those wives who are forced to work, not because they want to but because they have to. How many such centres will be built throughout Australia with this $5m? Considering the running costs of staff and so on, not to mention building costs, it is doubtful whether it would provide more than 10 or a dozen for the whole of this country. It represents only a token recognition of a vital need. Furthermore, the Government has still not faced up to the problem of assisting pre-school centres in those parts of Australia outside the Australian Capital Territory. I am proud indeed that the policy of my own Party provides for the setting up of a pre-school commission to recommend the extent of grants to the States to assist in pre-school centre establishment. It is time that this proposal was adopted by this Government. Most children in the Australian Capital Territory can obtain pre-school education, whilst those in the various States cannot, except in a few centres run by voluntary organisations which are operating at present.
As I said before, my electorate has more children in it than any other area of the State of New South Wales. Yet there would be only half a dozen or less pre-school kindergartens in it. Pre-school education - a great necessity to fit a child psychologically for the adventure of primary school - is not available to the vast majority of children in my electorate. If it is good enough for Canberra, why is it not good enough for the rest of Australia? In view of the background I have given I ask the Minister responsible to provide in the Mount Druitt Housing Commission area the first child care centre to be established by the Commonwealth. There would be no area in this country where there is a greater need for such a centre, as I believe all honourable members in this House would understand.
Other vital issues which this Government has neglected in the Budget are the need for Federal assistance for local government finance, including sewerage; the need for Commonwealth assistance to tackle the problem of spiralling land costs which are pricing homes out of the reach of young couples; the need for a prices justification tribunal to require price increases of basic commodities to be justified - a proposal which the Commonwealth has full power to implement; the need to put teeth in the Restrictive Trade Practices Act and to take cognisance of the Bannerman criticisms; the need to bring fringe merchant banking under the umbrella of conventional banking controls - once again the Commonwealth has full powers to do this; and the need to introduce effective control over the introduction of foreign investment into Australia, laying down firm guidelines as to what investment is good for this country and should be allowed in and what is bad and should be kept out. Again the Government has full power to control foreign investment. Regulations already exist under the Banking Act, which, if they were properly policed instead of merely being given lip service as they are at present, could be utilised to vet the introduction and outflow of all investment.
Another aspect of Government policy which completely neglects the needs of our day is its refusal to take any positive action to prevent the rash of takeovers. Does the Government not realise that the high liquidity of the banking system is being used by way of overdrafts for the larger barons of industry to take over the smaller barons? This could be prevented by the simple artifice of issuing a Reserve Bank instruction to banks that overdraft funds shall not be provided for takeover bids. Why does the Government not do this? It does not do so because it is not fair dinkum in its opposition to takeover bids. Too many of its friends are tied up in them. So we could go on with the neglect of this Government for the community as a whole - its refusal to correct the health scheme chaos, the lack of an Australian securities and exchange commission and so on and so on. Surely it is time to correct these glaring anomalies. Surely it is time to change.
– I move:
That the debate be adjourned.
I do this to enable the Treasurer to make an allegedly brief statement after which I will resume the debate on the Budget.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I do not wish to refuse the Treasurer leave to speak but unless there has been any arrangement or permission to introduce this matter, or a guarantee of the time it will take, I will refuse leave.
-Order! Does the Treasurer desire leave to make a statement?
– For the Information of honourable members I present the text of a letter I have sent tonight to Senator Georges in regard to the taxation affairs of Patrick Partners.
– A Budget, of course, reflects many of the policies of a government because the policies have their counterpart in the revenue raised and the expenditures that are detailed in that Budget. In the 20 minutes that I have available to me it is obvious that I cannot canvass a large number of matters. I shall therefore concentrate on two or three that appear to me to be the most important. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) spoke on Tuesday evening he referred to the excuses that the Government had made for not doing this and not doing that Excuses can be of 2 kinds. Firstly, there can be the excuse of the school boy who arrives late having come to school on a ferry, whose clothes are dripping wet, and who says he is late because he fell in the water. It is quite obvious that his excuse is valid. Secondly, there may be the office boy who comes up with the excuse for the sixth time that he has to attend the funeral of his grandmother on a day which happens to coincide with a cricket test match. Some excuses or reasons may be valid; others not.
I wish to say a few words about the reasons why the Government has faced great difficulties before I proceed to other aspects of the Budget. I believe that no government in the history of Australia since the earliest days of the colony has faced greater difficulties than the present Government faces today. We have seen the collapse of an empire of which we were part and we now know that our old connection with Britain is no longer what it was. The security of the world is no longer in the hands of 2 superpowers conducting a cold war, we being a satellite of one of them. There are now in existence or emerging 5 super-powers, and we have to decide how to navigate in these difficult waters. A statement was made by President Nixon which indicates that in the future we shall have to depend upon ourselves much more than we have ever done in the past. Unless we are blind we can see that local military power is still important. In Bangladesh it was the greater strength of the Indian Army that resolved the issue. In the Middle East it was the military power of Israel which determined the outcome. In South Africa, no matter what the Africans may do, no matter how they may rage, it is the greater military strength of the South African Government that preserves the situation there. In other words, local power is still immensely important.
So one looks to the Budget to see whether the Government has adequately taken into consideration our national security without which all our domestic concerns are as nothing, because the preservation of the state is the first requirement. I do not propose to go into this matter in detail except to say that despite all the criticism that is being levelled against the F1ll aircraft the day may come when we are exceedingly glad to have it. The Government has now embarked on one of the largest programmes it has ever undertaken in providing destroyers, a naval force that is able to look after the situation in our environment, particularly the archipelago to our north and in the seas to the east and west adjoining our coasts. Again, the Government seeks to preserve the strength of a very small standing Army. On the other hand, the Opposition - one must always remember in a Budget debate that the Opposition is the alternative government, and the more so on the eve of an election - proposes nothing of this kind. It thinks there is no threat whatsoever. Those of us who remember how in a very short time, between 1933 and 1939, the threat of Hitler blew up in Europe and those of us who remember how quickly the threat from Sukarno blew up on our northern shores will not be so complacent. We know that these things can happen quickly. Unless the keels of ships have been laid and they are built, it is useless when the threat arises to then start building a ship which may take 6 years to complete. So the Government prudently is looking to the security of this nation upon which all the other things we have must rest.
The Australian Labor Party says: ‘We believe in ANZUS’. Perhaps that is so, but it has downgraded it. Now it is not a defence alliance, but simply a kind of economic partnership. There is a great difference between the Labor Party’s attitude and our attitude to the ANZUS alliance which, in the last resort, we regard as the sheet anchor of our defence. I do not want to go into this matter beyond saying that if one looks at this item of expenditure - a very considerable item and a most important one from a national point of view - one finds that the Government is pursuing a prudent course and the Opposition has no answers. 1 turn to these other so-called excuses. I come to the field of trade. The wool industry - the greatest of our primary industries, our greatest export industry until recent times and certainly a key industry in this country - has faced, through technological change, competition that it has never faced before. One cannot suppose that with the development of artificial fibres wool will ever again be what it has been in the past. The Government has had to face that situation. In other times this could have been disastrous; the economy could have capsized completely as a result of such a setback. We have been fortunate indeed so far as mineral exports are concerned. Nevertheless, it is no mean feat of financial management that this has not been a completely disastrous blow to our economy. As if this were not enough, we have had Britain entering the European Economic Community, which has affected other of our exports, particularly primary exports. As if these things were not enough, we have seen the collapse of the stability of world currencies so that exporters and importers have not known what prices they would have to pay or what prices they would receive for their products. What would Labor do about this situation? We have heard a few words tonight and earlier, about revaluation. I do not want to enter into this aspect in any detail; unfortunately, I do not have the time. Hot from television we have this script of questions asked by a television questioner and answers given by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). The question was:
On inflation, and in reference to the Reserve Bank statement of the other day, would you endorse what they have had to say about inflation, that it could be reduced either by revaluing the dollar or-
There the question trailed off. Mr Whitlam replied:
Yes. I agree with that entirely. I think the Australian dollar is undervalued, that as long as that remains it will promote inflation in Australia.
Mr Whitlam went on to say how reluctant he was to answer this question. Then he said:
But you asked me: I am convinced that the Australian dollar ought to be appreciated in value.
This is what we get from the Leader of the Opposition. Tonight we have had an equally plain statement from another leader in the Opposition, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), in which he completely contradicted what the Leader of the Opposition said.
– What would you do?
– The question is not what would I do; the question is this: Can the people trust a party when 2 of its leaders express completely contradictory views on a highly important matter? How important this matter is has been debated already in this House, and I have not time to go into it further. Somebody interjected and asked what I would do. I will tell honourable members one of the things I would do. I hope that the Government, in framing a policy to deal with this situation, would take this into account: What we have is a pile-up of foreign currency owned by Australia, and there it lies idle. As has been said, it could be used to buy Australian assets cheaply. Another thing that might be done with it is this: For a very long time we have refused to give permission to entrepreneurs in this country to invest Australian money in Indonesia and other countries of South East Asia. In the past this has been a perfectly sensible, rational kind of policy because we have been a capital importing nation rather than a capital exporting nation. Now, for the first time, we are in a position where we could export capital. We have some foreign exchange, and I suggest that here is an opportunity that ought to be seized.
Instead of leaving this fund of overseas money idle and posing a threat if it is used in certain ways, why could we not use it in this way to promote our trade and our prosperity in South East Asia? Such action does promote our trade. I was asked what I would do. I have put this up as part of the answer. It is certainly one of the things that I would do.
The great problem with which the Budget has to grapple - any alternative government has to grapple with this problem, let us remember; we must always see that the Government is proposing to do and what the Opposition would do in regard to these great matters - is that we face, as the rest of the industrial world faces, what has been called stagnation. That is, stagnation - unemployment and lack of business activity - on the one hand and at the same time growing inflation - prices going up and wages going up. So, what has been called stagflation is inflation while at the same time there is unemployment. The management of an economy is very much a balancing act. We have been chided by the Leader of the Opposition for not having some permanent solution to this problem. Can honourable members imagine any permanent solution to walking on a tightrope? If we continue to lean either to the left or to the right on the tightrope, the results could be quite disastrous. Quite clearly, if we are engaged in a balancing act we must always be adjusting the situation to remain in balance.
So, at a time when there is unemployment we seek to increase the expenditure of the community in order to absorb the unemployed. This is precisely what the Government is doing. That increased purchasing power may be injected by various means. It may be done through public works; it may be done through reducing taxation and leaving more money in the pockets of the people to be spent to promote employment as well as for their own satisfaction; or it may be done by embarking upon a form of public works - say, housing, which promotes employment probably more than almost any other means. But I have a great objection to using housing simply as an economic regulator. I believe that it should be the subject of a continuing social policy. If we simply pour in vastly more money - the Govern ment is indeed pouring in more money - particularly at a time of land shortage, we simply bid up the price of land without any advantage to anybody. I do not have time to go into this matter in detail, beyond saying that the Government is performing this balancing act by what I believe is the best method; that is, by putting purchasing power into the pockets of the people to serve their satisfaction and to promote employment.
I believe that, despite the valiant efforts of the Opposition, there are few people in Australia today who do not believe that we are on the rise again, that employment will grow and that nobody who is in work need fear that he will lose his job. The Government has sought to deal with inflation by various methods. These are long term methods. One of them is a revision of tariffs so that employers cannot always feel that they need not mind accepting higher wage rates for their workers because they can always use excessive protection and push up prices. A revision of tariffs is one of the long term methods. Another relates to restrictive trade practices and monopolies legislation which has been forecast by the Government, because it is notorious that these also are factors in the bidding up of prices.
The Government’s policy on arbitration has been perfectly clear. Arbitration comes into play when conciliation has failed. When has conciliation failed? It has done so in 2 circumstances. The first is where the employers and employees in an industry cannot arrive at a common agreement. Then conciliation has failed and the Government’s .policy is that the matter should go to arbitration. The other circumstance in which a dispute should go to arbitration is where employer and employee are willing to enter into some collusive agreement to boost wages and prices against the public interest. In these 2 circumstances - that is, where the parties cannot agree or where the public interest is involved - the Government has said that there must be arbitration.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions, through Mr Hawke, has done everything it possibly could to prevent arbitration from working. It has said: ‘We must have a situation where ever more powerful unions use ever greater blackmail to achieve their purposes’. And so inflation continues. What may be the end of this road nobody can foresee but it is obviously the most serious matter in our domestic situation today. It is a reversion to the good old rule, the simple plan, that he may take who has the power and he may keep who can. Put more simply, it is back to the jungle. There was a time when other countries faced with this problem turned to Australia thinking that in arbitration we had the answer. We thought we had the answer, but no longer. This road is long and the end is not yet in sight. The oil strike ended at last because too many people were about to be thrown out of work. For the sake of 1,000 men who were seeking more than they ought to have, men in other industries were being stood down. Two trade union leaders went on television and said that it had to stop. Nevertheless, we have to remember, when we are dealing with arbitration and we think it may be a new province for law and order, that law is enforced not only by the police but because the vast majority of citizens believe it to be right. Those who have to be dealt with by the police are only the small dissenting minority of little consequence, but we cannot enforce the law unless the vast majority of the community believes that the law is right.
Perhaps in these industrial matters we have not arrived at that point. If that is so we have a long hard road ahead of us before people realise that we simply cannot go on like this without bringing about anarchy in the end. It may be that the hard lesson has to be learned the hard way, and at long last it may be that the trade unionists will say that this is not good enough. For the sake of 1,000 men here or a few hundred men there a whole industry and a community is thrown out of work. England has almost reached the state today that it fears it may become - and this is a dread word - ungovernable and this is the prospect that faces us. In the circumstances what has the Opposition to offer? This is the great threat in our society today, so what has it to offer.
– Co-operation with working people.
