28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. I refer to the answer given by him on Tuesday to a question asked by the honourable member for Corangamite. Will the 1.35 per cent of income payable as a contribution to the Government’s proposed health scheme be held at that level, in pursuance of the guarantee given by the Minister, only by providing for any short-fall between receipts and expenditure by increased allocations out of general revenues? Will the increased revenue be provided by increased income tax or by allowing the proportion of tax taken out of personal incomes to rise, due to the impact of inflation, on a progressive rate scale, or will the proposed 1.35 per cent be made progressively higher on higher incomes? If not-
– Order! The honourable member’s question has too long a preface. Will he ask his question?
– If not, how will the shortfall be financed?
– I have given a guarantee - I have reaffirmed it on one occasion, and I now reaffirm it on the second occasion - that a levy of 1.35 per cent of taxable income will be struck. There will be - it has always been stated that there will be - a contribution from Consolidated Revenue, too. I discussed this matter with certain members of the planning committee this morning. On the projections which have been made, the amount from Consolidated Revenue will be no greater, on a percentage basis, than the amount which would have been made available and which has been made available from Consolidated Revenue under the present scheme. So there is complete consistency in what I have said and what we propose to introduce.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour. How many breaches of awards were reported to the Department of Labour during the past 2 years? How many of these breaches were brought to finality? Does the Minister intend to streamline the present tedious and cumbersome internal departmental procedures which have the effect of discouraging prosecutions for award breaches, with a resultant failure to recover money rightfully belonging to employees?
– During the past 2 years the total number of breaches of awards was 24,000, no less. Thirty-six of these were recommended for prosecution during that period. Only five were determined and brought to a successful conclusion. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in his capacity as Minister for Labour and National Service in 1971, explained to me that it was the normal practice for the Department to receive written representations and oral representations from employers to have award breaches disregarded by the Department and no prosecutions launched. He admitted to me that in one year - I think the year before last - there was a total of only 3 employers prosecuted for breach of awards. He admitted moreover-
– Because the employers, I recall, paid the fines.
– Yes, and 1 will come to the amount of fines imposed.
– Thank him.
– I do thank him. The Minister admitted that it was not the cutsom of the previous Government to use that part of the Act - section 1 19 (2.) - to prosecute employers at all. Indeed, he said that there had not been a prosecution against employers under this section for more than 20 years, yet this was the section which the Government always used and supported the use of against unions. This was the section which would have imposed upon the guilty party prosecutions entailing up to $1,000 - indeed, up to as much as $1,000 a day - but never once did the previous Government use that section against the employers who commited breaches of the award. Instead, it used a section of the Act which enabled employers who were prosecuted either to escape with a caution or to be found guilty without a fine, and the average penalty imposed upon employers under the section used by the former Government for breach of an award was about $10 to $15 - some fines were as low as $2. So it meant that the cost to the union of prosecuting an employer for a breach of an award was far greater than the amount the employer had to meet in the form of a fine, and this had a deterrent effect upon unions pressing their right to prosecute employers who were in breach of awards.
My Government has decided that a very strong attempt will be made by the Department to enforce the award provisions upon employers who are in blatant disregard of the law. We are going to increase the number of arbitration inspectors and we are going to make it easier and more expeditious for them to carry out their prosecutions. We will no longer require them to go through the long rigmarole which the previous Government required arbitration inspectors to follow. So I can assure the “honourable member that strong action will be taken by the Government. More inspectors will be put on. We will prosecute employers through the Commonwealth Industrial Court instead of going to magistrates, because under the Act the Commonwealth Industrial Court is the court which has to interpret federal awards.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Does the House have to listen to the Minister at this length? The Opposition is quite prepared to give him time to make a statement which can be debated.
– There is no point of order involved, but I would remind the Minister that, according to my predecessor, this is the correct action to take.
– But I felt that my answer was being received with great attention. Indeed, one could almost hear a pin drop until the honourable member rose. I want to conclude simply by saying that we propose to use the Commonwealth Industrial Court to prosecute breaches of awards because the Comonwealth Industrial Court is the court which under the Act interperts awards. A successful prosecution for breach of an award very often hinges upon the correct interpretation of the award, which only the Commonwealth Industrial Court can give.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. Are there any applications before him for approval of farm-ins for off-shore oil and gas exploration areas of Western Australia? If there are, has approval in any case been deferred? How many deferments are there? What is the reason for the deferments, and when can it be expected that approval will be given so that exploration may proceed without delay?
– The honourable member asks quite a comprehensive question. I will give him a more detailed answer at a later date but broadly 3 farm-in applications slipped through during the caretaker period immediately prior to the election campaign. We propose to examine these applications very closely indeed, because the Commonwealth itself may be participating in future in the direct exploration for oil and natural gas.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing. Is it a fact that serving members of the armed forces are not allowed to buy New South Wales Housing Commission homes? Is this a matter in which the national Government has no say? If so, would the Minister be prepared to discuss the situation with the New South Wales Government?
– As I understand the position, servicemen are entitled to apply for Housing Commission homes in the same way as any other citizen is, but some houses are set aside for priority use by the services, t know the honourable member has a special interest in the Nowra- Jervis Bay area. There is a shortage of homes in that area, and it is reasonable that the Housing Commission should ensure that homes provided there are retained for use by servicemen. Otherwise there is no restriction at all. The problem is generally to the effect that there is an inadequacy of Housing Commission homes throughout Australia and, as the honourable member knows the Government is giving high priority to the consideration of that problem.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Where the PostmasterGeneral deems a postal service to be uneconomic in country areas is he contemplating a curtailment of that service and the purchase of property in lieu of providing the service? Are his Department’s priorities to be determined by economic or social considerations? Are we to be one nation, one people under this Government with the Postmaster-General’s Department providing similar services to all people regardless of their occupation or geographic location, or are the country people to receive departmental postal or telephone services only if they measure up to some economic criterion of the Department?
– The honourable member is anxious to continue to exploit the alleged difference between telephone services in metropolitan areas and country areas. In answer to previous questions I have clearly indicated that I do not think it is fair and reasonable for existing subscribers to be mulcted of money just to provide uneconomic services which, if they are deemed to be a social service, ought to be provided from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. For example, in Queensland the present problems in the Brisbane area, where there is a delay of from 15 months to 2 years in providing services, could be directly related to the fact that an unproportionate amount of money has been spent on country line services. Many country areas are declining in population. In the last financial year in Queensland some 60 per cent of the capital expenditure was incurred in rural areas to provide services that would return only 47 per cent of the income. Accordingly the result is that many thousands of people in Brisbane, where there are over 2,000 deferred applications, will now be obliged to wait for 2 years for services. The previous Government dictated these priorities on the basis that it could buy votes for itself in electorates represented by its members. It did not consider the national interest. This new Government will consider the national interest, lt is on that basis that we have set up a royal commission to have a look at the overriding problem of the whole Post Office. The present program, the program instituted by the previous Government, will result in a loss on postal services of $23m this year, which can only be met by the telephone subscribers. That is the problem that I face in endeavouring to administer this Department. It is for that reason that we need to have a complete new look at the whole matter of Post Office administration.
– Is the Minister for Education aware that quarrels over domestic financial arrangements are often found to be a major contributor to disagreements between married couples ending in separation and divorce? Will he encourage courses on home management to be made available at secondary schools and adult education centres with a view to reducing one of the major causes of disruption to nuptial bliss which, I understand, often occurs after the salary of the wage earner has been reduced? I have in mind now certain honourable members opposite.
– This is the first time that I have heard it suggested that matrimonial reconciliation was within my portfolio. However, I agree with the honourable member that domestic science and home management training are critically important. I have certainly become convinced of their importance, for instance, for the Aboriginal population in the Northern Territory and feel that in that area there needs to be total family education if a child is to be benefited. But I have not given consideration to the point that the honourable member has raised. I will have the matter examined.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, relative to the myth of upward revaluation of the Australian currency, he has been informed that the Japan Silk and Textile Exporters Association has directed its Australian agents to increase their prices in Australia by 11.11 per cent with respect not only to future contracts but also to contracts that are already in existence. In the light of this fact does the Prime Minister now reject the myth that if we upvalue the Australian currency we will get reduced prices for imports and that sellers will in fact exploit the market to the maximum limit possible? In the light of this, does he agree that there was an over-kill both in the unilateral revalution in December and in remaining static at 10 per cent when the Americans devalued by 10 per cent? Will he now let us know whether he recognises that a mistake has been made and that this matter should be looked at again?
– The case which the right honourable gentleman mentioned has not been drawn my attention. I thank him for the information and I will seek advice on it. Far from believing that any error was made in the decision that the Government took before Christmas on the value of the Australian dollar, I believe that every subsequent event in the United States of America, Western Europe and Japan has borne out the wisdom of the action which was taken and its timeliness.
– My question to the Minister for Minerals and Energy is supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for
Stirling. Was the reason for the panic farming in the case of Woodside-Burmah Oil NL leases due to the fact that the area would have reverted to the Designated Authority in 2 years? Why was the area given to WoodsideBurmah for exploration so massive? Why was not the exploration licence auctioned as is the practice in Canada and other countries?
– What the honourable member has asked for can be answered only in a long serial. Briefly the situation is this: It is surprising the number of last minute transactions that were approved, not merely in relation to exploration for oil and natural gas but also for uranium by what was a caretaker government. These matters have been very closely examined and I will be in a position to make a statement to the House, I hope, in the next week.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister, ls the honourable gentleman aware that his recent comment that the next election could be contested on at least an optional preference system has been widely interpreted throughout the Australian community as a dishonouring or a repudiation of the clear, earlier understanding given by the honourable gentleman that the Australian Labor Party would not change the voting system for the next election? In view of the importance of this matter for the electorate at large, and in view also of the considerable publicity which has been given to the honourable gentleman’s more recent comment, will he make his Government’s intention perfectly clear to this House?
– I have said, and I will say again, that this Government will not. during the currency of this Parliament, abolish proportional voting for the Senate or preferential voting for the House of Representatives. 1 have also said, and I repeat here, that this Government will not during the currency of the Parliament, introduce first past the post voting for the House of Representatives. I think it is time that honourable gentlemen, particularly in the Opposition parties, realise that the public does not accept that the methods of voting which have applied at various stages in Australia until now are the acme of democratic perfection. I made a comment at my Press conference 2 days ago in answer to a question concerning a public opinion poll which showed that most people wanted first past the post voting.
My Party used to be committed to first past the post voting. It was alleged during the last election campaign that it was still committed to first past the post voting. In fact, in the middle of 1971, the Party’s commitment to first past the post voting was taken out of the Party’s platform. The whole question is being reconsidered. One of the reasons why the Party is reconsidering it is that there is a view in my Party, as there is in at least one of the Opposition Parties, that there ought to be proportional voting for the House of Representatives. It is not a view to which I subscribe but, nevertheless, it is a view which people hold in various parties, including my own.
It is also relevant to point out that preferential voting such as we have in the House of Representatives is known, according to the National Library, in only 2 other countries, Iran and South Korea - and in those countries there is not compulsory voting. There are other ways of achieving the desirable objective of ensuring that people get as their representative the candidate whom a majority of them want. For instance, in France there is a system of run-offs. But one of the difficulties which we should recognise in the Australian voting system for both Federal Houses is that it is the most complicated system of voting to be found in any country and it brings about the largest percentage of informal votes, apparently, that one finds in any country. In these circumstances people, including members of Parliament, should discuss any possible improvements.
In considering the system of compulsory voting for the House of Representatives, under which one must express preference for every candidate, or at least every candidate but one, in sequence, one must acknowledge the fact that there are many people who, with good conscientious reasons, object to voting for some candidates.
– My Speaker, I take a point of order. Is it in order for the Prime Minister to continue consistently to ignore the question and give lectures to this House?
– There is no substance in the point of order. A Minister may answer a question in any way he thinks fit.
– Mr Speaker, would it be in order for me to observe to the Prime Minister that he would make a great encyclopaedia salesman?
– No, you are not in order.
– I doubt that in the largest encyclopaedia the honourable member for Mackellar would rate even the smallest footnote. There are members of the parties in Opposition in this House now who have put to me their hope that there could be some simplification of the preferential system of voting for the House of Representatives because they are mortified at having openly to declare how they advise their supporters to vote among a multiplicity of candidates. Many of them are mortified when displaced Liberal candidates, for instance, are opposing endorsed candidates, and so on.
– Name the people.
– No, I do not break confidences in that way. There is a case and my Party will certainly examine it, and other parties would do well to examine it, for simplifying the system of voting in Australia. It is a scandal that our system is so complicated and it is a deliberate ploy of Opposition parties to complicate the ballot paper so that people who have migrated to Australia will cast informal votes. I do not need to repeat what I started out to say in answer to the question. The first 2 sentences are a full answer to the question.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Attorney-General been drawn to criticisms directed at recent changes introduced by the Attorney-General to the divorce rules which operate pusuant to the Matrimonial Causes Act? Is there any substance in the criticism?
– I have seen the criticism to which the honourable member referred. I am sure that all the honourable members have seen the criticism. I suppose one has to say that whenever reforms are made to branches of the law like the divorce rules opinions will differ as to whether the reforms are done in the best way or whether a better way could have been followed. I think the best answer I can give to the honourable member’s question is to point out that the old divorce rules have been subject to a great deal of criticism by some of the most learned and responsible people familiar with the subject, including Mr Justice Selby, the senior judge in divorce in New South Wales. The rules were greatly in need of reform.
Any person who has had experience of the divorce jurisdiction will know the unpleasantness, embarrassment, hypocrisy, distaste, prurience and voyeurism that existed in the divorce courts as they were forced to operate under the old rules and the old philosophy. The changes in the rules make great steps forward. They remove the obligation to file a discretion statement. I have seen cases in the past where people have fought in the courts for weeks and weeks and incurred costs amounting to hundreds of dollars over whether a discretion statement should be made available to the other spouse. The changed rules remove the court fees. They attempt, successfully I hope, to impose a price limitation on fees so that more and more people can take advantage of the system. They remove the very unfortunate speculative nature of divorce proceedings whereby an order for costs meant that if a petitioner went to a lawyer, the lawyer would act only when he was reasonably sure that he would get his costs out of someone else’s hide over a long period of time. They remove that aspect and the degrading experience of having sometimes 20 to 30 people in a day waiting in the courts, having to listen to everyone else’9 often thought dirty washing being washed in public while judges were forced to examine a person on a discretion statement.
The changes in the divorce rules allow a divorce to be granted in the dignified atmosphere of a judge’s chambers on affidavit evidence and they remove the obligation to deny condonation which is only another way of saying ‘I forgave my wife’ or ‘1 forgave my husband’. They remove the obligation to deny connivance because of the fault concept, which is archaic in our law, that people had virtually to say in advance: ‘I have created a fault in order to get a divorce’. They deny the collusion aspect which is only another way of saying that people wanted a divorce and were prepared to agree to have a divorce. All in all, it is a magnificent step forward.
RURAL RECONSTRUCTION Mr SINCLAIR - I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry: Is it true, as reported, that the amount of funds to be allocated for rural reconstruction in the coining financial year is to be significantly less than the annual rate provided by the previous Government - that is, the $118m which has been provided over the last 2 years? Is the reported amount inclusive or exclusive of the $l8m that was provided additional to the $100m included in the legislation? Is it true that the interest rate on the amount provided for rural reconstruction is to be increased? Does the reduction in the amount of money reflect a recognition by the Labor Government that the policies of the Liberal and Country Parties in primary industry have meant that the need for rural reconstruction is not as urgent as it once was? Finally, does this announcement reflect the only reply to the statement made by the Minister for Immigration that there was to be allocated a sum of $500m available for long term lending at 3 per cent interest?
– The overall question of monetary policy as it affects rural reconstruction, the development of resources, revenue earning assets such as housing or the supply of facilities for fuel and so on, is under active consideration by the Government as are specific interest rates. The objective of the Australian Government is to provide the best possible deal for the Australian people, irrespective of whether these people live in the city or the country. We do not subscribe to policies which favour selected people or selected groups of people. In regard to this particular objective, it is also the policy of the Australian Government to expand the activities of the Commonwealth Development Bank, particularly in the fields of lending to rural producers, and in encouraging small secondary industries and assisting those engaged in progressive reconstruction not only in the pursuit of traditional rural activities but also with respect to forestry and fishing which had been grossly neglected by the outgoing Government. These things cannot happen overnight and this incoming Government has been left with a legacy of monetary chaos. As the Prime Minister has indicated, and as the Government has indicated, we have been left with a legacy of uncontrolled prices.
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Minister for Northern Development is following the practice of a number of other Ministers of quite deliberately refusing to answer simple questions and clouding the answers in a mass of words because they know quite well that the policies they are pursuing in these matters are diametrically opposed to the interests of Australia.
-Order! There is no substance in the point taken. A Minister may answer a question as he sees fit.
– What has stirred the honourable member for Wannon, who, I notice, is now the shadow Minister for Primary Industry, is the fact that I said that this Government has been left with this legacy of uncontrolled prices. Action is now being taken to establish a prices justification tribunal. We have been left also with the legacy of the explosive forces of generated inflation. Action is being taken to stabilise prices. We have also been left with the legacy of a number of racketeering companies which excel in charging high interest rates. The Minister for Social Security has pointed this out on many occasions with respect to medical benefits funds.
– I rise on a point of order. Mr Speaker, would it not be more appropriate for the Minister for Northern Development to speak in the grievance debate today?
-Order! Too many frivolous points of order are being taken. The Chair will have to take action to curb the practice of taking frivolous points of order when the proceedings are being broadcast.
– The Opposition is very sensitive to any remarks about the legacies it left behind. The policy of this Government is to stabilise the price level, to have a sound monetary policy and to have a system of reasonable interest rates. The Minister for Primary Industry is in active consultation with the responsible State Ministers about decisions to be taken by the Government relating to this year’s level of rural reconstruction funds and the rate of interest. I can assure the honourable member that the Minister for Primary Industry will make a statement to the Parliament when these matters have been fully examined by the State Ministers.
– I wish to ask a question of the Treasurer. In view of the fact that the Government has decided against the setting up of a rural bank as such, can the Treasurer indicate whether the other proposition - an enlarged and reconstructed Commonwealth Development Bank - will be given effect to very soon? Will the structure of this new Development Bank be so geared as to provide long term low-interest loans to rural industry to assist it in its constant battle for viability against a multitude of economic enemies?
– I say categorically that I believe there are enough financial institutions in Australia already. What is required is sensible adaptation to meet the needs of those who require credit. Having listened to the previous question, it astonishes me that, after 23 years of such great government, rural reconstruction of the magnitude sought by the Opposition is required. The task of any government, as my colleague the Minister for Northern Development indicated, is to do justice to all of those groups which are seeking credit. Unfortunately there are always more seekers of credit than suppliers of it. Therefore one has to have a sensible rationing of it. My belief is that the Development Bank as it was set up has not fulfilled its objectives. One of the Government’s early tasks will be to expand and widen its functions and to use it for making credit available at the lowest possible terms to those who seek it, both rural and otherwise. I find it arguable at the moment as to whether there is justice in home builders in a country town having to pay 7 per cent interest while other people in the same area think they should be able to obtain finance at 5 per cent.
– Has the Prime Minister at any time said, and in particular did he prior to the general election in December last say himself or authorise anybody else to say with his approval, that the strength at Lavarack Barracks in Townsville would be raised to 4 battalions and that therefore a Labor government, far from reducing the size of Lavarack Barracks, would increase the strength?
-The Prime Minister said earlier in answer to a question that he would not abolish preferential voting for the House of Representatives. Will he now say quite simply whether he will or whether he will not modify the preferential voting system in the life of this Parliament as that aspect of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s question was completely ignored?
– No alteration to the preferential system of voting for the House of Representatives will be introduced by the Government in this Parliament.
– Can the Prime Minister yet say whether local government is to be represented at the coming constitutional convention with full voting rights? Does it remain his view that the Australian Government should not be represented at the convention unless voting rights are given to local government?
– It is the firm view of the Australian Government that local government should be represented at any constitutional convention which meets. It is also the commitment of the Australian Government that local government should have direct access to Commonwealth grants and direct participation in the allocation of Government loan funds. Local government will be given direct access to Commonwealth grants through the expanded machinery of the Commonwealth Grants Commission for which legislation will shortly be introduced. The consent of the States is being sought to alter the 1927 financial agreement to allow local government in each State to choose a representative to speak and vote for it in the deliberations of the Loan Council, as the Governor-General announced 3 weeks ago.
On 4th January the Attorney-General and I assured representatives from all of local government in all the Australian States that we would press for representation by local government at the projected constitutional convention. I regret to say that arrangements have not yet been achieved. My view is that it would be a waste of time to hold a constitutional convention which did not consider this basic matter in Australian finance. Local government now has to finance greater loan burdens than the State governments. Local government has been given by State governments more and more functions, but no finance, in the field of current expenditure. The Government is resolved to see that the Aus* tralian federal system, particularly in its financial aspects, is enriched by the full participation of local government.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a disturbing program on ‘This Day Tonight’ last night in which residents of the Northern Territory expressed attitudes that I think this Parliament would regard as racist and undesirable? Will consideration be given by the Government to implementing or setting up a national committee to combat racism and racial discriminanon which would include groups from all sections of the community so that as well as educating our black population we can start to educate our white population as to the reasons for the plight of underprivileged groups of people, not only Aborigines but other sections of the community such as national groups and ethnic groups?
– I did not see the Australian Broadcasting Commission telecast last night to which the honourable gentleman referred. I would not like it to be thought from anything I say that I object to the ABC allowing the expression of racist views, because it is an unfortunate fact in Australia that there are persons who hold and express such views. They should be exposed to the public in those media. This is one way for the majority of Australians to quell and to reject such views. All I think I can say about the general matter which the honourable gentleman raised - I would like to praise him for his attitude throughout his life in this Parliament as well as outside for his many activities in this field - is that the Australian Government is resolved to press ahead by every constitutional method available to it - in particular since the 1967 referendum and under the external affairs power - to see that any traces of racism in Australia’s legislation or administration are expunged. Our attitude in the United Nations in the first 2 weeks of our government - the last 2 weeks of the General Assembly - have made that attitude, we can be thankful, obvious to the whole world. There will be no shillyshallying by the present Australian Government in using any opportunities available to it under the Australian Constitution and carrying out any obligations under international conventions.
– With the indulgence of the House I would like to clarify something I said at question time. My remark was inadvertent and could be misleading. I referred to proportions in the allocation of cost between the amounts met from the levy on taxable income and from the Consolidated Revenue in funding our health insurance proposals. In fact I have not had the opportunity of calculating the proportions, but the other things I said stand: Namely, that the levy on taxable income will be 1.35 per cent of taxable income - that stands and is a firm undertaking - and the amount of money from Consolidated Revenue, according to the projections made - they are preliminary, of course - by the working committee indicate that that amount of money will be about the same, as the amount which would have had to be provided under the present system of health insurance.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do. My attention has been drawn to a newspaper called ‘Murrumbidgee Irrigator’ and to an issue of Monday, 19th February 1973, in which it is alleged by the honourable member for Riverina, the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby), that I have deceived growers over outstanding payments for fruit delivered to canneries last season, in particular with reference to payments to the Leeton cannery. The position regarding the offer made by the previous Government to the Leeton Co-operative cannery is outlined in a letter which I sent to the honourable member on 4th December 1972. I table that letter.
-Order! The honourable gentleman may do so only by leave.
– I ask for leave to table the letter.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I now table the letter. In that letter I stated:
You will now be aware that the Government recently took steps to provide financial assistance to the canning fruits industry in the form of loans through State Governments to co-operate canneries to enable the canneries to accelerate their payments to growers for 1971-72 season peaches, pears and apricots.
The funds available to co-operative canneries are sufficient to enable them to raise their cash payments to growers to 85 per cent of the FISCC price except where cannery levies would prevent that amount of cash from being passed to growers. Some $781,000 has been provided to the New South Wales Government for the Leeton Co-operative Cannery and growers should soon be receiving the additional payments.
– 1 rise on a point of order. Yesterday morning the honourable member for Bowman was not permitted to read from a document whilst making a personal explanation. I think the rules should be applied consistently.
– There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member for New England is not debating the question. He is only stating where he has been misrepresented.
– The point of misrepresentation is that it has been alleged that instead of the amount of money being made available to the actual growers -
– 1 rise on a point of order. I refer to the matter which was raised by my colleague the honourable member for Kingston. Yesterday morning when I sought to table a document and was refused leave by the honourable member for Griffith because he did not want to know the truth of the matter, I was not permitted to read it.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– Prior to the former Government providing this sum of money, growers were likely to receive no funds, or if they were to receive any funds it would have been only a small percentage of the growers’ normal entitlement. The former Government decided that because of the growers’ financial circumstances urgent help was necessary. As a result, $78 1,000 was made available to the State Government. As I have explained, there was a reservation that funds which were related to a levy with respect to the past debts of the Leeton Co-operative Cannery would be withheld. An immediate cash payment of $500,000, representing 65.8 per cent of the amount, was paid to growers. The balance of the amount was $281,000.
-Order! The honourable member is now starting to debate the question. 1 ask him to complete his personal explanation.
– I have been misrepresented in that the allegation was that the balance of these funds was not available to growers. In order to identify the misrepresentation it is essential that I point out that the former
Government made the $781,000 available; as an immediate allocation, 65.8 per cent of the amount was paid to growers; and, as to the balance, they were advised that a further amount would be payable once the percentage of the-
– Order! 1 point out to the honourable gentleman that he has been given permission to table a document, the substance of which he is now repeating.
– With regard to the allegation by the Minister for Immigration, the present Government took office on 2nd December. A 2-man junta, composed of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) in a multiplicity of roles until a full Ministry was sworn in. was responsible in the following 2 weeks-
– I rise on a point of order. I make the same point as was made previously by the honourable member for Gwydir: The honourable member for New England might like to take part in the grievance debate.
– Order! I remind the honourable member for New England that he is now debating the question. I would have presumed that he would seek leave to make a statement.
– Mr Speaker, I accept your ruling. The point at issue is that the funds paid to growers and to the Leeton cannery were paid entirely in accordance with correspondence between myself, the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby). The allegation that we in any way deceived the growers is completely untrue. In fact, the amount paid to them represented a significant improvement on their financial circumstnces as they then expected and, as a result, they were put in a position which benefited them considerably.
– Order! The honourable gentleman is now out of order.
– For the information of honourable members, I present a report on the recommendations for the implementation and development of a program of bilingual education in schools in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. It is a report of an advisory group consisting of Dr B. H. Watts, Mr W. J. McGrath and Mr J. L. Tandy.
– I seek leave to make a statement commending the Minister for Education on this document.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– I would like to speak to the motion.
– I raise a point of order. I point out to the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) that there is no desire to curtail debate but he is eating into the time of private members because today is Grievance Day. An opportunity will be given in due course for this statement to be debated at a time suitable to the honourable member.
– That will be very suitable. I thank the Minister. I move:
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-72 I present the thirtyfifth general report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Mr FULTON (Leichhardt)- I seek leave to make a short statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– With reference to the report I point out that there is a proposed amendment to section 18 (8) of the Public Works Committee Act to raise the value of the mandatory limit of $750,000 to $1,500,000. However, should a limit of $2m be proposed in the light of the expected magnitude of the Government’s major works program I personally would agree that $2m is a realistic figure. It is a fact that over the last 5 years there has been a general increase in the number of references to the Committee and this trend is continuing in 1973 with a record total of 54 possible proposals listed, of which 14 are valued at less than$1. 5m and 6 are between $1.5m and $2m.
In the general report, paragraph 8 mentions that in 1972 the Committee met more frequently and examined more different pro posals than in any previous year. The Committee was originally established for the purpose of ensuring that full and detailed information on major projects should be given to the Parliament which has to provide the funds necessary for public works. It has been constituted in order to ensure that taxpayers receive value for their money in the undertaking of works by the Department of Works on behalf of the client departments. I also remind the House that the last Committee had to seek leave to sit while the Parliament was in session. This is not desired by the Parliament nor by the members of the Committee. The fixation of an upper limit of $1.5m depends upon the number of major projects on which the Government intends to be engaged and the relative amount of time available to the Committee to look into these projects.
On the basis of the existing limit of $750,000, the Committee would have to average 6 projects per month. During the parliamentary sessions, an average of only one week per month is available for inspections and hearings. The Committee will need to be occupied during the whole of the winter recess. The program is also dependent upon the steady receipt of proposals which, from past experience, is known to be difficult to maintain. It is doubtful whether the Committee would be able to carry out any more inspections and hearings as occurred during 1972 when the record of 35 proposals - 17 more than in the previous year - was achieved. If those projects costing less than $2m were deleted, a total of 36 projects would remain and this would then result in a similar program as occurred in 1972. It is also pointed out that section 18(1.) of the Act provides that any public work may be referred to the Committee regardless of value. This eliminates the idea that the Committee would be precluded from reviewing the smaller projects. It may be noted that all works in excess of $40,000 are listed in the Civil Works Program circulated by the Minister for Works at the time of the presentation of the Budget.
