28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will move to make available to the Tasmanian Government a special grant for the purpose of securing Lake Pedder in its natural state.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Barnard, Mr Bryant, Dr Everingham, Mr Armitage, Mr Bury, Mr Hurford, Mr Jarman, Mr Lamb, Mr Mathews and Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of teachers in the inner city area of Sydney in the state of New South Wales respectfully sheweth:
That the children of the inner city area should be compensated educationally for the lack of developmental opportunities in their homes and neighbourhood environment.
That they need pre schools, small classes, specially trained teachers, a specially designed curriculum, better physical facilities, and a new integration between home and school.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will adopt the principle of compensatory education generally, and the specific principle of differential staffing according to needs.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Beazley.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed’Free’ ‘National Health Scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an. individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr McLeay.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed elimination of privately operated nursing homes in favour of large State operated institutions is against the welfare of nursing home patients.
That chronically ill citizens of this country are entitled to be free to exercise a choice as to their surroundings and accommodation.
That the intended large impersonal institutions are a retrograde step in the total health care of all citizens.
That the extra expense entailed in the establishment and maintenance of the proposed large institutions cannot be justified on either economic or social grounds.
That the citizens of this country who are entitled to a nursing home subsidy should be allowed to have the subsidy applied towards the cost of their maintenance in the nursing home of their choice.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the continued existence and viability of private nursing homes.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Gorton.
– Are there any questions without notice? I call the honourable member for Warringah.
– The Minister to whom I intended to direct a question is not present.
– I will give you the call later. I call the honourable member for Bendigo.
– I wished to direct my question to the Minister for Defence but I cannot see him in the House.
-I call the honourable member for Wakefield.
– The Minister to whom I wished to direct a question is not here either. Where are they all?
-Order! The names of those honourable members who have already been called will be placed on the list. I call the honourable member for Griffith.
– My question was to have been directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation but he is not present.
– The Minister for Social Security is here, I believe. He is the Minister to whom I wish to direct my question. You have got to be lucky some time. Has his attention been drawn to the statement by Dr R. B. Scotton, who is described as the Government’s expert economist on medical care, that he had made a simple mathematical mistake of Si Om in estimating changes in doctors’ incomes?
– How much?
– Ten million dollars. Does the Minister intend to correct the misinformation appearing in Hansard of 2 May in his name, or does he intend to continue using these distorted and false calculations to discredit sections of the medical profession?
– It is true that an error was discovered in the calculations, The results are still significant, though. They show that average weekly earnings increased over a 4-year period to last year, I think it was, by 44 per cent but that doctors’ incomes increased by between 52 per cent and 53 per cent on average. That is, their incomes increased at a much faster rate than the rate of increase of incomes of others in the community. If the honourable gentleman is worried about errors he might like to consider the error of the Australian Medical Association which was only $27 m out in its calculations of the total cost of its proposals for increased fees. If the honourable member wants a better error - this is a matter of historical record in this House - his own Party as the government in 1969 calculated that the cost of changes to health insurance to introduce a common fee concept would be about $16m. As soon as the election was out of the way the costing was adjusted to $32m. At the end of the financial year the Budget paper showed that it was closer to $40m. If honourable members want examples of good errors, they can always rely on the Liberals.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Social Security been drawn to the recent statement by the Leader of the Opposition that the Liberal Party in determining the payment for doctors’ services advocated the establishment of a standing tribunal to review fees annually while taking into account movement in costs during the previous year? Is this the proposal which the Gorton Government put to the Australian Medical Association in 1970 and which .was rejected by the Association? Is this proposal more acceptable now to the AMA and has the Minister any reason to suppose that the AMA has moved towards a position where it will accept fee fixation on the same basis as is accepted by other mem*bers of the community?
– I recently wrote to my good friends in the Australian Medical Association suggesting that when the current proceedings of the Medical Fees Tribunal, headed by Mr Justice Ludeke, are concluded negotiations should be entered into to establish some regularised system of fees review. Obviously negotiations cannot be concluded until the present inquiry is out of the way. One of the problems - I sympathise with the AMA on this - is that it says to me: ‘How can we trust governments when we had such dishonourable treatment by the last Government just before the last election?’ This is a matter of record and if members of the Opposition care to challenge me I will arrange for the papers to be tabled. The Association pointed out to me that an arrangement was developed between representatives of the Department of Health, which was then concerned with health insurance, and members of, I think, the Association’s economic advisory committee to review the fee situation. The information provided was supposed to be totally confidential. The Association asserts - not me - that the last Prime Minister broke the confidences which had been agreed upon by releasing publicly information about proposed fee increases that the AMA had put forward.
– I rise on a point of order. I can assure you, Mr Speaker, that the honourable gentleman is not telling the truth.
-Order! No point of order is involved.
– I make it clear to the House that I am not questioning the integrity of the right honourable member for Lowe. I am simply quoting what the AMA has said and indicating why there are difficulties. The Association had unfortunate experiences with (he last Government but the Association will learn - it is learning this rapidly - that Australia now has a different government which upholds confidences. In any case the Opposition’s proposals on fee fixing are a little hilarious. As I understand the newspaper comments, the Opposition would introduce a participating doctors scheme under which those doctors who charge the fee would be designated as participating doctors and those who do not charge the fee would be designated as non-participating doctors and would not charge the fee but it would make no difference about the way the scheme was operated because everybody would get the same subsidy. I think the Opposition is trying to play a 2-card trick on the public.
– Is the Minister for the Environment and Conservation aware that the House of Representatives Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation said that kangaroos have to be wisely harvested or they will either starve themselves or the sheep and cattle with which they compete for food? Is the Minister aware that this is also the opinion of the Wildlife Division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and, indeed, of all other authorities who know anything about kangaroos? Is the Minister aware that South Australia has made proper arrangements to see that this harvesting is wisely done? If this is so, will he use his influence to see that the ban on the export of kangaroo skins is lifted in South Australia?
– I am aware that sensible conservation of the kangaroo population may well require harvesting. As was picturesquely put to me at a conference of Ministers: ‘If we do not do something about it, we will have to shoot them hopping down Bourke Street’. In other words, there is a conflict between the conservation of kangaroos and the capacity of rural industries to maintain themselves properly in competition with the kangaroos. So, in order to prevent the farmers taking the law into their own hands and poisoning the whole damn lot, kangaroos and all, when they fee! that the competition is getting too keen, it would be wise to have a sensible harvesting program. No one denies that. Even Senator Murphy concedes this point. He imposed the ban on the export of kangaroo products not because he disagrees with that basic proposition but because he was aware, as many people in the electorates of honourable members opposite are aware, that the slaughter of kangaroos was getting out of hand. Some States do have sensible control programs; some do not.’
The fact of life is that, following the conference in Washington earlier this year, we now have the prospects of an international agreement to control and care for endangered species. One of the propositions, amongst many, is that there should be proper control programs if we wish to export some of these species which might be endangered if there are not proper control programs. We will not be able to achieve international recognition of authorities State by State; it will have to be an authority recognised as the authority of the country concerned. The country in this case is Australia; it is not South Australia, Queensland or New South Wales. It will be an Australian government authority. We have simply sought through the appropriate body, namely, a conference of the Ministers involved - no one was dictating to anybody - to establish a’ national control program.
Because of this approach and the anxieties which existed, the Ministers concerned agreed without dissent to set up a working party to evolve the appropriate control program. The working party presented a report which has now gone back to each State for consideration by the Ministers concerned. I regret to say that we are still awaiting their comments.
Some have disagreed on some points and correspondence has flowed back and forth. We are still waiting for the States to acknowledge and agree to a uniform technique. It will not be narrow but will allow some latitude, because I am aware that there is not just one way to count kangaroos. Until we get some sort of agreement I do not feel that I will be in a position to advise the Minister for Customs and Excise that we have a program which will be acceptable in the terms of the international convention. So, we are just waiting quite patiently for the States to make up their minds on what they want to do. But I concede that if something is not done there will be unnecessary slaughter, and I am not in favour of that.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Northern Development. What has happened to several requests made by the Queensland Government for financial assistance in the construction of phase 1 and phase 2 of the Bundaberg irrigation project? Can the Minister indicate when a positive decision can be expected on this important project which is located in a serious drought prone area?
– I am very much aware of the concern and the efforts of the honourable member for Wide Bay with respect to this important water conservation project in an area which is very adversely affected from time to time by seasonal conditions. This project has been before the Commonwealth for some 10 years. The previous Government provided some assistance for it in 1970. In October lost year and in February this year the Queensland Premier wrote to the previous Government and this Government respectively for financial assistance amounting to $ 18.5m with respect to phase 2 of stage 1 of the project. The policy of the Labor Government is that it will support soundly based water conservation projects in proven and established areas provided that an evaluation analysis has been carried out and, of course, that the results are made available to the public.
The first thing I did when we received the letter from the Premier was to call for the Federal evaluation report on the Bundaberg irrigation scheme. There is no report. The previous Government just hoodwinked the people of Bundaberg, and the people of Queensland for that matter. There is just no Federal evaluation analysis. The same thing happened with respect to Urannah. A request came from the Queensland Premier at the same time about this scheme. The honourable member for Herbert will know this. I again called for the Federal evaluation analysis to put a case to Cabinet. One just has not been done, despite the fact that the previous Government said that this scheme had been under Federal investigation since 1967. It was just hoodwinking the people of Queensland again. The same thing happened with respect to the Eton irrigation project. Assistance for that project was refused by the previous Government last year without any evaluation analysis whatsoever.
The first thing that the Whitlam-Barnard Government did was to reverse the previous decision and ask for an evaluation report. The scheme proved to be sound and in the Budget we financed it. I oan assure the honourable member for Wide Bay that consideration of the Bundaberg irrigation project is in hand and that organisations such as the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Snowy Mountains Corporation, as well as the Department of Environment and Conservation and the Department of Northern Development, have started an evaluation analysis. As soon as that is completed I will put a case to the Cabinet. The same applies to several other water conservation projects which are now being investigated in Queensland.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory. I refer to his action in freezing petrol prices in his own electorate, the Australian Capital Territory. I ask: Who does he consider will be paying the tax on petrol? Why does he consider that those who live in one southern city should be given a very significant advantage over other people who live in far away places such as the Northern Territory, who produce much of Australia’s wealth and who will be greatly disadvantaged by the Budget action of this Government? Finally, is he considering freezing petrol prices in the Northern Territory and/or referring the matter to the Northern Territory Legislative Council or both? .
– I am indebted to the honourable member for the question. It is an interesting point of view that seems to state that action producing lower petrol prices in one area is to be condemned because of a failure to take similar action in other parts of Australia. As recently as this morning the Minister for Education in the New South Wales Government, representing the Minister for Labour and Industry in the New South Wales Government, was heard to complain that my action in freezing petrol prices was some kind of discrimination and that if something was not done about it he would have to take appropriate action. I hope that he would. I would invite him to take the same sort of action as we have in the Australian Capital Territory and reduce petrol prices in New South Wales. If I can ‘be forgiven for taking this opportunity, realising that these proceedings are being broadcast, let me tell people who live in other parts of Australia that they should write to their members, Premiers and Ministers and urge them to do exactly what we are doing in the Australian Capital Territory. I would invite all people listening to the radio broadcast from the Australian Parliament to do just that. They should write to Sir Robert Askin, the Premier of New South Wales, or write to the Premier of Victoria and complain, saying: ‘If they can do it in the Australian Capital Territory why can you not do it in New South Wales? Why can it not be done in Victoria? Why cannot the Premier in Queensland do it?’
The honourable member and I are mutually concerned about the Northern Territory. He will appreciate that decisions in that area are matters for the Administrator’s Council. At my suggestion, as far as I know, this matter is being considered in the Administrator’s Council. My power in the Northern Territory is different from my power in the Australian Capital Territory. The Legislative Councillors that the honourable member referred to are represented on the Administrator’s Council. If they want to do the right thing, let them do it. Unfortunately they are members of the same party as the honourable member and are less enthusiastic about doing, and less prone to do anything about reducing prices in the Northern Territory than this Government is. I suggest that the honourable member use his influence with Country Party members of the Administrator’s Council, which sits in Darwin, and persuade them to do what we are doing in the Australian Capital Territory. If that happens, well and good; I would hope something of the same kind would happen.
– How about taking the tax off.
– That is a striking commentary on attitudes expressed by members of the Country Party. As a result of the action of this Government in Canberra every day 3,000 or 4,000 patients obtain medical care cheaper than do patients in other parts of Australia. The honourable member does not want that to happen. He criticises it and he rejects it. We know where his friends are. As recently as the other day, as I understand it, the honourable member for Gwydir, a former Minister for the Interior, was quoted as being critical of the Prices Regulation Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory. There is no doubt that implicit in his statement is loyalty to the oil companies. I have nothing against the oil companies. That was implicit in what he said.
– It was not. That was not the point. I understand that you do not like the Ordinance.
– The suggestion that it be disallowed reflects the real loyalty. I come back to this point: I am indebted to the honourable member for the Northern Territory for giving me the opportunity to say that good government can produce an answer to the problems of inflation.
– I address my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Pending the construction of the new runway and taxiway system and the establishment of new airport terminal facilities at Brisbane Airport, does the Government have plans for improving the existing international terminal facilities?
– When the newly appointed member of the board of Qantas Airways Ltd, Mr Egerton, took up his responsibilities recently he expressed concern about the inadequate international terminal facilities in Brisbane. This matter has been under consideration for some time. One of the first things he did was to start needling the Department of Civil Aviation about it. He and the honourable member for Lilley put sufficient pressure on us to get things moving.
– Ha, ha!
– That is right. The previous Government was not interested in the matter. It did nothing about it. At least we investigated the matter. Probably there was no action previously because the former Government did not have a Queensland representative on the Qantas board. Now that State has an active representative. As a result of those inquiries we found that the present international terminal was structurally unsound and in the event of very high winds, to which Queensland is subjected from time to time, the building could collapse. As a result of this investigation we were going to spend something like another $250,000 to $500,000 on strengthening the building. However, this was considered impractical. Trans-Australia Airlines was going to construct a building which would have blended in with the proposals for a new terminal at Brisbane. TransAustralia Airlines was going to build a new office, workshop and stores building on what will be the maintenance area. At the present time Trans-Australia Airlines is short of space for cabin servicing, maintenance of its aircraft and freight facilities, lt has been decided to go ahead and erect this building so that it can be used jointly by Trans-Australia Airlines, to provide those facilities for freighting, maintenance and cabin servicing, and as an international terminal. Because of the unsound nature of the existing international terminal this matter will be proceeded with immediately.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister seen a Press release by the Australian Wheat Board to the effect that export wheat prices have now reached an all time record level? I understand from the Minister for Primary Industry that it is now $3.80 a bushel. Can the Minister say to what extent the Board has been able to take advantage of these high prices? What is the present stocks position of the Board? Has the Board sold forward from the incoming harvest? What has been the cost of, and how many people have been employed by, the wheat quota committees in each of the States? Who has borne the cost of these committees, and for how long does the Government intend to keep them in existence?
– I am aware, as are most honourable members, of the very high price of wheat on the world market. This is due to demand and supply which has resulted in a world shortage of wheat. We can be thankful that we have a wheat stabilisation scheme which is stabilising the price of wheat on the home market for stock feed and for human consumption. A somewhat similar position applied in the post-war years when, the world price of wheat was two to three times the domestic price. That was one of the reasons why the then Labor Government had introduced the wheat stabilisation scheme. The honourable member for Moore will know that for all practical purposes we have no stocks of wheat for sale. That is all there is to it. A few days ago I was informed that the Australian Wheat Board has sold approximately 1 million tonnes of wheat - which is about 37 million bushels - this year for delivery next year. It will be delivered for shipment after 1 December, which is in the next crop year. This is a delicate situation and it depends on what the harvest will be this year. Obviously, the Wheat Board must take a very responsible attitude to selling wheat for delivery next year, when it will have the wheat to sell until after the next harvest; but approximately 1 million tonnes has already been sold forward.
The latest figures that come to my mind on the actual costs of administration are $250,000 to $300,000 for keeping the people employed and for the various administrative responsibilities regarding the wheat quotas. I am conscious that this may be a very high figure in terms of the present situation. I shall draw the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry to the question and ask him for a more detailed answer in relation to the actual number of men and women employed. I think the honourable member will appreciate that I do not have those figures in my head.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister in his capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is he aware that as late as 12 August this year there was available, among other travel brochures at the Trans-Australia Airlines booking office at the Alice Springs terminal, a South African Airways travel brochure offering tours of South Africa and Rhodesia? As tourism is a form of trade, can he inform the House whether this display contravenes the sanctions of the United Nations Security Council agreed to by Australia? If so, what measures will be taken to ensure that such literature is not available in future?
– I have been appalled to learn that as recently as last week the TransAustralia Airlines office in Alice Springs still had some brochures available which included an advertisement for travel to Rhodesia in contravention of Australia’s international obligations. Contrary to previously issued instructions to all TAA offices these brochures had inadvertently been overlooked in the Alice Springs office. The office has now received renewed instructions to destroy all remaining copies of the brochure in its possession. The Gorton Government, the McMahon Government and the Whitlam Government have all made clear that Australia does not approve of the sale or advertising of travel to Rhodesia. As far back as October 1970 my predecessor but one as Foreign Minister, the right honourable member for Lowe, assured me that the sale of tickets to Rhodesia by South African Airlines had been discontinued and Qantas, which had been placing advertisements in Rhodesian newspapers and in Australia, was discontinuing those advertisements. After assuming office and having been informed that the sale of tickets to Rhodesia by some airlines, for instance South African Airlines, in Australia was still taking place, my Government last April instructed airlines in Australia not to issue tickets for travel to, from or via Rhodesia. In response to this instruction the airlines advised the Department of Civil Aviation that they would comply with the Government’s wishes. Furthermore, the Government has sought the co-operation of newspapers in Australia in not accepting for publication advertisements promoting travel or migration to Rhodesia.
– A point of order, Mr Speaker. In response to a question from the Prime Minister’s side of the House he is making a ministerial statement on the Australian Government’s attitude to travel to Rhodesia. I submit that this is not a proper matter for question time at all and should be the subject of a statement. Sir, I say that it is your duty as the custodian of the rights of all members of this House to see that all members have a fair opportunity to ask questions. If we are to have the House used as it is being used now and as it was used yesterday, when we had a second reading speech from the Treasurer, then I say that the duty of looking to the rights of all members of this House is being neglected.
-Order! No point of order is involved. The honourable member for Bradfield should have taken this up during the last Parliament.
– If I may conclude the first answer I have been asked to give for over a week, the Government has not only asked the newspapers, but also pointed out to travel organisations that the sale of travel to Rhodesia could be held to ‘be a breach of the United Nations sanctions against Rhodesia. I regret that Trans- Australia Airlines continued to defy the instructions of the Gorton, McMahon and Whitlam Governments in this regard and let the country down for so long.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer in the Whitlam-Barnard Government. There has been a continuing decline in share prices since the Government came to power and yesterday was one of the blackest days in stock market history, with shares falling alarmingly. The reason given by experts for this fall was the lack of confidence in the Government and in Australia. What action will the Treasurer take to restore confidence in Australia - he cannot restore confidence in the Government - by both Australians and people overseas so that the value of assets of small investors, of whom there are hundreds of thousands in Australia, can be restored to the levels of before? Does the Treasurer agree that investment in equity shares is a reasonable and proper way in which the small investor can make provision for his future?
– If the state of the economy is to be the criterion, I suggest to all investors that they hold on to their shares. After all, the fact that A sells a share usually implies that there is another character, B, willing to buy that share. If somebody is foolish enough to sell at a low price and somebody else wise enough to buy at that low price, I think that judgment will be vindicated.
– I address a question to the Treasurer concerning the Prices Justification Tribunal. Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to a sample survey by final year students for the degree of master of business administration at Macquarie University, which survey revealed that only 28 per cent of firms covered by the Prices Justification Act intended to abide fully by the decisions of the Prices Justification Tribunal? In view of these findings, will the Treasurer consider amending the Prices Justification Act so that, to use the eloquent words of United States Treasurer George Schultz: ‘Anyone who does not comply voluntarily will get clobbered’?
– The operation of the Prices Justification Tribunal resides in the jurisdiction of my distinguished colleague, the Prime Minister. However, I am sure that he, like me, is concerned that, if a law exists in the community applying to certain sorts of people, it ought to be obeyed. If there is any suggestion that people will try to boycott it and there are deficiencies in the Act which enable them to do so, we certainly will close such loopholes.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Social Security concerning the Australian Labor Party’s proposed health scheme. Can the Minister give the House an unequivocal assurance that, under that scheme, medical practitioners will be paid on a fee for service basis as is in fact recommended by the Deeble-Scotton report? Can he also give similar assurance that in no circumstances will they be paid on any form of capitation basis as is done in the United Kingdom health scheme?
– I think that the correct way in which to answer this question is to say-
– Just say yes or no.
– No, that is too simple. This scheme will expand choice in the community. It will expand freedom of choice for consumers who are patients. It will expand the choice available to medical practitioners. The present system of health insurance tends to discriminate against medical practitioners who may wish to take up another form of remuneration apart from that of fee for service. For instance, many of the private health insurance funds will pay no benefit at all where a service is provided by a medical practitioner on contract, on salary or on a per capita basis of remuneration such as is found in the American concept of health maintenance organisations.
Our scheme in fact is based on freedom of choice by the patient of his or her doctor. That is guaranteed. It is based essentially on the system of private practice as it currently operates. It is based on the system of fee for service remuneration of those private practi tioners. In those situations where medical practitioners indicate that they wish to use some other form of remuneration or they wish to develop some other form of practice, we will give them the opportunity to do so. We will allow them to make that choice. This is an opportunity that very clearly does not exist today because health insurance has been designed in a way that discriminates against medical practitioners who wish to do that. I repeat: Under our scheme there will be a much greater expansion of the opportunity for choice being exercised by both the public and the medical practitioner.
– Mr Speaker, I rise to order. I rarely rise on a point of order, but I am impelled to do so now. This question time, like all other question times, has been abused by Ministers in two ways - the length of answers and the fact that questions that are asked are not answered ‘by Ministers. Mr Speaker, if you intend not to allow this question time to be turned into a farce you will appreciate that members on this side of the House have rights as well.
-I should remind the honourable mem’ber for Hotham that this has been the general practice of my predecessors ever since I became a member of this Parliament, and I intend to follow that practice.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. With respect, it was not the general practice of your predecessor to allow Ministers an uninhibited right of reply. There were innumerable occasions when your predecessor questioned the length of replies by Ministers and warned Ministers to shorten their replies or asked them to do so. I submit with respect, Mr Speaker, that you are breaking that tradition and breaking it quite deliberately.
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Wannon that he was the worst offender in the House in the last Parliament.
– Mr Speaker, again I raise a point of order. Yesterday I admitted that I was one of those who were chided and checked by the previous Speaker and I accepted his rulings as being impartial and fair. All we want is the same treatment for this side of the House now that you, Mr Speaker, are in the chair. We are not receiving that treatment. This is a partisan approach.
-Order! I should like to mention also that on the last day of the previous session the honourable gentleman took a point of order about the Prime Minister answering a question after question time as he did not have the information available during question time. I had some notes compiled, which I sent to the honourable mem’ber, showing that on numerous occasions when he was a Minister he had answered questions after question time. Yet, the honourable member took a point of order on the Prime Minister for answering in the same way. The honourable member is the most inconsistent member of this house. He has to be able to take it too.
– Utterly partisan; a disgrace.
– It is a disgrace.
-Order! The honourable member for Warringah will withdraw that.
-Order! The honourable member for Warringah will withdraw the remark ‘It is a disgrace’.
– Mr Speaker, if you consider that my remark was a reflection on the Chair, I withdraw it.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether his attention has been drawn to an article in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ last Friday on the Australian Government’s English language training scheme for migrants.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Minister for Immigration has been asked about 30 questions this session, 26 of which have come from his own side. This question is clearly another Dorothy Dixer.
-Order! No point of order is involved.
– I might say that I have never had anyone prepare my questions for me, and that applies on this occasion.
Opposition members - Oh!
-Order! The Chair will not tolerate interjections as they have been coming from both sides of the House. I ask the House to come to order. If it does not, I will certainly take the appropriate action.
– Does the Minister for Immigration agree that the rigid system and methodology of teaching known as the Australian situational method, which has been in use for some 25 years or more, is now out of date and unsatisfactory? Further, does the Minister agree that the non-compulsory policy of the Department in regard to preembarkation language training has been mainly responsible for the failure of many migrants to cope with the English language on their arrival in this country?
– In reply to the honourable member I might say that he has given distinguished service as a member of the Immigration Advisory Council and I am very pleased to have a question from him on a matter which obviously interests him and most other members of the Parliament.
– I raise a point of order. I invite your attention, Mr Speaker, to standing order 145 which says:
An answer shall be relevant to the question.
I ask you, sir, whether this answer is relevant to the question. If you hold that it is inconsistent with present practice I will ask you to submit your interpretation of standing order 145 to the House of Representatives Standing Orders Committee.
-Order! No point of order is involved. This has been the general practice of the House all the time.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. The right honourable member for Lowe is referring to an answer I was about to give. I have not given it yet so I cannot see how he can take exception to it. When I was interrupted by the right honourable member for Lowe I was about to say that the article in the ‘Financial Review’ to which my attention has been drawn and which has been referred to by the honourable member for Bowman does pose a series of serious criticisms about the teaching of English to migrants over the last quarter of a century. I want to say that some of the criticisms are quite valid. I am concerned that the program has not been as successful or as efficacious as it ought to have been. I do not accept all of the points made in that article but I do say that it is time for new initiatives.
One of the new initiatives to which I am giving consideration is the awarding of integration fellowships for people who speak English- teachers, actuallyand who come from major countries of migration, in order to give an opportunity to those people to come as fellows to Australian schools, or as additional staff members. They would be able to bring something of the background of migrants not only to migrant children here but also to our own children in the schools. This would broaden the whole of the system of teaching English and also bring integration into the schools from all points of view, the point of view of the Australain child as well as the migrant child. This, I think, would give some better pointers to some of the sins of omission, if you like, that we have been guilty of, perhaps through ignorance or perhaps because we have not had the proper appreciation of this problem. But after 25 years it is time that we got the experience, recognised the problem and took some new initiatives. I hope to take that initiative I referred to as one of the new initiatives in relation to this matter. I may say also that when some honourable members take an interest in this subject that is no reason to denigrate them. I commend all honourable members on all sides of the House who have taken some interest in the problem of the settlement of people who have been brought here over a period of a quarter of a century.
-I shall certainly draw the point to the Prime Minister’s notice.
– I raise a point of order. My point is that during Question Time it is very difficult to get answers to questions. One of the reasons for this - and I draw the Prime Minister’s attention to this point - is that too many policy statements are being made outside of this House where there is not the chance of making comment. The only chance that the Opposition has is to ask questions during question time. When the Prime Minister was the Leader of the Opposition he always made a point of demanding that the dignity and the respect of the Parliament should be maintained by ensuring that whenever possible major policy statements of the Government should be made in this House. Over the last 2 weeks there has been a succession of state ments made outside this Parliament That does not give members of the Opposition the chance to comment on them. I am sure that it would overcome many of the problems of Question Time if the Prime Minister would ensure that Ministers obeyed a long standing principle which has been honoured by previous governments.
– If I may speak on that point, I see the force of what the right honourable gentleman says. At least this much has been achieved so far: There have never been per day, per week of the sittings of the House so many statements made by Ministers on the proceedings of conferences they have had with their State counterparts or the proceedings of conferences at which they have represented Australia overseas. I believe it is true to say that the proceedings of every conference between the Australian Government and State Government Ministers since the last elections have been tabled in this House. I believe it is also true to say that a report has been made to the Parliament on every conference at which Australian Ministers have conferred with Ministers of overseas governments. Moreover, reports” of outside bodies, such as commissions, committees, boards and task forces which the Government has asked to advise it, have been tabled promptly in the Parliament. I am aware that it would ‘be of great interest for statements, such as the one regarding the second Sydney airport or the reference to the Tariff Board dealing with the motor vehicle industry, to be tabled in the Parliament. This has not been the practice of previous governments. I am prepared to discuss the possibility of adopting some practice like this but I imagine that there could be difficulties if every reference to the Tariff Board were immediately tabled in the Parliament. I am anxious to let honourable members know what the Government is asking people to advise it about. Information about that advice is certainly given more promptly than has ever been the case before today. Whilst I am prepared to discuss this matter or to have my colleagues, such as the Leader of the House - the father of the Parliament - discuss it with members of the Opposition, I must say that a result is more likely to come about much earlier if we can achieve some principle whereby when a ministerial statement is made one statement upon it is then made by a member of the Opposition. The procedure to now has been that when a member of the
Liberal Party wants to speak to a ministerial statement a member of the Country Party has the right to speak to it as well. If there is to be orderly and prompt discussion in the Parliament at least let us have it on a rational basis of parity.
– Mr Speaker, today has been a very bad day for question time.
-Order! Is this a point of order?
– Yes, Mr Speaker, I am speaking to the point of order. This situation has been building up simply because the number of questions asked from this side of the House has been diminishing constantly because of the amount of time taken by Ministers in answering questions. There has been a sharp contrast between Ministers avoiding answering questions at all or saying only a few words, leaving that question totally unanswered and other Ministers taking anything up to 15 minutes to answer one question. The discussion which has flowed from the point of order raised by the Leader of the Country Party is most important. The Prime Minister has alleged that all reports by Ministers of the conduct of discussions with States or overseas governments have been tabled. However, a great paucity of debate has been allowed on matters of major national and international importance in this House. There is nobody on this side of the House who does not want to join in the debate-
-Order! The right honourable gentleman should direct his remarks to the point of order.
– Mr Speaker, I am .responding to what you ruled in order by the Prime Minister.
-Order! This could turn into a debate. I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that the Chair is not trying to stifle him, but I ask him to be brief.
– If it was relevant for the Prime Minister, surely it is relevant for me. The task of the Speaker is to be fairhanded
-Order! I think the Leader of the Opposition will appreciate that the Leader of the Country Party took a point of order which, I thought, was answered by the Prime Minister. Is the Leader of the Opposition taking another point of order or is he speaking to the point of order raised by the Leader of the Country Party? If an honour able member on the Government side takes another point of order, this debate could go on for a week.
– If it did go on for a week it would serve the interests of the Parliament because it would be the first time we wouldhave been able to debate it.
-Order! Not on points of order.
– The Prime Minister has spoken about these reports. Yes, let them be tabled and let them be tabled in this Parliament first and not reported to the news media through leaks or any other form.
– Mr Speaker, I rise to order. The Leader of the Opposition has not been-
-Order! Are you taking a point of order or speaking to this point of order?
– I am taking a point of order that the Leader of the Opposition has not been granted leave to make a statement and therefore he is out of order.
-Order! I call the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Prime Minister in responding said that he would like discussions to be carried out between his people, whoever they may be, and the father of the House, who we do know, with members from the Opposition. We will be very glad to have those discussions because we want to have the opportunity of debate and we want the opportunity of debate in this Parliament first, not for the information to be leaked out by various means or presented formally in a-
– I again rise formally to take a point of order.
-Order! I would say to the right honourable gentleman in the first place that the point of order taken by the Leader of the Country Party was a matter specifically for the Prime Minister to answer. There is going to be an open debate on this matter because of points of order being taken from both sides of the House. I ask the honourable gentleman to terminate his point of order as quickly as possible.
– The Prime Minister spoke of the Australian Industry Development Corporation and of the Government’s motor vehicle policy. Why has there not been a statement made in this House on the AIDC and on motor vehicle policy?
– There is a second reading this afternoon; it is on the notice paper.
– It is on the notice paper now, but the matter has been before the public for days. If the right honourable gentleman is willing to give effect to what he implied in his statement, we will certainly meet him. We want to have debates in this House on all these issues. This is the place for debates to occur and we want question time to be conducted as it should be.
– Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. I take the point so that honourable members and listeners will understand that the notice was given yesterday in the House about the Australian Industries Development Corporation Bill and the accompanying Bill and the second reading of both Bills is listed on the notice paper and on the blue sheet for today. I also take the point that hitherto there has been no response from either of the Opposition Parties to the suggestion that I made before the House of Representatives Standing Orders Committee that we should devise a procedure whereby Senate Ministers could be rostered to .answer questions without notice in this House and that this House should give leave for its Ministers to be rostered to answer questions without notice in the Senate.
– I challenge that statement.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. You will remember I trust that I was the first member called at question time this morning. I wished to ask a question of the Prime Minister but the Prime Minister was absent from the chamber. You gave me an undertaking that you would call me later during question time.
-Order! I did not say that. I said that I would put you on the list. I did not know how many questions were going to be asked or what the questions were.
– Mr Speaker, you gave the clear impression that you would call me later in the day. Can I ask for an understanding that I will be called on the next day of sitting?
-Order! That depends.
– On the point of order raised by the Leader of the Country Party, all I am asking - I do not know about other honourable members - is that the Prime Minister says to this House what he says to the news conference he holds on Tuesdays. I cannot see why we should not be regarded as being at least as fitting to hear this information as members of the news media. Why should statements as important as those on the motor car industry and the Australian Industries Development Corporation ‘be made to a news conference? If they are worth making to members of the Press, surely they are worth mak- <* ing to this Parliament.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do. Repeated to this Parliament today was an earlier misrepresentation in ia newspaper of a statement of mine. I wrote to the editor of ‘the newspaper concerned to correct that misrepresentation. The letter was published. I now wish to correct the misrepresentation of my statement which was given to the Parliament. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) in answering a question, I think from the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews), indicated that the Liberal Party’s new health proposals included a participating doctors’ scheme. This was the misrepresentation which appeared in the newspaper to which I have referred. If the Minister will refer to my statement - I know he has it because he showed considerable wisdom in asking me to send him a copy of it - he will find that what we propose is that the medical profession should enter into contractual arrangements with an organisation sponsored by themselves to observe a schedule of fees arrived at by a standing tribunal on which the Government, the doctors and consumers - I stress that - are represented. If the Minister will write another letter to his new-found friends in the medical profession he will find that this eminently sensible suggestion has wide support among the medical profession.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do. I was misrepresented by the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby). He implied in answer to a question from the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) that I had implied that I was opposed to the petrol price freeze in the Australian Capital Territory by expressing some concern about the ordinance that has been invoked in the Australian Capital Territory, the Prices Regulations Ordinance, to control petrol prices. I am not concerned principally whether the Minister’s clumsy economic experiment on his Canberra guinea pigs works or not. Time will tell whether this economic experiment will reduce inflation or not. What I am concerned about, and what many others have been concerned about, is some of the provisions that apply in that Ordinance. It is not the Minister’s fault but they do exist.
– I rise on a point of order. I am not sure whether this is supposed to be a personal explanation or a statement, for which leave has not been given.
– Order! I ask the honourable member for Gwydir not to debate the question but just to explain’ where he has been misrepresented.
– I have been misrepresented because the implication was that I was opposed to the Ordinance because it freezes petrol prices. That is not true. I was concerned about certain repressive and regressive provisions of the Ordinance which the Minister has now indicated that he is prepared to rectify for the sake of human justice.
- -Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, by the honourable member for Corangamite. My question to which he referred to his personal explanation quoted exactly from the report of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) which appeared in the second city edition of the Melbourne ‘Herald’ on 17 August 1973. The words were those of the Leader of the Opposition.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Territory of Christmas Island for the year ended 30 June 1972 and the annual report of the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands for the year ended 30 June 1972.
– On behalf of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory I bring up the following reports and proposals for variations of the plan of the layout of the City of Canberra and its environs: The 52nd series, the 53rd series and the 54th series.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– I ask leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with the reports.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The reports that I have just tabled are 3 reports from the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory on proposals to vary the plan of lay-out of the City of Canberra. Under paragraph 1 (a) of its resolution of appointment the Committee is required to examine and report on all proposals to vary the plan of lay-out of the City of Canberra and its environs referred to it by the Minister for the Capital Territory. It is the practice for the Minister to refer proposals to the Committee before he proceeds under section 12a of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act to notify in the Australian Government Gazette his intentions to vary the plan or to table instruments of variation in Parliament as required by that section. This means that honourable members have the advantage of the Committee’s report on these proposals before formal action to vary the plan is actually taken.
The last of the 3 reports that I have tabled, the report on the 54th series, covers 15 minor items of a mainly technical nature. The report on the 53rd series dealing with one matter only, namely the proposal for a major interchange between the proposed Molonglo Parkway, the Tuggeranong Parkway and the corridor to the west. The proposed roads will include 2 additonal access roads to Belconnen in order to relieve traffic pressure on Belconnen Way, which is at present the only highway to Belconnen. It was explained to the Committee that the operation of the Parkway systems involved in this proposal does not depend on the proposed Molonglo Parkway, which has been the subject of an environmental impact study shortly to be subjected to public inquiry. Honourable members will be aware that there is considerable opposition in
Canberra to the construction of the Molonglo Parkway but the interchange considered in this report has been designed to operate effectively on its own and would be required even if the Molonglo Parkway was not proposed.
The report on the 52nd Series covers 17 items of which the most significant is the last which is a proposal to make reservation on the plan for the next territorial units of the new town of Tuggeranong. Honourable members will see from the report that a number of the other proposals covered in the report on the 52nd series concern subdivision for residential development in established areas of Canberra. There is an urgent need to increase the supply of land to meet the high demand for residential blocks. This demand is most readily met by development in established areas already supplied with water, sewerage and electricity connections. It will also be noted from the report that some of these proposed developments item 8, 13, and 14 in particular have been the subject of objections from residents. In the case of item 8, which is for a new residential development between Cook and Aranda, the development has also been the subject of representation to the Committee ‘by residents in the locality. Aranda and Cook are well established suburbs to the north of Canberra and the development proposed in item 8 would provide 106 additional detached dwellings in an area which is now bushland. The National Capital Development Commission has negotiated with representatives of the residents and produced a sketch proposal which would preserve 25 per cent of the development as open space including buffer zones between existing houses and the proposed new development. The residents are implacably opposed to any development in the area at all.
We are quite satisfied, firstly, that some development should take place in this area, as has always been intended. The areas is very close to the Black Mountain reserve and is very well provided with natural open space. Secondly we were satisfied that the NCDC had gone as far as is reasonably to be expected in modifying their original proposal to preserve those features which make this particular area attractive to residents. We consider that in the wider public interest the development should proceed and have recommended accordingly. All the items covered by the report on the 52nd series are of some significance, and the Committee has examined them carefully and where necessary it has commented on the proposal in its reports.
I commend the reports to the House.
– (Australian Capital Territory Minister for the Capital Territory) by leave I want to take this opportunity to thank the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) for the presentation of the reports. I certainly will study them in great detail and I am sure the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) will do so also. It may be of interest to the honourable member and to other honourable members, Mr Speaker, if I advert shortly to the problem posed by the honourable member for Canning in his short statement about the need to increase the supply of land in Canberra and. yet reconcile that need with the wishes of the people who live in homes adjoining open areas at the moment, areas which originally were planned for development but which those people legitimately would like to keep as open areas. Two days ago the Minister for Urban and Regional Development and I attended at Shackleton Hill in Canberra where an issue of this nature presents itself. We had useful discussions there with people who represent the area and who live in the area. We walked over the hill and very rewarding discussions took place. I know that the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, who primarily is responsible for this subject, is going to make certain recommendations on it to his Department. That is consistant with what the honourable member for Canning spoke of and I thank him.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 11 September.
That grievances be noted.
– I want to spend a few moments trying to probe the reasons behind the Government’s betrayal of promises given before the last election to a number of people about education and assistance to schools. In a debate in another place the other day it was pointed out that, while additional funds for education were welcome, the way in which some of those funds were being spent was discriminatory and that the index relating to the division of funds between schools was secret. That debate generally probed the weakness of the Government’s policy. It also revealed that both the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), when he was Leader of the Opposition, and the present Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) gave firm, categoric and absolute assurances, not once but several times, concerning the financing of schools. Those assurances have been broken. I shall deal with each of the 2 honourable gentlemen in turn. At the Festival Hall on 2 May 1972 the Prime Minister said:
That is the Labor Party - will not repeal or reduce any educational benefit which is already being paid. We will confirm any which are there already.
That has not been done because many educational expenses have been abolished for a large number of schools. If the honourable gentleman wanted to say that the then Government introduced measures after that date and therefore he had an excuse for breaking that pledge, I would accept that statement if that were the only evidence. But it is not the only evidence because the previous Government’s affirmative and definite policies, which were going to give certainty and security to independent schools, were introduced on 11 May, and on 20 June, only a few weeks afterwards, the present Prime Minister again pledged his Party - and as it appears falsely pledged his Party - when he said at a Catholic luncheon in Melbourne:
Everyone knew quite well that when he said that he was talking about per capita grants.
After the election, the Prime Minister wrote to Mr Dixon, Chairman of the National Council of Independent Schools, and said:
Commencing in 1974 additional Commonwealth contributions towards the running costs of nongovernment schools will be determined on the basis of relative need . . .
The use of the word ‘additional’ led independent schools to believe quite clearly that the present grants would be continuing but that there would be additional funds for special areas of need - and no one would quarrel with that. As a result of that letter the independent schools thought that the Governments policies would be responsible. But then there was a speech by the Prime Minister at St Patrick’s College, Prospect Vale, in which he used very much the same words but significantly left out the word ‘additional’. As we know, the word ‘additional’ had no meaning at all. As we know, the pledges that the Prime Minister gave at Festival Hall, in front of 3,000 or 4,000 people, and at the Catholic luncheon were utterly worthless.
The present Minister for Education has said in this House that he would like the Commonwealth to be identified with the education of every child, including the children going to Geelong Grammar. That is not the only occasion on which he has expressed that view. On 28 October last year, when he was a hopeful or prospective Minister for Education, he was quoted as saying this:
No private school would get less under a Labor Government than the per capita grant it received now, Mr K. £. Beazley said last night.
