28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 11.30 a.m., and read prayers.
The Acting Clerk - 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 Dr Cass, Mr Bourchier, Mr Morris and Mr Whittorn.
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 ‘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 andinefficiencies 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 basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Whittorn.
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:
That the need exists for full postal facilities within the complex of Brownlie Towers, Dumond Street, Bentley, Western Australia.
That the Newsagency (Dumond Street Newsagency) are prepared to accept this responsibility as a service to the public.
That this housing complex accommodates many aged Pensioners who do not own motor cars and who experience difficulty without full postal facilities close at hand. ‘Many young mothers also occupy flats in the high density complex.
That service to the public with a minimum of delay should be the main objective of the Postmaster-General’s Department.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Postmaster-General’s Department will move to make available this facility to the public.
Your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Bennett.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned electors of the Division of Flinders respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should acknowledge the right of every Australian child to equal per capita grants of Government money spent on education.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Lynch.
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:
That the undersigned men and women of Australia believe in a Christian way of life; and that no democracy can thrive unless its citizens are responsible and law abiding.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will see that the powerful communicator, television, is used to build into the nation those qualities of character which make a democracy work - integrity, teamwork and a sense of purpose by serving, and that television be used to bring faith in God to the heart of the family and national life.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Mulder.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he recalls saying in his policy speech last November:
Our first help for State programs will be to implement, for all States, the recommendation of the Victorian Decentralisation Committee that ‘centres nominated for accelerated development be recognised for telephone charging purposes as extensions of the metropolitan area whereby rentals would be equated and calls between these places and the capital charged as for local calls’.
In our first term of office, a Federal Labor Government will concentrate its own initiatives and endeavours on two areas - Albury-Wodonga and Townsville.
What has happened to this promise? Have not telephone charges been increased rather than decreased in these areas? Was this promise just a political gimmick which can be safely forgotten now that the election is over?
– The Postmaster-General will answer the question.
– It is true that it was clearly indicated in the policy speech of the Prime Minister that consideration would be given to telephone charges in growth centres nominated by State governments. I think the only growth centre which has so far been nominated is Albury-Wodonga. Obviously this could not be dealt with in isolation. The overriding consideration in this whole situation is the fact that one of the terms of reference of the Commission of Inquiry into the Australian Post Office relates to urban and regional growth centres. Following the receipt of that Commission’s report, which is expected about March next year, I have no doubt that the Government will be able to implement ite promise in this field.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is a fact that Sir Robert Askin, the Premier of New South Wales, stated on 30 August 1973 that his Government had no power to stop Mr Alexander Barton from leaving Australia. Is it a fact that the New South Wales Government made no approaches to the Australian Government to have this man stopped from leaving the country? If both these propositions are true, can the Minister assure the House that the Australian Government will act at the request of the New South Wales Government to prevent other directors of the Barton group of companies from leaving Australia?
– I believe that Sir Robert Askin, the Premier of New South Wales, did make a statement to the effect that neither- he nor the New South Wales Government had the power to stop citizens from leaving Australia. That is true. I believe that some reference was made - I am not sure whether the Premier made the statement himself - to the fact that no attempt was made to stop Alexander Barton leaving Australia. I might say that no request was received by the Australian Department of Immigration to prevent the departure of this man, and certainly no request was received from the Government of New South Wales.
The honourable member asks whether if any request is made it will be considered. The entitlement of Australian citizens to passports is a basic right. If they are ever to be withheld it must be on the basis of information from very responsible authorities relating to crime and/ or the security of the nation. If we received a considered request from the head of a State government, for example, for action on these lines we would give it every consideration. If criminality was involved, of course we would give the fullest possible cooperation whenever we were asked.
– My question, which I address to the Prime Minister, concerns the judgment given by the International Court of Justice relating to this country’s application for an injunction to restrain France from nuclear testing. Does the honourable gentleman agree that his release of what appeared to be the details of the judgment in advance of the actual release by the Court has put the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, who sat on the International
Court, in a very difficult position - one of embarrassment. If the honourable gentlemen does acknowledge that, will he detail to the House the circumstances whereby he became acquainted with the details of the Court’s judgment?
– I did not become aware of the Court’s judgment before it was delivered. I regret reports of a passing remark I made as a lawyer, among lawyers, at a legal dinner in speculating, as lawyers do, on the possible close outcome of this case. One television commentator even said that there could be no doubt that I had got information from Australia’s representative on the Court, as he described him - the Chief Justice of Australia. I had not received any information from the Chief Justice directly or indirectly as to the result of the voting by the Court. In fact, I had had no communication with the Chief Justice between the time that I asked him whether he would accept nomination as judge ad hoc and some days after the publication of the Court’s judgment when he wrote to me personally. I might add that the television station has apologised to the Chief Justice for this newscast.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the Australian Government approved plans in mid-July to transfer 10,000 public servants and in other ways to improve efficiency in the Australian Public Service - well before members of the Opposition commenced making their hollow noises on this subject? Is it also a fact that the Public Service itself suffered over 20 years of neglect by the previous Government and welcomes these moves as evidenced by what was said by one of its union leaders on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s AM’ program this morning?
– I notice that some noises have been made by the Opposition by way of condemning the possible increase of the Australian Public Service by 5 per cent in this financial year. The critics are some experts on this matter because there was in 1965-66 an increase of 5.21 per cent in the Australian Public Service. The following year there was an increase of 5.49 per cent and in 1969-70, an increase of 5.54 per cent. I very much doubt whether in this year there will be as large an increase in the numbers of the Australian Public Service as there were in those years. Perhaps I might tell the House that, in the course of considering the Coombs task force report, the Cabinet directed that the Public Service Board should inquire specifically into action being taken by departments which prove to be concerned with recommendations approved in the course of Cabinet’s consideration of the Coombs report in order to ensure that manpower savings are achieved and the staff involved transferred to priority areas of the administration. The Public Service Board has been directed to make its first report before the end of November.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. Is it true that within the next few days the Government will announce a major Commonwealth redevelopment and construction program at Parramatta? Is this announcement, on the eve of the Parramatta by-election, designed to buy back support from the people of west Sydney after the gross blunder of the Government’s decision to put an airport at Galston? In view of soaring inflation which is now gripping the economy, is not such a decision to spend more public funds on vote catching schemes sheer irresponsibility?
– A decision was made by Cabinet approximately 2 months ago to acquire a site at Parramatta for an Australian Government centre. This will replace the Commonwealth centre that was to have been located at Woolloomooloo and, of course, it is in conformity with the policy of the Australian Labor Party, set out by our Leader before the last elections, that we would locate a major Australian Government centre at Parramatta. We took this decision in the early part of this Parliament. We had an investigation made and acquired that site. The decision is in line with our philosophy. For too long Australian governments have concentrated on the overcentralisation of Sydney’s central business district. They permitted insurance companies and foreign investors to invest in the central business district. I instance the redevelopment of Woolloomooloo, Kings Cross, the Rocks area and North Sydney. This type of overcentralisation would create only greater prob lems in the sprawl of Sydney and therefore we decided as a matter of policy in the field or urban affairs to establish a rational transport system. We thought that by establishing a rational transport system we could use areas such as Parramatta, Penrith, Liverpool and Campbelltown as a catalyst to achieve a balanced development of the Sydney area.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Would the honourable gentleman make a statement after question time?
-Order! I have appealed to those asking questions and to Ministers answering them to be as brief as possible.
– I respect your request, Mr Speaker, and I will make my reply as brief as possible. Consequently, in line with our policy of subsidising the States on a S2 for SI basis to assist them with their urban public transport systems, we are using Parramatta as a catalyst to try to create a new growth centre not only from the point of view of placing Australian public servants there and attracting commercial investment there but also from the point of view of fostering Parramatta as a cultural centre.
– I remind the Minister for Health that the pharmacy ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory has been changed so that it now allows any preventive of contraception, other than those contraceptives requiring a prescription, to be sold by any person instead of only by pharmacists as formerly. I ask: What assurance can the Minister give to the House that the advice on techniques of usage provided by the professional pharmacist will still be available to purchasers?
– The whole question of the labelling of therapeutic medical goods, patent foods, and medicines and so on is under review by many committees in which my Department is concerned. At present a pamphlet is being drafted for supply to chemists, family planning centres and others interested to give the average citizen a brief account of the methods of family planning available, their reliability and the precautions necessary for people who use them. The honourable member’s question relates specifically to the labelling of these goods. I will obtain details and provide them to him in my reply.
– I preface my question, which I direct to the Minister for Defence, by informing him that townspeople and primary producers along both sides of the Murray River system have been striving for days to contain the worst floods in that area in living history. Thousands of acres of farming land have already been inundated but to date stock losses have been minimal owing to the complete co-operation of shire, police, State Rivers and Water Supply Commission and all other State authorities working with local volunteers. However, today the districts of Kerang and Swan Hill are facing a renewed and critical threat and I ask the Minister: If a request is forthcoming from civil defence officials who are meeting this morning will he make available Army support to the hundreds of exhausted volunteers who are reaching the end of their physical endurance patrolling and reinforcing flood protection measures?
– I have read a report that it is intended to request Army authorities to provide support and assistance in the Kerang and Swan Hill areas. The Australian Government, as its predecessors have done, has always recognised that a contribution can be made by defence forces when a national disaster occurs. In this situation if a request is received from the Victorian civil defence authorities, the Victorian Government, or indeed the honourable member, I will be happy to give it consideration and to ensure that support is available if it can be used for that purpose.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise whether, in view of the scandal and imputations surrounding the Bally poker machine company of the United States, he will bar further imports of its poker machines or their parts into Australia.
– It is true that in Sydney at present a judicial investigation is being conducted into matters associated with registered clubs. One of the matters under consideration is suggested criminal activities associated with the importation of poker machines. The honourable member has raised an important matter which comes under the control of the federal authorities administering imports of goods. I undertake to have a look at the matter this day and advise the honourable member further.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a speech made by me on 30 August in this place in which I addressed myself to the question of the High Court and section 72 of the Constitution? Does the Prime Minister recall his criticism in 1955 of the High Court and his statement that he regarded the resignations in 1950 of Mr Justice Rich and Mr Justice Stark ‘as flagrant examples of where resignations were withheld until there was a change of government’? Does he consider that there is another example of this at the moment? Will the Prime Minister consider holding a referendum in order to bring about a retiring age for High Court judges and further consider a minimum age before appointment? Does he recall his statement in 1955 that ‘counsel is less concerned with the Constitution than with the composition of the court’? Finally, does he agree that such a comment gives every thinking Australian cause for concern and may be the explanation why many Australians are concerned that the right of appeal to the Privy Council is to be abolished?
– I am very glad that the honourable gentleman did have my attention drawn to his speech. I would not like to have overlooked it. It was a splendid speech which mostly comprised quotations from earlier speeches by myself. The honourable gentleman asks me whether I believe that there is another example on the High Court at the moment comparable to the examples of 1950 which I had mentioned and to which the honourable member referred. No, I do not. The 2 judges who retired in 1950 after the election had gone on long leave before the election. There is no case at the moment of any members of the High Court having not been active, and continuously active, for years past - in fact, I believe, since the time they were appointed.
The honourable member then asks me whether I believe that there should be a referendum to fix an age limit for justices of the High Court. He is correct in saying that a referendum would have to be held if there were to be a retiring age for justices of the High Court or, in fact, for judges of any Federal courts other than Territory courts. There is already a retiring age for judges of all State superior courts. Earlier Australian governments have without opposition fixed a retiring age for judges of Territory superior courts and for the legal members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I have no doubt there would be a universal sentiment in favour of having a retiring age for all judges. It is invidious that it should be left to a single individual to determine whether he is still able to do the very onerous and important jobs which judges have to do, particularly on the High Court. However, I am bound to say that I believe that there are more urgent matters for referendums than this. When a referendum is put to permit the Parliament to apply a retiring age to Federal judges, I imagine that the opportunity could be taken also to amend the Constitution to permit the High Court to give advisory opinions, as the Supreme Court of Canada can.
The honourable member for Griffith lastly asks me if I believe that there is an argument for preserving appeals to the Privy Council. I have never thought that there was an argument for preserving appeals to the Privy Council. The founders of the Australian Constitution did not want any appeals to go beyond the High Court of Australia. They were, however, forced by the British to include a provision in the Constitution providing for certain limited appeals. Previous governments, without any opposition, have sponsored and the Parliament has passed legislation limiting appeals from the High Court to the Privy Council. However, it is still possible for appeals to go from State supreme courts to the Privy Council, at least with respect to matters of dispute between” citizens or between citizens and State governments. If there are disputes between State governments and the Australian Government they cannot go beyond the High Court.
I have never been able to understand why State governments should wish to have an appeal from supreme courts, which they have appointed, in disputes between their citizens or between them and their citizens. I believe that the case for having the whole of the judicial process confined within Australia is unanswerable. I cannot readily think of any comparable country where it is possible to have appeals from the courts of that country to courts which sit in another country, which are composed of judges appointed by the government of that other country and the decisions of which take the form of advice to the head of government of that other country. I believe that we should assert the principle, which every other comparable country acknowledges, that it is fitting that disputes between citizens or between citizens and governments should be determined by courts sitting in that country and composed of citizens of that country.
– The understandings with the States on the matter of assistance for the education of isolated children have actually been the work of officers of the Commonwealth Department of Education and the State education departments. I had the impression that New South Wales did not have a scheme of assistance for isolated children at all and that assistance was given to isolated children on the basis of their winning scholarships but not on the basis of remote residential location. We did not ask any State to vacate the field if it was taking action to assist the education of isolated children. On the contrary, I asked that those who were giving a measure of assistance should continue to do so. We were particularly concerned about those States which gave a measure of assistance for residents in hostels, because the physical provision of boarding facilities was very important. Certainly no State was asked to move over.
– Does the Prime Minister accept that when the interest rate on Commonwealth bonds rises by 1 per cent the loss in the capital value of the bonds held is 10 per centum? Does he therefore accept that those persons who collectively contributed S239m to the July Commonwealth loan - Mr Speaker, the question is addressed to the Prime Minister, not the Treasurer - have lost almost $40m of their capital asset in 2 months? Does he accept that literally hundreds of millions of dollars have been lost in the capital value of Commonwealth bonds held by superannuation funds and insurance companies which provide bonuses for policy holders? Does he accept these things and does he therefore agree that a tremendous burden is falling upon the ordinary man and woman in this community as a result of the Government’s policy announced last Sunday?
– The Treasurer will answer.
– I believe that this question properly ought to have been addressed to me, and 1 think the way it has been asked indicates the colossal ignorance of the Leader of the Opposition, a former Treasurer, about the operation of the bond market. The bonds that were issued in July were a firm contract with the person who took them both as to interest rate and as to the length of time for which he would hold them. Some of the persons who will lose by selling bonds are those who were prepared to manipulate the market for their own advantage and debase everybody else’s money standard. A superannuation fund is not a short-term dealer in securities; it is a long-term holder of securities. Those securities taken out in July, provided they are held to the date of their maturity, will return to the holder what he expected to receive.
– Has the Treasurer’s attention heen drawn to an editorial in today’s ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ which criticises the decision to make pensions taxable concurrent with the abolition of the means test and which asserts that the Treasurer’s description of the age allowance as anomalous was without any supporting argument? Can the Treasurer elaborate on the reasons for abolition of the age allowance? Will he also comment on the statement by the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ that the result of measures announced in the Budget will be that many aged persons will pay what it says is a good deal more tax against which the new tax rebate of $156 will be inadequate compensation? Can the Treasurer make available a factual summary of the anticipated result of the combined Budget measures on these matters?