– by leave- As Chairman of the previous Public Works Committee and Vice-Chairman of the present one, I support entirely the point of view put by the present Chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton). It is quite impossible for the Public Works Committee to do the kind of job that it has done in the past if it is overloaded with references. The previous Committee had a great deal of experience of the difficulties in handling its work and came to the considered opinion that it should recommend to the Government that the amount of $750,000 - the estimated cost of a project must be above this sum before it is referred to the Committee for report - should be increased. The Committee’s report suggested a figure of $1.5m. The honourable member for Leichhardt mentioned his personal opinion, to which I add my support, that the sum of $2m would be a reasonable level at which to draw the line. It should be pointed out that the only other possible solution is to have 2 Public Works Committees. I think that this would be quite unwise and that there would be a great deal of difficulty in maintaining a common policy between them. I think it would be much wiser to raise the limit, as the honourable member for Leichhardt suggests.
– by leave- The only point that I wish to make in connection with this matter is that I believe it is regretable that the Public Works Committee should need to recommend that the criterion on which projects are referred to the Committee for investigation should be varied. But, as has been pointed out, the amount of time available to the Committee precludes it from investigating the number of projects which would be referred to it under the old criterion. However, there are times when projects costing less than the specified amount are important to the community. As was pointed out by the Chairman of the Public Works Committee, these can be referred to the Committee. I recommend that the Government should look perhaps a little more closely at this idea and give consideration to that procedure in the case of a project in respect of which the estimated cost of construction is less than the prescribed amount above which the Public Works Committee would of necessity ordinarily be obliged to examine a project. In this way, important projects which are controversial could be the subject of comment by interested members of the public at public hearings of the committee. People interested in these projects will have the opportunity of expressing an opinion to the Public Works Committee about them. This is the one way in which these people are afforded an opportunity to have their views heard and presented to the Government.
– by leave - I do not want to cut into the time of the Grievance Day debate which I understand is to follow. I simply want to say to the 3 members of the Public Works Committee who have spoken that I have taken careful note of what they have said. I have some understanding of the basis for their remarks, having recently ceased to be a member of the Public Works Committee. I will take early action to refer the matters raised to my colleague the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh) in another place for his consideration.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 27th March, at 2 p.m.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the consideration of order of the day No. 1, Government Business, grievance debate, being continued until 3.15 p.m.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to:
That in accordance wilh the provisions of the Australian National University Act 1946-71 this House selects Dr Klugman to be a member of the Council of the Australian National University to and including 18th August 1973.
That grievances be noted.
– Last week I received a most extraordinary letter from the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron). I intend to read that letter and my reply. The letter is dated 6th March and is signed ‘Clyde R. Cameron’. It reads:
Dear Mr Wentworth,
I have received advice from a source which 1 am at present unable to disclose to you, that you have been a member of the Federated Clerks Union. It is suggested that your motivation for joining the FCU was to obtain an extra$60 annually which was available only to members of registered organisations.
It appears also to be true that you were admitted to the union on the recommendation of a Communist organiser at a time when the union was in fact under Communist control.
I am sure that the Parliament would like to hear about your union activities, and I would appreciate your comment on the accuracy of the information I have obtained. As you would know, I would not wish to do you an injustice by falsely asserting your membership of a Communist controlled union merely to qualify for a miserable $60 a year.
Clyde R. Cameron
This is a serious matter. I replied in the following terms:
My dear Minister,
It was good of you to have written to me in the terms, of your letter of the 6th March, and I appreciate your concern.
I did work briefly as a clerk on a defence project and joined the Clerks Union as a routine matter. I would have thought that this would have commended itself to you.
I have been told that, before you became a Minister, you possessed a considerable ring of informers in the Unions, particularly in relation to individual unionists against whom you had a personal grudge, and some parts of your letter seem to confirm this. May I suggest to you that it would not be consonant with your present Ministerial position to maintain for your own purposes such a ring of private informers against individual unionists.
You will, of course, share my pleasure that the Clerks Unions is no longer under Communist control. It is my understanding that Communist control in this Union was maintained very largely because of corrupt ballot practices, and perhaps you can give me some fuller information on this point, which may be similar to points you have raised in relation to the AWU. The relevant events in the Clerks Union are said to have occurred at a time when the Clerks Union machine was headed by Mr Jack Hughes.I think my memory is correct that the Hon. Les Johnson, who is at present Minister for Housing, was at that time an employee of the Clerks Union and very closely associated with its affairs, but I must make it clear that I have no information which would link him with any corrupt ballot practices.
Your letter raises one serious question of principle. Where a union has political affiliations (and particularly when it is under Communist control) should those who disapprove of these affiliations be under any compulsion or financial inducement to join it? Should we perhaps consider establishing the principle that where a union does have such political affiliations its existence should be no bar to the registration of another union to cover the same trade and calling? This would preserve the principle of freedom of association, which I presume you still support. 1 trust that you will not object to my quoting this correspondence in the House.
I will not speak of the major principle referred to in the second last paragraph because I hope at some later time to have an opportunity to speak on it at length. In regard to the Federated Clerks Union of Australia the Mr Jack Hughes was, I think, in the Labor movement at the same time. He subsequently left it and he called himself the State Labor Party. This was at a time when the communists and the Australian Labor Party were co-operating very closely in union affairs. I wish I was sure this does not occur now. Perhaps the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) can refresh my mind as to these events. I must confess that I am not terribly familiar with them. Who was it who was called ‘Ape of Jacky’? I forget. In regard to the more serious matter, the Minister for Labour has for a long time had the reputation in the trade union movement of being something of a hatchet man. He has, it is said, had this ring of informers and pimps, sources which he will not disclose, who have been giving him information about individual unionists whom he dislikes. It is a very serious matter when trade union officials and people in this House who have some influence in trade unions maintain this kind of individual terror against trade unionists.
– Are you terrorised?
– I am not terrified but it may be that other people who are not so fortunately placed as I am as a member of this House would be terrified of this kind of intimidation and the way in which the trade union leader is now setting himself up as the enemy and dictator of the trade unionists. There has to be something done against this kind of blackmail informing against individuals. It is a very serious thing when the Minister who is now in charge of trade union affairs in this House - the Minister for Labour - still associates himself with the ring of informers which I am told he has for long maintained in the Australian Workers Union and, in the case of other trade unionists, individual little men who have incurred his displeasure. Again, as I say, I am not terrified, but I, as a member of this House, am somewhat fortunately placed. Other little, smaller men, people for whom we should have consideration - we should have consideration for the little men in the community - deserve our help and our support. They should have some kind of protection against the dictatorial trade union secretary blackmailer, the bully, the man who maintains the ring of informers and pimps.
I know that there is dirt in trade union politics. The Minister in his previous capacity had often drawn attention to it. I think some of the things he said about dirt in his own union, the AWU, well, they would be very vehement comments and I do not intend to repeat them in this House, but they are things which the Minister himself has said. He himself stands as witness to the corruption and dirt in trade union politics. I regard the Minister as being a political schizo in many respects. Very often his is a both benign and fatherly approach; his hair is almost as white as mine and he has that nice, kindly air. I would not like to think that this is always a calculated insincerity on bis part; I would like to take a kinder view of his character - that he is a political schizo and a kind of Jekyll and Hyde, that sometimes he is genuinely benign and sometimes he is not.
-Order! I am not too sure whether the word ‘schizo’ is unparliamentary. Will the honourable member tell me in what dictionary it appears?
– If ‘schizo’ is unparliamentary, let me withdraw it. I was trying to take the kindest view of the Minister’s various manifestations. I did not want it to be said that he was insincere when he appeared benign and that he was really being ruthless all the time. I was trying to be kind to him and to believe there was some kind of Jekyll and Hyde dualism in his character. If I am pressed, let me withdraw the word ‘schizo’ and say that the Minister does for his own purposes sometimes give off a kindly aura but sometimes the truth shows through. Sometimes one looks at this benign face at the table and sees it is as kindly; sometimes one gets the idea that one is looking at the cruel, flat face of a predatory owl.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw that remark as he quite well knows that he may not cast a reflection On any member.
– I will contain myself. I will withdraw. I will not say what I think.
– Mr Speaker, it will be comforting to the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) to know that I do not dislike him at all. Indeed, I rather like him; I am very fond of him, as he must have many times suspected. I think it would be unfair for me to hold out much longer the source of my information about the honourable gentleman. My information is that a communist organiser named Frank Graham - would that name ring a bell with the honourable member - was the one who nominated the honourable member to be a member of the Federated Clerks Union which was then under the control of a person whom the honourable gentleman himself described - together with one other whose name I shall give in a moment - as the most dangerous communist that this country has ever seen. This was Mr Hughes. That was the honourable gentleman’s description of Mr Hughes.
I always tried to take a very kindly view of the honourable gentleman. He is a nice person. When he was the Minister for Social Services he did try very hard, and he is very good in all fields except in the field of communism; this is where he blots his copybook, unfortunately. But of course one can never tell what is behind a person when he carries on a charade like this. I shall always remember reading a book on Russian intelligence. The very first lesson you are taught if you want to be a Russian spy - this was specially so in the days of Stalin - is to placate your intended victims by making them believe that you are really strongly opposed to Communism. You would get a special dispensation from the Kremlin under which you were permitted, with the knowledge of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in Moscow, to carry out terrible tirades of abuse against communism because this would give you an opportunity to sit down and have a cup of tea with people like the late Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes and even with the honourable gentleman who is now folding his arms in relief - the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). In this way you could extract from your colleagues - ministerial colleagues especially - very valuable and important secret information which could then be passed on to your bosses in the Kremlin.
I have never said that the honourable gentleman is a communist spy. I have never said it because I cannot prove it, and I think that if you cannot prove a thing you have no right to say it. But there are some things about the honourable gentleman that makes me very suspicious. For example, it was said away back in 1950 that he was an undercover member of the Port Kembla branch of the Communist Party. The honourable gentleman who was then the representative of the electorate of Kingsford-Smith alleged that he held ticket number 261. The honourable member for Mackellar denied that that was the correct ticket number but until 1967 he did not deny that he was a member of the Communist Party. For 18 years he sat back and was honest enough not to deny the allegations against him. Then in 1967, rather belatedly I would have thought, 18 years after the first allegation was made he made a rather feeble attempt to deny that he was a member of the Communist Party.
There are some things about the honourable gentleman which I think I should tell the new members here because 1 believe that this legendary figure ought not to be allowed to wither on the vine and pass out of history as the forgotten man. We should remember some of his exploits, especially during World War II when he commanded a volunteer defence corps and was asked by his commander to carry on certain exercises at Cronulla in order to demonstrate whether or not an enemy would be able to take possession of the Cronulla foreshore. So the honourable gentleman, with great skill and characteristic attention to detail, decided to blow up the Cronulla bridge to demonstrate just what could be done. It was a perfect example. He then dressed up some of volunteer defence corps members as tram conductors and approached the Redfern police station. Just as the police were changing shift, each of his tram conductors suddenly produced a pistol. They took possession of the Redfern police station and held it for something like 7 hours. After that they retreated from the police station, took possession of Field Marshal Blamey, took him to Leura in the Blue Mountains and held him there incommunicado.
Eventually, of course, there had to be an end to these marvellous exploits. I am told that the honourable gentleman’s commanding officer instructed him to mount his motor cycle, upon which he had broken all speed records in previous activities, to disappear in the direction of the Brisbane Line and not to come back again.
I think that the honourable gentleman’s repartee is worth recording. In answer to that charge by the late honourable member for East Sydney, he gave the House the benefit of this gem of oratory:
I feel that the honourable member for East Sydney is wasting his talents. He should be out at La Perouse throwing boomerangs.
As I said, I have observed the honourable gentleman with a great deal of attention and affection over the years. I think that the House would like to hear what the Melbourne ‘Herald’ said about the honourable gentleman on one of his performances. We saw him in action again this morning but this happened many years ago, back in 1954. Honourable members will agree with me that he has not changed very much.
The Melbourne ‘Herald’ commenting upon one of his contributions to the House very much along the same lines as we heard a moment ago, said:
Mr Wentworth created an extraordinary scene. He moved from his rear seal to the front corner benches and yelled enthusiastic support for Sir Eric Harrison. Then, alternately laughing wildly and putting his tongue out-
That is an extraordinary thing, but he used to do it. The article continued:
… Mr Wentworth began to jump quickly up and down on the seat. He would then stop jumping, pat himself vigorously on the back of his head, stick out his tongue and then resume his jumping.
I ask you, Mr Speaker: Do you not think we ought to take a very kindly interest in this man? I think we will all agree that he is not well, but there is no reason why we should shun him. I think we ought to try to help him. I remember the famous occasion when he was running a newspaper called the ‘Illawarra Star’ on the south coast of New South Wales. The honourable member will remember that he had trouble with the unions. On one occasion they declared the ‘Illawarra Star’ black. So he thought to himself: How do I get on side with the unions? Thinking that the unions down there were communist controlled, he got in touch With another communist, a man called Edward Roach, whom he has frequently described in the Parliament as the most dangerous and evil communist that this country had ever seen. But that did not prevent him from inviting Mr Roach to his loungeroom to work out some scheme by which he could get the unions on side. The scheme was that he would present the ‘Illawarra Star’ Cup to the best team of marchers in the 6-hour day celebration held on the south coast. The honourable member was not worried about a 35-hour week; he wanted a 30-hour week. Sure enough, the Waterside Workers Federation contingent won the cup and was presented with it. In fact, I have a photograph of the honourable gentleman presenting the ‘Illawarra Star’ Cup to this dangerous communist, Mr Roach. Mr Ward, who was there at the time, assured me that when the honourable member for Mackellar finished shaking hands with Mr Roach, he actually genuflected to Mr Roach. I ask honourable members to remember that there will be another instalment of the exploits of the honourable member for Mackellar during World War II next time he gives us the pleasure of hearing something more about communism.
Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation
– Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Not only is what the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) said utterly untrue, but also he knows it to be untrue.
Sitting suspended from 11.28 a.m. to 2.15 p.m.
– I take this opportunity, during the grievance debate, to draw attention to what I consider to be a highly undesirable practice which has occurred in this Parliament and no doubt will occur again. To my mind, it is an abuse of parliamentary privilege. I am referring to the habit which some honourable members have, and have had over the years, of practising character assassination, of lying about the reputation of other honourable members and of using parliamentary privilege to do it. I was a victim on a few occasions in the previous Parliament. Prior to the closure of the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House one evening, I was attacked by a member who was - I do not know whether I can use this word, but I will find out shortly - lying about me. Because there was only 2 minutes to go before the House rose, it was impossible to respond, although the statements that he made were demonstrably lies. This member charged me with spending the whole of that day using the facilities of this place, the telephone primarily, to contact people in Adelaide in order to influence the way in which my Party conference would vote.
You, Mr Speaker, and every member of the House would know that it is not possible for any of us to know what anyone else is doing with his telephone. So, the statement was demonstrably a lie. The headline in the Press the next day was to the effect that I had been telephoning Adelaide all day for party purposes. That is the way in which the report appeared. I think that sooner or later honourable members will have to see that this sort of thing is prevented. Any honourable member could be a victim. I suggest that today the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) was attacked in precisely this way. Just prior to the suspension of the sitting for lunch -
-Order! I think that the honourable gentleman is reflecting on the Chair. I was in the chair at the time the Minister for Labour made his speech about the honourable member for Mackellar. 1 can assure the honourable member for Boothby that what the Minister said was in conformity with the forms of the House.
– 1 take the point and agree with you, Mr Speaker. That is the point that I am making. Sometimes the forms of the House are abused, but there is no way in which you can know whether the things that an honourable member is saying are true or false. When the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) finished his speech the honourable member for Mackellar made a personal explanation, as you will remember, in which he categorically denied what the Minister said. But, in a sense, the damage was done. The Minister made no effort to respond to any of the charges made by the honourable member; he simply regurgitated some fabrication. I use that word in deference to your ruling, Mr Speaker. The honourable member for Mackellar made certain charges. The Minister’s reply was quite irrelevant to the subject under discussion and did not answer any of the charges. I think that we should be on our guard against this sort of thing.
The honourable member charged the Minister with maintaining a network of informers in the trade union movement, particularly in the Australian Workers Union, tor the purpose of terrifying those people who oppose him. The Minister did not respond. It seems to me, as the honourable member for Mackellar said, that it was bad enough, when the Minister was simply the member for Hindmarsh, to have this sort of arrangement in the trade union movement but now that he is the Minister for Labour, which is the portfolio administering industrial matters, he seeks to use his Department to assist him in his strong arm activities. That was the second charge laid by the honourable member for Mackellar. To substantiate that, he read a letter from the Minister which was written on ministerial letterhead and in which the Minister actually attacked the honourable member and implied the very thing that the honourable member had charged the Minister with doing. I support the honourable member strongly. He is drawing attention to the impropriety of the Minister’s action and to his evasiveness. The honourable member for Mackellar talked about coercion, intimidation and the subsequent progression to violence to which this sort of action will lead. I suppose all of us who have been in this place for some time will have had some experience with this sort of thing. 1 have had members of trade unions, and others who have not been prepared to join trade unions, visiting mc because they had been muscled, and there was nothing I could do.
Ii seems to me that the trade union leaders should be protecting people like this. I have had visits from people who had been leaned on to join the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union; 1 have had visits from sheet metal workers and drivers to whom pressure had been applied. I have had one man to see me upon whom pressure was being put to try to force him to join a cleaners union. He was attacked and he is now on an invalid pension as a result. There is a court case history to prove that. This is the sort of thing to which the honourable member for Mackellar was drawing attention. The policy of the Australian Labor Party, outlined at Townsville in 1971 will, if carried out, seek to place the sort of person who is violent in trade union activities above the law. I do not think this is a pipe dream or that it is in any way unreasonable to bring this forward.
We have had the experience of seeing violence in trade union activities within the last 6 months. Honourable members opposite will take no notice of what 1 am saying because they owe their jobs and positions to trade union leaders and bosses. But I should like to quote what another trade unionist had to say about this matter on 22nd August last year. I am referring to the statements of the Assistant Secretary of the New South Wales Labor Council, Mr John Ducker. He ought to be an authority to whom most of us would listen. The report contained in the Melbourne Herald’ stated:
Mr Ducker warned today of the dangers of communism within the trade union movement. I hesitate to mention the word ‘communism’. It immediately seems to arouse the ire of honourable members opposite. Apparently if we mention communism or that sort of activity we are instantly discredited. So, I point out that on this occasion it was not I who used the word, although I have used it plenty of times and will continue to do so. I am quoting the words of Mr Ducker, the Assistant Secretary of the New South Wales Labor Council who was involved in a union confrontation and physically attacked. This was the sort of thing that he had to say in the article: ….. a ‘complete communist take-over’ was a definite possibility if rank and file members remained apathetic.
Mr Ducker was regarded as a progressive centre liner in the Australian Labor Party, although I am not quite sure what that means. He was a former official of the Federated Ironworkers’ Federation. The article continued:
Mr Ducker was kicked and abused, after a meeting of striking plumbers yesterday.
That was in August last year. The article continued:
Only that police intervened. I am sure that I and two other union officials would have been kicked insensible’…..
Is it reasonable for us to draw attention to this form of intimidation? I am sure it is. The article continued:
This was a deliberate attempt at intimidation. I am not one to kick the communist ‘can’, but I warn all unionists that communist-inspired violence will continue unless they are vigilant.’
I think it is arrogant of the Minister for Labour to assume that all unionists are automatically supporters of his Party. I can assure honourable members that the Liberal Party could not possibly get the support it does if it did not receive support from trade union members. The article continued:
About SO men followed Mr Ducker and union organisers, Mr Ken Tyler and Mr Les McMahon, from the meeting and abused them.
Let’s not be fanciful about what happened yesterday,’ Mr Ducker said….. ‘not only were we abused and kicked by the vigilante group of 50 men but officials of the Plumbers’ Union were told that their cars would be bombed, and that chunks of concrete would be thrown at them if they returned to their jobs’….. ‘unless we are careful, and unless rank and file members become interested, the union scene will became reminiscent of the violent roaring 20s in America’.
I think that it was important for the honourable member for Mackellar to draw attention to the implied threat he received from the Minister for Labour. I think that it is time that the Minister for Labour gave straight answers to straight questions. I think it is time he stopped going around the countryside saying one thing one day and another thing the next day. That in my book is the sort of language which we cannot describe with the adjective that it really deserves because that adjective is unparliamentary. I trust that the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is sitting at the table and who will no doubt follow me in the debate, will give us straight answers to some of these straight questions.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Before I call the honourable member for Eden-Monaro I should like to explain the Chair’s attitude to what the honourable member for Boothby has just mentioned in regard to the remarks of the Minister for Labour about the honourable member for Mackellar. It is quite obvious that in the past the procedures of the House have enabled a member, if he so wished, to take a point of order immediately anything was said that may have reflected on him personally. In addition, if he cared to wait until the member who has made the reflection concluded his speech, which the honourable member for Mackellar actually did, he could make a personal explanation. That is the attitude that has always been adopted by the Chair and it is the procedure I will continue to observe in this Parliament.
– Might I rise to that point of order. I do not want to labour the point.
-It is not a point of order; it is a ruling of the Chair.
– I want to raise a point of order following your explanation. I do not want to take up anybody’s time. For example, I could have said today or at any time that I heard the Minister for Immigration, the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) say that he would import one million Japanese to work in the Riverina district picking f r ait. If I say that here all that the honourable member for Riverina can do is deny it; and we all know that it is not true. But there is nothing to stop the Press or anyone interested referring to that the next day and saying th.it it was said in the House of Representatives. It is that aspect of this sort of vilification that I want to draw to the attention of the House.
-The procedure I have explained has always been the procedure followed since Federation. But the point is that if an honourable member is wrongly reported in the Press the next day, again he has the right, if he wishes to exercise it, to make a personal explanation denying what appeared in the Press.
– My grievance today is directed at the simplification of the effect of revaluation on the economy. I believe that the attempt by the Opposition to over-simplify this position has not only led the electorate into a position where it fails to see the facts but also has deceived its own members, as witnessed by the question asked today by the right honourble member for Lowe (Mr McMahon), which indicated that the right honourable member for Lowe quite clearly thinks that the Australian dollar has appreciated against the Japanese yen. The question he asked makes sense only in that context. The facts are that we have devalued against the Japanese yen, and the right honourble member for Lowe, who claims some expertise in this field, has been beguiled by his own Party’s propaganda on the matter.
Despite expectations that the revaluation of the Australian dollar and the devaluation of the United States dollar would seriously affect the primary agricultural products of this country, we see that prices give the lie to this position. Figures recently collected by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics show, for example, that the average prices for clean wool sold in Australia rose by 24 per cent over the prices paid prior to the Australian revaluation on 23rd December. After the American devaluation prices paid for wool rose by 11 per cent again over those ruling just prior to the revaluation. Prices paid for light bullocks in the Brisbane market rose by SI per 100 lb just after the United States devaluation on 19th February. Lamb and mutton prices in Victoria rose by between lc and 2c per lb after the Australian revaluation, and after the American devaluation mutton prices rose again. Lamb prices suffered a slight decline from record prices that they established at that time but have since recouped this fall and have now reached record levels, as all honourable members know. Prices paid for wheat and sugar are covered by international agreements and both products are enjoying high prices on the world market. In both cases the anticipated supply for the next season suggests that Australian producers will continue to enjoy very high returns for their products.
Claims that changes in Australian currency have seriously affected returns to primary producers are not supported by the current price relationships in the market place. The factor which has been overlooked by the Opposition has been that in each of these commodities the Australian exporter has enjoyed a very strong bargaining position. In some cases the advantages of this position have been given away by previous agreement, but in the main prices reflect the fact that such countries as America have had to pay world prices if they want the supplied. If they do not pay them, they do not get the goods. This is particularly true for meat, in relation to which the American market in the past has been restricted by quotas which have placed an artificial restraint on the price established in the market for our products.
The Australian economy had reached a crisis by September of last year in which our overseas reserves had reached an unprecedented $4,500m, compared with the $l,500m normally accepted as adequate to service our import requirements. This high level of reserves attracted criticism from the US Secretary of the Treasury, Mr Schulz, in a very thinly veiled threat that the US would use its power to introduce restrictions on exports of meat, wool and products that we export to the US. Had these restrictions been imposed, our primary producers would have been far worse off today than they are now under the present Government’s policy of maintaining a sound and viable currency on world markets. Internally, the capital flow from overseas had a major inflationary pressure on our economy. Increasingly, overseas funds were being used to finance high risk enterprises requiring high returns on capital. Much of this money was not going into productive activity or creating employment but was helping to fuel the inflation of land and property prices. The result was a rapid transfer of these assets into foreign ownership.
Evidence of this can be found in my electorate of Eden-Monaro. A large property near Goulburn recently has been purchased by overseas interests for Sim. The prime purpose is to subdivide this agricultural land into residential areas. Other examples of overseas money financing land speculation can be found abounding in this country. In addition a large volume of money was attracted into Australia because our currency was expected to move up. This expectation was soundly based on the fact that the previous Government, at the insistence of the Australian Country Party, had fixed the Australian exchange rate at the lowest end of the margin agreed by the International Monetary Fund. Had the Australian Government at that time fixed the exchange rate at the level agreed to, and honoured in spirit an agreement it had with the International Monetary Fund, the expectation of revaluation in Australia would have been dampened.
The facts of the matter are that the position, as inherited by the present Government, was that our journey, by international agreement, could only move in one direction and that was upwards. The important factor, as I mentioned before, influencing world prices for Australian commodities is that the demand for our commodities is expressed by a large number of buyers at the moment. The 2 factors which influenced the price paid in the market are the balance between supply and demand and the number of buyers wishing to purchase the product. If we have a single buyer wishing to purchase a certain supply of commodities from our market, the price it pays, because it has a monopoly position, will be lower than the same price paid by a group of buyers wishing to secure exactly the same level of supply.
Our primary products at present are in a very competitive position in nearly every market. Criticisms of the actions of this Government in regard to changes in currency have been directed exclusively at the view that we have only one purchaser - the United States of America. These critics have been preoccupied with the dominance that that market has played in the past. They have failed, for their own convenience, to recognise the new dominance of Japan and other markets on the world scene. They have failed to recognise that market conditions have changed for those engaged in agriculture in Australia in that we now have a range of purchasers instead of being dependent, as we were originally, on Britain and subsequently on the United States. The right honourable member for Lowe has also been beguiled by this argument, as witnessed by the question he asked this morning. Of course the Japanese silk industry would give instructions to raise the price of its commodities in Australia. Anybody who examines the relationship between Australian currency and Japanese currency at the moment will recognise that we have devalued in relation to Japan and therefore the prices of Japanese products in Australia must rise.
I believe it is absolutely essential that the electorate be properly informed on these matters. It is also absolutely essential that we get away from this very narrow-based attack on the electorate’s intelligence. It is firmly believed, 1 would suggest, as the premise for the argument presented by the Country Party, in particular, to the electorate that the electorate is foolish and that its intelligence does not extend beyond the sort of statement that is directed immediately at what would appear to be its short term interests. In this case the lie is in every farmer’s bank account. The lie to the Country Party’s arguments is in every saleyard and wool selling centre around this land. Wherever you look now agricultural prices are at record heights. This is due in no small way to the fact that our economy is strong and our currency is highly respected throughout the world.
– Before going on to speak on a couple of subjects I have in mind I want to comment on the Country Party’s attitude to revaluation. Any person with any understanding at all of what revaluation or devaluation means must know that devaluation assists exporters and revaluation is against their interests, lt is as simple as that and I will not waste any more time on that subject. Prices are high for products for which there is a demand. Prices fluctuate according to the demand for the product, with or without devaluation or revaluation.
Today I want to make a plea for a broader national outlook with an earnest desire to promote the welfare of all and attention to the social needs of all Australians. I make a plea for consideration for minority groups where the need is fully demonstrated. I believe that any party that advocates one vote one value should also be prepared to provide equal opportunity for all people to receive, for example, the benefits of television, and at least the benefits of telephonic communication. A suggestion has been made that telephones should be installed only in situations where it would be economically sound. I remind honourable members of the situation at places like Birdsville, where the lives of people could have been saved had a telephone been available there. In the circumstances, the radio telephone available there was not very satisfactory. One of the most expensive areas in which to establish telephonic communication would be from Boulia to Birdsville. A proposal was initiated by the previous Government to install a telephone line there and I would like to know whether the present Government is not going ahead with this proposal simply because it may not be economic in its operations.
From a tourist point of view such a telephone line would have great advantages as the area is one of the prime tourist attractions of this country. Surely the welfare of a community requires such amenities and necessities and their provision should not be based upon economics alone. I would like to know why there is discrimination. It is not true to say that the urban population always provides some assistance for the rural population while the reverse is not the case. In fact, the reverse is the case. As proof of that I wish to quote from one of today’s newspapers which carries an article about transport systems. It states:
An Australian transport expert believes that Federal and State governments will need to spend at least $ 1,000m by 1977-78 on the nation’s public transport systems to avert a ‘very serious’ situation.