That was reported in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ on the date I mentioned. He also was quoted as saying:
This will end the squalor of whispering campaigns. . .
He went on to say something about that but the whispering campaigns were accurate. In case the Minister thought that he was misrepresented, on 20 November of last year the Australian’ reported him as having said:
Of course the Government has demonstrated that that is not so. The Minister answered a number of questions asked by Dr Holmes, Principal of Oakburn College. His first question was:
Is it the intention of the Federal Labor Party to continue per capita aid to independent schools for 1974 and following years?
The answer to that question was a very simple one word answer, yes. We know that that was not true. These documents show that both the Minister and the Prime Minister have not kept the pledges they gave before the election, and it is well known why they have not done so.
But the matter is not quite so simple as that. I refer the House to the terms of reference of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission, the Karmel Committee. Originally those terms of reference were quite clear. They said that the Committee should recommend, under term of reference 3 (b), that the grants will be in addition to existing Commonwealth commitments. Again people from independent schools felt therefore that there was no need to be concerned. But in the letter signed by all members of the Committee and sent to the Minister in delivering the report in May they say:
We have also taken into account the policies of the Australian Government with respect to the various existing programs for assistance to government and non-government schools as expressed in communications from you and we have referred to them in various paragraphs.
That clearly means, as Professor Karmel pointed out, that the Committee was given certain directions. It was given directions because on 13 April the Minister for Education wrote a letter to Professor Karmel in which he said:
In subsequent years this will be a matter for consideration by the Schools Commission. The effect of this decision is that the Government will not predetermine a basic level of support for all nongovernment schools after 1973.
That was a complete and absolute renunciation of the pledges that were given. When I mentioned this once before in this Parliament the Minister for Education became somewhat indignant and said that his informal opinion was the opposite of that which the Committee recommended. I suggest that the words in this letter, which was tabled in the Parliament, are similar to the recommendations of the Committee. If the Minister expressed another informal opinion it was at variance with the letter which he himself signed. I think that that is a tragic and unnecessary situation, because Professor Karmel makes it quite plain in his report that the Government has told him that certain programs would be phased out. The Committee was bound by that. The terms of reference specified that the grants recommended by the Committee were to be ‘in addition to existing Commonwealth commitments’. The report refers to that in paragraph 1.14. It continues:
The Minister for Education has informed the Committee that all grants being made to schools under Commonwealth legislation which was operative when the present Australian Government came to office would be continued during 1973. However-
This is still something of which the Minister informed the Committee - beyond 1973 some of these programmes are to be phased out.
What has happened is quite plain. The Committee has not been its own master in these particular matters. I can understand the Minister’s position and I sympathise with. him. 1 know quite well what his views on this matter are, but they were not the views of his Party.
I would like to put one other matter to him. I asked him before whether he and the Prime Minister had put certain things to the Committee and he was good enough to table a letter that he wrote to the Committee. I now ask him, quite directly, whether the Prime Minister wrote to Professor Karmel, formally or informally, as a typewritten letter or a handwritten note, or whether the Prime Minister had any communications with Professor Karmel concerning the composition of this report before the report was finalised.
– I am glad that the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has raised this question of the correspondence passing between me and the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission.
– And the Prime Minister.
– I am not privy to the correspondence of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam); so I cannot answer that question. I have no reason to believe that the Prime Minister corresponded with Professor Karmel other than at the time when the Prime Minister was Minister for Education in the period of the first Whitlam Government.
The essential point of this misrepresentation about an alleged instruction to phase out certain programs is this: There were existing programs which the late Government intended to phase out. It had made a decision to phase out its science and libraries programs. The Karmel Committee, in making recommendations, needed to know a whole series of things. It needed to know whether this Government intended to continue the $48m over 5 years that the late Government had decided to allocate to private schools. It needed to know whether this Government intended to continue the $167m over 5 years that the late Government had determined for state schools. It needed to know whether this Government intended to continue the late Government’s science program or libraries program.
The expression ‘phase out’, used in this letter, was an indication to the Committee that this Government intended to phase out those programs precisely as the late Government intended them to be phased out and on the same date. Let me read the relevant section of the letter. It says:
Under the States Grants (Schools) Act 1972 provision was made for capital grants for government schools totalling $167m and for non-government schools totalling $48m over the 5 years commencing July 1973. In accordance with an undertaking we have given to the States, the grants for capital facilities in government schools will be made available as contemplated in the legislation. For the purposes of the Interim Committee those grants should be regarded as existing Commonwealth commitments. For the nongovernment schools the first year’s instalments will be made available under the Dougherty Committee mechanism. However, for the remaining 4 years commencing July 1974 the allocation of the capital moneys for non-government schools under the Act will be as recommended by the Schools Commission.
In an earlier part the letter stated:
We will honour as firm commitments offers of specific amounts for individual projects for science facilities in non-government schools which have been made for each year of the present program to its conclusion on 30 June 1975. The sums available for government schools under this program will be paid to 30 June 197S also. Beyond that date it will be for the Schools Commission or, in the shorter term, the Interim Committee, to consider the treatment of science facilities in both government and nongovernment schools.
Some non-government schools had been informed by the previous Government that additional grants, up to the total reasonable cost of a project already approved, would be made available provided Parliament agreed to extend the program and provided sufficient funds were available. We will not make any automatic provision for these additional amounts because under our system these projects should be considered by you in the context of overall educational needs and priorities. 1 have asked my Department to provide you with information about these projects’.
In speaking about the legislation, the honourable gentleman is speaking about legislation that has not been introduced into this Parliament. The final decision on the recommendations in the Karmel Committee’s report rests with the Parliamentary Labor Party when it meets to consider the legislation. I am sure that it will be sensitive to the Party’s obligations.
There is no secrecy about the index. It is interesting that newspapers which have sent men to discuss this matter with the officers who compiled the index for each school have been satisfied on that score.
– Have the schools been told?
– The schools are told what their classification is. If they ask for the calculation they can be given it. The honourable member probably has seen the report that has gone out. The essence of the Karmel exercise is this: The Committee took the average level of state schools, on information provided by the State governments, as 100. Using the same method of analysis of resources as provided by the schools, the non-government schools ranged from 40 to 270. It is the object of the Karmel Committee over 6 years to raise all schools to a level of 140 compared with the present index level for state schools of 100. This will cost $2, 000m over 6 years. A school may be beyond 140 per cent of the present state schools index of 100. If it is, it is classified A. If it is below 67 per cent of the state school resources, it is classified H. The gradations go through B, C, D, E, F and G to H, which is the lowest. Category A schools are those whose indices are more than 140 now.
I am glad that the honourable gentleman had something to say about this. The Labor Party has gone through a certain amount of suffering. There were Liberal Party documents forged as Catholic documents in Queensland and circulated throughout Australia. The honourable gentleman will remember that because he had to repudiate them. It became necessary as the honourable gentleman’s publication was representing me as attacking schools - Catholic schools in particular. The pamphlet was designed for circulation under windscreen wipers of cars parked outside churches when Mass was being held and not for any other type of circulation. It was so used. Kevin Cairns was stupid enough to put it on Commonwealth stationery, and that exposed the whole thing. The Government has not launched an attack on the private schools, as the honourable gentleman says. It was the habitual policy of his Government to give twice as much to the non-government schools as to the state schools. In the last biennium of the McMahon Government, 1971 and 1972, allup grants to state schools by that Government totalled $40. 5m, That covers everything. These are my figures. In 1971 and 1972 the all-up grants to the non-government schools - science laboratories, recurring grants, anything one likes to name - amounted to $71. 5m. This year under the previous Governments system, grants to state schools would be $34m and grants to private schools $57m all-up.
– That is a complete fabrication.
– That is not a complete fabrication. Those are the correct figures.
Under the Karmel proposals if you allocated proportional to enrolment a share of the unallocated $20m that is mentioned in the report, the all-up grants to private schools are $195m and the all-up grants to government schools are $495m. What was the secret index which gave the same flat rate grant to Melbourne Grammar, where the fees are $1,226, and Kiernan School where the fees are $40? Was that secret fomula callous indifference to the needs of children? That was the secret formula. This is an attempt to weight grants according to need for both government and non-government schools. The final decisions on the Karmel report and all the details of the legislation rest with the Parliamentary Labor Party, which will consider them when the legislation is before the House. I still affirm my belief, and do not retreat from it as a personal conviction, that I uttered in this House on 30 May. The decisions in these matters in the last resort rest with the Parliamentary Labor Party. The honourable gentleman of course never quotes the speeches of 26 September.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) is an honourable man and he would not therefore want to leave the House with a false impression of what I was saying or what he was saying. I should like to draw the question back to the problem of recurrent per capita grants. If I heard him correctly, he did not quote the last paragraph on page 2 of his letter, which was the paragraph about which I was concerned, concerning recurrent grants. That paragraph makes it quite plain that the Government did not want a basic level of per capita grants to go to all schools. Quite plainly this was one of the paragraphs that Professor Karmel was referring to when he said that certain programs had been indicated to him - ordered by the Government to be phased out. I know there were the other matters about science laboratories, but they were incorporated in general capital grants. There is not an argument between us on the capital funds; the argument is about recurrent funds for the running costs of schools and the Minister should not confuse the argument by involving the matter of capital funds.
Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle- Minister for Education) - I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I shall read the paragraph to which the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Frazer) referred. It states:
The Commonwealth per capita grants to nongovernment schools in the States in respect of recurrent expenditure are being paid during 1973 at the rates already approved - $62 per primary pupil and $104 per secondary pupil. In the two Territories the per capita rates are twice those in the States. We wish the Interim Committee to make recommendations for contributions towards recurrent expanditure in nongovernment schools for 1974 and 1975 on the basis of its assessment of needs and priorities. In subsequent years this will be a matter for consideration by the Schools Commission. The effect of this decision is that the Government will not pre-determine a basic level of support for all non-government schools after 1973. It will be for the Interim Committee to recommend the nature and level of support for recurrent expenditure -
The Committee was told that there was no floor and no ceiling. It could recommend anything it liked. It could have recommended’ the existing level or it could have recommended as a floor the doubling of it. I feel that the element of deceit is where the honourable member interpreted the statement giving the Committee complete freedom as an instruction that it was to reduce. That is not a change in its terms of reference and is not an instruction to reduce.
Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon)-! wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) has introduced the word ‘deceit’. The deceit is thrown back in his face because it was the Minister for Education and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who previously gave undertakings that certain programs would be continued and not phased out. The words that he read made it quite plain that the Government was not going to continue with the programs which it had pledged itself to continue.
– I wish to devote most of my address in this debate to the decisions taken by the Government in implementing certain aspects of the Karmel report. Whilst the report is a result of probably the most far reaching survey yet conducted into the needs of education, it nevertheless strikes a mortal blow at approximately 10S top rating independent schools. Before condemning the Government’s decision I want to make it perfectly clear that I in no way condemn the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley). He has endeavoured to hold a line in justice to and in the interests of the education of children attending these schools. Of course on 30 May 1973 he made the statement that ‘every school in Australia, including Geelong Grammar School, should receive a basic grant from the Commonwealth and that the Commonwealth should have an identity with the education of every child’.
The action taken by the Government collectively to axe the 10S independent schools was taken 2 years earlier than was recommended by the Karmel committee. I believe this to be a vicious act of grave irresponsibility. Probably the most serious aspect of this cruel decision is that the Government has broken yet another election promise by agreeing to the phasing out of per capita grants to category A schools. The decision was taken in spite of a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in a policy speech on 20 June 1972, assuming a bipartisan stance that new forms of aid should be an addition to existing grants. People were led up the garden path. It was a monstrous deception, and the Government knows it.
One of the worst features of the Karmel report is that it does not examine the effect of the phasing out of government aid to category A schools. This is a shoddy aspect of what is a comprehensive report - a report that talks about equality of education and equality of opportunity for children. I cannot understand why - perhaps the Committee did not have sufficient time - no attempt was made to try to ascertain what damage would be done to the category A schools in the event of their being phased out, even over a 2-year period. Where will be the incentive for those category B, C, D, E, F, G, or H schools to improve their standards of education? It appears that under the Karmel use of categorisation of schools those schools which endeavour to increase efficiency or to improve teacher-pupil ratios, and schools where parents make the greatest sacrifices, will run the risk of going up the scale and losing Commonwealth aid. True, the non-systemic non-government schools will, under the Australian Labor Party policy receive the same total sum in recurrent grants as they did under the former Government, but the category system allocates these funds amongst the schools by a method regarded by most of the independent school authorities as obscure and unjust. Although the categories are thought to relate only to the allocation of recurrent grants, it now appears that this system will be used for the allocation of capital grants, even though the grants have been determined without regard to the capital needs of these schools.
I understand that the index of recurrent resources was calculated from answers to a questionnaire from the Karmel Committee. Such a means of collecting data surely called for subjective judgments. In the short time available to the Karmel Committee, it is crazy to assume that an in depth, objective, factual survey was made. Very few schools were visited. The index of recurrent resources takes no account of the indebtedness of independent schools or of the capacity of parents to pay the higher school fees which result from this decision. The schools were told when the questionnaires were sent out that those questionnaires would not be used to examine individual schools; they would be considered in a collective sense. No indication was ever given that information gained in this way would be used in a definitive manner.
The Karmel Committee is guilty of a breach of faith. It is guilty of basing its recommendations on information gained in a hastily subjective way. The Government must accept responsibility for this anomalous aspect of the report from the Karmel Committee. That Committee was given little time to undertake an objective survey into the number of schools which were to be axed and involved in this decision. The resources index crudely ignores the fact that the category A schools, mostly boarding schools, must necessarily have a higher staff-pupil ratio. This will cripple these schools which have served the needs of people living in country areas where often parents have no choice but to send their children to boarding schools. These parents do not pay high boarding school fees because they love to do so. These parents have no alternative in many cases. Yet they are treated in this shoddy manner by the Government.
The decision by the Government is vicious and discriminatory against country parents and children who, in many cases, as I have said, have no alternative but to send their children to boarding schools. In many country towns schools offering full high school courses are not available. In some of these towns where there are high schools, there is not a range of choice of subjects adequate to meet the needs of students. Many of these schools do not teach languages. Hie Karmel Report and the Government, either deliberately or inadvertently, ignored the fact that in New South Wales, with the exception of two or three agricultural high schools, there is not a state school that has boarding facilities for children.
Let us look at the so-called wealthy schools. One category A school, which I will not name, has an indebtedness of $650,000. A large proportion of the capital of one boarding school is devoted to providing boarding facilities for boarding houses and for furnishings, dining halls, kitchens, laundries, etc. That boarding school has 170 people on its staff. Of that number, only 70 are engaged as teachers. Without boarding facilities, no more than 80 of that staff would be required for teaching purposes. The action of the Government is brutal. It ignores the sacrifices that parents have made and are making in order to send their children to the boarding schools of their choice. I know many parents in my electorate who have made enormous sacrifices. Many of them have not paid boarding school fees for 2 years because they have not had a wheat crop. They will be paying those school fees out of returns from their next wheat crop. I know that these people do not have new cars. They have denied themselves holidays and they have-
– Oh, rubbish!
– Go out there and see.
– Order! The honourable member for Robertson is out of order.
– I know how many parents are in this situation and the sorts of sacrifices that they have made to educate their children. As a result of this report, fees will increase beyond the reach of many of those people. I know that enough of them will be bringing their children home from boarding schools halfway through their education. We see the illogical aspect of this decision when it is contrasted with the decision that university education will be free. That is a good decision. Yet, so called wealthy category A schools will receive no Commonwealth aid. Is it the intention to discriminate out of prejudice against the so-called wealthy schools or is it the decision to discriminate against the parents?
I believe that this Government has a midVictorian concept of those who live in other than metropolitan cities as being part of some aloof colonial squattocracy. It is on this false premise that this misguided socialist regime has formulated its discriminatory policies and the Budget which takes away from, which robs, rural areas and rural people of $150m. It is an insult to their intelligence and to the job that they have done over the years to help to provide not only food but also export income for the development of this country.
– I rise to speak in this Grievance Day debate to applaud the Government for its massive expenditure on education and to refute the arguments advanced by the vocal few - I stress the point that it is the vocal few in the community - who have criticised the Government on this point. I listened to the speech of the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt). I heard him use the words such as vicious’, ‘discriminatory’, ‘brutal’ and ‘prejudiced’. I am astounded to find any intelligent person who can read such descriptive words into the Karmel report. Either such a person is not capable of looking at all the values on which that report is based and of looking at the full statement that is made in relation to the whole field of education, or such a person is incapable of reading the report.
The Karmel report, a most significant document, is the basis on which Government policy with respect to education is being developed. That report in education circles and in education journals is described as the most significant document on education ever to be tabled in the Australian Parliament. I sincerely believe that it is of the utmost importance for the Australian people to keep in perspective all recommendations and aspects of that report. It is the document which provides the blueprint for Government policy on primary and secondary education. I for one am delighted with the priorities in budgetary expenditure for 1973-74. I believe that most Australians are pleased that expenditure on education is the fastest growing component in the Budget, and that $843m which represents a rise of 92 per cent on the expenditure approved last year by the former Government, one of whose members has just spoken, is provided for expenditure in this field. The provision will give education the shot in the arm that it so desperately needs. I speak as one who has come to this Parliament after 25 years experience in government schools in Victoria.
I move to the criticism that has been made with respect to decisions affecting category A schools. Let us remember that here we are speaking of 105 schools which represent 14 per cent of the total non-systemic schools and 5 per cent of the total non-government schools in Australia. In other words, to put it more kindly, this represents 10 per cent of the Australian enrolment. I believe that a number of pertinent points must be kept in mind to answer the points made by critics of the action of the Government. As has been explained by the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley), these schools have the right of appeal to the Australian Schools Commission for a reassessment of their position if they can demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances since 1972, if mistakes have been made by schools in rilling in the form that they have sent in or if they believe that there is some injustice. In such circumstances a school is entitled to a reassessment.
We must remember also that per capita grants are only part of the aid that goes to category A schools. If a category A school believes that it is entitled to capital grants, it can apply for such a grant. It is interesting at this stage to examine capital assistance given to category A schools with respect to science and library programs. I emphasise that these figures relate only to category A schools. Grants received to 30 June 1973 totalled $7,399,169. Grants to be paid from 30 June 1973 to 31 December 1974 involve an additional amount of $1,827,826, giving a total to the end of 1974 in excess of $9m. I find that my home State gets the lion’s share - some thing like $4,017,000. I do not know whether that suggests that in Victoria there are more, what have been termed in the Press, tall poppies, but those are the figures. I find that in my own electorate there is one school in category A - -Haileybury College, Keysborough - which has received in capital grants an amount of $303,263. I admit that that is not a typical amount, but it gives some idea of the sort of aid that is being given. I might say that Haileybury College will be given more money in the 18 months to 31 December 1974.
Some people are trying to introduce the sectarian issue into this matter. They accuse the Government of favouring Catholic schools. This accusation is arrant nonsense. The answer is a very simple one. The greater amount of aid is being given not because they are Catholic schools but because they are the schools which have the greatest need. This thread has run right through our whole philosophy on education.
– Like Xavier College?
– The honourable member knows the answer to that question as well as I do.
– I have 2 sons going there. It is one of the wealthiest schools in Melbourne.
– Yes. A further pertinent point is that some Press reports prior to the Budget predicted that the maximum tax deductions for a child’s education expenses was to be severely cut. In fact, it remained at $400. It has been estimated that the total cost to the Treasury in the next 2 financial years in respect of those who claim between $150 and $400 will be $55m. This is a greater amount than the Karmel report recommends should be spent on disadvantaged schools in the next 2 years.
Also there are those State-righters who claim that the Australian Government wants to take over decision making in the field of education. Regrettably, the Victorian Minister for Education is in this group. He continually complains that he wants money from the Australian Government for education, but without any strings attached. There is no doubt about the constitutional position. Education is a State matter. Also it is clear that for a number of years Australian governments have been using section 96 of the Constitution to make available money to be spent in specific areas, such as secondary school libraries and science laboratories. We are merely extending that principle. I am concerned about whether the Victorian Government will be able to spend the increased money that will be at its disposal - about $134m - in the field of education. One wonders whether the cries of centralism and big brother are not smokescreens covering up for the inability to spend money. For example, one can only be concerned that the Karmel report, of which 2,200 copies were received in the Victorian Education Department on 24 July, arrived in schools on only 24 August, a month later and the last day of the term.
This raises the whole question of decision making in the educational process. The total thrust of the Karmel report and the Government’s policy is towards devolution of responsibility to the local level;- to the people who are involved in the educational process - principals, staff, parents, senior pupils and the community. What a departure this is from the present. In most of our schools the huge State bureaucratic monoliths are chiefly responsible for decision making. In this regard the Karmel report talks of ‘centralised manipulation of change’ and of the traditional process as imposition of new policies from above on schools across the board’ and says ‘the emphasis has been on the condition of the participants’. My experience in the Victorian Education Department attests to this being the state of affairs. Now the challenge is thrown out to those at the grass roots level to become a vital part of the decision making process.
The prolonged hullabaloo of the critics about the categorisation of the nongovernment schools and the cries of the Staterighters, unfortunately, has focussed attention on what posterity probably will judge to be the least significant aspect of the report and the Government’s policy. A great breakthrough has been achieved in the field of education. Although the Government has shown itself to be concerned with quantity, by far the overwhelming preoccupation is with quality and equality in education. This, I submit, represents an exciting shift in the role of the Australian Government in the field of education,
– Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Holt (Mr Oldmeadow) chose, in this Grievance Day debate, to canvass the whole range of the Karmel Committee report. I do not propose to do that. I wish to take up a couple of the points which he made. Firstly, he and a number of his colleagues have sought to make great capital out of the fact that education is the fastest growing sector in the Budget. I welcome this. But I point out to the honourable member that for the past few years education has been the fastest growing sector in the Commonwealth Budget.
The honourable member, along with other members of his Party, mentioned the increase in expenditure in the field of education of $404m. I think it is only fair to point out that there is an element of deceit in the presentation of these figures, because $144. 6m is a direct transfer payment from the States and $90m is the result of decisions made by the previous Government. The latter is expenditure under the Australian Universities Commission, on colleges of advanced education and on the implementation of the recommendations of the Cohen Committee. That Committee was commissioned by the previous Government, and naturally we could have been expected to adopt its recommendations. So, let us look more closely at the increase in educational expenditure. Do not let us assume for a moment that it is all marvellous new work on the part of the present Government.
I do not wish to discuss the whole of the Karmel Committee report and its recommendations. I wish to discuss only particular decisions of the Australian Government in relation to that report. I wish to make it quite clear to members of the Government Party that I am not just concerned about those children who attend independent schools.
– Why do you not talk about something else once in a while?
– I will.
– Order! The honourable member for Casey is one of the speakers listed for this debate. I suggest that he keep his remarks until he makes his speech.
– I am concerned about the education of all children and the educational rights of all children. I do not propose to discuss in detail the educational philosophy contained in the Karmel report. I hope that we in this House will be given the opportunity to debate more fully the recommendations in the Karmel Committee report and to go into the details of the report in some depth. I am concerned, as are other members of the Opposition and many other people outside this Parliament, about the credibility of the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). We have heard from the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) quotations detailing the Prime Minister’s statements before the election and, of course, the results after the election. I do not wish to canvass that because we all know the Prime Minister’s reputation for slipperiest when faced with obvious discrepancies in his utterances, but the Minister for Education
– Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Warringah that he rephrase the last remark that he made.
– I am not quite sure which remark you are taking exception to, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– The honourable member for Warringah was commenting on the Prime Minister in a manner which was not in keeping with the dignity of this House.
– Let me say that the Prime Minister has a remarkable facility when confronted with difficult questions. The Minister for Education enjoys a different reputation. I believe that it is a deserved reputation for honour and integrity in his statements inside and outside the House. Unfortunately that credibility has been sadly shaken. We have had examples quoted inthe House during this debate. I would just like to reiterate some of the more obvious examples of statements made by the present Minister for Education before he achieved that office and the results now that the Government is in power. The ‘Australian’ newspaper of 20 November last reported:
Mr Beazley said a Labor Government would maintain the existing level of grants to independent schools.
That statement was made on 19 November last year. The article continued: all children, whether at state or private schools, would be equally the concern of a Labor government.
The Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’ of 28 October last year reported :
No private school would get less under a Labor Government than the per capita grant it received now, Mr K. E. Beazley said last night.
He went on to say:
This will end the squalor of whispering campaigns in which one is accused of pandering to sectarian forces on the one hand or intending to suppress the parish school on the other.
Those statements were made by the present Minister for Education before he achieved that office. We can see the results of the Government’s implementation of the recommendations of the Karmel Committee. In relation to independent schools the recommendations have been disregarded. Why has that happened? It cannot be a question of saving money. It would cost only about $2m or $3m to keep up the payment of grants for all children. It is not a question of saving money. It cannot be the question of equity which was so firmly put forward by those advocates on the other side. We have in the same Budget provision for free tertiary education for all people. There is provision for free tertiary education at those well endowed tertiary education institutions regardless of the financial capabilities of the students or the parents of the students attending those institutions. It cannot be equity. It cannot be a means test approach because we have heard that the means test is to be abolished for people over the age of 75 regardless of their wealth. Can it be that it is wanted by the independent schools? It is not wanted by the independent schools, neither the Catholic schools nor the Association of Independent Schools. We have all seen examples of the statements that they have made on this matter whether their schools come within category H or category A. So it cannot be that it is wanted by the independent schools. So that is not the reason.
Perhaps it is wanted by those elements within the Labor Party who wish to destroy independent school systems. I think there are very good arguments to support that contention. I believe that the allegations that the Minister is not in control can be firmly substantiated. He has virtually admitted as much by his own statements before the election and the actions that he has been forced to take since the election. He does not even know - and he admitted this in the House today - whether the Prime Minister has written to Professor Karmel in relation to that report. He does not even know and he has not even undertaken to find out.
– I do not believe he has.
– Will you undertake to find out and report to the House because there are allegations that he has written.
– You are alleging that we brought in legislation on this matter. No legislation on this matter has yet been brought in. It will be time enough for you to talk about the legislation when you have seen it.
– You are proposing to bring in legislation on this?
Mi Beazley- That is right.
– You have made a decision to bring in legislation on this?
– He has announced a decision.
– Let me say that Caucus controls
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I do not think the debate on this matter is assisted by interjections and speeches that are being made by honourable members seated around the House. I suggest that we might continue this debate with those honourable members who are called to speak being the only ones speaking on the subject.
– The Minister for Education has to live with his conscience. He knows the statements he has made. He knows his own opinions. He has to live with his own conscience and I wish him well with it. I am concerned about that significant proportion of Australian children who have been deprived of their right to educational assistance by this Commonwealth Government. They have been deprived of their right capricously with no basis in fact and no basis in logical argument.
– Australians listening to the broadcast of this debate and those who read thereafter about its content will draw their own conclusions from the pre-occupation which the Opposition has shown in this first debate on the Karmel report with the 105 category A schools and their inmates. It is more than a little nauseating to hear the sons of privileged and the fathers of privileged advocating the perpetuation of privilege with an enthusiasm they never brought to the interests of those children of this country who have always been disadvantaged and would have remained disadvantaged if honourable members opposite had remained in office. It is hard to believe, listening to Opposition supporters holding forth this morning, that they have in fact read the Karmel report.
Let me for the information of the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) bring this debate back into focus by putting the subject where it belongs - with the children who for so long have put up with a ramshackle, hopeless situation of education not only in government schools but in parochial schools conducted by the Catholic Church and for that matter in non-systemic, non government schools. Let us remember that while the best of schools in this country are nonsystemic, non-Catholic schools so also is the worst off school in this country, one which has an input of 40 units of educational resources as opposed to 270 for the most privileged schools. I refer to page 45 of the Karmel report. I will quote from section 4.55 for the benefit of the honourable member for Warringah because it is an experience of a type of school with which he would be totally unfamiliar. It reads:
Committee members were impressed by the concentrated nature of the difficulties faced by many schools, and their need for supplementary resources, both physical and human. A particular school situated in a high-density housing area where land is so highly priced that back yards are virtually nonexistent, public recreational facilities few and streets too busy to serve as playing areas, may supply an example to make the point. The combined infant and primary school, its buildings dating from 1878-
And it is not to be compared with Melbourne Grammar which was put up in roughly the same year - housed nearly 800 children, more than 40 per cent of them from non English-speaking families, and 33 of them Aboriginal, on a site of 1.2 acres. The site was being extended at a cost of one and three-quarter million dollars. Buildings covered half the area, and both buildings and yard were poorly maintained. Toilet facilities, shelter sheds and art and sewing facilities were archaic and even sordid. There were two full-time migrant teachers, but no regular teacher spoke any of the languages used in the homes of most migrant children. As a result, communication with parents was difficult; the services of an employee of a nearby bank had to be used for language interpretation in emergencies. The number of transient pupils was high. Social problems, including the control of contagious diseases of poverty, claimed a good deal of the time of both the principal and infant mistress, the only two members of staff without full-time teaching responsibilities. Ancillary staff was limited to one librarian, one part-time clerical assistant and one part-time teacher aide. Class sizes were normal for a school of its size, but learning problems were greater than normal. Only 10 per cent of the intake into infant classes had attended pre-school, and among pupils passing out at the end of sixth grade reading retardation was common. Of the 90 pupils who completed primary schooling at the end of 1972, none gained admission to selective high schools serving their area. Parental involvement in the school was almost nonexistent. Raffles organised by teachers supplemented the standard $3.60 per pupil allowance for equipment from the Education Department. Vandalism was common, and the school was securely locked at the end of the day, after-hours activities being considered too risky. Crowds of migrant mothers gathered on the footpath to collect their crildren, but did not enter the premises except for specific .purposes.
If there is to be passioned debate in this country surely that is the sort of school it should be about rather than schools which almost without exception honourable members on the Opposition side themselves attended and to which without exception they send their own children. They never knew what conditions were like themselves. They opted out of the system years ago and left the vast majority of children in Catholic and government schools to rot. It is this imbalance that we are now starting to put right and that is the process which is being greeted by the Opposition with a barrage of criticism. Sickening is the only word for their priorities. This debate has been bedevilled by talk about wealthy schools. The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) compounded the misconception when he interjected earlier today about the place of Xavier College in the categorisation of schools prepared by the Karmel Committee. Real estate is not education. The two things are not the same nor does the second follow the first. The broad acres and handsome buildings of Xavier College are no measure of the proportion of recurrent resources devoted by that school to the education of the students who attend it. It is not a question of what the assets or the debts of <a particular school may be, the question is what are the resources devoted to the education of the students who attend that school. That is a very different matter and that is the thing that does matter.
We have been told that the index was compiled on the basis of 100 to the average government school. The average Catholic school can devote an input of only 70 to the needs of its students. As I have said before, the range of non-Catholic non-systemic schools goes as low as 40 units and at the other end we have those schools that can devote 270 units per annum to the interests of their students. It was that to which the Karmel Committee addressed itself when it pointed out that uniform per capita grants would be an expensive way of bringing about acceptable standards in all schools and would unduly delay their attainment. The schools that members of the Oppostion are speaking for this morning already enjoy standards which are equal to or greater than those standards to which other schools can aspire by 1979. Members opposite have the hide to advocate that these schools should be assisted on the same basis as other schools.
– You would take it out on the kids.
– That remark summarises the crassness of the attitude of the Opposition. The honourable member for Balaclava believes that we should delay the attainment of equality of opportunity in Australia so that the children of the electors he represents can go on enjoying an input of recurrent resources of 270 units, while the average student at a government school has an input of 100 and the average student at a Catholic school has 70. Within the general area of education, for which the Opposition has appointed itself spokesman - the non-Catholic, non-systemic schools - the input of recurrent resources goes as low as 40. The honourable member for Balaclava seems to me to be putting forward a truly monstrous proposition, and I am surprised that the honourable member for Balaclava has the hide to put it forward in this place. For years we listened to this sort of thing from the Opposition when it was in government. Regularly, the spokesman on education for the Labor Party pleaded with the government of the day to recognise the needs of disadvantaged children in Australia. The Migrant Task Force Committee of Victoria, in its report which we have just received, stated: effectively only 20 per cent of the children in the schools surveyed who need English tuition are receiving enough of it, and
In effect there is a blatant denial of the child’s right to a meaningful and fulfilling educational experience.
Education of children in the English language was a matter for which the former Government accepted nominal responsibility. It washed its hands of the disadvantaged Australian children. It was prepared to let them go on indefinitely in their state of underprivilege and it was prepared to maintain indefinitely the gap between privileged, high quality education in Australia and the sort of education with which most people have to put up. The honourable member for Holt (Mr Oldmeadow) mentioned the extraordinary delay that took place in Victoria between the date on which the copies of the Karmel Committee report were available and the date on which they were sent to government schools. The delay occurred simply because the Victorian Director of Education, Dr Shears, saw fit to hold back from the schools of Victoria the copies of the report until he could prepare a commentary to be sent with it.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr MacKELLAR (Warringah) - I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, very seriously by the honourable member for Casey. The honourable member pointed out that this was a debate on the Karmel Committee report. I said specifically that it was not; that it was a debate on a small section of it. The honourable member mentioned that I had been to only privileged schools. This is sheer nonsense. Early in life I attended the Blackfriars Correspondence School. I was possibly a disadvantaged child. The honourable member also said that I had never visited a disadvantaged school. This is completely incorrect and is not worthy of a man of his talents.
-This is a grievance debate and the topic that has been selected by many of us on this side of the House is not the question of so-called wealthy schools but is a question relating to schools in general, and the impact of a Labor Party decision, with regard to the Karmel Committee, upon education in general. If it is necessary for members of the Opposition to point to the effects of this decision upon a selected group of schools, it is because of our concern about education in general and the impact Df the Labor Party’s decision. We have not as yet had an opportunity to debate the whole question of the Karmel Committee report, lt is to be hoped that we will be given that opportunity and adequate time to discuss the many ramifications of the large number of points raised in the report. However, because of the Labor Party’s callous breach of election promises made by the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) and the Prime- Minister (Mr Whitlam)-
– When? No legislation has breached anything. We have continued your grants this year. That is all that has happened.
– The Minister interjects that he has made no decision. I hope that we can draw the conclusion from the Minister’s persistent interjections that he will come before this Parliament with legislation guaranteeing to every independent school grants representing 40 per cent of the recurrent costs of educating children in the State systems.
– Forty per cent would be double, the grants given by the previous Government
– The Federal Government would give 20 per cent to be matched by 20 per cent from the State governments.
– That is the Liberal-Country Party policy. It’ is not the Government’s promise.
– The Minister says that it is not the Government’s promise. The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) pointed out in this debate this morning that, following the previous Government’s announcement that it would continue aid to the independent schools at the rate of 20 per cent of the cost of educating the children in the state system, the Prime Minister, then Leader of the Opposition, said that a Labor government, if elected, would continue aid at the rate at which it was then being given.
– The State Liberal Governments of Victoria and New South Wales did not match the 20 per cent.
– We assumed that the Labor Party undertook to honour its election promise that it would continue the real value of grants to every independent school at the rate of 20 per cent of the cost of educating children in the state system and then, if over and above that, the question of needs were to be looked at, it could be looked at in an objective fashion and considered according to its merits. Because the Labor Government has failed to honour its promise and because it has rejected recommendations made by its own committee one must rapidly question the objectives of the Labor Party as to the whole system of aid to independent schools.
This debate is concerned not merely for the category A and B schools but also for every independent school - the Catholic schools in the Catholic system as well as other schools not in a school system. What is the future of aid to the independent system? The decisions of the Labor Cabinet as so far announced apparently are now to be reviewed by the Caucus. It is a review which we all eagerly await. One would hope that the Minister for Education could be persuasive enough of his own colleagues to induce them to honour a commitment that he made on their behalf while he was shadow Minister for Education to continue proportionate aid at the rate of 20 per cent of the cost of educating children in the state system. While that doubt remains about the future of aid to the independent system, every independent school is under challenge. The parent of every child in every independent school is looking down the barrel of a gun. One bullet has already been fired by the gross discrimination against a group of schools, many of which it has been possible to clearly demonstrate are in great need.
If one looks at the report of the Cook Committee in South Australia, one finds that that Committee, which has had an opportunity over 3 years to examine the needs of independent schools in that State, has time and again reported to the Government of South Australia that every school is in need. If one looks at the categorisation of schools made by the Cook Committee and compares it with that made by the Karmel Committee, one finds some gross absurdities and injustices. As a result of those gross absurdities and injustices, many of the independent schools that may be described as the middle grade schools are under threat of closure. They will maintain an atmosphere of confidence, but what of the attitude of parents who want the freedom of choice to send their children to independent schools? lt is a strange committee - the Karmel Committee - that says that it believes that there should be maximum freedom of choice, that the price of choice should be reduced ..nd then, in its recommendations, adds to the price of choice to a degree that many parents must realistically consider whether they can justifiably exercise that choice.
Insofar as they will be deprived of the opportunity of exercising that free choice of sending their children to an independent school and decide as a result of the economic pressure imposed upon them by this Labor Government to send their children to a state school, they are slowing down the increase in educational output from the state system. As a result, the Labor Party is prejudicing the rate at which the quality of education can be improved in the state system. So, it can be seen that by Labor’s decision to withdraw aid from a number of schools, at the same time imposing a threat that aid may be withdrawn from many others both in actual terms and in real terms, its professed claim of helping the disadvantaged students of this country, who should be helped and must be helped, will not be fulfilled so quickly as would have been the case had a fairer and more equitable system been adopted with regard to aid to independent schools.
There has been a gradual improvement in standard in the state school system. But the Government has decided to withdraw aid from certain schools. Many of these schools cannot be described as wealthy schools. They are schools whose educational resource comes about very often by the supreme sacrifice of parents in the belief that they should give their children an opportunity that they want them to have. As a result of the Government’s decision to withdraw aid from certain schools these parents will be forced to send their children to the state school system, thus adding to the cost burden of that system. Thus the adequacy of the state school system will not be improved as quickly as otherwise would have been the case. It is to be hoped that when the Minister for Education takes this matter to the Caucus he will be able to persuade the Caucus to honour his election promise so that every child can receive the grants which they were assured by the Minister and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), in the month leading up to the last Federal election, would be available to them.
Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle- Minister for Education) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, by the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson). The honourable member identified me with pledges in regard to the legislation of the late Government relating to the recurrent grant from the Commonwealth Government to private schools of 20 per cent of the cost of a state school. This was the subject of the last educational legislation of the late Government. I led for the Opposition in the debate on the legislation on 26 September 1972. It is reported at. page 1936 of Hansard. It is not a long passage so I shall read it to the honourable member. It states:
That the Bill be read a second time - be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: the House, while not refusing a second reading to the Bill, is of the opinion that it should provide for the establishment of an Australian Schools Commission to examine and determine the needs of students in government and non-government primary, secondary and technical schools, and recommend grants which the Commonwealth should make to the States to assist in meeting the requirements of all school age children on the basis of needs and priorities and that the application of this policy, could not allow the continued acceptance of the provisions of the Bill and that therefore grants should not be made on the basis provided in the Bill in respect of any year after 1973’.
We have honoured it in 1973 and it is still continuing. I went on to say:
If the Government wins the next election it can go on with its Bill for the next S years. But it is quite plainly impertinent on the part of the Government to attempt to bind for S years its successors when it does not know its own fate in an election. This Bill undoubtedly will become law. Therefore expectations will be built up, including extremely unjust expectations in which the wealthiest schools of this country can expect to receive the same flat rate grants as the poorest schools of this country. However, they will be budgeting for that in the coming school year. We take the attitude that in the coming school year of 1973 this Bill must therefore be allowed to proceed. But we give a fair warning that if we are in power, while there will be an expenditure on non-government schools of no less than the sum total that will bc appropriated in this Bill, the appropriation will be reapportioned - it will be reapportioned on the basis of need.
There was no commitment whatever to continue the 20 per cent grant.
– What about the latter statement?
– It did not relate to the 20 per cent grant.
– It is interesting to note that every speaker from the other side of the House who has spoken today in this debate which has centred on education has confined himself almost entirely to a discussion of the category A schools referred to in the Karmel report - a very small part of the total report. I remind the House that the Committee was appointed on 12 December 1972 and reported on 18 May. In a little more than 5 months the Committee produced a report outlining a blueprint not only for progress in education but also for equality. For far too long Australian children have received an education which in many cases and in many areas was inferior to that provided in countries with a similar standard of living. Australia was once one of the leaders in world education. Unfortunately this proud record was all too soon surpassed by other countries.
One of the outstanding characteristics of the Liberal and Country Parties during recent years has been their sense of timing. They have surpassed themselves today. Because of school holidays thousands of teachers and students who would otherwise have been unable to listen to this debate are in a position to hear the Opposition defending the status quo in education - the old schools, the poorly equipped schools, the lack of autonomy and decentralisation in education, the poor staff facilities and the lack of teacher controlled professional training. When the Opposition condemns the Karmel Report it condemns all recommendations which aim to change the situation with which we are faced after 23 years of conservative, selfish and discriminatory government.
How fortunate it is for the children of parents and teachers in the Australian community that education will not be forced to undergo yet another period of stagnation. We said quite clearly, and the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) has just explained, that we would not be able to do everything at once, that we would fix aid according to priorities. We have made a very significant start. I remind the House of the things which we propose to do in this Budget. The tertiary and post-primary students allowance scheme will cost $58m. Provision has been made for the Australian Government to assume full financial responsibility for tertiary education, and a sum of $2 12m has been appropriated for this purpose. Assistance to technical and further education will amount to S25.6m. In primary and secondary education programs of assistance to Australian schools in accordance with the recommendations of the Karmel Report will total $97m. A new program of financial assistance totalling $ 1.75m has been introduced for low income families and $9. 8m has been provided for assistance in the education of isolated children. Although a report has not yet been brought down on preschool education an initial amount of SI Om has been set aside.
