27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Mon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
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 bas 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 $240 million.
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. by Mr Griffiths, Or Gun and Mr Charles Jones.
Advertising in Telephone Directories
The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of Citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That we, the undersigned, protest against the action of the Commonwealth Government in letting the contract for the advertising rights for the Victorian Pink Pages Telephone Directories to an American Company, General Telephone and Electronics Corp. U.S.A., trading in Australia as Directories (Aust.) Pty Ltd.
That this will mean that the American Company now controls the Telephone Directory Advertising In all but one State of the Commonwealth.
We respectfully request that this contract be revoked in the National interest, and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Sir Alan Holme and Mir Keogh.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of electors of the State of New South Wales respectfully showeth:
That ex-servicewomen who enlisted during World War II have been discriminated against in the interpretation and administration of. the War Service Homes Act 1918-1971.
Whilst on enlistment they were prepared to serve in any area, ex-servicewomen who did not actually serve outside Australia are at present debarred from War Service Homes rights.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that immediate action be taken to grant War Service Homes rights to all wartime ex-servicewomen, whether married or single and without restriction as to dependants, and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Kevin Cairns. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives : in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the recent salary offer to the Manipulative Group ‘typists, stenographers,’ steno-secretaries and machinists) by the Public Service Board fails to recognise their work value.
That the promotion structure .for this group is minimal.
That there is insufficient recognition that: clerical tasks are specified as basic duties in the Position Classification Standards Manual; typists and machinists can do clerical work, but clerks cannot perform the Manipulative Group’s jobs without months of special training; today’s sophisticated business world needs secretaries who are highly trained, educated and responsible.
That many competent secretaries are forced to leave this structure and become clerks or clerical assistants for economic reasons, and conversely it is becoming increasingly necessary to classify secretaries as clerks and clerical assistants in order to get competent staff.
That many school leavers, especially in Canberra, are unwilling to spend time and money training as secretaries or keyboard operators when they can get easier and more highly paid positions with only their school leaving passes.
That there is an increasing number of graduates interested in secretarial work but at present there is no scope for them within the Public Service, and therefore they must seek employment in industry although their basic degree may be more suited to the Public Service.
That there is naturally going to be a high turnover of staff within this group while these conditions persist.
Your petitioners therefore most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to:
Have the Commonwealth Public Service Board offer the Manipulative Group an interim wage increase of 20 per cent acrosstheboard as an urgency measure to halt the current drain from this area.
Have the Commonwealth Public Service Board make an early decision on the promotion structure within the Manipulative Group, with a view to increasing promotion opportunities.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Clyde Cameron.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of residents of the Division of the Australian Capital Territory respectfully showeth:
That the National Capital Development Commission have advised us of their intention to develop the entire western side of Melrose Drive with Flats and Town Houses.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the aforesaid strip of land on the whole western side of Melrose Drive be reserved for development as parkland. Your petitioners are concerned that such a development will place an excessive strain on the schools of the area, and will result in a diminution of the land available for recreational purposes, and will create traffic hazards.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Enderby.
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 that of other advanced countries administering such services, therefore, we call upon the Commonwealth Government to immediately legislate for:
Base pension rate - 30 per cent of the average weekly male earnings, all states, plus supplementary assistance and allowances based on a percentage of such earnings. Unemployed benefits equal to the foregoing.
Completely free health services to cover all needs of social service pensioners - hospitalisation, chronic and long-term illness, fractures, anaesthetics, specialist, pharmaceutical, hearing aids, dental, optical, physiotherapy, chiropody, surgical aids and any other appliances.
Commonwealth Government to promote a comprehensive national scheme in cooperation with the States and make finance available to provide for the building of public hospitals, nursing and hostel-type homes necessary to effectively meet the special requirements of aged people, in conjunction with a comprehensive domiciliary care programme to enable aged people to stay in their homes.
Mental illness placed in the same position as physical illness.
Substantial Commonwealth increase in the $5 subsidy a day per public bed pensioner patient in general hospitals.
Ten per cent of Commonwealth revenue to local government for general activities which now include social welfare, health, conservation and other community needs. Commonwealth subsidy for the waiving of rates for pensioners.
Commonwealth Government to increase the non-repayable grant to the States for low rental home units for pensioners.
Royal Commission or other form of public enquiry into Australia’s social welfare structure that Australia may be brought into line with accepted world standards of the most advanced countries.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Foster.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The bumble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will move to make available to the Tasmanian Government a special grant for the express purpose of preserving Lake Pedder in its natural state.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Foster.
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 opportunity and capacity to play a more significant role 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 $240 million and that the increase be made chiefly through international agencies.
Australia’s aid policies be reviewed so that aid given provides the maximum benefit to the peoples of developing countries.
Australia’s trade policies be reviewed to provide preferences for, or remove discrimination against, imports from less developed countries
Australia’s own employment level be safeguarded by the provision of improved re-training schemes for labour likely to be affected by reductions in tariff barriers against imports from less developed countries.
Gifts of $2 or more made by Australian citizens and companies to organisations associated with the Australian Council for Overseas Aid be made tax-deductible. by Mr Howson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors in the State of New South Wales respectfully sheweth:
Lack of adequate lighting in classrooms.
Lack of heaters in a number of school rooms.
Class loads too great in many schools.
Headmistresses required to teach as well as handle clerical problems and the many interruptions that occur in each school day. More ancillary staff needed and needed quickly.
Your petitioners therefore respectfully pray that your Honourable House will (i) make immediately a substantial Federal emergency grant to all State Governments for education services and (ii) carry out a public national survey to determine needs of the States after 1975.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Robinson.
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:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to make emergency Federal finance available to the States for State school education, and divert the large sums of money being spent on private schools, to the government school system for which the government is truly responsible.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Charles Jones. Petition received.
Education: Pre-school and After-school Centres
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
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 Dr Klugman.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister and refer to the letter written by him last week to the Premier of Queensland advising him that the Commonwealth had refused to provide funds to the Queensland Government for the urgently required water conservation project in the Eton district. Did the Prime Minister make this decision himself or did the Government make it? Will he make the Commonwealth’s evaluation analysis which rejected the scheme available to the Parliament, or alternatively will he make it available to me on a confidential basis so I can study it?
– As the honourable gentleman would well know, there is a routine and recognised procedure for the analysis of proposals of this kind. It went to the relevant departments, which reported to me, and I immediately then wrote to the Premier of Queensland. The answer to the second question is no. The answer to the third question is that I will give it consideration.
– Can the Prime Minister advise me whether it is intended that before this Parliament terminates a state ment should be made to this House on the report of the Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits which was presented to this House on 18th May 1972, and will honourable members on both sides be given an opportunity to discuss this matter?
– I think it was on 20th August that the Minister for Defence answered a question on this matter in the House. This morning I was making inquiries to find out whether anything more had to be done, and I was informed that officials of the Department of Defence and the Treasury were considering the matter this afternoon. I will make further inquiries later today, and if the honourable gentleman can have a second question directed to me I will give the answer to the House then. .’.’>.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. The right honourable gentleman remembers statements by the Ministers for Primary Industry and Trade and Industry that the Government, was considering establishing a national rural bank and that potentially $3 00m to $400rn would be involved; and in- particular >I recall the right honourable gentleman’s answer’ to my colleague, the honourable ‘ member for Dawson, over a month ago confirming that discussions were going on as to the viability of the proposition. Will legislation to establish the bank be brought down during this session as foreshadowed by his colleagues?
– I have discussed this matter with my colleague, the Deputy Prime Minister, and we are both anxious that we should do all in our capacity to ensure that action is taken to provide long term finance to Australian rural industries as soon as it is practicable to do so. That is a commitment. The ways and means of achieving that objective or commitment are still under consideration. During the absence of the Treasurer, after some discussion with the Deputy Prime Minister I said that I would take a very great personal interest in this in order to ensure that we could make provision for long term finance. On Friday I saw a representative of the trading banks. I understand that they are meeting today and I hope to be able to get a report from them soon.
– I should like to ask the
Prime Minister a question about the Jetair contract. What administrative procedures were followed, whose concurrence was obtained, and who actually approved the contract?
– Mr Speaker, I think you can take it that all proper administrative procedures were followed. I would like to point out how this happened andI would like to incorporate this document later. It will be seen that on 31st December 1970 I received a minute from the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs. In that minute he said this to me:
This Department and the Department of Supply have inspected the Jetair fleet and found the aircraft in good to very good condition.
In paragraph 10 of that report he said:
The Department of Civil Aviation has been consulted and is in agreement with this Department purchasing the Jetair fleet for aid purposes. Similarly, this proposal has been discussed with the Treasury which, while having some general misgivings on supplying second-hand aircraft as aid, has no objections to the purchase of the Jetair fleet.
He went on to say:
Should you approve the above, a draft Press release will be submitted for consideration when purchase details are finalised between the Department of Supply and Jetair.
I think that sets out fairly clearlythat not only did the Department know the proper procedures but that it advised me about them as well. Subsequently I became a little disturbed when I heard that there was an irregularity within the Department and I gave instructions that the matter would be submitted to Sir Kenneth Bailey for his consideration. On 22nd February he sent a minute to me in which he said:
In the event the Department of Supply has taken the necessary action to make the proceedings regular. I would not think any element now remains either of illegality or of administrative irregularity. This however is a matter on which, if it becomes necessary, the Attorney-General’s Department would need to advise.
I am informed that Sir Kenneth did discuss the matter with the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. The minute concluded:
As I understand the position, no legal effect is now attributable to the Department’s letter to the Company of 6th January last. It is somewhat confused in expression, but I think may best be regarded as an intimation to the Company that the Department would recommend to the Depart ment of Supply the purchase of the aircraft at the price stated.
Subsequent to that, the Auditor-General’s Office took up the matter with the Department of External Affairs and, after a reply was received from the Secretary of the Department, took no further action.
It must be abundantly clear, therefore, that all responsible action that could be taken was taken. Initially, there was an irregularity which I hope will never occur again; but it was an irregularity which meant that at least the Commonwealth got a remarkably good deal in the purchase of these aircraft. I point this out so that it can be clearly understood, particularly by the Leader of the Opposition, that if he reads those memoranda he will see that the Department of External Affairs knew the proper procedures and advised me about them; but regrettably there was a breakdown in the administration. I ask that those 2 documents be tabled or, if possible, incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows) -
The purpose of this submission is to recommend purchase of 6 DC3 aircraft from Jetair Australia Limited for supply to Nepal and Laos as part of the external aid programme.
SIR KENNETH BAILEY TO MINISTER
22nd February 1971.
PURCHASE OF JETAIR DAKOTAS
I think you asked me to look at the papers on the purchase of the 6 Jetair Dakotas, from the point of view of the Department’s action.
Supply and Tender Board or of the Contract Board. (I am myself not sure which). In the event the Department of Supply has taken the necessary action to make the proceedings regular. I would not think any element now remains either of illegality or of administrative irregularity. This, however, is a matter on which, if it becomes necessary, the Attorney-General’s Department would need to advise.
Special Adviser on International Law
– -Did the Minister for Repatriation approve the statement issued by* his Department which was sent to wives of special rate totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners confirming that, as a result of an increase in the service pension, medical entitlement cards would be withdrawn from them? Has the Minister conferred with the Prime Minister, who indicated last week to the honourable member for Kingston that the matter would be investigated and an immediate reply made available to him? Will the Minister say how many wives of special rate pensioners have been affected in this way and whether a decision has been made, in tine with the reconmendation made by the National Executive of the Returned Services League and the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association, to provide medical and hospital treatment for the wives of TPI pensioners? Does the Minister further appreciate that in these circumstances the benefit would be much more advantageous to them than the small increase given to these people as a result of the Government’s amendments to the Act foreshadowed in the Budget and would be of greater advantage to them in terms of purchasing power?
– The letter which was sent out advising people of the loss of their pensioner medical service entitlement cards was addressed not to the wives but to the TPI pensioners themselves. As far as we know at this stage, the number of people affected is about 3,250. I am aware that the honourable member for Kingston asked the
Prime Minister a question on this matter last week. I was present at the AustralianJapanese ministerial talks; that is why I was not in the House at question time. A letter was issued from the branches of the Repatriation Department to each TPI pensioner. Subsequently I have had compiled another letter which is more explanatory. It will be issued to every PT] pensioner affected.
– Does it return the medical entitlement card?
– I will come to that in a moment. All members of this Parliament will receive or have received a copy of that letter. It would take too long at question time to read the full contents of the letter but a summary of the main points in it may be useful to honourable members. The reason for the loss of the entitlement card is the definition of a pensioner in section 4 of the National Health Act. Only some TPI pensioners have been affected.
– You have just said that over 3,000 were affected.
– 1 said ‘only some.’ The reason is that the war pension of the TPI pensioners affected together with the pension of their wives exceed the combined income limits of the pensioner medical service entitlement. Before they were just in; now they are just out. Whenever a means test is applied some people will be just in and some will be just out. I can appreciate the initial concern of the people who are losing their pensioner medical service entitlement cards, but I point out that when the benefits in the Budget for the people affected are taken into consideration they far outweigh the disadvantage they have suffered. In support of that contention I advise the honourable members that all the TPI pensioners affected will receive through the Budget an additional income of $11.50 a week. The cost to a TPI pensioner of enrolling his wife in a hospital and medical benefits fund is about SI a week. In summary, the married pensioner couples affected will receive an extra $598 tax free a year from this year’s Budget, whereas the extra costs they face will be $52 a year in payments to a hospital and medical benefits fund.
Certain other losses of entitlements are involved which will cause relatively minor expense. Nevertheless, the set gain of these people will far outweigh any extra expenses that they incur. I want to make it clear that TPI pensioners themselves will still retain their full entitlement to hospital and medical treatment through the repatriation system. They will still be entitled to the television, radio and telephone concessions and car sales tax exemptions. If both Houses adopt the nursing home proposals put forward by the Government as from 1st January 1973 TPI pensioners will be able to obtain treatment for chronic illnesses which are not recognised as being due to war service at a cost of $18 a week whereas previously the cost of such treatment has been as high as $50 a week.
In view of the facts I have outlined there can be no argument against the fact that TPI pensioners are far better off under the extra provisions of this Budget which greatly outweigh the relatively minor increase in expense they have incurred through the loss of pensioner medical service entitlement cards.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Certain Victorian shire councils have expressed dissatisfaction with the distribution of grants under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act for rural or unclassified roads. I therefore ask: Does the distribution of these funds by the States meet the requirements of the Commonwealth Act?
– The last Commonwealth Aid Roads Act increased the amount granted to the States from about $750m to $l,252m. Without doubt the action taken by this Government in respect of assistance for roads throughout the States has been well received. In fact, only yesterday I attended the Australian Road Transport Federation’s conference in Perth at which reference was made to the good work that has been done as a result of these grants. As to the specific question asked by the honourable member, Victoria received about $254m for its 5-year programme, of which $76.8ra was for nonmain roads in country areas. The administration of the expenditure of this money is carried out through the Country Roads
Board of Victoria. I have had only a few minor complaints from Victorian councils about the expenditure of that money, but now that the honourable member has raised the question I will make sure that the Bureau of Roads is made aware of it and that the councils concerned are given an opportunity to place their cases before die Bureau of Roads before its next report is presented to the Government for consideration.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Immigration been drawn to the fact that several members of a visiting pop group have pleaded guilty to drug charges and have been remanded for sentence? If so, can he inform the House what investigations were made by his Depart-1 ment into the background and history of members of the group before they were granted permission to enter Australia? Has he authority to withdraw approval for their visit? If so, will he, in the interests of the young people of Australia, exercise this authority?
– Quite complete and significant inquiries in depth are made in relation to the entry of all entertainers into Australia. I assure the honourable gentleman that they would not be permitted entry if a persistent background of drug, offences were known to exist prior to entry. In relation to the second part of the honourable gentleman’s question, there are various powers with respect to deportation. After the court cases in respect of these particular offences have been completed and when the information before the court is available to me I will have inquiries made to see what courses of action are open to the Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. What is the present state of the employment market? Does the Minister expect future improvements? Do the latest figures establish that the Government’s action to remedy unemployment has been correct?
– It will be no secret to the House that this matter has been the subject of a detailed report that was issued by me yesterday morning. Despite all the protestations of the Opposition the simple and unadorned fact is that the employment market has shown a significant improvement during the month of September. There has been a substantial fall in the number of those registered for work. That fall is some 7,900. The number is down by 8.2 per cent, which is the largest September fall since 1963. At the same time the seasonally adjusted figures show a fall of 1,700. Of course, the encouraging and significant trend which has taken place in the employment market reflects the resurgence in the Australian economy. The major economic indicators - I think of bank lending, retail sales and residential and non-residential approvals - all point to the fact that the economy is rapidly developing momentum and the portents are encouraging for the future.
– I ask the Minister for External Territories a question. Can the Minister inform me what is the present state of the threatened crisis in the Highlands of New Guinea?
– I will in fact be in a better position to answer this with some further authority from the Chief Minister himself, who is visiting the area today, particularly those parts of it where there has been widespread drought and a degree of grass fires emanating from those areas. He wishes to visit the area personally and examine it and I hope to be speaking to him first thing tomorrow morning. I will take the steps to ensure that the information that I receive over the telephone is conveyed to the honourable member. So far as the situation in toto is concerned, there have been consistent relief flights by both the Royal Australian Air Force anil charter aircraft of food to the areas. It appears that there is sufficient food available at the present moment, and, of course funds from Australia to support the aircraft that are moving the food and also that sufficient personnel are assisting in the operation itself. I am not in receipt of a detailed investigation. Over and above the report I am expecting from the Chief Minister tomorrow morning I wanted a further report from the Administrator himself who, though not visiting the area, was drawing together the assessments of Administration officers in the field. He had been down here last week and was unable to do this for me. I expect to receive that also this week. I will make sure it is sent to the honourable member. The situation seems to be well in hand though, as the honourable member knows, the consequences of the severity of the frost together with the drought itself will be spread over a period of 4 to 5 months. Therefore we want to be quite vigilant over the months ahead, even though the operation at the moment seems to be moving successfully.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I ask: In view of the repeated statements by the honourable member for Newcastle that the book value of the 6 DC3 aircraft purchased from Jetair was $100,000, could the Minister give the House any information as to what was the book value of these aircraft.
– Following these repeated statements that the book value was $100,000 as against the purchase price paid by the Commonwealth of $275,000, my colleague the Minister for Supply, who has been handling this matter in the other place, made inquiries from the Department of Foreign Affairs as to what in fact the book value was. He received a letter dated 16th October 1972 addressed to him from Alexander Barton. He supplied a photostat copy to me. I think the simplest th’.ng to do would be to table that letter and seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard.
-Does the honourable member wish to have this letter incorporated in Hansard?
– Yes, I wish to have it incorporated.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– I rise on a point of order. The Minister said that he was relying on his colleague the Minister for Supply in another place.
– That is what you have said.
-Order! There is no point of order,
Mir Charles Jones - Mr Speaker, before leave is granted-
-Order! Leave has been granted. The .Leader of the Opposition has agreed to the letter being incorporated in Hansard and the House concurred.
– I have some reservations on this. What authority has the Minister to back up the statement for which he has sought leave to have incorporated?
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member for Newcastle will resume his seat. The House’ has agreed that the letter be incorporated in Hansard. There being no objection, leave ls granted. (The document read as follows) -
The Hon. R. C. Wright, Minister for Works, Parliament House, CANBERRA, A.C.T: 2600. My Dear Minister
As requested by officers of the Foreign Affairs department, I am setting out below the costs to the Jetair group of each of the six DC3 aircraft. The table shows cost of the particular aircraft, the cost of rebuilding, including all the work necessary to put each plane into service (this work was carried out by Hawker de Havilland Aust. Pty Ltd, and Bast-West Airlines Pty Ltd), and the total cost:
I note that it has been stated that the book value of the six aircraft was $100,000. As you can see from the above table, this is totally incorrect. The six DC3’s were not owned by Jetair Australia Limited but another company in the Jetair group and in fact were leased to Jetair. The book value of the six DC3 aircraft, as stated in the above table, which figures were extracted from the audited figures of the company concerned.
I have further noted that the valuation of the spare parts included in the sale was approximately $18,000. This agrees closely with the price paid for them.
I might add that I have been disturbed at the incorrect statements made under Parliamentary privilege regarding the financial position of Jetair. These statements are totally untrue. The establishment costs of the airline which were anticipated to be substantial, were properly provided for, prior to the commencement of operations, and Jetair is, and always was, in a sound financial position. When it became apparent that the full objectives of the company could not be attained, and because the limited operations that it was authorised to undertake were unlikely to become profitable, the Board decided to cease operations.
In my opinion, the Board acted responsibly towards its Shareholders, the public, and its staff and took the only course that was open to it and you may care to report this view to the Parliament should the matter be raised again.
– During the interval my attention was drawn to the fact that I described my colleague in the other place as the Minister for Supply whereas of course he is the Minister for Works. I thank the honourable member for Sydney for the correction. It is the Minister for Works who was handling it. The letter is addressed to The Hon. R. C. Wright’. It is dated 16th October. It sets out the details of the various aircraft, the cost price and what was done before they were taken into the books, and then as against each aircraft the book value so arrived at. The total - which is the matter that honourable members would be concerned with - is $579,325 as against the purchase price of $275,000 paid by the Commonwealth. I just want to say this: The honourable member for Newcastle has engaged, as a member of the Opposition, in this mudslinging operation. He has tried to imply in relation to this purchase that there was a book value of only $100,000. He has repeated it again and again. His information has been quite wrong and he has wasted the time of this House and the media. I suggest that next time he should get bis information correct.
– My question, which is supplementary to that asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, is directed to the Minister for Repatriation. Will he consider making free membership of medical funds available to families of TPI pensioners? Will he offer pensioners who lose their eligibility to the pensioner medical service full cover for pre-existing illness if they join a hospital and medical fund within 3 months of losing that entitlement? Will he discuss this possibility with the Minister for Social Services? Alternatively, will he give full repatriation medical entitlement to dependants of TPI pensioners?
– The matters raised by the honourable member involve not only myself but other Ministers. I undertake to study the details of the question, discuss them with the Ministers involved and let the honourable member have a considered reply.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. I ask: Because of the build-up in unit strength at Lavarack Barracks are the current Army hospital facilities at Townsville adequate to meet the medical and hospitalisation needs of the task force? If not, Will the Minister tell me what proposals are in hand to rectify the situation?
– I rise to order. This is an important question. I have been waiting for an answer on it for about 2 months. The Standing Orders say that I am entitled to get it in writing. I refer you, Mr Speaker, to question No. 6241 which has been on the notice paper since 23rd August.
-Order! Will the honourable member for Herbert repeat the question?
– Yes. (Mr Bonnett having repeated the question) -
– Having heard the honourable member for Herbert repeat the question, I think the question on the notice paper is entirely different. In some respects it seeks similar information but it deals with other matters. The question asked by the honourable member for Herbert is in order.
– First of all, my answer briefly is yes. The people who are presently suffering injuries or illnesses of a minor nature are treated at the 4th Camp Hospital at Pallarenda. Admittedly this hospital is of a temporary nature, but not for one moment would anyone suggest, except for one or 2 irresponsibles - of course, they are regarded as S-star irresponsibles in any case - who have made statements from time to time in the Press, particularly in North Queensland, that the hospital has anything but the usual high standard that we provide for the Army. But let it be well and truly understood- the honourable member for Herbert well knows this because no-one has involved himself more constructively and been more dedicated to the Army particularly and. the Services generally - that not for one moment would anyone with any sanity suggest that the people who go into that hospital are not receiving splendid treatment. However, I would point out that the serious cases and the cases requiring further care are .sent either to the public hospital in Townsville or to the Mater Hospital. In replying to the final part of the honourable member’s question, I would point out that this matter is receiving very high priority, and I would rather hope that the very modern and very permanent hospital that we have planned for” Townsville will commence within the next 2 years.
. CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION
– I ask the Prime Minister a question concerning representation at the Constitutional Convention next year and the associated steering committee. The right honourable gentleman commendably has sought to ensure representation of all political groups from the Commonwealth and the 6 States. Will he intercede in his own Party to ensure that both’ factions in his South Australian branch - that is, those led by Dr Eastick and Mr Steele Hall - are represented?
– That is a delightful suggestion made by a delightful man.
– I ask the Minister for National Development: Has harvesting of grain commenced in Queensland and in the north west of New South Wales? Did the recent shortage of petrol in these areas give serious concern to primary producers? Has this shortage been overcome and what in general will be the future supply of fuel for the valuable wheat harvest shortly to be commenced? Can the Minister state the present position?
– The position in southern Queensland - I refer particularly to the rural areas - and also the northern part of New South Wales is that these areas are still having problems regarding supplies of petrol which to a substantial degree come from the 2 refineries in Brisbane. If the major refinery is back in full operation this week, as we anticipate, unless further industrial problems arise, petrol supplies from the refinery should be back to normal in a few days. But the refineries have to get supplies to the bulk depots and then face the bigger problem of distribution to resellers. An undertaking was given last week, after the conclusion of the strike which held up production in the Ampol refinery, to release quantities that were held in stock, principally in the Ampol refinery but also in the Amoco refinery. That did allow some supplies to get out by rail and road tankers to rural areas and that movement is continuing at present.
Although as much as possible is being done by the industry committee and the co-ordinating committee in the State, it will be some time, I am afraid, before the supply situation can be considered to be back to normal. However, in view of the urgency of the wheat and barley harvesting situation every effort is being concentrated on trying to get supplies as quickly as possible into those areas. I can give an assurance that the State Government has the situation as much in hand as is possible under the circumstances. The industry is fully aware of the urgency of getting supplies to the rural areas and everything possible is being done in view of the existing circumstances.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the High Court ruling in the case of Miss Anne Lodge, who sought to have creche costs allowed as tax deduction. The High Court ruled that the expense of keeping a child in a day nursery was neither relevant nor incidental to Miss Lodge’s work. In view of the generous allowances that are permitted to businessmen for all sorts of entertainment and other expenses will the Government reconsider the situation and legislate so that such day care costs incurred by mothers, particularly single mothers, are allowable tax deductions?
– I have not had this, decision drawn to my attention other than by reading about it in this morning’s news-, papers. As honourable members would expect, some of my colleagues descended upon me first thing this morning to see whether I could get an immediate alteration made to the law. I will take this matter up with the Treasurer and let the House know what decision is reached.
– I ask the Minister for Education and Science whether he has had a request from the New South Wales Teachers Federation for permission to make a political film in one or more Canberra schools. If so, what is involved?
– A request did come from the New South Wales Teachers Federation for permission to make a film involving infants’ classes in one or more Canberra schools and also involving Mr Hawke walking through the schools at the same time. It is plainly for the purposes of a political propaganda film. Parents involved in the one of more classes that might be concerned had, as I understand it, already been approached. My Department has made a check with parents to see what view they took of this matter and I was somewhat surprised to learn that not many parents objected to their children being involved in what would be a political propaganda film. I am surprised also that the New South Wales Teachers Federation decided that neither the shadow Minister for Education nor the Leader of the Opposition was the appropriate person to walk through the classrooms at the time the filming was taking place but instead wanted Mr Hawke, who really has no direct responsibility in education matters. The Government is not prepared to accept that the normal school classes should be interrupted in any way by a matter of this kind. If the Teachers Federation wants to make a film of a classroom out of school hours after the end of the school day, that can be done. If there are parents who wish to have their children in a film at that time after the end of the school day no doubt they will be able to make appropriate arrangements with the New South Wales Teachers Federation.
– When will the Minister for Shipping and Transport release the economic evaluation of capital investment in urban public transport which the Bureau of Transport Economics completed last June and which the Australian Transport Advisory Council discussed at its meetings early in July and again a couple of weeks ago?
– The Leader of the Opposition knows that this matter is presently before the Government and when the Government has taken decisions on it consideration will be given to releasing the report.
– 1 address a question to the Prime Minister. When did the purchase of aircraft for Laos, Nepal and Cambodia actually commence? Is he now in a position to confirm the date on which Cambodia accepted the offer of DC3 aircraft from the Australian Government?
– Yes, I am. But I believe that an outline of the figures at least has already been given to the Leader of the Opposition by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The dates of commencement were these: In the case of Nepal, OctoberNovember 1969; in the case of Laos, April 1970; and in the case of Cambodia special aid was approved by the Government between April and May 1970. It can be seen that the commencement dates were different. They did occur some time ago, as early as October-November 1969. But there is a supplementary question to be answered here relating to the cable of 8th January 1971 in which I understand the Leader of the Opposition is interested. We have already agreed that this cable will be made available in confidence to the Leader of the Labor Party in the Senate but my information is that he has not taken advantage of reading that cable. I am now prepared to make it available under similar conditions to the Leader of the. Opposition. If he wants it, I will ensure that an officer of my Department or of the Department of Foreign Affairs lets him look at that cable today. It is classified and consequently I cannot divulge all the information in it but what I can say is that in the cable of 8th, January it was made clear that there had been an offer by the Australian Government to supply DC3 aircraft to Cambodia. Obviously, therefore, that offer must have taken place before 8th January 1971. In the cable of 8th January 1971 the Leader of the Opposition will find the phrase that General Sak Sutsakhan had given full agreement to the proposals. We find, therefore, that if there was any misapprehension as to the dates before and as to whether I had misled the House, those doubts can no longer be held because this cable, which will be seen, by the Leader, of the Opposition if he chooses to see it. will, I think, clear away .any possible doubts whatsoever.
- Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question of the Prime Mina.ter. As I. made a note, the Prime Minister stated just now - that negotiations for the delivery of DC3 aircraft to Cambodia commenced in April or May 1970. 1 ask: How can he reconcile this with the statement in the letter to me of the Minister for Foreign Affairs last Thursday that they commenced in December 1970?
– It is obvious that the Leader of the Opposition is not hearing as well as he should. I said that special aid was approved of by the Government in April-May 1970.
– Sir, may I-
-Order! Are you asking another supplementary question?
– Yes. I ask the Prime Minister: Does he dispute the statement in the Foreign Minister’s letter to me last Thursday that negotiations for the purchase and delivery of aircraft under Australian aid programmes commenced in December 1970 in the case of Cambodia?
– I do not dispute that at all. I gave the honourable gentleman the statement as to the date the Government approved and I did no more than that. I went on to state that if he looks at the cable that will be given to him, dated 8th January 1971, he will see that the Australian offer was made prior to that date and that the General whose name I have mentioned had given full approval to the proposals. I go no further than that. My statement stands on its own, as the statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs stands on its own as well.
– I address my question to the Minister for Education and Science. Has he noticed the latest evidence to the effect that the capacity of school children fully to utilise library facilities in secondary schools is related to their learning pattern in libraries in primary schools? If he has noticed’ this latest evidence to come to hand on this problem, can he indicate to the House that he will take some concrete interest in this with a view to remedying this minor deficiency in the highly successful education programme initiated by this Government.
-The Government has always recognised the importance of the library in a primary school and I am delighted to know that a number of State Departments of Education are now building in their primary schools firstclass libraries appropriate to the circumstances of a primary school. Obviously they are not as elaborate as libraries in secondary schools. The requirements in this area were very much in the Government’s mind when it made its decision to provide a major new programme of capital support to primary and secondary school construction. Total funds of about SI 87m are being made available for government schools. If the States determine greater rate of construction of primary school libraries, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned that is fine. But one of the things we had in mind in undertaking these programmes very clearly was that the priorities of the different States are not all the same. Some States have problems with inner city schools. Other States have greater problems with rapidly expanding suburbs. States may wish to give a priority to establishing a greater number of primary school libraries. Therefore we wanted a flexible programme of support for government school construction that would enable the State Departments of Education and State Ministers to maintain their proper responsibility in establishing their own priorities and highest areas of need. Therefore the funds we are providing for government schools - $187m in all over the period of the programme - will be available to State Ministers and State Departments of Education as a net addition to that which they would otherwise spend, and we expect them to determine their own priorities within the primary and secondary school areas. I certainly hope that this programme will lead to a greater rate of primary school library construction.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do. The Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in an election statement at Warwick, Queensland, on 6th October, which he has since widely circulated, misrepresented me in the following passage:
Mr Grassby, Labor’s alternative Minister for Primary Industry, has a grand socialist plan for Australia’s rural community. He wrote in the Fabian Newsletter of November-December 1970: “The Labor Party has drawn on the experience of the U.S.S.R. and other countries to prepare a programme for socialist agriculture for this nation, based on national planning . . .’
He then went on to state that a Russian socialist scheme for primary producers means various things. The misrepresentation on 6th October is a repetition of the misrepresentation which I corrected in this House on 19th September and in connection with which I received permission to table the relevant document. The statement by the Minister for Education and Science is devious and dishonest, and what makes it worse is that he knows it.
– I ask for leave to qualify briefly an answer to a question which I gave earlier.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– When answering the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) in relation to members of a pop group who have been accused of drug offences, I said that we investigate very carefully the background and bona fides of entertainers entering Australia. It has now been brought to my attention that this group might have come from Great Britain. If that is correct, my statement was not necessarily correct because, as the House would well know, British Europeans can come to Australia without permission; that is, without obtaining visas. If it were known that they were coming and that they had an undesirable background, of course they would be prevented from entering the country. But, if it were not known that they were coming or that they had an undesirable background, this would not apply. The only other point I make is that, although this information is correct in respect of British Europeans, it in no way affects the powers we have to remove them from the country if they are convicted of undesirable conduct while they are here.
– I desire to make a personal explanation, Mr Speaker.
-Order! Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby). The last charges that the honourable member for Riverina made in his personal explanation, as I think he would know, are completely false. The quotations referred to came from a document which was uncorrected by the honourable member for Riverina, as I understand it, for a period of perhaps up to 2 years. It was only when the political implications of his original statement were pointed out that he blamed the publishers of the ‘Fabian Newsletter’ for an alleged misrepresentation of him. I would have thought that this was a pretty weak explanation.
– I rise on a point of order. The Minister for Education and Science has debated the matter. I point out that he quoted half a sentence, which is scarcely honest.
Mr CHARLES JONES (Newcastle)- 1 wish to make a personal explanation, Mr Speaker.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. During question time the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) had a document relating to the financial affairs of Jetair Australia Ltd incorporated in Hansard and challenged the veracity of my statements in this place last Thursday and again on the This Day Tonight’ television programme last Thursday night. I have not had the opportunity of reading in its entirety the statement that the Minister- has tabled, but he certainly challenged my figure as to the book value of the 6 DC3 aircraft concerned when I stated that on my information they were valued at only, $100,000 and not $275,000 which the Government paid for them. I wish to cite the; following facts: Brins’ accounts for the 12 months to 30th June 1971 were not made public until 9 months later - 3 months after the statutory limit imposed by the Companies Act. This is within the period-
– I raise a point of order. This is not related to the alleged misrepresentation. I suggest that the honourable member is debating the matter.
-Order! This may or may not be so. I am not in a position to know that. The honourable member appears to be quoting from an article he has in order to show that the figure which he was accused of giving to say that a certain amount was involved was the amount involved. To that extent the personal explanation is in order, but the honourable member will not be in order if he brings other issues into the matter, which would mean that he might be debating the issue or offering a political view.
– I do not wish to debate the issue and I do not wish to submit any further political views on the subject. I want to bring to the attention of this Parliament certain information. The Minister had his say and I think I am entitled to have mine.
-Order! The honourable member must show where he has been personally misrepresented.
– I am claiming that my figures were right and that the figures which the Minister has used to challenge my veracity are not factual. I will continue from the point at which I was interrupted. After getting permission from the New South Wales Corporate Affairs Commission to submit late accounts the Brins company finally produced accounts showing that the company and its subsidiaries had lost $lm in the year. Among the items in the profit and loss account was a write-off of $912,579 through a loss on the sale of aircraft. However, the balance sheet showed that at 30th June 1970 aircraft had been valued at $107,881 less accumulated depreciation of $8,112, leaving the value of the aircraft at $99,769. If the aircraft of the Brins company were valued at $99,769 at 30th June 1970 and the company had incurred a loss of $912,597 on the sale of aircraft in the year ended 30th June 1971, something very odd must have happened between the 2 dates. The company could have bought aircraft during 1970-71 and could then have resold them at a heavy loss. However, the notes to the published accounts, which are quite extensive, give no indication of any such transaction. The Brins company was dominated by Barton family interests and was eventually taken over late in 1971 by Murumba Minerals.
-Order! The honourable member is now going beyond the bounds of the figures.
– I will terminate on that point, but perhaps I should add that Murumba Minerals was also controlled by the Barton family. Over the last few years Hungerford Spooner and Kirkhope, a firm of Sydney auditors, who were auditors of the company in Mr Alexander Barton’s group have qualified the annual accounts. I understand that the qualification extends to questioning the valuation of assets and the recoverability of debts.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat He is going beyond a personal explanation. He is introducing other matter into his personal explanation and I will not allow it.
– On a point of order, surely it is relevant that the auditors of the company concerned qualified the accounts. I understood the honourable member for Newcastle to say that the auditors qualified the valuation of the aircraft concerned. 1 ask you to reconsider your ruling, Sir.
-The honourable member for Newcastle asked to make a personal explanation relating to the cost of aircraft referred to at question time this morning. I do not remember, all the intricacies of the matter. In my view the honourable member in his explanation so far has shown the difference in values. It is npt my position to say whether. they are correct or otherwise. The honourable member will not go on in a personal explanation to deal with, an auditor’s report! Although it may be relevant to the whole question I do not believe that- it properly comes into a personal, explanation.
– With due regard to your ruling-
– On what is the honourable member speaking?, . .
– On the point of order that was taken. With due regard to your ruling, the information, which was incorporated in Hansard this morning by the Minister for Foreign Affairs purported to have come from one Barton and was allegedly authentic information regarding the financial affairs of the company. Surely in my personal explanation I have the right to set out at least some qf the facts, including a statement by the auditors of the company, and the right to challenge the veracity of the information which was tabled by the minister.
-I think the honourable member so far has been able to show where he has been misrepresented. Unless the report of the auditors deals specifically with the particular matter I do not think it properly enters into a personal explanation.
– I accept your ruling, Sir. I conclude my remarks by saying that the firm of auditors has since resigned. I understand that it is a reputable firm of auditors in Sydney.
-Order! Any further reference to the auditor’s report will be out of order.
– I will make no further reference to the auditors. I have concluded my little piece on that subject. As to the veracity of Mr Barton-
– Order! The honourable member for Newcastle will resume his seat.