In my home State of Queensland a great share of the loss on transport was recorded by the metropolitan railways. I appreciate that those railways come within the State sphere of administration but I want to appeal for a broad national outlook, as I said at the beginning of my speech. I would like to see items of government expenditure weighed against the advantages from a national point of view. No amount of criticism, ridicule or anything else will prevent me, and I hope I speak for all members of my Party, from continuing to put that point of view. I return to the article from which I quoted a little earlier. It went on:
Later in his talk Mr Clark discussed the prospect of a ‘likely’ Federal grant of $ 1,500m for urban transport in the next 5 years.
While people in urban areas will be paying their share, so will the whole community. That is the point we want to make. The article continued:
In addition, the States ‘must find’ at least another $500m to meet operational deficits of the urban public transport system.
So it is not true to say that any time government expenditure is provided there is a subsidy from the urban areas to the rural areas. Even if in the national interest expenditure was provided in this manner I hope this would be the criteria on which such finance would be provided. The article went on to state:
Operating losses on urban railway systems will be the largest single item in the total of financial contributions from governments to urban public transport systems during the five years,’ . . .
Surely this indicates that we can deal on a quid pro quo basis in these matters of urban versus rural expenditures and receipts. Surely our outlook should be broad enough for us to provide some sort of benefits to people in outlying areas or people who belong to a minority group without having to weigh up and put into a completely watertight compartment the decision whether the provision of finance is economic. I hope that the Government will give greater consideration to the social needs of the community and not just weigh them totally and wholly on economics.
We heard quite recently from the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who I am glad is at the table at the moment even though he is not taking any notice of what is going on in the Parliament so far as I can see. The Minister is engaged in another conversation.
– He is talking to a member of your Party.
– That is not my business. The Minister has a job to do, but I think he ought to listen to what J am saying. The Minister has claimed that the Labor Party represents more rural or country electorates than any party in this Parliament. I would like to know what the Government is achieving for country people. An article in one of today’s newspapers was headed: ‘ALP Caucus Blow-up’. The sub-heading of the article was: Battle over farm subsidy’. So the largest country party in the Parliament has been able to achieve nothing. I would hope that those Labor Party representatives of country electorates, who have been unable to achieve anything in the Labor Party, might join the Country Party. I believe that the support given to the Labor Party in the last election by people from country areas has been wasted. Supporters of the Labor Party have, according to the Press report, had a battle in caucus. Even with the assistance of some members who were disgruntled with the attitude of the Ministry those members who represent country areas could not get a majority in Caucus. One cannot say that about the Australian Country Party. We do not have that problem at all.
Even the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) is reported as having been against the interests of rural people - against the group in Caucus which tried to get a better deal for rural industry. Members of the Labor Party are bound by decisions of Caucus and therefore those members representing rural areas are handicapped in their efforts to help country people. They would do better in the Country Party. The Press have called them - I think this is a bit unfair - the rural rump.
There has been little support from the Government for the campaign that we have been waging to try to get more country telephones. Do not give me the answer that this is something that the previous Government should have done. The provision of country telephone services is a continuing thing. The previous Government was doing just this. What we are asking for is a continuation at least of this service to meet the needs of people in country areas.
There has been very little support for the preservation of the kangaroo industry in rural areas. Some people know that it is absurd to try to put a ban on the export of Kangaroo products. In fact some 600,000 to 700,000 kangaroos have been processed in Queensland alone and there are still large numbers in that State. Experts have proved, by an examination of this problem, that the kangaroo numbers can continue more or less indefinitely. We have just heard a speech about devaluation compensation. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro said that devaluation did not cause any disadvantage to those people who live in the rural areas of Australia. The Queensland Grain Growers Council is putting up a very strong case in my State for revaluation compensation for grain industries.
Finally, I appeal for a reasonable approach to the problems that I have mentioned. I hope that the Government will promote national development as well as and together with urban and regional development and will give a high priority to social needs rather than introduce purely economic measures.
– I refer my friend, the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), who extended an invitation to honourable members to join the Australian Country Party, to that elder statesman of former years of this Parliament, the late Billy Hughes. He had been a member of a number of political parties. He was once asked: ‘Mr Hughes, you have been a member of a number of parties but you have never been a member of the Country Party.’ He said: ‘Cripes! You have to draw the line somewhere.’ I know that the Country Party has had differences with the Liberal Party in the past and is looking for new partners. Perhaps it might get on a little better with, and I wish it well on its projected amalgamation with, the Australian Democratic Labor Party.
I rise today because of some comment in the Parliament last week about the method of awarding contracts to various firms. In fact, this issue was raised as a matter of public importance, as a censure against this Government, but it fell very flat. I wish to refer to a contract which was let by the Queensland State Government to a certain company in Queensland. Because a Government contract was awarded to this company, creditors accepted its bona fides in good faith. They believed that the firm which received the tender was in good standing. The firm was given credit by an airline company, oil companies and motel owners. The sub-contractors who worked for the firm believed that they would be certain of receiving payment for their work and the wage earners thought that they would face no problems in this regard.
However, this company was a flop. I should like the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) to confer with State Ministers to guard against companies registering in a State when they have debts and face insolvency in another State. This was the case with the company I mentioned, Blastrite Pty Ltd. It was established initially under that name in Western Australia on 5th June 1969. The principals of the company were Mr Shapland his wife who was a partner and 2 other partners who subsequently resigned. His son later joined the firm.
After numerous operations, about mid-1972 the company shifted from Western Australia where it was running into financial difficulties. I am not quite clear on all financial aspects of the company’s dealings in Western Australia but I know that the firm is in the hands of a receiver. It is estimated that the firm’s creditors will be lucky to receive 50c in the dollar. On 22nd June 1972 the company registered in Queensland as Blastright Queensland Pty Ltd with a paid up capital of SI 00 - exactly the same paid up capital with which it was registered in Western Australia.
The principals of the company registering in Queensland were of the same name and the same family as those I mentioned as principals in the Western Australian firm.
The firm carried out a number of jobs, one as a sub-contractor. On 22nd September 1972, the firm was awarded a contract by the Queensland Department of Harbours and Marine to build a rock wall as part of the Urangan boat harbour. My friend Mr Jim Blake, who is the member for Isis in the Queensland State Parliament, asked questions in the State Parliament about this contract. The facts in this case are confirmed by the answers received from Mr Hewitt, the Minister for Conservation, Marine and Aboriginal Affairs. The State Minister stated that a security deposit of $3,235.44 was lodged in the name of the Department by the ANZ Bank, Brunswick Street, Brisbane. Representatives of the company were interviewed and it was established that the company possessed the necessary technical ability to carry out the work which included the quarrying and carting of rock for the building of the wall. The bankers for the company were approached by the Department and they confirmed that the company was financially sound and in their opinion capable of carrying out the contract on the projected progress payments that would be received.
This company was formed on 22nd June 1972 and by the second week in December it had a debt of $163,000, with accumulated credits. The company drew one progress payment of $34,000. The day it drew that payment some of the sub-contractors, who were mostly truckies, travelled nearly 200 miles to Brisbane to ensure that they would be paid because they had some doubts as to whether they would be paid. First of all they were told the cheque had not been received and then they were told that it had not been presented. The next time they went back to the office it was locked. They found that the assets of the company were all in the hands of hire purchase companies. The heavy equipment was under hire purchase. The company did not even own the typewriter in the office or the table on which it sat. The company’s affairs have been placed in the hands of the receiver. I believe that the Queensland Department of Harbours and Marine did a disservice to a number of people by not correctly investigating this company. The company’s debt includes an amount of $120,000 for trade creditors and $29,000 for subcontractors. The majority of these subcontractors were truck owner-drivers. I know one of them. He is a young married man who mortgaged his home to buy a truck. He thought he would be on good money. Within 6 weeks his truck wore out a set of tyres. He had all the expense of running the truck in that time and aU he has received for it is experience. It is true that an amount of money was withheld by the Department as a guarantee. That amount of $8,000 might just cover the wages and salaries of the employees. It is quite obvious by the way that the people in this company were operating and the way in which they had operated previously in Western Australia that they had no intention of meeting any of their debts. They drew the first progress payment and disappeared from the scene.
I ask the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral whether it is sufficient for a government department to accept from a bank, as it normally should be, an assurance that the financial position of a company is sound. We know that money can be withdrawn on the day it is paid in. There was no trouble in cashing a cheque for $34,000 and drawing it out immediately. I believe that there should be greater safeguards or closer co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth if necessary. I would like the Attorney-General to have a look at this matter to see in what way there can be co-operation so that the credentials of a company that is operating in another State can be investigated before people are let down in a shameful and shocking manner as were the people I have mentioned, on the eve of Christmas. The young married man to whom I referred has a young family. He had nothing for Christmas. I think he was given $10 to buy a Christmas present for his family, or to buy a ham. That amount of money would not buy much more than a ham.
This episode illustrates the cavalier attitude of these people. Before the progress payment was made the contractor had to submit a statutory declaration before a justice of the peace certifying that the wages and claims of the workmen employed on the work had been paid in full up to the date covered by the progress payment. The statutory declaration was received but there remains owing an amount of $163,000. I believe that there is a need for a tightening up in the procedures to be carried out on contract work and that there is a need for greater co-operation between States when companies are able to set up business with an initial capital of $100. I believe that the experience which I have outlined should never be repeated.
– With this session of the Parliament now one-third completed honourable members can take the opportunity to look at the parliamentary behaviour of the new Government. This afternoon I accuse the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and other members of the Government of evasion, misrepresentation and treating Parliament and members of Parliament with contempt. In that accusation I certainly include the Leader of the House (Mr Daly), who is seated at the table. During the election campaign the Australian Labor Party made great play of its concept of open government. It implied that somehow, magically, government would be made more open in supplying information and in sharing with the people - and surely with the elected representatives of the people - the decision making process. What a joke that turned out to be. In a few weeks it has gone from open to slam shut government. This has been the quickest reversal in the history of the Australian Labor Party.
This Government is very fond of talking about its mandates, but there was no reference in the Governor-General’s Speech, which was written by the Government, to a mandate for open government. There was no further emphasis on that. What is worse, this Government has been guilty of a great deal of cavalier treatment and arrogance in its dealings with the elected representatives in the Parliament. I instance firstly the Prime Minister who, in answer to questions yesterday, claimed or affected to agree on behalf of this Government that the questions asked by private members and the answers to them were important parts of our representative democracy. At question time his answers to questions without notice travel the whole realms of irrelevancy. It is obvious to all of us who sit here that the Prime Minister will not or cannot answer specifically. The superciliousness and arrogance of his manner are plain to all who see him. It is an obvious attempt to cover up his inadequacies -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now reflecting on individuals. I remind him that to do so is not in accordance with the protocol of the House.
– I hope, Mr Speaker, that he will change his attitude so I will not have to comment in another way later.
The Prime Minister’s attitude is being copied by his Ministers. I remind honourable members who were present at question time today of the copying of that behaviour by the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) and the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron). Let us look for a moment at the answers which the Prime Minister has given to questions on notice. Those answers were in the main peremptory, cavalier and arrogant. Questions on notice are a prime avenue for members of Parliament to obtain information. Over 6,000 questions on notice were asked last year in the last Parliament. They received very good answers, in spite of what the Leader of the House had to say the other day. I know the care with which that information was compiled and I know that often many or all government departments were consulted.
Let me refer to the Prime Minister’s answer to question No. 227. He evaded part of the question. His answer was not fully responsive. He made an attempt to convince us that the conduct of other Ministers - Ministers of his own Government - was not his concern. Are we to ask all Ministers the same question and put 27 questions on the notice paper? The Prime Minister is responsible for the conduct of his Ministers and he must answer the question fully. Indeed, his answer to this question contradicted an answer which he gave to question No. 134 that I asked. What does he do? Give any answer irrespective of its accuracy, just to get it off the notice paper? Question No. 205 contained several questions seeking elaboration of Government policy and relating to the behaviour of Ministers. Such matters are the core of Cabinet responsibility and part of the constitutional practice in this country. The Prime Minister had the audacity to refer me to some Press transcript. Members of Parliament have the right to full, completely responsive answers to questions which are properly and formally asked.
A transcript of a Press conference is not an official parliamentary document. In any case, this one did not answer the questions that were posed. At that Press conference they were evaded or not answered. I ask for leave of the
House to incorporate in Hansard questions on notice Nos 227, 205 and 131 and the answers thereto.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows) - (Question No. 227)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– I refer the honourable member to my remarks on these matters made at my Press conferences of 9th January 1973 and 16th January 1973. (Question No. 131)
asked the Prime ‘Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
– I thank the. House. That will collate them. I intend to persist with this subject of obtaining satisfactory answers to questions. If I cannot obtain satisfactory answers by putting questions on the notice paper, I will take other measures in the House. In question No. 131 I asked the Prime Minister to continue the former efficient practice of the early and complete mailing of Minister’s Press releases to members of Parliament. The Prime Minister tried to maintain that what had happened was an oversight. I tell him now, although he. is not in the chamber at the moment, that Press releases are still late. On 10th March I received one dated 21st February. They are still not headed properly. There are plenty of duplications. They are packed higgledy piggledy in envelopes. I do not doubt that if there is duplication and disorder there are omissions. Surely a Government which is responsible to the people for a Budget of $ 10,000m can be 100 per cent efficient in a simple thing such as circularising Press releases, particularly with the tremendous staff that it has available to it. What hope is there for the proper conduct of the affairs of this country if the Government cannot handle such a simple thing?.
The Minister for Labour answers questions which come within 2 categories - those which are arranged by him or of which he has been given prior notice by Labor supporters, to which he delivers at question time long prepared sermons which are full of bias and sanctimony, and those which come from other private members who are seeking information. Imagine the arrogance in the character and manner of a Minister who gives this answer to a question which seeks information in respect of the provisions of consent awards:
If the honourable gentleman will try to contain himself until the Bill is introduced, all will be explained then.
In answer to a complex question on prices and incomes he just said:
The answers to the 3-pronged question are yes, yes, no.
What arrogance is that? We know that, although the Minister has little judgment and although he is in an ideological strait-jacket of socialism, he has the experience and knowledge to answer; but he chooses to be contemptuous of members and of the Parliament. His answers to questions on notice are nothing short of an insult to the Parliament. 1 instance the answers that he has given to questions Nos 14, 15, 47 and 175. They are a disgrace. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard those 4 questions and answers.
-Is leave granted?
– ‘Leave is not granted.
– The Minister made no attempt to reply seriously or responsively to those questions. The Minister for Labour, the Prime Minister, the Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the Leader of the House cannot speak in the House without using unnecessary insults and epithets and childishly venting their spleen. The Prime Minister particularly is noted for this. He is easily the worst offender. Those members who watch him at close quarters know that he just cannot help himself. Recently the Minister for Secondary Industry, in a procedure as prosaic as the tabling of a report, had to sneer and jibe. Who has ever seen him give a smile, except for a vacant twist like that of some 20th century Mephistopheles?
The Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) has not been straight with this House. Recently he tabled a document which was prepared by the Secretary of . his Department. He tabled it without comment, making it clear to the House, by implication, that he accepted it. Only 2 hours later he was telling the Press that he had some reservations about it. The next day the newspapers were full of the story that ‘Barnard rapped Tange on the knuckles’. The Minister denied that the next day, but we know where the story came from. What a farce! What is he prepared to say to the House? The Leader of the House, who is known well in this building for his great skill in manoeuvres both in and out of the House, is well on the way to creating a record for stifling the comments of private members by the use of the gag and the guillotine. The censure motion on which the Prime Minister permitted only 3 speakers to make-
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired. Before I call the next speaker, I should like to point out >to the honourable member for Curtin that it is within the province of a Minister to answer a question during question time as he thinks fit. This was the practice followed by the late Archie Cameron, by Sir John McLeay and by Sir William Aston, and I intend to follow the same procedure.
– Mr Speaker, I was not intending to criticise you or your rulings in any way. I was criticising the Ministers.
– You are not criticising me; I am only telling you the forms of the House.
– I am well aware of them.
– Mr Speaker, is it in order for me to make the point that the worst answers ever given in this Parliament were by the honourable member for Curtin when he was a Minister?
-Order! There is no point of order involved.
– I wish to raise a grievance held by many people in my electorate. Firstly, however, I should like to comment that we are all getting a little sick and tired of this ‘did, did not’ childish sort of debate that goes on in this House in regard to who is abusing the forms of the House and who is not. The figures reveal that, during the last Parliament, the gag was applied 223 times. I think we all realise both in government and in Opposition that time is one of the most important resources in politics and until all parties work out in committees how the House is to be run, this sort of debate is just time wasting.
I wish to raise a matter of yet another rural industry that was long neglected by the previous Government. I refer to the broiler chicken growing industry which is very strongly represented in my electorate. In many ways, the broiler growing industry is a bit of a Cinderella industry but I think it is one that is starting to grow up and it is now looking to governments for a little more protection, sympathy and understanding. The sort of problems that broiler growers face and have faced for a long time are nearly identical to the problems faced by people such as service station lessees and licensed owner truck drivers. In different ways groups of people in these industries now are more often seeking government action to give them some sort of backing.
Most people in the broiler growing industry, including the processors, do not desire heavyhanded government legislation, but they certainly want some government understanding of their position. There is a wide range of measures that the national Government has in mind, such as in the fields of restrictive trade practices, monopolies and uniform company law, that may eventually enable broiler growers to better their lot. Growers in all States have been pressing for legislation to protect their position but so far the reaction of individual State Ministers for Agriculture has been to point out the difficulties of making legislation work, given section 92 of the Constitution. The Victorian Farmers’ Union’s broiler and turkey section has been fighting for 5 years to have enacted a Bill which was introduced in 1968, subsequently redrafted but taken no further. The New South Wales Broiler Growers Association has been fighting for legislation and constantly negotiating with processors for at least 8 years.
Broiler growing is an integrated primary industry. It commenced in this way and has grown in that form. The grower provides shedding, labour and management. His only security in his enterprise is a so-called contract which is constantly renegotiated on either a general basis, with all growers supplying one processor, or a specific basis. The contract as such is little more than a gentlemen’s agreement. Such agreements are fine while ever one is agreeing with gentlemen - and there are some men in the industry who are gentlemen. The system of integration applying to the broiler industry was perfected in the depressed areas of northern Alabama and Georgia in the United States. Although most growers enter the industry with the idea that they are to some extent their own master they soon realise that they are in exactly the same position as trade unionists, inasmuch as all they can do is bargain with those from whom their money comes.
Many of the integrators who run the industry, in conjunction with the growers, in the way that the integrated system works, always try to act with the growers’ interests at heart. However, the industry has now grown to the stage where there is an element of competition between the integrators. Professional management has been introduced and growers find themselves in a situation where, they are in a constant bargaining and negotiating position. It is the integration system of primary production that now seems to be causing the trouble. There are often doubts as to whether the growers will receive any money at all because if a grower gets stuck with a bad batch of chickens be may well work for 3 months for a loss. For example, in Victoria recently a man growing 82,000 chickens over a 3 month period lost $3,400. The grower takes any loss caused by the vagaries of the weather himself. If there is a heatwave and he loses chickens that is his responsibility.
The growers contract to grow a batch of chickens supplied by the integrator. The grower provides heat and water for the chickens while the integrator owns the chickens and provides feed to be paid for at the conclusion of the batch and medication, which is charged for either at the time of delivery or again at the conclusion of the batch. The integrator decides which feed and medication is to be used and he also decides when he will pick up the chickens. When the chickens are picked up the grower has no control as to the procedures adopted for the weighing of his chickens. Although I would not infer that integrators deliberately set out to rob growers, the situation arises whereby if there is any doubt or human error the grower has no right of appeal. However, it should be clearly remembered that the growers enter into contracts with their eyes wide open. Even now there is a long list of people who would be quite happy to grow chickens for integrators. My concern is that there should be some sort of rationality and some sort of government concern for the industry as a whole. The integrators are well organised. The broiler growers themselves are well organised. The growers allege that there is a large degree of monopoly and overseas take over in the industry. I do not actually agree with this but I would point out that some of the integrators are part of the same complex of firms and activities that are affecting all aspects of the bread, flour and stock feed industries at present. There is certainly the menace of monopoly.
For the first time moves are now afoot for growers in all States to push for some form of State legislation to protect them from some of the more blatant forms of ungentlemanly actions being carried out Over the last 2 years in both Victoria and New South Wales, particularly New South Wales, negotiations between integrators and growers have been carried out with some degree of Government supervision. However growers have always found that when an issue of a difficult nature cropped up they were rarely as well placed in the argument as were the integrators with the Government. I have long been of the opinion that the New South Wales Minister of Agriculture is a very sympathetic and able man who somehow gets beaten at other levels of the coalition Government of that State. The main form of contract in New South Wales has been a pooled average return contract whereby all growers for a batch period are assured of roughly equal justice. Some integrators now possess large farms of their own and it is alleged that they can use these as bargaining instruments. However the main way the present contracts are being broken to the disadvantage of growers is through the ability of integrators to pull some members out of the pool or give special consideration to new entrants or favoured growers.
The Minister in New South Wales has been mainly advised of various claims via the Poultry Advisory Board. To extend the knowledge of this body, the New South Wales Broiler Growers Association and the Poultry Industry Association, which is the integrators lobby, have made submissions for a joint committee of integrators and growers with Government observers. From this committee we now have a further committee set up to examine the parameters of the costs in the industry. But total agreement can never be reached, and growers now see that they are back to square one. They negotiated over a long period. They reached a fair amount of agreement over 2 years, but they are still unhappy. This is causing a lot of dissent which is leading to a breakdown in relations painfully established by responsible people in the industry over a long period. Victoria, which has long been favoured by better prices than New South Wales, has recently had returns to growers significantly cut. The New South Wales Broiler Growers Association has always been prepared to negotiate fairly and prepare very detailed figures for quasi-adjudication by Government committees or the Minister. But, as I said, ultimate agreement is always hard to reach. It is alleged that the reaction of the integrators now is to start construction of their own farms, but I doubt that this will provide a cheaper chicken for the public in the long run. Growers maintain that present tax laws make it possible for integrators to expand their activities. Although growers themselves can exploit tax concessions they can do this only while they are expanding, and this again depends on the whim of the integrator.
At the start of my speech I stated that I did not think that growers really wanted a lot of legislation. They have been forced into this situation by the effects of integration on the industry. It does not go without saying that integrators want no legislation - some perhaps in their own interests. I would be the first to admit that there have been some growers who in previous years have abused the system, but this time has long since gone. The leaders of the industry are responsible people who only want some backing by the Government when it comes to the resolution of an issue where they have every fact on their side. Some growers have been told that legislation is a long way off and that integrators will be able to get around it in any case, and this may well be. If the States can agree on the need to act finally in the matter, a uniform contract may be able to be reached. I also hope that if the States can agree and if the Federal Government again can provide some sympathy and understanding, some form of independent arbitration can be set up via the States. Unless these things are done, more inflexible legislation ultimately will have to be introduced.
– Order! It being 3.15 p.m., in accordance with the resolution of the House suspending Standing Orders, the debate is interrupted and I put the question:
That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
The terms of the printed proposals are being circulated to honourable members. The Customs Tariff Proposals I have just tabled make alternative provisions for the admission free of customs duty of certain materials and equipment to be used in approved research programs by universities and colleges of advanced education including institutes of technology. This action has been taken in accordance with the Government’s policy that there should be a reduction of customs duties on materials and equipment used in research with due consideration being given to the ability of Australian manufacturers to supply such goods. The Government is satisfied that there is a need to step up scientific research in the interest of Australian industries and the nation’s culture. Scientific research is a fountainhead of human progress, the source from which technological and social changes spring and it affects all aspects of life.
The new provisions will simplify administrative procedures and, in addition, will have built-in safeguards to protect the legitimate needs of Australian industry. Guidelines under which the scheme will operate are being circulated to honourable members. This is the first time that a development of this sort has been made and the Government believes it will have very useful results in making it easier and less expensive for universities and colleges of advanced education to obtain the materials and equipment which they need to use in research. I commend the proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr Chipp) adjourned.
– I move:
That a Joint Committee be appointed to consider and report on:
The motion I have moved to establish a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence - with a similar composition to that of the former Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs but with considerably enhanced effectiveness compared with that which our predecessors were prepared to concede - is an earnest of our desire to give Parliament its proper role in the study of 2 important areas of national interest and concern. Honourable members will recall the long established attitude of the Australian Labor Party that parliamentary committees should in fact be true instruments of this Parliament, that their inquiries should not be restricted only to what the Government regards as proper subjects for their attention and that their proceedings should not be characterised by an unnecessary emphasis on secrecy. I have set out those attitudes in speeches in this House on a number of occasions, in particular on 14th March 1962, 22nd April 1964 and 4th May 1967.
I do not now intend to give any detailed account of the long and difficult history of our attempts to have those principles embodied to an acceptable extent in the succession of resolutions establishing the Committee. Honourable members will recall, however, that in this House on 14th March 1962 I set out the basis of the Australian Labor Party’s objections to the Liberal-Country Party Government’s conception of how the Committee should function. After denying any misunderstanding or confusion on our side about the role of a foreign affairs committee in an Australian parliamentary system or any reservations about the Committee acting as a study group, I said our objection was that the Committee was so circumscribed and so superintended by the Executive that it served no useful purpose at all. I then referred to the restrictions on the persons whom the Committee could invite to give evidence to it, the restrictions on public meetings and the restrictions on reporting to Parliament and to the Minister on matters not referred to the Committee by the Minister. I emphasised also my Party’s strong objections to the provisions then contained in the Committee’s terms of reference that: ‘. . . no protest or dissent shall be added to the report’. By 1967 a number of our objections and particularly the last one to which I have just referred were removed and we accordingly decided that we could join the Committee, although with continuing reservations about some of the restrictions placed on its procedures and operations.
We are now intent to achieve the objectives which we have sought so consistently and for so long. Our purpose in the motion before the House is to establish a new and effective Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence made up of 14 members of the House of Representatives and 8 senators chosen along the lines set out in paragraph 2 of the motion. The hew Joint Committee will have broadly the same powers as the former Senate Standing Committee, but it will have the additional advantage of drawing on membership from both Houses. I stress that the new Joint Committee or any sub-committees which it may establish will be able to consider any matter referred to it by either House and to call for witnesses and records and to transact business in public or in private. All members of the Committee will have the right to add a protest or a dissenting note to reports. We have therefore made good in full the deficiencies we criticised in the former Joint Committee when we were in Opposition.
It is our hope and intention that the new Joint Committee will come to play an active and useful part in the national debate on important issues of foreign affairs and defence. The Government will co-operate fully with the Joint Committee, as will the departments with responsibilities for the areas it will study. They will provide background material and assist inquiries to the maximum extent consistent with the day to day demands on their resources and security requirements. I hope the Committee will also call on the knowledge of other Australians with special experience in these areas including academics, journalists, the trade unions and the business community.
It is not our intention to make the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs a policymaking body. It is not, nor can it become one, since it is the Government’s responsibility, having considered the available advice from informed sources like the Joint Committee, to decide policy. Yet it is a measure of the confidence which my Government - by contrast with its predecessors - reposes in the members of this Committee that we look forward with equanimity to a degree of responsibility on its part commensurate, with the confidence which the Australian electorate has shown in electing its members to the Parlia ment. We are confident that, where the Committee is considering matters of national security, it will accept the ordinary rules which apply to discussion of such matters in order to prevent needless public exposure of differences between Australia and other countries and irresponsible speculation about sensitive areas of Australia’s international relations. In short, my Government is prepared, cheerfully, to rely on the good sense and good judgment of all members of the Joint Committee, qualities which our predecessors were all too ready to discount. I must emphasise, moreover that there is absolutely no restriction on the exchange of information between members of the Parliament who form the Committee and those who do not.
Our decision to establish an effective new Joint Committee reflects therefore more than simply a desire to make members better informed about foreign affairs and to promote public debate on foreign policy. It is also a demonstration that this Government is serious in its wish to enable Parliament to make a more significant contribution to the study of national issues. Members are now receiving for their background information a wider range of information produced by the Department of Foreign Affairs which will help them to keep in touch with foreign policy developments. The establishment of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence is another much more important step in this process of informing Parliament about the issues on which it will have to deliberate. Therefore I hope that the proposal to establish a joint committee will have the full support of members and senators on both sides.
Debate (on motion by Mr N. H. Bowen) adjourned.
