28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 2 p.m., and read prayers.
– I move:
The bare recital of Sir Arthur Fadden’s parliamentary record, distinguished though it is, does little to express or explain the regard in which he was held by the Australian Parliament and the Australian people. War-time Prime Minister, Treasurer for 11 Budgets, Deputy Prime Minister for 10 years, Acting Prime Minister for a total of 692 days, Leader of the Australian Country Party for 18 years, parliamentarian for 26 years, 23 of them as a member of this House - these are offices and achievements which guarantee him a very great place in Australia’s history.
But the special place Arthur Fadden has in our affections owes not so much to the service he rendered as to the special qualities of his character and his personality. The Parliaments of the ‘thirties and ‘forties and ‘fifties were certainly not lacking in men of stature, vigour and colour but in those decades Arthur Fadden was always significant, never overshadowed, or one might say overawed. He was mananimous in victory, undaunted in defeat. Perhaps his outstanding personal quality was a supreme zest for life, and for life at its most zestful - here in this turbulent, unpredictable, wilful world of Parliament and politics. He loved this Parliament and the people who worked in it and secured with rare unanimity their love in return.
The short period of his Prime Ministership - as he himself said, like the flood he reigned for 40 days and 40 nights - occurred at the very darkest period of the war in Europe and on the eve of the war in the Pacific. In those circumstances he was obliged to engage head-on in conflict with Winston
Churchill over the return of the Australian Imperial Force from Africa. That painful dispute involving the most distressing conflict of loyalties and complex judgments about this nation’s security was continued and ultimately resolved by his great successor John Curtin.
Now, with the knowledge of history behind us, we cannot doubt the correctness as well as the courage of the decision which Fadden and Curtin were forced to make and carry through. Our judgment of a man can often be illuminated by that man’s judgment of others; and I think it says as much about Arthur Fadden as it does about John Curtin what he wrote about the man who succeeded him as Prime Minister and who, in fact, brought about the defeat of his Government in this Parliament. He wrote:
The best and fairest I ever opposed in politics is easy to nominate - John Curtin. I don’t care who knows it but in my opinion there was no greater figure in Australian public life.
And I can find no better tribute to Arthur Fadden than that paid to him by another Prime Minister, the late Harold Holt, who wrote in a letter to him on the eve of his own election as Leader of the Liberal Party in 1966:
Whatever the outcome - and all the omens seem favourable - I wanted to tell you tonight how grateful I shall always be for your encouragement and guidance, your self-effacing generosity in giving prominence to me - as with the Child Endowment and Housing Bills - when it would have been entirely appropriate for you to have occupied the centre of the stage, and my appreciation for all the years of warm friendship between us. You radiated always the spirit of the Australia we love. There was inspiration in the kindly humanity which motivated everything you did.
Such a tribute is the more valuable coming as it did from one who himself was rich in those qualities which he so generously and truly ascribed to Arthur Fadden.
– The Liberal Party of Australia very readily and with warmth supports the motion which has been moved by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). Our sympathy for Sir Arthur Fadden’s family at its loss is heightened by our awareness of the great loss to each of us and to our nation. Sir Arthur was a man for whom all Australians had deep respect and of whom we can justly feel proud as a representative of all that is best in Australia and its people. The nation and each of us are poorer for his passing but his contribution to the building of the nation will not be forgotten and we will always retain the memory of a dedicated and genial leader whom we had the honour to serve just as he so selflessly served the Australian people. Sir Arthur Fadden’s remarkable qualities were demonstrated in his rise from the cane fields of his native Queensland to the office of Prime Minister of Australia. Perhaps in all this his greatest single attribute was that he always treated the task before him and his service to the Australian people with the utmost seriousness. But he never fell into the folly of taking himself more seriously than the issues required. Sir Arthur will always be remembered for his warm and vigorous sense of humour, his ability to communicate with other people whatever their background, and for his strong and steady leadership of his Party and the nation.
All of us have some special memories of Sir Arthur, but those of us in the Liberal Party remember particularly that, with the founder of our Party, Sir Robert Menzies, Sir Arthur was the co-architect of the great coalition which governed Australia for 23 vital years. Sir Arthur served in that Government as Australia’s most distinguished and longest serving Treasurer. My record indicates that he introduced 10 Budgets. The Prime Minister said that it was 1 1 but it seemed as though he always introduced them, whatever the number might be. He presided over a period of remarkable growth in Australia. In this role he represented Australia with great destinction and effect at innumerable international conferences.
His greatness as a leader and politician was soon evident after his entry into this House in 1936 at a time of growing international concern as the world moved inexorably towards the greatest conflict in its history. After little more than 3 years he was appointed Minister assisting the Treasurer and Minister for Supply and Development. Only months later he was appointed Minister for Air and Civil Aviation and soon afterwards took over the Treasury portfolio to which he was to bring such special distinction over many years. Less than a year later, in August 1941, he became Prime Minister of Australia. He was Prime Minister only briefly, but he brought to the highest office in the Parliament the same strength as he did to all posts in which he served in a political career covering more than a quarter of a century. Twenty-two of those years were spent in this House, and it is here that his memory has a special and honoured place.
It was characteristic of Sir Arthur Fadden that in his farewell speech to this House on 11th September 1958, deeply affected though he obviously was by the break he was making - as those who were here will remember - he should have lightened the occasion for everyone and not just for himself by telling a couple of jokes. The stories he told we all remember, like that one of his in which he said: ‘A rooster today and a feather duster tomorrow’. Many stories were told about him. All of us will remember the occasions on which he used to gather people around him and regale them with stories. You would hear people say: ‘Artie, tell us the one about so and so.’ Artie believed that a story never lost from the retelling, especially when it was in the hands of a raconteur of Artie Fadden’s capacity. Everybody will know that very often these sessions of intimacy, of influence on younger members and steeping them in the traditions of this place, went on late into the morning; but everybody knew that by 8 a.m. Artie Fadden was back in his office as bright as a daisy. He had tremendous recuperative powers and extraordinary physical, mental and moral strength. On the occasion to which I have referred he said also:
Parliament is very important. It is the real basis of our existence, from whichever angle you like to look at it. We have different views, our different convictions, our different objectives. If we did not have them, God help democracy!
He went on to say:
We may be divided on policies, but we are united in the ultimate objective of Australianism . . .
We have just had his funeral. It was a funeral to which I went with no sense of sadness. I was very delighted that the moderator in speaking of Sir Arthur Fadden said:
This is an occasion for rejoicing - not sadness - rejoicing in what a man can do and what contribution he can make to a country and to the people with whom he came in contact.
I share that view. I had no sense of sadness. I just felt that Artie would have liked to feel that there were people gathered the night before to think about him and to talk about him, and that they would do so after that very moving funeral oration. Our most fitting memorial to Sir Arthur Fadden will be to live up to the ideals which he expressed and to try to measure up to the standards which he set in this Parliament and for the nation as a whole. Mr Speaker, we will always value his memory. He was a truly great Australian.
– I would like to join with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the very fine remarks that both of them have made about the late Sir Arthur Fadden. They have catalogued the meritorious service that he gave to the nation. We do honour to one of our beloved colleagues, the Right Honourable Sir Arthur Fadden. Death is always a sad occasion. Members of the Australian Country Party look upon Sir Arthur Fadden with intense pride and as a person who brought joy to many people’s hearts. I do not think that he would want us to have this as a very solemn occasion. He was not .that sort of person. It is now 15 years since Sir Arthur Fadden left this Parliament but for those who had an association with him it seems like only yesterday. He was a personality, a character, in his own right. He will be remembered by all of us.
I was fortunate in having a lifetime of association with Sir Arthur Fadden. I suppose my strongest recollections are of the time when I was just a young schoolboy, probably 6, 7 or 8 years of age. Sir Arthur never failed to know me and my name whenever 1 was in bis presence. This was an indication that he was a thoughtful man, indeed a humble man. I always witnessed that this was his performance with all types of people during all his life; it was not unique with me. I think it was his humble upbringing in north Queensland which gave him this capacity to mix with people in all walks of life. He had the great capacity of making them feel at ease and of turning any occasion into one of happiness and merriment.
I was pleased to hear the Leader of the Opposition mention the occasion when Sir Arthur retired from this House. I remember it very clearly. Usually when honourable members retire a lot of serious, sad speeches are delivered. But Sir Arthur, as honourable members will recall, turned the occasion of his retirement into one of telling anecdotes and of referring to occasions and personalities. This place was not some hallowed legislative chamber but it became more like a club where everybody was equal and friendly. Those present could have been a group of cane cutters or sportsmen and they could have been anywhere in Australia. When Sir Arthur had finished speaking other honourable members in the chamber took advantage of the occasion to pay a tribute to him, and also tell another story. It was a unique occasion and I doubt whether it will ever ba equalled in this Parliament
Although he had a lighter side to his nature, Sir Arthur Fadden was an intensely responsible man and indeed a much more sensitive man than most of us ever realised. He took, to heart things that people or the Press said about him personally. In 1951, I think it was, he had to introduce a horror Budget which brought great wrath upon him. Indeed, the Press gave him an awful time for a long period. But the well known phrase that he used on that occasion and which I think is still remembered by people was that he could hold a meeting of all his friends in a telephone box. And I think that was true. We do tender our sympathy to his widow and his family. He was a very devoted man. He had great friends and great loyalties, and we will miss him.
– Hilaire Bel loo once wrote:
From quiet homes and first beginning,
Out to the undiscovered ends,
There’s nothing worth the wear of winning,
But laughter and the love of friends.
That is not, as we may at first blush suspect, a drab and unwelcome piece of cynicism. It is, on reflection, a revelation of the fact that all paths of glory do lead but to the grave and that the great things of life are indeed laughter and the love of friends. Nothing I can think of would show our late friend, Sir Arthur Fadden, to be other than a friend of all people. When I was first elected to this House he said to me: ‘You will get a lot of advice here. Most of it is dubious. The only advice I give to you is this: All the good bowlers are not in the one team.’ Honourable members would not need to argue with me too strenuously on that proposition. Neither the tinsel of power nor the transient grandeur of position had the slightest effect upon the remarkable man whom we recall today. He was essentially natural to every person with whom he had any dealing. I like to recall the occasion when he was taken into one of the curious establishments to which I belong - the Johnsonian Club in Brisbane - that has no other reason for its existence than companionship. He was introduced by a judge of Queensland to the captain of a visiting American ship and some of his officers as Sir Arthur Fadden, Acting Prime Minister and Treasurer of Australia. At the end of an hour, the captain turned to the judge and said to him: You must take us to be a bunch of suckers if you think we believe that he is the Acting Prime Minister of Australia.’ Such was his complete naturalness.
Time of course does blunt the edge of memory but I will never forget as each year went by our annual visits on Boxing Day to the Highland Gathering at Warwick. I wondered how so much exuberance and unfeigned amiability could be reposed in one man. To have known him was indeed to have experienced a whole literature of life, the quips never stopping. I recall the last political meeting - or so I regarded it - that he honoured in support of me. Half way through it I whispered to him, not quite so quietly: ‘I am trying to win votes.’ But he turned and replied to some interjectors with picturesque language. He won them. He then turned to the man who had given him some measure of entertainment, took him into a hotel and bought him a drink. He won that man’s heart and I suspect he may have voted for me by accident.
I remember the last time, a few days before he died, that I went to see Sir Aruthur Fadden. He knew that he was stricken with a serious illness, but his humour was as indefatigable and defiant as ever. He said: ‘They have taken so many pictures of me that I am going to leave them all to the national art gallery.’ When I shook his hand I knew it was the last farewell. I have said that the edge of memory is blunted a little by time. We will never see his like again with our own eyes - eyes which grow a little wearier each year searching for those no longer to be seen. But this man will always be with us in the vision both of memory and of hope.
– As one who was privileged to serve in this Parliament with Sir Arthur Fadden and who had a very high regard for him and greatly respected him as, I know, he was respected by all who knew him, I should like to add my tribute to those which have been tendered by previous speakers. Sir Arthur was not only a great parliamentarian and Treasurer; he was also a very warm hearted person who numbered his friends in all walks of life and at all levels of society. I know that he was able to meet all these people on equal terms. He exuded good humour and had a fund of stories which was unequalled by anyone. As has been stated, Sir Arthur could not resist the temptation even on the occasion of his last speech in this Parliament to tell three of four stories. No doubt these are recorded in Hansard for posterity. This was typical of Sir Arthur Fadden. Australia is the poorer for his passing and I should like to extend my personal sympathy to Lady Fadden and the other members of bis family.
– I, too, join honourable members who have spoken so sincerely to this motion of condolence to a great Queenslander and a great Australian. Like the Leader of my Party, the right honourable member for Richmond, I can claim a long personal association with Sir Arthur Fadden. I recall rather vividly his successful attempt to win the seat of Darling Downs in 1936 in a by-election. As a small boy, in company with my late father, Sir Arthur Fadden, accompanied by the shire chairman, met us, shook me by the hand and said: ‘Young McVeigh, you do not have a vote as yet. It will be a long time before you do but when you have one for heaven’s sake vote for Artie’.
Unfortunately, prior to my having the vote there was a redistribution of electorates and Artie Fadden had the choice of contesting the new seat of McPherson, which included part of his original territory of Darling Downs, or the seat of Darling Downs centred on Toowoomba. He chose, as history records, the seat of McPherson. It is true to say that, in the case of Sir Arthur Fadden, someone’s loss was someone else’s gain. The history of Queensland politics details how his defeat was manoeuvred in the 1935 State elections and it would be foreign to that man’s character for me to relate those particular circumstances.
However, as a small boy during that term of 40 days and 40 nights - as spoken of by the Prime Minister - on behalf of the assembled school children in the small town of Allora I had the great privilege of extending to him, as Prime Minister, a few words of welcome. Other honourable members have expressed far more eloquently than I could do his great attributes. Suffice it to say that he brought to his everyday life the uninhibited freshness of youth and to the affairs of State the disciplined vision of the master. He displayed dogged determination to rise from billy boy in the canefields of north Queensland and amateur minstrel boy to Prime Minister. In all things he displayed an honesty of purpose and sincerity of outlook. Not for him the cheap political trick of the demagogue nor the self-seeking honours of the showman. He served his country nobly and well and on behalf of his former constituents in the seat of Darling Downs I extend the sympathy of all to his widow and the other members of his family.
– I should like to be associated with previous honourable members who have spoken about the late Sir Arthur Fadden. Sir Arthur Fadden and his family spent a very large proportion of their early days in the electorate of Dawson, particularly in the town and district of Walkerston - commonly known in that area as ‘Scrubby’. It is only a few miles from where I live today. Several people have asked me, during the last few days, to express their sympathy at the passing away of this great man. When one reads the history of the Australian sugar industry in general and particularly the development of the Mackay and Pioneer Valley areas of north Queensland, one finds that the name of the Fadden family is written throughout that development. It was only last year that his brother, Charlie Fadden, retired as manager of the Racecourse Mill. As has been said before, irrespective of whether a man was a cane cutter, a local councillor, a top administrator or whatever else he might have been Artie Fadden was a friend to all.
In recent years he had a great love for calling into Mackay and spending a day or two there to walk down the main street or some of the other streets and meet some of his old friends. I can remember on one occasion meeting him in the street. Of course, he would always invite you to the nearest local, and there you stayed for some time. The famous words ‘Have you heard this one?’ seemed to echo from all over the precincts of that establishment. It did not matter who raised an issue, Sir Arthur always seemed to be able to add one somewhat better. His memory will always be there with the people in that area, an area which he served so well.
Mr ERIC ROBINSON (McPherson)I would like to join others in offering condolences on the death of Sir Arthur Fadden. He, of course, held the seat of McPherson for a lengthy period, and although the ties are lessened after IS years, there is a very real sense of loss in the electorate. Other people have spoken of his great role as a parliamentarian. Although I knew him 20 years ago, it was only in the last 10 years, in his retirement period, that I got to know him well, and there would be many thousands of Australians, particularly Queenslanders, who got to know him particularly well during that period. Whether it was along the street or at a special function or in an airport lounge I had many informal conversations with him. Although I never sought his advice, during those discussions he made plenty of observations which substantially influenced me. My best memory of him was at a Liberal Party Christmas function in Brisbane a few years ago. We always asked Sir Arthur Fadden to the Liberal functions in Brisbane because we had a tremendous regard for him. He arrived a little late. We pressed him to stay on when the appointed hour had arrived for the function to end, and he and I drifted into a corner together and for half an hour had a conversation which one could only regard as unguarded. For me the experience was unforgettable. I believe that many people, many Australians, would have had similar experiences.
He had a wonderful personality. It made an enormous impact. It was not so much that he was a former Treasurer, a former Country Party leader or even indeed a Prime Minister - distinction and great honour these positions hold - but rather the qualities of innate friendliness and a capacity for fair mindedness, simple qualities that each and every one of us admired. It was not a question of liking Sir Arthur Fadden. If you knew him well he engendered within you a feeling of real affection. Although death has claimed him, he will live on in the hearts and minds of many people for a very long period. I share the sense of loss. On behalf of the electorate of McPherson and indeed, if I may, on behalf of the entire membership of the Liberal Party organisation in Queensland, I pay a tribute, to a big man - big in the mould of Queensland, big in the mould of Australia.
– I too wish briefly but nonetheless sincerely to be associated with the motion of sympathy moved on the passing of the late Sir Arthur Fadden. I had the opportunity to serve with him in this Parliament for a very long time, and I endorse the sentiments that have been expressed from all sections of this Parliament and the compliments that have been paid to him as a man, as a personality and as an outstanding Australian. Of course, there is a legion of stories of him. I remember on one occasion campaigning in a Country Party electorate in New South Wales with my colleague, the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, and Artie Fadden arrived one night
He said: “The ALP organiser gave me these dodgers for you to distribute in this town*. We opened them up and delivered them, and they were not at all complimentary to the late Sir Arthur Fadden. He not only delivered the goods but carried them a very long way. I think his earthy approach to these matters is what endeared him to people. In fact, if I might say so - and I do not want it to be taken light heartedly on an occasion like this - I think he was the personality in the Country Party that drew me to it so much. In any case, I know that he would not mind that quip. Today, with others, I record my sadness, but to have known him is a great pleasure and to have served in the Parliament with him was also a great pleasure. I think that the sentiments that have been expressed pay a fitting tribute to a really great personality in Australian politics.
– Cloncurry is my home town, Cloncurry is where the Royal Flying Doctor Service was founded, and it is not commonly known that Sir Arthur Fadden played a most profound part in the stimulation of interest in the Royal Flying Doctor Service. He and Lady Fadden personally supported it and some mention should be made of that fact. I remember that soon after my election to Parliament Artie Fadden gave me one of those lectures one receives occasionally on what to do when you get to Canberra. He said: ‘Now look, boy, before you ever get on your feet do a bit of thinking’. Honourable members opposite are interjecting but I will make my point. He immediately prodded me in the chest and said: ‘Talking about thinking, Bob, did you hear the one about Hughenden?’ I said: ‘Well, Artie, I have heard many jokes about Hughenden’, which is in the electorate of Kennedy. He said: ‘It is about a little old fellow. Do you remember in the old days there used to be little old pubs with seats in the front where you would find little old blokes with stained whiskers, with pipes in their mouths, looking into the distance, appearing to be thinking profoundly?’ He said to me: ‘Do not let people know you are thinking. Anyhow, one day a bloke staggered out of one of these pubs, hauled off and flattened one of these poor old blokes, saying to him as he lay in the dust: “Huh, one of them thinkin’ bastards”.’ So I would like to add my tribute to Sir Arthur Fadden for his great contribution to the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
-The question is that the motion moved by the Prime Minister be agreed to. I ask all honourable members to signify their approval by rising in their places. (All honourable members present having stood in their places.)
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Thank you, gentlemen.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate. Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectively showeth -
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should not admit into the law of this land a principle which violates a fundamental right, the right to life.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Beazley, Mr Bury, Mr Erwin, Dr Forbes, Mr Hallett, Mr Hansen, Mr Kerin and Mr McVeigh.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives m Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectively showeth-
That grave concern is felt at the imminent introduction into the Commonwealth Parliament of legislation to permit abortion on demand.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should not admit into the law of this land a principle which violates a fundamental right, the right to life
And your pentioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Jones, Mr Beazley, Mr Gorton, Mr Bonnett, Mr Bury, Mr Corbett, Mr Drummond, Mir Drury, Br Forbes (2), Mr Fox, Mr Garrick, Mr Hallett, Mr Hamer, Mr Jarman, Mr Kerin, Mr Lloyd and Mr McVeigh,
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of certain citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Honourable House will not extend the laws governing abortion and will uphold the right of life of the unborn child.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Lionel Bowen, Dr Klugman and Mr Thorburn.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Australian Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr J. F. Cairns.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled. This humble petition of interested citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Honourable House will at once, in the public interest, take steps to dedicate as a National Park an area of at least 1436 square miles as recommended by the Northern Territory Reserves Board.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Gorton.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of certain citizens of Australia whose names and addresses are attached hereto respectfully showeth -
That objection is raised by the representative crosssection of the people of Australia and as evidenced by the signatures obtained to this petition in respect of the advertised intention of the Federal Government to provide financial assistance to various communist dominated countries and in particular to North Vietnam.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that no assistance financial or otherwise be provided by Australia to any country whatsoever which is itself subject to communist/socialist rule.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Hewson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth humbly showeth: That the undersigned believe that,
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should maintain the existing laws covering abortion and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Harman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned electors of the Division of Flinders respectfully showeth.
That concern is felt by electors in the said Division at the prospect of a second major airport to serve Melbourne being constructed in the area south of the Princes Highway and between a north-south line through Cranbourne on the west and a northsouth line through Yannathan on the east, because:
The living conditions of residents would be detrimentally affected by
The livelihood of residents would be adversely affected by
The construction of the airport would mean the destruction of the Quail Island sanctuary and other bushlands which provide the ecological environment for native animals and birds.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to seek an alternative site for the proposed airport. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, humbly pray. by Mr Lynch.
-In the early hours of Sunday, 22nd April 1973, an explosion occurred at the front of Parliament House. This matter was investigated by the Australian Capital Territory Police. Subsequently, an arrest was made and the matter is presently before the court. The damage caused by the explosion was small, but the occurrence highlights the need for an adequate security system in Parliament House. Honourable members will be aware that over the past 18 months increased security measures have been taken in and around Parliament House.
Late last year, with the agreement of Mr President, a study group was established to report on all aspects of security in Parliament House. This inquiry is proceeding. In the interim, general rules based on experience are in force. These are subject to variation from time to time when the need arises. Since the events of the morning of 22nd April, the guard on the outside of Parliament House has been increased. Honourable members may be assured that the Presiding Officers are maintaining a constant oversight of the security of Parliament House and will keep honourable members informed of future proposals.
– I ask the Prime Minister: When did he first learn and how did he learn that Senator Murphy had been informed on 9th April of the intended Yugoslav Government’s statement of 12th April concerning the execution of 3 men holding Australian citizenship?
– I think it was on Saturday, 14th April.
– The second part of the question is: How?
– By cable from our ambassador in Belgrade.
– Has the Minister for Immigration seen reports which indicate that there is now a surplus of 40,000 males over females in Australia? Is the Minister able to indicate whether these reports are correct? If so, will he take steps to adjust the balance of the sexes?
– Speaking personally, I can only say to the honourable member that I made one small contribution in one daughter, but I suppose I could say to the honourable member, who has 8 children - I think 5 boys and 3 girls - ‘Well, I did my part, you seem to have contributed to the imbalance’. I saw a newspaper article which indicated that there was a surplus of single males over single, females in the 20 to 24-year age group. The newspaper article stated that there were 40,000 more males in that age group. I was naturally interested to see whether the report was correct. The Commonwealth Statistician indicates that there are 164,000 more single males than single females in the 20 to 24-year age group. I would not like honourable members to be concerned about that too much.
The statistics also show that males tend to marry at an older age than females and that there is not a significant imbalance of the sexes in general. However in some ethnic groups there is an imbalance. I might say that I have asked the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council to give continuing attention to this matter. The last occasion on which it considered the problem was in 1969. We. certainly hope to use the immigration program to help correct the temporary imbalances in one or two groups. It is also interesting, I think, as a male in a male assembly, to note that for every 105 males born there are 100 females born, but the death rate among males is much higher than among females. In fact, by the time, males reach the age of 23 to 24 they still outnumber females though more of them die off. I want to assure the honourable member and the House that we will certainly use the immigration program to the best extent that we can to correct the imbalances which exist in one or two ethnic groups.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Defence, Minister for the Navy, Minister for the Army, Minister for Air and Minister for Supply. When did he, as the Acting Prime Minister, first learn, and how did he learn, that Senator Murphy had been informed on 9th April of the intended Yugoslav Government’s statement of 12th
April concerning the execution of 3 men holding Australian citizenship? Why did he use the term merely ‘in April’ in a Press statement when asked when the Australian Government first knew, rather than the actual date?
– In answer to the first part of the question, as the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs this matter was brought to my attention by the Department of Foreign Affairs following a statement which appeared in the Press on that date.
– What date?
– I will come to that. I will get the correct date. I can understand that the right honourable gentleman is concerned about the date, and so am I. I am concerned that he should receive a precise and detailed answer. The first point I want to make is that at no time have I commented or had cause to comment on the matter of the date in April on which Australian officials were first informed of the executions. The sole purpose of the statement I made on 18th April was to deny a Press report that Australia had been informed in advance by Yugoslavia about the capture, trial and execution of Croatian extremists. The statement was on the basis of an AAP message from Belgrade which the Australian Press carried, and stories on the morning of 18th April, that Yugoslavia told Australia in advance about the capture, trial and execution of 3 Croatian extremists.
Because that was an untrue statement I issued a statement to the Press on the same day, 18th April. I quote what I said on that occasion:
The Prime Minister discussed this matter with the Yugoslav Ambassador on 16th ApriL It was agreed that these discussions would remain confidential. This is still the position.
It is clear from the Yugoslav announcement of 12th April that the survivors of the Bosnian raid were tried and convicted last December. The Australian Government was not informed until April.
The Yugoslav Government has undertaken to provide further information about the trial and subsequent executions. This information is still awaited.
The truth of the matter therefore was that Australia was not informed until April of events which had occured in December. The Press reports that Australia had been informed in advance of this event must have been untrue. The statement I made on 18th April was true then and it remains true today. Nothing that the Leader of the Opposition says throws any doubt on the fact that there was a gap of 4 months between the events in December and our being informed of those events in April.
– Is the Treasurer aware that the Australian Guarantee Corporation, which is 51 per cent owned by the Bank of New South Wales, is seeking to attract finance at the rate of 6 per cent by offering what are termed unsecured notes repayable on demand, a practice never previously carried on by fringe banking organisations in Australia? Will this device move huge amounts of funds on a scale comparable with that of funds moving into the building society area and away from the trading banks where the normal interest bearing deposits attracting 3f per cent to 5 per cent are a source of low interest rate funds for housing and other desirable priorities? Is the Government going to tolerate the private trading banks’ circumventing the banking system and to allow them to get into the dear money business, with a consequent reduction in trading bank liquidity being suffered in deference to the increased profitability available to the banks through their fringe operators? Will the Treasurer devise a measure to discourage this activity - perhaps a requirement that 25 per cent of the funds raised be invested in government securities, similar to the legislation introduced in relation to foreign funds with the Reserve Bank of Australia?
– I am not aware of the precise action of the firm referred to by the honourable member for Blaxland but I am greatly concerned about the rising interest rates in the community because they have very serious repercussions not only on prices but also, in particular, on those who want to purchase their own homes. I have called for information from the Treasury and the Reserve Bank of Australia about the various forms of credit providers. As I have stressed in this place before, those who lend money certainly cannot lend it at a lower rate of interest than that at which they borrowed it. Any device that forces the borrowing rate up has adverse effects at the other end. This is a very serious problem to grapple with. I have said over and over again that if it is thought wise that there should be controls upon the activities of banks and insurance companies it does not seem unwise that some kind of regu latory provisions should be imposed upon other providers of credit. The precise mechanisms for doing this can lead to differences of opinion but the honourable member can be assured that these matters are under consideration. I hope in the next few weeks to be able to make statements on this and allied measures. Unfortunately, sometimes when we alter the law, particularly as it applies in the income tax field, to give a concession, often for quite genuine reasons, we find a curious combination of clever legal and financial minds trying to pervert what was a genuine action. This is why it is not always easy to close loopholes without endangering some genuine measures. I thank the honourable member for his question and will call for a report about the matter he raised. Perhaps at a later date I will be able to make a more general statement about this whole area.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. In light of the fact that 3 Australians were executed by the Yugoslav Government without any information being given to the Australian Government beforehand and that the Prime Minister of Yugoslavia, knowing of these executions, said nothing of them while he was here, will the Prime Minister say what action he now proposes to take? Does he regard the actions of the Yugoslav Government and its Prime Minister as so serious as to warrant at least that he ask that the Yugoslav ambassador be recalled or even that diplomatic relations between Australia and Yugoslavia be suspended?
