27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged tor 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 $240m.
Australia’s aid policies be reviewed so that aid given provides maximum benefit to the peoples of developing countries.
Australia’s trade policies be reviewed to provide more favourable conditions for developing countries by Mr Anthony, Mr Howson, Mr Crean, Mr Jacobi and Mr Lloyd.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors in the State of New South Wales respectfully sheweth:
The outdoor seating needs to be renewed; the playground area needs to be re-grassed; the patio area needs a roof to be erected over it.
Your petitioners therefore respectfully pray that your Honourable House will (i) made immediately a substantial Federal emergency grant to all State Governments for education services and (ii) carry Out a public national survey to determine needs of the States after 1975.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Armitage and Mr Dobie.
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 shortage has become more acute as more mothers join the work force.
In advanced countries pre-school and afterschool education are recognised as essential aspects of education for all children.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to provide the necessary finance to enable State education departments and local government authorities to establish:
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Hayden and Dr Klugman.
Advertising in Telephone Directories
The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That we, the undersigned, protest against the action of the Commonwealth Government in letting the contract for the advertising rights for the Victorian Pink Pages Telephone Directories to an American Company, General Telephone & Electronics Corp. U.S.A., trading in Australia as Directories (Aust.) Pry Ltd.
That this will mean that the American Company now controls the Telephone Directory Advertising in all but one State of the Commonwealth.
We respectfully request that this contract be revoked in the National interest, and your petitions, as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Dobie.
To the Honourable 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 restore to the Australian people the religious freedom which can exist only when Church and State are legally separated both in form and substance.
And your pettiioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Drury.
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 of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That we, the citizens of the Commonwealth, earnestly request our Government to:
Provide long service leave, after the appropriate qualifying period, to all temporary Commonwealth female cleaners who work 24 hours per week or less.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Gorton. Petition received.
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 requirements 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 assessories 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 Keating.
Education: Children with Learning Disabilities
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively sheweth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate action to provide sufficient funds for the States to finance the setting up and maintenance throughout Australia of:
And your petitioners, as in duly bound, will every pray. by Mr Whitlam. Petition received.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. Has the Government rejected the new defence forces retirement benefits scheme recommended by the Jess Committee? If so, will the Prime Minister outline to the Parliament for the benefit of Australia’s 80,000 servicemen the reason for such a shameful about-face? Would rejection of the scheme represent a flagrant breach of an undertaking given by the Minister for Defence on 20th September that legislation to implement the new scheme would be introduced next year and made retrospective to 17th October?
– The Government has not announced its intentions about the scheme up till this moment in a positive and definitive way. I have this under my personal supervision. I will be discussing it with my colleagues this afternoon or this morning.
– I ask the Prime Minister a supplementary question on the same subject.
-Order! I do not recognise a right to ask supplementary questions, but I will call the honourable member in view of his position as Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Has this matter been discussed by Cabinet and has Cabinet made a decision to reject the Committee’s recommendations?
– As soon as the Government is in a position to make a definitive statement it will do so.
– Why do you not answer the question?
– As soon as the Government is in a position to make the statement it will do so, and it will do it in this House if that is practicable.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. I refer to recent public concern over the possible environmental effects of Concorde aircraft flights were they to be made over the Australian continent. Is the honourable gentleman aware that flights could be made between Sydney or Melbourne and London entirely over water by following a great circle route over Antarctica and to the east of South America? In case the Minister foresees landing difficulties between Australia and Rio, I ask him whether he will explore the possibilities of Marie Byrd Land, where the Little America base already receives considerable traffic.
– I did read some comment recently on a somewhat similar matter. As the honourable member will be aware, at present no arrangements have been made for supersonic transport commercial services. The British Aircraft Corporation and its French counterpart are endeavouring to sell the Concorde throughout the world. I understand that they have several firm orders for these aircraft but the major airlines that operate from Australia at the moment have not yet made any decision in relation to services. However, in anticipation that there could be services operating with this aircraft in the future the Australian Department of Civil Aviation, in conjunction with its overseas counterparts, has been carrying out some examination of possible routes. The information that the honourable member has provided in his question will certainly be taken into account.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question. Is it a fact that overseas shipowners are seeking another 15 per cent rise in freight rates to carry our fruit to Europe next season? Is the Minister aware that already overseas freights at about $2.50 a case for Australian apples and pears to Europe take up 60 per cent of the price received for the fruit? Because the industry cannot absorb further freight rises without disaster, will the Government as a matter of urgency either subsidise overseas freights next season or charter Israeli and Swedish ships to carry our fruit outside the conference line shipping monopoly as New Zealand is doing at 50c a case less?
– The honourable member for Wilmot will know that the negotiation of apple and pear freights is left very much in the hands of the industry itself and that it is not the role of government to intervene too strongly in these commercial activities. It is well within the competence of the negotiating parties to seek to obtain charter ships if that is in their view possible, more economic and practicable. I do not think there is any doubt that in the past the negotiating parties so far as the apple and pear industry is concerned have done a pretty remarkable job on behalf of growers in Tasmania. I am aware of the great concern that freight rates must be to the honourable member and to the apple and pear growers of Tasmania. I will see, after consulting with my colleague the Minister for Trade and Industry, what other action can be taken to assist.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he and his Ministers will be, over the next few weeks, explaining to the people of Australia for achievements of the Government and its policies for the future. Assuming that this is so, will the Prime Minister give an assurance that those policies and achievements will be put forward solely by people who are elected by the people of Australia and responsible to the people through this Parliament? Has the Prime Minister noticed that another political party seems to be departing from that principle - thus giving some concern to some sections of the community and, indeed, to sections even within that party - and will he give an assurance that that practice will not be followed within his own Party or the coalition?
– The question asked by the honourable gentleman raises a fundamental difference in organisation and philosophy between the Opposition and the Liberal and Country parties. Under the Liberal and Country parties’ system of government, it is the parliamentary members themselves who decide what the policies are and it will be for the leaders and the members of those parties to explain not only those policies but also the remarkable achievements of the Government over the period of the last 18 months. It is well known and beyond dispute or even argument that honourable gentlemen on the other side of the House are controlled by an outside organisation not responsible to this House, lt happens to be a matter of great significance that the leading role in explaining the policies of the Australian Labor Party is now being taken by people who are not representative of this House and who are not endorsed as candidates in the election. We hope that in at least 2 instances they appear on television as much as is practicable; I think it helps the Liberal and Country parties’ cause.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister. This question is without notice. Was the present Economic Attache of the Philippines Embassy refused diplomatic accreditation while the right honourable member for Higgins was Prime Minister and the present Prime Minister was Minister for Foreign Affairs, because of the Attache’s dealings in the Philippines and on Australian racecourses?
Was this Attache later granted accreditation when the right honourable gentleman himself became Prime Minister? Has he checked the report that this diplomat was appointed without the knowledge or approval of President Marcos? Will he now table all documents relating to the Government’s change of attitude in relation to this appointment after he became Prime Minister?
– The accreditation as the plenipotentiary of President Marcos was refused by me as Minister for Foreign Affairs on my instigation and with my full approval and recommendation. It was I who made the decision and it was I who ensured that it was carried out. It is true that subsequently, under a different name and a different kind of operation altogether and with the approval of the Philippines Government with which I personally ensured that there was a check, this matter was carried out with that Government’s approval and this man became an accredited representative here as, I believe, a commercial attache. Those are the facts. If the honourable gentleman wants to seek some reason> at least he can be certain of this; When I was Minister for Foreign Affairs I did not approve of this man being given the position of plenipotentiary.
– Will the Minister for the Army Indicate the intent, as well as any expense involved, in the naming of the new Army helicopter the ‘Kalkadoon’?
– 1 am pleased that the honourable member brought up this matter. Reference k made today in the ‘Australian’ to the expenditure involved in the renaming of the new Army light observation helicopter.
– I rise on a point of order. Standing Orders provide that questions shall be without notice. The question which the Minister is answering is an obvious Dorothy Dixer directed to him by a member of his own Party. The answer to the question is already prepared. For God’s sake stop making a farce of question time.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. As I have said dozens of times, the Chair is not in a position to make-
– It has become a farce.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister is reading the answer to this Dorothy Dix question. Is that allowed?
-Order! That shows intelligent anticipation. I call the Minister for the Army.
– Mr Speaker, even with the hysteria that is overtaking honourable members opposite because of electoral trends, one would imagine that they would appreciate the fact that naturally I would be prepared for a question of this nature. Reference was made today in the ‘Australian’ to the expenditure involved in the renaming of the new Army light observation helicopter under a headline relating to a $70,000 stir’. The only stir in the Army is that the newspaper’s source of information should so mislead the media which, I may say, has been splendid in assisting me to bring Army activities closer to the Australian people. My door is open to all representatives of the media at any time, and neither I nor the Army has anything to hide. It is unfortunate that the facts in this matter were not checked with me. The renaming of the helicopter was based on national pride, and I am sure that just about all Australians would agree with my policy that it is high time that their major items of equipment should carry Australian, not foreign, names. Let me get this message across loud and clear, and I expect that it will be given publicity comparable to that given in today’s newspaper article. The costs involved-
– Did it cost $70,000?
– Settle down, will you? Go and play with your yo-yo or something.
– At least the Minister should stick to his script.
– You are-
-Order! I suggest that the House come to order. There have been too many interjections by far. The Minister is entitled to answer a question that has been asked by an honourable member.
– I think he came in-
-Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh will remain silent while I am speaking. I suggest that the Minister complete his answer.
– The costs involved in the renaming of the Kalkadoon were something less than $2,000- about $1,600 - and this included the cost of a familiarisation study of conditions in an area where the monsoonal rains almost yearly create emergency conditions of extreme concern. I refer to one other matter that was mentioned in the newspaper article. There is no requirement to change any technical or procurement documents as the result of the change in name. The administrative requirements for the change in name are being met by the issue of an Army routine order - tremendously costly! If just one life is saved, if this operation arouses some new element of national pride, if it makes people in remote areas of this nation who contribute billions of dollars to the national economy feel that they are not forgotten, that minor expense was more than justified.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior a question. Was the Minister correctly reported in the recent publication of the Australian League of Rights as suggesting that communists were behind the agitation for Aboriginal land rights?
– So they are.
– I should like that interjection recorded.
-The interjection will automatically be recorded now that you have acknowledged it.
– That is why I said that. Was the Minister also further correctly reported as saying that he personally believed the League was doing a good job? As the Minister with responsibilities covering sensitive questions of race relations, is he willing to dissociate himself from the views of this racist and anti-Semitic association, as his Leader has described it?
– I have said in this House, and I did tell a group of people at Perenjori, that there was pot the slightest doubt that members of the Communist Party and communist elements were associated with activist groups among Aborigines fighting for land rights. I have no doubt that this is true.
– So what?
– By the same token I in no way denigrate good Australians who believe in a certain course of action, but there are communists in Australia who are endeavouring to hop on every bandwagon they can in order to divide the Australian community. I am against any organisation or any political group that is hellbent on dividing the Australian community.
– Is the Minister for the Interior aware that the sun is expected to set in Adelaide on 2nd. December at 8.16 p.m. daylight saving time? As some religious sects cannot, vote on Saturdays between sunrise and sunset will the Minister give publicity to the fact that such people can, instead, make a postal vote?
– The reply is yes to both questions. Section 85 of the Electoral Act provides that a person who, because of religious beliefs, is unable to attend a polling booth during certain hours may apply for a postal vote. On Wednesday, 22nd November, we will be publishing the provisions applying to those people, who wish to record a postal vote. Adequate publicity will be given to those who, because of religious beliefs, will have difficutly. in voting, as the honourable member suggests.
– Will the Prime Minister protest to the British Prime Minister about the blatant discrimination against Australian nationals seeking employment in the United Kingdom? If the reply he receives is not satisfactory will he undertake to remove any preferential commerical treatment at present enjoyed by the United Kingdom in Australia?
– I am grateful to the honourable member for asking this question. In recent days the Australian High Commissioner has had very useful discussions with, I think, Mr Carr and other members of the United Kingdom Government relating to the entry of Australians into the United Kingdom. He has suggested that they should be given treatment which indicates quite clearly, if I may be permitted to use this phrase, that they are members of the Commonwealth and should be treated as such. From the correspondence that I have received during the course of the last few days the British Government has seemed to me to be taking this matter very seriously and to understand the position taken by the Australian Government. So far as I am able to ascertain, the British Government is anxious that the special relationship between the 2 countries should be sustained.
– Can the Minister for Foreign Affairs inform the House as to the present situation with respect to damage caused by the cyclone in the Fijian islands? Will he assure the House that the Government stands ready to help the nations of the South Pacific which may be deleteriously affected by this cyclone?
-I should like to express the concern of the Government at the damage which has occurred as a result of the hurricane and to express its sympathy to those who have been injured and suffered damage to property and to the relatives of those who have lost their lives. At the present time there is no request from the Fijian Government for particular assistance from us. It is too early at this stage to say what help might be asked of us. However, we are watching the position closely. Certainly this is one of the areas with which we have a special relationship and we will consider very sympathetically any needs that arise out of such a disaster.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I draw his attention to the millions of gallons of crude oil and petroleum products that are being imported in foreign owned and manned ships. Why is the Government permitting these imports in foreign owned and manned tankers while Australian owned tankers are tied up and Australian seamen are being thrown out of work on the basis that cargoes are not available?
– The simple fact is that if there were not a couple of communist organisers organising strikes around the countryside there would be a much greater balance in the use of Australian oil and imported oil. The honourable member and his whole Party can take no comfort whatsoever from the way they performed during the course of the oil strike. I say in passing that, had it not been for the actions of this Government in encouraging a climate in which Mr Justice Moore as arbitrator and umpire could come into the field, the oil strike might still have been with us. Because of the attitude adopted by both the Leader of the Opposition and the Senior VicePresident of the Australian Labor Party, who is the real spokesman for that Party in this nation, the oil strike might still have been with us. i Coming to the facts of the case, it is true to say that imported oil is coming onto the coast, but it is also true to say that Australia has not yet found enough oil for its own domestic use. I think that about 20 per cent of the final product comes from Australian oil wells. Naturally enough, there is a big imbalance. If the honourable member takes that into account he will find the reasons for which he asked in his question.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry noticed reports of improved sales figures in the wine industry, particularly when consumption per head figures are studied? Is he aware, however, that this flow-on has not reached some sections of the industry such as those handling bulk wines? Can he suggest any method by which these sections of the industry can be helped to become economic - a matter commented on in the Grant report?
– Several sections of the wine industry, unfortunately, have not enjoyed improved sales. The fortified wines sales figures in particular have been static and, in fact, declining slightly over the last couple of years. On the other hand, table wines sales figures have been improving quite significantly. The latest figures show that in the last 12-month period there has been an increase of about 10 per cent in domestic consumption. In the bulk wines sector there has been some improvement too. The difficulties facing those who are responsible for growing wines have been concerned largely with the marketing of their product and the vertical integration that has taken place within many of the proprietary wineries. As a result, the cooperatives, particularly those in the honourable member’s electorate and in other areas where bulk wines have been produced for sale elsewhere, have found it necessary to establish their own marketing organisation. I believe that, as a result of this endeavour on their own behalf, they will be able to sell this year’s vintage quite effectively and profitably.
Nonetheless, there are difficulties in the promotion sector. Arising out of our consideration of the Grant report, I have had discussions with the Australian Wine Board to see whether we can expand the promotion efforts, particularly abroad but also within Australia, to ensure that in every possible way an effort is made to sell the whole of the Australian vintage. Some very good wines are being grown in Australia. The Australian dietary pattern is ensuring a greater domestic consumption. Providing the consumers of Australia recognise the quality of Australian wine and we are able to sell our quality wines abroad as well as at home, I believe that there is every reason to expect that the secondary industry with which the honourable gentleman is concerned will restore itself to profitable operations before too long.
– I am greatly indebted to the honourable gentleman for the advice he has given on the price structure of
Thompson seedless raisins. I do know that, in general, dried fruits have been selling on a much stronger market this year, as a result of which there has been a significant improvement in prices paid throughout the world for Australian dried fruit. Indeed, earlier this week I was in parts of the Mallee region, where, of course, many of Australia’s dried vine fruits are produced and, as a result of discussions there, I gained the impression that there is renewed optimism on the part of those who are engaged in the industry.
I suspect that the comparison which the honourable gentleman has given between American prices and Australian prices is not completely valid because each sells on a different market. For instance, because of the rising market there has been a very considerable improvement in returns to the Australian grower. The prospects for the industry in the course of the next couple of years are very buoyant as a result. The one cloud on the horizon is that both Greece and Turkey are likely to become or are already associate members of the European Economic Community. They are 2 of our principal competitors in the selling of dried vine fruits in the markets of the world. One can only hope that they will increase their prices so that the price structure throughout the world will be more related to the cost of production in a country such as Australia. If Greece and Turkey are prepared to maintain the price structure that has been set in the United States, and now for Australian dried fruits, I believe that the whole of the future of the industry will be a very buoyant one.
– I wish to direct a question to the Treasurer: Is the Treasurer aware that the Income Tax Assessment Act requires a resident of Australia to pay income tax on income which is earned overseas but which, under the laws of the overseas country, he cannot receive? Will he say whether Australian laws require estate duty to be paid on overseas assets which have been frozen under the laws of another country and the use of which have been denied to the owner? Will he give consideration to amending any federal laws which require an Australian resident to pay tax on overseas assets or any income from those assets where it can be clearly established that, because of the laws of another country, the resident is denied the use of such assets or income for as long as he remains a resident of Australia?
– I saw reports recently about a certain taxpayer in Australia who is a former resident of South Africa. Perhaps this is the case to which the honourable gentleman refers. The resident of South Africa had an estate in South Africa, but because of the exchange control regulations of South Africa he could not withdraw his assets from that country and, in fact, he could not even receive the dividend that was paid on those assets in South Africa; yet under the law the Commissioner of Taxation was obliged to assess him and to require him to pay Australian income tax on the dividends earned from the assets in South Africa which were not available to him. The man took the matter to the High Court and the High Court ruled that he was obliged to pay. I will see what progress has been made on the examination of this issue of whether there ought to be relief. This matter has come to light in regard to one person but others may be affected as well. I notice that the honourable gentleman in his question referred also to the issue of estate duty. 1 will ensure that this matter is examined as well as the income tax provision.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question. In answer to a question on notice he told me that goods traffic on the standard gauge railway between Melbourne and Wodonga had declined in each of the last 2 years because some traffic between New South Wales and South Australia and Western Australia is now going via Broken Hill. Since goods traffic through Broken Hill also declined by more than 10 per cent in the last year, I ask the Minister what reason he can give for this substantial economic decline.
– I am not able to give the answer to the question of the Leader of the Opposition. I will seek specific information in relation to it and provide him with a written answer.
– I ask the Minister for the Army: To what extent does the Army specify the use of wool in preference to other fabrics for uniforms and clothing?
– I can well appreciate the honourable member’s question because it was a subject that we used to discuss frequently before I took on my present responsibilities. The policy of the Government is that, wherever possible, we use locally manufactured goods and local products, whether they be of a primary or a secondary industry nature. As regards wool, there has been close liaison between the clothing development section and the general research branch of the Army and the Services generally, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Australian Wool Board, with the result that wherever possible a wool fibre is used. I am very pleased to be able to inform the honourable member that something like 40 articles have either a 100 per cent wool content or the greater part of the content is wool.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. Is it a fact that 18 acres of land were resumed by the Army for defence purposes from the Shire of Belmont in Western Australia and subsequently released by the Minister for the Army, for which I thank him? Is it a fact that the land is to be offered back to the Shire at current market value of approximately $10,000 per acre? Is the Minister aware that this land is to be used for community amenities, including aged persons homes? Is he aware that the high price asked would negate any benefit of subsidy received from the Commonwealth for those homes? In view of the use to which the land will be put, will the Minister intervene to see that the property is returned to the shire at a price in keeping with the few hundred dollars paid by the Commonwealth when it compulsorily resumed the land?
– There has been a lot of correspondence and discussion relative to the matter that the honourable member has raised. Under the Lands Acquisition Act the Commonwealth can dispose of land, firstly, only when lt is declared surplus. When land has been declared by a Commonwealth department to be surplus it is my Department’s responsibility to ascertain whether other Commonwealth agencies or departments have a use for the land. If they have not, the normal process is for it to be offered back to the State authorities and, if they have no use for it, the land is then offered to local authorities. But in all cases we can only dispose of that land at the valuation at the time of disposal, unless it is to be set aside for recreational purposes. I am examining the matter raised by the honourable member and I will supply him with the latest information m regard to the proposition he made.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Now that the Government has entered into the field of pre-school and child minding centres, will it allow income tax deductions for expense incurred by single mothers, widows and widowers who wish to earn their living and not be dependent on pensions and who wish to send their children to a pre-school of their choice or make their own provision for the care of those children?
– The honourable gentleman should recognise that this is a policy matter.
– I do.
– Then he should know, if it is a policy matter, that it is not suitable to be raised at question time.
– Was the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs drawn to a television programme in which Peter Couchman stated that a very large percentage of war orphans in Vietnam were going to starve to death? Is any action intended by the Commonwealth Government in its civil aid programme in Vietnam to sustain the lives of those children?
-I did not see the programme, nor was my attention called to it. Therefore I have no knowledge of the detail of what Mr Couchman said. However, now that the honourable member has raised the matter I shall have some inquir ies made. If there is any further information that I can give him I will do so by letter.
– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. When the sales pattern of an industry such as the wine industry is good and improving, but some sections are lagging, would he say that such an intrastate situation is the constitutional problem of the State Government concerned? When States have an incapacity to help financially, does provision exist for Federal financial help?
– In the organisation of agriculture in Australia State governments still have the major responsibility. In fact, the function of the Australian Agricultural Council is to bring together the diverse policies of the 6 States and to endeavour to co-ordinate them through the assistance and chairmanship of the Commonwealth. In most fields of agriculture, including wine, there is little opportunity to develop the well-being of specific areas unless State governments also formulate policies in terms of promotion and sales of the product, in the organisation of production and in assistance towards the rational production and marketing of particular crops. In the wine industry this is equally true. I feel sure that in considering the statistics to which the honourable gentleman referred, attention needs to be paid by State governments as well as the Federal Government if the fundamental problems of the industry are to be resolved.
– I again ask the Minister for the Interior: Was he correctly reported as saying that he personally believed the Australian League of Rights was doing a good job and will he dissociate himself from the views of this racist and anit-semetic association?
– I shall be seeking after question time leave to make a personal explanation with respect to that particular report. I have been misrepresented.
– I address to the Treasurer a question relating to 2 Bills which deal with non-life insurance. In view of the real possibility that a number of unsound insurance companies will collapse between now and when the House resumes can he give the Government’s estimate of the number of policy holders who could be affected as the result of a collapse? In view of the fact that over the past 2i years 14 companies have gone into liquidation with an amount of $9m involved, will the Minister give an assurance to the House that these Bills will pass through all stages before the House rises? After 2i years, during which time I have had on 12 occasions evasive replies dished up to me, will the Minister on this occasion give a simple decisive answer in the affirmative?
– The Government’s attitude is not to give replies which are geared to satisfying a particular group in the community. It has concern for the whole community. The whole community in this case includes the insurance industry which has operated in this country since the first settlement. It has developed over the years into an industry which has given tremendous support to the Australian people in the provision of insurance, the lending of money and in financing the development of Australia.
– Do your Bills not look after that?
-Order! I suggest that the interjections cease.
– All I want is a simple answer.
-Order! The honourable member for Hawker has asked his question and he will receive an answer.
– He has had 2i years to answer it.
-The honourable member will restrain himself.
– They are a bunch of confifence
-Order! If the honourable member persists I will suggest to the Minister that he should not continue and the honourable member will not get an answer.
– The honourable member has been anxious for this legislation to be passed but no more anxious than I have been to have it passed. The honourable member has mentioned this matter to me on a number of occasions. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports had a discussion with me the other day about making available officers to discuss the matter with him. I offered to provide them to him in company with any members of the Opposition whom the honourable member wished to bring along, and the honourable member for Hawker was one who came with him. So the honourable member for Hawker knows the exact position in relation to our readiness to present the Bill to this House. If I were able to fee! certain that the whole industry had been consulted about it I would be able to put to the Government all the views of the industry. It is the industry that has to live with the legislation and the whole of the industry consists of companies that hold insurance policies for all Australians. It is therefore absolutely imperative to have the views of the industry.
On Friday of last week I received from the industry informally a number of suggestions in relation to the Bill. I received the formal representations from the industry in my Department, as I remember it, at about 11 a.m. yesterday. When I received those representations I asked for communication to be made immediately with the industry asking industry representatives to assemble here today to talk to me and go through those representations in detail. I have been in the House since question time commenced and I have not had confirmation of the arrival of the industry representatives but I fully expect that they will be here this afternoon. After I have discussed with the representatives of the industry all their problems I shall then take a decision to recommend to the Government that the Bill should be passed this session; that it should stand over - in that case it will have to be reintroduced in the next Parliament; or that the legislation should be passed with one or 2 sections eliminated so that there is a basic foundation to deal with what one might call the ‘fringe areas’ of insurance that are subject to the sort of difficulty that has occurred in the past. I will be spending a great deal of time on the matter today. If I can achieve total industry co-operation I will proceed with the legislation. If I cannot get total industry co-operation for reasons which industry representatives put to me and which I assess with my expert officers as good and valid, the decision will be that the legislation cannot be passed.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Education and Science. Is it a fact that with the proposed flat rate per capita subsidies to students in non-State schools together with generous taxation concessions and also a high proportion of Commonwealth senior secondary scholarships, many children of parents in upper income groups will be receiving more than 100 per cent of the equivalent costs of educating a child in a government school? By contrast, will many more children of parents in lower income groups in non-State schools receive 47 per cent or less of such costs? Finally, why does the Government insist on giving such beneficial treatment to certain already privileged private school students as compared with its inadequate provisions for the mass of students in government and less affluent private schools?
-The honourable gentleman is obviously seeking to demonstrate what I think the Opposition has sought to demonstrate - and I believe completely falsely - for some time, namely, a bias in the Commonwealth’s education policies in favour of one particular group of schools. Of course, the facts are that the Commonwealth is doing a great deal to improve the quality of education right across Australia and we have quite specific programmes designed to discriminate positively in favour of disadvantaged groups. It is this Government that has introduced these policies. The honourable member for Barton has failed completely to recognise the changed basis of the Commonwealth secondary scholarships which out of the total value of the secondary scholarship over 2 years will provide $500 of the $800 available to students from low income families. This is something again which completely alters the kind of mathematics the honourble member would want to pursue. If the honourable member wants to compare a student in a government school with a student in an independent school - and I will give some figures in a moment - he has to take students at both levels who may have 8 scholarship. If he wants to compare students who do not have a scholarship he should compare students from government schools who do not have scholarships with students from independent schools who do not have scholarships. But to compare a student in one group of schools who has a scholarship with another student in another group of schools who has not is to compare things which are quite unlike.
Let me take a low income family which sends a child to a government secondary school. If we take the cost of education in that school as about $530 a year and add the very modest tax deduction allowance which all parents claim - as I am talking about a low income family let us say the amount is $40 - and if we add the full value of the Commonwealth secondary scholarship of $400, we get to a figure of $970 for that student from a low income family who is attending a government school. No measure of mathematics or twisting of mathematics can indicate anything like that kind of support for students at any independent schools. I repeat that no amount of twisting of the figures can get to anything like that figure of very nearly $1,000 which the States and Commonwealth between them make available for students with scholarships from low income families and who attend government schools. That is a very substantial contribution to the education of such groups of people.
Mr CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh)I seek leave to make a statement concerning the links between the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), a bookmaker named Bill Waterhouse and the Philippines Economic Attache.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In the October edition of a publication ‘On Target’, published by the Australian League of Rights, I am reported as having dissociated myself from statements made by my Deputy Leader, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), on the League of Rights. This is untrue. The ‘On Target’ report is a garbled presentation of a private conversation after a public meeting at Perenjori in Western Australia. The report is an exercise in misquotation and quotation out of context, lt is a mischievous report. This is the second time the League has misrepresented me and insinuated an attempt by me to embarrass the Minister for Primary Industry. Both he and 1 are concerned at the un-Australian characteristics of extremism in politics, both to the Left and to the Right. Unlike the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy), I do not say ‘So what?’ if communists are involved in divisive activities. Both the Minister for Primary Industry and I have attacked the Communist Party-
-Order! I appreciate the situation that the honourable gentleman is in, but he will show where he has been personally misrepresented and shall not refer to anybody else’s views.
– Yes, Mr Speaker. Both the Minister for Primary Industry and I have attacked the Communist Party and its activities and similarly the unacceptable policies of the extreme rightist groups. This action by the League of Rights reflects little credit on its organisation or respectability.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, because it is obvious that the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) is attempting to create another smear campaign and I believe it is appropriate that I should explain my knowledge of Mr Ysmael.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– It is true that when I was the Minister for External Affairs or the Minister for Foreign Affairs an application was made for Mr Ysmael to become a plenipotentiary of the President of the Philippines. I looked at the matter with very great care and I came to the conclusion, on recommendations from the Foreign Office, that it was desirable that I should reject-
– That is right; reject. They told you to do it.
-Order! There is an old fashioned idea in Australia that everybody likes a fair go, and I think we should bear this in mind sometimes in this House.
– I rejected that application after obtaining advice as to whether or not he was entitled to be a plenipotentiary under what I believe to be the Geneva Conventions. I have never met Mr Ysmael in my life. I also know - I could make this clear, too - that, I think during the time I have been Prime Minister, the matter was reopened but this time on the basis that Mr Ysmael should be a commercial attache. I looked at the matter very carefully to see whether this should be done, and there were cables passing between the Australian Government and the Philippines Government. The recommendation was then made, not by me but by the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, that Mr Ysmael should be accredited under strict conditions. That was the position. It was not on my recommendation at alt. Since then I have had no connection whatsoever, in any way at all, with Mr Ysmael.
Mr CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh)I ask for leave now to make a statement on the same matter.
– Order! Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– I rise to a point of order. Mr Speaker, I seek your guidance. You made the statement that every honourable member in this House is entitled to a fair go. You were relating those remarks to the Prime Minister. I ask you to show that deference to the honourable member for Hindmarsh. He is not getting a fair go either.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The Chair has no jurisdiction over this matter. The Chair is only interpreting the Standing Orders.
- Mr Speaker I have a personal explanation to make.
– Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) stated that I expressed no concern by my interjection so what?’ about communists. I made the interjection because in making his statement the Minister was attacking people who are involved in a campaign for rights for Aborigines. I said ‘so what?’ because I wanted him to draw out the conclusions
– The honourable member is not being honest.
-Order! The honourable member for Griffith will withdraw that remark.
– I do not think he is being honest.
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw that remark, but I still have my doubts.
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw the remark unreservedly and apologise.
– 1 apologise to you, Mr Speaker, and unreservedly withdraw my remarks.
– This is an important point. There is a damaging insinuation in what the Minister said. I was trying to get the Minister to say the conclusions he was to reach as’ a result of that statement.
-Order! I am not concerned with what conclusions anybody reaches. I want to know where the honourable member has been personally misrepresented. If he continues along his present line he will be out of order.
– I would just like to say that 1 am as concerned as the Minister or anybody else about extremism, whether it be of the left or of the right, with which he has so obviously aligned himself.
-I present pursuant to statute the supplementary report of the Auditor-General for the year ended 30th June 1972.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– Pursuant to section 36 of the Canned Fruits Export Marketing Act 1963-1970, I present the 46th annual report of the Australian Canned Fruits Board for the year ended 31st December 1971 together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 40 of the Australian National Airlines Act 1945-1970, I present the 27th annual report of the Australian National Airlines Commission for the year ended 30th June 1972 together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– In pursuance of section 13 of the Law Reform Commission Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory, I present 3 reports of the Law Reform Commission of the Australian Capital Territory - the first on imperial Acts in force in the Territory, the second on New South Wales Acts in force in the Territory and the third on the civil procedure in the Court of Petty Sessions of the Territory.
– Pursuant to section 44 of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Act 1961-1970, 1 present the 11th annual report of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission for the year ended 30th June 1972 together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 50b of the War Service Homes Act 1918-1971, I present the annual report of the Director of War Service Homes for the year ended 30th June 1972. An interim report was presented to the House on 13th September 1972.
– For the information of honourable members 1 present the official report of the Australian parliamentary delegation to the United States and Mexico.
– 1 move: That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Deputy Leader of the Opposition moving that this House supports all recommendations of the Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation which afford greater benefits than those already in effect.
This morning during question time I asked 2 questions of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). The first question was on the Government’s attitude in relation to the report of the Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation, known as the Jess report, on DFRB matters generally. The Prime Minister evaded the question. 1 asked him, in the form of a supplementary question whether the report had been considered by Cabinet and, if it had been considered by Cabinet, was the decision arrived at that the report should be rejected. Again the Prime Minister evaded the question.
A number of questions have been asked in the House of Representatives since the report of the Jess Committee was tabled in this Parliament some months ago. The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess), I think the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) and myself have asked questions of the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) and the Prime Minister on this subject. We were given an assurance that a statement would be made in relation to the Government’s attitude on the report tabled in this Parliament. 1 am certain now, from the manner in which the Prime Minister evaded the questions this morning, that the Government has no intention of bringing down a Bill in this Parliament to give effect to the recommendations of the Committee. The intention of my motion would be to ensure that this Parliament had the opportunity not only to debate that report but indeed to vote upon that report. It would give to this Parliament the opportunity either to support or to reject the recommendations of the Jess Committee. Probably even the most menial messenger boy at Russell Hill today knows that the Cabinet has rejected the recommendations of the Jess Committee. Let the Minister for Defence either deny or confirm what I have said in this respect. I believe that the Minister for Defence nas an obligation to do this, because it was the Minister for Defence who in this Parliament answered this question by the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham):
Has the Minister for Defence any information for this House relating to the Government’s policy to continue to review and improve the conditions of service in the armed forces?
In the course of his very long answer the Minister for Defence had this to say:
We have had before us the report of the Jess Committee on the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. I stress that this Committee was set up because of the initiative taken by the Government. Already we have made some decisions in this field. Firstly, we have said that no-one will be disadvantaged by participating in the Jess scheme; that everybody will have a right of election to ensure that by participating in the new scheme he is not disadvantaged. We have said, also that the legislation in relation to the new scheme will be introduced next year but, of course.’ it will be retrospective to 1st October this year. We have before us a number of other measures, on which we expect results very soon. So far as the DFRB scheme is concerned, we are now able to make a-
At this point the Minister for Defence was interrupted but in conclusion he said: . .in relation to the DFRB scheme … .the Government has now received the Actuary’s report on the cost of the Jess Committee’s recommendations and this should enable the Government to make a decision in the not too distant future.
Nothing has been done about this. What concerns me, and concerns the Opposition, is when we can expect the Government either to confirm or deny the assertion that I have made this morning that the scheme has been rejected out of hand. As I said in my question this morning, some 80.000 ex-servicemen in Australia will’ expect the Government to make a decision. Indeed, they have come down on the side of the recommendations of the Jess Committee. I am not suggesting that the Jess Committee report is not without some faults or that there are not some anomalies in it. The Committee itself has acknowledged this. However, as a result of discussions which I have had with servicemen from all 3 Services throughout Australia, it is quite clear that they regard this scheme as being a distinct improvement on the existing scheme. I do not want at this stage, nor should I take the opportunity, to go into the recommendations of the Jess Committee’s report. The report has been tabled in the Rouse and all honourable members are familiar with it.
What appals me is the attitude of the Government - that on the eve of an election, no doubt believing that because it has regarded servicemen in the past as being somewhat conservative with their voting, it can do as it likes. I assure the Minister for Defence that this is not the case today. The 80,000 servicemen to whom I have just referred will be looking for an opportunity to> show the Government that they are not prepared to accept this sort of attitude in relation to the amenities and the privileges that the Opposition believes they are entitled to expect from any responsible government. The Government has been able to send and commit servicemen to war at hs discretion but when it comes to the question of providing for those servicemen their basic rights and entitlements the Government always shirks its responsibilities. This matter was considered by a select committee of the Parliament. That committee was representative of all parties in the Parliament. It deliberated at great length. I pay credit to the Chairman ‘ of the Committee because he did not at any time deviate from the proposition which the Committee had determined, namely, that the existing scheme had to be amended and improved. If the Minister for Defence reads some of the submissions that were made by responsible members of the armed forces he will agree with the decisions of the Jess Committee.
I believe that the Parliament should be told the Government’s attitude concerning the Jess Committee’s report. When will members of the armed forces be told whether the report is to be adopted, whether a Bill can be expected to be introduced into the Parliament and whether that Bill will give effect to the recommendations of the Jess Committee? The Minister is fully aware of the circumstances surrounding representations made to members of that Committee, to members of the Parliament and, I would believe, to himself in relation to the adoption of the report. The general consensus is that the report is acceptable but that some anomalies may have to be removed. However that can be done when the legislation is introduced into the Parliament.
I conclude on this note: The Government has prevaricated on this issue. I believe it has deliberately misled not only the Parliament but, more importantly, it has also misled the armed forces of Australia. It has given every indication when questions have been asked of the Minister for Defence and the Prime Minister that some action would be taken on this matter. Who can deny, as a result of the answers of the Prime Minister to questions this morning, that this matter has now been rejected out of hand. He evaded the questions. He could have given me a simple and truthful answer. He chose not to do so. It is the responsibility of the Minister for Defence to indicate to the Parliament this morning the real position in relation to this matter. It not only concerns the Opposition but, as I have said, it concerns also 80,000 servicemen who expect a correct answer and are entitled to be told by the Government what they can expect.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion. If what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) has just said is correct, namely, that the Cabinet has rejected the proposals of the Jess Committee, one must interpret this as a major victory for the Public Service, especially the moguls of the Treasury who reportedly have been aggressively opposed to the recommendations contained in the report of the Jess Committee. At the same time one must interpret this situation as a crushing, humiliating in many ways, and certainly a widespread demoralising defeat of the interests of servicemen in the armed forces of Australia. I represent an electorate-
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition complied fairly closely with my interpretation of the Standing Orders. I point out to the honourable member for Oxley that the motion before the House concerns the suspension of the Standing Orders to enable the discussion of a matter. The honourable member for Oxley should debate the motion. He will not be in order in discussing any other proposition. He should show why the Standing Orders should be suspended. He will be completely out of order if he goes beyond that.
– The Jess Committee report relates to retirement benefits for servicemen. It was presented to the Parliament 5 or 6 months ago. There has been adequate opportunity for every member of the Parliament to fully digest the recommendations of that report. One would expect that just prior to an election the Parliament, as a matter of fundamental right and in accordance with parliamentary procedures, should be permitted to debate fully the implications of that report. This is all the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is seeking and that is why he has moved for the suspension of the Standing Orders. We want an opportunity to put points of view on the report.
Any honourable member who represents an area in which there is a substantial defence establishment, such as in my electorate, or an area such as Fabian Sweeney has in Townsville, is vitally concerned with this matter. Mr Sweeney telegrammed me this morning asking that this matter be raised in the Parliament because he is alarmed at the demoralisation which is affecting members of the forces at the Lavarack Army base and at the air base in Townsville. He believes that the whole issue must be ventilated. That is the purpose of the motion before the House. We should not allow ourselves to be put off because Cabinet has been influenced by a powerful, manipulative Public Service which is opposed to the recommendations of the Jess Committee solely, reportedly, because they would provide better retirement benefits for members of the defence Services than are available to public servants. This is not good enough. If this is the situation then it follows that the retirment benefits for public servants also should be improved.
It is completely unreasonable and selfish, if there is any truth in this argument frequently reported in the Press, for the Public Service to destroy successfully, as it would seem from the statement of the
Deputy Leader of the Opposition, a proposal which will provide greatly enhanced benefits for servicemen in the armed forces of Australia. Goodness knows, they suffer more than enough inconvenience and disorganisation as a result of Service life. Completely unfair impositions are placed on their families as a result of the posting turbulence and the general isolation which they too frequently suffer with military postings. We are asking, not only as as a matter of parliamentary responsibility but also as a matter of responsibility to the servicemen in this community, who are appalled that this has not happened so far, that there be a full debate on this issue in the Parliament. The Government should declare itself clearly and unequivocally before the election and should not try to avoid facing up to this responsibility any longer.
– I oppose the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. I think it is quite wrong for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) to say that the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) evaded the question. The Prime Minister did not evade it at all. He made it perfectly clear that this question is under very active consideration at the present moment and that a statement will be made to this House before it rises. I confirm that. I have already given a commitment that a statement will be made to the House before it rises, and there will be an opportunity for debate on that statement. That statement will be made when a final decision has been arrived at. I can say perfectly clearly and distinctly now that that commitiment will be honoured. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that a Bill should be introduced into this Parliament. I made it perfectly clear some time ago that it would not be possible to introduce a Bill into this Parliament. What we will do is make a statement. We have agreed that, when the Bill is introduced in the autumn session, there will be backdating to 1st October of all the additional benefits available under that Bill. The Government has agreed that, whatever scheme is introduced, there will be no detriment at all to those who are in a different scheme at present. Under these circumstances I have no doubt whatsoever that a statement will be made before the House rises. I have no doubt whatsoever that that statement will detail additional benefits under the defence forces retirement benefits scheme. So I oppose the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders now to debate something which will come before the House very shortly.
– I support the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. What I want presented to this House is not the statement to which the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) has just referred but the Bill. We should have the Bill in this place. This matter has gone on for too long. Ex-servicemen’s organisations in my electorate have raised it with me. I have given them all the reports from this Government. The reports have not been dealt with by the Parliament. This Parliament could sit next week and deal with the issue rather than members going off and campaigning on platforms such as a television show with the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) and Mr Frost. Why not sit here next week, introduce the Bill and complement the reforms that are contained within the report? The report does not go all the way, but it will improve many aspects of Service life. For too long we have seen the hypocrisy of the Government hiding behind statements which do not determine the matters that concern servicemen today. They do not determine the factors which are dealt with in the report. What possible effect can a statement have towards curing the ills of Service life today in such matters as housing and education?
Where is the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten)? He is not in the chamber now. Only a few weeks ago, and since then a few days ago, a matter was raised in this House relative to his Department. He was not here. I had to raise in the adjournment debate - I am reluctant to keep the House late at night - a question concerning a serving soldier being denied his pension.
– I cannot hear you.
