27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 10 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 has the capacity to play a more significant part in enabling the developing countries to achieve improved social conditions for all their people.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that . . .
Australia’s Official Development Assistance in 1972-73 be increased to at least $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 Anthony, Dr Davies, Mr FitzPatrick and Mr Kennedy.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned employees of the Australian Aircraft Industry in New South Wales and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the governments policy of producing components in Australia for Aircraft purchased overseas for our Civil and Defence requirements, does not fulfill the needs of industry to ensure:
That the purchasing of aircraft from overseas does not entirely meet the Australian requirements and conditions, but have to be accepted due to the lack of a long range plan for defence require ments and associated specifications necessary for the Australian Industry to produce aircraft to meet these requirements.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Federal Government in order to provide employment for the technical, design and manufacturing teams of the New South Wales section of the Australian Aircraft Industry, take immediate action to ensure the re-equipment of the armed forces with Australian designed and produced aircraft and accessories by:
Whilst fulfillment of the above would provide a solid foundation for the distant future, an immediate necessity exists to provide work in the factories now and to this end, offset manufacturing is the probable immediate answer, although from our experience the policy of producing parts against offset orders, does not provide work for technical and design teams, but only provides production work for the workshops of parts which are pre-designed and pre-tooled by the originating overseas manufacturers.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson, Mr Keating and Dr Klugman.
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 peoplelive 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 - Thirty 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 FitzPatrick and Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, we, the Citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia, residents in the State of Western Australia do humbly petition and pray that all levels of Government responsible in Australia will take note of the wishes of we, the Citizens, in so far as we request:
That the Commonwealth Government give urgent consideration to granting taxation concessions to those mothers who are forced to pay fees to have their children retained in Day Care and Family Care Centres.
That these mothers and children are being disadvantaged by the economic circumstances where no concession is made for the charges which must be paid to have their children so looked after. In fact it means that a single parent is working for a subsistence wage and receiving a lower income than many who are living on Social Service at a cost to the community.
That these mothers efforts to maintain themselves and their families should be rewarded by taxation concessions for fees paid in recognition to their initiative and diligence by not placing their burden upon the community and so allow them to retain their dignity and standing in the community.
That single and married mothers are contributing to the community by the establishment of their home, the cost of which has become affected by inflation and so must continue to work to make the future for the children who are so cared for.
Therefore we ask that all these aspects be taken into urgent consideration and that taxation concessions for all child minding fees be granted to ease the burden.
We, the petitioners humbly pray that the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled would take immediate steps to ensure provision of this taxation concession and your petitioners as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Bennett.
To the Honourable the Speaker and 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 humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to ensure that emergency finance from the Commonwealth will be given to the States for their public education services which provide schooling for seventy-eight per cent of Australia’s children.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
Education: Pre-school and After-school Centres
To the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament Assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Pre-school and after-school education facilities are in urgent need within the Australian community. The shortagehas become more acute as more mothers join the work force.
In advanced countries pre-school and afterschool education arc 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 give notice that at the next sitting I shall move:
That this House censures the Prime Minister for his incompetence and concealment in relation to Jetair Australia Limited.
Motions (by Mr Chipp) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition moving forthwith the motion of censure of the Prime Minister of which he has given notice for the next sitting.
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition each speaking for a period not exceeding 30 minutes.
Motion of Censure
Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa- Leader of the
Opposition) (10.5)- Mr Speaker– (Government supporters interjecting)-
– Order! I remind honourable members before this debate commences - and it applies to Ministers as well - that I will not allow (his debate to be continually interrupted as happens in some debates. 1 suggest that the co-operation of honourable members on both sides of the chamber be given to the Chair in this matter.
– I move:
I want to emphasise at the outset the precise and restricted grounds of this motion. It relates solely to the questions of whether the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) misled the Parliament and whether he showed reasonable competence in this transaction. Nothing in the motion raises any question of personal impropriety on the part of any Minister or public servant. Last Thursday I raised 2 questions: (1) Did the Prime Minister as Minister for Foreign Affairs exercise proper, sufficient and responsible care in the discharge of his ministerial duties? (2) Did he as Minister for Foreign Affairs and subsequently as Prime Minister mislead the Parliament in answers to questions and did Ministers in the Senate speaking on his behalf mislead the Parliament? Those are the only 2 questions I raised and they are again the questions I raise now.
When the Prime Minister replied last Thursday he chose to pitch his remarks almost entirely to answering a question I had never raised - the propriety of the transaction and his relations with the directors of Jetair Australia Ltd. Later in the afternoon he chose to obtrude by way of a personal explanation a reference to muck-raking. Let me say this: If the activities of members and senators since February of last year in questioning this deal constitute muck-raking, they have served the public interest. Without such activities we would never have known, for example, Sir Kenneth Bailey’s opinion of the grossly irregular procedure adopted. We would never have known of the existence of his memorandum. We would never have known of the reservations about the transaction by the Treasury or by the
Department of Supply and of the very definite differences of opinion among Ministers.
Bit by agonising bit the truth, or part of the truth, has been dragged out. The fact of the matter is that if the Prime Minister had not tried to conceal the nature of the transaction, if he had not been so touchy on any question about his infallibility or bis phenomenal memory, if he had given a straightforward account with the appropriate apologies that the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) gave last Thursday, the whole matter could have been cleared up quickly and cleanly. The fact is that the Prime Minister used the Parliament to hide his own mismanagement, his own inattentiveness.
Repeatedly and right up to Tuesday of this week the Prime Minister has tried to obscure and obfuscate the truth by a process of elision and excision. If the files had been tabled when they were first called for on 18th February of last year this matter would have been disposed of once and for all. The Government cannot complain that the Opposition is debating the matter now for electoral advantage. The delay is solely the responsibility of the Government. There was no election pending in February last year when the files were first sought. Concealment - consistent concealment - has occurred on 2 matters. There has been a systematic pattern of delay and evasion designed to hide 2 aspects of the transaction: First, the nature of the decision to send aid to Cambodia, and second, the internal controversy between departments over the failure to observe proper procedures. It was not a case of lapses of memory or slips of the tongue. It was a deliberate, conscious and motivated process.
Repeatedly over a period of nearly 2 years the Prime Minister has tried to give the impression that the decision to send aircraft to Cambodia was a long-standing one. This was false, and the Prime Minister knew it to be false. Repeatedly the Prime Minister has sought to give the impression that there was no irregularity in the transaction or that if there was it was of such a minor, technical and trivial nature as to be beyond consideration. This was false and the Prime Minister knew it to be false. It had in fact attracted the attention and concern of the Treasury, the Auditor-
General, the Department of Supply, tha Department of Civil Aviation, the then Prime Minister, the then Minister for Supply, and an acting Minister for Supply, now the Minister for Education and Science.
A convenient point to trace the beginning of this pattern of evasion is 12th February 1971. The Foreign Affairs file folio 98 contains a minute from an unidentifiable Foreign Affairs officer to the Secretary of the Department stating:
Minister rang yesterday evening about press release on DC3 aircraft for Nepal, Laos and Cambodia. He wanted it redrafted so as not to appear to be a new project or an unnecessary expenditure of Government funds.
We can only assume that the Press release as originally drafted was a truthful one, namely, that it contained no suggestion that the despatch of aircraft to Cambodia was a long-standing decision. We now know that it was a very recent decision. It was so recent that not before 4th January last year had our own Ambassador in Phnom Penh a clue about it. The Press release as finally issued by the Prime Minister - the former Prime Minister - on 14th February 1971 read:
The supply of these aircraft would meet commitments Australia had made to each of these countries at various stages during the past year.
In other words the present Prime Minister as Foreign Minister had deliberately and successfully instructed one of his officers to issue a misleading statement. And then, in answer to a question from the member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) on 18th February 1971, the Foreign Minister as he then was, the Prime Minister as he now is, told the House:
A little over a year ago negotiations were commenced for the purchase and delivery to Cambodia, Laos and Nepal of 11 aircraft.
This was a false statement. And again let me emphasise this was no slip of the tongue. It was an organised question and in fact in the files there is a draft of a contingency reply for just such a question. Even as late as Tuesday this week the Prime Minister was at it again - the same question, the same co-operative questioner and the same misleading reply. The honourable member for Mitchell asked:
When did the purchase of aircraft for Laos, Nepal and Cambodia actually commence?
Note ‘aircraft’. The Prime Minister replied:
In the case of Cambodia, special aid was approved by the Government between April and May 1970.
Note, no reference to aircraft. This is not in itself a false statement by the Prime Minister but clearly it was intended to convey an impression that the aircraft sent to Cambodia were part of a specific undertaking to Cambodia going back to the previous April. Later, in Tuesday’s question time, it took me 2 questions to draw from the Prime Minister that he was not repudiating the present Minister for Foreign Affairs’ statement that the negotiations for the purchase and delivery of aircraft had started in December 1970. We remain unaware of the precise events of December 1970, but they clearly did not in any sense constitute negotiations with the Cambodians. There was apparently some sort of contact with the United States. The entire pattern displays a misleading attempt to push back the date of the Cambodian decision. On 3 occasions questions in the Senate were answered with the assertion that our diplomatic mission had received an acceptance on 8th January 1971. We now know that there was no formal request until 29th January. As late as 20th January our Embassy in Phnom Penh could cable Canberra to this effect:
We regret that we have not been able to elicit any response yet from Cambodia . . . We are pressing them for a reply and as soon as we have one we shall advise you.
Nevertheless, on 3 occasions this Parliament was fobbed off and misled by an assertion that our Embassy received an acceptance’ on 8th January. After several weeks of quite specific questioning on this issue, the Prime Minister finally told the Parliament what happened on the 8th. A Cambodian general indicated his - I quote the Prime Minister - ‘full agreement to the proposals’. No longer does the Prime Minister pretend that this constituted an acceptance on behalf of the Cambodian Government. But that is what senators were told in 3 separate answers to questions on notice. Answers were designed to protect the Prime Minister’s answers which were part of a systematic conspiracy to push back the date of the Cambodian decision as far as possible, back before the commitment to Jetair. As late as Tuesday of this week, the Prime Minister was still attempting to convey this misleading impression.
The Prime Minister did not limit this deception to statements for which he had sole responsibility. He involved other Ministers, including the right honourable member for Higgins, when he was Prime Minister, and Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson. On 25th February 1971 Sir Kenneth made a Ministerial statement on Jetair Australia Ltd which appears on page 346 of the Senate Hansard. It purports to give a chronology of the transaction from the time of the Jetair advertisement in December 1970. This account is quite misleading. The statement - for reference purposes I will number each sentence - reads:
This is the critical paragraph -
Paragraphs 1 and 3 appear to be an accurate enough account, both of the transaction itself and the chronology of events. But paragraph 2 casts completely false glosses upon them. Paragraph 2 clearly intends to convey the meaning that the Department of Foreign Affairs had ascertained Cambodian needs before the inspection and before the discussions between officials of Foreign Affairs and Jetair took place. This statement, as read by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, was drafted by the then Prime Minister on 24th February, the day before it was made in the Senate. The misleading paragraph was inserted into the then Prime Minister’s draft in handwriting. The handwriting is that of the present Prime Minister and his initials appear beneath the amended passage. Was the right honourable member for Higgins aware that the present Prime Minister had amended his statement in this misleading manner? Is it not a fact that the former Prime Minister rejected a statement submitted to him and inspected the files before redrafting the statement? Can he now associate himself with this clear deception of Parliament?
The right honourable member for Higgins told the real story last week when he said:
As a result of this advertisement - for the Jetair planes - the Department of Foreign Affairs - I think seeing a way out of the trouble it had got itself into by buying service aircraft which would cost too much money to prepare . . . recommended to the then Foreign Minister that it should buy these 6 Jetair aircraft, or some of them, in order to fulfil the undertaking it had given to Nepal and Laos . . . The Department made inquiries, I understand, through the Americans for some reason I do not understand, to the Cambodians, saying: Do you want these 5 surplus aircraft that we have?’ And the Cambodians did.
– Who said that?
– This was said by the former Prime Minister last Thursday. This is a simple and cohesive account, yet for nearly 2 years and, as I say, right up to the present week, the Prime Minister has persisted in trying to maintain the impression that the sending of aircraft to Cambodia was a considered long-term procedure. It was nothing of the sort. And last Thursday the Prime Minister tried further to muddy the waters by painting a grim picture of Cambodia’s desperate need for these aircraft. He said that Cambodia was facing ‘a blatant attack’ from the North Vietnamese and that ‘we were conscious of the fact that if Cambodia had fallen the danger to South Vietnam would have become greater and the prospect of survival of South Vietnam would have become increasingly endangered’.
Now, how did this transaction appear to our own representatives in Cambodia? On 19th January last year Ambassador Feakes sent a memorandum to the Secretary complaining that the United States Embassy in Phnom Penh had heard of the Australian proposal before him. He said:
During the latter part of December the Services Attache, the First Secretary at the Embassy and I spent hours of time that we could ill afford in efforts to draw up a list of projects on which the remainder of our aid could be used. As recently as 22nd December in your memorandum 537, i.e. after you were aware of the possibility of providing the aircraft, you were pressing us to supply you with a firm shopping list for at least $ 190,000 as soon as possible.
The Americans here must wonder whether we have the confidence of our own people when they hear about and are apparently asked to comment on Australian proposals for aid of which we are ignorant. The Americans were obviously in touch with the Cambodians no later than mid-December about the possibility of the supply of Australian aircraft. I suggest to you that it is better for Cambodians tolearn of Australian projects from the Australian representative here rather than from somebody else.
Is this not remarkable, and is it not part of a pattern of the whole disgraceful story of the Australian involvement in IndoChina - the same touting for a request, the same process of trying to drum up an official request from the recipient government after the decision had in fact been made, the same tagging along in the wake of an American initiative, the same assertion that Australia was acting only after an urgent and spontaneous request?
All that was standing between Cambodia and disaster apparently were these 5 RAAF DC3s, though it had never occurred to the Prime Minister apparently to send them to aid Cambodia during the whole of 1970 when they were already in the possession of the Government. In the hour of Cambodia’s dire need they were standing for 7 months at Laverton. But even when they became released through the purchase of the Jetair fleet, did the Government rush them to embattled Cambodia? Not a bit of it. They were delivered to Cambodia in this way: One was sent on 5th September 1971; 2 were sent on 31st October 1971; 2 more were sent on 21st November 1971; and the last was sent on 5th December 1971, 12 months to the day that Jetair advertised its aircraft for sale. So it comes to this: The Prime Minister made repeated assertions that the negotiations to send aircraft to Cambodia had begun far in advance of the decision to send them. This was just not so. And the Prime Minister has repeatedly asserted that the urgency of the decision arose from Cambodia’s urgent need. This was just not so.
I now come to the question of the competence the Prime Minister displayed in this affair. Ambassador Feakes’ memorandum is, one would think, sufficient indictment of the way affairs were conducted while the Prime Minister was Minister for Foreign Affairs. On Tuesday the Prime Minister engaged in a charming little exercise of pooling the Permanent Head. This is the great Cabinet man. This is the great upholder of ministerial responsibility.
The Prime Minister himself last week inflated this matter into a major policy decision which involved the very survival of Cambodia and South Vietnam - involving therefore the whole of the allied war effort throughout Indo-China. Was this then not a matter for the exercise of ministerial responsibility, ministerial control and ministerial scrutiny? According to the Prime Minister’s own assertion, this was no mere clerical matter but one of the highest policy involving our relations with Cambodia, with South Vietnam and indeed with the United States herself. Therefore on his own estimate of the importance of the project it is no excuse to say: ‘Well, I only approved what the Department put to me’. On his own estimate, he was holding the line against the marauding North Vietnamese, not just assisting Jetair against its marauding creditors. And how seriously did other departments and authorities view the transaction? This was no slight irregularity such as might escape the attention of even this Minister who on his own selfassessment was the most assiduous, the most experienced ever to have served in Cabinet. How did the Treasury view it? On 15th January last year the First Assistant Secretary of Treasury, Mr Whitelaw, wrote to the Department of Foreign Affairs:
We are still inclined to the view that the purchase price which your department has apparently now decided to pay for the Jetair fleet of 6 DC3 aircraft may be a little on the high side I would add for the record however that our concurrence in these arrangements was heavily influenced by the possibility-
I emphasise the word ‘possibility” - you raised that the sixth ex-Jetair and existing S ex-RAAF DC3 aircraft now held by your department would be supplied to Cambodia and all expenses pertaining thereto would be charged against the unspent balance of our existing special aid programme for that country, so that no additional funds would be required. We would naturally be a little concerned if this suggestion was not assiduously followed up by your Department.
So, as far as the Treasury was concerned, the supply of the aircraft to Cambodia was still ‘a possibility’, was still ‘a suggestion’, to be assiduously followed up - so assiduously that the aircraft arrived in Cambodia from 8 to 11 months later, by which time the responsible Minister had been installed as the Prime Minister.
And what did the Auditor-General’s files have to say? On 7th May 1971 the Acting First Assistant Auditor-General wrote to the Department of Foreign Affairs:
How did the Contract Board react7 In a memorandum of 12th February 1971 from a Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs we found the following in the file:
The Contract Board was not able to follow its normal procedures. It could not survey the aircraft, it could not invite tenders, and it could not enter into further negotiations for a price.
How did Sir Kenneth Bailey react? He said:
This Department has no authority to offer Jetair that it would purchase the aircraft concerned. In doing so it engaged in as irregular an administrative procedure as it is possible to conceive.
He also said that the illegality may have been cleared up by the subsequent saving operation. He was reluctant to draw any firm conclusion as he believed a legal opinion should come from the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. On Tuesday the Prime Minister told the House:
I am informed that Sir Kenneth did discuss the matter with the Attorney-General’s Department
However, there is no legal opinion of this nature in any of the files tabled. The irregularity did not involve an unusual procedure. Every Commonwealth purchase in excess of $1,000 must either be put out to tender or covered by a Certificate of Inexpediency. Every senior public servant must be aware of the relevant Treasury regulation. So must any competent Minister, let alone a Minister of some 20 years standing including a term as Treasurer.
On Tuesday last the Prime Minister sought to evade his personal responsibility. He suggested indirectly that he had been advised that proper procedures would be followed. The submission of 3 1 st December, which he approved within 24 hours, stated that purchase details would be finalised between the Department of Supply and Jetair. However, that very statement implied that the broad outline of agreement had been reached and only the details remained to be completed. That very statement implied that tenders would not be called. That very statement should have alerted a competent Minister. Instead he compounds his error and uses it as an excuse. Can this nation afford a Prime Minister who is pathologically incapable of admitting that he erred?
For 2 years the Prime Minister and other Ministers acting on his behalf have attempted to conceal the entire internal controversy. Question after question, statement after statement has concealed this irregularity and the difference of opinion that existed. For the protection of the Prime Minister, and for no other reason, both the doubts and the irregularity were concealed from the public.
I cannot recite the countless examples of this suppression. Let me give one. On 12th February 1971 Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson wrote a letter which was suppressed for ever after. Sir Kenneth said: ‘It is unfortunate that normal purchasing procedures were not followed’. Yet 6 days after sending this letter, he could tell Senator Murphy: *I can see no problem at all about this matter as far as the Department of Supply is concerned, because it will just follow the normal procedure’. Let there be no doubt as to the Prime Minister’s personal involvement in this deception. He issued a Press statement which said:
The contract is being processed through established government purchasing arrangements.
On 20th September this year Senator Wright presented the Government’s second formal explanatory statement on this affair. Even at that stage the existence of the internal controversy and the irregularity was suppressed. Only after this statement, when it was reported in the Press that another Minister had expressed doubts, were the files tabled. Only then were the 2 years of evasion and deception revealed. The Prime Minister has been caught, but he does not have the strength of character to admit a mistake. He simply admits, as he did on Tuesday, that there was a breakdown in the administration. In other words, he has passed the buck to public servants who cannot defend themselves.
Five years ago, in October 1967, a precisely parallel motion was moved in the
House in connection with the VIP aircraft affair. There was exactly the same issue; there was a parallel motion. It was taken very seriously by .the then Prime Minister; it was taken very seriously by the then Leader of the Government in the Senate, who became Prime Minister shortly afterwards; and it was taken very seriously by the then Minister for Air, who offered to resign. After a Cabinet discussion bis offer was not accepted. The Cabinet took the matter seriously; the Press took it seriously; the public took it seriously, as we all remember from the ensuing Senate election campaign. Yet that affair did not involve, as this affair does, a very great sum of public money. That affair did not involve, as this affair does, a serious controversy between departments. That affair did not involve, as this does, a breach of proper procedures. That affair did not involve, as this does, Australia’s international relations and obligations. It concerned - as this does - misleading the Parliament. This involves, in addition, all these other matters I have listed. The question now is not: Did the Prime Minister repeatedly mislead the Government? Manifestly he did, and he did so repeatedly - himself and through Ministers representing him and through Ministers reading statements which he had vetted and corrected. The question he must answer is: Why did he, so often, so gravely, mislead the Parliament? Unless he answers that question satisfactorily the House has no choice but to carry this motion of censure upon him.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
- Mr Speaker- (Opposition members interjecting) -
-Order! I warned honourable members before that I will insist on every speaker being heard, as the Leader of the Opposition was heard, in complete silence. I appeal for the cooperation of the House.
– It will be obvious that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) destroyed every particle of his own statement to the House by saying by way of introduction: ‘If the papers had been tabled 18 months ago it would have been all over’. The Government was never asked to table the papers until recently. It is only in the last few days that the Leader of the Opposition asked me. ‘It would have been all over’. In other words, the Opposition has found nothing whatever to justify the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition, nothing at all, and I will go through each statement in detail. I would like first of all to detail the circumstances in which the Government took action relating to special aid and, a few months later, took action under that special aid to provide aircraft to Cambodia as part and parcel of an aid programme to Nepal, Laos and Cambodia.
Let me speak of the circumstances existing at the time of the decision to provide special aid to Cambodia. They have been mentioned already by the Leader of the Opposition. I believe from our point of view and from the point of view of honourable members in this House that we were interested in the survival of Cambodia and South Vietnam. At one time so too was the Leader of the Opposition but I ask every honourable member to read the opening paragraphs of the memoirs of the former Leader of the Opposition, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), and ask: Who changed his mind under pressure from the left wing of the Australian Labor Party? Prior to the elections when the then Leader of the Opposition was describing the South Vietnam campaign as a dirty campaign, the present Leader of the Opposition disowned him. He was disloyal to his own colleague. What is stated by the then Leader of the Opposition is available for everyone to read. Now the present Leader of the Opposition comes out and is an advocate of handing over South Vietnam.
– How much did you get out of the deal?
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Lang cease interjecting.
– I ask that the statement be withdrawn.
– I ask honourable members to cease interjecting.
– Withdraw the statement.
-I suggest that the House come to order.
– I have asked that that statement be withdrawn.
-The Prime Minister has asked that the statement be withdrawn as it is a reflection on him.
– I withdraw my question.
– I turn now quite specifically to the nature of the decision to send aid to Cambodia, the first question raised by the Leader of the Opposition. I have partially described it. We first received a request - I think it is wise to mention this date - on 16th April 1970 from the Foreign Minister of Cambodia in which he asked us to let Cambodia have items of military equipment that Australia could supply in order to ensure Cambodia’s defence. That then was the date on which we received the first request and if the Leader of the Opposition likes to do so he can have a look at the copy of that cable.
– You did not mention aircraft.
– This is the type of operation - semantics, I choose to call it - of the Leader of the Opposition, unable to keep to the facts, unable to be literal and honest. He is now splitting hairs and trying to create impressions- where there is no ground for these impressions to be created. We immediately initiated an inquiry into this to see what we could do. But shortly afterwards the question of the Djakarta conference arose. It was then decided that while we would go ahead with examining what equipment we could provide, in the interests of ourselves and of the part that we were able to play in Djakarta, it would be better, (a) to co-operate with our allies, but (b) to suspend judgment as to when equipment could in fact be supplied or would be supplied. That, I believe, was a wise decision. But nonetheless, it was a decision taken properly and in the interests of trying to get a negotiated settlement in Cambodia.
No-one knows this better than I do because I was the one who went to Djakarta. I was the one who handled every detail of these negotiations. So that then was the nature of the problem. We then looked on several occasions at what should be done, and we had several Cabinet submissions about it, culminating in the fact some months later that we would in fact supply aircraft to Cambodia, and I made a statement to the House on the supply of the aircraft to Cambodia after we had decided on 2 other occasions not only to increase the vote but also to supply items of dual purpose equipment - for example, telecommunications equipment - and also to provide motor vehicles and later on to provide other different kinds of equipment, and then I made the statement relating to the DC3 aircraft.
– What date was that?
– I am not going into the dates because it is too difficult to be able to pick up each one of the details, but if you like to ask me I will put them in the form of a letter to you.
– Thank you.
– So it was therefore a sequence of events. But much more importantly, I want to put out the dates of commencement of negotiations for the DC3 aircraft themselves. The dates of negotiations were accurately given by my colleague. I am not talking now about special aid; I am talking about the negotiations for DC3 aircraft - not machine guns, not the provision of vehicles and trucks, not telecommunications equipment, but DC3 aircraft. They, Sir, were accurately stated by my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) when he said in the House - and I support him - that the dates were: Nepal, October-November 1969; Laos, April 1970; and Cambodia, December 1970. This disposes of any suggestion that this was a last minute decision. In answer to my colleague the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) I deliberately used the words Cambodia, Laos and Nepal. Consequently when I was thinking of the dates I was thinking of each one. That is known to the Leader of the Opposition, yet he has deliberately deceived the House in trying to create the impression that my statement related exclusively to Cambodia. It happens to be true.
– I rise to a point of order. Mr Irwin - Sit down, you squib.
-Order! The honourable member for Mitchell will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the remark, Mr Speaker.
– I believe I am entitled to a withdrawal of the phrase that I deliberately deceived the House.
-I think the word deliberately’ should be withdrawn.
– I take the adjective out; I leave the noun in.
– The adverb.
– I withdraw the adverb. I refer now to the history of this transaction to show whether there was any administrative failure whatsoever. I believe that when the Leader of the Opposition looks at the facts he has to concede that there was none. But, driven by his own left wing and some feline disposition which I have mentioned on other occasions he has, he persists with this argument. The first point that has to be made - I think it is one that I have put in the House before and I mentioned it in the House on the same day that I last spoke - is that every relevant department was contacted about these negotiations. I was assured by the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs that funds were available for expenditure on the aircraft as listed in paragraph 11 of the document I had incorporated in Hansard. He said:
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.
In those circumstances there can be little doubt that until that moment there could have been no administrative failure on my part. I admit and, if necessary I am prepared to say that on the doctrine of ministerial accountability to the House, of course I have to be accountable. But immediately I found out that there was this irregularity I took every step practicable to ensure that the matter was dealt with through proper administrative procedures. I tabled in the House and had incorporated in Hansard the opinion given to me by Sir Kenneth Bailey who, even the Leader of the Opposition had to admit, is an eminent lawyer and one who can be completely trusted for his integrity. What did he say? Rather than quoting his words from the actual document I state that this eminent gentleman said that there was basically an irregularity but that the irregularity had been removed. I was entitled ta rely fully upon that statement.
It is true that there was an inderdepartmental minute, not to me but between the deputy secretary and the secretary which did use the language mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. I do not deny that; but the minute was not to me. I stand on the information furnished to me by Sir Kenneth Baitev. I believe tha* ;<s the only document to which this House can direct its attention. Having examined the matter of ministerial competence I have no doubt at all in saying that so far as the administration of my Department was concerned there was little more that I could have done In order to ensure that this difficulty was cleared up.
Another point I want to raise is the question of ministerial responsibility because I think that this is a question that has to be cleared up and cleared up immediately. Naturally enough I have had this matter under consideration for some time. I believe it has to be cleared up completely. Firstly. I inquired where ministerial responsibility for the purchase lies. Ministerial authority for the approval of the funds for aid purposes was in the hands of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Department. Ministerial responsibility for the actual purchase was covered in the administrative orders by the Department of Supply. In the final analysis that Department was the one that finished the transactions and said that the negotiation was satisfactory. As to the question of ministerial accountability - I do not use the phrase ministerial responsibility’ at all - yes, I am responsible to this House. However, I have received from the Crown law authorities a statement showing very clearly where that accountability lay. If the House will allow me the indulgence I will find the statement so that I may quote it for honourable members. First, I asked for an opinion from my own Department.
– Table it.
– No, I will not. It is a confidential document. If the Leader of the Opposition wishes to see it, I will let him have a look at it. This is an opinion given to me by the permanent head of my Department and is an opinion that comes from the Chairman of the Public Service Board:
Your responsibility as Minister for Foreign Affairs was to authorise the provision of funds. The Minister for Supply was responsible for approval of the contractual obligations.
I go a stage further and say that I have already asked the Crown law officers to give me their view. They confirm that you cannot pursue this doctrine of ministerial accountability to too great a length. As an illustration I take the case of the PostmasterGeneral. Does it mean that if there is some accident in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department the Postmaster-General has to take the complete responsibility for what happened? If the Leader of the Opposition will keep quiet for a moment it will provide a better opportunity for honourable members to be able to understand me. I have no doubt at all, Mr Speaker, that not only was the irregularity cleared up but also that there is no residue of responsibility left so far as I personally am concerned.
I turn next to the question of whether there had been in fact any deceit. I would like to read out what I can about ministerial responsibility:
The following comments appear to be justified by parliamentary practice and the observations of constitutional authorities, mainly though not wholly British. A Minister is not liable to censure for everything done by the officers of his Department. Thus no-one could suggest that a PostmasterGeneral should resign because a postal clerk misappropriates mail.
There is no absolute vicarious liability on the part of a Minister for the sins of his subordinates
I think that disposes of this matter completely.
I turn to the second part - whether there was any attempt whatsoever to deceive or whether in fact any deception took place. The fundamental question that has arisen is not only as to when we considered the proposal relating to the supply of arms and equipment to Cambodia - which was dated 18th April 1970 - but also the subsequent course of transactions leading up to the supply of the DC3 aircraft. My colleague mentioned the date on which we decided to supply the DC3 aircraft. On 14th February 1971 I made this statement:
That is a reference to myself-
The supply of these aircraft would meet commitments Australia had made to each of these countries at various stages during the past year . . .
Those are the decisive words. We did not do it in one decision but there were decisions proceeding over a lengthy period of time. I then went on to explain the reasons why we were doing this.
The Leader of the Opposition also raises the question of why I altered a Press statement. Already that has been answered - because I believed the Press statement ;o express inaccurately the position as it then existed. As I have made clear to the House, Mr Speaker, the position was that we received the request on 16th April. We deferred a final decision until some time later. We then progressively went through the problem of supplying aid and equipment to Cambodia, culminating in my statement on 14th February that we would supply the equipment. So therefore the alteration made to the document was in the interests of accuracy. If the Leader of the Opposition believes that is a failure or there is something wrong with accuracy - and I think he does believe it to be wrong that you should insist on accuracy - then the responsibility is on him to show why he does not believe that accuracy should be the proper rule to be favoured in this case. In other words, let me come back to this: I believe that there was an original irregularity, no more. It was beyond the capacity of the Department at that time. But I believe it was cleared up and cleared up in double quick time, and I believe I took the initiative in order to ensure that the Department not only looked at the problem but took actions to try to ensure that it would not occur at any subsequent date.
In every statement that I have made I have tried to ensure that the words Nepal, Laos and Cambodia were included, to mention the dates on which action was initially taken, when approvals were given for the supply of various types of equipment and the subsequent operations that could take place. I cannot find in any of the information given by me one single word that could in fact be changed after the date on which the initial irregularity occurred. For those reasons, Sir, I believe that this motion must fail. I point out this too: We in the Government are not defending this case; we are attacking the Opposition for an imprecise, an imperfect and, I believe, in many cases a dishonest presentation of the case.
I want now to come to just one other matter. Although the Leader of the Opposition decided that the attack would be confined to minimum grounds - only two, which I believe I have disposed of - he also introduced the question of the actual price. I do not think that after we tabled the letter last night from Hungerford, Spooner and Kirkhope, the auditors, as to what the price was there could be any doubt that we carried out a remarkably good bargain, because in their letter they made clear that the actual total cost of the aircraft was $579,000, not $100,000 as mentioned by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), who is talking devotedly now to his Leader. It was not $100,000. He mistook the nature of the deal. He did not understand the accounts of the company. But we have from one of the most reputable accountants and auditors in the country conclusive proof of what the audited accounts of the company state. We have shown in the document that was tabled by Senator Wright that it was a very good deal. I certainly feel that while there was some minimal problem, to raise a motion of censure on a matter so minimal as this, I think, is not only to disgrace this House and to demean its procedures but also to stop us from carrying on the sensible and legitimate activities of the Government.
I conclude on this note: Some weeks ago, the Leader of the Opposition thought he had the prospects of victory. He has now panicked. So, in order to divert attention from the failures of the Labor Party, he will now engage in a process of character assassination and of attempts to deceive - I leave out the words ‘personal deception’ - and I believe that the public will react to this. Three men will have to answer this charge: Can those men be trusted? I refer to the Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Newcastle and the honourable member for Prospect, each of whom has been engaged-
– I am sorry; whatever the name of his electorate is. It is the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating).
– Can we refresh the Prime Minister’s memory?
– It is all right; I will do it myself. It is the honourable member for Blaxland. Each of these men has to answer that charge, particularly the honourable member for Newcastle who has been totally wrong in every statement he has made in this House.
– I second the motion of censure of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). I want, firstly, to draw the attention of the poor, old gentleman
-Order! Mr Clyde Cameron - What is wrong with that? He is poor and he is old.
-Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh has just come into the House.
– I know, and I can see it already.
-Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh will cease speaking while I am on my feet. Since the honourable member for Hindmarsh has just walked into the House, he does not understand the co-operation that the Chair has received from both sides of the House. I suggest that this co-operation come from him, too. I suggest to the honourable member for Newcastle that the practice and custom of this House is to refer to a member by the name of his electorate or office and not in any other manner. In other words, he must refer to the Prime Minister as the Prime Minister. I suggest that the honourable member for Newcastle refrain from using any other nomenclature in respect of the right honourable gentleman.
– The Prime Minister once again has demonstrated his phenomenal memory. He could not even remember the electorate name of the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), who has been with him in this place for 3 years. I think that is an indication of the senility that is developing. Before the Prime Minister leaves, I should like to demonstrate another example of his lack of memory. In his reply to the Leader of the Opposition, he said that no member of this Parliament had asked for these papers to be tabled in this place. That is a complete untruth - it is either an untruth or, again, a lapse of his phenomenal memory - because on 6th April 1971 I asked a question of the Prime Minister. It appears on page 1458 of Hansard. I do not want to read the entire question. Amongst other things, I asked:
In view of this serious breach of accepted government methods of purchasing will the Prime Minister table all papers and documents relative to the reasons for purchasing the 6 DC3 aircraft?
Do we need any further evidence of the senility that is developing in the Prime Minister? On that occasion he was not prepared to answer that question, but he dealt, in a most erroneous manner, with some of the other matters that I had raised with him. Furthermore, on at least 4 occasions honourable senators have asked questions in another place requesting that the papers be tabled and it has not been until this very moment, in the last few days, that the Government has seen fit to table the papers in this place.
I show honourable members another example of the lapse in the right honourable gentleman’s memory. I asked him a question about Mr Barton and members of the company, Jetair Australia Ltd, and the Prime Minister replied:
Anyone who has never heard of Mr Barton does not live in Sydney, or even in Australia, because associated with this man are some of the most notorious firms in Australia today. In fact, a very close friend of Mr Alexander Barton was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council. He was a Liberal member - a member of the same Party as the Prime Minister. He was a very prominent member of the New South Wales Branch of the Liberal Party. I have in my hand a report that appeared in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 20th December 1968, in which is set out the whole story which led up to the expulsion of Mr Armstrong from the Legislative Council in the State Parliament.
– Mr Eskell.
– And also Mr Eskell, another former member of the Legislative Council. In my opinion, the Prime Minister’s reply was - I cannot use the word ‘lie’; I have to say ‘untruth’ - an untruth. The Prime Minister told a deliberate untruth to the Parliament in April 1971 when he said that he did not know this man Armstrong. This is typical of what has been going on.
-Order! The honourable member for Newcastle will remember that the Leader of the Opposition objected during the Prime Minister’s speech to the use of words similar to those used by the honourable member for Newcastle, and I ask that they be withdrawn. The honourable member for Newcastle shall not use the words ‘deliberate untruth’.
– If the words I used are objectionable, I withdraw them. The facts are as I have stated. For the Prime Minister to say that he does not know this man is not acceptable to me.
– The Prime Minister did not say that he did not know him.
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs can have his say in a minute. Some question has been raised as to the price of these aircraft, and the Prime Minister has seen fit to deal with it. I want to deal with it also, because I have some very interesting facts and figures in relation to it. The whole deal is centred around the purchase of 6 DC3 aircraft from a company known as Jetair Australia Ltd, which is one of the many, many subsidiaries of Brins Australia Ltd. The balance sheet of Brins Australia Ltd as at 30th June 1970 disclosed that the company had aircraft to the value of $107,881, less depreciation of $8,112, giving the aircraft a total value of $99,769. It has since been disputed that these aircraft were the 6 DC3 aircraft in question.
– The auditors have certified that they were not.
– Unfortunately, that is allegedly the position. The balance sheet of Jetair Australia Ltd for the same year, as at 30th June 1970. disclosed that the company had aircraft stock valued at $176,500.
– That proves nothing.
– I know that it does not prove anything. This Government purchased 6 DC3 aircraft from Jetair Australia Ltd, and honourable members have since been told that the aircraft belonged not to Jetair but to some other phoney company owned by Barton and his family.
What is the real position? From which company did the Government buy the aircraft? The contract of sale was made out to the manager of Jetair Australia Ltd, Tower Building, Australia Square; yet it was disclosed in the letter which was tabled in this place on Tuesday by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) that the aircraft did not belong to Jetair. I would like the Minister for Foreign Affairs, when he speaks, to tell honourable members who did own the aircraft at that time. This at least would be enlightening to honourable members in this place. These are facts that have to be cleaned up by the Government. It should straighten out the matter and tell us what was the true value of these aircraft. I want to question their true value. The Government did not make a good deal on these aircraft. It was sucked in by a team of shrewdies who over the years have robbed Australian investors of millions of dollars.
The company put out a circular, after it went out of business in Victoria, which showed the airframe hours of each of the aircraft and the hours of each engine. This was there for the buyer to see. For example, as at 28th November 1970 VH-BUR had 9,476 hours 13 minutes up and was 21 hours 47 minutes away from an overhaul which would cost at least $1,000 plus any parts that needed to be replaced. The port engine had 461 hours 18 minutes up. The starboard engine had 280 hours 40 minutes up. These engines had varying times of certification. At somewhere around 1,000 hours they have to come up for engine replacement which costs between $8,000 and $10,000. VH-EQB as at 28th November 1970 had 4,680 hours 42 minutes on the airframe and had 98 hours to go. This aircraft was a special type of aircraft with a special cockpit and special windows. To use the summary of East-West Airlines Ltd, this aircraft would have been an operational nightmare.
VH-SEN had airframe hours of 39,346 hours 26 minutes and had 30 hours to go for an airframe inspection. Its port engine had 359 hours up and its starboard engine had 174 hours. VH-TAI, which was an old Trans-Australia Airlines aircraft, had 47,495 hours 53 minutes up on its airframe. It had 78 hours to go for a 100-hour inspection. The port engine had 386 hours and the starboard engine had 439 hours on it.
VH-EON had 7,890 hours 9 minutes on the airframe. The port engine had 246 hours 12 minutes and the starboard engine had 591 hours 43 minutes. It was not too bad, because it had 89 hours still to go before an overhaul. Both propellers had over 1,900 hours on them. The cost of overhaul of a DC3 propeller can be as high as $2,000 because a lot of work has to be done on it. The engines of this aircraft were approaching the exchange position, so it had quite a substantial maintenance fee coming up. VH-EQO had 9,016 hours 35 minutes on the airframe and was 39 hours 25 minutes away from an inspection. The port engine was OK. It had only 5 hours and 15 minutes on it and the starboard engine had zero hours. So these aircraft were not in good condition.
Let me emphasise what surveys and inspections mean. A 100-hour inspection can cost $1,000 plus parts. An engine overhaul, which comes up probably every 1,000 or 1,100 hours depending on the certification, can cost $8,000 to $10,000. A propeller overhaul can cost in the vicinity of $2,000 after about 2,500 hours. I was informed by someone who was interested in buying the aircraft that the analysis of EastWest Airlines was that they were an odd-bod lot that had been dredged up from everywhere. They had different types of propellers. They had different types of engines. This would cause an operational headache for anyone operating an airline. With different propellers there is no opportunity for interchange between the aircraft. You cannot have one spare propeller or 2 spare propellers for your aircraft. You might need anything up to half a dozen spare propellers, and all of this costs money.
Taken all round these aircraft were an unsatisfactory lot. The gentleman who went to look at them between Christmas and New Year, before the Government bought them, offered $22,000 for one. EastWest Airlines advised that he should not touch the other 5 with a 40-foot pole because they were so bad. He offered $22,000 and was prepared to go to $32,000. I think this indicates the true value of these aircraft. When he made the offer the salesman laughed at him and said: ‘Look, we are not interested in that price. We are going to sell them to the Government for $60,000.’ That man knew, prior to the deal, that they were going to sell them to the Government.
Shortly after that, Qantas Airways Ltd sold 2 DC3 aircraft to Queensland Pacific Airways Pty Ltd for a total of $43,000. This gives a comparison between the 2 sales. Admittedly, the Qantas aircraft had not been furnished to the same degree as the Jetair ones. The Government paid an average of $46,000 for these aircraft. There was no market for them. Some of these aircraft had been lying in a paddock at Mascot or Canberra for 5 years previously and could not be sold. What it would cost to refit an aircraft is immaterial. It is what the buyer is prepared to pay that counts. The Government was well and truly touched by this company. I do not accept the figures that were released to this Parliament on 16th October. There is no proof as to who owned the aircraft and what was their true value.
– Order! the honourable member’s time has expired.
– This censure motion is an exceptionally miserable one. For a long time now the Opposition in this House and in the Senate has been asking questions about the purchase of DC3 aircraft from Jetair Australia Ltd for foreign aid purposes, in an attempt to suggest first of all that there was some impropriety in the transaction. The Government has responded accurately and directly in answers to questions, so far as I can see from going through those questions and answers. Where the Government has been asked for papers, papers have been made available. They have been tabled - very freely tabled - with the exception of certain papers which were not proper to be tabled because of classification or for some other reason. Where that was the position the Government has indicated the category of those papers and has offered (hem for inspection by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) and the Leader of the Opposition in this House (Mr Whitlam). So I suggest that the Government has acted reasonably and responsibly in answer to these various probes which have attempted to show impropriety.
It is now clear beyond any question that there was no wrongdoing and no impropriety on the part of any Minister or any officer of a Commonwealth department. The most that can be suggested is that at one point there was some irregularity between an officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Supply. He should have left it to the Department of Supply to write the letter in relation to the purchase. But it is also clear that any such irregularity was cured, that proper procedures were eventually followed, that the whole matter is now in order and that there is neither irregularity nor illegality in it. The Opposition has switched its ground. It has said: ‘If there is no impropriety, let us have another go at the Government on some other basis.’ It said: ‘The Government paid too much for them; so let us have a go at the price.’ The suggestion was offered that the Commonwealth Government paid too much and it was repeated this morning by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). The papers actually show that on price the deal was a satisfactory one from the Government’s point of view. Every department that had anything to do with it, including the Department of Supply, agrees that it was a proper price. I repeat that every department agrees it was a proper price; so there is nothing in that suggestion.
But there is one curious offshoot which has been pursued by the honourable member for Newcastle who until recently has been suggesting that really the aircraft were worth only $100,000, that we paid $275,000 for them, therefore we grossly overpaid for them and gave someone an enormous and undue profit. He has persisted in that suggestion, at least until yesterday. He referred, in support of this allegation to there being aircraft on the books of the company to the value of $100,000. We all know that book value is almost irrelevant and that what you look at is the real value. It is obvious that the real value was there and we paid that. But let us take this on the basis of book value. The honourable member was referring to the wrong aircraft in the books. They were different aircraft. They were a Piper Aztec and some other aircraft. So on a false basis he has made a violent attack on the Government and on the companies con cerned. He does not spare himself in heaping all kinds of insinuations on those companies. The fact is that the aircraft he mentioned were not the aircraft referred to in the books. On 17th October I tabled a letter which showed the book value of the aircraft which the Commonwealth purchased. It was not $100,000; it was $579,325. So if we follow the kind of reasoning which the honourable member follows and compare the book value with what was paid it looks as though we got a tremendous bargain.
Immediately I tabled that letter and before the honourable member read it he rose to make a personal explanation and said that he perisisted in his allegation. I said to him, rather gently I think, that he had better check whether - this is the effect of my comment - the figures he was referring to related to the aircraft which we had purchased. He did not bother to check that. He went straight on television and repeated his allegation, which is utterly false and which the information in front of him would have enabled him to convince himself was false. He did not bother to check. He recklessly and without taking the slightest trouble to check it, although I had asked him to check it, went on Channel 9 or ‘This Day Tonight’, and made the same assertions, piled insinuation on insinuation and persisted in this. We have tabled further documents including a letter from the auditors, who are most reputable people, showing entirely what is the clear fact, that is, that the aircraft we purchased for $275,000 stood in the books at a value of $579,325.
– They would not have got that price for them if they had held them for 1 10 years.
– He is going to change his ground again. He will change his ground every 5 minutes. I suggest that the honourable member should apologise. But it is worse than that. The honourable member for Newcastle is the shadow Minister for Shipping and Transport. What is facing the Australian people is the risk that a man so reckless that he would not bother to check before going on to the media to make these very serious allegations could become a Minister in certain possibilities. I hope that the people will take a hard look at the shadow Ministry on the other side of this
House. If they do and if they pay less attention to the public relations gimmicks they are being showered with, if they have a hard look at the honourable member for Newcastle and the other shadow Ministers on the Opposition side to see whether they want their affairs administered in this fashion, then I suggest that this will influence what they do on 2nd December.
