28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 2 p.m., and read prayers.
– A petition has been lodged by Mr Lynch as follows and a copy will be referred to the appropriate Minister:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of The House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of certain citizens of various faiths (electors of the Division of Flinders) respectfully sheweth:
That citizens of this Division place great value on the sanctity of human life, and on the physical, mental, and social welfare of mothers and children;
That we are deeply concerned at proposals in the community to alter the law to allow the termination of pregnancy for non-medical reasons; and
That extension of the law to allow abortion on demand is completely unacceptable to the people of this Commonwealth.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will not extend the laws governing abortion and will uphold the right to life of the unborn child.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Is lt a fact, as alleged on the television program ‘Federal File’, that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation representative for the interdepartmental meeting on 2nd March is not a public servant? Is it a fact that a public servant must be charged in writing, has a right to reply in writing, has a right to appeal and has the right to representation by counsel? Is it a fact that the ASIO officer concerned has none of these rights? Has the Government deliberately chosen the ASIO representative as the most convenient scapegoat to hide the Government’s own duplicity in this affair?
– The answer to the first question is that I do not know. The answer to the second question is yes and to the third question, 1 would hope so. I forget what the fourth question was.
– Is the Minister for Services and Property aware of the proposals introduced in the New South Wales Parliament last night by the Liberal-Country Party Government in order to allow yet a further redistribution of State electoral boundaries? Is it a fact there has been a redistribution of electoral boundaries in New South Wales before each of the last 2 State general elections? Is it also a fact that this further proposed redistribution is to be undertaken in spite of a statutory provision that no such action may be taken until 1’975? What effect will a Liberal-Country Party gerrymander in New South Wales have on the democratic proposals of the Australian Government to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act in order to achieve electoral reform by giving, as far as practicable, every citizen a vote of equal value?
– The answer to the first question is yes; to the second question, yes; and to the third question, also yes. If I may elaborate, for the benefit of the honourable member, I anticipated a question of this nature today because when the Liberal-Country Party Government in New South Wales is perpetuating one of the greatest gerrymanders of all time I think it appropriate that the nation should know about it. I understand that last night in the New South Wales Parliament - I mention this in view of legislation pending here - at 9.15 the Government introduced a Bill, used its numbers with brute force, as it were, suspended Standing Orders and forced all stages of the Bill through the Parliament within 3 hours. At the time the Bill was introduced members were not able to obtain a copy of the Bill for the second reading stage. The Bill provides also, in defiance of the Act, to have a redistribution of boundaries in a 4-year period instead of a 6-year period as is laid down. Furthermore, it increases from 15 per cent to 20 per cent the margin of disparity in electorates. I might say also that this is the fourth time since 1965 inclusive that the State Government has had an electoral gerrymander.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. As I understand it, questions are directed to Ministers in relation to the administration of their departments. I put very strongly, Sir, that gerrymanders or otherwise in New South Wales have nothing to do with the administration of the honourable gentleman now on his feet.
– Order! There is no point of order involved. The Minister may answer the question. How he decides to answer it is a matter for himself.
– Does that mean that the honourable gentleman is responsible for gerrymanders having regard to his own Bill?
– I can understand the concern of the honourable member for Bradfield because he formerly occupied a position amongst the people whom I am criticising at this time.
– On the point of order, Mr Speaker, I submit that there was a point of order. I cannot have it said and I will not have it said that there was not a point of order.
– Mr Speaker, I insist on my point of order.
– Mr Speaker, I insist upon it.
-Order! I rule that there is no-
– Mr Speaker, I will not resume my seat until this point of order is resolved.
– Order! I am saying that there is no point of order involved. A Minister is entitled to answer a question as he sees fit.
– He is not entitled, Sir, to answer a question in relation to a matter that has nothing to do with the administration of his Department and, Sir, I will not resume my seat.
– 1 am not prepared, Sir, to resume my seat.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I will not resume my seat.
-I will quote the standing order.
– Certainly, Mr Speaker, but I will not resume my seat.
-It is standing order 142. Is the honourable member defying the Chair?
– Mr Speaker, I am insisting that I have put a proper point of order.
-I will quote the standing order.
– And I am asking you to rule upon it.
-Order! I will quote the standing order when the honourable member has resumed his seat.
– I will not resume my seat until the point of order is resolved.
-Order! I think the honourable gentleman has been here long enough to know that when the Speaker gives a ruling any member who has taken a point of order, or a Minister in respect of whom a point of order has been taken, must resume his seat until a ruling is given. I ask the honourable member whether he will resume his seat. (Mr Turner having resumed his seat) -
– This point is covered by standing order 142, which states:
Questions may be put to a Minister relating to public affairs with which he is officially connected, to proceedings pending in the House, or to any matter of administration for which he is responsible.
– Mr Speaker, on the point of order which has been taken by the honourable member for Bradfield I submit that the question that has been posed to the Minister is totally outside of his direct control. I remind the House, so that it will be very much aware of them, of the provisions of standing order 142, which states:
Questions may be put to a Minister relating to public affairs with which he is officially connected, to proceedings pending in the House, or to any matter of administration for which he is responsible.
The standing order is in 3 parts, the first of which refers to questions ‘relating to public affairs with which he is officially connected’. I submit that the Minister for Services and Property is in no way officially connected with the matter to which he is intending to refer in his response in this House. The standing order refers secondly to proceedings pending in the House. I submit that no proceedings are pending in this House at this stage in respect of the matter to which the honourable gentleman is replying at this stage. The standing order refers thirdly to ‘any matter of administration for which he is responsible.’ I submit again on behalf of the Opposition parties that the Minister is not responsible for the administration of this matter. I further suggest that if the ruling is continued it is contemptuous of the forms of this Parliament and contrary to longstanding tradition.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker-
– I wish to move dissent from your ruling.
-Order! A point of order has been taken.
– My point of order is that the Commonwealth Electoral Act provides for joint rolls with the State Acts. In addition to that, the subdivisional boundaries of the State electorates have to be taken into consideration in the drawing up of Federal boundaries. Furthermore, the officials of my Department are being compromised by the infamous practices of the New South Wales LiberalCountry Party Government. We have to work in conjunction with the State Government in compiling the rolls, and in every way we are intermingled in this matter, and consequently this matter is not only something that is under my administration to a great extent but it is also something for which I am jointly responsible with the State people concerned.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. The Minister said that the subdivisions and State boundaries were something that had to be taken into account in a Federal redistribution. In the legislation which he introduced and the legislation which has been in existence for a very long period of time, as I recall, there is no mention of taking into account the actual boundaries of electorates within States.
– On a further point of order, in view of the embarrassment caused to honourable members opposite by this disclosure, that finishes my answer to the question.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that several weeks ago the Queensland Premier requested the Australian Government, through the office of the Prime Minister, to join the Queensland Government in a matching grant of 40 per cent for the Gold Coast City Council to assist that Council to restore, stabilise and protect Gold Coast beaches and properties as recommended by the Delft report, at a cost of approximately $14m over 5 years? I further ask: Has a decision been made yet? If so, what is the decision and the reasons for it; and if not, when will a decision be made?
– The Premier of Queensland wrote to me on this matter a couple of months ago. I discussed it with him in Brisbane on 23rd March. I have not made a decision on the matter but as the Premier, I believe, gathered from our conversation, and as I think I remember his saying in a Press report, I would not be holding out any hopes for this proposal. The situation on the Gold Coast is not singular. It has happened in many parts, particularly tourist areas, of Australia. It does seem from my layman’s point of view that the local government authorities on the Gold Coast, as in many other tourist areas, have been quite improvident in allowing development on sand dunes and in other areas too close to the beach, and there has been consequent damage to properties and loss of amenities. Any decision by the Commonwealth to assist on the basis proposed - I think it was 2-2-1, Commonweal th-State-local government - would set a precedent having very great ramifications.
– The Minis ter for Services and Property (Mr Daly) sat down and said he would not continue to answer an earlier question with regard to which I had raised a point of order. Mr Speaker, the matter still stands in the record of Hansard as an answer which you allowed. Sir, I wish to dissent from that ruling and not to leave it in Hansard as it stands, because I believe that the time has come when irrelevant answers by Ministers must be curbed. Mr Speaker, I move:
That the ruling be dissented from.
– You will have to put it in writing. (The motion having been submitted in writing) -
- Mr Speaker, I move:
That this House dissents from Mr Speaker’s ruling to the effect that the reply of the Minister for Services and Property was in order when he canvassed a redistribution of electorates in New South Wales contrary to the provisions of standing order 142.
Standing order 142 reads as follows:
Questions may be put to a Minister relating to public affairs with which he is officially connected, to proceedings pending in the House, or to any matter of administration for which he is responsible.
This is not a matter - plainly, obviously and beyond question - for which the Minister for Services and Property is responsible in the course of his administration. He has nothing to do with the redistribution of electorates in New South Wales. I do not think I need say very much in support of this motion. For too long we have heard long and irrelevant answers to questions and this has to stop.
– It happened under the last Government.
– What did Ministers in the last Government do?
– I do not mind what the last Government did. Mr Speaker is here to uphold the Standing Orders. If wrong rulings were given in the past it is for the present Speaker to ensure that correct rulings are given now. It does not follow that because wrong rulings were given in the past they should be followed for ever afterwards. Time and again in the courts decisions have been made which were bad decisions and subsequently they have been reviewed. This happened time and again. You, Mr Speaker, stand in no different position.
– Why did you sit quietly all those years? Why didn’t you object before?
– Somebody asked why I have not objected before. I have always objected to the way this Parliament was conducted whether I was on the government side or this side of the House. I object once again to the way this House is being prostituted. I need say nothing more in support of my motion. My motion stands. Mr Speaker, you have only to read standing order 142 in connection with the answer that the Minister has given to realise that the answer was completely out of order.
– Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
– Do your reserve your right to speak?
– I reserve my right to speak.
– The Opposition seems determined not to ask questions this session and, of course, far be it from me to take away from that right. However, I must take a few moments to reply to a very distinguished member of this Parliament. After all he has been in this Parliament for almost 20 years and was in the State Parliament for15 years. When a member such as the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) rises with such indignation at my protest against a gerrymander why should I not answer him in some way by speaking to the motion before the Parliament. The honourable member has moved dissent from your ruling, Mr Speaker, in relation to standing order 142. Standing order 142 says:
Does the honourable member say that I have no responsibility in connection with State officials in my administration of the Commonwealth Electoral Act? Does he not realise that the States compile joint electoral rolls with the Commonwealth, the major part of the cost of which the Commonwealth bears? Does he not know that the boundaries of State electorates come within the concern of redistribution commissioners appointed under the Commonwealth Electoral Act? Does he know that I am responsible, once I walk out of it, for the malapportionment in State electorates if I let matters like this go unchallenged?
In every way my Department is very much concerned with this matter. I have just signed an agreement with the Western Australian Government on joint rolls. So why do State electoral boundaries not come within my concern? Why am I not entitled to have a question of that nature asked? The honourable member for Bradfield, who raised this matter with all his great forthrightness and justice, now sits as idle and as silent as can be over the greatest gerrymander that, as he knows, has ever been put on in New South Wales. Why does not the honourable member stand up and have a go at those who destroy every democratic principle in Australia? Why sit there and bubble and burst over what the Country Party is doing in New South Wales but say nothing about it? After 35 years in Parliament the honourable member, with righteous indignation, stands up and tries to say that I have nothing to do with electoral boundaries.
Mr Speaker, your judgment was wise and sound. If it was not the honourable member for Bradfield who moved this motion, I would say that this was just another attempt to disrupt the proceedings of this Parliament. That is why I will not take a lot of time in speaking to the motion. But I defy any honourable member to study the Commonwealth Act and the State Acts and to prove that I am not closely connected with the administration of State electoral matters as well as Federal electoral matters. I do not have the Act with me, but I can say that subdivisional boundaries have to be taken into consideration. The plot in New South Wales, to which the honourable member offers no objection, is sponsored by the Country Party in its desperation to destroy one vote one value, to keep electorates malapportioned and in every way to perpetuate in this country the most undemocratic processes. I am worried about the honourable member for Bradfield. He is almost desperate today with indignation. He is roused; he is fuming. If I did not know that he is a man of sober habits and good intent, I would think that something had stung him. The motion of dissent has been moved in a fit of pique because I have unveiled for the public what was done in the New South Wales Parliament last night-
– And how it was done.
– And how the Liberal and Country Parties pushed the legislation through. In the dead of night the Liberal and Country parties got to work in New South Wales. In the dead of night they drew up new electoral boundaries. They gagged everybody who tried to speak. They want nobody to know what went on in the darkness of the night in Macquarie Street. The honourable member for Bradfield does not worry about what was done in the dead of night in Macquarie Street. In years gone by he was there when it was being done but he did not know that it was happening. Now that I have revealed the situation he has woken up to what goes on in the place whence he came and he wants to do something about it in this Parliament. Far be it for me to take up the time of the House during question time, other than to reply to the honourable member and to say that I would like him as a lawyer to prove to me that this matter is not within the compass of my portfolio. In addition, if he cannot present a better defence than he has presented this afternoon in respect of this matter, then certainly I would not want to be defended by him in a court of law. Mr Speaker, I support your ruling. It is wise. It shows a true spirit of democracy and it is in keeping with the highest traditions of this Parliament and the great men who have occupied your position before you.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. In the speech which the Minister for Services and Property just made I caught the words ‘If I did not know that he is a person of sober habits . . .’ I did not catch the rest, but I presume it was that he would suppose that I had been drinking-
Government supporters - No.
– … or that I was out of my mind. Very well. I deeply resent an implication of this kind. I think I am known, not only in this House but also outside it, as one who has always been concerned about upholding the dignity of this House and the proper means of carrying on its business. To have an aspersion of this kind cast upon me is something which I deeply resent.
-Order! I can assure the honourable gentleman that no aspersion was cast.
– I am glad to hear it.
– Absolutely none. I heard every word that was said.
. In fact it is a matter of regret that this House today should be treated to an unseemly spectacle of a type we have seen too often during the course of recent weeks. I believe that without any shadow of doubt this spectacle has arisen today because of a ruling which was wrong, which was an abuse of question time and which is contrary to the precedents of this House and which we believe to be-
– That is rubbish.
– Well, the honourable member can say it is rubbish.
– Who set the precedents?
– The honourable member asked who set the precedents. I will be very happy to tell him, because, for the honourable gentleman’s information, the simple fact is that during the early weeks of this session the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and other Ministers have turned question time into a farce. There could be no more cogent example of what I am saying than what has happened in relation to the question which I posed to the Prime Minister today. My question was:
Is it a fact, as alleged on ‘Federal File’ that the ASIO representative at the interdepartmental meeting on 2nd March is not a public servant?
-Order! What the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is now referring to has nothing to do with the motion that he seconded, which expresses dissent from my ruling in regard to what was said by the Minister for Services and Property.
– This debate is taking place in the context of a charge by the Opposition parties that question time has been turned into a farce. What the honourable member for Bradfield has said is utterly correct. It is true that we sit here day after day listening to Ministers who answer their own questions and not those that are posed by members on this side of the House. It may well be that the Government has a number of matters that it would seek to conceal. But, as the honourable member for Bradfield has made crystal clear, the Opposition has a responsibility to the people of this country to ask questions which constituents throughout the nation require to be asked. If the Prime Minister and other Ministers continue to evade and avoid the questions which are properly asked in this Parliament they are making a significant contribution to making question time a farce. Mr Speaker, members of the Opposition respect the office that you hold. But in the terms of the ruling which you have given, I regret to say, we regard that decision as wrong because it is totally contrary to the text, the tenor and the spirit of standing order 142 and, of course, it is completely opposed to the precedents which former Speakers have laid down. The Opposition parties ask that this House be conducted in an objective and fair manner. We deserve no less; we expect no less. In fact, if we receive less than that we will certainly take the point that the honourable member for Bradfield has taken on this occasion. The Opposition parties totally support the dissent from your ruling moved by the honourable member for Bradfield.
– I will not delay the House more than a couple of moments, but I think it should be pointed out that the motion moved by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) arises out of a situation which has been a bone of contention among members of this House for as long as I have been a member of it and over the total period that I spent on the Opposition benches. The point of order raised by the honourable member for Bradfield was repeatedly taken by members of the previous Opposition when Ministers made what we considered to be irrelevant answers, and all of those Ministers hid behind the fact that the Speaker’s ruling has always been that a Minister has the right to answer a question in the manner in which he sees fit. This was the ruling given by Mr Speaker Aston. I realise that honourable members opposite believe that there are 2 standards in this place - a standard for them in office and a standard that would give them the complete control of this House when in opposition. But the facts of this case are indisputable. I defy any member of the Opposition to quote one instance in the last 6 years where Mr Speaker Aston when ruling on a point of order raised by the Opposi tion under standing order 142 said that the Minister concerned was not entitled to answer the question asked of him in the manner in which he saw fit. Not even a fool - let alone a respected member of this Parliament - would suggest that every answer given by Ministers in the previous Government was relevant to their responsibilities. This is a time wasting exercise. Whilst I respect the integrity of the honourable member for Bradfield, I believe this is part of a planned campaign to denigrate the standing of the Chair in this House.
– I want to make only one small point. I support the motion for dissent from the Speaker’s ruling because I do not believe that the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) has the right to speak on a matter involving a redistribution of New South Wales electoral boundaries. He defended his position by saying that the Commonwealth Electoral Act takes into account the divisions and subdivisions of New South Wales boundaries. That is not so. When I was Minister for the Interior and had the responsibility for amending section 19. of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, honourable members on both sides of this Parliament asked that that section of the Act which took into account State boundaries be withdrawn. It was withdrawn with the support of the Australian Labor Party. When the Act came before this Parliament only last week and amendments were made to section 19 no effort was made by the Government to replace the old part of section 19. It is still not part of section 19. Therefore, I maintain that the Minister for Services and Property has no right to claim that he is in any way involved with the New South Wales redistribution. Even though there may be joint rolls, that in no way infringes upon the rights of a State government to make its own decisions regarding redistribution.
– My question had a very salient and pertinent point which has conveniently been overlooked by all honourable members from the Opposition who have spoken so far. It is interesting to note that the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) took the point of order on the answer that was being given and not on the question that was asked. This is very significant. 1 asked the Minister what effect the proposals in New South Wales would have on legislation which has been introduced into this Parliament. It is those proposals and the possible effect of those proposals that were the subject of my simple question. Why there should be such fuss and bother over an honourable member asking a Minister a simple, straightforward question is beyond my comprehension.
Why would I not be concerned? A proposal which seeks to increase the tolerance and the capacity for gerrymander from 15 per cent to 20 per cent, when this House has decided in its Act that it should be reduced from 20 per cent to 10 per cent, is a backward step which will have an immediate effect. It is no good honourable gentlemen opposite saying that State boundaries and subdivisions have no effect. I do not think they are foolish enough to believe that. For example, do they not know that between the 1969 and 1972 elections subdivisions were changed by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer with reference to nobody merely to suit the redistribution of electoral boundaries in New South Wales? Some subdivisions were eliminated from Commonwealth divisions and boundaries were changed. It is no good saying that the boundaries can be different, because they cannot. In my electorate 2 subdivisions were eliminated and one was changed to conform to State boundaries.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker, is this noise or speech that we are hearing from the honourable member opposite relevant to the motion of dissent from your ruling?
– Of course it is relevant.
– The honourable gentleman obviously anticipated what I was going to say. The southern boundary of the electorate of Phillip is somebody’s side fence. It is the boundary of the State electorate of Coogee, and it is on the southernmost point of the electorate of Phillip. Of course, it is interesting to note the attitude of the Opposition on this question. I hope that the Minister for Services and Property will tell the electoral commissioners when and if they are appointed of what has been said in this House on this subject today. The proposition has been advanced by those who lead the Liberal Party and the Country Party in this Parliament that it does not matter if there are different subdivisional boundaries-
– I rise to order. Is the honourable member for Phillip suggesting in any way that the Minister for Services and Property will dictate to the electoral commissioners?
-Order! There is no point of order.
– It is to be hoped that the commissioners, if and when in the future they are called upon to do their job, will take note of what has been said here today because what has been put is that they need pay no regard to Federal or State electoral boundaries and they need pay no regard to subdivisional boundaries. In practical terms that means that there can be different rolls and different subdivisions for State and Federal electorates. I personally agree with that approach. I am delighted to hear that the Opposition takes the same view. If that is the answer to my question then I am happy to resume my seat. But that is not the answer that I got from the Minister. I simply want to put it to you, Mr Speaker, that your ruling was completely correct. The members of the Opposition should have listened to the question I asked. If the honourable member for Bradfield will accept my assurance that I asked the Minister what effect a proposed gerrymander would have on proposals to be passed in this House, I believe he will withdraw his motion of dissent. The terms of my question make what he put in support of his motion completely irrelevant.
– This debate has occupied question time.
– Whose fault is that?
– We on this side of the House are fully aware that question time is passing. We reached the conclusion that this issue is so important that we were prepared to lose question time today for the second successive day to debate it. The reason for the Opposition continuing with this matter is the immense importance of it. We have been sitting for a number of weeks-
– If that jackass would stop talking we would all be able to hear better. The gaggle of goosey-ganders on the other side of the chamber - look at the whole lot of them. What a bunch of no-hopers they are.
– What humbug we have to listen to.
– You are the luckiest man of the lot to be in the Ministry.
– But I am not a bloody humbug like you.
-Order! The Minister for Transport will withdraw that epithet.
– Yes, Mr Speaker.
– 1 warn all honourable members that if there are ceaseless interjections I will take action, from whichever side of the chamber they come.
– I hope that the Minister for Transport will withdraw the language he used about his colleague, the Minister for Northern Development, in the Cabinet the other day.
– How would you know? Do you have spies in there too?
– It is not language that he would be prepared to repeat in this chamber. This is the first time I have heard an honourable member swear in this chamber. The Australian Labor Party has been in government for 4 months now and so much has it pulled this establishment down that the Minister sits on the front bench and swears deliberately.
– 1 rise to order, Mr Speaker. The motion before the House, which apparently has escaped the Leader of the Opposition, concerns dissent from your ruling regarding the application of Standing Orders. He has not referred to it at all so far.
– Mr Speaker, I ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw the remark in which he alleged that 1 used bad language to the honourable member for Dawson in a Cabinet meeting. I ask that it be withdrawn because it is a deliberate lie. At no time did I use any bad language to the honourable member for Dawson, because he and I are the best of friends.
– Order! The Minister for Transport will withdraw the term ‘a deliberate lie’.
– Watch the honourable member for Dawson behind you now.
– He can answer for himself in a minute and he will give you the answer. I did not do as I was accused of doing and if the Leader of the Opposition persists with that statement then it is a lie. As I cannot use that term in this place, it is a definite and deliberate untruth and the Leader of the Opposition knows it is.
-Order! The Minister for Transport should be aware that both phrases - a ‘deliberate untruth’ and a ‘deliberate lie’ - are unparliamentary and I ask him to withdraw.
– Well, it is an untruth.
– The Leader of the Opposition-
– Order! To what is the honourable gentleman speaking?
– A point of order. The Leader of the Opposition has made a statement that the Minister for Transport used objectionable words about me in Cabinet. I assume that he can prove that.
-Order! That is not a point of order. The honourable member for Dawson can make a personal explanation after question time if he so desires.
– If the Minister for Transport-
– Mr Speaker, 1 have taken a point of order. I have asked for a statement to be withdrawn.
-Order! I ask the Leader of the Opposition whether he will withdraw that statement because I do not think he has any proof of what he said.
– If the honourable gentleman asks for a withdrawal I withdraw. The reason I withdraw is that he has said that he did not use those words. If he says he did not abuse the Minister for Northern Development in language which he could not use in this House, I accept that and I withdraw.
The matter we are now debating deeply concerns the rights of this Parliament. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) - colleague and friend of us all - is a man who has constantly stood up for the rights of this Parliament. One wonders why he should have done this, when he hears such giggles going on over there on the other side. But he has stood up for this Parliament and he stood today on a major issue of importance. The issue was this: Is this House to be conducted in such a way that when a person elects a member to come to this Parliament, that member can in this chamber discharge his duty to his electors? The Standing Orders have been drawn up for the purpose of permitting that.
We have question time. Everybody knows that question time is the time at which Ministers can be questioned. Ministers who can use question time properly can show themselves to be good Ministers; Ministers who fail in question time can be exposed as failures, lt is the opportunity for members on the Opposition side to ask questions, to elicit information and to put Ministers under tests. Everybody knows and accepts that, whoever is in government, the Government side will ask half the questions. This means that the Opposition is deprived of half of question time which averages just under 45 minutes. Opposition members, on the halving basis, are left with about 22 minutes. If from the Government side questions are asked of which notice has been given, or if questions are asked in such a way that the Minister can expect the question and if the Minister proceeds to spend a lengthy time answering it, the Opposition does not have 22 minutes. It is likely to be deprived of a great deal of time and finish up with something like 10 to 15 minutes.
– Mr Speaker, 1 rise to order. What has this to do with the motion before the Chair?
-Order! There is no point of order.
– The Opposition could be left with 10 to 15 minutes for questions. In the past the Opposition side has had something like - 1 do not know the figure precisely - 25 to 26 questions. Over the period of this Government we have not had that many questions and the reason is that Ministers have been defying the Standing Orders.
– And the Chair.
– Yes, and the Chair, by the method of their answering. If an honourable member asks a question: ‘Is A, B, C the fact’ and the Minister gets up and says: ‘D, E, F, the Minister is not answering the question. He not only does not answer the question, he also takes up time and prevents other questions being asked.
-Order! I think the right honourable member knows the wording of the motion that is before the Chair.
– Yes, I do.
– I should like the right honourable gentleman to speak to the motion.
– The question that is before the Chair is whether or not, against that background, you, Mr Speaker, need to enforce absolutely the standing order which says that in answering a question the Minister shall answer with relevant material and he shall not answer on matters for which he has no responsibility. They are the 2 things which take up all the time - Ministers speaking of irrelevant matters and speaking of matters for which they are not responsible. It is very important that if a question is asked the answer be relevant and not be about matters for which the Minister is not responsible. But you, Mr Speaker, on this occasion permitted a question which inquired about a matter for which the Minister was not responsible. The Minister alleged that he was responsible, by suggesting that because there are joint rolls this, in some magical way, makes him responsible. What happens in a State redistribution has no relevance whatever to the distribution of electoral boundaries in the Commonwealth sphere, as my colleague, the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony), has pointed out. It is not the responsibility of the Minister and there is no relevance and you, Mr Speaker, permitted that question. This has been so, not just on this occasion. We do not want to lose question time. The honourable gentleman did not want to persist in this way but the issue having arisen, unless we take this opportunity now to impress upon you. Mr Speaker, by disagreeing with your ruling, we will be acquiescing in seeing the institution of question time being submerged by brutal numbers, as the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) used the term yesterday. We are not prepared to have that happen. We believe your ruling was wrong because you permitted irrelevancy from the Minister. We believe it was wrong because you allowed him to talk about matters for which he has no responsibility and we therefore dissent from your ruling.
– I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
– Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– 1 have been misrepresented. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) accused the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) of using what one would assume to be bad language about me in the Cabinet room - language which could no< be repeated here. Despite the fact that the Leader of the Opposition has withdrawn his remark, he obviously believes it to be true. I can assure him that it is not true in any sense. This type of scurrilous word slinging should be exposed. I challenge the Leader of the Opposition to state the words which he believes to have been used and also to name the person - this is very important - who told him of their alleged use. If he does not do this the House can judge for itself the veracity of the Leader of the Opposition.
-Order! That is not a personal explanation.
That the motion (Mr Snedden’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Are there any further questions?