-Order! The section of the question asking for a comment or opinion is out of order.
– Might I answer the last part of the question first.
– And briefly.
– I can be brief and sometimes I am. Brevity may be the soul of wit but it does not always disclose all the facts. In view of the concern of many honourable members about the operation of the new means test provisions and the decision now to make the pension taxable - I might say that was the intention of the previous Government, and there will be some anomolies in its introduction, as there always are - I have prepared a statement that will be available after question time to all members, senators, the Press and anybody else who is interested. It attempts to delineate the operations of the new provisions.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Do the vicious increases in postal and telephone charges, particularly those relating to country areas, disregard completely the fundamental elements of decentralisation? Did the Secretary of the Department of Urban and Regional Development recently propose to the Post Office Commission of Inquiry, on behalf of his department, that higher telephone charges be instituted in capital cities in order to make possible a reduction in the charges in country areas as an incentive to decentralisation? Is the Government concerned with decentralisation or not, and will the Postmaster-General say whether he will call for Treasury subvention of funds for his Department to reinstate previous concessions for non-metropolitan areas to give some equity to this section of the community, or take action along the lines advocated by the Department of Urban and Regional Development? If not, is he content to do nothing to relieve the burden on country areas which he and the present Government have created?
– No tirade of abuse this time.
– Well, no interjections. In answer to the honourable member, dealing with that part of the question which relates to a submission that was made to the Commission of Inquiry into the Post Office by the Urban and Regional Development group, I understand that that submission was made in the context that it would relate to designated growth centres. Following upon a question asked here earlier by the honourable member for Farrer, I say that when there is designation of the growth centres by the various State Governments and the acceptance of them, there will be an opportunity to implement the facility of granting concessions on a decentralisation basis. That will be done.
As to the other part of the honourable member’s question which suggests that there is an imposition simply because people are in the country, that is not so. For example, pensioners receive the same pension rate in the country as they do in the city. Of course the previous Government discriminated against them on that basis. Further, the telephone concessions in the rural areas are mainly associated with primary production, which means that the charges are tax deductible. That advantage is not granted to city people. What was done and what is proposed to be done is merely to adjust the differential between the rentals so that the people who have the same access to the automatic telephone service will pay the same rental. From the point of view of economics the cost of providing services in the country is much greater that it is in the city.
The honourable member might look at the situation that he created when he wanted to put so much more money into country telephone lines and to finance it by increasing city rentals. That is not our proposition at all. We want to do it on the basis of what is fair and reasonable. It is true that there is a rapid growth in telephone communications. There is a problem in the country areas. They require much more money at this stage. There has been an imbalance in the sense that so much money has been spent on the basis that there could not be any return, with an overriding Treasury burden of paying interest on it. As has been said here already, since 1970 the previous Government devoted S30m to a country telephone lines policy. We are paying interest on that amount and are now losing over Sim a year. This cannot go on.
The Opposition’s only approach to the problem was continually to increase tariffs both in postal and telecommunications without any consideration of how it was going to finance the policies on an economic basis. That is not the present Government’s policy. A solution is not easy. The matter has been submitted to the Royal Commission for its findings.
– Why do you not wait until the Commission gives its verdict?
– In answer to the interjection which the honourable member is so prone to make so often-
– I have to against you because of your bias against country people.
– Why do you not get up and ask a question? From the point of view of the Commission, we have not really dealt with the whole tariff structure because we recognise that the Commission will make findings in that regard. When the Commission’s report is available we will introduce those findings to this Parliament.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Northern Territory. I preface my question by saying that over a period of years disturbing reports have appeared in the Press concerning conditions in such prisons as Fannie Bay gaol, particularly affecting Aborigines. I therefore ask: What is the present state of the prison system in the Northern Territory? Apart from the prisons as such, is it acknowledged that there is a need for penal reform in the Northern Territory? If so, what action is being taken to bring about reform?
– Of course, what the honourable member says about the continuance of reports of unsatisfactory features of the Northern Territory prison system is quite correct. About 5 months ago I asked the Department of the Northern Territory to see whether we could arrange for Professor Gordon Hawkins of the University of Sydney, who is well known for his skill, expertise and erudition in this field, to investigate the penal system in the Northern Territory. He has completed that report, together with the assistance of Dr Misner who has had extensive experience in the United States. The report has not been studied in great depth at this stage but it does reveal a very depressing and unfortunate state of affairs which again should not surprise us because it is yet another example of the defective systems we have inherited from the previous Government. Professor Hawkins makes the point that the penal system is dehumanising, debasing and an essentially destructive experience and that a large majority of prisoners are Aboriginal Australians. One estimate is that approximately 75 per cent of the people in gaol in the Northern Territory are there for the offence of public drunkenness. This is a form of behaviour that many believe should not be considered as criminal at all and should be taken out of the area of criminal law. If the estimate that some 75 per cent of people in gaol in the Northern Territory are there for public drunkenness is correct and a very large percentage of them are Aboriginal people it is a depressing picture which emerges from the report.
Certain recommendations have been made for the replacement of Fannie Bay gaol and I have asked my Department to do everything possible to see that the gaol at Fannie Bay is removed by the middle of next year. The Department pointed out that that might not be possible but that it would try to accomplish this by the middle of 1975. This involves making other arrangements. At the moment there is still one unfortunate feature of the penal system in the Northern Territory - again one which we inherited from the previous Government. It is that white Australians who receive a penalty of more than, I think, 18 months go south to the Adelaide prison system while Aboriginal Australians do not. This is a beautiful example of racial discrimination, one which we are hoping to bring to an end. Of course, the problem is the provision of alternative facilities. It takes time to build new establishments. We have a prison farm at Gun Point and are hoping that when Fannie Bay goes there will be another open type prison farm housing, in accordance with the Hawkins report, no more than 60 people. These are some of the most depressing features of the system which we are determined to solve. The Legislative Council of the Northern Territory is aware of the problem and has set up a committee. We will await its report. The honourable member is correct in what he said and something will be done to put the situation right.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he is committed to using selective interest rates particularly in areas such as housing. What does he expect to be the interest rate on a mortgage with the bond rate at 8.6 per cent? What is the extra cost in weekly payments for a mortgage of $12,500 with the increased interest rate which would flow from an 8.6 per cent bond rate?
– I was just working out-
– Do you think it is a joke?
– No, he is the joke. The honourable gentleman asked an earlier question in which he mentioned some particular bond interest rate. Of course, he must know - it is not so long ago and he should not have forgotten - that one cannot state what the interest rate on bonds will be.
– I rise to order. I did not ask what would be the future rate of interest on bonds. The market closed yesterday at 8.6 per cent and I asked what the Prime Minister therefore expected the interest rate on mortgages to be.
-Order! There is no point of order.
– I regret having to be so elementary in answering the right honourable gentleman. He did speculate on the interest rate on bonds. He should know, as I believe all other honourable gentlemen know, that the interest-
– Do not evade the question. Give an answer. People are entitled to know how much it is going to cost them.
-Order! The right honourable the Leader of the Opposition will come to order.
– People are entitled to know. Give them an answer.
-Order! The House will come to order. I will take appropriate action if necessary.
– I understand that people are breathing down the right honourable gentleman’s neck but I wish he would not puff at me. The interest rate on bonds is determined by the Australian Loan Council on which the Australian Government has 2 votes and every State government has one vote, and in the case of an even division of votes the Australian Government has a casting vote. I believe that the Loan Council has not considered the interest rate on bonds. The right honourable gentleman asked me about the interest rate on mortgages. The banking system determines the interest rate on mortgages which it receives and the banking system has not made a decision on this matter. If it makes a decision through the Reserve Bank of Australia the Parliament can override it. The interest rate which private mortgagees charge is, I regret to say, beyond the power of this Parliament.
– Will the Minister for Housing inform the House what further progress has been made in proposals to develop the 18 acres of Belmont Shire land which was resumed for defence purposes but has since been declared redundant for defence and is now required by the Belmont Shire for aged persons housing? Can the Minister give a clear indication of what the overall development will be and the population density of aged and young people if in fact this is to take place at all? When will a final desision be given on whether the land will be returned to the Belmont Shire or developed by the Commonwealth? Would any advantage be gained by shire representatives coming to Canberra to interview the Ministers concerned in this matter?
– This matter was previously raised by the honourable member and by Senator Cant and Senator Wilkinson from another place. Subsequent to discussions I had with the Minister for Services and Property I visited the site referred to in the Belmont area which had been acquired by the Commonwealth, I think in the war years. I met the Mayor and the Town Clerk and discussed the general proposition that the Commonwealth might join in a partnership with the local government authority and the State Government to develop this area in a desirable way in respect of the housing needs of students, pensioners, ex-servicemen, young married couples and others. Since that time I have caused an account of our discusions to be conveyed to my colleague the Minister for Urban and Regional Development for evaluation. At present I am awaiting his views on this subject. One thing is certain, the Council representatives who were in attendance at the discussions seemed to have quite a reasonable attitude to the proposition that I put and there seems no doubt that if we do go on to effect an arrangement to develop this site with the support of the Commonwealth we will achieve a type of development which would be exemplary and which would set the pace for similar CommonwealthState partnership development in the future.
Mr Snedden- Squib!
-Order! The right honourable member for Lowe will come to order. No further business of the House will be conducted until such time as the House comes to order. I think the word ‘squib’ as it was used by the Leader of the Opposition is unparliamentary and I ask him to withdraw it.
– Mr Speaker, I have no knowledge of it being unparliamentary.
– Order! I ask the Leader of the Opposition to consider withdrawing the word because of the manner in which it was spoken. It is not so much a matter of the word itself.
Opposition members - Oh!
-I would like to remind honourable members of an incident that occurred in the last sessional period when the phrase ‘you ought to be ashamed of yourself was used. On another occasion one of my predecessors, Sir John McLeay, asked the then Leader of the Opposition, Arthur Calwell, to withdraw something he had said and Arthur Calwell had to withdraw what he had said or he would have been named. If honourable members want to see the record of what occurred on that occasion I will get it for them. The matter now before the Chair is one for my determination. I believe that the word was used in an offensive manner, and I ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw it.
– My understanding of the word ‘squib’-
– I take a point of order. I ask whether the Leader of the Opposition, when he is called upon by you to withdraw a word or a statement made by him, is entitled to rise and canvass your ruling, to pout his lips, flicker his eye lashes and put his eyebrows up and down as though he is on television.
-Order! I call the Leader of the Opposition.
– Mr Speaker, as I understand it you have ruled that the word ‘squib’ is unparliamentary. My understanding of the word ‘squib’ can best be described in the context of a catherine wheel attached to a wall, in which the fusing process does not work, and which stops on the wall as a dead thing. Another example would be j skyrocket which does not go up when one lights it but which just falls out of the launcher. That is precisely what has happened to the Prime Minister. He has disclosed an incompetence on economics though it affects everybody in this country, and that is a damp squib.
– I live in the silvertail suburb of Redfern and that is a fighting word in Redfern. I believe that it was the manner in which the word was uttered that was offensive. I realise that tempers are likely to be frayed, but if a person, irrespective of whether he is the Prime Minister or a private member, thinks that he has been offended my predecessors and I have always asked the person making the comment to withdraw it. I believe it is incumbent upon the Leader of the Opposition to do so now.
– In deference to the extraordinary sensitivity of the Prime Minister I will withdraw that word. I replace it with the words ‘damp squib’. That is just what he is - a damp squib.
– Pursuant to section 122 of the Repatriation Act 1920-1973 I present the annual report, of the Repatriation Commission for the year ended 30 June 1973.
– Pursuant to section 28 of the Dried Fruits Export Control Act 1924-1966, I present the forty-ninth annual report of the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board for the year ended 30 June 1973.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Poultry Industry Assistance Act 1965-1966, I present the eighth annual report on the operation of the Act for the year ended 30 June 1973.
– I present the report by the Tariff Board on the following subject:
Metallised planar forms of vinyl chloride - by-law, dated 18 June 1973.
-Order! The honourable member for Warringah yesterday rose on what he termed was a question of privilege and asserted that if, as the Prime Minister had earlier indicated in an answer to a question, honourable members will not be allowed to travel to Taiwan on their official passports, he would ask that the matter be referred to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Privileges. I stated that it might be advisable for the Prime Minister to read in Hansard the matter of privilege raised by the honourable member for Warringah and, if the honourable member did not get a satisfactory answer the matter could be looked at again.
It is difficult to see any connection between the matter raised and parliamentary privilege. In general terms the privilege of Parliament relates to any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions or which obstructs or impedes any member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty. In relation to parliamentary privilege, the relationship of the act in question with the work of the House itself is fundamental. On page 66 of May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’ it states: . . fundamentally it is only as a means to the effective discharge of the functions of the House that individual privileges ore enjoyed by its Members. The Commons, in their reasons offered at a conference with the Lords in a controversy arising from the case of Shirley v. Fagg, in asserting that privilege of Parliament belongs to every Member of the House of Common1!, declared, ‘that the reason of that Privilege is, th:it the Members of the House of Commons may freely attend the public affairs of that Mouse, without disturbance or interruption.’
No cases similar to that raised by the honourable member for Warringah have been uncovered in May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’ or the records of the House.
– 1 think this matter arose due to a lack of clarification in the answer given by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and you, in your statement yesterday, Mr Speaker, said that if the Prime Minister were to read Hansard, in view of the matter-
-Order! I should like to enlighten the honourable member for Warringah in regard to his rights in this matter. If a matter of privilege is to he raised it cannot proceed and be given precedence over all other business unless, in the opinion of the Chair, a prima facie case of a breach of privilege has been made out. I suggest that if the honourable member wants to talk about it, he should put a notice of motion on the notice paper.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The crux of the matter is the prima facie matter of privilege, in the opinion of the Chair. You, Mr Speaker, will form an opinion after considering all the facts and since the forming of an opinion is germane to the procedure, surely honourable members should be entitled to speak to you now so as to help you in forming that opinion. There’ is one point which I think may have escaped your attention, Mr Speaker. This House has for
Australia the responsibility in regard to foreign affairs. It is very important that honourable members should have the full facility to give to this House their advice or their views after having ascertained the facts as best they can. It may well be that in an important matter like this, it is part of the privilege of members, which is germane to their discharge of what is probably their most important duty in this House, to be able to visit freely countries overseas, relations with which are important.
-Order! The honourable member for Mackellar is now debating the subject matter. The honourable member for Warringah will not be stifled in any way if he puts a notice of motion on the notice paper. As has already been outlined by the Leader of the House these notices will be dealt with accordingly and every opportunity will be given to the person moving a notice of motion to speak to that motion. No endeavour will be made in any way to stifle the honourable member.
– I raise a point of order. My decision whether to put the matter on the notice paper bears very largely on the answer that the Prime Minister gives to the question whether members of Parliament on official passports will be allowed to visit Taiwan. He has not said that they will not be allowed. Before I can make a decision on placing the matter on the notice paper I need to know from the Prime Minister whether members of Parliament are to be prevented from travelling to Taiwan on official passports.
-I should like to make it perfectly clear that I have no control over what the Prime Minister does in answering questions. That is his own prerogative. However. I am concerned with whether matters of privilege are involved. No matter of privilege is involved in this question. That is my ruling.
– On the matter-
-Order! Are you taking a point of order?