– The Minister can hear me all right. I raised the matter of a serving soldier being denied his pension. In dealing with the matter of the suspension of Standing Orders-
-Order! The honourable member is not in order in referring to a previous adjournment debate on matters which are not relevant to this motion. This motion is for the suspension of Standing Orders. It does not cover any other matter.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. In support of the motion I made a point which should lead any reasonable thinking person in this chamber to support such a motion so that the matter can be dealt with by debate and by the introduction of a Bill that ought to be brought before this House, so that honourable members do not have to keep the House late at night on matters appertaining to the report presented by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) as far back as 18 th May. The report was then printed and circulated. That was nigh on 6 months ago, and the House has not been given the opportunity to debate it. There is an opportunity now for the Government to support this motion so that the matter can be debated. If the Government opposes this motion, one will be able to go on the highways and byways in the next few weeks and say that the Government is not prepared to stand behind the honourable member if appointed to deliver the report which was presented in this House on 18th May. I commend the motion to every clear thinking member of this House, on behalf of the ex-servicemen and particularly the serving servicemen of this country whom the Government says it, more than anybody else in the House, supports. Now honourable members opposite have the chance to stand up and be counted as to whether they are sincere or otherwise.
– This move by the Opposition for the suspension of Standing Orders to discuss and vote on the report of the Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation places Government members of the Committee in particular in an awkward predicament. Let me state right here and now that urgent considerations are going on at this moment and urgent considerations no doubt will need to continue for a short time. I accept that necessity and feel sure that my confreres on the Committee accept that situation at this time. The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) said that the legislation should be introduced. I do not think that any thinking member of that Committee, in view of the incredible involvement of the report, at any time considered that the legislation would be introduced before the rising of this House.
I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) that the Govern.ment must make clear where it stands on this report now.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and his Party may consider that they are doing a service to the servicemen; but I, as Chairman of that Committee and one who, I am sure the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will agree, played a part with him in bringing about the Committee, do not feel that, the motion serves the purpose at this particular time. I know clearly where I stand in respect of the DFRB report. I know clearly where I stand in respect of any action I may decide to take once the Government’s decision is made. But I am not going to take the action purely because the Opposition at this time has decided to move for the suspension of Standing Orders in an endeavour to commit people before the final decisions have been made. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is wagging his head, but surely that is the purpose of the suspension of the Standing Orders. Finally, I accept what the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) has said. I agree that the statement must be made before this House rises and, if the report is not accepted, the morale factor of the forces will, in my opinion, be incredibly lowered. It is not for me to make clear now where I will stand if the decisions are not in conformity with my belief as to what should be done in respect of members of the Services.
– I rise merely to state the position briefly. The proposal is that the Standing Orders be suspended in order to give the Parliament the opportunity to do a simple thing, that is, to declare that it is in favour of the adoption of the Jess Committee’s report, that it rejects the recommendations of certain public servants, and that it, as the elected representatives of the taxpayers who pay the public servants their salaries, has decided that it will accept the advice of its own Committee.
-Order! The time allowed for the debate on the motion has expired. The question is : ‘That the motion be agreed to’.
– Mr Speaker, may I make a short statement before you put the question?
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Mr BARNARD (Bass)- I wish to give the House an assurance that the Opposition will not require a vote to be taken on this motion because the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) has given an assurance that a statement will be made on the defence forces retirement benefits scheme. I hope that the Minister’s assurance will be honoured. I expect that it will be. I have no reason to doubt the Minister. But I also hope that it will be made at a time when an opportunity will be given to honourable members to debate the subject fully.
-Is the seconder of the motion agreeable to the withdrawal of the motion?
– Yes, I agree to it being withdrawn.
-Is leave granted to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to withdraw the motion? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Discussion of Matter of Public Importance Mr SPEAKER - I have received a letter from the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The spiralling cost to the public of health services under the Government’s health insurance programme. 1 call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– The Australian Medical Association has once again served notice on the McMahon Government that it wants more money. It wants the taxpayers to pay up even more generously, if that is conceivable, than has been the case in regular periods over the past few years. The AMA’s demands are insatiable and its behaviour is unconscionable. It diminishes and humbles the status and prestige of a great profession by its display of compulsive greed. It is quite clear that, although the Government has managed to achieve a deferment of the AMA’s demands, it is only a temporary deferment and that early in the new year, if the McMahon Government were to be returned, there would be a reopening of negotiations with the peculiar aggressiveness which has marked so much the AMA’s demands for more money in recent times. There is no doubt, either, that given the misfortune to this country of the return of the McMahon Government those demands, as on every other occasion, would be conceded. lt is very important to the Australian public to keep in mind that there have been repeated occasions in the past few years on which the Australian Medical Association has sought increases in fees which, on any reasonable basis, should not have been agreed to. The Government has protested publicly for a relatively short period and then conceded as generously as the AMA would wish. There will be no difference on this occasion. The deal is clear. If the AMA will continue its attacks on and misrepresentations of the Australian Labor Party’s health policy and if the AMA will continue to peddle poison for the minds of general practitioners and other medical practitioners in its gazette in an effort to undermine confidence in the Labor Party’s proposals and in the hope of encouraging doctors’ surgeries and doctors in those surgeries to become political outposts or propaganda points for the Liberal Party of Australia, the McMahon Government will, if returned, feel obligated to provide an appropriate reward to the AMA for that sort of service well done. In the sort of situation of which I speak of the spiralling costs which the public has to pay, the Labor Party is forced to act as the conscience of the medical profession while the AMA acts as its cash register. The McMahon Government has the unquestioning role of keeping the till filled with the taxpayers’ cash.
There are 5 major points of dishonesty the expense of general practitioners. Of which immediately come to mind in relation to statements by the Government in the past when the issue of the spiralling cost of providing health services under the Government’s health insurance scheme is discussed. Firstly, there is the complete dishonesty of the common fee concept promised to members of the Australian public and the expectation by them following an assurance by the Government that they will be required to pay no more than a maximum of $5 for the most expensive form of health or medical services. Secondly there is the undertaking given earlier this year that there would be arbitration - a complete deception practised on the public - of the fees appropriate for services by doctors. Thirdly, there is the claim which has been made many times that action would be taken against the medical profession for not adhering to the common fee principle, which is so important if members of the public are to achieve the benefits promised by the Government. Fourthly, and worst thing of all, ot course, is that the Government is continually projecting the argument that its aim is to protect the general practitioner. In fact, what is actually happening to the general practitioner is that his status and prestige are being rapidly undermined by the policies that the Government is applying, by the sort of preference - a very rewarding preference - which the present health scheme, through differential rebates, gives to specialists at the expense of the general practitioners. Of course, that is part of the explanation as to why many general practitioners are concerned about their income level. Fifthly, and of equal importance, is the continued misrepresentation of the Labour Party’s policy by supporters of ttc: McMahon Government in an effort to avoid discussing the total bankruptcy of their own policy and in an effort to avoid facing up to the fact that there has been a complete loss of credibility in the McMahon Governments health insurance programme.
What has been the total reaction of the McMahon Government to all of the problems of escalating costs? Its remedy has been to pour massive and growing doses of the public’s money into a highly inefficient scheme. In the last 5 years the taxpayer has been asked to foot an enormous, and rapidly growing, bill. The amount the Government has contributed by subsidising health insurance alone has gone from $79m to S227m this year. If I were to lump in contributions by the public for health insurance and to add to that pensioner medical service costs and local medical officer costs under the repatriation scheme, I would be talking of an expenditure of somewhere in the vicinity of S650m last year, if I can use the previous year to that as a guideline to the performance of health insurance funds. But it should be remebered that, even with this enormous outlay of money, the whole of the community is not covered by health insurance or the other forms of health benefits I have mentioned - the pensioner medical service and so on - and that an addittional cost of $40m would be involved in achieving a universal cover. So, if we were able to have a universal cover for health insurance, the pensioner medical service and repatriation medical services, under the Government’s scheme the cost would be in the vicinity of $700m.
I wish to make a quick observation about the Labour Party’s programme in this respect. The Labour Party’s programme, based on universal contributions providing a universal cover for the community, would involve a total outlay of about the same order as is currently involved in the Government’s scheme. The distinction is that the Labour Party would cover everyone in the community - not 90 per cent but 100 per cent of the community. We would be, on our latest calculations, somewhat cheaper than the total outlay of the Government, but somewhere in the vicinity. We are prepared to be generous in discussing these high orders of cost. But to achieve that universality the Government would have to spend another $40m. It would have to go up to near $700m to achieve that sort of cover for the community. Those are the sorts of defects that are currently assailing the Government’s health insurance scheme.
Let us look at the issue of contributions. The net cost of tax concessions in 1969 to a man in New South Wales who was in receipt of the average weekly earnings and who bad a wife and a couple of children of covering himself for public ward and medical insurance was $48. In 1972 it became $60. The net cost of the same sort of cover in 1972 under the Labor Party’s scheme would be slightly less than $50. So he would be nearly $11 better off under the Labor Party scheme. On our calculations, if be were to take up the extra cost of intermediate hospital ward insurance or private hospital ward insurance he still would be somewhat better off in total cost under our scheme, even after he has taken up this extra insurance, than under the
Government’s scheme. This is because our scheme is conceived in terms of efficient operation of the health insurance funds. On this point of cost to the individual, the honourable member for Lilley, the Minister for Housing (Mr Kevin Cairns), has cited certain figures. He never uses the same figures twice, although he often uses :he same argument many times. The Minister has said that costs under Labor’s scheme involve an increase of 12 per cent per year in tax to be paid.
– Per person paying tax.
– In personal paid tax. Of course, this is nonsense. I have already quoted the contribution rates under our scheme for a person on average weekly earnings. They are lower under our scheme for a person on a lower income than are the rates under the Government’s scheme for a person on a lower income. But let us look at it as an increase in pay as you earn income tax or personal income tax. Our cost for universal cover would represent less than an 8 per cent increase in pay as you earn income tax on the calculations which the Legislative Research Service of the Parliamentary Library was kind enough to do for me. Contributions under the Government’s scheme for the 77 per cent or 80 per cent of the public covered by the Government’s scheme represent an increase of 15 per cent in pay as you earn income tax. This should be borne in mind: Under the Government scheme you pay; under our scheme you pay. From the way in which Government supporters speak one would think that there was no cost under the Government’s scheme. One has to pay under the Government scheme for one’s health insurance - medical and hospital. I repeat that the amount of contribution, measured against the tax paid by that nearly 80 per cent of taxpayers covered by health insurance, is an increase of 15 per cent compared with Jess than 8 per cent under our scheme. So let us hear the Government chew that one out.
Let me move on very quickly to the disaster area of common fees - the failure of the Australian Medical Association to adhere to undertakings it had given in relation to these fees, and the failure of the Government to ensure that as a matter of public responsibility the medical profession or the AMA adhered to the undertaking it had given, lt should be borne in mind also that there is a responsibility on the part of the medical profession to adhere to the common fee principle. After all, near enough to every second dollar that a doctor receives today is provided directly by the Commonwealth Government by way of Commonwealth subsidy to health insurance, medical insurance, local medical officer repatriation services or pensioner medical services. That is the level of the outlay for which we in this Parliament are responsible when the Government makes allocations to these schemes to keep them in operation. That is the order of subsidy which we decide the public has to provide to medical practitioners in the community. Clearly this gives them a higher income than they would achieve in the absence of such a scheme.
In July 1971 the Government set common fees, which were to last for 2 years, at a level which represented an increase of 15 per cent on the previous-existing level of fees. In fact, those fees were proposed by the AMA. No coercion was applied by the Government against the AMA. Those fees were struck on the recommendation of the AMA. This is a far more salubrious position to be in than most trade unions could find themselves in, given this sort of situation. At the conclusion of these arrangements the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) said:
The Government has achieved by a process of discussion and persuasion . . . assurances which should mean stability in the general practitioner service fees for at least 2 years.
Just prior to that statement being made and just prior to the increase in the fees, in New South Wales there was a 75 pet cent adherence by general practitioners to the common fee for surgery consultations. In September, immediately after the concession had been made, the adherence rate fell to 53 per cent. I understand that there is likely to be a slight improvement in this adherence rate for September quarter. One must look at the figures, when they become available, in the overall context to find out just how great has been the improvement. The other aspect of the improvement to be considered is that it has been achieved by the setting up of an inquiry. It was never arbitration, and Mr Justice Mason denied that it was arbitration. It was clearly - I use these words delib erately - a snide deception practised on the public. Nonetheless, this inquiry was set up to try to find out what were described as fair and reasonable fees for general practitioners. Again this was misleading to the public because the only aim was to achieve a fairly representative common fee, what was reasonably assumed to be a common fee. Those were the only ways in which the words ‘fair and reasonable’ could be used.
There was no effort to establish a work value case. There was no effort to establish what was a reasonable level of remuneration for the doctors. By and large it was, once again, a contrivance to patch up a failing in the Government’s scheme. The result was a further increase in doctors fees. In spite of that, we have continuing erosion. The figures for the March quarter of this year - they are the latest published figures - indicate that in relation to surgery consultations the adherence to the common fee in New South Wales in down to 49 per cent. The Minister for Health, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, spoke toughly. He spoke of taking other measures to ensure that doctors adhered to the common fee. It seems that the ‘other measures’ will be to give more money shortly after the election is out of the way. The former Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, said:
The Government believes there is no justification whatever for increases of this size.
At the time he was being challenged. He continued:
We do not believe that any profession should be able to fix their fees at any level which appeals to them when they are supported by public money.
That man was a fair dinkum Australian. He was prepared to strike out responsibly in defence of the public’s right. His career has been totally and irrevocably wrecked by people in the McMahon Government who are more committed to serving the wealthy interests and the establishment interests in the community than to catering for patients rights and maintaining some responsible restraint on the way in which the public’s money is thrown about in the community.
– I do not propose to follow the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) in his continued wholesale denigration of the medical profession. It
Seems to be the only form of attack that he has. On many occasions his only reaction to the health problems for which he has responsibility as the Opposition shadow Minister for Health has been to put up the medical profession as a bogy and to attack, in universal terms, a great and honourable profession. I do not intend to follow him down the highways and byways of his statements about medical fees. What he has to say about medical fees will be more credible, both in this place and with the public, when he gives some indication to us of what the Labor Party would propose to do about this matter. So far he has done nothing.
I have never heard a single statement oy a member of the Labor Party directed to stating what it would do about this matter of medical fees if it became the government. All it has done is to indulge in a continued campaign of misrepresentation about what has actually happened. What the honourable gentleman had to say about observance of the common fee was exactly In this category. He knows the situation but he chose to state it differently. He knows full well, first of all, that the reason for the wide divergence in the charging of the common fee in New South Wales and other States was due to one thing only, namely, that there was a genuine dispute in the medical profession in New South wales on the appropriate fee to which the 1 5 per cent increase which was to date from 1st July should be applied. That was stated at the time. Because the Government was convinced that this was a genuine difference of opinion as to the appropriate common fee to which to apply that 1.5 per cent and that the overwhelming majority of divergencies in charges were just over the common fee and in the application of the 15 per cent to that higher amount the Government asked Mr Justice Mason with limited terms of reference, to inquire into this divergence of opinion. Mr Justice Mason found in favour of the application of the 15 per cent to the higher fee. I suggest that the position will become clear when the figures are available for the September quarter. That will not be for some time yet; the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) will give the figures for the June quarter in the Senate today, as I understand it. But one would not have expected any change in the figures yet because the new fees as recommended by Mr Justice Mason came into being only as from 1st July. As honourable gentlemen well know it takes some months for these increases to emerge in the doctors’ accounts and the payments through the funds and therefore, the recording of the situation. When the figures for the September quarter are available 1 see no reason whatsoever why we should not get from practitioners in New South Wales an observance of the common fee that is somewhere nearer the Australian average. If honourable gentlemen opposite have any reason to suggest otherwise, let us have it. The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) would have greater credibility if he did not deliberately misrepresent that situation. The honourable member for Oxley should not try to hoodwink the Australian public that there is something inherent in the Labor Party health scheme to provide some method of dealing with this particular problem of doctors’ fees which has bedevilled every country in the world where there is a fee for service system. He could deal with it by giving from the Labor Party’s platform the methods suggested, namely, to squeeze the medical practitioners in Australia into a salaried service. That is the way the Labor Party could deal with it, but it has not said that it will do that, lt has said that it will continue with a fee for service system.
We on this side of the House take leave to doubt that this will be so, in the light of the nature of Labor’s scheme as a whole and in the nature of its platform. Nevertheless, if Opposition members do not intend to introduce a totally salaried service in Australia, they have made no proposition or suggestion or put anything on the line at all as to how they will deal with this problem of doctor’s fees. When they do tell us, what they have to say about this problem will have greater credibility. They should not tell us that they will deal with it on the basis of a participating doctors’ scheme because that does not solve the problem either.
It seems to me absolutely extraordinary that members of the Australian Labor Party, of all people, in view of their approach to health, should bring to this House a motion which condemns the Government. The matter of public importance is stated to be:
The spiralling cost to the public of health services under the Government’s health insurance programme.
Why do I say that this is extraordinary? I say it because the very people and the very Party which is criticising us as a Government in those terms proposes itself to inflict on the Australian community a health scheme which will be enormously more costly, both to the taxpayer and the individual, than the scheme we have at present. Yet, Opposition members have the hide to bring down a motion in those terms.
I shall deal with the aspects contained in the motion and produce evidence. But before talking about the Labor Party’s proposals I shall deal quickly with the suggestion put forward not only by the Labor Party but also by some newspapers that in some way health costs in Australia are increasing out of all proportion to health costs elsewhere in the world. In 1960-61 in Australia the total expenditure on health services was $684m. Ten years later it was $ 1,700m. In the United Kingdom in 1959- 60 the total expenditure on health services was £Stg902m. In 1967-68-8 years later - it was £Stgl,741m. In the United States of America in 1959-60 the expenditure was SUS26,973m and in 1967-68 - 8 years later - it was $US56,578m. In other words, just taking those 3 comparisons, health costs in Australia are increasing at about the same rate as they have in the United Kingdom and the United States of America - that is, the total expenditure on health services, whoever it is expended by.
Let us have no more of this nonsense that there is something inherent in our health scheme or the health situation in Australia which suggests that we are out of line with health costs elsewhere. There are very good reasons on a wide front why health costs have increased substantially in all countries in recent years; for example, increases in technology, the change in the status of nurses, the improvement in procedures in hospitals and the development of new and costly drugs - things which are common to all advanced countries that have advanced health services. These things have happened in exactly the same way in Australia. Are members of the Opposition suggesting that we should not go along with the trend to pay nurses civilised wages in Australia? Are they suggesting that we should not introduce drugs like L-dopa which has given a new lease of life to sufferers from Parkinson’s disease? Would they contain costs in Australia by holding back advances in medicine? Would they reduce the quality of health services in Australia to contain costs? Almost everything inherent in Labor’s scheme involves a reduction in the quality of service in Australia. Almost everything they would do is in that category.
I have been talking about international comparisons and costs as a whole. I now turn to the scheme of the Australian Labor Party, the Party that is putting forward this motion and criticising the Government for spiralling costs of health fees. Look at Labor’s proposed levy from the point of view of the individual. Labor proposes a compulsory levy on everybody including the people in Queensland who do not want it and who do not need it. The levy will be imposed on everybody in the community, not only on each family but but where there are 2 people working in a family it will be imposed on each member of the family who is working. In late 1969 the levy was 1.25 per cent. In July 1971 - 18 months later - it was 1.30 per cent. The Opposition tells us now that it will be 1.35 per cent. That is the effect of the Opposition’s policy on the individual, and it is variable obviously. Whose costs are spiralling? Within the space of about 3 years Labor has jacked up its levy from 1.25 per cent to 1.30 per cent and then 1.35 per cent. This is quite apart from the other elements inherent in the Labor Party’s scheme which will involve greater costs to the individual. For instance, reduced tax deductibility will make all the difference in the world. The Labor Party has said that there will be a limit of S100. This sounds fine in relation to somebody on a low income who is paying $120 at the present time. It sounds fine until you consider the effect of the removal of tax deductibility. Then the SI 00 that a person will pay under the Labor Party’s scheme is comparable to a net figure of $80 being paid at the present time. It is not only the cost on the individual that has to be considered but the additional cost upon the taxpayers as a whole. Calculations which have been made very conservatively on the Labor Party’s health scheme show that it will cost general revenue SI 68m more than is paid from general revenue at the present time. So under the Labor Party’s scheme there would not only be additional cost to the individual but there would be increased cost to general revenue and for what? Worse treatment! People would be confined to the public ward. The implications of-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to deal with just one of the points raised by the Minister for Immigration (Dr Forbes). There is only one point which he mentioned that really needs to be dealt with, and that was his statement that there was only one point in dispute over the issue which led to arbitration by Mr Justice Mason earlier this year. The Minister said that was over the ‘base line fee’ over which there would be an updating of the common fee in New South Wales. He implied that this situation was effectively solved by the arbitration findings of Mr Justice Mason. It is quite obvious that this was not the only trouble. Otherwise why is it that the doctors came back only last week to see the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) and the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson)? The argument of the Minister for Immigration that the whole thing was ironed out by what happened in the informal arbitration proceedings before Mr Justice Mason is completely fallacious.
I think it is time that the people of Australia were fully informed of the significance of last week’s meeting between the Prime Minister, the Minister for Health and members of the Australian Medical Association because it was a very smelly business - a very smelly business indeed. Last week senior officials of the AMA slunk furtively into this House to the office of the Minister for Health and then slunk over to the office of the Prime Minister to attend a meeting which nobody was supposed to know anything about. Fortunately there were some alert people in the House who woke up to what was going on and this was the reason why the Prime Minister was finally provoked into making his Press statement. If one looks at the Press statement it will be seen that it was obviously deliberately designed to confuse the people of Australia. Honourable members should have a look at what the Prime Minister said in that Press statement. It bears very careful reading. I will quote from the end of the statement. It reads, referring to the AMA:
I stated plainly to them that while the Government was willing to continue to participate in consultative procedures, its officers would not be permitted to enter into commitments with the AMA on the basis of claims which could not be fully justified. I also indicated that action on the line mentioned would be contrary to the interests of the medical profession and would not be acceptable to the public.
The AMA representatives will be in touch with the Minister for Health after the Federal Council’s weekend meeting and the Government will then consider the situation further.
Would it not have been terribly easy for the Prime Minister to have given an unequivocal assurance that the Government will not agree to any fee rise before the termination of the present agreement, that is on 1st July 1973? Yet that assurance was conspicuously missing from the statement of the Prime Minister. He did not say anything about this. Why did he not say it? I think there is just one clear reason for it: That the Prime Minister somehow or other, whether explicitly or otherwise, clearly understands that there will be further support for the Liberal Party from the AMA before the general election, as suggested by the Liberal Party, probably in the privacy of the consulting room. This has been the undertaking or at least an understanding between the Prime Minister and the AMA. That, I suggest, is why there is no statement by the Prime Minister saying that the Government will not agree to any fee rise before 1st July 1973. If this was the case what is the quid pro quo? What is the AMA going to get out of it? I do not think there is any doubt at all that what it will mean is a further rise in medical fees after the elections. There can be no question about that if we have a look at past history. Why else would the AMA last week-end have withdrawn its request for an immediate increase in fees? There must be some sort of an understanding.
The Prime Minister has said that there has been no deal. I think I heard him say on ‘PM’ 2 nights ago that there would be no deal between the Government and the
AMA. Perhaps there was not an explicit deal. I would say that there was probably no need for it because there is such a tacit understanding. Is it a tacit understanding based on what happened earlier this year when a group of doctors in New South Wales decided they would unilaterally abrogate the previous 2-year agreement? What happened? We reached a situation, to use the Prime Minister’s term, of industrial lawlessness. What happened when the New South Wales general practitioners carried out their industrial lawlessness? The Government capitulated, as it always has in the case of the AMA. In fact it did not just capitulate on a small scale - it rewarded everybody. It had an inquiry by Mr Justice Mason to examine what would happen to the common fee in New South Wales and then unilaterally the Government made a decision that fee increases would go not only to New South Wales but to every general practitioner in Australia.
What is the track record of this Government? It shows that in the case of the AMA one group of general practitioners are to be rewarded for its industrial lawlessness by a fee increase to every general practitioner in Australia. No wonder the Prime Minister was able to say that there was not any deal. It was not necessary. There is a common understanding between this Government and the AMA as to what is going to happen. We know what will happen after the elections if unfortunately this Government is returned to office. There will be a further increase in fees; there cannot be any gainsaying that.
The policy of the Australian Labor Party has been referred to by the Minister. I do not understand, unless he wants to bring up red herrings, why he consistently distorts the position of the ALP in relation to its health insurance proposals. It is proposed that the same amount of money must be raised to provide the same volume of medical services. We propose to raise the same amount of money, from the same tax base, from the same number of people in order to provide the same volume of services. Therefore, how can one say that the total amount of money that is going to be raised will mean an increase? In fact the truth of the situation is that there will be a reduction in cost because of a significant reduction in administrative expenses under the Labor Party’s proposal and because of a significant reduction in the excessive amount of reserves - which are increasing - carried by the multiplicity of private medical and hospital insurance funds throughout Australia. But in addition our proposals do not just cover the ground of reforming health insurance, and this really is the essence of the whole problem because what we have to do is to provide an improved quality of health services within Australia. I do not think the people of Australia would mind increased costs of health services if this really were to result in a healthier community. But we are not getting this at the moment.
The Minister referred to what he says is not an inordinate increase in health costs throughout Australia. We are getting an increase in health costs but the increase is going in the wrong direction. We are faced with great public health problems in the community now - the problems of the pollution of air, water and soil, problems of road accidents as well as other problems such as the rising incidence of mental disease which results in a huge increase in the prescription of drugs, and the rising incidence of heart disease. Instead of spending money on solving these great health problems, the Government for some reason seems to equate health service* with just feather-bedding this inefficient system and propping up the medical profession to go on to provide more business as usual.
Frankly, I think that the only way we will finally solve the problem of rising medical fees is to alter the situation which exists where all we have at the present time is a sellers market. Because doctors’ time is used so inefficiently, because they are called upon to do a lot of things they are not properly trained to do which would be better done by paramedical personnel, there is a great premium on doctors’ time. While there is this great premium on doctors’ time they are able to command their own fees and we have a seller’s market. The result is that we are getting this escalating cost of medical services and the Government’s only answer has been to pay more and more without any improvement in the health status of the community.
It is worth noting a report contained in the Australian Medical Association’s political broad sheet which says that Canada is giving serious attention to the problem of properly organising health care in medical health centres. It is time this Government did the same. I note that it is looking at the problem in the Australian Capital Territory. The Australian Labor Party government which will be on the treasury bench after the next Federal election will look at properly organising health care not just in the Australian Capital Territory but throughout the whole community.
– One is loathe to answer the Opposition’s latest absurdities about doctors and the health scheme. The way in which the Australian* Labor Party attacks doctors is vicious, unfortunate and in extremely poor taste, but not as callous and unfortunate as the Labor Party’s disregard for the freedoms and rights of patients in its obsession with controls and commissions. The real question is: Why do we have a health insurance scheme as part of our Australian health scheme? The answer is basic and simple. It is to spread the burden of costs without sacrificing the power and freedom of the patient to receive first class medical and health care.
The Government in recent years has been driven by the desire to see that sickness does not cripple people while at the same time ensuring that the community is not crippled with the sort of medical care that would itself make people sick. So the health insurance scheme has been built up and modified, and will be further modified as research and new needs arise. So the pensioner medical service scheme has been introduced and the subsidised insurance scheme has been created to pay the health insurance costs of low income families. The whole question of contemporary health and medical care is a complex, vexed and fascinating one. Hilaire Belloc was not far from the truth when he said:
Of old when folk lay sick and sorely tried, The doctors gave them physic and they died. But here’s a happier age for now we know, Both how to make men sick and keep them so.
Through the mazes of modern medicine the Government’s prime concern has been for people, for patients. Certainly the tremendous advances which have been made in the Government’s health scheme have been costly. But the advances have not been made at the cost of the patient’s power and freedom to receive the good medical care of his choice.
While I totally reject the ALP’s recently restated ultimate aim of socialisation for Australia. I would accept that some of its more particular policies have not been entirely unattractive, though it has, of course, vastly and cynically overdone the promises by jumping on every bandwagon which has rolled by. But the Opposition’s health scheme, one of its particular policies, does sow the seed of disaster for patients. Under Labor’s scheme the doctor will be able to choose whether to charge the patient for treatment or whether to send the bill to the Government. The doctor could charge the Government 85 per cent of the fee for the service rendered and choose to forgo the other 15 per cent as being equivalent to the normal costs of collection and such like. The Labor Party’s health policy would put Australia well on the road to nationalised health which has produced such misery for so many in Britain. This Labor policy would sweep away the patient’s power to purchase humane and dedicated medical care. This Labor policy would herd people into doctors’ surgeries like cattle into the cattle yard. This Labor policy would lead to medical treatment by the egg timer, as was so often the case under the nationalised health scheme in Britain.
Only the other day a young doctor of my acquaintance, who has practised for a number of years in Britain and in Australia, told me that only 2 of the 30 surgeries in which he had worked for some weeks or more over the last few years in Britain were up to the standard of all of the Australian surgeries in which he had worked. The tragedy of the nationalised scheme is that the rights, the freedoms and the humanity of patients are sacrificed to suit the inhuman tidiness of the doctrinaire and bureaucratic mind. Of course, Labor will say that the fee relationship between the doctor and the patient does not necessarily disappear in its scheme because doctors could still charge the patients direct instead of charging the Government. But knowing that they can let the Government pay, how many patients will be far-sighted enough to insist on promptly paying the doctor instead of letting the Government carry the tab? Once the patient no longer pays the doctor he will no longer be able to call the tune. So Labor would destroy the fee relationship and so destroy the power of the patient over his doctor and his health scheme.
The Labor Party has been trying to have 10 bob each way on this. One day the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) talks of Labor’s first major act of nationalisation in the health field and then on another day he denies that Labor will nationalise anything, or he denies tha: it will nationalise anything much. He even goes on to suggest that there is not enough power under the Australian Constitution for Labor to nationalise when he himself has said it would be wrong for Labor to hide behind the Constitution and pretend that it cannot socialise, nationalise or do what it wants. The Leader of the Opposition has recognised - and he said as much - that where section 92 of the Constitution is the charter of private enterprise section 96 is the charter of public enterprise. The simple fact is that section 96 would enable a Labor government to do by the back door what it cannot do by the front door under the Constitution, by making grants to the States. This could be done in any area. In the health area, which we are talking about today, by making grants to the States on condition that the States effectively nationalised surgeries, health centres, doctors and the lot, a Labor government could legally, constitutionally and fully nationalise every doctor’s surgery and hospital in Australia. The Chief Justice of Victoria, Sir Henry Winneke, has made this absolutely plain. In an oration which was reported in the ‘Medical Journal of Australia’ on 1 8th December 1965, when talking about the great power which the Commonwealth has under section 96 of the Constitution, he said:
Those who may be tempted to regard all this as a mere remote matter of public finance would do well to reflect that the precisely same mechanism could be applied to private affairs. To take an example closer to home, let it be supposed that it became the policy of some Commonwealth Government. With a majority in both Houses, to nationalise medical services. Although the Commonwealth has no power to legislate for medical services, can it be doubted that the attachment of a positive condition to the tax reimbursement grant, making it payable only to States which exercised their legislative power to that end, would not be effective to achieve the desired result?
Ultimately, this comes down to a basic Australian freedom and right - the freedom to choose. What matters more to Australians than just about any other question is the freedom to choose a doctor, the freedom to choose first class medical care, the freedom to choose a health fund and the freedom to choose in respect of so many matters in related fields which are close to the hearts of the Australian people.
– -The honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) has just put up quite a good case for the people whom he represents, namely those who selected him for the safe seat of Chisholm and who earn about $20,000 a year or more. I noticed Mr Peter Frankel, the Chairman of Selected Mining Holdings Ltd, sitting behind the honourable member earlier. It is a pity that about $1.2m of Selected Mining Holdings Ltd subscriptions was lost by that company. The honourable member for Chisholm told us an interesting story about a doctor who worked in 30 different surgeries in the United Kingdom in one year. That does not say much for his employment record. I certainly have had rejected by the Minister for Immigration (Dr Forbes) large numbers of prospective migrants who have much better employment records than that doctor.
The main point made in the speech of the Minister for Immigration as Minister representing the Minister for Health was: What would the Australian Labor Party do?’ It was an extremely pessimistic speech. The Minister said: ‘Yes, costs of medical services are increasing at u terrific rate, but what can we do about it? Let the Labor Party tell us about it’. 1 do not blame the Minister for adopting that sort of line. After all, in the last few months, his Government has adopted or gone some way towards adopting Labor Party policies on participatory schemes for nursing homes, which are the responsibility of the department he represents today, a needs concept in regard to Commonwealth secondary school scholarships, foreign ownership, the abolition of the means test, a national superannuation inquiry, a poverty inquiry and urban affairs, the environment and decentralisation. So, if the Labor Party can help all those other departments, why should it not help the department of which he used to be in charge and of which Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson is now in charge?
I would also like to comment on the point that the Minister made in claiming that Mr Justice Mason had only to make the decision on the question of the higher base line figure - the 1st July 1969 figure - on which the 15 per cent increase in the middle of last year was based. The Minister went on to say that Mr Justice Mason found that the claim made by the Australian Medical Association for the higher base line figure was correct. I point out to the Minister - I suppose that, being only the Minister representing the Minister for Health in this House, he does not have to know all the facts - that Mr Justice Mason made no such finding. I was the only person to appear before Mr Justice Mason to oppose the proposition advanced by the AMA. One would have thought that the Department of Health would have appeared to oppose the proposition.
– It ran dead.
– The Department did not run dead; it supplied information to help the doctors obtain an increase, unlike the attitude adopted by the Government when it appears before the Arbitration Commission when people are trying to obtain an increase in wages. What Mr Justice Mason found was that the Department of Health was unable to supply adequate figures which could distinguish between the proposition put forward by the Australian Medical Association and the proposition which I put forward. He therefore decided to take a figure midway between the 2 points.
I would argue, firstly, that it is scandalous for a government that has been in power for so long and for a department of health that uses up a large amount of money on administration to be unable to supply a definite base line figure for Mr Justice Mason to work on and, secondly, that it is scandalous for the Government not to appear and oppose the proposition advanced by the AMA. I think that there are ways of getting around the argument which occurs with the medical profession every 6 months or so on the question of fee increases. There can be and there should be an agreed method of updating fees. But doctors do not trust the Govern ment, and one cannot blame them for that. Why should they trust the Government? Nobody else in the community trusts it. The saying in regard to Mr Nixon in the United States used to be: ‘Would you buy a second-hand car from that man?’ The saying in regard to the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) now is: ‘Would you buy a second-hand plane from this man?’ I would be happy to sell the Prime Minister a second-hand plane, but I would not be too happy about buying a second-hand plane from him.
Sitting suspended from 12.57 to 2.15 p.m.
– Mr Speaker, before the suspension of the sitting I was criticising the honourable member for Chisholm, who had preceded me in this debate, and was pointing out that he was putting up a case not for the average person in the community but for people in a completely different socio-economic group. I had made certain remarks about Mr Peter Frankel and had said that he was literally the man behind the Liberal Party in the sense of sitting behind the Liberal Party benches. I referred to him as the chairman of Selected Mining Holdings Ltd. It has been pointed out to me by the honourable member for Chisholm and Mr Frankel that at the time Selected Mining Holdings was in financial trouble Mr Frankel was not associated with the company. I accept that and I apologise for any harm or hurt that may have, been caused to Mr Frankel.
I was dealing also with the very significant increase in medical costs, which is the subject of this debate today. 1 now refer to nursing homes. In 1968 the Government subsidised nursing homes by $25m a year. By 1972 the amount of subsidy had hit $71m a year. Yesterday we passed legislation which the Government predicts will cost another $22m a year in handouts to nursing homes. I have no objection to the existence of nursing homes, but I think it is wrong for the Government to use taxpayers money, firstly, to guarantee a nice profit for private enterprise nursing homes and, secondly, to give those who operate nursing homes in Victoria a fantastic profit. The costs of nursing home accommodation - I am now referring to cost as distinct from charges - in New South Wales and Victoria are very similar. In fact the cost in New South Wales is slightly higher, according to the figures we have received from the Department of Health. The payout promised by the Government in the legislation we passed yesterday to Victorian nursing home proprietors is an extra $600 per year per bed. So the person who owns a 100-bed nursing home, as many people supporting the Liberal Party do, gets a handout of $60,000 per year of taxpayers money. That would pay for about 4 of the DC3 aircraft that the Government bought from Jetair Australia Ltd, provided that they had been paid for at the correct price. Mr Ken Thomas the other night said that Mr Alexander Barton must have thought that all his Christmases had come at once when the Government paid nearly $50,000 for the Jetair aircraft. What about the nursing home proprietors in Victoria? I think it is important to note that in the legislation we passed yesterday not one penny extra is provided for the charitable, non-profit nursing homes. All of this money is going to people who own nursing homes which are operated for the purpose of making a large amount of money.
I would like to finish on the point on which I began - how to contain doctors fees. I put to the Government that it has failed because it has never come to an agreement with the medical profession on the basis on which doctors fees should be regulated. All it has said is that every 2 years there will be a discussion about an increase. It is not surprising that doctors are not prepared to believe the Government. Nobody else in the community would believe the Government if the Government said: ‘Let us see what will happen in 24 months time’. I am not for one minute supporting doctors in their attempts to get huge increases, because they have had fantastic increases in income during the last 3 years. During that time they have had increases in income from the Government medical benefits scheme of nearly 76 per cent. This is a much higher percentage increase, and of course actual increase, than any other section of the community has received. This Government has been prepared to support that sort of increase for the medical profession whilst it has not been prepared to support any increase to any other employee. In fact, when workers go to the Conciliation and
Arbitration Commission the Government briefs counsel to oppose employees’ attempts to get an increase. But the Government provided the medical profession with a Queen’s Counsel to help it prepare its case for an increase.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Probably the most enlightening feature of this debate on a matter of public importance has been the complete lack of any statement on the policy objectives or aims of the Australian Labor Party. This has been evident before. The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) did mention something about policy but he went on to make his address without really dealing with it. He mentioned something about costs increasing and that doctors do not trust the Government. If they do not trust the Government, they certainly will not trust Labor; that is for sure. They would prefer to deal with this Government. There is no question about that. The speeches of the honourable member for Prospect and the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) remind me of a statement by a prominent politician in the United Kingdom who is quoted as saying that an army general did not necessarily make the best Minister for Defence, and a doctor not necessarily the best Minister for Health. The wisdom of that quotation has been amply demonstrated in the addresses from those 2 honourable members today. I will deal with some comments by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) in a few minutes. The matter of public importance is described in this way:
The spiralling costs to the public of health services under the Government’s insurance programme.
This matter has been dealt with very adequately by the Minister for Immigration (Dr Forbes) who led the debate for the Government. He quoted figures for health costs in Australia and compared them with increasing costs in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. While he said that they were increasing at about the same rate, I believe that the benefit leans towards Australia. Those figures, in effect, really answer the charges that have been made. They completely refute the suggestion that the spiralling costs of the Government’s health insurance programme have not been in line with the increases in costs in other countries. It is very easy to state that the cost of health services is on the increase. Indeed it would be. remarkable if these costs were not increasing. Everyone with the slightest knowledge of the subject knows that the rising cost of health services is a fact of life in every country in the world, as was clearly illustrated in the figures that were cited by the Minister in his speech. Particularly in developed countries such as Australia the continually rising standard of the health services must contribute something to the cost of those health services.
It is totally misleading also to suggest that the increase in health costs which has occurred in Australia is a consequence of any unwise action on the part of this Government. Indeed the truth is exactly the reverse. In the late 1960s contributors to medical benefits schemes were not receiving the level of coverage that they expected and, indeed, the amount that they needed. As a result of action taken by this Government in the establishment of the Nimmo Committee and by the implementation of its major recommendations, by 1970 the proportion of doctors bills left to patients to meet was below 19 per cent compared with an average of 39 per cent in the year ended June 1969. So much for these spiralling costs with which the Opposition continually hammers us.
In the short time available to my colleagues they dealt adequately with the Government’s health policy. I should like to deal with some aspects of the Australian Labor Party’s approach to this question. Its health scheme, of course, is based on a health tax. I believe that members of the Opposition have conceded that such a tax must be imposed to cover the costs of their scheme. I think, however, that they have considerably underrated the costs of the scheme. The tax that they agree would have to be imposed already has varied 3 times since 1970, but these figures have not been mentioned. Initially the tax would have increased by 1.25 per cent over the 1969 figure; by 1.3 per cent approximately 18 months later and by a further 1.35 per cent late last year. The Labor Party’s scheme involves spiralling costs also. The Labor Party’s figures are based on a percentage of income tax. What about increases in the actual basis from which this taxation is derived? If this factor is taken into account one finds that the Opposition’s compulsory tax would be increasing by about 12 per cent per annum. The actual percentage is about 8 per cent but it is closer to 12 per cent when one takes into account the rise in the income tax figures over a period.
I am concerned that the shadow Minister for Health in the Labor Party is a Queenslander. 1 would expect the Labor Party to want to nationalise health by whatever means possible - whether by the squeeze or otherwise - to achieve that end. I can understand the attitude of the Labor Party. This has been the objective and aim of that Party for a long time and by whatever means it chooses it will contrive to achieve such nationalisation. There is little doubt about that. If one examines the Labor Party’s health scheme one can appreciate that this will be the basis upon which, by the squeeze as it is sometimes called, there will be a nationalisation of Australia’s health services. However, I cannot understand a Queenslander sounding the death knell of the free hospitalisation scheme which operates in Queensland, but this is what the Labor Party will seek to do. There is no question about that either. I can understand why the Labor Party would want to squeeze out the private hospital system. Under the Labor health scheme there will be a system whereby the amount of benefits received by people will be such as to make the cost of private hospitalisation beyond their financial capacity. At present a person can receive about $180 in benefits but under the Labor Party scheme a person will get about $13 towards the cost of his hospitalisation. So people will not be able to enter private hospitals which have done grand work in Australia and have worked in conjunction with public hospitals.
This is one factor that must come into consideration when one examines the Labor Party’s proposed health scheme. There is no doubt that there will be an end to private hospitals under its scheme. Private hospitals will not be able to manage and the people conducting these hospitals are deeply concerned about the situation. I think of hospitals in Brisbane, the capital city of my own State - St Martin’s Hospital, St Helen’s Methodist Hospital, St
Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital and Mater Misericordiae Private Hospital - which are doomed under a Labor scheme.
– It is all right for honourable members opposite to say ‘Rubbish’ because they only talk rubbish.I am concerned about the fate of St Vincent’s hospital in Toowoomba, which is oloser to my home town. These are the hospitals whose futureI am concerned about if the Labor Party’s scheme is ever introduced. I pay a tribute to the honourable member for Lilley, the Minister for Housing (Mr Kevin Cairns).
– You pay a tribute to him?