– I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– In a manner of speaking, In the House of Representatives daily rd for Thursday, 5th April 1973, at 1130 I am shown as referring in the context of the debate in the chamber at the time to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in terms of the pigmentation of his skin. In fact I was making a reference to his character in view of the manner of his striding from the House. I do not believe that it was pertinent and I seek to withdraw the remark.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Australian delegation to the 27th session of the United Nations General Assembly held at the United Nations headquarters in New York between 19th September and 19th December last.
– For the information of honourable members I present the interim report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs on Australia’s relations with Indonesia.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the subcommittee of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Council on nursing home insurance proposals dated 1st August 1972.
– For the information of honourable members I present a paper entitled ‘Components of the Growth of Australia’s Major Urban Centres’. This paper attempts to analyse the contribution of immigration, internal migration and natural increase of the growth of the 10 urban centres of more than 100,000 people for the period 1966- 1971. The paper has been prepared by officers in my administration, but I would like to point out that at this stage it does not -represent the conclusions of my Department or statutory authorities. I am tabling the document today as part of our policies on open government in order to stimulate discussion and further research on this very important issue.
– by leave - As honourable members are aware, I have recently returned from New Zealand where 1 held discussions with the New Zealand Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr W. W. Freer, on the operation of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement and on related trade matters. This was the first ministerial review of NAFTA since the 2 new Labor governments were elected to office. This Agreement provides a most valuable and important association for the 2 countries, and I should like to acknowledge the work of previous governments, and especially the work of the former Australian Minister for Trade and Industry, the then Mr John McEwen, and the former New Zealand Trade Minister, Mr John Marshall, with whom I had the opportunity to hold discussions while I was in New Zealand, in laying the foundations of a structure which has given great benefits to both countries.
The Australian Government is giving high priority to its trading relationships. Continuing developments in international trade require that the maximum attention must be given to securing and advancing Australia’s interests in overseas trade. Two such developments that are of the closest concern to Australia are the entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community and the rapid steps being taken by Japan and the
United States in particular to building up trading relationships with the People’s Republic of China. Recent international currency movements have also highlighted the vital role that trade plays in the international economy.
The environment which Australia faces is one of increasing competitiveness among trading nations. This is an environment in which Australia must not only survive but also flourish, and only the resourcefulness and determination of government action can ensure that Australia derives the maximum benefits from the opportunities that are presented to Australia. Australia’s trading position is strong. But it is urgent that Australia should strengthen and broaden its trading relationships. The Government is determined that Australia should be in the forefront in seeking new markets and increasing its trade in existing markets. The early life of the new Government has testified to the importance that not only itself but also other nations place upon our role as a trading partner. The visit to Australia in March by the Soviet Trade Minister, Mr N. Patolichev, has confirmed the importance of Australia’s trade with the Soviet Union and has added scope for development of our trade. Following this, I held discussions with the New Zealand Government on ways to expand two way trade between our 2 countries. Next month Australia will be sending the first Australian Government trade mission ever to visit the Chinese People’s Republic.
I stress the importance that both Australia and New Zealand place upon the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. Growth in trade between the 2 countries has been considerable, increasing from $21 8m in 1965-66 to $390m in 1972 - an increase of more than 78 per cent. Discussions between Mr Freer and myself were constructive and successful. They have laid the groundwork for a co-operative effort to stimulate an increase in trade between the 2 countries and to develop their economies through the complementary use of resources. Both governments fully support the objectives of NAFTA and intend to work towards its more effective operation. To this end the review of its operation that was commenced during these talks will continue over the next 12 months. Indeed, the importance that both Mr Freer and I attach to the advances that were made in our talks is such that we will be meeting again in about 6 months time to look at the progress made during the intervening period. Normally about 12 months elapse between ministerial meetings on NAFTA.
Discussions between Mr Freer and myself have resulted in a number of significant achievements which will strengthen NAFTA’s operation in the interests of our trading and economic relationship. Both governments agreed on the principle that the first objective of our trading relationship should be the joint development of the economies of both countries and that this should be pursued through the complementary use of the resources of each country. Positive measures were agreed upon to prepare for the implementation of this policy. Both governments also agreed that further stepping stones towards greater free trade should be added to the Agreement. Arrangements also have been prepared for the situation arising from the elimination of British preferential tariffs. Accordingly, substantial progress was made on the future of preferential arrangements between Australia and New Zealand and agreement was reached on rules defining the origin of goods traded on a preferential basis between Australia and New Zealand.
While discussions between Mr Freer and myself largely centred on the development of secondary industry and of trade in manufactured goods, due recognition was paid by both governments to the importance of the primary production sector of both economies. It was understood that the appropriate arrangements for meeting the needs of this sector - particularly with respect to meat and dairy products - would be a continuation of co-operation between both countries in third markets rather than the introduction of disruptive competition in each other’s domestic market. At the same time, it would be wrong to suggest that there are not some areas of tension, due largely to the similarity of production in both countries. Problem areas do exist, in particular with regard to some forest products. As a result of discussions with Mr Freer this morning, we expect to make progress in that area too. Both governments are mindful of such problems and are watching the situation closely while encouraging a resolution of competitive interests through those directly involved.
One of the key advances made through the discussions in New Zealand was the new emphasis that was placed upon the concept of economic co-operation. Up to the present, the emphasis under NAFTA has been, quite reasonably, on the expansion of trans-Tasman trade. However, there are great advantages to be obtained from the gradual development of an economic framework in which 2 individual markets, comprising 13 million people in Australia and 3 million in New Zealand, blend into a closely related market of 16 million people. The possibilities of economies of scale would benefit not only production and employment in both countries and trade between the 2 countries, but also would strengthen the competitiveness of both nations in wider international trade. It is clear that the greatest benefits will accrue to both countries when each economy is encouraged towards specialisation in the production of those things which it is suited to producing most efficiently and most economically. However, I stress that this is a long range ideal. It can only be achieved by gradual and co-operative steps which, moreover, must take proper account of the existing level of industrialisation in both countries. Responsible planning, therefore, should be geared towards complementary development in future industries rather than being implemented in a way that would disrupt existing industries. The important thing is that economic co-operation becomes the first objective of our relationship once it is established that resources allocation is the key to sensible economic planning.
Mr Freer and I agreed that the operation of NAFTA should now move into a new phase, one in which the emphasis should be placed on what I consider to be the fundamental objective of NAFTA - that of the development of the area, and the use of the resources of the area as a basic stimulus to the further expansion of trade between our 2 countries. When I say this, I mean that trade can only increase with real advantage if it is aimed to fully and properly develop our resources. It is not only the aggregates of goods exchanged that are important in trade. Of far greater importance is the contribution that the exchange of goods makes towards real economic growth. It is essential to ensure that trade strengthens and optimises the industrial growth of both countries.
Mr Freer and I agreed that high priority should be given to the complementary use of resources as a means of developing each country’s economy. Against this background, we had an initial discussion On the industry objectives of both governments and we agreed to keep in touch with each other as these were elaborated into policies. The basis for this arrangement was our belief that Australia and New Zealand must work together not only to ensure that our individual plans and policies can take account of the other country’s objectives and aspirations but also to encourage collaboration between industries in the 2 countries so that they can contribute in a complementary way to the growth of the 2 economies. For example, the development of an efficient secondary industry in New Zealand is in Australia’s interest as well as in New Zealand’s interest. My aim is to assist, in every way that Australia can, in the achievement of this objective.
It is essential to stress the importance of involvement of industry leaders in the process of our mutual economic development. Both governments are prepared to work positively and constructively towards this end within the framework of NAFTA. But, while governments can plan, encourage and lead, the success of NAFTA is still very much dependent on how businessmen use the arrangements governments have evolved. A fundamental point is that government does not work in isolation from commercial realities. Government must work with business, from a position of leadership, but leadership based on close consultation and co-operation with industry. The extent to which industry can take advantage of the economic growth of both countries and of the economies of scale which should result from production for the combined area market will depend on the energy and imagination that businessmen on both sides of the Tasman put into making NAFTA work. Co-operation should be the objective, backed by the assurance that, through co-operation, trade can be expanded without injury to existing investment and efficient domestic industries. It is worth noting that, in some industrial sectors, notably motor vehicles and domestic appliances, there is already an encouraging trend towards trans-Tasman industrial cooperation and co-ordination of production plans. For example, although starting from limited firm to firm arrangements made under Article 3:7 of the Agreement, 2-way trade in domestic appliances has greatly increased in volume on the basis of industry to industry co-operation.
I refer now to the very significant agreement reached by both governments on the principle that provision should be made to add further stepping stones towards free trade. It is apparent that the slow expansion of the trade coverage of Schedule A - the free trade part of NAFTA - has been to a large extent the result of reluctance by firms and industries to commit themselves to conditions of complete free trade without some transitional arrangement which would permit them to gain experience as to their relative competitiveness. At present, NAFTA Schedule A arrangements are all or nothing. In adding a product to Schedule A, permanent commitment is being undertaken with uncertainty as to the result. This is too big a step to take for many firms and industries in view of the many unknowns. To the detached observer, the fears often appear groundless but they exist, and if they are based on uncertainty as to the future then it is up to the governments to provide means to allay that uncertainty. In the discussions between Mr Freer and myself we have provided additional stages between the existence of the commodity in perhaps Article 3:7 and its eventual entry into Schedule A - the completely free trade area.
The framers of NAFTA, to their credit, included Article 3:7 in the Agreement. This Article allows the governments to agree on and implement special measures beneficial to the trade and development of each member state and designed to further the objectives of the Agreement. It has always been seen as a way of providing transition to full Schedule A treatment. The governments have used the authority given by the Article successfully to approve a narrow type of arrangement nl the firm to firm level. In its way this has been quite successful. Since this type of arrangement has been in force 2-way trade worth $5 8m has been facilitated. It is unfortunate, however, that loose usage has caused many people to think of such arrangements as being the only way of operating under Article 3:7. Article 3:7 arrangements as currently employed are useful in bringing firms together and generally educating business to the benefits of trans-Tasman partnership. However, such firm to firm arrangements only in rare cases lead to the consensus at industry level that is required before genuine free trade through Schedule A is possible. The governments see the need for intermediate steps to facilitate transition to Schedule A. Mr Freer and I have authorised officials to undertake studies, in collaboration with industry, designed to introduce new transitional positions, allowing a wider range of industry to experience the benefits of free trade in a practical sense and, in the light of proof provided by this experience, enjoy the long term benefits that inclusion of products on Schedule A would bring.
Mr Freer and I also reached agreement that specific measures should be taken to take account of the new situation arising between our 2 countries with the elimination of British preferential tariffs. These measures include understanding on rules concerned with the origin of goods traded on a preferential basis between our 2 countries in the future, and also the preferential arrangements themselves. It was recognised at the inception of NAFTA that the rules of origin applying to the goods traded on a preferential basis, and evolved in the 1930s for completely different reasons, were not necessarily appropriate to a free trade area. An essential element in any such rule is that the benefits accrue primarily to the partners. It is, after all, an area agreement designed to make the best use of the area’s resources where this is economically reasonable and to increase trade above the level at which it would otherwise be. The origin rules we now have were intended to benefit Britain as well as Australia and New Zealand. This was fair enough in the context of the old Commonwealth agreements. But now we are thinking in an entirely new context. We in Australia are thinking increasingly in a Pacific, South East Asian and Asian context.
Mr Freer and I therefore agreed that common rules of origin, based on a 50 per cent area content criterion, should be adopted. There would, of course, be circumstances under which a 50 per cent area criterion would not be appropriate for certain industries. It was recognised that provision would have to be made for flexibility in the administration of the common rule in special cases and circumstances. Officials in both countries will be consulting closely with industry to ensure that the new rule does not produce distortions in trade or grave inconvenience to traders. After those consultations are completed it is proposed to finalise details for new rules with the objective of implementing them from 1st July 1974.
Another matter of major importance on which substantial progress was made during our meeting in Wellington was the future of preferential arrangements between Australia and New Zealand. The mutual exchange of
British Preferential Tariff treatment between Australia and New Zealand derives, on a non-contractual basis, from the trade agreements each country had with Britain and, although applying to items of trade not yet covered by Schedule A, is an essential element of the NAFTA relationship. With the dismantling of the British Preferential Tariffs by both countries which eventually will come, and New Zealand has been more specific about this than has Australia so far, it has therefore been necessary to reach agreement on the extent to which preferences accorded by each country to the other could, and should, be retained in the circumstances of the 2 economies and in terms of the concept of a developing free trade area.
Both countries recognise that to achieve the prime objectives of NAFTA, including the development and use of the resources of the area by the expansion of mutually beneficial trade, tariff rates against each other should be kept at the lowest possible levels and should give preference to area production where this was economically reasonable. In this way, trade growth under such preferential arrangements should help to stimulate a progressive movement towards free trade under NAFTA.
Several factors have underlined the necessity for reaching an understanding with New Zealand on preferences with a minimum of delay. Both Australia and New Zealand are restructuring their tariffs in a climate where British preferences will be disappearing and, in the case of New Zealand, practical reasons made it necessary to finalise important aspects of its proposed new tariff at an early date. Although the time limits on the Australian side are less rigid, the future position of New Zealand rates in the Australian tariff will have to be taken into account in future references to the Tariff Board. Another important consideration is the effect which the forthcoming round of negotiations on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade will have on tariffs in both countries.
For all these reasons, an early understanding between Australia and New Zealand on reciprocal preferential arrangements was necessary. Accordingly, during our discussions in Wellington, Mr Freer and I agreed that we would put before our respective Cabinets proposals for an interim agreement on preferences, which would operate pending the working out of a long term agreement. The proposed interim agreement will apply until
September 1974, and will thus provide a period of experience within which to assess whether the interim agreement can, as we would hope, form the basis for a long term arrangement.
The details of the agreement I have reached with Mr Freer will be. announced when the necessary formalities have been completed. Meanwhile I can say that the emphasis in the arrangement is heavily on manufactured goods for which New Zealand is such an important market for Australia. The major exception is motor vehicles, transport vehicles and components. These items form a very important part of the trade between Australia and New Zealand. They accounted for $57m of Australia’s exports to New Zealand in 1971-72 and, being mainly in CKD form, represent the basic materials for New Zealand’s developing motor vehicle assembly industry. They are therefore an important element in the total NAFTA relationship and will necessarily have to be covered in any long term arrangement. However, New Zealand has not yet formulated a policy on the development of her motor vehicle industry and could not, at this stage, accept a commitment on future tariffs, particularly as developing a future policy on this industry is a very complex subject.
Given the existing interconnection between the Australian and New Zealand motor vehicle and component industries the matter, of course; goes much wider than tariffs and preferences. Indeed, Mr Freer and I had an initial discussion about achieving a high degree of complementarity in our motor vehicle policies.
– That is not a bad word.
– That is right. It is not a bad objective either. We both recognised this to be a most desirable objective, particularly as the. industry is one with considerable scope for further industry co-operation and joint development. We agreed that an examination should be made of the scope for greater participation of New Zealand components in the overall development of the motor vehicle industry of the NAFTA area.
There are external factors which, if not coordinated, could make all the work by government and industry meaningless. Industry has a particular responsibility and the motor vehicle industry has a particular responsibility in this respect. It strikes me as important that we develop a consciousness of each other in our general economic policies. This will become increasingly important as more and more industry comes under the NAFTA umbrella.
While the importance of the primary industry sector of both economies was mutually recognised and understood, our discussions in New Zealand on this occasion were concerned primarily and most directly with trade in manufactured goods and the development of secondary industry. However, both governments are aware of the need to avoid disruptive competition in our exports of primary products, both in each other’s domestic market and in international trade. Both governments recognise that our mutual interests in the primary sector, and particularly with respect to meat and dairy products, will be best served by a harmonious and co-operative effort towards an expansion of our primary produce exports in third markets. Mr Freer and I have therefore agreed to continue, vigorously and constructively, the work already started towards this objective.
I would mention that, while in New Zealand, I stressed the considerable emphasis placed by the Australian side on the process of reconstruction that has been going on for some time within the Australian dairying industry, and the effects that this was already having in achieving efficiency of that industry.
Mr Freer and I were very pleased with the degree of frank consultation and co-operation which has characterised discussions under NAFTA since its inception. We strongly endorsed the view that this type of consultation and co-operation gave strength to the whole structure of our trade relations and agreed that it should continue at all levels - government, industry and commercial - as basic to the success of the Agreement. It is essential that knowledge and experience of the Agreement and of its opportunities and benefits should penetrate to all sectors of our 2 communities if NAFTA is to achieve the wide public support which will ensure its full and successful operation.
Our relations with New Zealand under NAFTA are the most intricate and comprehensive of our trading relations. It has to be recognised that because of the comprehensive nature of these relations and the similarity of our 2 economies it is difficult to move rapidly towards more free trade. I have already acknowledged the work done by the previous governments in this matter. In conclusion I acknowledge the ease and fruitfulness of the co-operation that Mr Freer, the Minister for Trade and Industry in New Zealand, made possible in this matter. Finally, I acknowledge the high level of competence that is shown by our own departmental officials in the real work - and they do the real work - that is done in these negotiations. I present the following paper:
New Zealand-Australia Trade Relations - Ministerial Statement, 11 April 1973.
Motion (by Mr Crean) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– I would like to express the gratitude of myself and the Opposition to the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns) for making a statement in this House on such an important matter. The Opposition should not really have to thank Government Ministers for doing this. Without trying to make cheap political capital on this point, let me say that I and all my colleagues on this side of the House have become deeply concerned of late at the number of statements of basic policy that are being announced outside this House and not brought into this House. Even the Minister himself, speaking at a textile industry function a few days ago, mentioned that textiles in the sensitive areas need not worry in the future and that he would appoint some special watchdog to take care of any short term difficulties that industry might be having. He said that the industry had no cause for alarm.
In the text of the Minister’s statement I saw no reference to the future role of the Special Advisory Authority, Sir Frank Meere. What the Minister is proposing for the textile industry may be something with which the Opposition would thoroughly agree and would support, but we do not know what he is proposing apart from what we read in the newspapers or hear of speeches at a dinner. I believe that if this Parliament is to function properly, Ministers should be making statements on fundamental issues in this House so that they may be debated. On the issue of New Zealand-Australia trade relations I commend the Minister. He returned from New Zealand only 10 days ago. I am not critical at all of him or the Treasurer (Mr Crean), who recently returned from an overseas trip and gave a Press conference. I support that.
– There will be a statement made tomorrow.
– I would expect that of the honourable gentleman. Of course Press conferences have to be given, but if this House could be informed of the results of such visits at the earliest possible time it would help this institution. It was refreshing to hear the Minister acknowledge the work done by previous governments. He mentioned the right honourable Sir John McEwen. He did not mention the present Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) but I am sure that he also joined the right honourable gentleman in that acknowledgment. At the end of his speech the Minister very graciously paid a tribute to the co-operation of Mr Freer, the New Zealand Minister for Trade and Industry. Off the cuff - it did not appear in his printed statement - he paid tribute to the officials of his own Department. I had a note to mention that, too. The Opposition believes that the statement made by the Minister for Overseas Trade was an excellent one. We support what he has done, what he has tried to do and what he is trying to do in this area because it is really a follow on, as he calls it - a different phase of the policies we started. Having been a Minister myself, I know that when a Minister goes to a conference with a Minister from another country he is preceded by officials of his own department who have prior discussions with officials from that other country. Without taking away from the work of the Minister himself one bit, I join with him in paying a tribute to the officials of his Department.
It was also refreshing to hear my honourable friend talk about free trade again. He was talking about the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement, which is the subject of the statement. I do not know when I have heard him enjoy himself so much for a long time, because I believe that this is the true philosophy of the Minister for Overseas Trade. Those of us who have noted his statements and studied them carefully in recent times have been disappointed at the 180 degree turn which the honourable gentleman has taken in the last 2 years on trade philosophy. I have in my office a copy of a speech which he made 2 years ago which, I suggest, is a model for any country like Australia to follow in overseas trade relations. It contained a great deal of courageous material. I have no doubt that trade unions and other pressure groups in the community, such as employer pressure groups, which sometimes can be as irresponsible and selfish as any trade union pressure group, have got to him. I am disappointed that the speeches he made in the last 18 months to 2 years seemed to go in the reverse direction. He is now back to the very strong protectionist philosophy that the Australian Labor Party had in its early times. I look forward to an early statement by the Minister in this House about his philosophy and Government policy generally on trade as they now stand. Without trying to cause mischief in the Australian Labor Party, I personally hope that the Minister will return to his early philosophy, which I believe he still holds. That philosophy is supported by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) and others in the Cabinet. I wish him well in the forthcoming battles in Cabinet.
As I said before, the Minister’s visit and discussions were a follow on from the previous Government’s negotiations with the New Zealand Government. In his statement the Minister indicated the success of this Agreement. He said that the growth of trade between the 2 countries has increased from $218m in 1965-66 to $390m in 1972- a growth rate in trade of 78 per cent over that 7-year period. In any terms this should be described as pleasing. The Minister paid some attention to Article 3:7 of the Agreement. It reads:
In relation to goods nol at the time listed in Schedule A to this Agreement, the Member States may agree on and implement special measures beneficial to the trade and development of each Member State and designed to further the objectives of this Agreement. Such measures may include the remission or reduction of duties on agreed goods or classes of goods in part or in whole.
As I understand it, the purpose of Article 3:7 is to find some half way house between the duty free treatment envisaged for goods in Schedule A - which goods are specified in Schedule A and accorded duty free treatment - and the treatment accorded to other goods on which highly protective tariffs may presently obtain. It is wide enough to allow a variety of approaches to stimulate the 2-way flow of goods between Australia and New Zealand without immediately going the full distance of including these products in Schedule A to which the Minister referred. Once a product has been included in Schedule A, both governments are reluctant to see it withdrawn, even though there are procedures in the Agreement to enable this to be done. I will refer to that in a moment.
According to the Minister’s own Department, in 179 cases where trade under Article 3:7 has been approved there have been case by case variations in detail and approach, but one central feature has been present in the majority of them. This feature is the temporary elimination of duty into Australia for the specified New Zealand goods and, for the Australian goods, the availability of an import licence entitlement in New Zealand or import licence entitlement and duty reduction. As each Article 3:7 proposal must have the approval of both governments a set of criteria has been established against which to measure each proposal. Here is a point that the Minister properly brought out in his statement: The proposals are initiated not by the governments but by businessmen in each country, who agree on the details of a mutually satisfactory trading arrangement and then submit their proposal to their respective governments for approval. The 2 governments then examine the proposals against the criteria mentioned above. I wonder whether the Minister would agree with me that in the past this has been done quite well. It is reflected in the growth figures that he quoted. But these moves essentially have been made on a firm to firm basis between an individual company in Australia and an individual company in New Zealand. I would prefer - I suspect that the Minister would also - that in future this agreement which holds so much possibility and potential should be conducted on an industry basis. An Australian industry might move towards its counterpart in New Zealand on an industry to industry basis to get the best results from this agreement.
As the Minister said - I was pleased to hear him say it - the Government is not the initiator in these matters: The. initiative rests with business. Governments provide the machinery, such as this agreement, and provide assistance and advice. Governments have done this in the past and will do it in the future. The ultimate objective surely is to have more items included in Schedule A or under the auspices of Article 37 of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. The Minister referred to a third country and economies of scale. I thoroughly agree with that part of his statement. If Australia with its market of 13 million people and New Zealand with its market of 3 million people are to combine to have a common market for certain items then the resultant economies of scale, theoretically at least, must have an effect of reducing costs. Australia and New Zealand can also approach other countries jointly with a view to expanding the trade of Australia and New Zealand into those countries.
The Minister inferred that new industries should not be established in either country without consultation from an altruistic point of view on whether such establishment is good for NAFTA. The Minister is realistic enough to know that with established industries an Australian businessman will not be altruistic enough to say to a New Zealand counterpart: Your firm can do this a little better than mine. I will close up my industry and give you a free go at it.’ But the Minister suggested that with the establishment of new industries there might be consultation. I thoroughly agree with him. However, I am just cynical enough to suspect that that proposition is a dream that sounds good but in the fierce world of business might never come true. If a businessman sees opportunity in Australia for the establishment of a certain industry I doubt whether he will consider the overall effects of Pacific trade and the benefits to Australia and New Zealand. But I wish the Minister and the Government good luck in anything that can be done to influence industry in this way.
On the question of economies of scale, the Minister mentioned things with which I agree and thoroughly support. But the history of NAFTA shows some disappointments. I will not take up the time of the House in discussing all those difficulties. The difficulties in relation to timber would be well known to the Minister. This would have been a matter mentioned in a good mannered way by Mr Freer or not mentioned at all but kept under the carpet at the recent talks. These difficulties arose, as the Minister knows, between Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd and Tasman Pulp and Paper Co. Ltd in New Zealand. There was an unfortunate series of events with the manufacturers of lino board. A retaliatory action was taken by the Australian company in not accepting pulp from New Zealand. As far as I am informed that problem has been concluded reasonably satisfactorily.
I hope that future parties to arrangements under Article 3 : 7 or schedule A will have regard to the unfortunate incident concerning timber products and learn from it. When I express some disappointment at what NAFTA could have created but has not quite achieved I do not think that I am wrong in my assumption about one of the original thoughts behind the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. (Extension of time granted). I thank the Minister and the House. I assume that one of the hopes behind the setting up of NAFTA was that if certain dairy products could be produced more efficiently and economically in New Zealand, with the dairy reconstruction scheme in Australia the production of those products in Australia might have been phased out. The quality and efficiency of the Australian dairy industry would have been improved, dairy produce supplied more cheaply to the Australian consumer and even New Zealand dairy produce allowed into Australia duty free. That has not happened and it did not happen under a Liberal PartyCountry Party Government. Therefore, I cannot be critical of the Government in this area.
I can appreciate the difficulties which are involved in the reconstruction of an industry. There are human problems as well as economic problems. It takes a lot of courage for governments to approach the people concerned and persuade them that it is in their best interests and the best interests of the nation to bring about changes.
I again wish the Minister for Overseas Trade good luck on the future of NAFTA. I wish him all the courage that will be needed for him to implement policies. The proposed changes will mean that some Australian industries willi have to be told: ‘I am sorry. It is not economic or efficient or in the best interests of Australia for you to continue to receive protection. It is in the interests of NAFTA and both Australia and New Zealand for that protection to be reduced’. That will cause hardship and worry for 2 sections of the Australian community, namely, the trade unions concerned and the employers concerned, or perhaps members of the industry concerned.
I am not writing down the difficulties the Minister will have in this area. This proposal is palpably right. It is right for the Australian consumer and the New Zealand consumer and right overall for the labour force of both countries. It is right for the economic growth of both countries. It is right for the economic security and viability of this region. If it is right I believe that with courage and persuasion, both trade unions and employers can be and must be convinced that selfish devotion to their own industry or company is not in the national interest. I am pleased to say that the Opposition supports what the Minister for Overseas Trade has done and we thank him for his grace in acknowledging the work of previous governments and particularly the work of Sir John McEwen and the present Leader of the Australian Country Party, the honourable member for Richmond (Mr Anthony).
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) proposed:
That the debate be now adjourned.
– May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will consider allowing the honourable member for Richmond (Mr Anthony) to speak at this stage. This is contrary to the arrangement that I had made with the Minister, but at that stage I was not aware that the honourable member for Richmond would wish to speak on this matter.
– Is the House agreeable to the motion being withdrawn? There being no objection, the motion is withdrawn.
– I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I thank honourable members. I want to take only a few minutes in this debate. Firstly I should like to compliment the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) for a fairly comprehensive statement relating to the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement talks which took place between him and Mr Freer in New Zealand. I should like to thank the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) for his remarks about the part that I played in previous discussions with the New Zealand Government on the continuation of this agreement which was established initially by Sir John McEwen and Mr Jack Marshall. The statement really deals in generalities. It expresses a spirit of willingness to co-operate with New Zealand to bring about a free trade area.