I come now to education for special groups. The Aboriginal secondary grants scheme will attract $5.7m and $2m has been provided for the purchase of demountable school rooms for migrant children attending special English classes. A sum of $350,000 wm be allocated to research and development in education, an area of education long neglected. Support to the extent of $500,000 will be given for the establishment and maintenance of an independent curriculum development centre. The total outlay by the Australian Government on education in 1973-74 will be $843m, which represents an increase of 92 per cent over 1972-73. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the Government is not spending an additional 92 per cent but only 60 per cent, on the ground that the States were spending $145m on tertiary education. The Australian Government’s allocation is on condition that that $145m so saved will be spent on other areas of education. Therefore the argument of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is without foundation.
I should also like to comment on the remarks of the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) this morning. I believe that the honourable member was engaging in some semantic quibbles on this matter. In fact the Government has kept its promise and this has been reinforced by what the Minister has said this morning. We have more than kept it. We are giving more than 321m in recurrent grants to non-government, non-systemic schools. The argument is about the way in which this money is to be apportioned. I direct the attention of honourable members also to the Coombs report which was tabled by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) on the night the Budget was presented. In that report it was estimated that 64 per cent of all parents claim $100 or less as a taxation deduction for education expenses. I am reliably informed that approximately 25 per cent claim more than $150. As honourable members will know, the upper limit is $400. Most of the parents in the 25 per cent group send their children to category A schools. If the suggestion in the Coombs report, which could have been implemented by the Government and which the Press indicated might have been implemented, had been implemented, $55m would be saved over 2 years. The saving in cutting the recurrent grant to category A schools is approximately $5m. Honourable members can easily see who is advantaged and who is not.
I direct the attention of the House to the grants which have ‘been made to the category A schools over previous years. In grants made to 30 June 1973, science program grants which will be made until 30 June 1975, and libraries program grants which will be payable until 31 December 1974, all schools which the Opposition believes have been so badly done by and are to be so badly done by have received or will receive in New South Wales $2,411,000, in Victoria S4,017,000, in Queensland $372,600, in South Australia $993,000, in Western Australia $1,095,000, and in Tasmania $336,000- a total of more than $9m. These schools have this money while children exist in disgraceful conditions in many of our other schools. I have taught in some of these schools. I taught for 2 years in a girl guides’ hall with 2 classes present. Those children were not receiving the sort of education to which every Australian child is entitled. That was a state school. Nearby was a Catholic parochial school in which conditions were very much the same.
That is the situation we want to change. We are not satisfied with the present situation in education. We want to change it. We will change it. We will not be put off in implementing the tremendous recommendations of the Karmel Report. I take my hat off to the Karmel Committee for the great work it has done. We will not be put off carping criticism of honourable members on the other side of the House in implementing the recommendations of the Karmel report and helping Australian children. I challenge any honourable member on the other side of the House to talk about quality in education, community involvement in education and diversity in education. Community involvement is something that we will have to ensure in Australian education. We want to see teachers brought into the education system more than they are now. We want to see parents involved in the education system. We want to see a series of community schools which the community feels are its schools and in which the children will have some relation to the community around them. The Karmel report contains all these recommendations. I challenge again honourable members on the other side of the House to talk about this section of the report. They have talked about nothing except category A schools.
– Nothing except privilege.
– Nothing except privilege, as I am reminded by the honourable member for Casey. We must do something about the schools which need our assistance. We will do this and it will go down in the history of education in this country that this Australian Labor Party Government has changed the whole face of education in Australia for the benefit of the children, the parents and the community.
– I believe that the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie) and the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) have both exposed themselves completely by the very hollow ring in the case that they have put in this House today. I am sure that the honourable members on this side who have spoken on this very important issue of education have disposed of the arguments adequately and there is no need for me to add anything.
I turn to another subject. The vicious increase in postal and telephone charges and the reduction in petrol equalisation introduced in the Budget disregards completely the fundamental element of decentralisation. Decentralisation has received a severe setback at the hands of the Australian Government. On the one hand the Department of Urban and Regional Development has put a case to the royal commission into the Australian Post Office, and on the other hand the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen), who has just left the chamber, has disregarded the commission. It is significant that the Secretary of the Department of Urban and Regional Development, Mr Lansdown, appeared before the royal commission on 16 August on behalf of his Department. Amongst other things he proposed to the commission that higher telephone charges be instituted in capital cities in order to make possible a reduction in the charges in country areas. This was before the Budget was announced in this House on 21 August. Therefore he was alluding to the charges that existed before the Budget announcement. This is not a matter to be taken lightly. Where is the Government going on this issue? A new Department, established specifically to promote and advance decentralisation, has been disregarded before its recommendations are even considered by the royal commission.
Where does the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) stand on this issue? Is he content, as apparently the Postmaster-General is, to do nothing to relieve the burden on country areas, a burden which ‘the present Government has created? Is the Government concerned about decentralisation or not? The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was very vocal on these issues before the last election. He announced a pro posal for a uniform telephone charging scheme in designated growth areas. Then he reneged after the election and announced that the whole matter of telephone charges, postal charges and the operation and financing of the Post Office would be inquired into by a royal commission. He failed to ensure that his Government maintained the status quo until the royal commission had concluded its inquiry.
Major policy changes in the telephone and postage rates were announced in the Budget. In so doing the Prime Minister breached the long standing practice of affording a royal commission its proper status and jurisdiction. The increases in postal rates and telephone charges, as well as other Budget imposts, are detrimental to people who live, by necessity, in the country. If newspapers continue to use the mail as a means of distribution the projected increase will be so severe that postage on a newspaper delivered by mail to a reader will be much higher than the cost of the newspaper itself. Surely that is a ludicrous situation. The Post Office obviously will lose the regular business that over the year has enabled country readers of newspapers to receive their newspapers at a cost they can afford. This cost has risen quite sharply over the years and newspapers have been required to pre-sort in order to reduce Post Office handling. But these increases in the past have been completely baulked by what we find this Government doing today in what might be described as an operation snide in its concept and completely irresponsible in its approach.
Past increases were fractional compared with that envisaged by the Postmaster-General in his statement to the House on 21 August and which are to take effect within the next 3 years. Coupled with the reduced services one wonders whether the Government has a death wish as it proceeds to price the Post Office right out of the market. More basic than the economics of running the Post Office, however, is the principle of seeing that people are fully informed on matters of importance to them. The local newspaper does this to an extent that no other news media can ever hope to match. It is basic to the democratic processes that people in the country as well as in the cities should be informed. Without communication democracy in its fullest sense is an idle dream.
– Why should it be subsidised by the Post Office.
– Why should it be subsidised by the Post Office? What has the honourable member for Casey been doing? Every time he has been on his feet in this House since becoming a member he has been espousing the expenditure of funds in the community interest. I recall his advocacy in matters such as improving the standards of the media in this country. We listened to him speak yesterday about a matter of community concern but he did not have a solution to proffer. We listened to him today and again he had a lot of words to say about matters to which apparently he is dedicated in the community interest. Now he wants to deny completely the right of community interest. Does he want it both ways or does he fail to recognise
– On the contrary. 1 asked why it should be subsidised by the Post Office instead of by the revenue.
– That is a matter for you and your Government to determine. The Government has a very clear remedy if it wishes to apply itself. That remedy is to use Treasury subvention to finance losses in the Post Office.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)It being 12.45 p.m., in accordance with standing order 106 1 put the question:
That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
(No. 4) 1973
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Complicated and lengthy as this Bill is, it has a simple purpose. It is designed to put an end to the use of Norfolk Island and, to a more limited extent, of Papua New Guinea for tax haven purposes. I informed the House earlier in the year that this legislation would be brought in. I said then that it would be the same as legislation announced by my predecessor on 19 July 1972. The Bill I now present fully accords with my predecessor’s announcement. With the unanimity of purpose that is thus implied, and because fuller explanations are given in an explanatory memorandum that is being made available to honourable members, I think I can be fairly brief in what 1 say about the Bill.
It may be useful if I begin by saying something about what the term ‘tax haven’ means. In some business and professional circles it may be replaced by more euphemistic terms, such as ‘investment centre’, ‘finance centre’, capital entrepot’ or the like. But whatever the polite description the meaning is the same. A tax haven is a place that levies little or no income tax of its own, whether generally or in particular circumstances, and which has banking, commercial and communication facilities, and a legal system, conducive to resort to it by people and companies wishing to minimise or eliminate tax they would otherwise have to pay.
In the Norfolk Island context the absence ‘ of income tax is due to the fact that the Island is not treated as part of Australia for general tax purposes, although it is for some special purposes, such as the rebate that frees inter-company dividends from tax. Income that has, or is given, a technical legal source on Norfolk Island is not subject to Australian tax if it is derived by an individual or company qualifying as a resident of the Island. A company can be a resident of the Island by being incorporated and managed and controlled there, even though its ownership is wholly vested elsewhere.
Before my predecessor’s announcement last July there had been highly complex tax avoidance arrangements designed chiefly to convert Australian income of Australian residents into income with a technical ‘source’ on the Island derived by an entity that was technically an Island resident. In a fairly typical situation money would be made available from Australia on interest-free terms - a most unlikely business deal in normal circumstances - to a company resident in Norfolk Island. The money would be on-lent through a series of companies resident in the Island and ultimately find its way back to Australia as an interest-bearing loan to the company that provided it in the first place. How anybody can give respectability to that sort of transaction is beyond my comprehension, ethically at least.
The object of the scheme was to give the interest received by the Island companies the flavour of income with a source on the Island so that it was free of Australian tax, while the interest paid by the Australian company was a tax deduction in its own assessments. In other cases the Island’s tax haven status was used by non-residents to avoid Australian tax and, possibly, also foreign taxes. It has by no means been established that all of the schemes based on Norfolk Island effectively avoid tax. The application of the present law in the immense variety of factual situations that can be contrived is, however, uncertain and difficult. It is necessary therefore both to tighten up and to clarify the law.
The amendments in the Bill aim at a fair balance between the interests of Islanders and the Australian tax-paying community. The key provision will make the income tax law apply as if Norfolk Island were part of Australia. This would in itself stop the tax avoidance. This shows how the unscrupulous can wreak damage upon the innocent. However, if no more than that were done all residents of Norfolk Island, including the Pitcairners who have lived there on tax-free terms for so long, would be subject to tax on their Island income. The Bill does not have this extreme effect. It proposes new provisions which will continue to exempt from tax the Island and other ex-Australian income of people who live on the Island and are not resident in Australia for tax purposes. These kinds of income will also be exempt when derived by companies wholly owned and controlled by such Island residents. Another exemption will be provided for certain trust income, principally income accumulating under the terms of an Island trust in which the beneficiaries are Island people. For people who are not entitled to the full exemption that will be available for permanent residents of the Island, there will be an exemption for employment income earned on the Island where the period of time to be spent there is over 6 months.
These are the main provisions, but the Bill contains a variety of supplementary measures, mostly in the form of safeguards against exploitation of the new provisions. For example, there are detailed rules to protect the condition that, for a company to be exempt, it must be wholly owned and controlled on the Island. Conversely, the Bill provides authority for the Commissioner of Taxation to disregard a temporary failure to comply with this condition where it would be appropriate in special circumstances to do so.
Against the background of arrangements that have been made in the past to give income an artificial Island source, the Bill provides rules specifying when income such as dividends, interest and royalties are to be treated as having an Island source.
As the former Treasurer announced, the new provisions will have effect in relation to income derived after 19 July 1972. However, as a transitional measure to assist Island companies that now have some degree of nonIsland ownership, but wish to re-arrange their affairs so as to retain tax exemption, the Bill provides for an appropriate partial exemption for income derived up to the end of the 1973-74 income year for a company that becomes fully Island-owned and controlled during the last 6 months of 1973-74. There has been little, if any, use of the Territories of Cocos (Keeling) Islands or Christmas Island for tax haven purposes. The tax law relating to them is, however, the same as that applying to Norfolk Island. If the law were left unchanged, there could be resort to these territories for a tax haven. The operators are cosmopolitan people; they are not interested in where they go. It is the benefits they gain that concern them. The Bill accordingly makes the same amendments for the 2 Territories as it does for Norfolk Island.
I turn now to the part of the Bill that is concerned with tax haven resort to Papua New Guinea. These measures were also foreshadowed in my predecessor’s statement in July 1972. Broadly speaking, private company groups are given a choice by the income tax law of paying dividend to individual shareholders, which are then taxed at the shareholders’ personal rates, or of paying an undistributed profits tax. Recent tightening of the law to uphold that principle has led to a situation where some private company groups pay dividends to so-called ‘repository’ companies in Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea does not tax the dividends and the arrangements have been made with the objective that no Australian tax would be paid on them either. The dividends received by the repository company in Papua New Guinea would in due course be used in ways that would benefit the Australian shareholders without exposing them to liability to tax. To correct this situation, the Bill proposes basically that where dividends were, or are, paid after 19 July .1972 by a private company in Australia to another private company in
Papua New Guinea, the dividends will not be taken into account in determining whether the paying company has made a distribution of profits sufficient to avoid payment of undistributed profits tax. This is the basic provision, but there are measures to the effect that it is to apply only to dividends that are held in Papua New Guinea on behalf of Australian individual shareholders.
This Bill does not deal with the problem of tax havens outside Australian jurisdiction. This is a most difficult matter to which I and my advisers have been devoting some attention. It is necessary that action be taken to prevent or minimise as far as possible successful use of such haven by Australian taxpayers, because the result of the tax avoiders’ efforts is a heavier tax burden on their fellow citizens and companies. I assure the House that the Government will as soon as and wherever practicable, be taking whatever steps are open to it to prevent loss of revenue through the use of tax havens. I am sure that I will have the support of all parts of this House in such endeavours. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Nixon) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.58 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill presented by Dr J. F. Cairns, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. Three years ago, when the legislation to establish the Australian Industry Development Corporation was before this House, the Labor Party, then in opposition, welcomed it with enthusiasm, but we saw from the beginning that AIDC as then structured could not be expected to stem the rising tide of foreign ownership and control in Australia, let alone reverse it. The Australian Industry Development Corporation was formed at a time of capital scarcity in Australia. Large. blocks of capital were needed for big new mining ventures and, in the main, it had to come from overseas. Whether it was venture capital or loan money, when brought in by foreign corporations it added to foreign control of Australian resources.
So AIDC was given the job of tapping overseas capital markets for loan funds, and putting these moneys at the disposal of predominantly Australian companies - to help them to undertake, or participate in, new development or expansion. This in itself was an important task. I should think that almost every Australian would have thought that this was an important task and would have been prepared to give it his wholehearted support and to have wished AIDC well in the mission, limited though it was, that it was able then to begin to undertake. I have no doubt that whatever was the possible role of AIDC then, its role will be of even greater importance now
Industries processing and using mineral resources, for example, require blocks of capital many times larger than those merely extracting raw materials for export. The processing industries are the kind of industrial development we want in Australia - and I think some other countries want it in Australia too - but we also want Australians to share to the greatest extent practicable in the ownership and control, and the rewards of that ownership and control of those operations. We want a fair deal for Australians, and we include Australian capitalists in that desire
Where there is strong Austraiian participation in the ownership and control of a development, we can expect that development to be directed towards the national interest of Australia, and towards maximising earnings in Australia. Without such Australian participation we will have the prospect of Australian resources and industries being developed to maximise the global profits of multinational corporations, and very often at lower export prices than if we in Australia were able to match a little closer their monopolistic powers. When we are concerned with export prices we are not alone concerned with the export prices of, say, minerals and energy, important as these aire. We are concerned with the whole range of exports - wool, wheat, meat and so on - within the wide range of commodities that still remain of importance for Australia in the future and possibly of even greater importance in the future than in the past. It is of course my main responsibility as Minister for Overseas
Trade to see that Australia’s bargaining position is established in relation to all these commodities.
But AIDC, in its original form, was equipped neither with the functions nor with sufficient financial resources to make the kind of impact on the problems of foreign ownership and control that the Government, and the Australian nation, wished it to make. On the one hand, AIDC just did not have the means of gathering together sufficiently large blocks of entrepreneurial capital for investment in major development. As a borrowing agency, of international stature, it is already well accepted in the capital markets of the world, but it has been restricted in its access to Australian funds, and has not been in a position to invest in the share capital of projects to any great extent.
Moreover, AIDC has had to operate under restrictions which limited it to investing at the invitation of the company concerned, and to temporary, minority holdings. It could not, for example, act itself as the Australian partner in a joint venture with foreign companies. It has had to decline requests for it to act in this way when other Australian partners could not be found. AIDC has had to decline offers to purchase substantial holdings, including 50 per cent holdings, in companies in Australia at present 100 per cent foreign owned. Under its charter it could only acquire shares when providing finance for a development, or in investing its limited capital funds. And, when it did take shares in a development enterprise it had to try to sell them as soon as it could. One cannot help feeling that these limitations upon AIDC were the result of pressures by business interests which objected to the competition of AIDC and similarly now much of the opposition to an enlarged and expanded AIDC is derived from those whose interests are served by leaving the field alone to the financial giants who increasingly dominate the capitalist world. But it is not in the interests of the Australian people that we should do nothing or limit our own powers in trying to hold our own a little more effectively.
With its existing limitations it was clearly not possible for AIDC to operate and negotiate on equal terms with the many overseas corporate giants operating in Australia. Nevertheless, what it has been able to achieve even while hemmed in by such restrictions indicates the contribution which an institution such as AIDC, properly equipped, will be able to make in this area of national policy objectives. By offering development finance in suitable ‘packages’, often containing both loan and equity capital and on terms and conditions tailored to the particular venture, AIDC has been able to help many good projects, large and small, which otherwise could not find suitable finance without selling out to overseas interests.
Although limited in its own participation, AIDC has often been able to introduce other Australian companies into a project. These companies have contributed to the capital but, more importantly, they have strengthened the management and thus also the financial prospects. To take a few examples, there is a major manufacturing venture in Victoria, over 75 per cent Australian-owned, which was able to proceed only when AIDC brought together the Australian partners. There is an important mineral development in Queensland which needed AIDC at a critical time to avoid diluting the Australian ownership. There is a raw material processing venture in Tasmania which is Australian rather than foreign owned and controlled through the efforts of AIDC. A major resource in Western Australia, yet to be developed, has been brought into the hands of Australian companies, instead of being 50 per cent owned by foreign companies.
With the obvious potential of AIDC in mind we said in the policy speech that we would expand its activities to enable it to join with Australian and foreign companies in the exploration, development and processing of Australian resources. This objective I believe is supported by over 90 per cent of the Australian people. Australians want us to increase the influence of Australians in our own affairs. Australians want us to be able to stand up for ourselves in world economic affairs which may be vital for us. We also foreshadowed mobilisation of Australian capital by issuing national investment bonds through the expanded AIDC. Our platform spelled out that we would enable ordinary Australians to take part in the ownership, development and use of Australian industries and resources, divert investment by large financial institutions from bricks and mortar into desirable development projects, and make it a primary policy objective of the Corporation to obtain majority Australian ownership and control over existing and future enterprises.
The Bills I am now presenting represent the fulfilment of these proposals and policies. The first Bill, the one to amend the Australian Industry Development Corporation Act, expands the functions of AIDC. The range of industries in which the Corporation may assist companies is extended to include transportation and distribution and activities related to the industries already in its charter and its original charter theme. Development is a comprehensive word. It does not only mean digging enormous holes, driving huge drills into the earth and sea or producing power. Development is development of people in the social and human sense as well as in the purely material activities related to the industries already in its charter. AIDC is given a second principal function: That of securing the greatest practical Australian participation in the ownership and control of companies engaging in those industries. The Corporation is given power to initiate particular investment proposals itself, rather than having to wait for approaches from companies. It will no longer be required to divest itself of shareholdings it acquires in companies it assists.
The Corporation will no longer have to borrow principally overseas.. It will, as necessary and convenient, be able to raise money either in Australia or overseas, provided that it acts in accord with the Government’s monetary policy, as notified to it from time to time.
In all of the above, AIDC will continue to be required to act in accordance with sound principles, providing funds only’ to those companies or projects which it judges to be efficient and financially sound. All these provisions will enable the Corporation to fulfil more effectively its functions of assisting Australian companies to develop Australian industry. Special attention will be given to encouraging individual enterprise and’ supporting smaller Australian businesses in their struggle to compete with local and international giants. Assistance will also be available to establish and expand sound and viable co-operative enterprises.
We also want AIDC to help implement our policies for industrial development, not to replace private ownership with Government ownership but to help build more productive, more socially desirable, and more positive and progressive Australian industry. To the extent that there is a change in ownership, we will work towards more ownership in the hands of individual Australians. Public ownership in the AIDC area of responsibility would be within the national interest division. But the main general function of AIDC will be directed at strengthening the individual Austraiian enterprise in primary, secondary and tertiary industry so that it may sooner obtain better technology and management and more than hold its own against the conglomerates seeking to exploit it on one side and the consumer on the other. In some cases some action of working together by individual enterprises will be essential, but I consider that the co-operative form of action will be most appropriate and effective.
Under the provisions of the Bill the Minister will inform the Corporation of Government policy in relation to establishment, development or advancement of an Australian industry. Where it would be in accord with those policies for the Corporation to assist a company or participate in a development project but the Corporation for any reason is unable to help - for example, because the funds required, or the scale of risk, are beyond AIDC’s unaided resources - the Bill provides machinery for the Government to ensure that assistance is given.
A series of provisions will enable the Government, in such cases, to provide the needed capital to AIDC, or to give guarantees which enable AIDC to support the project itself. In this way the Government will be able to make use of the financial skills and industrial knowledge of the Corporation in pursuing Government policy in relation to industrial development and to Australian participation therein. The accounts of such ‘national interest’ transactions will be kept quite separate from AIDC’s other moneys, including the National Investment Fund, and a National Interest Committee will be established to advise the Government on the decision to give support in such cases. In the light of the changed functions of the Corporation, the Board of Directors is to be strengthened by appointing to it the Secretary to the Department of Secondary Industry. This will provide a needed channel of communication between the Board and the Government, enabling the Board to be fully conversant at all times with relevant Government policies.
The second Bill, establishing the National Interest Fund provides the means of raising the financing AIDC needs to perform its new functions in its main areas. The Bill empowers AIDC to raise funds in a variety of ways, through different divisions of the National Investment Fund. There will, for example, be divisions containing savings plans similar to superannuation and endowment insurance schemes. Contributions to these divisions will be tax deductible within the $1,200 deduction now allowable for payments for superannuation and insurance. Contributions to these divisions will be invested by AIDC in sound developmental projects and other appropriate assets enabling the ordinary Australian to participate in his country’s development and secure a return suitable to his need and especially to his needs in the future.
His rights, including income and equity, will be set out in the contract he has with AIDC and he will know exactly what his position is. Income will be paid to him out of the income earned by the assets in his division of the Fund and he may sell his bond at any time or redeem it at the value of its asset backing. I interpose to point out to the House and to the people that there is an opportunity here for the ordinary citizen to share in the kind of capital appreciation which so far has been confined to a very small percentage of the Australian people.
The creation of investment bonds will enable the Corporation to support projects that by their nature cannot be financed with borrowed money. It will thus be enabled to play its role in the financing of mineral development and other long term industrial projects. Because an investment bond is not a fixed interest security providing for repayment of a stated amount at a given time but a contractual interest in the value of a given collection of assets and in the income earned by them, it is possible to finance projects with little or no return in the early years but high growth and income at a later stage. Such projects cannot be financed with loan money. Subscriptions to investment bonds as distinct from the superannuation and endowment plans will not be tax deductible, but the Government has decided to contribute $10 to the Fund for every $100 invested in the bonds by individuals resident in Australia. The extra income and capital growth accruing from this Government contribution will flow to the individual investor and when the bonds are redeemed the Government’s contribution will be returned to it. Provided the investor holds his bonds for at least 3 years, ‘the Govern- ment will bear, to the extent of its contribution, any depreciation in the value of the bonds. The Government’s contribution is insurance for 3 years against any risk that the investor might take and increasing the base of his earnings from, say, $100 to $110 during the life of his investment. These measures should provide a powerful incentive to the small investor to put his money into investment bonds, and thereby to seek to achieve the objectives of the AIDC.
It is also our intention to make appropriate changes to the 30/20 rule to channel towards the Fund some of the very large amounts of capital available to insurance companies and private pension funds for investment. The Treasurer will be discussing this matter with the companies and firms concerned, lt will be the responsibility of the Treasurer, in consultation with these companies and firms, to work out the rate at which the change in the application of the 30/20 rule will apply. The companies and firms concerned will have a full opportunity to have an effective say in what the rate ought to be.
It will also be possible to use the National Investment Fund as a channel for overseas capital which would otherwise take the form of an equity interest. Where it is desired to finance a particular development project in this way a special division of the Fund could be created. The overseas investor would buy investment bonds in the series in that division and the money raised could be invested in the project. The overseas investor would, in accordance with the terms and conditions of his bonds, be entitled to income earned by the project and to the benefit of growth in its capital value. He would not, however, exercise the control over the project that he could as the owner of ordinary voting shares. Of course, it is not the owner of ordinary voting shares with whom we are really concerned. We are concerned with the owner of a large block of voting shares, who is the very antithesis of the individual in any meaning of the word at all. Australians subscribing to the Fund will enjoy the benefit of investments that have been assessed and selected by AIDC’s able and experienced Board.
– Will that be kept?
– Yes. In addition, those investments will have been approved by an independent supervisory council appointed specifically to watch the interests of those who invest in the National Investment Fund and given appropriate strong powers. The council will have a trust responsibility. The Bill provides that the supervisory council will consist predominantly of people whose experience in investment will contribute to the skilful management and investment of the Fund. I have no doubt that suitably skilled and nationally-minded Australians will be willing to serve in this important task. Equally I have no doubt that they will work in harmony with the Board of AIDC to achieve the purposes for which we are building up the Corporation and creating the Fund.
The Board of the Corporation will continue to be responsible for carrying out the Corporation’s functions of developing Australian industry and maximising Australian ownership. It will decide when and how AIDC is to assist companies or participate in projects on the same basis of sound principles as before and will manage AIDC’s investments, including those financed by the National Investment Fund or undertaken in the national interest with govermnent money or a government guarantee. It is essential, for the preservation of AIDC’s commercial borrowing status and its ability to work in close co-operation with other companies in industrial ventures, that the Board remain free to exercise independent judgment in discharging the commercial aspects of its responsibilities. Where the Government supplies money in national interest cases, of course, the Corporation will be required to use that money for the specified purpose and in accordance with the terms and conditions laid down by the Government. But the Bill is drawn so that in these cases the Government, having made clear what it proposes and why it is acting, will carry the financial responsibilities and risks. The normal commercial funds of AIDC, and lenders who contribute to those funds, are completely protected against any losses or costs that result from national interest investments.
– There will be no risk at all to the ordinary investor.
– Not flowing out of national interest investments. The function of the supervisory council will be to protect the interests of subscribers. It will lay down the investment policy to be followed in the use of Fund moneys and any investments not covered by general policies will be subject to individual approval by it. The Bill provides an appropriate balance of powers between the Board and the Council and includes provision for disputes or disagreements to be resolved by ballot of contributors if necessary.
– Will losses be carried by the Fund?
– Losses will have to be carried by the Fund.
– Not by general revenue?
– Not by general revenue. The function of the National Interest Committee will be to advise the Minister on what government action should be taken in projects which involve the national interest. It is, of course, up to the Government to decide what action it will take in national interest matters. But in every case the Government will first have the benefit and protection of a financial evaluation of the investment by AIDC, as well as the advice and recommendations of the National Interest Committee.
These arrangements will give every Australian an opportunity to gain a stake in his country’s future development by making weekly contributions in a convenient manner, from his pay to a savings plan, or by buying investment bonds. His contribution will be invested in Australian companies and development projects selected for their earnings and capital growth prospects under the supervision of the supervisory council whose duty will be to protect his interests. The Board will represent him and all the other subscribers in exercising control over the companies in which their contributions are invested. This single powerful voice will help to counteract domination by companies, particularly international companies, with large blocks of shares.
There will also be a number of investment bond divisions of the Fund. For each division there will be a series of investment bonds and a corresponding portfolio of assets. To the investor, investment bonds resemble units in a unit trust although he will have a contract with AIDC rather than an interest in a trust. We look to all Australians to take this opportunity to preserve in Australian hands their great natural heritage and the industries established by the initiative and labour of their fathers. We believe they will gladly help us to ensure that great new Australiancontrolled industries develop alongside the many foreign-controlled giants that already exist and that where it is economically possible and prudent to do so control of industries in foreign hands will be regained. Australian citizens are not being asked in this plan to leave it to the Government. This is not government action over or above or in place of individual action. It is based on the basic assumption that individual action is good but it recognises that the individual today is vulnerable to powerful groups, many of them international, and that if he is to hold his own he needs more strength. He can get some of that strength by working together with other individuals and by being backed by the Government. (Extension of time granted) (Quorum formed) The new plan for AIDC is a plan for individuals to join together and to accept the support of the Government in preserving and extending their own interests with a proper social conscience and awareness of their responsibilities to the people and to Australia.
I do not pretend that these Bills or these plans are perfect. They are the best we can do at the moment. They will change and grow in the future. I present the Bills to the House now but I have no intention of trying to put them into law quickly or even at the normal rate. I propose to leave continuation of the second reading debate for about three or four weeks so that members of Parliament and of the public will have an opportunity to study the Bills and make any suggestions for improvements. Constructive amendments here or in the Senate will be taken seriously and given careful consideration. Suggestions and assistance from the public will be welcome and will be studied.
I ask the House and the public to realise the importance of this legislation, not to expect too much of it but not to dismiss it either with that cynicism that has become all too common when any attempt is made to appeal a little to idealism and for genuine cooperation in an effective enterprise. I am sure much good for the Australian community can come from the development of AIDC. I commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr J. F. Cairns, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to establish the National Investment Fund to be administered by the Australian Industry Development Corporation. I have discussed the National Investment Fund in detail in my second reading speech on the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill. I commend this Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Clyde Cameron, and read a first time.
– I move.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
In April last I introduced into this House a Bill to make a number of important amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I pointed out that this was the first step of a quite radical transformation of industrial relations in Australia proposed by the Government. It was a Bill for which the Government had a clear mandate. The major changes had been outlined in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who was speaking on the authority of the decisions of the 29th Commonwealth Conference of the Australian Labor Party held in Launceston in 1971.
– All stand.
– I beg Your Honour’s pardon. You are out of your place.
-Order! I remind the honourable member for Mackellar that interjections are out of order and that he is out of his place.
– I had stated and explained our policies in my period as shadow Minister for Labour throughout the 3 years preceding the previous elections, so everyone knew what a Labor Government would introduce. The Bill I introduced in April last sought to make a number of major changes in the legislation. Briefly stated, these were: Firstly, improvements in the procedures of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for handling industrial disputes and, in particular, to facilitate the making of industrial agreements; secondly, procedures to ensure that certain types of agreements were acceptable to members of organisations affected by them. In other words, we were not prepared to place the imprimatur of a court or the Commission on what are sometimes called sweetheart agreements, which are never referred to the members of organisations affected by them but are made behind closed doors between certain officials and certain employers. We want the agreements to be understood and to be accepted by the majority of the people affected by them. The third major change was provision for democratic control of unions and the fullest participation by union members in the affairs of their organisation. That is a principle which was clearly stated by the Australian Labor Party before it was elected to govern this country and it is a principle which has the wholehearted endorsement of the trade union movement and, I suggest, of the public at large. The fourth change was provision to overcome some of the problems created by the Moore v. Doyle case, a most complicated case, or a case which produced complicated results, the judgment being delivered in February 1969. In that judgment of 1969 the court drew the attention of the Government to the problems that the judgment created. It called upon the then AttorneyGeneral to take action to amend the law so that the States could pass complementary legislation to overcome those problems. Nothing was done until early this year when I introduced the Bill to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– Many consultations took place.
– I am obliged to the honourable member for reminding me that there were many consultations. This strengthens my case against his Party, not against him because he was reasonable about the matter. His Party in the Senate was most unreasonable. There were numerous consultations between the parties. The National Labour Advisory Council the unions, employers and the government actually unanimously agreed that urgent alteration of the Act was needed to overcome this problem.
– And you accepted a lot of amendments.
– That is the point. I acted upon the decision of the NLAC which was presided over by my predecessor, Mr Lynch. When that Bill went to the Senate containing the very matter which all parties agreed was absolutely crucial, urgent and necessary the Senate took the extraordinary step of rejecting the Bill at the second reading stage and of refusing to give Committee consideration to any one of the 74 clauses.
– That is hard to believe.
– It is hard to believe.
– ‘Dad’s Army’.
– It is like ‘Dad’s Army’. I must admit that I put my head into the Senate this afternoon and that is something that one could say about it. I suppose 1 should not reflect on the other chamber so I withdraw that remark. Anyhow, these matters were agreed to but the Senate, in its so called wisdom as a House of review, decided that it would not consider even one clause of the 74, many of which were non-contentious and had the full support of the former Government, employers and employees.
That Bill also contained provision to remove the existing barriers to trade union amalgamation. I have never been able to work out where the Opposition stands on trade union amalgamation. The more erudite members of the Opposition support moves to make it possible to get rid of a lot of the multitude of unions presently in Australia. I think that the Opposition spokesmen who are more responsible than their fellows realise that a proliferation of unions is not good. They realise that we must do something to stop demarcation disputes in which the employer becomes the innocent victim. He is the innocent victim because it has nothing to do with an employer when a strike occurs because 2 unions are at loggerheads over which union members should do which job. I think the more responsible members of the Opposition see this as a real problem. They see no merit in having 305 unions in Australia when in Germany, with 61 million people, they have only 16 unions. I hope that on this occasion the Senate will have the good sense at least to consider what the Government is putting forward. The Bill also contained provision to enable action to be taken for the recovery of wages at law within a period of 6 years instead of within the 12 months limitation at present applying.
– That is good.
– I am pleased that I have the support of the honourable member for Newcastle.
– The honourable member for Hunter.
– The honourable member for Hunter and the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) both take a keen interest in conciliation and arbitration and I am pleased that the honourable member for Hunter endorses this provision. Why on earth there should be a different period for claiming wages than for claiming other moneys due under the Statute of Limitations I have never been able to understand. But mere it is, and it should be rectified. Our Bill seeks to do that. The Bill proposes the elimination of power to award costs in proceedings before the courts, the Registrar or the Commission. In all of the more successful industrial tribunals in Australia there is no such thing as having power to award costs against the parties who appear before them. In the South Australian Industrial Court the parties would literally collapse if the judge said that he was going to order costs against the unsuccessful party. It is bad enough to lose without having to pay your own costs and somebody else’s costs as well. The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) is smiling. In his life he has been on the receiving end of plenty of costs decisions and even he will admit that it is outrageous that when parties appear in industrial proceedings the losing side should pay the costs of the other side. That is a ridiculous situation. The Bill proposed to remove various defects which were shown to exist in the 1972 conciliation and arbitration legislation. I have already talked about them in great detail so will not recite them now.
I am pleased to note that the Opposition has appointed a new official spokesman on industrial relations. I congratulate him on his first statement that I have so far noticed. He may have made other statements but I did not see them. In the statement I saw he had the good sense to see some merit in giving responsible trade union officials a seat on government-created boards. I think he even went so far as to say that the same could well apply to private industry. Of course there is merit in such a proposition and it is good to know that the Opposition at last has a man who is able to make sensible propositions without being accused by his fellows of suffering from a poor upbringing, because nobody could ever accuse the honourable member from Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) of having any traces of working-class precedents. He is a man who went to Melbourne Grammar School, was educated at Oxford and comes from the blue ribbon part of the Western District of Victoria. No one could ever say that when he says something in favour of working-class participation in management he has a hangover from his grandfather, great-grandfather or some convict way back in the dim distant past. Therefore he is in a better position, I suggest, to adopt a realistic view on these things than perhaps was his immediate predecessor.
The Bill also provided for protection of organisations and members from civil action for tort in connection with industrial disputes. I suggest that those honourable members who do not understand the law of torts obtain from my office a copy of that excellent address I gave yesterday to the Queensland Chamber of Manufactures, amid continued howls of applause. In that speech I explained in full detail what the law of torts is all about and how stupid it is for employers to want to apply civil actions to settle industrial disputes. The Bill also sought to remove the Commission’s authority to ban strikes and the removal of all penal sanctions on strikers. This is what the Bill provided and the Senate decided not even to debate it in Committee. I remind honourable members that after very full second reading and Committee debates the Bill was passed without amendment by this House which, because of its recent election, so clearly represented the will of the people.
– It was not a full Committee debate.
-It was as full a Committee debate as was necessary to accommodate the worthwhile speeches from the Opposition. However, notwithstanding the mandate which the Government had for this legislation, the Bill was rejected by the Opposition parties and their allies in the Senate at the second reading stage.
– What a shame.
-It was a shame because the Bill had too much good in it to be thrown out neck and crop without being considered in the Committee stage. This rejection occurred without any opportunity being given to members of the Senate to debate the many important clauses of the Bill, some of which, incidentally, were clauses designed to remedy defects which the Opposition itself, when in government, had undertaken to rectify or which it supported when in government. The failure to pass the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill has had serious effects on the operations of the Commission. The complete separation of the conciliation process from the arbitral process introduced by the 1972 legislation has proved unworkable and the Commission has been forced to operate in a matter not sanctioned by the law in order to bring serious disputes to an end. The Ford company dispute and the recent maritime engineers dispute would never have been settled if the provisions of the Lynch law had been observed to the letter by the judges. This is because the most experienced members of the Commission - the presidential members - are not permitted to conciliate. I know of one instance in which a judge announced to the President that a certain dispute had been settled. The President said: How did you do it?’ The judge replied: ‘By calling a conference.’ The President said: You have no power under the law to call a conference.’ That was true; the President was stating the law correctly. How ridiculous it is to suggest that we should have presidential members of the Commission and yet not one of them is empowered to call a conference for the purposes of trying to conciliate a dispute.
Take the recent case of the maritime engineers’ dispute which was settled quite skilfully by Mr Deputy President Sweeney. In an extraordinary display of patience and of great experience and skill, Mr Deputy President Sweeney was able to settle that dispute when I venture to say that nobody else in the world could have settled it.
– You are too modest.
– Well, I thank the honourable member for Mackellar for the qualification. The Deputy President should have written a letter and sent the dispute to the Conciliation Commissioner. The Conciliation Commissioner, according to the law, then should have sat down around a table and had a talk with the parties involved and if he could not settle the dispute - and it was not settled by conciliation; ultimately, it was settled by arbitration - he would then have written another letter back to the Deputy President and said: ‘I have conciliated and I cannot settle it’. The Deputy President then would have had to write a letter to the Arbitration Commissioner saying: This matter has been before Conciliation Commissioner Wentworth and he has failed dismally to settle the dispute. Would you try to arbitrate?’ Then, the arbitrator would have had a look at the case and would have said: ‘Do you know how far they have gone?’ He would have been told: ‘Oh, I cannot tell you that. That is a secret.’ The law states that the Commissioner shall not tell the arbitrator what happened during the proceedings in conference. The arbitrator would have replied: ‘Well, how on earth am I going to settle it if I do not know what has already happened?’ He would have been told: ‘That is bad luck; that is the Lynch law. You are not allowed to know what happened in the conference. You have to try to guess what happened and try to work out a decision.’ So he fails dismally for the simple reason, usually, that he does not know what went on before.
In this case, the matter was settled because Mr Deputy President Sweeney had the good commonsense to follow the example of his fellow judges. He cut through the red tape and broke the law of the land, as they all have been forced to do. He took the parties into conference and tried to conciliate and when he could not, he quick and lively decided to arbitrate although he had no authority under the law to da so. However, if he had followed the law we still would have all the ships tied up around Australia because the maritime engineers would have still been on strike.
– What a stupid law.
-It is a stupid law and that is why we want the law corrected. Similarly, because the clause in the Bill dealing with the Moore v. Doyle situation did not become law, the problem of solving the demarcation dispute between the Transport Workers Union and the Waterside Workers Federation which disrupted the Sydney waterfront for weeks became almost insoluble.
What about the disputes between the New South Wales Transport Workers Union and the Federal Transport Workers Union, which disrupted the oil industry? This dispute arose because the Senate refused even to consider the steps which were recommended to it by this House to rectify the anomalies in the law caused by the Moore v. Doyle situation. The Minister for Labour and Industry in the New
South Wales Parliament, Mr Hewitt, has promised me that he would be prepared immediately this Parliament passed the necessary alteration to the law to accommodate the Moore v. Doyle dispute situation to introduce complementary legislation in the New South Wales Parliament. The other States are prepared to play their part, but they cannot act until we take the initial step. Immediately we do, the New South Wales Government will take the complementary action needed to put this matter in order.
The Government was therefore faced with the question of whether it should re-introduce its original Bill intact and thus face the possibility of a further lengthy delay or even the complete rejection of the Bill by the Senate. This would prevent the implementation of measures which are necessary to ensure that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission operates effectively; that agreements made do in fact represent the wishes of the members of the organisations; and that organisations themselves are democratically controlled by their members.
The alternative procedure, which the Government has decided to adopt, is to remove from the Bill it presents on this occasion those sections which the Opposition regards as controversial, namely, the provisions eliminating sanctions against unions and their members who go on strike and the provisions to give protection to organisations and their members from civil actions in tort in connection with industrial disputes. We will then present these provisions in a separate Bill which will be introduced as soon as the legislative program permits. There should be, therefore, now, no reason why the Opposition should not readily agree to the reforms which are now contained in this Bill - reforms which are urgently required and which undoubtedly have the support of most organisations, employer and trade union alike, which have the major interest in the effective operation of the conciliation and arbitration machinery.