– I do not know whether the Yugoslav Prime Minister knew of the executions when he came to Australia. As honourable members should recall, he visited several Asian countries before he came to Australia and the executions took place when he was in another country. I have protested to the Yugoslav Government at the fact that these actions were taken by that Government without the Australian Government having been informed that the 3 Australian citizens had been arrested, were being held or were being tried. My Government takes seriously the fact that persons whom Australia regards as citizens of Australia can in some countries be arrested, tried or convicted without Australian representatives in those countries being informed. My Attorney and I do not take so supinely as our predecessors the fact that this can happen. For instance, our predecessors had taken the attitude that no useful purpose would be served by making protests, that they should not be made and that we would be on rather weak ground in making a formal protest.
– Who said that?
– Our predecessors. I have the documents in front of me if anybody wishes me to table them. One of the early actions that my Attorney and I took was to try to solve this long outstanding dispute between Australia and Yugoslavia about dual nationality and between Australia and several other countries. The execution of these men is the most serious instance of the trouble that can arise over disputes on dual nationality. But honourable members should know that for very many years there have been cases, for instance, of the United States, Greek or Italian persons who have become naturalised in Australia being called up for military service when they visited their countries of origin. This is a matter of longstanding contention between Australia and several other countries. The difference between my Government and its predecessors is that we are trying to solve the matter and at last we have a Minister for Immigration, an Attorney-General and a Foreign Minister who are co-operating to that end.
– Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister-
-Order! Is this a point of order?
– Yes. Well, it is not precisely so. As I understand it the honourable gentleman has asked whether I would agree to the papers being tabled and I am responding to that request. If you wish to silence me, Mr Speaker-
– No, not in those circumstances.
– Very well. The honourable gentleman produced a bunch of papers. Quite clearly they are papers which were the papers of a previous Government and his possession of them flouts all constitutional precedents. I am not going to raise anything in terms of this Croatian issue, the Murphy saga and now the involvement of the Prime Minister in Whitlam’s Watergate but so that there shall be no misunderstanding, for the principle is very important, I ask the honourable gentleman to table not just his selection-
– I raise a point of order. The Leader of the Opposition is completely out of order in traversing this ground.
-Order! Is the right honourable gentleman asking that the papers be tabled?
– I am asking for all relevant papers to be tabled - the whole bunch of papers in the Prime Minister’s hand and all other relevant papers, including the documents to which he has referred but so far has refused to table. For instance the report of the interdepartmental committee should be tabled. The Prime Minister claims that he will not table that report. All documents should be tabled.
-Order! I understand that the Prime Minister referred to one particular paper which be would table. Does the Leader of the Opposition wish to have tabled the paper which the Prime Minister volunteered to table? That is the matter before the Chair.
– I wish to see honesty and probity. Therefore all papers should be tabled.
– I want to see honesty and probity in this matter, and the judicial inquiry which has been refused.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Is it a fact that the proposed social welfare centres to be set up in the main cities - I refer particularly to the Collingwood, Fitzroy and Northcote areas and the western suburbs of Melbourne - have been cut back or deferred? If so, why? If it is intended to continue with these projects when will this occur?
– There is no proposal either to cut back, to defer or to cancel the program. The program is still being considered. A suitably qualified officer of my Department presently is overseas on a relatively brief trip assessing the experience in the United States of America, Britain and some Continental countries in regard to this matter, to ensure that the fairly obvious mistakes which I presume were experienced in those countries in setting up these centres are avoided as much as possible in Australia. When we are in a position to make a firm announcement on the time table for the development of these pilot programs we will do so.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister. Is he aware that the family of one of the Australians executed in Yugoslavia, Mr Vlasnovic, claims that he entered Yugoslavia quite legally for the purpose of visiting his mother and that he had never engaged in any illegal activities against the Yugoslav Government? Is the Prime Minister satisfied that this man, and perhaps others, are not the victims of unsubstantiated allegations of terrorist activities against Australian citizens? What action has the Prime Minister taken to try to establish the truth of the matter, the circumstances of this man’s trial, and the meaningfulness of Australian citizenship to the Communist Government of Yugoslavia, or is the Prime Minister prepared simply to accept the insults to Australia of a foreign government which has already been shown to have deliberately and flagrantly withheld the truth from his Government?
– If the honourable gentleman gives me a letter concerning the person whom he named I will have it sent to Belgrade and will ask for a report on it. My Government has elicited the facts in this matter which occurred, of course, during the term of office of our predecessors. That is where it originated. We have ascertained the facts which our predecessors were not able to get.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Following the recent unsuccessful attempts and appeals to the French Government to suspend or to cease its series of nuclear tests in the Pacific area, is it the intention of the Australian Government to join with the New Zealand Government and to proceed to the International Court of Justice without further delay and by so doing to indicate to the French Government that we will not be treated in such a contemptuous fashion?
– Discussions will commence in Canberra next Friday between French scientists and Australian scientists. If a satisfactory conclusion to these discussions is not reached Australia is in a position to apply forthwith to the International Court of Justice. New Zealand also will be applying to the Court. It is likely also that Fiji will intervene in the case. During the parliamentary recess I discussed the French nuclear tests with all the Commonwealth countries in the Pacific, with Mauritius in the Indian Ocean and, of course, with the British Government and the Italian Government.
– My question which is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister, follows upon a question asked earlier by the Leader of the Opposition and which the Deputy Prime Minister knows full well he has totally failed to answer. I restate the question of the Leader of the Opposition and I hope that the Deputy Prime Minister will listen to it in specific terms. When did he, as the Acting Prime Minister, first learn, and how did he learn, that Senator Murphy had been informed on 9 April of the intended Yugoslav Government’s statement of 12 April concerning the execution of 3 Australian citizens?
– I made it quite clear to the Leader of the Opposition that this matter was first drawn to my attention by the Department of Foreign Affairs when I was the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs.
– What was the date?
– The date was 18th April, the date on which I issued a statement in reply to the statement which had appeared in the Press.
– What was the date then? Do you not remember?
– Yes. I gave you the date, and 18th April was the date I quoted.
– Are you sure about it?
– I am sure about it.
-Order. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has asked his question.
– There has been no suggestion by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, or by the Leader of the Opposition although he made a statement recently that he thought that I had used a half truth or words to that effect. I would not in any circumstances mislead this House. The matter was not discussed with me by Senator Murphy and it was first-
– Or by the Prime Minister?
– Or by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, as the Leader of the Opposition knows, was-then overseas.
– No; he knew on 16th April.
-Order! There are too many interjections. A question has been asked. Let the Deputy Prime Minister answer the question.
– I can say without equivocation to this House that the Prime Minister and I had no official discussion about this matter, neither did I at any time have any official discussion with the Attorney-General. I made a statement on 18th April because of what I and the Department of Foreign Affairs regarded as being an incorrect Press report which had emanated from Belgrade. On the basis of that Press statement I issued a statement on 18th April, and that statement I quoted to the House a few moments ago. So I believe that the answer to the question of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is that I had no official discussions with the Prime Minister or the Attorney-General on this matter. I made my first statement on 18th April.
– Is the Minister for Tourism and Recreation aware that there is a heavy imbalance between the amount spent by Australian tourists overseas and the amount spent by visitors to Australia? Can he give the House details of the relevant figures? Finally, will the Minister take whatever action is necessary to encourage Australians to see Australia first?
- Mr Speaker- (Honourable members interjecting)
-Order! Some honourable members will be taking a trip if they do not come to order.
- Mr Speaker, 1 thought that nobody loved me. The honourable member for Banks has asked a question about the gap between the amount of money spent by international tourists coming to Australia and that spent by Australians travelling overseas. The figure for 1971-72 is expected to be about $173m. It is anticipated that that figure will increase to $400m by 1975. One of the important problems of my new Department is to endeavour to cut back that gap. One of the ideas that we have in mind is the further promotion overseas of Australian tourist potential. I expect to be announcing in the next few weeks some of the details of the proposed national tourist plan that the Government has in mind to implement.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister and it relates once again to the execution in Yugoslavia of Australian nationals. Has the Prime Minister any certain information to give this House and the nation in relation to the actual charges laid against these men, the time and manner of their trial, whether the accused were permitted legal representation in their defence, the type and circumstances of their custody, the nature of their interrogation before trial and why the Australian Government was not informed of this event? As far as I can tell, that is the position, unless the Prime Minister is not giving this House the information that I feel he would give if he espoused open government. Will the Prime Minister now give information on these matters that surely one would expect any nation with proper diplomatic representation abroad to have at its fingertips?
– Australia has the same diplomatic representation in Belgrade today as it had under the previous Government; that is, the same Ambassador has been in Belgrade throughout the period when these men were arrested, tried, convicted and executed. Under the previous Government, we were unable to get any information at all. The present Government has been able to obtain information. The information has been made available in a statement which the Yugoslav Government released on 12th April. Subsequent to that, I was able to obtain further information yesterday to this effect: Death certificates regarding the 3 dual nationals will be provided on or about 10th May. The delay arises from intervening May Day holidays and the necessity to obtain certificates from local Bosnian municipalities. The 3 men were executed on the morning of 17th March. The Government of Yugoslavia is considering the issues raised regarding the dual nationals and the Australian Ambassador will be received by the Federal Secretary for Foreign Affairs in connection with these issues. Therefore, all the information has been made available as a result of my Government’s representations to the Government of Yugoslavia.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry a question. Will the Australian delegation to the
International Wool Textile Organisation conference in May of this year include a technically qualified member of the Australian objective measurement project who is able to explain to this international conference the important findings of that project? Will the Australian delegation include a government representative able to define to this international conference the Australian Government’s position in regard to wool?
– I have not been advised of the exact qualifications of all members of the proposed delegation, but I certainly agree with the honourable member for EdenMonaro that at least one member of that delegation should be fully conversant with the substance and the findings of the objective measurement report which thoroughly investigated this proposition and its application in Australia and overseas, particularly in relation to the sale of Australian wool and the consequences on the manufacturing side. I also agree with the honourable member that it would be sound practice for a government representative to accompany that delegation. I will take up the matter with the Minister for Primary Industry and ask him to act on the honourable member’s suggestion.
– Has the Prime Minister asked Senator Murphy for an explanation as to why he did not pass on the information relating to the execution of 3 Australian citizens? If he has done so, what is the explanation?
– The Attorney-General did not give the information to me or the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Yugoslav Ambassador did not give the information to me or the Department of Foreign Affairs. Each should have done so; each assumed that the other had.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I should like to repeat the question. I think the Prime Minister-
– I ask the Prime Minister whether I can repeat the question.
– I ask: At the present time -
-Order! The honourable member for Gippsland will resume his seat.
(Dr Klugman having addressed a question to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral) -
– Will the honourable member for Prospect repeat his question? (Dr Klugman having repeated his question) -
-Order! I think the question is out of order. It is similar to question No. 442 on the notice paper.
– Mr Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I do not have access to the Standing Orders at the moment, but as I understand it, a person who has placed a question on the notice paper is entitled to ask the same question without notice in the House. So, even if it were similar question, I would be entitled to ask it. In any case I put it to you, Mr Speaker, that the main point in the question which I placed on notice some time ago deals with the identity of the officer of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and whether he is still employed by that organistaion. I have asked nothing of that nature today. I have asked for an assurance that that kind of behaviour will not be tolerated by this Government.
-Order! I have ruled the question out of order because it bears great similarity to question No. 442 which is on the notice paper.
– I ask the Treasurer: In view of the marked improvement in Australia’s balance of payments and the growth in our international reserves, has the Government given any consideration to permitting the Asian Development Bank and also the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to raise loans and issue their bonds on the Australian money market?
– This matter was raised a day or two ago at the meeting of the Asian Development Bank from which I have just returned. It was pointed out at that meeting - I might say that the previous Government pursued the policy - that it has not been the custom for Australia to allow a floating in Australia by foreign associations of what can best be described as public bonds. It may well be that in the light of changed circumstances consideration could be given to changing that policy.
The countries associated with the Asian Development Bank met to consider the augmenting of capital funds and Australia has agreed to that proposal. Basically, I believe that the problem of the Bank is not the shortage of funds so much as the lack, on the part of those who want to use the funds that are available, of technical expertise to put them to fruitful use. There is still a long period between the time when approval is given to a project and the time that the project takes for fulfilment. That seems to me to be the greatest problem at the moment in international aid arrangements, whether they are by the Asian Development Bank or the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. We have to work out better techniques for meeting what are real needs and matching them with the capacity of other people through technical, material, managerial and other assistance to put programs into action. However I am prepared to look at the matter to which the honourable member has referred.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Immigration by asking whether there has been a reduction in bilingual broadcasting in Australia especially designed to service migrants. Has the Minister received protests about this reduction and, if so, what can be done about this undesirable curtailing of a service to recently arrived residents?
– It is true that in one case in Sydney there has been a reduction in bilingual broadcasting. It is true also that I have received some protests, but it should be pointed out that this is essentially a matter for the stations concerned. However, because naturally I am concerned about any reduction in services to newly arrived migrants, I have asked the Commonwealth Immigration Publicity Council to look at the whole question. There are 23 Australian broadcasting stations which broadcast bilingual programs ranging from 5 or 10 minutes to very much longer - perhaps 3i hours - during the course of each week. Many years ago, I think in 1952, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board im posed on foreign language broadcasting a restriction to 2i per cent of total weekly broadcasting time. It is a very restrictive provision and I am setting out to urge that that restriction be repealed in the interests of education and the enlightenment of the Australian community generally.
– If, as the Prime Minister has said, the Attorney-General did fail in his duty to inform him of Yugoslavia’s execution of Australian citizens, what action does he intend to take with respect to Senator Murphy?
– The Attorney-General should have informed the Department of Foreign Affairs that the Yugoslav Ambassador had called on him. The Yugoslav Ambassador, of course, in any case should have informed the Department of Foreign Affairs. I should say at this stage that nobody on behalf of the Yugoslav Embassy asked the Department of Foreign Affairs or me to arrange for the Ambassador to speak to me. The Special Minister of State, who very frequently receives such calls, was overseas at the time at a meeting of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East. Accordingly, both the Attorney-General and the Ambassador wrongly assumed that the information would be given by the other to the Department of Foreign Affairs. The whole question does not, in any way, affect the Attorney-General’s responsibilities in his portfolio. The protest note which I made to Yugoslavia is completely valid and the whole question is unaffected by the fact that the Attorney-General and the Ambassador did not inform the Department of Foreign Affairs. Those are the facts despite a great deal of erroneous speculation in the newspapers. During the whole period the arguments that Australia was putting to resolve the question of dual nationality were valid. The protest I made was valid. The failure of the Attorney-General and of the Ambassador to inform the Department of Foreign Affairs does not impinge on any of the issues involved.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Services and Property. I refer to the Bill on the notice paper commonly called the ‘Abortion Bill’. I ask the Minister, in his capacity as Leader of the House, whether he is aware of the gigantic national concern currently manifested by the deluge of mail reaching members, which is seriously handicapping their ability to attend to other regular electoral work. If so, bearing in mind the requirements of Standing Orders, will the Minister assure honourable members that sufficient additional time will be allocated for a vote to be taken so that the Bill, either in its present monstrous form or any subsequently adulterated form, will be disposed of and not allowed to remain on the notice paper?
– I am not unmindful of the fact that there is a motion on the notice paper under the heading ‘General Business’, order of the day No. 3, set down for Thursday, 10th May 1973. I point out to the House that it is the general practice of this Government to allow motions of this kind under General Business to be taken to a vote on all occasions. This is contrary to the policy followed by the previous Administration. This Bill, of course, is not a Government measure. It is one on which members on this side of the Parliament and, I understand, on the other side, are to have a free vote. Consequently, the Government has no control over the actions of its members or of other members of the House. When a motion is introduced, moved and seconded, it becomes the responsibility of the House to decide whether the debate shall proceed that day because under Standing Orders the debate automatically expires at 1.45 p.m., and additionally Standing Orders provide that after it has been moved and seconded it should be adjourned to another day. I believe this motion is of importance. It has created considerable interest throughout the community and is one which should not be allowed to remain on the notice paper for any great length of time without a decision of this House being taken. Speaking for myself, whilst I say that the actual substance of the motion is not the business of the Government, the conduct of the House is the business of the Government. I would hope, subject to the concurrence of the Parliament, that a vote will be taken on the measure on the day it is debated.
– In answer to the question asked earlier by the honourable member for Franklin, I said that the talks with the French scientists would start on Friday. I am told that they are to start on Monday.
-Order! The point of order should have been taken at the time of the incident.
– I present letters of 12 September last from the then Attorney-General to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, of 12 October last from the then Attorney-General to the then Foreign Minister, of 19 October, 2 November and 20 November last from the then Foreign Minister to the then Attorney-General and of 27 November from the then Attorney-General to the then Foreign Minister. Undoubtedly the then Attorney-General would have other papers still in his possession that he could table.
– The Prime Minister has tabled these documents totally contrary to all the practice of this Parliament. Usually before a document is tabled it is shown to the Opposition. The Prime Minister has also tabled what is clearly a selection instead of all the documents. He has tabled documents to which he has no right because they are not the documents of his Government, and he continues to refuse to table documents which the Parliament and the public have a right to see.
– 1 rise on a point of order. Could the Chair instruct me on what grounds the Leader of the Opposition is speaking? Under what right is he speaking now?
-I think the Minister for Urban and Regional Development would realise that the Leader of the Opposition has always been given a certain amount of latitude.
– Mr Speaker, I want to know under what Standing Order the Leader of the Opposition is now speaking.
– He is speaking to the presentation of papers.
– There are a number of documents which have not been tabled, which have not been volunteered by the Prime Minister and which the Prime Minister has been asked many times to table. A particular example is the document which Senator Murphy said he obtained at the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation offices in Canberra but which he could not disclose because of its national security connotation.
– 1 raise a point of order. Mr Speaker, according to your ruling the Leader of the Opposition is speaking to the presentation of papers, ls there any provision in Standing Orders for a member to speak in the House in such circumstances?
– No. I was incorrect in my ruling a moment ago. The Leader of the Opposition is not in order speaking to the presentation of papers. If he wishes to speak I suggest he seek leave of the House.
– I ask leave of the House.
– ls leave granted?
Government supporters - No.
– Leave is not granted.
Suspension of Standing Orders Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce- Leader of the Opposition) (3.36) - I move:
There are 2 parts to this motion - the tabling of relevant documents and the propriety of the possession of relevant documents by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). I move it for the reason that one of the most outstanding characteristics of the statement by Senator Murphy in the Senate read by the Minister for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby) in this House was the selectivity of the documents tabled. It was not until Senator Greenwood tabled a lot of other documents that the selectivity could adequately be seen and examined. What has happened today is that the Prime Minister has come into this House with a group of documents. He was in serious trouble When he tried to answer questions. He came out in even worse contrast when he consistently avoided answering questions. He suddenly thought that there was an opportunity for him to produce a particular part of a particular document which might serve his purposes. He then said he wished to table some document. This was apparently a minute from a department to a Minister. It may have been, as other documents were, a Cabinet document. It may have been personal correspondence between Ministers.
Until today I have steadfastly refused to raise this very important issue of principle because I believe that if I raise the issue it may be seen as my not wishing the documents to be before the Parliament in the debate. Senator Murphy produced extracts of letters written by one Minister to another Minister - very personal, confidential documents. But I did not protest because it might have looked as though we were trying to serve our purpose by stifling them. There was another occasion on which the Prime Minister himself appeared to have in his hands a Cabinet submission from the previous Government. There was an occasion on which the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) wrote to me asking for my concurrence in the release of certain documents for public interest, one of which was a Cabinet submission of the previous Government. It is well known that the conventions in relation to a previous Government’s documents are that those Cabinet documents be locked up and that they remain unavailable to the public until the period of time prescribed by law-
– Order- I ask the Leader of the Opposition to refer to the reasons why Standing Orders should be suspended.
– The reason 1 am asking for the suspension is that the principle has been violated in an unconscionable manner by the Prime Minister and his Ministry. The Minister for Social Security, as I said, wrote to me asking whether I would agree to the publication of documents. I have not actually read the documents, but they turned out to be a Cabinet submission and a report of an inter-departmental committee of the previous Government. There have been other occasions when these documents have been produced. Of course, the production of them has been extremely selective. They have been combed through for the purpose of picking out a particular point.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to press the point of order I took earlier and which I thought you had upheld. The right honourable gentleman is deliberately traversing the grounds of the substantive matter for which he seeks the suspension of the Standing Orders. I submit that he is not entitled to do that.
-Order! I again ask the right honourable gentleman to keep to the reasons for the suspension of Standing Orders.
– That is the reason for the suspension, as I point out. Today the Prime Minister came into this chamber, produced what he believed would be favourable to him out of a group of documents and did not refer to me, to the Opposition generally or to any Minister who was concerned at the time. He had another group of documents. It was not then his intention to table them. I do not know whether they served his interests because, quite contrary to all conventions, he has not consulted me about the tabling of the documents.
– He was pulling the pages out.
– He was pulling the pages out. I noticed that he scanned through them before the end of question time so that he could test whether he had the right selection, whether the documents would serve his interests. The Prime Minister has covered up in an outrageous way the derelictions from duty of his Attorney-General.
– I rise to a point of order. The right honourable gentleman continues to flout the Standing Orders, and I protest. I again raise the point of order that he is speaking to the substantive matter for which he seeks the suspension of Standing Orders and he is not speaking to his motion to suspend the Standing Orders.
-Order! I ask the right honourable gentleman to keep to the reasons for the suspension. 1 have asked him before.
– This is a matter of immense importance for the democratic institution of the parliament and for the democratic continuation of our method of government. The Westminster system has been in operation for centuries. The honourable gentleman well knows that I have reason to know that he is fully aware of the convention, but notwithstanding the convention he flouts it, against all advice that I am sure he must have received. He has covered up the dereliction of duty of one of his Ministers. Today he disclosed that he knew of a circumstance on 16th April. He left his deputy as Acting Prime Minister, failing to give rum any information and allowing the Acting Prime Minister to look as big a fool as the Prime Minister looked when he sent the Australian Ambassador to make the protest in Zagreb. This is outrageous behaviour, and because it is outrageous I am moving for the suspension of Standing Orders.
If there is anybody in this House who is not a parliamentarian he will vote against the suspension of Standing Orders, but anybody in this House who is committed to the parliamentary system, and to the sense of democracy and the way it has been built up by people over the centuries will vote for the suspension. Then we will be able to have the production to this House of a single document which the Prime Minister said contained 2 things. The Prime Minister revealed one of them. That was the alleged conspiracy of public servants not to provide information extra to that which was given in the note of the Yugoslav Government. That was one of the 2 halves of the document. The other half of the document was disclosed by Senator Murphy. He said there was a document which showed that there was to be an invasion of Yugoslavia. The fact is that £he invasion he referred to was mentioned in the newspapers in Belgrade and Vienna. It was from there that the super sleuths sent across here and the Commonwealth Police investigated the matter. That is what is in the document. There is nothing of national security. All that remains in the document is something which will be politically embarrassing to the Prime Minister. If he is so good at selecting things to help him, why is he not honest and why does he not act with probity and produce all the documents? Why does he not agree to a judicial inquiry into the whole affair? Since he last refused a judicial inquiry matter upon matter has come up.
The Prime Minister says that the AttorneyGeneral just forgot to tell him because he thought somebody else would. Did the Prime Minister authorise a newspaperman in his entourage to write that he was furious with
Senator Murphy? How does he reconcile authorising that respected newspaper man to write that he was furious when he says today: It was all a misunderstanding’? This is the way he puts people into a position which shatters their standards. Meanwhile he seeks to escape all responsibility. While he may in his own view walk across the water, he will soon find that he has holes in his shoes.
-Is the motion seconded?
– 1 second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) shows his usual confusion, in this case between Zagreb and Belgrade. All communications between Australia’s Ambassador to Yugoslavia and the Yugoslav Government took place under his Government, as they take place under my Government, in Belgrade. 1 wish also to dispose briefly of some of the usual personal references he made. There was no need for me to tell my deputy about this matter because the Department of Foreign Affairs knew as soon as I did and in the same way as 1 did about the message from the Yugoslav Government. Therefore, when my deputy became the Acting Foreign Minister he was in possession of all the information I knew and the Department knew.
– He said he was not.
– He said that he had not discussed it with me, and there was no need for him to discuss it with me. The Department knew the facts and if anything arose the Department was well able to give him all the facts. The right honourable gentleman has been looking around at various newspaper articles. They seem to be his sole reading matter these days. If a journalist who happens to be away with me makes some comment, the Leader of the Opposition assumes it comes from me. The fact is that I have never conducted long range controversies of that character. I was fully engaged on matters on behalf of the nation and on those matters alone.
Mr Speaker, you are too kind to the Leader of the Opposition. No honourable member has the right to speak on the presentation of papers. Because, out of the goodness of your heart, you allowed the right honourable gentleman to speak on the presentation of papers he is now abusing you and abusing everybody else that he can fit into a 10-min- ute speech. Let me explain how 1 came to present the papers. The right honourable gentleman and some of his colleagues were making aspersions about the Government’s conduct of its affairs with Yugoslavia. Now they want to rely on some convention, that what they themselves said among each other in writing should always be kept silent. It is very instructive to see that there was no harmony and no co-operation at all between the former Minister for Immigration, the former AttorneyGeneral and the former Foreign Minister on this very important matter. It has taken my Government to produce some action and co-operation on this subject. All the information that has come out has come out as a result of the representations by me and my Ministers.
Of course, nothing would suit the right honourable gentleman better than for there to be some convention that whatever he or his colleagues said to each other in the past should forever remain suppressed. Admittedly, I suppose I baited the honourable gentleman by quoting from a couple of letters that I had here. Then he was in the position of having to ask for them. He asked for all the letters and he got all the letters. Let him explain his way out of-
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. When the Leader of the Opposition was speaking earlier 3 points of order were taken in relation to keeping his speech within the terms of the motion which is a motion seeking the suspension of Standing Orders. I have listened to the Prime Minister for 5 minutes and he has made no reference to the motion. I ask you, Mr Speaker, to keep him also within the bounds of the motion.
-Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to confine his remarks to the reasons why Standing Orders should or should not be suspended.
– I shall do so, Sir. It is interesting to note that the honourable gentleman is an accountant. He is so poor with figures that he said I have been speaking for 5 minutes, although it is now 4 minutes since I started speaking. The Leader of the Opposition purports to move this motion so that certain documents can be produced. He specifies them as letters from which I have quoted. He has all of the letters which were in my possession. I quoted from 2 letters. The Leader of the Opposition was entitled to have those tabled if he wanted, but he has all the letters. The other document to which he refers is the document of 5th March by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation representative at the interdepartmental committee meeting in Canberra. The Leader of the Opposition asked whether he could have this document in a letter to me on 4th April. He said:
You say you are prepared to make available to me the document which the Attorney-General took from the ASIO office in Canberra on 16th March. I would be grateful if you could arrange for that document to be passed to me.
On the same day, 4th April, I saidthat I would not table the document, but if the Leader of the Opposition wished to see it I would show it to him. I said: ‘The position remains as I stated it then. It will be available to you to see in my office. I am not able to accept your suggestion that I pass a copy to you’. The right honourable gentleman has not yet asked to see the document. That is how genuine he is in the whole of this matter. Four weeks ago he asked to see the document. I told him he could see it. He has not yet taken the trouble to do so. It is still available to him if he wants it.
The Leader of the Opposition is just taking up the time of the House in this matter. There is no excuse for the suspension of the Standing Orders at all. Letters from which 1 quoted have been tabled and all the letters in fact that I have and the document which he now mentions have been available to him all this time, and he has not sought them. These are not Cabinet documents. They are not documents which have to be locked away. The documents .are contained in the files of the departments concerned with the question of dual nationality. They very clearly demonstrate that our predecessors were at loggerheads on this issue, were getting nowhere, were receiving no information from the Yugoslav Government and were making no headway on the subject with the Yugoslav Government. By contrast, my Government has acted and has obtained all the information which has so far been available to anyone in this respect.
Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce- Leader of the Opposition) - I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has misrepresented me in 2 ways. He well knows that it was misrepresentation and false argument. If he had done it in a court of law he would be very severely reprimanded. I hope that he will be appropriately reprimanded by those honourable members who listened, including the Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby). The Prime Minister argued that I had obtained all the papers for which I had asked. He well knows that the papers for which I asked were all papers relevant to the raid on ASIO and the execution of 3 Australian citizens. He knows very well that I do not have those papers. The papers he has tabled are only a selection that he brought in. He well knows that he was prevaricating when he made that statement and, Mr Speaker, any other man would be ashamed of himself for saying it that way.