A number of assumptions are made in regard to matters which were discussed with the intention of further developing ideas. I regret that the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) has not further amplified some of these matters. But he did mention that there will be further discussions in 6 months time and perhaps after those discussions we might receive more details. The Minister talked about the joint development of economies of both countries and the complementary use of resources in each country. This sort of thing has been happening to date to a limited degree. I would say that the most notable example would be the development of the Manapouri power resources for the conversion of alumina into aluminium. Australia is getting the advantage of New Zealand’s cheap power and New Zealand is using Australian resources.
The Minister made the point that the discussions centred mainly on the exchange of manufactured goods and the development of secondary industries in both countries. Questions relating to primary products remained very much as they have been in the past and this was only a secondary matter. I think the point that the Minister makes in relation to the development of secondary trade is that relating to Article 3:7 and the further modification to introduce a transitional phase between the application of Article 3:7 and listing on schedule A. I see this as being of considerable significance. It is a progressive move and I support the Minister in this proposal, although I do not quite see how it is to be implemented or how it will work. At the moment Article 3:7 really relates to an arrangement that is arrived at between an exporter in one country and the manufacturers or competitors in another country. Until arrangements are made whereby there is harmony between the interests of both countries, there is not an exchange of letters accepting the situation. This is a matter which requires private discussions between individual companies. I am not quite sure in my own mind how this can be furthered. No doubt, the Department of Overseas Trade has ideas on this matter, otherwise it would not have been proposed. If it can be developed, I welcome it. I think it is a good step forward.
It is true that it is a big step from Article 3:7 to schedule A and I have found a good deal of inhibition on the part of New Zealand manufacturers in taking the step to compete completely with Australian industries. They wanted a degree of protection and the protection afforded has been not by tariff but by the use of import quotas. I can understand their reservation and fear. This is fairly natural in any country. But I would hope we can find a way of breaking down that fear so that we can move more and more towards the objective of free trade and a more integrated economic relationship between the 2 countries.
The Minister for Overseas Trade, confirming really what was said by previous governments, on page 4 of his statement said:
It was understood that the appropriate arrangements for meeting the needs of this sector-
He was referring to the primary industry sector - particularly with respect to meat and dairy products - would be a continuation of co-operation between both countries in third markets rather than the Introduction of disruptive competition in each other’s domestic market.
That certainly has been the policy in the past and I welcome this statement. It would be utterly foolish for 2 countries which have the objective of working closely together to try to wreck each other’s pricing and production arrangements. Both Australia and New Zealand are large producers, by world standards, of meat and dairy products. To try to compete in each other’s domestic market can do only harm. It can only be disruptive and react to the disadvantage of the producers in the 2 countries. Consumers temporarily might get some advantage, but if this means undermining the security of large primary industries in either country, it is not in the national interest.
As both Australia and New Zealand are major producers of meat and dairy products, we have much to sell on other markets of the world. It is important that there is cooperation, particularly in regard to dairy products. The virtual exclusion now of Australia from the United Kingdom market means that we will have to look vigorously for markets in other parts of the world, such as Japan, South East Asia and the Middle East countries. New Zealand, while obtaining some advantage in the United Kingdom during the 5 years transitional period, will not be able to satisfy her total export requirements and therefore she too will have to look for other markets. If there is going to be a dog fight as to who can get access and advantage in these other markets, we will find that both countries will push the prices down to ruinously low levels. Of course, this does not apply to meat. I do not see any great fear in regard to the prospects for meat because there is a world wide shortage and all the prognostications are that this shortage will continue to grow. Both Australia and New Zealand will have great opportunities to satisfy the demand for meat.
However, for dairy products the picture is much more difficult. The critical thing about keeping New Zealand dairy products out of Australia is that if they were to come in it would completely undermine the equalisation arrangements which operate in Australia for stabilisation and price arrangements. I believe that the prices for dairy products, particularly butter and cheese, in this country, are low in comparison to prices in other countries. Only those countries which are getting the benefit of export production surpluses from other countries receive the benefit of low prices. We could find a situation when New Zealand is excluded from the Common Market whereby both Australia and New Zealand have a surplus to dump on markets which are not large consumers of dairy products and, naturally, this will depress the prices. This is what both Australia and New Zealand must watch very closely.
The Minister for Overseas Trade made brief reference to the question of forest products. He said that there had been talks and progress had been made, and that was the end of the sentence. I would have liked a little more explanation as to what this progress really meant. The area of greatest concern for New Zealand at the moment is the pricing arrangements for newsprint exported to Australia. I have been involved in discussions in this area for 2 years. We have an arrangement whereby New Zealand has the right to 89 per cent of the Australian market for imported paper. But the problem has been not to get access to the Australian market, which we allow duty free, but the pricing arrangements - what price Australian newsprint users will have to pay. I presume it is in this area that the Minister is saying that progress has been made. He shakes his head, indicating that this is not an area. I presume that no progress has been made in that area and the position remains as it was previously. Perhaps it is in relation to timber products whereby there can be an exchange of Australian hardwoods to New Zealand and greater access of softwood timbers into Australia. Perhaps it is in relation to some of the manufactured products, such as tissue paper. It may be in relation to hardboard, corrugated paper products in the use of cartons. I do not know, but no doubt when the Minister is in a position to tell us more about these matters he will do so.
I certainly hope that in the process of developing arrangements between Australia and New Zealand full cognizance will be taken of the industries in each country. To try to override or to abruptly disrupt industries in either country will only set us back on the course that we have been following, and following successfully for many years. We have to be conscious of the fact that New Zealand has a problem in relation to the development of secondary industries, although I believe she has made outstanding progress. The fact that there has been rationalisation and complementary development of the motor industry with components and parts shows that these things can be accomplished provided there is a willingness on the part of international companies to do it. The Ford company, Chrysler Australia Ltd and General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd have played a significant role in this area. I hope that other companies will be able to find ways and means of allowing part of their production to take place in New Zealand and for the components to be assembled and so have the advantage of the economies of scale which a 16 million people market offers instead of a 3 million or a 13 million market in New Zealand and Australia respectively. This makes good sense and I am pleased to see that the Minister has been forthcoming in continuing the policies that have been established by previous governments and this certainly has the support of members on this side of the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Nicholls) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That leave of absence for 2 months be given to the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds) on the ground of ill health.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is a Bill to amend several aspects of the income tax law. Its main proposals are designed to curtail widespread misuse of some features of the law and so to ensure that proper effect is given to the policy underlying provisions intended to provide concessions for particular purposes. Much of the Bill is taken up with measures relating to the concessional deductions for life insurance premiums and superannuation contributions and to provisions concerned with company losses and bad debts and with dividend distributions by private companies.
A concessional deduction of up to $1,200 a year is allowable to a person for amounts paid as life insurance premiums or as personal contributions to a superannuation fund. This concession is provided to encourage a person to make financial provision for his own retirement, or for his dependants when he dies and one of course could add ‘her dependants’, if it is a female. For some time however, it has been exploited for very different purposes. Practices have grown up that have nothing at all to do with the objectives underlying the concession; they are simply arrangements adopted by people who are in a position to do so to avoid the payment of tax which ought to be paid. The most widely used arrangements take advantage of the fact that an insurance policy in force for a relatively short time may be surrendered for an amount close to the sum of the premiums paid on it. Many policies are taken out solely to secure the tax deduction and are surrendered at the earliest practicable time.In effect the person concerned gets a tax deduction for premiums which to a large extent are received back within a short time. These arrangements do not remotely accord with the policy underlying the concession. Another source of tax saving which is quite out of step with the policy objectives is the use of short term endowment policies.
I foreshadowed this feature of the amendments proposed in this Bill in a public statement I made on 29th December 1972. In broad terms, the amendments will change the law so that, with some exceptions, a deduction will not be available for premiums on a policy which provides for benefits (other than death benefits) to be paid within 10 years after the issue of the policy. Other countries - notably New Zealand and the United Kingdom - have adopted already this basic criterion for these deductions.
The proposed restrictions on deductions for premiums on short term policies could, however, be got around by the early surrender of whole-of-life or long term policies. As a safeguard against this the Bill provides that, where a policy in force for less than 10 years lapses or is surrendered, the Commissioner of Taxation will be authorised to disallow deductions for premiums on the policy paid within 5 years immediately prior to the surrender or lapse. Single premiums will be notionally spread over the life of the policy for this purpose. It is proposed, however, that there be no disallowance where it is demonstrated that a policy is discontinued because of serious financial difficulties and had not been taken out as a tax avoidance scheme. The proposed amendments will not affect deductions for contributions to superannuation funds in respect of life insurance policies, or whatever term, taken out by the trustees of a fund to provide retirement benefits for members. Should any such policy be assigned to a member who leaves a fund because of premature retirement, deductions for future premiums paid on the policy by the ex-member will not be affected. In addition the amendments will not apply to premiums on what is known as ‘term’ insurance in respect of which there is no surrender value.
The Government received representations that an exception from the 10-year rule should also be made for short term endowment policies that are taken out independently of superannuation funds by people who are within 10 years of the common retiring ages of 65 years for men and 60 years for women. The Government decided, however, that it would be more in harmony with the general policies of the tax law to meet the needs of these people through the exception for policies issued to trustees of superannuation funds. Public superannuation funds exist which are able to provide for the retirement needs of these older people.
In respect of payments to superannuation funds, the Bill proposes that deductions be limited to payments to funds the income of which presently is accorded either exemption or special treatment under the income tax law. Such funds include all traditional employer-employee funds and funds catering for people who are self employed or are employees unable to benefit, or benefit adequately, through an employer sponsored fund. The purpose of this is to put an end to schemes that set out to obtain tax deductions for contributions to what are in reality no more than outright savings or investment funds. As I announced on 29th December, the amendments are to apply in respect of premiums on policies taken out on or after 1st January 1973 and contributions made to superannuation funds on or after that date.
I turn now to measures contained in the Bill which are directed against familiar tax avoidance practices involving the use by profitable enterprises of companies that are no more than shells but that can provide very valuable tax benefits when profitable business is put their way. Two of these tax benefits accrue from setting off against current income deductions for past year losses, or for debts that have long been bad but have not been written off by the acquired company. A third type of benefit may be that accruing from the use of a past distribution of dividends made by an acquired private company - that has been stripped of all its assets in a dividend stripping operation - as a means of avoiding the requirement that an appropriate proportion of the income of a private company that is active and profitable be distributed to, and taxed in the hands of, the shareholders.
In 1964 and 1965 the Parliament moved against the trafficking in companies with accumulated losses. The provisions we agreed to then have been applied with some success but it is apparent that they need strengthening in some respects. This the Bill is to do. It will also apply the central principles of the 1964- 65 legislation to the acquisition, through the purchase of shares in companies, of deductions for bad debts and of an entitlement to have earlier excess dividend distributions offset against current distributable income of private companies. The central principles are simple. For a company to obtain these tax benefits, there is required to be a real and substantial identity between its beneficial ownership when the losses or debts were incurred, or the excess distributions were made, and iti current beneficial ownership. Alternatively, if there is not that identity, the company must currently be carrying on the same business as it was when the change in shareholder! occurred.
The principles are simple, but it does nol follow that the legislation expressing and enforcing them can also be simple. The Bill ii voluminous. One must apologise in some respects for the voluminous Bill and also for the rather heavy compendium known as the Explanatory Memorandum’ which is associated with it. It runs to some 55 pages of fairly closely typed material. There is no alternative. When clever lawyers outside conspire, clever legislators inside must also act. I repeat that the Bill is voluminous. This is accounted for to some extent by 2 practical factors - firstly, the necessity to re-enact existing provisions and, secondly, the unavoidability, from the draftsman’s viewpoint, of repeating in relation to each subject - losses, bad debts and excess distributions - legislative principles common to each. But, also, many peripheral matters of a technical and transitional nature have had to be catered for in the drafting and, in this age of enthusiastic and ingenious tax avoidance, many safeguards of the central principles have had to be provided. It is no use, for instance, having legislation requiring continuity of beneficial ownership in a company, if it leaves open arrangements under which the purchasers of shares in the company need not be concerned about any continuity of the old ownership because the old shareholders can easily be kept from receiving any benefit from the company’s current activities. The Bill proposes safeguards against arrangements of this kind and generally is designed to make clear the legislative intention that acquisitions of company shells for tax benefits will not bring forth those benefits.
In 1964 the Parliament considered a 40 per cent continuity of shareholding would be a reasonable criterion to apply. Experience has shown that anything less than a continuity of a controlling interest, that is, more than 50 per cent, is unlikely to be effective. So that is what the Bill proposes. Under the existing law, a company is required to satisfy the commissioner as to a 40 per cent continuity of shareholding. Under the amended law this will move up to a percentage in excess of 50. Provisions adopted by the Parliament in 1965 left undisturbed the availability of deductions for company losses when the same business is carried on at all relevant times. These provisions are being re-enacted with no substantial change. They will apply in respect of bad debt and excess distribution acquisitions as well as in the company loss situation.
The new code we propose will, in general, apply in assessments on company income of the current year 1972-73. An important exception is that the 40 per cent test for continuity of shareholdings will apply in assessments for that year in respect of deductions for past year losses and bad debts. The larger percentage, more than 50, will not take over until 1973-74. The amendments relating to excess distributions of companies will, in general, apply for dividends relating to income of the year ended 30th June 1972 but again the 40 per cent test will apply for that year and the larger percentage will not take over until the succeeding year. The Government considers it reasonable to apply the amended provisions in this way. Many intending purchasers of tax losses, bad debts and excess distributions have made saving arrangements to the effect that they are to pay the vendors of the company shells only for the amounts for which the purchasers secure allowances under the taxation law. Apart from this, the loss of revenue is most significant and the Government considers it only right that it should be stopped with as little delay as possible.
There are some other matters dealt with in the Bill and I shall refer briefly to them. An apparent technical deficiency in the provisions governing the taxing of dividends is being remedied by the Bill so that an exempting provision clearly applies in respect of dividends out of profits from gold mining, but not other types of mining, in Papua New Guinea. The Bill will provide for an outright deduction to be allowed in the year of incurrence for expenditure on converting income producing plant for use under the metric system. We are proposing the same now in this respect as was done in 1965 in relation to conversion of plant for use with the dollar currency.
There are some minor amendments relating to the communication by the Commissioner of Taxation of information necessary for the administration of the Commonwealth employees compensation provisions and scholarships schemes. There is also a technical amendment to a transitional measure concerning contracts between mining companies and the Commonwealth or a State Government which, with the approval of the relevant government, have been assigned to a third party. We are taking this opportunity to give effect to the Government’s announced intention to extend the export market development allowance for another year, until 30th June 1974. Extension of other aspects of the export incentive schemes will be dealt with in other legislation.
Finally, formal amendments reflecting current drafting practices are proposed. These will not affect the operation of the law. A memorandum providing detailed explanations of technical aspects of the Bill is being made available to honourable members and I do not propose to speak at any greater length at this stage. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lynch) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Grassby, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I am having circulated to honourable members an explanatory memorandum concerning the effect of each clause of the Bill, in detail. I need not therefore now go into all the details but I wish to explain the main principles. 1 begin by speaking to the main part of the Bill which deals with the grant of citizenship. The guiding principle for the Government in the vitally important matter of the grant of Australian citizenship is that there should not be discrimination between different groups of settlers seeking to join the family of the nation. Wherever they were born, whatever their nationality, whatever the colour of their complexion, they should all be able to become Australian citizens under just the same conditions. If we are to maintain our great tradition that every citizen should be equal before the law, it is surely essential that everyone seeking to become a citizen, after being lawfully admitted for residence in Australia, should find they are equally treated when they try to become citizens.
So it is that this Bill provides for all, regardless of origins, the same requirements as to residence, good character, knowledge of the language and of the rights and duties of citizenship, and intention to live here permanently. There will still however be special exemptions for humane and other reasons. The common period of residence proposed is 3 years. After this period in Australia substantial numbers of fine migrants have come to know Australia, feel settled here, want to identify themselves as members of our community and are in fact living as such without friction or problems. They should not have to wait for a longer time. People from any of the Commonwealth countries - now numbering no fewer than 31 - have in the past been in a distinctive and in my view an anomalous position in regard to the conditions under which they could become Australian citizens. After only one year here they have been able to apply for what is called ‘registration’ as a citizen. If they do not seek registration they can, after 5 years here, simply notify the Department of Immigration that they want to be citizens; and they thereupon become citizens. This applies to people from the following interesting list of countries. The People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Barbados, Republic of Botswana, Canada, Republic of Cyprus, Fiji, The Gambia, the Republic of Ghana, Guyana, the Republic of India, Jamaica, the Republic of Kenya, the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Republic of Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, the Republic of Nauru, New Zealand, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Sierra Leone, the Republic of Singapore, the Republic of Sri Lanka, the Kingdom of Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, the Kingdom of Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, the United Kingdom and Colonies, the Independent State of Western Samoa and Republic of Zambia. These countries comprise the 31 countries of the Commonwealth of Nations.
– It is a very distinguished list.
– It is a very varied and interesting list. All of these discriminatory provisions will be phased out by this Bill. To avoid any suggestion of breaking faith with people who have recently come here or who come in the year after the new Act commences, and who understood before coming that they could apply after one year, the Bill provides a transitional period of 2 years during which such people will be able to apply for citizenship after only one year’s residence. But thereafter all will have to be here at least 3 years. I intend to publicise this change throughout Australia and of course people seeking to migrate to Australia will be thoroughly informed by my Department’s officers. It is also obviously essential that we try our utmost to remove the general misconception on the part of many British immigrants already here that by long residence they have automatically become citizens. It has been unjust to them to leave them confused about their status. I shall be correcting this in publicity concerning the new Act during the period before and after it is proclaimed to commence. For a period of 6 months after commencement, the Bill will enable citizens of 31 Commonwealth countries which 1 have just read out, who have been here over 5 years and still do not realise the true position, to become citizens by the simple existing process of ‘notification’ that 1 have mentioned earlier.
Likewise the Bill provides that the oath or affirmation of allegiance shall be taken by all, except children under 16, regardless of former nationality. This means that migrants from all the 31 Commonwealth countries will now have the same opportunity as other migrants to take part in citizenship ceremonies suitably marking the important occasion of their becoming citizens. At these ceremonies, so well known to honourable members, the community in which the new citizens live will welcome them into the community and the family of the nation. It will end a situation of active discrimination against enthusiastic Commonwealth of Nations applicants for Australian citizenship who have been denied the same welcome as has long been afforded others.
By these means, and by all other possible means, it is the Government’s wish to ensure that our migrants from Commonwealth countries are no longer ignored or left in the mistaken belief that they acquire our citizenship automatically and that the rest of the Australian community attaches no importance to their becoming citizens. We do attach great importance to the conferment of our citizenship. We intend to demonstrate that beyond any shadow of doubt, and warmly welcome all migrants without distinction. It is important to end the confusion which has been permitted to continue since the Citizenship Act of 1 949 and the use of terminology which has given many Australians the mistaken impression they are not only Australian citizens but also citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This has not been the case for 24 years yet the past Government permitted Australians to remain confused on this point. The Citizenship Acts of 1949 ended the common citizenship between the colonies of the once British Empire, the then British Commonwealth and now Commonwealth of Nations. Australians have not been nor had the status of British citizens since 1949. This Bill has not changed that. It recognises it. Australian citizens have, however, the additional right and description of possessing the common nationality of the Commonwealth of Nations, called in some
Commonwealth countries Commonwealth citizenship and in Australia for convenience, because we in Australia use the term ‘Commonwealth’ ourselves, as British. At this point let me make it perfectly clear that the Bill does not change the situation whereby citizens of the 31 Commonwealth countries, whether they become Australian citizens or not, continue to have the status of British or Commonwealth of Nations subjects and as such have privileges such as the vote and eligibility to be appointed to public services under Acts of Parliament not administered by me.
There are 2 notable changes in the form of the oath or affirmation of allegiance. The first is the omission of the renunciation of other allegiance. That renunciation has been a cause of great emotional misgivings amongst people who want to become Australians. It has served no legal purpose at all because loss or retention of former citizenship depends entirely on the law of the person’s former homeland. A Greek citizen remains a Greek under Greek law and an American ceases to be an American under American law upon their becoming Australians, quite irrespective of whether they say at our citizenship ceremonies that they renounce Greek or American citizenship. And so I put it to the House that it is both the humane and the sane course to drop these distressing and ineffectual words about renunciation.
The second feature of the oath or affirmation is that allegiance is to be sworn to the Constitution of Australia. Specific mention of the Queen is not made, but of course allegiance to our Constitution fully embraces allegiance to the Throne. All that is sought by this change is to clarify the real position for those candidates for our citizenship who find it hard to understand why they are to swear allegiance to a monarch they have understood to be primarily Queen of another country where they have never lived and never intend to live. Again this seeks to remove a condition of granting citizenship that burdened some of our migrants more than others. It also obviates the confusion which exists in law between the Queen of Australia and the Queen of the United Kingdom, Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I also propose administratively to replace the term ‘naturalization ceremony’ with ‘citizenship ceremony’. The word ‘naturalization’ is one which does not come easily to the tongue. It is clumsy and has, for many, connotations totally unconnected with citizenship. For all these reasons we favour and will use in future ‘citizenship ceremony’.
Turning from the main provisions concerning grant of citizenship, another change achieved by the Bill is to bring up to date the list of Commonwealth countries whose citizens have the status of British subject under the Citizenship Act. South Africa and Pakistan have ceased to be members of the Commonwealth and they are accordingly omitted. It is, however, recognised that citizens of these countries who have settled in Australia should be able to keep their present status under our law for a transitional period of 2 years during which they will be encouraged to become Australian citizens. Otherwise, for example, a person in the Public Service might suddenly find he can no longer lawfully retain his appointment because the Public Service Act allows permanent appointment only of people who have the status of British subjects. The Bill also proposes, in line with the age qualification for voting, that a person shall be deemed to be of full age for citizenship purposes when he has reached 18 years of age.
It is just 25 years since the first Australian Minister for Immigration, now the Right Honourable Arthur Calwell, introduced into this House, with great and justifiable pride, a Bill which for the first time created in law the status of Australian citizen. What was then a novel status in law has, of course, become the proud title of the people of a nation, which has continued to grow not only in mere numbers but in recognition of its individual and quite separate role in the world. The Government has dedicated itself to enhancing still further the significance and repute of the title Australian citizen’; and in this Bill we ask this House to endorse a charter for the grant of that title, without discrimination, to all of our settlers who seek it and are worthy of it.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lynch) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Morrison, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill proposes a simple amendment to the Australian Institute of Marine Science Act 1972. The amendment will remove a condition which is presently restricting the selection of a suitable site. Honourable members will recall that the first step towards establishing the Institute was the Act of 1970. An Interim Council was appointed under that Act with Dr M. Day of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation as Chairman. The Council was instructed to make recommendations to the Government for the establishment of the Institute, its functions, powers and constitution and for the site of the Institute. It was specifically directed by section 4 (2) of the Act that the Institute be at or in the vicinity of Townsville.
In July 1971 the report of the Interim Council was completed and submitted to the Government. It considered and made recommendations on marine science in general as well as the Institute. The recommendations of the Council led to the Australian Institute of Marine Science Act 1972 which was given Royal Assent on 9th June 1972. The governing Council was appointed under the chairmanship of Sir Henry Basten. The Council faced 2 major problems. The original intention was to use some government land at Cape Pallarenda, but this proved impracticable.
Honourable members may recall that the report of the Interim Council expressed some reservations about the Cape Pallarenda site but within the restrictive terms of the Act it regarded it as the best site available. On page 19 of its report the Council drew attention to the following disadvantages of the site: Firstly, the wharf is exposed and in shallow water; secondly, it is not a suitable base for operations in some fields of marine science; thirdly, Townsville is not a suitable site for some of the other operations proposed; fourthly, there is risk of pollution from a smelter - in fact the site is already badly polluted and water for the aquaria would have to be imported. In addition, when the Council examined the Cape Pallarenda site in detail subsequently it was discovered that prior approval had been given for a Royal Australian Air Force and Department of Civil Aviation surveillance radar to be installed on Many Peaks Range near the proposed site. Expert advice was sought and, based on experience with a similar radar in Sydney, it was considered that the radar could cause unacceptable interference to delicate scientific equipment in the laboratories. It was also determined that electrical screening could not eliminate the problem for some of the items of equipment.
The Council then resumed attempts to find an alternative site at or within the vicinity of Townsville, that is, broadly within the city boundaries. So far these efforts have been unsuccessful, bearing in mind the conditions which the site must fulfil.
One proposal was to separate the aquaria from the Institute and locate them on Magnetic Island. This was rejected since the separation would lead to a loss of efficiency as a result of the time lost in travelling between the two sites. In addition, the building and operating costs would be increased and it was desired to conserve Magnetic Island.
The Council considered the problem at its meeting in February 1973 and as a result reported to me in the following terms:
Accordingly the Council recommends that the Institute be located somewhere on the tropical coast of Queensland, not necessarily where the 1972 Act directs and not necessarily on Commonwealth or Crown land.
The purpose of the amendment is therefore to remove restrictions on the search for a suitable site. The Government is mindful of .he advantages which would flow from close association with the James Cook University of Northern Queensland. It is still the intention of the Government to locate the Institute on the tropical coast of Queensland. Its work will be directed initially to marine problems in the area of the Great Barrier Reef, the Coral Sea and the adjacent waters of northern Queensland. A further problem arose in connection with the appointment of the Director. This is a key position and the success of the Institute will turn on finding the right person. The Council refrained from advertising for a director until a suitable salary had been determined. The recent Remuneration and Allowances Act 1973 set the director’s salary at $19,148. This is the range appropriate to a Head of Division in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. It should enable a scientist of suitable eminence and calibre to be recruited. With these 2 difficulties overcome, the Council is confident that action can be taken to bring the Institute into operation as soon as possible.
The Institute will provide for the development of marine science in Australia, lt is important to make provision for research in temperate and tropical waters and to balance properly the allocation of our research resources to these areas. The Government regards the Institute as an important step in developing and extending marine science. The Government intends to overcome Australia’s deficiencies in marine science and it is examining other steps that should be taken. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 7 March (vide page 300), on motion by Mr Les Johnson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– We have been waiting rather anxiously for this Bill to come on for debate. I have no quarrel whatsoever with the principle behind the Bill - the principle of making home loans available to serving members of the forces - but I have some reservations about the implementation of that principle. For instance, I would like to see the provisions contained in the Bill directed towards an inducement to serve and not just an inducement to enlist. With that in mind I move the following amendment:
That all words after That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading the House is of opinion that provision should have been made (a) for the effective period of service to be 6 years, (b) for the concessions granted to single or widowed female members of the Forces without dependants to be granted also to single or widowed male members of the Forces without dependants and (c) for amendments to be made to the principal Act in respect of the title to the dwelling-house, unit or lot to enable the serviceman to borrow on second mortgage and give valid security to the lender”.
In speaking to the amendment, I remind the Government that the provision of finance to members of the Services at such a low interest rate in order to assist them to build a home is not a new idea. It was commenced after the First World War and it has been operative ever since. It is not a concession that should be taken lightly either by the recipient or by the Government. Over the years it has come to be regarded as some form of consideration given by a grateful government for a member’s personal contribution to the defence of his country. Eligibility was confined to those members who volunteered to serve their country anywhere the government directed them to serve. In the latter period when national service was introduced eligibility was extended to those national service personnel who were allotted to overseas service.
In this Bill the Government again has extended eligibility to those personnel who complete 3 years effective service. This is quite a commendable thought, but such a short period as 3 years raises some doubts in my mind as to whether the Government really means this to be a concession to Service personnel or whether it is just a recruiting gimmick. We are all aware that the strength of the Army, for instance, will be depleted by approximately 4,000 within 12 months when the serving national servicemen take their discharge, and we are all aware that the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) and, in fact, the Government itself will be over a barrel if they cannot maintain Army strength at a reasonable level by their proposed volunteer system. But I fail to see how the proposal of a 3-year effective period can help the Government to achieve its aim or help the Services in any way. It may, to put it bluntly, mean more bodies for the Services. But does the Government want numbers only, or an effective defence force? For a long time I have considered that the Labor Party’s defence policy has been suspect in this regard. If by the introduction of this Bill the Government hopes to entice young men to join the Services and if after 3 years service they give the Services away and walk out with a concession of $12,000 at the lowest interest rate in the country, then the Government deserves to be censured for not maintaining an adequate and effective defence force.
