28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr Manfred Douglas Cross made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the Division of Brisbane, Queensland.
-I inform the House of the death on 27th December 1972 of Mr Paul Jones who was a member of this House for the Division of Indi from 1928 to 1931. As a mark of respect to the memory of the deceased, I invite honourable members to rise in their places. (Honourable members having stood in their places).
– Thank you, gentlemen.
-The next business is the appointment of a Chairman of Committees.
– I move:
– I have much pleasure in seconding the nomination-
-Is there any further nomination? The time for further nominations has expired. I declare that the honourable member proposed, Mr Scholes, has been appointed as Chairman of Committees of this House.
– Mr Speaker, on behalf of the Government, I congratulate Mr Scholes on his appointment as Chairman of Committees of this House. All of those who have served with him in the Parliament know what an avid student of parliamentary procedures he is and what a redoubtable proponent he is of parliamentary rights. We appreciate the fact that his nomination was unopposed. He can count, I believe, on the support of all honourable members when you, Mr Speaker, are not in the Chair.
– Mr Speaker, I congratulate Mr Scholes on his appointment by this House as Chairman of Committees. We did not propose any candidate against him for we believe that, until we see him performing in the Chair, there is no warrant on our part to depart from the practice that the majority Party should provide the Chairman of Committees. We remember, however, the performance of the honourable member for Corio in the Standing Orders Committee on which I had the honour to serve with him. I then formed a very real impression of the commitment he has to Parliament as an institution serving the Australian democracy and I look forward to the continuance in his position as Chairman of Committees of the same instinct he showed on the Standing Orders Committee. I wish him well for the future.
– I congratulate the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) on being unanimously elected to this very important post. He has had experience already as a Deputy Chairman of Committees and in this capacity has performed to the satisfaction of honourable members and shown a good deal of competence. I hope that the same unbiassed approach that he showed on those occasions will continue now that he is Chairman of Committees. I have also been aware of his very keen interest in the Standing Orders Committee of this House. This has been a continuing interest. I wish him well in his new position.
– I thank the House, and my proposers, for the honour they have accorded me in selecting me as Chairman of Committees. Naturally I will endeavour to do my best as Chairman of Committees on behalf of the Parliament. As those who have spoken have said, I believe that the Parliament must serve a function in our democracy and unless the Parliament meets this requirement the democratic system will cease to operate effectively. I sincerely hope that I will bc able to fulfil the duties of the office in the manner in which the House would expect.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The 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 true religious freedom, which can exist only when Church and State are legally separated both In form and substance.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Beazley, Mr Enderby, Mr Drury and Mr Reynolds.
To the Honourable, the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of residents of Victoria respectfully sheweth:
That permitting kangaroos to be commercially exploited when permissible cropping rates are unknown and the means of enforcing controls or protective laws are completely ineffective in this land, is allowing this unique animal to follow the path of rarity or extinction, along which all wild animals have gone when subjected to exploitation in similar circumstances.
Estimates show that kangaroos alive in their natural habitat as tourist attractions are worth $200 million more to the Australian economy over a 9-year period than dead ones exported as pet food or toys over the same period.
We, Australians, have the right to see kangaroos in reasonable numbers on the landscape; we find the commercial slaughter of the kangaroo to be abhorrent and unjustified.
We your petitioners, therefore humbly pray that you will:
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 King and Mr Whittorn.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned members, members in association, adherents and worshippers within the Mount Gambier Methodist Circuit, and being 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 piay a more significant part in enabling the developing countries to achieve improved social conditions for all their people.
Your petitioners most humbly pray, that
All donations of $2.00 and over given for overseas development aid to the voluntary organisations forming the Australian Council for Overseas Aid be allowable income taxation deductions.
That action be taken by the Federal Government to increase significantly Australia’s aid to developing countries. by Mr Crean.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate action to provide sufficient funds for the States to finance the setting up and maintenance throughout Australia of:
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Beazley.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned residents of King Island respectfully sheweth:
That the residents of King Island have a legitimate case for the provision of a reliable, regular and economic shipping service to Melbourne. The disadvantages endured by the residents are:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will investigate the claims of tha Islanders and grant to the residents of King Island a reliable, regular and economic shipping service in recognition of the disadvantages to which they are subject. And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Davies.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of Australia in Parliament assembled. This humble petition of interested citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Honourable House will at once, in the public interest, take steps to dedicate as a National Park an area of 1,436 square miles as recommended in 1970 by the Planning Committee appointed by the Commonwealth. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Erwin.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to -
Ensure that finance from the Commonwealth will be given to the States for their public education services which provide schooling for seventy-eight per cent of Australia’s children. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, by Mr Garland.
– I now ask the Prime Minister, as I asked him several times directly and publicly last year without answer: Is he bound in making his policy decisions by all of the platform, constitution and rules of the Labor Party as approved at the Launceston Conference in 1971? If the answer is yes, does he, just as an example, intend to ensure adequate representation of trade unions on boards, commissions, trusts or similar government created bodies and in the managements of banking and insurance, mass media, communications and transport, natura) resource development and secondary industry, which is required by that platform? Does adequate representation mean that suitability will be an irrelevant consideration?
– The answer is yes to the first and the second questions. The answer to the third question is that suitability will always be the prime consideration in the appointment of any trade union representatives to any of the bodies named.
– Handicapped children are eligible for assistance under the isolated children’s scheme if they have to attend schools for the handicapped. An isolated child is one who because of the geographical isolation of his home does not have reasonable daily access to a government school offering courses at the appropriate level, namely secondary school if he is a secondary school child and primary school if he is a primary school child. The allowance for all children is $350 a year regardless of any means test, and that allowance is also made to a child who does not leave home but is having tuition as an isolated child at home. Above that allowance of $350 is a further allowance of $350 subject to a means test. The adjusted family income at which the means test commences to operate is $4,200 a year, but that rises by $450 a year for every other dependent child. So if there is another dependent child the means test would not begin to operate until $4,650. If there were another 2 children it would not begin to operate until $5,100. Above that is a discretionary allowance which is actually taken from a similar allowance constructed in relation to allowances for the education of Aborigines under certain circumstances - that is, $150 for clothing, $50 for books and between $26 and $104 for pocket money according to the age of the child concerned. It is anticipated that many of those who would be eligible for the full $700 under the means test would also be eligible for the further allowance.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Did the honourable gentleman state without qualification in his policy speech that all Commonwealth public servants would be granted 4 weeks annual leave? If so, why has the honourable gentleman dishonoured that promise? Will the honourable gentleman state whether his Government supports the universally accepted industrial principle that employees should be paid according to the work they perform and the skills they possess and not according to their membership of industrial organisations? Finally, will the honourable gentleman indicate whether his Government is taking or omitting to take any action which would hinder the implementation of his clearly stated election promise?
– On behalf of the Australian Labor Party at the election I undertook that all Commonwealth employees would receive 4 weeks annual leave. One of the first decisions the Government made - I think it was Cabinet decision No. 4 - was to implement that promise. We are resolute that it shall be honoured. The principle that we have in mind is that this industrial benefit should go to those who, through their membership of organisations, have fought for it and secured it. We assume that public servants are members of such organisations unless the contrary is shown.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by reminding him that on 3rd October last year the Premier of New South Wales named Bathurst-Orange as a growth area. Has the Premier of New South Wales discussed his plan with the honourable gentleman7 If so, did he outline his plan and state what action the New South Wales Government intends to take to make the BathurstOrange complex a reality? Did the Premier provide a timbetable to implement his programme and did he seek Federal financial and/or other matching assistance? Will the Prime Minister clarify the position?
– The Premier of New South Wales, and I and our appropriate Ministers, together with the Premier of Victoria and his appropriate Ministers, conferred in Albury and Wodonga on 25th January concerning the establishment of a new growth centre in that area. During the meeting the Premier of New South Wales and I agreed to a feasibility study for a regional growth centre in the Bathurst-Orange area proceeding at once with a view to joint CommonwealthState financial participation in the development of the centre. In announcing this we also stated that it was envisaged that this development would proceed concurrently with that of the Albury-Wodonga growth centre. An initial study of this centre has been commissioned by the National Urban and Regional Development Authority and is at present being conducted by consultants in cooperation with the New South Wales Department of Decentralisation and Development. The consultants have been instructed to submit a draft to NURDA for its consideration by 1st April this year. The purpose of the study is to provide NURDA with information from which it can advise on the extent of Federal involvement in the Bathurst-Orange growth centre.
– I direct to the Prime Minister a question concerning ministerial staff other than his own staff. What arrangements have been made for the security clearing of members of ministerial staffs? Will he assure the House that all staff who have access to Cabinet papers and official files will undergo the same security clearance procedures as apply to other members of the Public Service?
– I notice that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the third most important person in the Opposition, has placed a question on this matter on today’s notice paper. Perhaps I should give a formal reply in detail in that way. All that I am aware of is that my staff, the staff of my Deputy and the staff of the Ministers who assist us - Senator Willesee and Senator Bishop - have had the full security clearances which apply to our portfolios. I have not inquired as to other Ministers.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Did he indicate shortly after the appointment of his Ministry that normal security checks would not be applied to all ministerial staffs? Did he subsequently reverse his attitude on this question? Was this done on the suggestion of certain members of these ministerial staffs? Finally, was his initial reluctance to take this obviously sensible course of requiring normal security checks for ministerial staffs based upon a reasonable apprehension of the consequences if normal security procedures were applied to certain of his Ministers?
– I saw the report upon which the honourable member for Mackellar has based his question. The basis of the report was that I was asked whether my staff had had security clearances, as members of my staff. I said that, at that stage, they had not. In fact some members of my staff were senior members of the Public Service and had had such clearances before I had appointed them to my staff. Subsequently, completely voluntarily, all members of my staff sought clearances. They were all given clearances.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration: In the new citizenship oath or affirmation is it proposed to include the words renouncing all other allegiance’?
– It is proposed that in the new oath the words ‘renouncing all other allegiances’ be dropped because they have no legal effect. They cause emotional disturbance to people who are required to mouth them in a meaningless way because they have no legal effect. Therefore it is proposed in future not to impose something which is empty and yet emotionally harmful on prospective new citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia. So the words will be dropped if the present proposals are generally accepted, as I hope they will be.
– I refer the Prime Minister to his recent remarks when he said that he believed in open government and in keeping the Australian people informed of what goes on in government. I ask him: When does he intend to release the formula on which Australia recognised the People’s Republic of China? How does it differ from the formula on which Canada recognised the People’s Republic of China some time ago?
– The formula on which Australia recognised the People’s Republic of China was published about Christmas time. The whole of the accompanying documents were published at that time. There are no significant differences between the formula of recognition of the PRC by Australia and the formula of recognition of the PRC by Canada or, say, Britain.
– Is the Minister for Minerals and Energy able to quantify the losses of Western Australian mining companies which have arisen from recent revaluations of the Australian dollar? What, if any, is the anticipated loss to Western Australia in terms of postponed or cancelled developmental projects? Does the Government’s stated policy of control over mineral exports include the possibility of intervention in the performance of existing contracts so as to preclude the supply of Australian resources at unreasonably low prices?
– At the present time no-one can give an exact assessment of the ultimate impact of the recent devaluations on Western Australian mineral exporters in particular. There are only 3 certainties in life today - death, taxes, and successive, progressive and evermore frequent devaluations of the United States dollar. I will give a considered reply to the honourable member. An infinite variety of contracts which have been negotiated has been denominated in United States dollars, and, worse than that, they extend over a very considerable period of time. However a considered reply will be given to the honourable gentleman as soon as possible.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for External Territories. It is related to an important matter of principle, namely, the request made by the Papua New Guinea Government for the transfer to Papua New Guinea of power over internal security. Is it correct, as reported, that the Minister has stated that he has only noted this request, and is it correct that he will transfer this power only on certain conditions, one condition being that the transfer is revocable, in other words, that the power can be returned to the Australian Government at any time prior to Papua New Guinea gaining independence?
– The honourable member will be aware that the former government, of which he was a member, stated that it envisaged processes towards -self-government being carried out with a target date of 1st December 1973, and that as part of those processes there will be a handing over of powers and authorities to the Papua New Guinea Government. At the discussions the Prime Minister and I had with the Papua New Guinea Ministers in Port Moresby a request was made to us - and we noted that request - that in part the transfer arrangements will be undertaken in the course of this year, with the same target date for self-government as prescribed by the former government, with which target we entirely agree.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Immigration a question. Now that the question of an immigration policy is seen more in the context of Australia’s manpower and economic programmes as well as part of the overall view of population growth and decentralisation, I ask whether the Government has in its long term planning considerations given any attention to long term population targets? Further, will the Minister have examined the range of assessments of the population Australia can support, which have been made by technical authorities, some of those authorities having given estimates as high as 100 million people?
– It is true that many assessments have been made by various agencies of what would be the desirable or optimum population of Australia. I have heard estimates ranging from 20 million to 30 million to 50 million to 100 million people. I have also heard it suggested that we should try to keep our population at exactly its present level, which would impose considerable restraints on those honourable members who are still reasonably fertile. The question posed by the honourable member is one that has real significance because obviously if we are to have long term objectives for the nation we must have some idea of our targets for the future in relation to the size, structure and distribution of the Australian population. There has been under way for some time - and I acknowledge that - a general population investigation and study by a team headed by Professor Borrie of the Australian National University. This study is the most comprehensive that has ever been attempted. It was already under way when I took office. I have conferred with Professor Borrie and asked him as far as possible to speed up the completion of his report so that we can have the raw material for decision making in the future. We have not got it at the present time. I hope we will get it by perhaps June 1974. It might be just as well to acknowledge at this stage that a full and definitive reply will be made to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition - I think I am right in using that title - who has placed a very commendable question on the notice paper about the survey. I will be delighted to answer it in full. But that is the state of affairs at the moment. The inquiry is under way. I have asked that it be accelerated. I hope that its findings will be available midway through next year and I anticipate that it will give us the raw material for decision making about the future size of the population of Australia.
– In view of the replies given to my Leader and to the honourable member for Mackellar, I ask the Prime Minister: Are Cabinet submissions to be circulated to all Ministers? Are staffs of Ministers to have access to Cabinet submis sions? Are ministerial staffs to have access to departmental files? In view of the Prime Minister’s reply, from which I gathered that ministerial staffs are not required to have security clearances, on what basis does he see the distinction between the clearance now required of new recruits into the Public Service and the non-clearance apparently required of recruits to ministerial staffs?
– Cabinet papers are distributed to Ministers alone. Ministers are responsible for those papers remaining confidential. I have not asked any of my Ministers whether they have kept them secure. I have no doubt that they have. I have not inquired whether any ministerial staffs have access to departmental papers. I have no doubt that any departmental papers are completely secure in the hands of every one of my Ministers or anybody, any of my Ministers appoints to his staff.
– Is the Minister for Housing aware of statements made by the Victorian Minister for Housing in which he claims that under the proposed new CommonwealthState housing agreement no houses will be allowed to be built in country areas? Is this statement true? If it is not true, as I am sure it is not, is there any basis upon which such a statement could be made?
– I have read of the claim by the Victorian Minister for Housing to the effect that it is intended by way of the proposed Commonwealth-State housing agreement to prevent the provision of homes in country areas. I think the Minister may have, derived this understanding from the Commonwealth’s declared intention to guide the States in making homes available to needy people and I think he has based his reaction on our proposed criteria, for instance, that the people who should be provided with a housing commission home are those who have an income representing 80 per cent or less of average weekly earnings. It is also proposed that rentals should not exceed 23 per cent of earnings and that special allowances should be made in respect of dependent people.
There is no intention at all on the part of the Government to discourage the provision of housing commission homes in country areas.
In. fact, it is the firm intention of this Government to provide special encouragement in that regard. I have, noted that a number of the State Housing Ministers believe that it is necessary to provide some extra latitude for the purpose of encouraging the employment of key personnel in remote or developing areas. This applies especially to Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia and, to some extent, in Victoria. The attitude of the Victorian Minister is completely without foundation, but I must say that his misplaced attitude on this matter is not in isolation. There seems to be a great deal of misunderstanding on his part. I hope that the impetuous nature of his statement does not have the effect of prejudicing the intention of the Australian Government to negotiate a new Commonwealth-State housing agreement, the basic purpose of which is to make a lot more money available for housing at lower rates of interest with the object of eliminating as quickly as we can that great backlog of housing applications which has now reached the astronomical figure of 93,000 in Australia. This is the legacy of housing which the new Government has inherited. We are dissatisfied with the position and intend doing something about it, I hope with the cooperation of the Victorian Government and the Victorian Housing Minister.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government, in considering proposed changes to the border between this country and Papua New Guinea, has taken into account the significance to Australia of the great North East Channel particularly in relation to defence and also trade and shipping. I ask also: Is the Government mindful of the fact that at present this channel is wholly under Australian jurisdiction and that if the border is changed to 10 degrees south latitude, a very substantial part of it will come under the jurisdiction of Papua New Guinea?
– I can give the assurance that this matter is being considered by the Australian Government. The defence of Australia is certainly involved in transit of the Torres Strait; so also is the defence of Australia’s neighbour, Papua New Guinea, which I expect will be independent within the lifetime of this Parliament. It ought to be possible for these 2 neighbouring countries, particularly in the light of their long association ex tending throughout this century, to achieve a border which will ensure that this transit with its defence significance is available to both countries. Australia would not give up its use of this channel nor does it expect Papua New Guinea to forgo the use of it.
– Is the Minister for Labour aware of any award or determination covering employees of the Commonwealth that makes financial membership of an industrial organisation a condition for the employee to receive payments for annual leave, public holidays and sick leave? Can the Minister state whether any such conditions have applied during the full term of the previous Liberal-Country Party government - a period of some 23 years?
– I am obliged to the honourable member for asking this question without notice because it gives me an opportunity of reminding the Opposition members of one fact which will prove embarrassing to them. In 1927 there was a gentleman named Clyde Robert Cameron who was then 14 years of age. In 1947 he, together with the present Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Souter, appeared before the Public Service Arbitrator in a hearing to determine a new determination for the Commonwealth Railways. As a consequence of this, there was written into the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator’s determination for the Commonwealth Railways, a provision which strictly laid down the condition that nobody would be entitled to paid public holidays and other benefits unless they were members of their appropriate unions. The determination then went on to say that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner would be entitled-
– Are we still in 1927 or have we moved on?
– The rest of us are in 1947. I repeat that it was written into the determination that no employee would be entitled to the benefit of paid holidays unless he was a member of his appropriate union, but that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner would be entitled to assume that all employees were members of their respective unions unless the union concerned advised the Commissioner to the contrary. This worked extremely well. Nobody was prevented from joining the Commonwealth Railways by the mere fact that he was not a member of a union, but if he was not a member he was not entitled to share in union benefits.
In considering the Government’s proposal to introduce an extra week’s annual leave for members of the Commonwealth Public Service who were to be covered by the determination which was about to be made by the Public Service Arbitrator I discussed with Mr Cooley, Chairman of the Public Service Board, the method by which we could determine who were members of a union and who were not. Mr Cooley saw some difficulty in applying the rule unless there were some formula by which various departments and the Public Service Board could easily discover which members of the Commonwealth Public Service were members of a union, so I put to him that we ought to adopt the proposal which was adopted by the Public Service Arbitrator in 1947. Mr Cooley expressed great relief at not having to go through what he thought would be a cumbersome procedure for discovering who were members of a union and who were not. The remarkable thing about this is that the scheme in the Commonwealth Railways has worked so well-
– I rise to order. Mr Speaker, I should like your ruling on a matter which was raised in previous Parliaments. I refer to the length of answers and the time that a Minister may take in answering a question. The Minister has taken us so far from 1927 to 1947 and he still has 30 years to go.
– There is no substance in the point of order. The Minister is entitled to answer the question in the way that he thinks fit.
– I said earlier that I knew that the Opposition would be embarrassed by my reply and my forecast has been borne out. I conclude by reminding honourable members opposite that in the whole of the 23 years of their reign in government not one single attempt was made or one initiative taken by any Minister from the parties which sit opposite to have removed from that determination the provision to which I have referred and which is still in the determination.
– Can the Minister for Defence tell the House how many troops will be withdrawn from Singapore this year? What is his time scale for the withdrawal of the remainder of the Australian troops?
– The honourable member would be aware of the policy commitment of the Government when it announced that the task force located in the Singapore area would be withdrawn. The battalion will be withdrawn, the battery will be withdrawn and I have since determined that there are a further 180 personnel who could be and would be regarded as being combat forces who would also be withdrawn. This is in line with the policy statement enunciated by the Prime Minister some time ago.
– Will they be withdrawn this year?
– As we indicated, they will be withdrawn when their period of duty expires at the end of 1973. The withdrawals will begin then and will be completed early in 1974.
– Has the Minister for Transport any plans to relieve the Bass Strait shipping freight crisis? He will recall the present Prime Minister guaranteeing in Hobart during the election campaign that Tasmania would not be disadvantaged in respect to shipping freights as compared with freight rates on the mainland. Will the Minister give consideration to removing this considerable disadvantage by introducing a shipping freight subsidy to trans-Bass Strait shipping services?
– It is true that in the course of the election campaign the Prime Minister did give an assurance to the electorate in Tasmania that the Labor Party, if elected to government, would do something positive about the disparity in shipping freight rates and the great difference demonstrated by a comparison between the cost of transporting goods a certain distance in the mainland States and the cost of transporting goods an equal distance between Tasmania and the mainland. Within a very short time - I have seen a brief rundown of it already - I expect to receive a report from the Bureau of Transport Economics dealing with this subject. I know that that report already has disclosed quite a substantial difference in freight rates. I hope to put a submission to Cabinet shortly, not only on that subject but also on another matter with which one of the colleagues of the honourable member is concerned, namely, the King Island trade.
– I ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Army: Is it a fact that the $27m “3rd Training Battalion camp at Singleton, New South Wales, is not being used to anywhere near its capacity? Is this due to compulsory national service being discontinued? Can the Minister inform the House as to the future plans for use of this important establishment which means so much to the Singleton district and to the nation?
– This matter is under consideration. In line with the policy of the Government, national service was discontinued. But it may be of interest to honourable members at this stage if I inform them that approximately 30 per cent of national servicemen have elected to remain in the Services until their period of duty has been completed. As a result of the Government’s policy in relation to the abolition of national service in Australia, naturally there has been some reduction in the personnel at some camps. Two camps are affected in this way, and Singleton is one. of them. However, I can assure the honourable gentleman that this matter is under consideration. The Government’s policy provides for an all-volunteer force in Australia and for maintaining the forces at the level that we believe is adequate and necessary. At this moment an interdepartmental inquiry is taking place to determine what should be the level of personnel in the Australian Army. The report resulting from that inquiry should be available to me very shortly.
About 35,000 servicemen are now in the Army; slightly more than 30,000 of them are members of the regular forces. I think I ought to indicate at this stage that what I said on behalf of this Government, when we were in Opposition, was that we believed a level of 31,000 troops would be necessary for the Regular Army. At present it is about 30,800. We are confident that by June there will be more than 31,000 volunteers in the Army. In those circumstances and depending upon the results of the inquiry which is now taking place to determine the level of the armed forces, consideration will be given to the accommodation that is now available at Singleton. I can assure the honourable gentleman again that as a result of our foreign policy, when the battalion and battery are returned from Singapore, at the end of this year, the accommodation that is now available will be required.
– My question is to the Minister for Education. Did the New South Wales Government make a specific application to the Commonwealth for additional funds to employ qualified teachers currently available for but unable to gain employment in New South Wales? What was the basis of the reply given to any such representations? Finally, was the New South Wales Minister for Education, Mr Willis, correct in publicly stating that the Commonwealth apparently was unprepared to make any further funds for educational purposes available to the States during the remainder of this year?
– One of the interesting things about certain of the State Ministers is that when the last Budget was brought down they applauded very vehemently the educational estimates of sums received in it and now that expenditure has been increased by nearly $30m foreshadowed this year they find a great deal to criticise. To come back specifically to the question of New South Wales, I have not received any letter from the New South Wales Government asking in specific terms for Commonwealth finance to assist the New South Wales Government with unemployed teachers. So far as I know, there is no admission in specific terms by the New South Wales Government that it has unemployed teachers.
The form of submission which came to me from Mr Willis and was subsequently sent to the Prime Minister from the Premier of New South Wales was one that any State government could have made. It was not about a specific New South Wales problem. There were categories of requests about the training of teachers - for instance, specialist teachers for handicapped children and the training of teachers as librarians - which any State government could have made. In those circumstances, to have granted the requests of New South Wales would have opened up the whole question of funding education for the States and for that reason the request that came from Mr Willis was referred to the Interim Schools Committee whose function it is to examine, among other things, the funding of education to the States. Subsequently representations came from the New South Wales
Teachers Federation and others and I indicated to them that if there was a request that locked off the New South Wales problem as one special to New South Wales I could undertake to ask the Prime Minister to consider it sympathetically. However, it is strange that there is only one State from which this agitation about unemployed teachers comes and that is New South Wales. It is also the State which more than any other put the Commonwealth Government into a predicament because it alone increased university fees by 161 per cent and made necessary, especially in New South Wales, the provisions we have made for students in need. And this happened despite the fact that we heard a very great deal from New South Wales about the generosity of the late Commonwealth Government in meeting the New South Wales deficit.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Is it not a fact that all Ministers of the Government are members of the Cabinet? Do all Ministers as members of the Cabinet put themselves in a position where they must have available to them security information? Do not Ministers rely on their staffs for paper handling and filing? For example, does not the Prime Minister himself rely on his staff? Will he in the public and the national interest require clearances at an appropriate level for the staffs of all Ministers? If he is unwilling to take this course will he personally decide which papers have a security content and not distribute these papers to Ministers unwilling to have their staffs cleared? Will he say which Ministers are unwilling to have their staffs cleared?
– The only thing that I have to add to the previous answer I gave to the right honourable gentleman is that some documents which are the basis of Cabinet submissions or which support Cabinet submissions are not shown to all members of the Cabinet. The Cabinet submissions are shown to all Ministers because all Ministers are members of the Cabinet. I have no doubt that every Minister keeps his Cabinet documents completely secure. I can speak for my own Department, of course. There are some documents which are subject to certain security classifications and this means that they are shown to persons on the basis of their need to know of them. Those documents are shown only to persons who need to know them and on my own staff they are shown to persons who have the top security clearance. One of the persons I have in mind had that clearance when he served in several Commonwealth departments. He had it before he came to my staff, and he alone deals with those documents.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The honourable the Prime Minister appeared to me to take notes as I asked the question and he has failed to answer it.
– I shall table my notes if the right honourable member wants me to.
– Order! There is no point of order involved. A Minister is entitled to answer a question in the way he thinks befitting the question.
– Mr Speaker, do I understand you to be ruling that the Prime Minister need not answer a question which goes to public security?
-Order! I am acting on the precedent set by my predecessor.
– I wish to ask the honourable gentleman a supplementary question.
– No. The right honourable gentleman is out of order. I call the honourable member for Hawker.
– Mr Speaker, might I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper. This is the longest question time we have had in my experience.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker. It has been the practice of this House for some time that questions should run for 45 minutes. Questions were called on today 10 minutes after the normal sitting time.
– They have run for 47 minutes.
-Order! I shall reply to the point of order. The length of question time has nothing to do with the Chair. It is a matter for the Prime Minister and the Government.
Report on Inquiry
– For the information of honourable members I present the report by Mr Justice Moore on the inquiry conducted on behalf of the Australian Government in relation to proposed steel price increases by the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and Australian Iron and Steel Pty Ltd.
I might say that copies of this report are already available for honourable members in the Parliamentary Library.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Mr DALY (Grayndler- Leader of the
House) (3.28) - I move:
That, in relation to the proceedings on any Sales Tax Bills, so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent -
the presentation and the first readings of the Bills together;
one motion being moved and one question being put in regard to, respectively, the second readings, the committee’s report stage, and the third readings, of all the Bills together, and
the consideration of all the Bills as a whole together in a committee of the whole.
This motion is purely procedural and no immediate introduction of sales tax legislation is contemplated. Alteration of sales tax rates usually involves the introduction of 9 sales tax Bills. Over a period of many years the House has found it convenient for the Bills to be taken together. Standing order 291 permits these Bills to be introduced without notice but it is necessary to suspend Standing Orders to enable the Bills to be presented and dealt with together. When passed, the motion will remain effective for this session. By moving the motion at this time we will avoid the speculation which could result if a motion were introduced later in the year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Daly, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to bring forward legislation to lower the franchise age and the age of candidature to 18 years for Federal elections. At present, the Commonwealth Electoral Act provides that persons who are not under the age of 21 years are entitled to have their names placed on. the roll and, when enrolled, to vote at elections for sena tors and for members of the House of Representatives. However, under a special provision, a member of the defence forces serving in a war zone outside Australia, who is under 21 years of age, is entitled to vote at a Federal election.
This is an historic occasion - an occasion, Mr Speaker, too long delayed. This Government when in Opposition eneavoured to extend the democratic right of the franchise to the youth of Australia. Private members Bills were introduced into both Houses of the Parliament in 1968 and 1970 and debated at some length. The Liberal-Country Party Government declined to bring these Bills to a vote. It preferred to deny this well recognised democratic right to an important section of the Australian community - the youth of this country - although the franchise for those 18 years and above is well recognised throughout the world. I am delighted that the privilege of introducing these historic measures - of rectifying this denial of natural justice - has fallen to me and that it is one of the first legislative acts of this Parliament. For me it is a proud and significant moment. After many years in Parliament and in Opposition I am indeed honoured to be asked by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to present this, the first legislative proposal of the new Government, in the first session of the 28th Parliament.