– Not confrontation but co-operation. Co-operation means yielding always to blackmail - surrendering and yielding always to blackmail. What we must have in this country is a government that, when it really comes to the crunch and we have a situation of open defiance, and this is what it amounts to, can go to the people and seek a mandate from the whole of the people to deal with those few who are holding the community to ransom. If the Government in office can be blackmailed then we have no chance of anything but anarchy and the road to anarchy is the road that Hitler trod. The first need of any modern community must be order; otherwise it reverts to the jungle. It was that sort of situation that led to Hitler. This is the mere truth that I am speaking, attested by history beyond a shadow of a doubt.
I have not much time left but I would like to say something which is not related to what I have been talking about. In this House we usually have 10 or 12 honourable members listening to debates. We have carried out experiments and they have failed. As a result we have 10 or 12 honourable members sitting here at almost any time out of a total of 125 members. This occurs because honourable members will read speeches which mostly are not worth reading. The standing order that provided that speeches may not be read has to be restored if this Parliament is to have any life in it, if it is not to be dead as it is now. Also the practice of broadcasting into our offices speeches made here should be discontinued so that honourable members have to come in and listen to speeches. Honourable members should have to get up and make speeches-
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– We have just listened to the honourable member lor Bradfield (Mr Turner) who, like the Keynesian economics he just espoused and like the Party he represents, is old hat. I agree with him on one thing, the attendance in the House, because it reminds me of the situation here when I spoke in the Budget debate last year. We are now talking about a Budget which provides for an overall deficit of $630m and a domestic deficit of $60m. The purpose of this deficit Budget is to correct the unemployment which was caused by the 1971-72 Budget. It was the cause of the present unemployment situation. When I spoke in the House last year in the Budget debate to an equally enthralled and packed House of Representatives, I predicted that precisely this situation would come about, that the result of the 1971-72 Budget would be that there would be no reduction in the rate of inflation but a great increase in unemployment in Australia. I said that other countries had tried surplus budgeting in order to overcome the problem of inflation but it had not worked in controlling inflation and had increased the level of unemployment. I feel vindicated now in having made that statement last year.
This points up a very vital difference between the attitudes of the Australian Labor Party and its opponents because at any time in the next year, if the worst comes to the worst and the LiberalCountry Party Government is re-elected, the Government is quite prepared to do anything to try to control inflation even if it means increasing the number of unemployed in Australia. That is something that the Australian Labor Party will not do. We are not prepared to increase the level of unemployment; unemployment is not an acceptable weapon against anything. Our present unemployment situation has been the precise effect of the 1971-72 Budget, but it is interesting that the Budget not only increased the level of unemployment but it also has not been effective in controlling the level of inflation. Last year the Government said that the rate of inflation over the previous year had been 6 per cent. In his Budget Speech the other night the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) pointed out that the rate of inflation was 6.1 per cent.
It is no accident that the rate of inflation is still high. What happened was that there was a surplus Budget, a Budget deliberately conceived to bring about a recession in the Australian economy last year. The immediate effect of it was a reduction in personal consumption expenditure. If we look at the Treasury White Paper on the Australian economy we can see that that is just what happened. In 1969-70 the percentage increase in personal consumption expenditure over the previous year was 5.5 per cent. By the time of the Budget of last year it can be seen that personal consumption expenditure was already on the way down because the increase in that expenditure had been only 2,5 per cent. Of course, it was given an almighty clout by the Budget last year, and so it went down even further. The rate of increase of personal expenditure went down to 1.8 per cent and it is just starting to pick up now.
If one looks at capital expenditure one will see that for the first time in some time there has been a very substantial decline in the rate of private gross fixed capital expenditure at constant prices. There was a fall of 10.6 per cent in the last financial year. With this reduction in consumption expenditure and capital expenditure there was decreased throughput in industry. This caused a lot of people to be laid off and a lot of idle capacity in factories. As a result1 of unit costs of goods going up, prices still kept going up. So it was no accident that the reduced demand and reduced employment were associated not with cost-push but with what has been called slumppush - I think it is a very fitting term - and costs continued to go up.
The increase in costs has often been blamed on high wages, but that is only a very small part of the story. In fact, I suspect that if wages had not gone up as much as they did last year we might have found that price rises were even worse. What happens when wages go up is that at least there is money in people’s pockets and there is sufficient demand to enable the turnover and sale of goods. It is not productivity that determines prosperity as much as it is sales. If sales go down, unit costs go up and prices go up. In spite of this, one would have thought that the Government would have welcomed an increase in wages this year when things were going badly and there was not enough money in people’s pockets. Yet when the Government went to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, it did not argue for just a small wage rise; it said that there should be no increase at all in the total wage this year. I suspect that if the Government had had its way and the Commission had not granted an increase in the national wage, things would have been even worse. Unemployment would have been worse. I suspect that, in spite of the increased wage costs that accrued from the national wage case, the increased demand might have been sufficient to offset that through the lower unit costs.
So I take the opposite view to that of the honourable member for Bradfield. Wages themselves are not entirely a costpush factor. Sometimes they help in a paradoxical way to reduce prices. A year ago in the Budget debate I predicted that there would be an increase in the rate of unemployment and a continued rise in the rate of inflation. Now we see a 2 per cent increase in inflation. Last December in this House I accurately predicted that if we tried to stimulate the economy again we would not necessarily find a reduction in unemployment. The balancing act that the honourable member for Bradfield talked about does not seem to work anymore. Earlier this year a mini Budget was brought down but it was not successful in getting people back to work. We still have a rate of 2 per cent unemployment and inflation is still continuing. I might have to eat my words next year, but I suspect that the often predicted effect of this Budget may not be quite what is commonly anticipated. Many people say that this Budget will cause inflation and that it will get people back to work. I wonder whether it will do that. 1 wonder whether the rate of inflation will not be as great as we might expect. I think we might find that it will just use up existing idle capacity, improve unit costs and perhaps help to lower prices somewhat. I feel, unfortunately, that it will not be as successful as we would all like in getting people back to work. The reason for this is increased productivity which the Government talks about so much. Increased productivity, if you have the same amount of output, will result in reduced employment. If manufacturers are investing more in plant, that might reduce the level of employment.
Let me quote an interesting passage from Robert Theobald on this subject. He said:
The process can be summarised as follows: Created demand will lead to purchases of highly efficient and productive machine systems that need few men to control them . . . Thus, in the relatively near future, a policy of forcing rapid growth in demand in order to increase employment opportunities will actually lead to the opposite result: It will raise unemployment rather than lower it.
The message I want to state is that pure budgetary and monetary policies are no longer sufficient for trying to achieve a full employment economy. Other measures are necessary. Let me mention just 2 that I feel are very important. The first is in relation to structural unemployment and retraining, and the second is in relation to immigration. This morning the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) introduced some further schemes for adult retraining. I suspect that they may not be any more successful than were the last ones. As we know, the last schemes that the Government introduced for workers replaced by technological change and automation were complete failures. Practically no workers knew anything about them or were able to avail themselves of the benefits. The same sort of thing could happen here because the Government does not go out and sell the scheme. I felt that many people who could have been helped by the previous schemes had never heard of them. The Government has to take over, lt must investigate every industry which is subject to the changes of automation and try to seek out those workers who are likely to be displaced by automation, and do its utmost to retrain them, rehouse them, even move them from one city to another if necessary. But it does not seem to be prepared to do this. Unless we have a major, radical overhaul of our approach to the problems of automation, I fear we will have a chronic problem of unemployment in this country.
The other matter to which I want to refer is immigration. I believe that at this stage it is reckless for the Government to embark on a programme of bringing 140,000 migrants here this year. I do not know whether Ministers ever attend their electorate offices. I think some have people standing in for them. However, most of us who attend our electorate offices have probably had people coming there saying that they had come out from Europe. They had seen advertisements telling them to come to Australia where they could get jobs but when they had come here the jobs were not available. It is not fair to the work force in Australia and it is not fair to those people who are being brought here. It is a confidence trick. I believe that the target figure of 140,000 for this year is completely unrealistic.
I would now like to refute a couple of things that have been said in the last few weeks by honourable members opposite. The honourable member for Bradfield said that one of the troubles with unemployment is high wages. Conservative governments have been saying for 50 years that the workers are pricing themselves out of a job. That is not so. It is only by increased wages that workers are ever able to buy things. If they do not buy things, people will not employ them to manufacture things. I believe that this is fundamental. Last week the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury) asked a question of the Minister for Labour and National Service. This is another favourite old chestnut of the Minister. He said that the lion’s share of loss of production in Australia is due to strikes. I have just taken out a few figures on this and I find that over the last year the loss of production in Australia due to industrial disputes was 0.24 per cent - less than one-quarter per cent of the gross national product - but the loss due to the Budget of 1971-72, where we had a growth rate of 3 per cent compared with a possible 5 per cent, was 10 times as much as from industrial disputes. Therefore, my point is that if strikes are a serious cause of loss of wages and loss of production in Australia the 1971-72 Budget, which caused 10 times the loss of production and 10 times the loss of wages, is 10 times as serious. If the workers are to blame - I do not believe they are - for the industrial disputes that have happened, the Government is 10 times more culpable.
Nobody likes strikes, least of all the strikers themselves. To hear LiberalCountry Party members speak, one would think that workers actually enjoy not working and not collecting their pay. It is the striker who is the first one to suffer because he suffers loss of take home pay. The trouble is that not enough sympathy is shown by members of the Liberal Party throughout Australia for the problems that lead to industrial disputes. The honourable member for Bradfield asked: ‘What has the Labor Party to offer?’ What we offer is sympathy for the people in their grievances. If the Liberal Party were prepared to show a bit of sympathy sometimes, there would be fewer disputes.
Let me talk about the much publicised dispute on Kangaroo Island. In spite of the fact that a Federal award was involved, representatives of the South Australian Government went to Kangaroo Island and did their best to reach a reasonable agreement with the farmers on the Island. However, this endeavour was undermined and I suspect - it is an open secret - that it was undermined by members of the Liberal and Country Parties, including some members of the Liberal Movement, who were deliberately trying to exploit the situation for cynical political advantage.
– They did not go over to the Island.
– They did all sorts of things. I will tell the House what else they did. They put out a bogus petition calling for a vote of no-confidence in the trade unions. What has the honourable member to say about the trade unionists who were intimidated into signing that petition? They were told that they would not get a job any more if they did not sign the petition. What did the Federal Government do about it? These workers were operating under a Federal award and the Federal Government did nothing, except try to keep the dispute going because it thought it would further its narrow political aims.
That is not the only thing that was done in the Kangaroo Island dispute. Evidence has been presented to me that victimisation occurred of at least one person who joined the Australian Workers Union on Kangaroo Island. He was intimidated and told that in future there would not be any job available for him. He was told this by one farmer there because he had informed on the non-union shearers so that the union organiser could go and hunt them up. He was told that his services would no longer be required and that he would be best off if he left the Island. This is the sort of victimisation that people on the opposite side of this Parliament revel in. In contrast, if a dispute is on, Labor governments always try to seek the cause of the problem. What happened in the rubber dispute last year in South Australia? There was what seemed to be an intractable dispute, but the South Australian Minister of Labour and Industry went and consulted the individual strikers to find out what their grievance was and in a very short space of time the whole problem was resolved.
What happened in the oil strike? The oil companies wanted to negotiate, but the Government would not let them. The Government leaned on them and said: ‘We will not continue the agreement under which we feather-bed the oil cartels and prop them up at the expense of IOC Australia Pty Ltd and XL Petroleum Pty Ltd, the cut-price companies, unless you refuse to negotiate with the unions’. So, the protracted oil dispute was the fault of the Federal Government. It is the guilty one who caused the strike for political purposes. There is no question about that. I went down and spoke to some of the people on strike in my electorate. What did the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) do? I wonder whether, during the long weeks of that oil strike, he ever spoke to any of the unionists on strike and asked them what their grievance was. I wonder whether any honourable member opposite really knows what the reason was for the unionists refusing to accept the interim decision of Mr Justice Moore. I will bet that none of them has any idea. They are not even interested. All they were interested in was keeping the strike going and tormenting it for their own cynical, political purposes. They will get theirs when the election comes at the end of this year.
– That is unfair nonsense, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– That ls completely true.
-Order! If the honourable member for Angas has been misrepresented he can make a personal explanation. He has no other rights whatsoever in the chamber.
– 1 beg your pardon, Sir. I may take a point of order.
– You may take a point of order under the Standing Orders.
– The honourable member is trying to take up my time.
-Order! The honourable member for Kingston will resume his seat.
– My point of order is that I find the remarks of the honourable member highly offensive. He is not telling the truth.
-Order! The honourable member has no point of order. As he is well aware, he is deliberately wasting the time of the honourable member for Kingston. I suggest that he resume his seat.
– The one thing the honourable member for Angas is good for is taking capricious points of order and deliberately wasting time when he tries to gag views that he does not like to hear. I have here a very enlightening article from the National Times’ of 5th August 1972, concerning the feather-bedding practices of the Government in respect of the oil companies. It outlines what I believe is the leverage which the Government was able to exert on the oil companies at the time of the oil dispute. In detailing the measures the Government has taken, it stated:
Under dumping legislation it has set import prices for petrol which act in effect as a penal rate of duty on cheap petrol imports from Korea-
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. I claim to have been misrepresented.
-Order! What is the honourable member’s point of misrepresentation?
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented by you. You made the remark that I take capricious points of order. If you study the record, I think you will fi nd that I have not risen on a point of order in 1972. I do not think that bears out your comment.
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member that he study Hansard tomorrow. He will find that the word ‘capricious’ was used by the honourable member for Kingston, not by me.
– If that is so, I apologise.
– I trust that the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) does not get his patients as mixed up as he gets his economics. We have been showered with high-flown cliches by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and members of his Party, but this method has never fooled anybody, for 3 reasons. Firstly, economics has never been the Leader of the Opposition’s strength and never will be. His representation was pitiful to behold and most members of his own Party fell asleep. Secondly, neither the Labor Party nor any member of it is free to speak on economic matters because the Party is dominated by the interests of its trade union power base and is controlled by the Federal Executive. (Quorum formed.) Thirdly, there is little substance of any significance that the Leader of the Opposition could find to enable him to attack the the Budget. He has ignored economic issues and has given us the familiar rendition of that old song: spend more, soak the rich, and be damned to the inflationary consequences*.