The Government has taken the opportunity afforded by the need to bring the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill before the Parliament again to include in it a few more desirable reforms which were adopted by the Australian Labor Party at its Federal Conference in Surfers Paradise last month. New matters which have been included in this Bill are: Provision will be made for an organisation to have an absolute right to be represented in proceedings before the Industrial Court by an officer, member or employee. At present in most circumstances, an organisation has to seek the leave of the Court to be so represented. This could toe disadvantageous to unions because of the cost of legal representation if leave were to be refused; where an employer contends in arbitration proceedings that a claim for improved terms and conditions of employment should not be granted because his firm has not the capacity to meet the cost of those claims, provision is to be made that the Commission shall disregard the contention unless the employer produces evidence to support it. I would anticipate that the Commission would adopt the practice followed by the New South Wales Industrial Commission in such cases of appointing an accountant to examine an employer’s financial records so that it would not be necessary in all circumstances to have the records made available to the public at large but so that we could follow the procedures already adopted in New South Wales which work exceptionally well. I see no reason why our Commission should not follow very much the same proceedings.
Provision will be made for the Minister for Labour to be able to appoint arbitration inspectors. Incidentally, the Minister can do it now. In 1934, the Bruce Government introduced an amendment to provide that the Minister could not appoint an arbitration inspector from within the Public Service. He had to be somebody from outside the Service. I do not accept that. I believe that there should be a marriage of the 2 kinds of talent that are available today from within the Public Service, sure, and also from without. I believe that the 1934 amendment was too restrictive and that the present situation should be made clearer than it is. It is not necessary to alter the law to enable us to appoint people from outside the Public Service now. In fact, at present I am appointing mme arbitration inspectors who do not belong to the Public Service. It should be possible to draw on the Third Division of the Public Service as well as on men of extraordinarily good talent and experience outside the Service. Provision will be made that where the Australian Government intends to intervene in any matter before the Commission or Court, the Minister for Labour shall be responsible for the intervention, rather than the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) as at present.
– Did Lionel like that?
– He did. He thinks it is a good idea. It is Labor policy and he sticks to and supports the policy of the Party. He realises that it is a bit silly that the Attorney-General is the one who must go through the motions of making the intervention but it is the Minister for Labour who must prepare the case. It is quite ridiculous. This is the first step in transferring complete responsibility for the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to the Minister for Labour. It is quite absurd that an Act like this should be administered by 2 separate Ministers.
Provision for stricter control over officially conducted ballots will be made. Provision will be made to strengthen further the democratic processes in relation to union elections by providing that all full time federal officers in an organisation must be elected by direct vote of the members of the organisation and that the only federal officers who can be elected by the collegiate system shall be part time officers of an organisation’s federal management committee, provided that the officers of the management committee itself are elected by direct vote of the rank and file.
– How does that differ from your earlier Bill?
-It differs in this way: The earlier Bill provided that the full time officers would not be subjected to a direct vote of the rank and file but that the honorary officers would. It has been pointed out, and the Labor Party Conference took this view, that that was putting the thing the wrong way around. The full time officers, who are the ones who really have the administration of the unions in their hands, are the ones who ought to be under the direct vote of the rank and file, and the honorary ones, who meet sometimes only twice a year, are the ones, if it will make it more convenient or less costly to elect them that way, who might be permitted to be elected by the collegiate system.
– Is this the change the unions were asking for themselves?
– No. The unions support what is now proposed, although it is true that at one stage ‘the unions were asking for almost the very reverse. But we looked at the matter from all angles, and we know that we cannot please all the unions. We never set out to be yes men to the trade union move ment. There will be sections of the trade union movement which will not like this. But we are a strong government. We do not worry about pressure groups. We do what we think is ‘best for the country and, in this case, what we think is best for the trade union movement, and I have no doubt that the majority of those in the trade union movement are democratic enough to support us wholeheartedly. I would be very surprised if any full time union official wanted to avoid a direct vote of his rank and file. I know of nobody who wants to be in that kind of special position.
Provision will also be made for requests for financial assistance by members of organisations in respect of actions under sections 140 and 141 of the Act to be determined by the Industrial Registrar rather than by the AttorneyGeneral or, if I followed the new policy of the Labor Party, by the Minister for Labour. I personally believe that this kind of assistance ought to be taken right outside the realm of political patronage, lt ought to be in the hands, as it always was until last year, of the Industrial Registrar. It should not be in the hands of politicians.
With the retirement of the last surviving member of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, Sir Richard Kirby, there is now no longer any reason to retain this body in existence. We had to keep it in existence so long as he lived and wanted to remain a member of the Court because his appointment was a life appointment and therefore, while he wanted to retain the appointment, there was no way we could dispense with the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Now that he has resigned we will get rid of it altogether. It no longer exists in fact and reference to it only clutters up a Bill that is already too unwieldly - in my opinion. The Court does not exercise any function whatever. The Bill will therefore repeal Part IV of the Principal Act, which provides for this body, and as a consequence we will also have to make a number of other changes.
Apart from these matters I have just mentioned and the deletion of those sections of the previous Bill which related to protection against the law of tort and to strike sanctions, the remainder of this Bill is similar to the Bill adopted by the House without amendment in May last year. Most of the clauses are identical. They have simply been lifted out of the first Bill and are now part of the second Bill. I believe that the new amendments which I have outlined are necessary measures. I believe that they are not controversial. In particular, I believe that honourable members will approve of the power to determine financial assistance to union members being taken out of the political arena and being given back to an independent statutory authority in the person of the Indus trial Registrar. This will ensure that irrespective of the political complexion of the Australian Government the determination whether financial assistance shall be made available to a person who wishes to test the validity of a union rule or to obtain an order for the observance of the rules shall be made without any consideration of the particular political philosophy of that person.
Because of the unprecedented amount of important legislation which the Government has to introduce in this session, I do not wish to delay the business of the House by a detailed recital of all the provisions of this Bill which were contained in the Bill previously introduced. In the course of my second reading speech on that occasion I not only explained in detail the provisions of the Bill but I also outlined the philosophy which prompted those reforms. Those honourable members who wish to refresh their memory on these matters may do so, I suggest, by perusing my speech in Hansard of 12 April last. Members of the House were wise enough on that occasion to accept what was proposed without amendment, and I am sure they will do so again. I have already told the honourable member for Wannon, who is now the official Liberal Party spokesman on labour relations that I am very happy that my officers in Melbourne should be made available to him for consultation. I have asked the head of my Department, Dr Sharpe, to make available to the honourable member for Wannon the services of - (Extension of time granted). We are ready to help the honourable gentleman as much as possible. There is nothing gimmicky about this Bill. It is a straightforward, honest attempt to rectify some of the glaring anomalies in the Act and to make the Act work better than it has been working in the past. We have taken out the strike penalties. We have taken out the law of torts provision. These were the two most misunderstood sections of the previous Bill. Now we hope that there will be a sensible and rational approach, a national approach to this matter. I feel more confident that this will come about now that the Opposition has chosen the honourable member for Wannon as its present spokesman on labour matter than I might have felt had his predecessor remained. But time will tell. It may prove that the Opposition made a very bad choice. Only time will tell.
Members of the House will see this Bill as something that is essential. Many of the amendments relating to the procedures of the Commission are required urgently. Many of the judges have told me personally that the Act just cannot function in its present form, that the procedures are being gummed up with technicalities and a quite silly provision for the separation of arbitral and conciliation proceedings. They are asking and hoping that this alteration will be made. Because of the defects the present procedures are causing and the difficulties and delays that are being caused by the irregular procedures that have to be adopted I believe that the Opposition will come to see the need to allow this Bill to go through. It will be in the interests of an improved system of conciliation and arbitration for this Bill to receive a speedy approval by the Parliament. I hope that the Opposition will debate the Bill in the spirit in which it is presented. I commend the Bill.
– I ask the Minister whether he and Leader of the House will extend the ecumenical nature in which the Minister introduced this Bill by guaranteeing the Opposition adequate time to debate the clauses of the Bill in Committee. We want not only an adequate second reading but an adequate debate clause by clause so that the points of view we want to put on a highly important matter can be fully exposed.
– I think the Leader of the House should deal with that request.
– by leave - The request of the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is understandable but the time provided for debate on Bills of this nature will depend on how much time is wasted by the Opposition on minor Bills. I suggest that if the Opposition arranges to curtail debate on Bills that do not matter it certainly will have more time to debate Bills of this nature. I do not know what the honourable member would call adequate time. A reasonable amount of time will be allotted, as is always the policy of this Government on important legislation.
– There was no Committee debate worth having last time.
– Within the limits of the time available time will be permitted but at the same time I suggest to the honourable member that it is up to the Opposition. If it can curtail its efforts on Bills that do not matter important matters like this can receive lengthy discussion.
– by leave - Mr Speaker, the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) is in control of the House. He is in control of the circumstances in which he uses the gag to curtail a particular debate. It is also within his power to determine which matters are important and which are not. Clearly the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) regards this Bill as one of the most important pieces of legislation introduced by the Government. If the Leader of the House does not so regard it and chooses to gag the Committee stage of the debate the ecumenical nature in which the Minister for Labour introduced this measure might be short lived.
Mr DALY (Grayndler - Minister for Services and Property and Leader of the House) - by leave - Mr Speaker, I want to say to the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that the time permitted for debate certainly depends on me but it depends also on the attitude taken by the Opposition. If the Opposition sets out merely to obstruct then the procedures of the Parliament must be used. Of course, I have no desire to follow the infamous example of the honourable member and others when in government. He can be assured that his request will be borne in mind in the circumstances of time. Due consideration will be given to the time that can be allowed not only for this important Bill but for others too.
Debate (on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable members I present the first report of the Interim Committee of the Social Welfare Commission covering the period 3 April to 30 June 1973. I present also Discussion Paper
No. 1 prepared by the Interim Committee which is entitled ‘Australian Assistance Plan’. I ask leave to make a statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Fifty years ago Australia led the world as a social laboratory. Our country was the vanguard of new thinking in developing new and better ways to allow its people to aspire to greater levels of selfrealisation, personal satisfaction and social and economic freedom. But that position of preeminence has long since gone. So many countries of the world are now ahead of us in social development. This Government has given a firm commitment to the Australian community that it intends to retrieve that position of leadership.
The policies of this Government are aimed at converting ‘the quality of life’ from a slogan into a reality achieved. By the end of this Parliament Australia will have a comprehensive and generous system of social security benefits with universal health insurance, national superannuation, national compensation and a system of guaranteed income, as the key ingredients of that program. This will give Australia one of the best social security benefits systems in the world. But it is wrong to imagine that the community’s needs for welfare are simply met by providing better benefit payments to the individual. The community collectively and the people in it individually equally need a comprehensive and adequate system of social welfare services.
It is strange and disappointing to find though that Australia, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, has one of the most undeveloped systems of welfare services. Gauging the performances of past Australian governments it is clear the promotion of social welfare programs was guided by a philosophy that social welfare was for the deserving poor. This Government will not accept this stilted view. We believe that social welfare services should be available for all and the worth of those services should not be stigmatised by such class prejudiced and antiquated values.
For instance, adequate homemaker services are important to the middle income father with a sick wife and children and a home to be cared for, just as these services are vital to a modest and low income earning father confronted with a similar situation. Middle income and modest and low income working mothers all have a keen interest to see there is adequate provision of child care facilities. Conveniently sited health or welfare centres providing a range of integrated services relevant to the community needs in which the centres are set up are as keenly sought by the middle class as the working class.
Our aim is the provision of a comprehensive range of welfare services designed according to the carefully established needs of communities, developed in response to priorities largely set by local decision making procedures which involve the community served as well as agencies both official and unofficial and free of any taint of last century poor house welfare. We assert firmly that the availability of adequate welfare systems which can be brought into operation quickly in response to the needs of individuals or of whole communities, must be seen as a public right. To date this is a public right too much denied. We will change that. We will discharge our duty to the Australian public.
That is why we have appointed a Social Welfare Commission with Mrs Marie Coleman as Chairman, whose eminence in this field is well known. This Commission is charged with the responsibility of assisting the Australian Government in setting long range objectives in the planning, development and operation of social welfare services. It will assist the Government in these services so that regular evaluation will establish beyond any doubt that the services continue to be relevant and successful to community needs or else to recommend appropriate alternatives. The plan that the Commission will help us outline was a key proposal in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) at the last election - the Australian Assistance Plan. Today I have tabled the first report of the Social Welfare Commission and the first discussion paper prepared by the Commission on the Australian Assistance Plan. In this way the Australian Government aims at developing welfare services according to a new philosophy appropriate to the expectations and needs of contemporary Australian society.
The aim of a social welfare system is to produce, through a range of social policies, a social environment in which every individual has the opportunity to develop his unique potential and in which various supports are offered to those individuals who, through some inherited or acquired disadvantage or handicap, need special assistance. Thus, housing and education policies, policies concerning minimum acceptable income and taxation systems all have social welfare implications. Special assistance programs may need to exist for the mentally handicapped, for single parent families or for the aged - sometimes in the form of income support payments or pensions and sometimes in the form of sheltered workshops or counselling services of some kind.
In recent years the Australian Government’s policy towards personal welfare services has been to treat them as worthy charitable ventures to be given some assistance by the Government. There has not been any recognition that personal welfare services, as well as income support, should be treated as a right or as social utilities. (Quorum formed). However, this does not mean that the Australian Government will take over the provision of personal welfare services. The Australian Government is concerned to set guidelines and to ensure that resources are available to produce an equitable distribution of services. The actual welfare services may be provided by a range of organisations, including local government and State government authorities and the traditional nongovernment welfare agencies, or by new groups such as groups of welfare service users.
The Australian Government has appointed a Social Welfare Commission to advise on the development of integrated social welfare programs, and the first report of this Commission, I repeat, has been tabled today, together with the first discussion paper on the Australian Assistance Plan. In the first report the commissioners point out that they consider that fundamental changes are required in the structure of Australian society to achieve an equitable social system. The Social Welfare Commission and the Australian Government have noted with interest the recent changes in personal welfare service systems in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America.
The Commission is anxious to avoid the mistake of developing in Australia service systems based on the needs of professional administrators rather than on the needs of the users of services. Equally, the Commission has noted the criticisms of the so-called ‘War on Poverty’ in the United States. Participation by the poor in programming was encouraged, but at the same time fundamental changes in the social system were not permitted. The notion of participation became discredited among the poor, many of whom saw the program simply as another method of social manipulation. The Australian Government is a democratic socialist government with a commitment to developing an egalitarian society in which all sections of the community can participate in the decision-making process. The Australian Government has committed itself to the concept of forward planning - planning of our cities, our health policies, our education policies and our welfare policies. It has come to the conclusion that regional planning is the most effective way to produce an integrated pattern of social, economic and physical development.
The Australian Assistance Plan is an attempt to bring together these threads - planning, regionalism, true democratic participation, community development and regular critical evaluation of the performance of programs to ensure their continued relevance and satisfactory operation. The Social Welfare Commission has been allocated funds to carry out a program of careful evaluation of some demonstration programs before recommending on the final legislative form of the Assistance Plan. The Commission will establish and control the experimental phase of the plan and will at the same time carry out consultations with the community so that the concepts of the plan are understood and can be modified in the light of community opinion and the success or failure of the demonstration projects.
The regional councils for social development which will be established by the Commission will no doubt vary from State to State. Australia is a very big country, and the type of council which works well in Western Australia may not be the appropriate solution in northern Queensland or the western suburbs of Sydney. The Assistance Plan is flexible enough to recognise regional variations. The regional councils for social development will advise other regional planning bodies on the social implications of their policies - for example, health planning or urban and regional planning. The councils will not have authority to countermand decisions by statutory or other authorities but will provide a means for mutual examination of policies.
The Australian Government hopes that State government authorities will co-operate in the development and organisation of these regional social planning bodies. In this way it is hoped to produce some co-ordination of the welfare programs of State and Federal governments. Similar co-operation will be sought from local government and nongovernment organisations. During the experimental phase in certain areas of Australia, the regional councils as established will have considerable resources at their disposal to help the local community meet their social needs. Eventually this will operate throughout Australia.
The Social Welfare Commission has appointed to its staff an officer widely experienced in community development programs in Canada and Africa. He will be available as a consultant to the regional social development councils created under the plan. The Social Welfare Commission plans to use a number of techniques such as film and video tape to make the details of the various demonstration programs available to groups of interested citizens across the entire world. The Social Welfare Commission is making arrangements with a number of academic institutions to carry out evaluations of the demonstration projects which will be established in the initial phase of the Australian Assistance Plan.
In addition, the Social Welfare Commission will arrange for special training programs for staff to work in the regional councils for social development, as well as training in community development techniques for other personnel. During the initial phase of the Australian Assistance Plan, the Social Welfare Commission will itself determine, after consultation with the various State government authorities, State councils of social service and other appropriate bodies, which areas of Australia will be used for demonstration projects. The Commission will not call for grant applications from local communities at this stage. Subsequently, once the Australian Assistance Plan is in legislative form, Commission staff and other personnel will act as consultants to community bodies in the establishment of regional councils for social development throughout Australia.
The Commission has indicated that it hopes to be able to make final recommendations about the details of the Assistance Plan in early 1975 so that legislation may be prepared for the 1975 spring session of Parliament. The use of such a prolonged period of social research and experimentation, together with community consultation, for the development of new social policies is without precedent in Australia, and possibly in most other comparable countries. The Australian Government is prepared to commit a considerable sum of money to this new approach, beginning with an allocation of $ 1.72m in this financial year. We regard this as more desirable than committing ourselves and the nation to a new program without any testing procedures.
The Social Welfare Commission has indicated that the final program could cost in the order of $30m a year once established. This is considerably less than the annual cost of many other programs such as child endowment - $210,835,000 in 1972- although more than the 1972 Australian Government expenditure on aged persons housing - $19m in the same year. However, the range of services which may be covered by the proposed expenditure is wide and the anticipated preventive value great, if we consider the cost of providing services such as children’s homes, deserted wives pensions and so forth. This is the first of a planned series of discussion papers on the Australian Assistance Plan, all of which will be tabled in this House so that honourable members may be kept as fully informed as possible of the progress in developing a final proposal. The social costs, in terms of delinquency, mental breakdown and marital stress, of inadequate concern for the quality of life in our cities and country has been high and may become higher. The Social Welfare commission is hoping, with the support of the members of this Parliament and the ordinary citizens of Australia, to find some innovative solutions to meet social needs which will involve the community in the meeting of those needs.
The 2 reports I have tabled in this Parliament today - the first annual report of the Australian Government Social Welfare Commission and Discussion Paper No. 1 on the Australian Assistance Plan prepared by that Commission - represent a major step forward in the development of social welfare services in this community. Indeed, reviewing the history of social welfare programs in this country, I believe it can be fairly said that to date nothing as important, nothing that can equal the progress which this represents, has occurred in this country before.
Of equal significance is the fact that in tabling this discussion paper on the Australian Assistance Plan, members of the Australian Parliament - Opposition members as well as Government members (and that has not happened before, has it)- and members of the Australian public are being given an opportunity to participate in the refinement of and future direction taken by the Australian Assistance Plan. This is a major demonstration of open Government. It is a great example of this Government’s determination to involve the Australian community as well as other members of this Parliament, as soon as possible, in the development of public programs.
We look forward to a fruitful response from the Australian community and from our fellow parliamentarians and this response will allow us to improve on the very valuable contribution that has already been made and will continue to be made by the Social Welfare Commission. Finally, I want to indicate that a little later I will be announcing to the House the detailed programs which the Commission has advised the Government to sponsor as a first step in developing the Australian Assistance Plan. I present the following paper:
First Report of the Interim Committee of the Social Welfare Commission - Ministerial Statement, 30 August 1973.
Motion (by Mr Lionel Bowen) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– In responding to this motion I first thank the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) for his courtesy in allowing me to look at these reports last evening and also for the great pleasure of joining him at dinner and meeting the charming, intelligent chairman of the Commission. I sincerely hope that neither the Minister nor I is responsible for the fact that she has to wear dark glasses today.
After complimenting the Minister on his courtesy I want to make a point about something which has nothing to do with the Minister and I do not blame the Leader of the House (Mr Daly); it is part of this system that seems to be bugging us and we are as much to blame as the Government is now. Here is one of the most important social documents laid down in this Parliament for 20 years and I have had less than 12 hours to study it. Today the House has not time to debate it and it seems to me that the workings of this Parliament are out of perspective when we go on for hours and hours with tedious debates about holes in the road when something as fundamental as this, which affects almost every person in Australia, is rushed through and honourable members are told to shorten their speaking time.
I should like to compliment the Commission for an outstanding document and I extend my appreciation to the Minister for embracing it and its philosophies. Indeed, one would almost be persuaded that a Liberal Minister wrote the document and embraced its philosophies. This is in fact liberalism at work. It is a document and a speech to which I personally would have been proud to attach my name. I quote from the Minister’s statement the following comment which was taken from the report:
The aim of a social welfare system is to produce, through a range of social policies, a social environment in which every individual has the opportunity to develop his unique potential, and in which various supports are offered to those individuals who, through some inherited or acquired disadvantage or handicap, need special assistance.
That is most commendable. It has been Liberal policy for years and we accept it. The Minister had a tilt at previous Governments. That is his right. I would feel that I was not doing my duty if, while acknowledging that maybe he was correct in that, I did not pay a public tribute to my friend and colleague the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) who was Minister for Social Services for 3 years in the last Government and who continuously in and out of Cabinet advocated the very kind of philosophy that is in this document. I think that should be on the public record.
– He received no support.
– You would not take any notice of him.
– If honourable members opposite want to make cheap political points out of a serious matter like this that is their right. I thought it was proper to put on record the performance of my friend and colleague.
I should like to deal particularly with the philosophy of the report, and I shall break it up into 7 sections. The first one is that the Commission right at the outset said that it will wait before making any recommendations to the Government - and the Government has accepted this - after it has received the many reports and evaluation statements about homeless men and women, national superannuation plans and so on. This is a responsible recommendation and it is the action of a responsible Government in accepting it. I commend the Government for it.
The next point is that the Commission is advocating a new look at social welfare problems. No longer does the Government propose to look at social welfare only in the context of dispensing charity to somebody who happens to be disadvantaged. This I thoroughly agree with. Even the approach of dispensing charity has an inbuilt disadvantage because if one approaches people in indigent circumstances and makes them feel special, they then feel like patients. They then will not participate in any social welfare programs and the whole thing is self defeating. I support that section of the report.
The third point concerns community involvement. It is refreshing for a Labor Government and a Labor Minister to be saying that it is not the intention of the Government to take over all social welfare activities and that they want to encourage voluntary community involvement, which, if I can be excused for having a small tilt of my own. seems to be 180 degrees from their philosophy in implementing the health scheme. I believe it is vital in the twentieth century for the Government to encourage community involvement. We are now proceeding apace to the hideous situation in which Melbourne will have 5 million people and Sydney will have 7 million people by the year 2000. One wonders how in the name of fortune a human being living in those cities can have any sense of involvement or any sense of participation being a member of such an amorphous mass. I believe that governments have a responsibility in this area which the Minister and the Commission recognise.
I make a plea to the Minister and through him to the Commission that in involving voluntary organisations, there is an enormous number of amateurs who could be involved in assisting in social welfare problems. As one example, I cite the Honorary Probationer Service in Victoria where housewives and ordinary people are appointed by (he courts as honorary probation officers to lighten the load on the paid professionals. I believe that in most activities of social welfare there are great opportunities for the recruitment of such people.
I wish to quote from the report one section which shows the Commission’s philosophy. It states:
Therefore, the Commission will give detailed attention to the development in other areas of social policy of an appreciation of the welfare implications of such matters as incomes policy, the taxation system, recreation, housing and immigration policy, urban development . . .
It is extremely refreshing that a broad look will be taken at these matters. In respect at housing, for example, one of the most hideous monuments to Liberalism in Australia is the way in which Liberal governments and Labor governments - but I am being critical of Liberals - solved the slum problems in Melbourne and Sydney. People were living in slums and a computer or some boffin suggested that the cheapest, most efficient way to solve that problem was to tear the slums down and erect high rise flats in their place without thinking for one moment of the impact of that on the individual concerned and without thinking about the kind of environment, both social and other, of the child living on the 31st storey of a 32-storey high rise flat.
In relation to recreation, I hope that the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) will not be obsessed with the term ‘recreation’. It seems that to local councils and do-gooders in the community recreation for youth is often translated as building better sports stadia and beautiful playing fields so that the strong, decent young men in the community can play cricket and football. As an avid, almost fanatical cricketer and footballer, I support that action. But what of the kid who is a dropout, who wears no shoes, long hair, T-shirt and jeans and who despises the establishment? We can build a thousand beautiful sportsgrounds for him and that action will be of no avail. I would hope that the Commission would get under and look at the kid who feels disadvantaged, who feels outside society, and recommend to the Minister for Tourism and Recreation the kind of recreational activities that are realistic for such a kid.
Another area I am glad that the Commission is looking into is education. That is mentioned in this report. Does anybody in this Parliament ever consider the effect on individuals of what our education system in almost all the States of the Commonwealth does to a young Australian at the age of 16 years or 17 years? There he or she is at an age when their minds are at their sharpest, when theninclination for social activities with the opposite sex are emerging and are probably at their strongest and when their need for a social existence is strong. What does the system do to those kids? It says: ‘For this year, in your seventeenth year, we will make you work from 9 o’clock in the morning till 10.30 p.m., every day of the week - or at least 6 days of the week. We will make it impossible for you to engage in a normal social life with your colleagues. You will be stuck in your room studying subjects from this ridiculous syllabus that is set by most State education departments for teenagers today’.
Why in the name of fortune it is necessary for education departments, for example, with respect to the English literature course to set a teenage child 14 books to read, to absorb and to understand, and another 10 books dealing with English expression passes beyond my comprehension. Surely it is in the wit of the educators of this country to devise a system which does not deny young human beings the enjoyment of that time of their lives which should be for the development of their social graces and their personality and which does not turn a lot of them into physical and mental wrecks. At the end of the year, the educators say: ‘We will prescribe for you an examination paper that a normal human being would take 6 hours to complete; but for you, just because we single you out in the community, we will set you 3 hours to do it’. The impact of that year alone on the teenage population of Australia - I have personally observed its effects - I hope would be one matter that the Commission would examine under that heading.
We approve also of the Commision’s view of experimentation, of non-uniformity in the various States of the Commonwealth. We also believe, as the Commission believes, that it is desirable in the long term to establish a welfare system in which the services are planned and provided at the most decentralised level consistent with efficient administration. The Commission believes in regionalism, as we do. But may I sound a note of warning here. The Liberal Party stands for the sustenance and the preservation of Commonwealth-State relations, a 2-tiered form of government, with 2 prongs - State governments and local councils - to the second tier. I find nothing in this report or in the statement by the Minister to he in conflict with that posture or attitude. I commend the Commission for recommending the concept of regionalism. But I do sound this warning: Before the Government and before the Commission recommend a certain region to undertake certain responsibilities, for goodness sake, prepare for the day so that in the local area the administration is efficient enough to administer the responsibilities which the Commission or the Government wishes it to undertake.
I can think of nothing worse than, in a certain region of a State the Commission not going into the matter thoroughly enough to determine whether the administration in the area is competent to administer this terribly complex and highly sensitive area of social welfare, and the administration in that region collapsing. The responsibility then would revert to the central government. This would be bad for government, bad for social welfare and, I am sure, is a responsibility which neither the Minister nor his Department wishes to undertake, that is, to have to organise and administer centrally every social welfare program in every region of the country. (Extension of time granted) I thank the Minister for Social Security and the House.
The philosphy of the report reflects an obvious awareness that modern social problems are rarely, if ever, the result of a single event or shortcoming and therefore require a complex and continuous response from a variety of agencies and individuals. Few people in need of support are simply impoverished or simply suffering from malnutrition, for example. Most individual crises are a result of several or many interacting pressures, all of which may require attention. For example, the family in danger of disintegration does not need just marriage guidance counsel alone. There are financial problems present, probably work pressure problems and problems with the children, of personal adjustment in the parents, and many other problems, all of which need attention. Does anybody here believe that a narcotic addict seeking treatment needs medical care only? Quite often, medical care can do nothing for the addict. That is not the cause of his being a narcotic addict. He often suffers from poor personal adjustment, poor work prospects, the weight and disadvantage of having a criminal record, the need for companionship outside his peer group of addicts, and so on.
What makes it vital for this Commission to look at social welfare - this is why I find its whole philosophy, attitude and recommendations so refreshing and why I compliment the Minister for embracing them - is that we do live in a period of change. There are very few Australians - unfortunately, too few Australians - who believe that we are living in a period when all of our structures and our social institutions are undergoing enormous pressures. The family unit, the marriage unit and the religious structures are quite different from what they were just one generation ago. The family unit as it exists today in the nuclear age is hardy recognisable from that unit which existed one generation ago.
My philosophy is that, if we want to maintain those standards, if we do believe that the family unit is something worth preserving in a country that wishes to have some sort of social stability, we must not lower the standards; but, for goodness sake, we must change our attitudes on how to cope with them and on how to maintain the family standard with all the erosions of it that are occurring all the time.
The Minister referred to the social costs of social welfare. He mentioned the obvious ones that everybody recognises and which I liken to the bushfires or the brushfires that suddenly flame up and we send the fire brigade to put them out. I refer to social costs like delinquency, like bashings which are now so prevalent in Melbourne and like alcoholism* which causes road accidents. I mention also drug addiction.
What happens with respect to alcoholism is a typical example. We say: Tut, tut’, when we see a human being in a crumpled heap in a gutter with a disused Army greatcoat around him. But we do not seem to give a damn about the 200,000 Australians who, according to recent statistics, have a heavy drinking problem, and who are not found in such conditions but who go on as so called respectable citizens with a problem which they cannot handle. Those are the brush fires which are obvious and to which the Minister referred. The Minister, to his credit, also recognised the not-so-obvious ones which cause equal damage and equal social cost, such as broken homes, the defects in the education system to which I have very quickly referred, mental breakdowns, the feeling of persecution of minority groups and the generation gap - a term which I hate but which I use because my time has almost expired. Those things in fact cause delinquency, alcoholism, bashings and drug addiction. It is these kinds of things to which the Commission is directing its attention.
Let me conclude by making 2 suggestions as to the sorts of areas at which 1 hope the Commission and the Minister will look. These are not things that win votes. They are not the brush fires. They are things underneath. The French have a system, as I understand it, described as l’ecole des parents the school for parents. It is based on the philosophy that for most of the things we do in life we are educated to a high pitch, particularly in this age of specialisation; but for the thing which is probably the most important thing with which a human being is entrusted, namely raising children, there is virtually no training and no education except that which may or may not be passed on by parents. The French have accepted this principle. The bricks and mortar in school buildings are there in abundance. I have proved, with a pilot scheme in my own electorate, that once this sort of scheme is offered to parents they will flock to it. One thing parents want is communication with other human beings, other parents, who have similar problems to their own. It is by this joint discussion that they can be helped.
My other suggestion is that the Commission might give some consideration to adult education. I know that the Government of which I was a member gave funds to it and I know that this Government has; but are people using adult education enough? Is it enough simply for a government to say: ‘Yes, we are for adult education. Here is X million dollars for it’? I believe not. I believe that we should get out and evangelise. Let me give an example. I refer again to the horrid term ‘generation gap’. I believe it is a fact that most teenagers in Australia today have a better education than their parents. It does not mean they are smarter; but I believe that the system of education has improved, affluence has increased and kids today are better educated than their parents. I also believe that the kids know it and their parents know it, even subconsciously. In family dialogue this has 2 results: The child feels superior and is therefore patronising and the parents feel inferior and are therefore aggressive. They are the complete ingredients for tension, breakdown and lack of communication. I believe that adult education would be one means of partially overcoming that problem. I repeat, at the risk of being tedious, that I have the highest compliment for the Chair man and members of the Commission and for the Minister on a very worthy and significant contribution to this Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 29 August (vide page 389), on motion by Mr Crean:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Snedden had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: this House expresses disapproval of the Budget because it is economically irresponsible in that:
with inflationary pressures intense it fails to adopt any policy to bring inflation under control;
with resources already under strain it applies wrong economic principles by overloading resources further by expansionarypublic sector spending;
it permits the tax burden to accelerate to an unprecedented level;
it is a further step in the attack on the Federal system of government by Labor which aims to centralise all decisions in Canberra;
it jeopardises the future growth of living standards and economic development of the nation;
it unfairly discriminates against the rural community and discourages decentralisation;
it does not provide a framework of social equity, and
it fails to honour election promises’.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I claim to have been misrepresented quite grievously. Last night, in the debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), with his responsible position as Leader of the House and his usual tirade against the Country Party, said:
From memory, not one member of the Country Party has ever won more than 50 per cent of the primary votes before being elected to this Parliament. Of course they get more than SO per cent after the distribution of preferences, but not one Country Party member has ever gained a majority on the first count.
I see that the Minister prefaced that statement by saying ‘from memory’. I rise to jog his memory. In my case it is correct that preferences were counted in the election of 1960. But in the elections of 1961, 1963, 1966, 1969 and 1972 I received the support of my constituents to the extent of an absolute majority. In 1966 I received a record majority for my electorate of some 10,000 votes. I have a list of Country Party members who, if they can-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! I think the honourable member has made his position clear. It is not a matter of making a case for the Country Party. The honourable member has been misrepresented. I think he has made his position clear and that is all that the House requires.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I thought I could save the time of the House. There are 11 other Country Party members who will rise and make the same personal explanation as I did. Mr Deputy Speaker, if you would permit me to mention those members it would save the time of the House. That is what I am concerned about.
-Order! I think the honourable member has quite adequately shown where he was personally misrepresented.
– Very well, Sir. I can assure the House that another 11 members will rise.
– 4 call the honourable member for Corangamite.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented along the same lines as the honourable member for Calare (Mr England).
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. This matter was in the Hansard of last evening and the personal explanations could have been made after question time today. It would have been appropriate if the honourable members had made them at the first opportunity in the adjournment debate last night. I think that in fairness to the honourable member for Corangamite some precedence should be given to him as his speech is now being interrupted. If other personal explanations are to be made, perhaps they should be made at a later hour this evening.
– I am obliged to permit the honourable member for Indi to make his personal explanation as the misrepresentation occurred in the debate on this Bill.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. To correct the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen), the speech of the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) is not being interrupted. He has not commenced it yet.
-Order! I ask the honourable member to deal with the personal explanation.
– I am one of the other members who have been misrepresented by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). In the 6 elections which I have contested on behalf of the Country Party I have obtained more than 50 per cent of the primary votes on 2 occasions.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I, too, claim to have been misrepresented. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) should well know that preferences have never been counted in the electorate of Fisher and that there has been a very big margin in that electorate on all occasions.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I also claim to have been misrepresented. In the 3 elections which I have contested in my electorate preferences have not been counted. Indeed, of the 4 Federal Country Party members in Queensland, three polled more than 50 per cent of the primary votes- and two polled more than 50 per cent of the electors enrolled. So, the -Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) should be more careful about the truth. We do not mind criticism of our Party if the person making it sticks to the truth.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been personally misrepresented by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) on exactly the same grounds. I think it is unfortunate that the Minister, in his position of having control of this matter, should make a statement that is so wide of the mark. An absolute majority has been obtained on 9 different occasions in the electorate of Lyne.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim that I have been misrepresented and my electorate has been misrepresented. In 9 different elections over a period of some 27 years the Country Party candidate in the electorate of Mallee has had the preferences counted only once.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by the
Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). I do so because this Budget fails lamentably and completely to tackle the greatest problem facing the Australian economy today, and that is the problem of inflation. The Budget is claimed to be neutral; but what is the definition of a neutral Budget? In my opinion it is a budget which is brought in in a context of nil inflation and which balances income and expenditure. In this case there is not only a substantial domestic deficit but the Budget is brought in in a situation where inflation is running at a rate of more than 13 per cent. If it is neutral in this context it means that it is not going to make any attack at all on this 13 per cent rate of inflation - and of course it will not. It is neutral in that sense, but what a disastrously neutral sense that is. It is a Budget which refuses to tackle a dangerous rate of inflation, a rate with which no country can live indefinitely.
I would like to concentrate on problems inherent in the Budget as they affect country areas. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) in his speech on the Budget on Tuesday night referred to this question when he said:
The Budget will confirm the view of the countryman that Labor does not understand his special problems and does not care. It continues to illustrate the anti-country prejudice of a trade union based party which cannot understand the interaction between rural and metropolitan economic activity. They must be seen as a whole and not as two competing interests.
This is the most one-sided Budget that I can ever remember being brought into this Parliament. It is completely loaded against all people who live in country areas, and I am not speaking only of primary producers themselves.
The exporter of Australia lives or dies by a combination of domestic costs and export prices. This Budget perpetuates and indeed will exacerbate his domestic costs. Exporters and primary producers in particular have been called upon to bear almost the full cost of successive currency appreciations which have been made since this Government came to office. I am not necessarily arguing that some currency appreciations were not justified. All I am saying is that the cost of bearing those appreciations is to be borne quite disproportionately by the primary producer. So the primary producer has not only had money taken out of his pocket by this problem of domestic costs, he has even had money which would have been put into his pocket stopped by these successive currency appreciations. Indeed the primary producers of this country can thank their lucky stars that the Australian Labor Party Government came into power at a time that coincided with a resurgence in world trade and demand for their products. Certainly they could not have expected any consideration from this Government. Its attitude, as I said, is one-sided and it is - I hesitated to use the word but I do so with good evidence - a callous attitude which was typified in a speech by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) which he made during the adjournment debate on 23 August. It is recorded in Hansard at page 376. This comment was brought to my attention by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) and it is so extraordinary that I feel it bears repeating. The Treasurer speaking in that debate said: . . if the brandy industry at some later point of time can show me that it has been battered to the ground as a result of this action, which would greatly surprise me, I will be prepared to hear representations.
Later on in that speech he said:
If people find that they have suffered detriment to the point where they are likely to be exterminated, I will be willing to listen to them.
I was astonished and extremely concerned at those comments. I have always believed the Treasurer to be a rational man who would make a balanced decision in the context of his own political philosophy, but since these comments have been made I regetfully have had to reassess this judgment of him. Only rarely does the ALP reveal its true intentions and on this occasion it was done by one of its most senior members, the Treasurer of this country. It is clear that the Government intends to be quite ruthless in respect of any section of the Australian community from which it does not need or does not expect support.
I do not intend going into the whole disastrous list of measures directed against the country people. I want to concentrate on 2 aspects in particular. The first is that of transport and communication’ costs - two of the principal disabilities suffered by those who live outside metropolitan areas. Country people not only face the additional Se a gallon on petrol but also up to an additional 2c a gallon above that amount. This eventually will prove to be a double edged sword because these extra costs will be reflected in increased food costs all over Australia. There are in addition the problems of increased telephone rentals. I do not suppose many people in this House realise that under the previous policy telephone rental charges were geared to the number of people to whom the subscriber had local call access. I am glad that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen) is at the table because I know he would realise this very well. But under the new system a person who is connected to a small rural automatic exchange with perhaps local access to 40 or 50 people will pay the same amount of rental as somebody in Sydney or Melbourne who has access to perhaps 2 or 3 million people. The rates of rental for a great many people will be doubled from $27 to $55. This is a serious imposition for people who already suffer disabilities.
The second aspect I would like to refer to specifically is that concerning depreciation allowances for primary producers which have been abolished or drastically reduced. The ones I want to concentrate on are those relating to water conservation, fodder storage and machinery replacement. Perhaps it would be wise to explain what the situation was before this Budget. In the case of water conservation the expenditure was claimable as a deduction in the year of expenditure. The same went for on-farm fodder storage. In the case of machinery replacement - new machinery - there was an investment allowance and a 20 per cent depreciation rate for 5 years. But what is the position now? Well, strangely enough in respect of water conservation nobody seems to know. I have received 3 different answers as a result of asking 3 people. One said it would be a straight line 10 per cent depreciation. One said it would be 2i per cent depreciation if any relationship to soil conservation is involved. And one said there is nil. I do not know what the answer is. I have put a question on notice and I hope to get an answer in due course but it is clear that the maximum will be 10 per cent and the minimum apparently nil.
In the case of fodder storage, again it was claimable in the year of expenditure. But now, as far as I can see, the cost of silos, hay sheds and things of that nature will be depreciated at the rate of 3 per cent which means there will be approximately a 33-year period for write-off. I understand that the depreciation rate on machinery has gone from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. The Treasurer in his speech gave the reason why that was done. He said:
Some capital expenditures by primary producers are wholly deductible in the year in which they are incurred, while others are subject to accelerated depreciation over 5 years. The deductions unduly favour those benefiting, and are seized upon by some, including ‘Pitt Street farmers’, to avoid tax.
In other words, Pitt Street farmers are given as the reason for withdrawing those concessions. My colleague, the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), at a symposium some months ago, with remarkable perspicacity forecast that the Government would use the Pitt Street farmer argument as an excuse for abolishing all concessions for all farmers. How right he has been proved so far. We have yet to see what is yet to come out of the recommendations of the Coombs task force. But again it is obvious that the Government has not thought through its policy decisions. It claims that Pitt Street farmers have used concessions such as depreciation allowances for water and fodder conservation and machinery as tax dodges and therefore all these concessions are withdrawn. But this eventually will prove to be a very short-sighted policy - dangerous to the national economy, severe in its effects on genuine farmers and ineffective in its results.