– I move:
That a Joint Committee be appointed to inquire into and, as appropriate, report upon -
I would like to amplify the document as it is before the House. As is well known, the Labor Party as part of its propositions during the recent election campaign suggested that because of the wide concern in the community about inflation, and arising out of our belief that wages are not the only factor to be considered as leading to inflation - we believe that prices should also be considered - we would establish certain mechanisms to assist in the regulation of prices and to try better to adjudicate the social equation as between prices and wages. The Joint Committee on Prices that is now proposed is one of those mechanisms. The other aspect concerning us is the passage of legislation later in this session to establish a prices justification board. A further aspect of the mechanism, in addition to the committee now under consideration, is that we should strengthen what are called consumer protection agencies. All of these would be elements in an endeavour to grapple with this very difficult problem.
In listening to questions and debates in the House in recent weeks one would almost think that inflation in Australia was an entirely new phenomenon that had never been experienced before. I remind the House that it is clear from the whole history of Australia since statistics about prices have been kept that we have had inflation at an average of over 2i per cent per annum for .about 70 years. That certainly was the average of inflation in Australia over the last 10 years or so. In that time it has been a minimum on average of 2i per cent. Sometimes it was a little more; unfortunately, very rarely was it a little less. Inflation ran at a rate of 6 per cent per annum 2 years ago and 7 per cent per annum in the period to June 1972. For the 2 recorded quarters in 1972-73 inflation is still running at the rather undesirable rate of near enough to 5 per cent.
The presumptions are that when the figure for the March quarter is published in 3 or 4 weeks’ time it will show an increase of from 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent because of the impact in that quarter of food prices, and the price of meat in particular.
– That is in your time.
– As would be expected, the honourable member will blame the Labor Government.
– Only when it is proper to do so.
– If it is proper, exactly. I am saying that to suggest that inflation did not exist prior to this Government’s coming into office seems to be flying in the face of facts. We believe, and I hope the Opposition will co-operate with us, that something has to be done about prices; that it is no good simply saying, as the previous Government seemed to be disposed to say, that the only thing that matters is wages. If prices rise, and the whole history of recent times has been that they have risen, and if there is something that is called correctivity - that with a given set of inputs you get a greater output - labour is entitled to its share of that productivity. How does the wage earner, in the absence of lowering prices, maintain his status, not only to account for rising prices but also to get his share of productivity, unless his wages rise at least as much as prices plus productivity?
Such other factors as taxation can be considered. In 1954 when the present rate structure of income tax was laid down - the present progressive scale - the average weekly earnings were about $34. If a wage earner’s weekly wage was increased by $1, tax took 17c of that dollar. In 1973 when average weekly earnings have increased to about $100, an additional $1 received attracts a tax rate of over one-third. That factor also has to be taken into account. My Party believes, and the public, by and large, believes, that as a matter of equity and social justice something ought to be done about prices. As evidence of our bona fides we are taking this first step of setting up the Joint Committee on Prices. I hope that the move will have the cooperation of the other side of the House.
I do not believe that the mere fact that a task looks difficult is a very good reason for not essaying the task. Nobody will acknowledge that regulating or trying to control prices is an easy process. On the other hand, there is a great deal of obligation on the part of those people who claim to believe in market forces as a regulator of prices. A great deal of responsibility rests on their shoulders to explain in the presence of those so-called market forces why prices still continue to rise. One could chide the previous government, but I suppose that there is scarcely an example anywhere of a western democracy that has been very successful in holding the line as far as prices are concerned. We get all sorts of interesting economic theories as to why inflation takes place, varying all the way from high economics to abstract psychology. But, of course, in the end result prices are not matters of accident. In many cases they are a matter of deliberate making on the part of people whose decisions at the moment are beyond any challenge and who do not have to bear any responsibility for those decisions. The contrary is the case with wages; wages have to be negotiated. We have a long history of arbitral functioning in Australia. I point out again that I do not believe anyone thinks that the existing arbitration system is satisfactory. But at least we can point to something like 64 years over which time this system has evolved.
– Will the Minister have a joint committee on wages?
– These are some of the matters one has to get to. All I say as far as these joint committees are concerned is that we will not get in Australia anything that can be described as an incomes policy - there is a whole area of debate about whether incomes policies are possible or desirable - if we do not have as a minimum condition agreement between employer groups and employee groups. At least the Government can act as an honest broker in that process rather than was the case under the previous Government of taking one side only, namely that of trying to keep wages low.
We believe that we should take this first step of doing something about prices, and this is not an easy step to take because there are a great deal of difficulties in the way. One ought to acknowledge that we virtually start ab initio in Australia in this situation. Nothing systematic has been done about the regulation of prices in Australia since the dismantling of the war-time mechanisms. The war-time mechanisms operated in an entirely different situation. They operated in terms of rationing of materials, shortages of resources and so on. I know that sometimes there are unscrupulous attempts to prove that price control during the war years failed and therefore it is foolish to try it again. I submit that is not a very convincing argument in the face of the situation of the 1970s. I believe that the way economic forces are mobilising in an economy in which we are getting larger and larger aggregates of economic ownership and greater concentrations of employment within those larger industries, it is becoming very difficult to identify with any degree of rationality what an individual’s contribution is to the economic process. How do we decide on any national basis that a judge is worth $30,000 a year and somebody else is worth $3,000 a year?
It is getting harder to establish what people do by their physical output, even if we could measure physical output. There are large areas in which it is hard to identify physical output. After all, one does not think that a teacher who teaches 50 children is responsible for greater productivity than a teacher who teaches 25. What we think about is the low quality of education. These are some of the difficult problems facing us and it is for that reason that I hope members on the Opposition side will at least believe that the Labor Party is sincere in its endeavour to tackle a very difficult task.
I was not very consoled by the words I read in a paper this morning which were attributed to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) who said that the proposal to set up a committee to inquire into prices was a cosmetic act or a sham. 1 reiterate that we take this situation seriously. We believe that the establishment of this committee is a significant step which ought to have been taken some time ago. After all, one need only look at the kind of political areas that have existed from time to time in the countries with which on occasions we like to compare ourselves. The United States some 18 months ago while appearing to abandon its policy of compulsion has been acting more on the yoyo principle that it can come back again if the voluntary principle does not work. More recently we have seen the Conservative Government in the United Kingdom introduce a prices and wages board.
I accept the point raised by my colleague on the other side that maybe there should be control of both wages and prices. But we on this side of the House believe that we have had control of wages in Australia for a long period but we have not had control of prices, and this is the mechanism that we are now proposing to create. We realise the enormity of the task and in some ways the terms of reference of this committee have been left very broad because we believe that the committee to a great extent has to find its own way as it goes. It is not intended that this committee should be a fixing body itself. If one may describe it, it is supposed to be a channel of communication in one sense and a sounding board for complaints on the other. One surely knows that there are enough complaints from the public and that often the Mrs Joneses and the Mrs Smiths of the community in the face of rising prices do not know precisely where they can go about their complaints or where they can go to seek an explanation as to what is wrong. This is why we are establishing this mechanism. No doubt we will receive letters from all sorts of people who have odd views. Representations will be made also by people with quite sound views. It will be the job of this committee to try to sift the evidence that it will receive.
The committee will be able to look at some of the standard barometers we have for deciding whether the price situation is rising more than it should. I have already quoted as one example the consumer price index and the various components within it. Sometimes by looking at the components, or the individual parts of the components, one can see that the cost of food in one quarter is rising more than it should, that housing costs are rising more than perhaps they should or that prices in clothing or some other areas are rising more than they should. The committee will be able to say: ‘Well, we ought to be having a look at these areas’. I suppose that one of the greatest expenses in any individual’s life is the purchase of the home that he wants to live in. When buying a house an individual is beset with items such as the price of the land, building costs and the awful burden of interest rates. The same sort of situation applies to the motor car which is probably the second biggest single item of expenditure for an individual. We hope this committee will integrate the process that we think is necessary in Australia if we are seriously to grapple with many of the economic problems that beset us. We have bodies like the Tariff Board and the Trade Practices Tribunal. We have legislation dealing with foreign takeovers. But in many respects all these authorities work separately and independently rather than coherently. I am minded that, as far back as 1959, the Constitutional Review Committee, work of which had the unanimous support of both sides of this House, in its interim report pointed out the inability in Australia to pursue what could be called an integrated economic policy. We believe that an essential part of an integrated economic policy in Australia is that, in the social equation as between prices and wages, the prices question must be grappled with seriously. To grapple with it certain mechanisms are needed. The proposed committee is only the beginning of what we regard as those necessary social and protective mechanisms.
Debate (on motion by Mr N. H. Bowen) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 14 March (vide page 590).
– I must say that I am almost surprised at being permitted to rise at this stage. However, I suppose that even the most unholy of tangles sometimes untangles. I gather that after all I am not to be gagged in attempting, on behalf of my electorate, to debate this measure. Before proceeding to what I have to say on this Bill I should state that I do not believe that the Government quite realised last night that by not allowing the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) and me to debate this issue in effect it was cutting out the voice from the Hunter Valley in New South Wales on the one hand and the Upper Murray in South Australia on the other. One winery in that area produces 10 per cent of the total wine produced in Australia and my electorate includes the entire Barossa Valley. I do not believe that the Government was quite aware of these facts when it gagged the debate on the second reading of the Bill last night. I must say that I am glad that the wisdom which enables me at this stage to say a few words on behalf of my electorate has prevailed.
My first point is that I believe that not enough emphasis has been given in this debate so far to the major finding of Professor Grant in his report of April 1972 on his fact finding inquiry into matters relating to the Australian wine industry. I know full well from experience in my electorate of the importance of the problems created by vertical integration and by over planting. I know of all sorts of problems. But none of these problems alone is an important factor in the downturn in wine sales. The one important factor in this respect has been the increase in wine prices. I have never in any forum done other than support the concept that the increase in wine prices was responsible primarily for the downturn in wine sales. Of course, this is precisely the situation that the industry ran into at the time of the introduction of the wine excise a little over 3 years ago.
I wish to quote summary of findings, No. 3, in Professor Grant’s report. It states:
The rate of wine sales dropped sharply as a result of the price increases following the excise.
I think that is quite a clear statement. It is by no means the only finding made by Professor Grant but all of his findings appear to me, as I read the report, to hinge around that one focal point. Some speakers have implied, particularly in another place, that the wine industry should not have sought increases in wholesale prices for wine. A quick look at the approximate cost movements in the industry leaves, one with the impression that the wine producers had very little option. For instance,, beer prices have risen 3 times since the application for wine excise, during which time the industry was literally not game to put up prices for fear that there would be an even greater downturn in sales. There are many examples that one can quote. I notice that the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) quoted one. In my electorate the price of a bottle of white wine today, for instance, is only 5c more than it was 3i years ago. This ignores the period when the full excise change applied. It purely compares the price before the imposition of wine excise with the price today.
One would not say that the industry at this stage is overcharging for its product - not in my State at any rate. Within the 3 year period of which I have spoken the price of labour has risen by 37 per cent; the price of bottles has risen by $2m to the wine industry in that State.
– Which State is that?
– I am sorry, I was referring to the State of South Australia. The total wages bill has increased by $3.1m. These are facts which should make it mandatory for an industry, no matter how efficient, to try to restore the relativity it enjoyed to those factors prior to those increases. I am not here to say that everybody engaged in the wine industry, particularly the agents in a State other than mine, and retailers who sell wine and who sometimes do not reduce the price per bottle when excise is lowered, play the game. But I am saying that the people who produce wine, own their local co-operative factories and, indeed, the private wineries as well have entirely played the game in respect of price movements in the wine industry.
I should like briefly to remind honourable members that the complaint people in my electorate and myself really had in respect of the wine excise was that it was an inequitable method of raising funds. The problem particularly concerned the big co-operatives in the
Riverland region which is in my electorate in South Australia. I mentioned earlier the Berri winery which produces 10 per cent of Australia’s wine. Very few people have heard of these co-operatives for the simple reason that they by and large are purveyors of bulk supplies of wine to better known name brands - and I must be very careful in my description - in the eastern States. This is the way the industry frequently operates.
The excise undoubtedly discriminated against those people who were sellers of bulk wines. I do not want to grind that point any further because I wish to refer to another small matter in respect of which, if the government of the day is not very careful, the same error of discrimination against some sections of the industry could be perpetrated. I refer to the Tariff Board inquiry into the brandy industry. I have not the figures immediately before me but honourable members will be aware that over the last few years there has been a very great increase in the. volume of brandies imported into Australia. We do not even know whether the health certificates we get from some of the countries of origin can be taken on face value. One line of brandy which I have in mind has no guarantee that the contents of the bottle labelled brandy are even made from grapes.
I think the industry is entitled to protection from some of these cheap imports of questionable origin. I mention this matter this afternoon only because rather alarming rumours are reaching the industry in South Australia from sources that I will not mention at this point. The rumours suggest that the Government feels that it has done quite enough by totally removing the wine excise from the industry and it is not interested in examining the Tariff Board report when it is brought down. If this were to be so - and I acknowledge that I am proposing a perfectly hypothetical problem - the Government would be guilty of most drastic uneven treatment of the industry because there are areas - and the Riverland area, which I have been requested to mention before, is one of them - in which distillation grapes form the majority of the plantings. These areas are peculiarly fitted for the production of brandy and they have already been hit by the large quantities of imported brandies of questionable origin coming into this country. I would like to sound that note of warning. Perhaps the Minister would make a note of it because I would appreciate an answer to it in due course, if there is an answer to the question. I would hate to see those very areas that I representcontrary to the plantings in the Hunter Valley and perhaps those in the Barossa Valley in this case - hit twice by an action that would be discriminatory. I think it is proper that I should draw the Government’s attention to this point of view.
My time in this debate has passed extremely rapidly. In conclusion I say that I am completely in favour of the Government’s action in withdrawing this excise. I believe that it has been discriminatory to the bulk wineries. I hope that the brandy problem will be looked at.
– Does the honourable member want an extension of time?
– I do not think so, but I thank the Leader of the House very much for his courtesy. The wine industry is still effecting change. It is a brand new industry with all the pangs and difficulties of a changing industry. Some grapes are going out of fashion; they are not wanted. Wines are coming into fashion. This is not an industry that should be unduly hit until it has steadied itself in the proper way. I point out once again that this industry is unduly sensitive to differences in price and I hope that future governments will remember that fact.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I support the measure before the House which removes the remaining 25c of wine excise. One point which has not been made to any great extent in this debate concerning the wine industry relates to the Australian Wine Board. The wine growers in my area of Rutherglen are not at all happy with the membership of the Board. They had discussions with the previous Minister for Primary Industry to try to have the Board more responsive and the membership of the Board more representative of wine growers than they consider the present Board to be. I hope that the new Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) will seriously consider the question of reconstitution of the Wine Board.
The main point I want to raise in this debate is that with the removal of the excise on grape wines there will be no tax on grape wines, and because there is no sales tax or excise on wine made from apples, such as apple cider and apple wine, the remaining fruit wines will be left in the invidious position of being the only products which are subject to a 15 per cent sales tax. This places them at a great disadvantage in competing on the fruit wine market. In particular, perry wine is at a disadvantage. Perry wine is made from pears. It is an old and well known wine in Europe and at the present time the market for perry is growing. Another fruit wine made from pears is baby cham. At a time when the pear industry, which is based in the Goulburn Valley is suffering from the problems of over production and there is a need to diversify product outlets one possible part solution is the production of perry. I know that there is a small amount of perry produced in wineries in South Australia but as yet the amount produced is not very substantial. One of the canneries in the Goulburn Valley recently installed at a cost of about $2m a world standard crushing and juicing plant which will provide a base product of suitable standard to produce a range of pear wines. But to promote or establish a market for what is basically a new type of wine is very difficult. That is hard enough at any time but when it also has to overcome a sales tax of 15 per cent while grape wines and apple wines are not subject to sales tax makes the problem so much more difficult.
Recently I wrote to the Treasurer (Mr Crean), to the Minister for Primary Industry and to the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby), because of his interest in the wine industry and in the fruit industry, pointing out this anomaly. I believe it is a genuine anomaly and that no criticism can be levelled either at the present Government or the previous Government. The situation arose because exemption from sales tax of these wines has not been claimed. I received a reply from the Treasurer in today’s mail stating that it was one of many requests for exemption from sales tax which the new .Government has received and that in due course its merits will be considered. I ask the Government to consider on its merits the proposal that sales tax on all remaining fruit wines be removed so that all wines will be placed on an equal footing in the struggle to obtain a percentage of the market. I hope that the Government will remove this sales tax because the revenue received from it is minimal - probably less than minimal. Also its removal would help an industry which is experiencing the problem of diversifying its traditional outlets as a result of over production.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Daly) - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 7 March (vide page 288), on motion by Mr Crean:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Commonwealth Banks Bill intrinsically is a very sensible measure. It puts the managers of Commonwealth Savings Banks branches on the same basis as managers of the private savings banks when lending money for housing. This is a wise move. There has for very many years been a strict limit on the maximum loan and on the rates of interest which this Bank could charge. This has had the effect of making the conduct of managers of savings banks virtually an automatic process. The essence of training a good banker, a successful banker, is that he should be able to exercise bis discretion and, on the basis of his experience, be able to make sound judgment between the various classes of borrowers and generally apply his practical experience of affairs gained over the years to each individual case. On the other hand, putting a banker or any other such person in a procrustean bed subject to operations only within limits prescribed from outside has a bad effect on banking. In fact, it enables the poor banker to take refuge in official rule books and instructions from head office and avoid exercising proper judgment and discretion. If things go wrong he can seek refuge and defence in his official rule book. So basically for that reason I welcome this measure as a means of improving the operations of the Commonwealth Savings Bank.
However, it is wise to look at this question in the rather wider context of banking. I refer to the part which the Commonwealth Savings Bank plays overall in Australia in lending for housing. The Commonwealth Savings Bank is the largest institutional lender for housing. Last year it advanced 35 per cent of the total advances of all the savings banks, government and private, throughout Australia. In 1971-72 it provided a large number of loans which totalled $220m. Since 1960 the Commonwealth Savings Bank has lent $li billion to help 228,500 families buy and acquire their own homes. By any token its operations are massive. Any change like this will have considerable significance.
Apart from its massive operations, the conditions under which it lends, the amount of the loans and so on have for many years been the signpost to the rest of lending for housing. It has been one of the main signposts and criteria for judging houses, -the price of houses and the conditions on which other lenders operate. One notes from the report of the Department of Housing that some interesting changes are taking place in the field of lending for housing. For instance, last year lending by trading banks and major assurance companies increased by 45 per cent. There have also been some other changes. One of the most significant has been the rapid increase in the advances made by permanent building societies. In that year they lent $667m which, in the aggregate, was $l0m more than the amount advanced by the savings banks. Mr Deputy Speaker, you have personal knowledge of these matters and you will appreciate that a milestone has been reached when permanent building societies overtake what hitherto have been the largest lenders for housing - the savings banks.
The Department of Housing also reports that in 1971-72 the volume of housing completed and undertaken rose yet the numbers engaged in house building actually declined. This indicates that there must have been some increase in productivity of labour on the sites and a better organisation of the labour supply. Another factor has been the increasing industrialisation in building. So far we have not gone as far as the United States of America. In the United States there has been a big swing to industrialised housing, its assembly in decentralised factories and its construction by bringing the parts together on the building site. In fact the United States Government has conducted a very powerful campaign called Operation Breakthrough. It has endeavoured to improve the productivity of house building by getting factory industrialised labour conditions into a large number of components and reducing the proportionate amount of labour employed on the site.
Another aspect of the Commonwealth Savings Bank is the very massive quantity of national savings it absorbs. Apart from housing - it is, as I have said, by far the largest institutional lender for housing - it is also the largest holder of Commonwealth government securities. The proportion which can be lent for housing is limited, and has been limited in the past, by financial authorities largely to ensure that adequate subscriptions would be forthcoming to support Commonwealth bonds. This is interesting because it leads to one of the great dilemmas in the housing field. The savings used for housing cannot be used for the support of government loans and government expenditure. Here there is an intrinsic element of competition. In addition to the impossible demands of housing and other things which the Government wants to do which call for tremendous loans and tremendous Government expenditure, in the last few days we have had added to that the firm notice from the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns) that he looks forward to absorbing considerably greater resources than have been absorbed hitherto in the Australian Industry Development Corporation, all of which must come from savings in other directions.
In Australia we have been enabled to undertake a huge volume of construction. The Department notes that last year we built 10.1 dwellings for every 1,000 people. By world standards this is a very notable achievement. We have kept up this rate of housing construction for a very long time. In one sense there are never enough houses. But the actual achievement in creating them has been impressive compared with the standards of other countries. We have been able to do this because investment from overseas has helped to finance the other things we wanted to do, such as expanding our manufacturing and mining industries. This has freed our own domestic resources for things like housing construction and for financing huge government expenditures and filling loans. But there is a tremendous pressure on resources resulting from all these rival claims. No doubt the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) is giving this matter consideration. He and former Ministers for Housing have quickly come up against the inevitable thoughts of the Treasurer, who is presented with a tremendous number of bills for different things by his expensive-minded colleagues. The Treasurer is the man who has to operate the chopper. The fact is that there is direct competition between many users and spenders of resources. These converge and will probably obstruct the amount of resources which can continue to be devoted to housing.
In recent times the number of dwelling approvals has been rising very rapidly. For the first 5 months of this year it was 20 per cent more than for the same period last year. In the banking system and in other lending institutions there is a high state of liquidity, so there have been very few financial inhibitions on further building, so much so that building construction is pressing very hard on resources. This is likely to get worse. For instance, in some areas such as Wollongong the pressure is extreme. I am told that in the Wollongong area the cost of middle-priced houses has been rising at about $1,000 per dwelling per month. This pressure should cause considerable concern and worry about the total building program which we are trying to undertake. It will need the early attention of the Minister for Housing who should think about the targets he can achieve, what is realistic and how the resources of the Commonwealth Savings Bank and other institutions can be split between housing and the other demands of government.
The pressure is increasing so quickly at the moment that it threatens to add to all those other factors which are now increasing the prices of houses and land. The pressure is made worse by the fact that a large number of people are now aware that it is better to buy a house now, while they can and while their money is worth something, than to sit around and wait for the value of their resources to be dissipated by the inflationary process. The rise in the cost of houses, as indicated by the rate at which the cost is rising in the Wollongong area, is a danger signal and may be a signal for some reduction in plans. There is a considerable time lag in relation to these matters. Housing cannot be switched on or off overnight. If the Government intends to initiate something in this direction, which at times can become very important, it has to do so several months ahead, bearing in mind that the repercussions on other industries which feed the housing industry are highly critical for the total industrial climate.
The matter is not an easy one to control, but I suggest that the Government will have to watch it very carefully and not allow the pressure to build up and the money that will be made available to add so much to the demand that prices and costs of land and building and speculative activity of one sort or another frustrate genuine home seekers. This pressure is rising, and considerable and drastic measures will need to be taken to maintain control of it. Merely pouring more and more money into the housing sector and writing cheques freely will defeat the primary object of building many more houses. I emphasise again that I think the Bill is a very good one when it is considered from the point of view of good banking by the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the increased discretion and flexibility that it allows to the Bank. But it will have a marked effect on the remainder of the system, particularly as the Commonwealth Savings Bank is the largest lender for housing.
The effects of the Bill will have to be watched. The fact that individual bank managers will have greater discretion should not mean that the authorities will not have to keep an eye on the total number of loans that can be granted. In the past the amount of the individual loan has been restrained by the desire to satisfy as many clients as possible. I hope that overall control will still be exercised and that the authorities will keep a very close watch on the total amount of credit being made available in the housing field so that individual efforts do not add up to a considerable volume of frustration.
– This Bill will have 2 effects. Firstly, it will remove the $9,000 maximum on a housing loan from the Commonwealth Bank. That really means the Commonwealth Savings Bank. Secondly, it will remove the limit on the proportion of the valuation which can be lent. Previously the maximum amount which could be made available as a housing loan was 90 per cent. In future up to 100 per cent may be lent as a housing loan. I am glad that the Bill has the support of both sides of the House. I was glad that a former Treasurer and former Minister for Housing, the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury), supported the Bill. This Government does not agree with everything that he did when he was Treasurer, particularly what he did in relation to housing. I might say a little about that if I have the time later. The main reason for the removal of the $9,000 maximum for a housing loan is that that amount is no longer commensurate with the reasonable cost of purchasing a house. For that reason the Bill deserves the support of the House.
The Bill will have a direct effect and it will have indirect effects. The direct effect on housing will be a reduction in the cost of housing to those people who wish to borrow money from the Commonwealth Bank. At present, if they cannot get all the finance that they need, they have to resort to second mortgages, at higher rates of interest. Sometimes - in fact, often - they are required to go outside the banking system, and they have to pay a substantially increased rate of interest. That is a most unsatisfactory situation. It will be remedied by the Bill. That is the position in relation to clients of the Commonwealth Bank. The Bill will have indirect effects in that it will help to reduce the rates of interest charged by the other institutions, including other banks, I hope that it will exert pressure upon other lending institutions to lower the rates of interest which they charge. It will make the Commonwealth Bank more competitive. It will not do that by reducing the rate of interest which the Commonwealth Savings Bank charges, but it will make the Bank more competitive because the disadvantage under which the Bank now operates will be removed.
Although the Bank charges a relatively low rate of interest, it has had to compete with this handicap of a ceiling on the amount of a housing loan. That has put it at a considerable disadvantage when compared with many of the private banks which have no limit on the amount .that can be lent. Therefore the Bill will make the Bank competitive. That does not mean to say that the Bank is not already highly competitive. Of course, it is competitive. I think that the best testimony to this fact is a passage on page 14 of the latest annual report of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, which states:
The Commonwealth Savings Bank continued to be Australia’s largest institutional lender for housing, approving over 25,000 loans totalling $224m. This was 35 per cent of the total housing loans of all savings banks for the year, and 24 per cent of housing loans by savings and trading banks.
Since 1960 the Bank has provided more than $ 1,500m in loans to help 228,500 families buy their own homes.
I think all honourable members would agree that that is certainly a very impressive record. I think it follows, and this point was made by the honourable member for Wentworth, that because of the sheer size of the market which has accrued to the Bank anything that we do - including the introduction of legislation such as this - will have a very substantial effect on the housing industry as a whole. Making the bank more competitive will have a substantial effect throughout the whole of the housing industry. I think that this is of special interest. I noticed an article, which was critical of the Government, in the financial Press - as a matter of fact, it was in the Financial Review’ early in January this year - in which the Commonwealth Savings Bank was castigated for not being sufficiently aggressive in cutting its rates of interest. The article said that the Bank should get out into the market more, reduce its rates of interest and force down the rates of interest charged by other lending institutions. I refer the author of that article to a publication by the Commonwealth Department of Housing called ‘Housing Finance’. It has been brought to my attention only recently. It is an excellent publication. I suggest to the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) that it would not do any harm if copies of future issues of this publication were circulated to honourable members when they are published. If the author of this article in the ‘Financial Review’ had examined the situation he would have seen that the Commonwealth Savings Bank already lends money at a lower rate of interest than any of the other housing authorities or banks except, of course, those that are lending under subsidised arrangements such as the war service homes scheme or the arrangements under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement.
The Commonwealth Savings Bank charges an interest rate of >i per cent. This rate can be compared to, say, that of the Rural Bank of New South Wales which charges interest rates ranging from 6i per cent to 7i per cent. Admittedly, one bank charges the same rate of interest, namely, the State Savings Bank of Victoria. This bank also charges 6i per cent on money loaned for housing. The Bank of Adelaide Savings Bank charges 7 per cent. Then we move up into the life assurance companies which charge from 7 per cent to 8 per cent interest. Commercial Life Assurance Limited charges 9± per cent. Then there are the institutions which charge high interest rates; in this area of lending it is quite common to see an interest rate of 12i per cent. I do not want to debate that point now because
I am sure that all honourable members have experience of people who are having great difficulty in trying to meet payments on money borrowed from these high interest rate institutions.
There is not much scope at the present time for the Commonwealth Savings Bank to change its interest rates. At 6i per cent, its interest rate is only i per cent more than the interest rate charged on government securities. So, there would really be not much difference if we switched from government securities into housing. Perhaps the time is not far off when we can reduce interest rates across the board and the time may come when we can further reduce interest rates charged by the Commonwealth Savings Bank. What needed to be done will be done by this measure. The Commonwealth Savings Bank will have the ceiling removed on maximum loans and, therefore, the interest rates which it is already charging will become very highly competitive and I expect that this will make a great impact on the market.
It is important to try to anticipate what the broad economic effects of this measure will be, because anything that has a significant effect on the housing industry has a big effect on the economy as a whole. This measure almost certainly will result in the Commonwealth Savings Bank taking some business away from its competitors, particularly the fringe and other non-banking sectors and this, of course, will be welcomed. But this depends on whether the Commonwealth Savings Bank will be permitted to release some of its money into the housing sector. I think that this should be the purpose of the whole exercise, because if the same aggregate amount of money is lent by the Commonwealth Savings Bank, with a higher maximum, it will mean fewer loans. I do not think that this is intended. The scope exists for the Commonwealth Bank to lend more money in the housing sector because it already has a very high LGS ratio - in other words, its liquidity ratio - and there is much room for increased diversion of its funds into the housing sector.