– I claim to have been misrepresented by implication in what the honourable member for Newcastle has said. He prefaced his remarks by saying that he had not even read the documents I tabled. Yet he is suggesting that 1 am misrepresenting him. I suggest that he should read the information I tabled and then check that the aircraft to which he referred as being valued at about $99,000 and the aircraft to which the company is referring are different aircraft altogether. If he wishes to concentrate on the Jetair aircraft that the Commonwealth Government purchased he had better check his information.
– I claim to have been further misrepresented. I challenge the Minister to table in this place all of the balance sheets and statements-
-Order! I do not accept challenges. They are a waste of time. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I would like to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I was misrepresented by the Minister for Education and Science according to a news report on radio station 3BO yesterday following a speech made by the Minister at an election meeting last Saturday night at the Bendigo Town Hall. In the news release the Minister is reported as saying that I had attacked Commonwealth aid to special schools for the handicapped. That is utter nonsense and sheer distortion by the Minister. His statement is supposedly based upon a statement of mine published in some newspapers on 1st September. There is nothing whatsoever in that Press statement that indicates any criticism at all of Commonwealth aid to special schools for the handicapped. I was making a suggestion in the clearest possible terms. The words I used cover schools which are described as being rich, exclusive private colleges and grammar schools, schools for the elite. These are not schools for handicapped children unless the Minister is applying a very special definition to handicapped children.
Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon- - Minister for Education and Science) - I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In answer to the question to . which the honourable member for Bendigo referred I draw attention to the fact that 170 schools had not answered a questionnaire. The honourable member for Bendigo then attacked those 170 schools and what he called Commonwealth support for them, implying as he took it that because those schools did not answer the questionnaires they did not want the funds.
– Order! In a personal explanation the Minister must show where he has been personally misrepresented and must not debate the question.
– I come directly to the point, which is that 83 of the 170 schools which the honourable member for Bendigo attacked are special schools for the handicapped.
– I submit that the Minister for Education and Science was not entitled to say what he has just said and had recorded in Hansard in the guise of a personal explanation. The honourable member for Bendigo issued a ‘ Press statement criticising-
– Are you asking for leave to make a statement? That is what you are doing.
– No, I am taking a point of order. The honourable member for Bendigo issued a Press statement pointing out that a certain percentage of the nongovernment, non-Catholic schools, which had been requested to answer a questionnaire in a nationwide survey of educational needs had failed to answer that questionnaire.
– Eighty-three of those 170-
– And the Minister stated that subsequently.
-Order! The Minister was beard in silence. I think that the Leader of the Opposition also should be heard in silence.
– At that time or later when the honourable member for Bendigo had asked which schools had failed to answer the questionnaire, he received a written answer from the Minister saying that this was confidential. Then again, later, the Minister stated that some of those schools that had failed to answer the questionnaire were schools for the handicapped.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition does not seem to be dealing with a point of order. The Chair is not concerned with political debating points; the Chair is concerned with a point of order taken under the Standing Orders. The Leader of the Opposition should state his point of order.
- Mr Speaker, I think this is an appropriate time to expunge the statement from Hansard, because at the time the honourable member for Bendigo made this statement the Minister for Education and Science had refused to state the names of the schools in default, and he had no! stated anywhere that handicapped schools were among them. Now the Minister has interpolated a subsequent gloss. What he has said is not a legitimate personal explanation in answer to the statement made by the honourable member for Bendigo.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. I am relying on my memory. If I am wrong I will apologise to the Leader of the Opposition. I am sure I am correct. The original answer I gave in Hansard to the honourable member for Bendigo drew attention to the fact that 83 of the schools that did not reply were schools for the handicapped.
-Order! The honourable member for Bowman will withdraw that remark.
– I heard what the Minister said at the time. The Minister is incorrect. In deference to you, Mr Speaker, I withdraw the remark.
– I preface what I said by saying that I was relying on my memory and I did not have the document with me. If I am wrong I will apologise to the Leader of the Opposition. Having said that, I am very certain that my original reply to the honourable member for Bendigo drew attention to the fact that 83 of the schools which did not answer the questionnaire were schools for the handicapped. If the honourable member for Bendigo had read the answer he should have known that.
– You did not. I heard you and you did not.
-Order! The honourable member for Bowman will restrain himself. I will not countenance continued interjections from the honourable member for Bowman. If he continues to interject I will warn him and then I will deal with him.
Mr KENNEDY (Bendigo)- I wish to make a personal explanation. Once again the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has persevered in his deliberate misrepresentations. The answer that the Minister gave to me gave no indication of what the schools: that I was talking about were. I asked the Minister a very simple question: What are the names of those schools which refused to give him information or omitted- to give him information? There was a very large number of them. I do not have the number at hand now. He refused point blank to tell me the names of those schools. Since then he has been hiding behind continual substerfuge -
-Order! The honourable member is going beyond the bounds of a personal explanation.
– I believe’ I can help the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Frazer) to make his apology without any further delay.
-Order! This is going beyond the bounds of a personal explanation. Quite frankly, the Leader of the Opposition is not concerned with any personal misrepresentation that may have occurred. He will have to use some other form of the House if he intends to pursue the matter.
– I seek leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– On 31st August the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) received from the Minister for Education and Science a reply to a question on notice. The answer appears on page 1113 of Hansard. As 1 see it, there is no reference in that answer to schools for the handicapped. Let me read it. In paragraph (7) the honourable member for Bendigo asked:
What were the names of the non-Catholic private schools in each State and Territory which were invited to provide data but did not do so?
The Minister replied:
Then the Minister continued in his reply as follows:
I have read the whole of the Minister’s reply dealing with those non-government non-Catholic schools which did not reply to the questionnaire. It will be noticed that there is no reference to handicapped schools; neither is there any reference to handicapped schools in any of the preceding parts of the Minister’s reply.
Mr MALCOLM FRASER (WannonMinister for Education and Science) - I seek leave to say something about the same subject.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has not done his homework. I take it that we are dealing with the answer to Question No. 5783, so that there will be no mistake.
– That is right.
– I will read to the House part 2 of the question. It asked:
Did the final summary of this survey which was tabled in Parliament on Sth October 1971 show that the relevant data was not provided by certain non-government schools
The answer to that part of the question was as follows:
Yes. The report of the survey was based on adequately completed questionnaires received prior to mid-April 1971. Of those schools who replied, the survey report excluded those whose returns fa) contained inadequate data or (b) were received later than mid-April 1971. Questionnaires were sent to 104 special schools but since 83 failed to reply, it was decided to exclude all special schools in compiling the results of the survey.
That was a very clear reference to special schools for the handicapped, which is the terminology used. They are called special schools. The matter was referred to in the answer to the question. It was made quite plain in my original answer, as I recall from memory, that the special schools for the handicapped had been referred to and were excluded.
Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa- Leader of the Opposition) - I wish to make a personal explanation. The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) and all others who have spoken on the nationwide survey of educational needs have been referring all along to the results of the survey and the incomplete features. As the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) stated, the special schools were not included in the information which he later gave. The honourable member for Bendigo has criticised the failure of those schools which were included in the survey to provide answers to the questionnaire which they had received and about which they were reminded. At no time did I or the honourable member for Bendigo refer to handicapped schools or special schools.
Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon - Minister for Education and Science) - I wish to make a personal explanation. The Leader of the Opposition persists in this matter. Any ordinary school that answered the questionnaire in the appropriate time was included in the results. We are talking, and have been talking, about schools that did not answer the questionnaire and therefore were not included in the results. The total number that was not included was 170 and, as my statement makes quite plain, 83 of the schools that did not respond to the questionnaire were special schools. That is in Hansard. It is there in answer to the original question. The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) subsequently attacked those schools as not needing government assistance, and so did the Leader of the Opposition on a later occasion.
Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa - Leader of the Opposition) - Mr Speaker-
-Order! Does the Leader of the Opposition wish to make a personal explanation.
– Yes, sir. If the Minister continues to misrepresent we will continue to explain.
– I said on 2 occasions this morning that the Chair is not concerned with the political aspects of this matter. It is concerned in the interpretation of Standing Orders as to where an honourable member has been misrepresented. I call the Leader of the Opposition on that understanding.
– The simple situation is that since 83 of the 104 special schools which received the questionnaire failed to reply to it, it was decided to exclude all special schools in compiling the results of the survey and accordingly everything that everybody has said on this has concerned schools other than special schools.
– Minister for National Development) - For the information of honourable members, I present the annual report of Qantas Airways Ltd for the year ended 31st March 1972, together with financial statements and the report of the AuditorGeneral on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 9 of the Medical Research Endowment Act 1937,
I present the annual report on work done under the Act during the year ended 31st December 1971.
– Pursuant to section 27 of the National Library Act 1960-1967, I present the twelfth annual report of the Council of the National Library of Australia for the year ended 30th June 1972, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.; :.
-1 , table the following report:
Report of Expert Group on Road Safety.
– I seek leave to make a statement in relation to the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– When moving for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into road safety- on 27th April, I referred to the Expert Group and the advanced stage it had reached in a national review of the road accident situation in Australia. The Expert Group has now completed this task and has - submitted its report to me. The report incorporates a number of recommendations. Many of these relate to fields of activity either which are the responsibility of the States or in which any Commonwealth action would require consultation with the States.
The report has not yet been considered by the Government. It is, however, a document of national interest as it deals with one of the most important problems facing us today - death and injury on our roads. The report is, therefore, being made available at the earliest opportunity to members of this House, especially the House of Representatives Select Committee on Road Safety, State ministers and others concerned with road safety. Mr Justice Meares and the members of the expert group have given generously of their time and energies. It would be remiss of me if I did not express on behalf of the community appreciation of the efforts of the expert group and the many others who contributed in one way or another to the national review. I commend the report to honourable members. I present the following paper:
The road accident situation in Australia - a National Review- Ministerialstatement, 17th October 1972.
Motion (by Mr Chipp) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– The House is indebted to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) for at least tabling the report at this late stage. I regret the lack of courtesy by the Minister in not making this report available at least to members of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Road Safety so that at least we could have had the opportunity of reading it over the week-end.
– I received it this morning.
– The Minister received it this morning?
-I cannot do any better than that.
– I accept the Minister’s statement that he received the document this morning. I received it less than half an hour before the House sat and I have had very little opportunity of studying the report bearing in mind what happened during question time and the period immediately after. But in the short time that has been available to me to study the report one aspect that concerns me is the fact that it would appear that the Government has not made any decision on the 3 recommendations about which the Committee uses the words: Three important new initiatives on the part of the Commonwealth Government are strongly recommended’.
For example, the Committee has recommended the initial payment - not that the amount is a great one - of $5m a year on a $1 for $1 basis to the States to provide financial assistance for low cost traffic management and to overcome some of the serious problems associated with traffic problems. I think that this is a matter which, even as a temporary measure, could be introduced by the Government. It would receive the unanimous support of both this House and the Senate. The report clearly indicates the failure of the Government over the years to do something positive about the important problem of road safety today, the number of people who are being continually killed on the roads, the number who are being maimed for life, the huge cost in terms of the loss of life and the loss of time so far as concerns the ability of people to work, the various forms of compensation payments which are made by way of third party insurance, the cost to the nation of people who are in receipt of invalid pensions as a result of injury and the cost of repairing or replacing motor vehicles involved in accidents. The report highlights what the Government has not done over the years and why action along these lines should have been taken much sooner than it has.
Various points contained in the report could be cleared up quite easily. Take for example the number of people who are killed in motor cycle accidents. The recommendation of the report in this respect is one that should be examined very closely by the Commonwealth and State governments involved so that something can be done about it. Action in regard to safety helmets and the like should have been tackled by the States much sooner than has been the case. The group recommends that action be taken to bring the standard of helmet worn by motor cyclists to a standard comparable to that which applies overseas. The requirements in regard to the wearing of coloured clothing and matters of this type which are set out in the report can be, and should be, dealt with immediately because they are things on which everyone is in agreement. Of course, the Government should have given the lead years ago in the field of the replanning of roads. This is not a field about which something has not been known. The Minister’s portfolio incorporates roads and he should have been using the resources available to him through the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads to make and bring up recommendations as to what financial assistance should be provided to improve town planning, to improve blind intersections and to do something positive. The same thing can be said in relation to railway crossings. The number of people killed at railway crossings is an utter disgrace to any parliament and it is a matter for which this Government must accept full responsibility.
I reaffirm my regret that we were not given an opportunity to examine this report in greater detail and at greater length to enable us to have a reasonable debate on it and thus examine some of the points raised in it. From what I have already read there are a number of things with which I do not agree but at this stage I do not have time to go into them. One relates to the recommendation to retain the give way to the right rule. I do not agree with that decision. This is a controversial question. Australia is one of the few developed countries with ahigh traffic density which still retains what I consider to be this old fashioned rule. Other countries have found that it is more practical to have a priority road system with give way signs, and I think this is preferable to retaining the give way to the right rule. I do not propose to debate this at this time because one could talk for an hour on the merits of the proposition.
I hope that the Minister will implement even at this stage some of the recommendations which can easily be put into effect. There is nothing to prevent the Government from providingthe States with financial assistance amounting to$5m on a $1 for $1 basis. However, I consider that sum of money to be totally inadequate. At least something positive could be done in regard to uniform traffic laws and regulations throughout the Commonwealth. We have had any amount of evidence which shows that people are involved in motor vehicle accidents for one simple reason, that is, that they do not understand the traffic rules which apply in the State in which they are holidaying. Numerous accidents are unnecessarily caused because of a lack of uniform traffic regulations as between the States. I am dealing now only with the safety aspect and not in any way with the cost to the community as a whole in relation to the loading of trucks and the like.
Whilst we welcome the report at this late hour we think much more should have been done. I note that the report is dated September 1972. I do not know how long it has taken to get the report printed. I accept the Minister’s assurance that he received it only today, but at least he had with it a document drawing his attention to all the key points in regard to what should be done. I hope that those recommendations which can easily be implemented will be put into effect quickly.
– This is a very interesting document. What it does in effect is to support completely the stand we have been taking for 18 months. It is a most damaging document because chapter and verse it illustrates just how clearly the Federal Government has ignored the very deep seated road safety problems. I have read only the summary at the beginning of the report because, like the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), I received a copy of it only this morning. I want to quote just a few pieces from it. It reads:
The behaviour of the road user is nearly always the final link in the chain of circumstances which leads to a road accident. Because of this fact there is a widely held belief that the most effective way to reduce road accidents is to modify human behaviour by more driver education and training and by intensive road safely publicity. In practice these efforts have proved only minimally effective.
Although the driver may appear primarily to be at fault in many accidents, there is clear evidence that in the shorter term making the road and/or the vehicle safer is often cheaper and more effective in reducing both the incidence and severity of accidents than are attempts to modify human behaviour.
The whole basis of our attack over the past 18 months has been that the old myths and shibboleths on road safety have to be cast aside. The Government’s expert group has backed up the statements that we have been making from this side of the House. The Government’s own committee has made some very trenchant criticisms. Its report says: a vigorous co-ordinated multi-disciplinary attack on road safety problems must be implemented on a national basis.
It goes on to say:
It is strongly recommended that the Commonwealth Government should involve itself more directly in road safety and in other ways promote a more vigorous, co-ordinated and multidisciplinary approach.
Each and every one of the recommendations in this report by the Expert Group on Road Safety were recommendations made by the Australian Labor Party. They are in our policy. They were in the report which I wrote and which the Minister for
Shipping and Transport at the time did not have the good grace to say anything decent about. He said that my report was a collection of other people’s thoughts.
Let me quote the recommendations which are already a part of our policy. I will also quote from a speech I made in the House on the Budget last year. The Report continues:
It should do this by:
Creating a specialist National Office of Road Safety (Co-ordination and Research) . . .
Introducing a special programme of financial assistance to the States . . .
Creating a central information office so that those working in road safety will have ready access to adequate statistical and other information . . .
Planning and sponsoring a greatly expanded research programme . . .
Increasing the technical and other support in the areas of vehicle safety standards, traffic codes, education and publicity;
Ensuring that adequate safety features are incorporated in roads which are financed out of Commonwealth grants, and especially those highways of national importance;
In the section headed ‘Motor Vehicles’ the report states:
The mandatory inclusion of known safety design features and the compulsory wearing of seat belts have made valuable contribution to road safety in Australia.
Before I deal with that let me quote from the speech I made on the Budget last year when I outlined Labor Party policy which I had previously outlined at a seminar at Terrigal. I said:
What we propose basically is this: We will set up a Commonwealth highway safety bureau which Will set uniform standards for the States to implement. These will include standards on driver education, traffic codes and laws, the collection of data, traffic control devices, driver licensing and vehicles in use. Such a bureau will set safety design standards for new vehicles and test vehicles after production, lt will have its own independent laboratory, which will carry out research, lt will investigate ways of implementing recall legislation for defective vehicles. It will also study, together with our department of urban affairs, effective urban planning that will stop the motor vehicle from intruding into everyone’s life as it now does, and also the possibility of setting up a national vehicle inspection company such as exists in Sweden or similar to what operates in New Zealand.
When we have put these propositions forward they have . been argued against by Government supporters and ignored by Ministers, who have brushed them off by saying that they are the responsibility of the States. Yet here we have one after the other in this report recommendations adopted by this Expert Group which are Fart of the Labor Party’s policy. The Minister scoffs. Let him show me in this report the recommendations which are not part of our policy. Let him show me how much difference there is between the recommendations of the experts and our policy which the Government has ignored for years since a Senate committee made its report. You have blood on your hands. Thousands of Australians have died because you have not been prepared to implement anything or to take up your responsibility. All the Government has done has been to say that it is the responsibility of the States. It is easy to talk about 30,000 people - mothers, fathers and children - who have broken bones or who are dead. This has happened because of the failure of the Federal Government to take the initiative in this (field.
I realise that this matter will be debated at a later stage and we will have more time to consider it. I hope that we will get time to debate it fully before the House rises because there is so much more to say. I think that at first glance the report is an excellent one. Like the honourable member for Newcastle, there are probably some things in it with which I do not agree but at first glance I think there are some things which the Labor Party could almost implement in toto.
– In tabling this report, I was I believe, performing a duty and a service to the Parliament and to the people outside. I take exception to some of the words used by the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen). He suggested that as Minister for Shipping and Transport I have blood on my hands. I accept that one can expect nothing better from the honourable member than words of that kind. In respect of what the Commonwealth has been doing, of course, the simple fact is that by working in co-operation with the States we have come a long way in the past 3 or 4 years towards overcoming the problems of road safety. The simple truth is that as a result of government action, much of which has been sponsored by the Commonwealth, the number of road deaths in Australia so far this year fortuitously is lower than the number in other years. The statistics are not good enough to be confident about the position in the long term. There is need to do more but the simple fact is that about 26 safety design rules in relation to motor vehicles either are in operation or are to come into operation to try to make the motor car safer. An amount of $18m is available for research into roads and road planning to assist the States to overcome the roading difficulties referred to in the report.
The honourable member for Robertson completely and totally ignores What has been done. Surprisingly enough, the honourable member for Robertson tries to liken himself to others who have done work in this field. He has claimed as bis own work the conglomeration of words in which he has pulled together a ragbag of the efforts of other people and he says that the Expert Group justifies it. Even the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), unlike the honourable member for Robertson, had the decency not to claim the work as being in the honourable member for Robertson’s own fine hand. What we have here is an excellent report brought down by a group of people who are expert in their various fields and who have spent many months- not the few hours which the honourable member for Robertson has spent - compiling statistics and the like. They have gone into the matter in a very serious minded way and have come down with a report that can be used by governments - Commonwealth and State - to try to improve further the road accident situation. For the honourable member for Robertson to make a purely political speech of the kind which he made is a thorough disgrace to him and also to the Parliament. The report does not make trenchant criticisms of the Government at all. It makes very constructive criticisms that can help this Government and the State governments to overcome what is one of the most appalling problems within the community.
Debate (on motion by Mr England) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Malcolm Fraser, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill provides for the payment of grants to the States for universities in the 1973-75 triennium and gives effect to the recommendations contained in the Australian Universities Commission’s fifth report. When I presented the Commission’s report to the House on 22nd August 1972, I outlined its contents and explained that for the forthcoming triennium the Commission had recommended a number of changes. Honourable members may be interested to learn that the report has been well received by the universities and that the changes to which I referred have been the subject of favourable comment by a number of university administrators.
The changes were, first, a greater recognition in the calculation of recurrent grants of the distribution of students between the more and less expensive disciplines. Secondly, a single equipment grant will be provided for each university whereas in the past equipment has been purchased from a number of grants according to whether it was to be used in a new building, for general recurrent purposes, for a special research project or to provide the university with a major item of new research or computing equipment. Thirdly, the problems of mature universities in introducing new academic developments have been recognised with the provision of special earmarked grants for this purpose for the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne. Fourthly, provision is made for the first time for some Government assistance towards the provision of less formal student residential accommodation described by the Commission as non-collegiate accommodation. Fifthly, the definition of ‘fees’ has been altered to exclude from the recurrent grant formula the fees payable for adult education, extension work, professional refresher courses and other short courses. This will encourage the universities to develop their activities in continuing education work in proportion to the demonstrated demand for them and the universities’ own enterprise.
The grants provided in this Bill envisage an increase in the total student body in the universities of Australia of 20,000 during the triennium 1973-75 and an increase in the proportion of the 17-22 years age group enrolled as undergraduates in universities from 8.5 per cent in 1972 to 9.3 per cent in 1975. The increase in the student body will be achieved by expansion of existing universities and by the development of 2 new universities, Griffith University in Brisbane and Murdoch University of Perth, and the upgrading to full university status of the Wollongong University College which is presently a college of the University of New South Wales. The development of Murdoch University will include the establishment of the fourth School of Veterinary Science in Australia as the University’s first professional faculty and the Bill provides earmarked grants for this purpose to ensure an appropriate allocation of funds. Another major development in the forthcoming triennium is that of the Flinders University Medical School and the Bill also provides earmarked funds for that purpose.
I should mention that there are 2 minor differences between the provision made by the Bill and the recommendations of the Australian Universities Commission, although both variations are supported by the Commission. First, the plans for the new Griffith University in Brisbane have been further developed since the Commission’s recommendations were made and the University has now requested that it should be permitted to construct in its first group of buildings a separate lecture theatre complex instead of building lecture theatres into individual academic buildings. The total building programme for the University remains unchanged at 56,030,000 but the individual components have been varied to provide for the separate lecture theatre complex.
The second point of variation is that the provision for student residential accommodation at the University of Tasmania is greater than that recommended in the Commission’s fifth report. The University has a grant in the current triennium to complete a hall of residence but it is now clear that it will not be possible to finish the building by the end of 1972 when, in the terms of the existing legislation, the grant will expire. Both the State and the Commonwealth governments have agreed that this project should be completed in the 1973-75 triennium and provision is included in this Bill for the funds required to complete that project.
The Bill provides for a total expenditure of $896m of which the Commonwealth’s share is S344m and will ensure the continued growth of universities in Australia in the forthcoming triennium. The Commonwealth will also be prepared to provide additional financial assistance on the basis of the usual formula of a contribution of Si by the Commonealth for every $1.85 of State grants plus fees in respect of increases in academic salaries from 1st January 1973 that may be determined by government decision as a result of the enquiry into academic salaries in universities that is being conducted by Mr Justice W. B. Campbell of the Supreme Court of Queensland.
Since 1970 it has been the practice of the Commonealth and the States to provide supplementary grants to universities to meet the cost of increases in academic salaries in line with the increases that are awarded in national wage case decisions. In future the Commonealth will also be prepared to provide its share of the cost of similar increases in non-academic salaries and wages. Over the past triennium the universities have faced serious budgetary difficulties arising from increases in nonacademic wages and salaries and supplementation to meet the cost of national wage case increases for non-academic staff should greatly reduce the magnitude of this problem. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
– Before proposing that the debate be adjourned, may I ask the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) whether the informal residence or student flats which are envisaged will be on university campuses or whether the universities will acquire properties around the cities for this purpose?
– This part of the recommendations of the Australian Universities Commission depends upon subsequent recommendations in relation to particular proposals. I am not sure whether the Commission has come to a firm view on that particular question but, since the honourable member has raised it, I shall ask the Commission whether it has a firm view on that point. I would like to get its recommendation before determining my own attitude.
Debate (on motion by Mr Beazley) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 12 October (vide page 2606), on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Dr Patterson had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: *whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, the House is of opinion that The Schedule should make provision for (a) applications to be accepted up to 30th June 1974, and (b) assistance to be paid for trees removed up to 31st October 1974’.
Mir DUTHIE (Wilmot) (12.51)- This debate which began last Thursday deals with 2 Bills, the States Grants (Fruitgrowing Reconstruction) Bill 1972 and the Apple and Pear Stabilisation Bill 1972. The Opposition supports the 2 Bills but reluctantly in respect of some aspects of them. Under the States Grants (Fruitgrowing Reconstruction) Bill 1972 the Government is making available $4.6m for the removal of trees from orchards. The 2 industries which will benefit from the Bill will be the canned fruit industry and the fresh apple and pear industry. Each will get $2.3m under the scheme and of the $2.3m provided for the apple and pear industry Tasmania probably will receive 75 per cent to 80 per cent because it produces 70 per cent to 75 per cent of Australia’s fresh apple and pear crop. The scheme will assist 2 categories of growers in their tree removal programme; firstly, those farmers, predominantly horticulturists, who are in severe financial difficulties and wish to clear fell their orchards and leave the industry and, secondly, those whose properties would become viable if some or all of their fruit trees were removed and the land put to some other use but who lack the resources to finance the removal of the trees.
This is a voluntary scheme but there are many orchardists in grave trouble who will try to get assistance under it. Applications are already coming in. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has clearly indicated the timetable for the scheme. The scheme began on 14th July this year and applications will be received up to 3rd January 1973. Where assistance is granted under the scheme the State authority will nominate a date by which the trees must be removed. The final date by which trees must be removed in order to receive assistance is 31st October 1973. The Labor Party wants that period extended by 12 months. It does not believe that a scheme of this nature should be hurried. It is a big decision for growers to make to haul out 10 or 20 acres of orchard which has been their life and security for many years. In many cases the orchards have been handed down through the family. It is a big decision for them to make and the period of the scheme should be extended to give all growers a chance to work this very great decision out in conjunction with their bankers, who will probably be the first people they will talk to and all the people to whom they owe money. Therefore the extension of the scheme for 12 months is most desirable.
Under the scheme the actual rate of assistance provided in each case will be determined by each State authority, relative to the maximum rate, taking into account the yield and the number of trees per acre, their age, condition and variety, market access and other circumstances of the individual case deemed relevant by the authority, including whether it is necessary for a composition of creditors to be arranged and for the rural reconstruction authority to take over the property. The maximum levels of assistance will be $500 per acre for canning peaches and canning pears and $350 an acre for fresh apples and fresh pears but the average rate of assistance will be $350 per acre for canning peaches and canning pears and $200 per acre for fresh apples and fresh pears. There is a tremendous amount of detailed work to be carried out by the State authority. This Government has a remarkable capacity for passing the buck to the States in all these rural assistance schemes. Every one of them, such as the dairying industry assistance scheme, the woolgrowers assistance scheme, and the apple and pear growers assistance scheme is operated by State authorities entirely. These authorities have to work out all the minute details with respect to the trees in the orchards. The whole economy of the farm is taken into consideration when, after all, it is to be only a tree felling scheme. There is no great grant being made to the farmers to enable them to continue in operation: money provided is only on a per tree basis.
The State authority, or the agricultural officer concerned in each case, has to sight the trees before they can be removed. He has to number them and examine them. This is a colossal task and will take a long time before every applicant has been dealt with. In the Huon area of Tasmania a month or two ago, 38 applications had been lodged and one had been granted. If this is to be the rate at which this scheme is carried out there will not be much help for the great range of fruit growers under this very tight and detailed scheme. The reason for the scheme is not reconstruction as such but a reduction in the production of apples and pears. In other words, it is a means of reducing the production of apples. The Minister went into the various reasons for the number of apples available for export. He said when addressing an Australian agricultural science seminar on the reconstruction of the fruit industry that the aspects of the plan which I have mentioned will be administered under the rural reconstruction scheme in each case. He said that since the fruit growing industry’s main difficulties arose from overproduction, the kind of measures which were generally accepted as being most effective were those designed to cut production. In November 1971 the Minister had said that the Australian Apple and Pear Board submitted proposals to the Government for the reconstruction of the fresh pome fruit industry. These proposals were followed in January 1972 by recommendations from the Canned Deciduous Fruit Industry Advisory Committee for a tree removal scheme as a means of combating oversupply of canning peaches and pears. The Minister went on to say at the seminar that the common feature of both these submissions was an across the board compensation scheme for the removal of surplus fruit trees to provide a permanent solution to over-supply.
This is the reason why reconstruction is of secondary consideration. Reconstruction in cases where the grower wants all his orchard taken away will mean that he will be cut clean out of the industry. So this scheme is a measure designed to cut down over-supply and to control the export of fruit at its source, that is, in the orchard. At best it is a negative scheme; in one way it is a drastic scheme. There are reasons why production should be limited in some respects. An orchardist has only a limited number of acres and if he cuts his orchard in half he could make it uneconomic.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– The Minister, in describing what was meant by the tree pull scheme said:
The Commonwealth and the States will , agree on and specify the varieties of trees which may not. be planted to replace trees removed with Commonwealth assistance under the scheme.
A grower who receives assistance to remove trees will be required to eater into an undertaking not to plant trees of the specified varieties.’
The undertaking will remain in force for 5 years from the date on which assistance is granted.
That is very restrictive indeed and I doubt whether the required number of growers will accept this scheme to make a really worthwhile total reduction in tree numbers, in the time remaining to me I’ want to speak about the industry generally. The Tasmanian apple and pear industry is punch drunk from the hammer blows of high freights, high internal costs, multiple labels, lack of unified marketing and lack of shipping.
In my opinion 6 major reforms are needed if this industry is to survive. First, freight rates must be stabilised. A- Labor government will have to enlarge the Australian National Line and give it overseas status outside the Conference Lines, gearing it to compete with Conference fruit ships. Building new ships is costly and slow. We would have to charter suitable ships while buying or building our own. In 1970 freight rates were $2.12 a case; in 1971, $2.24 a case and this year will probably reach $2.60 a case. About 60 per cent of the end product value is going in freights. No Australian primary industry can meet that kind of difficulty’ and get its products overseas. High freights is the colossus striding over the fruit industry today. The New Zealand fruit board broke from the Conference Lines 2 years ago. It pays 50c a case less for its fruit than Tasmania pays. It uses Israeli and other vessels. Likewise South Africa is paying $1 less on freight than we are in Tasmania.
Secondly, we must improve export marketing. Multiple individual labels will have to go. We have had more than 24 of them in Tasmania for years. There are too many different types of containers and cartons. These must be standardised. Under the reorganisations of last year the Tasmanian Fruit Committee became a halfway house between the old system of multiple labels and 18 exporters and the one marketing authority to which a Labor government is committed and which the industry wants. Collective unified handling of the crop is vital to survival. What is required is one marketing authority with one brand, with individual exporters becoming agents of the authority, more central shed inspections, quality being a top priority, lower costs and unified containers. South Africa and New Zealand have proved that this can be done. Of course we need safeguards against over-production. A complete stabilisation scheme with the Commonwealth underwriting and guaranteeing prices needs to be brought in. It needs to be a much improved scheme on the present scheme which is only a halfway house sort of stabilisation scheme. South Africa has placed great emphasis on quality. She cuts out all the varieties that are not wanted. In 1970-71 about 800,000 cases were thrown out. 1 believe this must happen under an Australian scheme but we would have to compensate growers whose fruit was rejected in this way.
Thirdly, a unified effort is required to build up the South East Asian and Japanese markets, especially as Britain is entering the European Economic Community. Britain’s entry into the Common Market makes it drastic that we should find better markets in the South East Asian area. We must cater for their likes with apples. The red delicious apple is the favourite in Asia so we must concentrate on this variety if we want to win this market. We have given them poor advice in the past through our exporters. Damaged fruit has gone to Asia and our image has been downgraded. This must be rebuilt.
Fourthly, we need a reduction in local costs of production and presentation. Carton costs have been rising steadily and are now approximately 65c a carton. We need a system of bulk containers, thus saving time in packing and reducing the danger of damage on unloading of fruit at the port of entry to the markets. I believe that growers have been penalised by a tariff protected carton making industry. We need a bulk container suitable for the carriage of our apples.
Fifthly, we need better arrangements in the United Kingdom for the disposal and sale of our fruit. As 60 per cent of our fruit is marketed in the London area our fruit should go to London. Instead our fruit ships are being directed to Liverpool and to Hull at odd times and fruit has to be brought from these cities to London sometimes at 12c a bushel extra. This cost is loaded on to the English consumer’s price. This is a disastrous system. The chairman of the New Zealand marketing board has said:
We have a flexible shipping system to allow our London office to place the fruit on the correct market.
What we need is a flexible system. The South African board sends all its fruit to London. That board directs and regulates the fruit on to the local market on demand. It stores thousands of cases for disposal on demand. Sometimes 500,000 cases of South African apples are in store in London when the Australian fruit hits the market. During recent years Tasmania’s share of the southern European market has fallen. In the United Kingdom its share has fallen from 36 per cent to 30 per cent whereas New Zealand has maintained its share and South Africa has increased its share by 13 per cent. As I said, New Zealand got away from the Conference Lines 2 years ago. This has been the salvation of its industry. Until we get outside the Conference Lines by chartering other ships or putting our own ANL ships into the field we will be crushed and forced to close up shop with our apple exporting industry.
Finally, a stabilisation scheme should be welcomed by the exporters. With one marketing authority we should guarantee a set payment for the fruit. So exporters, who would be the one marketing authority, should welcome a stabilisation scheme to enable debts to be paid to those to whom they are owed. In fact, about Slim was owing in Tasmania 12 months ago to the exporters. Under one marketing authority the exporters would become agents. No longer would they be able to export in their own right and thus one marketing authority would revolutionise our industry. It would set up processing factories to make juice and cider to use up surplus production. Centralised packing sheds, few in number, would be established. At the moment there are 700 in Tasmania. One marketing authority would lift the quality of our exports by means of a better inspection system. It would operate the stabilisation scheme. It would control labelling and container types. In fact, it would bring labelling under one label such as South Africa and New Zealand have. They each have one set mark which is known throughout the United Kingdom. We have 20-odd marks or labels and we have been putting up with them in Tasmania for 50 years. This authority would book shipping, negotiate freights, set up two or three licensed agents in the United Kingdom, organise and unify marketing procedures, upgrade selling techniques, speak with one voice in seeking out new markets throughout the world and give growers a new sense of security, protection and leadership. This is what one marketing authority would do for Australia, particularly for Tasmania, where 70-odd per cent of our apples are grown for export. This Government has so far not agreed to setting up one marketing authority, but a Labor Government will do so. It is wanted by the industry. It is so much wanted that without it this industry is doomed.
– I speak to these 2 joint Bills for 2 main reasons. One is that although very little indeed of the Australian apple and pear crop is grown in my electorate, of just over 4 million bushels of apples exported this year from Australian ports to Britain and Europe, 2.7 million bushels were exported from the port of Hobart, including Port Huon, which has a minor part of that total. The second reason is that my friend, William Craig, who is contesting the seat of Franklin, has taken a continued and deep interest in this subject for some months past. He is in fact interpreting these pieces of legislation to the best of his ability to the electors of that area which surrounds mine.
It is difficult to know which of these Bills is more important to the apple and pear growers of Tasmania and of the rest of Australia. They are both quite vital to the operations of at least some of them. While the Apple and Pear Stabilisation Bill we are debating today seeks to amend the legislation of a year or so ago by increasing the amount available for stabilisation payments, the other part of the debate today concerning fruit growing reconstruction as one aspect of rural reconstruction is of vital importance at least to some growers at this time. In his second reading speech the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) paid considerable attention to the State of Tasmania and to Tasmania’s fruit growing industry as this legislation concerns it. There is little point in my repeating the sort of things which he said and the ‘ particular attention which he paid to that situation. However, if one reads his remarks i’l becomes difficult to see why the position obtains which is outlined here and there by members of the Opposition.
I think that few people are absolutely happy with every aspect of the fruit ,industry, with or without this legislation; but it is difficult in fact to see how it could be true that, according to the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) last Thursday, the growers in Tasmania regard this as- an abject failure. He further found it difficult to see how there will be any practical benefit to the growers. I just transliterate him slightly, but that is almost exactly what he said. There is in fact $2.3m designated for distribution to apple and pear growers- and a similar amount to soft fruit growers, so clearly somebody is to benefit by this distribution of funds. Of course, whether they benefit enough can be a point of argument, political or otherwise. It is absurd to suggest that the fruit growers will not benefit from this legislation. All we have to ascertain is whether enough of them who are deserving are to benefit.
In that respect I would like to take up the 2 terms of reference which relate to the eligibility of growers for assistance under the so-called tree pull scheme. The Minister’s second reading speech makes reference, firstly, to those farmers, predominantly horticulturists, who are in severe financial difficulties and who wish to fell their orchards and leave the industry. Other members on both sides of the House have in fact touched on the question of the operation of a means test. In case it is not already clear - I think there are a few people in the industry who are not totally clear yet - I would like the Minister ultimately to make it perfectly clear that as far as the Commonwealth is concerned the judgments to be made in relation to those farmers, those fruit growers, are judgments to be made by the State authorities; that the decisions, I think quite properly, have been delegated to the State Departments of Agriculture or sections of those Departments as to which growers are eligible for subsidy or for assistance under this scheme.
It appears that a question of a means test and, if so, what means test arises in the average grower’s mind or at least many grower’s minds. This is something to which I think we need to have as clear answers as possible in the interest of well-being in the industry. As I understand it, the States will decide what means are allowable for people to qualify for assistance under the first category. To my mind there is no reason why the States should not make those decisions. They are closest to the situation. Why should the Commonwealth intrude any more than it needs to in deciding that test, and why indeed should the States not put up their own people, as appropriate, as eligible persons under this legislation? There is no constructive point in suggesting that this is some sort of ruse. The money is there. It is clearly a matter of defining those people who are eligible for it.