What about the danger to the national economy? We have to ask ourselves why this concession on water conservation was introduced in the first place. It was introduced because Australia is a dry continent subject to violent fluctuations in rainfall, and it always will be. Anyone who has been through a period of drought knows that it is almost impossible to hand-water large numbers of stock and that it is extremely expensive and often uneconomic to buy and transport fodder. That is why that concession was introduced, to act as an incentive for farmers to drought-proof themselves and to enable them to carry their stock through dry times. As a direct result of this concession safe stocking rates have been greatly increased. Stock have lived which otherwise would have died. Meat has reached the market which otherwise would have rotted in the paddock. As the Labor Party claims to be interested in meat prices, I ask its members to ponder on these statements because they are vital to a proper understanding of the issue. Yet this Government has the effrontery, born of total ignorance, I am afraid, to believe that it can reduce meat prices by the sort of policies it h introducing. The only way to reduce meat prices is to increase the supply of meat. Anyone who had the slightest knowledge of economics would know that. But what do we find? The Government, by its actions, is making it much harder and, as a result, more expensive for primary producers to increase their stock numbers and get their stock through to the stage of being fit for slaughter.
The same sort of argument applies to the purchase of plant and equipment. How many members opposite realise that the Australian farmer feeds and clothes more people than does his counterpart in any other country? Perhaps even more importantly, why is he able to do it? The outstanding productivity performance of the Australian farmer is due to several reasons - hard work and managerial ability being probably the most important. A major influence has been the encouragement that he has had to keep his equipment up to date. Farming is becoming increasingly capital intensive. Bigger machinery and more machinery is needed. The previous Government recognised these changing circumstances and the special depreciation allowance given to farmers enabled them to replace old or outmoded equipment with new and more efficient machinery.
The withdrawal of these concessions could well have serious repercussions on national productivity in the rural industries. In addition to being dangerous from a national point of view, the propositions of the present Government would be detrimental to the genuine farmer. The present Government does not understand what it has done. Its alleged reason for withdrawing the concessions was to discourage the Pitt Street farmer and to close off a tax dodge. The inevitable result will be that the majority of primary producers who will, in future, be able to afford to spend money on water and fodder conservation and replacing old machinery, will be those who do not have to make a living off the farm, those whose source of income is elsewhere - the Pitt Street farmers. The full-time farmer, burdened by huge debts incurred by drought and years of disastrously low prices, will not be able to afford to spend money in these vitally necessary improvements. He will need his money to pay his interest and capital repayments and to live on. The improved prices of this and last year have proved the only opportunity many farmers have had to cut past losses and to catch up on replacement and improvement programs.
I have received dozens of telephone calls and letters about the Government’s decisions. They were not of abuse but of despair that the Government obviously has no understanding of the problems facing the primary producer. These letters and telegrams have not been concerned principally with the loss of income of the farmer who will suffer as a result of these decisions; the constant thread running through the comments to me has been the bitter anger that farmers will not be able to bring their farms back to the standard which applied before years of drought and disastrously low prices. Farmers have a great pride in maintaining their farms at a high standard of efficiency. This bitter resentment of the abolition of depreciation allowances is because it will not permit farmers to bring their farms to the previous standards of efficiency and this has made a deep impression on them. This demonstrates the total inability of the Government to appreciate the consequences of its decisions. Far from achieving its stated objectives of stopping tax dodges by the Pitt Street farmers - I do not at this stage debate the rights or wrongs of this group of producers - the plain fact is that this group will be the main one which will be able to afford to take advantage of the minimal concessions which remain.
The legislation, consequent upon this Budget, will grossly disadvantage the family farm. The Australian Labor Party pays lip service to the family farm but legislates against it in a highly discriminatory way. The Opposition is determined that the efficiently managed family farm will continue to be the basis of Australian agriculture. During the last year all sorts of country businesses were starting to pick up. Money was circulating again and a new and welcome spirit of confidence was apparent throughout the country cities and towns. This Budget will halt this resurgence of confidence in its tracks. The effect of the Budget on the national economy will be the same as the effect on primary producers themselves - dangerous, severe on individuals and ineffective in achieving its objectives. It is no wonder that Government supporters who have spoken in this debate have found it impossible to present logical arguments in the Budget’s defence. It is no wonder that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has branded the
Budget as economically irresponsible. I have great pleasure in supporting the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Last night when speaking on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) the Minister for Gerrymander made the following
-Order! I ask the honourable member to refer to the Minister by his correct title.
– Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) last night, when talking about a gerrymander, made the following comments: . . not one member of the Country Party has ever won more than SO per cent of the primary votes before being elected to this Parliament. Of course they get more than SO per cent after the distribution of preferences, but not one Country Party member has ever gained a majority on the first count.
The Minister for Services and Property has time and time again been inaccurate. I point out that I have been elected on the first count, I think, on every occasion that I have been elected to this Parliament, which involves some 5 elections.
– The first Labor Budget for 24 years is better than I thought possible, not for what it does - although this, too, is more than I expected - but for what it sets out to do in terms of new policy initiatives and priorities. The measure of a national government is whether it tackles national problems. The measure of a member in the Australian Parliament is whether he sees the need for policies beyond his own particular parochial interests and in the interests of Australia as a whole. We have a government that is prepared to govern for Australia. No longer do we have a compromised coalition which sees its role as a government of supervision, the protection of privilege and catering for sectional interests - a government of perverted pluralism. This is a Budget of reconstruction and of social justice and one which is designed to increase the efficiency of our mixed economy. Many minorities have been provided for at long last and the philosophy of this was evident in the report tabled by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) this afternoon.
The major criticism of the Budget has been that it does little to cure inflation. Those criticising it on these grounds overlook the fact that the Government does not regard the Budget as the only tool for the control of inflation and that other measures can, and will, be taken when the time is opportune. The critics also ignore the forces acting already carried out, for example, revaluation, within the economy as a result of actions capital inflow measures and tariff cuts. We would be very obliged if the Opposition or anyone else could give a quick cure-all to inflation. The only intellectual source still as yet untapped systematically is our newspaper editors. Should they be able to agree, I am sure that we would listen. The Opposition says: ‘Cut Government spending’. But anywhere that we have, there is a wail. What they are saying really is that we should have the same priorities as did the Opposition. Where should we cut Government spending? Should it be in the area of education, health, urban affairs or primary industry? The Opposition should come out and say so if this is what it believes. The demand is for more public expenditure.
A Treasury case now being praised - the same Treasury which the Opposition blamed for its loss of office - probably still reflects the hard-headed technical view that 3 per cent unemployment will knock 2 per cent off inflation. This, the Government rejects. The past Government had inflation and unemployment. We could have raised taxes but we undertook not to do so and it is better to wait on the tax inquiry before looking at this area. Too many people assume that we can carry on in the same way as the past Government and, at the same time, achieve much more. Those who say we are doing too much too soon are opposed by those who say that we are not doing enough soon enough. The pressure is on us for increased public expenditure, but the backlog is so great that new programs will take time to put into effect, particularly in the affairs of urban matters. The past Government would not adapt policy to new conditions and demands quick enough or tackle major underlying problems in our economy.
I accept largely much of what the monetarists say on inflation. Australia had inflation under control until about 1965 when the open door policy on overseas investment began. The percentage increases in money allowed into the economy from our 3 major sources of money supply - banks, fringe banks and overseas - rose as a percentage of gross national expenditure from 27.6 per cent in 1965 to 33.8 per cent in 1971. The percentage increase in money supplied in real terms from 1965-66 to 1970-71 was of the order of 7 per cent to 8 per cent annually. In 1971-72 it was 10.5 per cent; in 1972-73 it was 25.5 per cent. The major part of this was in the first half of the year as capital inflow has slowed dramatically in the first 6 months of this year. This is one of the processes I mentioned earlier.
Overseas investment rose by 109 per cent on the previous year 1966-67, fell by 27 per cent in 1969-70 and rose by 59.2 per cent in 1970-71 when $l,514m came in. In 1971-72 $1,9 18m entered the country and it is estimated that in this current year the inflow will be of the order of 5339m. The consumer price index traced the expansion in the increased money supplies that I have outlined. For a while we had our cake and could eat it too and at this time the psychology of inflation based on rising expectations became entrenched. The cake is now starting to choke us.
The situation of the late 1960s and early 1970s has been compounded by external factors such as in the price of imports - a product of world-wide inflation - and rising overseas prices for most of our primary commodities. The channels of external pressure are well understood and there are measures that can be taken. However, measures are difficult to effect in other areas. Food prices are a major problem at present and food represented 50 per cent of the rise in the consumer price index in 1972-73 compared with 14 per cent in 1971-72. Beef is a major item but I can see that there is little that we can do about it. At the same time, I think that the $7m we pay in export incentives is a little misguided. We are hooked into the international economy and rather than saying that our main problem is that we are too rich, we should be saying that now is a time to redistribute income. I believe that the most equitable way to do this is by a fundamental change in the taxation structure whereby persona) deductions may be replaced by rebates. This Budget did not do enough to redistribute income but, as the Treasurer (Mr Crean) has said, we were 95 per cent committed.
I do not want to raise all the arguments in terms of cost-push and demand-pull inflation but would comment that profit inflation has never been looked at seriously in Australia. I would define profit inflation as when prices increase even though marginal costs have remained unchanged - that is, pricing on what the market will bear. I hope that the Prices Justification Tribunal and more effective trade practices legislation may remedy this situation. There is a complex of interacting forces that contribute to inflation. Therefore, there is a need for a range of monetary and fiscal policies to be implemented, but it is desirable that shifts in policy be not too sudden or, if they are sudden, that they should be consistent. In this regard, a monetary policy that has facilitated an expansion in the volume of money in 1972-73 at about 3 times its trend rate of growth was an example of an inappropriate policy that exacerbated an inflationary situation. This is what we inherited. In the current situation it seems appropriate to restore the growth in the money supply to a rate in line with the rate of growth in real output and to implement a neutral budget. These requirements imply a rate of growth in the volume of money of around 7 per cent and a Budget deficit not exceeding $700m. The Budget, with a deficit of less than $700m is in my opinion, responsible.
I have referred to my contention that the previous Government did not act quickly enough or adjust to realities. This was particularly so with respect to adjustment to our greatly changed balance of payments situation and reserves. Recognition of the significance of external inflationary forces on the Australian economy, either directly on prices or more generally on domestic demand, means that greater emphasis should be placed on policies to insulate Australia from these external pressures. It is possible to isolate- the domestic economy from overseas influences by more frequent exchange rate adjustments, tariff cuts, export taxes, import subsidies and capital controls. This Government has acted in some of these areas. It seems clear that Australia should have revalued the dollar well before December 1972 so as to avoid the huge build-up of international reserves and the resultant expansionary impact on domestic liquidity. Perhaps a floating exchange rate would be a good measure but we really would have to set up a market.
The prophets of doom have wailed long and loud at our decision to revalue in
December and recent tariff cuts. Perhaps it would serve some purpose to outline once more the reasons and purpose of revaluation. The role and purpose of trade is, in the final analysis, to increase real income in Australia. As such, the piling up of export surpluses, which represents an allocation of real resources to foreigners, does not increase but on the contrary diminishes real income in Australia. There is no point in export for exports sake. But of course, we cannot turn exports, particularly manufacturing exports, on and off. The prices we receive for our farm products are largely beyond our control. Those were among the considerations that led to the Government’s action on the exchange rate.
The point was made explicitly in the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that ‘the foreign exchange earned from the proceeds of exports is of no value to Australians unless it can be used to enlarge the real resources actually available for use within our economy.’ Revaluation can play a part in various ways in enlarging the real resources available. Similarly, our decision to cut tariffs was also made in this light. The reduction announced on 18 July 1973 will have a direct restraining effect on the rate of inflation by reducing the prices of imported goods subject to duty and by increasing the degree of competition in import competing local industries receiving tariff protection. The tariff reduction also moderates inflationary forces by easing the pressure of demand for domestic goods that are available for imports. The Treasury has estimated that the 25 per cent tariff reduction is equivalent to a revaluation of about 2i per cent although, clearly, its effects are concentrated on those industries which are subject to tariff protection. More than 50 per cent of imports still enter Australia duty free. I have only one other comment to make on reserves. I believe the situation should be investigated more thoroughly with respect to procuring weapons out of reserves.
I should like to turn my main attention to the rural sector and ideology. The Australian Labor Party in government is becoming more a party of government while we see more and more the Opposition Parties becoming parties of ideology. ‘Socialism’ and ‘free enterprise’ as catchcries are getting a new lease of life. Yet we have the Opposition advocating the socialist prices and incomes policies while decrying competition-inducing measures such as tariff cuts. Socialism has never been an issue in
Australian politics to the degree it has in the United Kingdom or Europe or most democratic countries. It has been the experience that Australia has involved governments which have always spent largely in the public sector or intervened publicly. This goes back to the 1860s in the railway boom of that time. The post-war policies of the Labor Government put a base under the economy which allowed private enterprise to thrive and there was little policy initiation until the mid-1960s when the previous Government started to run into trouble. The simple fact is that there is a need to put a floor of public expenditure under the economy so that private enterprise may thrive.
The past Government engaged in union bashing and now we see the Opposition parties trying to construct a myth that we are engaged in farmer bashing. It is rather significant that members of the Opposition give no credit at all to the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) with respect to the polices he has advanced for children in rural areas which will provide $304 un-means tested for each child 10 miles away from an appropriate school, the same amount if living more than 4 miles away from transport to a school and up to $1,000 a year for isolated children. The Country Party members in the House I find to be a good mob of blokes individually, but their Party has real policy formation problems and has always had problems with respect to being in coalition. The latest evidence of this, of course, is the Country Party’s flirtation with the Democratic Labor Party. I believe that there has been a failure by some honourable members on my side to understand the farming community and its problems. But this lack of communication and understanding is more than compounded by the Opposition’s failure to understand and sympathise with urban dwellers and wage earners. I get particularly annoyed at the constant gibes of some members opposite that no Labor member has ever been a farmer. Some of those accusing us and passing themselves off as farmers, of course, probably either inherited their position or married into it. I was born and bred on a farm and worked and lived there for 33 years. I admit that my enterprise was based on the humble chook and apple tree and not the aristocratic sheep and proud wheat crop, but a primary producer I was and the lurks I know. 1 have said that this Budget is a reconstructing budget. The Government is interested in cures for the long run problems of primary industry and not the band-aid approach of the Country Party. But let us look at the ideology. If socialism in Australia is defined as government interference in market forces and subsidisation then the Country Party has been the most effective socialist party in Australia.
I want now to talk only of consistency and not the measures themselves. I largely believe in all the measures. It is not that I disagree with what has been done, but I want to refer to the consistency of the Country Party wailing about the supposed socialist Labor Government. The major primary industry in my electorate is dairying. The area is safe climatically and most of the farmers are on whole milk production but some of them are producing for manufacturing. The measures of government assistance or interference include the following: The Dairy Industry Authority, quotas, co-operatives, which are supposedly socialistic, subsidies to industries overall, restrictive legislation on margarine, import restrictions, in certain circumstances flood relief, bush fire relief, drought relief, special credit facilities, reconstruction aid, the marginal dairy farm reconstruction scheme, domestic price support for products for manufacturing, and subsidies on fertilisers. There are also tax concessions, including 5- year averaging, a range of special concessions, drought bonds, etc.
Farmers are disadvantaged in many ways but there are also many hidden benefits which I will not go into, lt was my experience that you simply did not have to pay tax if your farm was expanding, and I got into 3 figures twice. But if this is a free enterprise industry then 1 do not know what a socialist approach is. As I have said, I am not against these measures in any categorical way but I hardly think that this is a sterling example of free enterprise. In fact the late Jack Ferguson, who was Chairman of the Australian Milk Board, instituted many of these measures to the benefit of the dairying industry. Even more importantly, despite the loss of farmers in this industry and despite the industry’s own efforts to adjust itself and the various government approaches, the approach still has not worked. It is symptomatic that the only area of real rural poverty in Australia is still represented by the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) - this after 23 years. I am not blaming him for the situation that he faces in that area but I simply say that the approaches have not worked. Of all dairy farmers 65.9 per cent have a net income of less than $5,000 a year in New South Wales and 85.9 per cent of all dairy farmers in Queensland have an income of less than $5,000. The average income in the manufacturing sector is still only $3,177 in New South Wales and $1,547 in Queensland.
Measures for assistance in restructuring have been advanced in the Budget, but more importantly I hope that the Protection Commission can put forward measures that will reconstruct primary industry in a more sensible way. We need to get farmers out of the butter economy and into the milk manufacturing section in those areas which are still locked in the butter economy and there needs to be more encouragement to go into beef. We may face a surplus of 45,000 tons of butter in 1975. At present Japan is being trumpeted as a market, but I doubt very much that returns will cover cost of production. I doubt very much that returns will exceed 30c per lb. I think there is some evidence that butter and cheese are both being dumped.
A plan for the industry was put forward in the early 1960s and nothing was done. We had 10 years warning of the European Economic Community and nothing was done. We are proposing not only more money for reconstruction but more measures on marketing and long term policies. As I see it, there are 3 main policy choices open to a govenment in respect of primary industry in Australia - kill, cure or strangle. Strangle is the traditional approach with measures such as subsidising upwards farmers’ prices received on a unit production basis and subsidising downwards farmers’ prices paid, infrastructure projects, legislation for monopolistic marketing and against alternative supplies and substitutes, concessional tax and related measures. The kill philosophy is: ‘Get big or get out*. This is the unstated policy of the Liberal Party and some Liberal members, but not the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), who has just sat down. Cure is a policy of adjustment and reconstruction. It is this policy we have embarked upon. It is an approach based on economic rationality and the need for welfare assistance.
The sort of premises that a policy of adjustment can be based on and should include are: That the cost-price squeeze will continue; that an increasing volume of total farm production is consistent with fewer farmers; that economic efficiency of farming is more important to Australia than the number of farmers; that neither the economy nor society needs every farmer as a farmer if over-production of unsaleable products is taking place and better marketing cannot help; that fewer farmers will not mean the end of family farming. The best guarantee against corporate farming is viable family units. I do not accept that you have 2 choices - peasant farming or corporate or collective farming. The premises for such a policy also include: That get big or get out is inadequate as a policy for all farmers; that there is no once and for all size of farm business likely to ensure all time viability; that drought, flood and other natural disasters should attract realistic, not confused, financial assistance; that the welfare needs of rural communities and towns must be accurately perceived in social terms separate from handouts; that society, through government, has the responsibility to ensure employment opportunities for every man to earn or to have a minimum income but not to guarantee every man security in the occupation of his choice.
In my opinion, the emphasis has to be on the income, not on the product, to provide justice. Perhaps a negative income tax may be by far the best way to assist rural industry in areas of poverty. But any form of assistance must take into account the varying types of farm economic situations. This is particularly so with respect to rural credit. We have a wide range of credit facilities, few of which are long-term enough, most of which are confused in the farmer’s mind with reconstruction aid. More identification of the problem of long-term rural credit is needed.
In the remaining time I would just like to speak on the phasing out of the butter bounty. The decision to phase out the bounty was made primarily because the Federal Government believes that all expenditure must be purposeful, and the dairy bounty did not meet this criterion. On the surface, the bounty had only marginally improved the welfare of the small dairy man, when it is considered that the bounty has been a factor pushing up the price of land and other inputs. The lion’s share of the bounty has gone to the richer farmers and the richer dairy States. Last May Mr Ken Sillcock, Deputy Chief of the Division of Dairying in the Victorian
Department of Agriculture, stated that any benefits dairy farmers ever received from the bounty had long ago been cancelled out by unrealistic land prices and other capital gains. He then urged the industry to take the initiative and call for the phasing out of the bounty. Overall, Mr Sillcock said that the bounty means higher land and input prices; it had provided ammunition for critics of the industry and allowed the Government the upper hand in negotiations as it could use the threat of reducing or removing the bounty. The end of the bounty, he claimed, would give the industry more strength in dealing with the Government and a far better public image. Of the total $27m bounty allocated for 1972-73, it is estimated that Victoria will receive $ 18.2m or 67 per cent of the total. On the other hand, Queensland should receive only $2.4m or 8.7 per cent. Since 1967-68 Queensland’s share has fallen from almost IS per cent while Victoria’s share has risen from 55 per cent.
A survey by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics covering the 3 years 1967-68 to 1969-70 shows that the annual payment of bounty to individual producers averaged $993 in Victoria, compared with $544 in New South Wales and only $424 in Queensland. I think that these figures I have given prove that the bounty is most inequitable in its impact, favouring the wealthy producers and the wealthier dairy States. In my opinion this is a strange policy.
- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I have listened for a few moments with interest to the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin). All I want to say is that his attitude towards dairy farmers, particularly those in the manufacturing area, is one of complete lack of sympathy, and it is an indictment on him to reveal the average income of these people and then to support the withdrawal of .the butter bounty. He knows only too well that the return to people in the manufacturing sector of the industry, those producing butter, this year will be the lowest since 1948 and that another 2 years of further reductions will take them down to a pitifully low level. These people are being, forced to reconstruct through hunger and starvation. That seems to be the policy of the Government.
Not only is this the first Labor Budget for 24 years. It is also, of course, the first time in 24 years that the Liberal and Country Parties have discussed a Budget from the perspective of Opposition. It seems to me that the task of the Opposition is not simply to attack or harangue, but to offer criticism that is constructive and to put forward alternatives - and to give credit where credit is due. I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr Crean) on bringing down his first Budget. No matter what comments I will make later about the content and direction of the Budget, no one will deny that every Budget is a most significant document, and any man’s first national Budget is for him, and the nation, of special significance.
In many ways this is a remarkable Budget - not only in its content, but when viewed in the context of the economic circumstances to which it is supposed to relate. There is an unusually high level of liquidity in the economy. After years of torpid rural commodity prices a world commodity boom has been transmitted faithfully into supermarket price tags, and more succinctly into the consumer price index. The overall intensity of economic activity is unusually high. Yet the dominant feature of the economic landscape is towering inflation. The Treasurer has correctly pointed out that several aspects of our economic performance represent areas of substantial strength. But the areas of strength, and the buoyancy of the national accounts statistics, subside into a reduced perspective beside the dominance of inflation.
The extent and significance of inflation should not be minimised. On a quarterly basis it is at the highest level for 21 years. It is diversifying beyond the price of food into a broad spectrum of the economy. It is at a level where it ceases to be purely an economic phenomenon and becomes a force of great social significance. It is the overriding economic concern of the Australian people - and one would think it should be the overriding consideration of this Budget.
But the real tragedy of this Budget is that this insidious force has been not only ignored but encouraged. A series of economic palliatives have been deemed to be a substitute for effective action. Adjustment at the fringes has served instead of real action at the centre. The 25 per cent tariff reduction was not only indiscriminate but will be essentially ineffective in relation to its stated objectives. Its impact on rising prices will be limited in effect and duration; its restructuring aspects are tacked on as an afterthought. The Prices Justification Tribunal is, and will be clearly seen to be in the future, an exercise in futility, serving only to give official respectability to the price rises that are made inevitable by the neglect of this Government.
The facts are clear, Mr Deputy Speaker. At the time of the highest quarterly inflation rate since 1951-52, the level of Government expenditure will increase by the greatest amount since 1951-52. At a time of an international food shortage, the food producing industries are singled out for discriminatory attack. At a time when rural investment should be encouraged after years of depressed returns, it is discouraged. At a time when inflation is accelerating, the Government stimulates rises in air fares, Postal Department charges and petrol.
The tragedy of this Budget is not that it fails to provide enough money for the needs of the Australian people. Many of its objectives are laudable and of potential benefit to the people. The tragedy is that by sacrificing the control of inflation for social reform - and surely inflation is one of the worst of all social evils - the impact of inflation will quickly dissipate the intended effect of the Budget’s programs. The objection is not so much that the Budget tries to do too much, but that it fries to do too much too soon in an economic environment calling for restraint, and leadership in restraint. In this I agree with the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) who has acknowledged that the Government is trying to move too fast.
The Budget provides for an increase of $340m in social welfare benefits but it is not in fact a social welfare Budget because its specific benefits will be largely offset by the effects of inflation. The increases in pensions will be completely eaten up by inflation.
It is not a defence Budget because defence spending in real terms is to be cut down. The Government, along with all other mortals in this country, cannot predict the future - yet it is willing to gamble with this nation’:) security by predicting that the future will be free of the need to involve our armed Services in significant combat for the next 15 years. It is not a Budget for the industrialist, because it will encourage the inflation that distorts his business environment - and he is discouraged from investing by the removal of the investment allowance.
It is, instead, a Budget that penalises rural industry to the extent of about S 150m a year when one of the most pressing priorities of the national government should be to encourage food production. At a time when a world food shortage is developing, the producers of food are penalised and discouraged. New-found and long-awaited rural prosperity - and perhaps transitory prosperity has been mistakenly equated with long-term wealth, and a sector of the economy, and of the Australian people, that has been through a lengthy period of depressed incomes and depressed outlooks is dealt a tremendous blow. The rural sector is carrying an enormous financial debt which will have to be serviced before it can benefit from recent seasonal conditions and improved commodity prices, the lag time before real benefits are enjoyed means that for many the benefits are still a long way off.
This blow to rural industry happened because we now have a Government which acts without thinking. It lashes out wildly in all directions, making savage attacks on the industries that produce the financial resources on which all advances in the welfare of the Australian people must be based. The Government simply does not understand this fundamental proposition. It fires broadsides at all sectors of, industry - but primary industry in particular. It blusters and fulminates against overseas industry in Australia. It talks of buying back Australia apparently on the grounds that this is an appealing slogan.
Surely the time has come when the Government should at least try to gain some glimmer of understanding of the basic importance of industry, and try to work with industry instead of against it. Take, for example, what has been done to primary industry in this Budget. In its determination to get at the so-called Pitt Street Farmer, the Government has cut, across the board, taxation concessions which have played such an important part in the encouragement of agricultural development in this country.
But what are the consequences of this action? Certainly the Pitt Street farmer gets his come-uppance, but so too does the genuine, traditional farmer. He is discouraged from new investment. He will delay or decide against buying new equipment - so the machinery manufacturer and the machinery sellers in cities and country towns will be hit. This is the kind of ill-advised, impetuous action which characterises this Government, and which spreads far beyond the victims against whom the attack was originally directed.
The rural sector has been shockingly dealt with in this Budget and I hope that when the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) and the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) get up in this debate to defend their own decisions as part of the Government they will have some pretty convincing explanations to offer to the House and to their own constituents. After all its talk about regional development, we find the Government offering the States $33m in loans, and in loans so hedged about with terms and conditions that there is a real dinger that the States will be unable to accept the money.
But the whole approach of the Government is aimed at a siphoning-off of rural population and development into the cities. The withdrawal of support measures for primary industries, the sharp rises in telephone and postal charges which are especially damaging to rural industry and country people, the effects of the withdrawal of support for country air services and higher air fares and freight costs, the serious burden of the higher fuel costs on transport charges generally - all these things must work directly against the concept of decentralisation which we were told this Government supported. In any case, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) is frightening the life out of country towns with is aspirations for growth centres and with his very dangerous plans for the centralised control from Canberra of land development. The myth of Labor’s concern for country people, despite some very persuasive and colourful presentation, finally has been laid to rest.
This is a Budget that does little for the home seeker, who is already the victim of frightening increases in land prices and housing costs. The graduated deductibility of mortgage interest may have some superficial appeal, but its practical benefit will be offset to a considerable degree by the added stimulus to housing demand and the consequent increase in prices. This nation is already beset by a massive inflation-inspired swing of resources into real estate, provoking a tremendous housing crisis. This Budget fails to appreciate its nature and extent. It is a Budget which imposes significant burdens on the mining industry. It has effectively increased taxes by 9i per cent for Australian copper, nickel, tin, bauxite and uranium miners. By dropping the 20 per cent tax concession, the Treasurer has effectively lifted the tax for those mines from 38 per cent to 47i per cent. For life insurance companies and their policy holders there is little joy in the Budget. The effect of the changed tax laws will be to reduce the annual bonus on policies by about 20 per cent per annum.
The Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) told us, before the Budget, that it would contain some massive changes. In fact, I think he might have put it even more succinctly than that. But, when the Budget appeared, many people found that there did not seem to be as many changes as they were expecting. But let there be no mistake. There is in the Budget a fundamental philosophical change in approach to national economic management. This change, which the Treasurer freely acknowledges, involves a redistribution of resources from the private sector to the public sector - that is, the government sector. This is a socialist Budget, and there is not the slightest doubt that further Budgets brought down by this Government will be increasingly socialist and interventionist in nature. But what is not so freely acknowledged is that resources are to be redistributed from the most productive sectors of the community to the least productive. A socialist edifice is being built on the foundations of free enterprise, but those free enterprise foundations are being subjected to the weakening effects of Government policies and attitudes. What this Government must understand, and what the Australian people must understand, is that if this nation’s free enterprise foundations are weakened too much the whole structure of the community and all the Government’s welfare and other programs will be endangered.
One of the unfortunate by-products of the expansion of the public sector under Labor is the runaway expansion of the Commonwealth Public Service. The Prime Minister (Mr Whilam) has referred to a growth rate of 5 per cent, but the Public Service could well grow by 10 per cent this year - compared with 4 per cent last year - at a time when the total Australian work force is estimated to grow by 3i per cent. Not only are the numbers increasing, but the cost of operating the Commonwealth Public Service will increase much more, particularly in view of the staggering benefits proposed by the Minister for Labor (Mr Clyde Cameron). The Minister may attack the ‘fat cats’, but the Government is intent not only on increasing the feline reproduction rate but also on keeping them purring. At the end of June 1972 there were 876 Second Division officers. By the end of this year there will be more than 1,200, an increase of nearly SO per cent.
The Budget papers disclose that departmental and administrative expenses this year are expected to increase by $166m or 20 per cent. The figure is certain to be more than this. It is worth emphasising that the increase in departmental running expenses will be almost as great as the increase in health expenditure, will be greater than the increase in transport and communication expenditure and, indeed, will constitute the fourth largest single growth area of Commonwealth Government expenditure in 1973-.4. The Government has provoked an inevitable inflationary tug-of-war for resources by trying to enlarge its share of the national cake. It has served clear notice that, if anyone is to exercise restraint in the fight against inflation, it will not be itself. Implicit in the Treasurer’s call for a national approach against inflation is a suggestion that, while the private sector exercises restraint, the Government sees no need to do so itself. Perhaps the Treasurer is thinking as King David did when he desired another man’s wife. King David made sure that the husband was allocated the first position in the attack and was, predictably, killed. The Treasurer seems to want the private sector to lead the battle against inflation and be cut down so that he can use the resources it presently utilises. There is another name for this sort of approach, and it has nothing to do with the Old Testament; it is ‘socialism’.
There is room for dispute as to the primary causes of inflation. There is room for dispute as to the origin of inflation and the degree of Commonwealth Government contribution to its acceleration. There can, however, be no dispute that the prime responsibility for its control and the responsibility for mobilising a national attack on inflation rest with the national Government. (Extension of time granted.) I thank the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) and the House for granting me an extension of time. If the principle were to be adopted that governments need not accept responsibility for developments which originate outside their direct areas of activity, the scope for evasion of responsibility would be almost unlimited. The Government must accept the primary responsibility for the control of inflation in this nation. The area most directly within its control and indicative of its intent is Commonwealth Government expenditure. I know it is easy to demand cuts in Government spending without being specific. Let me try to be specific. The advance of SI 07m to the Pipeline Authority should not be in the Budget. This is a job for free enterprise, not a socialist Government. In any case, this expenditure can hardly be justified in the present economic context, particularly when its cost-benefit basis is, to say the least, tenuous. The explosive and costly expansion of the Public Service should be curbed. The Government should realise that it is sometimes necessary to be unpopular, if unpopularity is the responsible course.
No-one questions the good intentions of the Treasurer in rapidly expanding Government spending on welfare services, education, health care and similar matters. Everyone wants to see these things improved as quickly as possible. But what is the use of spending money at such a rapid rate that the new benefits offered are sabotaged and virtually destroyed by the inflation stimulated by excessive government spending? This is the problem that dogs all governments, but it will never be solved by governments which substitute the pursuit of popularity or the attainment of party political ideals for economic responsibility. The present Government is a government of gimmick. It is also a government of almost unbelievable inconsistency. It calls for restraint, but supported an $11.50 flat rate increase in the national wage, and supports a 35-hour week. It talks about the benefits of a government allied to the trade union movement, but industrial unrest this year is considerably up on last year’s level. It recognises the strain on resources in the economy, but proposes greatly to expand its own work force and spending at a time of labour shortage. What we are seeing in this country today is the classic technique of the socialist. A situation of severe inflation is allowed to develop. Opportunities for fiscal responsibility are passed up as part of a deliberate policy of fostering inflation by default. In this way an atmosphere is created which establishes an ideal breeding ground for the introduction of the socialist approach to economic management, and that is an approach based on controls.
On Tuesday night the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) spoke of the need, as he saw it, for a short-term prices and wages freeze as a kind of shock tactic to drive home to the Australian community the seriousness of the situation we face. All of us are well aware that such a measure could be only a short-term one, designed to achieve immediate objectives. In fact, I have serious doubts as to even the short-term success of such action. Freezes are no substitute for continuing responsibility in economic management. Yet the situation is so serious, and holds out such frightening prospects, that we have to consider radical action. But what concerns most of us is that, under this Government, policies of control and restriction and straight-jacketing will not be used as temporary measures, but will become established, entrenched policies - policies which give effect to the political philosophy of the Government. The suggestion by the Leader of the Opposition has been described by the Treasurer as being ‘supreme blasphemy’. But let us look at the circumstances in which the Leader of the Opposition made his suggestion. We have inflation increasing at a frightening rate. The position is worse than it ever was during those years when the Leader of the Opposition - and myself and many others - rejected the thought of any kind of price and wage control in what should be a flourishing free enterprise economy. Now we have an entirely new situation, and if we are to avoid serious harm to the economy, and to the whole Australian community, then something effective has to be done.
The idea of controls is abhorrent to me, as it is to anyone dedicated to the free enterprise philosophy. I have very real doubts about their effectiveness anyway, even though I agree that there is a need for some kind of action that will shock people into an awareness of the mess this country is going to get into if the Government continues to run away from its responsibility. Whatever we might think of controls and freezes or anything else, one thing is very clear; the Opposition is at least prepared to grapple with this problem. The Government is not. So I would hope that the Treasurer might devote a little less time to trying to score easy political points off people who, unlike himself and the Government, are trying to tackle this country’s most serious problem. I hope he will spend a little less time telling us, as he so frequently does, that inflation did not begin at midnight on 2
December last year, and tell us what he is going to do about the rapidly worsening situation. Of course inflation did not begin last December. We know that. What we do not know, and see not the slightest indication of, is when this Government is going to start acting like a Government that understands where its responsibility lies.
This Budget imposes further strains on the nation’s economic capabilities at a time when resources are already fully utilised. (Honourable members interjecting)
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! I suggest to honourable members of the Country Party that if they want to hear their Leader speak they should remain silent and not converse.
– What about the honourable member for Melbourne? Be fair.
-Order! If the honourable member listened I would be able to finish. If honourable members do not listen they will not hear me. I suggest that if honourable members of the Country Party wish to hear their Leader finish his remarks they should remain silent. I suggest to honourable members on the other side of the chamber that they should allow the Leader of the Country Party to be heard in silence.
– The Budget is a socialist blueprint both in the direction in which it is taking us, and in its immediate objective of redirecting private resources to the government sector. The Prime Minister speaks with pride of being a socialist Prime Minister, and his Government has its eyes set on the destination of socialism, but 1 fear the journey will be hazardous. It normally could be expected that in the absence of fiscal responsibility, the monetary policy aftermath would be very severe. As a result of this Budget we normally should expect a Treasury inspired policy of tighter money and higher interest rates. If that were to happen it would put into a new perspective the budgetary objectives of helping home-seekers and various other people in the community. But I fear that even this unpalatable alternative may not eventuate. This Budget may well be the forerunner of government imposed controls to rectify a deteriorating economic condition.
It is not idle speculation when I predict that inflation - already running at an annual rate of 13 per cent - could well reach an annual rate of 20 per cent by the end of the year. If that happens then we must fear not only for the economic health of this nation, but also for its social stability. That sort of condition carries with it the breakdown of our traditional wage-fixation procedures and a general threat of social and economic anarchy. What I fear is that the build-up of these forces may well provide the justification for this socialist government to employ the tools of socialism - direct controls. That sort of approach, given the nature of this Government, would be the ultimate political result of unchecked inflation. The real significance of this Budget is to be found in the attitude of mind it embodies and, perhaps more significantly, in the consequences to which it could lead.
– After listening to the first 20 minutes of the speech that the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) found that he had to deliver this afternoon, it is no wonder that the effectiveness of it was displayed so readily by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) when he was prepared to move for an extension of time for the right honourable gentleman to give us another 10 minutes of it. The whinging, whining prophet of doom attitude that he has taken surely indicates the frustration of the Country Party when it realised that it was led by the nose into opposition by the failure of its senior partner in coalition, not only in the months preceding the election but also in a period of some years preceding it. It has failed to live up to the hopes that people have held for the coalition for some years under its first Leader, Sir Robert Menzies. In his speech last Tuesday evening, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) endeavoured to suggest that one of the points on which he was taking the Government to task was its failure to implement election promises. What hypocrisy for the Leader of the Opposition to suggest, after this Government has been in office for only 9 months, that there would not be some election promises that as yet remain to be implemented. Let me remind honourable members opposite that, for 23 years, their Government continually made promises at election after election and many of them will recall, certainly if they are honest in their recollections, that those promises for the most part failed, and failed miserably. The people who supported them over the years finally despaired of any chance of getting them to implement the policies on which they had been elected-
– I rise to take a point of order. Would the honourable gentleman be polite enough, instead of accusing us of these things, to identify what promises were not kept?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member for Angas will resume his seat and will not take irresponsible points of order.
– The honourable member for Angas knows as well as I and the people of Australia know that promises were broken more often than they were kept by the Liberal Party in government. Last year, the final Budget of a generation of Liberal-Country Party governments was delivered by the present Leader of the Opposition who then was known as Billy Mackie Snedden. He is now known as Bill. A leading article in the ‘Sunday Telegraph’ of 13 August last year said:
The Liberal-Country Party Government will be bringing in its 23rd consecutive Budget on Tuesday night. All the signs point towards it being the last for quite a few years.
The headline was: ‘Can Billie Mackie Snedden’s Budget save the McMahon Government?’ Well, of course, it could not. On 2 December, a new government was elected. We are not ashamed of the fact that, as we have been accused, in this Budget we have set new horizons, that it is a Budget of new directions and that it is a Budget that introduces some socialistic principles to this nation. It is the Budget of a democratic socialist party. Honourable members opposite might as well get used to speaking on our Budgets from the Opposition benches because, at the rate at which they are going, they will be doing so for quite a number of years.
I take the opportunity, in congratulating the Treasurer (Mr Crean) on his first Budget, to highlight a few of the important aspects of that document which interest me and the electorate of Bowman which I have the honour to represent. The announcement that $10m will be made available in 1973-74 to assist the States and eligible organisations to meet the capital and operating costs of providing community health facilities and services is certainly welcome. A large proportion of electors in Bowman are pensioners or are in receipt of repatriation benefits. As these people are concentrated in areas at the out skirts of Brisbane, there are certainly great benefits to come to those people from the introduction of such a scheme as will be implemented in due course in accordance with the program that has been laid down in the report on a community health program for Australia which was tabled in this Parliament recently by the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham).
One other item in which I am particularly interested is the amount of $250,000 that is to be made available to acquire sites and to prepare plans for major hospitals in Brisbane and Melbourne. This allocation was announced in the Budget Speech by the Treasurer at the same time as he announced that $4.5m was being provided to meet the urgent needs of hospitals in the major Australian capitals. Also, $4m was to be provided towards the cost of a hospital in the western suburbs of Sydney. I would hope that when we speak next year on the Budget for 1974- 75 the same attention which has been given in this Budget to the development of a new major suburban hospital in Sydney will have been accorded to Brisbane. There is no doubt that the great free hospital system which operates in Queensland and which was established by a Queensland Labor Government many years ago has been sadly neglected in the years that it has been supported reluctantly by Country Party-Liberal Party coalitions in that State. The injection of such amounts of money as will be forthcoming from this Government with the introduction of the national health scheme will be needed greatly in the city of Brisbane. A great need for such moneys exists in Brisbane today.
I congratulate the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) on the introduction of the important benefits that will give the opportunity now for Boer War and World War I veterans to have available to them the facilities of repatriation hospitals. I recall a question that I asked the then Minister for Repatriation and which was answered on 12 September 1972. The answer disclosed that, at that time, fewer than 200 Boer War veterans were not qualified for those benefits and some 66,700 World War I veterans were not so qualified. Those veterans who remain from those numbers will certainly receive great benefit from the announcement by the Treasurer that this worth while facility will be made available to them.
It is timely that we have now the opportunity to implement the important benefit for home owners that was announced in the policy speech of the then Leader of the Opposition, the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). As he said in his policy speech - the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) has indicated legislation to implement that policy will be introduced later this year - ‘There will be introduced legislation to provide tax concessions for home owners’. The Prime Minister stated in his policy speech that where the actual income was $4,000 per annum or less, people would be entitled to a deduction of 100 per cent of their interest rate payments and that the percentage of total interest payment which is deductible will be reduced to 1 per cent for every SI 00 in excess of that $4,000.
This is a scheme which will virtually replace the scheme that has been in operation now since July 1964 and is known as the homes savings grants scheme. The Minister for Housing has announced that that scheme will not be ended abruptly; it will be phased out over a period. It is interesting to note that that scheme was introduced following the 1963 elections in an endeavour to allay the fear of the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, who felt that it was up to him to do something for the home owners and the people who needed to be provided with a better opportunity to gain a home. I understand from the records that I have studied that at that time some 70,000 Australians were seeking homes and were unable to get them. The increase in the years that the former Government remained in office brought that figure to some 93,000 at the time when it went out of office last December.