The Labor Opposition condemns this Budget. The Government parties applaud it. The people want it. There is no doubt that the people of Australia have welcomed and want this Budget. They will make their attitudes clear on polling day. We have heard a lot of words about national goals. The Leader of the Opposition tells us that we need more planning in order to reach national goals. And what are the national goals he talks of? They are broad and windy generalisations. Who could disagree with them? Everyone is on the side of the angels. But the art of government is not the art of Madison Avenue. Slogans are not policies. Words are not deeds. We have goals, but they are not goals we impose on the Australian people. That is not our concept of democracy. The Budget is aimed at goals we impose on the Australian people. That is not our concept of democracy. The Budget is aimed at goals of importance to all Australians - growth and development; the adequate defence of our nation; the fostering of industry; the expansion of educational opportunity; and the continued betterment and extension of our social welfare system.
Last week after the Budget all the Leader of the Opposition and Mr Hawke could talk about was last year’s Budget. They could find nothing critical to say about this year’s Budget. What they said about that of last year was fanciful. Look ing back we all know about the international monetary crisis which erupted soon after last year’s Budget was brought down. Hindsight is a great wisdom builder. That crisis had rapid and drastic effects on our trading partners, with severe economic consequences. This country did very well to come out of it with the economy growing by 3 per cent - real, not just in money terms. Of course the Opposition does not acknowledge world economic problems and their effects on Australia. Its members cannot understand that we are an integral part of the whole. They are either ignorant of their real meaning or sidestep them in a one-sided portrayal of our current circumstances. They want it both ways.
The Leader of the Opposition then talked about how Budgets should be framed - about forward planning and the like. The Treasurer (Mr Snedden) said in the Budget Speech that we have been aided this year in our decisions on. expenditures by the 3-year forward estimates which the Treasury Department has been collating. Perhaps he missed the point. We heard also from the Leader of the Opposition that there was nothing in the Budget about incomes and prices policies. Our income tax measures are directly aimed at increasing incomes without adding to costs and, overall, we have carefully weighed our Budget measures in terms of their inflationary impact. The Budget is designed to stimulate the economy without adding to inflationary measures.
But, we are told, there is no incomes and prices policy. We are told that other nations have such a policy. We are not told how our rate of inflation compares with that in other countries. There is a reason for this. The fact is that, taking the last 5 years, countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development not following what are fashionably termed incomes and prices policies have on the whole tended to have less inflation than those which have. But it is trendy to talk of incomes and prices policies these days - so we are criticised for not following them. We do know, however, that the Labor Party, further showing its incapacity to be objective in economic management, has stated that it would have an arbitrary control of prices, but would not do anything to control maximum incomes. We certainly would have a one-sided system under Labor. But this is just one example of where it would be driven by trade union dominance. Just what sort of a prices policy the Labor Party would implement and how it would work in detail is something that Labor has not tried to tell us.
The Leader of the Opposition did, in the end, come to talk about this Budget. He tried to say that it was an electioneering Budget - to hint that it was not a responsible Budget. But his effort was half-hearted and he was heard in deadly silence. We heard a lot before the Budget was brought down about how we, as a Government, would be irresponsible, for electoral purposes. We have never been that and the commentators and the Press, perhaps with some surprise, have acknowledged that we have brought down both a good and a responsible Budget based on sound economic judgment. That such a Budget should also be popular is, of course, a fact which pleases all on this side of the House. One reason for its popularity is that it is economically responsible. But, as to the Press, look what some leading newspapers had to say: ‘A combination of political allure and fiscal responsibility’, the Financial Review’; ‘A vigorous Budget . . . that steers an intelligent course between generosity and responsibility’, the Melbourne ‘Sun’; ‘A many faceted Budget of some sophistication’, the Australian’; and ‘A responsible Budget’, the ‘Age’. Members of the Opposition should read the ‘Australian’ today and see where their Leader is leading them. How does the Leader of the Opposition’s assessment of the Budget stack up against those verdicts of “responsible’, ‘vigorous’, ‘intelligent’, ‘generous’, ‘sophisticated’, and so on. lt does not stack up very well.
The Leader of the Opposition dealt for some time with unemployment. This is a bit rich coming from the leader of a Party which is struck into paralysed silence on each occasion a major strike breaks out. The economy has been ruthlessly battered by industrial turbulence in the past year and it has been impossible to get a long enough respite to get recruiting back to normal. But the Leader of the Opposition has no stomach for action. This is blatantly clear and is summed up in Pickering’s cartoon.
The Labor Party has desperately and cynically attempted to exploit the employment issue for electoral purposes; it seems almost as if it wishes greater unemployment. We have said we are determined to get unemployment down and the Budget is aimed at doing so. Their wish will not be our command. The Leader of the Opposition’s most trusted of colleagues are saying that unemployment will rise further. They wallow in it and are desirious of its escalation. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) has said that the Budget provides for only a 2 per cent growth in employment this year. He says that there is a need to find 190,000 new jobs each year and that 2 per cent growth is equivalent to only 90,000.
This is a case of a deliberate scare campaign based on false arithmetic, spurious reasoning and tearing out of context a figure from the Budget documents. As to the arithmetic, the normal growth in jobs is 170,000, not 190,000 and the 2 per cent growth in the work force is 115,000, not 90,000. So the alleged gap is 55,000, not 100,000. But that is not the end of it. The 2 per cent that has been quoted comes from Statement No. 1 attached to the Budget Speech, lt is explicitly stated there that the 2 per cent estimate relates ‘to year on year comparisons - that is 1972-73 on 1971-72’. The Statement then goes on to say:
During 1972-73, however, growth in employment … is expected to be greater than suggested by the foregoing-
That is 2 per cent - figure.
In simple terms what this means is that the rate of growth in employment from now on will be faster than the rate of growth in employment in 1972-73 as a whole compared with 1971-72 as a whole. The fact is that the Budget Estimates are consistent with unemployment being significantly lower at the end of the current year than at the start. The Australian Labor Party, in handling the question of employment, shows at best ignorance and misunderstanding, and at worst misrepresentation. Everyone knows that this Budget will bring unemployment down. One of its basic economic purposes is to create circumstances which will attack unemployment. Those who do not agree must be saying that an even more stimulatory budget was necessary. But we got no clear message from the Leader of the Opposition on that aspect. That is in the ‘too hard’ basket. The attitude is: Best blur the criticism and try, without being too explicit, to have it both ways. We believe, however, that the Budget is directed towards stimulating activity where it is needed - at the consumer level. We believe that conditions are right for an early resumption of strong growth in activity and that the short term difficulties with employment will pass and we in Australia will return to the full employment situation which has been the envy of the world.
Let us look at some other alleged facts presented to us by the Leader of the Opposition. He said that the pension increases simply return pensioners to the position they were at before inflation eroded the purchasing power of their pension. I challenge him to take any past year he chooses and show that the standard rate pension today has not risen faster than prices. Of course, the claim is nonsense. And if we are talking about the recent past, in the past 18 months we have increased the standard rate pension by 29 per cent. Over that period the consumer price index rose by 9 per cent. Those are the facts.
In addition we have in this Budget doubled supplementary assistance to pensioners paying rent and have extended eligibility to married pensioner couples. So a single pensioner paying rent will receive an increase of $3.75; a married couple paying rent will receive $6.50; a single pensioner paying rent will receive $24; a married pensioner couple paying rent will receive $38.50 per week; and in addition each will receive fringe benefits. The Leader of the Opposition also claimed that the increase in the free income limits simply restored them to earlier real levels which had been eroded by inflation. Again he was ignorant or was deliberately distorting the facts. He was so wrong that I will not bother to cite the figures beyond pointing out that we have increased the free income limits in this Budget by 100 per cent. Why cannot the Leader of the Opposition get his facts right? He finds it so much easier to speak in generalities.
We are dedicated to the eradication of relative poverty in this country and to the raising of the living standards of all citi zens, particularly those who are in difficult circumstances. In the difficult process of determining spending priorities, our welfare programme shows how highly we regard the need to achieve an equitable distribution to upgrade the living standards of those who most need it.
What does the Leader of the Opposition say about our tax measures? He gives a grudging welcome to the increase in the minimum taxable income though he falls into the trap of claiming that we have merely abolished a tax that costs more to collect than it is worth. Actually, only a moderate reduction in administrative costs results from the raising of the exemption limit. On the restructuring of the scale we have heard some rather forced complaints. It has been said, for example, that more should have gone to lower income earners. Of the total amount of tax forgone by the restructuring of the scale and the raising of the minimum taxable income, 57 per cent goes to persons with taxable incomes below $4,800 and three-quarters - or 75 per cent - to persons with taxable incomes below $6,400. Less than 10 per cent goes to persons with taxable incomes above $12,000. Those figures may dispose of some of the more fanciful comments made by the Leader of the Opposition.
We do not believe that the modest amount of revenue which might be gained if the marginal progression were steepened beyond, say, $8,000 a year in order to limit the benefits of tax reductions to higher income earners would be either fair - remembering the level of those marginal rates now - or productive, given the impact on incentives. The new scale provides for a marginal rate of tax of 54.6c in the $1 at $12,000. If the Leader of the Opposition thinks that this marginal rate is much too low let him say so.
In regard to dependants’ allowances, we have heard the same old story that one man’s wife is worth more than another. This is a superficial argument, like so many others. Let me quote from the Canadian Royal Commission on Taxation:
Equity has 2 dimensions. Horizontal equity requires that individuals and families in similar circumstances bear the same taxes. Vertical equity requires that those in different circumstances bear appropriately different taxes.
The fact is that it is the income tax scale which is designed to ensure equity as between higher and lower income groups - that is, vertical equity. Dependants’ allowances are a means we use to make more equitable the tax burden as between persons on the same income but in different family circumstances. Ability to pay is not merely measured by gross income but also by how many are dependent on it. Concessional deductions go some way towards bringing persons in similar economic circumstances back to a similar tax position - to recognise the principle of horizontal equity about which the Leader of the Opposition chooses to know nothing.
We believe that the increase in dependants’ allowances will be widely welcomed and will help particularly the single income family with children. The great bulk of the benefits will go to people on lower and medium incomes. What would Mr and Mrs Everybody say if asked individually?
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I cannot share the naive and innocent adolescent joy of the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) in regard to this Government’s Budget. 1 listened to his frequent references to statements made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). I am afraid that I failed to comprehend that he was rebutting any of the criticisms of the Budget which were made. In fact, we on this side of the House do not consider the Government’s Budget just as an isolated government act. We compare this Budget with the Budgets that this Government has presented in preceding years and because it Claims to be a responsible government we look through those earlier Budgets to see whether there is some golden thread of economic thought, something that provides a link between the various Budgets, something which gives guidelines for Australia’s economy and its stability; but nowhere do we find them. The Treasurer (Mr Snedden), in the concluding stages of his Budget Speech, said:
Of course, any Budget can only be framed on the basis of the Government’s best judgment at the time. What the future holds can always be only dimly seen. We shall review economic trends aS the year goes on to ensure that the economy moves properly towards its sustainable growth path.
Well, in view of the standards of the Government’s best judgments in recent years, what an ominous statement that is! A government, after 23 years in office, can only dimly see what its efforts in those years may produce. Who can trust this Treasurer? Well may the Government be accused of a complete lack of cohesion and aim in its forward planning of Australia’s economy, and this is just what the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition is all about. The Government cannot possibly claim that the economic difficulties in Australia are due solely to external factors beyond its control. The fact is that this Government has set no national goals. It has not sought to utilise Australia’s natural resources for Australia’s benefit in the fields of minerals, oil, gas or even human beings. So who can trust the Treasurer and his Budget?
Last year the Treasurer produced the most contractionary Budget for more than 10 years. I was absent from Australia at that time so I cannot speak of the reaction to that Budget. However, I know that this misguided Treasurer was forced to recant earlier this year by producing a miniBudget. I repeat: Who can trust this Treasurer? Having left his options open in this Budget, who could confidently predict what he would do in a few months’ time if he were given an opportunity? The safest course is not to give him that opportunity There is no doubt that the Treasurer has tried to put more money into the hands of the consumers. There is also no doubt that he has done it in such a way that he could very quickly take it out of their hands.
My electorate contains a big percentage of semi-skilled and unskilled workers, of migrants and pensioners. What can I tell them that this Budget offers them? It offers them very little indeed. What does it do to curb the unemployment that has occurred in that area? As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out in his proposed amendment, the Budget fails to define adequate economic and social goals for Australia. Indeed, it fails to define goals, adequate or otherwise. One can appreciate why Government supporters feel that the Budget is an improvement. After last year’s Budget any Budget would be an improvement. In the 20 minutes allotted to an honourable member to speak on the
Budget he can give it only the most cursory examination. It contains many factors that should be explored in depth.
The Treasurer and the Government as a whole have always made much of what the Treasurer calls the continuing upsurge of wage pressures. After listening to Government supporters one would think that that was the only considerable factor in the national economy. The conciliation and arbitration system acts as a wage justification system. Mind you, the Government with its record has ignored the conciliation angle and has insisted on arbitration to force confrontation. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) referred to conciliation and arbitration. He spoke of disputes. I have no doubt that he wishes to cover up the fact that in industrial matters this Government tries to force confrontation. This occurred during the oil strike. Right in the middle of the oil strike the New South Wales Liberal Government conducted a by-election in a blue ribbon Liberal seat. How did its sincerity and credibility fare? There was a gigantic swing in that seat against the ruling Liberals. Many showed their disgust by not voting at all. Is this what the Government wants to achieve by forcing confrontation with workers in industries? Let it remember that there is a conciliation angle to these matters.
What does the Government achieve when it enforces this sot of confrontation in the areas of price increases and profits? Has it ever suggested in any way that price rises should be justified, that price rises of basic materials should not merely follow wage rises but should be based on efficient management and techniques, on proper planning for the use of resources and on a temperate expectancy of profits? Why does the Government resist such a price justification procedure as a measure of economic common sense? What does the Government do about international raiding of our natural resources so that we receive only the smallest return for them? This return is usually tied to the vagaries of foreign currencies. Where in the Budget does the Government give stimulus for Australia’s industries to use our raw materials to process goods, instead of allowing these materials to be processed in other countries and then returned here? This is of particular importance now that Australia knows it is a fuel rich country. Even established industries pass into the hands of overseas interests.