I wonder whether the Government has considered just what 3 years service means in regard to contribution to the defence of this country, especially on a volunteer system. It takes just on 12 months to train a serviceman to the stage where his work as part of a team can be classed as productive in the defence structure. The remaining 2 years, minus leave periods, travelling time and discharge procedure period, means that effective service would amount to approximately 18 months. How can the Government expect to maintain anything like the respectable defence force that is vitally necessary for this country when the numbers of serving personnel are well below a satisfactory level and there is every possibility of a great number of Service personnel coming and going who have enlisted just to take advantage of the $12,000 loan at a subsidised interest rate? It could well be that a number of them would continue to serve on after 3 years service, but it could also be that the young fellow would enlist just to take advantage of a concession that is available to no other section of the community. There is a possibility that the 3-year limit could lead to abuse of this great concession. The very fact that there could be a constant turnover of personnel taking advantage of the 3-year service decision in order to obtain a service homes loan must be extremely frustrating to the Service chiefs who are worried about maintaining a sound defence structure and arc doing the best they can under the present Administration. What are the feelings of those personnel who completed effective service prior to 7th December 1972? Why did the Government not consider them when it so generously handed out the opportunity to obtain a home loan to those national service personnel who decided to accept the Government’s offer to serve on and complete their obligation? I think it would be interesting to find out how many of them who were serving on 7th December 1972 were discharged 3 to 6 months later.
If the Government is so concerned about maintaining an effective defence structure, as it would have the people believe, and wishes to improve conditions of service in order to retain personnel in the Services, why has it not given any thought to that very important person, the Citizen Military Forces member? I would have thought that when the Government was considering making the provision of a service homes loan available and deciding that 3 years effective service was sufficient for a Regular soldier, some thought would have been given to those citizens who voluntarily devote their time to assisting in the defence of this country. This Citizen Military Forces member plays an extremely important part in our defence structure, and his contribution to such a cause should be recognised and rewarded in some definite manner. I know that the pay members of the CMF receive is tax free. In fact I know it very well, for I was privileged to play quite a big part in having this concession granted. But we must remember that they devote their spare time and energy to the defence of this country purely in a voluntary manner. One could say that they are men with a mission, their mission being to play their part in seeing that this country has an adequate defence force. But if, as the Minister for Defence has stated, he intends to improve the conditions of service for CMF personnel in order to boost the strength of that organisation, I feel the inducement be has offered to regular soldiers after 3 years effective service should also be offered to the CMF member.
I do not suggest that. 1 hasten to assure the Minister for Housing (Mr Johnson) who is sitting at the table, 3 years part-time service should qualify the member for a war services homes Joan, but I do suggest that some period of effective service could be considered in order to allow the member to become eligible for the concessions mentioned in this Bill. In my opinion this could also help in some measure to remove the thought that such an excellent concession as the $12,000 low interest rate loan is a discriminatory one in favour of a very small section of the community. I offer this thought to the Minister and the Government in all seriousness, for in my opinion not enough consideration is given to the value of the service that is provided and performed by CMF personnel. 1 have mentioned that a period of 6 years effective service in lieu of 3 would be of more value to the Services. The 6 year period has been recognised as an effective period for quite some time, and even the Government itself has chosen to regard the 6 year period as being a requirement for the $1,000 bonus to serve on. I submit that Australia would be better served in the maintenance of a reasonable defence force by adopting the amendment recommending that 3 years effective service be altered to 6 years.
Wilh regard to the provision in the Bill that this concession be granted to single or widowed female members of the forces without dependants, 1 think this is an excellent suggestion, but I fail to understand why the Government did not take the logical further step and include male members in the same category. These female members in my opinion are entitled to the concession, but why the difference between sexes? I suppose all of us know some ex-service member who because of inclination or war wounds do not marry. But this does not stop them from being first-class citizens. I feel there should be no discrimination between the sexes as far as this concession is concerned and I ask the Government to extend the Bill’s provisions to include these male members. There would not be a great number affected, but let us face the fact that there are some people affected who deserve this concession.
Paragraph (c) of the amendment (c) deals with the eligibility of a serviceman to borrow on second mortgage, and this is something I know a bit about. In my opinion this should have been considered many years ago. There are many people - in fact I would go so far as to say there are honourable members in this house - who have never been able to take advantage of a war service homes loan because of cost and family commitments which in many instances dictate the opportunity for a member to take advantage of the loan. The Government has stated on many occasions that it desires to help the man with a young family, and if it means what it says here is an opportunity to help the serviceman with a young family. 1 feel there would be no loss to the Government if it considered this amendment favourably, and it certainly would make the task of purchasing a home a lot easier for the serviceman. The details of the second mortgage proposition I leave to my friend and colleague, the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer), and my other colleagues who follow me in this debate. In the interests of the serving members of the forces, and those people who in the future will become serving members, I submit these suggestions for consideration by the Government.
As I stated in my opening remarks, I have no quarrel with the principle behind the Bill, but, to ensure that this principle is strengthened in the interests of members of the forces, I recommend that the amendments is submitted be adopted by both sides of the House. In conclusion may I add that quite a number of ex-servicemen are affected by this legislation and I request that it be allowed a quick passage through both Houses in order that the serviceman who is waiting to benefit by the provisions intended will not be disadvantaged.
– ls the amendment seconded?
– 1 second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
Debate (on motion by Mr Ashley-Brown) adjourned.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation for proposed expenditure announced.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to obtain parliamentary authority for expenditure in the current financial year for which provision was not made in the Appropriation Acts (Nos 1 and 3) 1972-73. The total appropriations sought in this Bill amount to $129,427,000. Although additional appropriations are being sought, actual expenditure will not exceed the amounts included in Appropriation Acts (Nos 1 and 3) 1972-73 by $129,427,000. For a variety of reasons, it is expected that savings of about $98. 2m will be available in existing appropriations to offset the additional appropriations contained in Appropriation Act (No. 3) 1972-73 and those now proposed.
Honourable members will be aware that as a matter of law, moneys appropriated by Parliament for specific purposes may only be used for those purposes and expected savings under certain appropriations cannot be utilised as an offset in the sense that the total new appropriations sought can be reduced to a net figure in this Bill. Thus I am seeking parliamentary authority for additional expenditure in the divisions, sub-divisions and items set out in the Schedule to the Bill. To the extent that an item of any annual appropriation is unexpended the appropriation lapses at 30th June in accordance with section 36 of the Audit Act 1901-1969.
For the information of honourable members a separate document has been provided listing the estimated savings in existing annual appropriations. I emphasise that these are estimated savings. It is not intended to present an accurate prediction of the final expenditure under those appropriations, nor is it intended to imply that there will be no savings under other appropriations. The information is provided by way of background to honourable members’ consideration of the additional amounts now being sought. The various items included in this Bill can be considered in detail in Committee and I propose at this stage to refer only to some of the major provisions.
The additional requirement for departmental salaries is $15.4m and provides for increases in salaries arising from arbitration determinations, reclassification of offices and additional staff positions created since the original Estimates were approved. In accordance with established practice no provision was made in the Budget for salary or wage increases. The amount needed to meet salary increases resulting from arbitration determinations that have become effective this financial year is approximately $ 14.2m. Further appropriations totalling $ 15.7m are required for departmental administrative expenses including $2m for overseas representation; $3.1m for the Department of Services and Property including $1.7m for rents; $1.7m for the Commonwealth Taxation Office including $0.8m for services rendered by the Australian Post Office and by the State government; and $3. 6m for the Department of Works including $2m for fees of private architects and other consultants. The balance is made up of a considerable number of appropriations each of which is less than $500,000.
Additional appropriations amounting to $4 1.4m required for departmental other services include $0.7m for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs; $8.6m for the Department of Education of which $5m has been provided for Commonwealth scholarship schemes to cover increases in university fees and the extension of the Aboriginal secondary grants scheme to all children of Aboriginal descent attending secondary schools and classes from the beginning of 1973; $2.5m for education services in the Australian Capital Territory and $0.7m for educational services in the Northern Territory; $3m for the Department of External Territories to cover special assistance to facilitate the transfer of functions to the Papua New Guinea Administration, emergency assistance to alleviate food shortages in the Papua New Guinea highlands and salary increases for overseas officers of the Papua New Guinea Public Service; $5.9m for Colombo Plan and other aid; $2.8m for broadcasting and television services; $1.2m for the final payment of compensation to sulphuric acid and pyrites producers following the termination of bounty payments; $11. 7m for war service pensions, allowances and other benefits to cover increased rates effective from December 1972; $l.lm for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for expenditures under the Science and Industry Research
Act; $0.5m for grants to eligible organisations under the Aged Persons Hostels Act; $0.9m for the Commonwealth Taxation Office to cover remission of taxes and fines in special circumstances; and Sl.lm for expenditure under the National Urban and Regional Development Authority Act. The balance is made up of a number of appropriations each of which is less than $500,000.
Further appropriations totalling $57m are sought for the Defence Services. Of this amount $33. 5m is required for Service pay increases following implementation of the Woodward Committee’s recommendations and the Government’s decision on re-engagement bonus payments. Increased civilian salary and wage awards require an additional $5.9m. A further $6.9m is required to meet increases in general administrative and operational expenses; $3.1m for increases in the cost of refit, overhaul and repair of ships, aircraft plant and equipment, and $2.4m for accelerated deliveries of Air Force maintenance and servicing equipment and other items. An amount of $2. 6m is required for maintenance of production capacity in government factories and production development. Estimated savings in other Defence appropriations amount to some $51. 8m and are due mainly to slippages, cancellation and rephasing of a variety of equipment projects. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation for proposed expenditure announced.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to obtain parliamentary authority for additional expenditure in 1972-73 amounting to $54,400,000 on various items relating to capital works and services, payments to or for the States and certain other services. Although additional appropriations are being sought, actual expenditure will not exceed the amounts included in Appropriation Act (No. 2) and Appropria tion Act (No. 4) 1972-73 by $54.4m. It is expected that savings of about $43. 4m will be available in other appropriations to offset the additional appropriations in Appropriation Act (No. 4) 1972-73 and those now proposed, although as I explained in relation to the Appropriation Bill (No. 5), it is not possible to utilise such savings to offset additional expenditure under other appropriations. When introducing Appropriation Bill (No. 5) 1972- 73 I informed the House that savings expected in amounts appropriated by Appropriation Act (No. 1) and Appropriation Act (No. 3) 1972-73 had been listed in an information paper for the benefit of honourable members. The information paper likewise contains details of savings expected in amounts appropriated by Appropriation Act (No. 2) and Appropriation Act (No. 4) 1972- 73.
Of the $39.9m now sought for capital works and services the major requirements are $6m for loans under the Defence Service Homes Act to meet the increased loan limit and to reduce delays in meeting applications; $ 10.7m for buildings, works, plant and equipment at overseas posts including $7m for purchase of a new chancery site in Paris and SI. 6m for the purchase of land for a housing compound at Osaka; $14m for the purchase of pipe and associated equipment for the Moomba-Sydney gas pipeline; $0.6m for the acquisition of sites and buildings for various Commonwealth departments; $6m for the National Capital Development Commission primarily to meet additional commitments on current contracts arising from movements in wages and prices and additional housing on account of the resumption of the Melbourne to Canberra transfer program; and $0.7m for the Department of Works for construction projects.
Additional appropriations of $4.4m are sought for payments to or for the States, including a grant of SI. 5m to the Queensland Government towards the construction of the Ross River Dam and $2. Om for the States to make loans to co-operative fruit canneries to enable accelerated payments to growers. Further appropriations of $10.2m are sought for departmental other services including S8m for assistance for children in isolated areas and $1.4m for tuition fees and living and travelling allowances under the Commonwealth Pre-School Teacher Scholarships Scheme. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Export Payments Insurance Corporation Bill 1973.
Migration Bill 1973.
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1973.
Commonwealth Banks Bill 1973.
(No. 2) 1973
Debate resumed from 5 April (vide page 1155), on motion by Mr Hayden:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition will not oppose the second reading of this Bill. However, we have several reservations about it. I note that the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) is not in the chamber at the moment.
– He will be here soon.
– I trust that he will be able to resolve some of the reservations held by the Opposition in his speech winding up the debate. However, we believe that the Bill is deficient in some specific areas. My colleague the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) will move some amendments to the Bill at the Committee stage. I trust that the Government will be prepared to see the logic of those amendments which are designed to protect the Australian taxpayer from what the Opposition believes can be possible abuses of the provisions of this legislation.
I think it should be remembered also that the first initiative in this field came from the previous Government. I should like to pay my tribute to the honourable member for Mackellar, the Minister for Social Services in the previous Government, for his efforts in this respect. I think that the Minister for Social Security was less than fair to the honourable member for Mackellar during his second reading speech in introducing this legislation to the House. In the Minister’s remarks there was a strong implication that the previous legislation had been unsuccessful in achieving its objectives. He instanced the number of countries approached and the number of reciprocal agreements which the previous Government had been able to con clude successfully. But in fact, of course, the legislation covers a large number of migrants. In the first place there are those, although not affected by the previous Government’s legislation in this field, covered by the comprehensive social security benefits with the United Kingdom and New Zealand. But the previous Government was able successfully to conclude reciprocal agreements with Malta, Italy, Greece and Turkey. Between them those countries account for a large number of migrants to Australia.
The previous legislation provided for portability of benefits, as honourable members will be aware, subject to 20 years residence in Australia while over the age of 16 years, and there had to be reciprocal agreements with the countries concerned. This legislation makes much more generous provision. In the first place there is no requirement for a reciprocal agreement. For an age pension 10 years residence in Australia is required and 5 years residence is required for eligibility for an invalid pension where the cause of the invalidity was incurred while the person concerned was resident in Australia. The applicant is required to have resided in Australia for 10 years in the case of an injury causing invalidity being occasioned outside Australia. In future, satisfaction of these requirements will qualify people for a portable pension. No residential qualification is required for a widow whose husband dies while they are both permanently resident in Australia. Broadly, those are the criteria which will be applied for eligibility for pensions in the future.
The Opposition is concerned to see that these very much more generous provisions in the Bill are not abused. We are not convinced that the Bill as drafted will prevent abuses. But with relatively simple amendments, asI mentioned will be moved by the honourable member for Mackellar, these abuses could be prevented. Therefore, the Opposition hopes that the Government will see the force of the proposed amendments and support them. As I mentioned earlier the Opposition’s concern is to protect the Australian taxpayer from people who take advantage of this scheme. At the same time the Opposition wishes to protect the interests of migrants and indeed all Australians in achieving true portability of pensions. But we do not see justification for Australian taxpayers having to provide pensions to people who already are getting them under the reciprocal agreements with the
United Kingdom and New Zealand. Nor do we believe that the conditions for eligibility should be so loose that they will encourage some people to come to Australia for perhaps a brief period when they are quite young, purely for the purpose of becoming eligible for a lifetime pension - a very valuable asset as I am sure all honourable members would agree.
These are the aspects which will be dealt with by the amendments to be moved. Clearly the Government is not yet in a position to indicate what the future situation will be of Australian residents in the United Kingdom. In his second reading speech the Minister merely said that necessary action has already been initiated. But of course one party cannot unilaterally change an agreement: it can abrogate an agreement not that I am suggesting we would consider that course for a moment. The reciprocal agreement provides for considerable notice to be given before it can be abolished or changed. Id the meantime there must be a large element of doubt amongst those who are included in the terms of the reciprocal agreement. In fact, 1 am quite sure that many honourable members would have received representations since the introduction of this legislation to that effect. I am talking now about the reciprocal agreement with the United Kingdom particularly. People are concerned about the doubtful position which British migrants occupy at present.
Finally, I draw attention to 2 unsatisfactory aspects of this legislation. The first one, as I regret is the case with so many other proposals introduced by the Government, is that no attempt has been made to estimate the costs involved in the implementation of these proposals. I am well aware that in a piece of legislation like this it is not possible to give a definitive, accurate estimate of cost because we do not know until the legislation has been in force for a while just how many more people will take advantage of the new portability criteria. But I do think that we could have expected at least some reference by the Minister to the economic implications of this legislation. We certainly will be looking for some explanation during the course of this debate.
The second point that I should like to make is that this Bill is just one more example of what 1 might term sloppy and loose legislation which has been introduced by this Government. As my colleague, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) will demonstrate, the Government has not given sufficient attention to some of the technical points involved and has left portable pensions - in some conditions - open to abuse, to the grave potential disadvantage of the Australian taxpayer. The Opposition is concerned about this and we will be bringing forward constructive amendments which, while not in any way affecting the benefits and privileges of the bona fide applicant for pension portability, will protect the interests of those who will be called upon to pay the costs of this scheme.
– The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) who led for the Opposition in the debate on this legislation made 2 criticisms of the Bill. One criticism related to the question of the cost involved and the other was his allegation that certain people could obtain a pension who should not be entitled to it; the honourable member for Corangamite said that the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) will fix that up with his amendment. I should like to quote a report of remarks made by a spokesman for the honourable member for Mackellar who, until fairly recently, was the Minister for Social Services in the previous Government. He was referring to the costs involved in such a scheme in a statement which he issued on Australia Day. The report states: . . the spokesman for Mr Wentworth said he had ‘no idea’ of the numbers of people who would classify for Australian pensions overseas. He said the new scheme would cost Australia ‘virtually nothing’.
This was because the Government had to pay pensions for people living in Australia. In addition it had to pay for postal, transport and other pensioners’ concessions.
The spokesman said that in fact the new scheme could result in a ‘net saving’ for the Government.
It is interesting to note that when the honourable member for Mackellar, as Minister for Social Services introduced into the House what was a far worse scheme than this one, he said that the more people who applied for pension portability, the greater the saving would be, but he claims that under our proposition when more people take advantage of the scheme extra costs will be involved.
The Bill that we have introduced, in fact, is similar to the Bill we introduced in March last year when we were in Opposition. The then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, introduced a Bill because we knew that the previous Government was not prepared to do anything. Finally, just before the elections, the previous Government introduced its legislation. However, it put all kinds of restrictions on the portability of pensions. It provided for a 20-year residential period instead of 10 years, which is the normal qualifying period for age pensioners who choose to stay in Australia and insisted on reciprocal agreements with other countries. Those are the 2 main differences between our legislation and the legislation introduced by the previous Government. There is no need for reciprocal agreements and we will stick to the 10-year residential qualification which applies to people who receive a pension in Australia. The Government can see no reason why, once people are in receipt of the pension, they are not entitled to take it wherever they wish.
In fact, the Government has extended this principle in another piece of legislation that has already been introduced by the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation. I refer to the Repatriation Bill (No. 2) which will be debated next and which, in fact, could well have been debated in conjunction with this Bill. The Repatriation Bill (No. 2) applies exactly the same principle to repatriation pensioners. People are entitled to take those pensions wherever they like. It should not be dependent upon whether Australia has achieved some allegedly reciprocal agreement with another country. The previous Minister talked big about the reciprocal agreements. In fact, all he did was to send cyclostyled letters to a number of embassies or consulates in Australia and he expected those other countries to take up the question of reciprocal agreements.
– We got four.
– Yes, but the point was that there was no necessity for those reciprocal agreements; they made no difference whatever to what was happening. As far as Australian citizens are concerned, the reciprocal agreement is unnecessary. This Government decided that a person who has become eligible for the pension in Australia is entitled to take the pension wherever he wants to go. in exactly the same way as pensioners from many other countries do at present.
When 1 spoke to the similar Bill which was introduced last year by the Opposition and was defeated by the previous Government, I pointed out that in a comparable country to our - the United States of America - a larger proportion of people who were eligible for the age pension would have originated from overseas because the main period of migration of young people to the United States was in the 1920s or early in the twentieth century. I pointed out that, in the United States, out of 13 million pensioners, only 108,000, or less than 1 per cent - about .8 per cent - lived overseas and of all the pensions and benefits paid for retired persons, only 8.8 per cent were paid overseas. In 1969, this figure amounted to $US17m of a total payment of more than $US2,160m. In return for that expenditure of $US17m, or whatever would be the corresponding amount in this country, there is, of course, a saving on fringe benefits. There is no necessity to provide nursing home and hospital benefits or the other fringe benefits which go with the age pension. Therefore, 1 suppose, it is in the economic interests of the Australian community that as many pensioners as possible go overseas. I do not suggest that they should go overseas for that reason, because I take a humanitarian view of the position. But if people want to argue purely on an economic basis, it is in fact in the economic interests of Australia that pensioners take their pensions overseas.
I think it is important when discussing this legislation to pay tribute to many of the people who worked hard during the last few years to try to persuade the previous Government to bring in this type of legislation. The previous Government failed to do so and I suppose, to some extent at least, it could be said that this was part of the reason for the previous Government now being on the Opposition benches. Certainly, in certain seats such as the seat of Evans in Sydney and probably in other seats in Australia, the reaction of many of the local people who were naturalised Australians was very strong against the Government. Among the people to whom 1 should like to pay tribute are the publishers of the Italian newspaper ‘La Fiamma’ which organised a petition and obtained 73,000 signatures for that petition which it then presented to the previous Prime Minister. In New South Wales alone it obtained nearly 36,000 signatures, and in Victoria 22,000 signatures to this petition were obtained.
The people felt very strongly about this matter. Many thousands of people felt strongly about it as being a right - an entitlement - even though they had no intention of leaving Australia, to obtain their pensions overseas. They simply felt that it should be a right available to them. In some cases people have certain emotional ties with their country of origin. Honourable members hear of people who are in their 70s or even older who decide that they want to return to Italy, Greece or Germany or some other country to die. As one who came from overseas I certainly do not have any emotional ties of that nature but I think we should respect that that sort of emotion tie is felt by many people. It is a pity that in Australia there are people from the so-called Iron Curtain countries who would experience some difficulty, for political reasons, in returning to those countries.
The newspaper ‘La Fiamma’ was one of the organisers for this type of legislation. Other people who worked very hard for it and to whom a tribute should be paid include members of the Maltese community led by its High Commissioner, Mr Joe Forace. He helped to put pressure on the previous Government in the sense of supporting on behalf of the Maltese Government and the Maltese Labour Party, which, in fact, is in power, efforts to bring about this sort of legislation. Even organisations which on purely political matters one normally would expect to have supported the previous Government came out strongly in support of the Labor Party’s proposed legislation and strongly against the previous Government’s legislation. I refer particularly to the United Council of Immigrants. It is interesting to note the types of organisation which make up the United Council of Immigrants. They are organisations many of which one would normally find sympathetic to the previous Government on other political issues. Those organisations are the Central Council of Croatian Associations in Australia, the Italian Welfare Centre Co. As. It. in Sydney, the Netherlands Society of Sydney, the Association of Australian Slovacs, the Swiss Club of New South Wales, the Ukrainian Society of New South Wales, the Federal Council of Polish Associations, the Estonian Society in Sydney, the Hungarian Council of New South Wales, the Latvian Community in Sydney, the Lithuanian Community in Sydney, the Maltese Community Council of New South Wales and the Australian Romanian Association.
AH of these organisations were very upset by the attitude of the previous Minister for Social Services, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). I remember attending a meeting in the Paddington Town Hall last year to which the previous Minister had been invited some 2 to 3 months earlier to express the then Government’s point of view. The former Minister refused to attend, pleading absence - I cannot remember whether from Australia or from Sydney - on that very day. The relevant point, however, was that he did not bother sending anyone in his place. He was always very happy to send anyone from Mr Les Irwin to Mr Douglas Darby to any of the meetings of those organisations when it only meant attacking the Labor Party, but when it meant actually doing something for the immigrants involved who were represented by the organisations he squibbed it. I am sure that from a political viewpoint it cost the previous Government dearly during the last election campaign.
La Fiamma’, which ran the campaign for the pensioners among the Italian community, obtained some 73,000 signatures to a petition. It also ran a poll independently some months later to determine how the people who read La Fiamma’ would vote in the last Federal elections. It was interesting to discover that almost 90 per cent of the readers of that newspaper, which has by far the largest readership of any foreign language publication in Australia, particularly among the Italian community in Australia, said they would vote for the Australian Labor Party. I do not blame them. There were many reasons why they should vote for the Labor Party, one being that it promised to introduce the sort of legislation which is now before the House. I congratulate the Minister and the Government for introducing this legislation so early in the life of this Government. It is important because many people are waiting to go overseas and to take advantage of this legislation which, of course, is not being made retrospective. A person who has applied for and is receiving a pension will be able to apply for the transfer of that pension after the date of proclamation of this legislation.
I strongly oppose the amendment foreshadowed by the honourable member for Mackellar, especially the proposition which states:
Where the Director-General is satisfied that a person has become resident in Australia solely or mainly for the purpose of establishing eligibility for a pension, he may determine that some or all of any pension for which that person has become eligible should not be paid while that person is absent from Australia.
The proposition is that a person must be in Australia for 10 years to become eligible for the pension. The proposition is ridiculous. A person becomes eligible for a pension when he or she is aged 65 or 60. A person, according to the proposed amendment, allegedly will come to Australia for 10 years with the aim of obtaining-
Order! At the moment there is no amendment before the Chair. No amendment has been moved.
– A copy of an amendment has been distributed to honourable members and the previous speaker for the Opposition referred to it.
-If an amendment is to be moved it will be moved in the Committee stages. It is not in order for the honourable member to refer to it now.
– In any case, I would strongly oppose any amendment, should there be one, suggesting that this sort of power be at the discretion of the Director-General. I would strongly oppose it on the basts that it gives me–
-Order! I have pointed out to the honourable member that he will have an opportunity in the Committee stages of discussing any amendment.
– It is a matter of giving power to someone or suggesting that someone should read the mind of a person to decide what is the reason for a particular person residing in Australia. I think this is completely wrong, lt would lead to abuses. It could lead to political prejudice.
-Order! Is the honourable member still continuing to debate the foreshadowed amendment?
– No. I am suggesting what sort of things should not be done. 1 am suggesting that the way we are doing it makes it absolute that if a person is in Australia for 10 years he gets the pension. 1 oppose any suggestion that there should be some power vested in some person - a Minister or any member of the department - to make a decision as to why a person has come to Australia. I think this could lead to political prejudice. I can imagine what the former Minister would have done in many cases. Having made an earlier decision that a person came here to disrupt the trade union movement or for some other purpose he would then decide that that person was not here for that reason at all but simply to get a pension and, therefore, the former Minister would not pay it to him even if that person left Australia. I think this would leave the position open to abuse in many cases. As you have suggested, Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Mackellar may well decide not to go on with his proposition. I conclude by again congratulating the Government on the early introduction of this progressive piece of legislation. I hope that the House will pass it quickly so that it can be passed quickly by the Senate and be proclaimed to enable those people who intend to take advantage of it to do so at the earliest possible time.
– I was somewhat surprised by the speech of the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), who has just resumed his seat. I would have thought that as a man trained in a university he would not be guilty of the egregious logical errors which he committed. I am speaking particularly about his remarks in relation to the costs of the measure. He said that the previous Government’s proposals, which I introduced, involved costs which the present proposals do not. The present proposals involve costs for 2 simple reasons, which I would like to bring to the honourable member’s attention. The first reason is that the existing legislation does not leave much of a loophole for people to come to Australia and plunder the Treasury by receiving pensions. This Bill, as I will show, does leave some such loopholes.
The second reason is that under our existing agreement with the United Kingdom, people who go to the United Kingdom - I >tm speaking not of those people who qualify under an agreement made under section 137 of the Act but of those people who have lived here for 10 years or more - are paid a pension in the United Kingdom, that being their permanent residence. That would not he so under this Bill. So there are quite considerable additional costs involved in this Bill which were not involved in the existing legislation. Perhaps the honourable member for Prospect is a little ignorant in these matters, but as a trained man he should not commit that kind of egregious error.