-Order! The honourable member for Sturt will cease interjecting. He has been sniping at the honourable member for Maranoa throughout his speech. The honourable member for Sturt was warned this morning by the Deputy Speaker so I suggest he cease interjecting.
-It is just that I should pay a tribute to a man who has devoted much time to sorting out the problems of health services. I can understand members of the Opposition being unwilling to hear me pay a tribute that is justly due to the Minister for Housing for the part he has played in this field. If the Australian public wants the nationalisation of health services it can get it by electing a Labor government.If it wants to squeeze the private hospital system throughout Australia it can do so by the same means. If it wants the right for people to choose their own doctor and their own hospital and if people are prepared to pay the little difference between hospital costs and medical benefits, the people should had the right to choose.
– Little difference?
– If it is not little, it will be larger under the Labor Party scheme. That is the major difference between the Government’s policy and the Australian Labor Party’s policy which will cost infinitely more than members opposite are prepared to admit.
-Order! The time for the discussion has now expired.
- Mr Speaker, in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 10 (a) of the resolution appointing the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs,I inform the House that, at the request of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen), the Committee has reported to him upon the following reference: ‘What is the most effective form of aid - bilateral or multilateral?’.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Estate Duty Assessment Bill 1972.
Gift Duty Bill 1972.
Gift Duty Assessment Bill1972.
Debate resumed from 24 October (vide page 3085), on motion by Sir Reginald Swartz:
That the Bill be now read a secondtime.
– Mr Speaker, mayI have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this BillI should like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Australian National Airlines Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, Mr Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to follow that procedure? There being no objection, I will permit that course to be followed.
– As outlined by the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz), 2 Bills are under discussion at the moment - the Airlines Agreement Bill and the Australian National Airlines Bill. The Opposition proposes to move an amendment, which I will outline presently, to the Airlines Agreement Bill. With respect to the
Australian National Airlines Bill, in the Committee stage the Opposition will be moving an amendment to section 17 of the principal Act. The Opposition intends to support the other proposals embodied in the Bill, lt will support the proposed amendment to section 31 of the principal Act relating to limitation of borrowing. The Opposition believes that this proposal is long overdue. The Opposition also will support the proposal relating to the profits required of Trans-Australia Airlines. The Bill seeks to amend section 37a of the principal Act which deals with profits derived by TAA from insurance. The Opposition will support this proposal.
It is pleasing to note that the Government seeks to delete section 65 from the principal Act. This section relates to medical examinations of persons injured in accidents. The repeal of this provision will put TAA in the same position as any other private operator. It is time ail bureaucratic protectionist clauses were removed from legislation so that Government instrumentalities are not operating under more favourable conditions with respect to litigation against them arising out of some injury or accident. For those reasons the Opposition supports the last 4 amendments to which I have referred.
I do not propose to be as kind to the Government with regard to the Airlines Agreements Bill. There is no justification whatsoever for this legislation being brought into this place in the dying hours of the Parliament. It was introduced last night and it is being debated this afternoon. Only tomorrow is left before the House rises. This legislation should not have been brought in; it should have been a matter for consideration by the new Parliament. This Agreement has 5 years to go, from 31st December this year. It does not expire until 31st December 1977. The Government has given an extension until 31st December 1982. In the dying moments of this Parliament there is no justification for the action which the Government has taken. This is typical of the handouts this Government gives to its friends. It is typical of what happened in connection with Jetair Australia Ltd, which was a putrid and blatant act of corruption by a crooked Prime Minister.
-Order! The honourable member well knows that he must not reflect upon any member of this House. I ask him to withdraw unreservedly the statement he. has made.
– I withdraw the statement unreservedly, Mr Speaker, and just say that it was a putrid action of a Prime. Minister who would have no difficulty sleeping on a corkscrew.
-Order! If the honourable member persists with this type of statement - I request him again to withdraw the statement he has made - he will leave me with no option-
– I withdraw the statement unreservedly, Mr Speaker. I am afraid that you and I have different opinions on this matter.
-Order! It is not a question of different opinions; it is a question of the Standing Orders.
– I accept your ruling, Mr Speaker. 1 have withdrawn the statement that I made, but I still believe it.
– Order! The honourable member will now withdraw the statement unreservedly.
– I withdrew it unreservedly.
– Order! I do not want to force the honourable member into apologising, but if he. continues in this manner 1 will have to do so.
– I withdrew the statement unreservedly.
– And the later statement as well.
– OK. The Opposition raised the matter of the Government’s handling of the Jetair incident in this place by way of questions and speeches. It is clear to everyone who is prepared to examine this matter fairly and without feeling that this Government paid far too much for 6 aircraft. Statements have been made by people who purchased 2 surplus Qantas DC3 aircraft and a considerable amount of spares. They paid $43,000 each for them; but in the opinion of the purchasers, they paid much less than the $43,000 for each aircraft when they took it ito consideration the amount of spares available. At the same time as this Government purchased 6 aircraft for
-Order! The honourable member may make some passing reference to this matter, but he is now reviving a debate which took place in the current session and in doing so he is out of order.
– I am just drawing attention-
-I said that the honourable member was allowed to make passing reference to it.
– I am concluding my remarks. I am just drawing attention to the manner in which this Government has, in my opinion, taken care of its friends. At the time the Government paid an average of $46,000 each for aircraft with many hours up on the motors and the airframe, an aircraft with zero hours on the airframe and the motors was available for $50,500. This is a typical example of the Government’s abuse of this Parliament. The other matter to which I wish to refer concerns the appointments that were made recently to the boards of Qantas Airways Ltd and Trans-Australia Airlines. These were made in the dying hours of this Parliament. Not only was there a replacement of a member of the Qantas board but also the board was increased by the appointment of 2 members who were friends of the Government. The same thing can be said about this decision to renew the 2- airline agreement in the last few hours of this Parliament. For the reasons I will set out, the Opposition will oppose the Bill because we consider that it is not in the best interests of this country.
I now want to deal with the provisions of the Agreement in the Schedule to the Bill. The first one concerns parallel timetabling. Clause 5 of the Third Schedule refers to the Minister having power over air services. In other words, this is the clause which deals with parallel timetabling. I hope that in the few days that are left until 2nd December the Government will do something to overcome the anomalous position that exists at the moment in that on the Sydney-Melbourne run there are 109 flights a week, of which 91 are identically scheduled flights and in the case of only one flight by each airline is there a greater difference than 15 minutes in the scheduled times of take-off. This is a case where the Government has been talking for some years about compelling the airlines to dispense with parallel timetabling; yet it has done nothing about it. Statements have been made by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) which have not been worth the paper they were written on. He has done nothing about it. A Labor government will do something positive to break up parallel timetables.
The other matter dealt with in the Agreement is the imposition of curfews whereby jet aircraft are not permitted to fly from certain airports in Australia. I want to deal in particular with the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport, but at the same time I know that the Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth airports all have the same curfew problem. In Sydney there is a blatant abuse of the curfew hours. The answer to a question asked by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) revealed that in the first 3 months of this year - from January to March - there were 159 breaches of the curfew out of Sydney Airport alone. This must be stopped. A Labor government will rigidly enforce the curfew - on operations not just out of Sydney, but out of all airports - so that the people who live in those areas will be able to get reasonable rest and will not be disturbed by screaming jets taking off over the top of them.
The same can be said about the Electra aircraft. Whilst Electras are not included in the curfew - they are turbo-prop aircraft - they make almost as much noise as a DC9 in taking off and landing. People should not be subjected to the noise nuisance from this type of aircraft. A Labor government will implement the recommendations of the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise. Consultations will take place between the Labor Party’s Minister for Transport and the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison), the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds), the honourable member for Grayndler and the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) to ensure that the people in their electorates will not be subjected to the terrific noise nuisance that is created. A Labor government will prohibit the use of Electras on the east-west runway during curfew hours. In the early stages they will be permitted to operate on the 16/34 runway, or the north-south runway, provided they take oS and land over Botany Bay. Provided they are not causing any inconvenience to the people who live in the area they will be permitted to operate in this way. But if, say, the wind is blowing in such a direction that it is not permissible for the aircraft to land on this runway it will be just too bad - the operator will have to suspend those flights on those days. The Opposition believes that the people who live adjacent to the major airports should no longer be subjected to the great noise nuisance to which they are subjected at present, particularly during the hours of sleep from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. On this basis alone we will be doing something positive.
Something else which is not referred to in the relevant agreement but on which an executive decision was taken is the terminating of the arrangement under which Trans-Australia Airlines has been operating for years concerning the use of contributions to the airlines superannuation fund. The contributions to this fund have now been transferred to the Commonwealth Public Service Superannuation Fund. A Labor government would restore the position existing prior to the bureaucratic executive decision taken by the Government at the behest of Sir Reginald Ansett, the head of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd, who had been complaining about this financial arrangement for years. We will restore the superannuation fund to what it was before. I am pleased to say that no mention is made of the superannuation fund in the agreement. It was not necessary to incorporate any reference to it in the agreement. Just as it was deleted by an executive decision it will be restored by an executive decision to what it was previously to enable this airline to operate on at least reasonably even terms with Ansett Transport Industries. Involved is a cost factor as far as TAA is concerned of $516,000 in this year’s operations alone. That is what the Government has done in respect to the alleged even handed 2-airline system. We will restore the position.
Another matter involved in the relevant agreement is the presentation to the Parliament by Ansett Transport Industries of separate financial details relating to its airline activities. The provision of the agreement that only a statement need be pre sented to the Parliament by the directors of the company is not acceptable to the Labor Party. A Labor government will accept nothing less from a company conducting airline operations and work associated with airline operations than a state* ment containing financial details of ite operations solely in this respect. It would not be interested in examining at the same time the operations of television stations, suburban bus services, hire car services and so on. It would be interested only in examining the airline and associated activities of ATI.
There is only one real way in which an understanding can be gained of the financial operation of ATI and that is by the setting up of a separate airline company to carry out airline operations and related activities; and that is what we will require. In this way we will be able to get a clear indication of the financial operations of both airlines. I am not just kicking Ansett. I want to know whether TAA is also operating efficiently. If it is not, I will want to know why it is not. There is only one way in which one can get the true picture and that is by comparing the financial operations of both airlines, but not by doing so in the manner which has been proposed in the agreement whereby the books can be cooked. I use that expression without making any suggestion of dishonest intent. The fact is that information could be suppressed and not made available to the Parliament. TAA financial affairs are subject to audit by the Government’s auditor. If we are to continue to have a 2-airline system under which there is the equivalent of a guaranteed profit we should also have the affairs of the other company investigated by the Government’s auditor. Both companies should be put on equal footing. Both should be subject to the same auditing, which I hope would bring out the facts in both cases. That is the Labor Party’s attitude as far as the presentation of a financial statement is concerned. The agreement is not satisfactory in this respect.
The agreement is also not satisfactory in relation to the carriage of freight. There is a rationalisation programme at present under which both airlines have access to an equal number of passengers. We want the same principle to apply to freight.
There was an attempt recently by Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd to take over Ansett Transpot Industries by the acquisition of shares. TNT is one of the largest freight forwarders in Australia. It is also one of the largest general transport carriers in Australia. TNT is now a major shareholder in ATI. It holds something like 23 per cent of the shares. It is only natural that TNT will divert a considerable quantity of its freight carriage to Ansett Transport Industries. A Labor government would make sure, in that event, that all Government business was directed to TAA. It would make sure that all mail carriage was by TAA. If there is to be equal opportunity to transact businss it has to be on equal terms and not on terms under which somebody who moves into the field diverts all of his business to his company and also gets half of the Government business. A Labor government would look at these things and make sure that everything is operating correctly.
I wish to draw attention to a couple of anomalies. As I mentioned earlier, this Bill was brought in with indecent haste in the dying hours of this Parliament. I believe that the agreements were ready back in April but that the TNT takeover bid interrupted what was happening at that time and upset the Government’s schedule. If the Government was ready back in April to have the agreements signed, why was the introduction of the Bill to ratify the agreements delayed until late in the life of the Parliament? If a Bill could be drawn up to implement the terms of the agreements, why could a similar Bill not be drawn up to amend the Australian National Airlines Act to make sure that TAA gets all of the things which have been promised to it in a letter? I would not trust the Government as far as I could ick it with a broken leg. For that reason alone there is any amount of justification for saying that a Bill should have been brought in at the same time as this Bill to rectify the position as far as TAA is concerned. There is some doubt as to the legality of TAA’s operations. All that is required is a small amendment to section 19 of the Australian National Airlines Act which will permit TAA to be entitled to do all the things which Ansett is entitled to do. All that is required is the deletion of the words ‘or as incidental to’ in subsection 1 of section 19 of the Act and the insertion of a suitable, amendment which would take care of the position regarding the legality of TAA carrying out certain operations that 1 will list in a moment. If the Government were fair dinkum - I say it is not - it would have brought down a Bill concerning the airline agreements and a Bill containing the necessary amendments to the Australian National Airlines Act.
The Government stated in August that it was going to permit TAA to do certain things. We on this side of the House have been demanding this for some years, but the Government has done nothing about it. It could have done so easily by a minor amendment to the Act. As far as we are concerned, because Ansett is entitled to certain things, TAA should be permitted to enter into, for example, the field of private engineering. It has some of the best equipment in the world just lying idle for too much time. We will permit it to use this equipment to contract for work now done by private companies, as happens in Newcastle with the. Newcastle State Dockyard, which is a State Government instrumentality. It does work not only for the Government but also for private industry. In fact it specialises in heavy engineering for the heavy steel industry in the Newcastle district. There is no reason why TAA cannot likewise do this. It will be given authority so to do. The same thing applies as far as Commonwealth contracts are concerned. TAA will be permitted to compete with Ansett in the field of hotels, tourist development and the. like. If it wants to set up a road transport organisation to carry freight by road, or if it wants to use its powers to acquire tourist buses as part of its airline operations so that it can take kiddies or people so far by bus and then by air for the rest of the. journey, it will be permitted to do so.
Another important matter is the right of TAA, having moved into the field of hotels, motels and tourist activities, and not wanting to go into this field on its own, to do so in partnership with some existing organisation. Under the old financial arrangements TAA, no doubt after acquainting the Minister of its intentions, was able to use its superannuation funds to acquire shares in those companies. It had the superannuation funds to fall back on. Now it will have to approach Treasury, Treasury will have to examine the proposition and Treasury then will make a decision on whether it will approve it. This is why it is important that superannuation funds be restored to their previous position. The other point is the right of TAA to enter into aerial work, charter operations and, most important of all, to participate, we hope, in the airline operations of the new Papua New Guinea Government. These are the things that a Labor government would propose to do and which we have been demanding for so many years from this Government. But the Government could not put these things through in the dying hours of this Parliament so that everything could be dealt with on an equal footing.
The Government’s decision to phase TAA operation into Western Australia over a period of 2 years is not good enough. TAA should be permitted immediately to operate from Perth to Darwin and to conduct airline operations in Western Australia. There has been no mention of TAA operating in South Australia, but I know that the Government has been requested by the South Australian Government to permit TAA to operate in that State. We will permit it to do so. The exclusion of TAA from operating in Western Australia has been of distinct disadvantage to that airline but of great advantage to Ansett. It is estiamted that the monopoly of intrastate operations in Western Australia has been worth something like $3. 5m a year to Ansett. As far as I am concerned, the proposed 2-year phasing in period is not good enough. I know that this rearrangement will cause staff problems, and that aspect will have to be closely examined. The phasing in of TAA into an operation which involved a monopoly for a subsidiary of Ansett will cause staff problems. As far as we on this side of the House are concerned, this phasing in will not be at the expense of the employees. It will have to be dealt with possibly on the basis of transferring some employees from one airline to the other. At least men and women should retain their employment in the industry. Time will take care of this problem because of the natural wastage of people leaving the industry. However this problem should be overcome.
The last matter I wish to raise concerns the profits of the 2 airlines. Under our 2 airline system profits are far too high. This year TAA has made a profit of 10 per cent and last year it made a profit of 12 per cent. Ansett has been operating on a 10 per cent dividend. When the Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd takeover was imminent Ansett, in a defensive move, increased its dividend from 10 per cent to 15 per cent. In a protected industry such as the 2- airline industry which is operating in Australia today, a 10 per cent profit is too high and a 15 per cent profit is far too high. Action should be taken by this Parliament to make sure that the profits in this protected industry are reduced. There is only one way to go about that, and that is by the Minister taking positive action, firstly, by directing TAA to reduce its fares so that its profit will be restricted to a maximum, I would say, of 8 per cent. That would be the highest figure to which I would be prepared to go. If TAA took that positive action, something could be done about these high profit margins. There has to be greater flexibility in fares, concessions and the like. We know that for some years TAA has been trying to introduce off-peak concessional fares. Ansett has always opposed this proposition by saying: There is the aircraft. This is the fare. If you use the aircraft you pay the fare that we want to levy’. That is not good enough, and the Government should be pushing TAA to set the pace by reducing its fares to a level at which people would be able to travel under fair and reasonable conditions. 1 want to direct to the attention of the Parliament the difference in return to the airlines between the first class and economy class fares. Let me take as an example the Sydney-Melbourne run, which is the most used run in Australia today. There are 4 first class seats to a row. The one way fare for each seat is $33. That gives the airline a return of $132 a row. In the economy class there are 5 seats to a row at $27.30 a seat. This gives the airline a return of $136.50 a row. I ask the Minister why the airline receives a greater return from economy class passengers who are seated 5 to a row, than it does from first class passengers who are seated 4 to a row. If first class passengers want the comfort of only 4 seats to a row, the airline should get a greater return per row of seats from the first class passengers than it does from the economy class passengers. Not very many years ago this was the position, but in recent years the position has been reversed. The increase in first class fares has been greater than the increase in second class fares. Air fares in Australia are too high. We have one of the highest load factors in the world. For example, the figures for the last 3 years for TAA are interesting. In 1969-70 the load factor was 67.3 per cent; in 1970-71 it was 65.2 per cent, and in 1971-72 it was 64.1 per cent whereas the average load factors for the world as shown in the recent report from the International Civil Aviation Organisation were 54.8 per cent in 1968, 52.5 per cent in 1969, 51.5 per cent in 1970, and 51 per cent in 1971. On those figures a reduction in our fares is more than justified. For the reasons I have outlined, on behalf of the Opposition I move the following amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: the Government be condemned for seeking to usurp the powers and functions of future Parliaments by extending an agreement which does not expire until 1977 through to 1982 and for the reason that it discriminates against Trans-Australia Airlines and does not provide for even-handed competition between the 2 airlines’.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morrison) adjourned.
Ministerial Statement Mr HUNT (Gwydir- Minister for the Interior) - by leave - I believe this statement and the contents of the paper I am about to present to the Parliament are of far reaching and historic consequence to the Northern Territory - indeed to the nation. In presenting the paper entitled Outline of Proposals for the Transfer of a Range of Functions to the Territory Legislature and Executive’, I consider the offer by the Government is an important step towards executive autonomy in Australia’s largest Territory. The paper has attached to it an illustrative paper on Northern Territory finances. At its June sittings the
Northern Territory Legislative Council passed a resolution in the following terms:
This Council, notwithstanding its expressed dissatisfaction with the extent of constitutional changes discussed in the recent conference between delegates of this Council and Federal Ministers, asks the Commonwealth Government to make a firm offer of the changes in form of the Government for the Northern Territory it is now proposed to make and of any other progressive proposals to which it is prepared to commit itself for future contitutional development. This Council acknowledges that transfer of executive powers to the Northern Territory would carry wilh it some responsibility for appropriate revenue raising.
The Government’s reply is being conveyed to the Legislative Councillors today. In view of the importance of the proposals, it is desirable that the offer of contitutional change which is being made to the residents of the Northern Territory through their Legislative Council should also be presented to this House.
It may help honourable members if I recount some of the history of this matter. Legislative Councillors have been pressing for greater executive authority for some years. In 1964 a detailed examination took place which showed that the Territory’s resources in terms of revenues and population were insufficient to make possible the establishment of a Territory executive. At that time the Government decided that Territorial involvement in executive decision making should be encouraged through the expansion of local government and through the estabishment of statutory authorities. Local government had been introduced in Darwin in 1957 and subsequently in Alice Springs and is planned for Tennant Creek and Katherine. A number of statutory authorities have also been established such as the Housing Commission, Port Authority, Reserves Board, Tourist Board and the Museums and Art Galleries Board. In 1968 after further discussions with the Legislative Councillors the composition of the Council was altered to remove the 3 nominated non-official members. The Legislative Council then reached its present composition of 6 official and 11 elected members. In introducing the Bill in 1968 my predecessor said:
The decision to introduce the new arrangements has been made in the expectation that there will be a reasonable recognition of the Government’s responsibilities by the elected majority of the Legislative Council and that the arrangements will work on a basis of give and take which will enable the Government to take major decisions and conduct important development negotiations with a reasonable prospect of securing passage of necessary ordinance. If the expectation is not in fact realised then the Government will have no alternative but to reconsider the arrangements so as to find ways of discharging its responsibilities.
In 1970 further talks took place between Legislative Councillors and Ministers which ied to a joint study comprising Legislative Councillors and senior officers of the various departments involved. This in its turn led to a meeting on 3rd March this year between a Legislative Council delegation and the Treasurer (Mr Snedden), the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood), the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson) and myself. Following that meeting a joint Press statement was issued by the President of the Legislative Council and me. The June resolution of the Legislative Council flowed from these talks. I do not propose to take the time of the House by reading in detail the proposals set out in the Government offer. Paragraph 1 .of the paper sets out a list of functions which it is proposed should become fully subject to local executive control. Paragraph 3 A sets out the financial arrangements proposed for the territory executive. The Government regards as fundamental to any proposal for the establishment of a Territory executive the acceptance of responsibility in the true sense, which in the ultimate means acceptance of responsibility for raising a reasonable proportion of the funds required to pay for the services at the standards desired by the Territory people. It is proposed that this will be achieved by following financial arrangements broadly on the same lines as those that exist between the Commonwealth and the Slates, due regard being had of course to the particular circumstances of the Northern Territory.
There remain some areas of special concern to the Commonwealth, either because they involve heavy financial expenditure for which the Commonwealth must be responsible, or because they are of national concern. Clearly Aboriginal affairs must remain the concern of the Commonwealth. We also believe that at this stage of the Territory’s development the Commonwealth should continue to exercise control over the vast natural resources of the Territory in the national interest. As a corollary to setting up a truly responsible Territory executive over areas of local concern, the Government regards it as essential to ensure that the Commonwealth is able to carry out its responsibilities of national importance. Paragraph 3c (ii) therefore proposes that the Governor-General should have a reserve power to make ordinances in this limited field. This would only apply where the. Legislative Council had failed to pass essential legislation and a conference had been held between the Government and the Councillors which failed to reach agreement.
I am well aware of the criticism in the Territory of remote control from Canberra. I well understand that people might feel this way even where the functions are carried out through the Administrator and a local Administration and even though there may be a real and significant involvement of local people in executive decisions through the Administrator’s Council and statutory authorities. If the Government offer is accepted there will be a practical basis on which a Territory executive could be established with responsibility over a wide range of State-like functions.
I emphasise that the Government has no intention of imposing constitutional changes on these lines. The Government wishes to see the widest possible debate and discussion among people in the Territory about these proposals. The Government will be anxious to obtain a clear reaction not only from the Northern Territory Legislative Council but from the people as a whole. If the Territory people through their Legislative Council indicate support for the proposed changes then the Government would introduce legislation into the Parliament for this purpose. In any event if there is an acceptance of the principles inherent in the Government’s offer ample opportunity will be provided for further discussions between the elected representatives and the Government about the details involved in a transfer of executive power to the Territory. This offer is a very significant and historical step in the constitutional development of the Northern Territory towards autonomy. Its essential significance, is that the Government is not taking a unilateral decision about the future government of the Territory, but it is asking the people of the Territory to take that decision.
With the leave of the House I present the following documents:
Outline of Proposals for the Transfer of a Range of Functions to the Territory Legislature and Executive, together wilh indicative financial statements.
Motion (by Mr Chipp) proposed:
That the House take note of the papers.
– On 23rd June 1970, almost 2i years ago, 3 elected members of the Northern Territory Legislative Council - Mr Kilgariff, Mr Fisher and Mr Greatorex - came to Canberra on the instructions of the Northern Territory Legislative Council to put forward to the Commonwealth Government certain grievances of the Northern Territory people. I think that everything that the Government has offered today as indicated by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) was, in fact, included in their representations to the Government in 1970. It has taken over 2 years for the Government to act. There are a lot of glaring omissions from this statement in respect of matters which the Legislative Council asked the Government to consider. It would seem from an examination of the Minister’s statement that items of non-controversial substance, items which will not influence very much this Parliament or its representations, have been included in the statement but items which have a direct bearing on this Parliament have been deliberately omitted.
Let me deal with several of them. One of the charges levelled by the people of the Northern Territory against this Government concerns its refusal to treat the people in the Northern Territory as equal citizens or as first-class citizens. There is not one mention in this statement of giving to the people in the Northern Territory a voice in the Senate. Why should not they have a voice in the Senate? They are Australians. They live in a remote area of Australia and they are fully entitled to have a representative or representatives in the Senate of this Parliament. Not one mention has the Minister made to say whether the Government considered this and turned it down, whether it is considering it or whether it may consider it at some later stage. There is a Bill before the Parliament on this very matter and on which again the Government is conveniently stalling.
The second point I make with respect to representation for the people in the Northern Territory is that they should be entitled to vote on matters concerning the Commonwealth Constitution. Again there is a deliberate omission from this statement by the Minister. Why should not the people in the Northern Territory have the right to vote in a referendum concerning the Commonwealth Constitution? Why should the Commonwealth Government continue to allow the people in the Northern Territory to be regarded as second-class citizens? They are just as good as those citizens who live in any other part of Australia. Again there is no reference in the statement as to whether this matter is being considered. But of course we know the reason for this omission. We know that if there is another representative for the Northern Territory he or she will be a Labor representative. That has already been determined. If there are 2 representatives one will be a Labor representative and in all possibility if there were a Senate election there would be a Labor representative in the Senate.
A glaring omission from this statement is mention of the very power - the substance - of the Northern Territory. I refer to land and minerals. This has been deliberately omitted from this statement. I agree with the Government in respect of Aborigines. I believe this is a national responsibility and can best be handled from a Commonwealth viewpoint. I believe that the Australian Government should have as much power as is possible to make laws regarding the Aborigines of Australia. But it is quite a different matter when you are dealing with the resources of an area such as land, water and minerals. Why is it that the Government allows, for example, the Legislative Council to have power over the acquisition of urban land and its administration but refuses to allow the Council to have power over Crown land held in a very large way by foreign owners? Why does the Government refuse to give administrative responsibility for that land to the Northern Territory Legislative Council? Why is it that mining has been singled out and is kept away from the Legislative Council?
It is all right to argue that these are the resources with which the nation is concerned. Of course it is concerned with them just as it is concerned with all of Australia. But I submit that the Government should put forward a timetable. I said quite recently in this Parliament that there should be a timetable in regard to all the resources of the Northern Territory. The Government has declared itself categorically in respect of Aborigines but why has it not declared itself with respect to minerals and land? Does it mean that the Commonwealth considers that it should always have control over our basic resources which are of course very valuable as we have seen in recent years in view of the activities of foreign investors? I submit on behalf of the Opposition that there is an urgent need to introduce a step by step timetable, not only in regard to the functions which I call the crumbs’, such as Prison Administration, sewerage operations and the various statutory authorities, but also in respect of the real substance of the Northern Territory which is minerals and land. They are the things for which we need to have a timetable.
Another point I should like to make deals with the role of the Administrator. Under the terms which the Minister announced to the House today the Administrator of (he Northern Territory will have something like the powers of a governor. He will give assent to legislation passed by the Legislative Council. This means, I assume, that the Governor-General will have no power of veto over any of the functions which are now exclusively those of the Legislative Council. What I am concerned about is whether the Administrator will at all times abide by the decisions of the Legislative Council. Will he of necessity give assent to legislation or will he have the right to refer some decisions to Canberra? If he does have that right it will defeat the whole purpose-
– There is no power of veto over areas in respect of which we transfer executive authority.
– In other words, every decision which the Legislative Council makes will automatically receive assent from the Administrator?
– That is right.
– That is how it should be. One may then question the need to have the Administrator. I have some views on this. I think that while we have Commonwealth responsibility in an area there is a need for a Commonwealth representative to be in that area and at a level equivalent to that of administrator - I do not want to call him a governor. But one questions the necessity of having to go through all this red tape with the Administrator being required to give assent to legislation when in fact it is automatically given and he can do nothing but give it. But I question this from a legal point of view because I understand that a governor can refuse to give assent. If the Administrator is given the power to refuse assent this has to be looked at carefully. But the Minister has assured me that the Administrator is forced, as it were, to give assent to every piece of legislation that goes through the Legislative Council. I question this. Nevertheless the Minister has told us the position.
The Labor Party’s policy with respect to the Northern Territory has been made clear by myself several times. We have given an undertaking that a Labor government will introduce a definite timetable laid down within reason for a progressive march towards self-government. It will be a step by step timetable. It will have to be in that form because of the financial restrictions. On the other hand, the Northern Territory is in a much better position in regard to achieving self-government than were some of the States of Australia when they were about to achieve it. After all, there is Commonwealth financial legislation to assist new States such as the Northern Territory. We accept the fact that selfgovernment will take time but we do not accept that it will take another 23 years - the period for which this Government has been in power - before a timetable can be laid down with a view to achieving the objective which I believe all Australians would want.
Another point which is missing from the Minister’s statement, as I see it, is a clear statement regarding the functions of the Northern Territory Public Service. I am not sure whether the Minister means that there will be an accelerated transfer or change with emphasis now on the Northern Territory Public Service or not. But it is clear that there will need to be emphasis given to this matter because after all the Commonwealth is now to give more and more functions to the Northern Territory Legislative Council. As a result there will have to be an increase in the size of the Northern Territory Public Service. This was one of the objectives of the 3-man delegation that came down to Canberra in 1970. The delegation made a clear submission to the Government in regard to progressively increasing the Northern Territory Public Service. I can only assume that the Minister implicitly means that this will happen and that there will be less emphasis on the operation of the Commonwealth Public Service in the Northern Territory and greater emphasis on the operation, recruitment and development of the Northern Territory public service to keep it in step with the State-like functions that are now being handed over to the Northern Territory.
I have no argument against what the Government has set out in its paper. I commend the Government for it. But I do not waste any time in criticising the Government for the time that it has taken to bring about these changes. I believe that the Government should have gone much further. There are many aspects of Crown lands and mineral fields which the Legislative Council could have taken over. I believe that the Council would do a very good job in these areas. But it seems that the Government wants to bang on to the land - principally cattle land and mining land - at all costs and not let it pass into the administrative responsibility of the people of the Northern Territory. Although the fire brigade, the prisons, the police force and sewerage are all important the real economic resources of substance are land, mineral and water, of which land and minerals are the most important. These are the areas about which there is controversy. The Government says that these resources are of vital concern to the nation. Of course they are. We have seen at Gove, for example, what can be done and what is being done with our resources. But surely where expenditure is involved in housing, roads and so on the Northern Territory people and the Legislative Council have the same right to go to the Com monwealth Government for assistance under section 96 of the Constitution as has any other State which seeks special assistance in these fields.
I hope that the nest statement that the Minister makes to the Parliament - he will not be able to present it before the election - will put forward a plan which will involve minerals and land because I can see no reason why some major aspects of Crown land and minerals cannot be handed over to the Northern Territory Legislative Council for administration.
– I would like first of all to refer to the remarks made by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). The honourable member said that the Government had taken 2 years to act on this matter since a delegation of 3 men from the Northern Territory - 2 of whom were members of the Australian Country Party and one was an independent - came to Canberra in relation to it. The honourable member accuses the Government of refusing to take this matter seriously. He said that the Government had taken 2 years to work out a proposition to put to the Northern Territory Legislative Council, and through the Legislative Council, to the people of the Northern Territory. But I stress the point that it takes a considerable time - and this is what must happen - to formulate such propositions. The matter had to be discussed by several Commonwealth Government departments. Therefore I think it is wrong for the honourable member to accuse the Government of delay. The proposals that the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) has just outlined are a starting point to a move towards greater autonomy for the people of the Northern Territory through the Legislative Council. The, honourable member for Dawson has again demanded that administration of land and minerals should be in the hands of the Legislative Council. But is it our duty to impose on the Legislative Council and the people of the Northern Territory and say what functions should be run by the Legislative Council and what it should be doing? I consider that it is the right of the Northern Territory people to look at these proposals and to decide what they want. I do not think they should be told by the honourable member for Dawson what they want.
In taking this historic step the Government has honoured its undertaking to the members of the Legislative Council. For years the members of that Council have been advocating greater autonomy for the Council. A delegation of greater strength than the 3-man delegation which I have mentioned visited Canberra recently. It dealt with members of departments of the Commonwealth Government and with Ministers of the Government. As a result of these discussions the proposal that was tabled this afternoon has come into being. I say once again that the people of the Northern Territory have to look at these proposals, give them full consideration and make their decision about whether they want any more control at the moment to be given to the Legislative Council or whether time should be given to the Council so that the elected members of the Council and the official members on the Council who assist them can digest the proposals and perhaps get a Legislative Council with greater powers organised and on the road as it were.
The Government in taking this step has honoured the agreement it made with the Legislative Council. It is now for the Northern Territory people to debate and consider the proposals. The Australian Country Party, which is the majority party in the Legislative Council, has followed the line that there should be a step by step movement towards the Territory’s running its own affairs. About 5 years ago - I would not be quite certain of the date - the Country Party produced in the Council a White Paper which set out the steps that the Territory should take in moving towards eventual statehood. That White Paper was eventually not accepted by members of the Australian Labor Party and independent members of the Council. It was tabled and there was no debate on it. Since that time there has been movement, as is shown by the visit of the delegations to Canberra to discuss this matter. An Australian Labor Party spokesman in the Territory recently expessed disappointment in the remark of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) that the Territory would not have statehood within the next 2 Parliaments.
– Who was that?
– This was reported on 11th October as having been said by the Labor Party candidate for the Federal seat of the Northern Territory. Looking at the proposals that are contained in the Minister’s speech, I would think that it would take that length of time for the Council, the councillors and the official members to digest these proposals and to put them into operation. It will take that length of time for the various members of the Council to take on the responsibility. I gather from the statement that official members of the Council will not debate in the Council; they will be there to give advice. So the whole structure and the mode of the Northern Territory Legislative Council will have to be altered. So, too, will the whole electoral position. There will have to be more members and so on. Therefore, I believe it is wrong for the honourable member for Dawson to advocate a much quicker movement in the timetable for statehood in the Northern Territory.
Looking at these proposals I can well understand the remarks of the Minister that it will take some years for the proposals to be put into operation. Against those Australian Labor Party men, including the honourable member for Dawson who is now at the table, saying that they would put into operation a quicker pace of reform than this, we have the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) who, when last on his feet in the House on this matter, seemed to be backing off this idea of a quicker move towards self-government in the Northern Territory. He said that he thought it would be unpopular in certain parts of the Northern Territory. He said that he knew the Labor members of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. I had mentioned that some of them were in favour of immediate selfgovernment for the Northern Territory; but the honourable member for Adelaide, in appearing to be backing off this idea, said that he knew them personally and that they would not be talking of this sort of thing. I suppose he does know them personally, even though he had to ask me one of their names. How well does he know them?
In a debate in the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory in May, the Labor Leader, in discussing, I imagine, the Budget proposals and lining up the
Northern Territory with Papua New Guinea in regard to being able to attain the same sort of thing as Papua New Guinea has, said that he could not understand why the Northern Territory could not do the same. He went on to say - I presume he was talking about self-government - that he could not see the slightest risk in going the whole hog. By ‘whole hog’ he obviously meant going from the Budget straight to selfgovernment. He went on to say: ‘Personally, I consider it a right.’ Here we have confusion in the Labor Party. The honourable member for Dawson said earlier that this should be done step by step. That agreed with the proposals of the Australian Country Party in a White Paper of 4 or 5 years ago. Here today he said that the Labor Party believes that this should be carried out much faster than in the proposals put forward by the Country Party. We had Labor’s candidate for the Northern Territory saying exactly the same thing. The honourable member for Adelaide then refuted what his men have said in the Northern Territory Legislative Council, saying that such a move would be unpopular. So there seems to be in the Labor ranks utter confusion as to what should happen with regard to political reform for the Northern Territory.
In conclusion, let me say that I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) helped very much when he prematurely announced that, if the Labor Party were elected to government, the Minister in charge of the Northern Territory would be the current member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr Enderby). Frankly, this would set the Northern Territory at a tremendous disadvantage. Honourable members can say what they like about whether the Administrator has powers as a Governor or whatever, but the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory would be responsible for both the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. What chance would the Northern Territory have of getting anything when he would be living in this town, with 70,000 or 80,000 electors pulling him back this way? To me, that absolutely epitomises the attitude of the Australian Labor Party towards the Northern Territory.
Mir HURFORD (Adelaide) (3.39)- During 23 years of Liberal government very little advance has been made in the con stitutional position of the Northern Territory, and in the last 23 hours we have this statement by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt). Let me say that I welcome it, just as my colleagues and I have welcomed so many of these last minute measures of this Government. Of course, I put this matter in the same category as the decentralisation legislation, the foreign takeovers legislation, the inquiry into poverty, the inquiry into national superannuation, and so on.
– Deathbed repentance.
– As the honourable member for Kingston said, it is deathbed repentance. There is little wonder at it in this case. This is another case of the policy of the Australian Labor Party being adopted. How could I do anything but welcome the statement when this is the case? The Platform of the Australian Labor Party on northern development states:
Decentralisation of those functions of Commonwealth Government Departments and instrumentalities relevant to the administration and development of Northern Australia.
That is one of the clauses. There is another clause which has not yet been adopted, but I shall read it to the House so that we will know which way we will be heading under a Labor government:
The Northern Territory to have a fully elected Legislative Assembly and the question of referred powers to be one for negotiation.
With these extra responsibilities, perhaps we will change the name ‘Council’ to Assembly’, even if, God forbid, the present Liberal-Country Party Government stays in power. But the point in that clause is ‘the question of referred powers to be one for negotiation’. This is another reason why I welcome the statement of the Minister for the Interior. That is precisely what is happening. There has been an offer and now there will be negotiations. Another part of our Party’s policy is the establishment of local government in the Northern Territory wherever practicable. That also has been advanced to a limited extent. There are still other areas - I think I am right in saying - such as Katherine, where no doubt this now is being considered.
However, I rose to my feet mainly to say how the Australian Labor Party campaign to win the seat of the Northern Territory, our candidate being Mr Ted Robertson, will take great heart from the news which has been announced in the House today. It will take great heart if only for the reason that we realise that this 11th hour repentance, or should I say this last 23 hours of the Parliament repentance, on the part of the Government shows the seat to be vulnerable. Who would wonder that it is vulnerable, having heard the speech just delivered by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder)? First of all, he questioned the claim of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) that members of the Northern Territory Legislative Council would welcome some further powers in relation to Crown lands and mining. The main attitude of the honourable member for the Northern Territory in regard to this matter was: ‘Who is this honourable member for Dawson in claiming that they would want it in the Territory?’ So little does he know about what is happening in the Legislative Council in Darwin and the aspirations of the people of the Northern Territory, as expressed by the councillors of the Northern Territory Legislative Council, that he does not realise that this was part of the request made by the Northern Territory Legislative Council in the document dated 1970 - 2 years ago to which he himself referred. I go further and point out that we on this side of the House are suggesting not that all of the powers in relation to Crown lands and mining should be handed over but, as the honourable member for Dawson said, that only some aspects of those powers should be handed over.
But there are matters apart from Crown lands and mining which should have formed part of this statement. I know that I am repeating what has been said already by the honourable member for Dawson, but it would have been nice to have heard from the Minister for the Interior a timetable in relation to senators from the Northern Territory. Let us face it; the people of the Northern Territory are the most underrepresented people in this Parliament.
– And the worst represented.
– Perhaps I will not repeat what was said by the honourable member for Kingston. I will leave the House to judge whether I agree with him or not. The fact is that, because of their distance from this Parliament, the fact that they have no State parliament and the fact that local government is weak, it is very difficult for their voice to be heard in this Parliament. It is very necessary that they have extra representation in this Parliament. I believe that after the next Federal election there will be an improvement in the voice that they have here, but still that voice will need to be supplemented by senators and some extra numbers in this House. We on this side of the House have not had time to research these proposals to any great extent. 1 raise one other matter that I rind disappointing in what I have read to date, namely, that there is not provision in these proposals for more autonomous decision making in the Territory in relation to those functions which will remain with the Commonwealth Government. By this I mean that I would hope that there would be a cutting of the Gordian knot bet .seen Canberra and the Northern Territory in relation to a lot of the minor decisions that are made even in relation to Aborigines. There is far too much referring of matters to Canberra for decision making. 1 put in a plea for Alice Springs in particular. Any matters relating to Alice Springs on which a decision is required have to be referred first of all to Darwin, then to Canberra, then from Canberra back to Darwin and then back to Alice Springs. Even if there were no proposals in relation to legislative decision making, the Minister for the Interior acting in an administrative capacity could give more autonomy to those public servants in Alice Springs and Darwin. I hope I am making clear that it is not only decision making in the Territory that is important. Decisions that relate to Alice Springs should as far as possible be made in Alice Springs. The present system of 3 tiers is worse than the 2- tiers system - Darwin and Canberra.
I will not repeat but I do endorse what has been said by the honourable member for Dawson. I will not take my full time because I know that the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory, who of course has a great deal of interest in these proposals as well, because he hopes that there will be developments in the Australian Capital Territory along with developments in the Northern Territory, wishes to have some time in which to express his thoughts. I said in a debate on the Estimates not so long ago that I hoped something like this would come forward. I believe that it is for political purposes that it has come forward at this time. I believe it is being done to save the neck of the present Country Party member for the Northern Territory, but if it is to benefit the people of the Northern Territory, of course it will be worth while.
– I will not take up much time of the House with the few remarks I wish to make, but I am indebted to the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) and the Deputy Government Whip for giving me this time. The consequences of the proposals outlined by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) of course are not confined only to the people of the Northern Territory. The proposals relating to the Northern Territory, as everybody has said, will be extremely welcome. I hasten to add my support to the remarks of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and the honourable member for Adelaide. There is a similarity between the problems of the people of the Australian Capital Territory and those of the Northern Territory notwithstanding the very great differences that exist between the 2 Territories. The Northern Territory’s geography is essentially different from the geography of the Australian Capital Territory and it poses different problems. Features of the Northern Territory include its remoteness and the concentration of population in places such as Alice Springs, Darwin, Gove and so on.