One result which must be guarded against is that this policy does not result in excessive demand for housing. I am hoping that money will be diverted from the high interest rate sector into the banking sector and, particularly, into the Commonwealth Bank. In other words, there may be the same aggregate amount of money going into housing, but more being lent by the Commonwealth Bank. There is the alternative possibility that more money could be borrowed from the Commonwealth Bank, while the amount borrowed from the fringe banking institutions remains the same, so that the total amount of money going into housing would be increased. If this happened, we could be faced with a situation where the unit cost of housing would increase. There is no point in having an increased demand for resources which cannot be met, because if it cannot be met it will merely mean a higher unit cost and a greater amount of money will go to build the same number of houses. If this happened, we would obviously need to watch the situation to ensure that the unit cost of housing did not get out of control.
What would we do in such a situation? I hope that we would not have recourse to the measures that were introduced by the previous speaker, the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury) when he was Treasurer of this country, of raising interest rates. It is most unfair to try to ration housing by increasing interest rates because it will affect those people who can least afford it. I should qualify that by saying there may be some place for this policy if we were prepared to, say, offer a rebate to people who are in a situation of particular hardship. However, that is perhaps a little far from the measure we are now discussing.
If it is necessary in any way to restrain the overall demand for housing, perhaps the best method is to adopt the same techniques used by housing authorities in the States and implement a waiting list with special regard being paid to people in special circumstances of hardship. The problem should not be tackled by imposing a high interest rate structure.
Of course, the best way to avoid the excessive demand or inflationary tendencies which could occur with a housing shortage is to ensure that there is an adequate supply of the commodities of which we are short and thereby try to force down the price. This Government has already foreshadowed strong action in this sphere, particularly in relation to the supply of land. Land has increased greatly in price. Honourable members may have seen a study by the Institute of Urban
Affairs which was published last year and which pointed out that the cost of land had increased by 16 per cent compound per annum over the last 15 years whereas the cost of wages had increased by only 3 per cent or 4 per cent compound per annum during the same period. So, the price of land is something that must be tackled at its root cause.
The Government has taken action. Arrangements will be made with the States to assist the State governments to acquire land before it is subdivided. I hope this will be done even before the land is zoned urban, so that the speculative element can be removed from land prices. The other advantage about the Crown owning the land is that we do not have the system which now operates with the private speculators owning all the land and releasing it in small parcels in order to ration the supply artificially and artificially drive up the price to their own benefit. The root cause we must get at to try to control land prices is to decentralise employment opportunities. The Government has taken action in this regard. With its foreshadowed action in AlburyWodonga and other decentralised areas the Government is going right to the root cause of the problem. If pressure exists on resources the real answer is to increase supply.
This is an important measure. Because of the great role of the Commonwealth Savings Bank in the housing industry, it will have a profound effect not only on the housing industry but across the entire economy. I should like to say a little more about the housing industry when we discuss other measures relating to housing later this session. But I think it will be necessary for us to examine the entire question of a housing policy in Australia. For too long under successive Liberal governments we have tended to face the problem on an ad hoc basis. We need to examine exactly where we are going and what we are achieving. I know that the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) has full regard to the problems in this field. The Minister and I attended a seminar on housing last year in Adelaide and a strong view was expressed at that time that perhaps the way to approach problems in the area of housing, particularly in the area of welfare housing, is by making subsidies available to the individual tenant or home buyer rather than to the house. On this basis we would not tend artificially to drive up the price of housing.
This is a very complicated matter and I believe we must take a good hard look at it. We should perhaps give some thought to establishing our equivalent to the think-tanks of other departments. The Department of Primary Industry has its Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Department of Transport has its Bureau of Transport Economics. I cannot see any reason why we should not have a bureau of housing economics. I am not one for a broad, overall national plan. I think that overall national plans sometimes get too big for people to digest. But I think that in a circumscribed field such as housing we could have a look at the whole field and decide where we are going. I think that one way we might do. this is by the establishment of a body such as a bureau of housing economics. I have much pleasure in supporting the Bill.
– I commend the Government for introducing this Bill, which I hope will help more people to establish their own homes. Because of this my comments will be brief, as I have no argument against it. I believe that the reason the limit on home loans was first introduced was to allow for a wider distribution of the loan money that was available, but we all know that since then the monetary system has changed and I feel that it is only right that the loan limit should have been raised. The privilege of owning his home is a large part of a man’s heritage, and I completely agree with the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) that more avenues should be made available for a man to obtain finance to rear his family in their own home. Psychologically it is a great benefit for a family to have their own home because they are inclined to be much more community conscious, which leads, as we know, to a great deal of desirable parochial pride.
We talk of living in an affluent society and indeed we do, compared with people in the majority of other countries. Therefore, whenever it is possible to distribute this affluence more equitably throughout the community by easing the restrictions on access to finance to build more private homes it must further benefit this great country that we have. The. Minister stated in one of his speeches that the Government considers that housing is a high priority matter and I look forward to the
Government offering greater opportunities to the average working man to purchase his own home. I would hope that the intention behind this Bill is designed to do justice. In the same speech that I mentioned the Minister said .that there were many families and individuals for whom it is not the right solution. The Minister for Housing, who is at the table, might explain this statement. I cannot follow it. On the one hand the Government, through this Bill, has placed the Commonwealth Bank back in the competitive housing loan business, because the Government strongly supports home ownership and wants to help needy families; and on the other hand it says that some cases it is not the right solution. I mention this because I hope he can clarify this matter for me.
I would like to mention another matter also regarding the easing of loan finance for housing. It all sound extremely good to me. But what will the situation be when a person wishes to build his own home? The finance may be available but have we enough tradesmen in the country to meet the demand for home building? I would suggest that the Government may be well advised to look at the trade training system as well as easing the avenues for housing finance. I think that these 2 matters are really compatible. If supply can keep pace with the demand in the home building industry it would be of even greater benefit to the community than just easing the availability of finance. In some areas the housing shortage is acute. This we know. People anxious to build their homes have to wait many, many months before builders are available, and the added cost of building by importing builders, due to the wage structure, makes the cost of building a home prohibitive. This has been proved in north Queensland to a very great extent.
Under the present Bill I presume that money will be loaned for housing at the current interest rates. A person borrows a certain amount of money from the bank according to the amount he can afford to repay in regular monthly payments, which would include capital plus interest. But we all know that borrowed money has to be paid for and that when money is plentiful interest rates tend to be low and when money is scarce the interest rates are higher. This leads me to ask whether, when this Bill was being discussed, any consideration was given to allowing the borrower any leeway with his monthly repayments in the event of a rise in interest rates. I think we could guarantee that rates will not be lowered. But to the average working man who has borrowed from the bank to build his home and who is repaying the loan to the maximum of his capacity any increase in bis repayments could place him in an embarrassing financial situation. This I have seen, and I hope this matter will be considered in the future. I support this Bill, which I hope will be the means of assisting many more people to build their own homes.
– There is a very limited time for me to apply myself to the legislation on hand, the Commonwealth Banks Bill, but first I would like to say that I appreciate the comments of the 3 honourable gentlemen who preceded me. Although this is not a Bill which I am handling myself it has relevance to the responsibilities that I have, and I will be having considerable regard for the points made. The honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) has proposed that a bureau of housing economics should be established and I am impressed with the idea that some form of advisory group could represent a very useful facility to enable the Government to be properly advised on this very fast moving and tremendously important field of social endeavour.
The honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) made some mention of a matter which might best be dealt with in another context, that is the remarks I have made in respect of the Commonwealth State Houstng Agreement, the arrangements that exist now and the arrangements that we hope will exist after 1st July. All I want to say to him at this stage is that it seems to be the case that for 93,000 families or more home ownership in fact has not been the solution to their problem because it has been inaccessible to them. Many people are waiting for State Housing Commission homes. They are waiting for rental homes because they are unable to secure the deposits that are necessary to purchase a home and then of course unable to meet the repayments that are necessary in respect of houses. After that, if they are able to pay the deposits and meet the other requirements, there is the question of looking at their capacity to meet maintenance costs, insurance charges, rates and charges of that kind generally.
The first priority that the Government sees in respect of housing is the need to ensure that everyone has a decent house in which to live. We do not feel that it matters all that much if a number of people will own houses, if that is highly virtuous, as against the other proposition that a lot of people will be inadequately housed. We want them all to be adequately housed and we want to build up the stock of rental houses. We know the extent to which housing commission houses have been sold off represents an enormous liability to this country. I know that in one State houses to the value of about S200m have been sold. The replacement costs represent something like $500m in the present situation of rapidly aggrandising costs. It must be remembered that it was the Minister for the Interior in the last Government who decided that for this kind of reason no further government houses were to be sold in the Australian Capital Territory. It must be remembered that in New South Wales, where a Liberal-Country Party Government prevails, similar attitudes are being taken and similar restrictions are being imposed. So the views that I am manifesting in my approach to the States about these matters is not without precedence by any means. I believe that they are well and truly justified. I have not left myself much time to talk about the Commonwealth Banks Bill.
– You have a minute left.
– I think I have more than that. I have about 10 minutes to talk on some of these matters. The matter that is before the House is part of the New Australian Government’s perspective about housing. For too long the whole question of housing has been in a backwater. This is an integrated part of the new emphasis being brought to bear, It does not stand in isolation by any means, as honourable members will have noted. It is in the perspective of an overhaul of the War Service Homes Act, now to be called the Defence Services Homes Act. It is in the perspective of a new housing assistance Bill under which $6.5m will be paid to the States as an emergency allocation for the work of the States’ housing authorities. It is also in the context of a new Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement which is intended to make more money available at lower rates of interest to the States so that those people who have been deprived of decent housing opportunities for so long can have better prospects in the future. These things are already in the parliamentary pipeline. It is a very real situation that is occurring with respect to the implementation of the Labor Party’s policy objectives.
The Government has an election commitment to repeal as quickly as possible section 66 of the Commonwealth Banks Act. I am very pleased that my colleague the Treasurer (Mr Crean) has taken this early initiative which has been so warmly applauded from both sides of the Parliament. This matter also has to be taken in the perspective of other obligations and other commitments which the Government has made. It is the Government’s intention to ease the burden of interest for home seekers generally; to look at the problem of student accommodation, a matter which has never hitherto been accepted as a Commonwealth responsibility; to remove the anomalies from the Homes Savings Grant Act; to overhaul the Aged Persons Homes Act; to work very hard to achieve uniformity in building codes and to encourage the introduction of the metric system with its consequential savings on home building costs throughout Australia.
As honourable members will have noted, the Government is now active in an effort to introduce into this country a system of preferred dimensions which also relates to metrication. There are many other matters in which it is showing very active interest, as I think will be readily acknowledged. There is the matter of an assault on land prices, which is led by the endeavours of my colleague, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) who will probably be pump ing something like $200m into the effort to build up the national stock of land. The Government is interested in looking at the problems of stamp duty and the delays related thereto, and ways and means of speeding up the conveyancing processes and minimising the costs of conveyancing when ownership of land and houses is affected.
Much has been said about section 66 of the Commonwealth Banks Act. Sufficient it is for me to say that it has outlived its usefulness. Its overhaul is well overdue because it is so outmoded. It should have received the attention of the previous Government years ago. I believe that this omission on its part has been readily acknowledged during the course of this debate. The provisions were of good intent and were designed to help low income earners, but they have come to be accepted and recognised as very genuine impediments. They have involved 2 ceilings on the availability of loans for home building from the Commonwealth Bank. The first ceiling has been to the effect that a loan should not exceed 90 per cent of the valuation. The second has represented a limitation on the size of the loan to no more than $9,000. The fact is that that figure has ceased, to have any realism in terms of the costs that apply around Australia at present. I will not be able to give figures to the extent that I should have liked but I will mention one or two to demonstrate my point. The average cost of construction of a house, excluding land, in Sydney, for example, in 1971-72 was $12,177. The difference between the maximum $9,000 which the Commonwealth Bank has been able to make available and the cost of construction which is $12,177 is $3,177. That becomes the subject of a second mortgage but that is not the extent of the second mortgage because I am simply talking about the average cost of construction, excluding land, and the cost of land has risen astronomically in recent times. In my own electorate - without getting involved in the chart of figures which I have with me - land is being made available to young people 17 to 20 miles from Sydney at a cost varying between $15,000 and $20,000 per block. This shows how out of date is the provision which the former Government failed to remedy.
I now mention some of the difficulties which are associated with the borrowing processes that young people are involved in at present. Because of the hobbling of the Commonwealth Bank and the economic policies pursued by the previous Government, the finance companies have been left to run riot with deleterious effects on home builders - people seeking to own their own homes. Enormous interest rates are being charged. It might interest honourable members to know that even on a Commonwealth Bank loan of $18,000, secured at 6i per cent interest over 20 years, the interest payable amounts to $13,576. If one borrows $18,000 from a permanent building society for 20 years at 8 per cent the interest payable on that loan amounts to $18,660. With the finance company range of lending an interest rate of 12 per cent applies and this requires an astronomical repayment which can cause extreme liabilities for the person involved.
One of the most disturbing features of the present situation is that just about every trading bank has an interest in a finance company. The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd has 100 per cent equity in Esanda Ltd; the Bank of Adelaide has 100 per cent in Finance Corporation of Australia Ltd; the Bank of New South Wales has 43 per cent in Australian Guarantee Corporation Ltd; the Bank of Queensland Ltd has 40 per cent equity in the Permanent Finance Corporation Ltd; the Commercial Bank of Australia has 100 per cent equity in General Credits Holding Ltd; the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney Ltd has 42 per cent equity in Commercial and General Acceptance Ltd and the National Bank of Australasia Ltd has 60 per cent equity in Custom Credit Corporation Ltd. It is interesting to note that while the hobbles have been on the Commonwealth Bank, massive advances of loans have been made by finance companies. There has been a usurping of the traditional role of banks in respect of home lending on the part of the finance companies. I had many figures to give to honourable members in this regard but time will not allow me to do it as the House has an obligation with the Governor-General in a short time.
The Commonwealth Banks Bill, which has been brought down by the Treasurer, will do much to shift the emphasis back where it should be to give young people the right to go for their loans for housing to banks where they can get loans at reasonable rates of interest rather than pay higher interest rates on loans which have been taken over and shared predominantly by the finance companies of Australia. I commend the Bill to the House and I feel sure that it will reflect very great benefit for a very large number of home seekers in Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Daly) read a third time.
Address-ia-Reply: Presentation to Governor-General
– I suspend the sitting until 8 p.m. in order that I may present the AddressinReply to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral at Government House. I shall be glad if the mover and seconder, together with other honourable members, will accompany me.
Sitting suspended from 4.56 to 8 p.m.
– I desire to inform the House that, accompanied by honourable members, I waited today upon His Excellency the Governor-General at Government House, and presented to him the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech on the opening of the first session of the Twenty-eighth Parliament, agreed to by the House on 8th March 1973.
His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply:
Thank you for your Address-in-Reply which you have just presented to me.
It will be my pleasure and my duty to convey to Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen at once the Message of Loyalty from the House of Representatives of Australia, to which the Address gives expression.
– by leave - On 24th February 1973, accompanied by members of my staff and members of the Commonwealth Department of Housing and of the Treasury, I met with the Hon. V. O. Dickie, M.L.C., Minister of Housing in the Victorian Government and his officers, to discuss matters associated with the proposed Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement which, it is intended, should take effect from 1st July 1973. These discussions were regarded as private. No representatives of the Press were in attendance and, at the conclusion of the meeting, the Minister and I agreed that no Press statements or comment should be issued.
I have been concerned to note from the Hansard of the Victorian Legislative Council of 7th March, that a question was asked by the Hon. J. M. Tripovich of the Minister of Housing, the Hon. V. O. Dickie, M.L.C., regarding the nature of the negotiations and requesting that the Minister lay on the table of the Library, the proposals of the Federal Minister for Housing and other comments and documents applicable to discussions which ensued between the Ministers. In reply to the question, Mr Dickie said in part:
I can table the documents only with the approval of the Federal Minister for Housing. The documents relate to a ministerial discussion.
It will be agreed that the import of the Minister’s reply is to the effect that only my approval for the tabling of the documents remains as a deterrent to that being done.
I believe it is important that such negotiations which represent a frank exchange of attitudes and ideas should be conducted in a confidential manner and at no time have I taken any course which conflicts with this attitude. However, I want it clearly understood that I have nothing to hide, nor has the Commonwealth. Accordingly, I have been in telephone conversation with Mr Dickie today and have told him of my preparedness to exchange the summary of our discussions, as prepared by our respective advisers, if he wishes. Mr Dickie has now informed me that he regards it as desirable that the summaries should remain confidential and that he intends next Tuesday in the Victorian Legislative Council to retract his statement to the Council of 7th March. Despite my declared willingness to table the summaries as requested, I believe that the negotiations may possibly be prejudiced by such action.
Accordingly, it is my intention to preserve the confidentiality of these documents, unless approval for their release is given by Mr Dickie. The question as to whether or not all documents relating to the negotiations should be made public can be further considered at the formal meeting between myself and the State Ministers, scheduled to take place in Canberra on 23rd March. As honourable members are aware, it is the policy of the Australian Government to pursue the ideal of open government. In keeping with this objective, I would be prepared to table any documents associated with the negotiations, provided such a course had the acquiesence of the State Ministers concerned.
– by leave- I also have been in touch this afternoon with Mr Dickie, the Minister of Housing in Victoria, and I endorse what the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) has stated.
Debate resumed from 7 March (vide page 297), on motion by Mr Bryant:
That the BUI be now read a second time.
– The Opposition supports the Bill. I do not wish to be uncharitable to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) but in his somewhat rambling, somewhat pretentious and discursive second reading speech on this Bill he indicated that the Bill provided about 50 per cent more than was granted by the previous Government for a whole year. Our grants to the States for 1972-73, as conveyed through this Parliament last year, totalled, it is true, $ 14.5m but that was only slightly more than one-quarter of the total provision for direct Commonwealth expenditure on Aboriginal advancement for the entire year. In the last Budget the amount allocated to Aboriginal welfare rose from $3 1.3m to $53.2m, an increase of approximately 70 per cent. The Minister’s speech was condemnatory of the previous Government. It implied that we showed little concern. But I would have to say that if the Minister’s future actions during his term of office are as abysmal as his recollection of our record then that term will be one of rhetoric and reckless disregard for the wishes of the Aboriginal people.
I recall that the previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs said last year in a second reading speech on a similar Bill: . . because of the nature of the programs to which the finances are devoted, a substantial proportion of the funds are being applied to the advancement of the younger generation of Aboriginal Australians. The housing programs aim primarily to assist families whose children will benefit thereby. A great deal of Health activity is devoted to improving the health situation of Aboriginal infants and children; the bulk of expenditure in education is, of course, for younger Aborigines; while the employment training scheme and other activities of the Department of Labour and National Service seek in particular to assist school leavers.
An important distinction must be made between the problems faced by Aborigines in major towns and cities and the problems faced by Aborigines living on reserves or in remote areas. The number of Aborigines who have moved into the major cities has been extremely high. At least 30 per cent of Aborigines are living in urban centres and consequently increasing emphasis must be placed on programs to assist them. Primarily this involves ensuring that they can participate to the fullest possible extent within the urban communities in which they reside. That means assistance with accommodation, health programs, education and employment. The long term aim should naturally be that such assistance in urban areas should run its course and create a favourable situation in which, in due course, the need for government assistance should diminish.
If there are handicaps in the way of stable employment opportunities for Aborigines then the Department of Labour and State authorities must help to remove those handicaps. So far as the Aborigines in remote areas are concerned, I understand that the majority of them are living in static communities. It must be extraordinarily difficult for them to cope with an entirely different environment. I agree with the Minister that we are duty bound to respect their traditions and culture. There have been, and I assume there will continue to be, difficulties - for example, in adjusting to a cash economy or in becoming accustomed to a radically changed diet. There will be other demands of economic development which will impose certain social strains because they require adjustments to old established patterns of life and work in the community. The path to success in the fields of social and economic adjustment is not easy and will take time and great effort. Obviously we must approach such a transition as flexibly as possible for we are dealing with individual human beings who have as much right to understanding as we but who have a greater need for such understanding. I know that the Minister understands this aspect of his portfolio. I only hope that he is also able to practice it.
I was pleased to hear him say: ‘One of the most interesting exercises upon which we have embarked has been to consult the Aboriginal people themselves’. That is a view to which I have always subscribed and it is a view that I subscribed to when I held the portfolio of Minister for External Territories. We had to look to the people of Papua New Guinea. After all, it was their country, their future and their nation that was involved. The spirit of looking towards the Aborigines for guidance and indeed for direction also is a cardinal one as far as I am concerned. For too long we were inclined to direct the people of Papua New Guinea and perhaps for too long we were prepared to direct the Aboriginal people as to what we thought was best for them.
The Minister raised the question of the border problem between the Torres Strait Islands and Papua New Guinea. I would have liked to have elaborated on this matter because he raised it in this debate and discussed the issue at some length, but I do not think it would help the successful outcome of discussions between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government. I am pleased to note that discussions are to be held between the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Premier of Queensland on this issue. There is no point in drawing lines on issues such as these where people are involved. It is simply not the arbitrary boundary and what flows therefrom. Therefore I hope that the discussions will be aimed at a compromise that will accommodate the legitimate demands of the people of Papua New Guinea and the claims for title and area of the Torres Strait Islanders. I am pleased that the earlier statements that the future of the Torres Strait Islanders was to be abandoned has been changed.
– That is not true. It was never in question.
– I am glad of that interjection because the matter was under consideration by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. He knows that I have a great respect for him. He knows that if I wanted to refer to anything he said I would be particularly accurate. He knows that he went to the Torres Strait Islanders last year and said that he supported their stand and that he would marshal public opinion in support of their claim, negating directly the viewpoint of the people of Papua New Guinea. Fortunately he has been inclined to abandon that stance. I do not want to criticise him for that because it is far too easy, as I said at the outset of my remarks on this problem, for people to draw lines and never build the bridges. This problem simply will not be solved unless the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government are prepared to talk to one another. I am delighted that this is to take place.
I merely make the point that the change has been made and I congratulate the Minister for his change in stance. It is perhaps a pity that he did not show the perception earlier on to recognise that this sort of compromise would be necessary. But I congratulate him for seeing the light at this stage. I agree also with the inherent message contained in bis second reading speech on this Bill. I shall say no more than that 1 am pleased to know that discussions are taking place. This is not the time to do it, but I could advance reasons for and against changes in the boundary of Papua New Guinea. I hope there will be an occasion in which I can do so, but this is not the occasion because I applaud the fact that discussions are to take place - I understand that they are to take place - between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government. Without those discussions no solution can be reached. If there is no solution the interests of both the Torres Strait Islanders and the people of Papua New Guinea whom I know so well will not be enhanced. The Minister mentioned this in passing in his speech and that is why I have raised the matter.
Let me return very briefly to the question of Aborigines deciding primarily the conduct of their welfare or future negotiations between themselves and the Commonwealth Government. I have always regarded it as sheer arrogance for us to insist that there ought not to be diversity within Australia. What sheer arrogance it is for us to insist that we alone know best. Fortunately the trend has been changing. I know the deep and abiding interest of the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) in furthering the cause of Aboriginal people having a direct say in the advancement of their own affairs. The last 2 Prime Ministers, the honourable member for Mackellar and his successor made a number of statements indicating that we must look to the Aborigines themselves to provide the voice for the pattern of development. This thought should be encouraged to ensure that Aborigines participate in the management of their own affairs. The present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is indicating that he is prepared to continue with such an approach and to endeavour to give the policy more life and breath by ensuring that responsibilites are handed back to Aboriginal people. I agree with that approach. All human beings have a desire to satisfy their innate needs of identity, security and challenge. Identity is one of the most basic and important yet one of the most frequently overlooked desires.
On 26th January 1972 the former Prime Minister said:
The Government recognises the rights of individual Aborigines to effective choice about the degree to which and the pace at which they come to identify themselves with that Australian society.
It could well be that their choice is one of contrast to our own way of life. If that is the case, so be it. It is their future and their way of life that is important. Australians should be generous enough to welcome such diversity if it is desired by Aborigines. This measure increases the allocation to the States that the former Government was prepared to make, and we therefore support it.
– The first thing I should like to do tonight is congratulate my colleague the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) on his appointment. He is the first Minister in a Commonwealth government to have that responsibility by itself. The Minister has an extremely difficult task to carry out. Of course, it would not be fair to say that we have inheritied a legacy from the previous Government. The fact is thai we have inherited a legacy from the time of the first settlement in this country in 1788, with all that has happened in the period since We have a vast task to which is attached ;i great deal of urgency, not only in the interest of all of those people who live in Australia but also very much in the interest of the image which Australia will project in our part of the world and in the world generally. I congratulate the Minister on his appointment. I know his interest in this subject over a very long period and his record of service to the Aborigines Advancement League in Victoria and the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. I am sure that all members of the Parliament wish him well. I congratulate the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), who I understand will have the shadow responsibility in this area for the Opposition.
– In this House only.
– In this House. Given that we have on Our plates a problem with the Torres Strait boundary, which we take very seriously, we are fortunate to have in the House a man such as the honourable member for Kooyong who understands both sides of the question. He understands the views of the people of Papua New Guinea, particularly the people who live near the Torres Strait Islands, and he also has a sympathetic understanding of the wishes of the people who live on those Islands. I welcome the constructive statements that he made tonight.
The aims of the Government have not been well understood. It has suffered as a result of certain restrictions which are placed on any government when it is dealing with a matter which is not entirely within its own powers but which is a matter of international negotiation and also in a federal system, a matter of negotiation between the Commonwealth and the States. The Australian Labor Party in government has been criticised unjustly and unfairly, in Queensland and elsewhere, as having aims and ambitions in this field which it does not have. We realise that there are problems and recognise that the interests of the people in the Torres Strait will be served by a just and fair settlement of all the complex questions involved. I hope to deal briefly with that matter a little later.
The States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Bill, which increases to $21m the appropriation of S 14.5m made by the previous Government, is a recognition by the Commonwealth Government of the continued role of the States in the field of Aboriginal affairs. We have been criticised in various places - probably more so in my home State of Queensland than anywhere else - as being a centralised government and as wanting to take over a matters affecting Aboriginal affairs. This is not the position. The point was made by the honourable member for Kooyong that 5 per cent of Arborigines now live in urban situations. Their needs are serviced substantially by the ordinary services that operate in Australia. Most Aboriginal children will attend State schools. Aboriginal children who are Catholics may attend Catholic parish schools. Aborigines who are sick will go to State hospitals. This Bill is a substantial recognition, early in the first term of the Whitlam Labor Government, as we are increasing the amount of assistance given to the States by 50 per cent, that there is a continuing role tor the States in the field of Aboriginal advancement. In effect, we are saying to the States: ‘We have a role to play, and we are prepared to play that role. But you have a role to play also, and we will assist you to play that role by increasing the amount of assistance given by the previous Government, recognising of course that even what we are doing in this legislation is not enough.’
The Minister, in his second reading speech, spoke about consultation with Aborigines and Islanders. This question also is a complex one. When the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) was Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs consultation was carried out much more effectively than it has been in more recent times. Conferences were held at Townsville and elsewhere, and the legitimate views of Aborigines were sought in quite an honest way. Under the Minister in the McMahon Government the Commonwealth, in its consultations with Aborigines, chose to work through people who were appointed as advisers by the State governments. In Queensland the advisers were councillors from Aboriginal settlements. They represented only a little more than one-third of the Aboriginal and Island population of the State - those Aborigines who actually lived in communities. I do not think that the present Minister or any honourable member would suggest that we have yet developed a perfect consultation system. The recent conference was attended by a group of people whom some of us knew to be interested in Aboriginal affairs or who had played some kind of leadership role. The people who attended that conference were invited, irrespective of political considerations, to try to give a broad ranging representative group of Aborigines the opportunity to tell the Commonwealth the patterns of consultations which should apply in future. I have not yet seen the results of the deliberations of that conference, but I am awaiting them with some interest.
I make the point that, whilst we have noi yet arrived at a satisfactory situation, we have not played politics. I point out that the Minister invited Senator Bonner to attend this conference. That would indicate that the Government regards the issue of Aboriginal advancement as being so important that it is not prepared to play politics in this field. I was pleased that the honourable member for Kooyong supported the idea of better patterns of consultation. It is obvious that the future in this area involves an expanded role for the Commonwealth. This will not happen overnight. It is a matter of gradually expanding the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs and involving Aborigines in the Department, particularly in the field, in making contact with Aboriginal and Island communities, in liaison and so on. The task will not be an easy one for the Minister, for the Secretary of his Department or for other members of the Department. I think that those of us who have been interested in Aboriginal welfare will agree that it is not easy to get the more vociferous Aboriginal spokesmen to work within what might be termed the Public Service structure. The system now seeks people who can go out and find out what needs to be done, and then not merely make a speech about it, send a telegram to a member of Parliament or call a public meeting, but put in writng the aims, aspirations and needs of a particular community or a particular family and convey them to the Minister or to the Department in order that the problems might be looked at and, if possible, solved.