The other way in which the Prime Minister misrepresented me was to say that I cared so little that, though he offered to let me see the document of which I spoke, I had not yet taken the trouble to go and see it. The fact is that he laid what was a very apparent and rather stupid trap. He expected me to see the document and then be silenced. I will not go and see the document and thereby be silenced, because there is nothing in doing that except to protect him politically, lt is not a case of failing-
– I rise to a point of order. It seems to me that the Leader of the Opposition in making his personal explanation is not just detailing the manner in which he claims to have been misrepresented, but is actively debating the issue. 1 take this point of order because it has been his consistent behaviour in the last half an hour.
-Order! I ask the right honourable gentleman not to debate the matter. He is making a personal explanation.
– I am not debating the matter. I am explaining that, although the Prime Minister says that I have not taken the trouble to see the document, it is a deliberate decision on my part that I will not see it because if I do he knows as a matter of integrity on my part I will not speak about that document. The whole of Australia and especially this Parliament are entitled to see the document. That is why I have not gone to see it.
– I support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) for the suspension of Standing Orders. I think that of all the aspects of change that are notable in the new Government there are 2 aspects to which it seems to lay most claim. The first is the rapport which it claims for communist countries, which I think was best epitomised by the photograph of would-be Chairman Jim in front of past Chairman Ho in the newspapers of Australia last weekend. The aspect of change to which there has been reference is the alliegence of the Government to communist countries and the rapport which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) alleges has been established by his Government with other governments of the Left.
The second aspect is the claim to open government. The whole purport of the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders is to enable not just the Prime Minister, his Ministers and the Leader of the Opposition to be aware of the circumstances relating to the unforgiveable execution of 3 Australian citizens by a communist government, but also to let all members of this Parliament and the Australian community be aware of the nature of the trial, the circumstances of the judgment and the reason for and the manner of the execution of these 3 Australian citizens. There are a good many gaps in the information available to honourable members of this Parliament and members of the Australian community. For example, at what time was it first learned that there were survivors of the Bosnian incident? Allegations have been made about the degree to which the former Government was aware that there were survivors of the Bosnian incident. There have been allegations that the maintenance of an improved channel of communication with the Government of Yugoslavia and the better rapport among Ministers is the product of the activities of the Labor Government. It is true that not so very long ago the Yugoslav Prime Minister visited this country. I ask: Was the information relevant to the Bosnian incident and the execution of 3 Australian citizens contained in any interdepartmental minutes? Are there any documents which are relevant now and which have not been brought to the light of day?
The reason for the suspension of Standing Orders is to enable members of the Opposition to inquire into the whole of the bizarre circumstances which surround this deplorable incident. Australia as a community and Australians as citizens need to be assured that the Government of this country, for the time being, is pursuing with due diligence and some measure of integrity the inquiries which we believe are essential into the whole of this sorry episode. In the whole of the ASIO documents that have been tabled there has been demonstrably a selection of parts of documents and parts of correspondence. The former Attorney-General, my colleague Senator Greenwood, had occasion to table a number of additional letters and a number of additional documents in order to expand the amount of information available to the Parliament and to the community. There are, demonstrably, some documents which the Government has not produced. This motion is designed to enable all the Australian community to know the whole truth of the matter and if the Government is honest in its claim that it will pursue a facsimile of open government surely the least it can do is produce the full compass of documents and the full compass of interdepartmental minutes not just to the Leader of the Opposition but to us all. I am referring to the ASIO document dated Sth March. I believe it is encumbent upon the Prime Minister to ensure that all those documents pertaining to this matter are made available to this Parliament.
This is a very sorry episode in the history of democracy in this country. It is a very sorry episode for the status of new Australians who have taken unto themselves, with natural born Australians, the responsibility of the rights and privileges of this country. Are we in this Parliament to be denied an opportunity to look at these documents, to know the full circumstances and to know to what degree complicity, be it by chance or by intent, between the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) and others has led to the present sad exercise in the reduction of standing of Australian citizenship and has led to the execution of 3 men, the full story behind which still remains to be revealed? It is for that reason that I endorse completely the motion moved in this Parliament by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden).
-Order! The time allowed for debate has expired.
That the motion (Mr Sneddon’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. J. F. Cope)
Majority .. .. ~4
Question so resolved in the negative.
– by leave - I shall later be seeking leave to make a brief, general statement about the visit overseas from which I returned yesterday. I first wish to make a statement on certain legal and constitutional matters arising from my discussions in Britain. I discussed with the Queen, by an arrangement made in advance, her Australian style and tides and new arrangements for the accreditation of Heads of Mission by Australia and to Australia. The Queen’s Australian style and titles were last amended in 1953 when the Parliament was invited by the Prime Minister of that day to approve, and did approve, that the Royal style and titles should be:
Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Australia and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.
That Bill in the Australian Parliament followed a discussion at a meeting in London in December 1952 on the Royal style and titles, having regard to the constitutional relationship then existing between the Prime Ministers and other representatives of Commonwealth countries. The Prime Ministers and the Heads of Delegations then agreed that it would be appropriate for each member country to have in its own style and titles a common element but otherwise to use for its own purposes the form of titles which would suit its own particular circumstances. They agreed that the common element should consist of a reference to Her Majesty’s other realms and territories and her title as Head of the Commonwealth.
The titles which the Australian Parliament approved in 1953 incorporated that common element and proclaimed its own particular territorial and other references. Other Commonwealth countries adopted their own formulae. In the result, a variety of formulations emerged. This, as the then Prime Minister said in connection with the 1953 Bill, is not to be seen as some form of oddity or disunity. It simply reflects the fact that the Commonwealth comprises a great variety of peoples and forms of Government. My Government feels however that the 1953 formulation now requires amendment. It has concerned me and my Government that it is not now sufficiently distinctively Australian. It still contains the special references, and in fact gives first place, to the Queen’s title as Queen of the United Kingdom, of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Further it is our view that one of the ancient references - ‘Defender of the Faith’ - has no historical or constitutional relevance in Australia.
I have spoken about these matters to the Queen. She very much welcomes a distinctively Australian style and titles. Accordingly I am able to anounce that I have her full concurrence in an amendment, if the Australian Parliament approves, which would result in dropping the specific reference to the United Kingdom and the reference ‘Defender of the Faith’. The new formulation will be:
Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Australia and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth.
It retains in full, as honourable members will note, the common element agreed upon in 1952. My Government will introduce a Bill directed to this new formulation as soon as possible. As with the 1953 Bill, the proposed Bill will, on being passed by the Parliament, be reserved for Her Majesty’s pleasure.
In the matter of diplomatic accreditation, my discussions with the Queen have had an equally happy outcome. It has been the practice in the appointment of Australian Ambassadors to other countries, and also in the appointment of High Commissioners to countries not within the Queen’s realms, that is to say, republican countries within the Commonwealth, for the Australian Government to make its proposals to the Governor-General and to ask the Governor-General to seek the Queen’s approval. The same situation has operated in relation to the accreditation of Heads of Mission to Australia. The practice has been for the government concerned to put forward informally the name of its proposed Ambassador and to seek agreement before proceeding to formal accreditation. Agreement has, up to now, been forthcoming only after the approval of the Queen on a recommendation made through the GovernorGeneral. From now on, with the Queen’s full approval, all these matters will become matters for approval by the Governor-General on the Queen’s behalf - the Queen, of course, being kept informed of appointments of Australian Heads of Mission by the GovernorGeneral, and of the recognition of Ambassadors or other diplomatic representatives appointed to represent the interests of foreign states in Australia.
These new procedures will provide a new and highly practical simplicity in accreditation questions. However, the Letters of Credence which Australian Heads of Mission present to the Head of State of the Country to which they are being accredited, and also the Letters of Recall of their predecessors, will continue to be signed by Her Majesty as the Australian Head of State. Her role in this regard will, however, be made much clearer by the proposed amendment of the Royal style and titles, whereby the only country named is Australia. Similarly, Letters of Credence and
Letters of Recall from foreign countries, being communications between Heads of State, will continue to be addressed to Her Majesty though they will, of course, be accepted by the Governor-General on the Queen’s behalf.
These arrangements are all the more important in view of the very much higher number of accreditations now compared with, say, 20 years ago. In 1953, for instance, Australia had 28 Ambassadors and High Commissioners abroad and there were 29 Ambassadors and High Commissioners accredited here. In 1972 the corresponding figures were 74 Australian Ambassadors and High Commissioners abroad and 55 Heads of Mission here. To illustrate the position in another way in the year 1953 the actual number of appointments of Australian Heads of Mission requiring the Queen’s approval was three. In the latest full year, 1972, the number was thirty.
The next matter is the matter of abolition of appeals to the Privy Council. Last Tuesday Mr Heath and I had a valuable exchange of views about this matter. I had earlier discussed it with the Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Offices, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, and the United Kingdom Attorney-General, Sir Peter Rawlinson, Q.C. The outcome of the discussions in London is that the Australian Government will introduce a Bill as soon as possible requesting and consenting to the enactment of United Kingdom legislation abolishing appeals to the Privy Council in the remaining instances in which appeals still lie from Australian courts. The Bill will draw upon all powers available to the Australian Parliament under the Statute of Westminster and under the Constitution. The purpose of the Australian Government is to make the High Court of Australia the final court of appeal for Australia in all matters. That is an entirely proper objective. It is anomalous and archaic for Australian citizens to litigate their differences in another country before judges appointed by the government of that other country.
This is not the first time that the abolition of appeals to the Privy Council has been raised in the Australian Parliament. I have myself raised the matter on several occasions. Eight years ago, when Sir Robert Menzies was Prime Minister, I initiated a debate on it. Five years ago the Parliament passed the Privy Council (Limitation of
Appeals) Act. In introducing the Bill for that Act the then Attorney-General said that the Parliament was being asked to take an historic first step towards the establishment of the High Court as the final court of appeal for Australia. He said that the Bill was a tribute to, and that it would still further enhance, the standing and prestige of the High Court of Australia. With all those sentiments, the Australian Labor Party, at the time thoroughly agreed. The discussions that I had in London last week and the action that I am now outlining to the House are a logical, further and final step in the process of making the High Court of Australia Australia’s final appeal court.
The Privy Council (Limitation of Appeals) Act 1968 abolished appeals from the High Court to the Privy Council in all constitutional, federal and territory matters. As a result of the Act of 1968 appeals now lie to the Privy Council only in respect of decisions of the High Court given on appeal from a State supreme court in a State matter and in respect of decisions of State supreme courts in State matters. This leaves aside questions as to the limits inter se of the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth and the States. On such questions an appeal may be brought to the Privy Council only if the High Court itself certifies that the question is one which ought to be determined by the Privy Council. No certificate has been given by the High Court since 1912. In 1968 the Australian Labor Party moved an amendment, which was not accepted, that would have made final the decision of the High Court given on appeal from a State supreme court in a State matter. The legislation I am now foreshadowing will make provision to that end.
There remains then for attention appeals from State supreme courts in State matters. It seems that some States support abolition and that others do not. It would be incongruous in the extreme if for some States the High Court were to be the final court of appeal in State matters and if for other States it were to be the Privy Council. There would still be the exceptionally expensive and lengthy process of successive appeals to the Full Court or Court of Appeal of a State, the High Court of Australia and the Judicial Committee of the British Privy Council. The situation plainly requires action at the national level. I accordingly took the matter up with the United Kingdom Prime Minister.
The United Kingdom takes the view that the question whether appeals should be brought to the Privy Council from the courts of a Commonwealth country is essentially a question for the Commonwealth country concerned. An Australian initiative is therefore required. I think it correct to say that the United Kingdom would wish moreover that whatever can be done in and by Australia should be done in and by Australia herself.
One way of proceeding is for the Australian Government and Parliament to request and consent to the enactment of United Kingdom legislation. There will then be opportunity for the validity of the legislation of the Australian Parliament to be challenged. If there is no challenge, or if in the event of challenge the validity of the legislation is upheld, the Australian Government would expect the United Kingdom Government to introduce into the United Kingdom Parliament the legislation requested by the Australian Government and Parliament and that it be consented to. The result would then be that the High Court of Australia would be, as it should be, the final court of appeal for Australia in all matters.
I emphasise that these matters represent no disruptive departure from the past. In the great tradition of British constitutional monarchy, we march still from precedent to precedent - albeit with a firmer, more selfconfident, more purposeful tread than ever before. I present the following paper:
The Queen and the Privy Council - Ministerial Statement, 1st May 1973.
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– Before I move that the debate be adjourned I wonder whether the Prime Minister would do me a courtesy so that I will have a better understanding of the statement. In referring to the abolition of appeals to the Privy Council there appears in the statement these words:
The outcome of the discussions . . .
What is meant by the term ‘the outcome’? Does he mean ‘agreement’?
Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa- Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs) - There is no necessity for the British Government to agree to a course which the Australian Government proposes to take.
– The statement says ‘the outcome’. Is this the outcome of the decision you have taken as to what you will do?
– What happened was that there was a full discussion in the morning between the Lord Chancellor, the AttorneyGeneral of Britain and me and, later that afternoon, between the British Prime Minister and me. Various courses of action had been discussed. As a result of this I said what the Australian Government proposed to do. The British Prime Minister and British Ministers earlier understood the course of action that we proposed to take and the courses of action which would be open to us and open to Australian States or to any other persons with an interest to challenge what the Australian Government proposed. It is not necessary, as I say, for the British Government to agree to what the Australian Government proposes to do, but the British Government certainly does not demur in any way to what the Australian Government proposes to do. There were discussions between us as to what other courses the Australian Government could take or what other courses the British Government could take, but as a result of those discussions each side knew what was proposed.
– What were the other courses?
– The British Government could, on its own, abolish appeals from Australian courts. The British Government believes - and I would agree, as I have stated in the statement - that these are matters which more appropriately would be the subject of Australian initiative. The Australian Government could also have a referendum on the matter. The Australian Government believes that it is more appropriate to take the procedure envisaged in such matters by the Statute of Westminster, so that is the course we will be taking in introducing a request and consent Bill. If that is not challenged, or if it survives a challenge, we expect that the British Government would carry out the corollary under section 4 of the Statute of Westminster and that it would introduce the Bill which the Australian Parliament has requested and to which it has consented.
– In precise terms the word outcome’ is not a substitute for the word agreement’?
– No. Agreement would not be appropriate because I would not believe it appropriate to seek, and I do not think the British Government would believe it appropriate to vouchsafe, agreement. There are actions which Australia can take under the Statute of Westminster and which then Britain can take. So I believe the word ‘outcome’ is appropriate.
– I am not challenging it.
– I am not taking it that the right honourable gentleman is in any way doing so. This is a matter in which I think I can say we both have had an interest for many years. The discussions which I initiated last December by correspondence with Mr Heath and by conversations with the British High Commissioner, which in January the Attorney-General pursued with the Lord Chancellor and the British Attorney-General and which then were followed by correspondence and telephone calls between Mr Heath and me, were consummated in the discussions that I had last Tuesday with the Lord Chancellor, the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister of Britian.
Debate (on motion by Mr Snedden) adjourned.
– by leave - I wish to report quite briefly to Parliament on the overseas visit from which I returned yesterday. Subject to the requirements of the legislative program, I hope later in the session to be able to make a comprehensive statement to the House on the broad perspectives of the Government’s foreign policy. Honourable members will know that I led the Australian delegation to the fourth meeting of the Pacific Forum from 17th to 19th April in Apia, Western Samoa. For the first time there, 7 Commonwealth countries were represented by their heads of government, as were the 2 countries with observer status, Papua New Guinea and Niue. Through leading the delegation to this meeting myself I wished to emphasise the very deep interest which the Government takes in the affairs of the South Pacific. The Australian Government seeks to play a co-operative and helpful role in this area but in no way wishes to dominate in the region.
The Forum itself is so arranged that the great differences in size and economic strength between Australia and New Zealand on the one hand and the Pacific Islands on the other can be ameliorated by meeting as equals in its informal atmosphere. I believe that on this occasion, as before, the meeting of the Forum was useful and successful. I am sure that these meetings will continue to consolidate regional co-operation between Australia and New Zealand and the Islanders in the South Pacific. At its first session, the Forum adopted a joint declaration deploring French nuclear tests in the Pacific. This declaration was an Australian initiative fully supported by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr Kirk, and promptly agreed to by all other members of the Forum. We hoped that a declaration would have more impact than a reference in the communique. We were able to cable this declaration to Paris on the first day of the meeting while the Attorney-General, Senator Murphy, was there for the talks which he was conducting at that time with the French Government. The Forum also requested me to take up with the British Government later in my visit the question of French tests in the Pacific, since that Government is responsible for dependent territories in the area including Pitcairn Island, the British Solomon Islands Protectorate, the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony and, in part, the New Hebrides. This I did. I was also pleased to announce to the Forum a voluntary contribution of $NZ250,000 for 1974. This contribution, which is made to the South Pacific Commission, is in excess of our assessed contribution and in addition to the $A15m 3-year aid program announced in 1972.
Fiji, and other members of the Forum, also accepted an Australian proposal that there should be a conference of Labour Ministers from Forum countries to discuss labour and related matters in Australia later in the year. I also indicated Australia’s willingness to organise an international training course in export development for the Island members of the Forum in Australia in November. I left the Forum for Vancouver and London before the final day, on which the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee) led the Australian Delegation. In Vancouver, the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr Pierre Trudeau, extended to me the courtesy of meeting me in Vancouver for private talks while my aircraft was in transit.
The value of these talks was in no way diminished by the informality of the occasion and they confirmed my long-held belief that there are many areas in which Australia and Canada should co-operate more closely than in the past. We face similar problems in relation to our need to improve the status of our Aboriginal people. We face similar problems related to foreign ownership and foreign investment. We can, I believe, develop fruitful and more regular consultations on trade matters of common interest, our approach to questions in the United Nations, and law of the sea and multi-national corporations. I have arranged with Mr Trudeau that our governments should consult more closely and directly on these matters and that we should telephone each other as a matter of course when matters of mutual interest arise which affect Canada and Australia.
Before going into details about my London discussions, I would like to place on record the Government’s general approach to relations with the United Kingdom. The Australian Government’s aim is to make our relations with Britain an integral and important part of our general international relations and not something apart as they have tended to be in the past. Our relationship with Britain is inevitably changing. The changes we have made or propose to make on such matters as the powers of the Governor-General, appeals to the Privy Council, a new national anthem, the Queen’s Style and Titles and the amendment of the oath of allegiance are in no way directed against Britain. They are solely intended to put our relationship on a more mature and contemporary basis and to reflect the development of a more independent Australian identity in the world. Indeed, what the Australian Government is seeking to achieve in its relations not only with Britain but also with a number of other countries - the United States, China, Canada, and our Asian neighbours, for instance - is to give formal recognition to what has already happened, as the necessary foundation for a realistic, more independent, more mature foreign policy. What we seek to do is no artificial convulsion of contrived nationalism. This is certainly well understood and appreciated in London.
My talks with Mr Heath, Sir Alec DouglasHome, Lord Carrington, Lord Hailsham and other Ministers covered a wide range of matters of mutual interest in the foreign affairs, defence and constitutional fields. I explained to Sir Alec Douglas-Home and other Ministers and officials the decision of the South Pacific Forum in relation to French nuclear tests. I said that I was not speaking only on behalf of Australia but of the 7 countries of the Forum, all of which were associated with the Commonwealth. I indicated that the Forum countries believe that the United Kingdom should talk to the French. This would appear to be a natural consequence of our close Commonwealth relations, of Britain’s major role in the negotiation of the partial nuclear test ban treaty and of its responsibilities, as an administering power, in respect of a number of Pacific territories. Honourable members will be pleased to know that Sir Alec Douglas-Home said that he would study the views expressed at the Pacific Forum meeting and by myself and that he would draw them to the attention of the French Government. Sir Alec also pointed out that the United Kingdom had already urged the French to sign the partial nuclear test ban treaty.
In Rome I was received by His Holiness the Pope in private audience. I regard myself as privileged to have been able to discuss many matters with this gentle and wise man. He welcomes the establishment between Australia and the Vatican of diplomatic relations, as a convenient means of communication and as facilitating the practical matters which need to be transacted. The Holy Father said, however, that even this sensible development of diplomatic machinery could not increase the depth of his regard for Australia and its people, and the warmth of his recollections of his visit to this country. I took advantage of my brief visit to Rome to call on the Senior Italian Minister in Rome at the time of my visit, Signor Emilio Colombo, who is, as honourable members will know, the predecessor of the present Prime Minister of Italy, Signor Andreotti. who was away from Italy. Signor Colombo has an especially high reputation in EEC circles.
I outlined to Signor Colombo the present Government’s thinking on foreign policy matters. I found a close identity of views between our 2 Governments on all matters which we discussed, for example, the recognition of China and North Vietnam. I also explained to Signor Colombo our attitude to continued French nuclear testing in the Pacific. I posed the question to him that, if the tests were as clear and as harmless as the French suggested, then could they not be conducted in Corsica. I was given to understand in clear terms that the Italian Government understood the concern of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islanders in a continued atmospheric testing in the Pacific and I was left in no doubt as to what the reaction of Italy would be if the French were to conduct nuclear tests in the Mediterranean.
On the way home I had talks in Mauritius with the Governor-General and the Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party, Sir Seewoosagur Rangoolam. I told the Prime Minister that we would welcome Mauritian representation in Australia and, apart from our need for area consultation, the opportunity that this might provide to tell Australians of the great pleasure they could derive from visiting the star and key of the Indian Ocean, that we were happy with the way in which the 26,000 migrants from Mauritius have settled without difficulties in Australia. I also assured the Prime Minister that our modest aid program under the special Commonwealth African Assistance Plan would continue, and offered further assistance in the trade promotion field and marketing. I raised, as I did in each country I visited, the question of French atmospheric nuclear tests. The House will understand that traditional French influence in Mauritius is substantial - isle de France. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister indicated that he would consider what he might say on this matter when he visits Paris shortly, and, in the meantime, indicated that he would have the question raised with the French Ambassador in Mauritius. The Prime Minister is clearly aware that, travelling as it does from west to east, fall-out from French testing affects his country as much as it does ours.
In conclusion, I would inform the House that during the 14 days I was away, including Easter week, I believe I was able to emphasise our growing interest in regional co-operation in the South Pacific, to take steps to put our constitutional relationship with the Ignited Kingdom on a more mature and rational basis and to clear away any misconceptions that may have existed about our relations with the United Kingdom, to establish as Prime Minister personal contact with Her Majesty the Queen and the Pope, and to pay a goodwill visit to the small but important Commonwealth country of Mauritius. In each of the 4 areas in which I stopped - the South Pacific, the United Kingdom, Italy and Mauritius - I was able to outline the general direction of the Government’s foreign policies and the more independent stance we are taking in 4 diverse and widely separated areas of the world.
I present the following paper:
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Snedden) adjourned.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Loan Bill 1973.
Excise Tariff Bill 1973.
Public Service Bill 1973.
States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Bill 1973.
Excise Tariff (No. 2) Bill 1973.
Excise Bill 1973.
Papua New Guinea Loan (Asian Development Bank) Bill 1973.
– The President of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory has communicated to me the terms of a resolution of the Council agreed to on 12th April 1973. In accordance with the request contained in the resolution I inform the House of the terms of the resolution, which are as follows:
That the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate in the Australian Parliament be requested to bring to the notice of their respective Houses the opinion of this Council that it is appropriate that legislation on matters of a non-federal nature in the Northern Territory be the exclusive prerogative of the Legislative Council to which body the Federal Parliament has properly delegated full powers in that respect.
Debate resumed from 4 April (vide page 1070), on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this Bill is twofold - to increase the levy of payments to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority and to remove the disabilities experienced by non-permanent ports. Insofar as the Bill guarantees the future viability of decentralised ports, the Opposition supports it. However, we believe that the conditions of employment of waterside workers, including excessive payments for idle non-working time, call for urgent examination so that the rate of stevedoring industry charges may be substantially reduced in the interests of exporters, importers and the community at large. In view of the developments since the guaranteed wage for non-permanent ports was introduced in 1967, we welcome the proposal to make part of the increased levy attributable to new funding arrangements for the guaranteed minimum wage in non-permanent ports by funding these payments through a general industry levy applicable to all ports. This move will materially assist the future operations of non-permanent ports which fulfil a vital function in many parts of this country. It is, in fact, a recognition that there are significant advantages in enabling the many decentralised ports in Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania to continue their operations on a competitive basis.
The case of Portland, which has been so eloquently put in this Parliament by my colleague, the distinguished honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), is a telling example. The recent move by the Victorian Government to establish a committee consisting of the Chairman of the Marine Board, the Chairman of the Portland Harbour Trust and a senior Treasury officer to examine what additional measures ought to be taken to assist the cause of decentralised ports such as Portland is a reflection of the many cogent arguments to support and maintain the economic viability of decentralised ports and is a positive action taken by the Victorian Government. Those arguments are strengthened by the increasing awareness, at both State and Federal levels, of the need to achieve a greater degree of decentralisation to obviate many of the problems caused by our high degree of urbanisation.
Insofar as the increase in the actual levy is concerned, the Opposition believes that the provisions of this Bill are demonstrably excessive. This is a major increase which can have no valid justification at this time. The magnitude of the increase can lead only to the conclusion that this Bill is being used by the Government as a device to bring down a maximum increase in the ceiling level of charges for A class waterside workers in the stevedoring industry. As the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) pointed out, the Bill does not increase the maximum rates under the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act for B and C class waterside workers. Under the Act, the maximum rates of charge are now$1 per man hour, $1.75 per man hour and $1.20 per man hour for A, B and C class respectively. However, the Bill makes specific provision to increase the maximum rate of charge for class A waterside workers from $1 to $1.50. This is a 50 per cent increase. The Minister pointed out that in the case of class A waterside workers the actual rate charged within the existing maximum rates which are fixed by regulation has now reached the maximum level of $1 per man hour. This circumstance is directly attributable to the very substantial increases which have already occurred in wage rates and conditions of employment. Clearly, the reason for the proposed 50 per cent increase in the maximum rate of charge is the anticipated magnitude of further increases in wage rates, conditions of long service leave, and the continuing levels of idle time, all of which were foreshadowed in the Minister’s second reading speech and which he, on behalf of his Government, apparently is prepared to condone, completely contrary to the public interest.
In the context of foreshadowed increases it is pertinent to point out the existing levels of wages and conditions of work pertaining to the 14,285 registered waterside workers as at 31 January this year. It should be emphasised that we are discussing an industry in which the average hours worked by a permanent waterside worker - and this includes the class A waterside worker who is the subject of this Bill - amount to 29.6 a week. This is an average calculation based on the full year ending in June 1972. For these same workers, working 29.6 hours a week, average weekly earnings now amount to $92.71, made up of $78.40 in wages and $14.31 in idle time. The indulgent nature of these conditions is a salient indication of the extent of the weakness of the employers, vis a vis the bargaining power of the Waterside Worders Federation, the degree to which wages and salaries are a major cost factor and the extent to which they have added to our inflationary experience. I am glad to see in the advisers’ box one of the senior advisers from the Department of Labour who himself knows full well the outrageous nature of the condition we are now discussing. My only regret is that the Minister for Labour, who is in charge of the Bill, for whatever reason, has not seen fit to be in attendance in the House, because no doubt he is completely unable to answer the serious charges which are being made.
The financial position of Australia’s Stevedoring Industry Authority is clearly outlined in the supplementary report of the AuditorGeneral for the year ending June 1972.
Expenditure for the year was almost $16m, an increase of over $2m. compared with the previous year. This increase was essentially due to higher costs of benefits payable to waterside workers, particularly payments in respect of full shifts at permanent ports during which men were available but not required to work, which increased by over $2im. The excess of expenditure over income - almost $3m - was transferred to the capital account increasing the debit balance in this account to nearly $8,400,000. The financial difficulties of the Authority are symptomatic of the overall nature of the problems facing the stevedoring industry at the present time.
Concessions in wages and conditions of the magnitude which the Waterside Workers Federation and stevedoring employers - we are critical of both bodies - have negotiated outside the conciliation and arbitration system have posed particular problems in the industry and have added significant burdens to freight costs. On the one hand the Federation has been able to exploit a monopoly of labour in the industry with the prospect of direct action if its major claims are not conceded. On the other hand the employers, strongly influenced by overseas shipping interests, have been prepared to concede demands because of their ability to pass on costs by increasing freight rates to the detriment of Australian shippers, although this ability has been somewhat inhibited by the Australian Shippers Council established by the former Government.
These agreements, which have had a substantial effect on prices and costs in Australia, have been reached in isolation. They have had no regard for their impact on wage and salary levels in other areas of the economy. Yet no industry is an island. Changes in wages in terms of employment in one industry must affect costs in other industries, either through flow on or through the effect on the costs of goods and services purchased. Wage and salary developments in the stevedoring industry can be no less important than those developments in any other industry. In this context, sources close to the industry have revealed that the Waterside Workers Federation and the employers of waterside labour are about to announce an agreement whereby the loading on annual leave for waterside workers will be increased from 17i per cent to 224 per cent. I am glad that the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), who is in charge of this Bill, has had an opportunity to hear that comment because no doubt later in the debate he will indicate the stance which his Government is prepared to take, having regard to the inflationary impact which that particular circumstance and others like it are causing, not simply on the waterfront at the present time but on the general level of wages and salaries throughout the community. This is exercising an influence on the general nature of our inflationary spiral.