What concern has the Government shown for this trend? The contract for the pink pages of our telephone directories is recent enough for it to be fresh in everybody’s mind. Even the promotional literature on Australia is produced overseas. One may ask what the results are for our printing industry. Why should public enterprise always be decried in contrast with private enterprise? I invite honourable members to have a look at the capital works programme outlined in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech. The capital expenditure provided for this year is even lower than that provided for last year. As to expenditure provided for in the Budget, one can touch on some issues fairly broadly. An important factor is the major component of State grants. Later we may have an opportunity to debate that subject at greater length when the State grants legislation is introduced. In the Papers attached to the Budget Speech is a variety of matters for which the finances paid to the States will be used. These finances deserve analysis.
Amongst them are grants for unemployment in non-metropolitan and metropolitan areas. What a hollow result is achieved in respect of employment. One of the municipalities I represent received probably one of the highest grants but with it it could provide employment for only about 30 men for a period of 6 weeks without any continuing benefit. The comments appearing with the table show that payments to the States for education purposes are expected to increase by $25,996,000. Of that sum $11,506,000 is attributable to increased per capita grants to independent schools. Surely those figures stand as a disproportionate and inequitable contribution.
Turning to social services, the Treasurer has referred to the position of the more needy. One cannot speak against the sorely needed pension increases. These increases are justified by the Government only by taking them as a percentage increase on the previous pension. The Treasurer has even added in the mini-Budget pension
Increase in an attempt to gain more credit. Anybody interested in such matters is entitled to ask how the pension is related to pensioner needs, the poverty level, the cost of living and the average wage structure in the community. Is it unreasonable to expect that a responsible economic document would draw a connection between the amounts of a pension supposedly to support citizens and the factors which determine that it do so? But no; there is no responsible recognition of this.
I heard the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) talk about supplementary assistance to pensioners paying rent. If the Hamer Ministry in Victoria follows the customs of the Bolte Ministries in Victoria, that supplementary assistance for rent immediately will be added to housing commission rents payable by pensioners who receive the supplementary assistance, so the benefit will be lost. It is right that some pensioners should feel aggrieved that they are left out of it. After all, what of the pensioner who owns his home? I have a letter here to which I shall quickly refer. Such a pensioner would pay $55 to $60 a year in municipal rates; he would pay $50 to $55 a year in Board of Works rates; house insurance would be another $30 to $35 a year. This makes a total of $135 to $150. To this figure must be added at least $150 for maintenance, which makes a total of $300 a year that the pensioner must pay. Why should they be left out of supplementary assistance?
What of the greatest hoax in this field perpetrated by the Budget - that of the abolition of the means test? The Treasurer commented:
The Government commitment! to introduce free of means test pensions for people aged 63 or over is an historic decision and represents a major social advance.
But this Budget does not do that, lt merely promises to appoint a committee of inquiry to examine and report on the abolition of the means test, with particular reference to national superannuation. It certainly is an historic right about face by the Government. My Party has been advocating for years the abolition of the means test and the establishment of a national superannuation scheme. In the last election campaign my Party made promises concerning this matter. Representatives of this Gov ernment cried: ‘Impossible! Financial Irresponsibility! Where is the money coming from?’
What of the Treasurer’s attitude to this? Until a few short weeks ago he said this was impossible, and now he has presented it in his Budget. I am glad that the Labor Party is going to have the green light to go ahead and no one will ask us where the money is coming from. Once again I ask: Who can trust this Treasurer? How giddy he must be from this rapid turnabout. There will be welcome relief for the aged who need care in nursing homes or private homes. But still the basic old attitude of philanthrophy and charity persists in regard to these matters. Is it not about time this attitude was dropped and the whole basis of our social services whether for pensioners, the ill, the physically and mentally handicapped, etc., became a matter of providing for the maximum use of our natural resources - in this case, human beings - by a responsible government accepting its responsibilities in an enlightened community and not pushing the responsibility on to voluntary agencies.
In the short time I have remaining I could perhaps talk of some of the adjustments on the receipts side of the Budget. Of course, my constituents will be thrilled at the drop in the tax on the purchase of works of art. I am sure the incidence of Rembrandts and Van Goghs will increase markedly. Their joy at the estate and gift duty decreases will be unbounded. This will benefit them greatly. Of course, in regard to the alterations in the rates of income tax, my colleagues who have already spoken in this debate point out one after the other the inequitable nature of the steps taken. The tax scales still discriminate heavily against low and middle income earners. For years I have heard the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) refer to a thorough reform of the taxation scales to remove such lack of equity. I commend him for his persistence and hope to see him shortly in the position to be able to do what he says should be done. Every competent person outside the Parliament who has commented on the Budget has pointed out the simple fact that it is only the rate of increase in taxation that has been reduced. From the figures supplied by the Treasurer himself, it is certain that the rise in the net income tax paid by individuals in 1972-73 will be $439.2m. How forcefully are Government members putting this forward? How forcefully will they do, as the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) says they should do - go out into the electorate and sell the proposal? One can imagine the great silence that will descend over this aspect. I quote from the editorial in today’s ‘Canberra Times’, which states:
The Liberal-Country Party, coalition has yet to demonstrate that it is committed to the ideal of ensuring an equitable distribution of the national income: the philosophy that guides its decisions often can be summed up as supplying the cash to pay the doctor, the hospital, or the school, or to buy the bare necessities of life, rather than offering a way to reduce these costs and to improve their quality and availability.
A responsible newspaper can say that after 23 years of Liberal-Country Party governments. In fairness, the next sentence in the editorial reads:
Whether Labor could or would do better is the question that remains unanswered.
But if Labor has the opportunity, it will have the zeal and it will provide the facilities to carry out worthwhile policies. This Budget is a document produced for election winning purposes by a gaggle of Ministers who have all the facilities at their disposal. Yet the Budget shows no planning for the future. Very properly has the Leader of the Opposition moved his amendment and very properly do we on this side of the chamber wholeheartedly support it.
– I thoroughly and strongly reject the amendment which condemns the Budget. The amendment is just a form of words which mean nothing. As there has been a lot quoted from the Press - the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) quoted from this morning’s ‘Canberra Times’ and the honourable member for Adelaide (Mt Hurford) quoted from what Dr Harold Bell said in the ‘Australian’ to support his condemnation of the Budget - I believe that 1 am entitled also to quote from the Press. 1 shall quote from an article in the ‘Australian’ which the honourable member for Adelaide must have missed in some way or other. I say that charitably. In the article Dr Bell said: a renewal of business confidence should be generated by the new correct Government reading of the economic signs. . . .
So much for his part in the dismal tirade. In the same newspaper the honourable member for Adelaide must have missed the editorial which, in part, states:
The Budget debate so far has been remarkable for a crushing silence from Mr Whitlam on this point. It is all very well for Mr Whitlam to claim that the Budget’s average 10 per cent tax reduction is not really a reduction at all but, in terms of effect on pockets, merely a slowing-down in tha rate of tax increases. In the context of the promises of extra government spending he has made, and of the threats of slashing income tax deductions and tightening up the tax system that both he and Mr Crean, the A.L.P.’s shadow Treasurer, have made in the past few months, this attack becomes specious. If Mr Whitlam is elected to office and keeps all his promises, he will have to find finance for boosting pensions to 25 per cent of average earnings; ending the means test; handing out an immediate $100 million to pensioners and unemployed; reducing sales tax; raising unemployment benefits;- extra spending on schools and hospitals; pre-school education; free university education; a national insurance scheme; and regenerating urban public transport.
There is a lot more to the article but I will not read it all. This part concludes:
The inescapable conclusion is that the ALP leader will not be cutting income tax, he will be raising it by more than 10 per cent or even more.
This is what is stated. How the honourable member for Adelaide came to miss such an important piece of information in the same newspaper, from which he quoted earlier in the debate, I do not know.
The Treasurer (Mr Snedden) has quite rightly and properly described the Budget in the phrase ‘taxes down, pensions up and growth strengthened’. The Australian Labor Party leader quite erroneously described it as being a rich man’s Budget, for yet 57 percent of the tax saving to income earners will go to those people who have an income of $4,800 or less. This is equal to a salary of approximately $92 a week. In this Budget some assistance is provided for many facets of our society. Apart from the increase of the basic pension to $20, real aid is given in many places where it is needed. The Budget reflects a tremendous amount of care and thought in all these facets. It has not been, as the last speaker said, put together by a gaggle of Ministers for the purpose of winning an election. The Treasurer said that this was not so, and I believe him. I think it is quite obvious that this Budget has not been put out just for election purposes. A lot of thought has gone into it.
With regard to health and social services it contains real assistance in many spheres. I have mentioned the rise in the basic pension rate. Rent assistance and supplementary payments to pensioners are to be increased. Long term sickness allowances are also to be raised. But the real help has come to the aged who are ill. People who have to spend long terms in nursing homes will be assisted. Nursing assistance is to be made available in the home. Both these measures are very welcome and should be a tremendous help and a boon to those people who are forced to spend a long time in either a hospital, a nursing home or an aged persons home. They will help the aged and ill to live in greater dignity and will help relatives - who in many cases have to support them because they have nowhere else to go and who find it a burden to do so. Older people will be able to go to nursing homes and not be treated as they have to be treated in many hospitals nowadays ‘because the hospitals are short staffed. In some hospitals they are present in some numbers and there is not sufficient staff to give them the personal attention that people need when they are old and have lost some of their faculties. Because of this measure, the hospital bed situation will improve. I know of several hospitals in my electorate where many old people have gone because there was nowhere else for them to go. I know that many of the beds in the Alice Springs Hospital were occupied by old people. The Government is doubling the size of the Old Timers Home run by the Australian Inland Mission at Alice Springs. I commend the Government on this action which will alleviate this problem with respect to the old, the ill and the ill aged.
I turn to child care. This is one area which has required considerable attention in previous years. In this Budget $5m is appropriated to provide accommodation and training for specialised staff to deal with the children of low income and special need families as well as the children of working parents who must leave their child ren, sometimes in the care of friends or relations or sometimes without care at all. Very often these children get into real trouble. I have seen and heard of them moving around in gangs. My attention was directed to one gang of these children aged between 7 and 11 years who, roaming around on their own, robbed an old man who was lying on the grass of more than $100. On another occasion, at the other end of my electorate, a similar gang of children used a shanghai to kill a prize cat in someone’s back yard. On another occasion, another gang of children speared some fowls through a fence. These children were roaming around with nothing to do and had no-one to take care of them. In growing up, they will find their way into an early life of crime. The Budget provides $5m to set up and equip these centres and to train qualified staff. We must face the fact that quite a number of staff will be needed. This has been an increasing social problem and I look to this scheme to be of great assistance in the bringing up of these children.
I could not let this Budget debate pass without commending the Government on its decision to construct a standard gauge railway line at a cost of $54m from Tarcoola to Alice Springs. This year an expenditure of $3.4m is planned on it. The survey work has been done and the Government is getting the job off the ground immediately. I could not be more pleased that this proposal has been introduced. This railway of 520 miles is vital. Through the years, every time decent rain has fallen between Alice Springs and Marree, the line has been washed away in many places and sometimes has been out of service for weeks at a time because of the lack of ballast on the line and the deterioration in the concrete in the culverts. The line was due for upgrading. The Commonwealth Railways looked at several possible routes and considered whether it should run along Lake Eyre or along the high country where it is now planned the railway will go. When this line is completed, it should not be subjected to such flooding as the old line and maintenance needs should not be as high because it transverses country which is free of flooding problems.
I turn to national highways. Once again the Government is to be commended for providing $2.5m to seal the Eyre Highway in South Australia. The really good news in this field is that the Government is getting on with the sealing of highways linking capital cities and that the Government is displaying an interest in seeing that there is adequate progress in the development of highways which will link major interstate centres. The stated intention is to develop a suitable programme for further improvement of a national highways system. Into this category falls the Port Augusta to Alice Springs Highway which currently is being sealed from the north. This year I think $833,000 has been provided to seal this road south to Erldunda. However, I urge the Government, in conjunction with the South Australian Government, to start sealing the road from the south to the north as the Commonwealth is doing from Alice Springs southwards.
While 1 am speaking on the subject of the development of roads all over Australia, I would like to direct a few remarks to roads in the Northern Territory in particular. With the beef roads scheme drawing to a close, 1 urge the road planners to look at the roads over which pass many millions of dollars worth of beef which is shipped east, southeast and south from the Northern Territory. Last year $19m worth of beef passed through Alice Springs alone. Most of these beef roads have earth surfaces and are constructed by a grader moving across the country. They get very dusty at times and this dust tends to choke the cattle. Also, the road transports tend to bog down and in any sort of wet weather these roads are impassable. So, I ask the Government to look seriously at this question.
In the time remaining to me, I will not have time to deal in detail with the $113m appropriation for the Department of the Interior in the Northern Territory. This year’s appropriation represents an increase of 23 per cent over last year’s. That does not include the amounts appropriated for expenditure in the Northern Territory through the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Health and the Department of Civil Aviation. I hope to discuss these during the Estimates debate. The Budget provides for a major development in the field of defence, which is to be commended. The Government proposes to go ahead with the construction of a new type of destroyer which will have facilities to allow its crew to live in some degree of comfort when operating in the waters to the north of Australia. This is a feature which some of our other ships, especially the patrol boats, have not had. So I am very pleased to see that the Government is going ahead with this.