The second category comprises those whose property would become viable if some or all of their fruit trees were removed and the land put to other use but who lack the resources to finance the removal of trees. One question I have heard raised relates to the term ‘other use’. Is it in fact possible for a grower who is producing or even overproducing a particular variety which no longer commands a sufficient sale on the relevant markets to be eligible for assistance under this scheme to remove the unsaleable variety of tree and then, not wanting to leave the industry, to replace it with a saleable variety of tree? That is a question which I think has not been absolutely defined and one which certainly interests some growers currently in the industry who have certain difficulties.
I think I understand the difficulties of making a decision in that matter. As other members have been well aware, you do not just produce fruit 5 minutes after putting in a new fruit tree. Of course one of the biggest problems, as with other rural industries but particularly with the fruit growing industry, is the number of years which it takes, after making decisions to go ahead on some front, to get a return from the investment. In other words it takes a number of years for the trees to grow to maturity or to producing age. This is a problem faced many times all over the world in relation to olives, citrus fruits and so on. It is no less in relation to apples and pears in Tasmania or Australia at large. So, Mr Deputy Speaker, I hope we can solve those 2 problems in the better clarification and operation of this matter.
I do not believe that this is one area of legislation in which we should be making any more politics than absolutely necessary. In particular, the tree pull programme or reconstruction programme, if looked at in anything greater than superficiality, is of course, as the legislation says, a reconstruction programme. In other words, it is in fact a social welfare programme of a certain kind. It is not an economic programme. Nobody in his right mind, in the sense of pure economics, would do what has been done long since in the United States of America, and pay people to pull out the things that produce revenue. The plain fact is that the things being grown are not producing revenue. People are becoming unviable, so we are talking in terms of a social welfare proposition essentially to get these people into a reasonable operation of one kind or another or, for that matter, as far as fruit growing is concerned, into non-operation if that is in fact their alternative, to get out of the industry.
In these terms it seems to me that it ill behoves the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) in what I might maintain is his customary fashion, to talk in this House last Thursday in terms of the money being provided under this legislation being inadequate or not enough to assist people to pull their trees out and become non-producers of fruit. That is what happened on Thursday, but on page 2 of today’s ‘Australian’ we find the same gentleman being quoted as saying that the Government’s policy of reducing production will mean that apples will cost 30c each in the city, oranges will cost 20c and canned fruits will be a luxury. What a mealymouthed proposition that is. On Thursday he berated us for not going far enough in paying people to pull their trees out. On Monday he created the usual Australian Labor Party aura of havoc or crisis in respect of something which is totally unprovable to be either havoc or crisis and said that we should be doing the absolute opposite and encouraging people to produce more. So it is a little difficult to see that he is making any contribution to this argument, except a blatantly political one. If that is his point of view, that is all right with him. I understand that he is even very shortly going to open an apple and pear growers meeting in the area cf the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry). I hope that he dusts up his views a little before doing this or, if he does not, I hope that some people will put him on the spot and ask him whether he is for more production or less production. I think it is nearly time he made up his mind.
It is pretty clear that there is a very substantial difficulty in relation to the fruitgrowing industry. We have had difficulties in rural areas in respect of a number of industries in recent years. Partly by Government action and partly fortuitously, the situations in those industries have improved quite considerably even in the last few months. Most of the problem has stemmed from matters pretty much outside our dictates - from world market prices and the like. However, it is true to say, as the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) and I think one or two others before him have said, that the question of freight rates is of paramount importance to the fruit industry and, of course, to some other industries in Tasmania. Much as it might be useful to put aside the conference system and look to Israeli lines or others to produce better freight rates in respect of apple and pear shipments to which the honourable member drew attention, I could not possibly go along with his other proposition that an enlarged Australian National Line would produce the same result.
It is a nice thought. I think it is in the nature of being a pious thought, because any indications that we have of the depredations of Australian seamen at present and in recent times suggest that any operation of an extension of the Australian National Line for the purpose to which he referred, would, in fact, produce almost the opposite effect to that which he wants. In other words, there is no precedent to suggest that we would reduce freight rates; in all probability we would increase them, reduce the efficiency of the service and end’ up with a considerable shipping mess. Nevertheless, if he manages to get into governmentwhich I hope will not occur - he may happily try that particular line, irrespective of the precedents.
The problems of apple and pear growing, and likewise the growing of ‘ soft fruits, and the need to sustain them by means which have not hitherto been seen to be necessary in Australian rural industry, have to be seen in a world context. It is obvious that the industry has suffered considerable difficulties from external and internal forces. For example, Tasmanian apple exports in 1972 were 5.1 million bushels. Only back in 1964 exports were just over 8 million bushels. Of course: that sort of reduction - from over 8 million bushels to a little over 5 million bushels in less than a decade - represents a very considerable impact on the growers in the industry. As is usual in these things, the small growers are affected before .the large ones who tend to have the flexibility to sustain any impact of that kind, and it tends to be the small growers who go to the wall.
However, we have been seriously threatened in our export markets by competitors from outside the immediate area of what is now the Commonwealth. At page 22 of the Australian Apple and Pear Board Annual Report for 1971-72, imports of apples from Australia into Britain - bearing in mind that Britain and Europe take about four-fifths of our total exports this year - are shown as being 50,000 tons, compared with South Africa’s provision of 78,600 tons. We need only to refer to 1965 to (find almost the exact reverse of that situation. In that year Australia provided 82,200 tons compared with South Africa’s 50,000 tons. In other words, the position which we enjoyed in the middle 1960s as an exporter of apples in particular is now reversed in relation to South Africa, whose production has risen progressively during the whole of the subsequent period. The result, of course, is that we no longer enjoy the situation which we have enjoyed in the past.
It is not as though the writing was not on the wall. I can recall being in Britain in 1964 when this situation was threatened. It was suggested then that the South African season was being extended to enable the South Africans to move into that area which was something of a vacuum as far as our provision of produce to the market was concerned. So, at that time the area from which we benefited by having most of it was being moved into as a result of the South African market extension. Of course, in a sense we are only on ‘ the threshold of the real external problems. If we look at the various reports and studies, not the least of which is in the July number of the ‘Quarterly Review of Agricultural Economies’, we see articles such as this one by Mr N. D. Honan:
The repercussions of the change in the United Kingdoms tariffs on horticultural products are likely to he substantial, since Britain imports virtually all of its requirements of dried vine fruit and canned deciduous fruit, as well as. substantia] proportions of its needs of fresh apples and pears.
The article goes on to state:
The prospective increase in supplies of apples coming forward from other southern hemisphere suppliers indicates that Australian apples are likely to experience strong competition on the United Kingdom market The’ entry of the United Kingdom into the enlarged community, and the eventual relaxation of measures restraining imports of apples into the United Kingdom are likely to result in greater supplies coming forward from France and Argentina.
And so it goes on. The various technical and technological problems - freight problems and so on - to which honourable members so far have drawn attention in this debate will become even more pertinent when Britain becomes a full member of the enlarged European Economic Community. So, the matters which these 2 cognate Bills are seeking to underpin and make good at the moment certainly will not become any less difficult.
I think the Government’s decision, uneconomic as it seems to be, to go into an area of social welfare provision in relation to the fruit-growing industry is probably well taken because the omens are not very hopeful. The suggestion is that it will be necessary to curtail our fruit-growing industry, particularly the apple and pear section in Tasmania, to a point where we are producing as nearly as possible a balanced output for the available market. Of course, it will still be incumbent upon us, through improved marketing procedures, single brand fruit labels and the rest, to extend our market as far as is possible into areas of Asia - Japan and so on - so that to some extent we can make good the diminishing market which has sustained us for so long in Britain particularly and in northern Europe generally. I believe that these provisions are very timely. Some would say that they are perhaps even slightly behind timely.. They are certainly needed. The individual grower who needs these subsidies and grants will in fact gain quite a lot from them. I hope that in their working out the State authorities will seek to gain the greatest advantage for the individual grower, . commensurate with the total amount of money made available by the Commonwealth for the purpose of either stabilisation or reconstruction.
– I would like to support, in a somewhat qualified fashion, the 2 Bills being debated together this afternoon. My first remarks apply particularly to the Apple and Pear Stabilisation Bill. This is the second year in which the apple and pear stabilisation plan is to operate. At the end of last year, following the first season in which the stabilisation scheme operated, payments of about $2.6ra were made to the industry under the scheme. The scheme has been well accepted by the industry in South Australia and, in spite of the greater difficulties being experienced in Tasmania, I guess that there has also been a genuine acceptance of it in that State. This does not touch on the grave problems which the apple industry is currently facing in Tasmania.
In South Australia the predominant thought is that, if a scheme can be formed to look after the high export component of
Tasmanian production, then States like South Australia to a real extent can look after their own affairs. Over the years on many South Australian sales to the United Kingdom a small premium has been obtained. South Australian growers have been very proud of that result. By and large, as irrigation expands and alternative cropping becomes more a thing of the past, to be replaced by uniform production, South Australian consumption for the rather small apple production of that State will make viability for the industry a probability.
One problem that is always involved is how to deal with the immense export potential of the Tasmanian crop. The second point 1 wish to make is the great importance, in my view, of the study being carried out under the authority of the Australian Agricultural Council into such matters. It is to be hoped that the maximum resources available to the Council will be brought to bear on the problem, at both the home State level and the Federal level through the advice being given to the Minister for Primary Industry. It is unquestionably true of our primary industries that at this point our fruit industries are facing the bleakest season. Their future may also be bleak, but this depends largely on the reconstruction, re-phasing and rationalisation of the industries which can be effected by the Federal and State governments.
The third point I would like to touch on is the introduction of the tree pull compensation scheme for the various sections of the fruit industry. I will not go over the ground already covered by other honourable members. When the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) cited some figures on canned fruit consumption he said that he thought they were a little out of date. In fact they were very far wide of the mark. I have figures of canned fruit consumption dating from 1970-71. They show that the apparent per capita consumption of canned fruits in Australia is not 4 lb, as the honourable member said, but 19.9 lb. That is the apparent per capita annual consumption of canned fruits. The honourable member said that the annual per capita annual consumption of canned peaches was 3 lb; my figures show it to be 3.3 lb. For apricots it is 3.4 lb, for pears 1.7 lb - which might be wrong - and others 12 lb, a figure which would include the consumption of pineapples. The total annual per capita consumption of canned fruits is therefore almost 20 lb. At this point I wish to remind honourable members, and particularly the honourable member for Denison (Dr Solomon), of a plank in the Labor Party’s platform. It is one with which I do not unduly quarrel. Paragraph 13 of the section dealing with Labor’s rural policy states:
Appropriate measures to adjust the levels of farm production in balance with realistic domestic and overseas market demands, in order to provide satisfactory prices to farmers and consumers, wilh the aim of establishing industry on an economic self supporting basis within a definable period.
It could be termed the Hayden-Hurford amendment to policy that was approved at a prominent Executive meeting in Tasmania some little time ago. It is time that the farming community of Australia realised that the Labor Party Executive decided that there should be no more payouts to primary industries for other than specific purposes and for other than a very short period of time.
– That is damn near what your Minister said in his second reading speech last year.
– The honourable member will get his turn to speak. I am only half way through my argument. If I continue even the honourable member for Sturt might get a glimmer of the point I am trying to make. It is unquestionable that at present the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) is travelling the length and breadth of the land - 1 do not like being rude to such a nice member o; the Parliament - saying that the Government’s restrictive policies are costing the farmers money. I remind him that his own Party’s policy states that the Labor Party should attempt to contain production to meet anticipated demands. It is spelt out quite clearly and it is of no earthly use for the honourable member for Riverina to shake his little head. I have stated his Party’s policy. We all know that the honourable member for Riverina does not agree with his own Party’s policy. I acknowledge his right to express his disagreement. I also remind honourable members of what the honourable member for Dawson had to say when his Party’s Executive decided to lay down the policy I have quoted. He said that the trouble is that there is nobody on the Labor Executive with any knowledge of primary industries. I would go a step further and say that there is nobody on the Labor Party side with any knowledge of primary industries. That would be true. The honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) is wagging his finger at me. I ask him when he last farmed or knew anything practical about these matters. That applies also to the honourable member for Riverina and the honourable member for Dawson. One honourable member opposite has had a nodding acquaintance with farming and some of its intricacies and he is about 40 years out of date. I refer to the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) who worked a farm a long time ago.
Let us be quite clear about this matter. The Labor Party’s platform is quite clearly spelt out. It was altered by an Executive meeting. I support the comments of the honourable member for Denison. For heaven’s sake, just prior to the elections the Australian electorate must watch out for this business of talking with two voices.
– Tell us about the wine tax.
– Everybody knows that I got 50 per cent off the wine excise. That is fair enough, but it has nothing to do with the actions of people who are going around the countryside saying one thing in one electorate and a completely different thing in another electorate. It has been going on for long enough. I am very fond of the honourable member for Riverina, but he really ought to stop to study his own conscience and take into account what his Party would be able to do, acting within its own platform, if and when by any chance it took over the reins of government. I am quite sincere and definite about what I am saying. It is not fair for the rural community in Australia to have to listen to 3 or 4 things at the same time. This is insincere and is not a very good method of building faith and trust in the farming community. The primary producers who have to listen to people like the honourable member for Riverina and the honourable member for Dawson, hope that they can show some leadership. This is a very serious matter for these people who feel that they must look at alternative methods of treatment of the industries that are at present under heavy fire. I do not wish to harp on this political point other than to say, in passing, that I am not fond of hearing these alternative views put forward.
– You have put 2 of them in here.
– Will the honourable member be quiet for a minute? I now turn to the problems, as I see them, of the tree pull scheme. They involve both the farm sector and the canning sector. In the farm sector the Government has tackled this very difficult situation in a way of which I do not completely approve. I do not think it has yet come to the core of the problem. I hope I will be excused for saying that. I am on record as having said that I would rather have seen the guidelines of the tree pull scheme widened considerably. It might have been the cheapest way out. I do not want to be personal on this occasion, but nobody, unless he had his head in the sand, could deny that a position of oversupply cannot be cured by pouring fresh government funds into that area. It is most difficult to do that. Anyone should be able to understand the difficulty the Government is in. If you have too much canned fruit or too much dried fruit and you pour government funds into that area, there will be a certain amount of inconsistency in that programme. The Government is over such a barrel at present.
One could say a lot of things that might put the proposition in a different context. Not the least of these would be that funds could well be found for a variety of constructive purposes, contrary to the simple proposition I have just put. One I have mentioned already is an enlarged tree pull scheme to try to get more people out of the industry and less of the raw material produced. I do not know whether some canneries would go out of business but at any rate that matter would rest at cannery level. Perhaps we could have some form of funding direct to the grower. It is interesting to look at the efforts of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee over the years and to realise that it has put canneries in quite a difficult situation whilst insisting that a pre-condition of the sugar rebate is that additional funds must be found for the primary producers. This has taken place, sometimes with great objection from the canneries. One can understand the difficulties of the canneries in this matter because they have seen their margins shrinking. So the Government could perhaps fund directly into the primary producer section.
It could fund directly into the cannery section. We have seen an example of this in the last session of Parliament in relation to certain selected canneries. The Government could be looking at stabilisation schemes. I think some form of statutory control, laying down conditions for some sectors of the industry that have not always acted in the best interests of the industry as a whole, represents the best method of thinking. I mention to the Minister for Primary Industry, who is sitting at the table, that many people from my electorate and no doubt people from other electorates who have recently been in Melbourne and in other cities in consultation as an advisory council to the canned fruit industry have spent all day solidly rationalising and discussing how best to get an acceptable stabilisation scheme. Their tempers are not very good at this moment because they spend all day there and are then informed, perhaps by some civil servant, that their recommendations cannot be accepted. They feel that this is a cost against their industry and a waste of their own time as important executives of that industry.
All these are possibilities. I do not know which is the best way to re-think the matter but I believe that something must be done. Personally, I have no particular horror about the future of the industry. If one looks at the statistics for my State, which is primarily a peach growing State and not a pear producing area, one will see that there could well be a shortage of peaches for canning within 4, 5 or 6 years. In that case nobody would lightly say that the industry should go to the wall. Let me go a stage further and mention an anomaly, lt has been said in this House that we must have regional development. But what happens if places like Shepparton, Renmark or Berri and several other areas with which 1 am not so conversant, are surrounded by industries that cannot meet modern circumstances and remain viable? Do we let those towns, some of which are very beau tiful and modern, go by the board while we build a regional centre next door? This would be inconsistent. Surely we must begin to think in a more general fashion and not think solely from the point of view of the industry. This matter must be incorporated in the overall care of governments. I am sorry if the honourable member for Riverina was about to say that. I think it is a perfectly logical way of thinking at this time.
I think it was the honourable member for Riverina who said in this debate that the means test for the tree pull scheme means that nobody can apply for the loan that may become a grant, according to conditions, unless he is broke. Nobody who is broke wants the fund. Anybody who does want the fund is not broke. This might seem to be going round in circles but I think that the honourable member has been a little over-critical of the means test. The means test, as it applies to the scheme, is a reasonably generous means test. Through lack of time I will not go into it in detail. It is more generous than most means tests that would have applied. I now go back to the point I made earlier when I said that the scope of the guidelines of this scheme could well be widened.
– Have you seen it?
– No, I have not seen it but I have a pretty good idea what it is. I have no doubt that the honourable member for Dawson has also, although he expresses his entire ignorance.
– How do you know?
– The honourable member for Sturt is capable of asking a question as well as shouting and screaming. Even Lord Sutch has been known to ask a question and to do other than scream. But let us leave that matter. I repeat that there are very grave problems involved in these fruit industries. I am not completely happy with the Government’s attitude at this point of time and I would like to see much more thought given in the future to a proper stabilisation scheme for these industries. I hark back to the fact that a lot of these towns are the best decentralised towns in the area and need some special care and help if the Government is not to be totally inconsistent. I have no intention of supporting the Labor Party’s amendment. I regard its whole approach as being quite inconsistent and out of touch with reality. I do not altogether blame Labor’s spokesmen because I have read what they have had to say about their own Executive.
– The debate has now extended over 2 days and has canvassed a fair breadth of topics relating to the tree pull sector of rural reconstruction. I think there were many in the industry who initially had hoped that the tree pull proposal would be one which would significantly reduce the volume of production to accommodate the needs of the industry to the realities of the marketplace. The scheme that was originally devised involved a grower contribution, a State contribution and a Commonwealth contribution. There were discussions between the States and the Commonwealth and with industry in order to try to assess whether we might be able to introduce a tree pull scheme of a broader character; but after some discussions we found that the Commonwealth was expected to pick up the whole of the financial burden, and for that reason we thought it would be necessary for us to identify the best way in which the funds we provided could be spent.
Secondly, over the course of the last few years there has been consistently from fruit growing areas a series of representations about the plight of the small grower - the chap who has a small orchard, whose costs have risen against him, who often has limited access to canneries and who has been in a pretty difficult financial position. Indeed, last year in the Goulburn Valley there was quite a large outcry about the plight of approximately 100 growers, all of whom were in a financial state which would normally have enabled them to come under rural reconstruction legislation but who, because there were no specific provisions relating to fruit growing in the legislation, could not in fact receive the benefit that they otherwise should have. So, having taken note of these difficulties, we felt that the first basis on which we should develop a tree pull scheme should rather be within the rural reconstruction ambit and should facilitate not only the provision of a tree pull concept but should specifically be identifid with the financial circumstances of the applicant. Accordingly, this scheme has been devised, having in mind the financial circumstances of the applicant and rural reconstruction and adding to it the horticultural sector.
Justifiably, statements have been made by honourable members during the debate that this scheme will not go far enough, soon enough, in reducing production. There are those who say there should be modifications in one area or another, to the scheme. But, in my opinion, it is a scheme which has come out of a set of circumstances. From the experience of this first 12 months I think we will be able to modify it where and to the degree which is necessary and perhaps consider whether for the industry as a whole there should not be some other different form of assistance - whether there should not be an industry backed tree pull scheme applicable outside the narrow financial category to which this rural reconstruction Bill relates. It is for that reason - because, as I say, it comes in as a trial - that I find myself in disagreement with the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson).
The point at issue, of course, is the degree to which there will be within this scheme a capacity to look after those whose trees will need to be pulled in the immediate present, the capacity of the scheme to provide realistic financial help to those in that circumstance and whether or not it will be possible to process sufficient of them by 30th June 1973. The reason foi the date 30th June 1973 was not just that we wanted to have to look at it but that there is a firm commitment by the Commonwealth to have a look at the whole field of rural reconstruction next February. As honourable members will know, the Commonwealth has committed $118m at this stage for rural reconstruction. An amount of SI 00m is to be spent up to 30th June 1973, with $18m being an advance in respect of the- financial year that ensues - that is, 1973-74. Before the $18m can be spent it will be necessary for new legislation to be brought into this Parliament because the present rural reconstruction legislation provides for only a $100m allocation and any additional money must be first of all provided through Commonwealth legislation.
In order to asses the picture and to introduce legislation during the course of the autumn session next year the Commonwealth and the States agreed that there should be a review of rural reconstruction in February next. For that reason it was thought that the horticultural adjunct also should be included and, as the concluding date of rural reconstruction is 30th June 1973, so it is that the horticultural sector will similarly terminate at that date. However, the dates of 30th June 1973 and 31st October 1973 will enable the trees of pretty well all those who will be affected by the legislation to be pulled not only this season but also next season. There will be a capacity for 2 seasons of tree pull and those who have been uncertain of the impact of the scheme this year will be able to take advantage of its provisions next year. So, in fact, the scheme will be able to cover the 2-year period. For that reason the Government does not propose to accept the amendment moved by the Opposition. The Government believes that what is required by the amendment will be adequately catered for through the meeting that will take place in February to review the whole field of rural reconstruction.
During the course of the debate a number of points have been raised. I cannot cover them all, but very briefly I shall deal with some of them. The first point raised was how the scheme will operate. Essentially it is to be the responsibility of the administering authorities of the States. They will set down the terms and conditions of operation. The general question of eligibility under the so-called means test will be made by the State authority. The whole of the field of the administration is not the responsibility of the Commonwealth but rather of the rural reconstruction authority in the different States. The prime objective of the scheme is reconstruction. In other words, it is financial reconstruction rather than just tree pull. The horticultural provisions of the rural reconstruction scheme are in fact this Bill. When we put the purpose of this Bill forward as tree pull, it is tree pull in association with rural reconstruction. It is that emphasis which does create some of the problems in terms of the definition of what has been termed the means test. The means test in fact relates to 2 areas. The first is the scheme itself, covering partial pull for growers who have long term prospects of being viable if surplus trees are removed but who cannot finance removal themselves. Secondly, it also provides clear fell assistance for the grower who is in severe financial difficulties and who has little or no chance of meeting his obligations. The test in regard to partial pull will be the same as it is in rural reconstruction generally. In other words, if a person has a farm and by pulling the trees has a reasonable alternate avenue within which to operate that person can apply and receive tree pull assistance providing he cannot afford to remove the trees and that if the trees are removed the property will become viable. So in the case of part fell, which relates as it does to rural reconstruction generally, the criterion is designed to provide the financial help to enable the alternate farming or semi-farming activity to be carried out on the holding. A farmer must be in severe financial difficulty to be eligible for clear fell assistance.
The difficulty in this industry is that there are many farmers whose investment is very significant, and we recognise that there are some differences between the horticultural sector and those who are, for example, on a sheep or wheat property or in one of the other avenues of primary production. For that reason we felt that it was hard to use the same strict criteria that apply to sheep, wheat or other holdings and provide for the person who is leaving the land only the $3,000 loan, which is virtually a grant, to enable him to set up a new life. That being so, WC felt that we needed to work out an administrative ‘severe financial difficulty’ interpretation so that those who are affected can have a reasonable measure of assets and still receive financial assistance from the Commonwealth. This limit is one which we have discussed with the State administering authorities. It is not laid down specifically because it is possible that it will need to be changed from time to time. But it is intended to be at a level which will not mean that a person with very substantial assets will receive a significant tree pull contribution from the Commonwealth. When I say ‘very substantial assets’, it seems to us that a person who probably has something over about §10,000 worth of assets would be a person who at least initially should not be entitled to clear fell assistance. The actual form and amount of assets is something that will be discussed by the various administering authorities from time to time in order to determine whether or not it is at too high or too low a level in relation to the needs of rural reconstruction and the need for clear fell. It is important that there should be flexibility. There is within the horticultural sector a range of problems which are quite peculiar to it and for that reason it is obvious that everyone should not be excluded under the interpretation of severe financial difficulty. Indeed, we want to have a capacity to attract people into the scheme provided the general financial provisions are met.
A number of aspects have been raised by different honourable members. I do not propose, as I explained, to go into them all. The honourable member for Denison (Dr Solomon) raised one point to which I want to refer. He wanted to know whether it would be possible for a grower who wished to remain in the industry to remove trees of an unsuitable variety and replace them with a suitable variety. At the moment it is intended that the provisions in this legislation are to be administered to ensure that prohibited trees are to be specified by the States and the Commonwealth. The consensus of opinion is that at the commencement of the scheme all apple, pear and peach trees will be so specified. However at the review meeting - that is, the meeting to be held early in the new year - the question of permitting plantings of special varieties could be considered. The Tasmanian Government has already asked that this be done and the Commonwealth is prepared for the matter to be examined in the conduct of the review. But this is a new type of scheme. It is specifically linked to rural reconstruction because of the financial difficulties of the industry. I believe that it will be necessary for adjustments to be made to the proposal but nonetheless I think it does provide a start towards the adjustment of the level of production to available markets. Because it will provide that measure of adjustment I think there will be tremendous advantage in having a financial type origin to the tree pull scheme. At a later stage we may well need to have a further look at the sort of tree pull assistance which needs to be provided in a broad category.
As far as stabilisation is concerned, many honourable members have today expressed their concern at the financial state of the industry. We are dealing with 2 Bills in this cognate debate. The difficulties of the industry are recognised. Under the Apple and Pear Stabilisation Bill the amount to be allocated to this industry this year has been increased. There are still significant problems which are under active consideration. I am hopeful that as a result of these discussions which are largely between the industry, the States and my own officers, we will be able to devise ways in which we can offset the escalated costs which growers have to face and make the whole of their industry a little more profitable, bearing in mind the very real impact that the British entry into the European Economic Community next year will make on so many growers in the fresh fruit sector of this industry. There are those in some States who think that this Bill does not give them the opportunity for the future which they and the dependence of their State on the economy of a particular sector might justify. I think that the extension of the financial provisions set out in the Apple and Pear Stabilisation Bill will help to offset the increased costs which have occurred. I think that these provisions in conjunction with the tree pull scheme will provide some meaningful help to the industry until we can devise other ways, perhaps of a longer term character, to supplement them.
There are in some areas people who feel that this tree pull scheme relates more to the canned fruit industry than to the fresh pome fruit industry. There are difficulties because of the comparable land values. There are those who have said that the level of contribution for clearing land in canning areas relative to the value of land for fresh fruit is too high. The values were set after examination by technical officers. It is not intended to provide complete compensation but I think that this again is an area which needs to be reviewed in our examination in February next year. The whole scheme is one which does need to be kept under review. I believe it is a worthwhile beginning to adjust production to demand. I hope that the result of the scheme will mean some reasonable measure of financial help to those who at the moment face so many difficulties in trying to work out their own lives when one considers the attraction of market opportunities. I therefore recommend the Bill without amendment to this House.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Dr Patterson’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
– When this Bill was first introduced the Opposition supported it on the grounds that it believed that it would do something positive for the industry. But the moreI have listened to the various speakers in the debate, and particularly the explanation given by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), the more convinced I have become that this is the most half baked piece of legislation in the primary industry field with which I have been associated. The Opposition of the House of Representatives will still support the third reading of the Bill because it believes that the Bill will help some people, although the number will be extremely small.
I am very disturbed about the answers given by the Minister particularly in relation to the means test. Just what does this means test mean? I was not moved in any way whatsoever by what the Minister calls a severe financial difficulty interpretation’. Some very strong rumours are going around the fruit growing areas. I received a number of telephone calls over the weekend from growers and other people regarding this means test. I believe that the Government has an obligation to inform this Parliament what this administrative interpretation is. We have been told that the figure of $10,000 is one of the criteria under the scheme. But it is completely unfair to the Parliament and to the fruit growing industry for the Government simply to say that the States will administer the programme, because State officials are telling the fruit growers that the stringent conditions applying under the means test have been laid down by the Federal Treasury. I would assume that the Federal Government is the correct body to charge in relation to this matter. But this interpretation of ‘severe financial difficulty’ has to be explained. If it is not explained then steps will be taken in the Senate to move amendments which in effect will oppose the Bill. It is not good enough to let this open ended reconstruction scheme to remain and simply say that it will be reviewed next February. I can assure the Minister that if there is a change of government it will be reviewed in December, because the present scheme is not good enough. As representatives of the people we are entitled to know the details in relation to this means test. The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) said that he knew what the means test was, but under cross-examination he admitted that he has never seen the details of it. All of us are entitled to have this information. Perhaps there are some privileged people who know the details of the means test, but the correct thing for the Government to do is to table in this Parliament the administrative interpretation of the means test as it applies to this reconstruction scheme.
Those are the main points that I want to make because really they are the crux of the whole problem. The Labor Party will not accept this open ended proposition whereby apparently the States can add to the criteria already laid down by somebody in the Commonwealth Treasury or the Commonwealth Cabinet whereby there is an air of uncertainty regarding the rights of creditors, the rights of State water authorities, the rights of mortgagees, the rights of other people who happen to be owed money by the farmers and the rights of war service land settlers. There are question marks against all of these matters which have not been clarified either by the Government over the weekend or by the Minister today. These questions have been raised. I can only say that I am completely and utterly unhappy with the situation regarding this means test. In general, I am no better informed now than I was last Thursday. I can only assume that the Government has a lot to hide in relation to this matter. If it did not it would make available to the Parliament and to the industry - in particular, the fruit growers - the exact criteria laid down in relation to this means test. It is no good simply saying in general terms that it applies to the grower who is predominantly a horticulturist and who is in severe financial difficulties. This is not good enough.
Also I want to know more about this ceiling of 510,000. AH of the uncertainties in relation to this matter have not been clarified. The most constructive message the Minister has given us is that the whole matter will be reviewed in February. It is not good enough that it will be reviewed in February. The Act and its schedules should be changed immediately. If necessarily the criteria under the means test should be altered so that this scheme, when implemented, will give the greatest possible benefit to the people who need it most. This is the most half-baked piece of legislation that I have been associated with since I have been in the Parliament because of its uncertainties and the imponderables associated with it. It is up to the Government to give the industry the answers because, as I see it, the scheme will be completely and utterly ineffective.
– I draw attention to the fact that the Schedule to this Bill, in referring to the administration of the scheme, states:
Each State will, by using the financial assistance provided by the Commonwealth in accordance wilh this Agreement, establish and operate a scheme of financial assistance to persons engaged in fruit-growing industries in that State.
The House has had before it and the Committee has before it now the clear evidence of the intention of the Rural Finance and Settlement Commission in Victoria not to do this. It will in fact be taking the funds. It has already made the offers under the legislation. It will take the money in settlement of its debts. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) served fair warning on the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and the Government during the second reading debate and in the Committee stage we again draw the Minister’s attention to it to give him a last chance to clarify this matter. Otherwise, as the honourable member for Dawson has pointed out, the Opposition will take further steps in the Senate to satisfy doubts about the means test and the lifting of the funds by government authorities. There are grave doubts about this Bill. I draw the Committee’s attention to the fact that the former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) in Renmark, South Australia, a few days ago, as reported on Sth October, said:
I personally do not agree with the tree pull scheme nor will I accept any responsibility for its implementation.
What clearer condemnation of the scheme could one have than that from the former Prime Minister? We had during the second reading debate a clear statement of doubt by the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) who said:
If this scheme is to work, significant alterations to it will be necessary.
I commend him for his forthrightness. The growers’ leaders in Victoria and New South Wales have opposed the scheme as now conceived in relation to the means test and the lifting of funds by government agencies. On Sunday morning a meeting of canning fruit growers held at Hanwood near Griffith in my electorate unanimously asked that the scheme be implemented without means test and without government agencies having first call on the money. They did this quite unanimously and I put their request to the Minister, the Government and the Committee today. I entirely support the view put forward by the growers in New South Wales and Victoria and endorse the resolutions passed and adopted by the growers of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. I concur in the doubts expressed by the former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins, and the honourable member for Murray, Even the honourable member for Angas said that he was not in complete agreement and would like to see a widening of the guidelines. I must say that he amazed me by saying that the means test was just.
– I said ‘more generous’, not just’.
– The honourable member felt that it was more generous. I hope he is not suggesting that it is adequate. I am happy to have his assurance on that. I direct the Minister’s attention to the widespread dissatisfaction with this proposal on all sides of the Parliament. Industry leaders, State leaders and members of Parliament on the Government and Opposition sides are saying to the Minister: Please give us a clear assurance that you will go to the States and say bluntly that the means test must be lifted and that the money which will be made available under the scheme will not go to the government agencies which are now claiming it’. These are not matters of abstract concern.
I have in my possession the copies of replies by and firm proposals of the Rural Finance and Settlement Commission of Victoria. It is quite clearly substantiated that the situation is that if the scheme goes on in the way now envisaged the growers will not get the money. In the Schedule to the Bill it says that the money will go to persons engaged in the fruit-growing industry. It will not. The growers will give up their plantings and will get in return a credit of some of their debts to State bodies. The Minister in his reply to the second reading debate said that the scheme would be reviewed in February but it has been pointed out by other honourable members that by February it will be too late for many of the people who need assistance now. Yet we have all these months of waiting. Surely it is not beyond the wit and will of the Minister and the Government to say that the evidence which has been presented from all sides of the Parliament indicates that the scheme is too restrictive and will not help and that, therefore, further guidelines will be issued. Ministerial instructions, accompanied by finance to the States, I am sure would be most welcome because I know that when the rural reconstruction scheme, initiated by the Commonwealth Government, came before the authorities in New South Wales they took the words of the legislation and of the Minister when introducing the legislation to Parliament and interpreted them to mean that the scheme had to be-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! I do not want to restrict the honourable member for Riverina but I would draw his attention to the fact that we are now in committee.
– I am making a passing point. The authorities interpreted all those words as meaning that there had to be a tough line taken. What I am trying to show is that the Minister by his own initiative could obviate the situation which is now resulting. It is not an abstract situation. We have evidence before the Committee that what we feared would happen - that is, that the growers would not get the money - is happening. I am pointing out how this can be obviated by the assurances of the Minister and the Government. I am sure that the States would welcome an announcement along these lines. Surely the industry is entitled to a clarification of the doubts that have been expressed. I do not know of any legislation that has come before Parliament in the last 3 years which has been so openly and widely questioned by all concerned and by all members of Parliament. I support the honourable member for Dawson in saying to the Minister that the assurances should be given. If it is not the Opposition will have to take further action in the Senate to protect the fruit growers.
– First of all I want to thank the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) who yesterday, after a busy day, came to the centre of the problems in the canning fruit industry at the present time, the Shepparton area, and spoke to a gathering there which included a high percentage of fruit growers. I thank him for the trouble he went to on that and on other occasions to talk to fruit growers. But there are 2 matters I want to raise with the Minister now. Firstly, he mentioned in closing the second reading debate that the means test criterion would not apply to the partial fell provisions of the States Grants (Fruit-growing Reconstruction) Bill and that the viability criteria of the States Grants (Rural Reconstruction) Bill would apply. I think I am correct in saying that they were his words or that that was his intention. I ask the Minister: Has this been made clear to all State administering authorities? In one case at least which I have seen and possibly in several others in Victoria in replies, more commonly containing rejections than acceptances by the Rural Finance and Settlement Commission, the means test criteria appeared to me to have been applied to partial fell applications rather than the viability criteria of rural reconstruction. I ask that the Minister make it abundantly clear to all the State administering authorities that the partial fell provision is different from the clear fell provision.
The second matter is that nowhere in this legislation is any reference made to debt adjustment provisions as they may apply to horticulturists under the rural reconstruction scheme. I refer here to the debt adjustment provisions of the rural reconstruction legislation which was passed last year and to which we could call this a fruit growing adjunct. On at least one occasion in this chamber the Minister has stated that horticulturists are to be eligible for debt adjustment equal to that received by all other primary producers under the ordinary rural reconstruction legislation. I ask him to repeat that assurance today to the Committee and also to make it clear once again to the States that horticulturists are just as entitled to debt adjustment as are other primary producers under rural reconstruction because in Victoria there would be very few fruit growers who have received debt adjustment. I know of several instances where it would appear abundantly clear that such people should have been accepted for debt adjustment but have been rejected. One has the suspicion that the Victorian administering authority refuses to allow any debt adjustment cases for horticulture to go through because its own priorities are in other fields of primary industry. It refuses to place horticulturists in the same position as other primary producers.
Finally, I point to some contradictions from the Opposition in relation to this matter. Members opposite have been busy pointing to contradictions from this side. I have been pointing to some of what I regard as the weakness in and the unhappiness I have about this legislation as it stands. In his second reading speech the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) said, on the one hand, that Victoria appeared to be getting preferential treatment, and later quoted from rural finance cases instances to show that Victorians are not being so well treated after all. A Press statement in the ‘Sun’ of 17th June read:
The canned fruit industry faced a nation-wide crisis, Mr Grassby, Labor New South Wales said yesterday. It could have a 5 million carton carryover at the end of next season.
I believe the more accurate figure to be about 2.5 million cartons. However we have a rather strange contradiction. In this morning’s ‘Australian’ appears the following:
City food and textile prices will rise sharply in future unless the Government changes its policies towards rural industries, a Federal Labor M.P. said last night.
Mr A. J. Grassby (Riverina) said because of the policy of reducing production, apples would cost 30c each in the city, oranges 20c and canned fruits would be a luxury.
That is a rather strange contradiction. Firstly the honourable member says that we will have a 5 million carton carry-over and, a couple of months later, he says that canned fruit will be so short that it will be a luxury.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! I remind the honourable member that we are in Committee and that he should refer to particular clauses of the Bill.
– I accept your guidance, Mr Deputy Chairman, and conclude by saying that if the Opposition is genuine in saying that the restrictions of the means test criteria in this legislation are against its views, namely, that there should be more trees pulled to reduce production, surely that is completely contradicting the honourable member for Riverina who claims that if we do not watch out Government policy will make canned fruit a luxury because there will be too little of it.