It seems that pursuant to Government policy a certain amount of very limited progress has been made towards territorial government in the Northern Territory which the Government has denied the people of the Australian Capital Territory. A form of local government exists in the Northern Territory. It has an unnecessarily very restricted Legislative Council and, like the Australian Capital Territory, it has very restricted representation in this Parliament. In the Australian Capital Territory we do not have even the advantages that are enjoyed by the people of the Northern Territory. We have twice the population of the Northern Territory. We have about 170,000 people here now, or so close to it that it does not matter. The population is increasing by about 10 per cent per annum. In the short time since the last election in 1969 something like 40,000 people have come to live in the Australian Capital Territory. Yet we have a form of local representation confined to a body called the Advisory Council which has no power. The substance of this Council has remained unaltered for many years as a result of deliberate Government policy. I know that the Minister refers more and more matters to it for consideration, but this is not enough. Those men on the Advisory Council who represent the people of Canberra are free to give only advice on matters that arise. They have no power.
With the greatest of respect to the people of the Northern Territory, who are of course good people and have problems of their own, I think it could be fairly said that the people of the Australian Capital Territory are a very politically conscious people. They are very much aware of the extent to which they are deprived of political rights. One only has to see the correspondence column in the ‘Canberra Times’ and hear the comments and discussions of the Advisory Council and of other bodies and one only has to see the size of public meetings on subjects as diverse as education and the ordinance relating to dogs or whatever it happens to be, to get a feeling of how much the people of the city of Canberra feel deprived of any say in their affairs.
-Order! I remind the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory that we are dealing with the Northern Territory. I suggest that while he may make comparisons between the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory he cannot make the Australian Capital Territory the whole subject of his speech.
– I do not propose to do that, and I am very conscious of the difference. But the similarity that exists between the problems of the Northern Territory and the problems of the Australian Capital Territory, both inland territories of the Commonwealth of Australia, makes it impossible for one to avoid comparing them. We welcome the step forward that has been taken in the Northern Territory. We also urge, as the honourable member for Adelaide has said, that the Northern
Territory be given increased representation in this Parliament, particularly in the Senate.
– And rights in relation to referendums.
– The people of the Northern Territory should be able to vote in referendums. Their lack of rights in this area is a deficiency that they share with the people of Canberra. I remember that my maiden speech in this House was concerned with Senate representation for both the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory and the urging for it. It is fascinating to reflect that the honourable member for the Northern Territory voted against increased Senate representation for the Northern Territory.
– I did not.
– I am sorry; that is my understanding.
– That is your understanding but you do not understand it.
– You spoke against it.
– I did not speak against it.
– Notwithstanding thatI understand that in his maiden speech he had supported the proposition.
– If you read Hansard you will see that I did not speak against it.
– Well, you did not vote for it.
– It did not come to the vote.
– This indicates the depth of feeling for the subject by the honourable member for the Northern Territory. Those are the principal points I wish to make except to finish on this note: As the honourable member for Adelaide pointed out, we have seen so many propositions - promises, if one likes, although they are a little different from promises - brought before this House in the dying days of this Parliament. These proposals are only something to discuss with someone else sitting around a table. They represent no firm achievement. Of course the Government hopes to persuade the people that the proposal is in itself a positive achievement. It is not.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In his speech the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) stated that I voted against Senate representation for the Northern Territory. In the debate on this matter I, along with several others, was listed to speak. There was an agreement between the Opposition and the Government about the number of speakers. When the debate was adjourned a motion was moved by the Opposition to suspend Standing Orders to enable the debate to continue against which the Government voted so that the programme of the House could go on. I had a lot to say about the matter and I made some trenchant remarks. I stuck to my part of the agreement. This is why I voted against a suspension of Standing Orders to allow the Australian Labor Party to continue the debate. I did not vote against Senate representation for the Northern Territory.
Debate resumed (vide page 3150).
– In order to refresh the minds of honourable members, following the interruption during which other matters were discussed, I should repeat the amendment that has been moved by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) which I have great pleasure in seconding. He moved as follows:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘the Government be condemned for seeking to usurp the powers and functions of future Parliaments by extending an agreement which does not expire until 1977 through to 1982 and for the reason that it discriminates against TransAustralia Airlines and does not provide for evenhanded competition between the 2 airlines’.
Today the Government is demanding, in the last days of this Parliament and significantly on a day on which the proceedings of the House of Representatives are not being broadcast, that this House in 1972 extends to 1982 an agreement which does not expire until 1977. As the Opposition has pointed out in its amendment, the Government is seeking to usurp the powers and functions of future parliaments in the interests of its great and powerful friend, Sir Reginald Ansett. This is the most blatant piece of political skulduggery that has ever been perpetrated by an Australian government in the history of the Commonwealth. It not only smacks of patronage; it is patronage.
This Government’s civil aviation policies are dictated by one man - a man who is not elected and is in no way responsible to this Parliament or to the Australian people. This Government, in its legislation on civil aviation, has been careful not to place Sir Reginald Ansett above the law. What it has done is to make laws that place Sir Reginald Ansett above everybody else, including this Parliament. How can this Government justify its action today in 1972 in seeking to extend an agreement that runs until 1977 for a further 5 years from 1977 to 1982? What is more, it is demanding that this be done on the second last day of this Parliament. This is a plain case of aerial banditry with Sir Reginald Ansett holding the gun at the Government’s head and this spineless Government standing and delivering the goods. It is quite obvious that Ned Kelly has not yet. died.
Let us took at the advantages that Sir Reginald Ansett derives from the Bill and from airlines agreements dating back to 1952, through 1961 and subsequent legislation concerned with the principal act. I ask honourable members to remember that this is government assistance to a private company to the detriment of the Government’s own company. Where else in the world would one find a government that is prepared to provide assistance to a private company against the interest of the Government’s own company? This is not a question of socialism versus private enterprise; it is a case of the Government private enterprising the profits of the airlines and socialising the losses. It is a case of the Government guaranteeing a private company by legislative and administrative protection and neglecting the interests of the Government company itself.
If *e examine the 1952 agreement which started this whole support- this whole succouring of Sir Reginald Ansett - we find in clause 5, which is still operative and part and parcel of the present Bill, a guarantee that Ansett Airlines of Australia shares in the carriage of royal mail. In response to a question that I asked of the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) last year, he indicated to me on 28th September 1971 that in 1970-71 the total air mail contract for the carriage of air mail was worth $4m. Of this amount, Ansett’s share was almost exactly half. To be precise it was $1,983,519. All honourable members will agree that this is pure gravy, even if the air mail were carried on airliners. I think all honourable members can recall the time when one of Ansett’s road freighters was involved in a crash. It disgorged not surface mail, but air mail. These were letters that the paying public would rightfully expect to be carried by air mail. On that occasion we found that they were being carried by road freighter.
Under clause 6 of the original agreement the Government ensures that Ansett gets a goodly share of government business - that is, the travel of public servants and the carriage of government freight. Again in response to a question on notice we discovered that in 1968-69 the Ansett organisation got the lion’s share of government freight. It received $1.8m whilst TAA’s share was $1.4m. The travel of public servants is perhaps one of the most lucrative avenues for airline operators. I wonder how many taxpayers realise that in 1970-71 the total cost of carrying public servants around Australia amounted to $15,082,800. I should have thought that the Public Service Board would be including on its recruitment posters the phrase: Join the Public Service and see Australia’. Of this $15m-odd Ansett, which is a private company, received $6.3 m. What an incredible situation this is when government business is carried by the Government’s competitor. Can honourable members imagine any private company handing over private business to government companies? In Australia we have the situation where through the operations of this Government, at the behest of Sir Reginald Ansett, Ansett gets what he wants when he asks for it.
Another aspect concerns the maintenance base facilities at Tullamarine. I think this is cause for great concern by this Parliament. An arrangement was entered into between the Ansett organisation and the Government on the financing and the construction of the maintenance facilities at Tullamarine. The cost of those facilities was financed by the Commonwealth. The Public Works Committee of this Parliament in a report dated 7th November 1968 expressed its concern at this operation. In that report the Committee noted the statements that had been made to the previous Committee in 1965 that both the Government and the airlines accepted a responsibility to provide finance for such facilities at Tullamarine. The report indicated that the Committee was concerned at the change of policy. The change of policy was made despite what the Government said previously. The Government had agreed and, in fact, acted upon an agreement to finance and build the base at Tullamarine. The actual arrangement is that Ansett leases the base, which cost $5m, by paying 7i per cent per annum over a period of 40 years. You, Mr Speaker, would know a number of people who would be very happy to get a loan at Ti per cent for 40 years to build their own house.
However the situation becomes a little more extraordinary when we realise that Ansett Transport Industries made a debenture issue at 8 per cent to 8i per cent for 5 to 12 years. Looking at this in terms of finance, the Australian Government last year negotiated a loan of $15m in European units of account which carried an interest rate of 8 per cent over some 10 years. So while the Government borrows abroad at 8 per cent it is prepared to give Ansett Airlines the use of facilities worth $5m for 40 years at 7i per cent. It is no wonder that Sir Reginald Ansett appears to be and is actively a supporter of this Government. The Government may argue and try to explain that TAA receives much the same sort of deal, but that is not the point. TAA is a government enterprise, and surely Australia must be the only country in the world in which a government enterprise is not provided with support by the government that it is representing.
I refer now to the legislation which was brought into this House recently, and particularly to clause 9 of the Third Schedule. Clause 9 reads: (1.) The Commission and the Operating Company undertake not to operate turbo-jet aircraft at the Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide airports and at any other airports at which operations are for the time being restricted to specific hours during the hours within which operations by turbo-jet aircraft are normally prohibited at those airports.
When one gets round the legal jargon one finds that that refers to the curfew hours particularly at Sydney Airport. It is saying that the companies cannot operate turbojets during curfew hours. The next subclause reads as follows: (2.) The last preceding sub-clause will not apply to cases of emergency or to cases where there has been unavoidable delay-
That is fair enough - or to operations the Minister considers are necessary in the interests of the public generally in order that airline services may be provided during peak periods.
I want to take up this question of the airline movements that the Minister considers necessary. We have had a number of debates in this House on the question of the Government allowing airline operators to break the curfew at will. What has happened? Last year there were 552 violations of the curfew. Of these, 108 were approved by the Minister. But what this piece of legislation does not point out is that the Minister can devolve responsibility so that the director in New South Wales or the officer in charge of the airport has the same powers as the Minister. Although the Minister approved only 108 operations during curfew hours, the total was 552. Although it has been said that these operations took place in order to move the numbers of people travelling at holiday periods, in a previous debate the Opposition pointed out and proved that 90 per cent of these movements during curfew hours were not required even on a transport or movement of passengers basis.
What has been happening and what this Government has caused to happen represents a callous disregard of the needs of the people living in the vicinity of the Sydney Airport - the people of the electorates of St George, Kingsford-Smith and Barton. Quite clearly, the intent and purpose of this Government is that the interests of people living in the vicinity of airports should run a very poor second to the interests of airline operators and particularly to the interests of one airliner operator - Sir Reginald Ansett. People living in the vicinity of Mascot Airport will, on 2nd December, have an opportunity to express their point of view. The honourable member for Newcastle time and time again has made very explicit in this House what the Labor Party’s policy is in relation to the curfew. It is, in accordance with the report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise, to enforce rigidly the curfew at Kingsford-Smith Airport. This Government has disregarded the interests of the people in the area of Mascot for the particular advantage and purposes of that great supporter of the Liberal Party, Sir Reginald Ansett.
As I pointed out previously, this Bill is an astonishing piece of legislation for any government to bring into a parliament. An agreement which does not end until 1977 is being extended for a further 5 years, through to 1982. And this is being done in 1972. Perhaps the reason for this is known to some Government supporters, but I suspect that it has a very direct and very proportional relationship to the amount of money that Sir Reginald Ansett puts into the coffers of the Liberal Party. It has been documented that in 1961, when this Agreement came up before, he paid something like £100,000 to the Liberal Party campaign. Perhaps the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz), in his reply, would care to tell the House how much has gone into the Liberal Party campaign funds for this piece of political skulduggery that the Government is trying to perpetuate and perpetrate this afternoon.
– In opening the debate for the Opposition the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) referred to the introduction of this measure at a late hour in this Parliament. He indicated that, in his view, it was an entirely new measure being introduced at this point of time. He knows that that is not correct, because, on 30th August the honourable member for Newcastle himself responded at length to a statement which I made in this House on behalf of the. Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) and which dealt with all the matters that are covered by this legislation. This measure merely ratifies what was outlined by the Minister for Civil Aviation in a statement in the Senate and in a statement which I made in this House on 30th
August 1972. The suggestion of hastily introducing legislation at the end of a sitting is completely refuted because the matter was dealt with some months ago and was clearly outlined. The legislation now is merely ratifying what was outlined in that statement.
It is very interesting to note that the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison) apparently disagrees with the basis of the 2-airline policy. He spent most of his time being critical of the private company concerned in the Agreement, and I judge from his remarks that he disagrees with the basic principle of the 2-airline policy. I do not know whether that would be a misrepresentation, but I assume from his comments that it would be a fairly accurate interpretation. If it is an accurate interpretation he is in conflict with his colleague the honourable member for Newcastle who, on 30th August, made some rather favourable comments on the statement that I made then. I thank him for those comments. They are recorded at page 887 of Hansard. He said that it was an excellent paper and that he then wanted to deal with a number of matters relating to it. In response to a question I asked him in an earlier debate, as to whether the Australian Labor Party agreed with the 2airline policy, he stated quite categorically that it did agree with the 2-airline policy and would continue it. Apparently there is some conflict and the honourable member for St George has not discussed the matter at too great a length with his colleague. However, the position is set out quite clearly in the Agreement. I will refer in a moment to the question of the introduction of the undertakings given to TransAustralia Airlines.
The honourable member for Newcastle referred to the matter of parallel schedules, and quite rightly so. This is a matter that has been of concern to the Government as well as to the public for some considerable time and it has been reviewed on a number of occasions. I will not read out the changes that have been effected over the years to improve the situation, but certainly some very substantial improvements have been made. It is extremely difficult to change the situation too radically as far as the major trunk route between Melbourne and Sydney is concerned, to which the honourable member for Newcastle referred, because of the number of flights made in the one day. But, even so, there may still be some opportunity for improvement under those circumstances. The honourable member for Newcastle has not observed, but will be pleased to note, that there is in the agreement an opportunity for this matter to be reviewed. It is hoped that the new agreement will result in an improvement on the present position.
The subject of the Government’s policy in relation to the imposition of a curfew at certain airports in Australia also was raised. This matter was referred to by not only the honourable member for Newcastle but also the honourable member for St George. The position, as both honourable members know, is that the scheduling of jet flights into and out of Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. is not permitted. This policy is strictly enforced. But there are occasions when, because of unusually high traffic density or an emergency due to some operational deficiency or weather conditions, permission is given to break the curfew. In the case of an unusually high traffic density it is given only by the Minister for Civil Aviation. It is given by certain senior officers in relation to other operational conditions. Beyond that the curfew is applied rigidly and adhered to to the greatest possible degree. It is recognised that some problems still exist in this field. We can only ensure that the points which have been raised In relation to this matter are taken into account. I will certainly ensure that the points which have been raised principally by the honourable member for St George are considered by my colleague in the Senate. I can only give the assurance again that the policy which is in operation at the present time will be maintained.
Reference was made to the use of superannuation funds and the change that is now contemplated in this agreement. I did point out in a statement I made in the House - I shall merely quote one paragraph from it - that the changes which have been made in relation to TAA superannuation funds will mean that TAA’s superannuation arrangements will be similar to those adopted by over 30 other Commonwealth instrumentalities, including the Australian Coastal
Shipping Commission, the Overseas Telecommunications Commission and the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation. It is to bring TAA into line with the majority of other Commonwealth instrumentalities that the changes have been made.
One final point I want to mention is the requests that have been submitted by TAA in relation to amendments to the Australian National Airlines Act. I did indicate in my second reading speech last night that an undertaking had been given that certain action would be taken in this respect. This relates to matters such as aviation engineering work for outside organisation, which has been referred to by the honourable member for Newcastle, the handling of Commonwealth contracts, the establishment and operation of hotels and other kinds of accommodation, the establishment and operation of road transport services, the acquisition of subsidiaries or shareholdings in companies or the establishment of subsidiaries for the purpose of the Australian National Airlines Act, aerial work and charter operations, and operations in Papua New Guinea after independence, if requested. I wish to quote an extract from a letter which was written by the Minister for Civil Aviation to Sir Frederick Scherger on 18th October 1972, which states:
As I previously informed you, it will be very difficult for the additional amendments to the Act to be dealt with before the present Parliament ends, but it has been the intention of the Government to introduce any legislation necessary to give effect to its presently stated policies on TAA’s operations as soon as possible. I thought I had made this position quite clear to you in previous correspondence.
– Why not incorporate it in Hansard?
– I have only one paragraph to read.
– Why not incorporate the whole letter in Hansard?
– I have only an extract from it. I can incorporate it if the honourable member wishes. I will read the last paragraph, which is only a few more words. It reads:
However, in the light of the reservations expressed by your Commission I now confirm that as far as this Government is concerned, the Commission has a firm assurance that, in the first sittings of a new Parliament a Bill amending the
Australian National Airlines Act will be introduced so as to give TAA the powers requested in your letter to Sir Donald Anderson dated 13th October 1972 and that, in presenting the proposed Airlines Agreement Bill 1972 I will make a statement to that effect.
The Minister for Civil Aviation made a statement to that effect in the Senate and I made a statement to that effect in the House of Representatives.
I turn now to the amendment which has been proposed by the Opposition. In view of the comments I have made on the fact that it is necessary to have projection some time ahead in relation to the enormous expenditure involved in the purchase of airline equipment and the fact that this agreement had been virtually completed in April of this year but was deferred because of the Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd negotiations and was finally completed only last week - although this Bill unfortunately came in only this week the conditions of the agreement were outlined in a statement made last August and had been practically finalised last April - we cannot accept the amendment which has been proposed by the Opposition.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, perhaps I could have the indulgence of the Chair to ask a question of the Minister for National Development. Could the letter from the Minister for Civil Aviation to Sir Frederick Scherger be incorporated in Hansard? I know that the Minister for National Development has only an extract from it in front of him, but at a later stage in the sitting today could that letter be incorporated in Hansard? Leave would be granted to permit the Minister to do so. I think it should be in the record.
– I have been provided only with an extract from the letter. I am not aware of the full contents of the letter.I have read the full extract from it that has been given to me. I will discuss the matter with the Minister for Civil Aviation. If any relevant material has been excluded from the extract, perhaps it could be incorporated in Hansard. I have already quoted the relevant paragraphs of the letter. They are already in the Hansard record. However, I will discuss this matter with the Minister for Civil Aviation.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Charles Jones’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith,
Bill (on motion by Sir Reginald Swartz) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 24 October (vide page 3084), on motion by Sir Reginald Swartz:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read asecond time.
– We are happy to deal in Committee with the proposed amendments to the Australian National Airlines Bill as a whole. Only one of the proposed amendments concerns the Opposition, and that relates to section 17 (7.) of the principal Act. This section of the Act indicates its age because it states that the rate of salary payable to any other officer, if it exceeds £2,500 per annum, shall be subject to the approval of the Minister. We have no objection to that part of the amendment which proposes to increase that figure of $5,000 to $13,700. The part to which we object is that which proposes to permit the increase in salaries by regulation. We are not prepared to accept that proposition because we believe that this is a matter which should be determined by the Minister or by referring it to the Public Service Arbitrator or, in the case of the airlines, to the appropriate tribunal. We propose to amend clause 4 of the Bill by omitting the words: ‘or, if a higher rate is prescribed, that higher rate’. Its effect will be that the salaries cannot be fixed by regulation. They must be fixed with the approval of the Minister. I do not wish to speak at length. I propose an amendment to clause 4, which reads:
Section 17 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (7.) the words “if it exceeds the rate of Five thousand dollars per annum” and inserting in their stead the words “if it exceeds the rate of Thirteen thousand seven hundred dollars per annum or, if a higher rate is prescribed, that higher rate”.
Omit ‘or, if a higher rate is prescribed, that higher rate’.
– I am afraid that we cannot accept the amendment put forward by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). As he has correctly stated, this present arrangement has been in operation since 1959 and it requires amendment to bring it up to date. The Act now provides that salaries above $5,000 are subject to the approval of the Minister. It is proposed that this level be raised to $13,700 so that salaries above this figure will be subject to the approval of the Minister. These salaries are those paid to the executive staff of Trans-Australia Airlines, and the people involved would include, for example, the General Marketing Manager; the Commercial Manager, Administration; the Chief Industrial Relations Officer; the Services Manager; the Manager, Flight Safety Investigation; the Managers, South Australia, Victoria and New Guinea; and the General Cargo Manager. They are the executive staff who will be affected by the provisions of this Bill.
Under the circumstances we could not agree to the situation whereby approval for movement above the amounts that have been stated was deleted. The salaries which will be above the new limit which we propose to establish will be subject to ministerial approval, but the Minister himself does not have sole responsibility for these salaries because they are referred to him by the Higher Salaries Committee of Cabinet or the Officials Committee which was established to review salaries of senior Commonwealth officers. The approval is given in the normal way after consultation with the personnel. It is a matter now of up-dating the Act and adding a procedure which is contained in other Acts. We feel that it is necessary to have the Act up-dated in the circumstances. Amendments are being made in other respects in the same Bill. We believe that the up-dating should be carried out at the same time. Therefore, we cannot go along with the amendment moved by the Opposition.
– I want to say something on this matter. I do so because of what the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) has just said. This Minister, who is about to retire from this Parliament, to the last day, the last hour and the last minute is sticking up for the tall poppies. I was most interested to hear him say that the amounts by which the salaries will be raised and also the way in which salary increases may be given under the provisions of this Bill will be by the decision of a few people. Did I understand the Minister to say that salary increases were not given by ministerial approval alone but by the Higher Salaries Committee of Cabinet?
On this very day in the last 24 hours of the Parliament the Government is opposing salary and wage increases for the workers, yet it has the temerity to put a Bill of this sort before the Committee and says, in effect: ‘Whilst we oppose a salary increase for those who toil within the airline system - in TAA - we will have, in fact, another system which says to the top brass: “You have only to come and knock on out door and you will be granted salary increases”.’ Not only does the Minister agree with this, but also if he wants a little protection in what he does he can gather around him the Higher Salaries Committee of the Government of Australia. This body of 13 men, which could fit into a telephone box if it wanted to, will determine the salaries for the top strata. If the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) had a female member on his executive staff would she be discriminated against?
– You will not be back.
– Would she be discriminated against? In answer to the interjection, the Minister can have a wager outside the chamber if he likes. I oppose this Bill with all that I can muster. If I sound bitter, is it any wonder? I reiterate that honourable members opposite, as a Government, have never supported a wage and salary increase other than for themselves, top brass or the darned doctors in the medical profession. That is the only time they have ever put themselves on the line and said: ‘All right, we agree to a salary increase.’ They go along with a situation - I am dealing with the salaries provisions within the context of the Bill, Mr Deputy
Chairman - where there are minimum wage and salary earners within the framework of the airlines. Government supporters have never lifted a finger to take these people’s salaries beyond $50 a week take home pay. Yet, they know the poverty line calculated by the professor chosen by this Government to carry out an investigation into poverty is $2 a week below the amount paid to some Government employees.
– Do not shout.
– It is an absolute disgrace. The Leader of the House, the Minister for Customs and Excise interposes. The Minister should get on his feet and justify the fact that he will permit the top brass who do not want an increase - the fat cats-
- Mr Deputy Chairman, you cannot knock me over on the fact that I am not speaking to the measure. This measure is directly aimed at giving the top brass a ton of money on top of the ton they have, money they do not want.
– They cannot spend it.
– Yes. At the same time Government representatives march into the courts and make submissions before the court that the bloke who drives a tractor, the bloke who handles the freight and the bloke who handles their baggage every time they take off are not entitled to any increases at all. Where is their justice? Where is their fine, so-called Liberal principle of wage justice? Where is their fine principle of industrial relations. Recently there have been more strikes in the airline industry - quite a number of them. What has the Government done about them? It has tried to use them for mean, lousy, low, political purposes. In the last 6 months, during the recess, the Government and the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) tried to use these strikes for what it called the public interest. The Government should do some thinking on what is in the public interest in this measure before us today. There is nothing at all. I say that this particular clause should be dragged out completely. Why should these people not go to an arbitrator as everybody else has to? The Minister for National Development sits at trie table. I know he is on the eve of retirement, God bless him.
– So are you.
– Like hell I am. The Minister can come back to Sturt and fight as hard as he likes but he will get knocked down with his mate. That is a transgression, Mr Deputy Chairman, but he interposed. If the Minister allows me to get up on the adjournment debate tonight I will tell him what the electors of Sturt think of him when he talks about drugs.
– Order! The honourable member will address his remarks to the clauses in the Bill.
– I did not think you heard me, Mr Deputy Chairman. If the Minister wants to fight he can trot over at any time he likes. But dealing with the Bill, in conclusion, the Government is as guilty as hell when it comes to wage fixation. It has guilt because of the poverty that exists among the employees at the airports and in Australia generally. Before this House is the guilt of Government supporters who have been here for 23 years and who have never recognised their responsibility, other than to those who fill their campaign funds from time to time. That is all they are concerned about.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Charles Jones’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman- Mr J. M. Hallett)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Sir Reginald Swartz) - by leave - read a third time.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to correct a phrase I used today in answer to a question asked by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) concerning fuel imports. I said:
I think that about 20 per cent of the final product comes from Australian oil wells.
I should have said that about 20 per cent of our final product is imported.
Debate resumed from 11 October (vide page 2388), on motion by Mr Chipp:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill, I should like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, Customs Tariff Bill (No. 4) 1972, the Customs Tariff Bill (No. 5) and the Customs Tariff Validation Bill (No. 2) 1972 as they are associated measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of the 3 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
– ls it the wish of the House to have a genera] debate covering the 3 measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– I am intervening in this debate due to the unfortunate absence of my colleague the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J, F. Cairns) who could not be present this afternoon. I am faced with a formidable wad of material covering 3 Bills and 3 second reading speeches. The Customs Tariff Bill (No. 4), makes some technical adjustments and changes to implement the Government’s decision to introduce metric terms into the customs tariff. Other changes arise from drafting amendments to the Brussels Nomenclature instigated by the Customs Co-Operation Council in Belgium. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) was good enough to circulate an annotated document identifying the various items by the prefixes ‘M’, meaning metric, and ‘BNC’ meaning Brussels Nomenclature.
There are one or two smaller items I should like to make reference to. One of the proposals deals with the product known as ‘chain’. This proposal concerns a decentralised chain firm operating in the town of Benalla. The firm is Reynold Australia Pty Ltd. It is an English company by origin. I have been told that it employs between 120 and 130 people. It is a significant firm in the town of Benalla and I suppose it is a good example of decentralised industry. It is indicative of the difficulty of industry surviving in this sort of context unless some kind of assistance is given to it. Tariff protection is one such form of assistance. My colleague the honourable member for Lalor visited the factory at Benalla some weeks ago. He spent a whole day there investigating the proposal. He indicated to me that this firm faced some difficulties because of the relative smallness of its operation and, to some extent, because of the area in which it is located.
Here again we get down to this rather difficult factor in economics that there are certain costs that you can calculate and there are some costs of a more social kind which it is rather more difficult to bring into any economic context. I think that to some extent these are the sorts of issues we face in what is sometimes broadly described as ‘decentralisation’. Somehow, we have to induce people and industries to move from city areas to other areas but it is unlikely that any business concern will shift unless it can be assured that when it is established in a new location it will be able to make a profit. I do not think that business usually goes anywhere on any philanthropic assumptions. It goes on the hard-headed basis that a profit will be made and a profit, of course, simply means that in the finish income exceeds costs and there is a margin left over for survival. One way of making a profit where it might not otherwise exist is to reduce some of the costs. This can be done either by putting an additional cost on overseas competitors in the form of tariff assistance or by paying a subsidy directly to the firm concerned, such as freight abatement, telephone concessions, special rate concessions or even what one sometimes calls ‘tax holidays’. These steps may from time to time have to be taken. It would seem that in one or two of the industries which at the moment are in some difficulty and rely on tariff protection for their survival, these kinds of problems are involved.
We have heard from time to time in this House a lot of discussion about certain aspects of the textile industry. The Sixth Schedule of the Customs Tariff Bill (No. 4), which is one of the measures that is before us, incorporates changes arising out of the Government’s decision following the examination of the Tariff Board’s reports on knitted shirts and outergarments and woven shirts. This section of the textile industry was in some real difficulty recently because of large imports of certain products from overseas areas such as Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea. I think that as a result of agitation by Australian manufacturers certain quotas were placed upon the import into this country of goods from those areas. The argument used, of course, is that in many cases lower wage standards apply in some of these countries than is the case in Australia.
Representations were made to my Party by some manufacturers who pointed out that often the product they make is of a far higher quality than the imported product and they must have special designing and drafting staff in their factories. We were told that someone else can simply go to one of our local stores, buy one of these products, take it to Hong Kong and get it made as a facsimile by a firm there which does not have to pay designers and so on. Whether this practice exists to any great extent, I suppose, is one of the areas which makes the Tariff Board’s task sometimes hard to discharge. I for one would welcome - and I have welcomed this in the past - an increase from time to time in the Board’s staff, both in number and in skill. Some of the examinations of industry that are made by the Board on a systematic basis involve a considerable amount of skilled interviewing and investigation. In some respects I think that the staff has been deficient, not in quality but in quantity, in recent years. This has sometimes made the Board’s task very difficult to perform in a really complete way.
We all know that there was some outcry recently about one of the textile investigations. It was said that some of the investigations were undertaken by students from a particular university who were supposed to be good in theory but not altogether appreciative of the practical difficulties of the trade. Whether that is fair comment, I do not know. But the Board in its final report did make the rather easy suggestion that the industry ought to rationalise itself, that there were too many firms in the industry that were too small, and that they should go out of existence and perhaps the others might acquire the plant. It is easy enough to say that kind of thing but it is not nearly as easy to find someone kind enough if one is down and out to pay a fair market price. Maybe we could create some kind of equalisation fund in the industry so those who did have to go out for this kind of reason might be com pensated and perhaps could set themselves up in some other direction altogether.
The other aspect in which the textile industry takes credit to itself is that it is one of the highest employers in Australia of female labour. I think about 5 per cent to 6 per cent of all the ladies who are employed in Australia find employment in one or other aspect of the clothing and allied trades. The textile people also claim that theirs is one of the industries that has attempted to decentralise. There are a considerable number of textile plants of relatively small size in quite a number of country towns throughout Australia. These industries which are established in country areas, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria, provide employment for ladies in these areas and also are of considerable assistance to the economy of what are otherwise relatively small towns. This has social advantages thai a;e very hard to assess on the strict economic criteria on which the Tariff Board operates. I must say that I find on the whole the people whom I have met on the Tariff Board to be very competent people who are really concerned about the future of industry in Australia. I think that the impression that is sometimes given that they are hellbent on destroying Australian industry is a pretty unfair description of the general attitude of members of the Tariff Board. At times they have to make decisions that perhaps go very hard for particular industries. Nevertheless, when one takes into consideration the criteria of efficiency, economy and so on perhaps sometimes their criticisms are justified.
I do not intend to say any more about these matters. The session is drawing to a rather haggard conclusion. I know that my colleague the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), who sits on the other side of the House and who as usual has put a great deal of time and effort into studying this subject, wishes to speak when I resume my seat. I wish I had time sometimes to concentrate on these rather interesting fields. But I must say that in the last 2 or 3 months I hardly have found time to look at any single one of these reports, and maybe that is evident in what I have said here this afternoon. The technical matters of converting our present system of weights and measures to the metric system and adopting the new nomenclature are what makes the document look so bulky. I sometimes am dubious about what the advantages of the metric system are in total. The changeover to the metric system will certainly pose much more difficult problems than resulted from the change to decimal currency. For instance, there is no exact conversion from lb and oz to kilograms and grams; there is no precise relation between the gallon and the litre; and there is no exact comparison between the yard and the meter. It is rather interesting to listen to broadcasts of football matches these days and to find that where formerly a player kicked a ball 60 yards now the kick is described as being of 60 meters. This makes the performance sound much the same but apparently it is a few feet more in the process. When I listened to the broadcast of the Caulfield Cup the other day the commentator at one stage said that the horses had got to the 2,000 meter mark.
– I wonder whether the horse understood it.
– Well, horses have horse sense. I think that sometimes we would do better if we had a little bit of it, too. But I hope that some protection is afforded to the public during the change over to the new system. Someone wrote to me the other day and said that something that was formerly a li lb packet now appeared as SOO grams and the weight was not really li lb anyway. The person also pointed out that the item was of the same price as it was in the old days even though it was now of lesser quantity. I hope that some consumer protection arrangement will be made to obviate folk being taken down by that sort of transaction. But I do not think this aspect of the changeover has much to do with the Minister at the table.
– I am in no way critical of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) for not immersing himself in Tariff Board reports, because of the amount of other work that he has to do. I do not propose to deal with old questions. We have fought all the battles on knitted outer garments and woven shirts. I think the matter of those articles has been well ventilated in the House in recent months. I do not even propose to deal with the Special Advisory Authority report on synthetic yarns, which is a subject which angers me. I have made my anger known in the past. However, this is a long way back in history and I do not propose to deal with it again.
I propose to make one general comment. The second reading stage of a Bill is the time when such comments should be made. When I first came into this House and started to wage a battle for a more responsible attitude towards tariff protection, I used to receive my most active support from the primary industry groups. But recently there has been a considerable change. It has now become obvious that, as our economy becomes more mature, there is a greater understanding amongst manufacturers that they are paying die costs of unwise tariff protection on their raw materials. This has been a refreshing change. After I have given a talk at a meeting, I find that a large number of responsible industry leaders come up and say: ‘Why was that kind of thing not spelt out to us before?’ Lest honourable members think that this is egotism on my part, I shall quote from a recent report by P. A. Marketing Service, on a survey conducted by P. A. Management Consultants Pty Ltd in which a large sector of manufacturing and business leaders in Australia was circularised for its opinion about tariff protection, among other things. The comments are interesting. The report states:
Sixty per cent of respondents indicated there was a need for change in certain tariff levels, mainly centred around metal fabricated products and textiles. Overall, 37 per cent of the suggested changes were for tariff level increases and 63 per cent looked for decreased tariff protection.
That report indicates that we are growing up industrially and that the cost of tariff protection is borne, firstly, by exporters, be they primary or secondary and, secondly, by manufacturers who find that the cost of their raw material is increasing and their chances of economic production are lessening and that therefore the employment in those industries is limited if the tariff protection is given unwisely, as it has been in some cases.
Having made that general comment, I want to deal mainly with the shipbuilding report. This is a very difficult, technical report which I had great difficulty in understanding. But I think it is worth spelling out that before the Tariff Board report there were 2 groups in the shipbuilding industry - the subsidised section and the unsubsidised section. Some shipyards were recognised and because they were recognised they received a direct subsidy limited to 33& per cent The queer thing is that, on the Tariff Board’s assessment, the unsubsidised yards were doing well and it was the subsidised yards that were performing so badly. We must ask ourselves why we are so bad at making ships in these recognised yards.
We are proud of the fact - we are always justifying our tariff protection system by this fact - that our steel is as cheap as any other in the world. Steel is the main material component in ships. Why do we do so badly? Why was it that in 1969-70 the taxpayers subsidised the industry at the rate of $18m? According to a Press release from which I will read shortly, this figure is expected to reach $33m. According to the Tariff Board report, the total funds employed in the recognised yards in 1969- 70 was $20m and the taxpayers subsidised them to the extent of $18m. This subsidy figure would just about equip the yards each year. If we relate this subsidy figure to the number of men employed, it can be seen that the taxpayers are paying $2,800 for every man employed in the industry. So, we should ask ourselves why we perform so badly.
I should have mentioned earlier that, apart from the level of protection in the form of subsidy, there is another arm to the protective machine, namely, an import prohibition which simply stops imports coming in unless there is a special reason for them to come in. So, there is a very high rate of subsidy and also an import prohibition. The Tariff Board claims that after the subsidy is paid to Australian shipyards the extra price paid for some vessels made in Australia increases the freight rate by 25 per cent. I repeat: Even after the subsidy is paid, the extra cost increases the freight rate by 25 per cent. We should ask ourselves why we do so badly. The Tariff Board report states: . . a comparison of the value added in Australia for some of the largest ships produced before 1970 with equivalent activities on almost identical ships built overseas shows that local costs have been between three and four times greater than the overseas costs. This compares with the results achieved by some unsubsidised Australian yards which have, without benefit of subsidy, won contracts against bids on a subsidised basis by recognised yards and have also developed a sig nificant export market in small ships. These results Indicate that some of the unrecognised yards are much more competitive in world market terms. 1 can see the honourable member for Melbourne Ports looking at me in an interested way. It is quite a remarkable situation. It will be said: “The difference in the wage structures explains it’. But figures on comparative wage rates between Japan and Australia indicate that the wage rates in the 2 countries are very close together. Let me give another direct quotation from the Tariff Board report in relation to the Swedes. It states:
The Board notes that Sweden is a major producer of ships for world markets. Compared with Australia, Swedish shipyards pay higher wage rates, are part of a smaller domestic economy, have no substantial cost advantages in major raw materials and machinery and enjoy less Government assistance than the Board proposes for Australian yards.
Why are the Swedes so good at making ships and why are we so bad? It is quite clear that we are not good at building ships in recognised yards.
One of the reasons for this, of course, is the industrial strife and the union demarcation disputes that dog us. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp), who is now at the table and who was once Minister for the Navy, as I was, will remember what it was like at Garden Island with the industrial strife that dogged the shipyard. The arguments are not only between management and men; they are between the unions themselves. Of course, this is all right under the system we have been using. It has been almost a cost plus system. When an industrial dispute occurred, it was easy for the shipyards which knew they would be protected by import prohibition, to just pass on the costs. There has been a lack of effective competition from imports. Not only is the industry protected by a subsidy, it is also protected by import prohibitions.
One of the other reasons we perform so badly is that we build too many classes of ships. This is where the Swedes beat us. They concentrate on certain classes of ships instead of trying to spread their effort over all classes. Some clear recommendations were made in the Tariff Board report, some of which the Government has followed and a great many of which it has altered in some way. Indeed, the Government’s footwork in relation to this matter since the Board’s report was made must be confusing even itself. It certainly has confused me. The Board recommended that after the subsidy had been paid - a very high rate of subsidy, higher than 33 per cent, was recommended for the beginning of the period - the Government ought to allow secondhand ships to come in without an import prohibition. That is a very useful discipline in 2 ways. It is a useful discipline such as that which applies in the motor car trade. If a person thinks that new cars are too dear he can buy a secondhand one. The Tariff Board said that if we subsidise the industry generally - as I have said, the subsidy rate is going up in the short term - we ought to be able to let the industry face competition from secondhand ships. The Government did not accept this but lt said that it would allow imports of new ships. When announcing the report the Minister said:
Approvals to import new ships will be freely given where Australian yards have been given the opportunity to tender but where no Australian yard tenders for the vessel or where the price of the vessel from the Australian yard, after payment of the subsidy, exceeds the normal price for which the vessel can be acquired from an overseas builder, including the cost of delivering to an Australian port.
Just the other day the Government resiled from that decision and the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) said:
Until such time as the full effects of our new proposals can be gauged I do not envisage any increase in the number of imported ships coming into Australia-
I would like the Minister for Customs and Excise to listen to this - and, therefore, during this period the import practices that operated prior to the Government’s announcement in May of this year, will be resumed.
In other words he said: ‘I cannot see any increase in imports, therefore we will stop ships coming in’. This is a queer streak of logic. Why is it that we do so badly? I think that another quotation from the Tariff Board report on shipbuilding would be more authoritative than anything I could say. Referring to measuring the performance of the industry, the Tariff Board stated:
Tons of steel fabricated per employee provides one measure of these differing growth rates and of the relative efficiencies of Australian and overseas yards in the use of resources. A Scandinavian yard for which evidence was provided increased its output f om 17 tons in 1965 to an anticipated 40 in 1970. Figures from a British builder show rises from 20 in 1969 to an anticipated 45 in 1971. The best Australian performance was an increase from less than 7 to 9 tons per man in the 7 years to 1969; 9 tons per employee is well ahead of the Australian average.
This compares with about 40 tons for an overseas yard of the same size. The report continued:
Production comparisons were submitted of an Australian and Japanese yard with comparable facilities in terms of building berths, cranes, employment and engineering facilities. In a given year when these yards were employing similar numbers, the Japanese yard produced ships with more than 12 times the gross tonnage of the Australian yard! -
It was employing the same number of men - and used almost 8 times the amount of steel. The local ships were all different - the Japanese ships were mainly standardised.
That is the nub of the matter. If we were to concentrate on the ones we were good at making, if we were to concentrate our effort on a limited range of ships and build them well instead of trying to spread our effort across the whole field of the industry, we would do far better. The present situation imposes the kind of costs I have mentioned. It imposes terrific costs on the Australian economy. There has been a lot of talk recently about the need to have an Australian overseas shipping line. The Australian National Line, the Government’s shipping line, knows that a shipping line cannot afford to buy the Australian built ship if it is to be economic and able to compete. If they are not to be economic, what is the use of building ships?
We are coming now to a crunch point. I was glad to hear the honourable member for Mcpherson (Mr Barnes) with typical horse sense, if I can use the term, spelling out the kind of costs that can flow from our present shipping policies. We are really pricing ourselves in a tragic way out of the Australian market and imposing a grievous burden on the economy. I have given these figures before but let me repeat that cement is carried from Townsville to Darwin in an overseas ship for $2.30 a ton, but it is carried from Townsville to Weipa, half the distance, in an Australian ship for $25 a ton. These are the reasons why we have to start to rethink our policy. I come back to shipbuilding. The fundamental lesson of this whole exercise is that if you prepare a feather bed people will lie on it. The difference between the recognised and the unrecognised yards, the subsidised and the unsubsidised yards, is the fact that the subsidised yards have no incentive to get cracking. They know that the cost plus system applies and that the import of ships will be prevented by Government decree. So there has not been any drive for efficiency, and this is why we perform so badly compared with the Swedes. It is not because our men cannot work as well. One of the reasons is that they do not work as well because of strikes, demarcation disputes and other industrial troubles that dog us. Another reason is that the industry has not had the incentive to face up to its policies. It is being feather bedded.
My concern is that when the Tariff Board spelled out so clearly what ought to be done the Government supported it by doing some of the things that the Board recommended, but it then changed some of the more important recommendations. We are all now starling to realise that not for any particular group of people but for the economy as a whole we must have a clear eyed approach to the way in which we assist our industry, knowing that unwise tariff or subsidy protection carelessly applied will be at the expense of our economy as a whole and will reduce employment in sections of it. I think that the shipbuilding industry is a classic case. I repeat that once you prepare a feather bed, industries will lie on it. The shipbuilding industry is so far in the feather bed that it finds it awfully difficult to get out. I hope that the industry will start to make the vital readjustments about which this Government has been warning it but which I think it has been backing away from rather too frequently.