The reasons why the Labor Party attaches such importance to this legislation were summed up in the most pertinent way by the Prime Minister when, as Leader of the Opposition, he spoke on the second reading of the Adulthood Bill which was introduced by him on 21st November 1968. The Prime Minister said:
By any standards men and women are as mature at 18 years now as they were at 21 only a generation ago. They are more mature intellectually, physically, socially and economically. They stay at school longer. They go on to tertiary and technical education in much greater numbers. They are physically bigger, stronger and healthier. They conduct themselves with greater aplomb. Their consumption in all respects is greater. They make their presence felt and their ideas known much more readily. They appear in the mass media and respond to them. They attend the theatre and perform there. They practice a knowledge of the performing and plastic arts at a much younger age than men and women did a generation ago. Psephologists, psychologists and political scientists assert - as a result of their investigations- that people are as mature, articulate and informed in their political views now at 18 as they are at 21 years of age. As far as can be determined they are as informed at 18 years of age now, as they used to be a generation ago at 21 years of age.
These facts are undeniable. The Prime Minister’s statement is even more valid today than at the time it was made. This Bill, therefore, symbolises the commitment of the Labor Government to the youth of this country - to a new Australia of equal, political, social and economic opportunity for all. It recognises in the only tangible way that those who accept responsibilities to the community should enjoy an appropriate status. At 18 years of age young Australian men and women may - or soon will be able to - enter into contracts, dispose of property, take and defend legal action, drink, drive a motor vehicle, marry without parental consent, and under the previous Government could be called up for military service. Thousands of them pay taxes. Their status as full citizens of Australia will now be properly and legally recognised. There is a world-wide trend towards lowering the age of majority. In the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States of America and the Federal Republic of Germany the franchise age is 18 years. Indeed, some 53 countries have adopted a franchise age of less than 21 years. I seek leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard a list of those countries prepared for me by the Chief Electoral Officer.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Afghanistan - All citizens over 20 years.
Albania - All citizens over 18 years.
Algeria - All citizens over 19 years.
Andorra’ - All male heads of families.
Argentina - All citizens over 18 years.
Austria - All citizens over 20 years.
Barbados - Universal adult suffrage - 18 years.
Bolivia - All single citizens over 21 years. Married citizens over 18 years.
Brazil - All citizens over 18 years.
Bulgaria - All citizens over 18 years.
Burma: - All citizens over 18 years.
Cambodia - All citizens over 20 years.
Canada - All citizens over 18 years.
Ceylon - All citizens over 18 years.
China, Republic of - All citizens over 18 years.
Costa Rica - Citizens over 20 years.
Czechoslovakia- All citizens over 18 years.
Dominican Republic - All citizens over 18 years.
Ecuador - All literate citizens over 18 years.
El Salvador - All citizens over 18 years.
German Democratic Republic (East Germany) - All citizens “over 18 years.
German Federal Republic (West Germany) - All citizens over 18 years.
Guatemala - All citizens over 18 years.
Honduras - All citizens over 18 years.
Hungary - All citizens over 18 years.
Indonesia - All citizens over 18 years.
Israel - All citizens over 18 years.
Japan - All citizens over 20 years.
Jordan - Every male Transjordanian over 18 years. Bedouins may not vote.
Korea (South)- -All citizens over 20 years.
Korea (North) - All citizens over 18 years.
Liechtenstein - All citizens over 18 years.
Mexico - All citizens over 21 years and married citizens over 18 years. Mongolia - All citizens over 18 years.
Netherlands - All citizens over 18 years.
New Zealand - All citizens over 20 years.
Nicaragua - All citizens over 21 years. Literate or married persons over 18 also, ‘Bachelors’ i.e. school leavers degree under 18.
Poland - All citizens over 18 years.
Rumania - All citizens over 18 years.
Sweden - All citizens over 20 years (not confirmed).
Switzerland - All males over 20 years.
Tanzania - All citizens over 18 years.
Thailand - Thai nationals over 20 years.
Tunisia - All citizens over 20 years.
Turkey - All citizens over 20 years.
United Kingdom - All British and citizens of Irish Republic living in the United Kingdom over 18 years.
United States of America - All citizens over 18 years.
Uraguay - All citizens over 18 years.
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics - All citizens over 18 years.
Venezuela - All citizens over 18 years.
Vietnam (South) - All citizens over 18 years.
Vietnam (North) - All citizens over 18 years.
Yugoslavia - All citizens over 18 years.
– I thank the House. That Australia has not fallen into line long ago with the trend in these countries remains one of the regrettable features of the policy of the previous Government. It is absurd and anomalous that persons in the 18-20 years age group are able to vote at some elections and not at others. The Prime Minister wrote to all State Premiers in December 1972 advising them that the Commonwealth Government would lower the franchise age for all men and women to 18 years early in the sittings of the new Parliament. The position with regard to the franchise in the 6 States of Australia is as follows: South Australia and Western Australia have enacted legislation to reduce the voting age to 18 years; New South Wales passed legislation in 1970 lowering the franchise age to 18 years but the Act has not yet been proclaimed; in Victoria the Premier has announced that the franchise age will be lowered to 18 years before the next State elections which, I understand, are expected to be held about the middle of this year; the Queensland Cabinet approved the towering of the franchise age to 18 years but the Government deferred consideration pending information as to the Commonwealth Government’s intentions; in Tasmania a Bill which included the lowering of the franchise age was passed by the Lower House of the last Parliament.
Honourable members will be aware that under the provisions of section 41 of the Constitution, no adult person who has, or acquires the right to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of a State shall, while the right continues, be prevented by any law of the Commonwealth from voting at elections for either House of Parliament of the Commonwealth. The franchise age question came before the High Court of Australia last year. The High Court decided that under the terms of section 41, adult person’ meant a person not less than 21 years of age. However, it was made clear by the High Court that the way was open for Parliament to extend the vote to 18, 19 and 20-year-old citizens 6y legislative action.
The Bill before the House contains transitional provisions which are designed to exempt the 18, 19 and 20-year-olds from the compulsory enrolment provisions of the existing law within the period of 3 months from the date of commencement of the lower franchise age. This period is considered necessary in order that appropriate publicity might be given to the entitlement of the newly enfranchised persons and to provide them sufficient time to become acquainted with their entitlements and obligations before the compulsory enrolment provisions are applied. Of course, any person who turns 21 years of age during the 3-month period will automatically come under the compulsory enrolment provisions upon attaining 21 just as he would at present. The Bill provides that the proposed amendments will come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation and efforts will be made with the respective joint roll States - other than South Australia - to fix a common date from which the lower franchise age will operate for Commonwealth and State purposes. In South Australia the 18-year-old franchise has been operative for State elections since June last year.
I now turn to that part of the Bill which deals with the lowering of the age for candidature. As honourable members may be aware, the age qualification for candidature at Federal elections has been coincidental with the minimum age for enrolment and voting since federation and the Government takes the view that there is no logical reason to depart from the uniform age practice under Commonwealth electoral law. We believe that, in conjunction with the extension of the right to vote at 18 years of age, young people of this age should also have the right to nominate for election if they so choose. They already enjoy this privilege for the South Australian House of Assembly elections.
Accordingly, the Bill proposes an amendment of the Commonwealth Electoral Act which will have the effect of bringing the age qualification for candidates into line with that proposed for enrolment and voting. The age for candidature for Australian Capital Territory House of Representatives elections is governed by the Australian Capital Territory Representation Act and a separate Bill will be introduced to amend that Act. Separate legislation is not required in respect of age for candidature for Northern Territory House of Representatives elections as this matter is covered by the amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act proposed by this Bill.
This Bill is one of the most far-reaching reforms within the Australian political community for generations. Although the distribution of 18 to 20 year old persons is not yet available electorate by electorate, the Commonwealth Statistician estimates that there are almost 700,000 young Australian men and women in this category, all of whom will be entitled to the franchise under this measure. In consequence at the next Federal elections a wider and more representative Australian electorate will choose their political leaders. In his policy speech, the Prime Minister proclaimed to the nation that the 3 goals of the Labor Government would be: Firstly, to promote equality; secondly, to involve the people of Australia in the decision-making processes of our land; and thirdly, to liberate the talents and uplift the horizons of the Australian people.
With this measure we make a significant advance towards these goals. We commit this Government, this Parliament and this nation to ensuring that the views of the young people are listened to and are properly understood and considered by the Parliament. In so doing we hope to remove one of the causes of discontent from the past. Our young people inevitably will be involved in the political life of the nation and will be able to divert their creative energies and enthusiasm to a better Australia. This Bill deserves the support of all honourable members, and I commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Snedden) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Daly, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The franchise age for the Australian Capital Territory is governed by the relevant regulations but the purpose of this Bill is to lower to 18 years the candidature age for House of Representatives elections for the Australian Capital Territory. It is proposed to repeal section 5 of the Australian Capital Territory Representation Act and to amend section 7 of that Act.
Section 69 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which specifies the age qualification for candidature, is applicable to House of Representatives elections for the Australian Capital Territory and the amendment of that section proposed by the Commonwealth Electoral Bill which I introduced earlier this day will have effect in respect of House of Representatives elections in the Australian Capital Territory. The amendments proposed by this Bill will therefore bring the age qualification for candidature for Australian Capital Territory elections into line with the age qualification for candidature for Senate elections and for House of Representatives elections in the States. The figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician indicate that the number of 18, 19 and 20 year olds in the Australian Capital Territory at the time of the 1971 census was 8,950. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hunt) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Daly, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Northern Territory (Administration) Act to bring the age for candidature for elections of members of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory into line with the candidature age of 18 years proposed for Senate and House of Representatives elections by the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1973.
The Northern Territory (Administration) Act is administered by my colleague the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby) but, as the subject matter of this Bill is related in part to the subject matter contained in the Commonwealth Electoral Bill, which I introduced earlier, my colleague felt that it would be appropriate for me to introduce this Bill also.
The lowering of the age for candidature for Northern Territory Legislative Council elections to 18 years is a natural consequence of the adoption of that age for candidature for election as a member of this House. The lowering of the age for enrolment and voting for both House of Representatives and Legislative Council elections in the Northern Territory will be achieved by amendment of the Northern Territory Electoral Regulations. The Commonwealth Statistician has advised that at the time of the last census there were 4,362 persons resident in the Northern Territory in the 18 to 20 year old age group. Mr Speaker, I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hunt) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hayden, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill provides for generous increases in all pensions and in unemployment and sickness benefits by amounts ranging from $1.50 a week to $14 a week. Furthermore it provides for payment of the pension increases to be made retrospectively from and including the first pay day for each category of pension occurring after the election of this Government. The cost of these proposals, and others benefiting dependants which I shall outline a little later, will be $126m in a full year and $66.2m for this financial year.
This Bill provides a common benefit rate for all pensions and for unemployment and sickness benefits of $21.50 a week standard rate and $37.50 a week married rate. In doing this it removes several seriously unjust, penalising anomalies. This Bill has promptly honoured the undertaking of the Prime Minister made when he delivered the policy speech of the Australian Labor Party. He said then:
The basic pension rate will no longer be tied to the financial and political considerations of annual Budgets. All pensions will be immediately raised by $1.50 and thereafter, every Spring and every Autumn, the basic pension rate will be raised by $1.50 until it reaches 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings. It will never be allowed to fall below that level.
The Bill does more than give effect to the undertaking to increase immediately the basic rate of all pensions by $1.50 a week. In setting common benefit rates for all pensions and for unemployment and sickness benefits we have largely established the principle that common needs deserve common rates of benefit.
We still have some way to go before we fully realise this objective. In the near future I hope to be making further statements on behalf of the Government outlining additional steps which will be undertaken to realise fully this objective. In the meantime the goal already achieved is an extremely important one; it represents a great advance in social values and the appreciation of human worth. Moreover it locks into an ongoing programme whereby benefit rates will be automatically adjusted twice a year until they reach 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. Thereafter there will be regular automatic increases to retain this relationship to average weekly earnings. But more on this later.
It is worth noting some of the more objectionable forms of discrimination which will be eliminated by this Bill. For instance we have removed the long-standing, irritating penalty against the class B and C widows who were deemed eligible for widows pension but paid $2.75 a week less than a class A widows pension. We have ended the punishing meanness with which unemployment and sickness benefits have been paid. A man supporting a wife and 2 children, drawing unemployment benefit and even after allowing for child endowment, has been paid a benefit rate some $17 a week below the updated Melbourne University poverty line. There will be no more of this poor-house, alms-giving mentality which sees merit in official meanness and virtue in suffering, as long as it is in others.
The bulk of the unemployed today are the innocent social casualties of the disastrous economic policies of the last Government and its 1971 Budget. These people and their unhappy families neither sought to be, nor wish to remain, among the ranks of the unemployed. The need they suffer as a result of the meanness of unemployment benefit rates and the humiliation they suffer from unwanted unemployment are the penalty visited on them by the blundering economic policies of the last Government. One of the most objectionable aspects of the practices of the previous Government was the complete denial of any benefit at all for dependent full time student children over 16 years of an unemployment or sickness beneficiary. We have ended this injustice practiced by mean men for too long. Henceforth these student children will attract full benefit rights irrespective of age.
In view of the insignificant cost of this proposal - $600,000 in a full year and $200,000 for the remainder of this year - the dogged persistence with which previous governments have clung to this practice of denying and depriving the dependent student children of the needy unemployed is beyond any reasonable comprehension. Unfortunately some people in the community worry that a modest rate of unemployment benefits, as we propose, will destroy the industry and moral fibre of the nation. Given the fact that the weekly rate of benefit of $21.50 for a full week is much less than a great many business representatives pay for a single meal with a client - largely at taxpayers’ expense, of course - I doubt that anyone drawing benefits will be corrupted by any new found lavishness in his life style. Unemployment benefits do not pander to lazy layabouts. The work test administered by the Department of Labour through its employment offices effectively controls the work-shy.
For those most tragic social casualties - the homeless drifting males (and sometimes females) undermined by an unstable personality and reinforced in their sense of failure and worthlessness by their peer group and the insulation an aspiring middle class society tends to set between itself and these people - we are doing something positive right now. For too long attitudes to these people have been negative and repressive. Society has been prepared to outlay large amounts of money for its police, courts and prisons to repress these people. Considerably less money spent on rehabilitation and social aid programmes will provide greater benefit for society. It is this positive role which we now stress. A working party of top social welfare administrators and other experts has been appointed by this Government to investigate and report on a suitable programme.
We are genuinely committed to a belief in the supreme importance of human worth, the individual’s entitlement to treatment with dignity and his right to self respect.
I will now outline the main provisions of the Bill before the House. The standard rate of pension for aged persons, invalids and widows with children is to be. increased by $1.50 a week to $21.50 a week. As I have just mentioned, the standard rate will also apply to widow pensioners without children in future, which means that these women will receive increases of $4.25 a week. The married rate of pension is to be increased by $3 a week to $37.50 a week, that is, increased by $1.50 a week to $18.75 a week, for each partner. The age limit of 21 years for the payment of additional age, invalid or widow’s pension for full-time student children as well as the additional guardian’s or mother’s allowance, as appropriate where the standard rate applies, will be removed. Payment of additional pension for full-time students together with mother’s or guardian’s allowance, if applicable, will continue without regard to the child’s age until either eligibility for pension ceases or the child’s studies cease. Unemployment or sickness benefit received by a spouse will be exempt for the purpose of calculating age or invalid pension. Unemployment benefit rates and also sickness benefit rates where payment has not been made for a continuous period of more than 6 weeks are to be increased by $14 a week to $21.50 a week for unmarried persons 16 to 17 years of age, by $10.50 a week to $21.50 a week for unmarried persons 18 to 20 years of age, by $4.50 a week to $21.50 a week for unmarried adults and unmarried minors with no parent living in Australia and by $12.50 a week to $37.50 a week for married beneficiaries whose wives are dependent upon them.
Sickness benefit rates where payment has been made for a continuous period of more than 6 weeks will be increased by $8.50 a week to $21.50 a week for unmarried persons 16 to 20 years of age, by $1.50 a week to $21.50 a week for unmarried adults and unmarried minors with no parent living in Australia and by $9.50 a week to $37.50 a week for married beneficiaries whose wives are dependent upon them. The age limit of 16 years for the payment of additional unemployment or sickness benefit in respect of a child will be removed where the child is engaged in full-time studies. Payment will therefore be continued without regard to the child’s age until either eligibility for benefit ceases or the child’s studies cease. Any age or invalid pension received by a spouse will be exempt for the purpose of calculating the amount of ‘ unemployment or sickness benefit payable. I emphasise that these measures represent a first step towards ensuring that social security beneficiaries receive a rightful share of the community’s increasing prosperity.
When defending pension levels in the past, honourable members will recall that the former Government consistently compared increases in the rates of pensions with upward movements in the consumer price index. However, as I have stressed on so many occasions, the relevant comparison to make is to relate pension increases to increases in average weekly earnings; average weekly earnings themselves give a fairly good indication of the average standard of prosperity in the community. I have no wish to draw comparisons between the position as it was over 20 years ago with what it is now but I feel that I should say that, although the LiberalCountry Party Government did follow a policy of increasing pensions faster than rises in prices generally and there were some significant increases during their term in office, from about the beginning of the 1950s the pension as a percentage of average weekly earnings dropped quite dramatically and it never fully recovered from that position. This situation will be corrected by this Government. The increase proposed in this Bill lifts the standard rate of pension as a proportion of average weekly earnings to the highest level of any time in the last 6 years. This position will continue to be improved. The following table which I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard gives a comparison of a selection of existing benefit rates and of the rates we are proposing.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
The most significant point the table illustrates is the long term neglect by previous governments which allowed these rates to fall below the updated poverty line, set by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research; to an appalling degree. The substantial improvements we propose in this Bill slice into this problem appreciably but still fall well short of what we regard as a satisfactory situation. We have made a positive start. Within a few months we will be taking further action to overcome this thoroughly undesirable situation where social security benefits provide a living standard below a poverty line defined by the researchers who set it as being at a very austere level. Incidentally I will be having more to say on the subject of poverty in Australia in the near future. I want to stress however that we see the problem of poverty in this wealthy country as much more than solely a matter of income shortfalls.
It is worth noting that in the last election campaign the then Prime Minister made no specific proposal to increase pensions. However, he did promise to increase pension rates in line with increases in the consumer price index, the adjustment to be automatic every half year; in addition he undertook to review pension rates in connection with the Budget, but this would not necessarily have guaranteed a further increase.
It is interesting to note that between 1961-62 and 1971-72 the consumer price index increased by 36.4 per cent while average weekly earnings increased by 95.8 per cent. It is instructive to look at this in money terms to see what $20 in 1961-62 would be in 1971-72 if it increased according to (a) the CPI increase of 36.4 per cent and (b) the increase in average weekly earnings of 95.8 per cent. In the case of (a) it would become $27.28 and in the case of (b) $39.16 or some $12 more. That is, the Liberals were trying to play a mean trick on the pensioners. We are mindful that, if there is not some abatement in the rate of growth in average weekly earnings in 1970-71 of 11.3 per cent, then the regular annual 2 promised increases of $1.50 will have to be increased to achieve pension rates at 25 per cent of average weekly earnings within a reasonable time. Of course, we would be prepared to respond appropriately if such proves the case. We aim at honouring our promises. However there is evidence of an abatement in this rate of average weekly earnings increase both for last year and on current trends and accordingly at this stage we are maintaining a careful watch on the situation.
Whenever the basic rate of pension is increased it has the effect of raising the limits of income and property at which pensions cease to be payable. This in turn enables many people who are excluded from pension entitlement to qualify for the first time. As a result of the increases now proposed, a single person without property affecting his pension will retain some pension entitlement until his income reaches $63 a week. A single pensioner without other income will be eligible to receive some pension until the value of his non-exempt property reaches $33,160. For a married couple, the equivalent limits of income and property will be $109.50 a week and $57,760 respectively. A widow with one child and no property affecting will now be able, to receive income of up to $86 a week before losing her entitlement to widow’s pension, or up to $90 if her child is under 6 years of age or an invalid child requiring fulltime care. If she has no income affecting, a widow with one child may have property to the value of $38,920, or $41,000 if her child is under 6 years of age or an invalid requiring full-time care, before her entitlement to widow’s pension is extinguished. At this point I should say that the proposed pension increases will flow to persons receiving sheltered employment allowances and rehabilitation allowances. These allowances are also payable under the provisions of the Social Services Act.
Mr Speaker, in the past, when no retrospectivity was given to increased rates, it was the practice to provide in the legislation for payments at the new rates to be made on the first pension payday after the Bill received royal assent. This provision was made, of course, to ensure that pensioners received the benefit of the increases at the earliest possible date. I am informed that, on this occasion, having regard to the retrospective nature of the legislation applying to the increases in pensions and the many time-critical administrative tasks which need to be performed, the earliest practical dates for my Department to pay pensions at the increased rates will be 22nd March in the case of age and invalid pensions and 27th March in the case of widows pensions. In this regard, my officers are working on the basis that the Bill will receive an early passage through both Houses. The increases in unemployment and sickness benefit will, as usual, operate in respect of the benefit week ending on the date of the royal assent and each benefit week thereafter. Mr Speaker, I commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Barnard, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
As you know, Mr Speaker, the Government is moving quickly on a broad front to implement the policies for which it received a mandate on 2nd December 1972. Among those policies were a number of proposals related to repatriation. The Bill currently before the House is designed to give legislative effect to important Government proposals relating to improvements in pension rates and conditions of eligibility. In saying that they are important, I do not intend it to be taken that other matters in the repatriation field are necessarily placed in lower order of priority. They will be kept continually under review. In fact, honourable members will be aware that the funeral benefit payable on the death of entitled ex-servicemen has already been increased from $50 to $100. Regulations giving effect to this increase were notified in Gazette No. 16 of 8th February last. I will now outline to the House the provisions of the Bill.
The Special Rate War Pension
The Government’s view is that the special or total and permanent incapacity rate payable to a man or woman who has been classified as totally and permanently incapacitated because of war related incapacity should not be less than the adult Commonwealth minimum wage. Accordingly, the Bill provides for an increase of $3.10 a week in the special or TPI rate, taking it from $48 a week to $51.10 a week. It should be remembered that the minimum wage is a gross wage, subject to income tax. All war pensions, on the other hand, are tax free, so that the real value of the special rate is far greater than it first seems. But we must add also the value of any special allowance such as recreation transport allowance or attendant’s allowance for which a pensioner may be eligible. I might add that this special rate is also payable to certain tuberculosis sufferers, to the blind, to those suffering from the more serious double amputations and to those who are classified as being temporarily totally incapacitated. A total of 21,104 pensioners will receive this increase, at a cost of $3 .4m in a full year.
The Intermediate Rate War Pension
The intermediate rate is one of the different rates of war pension designed to cater for the various degrees of war related incapacity. It is payable to those whose incapacity permits them to work only part-time or intermittently and will be increased by $2.55 a week, taking it from $34 to $36.55 a week. The cost for a full year for the 1,900 pensioners involved will be $0.25m.
The General Rate War Pension
The Government’s policy is that the general rate of war pension should be progressively increased until it has reached the equivalent of 50 per cent of the adult Commonwealth minimum wage and that it should be maintained at that level. Bearing in mind that over 190,000 ex-servicemen and women receive a war pension within the general rate scale, we have always maintained that the Government’s goal in this direction would have to be reached in stages as resources permit. As a first step, this Bill provides an increase of $2 a week at the 100 per cent rate, taking the maximum of this pension from $14 to $16 a week. Honourable members will be aware that the general rate presently scales down from 100 per cent to 10 per cent according to the assessed degree of incapacity. All general rate war pensioners will benefit from this increase. There are 190,880 general rate pensioners and the cost of this increase for a full year will be $8.34m.
The War Widow’s Pension
The Government is acutely aware of the loss endured by the nation’s war widows and the difficulties they have faced, and are still facing in their daily lives without the assistance, comfort and support of a breadwinner. As a first step in the Government’s programme in this area, the Bill increases the basic war widow’s pension by $1.50 a week taking it from $20 to $21.50. The cost in a full year of this proposal will be $3. 94m affecting some 50,500 widows. Additionally, most war widows are eligible for a domestic allowance of $8.50 a week and many may also qualify for a means test pension.
Honourable members will notice that column 3 of the scale in clause 20 of the Bill lists a rate of $43.10 per fortnight for war widows whose husbands held ranks higher than Captain (Navy), Colonel, Group Captain and relative ranks. This rate is the last vestige of the former practice of paying war widows’ pensions according to the ranks held during war service by their deceased husbands. It will be phased out in future pension movements.
Cost of Increases
The total cost of these increased war pension payments will be $1 5.93m in a full year, and $8.5m for the 1972-73 financial year.
War Pensions for Student Children
The Government’s policy on war pensions for student children, which is reflected in the Bil], is that they should be continued until completion of full-time education in respect of dependent children who are not receiving a maintenance or living allowance or salary from Commonwealth sources that equals or exceeds the allowances payable under the Repatriation Soldiers’ Children Education Scheme.
Service Pensions in respect of Student Children
In relation to children of service pensioners, the Bill also reflects the Government’s policy that a child should continue to be recognised for service pension purposes irrespective of age, for as long as the child continues to undertake full-time education.
Service Pensions Generally
Those who suffer from pulmonary tuberculosis, or who have served in a theatre of war and are over 60 in the case of men, or 55 in the case of women, or permanently unemployable, qualify for service pensions, if they satisfy the existing means test. As you know, Mr Speaker, the Government is committed to abolishing the means test within the life of this Parliament, but I will not dwell on that particular point at the moment.
The proposed increases in age and invalid pensions will, under the provisions of the Repatriation Act 1920-1972, apply automatically to service pensions and there is no necessity to amend the Act in order to honour the Government’s commitment to increase immediately means test pensions by $1.50 a week. The increase will take the maximum service pension to $21.50 a week for a single ex-serviceman, and to $18.75 a week for a married ex-serviceman or an eligible wife. The cost of these increases will be $6m for a full year and $3. 15m for the 1972-73 financial year.
Removal of Certain Disadvantages Suffered by Dependants of Ex-Servicemen
In the repatriation legislation as it stands there are certain dependants of ex-servicemen who suffer disadvantages which the Government considers unjust, and the opportunity is being taken to remove these disadvantages.
First, where a claimant for a pension dies after a decision on his application has been given by the Repatriation Commission, his legal personal representative has not been permitted to lodge and prosecute an appeal with an entitlement appeal tribunal or an assessment appeal tribunal. A legal personal representative should be allowed this right and this is the purpose of clause 5 of the Bill. It should be borne in mind however, that action taken under this new provision will be subject to other provisions of the Act that govern and place time limits on claims and appeals procedures generally. For example, a decision of an appeal tribunal cannot be expressed to operate from a date earlier than three months before the date on which the claim for pension was lodged. In certain other limited cases, the decision can have effect from a date not earlier than 4 years before the date of decision or determination. There is also a time limit for the lodgement of appeals with an assessment appeal tribunal.
Secondly, where an ex-serviceman lodges an application for service pension, but dies before a decision is given, the claim lapses and no pension is payable to his estate in respect of the period up to death, in spite of the fact that, had he lived, the pension would have been paid as from the date of application. Under the Social Services Act payment of arrears of pension can be made in the circumstances described and the Bill currently before the House inserts in the principal Act a provision similar to that of the Social Services Act.
Thirdly, at the present time some de facto wives and some ex-nuptial children are recognised under repatriation legislation. Other Commonwealth Acts such as the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees), the Social Services and the National Health Acts recognise additional categories of these dependants. The Government is of the view that the present provisions of the repatriation legislation are too restrictive and should be brought into line with these other Acts.
The Bill therefore embodies proposals to recognise for war pension and associated benefits. A defacto wife or widow who has lived continuously with an ex-serviceman on a bone fide domestic basis for at least 3 years preceding consideration of her status, or the member’s death, as the case may be, if she is or was wholly or partly dependent on him and any ex-nuptial child of an ex-serviceman.
The Bill also recognises for service pension purposes a de facto wife who has lived with an ex-serviceman on a bona fide domestic basis for at least 3 years preceding consideration of her status and any ex-nuptial child, foster child or ward in the custody, care and control of an ex-serviceman.
Review of Entitlements
In view of the substantial improvements to be introduced by the Government, some of the present entitlements under the Repatriation and Social Services Acts have been reviewed. These entitlements, which have their origins well back in the history of these pieces of legislation, have to date allowed some people eligibility for means test pensions from both departments. This dual eligibility has placed these people in a more favoured position than other members of the community, and the substantial improvements being effected, and to be effected, make it advisable that steps be taken to gradually correct this situation. Therefore, on this occasion, where dual means test pensions are already being paid, no pension will be reduced but only one department will give effect to the proposals, and the other will continue its pension at the current rate.
The dual means test pensions which may presently be received under the Repatriation and Social Services Acts are those payable to the widow or deserted wife of a service pensioner - such a widow or wife can continue to receive her repatriation service pension at the same time as she is receiving a civilian widow’s pension under the Social Services Act - and a service pensioner suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis - such a pensioner can also receive at the same time an age or invalid pension under the Social Services Act.