– Several matters have been raised. Firstly, the objectives of this scheme need to be recognised. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has said that he believes that a person who has $250,000 worth of assets could be given tree pull assistance under rural reconstruction. Obviously that is not an objective of this scheme. There are very real problems in trying to contain production to reasonable market levels. This Bill serves as a supplement to rural reconstruction. The objective of the scheme is to try to ensure that instead of just having as we have at the moment debt adjustment, farm build-up, rural re-training facilities and rural rehabilitation facilities within the rural reconstruction field, for the horticulture sector there should be the supplementary provision which is set out in this legislation.
We recognise that there is a real problem. A lot of people feel that they would like to be able to eliminate their trees but there are 2 specific ways within which assistance can be provided. This is an adjunct to the rural reconstruction scheme and it should be very difficult to justify expanding it in the way I believe the honourable member for Dawson was suggesting. If we are to try to seek to provide a rural reconstruction horticultural adjunct, I think we need to provide specifics for an alternative way in which the scheme can be applied and with similiarities to the normal measure of assistance available under rural reconstruction. These specifics are set out in the schedule to the Bill. Paragraph 3.1 of the schedule contains the 2 alternatives areas within which assistance is to be provided - for clear fell and for part fell. As the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) explained, there is a difference with respect to clear fell. A grower must be in severe financial difficulties. For part fell assistance he must meet the viability criteria, lt has been suggested today that we should lay down accurately just what we mean by ‘severe financial difficulties’. I have explained that what we seek to do is to try to ensure that there is a parallel to the rural reconstruction scheme. We believe the peculiar needs of the horticultural sector must be treated a little more generously than some of the other industries because of its particular problems. For that reason I suggested the initial administrative level that we would be attempting to establish. The person who received clear fell assistance would have as his residual assets no more than about $10,000. However, if that provision is inserted in the legislation, we immediately create a situation in which we could well exclude a person who has just above the limit. By expressing the provisions as we have done in the legislation it is intended to try to enable the State administering authorities, who will have the day by day task of trying to ensure just what goes in the scheme, to have general guidance on how they are to operate. With that general guidance I think they will be able to see that far more people receive help than would otherwise do so.
The honourable member for Riverina suggested that growers will not receive the money. That is ridiculous. Obviously a number of people will not be eligible for assistance. I accept that a number of people have substantial assets. It is fascinating to find members of the Labor Party suggesting that people with substantial assistance could get help. This Bill is designed to work in the same general category as the rural reconstruction scheme, namely, to try to help people in financial difficulties. Two alternatives are provided - the clear fell and the part fell, which vary in different areas. In respect of tree fell, unless we provide the sort of criteria I have specified this afternoon we will be providing something quite different for every other sector of the rural group. If we are to provide a rural reconstruction scheme it is necessary to have a measure of uniformity.
As to the specific matter to which the honourable member for Riverina referred, namely, the suggestion that the rural finance agencies will be buying up holdings, already in the rural reconstruction scheme there is a capacity for this to be done. This is a power they are exercising not specifically under this Bill but under other legislation. This is ons of the ways in which the rural reconstruction agencies or authorities in each of the Slates have been able to amalgamate small holdings for use for other purposes. The Bill enables tree pull assistance to be available for a rural reconstruction agency as well as for the growers in the 2 categories. As far as clear fell is concerned, if the rural reconstruction agency believer that a holding should be helped - the present interpretation we suggest as the basis on which the States should operate is in respect of a person who has up to about $10,000 worth of assets - that holding can be helped or can be taken over by the rural reconstruction agency, cleared and turned back into some other type of pursuit. I am told that in Victoria they may seek to take over some of these lands which, after clearing, may well be able to be used for some form of suburban development around some of the city areas. There is nothing untoward about the proposal. Growers will receive the money.
Previously I referred to the 100 growers in the Goulburn Valley who last year were in difficult circumstances. Obviously they are entitled to receive help. These are the sort of persons towards whom this scheme is directed. There are other problems. I have acknowledged them. This Bill does not try to pick up all the problems. I think that in its present form it will make a significant contribution towards both helping those growers in difficulties and helping to offset the very real difficulties caused by market contraction and overproduction.
– It is obvious that the means test will be very strictly applied. 1 simply ask the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) a question about the Schedule to the States Grants (Fruit-growing Reconstruction) Bill. In paragraph 2.2 of Part II of the Schedule on page 5 dealing with assistance the Bill states that the maximum rate of assistance will be $350 an acre for fresh apples and fresh pears. Paragraph 2.3 on the top of page 6 states that the Authority will administer the scheme so that the average rate of assistance does not exceed $200 an acre for fresh apples and fresh pears. In other words, on the face of it, the Schedule says that a grower can get $350 an acre for fresh apples and pears; yet in another part the Schedule says that he cannot get more than $200 an acre.
It is obvious that the means test will be very strictly applied. My colleague the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) who represents a large fruit-growing area and who is now not likely to be able to speak in this part of the debate, and I ask the Minister whether he would please give us some definite information, a Press statement or something more explicit, particularly regarding the means test as it applies to partial tree pull. We understand the qualifications of the means test regarding the clear fell. He was clearly explicit on that a moment or two ago. Growers are coming to us in ever increasing numbers for information about the means test. We cannot get the information - and I repeat that we have a time limit - particularly on that section regarding partial tree pull. If the Minister cannot give us the information here, he might consider the request that we made during the debate at the second reading stage.
What he said a moment ago amplifies only too well the tremendous technical and administrative problems that will be faced by the authorities in handling the applications and determining the eligibility of people. This has to be done by trained personnel in the field and then the applications have to be considered by the Rural Reconstruction Board. The Board has to determine whether on the basis of the recommendations of the trained man in the field so-and-so is eligible for assistance and just how much assistance he will get. I point again to the fact that although the Schedule states that $350 is what a grower can obtain for fresh apples and pears it also says that he will not get more than $200 an acre. According to the Schedule to the Bill applications have to be lodged by 30th June 1973 and all trees have to be removed by 31st October. The point I am trying to make is that because of the limitations of time very many orchardists in Tasmania might not be able to comply with these requirements.
I propose an extension of time for the removal of trees under this scheme on 2 grounds. One relates to the staff involved and the other relates to the growers themselves. The applications for assistance will need intensive investigation by trained staff, as the Minister himself outlined a moment ago. The Rural Reconstruction Board has to assess them and give a decision. The difficulty does not apply to other States as much as it does to Tasmania because it is anticipated that in Tasmania we will have 300 applications and that they will cover some 6,000 acres of orchards. It is more or less a local problem affecting our own people. We do not have the trained staff in Tasmania to handle the large number of applications anticipated. It will take at least 2 days to go into each application. If there are to be 300 applications this will involve 600 days work before the applications go to the Board. It is physically impossible for the limited trained staff we have to complete the task within the time limit which the legislation has laid down.
The Minister said that one of the reasons why he would not extend the time was that next February he had to give fresh consideration to the $100m rural reconstruction scheme and possibly obtain parliamentary approval for its continuation. We are talking about only $2m. This is a drop in the ocean compared with the whole ambit of rural reconstruction. As I said the other night, we appreciate this small assistance very much. Do not make any mistake about it. Anything we can get for the industry is good, but we are at liberty to criticise it. The assistance is limited. The Minister might see his way clear to extend the time limits imposed by the leg islation for another 12 months. The Tasmanian Government has guaranteed growers $2.60 a bushel this season. This has instilled a degree of confidence into the industry. It is a temporary measure intended to apply until the Minister and the Australian Agricultural Council have had an opportunity to consider the implications of setting up a statutory marketing authority. It is a physically impossible task for the trained staff we have to process the applications for tree-pull assistance within the time limit.
I put to the Minister another aspect of the problem in relation to which the honourable member for Franklin agrees with me. The growers have asked us to put this point to the Minister. With the $2.60 a bushel that the growers have been guaranteed they want a chance to come through this season. Of course, next season we may be flooded with large numbers of applications and the growers may not be able to comply with the regulations in the Schedule in the time available to them. If we run into conditions that are too dry, as we can do in the apple country from January up to April, when we get the bulldozers in the trees are likely to break off at ground level. Anyone attempting to do something with a 20-acre block can expect regrowth if the roots of the trees are not removed. If it is too wet and we try to do anything from July to November to get the trees out by October and qualify for assistance, the soil in the orchards will pug up and it will be doubtful whether we can get heavy machinery on to the orchard hills to get the trees out. Because of the depressed state of the industry in the orcharding country the heavy machinery contractors have moved out, and it would be a difficult job to mobilise machinery operators to come in and take the trees out. Of course, as the Minister will appreciate, applications will not come in en bloc. It will be difficult to mobilise the contractors to get the fruit trees out by October next year. Surely October 1974 would be a more realistic date.
As I say, this problem is peculiar only to Tasmania. The Tasmanian Government for this season has guaranteed the growers $2.60 a bushel f.o.b. and has encouraged people to have a go, but it is difficult after years of frustration and decline in the industry to know whether we will get enough return for them next year to persevere. They are great optimists. I say to the Minister: Whatever you can do for the industry, do it now. Back it up because if things come right in an industry like this it is useless to say to growers: ‘Start growing again’. This is because there is a time lag between when they plant and when they can expect to harvest. I hope that the Minister might see his way clear to grant some extension of time in Tasmania. It is not a political issue. He will not be giving us any political advantage by giving Tasmania an extension of 12 months. There is not anything in it. We are asking out of consideration for the growers and the trained staff we have to work on the applications. There is no political advantage to be gained from it for us. We ask for it in all good faith. We rely on the Minister to accept this point of view. We ask him to reconsider granting an extension of time. As I said when I commenced, the honourable member for Franklin and I ask the Minister please to give us some information in the very near, future. We are inundated with inquiries and we would like some further details on the means test, particularly as it relates to partial tree pull. People are anxiously wanting to know the qualifications that will apply to the means test. It is important that we get this information out to the orchardists, who after all are dependent on this industry for a living. It is important from the point of view of their economic viability and position in the industry that they know where they stand and whether they can go ahead with partial tree pull.
– I should like to supplement briefly the comments that have been made by honourable members on this side of the chamber and those on the other side who have expressed concern. I should like to put in an appeal for a more generous approach by the Government to the problems of fruit growers. I have been concerned about the effects that this scheme will have in my own electorate, particularly with regard to growers in the Harcourt area. There is very considerable dismay in that area that, in fact, the scheme will be of little use. I am referring principally to the eligibility sections of the Schedule on page 5 of the Bill.
I should like to say before coming to that point that the Minister made reference to the link between this scheme and the debt adjustment aspect of the rural reconstruction scheme. This is a very disturbing situation. The figures that the Minister has provided in a written reply to a question on notice asked by me show that in the first 9 months of the rural reconstruction scheme it has operated very badly from the point of view of Victorian fruit growers. The figures contained in the answer are rather astonishing. During the whole of that period, of all the fruit growers in Victoria only 58 applied for debt reconstruction assistance under the Commonwealth’s rural recontruction scheme. That in itself is rather an amazing figure, considering that these people were eligible for debt adjustment assistance. But, of the growers who applied in that period, the number successful was the incredibly low figure of five. This is a rather amazing situation. Obviously there are people in the fruit growing industry in Victoria who deserve a second go. If they have a chance of proving economic viability in terms of being able to service a long term debt at a reasonably low interest rate, I think they have a right to a second go.
I become concerned when I think of people being forced off their farms, particularly when it is considered how ineffective other aspects of the rural reconstruction scheme, such as the rehabilitation and retraining programmes, already have proven themselves. Obviously many of these growers have no hope, despite their very considerable problems, of getting any relief whatsoever from the Commonwealth Government. We have seen this pattern operating already in the rural reconstruction scheme, with large scale reduction rates for those who have applied-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! I draw the honourable member’s attention to the fact that we are in committee. I refer him to the Schedule.
– I take the point and I am coming back to it. I was just making the point that this scheme will operate in a manner rather similar to the rural reconstruction scheme. There is a link between them, as the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) suggested. He said that this scheme was an adjunct to the rural reconstruction scheme. I express the concern of the people I represent by pointing out that, in fact, the problems of some of the fruit growers I represent have been quite intense when falling returns and rising costs are considered. These problems have been aggravated by a series of natural disasters over a considerable period of time.
Many growers have had to take in extra work or to take on extra types of agricultural pursuits because they could not survive on the level of income they would get from their orchards. These people have tried to maintain their orchards and stay on the land. They have increased their income and by so doing - by trying to raise themselves out of this position of extreme financial hardship - many of them quite clearly will disqualify themselves from assistance under this scheme. At this stage I ask the Minister and the Government to look again at the scheme, to review it very quickly and to see how it is working. I quote, as I have quoted recently in the Parliament, but I think it is worthwhile raising it again, the fact that, according to a report in a local newspaper, there is not one grower in the whole of the Harcourt area who would be eligible for treepull compensation under this scheme. This was printed in the ‘Tarrengower Times’ which circulates in the Harcourt area. This is probably typical of the situation in other parts. The issue of 16th August referred to a meeting of growers in Harcourt held on 15th August, lt stated:
Last night orchardists met at Harcourt to discuss the latest Government proposals to help the fruit grower - the tree pulling scheme.
The scheme recently announced by the Commonwealth Government was an offer te the States to assist sections of the fruit industry -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! I must ask the honourable member to refer to the Bill in committee and not to make a general speech. In relation to which clause does the honourable member seek information?
– I will take your comments into account, Mr Deputy Chairman. I am trying to examine this Schedule and to study the clauses on eligibility for compensation. I will round off briefly by saying that it is quite clear from the evidence I have seen in my own electorate that many of the growers in the area who quite desperately require assistance from the Commonwealth Government will be debarred from receiving it. One of the main reasons is that they have been forced, because of their hardship, to supplement their income from other sources. 1 ask that the operation of this scheme be reviewed very quickly after its commencement.
– There are a couple of new questions to which I should reply. Firstly, in terms of people working outside their farms, one of the reasons why we have provided this flexible definition of severe financial difficulty’ is so that people who want to work outside their farms are able to retain their farms, get clear fell assistance and remain on their holdings. That is one of the objectives of providing this sort of flexible definition. It seems to me to be something that is eminently desirable when so many fruit growers have small holdings.
As to the particular question raised by the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies), the definition of ‘severe financial difficulties’ for clear fell purposes is only as specified in the Schedule to the Bill. To that there is a verbal interpretation which I have added twice - at the second reading stage and the Committee stage. The purpose of this is to ensure that we can set a limit which is realistic in relation to the differing needs. There are difficulties from area to area and from State to State. The honourable member for Braddon also has referred to the difference between the maximum and the average rate of assistance. These figures are set, over the whole of the assistance provided, by the rural reconstruction agency and it could mean that in any particular area the amount could be put above or below the average, or it could be put up to the maximum. But it is a matter for the rural reconstruction agency itself to determine, taking into account all the circumstances of the particular applicant.
Another point which came out of the questions was whether or not debt adjustment will be available for fruit growers. The figures that the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) raised show the difficulties that fruit growers have traditionally had with debt adjustment. These are recognised. This is one of the reasons why this provision is being added. These financial provisions will help the fruit grower and give him some supplementary tree-pull assistance. In addition, he is eligible and entitled to receive debt adjustment. The honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) asked me to repeat that assurance. The intention is that the fruit grower is and should be entitled to receive debt adjustment assistance in addition to clear fell or part pull assistance that he receives under this Bill. I believe that, unless the States administer it in that way, in many instances the assistance that this Bill provides will not, in fact, be given to the full.
As to the other point, namely, the extension of the scheme for 12 months, I note the feelings of the honourable member for Braddon in respect of the conditions in Tasmania, but I believe that there is still every reason for us to look beyond this scheme which, asI have explained, has a limited purpose and is intended to relate specifically to rural reconstruction. I believe that it will make a worthwhile contribution. But I believe that there is a further area which will need to be looked at, perhaps on a broader basis. If there are particular difficulties in Tasmania, I should think that there would be no problems in getting an extension of the scheme at an appropriate time.
– I want to pose to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) a final question which seems to me to be largely the kernel of our concern about this scheme. It concerns the specific request by the Rural Finance and Settlement Commission in Victoria in relation to a case in which it offered $3,390 as compensation for the removal of 33.3 acres of peach trees. A condition was surrender of shares valued at about $900. I shall read the paragraph of the conditions very carefully because I would like the Minister to interpret it for us and to say whether this is in accordance with the Commonwealth’s desires. It reads:
As you are the purchaser under a lease from the Commission you may anticipate the Commission’s consent to the proposal on the understanding that the Commission would require compensation paid in reduction of its debt-
The Commission’s debt - less costs of removal if these are required.
The residue of the debt to the Commission was about $9,000. It was a loan over a period of 55 years. Of course, the Minister says in reply that the growers will get the money. The point I am making is that under this limited proposal the grower will not receive the money. I pose this as perhaps the kernel of the problem.
- Mr Deputy Chairman-
Motion (by Mr Giles) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair) - by leave - read a third time.
– I would like to make a personal explanation. This morning during the debate on the report of the Expert Group on Road Safety I said: ‘You have blood on your hands’. I meant to indicate, and I think the Hansard report will show, that 1 was accusing the Government collectively for its actions over a period of 10 years. I do not want the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) to think that I was accusing him personally. I believe that he has that feeling. If so, I would like him to accept this explanation as an apology to him. I certainly did not mean it that way.
Debate resumed from 23 August (vide page 567), on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
– I wish to propose an amendment to clause 3, which reads:
Section 11 of the Apple and Pear Stabilization Act 1971 is amended -
a number of cents equal to the product of 80 and 4,900,000 divided by a number equal to the number of reputed bushels of fruit picked during that season that -
I would like to say to the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) that his action in applying the gag at the Committee stage of the debate on the States Grants (Fruitgrowing Reconstruction) Bill was uncalled for. The question asked of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) was a good question and clarification was needed. The Minister was prepared to answer the question. The arrogance displayed by the honourable member was completely uncalled for.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Corbett) - That matter is outside the scope of this Bill.
– The Minister indicated that he would answer the question during the debate on this Bill. I have also asked questions relating to the legal problems of people to whom a farmer owes money. I have in mind not only the State authorities but also people who have lent money on mortgages. They may see part of the fixed assets being removed from the properties on which they have lent money. I hope the Minister will answer those questions when the Deputy Chairman gives him the appropriate opportunity. When the original legislation was introduced we moved an amendment in which we sought that the figure of 4.4 million bushels be subject to review each year on the understanding that fluctuations in production would give rise to different objectives of the stabilisation scheme. As originally framed the scheme provides for a ceiling of 4.4 million bushels to which applies a maximum of 80c a bushel for apples and pears. If that ceiling is pierced the payout figure is proportionately reduced. Because of the problems of growers the Government has provided alleviation amounting to about $400,000 by increasing the ceiling to 4.9 million bushels at the maximum payout figure of 80c.
The object of the amendment we propose is not to have similar annual amendments but simply to have incorporated in the legislation provision for a review of the ceiling in the light of circumstances. The justification for the amendment proposed by the Opposition when the original measure was introduced has been provided by events. The Government is doing now exactly what the Opposition predicted it would have to do. It is amending the legislation. The figures for last year show that 7,448,000 bushels were shipped at risk. This represented a maximum contribution by the Government of about 47.26c a bushel. The maximum payout of 80c a bushel was reduced proportionately as the quantities shipped exceeded 4.4 million bushels.
It is estimated that in 1972 the quantity shipped at risk will be about 5,240,000 bushels, or about 300,000 bushels above the ceiling. This will mean that the payout of 80c a bushel will be correspondingly reduced. It is calculated that the payout will be about 67c a bushel as opposed to the maximum of 80c a bushel. Again the Opposition has moved an amendment at the Committee stage. It is believed that the legislation would be improved by the inclusion of a provision for an automatic review, rather than having to wait until something happens and then having an amendment moved in the Parliament, thus involving a long debate at the second reading stage and a detailed debate at the Committee stage. That procedure could be obviated by accepting the amendment we now propose to include a formula for review.
– I second the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), lt is interesting to recall that when we moved this amendment last year it was duly defeated by the Government, but the justification for moving it at that time is to be seen now. Let me remind honourable members what the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) said a moment ago in regard to the tree pull scheme and rural reconstruction generally. He indicated that there will be a full review in February next year. I find it difficult to understand why the Government will not accept this proposition at this time because basically it will not interfere with the legislation as such if it is to be reviewed each year prior to the establishment of the support price for that season. I appeal to the Minister because I think this is a logical and well intentioned amendment. As the honourable member for Dawson has pointed out, it is a necessary safeguard for us to have at this time. I submit to the Minister - I think the Minister will be well aware of this - that the Tasmanian industry is in favour of an amendment of this type. I ask the Minister to give very serious and sympathetic consideration to the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson which I am quite happy to second.
– The amendment provides for the annual review of the support price within the stabilisation scheme to be part and parcel of the legislation. If the Government were to accept the amendment, that would not obviate the necessity for a Bill to be introduced - a short Bill, certainly - setting down the amount of money to be provided for this purpose. For that reason I think there is little advantage in the specification that it should be reviewed annually, although I endorse completely the sentiments that both the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) have expressed, that circumstances in the industry are changing and it is necessary to keep the level of assistance under review.
The circumstances of the industry in Tasmania in the last 12 months and of export fruit producers everywhere are such that costs have moved against them; there has been a significant increase in freight and so on. For that reason, while I am sympathetic towards its objectives, I do not believe that the amendment would do anything other than require a debate. In some circumstances we might feel and those who represent fruit growing areas might feel that the amount of money provided is sufficient and there would, therefore, be no necessity for a debate. For that reason I do not believe it is necessary for us to provide for an obligatory discussion of this amount each year. The amount needs to be kept under review. The circumstances of the industry are such that it is essential that they are constantly looked at in relation to changes in costs and markets. For that reason the Government will not accept the amendment.
With the leave of the Committee I now refer briefly to some questions that were asked of me and to which I did not reply in the Committee stage of the States Grants (Fruit Growing) Reconstruction Bill. The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) referred to a particular instance of a mortgage that was taken out by the Rural Finance and Settlement Commission in Victoria. The honourable member for Dawson referred in more general form to the rights of mortgagees. The Bill that we dealt with a few moments ago does not interfere with the legal rights of mortgagees. It is essentially a matter to be arranged between the parties to a mortgage. Similarly, if the Commission holds a mortgage on land from which trees are removed, it is difficult to deny the Commission the same right to compensation as is given to any other mortgagee. The Commission’s inquiries indicate that mortgagees, including the Commission, are generally prepared to limit their demands on a grower provided that grower is remaining on the land and that the assistance he receives is used for other productive purposes. It is essential that, if there is to be an effective implementation of the tree-pull scheme within what we call a fruit growing reconstruction Bill, there should be the same preparedness by creditors to reduce their claims for repayment as there is in reconstruction generally. If every creditor demands his pound of flesh there is little prospect of many small growers ultimately getting out of the red. The objective of reconstruction, as it is with the tree-pull scheme, is to give the grower a chance to re-establish himself on aa efficient, profitable basis. In relation to the Bill we are discussing in Committee, for the reasons I have enunciated I sympathise with the motives of the Opposition. I sympathise with the idea of keeping the matter under review but I do not believe that it would be achieved by this amendment and I therefore propose that it be rejected.
– I want to ask the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) a couple of questions to clear up an issue. The support price for the season under review - 1972 - across the board for the various types of fruit has been raised by 11c on average. Can the Minister explain to me how this is arrived at in view of the fact that, under the legislation, the Government provides a sum of $400,000, which will lift the pay-out price of 5.2S million bushels of apples from 47c a bushel this season to 67c? If we did not receive the $400,000 for this season we would have received a pay-out figure or a support price of 67c a bushel. Under the legislation we are now debating we go from 67c a bushel to 74c - an increase of 7c. The support price or the pay-out price across the board for practically all varieties of fruit has, I understand, been increased by lie. 1 ask the question because of the concern of the Opposition in the last debate and in this debate as to what provision is being made for an escalation of costs between the setting of the figure, as was done on 1st October 1970 - almost 12 months before the season ended - and the end of the season. As an example I refer to the fact that the last national wage increase raised our picking costs by 4c a bushel and cool storage charges by lc a bushel. What is the relationship between the 11c for the support prices and the figure of 7c that we will receive from the application of the $400,000 in the stabilisation plan for this season?
– I will write to the honourable member and give him the information in detail. I would hate to give it to him inaccurately.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair) - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 23 August (vide page 570), on motion by Mr Chipp:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The object of the Bill is to extend the bounty provisions relating to nitrogen until 31st December 1974, which will keep this legislation in line with the time provisions relating to the bounty on phosphatic fertilisers. The present Act will expire at the end of October 1972. The whole objective of this subsidy legislation was to make provision for a reduction in the price of nitrogenous fertilisers in Australia, particularly in an economy in which costs were excessively increasing.
The amount of nitrogenous fertilisers which have been used over the last 4 or 5 years has varied around 125,000 to 130,000 tons per annum. The main usage of nitrogenous fertilisers in Australia is in the sugar and fruit irrigated areas and to a lesser degree in some of the wheat-growing areas. They are used also in mixtures in various preparation analyses. The cost of the subsidy is estimated to be around $10m this year - equivalent to 125,000 tons of nitrogen. Another objective of the legislation is to change the basis on which certain imports of nitrogenous fertilisers become eligible for subsidy and at the same time to express the subsidy rate in metric tons as from 1st July 1973. Assuming, of course, that the grower gets the full benefit of the subsidy there can be no argument that the subsidy is positive. It has reduced the price of fertilisers in Australia. Also there are very stringent safeguards for producers in that the price of Australian nitrogenous fertilisers bears a close relationship to the undumped price of nitrogenous fertilisers which can be imported into Australia. I stress the term non-dumped’.
The actual costs of production in the operation of the subsidy can be policed if necessary, under the provisions within the relative Acts, by the Department of Customs and Excise. There has been a positive reduction in prices, as I have said, in different fertilisers. For example, the nitrogen content in aqua ammonia is approximately 20 per cent and the savings would be about $16 to $17 a ton. Ammonium sulphate contains a little higher N content - about 21 per cent - and the savings are a little higher. If we go up the scale to anhydrous ammonia the nitrogen content is around 80 per cent and the amount of saving to the producer would be in the vicinity of $60 to $70 a ton.
I am pleased to see also that the Government has retained the right of importers to import into Australia the types of fertilisers that cannot be produced in Australia, fertilisers from which the growers obtain better results than they get from Australian fertilisers. There are several such imported fertilisers. I mention one in particular which is used quite extensively in North Queensland. I refer to an Italian-made fertiliser which has the brand name of Sincat and which is being referred to more and more as Siefa which is being used in Australia as a highly successful planting mixture. The roots of cane are not susceptible to root burn when this fertiliser is used in the same way as they are when the ordinary types of Australian-produced fertiliser with a relatively high N content are used. As we get higher and higher up in the larger rainfall areas in the Ingham, Tully and Innisfail areas of course the N content increases in the imported fertilisers. It is possible in time that Australian companies will produce the same type of fertiliser to the satisfaction of cane growers. It is hard at this stage to ascertain just where the great or significant difference is, but there is no question of the efficiency and popularity of the imported Sincat fertiliser among canegrowers because, as I said before, there is all the evidence that one wants in these areas, particularly in regard to the incidence of root burn in cane.
The Sincat fertiliser is a mixture of NPK- 8 per cent, 6.9 per cent and 18.3 with sulphur. This analysis, of course, varies as one goes from district to district. It is different in the Burdekin where there is intensive irrigation to the Ingham and Tully area where the percentage of N is much higher. I know that this situation is considered very carefully by the Departments of Primary Industry, Trade and Industry and Customs and Excise. I am very pleased to be able to say with respect to representations that I have made over the years that the Departments have given every consideration to the case of Aus tralian fertilisers versus these very versatile imported fertilisers, particularly where there is clear evidence of the advantages to be gained in terms of productivity by the use of foreign fertiliser and of losses which can occur in certain instances by the use of Australian fertilisers. This is not to say that 1 am holding a brief for imported fertilisers. Far from it. But I believe if Australian firms are unable to produce something which is as good as imported fertilisers, then consideration should be given to allowing the importation of those fertilisers. An analogy can be drawn between Scotch whisky and Austraiian whisky. Some people may say that Australian whisky is better than Scotch. I do not know, but certainly when one looks at the consumption figures in Australia this does not appear to be the case. The same thing may be argued i.i regard to Sincat or Siefa fertilisers and the now consortiumproduced fertilisers with respect to particular planting criteria. But the one thing that is certain is that the growers themselves maintain that the Sincat fertiliser is a superior fertiliser under specific circumstances.
I am pleased to say that the Departments have agreed that this is the case based on experimental evidence at research stations and also from empirical evidence from the farmers themseles. An analysis of the imported Sincat fertiliser in the Mackay district shows that it has an N content of 8 per cent which is made up of 2 per cent of nitrate as ammonium nitrate, 2 per cent ammonia as ammonium nitrate and 4 per cent ammonium as ammonium phosphate. I am quite certain that the Australian companies are looking closely at this because it has always been the practice to try to produce something as good as, if not better than, the imported products. But the important thing I want to say is that this subsidy is one formula which should be looked at closely by a lot of other industries, particularly secondary industries, in respect of imports. Here the user in Australia is greatly protected from increasing fertiliser costs by the ever present threat of importers being able to import the equivalent fertiliser. Provided it is at an undumped price, the imported fertiliser is eligible to receive the total subsidy. This I believe is as it ought to be, particularly in Australia when we have now an amalgamation of companies in which there is a definite monopoly as regards the production of nitrogen. But the safeguarding clause always is that we have this import provision whereby, if the price gets too high, the importers, producers, farmers or whoever they may be, are able to import the fertiliser to force the Australian companies to bring the price down to world levels, and the subsidy gives a lower price to the producers. There is a limit to how far this process can go. After all, when costs are increasing in Australia there is a case for increasing the subsidy. If we expect fertiliser companies to keep their prices down to the equivalent of the level of undumped import prices the question is whether the full benefit is being passed on to the grower. Without evidence all we can say is that we hope that the Department of Customs and Excise is thoroughly policing company costs to make certain that the price to the producer is the right price.
I think that the potential of the application of nitrogen to crops and pasture has not been fully explored or the surface of which has only been scratched. We know that there is a tremendous capacity in Australia to manufacture nitrogenous fertilisers. We know also that there is a tremendous potential for the application of nitrogenous fertilisers to crops and pasture particularly in those areas where soil samples have shown a dificiency and particularly where moisture is available. The larger the quantities of moisture are the greater is the potential for nitrogenous application.
In the cane areas nitrogen is mainly used in the form of sulphate of ammonia, aqua ammonia and other auxiliary analyses. Nitrogen is fundamental to sugar production. Without nitrogen fertiliser the sugar industry would collapse, lt is as blunt as that. It has been shown time and time again that the most important chemical element in the quick growing of cane is nitrogen. Heavy applications of nitrogen have produced some remarkable responses in some of the irrigated areas and the heavy rainfall areas of northern Australia, particularly north Queensland. This does not mean that there is not a need for a balance with respect to phosphate, potassium, sulphur and the trace elements. But the principle ingredient for quick growth over a 12-month period in the top end of north Queensland, or in the 18-month to 2-year period of growing in the more southerly areas, is the use of nitrogenous fertilisers. It is essential to have nitrogen available at reasonable prices.
I believe that there is great potential foi the application of nitrogen fertilisers to pasture. This is something which in the sub-tropical and tropical areas of Australia should be the subject of accelerated research. Already we know of the results of fertilisers on some of the grasses which are considered to be pests. For example, guinea grass has shown, as a result of the application of nitrogen, remarkable results in terms of dry matter. The application of nitrogen to pangola grass has also shown some remarkable yields in terms of dry matter per acre.
I have given those examples to show that I believe that this legislation is sound. What I am worried about is that there is no indication in the Bill in regard to the future. I do not think that governments should make a blunt announcement that the subsidy will be continued up to a certain date. I believe that always there ought to be provision to allow the growers and the fertiliser companies to have some thought about the future when the subsidy date expires without having to rely on tn: Parliament suddenly from time to time to introduce amending legislation to increase the period of the subsidy. I think that growers are entitled to know that when the expiry date is reached they can expect a continuation of the subsidy and that they will receive sympathetic consideration from whichever government happens to be in office. It is not only the grower who is concerned; the importer and the producer of fertilisers in Australia are concerned also. The distributors of nitrogenous fertilisers throughout Australia also are vitally concerned to know the future after the expiry date has been reached.
The Opposition supports the amending legislation. It is pleased to see that the subsidy period is to be extended. It supports this principle, which I believe ought to be looked at very closely as a model when considering other industries. It is a principle which I believe should be thoroughly endorsed even by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly). This is an industry in which the costs to the grower are directly correlated to imports of products in question. If the costs to the grower go up, then provision is made for an importer to be able to import at the undumped price and this forces Australian companies to compete with prices equivalent to the import price. It is a principle which has not been followed much by government in Australia but nevertheless it is considered to be a good one provided that the increased manufacturing costs are recognised by the Government and that periodic increases in the subsidy or bounty, whichever it may be, are taken care of if domestic costs get out of hand to the degree that no Australian company could possibly compete with the undumped foreign price.
I do not have any more thoughts of substance on this matter. I believe that it is a good Bill. But the Government ought to give notice of what it intends to do in the future after the expiry date of the subsidy. It should not be taken for granted that when the Act expires the subsidy will expire. There needs to be some farewarning Those concerned should not have to just take something for granted.
– The Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Bill is not a controversial measure. It is a very necessary piece of legislation because of the expiry of the subsidy on nitrogenous fertilizers as provided for under the present Act. The subsidy will expire on 31st October. This Bill provides for 3 things. It provides for a continuation of subsidy payments at the present rate of $80 per ton of contained nitrogen until 31st December 1974. The proposed extension of the subsidy brings the future termination of the Act into line with the expiry date of the subsidy under the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Act. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) indicated how vital nitrogenous fertilisers are to Queensland industries. As I recall the situation, when I recommended to the Government in the first instance that we should have a superphosphate bounty we found that superphosphate was used mainly in the southern States and that Queensland used very little superphosphate but extensively used nitrogenous fertilisers, the subsidy for which is provided in this Bill. The relative figures are interesting. The phosphate bounty which has been provided has cost the Government $280m up to 30th June this year and assistance under the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Act has cost S57.4m.
Secondly, the Bill provides for the rate of subsidy to be expressed in metric terms. I do not know whether I will be able to understand them. I think the present form is much more readily understood by me. The third reason for the Bill is to change the basis on which certain imports of nitrogenous fertilisers become eligible for subsidy under this Act. Needless to say, I support the Bill because it is necessary to continue this subsidy which should reduce the costs to the grower-consumer and also it will assist in increasing production, which of course is one way of reducing the growers’ costs. I agree with the previous speaker, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), in his contention in relation to that matter. In his second reading speech the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) stated:
Provision presently exists in the Act for subsidy to be paid on undumped imported nitrogenous fertilisers, when the importer is also the user of the fertilisers, providing the Australian producer is not prepared to supply like or directly competitive fertilisers to the importer user on terms as favourable as the import transaction.
The amending legislation will extend this principle to include all importers irrespective of whether or not they are also the users of the fertilisers. The Minister went on to say that the main effect of the amendment contained in the Bill will be to ensure that importers who are also distributors of nitrogenous fertilisers have access to subsidised supplies. The Minister continued:
Primary producers will continue to have the opportunity to purchase their fertiliser requirements at the lower of the subsidised undumped import price or the subsidised domestic price.
This sounds all right and I just hope that the intention becomes the fact. I want to analyse that statement made by the Minister because there should be no misunderstanding about the position. When the Minister says that importers who are also distributors of nitrogenous fertilisers will have access to subsidised supplies, I would question the end result of that proposal. 1 want to know from the Minister whether il possibly could happen that Consolidated Fertilisers Ltd, which I understand is the major manufacturer of the local product, could distribute to associate companies - they are all next door to one another - such as ACF-Austral Fertilisers Pty Ltd, Australian Fertilisers Ltd and General Fertilisers Ltd and then to the end seller who could be the local seller. It may be we will find that the subsidy is totally absorbed so that there is no benefit to the grower who is the actual user. We need some clarification on that point. I think the amending legislation is open enough to make this a subsidy for distributors. Is there protection for the grower, who is the producer, in the long run? In his second reading speech the Minister stated:
These changes will have no effect on the Minister’s power to direct that no subsidy be paid where the fertiliser selling prices do not pass on the full benefit of the subsidy.
Pass on to whom? Does the Minister mean the distributor or the grower who uses the fertiliser in the ultimate? There should be total protection for the grower so that he receives the full benefit of the subsidy. That was the position when I was a Minister, and it was provided for in the original Act. I want to be assured that that is the position now and that the subsidy will not be absorbed by a series of distributors passing it on to one another. The legislation is meant to protect the grower so that bis costs are reduced.
We read also in the Minister’s second reading speech that the primary producers will continue to have the opportunity to purchase at the lower of the subsidised undumped import price or the subsidised domestic price. I made representations to the Minister for Customs and Excise in relation to this matter, because unless the primary producer is protected he will have to pay more for his fertiliser than hitherto. Up to the present he has had the benefit of lower import prices - dumped goods, if you like - which were coming in at the price of approximately $77. Now all imports attract full duty which raises the price considerably. I think the amount of duty is $18.40, which happens to be the amount of the subsidy. So if there is a like product in Australia the net result is that the imported price is higher than that of the local product. When the price of the imported product is higher than that of the local product, no subsidy is provided for the imported product, which is a better product. Proof of this can be found in the citrus growing area on the coast just north of Brisbane. At my request the Minister for Customs and Excise sent his inspectors up there and they made a thorough analysis of the situation.
In his reply to me the Minister said that his inspectors found that the local product is not a like product or a competitive product. I thank the Minister for his prompt action in relation to that request. The wording of his reply to me was as follows:
Departmental officers have held discussions with Mr Roy who also conducted field usage tests on his property at Palmwoods. It has been decided that the locally manufactured product is not like or directly competitive with the imported calcium ammonium nitrate and that subsidy is therefore payable on the imported product.