Switching ground again in the course of the history of this affair the Opposition sought to follow a different tack altogether. For a while the Opposition left the purchase of aircraft for foreign aid purposes and began to suggest, particularly through the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating): ‘Oh well, there has been some wrongdoing by the Department of Civil Aviation in that it has been attempting to undermine the 2-airline policy’. This suggestion again was accompanied by a violent attack on the integrity and bona fides of the concerns in question. I think this consistent pattern of using the protection of this House to make these wild insinuations and attacks on these people is done with a purpose - in the hope that some gullible people will accept the allegations, the insinuations, as facts and will transfer to the Government some of their resulting feelings of disapproval. That is the operation that is being engaged in in these insinuations by the honourable member for Newcastle and the honourable member for Blaxland. All this is pretty low level conduct on the part of the Opposition.
Now the Opposition casts aside all charges of impropriety in the transaction and comes forward with the suggestion that the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) has been guilty of concealment and incompetence in dealing with the matter. Well, they are pretty general charges. But when you look at the first one, the question of concealment, as I have already said each question that has been put has been directly and so far as I can see accurately answered. Papers have been made available again and again. They have been tabled. Those which are classified or otherwise properly not to be made available generally have been made available for inspection by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition in this House. It is impossible to say with any justice that there has been concealment in this case. It was suggested - perhaps this is hardly covered by the term ‘concealment’ - that the Prime Minister had been inaccurate in some of his answers and that this amounted to misleading the House. I have been through the answers. I cannot find this.
The one which the Leader of the Opposition mainly relies on is some suggestion that when the Prime Minister said that the negotiations for the purchase of aircraft for Nepal, Laos and Cambodia started about a year before, he was inaccurate because negotiations for Cambodia did not start a year before. I would have thought that if the Prime Minister had answered that the purchase negotiations for Nepal, Laos and Cambodia started in December 1970 that would have been inaccurate. The only accurate answer in those circumstances is the one that has been given. If honourable members look at the answer I gave they will see that it covers this aspect of the matter. I also was asked the same question and I gave the answer that they started for Nepal in 1969, for Laos in April 1970 and for Cambodia in 1970. There has never been any concealment. Everyone knows what the truth is. It is only a person who is mischievously misinterpreting the answers who could claim that they were misleading.
I turn to the charge of incompetence. This matter came before the Minister for Foreign Affairs, now the Prime Minister, at 2 points. He, as the Minister for Foreign Affairs had the task of allocating funds for foreign aid. It was put to him in a memorandum of 31st December asking for an allocation of funds for the the purchase of these aircraft. His task was to approve the allocation of funds for that purchase. He did it at that point and on all the evidence tabled did it competently. When subsequently an irregularity occurred he dealt also with that competently to get advice on it and to cure the position. So there is nothing in the allegation.
There is a serious side to this whole exercise. It is obvious that the Opposition has deliberately set out to engage the time and attention of this House on trivia. It is not the first time the Opposition has engaged in this tactic. It is becoming a common practice under the leadership of the present Leader of the Opposition.
There are great national issues with which this House should be concerning itself and the Government has at all times shown a willingness to bring forward and grapple with issues of importance. But the Opposition constantly seeks to divert attention from national issues on so many of which its policies are inadequate and vulnerable. It does not want its policies subjected too much to the cold light of day, so it turns on this nonsense exercise - the Jetair operation. It think it ought to be called the hot air operation.
There is another reason for these tactics. In each of these low level initiatives there is an attempt to defame or denigrate the Prime Minister. This is a common denominator. The policies of the Opposition on great issues are so vulnerable, and its old shadow ministers, who have so many times been rejected by the electorate are so inadequate to their tasks, that it seems to believe its only hope of persuading the electorate to support it on this occasion is to launch malicious personal attacks on the Prime Minister and then to launch an expensive electoral campaign of pubic relations gimmicks such as we have never seen before in this country. Sure, the Labor Party has a slogan, it has T shirts and it has showbiz singing jingles. It has the works. Well, I do not believe that the people of Australia will be taken in by all of this nonsense. 1 believe that the Opposition is greatly underrating the judgment of the people of Australia. The people are interested in policies and issues, and they will not be taken in by these gimmicks, nor are they going to be misled by any smear campaign against the Prime Minister. I believe that they will demonstrate on 2nd December their disapproval and even their contempt for these tactics.
– I was attacked by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), who has subsequently left the Chamber. I wish he would return to hear what I have to say to him. I have studied all the documents that have been made available in the House and in the Senate and I make the following 6 charges: The Prime Minister has deceived the House; he has manipulated the governments of Laos, Nepal and Cambodia; he has ruthlessly manipulated the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Sir Keith Waller; he has made an improper use of the United States Embassy in Canberra; he has degraded and insulted our embassy in Cambodia; he has abused the foreign aid programme. The Prime Minister has proved himself unworthy of the high office he holds.
I would like to outline to the House the facts of the matter. The Prime Minister claims that the first he knew of the Jetair planes being available for use was when the Secretary of his then Department, Sir Keith Waller, gave him a recommendation on 31st December 1970 to purchase the Jetair fleet of 6 aircraft for $275,00. His claim is rubbish. As far back as 6th May 1970 Alexander Barton for Jetair notified the Government by letter - that is contained in the Viscount documents tabled in the House - that Jetair would be unable to continue without the third airline licence. Knowing that he could not get the third licence for his friend, due among other things to Ansett pressure, he, the Prime Minister, set in train a scheme to give Jetair taxpayers’ money.
The evidence is that over a period of so many months - 8 months before the recommendation was given to him - he was taking advance action to create a need for the Jetair planes. He did this by having our ambassadors in Nepal and Laos request the governments of those countries to request us that our original offer of freighter planes be changed to one of planes of passenger configuration. The evidence for this is in document 404 of the departmental papers which is a letter dated 9th July 1971 from Sir Keith Waller to the First Assistant Auditor-General. It reads: the 5 ex-RAAF aircraft were acquired from the Department of Supply after discussions wilh Nepal and Laos and as part of our foreign aid programmes designed to help those developing countries improve their internal communications facilities. Advice available (from the Departments of Civil Aviation and Supply) at the time indicated that little work would need to be done on each aircraft Also, the first 1 aircraft were offered to and accepted by Nepal in their original RAAF configuration. However the requirement was later changed to civilian passenger configuration on representation from the Australian Embassy in Nepal and the Nepalese authorities.
What that means is that Australia requested these governments to change their requests to us. It also means that we were going to give away freighter aircraft. In fact the Prime Minister was deliberately
Inflating the cost of the ex-RAAF planes from $344,000 to $425,000 as is seen in document 399. At this figure the Jetair aircraft were becoming a better commercial proposition and so their purchase could be justified to the Parliament and the public even though they were not on the market at this stage.
The Prime Minister, having decided that the Jetair aircraft would fulfil the requirements of Nepal and Laos, then had to find a use for the 5 surplus ex-RAAF planes which were owned by the Department of Foreign Affairs and could have caused acute embarrassment if they were not disposed of. These planes were offered to Cambodia and were accepted by that government on 29th January 1971 only after considerable pressure had been exercised. Negotiations to supply the 5 ex-RAAF planes to Cambodia could have taken place only after the original requirements for Nepal and Laos had been fulfilled. Therefore, the decision to purchase the Jetair aircraft would have to have been made before any offer of the ex-RAAF planes to Cambodia. This is where the Prime Minister exposes himself. He has claimed that no one in the Government was aware of the availability of the Jetair aircraft until they were advertised in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ ,11 5th December 1970. Yet Mr G. B. Feakes, the Australian Ambassador to Cambodia, wrote to the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs on 1 9th January 1971 in the following terms: the Americans were obviously in touch with the Cambodians no later than mid-December about the possibility of the supply of the Australian airplanes.
So we are asked to believe that within 8 days, at the latest, of the advertisement appearing in the newspaper it was normal for the United States Embassy in Cambodia to be trying to dispose of our 6 DC3 aircraft, bearing in mind that the Jetair planes were not inspected by the Department of Foreign Affairs until after this date - ‘that is, on 17th and 18th December. In other words, before we even looked at the Jetair planes the United States Embassy was selling them for us in Cambodia.
It is obvious that the then Foreign Minister intended to purchase the Jetair planes all along. I should point out that the 6 planes mentioned in the letter from Feakes to Waller were made up of 5 ex-RAAF aircraft plus one Jetair aircraft. So we have one Jetair aircraft which the United States Ambasador in Cambodia was trying to sell for us before the Jetair planes were inspected by Foreign Affairs and only within 5 or 6 days after the advertisement first appeared in the newspaper. This just illustrates the untruth that the Prime Minister told when he said that no one in the Department or himself knew of the Jetair planes until they were advertised. This is borne out by confidential document 16. which is a letter from Ambassador Feakes to Waller on 19th January 1971. The letter expresses the grave concern by that Ambassador at his being kept in the dark and being by-passed by his Minister and the head of his Department. The letter reads, inter alia:
The distinction yon make between early December and mid-December for the time when you first got in touch with the American embassy in Canberra about the 6 aircraft is not a very important one from my point of view here.
In other words, if you are trying to scramble out, I am not going to help you. The letter continues:
It may well have been that the people to whom we spoke in the US Embassy were mistaken about the precise date on which they first heard about the possibility that aircraft would be offered here. Your memorandum confirms that you were in touch with the US Embassy in Canberra well before we were first appraised here of the idea of providing the aircraft.
The letter continues:
The Americans here must wonder whether we have the confidence of our own people when they hear about and are apparently asked to comment on Austraiian proposals for aid of which we are ignorant. The Americans were obviously in touch with the Cambodians no later than mid-December about the possibility, of the supply of Australian aircraft. I suggest to you that it is better for Cambodians to learn of Australian projects from the Australian representatives here rather than from somebody else.
He went on to say:
May I ask, however, that before discussion on new aid projects is initiated by Australian authorities with other authorities (including the Americans) we here are informed, if not given the opportunity to comment?
That is a nice sort of letter he has written as ambassador to the head of the Department.
I ask the following questions: What is the permanent head of our Department of Foreign Affairs doing in asking the American Embassy to undertake work in a place where we have a resident ambassador? Why were not the documents of Sir Keith Waller’s dealing with the American Embassy tabled with the other documents that were tabled in the House? I can answer both questions. Firstly, he went to the American Embassy to keep the matter quiet, to keep the records out of the Department of Foreign Affairs, against his wishes and on the instructions of his Minister. Secondly, the documents are not tabled, because there would be no documents. The Prime Minister is relying on the safe but sure verbal technique. He has used the governments of Nepal and Laos for his own shabby political purposes. He manipulated ‘the Cambodians into accepting something that they had not asked for. He cruelly used his own permanent head, Sir Keith Waller. He humiliated our ambassador in Cambodia. He abused the friendship of the United States Embassy in Australia.
I now come to the Prime Minister’s malpractice in negotiating the purchase of the Jetair fleet. Why did the Department of Foreign Affairs enter into a private treaty with Jetair? Why were normal tender procedures ignored? Why, as a former Treasurer, did the Prime Minister not know that he was in breach of Treasury regulation 52? Why was the Auditor-General so caustic in his comments on the transaction? Why did Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, the then Minister for Supply, wash his hands of responsibility? Why were the DC3 aircraft owned by Ansett, Trans-Australia Airlines and others overlooked? Why then did the then Minister for Foreign Affairs approve the purchase on New Year’s Day? All these questions the Prime Minister has tried to smother with a simple subterfuge written into item 4 of the recommendations that were placed before him by Sir Keith Waller about the Jetair aircraft. Sir Keith’s letter to the Prime Minister reads in part:
In mid-December, Jetair Australia Limited, ceased operation with less than 24 hours notice, the reason being that Jetair is linked with the IPEC group of companies, the chairman of which is Mr G. P. Barton, who, when he was unable to obtain licences for more modern styles of aircraft, decided to cease his air transport interests.
The only possible explanation for this false statement being included in the secretary’s letter to the Prime Minister is that it was deliberately written by the Prime Minister to himself to put a smokescreen around Alexander Barton by trying purposely to confuse him with Gordon Barton of IPEC Australia Ltd and Australia Party fame. The Prime Minister was deliberately covering himself against possible charges of corruption by implying that he was doing an honest deal with a known political opponent. This is artful but unconvincing. Despite his protest, I believe that the Prime Minister’s involvement in the Jetair affair is so deep as to constitute serious malpractice which should result in his resignation as Prime Minister. The one person who knows all the details of this whole shabby exercise, apart from the Prime Minister, is the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Sir Keith Waller. It is clear that the Prime Minister has refused to tell the truth about this matter. Therefore, the Parliament can be satisfied only when all the evidence, including evidence of oral conversations, is revealed.
The Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs should be brought before the Bar of the House to explain all the transactions and his involvement with the United States Embassy. This involvement with the United States Embassy is crucial because the United States Embassy was negotiating to sell one of the Jetair aircraft in the middle of December 1970, although the Department of Foreign Affairs did not inspect the planes until 17th and 18th December 1970. The Prime Minister’s case rests on the basis that the aircraft were not advertised until 5th December 1970 and that he knew nothing of it. He did know something of it and I have referred to the letter from Alexander Barton saying that Jetair would fold as early as May. The deal was cooked up then. Sir Keith Waller was given the dirty work to do by the Prime Minister which involved not using his own ambassador in Cambodia and not using his own Department which would have meant that records would have got into the departmental files but going to the United States Embassy in Canberra and asking it to negotiate for us in Cambodia, where we have our own ambassador. Where are the details of this conversation? There are no details because it was only a verbal conversation.
It has been said in the Liberal Party in the last 2 weeks that Waller carried the can for McMahon by going through the United States Embassy. People in the know know that that is so. The Prime Minister has not explained his way out of this affair. His whole case rests on the fact that he never knew of the Jetair aircraft becoming available until 5th December and that the aircraft were not inspected until 17th and 18th December. Yet the ambassador in Cambodia said that the Americans knew of the aircraft at least by the middle of December. He then referred to the letter of the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs by saying: ‘I do not know whether you talked to me in early or midDecember.’ Obviously Sir Keith Waller is trying to cover up details of when the original offer was made.
As I said before, this Jetair affair was motivated by 2 things: Firstly, Ansett pressure to keep a third airline out of Australia and, secondly, pressure by Barton on the Prime Minister to get a third airline licence. When the Prime Minister was finally defeated in that attempt he had to get the DC3 aircraft off Barton’s hands. At the same time he had to suit Ansett because Ansett wanted the aircraft out of the country. The story has been told that when Jetair wanted 2 DC3 wheels which Ansett had, the wheels were sent to Albert G. Sims to be crushed. Albert G. Sims was told that if anyone took the wheel out of his plant he would never get another aircraft again. They are the lengths to which Ansett went to squash Jetair. The lengths to which it went are common knowledge in the industry. These were the pressures that were operating on the Prime Minister and are the reasons why the Prime Minister interceded and arranged the Jetair deal months before. What he has told the House is a pack of untruths. The only man who can expose him is the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and he ought to be brought before the Bar of the House to clear his own name, which he knows is in jeopardy. I am sure that he would not want to cover up for a man he knows will not be the Prime Minister after 2nd December anyway.
– The Opposition has been labouring hard. This matter has been one of some questioning over t period of time, not so much in this House but in the Senate. A Senate debate has taken place on it and the papers were tabled about 3 weeks ago. It has taken 3 weeks for the matter to be raised here to any degree. One wonders why? Is it because Opposition members have no confidence in their colleagues in another place or is it because the substance of the issue is such that they still have not been able to comprehend it and still do not know where they are heading? Originally there was an allegation of impropriety. The allegation of substance was that the matter involved a series of personal negotiations, some of which have been referred to without substance or justification by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). He has made a series of allegations about the personal connection of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) with Alexander Barton whom the Prime Minister does not know personally. He knows of him but does not know him personally. There has been an allegation of an incorrect involvement between the Prime Minister and the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs. There is an allegation that the whole deal was the result of pressure placed by Ansett Airlines of Australia on the Prime Minister. There is an allegation that pressure was brought to bear on the Prime Minister by Barton. None of these allegations are substantiated.
The whole basis of the original charge was impropriety but the charge of impropriety is in no way borne out by the papers showing the basis of the reference to the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Supply, the opinion of Sir Kenneth Bailey, the comment by the Auditor-General and the reply to it by the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs. There is an irregularity but it is an irregularity related only to the manner in which the purchase of the DC3 aircraft from Jetair Australia Ltd was implemented. It is true that Treasury regulation 52 sets down certain conditions under which the Government must pursue a purchase contract. Those conditions were not in fact followed but there is no suggestion from any of the departments involved in this issue that the price paid was other than a just one. There is no suggestion either by Sir Kenneth Bailey or the Auditor-General that there was impropriety. There has been a suggestion of a minimal breach of the regulations and that has been acknowledged by the Department, by the Government and by the Prime Minister. So the question of impropriety is not the substance of this attack today.
The attack has been switched, as my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen), so rightly pointed out, to the question of the valuation of the aircraft. lt is suggested that the purchase is one that could not be substantiated on a proper basis but if one looks through the files it is quite apparent that the Department of Supply, having alerted itself to the fact that the Department of Foreign Affairs had incorrectly engaged in correspondence with Jetair in breach of Treasury regulation 52, then went about an assessment of the value of these DC3 aircraft. As my colleague, the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), in another place has stated in some elaborate detail, there can be no question that on a comparison with the cost of refurbishing to a civilian configuration the 5 Royal Australian Air Force DC3 aircraft, the purchase of the 6 DC3 aircraft from Jetair was an extremely favourable deal. So from a comparison of the RAAF aircraft and the 6 aircraft purchased from Jetair there can be no suggestion that the valuation was other than a reasonable one. The Department of Supply in its assessment of the value of the Jetair aircraft and its technical officers have said that the valuation of the Jetair aircraft was justified in all the circumstances. So there can be no suggestion that the departments felt that the value was other than correct. On the contrary, there were distinct advantages in obtaining 6 DC3 aircraft, already with certificates of airworthiness and already suited to meet the requirements of Nepal and Laos whose requests had been before the Government for some time. It was on that basis that the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Minister - the present Prime Minister - exercised their judgment and said that the purchase was one which obviously was not only a good one in commercial terms but also a good one in relation to the needs and thi requirements of Nepal and Laos which were looking for aircraft with this configuration. So there is no question in departmental terms of inaccuracy in the value of the aircraft.
I turn now to the comments of the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). Hs comes along and makes allegations based on the book value of the aircraft. The book value, as all of us know, has no relationship to the actual value. If there was any doubt about the actual valuation of the aircraft, of course, that was completely cleared by the tabling by my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the auditor’s statement that these aircraft cost Jetair $579,325, which is very different from the $275,000 which the Commonwealth paid for them or the $100,000 book value at which the honourable member for Newcastle alleged they stood in the books of that company. In terms of the actual cost of the aircraft, it might be interesting to know that this included quite a deal of re-equipment. The honourable member for Newcastle today made a lot about the aircraft being an odd-job lot. He was talking about different props and different airframes and the difficulties that East West Airlines saw in these aircraft at the time when it started refurbishing them. But there is no question that the Government bought the aircraft before they were refurbished. Indeed, at the time the Government bought them they had current certificates of airworthiness.
– I rise to a point of order. What the Minister has said is not true. The statement I made in my speech today was in relation to the time that the Government purchased these aircraft.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. He will have an opportunity to make an explanation if he so wishes after the Minister has concluded his speech.
– At the time when the aircraft were purchased by the Government a significant amount of money had been spent on them by East West Airlines and Hawker De Havilland. The 2 companies had spent a total of $262,882. So the 6 DC3 aircraft had had spent on them by way of major overhaul and/ or conversion the following sums: VH-EQB, $17,900; VH-BUR, $39,883; VH-BUR, a further $17,000; VH-EQM, $17,900; VH-EQO, $9,900; and VH-SBN, $11,696. Hawker De Havilland had spent the following sums; VH-EQB, $32,000 plus radio navigation and communication charges of approximately $10,000 paid to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd; VH-TAI, S25,038; VH-EQN, $41,565 including radio; VH-EQO, $40,000 including radio. So the actual cost to Jetair obviously was way in excess of the value to which the honourable member for Newcastle referred and in accordance with the value of $579,325 set down by the auditor. So the purchase by the Commonwealth was extremely favourable.
Having failed on the question of impropriety, having failed on the question of there being any suggestion that the aircraft were not a good buy, the Opposition has brought into this House today a motion which endeavours to censure the Prime Minister for his concealment and incompetence in relation to Jetair Australia. Of course, the difficulty is that we have 2 propositions before us. I am not .nure whether it is incompetence and concealment or concealment and incompetence. In any event, 1 presume the product of what the Opposition is seeking to do is to divert from the realities of the case and to make a personal attack on the Prime Minister, because there is no other basis on which they could attack the Government in relation to this matter.
Let us have a look at the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). He bases his case, first of all, on concealment. He says that the nature of the decision to send aid to Cambodia was one which was reprehensible in terms of the actions of the Prime Minister. On what does he base this case? He bases it on the degree to which the Cambodian Government did not want these aircraft. As I understand it, that was the basis on which he was expressing his case today. He bases it on an allegation that questions asked by him demonstrated that the Government did not at the time when it commenced negotiations on aircraft for Nepal, Laos and Cambodia refer specifically to the date that the negotiations began for aircraft for Cambodia. Of course, the whole basis of his argument is in no way substantiated by the papers that are before us.
In terms of the nature of the decision to send aid to Cambodia, it is true that the conditions in that country at the time were critical. It is true that the Government, in conjunction with the Americans, had been looking at what form of aid we might send to Cambodia. As the Prime Minister said in the House today, we were anxious to see in what way we might be able to assist in alleviating the critical circumstances which were faced not only because of the threat to Cambodia but also because of the threat that would ensue to South Vietnam had Cambodia fallen. So the Government turned to see in what area and how it might be able to provide help. The fortuitous advertisement in the newspaper was the first occasion on which the Government came to know of the Jetair aircraft. In spite of anything that the honourable member for Blaxland said today, there is no substance to suggest that the Government at any stage knew about the availability of these aircraft beforehand.
As soon as these DC3 aircraft of Jetair became available, it became apparent that they were a good purchase. ‘ We had 5 Royal Australian Air Force aircraft which were in a military configuration which might very readily be used for the purpose of helping Cambodia. All of this reference to the fact that the Australian Ambassador in Phnom Penh had not been aware of the discussions relating to the aircraft at the time when the Americans apparently discussed the matter with the. Cambodian Government in no way negates that case. The reference to the correspondence between Ambassador Feakes and the Secretary for Foreign Affairs demonstrates that the Australian Government had been in contact with the Americans. We had been in contact with the Americans about areas of aid which might help the Cambodians in their critical position. It indicates that no decision had been taken at that time as to the purchase of DC3 aircraft but it does not indicate in any way that the Government had been trying to avoid the issue of proper negotiations. It does not suggest that there had been concealment and incompetence by the Prime Minister or the Government or the Foreign Affairs Department with respect to the deals with Cambodia.
On the contrary, the decision to send aid to Cambodia was made with complete propriety, and it was done in such a manner so as to determine the best way in which practical and constructive help could be given. It was then suggested that the hiding of an interdepartmental wrangle constituted concealment. The papers have been tabled. There has been a complete exposure of all of the papers relating to the purchase of the DC3 aircraft by the departments concerned, and to the degree to which there has been a tabling of papers, the categories of exclusion have been specifically referred to. The categories of exclusion are not disputed because those documents are similarly available to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy), the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair) and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, and they have been available for some 4 weeks. So there is no question that the files that are not tabled contain information which in any way refutes the information that is available in the tabled files. Neither the tabled files nor those available to the Leader of the Opposition demonstrate that there has been any undue trying to hide the decision to send aid to Cambodia. Nor has there been any attempt to hide the interdepartmental wrangle.
There is an ackowledgment of the breach of regulation 52. There is an acknowledgment that the Department of Supply and the Department of Foreign Affairs disagreed on the basis on which the aircraft were purchased. But all irregularities were validated, and the opinion by Sir Kenneth Bailey, which is available for all to see, effectively refutes the substance of any irregularity having been continued to the point of impropriety. So it comes down to an allegation about the incompetence of the Prime Minister. The best that can be said about the case put forward by the Leader of the Opposition in that regard is that he is reading into the responsibility of a Minister a degree which I do not believe exists. The responsibility of a Minister is to ensure that his department acts, to the best of his ability and knowledge, within the bounds of the known laws and regulations of this country. It is true that where there is an impropriety with respect to regulations an officer deserves to be censured. The Prime Minister, acting as the Minister for Foreign Affairs, did just that as soon as he found out about the breach of regulations. So, there is no suggestion that there is any substance in the case put by the Leader of the Opposition today. Indeed, the whole question before us is just another illustration of the Labor Party in this chamber trying to divert from the matters of substance into matters of trivia. It is another instance of Opposition mem bers seeking through trivia to try to mislead the Australian people, and their own capacity to do so is, I think, suspect.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Mr CHARLES JONES (Newcastle)Mr Speaker, the Minister for Primary Industry misrepresented me.
– Order! Does the honourable member want to make a personal explanation?
– Yes. The Minister claimed that the figures that I gave to the House in my contribution to the censure motion were the figures appertaining to the aircraft prior to refurbishing by Jetair Australia Ltd, which is the state they were in when that company purchased them. That is not true. The figures that I gave to the House this morning related to the state of the aircraft on 28th November 1970 and as at 1st December 1970, which was the date after which the airline had gone out of operation in Victoria and about one month prior to the Government actually buying the aircraft. At that particular time an aircraft from East West Airlines was available for $50,000. It had zero time on the airframe and on the engines yet the Government paid $46,000 on an average for its aircraft.
That the motion (Mr Whitlam’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority .. ..6
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Pursuant to section 17 of the Meat Research Act 1960-1968, I present the Sixth Annual Report of the Australian Meat Research Committee for the year ended 30th June 1972. An interim report of the Committee was presented to the House on 19th September 1972.
– Pursuant to section 82 of the Repatriation Act 1920-1972, I present the reports of the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals Nos 1, 2, 3 and 4, for the year ended 30th June 1972.
– Pursuant to section 134 of the Superannuation Act 1922-1971, I present the Forty-ninth Annual Report of the Superannuation Board for the year ended 30th June 1971.
Assent to following Bills reported:
Softwood Forestry Agreements Bill 1972.
States Grams Bill (No. 2) 1972.
Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill 1972.
Australian Capital Territory Tax (Sales of
Marketable Securities) Bill 1972.
Australian Capital Territory Tax (Purchases of Marketable Securities) Bill 1972.
Australian Capital Territory Stamp Duty Bill (No. 2) 1972.
Debate resumed from 17 October (vide page 2705), on motion byMrWentworth.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not oppose the proposal in this Bill, just as we did not oppose the proposal introduced earlier in this Parliament to establish the subsidy of 10c a meal for delivered meals. The criticisms we made then are substantially the criticisms we would make now; that is, that the initiative for the development of these programmes is left very much to local communities. Where the initiative is taken up an excellent job has been done. Services have been established which have been clearly beneficial to the community. However, what consistently worries us is that in many areas there is a clear need as a matter of very high priority for this and other forms of community welfare services which, for a number of social, cultural and economic reasons do not get developed; that is, the initiatives regrettably are not taken up.
I do not propose to say any more than that. In case it is thought that we are not interested in the proposal I point out that we are very much interested in it and in other propositions. During the election campaign we will be detailing certain very concrete proposals which will be extremely helpful in the community in overcoming the difficulties I have briefly mentioned. If we were to outline our proposals now the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) would do us the honour of filching those points which he thought could be adopted for his own purposes without providing a footnote reference or acknowledgment of the source of such excellent ideas.
– He is a highjacker.
– Yes, he is a highjacker of the social service vehicle. We do not oppose the Bill.
– in reply - One is always glad to hear cheers from the ranks of Tuscany, even when they are muted and with appropriate reservations. I do not think the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) realises the extent to which the Meals on Wheels organisation is dependent upon and makes use of voluntary services. It is a good example of 2 things: First, it is a service initiated from outside the Government by private people where the Government has come in and helped with additional funds in order to accelerate its growth. Second, it is a service which remains dependent upon voluntary aid. It is not true that the service is confined to wealthy localities. It and other services have been extended preferentially into the poorer localities. For that I want to pay a tribute to the people who have operated the delivered meals on wheels service and have extended it in accordance with need.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Wentworth) read a third time.
Consideration ( resumed from 18 October (vide page 2857).
Total proposed expenditure,$1,217,220,000 (in cluding Department of Supply Antarctic Division).
Department of Defence
Proposed expenditure, $34,720,000.
Department of the Navy
Proposed expenditure, $305,388,000.
Department of the Army
Department of Air
Proposed expenditure, $296,908,000.
Department of Supply
Proposed expenditure, $125,704,000 (including Antarctic Division).
Proposed expenditure, $5,585,000.
– There are a number of major topics in the defence context which deserve treatment in some detail. Examples are the Government’s plans for the Australian aircraft industry and examination of proposals for aircraft co-production which have been put to the Government by international aerospace companies. Two other areas which should be looked at in some depth are the future of the Navy’s air power capability, and requirements for long range maritime patrol and surveillance. Each one of these subjects would absorb at least twice the time provided for debating these estimates if it were to be treated with any degree of comprehensiveness. Within the narrow limitations imposed by this debate, it is possible to make only a few general comments about specific issues. This is unfortunate because this will probably be the last chance we get to discuss important defence issues before the election.
Recent debates on defence have not produced the quality which this House is capable of displaying in consideration of Australian security policy. Last year’s debate on the defence estimates produced an excellent example of this with a searching and bipartisan dissection of the DDL destroyer commitment. This is the sort of examination which has been all too rare in parliamentary examination of defence, and defence procurement in particular. The view has prevailed that procurement decisions should be left to the experts, despite the notorious blunders made by experts such as the F111 and the pentropic reorganisation and re-equipment of the Army. Defence procurement is no longer a highly technical matter which has to be left to the experts in the Services. It is just as much the preserve of the systems analyst and the economist specialising in cost-benefit studies.
This sort of approach is essential for proper compromises between the Services to be reached, for the most effective allocation of scarce resources, and for the avoidance of waste. In allocating resources for competing demands from the Services and scrutinising the impact of defence decisions this Parliament must be paramount. This is why I hope the Parliament will be able to bring to issues such as the replacement of the Neptune and the Mirage, and the revitalisation of naval air power, the same freshness and frankness revealed in the DDL debate last year. The Services are much more willing now to discuss their requirements and put a strong case for their viability. At long last more information is flowing to members for the debate of these topics; indeed there is evidence that the Services are getting very restive about the need to state their case io all members and to the alternatiave Government in particular.
According to the Defence Report it has been decided not to allow the Australian Army to fall below a level of about 40,000, which would preserve its unique experience in tropical warfare gained in Vietnam. It would also preserve the Army’s unique experience in selective national service. In any case, the strength of the Army according to the latest figures released in the last week by the Minister is 41,536, an increase of about 250 since the last figures were released in June.
I have not been able to get the exact number of national servicemen but in June it was 11.947 and in view of the Government’s ceiling of 12,000 there would not be much variation over three or four months. This makes the number of volunteers in the Army about 29,590. In 1966, when the Vietnam war and national service were at their peak, the number of volunteers in the Army was 24,583. In the 6 years since 1966 the volunteer strength of the Army has grown by a net 5,000, although conditions in the labour market for much of this period were not favourable to Army recruitment. This is important because it dispels the notion that the present buoyancy in recruiting has been caused by the constriction of the labour market. Actually the greatest jump in the number of volunteers occurred between 1966 and 1968 - a period when the labour market did not assist recruiting. The level of volunteers was fairly steady in 1968, 1969 and 1970; there was a slight fall-off in 1971 before the surge in recruitment over the past year. This completely destroys the erroneous assumption that the increase in volunteers has been a sudden spurt stimulated by problems in civilian employment. Most of the gain was made when employment was running at a high level. Until the often-promised return to a stable labour market eventuates, it will not be possible to assess precisely what impact the high rate of unemployment has had on recruiting in the past few months. Looking at the figures over the past few years it is difficult to believe that it has had a significant impact.
There are reasons for optimism that the steady growth in the total number of volunteers will continue in the next few years, although there may be occasional lags in the growth rate. It cannot be emphasised too often that this increase has been achieved despite a Government policy which amounts te virtual discouragement of volunteers. The Minister for Defence has suggested that the Government has followed a policy for maximising the proportion of volunteers in the Army. This is utter nonsense. The Government will never be enthusiastic about stimulating the flow of volunteers while it has recourse to conscription. Obviously there is no need for the Government to worry too much about recruiting volunteers or improving pay and conditions for servicemen while it retains the weapon of selective conscription in its political arsenal. Nor should it be forgotten that the Army is recruiting under very stringent standards of acceptance which would be regarded as a luxury by armies without the back-up of conscription.
Despite these dampeners on voluntarism, the level of volunteers has risen by more than 20 per cent in the past 6 years. The embarrassment in the present level of volunteers is that the ceiling of around 40,000 imposed by the Government has been shattered. According to the latest figures available to me, the strength of the Army is 41,536 men. In September last year the. Government moved to cut back the Army to 40,000 by reducing the term of national service from 2 years to 18 months. This was designed to reduce the number of national servicemen inducted from 16,000 to 12,000. However, this measure was negated by the increase in volunteers and the closest the Army got to reducing its strength to the 40,000 target was 41,290 in June this year If the Government wished to achieve the objectives of cutting the
Array from 44,000 to 40,000 obviously it should have cut down even further on the national service intake. On the basis of the Government’s logic it should now cut the number of national servicemen by another 2,000. Alternatively it should atlast accept that it is necessary to dispense completely with conscription and exploit to the full the present favourable atmosphere for stimulating voluntary enlistment. The growth of voluntary enlistment reinforces the Opposition’s case that it is possible to reorganise the Army into an all-volunteer Army of dimensions adequate for the defence of Australia.
Turning to another aspect of manpower policy, the. Defence Report emphasises the need of the Services for more capital spending and that manpower and administrative costs will have to be curbed if this capital spending is to be achieved. According to the Defence Report the civilian manpower level is not now expected to grow as quickly as in the last few years. This is reassuring because any analysis of the growth of civilian manpower, even in the past 4 years, throws up some disturbing evidence. Since 1968 the overall growth of civilian manpower in the 3 Service departments has been about 40 per ceDt.
The growth figures for each service at present are: Navy, 19 per cent; Army, 27 per cent; and Air Force, 43 per cent. Obviously this is much too rapid a growth over a period of only 4 years and it is growth that should be curbed. There are grounds for scepticism about the projected savings this restraint on the growth of manpower will bring.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– May I finish my speech?
– Order! The difficulty is that if the Deputy Leader of the Opposition takes his second period now, he will throw out the order of subsequent speakers. If nobody rises the Chair can call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for his second period.
– Do not say I was not rising. Does the Deputy Leader of the Opposition wish to go on and take a second period?
– I have no objection.
– In that event, I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for his second period.
– I thank the Committee and particularly the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess).
It is obvious from the Defence Report that the Department of Defence wants to finance new capital spending by holding down the growth of manpower and administrative costs. Accordingly it reasons that if civilian manpower is stabilised, it will also be possible to hold down other running costs. This reasoning seems rather naive. It is not explained how the costs of stores, equipment, repair and maintenance, buildings and works can be contained merely by restricting manpower. These costs would seem to be largely independent of the number of civilian employees in the services. It is true that restraining the growth of the civilian work force should restrict also the growth of administrative costs, although there are other factors involved which will also have to be watched closely.
The cost of future manpower, both civilian and permanent forces, seems to me to be very unrealistically projected in terms cf the S-year defence programme formulated by the Government. The defence vote for the pay of servicemen and civilians is shown at $605m for 1972-73; this figure is projected forward by simply adding $5m for each of the subsequent years, so we wind up with a total of $625m in 1976-77. The report states with marked understatement that there will be future wage increases which were not allowed for in these figures. I hope it will be possible for pay and administrative costs to be contained effectively in the terms announced rather baldly in the Defence Report. It will be a remarkable exercise in management if spending on pay and allowances and spending on other running costs is to increase by only $20m in each category over the next 5 years at 1972 prices. Unfortunately there are grounds for scepticism about whether the huge capital spending indicated in the 5-year programme and the Defence Report can be financed by a redeployment of resources within the defence structure. It will be a task that will test to the utmost the management skills of the Department of Defence.
I said a few moments ago that I believe that there had been an indication of some change on the part of the Department of Defence and that it was now much easier for the alternative government and therefore for myself, as the shadow Minister for Defence, to obtain information about important defence matters from the Department of Defence. In this respect, I believe that the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay) has been a trail blazer in facilitating greater access and communication between Parliament and the Services. The Minister for Defence has shown little inclination to follow this lead. For example, it is monstrous that the alternative government is not supplied with basic intelligence information such as the material gathered by the Joint Intelligence Organisation in the Department of Defence.
Some day we will get round to a national approach to defence which does not make defence and the defence departments the preserve of one party or even one faction. There is no evidence to suggest that back-bench members of the Government parties are any better informed on important defence issues than is the Opposition. It is unlikely that defence will play a major role in the election campaign, although the Prime Minister still gives it some sort of priority in the Government’s list of the issues. For this reason, the contributions to this estimates debate will be particularly important as reflecting the final attitudes of this Parliament on defence, which does not seem to be a goer in electoral terms.
As I said at the commencement of my speech in this important consideration of the defence estimates, there are a great many subjects with which one should have the opportunity to deal in a debate of this kind. It would be impossible in the brief space of 10 minutes or, as in my own case, with an extension of 10 minutes, to deal with all the subjects that 1 believe should be under the scrutiny of this Parliament. For example, I have indicated on other occasions that I am completely dissatisfied with the Government’s attitude to the future of the Citizen Military Forces in this country. I doubt very much whether during this debate there will be any discussion of this important facet of Australia’s defence.
Only a few weeks ago, when I had the opportunity to speak to the ministerial statement on defence, which was one of the few such statements that have been made in the Parliament over the last 3 years, I said that it seemed incredible to me that the responsible Minister in this Parliament could speak to the House for 45 minutes - indeed, he was speaking not only to this House but also to the nation - without making one reference to the future of the CMF. The Minister for the Army (Mr Katter) has now decided to come into the chamber. Whether he intends to speak in this debate, of course, is not known to me at this stage. This might be an opportunity for him to do so, if the Minister for Defence is not prepared to consider the future of the CMF. I believe that very grave disquiet exists in this country in relation to the Government’s attitude to what, after all, is one of the most important services in terms of the defence of Australia.
I do not want to repeat what I have said on other occasions about what would have happened to the defence forces of this country in, for example, 1939 had there not been a citizen military force from which sprang the cadre of officers, NCOs and enlisted men - the privates - who came forward and provided the basis for the 6th Division which was Australia’s first con.ribution to the 1939-45 conflict. It alarms me that today, when there is dissatisfaction within the ranks of the CMF - I challenge the Minister for Defence to dispute what I have said in relation to the fall-off in the strength of the CMF - there has been a deterioration not only in the morale but also, I believe, in the equipment and manpower of the CMF.
I have not had the opportunity to enlarge on this matter at any great length and that opportunity will be denied to me during the remainder of this Parliament. But I assure the Minister for Defence that I intend to take every opportunity that is available to me on the public platform to express what I believe is the concern that is felt by most Australians - those who have some relation to defence issues in this country, and particularly those who have served on a voluntary basis in Australia’s Citizen Military Forces - that the Government should suggest that the CMF should be an arm of defence that can be used as an instrument for political purposes. I use this expression in the sense that the Minister has used it, and has been supported by his colleagues, in saying in this Parliament that the CMF can be used as an instrument for political purposes to ensure that anyone who does not want to undertake national service in Australia can opt out and serve in the CMF. This ought not to be the basis of one of the best forms of service in this country. I believe that it is time either the Minister for the Army or, more particularly, the Minister for Defence, took the opportunity to make a statement to this Parliament in its dying hours, on what the Government considers should be the future of the CMF in Australia.
Having said that, I regret that there will not be the opportunity to deal more fully with some of the important issues that concern members of the Opposition and, I believe, the people of Australia generally. I refer particularly to procurement. I was challenged in the Parliament last week in relation to the DDL programme.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is always very difficult to follow the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) on defence matters. While I accept that defence is an area in which he is most concerned, I trust that he will forgive me if I do not have the same reliance on the attitude of the Party of which he is Deputy Leader. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition started off brilliantly and convincingly. I could see a leader of our forces and I could see inspiration being given to our forces, but at the same time I could see behind him other people on whom I do not place the same reliance.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that he would talk about aircraft construction and supply and other great matters of defence. He referred to the question of capital equipment which, most assuredly, we need and said that it perhaps would be necessary to have an adjustment - a reduction - in manpower. But he then went on to spend most of his time, as per usual from members of the Opposition, talking about the abolition of national servile and the introduction of a volunteer Army. He referred to how the recruitment figures for the Army have increased over the last year, or whatever period it may be.
What never seems to get through to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is that there are other reasons for having national service. Although it is a very important part of national service to have a readytogo standing Army that is capable of meeting any threat or of going to any area where a threat might erupt, a second and, I think, equally important reason for national service is the number of reserves who are trained so that, in the event of any threat to or involvement of this country, we have, as each national service intake completes its period of service, men who in the event of mobilisation could be called up and would be ready to go.
I agree with every word the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said about the Citizen Military Forces; I also think the CMF is a disgrace and I think it is time something was done about it. In Victoria recently there was a task force exercise. A task force of 3 battalions plus support and so on would involve in the vicinity of 4,000 or 5,000 personnel, but the’ CMF could raise only 500 troops for the whole exercise. It is breaking the hearts of young men who are prepared to serve.
Let me get back to the national service issue. At present we have a standing Army which I think is the bare minimum. When we talk about 40,000 men we should work out how many are in logistics and how many of them are in the support area. We do not have a lot who are front rank fighting men. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition speaks about what we need. Let us see what some of the other nations around us are doing. I was in Singapore on 4th October. An article in ‘The Straits Times’, referring to Dr Goh Keng Swee, Singapore’s Defence Minister, reads in part as follows;
Dr Goh, who was addressing SAF officers at commissioning ceremony . . . said that such an emergency force would comprise 6 regular battalions and 8 reserve battalions.
Do we have anything like that for a continent like Australia compared with the size of Singapore? The article continues:
In addition, he said the SAF had raised 3 artillery battalions and corresponding elements in engineer, signals, armour and logistic support units.
Do we have anything like that -
By the end of the year SAF would have another battalion of reserves, the 58 SIR and another battalion.
But, Dr Goh pointed out, SAF would be no threat to others.
Let us look at the strength he is talking about. He went on further to talk about national service. This is criticism of the point made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The article continues:
In fact, the real strength of a national service army, unlike thai of a regular army, is developed in the reserve battalions’, Dr Goh said.
He said that the Singapore reserve battalions were recalled once a year to do refresher training so that the skills and experience which were accumulated during national service training were maintained at acceptable levels.
I think that is something that this Government also should consider.
I give the Deputy Leader of the Opposition credit for not enlarging on the Labor Party’s policy in respect of the force overseas. I had the honour, as he had, of seeing the battalion in Singapore and seeing the command structure there. There is no doubt in my mind that these people are accepted and wanted. Let me quote a section from the Singapore ‘New Nation’ of 3rd October. This is what it says: :
ANZUK, forces in Singapore and Malaysia fall into the second category. The defence agreement under which they operate is based on the principle that friendly foreign troops can help a nation preserve its integrity and independence, until the host nation is strong enough to withstand foreign encroachment. These troops are purely defensive forces.
It goes on further to talk about neutrality and says that neutrality is all very well but it does not compare with having on the ground, at the time these newly emerging nations are building themselves up, troops from oilier countries to show that they do not stand alone. I think this is the great question.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that defence will not be an issue at the next election. Maybe it will not, but as far as I am concerned there is something that this country needs to know. In the past whenever we have been involved in a war, whenever we have been involved in a situation, it has always been with larger forces of friendly allies. This has been the way we have been able to play a part without great expenditure, without having to build up the logistics and the other things. But this has now changed and the situation can be envisaged where Australia in respect of its strategic situation may not have the great support facilities of the United Kingdom Navy and the great support and supply facilities of the United States of America. Wo talk about 40,000 men and about our defence preparedness, but I doubt very much, under our present defence organisation, whether we could by ourselves mount anything more than a holding situation on Portuguese Timor for 2 days. We must reconstruct and re-structure our whole defence force. We must have capital equipment, landing barges and other engineering supplies for which we have been dependent on the United States and the United Kingdom. We have a role to play in South East Asia.
I attended the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference in Rome and I spoke to representatives of the South East Asian nations. They know that if we in Australia are not prepared to play our part they must seek accord somewhere else. The Prime Minister of Malaysia has recently been to the Soviet Union. He made a statement there in which he said that the Soviet Union was welcome in trade matters but he did not want to enter into defence arrangements. But the pressures are on these countries and they are confused at present about Labor’s attitude. The Labor Party members may have some understanding of this attitude but I can assure them that the other nations in this area have a considerable doubt as to what Australia would be prepared to do if there should arise some situation and as to whether we would be prepared to accept our responsibility or whether we are all talk. The Labor Party must answer for this confusion and lack of trust by these nations. In my opinion it may well force them to decide to seek accord somewhere else.