The present Government seeks to endorse the philosophy that there must be no impediment to agreements negotiated between principal parties no matter how deleterious the consequences of those agreements may be in terms of the national interest. The Government’s policy is clearly conducive to a situation where gains in wages and working conditions are to be dependent on a union’s industrial strength rather than upon the merits of its particular case. This is a philosophy which will disadvantage small unions and small employers, fixed income earners and pensioners - in fact, all those sections in the community which have no access to monopoly power. This Government’s attitude to negotiated agreements is entirely contrary to any acceptance of national responsibilities and anomalous to any concept of equity in the distribution of benefits derived from an acceptance of the concept of real economic growth.
The problem of idle time, which was referred to by the Minister specifically in his second reading speech, does call, as I am sure, he would be the first to appreciate, for urgent attention. Idle time is the cost incurred by the Authority in reimbursing employers at permanent ports for charges paid to waterside workers for full shifts during which they are available but not required to work. It does not include costs of unused full shifts, where employment is under special agreement, and unused part shifts. These costs are included in wages. While the total waterside worker labour force has decreased from 20,140 in 1967 to 14,285 as at 31st January 1973, the demand for labour has fluctuated substantially. The result has been large surpluses of labour available but not required for work. For the 14,000 registered waterside workers the current average idle time payment has been calculated at $14.31 per man week, industry estimates now show that idle time payments are running at an annual rate of between $7m and $8m. The surplus labour which contributes to this very substantial industrial overhead exists, as the Minister would know, at many ports - not just nonpermanent ports - not over a greater part of the year. For instance, in the port of Adelaide there has been an average daily surplus of approximately 400 waterside workers. The frightening cost pattern reflected in this excess of labour does not require to be detailed to be appreciated by honourable members on this side of the House. The overall level of idle time is a major cause of increased costs for shippers and the Australian community in general and it calls for urgent examination. Idle time at the present level cannot be seen as justifiable in any circumstances. It is the cause, indeed the most significant element, of the financial problems now faced by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. It is an indication of the featherbedding which has taken place and is, I believe, a corrosive influence throughout the total structure of the industry. Finally, it is a demonstrable disincentive to work on the waterfront.
Another major contributor to cost and inefficiencies is the level of industrial unrest. It is a matter which commands the attention of the Minister for Labour because he knows that the Waterside Workers Federation has become a vehicle, along with certain other maritime unions, whereby minority elements within the trade union movement have sought to convert industrial power into political action. In many instances strike action has been taken on a unilateral basis without the sanction of the Australian Council of Trade Unions or the Trades and Labour Councils. There have been recent instances of strike action which have compromised Australia’s international reputation and this Government has abrogated its national responsibilities by its tacit approval in each case. Political strikes on the waterfront are an increasing problem. In 1969-70, 81,205 man-hours were lost through strikes of this nature - equal to 6.7 pes cent of all man-hours lost through strikes. In 1970-71 losses through political strikes amounted to 214,214 man-hours, or 31.9 per cent of all man-hours lost. In 1971-72, 137,525 man-hours, or 33.3 per cent of all time lost through strikes was over political or non-industrial issues. Unwarranted agreements on wages and conditions of employment, increasing levels of inefficiency attributable to idle time and the degree of industrial unrest for political reasons impose unnecessary and unjustifiable costs on exporters, importers and the community in general. The nature and extent of the increased costs are, in fact, very considerable. There has been a 20.8 per cent reduction in average hours worked at permanent ports in Australia between 1969-70 and 1971-72 and over the same period there has been an increase of 13.3 per cent in average wages at the same ports.
The average cost to the ship owner of moving a ton of goods into or out of a ship in July was S6.42 per ton. As at 1st July 1971 this had risen to $10.63 per ton. On 31st December 1972 the cost to the ship owner of moving the same ton of goods had risen to $14.42 per ton, a rise since July 1969 of 124.6 per cent.
– Who was the government then?
– The Minister for Labour interjects. He should be the first person to know that if one has regard to the former Government’s capacity and strength in relation to industrial agreements it was a government that was prepared to say of both of the principal parties that they exercised, on the Australian waterfront, a cynical abuse of monopoly power. The Minister should know full well that the former Government was prepared to be as critical of the employers on the waterfront as it was of the Waterside Workers Federation. I want the Minister in this debate later, when he has an opportunity to speak out, to do just that - to be critical of both of the principal parties - because he knows that those parties have taken the Australian community for a ride; that the agreements into which they both freely have entered, according to the terms of his own industrial philosophy, have created a level of featherbedding on the waterfront which has been a major national scandal affecting not simply the parties concerned.
– Hear, hear!
– My honourable friend, the honourable member for Wakefield, who interjects, fully understands the direct impact which these concessions have had on the whole of the rural sector. He is a colleague in this Parliament who will speak out in this debate and say full well just what burden the producers and the exporters are facing at the present time because of the nature of the concessions which have been brought down.
Any arguments which the Minister might seek to bring to bear, to the effect that fewer men today handle a greater tonnage of goods and that further there has been an increase in labour productivity, cannot be upheld. Where improvements in cargo handling have occurred they have been due principally to the introduction of bulk handling, better and more highly mechanised equipment or the provision of better ships such as roll-on rolloff vessels. The Opposition believes that there is ample justification for urgent examination of the stevedoring industry because the current waterfront practices have assumed disabling proportions for a nation as reliant on trade as Australia. We view with concern the extent to which this Bill clearly foreshadows increased costs for the community. The Minister who is in charge of the Bill and who has a responsibility on behalf of the Australian people, not simply on behalf of the unions that seek to exercise their total control over him and the conduct of his portfolio must, we believe, should speak out in this debate and let the Australian people know where he stands in relation to the agreements which have been made and those which are foreshadowed at the present time. He should let the community know whether he is prepared simply to bless and endorse the agreements which will be made - out of all proportion to any sense of national responsibility - and their impact on the public interest. Nevertheless, because of the manner in which this Bill has been drafted we support the Bill as it seeks to enable - this is the point of our support - a number of important decentralised ports to continue their operations on a competitive basis and assist the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority to meet its financial commitments.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) in his usual way put his case for the Opposition in general disagreement with the measure that is before the House. Each time I hear him speak he seems to remind me that 1 have heard the speech so many times before because of the mechanical intonations and the same arguments coming forward. In fact, to paraphrase one far more literary than I, it could even be said that one of his speeches is as tedious as the speeches of 3 other people, and indeed his volume of material is 3 times that required by any other speaker to put the same case. He quoted costs increases which occurred during his term of office as a Minister, and the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) took him to task about this. It seemed to rile the honourable gentleman to some extent. During the course of his argument he made reference to the positive action by the Victorian Government so far as the port of Portland is concerned. I am sure that my friend, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), who will be speaking at a later stage in this debate, will explain to the honourable member more clearly and very lucidly how in fact the Liberal Government of ViC.toria has been very derelict in this respect by not providing the ancillary service necessary to transport goods to the port of Portland or to provide the mechanical aids that are necessary to load through that port. So I believe it is unfair and in fact quite wrong to say hat there has been positive action by the Government of Victoria to improve the port if Portland. In fact, by its very neglect every.thing has been done to ensure that the port remains a backwater instead of utilising the very fine harbour that it is for the transport of goods out of that part of Victoria and South Australia. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition poke of the cost of idle time, and at a later stage during my speech I would like to elaborate on the cost of idle time, too. He said 3 at this was a high cost in the movement of goods across the waterfront. The very point that he overlooked is that one of the purposes of the increase in the levy is to ensure that he fund to which it contributes is brought to such a stage that it is able to finance a voluntary retirement scheme for those watersiders who are now redundant and who wish to retire from the waterfront but are not yet eligible for a pension - in other words, voluntarily retired. The honourable gentleman argued against himself when he took that line, as I will point out later.
This Bill, entitled the Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill 1973, proposes to adjust charges levied under the Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Act 1947-1971. Honourable members should know that in 1967 a change in the status of waterfront workers occurred and these employees ceased to be casual labour and became permanent employees. As such they became entitled to the industrial benefits enjoyed by their brothers and sisters in other industries. Long service leave, sick leave, annual leave, superannuation and other benefits applicable to workers with a constant employer became the right of waterside labour. To overcome the problems created by a succession of employers - masters of ships in port, for instance - a common fund was established to which employers for the time being contributed. That fund has the support of legislation known as the Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Act. The formula used to determine the payments to that fund is such that the fund remains buoyant enough to meet its liabilities. The formula provides for a charge on employers for each man hour worked. Waterside workers are divided into 3 categories, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition told us. Class A are registered at permanent or continuous ports and work regularly on a weekly basis. Class B waterside workers are employed at continuous nonpermanent ports and class C at non-permanent ports. Class C includes irregular workers.
For some time there have been difficulties associated with this fund, and these difficulties were brought to the attention of the previous Government by the parties most crucially involved, the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour and the Waterside Workers Federation. The situation then was that there was general agreement between these parties even before 1971, which was the last time that the fund was dealt with by this House, that the charges levied were insufficient to maintain the buoyancy of the fund. In his speech in this House on 29 April 1971, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, then Minister for Labour and National Service, explained in great detail the workings of the fund. In his further speech that day he went on to castigate severely waterside workers for a number of reasons. He used the words, as he used them again today, considerable increases in wages and conditions which have been awarded to waterside workers’. I would like to point out that he uses these words as a criticism of the employees, although the wages and conditions were granted to the employees by Mr Justice Moore, a gentleman who I am sure has the respect not only of this House but also of those engaged in industrial activities. Certainly he has the respect of the community. Even in that speech then the honourable gentleman made a threat. He threatened that the Government would be giving close attention to the performance of the Waterside Workers Federation. Of course the House received, I am sure quite unexpectedly, a dissertation on industrial stoppages. We have had this again today. On that occasion he had a half-hearted side-swipe at employers and he had the good grace to acknowledge the impact of technology on the waterfront
However, tor all the window dressing, the situation has not improved materially since then. As we were told at that time, the fund still cannot meet its liabilities because payments to it then and since were not high enough. Shipowners, employers of waterside labour and the Waterside Workers Federation all expressed the view that the levy should be higher than that proposed by the Government at the time. Records and recollections of these discussions reveal the same theme running through them all. Representatives of the Department and the Government are accused of adopting a fixed attitude which did little to facilitate agreement. Another serious theme that flows through those reports is the attitude of the then Government towards an inflammable situation.
Evidence exists that there was redundant labour at ports and that the Waterside Workers Federation and the employer groups were anxious to solve that problem. One solution suggested was voluntary retirement of workers. However, the fund was not affluent enough to pay the pension to which the retired worker was entitled. Had the previous Government seen the situation clearly, it could have solved it then by increasing the levy per man. But the Government’s tactics were different. lt urged the shipowners’ representatives and employers of waterside labour to seek compulsory retirement of surplus employees, knowing that this would cause industrial trouble on the waterfront, would build another brick into the Government’s law and order campaign, would give another excuse to bash unions and also would lay the blame at the feet of those terrible ‘commos’ on the waterfront. To the credit of the integrity of the employers, they refused to swing the hatchet for the then Government. As far as 1 can ascertain, they told the Minister and his Government to do their own dirty work.
What a change there is now that we have an enlightened Minister in an enlightened Government that is concerned about the effect on workers of their own efficiency, which brings about an increase in productivity.
– Who wrote this?
– It was not you because you cannot write. The present Government will ensure that the benefits of technology are available to all and not just to a few who claim ownership. The Minister mentioned the effect of technology on the waterfront. It is quite true, as can be seen from the statistics which he cited at great length, that the throughput of ports has increased considerably and yet the number of waterside workers employed has declined. Still there are redundant waterside workers. Ever since August 1970 an increase in the levy has been required due to the increase in long service leave payments alone and without consideration of the obvious need for an increased redundancy reserve and increased costs of the administration of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. In addition, idle time costs had to increase because employers, the previous Government through the Department of Labour and National Service and the ASIA had demanded recruitment to the industry, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney, against the wishes of the Waterside Workers Federation and in spite of the fact that everybody foresaw redundancy situations in 1972 in both those ports and in ports such as Newcastle, Port Kembla, Brisbane and Adelaide.
The total number of new registrations at all ports during 1972 was 1,074. In Melbourne 251 waterside workers were registered in that year. In addition, a fairly high percentage of idle time - that is times of surplus labour to the needs of: a port on a given day - is a necessity in the industry and always has been. This is because the industry, even in container terminals, has to have a labour force adjusted in size to irregular needs. Thus, we cannot have a labour force sufficient to cater for peak requirements but neither can we have a labour force adjusted to minimum requirements because if we did we would have a very severe shortage of labour on many days with consequent very heavy costs in delayed ships. Five hundred men on idle time every day for a full week costs $33,700. However. 10 ships delayed only one day would cost up to S 130.000. So one can see that, by giving only half the set of statistics, the honourable gentleman is leaving out a very vital and important point. The average number of ships a week in permanent ports is about 190. If only 20 of those vessels were delayed each weekend the cost to shipping would amount to $200,000 a week or $10,400,000 a year. That would be a conservative estimate.
It should also be borne in mind that the present system of rostering labour from the genera] labour force in permanent ports - that is labour other than in container and vehicle dock ship terminals - on an irregular shift basis from Monday to Friday and with irreguler overtime shift work at weekends is the cheapest possible system in terms of the amount of labour used for a given result and it is unfair to the men. Because they are rostered irregularly the use of the labour is very flexible since men can be changed from shift to shift on a daily basis and, in fact, from afternoon shift to day shift with only an Si hours separation. If the men had to be rostered properly the number of men required to work the same industry requirements would be substantially higher. With the introduction of regularly rostered shift work at BHP wharves the number of men had to be increased by some 25 per cent. To cater for a sufficient labour force for most ports, even with the present system, a reasonably high idle time content is a necessity.
Since the employers and the previous Government insisted on recruiting men when the Waterside Workers Federation did not want to recruit and where the need was short term, they cannot complain because the Federation did not want compulsory redundancy. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition would like to have us believe that the costs incurred in moving goods across the wharf into the ship are due to the fact that the employees apparently receive a very high salary, work very short hours and receive a loading on their annual leave, in the same way that most other workers do. He is overlooking the fact that the whole situation has been brought about through the co-operation of the Waterside Workers Federation. It certainly has done nothing to impair the efficiency of the industry in any way. It has probably done more than anybody else to improve it.
I support the measure that is before the House. It is a timely measure. The only quarrel I have is that it was not introduced when it should have been introduced, some 2 years ago. Had it been introduced then, the situation on the waterfront would have been much better than it is now. I repeat the claim that the previous Government refused 2 years ago to bring the fund to a stage at which employees could be paid their entitlements. That Government deliberately refused to do this, against the advice of employers and employees collectively. Its only purpose was to cause a confrontation with the workers on the waterfront. It is very seldom that I will be heard giving credit to employers but on this occasion I do so. They refused to do the dirty work of the Government of the day. They refused to cause a confrontation with the employees and told the Government to do its own dirty work to ensure the dismissal or the compulsory retirement of those employees, knowing full well that that would result in an industrial confrontation. I also repeat that with an enlightened government, such as the Australian Labor Party Government which we now have and with which we will be blessed for at least the next quarter of a century, there is no doubt that industrial relations will improve in this country. We have a government that is determined to ensure that industrial relations are harmonious and not a series of consistent confrontations.
– I rise to speak to this Bill conscious that the circumstances and problems of the industry to which it relates and which give rise to the need for the Bill are extraordinarily complex and difficult and that there are no simple or facile solutions. Technological change in the industry has been a major contributor to the problems of the industry; it has brought about a large drop in the number of workers required, but the fact is that there is a degree of featherbedding in this industry which would make the situation often alleged in respect of some rural industries, for example, look mild. The passage of this Bill will not itself solve anything and the problems will remain on the plate of the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) even with its passage. The fact is, one says with some regret, that notwithstanding the high hopes held out for greater efficiency and industrial peace in the stevedoring industry, following the implementation of the Woodward proposals, and notwithstanding the very considerable cost of implementing the proposals, on which I will focus in a moment, industrial strife in the industry has worsened in recent years, not improved.
Statistics show that man-hours lost due to industrial stoppages, as a percentage of manhours worked, on an Australia-wide basis, were worse in recent years than in 1965-66, 1966-67 and 1967-68. While the blame for this must in part be recognised as associated with the general increase in militancy and industrial unrest, including so-called political strikes, widespread throughout the nation, it does raise serious questions about the very high cost of the Woodward proposals as to whether the game is worth the candle. The Bill before the House provides for an increase in the rate of the class A charge under the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act from Si per man-hour to $1.50. This is a maximum and the actual rate of charge may not rise immediately to this level. However, the class A charges are the dominant source of revenue of ASIA, that is, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, not to be confused with ASIO about which we have heard so much, and provide $10.7m of the gross revenue from charges of $13.2m in 1970-71. There can be no doubt in view of the precarious financial position of the Authority that an increase in the actual charge will soon take place.
The Minister for Labour in his second reading speech gives 2 reasons for the proposed increase in the class A charge. The first of those is to contribute to the funds necessary to pay the guaranteed minimum wage in non-permanent ports. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) has said, the Opposition fully supports that part of the proposal. The Minister suggested, I think, that the amount for this purpose might be as little as 3c of the charge or could be as much as 10c; in any event, it is small in relation to the proposed increase from $1 to $1.50. The second reason for the increase is to meet increased costs and in particular increases in the level of payments to be made by the Authority in respect of ‘idle time*. There can be little doubt that this part of the increase is designed to and will have the effect of putting more feather into this featherbed.
It will be recalled that the Woodward scheme was, in the interests of better industrial relations in the industry, to provide for permanent employment for waterside workers weekly hire’ attached to a particular employer, and thereby to create more normal employeremployee relationships along with benefits such as annual leave, sick leave and so on. The costs of the proposal would be met by charges imposed under this Act. One can have no objections to all this and by making the provision for permanency of employment we all had high hopes that the system would work better. The tragedy is that if we look at the facts we see it has not worked better. One measure of this, and in the last analysis the most important, is the cost of handling goods, which has risen very greatly indeed and there can be little doubt that a return to the pre-Woodward restrictive practices on the waterfront has been one very considerable factor.
Mr J. V. Ramsden not, I think, known as a friend of the overseas ship owners - in a recent article in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ cited one ship owner’s calculation of the average cost of handling goods in terms of the cost of moving a ton of goods into or out of a ship in Sydney to have risen as follows: In July 1969 the cost was $6.42 per ton. in July 1971 $10.63 per ton, and in December 1972 $14.42 per ton. That represents an increase over that period of some 125 per cent, an average annual increase of more than 30 per cent. So far as wage costs are concerned - a declining component of total costs with increased mechanisation - between 1969-70 and 1971-72 there was an increase of 13.2 per cent in the weekly wage, but there was at the same time a decrease of about 20.85 per cent in hours worked for the average wage. Thus the increase in the hourly rate was 44 per cent over the 2 years or an average annual increase per man-hour of upwards of 20 per cent.
As I have said industrial unrest continues and the cost of handling cargo increases. Why has the new system not worked well? There are a variety of reasons, but in the time available to me, I would like, as the previous speaker the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson), to focus on the issue of idle time and the problems of redundancy in the industry. Payments for idle time are a major charge on the moneys raised under this Act and in recent years have risen rapidly. In 1970-71, the year to which the latest report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority available to me referred, of the gross revenue from charges of $ 13.2m and a net revenue of $9.6m, $6,177,948 to be precise went in payment for idle time. I gather the figure for 1971-72 was in excess of $8m and I would suspect that it is at a higher annual rate now, hence this Bill to increase the permissible charge. To paint the whole picture I go back to the figures for 1967-68. The payment for idle time in that year was $824,000, in 1968-69 it jumped to $2.8m and then to the figure which I mentioned of $6.2m in 1970-71 and $8.2m in 1971-72. lt reminds me somewhat of the situation that used to prevail in the United States of America under the soil bank scheme. I recall a letter purporting to have been written by a farmer to his senator along these lines: ‘Mr Senator, my friend Smith over in the adjoining county has just received a cheque for $1 ,000 for not raising hogs. I want to go into the not raising hogs business. I want to know what is the best kind of farm not to raise hogs on and the best kind of hogs not to raise. P.S. May I raise an odd hog on the side just for my own purpose?’
In number terms there were 81,460 manshifts idle in 1967-68 compared with 465,224 in 1971-72 - and that latter figure applies to a decreased work force. In a sense there is no great difficulty in finding the underlying reason for the clear situation of redundant workers in the industry revealed by these figures. It is to be found in technology changes, in increased mechanisation and containerisation. These things put a premium from the employer’s point of view on industrial peace and keeping the man on the job - in a word, peace at any price. It is important, speaking to the matter from this side of the House, that this be said. But should the community pay this price? One estimate of the cost per year for each redundant worker would be about $3,000. The cost is of that order although that figure may be a little high - it depends a little on how we interpret the figures we have for idle labour. However the cost is pretty high. It is of great interest to note that the approximate average cost of what might be referred to as the golden handshake, the payment on the termination of employment in the industry, at the scale introduced in May last year is also of the order of $3,000. But that would be a once for all payment, not a payment recurring annually as is the payment for idle time. There is a once for all payment of $3,000 to a worker leaving the industry, compared with $3,000 recurring each year as idle time payment to retain the worker in the industry.
The question arises: Why are these redundant employees retained? Why does the shipper, the Australian community, pay for them to sit around? Essentially the reason is that in the big ports the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority can declare people redundant only if the Association of Employers of Waterfront Labour and the Waterside Workers Federation take the initiative, or it can happen on the recommendation of the AEWL in association, in certain circumstances, with the WWF. It is clear that the Federation would have no interest in taking any initiative in respect of redundancy. On the other side one is bound to say that the AEWL is in a position not to care too much. It knows that industrial strife will hold up its ships. It knows that provided the cost is one which applies across the board to its competi tors as well as to itself the conference system will enable it to recover the cost. So it is necessary to say that the AEWL can prove to be a compliant employer. Indeed, the former Government faced up to this when it attempted to restrain the pace setting industrial agreement in the industry including the 35 hour week provision last year. So in the end the shippers, the importers and exporters using stevedoring services have to pay.
Is there any solution to this vexed question and to the national loss involved in this feather-bedding? I understand that nationalisation has long been the catch cry, the panacea, the solution, voiced by honourable members opposite but I get the impression that they are backing off from that idea. There are quite a few problems. What would be done about the privately owned and leased terminals and depots that employ waterfront labour? Where would it end? Would it include the waterfront clerks? What about Commonwealth-State difficulties in disputes where some national authority would seek to supersede the Maritime Services Board of New South Wales, for example - or the Fremantle Harbour Trust, seeing my colleague the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) seated in the chamber.
Perhaps the most feasible immediate step would be to vest in the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority control of all, or at least a substantial part larger than the existing SEAL pool, if I may refer to it in that way, of waterfront labour.
– Would you nationalise it?
– No. I am suggesting this as a step short of nationalisation. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority would have in particular the responsibility of declaring redundancy. If that seems to represent a retreat from the notion of permanent employment - more ‘normal’ industrial relations - I think it would be fair to say that the incidence of idle time, together even with the equalisation of wages, has made a mockery of what was sought to be achieved by that idea anyhow. If control, or a major part of it, were vested in the Authority perhaps we could overcome a situation which is now common in the industry at all the major ports. I refer to the fact that there can be an overall shortage of labour on a particular day while at the same time, through labour being locked up in permanent employment by operational companies and being nontransferable, an approximately equal number of watersiders are at home receiving idle time payments. I quote without official confirmation an instance referred to by Mr Ramsden in the article ,in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ to which I referred earlier. In the week ending 9th February there was in Sydney an overall shortage of labour of approximately 228 men while at the same time 175 men were being paid for idle time. In a situation where it is cheaper or at least of the same order of cost, to offer a once over golden handshake than to meet the cost for one year of paying a redundant worker, how long are we to let this situation continue?
– lt is interesting to examine the speech of the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Edwards). The main import of it was that by some strange twist of the imagination he associated the complete breakdown of the free enterprise system in the United States of America with his story about the non-production of hogs. He seemed to want to compare that idea with the waterfront in Australia. 1 do not know how he can do this. He does not seem to be aware that the present system of waterside labour employment in Australia was devised and introduced by a Government of the same political colour as himself. It was introduced because in the opinion of the Government at that time it offered the best and most economic means of employing waterside labour. 1 doubt very much whether the honourable member for Berowra would seek to alter that system if he were sitting on this side of the House. It is all very well to say that large amounts of money are being spent in idle time. It is interesting to remember that in his speech the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) said that the reason the Opposition is supporting this Bill is the change in the man hour levy which will enable outports such as Portland and a number of others around Australia to continue in operation. That was the reason and the only reason given by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for supporting the Bill.
This proposed amendment to the Act has taken place because of the outcry in the smaller ports over each port being required to finance its total amount of idle time. This Bill seeks to place that burden equally on all ports. In the case of Portland, which was the area of most concern, the previous division of idle time payments amongst all outports meant a levy of 40c a man hour. The change which took place when the Employers of Waterside Labour decided to levy each port according to its needs was from 40c a man hour to $1.20 a man hour in Portland. It may have been $1.25 a man hour but it was of the order of that level of change. This Bill reduces the man hour levy to something between 2c and 10c for the port of Portland. So the reason the Opposition is supporting this Bill is because the burden of meeting idle time in outports is being transferred to the major ports. Therefore, if the arguments the honourable gentleman has put up are logical at all, he is supporting the Bill because it enables idle time to be more easily paid for in outports. This is the logic of the argument which is being put forward on his side of the House. 1 do not want to deal with that matter further but 1 think it is proper to ensure that this House realises exactly what the previous Government was doing with regard to waterside labour.
The increase in the overall levy, which has been criticised by both Opposition speakers so far, is to enable sufficient funds to be available to pay for retirement, long service leave and the other commitments which must be met by the Employers of Waterside Labour. The previous Government refused to accept the recommendations of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority or the recommendations of the Employers of Waterside Labour and demanded that a figure be fixed which it knew, as a result of advice from the Stevedoring Industry Authority and the employers, would not meet the costs accruing in the industry. This was done for the deliberate purpose of creating industrial unrest on the waterfront during a period approaching a Federal election and I think it should be made clear to everyone that that was the prime reason. This Bill relieves outports of a burden which would have had the effect of destroying completely several of Australia’s smaller ports. The Bill also removes a burden from the port of Geelong especially for that burden was disadvantaging that port to a considerable degree. Under the previous system the port of Geelong had been paying a levy of 40c to meet a requirement in its own port of 2c, the remainder being utilised to subsidise other outports. So the port of Geelong was carrying a penalty of 38c a man hour to subsidise other ports.
When the campaign began in this House to have the 40c restored as a uniform levy on outports, I put forward the proposition that it was not in the best interests of the decentralised ports in Australia for the levy to be restored to a uniform figure for all outports because this seriously disadvantaged the major outports without greatly advantaging the minor outports. The Government’s decision to amend the Act in order to provide for a uniform levy is commendable and 1 pay tribute to the work done on this matter by some very sincere gentlemen who were not talking with their tongues in their cheeks. They are the State members for Portland, Mr Bill Lewis, and Dundas, Mr Eddie Lewis. They are the State members for the electorates surrounding Portland. (Quorum formed). This House should pay tribute to the work which was done by the member for Portland and the member for Dundas, both members of the Victorian State Parliament, who consistently and regularly pressed the relevant Minister to do something to save the port of Portland. The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who made a song and dance about it was a member of the Cabinet which introduced legislation enabling the penalties about which he is now complaining to be placed on Portland. He did not say one word against them at the time. He also pulled one of the shabbiest political tricks I have heard of by calling a public meeting in his electorate and deliberately excluding State members of Parliament from those people who were invited to attend the meeting. One wonders whether the motives of such people are to benefit their area or just to gain political points immediately before a State election.
There is one other matter I should deal with. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition spoke at some length about what the Victorian Government is doing for the port of Portland. The Victorian Government has set up a committee to inquire into what can be done to save the port of Portland. It is fortuitous for the Victorian Liberal Party Government that the committee was established at a time when its report could not be made to the present Victorian Government because of a pending State election. Blind Freddie knows that the committee was set up to take the heat off the State Government over its inaction on decentralisation in Victoria and for no other reason. There are probably several hundred reports of such committees in the pigeon holes of the Victorian Parliament House, the titles of which have not even been read by the relevant Ministers. This Bill proves that where a need exists this Government will act, and that is more than anyone can say for the Victorian Government, even by the greatest stretch of imagination. The policy of that Government is to set up a committee, and if the committee’s report does not satisfy the situation it sets up another committee to inquire into the -first committee. It has done this so often that everyone in Victoria knows that this is the position.