I have 2 other matters which I would like to deal with in some detail. One relates to the tariff protection recently applied to roller chain. This follows a Tariff Board report that was signed in June 1970 and made public in September 1971. (Extension of time granted) One can always tell from the Government Gazette when a report is presented to the Government. If the report recommends a reduction in duty there is what might be called a long gestation period. It takes a long time to be born. In this case the report was signed in June 1970 and was made public in September 1971 - 15 months later. During this period the reorganisation of which I speak could have taken place. The industry is divided into 2 parts. That part of the industry which is concerned with chain over 1 inch in pitch, which is the distance between the rollers, seems to be doing well or, at least, is economic and efficient. The section of the industry that deals with the smaller size chains, under 1 inch in pitch, is doing really badly. This is why the Government has intervened and given this lavish protection. We must ask ourselves why this part of the industry does so badly. I quote directly from the Tariff Board report:
In the Board’s view, Renolds-
That is the company in question. It is centred at Benalla in Victoria - would have substantial cost disadvantages against any overseas producer whose market is large enough to allow the use of the most efficient processes.
The Australian market is too small to be economic. That is the general summing up of the Board’s experience. In an article in the ‘Financial Review’ of 6lh October, P. McGuinness stated:
Renold’s plant in Benalla used machinery which was imported into Australia, secondhand, from Britain in 1948 - some of the plant in use, it was said, was at least 50 years old.
This is probably another reason why the industry has performed so badly. It is worth remembering that it is getting a 35 per cent protection. There is another queer aspect of this which I cannot understand and I should be glad if the Minister would examine it. It appears that in its report the Tariff Board recommended that the by-law relating to chain components be abolished. What it feared was that there could be a plant merely for assembling chain. After all, as the honourable member for McPherson would know, some classes of chain are made up of components pui together. This is not an intricate process. There is a duty of 35 per cent to cover a protected process which in some, but not all, cases is very largely an assembly process.
The Government has stepped in and imposed import quotas, which is a nice name for what used to be called quantitative restrictions. The importer can now import 60 per cent of the chain that he imported last year and pay the 35 per cent but if he imports more than the 60 per cent he pays at the rate of $8 a kilo. That does not sound very much but if it is expressed as so much a foot, which a farmer can understand, in some cases it works out at $4 a foot That is the. import duty so it is quite a prohibitive duty. What is happening now is that importers are looking at their books and saying: ‘I cannot import what I imported last year. I can import only 60 per cent. I will have no inducement to cut my price”. The price of imported chain will rise and Renolds will have no incentive to reduce production and up will go the price of chain. This has already happened. The other day I rang an Adelaide store to find out about the weights of chain and so forth and I was told by the person to whom 1 spoke: T did not know about this. That is why it has become so dear just now’.
The. point 1 make is that import quotas are being introduced in an increasing number of industries. It must be hammered home that this has exactly the same effect as import licensing had in the old days - it is taking away competition for price reductions. Why are we doing this? We should realise that it imposes a grievous burden on the farming industry. How much chain is there in a header? I have not measured it but farmers are all distressed at the price of spare parts and obviously chain will become, even dearer than it is now. The reason given for the protection is that there is a social problem in Benalla. There are 8,000 people in Benalla and 1 am told that 120 people are working in this industry. I guess that the justification for this protection is directly related to the cause of decentralisation but it is worth remembering that throughout Australia the cause of decentralisation will be damaged because the health of the primary industries and other industries which use chain will suffer because of the. increased cost of it. I accept the Minister’s assurance that this action was taken to give the industry time to readjust, but I advert to my original! statement that in June 1970 the Board’s report was received and it was not published until September 1971. I am well aware that a matter like this involves much work but during this 15 months delay the industry would have had the opportunity to readjust. I understand that the industry is facing up to the need to readjust but it is facing up to it a year later than was necessary because of the delay in publication of the Board’s findings.
Another matter to which I refer briefly concerns the Tariff Board’s report on hand tools. I mention this only as a particular example of administrative difficulties. I have tried to check this with the Department of Trade and Industry but I understand that there is a duty of 25 per cent on pliers. I understand that there is bylaw entry on plier blanks, as they are called. I was interested in this and was rather surprised to discover that rough pliers, made and shaped but not polished come in under bylaw. If this is so, it makes a surprising situation. I am told that the proportion of effort that goes into the polishing and painting of these blanks varies from 2 per cent to 20 per cent - 20 per cent if they are insulated and about 2 per cent if they are ordinary pliers. Let us assume that it is 20 per cent, which is the highest that can be allowed. The effective rate of protection would then De 5 times 25 per cent, or an effective rate of duty of 125 per cent. This situation surely should be examined. If a company is getting bylaw entry on blanks which have only to be polished and it is getting a protection of 25 per cent, and if this represents 20 per cent of the process the effective rate is 125 per cent. I am certain that this is an administrative matter which the Minister would have a look at-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Once again we are involved in a debate in this House about whether protection should be given to an industry such as Renold Australia Pty Ltd in Benalla. The honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) talks about the high cost of chain. I could talk about the high cost of meat, butter, bread and everything else that comes from the region the honourable member for Wakefield protects and speaks for in this House. But this is not the way to solve the problems here. Recently the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr Tanaka, wrote a book called A Plan for Remodelling the Japanese Archipelago’. The significant thing about that book is that it was written by the
Prime Minister of perhaps the most industrially advanced country in the world. He says early In the book:
Japan’s future course lies in pursuing peace and welfare. This will require the simultaneous solution of such domestic problems as overcrowding, pollution, traffic congestion, soaring land prices, and the serious housing shortage in urban areas, as well as the rural population sparsity.
Further on he says:
The traditional course of economic growth through massive private equipment investment and exports should be replaced by one with the key emphasis on public investment and welfare.
If the Prime Minister of Japan makes such a radical statement as that, I should think it is one that a Prime Minister of Australia could not ignore.
It is fair enough to say that the message of this book is that perhaps the central economic fact of the 1970s will be the extent to which all economically advanced countries realise that they must depart significantly from the old free market principle of comparative costs. Doing what appears to involve the lowest cost has not significantly achieved what is economic and efficient but has achieved the most distorted and conflict-ridden societies in history. It has massed people in concentrated cities which are not more economic and efficient than they are good places to live in. The challenge of the century - the message comes to us from Japan - is to find a way, if that be possible, of replacing the acquisitive, monopolistic comparative costs principle with a rational humane method of building a society that is safe, secure and goo”3 to live in. We cannot meet this challenge simply by talking about comparative costs. Industry must be economic and efficient. Whilst the costs of a particular firm are important, the costs of the industry and the costs of the community are equally important. No-one has ever arrived at a satisfactory measure of what is economic and efficient. The Tariff Board merely assumes that the only measure is the cost of a competing imported product. It classifies Australian industries in accordance with the protection they have and assumes that those which have high protection are not economic and efficient and that the lower the protection the more they are economic and efficient.
I note in passing that in the recent Tariff Review’ for the first time we have a classification of industry, of 1,648 firms, showing the number of people employed, the value of production, the value added and the amount of capital investment. This suggests that the Tariff Board will pay some attention to things other than the key competitive product in arriving at some concept of what is efficient and economic. I would have expected that in that table the number of men employed would have been divided into the value added, or that a unit of capital - say $1,000 - would have been divided into the value added so that one could arrive at the value added per person employed or the value added per unit of capital. But it does not do anything like that. I wonder why that table is in the Tariff Review’. I presume it will be developed in that way.
At the same time the only costs taken into account in the tariff review are money costs. Only accountants or economists need apply to give advice to the Tariff Board. This basis is too narrow and is totally inadequate as a measuring rod of Australian industry. Instead of merely foreign costs and economic and accounting costs of each single firm, we must seek out as well the sociological and ecological costs and benefits of industry. We must ascertain what kinds of industry we need to make the best contribution to the quality of life of the Australian people. We cannot do this if we allow ourselves to do only what foreign competition allows us to do. Foreign competition reflects only money costs and international big business power. It is no standard by which to determine what should be done in Australia.
If we had set out 70 years ago to do only what foreign competition allowed us to do, we would now probably have no more than 8 million or 9 million people and by this time we may well have had a revolution caused by depressions and their resultant social conflict.
– Like the Swedes.
– Sweden has had much more protection than we have had.
– You are wrong.
– I am not wrong. Sweden has protected her industry much more skilfully than we have ever tried to do. We have not done that at all. But we have set out to try to keep Australian standards above foreign competition standards.
One result is that we have perhaps 4 million or 5 million people more than we would have had in a Keynesian type of relatively free trade system. We now have about that number of people in excess of what such a system can support. A movement to a Keynesian type of relatively free trade system proposed - at any rate, implied - by the. Tariff Board and its academic, financial and Press supporters, the 2 supporters it has here and possibly the Commonwealth Treasury - all completely unprotected people and, I suppose, therefore highly economic and efficient - would cause a serious economic crisis in Australia. Such a policy will not be accepted in Australia. That is why the present Government has been running rapidly away from it in the last couple of months.
The modern world has coupled the most powerful science and capital to low wages in developing countries and communist countries. This makes a more powerful competitive force than ever before. That is one of the characteristics of the modern world and that is one of the main reasons why the policy that I have just described will not be accepted in Australia. The feature of this world is not more free trade; it is more economic nationalism. Japan, the European Common Market and communist countries practise not free trade but more positive economic nationalism and examples of planning never ever dreamt of by most Australians. That applies to Sweden as well. What they need and have, Australia cannot need less.
Therefore, what do we do? 1 do not think that we can go on with this old laissezfaire argument on which the honourable member for Wakefield has been brought up. What we do now is fairly consistent with that. We ask the Tariff Board not to tell us what to do but to tell us what we should not be doing. On its very inadequate basis, we ask it to say what is not economic and efficient. We do not ask anyone to say what is economic and efficient. At the same time industry managers and others lobby political leaders and the Department of Trade and Industry in private. Few people know what they say and what is said to them. It is all confidential. There is bureaucracy and an atmosphere of private deals. Then the Tariff Board may recommend a reduction of tariffs. If no-one is affected it will go through. If someone is affected there will be resistance, as in the Renold company’s case. Invariably the Government will then hold up the process or stop it altogether. When the tariff reduction is effective the industry can probably save its capital, but the workers lose their jobs and may remain on the unemployment pittance for a long time. No-one knows or cares what the cost of the tariff reduction is. Presumably it is a matter of public interest. No-one knows or cares that it falls on the workers alone and that nothing is done to offset or share the cost. The chances are that when the workers do find employment it will not be in a more economic or efficient place, especially if they have experience or skill in their former job.
I am amazed that anyone can defend this system. It is archaic, unfair and ineffective. This is the worst possible way of trying to secure a reduction of the tariff, but it is the system that the Government has been using for 25 years or more. I think a completely new approach is needed to the development of manufacturing industry in Australia. The first requirement is the establishment of an industry planning department. Its job would be to tell us what would be economic and efficient and not what would not be economic and efficient. It would have to help in the designing of industry so that it will get the best results both from an efficiency point of view and by way of contributing to the quality of life. This department would be more than a piece of the Public Service. I say this in case the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) is taking notes to tell me that this would be planning from the top, socialism and bureaucracy, I emphasise that that is the very opposite to what I have in mind. It is not going to be merely a piece of the Public Service. Its reason for existence is that it would be a means of participation by all concerned or interested. It would include public servants, managers, unionists, scientists, humanists, ecologists and ordinary citizens concerned with what should or should not be done.
This department would have to get to know what industry is now and it would need to help to design what industry should be. It would have to look at the position of, say, Renolds, as I looked at it two or three weeks ago. In giving people protection like that for two or three years we ought to have experts in that kind of industry who can say: ‘We suggest that you do this or we suggest that you do that’. I am not going to criticise the industry, but what the honourable member for Wakefield has just said is correct. Unless something additional is done that industry will be no more efficient in two or three years time than it is now. The purpose of the protection for this added period will be altogether defeated. Why do we not realise that? It is only commonsense. It can be seen from the results.
I think the main aim in this approach is not to keep industry as it is but to change it so that it can take its most efficient form and contribute most to the quality of life. The critical approach of the Tariff Board is essential. The Board should be required to analyse and criticise what the planning department is working on. But it would be expected to take into account a far wider range than the narrow money-cost measure to which it now confines itself. It would be expected to arrive at objective measurements of what is economic and efficient in Australia so that we could have an adequate classification of industry on that standard and not merely on one which classifies it according to the tariff protection it has. Anyone who looks at the 1,648 firms that were listed in the tariff review issued last week and who divides the value added by the number of people employed would find - even in that group of over 50 per cent or nearly so tariff protection - that the value added ranges from about $1,000 a year to about $15,000 a year. Does the Government want to transfer people from the $15,000 value added group to the $1,000 value added group? What does it want to do? The whole process I am thinking of would be an open and public matter and not the hole in the corner process which it is now and which is being defended by the honourable member for Wakefield. He has defended the present Tariff Board system of making tariffs.
– What nonsense.
– Of course he did He has done nothing else since he has been here, except during the brief period of time when he happened to be the Minister for the Navy, before he was piped ashore. The Tariff Board would be expected to be analytical and critical. Neither the Board nor the planning department would be too inhibited by its interests nor too self righteous about its independence. The planned development of industry would not mean less change in search of what is economic and efficient and what contributes to the quality of life; it would mean more change.
But protected industry should not be allowed to do what it likes. Its prices should have to be fair and reasonable in terms of what is needed for the proper development of the industry. Anyone who is prepared to hand out the tariffs which this Government has been prepared to hand out and leave industry to do precisely what it likes about prices is irresponsible. Prices ought to be fair and reasonable and in accordance with what is necessary for the economic and efficient development of the industry to set back congestion, to end pollution and to allow industry to locate itself so that living and working conditions are good. The Japanese propose to try to move industry into rural areas and integrate rural development and industrial development. The cost of these things, however, should not be allowed to fall upon the workers, which is where it now falls. A protection policy should not be an unemployment policy. I mean, when applied through the Board in a reduction of tariffs it is an unemployment policy. Where it is found that industry will have to close down, workers should be regarded as being on transfer. The Department of Labour and National Service should be obliged to get them a satisfactory job. Retraining should be available so that their productivity and wages can be raised and not lowered because they are forced out of a job in which they may have had experience or skill. I do not think any policy to change industry by tariff changes should be acceptable unless those conditions apply. 1 have briefly tried to summarise in a few minutes something which has been very largely achieved in countries such as Sweden that are far more advanced than we are in Australia. We have done nothing about social and economic planning in Australia because we have had a series of governments for 25 years which have never needed a policy to win an election. All they have needed to do is to kick the communist can around. We have no time to lose. I think it is time that we embarked on an intelligent programme of seeing whether we can plan our industrial development better.
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
– wai the Minister for Customs and Excise be closing the debate by speaking now?
– I want to say a few words about shipbuilding.
– I had an arrangement with the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, who is one of the most co-operative members in the House, that I would be very brief in my remarks so that he could speak before the suspension of the sitting on the next Bill which is to be debated. The name of the honourable member for Newcastle was not down on the list of speakers on this legislation. It is very difficult to plan the business of the House to suit the convenience of all honourable members if those honourable members who wish to participate in a particular debate do not put their names on the list of speakers. I appeal to the honourable member for Newcastle, in the interests of his colleague, to yield in this case.
– The honourable member for Melbourne Ports will not be able to conclude his remarks between now and the suspension of the sitting. The honourable member for Wakefield most positively and definitely provoked me during his speech this afternoon. Incidentally, he was granted an extension of time of 10 minutes in which to speak. The Minister for Customs and excise is talking about running out of time, but he gave the honourable member for Wakefield an extension of time.
– I call the honourable member for Newcastle.
– We have had the opportunity of listening to a speech by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) which was typical of the speeches on tariff protection to which we have become accoustomed to hearing from him. He is in favour of a complete free trade society - a society in which there would be no tariff protection and no assistance for any Australian industry.
– That is nonsense and you know it.
– All I can go on is the way in which the honourable member for Wakefield, for some considerable time now. consistently and regularly has opposed any form of tariff protection for an Australian industry, and the record clearly establishes that fact. The honourable member for Wakefield is a free trader, and I have always gained the impression that he was proud of the fact that he is a free trader. But having proceeded to attack the recommendations of the Tariff Board report on shipbuilding and what is allegedly involved in it, 1 want to refer to a question which I asked and to which I received a reply on 3 1st May 1972 dealing with the subsidies which are doled out by way of bounty and the like by this Government. I am not taking the Government to task for having done this because I believe there are industries in Australia which require protection, either by way of tariffs or by way of bounty.
I just want to draw to the attention of the honourable member for Wakefield some of the rural industries which receive Government assistance, particularly the one in which he is interested, namely, the wheat industry. In 1971-72 assistance was given to the wheat industry through its stabilisation scheme in the amount of $27,200,000. The industry of which the honourable member for Wakefield is so critical, namely, the shipbuilding industry, for the same year received $10,068,000. I do not know what the honourable member is complaining about when the industry in which he is interested certainly has been well and truly subsidised. Total subsidies paid to all rural industries for the year 1971-72 amounted to $274,917,000. For the same year, the manufacturing industries - I will not go through all of them - received a total of $82,831,000. So when lt comes to the matter of subsidies, the rural producers do not do too badly. I am not being critical; I am just drawing attention to the facts.
The honourable member for Wakefield launched an attack on the shipbuilding industry and the Tariff Board report. If the recommendations of the Tariff Board and/or the policies of the Government were adopted it would spell the death knell of Australian shipbuilding within the next 2 years. In a joint ministerial statement made by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) and the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) it is stated:
Approvals to import new ships will be freely given where Australian yards have been given the opportunity to tender but where no Australian yard tenders for the vessel or where the price of the vessel from the Australian ya’rd, after payment of the subsidy, exceeds the normal price for which the vessel can be acquired from an overseas builder, including the cost of delivering to an Australian port. As at present approval to import would be freely given for new vessels not exceeding 200 tons gross register.
After the report was released I spoke to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) who assured me that there would be no change in the present procedure of placing orders with Australian shipyards. If that is the case, why was that paragraph put in the statement? We certainly would delete it. That statement to which I referred was made on 31st May 1972. Finally, after considerable public pressure from the shipbuilding interests of this country, and from honourable members in this place, on 10th July the Minister came up with an amendment to the original statement which was put out on 31st May 1972. In that amended statement he said that the Government had now decided that it would not permit the free import of ships into Australia but that it would continue to pursue the present policy of considering the position. If the Australian shipyards did not have any orders, the Government would do something about it. This is a policy which the Labor Party supports, because we believe that our first responsibility is to Australian industry, to Australian workers and, in this case, to the Australian shipbuilding industry which has had a pretty raw deal from this Government.
The other point in the report of which I am critical is the decision not to provide a subsidy for ships built for the Australian trade. For example, if the Australian National Line or some other Australian line wants to build a ship to expand its activities into the overseas trade, under the present arrangement and under the recommendations of the Minister, they will not receive a subsidy on that ship. It forces them into the position of having to go overseas to have the order filled, even if it means that Australian workers will be put out of employment. We have the situation at the moment at Evans Deakin and Co. Pty Ltd where the ship presently being built is reaching the point where the shipyard should be starting on another ship. Unless it gets an order, I would say, by the end of this month - there is no order pending at this stage - this yard will have to consider seriously the future employment of its staff.
I know a little about shipbuilding. When the construction of a ship gets to the stage where the work starts to taper off, the shipyard then has to absorb that labour into the next ship that it is to build. This is where this Government is creating havoc amongst the shipbuilding industry. One of the major reasons why Australian shipping costs as much as it does is the fact that we have this boom and bust situation which this Government creates. One way to guarantee continuity of employment would be to provide a subsidy on ships built for the Australian overseas trade instead of saying that they have got to be built overseas. We should take into consideration the amount of trade involved. In 1971-72 we carried only 1.6 per cent of our imports and .58 per cent of our exports in Australian ships. This in itself is sufficient justification for a change in the Government’s thinking. Somewhere in the vicinity of $900m a year goes out of this country in shipping freights. This amount should be used to expand the Australian shipping industry so that it does not flow out of Australia. This is another reason for a change in the present position.
One point in the report on shipbuilding with which I agree is that we should not be paying a subsidy on ships being built for export. There is no need to worry about that trade. There is still sufficient work in Australia, because at the present time 51 ships are trading on the Australian coast. They were built overseas. There is a great need to expand the Australian shipping industry into the overseas trade, and this would provide all the employment that we want for Australian shipyards. This can be done if only the Government will get on with the job. There is a lack of confidence in the Government’s shipbuilding policy by the shipbuilding industry. I have here a cutting from the Adelaide Advertiser’ of 12th October this year which states:
The proposed $12m to $15m expansion plan for the Whyalla Shipyard has been temporarily shelved.
The general manager of the shipyards (Mr D.
This is the whole position that exists in the Australian shipbuilding industry. The honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) talked about the price at which ships can be built overseas and the fact that overseas some of the yards have averages of something like 40 tons per man per annum as against 9 tons per man in Australia. This is all brought about because the Australian industry is not prepared to risk the expense involved in developing and expanding its shipyards to a point whereby it can say, as Mr Dalziel said in the statement to which I referred: “Right, we have continuity of employment. We can quite safely take the risk of spending some $12m to $15m in just one shipyard to bring it up to a standard comparable with overseas shipyards.’
The same thing can be said with all of the other shipyards throughout Australia. The Newcastle State Dockyard needs modernisation improvements. The same can be said for the Evans Deakin dockyard. Cockatoo Island Dockyard in my opinion belongs to the days when the ark was built. The same can be said of Williamtown Naval Dockyard. I was never more depressed in all my life than when I went through the dockyard some years ago with the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). It is so outdated that I am confident that that dockyard built the ark. It needs money to be spent on upgrading the layout, general equipment and everything associated with it. Unless the Government is prepared to encourage industry to carry out this type of improvement, what the honourable member for Wakefield has said will be perfectly true. The Australian shipbuilding industry will continue to drag behind overseas yards unless it has incentive and confidence.
Government supporters should be doing something positive about the situation by saying to the Australian shipbuilding industry: ‘We are prepared to make available to you long term cheap interest money so that the necessary development in the shipyards can be carried out to bring them up to a standard comparable with overseas.’ If they were prepared to do that I am certain that the tonnage rate per man would improve considerably because the industry then would be able to introduce the latest type of equipment, machinery and technique whereby it could build ships that would be comparable with those built overseas. The same can be said as to the number of ships that are being brought to Australia and operated on the coast.
The honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) just handed me a question which he asked, the answer to which discloses the number of ships which were imported into Australia in 1971-72. The shipbuilding industry will be very worried when it sees, for example, the number of ships which this Government is permitting to come into Australia. At the moment Evans Deakin in Brisbane is on the verge of closing down because it cannot get any continuity of work. Almost the same thing can be said about Adelaide Ship Constructions in Port Adelaide which is in a similar position. At the moment only 2 yards in Australia have continuity of employment beyond 1974 - the State Dockyard in Newcastle and Whyalla Shipyard.
If we are to stay in the shipbuilding industry we have to improve the yards far in excess of their present condition. The only way to do that is to get on with it and for the Government to give them confidence. The decision of the Government to dispense with the 6 recognised yards concept in itself can bring about a great lack of confidence in the shipbuilding industry because at the moment there is not sufficient work being given to these yards to guarantee them continuity. If the Government plans to let other people come into the field it will mean that the butter will have to be spread a little thinner than at present.
– Can I accept the honourable gentleman’s kind offer to continue bis remarks at a later stage to allow the Minister for Foreign Affairs to make a statement?
– You may.
– by leave - During the past two days both the Ellice Islands and Fiji have been hit by Hurricane Bebe which has brought in its train considerable devastation. The full extent of the damage is still not known. The Government has been in touch with the Australian High Commission in Suva. We have also been in touch with the British High Commission in Canberra over the situation in the Ellice Islands. We understand that all Australian staff in Suva are safe and well. There are no reports of Australian casualties but 10 Fiji citizens are reported to have been killed. In the Ellice Group serious damage has occurred at Funafuti. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) has sent a telegram to the Prime Minister of Fiji expressing our sympathy and dismay and indicating our readiness to assist in whatever way we can in alleviating the effects of this disaster. As an immediate step the Government has allocated a grant of $25,000 to Fiji. The Government is also offering a grant of $5,000 to assist the Ellice Islanders.
– Because of the time schedule I will have to get a move on and delete some of the things which I wanted to say about this matter. In the criticism by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) of the Australian shipbuilding industry he made reference to the amount of time that is lost as a result of stoppages, particularly over demarcation. As one who has been 15 years in the industry, he cannot tell me anything about demarcation and what is involved in it. The honourable member did not say this, but I know that the principal reason for demarcation disputes in the industry is that the men are determined to hold what they have within each individual union because there is no guarantee of continuity of employment. The men’s attitude is that they have to hang on to what they have. They say the work is theirs and they are going to hold onto it because if they do not do so they will be out of employment and it is better for them to be in employment and the other fellow to be out of it.
The honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) is a member of a shipbuilding union, the Federated Shipwright’s and Ship Constructors Association of Australia. I am a member of the Boilermakers and Blacksmith’s Society of Australia. Both of us have worked in the same shipyards and know the problems associated with them. I know that he agrees with the views I have just expressed. If this Government guaranteed continuity of employment in the shipbuilding industry I am certain that the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the union executives would then be in a position to do something positive such as to say to their members: ‘Look, forget about demarcation. Let us get on with the job because there is going to be employment.’ Since the amalgamation of the unions representing the boilermakers, the engineers, the sheet metal workers and the blacksmiths has taken place there have been no demarcation disputes in the shipbuilding industry between those 4 trades. The people who were opposed to the amalgamation should examine this question very quickly.
In conclusion, one of the other things that is most important and needed above all in the shipbuilding industry is an industry award instead of the present situation where about 17 or 18 unions in a shipyard all have different rates of pay and conditions. This in itself brings about industrial problems and stoppages. Where men are in the one shop, handling the same equipment and doing the same type of work, except on different material, and are getting different rates of pay, there is a problem. An industrial award, and continuity of work is what is needed. I will conclude on those points, to co-operate with the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) even though I should like to say a lot more on the question of the shipbuilding industry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Chipp) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 24 October (vide page 3088), on motion by Mr Chipp:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Chipp) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 11 October (vide page 2388), on motion by Mr Chipp:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Chipp) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.16 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 24 October (vide page 3083), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill is another one of those death-bed repentances of the Government in regard to a matter that it could and should have taken action on a long time ago. But it belatedly decided to do it yes terday and it hopes to have the measure passed through this House and the other place within about 48 hours. This Bill is described as a Bill for an Act to control foreign takeovers of certain Australian companies and in many respects it is rather like the land laws of some States when all the best freehold has been taken and they decide to turn what is left into a kind of leasehold. In many respects I think this is what has happened in this instance. Action has been taken rather belatedly and large aspects of Australian industry that could have been saved, had such legislation been introduced earlier, have now irreparably passed into the hands of foreign owners.
There are certain peculiar aspects of this Bill. One could of course go into the whole field of foreign investment but I want to confine myself to the terms of the broad title of the Bill which refers to foreign takeovers of certain Austraiian companies. One of the distressing things in Australia is the lack of information about the extent of foreign ownership and control of Australian industry. There is a certain emotional kind of response at the moment with the realisation that things have gone too far. Almost every morning when you wake up you pick up your newspaper and find that what was thought to be a solidly established Australian firm is threatened with being swallowed up by some firm from overseas.
This legislation is best described as an interim measure’. In fact it has some rather peculiar aspects about it. This legislation will apply only to 31st December 1973 or, according to clause 2(b), if an earlier date is fixed by proclamation, that earlier date. It has a rather peculiar aspect about it insofar as unlike many other pieces of legislation this Bill when it becomes an Act can actually be repealed by ministerial action, not by legislative action. One thing which the Opposition intends to do is to move in the Committee stage of the Bill that clause 2(2.)(b) be deleted. I asked earlier in the day about this rather peculiar clause and at my Party meeting today this curious procedure was drawn to my attention by several members of the Caucus. Normally a Bill cannot be passed unless it secures a majority in the 2 houses of Parliament and it remains as the law of the land until it is repealed by another Act of Parliament. But on this occasion we have this curious paragraph in clause 2 that will allow this Act to be repealed any time after it is passed, simply by proclamation. I sought some information about this. I am informed that the wording in clause 2 (2.) (b) is not exactly the same as contained in any other Act that has ever been written as far as Australia is concerned. I merely make that comment.
– It is unique.
– Exactly. We propose to suggest that the sovereignty of Parliament at least ought to be acknowledged and that paragraph (b) of sub-clause (2.) should be deleted. There is also another rather curious clause in the Bill. I only want to make this comment on it because I want to say something more general about the Bill. Clause 3 states:
Without prejudice to its effect apart from this section, this Act also has, by force of this section, the effect it would have if the following word and paragraph were added at the end of section 5:
Clause 3 goes on to say that these words ought to be added at the end of section 5: ; or (c) is the holding company of a body corporate of a kind referred to in either of the last 2 preceding paragraphs’.
When I was reading this part of the Bill last night I thought: ‘Why have this written this way? 1 would appreciate, perhaps at some later stage in the Committee debate, an explanation as to why, instead of being inserted as paragraph (c) at the end of clause 5, it is included in the Bill in this peculiar way as a special clause 3, stating that is should be added at the end of clause 5. It is just beyond my comprehension as a mere layman in the business.
When the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) introduced this Bill the other evening - and he chose ito do it rather than have the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) or the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) introduce it - he said ‘that the purpose of the Bill is to control foreign take overs considered to be against the national interest. Again, a peculiar omission from the Bill is any attempt to define ‘national interest’ although the Prime Minister spelt out in the course of his second reading speech certain criteria as to what he seems to think the national interest is. He seemed to include in it about 4 kinds of national interest, some of which seem to be major, some of which seem to be comparatively minor and many of which seem to be merely afterthoughts to pay deference to such things as regional development, defence strategy and environmental protection. They are all loaded in as aspects of what might be regarded as the national interest. But the, central basis from which it seems that the national interest is first to be contemplated is indicated by this question which the Prime Minister asked: ‘Is the company an economically strategic industry leader’? I suppose one can think of certain firms in that category in Australia. The Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd is virtually the sole maker of steel and it comes to mind as one that could he regarded as an economically strategic industrial leader and presumably in those circumstances should an attempt be made by a foreigner to take over that great establishment action would be taken.
The second criterion is: ‘Is the company so large that the takeover would significantly affect the relative balances of Australian ownership and control of the industry concerned’? Again one could imagine certain areas in Australia where, because of the relatively small population of this country there are only a few firms covering the whole of a particular industry. I think the motor car industry is one such example. I still think that in Australia we have far too many motor car firms making far too many models of cars in far too many different places. But this is something that we have allowed to grow in this country by not properly policing, guidelining and screening foreign investment in the past.
The third matter is: Does the takeover lead either directly or indirectly to net economic benefits in relation to such matters as production, prices, quality, range or products and services, and efficiency and technological change? These are the sort of things, presumably, that are regarded as being in the national interest. I could well understand the difficulty of trying to be categorical in a Bill as to what the national interest is. We have this problem in some other fields where certain things are regarded as being against the public interest. Of course, the public interest can be a pretty diverse sort of phenomenon or situation, to say the least. Nevertheless, because something is difficult to define is no reason why we should not occasionally try to define it. At least there seems to have been spelt out in this Bill a number of criteria of major and less major significance.
There has been a series of statements and legislative enactments in both this place and the other place in recent times and in the finish, I suppose, all of them have been aimed at the acknowledgment that even in a society that claims in a way - particularly through the mouths of supporters of this Government - to be a system of private enterprise and of free competition, in fact this ideal sort of state does not very often completely exist. In fact businesses as a whole when they get large enough do their best to remove anything that can be regarded as effective competition. The fact that we have restrictive practices legislation, monopoly controls and takeover or merger legislation is an indication that in terms of the total economy we can no longer allow industry or industrialists to please themselves entirely about the scope of their activities. If a company or organisation in the corporate form is large enough, no longer can it in any realistic sense be regarded as only the preserve of its own shareholders. We get this sort of curious mythology sometimes, suggesting that there are more shareholders of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd than there are employees of that company which, of course, conveniently ducks the very significant matter that there are very few shareholders of BHP who are entirely dependent upon BHP for their economic survival, but most of the people who work for BHP have no other source of economic survival than their employment in the enterprise. One can use statistics if one wants to for all sorts of reasons to prove what are rather dubious cases. But when we get legislation in relation to takeovers, which has been introduced not by a Labor government, not by a socialist government but by a government that claims in its coalition form to be the defender of free private enterprise, there is an acknowledgment that the buying or owning of an already existing firm by somebody else is not a matter that is only the preserve of the shareholders. This situation is particu larly accentuated when a local firm b threatened with being taken over by a foreign firm.
One can raise quite a number of arguments pro and con about this sort of thing. I would commend to those honourable members who are interested a rather heavy volume produced by the Government of Canada called ‘Foreign Direct Investment in Canada.’ This publication is known more simply as the Gray Report. It is produced in the name of one of the Ministers of the Canadian Government and contains a very great deal of useful information about the functioning of the Canadian economy, and particularly about the amount of that economy that is owned by interests outside Canada. Of course, one of great deficiencies in Australia is the existence anywhere of compact information to give the extent of foreign ownership and control of entities in Australia by people outside Australia. The Labor Party has suggested for a long time that there are great gaps in Australia’s statistical information, gaps that would not be very difficult to fill. My Party has suggested that one of the first things that ought to be done is an attempt to map, identify and categorise the extent of foreign ownership that already exists.
The kind of information we get indirectly from bodies such as the American Department of Commerce and the body that used to be called the Board of Trade but which I think is now called the Department of Trade and Industry in Great Britain, seems to suggest that British investment in Australia, together with American and Canadian investment in Australia, could be as high as $15,00Om. But we do not have any up-to-date figures about this. Even the tabulation produced recently by the Deputy Prime Minister’s Department had no later figures and its figures were confined to manufacturing as distinct from commercial, property and other fields. Those figures were no more recent than the year ended June 1967. This is not good enough in view of the importance and the extent of this kind of operation. What we have before us at the moment, of course, is a piecemeal sort of attempt to look at one aspect of the problem. The legislation before us expresses alarm as to what has happened but is not greatly concerned in any sense to reverse it The legislation is certainly aimed at stopping the sore from getting worse. It is a kind of finger stall which can be used for stopping future takeovers from outside Australia of entities already successfully established in Australia.
When one company proposes to take another over, whether it be by way of an internal merger or by the swallowing up of an Australian company by someone outside, a number of questions ought to be asked. Surely one ought to ask: Is it better? Let us take the example of the old familiar case of Ansett Transport Industries and Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd. Did anyone try to prove that TNT’s proposed swallowing of Ansett was necessarily better for the transport system in Australia than TNT and Ansett operating separately? Noone tried to prove that. The takeover was simply regarded as a matter for 2 sets of shareholders. In fact, I sometimes wonder whether it is the shareholders or just the boards of management speaking in the name of the shareholders. At least what is proposed in this legislation is that before any foreign takeover can take place certain exploratory processes have to ensue. There has to be a month of preliminary skirmishing in which the Government or a body that will later be set up - an independent tribunal or something of the kind - examines in some detail and in a preliminary kind of fashion whether what is proposed is in the national interest. If it decides quickly that it is not, what is proposed is off. But, if it thinks that the proposal is worth being subjected to further scrutiny, there is a further waiting period of some 3 months before it can be consummated or not.
The Prime Minister suggested that this examination should occur where the asset construction of a company exceeded lim. By that, I presume, he means where the excess of assets over liabilities exceeds $lm, although this again is not spelled out. Like many other things, the proposals are delightfully vague and, perhaps, deliberately vague. But at least that is the kind of magnitude that the Prime Minister has in mind. In fact, really, there is no minimum or maximum standard at which such an examination should apply. The Canadians suggest that where the net assets of a company exceed $5m it should be subject to scrutiny. Be that as it may, that was the suggestion made by the Prime Minister in his speech, although what authority a speech has when it comes to an Act I do not know. At least the speech is the only place where the national interest is thought to be paramount. No attempt has been made to define it in the Act itself.
There are 2 other interesting aspects of the legislation about which I should like to say something. In certain cases, apparently, it is presumed that there is no need to resort to legislation and that the mere decree of the Government is sufficient to say that there will be no takeovers in certain fields. I must confess to having some sympathy with that view. We already debar foreign companies from owning banks in Australia. We have the historical survival of the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd, but at least that bank has been made to fit within the mechanisms of the banking legislation. We debar foreigners from the operation of our internal airways and also from the operation of broadcasting and television. I would hope that we would even exclude foreigners from the operation of any of the internal media of Australia. We can still be threatened with Press takeovers, presumably, and I for one would go on record as saying that no overseas owner should have any control of communications media in Australia.
I suggest that the same sort of thing should apply in relation to finance companies. I read rather casually in a recent issue of the business journal ‘Rydge’s’ that many of the finance companies in Australia were ripe for takeover by foreigners. I would certainly debar the takeover by an overseas interest of any existing finance company in Australia not already foreign owned. Foreigners should be permanently barred from this field. The same applies in the field of insurance. We already have enough foreign insurance operators in Australia; but, again, if any foreigner in the future threatens to buy an Australian insurance entity he should be debarred. I say these things categorically because I believe that any country should be able to run its own financial mechanisms. When we have as sophisticated an economy as we are supposed to have, it should need no assistance from outside.
The other interesting aspect of this Bill is that, for the first time to my knowledge - I might be subject to correction on this -we recognise in a legislative enactment that the Commonwealth does have legislative power in relation to finance and trading corporations. This seems to be one of the healthy lights thrown upon constitutional possibilities in Australia as a result of the Concrete Pipes case. I can remember that many years ago my Party suggested that what were then less euphemistically described as hire purchase companies - they are now defined as finance companies - should be treated as members of the banking group and a law should be passed to bring them within the same net of social controls as the banking system. We were always told that such a move was beyond the powers of the Commonwealth under the Constitution. At least the Concrete Pipes case, possibly for different reasons, suggested that there would be no difficulty whatever in regulating these kinds of institutions if one wanted to. I hope that in the future we will want to. In many respects, this legislation has been written around the assumption that the Commonwealth Parliament can legislate on the operations of trading and finance companies.
It was a little gratifying today to find in a report presented in another place the suggestion that it would be good if Australia had one uniform companies law. I, too, hope that we will move in that direction. The report even rather radically suggested that there should be national control of stock exchanges in Australia. Again, I must concur with that wise finding. But all of these findings are indictments of the inactivity of this Government, particularly in the last 3 years. I have said on several occasions that, listening to the debates in this Parliament in the last 3 months, one would not have thought that honourable members on the other side supported a government that was defending its performances and record of the last 3 years. Rather, they almost sounded like an opposition proposing great new things that they proposed to do in the next 3 years. This seems to me to be a curious inversion of the processes of responsible government.
– You cannot do everything.
– The Government cannot do everything, but surely it should do something. I would think that the indict ment, as I have called it, should be on the basis of how little has been done in the face of problems that called for solution. I think that the Government should be told that 1972 is well into the 1970s. The 1970s began 2 years ago, but the Government talks about entering the 1970s. No longer in this decade can a government run economies on a hunch. We must have some system, plan and scale of priorities. At least these have been provided - belatedly again, it seems - in some of the enactments that have been proposed in the last few days.
My colleague the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) today asked a question about another great field in which we were promised legislation a long time ago, namely, the field of insurance other than life insurance. I do not know whether everybody realises that the annual premiums payable in the field of insurance other than life insurance are nearly as great as the Australian defence bill - something in excess of $1,1 00m. This area is a haphazard jungle of inadequate legislation with differing kinds of systems in different States. Belatedly, the Government now wants to write a code that will be effective; but what does it do? Instead of drawing up the legislation in May and letting it lie on the table to be considered early in August, the Government drew up the code in September or October and dilly-dallied between one set of insurance interests and another. We do not even know this evening, with one more day of this Parliament to run, whether we will consider it tomorrow. All I say about this is that legislation as important and far reaching as that and as this Bill we are now considering, ought not to be considered casually in the dying hours of a Parliament. Least of all should such legislation be brought in with the apparently avowed purpose of trying to rouse together some straggling voters whom apparently the Government has apparently lost but whom it thinks might be redeemed by this means. I suggest that that is a traversty upon the legislative process. When that has occurred, I think it is time to change the Government.
– I rise to support the Companies (Foreign Takeovers) Bill 1972 brought down by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) in this chamber last night. The Bill provides for the control of foreign takeovers of certain Australian companies. We in Australia want to see investment here helping to develop our resources. We need developmental money, money building new industries but not money coming in for portfolio investment purposes or takeovers, or money really adding nothing to our economy but giving foreign people ownership of Austraiian property. We must see that future generations of Australians are left as owners and not tenants of the great assets in this country. The inflow of capital from abroad has been an important factor in the Australian economic scene throughout the post-war period. It has at various times been acclaimed and decried. Controversy over the matter has reached certain peaks in the past, but the general interest in the subject has heightened over time, and I might say that the interest has been very keen during the past 12 months. However the very high level of capital inflow and takeovers of certain Australian companies over the past 2 years has given rise to growing concern. With the trend in capital inflow strongly upwards the volume of production, employment and income generated by overseas interests in Australia has steadily increased. These developments have given concern to those framing Australian economic policy and policy in fields going beyond those that are strictly economic.
Surveys conducted by the Commonwealth Statistician indicate that direct ownership and control of about 25 per cent of Australian manufacturing industries rests with overseas companies while approximately 50 per cent of the value of mining excluding petroleum production in 1968 was accounted for by overseas owned and controlled establishments. On examination of the position, overseas participation in manufacturing might not have increased greatly over recent years. Foreign ownership and control in the mining industry have certainly increased greatly. No direct information is available from official sources on foreign participation in other sectors of the economy. Overseas ownership and control of rural industries is small except in the Northern Territory, northern Queensland and certain parts of Western Australia. In oil exploration and produc tion overseas interests are substantial, probably accounting for more than onehalf of the value of exploration expenditure and oil production. Overseas participation in Australian tertiary industries is variable. It is extensive in finance, property and oil distribution but limited in transport, storage and communication. There is no foreign participation in most areas of public investment such as the provision of hospitals, schools, water supplies and railways.