Our present system of pensions differs from those operating in most parts of the world. T except New Zealand where there is a good deal of parallelism with the Australian system. There are two or three reasons for that difference. The first reason is that the Australian pension comes on all at once. It is all or nothing. It is a certain sum. I am not speaking of the means test or anything like that but of the pension rate. One either is eligible for the pension or is not. In most overseas systems the pension rate comes on gradually and one accumulates a pension for every year of work, or every year of contribution. That is common to most European systems and to the United Kingdom system. It is an aspect in which the Australian system materially differs.
Our pensions are non-contributory. This is unusual overseas. Our system is not unique, but that aspect is unusual overseas. Therefore, overseas pension rights are almost personal property like an insurance policy or any other investment. They are different in kind, therefore, from rights in Australia which are not tied to personal and individual contributions. The third reason is that insofar as flat rate pensions are concerned, our rates are very high indeed in comparison with the rates of other countries. For example, using a conversion at the current rate of exchange, the United Kingdom standard rate of pension is equivalent to $13.60 a week as against our pension of $21.50 a week. The married rate in the United Kingdom is equal to $21,90 a week as against the Australian married rate of $37.50. The United Kingdom pensions are comparatively high. Of course, they are supplemented by contributory pensions but I am now talking of basic rates. The basic rates current in most European countries, apart from the pensions which are bought through contributions, make the Australian rates seem astronomically high for non-contributory pensions.
There is also the question of the means test. It is a vexed question which I will not go into at the moment. It is true that the previous Government did a very great deal. In fact, most migrants - not all, but most - were covered. In respect of the United Kingdom and New Zealand we were covered by reciprocal agreements. In respect of migrants from Italy, Malta, Greece and Turkey we were covered by agreements negotiated under the new legislation. We were about to conclude agreements with France, the Netherlands and many other countries which are set out in the list in the second reading speech of the Minister for
Social Security (Mr Hayden). We were proceeding well with negotiations and I am quite certain that it would not have been long before we concluded agreements.
Under the existing legislation people became eligible for pensions only after 20 years residence in Australia after the age of 16 years. This was meant to cover the normal working life and to bring some kind of congruence and equivalence with the general position in Europe or the United Kingdom. It is absolutely fair, of course, that a person who has contributed by taxation or in other ways to the Australian revenue throughout his working life, or by his working life has contributed to the Australian economy, whether by actually working himself, or in the case of a woman by helping to raise a family or in other domestic work - if they have actually been contributing throughout their 20 years of working life after the age of 16 years - it is fair and reasonable for them to take their pensions overseas. I am not quite certain that it is not a little over generous to do what is done in this Bill and I will come back to that in a moment. I think it is open to abuses.
I will contrast the present Bill with the half baked Bill which was brought into the House by the present Government when it was in Opposition. That Bill was deficient in 3 main aspects. Firstly, it applied only to Australian citizens and therefore ignored those people who had lived and worked in Australia for a long time but had not taken out naturalisation. Secondly, it did nothing to protect the pension rights coming from overseas of people who had left their home countries to settle in Australia. Thirdly, it opened the Australian Treasury to plunder on a massive scale because it would allow people to come here in very big numbers in order to qualify for a pension. These 3 defects were inherent in the Bill which was brought down by the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). It was certainly a very amateurish and unsatisfactory effort.
To some extent this Bill has profited from what the previous Government did. It has corrected some of the errors which were inherent in the previous Government’s legislation. It applies to all people in Australia, irrespective of whether they are citizens. That is an improvement. It does not in any way give us the power to negotiate with other countries in order to protect the pension rights accruing from overseas of people who have come to settle permanently in Australia. It does to some extent close the loopholes for plunder of the Australian Treasury which I had to point out in the House last year to the then Opposition. I am afraid that it does not close them absolutely, but it does close them substantially.
I will go into that aspect in more detail. I will turn my mind particularly to what is known as the widow’s pension. About half of the recipients of widows’ pensions are not widows in the technical sense at all; they are divorced and separated women, etc.
– Yes, half. There is the very distinct possibility that people who were contemplating separation or divorce and wanted to make arrangements by mutual consent under which the wife would not have to be maintained by the husband would be able to come to Australia, get almost instantly an Australian pension and take it away permanently with her for life. This is something which is not terribly good. We do not want to become a kind of divorce Bill for the United Kingdom. It seems to me that, although proposed new section 83ae of the Bill attempts to close this loophole to some extent - perhaps the Minister is a little inexperienced and perhaps he did not quite understand what he was doing - he has not quite closed that particular loophole. It is true that a couple coming from overseas, contemplating this separation or divorce, would have to serve their 5 years here, but if they came from the United Kingdom or New Zealand, that of course would not be so. I think it would open the door to very considerable abuses. I will be taking a point in regard to the drafting of proposed new section 83ae in Committee, which is a technical point perhaps but I think the Government should consider it. I would suggest to the Government that it might redraft proposed new section 83ae in order to carry out better the objectives which it has set.
I shall now look at the other question. Let us take an Australian citizen who came from the United Kingdom and has been in Australia for 10 years and therefore is eligible for a pension in his own right irrespective of the agreement with the United Kingdom. At present that person could not take his pension overseas, but if he went back to the United Kingdom his pension would be paid there. This, of course, is balancing up the obligation we have undertaken to pay pensions to United Kingdom residents here in Australia, If he went back the pension would be paid by the United Kingdom. Under this Bill, if he went back the pension would not be paid by the United Kingdom; it would be paid by us because our rate is in excess of the United Kingdom rate. If he had the qualifying period in the United Kingdom before he came here, as many of these people have, he would be entitled to draw a British pension as well as an Australian pension.
– The two?
– He would be entitled to draw the two because the British pension, being a contributory pension, is of the nature of property. There are technical things which flow from the agreement. I know there are legal difficulties. It is quite a subtle business in order to see how the impact of the agreement is felt. It is perfectly true that the Minister in his second reading speech said that he proposed to renegotiate the agreement but, as the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) said a moment ago, renegotiation means both sides. Both sides must come to some agreement in regard to this. This renegotiation will be dependent on the proposals we make being acceptable to the United Kingdom, unless the Minister intends to take the strong arm view and say to the United Kingdom: ‘If you do not like our terms we will denounce the agreement, as we have a right to do, and then former United Kingdom citizens in Australia will not get the benefit of the agreement’. I do not know what the Minister means to do. It may well be that there will be amity and reasonableness about the negotiations. But when going into negotiations of this character I do not think it is a good thing to give away everything in advance, as this Bill apparently does.
In Committee I shall be speaking about some of the technicalities of proposed new section 83ae. I will not go into that now. There is just one final point that I want to make which is of substance and which I think is proper to be made in my speech at the second reading stage. We all want a fair thing to be done to the migrants that come to Australia, whether they come from the United Kingdom or from Europe or wherever it may be. Wherever they come from we want to treat them fairly, but we do not want to be over-generous to them at the expense of the Australian taxpayer. We have to think of the interests of the ordinary Australian, and in thinking of that we are also thinking of the interests of the migrant, because if we are over-generous there can be a backlash and that kind of backlash is not in the interests of the migrant community. The migrant community should be treated fairly, but if migrants require over-generous treatment, in the short term they may get advantage and the Australian Labor Party may get votes, but over the long term that is not to the advantage of the groups in the migrant community. They need goodwill and they are entitled to goodwill for fair treatment. This backlash can be quite dangerous.
I do not know whether honourable members - 1 am speaking now not of migrants but of Aborigines - saw recently on television a backlash from towns in the Northern Territory about what was being done for our Aborigines. I am entirely in favour of differential treatment for the advantage of our Aborigines. I am in favour of that - and I do not want anything I say to be misinterpreted - but if you go too far there is always the possibility of a backlash which in the end does damage to the very groups whom you are trying to help. For the migrants also I say this: A fair go is what they are entitled to and what we should give them, but we should be very careful that we are not opening the Australian Treasury to plunder - not by the migrants who are here; they are not the people I am talking about at all. I am talking about the carpet baggers who might come here, if the loopholes were, here, for the express purpose of plundering the Australian Treasury. This we do not want, and if these carpet baggers come from overseas to Australia for this purpose they will be doing things which are to the disadvantage of those good migrants who are now in Australia, whom we want to help and who are entitled to fair deals.
– I support this Bill and welcome the promptness with which the Government has found a place for this measure in its busy and crowded legislative program. The Bill should not be looked at in isolation nor should it be seen just as providing one further expansion of benefit to any particular group. Its real significance appears to me to be twofold. Firstly, it represents a further step in establishing that distinctive Australian Labor Party attitude to pensioners, namely, that pensions are available as of right and not of favour and if they are available as of right they are not to be withdrawn on geographical grounds. Secondly, it is a further development in our review of the migration system and of the official attitude to migrants. We are trying to bring more understanding, flexibility and co-operation to this area and this Bill will be seen as a significant contribution towards that effort.
In leading for the Opposition the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) foreshadowed that some amendments would be moved in the Committee stage but that the Opposition would not oppose the second reading. In terms of the formalities of the House, that means that for all practical purposes the Opposition is not opposing the Bill and the acceptance of the Bill by it is therefore a further interesting continuation of a process we have seen operating throughout this session.
In the last Parliament Labor’s proposals were greeted time and again by the then Government with cries of ‘Where is the money coming from?’, or ‘That is easy to say in Opposition but wait till you have the responsibility of implementing it in government’, or You do not realise the complications which would arise from doing what you suggest’. It is worth pointing out in this context that the Government’s legislative program not only stands on its merits but also as vindication of the proposals it put when in opposition. The acceptance of so much of our program by the Liberal Pary and the Country Party confirms this belief and goes to the extent of making it hard for us to remember now all the agonising they appeared to go through on such questions as votes for 18-year-olds, the removal of excise tax on wine, the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Bill or, to come back to the Bill before the House, unqualified portability of pensions. All these were seen previously by the Opposition when it was in Government as too costly, too complicated or too soon. Now that the initiative has been taken by the present Government we find acquiescence in those points by the Opposition with hardly a murmur or reservation. That is the case as we shall shortly see as we proceed to the vote on the second reading of this Bill.
Portability of Australian pensions, apart from the special arrangements we formerly had with the United Kingdom and New Zealand, was provided for the first time in a Bill presented to the Parliament in April last year. The present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) could certainly claim part of the credit for this measure as his own earlier private members Bill on the same subject obviously gave considerable impetus to the movement in that direction. I noticed, whether from nostalgia or some other reason, that the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) was still intent tonight on dwelling on the alleged defects and amateurism of the private members Bill. That is totally irrelevant now. I have acknowledged before that the Bill introduced by the previous Government last year was better than the private members Bill which preceded it. However, the importance of the private members Bill lay in the impetus which it gave to government legislation and to the. further legislation which is now improving on that. It is important that it be seen in that context and recognised for the major contribution it made to the portability of pensions.
In any event, whatever the cause of the previous Government’s Bill in April last year, it did at that time represent an important advance on earlier thinking. I think I acknowledged that at the time and acknowledged also the contribution which the honourable member for Mackellar, who was then Minister for Social Services, had made. I notice from Hansard that I went on to make 4 points in criticism of the Bill at that time, the now existing legislation. I suggested firstly that we should reduce the residential qualification for the age pension from 20 years, as was then provided, to 10 years which is the period for qualification existing in Australia itself. I suggested secondly that we should do without the need for reciprocity. My reason at that time which still remains valid, and the acceptance of this proposition negates much of what the honourable member for Mackellar has said tonight, was that both these propositions - that is, firstly, that we should not have a different eligibility period outside Australia and within it and, secondly, that it is not our concern to have reciprocity before we advance - depend in the last resort on our concept of the nature of the pension system. If our pensions arise as of right then they must arise at some particular time irrespective of where the right is exercised. 1 am pleased to see that principle recognised in the present Bill.
The third criticism I made of last year’s Bill at the time was that it should be possible while abroad for a qualified pensioner to change from one category of pension to another should the status of that pensioner change while abroad: for example, changing from the status of the wife of an invalid pensioner to a widow pensioner following the death of the invalid pensioner. The fact is that on the basis of last year’s Act that position was not covered but it is covered now by this Bill. I welcome that as well. The fourth criticism I made last year was that I thought it then to be a shame that persons living abroad who would be eligible to obtain a pension if they returned to Australia and to take it with them if they then returned abroad were to be precluded from the scheme altogether. I recognise that this position is still not covered as fully as I would have liked though it is partly covered in the case of people returning for a minimum period of 12 months. I console myself with the thought that three out of four propositions being accepted within 12 months of the argument being put is not bad for starters and I suspect from the benign way that the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) is looking at the moment that he will not be averse to further arguments being put on the fourth proposition.
The need for a new Bill, especially one removing the necessity for reciprocal arrangements, can be readily demonstrated. The original portability Act was introduced, as I have already pointed out, in April last year and passed in May last year. By December only 4 countries had finalised the reciprocal arrangements with Australia that were called for by the Act. These countries were Greece, Italy, Malta and Turkey. The table incorporated in Hansard during the course of the Minister’s second reading speech indicates how difficult and lengthy the process of obtaining further extensions is likely to be. I want to put to the House the unfortunate and unfair distinction which would have arisen had we not moved to delete the need for reciprocity. Under the reciprocal arrangements made with the 4 countries I have mentioned, a considerable number of migrants are already covered. I notice from the most recent consolidated statistics of the Department of Immigration that for the period 1945 to 1972 inclusive the numbers of migrants regarded as permanent and long term arrivals, by country of last residence, are as follows: Greece 210,000, Italy 404,000. Malta 75,000 and Turkey 14,000. Those figures are all taken to the nearest thousand. As will be seen, the reciprocal arrangements cover in general terms - I know that this is not a strictly accurate representation of the cover available - 703,000 migrants. In other words, reciprocal arrangements with those 4 countries - in themselves occupying over 6 months of endeavour - did cover 703,000. But this leaves an enormous number of migrants uncovered in the event that they wish to return to their original countries of residence.
In the same table in the Department’s consolidated statistics covering the same period, that is 1945 to 1972 inclusive, we find the following numbers of migrants regarded as permanent and long term arrivals, by country of last residence: The United Arab Republic 32,000, South Africa 24,000, Canada 53,000, United States of America 124,000, Ceylon 12,000, Cyprus 17,000, Hong Kong 26,000, India, 37.000, Malaysia 54,000, Singapore 24,000. China 17,000, Indonesia 12,000, Japan 12,000, Lebanon 33,000. Austria 91,000-
– What do those figures represent?
– They refer to the long term and permanent arrivals from the countries mentioned over the period 1945 to 1972, who are not covered by existing reciprocal arrangements in the event that they wish to return to their countries of origin. I remind the House that I am comparing them with the number of 703,000 migrants who would be covered under existing reciprocal arrangements if they returned to their countries of origin. 1 do not want to delay the House, but I think that for the sake of completeness it would be worthwhile to put into the record a list of the numbers of migrants from some other countries. I have omitted those countries with fewer than 10,000 migrants in the period I have mentioned. We are dealing with substantial migrant groups.
– But do not forget the United Kingdom reciprocal agreement.
– I keep that well in mind. I continue quoting from the same table: Belgium 7,000, Denmark 12,000, Finland 13,000, France 31,000, Germany 27,200, Hungary 14,000, The Netherlands 154,000,
Poland 23,000, Spain 21,000, Switzerland 17,000, Yugoslavia 95,000 and Fiji 13,000. I have not, I confess, added all those up. but they come to well over one million migrants coming from countries with which we have no reciprocal agreement and in respect of which the possibility of reaching a reciprocal agreement in some cases is nebulous and in other cases non-existent. If the migrants wished to return to their countries of origin or indeed to any other country other than the 4 with which we already have agreements, they would be left out in the cold. I can see no reason in principle for that sort of distinction being maintained and I am pleased to see, as yet another of the benefits in this Bill, that that position will be precluded. The cost of the new measure has been raised today in a number of forms.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was referring to the fact that Opposition speakers earlier in this debate had complained about the cost of the new pro.posals. In respect of one area only is complaint justified, namely in respect to Australian pensioners who go to live in Britain. The honourable member for Mackellar rightly pointed out that in some circumstances these pensioners could in the future get 2 pensions whereas now they are eligible for only one. The short answer to that is that the possibility of double pension exists even now under his own original reciprocal agreements, for example, with Italy. Certainly in the future this arrangement will exist for restricted numbers of people in many parts of the world. It is hard to perceive the principle on which we could reasonably say that one might have a double pension in any part of the globe but the United Kingdom. As for the rest, the cost of covering all pensioners wherever they may go and irrespective of reciprocal arrangements will be negligible.
In fact, it is not difficult to argue that the cost of maintaining payments to pensioners abroad actually will be less than maintaining them here. That can be shown in purely economic terms by reference, for example, to the absence of fringe benefits and particularly medical benefits that beneficiaries would have received if they had not gone abroad. Some vague reference was also made to other potential increases in costs. If anyone is concerned at the drain on overseas reserves which might be produced at some future time when our overseas balances are not as healthy as they are at present, I can assure him with a clear conscience that he need not worry about that either. In spite of the considerable interest in migrant groups, organisations and journals when reciprocal portability was achieved last year for Greece, Italy, Turkey and Malta, I find on inquiry that as of today only 153 persons are actually receiving benefits abroad under last year’s legislation. The relevant numbers are 49 in Greece, 73 in Italy, 2 in Turkey and 29 in Malta. The type of pension received by these 153 persons is broken up as follows: Age pension 53; invalid pension 51; wives’ pension 22; class A widow 10; and class B widow 17. Of course, this number will grow but one can confidently predict that the growth will be modest.
The United States of America’s experience in this respect is instructive. I quote from an article headed ‘Benefits Paid Abroad Under OASDHI’ which is a publication of the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare. The title ‘OASDHI’ refers to that section of the United States Social Security Act governing payment of old age, survivors and disability insurance. The experience to which this article refers is as follows:
At the end of 1940, the year that monthly benefits first became payable, there were about 100 beneficiaries living abroad who were receiving a total of about $1,000 in monthly benefits. At the end of February 1968 there were 194,453 beneficiaries abroad receiving a total of about $15m in monthly benefits.
This amount taken in isolation might be frightening until one considers the further comment which states:
The increase in the number and amount of benefits paid abroad under the OASDHI programme between 1940 and 1968 might seem phenomenal unless compared to the growth of the entire OASDHI cash benefit programme … the total number of monthly beneficiaries grew from about 220,000 at the end of 1940 to nearly 24 million at the close of 1967. During the same period, the monthly amount of benefits in current-payment status grew from about $4m to over $2 billion.
Seen in that context the $15m being remitted abroad is modest indeed. But this matter is being looked at in economic terms and I believe it is wrong to consider it on that basis alone. I borrow again from the words of the United States–
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I think that most of the substance of this Bill has been discussed not at any great length but to the point by the various speakers who have taken part in this debate. I propose to be brief in my remarks. In doing so I might mention that there is so much tedious repetition in this House that, knowing how acutely aware you are, Mr Speaker, of what is happening from time to time here, you will particularly watch members of the Government who get up and take their full time and merely repeat what has been said time and time again. Of course, we understand that there is provision in the Standing Orders which allows the Chair to deal with members who indulge in tedious repetition.
I think that the Bill is a good Bill. I commend the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) for enlarging something that was pioneered by the honourable member tor Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) when he was Minister for Social Services. I am sure that the former Minister would forgive me if I make mention of Mr Pettitt, the previous honourable member for Hume, who together with his committee and under the guidance of the then Minister came forward with some splendid proposals and co-operated with the Minister in pioneering this measure. The Labor Party, having taken a lead from the previous Government, has projected the measure into an area which I think it is necessary to cover. I commend the Minister for this action.
The Bill can be summed up very precisely by saying that in normal circumstances the legislation will apply to beneficiaries wherever they may choose to live providing that they have lived in Australia for 10 years. However, an invalid pensioner will receive the pension after 5 years residence in Australia and pension portability will apply to any country to which that pensioner may return. Of course, the final provision is that no residential qualifications are necessary in the case of widows who have been permanently resident in Australia. I represent an area which has numerous migrants. They come from just about every country from which people have migrated to Australia. I would particularly express my appreciation to the Minister for the provision in lbs legislation that a period of only 5 years residence is necessary in the case of anyone who may return to their country because of invalidity. Most mining communities continually have the possibility of accidents occurring. Over a period of about 4 years now I have known of a case of a migrant who speaks practically no
English who suffered almost irreparable physical damage from an accident. I rather feel he will be taking advantage of the new provision regarding 5 years residence. This sort of situation occurs particularly in mining communities which have a great number of migrants and this provision of the Bill will be particularly appreciated by them.
I do not want to talk about the amendment that is not yet before the House. But surely, if reason prevails, there should not be any objection from members on the other side of the House if the amendment is approved. In fact, one would anticipate that if there are any reasonable men over there - and this is very doubtful - they would most certainly in all fairness support the amendment. After all, this is what our job is all about - to strike a balance. The honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) said that 1 53 persons abroad were receiving benefits under the Act. Therefore there has not as yet been a great demand on the Treasury. So it may or may not be necessary to protect the interests of the taxpayer. But while there is a possibility of someone exploiting this clause of the Bill it is most reasonable to look at the amendment and give it reasonable treatment.
In a debate which concerns the transferability of pensions to other countries we might refer perhaps to some of the unique and special difficulties of migrants who live in unusual places, such as the numerous migrants who live in the city of Mt Isa which is my headquarters in Queensland. It may be suggested that I am getting off the track a little but my remarks are most certainly tied up with the Bill before the House. People are perhaps not aware of the changes in the law and the concessions that may be granted from time to time under various governments. It is to the credit of the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) that he has introduced a system whereby a migrant in Melbourne can telephone and receive immediately the services of a linguist who can interpret and explain legislation such as this. I think that such advantages which are enjoyed in the metropolitan areas should most certainly be made available to people in the far flung areas of this great Commonwealth.
People often ask: Why the blazes do migrants not get away from the major cities? Those people should look beyond the horizons of the metropolitan areas and they will find that great numbers of migrants - thousands of them - live in places far from the major cities and, more particularly, in mining centres. I ask the Minister for Social Security to give heed to my suggestion - and to pass it on to his colleague, the Minister for Immigration - that special facilities should be created in these areas to inform the migrants about such matters as portability of pensions. The honourable member for Perth said that 153 people living overseas were receiving Australian pensions. That may not be a realistic figure. If an aged migrant has been in this country for 10 years that means he probably came out here late in life. If. he has spent 10 years here he would be well and truly settled in. I do not think this situation would create any great difficulty. I do not think that great numbers of people would be wanting to return to their homelands. The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) mentioned that elderly migrants always have a yen to return to their particular fatherlands to die, but I do not think many of them do.
I hope that the Bill and the proposed amendment will be accepted and passed. I feel sure that, if any sort of reason prevails, they will be passed. The message must be got across to people living outside the metropolitan areas. Any honourable member representing a country area, from whichever side of the House he comes, will say that one of the great difficulties for a Federal member in these areas is that he has to deal with all sorts of questions; he has to be the great informant on all departments and their activities. In other areas people can telephone the department and receive the information without delay, but we in the country areas have to be able to supply information in regard to all these matters. If this Bill is passed - I am quite sure it will be, with the amendment, I hope - the next step will be to convey the information regarding the new provisions to migrants throughout the length and breadth of the country. I commend the Bill and strongly urge people of reason - there must be a few left on the other side of the House - to give full consideration to the proposed amendment. Rumour has it that an amendment full of common sense may shortly come before us.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lamb) adjourned.
– by leave - Clause 13 of the Commonwealth-State Agreement on Offshore Petroleum Resources provides as follows:
A State government will, when so requested by the Commonwealth Government, ensure that copies of the returns, reports, maps, notifications, logs, records, and the like material and adequate portions of all cores, cuttings and samples that are received by it or its authorities by virtue of the operation of the Common Mining Code in relation to the adjacent area of the State are, as soon as reasonably practicable after receipt, forwarded to the Commonwealth Government.
A complete flow of information is of course essential for many purposes, not the least of which is to enable the best evaluations by the Commonwealth of new discoveries and extensions to existing discoveries.
Shortly after taking office I learnt of deficiencies in the receipt by the Commonwealth of this material, deficiencies long continuing which I regret to say had not previously been remedied by the enforcement of the Commonwealth’s right to the information. On 25th November 1968, following the introduction of the offshore petroleum legislation, the Commonwealth forwarded to the States an agreed list of requirements for technical reports and data. It was left to the Designated Authority in each State to decide whether permit holders forwarded information or material for the Commonwealth direct to the Bureau of Mineral Resources, when it was also being sent to him, or whether he should receive 2 copies, etc., including one for transmission to the Bureau. The list of Commonwealth requirements was amended at the second meeting of the Australian Minerals Council on 3rd March 1969. This amended list, incorporating explanatory notes which made the Commonwealth’s requirements quite clear, was forwarded to the various State Mines Departments on 21st March 1969. The Mines Department of Western Australia replied on 2nd May 1969 that arrangements would be made for the amended requirements for technical reports and data to be implemented.
On 3rd November 1969 the Director of the Bureau of Mineral Resources reported that the situation was not satisfactory; on 23rd March 1971 he reported that Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales were not complying with the terms of the Commonwealth-State Agreement; on 29th March 1972 he reported deficiencies in the flow of information and requested urgent action to ask South Australia and Western Australia for all information and material obtained in accordance with the CommonwealthState Agreement. On 5th April 1972 the Under-Secretary for Mines in Western Australia wrote accordingly to the various companies involved. Nevertheless, a good deal of information was still not received by the Commonwealth and on 18th August 1972 all State Mines Departments were reminded of the Commonwealth’s requirements. On 18th December 1972 the Under-Secretary for Mines in Western Australia forwarded for comment a draft letter to oil exploration companies operating in Western Australia concerning the supply of information, to which the Secretary of my Department replied on 11th January 1973. On 18th January 1973 he advised the Under-Secretary of the information which the Director of the Bureau of Mineral Resources had that day reported as not having been received.
After further exchanges the Under-Secretary wrote to the companies on 1st February 1973 about the deficiencies. On 2nd March 1973 the Acting Director of the Bureau of Mineral Resources reported that there was then no backlog of material from Western Australia in respect of wells or geophysical surveys, that the situation was generally satisfactory in regard to the receipt of current statutory and operational material and that there was still some delay in the receipt of weekly progress reports but action to rectify this had been taken. On 8th March the Director advised that the Bureau’s assessment of gas reserves on the north-west shelf should be completed by 1 9th April.
Honourable members will readily appreciate the importance of evaluating reserves. As I said in this House on 3rd April my predecessor wrote to Woodside-Burmah Oil NL on 26th October 1972 expressing the need, in Australia’s interests, for an announcement on reserves. His letter, together with the company’s reply and the letter of the then Minister for National Development of 30th November I now seek leave to table in association with other papers. I interpose that in the letter referred to, my predecessor, Sir Reginald Swartz, drew the attention of the WoodsideBurmah interests to the concern of his Department as to the failure of the company to make an adequate disclosure of public information as to the recoverable, reserves of natural gas which it had discovered. He also expressed concern as to the impact of such nondisclosure on the Australian equity in the shares of that company. The documents which 1 seek leave to table are as follows:
A- Letter dated 25th November 1968 to State Departments of Mines listing reports and data required by Designated Authorites, to be taken as the Commonwealth’s request for technical reports, etc.
B- Letter dated 21st March 1969 to Slate Departments of Mines seeking their agreement with, and implementation of, revised list of reports and data accepted by tile Australian Minerals Council.
C - Reply of 2nd May 1969 by Mines Department of Western Australia to letter of 21sl March 1969.