There are many things I would like to say in this defence debate but the time limit of 10 minutes is absolutely ridiculous, as I have said many times. It is impossible to talk on defence in that time. I consider that one issue of which the Australian people should be aware is the difference between the. defence policy of the Labor Party and the defence policy of the Government at this time and on such matters as collective security. I do not think the average Australian knows where the. Labor Party stands. Most assuredly, the representatives of the other countries do not. Is its policy on the withdrawal of troops from overseas bases clearly known? What does ANZUS mean to the Labor Party? It wants to strip out national service no matter what our Army strength or our reserves are. Do we clearly know what the Labor Party’s policy is on joint facilities with the United States of America? The day may well come - I hope to goodness it never does - when we find ourselves in a situation where the Labor Party has to call on our great and powerful allies. Our great and powerful allies, after their treatment by the Labor Party, may well consider whether they should undertake any obligations. We will be strong only as long as we are prepared to play a part and as long as the people of this country are prepared to make some sacrifice. I read about a bill of $ 1,400m which the Labor Party intends to pick up for education. I have heard of its other promises. I wonder where it will get the money. Defence is only one area-
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-! always feel a little sad following the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess). He never seems to be happy unless there is a war going on. If there were not a war going on I am sure he would be looking for one.
– Mr Chairman, I think that remark should be withdrawn. If the honourable, member would like to put his record on the plate I will put mine there. I think his remark is most offensive.
– The remark made by the honourable member for Robertson is not unparliamentary in the terms of the Standing Orders. The honourable member may find it offensive but it is up to the honourable member for Robertson to decide whether he will withdraw it,
– I have no intention of withdrawing it. I meant it when I said it.
– On a point of order, if an honourable member from the. other side says that 1 am disappointed if there is not a war and that I would welcome a war, do you say that that is not unparliamentary?
– I pointed out to the honourable member for La Trobe that the remark made by the honourable, member for Robertson is not unparliamentary. To that degree it is the province of the honourable member for Robertson to withdraw it or not.
– I am also amused by the fact that honourable members opposite never seem to remember that in 1941, when this country was at war and when their fathers left this country unarmed and unprepared, it was a Labor Government that got them out of trouble, as it has done every other time. I want to put forward an idea for public discussion that I believe would make a major contribution to world peace and humanity, to Australia’s relations with the rest of the world and to the morale and efficiency of our defence forces.
I believe we should consider the creation of a special unit within our armed forces for the sole purpose of dealing with civil disasters both at home and abroad. Regularly the world witnesses major natural disasters that are terrifying in their intensity, rapacious in their destruction and heart rending in terms of human misery and suffering. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and cyclones occur with regularity in countries near and far. The floods in what is now Bangladesh are estimated to have claimed half a million lives. In recent weeks the Philippine floods left approximately 400 dead and 2 million homeless and starving. Peru and Turkey have seen earthquakes destroy whole towns and killing and injuring thousands.
Each time such a catastrophe occurs the world appears to be quite incapable of quickly and effectively assisting very often poor underdeveloped countries to minimise the number of those killed and injured and alleviate the suffering of those left homeless. An enormous number of countries want to help but inevitably through lack of a co-ordinated plan there is a time consuming delay with unnecessary loss of life and suffering. A considerable amount of time and energy is now being expended by agencies of the United Nations in exploring ways of co-ordinating a plan to prevent disaster occurring, to provide emergency relief and to assist in reconstruction afterwards.
My proposal is that a special force be created by the Australian armed forces consisting of at least one battalion of our Army and sections of the Navy, Air Force and Medical Corps to be trained specifically for this type of international civil disaster. It should be available to fly to any trouble spot in the world at 48 hours notice. It should be a highly mobile unit consisting of Hercules transport, helicopters, small watercraft, road and bridge building engineers, fire fighting units, medical teams, communications experts and general rescue expertise for all types of natural disasters. It would have stockpiles of drugs, food, clothing and protective cover ready to accompany such an exercise. But I would leave it to the experts to determine exactly what would be required. That is just a general concept and it is not specific.
Such a unit could play a major contribution, uplifting to Australia’s reputation among the new developing nations. It would be an angel of mercy exercise welcomed by all those who feel for the suffering when such great civil disasters occur. It would be invaluable assistance within Australia when disasters such as those that have occured in Hobart, Townsville and Maitland are repeated elsewhere. It would be welcomed, I believe, by the armed forces themselves as a valuable and interesting humanitarian activity during the long periods that occur between armed conflict. One would hope that armed conflict will never occur again or that at least it will occur as little as possible. However, one of the frustrations of peace time Army service must be the continued preparation for combat without the opportunity to prove oneself - much like a boxer training for a fight but never getting to the ring. Such frustrations are natural and must build up pressure within the armed forces for action, irrespective of the rights or wrongs of the conflict. The feeling that one was using one’s skills and expertise in conflict against nature would help to allevi ate those feelings of frustrations. Men serving in such a unit would have done their basic training in one of the forces and in time of war they would be able to revert to a fighting unit or, alternatively, using their skills in assisting in rescue operation so prevalent during wars. I believe that some debate took place earlier on the Citizen Military Forces. I believe that sections of the CMF could well be included in this proposition.
When I commenced my speech I said something about the remarks made by the honourable member for La Trobe. Perhaps I was a bit harsh at the time, but I would like to hear him talk a lot more about the things which I have just talked about, rather than being solely preoccupied with the fighting of wars. Perhaps I get the wrong impression but every time I hear him speak in this House he is talking about war, fighting and armies. If that is a wrong impression, it is certainly the one which he gives to honourable members on this side of the House.
Mr JESS (La Trobe)- Mr Chairman, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I accept what the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) has said. I am sorry if he gets the wrong impression. But he did state that he felt that I look forward to war and that I was always sad when there was not a war and that I hoped for a war. I find his remarks to be quite offensive. If the honourable member looks at my record and that of my family he will see that we have served in war. To say that any man looks forward to war is, I think, an insult. What I tried to say is that being unprepared and being incapable of defending itself should there be a threat is the greatest risk that any nation takes. No soldier wants war. No man who has seen war wants war. But they have seen the suffering that is occasioned when a nation has not been ready to defend itself and a threat has been made. I think this is what the Labor Party has not realised.
~Mr Chairman -
- Mr Chairman, the call should go to this side of the chamber.
– Order! Is the honourable member for Angas rising to make a personal explanation?
– No, Mr Chairman. I am seeking to get the call.
– There are only 4 minutes to go until the sitting is suspended for lunch. I shall be able to complete my speech in that time.
– If that is so I defer to the honourable member for Prospect.
– When we go outside this chamber we hear criticisms of members of Parliament, especially of Government supporters. I suppose we offend less, because we are members of the Opposition. We hear people referring to members of Parliament as hypocrites. I know that is an expression which it is unparliamentary to use in this chamber. I have been pulled up on a couple of occasions for using it. I should like to speak about the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay) who I understand is to follow me in this debate. I should like to attack him for assuming a false appearance of virtue or goodness, which I understand is one way of defining a certain word. The reason why I wish to attack the Minister for the Navy is that he goes around his electorate and other places putting on this false appearance of virtue, which I suppose comes easily to him having been a clergyman, and attacks members on this side of the House for what he alleges to be their views and ignoring what his own Government does. I have no objection to what his Government does in the matter which I intend to raise; I am just criticising the Minister for his own attitude.
Some months ago I put on notice a question to every Minister representing the Services. The question was .along these lines: What was the cost of contraceptives and prophylactics to prevent venereal disease supplied to Navy personnel during each of the last 5 years? The answer sets out that as far as the Navy is concerned between 30,000 and 50,000 condoms or french letters were supplied to Navy personnel in each of those years. I have no objection to the supply of them. I think this is perfectly reasonable. The Minister replied by saying that contraceptives are not issued to Navy personnel; it is only a question of prophylactics. When I asked whether or not they could be used for both purposes he said:
Although they may frequently have the effect of preventing conception, they are not issued for this purpose, but solely-
I emphasise the word ‘solely’ - to prevent the transmission of venereal infection; they are not, therefore, regarded as being contraceptives.
This is different from the answer I received from other Ministers representing the other Services.
I should like to put this proposition to the Minister for the Navy just to show up his false appearance of virtue: In view of his answer to my question doe3 he consider the protection of Navy personnel against venereal disease to be more important than the protection of their partners in sexual activities against unwanted pregnancy? Does he put up that proposition? Secondly, as far as female Navy personnel are concerned, what is the proposition? His Department freely distributes oral contraceptives. I have no objection to the distribution of oral contraceptives to female personnel. But what is the reason for this? Surely he is not going to pretend that the reason for the distribution of oral contraceptives is for the prevention of venereal disease. I suppose he will argue that it is to regularise the menstrual cycles of those people.
– I rise on a point of order. Can the honourable member tell me what this has to do with the defence estimates? The honourable member is talking about venereal disease and oral contraceptives. So far I have not heard defence mentioned.
– May I speak to the point of order?
– Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Prospect that, while his remarks may concern a factor of an expenditure in relation to the Department of the Navy, he is stretching things a little in making these references during the Committee stage of the debate on the estimates for the Department of the Navy. I suggest also that the honourable member for Prospect has referred to the Minister on quite a number of occasions in a personal context. This is also somewhat outside the matters under discussion in the Committee stage of these estimates.
- Mr Chairman, the answer to the question, which I received on 20th Sep’.ember, pointed out that during the last 5 years something approaching $10,000 was in fact spent by the Department of the Navy for this purpose. So surely the subject I have raised comes under the estimates. As 1 pointed out earlier, 1 am not criticising the Government for using money for this purpose. I think it is an excellent idea. What I am criticising is this assumption of false appearance of virtue and goodness on the part of the Minister who goes around-
– Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Prospect that the remarks he is making have no bearing on the discussion of these estimates.
– What, we are not supposed to criticise the Minister? ls that a new rule?
– No. The honourable member for Prospect has an appreciation of what is involved in a study of the estimates before the Committee and the virtue or otherwise of the Minister has no relationship to that discussion.
– Can 1 congratulate the Minister for in fact using the money provided in these estimates for these purposes, even though obviously he believes that this money should not be provided for these purposes.
Sitting suspended from 1.2 to 2.15 p.m.
– I will not spend any time referring to the remarks made by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) before the suspension of the sitting except simply to say that the replies to his questions were, as always in the case of questions on notice, prepared with the full authority of, in this case, the Medical Director-General of the Navy. The expressions were his and I was not greatly surprised to see the line of questioning taken by the honourable member. I want to speak about the DDL destroyer programme and refer to some questions which have been raised recently as a result of the visit to Holland by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and first of all to make clear what it is the Government is trying to do in Australia with regard to this ship. Having looked around the entire Western world at the availability of suitable types of ships as replacement destroyers for the Royal Australian Navy, and having been persuaded that the replacement of destroyers by ships of that type is absolutely vital to our defence requirements, the Government has tried to hit upon the solution which most nearly fits the Naval Staff’s requirements for our nation in view of our geography and other considerations. This, of course, is a highly complex task.
The whole process of bringing together those weapons and systems which are the most necessary and the optimum for our requirements is in itself a very complicated task and one which we are fully aware will bring us to the fringes of development in this field in terms of the free world’s military capability. During this period and particularly after the Government had made its decision on the material before it, I personally gave to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition the fullest access to the available information so that he could not only come to the briefings prepared by Naval Staff but also, without me being present, talk with the Chief of the Naval Staff and his subordinate officers and ask any questions at all. I must admit that I was somewhat taken aback to learn, in a roundabout way through the Press, of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s secretive trip to Holland which unhappily coincided, though I am sure that it was without his knowledge, with a visit of a mission from the Department of the Navy and the Department of Defence with regard to the negotiations with the Dutch for the acquisition of one of the components we see as desirable for our DDL destroyers. Whether or not there is a connection, there has certainly been a hardening of the Dutch attitude in the bargaining that has taken place over recent days. This of itself may not be unconnected with the visit of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition but perhaps hopes may have been raised that the Dutch could find a customer in Australia for their DDG destroyers.
The DDG is, as we have said, a ship that we have looked at very closely. It is not ideal to our requirements. There are many aspects of it that are net entirely suitable. For instance, the very elaborate 3-dimensional radar that is an obvious feature of its outline has not proved to be entirely successful and is not even to be produced in future in Holland for their own requirements let alone sold abroad. There are other considerations. For instance, it has a much larger manpower requirement and this is a major item of cost in a project of this type. If 50 or 100 more mcn are required for the Dutch DDG than for the DDL, over the lives of the 3 ships this could mean an additional $50m to $100m. There are in other fields differences which make the DDG less desirable in our estimation than others. I refer particularly to such things as the command and control system of the Dutch vessel which, while I have no doubt about its efficiency and capability, is a different system to that which we are using in our own fleet and therefore would add to the logistic problems associated with training, maintenance and other aspects if it were to be introduced. So it comes back to this point: We do have the problem here of a ship which certainly has many features in common with the proposed DDL but which at the same time is a ship which could give us some reason for disquiet if it were to be fastened onto by the Opposition. I must admit that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has not indicated in any way that it would be an alternative to the DDL.
I turn now to the other matters to which I wish to refer briefly in the few minutes at my disposal. I mention first of all the electronics industry in Australia. This industry is a sort of corollary to our shipbuilding activities in this country and, by way of example of the kind of matter which occupies my mind on this question, there has been a great deal of talk from the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby). This was reiterated yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), with regard to the cost of colour television sets in this country. They said that they would cost up to $1,000 a set, the suggestion being, and the only reason I can see for the kind of line taken by the honourable members to whom I have referred, that somehow or other the whole question of colour television should be subject to a different tariff approach which would allow into this country overseasproduced sets, such as Japanese colour television sets, which would lower the price to the Australian consumer because the alternative is the virtual subsidising of the Australian electronics industry. In a large country like the United States of America there is every possibility that the defence aspects of an electronics industry are ofl such a volume as to give viability to the industry to enable it to function and keep : up with its research and development and I so be an important part of the defence capacity of the nation. We still regard our own electronics industry as an important adjunct to our defence requirements.
There are many areas in which the Navy has heavy reliance on modern communications. The equipment with sophisticated weapon systems and the availability of effective support from the Australian electronics industry is of prime importance to the Navy. There has been and there continues to be close association between the Navy and the electronics industry in large new projects and Ikara, our anti-submarine weapons system, is one example of close co-operation with local industry. So I would suggest to the Committee that the continuation of a viable electronics industry in this nation is of defence significance. I personally cannot see an argument that would first of all put men out of work in our domestic appliance electronics industry if we were to import on a large scale, as is done in the United States, Japanese and other overseas manufactured products. This would possibly jeopardise the existence of a sophisticated industry of this kind which is of defence significance to us. I add that aspect as one which the Government must consider on a much wider spectrum than those other aspects I have mentioned in view of the large expenditure involved in colour television.
It is interesting that the suggestions should come from the Opposition benches when, as I have done, it is possible to go into the Japanese companies and factories making colour television sets and inquire about the working conditions and the wage structure of employees in those companies and to discover, for instance, that in the Matsushita works which makes the National appliances the incentives, the over-award payments and the inducements to production add, by over 100 per cent, to the base wage rate of the employee. Having watched the employees working so assiduously there and having seen the incentive systems at work, I think it perhaps is not surprising that the price has a differential from that of the Australian manufacture. I will not take more time at this stage in the debate on these estimates. These are just 2 aspects that occur to me as being of considerable significance in terms of our future programme.
– We are discussing a set of estimates which cover the entire field of defence expenditure. I want to deal firstly with an individual matter about which I am concerned and of which I am sure the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay) is aware. Recently it was brought to my notice that a gentleman who had served in the Australian forces and whose discharge certificate showed that he had overseas service made application for a war service home loan. He was asked to produce his discharge certificate. That certificate was forwarded to the Department of the Navy for verification and it was not returned to him. However, a new certificate was sent to him on which his active service had been deleted.
Some time ago I took up a matter in which the person concerned claimed that the reasons for his discharge from the Army were incorrectly recorded on his discharge certificate. I was informed on that occasion that the discharge certificate, once issued, could not be altered. Whether or not the original discharge certificate was in error, apparently in this case the discharge certificate was withdrawn without consultation with the person concerned. A new certificate was issued which eliminated the active service which had been credited and I assume would have been credited for the rest of his life if he had not applied for a war service home loan. So one can only assume that the new certificate was issued to disqualify him from obtaining a war service home loan. It may not have been vindictive, but they were the circumstances under which the new certificate was issued. I raise this matter at this time because 1 think it is a matter of some gravity. In the second case an incorrect discharge certificate was issued, and in the instance I mentioned earlier where the discharge certificate contained matters which was to the disadvantage of the serviceman. I was informed that it could not be altered once it was signed by the discharging officer. There seems to be a double standard there.
I want to deal primarily with the defence aircraft industry which falls under the control of the Department of Supply. I have raised this matter on numerous occasions and I will continue to raise it in this Parliament while the present situation of uncertainty continues. Over at least the last couple of years, and over a much longer period than that, there has been a gradual running down of the industry. Employment in the industry has tended to stabilise in the last few months at a level approximately half what it was some 5 years ago. I think we all readily recognise that this is not an industry where stability of employment and stability of orders are easily attainable. Over a considerable period there have been recurring suggestions of rationalisation of the industry. Earlier this year it appeared that a situation had been reached where rationalisation was almost a fact. It now appears that that scheme for rationalisation has completely disappeared without any real comment from the Minister concerned or the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn), and a new scheme for a much more grandiose merger has come to the fore.
I want to deal first of all with the position of Commonwealth employees in the Government Aircraft Factories, their future, and the uncertainty with which they live on a day to day basis. All of the incentives in the industry at the moment are for those persons who have skills which are vital to this defence industry to look for more secure areas of employment, even if it means transferring into grades in the Public Service to which they would be entitled to transfer but in which their specialist skills would be of no value. The incentives to leave the industry exist because of the total uncertainty about the future employment of people in this industry. Senior staffing arrangements which were published for the proposed merger for the Government Aircraft Factories and the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Pty Ltd. which now apparently has gone into the limbo of forgotten things, indicated that a substantial proportion - nearly half - of the senior staff would disappear from the industry very suddenly. Of course, senior personnel, especially those reaching that age where retirement is in sight - they have Commonwealth superannuation benefits and other benefits and have not received any statement whatsoever which would guarantee a continuation of these benefits in a merged industry - have a great incentive to get out of the industry into areas of government activity where their retirement benefits would be secure. 1 have asked the Government on a number of occasions in this Parliament to make a statement on the future of Commonwealth employees in the aircraft industry guaranteeing their accrued rights. This was done in the case of Bell Bay in Tasmania and there is no reason why it could not be done in the case of the Government Aircraft Factories so that the senior personnel in the industry could rest assured that their accrued rights for superannuation and other benefits, to which their service entitles them, would be protected should the industry be rationalised or should a merger take place whereby it would no longer be a government operation.
Mir Barnard - That would not be difficult.
Mir SCHOLES - It would appear to be not difficult to make such a statement but such a statement has not been forthcoming from the Government despite the representations I have made to the Minister. I believe that the uncertainty of senior personnel in the aircraft industry is well justified because there appears to be an ebb and flow in Government enthusiasm for this industry. At the moment the Government appears to be pursuing, but not actively, a policy of rationalisation of the aircraft industry into ‘a small viable unit*. Those words are not explained in any way but apparently they have some meaning. Obviously this will mean the loss of jobs for some people. The Government seems to have the intention also to ensure that the present Government Aircraft Factories structure will be a minority holding in any merged industry. Therefore the new industry will be beyond Government control. I am seriously concerned about this matter.
We have had opportunities over the years to construct and tender for aircraft in Aus tralia. It is reasonably well known that at the time of the entry into Australia of Fokker Friendship aricraft for the commercial airlines the Department of Civil Aviation suggested that a production line could be set up for this aircraft in the defence aircraft industry in Australia, and the Government refused to allow it.
The number of Fokker Friendship aircraft which came into Australia would have made this a viable proposition. It is well known that an Australian designed aircraft which was brought into being by an Australian company, the Victa aircraft company, is now being bought by the defence departments from a company in New Zealand which is manufacturing that aircraft because the Australian Government refused to give the necessary backing for its manufacture in Australia.
It is a long established fact of life that 9 years ago we ordered the drawings for an aircraft, but at this point of time it would appear that the most useful function of the drawings would be to make a paper dart to throw in this or some other room to remind Ministers of the $300m we have spent on an aircraft of which 12 have entered active service as this stage, but which have not completed 6 months service in total. Five out of the 12 which have gone into active service have been lost. This is most likely the most disastrous combat record of any aircraft ever to be put into active service. Obviously, I am talking about the flying ostrich - the Fill. There is a rumour that the Fills may come to Australia by boat late next year. There is no doubt that no-one will risk flying them across the Pacific. In the areas of basic defence - that is the back-up services which make defence possible - the Government, if it wished, could have taken action. I believe that ‘procrastination’ is the operative word for planning in the Australian defence aircraft industry. Fortunately, that procrastination can extend for only another 6 weeks.
– In speaking to the estimates for the Department of Defence I should like to state that I support the Australian Government’s policy, which is not one of isolation which apparently is the basis of the Australian Labor Party programme. Our policy is to have positive relations with countries in our region and with those with whom we have treaties. The ALP policy would tend to scrap those treaties and leave us without some of our major supporters in defence co-operation. But we live in a changing world. Therefore, this Government is rearranging its defence planning more along the lines of selfreliance than it used to be. This is particularly obvious with the new DDL programme which is to come into operation, the planning for which has been allowed for in these estimates. Under this programme not only will we have a ship of our own design but we will retain a skilled naval construction work force and even enlarge on it. While speaking on this I mention also the recent reply of the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay) concerning the replacement of the Attack class patrol boats which he said also would be a very welcome step towards self-reliance and the strengthening of our naval construction personnel. Also, concerning the naval work force, we are undertaking the reconditioning and upgrading of our DDGs and a comprehensive overhaul of the River class destroyers. I support our policy of maintaining forces in Malaysia and Singapore. The governments of those countries welcome them. They support our ANZUK force arrangements there. The ALP policy is to withdraw those forces immediately. This would do nothing at all for our reputation in the countries with which we should be strengthening our friendship and alliances - the countries of the Association of South East Asian nations. I know that these countries are looking toward a neutral zone, which is an excellent concept, but I think that is a long way off. I would that we could see it in the near future, but in the meantime we must be prepared to co-operate with the countries of ASEAN with whom we share economic and political interests and with whom we have common needs and beliefs.
I am pleased to see in these estimates an amount of $3. 8m for defence co-operation with our nearest northern neighbour, Indonesia. I welcome this. I also welcome the announcement by the Minister for the Navy that there is to be a joint exercise later this month between the navies of the 2 countries. We are sending a DDG and a Derwent class destroyer to this exercise. All this is part of the $20m programme over the next 3 or 4 years and this will help Indonesia in co-operating in the defence of these 2 countries. Of cou.se, originally one of the major projects in this programme was the supply to Indonesia of 16 Sabre jets and their spares and equipment. In my opinon just as important >vas the training of both ground and flying personnel to use those airplanes. The aircraft are obsolete, but they are very fine airplanes. Their provision gives the Indonesian Air Force planes in which to train their pilots and to get them back in the air again.
I saw some Indonesian airmen returning home last week-end after training in Australia. I was very glad to be able to have a word with them. They were pleased to have been here and to have been trained by our men. I should mention that in speaking of co-operation I am not forgetting the Army. An Army survey team is in Sumatra mapping and generally working in the area. I should like to see greater cooperation with this country to our north - this great country in population, area .md tradition - in the field of Army training and possibly the supply of arms to its armed forces.
A major review of the Citizen Military Forces is still proceeding. The CMF is vital to our Army structure. It must be made to appeal to young people of Australia. It must be made to feel wanted in the forces today. It plays a part and it should play a very important part in the training of our young people who could and should serve their country in this way. In fact, I should like to see this force develop in size, ability and stature so that all young Australians would be proud to be in it. I think that in time it could, if it gets enough support from the public and from the young people, in actual fact work up to being a real strength for the Army and iv the very distant future I hope to see it from the basis of our Army.
We certainly have the ability to train young people with veterans who have returned from overseas and those who have trained national servicemen and members of the Regular Army. They certainly could get on with the job of training the CMF. I am glad to see that the Army plans to do this - to start in a small way and gradually work toward this objective. I commend the Minister for the Army (Mr Katter) and his Department. I hope that it is a success. I also commend, as the Returned Services League has done, the teaching of certain Asian languages to our CMF and Regular Army personnel. The other day I was speaking to an Indonesian airman who had been trained in Australia. I was very impressed. He had been here only 3 months and he was speaking very good English. I thought that was quite an achievement, especially as he had also been trained in the forces.
– Could he understand you?
– Yes, I was talking Strine. I still support national service. I consider that its abolition would be a grave danger to the strength of the Army.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I had not intended to speak in this debate and I have not prepared any material for it. I have been influenced to enter the debate because the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) was unfairly treated by the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay). The Minister said that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had been on a secret trip to Holland to inquire about destroyers. I get a little sick and tired of supporters of the Government who repeatedly say that members of the Opposition are doing the wrong thing in the area of defence. I think it is fair enough that members of the Opposition should be able to acquaint themselves with the facilities and equipment available overseas. When we are embarking on a purchase for our forces at a cost of about $3S0m, does the Government suggest that we should vote blindly on such an issue? Consistently we hear the innuendo that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition went overseas to look at manufactures when he ought to have been looking at manufactures here.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition on this subject has said only that under a Labor government the DDL destroyers would be built in Australia by Australians, yet all the time honourable members opposite are making innuendos. The Opposition has no access to intelligence of the Department of Defence, the Department of Supply or the 3 Service departments. Many other people including Press secretaries of all sorts have documents and information that could well be used by members of the Opposition but they are not available to us. Whenever members of the Opposition have to speak on the issue of defence they do their own research, think the issues out for themselves and speak for themselves, unlike Ministers who have their answers to questions on notice prepared by public servants, as are their speeches. They then come into the House as oracles and cast aspersions on members of the Opposition. How Government supporters after the Government has been in office for 23 years can say that it has a credible record in defence matters confounds me. In any area the Liberal-Country Party Government and its predecessors - the United Australia Party Government, the Nationalist Party Government, and so on - have never cared 2 hoots about the defence of this country.
There has been no consistent defence policy since the last Labor government left office. There was no consistent defence policy before it came into office. The Labor Party took over the administration of this country during the war years when our defence organisation was a shambles. Under the Menzies Government it was again allowed to deteriorate to a shambles, even to the point in 1965, when the Government wanted to commit our troops to Vietnam, that it did not have enough people to send and had to conscript boys.
It does not matter where you look, at equipment for the Services or the state of our defence industries, right across the board the Government has failed to plan adequately. Because of the inconsistencies of its defence policy the Services have not known from one year to the next what ta defence policy will be. Australian industries manufacturing equipment for the Services have been unable to meet the requirements of the Services. The Government’s defence policies are determined purely and simply by current domestic political pressures. Earlier this year the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) made a clown of himself by running through South East Asia trying to create an issue out of the Five Power Defence Arrangement. Everyone knows that the arrangement was entered into by the countries concerned merely as a stop-gap measure on the point of Britain’s withdrawal from the region.
Once again the Government is trying to raise the issue of defence in an election year in an attempt to save its hide. It says that the Labor Party is not credible in the area of defence. The Malaysian Government and the Malaysian Department of Foreign Affairs said: ‘We do not care whether the Australian Government withdraws its troops’. In other words, they did not think that garrison troops in Malaysia meant anything real, and that is a fact. We would be better employed in making Australia a powerful country in the region in terms of independence in the manufacture of defence equipment and in its defence forces. Why could this Government, which has been in office for 23 years, not have a defence organisation like that of Sweden and have an industrial back-up such as Sweden has? All the equipment needed by the Swedish armed forces is manufactured by Swedish companies. They are able to put their country in a position that it does not have to fear the might of the Soviet Union on its borders. The Soviet Union realises that it could not hope to conquer Sweden without paying an enormous price. That situation has come about purely and simply because of Sweden’s consistent defence policy. Sweden has had an intelligent government sorting out its defence policy. What have we got? We have a ramshackle broken down excuse for a government that has allowed our defence industries to get into a shocking state. The morale of the Services is at an all-time low.
– The Minister says that it is rubbish. Last year I had experience of the morale of the crew of HMAS ‘Brisbane’. I met 4 of my constituents who said that the morale of the crew was at a disastrous level. They said that they were crammed up in the vessel from daylight to dark. The Minister has no idea of what he is dealing with. We cannot have strong defence forces with morale in that state. Every 3 years, in an election year, the big spurt is on. Again the Government will do something about defence in an attempt to save its miserable political hide. This time it will fail.
Six years ago Government supporters told us of the threatened invasion by the hordes of Red China. Now they are selling wheat to China and it is acclaimed as a tumultuous event. The Government is trying to establish diplomatic relations with Red China. At the time of the last election the Five Power Defence Arrangement was the big issue. It was alleged that the Labor Party was adopting isolationist policies. The Prime Minister of the time, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), came out with a policy almost identical to that of the Opposition; that is, based on making Australia self-sufficient in the area of defence. This year the present Prime Minister was running around South East Asia trying to make something of the Five Power Defence Arrangement. He was shot down by one of the main signatories to the Arrangement.
The story just will not wash. The Australian people will not swallow it any more. They have come to realise that in every area associated with defence the Government has failed. In my electorate at Bankstown is the factory of Hawker de Havilland Australia Pty Ltd. Retrenchments are imminent there but are being avoided because the dropaway rate Ls such that one man a day is leaving the plant. As 5 or 6 men are leaving each week the management has not had to resort to retrenchments but eventually, unless an improvement takes place, it will be forced to lay off some of its workers.
The position is not good at the establishment in Melbourne of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and at the Government Aircraft Factories. It does not matter where one looks, there has been no consistent policy. A couple of weeks ago we saw the newspaper heading ‘France Wins the Fighter Battle’. The Government is trving to make a last minute deal with France, just before the election, for the coproduction of the Mirage Fi in Australia. Yet it is trying to tell us that we will co-produce the aircraft but we are not committed to buy the aircraft. Can any honourable member imagine that we would manufacture the Mirage FI in Australia in quantity but not buy any of them for the Royal Australian Air Force? Because the Government is trying to save its hide a last minute political announcement will be made that we will be building more Mirages in Australia and we will be committing ourselves to a decision to buy the aircraft.
I remind honourable members of the Fill position. The military assessments are thrown out the door because political considerations take precedence. That is what happens at every election. That is what happens with the 5-year rolling defence programme; it gets a spurt on every 3 years. For this year the goodies to come out of the bag are the DDL destroyers. Look at the DDL as a concept. It is to be a 4,000-ton vessel which was originally envisaged as a 1,000 ton vessel. We will be faced with a prohibitive price of $3 35m for 3 ships. What is the value of 3 ships to a country which has a coastline such as ours?
There is just no planning and intelligence in the defence thinking of the Government. A1J the steps that the Government has taken have been stop-gap measures designed to please the current domestic political market. I believe that at the forthcoming election the Australian people will be deciding that they want quality. They will not be sold on false issues such as defence and foreign policy. They will not be fooled by the paranoic scare technique the Government uses by saying: ‘The Labor Party cannot be trusted with defence. If you do not hand us back 3 years of office you will find the hordes of Asia coming down again.’ That is just not on. The Australian Labor Party wants to see strong, viable defence forces. It wants to see Australia in an independent position as far as its military industrial back-up is concerned. It wants to see Australia move into areas of new technology in pioneering industries such as the electronics industry, naval shipbuilding and shipbuilding generally. It is disastrous that there is not even a decent naval design staff in Australia. The position is the same with design staff in the aircraft industry. The top quality people we have are leaving to go overseas. There is an enormous brain drain of personnel from this industry because there is just not enough employment. This Government claims to be credible in the area of defence. It is just too ridiculous.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I would like to make some comments about the remarks just made by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), which were nearly as outrageous as the remarks he made during the Jetair debate this morning. He seems to have forgotten a lot or to have a very convenient memory about the Labor Government that was in office before the Second World War. In those years the Labor Governent consistently opposed, as the Labor Party now does, any attempt to build up our defence forces. I can say from personal experience that the morale and state of equipment and size of our defence forces now are very much better than they were in 1949, contrary to what the honourable member for Blaxland implied. The policy of the Labor Opposition now is that Australia’s defence frontier is her natural boundaries^ - the coast of Australia. That has been said by the Opposition defence spokesman, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard).
But I would like to turn to a more important topic than the honourable member for Blaxland. I would like to say something about defence reorganisation. The most important change we have had recently in our defence policy is the acceptance that it may be necessary in certain circumstances for us to act alone. What we should do now is to see whether the organisation of the defence group of departments is suitable for this new role. I am sure that the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) and the Government are aware of the need for change. In fact, I understand that the Secretary of the Department of Defence is at present overseas looking at other defence organisations. What I should like to do is to take the opportunity to make some suggestions as to the direction which I think this evolving change should take. The present structure of the defence group of departments was established when the Department of Defence was merely a sort of secretariat for 3 independent Services and it was possibly adequate for this very limited purpose. Our Services provided contributions to the armed forces of other countries, and the co-ordination required in the Department of Defence was comparatively little. Recently there has been an attempt to increase the role of the Department of Defence, and this I hasten to say is a highly desirable development; but the consequential changes in the top administration have not yet been made. The professional services staffs have merely been grafted on to the old organisation and not integrated into the Department.
The difficulty of reorganistion stems from the fact that each of the Service boards of the 3 armed Services has independent statutory authority and the control of the Department of Defence over the 3 Service boards stems merely from a letter written by the then Prime Minister in 1958. The present organisation works reasonably well in the provision of defence equipment because of the ultimate control of the Department of Defence over the Services estimates. It does not work at all well in operational matters or, for that matter, in personnel affairs. We must change the structure to eliminate these defects. I am sure the first step must be to remove the statutory authority of the Service boards and transfer this authority to the Department of Defence. Whether the Service boards or, for that matter, the Service Ministers, would continue would be a matter of administrative convenience. But it must be quite clear that authority of the boards is subordinate to that of the Department of Defence. If we transfer this authority to the Department of Defence we must see that the organisation there is capable of exercising this authority, and as the Department of Defence is at present constituted it quite clearly is not.
The first point is that the position of the Secretary of the Department of Defence is an anomalous one. To use the words of the present Secretary, he ‘exercises the basic function of policy adviser to the Minister for Defence, joining with the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff, in respect of certain subjects’. The danger lies in the fact that the Secretary does not necessarily have any military experience or expertise, and it is unfair to give him responsibilities for which he may not be properly equipped, lt would be as unfair as, for instance, appointing a general with no diplomatic experience as Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs. This is meant in no way as a criticism of the present Secretary of the Department of Defence, who is an able and distinguished public servant, but rather as a criticism of the administrative system which he has inherited. I am sure that all servicemen in this country accept and welcome the fact that they are subordinate to the civil power, but this civil power means the Government, not the Public Service. If the Department of Defence is to accept overriding control of the present responsibilities of the 3 Service boards, as I am sure it must, we must set up a defence board to exercise these responsibilities. The responsibilities of this board would be largely professional, and we would need professionals to perform its duties.
I suggest that the defence board should be structured very much like the present Service boards, that is, presided over by the Minister, with one military member and a deputy for strategic operational and staff policies, one military member for personnel, another for maintenance and another for supply, with a civil secretary dealing with finance and departmental affairs. Of course, the members of the defence board would have to be supported by integrated professional staffs. We must not fall into the trap of over-emphasising systems analysis. This technique has its uses, but also has very great limitations. Too many systems analysis reports inevitably have a gaping void between quantified trivialities and fascinating but entirely undisciplined flights of fantasy. I hope that we do not have to learn - I am sure we will not - the lesson that the Americans so painfully learnt over the last 10 years of the limitations of systems analysis.
A properly organised defence board would overcome the defect that the present Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff, the senior professional serviceman in Australia, has no operational authority. In fact, no-one in Australia at the moment has overriding operational authority; except the GovernorGeneral, and he cannot exercise t. The operational control of the Services must be clearly established and must be vested in this new defence board. The defence board would also overcome the great weaknesses in our personnel affairs. The personnel member of the defence board, supported by an appropriate integrated Services staff, would do a great deal, I am sure, to achieve a better utilisation of manpower in the Services.
I should like to refer also to the Joint Intelligence Organisation. I welcome the establishment of such an organisation in the Department of Defence, but I am disturbed at the apparent policy - it may not be the policy; it only appears to be - of automatically appointing an officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs as Director of the Joint Intelligence Organisation. Although there are some exceptions, diplomats by their background and training are generally unsuited for intelligence duties. Our foreign service is modelled very much along the lines of the British foreign service. If one wishes to see the limitations of the Department of Foreign Affairs as an intelligence organisation it is only necessary for one to read the history of the British Foreign Office in the Second World War. I think the trouble stems, at least partly, from the desire of diplomats to back every horse in the race, which is admirable from the point of view of showing that whatever happens you predicted it but is a very poor guide to policy. I would suggest that officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs should be appointed as heads of the Joint Intelligence Organisation if their special qualities make them suitable for this role, but it certainly should not be policy that the head of the JIO should automatically be an officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
There are other measures we should take to improve the integration of the Services. The establishment of a joint cadet college and the adoption of similar functional command organisations by the 3 Services are important examples of this necessary process. But this integration must begin at the top by a reorganisation of the Department of Defence. The existing organisation has served us adequately in the past. But, ‘the old order changeth, yielding place to new’, and the organisation of the Department of Defence must be changed to meet our changing defence needs. As I said at the outset of my speech, I am sure that the Minister for Defence is aware of these changing needs and is investigating the best way to meet them. I hope that my remarks have been a constructive contribution to his consideration.
– It is part of the strange alchemy of politics that there were some points in the 10-minute speech of the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) with which 1 am in agreement. But where does it get us? The honourable member for Isaacs said that we should have reorganisation. Perhaps there is a proposal for reorganisation at the moment, somewhere in the pigeonholes. In the 16 or 17 years that 1 have been in this Parliament we have always been going to have a defence reorganisation. It is a sort of permanent ‘Blue Hills’ or ‘Bellbird’ of the Government in the field of defence. Yet we never seem to produce a rational approach to it.
One of the most serious differences between our parties, of course, is in the points of view on where Australia’s defence frontiers lie. I do not suppose the defence frontiers lie anywhere, but defence responsibilities certainly lie somewhere. The modern world which has changed a great deal from that into which the honourable member for Isaacs and I were born - he was bom a little later than I, but he seems to have started 100 years back - is such a totally different world that we never seem to get round to making a re-evaluation of what it is all about. I took to heart the remarks of the honourable member for Isaacs about officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs being incapable of handling intelligence. I do not know whether those remarks will be very well received over on the ridges opposite.
It is part of the misfortune of this Parliament that we do not really get round to an effective open discussion on these questions. This afternoon we are discussing the defence estimates and we have a few minutes each. I want to speak about several aspects, principally concerning the Army and the Citizen Military Forces. First of all, I refer to the question of national service. I believe that this is the most immoral act the nation has carried out for many days. I have 3 elements of criticism on this issue. Firstly, there is the sheer administrative cynicism of the ballot. The marbles are rolled around in a barrel and somebody goes along and, with a proper fanfare of trumpets, searchlights, television and so on, draws out birth dates of those who are to spend 18 months of their lives in the Army because we have not been able to entice other people to do so. It may well be that we have not enticed other people to do so because the Service is poor. There may be all sorts of discouragements to joining the Service. People may not see any need for it. Countless other factors may be involved.
I regard the ballot system as an unworthy administrative gimmick. I think that the principle is morally indefensible. We have a community of 13 million people that says: ‘We want 12,000 people for the Services.’ That is about one in every thousand or about 0.1 per cent. So, how do we get them? We do not know exactly why we want that particular number, but that is challenge the authenticity of the argument behind it. So, in a community in which there are something like 2 million men of military age, we pick out those 12,000 and we send them off to become members of the Services. I believe that it is militarily irrelevant. I do not have much time this afternoon to discuss in what ways thin is irrelevant.
What on earth would 9 battalions of infantry be doing this afternoon? I was at a debate in this town the other day and a young man stood up after the debate and said: ‘I will tell you what they are doing this afternoon, Mr Bryant. After a national serviceman has done his initial training and he has gone off to his unit, he picks up papers, he cleans his boots, he cleans the car and he polishes the door knobs’. I believe that it is a total waste of human time to use it in this way. I cannot see any possible justification for the retention of the national service system in the light of the present strategic situation.
What are the defence questions? First of all, honourable members opposite may say that we are under threat of invasion. This has been part of the Australian mystique, syndrome or neurosis ever since the year dot. That is why we have Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour, is it not? It was to keep somebody out - the Russians or the Americans, or both - a century ago. We are always adopting this attitude. It is part of the challenge at election time. Honourable members opposite will say: ‘Remember 1942’. The Japanese were going to come down then. Now we cannot invite the Japanese here often enough or quick enough. Of course, there is no threat from
Japan and nobody says that there is. So, what are we attempting to do with our defence system? One may say, then, that an invasion is out. I have not heard even the most militaristic characters, even the members of the Democratic Labor Party or the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay), suggesting that there is an immediate threat of hordes descending upon us in the middle of the night.
Of course, we might have treaty obligaations, and this seems to be the burden of the remarks of honourable members opposite. They say: ‘The Australian Labor Party says that we are going to stay at the frontiers of Australia’. The only alternative to that is that we are not going to stay at the frontiers of Australia and that we are going to send more troops or expeditionary forces overseas. Is that what honourable members opposite are saying? They are very careful not to say it aloud. They never say it aloud. The Minister for the Navy has not said that Australia must have 9 battalions of infantry ready to be hurled ashore in Vietnam, Thailand, Monaco or somewhere else. One of my colleagues has informed me that Monaco has just purchased a gunboat. What are we up for? At present it is obviously just not on to raise an Australian expeditionary force in the foreseeable future for any major conflict or any sort of conflict. It may well be that we should have done better by our United Nations obligations.
It is my belief that if there is a threat - I do not believe that there is - the major challenge to us is the scientific one of finding submerged submarines. This has nothing to do with national service or any of the other things in which we are engaged. A case might be made for the procurement of one of these destroyers to establish whether a certain procedure should be adopted, but it seems to me to be a very expensive method. I believe that the real challenge is the intellectual, scientific one of being able to find submerged submarines. We should be turning all our intellectual and scientific capacity to that task. Honourable members opposite cannot convince me that that would cost $1,300m.
What are our resources? They are almost limitless in many regards. We have manpower. Australia has a population of 13 million people, a couple of million of whom are of military age. We have industrial strength. 1 think that Australia is the ninth or tenth largest industrial power in the world. We have great administrative capacity that even 23 years of this Government has not been able to destroy. We have a remarkable civilian potential and a basically homogeneous community and we have neighbours who actually have no aggressive capacity whatsoever. If they have, would somebody tell me? One only has to read ‘All the World’s Aircraft’, Jane’s Fighting Ships’ and the strategic institute surveys to see that there is not a pint of aggressive capacity within 3,000 miles of Australia’s snores. Therefore, on the whole question of defence we should he turning our minds to ensuring that we obtain our money’s worth and that every serviceman who serves receives first class equipment, training and protection in his Service life and in his domestic life. We should then establish what are the ways of achieving this goal.
I hope that I will have the opportunity this afternoon, after the next couple of speakers, to complete my remarks in relation to the citizen forces of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. Of course, the Navy and the Air Force are simply support troops for the proper Service, the Army. I made that remark for the benefit of those people who are devoted to those other Services. I have listened carefully to the debates in this place. I have heard the remarks of honourable members opposite. They talk continuously about the Army and its 40,000 men. That is about the strength of the regular forces. But what about the other 29,000 or 30,000 men who are in the citizen forces? Not only are they the Cinderellas of the forces; they are almost written out of the book as well. They hardly rate a mention in the Defence Report 1972’. They are never mentioned in debate. The Minister for the Army (Mr Katter) is at the table and he may be able to tell us more about the citizen forces. I have a schedule which sets out the units and so on of the citizen forces. I notice that my time has nearly run out. In chapter 2 of this afternoon’s deliberations I may be able to convince honourable members opposite that the proper and appropriate way to expand the defence forces of Australia is to give real attention, expansion and care to (he citizen forces of all 3 Services.
– The only comment I have to make in regard to the speech just made by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) is that he has further exposed the contempt which his pseudo Labor Party has for the defence of this country.
In the limited time at my disposal I want to inform the Committee of some new developments in our plans for increasing the tempo and operational readiness of the Citizen Military Forces. Broadly, the major changes planned for the CMF cover 3 main areas: A higher degree of integration in training with the Regular Army is to be achieved; more interesting and varied training, including adventure type training, will be provided: and a special force, trained to a higher state of readiness than has previously been possible in the CMF, is to be raised. These are significant developments which are part of the overall review which is being undertaken in order to revitalise the CMF, to make it more interesting and attractive to young men and to encourage them to undertake parttime service in defence of this country.
The Government places great importance on the continuing need for Australia to have a strong and viable CMF to augment the regular forces in situations short of full scale war, and to provide the nucleus for expansion of [he Army, should this be required. Honourable members will appreciate that this role is becoming even more vital in an era where there is an increasing requirement for Australia to develop its own capability to serve its own strategic interests. The popular catchcry that there is no obvious threat to Australia within the next 10 years has led some people to the dangerous and outrageous conclusion that the Army could not only be reduced in size, but also be allowed to stagnate in terms of operational efficiency and morale. I think it is quite ridiculous for the honourable member for Wills to compare the situation we had at the time of the Russian threat and when we built Fort Denison and other places with the situation today in which we are almost completely isolated in this part of the world.
As far as I am concerned, this is just not going to happen. No matter how favourable the current situation may appear to be, it is the height of folly to suppose that a threat to the security of Australia cannot develop at any time. Armies, like other elements of the defence forces, cannot be produced overnight. There are long lead times involved.