In the Budget the appropriation for road safety planning has been increased by $175,000. It is a very vital factor in Australian life today to try to reduce the death toll on the roads. Also I would like to draw to the attention of the Government the work that is being done in relation to the environment and national parks. 1 am pleased that the Minister for the Environment (Mr Howson) is at the table. In many parts of Australia a tremendous amount of litter - rubbish, bottles, glasses and things of that nature - is thrown out on the roads by people who just do not care. We are spending money on road safety, and so we should be. We are spending money also on national parks. I think that when work is completed on the Northern National Park in the Northern Territory it will be a beauty. I think that what I suggest would come under the ‘Keep Australia Beautiful’ campaign which did attract some funds in the Estimates. We should make a very serious effort to tidy up our country and see that people exercise a little thought and not throw their rubbish out of the windows of their vehicles. Everything can be packed back Into the box from which it came or can be placed in a rubbish basket that can be kept in the car. I commend this suggestion to the people of Australia and I urge the Government to mount a campaign to bring it about.
Finally, $24m is being allocated for the assistance of Aborigines in the Northern Territory. The overall amount for Aborigines in Australia has been increased by 58 per cent. The Government is facing up to the problem of providing housing, health services, education and other facilities. There is a policy, and funds are available, to acquire stations off reserves for Aborigines so that they can learn how to operate them. There are a few of these in the Northern Territory already. I urge the Government to spend money to get them working. For instance, at Haasts Bluff there are 4,000 square miles of some of the best country in Central Australia. Before the Government rushes in and buys all sorts of other places I recommend that it look at places like Haasts Bluff, Hooker Creek - the country there is not so good but the
Government could get some from Wave Hill, up towards the Victoria River, it would be all right - Bulman, on the Roper River, and Beswick. I have mentioned just a few of these places. They are stations on Aboriginal reserves and they certainly could be viable propositions. As I said on the last occasion that we discussed the Estimates, the Government has to find suitable people to lead the Aborigines into organising and running these projects themselves.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) last Tuesday night must have shattered completely any hopes which Government supporters may have held that the Budget could give them some slight chance of winning the next election. As a result of those speeches and others by honourable members on this side of the House in this Budget debate, great consternation has been evident in the Government ranks and particularly within the Ministry. Cabinet members - indeed the Ministry generally - have engaged in a wrangling match, the bitterness of which I have never before witnessed during the time that 1 have been here, about whether they should go for an early or a late election. The ‘Australian’ newspaper this morning carried bold headlines reading: ‘McMahon and Ministers wrangle over poll date’. In this evening’s press we saw big headlines stating: ‘McMahon furious’ and the report underneath referred to the poll date wrangle. In the House this morning one could sense the considerable and real bitterness that the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) holds towards the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony).
According to the media the Prime Minister is adamant that it should be a late poli and has ordered Government supporters to go forth into the electorates to try to perform the impossible task of selling the Budget to the people - a job at which even a super salesman could not succeed. The Deputy Prime Minister, being a little more astute and a better judge of electorate reaction and attitudes, is strongly in favour of an early poll. His idea is that the people will have less time to realise the general inadequacy of the Budget and that once again it is only a wealthy man’s document. Of course, there are not too many of them in rural electorates either.
Even though this most recent effort of the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) contains a number of very objectionable measures; even though it aggravates still further many of the undesirable features of the general tax system which makes the rich richer and the poor poorer; even though it leaves so much unrecognised and uncared for in so many fields, such as educational opportunity and assistance for children in remote and isolated areas; even though it fails in regard to health, social services, repatriation, primary industry, decentralisation, northern development and so on; even though it will do nothing towards overcoming the serious and frightening unemployment situation; even though it does nothing to halt the continuing rapid increase in prices and the cost of living, it nevertheless would not be quite so bad if we could only trust the Government. But history proved that we cannot trust this Government. For instance, it would be extremely difficult for anyone to accept the words of the Treasurer in respect of the abolition of the means test sometime in the future when, as everyone knows, an assurance was given by the same people in 1949 that they would do just that. That assurance is now 23 years old and has never been honoured. It is an assurance which has been repudiated on several occasions since 1949 by various Prime Ministers. It must be remembered that on this occasion, as in 1949, the Government has put forward only an election promise. Actually it has nothing to do wilh the machinery of the Budget. There will be no legislation introduced for that purpose and, just as it was before, it could well be another empty promise.
No-one should believe that the Government has made any firm decision to abolish the means test because it has not. It is only a promise and it is no firmer on this occasion than it was on the previous occasion. There is every indication if we look at past events that the Government will treat this last promise in the same way as it treated the 1949 promise. As I said earlier, various Prime Ministers have been extremely critical of any proposal to abolish the means test and 3 Prime Ministers - the late Mr Holt, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) and the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) - during the last 6 years have been just that. I have a Press cutting from the ‘Courier Mail’ of 29th March 1966 and the relevant part reads:
An approach by some Queensland unions to the Prime Minister (Mr Holt) to tie the old age pension to the basic wage and abolish the means test, has been rejected. . . .
The committee has received a letter from the Minister’s Department secretary (Mr E. J. Bunting) rejecting the proposals. . . .
Mr Bunting said in his reply that if the pension proposal were adopted, Parliament would no longer have the power to determine the amount of revenue to be allocated for social services, but it would still be responsible for raising that revenue by taxation. . . .
Mr Bunting said that it was estimated that the additional cost of abolishing the means test would be about $300 million.
He wrote: ‘This is expenditure which in the light of the Government’s present commitments cannot be undertaken.’
Mr Bunting, of course, was answering on behalf of the then Prime Minister. So in 1966 the Government used as its reason for not abolishing the means test the excuse that it had other commitments and it could well use that excuse again this time. But in 1969 the then Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins, did not hide behind excuses. He came straight out with a direct denial of any suggestion that his Government, and that means the same men who are sitting on the Government side tonight, would ever agree to abolishing the means test. I have another document which is beaded ‘Liberal Women’s Rally, Brisbane, Queensland, 30th July 1969. Speech by the Prime Minister, Mr John Gorton.’ On page 4 of that speech the following words appear: t hope nobody will imagine when I say that that I am talking about the possibility of abolishing the means test. I am not and it should not be abolished.
– Who said that?
– The right honourable member for Higgins, when he was Prime Minister. There is nothing vague about that statement. It is a direct and positive ‘nothing doing’. It is rather interesting also to note that he refers to a cost of $450m which is a 50 per cent increase in the figure given by Mr Holt 3 years earlier. One thing about Government supporters is that a few hundred million dollars means nothing if they are trying to make a particular point. And further, as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out last Tuesday night, the present Prime Minister a short time ago said that the proposal to abolish the means test was even more irresponsible than the right honourable member for Higgins had made out, so his ‘nothing doing’ was even more definite than the previous one. As I said earlier, 2 Prime Ministers and one would-be Prime Minister who now is Prime Minister have over the past 6 years and as recently as 1969 roundly condemned any suggestion that the means test should be abolished.
How can we accept anything the Treasurer now says in that respect? Certainly the people of Australia will not be fooled on this occasion, particularly as they will bear in mind that there is a very strong move among Government supporters to sack the present Prime Minister and reinstate the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), the very man who in 1969, as Prime Minister, said quite definitely that as far as he was concerned there would never be an abolition of the means test. His remarks today, in a very unconvincing speech, simply confirmed my statement that one cannot trust this Government. It promises things today and then denies them tomorrow. On the other hand, the Australian Labor Party has always been consistent in this regard. Ever since 1954 it has said that upon becoming the Government it will move to abolish the means test and it sticks by that promise. The people of Australia know that they can trust the Labor Party and that it will do as it says. In addition we will increase the pension to 25 per cent of the average weekly wage, which would mean a significant increase above the amount that the Government has proposed at the present time.
The people of Australia are entitled not only to have grave doubts regarding the sincerity of the Government in relation to the abolition of the means test but also to be rather sceptical of the Government’s intentions in relation to the so-called cut in income tax. Over the past few years the Government has followed a policy in regard to income tax of off again, on again, off again, on again. It is just like Finnegan
There is every indication to suggest that the same pattern will be followed in the future and that if it does retain the Treasury bench at the forthcoming election it will reimpose taxation at something like the existing rate plus the increases which have been imposed over the years. The cut this year is not a real cut because the amount of revenue which will be recovered from income tax this year will still be S439m more than it was last year and $390m of that will come from pay-as-you-earn tax.
In introducing the Budget last year the Treasurer said:
From what we see now, the influences tending to produce excess liquidity could continue strongly into 1972. This provides a further reason for seeking to achieve a large domestic surplus. The figure we have decided upon is $630m or $80m more than the previous year.
Actually the surplus finished up at something like $387m. The Budget this year was drawn up, so the Treasurer tells us, on the basis of an overall deficit of $630m, which is the same figure as the domestic surplus sought to be achieved last year. There will be a domestic surplus this year of only $60m.
Only last night the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) stressed very forcibly that any deficit budget would have to be paid for. He was warning us that there would be increased taxation next year if the Government were returned to office. It is becoming obvious that any bread handed out this year has been made possible as a result of an excessive amount of corn gathered over the past 2 years and stacked away in the granary. There seems to be little doubt that it would have remained in the granary and been added to this year but for the fact that an election is just round the corner. Last year’s Budget was a deliberate attempt to create unemployment and it did just that. This year’s Budget is a deliberate attempt to try to fool the people, but it will not.
Ever since I can remember, which is quite a few years now, the family man and the taxpayer in the poorest circumstances have, upon a measurement of the financial circumstances, made the greatest contribution to the revenue of this country, have carried the greatest burden and have been treated most unfairly in relation to taxation, both direct and indirect. As I said earlier, the method which the Government has decided to use on this occasion in relation to alterations in the taxation scale has further aggravated and further reduced the living standard of the family man and the man on the lower income as measured against those without families or in comfortable or wealthy circumstances.
The Treasurer issued a document which he was pleased to call ‘Examples of Tax Reductions’. While that document was issued only to try to give a little bit of gloss to the Government’s generally murky image, the examples in it when analysed show very clearly and conclusively that once again the Government has not tried to help those who require the most financial relief but has either hurriedly introduced a tax reduction purely to try to attract votes or deliberately decided, as it has on so many other occasions, to give not relief but deliberate handouts to the very people who are in a position to withstand the existing tax requirements.
I noticed that on the morning following the Budget the newspapers came out with statements that lower income groups would receive the most benefit from the tax concessions. Of course, this is just another case of trying to fool the people. The right honourable member for Higgins tried the same sort of tactics this afternoon, I am sorry to say. Certainly the reduction in percentage is greater, but in actual money, which means actual relief - it is actual money that buys food and clothing, not percentages - It is the low income groups and the family man who get the worst deal and who in fact have been treated very shabbily in this Budget compared with those on very high incomes. For instance, the man with a wife and 4 children with an actual income of $67 a week and other allowable deductions amounting to $500 will receive a tax reduction of 34.2 per cent. But it amounts to only $67 a year or 21c a week per person of the family.
On the other hand, however, to show where the Government’s real concern lies, let us look at the taxpayer with the same number of dependants whose income is $20,000 a year, or $385 a week. I notice that the Treasurer carefully avoided setting out the weekly amount in this case.
That taxpayer will enjoy a tax reduction of 9.1 per cent, which in actual money amounts to $646 a year, or $2.07 a week per person of the family. The higher the income, the greater the relief. So 1 suggest that when one comes down to real things, the things that really mean something - that is, the money involved - one finds that it is the wealthy, high income group and not the low income earner which really derives the greatest benefit from this Budget. In fact it is a very much greater benefit. It is quite wrong, and indeed contemptible, for newspapers and for the right honourable member for Higgins to suggest otherwise. It is the family man who suffers most from increases in the cost of living, and the larger his family the more he suffers - not only financially but also in a general way, because it is a great strain and worry to him if he is unable to provide his children with the start in life to which every child should be entitled. Surely, in all fairness and justice, this should not be allowed to happen if it can possibly be avoided. Surely those are the very people who are deserving of the greatest consideration. But unfortunately it does not happen with this Government
This Government is too lazy, too unconcerned or too incompetent to trouble itself about working out a system or formula for giving the family man a fair go. There are a number of ways by which the family man could and should be assisted. One would be by a fairer method of taxation and taxation allowances, a method which would have a real relationship to his means. He could be helped by way of increased child endowment, which is real money and which is not taxable. This could be spent towards the welfare of his family. Then there is assistance in regard to the education of his children. This also would be real assistance in a financial way and could remove much of the worry and burden which family taxpayers carry at the moment.
The burden of providing an adequate education for their children is a greater burden to those taxpayers in the far flung and remote areas of the Commonwealth than for families resident in the city. This is quite natural, because of transport and accommodation costs which are involved when the child is obliged to attend a school in the metropolitan area or in some city or town some distance from his real place of residence. However, even with regard to taxation allowances for education costs, the taxpayer in the remote and distant places is allowed no more than the taxpayer in the metropolitan area. So even in that respect he is at a serious and distinct disadvantage. But taxation allowances are not enough. The Commonwealth should be making specific grants to the States for the specific purpose of assisting the parents in distant places who have children who are obliged to obtain an education away from home or if the parent decides to provide the education by way of a governess. This Government compliments itself upon providing certain moneys for universities and scholarships, which are very necessary and welcome. But it must be remembered that before a child can sit for a scholarship or attend a university he must have a solid basic teaching. Here again we have the situation where children in distant and remote areas are at a considerable disadvantage and will continue in such a situation until the Commonwealth is prepared to allocate specific amounts of money to help them. Also, Mr Deputy Speaker, what about the people who live in the real high cost areas such as in the north and north west? The Government has done nothing really to improve their position when compared with people in metropolitan areas where the prices are a little lower. Again I say that if this Government is going to persist with its tax system of handouts to the wealthy and a few crumbs to the nonwealthy it should also give some further assistance by way of zone allowance and by extending the zone boundaries. The zone boundaries have not been increased for 13 years. 1 know that zone allowance increases are not the real and positive answer in relation to the high cost of living in the north. I realise that the Government has done nothing to implement the recommendation of the Loden Committee in that respect. This would have reduced haulage charges and thereby, to some extent, prices. I realise that the Government has done nothing to contain prices. While I realise these things I still believe that the Government should have in fact done so. Therefore there is more reason why it should have provided on this occasion some relief in relation to high prices in the north. It could have done this by way of increased A and B zone allowances and by extending the A zone into other remote and high cost areas. This is a very bad Budget and one which will not stand up to examination. As time goes on it will become more obviously bad. The Deputy Prime Minister is certainly wise in wanting to go to the polls early while at least some of the people may believe that the Budget is not so bad. But while the Deputy Prime Minister is on the right track he has picked the wrong horse and left his run too late. The people have had enough of this Government. They realise that the further it goes the worse it gets and the more apathetic and lazy it becomes. Therefore, on this occasion, we can look forward to an overwhelming victory for the Australian Labor Party. I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition which states: the House condemns the Budget because it falls to define adequate economic and social goals for Australia; and in particular because it provides no programme fox restoring full employment, no means of checking the costs and prices of goods and land, no framework for improving the standards of education, health, welfare and public transport and no national plan for our capital cities and regional centres’.