The Bill provides that, where a widow or deserted wife of a Service pensioner is also receiving a civilian widow’s pension under the Social Services Act, her Service pension will not be increased on this or any future occasion. Service pensions payable to persons suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis will be increased under the general provisions relating to Service pensions. For the future, any person who has an eligibility for means test pension under both the Repatriation and Social Services Acts will have to elect to receive a pension under one or the other.
Another anomaly which this Bill removes from the Repatriation Act is that preventing a person, otherwise eligible for Service pension as an ex-servicewoman, receiving it if she receives a war widow’s pension. Such an exservicewoman will now become eligible for Service pension, even though receiving a war widow’s pension. A war widow currently in receipt of an age or invalid pension in addition to her war pension may, if she is eligible for a Service pension, and so wishes, transfer to the Repatriation Department and receive her full entitlement under the Repatriation Act.
The increased pension rates will be retrospective to 7th December 1972, the first pension pay day after the recent elections for the House of Representatives. The Bill appropriates the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the extent necessary to provide during the current year the additional payments to which it gives effect. It gives me great pleasure, Mr Speaker, to introduce this legislation. It represents major steps in the Government’s provision for those who have served the nation in time of war and it adds a further dimension to the large and varied legislative programme upon which the Government has embarked. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Barnard, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill amends the principal act to recognise for pension and other purposes the same classes of de facto wives and widows and exnuptial children as recognised by the amendments to the Repatriation Act contained in the Repatriation Bill 1973. The Bill provides for the payment of war pension to student children over the age of 21 years. The principal act is amended also to incorporate a provision enabling payment of pensions and other amounts unpaid at the date of death of the claimant. The opportunity has been taken to delete definitions identical with those of the Repatriation Act and to provide that these terms shall have the same meaning as in the Repatriation Act. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Barnard, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill amends the principal Act torecognise for pension and other purposes the same classes of de facto wives and widows and exnuptial children as are recognised by the amendments to the Repatriation Act contained in the Repatriation Bill 1973. The Bill provides for the payment of war pension to student children over the age of 21 years.
The principal Act is amended also to incorporate a provision enabling payment of pensions and other amounts unpaid at the date of death of the claimant. The opportunity has been taken to delete definitions identical with those of the Repatriation Act and to provide that these terms shall have the same meaning as in the Repatriation Act. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Barnard, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill amends the principal Act to include provision for pension, allowance or other benefit under the Act or Regulations that is unpaid on the death of the claimant to be paid to his estate in respect of the period up to death. The amendment follows upon a similar amendment by the Repatriation Bill 1973 in respect of payments under the Repatriation Act and Regulations. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Charles Jones, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill before the House relates to seamen’s war pensions and allowances. The Act which it amends was first passed in 1940 to provide appropriate war pension benefits for Australian seamen and their dependants, having been framed on British war pensions legislation but drawn to conform to Australian conditions, chiefly along the lines of the Australian Repatriation Act. With some 30 years having elapsed since those wartime days, I think it appropriate that I should remind the House of the extent to which the Australian Merchant Navy suffered at the hands of the enemy during the 1939-45 War. As a result of service at sea during the war, 288 Australian seamen were killed, 39 died of injuries, 37 died while prisoners of war, 9 were lost at sea, 5 died of illness and 8 died from unknown causes - a total loss of 386 lives. Many of these seamen lost their lives in ships sunk as a result of enemy action while employed in Australian coastal waters. In all, over 30 ships were lost around the Australian coast, of which 13 were Australian, whilst many others were attacked by submarines or suffered some form of war casualty. The Bill, which continues to provide some recognition of the service that these men gave, is complementary to the Repatriation Bill in that it applies the same important improvements in war pension rates and conditions of eligibility to be provided under that Bill to the corresponding provisions of the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act.
Under the Bill the existing general rate pension is increased from $14 a week to $16 a week and the existing widow’s pension is increased from $20 a week to $21.50 a week. The amount of $43.10 a fortnight appearing at the foot of column 2 of the First Schedule being inserted by clause 5 results from the former practice of fixing the widow’s pension rates according to the rank or rating he’d by their deceased husbands. This is to be phased out in future pension movements. The intermediate rate of war pension is being increased by $2.55 a week to $36.55 a week. This is the rate paid to seriously disabled persons whose war-caused incapacities render them incapable of working other than on a part-time basis, or intermittently. The Bill does not have to provide for the increase of $3.10 a week in the special (totally and permanently incapacitated) rate, bringing it to $51.10 a week, or for various increases in the weekly amounts payable in respect of the serious disabilities set out in the Fifth Schedule to the Repatriation Act, as the increases in rates under that Act will apply automatically to seamen pensioners by virtue of section 22a of the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act.
As has been slated in connection with the Repatriation Bill, the Government’s policy on student children of war pensioners which is given effect to in this Bill, in conjunction with the Repatriation Bill, is that benefits should not terminate at age 21 but be continued until completion of the student’s full-time education. This applies only in respect of dependent children who are not receiving a maintenance or living allowance or salary from Commonwealth sources that equals or exceeds the allowances payable under a repatriation children education scheme. Clause 3 makes the necessary amendments.
As has also been indicated in connection with the Repatriation Bill, whilst some de facto wives and some ex-nuptial children are recognised for war pension purposes, the Government considers the present provisions too restrictive and in need of being brought into line with the recognition now afforded such persons under other Commonwealth Acts. The Bill therefore includes, in clause 3, amendments which will recognise for war pension and associated benefits purposes any ex-nuptial child of a seaman coming under the Acts. In addition to de facto wives already provided for in the Act, it also recognises a de facto wife or widow who has lived continuously with such a seaman on a bona fide domestic basis for at least 3 years preceding consideration of her status, or the seaman’s death, as the case may be, if she is or was wholly or partly dependent on him. The Bill does not appropriate the small amount of funds required to cover the increased benefits, as the necessary funds are included in the appropriation under the Repatriation Bill. The increases in pensions will be retrospective to 7th December 1972, the first pension pay day after the recent elections for this House. This Bill reflects the concern of the Government for those who served Australia in time of war, and I commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr Cairns, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill proposes that the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Act 1956-1972 be amended to increase from S500m to $750m the maximum contingent liability which the Corporation may assume under contracts of insurance and under guarantees. The Export Payments Insurance Corporation was established in 1956 as a Commonwealth-backed, but independent, statutory authority to provide exporters with insurance facilities which were not normally obtainable from commercial insurers to cover risks of non-payment by overseas buyers. The Corporation’s statutory powers have since been progressively extended, and now include the authority to provide guarantees to commercial lending institutions supplying finance for deferred payment export transactions.
When the Corporation enters into a contract of payments insurance with an exporter, and when the Corporation gives a repayment guarantee to a lending institution, it accepts a commitment that, if specified payment risks eventuate, it will pay the exporter or lending institution in accordance with the terms of the contract or guarantee. In other words, it accepts a contingent liability. It follows that the greater the amount of export business that the Corporation insures, and the more often it assists exporters to obtain finance by providing guarantees, the higher will its contingent liability become.
Since the Corporation was established, the statutory maximum contingent liability has been increased as follows: 1956 - $50m, 1959- $100m, 1964- $150m, 1965- $200m, 1970- $300m, and in May 1971- $500m. When the Corporation’s maximum contingent liability was last increased in May 1971, from $300m to $500m it was expected that the Corporation could operate for about 2 years within the new ceiling. At the end of December 1972, actual contingent liabilities stood at $4 16m. Since then the Corporation has, of course, entered into additional business and has also given in principle approvals to prospective business amounting to approximately $100m.
An important element in the expansion of the Corporation’s business is the world-wide trend towards increased and longer term credit trading of capital equipment and manufactured goods. This involves the Corporation in the maintenance of contingent liabilities on individual transactions for long periods. Since the Corporation’s contingent liability is rapidly approaching the statutory maximum of S500m, it is necessary that action be taken during this session to increase the limit as provided for in this Bill so that the Corporation will not have to curtail cover for new export business. It is estimated that, on the basis of current and prospective growth rates of short term revolving business and of medium and long term transactions, the Corporation will be able to operate for about a further 2 years within the proposed new ceiling of $750m. 1 commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Anthony) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr Cairns, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The amendment contained in the Bill now before the House removes the excise duty from wine produced from fresh grapes, being wine that does not contain any added sweetening matter. Honourable members are aware that one of the first actions of this Government was to invoke provisions in excise by-laws to allow wine to be entered for home consumption without payment of duty. The Bill now under consideration retains the duty on certain artificially sweetened wines which were liable to such a duty prior to the imposition in 1970 of an excise on commercial fresh grape wines. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Chipp) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill will amend the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act to exempt contraceptives from sales tax. This amendment will give formal effect to the announcement by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on 8th December last year that the Government had decided that the sales tax on contraceptives would be removed as from that date, the exemption will accordingly have retrospective effect to 8th December 1972. The Bill will also provide for the exemption of certain goods used in converting business and industrial equipment to the metric system. This exemption is being introduced following recommendations by the Metric Conversion Board for limited taxation concessions for the benefit of persons who are faced with the costs of converting items of plant and equipment to the metric system. In broad terms, it will exempt from sales tax parts and accessories used in the conversion of existing items of business and industrial equipment to the metric system.
In recognition of the progress some industries have already made towards changing over to the new system, the sales tax exemption will apply in respect of purchases of parts and accessories on or after 1st July 1971. After the Bill has come into operation, persons who have already paid sales tax on metric conversion parts and accessories purchased on or after 1st July 1971 may apply for refunds of the tax. A memorandum explaining the provisions of the Bill in detail is being circulated for the information of honourable members. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Chipp) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Grassby, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill which I now introduce to the House is designed to make changes to the Migration Act which are necessary as part of the Government’s policy to remove all forms of racial discrimination. The effect of the current legislation may be summarised as follows:
Controls on Aborigines as such have now been lifted in all States and in the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory. With a view to ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination it is necessary that this legislative provision, which is discriminatory on racial grounds, be removed.
In order to implement the changes referred to, repeal of section 64 of the Migration Act is necessary. The other amendments are purely drafting amendments consequential upon the repeal of section 64 of the Act. The action of the Government in making the repeal of these discriminatory provisions one of its first legislative acts is a token of our determination to banish racial discrimination within our community and is also a step towards building on equal terms the family of the nation in citizenship. It is our unequivocal view that there should be no distinctions between citizens before the law. This is one of the key steps to achieve that position. This repeal is also a recognition that such restrictive provisions on the national statute book constitute an affront to the Aboriginal people of the nation now emerging to new dignity and progress. It will also at long last enable us to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lynch) adjourned.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1972, the following proposed work upon which the Public Works Committee has duly reported to Parliament should be again referred to the committee for further consideration and report having regard to the strong public reactions to various aspects of this project some of which were not voiced at the time of the public hearing in Darwin last year: Proposed construction of the Palmerston arterial road at Darwin.
The Committee reported that provision of a second arterial road between the city area and the northern suburbs of Darwin was warranted. It recommended that portions of the road should follow the route proposed by the sponsoring authorities but that an alternative route should be followed between Coconut Grove and Ross Smith Avenue. Since the Committee’s report was tabled there have been a number of representations by various people for and against the route recommended by the Committee. I understand that when a decision was made different from that which was expected to be made a number of people who came to be affected indicated that they had had no knowledge of the likelihood of such a development affecting their properties. In addition to this there was the added consideration that the organisation of surveyors in the Northern Territory had not had the opportunity of presenting views which they subsequently regarded as significant. Since the Committee’s report was tabled there have been quite a variety of representations from a large number of people against the proposal recommended by the Committee. In these circumstances the Government feels that the Committee should be asked to give further consideration to the proposal and submit a further report to Parliament.
– The Opposition does not oppose the motion. We support consideration of the proposed work by the Public Works Committee in the terms set out by the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson).
Mr Mathews, for the committee appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General (vide page 18), presented the proposed Address which was read by the Clerk.
– I move:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:
We, the House of Representatives of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
In doing so, I would like to express the congratulations of this House to you, Mr Speaker, upon your election and also to your deputy, the newly elected Chairman of Com- mittees (Mr Scholes). As a new member of this House moving this motion delights and somewhat disconcerts me. I am delighted to initiate for the first time in 23 years debate upon the programme of a Labor Government. I am disconcerted because of the 8 spokesmen for parties opposite who have moved identical motions over that 23 years period not one remains a member of this House. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) reassure me on this point by living in my electorate but preferring to pursue their political fortunes elsewhere.
There is a convention that the mover of this motion should speak about the electoral division for which he sits. I accept that convention because in speaking about the division of Casey I can speak for all those urban areas whose needs have been studiously neglected by successive national governments. Casey straddles the Yarra on the doorstep of Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges. It is the home of more than 130,000 Australians who are as well off in terms of houses, cars and other private property as they are impoverished for such things as education, health care and urban planning, which only governments can provide. As I speak students at local secondary schools in the electorate, are being taught in tents, laundries, staff rooms, sick bays, corridors and assembly halls because the Commonwealth in a Budget, for which, I might remark in passing, the Victorian Government applauded it last August, failed to provide the money which would have been necessary for these students to be accommodated in proper school buildings and the Victorian Government itself is administratively incapable of providing even prefabricated classrooms for which it could afford to pay.
Patients are waiting hours for treatment in the casualty department of the Box Hill Hospital, which is the only public hospital accessible to the electorate, or finding themselves turned away from the wards of that hospital because there are neither public nor private beds available. Our roads, of course, like roads throughout the urban areas of this country, are choked with drivers who reject our antiquated public transport arrangements. The Yarra River is becoming more polluted every year with sewage and sullage and the Dandenong Ranges more scarred and denuded of their natural cover by home construction and quarrying. Households are sad dled with debt far more heavily than is necessary because we have left the development and servicing of residential land to speculators and the provision of consumer finance to the fringe banking system. We lack the youth workers by whom our young people could be taught to make creative use of their leisure and we lack the social workers by whom the mounting incidence of family breakdown, vandalism, crime and other community problems could be held in check.
Last year’s general election was remarkable for the emphasis it placed upon all these urban problems. Urban areas responded remarkably to that emphasis. The largest group of new members in this Parliament represent the outer suburbs of capital cities. It is in these areas that the interests and the aspirations of Australians have suffered longest and most heavily from the inertia and apathy of successive Prime Ministers and their Cabinets. It is in these areas that members who occupied the Government benches in the last Parliament have paid most heavily for condoning that sort of neglect. The allocation of Commonwealth finance has never at any time in the last 23 years faithfully reflected the fact that we are the world’s most urban nation. Excessive concern for interests of a sectional character has left over little for the cities and regional centres in which 86 per cent of our people now make their homes. It has produced the doctrine that essential facilities such as urban water storage, sewerage, schools, health services and public transport are matters for the States, which of course have very little money to spend upon them, or municipalities, which have even less.
The Governor-General made it clear yesterday that our new Government rejects that doctrine absolutely. This Government will need to have an urban bias if only because the balance to be redressed is so great. We will be guided in the exercise of that bias by a co-operative federalism within which the Commonwealth, the States and local government each accept a proper share of the responsibility for providing those services upon which the quality of our lives depends. It is not by material achievements alone of this sort that Labor governments must judge themselves - it is not by material achievements exclusively. We are a Party of social democrats who look to the same light on the hill as the last Labor Prime Minister, Chifley. The same spirit of egalitarianism moves us as has moved people back through the ages to Colonel Rainborowe who told Cromwell’s Commonwealth:
The poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the greatest he.
We will count ourselves successful to the extent that we enable Australians to become more equal, eager to participate in the democratic processes by which our lives and affairs are directed and better equipped to understand each other and the world in which we live.
A nation is as sound as its education system. Our Government does not propose to attain all its goals simply by providing better schools; but without better schools we will not even begin to move in the right direction. The most conspicuous characterstic of Australian education is the unfair way in which it is distributed. Whereas 87 per cent of the children of Melbourne’s professional and managerial workers find places in pre-school centres, only 30 per cent of the children of Melbourne’s unskilled workers find places in such centres. Whereas 83 per cent of the children at non-government secondary schools other than Catholic schools receive a full 6 years of secondary education, only 30 per cent of the children at government and Catholic secondary schools receive such an education. Under existing arrangements children whose homes and neighbourhoods provide little support and stimulus for learning are unlikely to obtain support and stimulus for learning at their schools. Under existing arrangements deprived schools and deprived children go hand in hand.
Our Government endorses the view of Britain’s Plowden Committee that ‘the first step must be to raise the schools with low standards to the national average; the second, quite deliberately, to make them better’. We are establishing an Australian schools commission, as the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) frequently pointed out last year, firstly to bring the worst schools up to an acceptable standard and subsequently to make all our schools as good as that handful whose students are already educationally privileged. We are establishing an Australian pre-school commission to ensure that pre-school and child care places are available to all those children whose parents want to take advantage of them.
But it is not by measures of th:s sort alone that we will fulfil our responsibility to the education of future citizens. Having placed schools on a sound financial basis we must begin to devise learning centres of a new and different kind. More and more of our students are going to receive five or six years of secondary education. Their aspirations for independence and maturity will not be met unless we break down the barriers which separate schools from the community of which they are a part. We have to take schools more out into the community and bring the community more into the schools. It is this that poses the challenge in the years immediately ahead. Real garages, real offices and real theatres are much better places for learning than imitations improvised in classrooms. School printeries, workshops, kitchens and stenographic centres will be more valuable and be more highly valued when we give students the contracts for goods and services which at present are bought elsewhere.
We need to be warned by the example of the United States against artificially prolonging adolescence and economic dependence. Our secondary schools must not become glorified child-minding centres simply because an increasing majority of their students are not interested in an academic education at the time it is offered to them. Schooling does not have to be an unbroken process stretching from infancy to late adolescence or early adulthood. Boys and girls who have reached the present school leaving age should be able, if they choose, to hold places simultaneously in the work force and in the education system. They should be able to break away, spend months or even years in full time employment and return to the system at a later stage when they are ready for it.
Our parents, teachers and school authorities have been obsessed throughout the postwar period with the financial problems of education, obsessed, I might say, to the exclusion of problems concerning the quality of education. In establishing the Australian schools commission we are liberating the energies of those parents, teachers and school authorities for a long overdue reconsideration of the educational goals and a reconsideration of the means by which those goals should be pursued. But not even financial stringency has discouraged a few dedicated educators from experimenting with new forms of learning in centres such as the Swinburne Community School in Melbourne and the University High School Annexe. Experiments of this sort should have the support of our Government. Efforts have been under way to provide greater opportunities for local participation in the processes by which our schools are governed; these too should have our support. Overall we cannot accept anything less for the children of this nation than that they be given an equal opportunity to develop the capacities with which they are endowed. That is what education is all about. That is what we should be about.
A fairer distribution of our education resources should be accompanied by a fairer distribution of our economic resources. At present far too much of our national wealth is concentrated in too few hands. The combined taxable incomes of the top 10 per cent of our taxpayers are virtually as great as the combined taxable incomes of the bottom 50 per cent. Only one Australian in every 10 owns shares in a public company, and 5 per cent of the shareholders in 102 of our largest companies have been found to own 60 per cent of the shares in those companies.
At the same time we have a situation in which up to a million Australians are victims of absolute poverty. Professor Henderson of the Institute of Applied Economic Research at the University of Melbourne established in 1966 that 7 per cent of Melbourne’s households were living in poverty and the Institute revealed in 1970 that the incidence of poverty had increased. It was good to hear the GovernorGeneral speaking yesterday about taxation measures by which this situation will be redressed. It was good also to hear him speak, too, about means of relieving impoverishment not only of individuals but also of institutions. Problems like poverty, environmental decay and the deterioration of our cities will be alleviated when we revitalise our Federal system of government and above all the municipalities which make up its third tier.
There is a new Australia in the making and its aspirations inform the attitudes of this Government. Instead of selling off our country’s resources to the highest bidder we intend to conserve those resources for this generation and for future generations. Instead of sacrificing in the name of development our natural, cultural and historical heritage we are going to protect that heritage. Where some have governed by dividing Australia against itself, the foundation this Government wants is a nation reunited. Where some have attempted to hedge round intellect, enterprise and creativity with restrictive laws and regulations, the watchword of this Government will be ‘liberation’.
We seek internally a new sense of national identity, a new purpose, a new outpouring of the Australian spirit freed at last from the strait-jacket of aimless affluence. Attuned to a new anthem, inspired perhaps by a new flag, we assert the right of Australians to devise a course of their own both internally and in the region to which geography has tied our destiny. Indebted to nobody, overawed by nobody, we will participate actively in the affairs of the world community through tha United Nations and its agencies and through the British Commonwealth of Nations. Putting behind us the antagonisms, the fears and suspicions of the last quarter of a century we will extend to all those who come in friendship the hand of friendship. Rejecting once and for all that meddling in the affairs of other nations which has so recently been the source of so great a tragedy, we affirm that we will accept no interference in our own affairs, that we will think no price too high to pay for the preservation of the freedom and the peace of this Australia.
– Mr Speaker, I congratulate you and the Chairman of Committees on your elevation to these responsible positions in this House. My presence in this House is the direct result of a consensus of the electors of Eden-Monaro. I would not be here today but for the advice and help of the former honourable member for Eden-Monaro, Mr Allan Fraser. To my mind Mr Fraser ranks among the finest politicians this country has produced. The manner in which he handed over his electorate responsibilities to me deserves the highest praise. The results of his experience and his advice were freely given, but never pressed. His many friends were acquainted with his support for me, but never directed. His distinguished contribution to this House and to the electorate of Eden-Monaro covered nearly 50 years of Australian political history. I now take up his task with enthusiasm, and look forward to a rich, humane approach to government in the coming years.
The work of Allan Fraser and his compatriots has laid the foundation for the programme outlined in the Governor-General’s speech. This is a programme of social reform, a drive to reassert the authority of morality over technology - of man * over law - and to correct a society in which humanity has become a casualty to the laws of economics. Of the 4 principal grounds providing a basis for the Government’s programme I would like to examine 2: The failure of the existing social and economic structures to meet the needs of modern society, and the need for government to plan for the inevitable change that confronts us in the future. Technical change and economic development alter the framework of our society. Increasing productivity demands a rapid change in our attitudes. New commodities open a new way of life for our people. The essential connection between the changing technology and our life style has been overlooked by previous governments. The result is that our way of living, our future expectations and our very morality have not been able to keep up with the demands of the new technological age. The products of technology have tended to enslave rather than to free the people of this country.
Change is not needed for its own sake but it must come if human values are to achieve priority over the machine. Freely available motor cars create the need for new laws, a new sense of social responsibility and a new pattern of Government expenditure if lives are not to be wasted on the roads of our country. New technology will affect our morality. Efficient contraceptives are facts of science. They cannot be wished away. They will force on to the community a new morality because in many ways they make the old morality redundant. I am not quite sure whether these contraceptives are the ones geared to metric conversion ‘ that the Treasurer (Mr Crean) seemed to refer to when he introduced the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill.
The social security measures outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech quite correctly emphasise the urgency of welfare provisions. These measures represent the basic steps in the development of a national welfare policy, freed of discrimination by sex, age or economic condition - a welfare programme which is a real response to our national conscience and which should be a basic condition in any civilised community that has a respect for its own citizens. A national welfare policy should provide a dignified way of life for the minority groups in our community which cannot contribute to the economic processes. Given this national welfare policy, it is essential then to provide a flexibility and a mobility in our labour force which gives our people the maximum opportunity to express themselves and the maximum opportunity for the nation to benefit from their skills and intelligence.
Proper education and retraining programmes provide a flexibility of labour and ideas which are basic to a creative productivity in our community. Too often education becomes lopsided because the community attaches status to certain qualifications such as university degrees, and underrates others such as trade qualifications. A continuing educational programme, such as has been outlined by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) in moving this motion, will tend to remove these artificial distinctions. The effect of failure in the academic world will be muted if people can rejoin the commercial area and try again for skills and professions later on in life. If our educational system is to give maximum opportunity to our people and provide the proper basis for our productivity it must be flexible. It must allow people to move in and out throughout their lifetime and contribute to the community by re-education.
Another important aspect developed in the Governor-General’s Speech was the initiation of an industrial policy based on the needs of a creative society. In this country the traditional approach to the relationship between management and labour is based on conflict. The assumption that management and labour must always be at war underlies the community concept of industrial relations. It is a destructive concept in which nobody is right and in which antagonism is fueled to preserve the privileges and status of a few. Such an approach develops from the view that our economy is static; that we must take from one to give to another. In fact creative productivity will create more for all.
In moving from destructive scarcity to creative productivity people must discover that they belong to the same country. They must discover their solidarity and freedom to innovate. Interdependence between the social groups within our community and economic progress go hand in hand. Productivity calls for the integration of different skills and professions. Once again it calls for the opportunity for people who have made their contribution in one vocation to try their hand in another - to receive a new challenge instead of being discarded on to the junk heap of retirement because they happen to have reached a particular age. The first step in this movement lies in closer consultation between all community groups involved in the economic processes rather than the divisive basis which has formed the philosophy of our approach to various economic sectors in our community.
The people who have made their contribution in one profession should have the opportunity to accept challenges in other areas. Such an opportunity requires a continuing educational process. This is essential if we are to condition technical change to human needs rather than to subjugate man to technology. The potential productivity that can be enjoyed will be unleashed by using the total skills and experience of our community. Emphasis must be placed on our human resources rather than on the material resources of the land. The people of the country and their potential have been neglected. If we husband and protect our human resources we will have maximum scope for innovation. Costly and sterile subsidies can be replaced by the more rational use of our material resources. Subsidies are designed to protect the worker. They are not designed to produce a particular commodity. The subsidy or the tariff is designed to protect an individual group of employment, whether it be farmer or manufacturer. The people matter, the product is incidental.
Given these conditions and this basis of our economic approach, the stage will then be set to expose our business and industrial activity to the real rigours of competition. Too often private enterprise has been confused with competition. Unrestrained private enterprise has led to the development of monopolies and cartels. Such economic domination has resulted in stagnation and the use of resources to defend an outdated position. In terms of the suffocating effect that this has on innovation, there is little difference between a mature established monopoly and a bureaucracy. Both types of organisation provide a barrier to new ideas. I see from the notice paper that the Opposition is concerned about the qualifications of the staff of Ministers. I believe that under this Government appointment to positions in organisations such as the Australian Wool Corporation will depend on technical qualifications and ideas rather than associations which may have developed over the years with entrenched monopolies and cartels, associations developed in the Establishment and which are based on anything but the requirement to make a contribution in terms of ideas. It is my view that business competition requires a rule maker. Without any rules of the game competition will defeat itself or the community may have to pay the price of inefficiency. The Governor-General’s Speech outlines the proposals this Government intends to adopt to control prices and business practices and yet maintain competition.
Government proposals to develop regional growth centres are long overdue. A healthy Australian society must develop the entire continent and provide balanced, sensible living conditions for the people. Eden-Monaro presents a particularly exciting regional development opportunity. Canberra is a major growth centre and its growth must be integrated with the surrounding area. Cities such as Goulburn, Queanbeyan and Cooma are strong communities and sensible overall planning is required to integrate their development with the explosive growth of Canberra. The milk, vegetables, fish and meat produced in the Eden-Monaro electorate can supply Canberra with its food requirements. Inadequate access roads which take their annual toll of life, uncoordinated sub-division with poorly serviced housing and crowded, polluted beaches may become the legacy of unplanned expansion. Disasters such as these can be replaced by triumph if this Government joins in a partnership with State and local government groups to develop the area around the Australian Capital Territory. The same challenge will develop in future around the new cities planned by this Government. The integration of city and country will become a recurring responsibility for the Commonwealth in the future.
Nowhere will the changes proposed in the Governor-General’s Speech be more significant than in the country. It is time to eliminate yet another division - the division between country and city people. We are members of one nation and it is only by seeing ourselves as Australian that we can improve the value of life throughout the entire continent. Separation of country from city again creates a conflict situation which is so unproductive. It is important to change the image that has developed over recent years of the poor country cousin. A history of shortterm palliatives has developed a caricature of the beggar farmer always coming to Government for a subsidy, drought relief, deficiency payment or compensation to offset some change in the economic tide. We must restore the strong pioneer initiative that has been historically associated with farming in Australia. We need to do this by establishing a firmer economic base for the farming business.
As a starting point it should be recognised that when Government policy is directed at increasing the standard of living of the whole community the farm business suffers in many respects. If the average wage earner spends more and more on the luxuries which go to make life easier for him he spends a smaller proportion on the necessities of life - food, clothing and housing. These are the products of the farm sector. The end result is that the unit return to the farmer for his produce falls in real terms and in order to offset this decrease in income farmers must increase output from their business. Labour-intensive operations have to be replaced with capital. This creates the demand for specialised credit facilities. Just as we have specialised financial arrangements for the purchase of bousing so we need specialised financial arrangements for the agricultural sector. Many farm projects take time to pay off - sometimes 10 to 15 years after the basic decisions have been made. It is therefore essential that we have credit arrangements for the farming community which are geared to the unique farm business requirements. I believe that if we have such credit arrangements many of the problems of the farm sector will be overcome.
Another political decision which has to be made in regard to farming is a sociological decision. It might be assumed in some areas that the most efficient way of farming is by using large scale operations, maximising the returns of the large holdings and using sophisticated capital equipment. But, as so often happens, economic efficiency clashes with sociological responsibility. Company farms will tend to deal with capital cities. The country towns and provincial areas will wither away from a lack of business, and the structure of the communities will be overdominated by the largest centres. To have a balanced community and a virile country town business it is essential that we base our farms on the family farm unit. This is not an economic decision. The economic advantages of a family farm group too often revolve around the idea that the sons and daughters of farmers are expected to follow in their parents’ footsteps, and they are conscripted to a life that they may not enjoy. It is essential that increased labour mobility reaches the farms of Australia and that the children of farmers are exposed to a range of options in regard to their own future careers. Unless these children have this choice they may be condemned to a life that they do not enjoy, and the country as a whole will forgo the productivity that can flow from contented and properly adjusted workers.