D - Letter of 5lh April 1972 sent to companies by Mines Department of Western Australia.
E - Letter of 18th August 1972 to Slate Mines Departments.
F - Letter of 18th December 1972 from Mines Department of Western Australia.
G - Teleprint of 8th January 1973, from Mines Department of Western Australia, advising that Burmah Oil Co. will send reports to Goodwyn No. 2, North Rankin No. 2 and Angel No. 3 immediately.
H - Teleprint of 11th January 1973 to Mines Department of Western Australia.
I - Teleprint of 18th January 1973 to Mines Department of Western Australia.
J - Teleprint of 22nd January 1973 from Mines Department of Western Australia.
– Teleprint of 25th January 1973 to Mines Department of Western Australia.
L - Telegram of 1st February 1973 to Mines Department of Western Australia.
M - Teleprint of 2nd February 1973 from Mines Department of Western Australia.
N - Letter of 1st February 1973 sent to various companies by Mines Department of Western Australia.
O - Letter of 9th March from Burmah Oil Co. of Australia Ltd to Secretary, Department of Minerals and Energy,
P - Reply of ]9th March 1973 by the Secretary, Department of Minerals and Energy to the letter of 9lh March.
Q - Note by Secretary, Department of Minerals and Energy of telephone conversation with Burmah Oil Co. of Australia Ltd on 2nd April 1973.
This compendious list of papers in itself provides a complete summary of the overall position.
-Order! The Minister does not need to seek leave to table those documents.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. It was clearly indicated to the companies operating off-shore in the various parts of Australia what their respective obligations were. In some cases there were very serious delays which of course had corresponding effects on the confidence of investors and on the values of shares on the stock exchange. Generally the Commonwealth was deprived of information to which it was entitled and which, n fact, it has received only in the last couple of weeks and in respect of which it is yet to secure a complete evaluation. This is a serious state of affairs. It is distasteful to me to table these matters, but nevertheless it is my duty to do so.
– I seek leave to make a short statement on the same subject.
-Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– This whole story which has been unfolded tonight is really just a storm in a teacup. In his blustering manner which is so characteristic of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), he has made a great point of how he has been threatening and standing over some of the oil companies.
– What about the people’s government?
-Order! The honourable member for Hunter will restrain himself.
– it is strange that the companies the Minister picks out seem to be the Australian managed companies, notably the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and Woodside-Burmah Oil NL. I shall refer to BHP. That company was not referred to in the list given by the Minister but he referred to the company in the House last week and said that he »»d not received the information whir’- ‘e required from it. What is the situation? Under the Victorian legislation there ure pint .is for 2 types of licences. One is a permit to explore and the other is a licence to produce. So far as the permits are concerned, all ‘he information required by the Designated Authority has been received by it. However, there is a small backlog of information in relation to the licence to produce because ‘he Victorian Department of Mines has hat! a problem with the lack of a suitable petroleum geologist. That position has now been rilled and the backlog is now being overcome. Surely that is a pretty minor matter to bring before this House.
The Minister for Minerals and Energy has made it clear that he will show the oil companies who is master and who is servant, ls there really any need for this? Every company wants to have good relations with the Government. I am sure that this applies to every company which is seeking oil. Of course these companies will comply with every reasonable request. It is not always easy to do so, particularly as, in some cases, the companies are operating in extremely difficult conditions in remote areas. Another factor is the problem of cores. All companies realise that they must supply cores if they accept an oil search subsidy from the Government.
– They did not want to supply the cores. They did not want the people to know.
– That is completely wrong.
– Are you on the people’s side or on the side of the international consortiums?
– Do honourable members realise the problems of core cutting? If the drilling is at a depth of 10,000 feet, it is necessary to pull up, unscrew and stack the drilling pipes, put on the core cutter and go down again. This procedure is expensive. This is why the companies are trying to get some other means of obtaining cores such as by the use of a side wall slicer, which make it easier to obtain cores. I am informed by WoodsideBurmah Oil NL that as a result of the request by the Government it has supplied a very much larger number of cores in recent times. I am sure that this company, from the correspondence, has always done its utmost to co-operate with all governments. I quote its reply which was sent to the Minister for Minerals and Energy recently. It states:
The Board of Woodside-Burmah Oil N.L. was surprised and disturbed to read in this morning’s press remarks attributed to you in Parliament yesterday criticising us for not supplying information to the Government.
Please let me assure you again that at all times this company has been fully aware of its responsibilities under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act, 1967 and to the best of our understanding had satisfied the Commonwealth and State governments in this respect.
We have taken great care to keep the Designated Authority in Western Australia supplied with information required under the Act, in some cases have exceeded those requirements, and would have no reason whatsoever for withholding the same information from the Commonwealth when it was requested.
In recent months we have discussed the matter of supplying information at various levels in both State and Federal Governments and have repeated assurances of our willingness to co-operate fully in this area. We have both verbally and in writing asked for a meeting with those concerned in your Ministry to discuss the information required to ensure no possibility of misunderstandings.
You were reported to have said ‘it was difficult to obtain information from Woodside-Burmah’. This has not been the case and we again repeat our desire to work closely with Government as has been our policy since we commenced operation.
The question of reserves of natural gas on the North West Shelf was also reported to have been raised. We agree we were reluctant last December to make a public statement about recoverable reserves of natural gas.
– Is this a confession?
– The letter continues:
This reluctance was quite understandable in view of the difficulty in giving an accurate assessment before full reservoir studies had been completed. At that time we pointed out that it was necessary to drill a number of wells and to conduct extensive reservoir studies before any responsible or meaningful statement could be made.
In view of the recent independent studies by our consultants revising our preliminary reserve estimates for North Rankin we believe our attitude at that time was quite correct and has been fully vindicated.
It finishes by stating:
We can assure you Mr Minister it is not necessary, nor has it ever been necessary, for threats to be made to obtain information from us. We stand ready at all times to work with and discuss with Government Authorities our exploration and development activities in Western Australia.
Let me come back to that last small portion of the letter because the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) has been interjecting about the fact that WoodsideBurmah agreed that it was reluctant last December to make a public statement. Of course it was reluctant. Anyone who knows anything about mines would realise that nothing can be more disastrous than to put forward a statement of reserves, be they minerals, oil, gas or whatever until they are really accurate figures. We all know the problems that have existed in the past and I was surprised to hear the Minister for Minerals and Energy say that if they do not make an assessment of reserves, the value of the shares on the stock exchange could be affected. What could affect the value of shares on the stock exchange more than putting out an early report before it was really accurate?
As I said, this decision was vindicated in this case because in the case of the North Rankin well the Company had to reduce the estimate of the quantity of reserves from 10.7 billion cubic feet to 7.9 billion cubic feet of gas. Of course, we have seen this happen in other cases. I know that all of us recall the unfortunate affair of the assessment by Queensland Mines Ltd of its Nabarlek field.
Nothing could be worse than to make an assessment too early, ahead of time, before the prospect had been fully drilled, cored and assessed. But I state again that the Chairman of Woodside-Burmah Oil N.L., Mr Donaldson, believes that he has given everything that he is possibly required to give and, in some cases, more. He recently asked Mr May, the Designated Authority and the Minister for Mines in Western Australia, whether he had received all that he wanted and Mr May said that he had. In fact, if honourable members care to look at the Western Australian Hansard of 22nd March - I do not have a copy in front of me - they will see that the Designated Authority, Mr May, said that Woodside-Burmah had been co-operative. In fact, I think he said ‘extremely co-operative’.
But what is the story in this case? On 5th April 1972, Woodside-Burmah was sent a circular request from the Under-Secretary for Mines of Western Australia. A similar circular went to a large number of companies seeking further information. Unfortunately, this letter was not received by Woodside-Burmah. It is of interest to note that the letter was not registered. If it was important, one would have expected that it would have been registered or that it would have been followed up. But neither of these things happened. In about December or January, Woodside-Burmah had its attention drawn to the fact that there was still some information which it was expected to give. The company has done this as well as it can. I believe that the situation now is satisfactory. In fact, the Minister believes it is satisfactory because, in his reply to the company on 2nd March 1973 he said that the Acting Director of the Bureau of Mineral Resources reported that there was then no backlog of material from Western Australia in respect of wells or geophysical survey, that the situation was generally satisfactory in regard to the receipt of current statutory and operational material and that there was still some delay in the receipt of weekly progress reports, but that action to rectify this had been taken. On 8th March - the following week - the Director advised that the Bureau’s assessment of gas reserves on the north-west shelf should be completed by 19th April. So, as I said, 1 think the situation now is satisfactory.
I said that this was a storm in a teacup. Perhaps I can change the metaphor and say that the Minister is attempting to make a mountain out of a molehill. He threatens drastic action. Why he ever saw fit to table this correspondence is quite beyond my comprehension. It shows that the Minister has once again demonstrated that he is temporarily unfitted to hold the important office which he now holds, in view of the views he holds not only on mining but also on miners.
– by leave- From the outset, let me say quite bluntly that I and the Government have complete faith in the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). If there is a storm in a teacup facing this country and the world it is something of which the previous Government had no knowledge or to which it would not face up. I refer to the fact that there is a world energy crisis looming. The world reserves of oil are about 90 billion metric tons, 50 billion metric tons of which is controlled in the Middle East. If Australia is to become self-sufficient in the near future - by the year 2000, at least - one thing it cannot tolerate is having its oil, natural gas and uranium dominated by the big 7 or the multi-national corporations. At long last, the United States of America has come around to the idea that any agreements made in regard to the price fixation of crude oil throughout the world should be determined on a government to government basis and not between the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting countries and the multinational corporations. 1 noted that, throughout his long address, the shadow Minister for Minerals and Energy, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), never tackled the question on which I am very interested to pass some remarks, namely, the level of Australian equity on the north-west shelf. I put some 20 questions on the notice paper in February last year on the very matter that the Minister for Minerals and Energy has raised this evening. ] did not receive a reply until after the House had risen last October. If one looks at the statement made by the Minister this evening, one will see that it has taken from 25th November 1968 until this month, April 1973, for a national government of Australia to be in the position to make an exact evaluation of the recoverable reserves on the north-west shelf.
It is a singularly odd fact that over 18 months ago the previous Minister acknowledged, as I understand it through the Bureau of Mineral Resources, that there were in fact some 45 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves on the north-west shelf. That information was divulged by way of a leak in London. According to the figures, those reserves were valued at that time at $16.5 billion. I wish to ask again a series of questions which I asked in October last year. As I understand it, although the national Government of the time was not provided with runoff sheets to indicate what were the recoverable reserves on the north-west shelf, this information certainly was known in London. Since that point of time there has been a deterioration of Australian equity in the north-west shelf to a level of 12.3 per cent. In fact, there has been a counter balance all the way through. Last October I put questions to the previous Government, but it did not recognise this fact at all. I asked why did Withers, in fact, last October retire as Managing Director of Woodside-Burmah. Was it not, in fact, that there was a conflict between the Australian representatives - a minority group, I might add for the benefit of the shadow Minister opposite - on that Board on the failure of the Burmah dominated board to disclose the recoverable reserves? While we are dealing with that point let me outline to the Minister my assessment of who controls Woodside-Burmah. Donaldson is the Chairman. In my view he stands for Burmah. Withers, a director, is Australia; Rover. Burmah; Wilson, Burmah; Martison, Burmah; Breen, Australia; Prince, Australia; Sackville, Australia; Seddon, Burmah. I ask the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) who controls Woodside-Burham. I think the internal conflict within the structure of WoodsideBurmah was such that Withers resigned in protest against the failure of the company to divulge its recoverable reserves and so attract Australian shareholding and equity. The company’s failure to do this has meant that in one of the largest hydro-carbon deposits in the world Australia is. left with 12.5 per cent equity. We are moving to the stage where it will be completely dominated by multinational corporations. No national government should ever be placed in that iniquitous situation. During this period there was a reduction in share prices of Woodside-Burmah, but there was a corresponding influx, I believe, of nominee share transactions, particularly of scrip from New York and London with the net result that Australia’s equity declined to 12.5 per cent.
Last October I also asked whether it was not a fact that the Bureau of Mineral
Resources had carried out investigations and knew the depth of the reserves in the area. The then Minister was correct in his reply then. It is obvious that it has taken a Labor government to ascertain the reserves. Since 1968 until the previous Government was voted out of office it was refused information by Woodside-Burmah concerning the reserves. This is common of multi-national corporations. The honourable member for Farrer spoke about BP but made no reference to Esso. On behalf of the Australian shareholders 1 should like to know what are the recoverable reserves at Mackerel and Flounder fields. Why is this information being withheld? It is the tactic of all multi-national corporations to conserve and not divulge their reserves. This is a deplorable situation when one has regard to the terms of the agreement that was hammered out. Clause 13 of the Commonwealth-State Agreement on Off-shore Petroleum Resources states:
A State government will, when so requested by the Commonwealth Government, ensure that copies of the returns, reports, maps, notifications, logs, records and the like material and adequate portions of all cores, cuttings and samples that are received by it or its authorities by virtue of the operation of the Common Mining Code in relation to the adjacent area of the Slate ure, as soon us reasonably practicable after receipt, forwarded to the Commonwealth.
I want to express my personal assessment and observation on what are, in fact, the reserves on the north-west shelf. I have gathered much of this information from the Kitcat and Aitken report - a London report bearing a date 12 months ago. It is remarkable that this information was available in Britain, but no assessment was made in Australia. In the report is a comment about the North Rankin field. The honourable member for Farrer will know that technical runoff sheets are made by these companies, taken to a technical committee and subsequently put to the boards. My assessment is that on the North Rankin field there could well be 32 trillion feet recoverable with condensate around about 25 barrels per million. The Goodwin field could well have 16 trillion cubic feet; Angel, 8 trillion cubic feet; Rankin, 5 trillion cubic feet; Scotts Reef, 18 trillion cubic feet with condensate as high at 350 barrels per 18 million; Eagle Hawk, no condensate and 2,700 barrels of oil a day; and at Egret the prospects for oil are excellent. These figures represent about 60 trillion cubic feet which I believe is about accurate for the north-west shelf. Why is there such a wide disparity between the figures that have been disclosed by WoodsideBurmah and what I consider to be closer to the actual mark?
Honourable members opposite talk about risk capital in Australia. As long as multinational corporations withhold recoverable figures Australian risk capital will not be attracted in terms of share equity. The Government has a national responsibility to find out and have disclosed exactly what are the reserves. It is time the national Government controlled one of the areas most crucial to this nation if not to the world. Who is to control our oil, our gas and our uranium? If ever there is an indictment of the previous Government, after its 23 years in office, it is that we have no balanced evaluation of our national resources. Above all, we have no balanced evaluation of our fuel and energy needs for the next 20 years. An extrapolation should be undertaken now of our needs for the next 50 years. We should determine what needs to be conserved and, if such is possible, what can be exported. We should be in a position where Australia can act as a seller’s market and not a buyer’s market. If the previous Government had remained in office for the next 3 years all I can say is God help this country because it would have controlled absolutely nothing.
If honourable members want to understand the situation as it is tragically affecting the United States of America I point out that the United States is finding, for the first time in its history, that the biggest issue facing Nixon at present is his energy policy and his energy prices. He has been put in an invidious position because he permitted the multinational corporations to negotiate with OPEC rather than on a government to government basis. Fuel in the United States - whether it be gas, oil, uranium or coal - is controlled by multi-national corporations. Australia should never be placed in that situation. I support the Minister’s statement.
– by leave- The speech of the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) was most interesting for the many assertions that he made which were completely without foundation. I was interested to hear his assessment of the reserves which Woodside-Burmah is supposed to have on the north-west shelf.
– The ex-directors have been talking, lt is leaking like a sieve.
– I would be even more interested to know what qualifications the honourable member for Hawker possesses which enabled him to give the assessments that he did of the reserves. The public record of the company that is exploring the north-west shelf shows that it has maintained a standing befitting a company of its international repute. When it was pressured both publicly and by the former Government to make an assessment of reserves of the North Rankin field in December last it did so although it did not at that time have an assessment by international independent consultants. It expressed that reluctance quite properly. Subsequently it sought and obtained an independent assessment on the basis of which it had to downgrade the reserves for that particular field.
The honourable member for Hawker purports to put his figures on the reserves for the other fields that have been explored by Woodside-Burmah. For my part - and I am sure I speak for investors in Australia and all members of the House - I would place greater reliance on a firm of international repute independently consulted by Woodside-Burmah before it seeks to say what its reserves are. That is’ what the company has done most recently in respect of the other fields. It has said that it will wait until that independent assessment is made before it will publicly put a figure on the reserves. That is a proper and responsible action to take and nothing that can be said by the honourable member for Hawker or by the Minister for Minerals and Energy can take anything away from that statement.
The honourable member for Hawker expressed great concern for our national interest. 1 represent a Western Australian electorate. With equal vehemence I would express concern for the people of Western Australia as to the proper assessment of the reserves on the north-west shelf and the effective and proper exploitation of those reserves.
– ‘Exploitation’ is a good word.
– It all has to be exploited in its own way. On the north-west shelf it must be exploited and the income that will come from those reserves will be applied to the benefit of Western Australia as well as to the nation. We in Western Australia have as much interest in what happens on that shelf as the Minister expressed for the country as a whole. I turn now to some of the points made by the Minister in his statement and the documents he has tabled in this House in order to show that what he has said is completely without foundation. I refer firstly to the document marked H’, an outwards teleprinter message from the Minister’s Department. Paraphrased, he said that not as much information has been supplied by the title holders as his Department considered ought to be provided. Then there is a most interesting part in the teleprinter message which was sent to the Western Australian Under-Secretary for Mines. The Under-Secretary was asked to send a letter to all the exploration companies in Western Australia calling upon them to provide information which the Minister said had not previously been provided. Then this astounding request was made, being an extract from the letter that the Minister wanted the Under-Secretary for Mines to write to the exploration companies in Western Australia:
I have now to ask for an immediate explanation of the reasons for your failure to comply with the direction and my subsequent requests for the information. Consideration of action under the conditions of the permits and the provisions of sections 122 and 105 of the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act will be deferred for 48 hours to provide an opportunity for the receipt of your explanation and your advice of the steps being taken to comply with the direction.
I am advised that the Designated Authority for Western Australia, the honourable Mr Don May, a Labor colleague of the Minister, refused point blank to send that letter. He refused point blank because he knew that the companies in Western Australia had provided all the information that was required by the Designated Authority and it would have been an affront to the Designated Authority for him to have sent the letter commanded by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), a command with which no sensible person would have complied. Fortunately Mr May. the Designated Authority, refused to send that letter.
Document T in the papers that have been tabled is a follow-up from the Permanent Head of the Department of Minerals and Energy. lt contains the heading ‘Missing Information as of Today’. There is a heading for WoodsideBurmah and a heading for Wapet, as Western Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd is commonly known. The latter company has never been mentioned by the Minister and one might ask why. As Wapet has exploration permits for a greater area than Woodside-Burmah one might also ask why the Minister and his supporters behind him single out Woodside-Burmah. In addition to those 2 companies there are Coastal, BP Abrolohos and ESSO. The information which was alleged not to have been supplied was firstly some cores and cuttings from 4 wells. In the teleprinter message to which I have referred a statement appears between brackets that the company rang to say that it was dispatching those cores and cuttings that day. It did so and the Minister received the information he was requesting. The next items are most interesting. They show the complete lack of foundation for the complaints that the Minister has made against the companies. The next item states:
Secondly, no 3-monthly progress reports have been received. Thirdly, no 12-monthly comprehensive reports have been received. Fourthly, progress electric logs have not been received within the specified time.
What answer was sent back by the Western Australian Under-Secretary for Mines? It is a most illuminating statement and it fortifies what I have said, that the assertions made by the Minister are completely without foundation. The reply states:
These companies have been allowed under section 2 on page 43 of the schedule of requirements to submit half-yearly rather than quarterly reports.
So the Designated Authority gave permission to the companies to supply half-yearly reports in lieu of quarterly reports, but the Minister is alleging that the companies have not provided quarterly reports. The fact of the matter is that the Minister did not do the job he should have done; that is, to find out from the Designated Authority what was going on. The Western Australian Under-Secretary for Mines went on to say:
They have not been requested to submit annual reports as these are not mentioned in the schedule.
By ‘they’ he meant the companies. Yet the Minister through his Permanent Head asked the companies to supply annual reports. The Under-Secretary for Mines also said:
We are kept fully informed of exploration through reports on specific projects and have presumed that this was satisfactory to National Development as tha non-receipt of periodic reports had not previously been mentioned to the Mines Department.
So the Designated Authority in Western Australia was affirming in unequivocal terms that the exploration companies named by the Minister bad kept the Designated Authority fully informed, and here we have the Minister before the House trying to tell the House and the people of Australia that information had been kept from him.
The Minister and the honourable member for Hawker put great weight upon clause 13 of the Commonwealth-State agreement, but if that was read and - 1 venture to suggest - understood by the Minister he would see that the assertions that he is making are completely false and without foundation, because the clause states that a State government will, when so requested by the Commonwealth Government, ensure that copies of returns, reports, maps and so on are supplied. It refers to a State government, not a company. A State government will supply the information to the Commonwealth, not a company. Tt is the obligation of permit holders under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act of 1967 to supply the required information to the Designated Authority, and that is the appropriate Minister in the governments of the States. If the Commonwealth wants information the first place it can go to and the place to which it ought to go is the Designated Authority. The Minister, in the manner which has become so well known to this House and to the people of Australia, has tried to bluster his way through and to condemn companies for not supplying him with information, when those companies have supplied all the required information to the Designated Authorities. If the Minister has any quarrel at all it is with those Designated Authorities.
So we come to this absurd situation that for some reason which has not yet become known to this House the Minister persists in condemnation of particular companies. The honourable member for Hawker has said that Woodside-Burmah in particular has refused to provide the information stating what its reserves are, and he seeks to castigate multinational companies. Presumably he places Woodside-Burmah in this category, and yet Woodside-Burmah is the only Australian based company in the consortium of companies exploring on the north west shelf. Then the honourable member for Hawker seeks to say that the company will not divulge its reserves. The Minister has made great play - and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) as well - of the fact that the Commonwealth has control of exports. What is more logical if a company wishes to develop its resources than to obtain an export licence. If it is seeking to obtain an export licence obviously, in terms of the present Government’s policy, it must establish that it has sufficient reserves first to satisfy the requirements of Australia. On that basis a company would inflate its reserves. It would not state its reserves at a conservative figure. The logical approach is to inflate the reserves. So the assertion of the honourable member for Hawker and the Minister is just palpable nonsense.
So the whole approach of the Minister in this matter is, as the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) has said, a storm in a teacup. It is more than that, lt consists of assertions made without foundation. I invite honourable members to read the documents that have been tabled, which show that there is just no foundation whatsoever for what has been said. It does the Minister no good, when he is seeking to establish and outline a national policy with regard to minerals and energy, firstly to cast about for epithets and find an adjective instead, calling businessmen in the mining industry hill billies. He has not applied an adjective to those in the oil exploration industry, but no doubt he will find one and it will be found to be equally empty. But what I would say to the Minister is this: The oil and gas exploration industry in this country is so important to Australia’s destiny and is so important to the destiny of Western Australia that it serves his country and it serves my State ill for him to continue in the way in which he is going. What he ought to be doing is talking to the industry frankly and in a friendly fashion. He obviously knows nothing about the industry. Those in the industry do. They have the expertise and he will learn from them if he goes to them. But what instead has the Minister done? He declined an invitation, for example, to speak to the industry at the recent Australian Petroleum Exploration Association conference which was held in Canberra only last week.
– I make my statements in the House not to pressure groups.
– What I am inviting you to do, Mr Minister, is to talk to those upon whom you must rely, and until you recognise that fact you will make no progress in the establishment of a national policy.
– Have they got you on a retainer?
– I am interested in the destiny, as I have said, of Australia and my own State, and I do not see that destiny in the unsafe hands of the Minister in view of the way in which he goes on.
Motion (by Mr Hayden) proposed:
That the House take note of the Ministerial Statement.
Debate (on motion by Mr Nicholls) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
SOCIAL SERVICES BILL (No. 2) 1973 Second Reading
Debate resumed (vide page 1331).
– I rise to support the Social Services Bill (No. 2). My interest in the Bill probably stems from the fact that there is a large percentage of migrants in my own electorate. Of course the concern goes wider than that. It is a concern for those who are eligible and who have qualified for social security and have satisfied the qualifications to take that social security with them overseas. My particular interest in the electorate stems from discussions with Italian, German and Dutch, but particularly British migrants in my electorate who have informed me that they are reluctant to take out Australian citizenship because they feel that they are not getting a fair deal if they do not. first of all, come from a country that has reciprocity with Australia or if they have not served their 20 years qualification period.
But before we discuss the qualification and the reasons for shortening the qualification period for portability we should know something about those people who leave this country in their retiring years and particularly those migrants who have returned to their former countries. It is informative to look at a progress report on an inquiry into the departure of settlers from Australia compiled by the Immigration Advisory Council’s Committee on Social Patterns. This states that 4 important things have been happening with those people who have departed from this country after migrating here. The report states:
First, arrivals in Australia between 1947 and 1952 have had a relatively low rate of loss and will probably finish up losing well under 20 per cent of the original intake: arrivals between 1952 and 1964 seem to be heading for a loss of 20-25 per cent, while more recent arrivals may finish up with even higher loss rates.
Examination of this shows that it reflects the lower proportion of refugees in current immigration - that is, refugees tend to stay more than other migrants - the greater ease of travel in recent years, the strong economic attraction of western Europe, and the growing number of skilled and highly qualified persons who, as part of an increasingly mobile international community, often move from Australia after a few years.
Basically those are the reasons why people return to their country of origin. We should examine why we are losing more and more of those people who have served not only the 20 year qualification period which previously existed but also the 10 year qualification period proposed in this Bill. During citizenship ceremonies I am reminded that the reluctance of migrants to take out Australian citizenship stems from the fact that they do not feel justly rewarded for the contributions they have made in this country. This is one reason for their departure and points to the desirability of recognising the contributions that migrants make in this country in 10 years. We should acknowledge that they should receive the same benefits as those residents who were born here. The main reasons why they return to their country should also be examined for it will be found that the most often mentioned reasons are homesickness, loneliness or the lack of health services available in this country compared to those in their home country. This may well be an indication that we are lagging behind similar industrialised countries. When we consider the contribution that residents of this country have made we realise that social security is not just a question of how much tax we pay to finance our social security system but also what one receives in return. I put that in as an aside. It does underscore one of the basic reasons why people return to their mother country and reminds the House that one of the reasons for bringing in this social security Bill is a recognition that we must update and improve our social security and provide better value for each dollar spent on it so that it can stand comparison with the social security systems in the countries from which most of our migrants come.
This Bill recognises that there have been many changes occurring in respect to mobility between countries. The Committee on Social Patterns in its progress report estimated that the rate of settler loss in Australia lies between 21 and 24 per cent. This estimate is related to the arrival and departure movement over the past 6 years. These figures indicate that, as anticipated by the Councils Committee on Social Patterns in its report following the 1967 inquiry, the loss of settlers from Australia has been increasing and some further increase can be expected. The report states:
The Committee concludes that, while there is an increasing tendency for migrants to leave Australia, this is in keeping with patterns of movement which were already in evidence during the previous inquiry and which conform with those being experienced currently by other migrant receiving countries throughout the world.
It seems to me that the previous Government was remiss for not noticing the results of this inquiry into the increase in mobility and for not as a result reducing the 20 year qualification period to 10 years. An indication of the tremendous growth in the movement of people to and from Australia over recent years, and the relatively small proportion of those people who are settlers, is shown elsewhere in the Committee’s report. However, the report reflects a general trend towards mobility now in evidence throughout the world. Even if this Bill were not designed to stem the departure flow of migrants it does recognise the increase in mobility that has taken place throughout the world. The Committee in its report stated also:
In the interim, however, we stress that the problem of settler loss must be seen against the background of world-wide high mobility of labour and the steady improvement in economic conditions and social services in several countries of origin. It must also be seen that Australia’s ability to retain its migrants depends to a large extent on the opportunities available here and elsewhere and the acceptance of settlers by the Australian community.