Debate (on motion by Mr Graham) adjourned.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Papua New Guinea Bill 1972. New Guinea Timber Agreement Act (Repeal) Bill 1972.
States Grants (Pre-school Teachers Colleges) Bill 1972.
Education and Science - Immigration -
The Parliament: Travel Concessions for Retired Members - Repatriation - Social Services - Uganda - Department of Education and Science - Immigration - Unemployment
Motion (by Mr Howson) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– The matter which I wish to raise tonight is administered by the Department of the Interior. I telephoned the office of the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) and told him that 1 intended to mention a matter which was administered by his office. However, I know that he has nothing to do with actually implementing this privilege. I am very pleased to see that the Minister has come into the House. I also telephoned the Assistant Minister assisting the Prime Minister (Mr Dobie) but I understand that he is away ill. Naturally he cannot be here to relate my remarks to the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). The matter which 1 wish to raise in the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House pertains to the conditions necessary to qualify for a life gold pass and travel privileges as applicable to ministers, Mr Speaker and the President of the Senate as distinct from those for private members and senators upon retirement from parliamentary service.
Firstly, I make it perfectly clear that in speaking on this matter I am not doing so to further my own personal interest because, having served in 7 Parliaments, I already qualify for this privilege. Let us examine the position. Ministers, Mr Speaker or the President have to serve in their respective capacities for a period of only 3 years to qualify whereas a private member or senator is required to serve for 20 years or in 7 Parliaments.
This system of qualification is outrageously unfair and unjust, as I shall proceed to demonstrate. My friend and colleague the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) is retiring at the conclusion of this Parliament, having served for a period of 17 years but only for 6 Parliaments. Yet despite his conscientious, diligent and sincere representation on behalf of his constituents and the Opposition Labor Party, he fails to qualify for the life gold pass and travel privileges. In addition I am reliably informed that, the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan), having lost his preselection due to the machinations of certain members of the Liberal Party, intends to contest the forthcoming election as an independent. But should he be unsuccessful he, like the honourable member for Gellibrand, with 17 years service during 6 Parliaments, also misses out.
Let me contrast this position with that of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) and the Minister for External Territories (Mr Peacock). I hasten to add that it is not my intention to be personal on this matter, but I find it essential to use such comparisons in making my point. The Minister for Labour and National Service has served in the Parliament for 6 years in 2 Parliaments. Yet, because he has served as a Minister for a period of 3 years, he is already qualified for the privileges in question. The Minister for External Territories, having served for a period of 6i years in 3 Parliaments and as a Minister for 3 years, is also qualified. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen), although having served in only 3 Parliaments, is qualified. The honourable member for Mcpherson (Mr Barnes), as all are aware, is retiring at the conclusion of this Parliament, having served in 5 Parliaments and for 14 years but, having previously served as a Minister for a period exceeding 3 years, he also qualifies.
It is true - I wish to be quite frank on this matter - that the period for qualification for a private member or senator was once 25 years. However, because of representations from Government and Opposition members and senators, the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, made the adjustments which apply today. It can.not be denied that Ministers, Mr Speaker and Mr President are treated very generously in this particular privilege whilst private members and senators are treated with utmost disdain.
I ask all honourable members in considering my remarks to bear in mind that Ministers, Mr Speaker and Mr President are paid a salary and allowance commensurate with their office. I shall cite some of the instances. The Prime Minister receives a parliamentary salary of $9,500 plus a tax free electoral allowance of $2,750, a Prime Ministerial salary of office of $21,250, a Canberra tax free living allowance of $10,300 and a tax free travelling allowance of $42 a day when away from his stipulated residence. The Deputy Prime Minister receives the $9,500 parliamentary salary plus a tax free electoral allowance of $3,350. In addition his office carries a salary of $12,500, a tax free Canberra allowance of $4,600 and $36 a day travelling away from home allowance. Naturally the travelling away from home allowance does not apply to Ministers when in Canberra. Those costs are covered by the Canberra allowance.
The Treasurer receives emoluments similar to those paid to the Deputy Prime Minister, excepting his salary of office is $12,250- $250 less. Senior Ministers and the Leader of the Opposition receive parliamentary salaries of $9,500 plus tax free electoral allowances of $2,750 to $3,350 according to whether they represent an urban or country electorate, a salary of office of $10,500, a tax free Canberra allowance of $4,600 and a $36 a day travelling away from home allowance, which also is tax free. Other Ministers, in addition to receiving the parliamentary salary and electoral allowance, receive an office salary of $7,500, a tax free Canberra allowance of $4,000 and a tax free travelling away from home allowance of $33 a day. There are other comparisons that I could make in regard to Mr Speaker, Mr President, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and others which I shall not go into.
I have spoken to private members of the Liberal Party, the Country Party, my own Party and the Democratic Labor Party, and not one has disagreed with my contention that the distinction between the qualifications necessary for a Minister and the qualifications for private members and senators is discriminatory to the point of being ludicrous. In other words, the unanimous opinion of all whom I consulted is that the Ministers certainly know how to look after themselves. I am informed that representations were made to the Prime Minister to grant these privileges to the honourable member for Gellibrand and possibly the honourable member for McMillan, should he be unsuccessful in the election. But the Prime Minister refused, much to his discredit, and this unworthy deed should be condemned by all.
I put to the House an alternative proposal for the qualification of a private member or senator. This I believe to be much fairer to everyone concerned, and it would be inconceivable to me that any Minister would object to this proposal. My proposal is one year’s use of a gold pass and travel privileges for each year of service with a 9-year minimum term for qualification. I do not think that any Minister in the House could say that what I have said tonight is not true with regard to discrimination between Ministers and private members and senators. I reiterate that I am not speaking on my own behalf because, having served in 7 Parliaments, I am already entitled to those privileges about which have been talking tonight.
– I thank the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) very much for advising me that he was going to speak on the motion that the House adjourn. I also thank him for bringing quite eloquently to the attention of the House a case for a review of the present provisions that apply to the allocation of life gold passes. I will take this matter up with the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) on an appropriate occasion. I have no doubt that we will report back to the House at some future time. However, I do thank the honourable member very much for raising this issue.
– I want to raise tonight a matter which concerns a serving soldier who has had 2 periods of service in Vietnam. I do so because of the shocking treatment accorded this person by Government departments. I have been in this place for over 3 years and I repeatedly hear remarks from the Government benches that suggest that the only people capable of looking after ex-servicemen from any of the wars in which we have been involved, and those servicemen still serving in war zones, are supporters of the Government. Let me then acquaint this House with some of the wounds that this person received during his service. In February 1968 he received gunshot wounds to the right hand. In April 1970 he received the following wounds resulting from a mine blast: Wounds to both thighs, wounds to both buttocks, wounds to both arms, amputated fifth left finger, wounds to the back, lumbar-sacral plexus injury, multiple foreign bodies in all limbs, tinnitus left ear, blast injury to right ear and sigmoid colostomy. His disabilities from the mine blast in April 1970 are as follows: Unable to sleep without drugs, unable to stand for long periods, unable to walk long distances, unable to sit on hard seats, pain in left heel, stiffness in left ankle, dropfoot in left foot and loss of strength in left hand. 1 do not know what honourable members opposite are laughing about.
– Nobody is laughing.
– Not much. Why do you not have a bit of respect. His other disabilities were as follows: Highpitched noises in left ear, loss of hearing in both ears, pain below colostomy area and diarrhoea regularly. This man was hospitalised for some considerable time. He was given a 100 per cent war pension by the Repatriation Department. The Department courteously wrote this man a letter a few months ago and told him that his pension had been cut down to $9 a fortnight. His period of duty is due to expire in January of next year. He has been consulted by the military doctors on 4 occasions. I am glad that the Minister for the Army (Mr Katter) is listening to what I am saying. If this is the sort of treatment accorded to a serving soldier, what the hell can this person expect when he is discharged from the
I repeat that the Repatriation Department wrote him a letter informing him that his pension would be reduced to $9 a fortnight. He has not a snowball’s chance in hell - excuse the expression - of being able to take up his previous employment or of being able to take any form of employment. Shortly after he was told by the Repatriation Department that it would not pay him more than $9 a fortnight he received a letter from the Department of Social Services of this gracious Government. I will not mention his name. The letter states:
This is to certify that . . . has been issued with a motor vehicle sales tax exemption certificate under item 135A of the First Schedule to the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act 1935-1960 because he has lost the use of one or both legs to such an extent that he is permanently unable to use public transport to and from gainful employment.
He got that letter from the Department. He often has to visit private doctors. I have documents to support all that 1 say. The Repatriation Department has been so callous that it has reduced his pension. He still has to visit Repatriation doctors because he is a serving member. The duties he undertakes take him to country areas. He has been hospitalised on a number of occasions. It is only since the Repatriation Department damn well dumped this man - the Army is intent only on getting rid of him at the end of his service - that the doctors have discovered that he has practically no hearing in one ear. This lad engaged actively in a number of sports - tennis, cricket and football. He was a good swimmer. These days he is reluctant to strip off to swim because of the very extensive scarring he has on all his limbs.
I have mentioned the type of treatment that he got from this grateful Government, as it is so often called in this place by members opposite. This man is one of 3 returned soldiers in my electorate who have complained to me. I have written to Minister after Minister in regard to one. I have written in regard to retraining, in regard to re-employment and in regard to securing employment for this other person. He was severely wounded. My letters were based on his assessment of what he is able to do. All I have received in reply is a long stream of letters from the Minister concerned and finally a letter from the Department of Labour and National Service. The Government very hastily throws these lads numbers in a barrel and it very hastily commits them to an undeclared, lousy and rotten war - a war against the innocent - but when they return to this country what does the Government do for them? It is not prepared to do anything for them. The relevant sections of the National Service Act are supposed to ensure that these people return to employment with their previous employer. If the previous employer considers them to be unsuitable because of wounds that they have suffered, they can go to hell as far as the Government is concerned and they are thrown on the industrial scrap heap. I have yet another case to raise, but I will not deal with it tonight because I am awaiting a reply.
I serve notice on the Minister for the Army, who is now on the front bench, that I want this person’s pension to be restored to him as quickly as possible. To hell with the Repatriation Department’s lousy, stinking treatment in suggesting that he should take his case to a tribunal. He will go to a tribunal; it will have all the medical records possible on him. He will fail at the tribunal and it will be miserable and contemptible enough to write the soldier a letter saying: ‘If you are in a position to produce any further medical evidence, perhaps we will give further consideration to your claim’. Is this the way to treat the men who have returned from Vietnam?
My speech has wiped the smile off the faces of honourable members opposite. Those smiles were evident when I commenced my speech. It should shame those honourable members into some form of action. It is not good enough for the Repatriation Department to say that it is conducting some form of inquiry and these matters can stay aside until such time as it has made a decision. God knows what decision will be made. Honourable members opposite know as well as I do that a Senate committee is investigating these matters as well.
What possible future can this lad of 25 years of age have? He has served 2 terms in the Army. He did 2 tours of Vietnam. He was wounded twice while he was there. On the latter occasion he suffered his most serious wounds. What are you going to do for this fellow? 1 want to see the Minister for the Army stand in this House - while there is still time for him . to do so - and say that he is really going to do something about this soldier. There is no future for him at all. He has not been offered any advice by any section of the Army as to what the future may hold for him. He has not been informed of his rights so far as rehabilitation is concerned although he laid for months on a sick bed. He has not, to the best of my knowledge, been advised as to whether he would be admitted to a rehabilitation centre. Obviously if he accepts the advice, which he has been informed he should not do at this point in time, to accept a discharge before his time is up he will be at the mercy of the small print contained in the regulations of the Department of Repatriation. I feel sorry for anybody in the community who is forced to fight his way through the small print and the jungle of the Repatriation Department in order to get a pension that is fair and reasonable. If the Minister is not prepared to stand in this House tonight and speak on this matter, I serve notice on him that I will take any measure that is available to me to help this young man. You talk about law and order. You talk about violence. Do you not consider that this is in itself an act of violence or a form of violence in regard to this man who laid, almost at death’s door, for weeks?
– Address your remark to the Deputy Speaker.
– Well, through Mr Deputy Speaker to you, Mr Minister for the Army, the employer of this man at the time. He would have a better case if he had been working in a private capacity for the lousiest employer in the Commonwealth and ran the gauntlet of the court trying to get adequate and proper compensation for the wounds he suffered and the effects that they will have on his future life. As for any just claim by a serving member of the force, he is tied up with the letters which he gets from the Repatriation Department and the Department of the Army. The lad to whom I am referring is 25 years of age. I am prepared to give you this man’s name on one condition and that is that you are prepared to do everything - and perhaps to move a motion in this House - in order to have this man’s pension restored and to see that the Army, other Commonwealth departments and the Commonwealth Government accept full responsibility as honest people would in regard to this matter.
– -I am personally staggered, not so much by the honourable member’s performance-
– This is the way he carries on all the time but this is a very-
– 1 rise to a point of order.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock) Order!
– Are you going to permit me to take my point of order? My point of order is that I asked the Minister to listen to a very serious matter. Forget your humbug and get on with it.
-Order! There is no substance in the point taken. I call the Minister for the Army.
– This is the way he goes on. It is extraordinary conduct. This is a most serious matter and all I am going to say is: ‘Why has the honourable member not come to my office and discussed it with me?’