I pay a tribute to what was done under the previous Government. I was always a critic of what was done. I said that it was not enough. I realise that the previous Government had the problem of substantial opposition in its ranks, more particularly in the ranks of the Country Party, to Aboriginal advancement. Given those inhibitions, the previous Government started a number of programs which have been useful and which can be made even more useful. The Labor Party in government is looking at them. Anything that is good will be continued. It may be possible for us to improve some of those programs. We have been concerned, for example, that so little of the money in the Commonwealth Capital Fund for Aboriginal Enterprises has been advanced. We would like to know why. There is obviously a great need to assist Aboriginal enterprises both for individuals and for communities, and by means of incorporation of communities.
I should like to deal with 3 other questions - and I am sorry that the time available 10 me is so short. The first matter is, again, the question of the Torres Strait boundary. When this Government was first elected almost every Premier in Australia, irrespective of their politics, accepted the fact that the people of this country had expressed their will through the ballot box and that a Labor government bad been elected. The most notable exception to this was the Premier of Queensland, Mr Bjelke-Petersen. Mr Bjelke-Petersen, for his own partisan political purposes, has been quite irresponsible in that before half of my colleagues had been returned for the State of Queensland and certainly before my colleague, the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle), had been returned, he was up in the Torres Straits telling people that it was the aim of the Federal Labor Government to hand the Torres Strait Islanders over to the Government of Papua New Guinea.
I think I can fairly say that there is great dissatisfaction in Papua New Guinea at the present boundary. This boundary was imposed in the days of what might be called Queensland colonialism in 1879. But the Queensland maritime boundary that can be seen on the map has never been used to prevent the people of the Torres Straits from having access to the New Guinea coast or, indeed, the people of Papua New Guinea from fishing around the islands of the Torres Straits. If we are to have a boundary in the Torres Straits, it must be a fair boundary. Papua New Guinea is about to gain independence and we cannot impose on Papua New Guinea a colonial boundary which will be a running sore for ail time. In the future there may not be a government in Papua New Guinea as well disposed towards this country as the people who are now in government and who have a recent and continuing recollection of what Australia has tried to do in Papua New Guinea. So it is necessary that we establish a boundary in the Torres Straits between our 2 nations that will stand the test of time. lt is also necessary to have agreements between these 2 nations that will protect the rights of the people of the Torres Straits to live on their own islands, have title to their own land and retain Australian citizenship with all that that means. I do not refer only to social service and repatriation benefits. I would like to make the point that I believe these matters are dealt with too superficially. Some of these people served in the Australian Forces during the Second World War and they regard themselves as Australians no less than people who live in any other part of Australia. We should not discount all those factors and it is our responsibility to protect their interests. While we must maintain for these people such rights as 1 mentioned of retaining their citizenship and living on their islands, we must also consider the rights of the people of Papua New Guinea, given that a continuing continental shelf runs between the 2 nations, to some share in the resources of the seabed. This is a very complex question.
The Commonwealth has not been irresponsible on this matter. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) wrote to the Premier of Queensland on 15th December 1972. I shall read extracts only from this letter. The Prime Minister said, inter alia, that the Government was ‘impressed by the potentialities of the question’ - he was referring to the boundary - ‘as a source of friction between Australia and an emerging Papua New Guinea’, but was also very mindful of the rights and interests of the Torres Strait Islanders’; and was therefore proposing ‘discussions … in January between officials of the Papua New Guinea Government, your Government’ - that is, the Queensland Government - ‘and my Government (including the Office of Aboriginal Affairs)’.
Through the entire period since that time, the Premier of Queensland has sought to convey the impression that the Commonwealth’ Government now is in the real estate business and that we want to transfer the Torres Strait Islands to Papua New Guinea. I should like to make the point that if in the future there is ill will between Australia and Papua New Guinea, the people who stand to suffer most are the people who live in the Torres Strait. It is vitally important that this matter be settled not from a partisan political point of view but by quiet negotiations. I should like to praise the Prime Minister and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) for their restraint in this matter. If I may make a kindly aside at this point, 1 should say the Prime Minister rather than the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, because my colleague and friend has made a couple of passing references to the Premier of Queensland. However, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is correct in saying that the Premier of Queensland has handled this question in an irresponsible and partisan way. Let us all use our influence not to inflame the situation in the Torres Strait but to ensure that we arrive at a solution which is fair to the nation of Papua New Guinea and which protects the interests of the people of the Torres Straits. We are not going to achieve that solution if we try to make local partisan party political capital out of this issue.
I should like to comment on the question of the Queensland settlements because this matter has been referred to in the Press in my State of Queensland. Through this Bill, the Government is assisting various enterprises on the settlements in Queensland. Again, we are not in the business of taking over the settlements in Queensland or anywhere else for the sake of acquiring more real estate for the Commonwealth. As the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs mentioned in his second reading speech, this Government has appointed Mr Justice Woodward to examine the question of land rights in the Northern Territory in order to ascertain how in each individual situation, we can best vest these lands in the hands of the Aboriginal people who live in these communities and reserves. We would hope that, given the fact that the Commonwealth is prepared to provide money to assist in the provision of skilled personnel, governments like the Government of Queensland would play their part in transferring the title to Aboriginal reserves to the people living on them.
May I make one other point about the Premier of Queensland. He has said that the Commonwealth Government wishes to dispossess these people and that we wish to take their land from them. But there is not one family, there is not one person, living on an island in the Torres Straits who has a title to the land on which he lives. If the Premier of Queensland is interested in the people who live in the Torres Straits, let him give them the title to the land on which they have lived from time immemorial. We will not dispute that because these people should have a title. But the title to all of those lands in the Torres Strait is vested with the Director of the Aboriginal and Island Affairs Department in Queensland.
I had hoped to conclude my speech earlier than this, but I should like to make another point. This Bill is a step forward. It makes more money available than did the previous Government. We do not claim any particular virtue for that. We still recognise that it is not enough but more information and consultation is needed before the road ahead can be plotted. But we do see across the north of Australia - we saw this on television the night before last - what has been described as a white backlash. This Government is very conscious of the needs of other needy people in the Australian community. There is before the Parliament legislation dealing with social services. The Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) who was in the chamber a minute ago, is endeavouring to bring down a more generous Commonwealth-State housing agreement. We have patterns of assistance for children who live in isolated areas and who have particular disabilities. We have a particular obligation to the Aboriginal people of Australia because they are a dispossessed people. But we also can help them because they are the most easily identified group of underprivileged people in the Australian community, and all members of this Parliament, irrespective of their party, should support the endeavours of this Government. When in
Opposition, we supported the then government in this area. We never criticised what it was doing except to say that it was not enough. But any of us, for local, partisan, party political gain, could stir up a white backlash.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I should like to take up from where the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) left off. I appreciate what he said in his last few sentences. I believe them to be true. I can say absolutely for myself, and I think I can speak for all members of the Opposition in this, that we shall support all those measures which are directed towards the advancement of the Aboriginal people and their real interests. For myself I say this without qualification. Our aim must not be ,to further the interests of those people who themselves are trying to help Aborigines or to further political interests. It must be to further the interests of the Aborigines themselves.
I support this measure. 1 can assure the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) that any measure which he brings in, which is directed towards the advancement of the. Aboriginal people and which is conceived towards that end will have my personal support. I think we can say, as has been said very generously by the honourable member for Brisbane, that the present Opposition when it was the Government started this program. Perhaps we did not go fast enough, but let it be remembered that the machinery of administration cannot be built up overnight. From year to year we increased very significantly, I think perhaps more than any other item in the Budget, the amount that was spent on Aboriginal advancement. Perhaps it was not “enough, but here again 1 say that administrative difficulties necessarily circumscribed what we could do.
I do not believe that everything that could be done or should be done for Aborigines is material. I think that there are things beyond the material things but I agree and I assert that without the material things we cannot get advancement. So, although I do not believe that objectives can be achieved simply by allocating a few more million dollars, nevertheless I also agree with the Government that the allocation of extra sums will give, the substrata on which the other kind of non-material advancement can be built.
There are terrible difficulties in this whole program, and 1 think that one of the things which probably the Government appreciates but which may not be appreciated outside this House is that all Aborigines are not the same. Indeed, before the white man came, there, was diversity among Aboriginal tribes of quite a considerable character, but today there are 2 poles and between them a spectrum. There are those who are fully assimilated to our way of life; there are those who are still living their traditional and ceremonial life; and between these 2 poles there is a large number of variations. I do not believe that what is proper at one end of the spectrum is necessarily the right thing at the other end of the spectrum. I believe that we have to be tempering our program to different circumstances, and 1 am sure that the Minister appreciates this. I am not so certain that it is always appreciated outside the House. There is, and it is quite natural, a feeling among people in the electorates that Aborigines are like the people they see in their own town or their own city. Of course more than half the Aborigines are like that, but most of the people who cast their votes for members of this House have scarcely ever seen the Aborigines at the other end of the spectrum - the people who are still living in tribal or near tribal conditions. None lives in fully tribal conditions still, but some still live in conditions verging towards tribal and with tribal authority.
I suppose that we can make a rough distinction between the full bloods and the part bloods. I think there are something of the order of 50,000 full bloods in Australia. They are nearly all in the Northern Territory, in north and western Queensland, in the north of Western Australia and in Central Australia, including the northern part of South Australia, but not all these full bloods are living with any traditional ties. I do not know how many would be considered as still having those traditional ties. I might venture a guess and say 25,000 or 30,000. Of the indigenous Aborigines - I do not mean visitors - there are in Victoria probably no full bloods. I think there are 4 or 5 who claim to be full bloods, but there is some doubt about that. In New South Wales I doubt that there are more than 200 full bloods. The people of New South Wales and Victoria, who comprise the majority of the electors of members to this House, do not know really very much about the other end of the spectrum. Perhaps in our programs -I speak of the pressures from outside which I know were brought to bear in the last Government and which I am sure will be brought to bear in this one - too much emphasis has been placed on assimilation and perhaps not enough on helping those who are still in their tribal way of life and would like to maintain their cultural heritage.
I agree entirely with the objectives of this Bill. Housing, employment and health - all these things are important and they should be supported. By themselves, they are probably what is needed in the main for those Aborigines who are nearly assimilated, but they are certainly not enough for those who still maintain the traditional way of life. I am glad that the Minister in his second reading speech put emphasis on consultation. Looking back on Australian history in the last 150 years, but particularly in the last 20 or 30 years, I think our main failure has been that we have not consulted, and much more important than this we have not used, the forms of Aboriginal authority to facilitate the transition into the new way of life which they and all other Australians must face. I know the north of Australia in this regard, and I have seen the Government machinery at work. It has been operated by men who were dedicated and whom you would not want to criticise, but throughout I think there has been too much paternalism and too much reluctance to give to the Aboriginal control over his own destiny. There has been a rubbishing ofall the concepts around which Aboriginal life was built. I am not trying to say that this has anything to do with the Aborigines in Redfern or the Aborigines in Footscray or somewhere like that; it has not. I have no time for those who want to resurrect some kind of phoney traditionalism. But it has a great deal to do with the Aborigines in the north of Australia and the centre of Australia.
These people still have some of their old life and some of their old traditions. If we break this down, as over 150 years we have broken it down over all of Australia, we will end up there with the kind of depressed end product that we know throughout Australia today. I think perhaps this is our fault. It is not that the Aboriginal is a worse person than we are but that he has a different background, and we have destroyed him by rubbishing his background. We have come in and said: ‘Look, all the things by which you lived, all the things you thought valuable, all your beliefs, your ceremonies, your way of life and your skills are nonsense’. This is what we said and because we said it we broke down this coherent structure of Aboriginal life and we got the kind of depressed, hopeless end product which we now find, and which we have to resurrect as best we can, in our cities and in our country towns.
Surely for the few tens of thousands of full bloods who still hold to their traditional way of life there is a better path. Can we not possibly use their authority, use their ways of life, not for something static - no, that cannot be done - but as a means and mechanism to help the transfer over not one generation, perhaps more than one generation, into the way of life of Australians? Harm can be done to these people by doing too much and too quickly. Here there is a conflict - a conflict among Aboriginals themselves - and it is a difficult problem because there is some confusion in their own minds. They will say: Look, we want the advantages of your ways of life, we want medical services,, cars, aeroplanes, roads and one thing and another’. At the same time they say: ‘We want to live by ourselves. What you are trying to do to us is cultural . genocide*. These two things they are saying are in a way incompatible and this is something which makes very difficult the path of any Minister who is really applying himself to the advantage of the Aboriginal people. I speak now of the people in the north and the centre of Australia.
I do not think anybody can underestimate the difficulties, the confusions and the contradictions which must in the nature of things occur in this program, but I think that this simple program is the right program for those Aboriginals who are in the south or nearer to our way of life. For those people I have no reservations. Go forward; there is nothing for that but assimilation. For those in the north perhaps there is a better way.
I turn now to something which is not so pleasant. As a result of what I have observed in the north, particularly in the Northern Territory, I do not think that our present programs are working out successfully. I am speaking perhaps of programs of the past governments - ‘government’s’ in the plural - not just the program of the last 20 years of the Liberal-Country Party Government but programs before then. The traditional Abor iginals of the Northern Territory are being broken down now into an end product situation. Many honourable members saw the television program about Katherine a couple of nights ago concerning what was called the white backlash. Many of the things which were said against the Aboriginals were, in point of fact, true but the general picture behind them was not true. Some of the individual things were true. These complaints were factual. These Aboriginals in Katherine, Tennant Creek and so many other towns are, in fact, facing ruin and disintegration in the way that was shown on that television program. We are failing. Do not let us blame this Government or the past Government. Blame if we will - no, do not blame them too much - the Australian people because our failure is parallel with the failure of other people in other parts of the world who have met this same problem. We are not failing worse than other people have failed in the past, but we are failing.
I suggest that perhaps we use the experiences of the past in Australia and in other parts of the world to save these remnant people in the north and prevent them going through the hell that their brothers in the south went through a hundred years ago. I see happening in the Northern Territory now the same things as happened, as I know, not from my personal experience of course, but from the history books, in the south of Australia a hundred years ago. They are not happening through lack of goodwill. They are happening, I think, through lack of understanding. This is the plea that I would make: When we are thinking of the north of Australia we are not niggardly as to material things but we do not deceive ourselves into thinking that we can just salve our consciences and solve the problem by throwing in a lot of material things and spending a lot of money. Sure, spend the money. Yes, do not stint that where it is called for, but do not let us deceive ourselves into thinking that merely by spending money that is enough.
Honourable members remember Aladdin’s magic lamp , ‘New lamps for old*. The new lamps looked so good; they were so attractive. The only thing they lacked was the magic of the old lamp. We are offering, in a way, Aboriginals in the Northern Territory, new lamps. They look good but they lack the magic of the old lamps which, held in cohesion, ensured the survival of these people through many thousands of years. They are being broken down now. Those things which were said on that television program to a great extent were true. Why were they true? It was not because the Aboriginals are worse people than we are but because they are differently circumstanced and perhaps we have not been, with all our goodwill, sufficiently skilled in knowing how to help them.
– I rise to support the States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Bill of 1973. This Bill validates the undertakings which have been made since the new Government took office. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant), in this second reading speech said:
I believe that the situation in which the Aboriginal people of Australia find themselves is a national disgrace.
This is not only due to Government inaction, it is due also to the fact that the Australian people have not recognised, over the decades, that the Aboriginal people deserved a much better deal than they were getting. I appreciate the remarks ot the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) and I pay tribute to him for what he has done over the years in expressing the sorts of ideas that we have heard him express tonight. I also pay a tribute to the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) and other honourable members opposite. I believe that there is a great deal of goodwill in this matter and that the Parliament can give a lead to the people of Australia. A lead is necessary in this matter. I also pay a tribute to the work which has been done by members of the Labor Party over the years. I have in mind the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross), the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis), the honourable member for Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick), and many other honourable members on both sides of the House.
I pay a special tribute to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant). As honourable members and many people outside the House know, he has given years to the cause of the Aboriginal people in Australia. No place was too far away for him to visit and no time was too inconvenient. He always found time and effort in the cause of the Aboriginal people. He did more than talk; he worked, ft is a great pleasure to me to see him appointed as Minister for Aboriginal
Affairs. He is an old and trusted friend, not only of mine but also of the Aboriginal people. I believe that he will do a great job as Minister. He is a big man and with a big task to perform he needs our support.
This Bill provides an additional $7. 5m for the Aboriginal people. In saying that it is very much needed I do not seek to denigrate the work recently done by the previous Government. In New South Wales an additional $1,030,000 is to be provided; in Victoria $100,000 for special projects; in Queensland $2,910,000; in South Australia $470,000; in Western Australia $2,926,000; and in Tasmania $64,000. A prolonged reading of figures becomes tedious and boring but in a couple of areas we should take cognisance of what is provided; for instance, in the field of health. In Queensland an additional $866,000 is to be expended, partly as follows: $60,000 on food assistance for children under 6 years; $250,000 for child health clinic at Bamaga; $240,000 for water supply and sewerage works at 5 places in Queensland; and $1.55,000 for hospital facilities at Normanton. In Western Australia $500,000 is to be supplied for vehicles, buildings and other centres and doctors’ residences. As the honourable member for Mackellar quite rightly pointed out to the House, more is needed than the expenditure of money, but it is an essential lubricant to assist in providing facilities.
We need to have goodwill but we also need money. The allocations amount to an extra 53 per cent and I am sure that we will get good value for this money. People sometimes assert that money spent on Aboriginal affairs is wasted. From time to time one hears that if Aboriginal people are given more money they will spend it on drink. From the figures I have cited it is clear that most of the expenditure will be on capital works. Honourable members will see from a close study that it is being spent in ways which will add initiatives for the Aboriginal people. It will enable them to produce more and will thus give them a sense of self-respect. This is very important and cannot be over-stressed.
The Minister said in his second reading speech that he calculated that nearly 90 per cent of Aborigines were living in absolute and acute social depression. We cannot allow that to continue. This measure is a first and important step in doing something about it. Various speakers have mentioned tonight that complaints are made in communities with a large number of Aboriginal people. Complaints are made that money is being spent on Aborigines when it ought to be spent for other purposes. It is not a question of competition. It is a question of providing the necessary money for the Aborigines and their advancement. It is also a question of providing additional funds where it can be shown that the funds are needed. I think the House ought to bear this factor in mind in respect of the allocation of funds in any financial year.
The constitutional position is very clear. Some discussion occurred the other night on whether the Government has a mandate for the various things it wishes to do. Taken to an illogical conclusion it could be argued that the Government does not have a mandate for anything, when a point by point examination is made. The Government has a general mandate to govern and that is about where it begins and ends. But on the question of the constitutional rights of the Aboriginal people there is no doubt that the Parliament has absolute and complete constitutional powers and an absolute mandate. About 90 per cent of the Australian people decided that this Parliament ought to make laws for the benefit of the Aboriginal people. There is a long way to go. As I said in my opening remarks, we will need to work together in this field. If we start to criticise one another by saying that the Government is not doing enough or that former governments did not do enough, we will lead ourselves into an intellectual morass. It will be very difficult to extricate ourselves from it. We must make sure that we speak with a united voice in this Parliament and give a united lead to the Australian people because they have given us a mandate.
The Minister referred to land right. When we consider this question we must understand that Aborigines who live in a tribal state have a direct link with the land they occupy. It is part of their spirit world and their very being. That needs to be recognised. It is easy to understand why the early settlers in Australia did not realise that situation. They did not understand that the very rocks and trees on the land have a meaning for the Aboriginal people. Where we can still do something about this I believe we must.
We must consult with the Aboriginal people. We need to talk to them and to train people to talk to them. We need to understand how they think. There is a great need for discussions which involve them. On the question of housing, we need to make sure that the housing is suited to their environment. That does not mean that they are to be given shoddy housing. They need housing which blends with the environment, suits their purposes and allows them to make adjustments if they wish to do so. The amounts provided for special projects in the Bill are a very good way of helping in the urbanised area. As the honourable member for Kooyong pointed out, the Aboriginal people are becoming increasingly urbanised. We need to make sure that if they live in urban areas, and this applies to country towns as well as big cities, they are provided with work. This Bill makes provision for this. We need to give Aboriginal people a sense of achievement. There is great dignity in working. Thank goodness I have never had to suffer being out of work but anybody who has suffered unemployment feels it very deeply. One of the best ways in which we can assist Aboriginal people in urban areas is to make sure that as far as possible unemployment is reduced.
The Minister has said on many occasions that if he does not significantly reduce infant mortality among the Aboriginal people he believes that the Government will stand condemned. I believe from what I have heard about the measures which are being taken, particularly in the field of getting nurses who speak the Aboriginal language to talk to Aboriginal women - here it is again a question not only of money but of approach - that by doing these sorts of things we can reduce very significantly the rate of infant mortality among the Aboriginal people. We need to educate the Australian people as far as racial discrimination is concerned. One of the ways in which we can do this is to recognise that Aboriginal people are distinctive, that they have their rights and that these rights ought to be respected. 1 believe that most members of this House, whether they be supporters of the Government or of the Opposition, would hope for the ideal situation in years to come in which the colour of a person’s skin would be no more a cause for comment than the colour of his eyes. We must do something about discriminatory laws as they affect Aboriginal people. Here it is a question of using the mandate that was given by the Australian people in the 1967 referendum. This House ought to recognise, and 1 believe it does, the right of Aborigines to be a distinctive but not a separate people. We can and we must assist the Aboriginal people.
I again congratulate the Minister on the start which he and the Government have made. I wish him well. I believe he has the support of the vast majority of honourable members. I commend the Bill to the House.
– I rise to support the Bill but in so doing I would like to say to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) how much I have appreciated, as I am sure he has, the speeches that have been made during the debate on this Bill. I think that probably they have been far more thoughtful, or appear to he far more thoughtful, than the speech I am about to make. I say to the Minister in all seriousness that one of the sources of major concern in Australia today is the welfare and the improvement of the lot of the Aborigine. The Minister commenced his second reading speech by saying that he assumed that most members of this Parliament and even members of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party could read. I believe that he was getting off on the wrong foot. That sort of attitude is liable to antagonise men who are. as 1 am sure we all are, dedicated in their efforts to see that the Aborigine gets a fair go. Some of us have been working towards this end for a lot longer than others. But I take the Minister to task for some of the remarks he made, especially since they refer to the area in which I live. I realise that the remarks made by the Minister were probably said in a lighthearted way because I know that he has a good sense and humour as well as a tremendous interest in the big job which he has undertaken. The Minister said that when his colleagues on both sides of the House go to the Northern Territory they should have a look at the Alice Springs airport to start with. The Minister talked about Swimming pools and first class travellers. But it is generally known how far the swimming pool at the Alice Springs airport is away from the nearest Aboriginal settlement?
The Government is constructing an establishment which will cost in excess of S2.5m a mile or so from the area which the Minister spoke about in his second reading speech. I know that the Minister was probably thinking of Amoonguna. But the Minister should not use these barbed shafts in criticising honour able members opposite. We are all trying to go in the same direction. These sorts of comments do not go down very well with the people who live in the north and these people are the ones on whom the Government will have to rely if it is to carry out its policies. These people will be only too interested to assist if they do not get turned off by the sort of remarks and attitudes that we heard from the Minister.
On the subject of roads, the road which runs for 180 miles north-west from Alice Springs to Yuendumu was built for one reason only and that was to go to Yuendumu. The Minister said that municipalities have not built roads. But the previous Government built that road. The Minister knows that this road was built to connect Yuendumu which has a population of 800 to 900 people. We know very well that the Minister realises the immensity of the task before him. We have heard many people say that money is not the answer. Of course, we all know that money has to be used, and it has to be used in big licks. I think that the success of this project depends upon the people whom the Minister can employ or engage to help him and the ability of the Department to do the job which the Minister hopes to do. My advice to the Minister - I hope that the Minister takes it in the spirit in which it is given - is to be very careful of the things he says when he is travelling through this country. After all. he does not live in this part of the country and neither do many of his advisers. Some of his advisers who arrived in the north very recently to our way of thinking in the Northern Territory are not Aborigines. I would ask the Minister to give me a definition of an Aborigine because there is a lot of confusion on this point. Australia is being told what Aborigines want and v/hat they are thinking. I am asking the Minister to weigh all of the evidence very carefully because there ure part coloured people in the Northern Territory who. incidentally, in our part of the world are thought of as Europeans in regard to their behaviour. The Minister will have to weigh his actions very carefully, because this doubt and wondering about what is happening was the reason behind the meeting in Katherine. The purpose of the meeting was not so much concerned with the fact that people were demanding certain things. The Minister was quite within his rights to give the answer that he did. The reason for the meeting - and this will cause many more such meetings - is that those who were seen associating with the Minister and who could be advising him do not have the respect of either the Europeans or Aborigines in that area. I am telling the Minister this because I live in the Northern Territory and I know it to be true.
The Minister is quite right when he states that these problems faced the previous Government. 1 am sure they did. But the ‘Rights for Territorians’ meeting as it was called should have been described as a demand for an inquiry into the running of Aboriginal affairs. I must admit that this feeling was afoot in the term of office of the previous Government. In fact, I think the Northern Territory Legislative Council mooted on more than one occasion a demand for such an inquiry. But to say that this meeting was racist, as it was described in the Press, is not correct. Some of the terms of reference suggested for the proposed inquiry included:
The running of educational, health and job opportunity functions of the Department.
Allocation of funds to the Department and the way it is expended.
Unemployment at various centres of both Aborigines and whites.
Job opportunities for Aboriginals. The committee will inquire into the policy of educating Aboriginals . . without development of industries to employ them.
These are not all the terms of reference given. The people at this meeting did not propose these terms of reference in a racist manner. They are concerned about these problems. They live in the Northern Territory. They came from as far as Booroloola to attend the meeting. Katherine has a population between 2,000 and 3,000 of whom 500 or 600 attended the meeting. That is the equivalent of an attendance of 300,000 or 400,000 people in a capital city. These people are concerned about the present situation. If we allow the attitude of these people to be described in the Press in northern Australia and to be portrayed to the rest of Australia - even to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs - as a racist approach the Minister will find himself on a collision course with them. We cannot afford to have this conflict.
Let us face the fact that the previous Government did a tremendous amount for Aborigines. One has only to proceed from Unakumba to Angurguru, travel across the top end of Arnhem Land and through to the centre to see what people have done and are doing for Aborigines to recognise that what
I say is so. Some of the critics, a number of whom are churchmen, are accused of dividing Aborigines. Men who were officers of a similar department with tremendous experience prior to the Minister assuming his portfolio have been cast aside in the new Department. I do not know how any man with 20 years of experience can be cast aside. Such experience is possessed by Harry Giese. I acknowledge that I had some arguments with him. But I know that these men have some contribution to make. We must all face this problem together.
I ask the Minister to mark well the information and the sources of information which he has. The Bishop of Darwin, J. P. O’Loughlin, has spent 20 years with Aborigines, as have many other churchmen in Australia. These are the people to whom the Minister should be listening. I have a list in my hand. On one side are the names of about 20 people. In that list is the name of Bishop O’Loughlin, together with the names of people of whom the Minister probably has never heard.
– Hand your list in.
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is the man who is getting the advice. I only hope that he takes it. The men on this side of the list are all Europeans. They include doctors, settlement managers, ministers of religion and cattlemen. Honourable members will be pleased to hear that the names include that of one politician. Some honourable members may say that I am a racist because all the names are those of Europeans. However, on the other side is a list of Aborigines. It is headed by Roy Marika, Claude Narjik and others and is just as long as the the list on the other side. There is the name of Pararoultja. whom the Minister knows. I do not know whether the Minister knows Stephen Turner and Bernard Tipoulara. These fellows are leaders of thousands of Aborigines. With the exception of Gus Williams from Hermannsburg, who is part-coloured, these men are all full-blooded Aborigines. Just about every person on the right side of my list is an Aborigine in the proper sense of the word. They are not screaming to have churchmen cut down or screaming in the manner of some part-coloured people who. as the bishop has claimed, have come from the south to try to influence the Aboriginal situation. This is what I am trying to get through to the Minister.
– I am listening.
– -I hope that both the Minister and the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross), who are talking together, are listening. But to be practical, the problem is not one-sided. Bishop 0’Loughlin was quite right when he said that the problems of the people in northern Australia are entirely different from those of part coloured Aborigines living in city suburbs.