Overseas investors are now precluded from direct entry into few areas of economic activity, for instance, banking - the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) mentioned the Australian and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd which of course is an English concern - radio and television broadcasting and domestic airlines. In recent years the extent of overseas holdings ir few individual companies has been restricted by Commonwealth legislation. I refer to MLC Ltd. Restrictions were placed on that company in this chamber several years ago. I refer also to APA Holdings Ltd, Queensland Mines Ltd and Kathleen Investments (Australia) Ltd. No comprehensive measures of the overall extent of foreign ownership and control of Australian enterprises are available. Companies have been the main source of overseas investments, but inquiries and research have ascertained that in 1969-70 approximately one-third of the Australian corporate sector was owned overseas. It certainly appears that the degree of foreign ownership has increased rather rapidly since the mid-1960s. Because of the predominance of Australian ownership in the unincorporated sector, overseas ownership of Australian business as a whole wo llc be substantially under 33 per cent. However it is essential that the Australian Government should have the legislative powers to exercise control over foreign takeovers of companies, and this Bill before the House will take care of this situation which has developed.
This Bill provides for the control of foreign takeovers of companies. As has already been stated, proposals for such controls were announced by the Prime Minister in a statement to this House on 26th September last concerning overseas investment in Australia. The Prime Minister also stated in this announcement that departmental machinery would be set up to examine takeovers for foreign interests, and this machinery has been put into operation with a group of departmental officers who have been examining national interest aspects of certain takeover propositions. This has been prompt action by the Prime Minister and the Government of this country.
The Bill will give Government control over foreign takeovers and will spell out to the business world clear procedures to be followed in such cases. It will provide overseas companies with rules in regard to foreign investment in Australia and should remove any doubts or uncertainties that they may have. At the present time the propaganda and the various articles that have appeared in the Press concerning foreign investments in Australia have been received overseas in varying ways, but this Bill will set out the rules clearly, and overseas investors will know where they stand when they are investing money in this country. The underlying principle in the legislation is to prevent takeovers that are against the national interest. We must see that the interests of Australian investors are not prejudiced except only when the national interest requires it
Of importance to business concerns is that the Government does not propose to apply the legislation to companies unless their assets exceed $lm. Nevertheless there is a safeguard in the Act whereby the Minister retains the right to interfere where special circumstances apply to companies of a smaller nature. The 2 main powers set out in the Bill are concise and clear. The Minister has power to make an order prohibiting a foreign takeover proposal, whatever its form, from being implemented if the Minister is satisfied that it would be against the national interest. The second power will enable the Minister to limit the interests that a foreign concern or group of interests may have in a selected company. These are effective powers which will prevent the possibility of some alternative proposition which could have the same ultimate effect.
In his second reading speech and in his statement of 26th September the Prime Minister clearly indicated that an independent authority would be set up to deal with foreign takeovers. This Bill does not provide for this authority which will be the subject of a separate Bill in the next Parliament. This action is necessary as time does not permit the legislation to be introduced at this juncture. It is a Bill which will require careful drafting and consideration. The present Bill, however, will give control over foreign takeovers until such independent authority is set up. The Government has power in both cases to make the final decision on whether a takeover should proceed. The Government, of course, will be guided by the rules outlined in this legislation.
It is interesting to note that a takeover may be regarded as against the national interest if the company concerned is considered by the Government, first, to be an economically strategic industry leader or, secondly, to be so large that the takeover would significantly affect the relative balance of Australian ownership and control of the industry concerned. Other factors are taken into account and applied to other foreign takeovers. Would the takeover either directly or indirectly affect production, prices, the quality of products and services, efficiency and technological change sufficiently to justify the increased degree of foreign control of the particular industry that would result from the takeover? Many other most comprehensive factors are to be taken into account. These factors are consistent with Australia’s interests and include such matters as exports, imports, research and development and industrial relations. It must be considered whether the takeovers would have adverse effects on Australia’s defence, environmental protection and regional development. These are most important matters. These are all wide fields. Under this Bill the Government will have power to determine whether to control foreign takeovers or otherwise. It will help to preserve Australian assets whilst not doing away with foreign investment opportunities. I support the Bill.
– It is obvious that the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) is finding it hard to accommodate himself to the new election look of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). Of course he has been so accustomed over the years to following the leader in extolling the virtues of foreign investment in and foreign takeovers of Australian industry. If one looks carefully at this legislation, which has been introduced in an extraordinary manner in the dying hours of this Parliament, one realises that it really is an extraordinary document. The legislation contains an extraordinary provision - I use the word ‘extraordinary’ deliberately and repetitively - namely, that the Act shall expire from 1st December 1973 or at an earlier date, should the Government so desire, by proclamation. This provision is detailed in clause 2. As was said earlier when the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) was speaking, it is a unique procedure, one which we have never seen before. The Prime Minister gave as the excuse for this provision that this is only an interim measure and that a further Bill will be brought down next year to provide for the other proposals mentioned in his statement of 26th September of this year.
– What is wrong with that?
– If the honourable member does not get excited I will tell him. This excuse does not hold water as the further legislation to be brought down - the Prime Minister says next year - could just as easily take the place of this legislation. Actually there is no need for the proposal that the Act may cease by proclamation. It should be noted that the explanatory memorandum issued with this Bill makes no mention of this clause - the fact that the Bill is for only one year or that it can be done away with by proclamation. Possibly this is because the professional ethics of the public servants who prepared this document do not extend that far. It might be within the professional ethics of the Prime Minister, but I have some respect for the Public Service behind him which obviously, deliberately and conveniently, avoided the issue.
– So you are against the Bill.
– I again ask the honourable member not to get excited. The Government knows that the issue of the takeover of Australian companies and assets, not to mention our national resources, is a gut issue in this election campaign. It is trying to sidetrack the issue by the introduction of this so-called interim measure. In reality this legislation is a chloroforming operation in order to anaesthetise the public and is designed only for the period of the election campaign. The Opposition does not oppose the legislation as such. We will move amendments in Committee to the most objectionable clause in the Bill. The Opposition believes that something like this should have been done at least 15 years ago but the legislation should have been extended far beyond what is proposed and should be fair dinkum, not something designed to get the Government over the election period, then to be done away with by proclamation.
The deplorable history of the Government on this question of encouraging investment into Australia to take over Australian industries is such that one can honestly describe this legislation as being like a miner who ascends from the pit and puts on a new suit without having a bath. In other words, it may appear to gleam on the surface but there is still dirt underneath. On 26th September the Prime Minister came into this chamber and spoke brave words about what he intended to do on this very important issue. Obviously, pressures from the multi-national corporations and other vested interests have been brought to bear on him with the result that we now get this puny legislation brought in with extraordinary haste. The legislation covers only one facet of the matters mentioned on 26th September and it can be got rid of by proclamation without even waiting for the Parliament to meet next year if, by some mischance, the Government scrambles back to power.
Another issue which shows a lack of sincerity on the part of the Government on this whole question of takeovers and monopoly power is the fact that a Bill entitled the Restrictive Trade Practices Bill (No. 2) already has been introduced in another place. It provides for the control of monopoly practices but the Government does not intend to proceed with that Bill during the course of this Parliament. Shades of the retirement from the Parliament of Sir Garfield Barwick and the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Hughes) who is sitting in the gallery opposite, because they wanted to do something about restrictive trade practices. This is simply another example of how vested interests of monopoly power have brought pressure to bear on the Government.
– And a very good Minister he was.
– He was too fair dinkum for you blokes. I first started to speak in this House on the dangers of unfettered investment in Australia over 10 years ago. The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) and the former honourable member for Scullin, Mr Ted Peters, were issuing warnings in this Parliament even before that. I can recall seeing a perfect example of these dangers back in 1958 when an American company remitted from Australia in one year a 250 per cent dividend, made possible because originally it had brought into this country £Stgl60,000 in capital and had retained its profits for reinvestment for a few years. Then it was able to export back to America many times the amount of the original investment.
Before going further I want to outline clearly the attitude of the Australian Labor Party on this question of foreign investment. That attitude has not changed over the years. It has been consistent since I first came into the Parliament in 1961, when the 24th Parliament first met in 1962, and right up to the present day. We on this side of the House are at least being constructive, and history has proved us to be right. We are not opposed to foreign investment if it brings new know-how, new techniques or industry which replaces imports or brings some other definite physical benefit to this country. However, we are opposed to such investment if it involves a takeover of existing Australian enterprises which are operating efficiently; if it is for speculation in our exchange rate; if it seeks to take over, exploit or otherwise speculate in real estate; or if it seeks to engage in portfolio investment on our share markets.
Hot money, speculation in exchange rates and real estate and portfolio investment only create over-liquidity in our economy with consequent inflationary pressures. They also force up the price of land for the average Australian and create excessive speculation on our stock exchanges which in turn not only creates an inflationary situation but very often brings about great losses to our citizens. For example, the mining boom of 1969-70 was brought about largely by speculation on our stock exchanges by overseas money, and when the bubble burst many Australians lost their life savings. Is this good for Australia? If not, why has the Government not done something about it before this? There is no provision, either in this legislation or in the Prime Minister’s paper of 26th September, for any control over portfolio investment in Australia by overseas parties - that is, the purchase of shares on the stock exchanges, not takeover bids, by overseas residents for speculative purposes. Why has this been omitted from both the Bill and the Prime Minister’s statement? Obviously because pressure has been brought to bear upon the Government by the share broking interests of this country who would stand to lose a great deal if such speculation in our share markets was to be prohibited, as it should be.
– They have no chance of buying the Opera House; I can tell you that.
– As a matter of fact, they might want the Harbour Bridge as well. If one looks at the Prime Minister’s statement on 26th September, one sees that it was a partial liftout from the policy previously announced by the Australian Labor Party. We are becoming used to this, of course. Honourable members opposite follow the leader these days, in every facet of policy, in a last minute attempt to save their political hides. The Australian Labor Party proposed that a secretariat - that is what we called it - answerable to the Government should be established to vet all foreign investment. The Prime Minister later, after that was announced, announced that an independent authority - that is what he called it; not a secretariat - would be established to vet foreign investment and outline guidelines to be followed by that organisation which, extraordinarily so, represented part of the guidelines we had outlined in our policy, with minor alternations to try to make it look respectable. However, he did not acquiesce in all our policies, and his proposals certainly do nothing to grapple with such issues as nominee companies, portfolio investment by overseas residents, the ramifications of the internal accounts of the multi-national corporations and other important issues.
If this Government is re-elected we will never see the full proposals of the Prime Ministers statement of 26th September. I believe that these will go the same way as Sir Garfield Barwick’s proposals went when he sought to put teeth into the Trade Practices Act and, for that matter, the same way as the honourable member for Berowra went when he tried to be a little fair dinkum as well.
– They kicked him upstairs.
– That is right, they kicked him upstairs and gave him $60,000 a year as a retainer fee. That is the rumour. I hope it is not right. This is happening to the present Restrictive Trade Practices Bill which has been introduced in another place and which, heaven knows, is docile enough. If it is not to be proceeded with in this session it will be erased from the notice paper upon the expiration of this Parliament. In other words, it will die. This is something similar to what the honourable member for Melbourne Ports was talking about and what the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) said earlier today, at question time, on the matter of the insurance Bills. In other words, the Government tried to be brave, but suddenly those outside men, those outside influences, those faceless men who influence this Government, brought the pressures down and the Government is bowing to those pressures. Therefore, who can blame the public, not to mention honourable members on this side of the House, for being cynical as to the Government’s motives in respect of this legislation? I stated earlier that this legislation is a last minute effort to confuse the public into believing that the Government is fair dinkum on this issue of overseas investment. It completely ignores the fact that a number of members of this Parliament have been warning for over a decade against the evils of the Government’s excesses on this issue.
The honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) has just pointed out to me that there is not a Liberal in the House at the present time. On this vital issue affecting the commerce of the nation not one of the members of the Liberal Party - the representatives of commerce in this country - is sitting here in the House. The only people on the other side of the Chamber are the Pitt Street farmers from the Country Party.
Let us have a look at the latest position in this country. The annual bulletin on overseas investment for 1969-70 and overseas investment for 1970-71 - a preliminary issue - published by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, shows that the inflow of private overseas investment in companies in Australia stood at $297m in 1961-62 and had grown to $l,492m by 1970-71. Portfolio investment - which, as I said earlier, gives nothing whatsoever to the economy of this country - and institutional loans had grown from $76m in 1961-62 to $516m in 1970- 71. The monthly bulletin of the Reserve Bank shows that as at June 1969 our reserves - that is, our total gold aius net foreign assets - were $1,5 14m whereas at June 1972 they stood at $3, 761m. As we all know, they have risen dramatically since then. Yet the Government refuses to acknowledge that hot money is embedded in these reserves. In this day of galloping inflation in this country, when these excessive reserves are adding to the excessive liquidity in this country and are creating inflation, in the dying hours of this P; Hiatt! en t - the next Parliament probably will not meet until next February - the Government has still made no provision for taking any corrective action on this very important issue.
An estimate of the degree of overseas control of selected Australian manufacturing industries in the period 1966-67 in respect to the total value of production put the motor vehicle construction and assembly industry at being 87.8 per cent overseas controlled, the non-ferrous metals rolling and extrusion industry at being 83.6 per cent overseas controlled, the soap and candles industry at being 82 per cent overseas controlled, the refined mineral oils industry at being 81.6 per cent overseas controlled, the industrial and heavy chemicals and acids industry at being 78 per cent overseas controlled and the pharmaceutical and toilet preparations industry at being 76.3 per cent overseas controlled. Those figures are for 1966-67 and not today. Heaven knows what has happened since. With regard to the mining sector, overseas control measured in terms of the total value of production stood at 39 per cent in 1964 and 58 per cent in 1968, which was once again 4 years ago. Heaven knows where it has gone since. Is it any wonder that this is a gut issue in this country today and that the Australian people are reacting to it.
Why has the Government not done something about it before this? Why has it waited all these years and only at the last minute taken action which is not even fair dinkum? Is it because it is fearful of the storm of public reaction against its duplicity of the last 15 years? Only the Government’s conscience, if it has one, can answer those questions. In April 1962 - over 10 years ago - I pointed out in this chamber that there bad been great reaction against the sale of national assets in Canada and South America at that time and that this would surely happen to this country if corrective action was not taken. That is happening today. There is a reaction today to the actions of the Government, to its procrastination and to its refusal to do something about the situation over a period of 15 years. Why, even the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of today’s date headlines the Government’s legislation as being ‘feint and jab’. Even a newspaper published by the Fairfax combine, which is a strong supporter of the Government, has headlined the Government’s actions as ‘feint and jab’. I call it a chloroforming operation for the election period. The public may rest assured that after the election is over and provided a Labor government is elected - I believe a Labor government will be elected - the Australian Labor Party’s policy of common sense and effective controls over foreign investment will be introduced in the interests of Australian industry, the Australian public and the posterity of the nation as a whole.
– We have just listened to the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) express himself in terms which showed the real dilemma facing members of the Opposition in deciding how to deal effectively with the debate on this important measure.
On the one hand he criticised-
– Mr Deputy Speaker, in view of the fact that there are no members of the Liberal Party in the House, I draw your attention to the state of the House. It is a shame that the Assistant Minister’s own Liberal supporters are not here to listen to him.
-Order! Ring the bells. (Quorum formed)
– It is not surprising that a quorum was called for by the Opposition. The members of the Opposition recognise the weakness of their own argument and seek to engage in any diversionary tactic possible to direct attention away from it. The honourable member for Chifley has given the lie direct to his own proposition. At the beginning of his speech he was quite critical of the actions of the Government in regard to this measure, but what did he do in the middle of it? He accused the Government of having lifted out a big slice of the Australian Labor Party’s policy and sought to implement it by way of this measure. He then referred to the Labor Party’s proposition for a secretariat and said: ‘You know, this has been altered a little’, before objecting to some of the provisions of the measure. Of course he knows in all honesty that he has adopted a political approach and that the real truth of the matter is that this legislation very greatly annoys the Opposition, which would dearly love to have had such an issue to use as an election campaign argument. That is quite apart from the fact that the real principle behind this matter, the details of the involvement of the Government in it, and the pros and cons of how it should be approached. Let me take just one example of the funny approach adopted by the Opposition. It was said that 15 years ago - these are the words of the honourable member for Chifley - the Opposition had put forward proposals in relation to this matter. I want to draw attention to one thing tha* his Party did 15 years ago. The then Labor government in New South Wales specially appointed the first official Agent-General of the State of New South Wales to open an office in New York for one specific purpose.
– What was that?
– To attract investment in Australia from the United States. Members of the Opposition are very silent on that point, are they not? An analysis of what has been said in this debate by the honourable member for Chifley will reveal extreme criticism of the Government’s overall policies and of its approach to the important question of the economy. He cited Australia’s overseas reserves as a criticism of the Government’s policy, but he failed to acknowledge that Australia has the benefit today of the second highest reserves in percentage terms of any trading country in the world. That is to the credit of the Commonwealth Government for the very reason that Australia’s reserves place it in a very advantageous position insofar as the economy and the real worth and value of the Australian dollar are concerned, which is fundamental to any consideration of this important measure. Of course, foreign takeovers arouse emotional reaction. They always have and they always will. We have heard a typical example of that emotional reaction from a member of the Opposition this evening. The Government must be careful to ensure that emotions do not cloud the issues. That is exactly what the Government has been careful about.
In the past, overseas investment in Australia has been very necessary to further our economic development. Without overseas investment Australia would be just a joke so far as the Western world is concerned. Responsible government and a sound approach insofar as overseas investment in this country is concerned have built one of the most prosperous economic machines to be found anywhere in the world. I notice that the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) is frowning and that others on the Opposition side of the chamber are looking a little dismayed. Of course, they are the people who would write down the worth of this country, and in fact do. They are the ones who criticise Australia from beginning to end and describe it as a country that is not exactly what it is. Australia is a country of great standing in the economic assessments that are made of all trading nations and all affluent societies. This is to the credit of the Government that has been in office for 23 years.
Of course, we find cheap political criticism being levelled without any recognition of the real facts.
– It is time for a change.
– A little later, not yet. The reasons are apparent and obvious. Without overseas investment we certainly would not have achieved the development that we have enjoyed. There has been a trend, a change, and the Government has recognised this. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) has made this clear and the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony), the Leader of my Party, the Australian Country Party, and his predecessor have made it equally clear that there is need to look carefully at where the Government stands on this important issue and at what is good for the nation. As a consequence a very detailed assessment and study was made. We can now afford to begin to take action, and that is exactly what this measure does. The Government commenced the review, a statement was made to the House and now we have this legislation. Let me illustrate in just a few words the import of it - restrictions on borrowing overseas for a period of less than 2 years; abolition of borrowing guidelines; relaxation of restrictions on portfolio investment overseas, and control of foreign takeovers.
The Bill provides for standing legislative powers to enable the Government to act quickly if it decides that a particular foreign takeover proposal is not in the national interest. Is this not the correct way to approach this matter? Is it not far better than having some rigid and unchangeable legislation which, in the light of economic trends and changes, would be detrimental to this country? Of course it is. The decision to introduce the Bill testifies to the bona fides of the Government and its determination to implement the policies announced by the Prime Minister on 26th September last. Some kinds of takeovers are not encompassed in this Bill, As has been mentioned, it will expire on 31st December 1973. This is a correct approach. Likewise, of course, it can be repealed and replaced by other legislation if it is found wise and prudent so to do. There is no doubt that this Government will be returned to office and will do just that if the need arises.
Of course, there has been criticism to suggest that it is just a phoney approach, that it is a temporary measure. This is far from the truth and the public of this country know it and will recognise it. We will not be tied down by a socialist approach. We will not have the economy of this country jeopardised by a half-baked but firm measure which will tie irrevocably all aspects of foreign interest in this country because, as I have said, in so many respects we could not have done without this foreign interest in the past. In the present we require a very large degree of it, and in the future it will be equally indispensable for the welfare and the growth of this young Australian nation.
The Bill does not provide for the establishment of a permanent authority to conduct detailed investigations. Quite properly this will be handled by departmental machinery until arrangements can be made for the setting up of an authority of the kind that can be found to be effective and safe. I use the word ‘safe’ advisedly. I believe that the last thing that any enterprising nation requires - I hope that this will always be an enterprising nation - is some rigid, firm control which ties down everything and frightens those who want to participate in really worthwhile free enterprise. The Government’s policy on foreign takeovers reflects the Government’s concern. Of course, we have had guidelines. We have had a vast range of requirements for investment in this country. Those requirements get too little emphasis. The Opposition never recognises them. The media rarely refers to them. But they have been there right through. They are still there and they will be merely supplemented by this legislation.
There has been concern about the growth of overseas investment, but it has been necessary to assess this against the aspect of the requirements for skill, technology and all of the other ramifications of a two-way business between this country and its trading partners. Without that consideration we would not be in the happy position in which we find ourselves today. Let us consider, for example, the fact that the Japanese market represents now not less than 32 per cent of the total volume of our exports. Where would we be if we had a rigid and compelling situation so far as interests in this country from outside were concerned, especially at a time when the European Economic Community will require that we must have new outlets and fresh markets? Had we frightened away investment and participation - I emphasise participation - in the development of this country, could we expect to build up these new markets, to find new avenues to dispose of our primary produce in particular, our minerals and other things upon which we are dependent for our wealth? Of course we could not. Yet people like the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) are constant critics of the Government because of its policies. They go outside and say that the Government has failed effectively to sell Australian goods on behalf of the producers of this country. What sheer rubbish. The honourable members who interject know that to be true. They know that if we had not managed the affairs of this country as we have, our record with regard to exports would not be as good as it is today.
This measure takes these considerations well into account. We will not put at risk the exports of this country. We will not put at risk the prospects of this country. Above all we will not jeopardise the economy of this country. We hear week by week and month by month the lamentings of the Opposition in relation to employment. We just heard the honourable member for Chifley criticise the proportion of foreign ownership of the motor vehicle industry. But did he quote the Government’s requirements in relation to the components used for motor vehicle construction in this country? He certainly did not. He did not remind this House that we have a requirement of Australian production of motor vehicle components which makes possible the great motor industry that we have in this country today and upon which the employment of hundreds of thousands of Australians depends. These are the things that are worth while. These are the things that should be recognised when a measure of this kind is before the House. But they are not mentioned by the Opposition. On the other hand, to try to gain some sympathy for their cause, Opposition members speak about matters in a very insincere way, and their remarks about the motor industry was a typical example of this. The honourable member for Chifley could well have told the truth about the motor industry and what this Government has done to sustain employment in the motor industry. He could well have acknowledged what the Government has done to prevent those very active interests from outside who would like to intrude further into our motor industry from so doing. But he did not do that because it did not suit him.
– He would not know.
– Of course he would not know. That is perfectly true. There are many aspects that could be referred to in a debate of the complexity which must devolve upon consideration of a measure of this kind, but I content myself by saying in conclusion that the Australian Country Party supports completely the proposition before the House. We are convinced that it is timely and that it is an approach which is in tune with present day requirements. It is not an under-commitment and it is not an over-commitment. I believe that this is the proper way for a responsible Government to act in a matter so important as this. There will be a further review of this policy. The legislation makes way for that. It does it in a manner which will take into account the trends that occur as we go along. This is a far better way of approaching the matter than putting on the statute book some irrevocable legislation, legislation which does not have the necessary flexibility that the measure before the House provides and which is being criticised. I believe it has been criticised in particular because of the provisions of clause 2. The whole spirit of the legislation really is embodied in the provisions of clause 2, which enables ministerial discretion to be exercised in terms that accord with a good, honest, sensible approach and takes into account what could arise so far as the economy is concerned.
– And a contribution to Party funds.
– That remark is just what we would expect from the honourable member who has interjected. He has been here a very short time and his stay might be shorter than he believes. Not one of his propositions put before the House thus far in the life of this Parliament has shown any substance. The other evening be was in the House criticising the Country Party for not having asked a number of ques tions on pollution and a variety of other things. When one studies his record I think it is very easy to see that he has not been very concerned about social welfare. The electorate which he represents is purported to have the greatest number of pensioners in Australia. He is certainly one who, having exposed himself by way of his assertion, does not stand the test of scrutiny if one takes the time and the trouble to look at his record. In other words, he certainly stuck his neck out.
– Who is he?
– You may well ask who he is - the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen), none other. He is almost the chief clown of this House.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Cowper might give some consideration to that remark.
– I am happy to withdraw it. I was referring merely to the dress which we frequently see the honourable member wearing. I am delighted to support the legislation before the House. I believe it to be one of the really worthwhile contributions made by the Government in the interest of the future of this great country of ours.
– In the coming Federal election there will be 3 major issues and no conservative government has ever been more vulnerable on them than this Government will be when it faces the electors. The first issue will be inflation, with the associated evil of lack of price control; the second will be growing unemployment; and the third will be the question of who owns Australia. Even this Government is showing signs of a death bed repentance. The legislation, for what it is worth - it is insulting, in fact, to the collective intelligence of the Opposition and to the intelligence of the people of Australia - is a mere pale image of Labor’s currently announced policy. It is remarkable that the Labor Party announced its policy early in September. Imitation, of course, can be the sincerest form of flattery, but in this case, when one examines the legislation it can be seen that it is without teeth, that it is a policy of humbug. Yet it is the best that this Government can do after 23 years in office.
I remind the House of the main features of Labor’s policy. Firstly, there shall be a secretariat - a statutory body. The secretariat shall identify - 1 want these words well weighed and understood - register and examine all foreign investment, both current and future, in Australia and report to the government accordingly. To begin with we want to cover the whole field and, above all, all nominees. That means nominee companies which hold shares on behalf of people, particularly foreign interests which do not want their proprietory rights disclosed. We will ensure that a full disclosure is made. The Labor Party goes further and in respect of existing foreign investment says: ‘The Government will act as necessary to retain and regain maximum Australian ownership and control of industries and resources.’ The eggs will need to be unscrambled.
This legislation, of course, is an electoral gimmick. In the political stud book its sire is ‘political expediency’ and its dam is ‘economic necessity’. It is half-baked legislation from a half-baked Government. It is ramshackle legislation at best. If honourable members want proof of this they should look at clause 3 which, in effect, purports to amend clause 5. From hour to hour we are getting the latest bulletin. The legislation is so ramshackle that already we have for discussion one amendment which can destroy the whole impact of the Bill. I will deal with that in a few minutes.
I pay special tribute to the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Hughes) who is the former Attorney-General. He had the fortitude to stand up and determine the corporation powers of the Government. In an historic decision it was proven once and for all that the National Government of Australia in the Federal Parliament has the power to control foreign corporations and trading and financial corporations operating within Australia. To the extent that there is a legislative sanction, this Government is on sound ground, but the terms of the legislation are beneath contempt. To use a medical term, this legislation is no more than a political placebo. A placebo Ls a quite innocuous medication which is given to people so that they will have a psychosomatic cure.
– A political ‘Aspro*.
– Yes. There are more escape runways in this legislation as it stands than there are in a rat’s castle. Nevertheless the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) says that it will keep uncertainty to a minimum. The legislation is to operate at a date yet to be proclaimed - not yet, in the words of the celebrated Liberal slogan, and perhaps never. In other words the Government in its alarm is saying to its supporters: ‘Do not worry boys. It is not to be proclaimed - not yet; perhaps later. But in the meantime we will put it over the public of Australia. The people are concerned. We have to shut them up and satisfy them that we are doing something’.
In this legislation reference is made to an instrumentality which is undefined - it does not exist. The Prime Minister referred to a special group of officers. They are yet unnamed. They are claimed to be highly important people. A set of principles yet unstated were referred to. They are to deal with economic penetration - yet undefined - and future penetration, or at least that which dates subsequent to 26th September of this year. But, of course, the damage has been done already. The main criticism of this legislation is that it confines itself to one thing and one thing only; namely takeovers which are of the smash and grab nature, or of the whisper and spring kind. In the Companies Acts of the various States and in part 6a of the Companies Ordinance operating within the Australian Capital Territory, already there is specific legislation in relation to takeovers. The utmost virtue that can be claimed for this legislation is that it includes provisions relating to foreign individuals and foreign corporations. It deals with shares and only with shares. It deals with the rights to exercise the votes to control companies by shares. Today we live in a very sophisticated world, a world of tax evasion, of tax minimising and of company manipulation and it is a very crude, a very passe and very archaic form of control of a company today to come right out into the open and say that you actually have acquired shares that you own.
This legislation could not be effective without a national companies Act and this Government will never introduce it. This Government is even suppressing the recommendation of a special Senate Committee to that effect. In addition to that there must be a national register of all foreign interests in Australia showing specifically whether the interest takes the form of shares or any other proprietary rights or any con tractual rights. Without both of these this legislation is worthless. Control is the main danger, not ownership. If the House wants the proof of that honourable members should have a look at the Government’s own White Paper on Overseas Investment at table 17 as quoted from by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage). That table shows the difference between overseas ownership and overseas control. Take the case of oil. Actual ownership, that is in terms of proved proprietary rights is 62 per cent and the degree of control is 83 per cent which is 21 per cent greater. In the case of industrial and heavy chemicals, 58 per cent is actual overseas ownership and there is 78 per cent control. Today in a sophisticated world it is control that counts. The best brains of the legal and financial professions are already busy devising the necessary escape routes, and there are plenty of them that are readily available. I will refer to just a few of them.
Before 1 come to that point, has not any government a fundamental right to exercise control over money or investment that has to come within its influence? Surely any national government gives visiting foreigners an entry permit and it wants to know who they are, where they will be living, how long they will be staying in the country and when they propose to leave. Exactly the same function is discharged by a national register. We need to know these things because already serious damage has been done to the Aus tralian economy. For the first time Australia has to stand on its own feet as a sovereign nation, speaking in its own right and in its own interests. It has to say what it will do. Perhaps one of the worst features of the open door for foreign investment in which the Country Party or some of its spokesmen see such virtue is this: Quite deliberately, under the Menzies administration particularly, it was considered that the more foreign investment there was in Australia the more cheaply it could be defended because our great and powerful friends would have to come in and defend their interests. In other words, from the most despicable of motives we gave them maximum control of Australian assets and industries. If they owned us or went near to owning us they must come in to defend us and we sheltered under their wing. We have full national responsibilities from now on and we must exercise them. But this Government is not capable of doing this.
Let us have a look at some of the escape hatches. To begin with, if an overseas company wants to take control of an Australian company it does not have to buy shares at all. It can make a cash offer and purchase the assets of that company and enter into an agreement as to how it is to be managed. If it does that it is quite in order. If it wants to take it another way there is the device of thin capitalisation. Today, for taxation reasons, overseas companies, when they establish their subsidiaries in Australia, might have something less than the minimum Sim that this legislation is anticipated to cover by way of investment and they will perhaps lend SI 00m and instead of taking out remitted profit in the form of dividends on shares they will take it out in the form of interest - and steep rates of interest - on moneys advanced. Again, how far does this legislation go to control that?
Let us take a third form of evasion. These are elementary examples that any second-year law student could give. Take the case of convertible debentures. Companies can lend money by way of debentures with the right to convert. Whoever controls the money controls the company. This legislation is a piece of monumental stupidity. It is meant to mislead the people of Australia to save the miserable political hide of this Government. Anyone could drive a 20-ton truck through this legislation, and the Government knows it. But it has the impertinence and the downright hide to put this legislation before the Australian people as its death-bed repentance. The people will not be deceived by it. This Bill will not solve any of the evils - and they are very real evils - because, to quote the words of the former leader of the Country Party, Australia is in fact becoming a quarry and a farm. We will need - and it will be a Labor administration that will do it - to decide that for the first time we will be hardfisted, hardnosed and if necessary hardhearted in our trading transactions with other countries. We are the subject of contempt and not of admiration by these people for being such crass, arrant idiots and fools to allow this set up to continue.
What chance would there be for Australian capital for example, to get into Japan? What chance is there for Australian capital to get into the United States? Yet we are idiots enough to allow it to come et’ Australia under any terras that they choose to nominate. After all, national pride does count for something and for the first time, since say 1941 when we were up against it, and the people of Australia knew it, we are up against it today. We are prepared to fight these people. We are prepared to ensure that they do not put it over us in the future. More than that, we are prepared to ensure that, whilst we will honour our deals in a proper way, they are not going to exploit us in the future as they have done in the past. They will get a fair return on their investment but they will not get the right to dominate and dictate and spoil this country. This legislation is an outrage and it deserves the contempt of every decent, honest Australian.
– At least the Australian Labor Party has a great advantage. It would only have to let prospective investors hear the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) with the dismal predictions which he gave tonight and Labor would not have any trouble about foreign investment. In fact capital will go the other way.
– The honourable member should get back to his horses.
– I am going back but before I do I want to address a few words to the House. The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage), I think, started to talk about history. He obviously has a very short memory about history and the part which the Labor Party played in overseas investment. My colleague the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) referred to the establishment by a New South Wales Labor Government of an agency in New York to attract overseas investment to Australia. There are probably not many people as old as I am - the Right Honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) is not present - who would remember that the Chifley Government attracted General
Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd to South Australia to build motor cars and lent that company half a million pounds into the bargain with no Australian equity. Has the Opposition forgotten this?
– Menzies did that.
– It was Chifley. The honourable member should look up the record. Conveniently, he would like to forget it. Let me delve a little more since the honourable member for Chifley dug up history and said that we want to have a look at it. Here is some more history for him. A few years ago a Labor Premier of Tasmania did his level best to encourage the then Federal government to attract overseas interest and development of iron ore deposits at Savage River in Tasmania. Not a single pound cf the equity in that project was Australian capital.
What was the situation in regard to a Labor government in Western Australia? I admit that I am talking about a pre-war government, but the honourable member for Cunningham talked about history. That Labor government in Western Australia gave concessions to 4 Japanese companies to develop Yampi iron ore deposits. There was no Australian equity of any sort in that project and there were no provisions of any sort for processing. The royalty was not 70c a ton as it is today; it was 3c a ton. The ore was to be extracted at a rate of 10 million tons per annum. This would have meant that the entire Yampi deposits would have been exhausted and would have disappeared in 15 years. I am just giving a bit of history to the Labor Party. Thank God the Labor Party did not succeed in that situation. If it had, where would we be today? A lot of emotion has been built up about overseas investment. I would say as an old Australian: ‘Thank God for overseas investment’.
– I knew that was how you felt.
– Yes. Let me give the reasons. Every developed country in the world has tried to attract overseas investment because if they cannot they will falter. The United States of America depended on hundreds of millions of pounds from Great Britain to develop her railways and roads. The whole of Texas was pretty well owned by British capital late in the last century. The Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd - our great company that has built up the resources of Australia and is able to compete with international companies^ - was practically formed by overseas investment. Until 1921 the executive of Broken Hill Pty was made up entirely of overseas people. What do we have today at Broken Hill Pty? We have the situation that 84 per cent of the shareholders are Australians. Mount Isa Mines Ltd, the great company that has developed the far north of Australia, has contributed more than any other company to the development of the north. I had been to the area before Mt Isa Mines Ltd was established when only kangaroos and a few cattle were there. Now there is a city of nearly 20,000 people. They are Country Party voters; they know what horse to back. The Mt Isa company was formed by American knowhow. It nearly faltered early in its history and for 20 years it never paid a dividend. In the 1940s I suppose the Australian equity in that company was only about 3 per cent. Today it is over 40 per cent. This is the situation into which we have had to rely on overseas funds, overseas know-how and overseas markets. We should not forget that we have to sell the resources which we develop. But the time has come when we have to clamp down on overseas investment which are taking over viable Australian industries. This is what we do not want to happen. This was the policy enunciated by a former leader of the Australian Country Party who said: ‘Yes, we will have these overseas investments to add to our know-how and to build new industries in Australia, but not to take over existing industries here’.
I am glad that this Bill has been introduced into the Parliament. It is not before time. It has been only in recent years that Australia, through the political stability of this Government, has been a magnet for overseas investment. The political stability of this Government has encouraged overseas investment because overseas investors like to know that their investment will be safe and that they will get a fair return on it. But if we do not take measures to prevent these investors from taking over our own viable industries, this, of course, will happen. We do not want this. When I was the Minister responsible for the Northern Territory I, as a member of the Gov ernment, insisted on substantial Australian equity in the Gove bauxite operation which is now so successfully in operation. A lot of nonsense has been written in our mass media about Papua New Guinea. We have read how that country is being taken over by the Japanese. This is plain nonsense. We have left the people of Papua New Guinea with a formula for investment there. If they stick to that formula they will have nothing to worry about. If they alter the formula - and they have the right to alter it because they are practically self-governing today - then that is another matter. But here in Australia, as I have said, it is time-
– Hear, here - it is time.
– It is time to clamp down on the overseas people who, attracted by the political stability and the opportunities in this field, are attempting to take over viable Australian companies. No other country can offer such opportunities as Australia and this is due simply to the 23 years of responsible Government of this country. No-one is going to change the Government. The honourable member said: ‘It is time’. I would say: ‘Not yet”. We have a long way to go. This country is developing fast.
– I draw attention to the State of the House. I know that supporters of the Liberal Party are having a meeting because they are split on the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill. But there are only 2 Government supporters here.
– Order! The honourable member wm resume his seat. He has called attention to the state of the House. That is all he is entitled to do. (Quorum formed.)
– I have given some history which I hope will be of advantage to honourable members on the Government side of the House when they are confronted with statements such as has just been made by the honourable member for Chifley and other Opposition members.
Much has been made of the proposal that the Bill will finish in February, or whatever date it is, next year. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) has stated that this is an interim Bill, and that it will remain in force until another measure is prepared which will probably deal more effectively with foreign investment than does this Bill. The subject of overseas investment is a very serious one. Our prosperity depends on it. But we need to curtail it and have some control over it. However, we do not want to stultify the advancement of this country by frightening away overseas investment. What I now want to say is not thi subject of this Bill, but 1 should like to see this Government go a bit further and have some control over local takeovers. The takeover of small companies is becoming a serious problem. We are in a sense destroying free enterprise, competition and so on by allowing this practice to continue. However, I believe that the measure before the House is timely. There is no cause for panic, as obviously the Opposition believes there is. The Opposition wants to press the panic button and rubbish Australia, which it seems quite happy to do. But the Government has the record; it has the score on the board of 23 years in which Australia has never known such a period of expansion and growth in population. Despite the strikes, the industrial lawlessness and all the rest of it we have progressed.
– Stop smiling.
– I am so happy about the result for Australia of what this Government has done. So, I feel that I have given the story.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, 1 wish to make a personal explanation.
Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, by the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson). At the conclusion of his speech he stated that I had not made any speeches on welfare in the time that I have been in this House. Rather than get up straight away and reply to him, I went down to the Parliamentary Library and checked the dates. I would like it noted that I have made the following speeches on welfare: On 5th March 1970 in my maiden speech; on 12th March 1970 on Aborigines; on 3rd June 1970 on handicapped children; on 17th September 1970 on the Social Services Bill in relation to pensioner poverty; on 22nd October 1970 on Aboriginal advancement; on 1st April 1971 on the Social Services Bill; on 15th
September 1971 on superannuation pension increases; on 2nd December 1971 on home care under the States Grants Bill; on 24th May 1972 on 2 repatriation cases; on 20th September 1972 on social services matters and on 11th October 1972 on housing. I also asked 4 questions concerning welfare matters on 30th October 1970, 6th May 1970, 9th December 1971 and 17th October 1972.
– I have listened with great interest to the various speakers who have preceded me in this debate. Let me say that I am very glad to see my friend, the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), come into the House. I thought he was to be the speaker ahead of me. The reason I am glad is that, although the honourable member for Moreton sits on the opposite side of the House, I will be directing some of my remarks to him because I believe that he is one of the few members on the Government benches who will understand them.
– Flattery has not moved me in the past, although it might happen tonight.
– Be that as it may. I want to put to the House a different point of view from the ones that have already been put forward. I suggest that this Government does not know what it is doing. There is an old saying that those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. This piece of legislation is the means and is delightful. If one looks at it, one sees it introduced by a government that does not really have its heart in it. This was apparent from the remarks of the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Barnes). The Government does not really want to do it. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) has made that abundantly clear over the period of time that he has been the Prime Minister.’ But circumstances have overtaken the Gov!ernment - the pressure of events, Australian Labor Party demands, the Press and it is now on the eve of an election - so the Government has decided to whip something through. j
If one were cynical, if one wanted to be malicious or even one merely wanted to say ‘When we on the Labor side win at the end of the year, we will take advantage of this legislation’, my God, what one could do with this Bill. The Government does not know what it has done by introducing it. It has created a weapon in the language that it has used in its haste and in its ill thought-out efforts to satisfy some public opinion that the Government thinks is getting away from it. It has given a weapon to a future government which, if it chose to use it, could really use teeth in the solution of this problem. The Labor Party could thank the Government if the Bill goes through the Senate, because the Government has the numbers there now and the Labor Party might not have them next year. We could, if we wanted to make use of the legislation in this form, be eternally grateful to the Government.
Let me tell honourable members what I have in mind. The Government proposes to give power to a Minister. It has chosen not to give that power to an independent tribunal, which is what a Labor government would do. But, before I go on to tell honourable members how the Government has given to a Minister this subjective power which, although the Government’s Ministers do not want to use it and will not use it - it is nice to frighten honourable members opposite and it is noticeable there is a deathly silence over the House - our Ministers could use, let me refer honourable members to some of the points that emerge from the haste which has been used in framing this legislation. Some of these points have already been touched upon, but there is plenty of time. I have 15 minutes remaining to me. The Government has, for example, betrayed most of the principles of law-making in introducing this legislation. The Government introduced it into the House, where it can be debated as it is being debated now. Its repeal also should be the subject of debate in this House. The Government has betrayed that principle. It will allow a Minister secretly, by proclamation, to repeal the legislation.
I know that some of my colleagues have said that that indicates the Government’s cynicism. It tells the people of Australia - those who are listening and those who are prepared to read about it - how lacking in sincerity the Government is. The Government has even put in a date for the Bill’s automatic repeal if its Minister does not do it secretly. But the best proof of the Government’s haste is the example that was referred to by the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor). I do not want to be legalistic about this, but any lawyer reading this Bill would laughhis head off. I have already had 2 solicitors in this town come to me. They are acting for business clients who are concerned about the way in which the Government has created this power. Concern has been expressed on behalf of business corporations. The honourable member for Cunningham mentioned that the Bill contains some definitions clauses. So be it; they are simple, innocuous definitions clauses. I am talking now to the honourable member for Moreton who, I am sure, will follow what I am saying.
Clause 5 says that a reference to a company includes 2 types of trading corporations. It seems to be self-contained. If a third example was wanted, it would be put in the clause and there would be (a), (b) and (c). But there is no (c). That is clause 5. If we go back and look at clause 3 we find - one cannot help smiling - that it reads:
Without prejudice to its effect apart from this section, this Act also has, by force of this section, the effect it would have if the following word and paragraph were added at the end of section 5: ; or (c) is the holding company of a body corporate of a kind referred to in either of the last two preceding paragraphs.’.