I now want to say something about the operational readiness of the OMF. This matter was mentioned in the Parliament during the latter part of 1971 when the need was seen for a force within the CMF which would be capable of deployment on relatively short notice thus increasing the CM F’s ability to react quickly to emergent situations. Considerable study has been given to this project and I am now able to confirm that a new force to be known as the CMF Ready Reaction Force is to be raised. In the remaining time at my disposal 1 will outline the concept of the new scheme. Three CMF battalion groups of flexible composition will be nominated on an Australia-wide basis and these will be maintained at varying stages of readiness. Under the direction of the Headquarters of Commands, First, Second and Third Divisions will be, each responsible for the raising and training of a battalion group. This group will consist generally of a nucleus of infantry of about battalion size and supporting elements which could include armour, artillery, engineers, signals and appropriate service units. The. 3 groups will together form the Ready Reaction Force, but as the concept is new and will almost certainly require modification and change as experience in the formative stages dictates, it is planned initially that one group each year will be brought to a higher state of readiness and its training will culminate in an exercise designed to test its standard. This exercise might be conducted overseas; but if this is not practicable it will most certainly be held in a suitable area in Australia.
An important feature of the scheme is that all CMF units will have the opportunity of being included in the Force. The battalion group to be raised from units in New South Wales will have its standards tested by an exercise in 1974. In 1975 the second battalion group will be provided from units in Victoria, and in 1976 units from
Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania will form a third integrated battalion group. During 1973 the units selected from New South Wales will undertake intensive training and preparation for their exercise in 1974. At the same time selection of units for the second and third groups will be proceeding. This will not be confined to the larger concept of the operation, but units and sub-units will at the same time be having the advantage of this new type of training and this new sense of purpose and achievement. When determined, those units will concentrate their efforts, within their parent States, on achieving the highest standards of company level training which will culminate in their large scale exercises, as indicated, in 1975 and 1976. This training programme leading up to the exercises will be designed to be both stimulating and attractive, to bring these units up to the desired peak of efficiency. All members who qualify for the Ready Reaction Force will wear appropriate dress insignia. I am sure they will wear it with immense pride.
The Ready Reaction Force will be selected from the most efficient elements of the CMF. It is expected that its existence will create a competitive spirit throughout the whole of the CMF and this should lead to improved standards and heightened enthusiasm. I should mention that I have been concerned for a long time with the apparent lack of public awareness of the task being done by the CMF and the value to be derived from such service, particularly in the field of man management and the development of leadership qualities. This sort of education of the community I believe to be essential and every opportunity is now being taken by my Department to develop this theme.
Finally, I am continuing to probe on a grass roots basis - with a good deal of success, I might mention - to ascertain a consensus of opinion from CMF members and supporters regarding views which will stimulate more colour, more imagination, greater responsibility at the NCO level and other changes which will not only attract but also hold a largely increased CMF volunteer force. This is the sort of education of the community we desire to achieve.
I think I would be failing in my responsibility as a Service Minister if I did not attempt with all the vigour at my disposal to get the message across loud and clear to the Australian people.
Let me turn to the Labor Party’s so-called defence policy. What an appalling situation this really is. The Labor Party has many prominent members who have a splendid war record. I know how embarrassed and humiliated they must be to have to align themselves publicly with a policy which would inevitably destroy Australia’s capacity to defend itself. I instance the quite tragic proposal to reduce the number of infantry battalions. I have stated time and again that we need an absolute minimum of the structure of a division and this means a base of 9 infantry battalions. It is absurd to suppose that Australian military defence can be adequately undertaken with anything less than the structure of a division. What a farce it is to suggest that this would provide anything more than a token force.
I need not remind the Committee, and I am sure even members of the Opposition would agree, that the reputation of the Australian soldier and of the Army generally is world renowned. This reputation has been enhanced by our commitment in Vietnam where Australian soldiers have continuously, over a period of 10 years, been involved. The Labor Party wants this magnificent force to be dismembered. Do honourable members opposite really understand exactly what the result of this would be? I am darned sure they do not. There would be an immediate and progressive loss of morale, a disintegration of the pool of expertise which has been built up over the years, and finally the situation would arise where Australia could not militarily defend itself. But the Opposition says that there is no threat. What does the Opposition want us to do? Does it want us to accept this state of stagnancy in our defence structure? Does it want us to be undefended? Well, its policy is loud and clear. Anything less than we have would be a farce. The Regular Army would be reduced to a state of operational ineffectiveness and the CMF would fall virtually overnight to about 19,000. At that level the CMF would no longer be viable and would probably require complete re-structuring.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), with all his sanctimonious regard for the CMF, is going to disband one-third of the Australian Army. There is another extremely important consideration. Let me make it clear that not for one moment do I suggest that national service or any form of military training would be a sure means of taking up unemployment. But those people who continually scream about the unemployment situation will not admit - I challenge them to admit it - that with a disintegration of the Army there would be created not only a pool of unemployment from the Army itself but a pool from the great group of civilians who are dependent on the Army. I think the Australian people should be warned but I doubt that they need it. The Opposition has been most uncomfortable. Its supporters have even stopped the hyena type of laughing that they go on with.
– Ha, ha!
– There is one hyena left, I am sorry to say. When Opposition supporters saw that the gallup poll rating of 43 per cent, which gave us a majority of 9 members at the last election, suddenly went up to 45 per cent they started character assassination but the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) was one too good for them. I felt I should warn the Australian people, as though they need it. They are fully aware of the utter danger to this country should, God forbid, those gentlemen on the other side of the chamber ever get into office.
– By courtesy of the Leader of the House (Mr Chipp) I have been allowed to speak for 3 minutes, which is all I need, because 1 was not listed as a speaker. I have been endeavouring to ask a question for the last 7 or 8 days but without success. My question refers to naval building orders which are being placed at the Cockatoo naval dockyard. The answer to a question which I asked of the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay) indicated that the Government showed concern about the unemployment position which has arisen in this industry. I appreciate the fact that the Government, like the Opposition, does not intend to use the unemployment issue as a basis for trying to win votes, and that is not my intention in raising this matter today. I know it is not the intention of the Minister for the Navy or any other Minister to use unemployment as a means of getting votes.
I should like to have something concrete stated by either the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) or the Minister for the Navy in regard to future orders to be placed with the Cockatoo naval dockyard. I think it was mooted in the newspapers in regard to a ship called the ‘Protector’. There seems to be some confusion. Certainly the management would like to know, and so would the trade unions, the future of the naval dockyard.
There have been some retrenchments at the dockyard of both tradesmen aud unskilled people. These are the people whom we must retain in this industry. As the Government has complete control over orders placed with this dockyard it is incumbent upon the Government to ensure that these men are not permanently lost to the industry. I have been asked by the Labor Council of New South Wales to pursue this matter in order to get something definite from the Government in regard to this industry so as relieve the anxiety not only of trade unions involved but also of the management.
– I should like firstly to refer to a recent visit by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) to Holland to study what is a very proper subject; that is, alternatives to the DDL destroyer with a view to finding some way of getting down to very much lower costs than those involved. I suggest to the honourable gentleman that he might have found it more profitable to have looked in my electorate at the Canadian solution to the types of problems which now face all navies. One of Australia’s greatest problems is in anti-submarine warfare. With the DDLs, which are in large part designed to meet this problem, there are 2 grave difficulties which have necessitated the construction of a very large ship instead of the much smaller vessel which was at first envisaged by the Royal Australian Navy. One problem is the range and the difficulty of keeping a small ship at sea for a long time. The other main aspect for consideration is the anti-submarine air factor.
The way in which the Canadians tackled the problem of anti-submarine warfare is now on exhibition in a small way in Sydney Harbour. The ship involved is the Provider. It will participate over the weekend with other ships in various anti submarine maneouvres. The ‘Provider’ was built in 1963 at a cost of $15,700,000. We can assume that the cost to construct it now would be at least double that amount or even higher. It is worth looking at the Canadian solution because the Canadian Navy has a much deeper experience in antisubmarine warfare than has Australia. At the end of the World War II the Canadian anti-submarine forces operating in the Atlantic were very large; in fact they were almost as big as those of Great Britain. As I said, Canada has faced up to the problem of the range of anti-submarine activity and of keeping forces at sea for a long time under difficult conditions. The ‘Provider’ is capable of increasing the range of much smaller ships to a large degree. She has accompanying her on this journey the ‘Qu’annelle” and ‘Gatineau’ which are based on the old type 12 British anti-submarine frigate which appear in Australia almost identically in our R class vessels. This is particularly relevant to us because the construction of DDLs with a full range and full anti-submarine capacity in the one ship means that the costs are so high that we really do have to look for an alternative.
Having decided to build the first 3 destroyers, I imagine that the Navy envisages measures to refit our own R class vessels, which are now at about the half life stage, to give them the range and the antisubmarine capacity necessary to enable them to be very effective ships and almost equivalent to DDLs for most purposes and at a very much lower cost. If I may touch upon what the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) said, this is highly relevant to the constructing of a fast supply ship which I understood was to have been built at the Cockatoo dockyard. But this becomes very important in the total context because in fact we are running currently along both lines of experiment with the DDLs, or large ships, which would be able to keep at sea for a long time and the lighter and smaller destroyers - these would be our older destroyers - whose range and effectiveness can be effectively increased only by the construction of a fast supply ship along the lines of the Canadian ship the ‘Provider’. The Canadian ship has immense tanks. It carries a colossal amount of fuel. A ship of this type can about treble the range of
R class destroyers. Besides that, the Canadian ship has a very considerable helicopter capacity - a capacity to assist, in conjunction with frigates, in very effective anti-submarine warfare.
This ship has 3 helicopters. Presumably our future plans also include considerable helicopter carrying capacity which, used in conjunction with small frigates, will give us a very effective anti-submarine force. In addition to carrying fuel and helicopters, supply ships of this type also have considerable capacity for carrying supplies, providing hospital facilities as well as carrying ammunition and all the supplies needed to keep a fleet at sea. These are very keen and interesting vessels to study.
– Do not worry. I will keep the fort.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order!
– I am holding the fort for the Labor Party.
– The Labor Party is making a magnificient contribution in having one man in the chamber.
– How many Liberals are there?
– I can see two just under my nose. I do not look behind me. But it is necessary, I suggest, that we persevere with the other line of meeting future requirements. We should be building now a fast supply ship which, in conjunction with the older type frigates and destroyers, will greatly enhance the capacity of those ships. Maybe if this proves to be a promising line of development this will enable us to make very much more satisfactory overall arrangements for the use of our resources than could be achieved by repeating further DDL type vessels, lt is too early to say what the outcome will be, because this matter is still at the experimental stage, but it is a very necessary experiment to run. I hope that there will not be any considerable delay in reaching a decision. 1 join with the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) in what he said about the employment aspects of the shipbuilding industry, using our shipbuilding capacity and keeping it intact. That was one of the main reasons for designing the DDLs here and developing our electronic industries. I hope that somehow we will manage to proceed without delay.
– It is not my intention in any way at all to agree with what has been said by honourable members from the other side of the chamber, lt seems to me, after listening to the speeches made by honourable members on the Government side, that Parkinson’s law acts to a large extent in the armed Services of Australia. It seems that, as Parkinson’s law says, once a position exists it is very very necessary to spend a lot of time and a lot of money justifying the existence of that position.
The Minister for the Army (Mr Katter) treated us to his usual dissertation about the Australian Army. I wonder whether the Minister for the Army would have spoken that way had the Communist Party accepted his application to join it. This debate revolves around the proposed expenditure of $ 1,300m for defence as opposed to the amount of $l,200m which was appropriated last year. In other words, there is to be an increase of $100m this year in the defence vote. That SI 00m could have been used to provide for the community many of the things that the community, and experts, believe that the community needs. It could provide things of great value to the community. The enormous expenditure of $ 1,300m which is, as I have said, an increase of $100m over last year’s vote, is to be shared among the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. Part of this amount is to be given to an Army that is supplemented by young men taken from the community against their will, placed into military establishments for 10 weeks, where they are bastardised and brutalised by the people in these places. The excuse that is given for this treatment is: This will make men of them*.
Next to his mother, I have known my son for longer than anybody else on the face of this earth. I have no doubt that at almost 21 years of age he does not need the help of some corporal in the armed Services to make him a man. I would be very disappointed in his mother if she had not taught him manliness over the years. Young men are taken from the community, from their occupations where they are performing worthwhile tasks, and for a 10- week period some of them are driven to distraction. After this they are put to work, as the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) said, picking up pieces of paper. The community ought to be told - this ought to be well known to the people of Australia - how we are training these men to defend this country, which is what the Government says they are being trained for. Let me tell honourable members, and through the radio let me tell those who are listening to these proceedings, how these young men are being trained.
I refer to the case of one young man in particular, a very fit, very healthy and very vigorous young man. He was taken from the community and from his job because he happened to be born on a particular day of the year. He has been brutal lised and bastardised and, as our Minister for the Army has told us, is now training to be a fighting man. For the next 10 weeks the Army taught him to use a typewriter. Well, we will sleep safely in our beds knowing that young men of this country are being trained to throw typewriters and filing cabinets at those who come to attack us. This young man is being trained to use a typewriter and to understand the Army’s filing system and the Army’s accounting system. But the community thinks that it can sleep safely in bed because this young man has been taken from a community and trained, as the community believes, to be a soldier.
If Australia faces a threat - and no one believes that it does - I have not heard any government supporters, these jingoistic sabre rattling, drum thumping members on the other side of the Chamber - tell us who is going to attack us. When we ask them to please be more explicit, Government supporters say:’lt is them;it is they’. I suppose ‘they’ is more explicit than them’.
– It might be the Martians.
– My honourable friend from Wilmot says that it may be the Martians. Perhaps we should consider whether the people of Macao or the people from one of the very small principalities of Europe intend to attack us, because nobody has identified our enemy. We have heard about China for so many years. We have been shown the red arrows on the map. But the history of China as far back as one would care to go is that
China as a nation has never yet moved outside of its traditional boundaries in an aggressive manner. So no-one can point out our enemy. If honourable members opposite cannot do that then of course they cannot advise us how we ought to protect ourselves from someone who cannot be identified. It seems to me that if people in other countries are building themselves up to a position where they can attack Australia we would be in a better position if we knew about this at an early date. Therefore I suggest to the Minister who is responsible for the operations of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation that he take these people out into the world and let them examine other countries rather than let them interfere with my telephone and interrupt my telephone conversations with little clicks and knocks at all times of the night as they tape record telephone conversations. They would perform a better function if they endeavoured to establish who our potential enemies are likely to be.
This country would be better served by this Government, which is a war mongering government and there can be no doubt about that, identifying who our potential enemy might be rather than have it pay $300m for 24 aircraft parked at Fort Worth which will not fly anyhow. The United States is losing these aircraft at the rate of one every 2 weeks in Vietnam, almost to the point where the United States will not fly them any more. We are expected to believe that we can defend our country with this aircraft. So I repeat: Let us identify our potential enemy.
– We do not want to go out finding enemies.
– I did not hear the interjection of the Minister for the Navy but I am sure that it was not worth listening to anyhow. The right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) who for a time was Prime Minister of this country and for a briefer time Minister for Defence, said that in his view - I suppose as Minister for Defence he was speaking with the advice of experts - there was no immediate threat to Australia in the next 10 years. That is a conservative point of view. My own view, supported by incontrovertible evidence, is that the threat will not exist for at least 25 years. In this time would we not be better off building economic and friendly relations with our neighbours instead of, as the member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) said, getting up there and belting hell out of them? Does the honourable member for the Northern Territory realise that there are 120 million people living in Indonesia who can row dugout canoes to Australia? Does he not realise that we would be better off living as friends, as I do with my neighbour in the town where I live? I am not constantly aggressive to my neighbour and I am not bristling with arms every time I confront him. Is that not the way we should be living? Is that not the way we should be looking at the world in almost the last quarter of this century? Should we be continuing the jingoistic attitude of the barons of the feudal times? Should we always be arming ourselves? Should we always appear to be aggressive to those around us7 Should we always live in fear of them? The Minister for the Navy is a minister of religion and I am astounded that a man with such a background could endorse a policy of aggression to his fellow man. He and those who support him should learn to Jive in peace with other men. Must they be aggressive? Speaking in this fashion I leave myself open to a charge from the Government parties that 1 do not believe in the defence of this country and that I would sell this country out. I challenge them to say against whom 1 would not defend this country and to whom I would sell it out. Many good men died in the 1939-45 war for a just cause - the defence of this country against the Japanese who wanted our mineral resources. A government of the same political complexion as this Government sold our minerals to them for 10c a ton.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– During the time I have been listening to the defence debates in this Parliament. I have not heard a more pitiable and painful collection of speeches, with a couple of exceptions, than I have heard from the Opposition this afternoon. It really is incredible and makes one wonder where this country would go under a Labor government. We have had some honourable members opposite say: ‘What do we want defence for. We do not want defence of any sort’. The honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) said: We do not want defence; all we want is economic and friendly relations with Indonesia and our other neighbours’. Of course we want friendly and economic relations with Indonesia and our other neighbours in South East Asia. This Government has done more in the last 12 months in this direction than any previous government has done. We are on extremely close terms with Indonesia. We have helped Indonesia economically and militarily. As the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) said, we have been training their pilots and assisting them to obtain self reliance. Many honourable members on the Opposition side seem to think that because we cannot immediately identify an enemy about to arrive on our doorstep that we need no defence of any sort. This is ludicrous.
Defence is like insurance. We always say that we have paid too much for insurance if our house does not burn down, but if it does we are jolly glad we had insurance. It is the same with defence. We have to have defence. We have to have self reliance. More and more countries have to be self reliant because they cannot rely, as they have done in the past, on the great friendly powers - the United States of America and the United Kingdom - which are now withdrawing many of their forces. So we have to be self reliant and we must have national independence and ensure that we have security, that we have collective security with other friendly nations in the area. This is why we have organisations and treaties such as ANZUS, SEATO and ANZUK so that we can help these people develop their own power. One cannot suddenly turn around and say: ‘There is a threat so let us build up our defence forces’. If you have nothing to build them up from it takes too long. One has to have troops and equipment and, as we know, there is a tremendously long lead time for equipment. The DDL destroyers we are talking about probably will not be in operation for 10 years time and then they will be in operation for 25 years. So we have to look a long way ahead.
As for the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), I thought that his was one of the most pitiable and painful speeches I have heard in this Parliament. He said that we have no defence and that the Government has never told the nation anything. Where has he been since he has been in this Parliament? Only a few weeks ago I announced a 5-year rolling defence programme. It spelled out in the minutest detail everything we were getting this year. Expenditure of well over $200m on new facilities and bases out of a total expenditure of Sl,323m this year was proposed and I spelled out what our programme will be for the next 4 years. Yet he gets up and whines away about our having nothing. All I can say is that if we had the Labor Party in office we would have nothing. We know what its first programme would be for it has been spelled out by the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) and the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). It would be the abolition of national service. Labor would reduce our Army until it reached the stage where it was quite ineffective and inefficient.
What would happen with the abolition of national service? What would happen is that we would reduce our Army from over 41,500 to about 29,000; we would reduce our Citizen Military Forces, our reserves and our number of active battalions. The number of active battalions we would have following the abolition of national service would be about half what we have at the moment. Our Regular Army would be about two-thirds what it is at the moment. Our reserve would be about one-third what it is at the moment. This is the sort of thing that the honourable member for Wills and the honourable member for Burke and others would create. They believe that there is no need for defence of any sort. Of course, we know that this is what will happen. At least I can say that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) came in here and tried to make a few constructive comments which is more than virtually anyone else from the other side of the House has done, with the exception of the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope). I will be having a word with him very shortly about a proposal he put forward in relation to the Cockatoo Island dockyard.
In fact, seeing that I have sidetracked myself, I mention to him now that the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay) and I saw a number of trade unionists the other day from Cockatoo Island dockyard. They have a real problem, particularly the boilermakers, and are starting to get concerned about the lack of work. We have been looking very closely at what work can be done at Cockatoo dock yard. Three ships are under consideration. One, of course, is the AOE. the fast combat support ship, and another one is the oceanographic ship. While both of these ships are under consideration, even if a decision were made very shortly it would be some time before the effect on the workload was felt by the workers in the Cockatoo dock itself.
The Minister for the Navy and I will be making a statement this afternoon that negotiations for the construction of a submarine slave dock at Cockatoo dockyard should commence immediately. Not only is this extremely necessary from the point of view of maintenance of the submarines in that area but also it will provide very shortly an increased workload. I am not able yet to say exactly how much this work will cost but I believe it will be of the order of $1.5m to $1.8m. These are the sort of problems that we are running up against in both the aircraft industry and the shipbuilding industry, and it is not easy. They are worldwide problems. In many areas there is over capacity. As I mentioned, we are trying to help at Cockatoo dock and we are trying to help in the aircraft industry. I was talking to the Managing Director of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Ltd only yesterday and he informed me that he foresees in the next year a slight increase in the workload for the Commonwealth Aircraft Factories because of the fact that the work on the light observation helicopters will be starting. Also there is a policy of offset. Whenever we buy equipment from overseas now we make it part of the agreement for that purchase that some of this equipment - either that equipment or something else alternative to it - should be built in Australian yards, whether they be dockyards or aircraft factories, so as to try to increase the amount of work provided. The workload ls extremely low at the present time and it is giving us concern. So we have adopted this system of offsets, and it is working very well.
We are looking at collaborative programmes. I want to say to the honourable member for Blaxland that he should not believe everything he reads in the newspapers. In fact, I saw recently that only 15 per cent of people said they believed what they read in newspapers, and this might be a fairly inflated percentage. However, we certainly are looking at collaborative programmes. Sooner or later there will be a replacement for the Mirage. When that happens we would like to see, first of all, that the Royal Australian Air Force has the ability to select what it requires, in other words, that it will get the best possible equipment that is available. We believe also that there should be an increase in the workload going to Australian industry as a result of this. We have been working hard also to try to increase the workload by the production of the Nomad. This year 20 of these aircraft have been ordered, 11 of them to go to the Army and 9 to go for sale outside. I mentioned the light observation helicopters, the ikara and the Turana.
Australian industry has been gaining very considerably because it is a policy of this Government that we should devote more and more of Australian defence orders to Australian industry. I was interested to see the figures just very recently. Today Australia spends 85.5 per cent of its total defence expenditure in Australia. This figure represents an increase from the low figure of 68.2 per cent in 1967-68. So this year only approximately 14.5 per cent of the total expenditure will go overseas. Of course, much of this is inescapable when we are purchasing equipment such as the Fill aircraft - that magnificent aircraft which the Opposition has tried unsuccessfully for so long to denigrate. It is still the best aircraft of its kind in the world. I am sure that when it comes to Australia next April or May it will be an extremely valuable adjunct to the RAAF, which is one of the best equipped air forces. Certainly it is the best equipped for its size in the world and it is one of the best equipped anywhere in the world.
The percentage of equipment purchased in Australia has gone up very considerably from 38.7 per cent in 1967 to 64 per cent, and only 36 per cent is purchased overseas.
I was asked to speak for only 10 minutes. I realise that in doing so I cannot deal with many questions that I would have liked to have answered. I would have liked to say much more on defence. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition chided me or the Government for the fact that there was no adequate opportunity to discuss defence matters. I believe that opportunity has been provided for people desired to take advantage of it. We have had for the first time ever a White Paper on Defence. We have had an extremely long and very full exposition of the 5-year rolling programmes. Honourable members have had an opportunity during the Budget debate to raise defence matters. I admit that the estimates debates are probably the worst means of discussing defence matters and really getting down to tin-tacks because inadequate time is allowed. But there are always opportunities available if honourable members desire to speak on these matters.
Mr KATTER (Kennedy- Minister for the Army) - I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr Chairman.
– Order! Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim to have been stupidly and maliciously misrepresented by - he is so rarely in the House that I cannot remember his electorate - the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson). Stupidly, he claimed that I applied for-
– I rise to a point of order. Mr Chairman, as you know, it is not in conformity with Standing Orders for any Minister or honourable member to say that he has been stupidly and maliciously misrepresented. The position is that be can ask to make a personal explanation if he has been misrepresented.
– Order! The Minister for the Army.
– Mr Chairman, I am asking you to give a ruling on this. Is the Minister in order in saying that he has been stupidly and maliciously misrepresented? I am asking you for a ruling.
– Order! In regard to the point of order raised by the honourable member for Sydney, I suggest that perhaps the Minister might restrain himself in the remarks and the phrases that he might use.
-I will do this according to your instructions, Mr Chairman. What I want to point out in regard to this allegation is that the honourable member for Burke once said that I see communists wherever I go and that there would be as many communists in my electorate as would fit in a telephone box. This is really laughable but it is a serious allegation. Secondly, it is malicious because it is something which he has cooked up from somewhere, although I do not know where. Thirdly, I now invite him, as soon as the pending division has concluded, to come out into King’s Hall and make the same statement. I challenge him to do that.
– Order! I suggest to the Minister for the Army that he make the point in relation to which he has been misrepresented. He must not debate the matter, nor must he bring in points that are not relevant to the point of misrepresentation.
– I rise to a point of order, if the Minister will just contain himself for a while. Normally I would not raise this point of order because 1 am known in this House to be a very tolerant and a very placid person. But the Minister has referred to me on more than one occasion as ‘him’ and ‘he’. I understand that the Standing Orders demand some sort of courtesy, especially from a Minister when speaking to another member of this House. 1 believe that it is proper for the Minister, instead of referring to a member as ‘he’ and ‘him’, to refer to him as the honourable member for a particular electorate.
– Order! In regard to the point of order taken by the honourable member for Burke, I suggest to the Minister for the Army, as I did previously, that he make the point where he claims to have been misrepresented.
– The point is that this man, the honourable member for Burke - he informed me of this himself - said that I had applied for membership of the Com munist Party - Bob Katter for membership of the Communist Party! I demand that he withdraw that comment and that it be deleted from Hansard.
– Order! The Minister for the Army claimed a misrepresentation. He has pointed out where he was misrepresented. That is the matter before the Chair at the moment. Under the Standing Orders there is no requirement for a withdrawal.
– Mr Chairman, I take it that we are continuing with the Defence estimates.
Motion (by Mr Giles) proposed:
That the question be now put.
– Order! The question is: ‘That the question be now put’. Those in favour say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it.
– I call for a division, Mr Chairman. I do not know what arrangements have been made, but-
– Order! Is the honourable member for Wills calling for a division?
– I do not know what the arrangements are, but–
– Order! It is necessary for 2 honourable members to rise if a division is required.
– If any arrangement has been made-
– Order! The honourable member for Wills will resume his seat.
– Order! If the honourable member for Wills has not been listening I regret it. It is necessary for 2 honourable members to rise before there is a division. Is a division required? (More than the required number of honourable members having risen in their places) -
– Order! The Committee will divide.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
– I move:
For the benefit of honourable members this is so that the House can begin debating the National Urban and Regional Development Authority Bill, which we have delayed to suit the convenience of my friend the hon ourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), who is now prepared to debate this matter. It is intended to return to the consideration of the Estimates in Committee after the disposal of this Bill. Hopefully, we will then be able to pass the Appropriation Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 11 October (vide page 2384), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– In the words of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), this Bill is the most important legislation to be introduced into Parliament in the post-war years. It is an important Bill and we are pleased that the Government has at last come to its senses. It is also a very sad moment for Australia because there have been 23 years of lost time. I do not want t harp on it for more than a moment. However, if one reads reports such as the Commonwealth Housing Commission’s report on post-war housing needs dated 25th August 1944, tabled in the Parliament on 18th September 1945 - it has more than 130 pages on regional development - or the 1949 report on regional development in Australia, both products of the Labor Government’s Department of Post-War Reconstruction, one can see what might have been. If the proposed authority had any relevance at all it could produce a Mark II version of the 1944 document which so clearly set out the real issues involved. Such a programme would take a couple more years. However, in the meantime we cannot afford to do nothing. Mr John Dedman, the Minister for Post-War Reconstruction, said in June 1948:
Now that all the factories built in wartime have in some way been disposed of the decentralisation move must not stop. If we are to develop to the full a country the size of Australia there should be the greatest possible balance in the distribution of population. We are looking to increasing our population by large scale immigration. This will require new secondary industry to provide employment opportunities. As far as possible we want those employment opportunities to be provided by developing the relatively smaller industrial centres rather than by continued development of Sydney and Melbourne.
The Liberal Government which came to power in 1949 adopted Labor’s immigration programme but not the associated regional development and decentralisation programme of the Department of Postwar Reconstruction. It allowed and even encouraged the return of industry to the big cities. Chaos in the cities of Sydney and Melbourne is the result. In the last 2 months of the Government’s death throes the consequences of its lack of action can be seen. From the many statements that the Prime Minister has made recently it is clear that he could not have possibly found the vision necessary to set up even the modest effort proposed. It was forced on him by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony), a man of somewhat greater vision. However, he also can see only part of the picture. He and his Party have to examine their mistakes of over-centralisttion in our capital cities in the past 23 years. They have permitted the rural population to decline from 31 per cent to 14 per cent in the period of office of Liberal and Country Party governments.
Much of the rural population has flocked to the capital cities and has aggravated an already over-crowded situation. This Bill is a full embracing of halfbaked policies and it shows the marks of excessive haste. The Prime Minister has said: ‘We are concerned with national objectives in urban and regional development.’ I ask: What national objectives? The Prime Minister read his script but really did not understand what he was saying. He would not know an urban or regional area or a national objective if he saw one. Even with the noble efforts of the Deputy Prime Minister national objectives are nowhere in sight. Otherwise we would see in the brief of the authority or as components of the Government’s regional development planning essential policies in respect of population, development and conservation of our natural resources, industrial growth, tariffs, rationalisation of transport in Australia and the use of environmental impact assessments as a tool of national planning and government decision making. Of course, none of these exists after 23 years of piecemeal policy making with no vision or idealism.
We have a Government that acts only when negative feedback occurs. It tries to copy a Labor Party policy but emasculates it so that it will not work. It deals in window dressing. It might look all right on the surface. The clothes may be all right but it cannot function any more. In the last month or so we have been blinded by a flurry of Government window dressing trying to con the country into giving the Government another 3 years of incompetent leadership. However, the people will not be had this time. Although the Prime Minister is backed by a bureaucracy of more than 350,000 people he cannot make a competent decision. He now mouths a policy forced on him by the Country Party and about which he has no real understanding.
The Opposition opposes the Bill on the grounds that the authority to be created has no real teeth, no real muscle to deal with the problems involved. I point out that Professor Henderson did not need any legislation to advise on poverty. Professor Borrie did not need any legislation to advise on population. The Committee inquiring into repatriation benefits did not require any legislation. Mr Justice Asprey did not need any legislation for his inquiry into taxation. Accordingly I move:
The Labor Party feels that in the case of regional development a recommending authority is just not enough. Such an authority can recommend to the Prime Minister that such and such a city be developed. However, unless it can marshal the necessary resources such a policy will not work; it will be ineffective. The resources necessary to make such a policy work include those relating to population, transportation, land use, industrial and tariff policies, and development and conservation policies. Unless all these are marshalled as part of a national effort, nothing will happen. For example, over-development of the inner areas of Melbourne and Sydney will continue and will counteract any development that may occur in regional areas. We are already familiar with that position. We have seen it over and over again. The Government is continuing to build its own centres at Woolloomooloo in Sydney to house 15,000 public employees, and in Melbourne to house 20,000 public employees. Over-building by insurance companies and foreign investors in the central business districts has taken place. It will all counteract further regional development.
A key example I would like to develop in detail is population policy. In recommending to the House that it accepts this Bill the Prime Minister has hanged himself with his own words. Clearly he has not considered the institution of a population policy in this country. He said:
The trend to increasing concentration is already evident and causing concern. If no action is taken, the problem will become more acute as our population grows from 13 million to possibly 22 million over the balance of the century.
The Prime Minister is assuming a blind continuation of present population nonpolicies and the continuation of large scale immigration. He does not ever seem to realise that his own Department of Immigration is now cutting back severely on immigration because of the present unemployment situation. Our natural increase in population during the last 23 years has been 1.1 per cent. Immigration has added another 0.8 per cent. As a result we have had an overall increase of 1.9 per cent over the period of the present Government’s administration. With a 1.1 per cent growth rate our population would be 17.3 million at the end of the centry. With a growth rate of 1.9 per cent it would be 23 million by the end of the century - a difference of 6 million or almost the population of the entire country at the end of 1945.
With population increasing at 2 per cent annually and with no policies for constructive decentralisation, along the lines suggested by the Department of Post-War Reconstruction in 1945, the result bad to be chaos. It is chaos at present, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne. The great percentage of our migrants have flocked to our 2 major cities - Sydney and Melbourne.
There have been no real employment opportunities created elsewhere in the country areas. The result of the much too rapid growth of our 2 large cities should be clear to all. The Australian Education Council estimates in the nation-wide survey on education needs that the States are $ 1,443m short of the required finance for the years 1971 to 1975. It will cost Sydney alone $1,00Om to catch up on its sewerage scheme - and then only to the primary treatment stage. That estimate is based on present day costs, but the sewerage scheme will take 10 years to construct so one can imagine what the inflationary trend will be during that time. So we know what the pressures are. In Sydney alone the sewerage work that is being undertaken will not solve any of the major pollution problems on Sydney’s beaches. The Melbourne figure is $700m. Water and sewerage authorities in Sydney are spending 53c in every $1 in servicing their debts. The equivalent figure in Melbourne is 58c in the dollar. In the last 20 years the interest on debts incurred by local government authorities throughout Australia has increased by nearly 2,000 per cent, while the interest on the debts of semi-government authorities has increased by 2,700 per cent. The Commonwealth, the body which is responsible foi immigration, has an internal debt which has remained nearly static during this period. It has brought migrants into the country and thrown the pressure on to the States, local authorities and semi-government authorities, and of course it has wiped its hands.
There are 90,000 families on the housing commission waiting lists for homes in Australia. This includes 26,000 in Sydney alone. The lack of services and cultural facilities in the newer areas of Sydney and Melbourne is a scandal. When I say the newer areas 1 mean the fringe areas where I live and where the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) lives. It is in these areas that many of our migrants live. The cost of land has risen astronomically in the past few years. Today the average block in Melbourne sells for nearly $8,000 and in Sydney it sells at $10,000. Rectifying the past neglect will take a great deal of money, time, new cities and system cities and above all a great slow down in the growth rate of Sydney and Melbourne. I mention Sydney and Melbourne because this is where the crisis exists now. It will follow in our other capital cities unless the trend is altered. It will take time for new cities to get off the ground. Our unemployment as present is much too high, and migrants suffer most from this unemployment. Any reasonable man would advocate a reduction in our migrant intake to give the appropriate authorities the breathing space necessary to begin to give a fair deal to those migrants already here and to get regional development off the ground.
All this is aside from the more important facts about the development of long term population and resources policy in Australia. We have no population and resources policy. Since the Second World War the New Towns Commission in the United Kingdom has been able to attract 1 million people to its planned communities. I stress that in the United Kingdom, with all its enormous resources, the authorities have been able to attract only 1 million people to their new cities. If we can put 1 million people into our new cities in regional areas in Australia by the end of the century we will be making real progress. After all the position has been the reverse under the present Government. The population of the rural areas has decreased from 31 per cent of the national population to 14 per cent. We will have a great struggle to get 1 million people out of the metropolitan areas. But let us deal with the facts as we see them. All those not living in regional areas will live in or near the over-expanding metropolitan areas. At least under Labor these will be planned communities and not like the sprawl of unplanned Sydney and Melbourne or our other capital or provincial cities.
If the population increases by 1.1 per cent annually until the year 2000 and we put 1 million people in new cities and regional areas we will have 3.3 million people left who will have to live in the expanded large cities and system cities. If the population grows at the rate of 1.9 per cent per annum as it is at present, and we still put 1 million people into our new cities, we will have to put 9 million people into our expanded old cities. If, as the Prime Minister said, our population increases by 9 million by the end of the century and we put 1 million people into our new cities and regional areas, we will have to put the other 8 million into our existing cities. We can imagine what the chaos will be if we have a continuation of this Government’s policy. The difference between the first 2 projections I made, one being 3 times the other, will have a very big impact on the planning of the old cities and the quality of life for people in them. Still the Prime Minister merely says that the population might grow to 22 million by the year 2000, without recognising the impact on the old large Australian cities and on the development of our new ones.
I use this example to illustrate why population policy is a key component of national planning towards decentralisation. I could similarly talk about transportation. The integration of transport planning and land use planning is a key component of urban development and regional planning. This means such things as the development of a real loading balance in our public transport systems in our larger cities - Sydney and Melbourne - and an end to the intense development of the central business district of the cities. The Government has been responsible for the overbuilding of the centre of Sydney and Melbourne. The planning would include the use of transportation in service corridors as a key way to develop new cities. Similarly, another key component of regional planning is employment - jobs of all kinds. The Government must act to bring jobs to the new cities by the location of sections of the Public Service there and by building knowledge industries there, and by taxation incentives to encourage industries to go to new areas.
The Government must approach decentralisation and regional development in in integrated way. A department which can be involved in national planning and the allocation of national resources is essential. The National Urban and Regional Development Authority proposed by the Prime Minister will not have this kind of support in Cabinet to ensure that the country’s resources are really joined to achieve the stated goals. However, authorities with comprehensive power would be highly appropriate for the planning and integrated development of each individual site chosen for selective decentralisation. They will be able to ensure the widest use of the natural resources present and would be accountable for the presentation of environmental impact statements on the departments. However, behind them they will require national planning to ensure that employment, houses, recreational and cultural facilities, transport and other key factors are provided. Only government departments can do this. All that the authorities will be able to do is to design the locations on the ground and ensure that, by design, these cities are livable ones of the highest environmental quality.
So much for the Prime Minister’s concern for national objectives. He has merely created another agency of government which will spend most of its time and energy crying in the wilderness for the backing it deserves from Cabinet Ministers and public servants. If the Prime Minister gets his way and this emasculated advisory body is established, it is not possible to see how it will receive any significant hearing from anybody, least of all from the Commonwealth Treasury. In the past, the Treasury has been a major opponent of decentralisation, particularly because of its very negative attitude to the spending of money on high quality inter-city, as well as intra-city, public transport systems. Without this, no policy of decentralisation has any hope of getting off the ground.
Unless we have comprehensive planning at the highest level, we will continue to get policies counter to the aims of regional development practised by other arms of government. For example, investment in transport - I give airports as an example - will not be sensitive to regional development priorities. Public works, such as office blocks, will continue to be built in the central business districts of our major urban areas, just as they are at present. I have already given an example of this. Cabinet members will be pressing for mutually incompatible policies, just as they are at present in New South Wales where one Minister is pressing for office blocks in the central business district of Sydney - he wants to build a third State office block in the centre of Sydney - while the Minister for Decentralisation wants to develop Bathurst-Orange as a major regional centre. One counteracts the other.
I refer next to the aspect of timing, which was referred to by the Prime Minister. He actually believes that this authority can report to him by June 1973 on ‘matters relating to urban and regional development during the 5 years period thereafter’. He does say, mercifully for the National Urban and Regional Development Authority, that he does not expect a final report by then but rather ‘the first statements of an active programme’. The elegant Commonwealth Housing Commission report of 1944, to which I referred earlier, took 2 years to complete. Such an inquiry should be carried out again. The Authority would take at least that time if it were to report in a significant way. Why then was such an absurdly short period of time insisted upon?
Haste is everywhere to be seen in this measure, not only in the proposed time for preparation of the first report. Twentyone of the 27 clauses in the Bill are simply lifted from the National Capital Development Commission Act. Imagine - 21 of the 27 clauses of this Bill have been lifted out of an Act that already exists and placed in another piece of legislation which has come before the Parliament. No-one disputes that the National Capital Development Commission has operated with some distinction in Canberra. However, in Canberra things are different. The Commonwealth owns the land and its legislative power is supreme. But nobody could say that, for example, the public transport system of Canberra is to be admired. If anything is needed in and between our new cities it is an efficient public transport system. We do not have that in Canberra. Canberra has an atrocious public transport system and this criticism must be levelled at the appropriate authority.
Outside Canberra, things are different. Urban problems are more complex. Political skill and co-operation with the appropriate authorities will be needed in order to get things done. There are State and local governments and dozens of authorities involved in urban affairs and regional planning. We in the Australian Labor Party believe that, in the early stages, the Commonwealth involvement should be kept under the close supervision of the Commonwealth Government. There will need to be intense Commonwealth activity to get new cities and system cities off the ground, but cooperation with State and local government authorities is needed at all times in this venture. This intense activity is much more possible in government departments than in a statutory authority.
The idea inherent in this Bill is that the Commonwealth activity will be carried out by a sort of modified NCDC. We reject this idea. Our policy is clear. After the elections, we will create a department of urban affairs and allow NURDA to wither on the vine. We have no intention of completely denuding the NCDC of its very competent staff just to do a piece of window dressing by setting up a body which will have no real teeth or muscle. The experience of the NCDC will be invaluable in the various stages of Commonwealth involvement in urban affairs; but, as I have pointed out, the problems of regional development and decentralisation are much greater than building on Commonwealth land an elegant national capital filled with public servants. We need national planning in the total sense. Statutory authorities have their place, but only in the designing and carrying out of a brief to which national resources are already committed. Besides the NCDC, the Snowy Mountains Authority is a good example which shows not only the good points but also the real limits of a statutory authority. Such an authority may be able to plan, but it does not have the political muscle to fight its cause in the Cabinet room.
What will the Labor Party do? As I said, we will let this National Urban and Regional Development Authority wither on the vine. We will set up a department of urban affairs and regional development to marshal national resources for the building of new cities and system cities. Our approach will involve working on 2 major fronts, just as was recommended in the recent report on new cities by the Australian Institute of Urban Studies. We will work intensively with State and local authorities, but we will not allow State rights to work against the overall national interest. Earlier, I indicated that most Australians added to the population, irrespective of what we do, will be in or near our major cities. This is a consequence of 23 years of lost time and the chances which this Government has continued to lose and to waste. We will build system cities of high quality for these people near our existing cities. A system city is one similar to the centres at Belconnen and Woden in Canberra. We will upgrade the quality of life of people already living on the outer city fringes, where some very angry people live today. They have every right to be angry at the low quality of life in these areas.
We will embark on a national plan to build new cities in our growth service corridors. Each person we put in them will be one person less to add to the urban chaos which will occur in Sydney and Melbourne unless we plan correctly. We will progressively cut back on immigration to help us get on with the job of solving the problems of the cities. We will invest heavily in intra-city and inter-city transport systems to encourage the orderly development of cities, both system cities and new cities in regional areas. We will begin to develop a series of ‘service corridors’ between major cities, such as Melbourne-Sydney, SydneyBrisbane, Sydney - Bathurst - Orange, Melbourne-Ballarat-Adelaide, Melbourne-La Trobe Valley and Perth-Bunbury-Albany. These service corridors will carry transport systems, power and telecommunications amongst other things. They will involve the careful integration of land use planning with transportation planning.
We will ensure that all the necessary components of government planning, such as transportation, land use, housing, industry, tariff and population planning and environmental impact assessment, are joined in the national effort to achieve our goals. (Extension of time granted) We know we can do it. I have spoken long and often on this subject. Our record on this subject is well known to this House and to the Australian people. A Labor government will establish a department of urban affairs, the main function of which will be to coordinate the allocation of resources for the development of urban areas in Australia. The department, which will have both technical and research staff, will integrate the activities of such bodies as the Bureau of Transport Economics, the Bureau of Roads, the Departments of Shipping and Transport, Interior, Works, Environment, Natural Resources, Primary and Secondary Industry, Civil Aviation and others insofar as they affect urban development. The urban affairs department will assist the establishment of planning authorities in each State to control our public resources devoted to the development of urban areas.
In co-operation with the States we will identify a number of sites for new cities and proceed with their development in cooperation with the relevant States and with private enterprise to provide effective decentralisation of development, to arrest the depopulation of the countryside and to slow up the growth of our major cities. Our policy is to improve and develop public transport services, in particular to ensure that a proper balance is maintained between public and private transport in urban areas. We will encourage the States to retain all land now vested in public ownership and ensure that when it is developed it is on a leasehold basis. We will set up a land development commission in co-operation with the States to purchase key areas on the fringes of our capital and provincial cities which will be allotted on a leasehold basis - not only land for cities but also land for national parks, historic sites and other special purposes. All new land in urban areas, especially on the fringes of our larger cties, would be acquired by a public authority before it is rezoned from nonurban to urban and developed by an authority similar to the National Capital Development Commission, having the power to hold the land in public ownership and to develop it on a leasehold basis similar to that practised in Canberra prior to 1st January 1971.
A Commonwealth Labor government will enter into arrangements with the States to provide finance and technical assistance for such a development commission, which would be a statutory authority. Finally, we will use environment impact assessments and environment impact statements to ensure that all this is done in the best interests of the Australian environment and the Australian people. The Prime Minister’s statement is at least a recognition of 2 things: Firstly, that the Government has failed miserably in this field and, secondly, that the policies fought for for so long by the Leader of my Party, by me and by so many members on this side of the House have had some impact on the other side. NURDA is not the answer to our problem. I ask the House to support the amendment.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– I support the Bill and oppose the amendment moved by the Opposition. The amendment strikes at the heart of what is contained in the Bill, which is precisely the sort of thing which all interested parties in the community have been looking for from this Government - that is, an authority which can advise governments in Australia on policy. It is not to the point to say that this investigating and advisory body will not have the authority to implement positive policies, because governments must implement positive policies in the extraordinarily broad areas that come within the ambit of this Bill. It has been said by various commentators and by honourable members opposite that this is a last minute panic measure, that it has been hastily introduced, that it is a sort of rabbit drawn out of the hat at the last minute and that the Government has done it only because the Australian Labor Party has been talking about it. The fact that the Labor Party has been talking about it is not any reason why we should not do it, if the proposal commends itself and if the Government can do it better than Labor could.
The simple fact is that the policy which Ls enshrined in this authority is not something which has been dreamed up at the last minute. It is not a policy which was plucked out of the air in response to moves opposite, gallup polls, comments in the Press or anything else. One cannot simply pluck policies like this out of the air. The policy is based on a great deal of hard work, research, analysis and planning. The formal processes - I stress that - which led to this Bill started well back in 1971, every bit of 12 months ago and more. A Liberal Party committee was formed in 1971 to inquire into urban affairs. This was one of a number of new committees which had been formed in the Liberal Party to consider the great issues which confront the Australian people. Symbolic of those committees was the national goals committee chaired by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp). So the formal processes began in the Liberal Party, and may well have begun also in the Australian Country Party, at that time many months ago.