Many of the issues which are of concern to our community are clouded by a failure to define clearly the political and other responsibilities involved. I take for an example the proper use of our environment. Eden-Monaro contains some of the finest beaches, forests and snow country in Australia - probably the best. Clearly it is a national responsibility to preserve these areas. Unfortunately the debate about preservation of these areas at the moment is being carried on by extremists. Conservationists who apparently allow no involvement by people in the environment are opposed by sectional interests who pay little or no attention to the long-term national impact of their short-term proposals. In most of the debates about the environment the missing element is a definition of the community objective and priorities for a particular area. Defining these matters is a political responsibility.
In the Kosciusko National Park some may regard water conservation as the main environmental objective. A major proportion of our population depends on this, the largest watershed in Australia. If this is so and if it is decided in the political forum that it is so, we need to ask the ecologists to define the plant associations that will facilitate long-term water conservation in this area. Having determined the appropriate plant associations, it is then necessary to develop proper management to maintain the chosen association.
No environment is static, no plant association will remain the same on its own, and at any time certain plants will be dominating others. A natural succession will mean that we will lose the association that serves our purpose. Therefore it is essential to manage the environment. We can define 3 areas of responsibility relating to the problem of environmental conservation. Firstly, there is the political responsibility of defining the objectives and priorities for which the area will be used. Secondly, we need research to understand the variables involved. Thirdly, we need the management that will allow us to control these resources in the best interests of the community as a whole. In a wider sense the political responsibility of defining the objectives and priorities has been clouded in the political sphere by too many superficial questions and a tendency to divert attention from the substance of community priorities to the details of management. Instead of focusing political debate on the purpose for which we should use our resources for the community welfare we find people concentrating on the use of resources to satisfy short-term political pressures or concentrating on the details of management, for instance by asking where the money is coming from instead of asking whether the priorities are right.
I commend the Governor-General’s Speech to this House as a speech concerned with the real political issues of our country and outlining the basis on which we can build a new creative productivity from which the whole community will benefit.
– May I take this opportunity, Mr Speaker, to congratulate you on your election to the Speakership. I should like to congratulate the mover, the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews), and the seconder, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan), of the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply and the other new members who have come into this place, although I hope some of them will have short lives here, even though they might have a happy time for that short time. The honourable member for EdenMonaro spoke of the need to preserve the human resources of this country. In doing this he was falling very close to the area that is traditional with the Australian Labor Party in which it is not really concerned with the creation of wealth by individuals for individuals but is concerned with the distribution of that wealth. Unless there is a government that has a concern for the creation of wealth, this country will not have the resources to meet the welfare, the compassionate and the developmental requirements which we all would want to see met.
I hope the honourable member’s repeated criticism of the membership of the Australian Wool Corporation is not designed to put the Australian Labor Party into a position of dis missing the recommendations of the Corporation. I think it should be noted that the honourable member for Eden-Monaro has been reported on earlier occasions as having criticised the membership of the Australian Wool Corporation and having named the members. Perhaps the reports were false, but they were attributed to the honourable member and I saw no correction. I agree with him when he says that the divisions between town and country should be removed and I hope that he will be successful in persuading his Party to do something in regard to long term credit arrangements for primary industries, building upon the policies and objectives that the previous Government pursued.
There are now 3 honourable members - the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) and the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) - who have some concern for primary industries. However, I think it must be noted that the Governor-General’s Speech virtually ignored the rural exporting sector of Australian industry; it made no mention of it in any real sense. The Governor-General’s Speech concentrated on what the Government proposes to do for welfare, the great cities and one decentralised city area, namely, Albury-Wodonga, lt mentioned nothing of what the Government proposes to do for general decentralisation throughout Australia in a sense that will achieve a real decentralisation of effort and initiative throughout Australia.
Since this Government came to power, many Australians have expressed concern about the complete lack of Cabinet government in the management of the nation’s affairs. The Government started as a 2-man junta. There could not be Cabinet rule because there was not a Cabinet. But since there has been a Cabinet that Cabinet has not operated as a Cabinet, as the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) has made very plain. The first revaluation of the Australian currency was carried out after discussions between 3 Ministers - the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard), the Treasurer (Mr Crean) and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). The advice of the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) or of the Minister for Overseas Trade was not sought or was ignored. In the case of the second revaluation, the decision was taken by 2 people - the Treasurer and the Prime Minister. This provoked the Minister for
Overseas Trade into sending a telegram to the Prime Minister urging a proper Cabinet discussion on a matter of quite vital concern to Australia. The Minister for Overseas Trade for once was right. If a Prime Minister gets into a position, as this one has already put himself into, of taking decisions on his own initiative without advice and without proper consultation with Ministers who have other responsibilities which will be seriously affected by the decision, he will find himself making decisions that will act very much to the detriment of Australia.
This lack of Cabinet government has been continued in other areas, such as the criticisms of the United States by 3 most senior Ministers in areas for which they had no responsibility at all. It is notable that, although there were reports that those 3 Ministers were carpeted by the Prime Minister - the Minister for Overseas Trade virtually repudiated that - the only person who has been silenced has been one who. used to speak for primary industries, namely, the Minister for Northern Development. Perhaps that is because he is a rightwing Minister with affinities outside his own Party and a Minister whom the Prime Minister could discipline with impunity whereas, of course, he could not discipline the Minister for Overseas Trade.
I believe that the Government, in the presentation of its policies and programme through the Governor-General’s Speech, has been guilty of deception in a number of areas. The Speech seeks to cloak that deception with respectability. There has been deception in regard to labour relationships, rural policy, relationships with the States and foreign affairs. In regard to labour relations, we saw the embarrassment of the Prime Minister and other Ministers today when they were questioned on the matter of 4 weeks annual leave for Commonwealth public servants. This was a firm and categoric commitment, but it now is to be limited to union members only. This is plain deception of Commonwealth public servants.
There are other areas relating to the industrial scene where the Government intends to use the power of government for an improper purpose. The Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh) has made it plain that government contracts will go to firms that are acceptable to unions. This is a situation that could quickly lead to graft and corruption, with unions putting pressure upon companies for political donations before those companies can be awarded any government contracts. It is a deplorable principle and one which will lead to bad government. The other aspect of the matter of labour relations is the intention to make union officials immune from certain aspects of the law and to place them above the average citizen throughout Australia. Of course, much of this comes back to a view that the Government has a responsibility to legislate and govern for some sections of the Australian community but not for the total Australian community. This is class legislation. It is divisive legislation. It is undemocratic and un-Australian in its approach.
There has been deception in respect of rural policy. Before the election we found in rural newspapers and journals that the rural community had been promised $500m at 3 per cent with a repayment period of up to 40 years. If that were to be accomplished it would be a significant objective and surely one worth mentioning in the 3-year programme set out in the Governor-General’s Speech. But there is no mention of it at all. Perhaps this is because the Prime Minister believes that in relation to rural matters, primary industry leaders and the Ministers for Immigration and Northern Development are always wrong. So, that proposal has gone out the window. Then there is the question of rural reconstruction. The programme that the last Government entertained, which provided more than $100m over 2 years, runs out in June of this year. The States are wanting to know what will happen after June because they need to be able to make forward commitments, but there has been no word of any rural reconstruction proposals to assist the small family farmers who are in need of assistance from this Government. The Victorian Government has been trying to get from this Government decisions on support for drought relief, but there has been no proper answer from this Government.
There has been further deception on the question of revaluation compensation. The policy of the previous Government was to provide revaluation compensation for export industries significantly and clearly damaged by a revaluation decision. Now such compensation will apply only to industries that were plainly in difficulties before the decision to revalue was made. Compensation will go to the apple and pear industry and some other sections of the fruit industry, but I believe that there will be no assistance to any other industries in Australia, no matter what problems might arise. Indeed, we find the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) appealing to the Japanese to get the Australia Government out of a difficulty of its own making. The Government knew that mineral contracts were written in certain terms. It knew that there were requirements on mining companies in Australia to write those contracts in those terms, otherwise the contracts would not have been achieved. The decision is made, without advice, for a revaluation and then we have the situation of the Australian Government appealing to the Japanese Government to get this Government out of a mistake of its own making simply because it would not accept advice and would not examine the matter properly before the decision was made.
In a number of these areas, of course, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) knows the vulnerability of his Party and has sought to remove that vulnerability from the public scene by making a senator the Minister for Primary Industry. I believe that this decision was deliberate and designed to reduce debate on these matters in this particular chamber. We have already seen this Senator, the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt), acting on proper advice from industry organisations and being over-ridden by the doctrinaire view of the Cabinet some of whose members the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) has publicly said on the television programme ‘This Day Tonight’ have no conception or understanding of primary industry problems. This I believe will set the pattern for the future. It contrasts markedly with the approaches adopted by the previous government.
In relationships with the States there is deception. The Governor-General’s Speech talks of a spirit of true co-operative federalism. It is bad luck that that Speech happened to be written before the Victorian Government made plain the dictatorial view of this Government in the housing policy that the Commonwealth is now trying to force upon the States - a policy that the Victorian Government is determined to reject because Victoria best knows its own priorities, best knows what is good for Victoria in this particular area and believes it Wrong that this power should be centralised in Canberra. The Victorian Government also knows, as do the other
State governments, that the States will be fighting for their lives for any existence at all under a government that will be prepared to use the power of its own finances to take any authority or responsibility out of the hands of State governments.
This situation applies not only in this area. The Prime Minister is willing to give away 6,000 Australians to another country without consultation and without asking the views of those Australians. I venture to say that this Prime Minister, who makes a claim to have no view of colour, would not have been game to do that if those 6,000 Australians had had white skins, as he himself has a white skin. The position that the Prime Minister has adopted with respect to the Torres Strait Islanders is shameful indeed. He has bartered people without asking their views. He has been asked by the Premier of Queensland to visit Queensland to examine the situation for himself but he has not done so.
On the question of Commonwealth and State power there are great differences between the Government and the Opposition. We will be opposing the complete centralisation of all political authority in Canberra and we will be trying to support the States in their achieving responsibility in matters that can be best looked after by them to prevent this Government from destroying the States.
There has been a deception in foreign affairs. Last year the Victorian socialist Left, the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) were silent and people began to think that the Labor Party was safe and responsible in these areas.
It is true that the Labor Party has a mandate for a number of its actions but it is not true that it has a mandate for the total change in policy direction that has been accomplished in the last 2 to 3 months and which no Australian, outside the socialist Left - the Carmichaels, the Crawfords and the Hartleys - expected. The overall effect of that change is important. Let us look at the particular actions. One would not quibble with the recognition of China. There was a mandate for that, but no mandate for the method and manner in which it was done - no mandate for doing it, without consultation with allies and friends to our north, in a way that was going to upset countries to our north. The Government had no mandate for doing it in a way which put Australia in a position of giving away more than any other country. When the Prime Minister said that the Australian terms were the same as the Canadian terms, he was not speaking the truth.
We must be reminded of the words of the Chinese Premier, Chou En Lai, when he was farewelling the Prime Minister over a year ago. He said:
We are looking forward to the day when you are Prime Minister and can put into effect your promises.
The Prime Minister was asked on earlier occasions to explain what those promises were. He has never done so. There has been silence from the Government on the offer by the Chinese, revealed by supporters of the present Government, to cancel a $$60m wheat deal if it would help the Labor Party to gain power. How far are the Chinese prepared to involve themselves in Australian politics or to make Australia’s great industries a pawn in international politics? Imagine what the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) might have said if the President of the United States of America had made some similar kind of offer. There would have been cries of horror and it would have been in the newspapers for days, weeks and months; but when the offer comes from another side there, is no particular complaint.
The Government has ended military aid to South Vietnam and the Khmer Republic even though the present Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) are on record as having recognised the aggression against both countries. The Government would claim to be neutral in that particular context but in fact it favours NorA Vietnam, as the Minister for Overseas Trade has made quite clear. He has spoken in communist terminology about the liberated areas - areas liberated by the North Vietnamese army and by their aggression. On no occasion has the Prime Minister contradicted him. indeed I think he is on record as having said the Minister’s recent remarks of criticism of the United States were reasonable.
Mr Crawford has spoken of Australia’s crimes against North Vietnam in a way that might have been reserved for criticisms of Nazi Germany. The Prime Minister protested to the United States against the bombing in North Vietnam even though that was the last strategical weapon available to the United States. It has, in fact, been successful in achieving a peace treaty acceptable to the
United States. The Prime Minister did not repudiate the words of his 3 senior Ministers and gave the implication that he had agreed with most of what they had said.
Australia’s voting in the United Nations has moved away from general support of the United Kingdom or the United States on many issues, because we have beliefs and ideals in common, to support for African sponsored non-aligned resolutions, aligning Australia with the third world. For the same reason the Prime Minister is pushing independence on Papua New Guinea before the Territory wants independence. The Prime Minister does not want Australia to be criticised in the United Nations by the third world. He would prefer to have a situation in which independence was forced upon Papua New Guinea before the people wanted it rather than to stand up to a little criticism from some who might still try to level a false colonial charge against Australia. He is therefore bartering the future of Papua New Guinea in a way which is utterly irresponsible and against the wishes of that territory and against Australia’s long term interests. We have been told by Mr Hartley of all people - not by the Government - that the objective of the Government was to make Australia nonaligned. He probably really wanted to go further and say the Government wanted Australia to be aligned with China.
The Minister for Defence has confirmed that what the Labor Party conference dictates in July the Prime Minister will pursue and follow. These are all the positive acts of change. The negative acts are the hostility that has been shown to the United States on a number of issues and the double-dealing with the United Kingdom over Singapore. However, debate on these matters can wait for another occasion.
Australians were not really told of the class type divisive legislation and approaches that the Labor Party would introduce. Farmers were certainly misled before the election and they are now being ignored. There will be a vast takeover of federal power and the States will be fighting for their lives. In foreign affairs we are being moved in favour of the non-aligned or the communist world against the United Kingdom and the United States of America, democracies that with which I should have thought most Australians believe we have ideals, beliefs and institutions very much in common. We should pursue and try to achieve new friendships but in achieving them there is no need to alienate the old friendships.
– I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on your election to the high office of Speaker of the Mouse of Representatives. For any man this is an outstanding achievement. Also I should like to remind the House that the Speech by the GovernorGeneral was the most comprehensive that has been delivered in the last 30 years. It is my pleasure, for the second time since my election to this House, to speak in an AddressinReply debate. I remind honourable members that the document from which the GovernorGeneral read yesterday consisted of 14 pages outlining the full breadth of the Government’s legislative programme. It compares more than favourably with the miserable 3 minutes that we heard 3 years ago when the GovernorGeneral outlined the programme of the bereft and ill-gotten former government.
It ill became the Liberal Party to have the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) leading for the Opposition in this debate. Predictably, it was a whingeing, snivelling speech. What more could honourable members expect from this man? He had the temerity to talk about statements which were allegedly made by the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson). The honourable member for Wannon did not engage in factual debate but spoke about these Ministers allegedly attacking the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on some issue. The honourable member for Wannon should not speak of others attacking a Prime Minister. He is perhaps the most famous back stabber in the history of the Parliament. He is the man who not only pushed his Prime Minister into the political mud but also knifed him as he crawled from it. As a young member of this House I heard the honourable member in this chamber denigrating and destroying the then Prime Minister. I sat and listened to his merciless attack. In a conspiracy with the Press moguls of Australia the honourable member for Wannon set out to destroy John Gorton. Yet the honourable member now has the hide to talk about the Minister for Overseas Trade and the Minister for Northern Development discussing an issue related to devaluation.
What sort of record did the previous Government have in respect of devaluation? I invite honourable members to consider the decision made by the former government on this subject. The leader of the Australian Country Party, the former Prime Minister and the former Treasurer for 4 days were locked in discussion, night in and night out in this building, deciding what the parity of the Australian dollar should be. The rate fixed by the former government was not one agreed to by the then Prime Minister, the then Treasurer or the Treasury. However, it was a rate which was acceptable to the Country Party and the great mining interests which support honourable members opposite. What was the former government doing when contracts were being written by these mining interests? Was it not incumbent upon that Government to stress to Australian miners the problems which could arise from contracts being written in United States dollars and’ the risk involved. Do supporters of the former Government not think that it was incumbent on that Government to tell the mining interests that since 1963 the United States dollar had been slipping and that eventually it would suffer a number of devaluations?
As far back as 1963, every time there was a dwindling of gold stocks in the United States, President Kennedy sought personal reports on the situation because he realised how vulnerable the United States dollar was as an exchange currency. Yet the former Government allowed Australian exporters to write contracts in United States dollars when it knew damned well that Japan and other countries were in a position where they were forced to buy from us, that there was a sellers market and Australia could have insisted on the contracts being written in any currency it chose. There was not a word from the last Government about building up the Australian dollar as a currency that would rank favourably with other currencies, yet it is one of the hardest currencies in the world. There is no reason why encouragement should not be given for payments for Australian exports to be made in Australian dollars. Had that hapened we would never have incurred all the losses which were suffered because of devaluation. What does the Opposition expect the Government to do? Does it want the Australian dollar to follow the United States dollar down until it is worth nothing, or does it expect us to set the value of the Australian dollar at the level which it deserves? This Government will be promoting the Australian dollar as a world ranking currency. That is why there is healthy discussion in our Party about the parity of the dollar, instead of backhanded, backroom discussion about the parity of the United States dollar that was carried on when the parties opposite were in Government.
I shall dwell on a few other aspects of the speech made by the honourable member for Wannon, He referred to wheat deals. A member of the previous Government should be the last person to talk about wheat deals. To say that the Labor Party was in any way under a cloud because there was some talk of China offering to withdraw a wheat deal just does not hold any water. Honourable members will be aware that only a month ago it was revealed that the United Arab Republic was reneging on its debts to Australia for wheat sold to it last year. I had the pleasure in this House to speak on the Export Pay? ments Insurance Corporation Bill when supporters of the then Government had the barefaced temerity to ask for an increase in the contingent liability of the Exports Payments Insurance Corporation, knowing full well that the chances of the money being repaid were very slight. It was decided to flog all the wheat at any price to suit the Country Party and its rural electorate, and the Australian taxpayer was to be left to pick up the bill. The half per cent premium for the Exports Payments Insurance Corporation policy, which is guaranteed by the Commonwealth Government, was supposed to exonerate the Wheat Board and saddle the taxpayers with the debt.
It is common knowledge that the Country Party was well aware that it was doing everything it could to dispose of the wheat surplus of the year before. Wheat was being sold everywhere. It was being sold under the guise of taking out Export Payments Insurance Corporation policy. In this way the Australian taxpaying public could pick up the bill and the Country Party could pick up votes at the end of the year. The record of the honourable member for Wannon is not good enough to enable him to talk about wheat and votes. I refer next to Torres Strait islanders - another subject mentioned by the honourable member for Wannon. He said that the 6,000 islanders had not been consulted and that we were holding their fate in our hands without even talking to them. He forgets that since 1965 a number of young Australians, for 2 years of their life, have been dictated to by the former Government without any consultation. Five hundred of them died in Vietnam. The war in Vietnam was another commitment entered into without any consultation. The honourable member for Wannon should be ashamed even to raise these issues in debate because his Party does not have a good record on any of them.
I now deal with a couple of matters that were raised in the Governor-General’s Speech. The first matter concerns the way in which the Labor Party intends to manage the resources of the Commonwealth of Australia to the benefit of the Australian people. It is common knowledge to everyone in this place that the last Government was, afraid to push through the House the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill which related to offshore minerals. I was present in the House when Mr Gorton was Prime Minister and his Government was nearly defeated on that issue when. the honourable, member for. Farrer led a revolt against Mr Gorton on so-called State rights. Australia is perhaps one of the few nations in the world that has. not been prepared to exercise national sovereignty over its sea bed from low water mark to the limits of the continental shelf. Australia . is one of the few nations that has not defined the areas involved in national sovereignty. .We had the ludicrous position last year when negotiating with Indonesia concerning the limits of our exploratory rights on the continental shelf that the people who spoke for Australia were members of the Western Australian Government. There is enormous wealth in the offshore areas and it is farcical that 6 State governments set the price of our . exports from those areas. There has been a cry from conservative forces that the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) has placed an embargo on the exports of all raw materials unless they satisfy the criteria which this Government has laid down. In the regulation of mineral prices the Government intends to introduce a national energy and resources policy to provide proper management of Australian resources so that a proper price can be received for our minerals.
Recently I had the pleasure of visiting Canada. Many industrial leaders there are critical of the fact that Australian mineral industries are undercutting other nations at well below world prices. The end result of that is that the Australian people receive next to nothing by way of royalties because the people whom the former Government supported are the doyens of big business and multi-national corporations. Those interests are the gods, and honourable members opposite are the servants. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Mr BARNARD (Bass - Minister for
Defence, Minister for the Navy, Minister for the Army, Minister for Air and Minister for Supply) - Mr Speaker, I ask for leave to make a statement in connection with United States defence installation in Australia.
– Order! Is leave granted?
– Leave is granted on the basis that this matter will become a subject for debate in the course of next week’s sitting. The understanding which was undertaken with the Deputy Prime Minister was that the Opposition would have the opportunity of having up to 4 speakers in reply.
– Order! I am sorry, but what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is saying is out of order. Leave is either granted or not granted.
– I am making clear to the Deputy Prime Minister the basis on which leave is granted.
– Mr Speaker, the question of the number of speakers is a matter for arrangement between the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the House. I give to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition an unqualified assurance that this matter will be the subject of debate next week.
– Order! Is leave granted?
– The Minister did say 4 speakers.
– No. That is a matter for you to arrange.
– That is our expectation. We will give leave on that basis.
– Order! No, I am sorry. There is no qualification. Leave is either granted or not granted.
– I am giving leave, Mr Speaker, not on the basis of arrangements that may be a matter between myself and the Deputy Prime Minister, but I make it clear to the Deputy Prime Minister that an arrangement was made during the course of this afternoon. On that basis, I give leave.
– Leave is granted.
– I wish to advise the House of some decisions that have been taken in respect of certain installations with defence implications which have at one time or another been established in Australia following an approach to the Australian Government by the United States. I say at the outset that it is not our intention to repudiate any treaty. We must, however, insist on seeking renegotiation of certain treaties where this is necessary to obviate the complete exclusion of Australia from any effective control over a defence installation on Australian soil or to obviate any possibility that Australia could be involved in war - and a nuclear war at that - without itself having any power of decision. I shall be speaking later about problems of this kind in relation to the United States Naval Communications Station at North West Cape. But I want to refer to other installations first.
Some joint Australia-United States installations are public and well-known, like the installation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. There are other installations which are related to defence. For example, there are 2 installations which have been in Australia for many years at Amberley in Queensland and at Alice Springs, both of which have operated with a degree of secrecy which has led to quite unnecessary speculation and mystery about their purpose. The United States Air Force detachment at Amberley has been described as ‘measuring the physical effects of disturbances in the atmosphere or in space, with particular emphasis on the effect on radio communications’. The installation is equipped with sensitive devices which can detect very low pressure waves in the atmosphere. Information so obtained has defence and civilian application in the study of ionospheric and auroral disturbances in the upper atmosphere. The essential point I wish to announce tonight is that it has proved possible, through use of these research devices, to monitor the Partial Test Ban Treaty in respect of the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere andon the surface.
The Joint Geological and Geophysical Research Station at Alice Springs has been described as conducting ‘long term geological or geophysical studies including studies of earthquakes and attendant phenomena’. The Bureau of Mineral Resources receives recorded information obtained at this installation, which assists with its studies of the seismology of Central Australia. But among the attendant phenonema’ the. installation studies one has proved to be of special importance. This station can aid in distinguishing between natural and man-made tremours in the Earth’s surface. The man-made tremours are of course made by massive explosions, particularly by nuclear devices underground. The progressive development of this scientific capability to distinguish nuclear tests from natural seismic occurrences is of course an essential basis to the development of an effective comprehensive test ban treaty. Australia supports the acheivement of such a treaty.
The object and value or having these installations at Amberley and Alice Springs in Australia will be now evident. They make contributions towards the acheivement and monitoring of nuclear disarmament. The Australian Government has access not only to the product of these 2 installations but also to the other wider assessments to which they contribute. We see no reason to keep our participation in these matters confidential. The Government has already made clear its real and active concern that Australia take a positive role in disarmament matters. We have ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the treaty prohibiting the placement of nuclear weapons on or under the seabed. We are pleased to have in Australia stations monitoring disarmament. We will take a greater interest in their activity in future.
I wish now to speak about 2 joint installations in Central Australia which have long been matters of concern and debate in the Parliament. These are known as the Joint Defence Space Research Facility at Pine Gap near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, and the Joint Defence Space Communications Station at Nurrungar near Woomera in South Australia. As is well known, previous Australian governments chose to exclude the Leader of the Opposition from those who were briefed on the activities and functions of these stations. It was therefore necessary, as I have said in the past, for us to wait until we became the Government before we could develop a policy in respect of- these stations founded on a knowledge of- what they do, how they can be used, how they are controlled, and whether Australia has properly preserved its national interests in the arrangements entered , into by the previous Government. This unfortunate situation, which the previous Government forced upon us in the past, has been rectified. A week ago I offered the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) the opportunity of being fully briefed on the activities of both these installations. He has accepted my offer and has been briefed. The review that the. Government has made has started from the fact that these, installations are established and operating and that their presence is covered by formal international agreements between sovereign states. In the case of Pine Gap the agreement runs to 1976 and thereafter until terminated; in the case of Woomera to 1979, and thereafter until terminated. One year’s notice of termination is required. We continue to disapprove of the manner and the secrecy with which these agreements were entered into by the Liberal Party-Country Party Government. Although we are going to make changes, we are not making a fresh start. Our responsibility has been to consider whether the . national interest and independence are jeopardised by the continuance of the agreements. .The Government will, from time to time, inform the Parliament and make public all the information about these activities as would be consistent with national security. But, of course, the Australian and United States Governments have given undertakings to each other to protect from unauthorised disclosure classified information which we share about these stations. The Government will respect all classified information shared between us and the United States, as well as with Britain, New Zealand and other powers, including our friends in Asia. Defence co-operation cannot be conducted on any other basis.
Apart from these undertakings, there is no doubt in our minds that details of the techniques employed, and of the data being analysed and tested in the stations, must be kept highly secret if the 2 installations are to continue to serve their objectives. At the same time I wish to announce that the Government has decided that members of this Parliament must have a special right of access to the 2 installations which will enable them to see something of the nature of their operations and be given more information than was provided in the past.
I shall not here describe in detail the ‘Parliamentary access’ arrangements proposed. I have looked at them on the ground at Pine Gap and Woomera and I am satisfied that they provide the maximum access which is feasible without prejudice to the high secrecy of the data being handled. At this point I want simply to announce that there will be special provision for access for members of this Parliament, as would be the case if United States congressmen were to visit the stations. This special form of ‘Parliamentary access’ will not be available to other persons. With the exception of the very few people directly associated with the central execution and control of the defence programmes of Australia and the United States, no person will have greater access. Honourable members will recognise that these installations are defence projects. They do have work programmes and commitments, and applications to visit them must be made through me. It will not be possible to make visits without prior notice, and there will be some conditions to observe.
I state clearly that neither station is part of a weapons system and neither station can be used to attack any country. My concern has been to ensure not only that these installations do not conflict with our defence interests, but also that they contribute specifically to the improvement and development of Australia’s defence system. To date, some measure of this has been accomplished by the following: Firstly, we have access to the installations so that we know what is being done there; secondly, there is joint management of the facilities and participation by Australian civilians and servicemen in their operation; thirdly, all data available to the United States Government from these facilities is available to the Australian Government; and fourthly, we have the right to use either or both systems to meet specifically Australian requirements.
Notwithstanding these arrangements or opportunities for substantial participation, I am not satisfied that Australia has taken a sufficiently positive role in and share of the control of these installations in the past. I expect later this year, at a mutually convenient time, to visit the United States. When I go there, I shall further discuss these and other aspects of management and control of the installations with the United States Defence Secretary and his advisers. I believe that in these circumstances, should it be desirable, as I expect it will, we could expect that United States advisers would discuss the implications of these matters with officials in Australia.
I now turn to the matter of the United States Naval Communication Station at North West Cape. This installation was established under a formal agreement between the United States and Australia. The agreement runs for 25 years, to May 1988 and thereafter until terminated by 180 days notice. Title and sovereignty over the land occupied by the base remain vested in the Australian Government. Article 3 of the Agreement signed and ratified in 1963 provides that:
But as members of the House will recall the government of the day chose to restrict the meaning of this article. In an exchange of letters between the United States Ambassador and the then Minister for External Affairs on 7th May 1963, the Government publicly accepted the interpretation that the Australian Government’s right of consultation in article 3 of the United States Naval Communication Station agreement did not carry with it any degree of control over the. station or its use. An agreement with the United States restricted in this way would not have been made by a Labor government. It was, as we said at the time, a derogation from Australian sovereignty. No responsible Australian government can accept such a situation. The agreement and the exchange of letters were entered into 10 years ago. The exchange, of letters applies and was intended to apply a restrictive interpretation of the agreement. We shall negotiate for the application of the actual terms of the agreement, as distinct from the qualifying exchange of letters.