If the Victorian Government had wanted to take action and if it had really wanted to do something about Portland - the problems which have faced Portland have been known for many years - it could have placed an embargo on the carriage of goods out of that area to Melbourne to be loaded on ships and sent overseas. Every bale of wool that is sold at Portland is shipped out of Melbourne., with rare exceptions. The same position applies to every bale of wool that is sold at the port of Geelong. The goods are hiked off by trucks and trains to Melbourne where they are loaded onto ships. If the Victorian Government had wanted to do anything about that it would have had no difficulty at all. It has the legislative power to prevent the transfer of goods out of those areas and to force the shipping companies to load the goods in the areas concerned. But it will not do that. It has not done it, for the very good reason that it considers it to be outside its charter to interfere with the business operations of private enterprise. There is a buck to be made out of it.
I support the Bill. I am glad that the Opposition is supporting the Bill. Having heard the honourable member for Berowra it is difficult to understand why he is supporting the Bill because he made a pretty vehement attack in relation to idle time on the wharf. It would appear to me that he was suggesting that it would be far better to reduce the amount of idle time pay and increase the turn-round time of ships. I do not think the shipping companies would agree with that. I am sure that it would not be in Australia’s national interests. Already the turn-round time of ships is critical on occasions. It costs more to tie up a ship than it does to pay men occasionally for idle time. This legislation will do much for outports such as Geelong. Also it will enable employers of waterside labour to meet their commitments to their employees. Any government or political party which suggests, as has been suggested by the Opposition today, that provision should not be made in legislation for basic award conditions and agreements under which employees shall work is totally irresponsible. I suggest that any person who puts that forward should not be speaking in this House. I support the Bill.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, certainly. The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) has completely misrepresented me in an effort to save 2 seats which the Labor Party in Victoria is going to lose in the forthcoming State elections. The honourable member accused me of calling a public meeting from which Mr Eddie Lewis and Mr Bill Lewis were excluded. In the first place it was a meeting which was organised at my initiative because the Victorian Government had expressed concern, I had expressed concern and the Portland Harbour Trust and the Portland Development Committee had expressed concern. It was not a public meeting. Both men had made it known that they wanted to come along, and they were very welcome. It was not a public meeting. To suggest that there was an attempt to exclude them from a public meeting is a fabrication.
There was also a suggestion that I and other honourable members on this side of the House voted for a Bill which damaged outports. What the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) refused to recognise right throughout the arguments about this matter was that the changes introduced by the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour were made under the terms of his Administration. They were not made under the terms of the previous Administration. If the changes had been made under the previous Administration the Association would not have been allowed to get away with it in the same way as the present Minister for Labour has for far too long allowed it to do so.
The other aspect of this matter is that everyone who was represented in Victoria, including all political parties in Victoria, clearly realised that this was a matter which was within the responsibility of the Minister for Labour, that it was only natural that the main discussion should be concerning him and that State members were not directly involved. But the fact that it has been accepted as a Commonwealth responsibility and the fact that the Minister for Labour did, after a great deal of pressure, act upon this matter came as a direct result of action by the State Government.
-Order! The honourable member is now debating the matter.
– Although this Bill is set out on a single sheet of paper it represents a lot of money. There are only a few words in the Bill but many dollars are involved. The Stevedoring Industry Change Bill makes available certain money to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. This Bill proposes to increase from $1 to $1.50 - a 50 per cent increase - the rate of charge which can be imposed on the employment of class A waterside workers. A tremendous amount of money is involved. This legislation does not mean that the additional 50c will be charged immediately. This will be introduced by regulation. However, the legislation gives power to the Authority to make this charge. The waterside industry in Australia has been plagued with many problems over many years. It has not as yet been possible to solve those problems - at any rate not all of them. This industry is important to Australia because of our situation in the world. We need our ports in order to trade with other nations.
Australia is a nation which can trade only through the medium of our ports although we can to a limited extent trade by air. 1 feel that the facilities for trade by air will be upgraded in the future. I have no doubt that in the future many of our perishable goods and concentrates will be flown overseas in greater tonnages than is the case today. Some of the increase in air freight will be attributable to the fact that ports around Australia are somewhat unreliable when it comes to transporting certain goods. I may have something to say about that in the future. Perishable goods cannot be left lying on the wharfs around Australia. They must be sent at the time they are due to be sent; otherwise not only will we lose the trade but also the commodities concerned will go to waste because the cost of storage is too great.
Much has been said in the debate on this Bill about idle time ports. Idle time is paid for under the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act. Idle time refers to the time when men report for work or are available for work in the various ports around Australia but are not in fact required to work on any one day. Idle time at ports can be measured, but there are many other areas which are never mentioned and in which there is a tremendous amount of idle time not only in manpower but also in relation to the transporting of goods by truck. As far as I know this idle time has never been measured or set out in any document, but it does involve a tremendous amount of money. This is a quite important aspect of the Bill. It assists the outports of Australia. Portland has been mentioned, but it is only one. There are ports right around Australia which will be assisted by this measure; they will be maintained at least in their present state.
The total picture in Australia has not been looked at properly. It is about time that somebody did so. I have mentioned it. One of the things I spoke about when I entered this House 10 years ago was the tremendous cost of shifting cargo in Sydney from the waterside or vice versa. I think a little amount of work was done, particularly in relation to wool, when I inquired how many times a bale of wool was actually handled to get it from the shed door onto the ship. It was found that a bale was handled 80-odd times. If we build greater and still greater ports around cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, greater and still greater congestion and costs will be caused, not only on the wharf frontage itself but in moving the cargo to the wharf and onto the ship. These costs have never been measured and it is about time that they were. Of course there is very little congestion in the outports, and one of the objects of this Bill is to keep these ports open.
This is an important area of activity, because Australia is one of the leading export nations of the world. A lot of countries rely on Australia very heavily for various commodities of food and fibre. Quite recently we had an example of this when people were clamouring for our wool. A couple of years ago they indicated that they did not want it. That story has now been told in very clear and loud terms. If we want to continue to trade and to maintain our overseas markets not only for meat but particularly for the products of our secondary industries, which have been expanding rapidly over the last few years, we must keep outports open at all costs. When I say ‘at all costs’ I am speaking not in terms of money but in terms of organisation within Australia. I mean that we should have a full study of the total situation to see that our ports are open and not congested as some are at present.
Containerisation has attracted a lot of criticism from time to time. But if containerisation had not been introduced, transport charges in many areas today would have been quite intolerable. There may be some areas in which better utilisation could be made of this method or in which the type of container or ship could be improved, but the concept of containerisation is most important.
To return to the small ports, it is important that their situation be considered not in isolation but as part of an overall study of Australia. This is the point that I am trying to make and have tried to make for many years. A total study must be made. We cannot walk into one small port and claim that the costs are too high. The Commonwealth Government - as well as the State governments - has a responsibility in this field. The total scene must be taken into consideration to see what it is costing and to measure the total congestion in some of the major Australian ports. The authorities would be quite surprised, I believe, at the figures that would be revealed by any such time and motion survey, if I may so describe it.
There has always been a problem in relation to employer-employee relationships at ports. On occasions it has been said - I think it was said in the House again today - that not all the problems and not all the blame for disputes should be placed with the employee. In many cases no doubt the employer has to share the blame. But if the employer over the years had stood up to pressures which have been applied at Australian ports we would be a lot better off. But the employers, in the main, took the easy way out and consented to what was requested. In other words, they paid up and got their ships loaded. In their opinion the main consideration was to have their ships turned round. So on many occasions they gave in to pressures which were not always in the best interests of Australia.
It has been mentioned also that the shipping companies and owners of ships prefer to load at major ports instead of moving into the smaller ports around Australia. It is not always understood that the shipping companies in certain categories of general cargo have a responsibility to go to a port where the cargo is situated, providing that the port is sufficiently large or well equipped to handle that cargo. Under our system of payment they have a responsibility to load certain cargoes in Australia during the year. In other words it is not charter cargo; it is general cargo on which a certain freight rate is struck. Therefore, the companies have a responsibility to call to the appropriate port. That is not always understood by people when discussing where a ship should or should not travel. So there is an area of responsibility on the Commonwealth, as has been suggested today, as well as the States in this regard. There is also an area of responsibility, of course, on the exporter, who in mo..t cases reaches agreement with the shipper in relation to cargo movements to and from Australia.
We have seen some unfortunate incidents in recent times in relation to political strikes, if we may call them that. In my book these cannot be tolerated at any cost. An example of this was given, I think, in Sydney quite recently. Waterside workers thought that if they were to stop the movement of meat to America, this would have some effect on the price of meat in Australia. This is very misguided thinking indeed. It is not the responsibility of the Australian waterside workers to take a decision as to whether a commodity should be shipped overseas. If it had not been for the great production in Australia of commodities such as meat the waterside workers certainly would not be in their present position. In other words their jobs would have been vacant long ago had not these goods been available for export. To stop the export of meat to America or anywhere else will not solve the problem of the domestic price of Australian meat.
Perhaps it would have been better for the waterside workers to examine the overall situation and see what has been happening over the years. In Australia as in many other countries, there has been a general drift to the congested areas in the major cities. This plus the weather conditions in Australia and the tremendous demand by overseas countries for our meat products has meant that there simply is not enough meat to go around. It is as simple as that. The only way in which the problem will be solved is to produce more meat. If the people of Australia can recognise this fact and if they try to cease the drift from the country areas to the city areas, then perhaps the situation relating to the necessary foodstuffs of the world will start to rectify itself.
Unfortunately very good manpower is needed to produce good beef and other meats. The production of good meat cannot be learnt overnight or in a short space of time; such knowledge fakes generations to acquire from the point of view of processing and genetics. The Australian people should realise that the only way in which we can overcome this meat problem in Australia and elsewhere in the world is to produce more meat. The Opposition is supporting the Bill on the ground that it is necessary to make these payments in relation to the outer ports, but that is only a part of the total scene. 1 think I should draw the attention of the House to the second reading speech of the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) in which he made particular reference to the purpose of the Bill. Because of statements which have been made today I believe that this reference is appropriate. The Minister said:
The purpose of the Stevedoring industry Charge Bill 1973 is to amend the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act 1947-1971 to permit the charge to be imposed at rates up to $1.50 per man-hour for class A waterside workers. The amendment is necessary because the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority has found itself unable 10 meet its financial commitments with regard to class A waterside workers from the charge revenue. An increase is now needed because of changes that have occurred in wage rates and conditions of employment and because of further increases which will affect the level of payments to be made by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority in respect of long service leave and idle time.
That obviously is the main purpose of the Bill. The Minister went on to say that permission had been obtained to use part of this levy to finance the guaranteed minimum wage in non-permanent ports, to which 1 referred earlier.
The main point is that there will be a major increase in this area and the only people who will pay this increase will be those who import to and export from this country. This increased cost will fall back on the major Australian exporting industries; it will go right back to the land where most of these exports come from. The additional charges eventually will find their way back to the people who produce the goods and export them from Australia.
That is why it is so important that the total scene should be examined when considering these costs so that we do not proceed - as 1 see it, at all events - to build bigger and bigger ports. This has been done in Sydney where there is tremendous congestion. It is an area - forgive me, Mr Speaker - that grew like Topsy as the first port in Australia, where the small ships came and the development followed on the shore. There now exists a barrier between the ships, the commercial area and the areas of productivity beyond that, either in the factories or the farms, and the produce must be taken through this barrier, lt is not real life in the 1970s to proceed in this manner. We must open out.
There are examples of this situation around the world. New York was one of the biggest areas of congestion in the world but the shipping has now completely left the island on which New York stands. Manhattan Island is a graveyard; the ships have gone over to New Jersey and the cycle has started all over again. This was the only solution for such a congested area as New York, and Sydney is building to a stage where such action must be taken. 1 believe some moves have been made. 1 only wish that they had been made some time ago. But in looking at this sort of Bill, where a tremendous amount of money is involved in picking up the extra charges incurred in the handling of cargoes around Australia, we must taken note of the total situation throughout Australia. We must not continue to build these congested areas which will necessitate future Bills of this nature coming before this House.
Sitting suspended from 6.14 to 8 p.m.
– The Bill before the House increases the amount of levy that is payable to the waterside workers. This is done for 2 reasons, one of which is to allow the spread of the levy to all ports. I do not think anybody opposes this. The time has come at last when the people of Australia - particularly those who live in the cities - are prepared to pay good money to stop other people joining them in the cities. We are, and I think the Government is, in earnest about the necessity for decentralisation. This is one method of making decentralisation possible. The main part of the levy, as has been mentioned earlier today, goes to waterside workers for the payment of such things as annual leave, sick leave, public holiday pay, long service leave, idle time, pensions to retired waterside workers, transfer of workers to other ports and administrative expenses.
This legislation makes it possible for the levy to rise to $1.50. An analysts of this figure shows that the wage paid for waterside workers is approximately $3 an hour, so $3 an hour in direct payment is going to the waterside worker and a levy of $1.50 is going to him for the other purposes that I have mentioned, lt is important to realise that the $1.50 is borne ultimately by shippers - by people who ship their produce. Why is it done this way? The honourable member for Berowra (Mr Edwards) mentioned, in an excellent speech this afternoon, that it is done to make permanent employment possible. We all had great hopes that the institution of permanent employment on the waterfront would enable us to have a more contented and a more efficient waterside work force. Unfortunately, this has not happened. The honourable member for Berowra mentioned the escalation of the cost per ton of handling produce across the wharf in Syndey. lt rose from $6.42 in July 1969 to $14.42 in December 1972 - an increase of more than 30 per cent each year in handling costs across the wharf.
Why has the system worked so badly? It started off with the high hope that it would make a big difference to handling costs. An example of why it has worked so badly is brought out in the cost of idle time. In 1968 it was $824,000 but in 1971-72 it had risen to $8m. This cost is borne indirectly by the shipper and it is one of the reasons that has justified the increase of the levy. Let us examine the question of idle time. The reason for it, of course, is the change in the technology of the waterfront, with a large amount of material being handled in bulk and, with the introduction of the container system, this has meant that we have different needs for employees on the waterfront. The honourable member for Berowra mentioned the stark cost of $3,000 a year for every redundant worker on the waterfront.
Honourable members know that under the agreement arrived at last year the cost of the golden handshake, assuming that these redundant workers could be retired, would be approximately the same figure - $3,000 - but that this would be a once and for all payment. As it is now, an annual charge of $3,000 is being paid for the redundant employee on the waterfront. The reason for this can be stated briefly. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority has the right to declare an employee to be redundant in the main ports only if it gets the recommendation from either the Waterside Workers Federation or the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour. As the honourable member for Berowra quite rightly pointed out, this step is not likely to be recommended by the Waterside Workers Federation and the real guts of the problem is that the employers of waterfront labour are rather indifferent. Honourable members have heard the story that one can always tell a man who is dining out on an expense account because of the enthusiasm with which he summons the waiter. In this case the employers of waterfront labour are largely indifferent to the costs of their cargo handling. Because of the operation of the conference system the employers are able to recover the costs. So long as this applies to everybody they are largely indifferent to the increased cost because they know that it can be loaded on to the freight costs. This is really the crux of the position. One fundamental reason why there is such a large number of redundant waterside workers on the waterfront is that the Waterside Workers Federation will not apply to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority for them to be made redundant, nor will the employers of waterfront labour. This is one of the hidden costs of the conference system of which I think honourable members should be aware. I hope that honourable members opposite will recognise that the problem of what to do about our shipping policy is one of the fundamental economic problems that will face them and, indeed, will face the country. We are paying the tremendous amount of $8m a year for people who are not required on the waterfront. I quote from an article written by Mr Ramsden in the ‘Australian Financial Review’. He has been a most assiduous student of the situation and he says:
The situation is now common in the industry at all major ports of there being an overall shortage of labour on a particular day while, at the same time, through labour being locked up in permanent employment by operational companies and not transferable, an approximate equal number of watersiders are at home receiving idle time payments.
The honourable member for Berowra instanced an occasion on 9th February when there was an overall shortage of waterfront labour in Sydney of 228 men, while 175 people were at home being paid for idle time.
This is the picture of our problem. Paying people for being idle is no way to run a country. I should think that the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) will bring his mind to bear on this problem when this legislation, which provides for the way this levy is to be arrived at, is examined later in ‘he year. I have enough respect for the Minister to know that he is aware that this is an impossible situation. There cannot be a situation where $8m was paid last year and possibly $9m will be paid this year to enable people to sit at home and do nothing. This is the kind of situation on which I think the Minister for Labour will bring his undoubted negotiating ability to bear. He will have to because this is the kind of burden that no economy can carry. There are solutions. The honourable member for Berowra pointed out today that the short term solution would be to ask the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority to have the sole right to declare waterside workers redundant and not to pass the responsibility over to the Waterside Workers Federation or to the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour, for reasons that I have mentioned. Neither of these 2 groups is willing to incur the odium of recommending that people be made redundant. The Association of Employers of Waterside Labour is acutely aware that if there is an industrial stoppage on the waterfront it will have to pay the cost because it is largely the Association’s ships that will be held up. But we cannot continue to go on as we are at present, and I ask that the Minister for Labour have a long, cold look at the suggestion that has been brought up that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority have the responsibility for the declaration of redundancy.
I think I would like to see it taken a stage further so that the Authority has the right to control all the employees on the waterfront instead of their being parcelled up between the various stevedoring organisations as at present. All we can say for certain is that we cannot continue in this way. It is absolutely foolish to expect any economy to carry this kind of increasing burden. Let me give an idea of the size of the burden. It costs a shipper $157.50 for a 35-hour week for every man employed on the waterfront. Ali of this does not go directly to the employees but it goes to them indirectly in the form of sick leave, redundancy payments, the golden handshake and so on. This is the problem that I want the
Minister for Labour to face. I know that he has enough realism beneath his benign exterior to realise that for Australia’s sake, not for the sake of any particular sector of it, this problem is the bullet we have to bite on. I understand that he himself is doing some examination of the waterfront position. 1 would very strongly suggest to him 2 things. The first is that he give the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority the responsibility to declare workers redundant. Then we would be much more likely to get them declared redundant. They would then get the golden handshake of $3,000. No one could say that they were being victimised. Secondly, 1 hope he will have another long look at whether the Stevedoring Industry Authority should have a greater control of all the people working on the waterfront. Lastly 1 suggest that he must face a crunch point for Australia in future, that is. what should be our policy on the conference system, because there is no doubt that as it operates at the moment the conference system encourages the operation of a cost plus system. No economy can carry that kind of burden.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Morrison) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 12 April (vide page 1459), on motion by Mr Les Johnson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– As already indicated by previous speakers, the Opposition is not opposing this Bill. The reason is, of course, that relative to the housing operation in Australia the amount provided for in this Bill is only a marginal sum. The Bill provides for about $6. 5m to supplement and carry out the program which has been agreed on with the States. But what it invites above all, of course, is examination of the position we are getting into over the vastly inflated volume of housing which Australia now has under construction. For instance, at constant prices seasonally adjusted to eliminate as far as possible the effects of seasons, investment in private dwellings is now running at 11 per cent over that of the December quarter.
I refer also to our building approvals. Everybody realises that building approvals are not in themselves a precise measure. In practice many prove abortive, but they are the best indication of trends at any one moment. They are bunched, they come unevenly, but even so from any viewpoint what they indicate is that the pressure on the housing and dwelling building industry in Australia is leaping up to highly excessive levels. Building approvals in March rose by 12.1 per cent above the previous record level of January. In the 3 months up to and including February the seasonally adjusted rate of construction was 169,000 per year. In February approvals were running at about 16 per cent above the level of approvals for the same period last year.
All this is matched, of course, inevitably in the rise in prices which is taking place in land and in dwellings themselves. This is also being accompanied at present by a very steep rise in the cost of materials used in house building, which rose in February alone by 0 9 per cent. The steepest rises in building materials were: Miscellaneous materials, 1.7 per cent; cement products, 1.4 per cent; timber board and joinery, 1.2 per cent; and concrete mix and sand, 1.1 per cent, all in a very short period and all indicating a very disturbing trend. For instance, in the course of the year ending in February the increase in the price of timber, a very important input in housing, was 10.2 per cent. The other 2 basic construction materials were steel products and cement products, which increased in a year by 7 per cent and 5 per cent respectively. The increase for all groups in the year ending February was 6.7 per cent. It is the trend and the development which are fundamentally so serious, because in this context the Bill, as I said, adds only a very marginal amount to the pressure, but it still adds to the pressure, and for this reason it has to be considered a very small part of a total problem. 1 realise that the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) is not responsible. He has some responsibilities in this field, but he is not responsible for the overall economic management of the country. That is the province of the Treasurer (Mr Crean), and if the Treasurer does not very shortly set about curbing some of the inflationary activities he will have a worse and worse inflationary situation on his hands. It is no use, for instance, setting up prices tribunals and doing a vast amount of window dressing, which he and other Ministers are doing, when in fact the basic causes of these movements are left unattended to. With a pressure like this on the building industry - on land, houses and everything to do with building - inflation becomes worse and worse. The Minister for Housing and other Ministers understandably are pursuing their own policies. They are ill organised.
There is no real cohesion and leadership in the Government to act against inflation, and so these individual sectors which progressively add up and make the situation worse are left unattended. Housing is the key to the whole economy because it sparks off directly so “much demand in the economy. It keeps so many industries going in the economy that its effects are very far reaching. If the Goverment does nothing at a’l to restrain the development of the building sector the inflationary problem will become worse and worse. Honourable members opposite can talk about manufacturers increasing prices, higher wages or anything else, but unless Government expenditure, which has become altogether too extravagant in various directions, is severely controlled the country will get into a worse and worse mess.
There are some features of the Bill which I would like to mention and to commend on the whole. One of the obvious shortages in the housing field in Australia is housing for rental. We have probably reached the stage where home ownership has been relatively overdone. We now have an increasingly mobile population which needs to shift from place to place and not to undertake long term commitments like buying a house. These people need a rent houses and to be able to move quickly from one place to another and from one job to another. This is a requirement which is most acutely felt amongst the lower income groups. I do not believe that the housing commissions run by the States, which differ very much between themselves, have given proper recognition to the basic problem. That is more rental accommodation, particularly housing, for the lower income group. Unfortunately, housing for rental has declined for a number of reasons, one of which is the construction activities of State housing commissions. These vary from State to State.
In New South Wales, for instance, the perpetuation of close rent control for so long after the war years largely destroyed investment in housing for letting. The old fashioned idea was for people to build a house to live in and another one to let to bring them in a separate income. The oppressive operation of rent controls has for a long time transferred property rights in housing from the owner who financed it to the tenant. This is a very difficult situation to remedy. Only recently investment in housing for letting has begun to recover. Apart from that, the housing commissions are essentially organisations geared for the construction of houses. New South Wales and Victoria have efficient housing commissions but they are geared to construction for producing good value for money. They do an extremely efficient and good job, but they are not concerned so much with the other features.
The housing commissions are so wrapped up in construction that this is what they want to do above all. It is their policy. The advice which the commissioners give to their Ministers is to obtain as much money from the Commonwealth as possible and then to sell as many homes as they can so that they get the money back and fill up their coffers. Then they can turn over their investment and build still more houses and sell them. They are overdoing it. Money for housing which is provided by the Government should be for social purposes. It should be used to improve the lot of the lower income people who cannot afford housing. This diversion of housing commission resources into building for sale has absorbed altogether too much of their total resources. Every house which the housing commissions build and merely rent freezes their funds for a long time and they do not get the joy and privilege of building still more houses and building up their functions. This advice is continually poured into the ears of the housing ministers, many of whom are unsuspecting and new to the job.
I believe that public moneys for housing have been in some degrees misapplied. For instance, many houses sold by the State housing commissions have worked out as nice little capital gains for their purchasers. There is a great contrast between the automobiles and the other exhibits of wealth which surround many housing commission homes and the incomes of those within them. In this field I believe that the Minister is right in tilting the housing commission operations much more towards the provision of rental accommodation, which is what Australia badly needs overall.
– I would like to get the honourable member down to Victoria.
– If one looks at the cement factories in Victoria and at their technical studies and so forth one sees good construction, but on the whole housing commissions are not geared for social type thoughts in regard to housing. They are construction authorities and they behave like anyone else. If anyone else is building houses he likes to build them cheaply and efficiently, to sell them and to build other houses. That is the way it goes on. I am pleased to see that with this new policy there will be a greater diversion towards constructing rental accommodation. In the past varying means tests have been applied to housing problems. Houses have been sold or let to a great number of people who could well afford to finance themselves on the private outside system. Over the years these people have virtually been subsidised by the taxpayer. It is quite timely that this system should be changed.
Of course, the Minister for Housing is not the only one operating in the field of housing. The Minister who ultimately generates the demand for housing and who maintains the long term underlying demand is the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby). He is cutting away the immigration program. 1 suggest to the Minister for Housing that he should be in very close consultation with the Minister for Immigration. I know that the Minister for Immigration is highly preoccupied with hi.-‘ thought that fine feathers make fine birds, but he should endeavour to work in very closely with housing operations over the whole continent and see that he does co-operate and bring bis programs carefully in line with future housing programs. I know that this does not necessarily fall within the responsibility of the Minister for Housing at present, but he and the Treasurer should be highly responsible. They should have a very considerable voice in other programs as well as their own.
Mr Speaker, let me refer to another matter which should interest you - the housing activities of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant). He is also the author and sponsor of some remarkable housing schemes, including some in your own electorate, of which you wm be a very effective judge in a practical way as events unfold because you will live very closely with them. I hope they bring you joy. Of course, different views are taken of the activities of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Some people think that he has become a little expanded by an over-intake of witchetty grubs over a period and that at times his judgment may stray a little. However, the fullness of time will find the answer. Clearly there ought to be a great deal more consultation and co-ordination between the Minister for Housing and the Treasurer than there is now. Although the Minister for Housing represents only a small part of the house building program in Australia the control and influence of the direction of the program by the Government is a very important part. I hope the day will come when this Government settles down and its Ministers act in unison as a well disciplined force, work together and cease to be a lot of loose parts travelling in various directions at high speed, each armed with his own blank cheque book.
The Minister for Housing is faced with some difficulties of which 1 have some previous knowledge. I hope that he will at least give careful thought to the overall effect of building costs on Australia’s economy because not only will they affect the whole inflationary situation but potentially in due course they could bring down the Government if it neglects inflation for too long. I hope the Minister will be prepared to play his part in this field and will think in terms of the building industry itself. The pressure has to be eased. Someone has to take the unpopular role of reducing the pressure on the building industry. Until that is done all the other proposals for price controls and price tribunals and all the other eyewash in which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and others engage will be in vain unless steady attention is paid to the practical housekeeping needs of the nation. Proper discipline must be exercised in every department. Unless this kind of discipline is restored and Ministers act in unison as a team the inflationary situation will worsen, whatever measures are taken. This measure, which puts pressure on the building industry, will increase costs far and wide. It will over-inflate the various suppliers to houses and they inevitably, sooner or later, will have to take a set back when a housing downturn occurs. The present rate of expansion, which is quite unsustainable, will build up pressures more and more. I hope the Minister for Housing will play his part to make sure that this industry - as important as it is - will keep on a very even keel.
– What about the Tariff Board inquiry into building materials?
– The honourable member mentions the Tariff Board inquiry into building materials. What has emerged from that inquiry? What has happened? Has the honourable member seen any rates of duty or prices come down? I have quoted a few that have gone up and the pace of increases is accelerating.
– There is the inquiry.
– Yes, but it is no good saying a report will be issued some day by the Tariff Board, believing it will have a practical effect here and now. That is only living in a dream world. We must get out of this dream world and come down to the market place if we want to come to grips with this serious problem and lay sensible, solid foundations to cope with it in the future. I know the Minister is interested in the next matter to which I will refer - the standardisation of building - as he mentioned it in answer to a question in this House. For some absurd reason the plumbing fixtures throughout Australia differ in size. For instance, I know that the minimum size of a toilet in Canberra, for no reason apparent to most of the world, differs very markedly from the maximum size of a toilet in Melbourne and throughout the country.
– The change to the metric system will be the opportunity.
– Yes, I believe it would be an excellent opportunity to remedy this situation. I hope the Minister for Housing will be given responsibility for this, instead of it resting with the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh) who is interested in quite a different type of plumbing altogether. I hope that the Minister for Housing will be given more power to co-ordinate building requirements throughout the Commonwealth insofar as it is sensible from a practical point of view. I suggest that that is one of the most useful channels in which he can direct his obvious considerable energies.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I have much pleasure in supporting the Housing Assistance Bill. It may be of interest to recall the changes that have taken place over the past couple of decades in the type of home being built, the manner of its construction and the availability of finance to the home owners. Some of the changes have been quite dramatic and may indicate the nature of future changes in these fields. The physical changes include the growth of the flat and the unit as alternative modes of living, and the rapid growth of cities, leading to a big rise in land prices, as we have seen throughout the country. Financial changes include the development of both commercial savings banks and permanent building societies as major suppliers of housing funds. There has been the advent of mortgage insurance which has virtually eliminated the risk of any loss of the lender today.