– I want to raise a matter related to your ruling.
– That is a point of order.
– It is in point, yes. Passports issued by the previous Government contain the clause: ‘Not valid for travel to East Germany,
Mainland China, North Korea, or North Vietnam’. On the opposite page appears in red type: ‘The bearer is a member of the House of Representatives of Australia.’ I suggest that that practice should clear up any matter of privilege.
– Order! You are debating the pros and cons of the question. I am concerned with whether it is a matter of privilege. My ruling is that it is not a matter of privilege.
– Mr Speaker, did you yesterday suggest that the Prime Minister should read Hansard? Did he in fact read Hansard and answer the question you suggested he should answer?
– It is correct that I suggested that, but I restate that I have no control over whether the Prime Minister answers a question.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Royal Style and Titles Bill 1973.
Commonwealth Teaching Service Bill 1973.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. During question time today the Treasurer in answering a question regarding the means test and the age tax allowance implied that what the present Government proposes is only what the previous Government had proposed. As the Minister in the previous Government primarily responsible for the means test and things related to it I can say that that statement is factually wrong. The previous Government had no intention of abolishing the aged persons tax allowance and any implication by the Treasurer in that regard is utterly and completely wrong. I want to clear up that misrepresentation.
– If I may make clear-
– Order! Are you seeking the indulgence of the House?
– Yes. I want to make clear that it was the intention of the previous Government when the means test was being abolished to make the pension taxable. Whether the previous Government varied the age allowance was incidental to the proposition.
– That is not incidental.
– This is misrepresentation of the position entirely and the Treasurer is deliberately trying to cover up the truth.
– I did not think that he would stoop to this kind of misrepresentation.
– Order! The honourable member for Mackellar has a great habit of ignoring the Chair. I asked for order on several occasions while he was on his feet. The honourable member had no right to speak as he did not have the call. He must have the call before he is allowed to address the House and I ask him to bear that in mind.
– I thank you for your guidance, Mr Speaker.
Bill presened by Mr Hayden, and read a first time.
– I move:
This is another Bill in the series being introduced in this session to improve welfare services for elderly people. The first such Bill 1 introduced this session was the Aged Persons Homes Bill, under which the rate of personal care subsidy payable to voluntary organisations conducting hostels for the aged is being increased and the conditions of eligibility widened. The second measure, as honourable members will recall, was the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill, under which it is proposed to increase the rate of subsidy payable to Meals on Wheels services and to make these grants on a quarterly basis, instead of annually. The Bill I now place before the House increases the assistance payable to the States under the States Grants (Home Care) Act.
This Act was introduced in 1969 on the basis of a recommendation made at the 1968 Health Ministers Conference. In broad terms the Principal Act provides three forms of assistance: Firstly, for home care service schemes which provide housekeeping and other domestic assistance for aged people in their own homes; secondly, for the building of senior citizens’ centres; and thirdly, for the employment of welfare officers employed by, or in association with, senior citizens’ centres. Whilst the intent of this legislation was worthwhile, as far as aged persons are concerned, the evidence has been that the programs it sponsored have been slow moving and really, on objective assessment, not anywhere near as successful as the last Minister for Social Services had hoped. In 1969 the previous Minister said: . . Estimates of initial Commonwealth expenditure under the Bill are $lm a year - and we hope it will be exceeded. We do not regard this program as an end, but rather as a beginning.
In the event, the total actual expenditure for the 4 years since then is as set out in a table which I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– The purpose of this Bill, therefore, is to infuse extra funds into the present home care program by providing a more generous basis upon which finance is made available. It is hoped that this step, which is undeniably quite generous, will prove an incentive to an accentuated development of home care program services. This is in accordance with one of the recommendations made in the First Annual Report of the Interim Committee of the Social Welfare Commission which I tabled in the House recently.
The first of the 3 main provisions of the Bill relates to the financial assistance provided by the Australian Government for home care service schemes - in other words housekeeper and other domestic assistance which helps to keep aged people in their own community for as long as possible. The Medical Journal of Australia in an editorial dated 4 November 1972 stated that 25 per cent of patients in nursing homes had no clinical reason for being there. This is a disturbing situation. It indicates that something like 13,000 people were in nursing homes last year who should not have been there on any objective clinical basis. Of course there are a number of reasons why this happens, and not the least of the reasons are those associated with certain commercial motives related to the supply of nursing home services. There are other reasons too and I have often referred to them; for example, the inadequacy and often total absence of suitable domiciliary services which allow people to remain in their homes.
If an aged person can live independently in the home through the provision of domiciliary services then physically and mentally that person is much better off and so is the community in which that person lives. There are economic advantages too. The economic advantages are always important but nowhere near as important as social and personal aspects. In this case, all of these aspects give a positive reading in support of the development of domiciliary programs; that is socially, personally and economically individuals in the community gain from an adequate development of domiciliary care services. It is our purpose to observe the progress of this innovation in the home care program, to establish whether it is successful in encouraging an accentuated development of such services in the community. If it fails to achieve this we will take prompt action to develop alternative ways of achieving this end.
The principal Act provides for State government expenditure on such schemes to be shared by the Australian Government on a$1 for $1 basis. The amending Bill enables this subsidy to be increased from one-half to two-thirds of State expenditure. To ensure that the additional subsidy is used to expand home care services, however, and not to reduce the State’s contribution, it will be a condition of the increased subsidy that the State’s own expenditure must not be reduced below its level in respect of the financial year 1972-73. As an example, if a State’s gross expenditure on home care services in 1972-73 was §500,000, the Australian Government would, under the existing Act, have paid the State §250,000. The State’s net expenditure would then, of course, also have been §250,000.
Under the proposed amendment if the State’s gross expenditure for 1973-74 is between $500,000 and $750,000 the subsidy will be the amount of the State’s gross expenditure less $250,000. The full two-thirds subsidy would not be payable because such payment would reduce the State’s net expenditure below the 1972-73 level of $250,000. But if- we hope that this is what will happen - the State raises its gross expenditure to $750,000 or above, the Australian Government will reimburse the State to the full extent of the two-thirds permitted under the Bill because the State’s net expenditure, after reciving the subsidy, would not have fallen below its 1972-73 level of $250,000. But the Federal Government will, in effect, be bearing the full additional cost of expanding the services until that stage is reached. The cost of this measure will therefore be governed by the extent of the States’ response. However, an amount of $ 1.075m is being appropriated for this item for 1973-74.
The second provision of the Bill now before the House concerns senior citizens centres. The principal Act provides for the Australian Government to contribute up to one-third of the capital cost of such centres on a matching basis with State or local government expenditure. The amending Bill doubles the Australian Government’s contribution to $2 for every $1 contributed by the State government or the local governing body. In other words, our contribution will in future amount to twice the State or local government contribution, or two-thirds of the approved capital cost, whichever is the less. I thank the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) for the helpful advice and guidance that he has given the Government in formulating these improvements. The increased rate of subsidy will apply to all senior citizens’ centre projects to which approval has been given under the Act since 22 August 1973, the day after the date of the Treasurer’s announcement. This measure is expected to cost $1.2m in 1973-74.
With your indulgence, Mr Speaker, I would like at this stage to make a few general comments concerning senior citizens centres. The role that I would like to see these centres playing in the community is that of a base from which a more comprehensive range of services could be provided for the aged people of the districts. Services such as meals-on-wheels, housekeeper and other domestic assistance, emergency transport, shopping, gardening, hairdressing, chiropody, mobile library, general counselling, and even home nursing and paramedical services, could well be based on, or organised from, a senior citizens centre. The Act enables rooms for the use of such services to be included for subsidy. Whilst many senior citizens centres do, in fact, provide a number of these services, I have noted over the years I have served in this Parliament that, on the other hand, many serve only as social or recreational clubs and are not integrated with other services for the aged in the community. I have further noted that some such centres are being largely monopolised by particular aged persons groups, or treated as clubs and open to members only. To my mind this is quite wrong. All aged persons within the local area should be encouraged to feel that the centre is there for their use. Similarly it should be available for use by all aged persons organisations. This is a matter to which I am giving consideration, and I am expecting advice on this subject from my Department in the near future.
The third provision of the Bill concerns assistance towards the employment of welfare officers. Section 10 of the principal Act provides that where a person is employed as a welfare officer of a senior citizens centre wholly or mainly in connection with the provision of approved welfare services by or in association with the centre, the Australian Government may pay an amount equal to one-half of the welfare officer’s salary. In order further to encourage and assist the provision of the welfare services to which I have previously referred, the amending Bill increases the Australian Government’s subsidy from one-half to two-thirds of the salary paid to appropriate welfare officers. This measure will also take effect from the day after the date of the Treasurer’s announcement, namely 22 August 1973. An amount of $130,000 has been appropriated for this purpose.
If I could interpolate one final comment, Mr Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the representations 1 have received regarding the fact that this subsidy for welfare officers is restricted under the terms of the Act to welfare officers engaged wholly or mainly in connection with the provision of welfare services for the aged. I am unhappy about the fragmented arrangement where several departments each sponsor welfare services. For example the Departments of Immigration, Repatriation and Social Security each give assistance in restricted, or largely restricted ways, which deprive the great bulk of the community from the benefit of such services. I regard this situation as most unsatisfactory and so does the Government.
I would prefer to see the welfare services which are at present being provided exclusively for elderly people expanded and made available for everybody in need of advice or assistance, irrespective of age. This calls for the development of an integrated program of welfare services, complementary to income support programs and the welfarerelated aspects of health, education, housing, employment, migration and other social policies. This is the broad aim of the Australian assistance plan, as shown in the discussion paper I recently tabled in the House and which attracted support from all sides. In short, I see this proposal as a bridging step. It is certainly a generously improved program compared to what has gone before but is only a stopgap measure pending the development of more comprehensive integrated and adequately planned measures to ensure that the aged and indeed every other section in the community have easy access to a comprehensive range of welfare services. I repeat, this is the purpose of the Australian assistance plan which is undeniably the most significant step taken in the field of social welfare in the history of this country. Of course, I will be supplying more details of this program later. Pending the development of this plan, the Bill now before the House is as I said at the outset, being introduced to encourage and assist the continuing expansion of these most important services for our aged citizens in the interim period. I commend this Bill to the House.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill seeks the approval of Parliament to the provision of contractual guarantees by the Australian Government for overseas borrowings by the Papua New Guinea Government in foreign currencies not exceeding the equivalent of $A24m in 1973-74. The proceeds of the loans will be used by the Papua New Guinea Government to finance public works and services. Legislation to authorise the borrowings has already been passed by the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly. Last financial year the Papua New Guinea Government made its first overseas borrowings on the international capital market. This borrowing, which was guaranteed by the Australian Government under legislation similar to that now before the House, was for an amount of 50 million Deutschemarks - $A14m - repayable over 15 years and it carried an interest rate of 6.75 per cent per annum.
The Parliament has also on a number of previous occasions approved similar contractual guarantees by the Australian Government in respect of loans to Papua New Guinea from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Asian Development Bank. All borrowings by the Papua New Guinea Government, of course, carry a statutory guarantee by the Australian Government by virtue of section 75a of the Papua New Guinea Act.
It is proposed that arrangements for the borrowings for which this Bill provides contractual guarantees will be concluded during the course of this financial year. Several loan possibilities on overseas markets are currently being investigated by the Fapua New Guinea Government. The form of guarantee that is customarily required in international capital markets is similar to those that have been given to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and to the Asian Development Bank in respect of borrowings by Papua New Guinea from those institutions. The borrower and the guarantor would also both be required to give customary undertakings to the effect that interest payments and repayment of the loan would be made without deduction for taxes and would also be free of exchange control restrictions. The Bill accordingly provides for such undertakings to be given.
The Bill is purposely couched in general terms in respect of the currencies and the precise forms of the proposed borrowings so as not to restrict the Papua New Guinea Government’s choice as to the particular overseas market or markets in which it finally decides to arrange the loans.
In present circumstances, it is expected that the overall cost of the borrowings by the Papua New Guinea Government will be somewhat less than the cost of borrowing for comparable periods from institutional sources in Australia. The provision of contractual guarantees by the Australian Government will materially assist Papua New Guinea in negotiating favourable terms for the borrowings as well as enhancing it? status as a borrower on overseas capital markets after it becomes independent. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mi Peacock) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Lionel Bowen, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Treasurer (Mr Crean), in his Budget Speech, referred to new postal and telephone charges to be introduced during 1973-1974. On the same evening, following the introduction of the Budget, I made a statement to this House in which I enlarged on the proposed changes to postal and telecommunications tariffs which had been foreshadowed in the Budget Speech. The Bill to which I am now speaking makes the necessary changes to give effect to those proposals and also takes the opportunity to convert imperial weights and measures to metric equivalents and to make certain other desirable changes, namely, to amend section 6 (a) to provide new rates for household mail, and permit arrangements for special rates for bulk postings of this mail under certain conditions, and further, to amend section 6 (b) to avoid any suggestion of contractual arrangements in respect of bulk postings.
My previous statement covered the financial changes in some depth and I do not propose to take up the time of the House by reiterating that information at length. I would, however, like to remind honourable members that most of the additional funds to bc raised from the tariff adjustment will come from concessional and uneconomic areas of Post Office activity. Broadly the new charges have been determined against the background that there should be no hidden subsidies and that assistance should be given in a direct form where such assistance is justified. In addition to this, there are many areas of Post Office activity where service is given at rates which are clearly uneconomic and in some cases bear an inverse relationship to the costs of provision. Because of these factors, basic rates have been largely unchanged for the vast majority of users of Post Office services. But where persons have in the past had the benefit of a service which has been provided at charges far below cost they will now be called upon to pay at higher rates more in keeping with proper business principles. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Peacock) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Lionel Bowen, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is complementary to the amendments to the Post and Telegraph Rates Act 1901-1971 which I have just introduced. Pursuant to the statement I made subsequent to the introduction of the Budget, it is necessary to amend the Postal Regulations, the Postal and Telegraph Services (General Regulations), the Telegraph Regulations and the Telephone Regulations as set out in the First to Fourth Schedules in this Bill. The amendments cover revised tariff structures and, at the same time, convert imperial weights and measures to metric equivalents. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Peacock) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Lionel Bowen, and read a first time.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Pursuant to the statement made by me on 21 August last, it is proposed to transfer certain publications from category A to category B and from category B to category C, and that the concessions to printed matter are to be gradually withdrawn. This Bill gives effect to these proposals. It is evident that the subsidy to registered newspapers and other publications is not a burden which can be carried by the postal service when it is expected to operate as a government business undertaking. Neither is it appropriate or necessary for the Government to subsidise daily newspapers, commercial magazines and professional and employer associations when there are so many other demands upon the Budget. The financial and service difficulties of the postal service have deep causes about which the Government is looking to the Commission of Inquiry for analysis and recommendation*.
This Bill also deals with some other matters which have been of concern. Three of the matters are quite minor but will be of great assistance to the Post Office. One amendment will allow postmasters to witness the declaration of secrecy which persons must take before commencing employment in the Post Office. Previously a Justice of the Peace was required, and this often created difficulties in more remote areas. Another amendment will permit the payment of rewards of up to $100 in any one case for information leading to the apprehension of persons wilfully damaging departmental property. Vandalism is currently costing my Department substantial sums each year and in the case of public telephones, which are a prime target, there is also a severe and aggravating disruption to service. The third minor amendment, in fact, is designed to ensure that public telephones are included in the provisions of section 130 which makes it an offence to wilfully damage departmental property.