That means that the subsidy is now payable on the imported product which may be purchased at the same price at which it has been able to be purchased over recent months. That is all to the good, because if we look at the 2 products we find that the local product is almost unusable. It is unusable in the sense that one cannot distribute it. It is as hard as a rock. One just cannot distribute it over the fields, and I am told also that it makes the user so itchy that he has to have a wash every hour or so. That does not suggest that it is a good product. The fruit growers had discussions with Mr Hughes, who is the Queensland manager of ACF-Austral - he is a manufacturer - who said that he would not use it. That is what he thinks of the product that the manufacturers are selling. In other words, he was trying to get the growers to buy Nitran, which requides another additive, instead of calcium ammonium nitrate. If a farmer has about 100 lb of Nitran he would need about 125 lb of dolomite to get the correct Ph content - which is the acid test of the soil - and he would add to his costs. The manufacturers would sooner produce some alternative to CaN upon which the subsidy is payable. So it is obvious that if Australian manufacturers want to be in the picture they have a challenge before them to produce a product that is good, that is necessary, and that can compete with that which we are getting from overseas.
The company from which they get this fertiliser overseas - BASF - is the greatest company in the world for this sort of product. It spends approximately S4m a year in research, lt knows what is wanted and it produces the goods. The citrus growers are very happy with the result but they are quite prepared to use an Australian product if one is produced which will give them the necessary results. But the wording of the amending legislation suggests that the subsidy will be payable only on the local product and that it will not be payable on the imported product where the price of the imported product is higher than the price of the local product. So that excludes the subsidy from the imported product which is the one that the farmers want. But thanks to the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) who responded to my representations and sent an inspector to make that thorough analysis, these growers can get the satisfactory imported product, and be subsidised thereon, at a cost of $77 a ton which is approximately the price at which they had been buying it in recent years This has been called a dumping price, but whether it is a dumping price or not, it is a satisfactory price for the growers and one at which they are happy to import.
I cannot quite understand the wording of the Bill which says that organisations of farmers may do their own importing. I hope it is possible, lt would not be possible under the other strictures of the Act which prevent farmers from getting a subsidy because it forces them to use the local product simply because no subsidy is payable on the imported product if its price is in excess of the price of the local product. That applies to other industries, such as the citrus fruit industry and the pineapple industry in the coastal areas north of Brisbane. The Minister’s action has assisted the position for the time being and I thank him very sincerely for what he has done.
However, the question arises: What of the future? I presume that Australian manufacturers with the challenge before them will need to interest themselves in producing a like product which has to be proved before it can attract a subsidy. This again has resulted from the Minister’s actions. If this is not so, the danger is that the growers will be forced to pay a price in excess of what they have paid in the past. Getting back to the point I made earlier, 1 would like to know who the distrib utor is. Also I would like to know from the Minister for Primary Industry: Who is the end user? Who will get the benefit of this subsidy? Will it be absorbed by a series of associate companies passing it onto one another and then on to a retail distributor to the extent that the grower will be at a disadvantage? Perhaps I should be reassured by the Minister’s letter to me. The growers are happy with the action of the Minister for Customs and Excise in responding so readily and having a complete analysis of the product made. When it was found thai it did not in any way compare with the imported product the Minister made it possible for the subsidy to be paid on the imported product and I thank him for doing so.
– I also support the Bill. My colleague, the right honourable member for Fisher (Sir Charles Adermann), has covered many of the points that needed to be made and I will not reiterate them. Of course, it is vitally necessary that the matter of costs always be taken into consideration in the production of primary products and this has been one of the great troubles in the industry. There is no doubt, as the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) said in his second reading speech, that with the inception of the subsidy the case for assistance has rested on lowering ali farm costs, the encouragement of new farming techniques and the fostering of export earnings. This is something we have to keep in mind continually. Another point which was touched on by the right honourable member for Fisher, though perhaps it was nol brought out as clearly as it should have been, is that it is possible to get a commodity which is chemically identical with another but which does not prove as efficient or acceptable to the growers. This is one of the problems with which the industry has been faced. Field tests have shown thai this is so. Therefore it is not good enough that we have only a chemically tested fertiliser because in practice it can be proved that fertilisers with identical chemical content are not as effective as each other.
I believe it is important that we have a domestic fertiliser industry. In fact it is essential that we have one for a number of reasons, one being that there is always the problem of delays in supply and another is that it is good to have an industry here when we are using fertiliser as widely as we are in Australia. I regret that we have to get an imported product simply because the quality of our locally manufactured product is just not satisfactory to the growers or because, as a matter of economy, it is not possible to use it at all, as has been pointed out in this debate. One of the other points I wish to raise relates to costs. I have had some complaints about a rise in the cost of some nitrogenous fertilisers and the reason I have been given for this rise is that ammonium nitrate is now produced mainly at Newcastle and whereas previously, speaking now in relation to Queensland producers, the freight cost from Brisbane was borne by the company, now freight costs are applied as from the place of manufacture - that is, Newcastle - which has resulted in a rise although the cost of the ammonium nitrate at the factory has not been increased. The very welcome change in the prospects of prices for some of our primary products makes this Bill perhaps even more important than it would otherwise have been insofar as it relates to the value of products.
There has been a very big increase in the use of nitrogenous fertilisers in wheat growing areas in some of the most fertile lands in Australia because of heavy demands made upon that land by constant cropping. I believe that this demand for nitrogenous fertilisers will increase. Possibly there will be greater areas cropped increasing this need for nitrogenous fertilisers and so it is important that we continue the subsidy. It is of interest that there is some reason to believe that nitrogenous fertilisers increase production not only in a direct way through their application to the soil but also through their destruction of harmful nematodes. Most of the points 1 wanted to raise have been covered. As the right honourable member for Fisher said, this is not a controversial Bill but it is nevertheless a very important one. It gives me great pleasure to support it.
Debate (on motion by Mr Grassby) adjourned.
– by leave - On 12th October last I told the House that there might be legal and other proprieties involved in the question of whether papers held by the AuditorGeneral could be tabled. So far as the Auditor-General personally is concerned, I am informed that he would be glad to make the papers available for inspection by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) so long as there are no legal obstacles under the Audit Act relating to confidentiality of information. The legal position is being examined by the Attorney-General’s Department.
– by leave - I was informed that the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) would be making a statement such as this although I did not see the text of it. The reason for my moving last Thursday that there should be tabled in this House all files held by the Auditor-General relating to the acquisition of DC3 aircraft for Nepal, Laos and Cambodia was that among the papers tabled by Senator Wright in the Senate was a reference to reports by the Auditor-General. In the whole of this matter the one person who would be expected to be most interested in and competent to express a view on the propriety of any transactions would be the Auditor-General. Last Thursday, following my speech moving for the tabling of these files, the Prime Minister stated:
In relation to papers held by the AuditorGeneral on the acquisition of aircraft from Jetair Australia Ltd, it may be contrary to the public interest because of legal and other proprieties to table such papers.
In fact I had not limited my motion to the tabling of the Auditor-General’s files relating to the acquisition of aircraft from Jetair. My motion covered the acquisition of DC3 aircraft for Napal, Laos and Cambodia, not all of which came or intended to come from Jetair. Until this stage I have declined to accept the Prime Minister’s offer because I have not thought it appropriate for him or for any Minister to say, except in 2 cases to which I shall refer later, that it might be contrary to the public interest.
The Auditor-General is appointed under a very special statute. He is appointed by the Executive in the same way as judges are appointed and he can be removed from his office only in the same way as judges can be removed. He cannot be removed by the Executive. He can be suspended. Such suspension lapses unless both Houses resolve that he be removed. In these circumstances I have taken the attitude - I believe it is an attitude that all members of the Parliament should take - that the Auditor-General answers to the Parliament, not to the Executive. I said that there were 2 exceptions which I could contemplate. If the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) were to certify that matters upon which the Auditor-General had reported would possibly be papers related to litigation in which the Commonwealth would be involved, I imagine that all members of Parliament would accept that opinion. Further, if the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) were to certify that reports made by the AuditorGeneral might affect relations with other countries and therefore should be kept confidential, I apprehend that all members of Parliament would accept that certificate. However I have not thought it appropriate that members of Parliament, including myself, should accept an opinion expressed in the way the Prime Minister expressed it last Thursday that the papers may be contrary to the public interest. He did not assent that they were, but in any case I would submit that it is not for the Executive arm, except in respect of legal provisions and foreign relations, to make such a certificate. Subsection (2.) of section 45 of the Audit Act states:
The Auditor-General shall report to the Treasurer all irregularities discovered by him which, in the opinion of the Auditor-General, are of sufficient importance to be so reported.
If, as may be the case, the Auditor-General has not reported any irregularities in this matter to the Treasurer (Mr Snedden), we, as members of the Parliament would be entitled to assume that he did not think there were any irregularities or that any irregularities discovered by him were not of sufficient importance-
– Sufficient to be substantial.
– Yes. I am quoting the words of the Act - ‘sufficient importance’. Members might assume that the irregularities were not of sufficient importance to be reported to the Treasurer. Paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.) of section 51 of the Audit Act, relating to matters on which the Auditor-General should report, states that the Auditor-General shall show: full particulars of every case in which the provisions of the Constitution or of this or any other Act or the regulations or any forms shall not have been carried out or adopted or shall in any manner have been varied or departed from.
The Auditor-General did not show any such particulars in his report to the Parliament covering this particular financial year. Section 53 of the Act provides that his report must be promptly transmitted to each House. My recollection of what was said is that the Auditor-General is now seeking the opinion of the Attorney-General on the propriety of making papers available. I await the opinion of the Attorney-General on this matter. If the Attorney-General says that it is not appropriate for these papers to be tabled that is prima facie sufficient. I would not want to be in a position different from members of the Parliament generally, so at this stage I think the matter should rest until the Attorney-General has given his opinion.
– That is satisfactory to me. I thought I had an obligation to let you have the information as soon as I got it.
– I appreciate that and I have just stated my opinion at this stage.
– by leave - I wish to make a statement to the House relating to the tabling of Department of Civil Aviation papers in the Jetair matter. An undertaking was given by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) that he would table any DCA papers relating to the purchase by the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Jetair DC3s. In connection with this matter, the Department of Civil Aviation was advised formally by the Department of Foreign Affairs of the purchase of the aircraft and the Department advised its Minister accordingly. The two relevant papers are now tabled.
It will be noted that the letter from the Department of Foreign Affairs quotes a figure of$270,000. This figure was repeated in the advice to the Minister. The correct price was$275,000 and this was recorded in the Department of Foreign Affairs copy of this letter which has been tabled in the Senate. Subsequent inquiry by the Department of Foreign Affairs established that the correct price was $275,000. A note of action on DCA files recorded this and this document is also tabled. I present the following papers:
Jetair Australia Limited - DC3 aircraft -
Department of Civil Aviation documents relating to the purchase of DC3 aircraft from Jetair.
Department of Civil Aviation documents -
Ministerial statement, 17 October 1972.
– Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a second statement.
– Mr Speaker, beforeI grant leave I should like some information on the procedure to be followed. I take it that both ministerial statements will be subject to discussion by leave and that members from this side will be able to deal with both papers separately. Will the statements be treated as separate papers?
– One motion to take note of the 2 papers will be proposed so that honourable members will be able to deal with both papers.
– In that case, leave is granted.
– 1 wish to make a further statement in relation to the tabling of Department of Civil Aviation papers in the Jetair matter. The House will recall that the Prime Minister promised the Leader of the Opposition to table any papers in DCA relating to ‘the ownership, licensing and exemption’ of the Viscount aircraft acquired by Jetair. A careful search has now been made of all DCA papers and the following facts have emerged: The 2 Royal Australian Air Force Viscount aircraft were sold by the Department of Supply. One of the conditions of the contract of sale was that the aircraft should be exported overseas. This condition was imposed as a result of a request by the Department of Civil Aviation which had as its motivation its desire to protect the 2 airline policy. The relevant clauses in the tender documents were:
Restrictions - The Lodgement of tenders is restricted to the following -
Tenderers are required to clearly indicate below to which of the above categories his offer applies.
Failure to supply this information may result in the tender being considered informal.
The successful tenderer for these aircraft, namely, Mr Peter Hookway, an Australian agent for several overseas aircraft companies, sold the aircraft to Alda Corporation, Houston, Texas. An export licence was issued to the Alda Corporation and at that stage the Department of Civil Aviation and the Department of Supply had no reason to doubt that the aircraft would be exported. However, the Alda Corporation resold the aircraft to Jesp Investments Pty Ltd, a nominee company for Messrs Jepsen and Boland, a firm of Sydney solicitors. The Department of Civil Aviation had ascertained that this firm were solicitors for Mr Alexander Barton of Jetair Australia Ltd who, in another capacity, arranged finance for the solicitors’ purchase. When it became known to the Department of Civil Aviation that these aircraft were within the effective ownership and control of Mr Barton, the Minister and the DirectorGeneral brought to his attention that it would be contrary to Government policy for these aircraft to be operated within Australia and as a result Mr Barton agreed to sell them overseas. The aircraft were subsequently exported to America. They were never ued in any commercial operation within Australia. Accordingly there are no papers relating to licensing or exemption pursuant to regulation 203. No licences or exemptions were ever applied for. The relevant papers relating to ownership and export of the aircraft will be tabled when I finish this statement.
I should add that no promises were given to Mr Barton, to Jetair, or to anyone con- nected with the company, in return for Mr Barton’s decision to export the 2 Viscounts. Nor, in fact, did Jetair subsequently get any licences to engage in airline operations or to import any aircraft. The House will see from the documents which I will table in a moment that the Department of Civil Aviation played no part at all in the purchase by the Department of Foreign Affairs of the DC3 aircraft and also that its only role in connection with the Viscount aircraft - the documents I will table will show that - was to take all steps within its capacity to ensure that the aircraft were exported overseas, and in fact they were.
I would like to make it quite clear that when I make the statement that the Department of Civil Aviation played no part in the purchase I mean that in fact there was no indication in records that a part was played by the Department. But, of course, officers from various departments verbally seek advice and under some circumstances officers from one department or another could verbally seek advice in relation to certain matters. That is a normal process. But the point is that the records do not reveal that any part was played by the Department of Civil Aviation. We have been through the various files. In accordance with the promise made by the Prime Minister I now lay on the table of the House copies of all the various papers which have been taken from the files of the Department of Civil Aviation in relation to the Jetair matter. I present the following papers:
Jetair Australia Limited - Viscount aircraft -
Department of Civil Aviation documents relating to the ownership and export of Viscount aircraft acquired by Jetair.
Department of Civil Aviation documents - Ministerial statement, 17 October 1972.
Motion (by Mr Chipp) proposed:
That the House take note of the papers.
– The confusion continues. That is the only way one can describe the operations being indulged in by the Government at the present moment. I want to deal with one small section of the statement that the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) has just made, that is, his second statement. The remainder will be dealt with by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). In his statement the Minister said:
The House will see from the documents which
I will tablein a moment that the Department of
Civil Aviation played no part at all in the purchase by the Department of Foreign Affairs of the DC3 aircraft. . . .
In paragraph 10 of the remarkable memorandum of 31st December 1970 by Sir Kenneth Bailey to the Minister for Foreign Affairs he said:
The DCA has been consulted and is in agreement with this Department purchasing the Jetair fleet for aid purposes.
All I wish is that the Government, the Ministers and their staff would read what they have said about this matter at different times and let us at least get some continuity of facts and some truth in what has been presented to this Parliament instead of an attempt to confuse and to cover up an illegal operation that was carried out by the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, the present Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). As I said, the honourable member for Blaxland will deal with this matter.
The papers that have been tabled do not provide the information which the Opposition requires and to which this Parliament is entitled. I made a statement that Jetair Australia Ltd had received preferential and favourable treatment by this Government. What we want tabled are all the papers concerning the whole pattern of operation by this airline, the way it was formed, the way its applications for licence were submitted, the details of its application for import of aircraft, details of the enforcement of the 2-airline policy, and complaints which were lodged by Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia about what they considered were breaches of the 2-airline policy and their feeling that the Government was placing the whole scheme in jeopardy. This is important because it will substantiate the statement which has been made in this place that Jetair has received very favourable treatment from the Government. These are some of the facts which the Government is endeavouring to cover up by saying that preferential treatment has not been handed out to this company.
I made a statement this morning regarding the book value of the aircraft purchased from Jetair. The Minister tabled a letter, a copy of which I have in my possession, in which Mr Alexander Barton stated:
As requested by officers of the Foreign Affairs Department I am setting out below the costs of the Jetair group of each of the 6 DC3 aircraft.
A table which sets out the particulars of that was included in the letter. The letter went on to state that the 6 DC3s were owned not by Jetair Australia Ltd but another company in the Jetair group and in fact were leased to Jetair. Yet if we examine the contract acceptance and purchase order which was in the papers previously tabled we find that the letter is addressed to the Manager, Jetair Australia Ltd, Tower Building, Australia Square, Sydney. It refers to the sale of 6 aircraft, to their licence registration numbers, which coincide with the numbers of the aircraft referred to in the letter which was tabled this morning, and also to the sale price of $275,000. Who is telling the truth? From whom did the Government purchase the aircraft? Was it from Jetair Australia Ltd? In his letter, Mr Alexander Barton states that Jetair did not own the aircraft; that they were owned by someone else. The whole thing is just a confusion of facts as to who did own the aircraft. This is typical of all the ramifications of companies owned by Barton and company.
Another interesting little piece of information concerning Jetair relates to the transfer of shares. It has been shown that on 21st January 1970 Jetair issued 4,551,000 50c shares to Air Sales and Parts Pty Ltd in exchange for 3 aircraft valued at $60,050 and 223,333 shares in Western Air Navigation Ltd. To what airCraft did this transaction refer? Was it 3 of the 6 DC3 aircraft referred to in the letter that was tabled this morning by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen)? Are these the aircraft that were exchanged for $60,000? These are facts that only the tabling of the entire Department of Civil Aviation file can establish. This would show who owned the aircraft and all the relevant information associated with them. This is what the Opposition wants tabled in this p’ace.
I should now like to refer to Mr Barton’s letter which was tabled this morning. 1 shall read the entire paragraph; I do not think I should take it out of context. It states:
I might add that 1 have been disturbed at the incorrect statements made under Parliamentary privilege regarding the financial position of Jetair. These statements are totally untrue. The establishment costs of the airline which were anticipated to be substantial, were properly provided for, prior to the commencement of operations, and Jetair is, and always was, in a sound financial position.
I have a copy of the balance sheet of Jetair for the year ended 30th June 1970 which discloses a loss on airline operations of S536.150. That is not a bad sort of profitable operation! Thank God I am not running a business which loses over $500,000 and which I claim has always been a profitable operation. Jetair got out of trouble, in some way and other, by profit on share trading of $256,055 and profit on sale of aircraft of $292,980. There is so much confusion on these figures that it is difficult to follow the whole operation.
I made reference this morning to a statement on the financial trading of this company which disclosed that its book value of aircraft was $99,769. The Minister for Foreign Affairs questioned whether they were the 6 DC3 aircraft purchased by the Government. All I want to know - this information is not available to honourable members - is whether they were not the 6 DC3 aircraft because, on information which I have been able to obtain from various people, they were the 6 DC3 aircraft in question and, in fact, from early in December, when the company endeavoured to sell these aircraft, that was the price it was asking for the aircraft and it could not get any takers. To me, the situation is quite clear. It is like so many of the matters which have been transacted by the Barton family over the years. After reading of the machinations of the companies that have been set up by these people, it astounds me that a man such as Sir Reginald Swartz, who is to retire at the end of this Parliament, at this late stage of his political career has become tangled up with a stinking thing like Jetair just to try to give some respectability to what has been carried on by the Prime Minister. Every rule in the book has been broken. Public servants are being forced into the position of coming up with answers to cover up the wrongdoings of the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, who boasts of the fact that he has had 21 years in this place as a Minister. As I said, he broke every rule in the book and now he is trying to get people to cover up for him.
Let us have a look at some of the statements which have been made about Mr
Barton, with whom he has been associated. I refer to the Hansard report of the proceedings of the New South Wales Parliament of 25th February 1969, which relates to an Equity Court case which lasted for some 55 days and which was heard by Mr Justice Street who delivered the judgment on 19th December 1968. In the judgment Mr Justice Street made statements such as this:
In some important respects Mr Barton’s evidence is at variance with proved facts. … I have grave doubts about the reliability of Mr Barton’s evidence on that part of the case which concerns Detective Sergeant Wild and Detective Constable Follington
He went on to say:
There are many other points in the mass of evidence casting doubt upon the reliability of Mr Barton’s testimony.
This is the man whom the Minister for Foreign Affairs - himself an eminent member of the Bar - came into this place this morning to use as his authority to bolster up the Government’s case. The Government is certainly relying on weak reeds. I refer further to the operations of this company. This is something else that should be presented to the Parliament in the DCA file. Is it not a fact that, after this sale took place, a holding order was placed on the money to be paid to Jetair by DCA and the Postmaster-General’s Department for unpaid debts in excess of $50,000? In other words, even the Government could not get its money from this company. These facts are included in the DCA file and it is obvious why the Government will not present it to this Parliament. It does not want this information brought out.
In regard to the employees of this company, when it approached various pilots throughout Australia to go and work for the company, it gave them glowing reports of what it was going to do and what <ort of money it would be able to pay them. Some of them were even offered $13,000 a year to go and work for this company. These people left good, substantial positions to work for Jetair. Some of them received as low as $5,000 a year and, in fact, some of the pilots left the company’s employ without ever being paid. This is the type of firm in respect of which this Government and this Prime Minister, when he was Minister for Foreign Affairs, broke every rule in the book. This is what the Government must overcome and this is what the Government is trying to suppress by not tabling reports. Everything that the Opposition has been able to get from the Government, whether it be in the Senate or in this place, has been dragged from the Government. The Government has been reluctant to answer questions. It took the Minister for Foreign Affairs 2 days to answer simple questions that were directed to him by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), and the answer which was given actually said nothing and only confirmed the irregularities that had already taken place.
I return to the original matter of the indecent haste with which these aircraft were purchased and the fact that, after they were purchased, they lay in the possession of the Government for the best part of 9 months before the first aircraft was delivered. The first 2 aircraft were delivered to Nepal on 18th August 1971 after the Government had had them in its possession for ali that time. The last one was finally delivered on 5th December 1971. Taken all round, the whole incident is unsatisfactory. The Government is trying to suppress information, trying to cover up the facts of what transpired. The smell of this affair can be dissipated only by the Government’s producing all the files that were asked for by the Leader of the Opposition last Thursday, instead of presenting 2 papers which are in conflict with statements that have already been made.
Sir REGINALD SWARTZ (Darling Downs - Minister for National Development) - by leave - I was surprised by the comments of my friend the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). He referred to my being implicated in some way and from his remarks it appeared that 1 had not measured up to a standard of which he would approve. He knows that that is entirely incorrect. There is no need for me to indicate in this House that no matter what he suggests, irrespective of whether it is of the nature he indicated, he is incorrect. Even my friends of the Opposition would agree that I would be the last person to be associated with a matter of that type. I am surprised and regretful that the honourable member for Newcastle raised the matter in the light of a personal basis.
I would like to make it quite clear to the House that the duty I undertake is to represent the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) in this House. As part of that duty I have tabled, at the request of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), documents and papers from the files of the Department of Civil Aviation which relate to the matter under discussions. I was surprised to hear the honourable member for Newcastle indicate that the papers that have been tabled do not provide the detail that he required because, as yet, 1 have not seen him look at those papers. The honourable member rose to speak immediately after ] tabled the documents. The honourable member for Newcastle would be misleading not only the House but also the public if he indicated that he knew the contents of the documents and their relativity to the points he has raised.
Two lots of papers have been tabled, including the 3 papers relating to the purchase of the DC3 aircraft. They are the only 3 papers that relate to this matter in the files of the Department of Civil Aviation. I indicated quite clearly the limited reference and responsibility of the Department of Civil Aviation in this field. The papers which have been tabled have been copied from the files of the Department of Civil Aviation and I am sure that the honourable member will study them later. The second and major group of papers that 1 tabled relate to the sale of 2 Royal Australian Air Force Viscount aircraft which were specially asked for by the Leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) took the step of indicating to the House and promising to the Leader of the Opposition that any papers in the files of the Department of Civil Aviation relating, I repeat, to the ownership, licensing and exemption of the Viscount aircraft acquired by Jetair would be tabled.
We went through the files very carefully. The Minister for Civil Aviation, the DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation and officers of the Department spent a considerable amount of time going through the files. We now have photocopies of all the papers that we could find in the files of the
Department of Civil Aviation relating to the matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition. I tabled those documents a short time ago. I would like to make it clear again that the honourable member for Newcastle in his speech referred to me and the Department of Civil Aviation in a way that brought me and the Department into this field. He knows the limited degree of that involvement. He referred to the documents as though he had inspected them, as though he had had an opportunity to peruse them carefully. He complained because some information had not been made available in the documents, principally in the documents relating to the sale of the 2 Viscount aircraft. I can suggest only that the honourable member for Newcastle did not know what is in those documents as he had not in fact seen them at that stage.
– I took it from your summary.
– But the summary does not refer to other than papers taken out of the files. It refers to the tender, in the first place, and this relates to the Viscount aircraft, not to the DC3 aircraft. The honourable member for Newcastle may be confused in talking about 2 separate groups of aircraft. The major statement that I made and the major batch of copies taken from the files of the Department of Civil Aviation and which were tabled relate to the 2 RAAF Viscount aircraft which had been purchased at that time. The significant factor is that they were ultimately exported in accordance with the policy laid down by the Government and the Department of Civil Aviation. That is made quite clear in my statement and in the papers that have been tabled. I can accept perhaps that the honourable member for Newcastle made a mistake when referring to the particular type of aircraft. He was referring to the Viscount aircraft which are the subject of the statement I made here, and not to the DC3 aircraft which are quite a different matter and were the subject of a separate statement in this House.
I understand that another member of the Opposition wishes to speak on this matter. My colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen), who knows a considerable amount about this subject, will be speaking later in the debate. I want to indicate quite clearly to the House that my only reason for intervention in this debate is to table at the request of the Prime Minister in accordance with an undertaking which he gave to this House documents taken from the files of the Department of Civil Aviation. 1 have no other reason. I have tabled the documents in accordance with the promise to provide as much information as possible. It is an unusual step to take these papers out of the files of the Department and table them in the House as has been done today. It is a most unusual step and one that the Prime Minister has taken to try to satisfy the request of the Leader of the Opposition.
I think the Prime Minister deserves every credit for giving that undertaking and for arranging for the information to be provided to the House, particularly for the Opposition. For taking this action the Prime Minister deserves credit rather than the criticism to which he has been subjected today by the honourable member for Newcastle. Those are the only comments I wish to make at this time. I conclude by saying that any action I have taken today has been in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation in this matter.
– Both statements are very unsatisfactory to the Opposition. Last week the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) moved a motion for the suspension of standing orders. Part (a) of his motion called for the tabling of all files held by the Department of Civil Aviation relating in any way to the dealings with Jetair Australia Ltd. ‘AH files relating in any way’ means just that. We would like to see the letters from Ansett Airlines Ltd, including the letters from Sir Reginald Ansett, to the Government complaining about any breaches of or any possible breakdown in the 2-airline policy because we believe that this is where the root cause of the problem with Jetair has arisen. It arose from one or two angles. Either some elements in the Government were trying to break the 2-airline policy and were backing Jetair to do it or other elements in the Government were making counter-attempts, with the support of Ansett, to destroy Jetair, to eventually sell up its aircraft and to retain the 2-airline policy. So what the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) and the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) have tabled is not what the Leader of the Opposition asked for and is inadequate.
It is very difficult for the Opposition to pursue this matter because it does not have access to the files. It has scant information and has to deduce and make all sorts of guestimates and then ask for additional information. Whenever the matter has been raised the Opposition has been fobbed off with unsatisfactory information. Last week I raised the question of the 2 Viscounts. The Prime Minister came into the House about an hour after I had spoken. I had said:
I urge the Government to have the Auditor-General examine this matter and bring a report to this Parliament for next Tuesday because this is . . . where the Prime Minister’s involvement is.
There an answer was given by Senator Cotton in reply to a question asked by Senator Bishop. It answers the question completely. Senator Cotton then said:
I should like to add something. Senator Bishop will probably be delighted to learn that his assumption that the Department of Civil Aviation had allowed the aircraft to which he referred to fly in Australia in the field of civil aviation is incorrect. Those aircraft have been exported from Australia in accordance with the terms of the original tender schedule. 1 repeat that at no time did they fly in Australia in a private or commercial category.
I have with me a copy of the Senate Hansard. The question was asked by Senator Bishop of Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson. The Prime Minister very conveniently referred only to Senator Cotton who jumped up at the end of Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson’s reply. What he failed to tell the House and what he must have known because he purposely overlooked it was that Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson said, amongst other things:
I do recall that there were certain circumstances associated with the breaking of the requirement for the export of the aircraft, for want of a better term. This then became a matter not so much for my Department as for the legal officers of the Crown who had before them the question of penalties, sanctions and so on.
He went on further to say:
Because of the difficulties associated with the alleged breach of contract the matter moved away from my Department and into the hands of the legal officers of the Attorney-General’s Department
Why did the Prime Minister not refer to that instead of referring to what Senator Cotton said after Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson sat down? The question was asked by Senator Bishop of Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, not of Senator Cotton. This is typical of the way the Opposition has been treated by the Prime Minister and his Ministers.
The extra statement today on the Viscount aircraft said that the conditions on the tender schedules are three and the one applicable to the successful tenderer is that local buyers must undertake to export the aircraft outside Australian territory. So why was the successful tenderer, Mr Peter Hookway, who was in this category, not forced to export the aircraft? An article in yesterday’s ‘Canberra Times’ reads as follows:
Mr Hookway said he had an agreement to sell the Viscounts to Western Air of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Before the sale was due to be completed he had been advised by Western Air that they were bringing another company into the transaction.
Western Air had apparently had difficulty in raising the money to buy the Viscounts and had approached the Aida Corporation of Houston, Texas.
It was part of my contract with Aida and Western Air that they would adhere to the necessary condition of the tender schedule TV572/4/24. This required that the aircraft be exported’, he said . . . Later he had learnt that Aida was re-selling the 2 aircraft to Jetair through another company, Stanair. He said he had tried to stop the sale.
I do not accept that, because Stanair was the company from which Jetair bought 2 of the other DC3s and it was the company that is rumoured to be beneficially owned by Alexander Barton, Brins Australia Ltd or Jetair, either severally or jointly. Why did the Department of Supply not insist that Hookway export the aircraft immediately and not leave it to the company with whom he made the contract to export them? The responsibility was for him to export them. How was it that the Aida Corporation happened to run into Stanair and happened to sell them in Australia to Jetair? Why did it not immediately sell them back into the United States or, as it did eventually, to some government in the Gulf of Persia? It is all too convenient.
The statement has massive time gaps in it. It does not mention any of the prices paid. I would like to raise a few questions on it. Why was the Aida Corporation not forced to export the planes immediately the Government found it had them? When was its licence issued? What was the time lapse between the issue of the licence and when the planes finally left Australia? How much did Jesp Investments Pty Ltd pay Aida for the aircraft? When did Jesp Investments Pty Ltd, which was a nominee for Jepsen and Boland who were Alexander Barton’s solicitors, purchase the aircraft? Why did the Commonwealth not force it to export the aircraft? Surely the Department of Civil Aviation and people in the aviation industry would have known that they had fallen into the hands of this company. Can the Minister explain why they were not exported until September and October 1970, which was at least 6 months later? On 21st April 1970 Senator Keeffe asked a question of Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson concerning 2 VIP aircraft. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson replied that the tender price was $173,000. So the aircraft must have changed hands by at least 21st April 1970. They did not leave the country until September and October 1970. Why did this delay take place?
The statement of the Minister for Civil Aviation, predictably, does not specify any dates or explain the time gaps that are there. It does not say how Alexander Barton of Jetair had ‘effective ownership and control’ over the aircraft. It just says that they went to Jesp Investments Pty Ltd. How did they get from Jesp Investments Pty Ltd to Alexander Barton? That is another thing the statement does not explain. On 19th August 1971 Senator Cotton replied to Senator Wriedt as follows:
On 18th June 1971 Brins Australia Ltd, the parent company of Jetair, announced a loss of $265,965 on the sale of these aircraft.
How did Brins get the aircraft without the Department of Civil Aviation knowing? Can the Minister explain why the company lost $265,965 when I believe that they sold the aircraft for more than double the price paid by Hookway, which was $173,000? That would be roughly $346,000 plus their loss of $265,965, which makes a total of $611,965 for the 2 aircraft. Can the Government explain why these aircraft were supposed to be worth more than $600,000 when it received only $173,000 for them?
The statement does not in any way satisfy the Opposition. There are too many time gaps in it. There are at least 3 hands into which these aircraft passed that are not mentioned. The statement said:
When it became known to the Department of Civil Aviation that these aircraft were within the effective ownership and control of Mr Barton, the Minister and the Director-General brought to his attention that it would be contrary to Government policy for these aircraft to be operated within Australia and as a result, Mr Barton agreed to sell them overseas.
That sounds as if they were sold as soon as Mr Barton became aware of this fact. But they were in Australia during the period of negotiations to establish a third airline policy.
As I said in the House last week, the Viscounts would have been the operational muscle behind the third airline. It is impossible to operate competitively on trunk routes or semi-trunk routes with OC3 aircraft but the company could have operated with Viscount aircraft until its organisation became fully operational. The Prime Minister himself said it applied for import licences for French Norde aircraft. F27 Friendships and also Boeing 707 aircraft. So it was setting up to stay in business. What transpired in that period? Noone knows as yet. But certainly Jetair’s quest for the third airline licence was denied it. We find that these aircraft were in Australia in the hands of Jetair contrary to the tender provisions set down by the Government and by the Department of Supply; they were here to back up the negotiations with the Government to allow Jetair to use airports and operate as the third airline. This is the thing. It is not a matter of whether the aircraft were exported in the end; the fact is that they were here at the time of the negotiations, and that was at least for a period of 6 months.
Later on, towards the end of that 6 months, it was obvious that Jetair had decided to fold up. Whether the Ansett pressure on the Government was too much or whether Jetair decided that it did not have enough money to continue, we do not yet know. But it was certainly at that point that the aircraft were eventually sold. I do not believe that the aircraft were sold on the instructions of the Government. They were sold then because Jetair had decided to get out. These aircraft were probably sold for the same reason as the DC3s were sold, that is, either that the Government wanted to make sure that its friends in Jetair were looked after or alternatively to settle Ansett’s paranoia about Jetair having enough aircraft lying around Australia so as to allow other interests to compete against the 2-airline policy and against his airline. These are things which we have to find out. This was a struggle for the disbandment of the 2-airline policy, and we will find out eventually, as a result of dissension amongst the ranks of the Government, who was backing Jetair and who was backing Ansett.
The subsequent sales reveal the disaster of the Jetair attempt, but they do not reveal the hanky-panky and the dirty work perpetrated by members of the Government during that period. That is why this document is inadequate. We want the files of the Department of Civil Aviation with the letters from the Ansett organisation complaining about Jetair’s application and the fact that every time a Jetair plane breached any of the Department of Civil Aviation regulations a letter went in to the Department of Civil Aviation about it. That is the information we want. We want to find out what the Government was doing with these aircraft. We have had this subterfuge of saying that the Jetair planes were cheaper. The fact of the matter is that the Government was giving 5 aircraft away under a foreign aid scheme, and when it found that Jetair had to be looked after, or Ansett had to be looked after by exporting these planes, it decided then to ask the governments to whom it was sending these planes to request passenger aircraft from Australia. That then gave the Government the excuse of going to firms in Australia and asking them to quote on refurbishing the aircraft from freighter to civilian or passenger configuration. When the Government received the figure of $525,000 from Hawker de Havilland, as is revealed in the files, the Government was then able to say: ‘Look, we can buy the Jetair planes because they are only $275,000. There is our excuse, because it is too expensive to upgrade the ex-RAAF DC3s.
In fact the original foreign aid scheme was not for the supply of upgraded aircraft; it was to give away 5 surplus DC3 aircraft in freighter configuration. The Government has just used this whole thing firstly to let Jetair in to contest the 2- airline policy and then later, to satisfy some elements of the Government, by getting the Jetair planes off Jetair’s hands and then to suit Ansett by getting the planes out of the country. That is the end result. We want to know the bit in the middle. The stuff that has been given to us today is unsatisfactory. We want the lot, and we will continue to press for it until we get it.
– The facts relating to the purchase from Jetair of aircraft for foreign air purposes are reasonably clear and reasonably simple. They show no wrongdoing by the then Minister for Foreign Affairs or any other Minister or by any official. At the most there was an irregularity in the way in which after approval was given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the matter was implemented between the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Supply. All this is clear; all this is simple. It was set out In considerable detail by my colleague in the Senate, the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) on 27th September 1972 in a statement that he then made. I seek leave to incorporate his statement in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
27 September 1972
The actual purchase of the planes shall be carried out on our behalf by the Department of Supply, which will contact you in the near future. When purchase details are completed we plan to issue a press statement, announcing the acquisition of the planes, and their intended destination as part of the Australian Aid programme’, and until this was done the company was requested to keep the matter confidential.
This Department would be grateful if you could finalise purchase details with Jetair on our behalf. and requested Supply to check the company’s title to the aircraft.
Subject to any Act making provision with respect to contracts for supplies and subject to the next succeeding sub-regulation, con tracts shall not be entered into, and orders shall not be placed, for supplies the estimated cost of which exceeds one thousand dollars unless tenders have first been publicly invited for those supplies.’
Sub-regulation (2.) (e) (v), as in force at the time, provided that the requirement in sub-regulation (I.) of Regulation 52 did not apply to supplies in respect of which the Secretary to the Department of the Treasury, or an officer authorised by him, certifies that the inviting of lenders is impracticable or inexpedient, being supplies approved by, or to be obtained by, the Contract Board of the Department of Supply.
Agreed, but bring to the notice of Senator Anderson when he returns.’
I refer to the proposed contract with Jetair Australia Limited for supply of six DC3 aircraft.
As discussed between officers of our departments it is unfortunate that normal purchasing procedures were not followed; however in the light of the commitment by your department. I have approved that the Contract Board may place the necessary confirming order with the company.
You will understand that in the circumstances any approaches by news media or any questions in Parliament in relation to the arrangement could most appropriately be dealt with by, you or on your behalf.’
I think you asked me to look at the papers on the purchase of the 6 Jetair Dakotas, from the point of view of the Department’s action.