So, as fast transport telescopes the distance between Australia and the country of origin and telescopes the travelling time between the 2 countries we must recognise the increasing trend towards mobility and consequently reform and adapt our present legislation to take this factor into account.
As the legislation now stands there is discrimination against those people who desire to spend their later years overseas rather than in this country. It is time we restored the parity between the benefits provided and the contributions that were made in this country. I mention one case in point in my own electorate. I was informed by a lady from Holland who had settled here but had decided to go back to her home country for family reasons that she would be deprived of a pension because she had been here only 191 years. When we realise that she and her husband, while he was working, gave so much to this country in that 19i years of residence it seems not only anomalous but also a shame that the previous Government did not recognise that a period 6 months short of 20 years, let alone 91 years over the qualifying period now proposed, was surely something which should have been accepted for the purpose of the benefits.
– What about 9± years?
– The honourable member for Parramatta (Mr N. H. Bowen) asks: What about 9i years? There must be an arbitrary cut off point and if he recognises the arbitrary cut off point, in terms of that 19* years I mentioned, either his mood has changed now by a decade or in 4 months he has come to recognise that the qualifying period should be reduced by 10 years. This shows a cognisance on the part of the honourable member of what the situation is and I congratulate him. It must be remembered that even if migrants spend only a few years in Australia they contribute to our national development while still more is contributed by those whose departure from Australia does not take place until they reach retiring age. It would seem that those who have been here 19i years are even more qualified to take with them their portable pensions than those who have been here for only 9i years. In other words, they are twice as qualified at 20 years.
In conclusion, this Government aspires to achieve the position where no Australian citizen is disqualified from receiving a social service pension on account of his period of residence in Australia or because of residence abroad. All Australian residents who have qualified to receive any Australian social service benefit should continue to enjoy that right wherever they choose to live. This concerns principally the aged, invalid or widowed migrants who choose to return home. It should, of course, apply to all Australians. Furthermore, we believe that entitlement should not depend on the negotiation of reciprocal agreements with other countries or upon a 20 year residence in Australia. For many of our migrants this is an urgent matter. It is pleasing to note that the provisions of the Act will apply from the date on which this Bill receives Royal Assent. It cannot come soon enough. I commend the Bill to the House.
– Almost 12 months ago the Social Service’. Bill (No. 3) 1972 was passed by this Parliament. The result of that Bill, when it became law. was to allow the portability of pensions to certain countries when reciprocal pension agreements had been reached with those countries. As has been mentioned, agreements have been reached with Malta, Italy, Greece and Turkey. In addition, we have long standing agreements with the United Kingdom and New Zealand. The major changes that the Bill now before the House will bring about are to abolish the need for reciprocity and to reduce from 20 years to 10 years the basic period of residence. Henceforth the Australian pension will be available to a person who is entitled to receive a pension irrespective of the country to which he wishes to go. If attempts to reach agreements with other countries have been unsuccessful - the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) included in his second reading speech a long list which indicates that this appears to be the case - then I think that this Bill is a necessary and logical development of the Bill which became law 12 months ago.
Those people who wish to leave Australia for a variety of reasons after making a contribution to this country will receive due justice. However, with the general availability of portability there is a greater chance that this privilege will be abused. When no reciprocal arrangements are required, what checks will be able to be made, say, in regard to a widow who remarries in another country or a person who obtains a pension firstly from Australia and secondly from his country of origin or perhaps even the country in which he originally settled? This is something which concerns me. I hope that the Minister can assure the House that there will be some method of checking to ensure that this privilege which is easily obtainable is not abused. Perhaps the amendment which has been moved by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) will convince the Minister that there is a need to have a greater degree of control than is at present envisaged by this Bill. 1 also wish to add my voice to those raised already by honourable members on this side of the House in stating that there has been no attempt to work out the additional cost that this legislation will create. I hope that the Minister will be able to reply to this when he sums up the debate. Various honourable members on the Government side of the House have criticised the previous Government and honourable members on this side for their attitude in regard to the progress of this Bill. I believe that Government supporters are in no position to criticise anybody in regard to this Bill because when one reads the debates on the Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1972 and the Social Services Bill (No. 3) 1972 one sees some rather incorrect thinking by the then Opposition - now the Government - on this matter. For example, a private members Bill was introduced by the then Leader of the Opposition. It was known as Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1972. That Bill restricted the portability of pensions to Australian citizens. That was the attitude of the Australian Labor Party to the portability of pensions only 12 months ago. If that Bill had become law, more than 300,000 unnaturalised migrants who perhaps wished to return to their homelands would have been denied pension justice. That was the attitude of the Labor Party only 12 months ago, as indicated by the private members Bill introduced by the then Leader of the Opposition.
When the then Government introduced its Bill through the then Minister for Social Services, the honourable member for Mackellar, the then Leader of the Opposition moved an amendment. The then Leader of the Opposition actually had to amend his amendment half way through that debate because <he sloppy drafting of his original amendment had become apparent. If his original amendment had been accepted, instead of there being a residence requirement of 10 years in certain cases, as he indicated, and virtually no residence required for eligibility to receive an invalid pension or widow’s pension, nobody would have been entitled to receive any sort of pension until he or she had been resident in this country for 10 years. Under the then Government’s Bill virtually no residence requirement operated in respect of widows, invalids or any of the other groups. I do not think that this Government can really stand up with pride and say that it wants to do the right thing by the migrant population in respect of the portability of pensions, because by its actions it would have restricted the portability of pensions far more than the previous Government’s Bill did. I hope that the Bill now before the House was drafted more carefully than the 2 previous pieces of legislation submitted by the Labor Party in regard to this matter, although the amendment moved by the honourable member for Mackellar appears once again to indicate otherwise.
I support the amendment and, of course, the general proposition that there should be general portability of pensions: but I hope that the greater availability to pension rights to anybody who wishes to leave this country will not lead to abuse of what is a right and privilege for those people. I also hope that by the Government making it easier for people to leave Australia and to take certain rights with them the general pride and dignity in being an Australian and wanting to remain in Australia will not be lessened in any way. As I said earlier, I hope that the Department of Social Security will be able to maintain a check to ensure that, although inevitably there will be some abuse, it does not become too widespread. I support the amendment and the general proposition.
– in reply - I should like to reply briefly to some of the points which have been made in the course of the debate. I say briefly’ because by and large there seems to have been unanimity of opinion that this is a very generous proposal. Even members of the Opposition, in spite of one or two instances where there were particularly vigorous efforts to contrive some sort of criticism, conceded that it is a generous proposal. I should like, however, to stress one point, and that is that there is no resemblance at all between this Bill and the one that was introduced in April 1972 by the previous Government. There are quite divergent differences in principle. The basic principle behind this Bill, introduced by the new Government, is that if a person has a pension entitlement established in Australia then that is a right of his - a complete right and an inviolable right - and he maintains it even if he decides to go overseas, whether a migrant who returns to his homeland, in most cases of course for a visit but in some cases for permanent settlement, or as an Australian citizen who decides to travel overseas for some extended period.
Perhaps it is appropriate at this stage to stress that this benefit will apply to those who are retired and who within the next 2b years will be drawing means test free pensions in Australia as a result of the action of this Government. It will, of course, apply when a person is visiting overseas.
– Will that be in the next Budget?
– The honourable member is anticipating a debate that one of his colleagues will be introducing tomorrow. I think that will be the appropriate time to discuss that matter. Let me discuss some of these divergent differences between the Act, as it finally became, of the last Government in April 1972 and this proposal. I restate that the proposal now before the House gives portability of pension right once it is established in this community. There is no requirement in this legislation to wait 20 years before pension eligibility for portability purposes is established. That was the requirement of the previous Government in April 1972. ft was worried then, as it was always worried as a government, and as the Opposition it is still worried today, that someone might just happen to exploit the system, that someone just might happen to get a benefit to which it does not think he is entitled.
I remember a few years ago reading some of the old debates on social services going as far back as the early stages of federation. I was interested to note that when the invalid pension was introduced into this country there was a 20-year residential requirement written into the legislation before any person could draw this benefit because the government - a conservative one, appropriately - of that day was alarmed that Australia would be inundated by a flood of people coming here for the express purpose of picking up invalid pensions. After all this time the values, the philosophy and the sensitivity of conservative representative bodies in this Parliament has not changed at all.
There is another defect in the system introduced by the last Government - the reciprocity provision. This is an important point. There is no requirement at all under the proposal now before the House that benefits are dependent on reciprocity being established. Once the right for pension benefit is established in Australia that is all that is required and portability is established. Let us be clear on the principle behind the last Government’s Bill to provide for portability. The principle was that the pension benefit could become portable only when a reciprocal arrangement was successfully negotiated with another country. The fact is that there are only 4 countries with which the last Government successfully negotiated such arrangements. If one cares to look at the list of countries approached, apart from those 4, for the purposes of negotiating reciprocal agreements - and this list was included in my second reading speech when I introduced this Bill - one will see that there are 23 countries which had been approached and that 4 of them indicated what can be best and most generously described as lukewarm interest; the other 19 quite clearly showed no interest at all. Only the former Minister for Social Services waxes enthusiastic about the possibility of negotiating, extensively, reciprocal agreements with other countries. In this situation the whole arrangements behind that last Bill which became the Act, and which still applies until this amending Bill is passed, were largely meaningless. They provided benefits for very very few people. The Act provides reciprocal arrangements for people in Malta, Greece, Italy and Turkey. Of course, migrants from the numerous other countries completely missed out. lt is quite clear-
– It was much more than 50 per cent in total, including the United Kingdom.
– Does the honourable member mean 50 per cent of countries?
– Of migrants.
– I am not in a position to argue that, to be honest, but I would doubt it very much, even if the number included the United Kingdom.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! I think the Minister would do better if be spoke through the Chair.
– Another matter, which was raised by the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) and also referred to by one or two other speakers, concerns the cost of this scheme. One would rather expect that there will probably be a saving on the arrangement. But first of all let me point out that we are providing pension entitlements for people who already have that pension right in this country. So there will be no extra cost at all. They are already drawing pensions. But the saving probably will come about because in fact there will be a saving on fringe benefits which will no longer be available to them overseas. I refer here to concessions on television and radio licences, concessions on telephone services and certain rights in relation to the pensioner medical service and pensioner hospital benefits. These concessions do not apply overseas so clearly there will be a saving in this area. I would have thought that there would have been no need to include these details in the outline of the Bill because they seem so self-evident.
Again, some supporters of the Opposition, in their desperation to drum up some sort of criticism of the proposal, argued that, because of the generosity of the Bill which the present Government has introduced, some people will be drawing 2 pensions when they go overseas. They could, for instance, draw an Australian pension here and as a result of portability rights overseas could draw, for instance, a United Kingdom pension, a West German pension or a pension from any one of a number of countries. In fact, there is a long list of countries which already provide this right and many people in this country who draw an Australian pension are also drawing a pension from their homeland, and there is more than a couple of score of such countries.
We have within this country, of course, a situation where people from the United Kingdom draw 2 pensions. They have an Australian pension right and they have a full entitlement to a United Kingdom pension. There has been no concern expressed about that, and I do not see why there ought to be on this occasion. But the fact is that we are responsible for our actions and our actions alone, and what other governments do is their responsibility, not ours. We are setting a certain standard. We are cutting through the Gordian knot, as I mentioned in my second reading speech, getting rid of the impediments, of all of the conservative concern expressed in the restrictive sort of legislative controls of the Act enacted in April 1972 by the previous Government and saying that if a person in this country establishes a right to a social security pension then that is a right that cannot be taken away from that person merely because he goes overseas; he takes the right with htm.
Finally there is one matter to which I wish to refer at this stage. Of course, I will be discussing the proposals contained in the amendment of the honourable member for Mackellar in the Committee stages. The honourable member discussed in advance some of the points he would raise in relation to his amendment during the Committee stage and I will save discussion on them until then. But the honourable member expressed some unease that perhaps this Bill was too generous and that if we had too much generosity in the provision of social security benefits there could easily be a backlash in the community. The honourable member cited the case of Aborigines. Honourable members will recall that a few weeks ago during the second reading stage of an earlier social services Bill he expressed concern about what he seemed to feel was the generosity in regard to unemployment and sickness benefits, specifically unemployment benefits, going to Aborigines. He suggested that this would lead to further moral decline of these people, further moral turpitude, problems of excessive drinking and so on. 1 do not think this is the answer at all. I have never believed it and I still do not. The Aboriginal problems of social maladjustment come in fact from cultural clash, from long term neglect of the needs of the Aborigines within our society, from the way in which the Aborigines have been repressed and discriminated against and the way in which their needs have not been attended to. The succession of previous Federal governments must accept that responsibility. Nonetheless, I agree with the honourable member for Mackellar that there can always be a backlash in social welfare and social security programs if they seem to be too generous. There is always a core of conservative people in the community who resent strongly the provision of what they feel are too generous’ benefits or ‘too generous’ a system of welfare services being established in the community.
I can assure the honourable member for Mackellar that Australia is a long way short of being too generous either in the provision of benefits or of welfare services or in the philosophy that motivates the development of these things. This was the case until the advent of this Government so far as the philosophy is concerned. But in regard to the material things such as services and payments we believe there is still a long way to go, a very long way indeed, if this country’s social security system is to be lifted up to the ideal standard to which we should aspire, as seems a fitting objective for one of the wealthiest countries in the world. This must be done if we are to restore the preeminence that this country once had as a social laboratory in the development of social security benefits and services. Having replied to the few main points which were raised by members of the Opposition and in view of the fact that there is general agreement, apart from the few criticisms that were mustered, I propose not to discuss the matter any further at this stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Clauses 1 to 9 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
– I move:
In proposed section 83ae, omit ‘giving effect to an agreement referred to in section 137, a pension payable by virtue of those regulations’, substitute ‘where a person’s eligibility for pension is dependent upon regulations giving effect to an agreement under section 137 of the Principal Act, a pension’.
This may seem to be a technical amendment. It has 2 distinct purposes. The Bill repeals sections 49 and 78 of the Principal Act which allow for the payment of invalid and widows’ pensions for 30 weeks after a pensioner returns to Australia. I think that as a general principle we should not take away one of the privileges at present existing in the Act. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) must have overlooked the fact that, because of the peculiar way in which this clause is drafted, it takes away certain of those privileges. This applies to people taking their Australian pension under the provisions of an agreement made in accordance with section 137 of the Act.
Proposed section 83AE provides that, except as provided by regulations, a pension is not payable in respect of any period during which the pensioner is outside Australia. I would like the Committee to consider the position of persons taking their pensions by virtue of an agreement in terms of section 137. I refer to the reciprocal agreement with the United Kingdom or New Zealand. When those people go abroad to the United Kingdom or New Zealand, as the case may be, they can draw their temporary pensions while they are there. They receive the 30-weeks privilege on going there and coming back under which they can draw their pensions. But at present if they visit the United States, Canada, India or somewhere else and are away for 30 weeks, on their return to Australia they are able to receive their 30 weeks back pensions. Under the Bill before the Committee they cannot do so unless a new regulation is brought in.
Unfortunately, this clause has been drafted in a clumsy way which prevents such a new regulation being brought in. It says: ‘except as provided by regulations giving effect to an agreement referred to in section 137’. A regulation of the kind I have mentioned would not be a regulation giving effect to an agreement referred to in section 137. Therefore, if we pass the Bill in its present clumsy form it would be impossible legally to provide a regulation retaining for these people a privilege which already exists. For that reason it is necessary to rephrase the clause, which has been wrongly drawn. This will not alter the intention or what the Minister meant as the sense of it. The clause has the effect, which I know the Minister did not intend, of taking away from certain pensioners in Australia rights which they possess at present. I think this must be looked at. In my amendment I have changed the order of words a little, so that it will make it possible for the Minister to do what I have no doubt he really intended to do. This is purely a technical matter.
The second matter to which I draw attention is a more difficult one because it has a legal doubt in it. All I am concerned with is removing a legal doubt. In regard to this second matter I am raising, which is a more substantial matter, it may be that the law would carry out what the Minister intends. But the drafting is very obscure. I want to consider this carefully. If the Minister looks at Article 8 and Article 27 of the existing agreement with the United Kingdom he will see what I mean. There is a legal point of some complexity here. Article 27 says that a person shall be taken to be permanently resident in Australia if he has resided here 3 years or he has been here for one year and the authorities of both countries - that is, the United Kingdom and Australia; it cannot be done unilaterally - have not agreed that he should not be treated as a permanent resident. I know that the Minister has said that he will renegotiate this agreement but he has not yet done so, and I do not think that we should pass sloppy laws here related to agreements to be negotiated some time in the future.
I turn now to Article 8 which is the important one. It says that for the purposes of any claim to receive, an age pension a person who is permanently resident in Australia shall be treated as if he was a resident there during any period in which he was resident in the United Kingdom. The important technical words are ‘any claim’. If the claim is accepted his pension becomes an Australian pension. It could well be held that, because of the use of this technical word ‘claim’ which has a meaning in the Principal Act, proposed section 83AE does not do what it intends to do. I know that is a doubtful point. I know it is a point of considerable legal complexity, but it seems to me that when we pass a Bill we should not pass one which has a doubtful application. I have therefore redrawn the proposed section so that it will do what I believe the Minister intended it to do. I do not think that the Minister could cavil at my words. I shall read the clause as it would be if it were amended:
Except as provided by regulations where a person’s eligibility for pension is dependent upon regulations giving effect to an agreement under section 137 of the principal Act, a pension is noi payable in respect of any period during which the pensioner is outside Australia.
I think that this amendment gives effect to what the Minister intended and gets rid of any possible ambiguity in the meaning of the phrase concerned. I do not see how the Minister could really object to this amendment because at the same time as it does this it also removes the thing which the Minister has done in this Bill and did not intend to do, that is, to take away certain travel privileges from people who are now entitled to them. So I ask the Minister to consider whether this amendment might not be acceptable to the Government. 1 do not quite see why he should refuse to accept it in the circumstances. He said a moment ago when he talked about a pension in Australia being-
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I thank the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) for his endeavour to be helpful, but as the Bill has been drafted there is in fact adequate provision to protect the people about whom he is concerned. If he looks at clauses 14 and 15 he will see that in relation to the first matters he raised, people who go overseas now have the right when they return to collect an accumulation of a maximum of 30 weeks pension entitlement. That is provided for specifically in clause 15. Clause 14 relates to people in the Territories. So those matters are adequately catered for. There is no need for the amendment which the honourable member has proposed. In relation to his concern about the reciprocal agreement, I must confess that I found the honourable member’s arguments a little hard to follow. As far as I can establish from what he said I am convinced that there is no substance in the point he is trying to make. In fact he admitted that it was a fine and questionable legal point he was trying to make. My information is that adequate provision is made in the Act and the regulations to ensure that, for instance, a person who draws a pension in Australia under the reciprocal agreement does not take that pension benefit, that supplement, away with him overseas. This seems to be the main point that the honourable member is worried about. Steps have been taken or are about to be taken - if they have not been initiated they should have been - to renegotiate the agreements with the United Kingdom and New Zealand. I am certain that in the light of developments which have taken place, and the provisions of this Bill, both countries will want to re-assess their position vis-a-vis the agreements. The Government does not accept the honourable member’s amendment. In fact, as I analyse the wording of the amendment I can see no difference in import between what is proposed and the provisions of the Bill. The Government does not accept the amendment.
– I am afraid that the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has not understood the position. I ask him to apply his mind to it again. He cited clauses 14 and 15 of the Bill. These clauses do not apply at all to the cases of which I am speaking. I shall go through the matter again for the Minister so that he will understand it. I am not talking about people in the Territories; I am talking about people in Australia. I am not talking about people who left immediately before the commencement of the provisions of the principal Act. I am talking about people who may at some time in the future, perhaps years in the future, leave Australia. Let us turn our attention to the position of these people who are at present drawing an Australian pension by virtue of section 137 of the principal Act.
At present if such a person decides to have a holiday in the United States of America and is away for 30 weeks, on his return to Australia he is eligible to be paid that 30 weeks pension. That is his existing privilege now. If this Bill is passed he will lose this privilege which stems from sections 49 and 78 of the principal Act, sections which are repealed by this Bill. So he would lose this right at present provided under those sections. If this Bill is passed in its present form can that right be reinstated by regulation? The answer is no, because proposed new section 83ae of the Bill states:
Except as provided by regulations giving effect to an agreement referred to in section 137 a pension payable by virtue of those regulations is not payable in respect of any period during which the pensioner is outside Australia.
If a man goes to the United States and is outside Australia for a period the Act states that a pension is not payable to him in respect of that period. I know that the Minister is new in the game and does not perhaps understand all aspects of the Act. He has not really turned his mind to this aspect but I am sure that when he does he will see the real import of what I am saying.
This Act, not by any intention of the Minister but because of the way in which it is drawn, is taking away from a certain class of Australian pensioner a privilege which he possesses at present. This is something which I know that the Minister did not intend. I do not think we should pass the clause in a form which does something which the Minister does not intend. I know that the Minister has a certain degree of stubborn pride. He does not want to admit that he has been wrong. But in this case he is wrong. What I have said about this clause is quite incontrovertible. The fact that the Minister cited clauses 14 and 15 to me, which were utterly irrelevant to the point under consideration, shows that he does not really understand, or did not a few moments ago, what the amendment is all about. I do not think he means to penalise this class of pensioner.
– Perhaps he does.
– Well, does he? There is all sorts of fine print in the Minister’s mind. We are entitled to know about this fine print. I suggest to the Minister that he would lose nothing by accepting my amendment, so why does he not accept it? Why does he not at least have the grace to admit that he has been wrong? Perhaps this is a minor matter but he has been wrong. Why should the Minister be stubborn about it? Why does he not admit that he is wrong and allow this little, quite formal amendment to be accepted? it would really be no skin off the Minister’s nose. The fact that a few moments ago the Minister cited clauses 14 and 15 of the Bill to me, which are utterly irrelevant, shows that perhaps through my lack of clarity I had not explained to him what my amendment was all about. I have tried to explain it now.
– He wants to save money; that is all.
– The Minister would save money at the expense of the pensioner? I do not think so. There is fine print in the mind of the Minister for Social Security but it is fine print on much bigger issues than this. I do not think that he means to do this, so I suggest that he thinks again.
– One thing I have learned in this House over a long period is that if the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) says that people are wrong, they are inevitably right. If there has been some misunderstanding, I suggest gently that perhaps it might have been a problem of explanation. We do not accept the Opposition’s amendment; it adds nothing to what we propose. The facts are that, for instance, a person travelling overseas after the enactment of this Bill will be able to take his Australian pension rights overseas. We do not accept that it is our right to legislate in relation to attitudes which are largely the prerogative of the United Kingdom or New Zealand governments. The matters referred to by the honourable member for Mackellar can be more adequately handled by agreement, and that approach will be the approach which we will adopt.
Motion (by Mr Hayden) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Wentworth’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority .. ..12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 1 1 to 15 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Proposed new clause 16.
– I move:
This clause is meant to protect the taxpayer and revenue, to stop the plunder of the Treasury and to stop exploitation. At the same time, it will protect the migrant community from any possible backlash which might come not from the people who at present are in Australia but from people who might otherwise come to Australia for the purpose of receiving a pension and taking it overseas. 1 think this is of considerable importance. Let us consider, for example, the many thousands - indeed, many tens of thousands - of people who have lived in Australia, perhaps as children, and are now resident in either New Zealand or the United Kingdom. These people in the United Kingdom certainly would be eligible, if they have the other qualifications, for a United Kingdom pension. Admittedly the United Kingdom pension is much smaller than the Australian pension unless they build it up with graduated contributions, but they ure eligible for that pension. If these people elect to return to Australia and have a holiday here in their homeland for only a year they can go back to the United Kingdom and take with them a permanent Australian pension which would be payable in addition to their United Kingdom pension. This. I am sure, is not what the Minister had in mind, because why should an expatriate be placed in a better position with respect to a pension than an Australian? Why should it be possible for an Australian who has elected to live abroad almost permanently to be able to return to Australia for a little time and double his pension - get the 2 pensions? This is, I think, in the nature of things, entirely wrong.
There is also the question of possible abuse with the widow’s pensions. I am not talking about the genuine widow whose husband has died but about the notional or nominal widow who has been divorced, or has divorced or has been separated. She is a widow for widow’s pension purposes and, indeed, there may be more than that because the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) announced some time ago that he would give the widow’s pension to the mothers of illegitimate children. I am told that he will not call them widow’s pension. They will be on the widow’s pension rates but they will be called ‘supportive services’, a name which I think would not altogether commend itself to Womens Lib: but never mind that. If the Minister carries out the intention which he expressed in his original Press statement and pays the widow’s pension to these people it seems likely that we will have many women coming to Australia for the purpose of giving birth and having their offspring qualified, or qualifying themselves, for widow’s pensions. They would have only to remain here for a short time - I do not know quite how long but 1 think that probably under the Bill, as it is drawn, they would only have to remain for one year or perhaps less. If my amendment to proposed new section 83ae had been accepted they would have had to remain here for 5 years in order to qualify. These are very difficult matters and one does not want in any way to be ungenerous but because the period has been shortened from 20 years to
– Order! ft being 10.15 p.m. in accordance with the order of the House I shall report progress.
-Order! It being 10.15 p.m. in accordance with the order of the House I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Tonight 1 refer to a water conservation project in southern Queensland known at Pike’s Creek dam which is part of the proposed larger Border Rivers scheme in southern Queensland. After a long period of negotiation which was undertaken by the Border Rivers Association, agreement was reached between the State Governments of New South Wales and Queensland and the Commonwealth Government to go on with the construction of this dam. The announcement was made prior to the last Parliament rising by the then Minister for National Development, Sir Reginald Swartz. But before the House rose, no legislation had been introduced to enable this agreement to be implemented. As 1 understand it, Queensland and New South Wales are prepared to go ahead with the building of this dam but the new Commonwealth Government has not, at this stage, agreed to proceed with it and has not in fact, up to now, honoured the undertaking given by the previous Government. I do not say that it will not go ahead with it but at the moment the project is being delayed.
I understand that an environmental study was being undertaken, that it was completed this week, and that the Commonwealth Government was awaiting the result of that study. 1 understand that this should be in the hands of the Commonwealth Government now. So, I hope, that to save any further delay the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) will agree to the proposal made by the Queensland Government for the letting of a contract - a proposal which has been accepted by the New South Wales Government and is simply waiting for the consent of the Federal Government.
This project is not something that has happened overnight. A lot of study has gone into this matter over a period of years. Indeed, the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) and I have been associated with it in the Federal sphere for a number of years. It is a project which will not be really costly to any government when regard is had to the value that it will have for that area. The dam will provide water for the area bordering the river which forms the border of New South Wales and Queensland. It is an area which has proved its worth in agricultural production. The water which will become available will benefit a large section of country which needs this provision against the unpredictable seasonal conditions which occur. The water will supply not merely a small area; the area represented by the honourable member for Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick) will also benefit.
This is a widespread project which is estimated to cost more than $14m. This cost will be divided between 3 governments, so it will be quite an economic proposition for each government concerned. The people in the area involved are gravely concerned about what seems to be the delay and the procrastination of the Federal Government in relation to this project. During the course of the election campaign I did not hear it said that the incoming Government would subject the project to scrutiny. I am sure that the candidates for the area were fully confident that the new Government would proceed with the project. The other candidates and I did not suggest for a moment that a change of government would jeopardise the project. We were sure that the new government would honour the undertaking of the previous Government. That has been time honoured practice down the years, unless an agreement is involved which cuts right across the policy of the incoming government. In very few cases would an undertaking not have been honoured.