For some time now my Department has been allowing selected large users of the postal ser vice to make postings in advance of payment, although the Act makes no provision for such action. The Auditor-General’s Office readily accepts that the extension of credit is normal business practice and raises no objection on that score but it has asked that the practice be given legal authorisation. Section 13 of the Post and Telegraph Act lays down that the Department, generally, is to be free from the payment of tolls or duties in respect of piers, wharves, ferries, roads and similar places where a toll or charge might be levied. On this authority the Department has for many years resisted harbour authority attempts to charge for the use of their facilities in the handling of mails across wharves. These days, however, the quantities of mail handled are very considerable and there can be no doubt that the Department is making a great deal of use of wharf facilities free of charge while private persons making the same use of the facilities would be required to pay substantial sums of money. It has therefore been agreed that, while it is not competent for a State to tax the Commonwealth, there is no reason why the Postmaster-General should not pay, by way of compensation, for the actual services provided and facilities used in the handling and conveyance of mails at wharves or on ferries. In this way the harbour authorities can receive proper recompense while the Post Offices’s general immunity from duties and tolls will be preserved. In preparation for the eventual granting of independence to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, the Bill provides that the Territory shall be treated as a foreign country for the purposes of the exchange of mails.
Finally, the Bill grants certain powers to postal investigation officers. This matter has been the subject of consultation with the Attorney-General’s Department and has given concern to my Department for a good many years. In 4 States, postal investigation officers have been granted some police powers under relevant State legislation - in the remaining 2 States no appropriate legislation exists - but advice has been given that, in any case, at common law, no person whether he be a police constable or merely a private individual can, in general, detain any other person against his will. Nor can any person search another without the latter’s consent. Any power of detention or search must be conferred by statute so that it follows that State police have no general power to detain or search and neither do investigation officers who hold State appointments as special constables. Against this background we have a situation where investigation officers could well lay themselves open to charges of unlawful arrest and assault merely by carrying out their duties.
To overcome this problem it is not proposed that any general power of detention and search be granted. Rather the legislation proposes that the power of detention and search be granted in respect of offences against 4 sections of the Post and Telegraph Act only. These sections all deal with theft, illegal opening or otherwise tampering with mail and these offences are of a type where evidence of the commission of the offence is likely to be secreted on the person of the offender. If any form of detection is to be effective, immediate detention and search is essential. The powers are to be given only to those officers whose duties require them and then only on written authorisation from the Postmaster-General. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Peacock) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I move:
The proposed work involves the construction of an arterial road from the business centre of Darwin to Lee Point Road in the northern suburbs. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $5. 6m. In August 1972, the Committee reported to Parliament on this proposal but subsequent to the tabling of the report a number of representations were made for and against the route recommended by the Committee. Particularly strong protests were registered by residents whose homes and properties would be acquired to make way for the road. In the circumstances the Government decided that the Committee should give further consideration to the proposal and submit a further report. After consideration of several alternative routes the Committee has now reported that there is a need for the work, that a route through the Fannie Bay area is the only practical one and that the route should follow route 3. All alternative routes through the Fannie Bay area involve the acquisition of some private property but route 3 to the least extent. Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
– I rise to speak briefly on this matter and in so doing commend the previous Chairman of the Public Works Committee and the previous Government for the consideration they gave to this matter and also the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson), who was greatly responsible for having this matter reconsidered by the present Public Works Committee. I think he has acted in a very commendable way. 1 notice that the route for the road is to be route 3, which runs along the cliff top on East Point Road,- and that there are to be only 4 lanes in the roadway planned. I would hope that in future the Public Works Committee or the Department of Works will look at the discarded route 6 and possibly route 7 - one runs along Bagot Road and one runs east of the Darwin airport - because these routes would bring traffic into Darwin by a route other than Daly Street. No matter which of the first three or four route.- were considered the traffic would still finish up at the south west end of Daly Street, Darwin, and could well cause traffic problems there. Quite frankly I hope that the road is built with expedition but stays at 4 lanes and that due consideration is given at a later date, as the suburbs extend to the north, to bringing traffic into the city via the other means I have suggested. I support the motion.
– The report by the Public Works Committee on this matter contains a map of the road. If honourable members would look at the map they would understand the debate more clearly. Last year the Public Works Committee considered this reference. The Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson), who has the responsibility of introducing this matter today, was a member of that Committee and he, amongst others of us, decided to recommend that the road should not follow the cliff face all the way round. This recommendation was carried by the previous Committee with only one dissentient voice. It is worth noting that that dissentient voice was that of the honourable member for
Hunter (Mr James), who had the courage to stand up for what he considered to be right. That report was received by the previous Government. A considerable amount of concern was expressed, firstly, about the route of the road along the cliff face. It was felt by many of us that it would endanger the cliff face in a rather serious manner. Subsequently the Department of Works was able to re-route the road to some extent and bring it back further from the cliff face. This changed the plans that were submitted to us again.
Both reports - they should be considered together - are an indication of the kind of attitude the Public Works Committee adopts to its references. I have been proud to point out before that there has never been a political division within the Committee. The honourable member for Hunter opposed the first recommendation; Senator Jessop opposed it the second time for reasons which seemed good and proper to him. The reasons are made clear in the report. I commend the Government for re-submitting this matter to the Committee. I think it was necessary to re-submit it. I changed my mind. I hope it is not the last time I will change my mind. I am prepared to change it when the logic of events suggests that I should do so. I pay a tribute to the honourable member for Hunter, who has been a very valuable member of the Committee, particularly in its work in the Northern Territory. We have missed him since he has left the Committee. We have other members, of course, of whom I am not in any way critical. The motion before us today shows just how right the honourable member for Hunter sometimes is.
– I am pleased to join in the debate if only to endorse the remarks of the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly). It is a matter of regret to me that the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) is not still a member of the Public Works Committee, because 1 understand from past decisions that he made very valuable contributions to the debates. As one of the newer members of the Committee I feel obliged to advise the House of the reasons for the change from the previous Committee’s recommendation. The honourable member for Hunter showed great foresight at the original hearing on this matter when he recommended the route that was finally adopted. However, there were modifications, as the honourable member for Wakefield indicated, and I am not sure that the doubts expressed by the hon ourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) are as serious as they might appear on the surface.
The route that was finally chosen from the eight or nine that were available to the Committee seemed to offer least disturbance to people. In our view it did not offer any danger to the cliffs along the Darwin waterfront. In fact the Department of Works had gone to great lengths to move the road inland, to narrow median strips and do a number of other things to ensure that the caves there were protected. The egress from the proposed road into the main area of Darwin was a matter of great discussion at the public hearing. I came away from that hearing with the understanding that the best possible route would be chosen for that end of the road after discussion with the Darwin City Council, the Department of Works and all other interested bodies. I do not think there is any real problem associated with this aspect. There was obviously a need for an alternative major road system to bring the people from the outlying areas into the city proper. In my opinion it was also obvious that in the future further consideration will have to be given to that area.
I think the Committee made a wise decision. The route it selected offers the least disturbance to the people. People are very important when it comes to road systems. It offered the least disturbance to people. It offered the least disturbance to those areas or those features which people believe it to be desirable to retain. All those features are being retained. I commend the Department for the way in which it redrew the scheme. I commend the report and its adoption to the House.
– It. was not my intention to speak on the matter before the House but I cannot recall a previous occasion when I have been afforded the luxury of such praise as was directed to me by my political colleague, the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly). I am somewhat elated. It seldom happens that one is the sole dissentient in a committee of 9 intelligent persons. When one is the sole dissentient and one looks at oneself in the mirror one thinks: T must be an odd bod. I am against the other 8’. That was my attitude after listening to the evidence in Darwin last year as to the route which this road, the Palmerston Highway, should take. I was conscious of the fact. I never like to be an odd bod and I thought I might have been queer, but not in the sense that engenders the mirth ; I most certainly am not one of those. The Parliament referred back the recommendation of the previous Public Works Committee as to the route that the road should take and the Committee - except, I understand, for Senator Jessop - after considering the evidence again and no doubt additional evidence, changed its view to the view that I held singularly last year. This goes to show that one can have the right argument but not the numbers.
– That is the trouble we have.
– You have not the numbers. I am very happy to see that the Committee finally decided to recommend that the route of this road should be the route that I supported last year. I thought it was vitally important that, if possible, the private properties should not be encroached upon. The motorists who will use the highway believe that they should be able to travel around the cliffs of Fannie Bay and view the beautiful sunsets, which I think are prettier there than in other parts of Australia.
I also hold the view that private individuals in our free democracy should at all times express their opinions on the route that a road should take. I remember my father years ago pointing out to me where the main highway from Newcastle to Maitland was diverted around Baron John Brown’s coal property. In my view this should not have been done. The people had. to travel around a virtual dog-leg road because Baron Brown said: ‘The council shall not put a road through my property.’ He took the local council to the High Court of Australia and the Privy Council. I do not know whether he won or whether money power won. I am prepared to accept that it was the power of money that actually got the decision. I am not inferring that the Privy Council was corrupt, but we know that one has to have wealth to take a legal matter to the Privy Council. The community had to put up with the inconvenience of the diversion along a dog-leg road at Hexham due to the arrogance and the power of money of the late Baron Brown. I support the motion and I am very elated at the decision of the Public Works Committee. I am particularly grateful for the perhaps extravagant praise that the honourable member for Wakefield directed to me this afternoon.
– I do not want to delay the House. Naturally as the Chairman of the Public Work Committee I am in support of its recommendation. But I want to point out to the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) that the road is not a highway; it has a controlled speed limit. The bad planning of the city of Darwin was shown up in the investigations of the Committee in the earlier and later hearings. It is unfortunate that other areas may have to be opened up for access to and egress from Darwin because of the bottleneck that is caused by the poor planning of the city of Darwin. I think that the right decision has been made in this respect. Not only will fewer people be affected by the road but also it is the best route that can be taken. I also feel sure that in the future the people who live in the 2 new subdivisions that will open up nearby will be greatly assisted by the road to get into and out of the city of Darwin.
– I support the proposal. As a member of the Committee I too have changed my views. I must compliment the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) on the modesty of his reply. But there were some changes and the movement of the route back from the cliffs made a difference to the general proposal. I rose mainly to support the suggestion of my colleague the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) that although this road is designed for 6 lanes perhaps it might well be kept to 4 lanes. It is true, as the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton), the Chairman of the Committee, has pointed out, that this is not a highway but an arterial road and there is a speed limit on it. Nevertheless, this area is a very important part of Darwin and very scenic. It is desirable that it should be used as much as possible by the people.
I believe that it will be made more accessible if the road is kept to 4 lanes. Alternatives 6 and 7 could be used to bring the traffic into the other end of Darwin. I am conscious too, as we all should be, that this has to be considered against the actual cost. It would cost considerably less to put the other 2 lanes along the route which is presently recommended. But at the same time, as the honourable member for Leichhardt rightly pointed out, there have been some faults in planning and I believe this is one thing that we could well look at. Maybe the extra cost involved could be justified in diversifying the approach of traffic into the city of Darwin, which no doubt will continue to grow. I commend the honourable member for the Northern Territory on his obvious concern for the welfare of the people of Darwin and the very soundly based thoughts that he brought to bear on this proposal. I hope that the Government will give full consideration to them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1973-74 Second Reading (Budget Debate)
Debate resumed from 11 September (vide page 819), 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 the 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 over-loading resources further by expansionary public 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’.
– When this debate was adjourned last night I had reached the stage of highlighting some of the less prominent parts of the Budget. I described them as less spectacular but nevertheless important. I think in a way that they are spectacular as well and ought to be seen as such. I had reached the point of referring to another earmarked grant to the States provided for the first time, that is, the $3m for a program of traffic management and improvements at locations with poor accident records. I mentioned that I am very pleased about this grant because it will allow urgent action to be taken at points of poor road safety without the funds having to be found out of general public works expenditure. That was the position in the past, and it inevitably meant that such action was slow and had to be fitted in with genera! road works. This measure in the Budget is a marvellous initiative. A very gratifying innovation is the allocation of $2m to supplement and expand existing legal aid schemes in the States.
Last night and today I have deliberately concentrated on the smaller amounts of expenditure provided for in the Budget just to show how many new initiatives are being taken by this Government in a lot of smaller but highly important ways. I have not, of course, given an exhaustive list of these less spectacular commitments but it does illustrate the extent to which this Government is implementing its election pledges. Last night I also touched on the fact that this is the Budget of a party which believes in what it does. It does not shy away from unpalatable decisions just because they will be criticised. We believe there should not be anomalies or hidden subsidies. One example of this is the abolition of the sales tax exemption on non-alcoholic carbonated beverages containing 5 per cent Australian fruit juice. One might expect that I as the member for a Tasmanian electorate might be upset about this decision because it will affect the apple industry in my State. However, I believe it was a correct decision. As the Treasurer (Mr Crean) stated, the Government is ready to provide funds for industry reconstruction if necessary. I was not even aware that this sales tax exemption existed until the Coombs task force report brought it to light. I wonder whether there were many people who were aware of it. It was a very much disguised form of assistance. Assistance to the fruit growing industry might very well be justified but it should not be hidden as this assistance was. The background to the concession goes back 40 years and for most of that time beverages consisting wholly or principally of Australian fruit juice have been exempt from sales tax. This is fair enough if it is thought that sales tax concessions are the best way of providing assistance to the fruit industry.
In 1957 the exemption was expanded to cover non-alcoholic carbonated beverages containing as little as 5 per cent of Australian fruit juice. As it turned out, the concession is mainly for the benefit of the soft drink manufacturers who use apple juice as an ingredient just to get the sales tax exemption. The inclusion of 5 per cent of apple juice contributes nothing to the drinks; apparently it lowers their quality. It is included in ginger beer, cola and other non-fruit drinks. To me this is nothing more than a prostitution of good Tasmanian apples. Even if it is said that only the lower quality fruit is used in this way, I would still say it is a degrading misuse of the fruit which should be used in its own right and for its own quality rather than as a poor substitute for water only because the user is bought off with a tax concession. It is no different from the Government buying the apple juice and dumping it in the ocean. This would in fact be cheaper for the Government. A fraction of the money would be better used in promoting the consumption of pure apple juice and encouraging its supply through, say, school tuck shops instead of the soft drinks now sold which are of no real benefit either to the diet or to the teeth. Only a fraction of the $25m cost of the sales tax exemption has found its way to the apple grower. Instead it has been a bonanza for the soft drink industry. This is indeed a classic case of a policy that should have been abandoned.
There are many other examples of long standing policies which are no longer justifiable that the Coombs task force revealed. One minor one which has not been acted on, but which I hope will be, is the concessional rate of duty on plug tobacco sold to Aborigines. This particular disguised expenditure costs only $31,000 a year but there are very good reasons for abolishing it. It began in 1935 ostensibly to help the tobacco industry and depends on 2 requirements, firstly, that the tobacco is of low quality and, secondly, that it is supplied to Aborigines. The Coombs task force report states in relation to this aspect:
The concession appears to be a relic of an entirely different and, it might be hoped, vanished - or at any rate, vanishing - age. On the one hand it has about it an air of paternalism which appears to be entirely out of keeping with the approach of the present Government to Aborigines’ problems: on the other hand it involves the provision to Aborigines on ‘subsidised’ terms of a clearly inferior product.
The various other forms of financial and other assistance now being provided to Aborigines render the concession as unnecessary as it is offensive.