That scheme operated mainly to the disadvantage of young people. It was never completely explained to them. Many young people who had need for that grant found themselves excluded from the opportunity to gain a homes savings grant because of the very many discriminatory regulations that were put into effect in the life of the scheme. In the year 1971-72 - the last year for which records of its operation are available - 89,278 homes were built in Australia. I will readily admit that not all of those homes would be first homes being built by young married people. Taking into consideration that a great percentage of those homes would be in that category, I note with interest that only 38,674 people qualified for the benefits of the homes savings grants scheme in 1971-72. The cost of that scheme in 1971-72 was $16.9m. The benefits which we propose and which will be implemented by the introduction of the interest rebates for home owners, according to a very reliable estimate that I have been able to obtain, will be worth some $80m a year to young and old people alike who are paying off their first home. Those people will reap the benefits of this scheme. The recipients of the benefits will not be restricted, as so many were under the provisions of the scheme that this measure will replace. 1 wish to make a brief reference to one other very important matter that was mentioned by the Treasurer in his Budget Speech. I refer to the provision of $3m during this financial year for grants to the States for a one-year program of traffic management and improvement at locations with poor accident records. These grants will go a long way towards overcoming one of the greatest problems that we face in the capital cities, namely the high death rate that grows year by year. Other attention has been given by the Government to that problem, as can be seen in the re-establishment of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Road Safety which operated in the last Parliament. My concern for road safety brings me to refer to the report issued by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads that has been recently circulated to honourable members. It deals with the benefits of stopping freeway construction in State capital cities. It deals also with the benefits of allowing freeway construction that has been planned for the capital cities to be continued. It is interesting to note that it is suggested that one of the important advantages of urban freeways is in reducing accidents. The report which is entitled ‘Report on the Effects of Stopping Freeway Construction in State Capital Cities’, states:
For example the planned opening of 8 miles of freeways in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth next year is expected to result in a saving of 10 to IS fatalities and ISO to 200 casualties in each year of their operation.
Surely such a saving of human life warrants the expenditure on the construction of that 8 miles of freeways. I wish to impress this upon the Government: From my close study of the freeway position in the city in which I live - Brisbane - I suggest that it would be of great benefit to that city if the Government saw fit to allow the continuation of the planned freeway development in that city. At present, Brisbane needs the development of freeways perhaps much more than Sydney and Melbourne do. The freeways system in Brisbane virtually has only begun.
A great deal of expenditure is planned for the Brisbane area in the next three to five years. Within the next 12 months it is intended to complete an additional one mile of freeway. Within the next 3 years it is the intention of the authorities to construct an additional 20.25 miles of freeway. These freeways in the Brisbane area will provide a great service to the people of the city and to the people of the adjoining areas. There is no doubt in my mind that there is every need to stop at this stage and to examine the feasibility of continuing freeway development. I might say at this stage that I sympathise completely with the people who are displaced by the development of freeways. Most of them are Labor Party supporters - the people in the more depressed areas closer to the inner city. These people in the past, to a great extent, have found that the compensation that they have been offered has been far from adequate. I would raise my voice in support of very adequate compensation for these people. I believe that the compensation should be more than the market value of their property to compensate them not only for having to replace their home in the new areas to which they must go but also for having to move out of the area in which they have been used to living and being forced to resettle in a new area. Whilst I have sympathy for these people, I believe that the immediate freeway development in Brisbane has been well planned. With only a small variation of the routes that are planned at present, it will provide a great benefit at a very reasonable cost in the future development of the city of Brisbane. Of course, to a great extent this is due-
– Thanks to your friend Jo.
– I have not any friend named Jo. The interjection reminds me of my good friend the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Clem Jones, who, of course, would be recognised as one of the most able authorities in this nation on the development of cities. His guiding hand has been responsible for tempering and putting into a responsible form many of the decisions made in respect of the development of freeways in the Brisbane area.
Finally, I refer to the lack of co-operation by Queensland in assisting the Government to implement the promise made by the Prime
Minister in respect of the establishment of land development commissions in the various States. The Government would be more inclined to deal with the Minister for Lands in Queensland, the Honourable Wally Rae, than with the Premier of that State. If the Premier had stayed overseas a little longer when he was on his recent venture, the Lord Mayor of Brisbane and Mr Rae certainly would have had an opportunity to develop a scheme for providing large areas of land in Brisbane, as they announced at a joint Press conference. But, of course, their plans were sabotaged by Mr Jo Bjelke-Petersen, the Premier of Queensland, when he came back on to the scene. Of urgent necessity in the city of Brisbane is the implementation of that section of the Government’s policy. At the moment prices of land in Brisbane are skyrocketing. I hope in the near future to have an opportunity to say more about that. Perhaps I will be able to do so during consideration of the Department of Housing estimates. Suffice it to say at this moment that it is about time the Government of Queensland realised the genuineness of the provisions of the scheme proposed by this Government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– We have just listened to the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) who, at the beginning of his remarks, described himself as a democratic socialist. He proceeded to tell us of all the advantages of democratic socialism, which I would say is simply gobbledegook for totalitarianism - power from the top down. During the 20 minutes that we listened to the honourable member he made accusations against people on this side of the House and used the old tag of ‘the previous whingeing, whining Government that was in office for 23 years’. I think that was how he described the previous Government.
– No, that was the Leader of the Country Party.
– I appreciate the interjection. That is what I thought the honourable member said. I thought the adjectives were used in a personal way to describe one of my colleagues. I think the Liberal-Country Party Government did not do too badly during those 23 years seeing that the Australian population rose from 7 million to 13 million and there was full employment at the time we went out of office. I resent the adjectives which were ascribed to the Leader of the Australian Country Party, especially coming from the honourable member for Bowman whom I would describe as one of the most whingeing, whining, ponderous, humourless and dreary socialists in the Parliament. He is not a bit like the sort of person we expect to come from Queensland.
I would like to say something in reference to a matter the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) spoke of at question time today. I do not get any pleasure out of saying something like this but I feel that I would not be able to live with myself if I did not draw attention to this matter. The Prime Minister in really what amounted to a prepared statement made another attack on southern African countries. Some honourable members may remember that he chose the opportunity to wallop Trans-Australian Airlines for having the hide still to have displayed in one of its offices - I believe it was in Alice Springs - a brochure advertising travel to southern Africa. Apparently there was something in that brochure about Rhodesia.
– I wonder what spy brought that to his attention.
– I am quite sure it was not the member who represents that area. The Prime Minister in his typical Big Brother attitude has given orders to TAA to destroy all of these subversive pamphlets. As far as the Prime Minister is concerned - and this is democratic socialism - no one in this country must be permitted ever to read anything about southern Africa or in particular Rhodesia. I think the people in the Press gallery, although there are not too many of them there at present, ought to have a look at what the Prime Minister said in regard to the Press in this country accepting advertisements which advertise Rhodesia because that is another indication of the mental hiatus which the Leader of the Government has in regard to that part of the world. Perhaps the members of the Press gallery should have a look at what happened to the Press in Ceylon under democratic socialism. In Ceylon the Press was strangled by the withdrawal of government advertisements from newspapers.
I say that the Prime Minister and others who sit behind him have a double set of standards. They wish to destroy everything that may give information about this little country of Rhodesia. We are not allowed to look at it. We are not allowed to go there. But the Prime Minister agrees to the introduction into this country of all forms of pornography. That seems to me to .be a classic double standard. It is a selective sanction, something which I do not approve. When we on this side were in government I was against it and now that we are in Opposition I am still against it. So at least I am as consistent as is the Prime Minister. My view is that the Prime Minister’s way is not the way to treat any country. If we do not agree with another country’s politics we do not solve anything by shutting our eyes and not learning anything about them.
– It is a United Nations decision, you know.
– I appreciate that interjection. I thank the honourable member for reminding me that it is a United Nations decision. The position is that the United Nations is running our foreign policy, not the Australian Government. That is something which I deplore.
– The point is that I do not have a terribly high respect for the way in which, for example, Soviet Russia has behaved over the years. Just think what Soviet Russia has done to the Baltic States and to Czechoslovakia. We all voted along the same lines in regard to that matter. But in my view that does not mean that we should not ever visit Soviet Russia or look at the propaganda material which that country has put into this country. I think that is a fair parallel to draw. I just wanted to place on record somewhere at some time those views and. after what the Prime Minister said today I think this is the appropriate time.
– We knew you would.
– I am used to getting these sorts of interjections. Last night someone called me the member for Rhodesia or something like that and someone else called me a fascist, but putting labels on people does not do anybody any good. I could easily call the honourable member who interjected the member for Moscow but it would be quite meaningless.
– It is the sort of thing you usually do.
– You are accusing me of putting labels on people. I challenge you to find public evidence of that.
– You have done it in this place many times.
– That is not so but I am prepared to debate the issue reasonably and calmly. I say to honourable members opposite: Do not put labels on people. Getting back to the Budget, which I suppose is what one should be talking about, there are many aspects of it that I would like to say something about but of course time will not permit me to do so. First of all, I am opposed to this Budget, although of course not everything that is contained in it. I support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and which was in my view put very well by him. But there is one long term feature of this Budget and the papers associated with it on which I do want to say something briefly. I refer to the disgraceful way that this Budget is running down our defence capability. The Government is rapidly destroying the Army, the Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. I would like the Minister for ‘Defence (Mr Barnard) or someone who has the capacity to tell me what would happen if a situationand I think this could well happen - developed in Papua New Guinea whereby there was some major disturbance such as a civil war, perhaps an invasion or some threat to Australian expatriates in that country. When the ‘Sydney’ is scrapped how will this Government shift to that area troops in sufficient numbers and with all the necessary logistic support to honour our commitments to that country? I hope that in time we will get an answer to that question. I am sure that everybody who is living in Papua New Guinea will be interested to know the answer to that question.
I fear that this Government is putting this country into the situation it was in when I was of military age, which is a long time ago, and I, along with many other young men, went to Papua New Guinea, some without equipment or with equipment which was very very old. I well remember going into action with Howitzers and other artillery pieces produced in 1908. They were so inaccurate that they tended to kill almost as many of our own people as they did the enemy. I suggest that the way this Government is heading, in scrapping defence and putting emphasis on welfare, we will see the day when we will be as ill-prepared to defend ourselves or to honour our commitments as we were in 1939.
In regard to short term decisions which have been taken in this Budget, the Leader of the Opposition did cover the important points. I just wish to refer to one or two of those decisions that will affect us in the near future. I will quote something that the present Prime Minister said when he was bucking to be Prime Minister. He said that as a matter of ‘pressing necessity’ a Labor Government would lower income tax on married and lower income earners, reduce sales tax on a number of items and maintain existing rates of company tax. This Government has not lowered income tax for anybody. It has not reduced sales tax. In this Budget this Government has increased indirect taxes and it has increased company taxes and all those things which it said it would reduce. Pensioners in this country are actually now worse off and they are going to get progressively worse off. Pensions are increasing at a rate approximately 2 per cent lower than the rate of average earnings of others in the community. So gradually they are being disadvantaged. I suggest that this Budget is a budget to hit the family man or the working man whom the Labor Party claims it represents. For example there have been increased taxes on drinks, smokes and petrol. Those measures are all inflationary ones.
There are 3 Labor Party promises that I would like to mention very quickly. We all remember the highly successful slogan - and it is a Party of slogans - ‘It’s time’, and the literature which was distributed before the last elections. I think the next slogan for the Labor Party will be ‘Time’s up’. The Labor Party’s ‘It’s Time’ pamphlet stated:
The Australian Labor Party sees inflation control as the Government’s responsibility. Not yours.
That was referring to the voter. The present Government is doing nothing about inflation except exacerbating it. On rising prices, the pamphet stated:
All this would be bad enough, except the Government
That is when we were in government - - compounds the problem by increasing postal charges, telephone rates and television licences and by increasing indirect taxes . . . petrol and cigarette for example.
I am quoting what the Labor Party criticised us for doing, yet it has done the same things in its first Budget. In 1969 the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, said:
Don’t be fooled by the Liberal boast that tax rates have not been increased.
Actually we reduced them -
The taxes have been raised by the simple, silent expedient of leaving the tax schedules unchanged and letting inflation and wage increases do the rest.
That is precisely what the Labor Government is doing in its first Budget in 25 years. I can think of at least 2 pre-election promises that have not been honoured. One is the promise to allow a deductibility for taxation purposes-
– The honourable member should know that those promises were made in respect of a 3-year term. Do not confuse the public.
– The Minister for Housing interjects to say that the promise about child care centres is designed for a 3-year term. We have his assurance that it may be kept if the Labor Party retains government until the next Budget. It certainly is not included in this Budget and, with the foreshadowed attack on other deductible expenses, I would be dubious that he will be able to keep that promise. Various statements were made by the Prime Minister about education grants for students attending independent schools. I cannot quote him precisely but all honourable members know of those statements. The Minister for Education said that no school would receive less than it was receiving before the election, but all honourable members are aware that these grants have been chopped off to many schools. That was a totally false statement - I cannot use another word because it is unparliamentary.
The matter to which I should like to devote most of my attention is the national health scheme. During question time today I received some sort of unsatisfactory answer from the Minister for Social Security, about inaccuracies in the costing of the health scheme. Perhaps I need not repeat that information. I shall relate some figures dealing with the cost to the person who is really under attack in this health scheme. I refer to the patient whom I seek to defend. I am not concerned about the doctors although the Government seeks to discredit and denigrate medical practitioners in private practice. The Government does this to try to obscure the other important issues, particularly the cost of hospitalisation to the Australian public. 1 hope that a significant section of the Australian community will be listening to these figures. A married couple with 2 children - they are the ones who I suggest comprise the family unit and the people against whom this Budget is directed - who seek non-public hospital accommodation after the Government has nationalised medicine, as it proposes to do on 1 July next will pay more than they do at present. A man earning $80 a week who seeks to send his wife or child to a private hospital now pays $1.66 a week. Under the proposed national scheme he will pay the same but he will not have any choice of where to send his wife or child. This is one of the aspects which has been obscured by the Government. The Minister talked about freedom of choice but he does not say freedom of choice of what. It is not freedom of choice of a doctor; it is freedom of choice as to whether a man will send his child or wife to a public or private hospital. That ought to be nailed once and for all.
A married couple with 2 children seeking non-public hospital accommodation and earning $100 a week now pay $1.55 but under the national health scheme they will have to pay $1.82 and will be forced to go into a public hospital. The way in which the scheme will operate, if it ever gets off the ground, is by forcing people to do things - on an economic basis. If there are any single people listening or interested in what it will cost them I point out that if a person earning $80 a week is unfortunate enough to go to hospital under the nationalised health scheme whereas he now pays 60c a week, it will cost him $1 a week to ‘go to a public hospital. If he wishes to go to a private hospital he will have to insure separately for that. In the case of a married couple who are both working, if the husband earns $80 a week he now pays Si. 23 a week. Under the free scheme, about which the Government talks, he will pay $1.74 a week. Who can say that is free hospitalisation or even cheaper than it is now? That is not really the end of the story because under this compulsory national scheme which will operate from July, if a person is unfortunate enough to go to hospital the most he will get back, for having had the privilege of paying almost 2 per cent of his net income, is $13 a day for public hospital accommodation.
In South Australia from 1 September the cost of public ward accommodation in the Royal Adelaide Hospital will be $20 a day for a bed in a public ward, but the person unfortunate enough to go to hospital must pay the difference which is virtually $50 a week. If that person wants to go to a private hospital he will have to pay a difference of at least $140 a week. I should like to hear what the Minister for Housing, who is to follow me in this debate, has to say about this. He can hardly describe it as a free scheme. I do not really believe that this scheme will ever get off the ground. I hope it does not. Admittedly improvements can be made to the existing scheme which is not perfect, but there is no reason for destroying it. This is an example of doctrinaire democratic socialism which we hear about and which seems to be forcing the Labor Party into trying to introduce this scheme.
In the time remaining to me I should like to mention one other matter which I believe is an intolerable invasion of a person’s civil liberties. We will all be given a number and issued with a card. In the central bureaucracy there will be a list of the things that we haveever had wrong with us. Anyone in the office can see how many times a person has been in a mental hospital, how many times a woman has had an abortion, how many times a person has had veneral disease and so on. The Government says that that material will not be available. It will not be readily available, but how do people get possession of it? How, for example, did Senator James McClelland obtain a person’s medical record and use it against him during a meeting of a Senate committee 2 weeks ago. That was an intolerable intrusion into and denial of that person’s personal freedom. At page 35 of the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Civil Rights of Migrant Australians, honourable members will read of the cross-examination of a witness by Senator James McClelland.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Budget debate concerns the expenditure of some $12, 168m - an enormous amount of money which is probably beyond the comprehension of most people. What is happening in Australia now is that this great resource is being allocated in a new way. As people would expect after 23 years of one type of administration, an alternative way of doing things is coming to bear. Our way of doing things is to identify our type of priority - the matters which are important to the well being of the people in Australia.
This Budget is characterised by new dimensions and directions. It is interesting to see tangible evidence of a new partnership being forged with State governments and with local government instrumentalities as well. The headings of the Budget detail subjects the like of which have not been referred to for some decades. A substantial paragraph appears under the heading ‘Cities’ with an allocation of $136m towards the creation of what could well become the first new city for some decades. We think of Canberra being initiated back in the 1920s as a going operation. We think of the city of Elizabeth in South Australia outside Adelaide, perhaps one of the last cities to be created. After all the years of Liberal-Country Party administration there is nothing to show in respect of the obvious need for decentralisation and the business of taking the pressure off the great seething sultry cities where our people have been required to congregate.
– Elizabeth is one of the best cities in Australia.
– I am not disparaging it by any means. I am simply saying that it is a long time since it happened and it is time we got on with building some new cities. It is a good thing that at last there is a Labor Government doing something about it. I do not think anyone is going to quibble about the fact that we have allocated $136m for new cities and I hope honourable members opposite are not going to quibble with the fact that $33m has been allocated for growth centres, especially towards the creation of Albury-Wodonga as a living concept.
Land commissions are to receive some $60m for the purpose of land acquisition so that we can get the pressure off land prices in the city and so that young people will be able to secure land at a nominal figure on a leasehold basis. Surely this is a significant development and a very real departure from the colourless and unimaginative program of the previous administration. The problems that people have encountered on the perimeters of our cities have also been taken into consideration. For example, there are 1.5 million people without sewerage facilities and our Government, for the first time, has seen the way to relate to the instrumentalities concerned by the provision of $30m. True, it is not sufficient because those instrumentalities need something like an additional $ 1,000m over the next decade above what they see in their sights as being their ordinary budgetary requirements. But we have broken the ice; we have commenced the process; we have pushed aside the old constitutional barrier which has been invoked far too often by our predecessors.
The Government has taken new initiatives in transport. We are commencing to co-operate with the States in meeting the transportation needs of the urban dweller. This is going to have a very great impact on the quality of life of many millions of people in this country. We have commenced the assistance to the local government plan even before the constitutional convention which is to take place next week. We have allocated $5m to the deprived western region of Sydney and $3m to the deprived western region of Melbourne. We have said in an unambiguous and unequivocal way that we are going to go on and set up processes so that the Grants Commission can allocate funds to local government organised on a regional basis to remove the inequalities between regions in Australia. This is a proper manifestation of a new set of priorities and I believe that for many people in Australia it represents an exciting new era.
Consistent with the declared objectives and the high priority of housing, I am pleased to say that there have also been large allocations of funds for that purpose. Total Government provision for housing has increased this year by 34 per cent from $370m to $495m. The main areas of spending are, firstly, the advances to the States under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement involving additional expenditure amounting to 26 per cent, taking the figure to $2 18.7m for the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement in our program for housing for low income people. Secondly, there is the Defence Services homes program. Honourable members opposite often accuse us of being indifferent to the defence needs of the country and those who serve in our defence forces but who can continue to say that in the face of these revelations: The allocation for defence service homes has increased by 37 per cent to $102m; the provision for housing in the territories is up by 31 per cent to $5 1.3m; and Aboriginal housing funds have increased by 123 per cent to $32.4m. Obviously, this is being effectively equated to the will of the people as expressed by way of referendum, the results of which to a great extent were ignored by our predecessors. In the area of aged persons’ housing, it is notable that an increase of 18 per cent has occurred, taking the figure to $37.5m. As I have said, the allocations overall for housing have increased by 34 per cent, from $370m to $495m. Surely no one could accuse the Government of being indifferent to the housing problems in this country.
The Treasurer (Mr Crean) has acknowledged the housing situation and after the suspension of the sitting for dinner I should like to develop that subject because the Treasurer sensibly has recognised the fact that the building industry in Australia today is suffering from overheating. This is the problem that results from the lack of planning on the part of previous governments. Although we have adequate funds coming through, deficiencies exist in certain areas, especially in respect of the building force - the number of tradesmen available to execute the building program. In addition, there are some problems in connection with the supply of materials. But the fact is that the Treasurer has made some proposals about a moderate abatement in our private housing program. When the debate is resumed after dinner I will say what I believe that particular piece of terminology should represent because this is indeed an extremely sensitive area and to get too carried away with an abatement program could have highly deleterious effects. Yet I readily concede that something must be done to moderate the present boom conditions.
Sitting suspended from 6.14 to 8 p.m.
– I was discussing the Treasurer’s proposal to undertake a moderate abatement in the flow of finance for housing. One will not have time to discuss the question of liquidity. It is a complex matter, but one thing seems likely - the possibility of a restoration of business confidence. There is a likelihood that more money will be in demand for manufacturing purposes, and I think it is important for the House to realise that it might not be very long before there is very real competition in the money market. We work in a very sensitive area in housing. We have to realise the possibility of unemployment if there is any tendency to be .heavy handed about matters. Fortunately the Government has the power, through its banking legislation, to regulate the flow of money, and fortunately this Government has the preparedness to do something about those matters. In addition, of course, if there is any decline in the housing industry and a threat of unemployment it is within our capacity to stimulate activity by putting even more money into the basic housing problem area, the area that concerns low income people. The Treasurer has made it clear that, against the traditions of the past, we do not limit our fiscal policy to the Budget concept. We have manoeuvrability subsequently and we will be prepared to invoke that.
One matter of interest, of course, is the future of building societies. I suppose everyone, including the building societies and the people who invest iti them, is now coming to understand the significance of the Treasurer’s proposal that building societies may well be brought under regulation. Such a move will be of great benefit to lenders because they will know that there will not be a continuation of the stop-go policies that have been characteristic of this area in the past. A characteristic of stability will come to bear and there will bc a lot of other things to do to make building societies play an effective, integratory role in our housing program. I hope that will include uniform State legislation, which the Commonwealth might take an initiative in preparing and proposing. Then I suppose we all hope we can avoid the proliferation of building societies, the kind of thing we saw with the hospital and medical benefit funds, with great unnecessary overhead expenses, duplicated office resources and things of that kind.
I would like to make passing reference, in regard to the liquidity question, to the very heavy emphasis that has emerged in respect of finance company lending. The fact of the matter is that finance companies increased their lending in May to $128. 5m. This figure was 36 per cent up on the previous month. When we think of long term housing loans and the people who are involved, the business of subjecting them to repayments at 12 per cent interest is a most undesirable process. I hope the Government will be able to contrive the ways and means of ensuring that whatever role the finance companies are to have in the future it will not be an integral and basic rok in the provision of finance for housing.
When the new Australian Government took office I discovered that the Holt Liberal-
Country Party administration had instructed the Department of Housing that it had no policy role, that its function was merely to dole out to the States each year the funds decided upon at the Australian Loan Council, to administer the homes savings grant scheme, to look after the war service homes scheme as it was called then and generally to function merely as an administrative agency. The Government of the day did not want advice on how to set targets for housing, how to reduce the growing waiting lists for housing commission homes, how to build homes more efficiently or how to plan for the future. We are now left with the bitter fruits of that sterile attitude, of that weary Liberal refusal to resort to indicative planning or to set guide lines or to lay down directions - in short the curse of Australia, the ‘she’ll be right’ attitude or syndrome. This is our inheritance, the legacy that has come to us. There is no machinery for planning, no long term housing targets, no guide lines for the lenders, the land developers, the builders or the manufacturers of materials. They do not know what is ahead of them from one day to the next or from one year to another. They are all left to operate in a vacuum.
In a sense there is complete reliance on spontaneity, an unformulated process of syn.chonisation, to bring all these aspects together - the housing need, the building force, the flow of finance and the availability of land and material. We are not satisfied that we can operate successfully in such a situation. We believe that the housing industry is such a significant economic force in this country that without regulation we can have housing operating as a catalyst to unemployment, a catalyst to inflation. As quickly as we possibly can we will do something about setting up the machinery to analyse these projected needs. More than that is required. Obviously we will have to look at all the various components of the problem. There is the question, for example, of building materials. We know that there have been shortages which have been reflected in price increases. In fact the increase in building materials for the 12 months to July 1973 is in the vicinity of 7 per cent, and currently prices are increasing at an annual rate of 15 per cent - a frightening prospect. We recognise the problem and we are anxious to do something about it. We will only do something about it over a long term with the planning processes about which I have talked.
Then there are manpower shortages. The country at large knows about the shortage of carpenters, bricklayers and other tradesmen. We will have to organise a program, again related to our targeting, to ensure that there is a flow of young men into the building industry. We will obviously have to initiate preapprenticeship training schemes. There is a lot to be said for having young men do a technical training course of perhaps 6 months and after that work as an apprentice in a block system, perhaps apprenticed to the Master Builders Association. These things are urgent and something has to happen in a hurry. We will have to do something about adult retraining. In addition there will have to be an added impetus in respect of selected immigration to build up our building force.
Many other matters give me concern and 1 would certainly like an opportunity to talk longer about them tonight. The disorganised approach to the building needs of the community on the part of some of the lending authorities is a matter that needs a great deal of attention. In my discussions recently with building society representatives I asked one building society secretary how many loans his organisation would be making this year, and he said 4,000. As I discussed it with him I discovered that the process which is characteristic of building societies involved this kind of thing: 4,000 people would go and buy 4,000 blocks of land. Those blocks of land might have been sold a number of times over - the subject of exploitation - but after they were bought the building society people would send off 4,000 valuers, and 4,000 surveyors would probably be going out in different directions. In addition to that they would set about the business of building 4,000 houses all differently. There would be 4,000 plumbers arriving in 4,000 trucks, digging up 4,000 roads to put the water services on. There would be 4,000 yards of sand deposited here and there and there would be 4,000 buckets of lime. Everything would be disorganised and disintegrated. Obviously we have to set about this program in an estate project way, so that we can get conceptual attitudes and new living styles, a better product at lower price for the consumers. I regard the building industry as old fashioned, out of date and in need of complete reorganisation and overhaul. I would like the House to get the impression from what I am saying that this Government has the intention of encouraging the forces that are involved to get on with the job of remodernising the housing processes so that we can get better value for money, so that we can get efficient utilisation of our finance and efficient use of our building teams and the materials involved. There is a great challenge ahead for the building industry and I hope that we will see it characterised by a spirit of co-operation with all the sections involved.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Today while I was in my office I heard certain members of the Australian Country Party, not all of them, quoting from the proof issue of yesterday’s House of Representative’s Hansard in reference to certain matters that I said during the Budget debate last night.’ This is what I heard quoted from my speech:
From memory, not one member of the Country Party has ever won more than 50 per cent of the primary votes before being elected to this Parliament. Of course they get more than 50 per cent after the distribution of preferences, but not one Country Party member has ever gained a majority on the first count. The honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) is a good friend of mine. A couple of years ago he was elected on 27 per cent of the primary vote. I could mention all the members of the Country Party.
That copy of Hansard is the uncorrected copy which was printed late last night. What I said actually was: ‘not many members of the Country Party’. I said that on 2 occasions and I did make a mistake in regard to the honourable member for Moore. He did not get 27 per cent of the votes; he got 25 per cent.
It was said today, Mr Speaker, that I had misled the House. For the benefit of honourable members of the Country Party I now quote from the statistical returns showing the voting within each sub-division in the general election for the House of Representatives 1972 which were issued under the authority of myself and Mr Ley, the Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth. These are the figures in this document and they are for each State. In Calare the successful Country Party candidate got 49.24 per cent of the electors enrolled. The figures for other electorates were as follows: Cowper 48.89 per cent; Gwydir 47.27 per cent; Lyne 48.53 per cent; New England 50.10 per cent; Paterson 48.19 per cent; Richmond 54.25 per cent; Darling Downs 32.2 per cent; Fisher 47.46 per cent; Kennedy 52.48 per cent; Maranoa 52.61 per cent; Northern Territory 47.32 per cent; Canning 26 per cent; Moore 25 per cent; Gippsland 50.34 per cent; Indi 48.79 per cent; McMillan 16.4 per cent; Malley 52.94 per cent; Murray 45 per cent; and Wimmera 44.6 per cent. This means that of 20 members of the Country Party, 14, or 70 per cent of them, were elected on less than 50 per cent of the primary votes, and the figures ranged from 16.4 per cent to around 47 per cent or 48 per cent. I leave it to the House to judge who is telling the truth about this important subject.
– -The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has stated that in his opinion the Australian Labor Party’s greatest blunder has been the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation affair. I do not agree with him. And even he must be having second thoughts by now. Labor’s greatest blunder has been its general economic and financial policy, and that includes the Budget. So let us look at its economic and financial policies in some detail.
I believe the electorate will clearly show its opinion of Labor’s economic blunders committed in the name of doctrinaire socialism as soon as it gets the opportunity to do so. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) admits that this Budget should not be judged on its own. All of the economic and monetary policies and measures of the Government since Labor fraudulently came into office on 2 December of last year must be considered together and their total impact evaluated. Shorn of rhetoric and propaganda what will the effects of the Budget and other Labor economic policies and measures be on the people of this country?
The Whitlam Government inherited a healthy and growing economy. The Budget of 1972-73 was accepted by most people as economically sound, humanitarian and designed to promote full employment and reduce inflationary pressures. In fact all its objectives have been achieved - a distinct credit to the right honourable member for Bruce (Mr Snedden), who was then the Treasurer, and the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch), who was then the Minister for Labour and National Service. We showed that we could control inflation with low levels of unemployment Unemployment was steadily falling and inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, had been reduced from about 8 per cent to 4.6 per cent in the December quarter of 1972.
The Treasury, in its latest annual survey, expressed the opinion that by December 1972 there was good reason for optimism as to the future course of prices. It went on to say that such views were rudely shattered early in 1973. By way of contrast, the rate of consumer price increases has risen to an alarmingly high level of between 12 per cent and 13 per cent and the prospect is that this rate will be sustained. In a veiled but complimentary way the Treasurer admitted that non-farm production at constant prices rose by over 5 per cent and was growing at a faster rate by the end of the year. This was a good performance.
The growth of non-farm product at constant prices seasonally adjusted - that is a technical term - within the year was considerably higher. In the first half of 1972-73 the seasonally adjusted annual rate of growth was 6i per cent and there was an acceleration in the second half. These figures make novel and interesting reading now. I wonder how many people believed they were anywhere near as good or as high as this on 2 December 1972. I was not one of them.
During 1972, as a political tactic, Labor deliberately exaggerated the significance of the trends in unemployment and forecast that it would grow during 1973 to a figure in excess of 18,000. In fact, it is now down to about 76,000, that is, 1.34 per cent of the work force of 5.7 million after taking account of the phasing down of relief work in country areas. Labor was persuaded by its own false political propaganda and came to the conclusion that this country was in for a depression. Since then it has acted as though its political tactics were a correct interpretation of economic trends and it took action to stimulate the economy at a time when no stimulus was needed. Labor’s official forecasts turned out to be wrong, seriously wrong, despite Treasury warnings. And the policies it adopted to meet a ficticious set of circumstances have turned out to be wrong too, and will undoubtedly prejudice its electoral prospects.
Before speaking about these policies let me identify the 2 extremely serious and related socio-economic problems this country faces today. They are the worsening combination of demand and wage cost inflationary pressures and the serious increase in industrial disputes, strikes, loss of working days and wages and industrial lawlessness in the relentless search for wage and salary increases beyond the capacity of industry to pay.
Let us first look at the problem of demand inflation and the necessity for demand management in the conditions existing in Australia today. In his task force report Dr Coombs said:
Already labour is becoming scarce. So far, rising expenditure has been matched by an increasing flow of goods and services. Nevertheless there are limits to the possible supply of goods and services and we are close to them.
By now the limit has been reached. Under these circumstances the test of statesmanship and sound economic management lay in ensuring that the growth in internal demand did not exceed the availability of total resources. But Labor washed its hands of any attempt to control inflationary pressures through budgetary action and hared off in the opposite direction. The sensible application of Keynsian economics demanded that increases in Government expenditure, particularly public works expenditure and building contracts, be kept to a minimum and that there should be a considerable domestic surplus in the Government accounts.
In this context the huge increase in Government spending and the consequent growth in the demand for goods and services in the marketplace were of critical importance if a serious attempt to control inflationary pressures was to be made. In fact, Government expenditures are expected to increase by $1938m or very nearly 19 per cent - an extraordinary large increase, particularly at a time when the economy is working at full pressure.
I turn now to the other aspect of sound budgetary practice - that is. the Budget accounts and surplus or deficit financing. In fact, there will be not a domestic surplus but an estimated deficit, estimated as at the date of the Budget at $162m. Labor keeps harping on the fact that at the beginning of this financial year, 1973-74, it starts with a lower domestic deficit than the previous government finished with at the end of Budget year 1972-73. It fails to realise that this is a different ball game with different rules. We as a Liberal-Country Party Government started the Budget year 1972-73 with an estimated domestic deficit of $60m. This was at a time when some stimulus was necessary. Labor finished up that fiscal year in June 1973 with a domestic deficit of $2 15m when none was needed. In my opinion, in the present conditions we will be lucky if the deficit for 1973- 74 as a whole can be kept to $400m or $500m, unless there is swingeing taxation and a severe credit squeeze immediately after the Senate election.
Let me now look at the second basic cause of inflation - wage-costs inflation. The increased inflationary demand pressures will be seriously aggravated by the percentage increases in average weekly earnings in excess of productivity. Wage-costs inflation is an indepedent in the inflationary equation and can and does compound the inflationary effects of demand inflation. Hidden away in the fine print of the Budget Papers, in Statement No. 2, is the assumption that average weekly earnings will rise by 13 per cent this financial year and that productivity may rise by 2i per cent to 3 per cent, which could lead to minimum rates of inflation reflected in the consumer price index of about 10 per cent to 11 per cent. Both of these assumptions are subject to very serious qualifications and may turn out to underestimate the increase. I will mention four of the six qualifications.
Firstly, whilst the Budget may not be properly described as a hone Budget, it will have horrible results in the private sector. Expectations about economic prospects must be affected, with a deadening effect on investment and the introduction of new technologies, particularly in the mining industry. Secondly, a new round of wage negotiations will take place early in 1974 before we have completely absorbed the increase awarded in the national wage case of 1972-73. Already union leaders are stating that they will not be taken in by the ‘money illusion’ and will expect wage increases to cover rises in both consumer prices and productivity and to pick up the backlog. The year 1973 promises to be a torrid one on the industrial front. Mr Laurie Short, the General Secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Association, who knows what he is talking about, said:
Wage demands for $10 a week or more are very common these days. Demands for $20 could become quite commonplace in the future.
He went on to say - I and, I believe, all my colleagues can confirm this:
In today’s climate a government which shows itself unwilling or unable to do anything about inflation Will suffer the same fate as a government unwilling or unable to do something about unemployment.
The Labor Government has, as I have said, washed its hands of any attempt to control inflation through the Budget and will suffer the fate of rejection by the electorate when it next has the opportunity to vote.
Thirdly, increasingly strong pressures are developing in the labour market and are, with growing inflation, creating the ideal conditions for even bigger wage demands. Fourthly, in combination, Labor policy decisions involving ever growing Government expenditure, Public Service wage and salary increases, increases in the size of the Public Service and Government advocacy of agreement by the Arbitration Commission to maximum wage demands have caused a psychology of expectation. The expectation is that rising prices will intensify and debase the currency and that it is better to spend now than to save for the future.
There is another side to this picture. Labor is scattering its shot indiscriminately. Not only is it stimulating, inflationary pressures; it is also blasting away at the sources of savings and of production. The consequences of these actions must be understood. Few people outside the Labor Party will doubt that our future development and progress depends on the continued expansion of the marketable resources of the community. That means emphasising expansion of the private sector, not the public sector as advocated by the Treasurer.
So I now answer the 2 crucially important questions. The first question is: by how much will prices of such things as food, clothing, housing, rates and taxes and transport rise as a consequence of Labor Parly policies and increases? In my view we will be extraordinarily lucky in this extremely lucky country if we get away with a consumer price rise of less than 12 per cent or 13 per cent.
The second question is: Where does Labor strike next? As the Treasurer has said, this Budget is only a beginning and is designed to clear the decks for the years ahead. The spending spree within the Government sector will go on. The private sector will be still further constrained.
There can be little doubt that the next move by the Labor Government will be through monetary and interest rate policy - that is, to impose a severe credit squeeze, with the sopping up of the money supply to private individuals and corporations and wish substantial increases in interest rates. We have tried this before and it did not work outside the context of prudent Budget policies and rises in average earnings more appropriate to rises in productivity. So we must look further. If, as seems probable, the Labor Government is window dressing in preparation for a Senate election next year - and possibly a House of Representatives election too - it will, after the elections, introduce a real horror Budget to make up the deficiencies by taxes.
The Treasurer hinted at such a move in a recent television interview when he said that, because the Prime Minister had indicated that during the first year of the Labor Government he did not propose to increase the income tax, he had ; not been able to do so. The Prime Minister did not use the ‘during the first year of the Labor Government’ part of the statement. We cannot ignore the impact of the recommendations in the Coombs ‘search and destroy’ mission. Thirtyfour of his suggestions have been included in the Budget. The remaining suggestions are now being considered. The report is comprehensive, sadistically but well compiled and easy to read. It will repay careful reading by those interested in the future. Lastly, as we know from past experience, the Labor Party has an emotional attachment to direct controls. Of this we can be certain: As Labor pursues its policies and impulses without thought of the consequences and the effects on the lives of individual men and women and on the productive development of this country, while Labor is in office we will be compelled to live under the continued threat of worse to come.
There is one other matter to which I want to refer in some detail. It involves a question of personal integrity and political morality. It involves the credibility of leadership. In his policy speech the Prime Minister said:
The huge and automatic increase in Commonwealth revenue ensures that rates of taxation need not be increased at any level to implement a Labor Government’s program.
The Tales for which the wealthier sections of the community,, including companies, are liable are already high enough.
Later in the speech he said:
The most pressing need in the tax field is to retard the trend by which inflation has forced lower and middle income earners into the high tax bracket. . . . Modest income earners of, say, $6,000 are being taxed at rates appropriate for very high income earners by 1954 standards.
These statements were given considerable publicity during the election campaign. Despite this, the Budget in Statement No. 5 unashamedly says:
On the basis of ‘existing’ rates of taxes and other charges it is estimated that total receipts in 1973-74 would amount to $11, 142m - an increase of 17 per cent on actual receipts in 1972-73.
Taking into account the effect of the ‘new’ measures announced in the Budget Speech receipts for the year 1973-74 are estimated to be $ 11,481m, an increase of $339m and of 20.6 per cent on actual receipts in 1972-73. In a full year the increases in tax as a result of the new measures will be $650m.
This is one of the many policy promises that have been wilfully dishonoured and deserve censure. It is a sorry day in the political life of this country when promises made in the policy speech and confirmed again and again in the political campaign were callously dishonoured because Labor preferred to introduce extravagant new policy measures which could easily have been deferred for a more suitable occasion, as Dr Coombs has suggested.
Let me sum up my reactions and, I think, the considered reactions of large sections of the community. I do not remember so many garrulous and superficial rehearsals of a Budget as there have been on this occasion. And the process of ‘top of the head thinking aloud’ still continues to create further uncertainties and doubts. But pre-Budget leaks inspired or not inspired were daily and even nightly nightmares. The propaganda tap was turned full an and those who cared to listen or read were either bemused or drowned with doubts. It was a comic affair but it will have a tragic finale.
The Prime Minister assured the nation that the promises in the policy speech determined labor policy. They would not be affected in the life of this Parliament by the Labor Party platform or new decisions of the Labor convention. Yet promise after promise in the policy speech have been callously, arbitrarily and cynically dishonoured. I have mentioned the wilful dishonouring of the promises made in the policy speech that increases in Commonwealth revenue ensures that rates of taxation need not be increased at any level.
I add the shabby trick played on home builders by excess spending on housing in the public sector and its stated intention to intro- duce early in the new year an interest rebate scheme which must increase demand, drive up prices and affect the interests of the young married couples, particularly in the outer metropolitan areas of Sydney and Melbourne, that is, in the electorates which voted strongly for the Labor Party in the last election.
I go further. Despite the election undertaking of Mr Beazley that all children whether at state or private schools would be equally the concern of the Labor Government, Labor, without a whimper from the Minister for Education, has blindly followed the Karmel recommendation of discrimination against the independent schools in certain classifications.
Farm industries have been mercilessly penalised in many cases without rhyme or reason, except that the farmers do .not live in the outer metropolitan areas of Sydney or Melbourne. The mining industries have been battered senselessly and without thought to the impact of Labor’s action on future growth. For all these reasons I am sure that the electorate as a whole will reflect its disenchantment of Labor and its desire for a change as soon as it gets the opportunity to do so at the polls.
– I think it was rather amazing to hear the speech that was just delivered by the former Prime Minister particularly when we consider the 1971 Budget - a Budget that created massive unemployment in Australia - and the 1972 Budget which was brought down to try to win an election. Firstly, I should like to congratulate the Treasurer (Mr Crean) on the Budget which he presented to this House last week. His is not an easy position. He had to follow 23 years of Liberal Party-Country Party government. To hear honourable members opposite talking tonight and previously, one would think that the question of inflation, as the Treasurer said, started on 2 December 1972. But our memories go back to 1949 and I can clearly remember Sir Robert Menzies promising to put value back into the pound. Following that he was able to fool the Australian people, win the election and we then saw the greatest bout of inflation that Australia has ever seen. We can also cast our minds back to that time when the ordinary worker in industry secured cost of living adjustments to his wages. Although the problem of galloping inflation had been created by the Menzies
Government the only way it could try to stop it was to cut out the worker’s, quarterly cost of living adjustments and making him carry the whole burden.