At the end of the 1939-45 war there was a severe shortage of housing. When production sluggishly resumed, the typical home produced was, by modern standards, rather small and spartan - open fireplaces, few hot water services and very little in the way of built-in cupboards and other fixtures. Finance at this time was a problem for young home seekers and the second mortgage was a common feature of the day. Flat construction was a rarity and the unit, the individually owned apartment, was hardly known. Housing sizes have risen since then for some years. It is very interesting to read some material supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician. He has been collecting statistics for only a short period, but these reveal that from the June quarter of 1970 to the March quarter of 1972 the average size of houses completed in Australia rose from 12.9 squares to 13.5 squares. There was a strong movement towards brick and mortar amd brick veneer dwellings. This, to a large extent, was due to less building maintenance in the way of painting, better resale price and better appearance. Also fire risk was not so great and the cost of insurance was found to be much lower. If we compare the figures for the construction of homes for the period from 1947 to 1971 it is very interesting to note that the brick mortar and brick veneer homes in 1947 represented 34.6 per cent of homes built. In 1971 it had increased to 45.7 per cent. On the other hand stone and concrete homes had dropped from 6.2 per cent in 1947 to 5 per cent in 1971. The number of timber and fibro homes had dropped from 53.6 per cent in 1947 to 47.1 per cent in 1971. Houses constructed of other materials had dropped from 5.6 per cent in 1947 to 2.2 per cent in 1971. We can see that brick and brick veneer is becoming the more popular type of building.
This increase in the proportion of brick dwellings is even more striking if recent annual construction rates are compared. In the 1971-72 period 47 per cent of all homes completed had bricks for their outer walls, 28 per cent were timbered and 24 per cent were of asbestos cement exteriors. By 1972 houses with brick outer walls accounted for 78 per cent of all houses completed. Brick and brick veneer today has become the most popular type of home. The annual production of houses and flats doubled between 1955-56 and 1970-71, a period during which the population increased by 40.9 per cent. In 1955-56, 72,260 houses and flats were commenced as compared with 146,368 commenced in 1971- 72. However it is interesting to note that government housing commencements, that is housing commission homes, amounted to a little over 15,000 in 1971-72 as against a peak of 19,000 in 1964-65. In New South Wales government housing commencements fell in 1971-72 by 31 per cent to their lowest level since 1959-60.
Approximately 6 months ago the Housing Commission of New South Wales advised the New South Wales Government that suitable land at suitable and reasonable prices was becoming difficult to acquire and that the whole success of the housing commission home was that it was reasonably priced for both sale and renting purposes. The demand for housing commission homes in all States, according to the statistics, is now about 90,000 in excess of production. New South Wales alone at the present time is 40,000 homes short. Each month in New South Wales - it is assumed the same would apply to other States - the margin between demand and production is becoming wider. In New South Wales the inner metropolitan area and the coastal area 30 miles north and south of Sydney have long since been completely built out. Also, development both south and west of Sydney is to the very foothills of the mountains and in the face of ever-pressing demands the limited supply of serviced land continues to force the price of homes upwards.
The Government’s objective is that every Australian family should be able to obtain land and housing at reasonable prices and that local government should have the finan cial resources to provide the necessary amenities. This can be made possible only if local government has access to the nation’s finance. Local government plays a very important part in housing commission ventures and also the construction of war service homes. We on the Government side say that if urban and regional development is to be a success, and if housing is to be a success, local government must have the necessary finance to perform its proper functions and to provide modern and efficient services for residents of any new housing development at the time that that development is taking place.
The core of the problem in the past has been the downgrading of local and semigovernment authorities by both Federal and State governments. Because of the lack of adequate access to the nation’s financial resources local and semi-government authorities in the past have been unable to provide the services and the amenities for which they are responsible to make these housing ventures a success. The Housing Commission which came into operation in New South Wales after the Second World War filled a need at that time and has been doing so ever since, lt is meeting a requirement that could not have been met by normal builders and contractors. People were desperate for homes but did not have the resources to build for themselves, nor the large deposits for purchase required by the private builder. I remember the ‘Julian Doyle Poverty Report’ of 1969 in which the author stated:
Apart from income deficiencies the most important element contributing to poverty was the cost of housing. Many people are in poverty because of the exorbitant cost of their housing. This applies particularly to large families, deserted wives or the aged. Many people whose income otherwise would have been adequate are dragged below the poverty line because of their housing costs.
A report of a Government survey published in ‘The Age’ of 23rd February 1971 indicated that a large number of pensioners were paying exorbitant rents to live in hovels.
The Housing Commission, or the State housing authorities in other States, therefore are the answer to this problem. It is most disturbing to know that the country today is racing towards a stage at which we will be 100,000 below the number of homes required. It is only by strong action by this Government, through the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson), that this situation will be rectified, and then only by full co-operation on the part of State Ministers for Housing.
The Minister for Housing, at a luncheon address to the Association of Co-operative Building Societies of New South Wales, said:
Any developed nation which has 93,000 applicants for Housing Commission or public housing is facing a crisis.
As a mayor of one of the largest municipalities in the western metropolitan area of Sydney for many years, I lived through the early ventures of the Housing Commission of New South Wales. In Seven Hills and Lalor Park, approximately 30 miles from Sydney, and parts of the municipality of Blacktown, the Housing Commission, as part of its first venture, built 3,266 homes and housed 13,000 people. Later it created the large satellite town of Mount Druitt, still within the municipality of Blacktown, where it built 7,200 homes and housed 30,000 people. The type of home built by the Housing Commission in these 2 ventures could not be bettered for design, appearance and durability.
But large projects such as the Mount Druitt housing venture in New South Wales where 47,000 people have now settled are a serious embarrassment to local government councils in whose area they are constructed. The councils have neither the financial resources nor the staff to make the projects a success. I refer to the provision of urgent amenities which are necessary as part of the project when the houses are occupied. Many more projects such as Mount Druitt will have to be built in New South Wales to pick up the leeway of homes which exists at the present time. Consideration should be given to widening the powers of the Housing Commission so that it can work in closer co-operation with the Department of Urban and Regional Development. Furthermore, an examination should be made of the financial resources of councils to ascertain the amount that they can afford and the amount that is necessary by way of loans to enable them to provide amenities such as recreation areas, baby health centres, swimming pools, access roads, footpaths and bus shelters at the same time that the Housing Commission is building homes. The provision of homes must go along with the provision of such amenities.
In New South Wales consideration should be given to widening the powers of the Housing Commission to enable it to build footpaths, in particular and, if necessary, to build houses with garages and to provide park and recreation areas. It would be easy to construct these things at the same time as the whole project is being built. A private developer today has to provide footpaths but the Housing Commission, under its powers, is not obliged to meet this requirement. The result is that children have to walk to school on the roads and parents have to walk to the shops on the roads until such times as the local council can accumulate funds to provide footpaths. In Mount Druitt where 47,000 people were housed it was 6 years after completion of the housing project before the Council was able to provide a footpath, a community centre and a baby health centre. It was only after long and protracted requests for loans or grants from the State Government that the local council could build these footpaths. Consideration should be given to giving the Housing Commissions the power to build houses with garages. We seem to have overlooked the fact that the New South Wales Housing Commission today, although building a very nice type of home, is not in any instance building garages. Families today have one, 2 or 3 cars. It is the provision of these little amenities or the failure to provide them which makes the Housing Commission a success or a failure.
We must remember that 95 per cent of the people who make application for Housing Commission homes come from the inner metropolitan areas where every amenity is outside the front door. There are telephones, bus shelters, corner shops, hotels and shopping centres. However, in these big projects which are undertaken by the Housing Commission, no amenity is provided by the Commission apart from the houses if builds. At Mount Druitt there were 7,200 Housing Commission homes built but it was not until 6 years later that an amenity of any kind was provided for this area. In these new areas today we must provide baby health centres, pre-school education facilities, kindergarten centres, parks and recreation areas at the same time as the project is being undertaken. Therefore, consideration should be given to achieving cooperation between the Housing Commission, the Department of Urban and Regional Development and local councils in order to make housing projects a success. Might I say in conclusion that it has been the neglect and apathy of governments and not the actions of private citizens that have made the price of land and houses the social and economic problem it is today. I am quite sure that this
Government, with the help and co-operation of the States, can rapidly solve this problem.
– This Bill, as other honourable members who have spoken have mentioned, provides $6.5m as an emergency grant to the States for the provision of housing for low income or needy families. There is no doubt that the general principle of the Bill has the support of the House and, in particular, of the Australian Country Party, to which I belong. However, there is a certain number of factors which do cause concern to the Country Party - and I will be dealing with these later on - with respect to the allocation of finance or the lack of definition of the allocation of finance in this Bill. The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Ashley-Brown) talked about housing being in such a poor state in Australia and said that this was due to the neglect and apathy of governments. Certainly this charge could not be sheeted home to the previous Federal governments of this country because under previous LiberalCountry Party administrations Australia has achieved one of the highest home ownership percentages in the world. Over 70 per cent of Australians either own their own homes or are on the way to owning them. This is on sheer statistics one of the highest rates in the world.
The money provided under this Bill is designed to provide more rental accommodation for low income families and, as I have said, this is a principle with which there would be general agreement on all sides of the House. The honourable member for Mitchell mentioned New South Wales quite frequently, implying criticism of the New South Wales Government and the New South Wales Housing Commission. While some of the statistics he gave may be correct, as I understand the position it was the Premier of New South Wales who initiated the request for a special allocation of finance after the Labor Government was elected in December. Therefore, some of the credit must go to the Premier of New South Wales for his initiative in requesting extra finance for housing. Mention was made of lack of construction. If there is a drop in the construction of housing, one of the major reasons applicable to all States is the rising cost of construction. Even though there is more money being made available all the time it is being found more difficult to keep up with the demand for rental housing in Australia.
I pay a special tribute to the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury) for his contribution to the debate on this Bill. I do not intend to reiterate all that he said but he pointed out to the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson), who is at the table, and the Labor Government that the housing industry is a key factor in the economy, that many industries throughout Australia are dependent on it and that any Bill providing more money for housing, such as this Bill, should not be viewed in isolation but as part of a total problem. It is a total problem in terms of the whole economy of this country and I will mention the various factors a little later. However, it might be time, as the honourable member for Wentworth as a former Treasurer said, to issue a warning to the present Treasurer (Mr Crean) of the dangers of too much finance being devoted to the housing field. This Bill provides a special grant for the provision of rental housing to low income or needy families. I must admit that there are two or three features of the Bill that seem to militate against its objective and one of these features is the timing of this legislation. The Minister for Housing in his second reading speech concluded by saying:
I also ask the House to co-operate in facilitating the early passage of the Bill so that the advances it authorises could be paid to the States to enable them to press ahead as quickly as possible.
He said those words on 14 March, nearly 2 months ago. This shows how the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) and the Labor Government are co-operating with Ministers and how they are taking an interest in the needs of the people and in the housing needs of the States. The Minister wanted to be sure that this Bill when it was introduced into the House nearly 2 months ago received a speedy passage. Clause 6 of the Bill provides that the money must be committed before 1 July 1973. Today is 1 May which leaves 8 weeks for the $6. 5m to be committed by the various State governments. The loan involves $1.5m for my own State of Victoria, $3.5m for New South Wales, and the balance is to go to the other States. There are only 8 weeks left and certainly this must give cause for concern to the State governments which are trying to organise their building programs. You cannot pick up out of the blue builders, contractors and so on within a few weeks and commit the loan money provided by this Bill which, of course, has yet to go through the Senate. Goodness knows when that might be.
All honourable members who have an Interest in housing know that this legislation has been on the notice paper for some weeks, but for various reasons unknown to be and to other honourable members on the Opposition side of the House there has been a seeming reluctance to bing on this legislation. The Labor Government has promised an amount of $6.5m but perhaps it does not want to see the money spent. However, as I said, no one could disagree with the principle of the loan. Let us hope that the money will be used as soon as possible by the State governments. I repeat that there are only about 7 weeks left for the State governments to commit this money.
– There will be less than that if you keep talking.
– In the previous Administration there was no one on the Opposition side who caused more delay in this House or who was less co-operative with the then Leader of the House than the honourable member for Hughes, who is now the Minister for Housing. Perhaps the reason why the Minister’s Bills are taking such a long time to get through is that the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) is repaying the honourable member for his previous obstructive methods. I turn now to a matter which is of particular Interest to the Australian Country Party. I refer to the construction of houses in country areas. Naturally previous speakers in this debate have, broadly speaking, confined their remarks to housing problems that exist in and around the great capital cities of Australia. We in the Country Party want to see progress in the development and modernisation of better housing in the great capita] cities of Australia, but we have a responsibility and a duty to ensure that the needs of the rural areas of this country are not overlooked. It is most heartening to know that the Victorian State Government announced on 6th February that it would accept the $1.5m emergency grant. That was about 3 months ago. On that day the Premier of Victoria wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) accepting the offer. Today - 3 months later - Victoria has not received one cent of that money. The Bill is still in this House.
The Premier of Victoria said that it was proposed to spend the money on building 50 houses in the country areas of Victoria. Whilst this is only a fraction of what is needed in rural areas generally in order to decentralise our population and industry, at least it is a move in the right direction. It is disturbing to hear other announcements made by other Ministers, one of whom has just walked into the House. I refer to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) who is spending money as though he had suddenly inherited the Rockefeller fortune. The Minister is proposing to spend $500m at Bathurst and $200m at Sale. He is thinking about spending another $500m in the Melbourne western suburbs area represented by the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns). The Minister proposes to spend a couple of hundred million dollars on Albury-Wodonga. There is to be a new town and airport at Townsville. We are really seeing the original Rockefeller. It may be thought that the Minister suddenly inherited the golden touch.
– I invite the honourable member to return to the provisions of the Bill before the House.
– My remarks have application to this Bill because it allocates money and cannot be divorced from the total budgetary scene. There are other clouds on the horizon in regard to the general housing situation and the lack of adherence to the promises that were made by the Prime Minister in his policy speech in relation to home building and the purchase of homes generally. The Prime Minister made a solemn promise that interest paid on mortgages would be allowed as a tax deduction in this financial year. The proposal was one of the Labor Party’s major election promises.
– What happened to it?
– My friend and colleague in the Country Party, the honourable member for Canning, asks what happened to it. The position is that it is reported in the Press that the Government is believed to have postponed it on the advice of the Federal Treasury. This must be of great concern to people who are interested in housing. It is another of the promises that the Labor Party made to the people of Australia in the course of its persuasive efforts, but it looks like being unfulfilled. Another problem to be faced in the long term is the successful negotiation of the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement for a 5-year term. As I said, this Bill provides an emergency grant of the sum of $6.5m. It will be interesting to hear what the Minister for Housing has to say about whether the State governments will be able to spend this amount of money in the 8 weeks that are left before the prescribed period expires at 1 July. I point out that this expenditure must be in excess of any expenditure committed by State governments in their normal programs. From my reading of the Bill the expenditure must be over and above their normal budgetary expenditure.
I turn to a few other problems. I was talking about the long term effects of the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement which is mentioned in the second reading speech. We note that several Ministers in the State governments, including the Minister of Housing in Victoria, the Minister for Housing in Queensland and some Labor Ministers in South Australia and in Western Australia are most unhappy about the emphasis that the Federal Minister for Housing, speaking on behalf of the Labor Government, is placing on the fact that the money to be made available under the 5-year Housing Agreement must be spent to a large degree on the construction of rental housing.
– That is what the honourable member for Wentworth was advocating a while ago. Did you hear him say that?
– What the honourable member for Wentworth said has nothing to do with what you as the Minister responsible for housing matters are saying. You are putting to the States - and they rightly disagree with it - that the maximum amount of money ought to be used for rental housing. It seems to me that I have read that somewhere in a political ideology which is dominant in some countries which operate under a system under which Australians would not like to live. If the Minister can prove that that is not true, I will apologise. But I think it is true that the principle of the socialist government is to provide flat and rental accommodation at the expense of people owning their own homes. This leads to the ultimate situation where people can be moved quickly from area to area into rental accommodation. Of course, it mitigates against what was called, I believe by a former Labor Prime Minister of great distinction, the ‘little capitalist”.
– What was that Prime Minister’s name?
– It might have been Mr Dedman, now that I come to think of it. But it was a Labor Minister who said it. It might not have been a Labor Prime Minister. How ever, under 23 years of Liberal-Country Party Government the Australian community - not because of the previous Government alone, but the previous Government did make a contribution - Australia has one of the highest home ownership percentages per head of population in the world. That is a statistical fact. As I have said, this is not necessarily solely to the credit of the previous Government. It has resulted from the combined effort of many organisations including the banks, the housing organisations, the co-operative societies, the permanent building societies and many other great institutions throughout Australia, I conclude by reiterating the interest and concern of the Australian Country Party in ensuring that a fair share of any money made available for housing should be allocated to the rural areas of Australia.
– Is not that up to the States?
– The Minister is telling the States what they are to do with their housing money. Yet he asks: ‘Is not that up to the States?’
– Do you want me to tell them?
– The Minister would do a good job if he told the States to spend the money in the country areas of Australia. I conclude on a very serious and responsible note by saying that we in the Australian Country Party believe that the centralisation of population in Australia is a very bad thing.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I support the Bill and I congratulate the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) upon the real interest he has shown and the swift action he has taken to tackle the housing problem in Australia. The main approach of the Government towards the need for low rental homes is commendable and is in direct contrast, I suggest, to the attitude of the conservative governments of the past. The desire of the present Minister to take positive action to assist those persons in the community who have been victims of the past Government’s lack of concern is recognised. I say this with knowledge of my own electorate and of the community generally. ~ The present Labor Government assumed office at a time when a crisis existed in the housing field. Despite the poppycock and the rubbish that we have listened to this evening every person who has any interest in the housing of Australians knows that this is a fact. Under the previous Government a housing crisis had developed to the stage where in all States there existed long lists of outstanding applications for homes for purchase or rental from State housing commissions. In such circumstances it is difficult to understand the attitude of some of these authorities towards the Federal Government’s proposals, lt is difficult also to understand the comments attributed to representatives of certain of the State governments in a country which boasts of progress and prosperity, where massive profits are the objective of the avaricious and where these objectives are achieved by many.
I suggest that there should be no real poverty. I am extremely pleased that 1 belong to a government that has taken action to overcome the problems of many people in this country. This Government is tackling the dreadful problem of poverty through progressive measures, some of which it has taken already and others which it will take in the future. By providing finance to the States for the purpose of making available low rental accommodation this Government is endeavouring to relieve the plight of those in need. If we are to be condemned for this type of humane approach 1 believe every member of this side of the House would be prepared proudly to accept that sort of condemnation. 1 realise thai misfortunes may befall families or individuals and that circumstances arise as a result of those misfortunes which have a detrimental effect on the standard of living of those concerned. Of course people on a decent income have an opportunity to overcome their problems. But there are people in the community who are on low incomes and who are paying high rentals. They have no chance whatever of overcoming any setback. In fact, they have many problems, I suggest, in making ends meet from day to day. High home rental is an imposition from which there is no escape for them. Therefore, responsible government must come to their aid.
I have personal knowledge of many instances in my own electorate where rentals being charged by certain landlords have resulted in the standard of living of many families being drastically reduced. Large numbers of people throughout this nation are on low incomes and pay high rents. Because of their circumstances they will never be in a position to save the required deposit for a home. I repeat that the Minister is to be commended for the action he has taken to ensure that these people have a roof over their heads. I suggest that in my home State of Queensland a very high percentage of people fall into this category. 1 base this opinion on the knowledge 1 have of the impact which 2 factors of State government responsibility have in respect of this matter. The first is the cruel action of the Country Party led government in Queensland in removing rent controls after it assumed office in 1957. The second, and this is of extreme importance, I suggest is the fact that Queensland is a low wage State. Because of these factors the Government of Queensland must take a share of the responsibility for the torment, anxiety and feeling of depression which the classification of needy brings to people whose already low income is reduced because of high rental charges. I state this because before the defeat of the Australian Labor Party Government in Queensland in 1957 rents were controlled and the rights of tenants were safeguarded.
One of the early actions of the Queensland Country-Liberal Party Government after assuming office was to remove rent control and the safeguard which the previous Government had made for tenants. Since these safeguards were abolished certain people in the community have fleeced tenants. Those who were and are still being fleeced have no redress, lt is a case of pay up or get out. This is the situation in Queensland. I have mentioned, of course, that Queensland is a low wage State. We hear a lot of comment from the leaders of the Queensland Government about the activities of the Federal Government, lt appears to me that much of this comment is made to throw a smokescreen around the real problems which exist in Queensland.
Let us examine the wage structure in the sunny State of Queensland under Country led governments since 1957. The last available figures relating to the percentages of the workforce which receive various levels of wages and salary were published by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics in May 1971. The level of workers at the time receiving less than $50 a week was 1 per cent in New South Wales, 0.9 per cent in Victoria and 3.1 per cent in Queensland. So that, on a percentage basis, for every worker in New South Wales who was receiving about $50 or less a week there were 3 people in that unfortunate position in Queensland. For the same period, 8.3 per cent of the work force in New South Wales received less than $60 a week. In Victoria the figure was 9.1 per cent and in Queensland it was 17 per cent, or about double the percentage of the work force of the other eastern States. Those receiving less than $70 a week represented nearly 21 per cent of the work force in New South Wales, 22.5 per cent in Victoria and over 34 per cent in Queensland. When leaders of the Government in Queensland talk about what is occurring in other areas, they could well have a look at the low wage structure that has been permitted to develop in that State.
People might have been misled because of the advertising prior to the 1972 Federal election. Advertisements appeared in Queensland newspapers stating that Australia was looking for inspiring leadership and suggesting that Queensland had such leadership with its Country Party Premier. I know that that statement upset many Liberals in Queensland and in the rest of Australia; a lot of people were upset by it. I would suggest that while the leadership of the Queensland Premier might be acceptable to the less than 20 per cent of the vote that the Country Party receives in Queensland, from the viewpoint of the workers in that State, they have been led into a situation where they are receiving the lowest wages in Australia, when comparisons are made with the workers of the other States. I mention this fact because it is clear that with low wages and no control over rents, many Queensland families are placed in an extremely invidious position. The plight of these people apparently is not understood by the Queensland Government and, after listening to some of the debate here this evening, it apparently is not understood by some honourable members opposite. If the plight of these people is understood, the expressed attitude of members of the Opposition is not only difficult to understand but also leaves one to wonder just what they think about people who really are in need.
T have referred to a great degree to the State in which I live because, after all, I have a fair knowledge of what has occurred there. When the suggestion of Commonwealth assistance to the States for low rental homes was being discussed, the Queensland Minister for
Housing was reported in the Press as saying that he was disappointed with the outcome of the Housing Ministers’ conference. It was reported that he claimed that hundreds of Queenslanders will miss out on buying low interest housing commission homes under the new Commonwealth-State housing agreement. One would imagine from these statements that availability of housing commission homes in Queensland is high. One could be forgiven, I suggest, for believing that had this new agreement not been entered into, hundreds of Queenslanders would have been provided with homes for purchase and that Queenslanders who wished to rent a home would have their requirements fulfilled. However, when the position in Queensland is investigated it is quickly discovered that not merely hundreds but thousands of Queenslanders have made applications without success for homes to rent and this has been going on over many years.
It is estimated that outstanding applications for homes to rent from the Queensland Housing Commission rose from 4,900 for the year ended 1971 to 5,504 for the year ended 1972. This represents an increase of 604 outstanding applications or an increase of over 12 per cent. Apart from New South Wales, where there was an increase in outstanding applications for homes for rental, Queensland was the only State where outstanding applications increased and in that State the increase was alarming. Looking at the housing problem of Australia - and I listened this evening while one honourable member opposite spoke about the great job that the previous Government had done in regard to housing - at the end of June 1972 there were with the State housing authorities over 93,000 outstanding applications for homes. What a marvellous record for a government that claims that it did such a good job in providing homes for Australian people! Two-thirds of those applications were for homes for rental.
I am at a loss to understand the great fuss that certain State governments have made about accepting the Federal Government’s offers to provide assistance. I would have thought that the Queensland Minister for Housing, for instance, would have welcomed an opportunity to provide homes at low rental to some of the 5,500 applicants who have been unable to acquire a home to rent in Queensland. If the Minister is not aware of trends in Queensland, I suggest that he consults the
Housing Quarterly’ and June 1972, which reported, among other things:
Rental houses continued in short supply throughout the State in the June quarter; demand for rental flats increased . . . lt went on:
The Queensland Housing Commission continued to receive a strong Row of applications for rental accommodation.
Turning to the position in New South Wales, according to the information contained in the Housing Quarterly’ rental accommodation continued in strong demand in Sydney. There was a slight fall in demand in Victoria, partly due to high rents being charged. There was a short supply of medium priced rental accommodation in Tasmania, and in Western Australia and South Australia there was a slight improvement in availability of this type of accommodation.
It is evident that there is an urgent need to tackle the problem of lack of rental accommodation in Australia, lt is abundantly clear that in Australia we have a housing problem. In some States the position is alarming. In New South Wales it has been reported that the inability of the State Housing Commission to compete with private developers for housing blocks has led to a crisis point situation developing. For the year ended 30th June 1972, approvals for the construction of new government houses and flats was down 28 per cent on the figures for the previous year. Yet honourable members opposite talk about the great record in housing of the previous Government and how the Labor Government which has been in office only a few months has been tardy in doing something in this field. The Chairman of the New South Wales Housing Commission is reported as having publicly declared that the Commission was in a hopeless position and that if a solution was not found it eventually would go out of business. That statement must reflect on the capability of the New South Wales Government to manage its housing affairs. As a matter of fact, the New South Wales Government has come under attack because of its incompetence in handling the important responsibility of housing. In an unprecedented move made late in July 1972, the New South Wales Liberal Cabinet gagged the New South Wales Minister for Housing because he had the temerity to express concern about the plight of low income earners who were seeking housing accommodation. In Victoria, there is a definite lack of accommodation for people on low incomes. However, there has been reported opposition to the Federal Government’s humane endeavour to assist these needy people. The Federal Labor Government is prepared to grapple with the housing problem which exists in this nation.
In the second reading speech of the Minister for Housing he dealt with the terms of the Bill. In the limited time I have available, I will not go into detail, but 1 should like to refer to a statement made by the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten). He referred to this humane attitude of the Federal Labor Government and its actions in endeavouring to provide low rental homes for needy people as being an example of some political ideology, suggesting that the socialist attitude was one which demanded that a Labor government should do something about this problem. That is not a bad attitude. I think it is a wonderful tiling to be humane and to care about one’s fellow men. Not only in Australia, of course, but also in Britain - I do not think the Government of Britain is a socialist government at the present time - action has been taken to assist people in need. To overcome the housing shortage aggravated by 2 world wars, Britain subsidised new buildings and introduced controlled rents to prevent exploitation of the shortage. Instead of subsidising buildings Britain decided to subsidise the tenants. That is exactly, I suppose, what we are trying to do here. This is the type of action that the Bill suggests. To this end the British Government introduced fair rent1! - that is, the likely market rent that a dwelling could command if supply and demand were roughly equal in a particular area - for all tenants who could afford them. The British Government provided a rent rebate or allowance for those who could not afford them and larger subsidies for local authorities with the worst housing problems.
The United States of America - I do not think anybody would suggest that the United States is a socialist country - has a program of assistance for rental and co-operative housing for lower income families. In the United States of America it is recognised that people on low incomes should be assisted in this way, and a scheme has been devised by which the lower rental families are subsidised. In 1971, the Canadian Government-financed loan company, the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, was seeking proposals from builders and developers for the construction, ownership and operation of rental housing for low income families in 26 centres in Canada. Loans might be up to 95 per cent of the required amount, with repayments over 50 years and an interest rate of 7i per cent. The financing arrangements and the rentals agreed between the Corporation and the builders and developers would provide rental accommodation at below market prices for low income families.
In the limited time available to me I have been able to refer to Britain, the United States of America and Canada, where the governments have done something about this problem. I am pleased to be a supporter of a government which, in 1973, is prepared to do something to catch up the lag that successive conservative governments allowed to develop in the field of bousing. I again congratulate the Minister for Housing and 1 sincerely hope that this Bill will have the support of every honourable member of this House.