There seem to be no good grounds for retaining the concession and good grounds - largely unrelated to the small saving that would be involved - for abolishing it.
The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) interjected a moment ago that the concession ought to go because it is not being used. There is still S3 1,000 a year being spent on it so it is being used to some extent. But even if none is used that is still no reason for such an offensive law to be on the statute book. It is another classic case of a policy which should have gone years ago. This and other revelations have entirely justified the Coombs task force investigation into the continuing expenditure policies of the previous ‘ Government. Such reviews will continue to be necessary whatever government is in power in order to update the whole system of government and ensure that policies, whether they cost money or not, do not become so entrenched that they disappear from view and are forgotten while nevertheless continuing. I conclude by returning to the Budget itself. I would have liked to have seen more provided for in the Budget, of course; not different things but more. Inevitably we cannot do all that we would like to do at once. But it is a responsible Budget - moderate yet innovative - setting the stage for greater things in the future.
Debate (on motion by Mr Fairbairn) adjourned.
Message received from the Senate intimating that the Senate (a) disagrees to the amendment made by the House of Representatives in place of the amendment made by the Senate to clause 19, and insists on the original amendment made by the Senate to that clause, and (b) agrees to the amendment made by the House of Representatives to clause 5 of the Bill.
Motion (by Mr Grassby) agreed to:
That the Senate’s message be considered in committee forthwith.
– I move:
The purpose of the Australian Citizenship Bill is to wipe out racial and other discriminations in the granting of Australian citizenship. The existing procedures create first, second and third class citizens. The whole thrust of the Bill, the whole purpose of the Bill, is to create one citizenship, one criterion, one oath and one allegiance. For months now the Senate Opposition has frustrated these high objectives. On 2 occasions it has used specious and, as was the case last night, almost ludicrous excuses to hold up this Bill. The level of some of the excuses put forward in the Senate yesterday can be gauged by the fact that there was some reference to the constitutionality of the Bill, presumably in relation to the royal title, which seems to be extraordinary in view of the fact that the monarch herself has indicated her acceptance and enthusiasm for a revision of the title which she anticipates proclaiming on her forthcoming visit. That seems to be a most specious and ludicrous excuse. Nevertheless, the Bill was again rejected on these very narrow and inadequate grounds. The Senate is aware that this Bill wipes out discrimination. The Opposition has not dared to oppose these high principles. As a matter of fact, it seemed to me during the whole of the debate that some members of the Opposition were proposing a toast rather than giving attention to an oath. But by their deeds you shall know legislators as well as other people and the Opposition in another place twice rejected the Bill.
After the first occasion the Government, anxious to put Australian citizenship on a new pedestal and to give Australian citizenship a new significance, willingly compromised in relation to the form of the oath. We did this despite the fact that 71 per cent of all those Australians who were asked wanted to swear allegiance to the Australian Constitution. The expressed wishes of 71 per cent of all Australians who were asked have been rejected by the Opposition. More than that, the Opposition has callously and hurtfully re-inserted the form of renunciation which means that applicants for citizenship are required to mouth the meaningless form of renunciation although the Opposition knows as well as we in government know that legally the words have no significance. All they do is to cause hurt and all they can do is to confuse. But for obscure reasons of its own the Opposition has insisted on this course of action. Imagine the confusion of an Englishman who arrives in Australia, settles, successfully, enthusiastically applies for citizenship and finds himself solemnly renouncing all allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain just before taking an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of Australia.
– Did the Minister refer to a settler from the United Kingdom?
– Of course. It is a clumsy and unnecessary procedure. It is not the Gov ernment’s choice and it is not the Government’s intention. I give notice that the Government will as soon as possible legislate to abolish the meaningless and hurtful renunciation and that the Australian citizen in future will take the following oath - as is proposed in the Australian Citizenship Bill as it was originally brought before this House: I…… swear by Almighty God that I will faithfully uphold the Constitution of Australia, observe the laws of Australia and fulfil my duties as an Australian citizen.’ This is what the overwhelming majority of the Australian people want. Of the people who were asked in a poll which was held recently 71 per cent expressed that wish. We are faced in the Senate with rule by the minority against the expressed will of the majority. Recognising this, to save Australia from further embarrassment as a nation which has discriminatory citizenship, and to bring some justice to migrants, to rescue the Bill from a Senate pigeon-hole - now a deep well for all sorts of things which have been irresponsibly rejected - this Government reluctantly accepts the Senate amendment and 1 commend the motion that I have moved.
– The Republicans have run away. There was an earlier time when the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) said that the Government had proposed certain accommodations in relation to these clauses - that it had retreated a certain amount but that it would retreat no further. Having been faced with the realities of life and whatever verbiage he may have used to try to cover this situation the Minister and the Government have retreated as far as they can possibly go without falling off the edge of the cliff. This matter could have been dealt with in a non-partisan and a nonpolitical manner - as it ought to be - if the Minister had not himself given false reasons for the Senate’s actions and if he had not given false reasons for the attitudes that had previously been expressed by the 2 Opposition parties. So if the Minister comes under some kind of criticism he has only himself to blame for the attitude that he has taken in relation to this matter because he knows very well that he has tried to put false objectives upon the Opposition. He knows very well that we have supported and had supported for a long while a bipartisan immigration policy. He also knows very well that he is one of the architects of a destruction of a bipartisan immigration policy which is certainly not supported by all members on the Government side of this House.
– I rise to order. I have no objection to a debate on immigration but this is a debate on the Australian Citizenship Bill 1973.
– Order! What is the point of order?
– The point of order is that this is not the Bill nor the place to debate an immigration policy. We are talking about citizenship.
– Order! The honourable gentleman is out of order. He referred to these matters himself, therefore the honourable member for Wannon is entitled to answer them.
– Thank you, Mr Chairman. The Minister referred to the high objectives of the Government and as he used the term I agreed with him but he tried to suggest that the Opposition had not agreed and that was a matter that needed correction. There was also an attack on the Senate - an utterly unjustifiable one - in regard to a debate that took place yesterday. For example, the Minister ridiculed comments made in the Senate concerning the constitutional position of the style of reference to Her Majesty the Queen as is proposed in the Bill and he suggested, I think, that authorities such as Dr Evatt and Sir Robert Menzies who were quoted, as I understand it. in the Senate, might not know as much about the matter as the Minister himself. Honourable members and people outside this chamber who would know the reputation of all 3 honourable gentlemen would be able to make a choice as to which authorities they would prefer. The point on which the Minister particularly misled honourable members, as he misled them when these amendments were first introduced, was that he tried to suggest that the style of reference to Her Majesty the Queen that he proposes in the Bill, that is ‘Queen of Australia, Her heirs and successors according to law , is similar to that in the new Royal Style and Titles Bill. Of course the Minister knows, as I pointed out in the previous debate, that that is not true and that the form of words that we wanted in the Bill and which the Senate has placed in the Bill are much more akin to the proper address that one ought to apply to Her Majesty the Queen. Those words are: ‘Her
Majesty Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, Her heirs and successors according to law.’ If a person is a monarchist what is the matter with referring to the Queen by name? What is the Minister frightened of in referring to the Queen by name? Why does he want to belittle that reference to the maximum extent possible as a significant step towards obliterating all reference to Her Majesty the Queen? I have not the slightest doubt that that was part of the Minister’s objective.
The other question concerning this Bill is that of the renunciation of other allegiance. We had said that we would look at this matter again. It was said that the Minister would use his undoubted - as he would believe - persuasive abilities in order to persuade certain countries where there are real problems of dual nationality, notably the Government’s new-found friends in Yugoslavia, to overcome the problems which dual nationality causes a significant number of Australian citizens. But while the Minister was going around a number of South-East Asian countries offending our nearer neighbours I did not notice that he was doing anything that might help overcome this problem of dual allegiance. I positively asked him to do it on the last occasion this matter was dealt with. I positively asked him to do it again and I ask him to go to Yugoslavia and try to overcome the problem of dual allegiance. I ask him to overcome the problem of dual allegiance for Greek citizens and other Australian citizens who have chosen to make Australia their home and the place to which they give their loyalty.
If the Minister can achieve that then maybe this question of renunciation could be looked at again. But while present conditions prevail - and what I have said should not be taken to foreshadow any changed view on behalf of the Opposition parties because I have a strong personal preference for keeping the words in even if the problem were overcome - it is the firm view of the Opposition parties that all people in this country ought to owe their allegiance to this country and that citizenship of Australia is something precious. It is not something to be thrown out like bread on the waters to be picked up by any passing bird. It is a prize and people need to be conscious of the fact that citizenship of Australia is a prize and is something to be valued. If you cheapen it as this Minister would want to cheapen it will no longer be a prize. We are glad that the Minister has bowed, not to the logic of reason - because he has made it plain that he would not - but to the force of members and that he has accepted the Senate amendment and will allow this Bill to pass.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed (vide page 866).
– Before the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) interrupted the Budget debate the honourable member for Denison (Mr Coates), in the first Budget speech he has made in this House, said some things with which I find myself in agreement. Firstly, he said that it would do the Opposition no harm if it gave some praise to the Government occasionally. I agree with this. The only difficulty I have is finding the occasions on which I can give praise. But I do not doubt that there will be some. I will certainly do as he suggests if I come across some measures that one can praise. Secondly, the honourable member said that the Opposition has a entirely different philosophy to that of honourable members on the Government side of the House. I could not agree more there. Thank godness that we have and thank goodness that the public realises that we have. He said: ‘We said that we would do certain things and we are doing them’. He can say that again. Of course, it is the public’s fault that at the last election it did not realise the full extent of what the Labor Party would do. We told the public. But I must admit that even I, after 23 years in politics, did not believe that a Labor Government would do what it has done as quickly as it has done. This is why the Government is losing so much support throughout the country.
But I now start to find myself in disagreement with some of the things which were said by the honourable member. He said: He rejected entirely paragraph 8 of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) which states that the Budget fails to honour election promises. I do not want to go through the full list of the promises that have not yet been honoured. But let me just start off with the promise that a Labor Government would spend 3.5 per cent of the gross national product on defence. I ask about the promise that I questioned the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on this morning, that is, to give phone connections between Albury-Wodonga and Townsville and the capital cities at local call rates. This promise has been dishonoured. What do we find about the promise to retain for private schools the amounts they are now getting, while saying that the Government would give additional amounts and that no one would be worse off as a result of the Budget? That has been dishonoured. What about the interest rates, which are to go up? So one could go on.
I disagree too with the honourable member when he says that people may be forgiven for thinking that the contents of the Budget related only to increases in tax on cigarettes and petrol which unfortunately were a necessary means of raising more revenue but nevertheless were justifiable on social grounds. It is an extraordinary thing how circumstances alter cases because only this time last year when Labor got out its magnificent publication ‘It’s Time’ its policy in regard to prices, as set out in this publication, was as follows:
All this would be bad enough, excepting the Government compounds the problem by increasing postal charges, telephone rates, radio and television licences and by increasing indirect taxes . . .petrol and cigarettes, for example.
Where does the Labor Party stand now? It is ludicrous for the Labor Party to say one thing when it is in opposition and to do something completely different when it is in government.
The Budget traditionally gives honourable members an opportunity to talk about a wide range of things. It is one of the few occasions on which this can happen. I know that you, Mr Speaker, would keep us close to the subject if we were discussing any other Bill. But in a Budget debate one can discuss almost anything one likes. I believe it is recorded that on one occasion an honourable member advocated that instead of burying people horizontally they ought to be buried vertically. The honourable member who followed him in the debate is reported to have said that this was an excellent idea because it would give the person being buried a quicker start to the next world but that the only trouble was that one would not know whether to bury a person upwards or downwards. I think it is recorded that this member was later certified. But I make the point that the Budget debate does give us the opportunity to discuss a broad range of subjects, not only those contained in the Budget itself. A great number of members who have spoken in this debate have concentrated on the Budget. They have analysed at great length the economics of it and the effects that it will have on the nation.
I intend to look not only at the Budget, because it is a portion of what the Government has done, but at everything the Government has done since it has had its period in office. We have served 9 months of hard labour. The Government when it was in opposition tried most unfairly to label the previous Government as a ‘do nothing’ Government. This was completely inaccurate but, unfortunately, because of the great lack of cooperation and the attacks of the mass media it was extremely difficult for us to get over to the public everything that was being done. Nevertheless, a great deal was done. I think that if one can find a fault with the present Government it is that it seeks to do everything. The present Government seems to believe that the public should not do anything for themselves and that it should do everything. Its greatest problem as I see it is that all it has aimed at doing is to cut up the cake and not to make the cake larger. The result is that the Government has withdrawn many incentives and encouragements to people, particularly private individuals and private citizens in industry.
I want to look at all of the Government’s achievements’ - I use inverted commas - during the 9 months which it has been in office. There was a tendency a while ago for people to say: “Poor Gough, he has a pretty weak team but he is not doing a bad job himself. I will come back to this afterwards. But I would say that if the team is no good one looks at the leader to begin with. Australia’s standing in the eyes of the world has dropped disastrously and the only person who can be responsible for the way in which we appear to people overseas is the leader of the Government, the Prime Minister. I say this because he is not only the Prime Minister of this country but the Foreign Minister. On his rather disastrous overseas trips he went as the Foreign Minister and he spoke as such.
Before we look in detail at the Prime Minister let us take a quick look at this team and consider its ‘achievements’ during the period the Government has been in office. Let us start off with the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard). What was contained in the publication ‘It’s Time’ was authorised by the present Prime Minister and agreed to by him. On the subject of defence that publication stated that an Australian Labor Party Government’s defence concept would be to allocate not less than 3.5 per cent of Australia’s gross national product for defence in each annual Budget. Suddenly, of course, we find that we are down to a figure about which people seem to be uncertain - whether it is 2.6 per cent or 2.9 per cent. But the figure is certainly in that area. We have lost 15,000 troops and we are told that many more are to be sacked. I think that another 6,000 are to be sacked in the not too distant future. The Cockburn Sound project has been cancelled at least temporarily. The DDL project has been cancelled; so has the proposal for the purchase of a new tank to replace the ‘Centurion’ tank. The Government is not to proceed with the replacement for the ‘Mirage’ aircraft. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, what an extraordinary situation it was that we had a Minister gallivanting around the world in a VIP aircraft with many hangers-on to look at a plane which the Government had decided that it would not buy. Of course, the most urgent requirement - a replacement for the Neptune - has been cancelled for the present. Even flying time has been reduced. I do not know how one is meant to learn these things because a person cannot just sit in a Link trainer and obtain all the experience he needs there. We can have proper Services only if we have plenty of time taken for the exercises that are necessary. One could go on with the disastrous situation relating to defence.
I come now to the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy). Even the Prime Minister himself said that the Attorney-General made the greatest mistake which the Australian Labor Party had made since it came into office. The head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation said that the remarks of the Attorney-General were gravely damaging to ASIO. When I asked the Prime Minister what action he had taken to ensure that this does not happen again, he said: ‘Oh, it is secret’. Of course, we have been told that there is no Cabinet solidarity here. The Prime Minister has gone out of his way to denigrate his Attorney-General in taking an action which the Prime Minister believed was the greatest mistake made by the Labor Party since it came into office.
I come to the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns). I must say of the Minister that when he keeps to his portfolio he does not seem to do a bad job. But the trouble is that he does not keep to it very often. We see welcomes being given to our erstwhile enemy the Vietcong, and to the Chinese and yet if anyone is the least bit centre of the road or right wing, such as the Taiwanese, the Rhodesians, the South Africans and the Portuguese, they are unacceptable. But the left wing is acceptable. One can go on through this list of what must be one of the most disastrous governments this country unfortunately has had.