Time does not permit me to deal with all of the aspects of this matter. But I should like to mention land rights, which is a practical problem. The Minister knows as well as I do that the area of Aboriginal reserves in the Northern Territory totals 94,000 square miles. The Department which dealt with Aboriginal problems prior to the establishment of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs was busy acquiring land from various people in all areas of Australia. Everard Park, which covers 2,400 square miles, was acquired and returned to the Aborigines. The actions of the former Government were applauded. I am sure that the Minister can obtain the money necessary for land acquisition but he will be very hard put to get the men to do what should be done with this land. Thinking of the areas in question, I ask why the lease of the Yugil Pastoral Company property and other leases have been frozen. The Minister might hear something about that matter later. Included in Aboriginal reserves is 5,200 square miles of land in the Daly River area. This is some of the best country in the Northern Territory. The acquisition of this land is a practical approach to the problem of land rights in which these people are interested. The Minister has to get people and money to help the Aborigines to develop this land. I know that the Minister probably told the Aborigines at Yirrkala that they did not have to work at Gove, that they could sit under a tree and that they could do whatever they wanted. But I do not think that if you went and asked people such as Narjik and Marika and all the others up there they would want to do that. I think they would want to identify themselves with the development of Australia. I think they want to get with it. If some of the older men wish to do this then by all means let them. You can stop them in their tracks if you keep telling them that they do not have to work. Let us face it, work breeds respect - self respect. I think this is something that we have to get through to them. I know that honourable members opposite will say that this is the old fashioned Country Party approach. But if you go to these people and ask them what they want-
– Why is Sir William Gunn selling 7,000 square miles?
– Just be quiet while I finish.
Order! I am certain that the honourable member does not need any assistance.
– The people who are seeking to interject know nothing about the Northern Territory. As I was saying, these people can get tremendous satisfaction and respect and really pull themselves up by their bootstraps in the way that they should. We are prepared to help them. There has not been one cattle man on Haasts Bluff for the last 2 years but. there is a whole crowd of Aborigines up there who are itching to run that place themselves. All they want is a little bit of backing and support. It would need tremendous financial backing. I know that it probably would involve millions. But why go and buy a deserty place like Willowra - and I will tell the owner to his face that it is desert - when there are all those properties in the Territory that you can do something with? Places such as Willowra, Mount Ebenezer and Everard Park are all marginal properties.
– That is all that is left.
– Rubbish. That is complete and utter rubbish for the Minister for the Northern Territory to say that. 1 suggest that he should go to the Northern Territory and find out for himself. He would not know a bull from a bandicoot. I know that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is very sincere. As I have said before, we will be in it to try to help him all the way we can. That is what I am saying to him at this moment but I do not think he is being helped by the Minister for the Northern Territory.
– He is good, actually.
– Yes, he is putting on a good act, that is very true. Mr Minister, I leave you with the thought - and I include the Minister for the Northern Territory in this. Watch the advice that you get.
– I do not think I will bother wasting the limited time that I have in this debate by answering some of the things which the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) has just said. He seems to take the attitude that the people on this side of the House have never seen an Aboriginal before, that we all live deep in the heart of the cities and we see only those people who drift to the cities. This, of course, is not so. 1 do not intend to waste any more of my time on what he had to say.
I rise to support this Bill which was introduced by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant). I would like to congratulate him on his efforts and his concern for the Aboriginal people of Australia since his appointment. I would also take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) on the removal the other day of the discriminatory sections dealing with Aboriginals that existed in the Immigration Act. 1 am of the opinion that that measure and the Bill before the House confirm that the newly elected Government has a conscientious concern for the Aboriginal people and that it fully and unequivocally accepts the responsibility of giving the fullest opportunities to these people who have for so long been discriminated against. I also take this opportunity to recognise the contribution made by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). Although we on this side of the House do not aften agree wilh him I think that those of us who are interested in Aboriginal affairs have recognised that he has shown a concern for Aborigines for some time.
We as a nation cannot look back with any pride on our past attitudes to Aboriginals. At the very best all that could be said is that in some circumstances we adopted paternalistic attitudes. We were prepared to allow the growth of fringe settlements in many of our country towns. We were prepared to close our eyes to the many problems created by those settlements, such as the lack of any semblance of decent housing conditions. There was a complete disregard for the health problems created by such conditions and we failed to meet the educational needs of the children or provide employment opportunities for the adults. That has been our record in the past. One can say, however, that over the last seven or eight years we have been able to see some improvement in the situation and while some effort has been made to make up for past failures the efforts taken were not enough and left much to be desired. We still see many areas where our efforts have only scratched the surface of what needs to be done to rectify all the injustices, the shocking health problems that exist in some areas, the lack of decent housing, the provision of full educational opportunities for the children and also, of course, employment opportunities.
As a member for the South Australian electorate with the greatest Aboriginal population, I hope that I have endeavoured to play my part in seeking to have the general wellbeing of these people improved and whilst realising that all the injustices, inequalities and so on cannot be removed overnight with a wave of a wand. I think it can be said that the most conscientious effort made by any of our State governments was made by the Dunstan Government of South Australia but as the expenditure by the State Governments has in some way been controlled by the money allocated by the Commonwealth Government, I would hope that this Bill will allow the South Australian Government to carry on the work that has been started and. better still, that the Commonwealth itself takes over the full responsibility in doing away with the many problems associated with these people.
One of the progressive moves made in South Australia was the establishment of the Aboriginal Lands Trust which has the responsibility of acquiring land for aboriginal purposes. Of course the members of that Trust are Aboriginals. The establishment of that Trust does not completely solve the problems but at least in that State a start has been made. Althought I have mentioned the great injustices of the past I do recognise that the previous Government did make a number of moves to improve the lot of the Aboriginal people but we on this side always felt that it did not do enough. The constitutional right of the Commonwealth to legislate for the Aboriginal people was established in 1967 in a referendum in which the people of Australia voted overwhelmingly in favour of Commonwealth rights in this field.
The previous Government did set up the Office of Aboriginal Affairs hut it was never given the status of a full Ministry. The previous Government tacked it on to other Ministries, first the Prime Minister’s Department and later, in a reshuffle, it was a part of the Ministry dealing with arts and the environment. We of the Labor Party have for a number of years bad included in our policy provision for the setting up of a separate Ministry. We were strongly of the opinion there was a necessity for a separate Minister, with a full department to back him up in carrying out his duties. In line with this policy, the new Government did set up the separate Ministry and the appointment of the Minister was a recognition of the interest and concern that he has shown over many years in the interests of the Aboriginal people. His actions since his appointment have shown that he has undertaken the tasks confronting his area of responsibility in a manner that does him great credit. He has undertaken a number of journeys to those areas where the problems have been greatest to enable himself to fully understand what his tasks are going to be. He has made a great start in his decisions and perhaps mention can be made of some of these decisions. One such decision is embodied in the Bill. On the question of Aboriginal land rights he has recognised the need for a more rational and sympathetic approach to this question. He has appointed Mr Justice Woodward Q.C. as an Aboriginal land rights commissioner to make a report on the best means of achieving the Government’s aims in this area, and, in doing so, the Government is only falling into line with what has been done in a number of other countries which have had to face the injustices that have been done to their indigenous people. It is a move in contrast to the activities of the previous Government.
It is the intention to ensure that in all matters connected with these questions, there will he the fullest consultation with the people involved. This has not been the case completely in the past, where decisions have often been made without regard to what the people themselves felt that they wanted. The Government has taken steps to provide additional finance in an effort to overcome the lag in housing. Whilst the previous Government did make finance available for Aboriginal housing, our greatest criticism has been that the amount was absolutely inadequate and did not overcome the shortage that was growing year by year. This Bill certainly recognises this grave problem and we have pledged to take positive steps in an endeavour to overcome this lag. In my own State of South Australia the amount to be allocated for housing under this Bill is being increased by 100 per cent. Efforts are being made to provide finance so that special projects can be carried out in areas where no employment opportunities existed before. This has special relevance to my particular area and should give assistance to the North West Aboriginal Reserve in South Australia. Work opportunities in this area have been very scarce. I know from personal experience on a visit to the area a few months ago that some work had been provided under the rural unemployment scheme, but the amount of work being provided is likely to be reduced due to shortage of finance. I hope that the extra grant to South Australia will provide an opportunity for continuity of work in these areas. The Government also hopes to provide work of such a nature as to provide job training and responsibility, which should make a positive approach in this sphere as the finance allocated for this special project work has been directed to the areas where the problem of Aboriginal employment is most acute.
On the important question of Aboriginal health, the Government has accepted the responsibility of leaving no stone unturned to get to grips with this grave problem. The urgency is emphasised when we see the figures for infant mortality. It is the intention of the Government to make a major effort in this area not only to reduce greatly the shocking infant mortality rates but also to attack many of the chronic diseases that affect many of the Aboriginal people. (Quorum formed). I da not think the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) did the honourable members on his side a great favour by calling that quorum. In my own area covering the Northwest Aboriginal Reserve, the South Australian Government has recently taken steps to reorganise health services. We certainly hope that, coupled with the benefits available from this Bill, great inroads can be made into the overall health problem.
The Bill increases the amount available to carry out these projects by an extra $7m over the allocation in the last Budget. Whilst the Minister realises, as I think we all realise, that all the problems in this field will not be solved overnight by the extra money provided, a positive contribution has been made. The extra $7m has been allocated as follows: Housing $2,484,000; health S 1,440,000; education $510,000; special work projects $2,555,000; and regional projects $511,000. This figure represents a 50 per cent increase in finance made available in this area. Although this increase will not completely change the position to what it should be, it shows that the Government is making every endeavour to give extra effect to the decision of the Australian people in 1967 in the referendum to give the Commonwealth the right to legislate on matters affecting the Aboriginal people.
I would like to refer again to the matter of housing. Many Aboriginals are still living in their traditional ways of life in remote areas. This type of living may not have been the cause of health problems when the people were completely nomadic and moved from hunting ground to hunting ground, but this traditional way of life has now been drastically altered. The people in the more remote areas are now grouped around settlements on reserves and missions, and as a result they have lost some of their mobility. In this situation I believe that the traditional type of dwelling made of spinifex in itself creates a health hazard. Many of the people have not liked to move into the normal European type house, so there is a great need for a transitional type of house that allows these people to maintain their traditional ways but also provides accommodation that greatly reduces any health hazard. (Quorum formed). There have been experiments in prototypes of this type of housing, one of which was carried out by the previous Government at the Finke in the Northern Territory. While 1 have not personally seen these buildings I have been shown photographs. They were designed to allow for sleeping under the stars and also for outside cooking of such things as kangaroos, lt would be interesting to know whether these types of dwellings have been a success and whether they have been accepted by the people.
At the Ernabella Presbyterian mission in South Australia one enterprising Aborigine was making dwellings using 6 inch or 8 inch gauge wire mesh as the frame. Various types of material were used to cover the frame which, from memory, measured 12 feet to 14 feet in diameter. I think the amount he was charging his fellow Aborigines was about $18 a frame. At the same place there is also si housing society operating which erects more of a European type house, and it has been able to complete several of these with the assistance of the mission staff. On this trip I was accompanied by the honourable member for
Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick) and the Minister for the Capital Territory and the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby) who was then the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory. At Amata further westward we saw 3 other types of the transitional types of dwelling made by the Aboriginals themselves. The local Aboriginal council was most enthusiastic in its efforts to get us to have a look at these dwellings. Obviously they were quite proud of them. One was a smaller version of the Nissen hut, another was a shed about 15 feet square, and the third was again about the same size but it had another innovation in that the roof was hinged in the centre which allowed the ends of the roof to be raised to allow air to flow through. All had wooden floors. They were certainly proud of their efforts and they Impressed the 3 of us as being a very proud and dignified people not spoilt by some of the bad ways of the white people.
I am sure that the Minister is fully aware of the needs in this area and will continue to see that efforts are made to provide transitional housing in the more remote areas in a manner suitable to the Aboriginal people. In the latter part of last year the previous Government took over Everard Park station in the Everard Ranges in the north of South Australia. I hope that this will be developed as an Aboriginal property. It is something that is unique. Groups of Aboriginal people were placed on this station. I certainly hope that the property will be developed to the full so that they can make the most of it. Also it is in an area where the people have strong traditional ties and where every hill has some sacred significance for them. I hope that we do not allow this area to be destroyed.
In conclusion I would again congratulate the Minister for the drive and enthusiasm he has shown since his appointment to the Ministry, and also on the introduction of his first major Bill. We hope that before many years are out we will have been able to right the many wrongs, the injustices and the discriminations that the Aboriginal people have suffered in the past and that we can look forward to a future when there is no need for Bills to come before this House dealing specifically with matters affecting the Aboriginal people.
– 1 rise to support this Bill. In passing I want to draw attention to some of the problems of the partAboriginal people living in my electorate and then to deal with some of the philosophies surrounding Aboriginal advancement. The Gwydir electorate has a relatively high population of part Aborigines but very few full bloods. There is not the slightest doubt that the majority of Aborignes are living at a standard well below that of the average European Australian, but many of the. Aborigines or part Aborigines who are living in my electorate have good jobs, are Jiving with dignity and are highly respected citizens in the electorate. For too long their great social and economic problems have been ignored. It is fair to say that in New South Wales since 1965 greater efforts than ever before have been made by the present Liberal-Country Party Government to advance the Aborigines. Assistance from the Commonwealth Government has been filtering through to help the State, handle a legacy of neglect by past generations and past governments. I do not blame any particular political party, government, individual or group of individuals for this legacy. Until recent years there was a lack of social conscience so far as Aborigines were concerned.
As the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) knows, there is a problem at Wee Waa among Aborigines who are mostly itinerant workers on the cotton fields. Since, the cotton industry provides itinerant workers with employment which lasts for only a short period each year, there is a special problem in respect of adequate housing, health and hygiene among the itinerant workers. Over the past 3 or 4 years the cotton industry has required an increasing number of itinerant workers for chipping, and the accommodation problem came to a head this year. I have, made representations both to the State Minister for Youth and Community Services and to my friend and colleague the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs for help in providing more adequate facilities for these people. I take the opportunity to thank the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs for his cooperative and sympathetic attitude to this very difficult problem. The cotton growers have been subjected to a lot of unfair criticism, but they are conscious of the problem. I have had discussions with them and with other people in the district. They are doing their best to improve conditions generally.
Both the New South Wales and Commonwealth governments have moved to help to improve the working and living conditions of the itinerant workers, most of whom are Aborigines. Approximately $100,000 has been granted already to improve the camping areas and health facilities. I understand that the people concerned do not want expensive housing. They do not want to have to pay high rents because the job opportunities last for only a short time each year. They want decent shelter, water and power while they are employed for a short time. In Wee Waa the local people met the Aboriginal spokesmen and formed an Aboriginal Advancement Committee late last year. The Committee is representative of all sections of the community, including well known cotton growers who want to see the Aborigines helped and given decent conditions which will allow them to live with at least some sense of dignity and to work under conditions that are acceptable to them. No government agency can do as much, in a real sense, as local community organisations working at the grass roots of the local problem. These organisations require the support, co-operation and financial assistance of the Commonwealth Government. I am delighted that the Commonwealth Government, through the Minister, has seen fit to support them.
Moree, my home town, has an acute housing problem for the local Aborigines. After the February 1971 flood about 20 families were moved from the low lying areas surrounding Moree to what is called the Mehi Crescent and were provided with emergency accommodation in caravans, and 16 of those 20 caravans are still providing shelter for approximately 110 Aborigines - more than 30 adults and 80 children. These people have been living under disgraceful conditions, awaiting the provision of housing. The situation has caused the New South Wales Government and those of us who know the conditions considerable concern. I have made representations to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and he has assisted the New South Wales Government in making available funds to provide 17 new houses for these people in this year’s program. Five are to be built by the New South Wales Housing Commission and 12 are to be purchased by the Department of Youth and Community Services. Six houses are currently being acquired and are with the Crown Solicitor for settlement. The Other 6 are the subject of negotiations between the Valuer-General and the owners.
The problem does not end there. More and more funds will be required to provide an increasing population of Aborigines and part Aborigines in this area with adequate housing on an annual basis and to provide more health facilities, adequate pre-school facilities and so on. There has been a rapid integration of the Aboriginal population into the Moree community in the past, few years. However, a number of families want homes built in their old settlement areas. I believe that they should be given a choice as to whether they want to integrate into the town community. I pay a tribute to the Sisters of Charity at the Pope Pius Mission who, for the past few years, have been providing pre-schooling for more than 100 children and a health clinic for those children. The doctors in the town are providing honorary services to the children.
Moree has an active community based Aboriginal Advancement Association which is keeping in close contact with the people and the problems that exist there. There is a great desire on the part of the community to do something about the problem. The benefit that has been flowing to the children who have been attending the Pope Pius Mission has become evident in the infant and primary schools during the past 2 or 3 years. The children have a far better chance of completing their high school education than wouk have been the case, say, 10 years ago. Therefore they will have a better chance of securing better jobs, earning higher wages and living in better conditions than those in which their fathers and mothers lived. 1 could mention some of the other problems at the various centres in the electorate, but 1 will discuss them privately with the Minister in the near future.
I turn now to the general problems facing our community and the philosophical approach to meeting the problems in the broad sense. It is not surprising that so many people are concerned about the enormous social problems facing Aborigines and part Aborigines. To some extent, the Aboriginal case is confused by State and Federal jurisdictions, by political pressures, by differing ideological approaches and by guilt and emotional reactions arising from the knowledge that the Aboriginal was the original inhabitant of tin’s continent. The Gove judgment, which did not accept Aboriginal sovereignty over the Gove Peninsula, has given rise to land rights claims based on moral justice. Since the Gove case there has been a campaign to grant land to Aboriginal groups based on traditional association with the land. There are strong demands from militant groups of Aborigines and their supporters for financial compensation amounting to $6 billion and a percentage of the gross national product per annum to compensate their race for occupancy of land which they claim once belonged to their ancestors and which is now owned by white Australians. This claim, of course, goes against the Blackburn judgment which held that all title to land in Australia must be based on a system of Crown grants. Unfortunately, the comparative developments of the Australian of European descent since settlement and of the Australian Aborigine have so widely differed that the ugly contrast should shake our conscience. The Australian of European descent has continued to advance in both the sociological sense and the economic sense while the Aborigine has been left behind somewhat shattered, demoralised and in a sense dispossessed.
For too long we have in our development and progress ignored the problems facing the Aborigine. The fact that he has remained as a fringe dweller, dwelling on the fringe of our society in both an economic and a social sense until recent times is proof of this. The events of history cannot be reversed. No matter how strongly one may work for the Aboriginal cause, one cannot ignore the fact that the Aborigines cannot be isolated from the total Australian community. They must live within the Australian society and according to the laws of the land while at the same time practising their own religious, cultural and traditional beliefs if they so desire. They can and should be allowed to choose the pace at which they become part of the total Australian society.
However, this hypothesis raises 2 fundamental questions, the first being: Should there be separate development of the Aborigine based on race rather than on need? The second question is: Should there be one law for the Australian Aboriginal and another for other Australians? The 2 questions have been the cause of some debate and give rise to some uncertainty as to what policies we should pursue in order to advance the Aboriginal cause. Indeed, the Woodward Commission will face these fundamental questions when finally determining a recommendation to the Government. While we should ensure that the Aborigine has the choice to preserve his culture and traditions and the choice of remaining within his own society or moving out from it, I do not support the concept of long-term separate development with one law and code for the Australian Aboriginal and another for other Australians. 1 do not want to see our country divided in 2.
For too long, the complex problems of the Aboriginal people living in a European society have not been fully appreciated or understood. For too long some anthropologists and academics have been inclined to think of them as a source of curiosity and academic study rather than appreciating the real need to advance the people socially so that they can take their rightful place within the Australian society, if they so desire. As a recognition of the Aboriginal affinity with land the then Prime Minister announced in January last year that the Government would spend $13m over the next 5 years in purchasing land outside the reserves for Aboriginal groups throughout Australia.
In the Northern Territory there are approximately 95,000 square miles of reserves sei aside for the purpose of Aborigines. That comprises one-fifth of the Northern Territory. Over 100 leases were approved while 1 was Minister for the Interior - leases ranging from pastoral leases to special purposes leases to housing purposes leases. The pastoral leases included Roper River, Bulum and Daly River, a total of 6,000 square miles. I understand that this Government has frozen a considerable number of those leases that I had approved but which had not been finally granted. The former Government tailored a special purpose lease designed to suit the diverse needs of an Aboriginal community to meet their commercial, recreational and ceremonial requirements on reserves in the Northern Territory. There is no earthly use saying that the Aborigines in the Northern Territory did not accept the principle of the leasehold tenure. The fact that they themselves made an application for these leases indicated clearly enough that they were happy to accept land under the same laws and codes that applied to the Australian people generally. What was more important was that on land boards that determined the applications for those leases the Government appointed 2 Aborigines out of the 5 board members so that the Aborigines themselves were making a decision and taking part in the decision itself.
The Government has now established the Woodward Commiission to inquire into land rights of Aborigines in the Northern Territory. As the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said yesterday, the policy when finally determined will be made the basis of Commonwealth actions in the States. So, a whole new policy of land tenure is in the offing. I agree with the Prime Minister that if the Government introduces new measures or new tenures or titles for the Aborigines in the Northern Territory this principle must also be applied to the States. There is no justice at all in making one law for the Northern Territory Aborigines and another for dispossessed Aborigines in the States. Indeed, the Aborigines or part Aborigines, many of whom live in deplorable circumstances in Sydney and in other capital cities have less land available to them than those in the Northern Territory. For instance, in New South Wales there are only 20 square miles of reserves whereas in the Northern Territory there are 95,000 square miles where the Aborigines have the right to roam, to hunt and to forage over the total area.
I agree with the logic that if a new and special land title is to be formulated to suit the Northern Territory Aborigine on traditional grounds, the same policy must apply in the States. However I wish to conclude by drawing attention to 2 sentences the Prime Minister used yesterday when replying to a question I directed to him. I shall quote the 2 significant phrases from his answer. He said: . . non-alienable non-transferable rights vested in the Aborigines in respect of the land which they have traditionally occupied.
His second phrase was: . . the Commonwealth will exercise its constitutional powers if need be by way of acquisition of these Aboriginal reserves and other relevant lands to which the Aborigines can reasonably claim title.
These statements raise several questions. How does one define an Aborigine? Do part Aborigines have equal claim to land on traditional grounds? How does a part Aborigine establish his claim to traditional land ownership? If the land is non-transferable under a proposed new title, does this mean that a full blood or a part Aborigine, once having obtained that land outside the reserve has no power to sell his land?
If the land has no sale value, what security in terms of capital value has he or his community? Such a title virtually renders his land valueless in a society where the Aboriginal is becoming increasingly involved in a cash economy. I believe that these questions need to be answered and I hope the Woodward Commission will take them into account. I thank the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs for his co-operation and I look forward to working with him in the future.
Debate (on motion by Mr FitzPatrick) adjourned.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Repatriation Bill 1973
Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Bill 1973
Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Bill 1973
Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill 1973
Interim Forces Benefits 1973
Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1973
Australian Capital Territory Representation Bill 1973
Northern Territory (Administration) Bill 1973
Waterside Labour - Fruit Growing Industry - Telephone Services - Decentralisation - VIP Flight Facility: Use by Members of Parliament
Motion (by Mr Bryant) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to raise once again the question of the implications of the change in the guaranteed minimum wage levied in non-permanent ports by the Association of Employees of Waterside Labour. This question was raised in the adjournment debate last Tuesday week. During that debate the Minister for Labour put some facts before the House which I feel should be clarified at this point. I advised the Minister’s office this afternoon that I proposed to raise this question once again in the hope that he might be present this evening. Unfortunately it appears that he will not come. The problem as it relates to Queensland ports is particularly important, because under the previously existing arrangements a uniform levy of 40c per man hour on labour working in ports all round Australia was imposed for the purpose of paying the minimum guaranteed wage to waterside workers in every port in Australia.
The levy prior to the change was 40c per man hour. A change was made in this levy by the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour on5th March. That change was made to impose a higher levy on smaller ports and those ports which are generally what may be described as decentralised in country areas. The ones to which I draw attention tonight are the ports of Cairns and Mackay, both of which were mentioned by the Minister for Labour as being ports whose very existence would be jeopardised by the new rates. As I have said, the old rate was 40c per man hour, and it applied throughout the whole of Australia. Under the new scheme of things the port of Cairns is paying $1.50 per man hour, which is an increase of something like 200 per cent; the levy on the port of Mackay has been increased to $1 per man hour, which is an increase of something like 150 per cent. One does not have to be a mathematical genius to realise that this will impose considerable economic strains on the users of those ports, and the users of those ports are generally those engaged in primary exports in Cairns and Mackay.
In his speech on Tuesday evening of last week the Minister for Labour incorporated in Hansard some letters which passed between him and the relevant Association of Employers. The Minister’s letter which appears in Hansard was dated 23rd February 1973. In that letter he invited the Association to say what changes if any it thought should be made in the basis on which the stevedoring industry charge is levied. He invited it to submit its comments no later than 31st July 1973. The reply which the Minister received was dated 2nd March, and in that reply the Association said that a considerable amount of work had been done on the fourth point raised by the Minister, which was the question of replacing the levy, and would be considered when a further report and recommendations on funding were presented at its meeting the following week. That letter, I repeat, was dated 2nd March 1973. The change was made by the Association on 5th March 1973, some few days after the letter was sent to the Minister.
In his speech on Tuesday evening of last week the Minister said that he had not been consulted about the change, that he did not have any prior knowledge of it at all. He expressed concern, particularly about the 2 ports in Queensland about which I am speaking tonight - the ports of Mackay and of Cairns. In his speech he said that the future of 5 ports, including the 2 I have mentioned, are clearly jeopardised. He went on to say that these ports provide a vital service to the hinterland in their region. He said also that he proposed to write the next day to the body concerned to see what could be done about it. I see that the Minister is now in the House, and I hope he will take the opportunity on the adjournment debate to inform the House of the steps he has taken and whether in fact he wrote the letter the day following the adjournment debate on Tuesday evening of last week and, if so, what progress he has made in returning the status quo of a uniform levy for ports throughout Australia. It would be too late, I suggest, to allow the matter to run on until 31st July this year. If changes are to be made the status quo should be restored until those changes have been properly investigated and discussed by the appropriate people concerned. This is a matter of vital importance if a system of decentralised ports is to be maintained. It is particularly important for Queensland, because with our long coastline we have many valuable ports, many ports on whose development many millions of dollars have been spent. To allow them to go by the board because of this change in the levy would, in my submission, be criminal.
– I am sorry I was not here at the beginning of the speech by the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke), but if the first part of it was anything like the last part I am glad I was not here, lt was a concoction of fabrication, it represented just a miserable, petty attempt to try to get. political capital out of a situation that ought to be regarded as far above party political considerations.
We are greatly concerned about the future of the ports affected by the change in the levy which guarantees a minimum wage for waterside labour, and it ill becomes the honourable gentleman to come into the Parliament and try to make political capital out of the misfortune that the people in these ports are facing. lt ill becomes him, a new member, to come into this Parliament and talk about what is happening in the stevedoring industry as though the present Government is responsible for what is happening. If he did not know more about the stevedoring industry than that, he should not have nominated for his seat, lt is quite clear that he knows nothing about the industry and he is the last person therefore who ought to stand up on his 2 hind legs and talk about it. Whatever is wrong with the stevedoring industry today can be sheeted fairly and squarely to the doorstep of the former Government.
– Naturally; I agree with the honourable member. He is as intelligent as he looks. He is able to see that if there is anything wrong with the industry it must be the fault of the former Government because the present Government did not make the law. What is this nonsense and all this miserable bleating about things that are wrong in the stevedoring industry?
– Did you write the letter last week?
– Would you mind your own business?
– You said you would.
– I will come to what 1 did last week if you would just contain yourself for a while and try to act like a member of Parliament instead of like some yahoo from Queensland. 1 apologise for that.
-Order! The Minister will use proper parliamentary language.
– I am sorry. The former Government, when it was given an opportunity to put these ports into a satisfactory financial state, refused point blank to do it. It deliberately set about normalising, as it said, the industry. Its idea of normalising the industry was to phase out of existence the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority altogether as quickly as it could and to phase out the ports of Portland, Cairns and Mackay.
– That is not true.
– The honourable member for Wannon, who will no doubt get up later and have something to say about Portland, was the Minister in the Cabinet who sat silent while the Cabinet decided to destroy the port of Portland.
– Mr Speaker-
– Sit down.
– May I direct a point of order to you, Mr Speaker. Even on the adjournment and even after the time when broadcasting of the proceedings of the House has ceased, is it appropriate for the Minister in this place to make statements which he knows to be completely and utterly false?
-Order! The honourable member is entitled to make a personal explanation on this point afterwards if he wishes.
– The honourable member knows perfectly well that he was part of the Government that committed a deliberate legislative act that had the effect of destroying the port of Portland and which had the effect of destroying all the other ports I mentioned last week on the ground that they were not viable. The honourable member for Wannon is the last person who ought to talk about it, because he represents the electorate which takes in the port of Portland. Yet he is the co-author of the present disaster that is facing the port of Portland. I have examined this matter in great depth and I discover that it is useless to write to the employers because the employers are only doing in effect what the existing legislation forces them to do.