The underlining is mine.
No further action by the Department was called for.
– This statement is reasonably simple and reasonably clear. I am not going to take up the time of the House-
– I rise on a point of order.
– Order! Ever since the House resumed at 2.15 the honourable member for Sturt has constantly interjected on various speakers when he has been in the House. I warn the honourable member for Sturt to cease interjecting.
– This statement is quite clear and indeed no substantial attack of any kind has really been mounted by the Australian Labor Party in respect of that particular aspect of the purchase. But now a whole lot of new allegations are brought forward - not allegations really, because nothing is pointed to as supporting any charges; the Opposition has just said that there may be something there. An insinuation is launched and then a complaint is made, but the Opposition does not have the information to back it up. This could go on and on and on. It is a very old technique, and one which I think is deserving of the contempt of this House.
The Government has consistently been open and has responded fairly and properly to all requests for information. It has tabled series of documents after series of documents in the Senate and in this place, and where classification or some proper reason prevented documents from being tabled it has specified what they were and it has offered them for the free inspection of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) and now for inspection by the Leader of the Opposition in this place (Mr Whitlam). Nothing could be fairer than that; nothing could be more open than that. I suggest that no good purpose is served by simply making insinuations unsupported by the evidence, indeed, claiming that the fact that there is no evidence, that there is a gap, that because the Opposition does not have evidence, is a reason for making the insinuation. I think this is not a proper way to approach the matter. If the Opposition has some charge to make relating to the administration of any Minister in this Government I suggest that it formulate the charge and support it properly in a reasonable way, and then it will be answered. But the Opposition has just raised a whole series of questions and I certainly do not propose to chase every one of those white rabbits down its burrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 6.13 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed (vide page 2677).
– I was dealing earlier with the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Bill which is designed to extend the subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers at the existing level until 31st December 1974. In his second reading speech the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) touched on one sad fact, that is, that the consumption of these fertilisers fell quite markedly in 1970-71 due primarily to drought and wheat quotas which indicates that there was a drop in land preparation, a drop in fertiliser use and a drop in production. This is something that will have to be changed and we can look forward, I hope, to increased utilisation.
The point in relation to which I mainly rose is that the money appropriated by this Parliament on measures such as this should go to those for whom it is intended - in this case, the primary producer. The Bill provides $1Om to ensure that primary producers receive 125,000 tons of nitrogenous fertilisers at approximately world parity prices. It is a fact of our national life that in tariff protection cash equivalents in bounties and subsidies, other forms of protection and support amount to about $3,000m overall. Of that large sum of money the rural sector receives less than 8300m, or one-tenth. The assistance provided under this Bill is part of that one-tenth. It is rather important from the Parliament’s point of view that the money goes in full to those for whom it is intended. The right honourable member for Fisher (Sir Charles Adermann) earlier in the debate questioned whether the subsidy would be going to the producers or whether it might be going to the distributors. It is not intended for the distributors. It is intended to support the more efficient use of land by primary producers.
There are questions which I would like to pose in this regard. One is whether the costs are being properly computed. Is advertising being included? Are all the range of expenses that are fed into the costs right and proper? If they are not, it could well be that we are directing the money not to the producer but to those in the middle. Perhaps it goes to the middle man and not to the purchaser. This could well be the situation. This question could be posed: Generally how much of the $300m in rural support does reach the producer for whom it is intended by this Parliament? How much is siphoned off? How much is absorbed along the way? How much goes to the middle man? 1 would not be surprised if a considerable portion of that $300m does get lost in the pipeline. We certainly have some examples of the misuse of, shall we say, decisions of the Parliament. One to which I refer in passing was the removal of a portion of the wine excise. The wine excise imposed 2 years ago was cut by 50 per cent. We had some slick city cellarmasters collecting the excise. It did not go to the benefit of the producer and it did not go to the benefit of the consumer. It was pocketed along the way. 1 would like to think that there was some means of checking on this situation.
In the United States Congress there is a general accounting unit that ensures that the intentions of the Congress are implemented. The unit carries out continuing investigations over a very wide range - in fact over the total legislative range of the Congress. It would certainly be good if we could apply such procedures to ensure that the decisions of the Parliament, as the representative of the people, are implemented in accordance with its wishes and determination. How much of the subsidy is reaching the producers is the question in hand. I think we have come to the time when we could consider the formation within the Department of Customs and Excise of a special subsidy squad designed to ensure that the wishes of the Parliament are carried out. I know that there are procedures and that there are returns but I question whether the procedures are adequate. 1 question whether sufficient visits are made and sufficient investigation is made into the practices which have been called into question during this debate by honourable members on both sides of the House. A subsidy squad could act in a special way. Such a squad could apply itself to tha questions that have been raised today. I am sure that the Minister will say: ‘This is our intention. We will do our best to ensure that it is carried out.’ The questions that have been raised are serious enough in my opinion to warrant further investigation. Certainly in relation to the wine excise which was pocketed by the middle man the formation of a subsidy squad would have been a good measure, because there is nothing like a salutary visit by 1 or 2 officers saying: ‘The Parliament of the Commonwealth made a decision. Did you abide by it?’ There would have been some very interesting answers by the cellarmasters to that question. So I put forward the proposal that a subsidy squad be formed to keep honest the people involved in handling the money voted by the Parliament in measures such as this. Let us ensure that the $300m which goes to the rural sector reaches the people for whom it is intended by this Parliament.
– As the Leader of the House the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) has been occupied with other duties he has asked me to sit in on behalf of him and his Department to give certain assurances that can be given at once.
As most speakers have said, this is a noncontentious matter. The Bill simply extends the subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers at the existing level of $80 per ton until 31st December 1974, and it changes the basis on which certain imported fertilisers become eligible for a subsidy. It is around this that several honourable members have asked questions. Firstly, I will refer to some of the remarks made by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). We are pleased to hear that he considers that the various attributes of imported fertilisers compared with those of the local products are exhaustively examined by the Department of Customs and Excise and by the Department of Primary Industry. This of course only describes what is true. It is good to see that on both sides of the House this has been recognised.
As the honourable member said, this Bill will help to ensure that the opportunities to import fertilisers which prove to be more advantageous in particular areas which were mentioned are available to independent distributors. The honourable member may be assured that the Department will continue to exercise very close oversight over prices actually being charged to farmers.
The right honourable member for Fisher (Sir Charles Adermann) may be assured that the subsidy is indeed paid to the producer. The House will recall that he wanted an assurance that the same sort of conditions will pertain as applied when he was a Minister and when he took every precaution to ensure that subsidies of this kind went to the producer. The situation is that this subsidy is not paid unless the Minister is completely satisfied that the selling price to the end user - the farmer - is such as to pass on to him the full benefit of the subsidy. No matter how many middle men there may be or how many hands it may pass through in the process, the principle still applies.
The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) made some observations about there being 2 chemically identical fertilisers. I was not sure whether he meant chemically similar in terms of the end product of say available nitrogen or whether he was referring to physically different properties relating to chemically identical substances. Nevertheless, the Department of Customs and Excise and the Department of Primary
Industry are always ready to examine the practical results of such substances in field trials, to analyse the experience of growers and so on. The aim is to decide whether these fertilisers are or are not sufficiently alike to be treated as identical, that is regardless of whether they are from overseas or locally produced, whether they are to be treated as like substances for tariff or customs purposes, and therefore whether they are directly competitive. I would add also that the advice of the State departments of agriculture and scientific bodies, such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is sought, particularly when there is any doubt or difficulty in arriving at a decision.
When the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) spoke it was apparent, as is quite frequent when he makes his statements, that again a number of his points were not substantiated. They did not have a great deal to do, so far as I could see, with the issues in the Bill which is before the House. I must take specific exception, however, to the allegation that the officers of the Department of Customs and Excise are not doing their jobs properly, which I think was implicit in one of the statements the honourable member made. The Department has at least 8 fully qualified accountants who check producers’ costings thoroughly. The suggestion made by the honourable member for Riverina that somehow or other a lot goes astray on the way is not at all appreciated. In conclusion, I would like to return to the assertion that it is the intention of the Minister, the Department and his officers, when sums of money are made available by way of subsidy, to take every precaution to ensure that the money does not pass into the hands of middle men but that, in fact, it gets to the farmers who are intended to be the recipients of the subsidy. Those were the conclusions and the suggestions that the Minister asked me to pass on to the House and I have done so with pleasure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
– This is ridiculous.
– I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise why it is ridiculous.
– Why are you discussing the Bill in Committee?
– We of the Opposition have the right to do so.
– This is another opportunity to talk and the honourable member likes to talk, even under boiling water.
– If you did your job properly you would be at this table throughout the entire debate and would not be relying on the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay) to read a statement prepared by your officers. You should be at the table answering questions that are raised. Your absence is a direct insult to the right honourable member for Fisher (Sir Charles Aderman) and a direct insult to members of the Opposition. Your job is to be at this table to answer questions. We intend now to ask you some questions about this subject. You are the responsible Minister but are we to ask you or the Minister for the Navy?
– I am here now and I will be pleased to answer your questions.
– Very well. One of the problems associated with this Bill relates to the importation of nitrogenous fertilisers which, in the opinion of the Government, on the advice of the Department, cannot be manufactured in Australia to give the same results. This point was brought out by the right honourable member for Fisher, the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby), other honourable members and myself.
– No-one has disputed it.
– We are leading up to this. One of the important qualifications is the undumped price. There has to be a relationship of the undumped price on world import parity price with the price of the Australian product or the equivalent product. One of the problems as we see it is this: How does the Government determine the undumped price? Let us take, for example, the imported calcium nitrogenous fertilisers or the ones I referred to earlier as the Sincat fertilisers. How is the un dumped price of those determined? I appreciate that there may be technical problems associated with this matter and the Minister may prefer to give a reasoned answer rather than give one here now. However, as I see it, there are very difficult problems with respect to, for example, urea from Japan. How do you determine the undumped price? The undumped price really is one of the key things in the operation of this Act.
I raise a second point. It is all right to say that the Department has 8 qualified accountants looking at these kinds of things, but what elements does the Government accept in the cost of producing a particular manufactured product? What elements does it accept in the costing apparatus? As the right honourable member for Fisher mentioned, if the distributors engage in distribution advertising are those costs taken into account in determining the actual price? As the Minister for Customs and Excise knows, the greater the cost of production the less return there is for the grower. What protection does the grower have against inflated costs from the point of view of a manufacturer trying to sell his product? What protection does the grower have against distribution and production costs which rise as a result of the granting of higher wages, for example? Are these things passed on and taken in as a cost of production? Are there examples of the Department actually rejecting the cost formula in determining the final subsidy to be paid?
All of these factors are important but the 2 questions I want to ask the Minister relate, firstly, to the definition of a dumped price and, secondly, to the actual costing apparatus. I think it is fair to ask those questions because they are fundamental to this Bill. The Minister may not accept that we want to ask these questions in the Committee stage but we want to ask them because they are vital. They were asked by honourable members on both sides of the House. We do not want just assurances; we want to know how these items are computed.
– I return to the questions which I posed earlier and which the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay), I thought, attempted to torpedo with some unlettered ignorance. In fact, the major point at issue here is that under the formula which the Government puts forward it is likely that the price of fertiliser will increase. The questions posed by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and the questions posed by the right honourable member for Fisher (Sir Charles Adermann) seem to me to be worthy of some further attention. They have been reposed. The essential point is that the intention of the Parliament is to keep the price of fertiliser stable and at the present level. The indications are that the price will increase. What is the formula of computation involved here? There was no suggestion that the officers of the Department of Customs and Excise were not doing their job. I think the withdrawal from the battle scene of the Minister for the Navy is very timely, and we can get back to the matters that are properly before the Committee. The right honourable member for Fisher was the Minister for Primary Industry for a very long time.
– A very good one.
– He discharged his functions with distinction. He was charged with the protection and the advancement of Australia’s agriculture. He posed some very serious questions and he has every right to do so. The questions which he posed were the ones on which I hinged my argument that we be absolutely sure that there is no loss, no leak, of the money along the way. There was no suggestion that there were any improprieties in the Department; the suggestion was that perhaps that the follow up in the field was inadequate. That is a perfectly reasonable point of view, and I put forward also the wine excise as an example of this sort of thing. It is not directly related to the Bill but it is a topic which comes under the same portfolio. So I think it is a fair submission to put to the Committee that these questions should be answered by the Minister in the manner and in the spirit in which they were put forward. I come back to the fact that it is very likely that the price of fertiliser will rise. Is this rise due to costs which we can bring under the scrutiny of this Committee with a view to having them contained? These are the technical questions before us and I hope that they can be dealt with.
– Perhaps I reacted a little too strongly to my friend the honour able member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). I would have thought that this was a fairly simple Bill. The questions which the honourable member asks are simple questions. Because of the depth of experience and knowledge that both he and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) have, I believe they know the answers to the questions they posed. Just before the honourable member for Dawson spoke, I was engaged in discussions with members of his own Party as to how to facilitate the rising of this House. To take a relatively insignificant Bill into Committee just to ask those questions to which the honourable member for Dawson already knows the answers, I thought, was a facetious gesture. However, I will treat his questions seriously. May I thank my colleagues and friend the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay) for filling the breach temporarily to reply to the second reading debate. As the honourable gentlemen opposite know, I am also Leader of the House and, as will be evident later, certain events needed my attention and I could not be at the table to deal with this Bill, for which I apologise to the House.
The answer to specific questions asked by the honourable member for Dawson is that the undumped price is determined by experienced officers of my Department after making inquiries in the country of export - for example, Japan - as to what is the current domestic value, which is known as CDV, of the particular product or what is the normal price paid by a person in the normal course of retail trading. I would concede that these are explicit English words which are capable of interpretations according to subjective judgments. The cost of production means basically the factory cost plus selling expenses and an acceptable margin of profit. Finally, the price of every nitrogenous fertiliser sold in Australia at the present time is lower than the equivalent notional undumped price of imports. This surely brings out the point that the Australian farmers receive the full benefit of the subsidy. I will study the questions asked by the honourable member for Dawson because, although I think I have given an answer to his general points, he went more deeply into the matter by referring to advertising expenses and so on. If there is anything I can usefully add to the answer I have given to him in Committee I will be delighted to do so.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Chipp) - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28 September (vide page 2148), on motion by Mr Chipp:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Bill before the House has the effect of putting into law fairly exactly the result of the Tariff Board’s report on metal working machine tools and accessories, which is dated 14th April 1972. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) told us that the terms of reference of the Tariff Board required it to have regard to the Government’s objective that at least a nucleus of a machine tools industry be maintained in Australia without encouraging the industry to expand beyond the range within which it was then operating. The Board recommended that in addition to tariff assistance certain power fed machine tools should receive assistance by way of bounty and that certain special purpose machines subject to minimum rates of bounty should receive bounty assistance. The majority of the remaining machines under reference which were subject to protective duty should continue to receive tariff assistance.
The level of bounty assistance specified in the Bill is 33J per cent of the factory cost. This is a change from what had been the form of the subsidy when it was a percentage of selling price. What is involved in what the Government has sought to do and what the Tariff Board has sought to do is nothing less than the planning and the design, in a very close and technical sense, of a very complicated industry. It is little short of a fairly fantastic undertaking. It came as a result of something more than a reference to the Tariff Board to ascertain what might be considered to be not economic and efficient. On page 13 of its report, the Tariff Board tells us:
The Minister’s reference directs the Board to have regard to the Government’s objective that al least the nucleus of a machine tools industry should be maintained in Australia and to take into account its desire that, by reason of this objective alone, the machine tools industry should not bt encouraged to expand beyond the range within which it is now operating. Having regard to the evidence the Board considers that in order to meet the Government’s objective it is necessary to maintain the local manufacture of those kinds of machines the production of which would retain a cadre of specialist design and manufacturing skills and specialist plant.
The Tariff Board report continued:
Whilst it is not intended that the industry be encouraged to expand beyond its present range by assistance above levels consistent with economic and efficient production, the Board considers it essential to the retention of a satisfactory nucleus in the long term that the machine tools produced locally be subject to continuing updating of design to meet market requirements; an’d that manufacturers adopt the most modern plant and methods of manufacture. This implies heavy demands on manufacture, design and development resources as well as on their manufacturing skills.
Those brief extracts are all we have been told. The general conclusions of the Board extend over 6 pages from pages 12 to 17 of the report, but most of those remaining pages tell us nothing much more about what may be involved in this matter. The assumption that one can maintain a nucleus in this industry whilst the industry is not expanding is in itself, I think, a very tenuous one. But the point 1 do make is that between the Government and the Board what is being tackled here is nothing less than the planning and the designing of this very technical industry. Frankly, I do not believe that either the Government or the Board is equipped at present to do this. I think we are approaching the problem from the wrong end. We are approaching it with a Board that is required to tell us what is not economic and what is not efficient. I think we should be approaching from the end of requiring somebody to tell us what is economic and what is efficient. I think, with due respect to everybody, it involves a much bigger task than can possibly be discharged by the Board as it is at present. I think it is just not technically equipped to answer the questions which it answered, as I read, at page 13 of this report.
It seems to me that it is time we realised that the approach of the past is not good enough for the future. I think we have to start from the right end. I think we have to develop in some way an industry planning department, a department capable of designing industry, a department capable of knowing what industry is and of saying what industry should be if it is going to achieve certain objectives of policy. Let us not pretend for a moment that the free enterprise Government that we have had for a number of years does not have objectives and does not have in mind what it wants to have in the field of industry. In this case it wants to have the nucleus of a machine tools industry. Nobody has really said what a nucleus is. One can search through the report to which I have just referred without getting any real indication of what a nucleus is - how many units, how many employees, how many factories and where they might be located. There is literally no instruction like that in the report. I would suggest that nowhere is there to be found a model of a nucleus of the industry m question.
What we must have in this country, sooner or later, is a planning department that is able to provide a model of what an industry should be to meet the particular objective that is in Government policy. There is always an objective, whether it is merely an objective that is not specifically stated in a written reference to the Board that the industry should be economic and efficient or whether it is a specific reference like the one that was there in this case, to establish a nucleus of a machine tools industry. I should imagine that the Tariff Board would be equipped to examine critically and assess what develops from the other side. Until we have a planning department that is concerned with the design of industry to achieve a particular purpose and a Tariff Board that is adequately equipped with technical staff which is able to say ‘We think this is unsound, we think the proposal you have is uneconomic and inefficient’; and is able to say ‘If you do not have wider objectives than that, as you should have to meet the sociological factors involved in a particular situation’ - such as the one in Benalla with Renold Australia Pty Ltd - ‘to meet the broader objective of the quality of life of people in a certain area and in a certain industry, we belle, e that what you are proposing to do is unsound’.
I think there is a great necessity for this critical and analytical role to be carried out by the Tariff Board and its staff, but I stress that there is a greater necessity to establish in a proper way the other side of the equation, which is at present in the Government, that is, in the section of the Department of Trade and Industry which deals with secondary industry. What happens in the Department with respet to the submissions of industry is not known to the public. Very largely they are treated on a confidential basis. What industry says in its letters and its deputations to the Government, its letters to the Department of Trade and Industry or its frequent visits to Canberra to see officials in the Department of Trade and Industry is confidential. It is known to nobody. What the Department says to industry is confidential and is known to nobody. What industry says to the Minister for Trade and Industry is confidential and is known to nobody. What the Department says to the Minister is confidential and is known to nobody. This is a field of public importance and of public interest.
It seems to me, on this side of the equation, that the representations, pressures and interests of business concerns to maintain themselves or to advance are representations, pressures and interests which should be known publicly and should be able to be debated publicly. When we have the problem of seeking to maintain an industry in a place like Benalla or Gundagai, or in the electorate of Wakefield, the people concerned have every right to submit every conceivable argument they can in their own interest, and members of the public as represented here in Parliament and elsewhere have every right to examine every one of these submissions critically if they want to. We are not in a position now to do that. We are quite unable in this Parliament to assess the value of that material. We are quite unable to come to any conclusion about what is the nucleus of a machine tools industry. This can be a matter of very great importance. We are quite unable to say whether what the Tariff Board has done in this respect is even likely to achieve the nucleus of a machine tools industry.
I have said on many occasions that we are working in the dark. We are trying to achieve something when we are quite ill-equipped to achieve it. I can do nothing on behalf of the Opposition but say that we will accept this recommendation. I hope it will work out all right. I have no reason to believe from what can be discovered in any of the documents that we have been given or from any of the inquiries I have made in the machine tools industry, and I have made quite a few, that I can form a judgment on whether what is being proposed here is likely to be successful, whether it will be enough, whether the nucleus will be maintained, whether what is proposed might be too much or whether profits and other returns in the industry might be too small or excessive. I have no idea. So far as we on this side of the House are concerned the outcome of this legislation is a matter of chance and in 1972 that is a situation which should no longer be tolerable. I have on other occasions submitted a general plan of the kind of reform which I believe is long overdue - 25 years overdue - in the planning and development of secondary industry in Australia and until we have made progress in trying out the kind of reforms 1 have suggested we will still be dealing with matters like this, as we are on this occasion, by pure chance.
– In reply - I will be pleased to bring the comments and criticisms of the Tariff Board report made by the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) to the attention of my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony). The honourable member for Lalor has made these criticisms before. He has pointed out what to his mind is a lack of information in the Tariff Board reports and I believe he has done so with logic and reasoning. The only point of philosophy in which I want to engage my colleague is where he talked about planning and here he gets to the root of the difference between our 2 parties.
– My word.
– The honourable gentleman acknowledges that. He was gracious enough to begin his speech by saying that through this Bill the Government was engaged in planning. I concede that. He then went on to say that this planning did not go far enough, and that is the crux of his argument. He then said that there is no mention in the report of what is a nucleus of an industry. That is true. This is a difficult question to approach. The socialist, because he is dedicated to the dogma of planning to the finite degree, would be prepared to put down in the report and accept as dogma what a nucleus would be, whether it would be 11 or 12 firms with a capacity of such and such and employing a certain number of people. This is a respectable view in theory but we on this side of the House reject it.
The shortcomings of this theory can be illustrated with several examples of socialist planning in various parts of the world, not the least of which is one I have cited many times in this House of a committee appointed by a socialist government in the United Kingdom some years ago to inquire into the fuel industries. The honourable member for Lalor will recall this. The socialist government, theoretically perfect, decided that the way to organise the economy was to get a committee of experts which would determine how much oil would be required 10 years hence, how much electricity would be required 10 years hence and how much coal, coke and other fuels would be required 10 years hence. Then the socialist government thought: ‘If we can get this expert target of what will be required we will know where we are. We can then plan for so many electricity generating stations to be constructed and decide how many oil refineries are to be built. Then we will have orderly planning and the orderly allocation of resources and so on’. This is beautiful in theory but I would have thought that history has already recorded how in almost every one of the items in that report that committee, which consisted of the greatest experts Britain could muster at that stage, was palpably wrong, even to the extent of 212 per cent in respect of oil, as I remember. Therefore, while I sympathise with the honourable gentleman’s desire to have spelt out what is a nucleus and what is detailed planning, we on this side of the House believe that in real life terms this is palpably impossible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwih
Motion (by Mr Chipp) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I rise just to say what I think ought to be said at the third reading stage. I have said that the Bill is not able to reflect in its general title and purpose what ought to be done at this time. My comments related to remarks that the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) made in his second reading speech. The purpose of this Bill is to ensure that a nucleus of a machine tools industry will remain in Australia. I have said that if the Bill achieves this purpose it will be by chance and that we have no specific reason to believe that there is any expectation of a more realistic nature than that. Id fact, somewhere in this industry in Australia the plans that the Minister for Customs and Excise just said cannot be made, and he quoted the English case after the war as a reason why the plans cannot be made, are being made. They are being made by people in the industry and they are extrapolating demand and supply expectations for the next 5 years and possibly longer. This is being done.
What I am trying to point out to the Minister, his Department and advisers is that they are not prepared to share in that planning. They are not even prepared to try to find out what it is because they have a pre-supposition, which is not a socialist one, that they should have nothing to do with industry and should leave it alone; that they should give it a bounty and leave it alone. This is not common sense; also it is not public responsibility. I would like to make it clear to the Minister and to everyone else who is interested that when I talk about planning the development of industry I am not talking about the making of plans in the Department of Trade and Industry or the Tariff Board so that they may be in some way imposed upon industry. I am talking about an approach which will ascertain the plans of the industry and which will be associated with giving effect to those plans. In effect, industry will bo asked what it wants to do. It can be told: In conjunction with you we think this will be successful’, or ‘We think it will not be successful. We suggest to you that if you do this you will obtain a better result than if you do that.’ When I talk about planning I mean participation by the people involved. I am not suggesting learning anything from the experience of Great Britain after World War II, from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Poland, Yugoslavia, or any other country. The only way to develop industry in Australia more effectively and sensibly is under Australian conditions. Our conditions, experience in history, assumptions and pre. delections are so different that we can learn almost nothing from another country. But it is time that we learned something here.
I say in conclusion, because I am necessarily very limited at this point, that when I talk about planning the nucleus of an industry, I am talking about what is happening in Australia tonight in relaton to the 16 or 17 firms that are covered by this Bill. They are trying to plan the nucleus and we are not helping them. We are simply doing something in providing this tariff and this bounty which will have a chance effect on the result.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28 September (vide page 2149), on motion by Mr Chipp:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I seek the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure in relation to this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill, I would like to suggest that it might suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the Excise Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1972, and the Excise Tariff Validation Bill 1972 as they are associated measures. Of course, separate questions can be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. Therefore I suggest, Mr Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
– Is it the wish of the House to have a cognate debate covering the 2 Bills? There being no objection, leave is granted for that course to be followed.
– I have very little to say on these Bills. The Excise Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1972 relates to amendments that give effect to the 50 per cent reduction in the rate of duty on wine produced from fresh grapes. It also contains amendments which will permit the delivery free of excise of tobacco, cigars, cigarettes and snuff for use in approved medical or other scientific research programmes. The second point is a matter of interest. I wonder just what quantity of tobacco, cigars, cigarettes and snuff are used for approved medical or other scientific medical research programmes in Australia. I know a few professors who use snuff. I sometimes wonder whether they are undertaking research or simply doing it for reasons of pleasure. If the Minister can give us any information about this I should like to have it.
The other matter concerning wine is of greater significance. We all know that, rather unwisely from a political point of view, some time ago the Government increased the rate of duty on wine made from grapes. As a result of a considerable amount of effective activity, it decided to take some backward steps and so a reduction of 50 per cent was made in the duty on wine. The other Bill, the Excise Tariff Validation Bill 1972, provides for the validation up to and including 15th August 1972 of duties collected on wine at the reduced rate as a result of tariff proposal No. 1 tabled on 25th May 1972. I have nothing more to say on the Bills. The Opposition does not oppose them.
Mr CHIPP (Hotham- -Minister for Customs and Excise) - in reply - I acknowledge the question of the honourable member for Lalor. I cannot tell him how much snuff, tobacco, etc., is used by professors. I would have thought, because of the circles in which he moves, he would be better informed on that than I. However, I have a figure at the top of my head in relation to how much excise it will cost the Com monwealth for this. I will not give it now because I am not sure of it. I will let him know personally or inform the House in due course.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Chipp) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 28 September (vide page 2149), on motion by Mr Chipp:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Chipp) read a third time.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Holten, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Consistent with the Government’s policy of removing legislation which discriminates against the native peoples of Australia, the Bill now before the House is one of two designed to remove the few remaining limitations between the war compensation benefits for which Torres Strait Islanders and certain mainland Aboriginals are eligible and the war compensation benefits for which other Australian ex-servicemen are eligible. At the present time, Torres Strait Islanders and mainland Aboriginals who served in the Torres Strait Light Infantry Forces during World War II are eligible for benefits under the Native Members of the Forces
Benefits Act. Although it provides wideranging benefits, this Act does not extend to its beneficiaries the advantages of appeal rights to either War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals or War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunals, or the payment of war pension in respect of non-war related pulmonary tuberculosis. The Government has over the years consistently lifted the levels of pensions and extended the benefits available to these former members of the Services. Originally, they were entitled to a limited range of pensions and allowances al lower rates than those payable to other ex-servicemen under repatriation legislation.
However, in a conscious endeavour to improve the status of these ex-servicemen, this Government and preceding Governments have lifted pension benefits to the point where al present the same war pensions and allowances, payable at the same maximum rates, are available to Torres Strait Islands members and mainland Aboriginals under the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Act as are available to other former members of the forces under repatriation legislation. In addition, service pension eligibility was extended to them some few years ago. This Bill and an ensuing Bill which I shall be bringing before the House in a few moments are the last steps in the move towards full equality for these ex-servicemen.
As I mentioned, this Bill is one of 2 measures. The other measure, the Repatriation (Torres Strait Islanders) Bill 1972, which I shall also be introducing into the House, will bring them completely under the Repatriation Act, with no disadvantage whatsoever. In fact, they will enjoy some advantage in that problems which their geographic location might hold will be recognised and any advantage they currently have will be preserved.
Mr Speaker, before I conclude 1 should like to acknowledge that I have received representations on these matters from both sides of the House, including representations from the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) and the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett). Other honourable members have made representations, but the honourable members for Leichhardt and Herbert have been most active in their interest in this matter. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr J. F. Cairns) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Holten, and read a ‘first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is a natural flow-on from the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Bill 1972. It preserves the rights of ex-servicemen, formerly members of the Torres Strait Light Infantry Forces, who will now be brought under the provisions of the Repatriation Act. Although the proposals will bring no direct financial improvement to pensions and other benefits payable to these ex-servicemen, because their pensions and allowances are already payable at rates equal to those under the Repatriation Act, it Will allow them access to the Repatriation Appeal Tribunals. Previously, their right of appeal under the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Act terminated at the Repatriation Commission. It will extend to them the benefits of subsection (3.) of section 37 of the Repatriation Act in respect of pulmonary tuberculosis, a benefit not available under the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Act.
The Bill now before the House preserves the existing pension and treatment entitlements of these ex-servicemen and also protects claims which might at present be undetermined in respect of entitlements under the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Act. The Bill treats these claims in such a way as to enable the full benefit of the repatriation determination system to apply to them, right up to an appeal to a tribunal, without the claim having to be initiated afresh under the Repatriation Act. The Repatriation Act is amended to preserve, in respect of these ex-servicemen, recognition of the long-standing social customs and local practices such as that of island adoptions’ which are recognised in the broader definition of ‘dependant’ in the regulations under the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Bill. The Bill amends section 99 of the Repatriation Act to retain this broader definition in respect of these ex-servicemen.
Special provision is made in respect of the Torres Strait Islands for extended time limits for appeals to determining authorities. The accepted times within which an appeal may be lodged in order to give a successful appellant the most advantageous result is 3 months. However, because of the geographic location of the Torres Strait Islands, their remoteness, and the limitations of sea transportation between the islands, this time limit has been extended to 6 months for persons resident in the Torres Strait Islands, so that no member will be disadvantaged in respect of the exercise of his rights of appeal. The Bill also contains a declaratory clause designed to remove any doubt as to the future application to Torres Strait Islands members of Commonwealth laws providing assistance to ex-servicemen. To date, section 4 of the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Act 1957-1968 has limited the benefits, advantages, and assistance available to these ex-servicemen to those provided under the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Act itself and under the War Gratuity Act. Clause 5 of this Bill provides that the laws of the Commonwealth providing for benefits, advantages and assistance in respect of members of the defence forces who served during the war shall in the future apply, according to their tenor, in relation to Torres Strait Islands members.
In relation to other Commonwealth legislation the major change arising from this provision concerns entitlement to war service homes benefits. The amendments proposed by this Bill, will enable applications by these ex-servicemen for assistance under the war service homes scheme to be considered under the existing provisions of the War Service Homes Act. Applicants must, of course, have the appropriate qualifying war service and must satisfy the requirements which apply to all applicants for assistance under the War Service Homes Act. Although this legislation applies to a relatively small number of persons, Mr Speaker, as approximately 760 Torres Strait Islanders and 40 mainland Aborigi nals served during World War II in the Torres Strait Light Infantry Forces, it is nevertheless important as another move in the Federal Government’s avowed intention to remove the last remnants of racial discrimination from the statute books. It is important to the persons who will benefit therefrom and who will henceforth enjoy the same rights under the same legislation as all Australians who were members of the defence forces.
I should like to assure the House that officers of the Repatriation Department will take steps to ensure that the measures will be given publicity in the areas where these former ex-servicemen live, so that all those eligible are aware of ellis important change. In commending the Bill to the House I should like once again, as I did at the end of the last Bill I introduced, to acknowledge the interest of and assistance from various members of the Parliament, in particular the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) and the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett).
Leave granted for debate to continue forthwith.
– I welcome the provisions of this Bill introduced by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten). But I wish to raise one matter in relation to the Bill concerning war service homes. I ask the Minister for Housing (Mr Kevin Cairns) who administers the War Service Homes Division to look at the situation of the Torres Strait Islanders who live on the islands off the Queensland coast. At the present time they are not able to build war service homes to the standard demanded on the mainland for the simple reasons that the cost of erecting these homes is beyond their capacity to meet and that, if one of these homes was built and forfeited, no islander could afford to buy it. These reasons prevent islanders from building homes to the standards of the War Service Homes Division.
I think that the Minister should look at the housing standards set in Queensland by the State Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs under which a home can be built for between $1,000 and $1,200. These homes are built for the islanders from their own timbers and are quite substantial. This is the standard of home that these people can afford on the islands. This is the standard of home which they all can look after, and they do. These people are very house proud. But there is no way in the world that they could afford to build homes to the standard set by the War Service Homes Division which at the present time could cost between $15,000 or $17,000. They could not afford to pay this directly or to repay it. I mink that this is one aspect of the matter on which the Minister for Repatriation should consult with the Minister for Housing to see whether the standard required by the War Service Homes Division can be adjusted so that these people might enjoy the benefits provided by that Division in respect of war service housing.
– I will be very brief. I wish to commend the Government on its move in introducing this legislation. I, together with other honourable members, have been very worried about this anomaly which does exist in the present legislation. I acknowledge that this concern has been shared by the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton), the Minister for Housing (Mr Kevin Cairns) and other honourable members. Many Torres Strait Islanders are Australian residents. They are taking their rightful place among us in our society. I could never understand why Torres Strait Islanders shoud be denied the rights of other exservicemen in respect of war service homes. 1 am particularly pleased about the proposal for war service homes grant. This is one area with which I have been closely associated. It has been my pleasure to be here tonight to hear this measure introduced by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten). I am pleased to be associated with the legislation that has been presented. I commend the Minister for his efforts. I know that he has been trying to introduce these provisions for a long time. I pay tribute to the officers of the Repatriation Department who have also recognised this anomaly and have worked hard to have it adjusted.
Debate (on motion by Mr Barnard) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Wentworth, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is the fourth measure that I have been privileged to introduce during the current session of Parliament as part of the Government’s far-reaching programme for the purpose of improving the health and welfare of aged people. The 3 previous Bills that I have already introduced, and which have been approved by the House comprise, first, the Social Services Bill, under which pension rates have been substantially increased, the rate of supplementary assistance has been doubled, the significant liberalisation has been introduced into the means test; secondly, the Aged Persons Homes Bill, under which the rate of personal care subsidy has been doubled; and, thirdly, the Aged Persons Hostels Bill, under which a 3-year crash programme has been established with the objective of cleaning up the waiting lists of people without asset backing who seek hosteltype accommodation in non-profit aged persons homes. In addition, the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) is introducing 3 new measures: Firstly, to give additional assistance to chronically ill aged patients in nursing homes; secondly, to increase the Commonwealth subsidy paid to organisations providing home nursing services; and, thirdly, a new domiciliary care benefit to encourage families and relatives to accept responsibility in their homes for the provision of professional nursing care and supporting services required by an aged infirm person, in order to reduce the demand for nursing home treatment. At the same time, the Minister for Health and myself are commencing discussions with the States for the purpose of working out with them a co-operative scheme for improving throughout the community the services which are available to the sick and the elderly who still live in their own homes.
The purpose of the Bill I now place before the House is to increase the assistance given by the Commonwealth to what are generally known as Meals on Wheels services. These organisations, honourable members will no doubt agree, play an important role in looking after the health and welfare of aged or invalid people in their own homes, not only by ensuring that they obtain adequate meals for a nominal charge, but also by providing a necessary contact between people who may be frail and lonely and supportive services such as home nursing, paramedical, housekeeping, emergency transport, shopping, gardening, hairdressing, chiropody, library and general counselling. Meals on Wheels organisations were established originally without Commonwealth aid by voluntary organisations whose members saw the potential good which they could do in the community, and the system is a most excellent example of personal initiative, purposefully applied for a charitable object. The Delivered Meals Subsidy Act, which was introduced in 1970, assists the establishment, expansion, improvement and maintenance of these Meals on Wheels services by providing a subsidy on the basis of 10c for every meal delivered to aged or invalid people by an eligible organisation during the previous calendar year. Currently some 4 million meals are being supplied annually entailing expenditure from the Commonwealth Budget of $400,000 at the existing rate of 10c per meal. While no exact figures are available, it is thought that an expansion of 6 million meals a year would adequatey meet Australian needs, and I am hopeful that this target will be reached within the next 3 years. May I express my thanks to such bodies as the Council on the Ageing, which have assisted my Department in reviewing the Meals on Wheels services available throughout Australia, with the objective of pin-pointing those areas which do not as yet receive a service which we would regard as fully adequate.
There has been a highly satisfactory response to the Commonwealth’s initial subsidy scheme. Since its inception, nearly 100 new meals-on-wheels services have been commenced and it would appear that a reasonably adequate coverage is provided throughout the metropolitan areas and in most of the provincial cities. It is known, as I have said, that there are still some gaps in the services and that some organisations are unable to provide what they would regard as an adequate service, either in respect of the number of needy people supplied with meals or the number of days per week on which meals are delivered. This is due partly to the difficulties experienced in obtaining and retaining the ser vices of sufficient voluntary workers, particularly those with cars. I know of tha efforts which are being made to meet these needs, and the Government wants to help those who are doing so much on their own account. Another limiting factor has been the difficulty that some organisations find in obtaining a reliable and economic source of meals, with the potential to meet demand for meals by more people. In this regard I would like to pay tribute to the major contribution being made by hospital kitchens. With the increase in senior citizen centres and centres of that character, their kitchens also become available for meals on wheels services. In a large number of cases they have been providing adequate and wholesome meals for as little as 25c.