We come to the Treasurer (Mr Crean). Again, one can look at what was said in this great document headed ‘It’s Time’. There was no doubt that the Labor Party had magnificent publicity; the only trouble was that the publicity had nothing to do with the sort of government it was going to put into operation once it came into office. I suppose members of the Labor Party said: ‘That does not matter. All we want to do is get into government’. Everyone knows that inflation is rising at a tremendous rate. It is estimated to be at 13 per cent at the moment but could well reach anything up to 20 per cent before the end of the year. Late last year in its publication ‘It’s Time’ the Labor Party said:
Inflation cannot be ignored in the hope that it will go away, as the Government seems to believe. The Australian Labor Party sees inflation control as the Government’s responsibility. Not yours.
Those comments were very nice in Opposition, but Labor now is in government and it has done nothing at all about inflation.
– That is nonsense; we have done plenty about it.
– What, 3 revaluations of the dollar in 9 months? I cannot see that that will have any effect on inflation but it will have a quite vital effect on a number of people who export, such as primary producers or industrial producers. We know that mining companies alone have lost $75m on contracts which had been entered into and that was due only to the last revaluation.
Let us take the next Minister, the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham). I believe that we had one of the best health schemes in the world. This is generally acknowledged. I am glad to see that the Minister for Health - I think he spells it Helth - is at the table today. To my way of thinking, only 2 problems existed in the health scheme under the previous Government and they were 2 fairly minor problems which could have been overcome and, undoubtedly, this would have created an extremely good scheme. The problems were that some people were not covered and there was a difficulty in covering doctors’ fees, as some doctors would not abide by the agreed fees. In order to get over this we find that the present Government is having a head-on fight with the doctors. It is all very well to say that honourable members opposite have a mandate. They brought out 140 promises before the last election and were elected by a small majority and then honourable members opposite say that they have a mandate to do everything that was contained in their policy speech. I do not accept this point of view. In fact, it has been shown by polls that the proposal of the Labor Party in respect of health is not acceptable to the majority of people in Australia.
So, one comes to that rather poor character, the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson). I wanted to ask the Minister a question yesterday but when I got in here I suddenly found that he had disappeared. We were told by the Prime Minister that the Minister for Northern Development is expected to return some time in October. I also read today that the Minister is going to be in China, so it is a case of ‘Where is our wandering boy tonight?’ Never has there been a man more completely denigrated or whose reputation has been more completely blackened than the honourable member for Dawson. He was a man who, I think, came in ninth in the Cabinet and yet he has been given absolutely nothing to do except look after sugar. He said the other day that this was a magnificent Budget. He was asked what was in the Budget for northern development and he said: ‘Oh, I have $200,000 with which to carry out an assessment in the Burdekin River area’. He neglected to say that the previous Government, in water conservation alone, had had a program which originally provided $50m and, when that program was completed, another program providing $10Om was established. But of course, the mere fact that the Government is trying to stop the construction of the Dartmouth Dam shows that there is absolutely no possibility of the Minister for Northern Development getting any further allocations.
I see that my time is running out. It is impossible to go through all the ills of this disastrous Ministry in such a short time. One could come to the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) who has established a record. We have been told that Australian workers could lose as much as $50m in wages in 1973 and this undoubtedly is a record. We were told before the election: ‘All you have to do is put the Labor Party in government. We understand the workers and the Liberal-Country Party Government does not. Once you put us back there will be no strikes at all.’ Strikes have gone up by 64 per cent so far. I do not have time to deal with the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) who, I think, undoubtedly is the most disastrous of all.
– You would not be game to.
– I will use another time to deal with the Minister for Minerals and Energy. But all I can say is that in the book of Labor disasters the Minister would not only get a full chapter to himself but would also have the preface. Seriously, it is quite tragic to see the extraordinary extent to which confidence has gone out of the mining industry. This is the job of the Minister - to see that the mining industry is prosperous. Yet shares have dropped and people are pulling out. We are told in London: ‘Do not buy Australian shares’. The Japanese have withdrawn from a $150m project in which they were to have been involved. This has been brought about by constant denigration of the miners. They have been called hill-billies and mugs. However, 1 will devote more time to that on another occasion.
Let me conclude this rather tragic recitation of what the Government has been able to do to undermine this country in 9 months by saying that I believe the Prime Minister has been the most tragic of all. First of all, he allowed Ministers to attack the United States. My recollection is not very good but I think the Minister who is now sitting opposite me, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant), is one of those who jumped in boots and all to say everything he could about these thugs who had been our friends for a great many years. They were told that they were not to say it again but this did not have the slightest effect - certainly not on the Minister for Overseas Trade. Immediately after that there was a selected Press briefing on the signals intelligence unit in Singapore at which certain people were brought in and told everything that was necessary for them to know. There has been the decision to withdraw troops from the South East Asia Treaty Organisation and the undermining of SEATO by not supporting the naval exercises conducted by that group. There has been the abuse of the French and the wel coming of the Chinese and the Vietcong and the abuse of Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Heath. The idea of the mineral cartel certainly did not float but I suppose it was a good idea. Connor said: ‘It is right. You have to float this.’ But it did not work. In a short period this Government has really been quite disastrous in the actions it has taken. An enormous build-up has occurred in the Public Service. Open government is a joke. Leaks are worse than ever known before. I disagree with the Budget and I agree with the amendment.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I support the Budget introduced by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) on 24 August. It is the first Budget introduced by a Labor Government for 24 years. We on this side of the House are not ashamed that it reflects the changes in approach to national problems promoted by the Australian Labor Party and endorsed by the Australian electorate last December. I reject the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) as rather shallow, an expression of the past policies of the former Government and a misrepresentation of the present Government’s policies. We have just heard the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) say that if one could find a fault with the present Government it is that it has tried to do everything. Rather than talk about policies as he said he would do he went on to speak about personalities and to complain that certain things had not been done, lt did not seem to line up with his idea of what the one fault might have been.
The policies of the present Government have been quite positive. There have been significant changes in government attitudes. The most significant change from the pattern of past years is that the Budget is not the one document in the year which purports to determine the direction of the Government’s policies and actions. Rather it is part of the continuing process of government and brings together the actions and initiatives that have been taken and those that are approved. The Budget should be considered in conjunction with the effects of legislation already enacted during the first half of this year. Above all else the Budget indicates a national program of reform and innovation and a dramatic departure from the concept of previous years - the concept displayed in recent Budgets which resulted from considerations of electoral popularity, political expediency and a compromise between the opposed forces of the Liberal Party and the Country Party.
A couple of days ago the honourable members for Calare (Mr England) referred to the initiatives of the Government but he had to preface this by referring to the approaching Parramatta by-election. Apparently the thinking of honourable members opposite is that every action taken by a government must have some ulterior motive. The Leader of the Opposition in his speech on the Budget referred only briefly to the rural sector. He accused the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson), the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby), the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) and me of having abandoned our electors. The suggestion was that we should have different policies for different electorates.
It is interesting that the right honourable gentleman referred to primary producers but did not mention all the other people outside rural industry who are employed in country areas. He did not refer to the factory workers, shop assistants and council employees. All of these people are Australian citizens and are entitled to share equally in the national benefits with their city cousins and people involved in the rural industries. It was very presumptuous of the right honourable gentleman to make that accusation but apparently he is also thinking in terms of the past when members of the Country Party made their submissions and if they did not get what they wanted in the Budget or in other legislation they were regarded as having abandoned their electorates. So they went before their electors and told them what they wished to hear. Very often it was a vastly different story from the story they told in the Parliament.
I remember very well a member of the Country Party who attended a meeting of his constituents and congratulated them on their initiative in organising a protest meeting about the embargo on the export of merino rams. He said: ‘I am pleased that you came to me. I agree with you and your opinions will give me added strength to take this matter back to the Parliament.’ But what did he and every other member of the Country Party do when returning to the Parliament?. They have 2 voices, one for the Parliament and one for the people. If there has been any abandonment of the electors it has been the Leader of the Opposition who has abandoned the Aus tralian electorate. He holds a responsible position in the Australian Parliament but consistently he has refused to exercise properly the functions of his position. He has resorted to a negative approach to most problems and to cheap attempts to score political points over the Government should the opportunity arise.
The Leader of the Opposition stated that the Budget was bad for country people. I suggest that he should look at the legislation that has been passed by the Government which is beneficial to every section of the Australian community. I refer to legislation with respect to education, for example. We should remember that this Budget almost doubles the amount of money provided for education. Does the right honourable gentleman suggest that country people will not share in the benefits of the increased expenditure on education? I hasten to point out that our approach to this problem is vastly different from the approach of previous governments. We accept that education is a State matter. We do not want to take it over, but the Government has decided in its wisdom to make a financial contribution to education to provide every child with an opportunity for learning to a proper and acceptable standard. To achieve this end assistance to education must be given on the basis of needs and this is our approach.
Does the Leader of the Opposition suggest that country people do not share in the benefits of improved social welfare or the benefits flowing from our contributions to housing and health? Does he realise, that the plight of unmarried mothers and deserted wives in country areas as well as in the cities which produced so many personal tragedies under the previous Government’s policies has been attended to? As to assistance to rural industry the Budget merely sets out the amounts anticipated to be required, without actually removing any obligation to meet further costs if necessary. Nobody could deny that the financial position of primary industries today is so much better than it was in previous years under the former Government and that it is reasonable to expect a reduced requirement for assistance to those industries. I will give an example. The estimated amount of assistance for wool marketing in 1973-74 is $575,000 compared -with about 34,200,000 in 1972-73; it is about one-seventh of the previous amount.
I believe that the Leader of the Opposition is patently dishonest when he suggests that this
Government has reduced aid to primary industries. For any industry stable and satisfactory prices are better than subsidies paid as a result of ad hoc decisions. Generally speaking, assistance to primary industries has been increased above that given in previous years. I must say that I am disappointed that the Treasurer saw fit to increase country telephone rentals and postage rates on some articles and also to increase the duty on motor fuel. I do not deny that there is logic in the argument that the cost of providing telephone services in country areas is greater than in the cities and that rental charges should be equalised. However, if this is to be done, the least we can do for country people is to alter the charging method for calls by country people so that they can ring up their nearest major centre on a local call charge.
The increase in postal rates will particularly hit country newspapers. Many country readers depend on the post to receive copies of the local rag. We are still in the position where there are some independent papers in country areas, despite the move by the Press barons to take over all means of communication. It will be a pity to see some of these newspapers shut down or sold out because of the additional costs incurred by this Budget. Increased costs for motor fuel will, of course, add to all costs, particularly in country areas where many of the articles consumed by the public are subject to freight charges. I have made representations to the Ministers involved in these matters and I hope that some result will be obtained.
Throughout this debate, members of the Opposition have made repeated references to inflation. The Leader of the Opposition has suggested a temporary price-wage freeze. Is it not amusing what the change from government to Opposition has done to members of the Opposition? Their thinking has changed completely. Had the Leader of the Opposition made his suggestion about the price-wage freeze when his Party had the power to do something about it, people may not have thought, as they do now, that it was simply a matter of cheap politics.
Since Robert Menzies won the 1949 election on. among other things, his promise to put value back into the pound the previous Government consistently failed to take any positive action on prices and wages, other than to oppose wage increases as the prime cause of inflation. Yet in his Budget speech this year the Leader of the Opposition once again changed his tune. He put forward the argument that the Labor Party had been putting to the Liberal Party and the Country Party for many years. He used his arithmetical powers to prove that the working man is slipping further behind in his seeking of wage increases to combat the effect of inflation. There is no doubt that one of the factors contributing to inflation in Australia today is the higher prices being received by the primary producer.
How many honourable members opposite are prepared to stand up and say that the farmer is getting more than he should get for his product? This is a cause of inflation. Do honourable members opposite suggest that the producer is receiving too much for his sheep, his beef, his wool or his wheat? Do they suggest, for instance, that the Australian Government has the power to do a great deal about inflation when the major States of Australia - under the control of Liberal-Country Party governments - have consistently refused to exercise any of the powers that they hold on price restraint? Members of the present Opposition not only have failed to take any action on prices but they support, and are supported by, those in the community who have been in a position to raise their prices and profits unjustifiably and who have done so with no real concern for the national problems. Many prices in Australia have been raised unnecessarily specifically to avoid the implications of an investigation by the Prices Justification Tribunal. The task of controlling inflation is next to impossible while the States hold the power of price fixation and refuse to use that power. This Government has made a definite attempt to make some impact on inflation. I believe that if a referendum were put to the people of Australia asking them to give the Australian Government the power of price fixation, it would be carried overwhelmingly.
Within the restrictions placed on any government during its first term of office - one of these restrictions, of course, is the fact that many of the Budget items are pre-determined by actions taken by previous governments - and within the scope allowed by the Constitution of Australia and with the exceptions to which I have just referred and to which I object. I believe that the 1973-74 Budget is sound. It is a Budget which is designed to secure a reallocation of the wealth and resources of Australia so that those people who, for so many years, have been in dire necessity can and will receive a little more of the share of the properity they have helped to create. The Treasurer has done a magnificent job in the presentation of this Budget. It is a Budget which has not only financial implications but also social implications. It is part of a program of innovation and reform which will ultimately benefit the whole of the Australian community. I believe that the document deserves the support of the Parliament.
– My contribution to the discussion on the Budget recently introduced by the Government will be confined to just a few sections of it because of the time factor, but I will be entering into the debate on other important issues introduced in the Budget when they are presented as proposed legislation. To say that this Budget is a disastrous one as far as beneficial effects on this country and the Australian people are concerned, and that it foreshadows other disastrous measures which the present Government administration will introduce, is in my opinion an understatement. I see it as the first move to implement Labor Party objectives to nationalise financial institutions and as many industries as possible. For this reason I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). There appears to be particular emphasis on discrimination against the rural sector of our community, regardless of what a previous speaker said in favour of the metropolitan areas. I suppose, when one considers that these metropolitan areas supported the Labor Party to an extent sufficient to put them in government, it is perhaps only natural that they should receive priority consideration. I personally think that this shows the weakness of the Government. It was not strong enough to overcome this desire to bestow favours and introduce measures which would be to the benefit of the whole of the community, especially a community as important to our maintenance and development as the rural community.
One of the features of the Budget in my opinion was the Government’s attitude to northern development. Northern Australia contributes greatly to our national economy and to our State economy, and there is in this area a tremendous amount of room for expansion and development which could only increase its contribution to the national econ omy. When the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) announced that there would be a separate portfolio for nothern development. I accepted his announcement with a great degree of anticipation. The Northern Division of the Department of National Development, which previously handled northern affairs, did a great deal to developing the north but I imagined that a specific department being established for this purpose, controlled by a Minister who could devote all his time to this area, would mean great changes in northern expansion with ultimate benefit to the nation. The people of the north were quickly disillusioned on this score. The Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) has the say on northern mining activities. The Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) has the say on beef and wool production in the north. The Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) has the say on the expansion of the road system in the north, and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) has the say on any development of our northern cities and towns. This leaves our Minister for Northern Development responsible for only the sugar industry. Whilst this industry is extremely efficient and certainly is an asset to our economy, it does not warrant the appointment of a Minister specifically to handle it. I would say it would be extremely frustrating to the Minister for Northern Development to go more or less cap in hand to the other Ministers to request consideration of expansion of our mineral activities, road systems, port developments, cities and towns, and beef and wool production. It would almost appear that the portfolio of Northern Development was created as a lolly for the present Minister, in order to keep him quiet. I can assure the Government that this does not suit northern Australia. We want to develop this area. We want to see it progress as quickly as possible. But how can this be achieved with so many Ministers having a hand in making the cake, and all of them with different ideas as to what the ingredients will be? In my opinion, and in the opinion of many northerners, the establishment of a Ministry for Northern Development under the present system of administration was a farce and an exercise in appeasement, without any real purpose.