The United States has told this Government that it is willing to enter into consultations and has said that it is prepared to make. North West Cape a joint installation. We will, of course, be examining whether this would be desirable. These aspects will form an important part of my discussions when I visit the United States. I present the following statement:
United States Defence Installations in Australia - Ministerial Statement, 28 February 1973.
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Forbes) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 67).
– Prior to the dinner adjournment I was referring to Australia’s natural resources’ and reminding the House that the programme offered to the Australian people by the Australian Labor Party took the Governor-General 45 minutes to read. In 1969 the former Government, the Liberal-Country Party Government, . offered its programme to the Australian people in a 3-minute address. That again illustrates the despair with which the last Government faced the last Parliament. But in that 3-minute address was a reference to a nuclear power station which the then Government proposed in order to dress up its electoral grab bag. As we know, 18 months later that nuclear plant project was scrapped.
The Labor Party intends to look at the area of natural resources and energy in a very comprehensive way. There falls to the lot of our Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), who is seated at the table at the moment, the job of drafting a national energy and resources policy in a couple of months which the Opposition should have done during the 23 years that it was in government. So the work of 23 years now has to be completed within 6 months. There is enormous pressure on Australia and Canada, and countries like ourselves which have an abun-. dance of natural resources, particularly in the form of energy. As we know, there is a world energy crisis, particularly in regard to the supply of hydrocarbons. Through the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Australia has been under alot of pressure to make its energy resources available to the rest of the world. This is the attitude of countries like Japan and the United States of America. Japan in particular is importing about 78 per cent of its energy requirements at the moment and by 1980 that country will be importing 80-odd per cent of its energy requirements. The United States is facing an energy crisis at the moment and by the year 1980 it will be importing about $30 billion to $40 billion worth of energy resources. So Australia has to develop an energy policy very quickly if it is to govern the development of its natural resources.
We intend to govern the areas of nuclear power as well as coal and natural gas. I would like to display the negligence of the last Government in the area of natural gas. The Australian Gas Light Company at the moment is attempting to build a pipeline between Moomba and Sydney to supply the Sydney metropolitan area with natural gas. The diameter of the pipe, of 34 inches, is double the size of the- diameter necessary to supply the home consumption market of Sydney. In fact, Sir William Pettingell, the Chairman of the company, intended to build the line and to pay for it by exporting natural gas. This was the position although repeatedly the former Minister for National Development in the last Government said that there would be no exports of Australian natural gas. On the other front, on the north-west shelf of Australia, Burmah Woodside, that massive conglomerate, was also negotiating with a Japanese company for the export of natural gas while the Minister stood in this Parliament and said there would be no export. This demonstrates the complete contempt- that these companies held for the last Government and the way in which that Government neglectfully allowed these major companies to dominate and sell off our natural resources.
The Labor Party intends to introduce and build a national pipeline authority which will construct, maintain and service a national pipeline grid which will supply natural gas to the people of Australia at an equal price and will allow the Commonwealth Parliament to exercise sovereignty over these areas of resources so that we can plan the use of this very valuable energy resource. If there is to be any export of natural gas it will be only at the behest of the Federal Government after our domestic requirements have been satisfied. The Government intends to move into the area of natural gas, and also into other areas of energy. The Australian Labor Party, as a government, intends to look at the area of solar energy. This is an area of energy that Australia has a great opportunity to exploit. The world uses less than one per cent of the sun’s energy. Although the sun is 93 million miles away it is the best nuclear reactor that we have. In a country where we have the greatest number of hours of sunshine per year on an aggregated basis we have a perfect opportunity to explore this area of energy. So the Government intends to look at the question of solar energy to supply energy not only to Australia but to other countries in the region.
Also the Government intends to look at other forms of energy such as the Sarich engine which is being developed in Western Australia. This is a rotary engine which apparently develops a phenomenal level of horsepower and is of a very cheap and efficient form of construction. So in all forms of energy, including those forms of energy which can be utilised for automotive purposes and which we will integrate later on into the transport policy, we intend to introduce quite far reaching’ policies. 1 would like, in the 5 minutes remaining to me. to highlight another item of the Government’s programme - that relating to defence. For years in this House members of the former Government said: ‘You cannot trust the Australian Labor Party with Australia’s defence’. Yet we heard again in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech yesterday the Government’s enunciation of its plans to develop Australia’s defence forces. The Government intends, along with that, to develop Australia’s defence industries. This is something that I have been keen about for the last 3 years that I have been in this place. The last Government allowed all of our defence industries to lapse into a state of decay. Our shipbuilding was virtually non-existent in the defence area. Our aircraft industries are falling to pieces and a defence electronic industry is also non-existent. So the Government intends to rationalise the aircraft industry. It intends to find commercial as well as military work for it. The Government intends to carry out this programme very quickly so that it can save this Industry, halt the massive brain drain of people who are leaving it and going overseas and provide what is really the basis of defence - that is, an industrial backup. It is already common knowledge that the Australian Labor Party as the Government intends to do quite a lot to redevelop and reinvigorate the shipbuilding industry of Australia. Again, in the area of defence elec tronics the Government intends to do the same thing by re-invigorating this industry. We have heard all this talk - the shibboleths that the Liberals have dragged up over the years and which kept them in office for 23 years - about how one cannot trust the Labor Party with Defence. That bogy almost disappeared in the 1973 election and after 3 years of this Government it will totally disappear.
I would like to mention briefly some of the items which the Government will be introducing by way of legislation in the next 3 years which were set out in the Governor-General’s Speech. There will be a basic reform of the Australian Education system, the development of a schools commission and a pre-schools commission, the abolition of university fees, the overhaul of our social welfare system, the introduction of a universal health insurance system, the establishment of a school dental service, the establishment of Aboriginal land rights and the setting up of a cities commission. A Commonwealth-State lands commission will be established to develop residential land, which is something on which the Liberals in the Commonwealth and the States have been criminally negligent because they have always pandered to their developer friends in these areas. Also the Government intends to embark upon a new Commonwealth-State housing agreement and to lift loan limits on housing loans. It intends to fight inflation by limiting the amount of money flowing into Australia by way of foreign investment and to regulate the money supply as well as set up a prices justification tribunal to govern the primary cost of products, by which I mean the prices of products which tend to affect the secondary structure of prices and costs.
So the Labor Party’s programme is a comprehensive one. I thought it ill behove the honourable member for Wannon to make what 1 referred to before as a whingeing speech in which he talked about division and disunity in the Labor Party where in fact there is none. This will be a united Party. We intend to carry out a comprehensive programme and I am quite certain that the result will be our re-election at the end of this 3- year term.
– At the outset I would like to congratulate and thank His Excellency the Governor-General on his Speech on the occasion of the first session of this, the 28th Parliament. I speak not so much of the format of the Speech because to my mind that will react against Australia in the years ahead, but His Excellency’s rendition was first class. I also want to congratulate the new members. I think there are sixteen of them on the Government side and some eight or nine on this side of the House. They will find that things get violent here at times, but by and large we are usually fairly good friends personally. My electors find this difficult to assess why this is so but it is a fact - a fortunate fact indeed. I congratulate particularly the mover and seconder of the motion - the honourable member for Casey (Mr Matthews) and the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan). They have already been on their feet on the second day of this new Parliament and it is not an easy thing, as they indeed know, to stand here and to talk to the critics on their side and to those on our side of the House. I should like to congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on achieving the high office of Speaker of this House. You have an onerous task ahead. The position of Mr Speaker is one to which you have aspired for a long time and I hope that your sojourn as Mr Speaker is a happy but very short one.
-I will send you a Christmas card.
– Thank you for the interjection, Mr Speaker. I trust that you will bring to this high office the impartiality and integrity which are so necessary to keep the affairs of this country on an even keel. You will remember the disgraceful incident in which you took part on, I think the 9th or 10th April 1970 when your predecessor had to leave the chair on 2 occasions and the present Government supporters took charge of this House by forming a caucus in the middle of the chamber. One of them got up in the chair and talked about ‘come the revolution’. I hope that the honourable members on this side of the House will not use that sort of senile degenerate method to try to show their constituents what sort of men they are. People who do that sort of thing are not men at all. As far as I am concerned they are just rabbits. Since the elections there has been a good deal of dramatics so far as this Government and its outpourings are concerned. This Government has shown the Australian people that we in fact have a socialist government heading the affairs of Australia. Firstly, we saw the 2-man dictatorship. I believe this was the first time in history that 2 men took over and endeavoured to administer 27 portfolios on behalf of the people of Australia. Two members of this House - not even one from the Senate - took over the responsibility of the government of this country. If that is Whitlam style government, the less we see of it the better.
In the short space of 13 weeks we have seen recognition by this Government of at least 3 communist countries. This Government is setting up ambassadorial representation in Communist China, in North Vietnam and in East Germany. We are being recognised under the terms laid down by those communist countries. I have never seen anything more servile or obsequious than the acceptance of the terms laid down by Communist China. It is my understanding that Australia has accepted 23 of the 29 conditions which Peking said we had to accept if we wanted the friendship of Communist China. I know very little about diplomacy but I do know that when 2 countries recognise each other they recognise the internal habits of each but the communist people have told us: ‘We will accept your friendship on these 29 terms.’ This ‘tickle my tummy’ episode - and we have heard that phrase in this Parliament before - is frightening to those people who did not vote for socialists at the last elections. I have already used the word ‘obsequious’. There has been a bending of the knee to these countries when there was no need for it at all. I have never seen more servile or fawning treatment by one government to another than the recognition of the Communist Government in Peking.
The people of Australia have not been told what the 29 points are, 23 of which we apparently have accepted. We had to read about it in the newspapers. The news media had to obtain the information from Chinese news broadcasts. The people in China know all about this agreement which Australia has accepted. But the Australian people have yet to see the form of the agreement accepted by this socialist Government. I believe the information should be on the table in the Parliamentary Library for all honourable members to see. The document which was signed in France on 21st December last year by Mr Renouf ought to be available to all members of this House and of the Senate. There is no doubt in my mind that the Chinese Government has made certain that Australia will become a satellite communist country much the same as Czechoslovakia is to the Soviet Union, much the same as Poland is to the
Soviet Union, much the same as Bulgaria is to the Soviet Union and so on. During the last election campaign it was bruited around the country that Chou En-lai said to the Labor or socialist leaders in this country: ‘If it will help your cause we will give to the Australian Wheat Board an order for $60m so that you can become the government of Australia and a satellite of Peking’.
The Communist Chinese told us on 25th January that we had to remove our officials from Taiwan, and this we did in an obsequious way. What is the significance of 25th January to most people in Australia? It is the day before the day on which we celebrate Federation - Australia Day. The Peking Chinese realised that we would start ‘the new Australia’ on 26th January 1973 as a satellite to their country. The Communist Chinese said to our Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that he had to write to the President of the United States of America condemning him and the American people for their involvement in the war in Vietnam. The correspondence has yet to be acknowledged. I would not expect the President of the United States of America to acknowledge that form of correspondence which obviously was sent to him. Because no reply was received the Prime Minister decided that he would make certain that three of his senior Ministers would criticise and condemn the United States and its activities in Vietnam. The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) said that they were maniacs. Phrases such as that, of course, caught the headlines of the news media throughout the world. I heard the Minister for Labour say - and it would have been quite obvious to anybody who wanted to listen: ‘Well, at least we are hitting the Press headlines throughout the world*. Of course this Government is hitting the headlines because it is doing things that have never been done. I can only remind honourable members that the Black September movement also hit the headlines throughout the world and I see very little difference between the activities of this Government in hitting the headlines in this manner and those of the Black September movement which annihilated athletes in Munich last September. If that is the type of headlines Australia needs then thank goodness I am in opposition in this House.
The people of Australia were forewarned in regard to what a socialist government intends to do for Australia. The Federal Conference of the Labor Party held in Launceston, I think in 1971, set out the principles to be adopted by this socialist Government. The then Leader of the Opposition, now the Prime Minister of this country, also said during the election campaign what he would do so far as communist countries were concerned. Speaking on behalf of the electors in the electorate of Balaclava I can say that there are not too many of them who accept that we should go hand in hand with the communists and socialists throughout the world. We recognised East Germany before the United Nations came to a decision or had even debated whether East Germany should be accepted into the group of countries which attend the United Nations forum. We had to get in first to show the world that we could have a first with East Germany, with these self-elected people, not appointed by the people of their country but self-appointed by tyranny, force and a lack of freedom in taking over the role of government. This is what the East Germans do. I wonder how many honourable members of this House have crossed into East Berlin through the Iron Curtain which was erected and is manned by the communist soldiers from East Germany. When I went there I was given 14 sheets of closely typewritten material containing dos and don’ts. They were mainly don’ts. If one takes money into East Germany and spends some of it one cannot bring the change back because they want all the currency to be kept in East Germany. They say: ‘Don’t do this; don’t do that; don’t do anything at all but just look at the. buildings and come back.’ I was relieved to return to West Berlin.
Such countries do not allow their citizens to leave the country unless they obtain special permits or unless they are escorted throughout the world by communist cadres. Sportsmen and artists who leave those countries have to be escorted from place to place wherever they go. We have all read about the people who have absconded from these controls and from the tyrannical action of those self appointed communist governments throughout the world. In the past when those people have gone to the United States of America, to Australia or to the Western democracies of Europe they have made every effort to get away from the tyranny that 1 have mentioned. We all know about the automatic devices used by the East Germans to maim, kill or terrorise those fugitives who desire to get away from the tyranny behind the Iron Curtain. This year I read about a new device which will shoot lead and steel in 12 different directions to maim fugitives and to make sure that they do not obtain their freedom. And still there are fugitives who will take this form of action to escape from the tyranny of these self-imposed leaders.
In relation to his recent trip to New Zealand the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was asked questions about the form of discussions he would have with the Prime, Minister of New Zealand. He said quite rightly:
I cannot give any indication to the media until I have had a talk to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, and when we have come to some finality 1 will talk to the media and tell them all about it. But-
He said exultantly -
I have received a Christmas card from Chairman Mao.
That shows the mentality of the Prime Minister who is in charge of the foreign affairs of Australia. He received a Christmas card from Chairman Mao. I wonder whether he received one from President Nixon, Mr Pompidou or Mr Heath. But he received one, from Chairman Mao and he wanted all Australia to know it.
We have seen the communist trade union group from Hanoi being welcomed and feted by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. We have seen them escorted throughout this country by the communist trade union leader, Mr Carmichael. They have been given every opportunity to see what happens in this country. These militant trade union leaders obviously realise that in Hanoi, East Berlin and Communist China there are not any strikes, there are no stop work meetings, there are no go slows, there is no discussion about more money or more benefits for the workers simply because in those countries big brother makes the decision and if anyone argues for better conditions in those countries they are shot. There have been reports in our news media of shootings taking place in those countries. I wonder whether Australia is heading in that direction.
The difficulty is that this Government has aligned Australia with those communist countries. It has denigrated the democracies to which Australia has looked in the past and with whom Australia has traded. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) spoke about defence. I wonder what he feels about the defence we may need in the years ahead. We will not decide what form our defence will take. It will be Peking that decides. It will say: ‘You sell us the wheat; you sell us the wool; we will make you the hewers of wood and the drawers of water.’ Is it any wonder that Mr Byrne, the Victorian Minister for State Development and Decentralisation, Minister for Tourism and Minister for Immigration, said: ‘If I can get 500 Chinese under contract to come to Australia I will get them.’ That is the type of thing that is happening in Australia.
I believe that this Government has taken all the sinew and muscle out of our defence system which has been built up over the last 10 years. Already some 30,000 men have been moved out of the Australian Army. There are indications already that in the next Budget the defence vote will be about $80m less than it was in the last Budget. Of course, this Government has to find money from somewhere. There was no mention in the Governor-General’s Speech yesterday about tax remissions to the workers. There will be no reduction in taxes in any form in the next Budget. The Government is building up in the minds of the people of this country a welfare ethic. I believe that those who want to work ought to work. I believe in a good day’s work for a good day’s pay. There is no question in my mind that we have people in this country who are voluntarily unemployed. They go to communes where there are no work opportunities to make certain that they are not given a job and that they thereby qualify for social services. I also refer to the surfies who have a good time on the beach where there are not any good opportunities for work. They obtain social services.
I am speaking on behalf of those Australians who want to work, who want to pay taxes, who want to acquire a home and who do not want to bludge on their mates around the corner. They are the people I am talking about. I believe that President Nixon was quite right when he told the Americans during his campaign: ‘We need to build in this country a work ethic, not a welfare ethic’ The Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) told us that he sat alongside Mr McGovern, the Presidential candidate, when he flew from London to Washington. He had a long talk and closely associated himself with Mr McGovern. I was in America when the Presidential campaign took place. Mr McGovern’. whole campaign was built on cutting down the sinews and muscle of America’s defence system and building up a welfare ethic so that everybody gets something for nothing. Mr Nixon, who had a landslide victory, told the American people that they had to work for the things that they wanted. He instilled in their minds the need to build up what I have called and what he previously called, a work ethic - not a welfare ethic. I believe that President Nixon will inculcate in the minds of the people of America this rugged individual quality that all countries, including Australia, need so much.
– The remarks made by the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn) who preceded me in this debate were fairly typical of the thinking that caused the defeat of the Liberal Government. His approach gives a fair indication that unless honourable members opposite change their style of thinking they will spend many years on that side of the House. In his efforts to criticise the actions of this Government the honourable member failed to give us some reasons as to why he may have decided to change his tune about revaluation. He was. one of its foremost advocates in the last Parliament. I believe that he has decided to get on side with his Leader and change his attitude or to submerge his opinions in silence. This evening he did not mention this matter. He made a valiant effort to lay claim in this Parliament to the mantle left behind by one whom I am sure the great majority of members were pleased to see depart this Parliament. I refer to the previous honourable member for Lilley, Kevin Cairns. I am pleased to have here on my left this evening the new and very fitting honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle) who has replaced Kevin Cairns in this Parliament. May I tell the honourable member for Balaclava that I am afraid that the present honourable member for Lilley will never make another Kevin Cairns - thank goodness.
Tonight I am very pleased to congratulate the Governor-General on the fine speech that he made at the opening of Parliament yesterday. The remarks made by my colleague, the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), earlier this evening gave a pretty fair indication of the comparison between the Governor-General’s Speech on this occasion and his speeches on the other 2 occasions on which I had the privilege to listen to him. I am sure that on the 2 previous occasions, particularly the first one, when we were hardly in the chamber long enough to know that the Speech had begun before it finished, he must have felt ashamed at the record of proposals that the Government had placed before him to present to the Parliament. He almost certainly would have had some thought in his mind as to how much more efficiently and effectively he could have been performing the role of Prime Minister in the Parliament than either of the 2 right honourable gentlemen who were called upon by the Liberal Party to perform that job. Of course, those 2 gentlemen have now met their fate, and the people have elected to government a party that will present to them new horizons, aims and ideals. I am very proud to say that a large proportion of the people of Australia, whether they have supported all the decisions that the Government has made since the election or whether they have not, at least have been singularly high in their praise of the Government for at least making decisions and of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) for at least acting as a Prime Minister should. The people of Australia have been pleased to see a Prime Minister prepared to make decisions, the people having become used to the indecision of the previous Prime Minister during his fortunately short term in office.
Let me further say that I congratulate the Prime Minister on many of the changes that he has proposed. There is one change that I suggest he might very carefully consider before the next Parliament,, the , 29th Parliament, meets. I suggest we should , discard the unnecessary pomp and ceremony that I am sure there was no need for here yesterday, with members for most of the day wandering backwards and fowards across red carpets and going into the Parliamentary Library to shake hands with the Governor-General who I am sure had no more idea , of what it was all about than did the members. One of my colleagues remarked to me as we moved across the red carpet on the third or fourth occasion: ‘Surely if we do this much more some df the people in Kings Hall will start to throw peanuts at us’. I am sure that if that had happened it would have been with some just cause. I believe that in this day and age, with the new approaches that this Government will bring to running this nation, there is certainly no need for a continuation of the type of ceremony in which we were all forced to participate yesterday.
One of the important matters that the Government has so far proposed to the Parliament is the extension of the franchise to 18- year olds, whom we now recognise in Aus.trali aas people entitled to accept the responsibilities of adulthood. Granting voting rights to these people was something that the previous government at various times, when challenged by the Labor Party in opposition to take action, mouthed support for, but that Government was never prepared to take forthright action to introduce this very necessary electoral reform. Certain other electoral reforms have been proposed and will in time be introduced by my colleague, the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). I sincerely look forward, and I am sure a great percentage of the Australian people do, to the introduction of a true sense of democracy into the voting procedures of this country so that we will accept the principle of ‘one vote one value’.
For too long this Parliament has had inflicted upon it the undue influence of the Country Party, out of all proportion to the electoral support that it is receiving. Sadly, I have seen examples of this only too clearly. I am sure that if the former honourable member for McPherson were in the chamber this evening he would be applauding me for my remarks. He, as a fellow Queenslander, in recent times has certainly expressed his opinion on the 18th century attitude that the Country Party Government in Queensland has adopted to many matters, including the relocation of the Torres Strait border between Australia and New Guinea, to which I will take the opportunity to refer again later during my remarks this evening. The point I want to make at the moment is that in Queensland today the people have inflicted upon them a Country Party Premier and a Country Party Government who cannot gain even 20 per cent of electoral popularity throughout the State. With only 19 per cent of the vote in Queensland, the Country Party holds a major share of power in the coalition Government. Is it any wonder that the Liberal Deputy Premier and Treasurer of Queens and, Sir Gordon Chalk, has been outspoken in his criticism of the attitude that the Country Party Premier has expressed towards the decisions of the present Commonwealth Government? As someone remarked to me recently: ‘China has its Chou En-lai; Queensland has its Lying’ Joh’. That is probably a disturbing suggestion, but it is quite obvious that although this gentleman seeks to present a religious image to the people, no greater hypocrite has ever sat in the Queensland Parliament or, to my knowledge, ever controlled a political party in Australia.
-Order! The word ‘hypocrite’ is unparliamentary.
– Mr Speaker, in deference to your ruling, I withdraw my very apt description of the Queensland Premier.
-Order! The honourable member will place no qualification on his withdrawal of the word.
– I withdraw my description of the Queensland Premier as a hypocrite.
– Just say that he is indescribable.
– He certainly is indescribable. I am certain that there are members of the Liberal Party in this Parliament who feel the same as I do about the Premier of Queensland and the influence of the Country Party. They fully realise that they should accept the challenge that the Labor Party will extend to them to bring democracy into the electoral procedures of this nation and accept the challenge of supporting a system of electoral reform that will give voters in the cities a vote of the same value as the vote of people who live in some other parts of this nation. They realise that not until they do so will they be free of the influence of the Country Party. Forever will they sit in this place in Opposition wishing that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) was in fact able to claim the title of the second most important man in Opposition. Instead of asserting his right to that claim they will sit in their seats squirming while the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) rises to his feet and presents himself to the Parliament as the person accepting the title, to which I believe he is not entitled to lay claim, of the second most important member of the Opposition.
We on this side of the House who were honoured to be members of the last Parliament know full well that the opportunity was taken by the people of Australia on the occasion of the last election to cast out the Liberal-Country Party coalition and to elect the Labor Party into office after 23 years of Liberal-Country Party rule despite the gutter tactics that were used and despite the lies of the previous government and particularly those of the Democratic Labor Party. I can say that in Queensland the fear and smear campaigns of the enemies of Labor during the last election did not succeed. Never again will they succeed with such tactics because in the coming 3 years that this Government will be in office the people of Australia, including a new generation of Australians, will have an opportunity to judge the Australian Labor Party on its record and performances as the national Government. They will have an opportunity to judge the Labor Government on the reforms that it will introduce during its 3 years in office, many of which were outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech yesterday. So, never again can the fear tactics of the parties that previously have depended on them for their return to office, rather than depending upon the presentation of progressive policies for election to office, be used to the detriment of the Labor Party and to the disadvantage of the country as a whole.
I hope that when the proposed electoral reforms are introduced into this Parliament, and when one-vote one-value is an accomplished fact, there might be some opportunity for the Government to use its influence on those discredited State governments that depend upon the gerrymander for their own continuation in office. I refer particularly to the disgraceful gerrymander that has returned the Country-Liberal coalition to office in Queensland. Without getting on to the rights or wrongs of a change in the boundary between Queensland and Papua New Guinea, I want to make one point on this issue this evening, and I am sure that those who have looked closely at the situation will agree with the point that I make. I have no doubt that the Premier of Queensland has not been concerned or interested in the location of the boundary because of a concern for the lives, the livelihood or the future nationality of any people who may live on the islands affected. He is concerned rather for the future success of the shares that he holds in the companies that he hopes to give an opportunity to drill for oil on the Great Barrier Reef. These plans currently are held in abeyance. Some of the titles that are to be made available by the Queensland Government to these companies are locked in the safe of the Minister for Mines and are waiting there for the greedy hand of the Queensland Premier to descend on the Torres Strait and Barrier Reef oil fields, as it has done in many previous instances, mainly through the nominee companies in which he holds an interest that can never be tracked down.
I shall leave the Queensland Premier alone for a moment and refer to one other matter which has been given some attention in Queensland in recent times and which concerns the incapacity of the- University of Queensland to cope with the -numbers of students who are presenting themselves for enrolment in courses at that university. I compliment the Government on the action it has taken in relation to the abolition of university fees from the start of the 1974 academic year. I also compliment the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) on the very progressive move he has made to alleviate the burdens and hardships carried by many students by making special grants to the various States. However, in Queensland this year more than 40 students at the University of Queensland who have passed the first year of their medical course will not be allowed to go on to the second year because of a severe, restrictive quota system.
The system that exists in the University of Queensland is due . in no small measure to the attitude of the Queensland Government in the past towards providing finance for the expansion of the University of Queensland and to the attitude of the past Federal governments, which continually refused to provide finance for university development except on the basis of matching grants. I believe that the situation has been reached in . Queensland, particularly in respect of the development of the new university at Mount Gravatt, where action is needed. I hope that this Government will be influenced into granting finance for the development of this university to overcome some of the current problems in regard to enrolments at the University of Queensland and that this (finance will not be on a matching dollar for dollar basis. This is one of the sins of omission of the previous Government that this Government will have to face. It is one of the important matters that should be, and I trust will be, faced quickly because there is a growing shortage of doctors in Queensland which has necessitated the Queensland Government advertising in other States for young doctors to come to Queensland because facilities cannot be provided for Queensland to train its own doctors in its own university.
In conclusion I should like to say that there is no doubt that the people of Australia on this occasion have made a decision which, on previous occasions, they have endeavoured to make but have failed to make because of the distribution of preferences from minority groups, particularly the Democratic Labor Party. I believe that the election of this Government will see the speedy end of the DLP which has grown and lived on hatred and bitterness towards the Party that is now in office - hatred and bitterness which I hope can no longer continue.
– Firstly I request you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to convey to Mr Speaker my congratulations on his attaining the high office of Speaker of this House. It is not an easy position. It is a difficult position, and this is known only by those who have occupied the chair from time to time. I wish him well in the future. The previous speaker, the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh), seemed to spend half his speech referring to the Queensland Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen. I do not intend to reply to that part of his speech because I am positive that Mr Bjelke-Petersen is quite capable of looking after the honourable member for Bowman and himself in relation to anything that might be occurring in Queensland. He is looked upon as a very fine Premier, not only in Queensland but across Australia. I have no doubt whatsoever that Mr BjelkePetersen is quite capable of looking after that situation.
It is surprising to hear a Labor member, and a Queensland Labor member of all Labor members in this House or any other House of Parliament in Australia, standing in this place and talking about gerrymandering electorates. I am sure that Labor members’ memories are not so short that they forget what happened in Queensland many years ago in relation to the gerrymandering of electorates. What was it? It was only because of the action of the Australian Labor Party itself that the people were able to put it out of office in that State. In the latter part of his speech he referred to the Democratic Labor Party. True enough, he would like to see it go because the crux of the whole situation in Queensland was related to the DLP. If any member of this or any other House in Australia is interested in gerrymandering I suggest he examine the situation that applied in Queensland many years ago when a Labor government was in office. No doubt we will be having more to say about this particular subject at some future date.
This Government, which has been democratically elected by the people of Australia, has come into office at a time when Australian finances are better than they have been for many years. Would honourable members opposite dispute the position with respect to our balance of payments? They can obtain the documents and they will see that in the final half of last year-
– It was hot money.
– I suggest that the honourable member for Chifley listen. In the final half of last year, for the first time for many years Australia had a credit in its current account - a credit gained through trade. This was not brought about by accident. For the first time, because of our export trade, we have been paying for our imports. The coalition parties, when in government, had been trying to reach that point for many years. We were trying to get the position straight because as everybody knows we were living on borrowed money. Our goal was achieved but what will be the position in future? Will the Labor Government hold the position? That is the crux of the matter.
For many years Australia has been building up its trade and its industry. It has built up its factories and its farms in no uncertain fashion. What has happened? We have come to this point and the figures prove that through its export trade Australia is now paying for its imports. In other words this nation at this point is balancing its books for the first time for many years. It has not been easy to reach this position but the former government achieved it over the years. I only hope that the Labor Party, in its lifetime in government, can hold that position. It is a challenge to the Labor Party. The only way the Government can hold the position is to inspire the industries - private enterprise - in Australia to develop, grow and manufacture goods that can be exported. This must be done if the balance of payments position is to be retained.