Due to rising costs, however, many of these sources of meals have found it necessary to increase their charges, and this has made it difficult for some meals on wheels organisations to maintain their charges to recipients at a reasonable level. The legislation now before the House will help to meet this situation by increasing the subsidy per meal from 10c to 15c. The next annual payment of subsidy will fall due in January 1973 and will cover meals served during the calendar year ending on 31st December 1972. The Bill provides that payment at the increased rate will commence in January 1973 and apply to all eligible meals served since 1st January 1972.
The Bill also provides for an additional subsidy of 5c per meal, making a total subsidy of 20c, to organisations which undertake to include with each meal approved types and quantities of fresh fruit or fruit juice or a fresh tomato. The extra subsidy will apply from a date approved by the Director-General, which of course will not be earlier than the date of royal assent to this Bill. The purpose of this provision is to counteract a possible shortage of ascorbic acid, also known as vitamin C, to recipients of meals on wheels. Ascorbic acid is relatively stable in dry form, but it deteriorates rapidly when it is moist and particularly when it is moist and warm. Quantity-food preparation is known to destroy a large percentage of the vitamin C content of food and when such meals are also overheated in order to be delivered hot by meals on wheels services and are kept in containers during transport they are particularly susceptible to loss of vitamin C. Observations based largely on the measurement of ascorbic acid in their blood plasma indicate that many elderly people suffer from a deficiency of vitamin C which is sufficient to depress their general state of health. In some extreme cases old people have been reported to be below the accepted scurvy level of 0.01 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 millilitres of blood plasma. In this regard I make special mention of the help that has been given by Dr Woodhill and Dr Nobile in making these observations and in suggesting this course of action. The most practical way of counteracting this deficiency in recipients of meals on wheels is considered to be by ensuring that they receive an adequate ration of fresh fruit or fruit juice with a sufficiently high vitamin C content.
As a random example of what might provide an adequate ration of vitamin C, it has been estimated that elderly people dependent on bulk-cooked food should be provided with 12 ounces of orange juice or suitable substitute each week. Cost and seasonal factors will, of course, influence the availability of some types of fresh fruit. Because of this my Department will consult with an expert in nutrition and dietetics in order to compile a schedule of the different types of fruit and fruit juice which provide an adequate level of vitamin C, indicating the necessary intake of each type of fruit and fruit juice. Australia is fortunate in having available from its own resources the citrus fruit and other products which are the best natural sources of ascorbic acid. I mention citrus fruit but tomato and the tropical fruits mango, pineapple and paw paw are other sources. That is not necessarily an exhaustive list. This additional fresh fruit subsidy will be made available to all organisations conducting approved delivered meals services. It will be kept in mind that a type of fruit or fruit juice which appeals to one person may not appeal to another and that it would therefore be desirable for the organisations to be able to offer a reasonable choice to recipients. One point about meals on wheels is that not only should they be nutritious and health-giving but also people should enjoy them. I think the House would agree with this.
Perhaps I should mention that medical opinion is unanimous in stating that no ill- effects can result from an overdose of vitamin C and the view is widely held that the raising of ascorbic acid levels can be generally beneficial.
Our vitamin C programme will be kept under constant review in co-operation with the Commonwealth Department of Health. If it appears desirable to take other measures in addition to those proposed in this Bill we will act on the experience we gain through the operation of our present proposal. It is estimated that the cost of increasing the delivered meals subsidy from 10c to 15c per meal will be $200,000 in 1972-73, with cumulative increases in subsequent years as services are expanded and extended. If all organisations currently approved for subsidy agree to deliver fruit or fruit juice the additional cost will be a further $200,000 in a full year; approximately $40,000 in 1972-73.
Total expenditure under the Delivered Meals Subsidy Act for 1972-73 is therefore expected to be $640,000 rising to upward of $800,000 in the full year 1973-74. In terms of today’s social welfare expenditure this is not a major item, but the importance of adequate nutrition to elderly people living alone cannot be overstated. As I told the House when introducing the Aged Persons Homes Bill recently, one of the most important aspects of this year’s comprehensive programme to improve the health and welfare of aged people is to encourage and assist people who might otherwise be admitted prematurely or unnecessarily to nursing homes or other similar institutions to remain in their domestic environment for as long as possible. This Bill makes a significant contribution towards that objective.
May I finally - and in this I would hope I can speak for all members of the House - express gratitude to the organisations and splendid bands of volunteers who have initiated and maintained the meals on wheels services throughout Australia. Without their efforts and dedication, it would have been impossible to have achieved what we now see in operation. This is an excellent example of private initiative, being helped and accelerated by Commonwealth assistance - a pattern which, I believe, should be encouraged in many aspects of Social Service, where the personal touch is needed and where personal involvement pays such big dividends. I commend the Bui to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 28 September (vide page 2155), on motion by Mr Garland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Speaker, this Bill is the annual measure dealing with the assignments made by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. As stated in the second reading speech of the Minister for Supply and Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr Garland), the main purpose of the Bill is to authorise the payment in 1972-73 of special grants of $1Om to Queensland, $21m to South Australia and $7.6m to Tasmania. They are the 3 States which are claiming in terms of that rather wide section of the Constitution - section 96. I might refer briefly to the measure that was just introduced. When one hears the Commonwealth trying to take credit because it proposes to make an aggregate grant of $600,000 to the States for meals on wheels and contrasts it with the aggregate States’ revenue of $ 1,000m, one begins to see the kind of fine hair splitting to which CommonwealthState relationships are being subjected.
If one also refers to what we have described quite frequently as the poor relation in the system, local governments, one can see the kind of ineptitude with which we are approaching in Australia the allocating of finance and functions. Surely nothing could be more grotesque than to see, a few weeks before an election, the introduction of the sort of measure that has just been brought into the House. In terms of the aggregate wealth of the Commonwealth of approximately $36,000m, why should the Government be trying to take credit to itself because it proposes to increase the subsidy on a meal from 10c to 15c? One always reads with interest the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Of course, the great State of
Queensland has become one of the claimant States.
– It is doing very well, too.
– It is doing very well despite the Government it has. I suppose that nothing can be more piffling, in the sense of the difficulties confronting the Commonwealth, than for honourable members opposite to try to get some justification out of the fact that unemployment, in terms of the total work force, is higher in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania than in the other States and to suggest that the reason for this is that those States have Labor governments and that there are non-Labor governments in the other States. If that is an indication and vindication of national policy, I suggest that honourable members opposite have a lot of thinking to do.
One of the interesting sections of the Grants Commission’s report this year is the section dealing with taxes on gambling, which begins on page 78. If anything shows the extremes to which the States have to resort and the kind of hair splitting that is being done by a body such as the Commonwealth Grants Commission, it is that contained in this section of the report in which the Commission tries to assess the relative abilities or disabilities of the States in regard to levying taxes on gambling. I want to quote one or two of the paragraphs in the report. Paragraph 4.64, referring to what Tasmania submitted, states:
It acknowledged that ticket sales relative to population are very much lower in Tasmania than in other States. . . .
Why should it be regarded as a virtue, or a vice, if you like, of relative raisings of revenue that one State sells more or less raffle tickets, which are illegal unless they are State sponsored, than another State? Paragraph 4.64 continues: . . but rejected any argument that this indicates some unused taxable capacity which the Tasmanian Government could exploit in other ways.
When one contrasts that kind of attitude with the virtue of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) who has just finished making a speech in which he said that the Commonwealth is giving, in aggregate, another $200,000 to the States for meals on wheels, one sees the kind of disparate state we have reached in Australia regarding revenue sharing. Paragraph 4.64 of the Commission’s report continues:
It argued that ‘such an approach would be inconsistent with the Commission’s methods of measuring relative severity of taxation in other fields’.
Paragraph 4.65 states:
The Commonwealth Treasury in its submission at the Canberra Hearings in April 1972 repeated its previous arguments to the effect that an unfavourable adjustment should be made for belowstandard effort by Tasmania in raising lottery revenue.
Gambling is a moral issue rather than a financial one, and to me it seems appalling that the Commonwealth Treasury should he trying to suggest that Tasmania should be prodding its people to engage in more gambling activity rather than less. There does not seem to be much consistency in this matter. I refer to further observations contained in paragraph 4.69 on page 80 of the Commission’s report. Dealing with South Australia the Commission stated: lt may be that South Australia’s relatively low turnover in both racing and lotteries is mainly due to differences in religious and cultural background of the population in the various States.
Presumably the Commission has a high sense of virtue about the people of South Australia but a rather low one about the people of Tasmania. I suggest that honourable members ought to study these observations. Further on, when dealing with poker machines which, I think, are the most vicious kind of instrument ever perpetrated in a democratic society but which, nevertheless, are the backbone of marginal revenue in the State of New South Wales, the Commission said - and this seems to me to be a rather curious kind of suggestion:
Such an extension could reach the point where the logical fundation of the Commission’s procedure, whereby it compares the revenue-raising ; capacity of the different States by reference to tax bases actually used by one or more of them rather than by means of a general index of their relative taxable capacity, could be put in question.
As I have said, on occasions I have had some admiration for the Grants Commission, but I think that in this report it has reached the point of hair splitting. It has considered moral issues rather than financial issues. I think that one of the most vicious aspects in the community is its reliance for the raising of revenue upon the predatory instincts of its members and that it is regarded as a virtue that various States have a general level of the amount of revenue they raise by indirect taxes, particularly taxes on gambling.
I draw the attention of the House to appendix E, table 4, which appears at page 150 of the Grants Commission’s report. It shows the sources from which all States raise revenue. Total State taxation and net lottery revenue for the year ended June 1971 was $93 6m. Slightly over onequarter - $258m - was taxation derived from the motor car. Probate and succession duties netted $150m. Stamp duties of various kinds - charges on cheques and on various financial transactions - netted $23 6m. Taxes on land netted $90m. Taxation on racing netted almost $60m. Entertainment tax netted almost nothing. Liquor licence fees, as distinct from the excise duties, netted $44m. Poker machines, which are confined to the one great State, the father State of the Commonwealth, netted $33,803,000. Statutory corporation payments netted $32m. Licences of various kinds netted $23m. This made up the total of State taxation, as distinct from Commonwealth grants, of $936m.
Tonight we had the trivia of the Government trying to take virtue to itself by adding $200,000 for the whole of Australia for the next 12 months commencing 1st January 1973 to increase, in affluent 1973, subsidies on delivered meals from 10c to 15c. Does not this indicate the kind of serious situation that we have reached in Australia in allocating finance and function? There is no doubt, when one examines the totality of taxation raising in Australia, that about $9,000m is collected by the Commonwealth. Another $ 1,000m is collected by whatever devices State Governments can find. From motor cars and the weaknesses of human beings almost $l,000m is collected at the State level and almost $400m is raised at the local government level by resort to taxes on property. There is hardly a State in Australia now - the details can be found in the Grants Commission’s report - including that great State, New South Wales, which has about 40 per cent of the total Australian population and which is forced to resort for part of its revenue to taxation on poker machines, that raises 50 per cent of its revenue. Tasmania is dependent upon grants from the Commonwealth for about threequarters of its revenue.
In many respects the Government has survived by judiciously handing out grants. I suppose the cheapest advantage that was ever gained by a Liberal Government - one which saved its skin in 1963 - was the grant to schools for science blocks, extended more recently to grants for libraries. Surely in 1972 a science block and a library are as essential to the functioning of a secondary school as is a lavatory. At least the Government has not yet resorted to the low device of handing out a lavatory grant, but it tries to take credit to itself by saying; ‘We will assist you with a science block’, or ‘we will assist you with a library grant’, or ‘we will assist meals on wheels to the extent of another $200,000’.
– Do not hold that against the Grants Commission.
– I think the Grants Commission is falling for the same kind of cheeseparing. Does the Minister believe that relative ability of States should be assessed by whether they resort to a greater or lesser extent for their resources upon gambling? The Minister is a high minded character who talks about abortion when it suits him and who talks about something else when lt suits him. But he would allow one of the lowest forms of depravity - gambling, the taking of something for nothing - and would applaud it through bodies such as the Grants Commission. I suggest that this is the level to which the allocation of resources in Australia has fallen. I am one who believes that ultimately the fairest way of raising taxes is according to the capacity of individuals to pay, not according to whether they are weak or strong in resisting individual temptations.
We hear a lot of talk about society. 1 suppose the word ‘permissive’ is the one that intrudes the most. The Government, through the Minister, when it suits him, will criticise what he calls permissiveness, but through a body such as the Grants Commission will suggest that Tasmania should force upon itself one way of revenue raising rather than another - a taxation on gambling. One of the things that appals me is the inability from time to time to find sites for schools in Victoria and the ability suddenly to find a convenient site for a TAB office. Usually it is near a hotel. When the legislation was introduced originally there was a suggestion that a TAB office should not be in proximity to a hotel. I suggest that those who introduced that legislation should look now where most of the TAB offices are in Victoria. This was done by a Liberal Government.
– By a State Government.
– By a Liberal State Government. When it suits the honourable member he will suggest that the level of unemployment is due to the political party in government but when it comes to gambling or anti-social devices he does not draw any distinction between whether they are Liberal or Labor governments. I suggest that in Australia we are reaching the stage at which the Government is using thumb screws to try to make the States with limited revenue conform to the pattern that it wants to force upon them from the top. Universities are a good example of this policy. For every $1 the Commonwealth provides, the States are expected to provide $1.85. It is much harder for the States to find marginal sums than it is for the Commonwealth. If ever there was a grotesque example of this type of approach, it is this measure which, again, is a pre-election measure that has been introduced into this Parliament tonight to obtain virtue from a sum of $200,000. Why can the Government not pay higher pensions to people so that they can provide their meals for themselves, rather than increase the subsidy on meals from 10c to 15c and then expect local authorities to pay the balance? The Government is returning to a soup kitchen type of era.
I suppose that one of the appalling things is that at long last in 1972 the Government has recognised that pockets of poverty exist in Australia. There is nothing more curious than that in the last 3 months of this Parliament, which has existed for 3 years, the Government suddenly has found that it wants to do the sorts of things that it had no inclination whatever to do in the last 3 years. If ever there was an example of trivia, it is the measure that was introduced this evening. I submit that one needs to look at the totality of the allocation of Australia’s resources. The Commonwealth has the dominance financially; nobody argues about that. I, for one, would never go back upon the proposition that, in particular, income tax, both on individuals and on companies, is best raised at one single level. But the very serious problem is how we allocate between the Commonwealth, the States and the local authorities functional sorts of performances.
The other evening, I raised in this Parliament the matter of what is spent on capital provision in Australia. I compared 2 Commonwealth levels of capital expenditure, namely, the Post Office and civil aviation, with 2 State levels of capital expenditure, namely, education and health. This year, the total capital expenditure on the Post Office and civil aviation - that includes those magnificent places, such as Tullamarine, which most people never see - will be 50 per cent higher than the capital expenditure on education and health or school and hospitals. If any honourable member in this House were making an allocation of capital on the basis of function rather than the priority of finance - and the Commonwealth has priority of finance - would he arrive at the end result that he would spend li times as much capital on the Post Office and civil aviation as he would on education and health? I suggest that this is the central dilemma that faces us in a federal system which we all claim we want to survive. I think it shows the unreality in Australia in 1972 in relation to what are our problems as a growing nation that we have before us tonight this sort of measure under which the Government will dole out finance in rather lowly quantities in terms of the country’s gross national product of $36,000m. The Government is trying to take credit unto itself on the basis that, by what it calls fine tuning to the extent of providing $20m or $10m or, in the case of Tasmania, $7,600,000, it somehow is doing justice to the community. I hope that much more serious consideration will be given to this matter in the future.
I pay credit to my Leader, the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Whitlam), for at least acknowledging that there is a third level of Government in Australia which is the starved and neglected level but, nevertheless, the level that probably in the long run serves-
– Would you still keep the Grants Commission?
– I would keep the Grants Commission; but I would refine its techniques, I would strengthen its staff and I would hope that the Commission would get away from this thumbscrew approach.
– But in the broad?
– Yes, in the broad. I think section 96 is one of the fortunate sections of the Constitution, whereas section 92 is one of the unfortunate sections.
– ‘But you would keep the broad principles of the Grants Commission, would you?
– Yes, I would keep the broad principles; but I think that in some respects the Commission is becoming a body which is a little over-systematic in trying to work out relative abilities as between one State and another. It sheers off, coming down to -what is called taxable capacity as a criterion; but I am not sure what it arrives at as an alternative. I think that one of the rather unfortunate aspects of this report is the kind of logic it uses when trying to assess what is the resort of Tasmania and South Australia to gambling as a source of revenue for the essential finances of those States. There is something wrong with the basis of Government if we can raise from people by their folly sums that we cannot obtain from them out of their wisdom.
– I have not the opportunity to speak for a great length of time this evening; but I am pleased to be aware that, with his usual perspicacity in financial affairs, the shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), indicated that he would retain the Commonwealth Grants Commission in its present general form. Although he said that on occasions the Grants Commission may examine matters in too great a detail, it will give people great assurance to know that the present type of calculation would be retained by a Labor government. That is so, is it not?
– I must say that I am unbowed by his comments on the racing and other communities. I merely mention one point to him: In Queensland, there are 3 principal racetracks and each of them is in my electorate. So, I might maintain a slight and very general difference in emphasis between the honourable member for Melbourne Ports and myself.
The report of the Grants Commission has been criticised in that it has gone into some matters in too great a detail. I do not intend to follow the report in the precise detail of the number of adjusted fields: rather shall I look at the Grants Commission report in a general way and commend it in the broad. That does not necessarily contradict in any way the comments of the shadow Treasurer. This is a very important report because, for the first time, it is an annual report - not a special report - that deals with my own State of Queensland. The difference in this report is exemplified on page 13 in which the Commission makes recommendations for grants to 3 States. It recommends for Queensland an advance grant for 1972-73 of $I0m; for South Australia, an advance grant for 1972-73 and a positive completion grant for 1970-71 amounting to $21 m; and for Tasmania, 2 similar grants amounting to over $7m. So, in total, this report recommends the provision of over $38m to what are now the 3 claimant States of the Commonwealth.
It is worth referring quickly to the change in emphasis that has come about as a result of the refinement of the methods of the Grants Commission. In the early days of the Grants Commission, not long after Prime Minister Lyons had it instituted, it sought to measure only the degree of financial disability between the States. That was more an accounting type of measure, a measure merely of Budget comparisons. In subsequent years the Commission has refined its activities to comparing the fiscal efforts as between States, or in the broader term, taking into account the environment in which the people in a State operate, the environment in which they pay taxes, or the environment in which they show a propensity to pay certain taxes as compared with other States. The Commission desires to measure fiscal equality. To that extent it has been a very useful body, particularly to the smaller States and to my State of Queensland.
Tasmania remains the only State which has consistently and persistently been a claimant State. It is clear from the works of people such as Professor Russell Matthews that it has certainly not been to Tasmania’s disadvantage. It is quite clear that Tasmania would not have done as well if it had seceded or ceased to be a claimant State. It is commonsense that the same argument applies to Queensland. For example, over the past year Queensland has gained through one grant and another up to Si 9m. In terms of the total grants for 1972-73, when there is a completion grant the total will certainly be of the order of S18m or $19m. The present estimates concerning Queensland are quite conservative. We suggest that the principles on which the Grants Commission has based its activities deserve to be maintained and retained. I will certainly fight for that situation.
Having studied the report of the Commission I would like to advert briefly to the principal reasons for inequalities between the States that the Commission gives in a number of areas, lt refers to differences in terms of budgetary calculations and differences in terms of population. It refers to age groupings of populations, industries in a State, social service difficulties as between States in terms of administration, and so on. I wish to deal with my own State of Queensland in this area because it is quite important. As I have been enjoined not to take the full time allowable to me I will cover this important subject quite quickly.
For a number of years Queensland has been a non-claimant State. This year she has sought to be a claimant State. I am concerned that Queensland now, having sought to be a claimant State, is being utilised as a reason to oppose a threat to one of the areas which is an adjusted field, to its own field of free hospitals. I want to deal with that point in some detail because it gives rise to an area of great misunderstanding. Under the free hospitals system of Queensland last year nearly 2 million bed days were made available to Queensland citizens. The free hospital system was made available to nearly 200,000 citizens of that State. The Queensland Government intends to retain the free hospitals system at all costs. It will fight to retain it. Such a proposition has to be emphasised because some spurious and malevolent propaganda has been promoted by the Labor Party in which the Grants Commission is referred to as the threat to the free hospital system of Queensland. Nobody has been busier in making the threat than the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). On 3rd October the Leader of the Opposition, according to a report, had this to say in Queensland!
The Commonwealth Grants Commission is therefore bound to penalise Queensland for providing services - free hospitals - additional to those provided in the standard States. If Queensland is to retain its free hospitals it can only do so if New South Wales and Victoria also get free hospitals.
What a delightful piece of fallacious reasoning that is. The Leader of the Opposition then had this to say:
These 2 States will get free hospitals under a Federal Labor Government but they won’t get them back under a Federal Liberal Government.
– Where is that statement to be found in the Commission’s report?
– It is a statement by the Leader of the Opposition, reported on 3rd October 1972, concerning the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I want to examine that situation. The proposition which the Labor Party makes in respect of this social service is to tax the people of Queensland by the introduction of a new compulsory health tax which will enable them only to have their own free hospitals. The proposition will give the people nothing. It is a tax which will be imposed on each citizen working in that State and will escalate at the rate of 12 per cent a person a year.
– The people will pay through the neck.
– That is right; they will pay through the neck and in fact they will retain nothing. They will have no advantage from the introduction of a new admission fee. The Labor Party should be pretty sensitive about this proposal because it has been putting out propaganda that the Government represents the threat to Queensland’s free hospital system. It is always the technique of the big lie to assert of others what you intend doing yourself. I will cite some figures. The proposition has been made consistently since 1969. I refer now to the compulsory health tax which it is proposed to levy on citizens and which would have been levied on them under the Labor Party’s programme over the last 3 years. What is it? A Queenslander receiving the average wage and claiming the normal deductions in 1969 would have paid $41 a year admission fee to his own free hospitals. In 1970-71 he would have paid $47 a year under the compulsory health tax for admission to his own free hospitals. This year, under Labor’s policy, he would have paid between $54 and $56 for admission to his own free hospitals. Next year it would be in excess of $60. There may be variations on those figures of a couple of dollars higher or lower but the escalation is the same. The people of that State would be given only what they receive at present. The Labor Party has gained some shrewd propaganda by saying: Well, of course, unless we do this the Grants Commission is going to force the State to charge’. The honourable member for Mcpherson (Mr Barnes) would have heard that piece of propaganda. The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) would have heard that piece of propaganda. It is basically incorrect.
– It hoodwinks the public.
– That is right. It is basically incorrect. The Labor Party shadow Minister for Health said that the present formula discriminates against Queensland because it has free hospitals’. Not only is that an untruth but it also is a half-truth meant to deceive. It is the half truth that it is always worse that a lie.
– It was a Labor Government that instituted free hospitals in Queensland.
– The Labor Party is going to do away with them now.
– I am delighted to hear the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) say that. A Labor government did introduce free hospitals in Queensland. Senator Gair, a former Premier of Queensland, fought to keep free hospitals within the voluntary health system. It is a Labor government that will plunder and destroy the system merely to introduce free public hospitals under a very spurious scheme in New South Wales and Victoria. Those are the words of the Leader of the Opposition. The Labor Party is out to plunder the people of one State for the benefit of people in another State. The Dean of the Faculty of Commerce at the University of Queensland saw through this proposition. Two years and 7 days ago he said
It is a matter for Queenslanders to decide whether they wish to maintain a free hospitals system. But, by the same token, if Queensland succeeds in reducing its deficit either by economising in some services or by having heavier taxation, the Grants Commission will not make any corresponding redaction in the special grant. In other words, the grant is determined by an objective assessment of needs irrespective of the actual levels of taxation and Government expenditure. How the money is used is entirely up to the State governments.
But that proposition, the ability to retain what has become almost an article of faith in that State, is denigrated by the Opposition by the tactic of the big lie, the half truth which is worse than a lie, and a very cruel one. I have not finished; there are other friendly comments I would like to make because they deserve to be made, at least in the cause of truth. We arrive at the situation that it is suggested that the Queensland free hospital scheme will be abolished unless Labor is elected. It is suggested that otherwise a charge will be forced on the free hopital scheme. When Labor members make that kind of comment, they have not even read the report. If they do not understand the difference between financial disability and fiscal disability, although I hardly have time to do so I would recommend that they read paragraph 315 at page 43 of the 38th report of 1971 where those differences should at least be brought home to them. Instead of the hospital scheme being a disadvantage to the State - that is the excuse Opposition members want for a compulsory health tax - there could even be, for this purpose alone, a financial advantage to the State of Queensland.
This Grants Commission report makes perfectly clear that in the terms of hospital expenditure it will be the per capita system of expenditure as between States that will determine their adjusted field of hospital and health expenditure. If Opposition members examine page 154 of the appendix to the report they will see the cost for health, hospitals and charities; and if they take the average between New South Wales and Victoria they will see that it is slightly higher than the figure for Queensland. So given that there were no greater environmental difficulties, or difficulties of distance or of administration, other things being equal, even for their own hospital scheme Queensland could have gained a favourable adjustment. This may be borne out when the completion grant is sustained in 2 years time.
However, 1 return to the original point 1 was making. The Grants Commission has been of very great benefit to my own State, so much so that Queensland, together with other Liberal and Country Party States are the leading States in the Commonwealth in terms of economic development, surety of employment, surety of conditions and security for their own people. I go further than this to say that if this Grants Commission has been of such great advantage to Queensland, why does Labor try to utilise it as a reason for introducing its own malevolent, nationalised Labor health scheme? Why do not Labor members at least drop the excuse? The Leader of the Opposition tried to play blackmail on the people of that State in this respect, but no sensible person could sustain the blackmail or support it. Even in New South Wales and Victoria his own Party has not proposed in any recent State election policy speech to introduce a free hospital system. So why utilise the lack of such a promise as an excuse to plunder the people of my own State for which this is the first complete Commonwealth Grants Commission report?
I summarise what I have to say because the summary is appropriate. This Giants Commission report has given my own State nearly $20m within one year. That money has enabled the State better to retain its own social services. It is not a reason for which those social services, and in this particular case its own hospital system, should be surrendered. The Opposition wants to make it a reason for surrendering them and the entrance fee is its own compulsory Labor health tax which will lie upon each person individually. The truth is that people are becoming aware of this. I have given indications of the escalation in personal tax which it is proposed to place upon the people of that State, not just for the free public hospital system which they have but by an ancillary measure by which they intend to des>. at the same time all the funded benefit for the private and intermediate hospital system.
– It is perfectly true, and the member for Brisbane knows it. The Opposition will not have funded benefits for a private hospital system.
– That is not true.
– It is perfectly true. Are you going to support the private funds?
– Yes, at the same rates.
– You will support them? People will be able to obtain private insurance for $30 a day? The honourable member for Brisbane should consult his Leader and his shadow Minister for Health. I revert to the previous points I made. The Opposition’s proposition in this area is now shown to have been a half truth which ls worse than a lie, a deliberate misleading of nearly 2 million people in one State, and because it is attempting to delude so many people it amounts to a very cruel distortion of the truth.
– I seek leave to make a statement
– Permit me to intervene with the indulgence of the House. I ask the honourable member for Brisbane to consider moving the adjournment of this debate. This matter has arisen because the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) has privately requested leave to make a statement on the basis that he will not speak for longer than 5 minutes on a matter not associated in any way with this Bill. The honourable member states that he has the agreement of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) to do this, notwithstanding an arrangement I made with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition earlier this evening to expedite the business of this House with a view to the House rising next week. The honourable member for Sturt for reasons best known to himself wishes to raise a matter completely dissociated with the matter under discussion. He states that if the House does not give him leave he will move suspension of Standing Orders, which means a 35-minute delay in the business of the House. On the understanding that the honourable member has stated that he will honour his commitment to speak for only 5 minutes, and on the understanding that other members of the
Opposition will not speak, the Government is prepared to grant him leave to make his statement. I thank the House for its indulgence. The honourable member for Brisbane might now care to move the adjournment of the debate, and within 5 minutes or so, which time might depend on whether the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) might wish to reply briefly to the honourable member for Sturt, the debate might proceed.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cross) adjourned.
– I will not take long to make my statement. I have heard bandied by 2 previous speakers by interjection that it was blackmail-
– Order! The honourable member for Sturt must seek leave to make a statement.
– I ask leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, my statement concerns the Australian Broadcasting Commission current affairs programme ‘This Day Tonight’ and has become necessary as a result of action taken by the ABC management in Sydney. I understand that the contracts for prominent ‘TDT staff members, Bill Peach and Richard Carleton, have not been renewed and that several TDT’ staff members have given notice that they will leave in December and no steps have been taken towards replacing them. The New York current affairs man, Ray Martin, was to join ‘TDT’ but his appointment has now been postponed. Other TDT’ staff have been given no indication as to what they will be doing next year.
Recently the General Manager of the ABC, Talbot Duckmanton, told ABC men in London and New York that TDT’ had a limited future and that instant opinion shows were doomed. The death of TDT has been made more certain by recent changes in the ABC involving political appointments. The Chairman of the Commission, Sir Robert Madgwick, is going away and as from Monday Arthur G. Lowndes takes over. Lowndes is an agricultural consultant and company director in Sydney. Questions in the Senate this week revealed that Lowndes’ wife is on the campaign committee to re-elect Prime Minister McMahon in the Sydney seat of Lowe. Lowndes lives in McMahon’s electorate. Mr James Tehan, the Commissioner who led the attack on ‘TDT’ and ‘Four Corners’ is a member of Santamaria’s National Civic Council extension committee and a member of the Australian Country Party. 1 repeat for the benefit of the honourable member for Mallee (Sir Winton Turnbull) that he is a member of the Country Party. He is Chairman of the Bonnie Doon branch of the Party. He is a member of the Graziers Council of Victoria. Here is an instance of ‘a job for the boys before we are kicked out of office’.
Two new Commissioners have recently been appointed by the Liberal Government’s Sir Alan Hulme. One is N. A. K. Thompson, a Brisbane engineer, who. it was confirmed in Parliament, is a neighbour of the Postmaster-General and a prominent member of the same branch of the Liberal Party. Thompson has shown no previous interest in radio or television. He may own a transistor. The other Commissioner is Henry S. Lodge, a perth conveyancing solicitor and a member of the Royal Perth Yacht Club. It is incredible that there is on the Commission no trade unionist, no journalist or any other representative of broadcasting interests, no academic other than Madgwick, no representative of the arts or music or culture, no writers - in fact, not one creative person.
Morale amongst ABC staff is at an all time low as a result of the political interference in current affairs programming. Just one example is the repeated interference by management, presumably at the instigation of the Government, in any attempts by TDT’ to comment on the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. For 3 years ‘TDT’ under 2 directors of current affairs and 2 executive producers has tried to investigate aspects of the Postmaster-General’s Department. Apart from the recent showdown over the profit of the Post Office, the following are other examples of censorship on segments dealing with Postmaster-
General’s Department. It began with a story of frequency modulation broadcasting - a story that questioned the Australian Governments lack of interest in FM radio. That segment was killed by management and no reason was given for the decision. Twice since then ‘TDT’ has tried to explore thesubject again. Each time it was forbidden to air the segments.
About 3 months ago the Department decided to take the Pink Pages contract away from the small Australian company that has had it for the last 20 years and award it to an international organisation. Foreign takeovers were in the news and TDT’ began shooting the story of the Australian company bypassed by the Government. The segment was killed by management before shooting was completed. In July the ‘Financial Times’ published a story on world postal services. It put the Australian Post Office fifteenth on its list according to efficiency. ‘TDT’ proposed a follow up to the story and again the segment was killed. In August postal unions began criticising overcharging on subscriber trunk dialling calls. One critic was Mr J. S. Baker of the Postal Clerks Union. TDT’ interviewed Mr Baker and asked the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs to answer the criticism. Mr Lane declined, and ‘TDT’ proposed to run the Baker segment in isolation. Management that day told ‘TDT’ that the news department was giving a balanced cover of the story that night and that its segment would be superfluous. The news segment that night was merely an interview with Mr Lane who denied Mr Baker’s charges. ‘TDT’ did not believe that it was a balanced cover and again proposed to take up the story. It was told that the Baker segment could not be aired unless the Post Office agreed to take part. Every day for 4 or 5 days the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs was asked to appear on the programme, and each day he declined. TDT’ also asked the Postmaster-General to reply to the charges, but he too has declined. What emerges is that for 3 years all discussion of the Post Office or the Postmaster-General’s Department has been denied TDT’. No one has ever suggested that the items TDT’ proposed to run were not newsworthy and no one ever paid ‘TDT’ staff the compliment of viewing them and making a professional judgment of their worth. It is clear that if the Government is returned and does proceed to kill ‘TDT’ this will constitute a national scandal.
Today Mr Lachlan Shaw, a director of the current affairs programme, resigned. He has been sent on a week’s leave, has he not, Mr Minister? What does your Department propose to do about this? Are you going to continue to inflict a form of censorship by the Government? Are you going to continue to appoint political employees and provide *jobs for the boys’ because you know you are not likely to get back into office? You owe this House an explanation as to how a neighbour of yours has been elevated to a position such as this. The influence of the present Minister for Housing (Mr Kevin Cairns) has no doubt been brought to bear because of the appointment of somebody from the NCC.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. Is it not a rule in this House that an honourable member should speak through the Chair and should not point and shout: ‘You’? Should this matter also not have been raised on the adjournment?
– Order! The honourable member for Sturt will address his remarks through the Chair.
– I did. He must be deaf. Of course, you have already forced one man, Mr Hollingshead, into exile. He was previously on the current affairs programme. In addition to that the ABC received a deputation today from the Australian Journalists Association. This goes back to the time when another person - Bill Peach - from the ABC had a writ taken out against him by a very influential member of the Fairfax group. This probably still hangs over the head of that employee, as is the case with Mr Richard Carleton. What has the Government done to ensure that the writs are proceeded with so as to remove this shadow hanging over the heads of its 2 employees? It means that you, Mr Minister, somebody in the Government or the Prime Minister with his lackeys within his electorate, have something to answer for in this House and to the public. Mark my words, Mr Minister, before you finally leave this place the public will be-
– Through the Chair.
– I am speaking through the Chair. Mr Deputy Speaker, may I through you, convey to the Postmaster-General, the Government and the Prime Minister that they have to stand and answer to the public for the curtailment of programmes on TDT and any other current affairs programme. They inflict more censorship and more penalties than any other employer in this country inflicts.
– I take a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, any honourable member saying ‘No’ can stop a statement being made. When the Leader of the House assured us that the honourable member would take only 5 minutes we thought we might be able to put up with him for that long. We did no want it to be any longer. He has taken 9 minutes already. If we had been told that, we would not have given permission.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. There is some justice from the Chair if not from your own Country Party colleagues.
– Get on with it.
– It is not who has to get on with it; it is the Government that has to get on with it and clear itself of association with the suppression that it has imposed on a portion of the media. It is to your eternal disgrace. You should get up and support me if you had any democratic thought in your mind. I will leave it at that and honour the agreement which the Leader of the House (Mr Chipp) and I entered into. I am sorry, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you could not discipline some of your own Party members to ensure that they did not encroach on the 5 minutes so generously allowed to me. I hope that the Minister will rise and deal with the matter as he ought to deal with it.
– I ask leave of the House to make a statement on the same matter.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Corbett)Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) concluded his remarks by suggesting that this matter ought to be dealt with in an appropriate manner. That is exactly the way in which I will treat most of the remarks that have been made by him tonight - wild accusations and insinuations, without one bit of evidence as to their truth. I have been here in this Parliament for 21 years-
Opposition members - Too long.
– Well, I am leaving very shortly, so that will please honourable members opposite, but they will still be on that side of the House. In my 21 years here 1 have never heard anything so disgusting as what has been said by the honourable member for Sturt tonight. Although he is dead, let me say this: When the late member for East Sydney was here - and he had a reputation - he was never as bad as the honourable member for Sturt has been in the insinuations which he has made against people who are not in a position to defend themselves, and the honourable member knows nothing. Apart from saying that, I will not try to deal tonight with the ‘This Day Tonight’ programme and people who are appointed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The honourable member has not made one comment which reflects on the character of any one of those people, so what therefore have I to defend? Nothing. I have been a long time trying to get into the minds of people, of honourable members opposite particularly, that the programme arrangements, the employment situation in the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the contract arrangements with employees in the Australian Broadcasting Commission are matters for the Commission itself. They are entirely the responsibility of the Commission. I have never made one request in relation to an appointment. I have never made one request in relation to the inclusion or exclusion of a programme except if it is covered by the Act, as is my right, and that is if a programme is related to the national interest.
If the honourable member wants to make these wild accusations against me or against the Government he is tree to do so, of course, in this place according to the rules of the House. But I believe it is only necessary for me to give a denial. There is not one member of the Opposition who has been able to produce one piece of evidence of the truth of the sort of comment which has flowed from the honourable member for Sturt tonight. I therefore treat his remarks with the absolute disdain that they justify, by not answering them. I will just resume my seat.
Debate resumed (vide page 2712).
– I follow the honourable member for Lilley, the Minister for Housing (Mr Kevin Cairns), who has confined his remarks to the situation of the State of Queensland and spoke in particular about the free hospital scheme in that State. He dealt at some length with the effect that the Australian Labor Party’s national health scheme will, in his mind, have on the free hospitalisation scheme. He used some very emotional words. He spoke about blackmail and suggested that the Opposition was trying to pull confidence tricks over the people, to mislead the people of Queensland, to deceive the people of Queensland. These are very strong terms. The honourable member is a very intelligent person.
– Thank you very much.
– He knows as well as I do that he has the right to interpret Labor’3 policy as he may. 1 hope to have the opportunity of debating this matter with him outside this place in the course of time. But I do not regard the Minister as being a truthful exponent of Labor’s policy. If the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) is the George Washington of this Parliament - I say this in the political sense and not in the personal sense - then the honourable member for Lilley is the Baron Munchausen of it. Let us look at Queensland and the Grants Commission in cold dispassionate terms. In the first place I believe that the Government of Queensland was quite right to approach the Grants Commission. Any
State is entitled to obtain additional assistance from the Commonwealth in the various avenues available to it. If it feels that the taxation reimbursement formula does not adequately compensate it for particular disabilities it is entitled to make such a claim. I believe that Queensland was quite correct to make that claim. I was happy, and honourable members on this side of the Parliament were happy, to see Queensland get $9m last year and are happy to see it get $10m under this proposal, with a completion grant of what amount we know not at some time in the future.