I knew nothing about the employers’ intention to increase the charges when I wrote to them on 2nd March. It was not not until Sth March that anybody knew about it. The inquiries that I made convinced me that it is not a matter entirely in the hands of the employers to correct. It cannot be corrected at all unless we alter the legislation which brought about the disaster. That is the only way to do it. I know from the material that I have now at my disposal that the previous Government deliberately set out to close down some of the smaller ports because, it said, they were not viable and could not be sustained. Members opposite know that is so. They are the guilty men and, in particular, the honourable member for Wannon is the guilty man. He sat idly by. He thought far more of grabbing his ministerial salary and putting his big fat posterior on the back seat of a black car.
-Order! The Minister will withdraw that remark.
– I am sorry, Mr Speaker.
-Order! The Minister will withdraw the remark.
– Of course 1 withdraw the remark.
– The Minister has so insulted the House that there are few members from his side in the chamber. There are 20 of our members and 10 of his so I draw attention to the state of the House.
– Ring the bells. (Quorum formed)
– As well as being primarily responsible for the condition of the smaller ports, the parties which sit opposite have to take full responsibility for what is happening. This is happening under the law they made, not under the law this Government has made. There is another reason why the smaller ports - in particular the port of Portland - are dying on their feet, if that is an apt term to use in relation to a port. The reason is the excessive harbour dues which the Victorian Liberal-Country Party Government is imposing upon the people who have to use the port of Portland. So here we have a combination of excessive harbour dues imposed by the Victorian Liberal and Country Party Government coupled with a deliberate attempt by the former Federal Liberal and Country Party Government to destroy all of the smaller ports.
I think I should now announce that far from doing nothing about the matter I have called for a full-scale inquiry into the future of these ports. I have arranged for one of the most eminent authorities on the stevedoring industry in Australia to visit Portland - Mr Norman Foster. Honourable members opposite can laugh their empty heads off if they like but Norman Foster knows more about the stevedoring industry than any person who has ever sat in this Parliament. I have arranged for Norman Foster to be sent by my Department to make a full investigation of this matter. If the situation is cured, as I hope will be the case, it will be entirely due to the fact that this Government has seen fit to amend the legislation which the former Government introduced, and which brought about the demise of the ports, and to repudiate all of the things that the honourable member for Wannon and his Liberal and Country Party cohorts did during the 23 years they were in ofice. They are the guilty men. The right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) who is smiling knows perfectly well that I have put my finger right on the nerve centre of the real complaint.
– I think you put your tongue in the wrong place. You always do.
– The right honourable member is in the wrong place and is not permitted to interject from that seat. That is the position. The Government will be making an announcement shortly on what it intends to do about this matter, but the real villains of the piece are the members who sit opposite.
– The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) has made an entirely political speech in response to a reasonable and calmly put view by the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke) who is concerned for a number of northern ports, lt is interesting to note that the Labor members who represent some of those ports have not shown any concern or interest at all. The speech of the Minister for Labour was full of falsehood. Lel me indicate just one Falsehood. He said that trade through the port of Portland had been dying and that the port is dying as a result of the Victorian Government’s action and my action. This is utterly false. Let the figures speak for themselves. In 1967-68 the total tonnage through the port was 330,000 tons; in the next year, 473,000 tons: in (he next year, 609,000 tons; in the next year 842,000 tons and in the following year 922.000 tons. This is the record of expansion of the port. The Minister not only insults the honourable member for Petrie and other members of this House, he also insults the Portland Harbour Trust Commissioners who have done a magnificent job as have the harbours trust commissioners for the small ports around Australia in expanding and attempting, very often successfully, to decentralise trade.
The Minister for Labour said that the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour has acted in a way that is contrary to the philosophy of the Stevedoring Industry Charges Act - they are bis own words - under which the levies on account of long service leave, attendance money and so on are collected. These again are his own words. He said: ‘Contrary to the philosophy of the Act’. The Minister for Labour has made it perfectly plain in this Parliament on more than one occasion- this is the third - that he is not prepared to apply the philosophy of that Act. One might well wonder why. Only one thing would be necessary to achieve a resolution of this particular problem and that would be a request by the Minister for Labour of the Commonwealth Government, backed by the support of his city-based Party, to members of the AEWL to come to a conference in Canberra - to tell the AEWL that what it has done is contrary to the policies of the Government, contrary to the transport interests of Australia .and contrary to the avowed objectives, which this Government will not support but nevertheless avowed objectives, to pursue decentralisation throughout Australia. That is all that this great Minister for Labour would have to do to achieve a successful conclusion of this particular matter. Amend the Act! The Minister has said that what has been done is contrary to the philosophy of the Act. This appears in Hansard of 6th March of this year.
Other factors are associated with this particular case. A meeting was held in Portland a short while ago. As a result the Portland Harbour Trust is contacting other port authorities around the Australian coast. The ports affected are all showing very grave concern. The second resolution passed at this meeting was that there be a direct request of the Minister for Labour to act immediately for a reversal of the AEWL decision and adoption again of a uniform levy. This, the Minister for Labour will not do. He does not need to collect any facts about this particular matter. The facts are known. He does not have to send Normie Foster, a defeated candidate from this Parliament, to Portland. The rules that the AEWL has made - let me give one example - will completely destroy the bagged wheat trade through Portland. Under the new arrangements which the AEWL have endorsed and which the Minister apparently condones there will be an additional levy of over $7,000 for 5,000 tons of cargo through Portland and a levy of under $200 for the same cargo through Geelong. Under those circumstances a complete centralisation of trade is inevitable. The third resolution passed at Portland was that if the Minister was unable to achieve a reversal of the AEWL decision he should convene a meeting of all interested parties - the port authorities, the AEWL, the Commonwealth and State Governments and Mr Roberts Dunstan, the Victorian Minister for Works. They would all be present to argue the matter out.
One of the interesting matters is that these 3 resolutions for action were agreed unanimously between the Portland Harbour Trust, Portland Development Committee, Portland Town Council, the Hon. Roberts Dunstan, Victorian Minister for Works, Clive Mitchell, Country Party member for the Western Province, myself, and also Mr W. J. Lewis, the Labor Party member for Portland and Mr E. J. Lewis, the Labor Party member for
Dundas. There was unanimous recognition at the meeting that it was a matter for resolution between the Commonwealth Minister for Labour and the AEWL. Two Labor members in the Victorian Parliament agreed that the responsibility lay on the shoulders of the Federal Minister for Labour.
All that the Minister for Labour can do is say that it is the result of something that occurred in 1969. If that is so, it is strange that this changed method of levying was not introduced before 1973. It was introduced only when this particular Minister for Labour assumed office in a Labor Government. He has admitted that it is contrary to the philosophy of the Stevedoring Industry Charges Act. That alone gives the lie to his charge that the change is the result of something that we might have done in 1969. The responsibility is his.
The request has been put to him through me from the Portland Harbour Trust and all those who were represented at the meeting to which I referred that he immediately contact the AEWL and express the Government’s view that it wishes to support the decentralisation of sea transport and a return to the old position. When this matter was raised in a debate on the motion to adjourn the House on 6th March the Minister said that he would be writing again to the authorities concerned. He made great play of tabling letters that were not really relevant to this situation. If he had written again to Mr Craig of the AEWL I believe that he would have tabled that particular letter. Unless the Minister is prepared to rise and affirm that he has again written to Mr Craig expressing a view on this matter, I am not prepared to believe that he has so written.
– You did not listen to what I said.
– I listened to your abuse of honourable members on this side of the House. I listened to your abuse of members who have a genuine point to put. It is interesting to note that in this Parliament the Minister for Labour has played the game lower than any other member of Parliament in the period of almost 19 years that I have been here. He would not argue. He will not answer reasonable and rational arguments put by the honourable member for Petrie who is concerned about the effect of these changes on the decentralised ports of
Queensland which depend for their trade and livelihood upon their continued operation as ports. Instead he chose to attack the integrity, attitudes and motives of the honourable member for Petrie. In those circumstances the Minister for Labour can expect no particular sympathy from this side of the House. This sort of attitude he has exhibited in answering in this debate is the kind of attitude he has displayed over a long period in this Parliament. One hoped that having at last achieved Ministerial office he would behave more like a Minister and less like the kind of person he has shown himself to be through many years in the House.
– 1 am starting to see the secret documents now.
– Secret documents? He has his own pimp service, as the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) revealed earlier today. He is using this for personal motives in a way that, is utterly unscrupulous and utterly foreign to the traditions of the Australian Parliament or any British Parliament. The Minister said many things that are completely untrue. I could describe them only in terms that would, earn me your disapproval, Mr Speaker, and would probably have me thrown out of the Parliament. I will leave that to a later occasion.
– The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has just resumed his seat on a note of high dudgeon. He talked about respect for honourable members and other people. Before I come to the subject on which I rose to speak I want to say a few words in defence of Mr Norman Foster, a former colleague of ours who served with distinction in this Parliament and was honourably defeated at the last election. I might say that he was not given an appointment in the way that defeated members of the Liberal Party have been given appointments. He served his country with more distinction than most other members I know. He was not appointed as an ambassador at 3 times his present salary, or as an administrator or to some such position. He is serving in a very humble but dedicated capacity and I am sure that he will do a fine job for his country in peace as he did in war and as he did in this Parliament.
– How much did he get?
– Not as much as your people appointed to high positions. I have no quarrel with that, but I would like a little consistency from honourable members opposite, remembering their record of patronage over almost 24 years. This morning the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) in a personal explanation claimed to have been misrepresented in regard to statements associated with his handling of payments to canning fruit growers in my electorate of Riverina in New South Wales who supplied last year the Leeton Co-operative Cannery.’ I sent a message to the honourable member for New England and gave him just as much notice as he gave me this morning but I received in reply a rather cryptic note which stated: ‘Mr Sinclair has gone home’. I wish him well.
The burden of the honourable member’s complaint was that the honourable member for Riverina and the growers have misunderstood, or more specifically misrepresented, what he had said and what he had done as Minister for Primary Industry. I think it is important that the background to the situation be known. The last Government made certain pledges to pay canning fruit growers who were not paid for fruit delivered in the 1972 fruit season. In November last year certain arrangements were entered into by the New South Wales Government, the Leeton Cooperative Cannery and the Federal Government regarding payments to canning fruit growers for fruit delivered in 1972. When Mr Sinclair was Minister for Primary Industry he wrote to me in a letter, the date of which I will not state as it might embarrass him, the following:
In a separate letter of today’s dale 1 have referred to the steps that have been taken to provide loans to co-operative canneries through State governments to enable the canneries to accelerate their payments to growers on 1972 fruit. The Commonwealth last week provided some $781,000 to the New South Wales Government for this purpose. A condition of the loan is that all funds provided must be passed to growers in cash for their retention.
I want to stress that these arrangements were made in November. This followed 2 effective currency revaluations in December 1971 and May 1972. For ease of reference I will call them the McMahon Government revaluations. So they had been taken previously. These particular arrangements in relation to currency were known and recognised by November when an agreement was made to pay the canning fruit growers in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area for fruit delivered in 1972, to the extent of 85 per cent.
On taking office we found on auditing the nation’s books that there was no reference to, no provision for and certainly no money to pay any compensation for the 2 McMahon Government revaluations. So the agreement in November was based on the fact that at that time no compensation was contemplated. The Federal Government was therefore concerned particularly to enter into an agreement knowing full well that there was to be no compensation. Of course, this was entered into with the 2 other parties concerned. So we have this November agreement under which the growers concerned have been paid $500,000 of the $781,000 that was mentioned before the election. The moneys paid represented 64 per cent of the value of the fruit delivered, not 85 per cent as referred to by the former Minister in letters and in previous correspondence. But the fact that I wish to make is this: The statements by the then Minister for Primary Industry before the Federal election misled the growers and indeed misled the honourable member for Riverina. The Minister said that he was misunderstood and misrepresented.
Let me just place on record the last statement of the former Minister, made in my electorate, in which he spent, incidentally, 2 weeks during the last Federal election compaign. Let us have a look at his last words on this subject. Let us go to 4 o’clock on Thursday afternoon, 30th November - 2 days before the election. The editor of the newspaper in the Griffith district, the ‘Area News’, rang the then Government’s campaign headquarters. He spoke to the then Minister’s Press secretary. This was such an important and vital statement to all the growers concerned that the editor rang back to check the statement. The then Minister agreed with the editor of the newspaper as to the facts of the release. So let us look at what the then Minister actually said, which was so good and so important that the editor put it on the front page with a magnificent heading: Christmas bonus to canning fruit growers’. I point out that the growers concerned had received only 64 per cent of what was owing to them. We are talking here about the balance -the $281,000 - that had gone to the New South Wales Treasury and which the growers desperately wanted before Christmas. So the statement that was made on Friday 1st December, the day before the election, was a vital statement. The statement read:
The Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Ian Sinclair, announced in Griffith this afternoon that NSW had agreed to the offer by the Commonwealth Government to help canning fruit growers of the MIA to receive some of the money owing to them for their delivery last season. Mr Sinclair said: ‘I had a telephone conversation today with the NSW Minister for Agriculture about the basis of payment to these growers’.
As a result of those talks agreement has been reached on the basis of payment of up to 85 per cent of the proceeds of fruit delivered to the cannery at Leeton’.
As soon as the amounts involved have been supplied by the cannery to the State Government and then passed on to the Commonwealth payment will be made’.
So wc have the position that the growers were promised $281,000, as were the banks, the produce stores and the local businessmen. In fact, on the strength of it they have entered into commitments that amount to about $500,000. But this amount was not paid. I might say that I was concerned that it should be paid. I took the then Minister and the then Government at their face value and I said surely to goodness they can get it paid.
When later I mentioned this matter to the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) he said that of course that must be all red tape; get it paid. But on taking office it took us 3 months of conferring with the Treasurer and the Minister for Primary Industry to find out what had happened. The key to it all was contained in the personal explanation made by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) this morning when he referred to the reservations which made it impossible for the growers to receive $281,000. Indeed we now find that they could never have received under that agreement more than $30,000 and the indications are that under the agreement that he entered into they will receive nothing at all.
This is quite a disaster in terms of credit. These people borrowed against the promise and the promise fell to the ground. I must say tonight that the growers were misled; the honourable member for Riverina was misled; businessmen were misled; all the banks and the entire area were misled. Perhaps it is that we are just too simple to understand the convolutions of the last Government. I want to tell the House tonight that the Treasurer (Mr Crean) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) have authorised me to say that they have to find help to remedy the situation and some help will be forthcoming. But let me make it clear to the House that we are all suffering from this situation. I think that the last words within 24 hours of voting condemn the then Minister and the then Government for in fact letting a situation arise in which so many people were misled to their detriment and hardship. I am glad to say that we will be doing something to retrieve the situation.
– Before talking on the subject 1 wish to deal with tonight I would like to refer to the remarks made by speakers on the Government side, firstly in relation to what was said by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) about the AEWL. I believe that it is significantly influenced by overseas shipping interests, which include container groups which are dedicated to the centralisation of transport. It seems very strange to me that the Minister for Labour is so unwilling to countermand a decision by overseas interests. Also 1 wish to refer to the remarks of the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) who talked about jobs for the boys. I draw his attention to one Senator Armstrong, who for some miserable pittance was appointed High Commissioner to London. I think we know also of a number of other cases of former members of this place being appointed to jobs in which they are far better financially rewarded than they were when they were members of Parliament.
The subject on which 1 wish to speak tonight is the Labor Party’s promises at the last election. I want to point out to the House how those promises are not turning out at the moment. The first promise I refer to concerns the Social Services Bill which was passed recently by this House. I refer to that section of the Bill which provides an increase in the unemployment benefit paid to young people between 16 and 21 years of age. The Government made a great point of mentioning that these junior people would be entitled to unemployment benefits if jobs were not suitable to their peculiar or particular vocation. I would draw the attention of the Minister for Labour, who is not in the chamber at the moment, to a comment he made in the ‘West Australian’ on 23rd November 1972 when he said that the Labor Party would introduce extensive retraining schemes for school leavers who could not find jobs. He went on to say that unemployment benefits would be suspended for those who refused to take part in such schemes. This seems to be a contradiction of the apparent policy that we heard propounded during the debate on the Social Services Bill.
The Minister for Labour made another statement in which he said that the Labor Party would implement the recommendation that centres nominated for accelerated development would be recognised for telephone charging purposes as extensions to the metropolitan areas whereby rentals would be equated and calls between these places and the capitals charged as local calls. In view of the long tirade we have had from the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen) on the extreme loss factor of the Post Office and the enormous cost of putting one telephone somewhere in the country, it is hard to relate how the Labor Party will carry out its promise to the electors and cut its Post Office costs by introducing telephone facilities in country areas at the same rate as applies in metropolitan areas. I certainly would like to see this done as Bendigo is one of the areas that has been selected by the Victorian Government at least for accelerated development. A common rate for telephone calls would be a marvellous thing for decentralisation. This proposition is contained in one of the platforms of the Labor Party. The Party keeps saying that it will carry out this promise. But the Postmaster-General has indicated that he cannot possibly see how this can be done. I do not think we will see it happen. 1 turn now to the business of transport. Here we see some interesting things. The Labor Party made a promise that it would make grants to urban public transport authorities - I stress the word ‘public’ - on condition that they provide free off-peak travel. This subsidy was to be paid at the rate of $3 per annum per head of population in the 6 State capitals and in provincial centres which provide public transport. This promise was just another gimmick to get the voters in. Very few, if any, provincial centres have public transport; they now have private transport. I cannot see this Government providing private transport with any subsidy whatsoever. If it does, it will certainly be doing something positive for decentralisation. This Government is centralising, not decentralising. It has no intention of doing anything about decentralisation. Further proof that this is so is found in the promise that the Department of Transport will undertake a S276m program to improve public transport in Melbourne. The program has been outlined by the Victorian State Government to the Federal Bureau of Transport Economics. The Government has also promised to carry out a S324m program to improve Sydney’s public transport system. What about decentralisation? What about spending a few of those millions of dollars in the country areas to encourage industries to establish themselves there. The Government should do something positive for Australia instead of airing a lot of unnecessary words which will not bring it credit when the next election is held.
– We will win Bendigo back.
– You have no hope of winning Bendigo.
– Keep politics out of it.
– At least I do not have to get my instructions from a member of a union, as some of the honourable members on the other side of the House do. During the election campaign we made promises about decentralisation which we would have kept. But this Government has no intention whatsoever of encouraging any form of decentralisation. The points that I have made in respect of transport and telephone services prove that the actions of this Government will retard decentralisation. When its present term of office expires, the Government will find that the people of Australia, particularly the people of Victoria, will remove it from office because it will not have kept a fraction of the promises that the Labor Party put forward in the election campaign.
- Mr Speaker, today His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh, unveiled a memorial to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Royal Australian Air Force. It is appropriate, therefore, that the House should give some consideration to the operations of No. 34 Squadron, the transport wing of the RAAF. Honourable members will be aware that a senator of this Parliament was unable to travel on an aircraft of this squadron last weekend with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) because the name of that senator did not appear on the passenger list for that flight. This occurred even though the area covered by the flight was one in which this senator normally operates and is part of the area of his State which he specifically represents. This senator is a dedicated member of this Parliament and, on at least 2 occasions, he has undertaken tours of the area visited by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to meet bis constituents and to see their problems at first hand so that he may represent them in this Parliament
It appears to me that on the whole question of the use of what is incorrectly described as the VIP Flight this Parliament has become subservient to outside opinion. Let me go over the history of this matter. In 1967, a question was asked in this Parliament - I think by a member of the Australian Democratic Labor Party - about the use of so-called VIP aircraft. I say that these aircraft are erroneously called VIP aircraft because that description does not give a true picture of the operation whatsoever. That term also gives a false impression of the use to which these aircraft are put. But the question was asked and the matter was debated. There was much ado about nothing for a long period. The question involved was one of credibility and was not related to the use of the aircraft.
Unfortunately, the Press took up the cudgels and other events occurred. The debate continued for a long period and the Parliament became supersensitive about the VIP aircraft issue. The position has arisen now that this great tool that is available to members of this Parliament is not being used as it should. The use of these aircraft is not being viewed in its proper perspective. Ministers and members of this Parliament are not putting the available resources to the best use. The Press makes a great deal of play about junkets. Let me say that I do not believe that any member of this Parliament who must travel as much as most members do or who travels as far as a number of members must and who lives away from home as often and as long as members do would necessarily elect to travel somewhere simply because this method of transport was available to that destination. Normally, members of this Parliament are dedicated people who learn bv what they see. In this respect, I wish to quote from the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment which inquired into the environmental conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait islanders and the preservation of their sacred sites. That report states:
The Committee has spent 3 weeks in the field on visits to the Northern Territory and Western Australia and has found these field trips of inestimable value. They have contributed enormously to our appreciation of the rich cultural heritage of the Aborigines and to our understanding of their traditional relationships with the land and the physical features of the countryside around them.
I am quite sure that that statement reflects an example of the type of education that members of Parliament receive when they are able to travel to different areas as members of standing, joint or select parliamentary committees. I would suggest that, when any Minister undertakes a tour of this nature - it could be a visit by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs or any other Minister - it is quite competent and should be the order of the day for one ot two members of the Opposition and of the Government who are particularly interested in those matters that the Minister is going to see to travel with the Minister. lt would do Ministers, members and their respective officers good, I think, to look at the problems faced by those honourable members who travel to this Parliament from South Australia and, particularly, Western Australia. Any honourable member who has been to Western Australia, who has travelled from Perth to Melbourne on the aircraft that leaves at 12.45 a.m. and arrives at Tullamarine at 5.30 a.m. and who then has been required to wait a further 2 hours to catch an aircraft to fly to Canberra must realise that this journey is no great pleasure. A number of members of Parliament must undertake this journey many times when Parliament is sitting. lt seems to me that No. 34 Squadron could be used to transport members of Parliament who live long distances from Canberra to and from their respective States so that so much of their time is not taken up in travelling. One could argue that, if seats are available on commercial flights to and from the respective States, those seats should be used. But I have travelled to Western Australia and I have seen passengers put off aircraft because not enough room is available for ordinary commuters. Obviously, on occasions when members of Parliament are travelling, insufficient seats are available for the number of persons who wish to travel on the aircraft. It seems to me that we ought to make better use of this squadron. 1 can find in Hansard one reference only to the cost of operating No. 34 Squadron. In this respect the amount of $450,000 was given on 25th October 1967. I am unable to say whether this was the total cost of the operation of this wing for the financial year in question or whether this was the cost of the actual flights that were made by it in transporting members of this Parliament. I would be most interested to know what happens to the personnel and flight crews of No. 34 Squadron when their services are not required to transport members of this Parliament, His Excellency the Governor-General or distinguished visitors from overseas.
I think that it is time for this Parliament to take an objective view of this squadron. The fact that a senator who spends as much time on parliamentary duties as the honourable senator in question does was not given permission to travel on this flight last week-end in his own area of activity is an absolute indictment of the attitude adopted to these aircraft. The rules governing the use of these aircraft should be amended so that No. 34 Squadron is put to better use.
– Order! It being 11 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House, the House stands adjourned until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 27th March 1973.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Trans-Australia Airlines: Western Australian Passenger and Freight Services (Question No. 178)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Age Pensions: Cost of New Rates (Question No. 207)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It will not be possible to prepare reliable estimates of the additional cost of paying age pensions to all persons in individual age groups, who are qualified by residence, until such time as the full effects of the liberalisations to the means test made in September last, are known. It is anticipated that sufficient information will become available during the next few weeks for preliminary estimates to be prepared and the Honourable Member will then be fully informed.
Flood Damage at Seymour (Question No. 256)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Papua New Guinea: Self-Go vernment and Independence (Question No. 112)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
On 8th January 1973 at a Press conference in Port Moresby I said:
Since that time the Prime Minister and I have had discussions with the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea. The Government’s policy regarding independence was stated in the Governor-General’s speech on 27th February in the following terms:
My Government will move with all due speed towards the creation of an independent, united Papua New Guinea. It proposes to achieve this in the closest consultation with the Government and House of Assembly of Papua New Guinea within the life of this Parliament.’
Ministerial Air Travel: Cost (Question No 140)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Provision is made for the cost of domestic air travel by Ministers under the voles of the Department of Services and Property; for the cost of international air travel by Ministers and their personal staffs and for travel by VIP aircraft under the votes of my Department; and for the cost of domestic air travel of Ministerial staffs and both domestic and international air travel by Departmental staff under the separate votes of the individual Departments concerned.
Funds already allocated under these votes for estimated expenditure during the 1972-73 financial year were under the scrutiny of Parliament when the 1972-73 Appropriation Acts were passed in October 1972.
Revised estimates of expenditure under all votes where expenditure is expected to exceed the funds appropriated by the 1972-73 Appropriation Acts will be presented to Parliament in Appropriation Bills during the current Autumn Session.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Commonwealth undertook to provide additional assistance grants totalling SI Om, their purpose being to help those areas which had been adversely affected by drought and economic conditions and. in particular, to stimulate home-building activity.
The Loan Council agreed to increase the borrowing programmes of smaller State authorities for 1957-58 by $6m. 4-5th March 1959
New Commonwealth Aid Roads arrangements, to replace those which were to expire <m 30th June 1959 and to apply over the period 1959-60 to 1963- 64, were announced. 1516th February 1962
The Commonwealth undertook to provide additional assistance grants totalling S20m to the States in 1962-63 for expenditure on employment-giving activities.
The Loan Council agreed that the borrowing programmes of the States and of their authorities for 1962-63 should both be increased by $15m. It was also agreed that smaller State authorities should each be permitted to borrow an additional $200,000 in the remainder of 1962-63. 14th February 1963
The Commonwealth undertook, to provide additional assistance grants totalling $10m to the States in 1962-63 for expenditure on employmentgiving activities, these grants being in addition to the grants totalling $25m for the same purpose agreed upon at the June 1962 Premiers’ Conference, i.oan Council meeting.
The Loan Council agreed to increase the States’ works and housing programmes for 1962-63 by $10m and the borrowing programmes for larger State authorities for 1962-63 by $12m, including a special allocation of $2m to Queensland. It also agreed that smaller State authorities should .be permitted to borrow in excess of $200,000 in 1962-63, provided the excess was included in borrowings against the programs for larger authorities.
The main features of new Commonwealth Aid Roads grants arrangements, to replace those which were to expire on 30th June 1964 and to apply over the period 1964-65 to 1968-69, were agreed upon. 16rh February 1967
It was agreed that the formula used to calculate the financial assistance grants would be altered so as to reduce the time-lag before increases in average wages were reflected in the grants - specifically, the increase in average wages used in calculating the financial assistance grants for 1966-67 and subsequent years would be that for the 12 months ended March in the year of payment instead of that for the 12 months immediately preceding the year of payment. This change had the effect of increasing the financial assistance grants by approximately $6.8m in 1966-67.
The Commonwealth also agreed to pay special revenue assistance of $Sm to the States in 1966-67. 1314th March 1969
New Commonwealth Aid Roads arrangements, to replace those which were to expire on 30th June 1969 and to apply over the period 1969-70 to 1973- 74, were announced.
The Commonwealth undertook to provide special revenue assistance of $12m to the States in 1968-69. 26th February 1970
The Commonwealth outlined, in general terms, its proposals on the new general revenue grants arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States which should replace those which had applied over the period 1965-66 to 1969-70. The details of these proposals .were settled at the June 1970 Premiers’ Conference.
The Commonwealth confirmed an undertaking given at the November 1969 Premiers’ Conference that, in the event of States’ receipts duties being found invalid by the High Court in some or all respects, it would introduce legislation to impose a like tax for the benefit of the States. 4th February 1971
The Commonwealth agreed to meet the States again in April to discuss their financial positions. (At the April Conference, the Commonwealth agreed to provide additional revenue assistance of $43m in
Nth February 1972
The Commonwealth undertook to provide special revenue assistance of $15m to the States in 1971-72, this being in addition to special assistance for the year agreed at the June 1971 Premiers’ Conference.
The Commonwealth announced that it would provide a special loan of $17. 5m to New South Wales in
The Commonwealth also undertook to increase the monthly rate of payment of grants for the relief of non-metropolitan unemployment, resulting in an increase of $1 1.25m in these grants in 1971-72.
The Loin Council agreed that the State works and housing programs for 1971-72 should be increased by $32m.
The Loan Council also agreed to an increase of $10m in the borrowing programs of larger State authorities for 1971-72.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Currency Changes: Effect on Woodsreef Mines Limited (Question No. 253)
asked the Minister for Minerals and Energy, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) Woodsreef Mines Limited has informed me that recent currency changes have resulted in difficulties in arranging finance for the company’s expansion program and that without expansion the Barraba operation would no longer be financially, viable.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 March 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19730315_reps_28_hor82/>.