In clause 3 the Government says: ‘When you get to clause 5, add this bit to it’. It is as though a first draft of this piece of legislation was sent to the Government Printer and part of it was left out and it then went away somewhere and came back and the Government said: ‘Oh, what will we do? Tear off the front page and put in a new front page’. This is how it could have been done. That is one possible explanation. I assure honourable members that that clause will make any lawyer in the country laugh his fool head off when he reads it.
Let us look further at the substance of this matter and come back to what I said that the Government does not know what it is doing if it were not for the responsibility of the Australian Labor Party. The Government will give power to the Minister in what lawyers call the subjective form. The power can be exercised secretary. If the Minister is satisfied or if he believes or dreams or thinks or imagines that a certain situation exists, he can give certain orders to a company or a person - that could be anyone; you, Mr Deputy Speaker, or myself or a corporation - to do certain things. He could say: ‘Go and jump over the fence 20 times a day’. The Minister could make an outrageous order. It would be done in secret because he would be acting on the advice of officers. The Prime Minister said that some senior officer somewhere - we do not know who he will be - will, in reality, make these orders. There would be no realistic way in the world that anyone could challenge such an order in a court.
It is not my role here to defend overseas corporations, but I suppose it could and should be said that they have rights, as do Australian corporations. Yet the Government is giving power to a Minister - a person acting on the advice of some anonymous public servant somewhere, who may or may not be good at his job - to say: Make this order. Go and tell the corporation to do that or not to do something. Disregard that offer. Do not let them accept that offer of takeover. Cancel that share transfer’. The Government proposes to give them no resort of appeal to a court. There is no way that one could take such an order to court because clauses 13 and 14 are in the subjective form. Only the Minister can do that.
Then, when the Government starts talking about courts in clause IS, it is all one way. It will let the Minister take a corporation, a person or an individual to court if the Minister is not happy that the order is being obeyed or that the sanction - the penalty - of $200 a day is not serving its purpose. Only the Minister can take the person to the court; the person cannot get there himself. There is no right of appeal for the corporation or the person. I repeat that the Government does not know what it is doing and what will happen when this legislation goes through. It is outrageous. It would be funny if one was prepared to be jocular about this sort of legislation. The reason the Minister might want to take the person to court is that by doing so he then can get the court’s status and prestige behind the order, and the penalty jumps from $200 a day to $1,000 a day, and the the contempt provisions come in. I do not know whether honourable members know what contempt means. There is little procedure to regulate it. There is no limit to the punishment that can be imposed for it. The judge if he is so minded can say: ‘A week in gaol; 10 years in gaol. Stay there until I change my mind. Go away and rot’. I have known cases, and so has the honourable member for Moreton, in which that was done. That is the power to punish for contempt. That is what the Government has done by writing this provision into the Bill.
The Bill makes provision for a Minister to give a certificate. As I understand the explanatory memorandum which accompanied the Bill, the reason for the certificate is in case the Minister overlooks something else, or makes an order in a case in which he should not have made an order or makes a mistake. The certificate will give protection to a certain transaction. Again, I suppose this is an example of the Government’s haste. Let me take the House finally to clause 20. I do not want to sound too much the lawyer, but there is a reality of harshness and injustice behind all the experiences that lawyers have in the courts. Clause 20 provides in the subjective form that where the Minister thinks, believe, dreams or imagines that there is someone somewhere who is capable of giving information or producing documents he can cause what lawyers call a subpoena to issue to him, and the person concerned has to come along trotting. He may be an officer of a small company, a big company, an overseas company or an Australian company. To whom does he go? He does not go to a court. He does not knock on the door of a court with a lawyer to assist him and guide him. He would not even know how to answer the notice served on him.
Suppose that be wanted to argue that tie was not a person capable of knowing. How would he move to set aside the summons or the subpoena? That can be done in a court. There are recognised procedures for doing it. But under this legislation there would be no way of doing it. The legislation is in the subjective form. If he does not furnish the information which the Minister thinks he should have furnished, he is guilty of a crime under this legislation. In this sense the Minister means some anonymous public servant somewhere - a good man or a bad man, a competent man or an incompetent man. It reminds one of Kafka. The person summoned could be a little man or a big man, a powerful man or a weak man. It really adds up to this: The Government has created something which could be called a veil. It is not a corporate veil but a ministerial veil which the people the Government is traditionally supposed to represent - the wealthy, the corporations, the companies of Australia - will not be able to go behind. They will probe that veil in vain. They will employ their lawyers and they will not get anywhere because the legislation is all in that subjective form. The Government has created a ministerial veil and it has given the Minister the power to say: ‘Off with your corporate head’ or ‘On with your corporate head’. If it were not for the responsibility of the Australian Labor Party, another government could come to power in this country and could have a ball’ with this legislation. It would serve the Government right. The only thing that will stop it happening is the Australian Labor Party which believes that a fair go should be given to Australians in the determination and the solution of this problem. There should be the independent body for which we have always argued - the secretariat - which would look at the problem and recommend safeguards and arrive at a solution to the problem, not this crude, hasty attempt to appease what the Government thinks is public opinion running against it. I repeat that the Government does not know what it has done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2. (1.) This Act shall come into operation on the seventh day after the day on which it receives the Royal Assent. (2.) This Act shall cease to be in operation on the expiration of -
– I move:
In sub-clause (2.) omit paragraph (b).
I move this amendment for the reasons I gave in my speech during the second reading stage and which were supported a few minutes ago by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr
Enderby). Because paragraph (b) provides for a most unusual procedure I went to the trouble of trying to find out from the experts at the table whether this was a usual clause, and I was told that no other such clause exists anywhere. Our point is that if Acts of Parliament have to be passed in a certain fashion Acts of Parliament should also have to be repealed in the same way. Clause 2 allows this legislation to cease in its operation merely by proclamation. This seems to us to be contrary to the normal practices. Therefore I have moved that paragraph (b) be deleted. It seems to me to be unnecessary to support the measure. The operation of the legislation will expire anyway on 31st December 1973. The unusual procedure outlined in paragraph (b) seems to be a bad practice. We oppose it.
– I understand fully what the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) has said, and I am bound to say that I recognise the strength of his argument. I acknowledge that the provision to which he referred is unusual. It was put in the Bill for a specific purpose. I think that when it was put in it was not seen in the way that the honourable gentleman has described it. Rather it was seen as emphasising the interim nature of the legislation. It is a fact that when the permanent legislation comes in, that legislation itself can repeal the interim Act. There is no doubt about that. I will not stand on the barricades on this point. I indicate to the honourable gentleman that I will be prepared to accept his amendment as a conceptual matter, but I ask him to reconsider whether he will press his amendment, reminding him that if it is pressed it will require a reprinting of the legislation. I do not know what our colleagues in the Senate would do about it. I do not know whether they would adopt the same attitude as myself and leave in the legislation the paragraph which it is sought to delete. There is no vice in it. It has no harm in it. Therefore I leave it to the honourable gentleman to decide whether he will press his amendment. If he does press it, I am bound to say that I cannot offer any arguments to warrant paragraph (d) remaining in clause 2. It is only a simple, practical issue of whether the Bill would need to be reprinted before transmission to the Senate.
– I have never seen this type of introduction to a Bill in all the years I have been in this place. We felt, when examining it, that the move to write into it that the Bill could be repealed in approximately 12 months time or less-
– Would be repealed, lt could be brought to an end at an earlier date.
– I know. Members of the Opposition felt that this provision had some ulterior motive - that the Government was making a big splash to try to convince the Australian people that it was really interested in takeovers but was providing that the legislation would operate for 12 months or less and then be repealed. Will the Treasurer be more specific in his explanation that this is an interim Bill? What exactly does he mean by that? Does he say that another and more powerful Bill will be introduced to take the place of this Bill? This can be interim only if other legislation is to replace it.
– 1 assure the honourable gentleman that there was no motive behind this clause other than to emphasise the interim nature of this legislation. There is no intention that it should be brought to an end before the permanent legislation which will succeed this interim legislation comes into the Mouse and becomes law. The permanent legislation will be different in nature from this legislation. I remind the honourable gentleman that when the permanent legislation comes in - as indicated by the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) on 26th September - an independent body will be established to which takeover matters will be referred. There is no time to constitute that body now and if we do not have the interim legislation a number of takeover proposals which we may wish to submit to examination will not be capable of submission to examination, hence we want this as a temporary measure.
I cannot foreshadow the long term legislation in detail, because this is not the appropriate time to do so, but it will, for instance, provide for the constitution of an independent body. Also, as was made clear in the second reading speech to this Bill, this interim legislation does not cover the entire area. It deals with companies. There are other methods by which it would be possible to achieve control but in this interim measure there was not sufficient time to go into the complexities of that other area. That is something we will have to handle. I assure the honourable gentleman that the Government is determined to give effect in legislative form to all the policy elements contained in the Prime Minister’s statement of 26th September.
– 1 must say that for one moment my sense of saving time was beginning to conflict with my sense of the propriety of things when the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) said he thought that this clause ought to go out.
– No; not ought to.
– He said that if it were deleted it would cause some printing difficulties. I have had handed to me some amendments which are to be moved by the Government.
– I had overlooked them.
– I am afraid that I had, too, until it was pointed out to me. I do not think there is any force in the argument about printing so I would prefer to proceed with the amendment. I point out to the Treasurer that it will be necessary to delete the word ‘or’ from the previous clause, but that is a drafting amendment.
– I wonder whether we could defer consideration of this clause for a moment. The Parliamentary Counsel is seated within the chamber and perhaps I could get him to examine this matter. Possibly the Committee can proceed with other clauses in the meantime.
– Perhaps I may have the indulgence of the Committee to address a question to the Treasurer (Mr Snedden). It is not related to the subject matter before the Committee. I refer the Treasurer to paragraph 4 (a) of the explanatory memorandum which has been circulated to honourable members. In that paragraph reference is made to 15 per cent of the total voting power. Was this figure derived from the uniform Companies Act or from some ordinance? Can the Treasurer explain to me the basis of the 15 per cent?
– The figure of 15 per cent has fallen into fairly common use as the basis upon which control may be exercised. It does not mean that there will be control because, quite clearly, if there is one shareholder with 60 per cent and another with 15 per cent the one with 15 per cent is unlikely to be able to exercise control. The 15 per cent is the level that has fallen into common use. I think it really derived from broadcasting control legislation which pitches the level at 15 per cent. In the uniform Companies Act it is picked up for other purposes. It is not a figure that has any precise origin but over a period of years the judgment has been that a collective 15 per cent could mean control, especially if the other 85 per cent were widely dispersed over a whole range of unconnected shareholders.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) agreed to:
That clause 2 be postponed.
Clause 3 (Additional operation of Act)
– I do not oppose this clause. However in my speech on the second reading, as in the speech of my colleague, the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr Enderby), reference was made to this somewhat rather curious clause. Can the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) give some explanation of why this clause should be included in the Bill? Speaking as a layman, I would suggest that it should be not a clause 3 but a paragraph (c) to clause 5.
– I think the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) has asked a good question. The provision has not been included, as the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) suggested, because this is a convenient place for it. There is a good reason for it. I refer honourable members to clause 5 which is the clause which establishes the constitutional power for the Bill. Paragraph (a) of clause 5 is the financial corporation power and paragraph (b) is the Commonwealth territories power. It was necessary also to cover holding companies. The constitutional power for covering holding companies rests on the incidental power. That could be argued, and I would not like to say that it is beyond all legal doubt. Therefore it was decided to separate that power covering the holding companies from clause 5 because of the experience in the Concrete Pipes case in which, when it was found that there was in law a fault, the court decided that the faulty section was not severable and then the whole of the legislation was brought down. On the advice we have received from the SolicitorGeneral and from the Parliamentary Counsel it is best, as a matter of drafting, to separate it entirely from clause 5 and to create a clause 3 so that we do not encounter the possibility of the legislation failing because of the non-severability of the holding company proposal. That is the explanation. I think it is a reasonable one.
– lt is a matter for the Treasurer (Mr Snedden), of course. He bears the responsibility for the Bill. But I would have thought, with respect, that it was equally severable as paragraph (c) of clause 5.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4. (2.) For the purposes of this Act -
– I seek leave to move 3 amendments together.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Armitage) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
At the end of sub-clause (2.) add the following paragraph: -
The 3 amendments really amount to one. All that is involved here is that, because my amendment will put in a paragraph (d), the ‘and’ connecting paragraphs (b) and (c) has to go down to the end of paragraph (c). The first amendment is to delete the word ‘and’ from where it appears. The second amendment is to delete the last word person’ and to substitute for it the words person and’. The real amendment comes in as paragraph (d). The simplest and quickest way for me to explain it is to read my own note.
As stated in the second reading speech, the question whether a takeover proposal would result in control of a company passing from Australian to foreign hands will be a matter for separate consideration in the circumstances of each case. For this purpose there is a presumption that ownership of IS per cent of the voting shares of a company by a single foreign interest or an associated group, or ownership of 40 per cent of the voting shares by foreign interests in the aggregate, could mean that a company is under foreign control. But whether the company is in fact under foreign control will depend upon the circumstances. The Bill makes it quite plain in clause 13 that this principle applies to a company which is the subject of a takeover proposal It is logical that the same principle should apply in determining whether a company making a takeover proposal is under foreign or Australian control, and it is the intention of the Government that the legislation should be administered in this way.
In order to make the position quite clear in relation to a company making a takeover proposal, it is proposed to add at the end of sub-clause (2.) of clause 4 the proposed paragraph in my circulated amendment. Perhaps the simplest explanation is to take company A which has a foreign partner owning perhaps 20 per cent of the shares, with the remaining 80 per cent being entirely Australian owned. If that company wishes to make a takeover bid for another Australian company it should be regarded in the same way and not regarded as a foreign company for this purpose. It is a logical extension, and I ask the Committee to support the amendments.
– I endeavoured to read this amendment. It seemed to me that it covered some particular kind of case. I hope it is not meant to cover any specific case. I accept that assurance. I can understand, in the sense that the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) has put it, that where there are 2 things existing already there could be certain components of non-Australian ownership. I suppose that, in aggregate, it is no worse if something is added or subtracted.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed clause 2.
– I have had some discussion with my colleague about clause 2 and I am afraid that my sense of propriety must overweigh the sense of convenience. What has happened - realistically enough, I suppose - is that the Government has assumed that its amendments would be passed and the Bill has been printed on that assumption. But the Opposition believes that clause 2 (b) should be deleted. The Treasurer (Mr Snedden) in essence has said that he supports the idea in principle. The only exemption I would make is to let it go and have an assurance that it will be deleted in the Senate.
– Then it has to come back.
– That would be so. Surely it is not such a huge physical task for it to be reprinted. I am essentially a parliamentary man in these things and I think that these matters should be done correctly. If the sub-clause is to be deleted, it should be deleted now.
– I have checked and found that the Bill will have to be reprinted. As it is the end of the session it was hoped that it would not be necessary to reprint it. This means it will have to be rechecked and so on. That will have to be done overnight. As I have indicated, there is no vice in the amendment, but I am unable positively to support it. I had no intention to do other than emphasise the interim nature of the legislation. That certainly has been emphasised by the discussion we have had. Therefore I will accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Snedden) - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 24 October (vide page 3086), on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill, I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the Pollution of the Sea by Oil (Shipping Levy) Bill and the Pollution of the Sea by Oil (Shipping Levy Collection) Bill as they are related measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, Mr Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of the 3 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 3 measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– There are 3 Bills before the House. One provides for the endorsement or ratification by the Government of the amendments adopted by the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation in 1969 to the provisions of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil 1954. The other 2 Bills, namely, the Pollution of the Sea by Oil (Shipping Levy) Bill and the Pollution of the Sea by Oil (Shipping Levy Collection) Bill determine the conditions under which levies may be imposed upon shipping companies to set up a fund to provide the means for the dispersal of oil that has been discharged into the sea. The Opposition is not satisfied with the 3 Bills and for that reason, I move the following amendment to the Pollution of the Sea by Oil Bill:
That all words after “That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘whilst not opposing the Bill the House regrets that the Government -
has failed to clarify whether responsibility for protection of Australian territorial waters belongs to the Commonwealth or States,
has not acted in a comprehensive way to ensure that Australian territorial waters are protected from all environmental threats from oil, whether they be from shipping or land based activities and including all ocean dumping and
has not, on behalf of the Australian people co-ordinated management of the Australian territorial waters in the interests of the long term conservation of the Earth’s oceanic resources’.
Paragraph (a) of the amendment deals with the Government’s failure to clarify whether responsibility for the protection of Australian territorial waters belongs to the Commonwealth or the States. The former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), has tried on numerous Occasions to have legislation debated in this chamber that provides for clarification of this important point. Legislation known as the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill 1970 was introduced by his Government and certain assurances were given to the States that once that legislation was passed the Commonwealth would finance any challenge to the High Court of Australia on it in order clearly to define and determine where the responsibility lies as far as the territorial sea and continental shelf are concerned. The Government has hedged since the change in the Prime Ministership. We on this side of the House support the views expressed by the right honourable member for Higgins. We believe that this is a matter which should be clarified at an early date.
Every time international conventions are brought forward for ratification, particularly those dealing with maritime matters, we run into the problem of the States having the responsibility for the introduction of complementary legislation and of the measures being delayed unnecessarily. If this matter were clarified these things could be proceeded with immediately.
Because nearly all shipping in Australian waters is engaged in trade and commerce with other countries and between the States, we believe that it is the Commonwealth’s duty to assert responsibility. The Commonwealth has been most dilatory and diffident in enacting such laws.
There is little doubt that under both the trade and commerce powers and the external affairs powers of the Constitution the Commonwealth could have implemented the provisions of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil 1954, which was the first convention dealing with the problem of the pollution of the sea. However, the Menzies Government took the attitude that complementary State legislation was required. The Commonwealth did not pass legislation concerning the 1954 convention until 1960. It was some time - late 1962, 1 believe - before all the complementary legislation arising out of the 1954 Convention was passed by the States. Some States are interested in passing complementary legislation as quickly as possible but others are not so interested.
Because Australia is a maritime nation which has some 12,000 to 13,000 miles of coastline that it has to protect from pollution, it should endeavour to have this legislation enacted as quickly as possible. It is 3 years since the amendments referred to in this legislation were adopted by IMCO but it is only at this late stage of the life of the Parliament that legislation has been brought forward to ratify them. That is not good enough. It shows that the Government is not prepared to act quickly. I admit that so far only 9 of 31 countries have ratified the amendments. But if we had got in and passed this legislation immediately after the amendments were adopted by IMCO it would have meant that at least 10 countries had ratified them. Other countries then might not have been hanging off and saying: ‘There is no need to rush these amendments through. A lot more countries have to ratify them’. The weakness in the whole setup is that in order to protect Australia’s coastline or to provide the means whereby it can be protected and whereby action can be taken against those who offend, this legislation should have been brought forward at least 2 years ago. That would have enabled us to get on with the job.
The second part of the amendment refers to the Government’s failure to act in a comprehensive way to ensure that Australian territorial waters are protected from all environmental threats from oil, whether they be from shipping or land based activities, including all ocean dumping. Once again the Government has failed miserably to meet its responsibility. I admit that there is already in existence the Act which this Bill seeks to amend. There was the ratification of the original 1954 Convention on the Pollution of the Sea by Oil and the amendments to it in 1960, but in this field this is the only legislation that fully protects the Australian coastline against pollution. We have had examples of exorbitant amounts of pollutants being dumped into the sea, allegedly 100 and 150 miles from the coastline in certain depths of water. But how much longer can the nations of the world go on dumping into the oceans of the world before reaching a point of no return?
Recently statements were made in Victoria that flake - the dear old shark - can no longer be sold for human consumption because of the alleged amount of mercury in the fish. Admittedly this has nothing to do with the Federal Government but at least it is an indication of the lack of real action on the part of governments in Australia to combat the dumping of pollutants into the oceans, the rivers, the harbours and the bays in and around this country. It is in this regard that this Government is to be condemned because it has control of the oceans. My understanding of the position is that if large companies such as the Imperial Chemical Industries organisation, the various oil companies, General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd, with their cyanide, their arsenic and various other acids, want to dump these things into the ocean all they have to do is to approach the Department of Shipping and Transport which tells them where they can dump these things. As I understand it, if these companies elect to disregard the directions of the Department of Shipping and Transport there is not much that can be done about it. They just go ahead and dump so long as they are outside territorial waters.
This practice has to be stopped. Once they get to sea we may not be able to stop them from dumping these acids and chemicals into the ocean, but at least we can take action against them in relation to their land based activities. We can require them to dispose of the various chemicals that they are dumping into the sea. We can introduce legislation whereby we can force them to provide some method of disposal. After all, companies such as ICI, which is an international chemical company, General Motors and the various oil companies which are world wide organisations, can afford the cost of experimentation to determine methods and ways of disposing of these harmful chemicals that are being dumped into the ocean. The cost of researching how to dispose of these things would represent only an infinitesimal proportion of the amount of money which they would be spending on research and the like. They should be forced by governments - not only the Australian Government but governments as a whole - to do this. We hope that the United Nations will be able to bring forward a standard convention which could and should be ratified by the countries of the world.
There is a greater awareness of the problems associated with pollution today than there was a few years ago. When I first became interested in atmospheric pollution as an alderman of the Newcastle City Council back in 1947, the people of Newcastle were not very co-operative in relation to what we then called the Smoke Abatement Committee because they had the crazy idea that we could not have development and expansion of industry without the inconvenience of smoke and atmospheric pollution. But now, 1 am pleased to say, people are getting over this attitude and are realising that we can have development and expansion without the problems of pollution, whether it be atmospheric pollution or water pollution, by the adoption by industry of the correct methods of control. This is v. hat we should be requiring of land based companies which are dumping their waste into the ocean. Even though we cannot control what they are dumping into the ocean, at least we can take, some measures to force them to do the things which we want them to do.
I am not particularly happy with this Bill. I will not be satisfied until we reach a stage where the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation - probably better known as IMCO - brings forward a convention to the effect that no oil shall be dumped in the oceans and that action will be taken to prevent this. One line of action which can be taken is to seal the pumps on the ships and to require, that these seals be broken only in times of emergency. In the case of a tanker going from port A to port B, its pumps would be sealed before it left port A. The same system could be applied as is applied in relation to customs today when a container leaves one country to go to another. The seal of the originating country is placed on the locks on the container and is not broken until the container arrives at its destination. The same thing could be done with the pumps on ships to ensure that they were not used. Of course, if some emergency arose nobody would complain if the seals were broken and pumping was carried out to save the ship and lives of the crew. These are things that do arise from time to time.
The principal provision of this Bill relates to the dumping of oil at sea on the basis of not more than 60 litres per mile in excess of 50 miles from the nearest land. Another provision is that if the ship is within 50 miles of the nearest land it may discharge oil at the same rate of 60 litres per mile but diluted to 100 parts per million. We are concerned here mainly with the Australian coastline. The coastline in the north west section of Western Australia is about the only part of our coastline where the tides and the wind will acually take the discharged oil out to sea. The tendency on the east coast, the south coast of Australia and the lower section of Western Australia is for the wind and tides to bring the things that are dumped at sea on to the Australian coast. So even if waste is dumped at sea more than 50 miles from the nearest land, the fact of the matter is that it will still come back on to the coast as a result of tidal and wind action. For this reason we should be demanding that the Government take action, just as it has done in relation to the Great Barrier Reef, by moving amendments at future conferences of IMCO to ensure that the Australian coastline will be protected against the ravages of oil dumped at sea.
As I said a moment ago, we will not be satisfied until this finally is brought into operation so that we guarantee that this type of thing will not happen.
In relation to our own coast, we do not realise the number of times ships discharge pollutants into the sea. I have here some information which was given to Senator Mulvihill which shows that for the 12 months ended 31st March 1971, in New South Wales 111 incidents of pollution were reported. In Victoria the number was 134, in Queensland it was 4, in South Australia it was 15, in Western Australia it was 11, in Tasmania it was 27 and in the Northern Territory it was 3. People just do not realise the frequency with which oil is being discharged in unreasonable quantities into the oceans. What concerns me is that of the 111 cases in New South Wales, in 25 of them the culprit went undetected. In Victoria of the 134 cases, 69 of the culprits were not detected. Even in cases where the culprit is brought to book, the thing that concerns me once again is the way in which magistrates are dealing with this. I am concerned about their failure to prosecute the shipowners for having discharged oil into the sea or into the bays, as the case may be. It is important to bear in mind that in New South Wales of the 16 cases that were taken to court and in relation to which prosecutions were made, the total of the fines imposed was $1,130. In Victoria, of the 34 cases that have been successfully prosecuted, the total fines came to $7,950 - paltry amounts which the oil companies would not miss. If they were to be prosecuted to the extent of $10,000 or $20,000 for each offence they would start to take notice.
I read recently that the Victorian Minister for the Environment was complaining about the manner in which the Victorian courts were dealing with offenders dumping oil into the sea. In my electorate about 2 years ago one of the shipping companies discharged a considerable amount of oil into the harbour. It was fined a paltry sum by the magistrate who said that he understood that it was an accident and that it was a very careful company. He went on to give all sorts of excuses for the company. Anyone would have thought that he was the one presenting the case in defence of the action taken against the company. The company was fined the paltry sum of about $50. After reading about this I wrote to the responsible Minister in the New South Wales Parliament about it. He replied that the matter was in the hands of the court; the court had taken action and made a decision and that he would not intervene. This gives an indication of the Government’s attitude as a whole.
I turn now to the other 2 Bills, after having dealt mainly with the first one dealing with the pollution of the sea by oil. The decision of the Government is to set up a stockpile of dispersants to counter any large spill adjacent to the Australian coast. I agree with the setting up of this pool or stockpile of suitable materials. Australia has been fortunate to date. We were lucky in the case of the ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ that the tides took the oil spillage away from the coast; otherwise we would have been in serious trouble. Although the Government has decided to go ahead with the decision to set up a stockpile of dispersants I should like to see it doing more with the Sim which it hopes to collect from the shipowners by way of levy. The Opposition supports the levy because we do not see why the Australian taxpayer should pay for these measures. The people who are most liable to create the problems should pay for them. So, we support the principle of the levy.
In the main we support the stockpiling of dispersants in various centres, but we believe that the $lm that the Government will collect by way of a levy from the shipowners should be put to some other purpose besides just stockpiling of dispersants. I think this is a field which lends itself to considerable research and investigation to determine the best methods of dealing with large dumping of oil at sea, whether it be by accident or by a deliberate act of a ship’s captain. I believe that the Government should use this money to carry out investigation, probably on a basis, once again, through the United Nations, of putting a levy on each country to set up a huge pool of scientists to investigate this matter and to determine what are the best methods of dispersing oil and, if need be, other industrial wastes which are being dumped into the ocean. The dispersants which are being used at present, while they get rid of the oil, also get rid of the marine and bird life in the ocean.
I would prefer to see scientists working on new ideas which are arising today in relation to mechanical recovery of oil. I noticed just recently in an article from the United States that a huge tanker affair has been developed. It is collapsible and made of rubber. It is taken to the scene of the spillage, dumped into the ocean by helicopters and then inflated with pumps. The oil is collected in this manner and taken back to the shore and disposed of. I am not saying that this is the be-all and endall of it, or that the use of booms or other types of mechanical recovery plant that are being experimented with will solve all problems, but I think this whole campaign of experimentation has to be stepped up. The people responsible for the problem, namely the shipowners, should be required to pay for the research.
I should like to see some of this money used to carry out work in this direction. Tankers use various methods of carrying oil, but I understand that only the more developed countries are using preventive methods in their tankers. In the main the tankers are owned by the major oil companies. The countries where they have their tankers registered, such as the United States, United Kingdom and France, have introduced preventive methods. They have introduced tanks for the recovery of oil instead of just dumping it over the side. But the same companies are really Jekylls and Hydes. In the countries where the companies have registered under flags of convenience their ships are not fitted with these conveniences.
The largest tanker in the world today, which was launched only recently, is about 470,000 tons. Shipyards and shipowners are talking about million-ton tankers. In Belfast Harland Wolff Ltd, one of the largest shipbuilders in the world, already has built a dock capable of building a one million ton tanker. This hard-headed company was not prepared to spend that sort of money in developing and constructing a building dock unless it had in mind building a ship of that size. Ships of this size which will be travelling around the world should have the necessary equipment installed so that instead of pumping oil out of their bilges over the sides they can put it through the necessary process of recovery and take it back to shore, where it can be refined or disposed of in some other way, instead of being dumped into the sea.
I believe that there, is any amount of field for the Government still to operate in to improve the situation with regard to pollution of the sea by oil and other means, either by chemicals or the outfalls of sewage which are taking place all round the Australian coast. Around Sydney in particular, in the large populated areas sewage is being dumped into the sea. This certainly indicates what is necessary and the money that should be spent. This is a field in which this Government has responsibility at least to provide, water and sewerage boards and similar authorities in the States with the necessary finance to carry out this type of improvement.
The other things with which I wish to deal are the proposed increases in the penalties for pollution. The increases proposed by the Government provide for a maximum penalty of $50,000. I understand that similar legislation enacted by the United Kingdom Government has penalties not of $50,000 but of £Stg50,000 which, I understand, is a heck of a lot more. I should like the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) in his reply, to give some indication as to whether this information is correct. I believe it to be so.
– What is the rate of exchange?
– I know the rates of exchange. I should like the Minister to indicate why the Government has not increased the penalties comparable to those of the United Kingdom. Having in mind the difference in the. cost of living within the 2 countries, the English penalties are about 4 times as great as ours. I should like some information from the Minister on why the Government has not been prepared to impose greater penalties than those proposed in this Bill. When the Bill was introduced originally in 1960 the Opposition was very critical of the paltry fines imposed even under that legislation. I am pleased to see that the Government at least has woken up to the fact and is prepared to take much stronger action than before to deter shipowners from dumping oil into the sea. That is one decent part of the legislation, but I hope that the Government will take necessary action to raise this matter with the InterGovernmental Maritime Consultation Organisation to get a complete prohibition of dumping oil into the sea extended even further to the complete prohibition on the dumping of all harmful industrial wastes at sea. Our armed Services - the Royal Australian Navy, the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force - have all at some time or other dumped large quantities of explosives into the ocean. This is a field in which the Government has control. These are Government departments. The Government should bring down a policy which prohibits dumping of this type into the ocean. I do not know what other methods may be used to dispose of unexploded explosives but that is the responsibility of this Government. It will not be so for much longer but at least it is still the responsibility of this Government to work out ways and means by which the Services can get rid of surplus outdated ammunition instead of dumping it into the ocean. The Opposition, whilst it agrees mainly in principle with the legislation, regrets that the Government has not done those things which are set out in the amendment.
-Order! Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes, I second the amendment moved by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). This Bill is a very limited one. It is much more limited than It really need be. It is completely inadequate. It fails completely to provide adequate protection of a very important resource, the marine resources of the world. They are just not Australian resources but world resources. It is not that the Government lacks the power to introduce a proper Bill to give adequate protection of marine resources surrounding Australia. It does in fact have the power. This Government’s predecessor, the Gorton Government, certainly showed that it believed it had the power and I have no doubt that this Government really knows that it has the power which the Gorton Government attempted to invoke with the introduction of the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill. But unfortunately this Government will not use that power. The power exists under section
SI, placitum 10, of the Constitution which relates to fisheries in Australian waters beyond the territorial waters. There is the same lack of decision and the same gutlessness on the part of the Government as was displayed when the Government failed to act to carry out the measure which was introduced by the Gorton Government on the territorial sea and continental shelf and which we once again last week voted to postpone.
The measure we are now debating is pursuant to a different section of the Constitution and that is the section which relates to international treaties. It really comes from the external affairs power under section 51, placitum 29, of the Constitution. However, full Commonwealth sovereignty could be asserted and it could be asserted without introducing another measure just by the passage of a Bill such as this with a few essential amendments. The power is in the Constitution. All we have to do is to pass the law to invoke that power. This was done last night and again earlier tonight in a measure dealing with foreign takeovers. There is power in the Constitution to enable the Federal Parliament to make laws relating to foreign corporations. That constitutional power had not previously been invoked but we know that it is there. Last night and again tonight the Government acted to invoke that power by the simple passage of a piece of legislation. I submit that it would not be necessary for us to do anything other than to give this measure now under discussion a few more teeth to enable the Government to take action properly to control the marine resources surrounding Australia.
Why is this measure so inadequate? There are a number of reasons. The first is that this legislation covers only pollution of the sea by oil up to a distance of 50 miles from the nearest land. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) will no doubt defend this on the ground that that is the area specified under the treaty. Once again I submit that it would be possible for Australia to go further in this matter. Only 2 weeks ago the Australian government asserted its authority to a distance of 200 miles when it negotiated with the Government of Indonesia over certain oil exploration rights and in the determination of boundaries on the continental shelf between the 2 countries. This is an important Bill even though it covers only a small distance. Ships could discharge oil 51 miles off our coastline. That is not an insignificant distance as far as pollution of the sea is concerned. This could have an effect in areas where deep sea fishing is carried out such as tuna fishing. Diffusion could take place and could affect marine areas closer to the coast of Australia.
As my colleague the honourable member for Newcastle said, it is very sad that no measure - probably it could not be done under this Bill - has been put forward by this Government to control pollution of the sea by anything other than oil. In recent months there has been much publicity given to measures to prevent the dumping in the deep sea of things such as hydrocyanic and other toxic industrial wastes. My colleague has already referred to the circumstances of this act. My understanding is the same. In order to do this the companies concerned obtain a permit from the Commonwealth and the States. If they obtain that permit they can go ahead and dump. But if that permit is not forthcoming from the Government they really have a legal right to go out and dump the industrial waste, because no legislation has been enacted to prevent these companies from poisoning our marine resources. I think that this is a very serious situation. Probably it is something which cannot be dealt with in this measure. But I believe it should be dealt with as a matter of urgency because of the much publicised marine pollution which has taken place. Another thing is that there is no provision for protection from marine pollution where the source is on land.
My colleague has already mentioned the mercury pollution which has resulted in a lot of shark being taken out of Victorian fish shops. This has posed a very serious health hazard and it has resulted in a very devastating effect on the important fishing in Victoria. So far the Commonwealth has done little about this. The Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) was asked about this matter in the Parliament a month ago. He said that the sum total of the Government’s action had been to form a committee. That is a very powerful action indeed! He said that the Public Health Advisory Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council had formed a sub-committee to consider whether the permissible maximum levels of mercury should be increased. But no measures were taken to try to control the actual source of this pollution. This could be done under the powers of the Commonwealth Constitution. But once again the Commonwealth will not assert its authority.
This is a shocking dereliction of the Commonwealth’s responsibility in this area. I know that my colleague the honourable member for Newcastle has said that this is a State responsibility. But I point out to the House that under a measure which was introduced by the Gorton Government in 1970 the Commonwealth was prepared to assert its authority from the high water mark. Honourable members might remember that there was some dispute about this shortly afterwards. I do not see why we would do the same here and legislate against all sources of marine pollution whether it comes from the sea, the land, industrial effluent or elsewhere. We should legislate to control from the high water mark out to the extreme of the continental shelf.
Another reason why this measure is so unsatisfactory is that it deals only with Australian ships. Clause 4 of the Pollution of the Sea by Oil Bill, with which we are concerned now, states:
Section 6 of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: 6 (1.) Subject to this Act, if any discharge of oil or of an oily mixture occurs from an Australian ship into the sea, the owner and the master of the ship are each guilty of an offence punishable, on conviction, by a fine not exceeding Fifty thousand dollars.
What is the use of passing a law in relation to Australian ships only? I do not know how many, but a number of the tankers which operate in Australian waters are not registered in Australia. They are not Australian ships at all. What we are saying is that we are not prepared to exert any sort of action to control marine pollution unless the ships happen to be an Australian ship. I think that this is an absolutely absurd situation. The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) might have said that Gilbert and Sullivan ought to be able to do something in relation to this. The Government is not prepared in what is rightly its own territory to take action to protect the environment by stopping ships from fouling our waters.
It might again be argued that this is the fault of the treaty and that the treaty does not take any measures and only allows a country to take action against ships registered in that country. If that is true then I would say that this is a very serious weakness in the treaty. Even if that were prescribed in the treaty it would still not stop the Australian Government from taking unilateral action in resolving to control the polluting activities of all ships which operate in Australian waters. I cannot see any reason why the Australian Government cannot do that. A further weakness of this legislation is that it requires ratification by other countries to be effective. I suppose that the Government’s attitude would be understandable if the measure before us is solely to ratify a treaty. But this measure will not come into operation in effect until the treaty has been ratified by two-thirds of the signatories to it and so far fewer than one-third of the countries have ratified the treaty. This again is a very serious weakness in the Bill.
I have already said that we cannot stop ships registered in other countries from polluting our water but we cannot even take action against Australian ships until this treaty has been ratified. Goodness knows how long it will be before twothirds of the countries have ratified this amended treaty. I think the same argument could apply here as before. Even without waiting for the treaty to be ratified by twothirds of the countries, surely there is no reason why the Australian Government could not take measures to pass a simple Bill which would give it the power to control all ships as from now. The measure we are dealing with at present is not an insubstantial measure. We are dealing with a very important matter - that of a marine pollution. We should be trying to protect a very vital resource, something that is the property of all mankind.
I suppose all of us remember the voyage by Thor Heyerdahl in his papyrus boat across the Atlantic Ocean and the frightening accounts he gave of the serious evi dence of oil slicks and oil deposits in such remote places as the middle of that ocean. This problem will have very serious consequences if it becomes sufficiently widespread. Oil does have direct toxic effects on marine life and also indirect effects by its effects on food chains, in particular on phyto plankton which is very important in generating oxygen in the superficial layers of the water. Because it is so important to oxygen generation this could potentially have an important effect on our environment.
I know that a lot of debate has taken place about whether we face an impending shortage of oxygen in the world. Probably even at the tremendous rate at which we are consuming the world’s energy resources we still have enough oxygen for that. But the situation might be different if we start to run out of our sources of supply of oxygen. We must remember that half of the world’s supply of oxygen is generated in this superficial layer of the world’s seas. For that reason I think this is really a very serious situation which countries must take much more seriously than has been the case so far. I have spoken before on the subject of marine pollution in regard to mercury. I spoke to the Minister representing the Minister for Health in this House about this matter and he did not even seem to be aware that there was a problem at all. I believe that the Commonwealth does have a power to act. I think it has a responsibility to act to protect our environment and it is about time it did. I note that once again the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson) is not in the House. I would like him to make an impact statement on the failure of the Government to enact the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill and on the failure of the Government to take any serious action to control the environment.
In addition, some international action is needed to control this problem. I believe that there should be much closer and stricter policing of oil spillage. I cannot see why, in respect of a ship leaving the Middle East with a load of oil and docking at Birkenhead, Altona, Kwinana or wherever it is, we cannot keep a log of its contents when it leaves the Middle East and when it arrives here. Surely if the Government were fair dinkum about it that would make it easier to police oil spillages. I am quite attracted to the idea of the honourable member for Newcastle that the pumps be sealed. This could provide an effective way of policing this problem. Also the Minister for Shipping and Transport might explain what sort of dispersants are intended to be included in the stockpile mentioned in the Pollution of the Sea by Oil (Shipping Levy Collection) Bill. The honourable member for Newcastle has mentioned that there are a number of alternative proposals to meet the problem of oil spillage when it does arise. I would like to know what the Government has in mind because the problem of dispersants can be quite serious and the dispersants can be toxic. If fact dispersants can be just as toxic as the oil, and we might have a cure that is worse than the disease.
I would like the Minister to identify the treaty that defines the extension of the boundaries beyond the Great Barrier Reef because in his second reading speech the only convention he has referred to is the Internationa) Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil, 1954, as amended in 1962. The only thing I can see in the schedule to the Bill which defines what the boundaries might be is the definition of ‘nearest land’ in article 1. Here the only convention mentioned is the Geneva Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, 1958, which is a different convention from that mentioned by the Minister. It is probably only a small point but it is a confusing aspect of the Minister’s second reading speech.
Finally I would like the Minister to explain one other matter related to clause 4 of the Bill which amends section 6(3.) of the principal Act. This clause states that the discharge of oil or an oily mixture from a ship other than a tanker or from the machinery space bilges of a tanker has to be made as far as practicable from land. In the case of tankers, where the oil or oily mixture is not a discharge from the machinery space bilges of the tanker it is a legitimate defence if the discharge was made when the tanker was more than 50 miles from the nearest land. There is a difference here which is not explained in the Ministers second reading speech. I wonder why there is this difference. In one case the discharge has to occur more than 50 miles from land whereas in the other the distance from the shore at which the discharge can be made is not defined. I conclude on that note and indicate my support for the amendment moved by the honourable member for Newcastle.
– I will not delay the House for very long; I promised the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) that I would not. But there is a point that I should like to bring to the attention of the Government. The prevailing winds from the Pacific Ocean are from the southeast and northeast and, if it is possible, I think that some action should be taken to prevent ships carrying oil from coming down the east coast of Australia. We have had instances of 2 ships being caught on the coral reefs and doing damage to the marine life and also to the cultured pearl industry around Thursday Island. I do not think that these ships should even go through the Torres Straits into the Arafura Sea. All ships carrying oil - tankers or any other ships; - should go around the west coast of Australia. They should come through the Indian Ocean rather than the Pacific Ocean.
This has been proved over time because of the disasters that have been caused by these ships coming through the coral reef - the Great Barrier Reef - and they will happen again and again. Although we are gaining more knowledge of the Reef, the pilots still have not been able to guarantee that the ships can be negotiated safely along the east coast. Damage could be caused not only to the marine life but also to the Great Barrier Reef and this would be detrimental to the Reef, which is a wonder of the world. All the oil that is spilled out of ships as a result of disasters - in ships being holed by the Reef or in any other way - is blown on to the Reef and inland towards the east coast. We should not allow any ships carrying oil, whether they be tankers or otherwise, to travel along the east coast. They should be diverted through the Indian Ocean and around the west coast.
Some people may say that this will mean that oil will cost us more; but it will not, because even the ships that come down the east coast go right down to Melbourne and the oil is then transported back up the coast. There is no reason for it at all and
I think that some action should be taken by the Government to prevent all oil carrying ships from travelling on the east coast of Australia. They should be made to come through the Indian Ocean and around the west coast and to dump their oil there. Then there would be no contamination of the marine life or the Reef in the area to which I refer.
That is the reason why I wanted to say these few words. I have said them before. The Government should look at this situation and try to obtain an international agreement that no oil carrying ship, whether Australian or foreign owned, should be allowed to travel around the east coast of Australia. All such ships should be diverted around the west coast to prevent them from having accidents which would pollute the Great Barrier Reef, its marine life and also the cultured pearl industry. I thank the Minister for Shipping and Transport for the few minutes that he has given me to speak on this matter. It is an essential part of our national life to preserve the Great Barrier Reef, our fishing industry and also our cultured pearl industry. Honourable members know as well as 1 do that the last time an oil ship foundered on the Reef it spoiled the entire cultured pearl business around the southeast of Thursday Island. Not only the oil but also the detergent that was used to clear away the oil killed all the cultured pearl life around the islands there.