– I have written to a department.
– You have written to a department- which department?
– The Department of Repatriation.
– I see and yet this man points at me, the Minister for the Army, in a most aggressive manner. I advise you here and now to bring the whole of this case to my office instead of making an exhibition of yourself.
– On a point of order!
-Order! I remind the honourable member for Sturt that a point of order does not involve a matter of opinion as to whether a Minister or whoever happens to be speaking says something which is not in the honourable member’s view favourable to him.
– That is the point I want to make.
– A point of order is taken on something which transgresses the Standing Orders.
– I think most honourable members on the other side of the House will agree that I take a very great and personal interest in anything which affects people in the Army. It would only need the honourable member to bring the facts of this case to me and if the situation is as he put it - and I have no reason to doubt it - as far as the Army is concerned, I will take some action. I suggest to him that he should see me tonight if he likes or first thing on Tuesday morning and 1 will have the matter thoroughly investigated. I am rather amazed that the honourable member does not let me know the name of the person so that I can get cracking on this matter. These great streaming, emotional outbursts may get the honourable member a mention in the Press, but they do not help one bit the case of the person whom he is representing.
– I raise tonight the matter of social service pensioners who have inadvertently - perhaps I can describe it that way - exceeded their permissible income and as a result lost portion of their social service pension. The first case I refer to is that of an old chap of about 75 years of age. Previously, he was in receipt of supplementary assistance because he was paying rent. He was offered accommodation in a house that had fruit trees on the land around it. The owner of the land informed him that if ho was prepared to water the fruit trees and look after the plot of land he could live in the house rent free. This he did. But, being an old chap, not very well educated and a little wary of officialdom, he did not inform the Department of Social Services.
After a period of approximately 2 years the Department discovered that he had not been paying rent and took away his supplementary assistance. The Department calculated that he owed it approximately $236. He was informed that it would be taken back from him at the rate of $4 each pay-day, which is $2 week. I made representations on his behalf and this was reduced to $2 each pay-day. But it meant that he suffered a drop of $6 a fortnight in his pension. This consisted of $4 in supplementary assistance and $2 in repaying What he was overpaid by the Department of Social Services. It was impossible for this man of 75 years of age to obtain work or supplement his income in any way. He had to exist on a standard which was well below what was accepted as the standard for a pensioner at that time. He was left without adequate money on which to live a decent sort of life.
The second case that I raise is that of a married couple. The husband was allowed to earn approximately $800 a year. He took a job assisting at a drive-in theatre. He had an arrangement with the employer that when his earnings reached $800 he would be informed and he would cease work. I do not know whether he did this consciously or unconsciously, but he allowed his income to exceed the $800 mark. I think the figure of earnings that he ended up at was approximately $1,200 for the year. In this case the Department of Social Services went back to the anniversary of his pension, which was in January. He had reached the $800 mark about the following August. When the Department found out that he had exceeded his permissible income, it went back for the whole of the pension year and adjusted his pension accordingly. The last I heard from the Department was that under the formula that had been worked out he and his wife would have to repay this amount of about $236 to the Department at the rate of $6 a fortnight each. He is now in a position in which, if the Department goes ahead and Sakes this amount out of the pensions of him and his wife each fortnight, they will have to live well below the level of the ordinary pensioner. He has now reached the stage where the position in which he was supplementing his pension does not exist and he and his wife living on $12 a fortnight less than the married rate pension with very little chance of obtaining work to supplement their income.
The third case I want to refer to is that of a married woman whose husband died about 4 years ago. He left her with 3 kiddies who were going to school. These people were purchasing a home. Two of the children have now left school but the woman still has one child at school. She is still trying to pay off the home. She had to take a job to assist her to give her children a decent standard of living. She informs me that she had an arrangement with her employer to inform her when she reached her permissible income. She exceeded her permissible income. Although she has only one son still fully in her charge she is in difficulty because of the heavy payments she has to make. She and her husband tried to pay off the house before his death. She informed me that she has reached the stage that when her son wants to go away with his school on football trips and sporting tours she has to refuse him permission because she cannot afford the expense. Her main difficulty is the heavy payments she has to meet on her house.
In each of these cases the pensioner concerned has received more than the income allowed by the Department of Social Services. In most such cases the Department insists that the money be paid back. On occasions the Minister has adopted a compassionate attitude. I have in mind the case raised by the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) in which the Minister agreed to rectify the position. I think we can assume that the pensioners are to receive increases. They are also to benefit by an easing of the means test. They certainly will be assisted a fair bit when the legislation is passed. Had the conditions that are to apply been applied when these people were receiving the extra income it is quite evident that they would not be in the position they are in today where they have to pay back considerable amounts of money to the Department of Social Services. They are forced to reduce their standard of living.
Most pensioners are to receive increases. The Labor Party certainly will not oppose the legislation for increased pensions and an easing of the means test. Pensioners will then be in a better position. I suggest in all seriousness that in view of anticipated developments in the social service field within the next few weeks the time has come to have a look at these cases involving pensioners who have to return excessive pension amounts paid after the people concerned had received more than the permissible income. The Government could declare an amnesty for these people. I am not sure of the powers of the Minister in such cases but, as I said earlier, he did act in the case raised by the honourable member for Sydney. I earnestly hope that the Government will consider the position of the pensioners I have mentioned and declare an amnesty in respect of their debts, particularly in view of the changes about to take place in social service benefits.
– The honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) will know that I cannot give him any assurance in regard to particular cases except to say that I will have them looked at. I will study them personally. The honourable member is probably aware that my Department tries to take a reasonable view in such cases but the public interest has to be preserved in accordance with the law. I will have a look at the cases he has raised.
– In the last week or so 2 events of some importance have occurred on the international scene. One was the announcement by President Amin, the dictator of Uganda, that 80,000 Asians almost all of whom were born in that country, and many holding Ugandan passports, would be expelled. Many would become stateless citizens. The second event was the expulsion of the multi-racial Rhodesian team by a vote of 36 to 31 from the Olympic Games on the ground that Rhodesia is a racist country. One of the 36 countries voting for the expulsion of the multi-racial Rhodesian team was Uganda.
– They both should have been kicked out.
– I agree. Australians all read the headlines in the daily Press yes terday and today with some regret. The Australian’ carried the headline ‘The Expulsion of Rhodesian Athletes a Victory for Polities’. The Sydney ‘Sun’ headline was ‘Black Power Win at Games’. The Melbourne ‘Herald’ said ‘Rhodesia dumped - and Games blacks laugh and cheer*. As an Australian I do not intend to sit in judgment on the internal policies which the Government of Rhodesia believes are best for that country, but like all average Australians I believe in a sense of fair play. This is a case of the Rhodesian team consisting of 37 whites and 7 blacks being expelled from the Olympic Games to suit the political aims of certain countries wanting to brand Rhodesia as racist. Yet the greatest racist country of them all - Uganda - was one of the countries voting for the Rhodesians expulsion. Did anyone suggest expelling the Ugandans? Of course not. What a farce it was. Not a word was raised against the treatment of Ugandan-born Asians by Uganda either at the International Olympic Committee or in the United Nations.
Let us look at what President Amin has said. He has reiterated that his decision to expel Ugandan-born Asians within 90 days still stands. The deadline is 5th November and no later. He has talked of setting up refugee camps for the Asians while they are waiting transportation from Uganda. The mere mention of refugee camps should take us all back to a similar situation caused by a similar type of dictator nearly 30 years ago. But world leaders have been strangely silent in their condemnation of this gross and inhuman act on the part of Uganda. The only black African leader to protest against Uganda’s racist policies was, to his credit, President Nyerere of Tanzania. The only reaction he received from President Amin was to be branded a coward for not doing the same thing in Tanzania. Then followed the strange statement of President Amin to President Nyerere: ‘I love you very much. If you had been a woman I would have considered marrying you, even though your head is full of grey hairs’. God knows what all that means. I do not know what a psychiatrist would make of it.
I think it is time that all Australians woke up to the farce which is being played in international politics and in the international forums of the world. We live in a world of double standards both at home and abroad. The left wing in Australia has long branded South Africa and Rhodesia as racist countries. But neither South Africa nor Rhodesia, whatever else may be levelled at them, has ever expelled en masse people born in their countries as Uganda is doing - and doing on purely racist grounds. It is not so long ago since we had the South African rugby tour in this country disrupted by left wing demonstrators. The same people were successful in having the South African cricket tour to Australia cancelled. Not a word of concern has been uttered by those who so actively demonstrated against the South African rugby tour or the South African cricket tour. When I look at the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen), I think of him when he was playing his horn outside of the South African Embassy.
– That is not true.
– He will have an opportunity to speak in this Parliament The double standards exist not only abroad but also, it seems, at home. We are told by those who oppose the policies of South Africa and Rhodesia that we should not play sport with these countries, that we should not trade with them or have diplomatic contact with them. But the same people tell us that even if we do not agree with Communist China we should play ping-pong with people from that country, trade with them and have diplomatic relations with them. I agree that we should play ping-pong with them, that we should have diplomatic relations with them and that we should trade with them. But do sot let us have 2 standards - one for Communist countries and one for nonCommunist countries.
The same people who tell us that we should recognise Communist China and admit it to the United Nations - it has been now - because it is the effective government of mainland China, tell us in the same breath that we must cease to recognise Taiwan and expel it from the United Nations even though it is the effective government of Taiwan. If we are to have any credibility as a nation we must stand on principles, because any nation that stands for expediency and expediency alone must surely be discredited. Mr Deputy Speaker, as an Australian citizen and the represen tative of some 100,000 Australians in this Parliament, I wish to register my disgust and abhorrence at the actions of the Ugandan Government in expelling Ugandanborn Asians purely on the grounds that their skin is of a different colour.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) misrepresented me. He stated that I had not made a statement on this matter. I have issued a statement; it has been reported. I have condemned in the same tones as he used - although perhaps with different emphasis - the action which he has mentioned and I ask that he at least have the good grace to apologise. In essence, I agree with his views but it is quite wrong to say that others have not condemned this action. We have done so.
Mr JARMAN (Deakin)- If the honourable member for Robertson has issued a statement I apologise. I have not seen it. As a result of his statement in this House I was conscious of the fact that he had blown his horn outside the South African Embassy but I had not seen any statement by him against the policies of the Ugandan Government. However, if the honourable member for Robertson has made that statement I certainly do apologise.
– I wish to call the attention of the Parliament to what I regard as a deliberate attempt by the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to impose a blanket of secrecy over the information of the Department of Education and Science and deliberately to deny to members of this Parliament, myself in particular, information that otherwise would be available to almost any person in the entire community. I believe that his tactics, following last night’s debate in this House, on another attempt to withhold information, are in line with the tactics he has been used in regard to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation which were highlighted last week by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) who pointed out that the Minister had in fact issued a directive that the CSIRO had to inform him in cases where scientists had been in communication with members of the Federal Parliament.
Last week in a debate in this House I charged that the Minister had quite unjustifiably withheld information from me. For 2 months he kept me waiting for information that I had a right to have. He gave me no indication in the meantime that this information would not be provided. He gave me no indication in the meantime that, had I adopted the method that he later outlined, I could have received that information. He kept me waiting for 2 months and I still have not received the information. As I pointed out last week, I protested to the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) but nothing has been done so far. Following a debate in the Parliament last week, the Minister for Education and Science now has thrown a blanket of secrecy over the operations of the Department of Education and Science. He has issued a directive to the officers of this Department that when I telephone and ask for information on education matters they are not to provide it to me; they are to instruct me to direct my question to the Minister for Education and Science himself. I ask the Minister whether this gag in fact applies only to me or whether it applies to all members of the Federal Parliament. Does it refer only to that particular section of the Department to which he knows I am referring or does it affect all of his department?
What he basically is trying to do is to withhold information that formerly I was able to receive by telephoning the Department. Within the bounds of what was publicly available, certain types of information were provided to me. This information referred particularly to the sums of money that certain private schools were entitled to under the Commonwealth science grants scheme and under the Commonwealth libraries scheme. This information was formerly available to me. The Minister now has given an instruction that this information is no longer to be available to me; I must contact the Minister first of all. What is his purpose in doing this? His purpose is to withhold informa tion and delay it in such a way that I can get that information only when he pleases.
I refer now to question No. 5360 which I asked 5 months ago in the Parliament. Last week the Minister for Education and Science replied to only a section of that question. The question sought basic information and it took 5 months for me to receive a reply. Last week, the Minister informed the House that he had sufficient staff in his department to answer only the questions of 2 people - myself and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) - and he made it quite clear that in those cases where both of us asked questions, precedence is to be given to questions asked by the Leader of the Opposition. I refer now to another situation which is typical of his delay. On 10th May this year I asked question No. 5783, a very simple question indeed. It would not have taken his Department more than a few weeks at the very most to provide that information. The question asked for details about certain private schools which had been requested by the Minister to provide information as to what their needs were within a given period. It was a very simple question. Those schools had refused to provide him with the information. A period of Simonths has now passed. Question No. 5783 is still unanswered. Three weeks ago - again after continual pressure from me - the Minister wrote me a letter saying that the information would be provided in the first week of the Budget session. It is now the second week of the Budget session. Perhaps the information will be forthcoming again after the election.
A very basic principle is involved here: A member of Parliament has, as his task, to defend public interest. It is our task to watch over what governments are doing with public money. There are two ways in which that information can be provided by the Government itself - through the Department or through the Minister. The Minister now has cut off that source of information through the Department. It must come directly through him. Of course, he can then manipulate the supply of information as he sees fit. In other words, what the Minister is doing is deliberately depriving a member of Parliament of the right to carry out his function; he is preventing a member of Parliament from getting information which is absolutely essential to that member of Parliament to enable him to scrutinise the use of the public’s money.