Many months ago the Government started working out the plans which have led to the proposed authority and its implementation. There is no question that a great deal of thought has been given to what is being done. But. whatever the timing, the right start has been made in an area which entails the great human issues of our times, for this authority will ultimately be concerned with how the Australian people shall live and how they shall live together in communities. At Federation - only 70-odd years ago - half the Australian population lived in rural areas. lt is obvious that most people then lived in small communities. A characteristic of a small community, particularly in those days, was that it tended to govern itself. It was not greatly inhibited by remote, distant central government; it went about its own life and work and retained a sense of community. In that type of community there is more community between home and work and between community organisation and government. In that type of community which existed and which still exists in some parts of Australia, the work of the head of the house was generally seen to be crucial to the survival of the family. What the father did mattered to the family and the family and the community hung together. They knew they would hang separately otherwise.
People in that type of community knew that they had a place in life and that they belonged. By and large sons followed their fathers and daughters followed their mothers in an almost predestined pattern. There was not the glittering array of occupational choices which apparently is available to young people today. Nor was there the agonising indecision of so many young people today who came to feel that there is something illusory about the apparent abundance of occupational choices in the great cities. The old parental cry ‘You’ve never had it so good’ is sadly hollow or hardly understood by many young people today. TI <? arc nol sure that their work will matter to them and they are not sure, which is more important in the terms of the Bill before the House, that they will matter to their community.
The pace of change and mobility in mass cities and mass organisations in the mass cities have exacerbated the problems of the home, work, the community and government in contemporary society, lt is not without point that our democratic forms of organisation grew in quite different soil to that which exists today. They grew in societies which were largely rural, where communities were small and well based and which knew where they were going. But the basic social and economic structures of communities have altered almost beyond belief and the democratic forms of government have sometimes been slow to respond. The proposed authority is a major response to these trends. There is a tendency in our sort of communities for government to grow away from the people and the modern city so often lacks a sense of community. Of course, the modern contemporary city is not all bad. The great contemporary city has a sense of excitement, diversity and a sense of the thrust of life.
– Most people want to live there.
– And most people want to live there with part of themselves. Even the anonymity of the mass city can seem to be a desirable feature for some people. The arts and culture can thrive in the shadows of the giant city. These sorts of cities can create skills and human achievements which we can only wonder at. But at the same time these cities which are acting as great magnets to more of our populations can also create an increase in crime, terrorism, alienation, loneliness, dishonesty and fear. The story which still has nol been told about this new urban and regional authority is that it relates not just to decentralisation but also to the development and the redevelopment of our great cities. This policy brings the Commonwealth for the first time in a direct way into the crucial area of urban and suburban redevelopment to create communities rather than what can sometimes just be suburban sprawls.
As I suggested in my opening remarks, this policy depends upon expert advice being given to governments so that they can act. This is why the Opposition’s amendment is so unwise for who is to say just where this new authority or that new authority or the department which the Opposition would create would finally end up in terms of positive government action? This action locates the power of decision at the dead centre of government, with the
Prime Minister and Premiers, on the best sort of advice which they can get in the whole community. The policy also envisages a radical new policy for the purchase of land by governments. This would seem to me to be crucial for the concept of regional growth centres and the submetropolitan centres around the great cities. The proposition is not that the Commonwealth should go helter skelter into the land business full scale but it relies on the notion that it would be important for Governments to be prepared to purchase land suddenly in an area which has been utterly secretly chosen for development without the fanfare and fuss which could lead to a vast escalation of costs for government and hence for the community. It is clear that it is important for government resources to be pinpointed in a small number of regional growth centres. We have come to the realisation through what has been done around the world and not just by various governments in Australia that to spread the butter too thinly across the bread will not work. It is necessary to conceive of a small number of cities which will have to work and which through the provision of the amenities of life, which people rightly demand, can act for themselves as magnets for population. I stress that this is not a proposition that people should be directed to regional growth centres or indeed to sub-metropolitan centres.
The whole scheme envisages new forms of co-operation on advice between State and Federal governments. Clearly the role of local government is of crucial importance in the process. There is no thought that this move will lead to a swamping out of local government and the creative role which it can play in the developmental process particularly in the redevelopment of urban and suburban communities which is inherent in this Bill. For all those reasons I have the greatest pleasure in supporting this Bill. I believe that it is a profound development in Commonwealth initiative in areas which are absolutely crucial to the nature and the quality of life of every Australian.
– I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). I congratulate him on the presentation of his amendment. It deals in an effective way with the proposals made by the Govern ment in the Bill before the House. Are we engaged in some sort of fanciful preelection programme or is the House engaged in the consideration of measures to halt the flow of people from the countryside to the big cities? Are we serious in trying to build the economy of the countryside so that there will not be a continuation of the sort of condition which has existed in this country over many years past? Report after report from the Department of Labour and National Service indicates a deplorable situation in the countryside. We know of the stagnation in the rural economy but quite frequently we overlook the unhappiness, the sadness and the distress of people who live in the countryside, the people who are out of work because of mechanisation in the rural industry, because of a fall off in farm income, and because of the. rural recession with all its implications. Unemployment has grown in the countryside and it is difficult to get anybody to do anything about it.
Recently I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) to look at the figures issued by his Department and to do something to reduce the number of those who are unemployed. I have in my hand a copy of the figures made available by the Department of Labour and National Service which relate to centres such as Albury, Dubbo, Kempsey, Maitland, Narrabri, Parkes and Wagga Wagga. All of these figures emphasise the disastrous unemployment position existing in the country areas. The first thing any government should do is to halt the flow of people from the country by providing employment and job opportunities in the country so that people living in the country will remain there. If that is done as a preliminary step there, will be some hope of success for other plans to follow.
When one looks at the measure before us - the Prime Minister’s second reading speech is a delightful statement - one is encouraged to believe that at long last the Commonwealth Government is to become involved in decentralisation. The honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) said that of course no authority can do anything; it is a question of the Parliament making decisions. I would like to tell the honourable member that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority was estab-
Iished by a Labor Government. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority had the authority to act; it acted, and performed one of the outstanding engineering feats of the world. This proves conclusively that an authority, given the power, can go ahead and implement policies.
The Prime Minister, in his second reading speech, said:
In addition to the normal provision for an annual report, the Authority is required to report to the Prime Minister not later than 30th June 1973 on matters relating to urban and regional development during the S-year period thereafter.
It is not the Government’s intention that the Authority should produce by that time a definitive statement on a national urban and regional development strategy.
No policy by June next year! When will all of this begin? Will this proposal follow other decisions which have been made in the past such as the dream time performance of the Commonwealth State Officials Committee on Decentralisation which was established in 1964 but which to the end of 1971 had met on only 4 occasions? Is this the sort of tempo of the development of our countryside and the decentralisation of industry? Is this what we are to expect?
The Prime Minister emphasised over and over again in his interesting second reading speech that there will be complete cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States. ‘Co-operation’ and ‘partnership’ are words that he used throughout his speech. The Prime Minister said:
The Government believes that unless we embark on a vigorous, imaginative and responsible programme of urban and regional development, in partnership with the States, our efforts to secure a better quality of life for the Australian community through a wide variety of existing programmes will be compromised.
It has to be done through the States. But what is the view of the New South Wales Minister for Decentralisation and Development and his Department? Is he pleased with what is contained in the official CommonwealthState report on decentralisation in which the views of his State did not receive the consideration they deserve? The ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 1 1th October 1972 carried the headline: ‘New South Wales Attacks Federal decentralisation report’. The newspaper states:
The N.S.W. Department of Decentralisation and Development has criticised an official CommonwealthSlate report on decentralisation.
It did so in a supplementary statement to the report, tabled in Parliament today by the Prime Minister, Mr McMahon.
In the report, there is unanimous agreement by State and Commonwealth officials favouring a policy of cautious selective decentralisation.
But the N.S.W. department’s supplementary statement claims that the rest of the document underestimates the urgency of the need for decentralisation and claims that N.S.W. - Sydney in particular - faces the most critical problems of city congestion.
I approve of the statement made by the N.S.W. Department of Decentralisation and Development. It has spoken the truth. This is an urgent and growing problem. We are faced with problems of pollution, of transport, excessive costs of getting expressways out of and into a city, the question of the Eastern Suburbs railway and the other means of transportation and the fact that work in the fields of sewerage and hygiene in Sydney is almost coming to a halt. Surely these are matters that ought to receive consideration.
We are faced with a problem in the way in which the metropolitan area of Sydney is growing. The canker is spreading from the heart of the city out over the countryside where suburb is built upon suburb without regard to adequate town planning for land control and use. This is one of the most important questions affecting the city. The growth of the city of Sydney should be contained by a green belt such as the one which existed before the activities of the developers, but which has long since disappeared. There is need for great parklands to be established around the city area. I can only hope that the proposed authority will take some action to implement a policy of this kind. But we must bear in mind that such policies cannot be put into effect unless there is co-operation between the Commonwealth and State governments.
The Prime Minister referred over and over in his second reaching speech to Commonwealth-State co-operation. That in itself is a very fine thing. But only a few days ago I asked the Prime Minister, in the House, whether he would endorse the growth centre proposal for BathurstOrange as announced by the New South Wales Government. I asked whether he would provide adequate funds for the implementation of this decision of the New South Wales Government. The Prime Minister said:
Both he Deputy Prime Minister and I have given answers to this question already and I will make sure that those answers are made available to the honourable gentleman. I should make it clear to him that the statutory authority has not yet been established. Until it is established no request can bc considered or feasibility studies carried out.
New South Wales has acted promptly, definitely, clearly and made a decision. But the Commonwealth Government, dragging its feet as ever, is not prepared to take action to support what has been done in New South Wales in regard to a practical measure for commencing the first growth centre in New South Wales. Docs the answer of the Prime Minister mean that the Commonwealth Government will not support it? I would like the Minister who will be responsible for implementing the new Act to declare without equivocation just where the Commonwealth stands in respect of this matter. It is all very well to have proposals such as this. But we have to look at the overall problem of our nation and countryside, the need to build our economy and the question of our resources and resource development. Just as there are, and will be, selective growth centres it is also necessary to have regard to the question of the resources of the nation. We have to ask: What are the resources; what are we going to do about them; and what are we going to do in country areas which have water, minerals, electricity, power and transportation? Are these places to be completely bypassed? Does the legislation before us envisage some sort of scheme which will allow one country town to be bled and drained to support another country town? These are matters which ought to be spelt out without any doubt at all.
If decentralisation is to have the meaning that I think it should have I want to see not so much in the way of vast sums being given to the development of great new cities on the outskirts of the capital cities as I want to see development occurring in the countryside. Countries throughout, the world have been able to build great capitals and cities of significance and this can be done here providing we are prepared to utilise the resources which are available in great quantity in this country. But to begin with we have what appears to be a divided authority and the Commonwealth Government not working as one with the State of
New South Wales. What the Federal Government will do in regard to the other States remains to be seen. I can only hope that this legislation which has come into the Parliament to be decided in its closing hours does not mean that it is an election arrangement which will form some part of the history of the House but Will not be translated into action at the earliest opportunity.
Speaking now of development, what has the Government done in a practical way about our resources, such as natural gas? By good fortune great reserves of natural gas are available in the centre of Australia in Palm Valley - Albert Namatjira country. Is it not logical that we should use this great resource for the development of the interior, to stimulate industry and give people the opportunity to develop the economy of the country? Despite what may be said now or has been said in the past, people do not rush off to the big cities merely for the sake of going to a city. Invariable they are compelled to go by economic necessity or in search of employment, for education or for health reasons, because the cities have greater facilities and specialisation in medicine. These are the reasons why people leave the country. But wherever a project is developed in the country, whether it be at Weipa, Rum Jungle or anywhere else in the northwest or in Australia generally, and work is provided, people will leave the city and go to those places.
It is up to the Commonwealth to look at the development of the north and for once away from the dazzle and shine of the city, lt should consider what it is costing the nation to continue developing the cities and then to spend this money in the development of the inland of our country. Whenever decentralisation is discussed invariably it is said: ‘What a vast sum of money would be needed to build a new city or to develop some of the older cities or towns in the country.’ But certainly it is not as much as is required to maintain the great capital cities with the problems of urban renewal and the development of transport services and other allied facilities. I put it to the House that we have a bounden duty, a responsibility to the people of this country, to consider the quality of life, and when we consider the quality of life we should think in terms of building up great centres of population so that people in the country can have the type of life that is available in most cities, with all the entertainment and joys of the city, while remaining in the country with its pure air and other advantages. This is the sort of Australia I would like to think that we will spend our efforts and money and bend our endeavours in every possible way to create.
We should be thinking too, while building our growth centres, of the tourist industry which is one of the most effective means of building our population. We should never forget that at present there has been a trend which has existed for some considerable time of fewer people employed in primary and secondary industries while considerably more are now employed in tertiary industries. We have to look to the tertiary industries and to tourism as one means of helping to develop the inland of our country. That is important. Educational establishments too must be encouraged to expand and develop. If this measure were a serious one it would have been welcomed by the Parliament. The amendment which has been moved by the honourable member for Reid quite rightly and properly draws attention to the obvious deficiencies of the measure and asks that the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted because in its present form it creates merely an investigatory and advisory body which will have no authority. These words are clear cut and unambiguous and express the view of the Opposition. For my part I would be prepared to remain in this Parliament for a further week if necessary so that a Bill worthy of the national Parliament, a Bill which is in harmony with the States, might be passed by this national Parliament and the whole nation might advance as one in doing something of a worthwhile nature for decentralisation in this country, the building of the countryside and the restoring of confidence among the people who have lived in the country and blazed the trail and built this nation.
– The National Urban and Regional Development Authority Bill is the most significant piece of legislation to come before this House in a quarter of a century. It sets a pattern for the future which in years to come will be seen as one of the real landmarks in legislative action by any Federal government, lt follows the announcement in this House on 19th September by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) that action would be taken, lt is the consequence of a very positive approach to Australia’s greatest problem. 1 am amazed to find this afternoon the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), leading for the Opposition in this debate, moving an amendment which offers no alternative and produces nothing of substance. Really it is a delaying tactic. Of course he is supported by none other than the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) for whose area there has already been announced by the New South Wales Government a significant proposal of regional development.
The honourable member for Reid has become a very worried and disappointed man. He had hoped to have his hobby horse to ride for many months and years to come and is frustrated to find that an effective approach is being made in this matter by the Government. We hear the parrot cry: ‘After 23 years’. This is sheer humbug and those who utter this cry well know this to be the case, lt has taken a considerable amount of time to investigate and consider the fundamental requirements of legislation of this kind. The report of the Committee of Commonwealth and State officials on decentralisation which was released in this House a few weeks ago spelled out something of the requirements necessary for legislation of this kind to be properly provided. It is sheer humbug to say that the Government has been slow o: dilatory in this matter. But, of course, the Opposition in its approach this afternoon shows very clearly that it wants to be obstructionist, that it wants to talk in very airy fairy terms as to what should happen in this country. It does not want to get down to the task of adopting an effective approach.
The honourable member for Reid talked a whole lot of sheer rot about land, land acquisition and what he would do if - heaven forbid - he ever had the opportunity to experiment. This legislation proposes a definite approach - selective decentralisation - to cope with the problems of urban overdevelopment and the needs of decentralisation. It is based fundamentally on the principles which have been the real means of the development of the city of Canberra. Yet the honourable member for Reid criticises the provisions in the Bill and says they come straight out of the legislation which makes possible the operations of the National Capital Development Commission. Could there be any better basis upon which to begin this great work? Of course there could not, because here we see proven work and development of a kind which is positive, which can be observed, which can be assessed, and which can be the real guidelines for projects of the sort that will occur as a consequence of this legislation. I think that the long dissertation by the honourable member for Reid can be summed up as nothing more or less than the expressions of one who has become terribly confused. He is not sure what he wanted to begin with. He is less certain now, and by the end of this debate it is obvious that he will not have the slightest idea of a positive approach in this matter.
Let us take one example of the proposition he put forward this afternoon. He spoke at length about immigration. What did he put to us? He said that immigration should be a fundamental aspect of the proposals that are implemented. Of course it will be under this Government’s immigration policy. But could it be under the policy of the Opposition? In relation to immigration the Opposition has put forward a proposal that existing dwellers in this country will nominate newcomers on a relative basis. Where do these people live at the present time? They live in the overcrowded cities. Does the honourable member for Reid want to perpetuate the overcrowded cities by bringing together the fundamentals of the existing Opposition immigration policy and then adding this proposition? What sheer humbug and rot. This is the kind of slant we will find the whole way through in the Opposition’s approach to this important matter.
The Bill makes provision for a ministerial council - for a proper approach administratively to enable effective national urban and regional development. The Country
Party, of course, has spent a lot of time and a lot of effort and has shown real initiative in relation to this matter over the years. First of all, let us look at the State arena. New South Wales can be quoted as the pace setter in this important matter. What has been accomplished in New South Wales since Labor lost office in 1964 demonstrates very clearly who cares about regional development and decentralisation and who failed to care about it in the years preceding that time. Yet the honourable member for Macquarie this afternoon attempted to create a division between the State and the Commonwealth in relation to this important matter. I think it ill behoves the honourable member whose own area already has been named as one part of New South Wales that will receive benefits from a positive approach to decentralisation. It is true that the State itself has moved in this matter and it is true also that this legislation has not yet passed through this House. The provision for a selection of growth centres, as is envisaged by this legislation, is not yet effective. It is quite right and proper for New South Wales to have taken the action it has taken, but for it to be criticised or for expressions of opinion from that State to be misquoted against the Commonwealth is, of course, just mischief making, and the honourable member for Macquarie well knows it, as does the honourable member for Reid. 1 think the height of folly is to be seen in the utterances of the honourable member for Macquarie who said that this Government was equivocating in this matter. What are we doing this afternoon? We are putting this Bill through the House of Representatives. Is that equivocation? But what does the honourable member for Reid want to do? He wants the Bill withdrawn and something else brought in. Goodness knows how long that would take and goodness knows what else the honourable member wants to put into it to delay, to frustrate and, of course, to interfere with a very positive approach that this Government is sponsoring - an approach which is the result of a great deal of work by authorities which have the capacity and the means to know what they are talking about and what they are putting forward. The Government has indicated already that Sir John Overall will lead the authority that will go to work in this important matter. Is there any Australian who could be seen as a man of greater capacity in this field? Of course there is not. But I would be quite certain that if the honourable member for Reid had his way it would not be Sir John Overall who would take charge of the formative stages of the work that will flow from the measure that is now before the House.
We have heard all sorts of suggestions about transport corridors between Melbourne and Sydney, between Sydney and Brisbane, between Perth and Bunbury, as well as many other centres which were cited by the honourable member for Reid. To make an assessment of the cost of the proposed transport corridors alone indicates, I think, just how clumsy is the approach of the Opposition in this matter. On the other hand, the Government is offering a proposition which envisages a continuation of the existing procedures for decentralisation within the States, lt is a very valuable contribution to maintaining and building up country populations, and then it adds to it the important element of growth centres. After considering the experiences of other countries, after considering investigations carried out overseas, and after a great deal of thought, it is obvious that the designated growth centres are the only real way to accomplish positive decentralisation. They would not be the consequence of the construction of transport corridors; they would not be the consequence of some airy fairy idea about land acquisition; but they would be the consequence of positive investigations related to natural resources and the suitability of particular areas in terms of potential. This is the only way, as has been indicated, to achieve selective decentralisation and to create a growth pattern in a designated centre that will produce the kind of balance that must be brought into the future development of the population and its spread in this country.
To take my own State of New South Wales as an example, there is already the proposition for the development of the Bathurst-Orange district. There is also a great deal of interest in Albury-Wodonga. It is fair to assume that the north coast of New South Wales would be appropriate as a third centre. Of course, it does receive a great deal of favourable comment as an area with natural resources such as water, power and location. It has all of the other requirements when one thinks in terms of a population centre basically, say, of 50,000 which would then have the normal growth factors to enable it to do just as the city of Canberra has done, namely, to go on from that basic concept, once established, to become self-generating and to reach proportions of 175,000 people as we have in Canberra today, and so on. This is a real approach to a serious problem. It is a sound and practical approach. There is not one thing in this Bill before the House which is not a means of creating the initial moves that accord with the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), which accord with the reports which have been presented to this House and which are practical in every respect. The Opposition would throw these proposals overboard and replace them with some socialistic approach - that is all it could be described as - under which land is first acquired, development is directed and all sorts of other impositions applied. Would that attract free enterprise? Would that attract finance? If this were the approach would it attract people? Of course it would not.
The typical socialist line runs through what has been said this afternoon by those Opposition members who have spoken so far. The honourable member who follows me can have his chance of commenting on this aspect of what is a very important national matter. I believe that the Bill is adequate and requires no alteration. The amendment which has been moved by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) will be thrown out by this House as it deserves to be. I am sorry that he will be disappointed but in the circumstances there is just no alternative to the Government’s approach. I venture to say that if the honourable member for Reid were to think a little more carefully about what he has put today he would realise that he has tried to embody so much in his proposition that it has become cumbersome and unworkable and it would not produce an effective result in any single direction.
He wants to have all the planning carried out first and to have some grandiose scheme for the whole of Australia to try to change completely the whole pattern of administration in State and local government as well as in the Commonwealth Government - to completely change the pattern of every aspect of commerce, industry and community development as we know it and replace with a rigid, planned scheme. Of course, this is the very thing that, when attempted in other countries, has been a dismal failure. He might well know that in northern Italy this kind of approach was adopted and the scheme failed. He might well examine the attempts to create satellite cities in the United States of America. One is not far from Washington but the results there certainly were not spectacular. He might also consider the New Towns approach in the United Kingdom. After the war bomb damaged areas in certain locations were not, under government regulation, allowed to be rebuilt. New towns were developed. If he studies these things he will find that the consequence of attempting to do the sort of thing that he has advocated this afternoon is a eomplete failure. This is why this Bill makes provision to avoid those dangers and pitfalls in this projected scheme of urban development and decentralisation and proposes an approach which envisages selective decentralisation on lines that will avoid well known problems that can arise. I put it to the House that these are the things that the Opposition has failed to study and take heed of because if it had its way it would create for Australia an unworkable approach to the nation’s greatest need of the 1970s, a need which will extend to the year 2000 and beyond. This Government will not fall into that trap. I commend the Bill. I believe it to be the anly positive approach. I deprecate the Opposition amendment.
– In one inspired burst of shuffling the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) has solved the urban problems of Australia. Twenty-three years late and two months before an election the penny has finally dropped. Or perhaps it may be that Government supporters are realising that the Australian Labor Party’s programme for redevelopment of the cities, provision of facilities for burgeoning outer suburbs and the development of new cities has been increasingly well received by the Australian electorate. However, I have enough faith in the common sense of those voters to make their judgments as to why the Liberals have been so belatedly converted. ‘Decentralisation’, ‘regional growth centres’, ‘sub-metropolitan centres’ - these unfamiliar phrases rolled glibly off the Prime Minister’s tongue as if he had been using them all his life and not just in the last few weeks. One thing that can be said about him and his supporters is that they do not lack cheek. After a series of unprecedented spells of policy about faces the new National Urban and Regional Development Authority must be the ‘Daddy of them AH’. The Australian Labor Party’s Department of Urban Affairs proposals were in their own words: ‘An attempt to usurp the functions of State and local government - the ultimate in socialist centralism - Utopian dreaming’. It makes interesting reading these days. It is a pity alerations to Hansard are restricted to the greens. There would have been a lot of changes made over the past 6 years. We can hardly expect a public recanting but at least we know that on so many issues the Liberals have managed to go into reverse gear. The sneering phase is over. Incidentally, this must finally give the lie to the proposition that an Opposition cannot achieve very much. Had the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), the Shadow Minister for Urban Affairs the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) and members of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party not stomped the country detailing their plans to local government associations, civic design group, architects, town planners, engineers, conservationists and a myriad of other people and organisations concerned about the deteriorating quality of life for the majority of Australians, this Bill creating the National Urban and Regional Development Authority would never have eventuated.
One great danger the Australian people must be made aware of in the first euphoric moments of the Liberals adopting the principles at least a portion of Labor’s policy is the realisation that effective decentralisation does not occur overnight. It would be tragic if people believed that the vague proposals outlined in the Prime Minister’s second reading speech constituted an attack on or a solution to the problems of the overcrowded polluted cities of Australia - particularly Melbourne and Sydney. The Prime Minister’s second reading speech is a load of waffle. It says absolutely nothing that would not be obvious to a high school student asked to do an essay on the problems of the cities. The proposals are vague in the extreme and show how hasty and illprepared both he and his speech writer were about urban matters, lt promises little specifically. If one looks past the cliches it is clear that this is simply another committee to make a report - an exercise for which the Prime Minister has become famous. I searched closely for some substance and came up with only two facts about what NURDA will do. The Prime Minister said:
It will be required to investigate and report to the Prime Minister on matters relating to urban or regional development. This investigation and advice would be designed to assist the Government in making decisions having urban and regional implications.
This is heady stuff, Mr Speaker. This should send the hundreds of thousands of people who are genuinely looking for a positive lead from the Government on urban planning into ecstasy. The second item of substance, if one could call it that, in the second reading speech of the Prime Minister reads:
It may undertake pilot or experimental projects, studies, including feasibility studies. It may enter into consultative engagements with professional groups and Government agencies and provide information and advice to other authorities.
What a pretty state this Government has come to when after a decade of the rest of Australia growing daily more aware of the problems of urban congestion and rural depopulation, of air and water pollution and traffic congestion, of urban sprawl, visual ugliness and the resultant social alienation, it should introduce such vague and innocuous proposals as those contained in this Bill.
Even if we started tomorrow it could take 20 or 30 years to effectively reverse a trend that has been continuing since the first settlement at Sydney Cove. Should honourable members think me unduly pessimistic, might I remind them that the only planned decentralised programme that has been Canberra. It has the highest growth rate of any city in Australia - around 10 per cent.
Yet it has grown from a population of approximately only 20,000 in the early 1950s to approximately 160,000 by 1972. All this has occurred with massive Government support and finance. It is conventional wisdom amongst decentralisers that for a city to become a self-generating growth area it must first reach a minimum of between 100,000 and 150,000. Outside the major capital cities, there are few towns with populations above 40,000. I exclude Newcastle and Wollongong. Sydney’s population is near 2£ million and according to the Minister for Decentralisation in New South Wales, the honourable J. B. Fuller, the population of Sydney is growing by about 70,000 a year. A rapid rate of growth is essential to attract industries that are themselves attracted by growth - the building industry and allied trades, plumbing, electrical, brick works, hotels and motels, and so on. At each stage in the population growth a new group of industries become viable. It must be perfectly obvious to anyone that there would have to be half a dozen cities of between 100,000 and 150,000 now to hope to siphon off the 70,000 growth in Sydney every year. With the snowballing effect of population growth, Sydney will be growing by 100,000 a year within 5 years. We would have to be building a city of 100,000 every year to hold Sydney at its present size. Christopher Jay in an ‘Australian Financial Review’ article on Wednesday, 20th September said:
The question facing Australia now is not how to prevent these megalopolises from sprawling to S million plus populations. That possibility has already been foreclosed by the past 30 years of political fumbling and missed opportunities.
The question on which the options are still open is whether they can be levelled off nl 5 million or so - or whether they will plough on indefinitely towards the 10 million person mark, accompanied by ever-increasing smog, crowded ultra-high density housing, unhappy urban populations, deteriorating public services and all the other features of mass urban life so familiar from overseas.
The history of decentralisation, paid lip service by Country Party members since that Party was formed, is the history of apathy, indifference, buck passing and straight out jealousy by parochial politicians determined that if there were to be decentralisation it had to be in their electorate.
Dispersed decentralisation has failed. We can at least be gratified that selective decentralisation appears to have been accepted by the Country Party politicians, although I understand that the recent announcement that the New South Wales Government had selected Bathurst-Orange as the first growth centre has caused some
Country Party politicians to mutter about their area being neglected. It is essential that country people and their councils support the proposition of selective decentralisation. Unless they do this the country will continue the interminable wrangle and no decentralisation will occur. Again I quote from the ‘Financial Review’, although I have forgotten the name of the writer: ‘Yes, by all means, do your best to promote your centre as a growth centre, and if you don’t succeed, support one near you, and, if that doesn’t come off, support a growth centre, in that order’.
Already in my speech in the Budget debate and again in the debate on States Grants Bill (No. 3) I have concentrated on the deficiencies that exist in the outer urban areas of the capital cities of Australia. I dealt with Sydney which I am more familiar with and particularly the electorate of Robertson on the central coast which I described as being a microcosm of all the problems that exist in urban Australia today. It must be inconceivable to Liberal Party members who represent the well-to-do suburbs of Sydney, such as the North Shore electorate of Bradfield, Warringah, MacKellar, North Sydney and Bennelong to imagine what it is like to have to live between 30 and 60 miles from their work. Can they conceive of travelling 2 hours to work each morning and 2 hours returning home at night in crowded, dirty trains? Have they any concept of the facilities such as water, telephones, roads, kerbing and guttering that have become luxuries to many people who live in these newly emerging suburbs? Can they believe that hundreds and thousands of people live in unsewered areas in this age when we can put men on the moon? If they do not have the obnoxious pan system they have to put up with the septic system with its extra cost and often polluting effects on the environment. Worse than that, they may have to suffer the economic burden of the tanker removal system. In fairness to the electors of Bradfield I can cite my own experience in my last year living in Turamurra. Over and above normal rates I was forced to spend $400 for the year for removal of effluent. Many many thousands of people in outer urban areas suffer this back breaking burden because of the failure of governments, both Fed eral and State, to provide adequate finance to local government and semi-government authorities to enable them to sewer these outer urban areas adequately.
If local and semi-government authorities cannot provide basic facilities, what hope have they of providing such things as recreational facilities, libraries, youth centres, swimming pools, cultural amenities and a host of other needs that go to make up a balanced community, that go to make up what is generally defined as quality of life? The Federal Government has always passed the buck to the States. The States in turn have passed the responsibility to the local government authorities and that is where the buck stopped, or should I say that is where the bucks ran out. There are no bucks left to spend on these facilities. If you are wondering why, let me quote from Max Walsh’s article in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ on Friday, 13th October. He wrote:
The Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, this week provided in the long statistical analysis of public debt some invaluable ammunition for Mr Whitlam.
The thrust of these figures is illustrated by the accompanying graph.
Unfortunately I cannot incorporate the graph in Hansard. He continued:
This shows that semi-governmental and local government authorities are galloping into debt at a rate which outstrips the Commonwealth and the States.
In 1947, the total debt of Commonwealth and
State public bodies was $6,337ra. Of this total, the Commonwealth accounted for 58.9 per cent; the State governments accounted for 32.2 per cent; semi-government authorities accounted for 6.6 per cent and local government authorities for 2.2 per cent.
In 1970, the last year for which full figures are available, the total public debt was $20,848. 7m.
The Commonwealth’s share of this had shrunk to 18.6 per cent, the States to 44.7 per cent.
Semi-government’s share had risen to 28.9 per cent and local government to 7.8 per cent.
The situation has actually been reached where, through interest rate differentials, the semi and local government people are actually paying mora in interest and debt redemption than State or Federal governments.
In the short time left to me I wish to refer to the statement of the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) on what the Government would do about land. I would like to remind him that since the land tenure system was changed in Canberra the cost of restricted land has risen by 465 per cent and the cost of unrestricted land by 181 per cent. In group sales prices have risen by 334 per cent. That is not a bad effort, even for the Liberal Party.
Interestingly enough, our Country Party colleagues have been running a campaign which is designed to show that they are concerned about the environment. In the 71 years since Federation Australian voters have been subjected to many dishonest compaigns, but never before have they been subjected to the fraud now being perpetrated by the Country Party. In an attempt to gain electoral ground in an area where its surveys have shown it to be weak, the Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Anthony, and the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, have appeared in a number of television commercials that emphasise the Country Party’s ong and abiding interest in the quality of life of Australians. We are being asked to believe that the Country Party is not just a mouthpiece of the big grazing and farming interests but has always been concerned with the health, education, housing and social welfare of Australians and is dedicated to solving the growing problems of the environment, namely urban congestion pollution, conservation and decentralisation.
I was fascinated to find this new found interest of the Country Party because during the 3 years I have been in this Parliament I have been struck by their almost total lack of concern for people. I decided to do an analysis of the questions asked in the House of Representives by the 14 Country Party backbenchers during the 27th Parliament. It produced some very interesting results.
– Is it related to the Bill?
– It is related to the Bill. The Bill is about decentralisation and environment. I want to illustrate just how interested the Country Party has been. Question time over a substantial period will illustrate clearly where the order of priorities of a political party lies. The Australian voters have a right to know - not only the country voters but also the urban voters, whose lives are shaped so decisively by the actions or inactions of the Country Party members who are able to pressure their urban coalition colleagues - the Liberals. I want to read the figures I have compiled into the record. The Country Party backbenchers asked 458 questions, the figures I give will show their interest in the environment. One hundred and twenty-four were addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry, 55 to the Minister for Trade and Industry, 44 to the Prime Minister - 20 of which were rural questions, none on the environment - 39 to tha Minister for National Development, 32 to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, 27 to the Minister for the Interior, 23 to the PostmasterGeneral, 20 to the Treasurer - 12 of which were rural questions relating to tax concessions and rural relief - 14 to the Minister for Education and Science - 7 of which concerned the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation on cattle - 13 to the Minister for Labour and National Service, 9 to the Minister for the Army, 8 to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and, 7 to the Minister for Immigration. We have not yet got down to the questions on the environment.
-I think you had better soon get there because I want to find out how this matter is related to the Bill.
– Six were addressed to the Minister for Customs and Excise, 6 to the Minister for the Navy, 5 to the Minister for Social Services, 4 to the AttorneyGeneral, 5 to the Minister for Health - 3 of which were on the health of cattle, and 3 to the Minister for Repatriation. Three questions were asked on Aborigines, none on the arts and none on the environment. That is the interest. That is what the people of this country should know. The Country Party, which is now running commercials promoting its members as environmentalists, has never asked one question in 3 years on the environment and has asked only 2 question on housing.
Debate (on motion by Mr Giles) adjourned.
– by leave - I wish to announce to the House the terms of reference for a committee of inquiry into the best way of abolishing the means test over the next 3 years and of responsibly financing this significant measure in association with the possible introduction of a national superannuation scheme. The Government’s decision to introduce meanstestfree pensions for people aged 65 and over represents a major social advance with considerable financial, economic and social implications. We accordingly announced in the 1972-73 Budget speech our decision to appoint a committee of inquiry to examine and report on these matters, including the question of how the proposal for means-test-free pensions could be responsibly financed with particular reference to national superannuation. As announced in the 1972-73 Budget Speech, the Government is committed to abolition, within the next 3 years, of the means test on age pension eligibility for residentially qualified men and women aged 65 years and over. The Government has also decided that the free-of-means test pension will be subject to tax but, following past practice, provision will be made to exempt or partially relieve from taxation persons in the lower income groups receiving freeofmeans test pension. In addition, the Government has determined that eligibility for supplementary assistance and for Commonwealth ancillary pension benefits will be conditional, as now, on satisfaction of the relevant special means test. The terms of reference of the committee will be:
Having In mind the policy of the Government to abolish the means test within the next 3 years on age pension eligibility for residentially qualified men and women aged 65 years and over, as announced in the 1972 Budget speech, to report on -
Matters involved in the implementation of the abolition of the means test in accordance with the Government’s announcement as set out in the Treasurer’s 1972-73 Budget speech.
Appropriate ways and means of financing the free-of-means test retirement benefits associated with a possible national superannuation scheme, including -
the type of national superannuation;
the persons to be covered;
whether the scheme of national superannuation should be voluntary or compulsory.
The relationship of the new free-of-means test retirement benefits and national superannuation (if any) to private schemes and to life assurance.
The method of adjusting the new benefits over time.
The taxation treatment of the new benefits.
Methods of making the administration of the new scheme as simple as possible.
Any associated matters that the committee considers relevant to the objective of the inquiry.
I am glad to be able to announce that the committee of 3 to inquire into these matters will be under the chairmanship of Sir Leslie Melville, K.B.E., C.B.E. With him as members of the committee will be Mr T. P. Scott and Mr J. E. M. Dixon. On behalf of the Government, I express our thanks to these gentlemen for agreeing to undertake this important and substantial task. I have been asked to metion that Mr Dixon is the retired Deputy General Manager of the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd and that Mr Scott is the retired General Manager of the National Mutual Life Association of Australia Ltd. I present the following paper:
National Retirement Benefits Inquiry - Ministerial Statement, 19th October 1972.
Motion (by Mr Wentworth) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– If I may reply quickly to the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), first of all 1 would like to congratulate the Government on arriving at this conclusion. I have already done this, but seeing we are on the air it will not do any harm to reiterate it. The Labor Party policy consistently announced since 1964 that the means test ought to be abolished, which has been consistently opposed by the Liberal Party, is now endorsed by the Liberal Party and by the present Prime Minister. The present Prime Minister has a longstanding reputation as being one of the most sturdy opponents of the elimination of the means test. We congratulate him because of the endorsement that he now gives to Labor Party policy. What we would point out to the public is that it has taken well over 20 years for the Liberals to arrive at the conclusion not only that the elimination of the means test is justified but also that to persist with any alternative course associated with the means test is completely unjust. What worries me most of all in relation to the proposals to have an inquiry into national superannuation as outlined by the Government is that in item 2 of the terms of reference there is a key word: a possible national superannuation scheme. . . .
Possible.’ It is clear that we do not have a commitment for a national superannuation scheme. It is fair enough to accept that we do not have a specific undertaking for this type of national superannuation, that is, on earnings-related or pay-as-you-go principles, or specifically on the terms of contribution and benefits. What is significant is that this is a possible national superannuation scheme. I did not have enough time to turn up the statement made by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) in this House on 21st September, but I do remember following him in the debate on that day and quoting his statement in which he indicated that the Government was not necessarily committed to any type of national superannuation scheme or, indeed, to national superannuation at all. That is an important point.
The Australian public could well be being set up in a deceptive situation, just as it was in 1927 when the Bruce-Page Government misled the public. I could go back further to 1913, when the Cook antiLabor Government misled the public. In 1938, when the Lyons anti-Labour Government misled the public, the then AttorneyGeneral Menzies resigned in protest at the failure of that Government to enact and apply national insurance legislation which, inter alia, would have introduced national superannuation. Even more importantly, the 1949 election of the Menzies Government was based on a major proposition that there would be national superannuation and, on the election of that Government, in the succeeding 20-odd years until this point we saw no indication that there would be a national superannuation scheme.
As a former Clerk of this House, Mr Green, pointed out in his book on the Parliament, the legislation was in fact enacted under the Lyons Government, but it was never brought into operation. That legislation would have allowed the introduction of national superannuation. As AttorneyGeneral in the Lyons Government, Menzies resigned in protest and on principle. He was morally outraged that the Lyons Government had not proceeded with the legislation it had enacted. It was pointed out by Mr Green in his book that the Lyons Government did not proceed with the. legislation because of pressure by certain financial interests in Melbourne which controlled the then anti-Labor Government. But, for 18 years while Menzies was Prime Minister of this country, that legislation was on the books. It was enacted and could have been applied at any point. However, it was never applied. It seems that the Liberals, or whatever their equivalent was at any given stage in history - they seem to be. an unstable organisation, politically - have used national superannuation in times of political stress and threat in order to gain or regain office and, having achieved that aim, have, promptly forgotten about the promises they made to the electorate.
We can also tie this rather shabby history of deception by anti-Labor governments to the fact that, in August last year, the Minister for Social Services said that a national superannuation scheme was ready - that is the operative word. He. said that it was ready tor adoption by the Government; it was ready to be implemented; there was no need for an inquiry; there had been a thorough inquiry by his Department and by him; he was satisfied; he had spoken to the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) and to the Cabinet. I have put on the record of this House enough quotes directly from the mouth of the Minister for Social Services to indicate that this is so. His speech in Brisbane, where he made those statements and gave those undertakings, was tape-recorded The Minister said that the programme, was ready. The Prime Minister denied any knowledge of the programme of which the Minister spoke.
Yet today we are in a situation in which we have this shabby history of deception by anti-Labor governments; we have the fact that the Minister for Social Services, who is currently sitting behind the Prime Minister, has claimed that such a programme is already worked out and ready for adoption; and we have a Prime Minister who has denied that such a programme exists. The entire set of statements and incidents contains all the ingredients of what can be described only as a major political confidence trick on the Australian public. Are we about to be confronted with an election campaign in which one of the major issues once again will be a promise of an inquiry into national superannuation by the Liberals, based on those operative words in the terms of reference ‘with a possible scheme being introduced’? There has been no commitment by the Government to introduce a national superannuation scheme. The Australian Labor Party says clearly and unequivocally that it will introduce such a scheme. We want an inquiry for the substantial reason that we wish to make sure that, in phasing in the scheme, those people who are currently contributing to private national superannuation schemes, including Commonwealth and State public servants and people working for public instrumentalities, are not disadvantaged and onerously imposed upon by the introduction of the scheme.
I wonder why the Prime Minister and his Government have deemed it wise to appoint 2 retired business general ‘managers to conduct the inquiry into national superannuation? The Prime Minister said that these 2 men, Messrs Scott and Dixon, are retired business people. They are not academics who have made a thorough study of this field - who, I suggest, are the people best equipped to carry out this sort of inquiry - and they are not people involved as actuaries-
– On the contrary, Scott is one of the best actuaries in Australia and that is why he was appointed; and Dixon, of the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd, controlled for a long time one of the biggest superannuation schemes. They were chosen for their ability and for their knowledge.
– In that case, I am very quickly prepared to moderate my criticism. That is why I asked the Prime Minister when he was on his feet to indicate what were the qualifications of the men to be appointed to conduct this inquiry. But they are retired people. It is possible that they have qualifications and experience to bring to the inquiry. I would expect, from what the Prime Minister said, that it is valuable experience, but I am still not satisfied that they are the people best equipped for the job. It is fairly obvious, from what I have said, that the Labor Party has strong suspicions about the sincerity of the Government on this proposal. If the Government were to say bluntly and dogmatically that it will introduce a national superannuation scheme and that that scheme depends on the findings of the inquiry, we would feel much more at ease.
– Might I explain to youthat 1 personally have worked on this for 7 months and I have had submitted on this, matter as many papers as I believe I have known to be submitted on any subject ia the entire time I have been in the Ministry; and I could not-
– I listened with interest to my friend, the honourable, member for Oxley (Mr Hayden)-
– Wait a minute. I raise a. point of order.
– Sit down.
– Mr Speaker runs the House, not you.
-Order! The honourablemember for Oxley has no reason to rise at this time unless it is on a point of order. The Minister for Social Services has not opened his mouth.
– Do not kid yourself.
-Order! The Minister has said half a sentence.
– If you are going to introduce a debate on this statement, then we all want to debate it. If I could make a point of order to you as a reasonable man,. Mr Speaker: Under the normal procedures in this House and as a matter of courtesy, the Opposition is entitled to 2 hours forewarning of any statement. 1 received a copy of this statement 30 seconds before I came into this House. I could have objected to that. It suits the Prime Minister to come in here before the suspension of the sitting for dinner because he is sure to receive maximum coverage in the morning newspapers; I do not object to this at all. But, if there is to be a debate now, I think it is unfair and we are going to protest at the procedure.
-Order! I point out to the honourable member for Oxley that the question before the Chair is that the House take note of the paper. The Chair does not know of any private arrangements or courtesies; nor is there anything in the Standing Orders in that respect by which the Chair is bound. The only point is that an agreement was made to permit the Prime .Minister to make the statement. The House now has before it a motion that it take note of the paper. After the conclusion of the speech of the honourable member for Oxley, the Minister for Social Services received the call.
Debate (on motion by Mr Wentworth) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.14 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed (vide page 2939).
– If the words spoken by the Government on decentralisation over 23 years were bricks we would already have 20 new cities, but all we have after 23 years is this National Urban and Regional Development Authority Bill. What it turns out to be, after 23 years of gestation, is a pretty toothless old hag. It simply provides for an Authority that has no real authority. It has no money. It has not even a compulsion to do things, according to the brief that has been presented to the Parliament by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). It does not even have to produce a report until Jone nest year. As has been pointed out by my colleagues, the Prime Minister stated that it is not the Government’s intention that the Authority should produce by that time - that is June, half way through next year - a definite statement on a national urban and regional development strategy. So after 23 years we are to have a group that will give some advice which may or may not be accepted.
I live in Griffith in New South Wales. This town represents the last major effort in government decentralisation which has come to fruition in SO years. It is true that since that time a government - incidentally, of the same complexion as the present Government - began the scheme of which the town of Coleambally is the centre. We hope it will grow and develop. But this is all that has been happening in our nation over this long time. The failure of policies past and present is also indicated by the fact that at the time of the nation’s first census in 1911 the demographic centre of Australia was near the black stump which happens to be situated between the towns of Griffith and Hillston in New South Wales. More than half a century later the demographic centre of Australia is still within 5 miles of that point. In other words, the spread of population - .the decentralisation of population - has moved only 5 miles since we became a united country.
The last census told the same story. The urban population gained nearly 1.3 million people since the previous census of 1966. The countryside generally had a net loss of about 145,000 people. The Queensland Minister for Lands has been so incensed by the drift to the metropolises that he said the other day:
More than 80,000 people have given up rural jobs in Australia in the past 5 years and the massive exodus is continuing. One thousand three hundred people have abandoned their properties in (that time and 50,000 have left country towns.