– What about the Burdekin dam, which was approved in 1949.
– 1 suppose the Commonwealth Government has done nothing about that project but I do not have details of it. If that is correct, it is the exception which proves the rule. I would like to have a look at the agreement to see whether that is right. It may be easy to point to one or two instances. Does the honourable member believe that the present Government should dishonour a promise made by the previous Government? Does he think that 2 wrongs make a right? If he does, I am sorry for the people he represents. What the honourable member for Casey has said quite possibly could have happened in the distant past, but I am referring to the need for a dam, construction of which has been approved. Two State governments have agreed on it. In that area the harnessing of water is at a very low stage of development compared with the work done in the southern part of the Commonwealth. If we have a truly national government it will take an interest in providing this dam, just as it did in the Dartmouth Dam or in any other similarly worthy water conservation project.
The Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) is in the chamber. He is one Government supporter who has recognised the great value of water conservation in spite of criticisms. I hope that the Government will take some notice of the Ministers experience in this field. I am sure that he would be prepared to recommend proceeding with the project. It is causing a great deal of concern to the people in the area. I am not sure of the exact amount, but I understand that a great deal of money has already been spent on the project. A sum of almost Sim has been mentioned, but I could not guarantee that. I can say that very substantial progress has been made, to the stage where a contract for a tunnel to enable the project to proceed 5s ready. It is being held up by the Commonwealth Government. I urge the Government to give urgent consideration to the project.
– Surely out of justice it will proceed.
– It is not only out of justice. lt is out of sound common sense and good business practice that the undertaking should be honoured. I am sure that the Government will accept that as a general principle. If the project cut across the principles of the Government I could understand its procrastination and hesitancy to get on with the job. I appeal to the Government not to delay the project any longer. Work has been done and years of study have been given to it. The previous Government gave it very close scrutiny. I took deputations to the Minister for National Development at that time. There was no rushing into it. It was carefully considered as a project in an area where the conservation of water is vitally important in the interests of decentralisation and the production of beef and coarse grains. Both those products are readily saleable and can produce a large amount of export income. If the project is proceeded with, the drier areas to the west will be able to provide fodder. Water will be provided to towns like Goondiwindi. Other advantages will accrue. A cost benefit analysis greatly favours construction of the dam. It is an area where water conservation is badly needed. I trust that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Government will give very earnest consideration to having the project approved so that the contract may proceed in order to provide work and benefits for the people of the area.
– Last night in the New South Wales Parliament the Liberal and Country Party Government introduced a Bill for electoral reform. Only a few days ago we debated in this House an Electoral Bill to bring about one vote one value. During that debate we heard most hypocritical speeches from speaker after speaker from the Liberal and Country Parties. They used such words as ‘gerrymander’.
– I rise to a point of order. I find those words objectionable.
– You have every reason.
– I ask that they be withdrawn. I do not like being called a hypocrite.
– Order! The honourable gentleman did not say that the honourable member for Wimmera was a hypocrite. He said that the speeches were hypocritical. That is not an imputation.
– The Bill introduced into the New South Wales Parliament proposes the third redistribution of State electoral boundaries in 3 terms. Not so long ago the Liberal and Country Party confreres in this House of the New South Wales Government supporters were saying that a redistribution by the Federal Labor Government was held too often if it was held every 6 years. Apparently it is quite acceptable for their Liberal and Country Party colleagues in the New South Wales Parliament to hold a redistribution every 3 years. Apparently it is not acceptable if we do it every 6 years. In the debate in this House we heard expressions like ‘gerrymander’, ‘end of democracy’ and similar nonsense, yet similar action is being taken much more frequently than is contemplated here.
Some Liberal Party members claimed that they had been gagged and that the Bill had been guillotined ruthlessly through this House. I will show how ruthlessly we applied the guillotine. In the debate there were 34 speakers over a total of 12 hours 27 minutes. In the time that I have been in this Parliament only one Bill has been debated at greater length. That was a Bill relating to compensation. In the last 3 years no other Bill has been debated for more than 7 hours. On the Electoral Bill we permitted debate lasting 12 hours 27 minutes. I might add that it was almost an hour more than the LiberalCountry Party Government permitted for a Bill to go through in 1965. What utter humbug is this, Mr Speaker? The cousins of these same people ran through a Bill, to coin a phrase, in the dead of night in 3 hours last night, the final stage being reached, I believe, at 4 o’clock this morning. The Minister for Services and Property, who is at the table, is indicating that that is right. We heard such terms as ‘fascists’ and ‘ruthless gagging of free speech’. Honestly, honourable members opposite must think that the Australian people are utter fools and that they will accept the sort of nonsense that went on in this House when the Commonwealth Electoral Bill was debated when they find what happened with an electoral Bill in the. New South Wales State House.
– You are not saying anything about the tolerance.
– We are just getting on to that. Thank you very much for reminding me. I have seen from the intelligent expression on the face of the honourable member that I need a straight guy, and he is the man to do the job. We were talking about reducing the tolerance from 20 per cent above and below the quota. May I remind the honourable member that his colleagues in New South Wales are talking about increasing it to 20 per cent not across the board, but 20 per cent above and 20 per cent below above the separate quotas that are to be established for the country and for the city. So in fact, I understand, there will be 33 country seats and it will be possible to have an electorate 20 per cent below or 20 per cent above the quota for the country. In the city where, I understand, there will be 36 seats, electorates may be 20 per cent below and 20 per cent above the quota for the city. So in fact there will almost certainly be a situation in which smaller seats will have about 16,000 voters, as Temora now has, and in larger seats there could be well over 40,000 voters, as there now are in The Hills. In fact what is happening in New South Wales is far, far worse than the Commonwealth situation. It is not a 20 per cent tolerance. It is closer to 40 per cent or 50 per cent and could be 100 per cent.
At the 1971 State elections the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labor Party received 51 per cent of the 2-party preferred vote. It is clear that since then the fortunes of the Liberal and Country parties have declined. In all the results recorded since then in House of Representatives elections, State by-elections and Senate elections they have polled considerably worse. They have defeat staring them in the face, and in the traditional conservative tory fashion there is only one solution to save a government from defeat and that is to draw the boundary lines so that it cannot lose. All the crocodile tears that were shed on the other side of the House make me sick, and it makes me even sicker when I see what is happening in New South Wales.
Let me quote Malcolm Mackerras. We all know Malcolm. He is a man who has devoted his life to the study of psephology, who until a few short years ago was a member of the New South Wales State executive of the Liberal Party. He has written many books. He is highly respected for his judgments and his studies in this matter. He stated on the Brian White radio show today that the New South Wales gerrymander that exists at this moment is worse than that in any other State, and he is amazed that so little has been said or done about it. I suppose that in a sense we can blame ourselves because we have not been vociferous enough in denouncing it. We have almost accepted in certain parts of the Labor Party that gerrymander is the norm and that inequality in voting is part of the price of defeat. I do not accept it, and I will, as I have done in recent weeks, raise this matter more and more often.
The situation has become so serious in every State except Tasmania - we would remedy the situation in South Australia if we had control of the Upper House - there is gross inequality in electoral justice. I know that my colleague, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) and also the Minister for Services and Property are concerned about this matter. I propose to recommend to our caucus that we investigate the possibility of taking this matter to the Australian people. I do not think we can tolerate a situation any longer that continues to keep out the rightful government. I believe that the Labor Government should consider going to the people on a referendum, a Bill of Rights for the people of Australia, which will include in it an assurance that each legislature in Australia provides a guarantee to each citizen of universal and equal suffrage. This is something that should have been done a long time ago. I am surprised that it was not done earlier. I believe that the concept of universal and equal suffrage would be supported unanimously across this country. If the States in which the Liberal and Country parties have control continue to deny to the people of those States their rights there is only one possible answer: We must go to a referendum. An opportunity presents itself at the forthcoming Senate election not only for this House but also for each legislature, both upper and lower, in each of the States. 1 intend to move that way when the opportunity presents itself in the caucus and in the party and I hope that my party will take that opportunity to bring that referendum about.
– Last night, because of the decision of the Government, time ran out and I could not finish my speech on the motion for the adjournment. I was talking about a This Day Tonight’ segment which was filmed in Katherine on 7th March. I had virtually only opened my remarks. Tonight I refer the House to the filming which took place in Katherine on the night of 7th March and the screening subsequently not only in Darwin but also in all Australian capital cities. The scene opened with the producer, a man called Finlayson, leaning over the door of his utility in the main street of Katherine and remarking that Katherine had never been known for its good humanitarian relations between races. This is the way he set the scene for what was to be a nation-wide television broadcast of a program that is accepted generally as an authoritative production of fact. I say it was actually completely and utterly biased. It was endeavouring to produce a set of circumstances which would convince the people of Australia that a meeting which took place in Katherine was a completely racist meeting.
What sort of experience has a man like this Finlayson which enables him to arrive at a place in. the Northern Territory and decide that he is going to do this? After leaning over the door of his car he pointed at the Crossways Hotel in Katherine and said: ‘And the whites are over there in their $2m Crossways Hotel planning their strategy, working out what they are going to do in their air conditioned rooms, while the Aborigines are across the high level bridge over the Katherine River’. According to this report they have nothing. They have no assistance, no air conditioned rooms and are not planning any strategy.
I point out to the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) and to all people concerned that this sort of approach to Aboriginal affairs and the Northern Territory situation is damaging. It is making the job of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant), who is sitting at the table, far harder than it would otherwise be because this program endeavoured to paint a picture and excluded from the scene anyone who happened to be interested in the welfare of Australian citizens whether they be Aborigines or anyone else. This reporter could have asked any one of the 500 or 600 people who were at that meeting to tell him what it was all about. At that meeting 12 people were elected to a committee but he did not ask one of them for an opinion. He did not ask one of them what the meeting was about. He decided to sound off and give Australia the benefit of what I consider to be very slender knowledge about the matter. Not only is it slender know ledge but also it is very dangerous conjecture, but he adopted this sort of attitude. He could have easily asked one of the members of the committee, some of whom were Europeans, some part coloured, some cattlemen, some welfare people, a cross section of the town of Katherine. But instead he endeavoured to describe this meeting as a white racist meeting. I think he succeeded because a number of complaints I have received about that particular segment of that program have said that this man was really showing that there was this attitude in Katherine, that there were 500 or 600 people seething in a racist manner.
I will read some of the terms of reference of that committee appointed at the meeting to prove that those there were not at all racist. Had this reporter spent any time in the area or been interested enough to find out the situation and had not decided before he went there exactly what he was going to do and eventually misinterpreted the situation in Katherine, he could have seen these terms of reference. I will not have time to go through them all but some of them were: The running of educational, health and job opportunity functions of the Department; the running of settlements at Hooker Creek, Beswick and Roper River - these places are in the local area and naturally enough the people would be interested in them; the allocation of funds to the Department and the way they are expended; the questioning of the lack of supervision of the spending of welfare cheques paid to Aborigines for specific purposes. The people who were at the meeting see these others coming into town on payday and spending their cheques on grog and not spending enough money on their families. Naturally enough the local people are very perturbed about this. They are the people who live in the area and see these things happening and this is why the meeting was called.
But this reporter did not wish to portray this genuine interest in the welfare of the people in the area, not only Aborigines but also whites on the settlements. Unemployment at various centres of both Aborigines and whites was another of the terms of reference. I will not read any more of them but there are many more. I am sure that the Minister knows them all and that he appreciates the facts. I am not attacking him but the man who produced this segment and misrepresented a meeting at Katherine, misrepresented the
Northern Territory and the whole Aboriginal scene in Australia. He has done a great disservice to the people who are trying to help Aborigines. He set up the convenor of the meeting, the manager of Killarney, Mr Tapp, and Mrs Tapp. He lured them across the high level bridge ostensibly to be seen speaking to Aborigines in camp environment. Someone - whether it was the reporter or someone else 1 do not know - had arranged for an exemployee of Mr Tapp to come out of the bush. He did so and he and Mr Tapp had an argument. This was one of the would-be highlights of the segment showing this cattleman accusing this Aborigine of not having worked properly for him and the Aborigine accusing htm of not paying him sufficient money.
The program did not bother to look at the other side where Mrs Tapp was speaking to some of the Aboriginal girls who had worked with her and were overjoyed at seeing her in town. This was a friendly scene. But no, this reporter showed this bitter meeting between an employer and the man he had sacked, a man who had left him irresponsibly. I appeal to the Minister, to the Government and to anyone concerned to recognise that the Aboriginal situation in the Northern Territory and across the top of Australia could be dynamite and has to be looked at from both sides. Those who go to the area and write news stories and take pictures have to understand that they can help the Aborigines as well as we can.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Last Monday the Federated Storemen and Packers Union placed a ban on the export of wool from Victoria and New South Wales. The ban may be extended to Tasmania. An important cause of this dispute is the proposed implementation in wool stores of new wool handling methods which can fundamentally affect the future employment of those working at the stores. This position has been engineered by and has developed over the period of the last Government. Time after time requests were made for a consultation between the people who were developing these techniques and the people employed by the wool marketing industry. Until this Government came to power there was no consultation whatever between authorities such as the Australian Wool Commission, the Australian Wool Board, the
Federated Storemen and Packers Union and other people employed in the wool market.
Let us look at the position that has developed in this area. The wages paid to storemen employed in wool stores are currently among the lowest 10 per cent paid to storemen anywhere in Australia. A trucker in a wool store receives the princely sum of $66 a week. How can a man keep a family on $66 a week? A classer receives $73 a week and the last consent award was in 1969 - the only one for the last 9 years. Prior to 1964 there was a history of consent awards. The result has been that in Adelaide wool stores there is a labour turnover of 300 per cent per annum while in Yennora, the worst, there is a labour turnover of 1,000 per cent per annum - an indictment of industrial relations in the wool marketing industry. If ever we needed a witness to the need for consultation in such situations it is in the wool marketing industry. But instead what do we get? Eight days before election day political appointees were appointed to the Australian Wool Corporation by the Australian Country Party. These political appointees are there to enshrine the vested interests that have been responsible for this serious situation in the industry where technological development has been frustrated for the very good reason that people employed in the industry see their livelihoods jeopardised. There has been no consultation and these people have been regarded as the scum of the earth by the wool brokers who are the people who called the shots while ever the Country Party made the policy decisions in Canberra. As we have heard over the last few days, the Country Party at that time revered the principle that the decision should be made outside this place. The industry told the Country Party what to do. The Country Party was proud of that. The section of the industry that told the previous Government what to do so far as the wool industry is concerned was the only organised group in it - the selling brokers. The National Council of Wool Selling Brokers called the shots right through the period when the Country Party brought down policies for the wool industry.
If we need a good illustration of the way that this works let us take a look at the hot spot of trouble today. There is a 1,000 per cent labour turnover at Yennora. Why was the store at Yennora built? It was built because Dalgety Australia Ltd had nowhere to go, and Dalgetys held the key in the Australian Wool Board and in the Australian Wool Commission while ever it was giving the Country Party the riding instructions. Dalgetys forced the Yennora situation on to the Government. Let us take a closer look at how this happened. Mr William Vines, the Managing Director of Dalgetys, was also the Chairman of the Wool Commission. Also on the Wool Commission is Mr S. S. Nevile. I name them tonight because the last time 1 raised this point 1 was accused of not being direct. Mr S. S. Nevile is a director of Port Phillip Mills Pty Ltd. It went bankrupt two or three years ago and it was bought by Dalgetys. Mr Nevile is an employee of Dalgetys. We see the situation that has developed at Yennora. It is a completely uneconomic proposition. The wool that is put into the store cannot even be found. The wool is sold and then it cannot be found to be delivered to the buyers. The labour relations are so bad that there is a 1,000 per cent turnover. And we wonder how this happened. One has only to go back over the history of the way in which decisions were made in the wool industry to realise how it happened.
It happened because, as we have heard, the Country Party and its Liberal Party associates in this respect are devoted to the principle that they have been propounding in this House for the last three or four days - that policy should be made outside this House, whether it be by Dalgetys or by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. This principle has led us into what is a serious situation for anybody who has the interests of the wool industry at heart. We now see technological developments frustrated. These developments could bring major economies into the industry of the order of $100m a year. These developments are frustrated because the labour component has never been involved in the business of developing these techniques. No attempts whatsoever were made under the previous Government to accommodate the adjustments that are necessary so far as wool classers, storemen and all the other people who are employed in this industry are concerned. The fact that no union representative was included on the Woo] Corporation is witness to the callous approach to the problems associated with this situation. I believe that this is one thing that this Government has to look at very closely.
We need to adjust this situation very quickly. There is no question that the adjustment will cost a lot of money because it is now too late to carry out the gradual transition which could have been achieved if consultations with the trade union movement had taken place three or four years ago. But no, the Sir William Gunns and the other people who called the shots and made the wool policy outside this place were not the sort of people to regard the workers in the industry as anything but parts of the machinery that could be dispensed with at any moment. It was this sort of attitude, this confrontation attitude, this callous approach to the people employed in the industry that brought about the present situation.
– Who voted you in?
– The wool growers, by mistake.
– There are comments on the side. Let me suck them up, Mr Speaker. An honourable member said by way of interjection that the wool growers voted me in by mistake. The wool growers, I might say, are very intelligent. They finally showed *he Country Party that they are no fools and that they will not be strung along as the Country Party has attempted to do by the control it has had in this House. The wool growers are intelligent. They would not be told. They would not be fobbed off by the platitudes of the Country Party. They would not be told that so-and-so was a good thing because it helped Dalgetys. They would not be led along any more into deficiency payments and price averaging plans which were loaded on to that industry by the previous Government. All of these directions came from the selling brokers. The wool growers of this country would not be led on any more. The honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) is quite right in saying that the wool growers voted me in. That is why I am here. The wool growers of this country refuse to accept directions from outside this House. They refuse to accept that this place should bring down a wool policy which brings profit only to that very small sectional but highly organised group in the political spectrum of the wool industry. The honourable member for Wimmera was quite right; the wool growers did indeed vote me into this House and do not let him forget it.
–! rise to speak briefly about the attitude of the courts of this country to drug pedlars. In 11 years in this Parliament I have spoken only twice in the adjournment debate. I rise tonight because 1 feel so strongly about this situation. This Parliament and every other Parliament in this nation, whether they are Liberal, Labor or Country Party dominated, have agreed that drug pedlars - I am not talking about the user pedlars; 1 am talking about drug pedlars - should be liable to a maximum penalty of 10 years gaol. I leave aside those people who are addicts. They are to be pitied and they should be treated. I am now talking about pushers or pedlars. The Parliament, with the unanimous support of members of the Australian Labor Party, when we were in Government agreed that there should be a 10-year gaol sentence. I have referred to the courts before. When I was the Minister for Customs and Excise over 2 years there were 150 prosecutions for drug peddling and the average sentence imposed by judges and magistrates was 15.2 months. I have stated on the floor of this Parliament that that kind of attitude by the courts passes my comprehension, because with that weak gutted attitude of the courts the drug pusher laughs all the way to the bank.
What has made me rise in anger tonight is an issue which I feel reluctant to raise because I have respect for the conventions of this Parliament and I do not want to refer to something which is sub judice. Therefore I will cloud what 1 have to say so as not to offend that convention. I am relying on a newspaper report, some of which 1 have substantiated.
Recently - if I could put it that way, in a court in this country a man, if I may call him that, was convicted of selling the drug lysergic acid diethylamide or LSD - more than 100 microdot tablets - for a sum of several hundred dollars. LSD is a drug that terrifies me. It is a drug that can induce in people who take it a recurrent psychosis months after taking it, without their taking it again. A person can be cast into a hallucinogenic state, causing him to jump off a high building in the belief that he is a bird or an aeroplane. The effects are devastating.
The man to whom I referred was convicted of selling this drug. The magistrate used such words as: ‘People like you are filth’, ‘You should be put away’ and ‘You are filth in the community’. Then, in a great gesture of acceding to justice and the wishes of this Parliament and the wishes of every State Parliament in this nation, he sentenced this creature to 12 months gaol, to serve a minimum of 2 months. This means that after a period of 8 weeks this man. who has made a fortune in peddling and preying on the depravities of young unsuspecting Australians, will be free and laughing all the way to the bank. Sometimes in this Parliament we hear about deterrents. One wonders at the capabilities of a man such as this magistrate to sit on the bench in a court in this nation. Such a sentence and such an attitude pass my comprehension.
-Order! It being 1 1 o’clock, in accordance with the order of the House the House stands adjourned till 10 a.m. on Thursday, 12th April 1973.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
International Wool Textile Organisation: Australian Delegation (Question No. 1)
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Mr L. J. Yeo, F.C.A., Interim Chairman of the Australian Wool Corporation; Chairman of the Australian Wool Testing Authority. Mr Yeo is Senior Partner in Marquand and Co. and a Director of a number of public and private companies.
Sir William Gunn, K.B.E., C.M.G., member of the Australian Wool Corporation and Chairman of the International Wool Secretariat. Sir William is a Vice-President of the International Wool Textile Organisation, Chairman of Gunn Development Pty Ltd, member of the Board of the Reserve Bank of Australia, a Director of Grazcos and other public companies.
Mr M. L. Vawser, B.Ec, General Manager, Fibre Marketing Division, Australian Wool Corporation.
Mr S. A. S. Douglas, M.Sc, M.A.I.A.S., Deputy Director, Australian Wool Testing Authority.
Mr H. P. Anderson, President of the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia and General Manager of the Australian Mercantile Land and Finance Co. Ltd, attended the Conference by invitation.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has furnished the following reply:
The questions asked by the honourable member require detailed information which is not readily available. When the data is collated an answer will be provided.
asked the Minister for the Northern Territory, upon notice:
What action has been taken to implement the statement in the Prime Minister’s election policy speech that Ayers Rock and Mount Olga would be included in a Central Australian Aboriginal Reserve and placed under the control of Aboriginal Trustees?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
A number of discussions have already taken place and action has been taken with the Ministers for Aboriginal Affairs, Tourism and Recreation, Environment and Conservation, Works and the Treasurer to consider an interdepartmental meeting to discuss the future of the Ayers Rock-Mt Olga National Park.
asked the Minister for Services and Property, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) see attached tables.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
What percentage of the wheat quota in each State (a) is being allocated this year and (b) has been allocated in past years to (i) individuals living permanently in overseas countries and (ii) firms, businesses or partnerships partly or wholly foreign-owned.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The Commonwealth has no jurisdiction in relation to the allocation of wheat quotas to growers, firms or other interests in any of the States. This is a matter which comes within the Constitutional, legal and administrative prerogative of the States.
I am informed that the instrumentalities set up under the legislation of the various States to administer the quota arrangements have listed, in the normal course, the names, addresses and entitlements of quota holders within their respective States, but that the records do not indicate the kind of information which the honourable member has sought.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has furnished the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
I have made arrangements for a special meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council on 18th May, at which I will be discussing the industry proposals with the State Ministers of Agriculture. In the light of the outcome of those discussions, the Commonwealth Government will then consider its position in the matter.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
As the brief press statements issued by the Minister have left the farming community with little understanding of what occurred at the meeting of the Agricultural Council, will the Minister now provide a full report of the meeting.
As I have had no queries from any sector of the farming community on the outcome of the Australian Agricultural Council meeting, I can only assume that statements issued by me following the Council meeting were sufficiently explanatory.
If the honourable member requires further information on any particular topic, I would be happy to provide it for him. As the honourable member knows, proceedings at Agricultural Council meetings are confidential.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
If so, will the Minister give an assurance that:
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Acting Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the folowing answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The matters referred to fall within the authority of Ministers in the House of Assembly for Papua New Guinea. The issue of many licences is carried out by local government councils and aggregate figures for some are not readily available in Port Moresby. At this time the Papua New Guinea Government is heavily committed on urgent projects and the Ministers responsible have only been able to provide the following answers from material reasonably accessible.
The Minister for the Interior has provided the following information:
The Minister for Labour has provided the following information:
The Minister for Health has provided the following information:
The Minister for Trade and Industry has provided the following information:
The Minister for Agriculture, Stock and Fisheries has provided the following information: lt is not possible to answer question as asked, but some details of vessels licensed under The Papua New Guinea Fisheries Licensing Ordinance are:
Joint Venture - 30.
Indigenous Owned - 2.
Foreign Owned Company - 3 and
Individual Expatriate Enterprises - 8.
Regarding licences for gundealers, secondhand dealers and public motor vehicles, these are no longer recorded on a racial basis.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Between 5th December 1972 and 9th March 1973, in the administration of the Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Act 67 take-over proposals came under notice.
During the same period, the preliminary examination of 63 take-over proposals was completed, including some proposals which had been notified before 5th December 1972. Of these, the Government indicated that it had no indication to 49 proposals. These proposals included a number which were found on examination not to lead to loss of Australian control and a number which related to take-overs of companies with assets of less than $lm and not involving special considerations. Proposals involving listed companies to which no objections were raised were as follows:
Metro Industries Ltd by The Crown Agents;
In the other 14 cases the preliminary examination of which was completed, the Government decided that they should be deferred for further consideration and interim orders were issued for that purpose. The interim orders which were published at the time the decisions were taken, related to acquisitions of shares in the following companies:
M.B. John and Hattersley Ltd by PeglerHattersley Ltd;
During the period 6 proposals were withdrawn before the completion of their preliminary examination. Another 4 proposals in respect of which interim orders had previously been issued were withdrawn before the completion of detailed investigation - namely,
Detailed examinations of the following 3 proposals were completed during the period:
Wreckair Holdings Ltd by Consolidated Pneumatic Tool Co. Ltd;
The Government decided that on objections should be raised to take-over proposals (i) and (ii). The Government decided that proposal (iii) was contrary to the national interest and a final order prohibiting the take-over was issued on 2nd March 1973.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What proportion of the Gross National Product was represented by the revenue, other than by inter-government transfers, of- Federal, State, and local governments in each of the years ended 30 June 1950, 1955, 1960, 1965. 1970 and 1972.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In answer to the honourable member's question, the Commonwealth Statistician has provided the following figures which are consistent with the receipts on General Government income and outlay account and amounts provided for Depreciation by Public authority trading enterprises, as shown in tables 12 and 41-45 of the forthcoming Australian National Accounts 1971-72. Separate figures on local authorities are consistent with table 4 of 'Public Authority Finance: State and local authorities 1971-72'. The honourable member is asked to note that the term 'Gross Domestic Product' is now used by the Commonwealth Statistician in place of 'Gross National Product'.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Currency Rate Changes: Effect on United Kingdom Pensioners (Question No. 230)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What arrangements has he made for compensation or other assistance to those permanent Australian residents who are in receipt of pensions from the
United Kingdom and who have suffered so much loss as a result of the currency rate changes.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Pensions paid to Australian residents by overseas Governments or other institutions, whether in the United Kingdom or elsewhere, are of course liable to change in terms of their Australian dollar value if the exchange rate between the currency of the country concerned and the Australian dollar changes. Such a change may occur either because of a change in the par value of the Australian dollar, such as was made on 23rd December last; or because of a change in the par value or central rate of the foreign currency concerned such as occurred in the case of the pound sterling when it was allowed to ‘float’ in June 1972; or because of a change in the relative valuation of the Australian dollar and the foreign currency concerned as a result of differing consequences for those currencies of action taken in the case of other major currencies, such as the devaluation of the United States dollar in February 1973.
In these respects the effects on the remittances concerned are not different in kind from the effects on other payments due to Australian residents in foreign currencies. Thus, while the Government sympathises with those individuals whose pensions payable from overseas sources may have been reduced in terms of Australian currency as a result of exchange rate changes, it would not be appropriate for it to seek to offset by specific action such reductions. 1 should mention that, as a result of the recent exchange rate changes, some persons resident in Australia in receipt of a pension from the United Kingdom could have become eligible for an Australian Social Service pension for the first time and others could have qualified for an increased Social Services pension.
Leptospirosis in Cattle (Question No. 236)
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 April 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19730411_reps_28_hor83/>.