– At the outset I wish to state that I applaud any efforts by the Government that will assist in overcoming the increasing housing problems particularly of those in need. However, there are a few points I should like to draw to the attention of the House. The Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) stated in his earlier announcement of this Bill that the S6m grant to the States would provide 1,500 homes. This would mean that each unit would cost 54,000. I am sure that the thinking of the Minister for Housing must have been astray or that he had his tongue in his cheek when he made that statement. The most economically designed and built home today would cost at least SI 0,000 without land. Homes built for SI 0,000 would provide the barest of requirements and would certainly only be of no more than 2-bedroom units. Victoria’s share of this S6m will provide no more than 150 houses and flats, if they can be built for $10,000 each without garages.
I would further draw the attention of the Minister for Housing to the current building situation. There have been many comments made about the need for homes and I agree with the comments. However, there is at present a building boom in this country and it is almost impossible not only to obtain builders to tender for contracts but also to obtain the basic materials with which to build the homes. At present, the Victorian Housing Commission has more than 200 homes out to tender throughout Victoria for which it is having a great deal of difficulty in obtaining satisfactory tenders. Housing commission work has always been known as the toughest field of competition in the building industry and when there is a building boom, as we are experiencing at the moment, the builders generally are not inclined to tender for housing commisson contracts because they are able to obtain plenty of work in private industry. The builders who normally tender for these jobs undertake to erect the homes at a very low price. This situation has developed over the years because of several factors. In the main, the bulk of the material for housing commission homes is supplied by the commission and the building contractor has only to purchase a minimum of materials, provide the labour and also the sub-trades to the contract. Because of the similarity in or sameness of design and size, plus the benefit of multiple site building, the builder is able to cut his costs. However, over the years the prices have been pruned to the extent that some contractors who undertake housing commission contracts have been unable to complete them. This, of course, creates further delays in the finishing of the homes that have been started and a delay in the supply of houses.
I suggest that for suitable homes to be built a minimum cost of $12,000 per unit should be accepted. This is more than 3 times the amount the Minister for Housing has provided and it would allow for cost increases in materials and increases in the cost of labour. The $6m provided would allow for 500 homes to be built, not 1,500.
– A previous speaker from the honourable member’s side of the House said that amount was too much.
– Any move to reduce the housing need must be a good move but I would suggest that the Governent make available a further grant of some $l2m to the States to enable them to build the target of 1,500 homes that the Minister suggests. The Minister for Housing points out that a previous speaker said that $10,000 or $12,000 is too much, but $4,000 per home certainly would be far too little unless he decides to build one room shacks.
Another point is that in Australia we have an enviable record of home ownership.
Whilst we, on this side of the House, acknowledge the need for housing on a rental basis, I believe we should at all times encourage people to buy their homes if possible. It is an inescapable fact that persons who are buying their homes take a greater pride in the upkeep and maintenance not only of the houses but also of the outdoor surrounds, such as the gardens. I strongly request that the Minister for Housing consider the provision of further grants, but not limiting the expenditure to the building of rental homes only or, alternatively, if the home is to be built for rental purposes, consideration be given to providing the occupant with the right to purchase the home if he so desires. This would give the person renting the house the incentive to strive for his own home, and surely this is a worthy goal.
Criticism has been levelled at the Victorian Minister for Housing by the Federal Minister for Housing, but I point out that in Victoria the Government, acting on the promise of the grant, has in fact started building the required houses for rent and flats for pensioners. Despite the problem of obtaining building contractors to commence all the building program, the State Government has been able to initiate the program and it should be able to expend this special grant of $1.5m before the required time of 30th June. In Victoria the Government allocated 5 houses to each of 20 towns which had existing building programs, and an extra 10 houses to existing building programs in Wodonga, Bendigo, Portland and the Latrobe Valley. All of these homes will be built for rental as required, and will be financed by existing State housing funds until the grant funds are finally allocated. The Victorian Minister for Housing has stated that at no time has Victoria indicated that it would extend this grant of Si. 5m or its share of it, to build houses and flats other than for rental. It is the Victorian Government’s proud claim that all the houses that it has built have been provided for the needy over the last 35 years. 1 understand that the Premier of Victoria wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitiam) on 6th February to advise him that Victoria would accept the $l-5m and pointed out the facts I have just mentioned. However, when the Minister for Housing met the Victorian Minister for Housing on 23rd February he apparently was not aware of this correspondence. Apparently there is the same lack of liaison in this Department as there is between the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam).
I trust that the Minister has realised that the States are willing to co-operate in this program to provide houses and flats for the needy on a rental basis. Further I am sure that he now realises that the problem of providing houses or homes at present does not hinge solely on the supply of money - not that I suggest for one moment that he should withdraw the grant - but also on the shortage of materials and labour. I understand that some large contracting firms are considering importing bricklayers to overcome their problems. This would cost them an estimated $300 per week. This further indicates the seriousness of the position as it stands at present and would, of course, increase the ultimate end cost of the product. This Bill will provide a small relief to the housing of the needy, and I conclude by once again appealing to the Minister to follow up this action with a further grant.
– This legislation provides for an amount of $6. 5m for the provision of finance to the States to build homes, particularly for needy families. Despite the histrionics and grumblings we have heard from some State governments, particularly those of New South Wales and Victoria, as evidenced by the remarks just now by the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bouchier), who obviously is echoing some of the statements from his own Liberal Government in Victoria, the States when they received this emergency grant must have thought that Father Christmas had paid them a visit. The facts are that they never got this sort of treatment from the previous Government. It just was not forthcoming. Because this Government had carefully been assessing over the previous 3 years what its policy should be and because it had realised the great need for cheap houses for needy families, one of its first actions on assuming office was to announce that emergency grants would be given to provide cheap housing for needy families. Also one of the early actions of the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) was to announce that a far more generous agreement would be forthcoming when the housing agreement with the States was renewed as from 1st July this year. In a few moments I would like to touch on some of the aspects which I sincerely appeal to the Minister to consider when this new agreement is introduced.
I believe 1 can speak with some authority on the question of housing developments because approximately 40 per cent of my electors live in Housing Commission homes - a very high percentage indeed. I doubt that there would be any other electorate, certainly in the State of New South Wales and probably in the Commonwealth, with such a very high aggregate of Housing Commission homes in it. Accordingly I am in a position to speak also of the great needs of those Housing Commission areas. I think I can speak authoritatively on the question of what has not been done under previous housing agreements with States. For example, I have stated in this House in the past when I have been speaking in housing debates in the previous Parliament - and the Minister will remember it - that there is a great need for a new approach to the integration of Housing Commission areas with private development. It is not a good thing to place in one area thousands of houses occupied by people of a similar income level. Usually such an area is being developed at a dramatic rate and lacks some of the very important community developments and community facilities. This is not a sound policy, and yet it is a policy which has been perpetuated over the years by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government. I make the appeal to the Minister to consider the question of the integration of Housing Commission and private development.
I will give a very good example of how housing areas are being developed. Behind my own home in Seven Hills there is a private development. Somehow or other the whole of the land - many hundreds of acres - was purchased by 2 major developing companies. No other smaller companies are involved in the venture. There are no other private individual developers, only 2 major companies. Altogether something like 2,000 blocks are involved. So far all that the community is to get out of the developing companies is a playing field and an amenities centre. I personally have made a rough calculation of the millions of dollars they will make out of that area, and they could easily provide one or two swimming pools and still make a very big fortune indeed. I believe that part of such areas should be set aside for Housing Commission development. By that I do not mean that one particular area within that area of 2,000 blocks should be set outside. I would say that sprinkled in amongst that private development should be Housing Commission homes.
I will give a very good example of the benefits that would flow from such a move. As I mentioned once before in this Parliament, I knew a young man who came out from England as a migrant at the age of 5 years. He was fortunate enough to live in a Housing Commission home, not in an affluent area but in an area surrounded by people who were bringing up young families and who were prepared to give everything they could to the education of those families and to give them an opportunity in life. As a result the young man went along to a high school. He had to strive. He managed to get a Commonwealth scholarship. He got his degree at the University of New South Wales and is today doing a very important job indeed in the field of engineering for this Commonwealth. He said to me one night that had he been placed in one of the mass Housing Commission areas he did not think that he would have had the necessary competition and he did not think that he would have received the necessary drive to improve himself to the extent of finally qualifying for a Commonwealth scholarship, getting his degree and accordingly being such a very useful citizen for Australia. In other words, he lived in an area where the Housing Commission houses were integrated with private development. He lived in an area where people of differing income levels and differing social outlooks lived together and learnt to work together and help each other.
I represent the area of Mount Druitt, and I am sick and tired of the people who try to rubbish that area. The facts, as evidenced only the other day at a function I went to, are that the men and women of that area are prepared to work far harder for their community organisations than are people from more affluent areas. They are young people bringing up their families, striving hard to do it, and I am sick and tired of those people who try to rubbish the area. It is not a fair go for these people. The most important thing to remember is that they are prepared to work much harder than the very people who do the rubbishing.
There is no doubt that it is an area with problems brought about because of sudden, dramatic mass development in one area; brought about in particular by the policies of the previous Government and by the policies of the Government of New South Wales; brought about because the housing commission only subdivides land, builds the streets and puts houses there but does not provide any other community facilities or even access roads. The local council is expected to bear the cost of access roads, as the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Ashley-Brown), who is a former mayor of that area, would understand. Furthermore, the housing commission does not provide any swimming pools. It does not provide any playing fields. It does not provide any pavilions, amenity centres, civic centres or any other buildings. It simply dumps the houses there, puts the people there and says: ‘Sorry, lt is up to you. It is up to your local council.’ The loca’l councils are then faced with a colossal financial problem.
More importantly than that, no action is taken to provide local employment. The housing commission does not even make sure that the water board sewers the industrial land so as to provide local employment. No industrialist will go into an area unless it is first sewered. That is the first essential. With new developments should go local employment. To create local employment there must be sewerage of industrial areas. The States should encourage industry to move into the areas so that the situation does not arise as exists now of 8,000 housing commission homes all together with virtually no local employment available. That is a disgraceful situation. No youth organisation is provided for those 8,000 housing commission homes. There are no youth centres, which are most important of all. There are no community centres. There are no swimming pools provided. There are no playing fields or the neceseary amenities for playing fields. In other words, the houses are put there and no other facilities are provided.
Furthermore, this type of development brings together people who have to work. A far greater percentage of women in those areas have to work and they have to travel greater distances to work than people in the more affluent districts have to travel. These are some of the problems which I appeal to the Minister to correct. It is essential that when the new agreement is entered into with the States provision is made for the integration of privately developed areas and housing commission areas. This will give a far more balanced development and far more opportunity for the raising of the necessary finance to build the facilities which are needed. Provision should also be made in the new agree ment for the States to provide the necessary community facilities such as playing fields, libraries and swimming pools.
– And footpaths.
– And footpaths; I quite agree. When these things are done they will give a far higher quality of life to those areas than they enjoy at the present time. I make a personal appeal to the Minister. He heard me speak on this matter many times in the last Parliament. I ask him, now that my Party has the opportunity to act, for heavens sake to do something on these issues because it is only common humanity to do so.
I wish to speak also for a few minutes about aged people’s homes because I feci that this is one of the social problems which is becoming more and more acute as the years roll by. With all the improvements that have been made in the field of health and with all our ability to prolong life we are still not as a nation looking at the problem of providing decent housing for people in their twilight years. My parents and my parents-in-law have grown old. I know what the problems are. Everybody who has experienced this situation understands the problems. In due course every one of us will grow old. I sometimes shudder when elderly people come into my office and tell me that they are re<-c>v -r> n social welfare pension and have to pay $20 or $30 a week to live in some room <.-. . ^ of rooms. 1 sit back and I feel ashamed that a country which calls itself civilised can allow this type of thing to occur. It is all very well for honourable members opposite to smile about it but it is time they felt a little bit of humility.
I submit to the Minister that aged people’s homes should be built in areas where aged people can live near their children. This is very important. I do not think that aged people’s units should be allocated willy-nilly. Consideration should always be given to the fact that, if the children of aged people are prepared to look after them and to keep an eye on them, the aged people’s units should be made available not too far away from the suburb in which their children live. This would give them more comfort and enjoyment in their twilight years. Accordingly, it is necessary that we should insist that the States plan the release of land for aged persons’ units keeping this principle in mind. Unless that is done the problem of giving this facility to our senior citizens is made all the more difficult. We should keep in mind that, generally speaking, elderly people cannot live in high rise developments. It is best for them to be given units on the ground floor. I know that there has been a movement in recent years to provide more units of this type but this is still only a drop in the basin. When I last heard of it, the waiting period was something like 5 to 6 years. That is a false indication because when elderly people find out that the waiting list is 5 to 6 years, most of them do not bother to apply. Many of them, unfortunately, say to themselves: T may not be alive by the time I would get the chance to occupy one of those flats.’ Taking that aspect into consideration, one realises that the waiting period may be far greater than 5 to 6 years.
For that reason I believe that old people’s units should be provided in close proximity to all facilities. They should not be far removed from shops and from government transport. They should be provided very close to them. These people should have easy access to their relatives. Once again I make a special appeal to the Minister. 1 realise the great problems he has to face. As he said in his second reading speech, the numbers on the waiting list of the State authorities have risen to well in excess of 90,000 but the commencements of government dwellings fell in the September quarter of 1972 to an annual rate of only 12.000. or 6,000 fewer than in each of the years 1969-70 and 1970-71, and 3,000 fewer than in 1971-72. For this reason I. realise that the Minister has a very great problem in overcoming this backlog which occurred under the authority and during the period of office of the previous McMahon and Gorton governments. Nevertheless, realising all that, I also think that we should keep in mind that the Australian Labor Party Government is dedicated to giving a better quality of life to those people who are less fortunate. In other words we should ensure that cheap housing for needy families is not simply housing. Necessary community facilities should also be provided.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– We all have sympathy for ‘home seekers. The shortage of housing accommodation is a distressing situation in any circumstances. The demand for housing through the State housing commissions has been creating serious problems for quite a time and the supply, of course, is well behind the demand. This is a serious situation in a developing country like Australia. Quite often it is difficult to obtain a true assessment of the actual number of people who are waiting for houses. The reason I make that point is that a person seeking a home can go along to a housing commission and be told that he can put his name down on the housing list but will not get a house for at least 2 years. In those circumstances a difficult situation arises for anybody who is seeking a home immediately. Sometimes a person has a job in the offing and requires a home. He usually finishes up in some broken down shack as an emergency and it becomes something permanent by tacking a few more boards on here and there. It is a poor environment in which to bring up families.
The States for some time have been battling with this problem and have made a request to this Government for some finance. As my colleague the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) said, when the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) was blowing the whistle and saying what a good job he was doing in making the money available, the States cried out ‘Hooray’, but came down to earth as soon as they saw the conditions. I am pleased to say that during the time that this Bill has been in this House for debate its passage has been somewhat slow. I am sure that the Minister has seen the difficulties that he posed for the States when he first made the demand that all the homes financed under this scheme should be for rental purposes. This Bill makes an allocation of additional funds to the State housing authorities and it is most welcome at this time particularly when State governments are embarking on a decentralisation program. But this decentralisation program will only progress, of course, in conjunction with the basic needs of the community, and one of the basic needs is housing. Housing is of prime importance and is fundamental to the success of any decentralisation program.
The Australian Country Party, of course, is no stranger to this type of argument. While in government in Victoria we were in the happy position of having up to 51 per cent of housing built in country areas. At that stage it looked at though Victoria would be decentralised, but a change of government unfortunately altered that pattern. The redistribution of seats created a greater demand within metropolitan areas because of the number of members living in those areas. While we are not debating a Bill on the redistribution of electoral boundaries at this time I believe that one of the arguments that could be used is that there are too many hands in the barrel demanding money for the metropolitan areas at a time when decentralisation ought to be the main consideration. It is with some knowledge of the result of the practical use of housing that I comment on the Bill that is before us now. I pay the Government a compliment. It was quite observant of the Government to notice the need for housing accommodation within our community. What did the the Government do? It rushed in and in a menacing attitude stood over the States and said that it had $6.5m available to the States for housing. The Government knew that the States badly needed the finance and it was prepared to make the finance available at a low rate of interest and to allow 50 years for repayment. That was very good. It reeked of a sense of responsibility. The Government then dropped the clanger and said that the States could have the money only as long as they did not sell any of the houses which were constructed.
– The States did not quibble about that.
– I think they did.
– No, they did not.
– They will in the future, and 1 think they did at that stage too until th. Minister somewhat softened in his attitude and said: ‘Look, this makes up the leeway, and I am not making my demands on the $6.5m.’ I think that was the compromise that was reached. 1 suppose that attitude is fair enough while there is a demand for rental accommodation. 1 concede that point but it is a policy with which 1 personally disagree. It is an overall policy and of course sub-clause 2 of clause 8 of the Bill permits the sale of houses with the consent of the Minister. That is the present situation. Despite that the Minister said in his second reading speech:
I want to make it perfectly clear that it is nol my intention to give consent to the sale of any of these dwellings to prospective home owners.
They are the Minister’s own words. The States agreed to that proposition because they needed the houses; so did the needy people. I wonder whether the Minister and the Government realise that many people live in rental premises while waiting for the oppor tunity to own a home of a better standard and that if houses were made available for sale the same quantity of rental houses would be available to those people who only want to lease.
Many people within the community have a desire to own their homes. It is the needy people who require homes to rent. People who move from a rented home into a home which has been built for them create vacancies; so people who want a lease can obtain at a cheap rental a home which is more suitable to their needs. I do not wish to labour this point too much. I believe this Bill makes possible an allocation which is badly needed at this time. This Government should react favourable to the recommendations and firm opinions of the States that it is far better for an individual to own a home than to rent one. This Government should make money available to the States to use in a responsible and discretionary manner so that we can cater for both the purchaser and the tenant. Then it will be acting in a fair and proper manner and will be doing something which we as individuals will applaud.
I realise that there are dangers in too much government interference with home ownership. Private enterprise and bodies with initiative, such as co-operative housing societies, play an important role and utilise private finance to the advantage of the home builder and home ownership. There would be nothing worse than having an area in which all the houses were similar. A previous speaker tonight made this point when he said that an area containing houses of a similar design, all for rental, would soon reach a stage where it would become obvious to a passerby that the houses were not owned by the tenants. That is no reflection on the tenants; it would be normal for such a thing to happen. Tenants cannot be expected to keep up the paintwork and the maintenance of someone else’s property, particularly at a time when it is difficult to get people to do maintenance work. There is a shortage of skilled people in various trades, and maintenance on housing commission buildings particularly is well below standard. Pride in home ownership is to be fostered and is admired by all.
Home ownership has many advantages and today it can be achieved on a purchase-rental payment plan. Home ownership is not subject to rent increase or eviction because of a government decision resulting in a person’s income being above a permissible limit. This could be a distressing factor for people who are leasing a home and whose income rises above the permissible limit. Just imagine getting your family settled in a home and finding that your job pays better than anticipated; you would be forced to look for other accommodation.
We of the Australian Country Party want to see decentralisation assisted. Housing is the guarantee of the rural areas. The Country Party has advocated this always and, as I said, did so to the tune of 51 per cent when it was in government on a previous occasion. Mention of the terra ‘per cent* reminds me of the promise of the Australian Labor Party in its propaganda during the December election campaign. It promised to make interest payments on mortgages a tax deduction. We have not seen that plan initiated at this point of time and perhaps the Minister for Housing will tell us why that plan has been shelved by the Government at this stage. Has he forced the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to accede to his idea of homes for rental only? Perhaps it is a case of the Government saving its money and making a good fellow of itself by giving some to the States. What a blow this would be to the ambitious man who wants to build a nice home for his family. If the Minister has his way - let us hope he does not - such a man will not be able to buy a house from the housing commission, and a home buyer will not get the interest concession if he builds one. Therefore a state of confusion exists while home seekers put up with whatever emergency accommodation they can find.
The allocation of this money will help but we will need a lot more. In the process let us build something for this Commonwealth on a solid basis and encourage and sustain the distribution of our population. The Country Party does not believe in class distinction. Even the lowest income earner who is conscientious should be able to commence to build himself a home which will be an asset and which will provide security for his family and for himself in his old age. Interest on the lower income earner’s purchase mortgage should be deductible from taxation returns. Let us take pride in the development of our newer areas by creating the opportunity for home ownership.
I should like to mention a point raised by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) who preceded me in this debate. I refer to bornes for aged people. These are one of the crying needs of most of our areas. It is pitiful to see people being taken away from the environment in which they have lived for up to 60 and 70 years in many cases. They are taken from the loved ones around them, the people they cared for in their fitter years and whom they would like to be able to care for in their older years. They are taken from the people they know and the environment that they have loved. For a good many of those people it is a very sad ending. If the Government is going to spend money on housing, homes for the aged, particularly for the frail aged, are one of the crying needs within our community. I recommend to the Minister for Housing that he gives serious consideration to building additional homes throughout the various communities so that our elderly people can live in comfort and in close proximity to those they love.
– I support this Housing Assistance Bill. I recognise the difficulties with which the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) is faced. There is pressure on the housing industry as a whole and in many parts of Australia but not throughout Australia there is a shortage of houses for rental. The number of houses to be provided under this Bill is comparatively small. 1 believe that the Minister referred to 1,500 bourses but I think, as another honourable member pointed out earlier in this debate, that that is an exaggeration. The amount of money provided is unlikely to allow the construction or purchase of more than 500 or 600 houses of a reasonable standard. That is a small number in comparison with the number of units being approved for building from time to time. I think that building approvals are running at the rate of about 175,000 a year. That assessment is based on the figures for last month but it may not be as much as that when the whole period of 12 months is taken into account.
Homes for rental were provided by the last Government to an extent not always realised. The most important way in which that was accomplished was through the Aged Persons Homes Act. Under that legislation the Government, by paying a subsidy of $2 to Si, has been providing 4,000 or 5,000 houses a year, which probably is 10 times as many as will be provided under this Bill. Admittedly some of those homes do not provide independent accommodation but they substitute for a house, and what the previous Government did in this respect needs to be kept in mind.
Accommodation for rental is needed. 1 admit it and assert it but I think that the past Government did a great deal in this respect. The program which we initiated last year and which I hope will be carried to completion by the present Government was a crash program for hostel type accommodation and this will meet a large part of this need. I hope and believe that the present Government will continue with the very excellent scheme which we of the previous Government initiated. 1 think that in a way it is a good thing that this Bill relates only to a small scheme. I do not know how much is to follow but I hope something, though not too much, will follow. It is not quite safe to have this kind of thing in the hands of the Labor Party although I admit that there is some need for it at the present time and I commend what has been done on this small scale. We all remember the attitude of the Labor Party towards this matter. It was expressed most succinctly by Mr Dedman when he was a Minister. He said on behalf of the Labor Party that we do not want people in Australia to own their own homes because that would only make them little capitalists. That is not the attitude of the Liberal Party. We believe that people should be encouraged to own their own homes.
While there is a need for a certain number of rental homes and while I think that this is a good Bill which I hope will be followed by other Bills in a similar vein, though not too many, we have to be on our guard against the development of the Labor Party ideology which, say what they like, at the present moment definitely is opposed to people owning their own homes because that makes them too much a part of the structure of society which the Labor Party is trying to break down. 1 qualify all these remarks by saying that there is in Australia at present a need for more rental housing and that is why we on this side of the House can support this Bill. But perhaps we should be exploring some alternatives for the future. For instance, in the United States of America the whole housing situation has been made more liquid so that people can buy and sell houses very much more readily than they can in Australia. To some extent this is a substitute for rental housing because people do not want always to be tied to the one spot. It may be that they need to change their employment. It may be that they need to go to some other place. With all these things it is a case of adopting a reasonable approach and not a doctrinaire approach. It has to be an approach which is to some extent flexible and which tries to fit the policy to the needs of the situation.
I think the Minister for Housing will agree with me that there is a need for more rental houses in Australia, particularly in certain localities where there is a housing shortage. Also we must recognise that in Australia, thanks to the policy of the previous Government, at present we do not have an overall housing shortage although we do have a shortage of low cost housing. This is particularly true in respect of young married couples. Young married couples who have been accustomed perhaps to 2 incomes in the family find that this state of affairs will not or at any rate should not continue following the birth of the first child. For these young married couples we need to be doing a lot more than we are. I hope very shortly to introduce into this House a Bill aimed at this problem of helping the young married couples particularly in respect of housing difficulties which they must face on the birth of the first child which prevents the continuance of the earning of 2 incomes in the family.
This is one of the most important social problems which we have to face. The problems of old age and invalidity have been very largely, but not entirely, overcome by the measures that we have taken. However, rising on the priority list now is surely the need to do more for the young married couples at the lower end of the income scale. People who are young tend to be at the lower end of the income scale for obvious reasons. The financial difficulties that these couples face are not entirely concerned with housing but most of their financial difficulties are centred on their housing problems and would be amenable to solution if their housing problems could be more readily solved. It is for this purpose that I am hoping in the course of the next few weeks to introduce a Bill into this House. I hope that a measure like the one I shall put forward - one of progressive social outlook - will commend itself to the Government. I hope that the Government will not look on it purely as something with which it can score political points but instead as something that it can support because this problem faced by young married couples of financing their house in difficult circumstances which can be aggravated by the birth of the first child is one which the Australian people as a whole have to face. It is one of the biggest social problems still remaining before us.
– The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) is the concluding speaker on the Opposition side in the debate on this Housing Assistance Bill. I appreciate the tenor of the debate and the contributions which were made to it from both sides of the House. Very useful comments and expressions of opinion were made during the course of the debate. As some people have said, there is a tendency to overrate the significance of the Bill. I do not want to overrate it. It is infinitesimal in relation to the problems that this country has with the enormous backlog of housing commission homes around Australia. It is intriguing to hear the honourable member for Mackellar talking about accommodation for young people. It seems to me that for 23 years he and his confreres had the chance to do it their way but that now apparently they are not satisfied with what happened during those years. It is significant that the honourable member for Mackellar has decided to introduce a private member’s Bill on this matter subsequent to my announcement that the Government is examining ways and means of facing up to this very real sociological problem which has been neglected for 23 years.
The activities of the honourable member for Mackellar in this Parliament, in Opposition and in Government, over a long period show that he stands for too little too late. I remember his contributions to the debate on the means test before he became the Minister for Social Services and his remarks then about what should be done. He has been Minister for Social Services and that period has now passed. Doubtless he will bring down a private member’s Bill in relation to it. As a matter of fact a short time ago he moved a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders to discuss the things that he did not do anything effective about while in office. I am not sure that we can take him terribly seriously on many of these matters. He has talked about other issues as well. For example, he made a contention that the Government does not stand for home ownership. Such a contention is hardly worth answering. I am resurrecting it simply so that my silence cannot be taken as representing acquiescence. It is too absurd for me to take up the time of the Parliament on it.
The honourable member talked about the Minister for Housing 23 years ago, the former honourable member for Corio, Mr Dedman. He dug that up. One has to be pretty long in the tooth in a parliamentary sense to resort to that one. If anyone takes the trouble to look in Hansard he will see that on that occasion, in reply to someone saying: ‘Give people the chance to buy their own homes and make them little capitalists’, Mr Dedman said something to the effect of: ‘We are not here to make people little capitalists. The purpose of this Bill is to give people housing. From that remark there has been this misconstruction and distortion. It is incredible that the honourable member, who has been in this place for so long, has to use this as the main argument in his contribution on a Bill of this nature.
There is another old timer, my old sparring partner on housing, the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) who on behalf of the Opposition started off this debate. He is what is often called around the lobbies ‘the Opposition’s Mr Mouth on Housing’. He has been speaking on this subject for a long time. In fact he and 1 together have been speaking on it for a long time, and very often I have tried to follow in his wake. I know that he regards the contribution that he has made in this debate as being of very great significance. I want to look at a couple of points that he made as the Opposition leader in housing matters and the man who took charge of the Bill. He started off by saying: 1 look upon this measure more as a propaganda stunt than of real value to deal with the problem of housing.
The comment that he made in that regard has been disparaged by most of his colleagues who followed him in this debate. He went on to his next point of criticism which was that I and the Government were too enthusiastic about housing and he referred to the need to do something about the backlog of housing commission applicants. I mention again that there are many honourable members on the Opposition side who said that this measure is of merit, but the honourable member for Bennelong thinks that it is a propaganda Bill. Apparently he still believes that. He went on to say:
The honourable member comes from New South Wales. I would like him to know that an aspect of the motivation of this legislation involved a contention made by the Premier of New South Wales, Sir Robert Askin.
– A long time ago.
– I refer to a letter dated 14thDecember 1972. That should not be a long time ago in terms of the honourable member’s experience and lifespan. On 14th December 1972 the Premier of New South Wales wrote to the then Prime Minister and said:
State housing is another field where needs have rapidly expanded in recent years. The funds available for the Housing Commission of New South Wales have been increased to the maximum extent practicable this year and it is planned to commence the construction of over 3,600 new dwellings. However, there is both a need and scope for this program to be stepped up significantly and if special Commonwealth funds were available the Commission would be in a position to increase its program substantially. Tenders could in fact be called for over 1,200 extra houses and flats in metropolitan and major country centres with a minimum of notice, thus providing additional employment in both home building and associated building supply industries. An additional $5m would, however, be needed in the current year.