– in reply - Taking the point raised by the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) first, I understand his serious interest in this whole question but I am not at all sure about the legal practicability to moving in the way he suggested. However, I will have that point studied. Nevertheless, I think he will take some comfort from the fact that I personally moved an amendment at the meeting of the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation in London last year and secured protection for the Great Barrier Reef up to as far as about 200 miles from the Australian coast. This amendment was agreed to by the representatives of the other countries present at the conference, and I think that a very significant step forward in protection of the Reef was taken at that conference, because all the countries that were represented there recognised the international significance and beauty of the Barrier Reef. I am very happy that they agreed to that amendment.
Let me come to the amendment moved by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). In his speech tonight he gave us a lot of his views, but I think it is fair to say that he is some years behind the events in his presentation, because the views that he presented to the Parliament are the views that have been studied now over a couple of years by Commonwealth and State Ministers at the Ports and Marine Affairs Council. Indeed, some of State Labor Ministers - I have to say this in all honesty to the honourable member for Newcastle - are ahead of him in these matters. Having said that, let me come to the real point of the amendment. I say in all kindess to the honourable member that in his pulling together of the 3 parts of the amendment into one amendment there seems to be a bit of a mix-up in his mind as to what is done by the various international conventions and also the various Bills we have before us tonight. Let us take the first point in the amendment. It is to the effect that the Government has failed to clarify whether the responsibility for protection of Australian territorial waters belongs to the Commonwealth or the States.
It might be nice to make political points out of this matter, but the facts are that the States, wilh the Commonwealth, have agreed to a formula for handling this problem. I draw to the honourable member’s attention that now 3 State Labor governments are represented on the Ports and Marine Affairs Council, and I can assure the honourable member that some of the remarks he made tonight will not go down too well with those Labor governments. We have come to an agreement at the request of the States on a formula devised for control in respect of oil spillage in ports, oil spillage on the high seas and oil spillage in coastal waters relative to the various State borders. I think that a very significant point, in fact a high point, in Commonwealth-State relations has been reached in this Bill. The legal sovereignty question was deliverately put to one side by all the States, including the States with Labor governments, to reach agreement on this very important matter so that the pollution of the sea by oil could be handled properly and legally by government.
I come to paragraph (b) of the amendment, which states that the Government - I suppose it means the Commonwealth Government - ‘has not acted in a comprehensive way to ensure that Australian territorial waters are protected from all environmental threats from oil, whether they be from shipping or land based activities and including all ocean dumping’. Let me take the first part of that first. Indeed, we have acted comprehensively in respect of oil. The State governments are taking direct control of oil spillage in ports; the Commonwealth Government is taking direct control of oil spillage on the high seas; and agreement has been reached with South Australia, Western Australia - the 2 Labor States - New South Wales and Queensland that the Commonwealth Government should take direct action and work as the authority responsible for oil spillage in the coastal waters of those States, and agreement has been reached with Victoria and Tasmanian that the governments of those States shall take direct action in relation to oil spillage in their coastal waters. So there has been complete agreement, complete unanimity, between the States and Commonwealth on the division of responsibilities and how we ought to function. We wanted to reach the stage, and have reached it, where bureaucratic red tape between the Commonwealth and the States would not prevent in any way immediate action being taken to handle an oil pollution. The Commonwealth Government and the State governments concerned deserve the congratulations of the honourable member for Newcastle rather than an amendment of this type.
In the second part of his amendment reference ls made to all ocean dumping. Here again I think the honourable member has misunderstood the powers of the single convention. He certainly has shown a lack of knowledge of the way the Commonwealth Government has moved with respect to ocean dumping. Australia is a party to and I hope will be a signatory to an international convention in London in November which proposes to control ocean dumping of materials. Indeed, this will be a significant step forward. As a government Australia has been one of the pro moters of that international convention. I am proud of the part my Department has played in this matter. I reject that part of the honourable member’s amendment also because it is unrelated to the Bills and is being dealt with separately. In the meantime my Department with the co-operation of industry and all of the States, is administering control of dumping at sea along lines proposed in the international convention.
The last part of the amendment reads that the Government: has not, on behalf of the Australian people, co-ordinated management of the Australian territorial waters in the interests of the long term conservation of the earth’s oceanic resources.
I am not sure what the honourable member for Newcastle means by this. Needless to say, the Commonwealth Government and the State governments are co-operating magnificently in trying to achieve what I read as the content of this part of the amendment. The Government rejects the amendment moved by the honourable member for Newcastle.
I turn now to a couple of questions that were asked by the honourable member for Newcastle. Firstly, he questioned the level of penalties and said that one country, the United Kingdom, provided for a fine of £Stg50,000 whereas Australia proposed a maximum penalty of $50,000. Again this was a matter that was discussed at a meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers concerned with port and marine affairs. The absolute majority view of the Commonwealth and the States was that $50,000 should be the maximum level of penalty. The Ministers agreed as a body that that should be the maximum. The level of penalties has been fixed as a result of agreement with the States.
The honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) said that the Government had power to act in respect of international waters under its external affairs power. The best advice available from the legal advisers to my Department is that we do not have authority to act under the external affairs power to which the honourable member referred. Surely if we accept the advice that we do not have such power the proper way to seek authority is as we have done, under an international convention that gives us legal power to control all dumping beyond the 50-mile limit. Surely that is the civilised and proper way of acting rather than getting involved in a court action when some doubt has been expressed by our own legal advisers before we proceed on such a course. We have, in fact, achieved success beyond the 50-mile limit with an international convention. A ship can be in the middle of the Indian Ocean and if it dumps oil at a greater rate than 60 litres a mile it can be reported to a home country and fined. Surely this is the way to act. Power extends far beyond the 50-mile limit and out into the mid blue Ocean. Surely this is the civilised and responsible way to act. My advice is that we do not have authority under the external affairs power. The honourable member for Kingston also raised the question of dispersants. No decision has been taken at this stage as to the dispersants to be used. However a committee of officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Department of Primary Industry, including those attached to the fisheries section, and various State authorities is working out what dispersants will do the best job and create the least difficulty in handling the problem.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Charles Jones’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
– I have 2 amendments which refer to clauses 2 and 4. The clauses read in part:
Clause 2. (1.) Subject to the next succeeding sub-section, this Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the royal assent. (2.) Sections 3. 4 and 9 of this Act shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by Proclamation, not being earlier than the date on which the 1969 Amendments, within the meaning of the Principal Act as amended by this Act, come into force for Australia.
Section 6 of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead:
I have entered into an arrangement with the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) to move the amendments together. I ask for leave to follow that course.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Corbett) - Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
In clause 2, sub-clause (2j, omit ‘,4’.
In clause 4, in proposed section 6, sub-section (1.), after ‘ship’, first occurring, insert ‘or any other Ship
The effect of the acceptance of the amendment that I have moved to clause 2 will be that section 4 of the Act will come into effect on the date when the Bill receives royal assent. Then it will be only sections 3 and 9 of the Act that will come into effect when the International Convention has been ratified. I have moved this amendment because sections 3 and 9 are procedural only. They indicate that the Schedule is being altered. The Schedule relates to the Convention itself. It is only section 4 that sets out that in its own right the Government may pass a law to prevent the dumping of oil into the sea. The effect of this amendment will be that this section will come into operation irrespective of whether and when the treaty is ratified by two-thirds of the signatories to it.
My other amendment seeks to insert on page 2, line 18, after the words ‘Australian ship’ the words ‘or any other ship’. This will make the Bill far more effective because the measure as it stands, even when the treaty is ratified, will not affect any vessel that is not registered within Australia. The Minister for Shipping and Transport said in his reply to the second reading debate that I was referring to placitum (xxix) of section 51 of the Constitution. 1 also referred to section 10 which relates to fisheries in Australian waters beyond territorial limits. I believe it is this power which could be successfully invoked by the Government in passing this Bill and asserting the Commonwealth’s power to control marine pollution, irrespective of whether this is ratified by an international treaty. This is the same power that the Gorton Government intended to assert when it introduced the Territoria’ Sea and Continental Shelf Bill. If the Minister says that his legal advice is that the Commonwealth does not have the power, I suggest that his legal advice is different from that which has been given to me, to other members of the Opposition, to the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) and to the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). I suggest that it would be competent for the Commonwealth to pass this measure and, in its own right, to assert the sovereignty to control the activities of vessels around the Australian coast without having to wait for international treaties to be ratified. Nothing that the Minister said in his reply has convinced me otherwise.
I have already pointed out - the Minister has failed to answer this aspect - that the proposed legislation would not control any vessel that is not registered in Australia. Even when the treaty is ratified, presumably the other signatory countries wi!l be able to control vessels registered in their countries, but what about those countries that are not signatories to the treaty? What about ships registered in Panama and Liberia? How will we control those? We will not be able to control those by reference to any treaty if they are not signatories to it. This makes the whole thing completely ridiculous because so many tankers are registered ;n countries that are not signatories to this treaty or to any other treaty. For that reason I believe the Commonwealth Government should pass this in its own right. What would be the effect of this? We would still have the treaty ratified but the Government of Australia would exercise its legitimate sovereignty which I have no doubt 1 am sure that at least 2 honourable members opposite who voted with 1 the Opposition last week would agree - the Commonwealth does have the power to do. It must be done because marine resources are some, of the most important resources of Australia and of the world. If we pass these. 2 amendments we will still be observing thu treaty because the treaty is not in any way negated by inserting the words ‘or any other ship’. All that would happen would be that we would broaden the scope of the legislation and make the regulations stricter. The fact is that control now extendi to 50 miles from the high water mark. This will come into effect straight away and we will not have to wait for two-thirds of the signatories to ratify it. I can see absolutely no reason why this Parliament should not pass it. I can see every reason why it must, in the interests of conserving the environment. 1 urge the Committee to vote for these amendments.
– The Government cannot accept the amendments moved by the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) for the reasons I gave in my second reading speech. The simple fact is that we do not have the power he believes we have. The strong advice that has been given to the Government is that the way to obtain the power is by international convention. What the honourable member proposed, in substance, would give Australia power to control a ship off the American coast, off the United Kingdom coast or off the coast of any country. We now have the power, by complementary legislation with the States, to control shipping in our territorial waters. We have complete control of the territorial waters, by co-operation and agreement with the States. We are awaiting the international ratification of the convention amendments to provide power to control spillage within the 50-mile limit and to be able to take international action to control the rate of spillage outside the 50-mile limit. The Government must reject the amendments.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon) - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Nixon) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent orders of the day Nos 5 and 6 Government Business being called on.
Consideration resumed from 24 October (vide page 3087), on motion by Mr Nixon:
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 Nixon) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 24 October (vide page 3087), on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon) read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate and read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate and read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate and read a first time.
Air Safety- Printing of Political MaterialRailway Sleepers - Incinerator at Sydney Airport
Motion (by Sir Reginald Swartz) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– A most serious situation has developed over certain Australian commercial air routes that is posing a threat to the lives of commercial pilots and their crews and passengers and about which they have protested repeatedly. 1 am pleased to see that the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz), who represents in this chamber the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) is present. I refer in particular to low level Royal Australian Air Force jet routes intersecting regular public transport routes operated by TransAustralia Airlines, Airlines of New South Wales, East-West Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia, plus tertiary operations. Air Force practice overshoots have been carried out when commercial airlines have been on the tarmac and light aircraft in the vicinity, and there was a threat of damage and death. These practice flights have been engaged in despite the example of the recent catastrophe in Japan when a military training aircraft destroyed itself and a passenger-laden Boeing 727. This situation is occurring and recurring without even the possibility of direct inter-aircraft communication. Pilots are deeply concerned about this. Some passengers who have become aware of the situation have become frightened at the prospects of disaster.
I will put the case in detail. Approximately a year ago a military aircraft, training in an area where regular public transport operates and at a scheduled time of arrival, collided with a Boeing 727 causing the worst aircraft accident in Japan’s history. Civil aviation is international in nature inasmuch as all countries and operators contribute to common pools of information, that is, in the fields of safety, operation, traffic and so on. One group learns from the experience and mistakes of others, particularly from obvious and blatant mistakes in areas where only a hairline divides tragedy from good luck. On the east coast of Australia we have a situation where military aircraft in training practice low level navigation, aerodrome overshoots and so on. These are important and necessary factors for aircrew proficiency. However, it would appear that the liaison between the RAAF and the Department of Civil Aviation leaves much to be desired inasmuch as the RAAF takes precedence over regular public transport operators. Indeed, it would appear that the RAAF adopts the attitude ‘We are not going to be told by civilians how, when and where to operate’. Witness to this attitude is the fact that RAAF operations do not comply with the requirement applied to all civil aircraft that they make a radio call within specified distances of all airports.
There are a great many regular public transport operations that do not come within the ambit of Air Traffic Control. That is, the separation or distance between the aircraft is not controlled and relies, for the purposes of maintaining safety standards, on basic laid down rules, the most important of which is to establish radio contact between aircraft in the vicinity to arrange their own separation, lt would appear that the RAAF cannot afford to provide the necessary equipment for this purpose and has to relay through intermediary stations to advise of aircraft position changes and changes in altitude. With aircraft operating at speeds at which the Mirage and Phantom aircraft operate, it is ludicrous to suggest that satisfactory standards of safety can be maintained as the time involved in such a relay system is considerable. The combined speed of 2 aircraft could be 12 to 15 miles a minute.
It is granted that there is need for both the civil and military operations. But why should this have to breach air navigation legislation on separation and air safety. Such breaches on the part of 2 civil aircraft would have immediate and serious repercussions with probable suspension of licences. The story in the industry is that the loss of the Phantom aircraft at Evans Head was the result of a misreading of altitude. Only the RAAF would know about that. Murphy’s law predicts that if such a situation is allowed to persist, eventually some civil aircraft will become the headline.
I now cite Air Safety Incident Report lodged with the Department of Civil Aviation which relates to a flight from Casino to Coffs Harbour. It reads as follows:
ETA Coffs Harbour X Casino cruising level 7,500 ft we were informed by Colfs Harbour F.S.U. thai 3 Mirage HNJ, HNI and HNM on a training flight Williamtown-Tamworth-Colfs HarbourWilliamtown would be making passes at Coffs Harbour, airport below 500 ft at time 2347, 2352 and 0002GMT. We-
This is the civil pilot’s report - . . decided to hold north of Coffs Harbour, until the military aircraft cleared the area. When informed of this (relay ultra high frequency Coffs Harbour) HNI obliged by holding clear until our landing. Practice overshoots were carried out by these aircraft before and after we were on the ground with a light aircraft DEU in the circuit. Despite the example of the recent catastrophe in Japan where a military training aircraft destroyed itself and a passenger laden Boeing 727. This ridiculous situation occurs and recurs without even the possibility of direct interaircraft communication. Perhaps when one of us becomes a tragic “headline” some action may be taken.’
This is the report of the pilot, not the honourable member for Riverina.
– Yes, we can hear that be is reading it.
– I hope that the honourable member’s hearing is in order. I said: ‘I now cite Air Safety Incident Report lodged with the Department of Civil Aviation.’ Of course I am reading it. There has not been a reply to date. I now quote from Department of Civil Aviation circular No. 18/1972: 1.1 To enable RAAF pilots to be trained in the use of specialised navigational equipment, and to maintain the standard of efficiency which would be expected of the Service at a time of crisis, it is essential that high speed, low level, cross-country exercises be carried out by military F4E (Phantom) jet aircraft operating out of Amberley m non-controlled airspace. 7.3 All aircraft are equipped with surveillance radar which permits aircraft targets to be located, but this radar is not effective at low levels due to ground returns blanketing aircraft targets.’
I repeat the words: . . but this radar is not effective at low levels due to ground returns blanketing aircraft targets.
The circular continues:
Crew visability is classified as excellent.
I now quote paragraph S.l which reads: 5.1 F4E aircraft have communications capability on Ultra High Frequency only and, as Departmental FS units have no Ultra High Frequency outlets, alternative means of enabling aircraft “in-flight” reports to be passed to the responsible FS unit, have had to be devised.’
I also quote from notice to airmen issued by the Department of Civil Aviation No. 14/1972 which is headed ‘Flight Information Service’ and reads as follows:
A flight information service to IFR category aircraft will be provided. These military aircraft are Ultra High Frequency-equipped and cannot communicate on FS frequencies. For FS purposes, they will be classified ‘No Radio’ and therefore, traffic information will be based on the flight plan submitted by the aircraft and its ATD.
These documents sum up the danger, and I request the Minister for Civil Aviation, the Minister representing him in this place, the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz), and the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) to confer urgently on the situation which exists and immediately to implement a ban on the RAAF exercises in this busy air corridor. There is the rest of an empty continent in which to practise. The present risks are unnecessary and must be ended before disaster results. I have documented the case. As a matter of fact, I have brought into the chamber also the relevant flight plans and the maps which show precisely the military jet routes that are followed and also the civil routes which are being put in jeopardy in this way. I intend to hand these documents to the Minister and I ask that urgent action be taken because of the danger.
– Over recent years there has been an extraordinary increase in the number of small organisations having political action as their mode of expression, and the overthrow of Liberal governments as their aim. The causes championed are many and various. Let me name a few. There are the Vietnam Moratorium, anti-apartheid, abortion on demand, anti-State aid, the immediate recognition of the People’s Republic of China and the selling out of Taiwan, support of the National Liberation Front, which is even incorporated in the Labor Party’s policy, opposition to the New South Wales Summary Offences Act, and many others. The organisations committed to this result are just as numerous and varied. The various factions of the Communist Party, the Australia Party, the Australian Labor Party, the Defence of Government Schools, the Socialist Youth Alliance, Workers’ Action, the Builders Labourers’ Federation, the New South Wales Teachers’ Federation - all these are committed to radical change of our present society and its institutions and standards.
On the face of it there is nothing wrong with this. We are fortunate - despite those who would prefer the rule of the mob and the rule from the streets to prevail - tint we still live in a democracy which allows supporters of all sorts of organisations to express freely their points of view, even if the point of view in some cases is to overthrow that democracy and substitute some sort of totalitarian dictatorship. However, it should be disturbing to anyone who values the continuation of democracy, who values the right of free expression, who values the standards and institutions built up over the years in our society, if it became apparent that these dissident groups were not in tact distinct organisations pursuing their own aims, but were rather operating largely in concert.
It is interesting to look at some of the publications, broadsheets, dodgers and advertising material produced on behalf of the organisations I have mentioned. Most of it comes from a small number of printers. For instance Quality Press, which is the commercial printing division of the Communist Party’s paper ‘The Tribune’; Barndana Pty Ltd, a Melbourne firm; a place described as 22 Steam Mill Street. Sydney, which operates under various names such as Southwood Press Pty Ltd, Comment Publishing Co., A. J. Kelly or L. R. Barnes; and one called Messenger Print in Maroubra, New South Wales. Looking more closely at some of the clients of 22 Steam Mill Street, we find they include the Australia Party, The Anti-State Aid DOGS, the Australian Labor Party and the New South Wales Teachers Federation. In the last federal election pamphlets and how-to-vote tickets for Australia Party candidates came from Steam Mill Street and Barndana Pty Ltd. In the last New South Wales State election pamphlets, postal vote information and how-to-vote cards came from these sources for the Australia Party, the DOGS and the Australian Labor Party. For this coming Federal election the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison) who is sitting across the chamber from me tonight, has a postal voting card from Southwood Press Pty Ltd, authorised by Mr Hunt and printed by Southwood Press. Barndana Pty Ltd was the Melbourne printing plant which Mr Gordon Barton-
– Mr Speaker, may I move that the document that has been alluded to-
– Order! Is the honourable member speaking on a point of order?
– Yes. May 1 move that the document alluded to be incorporated in Hansard.
– Is the honourable member for Warringah prepared to have the document incorporated in Hansard?
– Leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
ST GEORGE: FEDERAL ELECTION
URGENT: POSTAL VOTING
SATURDAY, December 2
You will require a postal vote if . . .
You are sick, aged, infirm
Overseas, interstate or travelling
Unable to reach a Polling Booth on Election Day
Voting is compulsory. Avoid a fine.
Post the attached card now!
Authorised by R. Hunt, 8 Banks Road, Earlwood Printed by Southwood Press, Sydney.
– Barndana Pty Ltd was the Melbourne printing plant which Mr Gorton Barton, the national convenor of the Australia Party, used to print the Sunday Observer’. The plant printed literature and how to vote cards for Australia Party candidates at the last Federal and Senate elections. It also printed material for the anti-Vietnam and radical student movements. The similarity in material from Barndana, Steam Mill Street and Quality Press is unmistakeable.
Looking again at Steam Mill Street, we find, for example, that organisations sponsoring a demonstration against the New South Wales Summary Offences Act - including the Australia Party, the Communist Party, the Waterside Workers Federation, the Builders Labourers Federation, George Petersen, who is a New South Wales Labor Party member of the Legislative Assembly, and many other well known communist agitators - had their printing done there. As another example, the Australia Party joined with Workers Action, the Builders Labourers Federation, the Communist Party and other similarly politically motivated groups to hear George Petersen from the Australian Labor Party, Jack Mundey from the Builders Labourers Federation, Denise Aarons from Womens Liberation, Laurie
Carmichael, the communist Assistant Secretary of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, and the Australia Party candidate for Mackellar at the coming elections, amongst others, speak and demonstrate outside Manly Court on 27th April last. Where was the material advertising this demonstration printed? Once again, it was printed at 22 Steam Mill Street.
As well as these communist groups supporting this printer, we also find that the New South Wales Teacher Federation is a great supporter of 22 Steam Mill Street. It has an immense volume of work printed there as, coincidentally, do DOGS and the Australian Labor Party. I have already mentioned the honourable member for St George, but we also find that Mr Bel Ian to, Q.C., the Labor Party candidate for Fuller and Mr McIlwaine, the Labor Party candidate for Yaralla, at the last New South Wales State elections had their material printed at this source.
All this raises many interesting speculations. For instance who are the owners of 22 Steam Mill Street, and what are their political affiliations? Where is the association of interest between the Australia Party, the Communist Party and its affiliates that causes them to team up so readily, frequently and openly? What is the association between the Teachers Federation, these other groups and DOGS? It seems reasonable to suggest that DOGS was set up by the left wing of the Teachers Federation to attract away from the Liberal-Country Party coalition people with strong sectarian or anti-state aid views. What, for instance, is the connection between DOGS, which occasionally has its printing done by Messenger Press, and the Socialist Youth Alliance - an exceptionally radical youth movement - which has its paper called Direct Action’ printed at the same small printery?
I think that it is reasonable to question the bona fides of the Australia Party when it so openly aligns itself with Communist sponsored causes. Why is there so much strong evidence of significant Australian Labor Party connections with 22 Steam Mill Street which so obviously caters for extreme and radical causes? These are questions which should be of interest to every thinking Australian. How is it that one printery in particular has been able to attract so much work from the Australia Party, the communist parties, the Teachers Federation, DOGS, the Australian Labor Party and other radical groups? Why do they use the services of these companies at 22 Steam Mill Street? Do they see advantages for themselves in the progress of these other groups? What is the connection between these various groups?
– The matter I would like to raise affects my electorate quite considerably and also affects a Commonwealth instrumentality - the Commonwealth Railways. Last April the Commonwealth Railways was to call tenders for 200,000 concrete sleepers and at the same time to call tenders for 200,000 timber sleepers which were to be used on maintenance work on the Trans-Australian Railway. Following the calling of these tenders, the Bureau of Transport Economics carried out a survey to ascertain which was the most efficient and most economic of the 3 types of sleepers available - concrete sleepers, untreated timber sleepers and treated timber sleepers. The Bureau of Transport Economics has done an evaluation on 3 railway lines - the proposed Tarcoola-Alice Springs railway, the Adelaide-Crystal Brook railway and the Trans-Australia railway. I have a copy of the Bureau’s report, which is a pretty comprehensive document and contains certain recommendations. It states:
Tarcoola-Alice Springs railway: the primary alternatives are 9 inches x 6 inches x 8 feet 3 inches and 10 inches x 5 inches x 8 feet 6 inches jarrah sleepers, both treated and untreated, and concrete sleepers.
The concrete sleeper is the least cost alternative.
For the Adelaide-Crystal Brook railway, which is the line joining the standard gauge to Adelaide, the Bureau recommended red gum sleepers. For the Trans-Australia railway a tender for 400,000 sleepers was called; that is, 200,000 concrete and 200,000 timber sleepers. The Bureau of Transport Economics recommended concrete sleepers. In the evaluation of the whole project the Bureau had to consider certain social effects. When the Commonwealth Railways opened a new railway line from Whyalla to Port Augusta quite recently the Minister and various other officials spoke of the progress in railway construction by the use of all-welded track coupled with concrete sleepers. I understand that the concrete sleepers that the Commonwealth Railays wanted were to be used between Port Augusta and Port Pirie. The Commonwealth Railways would have then gone from Whyalla right through to Port Pirie on timber sleepers and a welded track. The 200.000 timber sleepers were to be used west of Port Augusta for the replacement of worn out sleepers and so forth. But this was not to be. Although the Bureau of Transport Economics recommended concrete sleepers for the Trans-Australia line, last Sunday the Minister delivered a statement in which he apparently ignored the advice of the Bureau. The statement reads:
The Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr Peter Nixon, said today that Commonwealth Railways would continue to use timber sleepers in maintenance work on the Trans-Australia railway.
I feel that by making this decision the Minister has gone completely against the advice of the Bureau of Transport Economics and prominent railway engineers. In fact, he has taken a backward step for one particular reason - purely for political purposes. In Western Australia there is some unemployment in the timber growing areas but there is also some unemployment in the area north of Spencer Gulf in South Australia where it is quite likely that concrete sleepers would have been manufactured. What would have been the obvious decision for the Minister, the Government or the Cabinet to make? It would have been to stick to the Commonealth Railways’ original desire for 200,000 concrete sleepers and 200,000 timber sleepers. Possibly this would have had the effect of alleviating a bad unemployment position in the timber areas of Western Australia and would have certainly given a fillip to the northern areas of Spencer Gulf in South Australia where unemployment is rife. 1 appreciate that there is unemployment in the timber areas in Western Australia. I shall cite the unemployment figures for the Port Pirie area, where it was quite likely that the concrete sleepers would have been manufactured. For the 6 months to September the total unemployment in Port Pirie was 428, 669, 1,094, 743, 622 and 754 respectively. Of the September figure 559 were males and 195 were females. I think the figures are worse when the number of unfilled vacancies in this area is considered. The unfilled vacancies were 26 for males and 86 for females. It is quite likely that the concrete sleepers would have been made in this area. All this was ignored completely and a political decision was given purely to try to assist the Government to hold Country Party seats in Western Australia. It is quite interesting to read the comments of 2 newspapers, the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ and yesterday’s ‘Australian’. The ‘Australian’ editorial stated:
If the Federal Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr Nixon, had decided to order timber instead of concrete sleepers for the Transcontinental rail line on the ground of economy his decision would have been understandable, if regrettable.
That he has opted for timber instead of concrete at the cost of an extra $2. 8m for what appears to be largely political reasons is both incredible and lamentable.
To say that the choice had been made ‘taking into account local employment and social effects’ is one way of saying that the decision will help the Country Parly’s election prospects in marginal timber-producting electorates such as Forrest, in Western Australia.
The Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ stated:
The arguments in favour of concrete-
Referring to concrete sleepers - are straightforward enough. As the Bureau of Transport Economics pointed out in its special report on the subject, concrete would have been the best choice for the Trans-Australia Railway. It has a longer life expectancy than jarrah, the timber alternative, and is also bushfire-proof and better suited to holding fastenings. But the deciding factor is cost. According to the BTE figures, the use of concrete sleepers would have saved the taxpayer almost $3m. Yet the Government has opted for jarrah. 1 think there is no question at all on reasoning and logic that the Government should have gone for the concrete sleepers, at least in the areas where it was completely replacing sleepers - probably between Port Augusta and Port Pirie - and carried out what it originally intended with 200,000 timber sleepers, then progressively replacing them on the east-west line. It will be many years before they are done away with in that area. The Government did not decide to do this but for cynical reasons decided to use timber sleepers from Western Australia and to ignore completely the industrial areas in South Australia which are suffering a bad bout of unemployment. The Government could have given those areas a shot in the arm by offering them 200,000 concrete sleepers to manufacture. I conclude by saying that the Government should be soundly condemned for what is no more than a cynical political decision.
– My colleague the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) has drawn attention to the fascinating grouping of clients of Southwood Press. I believe the story would not be complete without some reference to the shareholders of that interesting company. The shareholders of Southwood Press, who might of course be dummies, make an interesting line-up. Southwood Press Pty Ltd, incorporated as a company in New South Wales on 28th February 1966, has a nominal capital of $10,000 divided into 300 A class shares with full voting rights and 4,700 ordinary or B class shares. The number of issued shares valued at $2 each is 2,989, comprising 298 A class shares and 2,691 B class or ordinary shares. It would seem that a family by the name of Barnes has control. Between them they hold 201 of the 298 issued A class shares and 1,814 of the 2,691 B class shares.
These people are: Roger William Ashton Barnes, aged 36, who holds 75 A and 675 B shares. Barnes is regarded as a Trotskyist Communist who has been active in the Australian Labor Party Youth Movement. Sylvia Phyllis Hale, 30, who authorises pamphlets for the Women’s Liberation ‘Front’ is the wife of Roger Barnes. She holds 75 A and 675 B shares. Mrs Barnes, or Sylvia Hale as she is perhaps better known, is a school teacher who has been active in the ‘Progressive Left’ and is also a Trotskyite. Velda Constance Baxter, 64, mother of Roger Barnes, holds 20 A and 180 B shares. Velda A. Stadnik, 34, who would appear to be a sister of Roger Barnes, holds 31 A and 284 B shares.
Other shareholders of this interesting printery are Guido Carlo Luigi and Ethel Victoria Barrachi. Between them they hold 5 A class and 49 B shares. Luigi, 85, a retired - need I hardly say - school teacher, has been associated with the Australian Communist Party almost from its beginning. John Michael Cassidy, 31, of St Kilda, Melbourne, holds 13 A and 117 B class shares. He is well known in Mel bourne as a Trotskyist demonstrator. Alison Edith Mclntyre, 29, holds 5 A and 45 B shares. She has been associated with a front known as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Graham Cecil Hackett, 29, holds 16 A and 144 B shares. Hackett, another school teacher, is also a Trotskyist and a former member of the Communist Eureka Youth League. He was president of the Sydney University Labor Club in 1968. Helen Hackett, 28, wife of Graham Hackett, another school teacher, is also believed to be a Trotskyist. She holds 6A and 54 B shares. Anthony James Kelly, 28, holds 20 A and 180 B shares. Kelly’s name appears on quite a few pieces of printing from Steam Mill Street as the authoriser. It is thought he was formerly in the Eureka Youth League and is associated now with the Socialist Youth Alliance, as the Eureka Youth League is called nowadays. Craig Rob Roy McGregor, 39, holds 2 A and 18 B shares. McGregor, believed to be a journalist, has been associated with the Association for International Co-Operation and Disarmament, a communist front. These shareholders together account for 268 A and 2,421 B shares, which leaves only 30 A and 270 B shares out of the total number which I originally mentioned. Another shareholder is Robert Webb of Camberwell, Victoria. He appears to be the father of Rodney Arthur Webb, an active member of the Socialist Youth Alliance.
In the light of what the. honourable member for Warringah had to say this is an interesting rundown of the owners, or at least a very great part of the owners, of this printery which prints so many and varied things for such an interesting collection of political and similar groups. The political ideology or ideologies of the shareholders, whether or not they are dummies, is clearly apparent from what I have had to say. It is interesting therefore to see how they attract so much business for printing from the. Labor Party, the Australia Party and the Council for the Defence of Government Schools.
– Obviously Senator Joe McCarthy rides again. We have heard a very thin tissue of lies which marks the-
– Order! I think the honourable member for St George knows that he shall not attribute the. word ‘lie’ to an honourable member.
– Well, untruths.
-I suggest not.
– A deliberate untruth.
– A deliberate untruth.
-The honourable member will also withdraw the words ‘deliberate untruth’.
– I withdraw the remarks. The speeches tonight merely mark the desperation of the Government. It is in a state, of desperation. It is very remarkable how 2 backbenchers, not noted particularly for their contributions in this House, should have come to be in possession of such detailed information. One would hardly think that this is the sort of information one could readily obtain from the Parliamentary Legislative Research Service, which is the only source honourable members on this side of the House have at their disposal to obtain information. So one can only cogitate upon how this information came into the hands of the honourable member for Denison (Dr Solomon) and the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar). The reason why they are using it is obvious. It is in sheer desperation. The honourable member for Warringhah asked: ‘Why is it that so many members of the Australia Party and the Australian Labor Party happen to choose this printery?’ That is not a very difficult question to answer. We are not in the. very fortunate position of the honourable member for Warringah and others in having bulging campaign funds. We have to seek quotations for printing our literature and it just so happened on this particular occasion that the printery in question gave the lowest quote. Another pamphlet that I had printed for the last election - and it rather hurt me to have to accept the quotation, but it was the lowest - was produced on a printing press in the Hurstville area that is owned by Sir Frank Packer. Tonight I want to raise a relatively small matter. It is small only in the inflated monetary terms which one becomes accustomed to in this place. Nevertheless it is significant in terms of the administrative and planning incompetence for which this Government has achieved a justifiable notoriety.
In June 1971 the Department of Civil Aviation took over from the Department of Works an incinerator at the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. The first matter of interest is that the technical advisers to the Department of Civil Aviation were not satisfied with the incinerator on the grounds that it did not meet the required specifications. However, the technical advice was overridden by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) on the ground that he did not want to embarrass his colleague the Minister for Works (Senator Wright). The second point is that the incinterator cost $294,000- not quite a gold-plated incinerator but certainly getting up into the burnt-out silver class. The third point is that it is handling only a fraction of the waste matter at the airport and the operating costs are $13,163 a month. In fact, its performance has been so disappointing that the Department of Civil Aviation is going to dump the incinerator and make other arrangements. It is in fact now arranging a contract with the Waverley Municipal Council to utilise the Council’s destructor. The Waverley destructor can handle the quarantine waste for a cost of between $7 to $10 a ton. The present monument to incompetence does it at a cost of over 10 times that amount. On the figures made available to me by the Minister for Civil Aviation the operating costs of the incinerator are $95 a ton. Surely this is something that taxpayers should get burnt up about.
We have to pay $294,000 for an incinerator that not only did not meet the design qualifications but is operating at only onethird capacity, that is one shift a day. The direct operating costs are 10 times more than the local Council is prepared to contract for. This is an instructive example of this Government’s operations. Ministers act irresponsibly, taxpayers’ money is wasted and everything is done to keep the lid on so that the public will not know how it is being duped. This is a relatively small matter, but it epitomises this Government’s gross incompetence. It is minute in comparison with the $400m down the drain on the Fill aircraft. But the incinerator and the Fill aircraft have much in common.
In the first instance, they do not measure up to the original specifications. Secondly, the cost has escalated from the original estimate. Thirdly, neither the incinerator nor the Fill should ever have been accepted. Fourthly, Ministers have indulged in various devices to hide their incompetence from public scrutiny. To sum up: The Australian taxpayer has been left with an Fill that will not fly, an incinerator that will not burn and a Government that cannot govern.
Motion (by Mr Giles) agreed to: That the question be now put
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.34 a.m. (Thursday)
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 by my Department using published information.
Tonnage of black coal exported to Japan in each of the last 5 years:
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
What would be the estimated cost of each proposal in the Returned Services League’s 1972 pension plan, presented to the Government on 20 April 1972, above the cost of pensions at the new rates announced by the Treasurer on 15th August 1972.
– The answers to the honourable member’s question are as follows:
Based on the current minimum wage of $51.10 a week applied to post Budget rates of pensions, and taking into consideration the appreciable rises in hospital costs since the plan was last costed, the estimated annual increase in costs would be -
war pensions and allowances, $76,209m.
continuation of war pension to all children over the age of 16 years undergoing fulltime education, $0.8m.
Repatriation funeral benefit increased to $200, S 1.09m.
Provision of free Repatriation hospital and medical benefits to all returned ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 War and of prior wars, $7. 08m.
Committee on Motor Vehicle Emissions (Question No. 6487)
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Chairman - Mr T. Morehead, Commonwealth Department of Shipping and Transport. Members -
Dr D. Kerr, Commonwealth Department of
Mr P. Blair, Commonwealth Department of the Interior.
Mr D. Kay, New South Wales Ministry of
Mr R. P. Murphy, New South Wales Department of Public Health.
Mr R. French, New South Wales Department of Motor Transport.
Mr K. Nevin, Victoria Chief Secretary’s Department.
Mr F. Smith, Victoria Department of Health.
Mr T. P. Andersen, Queensland Department of Transport.
Mr A. P. Gilpin, Queensland Department of Health.
Mr A. J. Smith, South Australia Department of Public Health.
Mr J. Pottinger. Tasmania Department of Labour and Industry.
Mr A. R. Clarke, Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Executive.
Mr B. B. Hamilton, Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Executive.
Mr A. L. Temby, Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Executive.
Mr J. Young, Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.
Mr I. R. Johnson, Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.
Mr K. Erikson, Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.
Mr J. Hamilton, Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.
Members for Liaison Purposes -
Dr D. B. Travers, Commonwealth Department of Health, (representing the National Health and Medical Research Council).
Mr A. J. Ayres, Commonwealth Department of the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Because of changes in the relevant conditions, you are now eligible to receive supplementary assistance, provided you are paying rent, and this has been included in your new rate of pension. If you are not paying rent, you should notify this office immediately.’
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: 1(a) No specific allocation was made for advertising the new social service benefits and entitlements outlined in the 1972-73 Budget. However an estimated $22,186 is expected to be spent on such advertising from funds allocated for the 1972-73 financial year for general Departmental advertising. A further $83,000 has been approved for expenditure on advertising the changes in social services legislation. 1(b) The following information on moneys expended, which may be subject to minor variation, relate to 2 separate advertising campaigns. The first, between 4th and 8th October, covered the general eligibility conditions for pensions. The second between 11th and 15th October, was directed at superannuitants and others entitled to concessional treatment.
The advertising campaign has been extremely successful and has contributed to the great influx of new claims for pension. The normal national lodgement of claims during the first 2 weeks in October is about 5330. In the 2 weeks to 13th October, new claims for pension throughout Australia totalled 27,238.
asked the Minister for Edu cation and Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s question are contained in the following tables:
and (3) The following are the amounts and terms of Australian government cash and conversion loans raised between 1st July 1950 and 30th June 1972 (inclusive):
Note - In the case of combined cash and conversion loans (marked (b)), the break-up in respect of individual securities between the cash and conversion applications is not available.
Note - Conversion loans are foot-noted (c)
Raised on behalf of Qantas.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am informed -
Apoligies or compensation made for attacks on foreign diplomatic and consular property or representatives were as follows:
Cambodia - 30th December 1971, plate glass window of Consulate in Sydney broken. Apology made.
Czechoslovakia - 21st August 1972, ConsulateGeneral in Sydney damaged by incendiary device and wall daubed. Apology made and repairs effected.
France - 1st June 1972, residence of Military Attache and car daubed with paint and windows broken. Apology made and paint removed from residence at Commonwealth expense; 19th June 1972, plate glass window of Consulate in Melbourne broken and attempt made to set fire to office. Apology made. Slogans painted on Embassy walls. Apology made and slogans removed by Department of Works.
Greece- 28th October 1971, 21st April 1972, Consulate in Adelaide defaced by painting on walls on 2 occasions. Apologies made.
Indonesia - Areas of Consulate in Sydney defaced. Apology made and areas restored by Department of Works.
Italy - 6th February 1972, minor damage caused to Consulate in Melbourne by incendiary device. Apology made.
Lebanon - 15th November 1971, plate glass window of Consulate in Sydney broken. Apology made.
Malta.- 4th August 1972, Chancery of High Commission broken into and stamps and stationery -stolen. Apology made.
South Africa - 17th January 1972, slogans painted on walls of Embassy and 3rd Secretary’s Residence. Apology made and walls repainted by Department of Works. Two plaques stolen from Embassy. Apology made and plaques replaced.
Switzerland- 24th May 1972, metal shield stolen from Consulate in Sydney. Apology made.
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics - Repairs to Embassy and grounds carried out by Departments of Works and Interior as a consequence of bomb explosion on 17th January 1972; apology made and compensation paid.
United Kingdom- 17th March 1971, vandalism to High Commission. Apology made and repairs effected by Department of Works.
United States of America- 10th April 1972, paint daubed at Consulate in Sydney. Apology made.
Yugoslavia - Four instances of minor damage to premises and property of the Consul in Perth.
Attacks on Australian Properties or Representatives
France - In February 1971 the car of the Australian Ambassador was dented and daubed with paint in Paris. There is no conclusive evidence that this attack was directed exclusively against Australian property.
In respect of Consular Posts in the various States, only Victorian and New South Wales Police incurred separate costs. In Victoria the cost to the Victorian Police of guarding Consular premises from 2nd May 1971 to ‘ 18th September 1972 was $13,810. In addition, the Commonwealth Police in Melbourne continued to maintain protective security over the Yugoslav ConsulGeneral at the cost of $1,160 per month until the cover was removed on 6th March 1972. The New South Wales Police Force incurred $5,412 for the Financial Year 1971-72 for full time police supervision of diplomatic and consular premises in New South Wales
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Attention to Senate Question No. 2062, in reply to which the Minister representing the Treasurer supplied certain statistics relating to costs of domestic air travel by Commonwealth employees. (Hansard 18.5.72 pp 1879-80). As to the remainder of the honourable member’s question I am informed that information in the detail requested is not readily available. I am reluctant to authorise the time and administrative effort which would be involved in obtaining these particulars.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Public Service Board has advised me that: ‘
For permanent staff employed ‘ under the Public Service Act 1922-1972, the rate of invalidity retirement for the period 1967-1971 in (i) the Australian Capital Territory and (ii) elsewhere was -
asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
What was the (a) name, (b) appointment held at time of award, (c) project for which award was made and (d) duration of award of each person who was awarded a World Health Organization Fellowship through the Department of Health during the last 10 years.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the, honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Wheat delivery quotas are allocated to individuals and, in some cases, farms in each State under State legislation for the administration of which designated authorities such as quota committees or quota review committees have full responsibility. There are understood to be more than 29,000 quotas in New South Wales and more than 17,000 in Victoria. None of the States has published details of individual quotas.
Fruit Growers: Debt Reconstruction Assistance (Question No. 6504) Mr Kennedy asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 October 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1972/19721025_reps_27_hor81/>.