In going back to the time when this type of legislation was last before Parliament I would like to say that I regret some of the comments that were made about officers of the Queensland Treasury Department when some criticism was made of the Queensland submission, because I was a colleague of theirs for almost 11 years and I know them to be capable and honest public servants. If there is anything to be said about the Queensland submission it should be said about the Government of Queensland and not about the public servants who prepared the case under instructions from that Government. The honourable member for Lilley ranged over a number of questions I was interested in the comment he made - and I think he was very political in what he said - about the fact that it is the LiberalCountry Party States that lead in this matter - they are the standard States - and that it is by and large the Labor States that are the mendicant States, Queensland being an exception. Of course, if one looks at Western Australia and South Australia then I believe one can quite truthfully say that if these States do operate under disabilities - I know that Western Australia is not a claimant State at this time, although South Australia is - then it is not possible for a Labor government in a short term of office to erode the disabilities which it inherited from a long line of Liberal-Country League governments, as in the State of South Australia.
I am permitted to speak for 10 minutes and I will do my best to confine my remarks to that amount of time.
– The honourable member for Lilley did not. You go on.
– He had 15 minutes.
– He had 15 and took 20. You go on.
– That is true. We are dealing now in particular, because it has been raised by the honourable member for Lilley, with free hospitals and with the effect of the Labor Party’s policy. First of all it has been argued, and indeed it has been argued by some of my State colleagues in Queensland, that the Grants Commission could oblige Queensland to abandon its free hospital scheme. This, of course, is not true. It is true that the Grants Commission could, in its wisdom, penalise Queensland because it has made certain sacrifices in this area. Under a Labor Government we would ensure that the Grants Commission did not extract such penalties, which in point of fact, under this recommendation, the Grants Commission has imposed on Queensland.
– That is absolute nonsense.
– Let us look at the figures. Last year the cost of free hospitalisation on Queensland was $79m, and this year the cost of free hospitalisation in Queensland - that is hospital expenditure shown in the Budget - is almost $88m, an increase of $8.3m, although grants from the Grants Commission have gone up by just $lm. There is a gap of $7.3m. I remain to be convinced that this is assisting Queensland with its free hospitalisation. When the report of the Grants Commission came back the honourable member for Lilley made a statement to the newspapers. It is reported in an article titled ‘Report Backs Free Hospitals’, which appeared in the Brisbane ‘Telegraph’ of 10th October 1972, as follows:
The Commonwealth Grants Commission’s report tabled in the House of Representatives today indicated the Commission’s support for the Queensland free hospital system, the Housing Minister, Mr Cairns, said today.
I challenge the Minister for Housing to rise in his place and show me where the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s report said that. I have looked through the report very carefully. While it analysed the hospital’s position in other States the report made no such analysis of the hospitals position in Queensland. The fact of the matter is that the Grants Commission has made 2 interim grants but it has not yet subjected the finances of Queensland to the intensive and deliberate scrutiny that it will subject them to either towards the end of this year or early next year. In actual fact the report makes no mention of Queenland’s free hospitals. The claim by the Minister for Housing is spurious. I challenge him to show where the Commission supports Queensland’s free hospitals either financially - that is, by meeting the additional burden of $7.3m - or in the wording of the report.
I turn now to the subject of the Australian Labor Party’s health scheme. The Minister for Housing has been reported in the ‘Courier-Mail’ and in other places as saying that the Labor Party would discriminate against people who chose to use private or intermediate beds in hospitals. Under the Labor Party’s health scheme the same rate of hospital bed benefit would be payable to every occupied bed irrespective of whether it was in a public ward, an intermediate ward or a private ward in a public hospital or a ward in a private hospital.
– How much?
– lt will be over $13 a bed a day. In an answer to a question asked in the Queensland Parliament a couple of weeks ago it was revealed that the fee charged for an intermediate ward bed in Queensland is $14 a day. That means that under the Labor Party’s scheme any person could go into an intermediate ward bed for $1 a day and into a private bed in a public hospital for a slightly larger amount. The Minister for Housing has tried to say, as he has said quite incorrectly on numerous occasions, that there is nothing in the Labor Party’s health scheme for Queensland. He refers only to free hospitals and says nothing about the fact that people can attend the doctor of their own choice in their own community and have a better professional relationship for a fee of 50c a visit, providing the doctor charges the common fee. The Minister for Housing has said nothing about any of those things. One of the few correct things the Minister for Housing has said is that in 1952 the then Labor Government in Queensland, led by the Hon. V. C. Gair and Bill Moore, the then honourable member for Merthyr as Minister for Health, fought the Menzies Government to retain free hospitals in Queensland. Neither this report of the Grants Commission nor any other action by this Government in the past 20 years has done anything to assist Queensland with the provision of its free hospital scheme. Queensland would have more to gain under the Labor Party’s health scheme than any other State. It has carried the burden of providing free hospitals for 20 years.
The myth is being spread by Government supporters that what people contribute to the so-called private health and hospital schemes pays for the medical benefits provided.. All of us in this place know that more than half of that money comes from the taxpayer. The Minister for Housing referred to a 12 per cent increase in the cost of the Labor Party’s health scheme over a 3-year period. He was referring to the 1.25 per cent figure that was quoted at the last election and the upgraded figure of 1.35 per cent that is being quoted at present, which includes provision for additional services. He failed to take into account the 30 per cent increase to the taxpayer last year in the cost of the national health scheme provided by his own Government. I am referring to the amounts paid in medical and hospital benefits.
The Opposition supports this Bill because, it is pleased to note, Queensland is to get something from the Grants Commission, but it is sorry that the report of the Grants Commission has not yet taken into account the special sacrifices that Queensland makes to maintain free hospitals. When I last spoke in this chamber - I am now drawing to a close - I was asked by way of interjection by the Minister for Housing as to what effect the Labor Party’s health scheme would have on the Grants Commission. I said that it would have no effect. It will not have any effect because the Labor Party will pay the same rate of hospital benefit to occupied beds in each of the States and that means that it will cancel itself out as far as the Grants Commission is concerned.
The point that has been made that Queensland has something to lose from the Labor Party’s health scheme is completely wrong. I very much regret that Queensland has not gained more from the Grants Commission but I look forward to the implementation of the Labor Party’s health scheme next year when Queensland will gain an additional $22m more than any other State because of the burden it carries. I support the legislation before the House.
– Only because the Opposition would tax them more than before.
– While I am still on my feet may 1 say in answer to that interjection that this Government reduced income tax in this Budget by 10 per cent on average. But it will collect $400m more this year income tax. The Budget has increased by $l,800m. We have been hon- a),» i.0 people that our scheme will cost 1.35 per cent of taxable income but if the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) has not made those taxation concessions this year he would have had money pouring out of his ears. The fact of the matter is that we can do these things and probably reduce taxation as well. We are saying how much it will cost. We do not pretend to the people as this Government pretends. Queensland’s free hospitals are free only in the sense that you do not pay for them while you are sick. They cost the taxpayers of Queensland $86m for the current year.
– Like everything else.
– Precisely, and that is why we tell the people what the Labor Party’s health scheme will cost them. We are honest in telling the people what the Labor Party’s scheme will cost them. I am being provoked and I apologise to the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles), who is the Government Whip. In this Budget the Government has eroded the means test; it has increased pensions; it has increased the homes savings grant; it has made a number of concessions in its new involvement in the provision of hostels and child care - you name it - and it has decreased taxes. What this Government can do the Labor Party also can do. The only thing is that it will do it better.
– As the Minister for Housing (Mr Kevin Cairns) pointed out, Tasmania has been the most persistent recipient of assistance under the Commonwealth Grants Commission since the inception of that body. I would be doing less than justice to it not to acknowledge the benefit of that receipt. It is quite fashionable in certain quarters to decry the assistance which this Government, through a body such as the Grants Commission, gives to Tasmania. It is fashionable also to talk about problems of shipping notably and all the other matters which are supposed to indicate neglect by this Government of the State of Tasmania. Only yesterday I think it was the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) who said that he regarded Tasmania as akin to an occupied territory, whatever that meant. In the debate on a fruit growing subsidy Bill, which offered a couple of million dollars for fruit growers, particularly in Tasmania but also elsewhere, the comment was made that the assistance will be of no benefit to the growers.
In most of the arguments, whether composite or selective, regarding the financial and economic position of Tasmania some honourable members neglect to say that there are substantial and continuing benefits accruing under the findings of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Lest there be any doubt about that being the case let me point this out in more detail. In doing so I do not for a moment suggest that Tasmania does not have some of the problems identified, and some of us in this place are doing our utmost to alleviate those from time to time if not always with total success. But we cannot put aside the obvious benefits which this system of the Grants Commission brings to Tasmania. Very early in its report - at the beginning of chapter 2 under the heading Inequalities among the States’ - the Commonwealth Grants Commission has this to say:
The economies of the Australian States differ from one another in ways which have an important bearing on the relative capacity of the several State governments to provide services for individuals and businesses. Among these differences are those of area, climate, topography, natural resources, size and distribution of population and productive capacity, and levels of income and expenditure. In addition, there are considerable differences among States in the average rate of economic growth, as reflected in the growth of population and output of goods and services.
He would be a good man who could point to many areas of significance which were not contained by those headings. If, as I think most honourable members believe to be the case, the Commonwealth Grants Commission has examined and continues to examine in some detail all of the submissions made to it by the relevant States under those and other headings it would be hard to sustain the argument that the Commission and through it the Government are neglectful of the rights and rightful needs of a State such as Tasmania and, of course, not only Tasmania. The Commission goes on to state in paragraph 2.2:
These differences among the economies of the States give rise to fiscal inequalities. In general the fiscal inequalities take the form of differences in relative capacity to raise revenue from State taxes and other charges, in the relative cost of providing State government services and meeting public debt charges, and in the budgetary impact of the operations of State business undertakings. In total, they may be described as differences in fiscal capacity.
There are 2 or 3 more lines which I can quote to indicate the Commission’s further thinking on the matter. The Commission states in paragraph 2.3:
Interstate inequalities of fiscal capacity are not a transitory characteristic of the Australian federation. However, the relative positions of the States are subject to change and most forms of Commonwealth financial assistance are subject to periodic review.
That is a most comprehensive outline of the Commission’s conception of what it is about and of what factors it takes into consideration in regarding the applications by Tasmania and, at the present time, by South Australia and Queensland for Comwealth Government assistance in respect of their economies. The sorts of factors which it examines and outlines in its report include population, the work force - its distribution and structure, industry - its location and structure, income, expenditure, railways, social services, recent changes in economic conditions and costs of development. This is entirely merited and entirely responsible. I think the only ground upon which we could question the outcome of those deliberations is that the Commission is sufficiently competent to come to the right findings. As all honourable members know, the composition of the Commission is such and has been such that it is most unlikely that we could find a better form of representation to come to the sort of conclusions for which we are looking, that is to say, conclusions regarding how much should be given in grants and loans to the smaller States in the main to assist in their relative disadvantages which stem from their smallness of size and their inflexibility in various ways which is brought about by that smallness.
To substantiate some of what I am saying and some of whatI do not have time to say I seek the permission of the House to incorporate a small table from page 23 of the report. It indicates the loan expenditure per capita on works and services for the year 1969-70 and the aggregate to the middle of that year.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I thank the House. That table indicates that Tasmania in the year 1969-70 was in receipt of $116 odd per capita in net loan expenditure for that year. The next figure of $71 was for South
Australia, and so the list goes down to New South Wales, the largest State, with a figure of approximately $42. This, of course, indicates the flow of things. It indicates a graduated compensation which is almost exactly related to size and is in inverse proportion, as it were, to the disadvantage which accrues from basic smallness of size and the relative advantage from the relatively large size both of population and of industry. I might say, incidentally, that the remarks of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) who is sitting at the table did not entirely escape my notice. I have some sympathy for the matter upon which he touched concerning the relative gambling propensities of the States and why they may or may not - he suggested they may not - be properly considered in relation to the adjustments as between the standard States and the claimant States such as Tasmania.
I think I have an inherent sympathy for that point of view, although I can hardly avoid pointing out to the honourable member that in respect of Tasmania’s more recent gambling propensities it in fact was the previous State Labor Government, by a subterfuge in a misleading referendum which did not approve what it was supposed to approve, that introduced the actuality of a gambling casino to that island. Of course, that has blossomed somewhat since then, and that Government, which has been returned to office 3 years later, is continuing with the matter then started. I do not canvass the relative merits of the casino. Some of us are on record concerning that matter on a previous occasion. However, I think the honourable member does have a decent point in relation to it. I think I would probably disagree with the comparison which he made between the relatively small amount of money involved in a further subsidy for meals provided under the Meals on Wheels system and the national income or some such very substantial figure. The point he was trying to make there slightly escaped me. While it may be valid in the terms in which he put it, I do not think I agree with him to the extent that I did concerning the desirability of considering gambling propensities in the economy of the States.
My time is limited and I hope that my remarks will not take more than a few seconds longer. I draw attention also to table 5 on page 29 of the Commission’s report which again indicates the Commonwealth’s payments per capita in aid of State revenue for 1970-71. The table shows that for Tasmania the amount of $226 per head was received and the next highest figure was $181 for Western Australia. The Australian average or total was $134.45. This again makes the point which is often rebutted or asserted by my political opponents - they are largely in the State rather than the Federal sphere, although sometimes in both - that Tasmania does not benefit by Commonwealth expenditures of this kind. I seek leave also to incorporate that table, which is the counterpart of the loans matter, in Hansard. It is table 5 on page 29 of the Commonwealth Grants Commission report.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I thank the House. One point I would make and which was questioned by the Government of Tasmania relates to 2-part grants; that is to say. the system whereby an advance grant is given and in a little more than a year later a budget is brought down in relation to that grant. There is a completion grant which adjusts that advance grant in retrospect and in relation to the correctness or otherwise of the assumptions made about the economy for the year, the result being, for example, that the advance grant for 1971-72 is accompanied by and adjusted by the completion grant for 1969- 70, which was 2 years previous. So there is a state of flux so far as the Government is concerned in waiting to know just what the final wash-up will be in relation to any one year. The arguments for and against that proposition are canvassed quite widely. The gist of what the Tasmanian Government had to say is contained in the Commission’s report, and the Commission comes down in favour of the status quo in a modified form by saying that it is giving close attention and it will continue to give close attention to the proposition that the grant be made in one and that there be no future adjustments to a grant once made. The other States involved have not made quite the same submission as Tasmania. So, the situation remains as it is with an advance grant followed at some later stage by a completion grant. The result is that this year Tasmania has a grant of Si Om which is depleted by a completion grant of $2.4m, giving a final figure of $7.6m. I think we must bear with the Commission in its deliberations. It acknowledges that it has to sharpen its capacity to put its finger on the best possible figure for future prognostications. It is not yet in a position to do that as ably, it says, for South Australia and Queensland as it has for Tasmania and, therefore, it will not adopt a system which is not readily applicable to each of the claimant States.
I say finally that the Commonwealth Grants Commission system is one which should never be overlooked by any Tasmanian and, for the time being, by any South Australian or Queenslander and, I suppose, by those in other States which, through their larger capacities, are contributing to the wellbeing of their smaller brethren. This is a matter which is too easily forgotten. The Commission may be capable of further indulgence in respect of those smaller States and, speaking from the Tasmanian point of view, I say that we do indeed hope that that is so. But it is not fair and it is not real to set the Commission aside and co pretend that it does not exist when we talk about relative inequalities among States.
– In debating the States Grants (Special Assistance) Bill it is interesting to remind ourselves once again of just how South Australia comes to be a claimant State. If I remember correctly in June 1970 the South Australian Premier, Mr Don Dunstan, suggested to the then Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, that South Australia deserved an extra $2.5m at least under the special financial assistance grants being made at that time. To use the most polite language possible, Mr Dunstan was told that it was not on and that perhaps he should go to the Commonwealth Grants Commission again. He did. This Bill that we have before us tonight shows how fortunate it was for South Australia and indeed how unfortunate and unwise it was for the Commonwealth Government at that time that this happened.
We have now before us the final result of the examination by the Commonwealth Grants Commission of the position of South Australia in 1970-71 which shows that the total amount owing to South Australia is S12.5m. By that lack of judgment on the part of the then Prime Minister, South Australia is to receive in respect of the financial year 1970-71 another $10m.
We on this side of the House welcome the decision of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. In the short time that I will be speaking on this Bill - this results from an agreement between both sides of the House - I will come back in a moment to the reason why we welcome that decision. At this stage I wish to draw attention to a question that I asked of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) on 11th October 1972. That question is most relevant to this debate. As reported at page 2377 of Hansard, I asked the Prime Minister:
What are the exact terms of the SI 5m special loan made by the right honourable gentleman, in the absence of the Treasurer, to the State Government of New South Wales to assist that State with its budgetary difficulties? Is it agreed that each of the 6 States is suffering enormous budgetary difficulties? Will tht Government make a pro rata loan of, say, $4.5m to my own State of South Australia on the same terms and, indeed, make similar loans to the other States to help them to alleviate, in particular, their bad unemployment situations, which have been caused by the Commonwealth Government’s policies? If not, why not and why is there this discrimination?
That was discrimination in favour of New South Wales. The Prime Minister answered in this way:
The loan was granted on exactly the same terms as that granted to the State of Victoria 2 or 3 years ago and that granted to New South Wales last year.
I might agree that the loan was granted on the same terms as that granted to Victoria; but, if that is so, why what those terms are cannot be revealed in this House I do not know. I am uncertain about the loan granted to New South Wales last year. The details are not retained in my memory and I doubt whether the information which has been given is factual. The Prime Minister continued:
The honourable gentleman-
That is me - should recognise that his State applies to the Commonwealth Grants Commission which recommends very large grants. These are immediately agreed to by the Commonwealth Government.
If I might say so, that is totally irrelevant because, if there is one characteristic of these Commonwealth Grants Commission recommendations which are the subject of this States Grants (Special Assistance) Bill, it is that the grants are worked out on very scientific grounds. They are, to use the words of the Minister in his second reading speech, independently and expertly assessed by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. They are assessed, as we have heard from other speakers in this debate and as we all should know, on the basis of the 2 largest and most populous States - New South Wales and Victoria - being looked upon as the standard States. The factors applying to the claimant States, and I refer to 2 of them - their lower capacity to raise revenue from their own resources because of their lower population in relation to the amount of space they have to service, and the higher cost of providing government services of a standard similar to those in the financially stronger States, that is, the standard States of New South
Wales and Victoria - form the basis of the scientifically determined grants which are the subject of the Bill before us tonight.
To then say that a SI 5m loan, such as the one on which I questioned the Prime Minister - it was nothing more than a political gimmick hurriedly announced to this House in the afternoon that the Premier and Treasurer of New South Wales was to bring down his Liberal Government’s Budget - is in the same category as these grants is little short of misleading this House. I still suggest that, if New South Wales deserved a $15m loan, my State on a per capita or any pro rata basis would be entitled to a $4.5m loan. I would think that the Minister for External Territories (Mr Peacock), who is at the table, ought to work out the pro rata amount for his State of Victoria because he should be fighting within the Ministry for Victoria to receive similar help. He has more chance of succeeding than I have because he is a Liberal Minister and his is a Liberal State. I give notice that I will be making much more of this matter in the coming weeks. This is discrimination which I do not believe a Labor government would practise, because we on this side of the House believe in the scientifically and independently assessed way of distributing finance.
I move on from there and draw attention to one other matter, that is, the assessment of the amount of $21m going to South Australia. As we have heard from other speakers in this debate, these amounts are made up of an advance amount for the year 1972-73 and what is known as a completion amount which refers to 2 years ago. In this case $7. 5m is going to South Australia for the year 1970-71 and SI 3.5m is going to our State for the year 1972-73. The point I want to make is that the $7.5m completion amount for 1970-71 is not the total amount which has been calculated by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Under its formula the Commission could have recommended a notional completion grant of $8.72m instead of the $7.5m that it did recommend. The reason for this is given in paragraph 1.11 of the Commission’s report, which states: the recommended amount of the completion grant is subject to the limitation that it shall not exceed (save in exceptional circumstances) the amount which would result in the claimant State having a modified balanced budget result for the year of review. In the case of South Australia for 1970-71 this limitation would restrict the State’s completion grant to $3,031,000, the modified budget result. . . . However, the Commission has decided that exceptional circumstances do obtain in regard to South Australia’s financial position at 30 June 1971 and a completion grant of $7,300,000 is recommended for payment to the State 1970-71.
I shall repeat that: Because South Australia had a deficit in 1970-71 of a little over $3m, except in exceptional circumstances that is all that may have been allocated to South Australia, whereas under all the other clauses South Australia would have received well over $8. 5m. In fact, special circumstances did apply but the amount
– I thank the House. I conclude on this note: Although we are talking about $21m being given to South Australia this year in those 2 amounts - an advance amount of $13.5m for 1972-73 and a completion amount of $7. 5m for 1970-71 - this certainly does not over-come budgetary difficulties in the State of South Australia any more that it has overcome was reduced from $8.72m to $7.5m. So South Australia, because it did not have as large a deficit and because it applied good budgeting in that year, lost out on $ 1.22m. I believe that the formula by which these amounts are calculated should be reviewed. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard page 14 of the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s report which shows the calculation of the completion grant for South Australia for 1970-71.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
budgetary difficulties in any other State. 1 take great delight in quoting as often as possible the words of the late Premier of South Australia, Mr Frank Walsh, who said:
If Education and Hospitals were Commonwealth responsibilities and Civil Aviation and Post Offices were States responsibilities, I wonder would we have the same distribution of resources amongst these functions as we do now.
Of course the answer to that is no. We have a certain amount of poverty in the States, in the areas in which the States have responsibilities. We have a long way to go before we can clean up this mess in Commonwealth-State financial relationships. But we in my State are thankful for small mercies and that we will receive $21m under this Bill.
– It is sad to listen to the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) demanding increased grants for South Australia and to remember the days of Sir Thomas Playford. We all recall, particularly we in Queensland, the tremendous headway made by Sir Thomas Playford in South Australia. I suppose that South Australia had the smallest amount of natural resources of any State of the Commonwealth.
– It was a mendicant State.
– The speech of the honourable member for Adelaide was a mendicant speech. He asked for handouts. Considering South Australia’s natural resources, that State progressed better than any other State in the Commonwealth. This present change in South Australia has occurred under the Labor administration there. However, that is a sad story which I will not relate at this stage. I want to support this Bill on behalf of Queensland.
– Is Queensland a claimant State?
– Indeed it is. Let me outline some of the ways by which I suggest we can get away from the present mendicant situation. Queensland has a remarkable record. It is a large State with a small population and must support a large network of roads and railways. It has done magnificently in this regard.
– What sort of a government does it have?
– Order! The honourable member for Adelaide has spoken already.
– It has a crook government.
– The honourable member speaks of a crook government. Figures which have just been released indicate that Queensland unemployment is only 1.07 per cent so the honourable member can put that up his jacket and see how he likes it.
How is South Australia faring under its present administration? The Queensland Government has performed magnificently in developing its natural resources. However, I am concerned that the Federal Government should do more to help these operations. Queensland has natural resources and is endeavouring, with its small population, to develop industries. However, it is faced with industrial turbulence and irresponsible union attitudes. When confronted with this kind of activity how can Queensland produce and improve living standards? Queensland has the greatest resources of coal in Australia as anyone who has surveyed the coal situation will realise. We have contracted to sell coal to Japan, which is a great market for this product, but month after month there are strikes and delays. Ships come in but cannot load because of a local strike. At Gladstone we are developing an alumina refinery. Strikes involving some trivial matter arise and the who! project is affected.
– The strikes are not trivial. They concern overseas owned ships.
– Are we to let Labor unions control our overseas policy? Is this the attitude of members opposite? There is irresponsibility in the attitude of unions. I believe the Commonwealth Government should do more. Frequently we hear the cry from Opposition members: ‘Develop the north’. We have a chance of developing the north. A large nickel deposit has been discovered inland from Cairns. Many millions have been invested in north Queensland. However, we have strikes at the refinery in Townsville and these prevent developing the north. We are experiencing an oil refinery strike involving a few technicians and this is holding up the whole State, including our great sugar industry which has harvested two-thirds of its crop and our wheat industry whose crop is awaiting harvest. We have hold-ups because industrial unions will not recognise the arbitration system and take their disputes to arbitration. They adopt a blackmail approach to the employers.
I think the Commonwealth Government must go further. People are tired of irresponsible strikes and the type of blackmail that arises. I believe we should have an emergency force - a task force - to call on in the event of an irresponsible strike by unions which will not recognise arbitration. We need a group of experts who can intervene, take over and maintain an industry. For the last 10 days the population of Brisbane has been inconvenienced by a shortage of petrol because a few technicians will not go to arbitration. They have decided to blackmail the community - to blackmail Queensland. This is a matter that requires serious consideration. We are witnessing irresponsibility in unions. We have seen it in the past. Our magnificent overseas airlines, Qantas Airways Ltd, was brought to its knees because pilots struck notwithstanding the magnificent conditions they enjoy. Such action by the pilots makes it difficult for our airline to compete with other world airlines.
As I have said, in Australia we have this situation of irresponsibility and blackmail in particular situations. Our sugar crop is two-thirds harvested and we have a wonderful market on which to sell it but we are unable to do so because a few people hold up operations. Our farmers are suffering from drought and associated disabilities but they are affected because of the irresponsibility of unions. Again I ask the Commonwealth Government to consider what 1 have suggested. I believe it must intervene. I believe that we have had a degree of responsibility on the part of unions, but a left wing group is trying to blackmail the community. We abide by arbitration. That is the one way in which we can have a responsible attitude. Our society is becoming so complex today that we depend on a few key men to keep our vital industries going. If we are to remain at the whim of a few irresponsibles, God help Australia. Queensland will go ahead if we have a fair go from unionists - a fair go to realise on our great resources. I believe the Federal Government has to look at a new idea of a task force which will go anywhere where there is a blackmail operation by people who will not abide by arbitration.
– I never cease to be amazed at the way in which honourable members on the other side of the House carry on. Every ill in this country and every problem in this country is caused by the worker and by the workers’ just demand for wage justice. 1 listened to the completely distorted remarks on the recent problem at the
Ampol oil refinery in Queensland made by the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Barnes). I sympathise with him because his car was likely to be out of petrol when he arrived in Brisbane last Friday. But I cannot understand why he has to be down on the worker all the time. He did not make one reference to what happened in the early part of last week when the company had refused to negotiate with the union on an annual wage adjustment. It was not until industrial action was taken that the hand of management was forced to negotiate and to take the matter to arbitration which resulted in the settlement of the dispute.
Nothing has been said by honourable members opposite about the inconvenience that was caused for many weeks in Queensland and in northern New South Wales by the decision of companies to curtail supplies of fuel to their service stations and to take no action to bring supplies of fuel from other parts of Australia - from the south - to replace the supplies that were not available in Queensland due to a breakdown in plant at the Ampol refinery. These things are neglected and no reference is made to them. Immediately industrial action is taken by the working men or women of Australia they are looked down on. They are accused. They are made to feel, by what honourable members opposite say, thai they have no rights left and that they should not be in a position to take action to remedy these things. I do not want to delay any further by references to these matters tonight. I felt that they should have at least some comment before 1 proceeded to make my main remarks in the limited time - the curtailed time - that we have available to us this evening.
I certainly support, as other honourable members on this side of the House have supported the Bill which will grant SI Om to Queensland for the 1972-73 financial year. That sum certainly is far short of Queensland’s financial needs, from my point of view and the point of view of members on this side of the House, as aptly illustrated in the remarks of the shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). It is a ridiculous situation when the Slate of Queensland has to come begging to the Commonwealth Grants Commission for the essential finance to carry out development works in that State. But, of course, the requirements and needs of the Queensland Government that have been met by the Grants Commission are, to some extent, particularly in relation to some matters to which I shall refer, caused by the inefficiency of the State Government to so handle the affairs of that State as to provide finance from royalties on minerals and from rail freight rates, with which I shall deal, in line with the rates that could be provided. Of course this is criticised by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in its report. 1 feel that it is appropriate to take this opportunity to examine somewhat critically the references of the Grants Commission and the Treasury officials to these matters. The preliminary report of the Commission in relation to the granting of $9m to Queensland for 1971-72, which the Parliament debated, rejected the statement in the Queensland Government’s submissions that the margin between Queensland’s financial capacity and that of the standard States to provide a comparable level of service appear to be widening rather than narrowing. The Commissioners stated that, conversely, the Queensland position in comparison with the standard States has been improving in recent years. They listed the reasons and then in the clearest terms made a forthright condemnation of the Queensland submissions. On page 11 of the report the Commissioners stated: a belief thai the material presented in Queensland’s submission concerning the 1971-72 budgets of Queensland and the standard States is not necessarily, reliable as an overall guide as to whether or not a special grant is justified. . . .’
In an explanation they went on to say that the uncertainty as to the validity of a great deal of detailed argument and workings in the State submissions was the basis for this assertion. The report continued:
The Commonwealth Treasury suggested that the value of mining output might give some indication of capacity to raise mining royalties. This would suggest that Queensland’s capacity is above standard; and as the royalties collected per head of population in Queensland are below the average per capita for the standard States it would appear that Queensland makes a relatively low effort in this field.
This is certainly so. Queensland does make a relatively low effort in this field, and I will refer to that again in a few moments time. Railway charges were not dealt with in any great detail by the Grants Commission report. I suppose the reason can be best explained in the following quote from the Queensland submission which appears in part 14 of the Commissioners’ report dealing with railway charges:
It is realised that a considerable proportion of rail freight is carried at contract rates for which details are not available, and it may be assumed that a similar relationship exists in contract rates and that the comparison we have made reflects the general level of freight rates.
Before I deal in more detail with these 2 matters I believe it is important that honourable members consider the background of the Queensland Government leaders and particularly certain of the Cabinet Ministers. It is important to realise that these men, the leaders of the Country-Liberal Party coalition in Queensland, the political colleagues of the Liberal-Country Party Federal Ministers, hold office not because of the majority of electoral support that they are able to gain at the elections that are held in that State but because of the gerrymandered State electoral boundaries. They retain the majority of members in the Queensland Parliament by this method rather than through the method of receiving favourable and popular support, because all the favourable and popular support goes to the party in Opposition, the Australian Labor Party.
I shall not dwell this evening on any particular detail of the characters of the Queensland Ministers. I would not seek to bore the Deputy Speaker (Mr Corbett) who has shown a great deal of attention to my speech and who would, 1 realise from the smile on his face, like to hear me say some of the things that could readily be said about some of his Queensland Country Party ministerial colleagues. They are pretty well known right from the dealings which the Queensland Premier has had in oil shares and the things that he sought to do, through the companies he had an interest in, to the Great Barrier Reef. These things must be said because these are the people who are dealing with the affairs of Queensland; they are the people who can rightly be declared not to be taking sufficient interest in ensuring that the royalties which should be rightly coming to Queensland are coming to that State.
When one looks at the actions of these people it is easy to understand why the criticism has been made by the Grants Commission and why Grants Commissioners expresses the opinion that Queensland is not making sufficient effort to gain the mining royalties for that State which it should be gaining.Queensland’s levies are particularly low and the roylaty rates on mineral production compared with other States put Queensland in a grossly unfavourable position. I shall quote just 2 instances. Let honourable members opposite deny that they can be linked to the attitude of the Queensland Ministers who negotiate the contracts. In the financial year 1970-71 Queensland exported 7,250,000 tons of coal. The royalties were at the rate of 5c a ton. The value of coal exported was $83,400,000m but the State gained from royalties the pittance of $362,000. Much the same situation exists with bauxite. Export production of bauxite in the same financial year was 6,500,000 tons which were valued at $37m, but the State gained from this export royalties amounting to the disgracefully small sum of $412,000. This could not do anything but indicate that the lack of confidence that I have expressed in these Queensland Ministers who handle the affairs of the State is well founded.
Royalties as a percentage of the value of mineral production in Queensland is at the level of 1.1 per cent in comparison with Western Australia where the level is 4.6 per cent. I would like to quote from a table on Queensland royalties which has been supplied to me by the Legislative Research Service of the parliamentary Library. I seek the leave of the House to have this table on royalty revenue per head of population incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I thank the House and the Leader of the House. I am endeavouring to complete my remarks. I can see that I shall not be extending my remarks to the extent to which certain speakers on the other side of the House extended theirs, but I should like to set the record straight tonight. It seems to me that when these things are talked about time must always be curtailed. I want to refer to the low level of royalties in Queensland and Tasmania when compared with those of the other important mining States of Western Australia and New South Wales. This is highlighted in this table. It is evident from the table that Queensland accounted for 24 per cent of the value added scale of the Australian metallic mining industries for 1968-69 but from this 24 per cent, only 0.9 per cent of the value added was collected by that State in royalty resource. As a comparison, the metallic mining royalty collected by New South Wales and Western Australia respectively was 13.4 per cent and 8 per cent of the value added.
The matter of rail freights is an equally sorry story but in deference to the concern of the Leader of the House (Mr Chipp) I will not go into that matter this evening. However, let me say that while members of the Opposition appreciate the fact that Queensland has been granted this finance, we believe it is about time that the Queensland Government started to show some concern for the fact that it has been so lax over the years in the negotiation of contracts, particularly with overseas interests. It is quite obvious from the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission and from figures that I have given this evening to illustrate the situation that no real attempt has been made by the Queensland Government to obtain royalties at anywhere near the level that that State could be receiving from its mineral wealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Chipp) read a third time.
House adjourned at 11.38 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Education: Commonwealth Scholarships (Question No. 5360)
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
What progress has been made on curriculum proposals in (a) junior science, entrusted to the Committee of Management of the Australian Science Education Project (Hansard, 15lh August 1968, page 219; 28lh August 1969, page 918 and 16th September 1970, page 1250), (b) social science, entrusted to the National Committee on Social Science Teaching (Hansard, 16th March 1971, page 969), (c) senior secondary school physics, proposed by the Academy of Science in September 1970, (d) Asian languages and cultures, entrusted to a sub-committee by the Directors-General of Education at their annual meeting in October 1971 (Hansard, 9th December 1971, page 9523) and (e) woolclassing, chemistry, mathematics and human biology, referred to in the answer of 9th April 1970 (Hansard, page 10.14) by the then Minister for Education and Science.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
When is each unit on service overseas due to complete its tour of duty.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following is a list of ships presently overseas:
Support Units: Singapore - 2 years.
Australian Army Assistance Groups:
Vietnam - 1 year.
RAAF units located overseas do not normally complete fixed length tours. These units are located and established to meet specific commitments and remain at the location as long as the commitfent exists. The Bloodhound Advisory Flight attached to Singapore Armed Forces will complete its task in late 1974.
Personnel attached to other RAAF units located overseas are posted to the units on a rotational basis, for planned tours of duty of 2 to 2½ years.
International Exhibitions Convention (Question No. 6101)
asked the Minister for the
Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
Has the Government yet decided to accede again to the 1928 Convention relating to International Exhibitions as modified by the 1948 Protocol (Hansard, 15th September 1971, page 1397).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australian Council of Social Services: Proposals (Question No. 6121)
asked the Minister for
Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
Will the Government introduce into the sales tax law a provision similar to section 260 of the Income Tax Assessment Act.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The purpose of section 260 of the Income Tax Assessment Act is to void as against the Commissioner of Taxation any contract, agreement or arrangement which has the effect of altering the incidence of income tax or of defeating, evading or avoiding any liability imposed on any person. It is unlikely that the incorporation into the sales tax legislation of a provision such as section 260 would provide an additional protection to the revenue. In the absence of a specific exemption, sales tax is imposed on each separate sale and the voiding of a contract, agreement or arrangement relating to that sale would presumably result in no sales tax at all being payable in respect of that transaction. An amendment of a different kind would be called for in the event of it becoming necessary to prevent the operation of a particular kind of contract, agreement or arrangement designed to avoid sales tax which the law intended to impose.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What is the estimated proportion of (a) total gross income and (b) after-tax income earned by each 10 percentile group of taxpayers during 1949-50, 1954-55, 1959-60, 1964-65 and 1969-70.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The relevant income tax statistics available relate to actual income of taxable individuals and net tax assessed for each of the income years concerned. The following estimates therefore show (a) the proportion of total actual income attributed to taxable individuals in each 10-per- centile group and (b) the proportion of total actual income less tax assessed attributed to taxable individuals in each 10-percentile group.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
In respect of Table No. 2 published in the document Commonwealth Income Tax Statistics presented on the occasion of the Budget 1972-73, could he supply a tablulation indicating the estimated loss to revenue attributable to the various types of concessional deductions as detailed in the Table.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The estimated loss to income tax revenue attributableto each of the various types of concessional allowances in respect of which statistics of deductions allowed were published in Table No. 2 of Commonwealth Income Tax Statistics, presented on the occasion of the Budget 1972-73, is set out below:
In arriving at the above estimates, each of the various types of concessional deductions has been considered separately, i.e., for each type of deduction an estimate has been made of the increased revenue that would have resulted from increasing taxpayers’ taxable incomes by the amount, if any, of the deduction. However, where a taxpayer has more than one deduction, e.g., deductions for maintenance of dependants and medical expenses, the increased tax payable resulting from increasing his taxable income by the amount of both deductions in most cases would have been more than proportionately greater than the increased tax that would have resulted from increasing his taxable income by only one of these amounts. This arises because of the progression in the rates of income tax. Accordingly, the cost to revenue of all of the deductions listed above, taken together, is greater than the sum of the estimates provided. Similarly, the portion of this total cost that is attributable to each of the various types of deduction would be greater in each case than the estimates shown above.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
How many permanent residential homes does a post office require in a district before that district becomes eligible for a postal delivery service.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The number of permanent residential homes alone is not the only criterion on which we base the need for a house to house postal delivery service. It is also necessary to take into account the volume of mail available for delivery. At present new delivery services are generally provided when a community grows to the point where there are more than 150 permanent households within a radius of of a mile of the post office receiving on the average, at least 225 letters a day.
asked the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 October 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1972/19721017_reps_27_hor81/>.