Read the Budget,’ said the Minister for Northern Development in answer to a question I asked him regarding what finance had been allocated for northern development. I have read the Budget. I had read it before I asked him the question. The only outstanding feature in it was an allocation of $200,000 towards a feasibility study on the Burdekin Dam project, and even that allocation was not a clean and concise one. The string attached to this was that the State also had to supply $200,000 towards this project before it could get off the ground. So if the State cannot afford to allocate $200,000 in this year’s State Budget, the project will he shelved again. Yet this is the Government that promised to make an immediate start on this very important study. I repeat that in my opinion and the opinion of many others the creation of a specific Ministry for Northern Development was a farce and an exercise in appeasement. Unless the Government can show that its intentions are honest and sincere in this matter it will stand condemned as far as the people of northern Australia are concerned.
Another issue which should receive serious consideration is the Government’s attitude towards housing. The attitude of this Government towards the housing situation would be one of the clearest examples we have had so far of a centralist power attempting to dictate to the States and telling them how to run their own business. Because of the existing problems of housing, the Government has seized the opportunity to try to nationalise this industry, regardless of the consequences to people. Shortly after honourable members opposite became the Government they made a great show of expressing their concern at the housing problem in all the States, and with a great fanfare - I remember it so well - announced that $6m would be allocated to the States for emergency housing. Queensland’s share of this allocation would have built approximately 30 houses - 30 houses spread over the whole of the State to ease what the Government called a crisis in housing.
Then we saw the spectacle of the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) haggling with the States over what houses they would be able to build for sale or rental. Is it any wonder that the States objected - even those States presided over by a government of .the same political persuasion as the Australian Government? Does the Minister honestly think that he can solve the problem of housing from his Canberra office, or from his Sydney office, by laying down one hard and fast rule, which does not take into consider ation the particular problems of the particular State? Does he not realise that housing problems in Queensland, for instance, are different from those in Victoria and that this situation applies to all the States? Is it any wonder that the State Housing Ministers have objected strongly to being dictated to, especially when the Minister must realise that there are differences in requirement?
Is it any wonder that they would not sign a Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement which did not allow them flexibility in working out the problems peculiar to their own States? I would suggest to the Minister, to help him avoid any further embarrassment in this matter, that he pay attention to the requirements of each particular State and allow them the flexibility they require in the allocation of funds for particular housing purposes. This is the only way in which he can achieve harmony and mutual co-operation with the States. If he desires to see more rental accommodation become available there are ways and means to prevail upon the States to reason in this matter. But why aggravate the situation by declaring that a certain percentage must be available for rental and a certain percentage for sale, when surely he must know of the differences in requirements? Why attempt to bludgeon the States into submitting to his hard line policy by threatening them that the rate of interest on housing loans funds would be increased if they did not submit? That to me is an incredible situation and one which should not be tolerated by the States or by the people.
While on the subject of housing, may I draw the Minister’s attention to one important aspect which is adversely affecting quite a number of people and one which the Minister appears to accept as a matter of course. This in the matter of defence service homes. I do not know whether the Minister is aware of this, but it has been put pretty definitely to me that defence service homes or war service homes loans, as we knew them, are becoming dirty words in a number of localities. The staff who administer this section of the Department of Housing are to be commended for the job they have done and are doing under legislation that should have been reviewed years ago. In this respect I cannot and will not attempt to absolve from blame the previous Government, of which I was a member, for not reviewing this legislation and updating it to conform with current circumstances. But I do question this Government and the present Minister for allowing it to continue, especially in view of his statements that young people would be encouraged to purchase their own homes and his introduction of legislation to ease the qualifications of eligibility for servicemen to take advantage of the defence service homes loans. Recently a number of servicemen and ex-servicemen have said to me: ‘The Government thought it was giving us a big deal by raising the amount of the loan from $9,000 to $12,000, but try and get it if you can - if you are prepared to wade through a swamp of red tape.’
I do not know whether the Minister realises that over the last 2 years sales of houses have become fiercely competitive, and a person wishing to sell a home is not prepared to wait up to 3 months or more for ex-servicemen to obtain the $12,000 loan, or even approval of the loan, to purchase the property. There is always a purchaser with easier access to finance waiting. I know of service personnel who, as a consequence of this delay, have been placed in a most frustrating position - being refused the opportunity of buying the home they would like because the vendor would not wait until the Department had made the necessary investigations and processed them before making a decision on approval or otherwise. In a recent instance one serviceman with 20-odd years service has been placed in the embarrassing situation of being told ‘nothing doing’ when he mentioned he would be using a war service homes loan to purchase a dwelling that was on the market - and not once, but 3 times. Others have been told by real estate agents that their chances of getting a vendor to. wait until the Department paid up are extremely slim. Others I know, to obtain the dwelling that would suit them, have in desperation, by-passed their opportunity to obtain a Service loan and saddled themselves with the greater interest repayment from finance companies or banks in order to secure the deal. These examples, of course, have applied where the dwelling is already established.
But consider the case of a serviceman or ex-serviceman who wishes to build a new home. After his eligibility has been established following his application - which in some circumstances according to the locality in which he lives may take anything up to three or more weeks - his land has to be inspected when an inspector is available. Then follows the submission of plans, etc. Once all this procedure has been followed the builder can commence the job. When the dwelling is completed it is again inspected, when an inspector is available, and provided his report is approved by the architectural staff of the department the conveyancing staff deals with it, and details of insurance, etc. are completed. Then comes the big moment: Payment is made. Add a few grey hairs to the serviceman caused by anxious weeks of waiting for approval and the pestering of the builder for his money - because he has to meet his commitments also - and it is no wonder the serviceman by-passes his opportunity to take advantage of the low interest loan to avoid the worry to himself and his family. How about the worrying procedure of obtaining bridging finance? What are the Minister’s comments regarding a young serviceman’s situation when approval to build has been given but final approval after the dwelling is completed has been denied because of a builder’s fault, and even though the builder has agreed to rectify the fault, the Department still says no? Has the Minister ever thought of the situation in which this particular serviceman has been placed and has he any thought as to how to assist him in such a hopeless situation?
I fully appreciate the reasons behind the original legislation and the procedure adopted to implement it - the protection of the applicant and naturally the protection of the Government’s equity in the deal. I also fully appreciate the efforts of the departmental staff in implementing the legislation and the consideration they have given to all applications, but, while the system worked well in previous times, the additional workload imposed on the staff by present day circumstances must have repercussions all along the line until it finishes in the Service applicant’s lap. I hope the Minister is aware of the fact that because of the relaxation of eligibility the department can expect many more than the normal number of applications in the future.
There is an answer to this, if the Minister and the Government are prepared to recognise it. The Government has not been hesitant in spending the taxpayers’ money like a drunken sailor if it thought the occasion warranted it, regardless of consequences. So I would suggest that it allocates funds through an avenue that would be beneficial, both to the Service community and the staff. I suggest to the Minister that regional offices of the Department of Housing be established and so geared that they can deal with applications for defence service homes loans on the spot, and do away with the necessity of forwarding all applications to a capital city for processing, which in some instances could be more than 1,000 miles away. When I speak of gearing these regional offices to process applications I mean the complete processing whereby the regional officer is empowered to make decisions regarding’ approvals and to make the necessary loan payments to builders or financial institutions.
I fully realise the staff requirements for such a proposal but the satisfactory result of establishing such offices would more than justify the additional costs. There is a way to do it which could reduce a considerable amount of the additional cost. But this system must remain an exercise for the Minister’s thinking, for I do not intend to do his thinking for him. This will be part of my policy when I present it. But I can assure the Minister that if he does not come up with the answer to this problem when I know there is an answer, when we are the Government I will.
The other subject of the Budget I would like to remark on is the increase in pensions. I remember well the times when the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), after the previous Government had announced details of pension increases in the budget, would describe the then Government as mean and miserable men. But let us have a look at what his Government has done with pensions. It promised it would raise pensions by $1.50 in the spring and autumn of each year, until the pension reached 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. When I made the point last session that this $3 a year raise would never reach the desired percentage the Minister stated that if necessary the Government would make a special allowance available so pensions could reach the promised amount. He has had 2 opportunitites to do this, once during the last session and again in the Budget allocation. But so far this has not eventuated. Recently he again made the statement that special consideration would be given to pensioners if the SI. 50 increase was not sufficient for the pension to reach 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. The Minister must know that with inflation of food prices as it presently is, Si. 50 does not amount to much, but still no consideration of increasing the pension to the promised amount has been indicated. So I now say to the Minister that because the pension still remains well behind the promised 25 per cent of average weekly earnings, his Government is a collection of mean and miserable men. I have great pleasure in supporting the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). I think it would add some sense to what I consider is a disastrous Budget.
– (Quorum formed.) I thank the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) for his kindness in getting an audience for me. I was quite stunned by the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett), who accused this Government of parsimony and of being mean and miserable men. I am reminded of the definition of cheek - the man who murdered both his parents and then threw himself on the mercy of the court on the grounds that he was an orphan. The honourable member for Herbert has just made one of the cheekiest speeches I think I have heard in my years in this House. I happen to have with me the figures for the pension increases over the period I have been in this House. The present Government has increased pensions by $3 a year. Let us not talk of SI. 50; it is S3 a year. That will continue to be a minimum increase until we have reached that desirable figure of 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. I remind the honourable member for Herbert, a front bench member of the Opposition, that it is only a minimum amount and that if it is desired that we increase the pension by S4 a year to achieve that 25 per cent we shall do so. We did not say at any stage that it would be done in the first 3 months, 6 months or 9 months of a Labor Government but in the first 3 years, and representing the largest pensioner electorate, I for one am convinced of the Government’s sincerity and that it will do just that.
Let us look at the record of the previous Government. When I came into this Parliament pensions were SI 5 a week. I remember the stunned surprise of not just this Parliament but the whole of Australia when pensions were raised by the grand sum of 50c in the August Budget of 1970. This is only 3 years ago. Then when the Government was in all kinds of trouble upon the defeat of the former Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, in an attempt to take the heat off the Government the incoming Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, added in his maiden Prime Ministerial speech that there would be a further 50c for pensioners. In October 1971 we had the first reasonable pension increase of SI. 25. But, of course, the Budget of that year will always be remembered as the horror budget that gave us 140,000 unemployed, and in an attempt to improve the employment situation another SI was added to the pension at that time to stimulate employment. That increase was granted not to look after the needs of pensioners but to look after the electoral chances of the Government. Only once in the time I have been in this House has there been any real attempt to increase pensions substantially, and that was just prior to the last elections. lt was done quite cynically for no other reason than to boost the Government’s obviously very flagging chances at the 2 December elections. So let us have no more crocodile tears about what this Government is doing and no more hypocrisy after what the previous Government did not do in the long period it was in power.
If anyone had taken the trouble to listen to the speeches of members of the Opposition during the Budget debate and also to study the editorial comments on that document in leading Australian metropolitan newspapers he could have been forgiven for coming to the conclusion that 2 completely different budgets had been presented on the same evening. I tried to get a copy of the speech of the honourable member for North Sydney, which I can recall was an absolute classic. I could imagine that the Bolsheviks were coming around the corner, according to him. I picked out just a few items from speeches by Opposition members like ‘doctrinaire socialism’, ‘the greatest domestic disaster of the day’, ‘the most vicious, vindictive and savage attack ever made on any section of the Australian people’. The revolution is just around the corner according to some of the crazed nuts on the other side of the House.
– He had been listening to the honourable member for Mackellar. He talks that nonsense too.
– Quite right. They are a good pair. It seems that full moons affect them both in the same way.
– I think that ought to be withdrawn.
Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh should resume his seat.
– Let us seriously have a look as some of the comments in some of the Australian metropolitan newspapers. The ‘Canberra Times’ said:
A WORKING BUDGET
Australians, somewhat breathless after 9 months of Labor rule, were looking forward with some trepidation to the first Budget presented by an ALP Treasurer in 24 years. The package unveiled last night, however, was something of an anti-climax in that it is neither catastrophic in its impositions nor over-generous in its largesse.
I am not suggesting for one moment that I would agree with that, but that was said in the Canberra Times’. The ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ said:
LABOR’S FIRST BUDGET
Faced with a difficult set of budgetary problems, the Government has managed to give effect to its reformist social ambitions while exercising a reasonable degree of economic responsibility.
The ‘Australian Financial Review’ stated:
A MODERATE BEGINNING
Within the context of Labor’s stated philosophy and aspirations - and contrary to the often irrational fears of business doomsayers - Mr Crean’s first Budget is fair, moderately innovative and responsible.
Of course, as the Treasurer repeatedly emphasised last night, it is merely the first instalment of the Whitlam Government’s plan to change the economic and social face of Australia.
It hardly sounds as though the revolution is around the corner in the way that our friends on the other side of the chamber have carried on. Anyone who claims to even a modicum of impartiality or objectivity would, I believe, venture to suggest that the Press of Australia had suddenly been converted to the Labor cause or had had a bad attack of socialism. But those were the comments of the Australian Press on our Budget. Only political parties such as the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party could reach such previously unmatched heights in absurdity and in their capacity for self-delusion if they continue to view this Budget and to think that the people of Australia view it in such a light.
Should anyone care to analyse the arguments put forward by Opposition speakers in this Budget debate I am sure they would be surprised to find how consistently inconsistent they have been. On the one hand the Government is attacked for too much public spending and on the other for spending too little. On the one hand we are attacked for a very nominal increase in taxes and on the other for having budgeted for a deficit which the Opposition claims will stimulate inflation. Of course the obvious alternative is to budget for a surplus by increasing taxation. The Opposition could have indicated where we could have restricted our expenditure but it has clearly not been prepared to do this.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) claims that it is not his responsibility to prepare an alternative Budget or to indicate what sort of approach he would take. I should like to direct him to previous speeches by the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when he was the Leader of the Opposition, both in Budget debates and in campaign speeches, where he indicated clearly what steps the Australian Labor Party would take. Incidentally, I should like to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on the speed with which he read his reply to the Budget. He must have set a new fast talking record even if it was not of every high quality. Let’ us imagine what the 1973 Budget by the Liberal Party-Country Party might have been if that coalition had been in government.
The old warlords - my friend from North Sydney would come into that category - who got us involved in the monstrosity that was Vietnam, still seem convinced that we are about to be attacked by that wonderful enemy they always managed to produce near an election. Even though we are now out of Vietnam, even though the Republican President of the United States has forged a new detente with China and with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and even though there is not a country within 1,000 miles of Australia that appears to be remotely aggressive or expansionist - unless of course one thinks that New Zealand, since it went socialist, is a threat to Australia - clearly the Liberals would have spent some hundreds of millions of dollars more on defence.
They leave no doubt that they would have made substantial grants to the A category schools to which they show such a strong affinity. This would entail, 1 understand, approximately S36m, unless the amount given to other schools were reduced. In view of the Opposition’s past record this is probably what would have happened. It does not have the courage to say that but this is clear from its past record. The poor Catholic schools and the State school system would not have received anything near what they have received under this Government.