This is a letter from the Premier of New South Wales.
– A Liberal Premier.
– He is a Liberal Premier.
-I rise to order. I ask that the letter from which the Minister quoted be tabled in accordance with the Standing Orders.
The honourable member rose on a point of order. I suggest to the honourable member that he look at the Standing Orders. No point of order is involved.
– How do we get it tabled?
– I suggest also that the honourable member, who often rises on points of order, should look at the Standing Orders.
– Here we have the Liberal Premier of New South Wales contending that there is a need to make $5m available to that State. He is not saying that $6. 55m is needed for the whole of Australia but that $5m is needed for New South Wales. Yet the honourable member for Bennelong calls this legislation a political stunt. He is calling the Premier of New South Wales - not me - a political stuntist.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I respectfully suggest to the Minister that he should table the correspondence from the Premier of New South Wales.
– Never mind why. I am entitled to make a request.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Kennedy address his remarks to the Chair.
– I did. I addressed you.
– Order! The honourable member was discussing the matter with somebody on the other side. He asked for the document to be tabled. I ask the Minister whether he will table the document, in accordance with the request.
– I have not the letter. I am not averse to making it available to the House.
– I say!
– Do not quibble about it. I will make available the letter and any other letter or documents in respect of housing matters which come to me. The lot can be tabled. We stand for open government. No one doubts the authenticity of what I am putting. So there it is.
– Through you, Sir, may I ask–
– You have not stifled us completely yet. You have not taken over with your totalitarian system.
– Order! The honourable gentleman is asking me something.
– I am asking you, Mr Deputy Speaker, whether the Minister will indicate whether he will table the letter. It is as simple as that.
– The Minister has stated that he has not the letter with him but that he will make it available to the House. He cannot be asked to table a document from which he is not quoting directly.
– I make the point that the honourable member for Bennelong has expressed doubt about whether there will be time to expend the money which is to be made available. I have in my possession a number of documents from State Premiers which say in an unambiguous way - in fact, in a most enthusiastic way - that they will have no trouble at all in spending the money on the purposes outlined in the Bill. I have a number of letters to this effect from which I could quote now, if it were necessary. So it seems to me that the honourable member has fallen out of step with the States at large and especially with his own State and with Queensland and Victoria. They have made it clear, through their Premiers or Ministers for Housing, that they embrace enthusiastically the idea of utilising an extra $6.55m, that they are prepared to take it and use it and that they will have no trouble using it in the time referred to.
Another matter which I believe ought to be dealt with is the fact that the honourable member for Bennelong, who led for the Opposition in this debate, expressed an enthusiasm for terminating the occupation of housing commission homes where the affluence of tenants rises. I think that this is an important matter to mention since, during the course of negotiations with the States on this Bill and on the proposed Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, there has been some distortion to the effect that the Government will evict people who live in housing commission homes and who develop a degree of affluence. I was interested in the speech of the honourable member for Bennelong, who said:
No doubt everyone who can make out a case wants a subsidised rent from the housing commission. Once a person moves into a housing commission home, no matter how his financial position may improve, neither the Federal government nor any State government would put him out of that home to make room for somebody who could not afford to pay rent elsewhere. This is quite wrong. . . .
It seems to me that the honourable member, not the Government, ought to bear the guilt of the charges which have been made. I have some regard for the time. It is the hope of the Government and I know it is the hope of the Opposition, since it has been expressed, that we will get this Bill through. There are many matters upon which I would like to comment following the debate, but I am afraid that time will not permit it. I simply say that it is the intention of the Government to make this amount of money available not for the purpose of completing 1,500 homes but to enable the commencement of 1,500 homes. I am very delighted to see that this is occurring in a rapid way and that the results of this legislation will be of such a nature as to ensure that many people who have been waiting for a long time for homes from State housing authorities will be able to receive assistance. I shall conclude my remarks in the hope that the time that is available will be sufficient to enable the House to pass the Bill through its concluding stages.
– I rise on a point of order. I asked the Minister for Housing earlier whether he would table a letter and I understood that he agreed to do so. I am referring to a document - I do not say a letter - from which the Minister quoted. I am relying on standing order 321. I ask that the Minister table that document.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is taking a point of order which should have been taken at the time.
– I took it at the time, Mr Speaker.
-I was not in the chair at the time. It is up to the Minister to decide whether he wants to table the document or not.
– I do not have the letter with me.
– I am talking about the document from which the Minister quoted, not any particular letter.
– It is confidential.
– It is not a public document. Standing order 321 provides:
A document relating to public affairs quoted from by a Minister or an Assistant Minister, unless stated to be of a confidential nature or such as should more properly be obtained by address, shall, if required by any Member, be laid on the Table.
It is not a document relating to public affairs.
– Mr Speaker, it is a document relating to public affairs.
– It is a . confidential document.
– It is a document relating to public affairs.
-Order! The Minister has claimed that it is a classified document. Therefore the point of order is not valid.
– Mr Speaker-
-Order! The honourable member cannot debate a ruling of this nature. The Minister has declared that it is a classified document. Therefore it cannot be tabled.
– I rise on a different point of order. I ask you, Mr Speaker, to get the Minister to declare that fact to the House. I have been watching him and I have not heard him declare that this document is either classified or is the other sort of document referred to under standing order 321.
– May I put the matter beyond doubt? I quoted from a confidential document, indeed from a Cabinet submission. Included in that Cabinet submission is part of a letter received from the Premier of New South Wales, from which I quoted. 1 am not averse to making the letter available. I do not have it available now. But I am not able to make a Cabinet document available; it is of a confidential nature. I would be quite happy to make the letter available subsequently.
– The Minister must be aware that the matter is either classified as confidential or not. He need not debate the question. If he is stating that it is a classified document it need not be tabled. So no point of order is involved.
– I rise on a further point of order, Mr Speaker. I believe that your previous remarks were included in Hansard. I think they should not go uncorrected. You began to rule and your ruling was made superfluous by the action of the Minister in claiming that this was a confidential document. But you began to rule and it will be recorded in Hansard.
-Order! If the Minister claims that it is a confidential document he has no need to debate the question. If he claims it is classified, that is the end of the point of order. No point of order is involved.
– I am sorry, Mr Speaker, there is a point of order. The point of order is that your previous remarks to the effect that this was not a document relating to public affairs-
-Order! I did not say anything of the kind. I was just quoting standing order 321.
– Provided it is not in Hansard tomorrow.
-Order! I shall read it again for the honourable gentleman if he wants me to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Les Johnson) read a third time.
-Order! It being 10.45 p.m., in accordance, with the order of the House of 1st March I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I commence by saying that I really do not enjoy doing what I am about to do, but the manner in which the new Government is approaching matters of state leaves me with little alternative. It has come to power on the boast of open government, but honourable members, particularly on this side of the House, fully recognise-
– You are very lucky you are here.
– The honourable member for Bowman will be lucky to be here after the next election, that is for sure. The present Government has come to power under the guise of open government. People who listen to the broadcast of question time and who sit in this chamber during question time see how the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) down to No. 27 in the ministerial batting order are making a complete farce of this place and that none of us on this side of the House can get any information whatsoever.
– It is a jackboot Government.
– That is well said. I do not know whether what I will draw to the attention of the House is true or false, but I raise it simply to seek a denial or confirmation of it. It has come to my ears that in recent times a member of the Government’s Public Service, which also was promised an open go - a member of the Department of Foreign Affairs - has mysteriously disappeared and that nobody knows where he has gone. I have heard allegations - and I do not claim that they are correct, but I should like some confirmation or explanation of them - that this person has been indulging in an exercise of photostating Government documents relating to Government business and various contracts between Australia and another country, and that he has been selling these documents to businessmen.
There are further accusations that a file relating to a Yugoslav also has disappeared in recent times. There is some suggestion - it is only a suggestion - that there is some connection between the Yugoslav in question and the person to whom I have referred. I am quite prepared to make more details of the information I have available to the Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs. I am quite sure that honourable members will recognise that in raising this matter and not making more details available I am playing straight down the middle and not besmirching the character of any particular individual.
When I raise this matter in this manner I think honourable members on this side of the House and thinking members on the Government side who may have been ambitious for ministerial rank after the last election but who failed in their endeavours will share my disquiet about what is going on in the Government ranks. I can stand on this side of the House and say that for 6 years I have been consistent in my requests for open government and for certain civil liberties and freedoms. Honourable members on the other side of the House who at one time were very vocal have in recent months become strangely quiet.
It is my intention to make my remarks on this matter brief. I hope that if there is anything in this allegation, the responsible Minister - the Prime Minister - will advise the House. Claims have been made that the Commonwealth police are searching for this individual. If a member of our Public Service has been involved in such an action, it is the responsibility of the Government not just to try to cover it up and pretend it did not happen but to move in for the sake of the good name of the thousands upon thousands of other public servants throughout the country, to remove the cancer and to ensure that the matter, if it has happened, becomes a closed story in the very near future.
– We listened with interest this evening because the opening remarks of the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) indicated that we were about to hear some sensational disclosures. He gave the impression that something had been going on and that he was carrying out a public duty in bringing it to the attention of the Parliament.
– He has been hearing voices in the night.
– I am afraid, as the honourable member for Scullin suggests, that the honourable member for Griffith has been hearing voices in the night which have caused him to rise this evening to make the remarks that he did. But for the life of me - and I have consulted with several of my colleagues - while listening to the honourable member for Griffith during his speech on the adjournment this evening, I found it impossible to detect from what he said anything that would warrant his speaking in this debate.
– There was not one scintilla of evidence in it.
– As my colleague once again assists me by saying, there was not one scintilla of evidence in it. It is a great tragedy that the honourable member for Griffith has shown tonight a typical example of the mischievous attitude that is so irresponsibly shown in this Parliament by members of the Opposition. We have the example of the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) who, 10 minutes ago, attempted to scuttle the opportunities of this House to pass a very important housing measure. In addition to that, of course, he certainly detained the debate on the Defence Service Homes Bill.
I do not know how much longer the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) can tolerate the irresponsible attitudes of members opposite who, collectively and individually, day after day - the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) of course is one of the chief offenders in this respect - rise on irresponsible points of order and take up the time of the House again and again on points of order simply to delay the passage of the business of the Government. They endeavour to ensure that important measures proposed by this Government are not carried by the House so that they can be put into effect as quickly as possible. It is not my intention to continue these remarks, save to repeat what I said to the honourable member for Griffith when he commenced his remarks, namely, that he should realise how fortunate he is to be saved once again by Democratic Labor Party preferences which returned him to this House. He should not waste (he time of the House with irresponsible and groundless accusations against this Government.
– If ever there was a case of the pot calling the kettle black, it was the speech of the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) who has just resumed his seat. I suppose that the honourable member for Bowman would be well to the fore in taking points of order in this place and making general criticisms of the procedures of the House. At any rate, he and his colleagues have had the doubtful honour of taking no fewer than 8 points of order during a speech which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) made the other day and which I think was of no more than 10 or 15 minutes duration. Of course that was a deliberate effort to prevent the Leader of the Opposition from making the point which he wished to make. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) had an equal time in which to reply. I think that with the exception of myself he was not interrupted by anybody at all. So the honourable member for Bowman is the last honourable member who ought to come into this place and make such assertions. I simply place that comment on record lest the allegations he made go past without being put into context. A few minutes remain before the application of the guillotine motion which we have for the closure of business at 11 o’clock. This is a procedural arrangement which was introduced by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) under the Labor Government in order to stifle debate from this side of the House on the traditional adjournment motion. I want to touch on one or two matters.
– The honourable member cheered the motion louder than anybody else.
– I assure the honourable member that I did not. I believe that this system is capable of abuse and indeed frequently receives abuse at the hands of Government supporters. As the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) raised the subject I shall deal with it in a little more detail than I intended. This is a device in order to cut down the number of gags which the Leader of the House would otherwise have to apply. He realises that in a debate when speakers are allowed 10 minutes and when there are only two or three minutes left it is unlikely that anyone from this side of the House will make a speech of such short duration, and so the House will adjourn sometimes with just a few minutes left for debate. This will be done without the use of the guillotine that evening.
Towards the end of the session the Leader of the House will say that during this session the gags and the guillotines have been fewer. Of course he will have used this device in part to achieve that situation.
I shall refer to one or two matters. When I was a member of the Government and, prior to that, when I was a supporter of it we used to hear a great deal from the present Prime Minister and members of the then Opposition about the length of time it took Ministers to reply to questions on notice. I point out to the Government supporters who are here tonight that a great number of questions which were put on the notice paper on 28th February - that is over 2 months ago - have yet to be answered.
– It is embarrassing to answer them.
– As my colleague says, in many cases it is an embarrassment to the Government to answer them. But there must be so many public servants in these departments that rarely would one officer have to deal with more than one question. I do not hesitate to say that if Ministers of the Government wished to answer questions quickly, fully and responsibly they could do it. They have not done it. Obviously they do not wish to hurry along their departments to supply this information. In answer to a question of mine the Prime Minister said that he knows the matter is important and that this is an important avenue from which members can obtain information. The Ministers of the Government who have responsibility for answering those questions ought to be ashamed of themselves. At an early date they ought to produce those answers so that in this House there will be a procedure whereby the answers are obtained quickly for the benefit of all honourable members. For my part I say to the House - I hope that I will not be misunderstood - that I endeavoured to have questions answered quickly. I believe that this is part of the good conduct of the House. The present Ministry ought to look at this area particularly after the criticisms which were made.
-Order! It being 1 1 o’clock, in accordance with the order of the House the House stands adjourned till 2 p.m. on Wednesday, 2nd May 1973.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
– The Commonwealth Statistician has supplied the following information in reply to the honourable member’s question:
Estimates and percentages derived from the February surveys in the years 1964 to 1972 are shown in the table below. Since they are based on a sample, they are subject to sampling variability. Corresponding particulars from the February 1973 survey are not yet available.
I would also refer the honourable member to the reply I gave to his Question No. 30.
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
What was the average weekly earnings of employees in each calendar year from and including 1966.
– I am advised that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There are no official published statistics on average weekly earnings of all employees. The Commonwealth Statistician’s regular quarterly series - average weekly earnings per employed male unit - relates only to
male workers. The calendar year averages for this series are given below:
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
– I am advised that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3)-
Cross Sectional Study of Migrants in cooperation with the Bureau of Census and Statistics - designed to provide information of migrant experiences to be used as an aid to forward planning: Commenced July 1970; to be completed late 1974.
The following studies have been authorised by my Department since 1966:
The above represent the more significant inquiries and research projects undertaken since 1966. Obviously there have been numerous studies and reports made by the Department in its day to day administration which I have not included in this answer.
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Introduction of 4 Weeks Leave with 5 Weeks Pay (Question No. 113)
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
– I am informed that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
– I am informed that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
– I am informed that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
– I am informed that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The precise cost of applying this principle cannot be assessed with any degree of accuracy as it is impossible to predict in advance the value which industrial tribunals will place on work performed by female workers who have not been awarded equal pay in accordance with principles laid down by the Commission in its 1969 Equal Pay Cases Decision. In addition, there are important deficiencies in the available statistical information which would preclude any precise calculation of the cost.
Nevertheless, in its submissions to the resumed hearings of the National Wage Cases 1972-73 the Commonwealth at the request of the Commission put forward some estimates of the cost of introducing equal pay. These were based on a number of assumptions including the following:
It was estimated that the introduction of equal pay for work of equal value in Federal awards would add in the first year $50.4m or 0.2 per cent to the annual wages bill. When fully introduced, the cumulative increase in the national wages bill would be approximately $151. 2m or 0.7 per cent.
Because the States of New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania (in respect of Crown employees only) have legislation governing the conditions for the granting of equal pay for females employed under their respective State awards, it cannot be assumed that the recent Equal Pay Decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission will flow to female workers employed under State awards in these States. However, if the principle of equal pay for work of equal value were applied in both Federal and State awards under the same conditions as determined by the Commission in its recent decision the national wages bill would be increased by approximately $149. lm or 0.7 per cent in the first year and by approximately $447.2m or 2.0 per cent when the principle is fully introduced. These estimates are based on the same assumptions as indicated in (i) and (ii) above.
If the introduction of equal pay bad no effect on productivity the estimated increase in unit labour costs would be of the same order as the estimated increase in the national wages bill. <2) It is estimated that the application of the Commission’s recent equal pay decision in the Commonwealth Public Service would increase the wages bill in the Service by approximately $15m. This would be equivalent to an increase of .07 per cent in the national wages bill. As with the other estimates it must be noted that this figure is based on a number of assumptions and should therefore be taken as representing a rough order of magnitude only. The necessary statistical information to enable useful estimates to be made in respect of industries referred to in parts (ii) to (vii) of the question is not available.
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to my answer to Question Number 116. The cost estimates can be calculated on a pro rata basis.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Responses to inquiries directed to the States have shown that information on the matters raised in the question is not available from all States on consistent bases, and some of it is not available at all. I shall forward to the honourable member information that has been obtained.
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
Mi Enderby - The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Bruce Moir, Sydney, $1,680 - To visit Canada and Utrecht to study educational film making.
John Donovan, Sydney, $2,664 - To observe methods and techniques at Consolidated Film Industries, California, Kodak in Rochester.
David Burman, Sydney, $800 - To visit England to study professional colour television and the structure and methods of teaching by television.
Ross Campbell, Melbourne, $552- Additional assistance with living allowance for completion of final term at London Film School.
George Anderson, Adelaide, $525 - To attend Institute of Arts, California, for research into Expressionist Cinema.
Byron Kennedy, Melbourne, $2,000 - To assist with fares and living allowance for study of production techniques, marketing and distribution for 12 weeks in the United States.
Michael Robertson, Sydney, $2,500- To assist with economy around the world air ticket, to study feature film production in the United States, England and Europe, to cover fees for a Summer School (shortened film course) at the University of Southern California and to assist with living expenses for 8 weeks while in the United States.
Monte Millar, Melbourne, $1,000- To cover return air fare to England and New York and to assist with other expenses incurred while studying script writing and editing at television networks in England and with NBC, New York.
John Lamond, Melbourne, 81,800 - To cover air fares, accommodation and living expenses foi 7 weeks in London, Los Angeles and New York to study all aspects of promotion marketing and distribution with emphasis on production, and promotion budget.
Garry Shead, Sydney, $810- To cover economy return air fare to Paris to continue work in film - both theory and practice - for 6 months at the University of Sydney’s studio in the Cite Internationale des Arts and to meet costs of the export of 12 films for screening in Paris and Germany.
Stanley Draper, Hobart, $1,750- To cover fares for visits to television networks in London, Europe and Canada and the United States to examine Super 8 Colour Film as a production format for a television news operation and the use of Super 8 equipment as a vision input to video cassette systems and in educational television.
Raymond Edmondson, $2,100- To cover costs of a tour of overseas film archives to study film processing and restoration techniques, copying techniques, selection criteria, archival cataloguing, film storage, collection and preservation of stills, posters and associated materials.
Graham Bond, $2,210 - To assist a visit to London for the study of pantomime, vaudeville, television comedy production with other comedy writers and performers and to establish contacts at the 1973 Montreux Television Festival where his series The Aunty Jack Show is an entry.
Vincent Monton, $1,052 - To assist with fares to Sweden, Los Angeles, France and London to study the use of the super 16mm format and the implications of its introduction to Australia on a large scale.
Victor Kay, Jnr, $1,300- To assist the study of economical marketing of independent experimental films in America and to visit the Oberhausen Film Festival where his films have been entered.
David Roe, $1,000- To attend a 2 year Diploma Course in Film Studies at the Slade School of Fine Arts, University College, London.
Smart Street Films Pty Ltd, $13,000 (loan)Assistance to produce 90 minute 16mm feature film titled *27A
Lindsay Mulligan, $250 - Assistance to re-write 30 minute drama script with a script editor.
Roland Cantley, $3,000 (loan) - Assistance to help him prepare the final script and narrative for the film ‘The Last Great Barrier Reef.
Margo Williamson, $500- To complete the book Libido’ to coincide with release with film. Book to contain script and interview for education purposes.
Summer School in Film, $3,492 - To assist a summer school in film to be located at the participating Arts Cinema, Fremantle, W.A.
Australian Theatre for Young People, $7,777- Assistance to set up children’s and teachers’ film and television training services for schools.
Cheryl Pullen, $745 - To assist in costs of training in film and video techniques with the aim of introducing visual media for creative and educational purposes for Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory, (e) Other purposes:
Brisbane Film Co-operative, $682- -To assist the maintenance of the newly formed Brisbane Co-operative.
Inhibodress Gallery, S980- To assist production of documentary film and video programs to record overseas tour of exhibition, ‘Trans Art 1*.
Cantrills Film Notes, $150- Assistance towards publication of issues 11 and 12 of ‘Cantrills Film Notes’.
Sydney Filmmakers Co-operative, $1,500 -
Assistance towards administrative costs of the
Australian Film Institute, $16,300 - Assistance towards Director’s salary and re-organisation of Institute.
Sydney Filmmakers Co-operative, $15,000- Assistance towards the establishment of a full time film centre in the Sydney area.
Victorian Universities: Commonwealth Assistance (Question No. 286) Mr Scholes asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
Will he give details of what the Government has done to reduce the rate of inflation in Australia, referred to in the first sentence of his answer to part (4) of my question No. 170 (Hansard, 27th March 1973, page 762).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
See part (2) of my answer to his question No. 170 (Hansard, 27th March 1973, page 762).
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am not sure whether my attention has been drawn to all public statements by members of the present Government made prior to 2nd December 1972 on the Lake Pedder issue. My attention has been drawn to a speech by Mr Uren as the then Opposition spokesman on environmental matters in the Hobart Town Hall on 7th November in which he said inter alia: ‘I would like a combined FederalState review to take place, including the Tasmanian Government, the Hydro-electric Commission, conservation groups, and all sorts of experts from the Federal level. If I cannot get a combined study, 1 will instigate an inquiry from within my own department.’ In the event the Government has acted to set up an independent study group.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Will he now provide separate answers to parts (1) to (5) of my question No. 128 (Hansard, 3rd April 1973, page 1034); if not, why not.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There is nothing I can usefully add in response to parts (1), (2) and (3) of Question No. 128. However, in response to parts (4) and (5) I might add that determination of liability for gift duty and income tax is the responsibility of the Commissioner of Taxation.
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) Requests for financial assistance which my Department receives from organisations or persons acting on behalf of migrants fall generally in 2 areas - those which relate to assistance in acquiring land or premises for the establishment of ethnic clubs and those which relate to funds to support the employment of persons engaged in welfare work in the migrant community. My Department has funds only to meet requests in the latter category. Community agencies engaged in direct welfare service to migrants may apply for a grant to meet the salary costs of a social worker to further expand such work. A requirement of the community agencies grant scheme is that the social worker to be appointed must be qualified and eligible for membership of the Australian Association of Social Workers. Since 2nd December one application has been received under the scheme and currently is under consideration. Since the same date I have approved 4 applications which were already in hand. The average cost of a grant under the scheme is approximately $8,000 per annum.
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
What procedures has he authorised to improve the training of officers of his Department for overseas appointments.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
For a number of years, a carefully designed training course has been provided for officers selected for overseas service. This course is subject to constant review to improve techniques and to meet changing needs. A course just concluded, for example, incorporated new material to prepare officers to employ newly-implemented migrant interviewing procedures.
asked the Minister for Overseas Trade, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, 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 provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
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 for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Note: The information in answer to (1), (2) and (3) shows the position at 28th February 1973; February being the latest month for which definitive figures are available.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
How many patients eligible for Commonwealth benefits were admitted to private nursing homes in the months of (a) November and December 1972 and (b) January and February 1973.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following were the numbers of persons admitted to approved nursing homes throughout Australia, other than those conducted by the various State Governments, in the months indicated:
1972 November 5,054 December 4,032.
1973 January 4,530 February 3,896.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
In what respects have the regulations and administrative directions relating to the availability of unemployment benefits been altered since 2nd December 1972.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Department manual ‘Unemployment, Sickness and Special Benefits Instructions’ was amended in the following manner.
A claimant will generally be regarded as having refused or failed without good and sufficient reason to accept an offer of employment if he is unwilling to accept and perform work offered to him which, having regard to his abilities and qualifications, it is considered would be suitable in its nature, conditions and location, to be undertaken by him’ will now read,
A claimant will generally be regarded as having refused or failed without good and sufficient reason to accept an offer of employment if he is unwilling to accept and perform work offered to him in his usual occupation or of an equivalent kind. Work of an equivalent kind is work of a type or nature in which the person usually engages and in which the person’s experience, qualifications and training would be used.’
School leavers and others not previously engaged in employment, and those seeking to rejoin the work force after some time will generally be regarded as having refused or failed without good and sufficient reason to accept an offer of employment if unwilling to accept and perform work offered which is in keeping with their personal preference, abilities, aptitudes or experience, qualifications and training.’
A claimant must be capable and willing to undertake work of a class which he normally, follows or be capable and willing to undertake some other work of a suitable nature that he could be expected to perform’ now reads, !A claimant must be capable and willing to undertake work of a class which he normally follows or of an equivalent kind’.
This section was further amended as follows, where it read,
When advising persons of their ineligibility for unemployment benefit because they have failed to satisfy the work test, expressions such as “You are not genuinely seeking employment” should be avoided.’ The reason for refusal should be shown as follows, or in similar terms: ‘You have not taken reasonable steps to obtain work as required by the Social Services Act.’ now reads,
When advising persons of their ineligibility for unemployment benefit because they have failed to satisfy the work test, expressions such as “You are not genuinely seeking employment” should be avoided.’ The reason for refusal should be shown as follows, or in similar terms: ‘You have failed to accept a reasonable offer of employment’.
The following instructions have been issued:
A person should not be denied benefits merely because an employer or employers disapprove of his appearance and on these grounds decline to engage him. Employers do not have the right to determine, under penalty of denied unemployment benefits, acceptable dress and appearance in a free, tolerant social democracy’ and
The practice of requiring beneficiaries to supply regular lists of employers contacted in a search for employment can be dispensed with. Hard core claimants against whom imposing this practice is directed easily lie their way around the requirement while genuine work seekers require no such goad.’
The attendance of migrants at English classes, however, should not be made a condition for the grant of unemployment benefit and the mere fact that a migrant may not attend is not of itself sufficient reason for refusing benefit. Under no circumstances should failure to attend such classes be used in correspondence as a reason for not granting or for terminating benefit.’ now reads,
The attendance of migrants at English classes, however, should not be made a condition for the grant of unemployment benefit and the mere fact that a migrant may not attend is no reason for refusing benefit. Under no circumstances should failure to attend such classes be used in correspondence as a reason for not granting or for terminating benefit.’
A claimant will be regarded as having refused or failed, without good and sufficient reason, to accept suitable work offered to him if, having regard to the claimant’s abilities and qualifications, the Registrar is of the opinion that the work would be suitable in its nature, conditions and location, to be undertaken by, the claimant.’ has been deleted and reference is made to amendments outlined in 3 (i) and 3 (ii).
The administrative discretion allowing a Registrar to postpone benefits is arbitrary, coercive and in its nature authoritarian. It is not to be exercised in future. Either a claimant is or is not eligible for benefits and he is to be advised and treated accordingly.
Maximum Period of Postponement
There are other aspects of this manual whichI regard as . objectionable because of the value judgments about people implied in their wording. These, to common with other instructions are currently under review. It should be clearly understood that the instructions in the Manual are reflections of the philosophy and value of previous Governments and are in no way to be seen as a reflection of public servants’ attitudes. Public servants discharge their duties faithfully and well according to the directions of the Government of the day.
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Medical Benefit Funds in Victoria: Contributions (Question No. 400)
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Pre-school Centres for Sub-normal Children (Question No. 404)
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Questions on Notice (Question No. 446)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Invalid Pensions and Sickness Benefits Paid to Women (Question No. 454) Mr Lloyd asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
How many women aged between IS and 45 received (a) an invalid pension and (b) sickness benefit in the latest month for which figures are available.
– The answer to the. honourable member’s question is as follows:
Invalid pensions and sickness benefits are payable to people 16 years of age and over who are otherwise eligible.
Regular statistics of invalid pensioners and sickness beneficiaries by age group are not maintained. However, the following estimates are provided from information obtained from a survey of invalid pensioners in New South Wales and Victoria at December 1972 and a survey of sickness beneficiaries carried out in October 1972.
The estimated number of female invalid pensioners aged 16 to 45 at the end of February 1973 was 22,400.
The estimated number of female sickness beneficiaries aged 16 to 45 at the end of March 1973 was 2,500.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 May 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19730501_reps_28_hor83/>.