Foreign capital was mentioned earlier. Such capital is moving out of this country very rapidly. Government supporters say that they do not want any of this money. They regard it as hot money which was brought into Australia. Reference was made, to our balance of payments in a statement by the present Prime Minister following the last Budget. Honourable members are free to refer to that statement. We have been through a very difficult time with many of our exports. This situation was not unique to Australia but applied to many other countries. There were great difficulties in the primary industries but Australia is now out of that situation but we did not get out of it by sitting down and doing nothing about it. The honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) said that the present Government is making decisions because the people want decisions.
Australia’s greatest 2 industries are the wool and wheat industries. If the Government makes decisions in line with statements made by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) in this House during the last couple of years I fear for those industries. It will be the end. His statements are recorded in Hansard. Only by sticking to our guns when we were in government and by providing financial assistance of hundreds of millions of dollars were these industries brought to their current position. This action was condemned by the then Opposition Labor Party. So when decisions are made let them be sound decisions because these are important to the very things I have been talking about and to our balance of payments. I have great faith in the industries of this country as I have indicated that since I have been in this House. One can only have that faith if one is prepared to stand behind them, and this is the point I am making.
In the last couple of months, in its decision-making the Government has revalued our Australian currency. The appreciation of the currency, if I remember correctly, was 7.05 per cent. This was a decision taken not by Cabinet but by two or three men within the Government. No doubt I will be corrected by Government members if I am not correct. But that was the decision that was taken at the time. If that decision were, correct for our currency, at the time, which undoubtedly the Government thought it was, following the crisis with respect to the strong currencies, notably the United States devaluation which had an appreciating effect of about 11.01 per cent on Australian currency, how could it possibly be right to do nothing then? If it were right in December to revalue our currency by 7.05 per cent how could it be right a few weeks later to have a situation were our currency appreciated by almost 19 per cent with United States currency? Perhaps honourable members opposite will answer this question at some time.
The decision to revalue our currency has created great difficulties for some of our major exports. These are the points to which I was referring when I spoke about our balance of payments position. What will happen now to these great industries, including mining, many of which are in my own State of Western Australia? Some of these export industries are in trouble and do not know their position. They are still trying to ascertain the effect of revaluation on their contracts. On several occasions since the United States devalued its currency the question has been asked: Why were not our mining contracts written in Australian dollars? How naive can a person be? These are some of the biggest contracts ever written anywhere in the world. They were written some years ago. Honourable members opposite may smile. The contracts were written in United States dollars because that was the recognised currency. Had they not been written in United States dollars they Would not have been written at all at that time. It is no use honourable members opposite complaining. They must show responsibility and should know precisely what they are saying. If these contracts had not been written in United States dollars they would not have been written.
If the Labor Government does not believe me I suggest it speak to the big financiers to discover the position for itself. Members opposite should find: out what the people who wrote the contracts think of the situation. These people are in business and know that these sort of contracts could not have been written in any currency other than American currency at that time. I hope that the Government recognises the position in which some of our export industries are now placed. I hope it studies the position because it is serious. We do not want to see confidence destroyed in Australian export industries. We do not want a situation where new industries will not be attracted to Australia. All I ask is that the Government .negotiate with these people, that the Government recognise the position and act accordingly. The whole situation is extremely serious.
The Government has stated in recent times that it intends to build a gas grid from west to east and from north to south. It sounds a very fine project, in words. I understand that the project was to be carried but by private enterprise, but I believe that the Government has decided to build the gas grid itself. I hope that the Government does not lose sight of many of the essential things which we need to help industry in this country. One of the things which this country - the driest continent in the world - must continue to do is build up its water resources. If that is not done gas will be of no use whatsoever because water is the basis of industry. I point out to the Government, if it wishes, to build a pipeline, that one is needed in Western Australia from north to south to ensure the future of industry in that State. In many other areas of Australia substantial pipelines carrying water are needed. I hope the Government does not lose sight of that situation.
I have mentioned one or two things concerning primary industries, but I wish to mention particularly that Australia has come out of a very difficult period. Honourable members who have been in this House during the last 3 years know full well what has been said on this subject. The wool industry has come out of that difficult period for many reasons which I shall not relate to the House tonight. Wool, as a fibre, has never failed. It has been dealt some blows but the market for it has never fallen down and will not do so in the future. This natural fibre is required in many parts of the world. We have now to recover from the damage done to the wool industry over the last 2 or 3 years by certain interests whose aim has been to deplete its supply. Wool will become readily available only if the world is prepared to pay for it - and the world is now prepared to do that.
The textile industry in the northern hemisphere has realised that it cannot carry on without wool. It has realised the damage which has been done to the wool industry, to the studs and to quality because of the drop in production. Wool is needed, as has been demonstrated on the auction floors. As I have stated in this House many times, many countries for a variety of reasons feel that wool is a must. In this field the Australian Wool Corporation came into existence after the amalgamation of 2 authorities on 1st January this year. The Corporation is looking at the recommendations of the wool industry and will eventually report back to the Government. The decision made by the Corporation will be extremely important and will have to be considered by the industry itself and, naturally, by the States. The future price of wool will rely to a large extent on the final document that is presented to this House after consideration by the States. Regardless of the clauses which may be contained in the document, there must be a floor price, cut off point, in relation to world wool prices. Whatever else is contained in the document, that ingredient is a must.
I certainly hope that the Government takes the decision, of the Corporation seriously because in the last few years we have seen what can happen to the tremendous wool industry of Australia. The wool industry, in the main, has been reponsible for better employment opportunities being available to the people of this country. As I said in this House some months ago, particularly in reference to Australia, when wool prices recover and primary industries get hack on their feet the people of this country and many others will be employed to the full,. Those industries are now getting back on their feet.
I was disturbed today when the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) referred to the wheat industry and mentioned that wheat sales had been made by the previous Government in recent times. I did not follow the rest of his speech, but I sincerely hope that he and the Government do not believe that the previous Government made wheat sales. The previous Government did not make wheat sales. The Australian Wheat Board was set up to do that. When the Labor Party was previously in government it sold wheat to New Zealand over the heads of the wheat growers. I certainly hope that the remarks of the honourable, member for Blaxland in relation to wheat sales by the previous Government are not taken aboard by the present Government. The Australian Wheat Board has had the responsibility for seeing us through our difficult times over the years and has brought about a successful conclusion. There is one other point that I wish to make. The Government has announced that there will be a first payment advance on $1.20 a bushel. It is a small increase, but is not in keeping with present circumstances. The Australian f.a.q. wheat quoted c.i.f. London rose from £Stg29.80 in August to £Stg49 in December. That is a tremendous lift in the world market. There is a shortage of grain and many other things. The wheat growers are certainly entitled to receive the 10c increase in the first payment. In my book they are entitled to more than the first payment I have cited because wheat and other grains are readily saleable overseas.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In the first instance I should like to congratulate you, Mr Deputy Speaker, on your appointment today as Chairman of Committees and Deputy Speaker.
– A very popular appointment.
– As the honourable member for Hunter says, it is a popular appointment. I am quite sure you will carry out your duties with very great distinction. I hope within a few minutes to be able also to congratulate Mr Speaker on his appointment - something I just could not miss. I sincerely congratulate the new members on both sides of the House. The maiden speeches which we heard earlier today from 2 new members on this side of the. Parliament were excellent and show the very high calibre of people who were brought into the Parliament as a result of the last election. Of course, the result of that election gave the Australian Labor Party a majority so that today it can govern for the first time in 23 years. To you, Mr Speaker, as you return to the Chair, may I say that I- most sincerely congratulate you. I think that your appointment in this instance is most appropriate. Probably no person was more notorious than you for his humorous and incessant interjections in previous Parliaments. Accordingly, it is only common sense that we should use the principle of ‘set a thief to catch a thief in electing a Speaker to keep the Parliament operating and to maintain order.
– Your solicitude is most appreciated.
– It is a very sincere congratulation, Mr Speaker. Following the suspension of the sitting we have heard tonight 2 speakers from the other side of the House, namely, the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn), and the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett). What struck me more than anything else - this was extremely interesting - was how completely bankrupt of new ideas their speeches were. The honourable member for Balaclava, during his speech, spoke only of the old, old subject, communism. He was trying to kick the com munist can again. That was all he could speak about. He is as bankrupt of ideas now as he was previously. He did not even endeavour to criticise any of the proposals of the new Government as set .out in the Governor-General’s Speech. He simply settled once again for that old shibboleth, and that was all he could talk about.
The honourable member for Canning could speak about the problems of ohe section of the community only - admittedly a very important section - our farming community. When will the; Country Party broaden its ideas and become a nationally minded party instead of looking ‘at one small section of the community only. It is a very important section. Perhaps I. am wrong in describing it as a small section, it is a most important section. But the Country Party should look beyond the horizon at the other great problems which affect Australia. The honourable member for Canning did not even have his facts right. He was taking great credit that at last Australia had managed to close the gap in its balance of trade. He forgot to say. that when the Chifley Government went out . of - office this country had one of the healthiest trading situations that it had ever experienced.
– The till was well and truly full.
– That is quite right. The till was well and truly full- and’ it was not full of hot money as it was when the last government went out of office. The honourable member took credit for the former Government that ‘ the reserves were so high. Of course he forgets that this was hot money - speculative money: - which w.as coming into Australia for one purpose only. Those investors knew that eventually a great alteration in currency value would be forced on the Australian Government irrespective of the political complexion of that government. It is well known that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), when he was Federal Treasurer last year, favoured revaluation because he knew that the problem of hot money had to be taken notice of. I do feel that the honourable member should realise just what the economics of that, situation were. Revaluation had to occur. Furthermore, the former government had a large deficit in its balance of trade for a whole decade. It took the former government a whole- decade to close the gap and now, although it is hard to imagine, honourable members opposite are taking credit for that situation. I noticed a rather interesting article in the Press today. It states:
The former Liberal Party Government had been relegated to the scrap heap because it had lied to the people and Parliament. . . .
They refused to come clean or, In plain language, tell the truth. . . .
They lied and lied and lied. . . .
Ministers were among the worst offenders.
They thought they, were impregnable- a Government by divine right. A monolith that could not be toppled. They degraded and treated with utter contempt the Parliament of which they were the elected custodians.
The article goes on to say that the author of these remarks described the Leader of the Opposition as a ‘confirmed lightweight’. The article continues:
With no talent and a succession of Prime Ministers each worse than bis predecessor, the Party turned on itself. . .
What followed was a facade qf lies and deceit involving one incident after another, wrecking ‘ the Government’s credibility in the eyes of the public.
People weren’t that blind and nor, as it has turned out, was the Opposition.
Po honourable members know who made those remarks which appear in today’s ‘Daily Telegraph’? They were made by a former Liberal member of this Parliament. When the present Opposition was in Government, Mr Edward St John, the author of those remarks, was a member of this Parliament. These remarks were made by him when addressing a Liberal organisation only yesterday. That is what members of the Liberal Party think of their Party. Of course, anybody with any conscience at all would know that there is a great deal of truth in what he said. He was a great man. He was a man with a conscience.
– He will go to heaven when he dies.
– I suggest to the honourable member for Hunter that he should resume his proper seat in the House. I suggest to the honourable member for Chifley that he address the Chair as he is creating great difficulties for the Hansard writer.
– I am sorry. I assume, Sir, that in calling the honourable member for Hunter to order, you do not suggest that Mr Edward St John will not go to heaven?
-The honourable member for Chifley is aware that the Chair does not comment on the content or accuracy of speeches.
– I believe the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to be a visionary blueprint of reform for the future of Australia. Its proposals will remove injustices and inequalities from our community. They will help a great deal in the future development of our nation. For 23 years a government procrastinated, was bankrupt of ideas and simply practised the art of political survival through deceptions such as kicking the communist can and other tactics of this type, instead of establishing sound basic policies for the future development of our nation. We are now moving from the 1970s towards the 1980s and we must have a sound programme. I believe that the Governor-General’s Speech at the opening of the Parliament yesterday is such a blueprint for the future of Australia.
I should like to touch on just a few of (he matters which are raised in it. For example, I mention inequality of opportunity in education. I do not think there would be too many members in. this House who could speak with more authority on this subject than I, in view of the area which I represent. My electorate is in the outer western suburbs of Sydney. If there is need in.. education this is where it exists. In one of our State schools a teacher was teaching first form English although the girls she was. teaching could not understand the teacher’s English. In another school which my own daughter attends, the fifth year science mistress could not be understood by the pupils she was teaching. The teacher finally resigned because she could not cope. In a non-State school lessons are being taught in a bus. In other words, if the needs concept in education is to apply, it should apply in the outer western suburbs of Sydney.
Probably the greatest need in that area is for experienced teachers. We have some very fine young teachers there but you cannot put an old head on young shoulders. What is needed more than anything else is some incentive to experienced teachers to teach in the schools out in that area where there is a very great shortage of teachers, particularly experienced teachers.
There is a very great need for library equipment in our schools. My daughter had to take half a day off from school when preparing for her examinations because she could not get the books she wanted in her school library and had to go to the local municipal library to get them. I could go on, of course, and speak of laboratory equipment which is in precisely the same situation. For this reason it is a delight to find in this document, this blueprint for the future, a proposal to establish’ a schools commission. It is a delight to see in this blueprint a proposal to establish a pre-schools commission. The other night I inquired at the motel where quite a number of us live and evidently here in the Australian Capital Territory a parent can take his child to a Government pre-school kindergarten 3 mornings a week, 3 hours each morning, for a cost of only $24 per annum - less than SOc a week.
– This is the Australian Capital Territory.
– Yes. We should go out to the western suburbs of Sydney and find out how many pre-school kindergartens there are and how extortionate is the cost of taking children to those pre-school kindergartens. So for this reason also it is a delight to find a proposal to set up a schools commission to remove these inequalities from the children in my area which has more children than any other area in the State and probably in Australia. As there are more children in this area than in any other area, accordingly there is a greater need in this than in any other area. It is very good to see the end of conscription. If ever there was an unjust law, a disgraceful law-
– You .are conscripting public servants into unions.
– Nobody has brought it into the Public Service. That is absolute nonsense and the honourable member knows it. A question was asked about this today and it was very adequately answered by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). If the honourable member gets Hansard in the morning he will be able to read about it. Apparently he was not in the House this morning. The facts are that this very unjust Act meant that a very small proportion of young men, roughly onetenth of them, had to go away for 2 years while the others were able to make the most of their opportunities, and then come back 2 years behind the others. This was one of the most unjust pieces of legislation ever introduced in what is called a democracy. It was a lottery. It is very good to see that social security benefits are to be made available for migrants in this country when they become eligible irrespective of whether they stay here or return to their country of origin. This is a very important reform and will be of great benefit to the people who originally came here as migrants.
The Federal intervention into urban affairs is one of the most dramatic reforms that this country has seen in many a long year. I was pleased to have the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) in the outer western suburbs of Sydney only a couple of weeks ago. He toured the area and I was glad to hear him say that the areas in Australia in greatest need of Federal financial assistance were the western suburbs of Melbourne, the south-western suburbs of Sydney and the outer western suburbs of Sydney and that the outer western suburbs of Sydney was the area of greatest need. Anybody who goes into those areas will understand the problems. It is easy for the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) to giggle.
– I am not giggling, I am furious.
– I suggest that the honourable member should not giggle. Instead of running around South Africa supporting apartheid he would be better off getting out into the areas where inequalities exist. He should learn to have a little humanity and learn not to be quite so sure of himself and the lack of inequality in the world. One of the best places to learn these things is in those areas I have mentioned. This is one of the reasons I am very pleased to see that the Commonwealth will now be making direct grants to overcome this situation. Local government is to be given access to the Australian Loan Council, and this is a very important reform indeed. Why the previous Government could not face up to these issues is beyond my comprehension. I was pleased to hear the Minister state when he visited the area that when looking at urban development one cannot look just at local government finance. One has to look at all aspects of development, in particular the need for development of our urban transport system, the needs of education and of pre-school kindergartens, the need for a university in the western suburbs which have more students than any other area of the State, and all the various other areas of need. Therefore it is excellent to see that this great reform is to be introduced. It is good to note that the Albury-Wodonga complex is to become a reality and that a land commission is to be funded by the Commonwealth to develop land and provide those, facilities that are required for a decent quality of life is to be introduced.
– You do not know what you are talking about.
– Of course, I realise that some of the friends of the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) in the land game will not like it. This action will reduce the cost of land and stop the land price spiral. It will not be of benefit to estate agents but it will be of benefit to Australians and of great benefit to our young people. It is good that at last something is to be done about taxation evasion and I hope that it will not be only the Norfolk Island situation which will be looked at but also what is going on in Vila in the New Hebrides. I hope this will also be scrutinised. It is good to see mention in the Speech of a matter that obviously means indicative planning. We can learn from the excellent results in both Japan and West Germany, whose economies have developed quicker than the economies of any other country. They did it through indicative planning where they could divide industry into segments-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– First of all, Mr Deputy Speaker, I hope that you will pass on to Mr Speaker my congratulations on his election and that you will also accept my congratulations on your appointment as Chairman of Committees. You and I have one thing in common. We both follow the same football team and with a new coach this year we are certainly looking for an improvement. I agree with the interjection which came from behind me that the last speech we heard was a shocking speech. It really was the greatest of claptrap. The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) started off by chiding members of the Opposition for not discussing Labor policies and not bringing forward new Liberal policies. Then he proceeded to clown for 5 or 10 minutes reading out quite irrelevant cuttings from newspapers. Is this any sort of contribution to make to a serious discussion of the programme brought forward by the Government for the next 3 years? He said: ‘You know, all they are doing is kicking the communist can’. All I can suggest to him is that there is no need to kick the communist can. The Australian Labor Party is beating it for everyone to hear, loud and clear. Then followed a most stupid statement. I wrote this down because I thought it was so incredible. The honourable member said: ‘One of the most unjust, pieces of legislation ever introduced in a .so-called democracy’. This was his reference to conscription. Yet what happened in 1944, when not only was his Party in office but the honoured name of the electorate he represents was the name of the then Treasurer. At that time the Labor Party . brought in conscription which, according to the honourable member, is one of the most unjust pieces of legislation ever introduced into a so-called democracy. Members of the Labor Party know that their Party used it too.
If I may coin a phrase, it’s time for the Government to come down to earth and get its feet on to the ground, and by the ground I mean Australian ground and not Chinese ground. The Government has been active since it was elected in December, But active in whose interest? In a number of major matters, certainly not in the interests of the Australian nation. Some of its - actions on the domestic side have merit. Of course, the Government must be right some of the time. But this is the case only when viewed in isolation. Taken together, its decisions are fanning the. flames of inflation like a hot westerly pushes along a bush (fire, and it might be in my electorate or in the electorate of the honourable member for Chifley. In fact, the Government has been trying to create the impression that it is energetic and governing the country well just because it is churning out decisions with great speed, and in many cases with reckless abandon.
– And with little thought.
– Yes, and with little thought. Certainly, in many instances Ministers have been behaving like the prodigal son who, suddenly finding himself in possession of vast sums of money, seeks to distribute largesse without any thought for the future or how these gifts are to be paid for.
I recently went through a list of the socalled ‘achievements’ of the present Government - I use the word in inverted commas. Basically the so-called achievements can be put into 3 categories. The first, of them is announcements of decisions which were initiated by the previous government or promised by the previous government. In some cases, of course, these are slightly different. They may have been broadened; they may have had a bit more money added to them. But one could go through a long list of announcements made by the, present Government for which it wishes to get kudos for repeating policies which had already been initiated by the previous government.
– List them.
– If the honourable member wants me to list them, I shall go through the list. I did not want to bore the honourable member because it is quite a long list. First, we have additional grants to the arts; more aid for Indonesia - 1 think that the Government has promised an amount of Sim more than the $60m which the previous government had promised; then there is the announcement that the purchase of the Fill will proceed. Well, if ever there was a joke this is a joke, because there has never been any party which has denigrated a machine to such an extent as the Labor Party did that one. Then the first thing that Party does on gaining office is to announce that it will proceed with the purchase of this aircraft. Other announcements include the maintenance of the present 9 infantry battalions for the Army. But of course everyone knows that this will be at a much reduced strength. I understand that some of the battalions comprise less than 100 men. The Government has also made announcements about drawing up a plan for the development of the aircraft industry, portable pensions, preference for Australian firms where other aspects of tenders are equal. Of course, it is recognised that the previous government had made decisions of this type long before the Labor Party announced them. There was also the announcement to close up Norfolk Island as a tax haven. The previous Government had taken action there. The Government has also made an announcement about decentralisation. The previous Government set up NURDA and this Government has murdered NURDA. The Government intends to decentralise tertiary education facilities. We have been doing this for years, of course, but Labor does not even realise it is going on because it has hardly a member from the country. The Government has also announced the provision of boarding allowances for isolated children. This was a policy announced by our government which was not included in the 140 promises of the Labor
Party. However the Labor Government has now picked it up and has said what a great thing it has done. So one could go on.
The second category of Labor’s achievements is decisions requiring more money, in some cases a vast deal more money. Already decisions made by the Labor government in a little over 2 months will add $330m in a full year to the Budget. As I’ve said, I do not quarrel with many of these decisions individually. A good case can be made out for more spending in such fields as pensions, education, hospitals, dental services and housing. But the government is promising everything but salvation. The government itself has no money. While it can run deficits for a while, sooner or later the people have to pay for what an apparently generous government hands out. And what this Government is promising is not just hand-outs but a shower bath. Our taxes are already high by world standards. How much higher can taxes go before there is a disincentive to people to continue working, knowing the Government gets most of what additional money they would earn? Yet tax the Government must if it is going to carry out its ‘boom and bust’ policies. And do not think for a moment that the $330m represents the end of Labor’s lavish spending. It is only a beginning. We know that the ALP made 140 promises at the last election in order to attract that extra 2.7 per cent of votes which has given it its present majority.
Already there are signs that the Government will not, or cannot, implement some of these promises. Such promises were just electoral bait, and will disappear down the unfortunate fish’s throat now the fish has been hooked. But many decisions, even if they involve much less money than was promised, must add a vast sum to this and next year’s Budgets. Some of these decisions are quite unnecessary. For example, we are told that the Australian Gaslight Co. is not to be allowed to build its pipeline from Gidgealpa - Moomba to Sydney - the Government will do it instead. We are entitled to ask why. Will the Government do it any cheaper, any quicker, any better? I am sure the answer in all 3 cases is certainly no. It is only to be done by the Government because it is part of its socialist philosophy.
We can see once again the sort of socialist thinking which has led in England to the nationalisation of the steel industry. Look at what a tragedy this has been for the United
Kingdom. A government-run pipeline grid will inevitably lead to inefficiencies and cost escalations which must be passed on either to the consumer or to the taxpayer. The Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) seems to ignore completely the fact that the Australian Gaslight Co., through its subsidiary to the Eastern Australian Pipeline Corporation, has already signed contracts and would lose millions of dollars if the Government tried to take over the project. So once again the taxpayer is to fork out - this time to the order of $200m. In fact we are now told that the $200m is to be only the first serving in a programme which will eventually cost anestimated $650m or perhaps considerably more - undoubtedly considerably more. As the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) said this afternoon, we have to make certain that our priorities are right. Are our priorities right in finding government money for something which private individuals are prepared and willing to do? Surely the Government money should be kept for those areas where it is needed and which are not attracted to private enterprise. So much for the so-called achievements of the Labor government in spending more of our money. And do not forget that because of revaluation there are going to be far fewer profits in the mining industry and other exporting industries which will be available for the Government to tax and therefore it will get far less tax.
But the third area of government decisions really horrifies me. This is in the area of foreign affairs and defence. Here the Government has started out by asking itself the question: ‘What can we do to weaken Australia’s defence forces, her security and her alliances with her traditional allies?’ If this was what it set out to do, it has achieved their objective remarkably efficiently in a very short time. Support for communists and denigration of our allies, not only by the Prime Minister but by any of his Cabinet who choose to shoot off his mouth has become the accepted mean; If it was not so disastrous to the nation it would be humorous to recall the words of the - American Ambassador who, just before the last election said that he did not see any variation in Australian-United States relations if the Australian Labour Party won the election. Could anyone have been so naive?
I wonder whether he would be prepared to say that today? If he was so much out of touch it is no wonder that Mr Nixon has seen fit to replace him so quickly. And so Australia, which once was America’s closest ally, has dropped in a few weeks to the bottom of the list, perhaps only slightly ahead of Cuba and Chile. Of all the actions taken to assist communists and fellow travellers, perhaps none was more flagrant than the action of immediately restoring a passport to the noted communist Wilfred Burchett. What an odd set of priorities it is that restores a passport to Burchett while on the same day it withdrawsthe Australian passport of Air Vice-Marshal Hawkins, a man who served this country with distinction and honour in the last World War.
Let us look quickly at Burchett’s record. One could, of. course, spend all day going through the masses of evidence available about his assistance to the communists and to. Australia’s enemies whom our troops were actively fighting. He is described in a United States Senate -hearing on security as an agent for KGB, the- Soviet Police. There are many records of his having participated in interrogations, of United States airmen shot down in: Korea. These interrogations were designed to produce confessions. During them many prisoners died or disappeared. They, were usually conducted with the utmost brutality and can. fairly be described as being carried out with extreme and prolonged physical and mental torture. Such cases include that of Colonel Maharen the World War II ace who was kept in solitary confinement for over 3 months until he signed a purported confession. Such people were victims of Burchett’s germ warfare propaganda campaign. Quinn and Enoch were 2 others. It is noted that -Burchett joined their interrogation group ‘by invitation’. When the Australian troops were fighting in Vietnam Burchett went into South Vietnam with the Vietcong and made a propaganda film of their activities. This film was later smuggled into America to be used against the allies. Burchett’s activities were not simply the right to dissent but the physical participation in acts which could be regarded , as criminal and treasonable. There is no doubt mat he was a direct and active participant in the politicomilitary struggles waged against Australian forces in this field. Yet this man. is one of the first to be welcomed by the new Government. Surely this is enough to make any decent Australian vomit.
But as we glance through this list of decisions announced in the Speech we see more and more that the, guiding light behind many, if not most of them, is mat the Government should be seen by Labor’s left wing supporters to be doing those things that undermine our security or assist the communists. Take the Services, for example. We heard tonight from some Government supporters about what this Government is going to do and how it is going to help the Services. By next June, or only 6 months after the Australian Labor Party came to office, the strength of the Army will be cut by about 10,000 to some 31,000. Not only are conditions in a chaotic state while things are sorted out in the Army but many servicemen must be wondering whether they are redundant and if so whether they will be retired. And how will the Royal Australian Navy fare? Is it about to lose the 3 DDLs for which it fought so hard and which I and the previous Minister for the Navy, Dr Mackay, supported so strongly? This project after all is designed only to maintain the Navy’s current destroyer strength. Of course it is an expensive programme but defence is expensive and half measures are no good. Because of the defence environment in which we exist, the Liberal Party gave this programme the highest of all priorities. Now it looks like being scrapped or delayed as does also the Cockburn Sound naval base project, if rumour is to be. believed. What a tragic outlook this is for our armed forces which, only 3 months ago were at the highest state of efficiency and morale that we have ever known in peace time.
But even worse than this loss of efficiency and morale is the tragic blow to our security as a result of the incredible disclosures on our troops in Singapore. It would be almost impossible to imagine a more irresponsible action on the part of a Prime Minister, nor could one believe that a matter of this importance, could be handled so ineptly. As a responsible government we had a policy in the field of intelligence that, where national security was involved we did not confirm or deny any speculation about defence installations. This is a policy which previous Labor governments abided by. But now the present Prime Minister is rushing in to try to curry favour with some members of the, Press and Labor’s left wing by making security leaks and disclosures about Australia’s defence installations, even though he later admitted that some of the information obtained was extremely useful to Australia. It is time Mr Whitlam lost his preoccupation, indeed his obsession with China and became preoccupied with Australia. The whole shoddy incident of the so-called spies in Singapore only served to show the complete ineptness of the. Prime Minister’s handling of the matter from start to finish. Why was this backgrounder given to some members of the Press and not to others? Why was it necessary for a government which allegedly believes in ‘open government’ to issue a D notice so soon after it came into office while previous non-Labor governments had not needed to do so for more than 10 years?
Now pressure is being brought to bear on the Government for a further disclosure of defence secrets - this time concerning the joint Australian-American bases. I hope that the Government continues to resist this pressure. Could anyone in his wildest dreams imagine the Soviet Prime Minister disclosing what the Russians are doing at Tyuratom, or Plesetesk? Can we see the Chinese Premier giving a Press briefing on what goes on at Lop Nor? Of course we cannot. Where will it all end? How can any of our allies ever have any faith in us any more? We must be regarded universally as a most unreliable ally. And while the Government has been gaily rushing into recognition of Red China - upon what terms we do not know, except that we know that China got everything that it asked for - welcoming North Vietnamese trade unionists, lifting the ban on travel to North Vietnam and establishing diplomatic relations with East Germany and North Vietnam - it has done everything possible to undermine our assistance to our allies.
What extraordinary double standards the present Government seems to operate. On the one hand North Vietnamese can be responsible for slaughter, murder and torture. Yet they are welcomed by the Labor Party with open arms. The same applies to Russia and China, both of whom operate a police state and both of whom in recent times have been responsible for committing mass murder amongst their own citizens. Yet their relations are on the up and up with the ALP. At the same time South Africans are treated like lepers. Their rugby team is not allowed to land here for fear it might contaminate us. The Rhodesians are not allowed to buy our wheat. The people who will suffer most by this ban, of course, will be the native Rhodesians - that is if the ban has any effect at all, as no doubt Rhodesia will be able to buy all the wheat she wants elsewhere.