Speaking to the Budget itself, one of the main planks in the Australian Labor Party’s platform was education. Following the winning the election on 2 December the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) set up the Interim Schools Commission under Professor Karmel, a well respected and renowned South Australian educationist, and of course he has brought down his report. The provisions contained in the Budget give effect to quite a number of recommendations in that report. Education, which I think for quite some time has been something of a poor relation, has had its allocation increased by 92 per cent to a grant total of $843m. This of course is of particular concern to me since I am, I think, the only South Australian Labor member who lives in a country area. That area takes in the Eyre Peninsula, through which I” travel quite regularly. I always make it my business to visit schools in the area. To say the least, the schools show the neglect of 35 years of Liberal Government in South Australia. Probably the most progessive education Minister in Australia is Mr Hugh Hudson, from South Australia. He has drawn up plans to improve the standard of buildings and the general standard of education in that area. We know that the honourable members on the other side of the chamber are always very free with statements to the effect that the Labor Party does not worry about people in country areas.
– You proved it.
– Mine is a wheat growing area. I suggest that if honourable members are ever in that area they should have a look at the schools there. One can see the effect of 35 years of Liberal neglect. But steps are now being taken and I hope that with the extra allocation in the Budget that the State Education Department will start to replace some of the old schools. The Department also has some plans but because of lack of finance in the past it has not been able to proceed. With the extra finance we certainly hope that the Department will be able to carry on and provide a decent education, decent buildings and so forth for the children in the more remote areas.
I mentioned that the allocation will now allow the campaign for the provision of better school buildings and so on to be speeded up. In the more expanded areas of Whyalla and Port August - not so much Port Pirie because it has been static for some time - most of the schools are first class. But the rest certainly fall far behind. I would hope that with the extra allocation in the Budget by which the Commonwealth takes over full responsibility for all tertiary education, it will accept responsibility not only for universities but also colleges of advanced education, teachers colleges, technical colleges and so forth. The only technical institute in South Australia outside Adelaide is in Whyalla. Its activities at present are severely restricted to teaching mainly mechanical subjects. We hope that with the extra allocation the Whyalla Institute of Technology can greatly expand its activities, even to the extent of becoming a teachers college. By doing so this area which could be designed a growth centre, will be able to provide services for the tertiary education of many people on the Eyre Peninsula who now, if they want that education, have to move to Adelaide.
The Government also took the opportunity in the Budget of increasing the living allowance payments to a total of $3 2m. We also notice that the amount allocated for technical training - a very important aspect of education - has increased by $10m to a total of $25.6m. We also note that in- the Budget the Treasurer is prepared to make allowances of up to $304 a year for children from low income families. This will certainly give an opportunity to many children who now do not have an opportunity because of the poor economic background of their parents, to take up adecent education and have the advantage of what is available to them. There is an increase of $97m in the 1973-74 year for capital current grants for primary and secondary schools. The appropriation of $2m fo assist in providing facilities for the teaching of migrant children must be a great help to the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby).
We have heard a lot of criticism of the Australian Labor Party with respect to its attitude towards those who live in the more remote areas of Australia. I hope that the Country Party, particularly the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) who has mentioned this matter on many occasions, will give the Government credit for the provision it has made to assist in the education of isolated children. Not long after taking office, the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) allocated Commonwealth money to provide for the first time for assistance in the education of isolated children. The amount of SI 2m has been allocated in such a way that, depending on the circumstances of a child’s parents, a payment of $350 completely free of a means test and a further allowance of S350 subject to a means test may be provided in respect of each child who qualifies for this payment. The honourable member for Maranoa has spoken on this matter in the House on a number of occasions. Not many compliments have come from the Country Party with respect to the actions of the Labor Government and I hope that the honourable member for Maranoa will acknowledge this action which has been taken by the Minister for Education.
The program of this Government is based largely on welfare matters. In this respect, I turn to provisions for health services. Community health centres were given some prominence in the Budget. Initially, an amount of $10m has been allocated to enable a start to be made on community health centres. We certainly hope that in the future we will see spread throughout Australia community health centres of the standard of those which have been opened at Melba and in one other suburb in the Australian Capital Territory. Also, $7. 5m has been provided to set up clinics to handle the problems of drug dependency and alcoholism. This is one extra provision included in the Budget in the he”alth field.
The school dental scheme is fairly well advanced in a couple of States. In the Budget, $7. 9m is provided for the extension of the school dental scheme. The Budget also includes a provision for assistance to those older citizens, who must use hearing aids. At present, a charge of SIO is made for hearing aids for pensioners who bear the cost of the replacement of batteries for those hearing aids. The Budget will wipe out that charge. Pensioners will receive hearing aids and replacement batteries free of charge.
I turn to the field of social services. Generally, pensions are to be increased by $1.50 a week. Mention was made that, in the autumn session of next year, a further increase will be granted. This action is in line with the electoral primise given by the Prime Minister prior to the House of Representatives election in December last. Recently, in answer to a question, the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) stated, if it was found that the value of the increase of $1.50 had been eroded by that time, consideration would be given to lifting the level of the increase in autumn above the $1.50 a week that has been promised. I mention also the greatly improved home care program for the aged and increased subsidies to senior citizens’ clubs. This provision will assist a few of the towns in my electorate which are now in the process of trying to raise money to provide senior citizens’ clubs. The assistance that they will receive from this Budget provision will expedite the whole of that program and will permit these towns and cities to carry out these projects
With respect to social services, I notice in the Budget an allocation to increase the number of regional offices of the Department in remote areas. As a member who represents a pretty vast electorate. I know that a number of the social service problems directed to me come by mail or by telephone. The provision of extra regional offices in at least 2 more of the major towns in my electorate would mean that a more extensive service would be provided to the people who will not feel so remote from these facilities to which they should have access quite easily. I was quite pleased to see the increase granted with respect to handicapped children. That increase is $1.50 a day. This matter is of particular concern to mc as I have a personal involvement with the Mimimooka Mentally Handicapped Children’s Hostel in Whyalla. That hostel provides accommodation for retarded children from the Eyre Peninsula area. In the past, that hostel has run into many financial problems. Although it has received assistance from the Commonwealth Government with respect to the provision of the hostel building and it has received SI. 50 a day per child, it has still run into financial difficulties in trying to maintain the hostel and in providing a hostel situated close to a special school. The financial burden has been very great. The announcement that this hostel, Song with others, will receive another Si. 50 a day for each child will certainly give it a boost.
I refer next to repatriation benefits. One of the repatriation provisions now included enables not only ex-servicemen to use the facilities of the Repatriation Department for the provision of artificial limbs and other artificial appliances but also civilians. I know that, at present, repatriation facilities are available for civilians but only at a pretty great cost. A visitor to me in Port Pirie last week showed me a bill which revealed that the cost to him of adjustments, etc., for such an appliance was $680. The fact that these people will be able to make greater use of the facilities of the Repatriation Department will take some of the financial weight off those people who have been unfortunate enough to have lost limbs and who must have those limbs replaced periodically.
I intend to speak at length later, when the relevant Bills are introduced, on the increase in the allocation for Aboriginal advancement. I point out now that the allocation this year is double that which was appropriated last year. Certainly this is money which can be well spent because Aboriginal people in many areas have a need for advancement with respect to welfare, health and education.
When the sitting resumed this evening, the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) spoke in the Budget debate. He made mention of the program that he will introduce to assist people to own their own homes. In the Budget, $2 19m is made available to assist the States to provide welfare housing. There is also an increase of 20 per cent in the sum appropriated for defence service homes. Mention is made also of the new proposal by which the Labor Party intends to allow interest on mortgage payments to be tax deductible. I know that honourable members opposite state that this scheme will replace the homes savings grants scheme. At least the Treasurer has given plenty of warning that that scheme will cut out in December 1976. Nobody should be caught by saving for this scheme and then finding out that it has been discontinued because approximately 3i years’ notice of the intention of the Government to take this action has been given.
Although the homes savings grant scheme has been a means of assisting a large number of young people to obtain their own homes, it is not without fault. Plenty of anomalies have existed in it, particularly anomalies in relation to the upper limit with respect to the cost of a home beyond which the grant is not payable. I instance the case of one young man who was having his home built. While the home was under construction he decided that he would put in concrete footpaths, a brick barbecue in the backyard and other such items. When the value of the home was assessed, it was found to be $80 greater than the upper limit provided and this factor denied that young man the payment of that grant. I am sure that the provision which the Australian Labor Party intends to introduce to allow interest payments on mortgages to be a tax deduction will be of much more assistance to young couples than the homes savings grant scheme has been. Let us not forget that that scheme was introduced initially purely and simply as an election gimmick in the early 1960s.
The Budget reveals appropriations by the Government for such matters as the arts, recreation and national fitness. One interesting item of which I took note was the amount that was allocated for legal aid purposes. We all know of the problems into which people get themselves. Those who are without means fate the additional problem that they cannot afford a lawyer. I know that it is said that such people can seek legal aid, but legal aid is a pretty complicated business. If one lives in a country area, it is not quite so easy to get legal aid. South Australia has recently introduced a scheme of legal aid. I am glad to see that the Australian Government is now to provide $2m to the States to assist them in the schemes they are operating.
All the matters I have mentioned have been part of the Labor Party’s election promises; they are promises that have been kept. I was surprised last night to hear the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), the former Minister for Social Services, state that the Labor Party had said that when elected it would wipe out the means test. He used the word ‘lies’ quite often in his speech. I would say that what he had to say comes under that description. Everybody knows that I campaigned twice on the means test, once in 1969 when I said that the Labor Party would cut out the means test in 6 years and again in 1972 when I said that the means test would be cut out within 3 years. In the interim the means test had been eased by the previous Government. So, what was said by the honourable member for Mackellar last night was not quite true.
I have only a few moments left and I wish to refer to the increase in petrol prices. Being the member for a large electorate I know what effect the increase in the price of petrol will have as I probably use as much petrol as does anybody in this House. I am a bit disappointed about the increase in the petrol prices overall, because it will certainly go right through the economy and will help send prices up, particularly in the more remote areas. I wish to deal also with postal charges. There is no doubt that the provision of telephone services in rural areas is a very costly business. I know that there is quite some discontent over the increased rentals. The telephone directory for my electorate shows that there still are a terrific number of manual exchanges. I think the increase of $8 in rentals for telephones connected to these exchanges is in proportion to, or slightly less than, the increase in many other areas. I know that the Postmaster-General’s Department has come in for quite an amount of criticism, but there were a few items in which there were reductions. One of course was the first step on telephone trunk charges which are being reduced from 19c to 15c for a daytime call and 15c to 10c for a night call. The fee for the transfer of a telephone has now been dropped to $30.
In concluding I refer to the position of the brandy grape growers in South Australia. I speak on this matter as a South Australian. I have read of the Premier of South Australia expressing his concern about the increase in excise on brandy and its effect in South Australia. I know that the Treasurer has said that he is prepared to listen to complaints on behalf of this industry and I hope that if he receives any submissions from the South Australian Premier he will give them consideration and see whether some better arrangement can be arrived at. I -had a few other comments to make but I notice my time has expired.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I acknowledge the comments made by the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) concerning my work in connection with isolated children. I am prepared to concede, as he asked me, that the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) provided funds for this purpose. I should also like to say that the headquarters of the federal body of the isolated children’s scheme is situated in the electorate of Darling. The honourable member for Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick) and I have been together on deputations on this matter on a few occasions. We both agreed to keep above party politics. I should also like to pay a tribute to the honourable member for Darling for his co-operation. We introduced a deputation to the then Minister for Education, Mr Malcolm Fraser, and to the shadow Minister for Education, Mr Beazley. They both agreed to assist isolated children. I am sure that had the former Government been re-elected it would have honoured its promise. I pay tribute to Mr Beazley for keeping his promise in this particular case.
The only other point I wish to make with regard to statements made previously in this debate relate to the contribution made by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). The Minister said:
Those are the words he used, despite what he might have said tonight. If he tries to change the meaning of that statement I will challenge his right to do so and the people who are listening can judge from that who is right or who is wrong. That statement appears twice in Hansard and I have every confidence in Hansard. Not only is it in Hansard but it was reported in the same terms by the Press. The matter is up to the Minister. If he tries to change the meaning of his statement he will find that he will be challenged.
– The Hansard tapes will have it.
– As the honourable member suggests, the Hansard will have recorded it too. I believe that the Minister has not got out of it as nicely as he thought he was going to.
I turn now to the Budget Speech. I believe that the greatest domestic disaster of the day, or at least the greatest next to this Labor Government, is the evil of inflation. It affects everybody to some extent but the hardest hit are the pensioners and other people on low incomes - the very people whom this Government has been claiming for 23 years that it would do so much for when it assumed office. They are now bitterly disillusioned. The Government gave a rise in pensions of $1.50 or about 7 per cent but with inflation rising at an estimated rate of 13 per cent per annum - it may be more according to some speakers - the pensioners are worse off than ever. By the time the next $1.50 is provided inflation will have taken a further toll of the purchasing power of the pension. So, while this Government is in office pensioners can expect their standard of living to deteriorate. By contrast, wealthy people who have large* assets in city real estate, for example, will not feel the pressures of uncontrolled inflation nearly so much because, as inflation increases, these assets will rise in value, although, as the share market demonstrates, they will not appreciate as much as those people might have hoped. The working people, and I mean those on wages and moderate salaries, business people in country towns, people on fixed incomes, primary producers who have to sell on world markets irrespective of the cost of production, as well as pensioners, are among those who will suffer most as a result of the inflation engendered by this highly inflationary Budget.
There is no reward for thrift in this Budget. Those who saved during their lifetime to enable them to live on income from those savings find the value of their savings so eroded by inflation that their effort has not been worth while. Bad as the situation is now it will grow worse under the pressures engendered by this highly inflationary Budget. For the first time in the history of this country we have a tax on pensions. One can accept that age pensions paid to people on high incomes will be taxable, but, to reduce the tax rebate of $156 by 25c in the $1 for each $1 of taxable income when the taxable income reaches $2,236 or $43 a week shows very scant consideration for pensioners and others on the lower scale of income. I would have expected the tax rebate to be allowed in full to a much higher level of taxable income than the figure of $43 a week. I believe that pensioners should be given greater encouragement to supplement their pension income and so do something to offset the erosion of the purchasing power of their pensions by the frightening rapid increase in the rate of inflation now taking place.
Listening to the almost deafening blare of trumpets by honourable members opposite when in Opposition, one would have expected that this Government would have shown a greater compassion to those Australians in greatest need. I refer to those people in receipt of social security and welfare benefits. What is the actual position? Under the previous Government - and I take the figures from Hansard of 21 August 1973 - the amount actually spent on social security and welfare benefits rose by $503.5m over the amount provided in the previous year whereas the estimated increase this year over the amount provided last year is only $339.5m - a very serious drop of some $64m or 33 per cent less than the increase provided last year over the preceding year. Those figures illustrate the action taken by the previous Government.
There is further concrete evidence that the previous Government had a much greater concern for those in greatest need than has this Government. That concern was even greater than those figures imply because the amount allocated by the previous Government was from a total budgetary expenditure of almost $2,000m less than the estimated expenditure in this Budget. With an estimated expenditure of about $12,168m it is amazing to find that school children will be denied their free milk ration. I cannot understand why this should have been done. In the interests of the health of school children, if the supply of milk was to be discontinued it would have been appropriate if fruit juice had been supplied and the cost offset by the savings made as a result of the lifting of tax concessions on soft drinks containing fruit juice. This proposal would have had the added advantage of making free drinks available to- all schools and it would have been of real assistance to the hard pressed fruit industry. But this Government did not bother to do that. It took away the tax concessions but gave nothing in return.
The Budget has shown this Government to be narrow minded, sectionally oriented and financially irresponsible. It has endeavoured to make savings at the expense of the low income earner. It has ‘been very severe on businessmen in country towns Take country newspaper proprietors and newsagents for example. At the present time a newspaper weighing approximately 3 oz would cost 1.75c in postage. Under this Government’s proposal the postage cost of that article in 1976 will be no less than 11c. This crushing burden of increased postage rates will affect newspapers in country areas and this could place many of them in financial jeopardy while the benefit to the Government will be comparitively small. Where the cost is passed on it will fall heavily on the shoulders of primary producers who are just recovering from a period of drought and low prices.
Again dealing with country areas, the average increase in country telephone rentals is another example of the complete lack of understanding of or sympathy with the problems of primary producers and the elimination of taxation benefits comes into the same category. Is the Government completely unaware of the serious financial problems that primary producers have faced over recent years? Does it not know the need for rural reconstruction which was provided for by the previous Government, and which provision has been continued in a small way in this Budget? The present policy of this Government will do much to prevent primary producers from recovering to the extent that present prices and seasonal conditions would have ensured under the previous Government. But under this Government they will not be able to make that recovery. The narrowminded attitude of this Government contrasts sharply with the broad national outlook of the Country Party. To those who question the correctness of that statement let me refer to a sub-leader in the ‘Courier-Mail’ of 28 August 1973. I ask the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), who is seeking to interject, to listen to this. The article is headed Tree Travel?’. I will only have sufficient time in this debate to read the first 3 paragraphs of this sub-leader. It reads:
The proposal for free public transport in cities brought up again at the week-end by the Mines Minister (Mr Camm) has much to be said for it.
The more that people are encouraged to use public transport, the less severe will be traffic congestion.
Obviously, free public transport means a loss of revenue to Governments and their authorities, but savings could be made in the expensive business of constructing new road systems.
Mr Camm is the Country Party Minister for Mines and Main ‘Roads in the Queensland Country Party-Liberal Government. This thinking on the part of a Country Party Minister, on a measure which would be of very great advantage to the people on the lower range of incomes in the city of Brisbane, highlights the same reasoning behind Country Party thinking in relation to services in rural areas. It should not be all important that every separate undertaking by the Government should be self-contained profitably.
I would just like to refer to the position in relation to wheat. The present domestic price of wheat is $1.85 a bushel. I will take an export return f.o.b. of $3 a bushel - and the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) only yesterday or the day before said that world prices for wheat had gone up to something like $3.80 - for the purpose of making a comparison.
– That is very conservative.
– It is very conservative. The differential is obviously $1.15 a bushel. On the basis of home consumption amounting to 70 million bushels the saving to the consumer amounts to over $’80m. If the figure of $3 a bushel is conservative it may be that the saving to the consumer is closer to $100m. We can see what is being done on the one hand. Surely this Government does not intend to deprive those deserving people in rural areas of a telephone just because it is not economic to the Postmaster-General’s Department. That is not the attitude that we took when we were in government over the years. The returns come in many different ways.
The increase in petrol prices will fall more heavily on the shoulders of people in towns where no public transport is available than where alternative transport can be obtained. Every resident of a country town has to use petrol every time he or she moves outside his or her home and of course primary producers have to use petrol every time they move around their properties or in travelling to the towns which service them. I need hardly stress the inflationary effect of the rise in petrol prices and diesel fuel used for automotive purposes. One has only to travel on any main arterial road to realise the large tonnage of goods being transported by road and increased transport charges must have an inflationary effect on prices.
This Government uses double standards. On the one hand it demands that as near as practicable every member in this House should represent the same number of electors irrespective of distance, isolation or sparsity of population, but when it comes to telephone rentals, for example, it does not accept the principle that for a similar rental each subscriber should have local call access to an equal number of subscribers irrespective of distance, isolation or sparsity of population. That is the sort of comparison that illustrates the absurdity of this Government’s action in regard to electoral numbers. The Country Party does not argue that telephone services should be provided completely but there is certainly a very sound and reasonable basis for the concessions that were allowed by the previous Government to people in rural areas by way of lower phone rentals and indeed in taxation reductions.
Let us look at the difference in the cost of installing a telephone in rural areas under this Government and the cost under the Liberal Country Party Government. The provision of a line for15 miles would have cost the subscriber nothing under the previous Government but under this Government the cost to the subscriber, if the line were installed by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, would be no less than $5,100 and that charge would increase at the rate of $510 for every mile beyond the 15mile radius, thereby placing essential telephone services beyond the financial circumstances of many rural residents. Is that the sort of thing that this Government wants? One of the most quoted passages of the scripture is where St Paul spoke of the three great virtues of faith, hope and charity and said that the greatest of these is charity. There was little charity in this Budget for residents living outside the metropolitan area and one might say that the three great scourges for people in these areas in recent years have been droughts, unprofitable prices and Labor governments and the greatest of these is the Labor governments, particularly this Labor Government.
With apologies to Churchill let us beware of a society where no one counts unless he lives in a metropolitan area or in one of the few places chosen to become growth centres, and let us beware of a government such as we have now, so viciously biased in its policy and so ruthlessly determined to deprive people in rural areas and country towns of the few concessions they now enjoy. If it is the desire of this Government to concentrate even more people than ever in our capital cities, then it has in this Budget, a blueprint to achieve this objective, but what a tragedy this would be from a national point of view. Rarely in the history of national economic planning has so much been taken from one section of the community at one time.
There are so many faults in this Budget that I will not have sufficient time in this debatetorefertoallthethingsIwouldlike to have raised. I cannot refer to all of the injustices of Black Tuesday but I would like to read a letter which was written by a child. It reads:
Thank you, Mr Crean and Party, the country people get your message loud and clear we must be punished for daring to vote against you.
You cannot quite starve us into submission, but crikey, you will have a good try.
This is what we hear: ‘You so-and-sos have to get most of your goods by post, so we’ll put up the price of parcels. You have to get your newspapers and the magazines for the missus by post, so let’s raise the postage there. You have to have the telephone for doctor as well as for business; we’ll cut off the rental concession.
Petrol is going to cost you so much more that you won’t be able to spend any on social calls or neighbourly tennis matches’ or children’s sports. (But we must remember to make it easier for those good fellows in the cities to get to the races. That idea of free transport in the cities is a good one. You chaps out there can be slugged for a bit more tax to pay for that.)
We won’t let you send your children to the school of your choice, well, not unless you pay a lot extra for it. We won’t have you giving your kids anything better than we give ours.
If you grow fruit, we’ll still get you. We’ll cut off the tax exemption on fruit drinks. The doctors say it is healthful but the kids can drink the fizzy stuff instead.’
Don’t think that you can save tax by buying machinery for use on the property. There’ll be no longer any more concessions for that sort of expenditure. We’ll take one cent a pound on all meat you export, too. We are in the saddle; don’t you forget it.’
We have a few more little snags for you. It is a pity we won’t have control of the State Railways. We could really do a complete job then. Make the most of the present; by this time next year you will be looking back on this year as a time of comparative easy conditions. Look out’!
Yes Mr Crean, we understand, but every dog has his day. Yours will come
I think that letter was well worded and worth reading. Never has a government come into office under more favourable conditions than did this Government. The economy was sound, business was thriving, world markets for most of our products were buoyant, Australia’s standing internationally was high and seasonal conditions, after a long period of drought in many areas were in the main good. This Government had a golden opportunity to put up a good performance but never has such an opportunity been so incompetently handled and so ignominiously spoiled. It is scarcely credible that a government could damage such a sound economy so drastically in such a short time. It is scarcely credible that our international reputation could fall so far in so short a time. It is scarcely credible that under these conditions a government could lose the confidence of the people so dramatically in the course of a few short months. As clear evidence that this has happened I quote from an assessment of an
Australian Nationwide Opinion poll which appeared in the ‘Australian’ of 25 August. The assessment stated:
The main reasons for the Liberal Party’s sharp gain in support appear to be the feeling that voters would be personally worse off and the fear of continuing price rises.
Only 7 per cent thought they would be better off, compared with 42 per cent who said they would be worse off, 43 per cent no change and 8 per cent unsure.
Only 16 per cent expected the economy to do better following the Budget while 58 per cent thought things would get worse or remain the same.
Most voters (62 per cent) did not believe the Budget would ‘be effective in curbing inflation and 22 per cent were unsure.
Throughout the poll, the negative response from women was stronger than from men, reflecting the influence of the rising cost of living and its sharper impact on the housewife.
I oppose the Budget and support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Unlike the speech of the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) who preceded me, my speech will not be read. His was a typical Country Party whingeing speech ranging from telephones to hayseeds. All that members of the Country Party are sad about is the fact that they cannot get their grubby little hands in the public till. I say to them: ‘It is all over boys and you will have to wait a few more years’. A Budget debate should be a serious debate. The only serious contribution I heard from members opposite was from the former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon). He had a well prepared speech; nevertheless it was fallacious and a lot of the basic arguments contained therein were totally wrong.
The atmosphere in which this Government took office was one in which 110,000 persons were unemployed. In August 1972 unemployment stood at 2.10 per cent; it now stands at 1.3 per cent. At present 70,000 people are out of work. This is the lowest figure we have had for years, .yet when Labor took office 110,000 were unemployed. Job vacancies are now at a record high. If honourable members study the ‘situations vacant’ columns of the Sydney Morning Herald’ and similar newspapers they will see that they are filled. The Government expects non-farm production to increase in the economy about 7 per cent this year. Factories are running at full speed and employment is as high as it can get, yet it is unusual to note that on the stock exchange stocks are today at a low. All I can say to people who have any intention of buying growth stocks like Western Mining Corporation and Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd is that it will be a fairly good year ahead and they should buy quickly because the shares are bound to rise.
– Why is it that you are the only Labor member in the House?
– That is not unusual; it is because of the Budget.
– Mr Speaker, how about some protection from these characters?
-Order! The previous speaker was heard in complete silence. I ask honourable members to extend the same courtesy to the honourable member for Blaxland. If they do not do so I will have to take action.
– The Government is very conscious of the issue of prices and inflation and the Budget is framed in such a way as not to aggravate that situation. At page 6 of Statement No. 1 - ‘Summary of the 1973-74 Budget’ - appears the following statement:
There was a rapid growth in the volume of money which expanded by 26 per cent in the 12 months to June 1973, although there was a marked slowing in that growth in the second half of the year-
That was when we took office - when tighter restrictions on capital inflow were brought into operation and the Reserve Bank raised the Statutory Reserve Deposit ratio of the major trading banks.
They were measures the Government took to take some of the money out of the economy. What it did has to be viewed in the context of the two previous years. In 1971-72 the then McMahon Government introduced a Budget which was to take so much demand from the economy as to create a pool of 130,000 unemployed. Last year, 1972-73, the then Government was so panic stricken about such a massive pool of unemployment with an election 3 months off that it injected an enormous amount of money into the economy at the time of the last Budget. It was that injection of money which has given Australia its inflation level of 13 per cent today. The Government is conscious of this situation. It has introduced measures to do something about it and to restrict capital inflow. The Government revalued the dollar by 7.5 per cent in December of last year. It left the Australian dollar static when the United States dollar depreciated by 10 per cent in January of this year. So there was a disparity of 17.5 per cent between the 2 currencies which assisted imports to meet demand on domestic productive capacity. In other words there were more imports to meet local demands and this tended to keep the price of goods down. It caused a flight of $600m out of Australia. This money was hanging around the market and bidding up the price of all commodities. It stopped the wholesale buying of our shares at rock bottom prices on the stock exchange which was allowing foreign companies to take over companies cheaply. Despite this currency re-alighment Australia recorded a major trading surplus to 30 June this year. So exports were not affected.
The next measure of the Government’s was a tariff cut in line with its concern over inflation and prices. Before the cut, imports were expected to increase this year by about 20 per cent. With the cut we will assist expansion in imports and again ease inflationary pressures. I have already referred to the money flight of $600m from Australia since the realignment of the currency. The Government raised statutory reserve deposits with the Reserve Bank to mop up any excess liquidity left about the trading banks and which was tending to bid up prices for goods and services. The Government restricted capital inflow by requiring that 25 per cent of all deposits coming into Australia had to be lodged interest free with the Reserve Bank. That action promptly took foreign money out of the economy, but we were still suffering from the Liberal’s last Budget excesses.
The Government introduced the Prices Justification Tribunal, which now getting under way, to do something about the actual price of products although, as is known, the Australian Constitution binds this Parliament fairly substantially with respect to what it can do directly about price control. By contrast with the last Budget, the present Budget is framed not to add to the massive inflationary pressures already existing in the economy. It is designed to limit demand. In his speech last week the Treasurer (Mr Crean) said: . . given the need to avoid adding in mt pres.sures on resources, it is necessary that the increase in outlays budgeted for be more than covered by increased receipts.
In other words, we collected more than we spent. The Treasurer continued:
That is, last year under Mr Snedden - outlays increased about twice as fast as receipts.
In other words, there was more money running around the economy. He continued:
The very different economic circumstances now prevailing dictate a much more circumspect approach.
That illustrates the Treasurer’s view of the present Budget, that it will allow the country to carry on as it is but is an attempt to ease back on inflationary pressures by not putting too much Federal money into the economy. The total outlays for this year will be $12, 168m, but our receipts will be $1 1,481m. That compares more than favourably with last year’s deficit of $2 15m. A deficit means that the Commonwealth has spent more than it has collected. Last year $2 15m. This year it will be only $162m which was spent by way of deficit. If we read further from the Treasury document we find the following very enlightening comments: . . this estimated overall deficit in 1973-74 represents a small decrease of $22m compared with the previous year, whereas the deficit in 1972-73 represented an increase of $576m compared with the previous year.
That backs up what I have said. The previous Government was so panic stricken about its electoral prospects that it poured that much money into the economy. Yet tonight we had the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) in the House telling us how we were introducing an inflationary Budget. The next item referred to in the document states: the domestic deficit in 1973-74 is estimated at around $162m, a decrease of 853m compared with 1972-73;
That happens to be our Budget -
The domestic deficit in that year, however, represented a turn around (i.e. a swing from surplus to deficit) of $620 compared with 1971-72.
So, this Government is reducing the deficit by $53m whereas last year the previous Government increased it by $620m. Yet honourable members opposite say that inflation has occurred since 2 December. The only reason that we have inflation in our economy is that the previous Government thought it could buy votes with a big Budget last year and it has left us with the problems of trying to correct it. I seek leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard the table on page 2 of the Summary of the 1973-74 Budget.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I thank the House. In Mr Snedden’s Budget of last year, outlays in Government expenditure rose at twice the rate of the increase in receipts, but it is a different scene today. Even so, we have been able to reassess our priorities and in this Budget fix priorities that have never been fixed before. I should just like to read to honourable members some of the massive increases this Government has provided in certain social areas without giving an overstimulus to the economy. In education we have increased the provision from $439m last year to a staggering $843m, an increase of 92 per cent. We have doubled the allocation for education within 12 months. When we talk in this Parliament about large allocations we think of increases of 5 per cent or 6 per cent, but to increase an allocation by nearly 100 per cent in one year is something this Parliament has never seen before. The Government has increased the appropriation for health from $783m to $979m, an increase of 25 per cent.
In the area of housing and community amenities we have increased the appropriation from $127m last year to $538m this year, a staggering increase of 324 per cent in one year all framed within a Budget that has less money in the economy than the Budget of last year. If that is not an intelligent reallocation of priorities, 1 do not know what it is. The last item to which I wish to refer is culture and recreation for which the allocation has been increased from $117m last year to $163m this year, a quite massive increase of 40 per cent but pale next to the Increases to which I have just referred. So, through responsibly looking at the needs of the economy and the terrible neglect in the areas of social welfare and education by successive Liberal Party governments, wehave been able to provide for the Australian people and at the same time introduce a Budget that will allow the business of Australia to move along, that will allow our factories to run at peak production, with people at a peak level of employment, with the number of unfilled jobs as high as they ever have been and, at the same time, we have tried to do something creditable about the appalling 13 per cent level of inflation created by the former Government 12 months ago.
I should like now to deal with one of the items to which I have referred, namely, education. As I said earlier, the allocation for education has increased from last year’s figure of $439m to $843m this year. Most of that amount was provided by virtue of the Karmel Committee report. A few moments ago we heard a member of the Country Party, the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) talking about children in the outback. The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) earlier today talked about children in rural schools not being provided for because, if their parents sent them to Sydney to school, they would miss out because they were category A schools. But what honourable members opposite did not tell the Parliament was that, in accordance with the recommendations of the Karmel Committee, the Government has established an isolated children’s allowance of up to $1,000 a head for children living in excess of 2 miles from their schools. So, all this talk about not looking after rural children is just not on. No government has ever done that never the Australian Country Party and never the Liberals and if honourable members opposite do not know about this, they should read their Budget documents.
The other matter I wish to deal with is the report of the Karmel Committee. This report has come under criticism in this Parliament on quite a few occasions. I should like to deal with the concept of the Karmel Committee and the needs formula which the Labor Party said it would introduce and enshrine in legislation of this Parliament. When we took office last December the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) asked Professor Karmel to set up this Committee to investigate schools and bring down a recommendation on the needs and priorities of schools. Professor Karmel took what he called a recurrent resource use for all State schools as an index of 100. The Opposition claimed that this index was secretly compiled, but it was forwarded to all schools only a month ago. On the basis of this index, it was the aim of Professor Karmel to raise all schools to the level of an index figure of 140 by 1979. That means that some of the schools today, such as the poorer public and Catholic schools with an index figure of 40, will be lifted up to 140 by 1979 and that grants will be made according to what is found in relation to the criteria set down by the index.
The way the index works is that in category A, the index ranges from 140 to 270. Yet we hear bleating about these wealthy GPS schools, some of which have indexes in the 200 area, whilst some schools in my electorate have an index of only 40. In category B the index ranges from 125 to 140, in category C it ranges from 114 to 125, and so it goes on down to category H which has less than 60. Each category attracts a different level of subsidy so that by 1979 we will have lifted the general standard of schools to an acceptable level. People confuse - of course, the Opposition conveniently confuses - the question of recurrent and capital grants. Even if honourable members opposite confuse this with capital grants and look at the GPS schools which they feel so obliged to protect, they would still find that, under the science and libraries grants system which we are continuing until 1975, an amount of $9.2m will be expended during that period. So, even schools of the GPS character are still attracting that sort of money. I will just read out the names of a few schools to honourable members, if they doubt my word. Take Abbotsleigh Church of England Girls School in New South Wales. It is a category A school. It missed out on an allocation because of recommendations in the Karmel Committee report, but we spent $231,900 on science and library blocks for that school. Kincoppal school at Rose Bay - a Catholic school - received $128,000; Haileysbury College at Keysborough received $303,263; and Scotch College in Hawthorn received $236,000. The science blocks program will continue until 1975 and money is still going to those schools and other schools like them.
I should like to deal with the question of aid to schools. Education in Australia has been a very impoverished item and it has been entitled to a priority which previous governments have failed to recognise. We have tried to do something about the great majority of poor children who never get a chance, and all we have heard is a debate about 105 schools, most of which have levels of fees ranging between $300 and $900. If a person is earning $4,000 a year he does not send his children to those schools. He would have to be earning in excess of $8,000 or $9,000 and probably up to $20,000 and $30,000. It is mostly people in those income brackets who send their children to those schools.
We hear people talk about equality of opportunity for the children. What they are really talking about is equality of opportunity for the parents, because wealthy parents can claim a taxation deduction from $150 to $400 for educational expenses. This year we will pay those wealthy parents out of Consolidated Revenue by way of tax rebate for educational expenses $55m, which is more than Karmel has allocated for disadvantaged children. An amount of $55m will go predominantly to wealthy parents. Eighty per cent of the children who attend GPS schools go to universities. It costs this Parliament $5,000 per head per annum to educate them at university and yet they believe they think they are being hardly done by. Honourable members opposite in the Liberal Party and the Country Party represent what is the greediest section of the Australian community, and that is the parents of children going to GPS schools.
Another disturbing characteristic is that they have used the Democratic Labor Party and the Catholic Church organisation, through the likes of Mr Santamaria, to prop up the parents and friends organisations under the ruse that unless per capita grants go to GPS schools they will not go to the Catholic parochial schools either. So they have held the poor parish Catholic schools with children playing in mud playgrounds and being taught in portable huts to ransom for the per capita figure, which is also to go to the wealthy school. This is the great scandal that has been perpetuated. We have had enough of it. We will allocate money as it is needed to children who deserve an opportunity. We have done this by setting up a basis of need under the Karmel Committee report. I felt sick when I read a couple of weeks ago an article by Mr Santamaria in which he said:
It ought to be axiomatic that you cannot maintain a system of state aid in a religiously divided community without both religious and political bi-partisanship.
What he said was that the bi-partisan concept of aid to independent schools will not remain when the leaders of the Liberal and Country Parties cannot send money to the schools from which they come, and so we had to pay massive amounts of . money just to keep the Liberals interested in the concept of state aid. So we should look at the question of state aid to schools in the light of Mr Santamaria’s comments and the Menzies science blocks grants which were handed out in return for DLP votes 10 years ago by a party that was historically and traditionally non-Catholic. These are the facts of the matter. The Karmel Committee report has brought this debate to a head. No concern is shown on the other side of the House for poor Catholic children. The Liberal Party is not a Catholic oriented party. There are hardly any Catholic members of it. One-third of the Parliamentary Labor Party are Catholics. There is a genuine sympathy. Honourable members opposite say that they are concerned about Catholic schools. Sir Robert Menzies used the National Civic Council for DLP votes and to keep money flowing to GPS schools. But it has stopped because the Karmel Committee has fixed economic criteria and priorities for schools not on the basis of religion, not on the basis of income but on the basis of need for the child that goes there. After all this must be the proper criterion. I must wind off on this point: This is an economically responsible Budget. It intends to take inflation out of the economy. It wants to keep the economy going and it wants to fix priorities, which it is doing for schools, health, education and other matters. From what I have said about education it can be seen that Australian children will get a better deal this year and so will the Australian people in general. I commend the Budget to the House.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is unfortunate that the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) has left the chamber and not stayed to hear some criticism of his comments. One would almost think that we had elements of the Irish Republic Army in the Australian Labor Party. As a Protestant, I do not apologise for being a member of the Liberal Party. When I look around I see many people of many faiths and views represented in both the Country and Liberal Parties.
The Labor Party has brought down its first Budget in more than 2 decades. Without spending very much time on this question, because many speakers prior to me have done so and many after me will do so too, I would like to draw to the attention of Labor members present that they may as well take the smiles from their faces because gallup polls taken immediately after the Budget showed what the public thought of what the Government had done. Its engineering feat was an electorate failure. It all boils down to this: In this day and age, with inflation continuing at the rate it is, the value of the pension is less than it has ever been. We are just about leading the world when it comes to inflation. The Labor Party is destroying the homes savings grants scheme which was introduced to encourage young people to buy their own homes. We have seen a cut in defence expenditure and the brazen demolition of the nation’s defences.
We have had nothing but increases in taxation, albeit indirectly, to cover some of the grandiose schemes which the honourable member for Blaxland outlined. There is no getting away from the fact that the previous Government in recent years lowered the taxation rate. Honourable members opposite know that by allowing inflation to continue the average income is increasing and therefore the average contribution in taxation is increasing. It is through taxation that the Government is financing its schemes. Let no Australian be fooled. The people of Australia are financing everything any government, whether it be Labor or Liberal, does. If honourable members opposite are really concerned they might look at the taxation contribution of a person earning $3,000, which is now in excess of $600, a large contribution for people they describe as being well and truly within the bounds of the poverty survey. We have had enough of their carping and talk about what they have done for the people of Australia. They have done very little. Most people are saying: ‘It is their first Budget. Let us see what they do next time’. But the Parramatta by-election will probably tell the story. I know that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) himself has already conceded victory in that seat. That is his own personal assessment of how this new Government is going.
On a quieter subject, I would like to canvas the implications of the social doctrines which are being brought into this House per medium of legislation. We see more than ever before the States on the run from a Commonwealth Government that is determined, through the financial system, to impose upon the States the Commonwealth Government’s every whim by dictating to them how money will be spent. In answer to questions we have heard Ministers on a number of times state that if a particular State is not prepared to accept the terms laid down by the Federal Government for money it was making available the money could quite easily be given to some other State. We have reached the stage where the States have been told: ‘Either you spend it our way or you do not get the money’. When the Constitution was originally drawn up and the 6 States agreed to become the Commonwealth it was hoped that the Constitution was so devised as to prevent this ever happening. Next week we have the historic Constitutional Convention, a much awaited event. I sincerely hope that the delegates from the various States and the Commonwealth go to that Convention with an open mind. Might I state here and now that in my view the Convention on the Constitution should not be a time for the States to go along to take or the Commonwealth to go along to take; it is a time when all governments must carefully consider giving and taking to ensure a better run Australia which in the long term will make a better way of life for each and every citizen of this country.
I wish to refer specifically to section 72 of the Constitution which relates to the judiciary. I realise that by speaking about the judiciary I am about to step upon hallowed ground. I hope that I will not be misunderstood or, more significantly, that my views will not fall upon ears entranced by the enchantment of quaint tradition which despises questioning and criticism, no matter how well motivated or deserved. I want to refer to 2 aspects in particular. The first is our system of appointing judges to the High Court of Australia. I want to refer to the historical background of section 72 of our Constitution which states:
The Justices of the High Court and of the other courts created by the Parliament - (i.) shall be appointed by the Governor-General in Council: (ii.) Shall not be removed except by the GovernorGeneral in Council, on an address from both Houses of the Parliament in the same session, praying for such removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity: (iri.) Shall receive such remuneration as the Parliament may fix; but the remuneration shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.