That was a statement by the Minister for Lands in the Queensland conservative Government. It is a fair indictment of the position that has been and is now. The Opposition takes issue with this legislation because it does not change that drift. It does not have the force of action. The Prime Minister spoke about decentralisation and said that we must have it; we need it. We hear that pretty regularly at election time. I suppose decentralisation’ would be the most overworked word in the English language in country areas at election time. It is almost an incantation. But behind the words are the deeds.
The greatest building boom in the history of Sydney and Melbourne is in progress at this time. At this very moment 160 skyscrapers costing more than $700m are being built, have been approved or are in the process of being considered in Sydney. Banks, hire purchase companies and health insurance funds are spending up to $70m on a single project. Honourable members opposite might say that the Government does not control this development. We say that the Government should have positive policies which will guide the big spenders on city real estate away from this kind of development. But the Government is taking part in centralised city development. The Commonwealth Government, in this year of trial and difficulty in the countryside, has approved new giant office complexes in Sydney and Melbourne estimated to cost $100m. The most overcrowded square mile in the world is Sydney, and the Commonwealth is going to make it even more unlivable and overcrowded by spending $50m on a government office block at Woolloomooloo of all places, lt has been suggested that this will not proceed, but we have heard about the plans for long enough.
Government and semi-government agencies in Sydney have 32 per cent of all the office space. The Commonwealth Government pays $7.5m in big city rents in addition to the huge conglomeration of real estate it actually owns. We are heading towards the stage reached in London a few years ago where a firm built a huge block in the centre of the city and left it vacant for years while reaping the benefit of the tax losses the empty skyscraper represented. We regard this as misapplication of our national resources. The people in the struggling towns in the countryside should appreciate that very little is being done in comparison with the developments taking place in the cities.
The New South Wales Government has compounded the errors by approving the spending of $10m an acre to re-develop The Rocks area. A side effect of this is that the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission has to leave its headquarters at Conservation House, which is perfectly large and commodious, and will go to North Sydney to rented premises which will cost the State more than the profits of all the fruit growers put together. All that the present plans for Sydney and Melbourne will do will be to choke the cities with people by day and leave them dead by night. The people are beginning to revolt. The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) and the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) who preceded me in this debate have made the point that what has been done has led to a discomfort of life in our capital cities and to the starvation of our rural areas.
What we are concerned about is that the measure before us does not reverse that trend. It is more an expression of pious hope than anything else. One of the things that we have set out to do is to present a new deal for the countryside. Of first priority is the restoration of confidence, credit and collateral to rural industry. We want to set up the administration of the new deal and make funds available to tackle telecommunications, freight and fuel, and power equalisation. We would give priority to providing direct government incentives in tax concessions and the provision of essential services in building regional centres and new country cities. Income tax rebates would operate along the lines of Australian government incentives in Papua New Guinea where a virtual tax holiday of 5 years is given.
These are the fundamental decisions of a new deal. They are firm commitments. They certainly form a striking contrast to the legislation before us which would give us a further advisory body and little else. I enthusiastically endorse the amendment moved by the honourable member for Reid which states, in essence, that this Bill simply creates a mere investigatory and advisory body which will have no real authority. We are anxious to see some action because surely the time for words alone has long passed.
– It is pathetic, it is pitiful and it is horrifying to think that those honourable members opposite who have so far spoken in this debate and on the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), which preceded the introduction of this Bill a fewweeks ago, should have any possibility of having in their hands the implementation of a policy of such fundamental importance as that embraced by this Bill. They have on other occasions, on at least a couple of matters of public importance relating to regionalism, exposed their ignorance, but they have never done as well as they have done tonight and this afternoon. They have no comprehension of the comlexities involved in attracting people away from large centres of population. They shift their ground constantly, most notably the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). He moves from one facet of urbanism to ruralism and back again. In one month he is decrying the congestion, real and imagined, of Sydney or Melbourne, in the next moment he is talking about the miraculous achievements of Canberra, and a few months later he discovers a traffic problem and thinks that maybe Canberra is not quite so good after all and maybe we should not have ‘Canberras’ all over the country, and so it goes on. If you were to read his speeches seriatim you would be left totally and absolutely floundering in this fundamental matter of the population distribution of Australia, whether it be in an urbanised or non-urbanised form. Even this afternoon we had within a few minutes of one another the honourable member for Reid speaking about haste, about the insufficient time for preparation which this Bill represents, and a few minutes later the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) berated us, particularly the Prime Minister, for having declined to make a positive acquiescence to his question concerning whether or not the Commonwealth will back the designated New South Wales State centre of BathurstOrange.
At other times and on other issues members of the Opposition are only too happy to accuse this Government of ad hockery, of not working to a plan, of doing things when they arise and under pressure. They have failed totally to comprehend the significance of this legislation. It is broad legislation which sets the mechanism for the development of the National Urban and Regional Development Authority which will have, according to clause 12 in the Bill, the power to investigate, and from time to time report to the Minister on, matters relating to urban or regional development. That clause goes on to say:
How much more broadly could one enfranchise a new body to carry out its tasks?
On the one hand we have, the Opposition which would set up commissions and centralised organisations right, left and centre in social services, education and all sorts of fields. On the other hand the Opposition criticises us for setting up an authority which shall recommend to the Government so that the Government may make, as it properly should, decisions in a area of fundamental importance. What the Opposition wants is beyond my comprehension. The honourable member for Macquarie went on to say that the Commonwealth should look at the broad national picture in relation to resources and so on. I could not agree more. If he cares to read 4 simple sentences which once upon a time were would-be terms of reference for an investigation into this whole field - and I wish this would still happen although what is being propounded at the moment is, in my opinion, a very good second best - and pay attention to what some people have done in 20 years or so of reading in the field, he might find that the Opposition is not on that issue, in any sort of holts with honourable members on this side of the House.
What we. arc talking about here is a strategy in the broadest sense, a framework which shall be set up and on which shall be developed as properly as possible the results of investigations conducted by Sir John Overall and whatever battery of expertise he. is able to gather around him for the purpose. It is not confined to honourable members opposite to speak prematurely on these matters. More locally, I note that the president of the Hobart Chamber of Commerce made only a week or so ago statements which I believe to be, premature in relation to the fact that this Authority, that this legislation and that this intent of the Government will have nothing in them for an area like Tasmania. I understand his problems but before we even legislate for the operation J can only regard it as premature to criticise what has not yet been outlined in complete detail.
The honourable member for Reid says in his capacity as shadow Minister for urban affairs :hat the would-be government, the Australian Labor Party, would set up a department of urban affairs. He has an amendment to show us, ironically it seems to me, that the body proposed in this legislation would not be good enough. He says in his form of amendment that it is a body which will have no authority to do various things such as cope with problems of urban and regional development, deal with the growth and so on. There is no authority whatsoever to say that this body will not do that. He can in no way substantiate that until such time, as he finds out that it is incapable of doing it. Why should it be that a department of urban affair can any better do the sorts of things and recommend the sorts of things that the National Urban and Regional Development Authority can do? After all they would be using the same or decidedly similar people to investigate and implement the policies which are decided upon.
We heard this afternoon, and just now from the honourable member for Riverina, that 23 years have passed during the term of office of successive Liberal governments and nothing has happened in this department. If he goes around any honourable member on that side and finds one who had any idea about this matter 23, 13 and probably even 3 and certainly 4 years ago then he will be doing exceedingly well. It is irrelevant to the issue that Sydney and Melbourne were not seen by anybody 23 years ago to be dens of iniquity, with problems of congestion and all these other alleged problems. They are not megalopolises, as one other honourable member opposite maintains. Whoever saw Sydney and Melbourne to be Commonwealth responsibilities? How often have honourable members opposite said that to the States while they shared political platforms with State members? Whoever thought that the Commonwealth owned Sydney or Melbourne or for that matter any other capital city? But it is true that there are problems of a duplicating nature which can be found in any large centres around the world, notably in the Western world where traffic is one of the base problems. It is the intent of this Government to set up a plan and a strategy whereby the matter can be attended to.
The honourable member for Reid reeled off a list of matters which we might give some attention to. They include population, transport, land use, conservation and natural resources. These must be considered, he says. He has shown by so doing that he does not understand what regionalism is all about. This is the second barrel of the Urban and Regional Development Authority. How can anybody ever develop a region with a certain community of interest - various definitions are accorded to it - which usually focuses on one particular centre and therefore becomes a nodal region? How can it ever be developed or be understood without taking into account all those matters and others? They are in fact the geographical entity which a region constitutes. I can only advise, with the utmost subtlety, that some honourable members opposite might shut themselves up in a room with a small library of books on urban economics or urban geography and try to understand the meaning of some of the terms which they are so happy to drop off; otherwise we will spend endless hours debating in this House matters which very few people are familiar with or at least understand.
My time in this debate is severely limited. I have undertaken to leave time to allow for other speakers tonight. Let me take up just 2 or 3 more points. The honourable member for Reid speaks ad infinitum and incessantly of over-development in Sydney. He draws particular attention to Commonwealth Government office buildings in that area. In some senses it is appropriate to draw attention to that, but some day he will define for this House what he means by ‘over-development’. He will show whether or not he recognises that the capital cities of this country - Sydney, Melbourne or the smaller ones - are undoubtedly the most vital entities in Australia. The economy and development of this country since 1788 have been dependent upon the formation of those 6, or now 7 if you like, capital cities. So to go in for the big knock which suggests that all we have is over-development, congestion, pollution and what-have-you is unrealistic, even though one can piously join with honourable members opposite and even realistically join with them in wanting to solve those problems. But concern will not be enough. A proper appreciation of the problems is what is required and one would have thought that people so hellbent as honourable members opposite have been for some 3 years to do things to solve these problems would not wish to move an amendment which would, if accepted, immediately stop the formation of the first authority to be proposed in any real sense to deal with the problem.
The honourable member for Reid went on to talk about our over-expanding centres.
What does he mean by ‘over-expanding centres’? He is the man who in the next breath wants to give away land at the periphery and how better to over-expand any centre than to give away land rather than to charge for it? He does not even touch on the question of variable densities, medium density development interlocked with high rise development or low density development. We can discuss it at meeting after meeting, as happened at the Australian Institute of Urban Studies and at a conference on the provision of housing for low income groups held in Adelaide some months ago. But never does he get round to the question of variable and mixed densities as a solution to the problem. So the chaos about which he speaks, notably about Sydney and Melbourne, giving rise to congestion and people who want to flock or do not want to flock to rural areas is all in his mind. Of course there is traffic congestion. But if in fact he wants to get people into the country the best thing he can possibly do - and I am not advocating it - is to let the streets gum up, because people will then have a reason for going to the country.
Why does the honourable member think that they are in the cities? It is because the forces of agglomeration, of economic agglomeration particularly, and of social agglomeration are such that people have been attracted to these places. No-one has forced them to go there. Why does the honourable member think they have left the rural economies? It is for the simple reason that the forces of agglomeration are present. They are the things which we have to refute and rebut and put back if this policy is to be successful. It will be successful only with very very considerable difficulty and probably with considerable concentration of effort. But it will not happen unless we understand the degree of the forces we are working against. We have intent to do that. That is the most important thing in relation to this Bill - the intent to change the pattern or vary the pattern or stop over-emphasis on these things.
I have undertaken to sit down early and ] will proceed to do so. But may I make a final plea that people on both sides of the chamber attempt to explore every possibility to apprise themselves of what this thing is about. We truly have tossed off words like ‘decentralisation’ for 50 years or so without knowing that it cannot operate unless we understand the forces of urbanisation from which it must stem. That is what we have to do in the very first instance here. I believe that the authority that we are proposing to set up tonight is the best means at the moment for doing that. It needs the co-operation of members opposite, not their knocking, even though I concede that they have good will in what they want to do. But they must understand the complexities of what it is we are trying to do, and then go along with us.
– The greatest compliment I can pay the honourable member for Denison (Dr Solomon) is that he managed to say some of the things he said and keep a straight face. This is a Bill to set up something that could be called NURDA - a national urban and regional development authority. One need not take very much time describing it. The honourable member for Denison said he had been asked by the Government Whip not to spend too much time speaking to the Bill in view of other business that is before the House. So have I. Normally I would not accede to a request of that sort unless I thought there was reasonable reason for it. There is a reasonable reason tonight and the remarks that I want to make about this Bill can be put very briefly. It is a joke, or if it is not a joke, it is a fraud. Let me explain why. Having an interest in this subject I asked the Legislative Reference Service of the Parliamentary Library on 21st December 1971 to give me: ‘The Federal Government policy, or statements of policy, on decentralisation for the last 10 years’. They gave me a lot of material from Hansard and Press statements. Refreshing my memory on them before I came into the House a few moments ago I found that these references there are mostly questions and challenges from the Labor Party to Government members over their failure to do anything about this terribly important question. There is no initiative from the Government side at all. This is what emerges from an examination of those documents. I think this is probably common knowledge.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) is associated with these thoughts and ideas, as is the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). They have made it a crusade to draw attention to the problems of overcrowding and pollution of cities and the need to adhere not to a payment of lip service to something called decentralisation but to put forward a new concept altogether - a new concept that is called regional development. One can search the newspapers and Hansard for years and years but one will find no acknowledgement of the existence of this problem from Government sources at all until now. As so often happens every 3 years, 3, 4 or 5 weeks before an election something comes up. Usually it is plagiarism, usually a theft from policy matters that have been put forward by the Opposition Party - the Australian Labor Party. Here it is again. One sees it in regard to the proposition over child care centres and one sees it here again in the proposition for the establishment of a national urban and regional development authority.
Before I say a few words about the Bill - the joke, the fraud - it would not be a waste of time for us to remind ourselves of what the Opposition’s amendment seeks to do. The amendment asks that the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted. We do not oppose the Bill in the strict sense because we recognise that the problem is terribly serious. But our amendment asks that the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted because in its printed form it seeks to create a mere investigating and advisory body which will have no authority to solve any of the problems that call out for solutions. This is exactly what emerges out of these 4 pages of nonsense. The Bill calls the body which it seeks to set up an ‘authority’. That makes a mockery of the English language. It has no authority. It has one man - a very eminent man- Sir John Overall. So far as I understand he has not even accepted the job yet. Sir John Overall has performed fine service in his capacity as the leader of the National Capital Development Commission here in Canberra. But the Government has given him a new title on the eve of his retirement. As I understand it, Sir John has announced his intention to go into private consulting work towards the middle of next year. The Government has said to him, presumably through these 4 pages - these 4 useless worthless pages: We would like you now to take this little job for us. Accept this position’. But what is he asked to do? I would like to read to honourable members the garbage that follows in the Bill. He will be made a body corporate like a bishop sole. He will have a common seal. He may acquire and dispose of real and personal property. He can sue and be sued in his corporate name. But the authority will be him. One gentleman - a very eminent gentleman. He can be assisted by a deputy commissioner who is to be appointed by the Governor-General. The deputy commissioner will only give advice and assistance to the commissioner. Bear in mind that this is the solution that the Government offers to this most pressing of problems so far as Australia is concerned. It has offered the job of Commissioner to a very eminent gentleman who has done a fine job here in Canberra. It has asked him to tell the Government what it should do. The Government does not know itself; it has never thought about the problem. I say that the thing is either a joke or a fraud.
When one looks at the formal statements one would expect to find in a Bill setting up a proper authority, things like its accountability and a description of its duties. But what do we find? We find that the authority is powerless; that it is nothing. It has power just to investigate. The Bill appoints one man to go away and think in the way that the Prime Minister tells him to think and on the subjects that the Prime Minister tells him to think on, and then report to the Government. This is the Prime Minister - the senior Minister of a government that is notorious for its neglect of this subject, which it resurrects now. The Government has stolen the Labor Party’s policy on this subject. I suppose that one cannot complain about that if only it would steal it properly, if only it would understand the problem. But the Government does not even do that. I suppose the principal criticism of the haste that can be extracted from the way in which the Authority is to be set up can be seen by looking at, say, clause 8 of the Bill, which deals with such a mundane matter as salaries. One would have thought if this matter had been in the melting pot, if it had been under serious consideration, surely the Government would have decided how much it was going to pay Sir John
Overall, if he accepts the job, and how much it will pay the deputy commissioner. Not so. Let me read out clause 8. It states: (1.) The Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner shall be paid remuneration at such rate, and an annual allowance at such rate (if any), as the Parliament fixes–
All right, this is the Parliament. We are here. Put it to us. Give us a figure. Let us discuss it. But the Government does not know yet. It is in such a hurry to rush this through before the election. The clause continues: but, until the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and seventy-four-
As I understand from the newspaper reports, Sir John Overall will have retired and gone into private business at that stage - the rate of that remuneration and the rate (if any) of that allowance shall be as prescribed.
That means, presumably, what you think up when you have sat down and worked it out for yourselves. So what the Government is saying is in effect: ‘We will pay this gentleman - this very eminent gentleman - and we will presumably pay the man who is going to help them, insofar as he needs help’. This one person, who will be called an Authority and who will be helped by a man who is not an authority, will be paid what Parliament decides. The Government cannot put a figure before Parliament now. It will in the solitude of its offices think up a figure which it is not prepared to tell us yet because it does not know what it is. That tells us a lot about this Bill, this ill thought out proposition which has been drafted with indecent haste. It is a flattery to call it a proposition.
I suppose what the Government hopes to achieve by it is to fool the people so that it can say: ‘We are concerned about this problem. Do not think it is only the Labor Party. We have our 4 pieces of paper and we will have a man tell us what to do. We do not have to do what he tells us should be done but we think sufficiently seriously of the problem to appoint to this position a man who is about to retire and who has previously done a good job*. Incidentally, he was in a field of endeavour which is altogether different from that concerned in this Bill because the planning and construction of Canberra through the National Capital Development Commission is quite a different proposition to finding a solution to the problems of overcrowding in Sydney and deciding where regional development should take place, where new cities should go, whether they should go to the coast or inland or whether land should be acquired. With great respect to the Government, though perhaps I should have said ‘with little respect to the Government’, and with no disrespect to Sir John or any reflection on his qualifications or experience for this sort of work, if one were thinking seriously of a proper solution one would create a proper authority to look into the problem. One would also expect that a government would have policies on the subject, as the Labor Party has had on this subject for many years. I have touched on that matter already.
This Authority - it is not an authority, it is one man - will be told to investigate matters by a Prime Minister who is not interested in the subject. The man called an Authority, which he is not, will report to the man who does not want to receive a report because he is not interested in the subject except in perhaps fooling a few people into voting for the Government at the forthcoming election. That is about all I want to say on the subject except to remind the House and particularly honourable members opposite, that there would be few matters in Australia which have attracted more attention in recent years than regional development and the need for new cities. It is called the problem o’. the environment or the problem of the cities. We have task forces on urban land development. I have here a decentralisation report of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. The point that emerges from a consideration of the problem is that here is a government which is bankrupt of thoughts of its own. It was not even aware of the problem until it got the idea that the Labor Party was gaining electoral support from its espousal of the solution to the problem. So the Government comes in late and offers us these 4 miserable pieces of paper. I support the amendment.
– We have heard one of the most unenlightened speeches that could be heard from the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) who, I understand, has done very well out of the development of Canberra. He owns many properties. He has done very well under the scheme operating there. But he must remember that it is only in the last 2 years that the Opposition has taken an interest in the type of development which has been taking place whereas for the past 18 years I have been proclaiming this type of development throughout Australia. It was not until professors from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge came to Australia within the last 5 years and stated how stupid our whole development was and that something had to be done to correct this situation - it would not be more than 2 or 3 years ago - that the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) took an interest in this matter. It was as plain as the nose on one’s face that something had to be done about the conglomeration of population in the capital cities of Australia. They did not come to my aid 15 or 16 years ago when I told the people of Australia what was going on and that we could not have these capital cities based on the seaboard extending into the hinterland some 30 or 40 miles. One did not have to be a mathematician of any great ability to understand that such cities would create problems and be costly to service.
Where were the honourable member for Reid and the Leader of the Opposition then when I was fighting and foretelling what would happen? What did they do? Did they come to my assistance and help me get rid of the wretched Cumberland County Council. Did they come to my aid and support my efforts to stop the wretchedness of offering the young people of New South Wales this type of living at a time when I was advocating that we should have 3 cities in the hinterland and a city at Port Stephens where there is a greatest harbour in the world? No, because the Labor Party had brought in the Cumberland County Council and friends and relatives of party members owned land in and around Liverpool. That is where industrial development took place in those days to the exclusion of other places in New South Wales and especially of my area of Blacktown which was bereft of industrial complexes. I went around the district with Thomson and Scougall Industries which required 40, 50 and 60 acres there in those days and Mr Scougall wanted to transfer his business to Blacktown from Redfern. But what were we met with? We were met with a blank wall because the authorities wanted to divert Thomson and Scougall to Liverpool where their Labor Party friends and relatives owned huge tracts of land.
For the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory to talk as he did tonight shows that he has no knowledge of the problems inherent in the scheme then in existence. The Government of the day introduced this scheme in New South Wales and people who were injuriously affected by rezoning were to be compensated. The scheme would never have got off the ground had there not been a clause which provided that they would be compensated for injurious effects. Claims for compensation were made but these people who had owned land in these rezoned areas for 50 and 60 years were turned down. Where were the honourable member for Reid and the Leader of the Opposition 16 years ago when I saw what would happen to my kith and kin in New South Wales? Where was the Leader of the Opposition? Where was the honourable member for Reid? Only 7 or 8 years ago I called a big meeting at Blacktown to support the abolition of the State Planning Authority, one of the bodies which had brought about this wretched environment in which we were asking our kith and kin to live. Where were they? Why did not they stand up to be counted in those circumstances? They did not because of the spurious way in which the Labor Party went about it. It created the great monster of Green Valley. But for the wonderful job of the Housing Commission in Mount Druitt it would have done the same thing there. The Housing Commission of New South Wales has done a tremendous job. But where were these people when Green Valley was promoted and when the Mount Druitt position came about? They did not care where our kith and kin lived as long as they were taken from one slum. I give the Housing Commission of New South Wales great credit for the work that it has done. Had we supplied the young people who have gone to Mount Druit with all of their requirements such as halls, places of amusement, places of culture and sporting grounds, we would have done a very good thing.
As I said, we should have gone into the hinterland. Everything that the honourable member for Reid said and everything that the Leader of the Opposition said, and everything that is contained in this Bill, I propounded 15 years ago. Why were they not behind me then? Now that it has become a political band waggon, most people are propounding this idea.
– You are on the bandwaggon.
– The honourable member would not know whether it was regional, country or rural. He is speaking to an expert in regard to this matter because I have devoted my whole life to the rehabilitation of the young people of Australia. I have done more for them than ever he could think of. The honourable member should go to Blacktown and ask what I have done for the young people and for the populace of Blacktown, and then he will understand the respect that the people in that area have for me. I tried to make the conditions in which they live much better - far better than would honourable members opposite who harangue so much but who never touch their pockets to help them. I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) on his forthright statement. It will lead to better things and it will be a good thing for Australia - for your kin and mine. There will be better houses, the people will be better looked after and they will have a better way of life than has been decreed to them in the past.
– There is a crucial need for positive national leadership in a full scale programme of decentralisation of population and balanced regional development. The Bill before the House is a testimony, after 22 years of continuous contempt for this need, to the willingness of this Government to initiate such a programme under the pressure of electoral fear. Twenty-two years of Liberal-Country Party neglect not only have left an unbalanced state of development throughout Australia but also have seriously jeopardised our national environment. Every Australian should be entitled, as of right, to a healthy national environment - healthy in all senses. Yet the colossal growth of our metropolitan areas already has overloaded their watersheds and air sheds. Any continued increase in their populations can only threaten the environment of urban dwellers and all Australians with increasing pollution.
There is nothing in either the second reading speech of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) or in the terms of the Bill itself that suggests that this Government has the imagination to grasp the magnitude of the threat to our environment from the continually increasing centralisation of population. The Prime Minister’s second reading speech obviously was rushed into print only hours before it was read to the House. It lacks any appearance of understanding and imagination, let alone willingness to envisage and plan the policies necessary to tackle the problem. One can see from the size of the Bill itself and the length of the Prime Minister’s second reading speech the incredibly small amount of thought that has been put into this matter. It is incredible that this Government has given no evidence of understanding just what the problems are. I think a significant comparison would be to look at the speech of the Prime Minister and then look at the speech made by the shadow Minister on the Labor side. One can see the depth of thought that has gone into the programme put forward by the Labor Party in this case.
The evidence seems to suggest that little will be done to remove the spectre of a gigantic metropolis of Melbourne whose population will increase from 2.6 million to 5 million by the year 2000 and then d -<- bie again to 10 million by the year 2030. Nor is there yet any evidence that the Government has evolved any imaginative plans to heighten the quality of life in non-metropolitan areas, both for the sake of their present inhabitants and to attract new residents from the metropolis in coming years. It is hard to evade the conclusion that the Government is not sincere about this policy. Along with a whole host of new policies which have suddenly been found to be possible to conceive just 6 to 8 weeks before the election - I refer to such things as an investigation into national superannuation which was announced tonight, the proposal to abolish the means test and the proposal to control the foreign takeover of our national assets - this scheme of urban and regional development has been concocted in haste. This is despite the fact that this Government in 1949 promised a plan of decentralisation of population and despite the fact that it has had a special committee of
State and Commonwealth officials investigating decentralisation since 1964. Despite these things, the Government has produced a singularly barren policy which offers few detailed outlines of what the Government intends to do. It has made no statement at this stage of what methods are to be adopted. Even the person who has been relectantly dragooned into presiding over the new authority will retire next year. There is no outline as to which areas are to be chosen for development, and country people will be kept guessing as Liberal and Country Party candidates throughout the course of the election dangle before the electors the found hope that theirs will be the area to benefit from this programme.
The Labor Party is pledged to a full scale commitment to urban and regional development. We intend to establish an effective and strong Department of Urban and Regional Development with a Minister responsible for the planning and execution of policies. The Department’s task will be to initiate and co-ordinate action and planning for urban and regional development. With the co-operation of the State governments we will not only attempt to build new cities but also, more importantly from the point of view of those areas in Victoria which have already been selected by the State Government for accelerated development, we will co-operate with the State Government in the development of these areas. At this stage I would like to reiterate that the Commonwealth still is not in a position to say which areas it will develop. I find it incredible that after all these years and all this research that has been done by Commonwealth and State officials the Government is still not in a position where it can state publicly what its policies are and what areas will be affected.
I believe that the Federal Government has betrayed the 5 areas in Victoria that were chosen 5 years ago by the State Government for accelerated development. These areas are Bendigo, Ballarat, Wodonga, Portland, and the Latrobe Valley. These are the areas in which active development committees, supported by local councils and conscientous members of the community, have been working very hard to develop their areas in order to increase their prosperity and the quality of life that is being offered to the citizens. They have been disappointed continuously for 5 years because the State Government has not met its obligations and, of course, the Commonwealth Government has been extremely negligent in fulfilling the expectations which the Victorian Government has set for it. It is clear that the Commonwealth Government is not committed to accepting the growth centres accepted by any State governments. In particular, it has given no public assurance that it will develop those areas chosen by Victoria. Indeed, until the recent statement made by the Prime Minister in the House on 19th October the Federal Government was committed neither to the concept of regional growth centres nor even to any Federal role in promoting regional development. Honourable members will recall how often in recent years every attempt by this Party to have a parliamentary investigation into the whole question of decentralisation has been subverted by the Government on the grounds of State rights. Whenever State governments ask for assistance from the Commonwealth Government, the Commonwealth Government continuously raises the argument of State rights as the reason for doing nothing.
The previous speaker, the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) suggested that our interest was new found. In fact, my predecessor, Noel Beaton, moved in this House some 10 years ago for a parliamentary inquiry into decentralisation. It was only some months ago that the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) moved a motion calling for a parliamentary inquiry into this matter, and that motion was voted against by every Country Party and Liberal Party member of this House. Since the speech by the Prime Minister, both the Leader of the Country Party, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) have made it abundantly clear that the choice of such centres is a matter for future decision. For example, the Deputy Leader of the Government, Mr Anthony, in a recent Press statement of 5th September in reference to a Press report said:
The list of growth centres recently named in a Press article was pure speculation. It certainly was not contained in the departmental report which was said to contain it. No decision has been made or could be made on growth centres. This must be a matter for determination at a later date after a national approach was firmly decided on.
By contrast, the Opposition is committed not only to building new cities but also to sharing with State governments responsibility for development of those areas that have already been chosen. This is a sort of complementary line of policy along with our programme of developing new cities. It would give a positive decision for places such as Albury-Wodonga where the interstate border gives the Commonwealth a special role.
I have agreed to co-operate with the Leader of the House (Mr Chipp) in making my speech brief. I should like to add just a few comments. I represent the city of Bendigo which is a large provincial area. I am concerned at the failure of this Government to move on the question of telephone costs. This problem, which is delaying development in many areas in Australia, has concerned the Bendigo City Council and the Bendigo Development Committee for some time. To the member’s df these bodies in particular it was a matter of great disappointment that nothing was done in the Budget to relieve the extremely high costs of telephones and telex. Many of the business people to whom I have spoken in the area that I represent have said again and again that, in fact, the cost of telecommunications acts as a prohibition upon many companies intending to set up in country areas. It is also an obstacle on those companies which intend to expand.
– It is a penalty on decentralisation.
– Of course. It is a policy which ensures that development does not take place. The policy of the Government in refusing to deal with the excessive costs of telephone charges has aroused considerable disappointment throughout the country areas of Australia. I refer to a report in my local newspaper, the ‘Bendigo Advertiser’ of Friday, 13th October. The Bendigo Development Committee expressed concern at the disadvantage Bendigo faced with non-uniform telephone charges. The article reports Councillor D. E. Elliott as telling the Committee that the matter was getting beyond State control and into the Federal sphere. The article reads:
He said that ‘Bendigo was also in a very awkward position with telephone charges . . .
Mr Jack Cohn told the Committee: To get accelerated development in areas selected for accelerated development, concession rates are needed.’
He added that telephone rates were the few tangible things industries have got against Bendigo.
Mr Reg Ham summed up the feeling of the Committee when he stated that unless the Government could assist in this way, it was not sincere.
This is a matter which is taken very seriously. To assist in this regard would require only minimal cost of the Australian people but the benefits arising from it would be very considerable indeed. I am delighted to be able to say that Labor’s policy of supporting those areas which have been chosen by the Victorian Government for accelerated development means that the Labor Party has expressed a firm commitment to the people of Bendigo that their city will be supported by co-operative Commonwealth action in a policy of planned development.
The decision to reduce telephone and telex charges in Bendigo to the rates operating in the metropolitan area is proof of how sincere we are on this question. I should like to add one final comment. One of the important ways in which decentralisation can be fostered both from an economic point of view and as a means of increasing the educational and cultural opportunities in a city is through the deliberate decentralisation of tertiary education institutions. These not only are labour intensive, and therefore a boost to ‘the economy, but most importantly to many groups in the community - such as dentists and doctors, who are in short supply in country areas - to have an institution like this alongside ‘the Bendigo Institute of Technology, the Bendigo Teachers College or the School of Nursing would also act as a positive incentive for people to come to Bendigo and to stay there. A university would fill out the range of tertiary education opportunities for their children. I should like to add my own voice at this stage to the very strong move that has been made in Bendigo for some time to have Victoria’s fourth university located in Bendigo. I am sure this would be a very significant boost to the economy and cultural development of Bendigo. I strongly support it.
– And some Commonwealth offices.
– Yes. There should be a deliberate policy of decentralising Commonwealth offices. Instead, at present there is a very considerable development towards locating Commonwealth Government offices in Melbourne. Some Commonwealth officers should be decentralised in country areas like Bendigo. The policy that the Government announced is certainly an improvement on what it had before. I concede that it is better to have some policy than no policy. At the same time, we are left up in the air. We simply do not know what the policy stands for. I believe that the Australian Labor Party has been more genuine in stating in fairly clear outline the lines of policy it would adopt to improve the quality of life and the economic development of country areas.
– in reply - It would be quite extraordinary if, 4 sitting days before the House rose to fight a general election, no politics were to intrude into a debate. On this particular debate on this Bill this situation has been manifested. I have been disappointed, frankly, at the extent of the party politics - allowing that party politics must necessarily be introduced - that has been brought into this Bill, essentially by members of the Opposition. They have moved an amendment which, if carried, to use the words of the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren): would make the National Urban and Regional Development Authority wither on the vine.’ Let us not be in 2 minds about the Labor Party’s intention for the Authority which will be the child of this Bill. It wants to kill it. It wants to destroy it. Its own spokesman, the honourable member for Reid, said that unequivocally and clearly tonight.
Points made by almost all Opposition members who spoke in the debate, with the strange exception of the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr Enderby), had value. I say with the strange exception because normally his speeches have value. Tonight his speech was pure rubbish from the beginning to the end. One of the aspects of speeches of members opposite was that the Labor Party has and has had a monopoly of con cern for regional development. This is not true, as many members on this side of the House have been championing regional development, and sub-metropolitan development for years. In fact, immediately after the Prime Minister gained office - this was over a year ago - he set up a number of Liberal Party committees, one of which was specifically to study ways and means of bringing about decentralisation.
I concede immediately that concern has been expressed over a number of years by members of the Opposition on this question, particularly the honourable member for Reid. I think that on this point we can all say that we are delighted at this action by the Government. I would go further personally and say that the creation of this Authority is one of the most exciting developments in legislative history for many years. I need not canvass what was put so excellently by the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) and other honourable members. His was a good speech until he spoilt it by attacking the Country Party needlessly and for the sheer purpose of discrediting it. No-one need canvass the hideous concept of a Melbourne of 5 million people by the year 2000 and the equally hideous concept of a Sydney blocked by traffic snarls and polluted by the year 2000, with God knows how many people. We concede that something must be done. The crux of th.s debate is: How shall it be done? Shall it be done the way the Labor Party wants it to be done - the socialist way - the centralist way? In some ways I am delighted that the Opposition has moved its amendment. Members of the Opposition realise that this particular Bill will be extraordinarily popular with the electorate. That is why an amendment has been moved by the Opposition. The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) disclosed his concern when he said, with his voice quavering with fear: ‘All you Liberals and Country Party members are going to dangle this before the voters before the election.’ Obviously he was showing concern that this measure will excite the electorate in the forthcoming campaign. It is simply a matter of how the step is to be taken. Should it be done by a government department?
– Why do you not tell the truth?
-Order! The honourable member for Hughes will cease interjecting.
– Should it be done-
– It is just hypocrisy.
-I warn the honourable member for Hughes.
– It is sheer hypocrisy.
– It is nothing but hypocrisy.
-Order! I name the honourable member for Hughes.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, 1 move-
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
-Order! I appreciate what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is about to say, but the honourable member for Hughes interjected on 3 occasions. I then warned him.
– It would have been a different matter if he was a member of the Country Party.
-Order! The honourable member must appreciate in these circumstances that when a member of this House is asked not to continue to interject and the Chair takes the course of warning him, for the member immediately to interject on a fourth occasion is making the proceedings a complete farce.
– I seek the indulgence of the Chair. The honourable member for Hughes was provoked by the Minister. He thought that the Minister was speaking humbug. He has been a good member and I think that it would be quite wrong to name him in such circumstances. In fact, it was not said in any defiant way and I think you could be far more lenient in your ruling.
– With the equal indulgence of the Chair and the House, Mr Deputy Speaker, I point out that you have named the honourable member for Hughes. I have been very slow to perform the function which I should undertake. I have not yet moved for the suspension of the services of the honourable member. I have been hopeful that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would use his good offices to per suade the honourable member to apologise, in which case I would not move such a motion.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I was sitting at the back of the chamber listening to the Minister. Frankly, I heard from the honourable member who has been named nothing that one could suggest was disorderly conduct. Perhaps he did interject, very quietly, but there have been interjections all day. With due respect to you, Sir, I think it was a hasty decision.
-Order! In the term that I have been in this chair I think I have shown an appreciation of some of the problems that are associated with this House. Perhaps the interjection of the honourable member was not unparliamentary and there were other interjections, but I point out that the honourable member interjected on 3 occasions. I finally warned the honourable member, but I had scarcely got the warning out when he interjected again. If members were to continue that behaviour the authority of the Chair over proceedings could not continue. In the circumstances I am prepared to withdraw the naming of the honourable member for Hughes but I hope that all members will pay attention to the Chair. I do not think any occupant of the chair has been harsh on members, particularly in the last three or four weeks. I hope that all members will consider what I have said.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to draw your attention to the disrespect to the Chair shown by the honourable member for Bendigo and the honourable member for Kalgoorlie in asking to what Party you belong. I believe that you have adopted a very fair attitude and I think those remarks should be withdrawn.
-Order! I will leave it to the 2 gentlemen concerned to consider whether in the time I have been in this chair I have been unfair or otherwise.
– I was beginning to say that while there might be some concurrence between honourable members opposite and honourable members on this side of the chamber about the need for something to be done, the main difference of opinion is about the method by which it should be done. I was pointing out that the approach of the Labor Party is one of centralism and socialism in that its members would prefer a government department to organise and plan and spend the money, rather than a statutory authority such as that which is to be the child of this Bill. I put to the House that a statutory corporation is the best guarantee of a non-partisan approach, of professional objectivity in investigations, appraisals and recommendations. A department cannot operate free from the cloak of a Minister. Political interests influence every step. If a Minister is not influencing his department in philosophy and policy he is not worth his salt and should not be there. That is an executive responsibility.
A statutory corporation, as an outside body with all its objectivity, is surely a different proposition. It can report without political interference. Does anybody suggest, for example, that the Tariff Board should be a department of the Government similar to my own department with the influence of a Minister on it, or do members think that the Tariff Board and dozens of other bodies should have the freedom and objectivity of an independent authority? Good heavens, we hear honourable members opposite complaining often enough and unreasonably about the alleged interference of the Government in the affairs of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which is an independent authority. Is it suggested that the ABC should be a government department so that a Minister can push buttons and determine policy as to material to be broadcast, or should it be an independent authority? With as little unkindness as posTsible I say that there have been certain State Labor governments which have been notorious in the field of development in locating housing commission areas and spending taxpayers’ money purely for political purposes. This is the sort of thing which this Government wants to avoid.
We believe that co-operation with the States is vital. A statutory corporation is seen to have more independence than a Commonwealth department. The House will have noticed that the authority is to come under the direct responsibility of the Prime Minister. It will work with the Prime Minister and the Premiers to create positive leadership. The statutory advisory authority will bring in independent national views and other committees involving State rights. I suggest that this should not be set aside. The requirement for the 1973-78 programme is quite a vital technique in seeking the co-operation of the States and coordination with the Commonwealth. A mass blueprint is not sought. Proposals will come from wise and experienced people in the Commonwealth and the States.
There is another reason why we press for an independent authority which the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory overlooked. He should take a close look at the Bill. I thought that his speech tonight was not one of his best speeches. He started to read the part at the back of the Bill about its having a seal, and he rubbished the Bill itself. He said it was 4 worthless pages. But the crux of the Bill is that it creates an independent authority free from ministerial or political direction - as a Government department would be - which we believe is good and which apparently the Labor Party believes is bad. The Bill also provides that the moneys to be expended by the Parliament, not by the authority, will be determined by the Parliament and not buried under departmental expenditure. Is this not a way which the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory, an alleged democrat - I would concede that he is - would agree was the proper way for the hypothecation of expenditure, or does he want it to be hidden away, with bureaucrats and officers making decisions, giving directions and spending money without the Parliament knowing?
I thought that one of the most pathetic pleas made by a speaker in this debate was made by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory. He said: Tell us how much you are going to spend this year’. This again highlights one of the basic differences between the Labor Party and ourselves on this Bill. Honourable members opposite want to go away with all their expertise and say: ‘Ha, there is a good spot for a new village. There is a good spot to build a big city. We will spend $500m there, and we will do it now.’ Our view is the opposite. We want a scientific, detailed, in depth study made by an expert authority. Notwithstanding the innuendoes against that distinguished civil servant, Sir John Overall, I am sure that he will group around him a team of colleagues and officers who will present reports of that sort to the Prime Minister and eventually to this Parliament that will be in the best interests of the nation and in the best interests of what all of us - Labor Party, Liberal Party, Country Party - want to achieve. It is the method of travelling which I think is at issue here.
In conclusion may I mention one or two points about the Labor Party’s policy which have not been explained. I understand that the allocation of land under its proposal is to be on the basis of need. According to the honourable member for Reid, if he is correctly reported, the Labor Party would be setting aside something like $l,000m to give to a land development commission.
– Over what period?
– It does not matter. Let the honourable member tell me the period and I will write it into the record. It could be over any period he likes - 10 years or 20 years. The amount is still $ 1,000m.
– We will create an authority over a period of 5 years.
– Thank you. The Labor Party would allocate $ 1,000m worth of land over a period of 5 years on the basis of need or under a ballot system. A ballot system to allocate $ 1,000m worth of land is not the sort of thing that fills me with any joy. How do you establish the criteria for need? How do you ensure that benefits go to the needy categories? Under this system how do you avoid black market operations? If a government marches into an area and buys a block of land, it immediately exacerbates speculation on the land immediately surrounding it. How do you avoid the impression of substantial gifts to a fortunate few on a lottery basis? These are the aspects of the Labor Party’s policy which give me some concern.
As I understand the honourable member for Reid, it is also proposed that this land development commission will become selffinancing in time, but no mention is made of the way in which costs will be recovered. He does not mention that some high payments will have to be made by someone, and it is not clear how the commission would ever become self-financing. Certain Press headlines attributed to the honourable member for Reid refer to free land for housing. This is an engaging title, but it appears that servicing costs have been conveniently forgotten by the honourable member for Reid. Does he know - I am sure he must, because he has put a lot of work into this subject - that in Canberra it costs more than $3,000 on average to service a block? I believe he would concede that in Sydney or Melbourne the cost of servicing a block would be more. Is it proposed that this free land to be allocated would be unserviced blocks without water, electricity or sewerage? These are aspects of the Labor Party’s proposal of free land, which is an engaging title and an attractive term, that have never been spelt out. The whole proposal sounds like a proposal for close and rigorous control of land in or near the cities and in large areas elsewhere. Under Labor’s scheme the State governments are to be encouraged to release land under leasehold. It is not explained how they would be encouraged to do this or how doing so would reduce land prices any more than selling freehold blocks would. The Labor Party statement of policy does not say what happens when a person wants to sell the house that he has built on a block of free land he has obtained by ballot or on a needs basis.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I have a personal explanation to make.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) has misrepresented me so many times that I think the House will have to be patient. In the first place the Minister misrepresented me on the question of the allocation of land on the basis of need and according to ballot. Might I say on the question of need that even the Department of the Interior allocates houses according to need in the Australian Capital Territory and that in the States housing commissions allocate houses according to need. It is nothing new in this world. So I do not want any confusion from any smokescreen created by the Minister. The Minister is either dishonest or ill-informed by his advisers who sit in the corner of the chamber. So that there will be no confusion about the policy of the Australian Labor Party on land, let me state that the idea of free land was never suggested. I incorporated in Hansard at pages 2436 and 2437 on 11th October 1972 our total policy on land. One can see that in no part of that policy is there any suggestion about free land.
The Minister further misrepresented me when he asked where are we to get the revenue from. We will get the revenue from land rental under a policy similar to that followed by this Government in the Australian Capital Territory prior to 1st January 1971. Since that time, of course, land has increased-
-Order! The honourable member for Reid claims that he was misrepresented when the Minister made a particular statement. In explaining the personal misrepresentation I do not think the honourable member should go into too much detail, for example, about how finance is to be raised.
– I was questioned by the Minister about this. Confusion was created about how the money would be raised. The money would be raised, as I said, by land rental.
– I rise on a point of order. I do not want to inhibit the honourable member’s rights if he believes he has been personally misrepresented. I did not say that the honourable member had said that he would allocate free land or allocate land under a ballot system. I said that if he was correctly reported he said this. If for the record he wants tabled the Press article from which I quoted I will be glad to oblige. I said that he was reported as saying that he would allocate free land or allocate land under a ballot system. I used the words ‘if he is reported correctly’. He has not corrected the report.
– As well as making a personal explanation in respect of what the Minister for Housing said on 11th October I had incorporated in Hansard the complete policy of the Australian Labor Party on land and I pointed out to the Minister–
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Minister for Customs and Excise, who is at the table, quoted from one document and the honourable member for Reid is referring to another document. Either the honourable member for Reid has been misrepresented by the quotation given by the Minister at the table or he has not. We are not interested in what he is recorded in Hansard as saying.
-In regard to the point of order raised by the honourable member for Mitchell, I point out to the honourable member for Reid that he ;s entitled to show where he has been misrepresented; but I do not think that he is entitled to go on and debate the subject matter in respect of which he says the misrepresentation occurred.
– I know what my freedoms and rights are, and I do not want there to be anything that may be misconstrued. I believe that I have the right to clear up any confusion in regard to the policy of the Labor Party. If honourable members examine the Hansard report of the debate on the estimates for the Department of Housing on 11th October, they will note that I made it perfectly clear on that day-
– I was referring to the ‘Australian’ of 5th October.
– I am talking about 11th October. The Secretary of the Department of Housing had in his possession as from 6th October a complete statement of the Labor Party’s proposals on land and the debate was not held until 11th October. No accusation was made in the debate because the Minister for Housing knew that the word ‘free’ was never used in that document. Let us clear that point up. The other aspects where the Minister for Customs and Excise has misrepresented my Party - I have the right to clarify this as I am the national spokesman for the Labor Party-
– No, you have not.
– I have the right bacau; : the Minister said that the Labor Party-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member for Reid has the right to make a personal explanation if he feels that he has been misrepresented. He does not have the right to make a personal explanation on the matter of Labor Party policy being misrepresented, even if he is that Party’s spokesman in a particular field.