Of course no government, however hard it tried, could be wrong all the time. Some of the recent decisions have been good. The reorganisation of the defence Services is one with which I am basically in agreement and in fact I had written to the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) suggesting to him a reorganisation along fairly similar lines to that undertaken by the present Government. But it is time Mr Whitlam lost his preoccupation - or is it obsession - with China and became preoccupied with Australia. In fact, it is more than time. ‘It’s time’ has become a time bomb which has exploded and we are now contemplating the wreckage of our foreign affairs and defence policies.
– May I preface my remarks by firstly congratulating you, Mr Deputy Speaker, on your election as Chairman of Committees. I would be pleased if you would convey my congratulations to the Speaker on attaining his high office. The business that we are endeavouring to debate at the moment is the legislative programme outlined by His Excellency the Governor-General acting, of course, on the advice of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). We have heard from the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn). He was described by one of his own colleagues as being pedestrian and slow. After listening to his speech tonight I think that that is a very fair summation of the honourable gentleman. He spoke and always does seem to speak in terms which confuse defence and offence. Neither he nor any predecessor in the office he held prior to 2nd December, including the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), could ever advise this House against whom we must immediately defend ourselves either now or in the foreseeable future. You would know, Mr Deputy Speaker, as the honourable gentleman would know, that last year $ 1,300m of taxpayers’ money was spent on defence. Yet nobody on the Opposition side of the House can tell us for what purpose it was spent The honourable member for Farrer spoke with horror about the people to whom he is apparently ideologically opposed, but he neglected to tell us about ‘our great and powerful ally* and about the obscenities of the Vietnam war caused by the United States of America. It seems to me that all he has ever said on the question of defence is that, without any cause or reason at all, the
Australian nation must tag along at the coat tails of what he and his colleagues constantly refer to as ‘our great and powerful ally’.
It is interesting to read the history of ‘our great and powerful ally’, as he describes the United States of America, and its entry into the war in 1941. The case that the then Prime Minister of Australia, John Curtin, took to America for the intervention of America in the Pacific region was - he was quite correct in what he said - that technically it was to the advantage of the United States of America to defend Australia and to prevent it from becoming a base for Japan to attack the west coast of America. I suppose that if the same circumstances existed again we could rely on the United States of America. But I wonder whether, if the circumstances were different, we could or whether we would be attracting attention with the various military installations that the previous Government allowed to be established in this country.
I found the Speech by His Excellency yesterday to be in marked contrast to the first speech of a Governor-General I heard as a member of Parliament. On that previous occasion, if my memory serves me correctly, it took about 59 seconds or something short of a minute to describe the programme for the 27th Parliament. I well remember the last words that the Governor-General spoke to us. He said:
And I now leave you in the hands of Divine Providence.
I immediately interpreted that as meaning: God help you. Over the next 3 years that was the case. This time the Labour Government clearly outlined a forthright, progressive and ambitious legislative programme. I can assure the House that the initiative and courage needed will not be lacking. Today we witnessed the puny efforts of the Opposition endeavouring to attack at question time. It was like David trying to bring down Goliath by lashing him across the shins with an ostrich feather. The compass of the Government’s programme is in itself a condemnation of the previous Goverment. Now that it is in Opposition its members must surely reflect that their inactivity was just not acceptable to the Australian voting community which soundly rejected them. Again the wisdom of the Australian electorate was manifest.
Instead of being the bastion for the maintenance of the status quo the national parliament is now the initiator of reform - a role which we in the Labor Party have always believed to be its proper course.
To highlight further the inadequacies of the previous Government and the collective inadequacies of its members we now witness the ludicrous spectacle of an enormous number of questions on notice which either should have been answered by previous Ministers or else the answers should be well known to them. We who are now the Government are of a like mind that the energies and wisdom of this House - indeed, these Houses of Parliament - shall be directed to correcting the mistakes of the past 23 years which I characterise as a generation without popular government. We promise open government and that executive rule to which we have become accustomed will be a thing of the past.
I wish to comment on some of the expressions used by previous speakers. The honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn), who unfortunately is not now in the chamber, pathetically endeavoured to resurrect the issue pronounced dead by the electors on 2nd December 1972. That was the communist can. He spat out the word ‘socialist’ as if it were a book declared obscene by the self appointed censor who is the Chief Secretary of his own State of Victoria. The more he spoke about this matter the more obvious it became that he should have spoken to us about something of which he does have some knowledge, and that is revaluation. But it seemed that he ducked that issue. When he sat on this side of the House he endeavoured to encourage his own Government to take action on the valuation of the currency. That Government declined to do so. So rather than raise the question now when his own Party stands condemned by the action of this Government, he resorted to the time worn trick of pulling out the communist can and kicking it around. It must slowly filter through to him and to honourable members now sitting on the other side of the House that they tried this in 1972 and the Australian people rejected it.
The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), the champion of the peanut growers, like the troglodytes who sit around him in that corner of the House, spoke amongst other things of the plight of the wheat grower. He does not seem to remember that he is a member of the political party which has been in government, in coalition with the Liberal Party, for 23 years. Whilst it was in government it made no move on the first advance payment to wheat growers. For 15 years it remained at SI. 10 a bushel. In the few short weeks that it has been in office this Government took the initiative and increased that by 10c to $1.20 a bushel. Yet these people come here ostensibly to represent the country people. They must confess that they have done nothing to help the country grower. It was they who imposed wheat quotas. It was they who were then embarrassed when a contract arrived to supply wheat to China and the ground had not been tilled and the seed had not been sown, lt was not possible to fulfil that contract from Australian wheat stocks and it looked as though stocks would have to be bought from overseas to fulfil it That is a disgraceful situation. I have never been one to be motivated by religion but I believe it to be the grossest sin for anybody to refuse to produce food in a world where half the population goes to bed hungry every night. That is the record of the former Government.
The honourable member for Maranoa also spoke about exporting our country, digging it up and carting it away at the rate of 10c a ton. He said that if the contract had not been written in United States dollars it would not have been written at all. In the area of defence and in the area of selling our country these people still have not learned that we have dignity as a nation and we do not have to drag along at somebody else’s coat tails. What really happened in the export of minerals from Australia was that a few smart salesmen came to town, conned our smart businessmen, wrote the contracts in United States dollars and dollar signs went up in their eyes like cash registers because they thought that they had a winner. They did not expect the American currency to take the downturn it took, and they were hooked. But there would have been no payment to the Treasury of this country if it had come off and they had made money out of it. They are squealing and belly-aching now because they are bad businessmen. They were caught because they are bad businessmen. Now they are saying that the rest of the community should pay. Of course, if these people were sound businessmen they would know that when contracts are written they generally include a rise and fall clause. They usually include clauses that cover contingencies. Did. these contracts have such safeguards? Apparently not, because, as I said, a couple of smart salesmen came to town. They filled their bags with money and they caught the first train out of town the next morning, and the local businessmen still have their heads spinning. They do not know which way the salesmen went. Yet we find honourable members like the honourable member for Maranoa wanting to defend the folly of the people who signed contracts expressed in United States dollars. He referred to the current account now being in credit. The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) dealt with this question very fully.
– I raise a point of order. Mr Speaker, could you inform the House whether the honourable member for Maranoa has spoken in this debate? To my knowledge he has not, yet the honourable member for Burke is continually referring to the fact that the honourable member for Maranoa has made a statement.
-Order! No point of order arises. An honourable member in this debate, as in the Budget debate, is entitled to debate any question he likes.
– I have been referring to the wrong honourable member. That shows how much I have heard from the honourable gentleman whom I have in mind. It was Mr Hallett, to call him by name. I cannot even recall the electorate that he represents. That is how interested I am.
– He is the honourable member for Canning.
– That is much better. May I correct myself and say that where I referred to the honourable member for Maranoa I should have referred to the honourable member for Canning. He made the comment, and the honourable member for Chifley elaborated on it, that the balance of payments was healthy. He used the expression: The books are balanced for the first time’. I wish he could tell us who has been keeping them out of balance for the last 23 years. I must confess that that contribution to the debate by the honourable member for Canning is not constructive. It is probably a nice little gallop around the course, but it is not doing what we in the Australian Labor Party promised to do in Government, and that is something constructive.
The Governor-General made known to us the legislative programme, the blueprint, for the next 3 years. He said:
Legislation will be introduced to repeal needlessly provocative penal sanctions In the Conciliation and Arbitration Act Amalgamation of trade unions will be facilitated. A committee of inquiry will undertake a thorough investigation of all aspects of industrial’ relations.
That paragraph is of great significance not only to the working people but also to the industrialists in this country, those who employ those who work. If the people who made up the previous Government of this country had given the matter of industrial relations any consideration, and if they had looked into what industrial relations are all about, half of the provocative acts that have been committed over a number of years in the past would not have been committed. Those who claim that we have industrial anarchy, of course, would be quite wrong in that assumption. The field of industrial relations is a very deep and a very broad one. I am very proud indeed to be the supporter of a government that for the first time intends to have a scientific look at the question of industrial relations and not just treat it in the way that it has been treated ever since the industrial revolution in Britain. Ever since one man has employed another employees have had to endure employers whose attitude has been to say: ‘I own the show. I wield the power. The worker will do what I want him to do. If he does not I will bludgeon him into doing it. If I cannot bludgeon him into doing it I will get the State to bludgeon him into doing it for me’. That is exactly what the conservative governments over the years have always done. They have used the power of the State to bludgeon men to make them work. The honourable member for Balaclava spoke about the work ethic. I am not quite sure what he means by that term. He did not elaborate on it, so I do not think he knows either.
– I am sure you would not know either.
– The honourable member for Balaclava agreed with me one day that the trouble in this country was not the workers but management. He said that those in management should be sacked, and t think he was correct. Unless there is a scientific and all-embracing inquiry into the question of industrial relations, the underlying problems will never come to the surface. There is a conflict of interest between those who employ and those who are employed. Their very nature brings them to a conflict. The conflict is not solved simply by drawing up Conciliation and Arbitration Acts of Parliament and placing in them penal provisions so that if men do not do things that their employers wish them to do they may be fined or imprisoned, when the same Acts never carry penal provisions against employers. It is a fact that employers have committed about 3,000 industrial breaches for which they were never prosecuted by the previous Government. Yet the previous Government was very quick to place in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act the necessary machinery to make it very easy for an employer to take action against his employees if they did not do what he wanted them to do. The employees who were condemned were condemned in absentia. There was never a hearing. On a complaint by the employer a bans clause was written into the appropriate award. I repeat that unless that sort of situation is moved away from, there will continue to be resentment from the work force and a refusal by the work force to accept its role. Nobody is suggesting that it should accept that role without any equivocation. Workers have a right to participate in the fruits of their labour. This right is denied to them at the moment.
Legislation was introduced in the last session of Parliament which makes virtually impossible the amalgamation of trade unions. It was pretty obvious why this legislation was introduced. Once again it was introduced because of the fears the previous Government held about what would happen if these hybrid monsters, the trade unions, were to come together. It must be remembered that over 100 years ago at Tolpuddle even 6 men coming together constituted a threat to authority. It horrifies honourable members on the other side of the House and interests that they represent to think of 100,000 men coming together in one union. They are afraid that such a union would represent power and would challenge the power that they and their political bosses pretend to wield over the whole community, such power being maintained by the forces of the State. That position will be changed, and I should think it will be changed very quickly, so that the amalgamation of unions will be made easier and the efficiency of the working section of the community will be increased. That in turn will be in the best interests of industrial relations, even if nothing else.
I commend the whole proposed legislative programme to the House. The GovernorGeneral should be complimented on the contents of the address he delivered, and the Government should certainly be congratulated for exercising a God-given commonsense in drawing up for the implementation of this Parliament those proposals that the GovernorGeneral outlined.
- Mr Speaker, firstly I congratulate you on attaining your high office. You are the second of my immediate electoral neighbours to gravitate to your office, and I am sure you will have a very successful term. I trust that you will administer the office in a way in which we all hope and expect you to administer it. I would like to traverse some of the ground which has been gone over by the Government since 2nd December 1972. In this time we. have taken tremendous strides away from the Western world, from our common, interests and from all the ties and associations which have been built up over a series of generations.
During this time we have taken a conscious, fast step towards the communist world. lt was said that it was. time for a change, and Australia certainly got one. The first thing which occurred was the rushing, with inde-cent haste, into the arms of the People’s Republic of China. Negotiations to secure this result had been commenced some time before. They had dragged on and they were taken over in a manner which provided a great gesture, drama and headlines. It was a series of examples of the very worst way- in which, foreign affairs ought to be conducted. It is notable that in the case of most of the diplomatic relations that have been established with the People’s Republic of China the negotiations have been slow and carefully considered and have dragged out over some considerable time; a very close bargaining process has accompanied them. But in this case Australia seems to have gone in ready to. pay any price in order that a quick result should be achieved and some political splash made. If one conducts diplomatic negotiations on this basis, giving everything away to those with whom one is having discussions, one can of course receive very swift and spectacular success. We still do not know the details. In answer to a question, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said that all, or a great part, of the details had been published and that there was not much else. But in fact we have not been able to read the documents. If open government were to prevail in full we would be treated to the diaries of the Australian Ambassador in Paris who conducted the negotiations.
– They are available in China.
– The details are said to be available in China, but the only real guidance one can get is from broadcasts from Peking and from people who are Chinese experts. We cannot obtain the details directly from the basic source. These negotiations, so hastily concluded, have of course aroused certain misgivings and suspicions amongst our neighbours.
– Very understandably, particularly amongst our neighbours and associates in the five-power pact. In his Speech the Governor-General said:
My Government will honour the terms of the Five Power Arrangements, but looks forward to the achievement of a neutral zone in South East Asia ultimately involving the phasing out of present military arrangements. . . .
Of course, anyone can say this. Any military arrangement has a limited life before it gradually peters out. Every few years, international circumstances change. The obligations which we assume under the five-power pact are, of course, rather loose. In essence, the pact depends on the moral conduct and good faith of the parties who participated in forming it. But, naturally, the people in this area have their suspicions a little aroused by our new friendship and desire to conclude arrangements with the communists. This applies particularly to our close friends.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on paying an early visit to Indonesia. Indonesia is run overwhelmingly by General Suharto and the very keen, able and, in many ways, spectacular people he has around him, many of whom we all know and in whose actions we have faith. But we must remember that not many years ago that group of people almost had their throats cut overnight in a communist uprising. If their vigilance slipped, that might well occur again. They are well aware of this. So, when they are approached with ideas of new pacts and other new arrangements, they naturally view with suspicion a power which is showing so much disposition to conclude agreements and make arrangements with the communist world.
It is no good just saying ‘the communist world’ because there are many ways in which countries deal with the communist world. However, there are certain things which must always be remembered and which are fundamental about communists and the communist world wherever they are. Firstly, personal liberty and individual rights disappear. Throughout communist countries the people are ruled by a reign of terror. This kind of thing is as alien to the majority of Australians as one could possibly conceive. Yet these are the people with whom we now are becoming increasingly familiar and with whom we are making all kinds of arrangements. If we are pursuing this line we must accept that our very close ties with the rest of the world, including our old allies, are weakened. This is particularly so when 3 senior Ministers of the Government insult the American Head of State in the grossest and most crude terms. This will leave a scar which will not easily be forgotten.
In visiting Indonesia, for which I congratulate the Prime Minister, it seemed to me that his approach was not really the appropriate one. The Prime Minister aspires to the closest possible relations with Indonesia and I am sure that his feelings are shared by honourable members on both sides of the House. He aims to achieve friendship and co-operation, virtually continuing what has gone on for very many years in an intimate and effective way. But if we are really to win people’s trust and live with them over a long term of years, we should not rush into their Foreign Minister and Head of State with a wonderful new scheme containing new constitutions, new arrangements and new features which all look lovely but which are hastily thrown together and which appeal to a limited number of people who are not really very deeply committed and who do not really know, in many respects, the issues which are involved, and expect them to sign on the dotted line in a great hurry. That invites rebuff. As a matter of fact, the Indonesians, who know us well, were very polite about this.
If we are to become friends with our neighbours and pursue close relations with them we should ask: ‘What do they think?’ Our immediate neighbours have erected and done a great deal towards bringing to fruition the new organisation known as the Association of South East Asian Nations. ASEAN is designed by these countries to meet their own requirements and express their own aspirations which, in some cases, are complex and not easy to reconcile. But they like it. It would be far more preferable if the Prime Minister approached Indonesia and said: What can we do? Is there anything we can do to help this organisation or to underpin it and help you and the other countries make it a success?’
In many respects, Australia is doing a great deal in the region. This process has gone on over a long time and, incidentally, has been promoted by a good many members from both sides of this House, a number of whom have visited Indonesia. Our relationship with that country is broad and intimate and exists on a basis of personal trust. This is no new thing. If the Government is to bring relations with our near neighbours, including Indonesia, to a successful conclusion, it must be a little more skilful and humble and less inclined to splash around with headlines, drama and great gestures appealing to the electorates in various countries. It should get down to a solid, friendly, day to day, hardworking basis. This, of course, includes our relations within the five-power pact. The trouble is that, although the Government, through the Governor-General’s Speech puts out as its message - I will repeat this - the fact that is will honour the terms of the Five Power Arrangements, one wonders quite what that means in the Government’s view. In fact, the Fire Power Arrangements are very loose. They can be interpreted in many ways and taken very much on goodwill but the words used by the Prime Minister is relation to security and other matters must throw considerable doubt upon our long-term good faith. Even worse than that, the Australian Government unfortunately is not really in a position to commit Australia.
The Government - the Cabinet - has to be subject to what were called the faceless men. They are now not quite faceless; a few of them are known. However this outside body, not elected by the Australian people, does in fact have the final say as to what Australia can do. To determine whether Australia can fulfil its commitments to our allies, to follow up and support our fundamental security interests, one has to look, in these circumstances, to the machinations of the Labor Party Conference. If it says no, the Australian Government similarly is forced to say no. Some of these things do arouse considerable misgivings amongst a good many of us, particularly in view of the Peoples Republic of China negotiations with the recognition immediately of Eastern Germany and even more so just recently with that of North Vietnam. The North Vietnamese have sent representatives to Australia and they have been welcomed by a considerable number of trade unionists who have fallen on their necks as if they were brothers of the visiting North Vietnamese and have virtually kissed their hands which are still dripping with Australian blood.
This is not a situation which appeals to the Liberal Party and I feel sure that it does not appeal to a large proportion of the Australian nation. If we are to have successful foreign affairs, particularly with our neighbours, we have to get straight what our commitments are and follow them. Whatever is the government of the day it must follow the commitments made by its predecessor so that the people in the rest of the world can be brought slowly and painfully to trust once more Australia’s word and Australian support in the event of trouble.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hansen) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Grassby) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
- Mr Speaker may I, in rising for the first time in this Parliament, congratulate you on your election to your high office. A number of tributes have been paid to you about your humour, which is usually by way of interjection in this House. I certainly wish to associate myself with the recognition of the quality of your humour and might I add, because I do not think this point has been made, it has been a humour without any acrimony and that, indeed, is a rare trait in this House. You also, Sir, have other notable abilities, particularly with the cue. This has not been mentioned and the occasion should not pass without such an acknowledgement. I was very glad to hear you acknowledge the objectivity and sincerity of your predecessor, Sir William
Aston, and you took the opportunity, Mr Speaker, to emphasise that you meant that sincerely. I was pleased to hear it and I am sure that my colleagues on this side of the House in particular were glad to hear it. But it must be the aim of all great Speakers to achieve the highest perfection in objectivity and I am sure that you will make strong efforts to reach that perfection as you have tried to In other fields.
I rise not to be particularly controversial but to say one or two things about the Australian aircraft industry. In the short time that the Government has been in office the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) - he has numerous other portfolios but I will confine my description of him to that - celebrated the signing of the first commercial sale of the Nomad aircraft. This is a remarkable aircraft that has been designed and manufactured in the Government Aircraft Factories. The signing of the contract is the culmination of a great deal of planning and of support by previous governments to provide a manufacturing capacity within the aircraft industry in Australia. The Nomad aircraft has flown in Canberra and in a number of other places. I am sorry to say that not many members of this House availed themselves of the opportunity of going to see this wholly designed and manufactured Australian aircraft. I remind the House that it is a light utility short take off landing, STOL, aircraft capable of taking off and landing in remarkably short distances. When it was flown last year at the Farnborough Air Show it excited great worldwide interest. Undoubtedly there is a great demand for this aircraft. I congratulate the Government Aircraft Factories on the design and manufacture of the aircraft.
I hope that the Government will support the Australian aircraft industry now it is in government as much as it said it would before the Federal elections because the Labor Party certainly had a lot to say about it then. There are a few supporters of the Government here now who are still in that category. 1 hope that the Government does not just sit back and rely on earlier programmes and think that will fill the bill. This aircraft, as I have said, is a great aircraft and has a tremendous sales potential. What is needed now that we have passed the initial stage of an order of 20 aircraft is for the Government to give the aircraft industry a significant order of some 50 to 100 aircraft without waiting any longer. This is necessary in order that these factories can get into a production line with a scale of production to enable them to effect economies. After all it is obvious that the first few aircraft - indeed the first one - required capital expenditure which could be mainly used over a large run of aircraft production.
As I have said, there is a great sales potential for the Nomad aircraft as can be seen from all the inquiries that have been made. But the initial order for 20 aircraft is no longer enough. After all, the Army is taking 11 of them and after the sale there are only 8 left. As all honourable members know, it is easier to sell aircraft when they can be bought off the shelf rather than prior to production. The Commonwealth Government, for its part, could be a major purchaser. I think the Health Department owns some 6 Doves which must surely be in need of replacement. There are many departments that can use the Nomad aircraft. This demand would be in addition to outside sales or regarded as a last resort but I believe that anyone who looks into the matter will be confident as I am that these aircraft can be sold all around the world.
I hope nobody believes that the manufacture of even 400 Nomad aircraft - and we hope that that is the ultimate production - will build up the Australian aircraft industry to the level to which it needs to be built because, after all, that is in technology a relatively narrow field. It is not a tremendous work load. There needs to be an expansion in range and in depth of the skills and technology which are held in this industry. From time to time we read some not very learned comments in the newspapers about the replacement of the Mirage aircraft. That decision will be a financial and military decision and when the day comes that the Government of the day sees fit to replace it - the type cannot be known until the Government is ready to make that decision. It will also make a decision about the number of aircraft; it will not necesarily be the same number, which is 100 Mirage 3s that we have at present. We would expect areas of the Australia aircraft industry to share in some way in the production and certainly in the support. That is a separate decision. It has to be clearly understood that the decision to replace the Mirage 3 aircraft, dependent on possible threats and when the aircraft are likely to become obsolete, is a very expensive military decision. What the aircraft industry needs in order to expand its range and depth is another question. I believe that a decision concerning the Mirage 3 replacement is a good way off so it is necessary for that industry to acquire more sophisticated skills by joining with other countries in coproduction schemes for the manufacture of aircraft.
The Australian aircraft industry is not nearly big enough to carry out this project on its own. I hope that nobody in this place thinks the Australian industry is anywhere near able with its present structure to build a highly sophisticated air superiority fighter aircraft. I think 5,000 or 6,000 men are involved in the industry at present. I shall mention some comparisons of manpower in other countries. There are 235,000 people employed in the aircraft industry in the United Kingdom, 100,000-plus in the French industry and 15,000 in Canada and Italy. The 5,000 to 6,000 people employed in the aircraft industry in Australia range over the whole field, including the manufacture of engines. I point out that there is a need for expansion. The Government needs to show confidence in the Nomad, and to give it the production scale we need to go much further. I urge the Government to pursue with vigour the search for a co-production scheme which will allow the industry the workload and manhours which it needs to build itself up in the next 5 or 10 years. This would give benefit to Australia from the point of view of defence capacity. It would improve our techniques and the manufacturing industry would gain greatly from this highly sophisticated industry.
– I think I should draw the attention of the House to the implication of certain events which occurred at question time today and which require some further elucidation. As the matters involve the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) I have sent him a note telling him that I proposed to raise a matter concerning him and that perhaps it would be reasonable for him to be present. Perhaps he did not receive the note, but it seems that the Prime Minister is not here although I am sure he has been duly advised by note. This matter I propose to mention refers to the Prime Minister’s answers - or lack of answers - in regard to security checks for ministerial staff. Tomorrow the full text of his answers will be in Hansard but tonight I am relying on my memory only. However, I feel that the sub ject is urgent enough to require ventilation tonight while it is still fresh in the minds of honourable members. The Prime Minister in answering questions about security checks of ministerial staffs seemed artless enough, but I wonder whether he was being quite frank with the House.
I have examined the Press reports of the time. The ‘Canberra Times’ of 18th December stated:
No check on staff. The Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, has insisted that none of his staff be checked out by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, it was learned yesterday. Reliable sources said that the step diverged from usual practice. The sources said it would be up to individual Ministers to decide whether their staff should undergo security, checks. It is understood that the move has caused some concern in departmental circles because access to secret documents would be granted to persons about whom the security service knows little.
The ‘Australian’ of 11th January carried the following story:
The Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, has reversed his stand on security checks of his personal staff. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is now running security checks on all of Mr Whitlands staff who had not previously been cleared. Mr Whitlam had at first refused to allow members of his staff to be cleared by security as he believed that as personal appointments they were to be trusted implicitly. It is understood that Mr Whitlands staff volunteered to be cleared by ASIO to prevent any possible trouble that might arise if there were a major security breach. It is known that the members of the staff of the AttorneyGeneral, Senator Murphy, also volunteered to undergo the security checks. Any other ministerial staffs not previously cleared are now expected to be checked out. Mr Whitlam’s original attitude created difficulties within the Commonwealth Public Service and with Australia’s allies.
The ‘Daily Telegraph’ of the same date carried a similar story and the ‘National Times’ of 22nd January referred to the subject and said:
But the question of clearance of Prime Ministerial and Ministerial staff has now been reviewed and the Whitlam staff, along with others, will now go through the security mill. The one proviso still being thrashed out is that if a staff member violently objects to a security clearance he may be exempted.
It may be that all these newspaper stories are wrong, although I would consider that to be rather improbable. However, I point out to the House that the newspaper stories can in a sense be checked because they say, whether rightly or wrongly, that these events were known to many people. So perhaps in some way it may be possible to check these stories. I ask the newspapers concerned either to stand by their stories or to repudiate them because it is important that the veracity of the newspapers should be undoubted in matters such at this. Personally, I do not doubt these stories, but I believe that the newspapers now have a responsibility to verily them and tell us something more about the way in which these things have happened and the background. The Prime Minister owes it to the House to tell honourable members more about this matter. If these stories are true then the Prime Minister was not being frank at all when, in his artless way, he told the House that he did not know what checks had been done or what other Ministers had done in this regard. This is a matter which is important because it goes right to the roots of the Prime Minister’s credit and personal veracity.
I think the House is entitled to know whether the man who is Prime Minister can be trusted to be truthful in his answers at the table in this House. But in my view it goes a little further than this. Today the Prime Minister said that he did not know which Ministers had had security checks on their staffs. This in itself is an almost incredible statement It was made by the Prime Minister, yet it argues an almost unbelievable degree of irresponsibility in this sensitive and important matter. The man who is responsible to the nation does not know. He says that he has not bothered to make any check. He said that some Ministers may have had their staffs checked by Security. He does not know which they are, from what he said in the House, if my memory serves me correctly. He does not know which they are and he does not know what checks have been made. When sensitive papers are being distributed, is it not important for the Prime Minister to know whose staff can be trusted and whose staff cannot be trusted? Every person who has been a Minister knows that a Minister’s papers must be handled by his staff. He does not put everything in his safe himself. He has his staff to do it Which staffs can be trusted and which cannot?
I do not know whether the extract from the ‘National Times’ has any validity. But let me remind the House of one sentence which I read out a moment ago. It reads:
The one proviso still being thrashed out is that if a staff member violently objects to a security clearance he may be exempted.
A story is going around which I have not been able to verify - so I will not quote names as that would be unfair - that on the staff of one Minister is a card-carrying Communist.
If this is so, is this a man who is to be exempted from security clearance because he violently objects? I do not know what the position is in this regard but I think that it is up to the Prime Minister to make a statement in this House tomorrow and to tell us what the position really is. Who gets all these secret documents? We have been told all Ministers are members of the Cabinet, but apparently only certain of them get certain documents. Which of the Ministers are trusted; which are not? From somebody who boasts of open government we are entitled to know the facts. I and this House should require the Prime Minister to answer these questions at the table tomorrow.
– The honourable member, who has just resumed his seat affects some distress and some wonderment that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) did not come into the House to respond to him. I point out to him that the Prime Minister, like so many other people on both sides of the House, undoubtedly sees him as a political lightweight and thinks it scarcely worth the effort to come into the House to reply to him. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) certainly has one record - an unenviable one - to his credit, namely, that alone he has notched up the discovery of more Communists in Australia than the sum of all security agencies in the whole of the Western world, including such democratic republics, which he upholds, as South Africa and Rhodesia.