Originally, in the United Kingdom, judges held their commissions during the King’s pleasure. The Stuart kings chose their judges with a view to their support of the Crown. It was not until the Act of Settlement in 1702 that judges were given statutory security of tenure in office. The independence of the bench was guaranteed in that Act. The second enactment which operated to secure the dignity and independence of the bench was in 1760, Act 1, George III C.23, which provided further that judges’ commissions should continue notwithstanding the death of any particular monarch, and their salaries were secured to them during the continuance of their commissions.
These constitutional provisions were the basis of the tenure of the judiciary in the Australian colonies before Federation; that is, judges held office during good behaviour and could be removed by the Crown for misbehaviour without an address from Parliament, subject to appeal to the Privy Council. Furthermore, they could be removed from office by the Crown on an address from both Houses of Parliament for reasons other than misbehaviour. Therefore section 72 (ii.) of our Constitution departed from this historical position in Great Britain and the former Australian colonies. A justice of the High Court could be removed from office only if there was an address from both Houses of Parliament in the same session praying for his removal, and the grounds for his removal were limited to proved misbehaviour’ or incapacity. Therefore the tenure of a High Court justice is not dependent on the Crown in any case including misbehaviour except when the Crown acts on an address from both Houses of the Parliament; and furthermore it is not open to the Parliament to present an address for the removal of a justice on any other grounds than for proved misbehaviour or incapacity, and that is under section 72 (ii.) of the Constitution.
I am making particular reference to the life appoinment of judges. It should be noted that, in the context of life tenure operating to guarantee integrity in justices, State Supreme Court justices all hold tenure for a term of years. Justices of the Supreme Court of each State except Victoria are all compulsorily retired at 70 years of age. In Victoria they are retired at 72 years of age. I should like to look at the present composition of the High Court of Australia. We have a number of young justices. Mr Justice Mason is 48 and Mr Justice Stephen is aged 50. But the position does not stop there. Continuing up the ladder we find a most respected gentleman, Mr Justice McTiernan, who was born on 16 February 1892. At that time the nation’s population was much the same as the present population of Sydney. I cast no reflections on this elderly gentleman’s ability to make decisions, but I point to the fact that he is an elderly man.
In 1950 two very elderly distinguished gentlemen retired from the High Court. They were the Right Honourable Sir George Edward Rich, K.C.M.G., and the Hon. Sir Hayden Erskine Starke, K.C.M.G. The first gentleman was appointed at the age of 50 years and retired at the age of 87 years, and the second gentleman was appointed at 49 years of age and retired at 79 years of age. As I have said, those 2 gentlemen retired in 1950, and honourable members opposite do not need to be reminded of the fact that this was just after the Liberals returned to power. One of those gentlemen had been appointed in 1913 and the other a few years later - my arithmetic is not quick enough to enable me to calculate that date at this moment.
– What are you trying to say about it? What is your point?
– The honourable member for Hunter interjects. I respectfully suggest that there is a possibility that our judicial system is being used for political purposes. Judges are reluctant to retire until such time as the party of their political persuasion - if they have a political persuasion - is in power because they know that the person who is appointed to replace a retiring judge could be a person who is favoured by the government. I am not the only person who holds this view. On 1 June 1955 the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) read into Hansard a section of a paper which he had delivered at a seminar of the Australian Institute of Political Science. It is reported at page 1296 of Hansard of that date. It reads:
Mr Bland believes that the High Court provides some safeguards for our liberties; I doubt it. The Court is less representative of the Australian people than are their elected parliamentary representatives. Judges are irresponsible in that they hold office for life, which is sometimes a very long life.
That was an understatement. It continues:
Some have used that asset for a political purpose.
I think someone asked me who said that. It was the present Prime Minister. The paper continues:
I recall 2 flagrant examples where resignations were withheld until there was a change of government Early in 1950 one judge retired in the last month of his 80th year and another retired on his 87th birthday.
I consider that life appointments are a wrong concept, and this view has the endorsement of the Prime Minister. In most States judges retire at 70 years of age; in Victoria they retire at 72 years of age. I ask the Prime Minister to put this question to the Australian people at a referendum. It is something that must be decided by. a referendum. This question was before the High Court in, I think, 1918 in a case between the Waterside Workers Federation and Fitzpatrick. I have no doubt that 75 years should be the maximum age for a High Court judge to continue on the bench.
The reasons for life appointments have changed drastically. Judges now receive pensions and their widows receive pensions. While they are in office they are the highest paid servants in the nation. We in Australia inherited our judicial system from England.’ However, in Australia, through no fault of our judges, they are asked to make political judgments in the constitutional sense and in industrial matters, and at times they are asked to act as royal commissioners. I do not believe that we can rightly attribute to any of our judges, except the Chief Justice, any godly gift of acumen in relation to political interpretations. Even the Prime Minister stated in 1955 that the system of appointments was open to manipulation. Therefore it is not unreasonable for the State Premiers to be apprehensive about the abolition of the States’ right to appeal to the Privy Council.
As a Queenslander I am sick and tired of listening to Labor members from Queensland so frequently denigrating the Queensland Premier. I do not stand behind him on every issue, but when it comes to the rights of the people I believe that he has a particular gift in recognising what is going on in this country today. In my mind there is reason to be concerned about the composition of the High Court, We have no greater authority on this than the Prime Minister. I refer to page 1296 of Hansard of 1 June 1955, where the Prime Minister is reported as saying:
If counsel has to advise if a certain action is constitutional, he is less concerned with the Constitution than with the composition of the Court.
He goes along wondering which judges will be on the bench. It does not matter about the case he is going to present; he is wondering about how the judges think. Surely, if a man who is now a Prime Minister says this, we all have reason to worry about what goes on. I do not claim that we are able to point to any decision in a case in Australia where there has been blatant intrusion of political thought; but decisions have been reversed. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that in the United States of America there is an inbuilt safeguard in that the President nominates the Supreme Court judges and the States’ House - the Senate - must confirm the appointments in a majority vote. This not only guards against the possibility of someone who thinks as the President does being appointed but also gives the States a say in their firmly established federal system.
I am not saying that any of our judges are corrupt, but each and every person has a philosophical approach to life and one philosophical approach will suit a particular government and not others. It is ridiculous to think that a judge’s decision is always right. This aspect frequently is highlighted when a group of judges sits and there is a minority viewpoint. There have been cases in which the minority viewpoint of a particular judge has later been proved correct. I cite the example that in 1937 Mr Justice Evatt, who later became Leader of the Opposition, delivered the sole dissenting judgment in the case of Cowell v. Rosehill Racecourse Co. Ltd and 10 years later the House of Lords, in the case of the Wintergarden Theatre v. Millennium Productions Ltd, adopted the Evatt rule of law. Yet our Prime Minister now states that the Australian High Court has all the wisdom.
Like politicians and other people, judges are not infallible. Their way of thinking can play a part in their decision-making processes. The Full Court decided in 1918, in the case I mentioned earlier, that a judge appointed under the Constitution has a life tenure. (Extension of time granted.) I thank the Leader of the House (Mr Daly), for a change. It is for the reasons I have mentioned that I take up the cudgels on behalf of the States. In conclusion, as there is a Constitutional Convention next week, I suggest that delegates from the State and Commonwealth Parliaments give consideration to the system which is used to appoint judges to our High Court. Consideration should be given to ways and means whereby the States can have some say in the appointment of a judge to our High Court. Perhaps it could be by a majority vote among the States. If four out of the six States agree to an appointment that could be enough. At a time when we are seeking to abandon the right of the people and the States to appeal to the Privy Council I do not agree that we should accept our present High Court system. It has been denounced in the past by no other authority than our present Prime Minister, when he was very much younger and perhaps a little quieter, but no doubt with his experience even then as a barrister and as an associate to various judges he had knowledge and was fully equipped to speak on this particular subject. Again I sincerely thank the Leader of the House for allowing me an extension of time.
– I call the honourable member for Hunter.
– I will try to quickly-
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the Deputy Leader of the Country Party claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do. I claim to have been personally misrepresented by a statement made by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) in a speech recorded on page 589 of Hansard of Wednesday, 29 August when he said:
From memory, not one member of the Country Party has ‘ever won more than SO per cent of the primary votes before being elected to this Parliament.
Equally by his rejoinder this evening, of which there is not yet a Hansard record available I was misrepresented. The figures quoted relate to my own electorate and to the Party of which I am a member. As I recall it, the Leader of the House tonight in his response related his statistics only to the 1972 general election and then quoted figures-
-Order! I would suggest that the honourable gentleman is debating a general question.
– I am explaining how I have been misrepresented.
-The honourable member is explaining how he has been misrepresented but he is also debating a question on behalf of a Party. Apart from saying that the Leader of the House used figures relating to his electorate, the honourable member has not indicated in any way how he has been personally misrepresented.
– I have been personally misrepresented because the figures are not accurate in respect of the electorate of New England.
– Then the honourable member is entitled to correct the figures but not to debate the question.
– I agree. In his remarks tonight the Leader of the House referred to figures relating to the 1972 electoral results giving percentages of persons enrolled. Last night he made no reference to the number of persons enrolled. He spoke in general form only and said that no ohe member of the Country Party had ever won more than 50 per cent of the primary votes before being elected to this Parliament. As regards the electorate of New England this statement is not accurate. In the 1966 general election 18 of the 21 seats won by the Country Party, including the electorate of New England-
-Order! I think the honourable gentleman is going a long way wide of the provisions Of the Standing Orders relating to personal explanations. The purpose of a personal explanation is to explain how a member has been personally misrepresented. I think it is very doubtful that this is a personal misrepresentation; I think it is more of a debating point. The honourable member has continued to refer to numerous electorates and the Country Party.
– I have referred to the electorate of New England which has been inaccurately portrayed in respect of every election other than the 1972 election. I am the member for New England and the figures for my electorate were deliberately misrepresented by the Leader of the House. The figures he quoted tonight and last night and the statements he made were incorrect. They were inaccurate according to the available statistical records prepared by either the Department of the Interior, as it then was called, or the Bureau of Census and Statistics. With respect to the electorate of New England and 18 of the Country Party seats won in the 1966 elections the Leader of the House was inaccurate. In respect of the 1969 elections and in relation to the electorate of New England and 14 of the seats won by the Country Party the figures given were not accurate. All these seats, including the electorate of New England, were won with outright majorities. Only at the 1972 elections were the figures accurate in respect of the electorate of New England, but they were not accurate in respect of eleven of the twenty seats won by the Country Party.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable gentleman is again making a general point. He ought to respect the forms of the House and not debate the -question. If he wishes to debate the question there are ways to do so.
– My speaking time has already been restricted by 5 minutes, Mr Deputy Speaker, due to your probable over-courtesy to the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair). (Quorum formed.) I resent the attitude of the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) in calling for a quorum. I have behaved myself in the House tonight. I had already lost 5 or 7 minutes of my speaking time, Mr Deputy Speaker, due to your courtesy in allowing the honourable member for New England to make a personal explanation. Then the honourable member for Lyne, without justification, had to restrict my speaking time further by calling for a quorum. I want briefly to comment on the remarks of a previous speaker, the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) who dwelt at some length on the appointment of judges to the High Court. I can quickly give him my opinion as to how judges should be selected. The selection should rotate between the major parties of this Parliament. All judges should retire at 70 years of age, which I believe the law now requires.
The honourable member for Griffith made adverse comment about judges hanging on in their jobs until they are 85 or 87 years of age. It must be a pretty easy job for a man of that age to be able to carry it out. Passing from that point, I also want to comment on the remarks of the honourable member for Griffith about the socialist doctrine pursued, he alleges, by the Government. I remind the honourable member that apparently the tendency to socialism is becoming more popular than ever because in today’s ‘Age’ right on the front page is a headline about Toorak of all places - I understand that is one of the silvertail suburbs of Melbourne. The headline reads: Toorak’s new mayor is a socialist’. But what the members of the Opposition forget to do, when they applaud the free enterprise society which they have followed diligently for many years, and have got away with, is to bring to notice or to level criticism at the crook companies which from time to time in their free enterprise society are exposed by the daily Press. In today’s ‘Daily Telegraph’ - I hold it up for honourable members to see - on the front page is the headline: ‘Government Order to Close 29 of Barton’s Companies.’ We find in the Sydney ‘Daily Mirror’ of Thursday, 23 August 1973, the headline: “Nothing to Hide” says Director. “Misjudgments cannot be Called Dishonesty” ‘. This is the free enterprise society which is applauded so much by members of the Opposition.
This is one of my proudest moments in the 13 years that I have been a member of the House of Representatives, being given the opportunity to speak in support of my Labor Government’s first Budget in 23 years that has been a period of peace. It has been much longer than that since the Labor Party was able to introduce a peacetime Budget. This Budget is designed in peace to promote peace, goodwill and harmony among all citizens of our land and to distribute more equally the nation’s wealth. I hope that these will always be the fundamental principles of the Australian Labor Party. Let me re-emphasise some of the features that I consider are the most important in the Budget. I regard the Treasurer (Mr Crean) as the most dedicated Treasurer of all times. What should be the top priorities of any progressive and honest government? Firstly, in my view the housing needs of the people should be met adequately. From time to time the present Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) has pointed out that when the Labor Government took office there were 93,000 unfilled applications for
Housing Commission homes throughout Australia. Secondly, education is equally as important. Education should be available to all children at minimum or no cost. Thirdly, social welfare should be adequate to enable our physically and mentally retarded, our aged, invalid, sick or widowed people to live in dignity. Fourthly, the health needs of our people ought to be given top priority and be provided for properly. I regard these 4 important subjects to be most important to any nation and as matters upon which any government should be judged by its people.
How has the Whitlam-Crean Labor Administration approached these important issues? In regard to housing, 40 per cent more finance has been provided in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. This represents a total of $38. 6m more than was expended last year. Under previous tory governments, there have been more acute housing problems in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory than in any other part of Australia. Deductibility of mortgage interest as promised in the Labor Party’s policy speech will have effect from 1 July 1974. The homes savings grants scheme is to be phased out. No one could ever understand it. I remember a time when the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury), as Minister for Housing in a previous government, was introducing a Bill to amend the legislation. He admitted frankly in the Parliament at that time that the scheme was so complicated that he did not properly understand it. In my view, the homes savings grants scheme has more strings attached to it than a p parachute More people have failed to qualify for a homes savings grant than ever qualified for one. Those people who have commenced to save for the grant will have time to complete their 3 years of saving and to acquire a home before the scheme goes into oblivion.
As honourable members on the Government side who have spoken previously have pointed out, Labor is to provide over $843m for education during 1973-74. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) pointed out that this represents a 92 per cent increase on the previous years allocation for education. In my view this would be the largest amount appropriated for education in any Budget since Federation. An additional rise will take place in 1973-74 as the programs commencing in 1974 come into effect. My
Government, as it promised in its policy speech, will from 1 January 1974 assume full financial responsibility for tertiary education at universities, colleges of advanced education, State teachers colleges and other approved teachers colleges, including the abolition of fees at all those institutions and technical colleges. The implementation of these proposals will entail additional outlays of $179m in 1973-74.
Our education policies, in my view, are a blueprint for the Australian community and are so long overdue through inadequate legislative measures by previous tory governments which gave inadequate financial aid to the children of the low income groups. Now it will be seen that more of our universities will be able to house more children of the lower income groups. In this field, an awful imbalance existed under toryism in past years. A university education was regarded as too good for the children of the workers or of low income groups. Labor is to correct this tragic imbalance which has existed for far too long.
In the Budget, $7.9m will be provided for the national school dental scheme in 1973-74. This Government will abolish the $10 charged currently on hearing aids and also will make hearing aids from the Commonwealth Acoustics Laboratories, and batteries for those hearing aids, free to those unfortunate people with hearing problems who have not been able to afford hearing aids in the past. As the community becomes more aware of our universal health scheme, that scheme will be applauded by an overwhelming number of Australians. It is to operate from 1 July 1974. The sum of $36 lm will be provided to meet the Labor Government’s proposals in 1973-74 under the existing scheme. No doubt other countries which can do so eventually will copy our example. We believe in giving priority to preventative health measures over curative health measures. We intend to show greater sympathy to those unfortunate people who fall victim of drugs and alcoholism. We will allocate $7.5m to assist the States to develop communitybased mental health, drug and alcoholism dependency services. Further, $ 1.75m is provided for mental health institutions and $500,000 is appropriated for anti-smoking campaigns. The expenditure on home nursing aid will be uplifted. The milk subsidy for schools is to be modified. The milk subsidy will be paid for the needy but those who do not need that benefit will not receive the Commonwealth subsidy.
I turn to social welfare. An increase of $1.50 a week is provided for age, invalid and widow pensions as promised in our policy speech. This brings the single pension rate to $23 a week and for married couples it will be $40.50 a week. The allowance for dependent children of widows and aged and invalid persons will be raised to $5 a week. These increases will be extended to those in receipt of repatriation and service pensions and those receiving tuberculosis allowances. In the glories of the increases announced, we propose to implement a new benefit of $10 for orphan children whose both parents are deceased.
The first positive step in our assurance to the people that our election promise to abolish the means test in the life of this Parliament has been taken. The first shot has been fired. The means test is to be abolished in respect of all persons 75 years of age who qualify residentially for the age pension. The Labor Government will reduce this age limit in its 3-year term of office to 65 years at which point the means test will be totally abolished. When the people of Australia realise the benefits that will be derived from the minor increases in petrol, cigarette and whisky charges, I feel sure that they will willingly meet the extra costs knowing the good that the amount of money reaped from these impositions will do to the whole of our society.
Australian Country Party: Electoral Results - Second Sydney Airport - Medical Services in Country and Suburban areas - The Budget
– Order! It being 15 minutes past 10 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
- Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
-Does the honourable gentleman wish to make a personal explanation?
– Yes. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) in this House, according to Hansard, has made the claim that not one member of the Australian
Country Party has ever won more than 50 per cent of the primary vote before being elected to this Parliament. He went on to say:
Of course they get more than 50 per cent after the distribution of preferences, but not one Country Party member has ever gained a majority on the first count.
I claim to have been misrepresented in this respect: As the member elected for the Division of Cowper I have obtained 50 per cent of the primary vote and I have been elected without a distribution of preferences, which is contrary to what was claimed to have occurred by the Minister for Services and Property. I wish to place this fact on record.
– I claim to have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Cowper.
-Does the Minister wish to make a personal explanation?
– Yes. I remind the honourable member for Cowper that he is quoting from a proof or uncorrected copy of my speech last night. If he had been in the House earlier tonight and heard my explanation, he would have understood the position perfectly.
– We were here, and we heard what you said.
– I mentioned that the honourable member for Darling Downs got, I think, 17 per cent or 30 per cent of the primary votes.
– You do not know what you are talking about.
– He got 32 per cent of the primary votes. In my explanation tonight I said that the honourable member for Cowper got 48.49 per cent of the primary votes of the electors of Cowper who were enrolled at the last election. A similar comment applies to the honourable member for New England. In order that the honourable member for Cowper will know that my explanation is correct and that he has misrepresented me, I ask him to refer to the weekly Hansard as soon as it is available and then tender the appropriate apology to me.
Mr IAN ROBINSON (Cowper)- I rise to a point of order. As I understand the precedent which has been established in this House, a member has the right to claim to have been misrepresented by quoting from Hansard. I have quoted from the daily Hansard of
Wednesday, 29 August 1973. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) now claims that he should be excused. (Quorum formed.) Accordingly, Mr Speaker, I ask for your ruling as to whether in future it will not be permissible for members to claim, under the Standing Orders, that they have been misrepresented, by referring to the daily Hansard. If this is the case, I believe that it is a very retrograde step and a loss of privilege in this House. By the time the corrected Hansard is printed it is too late, in most instances, to claim to have been misrepresented. Take, for example, the present situation. The House will rise tonight and will not reassemble until Tuesday week. I believe that it would be quite inconsistent for you, Mr Speaker, to accept the point which was taken by the Minister. I refer again to the substance of the misrepresentation. I draw attention to the fact that the Minister has used these words:
– The time being after a quarter past 10 I move:
Question resolved in the negative.
– I was referring to the words used by the Minister for Services and Property when he alleged that not one Country Party member had ever won more than 50 per cent of the primary votes cast. Well now, of course the words should have been: ‘50 per cent of the formal votes cast’. There is a distinct difference. If the Minister checks that against the figures which he has just quoted he will find that he has misrepresented
-Order! I ask the honourable gentleman not to debate the question. I think the honourable member has made quite clear .the point he intended to make without debating the question.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I conclude by saying that I have been misrepresented on a second count, the one to which I have just referred.
– I was not, as it happened, in the House earlier today at the time when the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) made the explanation to which he referred a minute ago, but
I was in the House when he made the original statement. I have checked what was reported in the daily Hansard-
-The honourable gentleman is out of order, in the adjournment debate, in reviving a debate taking place in the House.
– I will just say that the daily Hansard is correct. It records exactly what the Minister said. I am not reviving a debate. I am raising a question which is of great interest to you, Mr Speaker, and that is the rights of honourable members to alter their speeches in Hansard. This is a most serious matter which concerns you as the Speaker and the custodian of this House. I do not have the advantage of knowing what the Minister said earlier in the debate tonight. I do not have that advantage.
-Order! I remind the honourable gentleman that I am not questioning his right to speak, but when he refers to the altering of the Hansard proofs, if he has any specific instance in mind I should like the honourable gentleman to tell me.
– 1 draw your attention to this instance, Sir, because I did hear myself the Minister using those words. To the best of my recollection the daily Hansard is correct. I think that there are ways and means of verifying this. Everybody knows that when an honourable member has made a slip of the tongue he is entitled to correct it. Everybody knows that in matters which do not go to substance honourable members are entitled to make corrections. But when an honourable member has been correctly reported and his remarks have been printed in the daily Hansard I do not think that he is entitled to make an alteration of substance without reference to you, Sir, and the House. I will not pursue this matter further at the present juncture because obviously now that the matter has been brought to your attention you will make inquiries and when we meet again on Tuesday week you will be letting the House know the result of those inquiries. So I drop that matter at the present moment.
I now wish to refer to the question of the second Sydney airport which seems to have had a certain amount of publicity lately, following upon the Government’s announced decision to site the second airport for Sydney in the area of Galston Gorge. I regard the siting of the airport in that area with some horror because I believe that the areas around
Sydney should be preserved, whether they be in the Galston Gorge area or elsewhere. I understand that the State government is suggesting that the second Sydney airport be located some distance from Sydney. That being so I want to make a concrete suggestion which I believe has already been made by certain people in the Hornsby area. It seems to me that if the airport is to be displaced from Sydney the correct place for it is Canberra. Canberra already has the prestige of an international capital, and this is where an international airport should be. It also has the advantage of being on the direct line between the two great cities of Sydney and Melbourne. Therefore an airport here, if displaced from Sydney, would give the maximum service.
– ‘.Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. A few moments ago the honourable member made certain allegations against me. I quote from my speech of last night, namely:
I see the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) slumbering quietly on the front bench. If I might say so, he is unmoved by my eloquence.
Yet tonight he said he heard me say things.
-The Minister for Services and Property is out of order. He should have taken the point of order immediately the remarks were made.
– I take very hardly the actions of the Minister. I heard distinctly what he said and I am prepared to testify that Hansard, to my recollection, is correct - Hansard stands as my witness: It may be even that there is a record of this on the tape in the Hansard office. We shall see. No doubt you, Mr Speaker, as the custodian of the rights of this House, will look into this. Let me return to the point I was making when I was interrupted so frivolously and unworthily by the Minister for Services and Property. The airport at Canberra is unsatisfactory. It is being lengthened at considerable expense and even then it may not come up to international standards particularly as a result of the fogs which sometimes descend on it. I am not going into these technical matters at the moment. I believe there was a proposal to construct an alternative airport to the northwest in an area known as Mulligans Flat, but on further examination this proposal was dropped because it was found that Mulligans Flat did not offer conditions very much superior to those at the existing Canberra airport. Then a site was found about 20 miles from
Canberra in the vicinity of Bungendore which does measure up to all the criteria and on which a first class airport could be constructed. Since Bundendore is on the rail line one of the things that we could look forward to - not immediately but perhaps in 10 years time - would be the improvement of the rail service between Canberra and Sydney via Bungendore so that the time of journey would be reduced to a reasonable proportion. I know that the Sydney-Wagga track, considering the density of traffic which it carries and its potential for carrying traffic, is probably the worst aligned stretch of railway in the world. The grades are bad; the curves are bad. I know that the terrain is difficult, but it is not as difficult as all that. With the technical advances being made, such as the advanced passenger train in Great Britain and things of that character, it would not be impossible - it would, I think, be desirable - to improve that stretch of line from Goulburn to Sydney at least to the extent that trains could average 75 or 80 miles an hour or even more. This may involve very large expenditure but I remind the House of the tremendous potential importance of the MelbourneSydney rail link. I also remind the House - and I can claim to be familiar with that line - that in view of the carrying potential of the line it is probably the worst aligned railway line in the world. It does merit a great deal of improvement. If this is so it might perhaps fit in very well later on - perhaps not now but in 10 or 15 years time - with the establishment of a major international airport in the Bungendore area to serve Canberra and to become the second airport for the SydneyMelbourne complex. After all, Canberra is the capital of Australia. Already it is a large and growing centre of population and already it generates a tremendous amount of air traffic both internally and internationally. I would hope at some time later when there is more time for debate to develop this matter further.
– Honourable members on my right have frequently referred to the shortage of doctors in country areas and to the very real anxiety which exists in country areas about the services of a doctor being available in a case of emergency. That problem is no longer confined to country areas but is spreading very rapidly in urban areas and particularly in outer suburban areas such as those that are covered by the Casey electorate. The lives of families in those areas and in particular the lives of elderly people there are overshadowed by the fear that in the case of serious illness people will not be able to get in touch with a doctor, or if indeed they are able to get in touch with a doctor he will not be prepared to answer thencall. As more and more general practitioners join together in group practices and shield themselves from out-of-hours calls behind a barrier of recorded messages, emergency telephone numbers and mobile locum services the old feeling of security which arose from ready access to a family doctor is being lost.
Spokesmen for the Australian Medical Association and for the General Practitioners Society refer repeatedly to the importance of the doctor-patient relationship and assert that under the new health insurance arrangements proposed by the Australian Government that relationship will become a thing of the past. They emphasise the importance of maintaining a high quality of medical care and assert that under the Australian Government’s health insurance program quality will be a thing of the past. I rise tonight to let the House know something of the quality of medical care as it was found a few weeks ago for some of my constituents, to let the House know what the doctor-patient relationship was worth to an 81-year old man in his hour of need. This man’s family was woken at 1 a.m. when he first became ill and again at 3 a.m. when he was clearly very ill indeed. The son - I will call him Mr Smith - rang the local clinic at which the family had been patients over the last 23 years and was told by a recorded voice the name and telephone number of a doctor who is not associated with the clinic but who was said to be available for emergency service.
Mr Smith rang this doctor, emphasising the urgency of the situation and was asked by the doctor what was the nature of the difficulty. When he was unable to answer this question other than by emphasising again the seriousness of his father’s condition, the doctor refused to attend. Mr Smith told the doctor that he would be obliged to ring the police for assistance, and the doctor replied: “You do that’.
Mr Smith rang the police, who suggested that he should get in touch with the Emergency Medical Service. He rang the Emergency Medical Service. The girl on the telephone was unable to find a doctor but helped to arrange for an ambulance. An ambulance arrived within a few minutes but, as the attendants were carrying the old man into it, he died. The attendants rang the doctor about a death certificate and were told to call in at his surgery for one on their way to the city. They said this was impossible as the doctor had not seen the dead man and that he would have to come out immediately. The doctor arrived at the house within 10 minutes and the certificate was prepared.
As human beings we may ask ourselves what sort of person it was who could arrive at a home within 10 minutes to fill out a death certificate but who was not prepared to attend when his presence might have made that certificate unnecessary. As a community we must ask ourselves why a clinic which carries on its gatepost the brass plates of 6 practitioners cannot arrange for at least one of those practitioners to be available to patients in the event of an emergency. We must ask ourselves why it was necessary for Mr Smith to make no fewer than 4 telephone calls in order to obtain even inappropriate assistance in the form of an ambulance. The pretensions of the Australian Medical Association and the General Practitioners Society to be able to devise a better system of health insurance than that of the Australian Government might be taken more seriously if those organisations were to display more competence in respect to arrangements which are properly within their sphere of responsibility.
I am glad the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) has been present in the House tonight to hear my brief remarks. I noticed today, on reading through an AMA gazette, a report that was made recently by a member of the AMA Council, Dr Lugg, in Perth in which he emphasised the Association’s unwillingness to participate in negotiations with the Australian Government on the matter of health insurance. I think the lull in correspondence and conversation between the Australian Government and the AMA would be put to good use if it were to be used to negotiate a new set of arrangements to ensure that Australians not only in suburban areas but throughout the country had some reasonable guarantee that a medical attendant will be available to them in the event of an emergency. I think these negotiations could well be broadened to take up the matter of services provided by doctors in country areas and the distribution of doctors throughout
Australia, about which we heard something only a week ago in the report of the Australian Universities Commission on medical education. If the medical profession is unwilling to arrange these matters itself, governments must step in and fill the breach.
-Since speaking in the House on a statement by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) I have had a look at 3 Bills now before the Western Australian Parliament which were introduced by a Labor Government and which are designed virtually to transfer to the Australian Government sweeping powers with respect to land control, development and disposal. I see them as being a way around the constitutional limitations imposed upon the Australian Government which will enable it to get into the field of urban development. Although the Premier of Western Australia, Mr Tonkin, has shown some desire to retain control over the constitutional rights of the States, he has obviously wilted under the pressure of the centralist Government in Canberra.
The new cities program, which involves the provision of $3 3m in loan moneys to the States, including $9.4m in repayable loans, to help develop Camden-Campbelltown, GosfordWyong and Bathurst-Orange is pin money and makes a mockery of decentralisation when weighed against the $150m grab from the country areas of Australia in this year’s Budget. This virtually is a reallocation of resources from the private sector to the public sector and from the rural areas to the Labor strongholds of Sydney and Melbourne. We now see the socialist land grab policy that is fundamental to the achievement of the socialist objective.
The 3 Bills before the Western Australian Parliament should serve as a warning to the other States. If the other States accept the socialist blueprint for Western Australia, we are on the way to socialist land monopoly and control from Canberra. I call on the New South Wales Government and other governments to reject the attempt by the Whitlam Government to take over control of their urban land - indeed, land generally. These Bills obviously are the result of collusion between the Tonkin Government and the Whitlam Government. They are an attack on individual rights in a democratic society. If they are proclaimed in Western Australia, the
Labor Government in Canberra will control the new urban development in Western Australia and, I predict, ultimately land generally, including farming and grazing land, because the land commission will have power to designate any area in Western Australia. The actual powers are along these lines: The land Control Bill provides power to place specified land under government control. It provides power to resume all or part of any controlled land at any time the government wishes during the period the land is under control. It provides power to fix the price of controlled land according to valuation on a date which the government may specify. There is no right of appeal against resumption or against a control order. This not only attacks the rights of the individual but also could stifle the development of land. The Land Commission Bill will establish a commission to develop and sell or lease resumed land.
The Salvado Development Bill will establish an authority to take over the role of local government in the area and that authority will be dominated by Canberra. I emphasise dominated by Canberra’. It is this aspect that troubles me most. If the Labor Government gets away with this, we will see Canberra controlling land for urban and other purposes in Perth. The corporation of these 3 commissions will not be responsible to the people of the area or to the State Government. In fact, it will be, in an indirect sense but in a real sense, responsible to the Australian Government. When one juxtaposes the 3 Bills one sees the real plot. The Land Commission Bill provides that the chairman will be nominated by the Premier to the Prime Minister and be subject to the Prime Minister’s approval. Two other members of the 11-man commission will be either nominated by the Prime Minister or approved by the Prime Minister. The commission must report not only to the responsible State Minister but also to the Prime Minister. Why on earth should a State commission set up by State legislation have to report to the Commonwealth Government or to the Prime Minister if the intention under this legislation is not to superimpose the authority of the Prime Minister and the Commonwealth Government over land control? I suppose the excuse is that the Commonwealth Government is making a substantial allocation, although I do not regard $33m of loan funds as a substantial allocation. No doubt it is on that basis that it is argued that Canberra must exercise a control. What really makes the commission’s role supremely subservient to the centralist socialist fountain of authority is that it must report not only to the responsible State Minister but also to the Prime Minister.
Of course one supports measures to reduce the price of land to reasonable levels and of course the State governments have power at their disposal to implement and adopt measures to do just that. But I see this as a back door way for the Australian Government to take over the constitutional rights of the State governments to control the land resources within their States. I believe that we must vigorously oppose legislation superimposed upon a State which threatens the rights of the individual and establishes the centralist control of land in the hands of Canberra.
I did not rise tonight simply to knock what the Minister is doing but to warn him and the States that there is a very dangerous element in his sort of legislation because ultimately it will create a centralist bureaucracy trying to control from Canberra land in Western Australia and Queensland, and even land at Bourke. Heavens above - I do not think that this would be in the best long term interests of this country. Of course there are ways of controlling land prices, and the States have those powers. I say let the States use them.
– It disturbs me that a man of the calibre of the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) should in this House defend developers. I can give details to show that the honourable member was in fact in this House tonight quoting the case for the West Australian land developers. I am disappointed to think that an honourable member would speak in such a way knowing of the land speculation that is going on in that State, just as it is going on in every other State and capital city. The honourable member has criticised legislation that has been introduced by the Western Australian Government. I ask him to check the details. For example, the honourable member for Gwydir complained about the Land Control Bill which is in fact based on the industrial Development (Kwinana Area) Act which was introduced by the Liberal Government in Western Australia in 1952. 1 ask the honourable member to check his facts and not be a stooge for any organisation.
I have no wish to attack any honourable member in this House, but I ask them not to be used and to check, the facts before they use them. I am disappointed that the honourable member for Gwydir has been misguided on this matter. The attack he made is not unfamiliar to me. The points have been made before in a report by the Land Legislation Study Group in Western Australia. Despite its grandiose title this group is nothing more than a front for some very large land developers. It disappoints me greatly - indeed in the case of the honourable member it surprises me - that he would stand up in this House to carry the banner for land developers who have been exploiting our young people for so long. We know the real pressure that is being placed on young people. Under the guise of concern for individual freedom in general, the honourable member is in fact supporting the few - those few who have exploited the ordinary Australian whose only wish is to own his own block of land and to build his own house on it. This Government does not support those exploiters. Those who are now speaking about the rights of the individual should examine what choices are open to the individual or young married couples under the present system. What freedom do they have to choose where they want to live?
Does the honourable member or any member of this House doubt that the present system is inequitable? Can any honourable member doubt that the present system is inefficient? It is because of this that the Australian Government is trying to find ways to assist the States and local government to develop urban areas. The Land Control Bill which has been introduced in Western Australia is basically a Bill to provide for public acquisition of substantial areas of land for urban development. Under the Bill landholders will not be able to make speculative profits. This is the purpose of the Bill. That is the provision that the honourable member therefore is complaining about. Let me assure this House that this Government does not believe that speculative profits are just. Other members who persist in attacking this legislation apparently believe they are. Again the old bogy of centralisation is dragged out. We are charged with wanting to control urban development, with wanting to freeze land prices and with wanting to set up huge bureaucracies in Canberra. This is not just a facile argument; it is dishonest, and I say to the honourable member for Gwydir that it is dishonest. It is a bogy that has been dragged out in place of analysis.
I ask the honourable member to assess and analyse the situation and not bring out a bogy. Centralism is the bogy which has replaced the communism bogy of the past. Honourable members opposite have only hysteria and not facts. Both bogies are equally discreditable. There is no chance of control from Canberra, and the honourable member for Gwydir knows it. The whole problem of land prices is one in which the States have the power to provide some of the solutions - I emphasise the words ‘some of the solutions’. The possibility of making urban development more efficient is an area where the States have the power to provide some of the solutions, and again I stress the words ‘some of the solutions’. Up until now, they have not chosen to do so. Let there be no mistake about this. The Australian Government has no power to freeze land prices. I stress the point that we have no power to freeze or even to stabilise land prices. However, the States have the power to do both, if they desire to do so. We are urging them to take steps to stabilise land prices - that is, to introduce land price stabilisation legislation.
On 25 January this year the Liberal Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria, Sir Robert Askin and Mr Hamer, met the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and myself and the respective State Ministers. We argued and both Premiers agreed that legislation for land stabilisation in Albury-Wodonga should be introduced. We believe that this decision and the principle underlying it should be extended. I might point out to the House that, unlike the Western Australian developer, a number of large and progressive developers have welcomed our initiatives. This is no different from what had been happening here in Canberra for 50 years prior to 1 January 1971, until the honourable member for Gwydir, as Minister for the Interior and his Government destroyed this system and this legislation.
Discussions between my Department and all States have been under way throughout this year. We are offering the States the opportunity to do something about spiralling land prices. We are offering the States the opportunity to do something about the wasteful pattern of urban development in our major cities. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a working paper on the possible operation of land price stabilisation legislation which my departmental officers have used as the basis for their discussions with respective State officials.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Land price stabilisation legislation should indicate:
A twostage site determination process is envisaged, and the legislation should parallel this process:
Whereas the proclamation referred to in paragraph
In some cases it will be sufficient to make only a proclamation of the type referred to in paragraph
. The legislation should allow this.
During say the last two years of the period of acquisition declared in the second proclama tion, any landholder should be entitled to have his land acquired at the applicable formula price.
This value increase factor should be tied to an index of inflation which the legislation should declare as the basic determination of the value added factor, while allowing such provision for adjustments to take account of the particular area involved as may be determined at the time of the initial proclamation.
– I thank the House. This document represents the basis of our discussions with the States to try to bring about some understanding and agreement between both parties. We in the Australian Government believe that this problem can be solved only in a spirit of co-operation at both levels. I ask all honourable members to examine this document.
When I hear complaints about the Federal Government seeking representation on State bodies and when I hear complaints about the Federal Government wanting to provide some conditions to its financial grants, I can only say that those who complain are asking the Federal Government to act irresponsibly. The Australian people do not expect any government to give money without also thinking about responsibility for the way in which it is spent. If any State does not want to accept the funds it is perfectly free to do so. These agreements with the States are bilateral.
The discussions which my Department is having with the respective States are designed to introduce a new system of urban development in Australia. This system, we believe, is more equitable and more efficient than the system that now exists. This Government not only supports, but wishes to promote, the freedom of individuals to choose and to be able to purchase their own home on their own block of land.
The last lie is this: The honourable member for Gwydir knew because I told him prior to the discussion of the statement I made about new cities that there would be loans and grants, that the loans would be at the long term Commonwealth bond interest rate, that in the early years the interest repayments would be deferred and that in the later years the interest would be capitalised. We believe that until such time as the land has started to pay for itself in the new cities, having interest repayments in the early years would be a burden on the people in those areas. We want the cities to be efficient and equitable. We want them to be places where people are not being subsidised by centralised government. Cities should be places where it is pleasant to live. This is our attitude because we do not want a repetition of the situation in Sydney where young people cannot buy a block of land for less than $10,000 or $12,000. We want to see young people acquire a block of land without putting themselves in bond for the rest of their lives.
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– It concerns me that we have just heard the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) make a number of allegations against one of my colleagues, the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), which are identical with those that I make against his colleague, the Leader of the House and the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who knows that I am speaking on this matter at this time. It concerns me because the Minister for Urban and Regional Development has said: ‘Check your facts’. The Leader of the House has not checked his facts. He has made allegations about dishonesty. He has said that the former Minister for the Interior and my colleague, the honourable member for Gwydir, is dishonest in his use of facts. In fact, the Leader of the House is dishonest in the use of his facts. The facts are demonstrably contrary to statements he has made in this House, lt concerns me because I believe that what the Leader of the House has said has an imputation for every member of this House. I refer specifically to the charges he has made relating to the number of honourable members particularly of the Australian Country Party, who have been elected having won not more than 50 per cent of the primary votes on the first count.
I do not intend to canvass the situation of honourable members who have been elected. I have made reference to that. My colleagues have made reference to it. It is quite demonstrably true that significantly more than 50 per cent of the members of the Country
Party in each of the last 3 general elections - without going back any further - have been elected with more than 50 per cent of the vote after the distribution of preferences, whether one takes it as formal votes or as primary votes. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) very rightly voiced his concern as to whether there had been an alteration to Hansard. But it concerns me that the Leader of the House, I believe, has thrown discredit on the Government because something like 50 per cent of the members of the Australian Labor Party in the last election received, as I understand it, something less than 50 per cent of the primary votes cast. I believe that the Minister has thrown disrespect on all honourable members of this House who were elected by a valid electoral system which has been followed by this Parliament under laws properly adopted by this Parliament. He has thrown doubt on their ability to represent adequately the electorates that they serve here.
I regard this as a serious derogation of his duty and his responsibility. He, as Leader of this House, should know better than to cast aspersion on members who are rightly elected under the laws of this Parliament to serve their constituencies. As my colleague, the honourable member for Mackellar, so right’y says he is the Minister in charge of the Electoral Act. He, above all others, should know the terms of that Act. Every member of this House has been validly elected. Every member here is elected under a system of proportional representation which enables each individual elector of Australia to be given a fair, adequate and open opportunity to cast his primary vote and his preference vote. I believe that it ill serves the interests of this Parliament that the Leader of this House should so cast aspersions, particularly in relation to the Australian Country Party and, equally, in relation to other members of this Parliament.
-Order! It being 11 p.m., in accordance with the resolution of the House, the House stands adjourned until Tuesday, 11 September, at 11 a.m. or until such time thereafter as Mr Speaker takes the Chair.
Mouse adjourned at 11 p.m., until Tuesday, 11 September, at 11 a.m. or until such time thereafter as Mr Speaker takes the Chair.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
What was the estimated cost of hospital and medical services in Australia during each of the last 5 years, and what percentage of the Gross National Product did this represent in each of those years.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 August 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19730830_reps_28_hor85/>.