– I am the person responsible for this matter on behalf of the Labo
Party. The Minister said that the Labor Party identified a site for decentralisation development The Labor Party has not identified any site except theAlburyWodonga centre. No other centres have been identified by the Labor Party for decentralisation development. That was another mis-statement by the Minister.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the Minister for Housing claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). He referred toa previous debate in this chamber. I will refer to that debate in one or two words. I did have a copy of the Press statement of the honourable member for Reid in my possession then, and a very interesting statement it is. I will make 2 comments on it: It reeks of the philosophy of State landlordism and the statement itself–
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Minister for Housing cannot comment on that document. His only opportunity to make a statement is by showing where I misrepresented him.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Jarman) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Uren’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . .5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Chipp) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– Because the time left in this parliamentary session is limited there are certain things that have to be said, and the Leader of the House (Mr Chipp) has agreed to show me some leniency to allow me to make certain comments on the third reading of the Bill. I could have done this in the Committee stage. Twentyone clauses of this Bill out of 27 have been taken from the National Capital Development Commission Act and consequently there has not been a great deal of thought put into this legislation. The only clause of the Bill that has any significance is clause 12 (1.) (a) which reads:
The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) said that this proposed Authority would have all the powers that were necesary to cope with urban affairs and regional development. The Opposition has argued that there has been no real planning and control of urban affairs and regional development and that for years there has been overcentralisation by this Government in urban affairs. By that I mean the overdevelopment of our major cities.
Replying to questions outside the House, the Prime Minister stated that the Government’s attitude was to have a system of sub-metropolitan centres 20 miles or 60 miles from the centre of the city - on another occasion he said 40 or 50 miles from the city - as well as in regional areas. On the other hand the Australian Country Party has distributed 100,000 pamphlets throughout the nation emphasising the development of regional areas only and ignoring completely any real development of the urban areas in our main cities.We have consistently argued for years that the only way to achieve rational planning for urban development and regional development is to co-ordinate the resources of Commonwealth departments such as the Bureau of Transport Economics and the Bureau of Roads. How can any authority such as the one that is proposed in this legislation make decisions on the intricate problems affecting urban affairs and regional development if it is to have no say in the allocation of transportation funds?
Let me refer to the development of road systems. An investment of $ 1,000m is to be involved in freeway distributors constructed in the inner areas of Sydney such as the Warringah Expressway, the north-west distributor and the western distributor. It has been proven that these types of distributors do not solve the traffic problems faced by cities and urban areas. Such expenditure is a misallocation of funds. It would be much better to use the funds to introduce a rapid transport system in urban areas and to create regional centres in outlying areas to take the pressure off the central business areas. It would be much better to prevent the over-building by insurance companies and foreign investors of office blocks in central business districts in the capital cities which is being permitted by this Government. The Government has the power and the authority to guide this type of investment. What power will the proposed authority have to allocate funds? What control will it have?
The Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) has climbed on to the political bandwagon in an endeavour to misguide the people in regard to the Labor Party’s attitude. We have said that this legislation in no way solves the problems of urban planning or regional development. We have consistently argued that the only way in which this can be done is to tackle the problems through a department of urban affairs which will co-ordinate the allocation of resources. I have no doubt that in the future sub-system centres in and around metropolitan areas will be developed under an authority similar to the National Capital Development Commission as well as regional centres away from the major cities. The NCDC has the experience and the knowhow to do such work but it does not have a knowledge of the intricate details of the problems which affect our great cities. There should be a co-ordination within the Cabinet itself in the allocation of resources.
We should be examining the possibility of, introducing in urban districts a rapid trans-, port system. We should not continue to build government offices in the central business districts of our capital cities. The Department of the Interior or the Department of Works should not be involved in the expenditure of $50m to $60m to construct buildings in Woolloomooloo or in the expenditure of $6Dm or $70m to develop, areas in the central business district of Melbourne. This is the responsibility of the Cabinet. The Cabinet must decide where, in view of the natural resources available, our future cities will be located after, scientific evaluation. There has to be coordination between primary and secondary industry. The authority that is determining the location of a second international airport for Sydney is the Department of Civil Aviation. In what way has there been overall planning in this matter and how does this legislation affect it. A second airport will have a great bearing on the growth of the area in which it is located.
These are the sorts of things we have been trying to draw to the attention of the House, but the Minister has confused the situation. This legislation is only window dressing on the part of the Government. It is an eleventh hour effort to try to assure the people that the Government is doing something, but we know that this Government does not intend to do anything about this. For instance the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) was so well briefed that when he was asked at a Press conference after his first announcement of NURDA in the House what a sub-system centre was he said that it was a city like Belconnen or Gove. After the Prime Minister announced that legislation would be introduced on urban development I asked him whether the Government would take some decision on the over-development of office buildings by insurance companies and foreign investors in the central business districts of Sydney, Melbourne and other capital cities and also, the building of government office blocks in those areas. I asked him whether the continued erection of office blocks would counteract any development in regional areas. He said that the problem of the cities is a State responsibility.
If that is the attitude of the Government then I cannot see any authority which the Government proposes to set up solving the problems which face our cities. Unless, the Federal Government determines the allocation of resources for urban roads, for urban transport and the construction of office blocks by insurance companies and foreign investors in the cities, then there will be no real solution to growing city problems. We have to create a balance within our transport systems, within our cities and in our transport corridors between our capital cities. Unless we develop our transport corridors or what are called the service corridors and create our regional areas along the service corridors we will have no chance at all of achieving regional decentralisation. The Commonwealth, particularly the Treasury, has been one of the major opponents to any real decentralisation and this has been going on for 20-odd years. There is an over-concentration of power in the central sphere; there have been no decisions on the allocation of resources. Our argument is that the Government, which has made an eleventh hour stand, should have some positive policy. We do not want to hear any political windbags. We do not want to have any window dress-> ing. We want to hear positive policies. Until such time as this Government announces positive policies we will oppose its negative attitude.
– It is unfortunate that at the end of his remarks the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) made some unfair statements. One statement which concerns me was that the Opposition had only in the last couple of years found matters relating to regional development. In 1944 the Labor Government established a regional planning scheme in Australia but it was allowed to die after the Liberal Party came to office. I will not say anything further on that. I happen to have a copy of the relevant report. One of the first things I did when I came into this Parliament was to place on notice a motion that there should be a parliamentary committee of inquiry into decentralisation and regional development. The then Minister for National Development said in reply to the motion which I moved that from his experience all committees did was to recommend the expenditure of money and the Government did not think that it could go along with such an idea. That was the Government’s position only 3 years ago. In December last year, after about a 2-year wait, I moved another motion on the same subject to the effect that the House of Representatives should set up a select committee to inquire into and report upon the future of provincial cities and regional development. The Government was not prepared in December last year to have a parliamentary committee examine regional development in Australia. The committee would have done ils work by now and have reported to the Parliament. The Bill provides for only one thing - for an authority which will from time to time investigate and report.
The Minister mentioned the Tariff Board. I just point out to the Minister that some of the reports of the Tariff Board sit on Government desks for years before they come into this Parliament to be dealt with.
I will not say any more because the passage of this Bill is considered urgent by the Government. But before I conclude I would like to point out that if this matter had been treated as it should have been treated from the time this Government took office then far more would have been achieved and we would not have ‘been in the desperate situation that we are in now. We would have been in a situation where we already had, operative, real forms of regional and national planning in this country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed (vide page 2922).
Proposed expenditure, $409,126,000.
Department of Social Services
Proposed expenditure, $61,565,000.
– It became clear in the weeks following the Budget and the passage of the repatriation legislation through this Parliament that there had been a substantial loss of entitlement. This was raised by the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) in the Parliament on 12th October. In the absence of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) he asked the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) to investigate reports that wives of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners had lost their pensioner medical entitlements. Of course, this loss of entitlement goes beyond the loss of entitlement to medical treatment.
There are a number of other benefits associated with possession of the medical card which are strongly prized by pensioners. These cover concessions varying from State to State on telephone rental, radio and TV licences, sales tax concessions, fares and rates. So the question of relinquishing the card involves rather more than loss of entitlement to medical treatment and the added expense of joining a health fund. It also means the loss of other concessions which can be quite considerable for those on limited incomes.
These were the matters raised with the Prime Minister by the honourable member for Kingston and which the Prime Minister undertook to investigate. On Tuesday I raised this question with the Minister for Repatriation who had returned by then from the Australian-Japanese ministerial talks. It seems peculiar that the Minister for Repatriation should be absent from Question Time because of the need to attend these talks. As far as I know repatriation is not an issue of policy between Japan and Australia, and the talks could well have spared the Minister who ranks nineteenth in the Ministry. There have been too many examples lately of the absence of junior Ministers from Question Time without sufficient explanation.
– I raise a point of order. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition knows very well, or ought to, that I also am the Minister assisting the Minister for Trade and Industry and that was why I was at the Australian-Japanese ministerial talks.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Corbett) - Order! There is no point of order.
– You certainly allowed the Minister, a greater deal of latitude, Mr Deputy Chairman. When the Minister was available on Tuesday I asked him if he had approved the letter sent to the wives of TPI pensioners withdrawing the entitlement. I asked him further how many wives were affected and whether the benefits available with possession of the entitlement card exceeded the relatively small increases in pensions provided under the Budget.
The Minister confirmed that a letter was issued from the branches of the Repatriation Department to each TPI pensioner affected. He had subsequently ordered that another letter be compiled and sent to the same pensioner in more explanatory terms. This implies very strongly that there were serious flaws in the first letter, that it was rather peremptory and that it confused the pensioners about why they had lost their entitlements and what they would do for health cover. The second letter w.is subsequently distributed by the Minister to all members of the Parliament. I have no quarrel with the text of this letter; it does make the best of a pretty poor case and it is as sympathetic as a letter about a harsh aspect of social welfare policy can be. It is a pity that the Minister did not distribute the first letter for purposes of comparison.
The Minister estimated the number of people affected by the loss of entitlement at. about 3,250. This is not an insignificant percentage of TPI pensioners; according to the latest Repatriation Commission Report the total number of TPI pensioners in Australia is 21,569. So the 3,250 who lose their pensioner medical card represent about 15 per cent of the total number of pensioners. If we add in the wives and other dependents it is obvious that the impact of this adjustment is quite a substantial one. The Minister’s justification is that whenever a means test is applied, even if it is tapered, one gets into difficulties at the margin. As the Minister philosophically says: ‘Before they were just in, now they are just out’.
A couple might be eligible for the medical card because their joint income is a few cents below the minimum figure. An adjustment is made in pension rates which theoretically should make this couple better off but in practice their position deteriorates because they lost concessional benefits they enjoyed before. This, of course, is not a problem exclusive to repatriation pensioners; it affects all social welfare pensions near the margins of permissible assessed income. It is extremely uncharitable to dismiss this sort of incident as the mechanical working out of adjustments to the system. In particular the sort of rationalisation attempted by the Minister just does not wash.
It is pointless to say that the new pension rates will bring in extra income of $598 a year and all that has to be offset against this is another $52 a year in payments to a hospital and medical benefits fund and a few other insignificant charges. The Minister actually described these charges as relatively minor expense. Neither of the aggregates supplied by the Minister is the correct one. The real value of the pension is .much lower and the real value of the lost concessions much higher. The extra $11.50 a week is absorbed in part by the loss of purchasing power from the high rate of inflation in recent years. Another substantial part of this amount goes to redress the erosion of the value of the repatriation over the past 20 years, an erosion which the Government is only now belatedly working to counter.
If these 2 considerations are taken into account it is obvious that the substantive amount in the pockets of the pensioner couple is not $11.50 but very much less. An amount of $1 a week for a health fund may look insignificant against $11.50 a week, but looked at in relative terms the enforced spending of another dollar a week looms much larger. The other concessions lost are by no means insubstantial. For example, expensive drug costs will have to be met by the pensioner. Admittedly it is hard to strike a (figure, because of the variation in the prestige of the card from State to State, but I think a figure of $2 a week would be a reasonable average. Put in this context, the. loss of entitlement for these couples because of the means test provisions is not unfortunate. I do not blame the Minister for Repatriation for this; obviously this is a broad matter of social welfare policy. However, it seems that this matter was not handled initially by the Department with the tact and sympathy it warranted. The Minister has acknowledged this by directing the distribution of a second letter. Furthermore, I do not think the Minister does the. Government a service by trying to play down the impact of this loss of entitlement by a substantial percentage of TPI pensioners. Various ways have been suggested of countering this defect in the pension structure because of the means test provisions. One is the recommendation of the. RSL that wives and dependants get medical and hospital treatment under the Repatriation Act; that is, they would be given full repatriation medical entitlement.
Another suggestion was made by the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) that free membership of medical funds should be made available to the families of TPI pensioners. These are constructive suggestions which should be looked at by the Minister. On the figures he has given to the House, 3,250 pensioners who lost entitlement would have to pay out another $52 a year to give them a health cover. This would involve total spending of an additional $160,000 a year by these deprived pensioners. Surely it should be possible to absorb this cost in some way without letting it fall completely on the pensioner who is poorly equipped to bear it.
In the few moments that are left to me in this debate on the estimates for the Department of Repatriation let mie say that the Minister is fully aware of the fact that over the years representations have been made to him by the Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Ex-servicemen’s Association, supported by the National Executive of the RSL, to extend the benefits of free medical and hospital treatment to the wives of special rate pensioners. This has been a consistent representation. On other occasions I have had the opportunity in this place to point out to the Minister the small amount that would be charged to Commonwealth revenue if this concession were provided for these people. How stupid it is when a government adopts the attitude that the wife of a special rate pensioner is not entitled to this privilege until her TPI husband dies when she immediately qualifies for the medical and hospital benefits. I suggest that the Minister should look at these problems with the seriousness that they deserve.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mir Corbett) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Much of what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) has said is true. Unfortunately anomalies occur. But if we endeavoured to correct them we would create further anomalies which are difficult to contend with. My secretary, who is an expert on all pensions, tells me that if the wife of a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner is in reasonably good health her position is much better than is the position of others. But if she is in the unfortunate position where she is not in good health she is disadvantaged by the Government making this additional $11 a week available to the married TPI pensioner. I do not know how we can overcome this difficulty. The cost of paying this amount to all wives would not be considerable. In addition I understand that there are not more than 3,250 wives who are in this situation and that the number which is seriously affected is minimal. We should have compassion and do what we can to assist these people. I implore the Minister for Repatriation (Mr
Holten) to endeavour to find a system whereby this anomaly would be obviated or cured. The benefits in most cases have been widely acclaimed and accepted but unfortunately if we legislate to cover this problem we open up another very great problem. So I implore the Minister to give this matter further consideration. It may be that there is some way to overcome the situation where these people have to pay $1 for a prescription and an extra Si for the pharmaceutical benefits.
The Government has boasted over the years of the respect and reverence in which it holds men who served this country in time of war. We may be proud of what we have done in this respect because I think I am right in saying, from what I have been informed, that what we have done for returned servicemen is far is excess of what any other nation has done. Be that as it may, it does not mean that we should not do more for them if it is within our power to do so. I appeal to the Minister to see what he can do to remove this anomaly. The married TPI pensioner is to get an extra $520 a year but there are a few people whose positions are importuned and made worse because of the illness of the wife. I am sure that the Minister with all his compassion and desire to help these people will look into this matter. Honourable members opposite should not laugh about this matter. We have never had a better Minister for Repatriation. It is all very well to make gibes but honourable members opposite should go out and do what the Minister is doing. They should go around and try to help these people. They cannot hold a finger of scorn at me because I have worked and fought for these people for 40 years. So they need not gibe at me. They should wash the mud out of their eyes, go out and do something as I have done almost every day of my life. I know that the Minister with his great understanding will endeavour to find some method by which he can assist these people. My secretary tells me, and she is an expert in these matters, that it is the TPI pensioner’s wife who is really ill and requiring constant attention and repeated prescriptions who will suffer and I know the Minister will do his best to correct the position.
– I enter this debate on the estimates for the
Department of Social Services and the Department of Repatriation to talk about social services. I endorse every word that has been said by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) gave me the impression of being a man who is whistling in the dark. Not only is he on a losing wicket and being betrayed by bis colleagues over the second Sydney Airport site but he is also being misled in regard to fringe benefits for the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners. It is all very well for him to make speeches such as we have just heard in this House but we would like him to put his actions where his mouth is and vote with this side of the Parliament for the provision of extra social service benefits.
In the short time available to me I want to talk mainly about unemployment relief and the shockingly inadequate benefits that are paid to the thousands of unemployed in this country. This matter comes within the scope of this debate because it is the Department of Social Services which is charged with the task of looking after the National Welfare Fund from which these benefits come. And it is all very well for the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) and the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) to take some heart at the slight drop in unemployment, which we were all glad to see. We must take into consideration the absolute numbers of unemployed in comparison with the equivalent number in the months and years gone by. At the moment we have a figure of 88,877 unemployed persons in this country. This is the number of registered unemployed. Because I believe there are many of us who do not remind ourselves of the inadequate benefit that these people are receiving I want to read to the House just what those benefits are and remind the House that they have not changed recently. There is no provision in this Budget for these people, and it is a crying shame. In fact, it is a scandal that this is so.
The adult unemployment benefit rate is $17 a week. The junior rate is $7.50 a week for 16 and 17-year-olds. Unfortunately, there will be thousands of lads and girls in this age group who will be going on to this rate of benefit very shortly because soon the school-leavers will add to the numbers of unemployed in the months of November, December, January and thenceforward. The junior rate for persons aged 18, 19 and 20 is $11 a week. The allowance for a dependent spouse is $8 a week and for each child under 16 it is $4.50 a week. Thus, taking the example of a family of 5 members with the married man getting $17 a week, the dependent spouse $8 a week, and 3 children under 16 getting $13.50 a week, the total income of that family in this day and age would be $38.50 a week. That weekly income has to keep that family in food and clothing and provide all of those other things which each one of us who has a wife and family to keep has to provide.
The means test applying to this benefit is such that if some part-time employment is available, for every $1 more than $6 a week earned by this breadwinner this miserly amount of $38.50 is reduced by $1 a week. So the most that this breadwinner can earn is an extra $6 a week. The most that a man with a dependent spouse and 3 children under 16 years of age can bring into his household would be $44.50 a week. I ask all honourable members to pause and think of the sort of standard of living that this would bring into a household. This situation has existed for thousands of people in our community not for a few weeks but for many months. This shocking unemployment situation was created by this Federal Government because of its budgetary provisions in August 1971 which were aimed, the Government said, at trying to cure inflation. It said that the only way of doing this was by lowering the level of economic activity in our community. This is the sort of misery that has been brought on the community as a result. 1 want to draw to the attention of the Minister one further anomaly. I point out through you, Mr Deputy Chairman, that it is not just the absolute amount of the benefit that is so sad about this case. The fact is that if a child of one of these unfortunate families in these circumstances turns 16, and if the child has ability and his family and the community generally want that child to stay at school and perhaps go forward to university, the allowance payable for that child ceases immedi ately. There are many cases that I know of where a promising student who is the son or daughter of an unemployed person has had to be withdrawn from school and his whole career is thus jeopardised. 1 wish I had time to dwell further on this sad situation of unemployment in our community but I want to pay tribute to the Brotherhood of St Laurence for the documents that they have drawn to our attention and for the very heartrending way they have written on this subject. The Minister may not take much notice of my remarks in the House at this time. Perhaps it is too late for him to bring in a supplementary budget before the election to alleviate this sad situation but I trust that if he is returned to office - I do not believe that he will be - something will be done in the new year. I ask him to take into consideration the published material of the Brotherhood of St Laurence and so many other organisations in our community which know so well the misery that results from these miserly payments to the unemployed.
They know this so well because they, together with the Society of St Vincent de Paul, the Methodist missions, and also the Church of England welfare associations, are the organisations to which these people must go. They are the organisations to which individual members of Parliament representing a city community, such as myself, turn in relation to so many of these unemployed and other people who are beset by poverty in our community. We are the ones who have to look after these people. We are the ones to whom they come. Where can we turn? We know what benefits they can receive from the Government, but where do we turn from then onwards, apart from dipping into our own pockets? The only other opportunity is for them to go to the St Vincent de Paul Society or to Methodist missions for some help. There have been improvements in this Budget in so many other areas of social services but this area stands out as one requiring attention. I particularly mention the children in the age group from 16 to 21 years who are helped in the taxation field, who are helped in so many other areas, but who are neglected in this area.
I want to mention briefly other matters which came to my attention when the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster), the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun), the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) and I were guests of the Aged and Invalid Pensioners Association of South Australia a couple of weeks ago. We were all members of the Labor Party, but the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay), the only Liberal city member in South Australia was also invited on this occasion. He indicated that he would be present but something that we do not know about intruded and he did not turn up on this occasion. I am glad to see the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) is here to listen to this debate tonight. The matters which were drawn to our attention included the $50 telephone installation fee which every pensioner must pay. There is no alleviation when a new telephone is installed in a household. It seems to me to be wrong that this is so because after the pensioner who installed the telephone moves on from the particular household some other person will be taking over the telephone. Perhaps the Minister should get together with the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme) to see whether some better system can be worked out so that there is some alleviation in respect of this crippling fee.
I turn now to the matter of funeral benefit. I am afraid that in the short time since I was informed that I would be speaking in this debate I have not had time to research just how long ago the present level of funeral benefit was established. I believe it was many years ago. Because of the decline in the value of money, because of the inflation that has beset us, the benefit has wilted away almost to nothing. The funeral benefit must be increased.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Corbett) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The estimates on this occasion are perhaps more significant than has been the case for very many years. This is because of the tremendous forward movement that has been made in the provision of social service benefits. I am surprised to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) criticising the provisions in relation to TPI pensioners because really the facts are that the beneficiaries in this field are, on an average, at least $500 better off than they were before the Budget provisions, and the administrative measures being taken by the Repatriation Department, I believe, are so designed as to give people in this category tremendous advantages. Yet the Deputy Leader of the Opposition came into this House and used the words ‘pensioners deprived of benefits’.
– Do you not think they have been?
– The honourable member who interjects asks whether I think they have been. I just repeat that the average recipient is $500 better off. The majority of these people, in any event, have been contributing to hospital benefits. A realistic assessment of the situation in respect of those 3,250 persons simply discloses that they have been advantaged tremendously by the provisions of the Budget. Yet there are those who want to mislead them, who want to occasion concern in their minds, rather than to explain to them the real facts of the matter. This seems to me to be a great shame. Here we have benefits of an extreme nature being provided and yet the inference that is being conveyed is that this is not the case. In respect of social service benefits generally, it is a tremendous step forward that an additional 75,000 people are able to obtain pensions for the first time. When we examine some of the details relative to what is now attainable by the average citizen who comes within the pensioner category in terms of age and the other qualifications, it is a tremendous advantage.
I believe that it is the responsibility of every member of this House to explain the details of these new provisions to his constituents. In the administration of both of these departments there is a vast network of regional offices. Department of Social Services officers visit country districts, and officers of the Repatriation Department visit the suburbs. This goes a long way towards informing the average citizen of his rights to the additional benefits to which he is entitled. However, every member of this House can assist in this task of informing people, and I believe it is his responsibility to do so. Opposition members have criticised the new provisions but I guarantee that when they are dealing with constituents in their electorates they tell them what good fellows they are and that they are helping them to get a benefit of one kind or another. They are not criticial then because they want to take credit for what this Government has done. Let them be fair and honest and tell the right story the whole way through.
Many more social service benefits have been provided under the new legislation. I believe that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) deserves a great deal of acclaim for what he has done to benefit the pensioner section of the Australian community. I mention just one aspect of the new provisions which perhaps has not had the emphasis of some other aspects. I refer to the scheme which has been introduced as from 1st March this year to enable a benefit to be paid to relatives caring for chronically ill aged people. This is a benefit of $14 a week. It is just one instance of the liberal assistance that is becoming available concerning which too little is being said and too little is being done by way of acknowledgment of it. In the full field of benefits that have been provided there is an amazing range of new advantages for people in existing categories. I think, of course, of the situation of those on superannuation. Perhaps a point can be emphasised here. The pamphlets issued refer to the new benefit being available from 22nd February next. Those who want to be critical have tended to say: ‘Oh, it is not going to start until then’. But the facts are that those people who may benefit by these new provisions have been invited to lodge their applications now. This will enable the benefit to be payable retrospective to the date of the application, although the payment will not be made until 22nd February next.
It is obvious that a great deal of publicity, of explanation and of genuine assistance is necessary to enable the average person in the street to become familiar with and aware of the additional benefits that are available from the Department of Social Services and the Repatriation Department. I believe that the media could do a little more in this direction. It is so easy to see headlines criticising or misleading. We have seen this in the case of the matter referred to earlier by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), where people have been almost convinced that they have lost something when, in fact, a tremendous step forward has been taken. I commend both Ministers for their contributions in this field. I am sure that a tremendous number of grateful Australians are really appreciative of what has been done.
– In speaking to the estimates for the Department of Social Services and the Repatriation Department I wish to make brief reference to a number of points raised by my constituents. One which is constantly being brought to my attention is the difficulty often facing widows of exservicemen who apply for a war pension and are more often rejected than accepted. On refusal they become perturbed that no information or reason for refusal is given - just the right to appeal again. This secrecy causes concern. Possibly if frankness were exercised in the first instance much work and .worry by a lot of people associated with the application would be avoided. I feel that the widows of our exserviceman should have the way made easier for them. In most cases their lives have been one of suffering disability because of their husbands’ service to the nation. Surely it is not too much to ask for better treatment of these people.
Another matter which has been reported to me is that since the adverse publicity given to repatriation patients during a recent inquiry, patients in repatriation wards for the treatment of nerve cases at Hollywood Hospital in Western Australia are. being required to do what can only be termed ‘fatigue’ duties in their wards - the delivery of meals, the cleaning of areas and other work of this type. It may well be that this work is considered to have, some rehabilitative value to the persons concerned, but if this is the real reason all patients should be so advised and not left in the position where they consider themselves to be a form of cheap labour or the subject of suspicion that their complaints may be under some differential treatment or cloud of suspicion. It is strange that there was an increase in this practice since the adverse publicity. Some feel the implication very severely.
Another anomaly which exists is that the Department of Social Services will provide hearing aids, but refuses 10 supply batteries for them. It might be thought that if batteries were to be supplied they would be utilised for other purposes. I assure the Minister that those seeking the concession would not be so petty, so let us have a review of this situation. On the subject of hearing aids generally I must make reference to the lack of provision for subsidy under the Social Services Act. There is provision for the very young and the. aged, but people who are in the majority - the working people or the housewife - go unaided, often at tremendous cost to themselves. During their lifetime they would require several changes of hearing aid; changes which often are delayed or denied because of the prohibitive cost. I understand that other countries have seen their way clear to offer subsidies in some cases and in other cases give a free grant to all those with impaired hearing. This is one area of social services which must be revised and world trends adopted.
Similar aspects apply to the supply of artificial limbs. It would appear that an age pensioner is excluded from the benefit of the Rehabilitation AC provisions in relation to the supply of artificial limbs. It is a disgrace that so many people, once they receive the benefit, go to work and are thrust on their own resources or the resources of the maimed and limbless associations or the Red Cross or some other such voluntary body for the renewal of artificial limbs. It is shameful that these people are not given the security of mind of knowing that their often limited incomes will not be called on to meet the costs associated with their disability. This area needs review. By their individual determination these people save the Government the responsibility of maintaining them on Invalid pensions or other social services. It is imperative that a review take place in this area.
A further serious anomaly which came to my attention recently concerns the plight of the deserted woman who has been living in a de facto relationship. It would appear that such women suffer from discrimination which often is not earned. The particular case I raise is that of a woman who had children by a previous marriage and then further children in a de facto relationship. She finds that she is ineligible for deserted wives’ rights because the de facto husband was the last to leave her. She receives child welfare assistance but no medical subsidies, which are so essential for any person with young children. If she were over 50 years of age she could qualify for a B class widow’s pension, but the ludicrous situation is that the B class pension is less than what would be paid to her in child welfare assistance. Surely this area of strict differentiation can be sensibly adjusted to treat all parties equally. It would avoid embarrassment for those people who, because of human loneliness, have accepted companionship for a period. I do not think it is our position in legislation to sit in judgment on people in a way which offers criticism of their morals. We should make the welfare of the. individual the first consideration.
However, this is consistent with the attitude adopted towards our national servicemen. When they are inducted it is indicated to them that they are on duty for 24 hours a day, but should they suffer an injury while on leave on a week-end they find that they are without insurance protection. Many young men have had their lives blighted in that way. They should be. granted special benefits outside those already available to compensate for their lack of insurance cover. I refer also to the repatriation benefits available to those people who serve overseas in support of the Americans. Let us make some small comparison with the benefits payable to those people they support. Under the Budget provisions a double amputee receives about $96 a fortnight. He can receive an additional $35 a fortnight as an attendant’s allowance, a clothing allowance of between 85c and $1.70 a fortnight, and perhaps a transport allowance of $12.50 a fortnight, making a maximum total payment of SI 45.20 a fortnight.
His counterpart in the United States receives between $US208 a fortnight and SUS492 a fortnight, but a double amputee can receive a total maximum payment of SUS725 a fortnight. In addition he has the opportunity while serving to take out insurance of $US15,000 for SUS2.70 a month. Of course, it can be said that we make a free motor vehicle available in certain circumstances and allow a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner to purchase a car free of sales tax, but this is a pathetic reward for a person who has won a government lottery. We have spent too much time in ensuring that people comply with the National Service Act. There has been too much debate on that point and far too little thought has been given to the protection and rewards by way of repatriation benefits that could be given to the people involved. I am sure that if we were to be as diligent and spend so much money on the welfare of those people better results would be obtained. It is said that a total of about $22,000 was spent in making sure that one 26-year-old man from Carnarvon in Western Australia complied with the National Service Act. If that sort of money was available to individuals as repatriation benefits we would be far more realistic about these matters.
I appreciate the co-operation given within the limits of the Act by the Ministers concerned and I appreciate that it is because of the limitations of the Act that assistance is not given in many cases. I therefore suggest a rethinking in these areas in order to provide different treatment for modern soldiers returning to civilian life. At present they are not receiving the same generous treatment in many areas as was received by soldiers returning from World War II under a different government. I understand that over a long period returned servicemen have not been offered preferential, treatment in employment by Commonwealth departments even after being found to require repatriation benefits for the rest of their lives. In fact, it is common for private employers to invoke whenever possible section 12 (3) (b) of the National Service Act in order to reject the re-employment of people whom they are obliged to re-employ under the provisions of the Act. This course is sometimes followed when employees return with war or accident caused disabilities. They may be offered positions outside their capabilities and, of course, those positions are rejected. It is no wonder that these people become bitter. All that the Parliament has done is to add to existing benefits, lt has made no attempt to introduce modern thinking into the area of benefits.
In relation to age pensioners, the Western Australian Government has a successful and generous policy of providing totally free transport to pensioners on State controlled transport systems, lt has meant the difference between a pensioner being housebound and having the ability to visit friends any time he so desires or of going to a beauty spot or the beach as the inclination takes him. I would like to be assured that the Minister will endeavour to see that free metropolitan transport is made available in all cities throughout Australia. I hope that the’ proven and acceptable Western Australian concession will become the Australian standard rather than the exception. In fact, let us look at the question of all transport concessions being made universal throughout Australia to all types of pensioners.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Corbett) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Mr Deputy Chairman-
– Are you closing the debate?
– No. I am glad to say that the repatriation content of this year’s Budget, which is under discussion at the moment, has brought expressions of satisfaction and approval from. a very wide range of people. The Repatriation Department and I have received many comments, both in writing and orally, praising and complimenting the Government on the repatriation provisions that have been included in this year’s Budget. 1 have in front of me quite a few documents which support the comment that I have just made. Of course, I do not intend to read the contents of all of them, but I would like to quote from two or three to .support the statement I have made about the widespread general approval of the repatriation content of this year’s Budget. ‘Reveille’, the journal of the New South Wales Returned Services League, states:
The Budget announced in the Commonwealth Parliament last month contains much that is good for war and Service pensioners.
Another extract from it states:
Sir Arthur Lee, our National President, has expressed the view the Budget has done more to meet the submissions of the RSL than any previous Budget and wilh this I agree.
That is a direct quote from ‘Reveille’, the official journal of the New South Wales RSL. It also talks about nursing home care, which will start from 1st January next year, stating, in part, that this provision will be a tremendous contribution to overcoming the heavy financial burden of providing care for the chronically ill. I thank the New South Wales RSL for the remarks and the statements that are in that document, which was received in my office on 27th September this year.
I also have in front of me a number of letters from war widows associations at both State and Federal level. I will not quote any of the comments contained in them. I just want to say that it gives me a very happy feeling- - I know it does the same to members of the staff of the Repatriation Department - to read the comments contained in these letters. Also, it cannot help but give one a warm feeling to read the comments written by the Federal Executive of the Blinded Soldiers Association. Many other comments have been made to me orally by various organisations, including the organisation representing totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners, although there is a problem, as has been mentioned by several honourable members, concerning the wives of TPI pensioners. I undertake to discuss that in a few moments.
I certainly appreciate the interest that has been shown in this matter, in particular by the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin). I can assure the Committee and people listening to the broadcast of this debate that no-one is more entitled to speak on behalf of the ex-servicemen and women of Australia than the honourable member for Mitchell. In my term as Minister for Repatriation no-one in this chamber has shown greater interest in this matter than has the honourable member for Mitchell.
– You are members of a mutual admiration society.
– If the honourable member for Robertson does not like the truth, that is up to him; but what I said is the truth. Mention has been made of the fact that the wives of some TPI pensioners have lost their right to a pensioner medical service entitlement card. This naturally is causing concern to some of them, but many factors are involved. As I say, I will deal with them a little later.
Very often during these debates members of the Opposition try to minimise the value of the TPI pension and the nonmonetary benefits that are associated with it but mainly the actual base TPI pension. They compare it as a percentage of the minimum wage with what it was as a percentage of the basic wage in 1949 when the Australian Labor Party was in government. But they fail to point out two or three things. The first is that in 1949 all the TPI pensioner received was the TPI pension plus a few fringe benefits; but nowadays he is eligible also for substantial service pension payments whereas he was not in 1949, he is eligible for television, radio and telephone concessions for which he was not eligible in 1949, he has a clothing allowance which he did not have in 1949 and he is to become eligible for treatment for chronic illness for $18 a week as from 1st January 1973 whereas up to now such treatment has been costing him up to $50 and $60 a week. That is one reason why it is not a true representation of the position to compare the base TPI pension rate in 1949 with the base TPI pension rate in 1972.
But another reason why it is incorrect and totally misleading to do this is that the 2 wages - the basic wage and the minimum wage - are not comparable because they are arrived at on entirely different bases. The basic wage was just that - a basic wage. It was a basic payment to which was added various loadings and margins for skill and other factors. The minimum wage, when introduced in 1966, consisted of the then basic wage plus $3.75 a week. Until 1967, one year later, there were 2 wages - the basic wage and the minimum wage. This proves that they were not the same thing. Members of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) in particular, know this. Therefore it is incorrect and totally misleading to compare the percentage that any pension bore to the basic wage in 1949 with the percentage that such a pension bears to the minimum wage in 1972.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who is the official spokesman of the Opposition on repatriation, during debates on either the Budget or the Estimates, by a series of oft-repeated words and cliches tries to convey to the ex-servicemen of his country that he has their interests at heart; that he is constantly worrying about them and constantly fighting for them. I am of the opinion that his words have a somewhat hollow ring, and I support that comment by placing before the Committee and the Australian ex-servicemen statistics which illustrate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s interest in repatriation. In a recent debate the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) used a similar method to try to denigrate the Australian Country Party. He pointed out that the members of the Country Party had not asked many questions on a certain subject. He did so in an attempt to illustrate their alleged lack of interest in the subject. Let me use the same method to illustrate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s interest in repatriation. This is the man who will be Minister for Repatriation, if a Labor government has a Minister for Repatriation because it is rumoured that there will not be a separate Repatriation Department if the Labor Party becomes the government. It is rumoured that the Labor Party will combine 3 Ministries into one.
– You cannot handle one.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has no interest in one Ministry. I will show him how much interest he has in repatriation. In the last 3 years the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has asked 166 questions in the Parliament, but how many has he asked on repatriation? He has asked 2 questions on repatriation out of a total of 166 questions. As I say, the honourable member for Robertson used this same procedure yesterday to try to illustrate lack of interest by members of the Country Party in another matter. That is the situation. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition speaks on repatriation only during the Budget debate and the Estimates debate. He has had an opportunity at question time to raise matters in the interests of the ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen of Australia, but out of 166 questions which he has asked in this Parliament in the last 3 years only 2 of them have referred to repatriation. So it does not speak very highly or very strongly of the Deputy Leader of >‘h*. Opposition’s interest in re patriation or illustrate that he has a very sincere and earnest interest in the exservicemen of this country.
I turn to the question of the loss of the pensioner medical entitlement card by the wives of some TPI pensioners. I and my Department have spent many hours looking at every aspect.
– There are many aspects.
– I assure the honourable member for Mitchell that there are many aspects to be considered in changing- section 4 of the National Health Act - not the Repatriation Act. It will involve many more people.
– We are prepared to wait for it.
– So the Labor Party is prepared to do it. It is prepared to do anything. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has promised to spend $ 1,400m on education. That is another $ 1 . 400m which the Leader of the Opposition spent this morning. Many factors are involved in this. It is not just a matter of expenditure; it is a matter also of principle. In an answer I gave to a question in the House this week I explained many of the factors that were involved in this situation. Not only the wives of TPI pensioners would be concerned with any alteration to the means test level of $5.1.50 a week; other classes of pensioners, such as people receiving defence forces retirement benefits and people in receipt of superannuation, also -would be concerned. An altered level would affect many other areas also. If the Federal Government is to make any alteration’ in ‘ the means test level, it must be conscious of the nationwide consequences and implications of such a move. Honourable members who have raised this matter can rest assured that I and my Department are well aware of the concern that this is causing some people although, as I said, all these people now receive an extra SI 1.50 a week- $598 a year - and it will cost them $1 a week to belong to a hospital and medical benefits fund.
Other incidental expenses are involved and these vary from State to State. I instance transport concessions and. of course, pharmaceutical expenses which could cause concern to wives of some TPI pensioners who are not in the best of health. So, it is almost impossible to put an exact figure on the extra financial commitment that will be involved. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that their extra expenditure would be, on an average, about $2 a week. It may cost some people a little more but certainaly it will cost others a little less. So, looking at it from a purely financial point of view, all these people are receiving tax free an additional $598 a year and, on an average, their extra expenditure would be about $2 a week. They will all be much better off financially.
Nevetheless. the Government is examining the situation. We are watching it very closely. I have been in close contact with the various TPI associations on this matter. They are well aware of my interest and of the Government’s continuing interest in this matter. We will keep trying to find a satisfactory answer to the situation although, I repeat, these people are much better off financially than they were before this year’s Budget. As I said at the beginning of my speech, the repatriation content of the Budget has received widespread acclaim from many sections of the community and many ex-service organisations.
– The Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) who has just regained his seat must obviously have been rattled to display the heat and anger that he did. No doubt the thrusting speech which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) presented earlier unsettled him. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition pointed out to me a few seconds ago, while it may be true that he did ask the Minister a few questions on repatriation, to continue the truthfulness the Minister should report that he was unable adequately and, should I say, intelligently to answer the questions when they were put to him. Let us balance that against the whole performance of members of the Australian Country Party. I think my friend the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) has been carrying out a little analysis lately on these sorts of things. Of a total of 458 questions asked by members of the Country Party only 3 - 3 mind you, out of a total of 458 - related to repatriation. Given the fact that the Minister for Repatriation is a Country Party Minister and that he is capable of and does write questions to farm out amongst his colleagues for them to ask him - easy questions; it is not unreasonable that he would want easy questions, one can understand why he is careful in this respect - he has been able to arrange for only 3 of them to be asked. I understand from within his Department that he has farmed out many more times that number amongst his colleagues but they were not asked. I dare say the fact that they are Country Party members-
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman. I deny completely the statement by the honourable member for Oxley that I ever farmed out any questions to any member on this side of the House.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Corbett) - There is no point of order.
– I rise to order. Did the Minister raise a point of order or make a personal explanation?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- It was not a point of order.
– If the Minister says this is so, it is obviously so. It must have been his staff who farmed them out, because it was among them that I heard the complaint made that, although they were farmed out, they were not being asked. There was some speculation as to whether there was some trouble on the part of Country Party members reading the questions, although they were typewritten. This is understandable because, after all, they are Country Party members.
In the limited time available in this sort of debate I want to talk about a principle that is being put forward as though it is a very generous principle and one related to possible Government policy. I refer to capitalisation of child endowment. It is meanness masquerading as kindness. It is true that the Australian Labor Party put this forward in 1966 as part of its election campaign proposals. Fortunately we were able to carry out a much more thorough analysis subsequently than we had been able to carry out up to the time of that election. We established that there were too many defects, too many anomalies and too many injustices inherent in such a scheme for us to persevere with it. That is why we quickly dropped it after 1966.
It is obvious by the way in which the build-up propaganda is being released from informed sources’ that these ‘informed sources’ are inferring strongly that the public - that great collective mass of all the public - will be able to capitalise child endowment for home purchase purposes, to pay off mortgages and possibly, if we look at the New Zealand scheme, also pay for extension and maintenance to existing homes. That is utter humbug. The Government could not allow all those people entitled to child endowment to capitalise it so that they could spend it on anything, let alone, housing. It does not take much mathematical ability to work out, using last year’s figures and from the latest annual report of the Department of Social Services, what it would cost if everyone entitled to child endowment were to capitalise their future entitlement over a 12- monthly period. The cost would be Si, 700m. In that sort of situation we expose quite promptly the completely deceitful purposes behind what the Government is putting forward. The cost of totally capitalised child endowment entitlements to the end of last financial year would be $l,700m, yet all that the Government is proposing to expend - 1 use the word ‘all’ in a comparative sense to the $l,700m - this financial year on child endowment is $256m. The Government was so damned miserable that it could provide no increase at all in child endowment. That $256m is a fairly substantial amount of money in terms of Commonwealth expenditures.
It is quite clear that if the Government has in mind any proposal to capitalise child endowment it will be done on an extremely restricted basis. Some sort of stringent means test will be applied and there will dc some sort of tough qualifying conditions before the money is provided. That is the first point that needs to be stressed. Let us look at some of the implications that might arise if we were to use the New Zealand practice as a guideline. In New Zealand the recipients of family benefits, as they are called there, who wish to capitalise child endowment have to pay a penalty for doing so. They have to forgo some entitlements. It is about 3 per cent of their entitlement. I understand that in New Zealand there are subsidised interest rates on housing and one would expect that this would be the percentage rate of penalty involved here. Let us use the Commonwealth and States housing arrangement as a guideline. The interest on loan money allocated to the States for housing purposes is 6 per cent. This would mean that a family with 6 children whose ages ranged from below 12 months to 5 years would pay a penalty of about $438. This is the amount they would have to forgo on their full capitalised entitlement if they had been fully paid up.
Let us look at another aspect of this. Let us see what happens to . these people if there are increases of child endowment during the period when their children ar: entitled to regular payments of endowment. We assume in this situation that this is not so, because it has been capitalised. 1 repeat that they forgo their entitlement to increase. Let us assume that some sort of unusual whim struck the Government and child endowment was increased 50c for each child. This would mean that the family of whom I have just spoken, with children whose ages ranged from under 12 months to 5 years, would’ forfeit over $2,000 for the term of these children’s entitlement to child endowment by capitalising at this early stage of which 1 have already spoken. So the total penalty is in the vicinity of $2,500. This is the sort of tactic which the Government is up to. I think a lot more has to be. spelt out before election day. We do not want bland statements in a policy speech that child endowment can be capitalised. Obviously we want specific details. At a total cost of $ 1,700m not everyone is going to be able to capitalise child endowment. There is going to be a tough means test Let us not kid the majority of the public that they are going to benefit in this matter. Very few will.
But what are some of the difficulties which can arise? For instance, if a mother and children leave the father in occupancy of the family home - the reason does not matter - and the house has been purchased with a deposit funded by capitalised child endowment the mother and children will forfeit their equity in the home. They forfeit their right to regular child endowment payments. If they are low income earners they cannot afford to forfeit this sort of thing. Again, the entitlement is based on family size rather than on demonstrated needs. This is another weakness in the scheme. A recent New Zealand royal commission into social security at paragraph 21/92 stated: we note -the view expressed to us by the representative of the State Advances Corporation that while the amount of capitalised family benefit has been invaluable as a deposit, it has had a very limited effect in reducing outgoings on a house.
So honourable members can see that ibis can help obtain a deposit for some families but that is as far as it helps. It does nothing at all to improve the position of these people who are making regular payments on a house. Given the fact that the supplemental income in the form of child endowment has been forgone, they are in a worse situation. If we add to that the sorts of penalties which I have already given of forgoing future increases and accepting a penalty as a cost of capitalising, they are in a worse position than before. The poor people are badly off.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This evening, in considering these estimates, I shall confine my remarks to the Repatriation Department. Briefly I shall refer to some of the remarks made by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten). I note that he has returned to the back benches to try them out for size and to offer some words of gratitude to the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) who was very high in his praise of the Minister when he made his remarks earlier this evening. I might say that the honourable member is way off when he talks in such terms of the current Minister, because it is my understanding that the present Minister for Repatriation cannot claim any praise for his handling of the rights and benefits of ex-servicemen. To my knowledge the only Liberal Minister who bas held the Repatriation portfolio and who has ever been entitled to receive or who did receive any praise, was a gentleman who came not from this chamber but from the Senate. I refer to Senator Sir Walter Cooper. The Minister said this evening that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr
Barnard) has asked him only 2 questions. I think honourable members will readily appreciate the reason why the Deputy Leader would stop at 2 questions and not seek any further information from the Minister. Anybody who has heard him attempt to answer a question would know that it is useless to ask him for any information regarding his Department. He gets himself so hopelessly tied up because of his inefficiency, when he tries to answer a question that it is not worth while even attempting to seek information from him. Honourable members certainly will recall only in the last couple of days the attempts the Minister made to explain away the injustice of taking from the wives of TPI pensioners the pensioner medical service entitlement card, and how much deeper in the mire he was by the time he finished his explanation than he would have been if he had not attempted to say anything about the matter.