What I was particularly interested to hear him say was that when a Minister handles documents in his office all members of his staff at some stage or other are able to handle and to see those documents. He is effectively saying that in his experience as a Minister this is so and this is what took place in his office. I can assure the honourable member for Mackellar that this is not so in the offices of the Ministers of this Government. We are all cautious about the way in which documents are handled. As a purely personal opinion, I also add that a great deal of the material which is stamped as ‘confidential’ and restricted’ for consideration by Cabinet does not deserve this sort of designation at all. It is material that could be freely available -at any stage to the Press and the bulk of the public, and the community would be no better off and no worse off as a result of this. These documents are stamped ‘confidential’ in an obsessional sort of way because of the practices of previous governments. 1 find particularly interesting the stress placed by the honourable member for Mackellar on the subject of security and the need to ensure that the security of Australia is not breached. After all he has some expertise in this matter. On one occasion he was able to breach security arrangements in this country, going in but not going out. As the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) has pointed out on more than one occasion, the ex-Minister decided at some stage many years ago to breach the security arrangements at the Garden Island Naval Dockyard. He breached them in gaining entry and was locked up for his trouble. He arranged for the then Prime Minister, Mr Menzies, to be telephoned so that he could be released. The Prime Minister was so impressed by the quality of the honourable member that he informed the people who rang up that he ought to be left in custody overnight. Whether it was to dry out or to dry up I am not quite sure, but he was to be left in overnight.
Of course, there is the classic story of how he provided the Wollongong Cup for Jim Healy, the Communist Party member and leader of the Waterside Workers Federation, whom he used to assail. He suddenly changed his attitude and found many virtues in that man after Jim Healy threatened him with a court action.
– I rise to take a point of order. For the benefit of the Minister at the table, I inform the House that the gentleman in question in the incident at Garden Island was the previous member for Macarthur.
-Order! The Chair is not aware of who went to Garden Island; it is a matter for the person involved to make a personal explanation when the Minister has concluded his speech.
– It is unfortunate that the honourable member for Mackellar sees everything through a distorting prism which throws his whole perspective out of balance on any subject that he handles, be it in relation to the freedoms in this society, the Labor Party, trade unions and, frankly, in relation to any organisation or body of people or individual who might happen to think independently. It is strange tonight to find the honourable member for Mackellar referring to newspapers as though he was using an authoritative source. If it is fair enough for the honourable member for Mackellar to refer to newspaper articles, I am sure he will not mind me referring to today’s ‘Daily Telegraph’ as being equally as authoritative in this instance. Given the way in which he quoted newspaper statements a few minutes ago, I dare say he will be prepared to endorse these statements. This article is headed: *Lies Defeated the Liberals’. It reads:
The former Liberal Party Government had been relegated to the scrap heap because it had lied to the people and Parliament, a former Federal Liberal MP said yesterday. “They refused to come clean or, in plain language, tell the truth’, the former MP, Mr Edward St John, said.
They lied and lied and lied’, he said.
We have no doubt that there is a great deal of truth in that statement after what has happened tonight. The article continued:
Ministers were among the worst offenders.’
That reinforces what I just said. It states further:
They thought they were impregnable - a government by divine right.’
A monolith that could not be toppled. “They degraded and treated with utter contempt the Parliament of which they were the elected custodians.’
And so the article goes on. If the honourable member for Mackellar feels that the statements that he quoted from newspaper articles a few minutes ago are authoritative in relation to those matters, he must confess that the statements in this article are equally authoritative. It is unfortunate that the honourable member for Mackellar has this distorting aspect to his vision of matters in this area. But he is reflecting in an extreme state the sorts of attitudes which dominate the behaviour of previous governments for the past 23 years. This is a sort of neurotic, obsessive and paranoidal predisposition to some type of concept of security which led them to brand everything as requiring top security. The statement made tonight by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) completely exposed how insupportable this approach had been for many years in the past. He detailed how bases in the central part of Australia could not justify the extreme status to which they had been elevated in security classification to the point where it seems - one clearly interprets this from the statement of the Minister for Defence - that the current Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) had not been aware of the basis on which these bases operated and had to wait until this Government was appointed before he could receive his first briefing on their purposes.
The only thing I say in conclusion, is that there is no card-carrying member of the Communist Party on this side of the House, on the staff of any Minister or any member on this side of the House. But there has been some strong evidence documented in various articles, and never satisfactorily rebutted in this place in the course of the last Parliament, that some members in the new Opposition who were members of the then Government, and who even were Ministers, who if not card-carrying members of that extreme right wing organisation, the Australian League of Rights, certainly gave succour and support to that organisation and made no apologies about it.
Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar)- Mr Speaker, I ask for leave to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) said certain things about myself and Garden Island. They were utterly and completely without foundation - utterly untrue - and I am entitled to an apology from him. There was no set incident which occurred in regard to me although I believe that some such incident did occur in regard to the former member for Macarthur. But I had no part in it at all. I knew nothing about it. It is an utter and complete fabrication and I ask for an unreserved apology. I think I am entitled to it.
Secondly, I did not say in my speech that all members of a Minister’s staff had access to confidential documents. I said that some members must have access to them and that a Minister did not always with his own hand put confidential documents into the safe. At no time did I say that all members of a Minister’s staff had access to confidential documents, I think I am entitled to an apology and I think, Mr Speaker, that you should ask for an apology and a withdrawal. I think I am entitled to it.
– I rise to order.
– if that is your idea of justice-
– This is a personal explanation, not a speech? If the honourable member makes a personal explanation-
-I am quite prepared to listen to the honourable member for Mackellar because he said it was a personal explanation and mentioned 2 distinct points. I call the. honourable member for Mackellar.
– I want an apology.
– Unfortunately I have known the honourable member for Mackellar for such a long time that I prefer to check the statements before I am prepared to apologise.
– That was an offensive statement. The man is not only purveying untruths, he is also apparently unrepentent
– Before speaking on the subject I wish to raise tonight, I congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on attaining your office. I feel certain that justice in this House will be meted out by you in a very fine manner, I note that you are reported to be a cueist of no small ability. I also notice that your offsider, the Deputy Speaker, is a golfer .of some ability. So not only will we have the humourous but also the sporting approach as well. .
I rise tonight to criticise strongly the Government’s policy on the Northern Territory but before doing so I would commend it on introducing a Department for the Northern Territory. This is a step in the right direction. But I ask: What is this Government doing about the previous Government’s offer to the Legislative Councillors of the Northern Territory to have discussions with them at ministerial level on the matter of greater autonomy for the Northern Territory Legislative Council? It is all very well to have a Department of the Northern Territory. This is .right thinking, if one has the right people there at the right time. The Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby) has a very good man at the top of the Department now. He has been there for a year and a half and is experienced and able. But the people in the Northern Territory and the Councillors - the Country Party, Australian Labor Party and independent men on the Council - who were having discussions with Ministers in the previous Government, are entitled to have those discussions continued with Ministers of this Government. I would hope that the Minister, who is now in the chamber will do this, that he will pay these people and the Northern Territory the compliment of continuing these discussions with the Council.
The offer of the previous Government was very strongly criticised by several members of the then Opposition in this House. One was the present Minister for the Northern Territory and Minister for the Australian Capital Territory and the other was the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson). They said that the offer then made did not go far enough. They also said that ft would not be implemented quickly enough. Those are the 2 points they made then but there seems to be no sign now of them going to meet and carry on those discussions with members of the Legislative Council at ministerial level. Maybe the Government thinks that it does not have to do so because lt has established a Department for the Northern Territory.
In relation to the Department for the Northern Territory I ask the Minister whether he will reconsider and take action with other Ministers to replace or return the Commonwealth Departments and organisations that have been moved from the Administration in the Northern Territory. The Government has the machinery there to administer the Northern Territory but lt has removed the control of the police from the Administration and taken the surveyors away from the Lands and Survey Branch. Qf course, aboriginal affairs have gone to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant). However, there is community welfare as well and that means the welfare of the man in the street. This is in the hands of a Minister, considerate though he may be, whose Department is here in Canberra. The Northern Territory police, located 2,000 miles away, are run by the Attorney-General’s Department either from Canberra or from Sydney. This is also the case of the Lands and Survey Branch. There is a tremendous need for land to be surveyed and for diagrams and plans to be drawn. Yet the Director of Lands and Survey is not to have his surveyors there. That is completely and utterly stupid. He has to call on the SurveyorGenera) in Canberra to provide a survey team to do the necessary sub-dividing, drawing and planning. These things are essential for the running of the Northern Territory.
I have commended the Government on the action it has taken in establishing the Department but it will have its men in the Northern
Territory with nothing whatever to do. I imagine this is part of the plan to control tha whole of the Northern Territory from here. The men there will be office boys and that is all. I ask the Minister to return these branches so that they can be administered by men who live on the spot. It is a very backward step to remove control of the police force, surveyors and others. I ask the Minister: What will he do about the welfare of the men in the street? There is a lot to be done for Aborigines but there are a lot of other people living up there as well and we should also see about their welfare.
– I thank the House for giving me this opportunity. Earlier this evening I was in my office listening to this debate and heard the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) making a statement about the security checks for ministerial staff. I listened with interest when he said: There is a card carrying member of the Communist Party who is a staff member of a Federal Minister’. The honourable member for Mackellar knows that that is a complete falsity. He knows that a question was placed on the Senate notice paper today by Senator Gair which was addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Urban and Regional Development in the following terms: ls Mr Harry Stein, referred to in Press Statement number 41, as ‘Mr Uren’s Press Secretary’ the same Mr Stein who was formerly the Press Gallery correspondent for the Tribune newspaper and campaign director for the Communist Party in the 1964 Senate Elections.
The honourable member will note the answer to that when he reads tomorrow’s Hansard. He will see that I have answered the question by giving a clear *yes’. It is clearly shown that Mr Stein is on my staff and clearly the honourable member for Mackellar knows that Mr Stein is no longer, and has not been for a number of years, a member of the Communist Party. The honourable member knows this to be so, from speaking tonight to a close personal friend, whom I do not want to name and who informed him clearly that this was the case.
I am not trying to defend anything here tonight. I am just telling honourable members the facts. In 1968 Mr Stein was the Press representative of the Tribune’ newspaper in the Press Gallery of this Parliament. At approximately the time of the Czechoslovakian invasion he informed me that he was going to let his ticket in the Communist Party lapse. I said: ‘Wouldn’t it be better to stay in the Communist Party and at least fight against the hard line?’ He said: “The truth is, Tom, I don’t even believe in their cause any more’. At that time I was a backbench member of this Parliament. Never did I think that I would become shadow Minister, let alone a Minister of an Australian Labor Party government. But be that as it may, that is the position. About. a year ago I said to Mr Stein: ‘Harry, if we become a government, would you like to join me as my Press secretary?’
– And he said: ‘Yes, Tom’.
– No. We see again the narrowness of conservatism and that those who have been so arrogant for so long do not understand this sensitive man. At first he said: ‘No, I think it would only create problems for you as a Minister and for your Party’. I said that his appointment would be a matter that would test my strength of character; it would show whether I had the courage to stand up against men who would besmirch a man and who would determine that he and people like him have no real rights in this country. I tell honourable members clearly that irrespective of what the honourable members who sit on the opposite side of the House have to say to smear this man, I said: ‘As far as I am concerned, Harry, I think you are a fair dinkum Australian and I would like to have you working with me.’ This man worked with me before the elections - he worked his heart out for a Labor Party victory. As far as I am concerned he will remain on my staff while he does his job efficiently.
I say cleanly that before I appointed Mr Stein to his position I discussed the matter with the Leader of my party. I had the agreement of the leadership of my party that I could appoint him and that that would not be embarrassing to our party. In relation to security, as far as my staff is concerned there have been no requests for security checks. My personal private secretary was employed in the Taxation Office for 25 years, so I have no doubt that the security service has run over him from time to time. One of my advisers was a public servant with the National Capital Development Commission. There is also another young man on my personal staff who has not had a security check. They are the only 3 people who sight confidential documents in my office.
The only time Mr Stein would sight confidential documents would be when it would be necessary in the course of preparing a Press statement. But having said that I say to every honourable member that if Mr Stein should need to sight a confidential document I have complete faith that he would respect my confidence and the Government’s confidence. Let us look at this question of security. Let us start dealing with real freedoms and liberties irrespective of whether this man is a communist. Let us. look at freedom within this land. In 1951 in this, country we fought for the right of every individual to stand free. If a person is in the Communist Party he has a right of employment in the Public Service, the universities or the private sector. As far as I am concerned every citizen should be treated equally under the law. Let us get above gutter politics. Let us start look- ing at the question of our freedoms. We have to examine, our freedom because people’s freedoms are being restricted more and more. If we restrict a person’s rights today, ours could be threatened tomorrow. I hope that this Parliament lifts itself to its correct level. I hope that people outside consider the matter of real freedoms, of the individual freedom of every member and of the right of every man to be deemed innocent until he is proved guilty.
Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar)- I wish to make a person explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, on 2 counts. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development said a moment ago that I had said that a card-carrying communist was on a ministerial staff. I said no such thing. I said that there was a story around that there was and that I did not know whether it was true. Therefore I refrained from mentioning the person’s name. Secondly - a more serious matter - the honourable member said something which was entirely untrue. He said that earlier tonight I had conversations with certain friends of mine - I forget his extra phrase - which would have convinced me that the person concerned was not a communist. I can assure the House and the honourable member that I had no conversations in that regard at all and that I have not mentioned that name tonight to anybody at all and that what he said was utterly and completely untrue and unfounded. I am entitled to an apology from him for h. The one thing that emerges is mat in 1964, when this man was a communist, he was in close consultation with a man who is at present a Minister.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. He is now debating the matter.
– I have no doubt whatever as to the complete sincerity and straightforwardness of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) but I think it is unfortunate that this debate should become one concerning some individual because the importance of it extends far beyond that, important though that might be. It seems to me that what was being raised by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) was a matter of some public importance and I put it to the House this way. What he was saying is this: ‘Is it not true that there are papers properly classified as secret or top secret - papers which deal with defence matters, foreign policy matters and matters of sensitivity of that kind? By that 1 mean properly classified because if the information contained in them was revealed to an unauthorised source it could cause damage to Australia’s security. I suggest that that is a proposition which most people would agree was true. Is it not also true that such papers in Ministers’ offices are handled by one or more officials or secretaries in such offices? It would be normal for that to happen. It would not be improper for that to happen. It would be the usual way of going about the handling of such papers.
– Who checked you before they let you handle them?
– I am trying to put a genuine case to this Parliament, not trying to talk to you.
– You are just talking nonsense.
– All right, you regard those 2 propositions as nonsense. If it is true that there are such documents and that making use of the information in them could damage Australia; if it is true, as would be normal and right, that officials or secretaries looked at them, ought it not also to be true that those who do look at them should be cleared by Security to see not that they are not communists - let us get away from that - or nazis or fascists but whether they are people generally who may wish to do some damage to Australia? In spite of what the honourable member said about rights, and I know what he feels about that matter, I put it to the House that no individual has a right to examine a secret and confidential document which is the property of a government. Nobody has that right. A normal government ought in the interests of Australia to take care that such information was seen and handled only by those who are thought safe to do so by the Security Service. It does not mean a Minister cannot employ somebody who is not checked in that way, but it does mean that they should not have access to such information unless such clearance is given.
There was one more point of importance raised in what the honourable member for Mackellar said and that is that if what I have advanced now is generally true, and I believe that most people of good sense would think it was, is it not also true that a Prime Minister ought to know whether his Ministers are following these practices and ought not be able to get up in the Parliament and say to it and the nation: T do not know what a Minister has done. I do not know whether the people handling these documents have been cleared. I wash my hands of it.’ I think that this Parliament
– He trusts his Ministers.
– As far as I could understand the interjection - because the chamber is rather noisy and it was competing with others - it was that the present Prime Minister trusts his Ministers and therefore does not care to find out - he, the responsible head of a government - whether his Ministers are allowing secret documents to be seen by those who have not been cleared by Security. I say that this is not a proper attitude and not one to be excused by saying: ‘Oh, he trusts them.’ It is the responsibility of any Prime Minister to see that such documents are properly guarded.
Let me finish on this note: What I put before this House cannot be construed as an attack on any person, on any individual. It is not meant to be and it is not. But it is an attack upon a system of government. Members of the Opposition are entitled to point out where they see discrepancies or errors, as they think, in systems of government and to be able to do it without having such unjustified attacks made upon them as the Minister made upon the honourable member for Mackellar. It was not only unjustified but also untrue and it failed completely in its object of trying to stop the honourable member for Mackellar from raising these matters, as I am sure he will do again.
– The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) made a speech that I think calls for a reply from me. I turned over in my mind whether it really did warrant a reply and I think that on balance it probably calls for some comments. The honourable member commenced by saying that he intended to make a very strong criticism of the Government over its handling of the Department of the Northern Territory but then he went on to congratulate the Government and me on many of the things that we have done already. The honourable member singled out the fact that we had based the Department up in the Northern Territory. I think that was the main point that he made, and he added that the man chosen as head of the Department would do an excellent job up there.
– I did not say ‘excellent’.
– The honourable member, said that he would do a good job, that Mr Alan O’Brien was well chosen. The honourable member said: ‘I think he deserves support’, and the honourable member has given him his support. I think we are on common, ground there. If one looks for this very strong criticism, it seems to be that we have chosen to direct a degree of attention to the Northern Territory which the previous Government never did. In other words, we have said: There are areas of concern up there, such as Aborigines, northern development, minerals and energy, and things of this sort that need to be singled out for special attention.’ We have created special departments to deal with these matters. The honourable member wants to go back to the old days when everything was bundled together and left to take care of itself. I suppose it is sometimes called fragmentation. The honourable member should think about what we have done in the Northern Territory already. We have given an encouragement to the Legislative Council about which surely the honourable member must know.
– Did you not read last week’s Hansard?
– We have given an encouragement to the Legislative Council.
The honourable member said that I had not had discussions with it.
– I did not say that at all.
– The honourable member did. I have made 2 trips to the Northern Territory, one of a week’s duration and the other of half a week’s duration. 1 do not know how often previous Ministers went there but newspaper reports suggested that they did not match that performance. It should be borne in mind that this Government has been in office only 6 weeks. Negotiations are already under way. We have had extensive discussions with the Legislative Councillors, and goodwill already has been created between the Legislative Councillors and this Government. Already measures have been introduced into that Legislative Council which the previous Government refused to allow to go through. For example, as an indication of: the concern that this Government feels for the Northern Territory, I refer to the abolition of the death penalty. The previous Government vetoed the proposal of the Legislative Council to abolish the death penalty. I think it was vetoed 5 times. The previous Government vetoed the proposal of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory to set up an ombudsman. I think it vetoed that proposal a similar number of times. Those proposals have now gone through up there and they will not be vetoed by this Government. As recently as last week a small but very significant measure of law reform went through with Government support to make vagrancy no longer’ a crime in the Northern Territory. I can assure honourable members of this House that the Northern Territory generally will have adegree of attention paid to it and a degree of importance attached to it that it has never seen before from previous Federal governments.
We have talked about consumer protection, the need for upgrading the roads,’ the need for an extension to the powers of the Port of Darwin Authority and all manner of other things such as criminal law reform; the police and Senate representation. How often did the previous Government reject and put off Senate representation for the Northern Territory? The Northern Territory is going to receive Senate representation. In some strange way the honourable member for the Northern Territory congratulates us but feels obliged to make a criticism. That is fair enough. We are criticised for not having left the important functions to be performed in the Northern Territory under the administration of the old Department of the Interior. We are criticised for making them the subject of specific specialised departments where they can be given proper attention with all the expertise, the facilities, the finance and the power of the Commonwealth Government for their solution. I refer to such departments as the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the Department of Northern Development, the Department of Minerals and Energy and the Department of the Northern Territory. In some way the Opposition has the gall to suggest that that is worthy of criticism. I suggest that there is no merit in the criticism at all. One has only to go to the Northern Territory to read the reports in the local newspaper to see that this is so. I will be going up there again in March for another 3 or 4 days. I will be going up there on other occasions. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen) has already been there on one occasion.
– Even I am going.
– The Minister for Immigration is going and so is the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland). I suggest that in 2 years time you will not know the Northern Territory. To compare it with the way it is at the moment will be interesting.
- Mr Speaker, I would like to join those who have congratulated you on your appointment to the office of Speaker. I do that very warmly, as a co-Deputy Chairman of Committees with you in the last Parliament. I also congratulate the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) on his appointment as Chairman of Committees. Tonight 1 am encouraged to talk about the need of the provision of telephones in rural areas. I have heard a lot about the progress that, is going to be made under this Government and the speed with which it will operate. I hope that some of that speed will be directed into those areas where there is a need for it. I hope that there will be an improvement in the conditions which are applying. I am not suggesting that some improvements have not been made. Quite a number of automatic exchanges have been provided, ‘but there are a lot of applicants waiting for telephone services. I note that the Government intends to hold a royal commission into the Post Office.
– Hear, hear!
– Someone said: “Hear, hear!’ What I am concerned about is that these very urgent and very essential needs may be postponed until such time as a report is brought down. We know from previous experience the delays that can occur when these commissions take place. So I appeal to the Postmaster-General not just to take refuge in the fact that there is going to be a royal commission, because whatever the finding may be it surely could not do other than urge the provision of advanced communications and automatic exchanges, with the consequent benefits that they bring.
This is not the first time that I have spoken on this and other subjects. But a very long delay is being experienced in the provision of these telephone services. I also make a plea for the provision of more automatic telephone exchanges. The position is that until they are provided people cannot even help themselves. They cannot construct a telephone line because they do not know where it is to go and they have nothing to connect to until those exchanges are provided in the areas where they are designed to go. I notice that the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) is in the chamber. I hope that he will take notice of the comments that I am making on this matter. I would like to draw attention to the fact that it is not simply a matter of dollars and cents. A human problem is involved in relation to the provision of telephone services. The running of a property today is a business. How many people would be prepared to conduct a business without the benefit of a telephone?
But the matter goes deeper than that. I would like some consideration to be given to wives and the mothers of children who are isolated and away from any assistance that would be available to them if telephones were provided. What is the use of an excellent ambulance service, even 50 or 60 miles away, if there is no way of contacting it in an emergency. The matter goes a little beyond what most people mink to be the position. If the Government intends to live up to its claim that it is interested in people, as it has said so often, I point out that here are some people who are deserving of its consideration. I hope that the Government will live up to the claim that it makes in this direction. I am looking for a definite programme of what is to be done. Because this policy introduced by the previous government is only a comparatively new one - I am not sure of the exact date of its introduction but it was only a couple of years ago - it is only just getting off the ground. What we want now and urgently need is a definite programme of what is to happen. When can these people expect to be provided with these telephones and telephone exchanges? I urge the Postmaster-General to give us a programme in this direction, even if it is not as forward thinking as we sometimes hear from the Government is the case. At least let us know where we stand on this matter. I urge that this consideration be given.
I point out also from an economic point of view that this is a once-only expenditure. It is costly to provide these services, but having provided them to the standard at which they are being provided under the scheme, the cost of maintenance is reduced very substantially. Indeed, automatic exchanges will not work effectively until the subscribers to those exchanges are provided with lines of the very highest standard. We can look forward to a decreasing maintenance cost for those services which will be provided with this very high standard of communication. Surely in 1973 it is not too much to ask that a telephone be provided. It would be reasonable to expect that the lag in all areas that is existing now be looked at particularly in the areas of greatest need. The only way we can overcome that lag is by a greater provision of funds for that purpose.
I was a member of the Public Works Committee last year. Last year the Committee approved the construction of telecommunications exchange buildings in Sydney and Brisbane. If I remember rightly, the cost of the Brisbane telecommunications exchange was approximately $l0.2m. It was essential that it be constructed. If it were not agreed to by the Committee at that stage, there would have been complete chaos in interstate and in international communications. So the justification for that expenditure of capital in Brisbane definitely existed and the Committee approved of it. But having this type of amenity or facility in a capital city is very little consolation for the mother of a sick child who cannot even contact another person for assistance. I can cite other instances where bush fires have surrounded a home - this is not drawing a long bow; it has happened - and women have endeavoured to keep the fires back and have suffered very seriously In health as a result of having to do so. I know that in the past we have had to accept this type of living in certain areas, but surely in 1973 we should be closing in on such problems. In point of fact, we are going much too slowly in that direction. So I urge the PostmasterGeneral, who I am sure has a sympathetic nature, to look very closely at the problem of providing adequate telephone services to those areas. I ask him particularly to look at the humanitarian side of the matter. If he has any doubt about where the area of great est need is, I would like him to come into the area and meet some of the people who make such appeals to me. They are sometimes emotional appeals but they are very well and very soundly based on the real need of these people to have this amenity provided for them. I leave it now to the PostmasterGeneral to provide a programme and to give some indication of when this amenity can be provided in outlying areas.
– I want to reply briefly to some of the remarks made by the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett). I am a little disappointed to think that it has taken many years for him to realise that there are needs in the area which he represents, particularly in regard to telephone services. He would appreciate nhat I have inherited a situation of financial disaster after 23 years of Liberal-Country Party influence in the Australian Post Office. I am now facing a loss of $23m in postal operations. and apparently I am obliged to increase telephone charges by some 20 per cent next year. All it means is that existing subscribers in many areas have been fleeced to try to bolster up a very limited capital outlay to satisfy needs.
– Is that an announcement of policy?
– It is not an announcement of policy. That was the policy of the government of which the right honourable member was a supporter. It is very interesting that the right honourable member for Higgins should interject, pretending that he did not know, because his own Cabinet submissions-
– Will you carry out mat policy?
-I would not dare carry it out. I can do much better than that.
– You said that you will increase telephone charges by 20 per cent.
– Let us get the position clear. The right honourable member is a little confused. I inherited a policy that would oblige me to increase telephone charges 25 per cent next year to get capital.
– And you will not do that?
– No. Would you do it?
– Certainly not.
– Let me make the position clear.
– Make it clear.
– What about a bit of quiet from the honourable member?
– Order! The Minister will address the Chair.
– The Cabinet submission to which honourable members apposite were party clearly showed that the financial difficulties of what is known as the country line policies would have the severest repercussions in the Post Office structure. When the then Minister sought the capital to implement his proposal he was refused. I am looking at a Cabinet submission made at a time when honourable, members opposite were in office which says–
– It is not mine.
– Yes it is. It was made in your time. It says that $200m was to be allocated to implementing the proposed policy and that the proposed programme was to run at an annual loss of $30m. Is it any wonder that needs are so great. No scheme could possibly survive on the basis of being sustained financially by socking the present subscribers. Let us look at some of the figures that relate to the electorate of Maranoa. What do they mean? At Miamba near Miles a small automatic telephone exchange to service 11 new subscribers and 41 existing subscribers cost $216,000 to install- $216,000 for 52 subscribers. Another installation to service 19 subscribers was constructed at a cost of $200,000. The return would be $4,000 or approximately 21/2 per cent without considering operating costs. Is it any wonder that Queensland is in a mess when the previous government tried to operate a policy of obtaining funds for new installations out of the contributions of existing subscribers. It made no contribution of special funds because of the human elementinvolved. It did not go to the Treasury and say: These people are in the back blocks and we want to do something for them’. This scheme has been running since only 1970 - it was a 1970 proposition - so the right honourable member for Higgins cannot deny knowledge of it. At least he held the reins of office for that limited period. He knows that it was a policy that had no appeal except to Country Party voters who believed that they would get a telephone service. However they will not get the service they expected because my Department has advised me that that policy is unrelated to need in the sense of what can be provided quickly. The previous government promised people telephones within two or three years, but they will not have telephones before 1980 or 1984. Why was it not honest with the people? The previous government said to them: ‘We will implement a 15-mile policy and which will get you a telephone within 2 years’, but that policy will get them nothing of the sort. It is running the Post Office into deep financial debt - a loss of $30m by 1980 should the telephones be connected by then, and many of them would not be connected until 1990. It is my task to go out and tell these people what the previous government really promised them and what the previous government meant when it said that people in outlying areas could get a telephone service. They cannot get a service without automatic exchanges. They have to be provided first. I am sympathetic to the fact that the honourable member for Maranoa is genuine in the sense that people in these areas have a real need, but let us look at the position realistically and consider the financial disaster that was caused by the Cabinet of which he was not a member, so he can be exempted from any blame. But the fact is that the Cabinet of the previous government was so financially irresponsible as to propose a policy which could not work, and so politically dishonest as to suggest that people could get telephones when the installation of telephones is not even envisaged in this decade.
Yet the honourable member comes into this chamber and asks what is to be the programme of this Government. The programme is this: Because the Post Office is in the mess it is as a result of bad administration, a royal commission has been set up. Its terms of reference are very wide indeed; they cover the whole gamut of organisation and administration. The whole concept of them is to give to 3 highpowered personnel - commissioners - powers to assess the needs of the Australian community, to look at the structure of the Post Office and to evaluate what should be done from the point of view of the administration and tariff structures. If I were to give any good advice to the honourable member for Maranoa tonight, it would be that he urge his constituents to make submissions to the royal commission on what would be the right approach to meet their needs. I do not propose to pre-empt the situation by suggesting the answer, although I have one in mind.
– You were going to-
– The honourable member for Cowper was an Assistant Minis ter. Now the former Assistant Minister is interjecting. Look at what he did for the country; yet he is a Country Party man. Let us be a bit constructive and deal not with the former Assistant Minister but with the problems of the honourable member for Maranoa. Let us deal with them on the basis that the Commission ought to be able to make some findings in respect of a number of matters including what might be termed the country lines policy, its financial implications and the disaster it means for many people who have been misled.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the question be now put
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following answer to a question upon notice was circulated:
House adjourned at 11.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 February 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19730228_reps_28_hor82/>.