As I have pointed out previously in this House, some of the things on which I have sought information are matters which have caused very great embarrassment to the Minister. I have said a number of things which the Minister has not had the courage to come out and defend publicly. He says nothing. He runs to his burrow. His answer is to say nothing and to withhold the information. The cases about which I am talking relate to private schools which have full entitlement to very large sums of public money, reaching up to more than $500,000 in the case of the Methodist Ladies College at Kew for library grants and science grants. The Minister now is trying to withhold this information. Obviously, he simply has not got the courage to provide this information. He will provide it at the time when he sees fit.
I intend to go on raising these matters. I regard his behaviour as autocratic and unprincipled. I find it totally obnoxious. I will continue to raise these matters in this House until I get the information to which I am entitled in this Parliament.
– I would much prefer that honourable members raised these matters in the House than that they come down and serve the kind of notice that the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) served on me in my office last week. I had been warned that he was going to raise this matter. It would be much better if he stuck to this forum and not the forum of my office. He has spoken to senior officers of my Department, and he knows quite well that the general rules which apply in the Department of Education and Science have applied under 4 Ministers for Education and Science and, in addition, under one Prime Minister when the office was part of the Prime Minister’s Department.
The general rule is that if the inquiry Involves some work in the sense of looking up files, the inquiry should be put in writing to make sure that the Department has got it straight. If the inquiry comes from a member of Parliament, courtesy requires that the request for information should come through the Minister and that the reply should go through the Minister. This approach, I believe, is the only approach that is compatible with the courtesy that is tendered to a member of Parliament.
If there are members of Parliament on this side of the House or on the other side of the House who believe that they have an open right to information from any department without asking the Minister, without expecting the reply to carry the Minister’s signature and authority, then I think they are expecting something that they ought not to expect, and it is not compatible with their own status and position as members of this Parliament. The senior officer who spoke to the honourable member for Bendigo told him that this general rule had applied through 4 Ministers for Education and Science and through a Prime Minister when education services were looked after by the Commonwealth Office of Education under the Prime Minister’s Department. That concerns only the general running of the Department. There is one exception which the Department has generally made to that rule, and, I think, one only. That is local school issues for the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) where the Department has many detailed day to day aspects. The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory, because of his particular concern with the Australian Capital Territory, has been in a different category.
Having said that, I now come to the falsehoods of the honourable member for Bendigo. This House is becoming used to these. No directive was issued by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation which would prevent staff speaking to members of Parliament or anyone else. CSIRO has said that on its own account without reference to me. No blanket of secrecy has been placed over my Department, which is one of the most open of all Commonwealth departments in making information available to the general public. I have issued no directive to my Department that would change the normal method of operation which I have mentioned. There is no question of money being spent or provided by my Department which is not accounted for. It is accounted for in a very detailed manner. The honourable member has alleged a purpose in delaying a full answer, as he regards it, to question on notice No. S360. 1 think that on another occasion 1 mentioned that this was a question that was of some length and in a great number of parts. I think there were 9 categories to it seeking information concerning 86 schools. It sought the numbers and the percentages of students in each and all of the schools mentioned who had sat for or applied for and who were awarded Commonwealth secondary scholarships, Commonwealth university scholarships and Commonwealth advanced education scholarships in each and all of the years since each scholarship scheme was introduced - going back to about 1951 when the university scholarships began. Before 1968 these records were kept by State departments. My Department has estimated that it would take 2 men 6 months to obtain what information is available and a good deal of it is not available. Even now in Victoria no scholarship information is placed on computer records in relation to particular schools. That means that it is a question of looking at individual cards and through a very large number of files. The honourable member for Bendigo knows this full well. He knows quite well that the charges he makes are completely and utterly false.
Concerning the other matter to which he referred, I did say that I hoped to have an answer available for the first week of this session. Today I discussed a text with representatives of my Department. I wanted to see whether some additional information might possibly be provided. I spoke to an officer of the Department about 11 hours ago concerning this matter and an answer will be available next week. Having said all that, I point out that there are a large number of questions on the notice paper from the honourable member for Bendigo and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and a lesser number from other honourable members. It takes a great deal of time and work for officers of the Department to compile the answers to the 2 honourable members’ questions. For example, 46 pages of answers were required for 17 questions. In addition the Department has other obligations and tasks to undertake.
The rules will not be changed for the honourable member for Bendigo. Special provision will not be made for the honourable member for Bendigo. If he puts a request for information to me, as most honourable members do if they wish to obtain information, that information will be provided. But the honourable member will get no priority unless the Leader of the Opposition asks me to give him priority over his own questions and over the questions of every other member of the Opposition. Then, of course, I would be prepared to give the honourable member some form of priority. The House knows full well that the honourable member has been conducting a particular campaign in these matters. He has been seeking to denigrate programmes of assistance to schools which have been designed to establish equal facilities in all schools throughout Australia. The honourable member has been seeking to denigrate policies which have been in force since 1964 or 1965. He has been seeking to do so by a process of embarrassment of individual schools. I think it is interesting to note that, when he was speaking on a radio programme some short time ago, he said in plain terms:
I do not care what the leaders of the Catholic Church or the Protestant Churches say about what they want their education system to be as far as Commonwealth grants are concerned.
He would take a view of his own which may or may not be the view of the Australian Labor Party. It certainly is not the view of the Leader of the Opposition and it certainly is not the view of some other members of the Labor Party. It may well be the view of Senator Murphy and of other senators who have voted in the Senate against State aid. It may well be the view of Senator Murphy who has said that, under a Labor programme, aid would be provided to government schools first. It may well be the view of those within the Labor movement who tried to have passed at the last Launceston Australian Labor Party Conference a resolution which provided that the standards of government schools and the capacity of government schools should be expanded and, as they were expanded, aid to independent schools should be phased out entirely. That motion was not rejected; it was not opposed; it was put aside on the basis that this matter was covered by existing policy.
– That is a completely unfair statement, and you know it.
– This comes from documents of the Australian Labor Party. I would be happy to table the documents any time that the honourable member likes. The resolution was put aside on the grounds that that policy was covered under the Australian schools commission within Labor Party policy. Honourable gentlemen opposite cannot have it both ways. They will have to decide whether they will be carried by the coat tails of the Kennedy Bendigo policies or whether they will support the policies of a different kind that the Leader of the Opposition has said he will espouse. The Leader of the Opposition is on record as having said: ‘We will not repeal or reduce any educational benefit which is already being paid. We will confirm any that are there already.’ That means that he is confirming the policies that now exist. If it does not mean that, let it be said that the Leader of the Opposition does not confirm those policies.
Mr Duthie Priorities, not policies.
– No, policies. The Leader of the Opposition said: ‘We will not repeal or reduce any educational benefit which is already being paid.’ That is plain enough. If that does not mean what it says, let him stand up and explain it. If it means that policies are going to be changed-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, as a member of the Australian Labor Party-
-Order! The honourable member for Sydney-
– He has distinctly told an untruth.
-Order! The honourable member for Sydney will resume his seat.
– I shall not until such time as he admits that he has told a deliberate lie. The matter was discharged-
-Order! The honourable member for Sydney will withdraw that remark.
– I will not withdraw that remark. He has told a deliberate lie.
-Order! The honourable member for Sydney is-
– Stop shouting.
-Order! The honourable member for Hughes also will remain silent.
– It is offensive and I have an earache.
– The matter was discharged and he knows it
-Order! The honourable member for Sydney has been an occupant of the chair on several occasions. Therefore, he ought to know the Standing Orders. He has broken the Standing Orders on 2 occasions. I suggest that the honourable member reflects on and withdraws the remark made in relation to the Minister for Education and Science.
– Well, I withdraw it. Now, let him explain the situation.
– I rise to take a point of order. When a Minister has said something that can be shown to be completely wrong about the policy of a Party, what recourse have members of that Party to rise and to make a statement denying what has been said or challenging the incorrect statement made by that Minister?
-Order! No point of order arises.
– Well, I am asking you the question.
-Order! The honourable member for Barton also should know that it is not within the province of the Chair on a specific occasion to rule or to decide in regard to a statement made in relation to a policy.
Friday, 25 August 1972
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a persona] explanation.
– Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– I was misrepresented by the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) who withdrew the remark, but I would still like to correct the misrepresentation. The official documents of the Australian Labor Party show that the recommendation of the Education Committee to the Australian Labor Party Launceston Conference was that the proposal put forward by Queensland should be discharged on the ground-
– It was discharged.
– That is the point. The documents show that the recommendation was that it should be discharged on the ground that it was covered in the existing policy of the Australian Schools Commission.
– I wish to draw attention to the particular plight of unemployed in my electorate of Swan. This unemployment situation has had particular effect on the industries which in the past have employed mainly migrants, people who were promised a future and security in this country. Now these people are confused to find themselves unemployed, paying high rents and large repayments for houses, a legacy of the land price boom inflation of the previous government in my State and high interest rates passed on to them by building societies and brought about by the Commonwealth bond rate increase. They are further confused by the continuing practice of the Commonwealth to allow the migration of people who are not related to previous migrants. Many of these people would get relief from their home payments, if they could, and obtain repatriation return, if it were available, to their home countries where they would not be political pawns in national politics.
They firmly believe that migration should be stopped until the employment situation is rectified.
These people have seen attacks made by employer groups on the wages structure of those already in employment Recently an attempt was made by a particular employer to reduce wages by SI 2 a week. It is no wonder that the workers in those industries, who are in a large proportion migrants, revolted causing further problems. The type of letter they sent home can only be to the detriment of this nation’s international reputation. It would be far better to stop immigration immediately, except to those people who have guaranteed employment or who are family dependents and do not affect in any way those persons who are in employment already, who are reuniting a family, or who are seeking employment in a restricted market. Why offer any further outside competition to an already overburdened area of employment opportunity? Why not make repatriation more readily available on an emergency basis to those who wish to return to their home countries? If they feel they have been misled by this nation it is up to us to rectify the situation in order to meet what is a human problem. It would be far better to curtail the funds provided by making them available only to those people who have migrated and who have been affected by unemployment. Let us not have political manoeuvring. Let us have action on their behalf. The Australian Government gives assistance to distressed areas overseas. Let the Commonwealth recognise that we have a distressed area in Western Australia. It is no good saying that we care about unemployment. Action is what is required; caring is not enough.
The continual refusal to make unemployment relief funds available in metropolitan areas is disastrous. It is no good saying that the money would be wasted. It could be given for specific works that already have been requested by State authorities. I look to the needs of my area alone where requests by the Metropolitan Water Supply for capital funds to develop sewerage and drainage have been refused. Only the Commonwealth has these funds to be made available. Western Australia has a legacy from the previous government which allowed development to escalate without proper sewerage and drainage in certain areas, some of which are only a few miles from the city centre. If a reasonable request was granted it would mean immediate employment in labour intensive industry in the development of sewerage and drainage, giving employment relief to people who are least likely to obtain employment by other means. But just as importantly,it would give relief to what is a major problem in the west. Further, it would make available more land near the city on which development has been stopped for health reasons. But this unproved state of affairs would not apply only to my electorate; the benefits would he felt by all metropolitan areas if these funds were made available to the Metropolitan Water Supply through the State or given directly to local government bodies for similar developmental works. The situation is an urgent one in relation to both employment and health. It is one to which the Federal Government must commit itself. The State authorities are ready to absorb unemployment and act. Let us have some national leadership in these matters. Let us have some constructive action, not destructive criticism.
When one looks about the electorate of Swan to see ways in which Commonwealth works could be initiated immediately to ease the employment situation, one realises that the Postmaster-General’s Department could assist in the area of Manning by solving the parking problem at its technical centre. It could build car parking facilities. Parking is a constant challenge to the local council. As one looks around Commonwealth Government facilities in that area one sees a similar lack of provision.
If such works can be found in this single area, surely the Commonwealth, if it were to take a close look at all its respon sibilities in the metropolitan area of Perth, could give meaningful stimulation to the building industry by meeting just its own needs and that of the community. I instance the need for school hall gymnasium facilities at high schools in my electorate alone. I instance Bentley and Canning high schools which have been campaigning activity for years for these provisions. They and other schools need these facilities. These are immediate areas of need for which Commonwealth money could be granted. The results would be effective immediately.
The release by the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior to the Belmont Shire Council of the 18 acres on which it wishes to develop 6 aged persons homes - it cannot do so at the moment - would stimulate building and would help house aged people. The Commonwealth should take the decision to return this land which was acquired years ago for defence purposes and is not now used. The Commonwealth Government could show that it cares about the people of the Swan electorate in Western Australia by looking to what physical works it could generate. It should ask its departmental officers about these things because they are more aware of the needs of the area. It should accept the recommendations of its experts and act. It should listen to the requests made by the State Government and instrumentalities for specific grants, in particular for labour intensive works. Above all, I reiterate that it should look at a further curtailment of migration except for family reunification. It should consider migrant unemployment relief and migrant repatriation. Above all, it should act.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.12 a.m. (Friday)
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In addition life insurance companies paid loans on mortgage and loans on security of policies amounting to $284,000 in Papua New Guinea in 1970-71. Particulars of the income of general (non-life) insurance companies operating in Papua New Guinea are not available. The only available information about investments is that these companies invested $305,000 in Papua New Guinea public loans in 1970-71.
The latest available information on employment by insurance companies is -
These figures include agents and brokers.
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In the review of the development programme for Papua New Guinea for 1968-1973, published by the Administration in August 1971, it was acknowledged that on present enrolments and wastage rates there would be significant short falls in the supply of indigenous manpower at the Class A (professional) and Class B (sub-professional) levels for many years to come. The need for greater outputs from the tertiary institutions is recognised and will become possible as more and higher-standard students become available.
The report of the manpower expert provided by the ILO as part of the preliminary phase of a programme of industrial and vocational training in Papua New Guinea was received by the Papua New Guinea Administration in March 1972. The report which is being studied by the Administration, has not yet been released for public information.
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
On what occasions since the Australian Army has been based in Singapore have Australian Army units exercised jointly with units of the armies of Malaysia and Singapore.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australian Army units have been based in Singapore since October 1969. During this period Malaysian and Singaporean troops have taken part in one major exercise with Australian troops- Exercise Bersatu Padu in June/July 1970. Co-operation In other fields of training has been maintained.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 August 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1972/19720824_reps_27_hor79/>.