I should like to refer to something which was briefly touched on by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition this evening. Tt is a section of Labor’s policy which will be put into effect very soon after the next election. Part of our policy on repatriation states:
Free medical and hospital treatment for all ex-servicemen of the Boer War and the First World War will be implemented in the first year of a Labor Government. The ultimate objective will be to grant free medical and hospital treatment to all ex-servicemen.
To indicate the concern of the Minister and his Department for this very important benefit to ex-servicemen, I refer to a question I placed on notice to the Minister on 29th February this year. It reads: <1) What is the estimated number of (a) Boer War and (b) World War I veterans who are still living.
The significance of the third part of my question is, I am sure, understandable to honourable members because so often in this place we hear that honourable members on the other side of the House set their standards on what America does in regard to its war effort and anything associated with international matters. I felt it was fitting that I should link the standard in that country to the standard that exists in Australia. The answer given by the Minister, after some considerable delay, on 12th September, stated that at that time fewer than 200 Boer War veterans were living and the number of World War I veterans who were living was estimated to be 66,700. In respect of those who are not currently eligible for benefits in repatriation hospitals the Minister stated that the estimated cost of providing ex-servicemen with these benefits - I repeat that this is Labor Party policy - was the very small amount of $3.73m per annum. Surely that amount of money could very easily be found by the Government when one considers the wastage of expenditure that this Government is prepared to sanction in waging war. But it is not prepared to expend this very small amount each year to look after the war veterans who have served this country well.
– There is no after sales service.
– There is no after sales service; there is no interest in veterans after they return. The constant attitude of the Department, as I see it and as I am sure other honourable members on this side of the House see it, is to deny benefit to exservicemen. There is a section of the Repatriation Act which states that the onus of proof must not lie on the appellant and that any benefit of the doubt shall be given to the appellant. How many honourable members have seen that put into effect in accordance with the intention of the Act? To my knowledge it happens only very, very occasionally. The reverse is the general rule.
I think it is very important to consider the answer I received to the third part of my question because it shows how paltry the attitude of this Government is in comparison with that of the American administration. Under current legislation the American administration is authorised to furnish hospital care to veterans who served in the armed forces and were discharged under other than dishonourable conditions. Veterans having service connected disabilities are accorded priority for admission. Veterans without service connected disabilities and under 65 years of age who had honourable service during a war period or since 31st January 1955 are eligible for necessary admission provided a bed is available and they indicate their inability to defray the expenses of hospital care in a community hospital. The administration also is authorised to provide hospital care for a non-service connected disability of any veteran - I repeat, any veteran - who is 65 years of age or older without regard to his ability to defray hospital expenses. Of course, Australian ex-servicemen need not fear - the days of this Government are numbered.
– You hope.
– I know. It’s time. Exservicemen can expect that very early in the first year of the Labor government the Australian Labor Party policy will be put into effect in order to give them the benefits that they are currently denied.
I want to make a short reference to the failure of the Minister for Repatriation to answer a question that I put on notice on 13th September. If there was no embarrassment to the Minister it could have been answered within days. I asked the Minister:
Is it a fact that at Greenslopes Repatriation General Hospital in Brisbane (a) there are at least 1 complete wards closed due to their being surplus to current requirements and (b) patients who arc diagnosed incurable or chronically ill are not permitted to remain.
I know that they are not allowed to remain there after a short period, but I wanted the Minister to at least give me that answer officially. The next part of my question was:
What repatriation hospital facilities are available in Brisbane for the care of incurable or chronically ill patients.
I can probably also answer that question for the Minister if he is not prepared to go on record. The answer is a small Anzac annexe at Rosemount Repatriation Hospital that contains about 25 beds at the most. I also asked the Minister:
What repatriation hospital facilities are available for incurable or chronically ill patients in each State and Territory.
So far I have received no answer to those questions. My understanding is that there are certain facilities available in Sydney, New South Wales, but to my knowledge that is the extent of the interest that the Minister and his Department show in these poor unfortunate people who are cast out of repatriation hospitals once it is decided that they are chronically or incurably ill.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Minister for Social Services (11.15) - I do not think there is much need for me to reply to the remarks made by my friend the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh).
– Do not worry, I will not be offended.
– 1 assure the honourable member that there is no need for me to reply on behalf of my colleague the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) because the honourable member convicted himself when he started speaking. The honourable member said that the Minister and the Government have nothing to be proud of. As a matter of fact, the Minister earlier this evening quoted the best authority, the returned soldiers’ organisations themselves, as saying that this was the best Budget for returned soldiers that has yet been introduced. I will just let the matter stand at that.
I want to turn, if I may, to social services and ‘ what has been said about this subject tonight. What is quite remarkable is that the matters raised tonight have not been major matters. I am not saying that although they are comparatively small matters they are not important to the people concerned. Even though a person may be in an exceptional position his or her own experience is important, and 1 do not try to denigrate them on that ground. But what I say is that the members of the Opposition have been talking about only the little fringes of social services. They have had to do this because that is all that is left to talk about. The major improvements in social services have been effected in this Budget and in the Budgets that preceded it. It is usually agreed that so far as social services are concerned this Budget has made greater advances than any previous Budget.
Let us just find the evidence of this in the remarks that were made by members of the Opposition tonight on the subject of social services. Honourable members opposite have not been able to deal with major questions because there are no major questions left for them to deal with. They have been speaking of minor matters. There are still, and there always will be, minor matters in which there can be improvements. I have no doubt that as we go forward into our next term of office there will be many things that we will continue to do and that the momentum of improvement in social services will be fully and completely continued.
Let me take, for example, what was said by honourable members opposite about unemployment benefits. We were told that there had not been a rise in unemployment benefits in this Budget. But honourable members opposite may have forgotten that it was only last February that the greatest rise in unemployment benefits in the history of the Commonwealth of Australia was given. Let me compare unemployment benefits that are given now with what they were under the last beneficent and benevolent Labor Government. Luckily that Government was in office a long time ago and no Labor Government is likely to have another term of office. The basic rate of unemployment benefit now is $17 whereas under the last Labor Government it was $2.50. The rate of benefit now for a wife is $8 and under that benevolent last Labor Government it was $2. The benefit for the first child now is $4.50-
– Drag yourself into the ’70s.
– Okay. The rate for the first child now is $4.50 and under the last beneficient Labor Government it was 50 cents. For every child after the first child the benefit now is $4.50 and under that last beneficient Labor Government it was nothing at all. These are the facts. Honourable members opposite say: ‘Let us come up to date’. Since the time the last Labor Government mismanaged Australia there have been immense advances. Of course, things are now much better. Honourable members on the opposite side of the House now tell us: ‘It’s time’. It was time then, was it not? When they talk about it’s being time, they should realise how great the advances have been since Labor was last in office.
What is much more important than this is that under that last beneficent Labor Government the standard rate of unemployment was 5 per cent. The Australian Labor Party spokesman on these matters said in the House - it is in Hansard - that as far as Labor was concerned, 5 per cent of unemployment was virtually full employment. That was the Labor Party standard. It is not our standard. It is true that at the present time in the Labor governed States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania the percentage is somewhat higher than in the rest of Australia. But in the Liberal and Country Party governed States the percentage is much lower.
– I rise to order. As I understand the Standing Orders, even though we are dealing with the Estimates which affords a very wide ranging debate, I fail to see how the estimates for the Repatriation Department have anything to do with unemployment.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– I am dealing with the unemployment benefit which is related to the estimates for the Department of Social Services. I am pointing out that the real trouble in Australia is in the Labor governed States because the Labor Party is necessarily the Party of high unemployment. That is what Labor has been and is today. The thing stands on the figures. We found that references were made to 88,000 registered unemployed, I think. The number in receipt of the unemployment benefit is only 38,000 and is dropping rapidly. In the last couple of months the figure has dropped very substantially and I am quite confident that it will continue to drop under this Government.
The most extraordinary performance was that of the Labor shadow Minister for Social Services, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). He could find nothing - good or bad - to talk about in the Government’s record. All he could talk about was something in his imagination that the Government might or might not do. He spent all his time denouncing a plan which he said the Government would have. The Government has not announced any such plan. Whether it will do so or not is open. But the honourable member for Oxley could not find anything for which to blame the Government. In his mind, nothing that the Government has done was blameworthy.
The shadow Minister could find nothing to talk about and nothing for which to blame the Government except something imaginery that the Government might or might not do in the future. He spent all his time trying to break down the New Zealand scheme or, alternatively, saying that it would cost $l,700m to do everything for everybody and that obviously we were not going to implement that scheme. What do honourable members opposite think of the competence of their shadow Minister for Social Services who behaves like this during a serious debate on the Estimates. I think that this is one of the most typical performances that I have heard.
The honourable member for Oxley has not been terribly fortunate when he has tried to forecast what the Government will or will not do. I remember with some relish how on television, only an hour or two before the presentation of the Budget, he was berating me and saying that there was nothing for anybody in that coming Budget. That is how good a prophet he is. He just does not know his stuff. He is just not competent. I do not think that there is any need to reply to what the Opposition members have had to say in regard to social services because in point of fact they have said nothing. I move:
That the question be now put.
Question put. The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Department of Works
Proposed expenditure, $87,382,000.
Motion (by Mr Scholes) proposed:
That progress be reported.
– by leave - We have had extraordinary co-operation from all honourable members with a view to the Parliament concluding its business and rising on Thursday next, which I understand all honourable members wish to do. If the estimates for the Department of Works could be agreed to tonight, considerable time would probably be saved next week. The Appropriation Bill could pass all stages tonight. I had an informal discussion with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and he was agreeable to continuing in Committee on this Bill. I ask the Committee to consider the fact that, if the Bill is passed tonight much time will be saved next week, particularly in respect of sitting late at night.
A debate on the adjournment motion will be held this evening. I think that the appropriation for the Department of Works could be agreed to and the Appropriation Bill could be passed through its remaining stages within a reasonably short time this evening. We would then proceed to the adjournment debate and face next week a reasonably civilised programme of work. In the circumstances I wonder whether the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) would consider withdrawing, by leave of the Committee, his motion.
– by leave- The proposition put forward by the Leader of the House (Mr Chipp) is reasonable. But I believe that the actions of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) were completely unforgiveable. The Minister made a number of utterly untrue statements in his speech. Only one Opposition speaker remained on the list of speakers. That was the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) who rose to speak when the Minister concluded. The honourable member for Robertson has in his electorate more pensioners than has any other member of this Committee. When the Minister concluded his speech, be gagged the debate although time was available for the honourable mem ber for Robertson to speak. I think that the tactic adopted by the Minister was totally unfair. That is why I proposed my motion. I do not believe that it is an honest practice in this Parliament for a Minister to rise, make the type of speech which the Minister for Social Services justmade and then move the gag in order to prevent any honourable member from replying to the lies that he has told to the Committee. I ask for leave to withdraw my motion, as the Leader of the House requested.
– I thank the honourable member.
– Is leave granted? There being’ no objection, leave is granted.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave- taken as a whole and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Chipp) - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Chipp) - by leave - proposed:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent order of the day No. 3, Government Business, being called on.
– Just what does this motion mean? Does it mean that Appropriation Bill (No. 2) will be passed through the House straight away?
– Yes. It is normal practice. It is never debated.
– I do not care whether it is normal practice. It is also normal to treat people with some respect and courtesy in this place. Today I wanted to speak for a second time on the estimates for the Department of Defence and the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) gagged me while I was in the process of speaking. We devoted only 2 hours 38 minutes to the Defence estimates. This evening we were discussing the operations of the Department administered by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). The opportunities to put on record some of those things which ought to be said are becoming fewer and fewer. I just do not believe that this is the way in which this place should operate. At this hour of the night it is all right to talk about co-operation between people in this place, but if co-operation simply means the facilitating of the operations of the majority in this House to the detriment of those on the back bench on this side of the House, I am against it. I know that several members on this side of the House wanted to speak on the estimates for the Department of Works. My colleague the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison) wanted to say something on those estimates. He has been engaged on the affairs of this House in his capacity as Deputy Chairman of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the estimates for the Department of Works have been passed without his knowledge. Honourable members opposite might call that co-operation; I call it in general sharp practice.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 2) 1972-73 Second Reading
Consideration resumed from 15 August (vide page 139), on motion by Mr Snedden:
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 received from the Senate and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr Chipp) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– The electorate of Sydney, which I am honoured to represent in this Parliament, contains Lord Howe Island, a beautiful crescent shaped area of land 7 miles long and one mile wide, located 436 miles north-east of Sydney. For years the Island’s main link with New South Wales, the mother State, has been a flying boat service operating from the Rose Bay base in Sydney Harbour. Lord Howe Island is a very popular tourist resort and attracts about 4,000 visitors a year. That is worth about $400,000 a year to the Island’s economy. Without the tourists, the 200 or so residents would sink back into an age of subsistence living. Approximately 7 years ago Mr Ansett, now Sir Reginald Ansett, wrote to the then Prime Minister and to the Premier of New South Wales giving notice that his company intended to withdraw the 2 flying boats from service by June 1970. He said that the 2 Sandringhams were becoming more and more costly to maintain and operate and should be replaced by a regular air to ground service using a runway on the Island. Over a period of 6 or 7 years the Commonwealth and New
South Wales Governments have been wrangling intermittently over who should pay and the amount each should pay for the airstrip. Apart from the flying boats, Lord Howe Island’s only link with the mainland of New South Wales is a ship which calls at intervals of 3 or 4 weeks on a round trip between Sydney and Noumea. There is no wharf, and whaleboats bring cargo ashore, weather permitting.
On Tuesday, 10th October 1972, the Premier of New South Wales, in presenting his Budget for 1972-73, referred to the proposed airstrip for Lord Howe Island. I cite his words. He said:
Honourable members will recall that in my Loan Speech last year . . .
That is 1970-71-
The Prime Minister subsequently advised that the Commonwealth was prepared to contribute an amount of Sim towards the project but this was the maximum assistance which could be made available. In the meanwhile, following on the spot investigations by the Department of Public Works, the estimated cost of constructing an airport on the Island as proposed has risen to over $2)m.
The position has been closely reviewed In the light of these developments and the Government has reluctantly concluded that the expenditure of over Slim from State resources on this project would not be warranted under present circumstances.
In other words, the State Government does not intend to proceed with the proposal for the construction of the airstrip. After obtaining this information from the New South Wales Budget Papers I enlisted the services of my colleague Senator Mulvihill to ask Senator Cotton, the Minister for Civil Aviation in another place, a question seeking clarification of the Commonwealth Government’s attitude to the statement made by the Premier of New South Wales. 1 quote the question and answer. They read:
Senator MULVIHILL I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the prime responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to expand the tourist industry will the Minister consider whether the Commonwealth Government should pay the same ratio towards meeting the costs of the proposed Lord Howe Island airport as was originally promised when the project was first mooted?
Senator COTTON I am quite familiar with the Lord Howe Island airport situation. I would be quite happy to get some papers together early next week for the honourable senator to have a look at. It may well be that he is proceeding on the basis of information which is not quite correct and that the situation is not quite what he thinks it is. The Commonwealth Government has been most co-operative in this respect. I think it has been more than reasonable and more than prepared to help. If the honourable senator does’ not mind, I will have a talk with him about this matter early next week.
After making inquiries all this week Senator Mulvihill received and passed on to me about 10.20 this evening a letter which he received from Senator Cotton. I quote that letter. It reads:
In the Senate last week you asked the ‘following question and I undertook to explain the position to you at a time mutually convenient’. -.
In view of the prime responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to expand the tourist industry, will the Minister consider whether the Commonwealth Government should pay the same ratio towards meeting the costs of the proposed Lord Howe Island Airport as was originally, promised when the project was first mooted?’
On the one hand there is a strong desire to replace the flying boats with land’ plane services. The flying boats are costly to operate and must be subsidised. A fairly expensive water aerodrome must be contained within Botany Bay for their use. As against that the cost of maintaining the alighting area at Lord Howe Island is ‘much the same as it would cost to maintain, al land aerodrome on the island.
On the other hand, the development .of a land aerodrome at Lord Howe Island by ‘the New South Wales Public Works Department1 is proving to be rather more costly than was first anticipated. In fact the estimated costs have risen from less than $lm to about $1.5m, and most recently to $2.5m.
Those costs could be reduced by adopting an alternative land aerodrome site which rather cuts through the heart of the Island but even then they could add up to something in excess of $2m with normal construction methods.
Both land aerodrome prosposals involve quite serious environmental problems which will need to be considered against the more general benefits which would be forthcoming for the local community and for tourism.
The Commonwealth has offered to offset these capital costs by up to Jim as a special arrangement within the Aerodrome Local Ownership policy. This is rather more than would be available in similar circumstances on the mainland, bearing in mind the size ‘of the local community and even the extent of - local tourist activities. The Commonwealth does not feel that it can go beyond that offer after taking into account the balance of its local ownership commitments throughout the Commonwealth.
One possible solution which is currently under investigation is to see whether or not a rather shorter, and therefore less expensive runway,’ is a practical proposition. This, in turn, would require a medium sized pasenger aircraft with short takeoff and landing capabilities. This aspect is under study by Airlines of New South Wales and the Department of Civil Aviation and it is known that certain aircraft types are under consideration. 1 am hopeful that a generally acceptable solution will be forthcoming. However, at least for the time being, further studies are necessary before a more specific proposal and the related costs can be considered by Government.
I consider the answer by the Minister for Civil Aviation to be totally unsatisfactory. It does not clarify the position at all; it is only stalling. I received a letter from Mr Barry Thompson who, with Messrs N. Fenton - I believe a relative of the in-laws of the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair)- N. Potter and J. Whistler, comprise the Lord How Island Air Service Committee. Mr Thompson expressed the concern of the residents fairly frankly and succinctly. I quote portions of his letter. It reads:
I am again writing to you on the question of the proposed air strip at Lord Howe Island.
Last week the Premier of New South Wales -
He refers here to the letter which I quoted earlier -
The State Government has already spent well in excess of $100,000 on survey and other detailed studies. Equipment which was sent here for this work and was to be. used later this month has been requested to be returned.
As you know Lord How Island depends on its airlink with the mainland which is absolutely vital (should this link be broken how then can we get a seriously ill person to the mainland etc.) and of paramount importance.
I am wondering if it would be in order for you to again raise this matter with the Minister. This question has been going on for almost 17 years and all we seem to get from the authorities concerned is continual knock backs.
I know that you will be doing your utmost to assist.
As I mentioned earlier, I think that the reply from the Minister for Civil Aviation does not clarify the position at all. It is only stalling on a position which has existed for many years. There has been wrangling between the New South Wales State Parliament and the Commonwealth as to how much each will pay. I emphasise that more than 200 residents on this island depend on tourism for their very livelihood.
Sir Reginald Ansett has warned both the New South Wales and the Commonwealth governments that he cannot operate the Sandringham flying boats for much longer because they are practically falling to pieces and maintenance is too expensive. The people want an airstrip on the island as does the airline. The only hold up appears to be the Commonwealth Government. We all realise that despite the fact that the New South Wales Government has offered to share some of the cost it has not the money to contribute any more than it has promised. The Commonwealth has set a ceiling of Sim on its contribution to this project. This means that unless the Commonwealth increases its share the airstrip will not be built.
– It will mean that the island will go out of existence as a tourist centre. At present it is one of the most attractive tourist centres in the whole of Australia. Though the population on this island is small, the people are entitled to the same consideration and respect as any other section of the Australian community. I ask the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz), who represents the Minister for Civil Aviation in this House, whether, to take this matter further he will pass on my remarks to the Minister for Civil Aviation to see whether something can be done to alleviate this position.
– I wish to deal with the autonomy of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which has been subject to recent public criticism and debate. I believe I can speak with some confidence on this subject for the reason that I have defended the ABC on more occasions than I have criticised it. Those who criticise members of the Government for having anything to say about the operations of the ABC make certain untenable basic assumptions. Firstly, they assume that the administration, staff and activities of the Commission should be beyond criticism. Secondly, they assume that all employees of the ABC are politically neutral. Thirdly, they assume that all criticism is politically biased. I do not have a brief for any politician who cannot give a reasonable account of himself in a television interview on neutral ground. What is of more concern to me is the neutrality or otherwise of the context in which the politician, or for that matter the non-politician, is presented.
Those who allege interference by this Government in the operations of the ABC must wilfully set aside the record of the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme), who is soon to retire. Time after time since I entered the Parliament I have heard him answer questions from both sides of the House in which he unwaveringly maintained that the ABC is an autonomous institution and that the nature of its programmes is the concern of ABC management, not of the Government. On more than one occasion I have refrained from asking a question after what appeared to me to be a quite blatant exposure of philosophies opposed to the Government’s and, I believe, opposed to the best interests of the Australian people, in view of his comment that the Commission is responsible for its own programmes. The propaganda tour of Han Suyin is a case in point.
Once we assume that all employees of the ABC are not political neuters, it becomes imperative that those who are responsible for the selection and presentation of news and views should be seen to be unbiased. Once they show a political hand or display more interest in the outcome than in the subject matter, their position in current affairs becomes untenable. This view is reflected in the ABC’s own guidelines for the treatment of current affairs, which have in part been put on record in my speech on this same subject on 10th May last.
If anybody questions my assumption that all ABC operatives are not neutral, they need only consider that the ABC continues to produce candidates for political office, including 3 from the Hobart area in less than 3 years; 2 of whom are identified with the Australian Labor Party and one with the Australia Party. One of these, the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry), has recently claimed on radio that the good audience ratings of programmes such as AM and PM prove their political neutrality. Although I do not at this time question those programmes on political grounds, their popularity proves nothing in regard to partisanship. What is more important than the distribution of political views actually presented on radio or on television is the material, the people, and the political views not presented. These are unknown to the public at large, few of whom have such a persistent or knowledgeable interest in political or current affairs to be more than occasionally aware of the missing links. The selective processes may also favour important areas over less important ones. Thus a pertinent comment on a topical issue made from Hobart is lucky to gain preference over comment on the same subject made from Sydney or Melbourne.
The most recent comment related to the ABC’s autonomy has concerned whether the autonomy applies to the staff rather than the management. When I- involved myself in the issues raised by the resignations of staff members of the Tasmanian This Day Tonight’ programme, over the continued employment of an executive producer with publicly advertised political commitment, I spoke to people in ABC management and received courteous and intelligent assistance. Their interpretations were in accord with the Commission’s own rules and policies. Their consequent instructions, however, were = reported with sufficient lack of balance for it to become necessary for me to make additional comment. The situation now is that the gentleman who transgressed the ABC’s stated policy in relation to current affairs, still operates as executive producer of the programme, while those who- resigned in accord with those principles and who did not reapply for the vacancies so created for precisely the same reason continue to be employed at significantly less salary than they received before resigning in accord with management principles. So much for those who complain about Government interference in the workings of the ABC.
Furthermore, my intervention on clearly stated grounds of principle was assiduously interpreted to an ABC staff meeting as being motivated by the desire- to compromise or undermine the position of the Australia Party candidate for the forthcoming Federal election in Denison, who like the member for Franklin some years ago, is an ABC news reader. I can assure those who found it expedient to run this line that principles are a good deal more important to me than challenges offered by political opponents, whether ABC hews readers or not. I did not spend an estimated year of my life working on one of the more celebrated public controversies in Australia not to be able to recognise a principle when I see it.
The honourable member for Franklin has asserted that the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) has laid down guidelines for his appearances on ABC programmes. Whether that is so or not - neither of us knows - I seem to remember that the leader of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, despite his greater familiarity with the television screen than any practising politician, recently made stipulations about his interviews on ABC programmes. More importantly, I have heard from certain ABC staff members - not in Hobart - that some of their colleagues in current affairs programmes currently seek to embarrass the Government when possible. The main result of that interest is probably the administrative restriction of expenditure on current affairs programmes below a level which might otherwise obtain. The distant offices probably suffer most. Any interplay which exists between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and politicians is not one way traffic. It is important to me, to this House and to the public that the game be played fairly; that is to say, on issues not ideologies.
– By the time the forthcoming election is held I will have served in the national Parliament one week short of 23 years. Tonight I want to refer to a few matters in the time available to me as it will be the last time I speak in this place. What 1 say, Mr Speaker, I leave to posterity to judge. The important thing is that it will be on record. The institution of Parliament is one thing, but it could never hope to operate successfully without the people who service it and that must never be allowed to be forgotten by those whose responsibility it is to govern from time to time. I pay the parliamentary staff at all levels the compliment of being the most loyal and dedicated people in all industry, and I thank them all for their help and friendship over the whole of my parliamentary career. To the parliamentary officers and to the Hansard staff I am also sincerely thankful.
I think it would be wrong if I were to forget the secretarial staff both here and in our electorates. Unfortunately too many of us literally take these folk for granted, yet so many of us could not survive politically if they were not almost constantly at our beck and call. I appreciate all the help they have given and 1 thank them also. In my time here the Parliament seems to have come more and more under the domination of the Executive, the members of which have always well and truly looked after themselves to the definite disadvantage of rank and file members and the staff. 1 believe that the wages staff in particular are grossly underpaid having regard to their responsibilities and the unearthly hours they are required to work when Parliament is in session. I know of no other section of industry that would tolerate its employees reporting back for work without their first of all having a prescribed amount of time off between shifts. In my judgment the democratic processes of Parliament could be made to work much more efficiently if only the Government were to dispense a little more justice all round, rather than to adopt the somewhat avaricious attitude it has shown over the years towards the Ministry and. for the very top flight public servants on whom Ministers depend so much.
Last week I asked the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) a question about members’ salaries and superannuation entitlements. Needless to say, I made little progress in the answer received. Therefore I return to the subject because of my dissatisfaction .with the answer I was given. Never previously have I raised the question of salaries and I do so now when it has no bearing on my future, so it can hardly be said that I am thinking of myself. Apart from back bench members’ salaries, my main concern is for the continued solvency of the superannuation fund. Although the fund is only 24 years old, if the calls being made on it continue to mount the evidence shows that in the course of time either the Government supplement will have to be considerably increased or contributors’ premiums will have to be raised. Alternatively, the fund inevitably will become bankrupt. In the latest report of the Commonwealth Actuary covering the period 1966-1970 he shows in his recommendations concern for an already existing deficit of $114,000 and in effect warns of the possible dangers that lie ahead of the fund if increased earnings are not forthcoming, i seek leave to incorporate the 7 recommendations in Hansard for all to see.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
I recommend that:
I concede that the parliamentary pension entitlement should remain as it is at present, but I do not concede that pensions should be payable to anyone other than an infirm contributor or his spouse earlier than her 55th or his 60th birthday; otherwise the fund will not be strong enough to sustain the expenditure involved. Only last year the Government considerably raised the pensions of certain categories of widows and retired members at a cost of approximately $104,000, but it did nothing for the person widowed after 1968, nor did it do anything for the members who retired in the same period. I would suggest that that state of affairs should be neither allowed nor tolerated.
Much more could be said of the parliamentary superannuation scheme, but I leave that subject and turn briefly to salaries. Speaking for myself, I want to protest about the Government’s refusal to give effect to Mr Justice Kerr’s salary findings of last year, simply to point out the inequalities between members and the Executive, in the hope that in the future there will be no procrastination or stalling once the question of salaries has been properly dealt with, especially the salaries of rank and file members, who need a salary increase rather badly just now, it being 4 years since the last increase was granted. It is evident that the Government withheld the increases simply because the Opposition opposed further increases in ministerial salaries and allowances, which the Opposition considered to be already more than adequate; the Opposition did, however, support increases in the basic salaries. As a result of the ensuing impasse the Government then denied the lot of us any increase at all. In effect, the Government’s refusal to grant salary justice to members last year will mean that those of us who are being compulsorily retired this year will be, in the absence of an assurance that our superannuation will be raised to the level of any salary increases taking place next year, and although every one of us has contributed to the fund to the fullest extent of our parliamentary service, receiving in superannuation something like $1,500 year less than what would have been our entitlement had salary increases been granted.
The remarkable thing about parliamentary salaries and allowances is that discussion of them has always been taboo, either here or in other public places. In my view one does not have to go far to find out why. I suggest it rests fairly and squarely on the Ministry. An examination of the facts will show that all of us in this place receive the same basic salary and electorate allowance, but at that point the back bench member’s standard of living commences to erode. The electorate allowance of an ordinary member is expected to meet all of his commitments, except for his cost of living in Canberra - and the less said of that the better. On the other hand, members of the Executive receive a special allowance of from $10,300 down to $4,000 a year to meet their living costs in Canberra. In addition to that the salary of office ranges from $21,250 a year for the Prime Minister down to $7,500 for a junior Minister with lesser amounts for other office bearers. But the greatest perks of all, which no-one ever reveals and which are taken for granted, are the travelling allowances, which range from $294 a week for the Prime Minister down to $231 a week for Ministers and other office holders. These expenses are paid in addition to the special allowance. The savings to Ministers for motor transport alone must be enormous, if all the factors are examined. They include the cost of the vehicle, drivers’ salaries and expenses, fuel, vehicle registration and insurance, cleaning, maintenance, repairs and depreciation. Ordinary members have to purchase and drive their own vehicles and meet these costs out of salary and electoral expenses.
But what really burns me up, Mr Speaker, is the fact that while members of the Executive receive an electoral allowance allegedly to meet the cost of their electorate expenses, the cost of such things as stamps, telephone, car expenses and running expenses are all met for them by the Government, whereas I and all other backbenchers have to pay for’ them from our salary and electoral allowance. If ever there was a body of men reduced to second grade standards, it is most certainly to be found in this place. We are said to represent the people both in the national spectrum and within our electorates, but what are the facts? The public servants who advise us work under conditions much superior to those we work under. They receive maximum income, superior ancillary rights, superannuation, long service leave and furlough, to mention only a few benefits. After my lifetime of endeavour covering 55 years I now retire without the benefit of long service leave, furlough or maximum superannuation benefits, but I trust that those who will still be here after 2nd December and those who come here as from that date will be able to win much better rewards for their services to the Parliament than it has been my fortune to receive. It is up to members themselves to strive and fight for the equality which I think they deserve.
Friday, 20 October 1972
– Earlier tonight I was gagged, I think quite unnecessarily, during the debate on the estimates for the Repatriation Department and the Department of Social Services. As it turned out, a period of 10 minutes was wasted on a division. I would not have spoken on the adjournment had I been able to speak earlier. I notice that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) is in the House. I do not wish to go over all the ground that was covered by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) regarding the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners. I think it was stated fairly emphatically earlier on in the debate on the estimates. I too want to put a case for wives of TPI pensioners having hospital and medical entitlements. When this matter first broke in my electorate I received a communication from the president of the Central Coast pensioner organisation, and I met representatives of the 6 branches of this organisation. All the arguments have already been put. I believe that the position in which the wives of TPI pensioners are placed is wrong. I asked this organisation about the hospital and medical costs of a pensioner’s wife. I asked one gentleman whose wife is an invalid whether, together with his local doctor, he would please get some details that I could show to the Minister. I would rather not mention this gentleman’s name, but it is available if necessary. He wrote to me:
With reference to our recent meeting at the Tuggerah Lakes Memorial Club, I have endeavoured after consultation with the Medical Practitioner, Chemists etc., I can now present to you an approximate statement of what I consider, will be my medical expenses in the coming year for my wife. . . .
In doing so, may I draw your attention to the fact, that … is a severe Aortic Stenosis and leaking valve of the heart, coupled with Sclerosis, (Coronary). Her age is seventy years and her condition can be expected to become worse, with the passing of time.
Together with his doctor he compiled a list of his expected medical costs for this year. His wife is a very seriously ill woman. He expects to have 26 surgery consultations at $4 each, totalling $104, less medical benefit refunds of $83, leaving an amount payable of $21. He expects 34 in-hours home visits at $5.45, the total cost of which will be Si 86, less medical benefits refunds of $144, leaving a net payable amount of $42. He has calculated that he will have 20 out of hours visits at $7 for a cost of $140, less medical benefits refunds of $85, leaving an amount payable of $55. In regard to medicines he has calculated that 8 prescriptions would be required every 2 weeks, which would cost $260, and that further prescriptions - I cannot quite read how this figure was calculated - would cost $84. Then he has allowed $20 for possible hospitalisation. I think that he has omitted from this list the cost involved in his wife’s joining the fund which, I think the Minister said, would cost about $52 a year. This makes a total of $482. I think that we could add another $52 to that figure, giving a total of $534.
This is just one example of the sort of thing that can occur. I think that the Minister referred to a figure of $590. I think he will agree that there will be little benefit for this patient. I do not believe that this man has exaggerated these costs. He calculated them with his doctor on the basis of the sickness which this lady had suffered during the previous year. That is the sort of problem that has to be overcome and it is the sort of problem that I hope the Minister will take into consideration. I am prepared to give him further details if necessary.
In the 5 minutes remaining to me I want to raise another matter and in this case I will give the gentleman’s name. I made representations to the Minister regarding this matter, and on 13th September 1972 I received a reply from him. This concerns a Mr B. C. Mauger and his claim for a duodenal ulcer to be accepted as related to his war service. Mr Mauger and his family have been known to me for some years. He is a young man. In his reply the Minister said:
My inquiries reveal that Mr Mauger served between 17th July 1968 and 16th July 1970. His service included service in Vietnam from 16th February to 14th May 1970.
That is a period of about 4 months. The letter continues:
On 13th October 1970, Mr Mauger lodged a claim for peptic duodenal ulcer to be accepted as related to his war service. He was medically examined by a Repatriation Board and, on appeal, the Repatriation Commission each decided that his duodenal ulcer was not due to, contributed to, or aggravated by his war service. Medical advice to the Commission is to the effect that his service in Vietnam did not contribute in any manner to the development of the ulcer.
I do not pretend to be a doctor, but I have gone into this case in a fairly detailed way and, as I understand it, the only basis for rejecting this man’s claim was that he had complained, I think before he went into the Army, of having had a stomach ache. On this basis I understand that his claim to have a duodenal ulcer accepted as related to his war service has been rejected. It has been stated that his condition is ‘not due to, contributed to or aggravated by his war service’. I have discussed this matter with doctors, and for the life of me I do not know how any doctor could possibly say that this man’s duodenal ulcer was not related to his war service.
I understand that ulcers are caused by worry and tension. It will be a wonder if all of us do not have ulcers in the next few weeks. How could any doctor in the Repatriation Commission say that a man would not worry about going into the Army? I still get nightmares when I think about my national service although I did not have to serve overseas and I had to serve for only 6 months. How could any doctor say that this man would not worry about going into the Service and, if he was a born worrier, that he would not worry while he was in the Army doing his training and that he would not worry about going to Vietnam? I do not care how many heroes there are around the place. Any normal human being who has any sense or feeling at all is scared about going to a front. He is scared about being shot. I think that the bravest men in the world have been those who have been able to overcome that fear. But they still know fear if they have any feeling at all. lt will be seen from the dates I have given that 5 months after coming out of the Service this man was struck down with this severe duodenal ulcer. I do not know how the doctors can possibly judge that this man’s illness is ‘not due to, contributed to or aggravated by his war service’. It is not often that I have spoken in the Parliament on repatriation matters. I recognise that the position of the Minister for Repatriation is that the matter goes to the board. However, I think that if it is known in a community that the boards and commissions are rejecting claims of this sort it may cause some reaction and stink so that these things can be rectified.
This man has been to Vietnam. The Government is willing to send men to Vietnam, yet the system it has- set up cannot possibly give them economic justice. It is most important - I stressed this to him - that he fight this case now. He is all right at the moment; he is not an. ill person. But he does have this disability and it is a thing that can crop up again and again. He must get it established now as a war caused disability. I am very hopeful that the Minister for Repatriation will look into this matter and do whatever can be done.
– I have registered the points that the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) raised. 1 will look into these matters, particularly the last case to which he referred. I would appreciate receiving the detailed information which he has in relation to both matters. As the honourable member will understand, the best that I can do is to give him an assurance that I will look into them.
– -The matter I wish to raise this evening is one which was brought to my attention by certain constituents of mine who are engaged in the wool industry. Normally, it is not my practice1 to engage in debates on rural matters and I would not have spoken tonight were it not for the scandalous situation which has been brought’ to my attention. The nation, and certainly primary producers, have always thought that those who call themselves members of the Australian Country Party are the watchdogs of the interests of primary producers. How wrong can you be? The public - that is, the taxpayer-r- and the woolgrower are being fleeced. Only the wool brokers are riding in on the sheep’s back.
Let me quote the selling brokers’ service charges for 1971-72. I trust that, honourable members will take note of the . amounts mentioned. These amounts are charges made by a wool broker against a , grower for services rendered. The Commonwealth meets half the cost and the grower meets the other half. The charge for interlotting is $1.30 a bale which equals lc per kilo, i cent of which is paid by the Commonwealth and i cent paid by the grower. For bulk classing wool the broker receives 6.17 cents per kilo of which 3.085 cents is paid by the grower and 3.085 cents by the Commonwealth - once again, the taxpayer. For star class wool the broker receives 3.35 cents per kilo. Once again, 1.765 cents is paid by the grower and 1.765 cents by the taxpayer.
These charges and the alleged service are all part of the Government’s .price averaging plan, commonly known as PAP, for the wool industry. In all fairness, the theory of this plan probably is sound but the practice is rotten through and through. Because this Government continues to insist upon and support the inefficient so-called free enterprise system, private brokers are left to sell wool on behalf of the growers. Let me explain what happens from the time of shearing to the disposal by auction of the clip. As I understand it, each shed usually has a wool classer working in the shed as the sheep are shorn. He classes the wool as it is rolled and baled. This wool is forwarded to a broker whose task it is to warehouse it and offer it for sale at auction. As I understand it further, wool is offered either as star lots - that is, lots in excess of 4 bales of like quality wool from one grower - or interlotted, where lots of less than 4 bales of like quality from various growers are added together and offered as large lots. Or, if wool cannot be offered in either of these terms, the bales are ostensibly opened and the wool is re-classed, on occasion re-branded, and again offered as large lots.
But here comes the rub. The record will show that prior to the introduction of PAP, large quantities of wool were sold as inter.lotted lots, much was sold as star lots and little was re-classed. However, since the introduction of PAP in July 1970 the practice has grown for brokers to offer star lots in much the same proportion as before, but interlotting is now almost unknown whilst bulk classing has become standard practice. An attempt must be made by the broker on 3 separate occasions to match 1, 2 or 3 bale lots with other similar lots to establish an interlotted lot. If he cannot, or rather claims he cannot, this wool is bulk classed.
Let us examine the mechanics of what happens. Star lots attract a payment of 3.53c per kilo to the broker - half taxpayer, half grower. Bulk classed lots attract 6.17c per kilo - half taxpayer, half grower. So there is no incentive to encourage brokers to practise interlotting. In fact, the incentive exists to bulk class wool. This appears to be what is happening in the wool industry today. No check is made as to whether attempts are made to interlot. No check is made as to whether the broker physically reclasses wool which has been classed at the shearing shed anyhow. The broker’s word is accepted on these issues. Therefore, the bulk of wool is marketed as bulk classed. Evidence exists that brokers without facilities to bulk class are claiming to bulk class wool. The evidence shows further that wool is removed from the grower’s bale, rebaled, rebranded and put up as bulk classed wool without any attempt being made to interlot it.
An undeserved profit of 5.17c per kilo may not sound like very much money, but it is $6.72 per bale or $67 per 10 bales or $672 per 100 bales. If one adds that up for the number of bales of wool marketed each year, one can see how the taxpayer is being fleeced, the grower is having the wool pulled over his eyes and the broker is riding on the sheep’s back. There is no suggestion that every broker engages in this nefarious practice, but the profits of these wool brokers have been very high recently. For example, Elder Smith-Goldsbrough Mort Ltd showed a profit last year of $5m. By any standard, that is not a bad profit. One wonders how much the Australian taxpayer and the wool grower contributed unnecessarily to that profit.
– In the absence of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) I feel that I should make a small contribution following the address by the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson). He gave a lot of detailed figures. I am sure that anyone who was unaware of the actual position would be very confused by what the honourable member just said. I will not dispute or agree with the figures that he produced. I assure him that I will make sure that the Minister studies the figures and makes absolutely certain that what the honourable member has presented to the House is correct, because figures quoted in the form in which the honourable member has quoted them can be very misleading to the public.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.24 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following tabulation has been compiled using published information.
Tonnage of iron ore exported to Japan in each of the last five years:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
Can he yet give any indication of the time which will be required for the full reappraisal of the Burdekin River Scheme which is being undertaken by a working group of Commonwealth and State officials established in August, 1971 <Hansard, 24th February, 1972, page 307).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question Ls as follows:
The joint Commonwealth-Slate appraisal of the Burdekin Basin now in progress will of necessity take some years to complete. This is due to the vastness and diversity of the Burdekin River Basin and the complex problems involved in considering future water needs for urban, irrigation, power generation and industrial (including minerals) purposes as well as flood mitigation aspects. The honourable member will recall that I furnished some detailed information to him on this subject by letter of 12th April, 1972.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
Mir N. H. Bowen - The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The Attorney-General has supplied the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Deserted Wives and Wives of Prisoners (Question No, 6366)
asked the Minister for the
Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Department of Civil Aviation: Regional Office in Sydney (Question No. 6377)
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Real Estate Agents: Trust Accounts (Question No. 6435)
asked the Minister for the
Interior, 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:
Commissioner wrote to Mr M audling about the administration of the British Immigration Act in so far as it affects visiting Australians and the treatment they are accorded by immigration officers at ports of entry. A reply was received on 21st June 1972. The High Commissioner has waited until the new Home Secretary, Mr Robert Carr, has had time to settle into his new department before taking up these matters with him. I am informed that the High Commissioner is to have a meeting with Mr Carr on 19th October 1972.
asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question’ . is as follows:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
What number and proportion of (a) sponsored students and (b) private students from Malaysia were of (i) Malay and (ii) Chinese descent. (Hansard 23rd August 1972, page 629).
Mi N. H. Bowen - The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
New South Wales
Australian Catholic Guild Friendly Society (formerly known as the Australasian Holy Catholic Guild of St Mary and St Joseph Registered Friendly Benefit Society).
Bulli District Hospital Contribution Fund, The.
Cessnock District Hospital Contribution Fund. Grand United Order of Oddfellows, Friendly Society of New South Wales, The.
Hibernian Australasian Catholic Society of New South Wales.
The Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia.
Kurri Kurri Maitland Hospital Contribution Fund, The.
Independent Order of Odd Fellows of the State of New South Wales.
New South Wales District, No. 83, Independent Order of Rechabites, Salford Unity, Friendly Society.
Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows. Friendly Society, in New South Wales, The.
Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd.
Protestant Alliance Friendly Society of Australasia Grand Council of New South Wales.
United Ancient Order of Druids, Registered Friendly Society, Grand Lodge of New South Wales, The. Victoria
Ancient Order of Foresters in Victoria Friendly Society, The.
Australian Natives’ Association.
Geelong Medical and Hospital Benefits Association.
Grand United Hospital Benefit .Society (Incorporating The Grand United Order of Oddfellows) in Victoria Friendly Society
Grand United Order of Free Gardeners of Australasia, The.
The Hibernian Australasian Catholic Society, Victoria District No.- 1.
The Hospital Benefits Association.
Independent Order of Odd Fellows of ViC.toria
The Irish National Foresters’ Benefit Society. Latrobe Valley Hospitals and Health Services Association.
The Manchester Unity Independent Order ot Oddfellows in Victoria.
The Mildura District Hospital and Medical ‘ Fund.
Order of the Sons of Temperance National Division Friendly Society, The.
Protestant Alliance Friendly Society of Australasia Grand Council of Victoria. The. .
United Ancient Order of Druids.
Yallourn Medical and.Hospital Society, The’. Queensland
Ancient Order of Foresters Friendly Society’ in Queensland. “ ‘
Hibernian Australasian Catholic Benefit Society, Queensland District No. S.
Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd.
Protestant Alliance Friendly Society of Australasia in Queensland (The Grand Council).
Queensland District, No. 87, Independent
Order of Rechabites, Friendly Society, The. Queensland Branch of the Manchester- Unity
Independent Order of Oddfellows Friendly
Society, The. South Australia Albert District No, 83, Independent Order of
Rechabites, Salford Unity, The. Hibernian Australasian Catholic Benefit
Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society in South Australia.
Mutual Hospital Association Lid, The.
National Health Services Association of South Australia.
South Australian District, No. 81 Independent Order of Rechabites Friendly Society, The. Tasmania
Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd.. St Luke’s Medical and Hospital Benefits Association.
United Ancient Order of Druids Grand Lodge of Tasmania, The.
Organisations with a membership of less than 100,000 members: $5.00 for each 10,000 members or part thereof.
Organisations with a membership of 100,000 or more members: $50.00 for each 100,000 members or part thereof - but not more than $300.
The amount and incidence of subscriptions to be paid by members in subsequent years may be varied at the Association’s Annual General Meeting. I understand that the Association’s subscription income to 29th February 1972, was $2,675.
No. I have no reason to believe that the Association was formed for purposes other than its stated objectives. These objectives are:
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The AttorneyGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Aboriginal Justices of the Peace (Question No. 6319)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
How many Aboriginals have been commissioned as Justices of the Peace in (a) the Australian Capital Territory and (b) the Northern Territory.
– The AttorneyGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
I am nol in a position to give accurate information of the kind sought by the question. Applicants for appointment as Justices of the Peace in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are not required to state whether they are Aboriginals. As a result, the records relating to appointments contain no relevant information. However, 1 am aware that 2 Aboriginals hold appointments as Justices of the Peace in the Australian Capital Territory. In relation to the Northern Territory, 1 am not aware of any Aboriginals holding appointments.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following, answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
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 the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The matter is the responsibility of the Tasmanian State Government and the question would be more appropriately addressed to the State Minister. However, I have sought information from the State Minister for Environment and will provide the honourable member with a copy, of his reply.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 October 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1972/19721019_reps_27_hor81/>.