– What nonsense.
– The previous Government never gave anything of any substance to them before so why should the Opposition suddenly get generous if it had a chance to bring this Budget down? We have been informed by Opposition spokesmen that the plan to restructure Australia’s urban life by building new cities and towns and by properly planning the strategic growth centres near the major cities is only a drop in the ocean. It is either deliberate myopia or complete stupidity on their part that they canont see that such an all-embracing initiative as an attack upon the over-crowding problems of the metropolitan areas of Australia involving urban transport, sewerage and the setting up of a land commission. The building and planning of new growth centres requires a considerable amount of detailed planning, including the setting up of appropriate development authorities, working out broad strategies and acquiring large areas of land, not to mention the enormous detailed planning to provide the infrastructure such as roads, water, sewerage, telephone services, schools, etc, that are absolutely essential in such large-scale development required for new cities with planned populations of from 250,000 to 500,000. It ought to be obvious to even the densest among the members of the Opposition that in the early stages primary planning is required and that the real expenditure will occur in later years as the plans start to be implemented.
For a Party that for 23 years completely ignored the problems of the over-populated cities and talked glibly about decentralisation while the people left the rural areas in droves to come to the cities, it is the ultimate in absurdity to criticise a Labor Government which has put down its first instalment of SI 36m to improve the quality of life for a most neglected segment of the community - the urban Australian. The sum or S36m has been provided for growth centres, including Albury-Wodonga, Bathurst-Orange. LiverpoolMenaiCampbelltown, Gosford-Wyong, Townsville. Geelong, Monarto and <o on. An amount of S30m has been provided for sewerage, S8m for the western sectors of Sydney and Melbourne, S32m for urban transport and S30m for the setting up of a land commission. Yet the Liberals say that it is not enough. They are in for an awfully rude shock when the Cities Commission report is introduced next week. For a Party that never took any interest whatever in the problems of the cities or ever did anything but talk r.bout decentralisation, it has been converted in world record time.
In the few moments left to me 1 want to look at the field of social welfare. I have already mentioned the question of Budget increases. Like everybody else one would like to have seen even larger increases. I say that as one who represents the electorate with the largest number of pensioners. On the latest figures there are 21,000 people in my electorate in receipt of a pension; the nearest to this is the electorate of Mr Speaker with 14,000.
This Budget provides assistance in a number of other ways. If honourable members take the time and trouble to listen to the second reading speeches to see what the Bills being introduced contain, as I have done, they will be able to indicate these new provisions to all those groups who are interested in seeing a real quality of life emerge in our comunity. I am talking now about sporting and related groups, people concerned about recreation and the use of our leisure time, people who are interested in the problems of the aged and in senior citizens’ centres, creativity centres and arts centres. All these are mentioned in this Budget. I advise all honourable members on both sides of the House, particularly those on my side, to read the legislation very carefully because it is in their interests to do so. Sometimes honourable members have groups come to them. They might be very fortunate and the groups may have the plans drawn up. All that the groups will want the member to do is present those plans to the appropriate department. But many times there are groups without the capacity to initiate such moves and it is then up to the member in association with councillors and State members to initiate those proceedings. I have about 5 senior citizens’ centres and 2 recreation centre projects going at the moment.
It will be up to members of Parliament to explain to local groups the details of this legislation which provides $3. 2m for the development of community recreation complexes. There has been a doubling of the amount provided for senior citizens’ and social welfare centres. This is a most progressive move. Funds are available under the social welfare assistance plan and it is possible to get a grant of $20,000 for a regional director and planning staff to draw together the myriad social welfare and health activities which are now run by so many different government agencies without any over all planning. The provisions are there and it is up to the community, with the initiative being taken by Federal members and their colleagues, to see that each community gets the advantages provided in this Budget. 1 am coming to the end of my time and I am sorry that I have not had the opportunity to enlarge upon a lot of the matters I have mentioned. I have a few regrets about the Budget. I do not think the Budget has yet been introduced that does not leave room for regrets. However the action I regret most is the 5 per cent impost on petrol. From a personal point of view and on behalf of my electorate I regret not the actual phasing out of sales tax on nonalcoholic carbonated beverages but the way it was done. I think a plan should have been worked out before the sales tax exemption was removed. However, by and large I believe that this Budget will be seen to be one of the very great Budgets in Australia’s history as the impact and implications of it are felt and as people start to read the fine print in it and see that it contains things for the whole of the people of Australia.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Last month as I sat in this chamber and listened intently to the Treasurer (Mr Crean) deliver the first Labor Budget for some 24 years I reflected that a quarter of a century is rather a lengthy time for a party to have been in Opposition. However, during that time we have seen this nation develop at an unprecedented rate. During this time the standard of personal living and affluence of the people of this nation raced ahead of that in most other nations and I could not but feel amazed that this Government, after so many years and so many election promises and after having set itself up as champion of the small man, the wage earner and the small business man, could introduce a Budget so devoid of any policy to deal with the crippling rate of inflation. One could not help but be disturbed that the very thing - inflation - that was eating away at the wage earner’s dollar, that was having severe effects upon the people on fixed incomes, particularly our pensioners, was not only to be allowed to race on unchecked but also was to be encouraged and assisted.
I believe we are seeing an obsession to transfer resources from the private sector of our community to the public sector, a transfer of support from the productive sector into the unproductive areas of our economy. Of course, a balance is always needed and advances must continue to be made in fields of social welfare and education but if the source of these advances, the growth and wealth producing areas of our economy, are restricted or hamstrung and if the scourge of inflation is allowed to race on unimpeded, the Government will end up robbing the very people it makes a sham and a pretence of representing. Education and social welfare have been given top priority in the Budget, as they should be in any Budget, and while this is not the place to debate fully these 2 vital areas of government responsibility, I commend the government for many of the measures undertaken. The increased spending on education of some 15 per cent over the previous Liberal-Country Party Government allocation must boost particularly those new areas of learning that changing times, circumstances and public awareness are demanding.
I cannot refrain from expressing my support for the special assistance to be given to children from disadvantaged families and to the many schools throughout many areas of this nation whose facilities are not yet up to the appropriate standard. But I ask the Government: Why in its assesment of educational deficiency has it turned a full circle and imposed a system of discrimination? Why has it turned away from the previous system of per capita grants which enabled interested parents to add to government allocations by the fruits of their own efforts? The removal of this principle in 1975 will affect up to 30 per cent of all schools which under a most unusual system of categorisation are to receive less assistance than they did under the former Government. The Government is carrying through aid programs for education and applying this principle to schools which cater for many of our disadvantaged and handicapped children. A judgment of such schools based only on the capital value of assets or facilities and not on the particular needs and requirements of children and parents served by that institution is wrong. These severely disadvantaged schools will be very seriously affected. The voluntary schools for the deaf, blind, crippled and many of our handicapped children, schools that have been supported and financed by parents who in the past have banded together out of sheer necessity should be entitled to the same level of aid as any’ future or present government school catering for children with the same type of handicap. The interest and participation of parents is a significant factor in a successful education system. It should be fostered and developed and not severed as this method of school classification will ultimately do.
I turn now to those areas of the Budget that affect the Australian citizens I represent, the rural people. These people have withstood many crises over past years. They have had a severe rural recession, have periodically had to compete with the elements, floods, droughts and other natural disasters. The wage earners in rural areas have suffered from unemployment, as has any wage earner in any metropolitan area. Under the previous Government they had rightly expected and received programs of assistance and protection. This Budget foreshadows what is slowly but surely proving to ‘be a complete demolition of past protection for rural workers, business people and primary producers. As Budget legislation is being introduced into the Parliament not only is the total vagueness of the Budget Speech being realised but the grim campaign of hate and deception against rural Australia and against all forms of private enterprise is unfolding. The impact of this Budget upon one-third of our population who live outside urban areas will be immediate.
Over the years many private businesses have developed employment opportunities under natural growth conditions to the benefit of this nation. Many private firms have secured significant export markets with the assistance of the former Government’s incentive schemes but now they must regard future expansion with doubt with the Labor Government’s obvious lack of affinity in continuing this initiative. The availability of finance or growth has always been the major problem for small private business people and companies but with the proposed increases in taxation to 47i per cent - the same as the taxation rate for public companies which have adequate finance sources - it will further prune the gap between operating costs and profits, leaving little or no room for expansion of private business enterprises.
In a wild headlong lunge at multi-national organisations which possibly are best poised to absorb even a Labor government’s extermination program this Budget will have the opposite effect of damaging successful family businesses and companies. In the wine industry this is particularly notable. All the major wine producers in my electorate of Mallee are family owned and controlled. The proposed change in the basis of stock valuation will financially damage these producers, not the large foreign owned or locally owned companies with unlimited availability of finance. Local brandy grape suppliers who have operated under concessional conditions in the past, owing mainly to the lack of diversity that exists in the manufacture from their raw produce, must now operate unprotected with other producers of potable spirits. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) speaks of funds that may be necessary to assist in reconstruction if any sections of the fruitgrowing industry are affected. My fruit growers do not want reconstruction. They only desire and deservedly expect some level of protection to operate in conditions comparable to the structure of wage costs and operating costs existing in the rest of the nation.
During the general election campaign all political parties laid great emphasis upon the policies of financial support to local government authorities and to a determination of a successful balanced development program financed with support from the Federal Government. Country shires and municipalities which along with most local government bodies have been struggling to control a worsening financial burden did not even rate a mention in the Budget of 1973. In fact the amended Grants Commission legislation is only creating confusion and concern. Municipalities must be told quickly the guidelines for proposals on regionalisation and Federal assistance. They must know if this Labor Government is going to honour its election promise. Good government and good management is found closest to the people at local government level and Federal assistance is urgently needed to supplement the valuable social and community programs that are at this time being restricted by a lack of funds and the impossibility of ratepayers to absorb further rate increases.
This Government has shown by so many anti-decentralisation actions in the Budget that it is not genuinely concerned about the future viability and prosperity of rural Australia or for that matter about the many environmental and social evils of disadvantaged metropolitan living. Government supporters talk of grandiose schemes of artificial control and growth but they are not even prepared to support existing communities with the conditions ideally suited to spontaneous natural growth. In fact, the exact opposite will take place. The Government intends to phase out support to essential air services by 30 June 1974 and to phase out support for developmental air services over a period of 4 years. The Government has applied extreme penalties on country newspapers by unrealistic postage increases and on country commercial radio stations by huge increases in licensing fees, lt has further penalised rural people by extreme increases in telephone and postal charges. As well, of course, the Government has removed the freight differential arrangements on petrol making the petrol increase in country areas up to 7c above the price that existed before the Budget. The 5c excise on petrol will affect all Australian citizens but an extra 2c per gallon represents discrimination against those people who are living further from metropolitan areas.
Many of my Country Party colleagues have spoken in great detail of the effect of many changes in our electorates that have occurred as a result of this Budget but I wish to mention some principal variations to the former Liberal-Country Party policies that will now apply in relation to telephone subscribers and postal services. Firstly, telephone rentals will be raised from $27 or $37 to $55 annually. Subscribers to non-continuous exchanges will experience a rise from $8 to $35 which is nearly 500 per cent. New connections will go up from $50 to $60. A 20c connection fee per call will apply to operator connected calls where subscriber trunk dialling is in use. Of course, the really damaging change to people in country areas who are not yet connected to a telephone service is that line plant will be provided and maintained only up to 8 kilometres.
– About 5 miles instead of 15 miles as it was previously.
– As the honourable member for Calare has just stated it is about 5 miles instead of a radius of 15 miles under the previous Government’s policy. Beyond this radius, of course, telephone subscribers will have to contribute to the cost of providing the service. Even private bag and postal box rentals will be increased by 50 per cent. The Country Party has always regarded rural dwellers as equal citizens of this nation and as people who are entitled to the level of service which is provided to others by government institutions. I express extreme concern at these new measures that put the boot right into the rural sector of the economy.
I wish for a moment to go back to Budget increases in relation to postage rates on country newspapers. The present postal bill for just 26 regional dailies in Australia is approximately $160,000 per annum and with the 300 per cent increase that is to occur in March 1974 the postage costs for these 26 papers will rise to $640,000 per annum. This estimate does not include the scores of weekly, twiceweekly and tri-weekly publications that are providing a vital service to rural subscribers throughout this nation. Proprietors of these newspapers will not be able to subsidise these rates. The increases naturally will be passed on to the subscribers. An average p«.per which now costs 8c will cost a minimum of 15c in March 1974. Regional newspapers published in the eastern States alone have a daily circulation of 350,000, serving a population of 1.7 million or 12.8 per cent of the people living in Australia. The whole strategy of the Budget and this issue in particular has obviously been against country people, not only rural communities but these living in regional cities. It becomes more than obviously discriminatory when we learn that in the proposed category ratings of newspapers trade union publications will be the only ones still to receive the old concessional postage rates.
I turn now to those parts of the. Budget that particularly discriminate against primary producers. The election campaign saw a wooing of rural electors by the Australian Labor Party with policies attractive to man/ producers who had forgotten past unjust treatment by Labor governments. Who could resist the promise of rural credit at 3 per cent interest? This policy was widely canvassed by my neighbour the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby). Who could resist this statement of his in the Riverina Press on 22 November 1972:
Independent schools will die in 10 years unless there is a new deal.
We have seen the new deal that has been dealt out to many independent schools which are serving isolated children in rural Australia.
This Government is condemned by its double standards - one standard used by Australian Labor Party candidates with glowing promises and gimmicks at election time and the real one that uses the rural people as scapegoats for unprecedented Government spending. Let us look at what happened yesterday in this House when the Meat Export Charge Bill 1973 was introduced.. The Treasurer had stated in the Budget Speech that meat exporters would be charged a levy of lc per lb, a cost to the industry of $18m in a full year. But what did we find yesterday? The Minister for Immigration, a rural spokesman in this House representing the vast meat producing electorate of Riverina, announced that this levy on beef export products would not be lc per lb as stated in the Budget but had been increased to 1.6c per ,b, a rise of 60 per cent. In a pathetic attempt to pass this sectional charge off as insignificant the Minister stated:
Currently there is a strong demand for Australian meats and in these circumstances it is not expected that the charge will be passed back to the livestock producers.
Just who does he expect will foot the Bill? Of course it will be the meat producer.
This Budget is a direct blow to all rural people. It will penalise rural industries at a time when incentives for increased production should be encouraged. Either this Labor Government has to make a brutal attack on rural people in an effort to finance its wild spending spree or it has a basic ignorance of the true position of rural citizens and producers in our economy. The interjections that are coming from the Australian Country Party section of this chamber indicate that those honourable members entirely agree with this view. I am quite sure that many metropolitan Labor members on the other side of the House are completely ignorant of the position of country Australia. In a survey released yesterday a firm of economic research consultants pointed out that while productivity from farm workers had been 20 per cent above that from all other sections of the community, producers’ incomes had grown at an average rate of only 3.4 per cent a year between 1962-63 and 1972-73 compared to a 7.2 per cent rise in average weekly earnings.
This Budget penalises productivity. It will have a dampening effect on the initiative and enterprise that has made Australia’s primary producers the most efficient in the world. Rural people have not been responsible for the increasing rate of inflation. In fact, they have kept absorbing inflationary pressures generated by other sections of the community. I cannot accept this Budget and I add my support to the amendments put forward by the Opposition. (Quorum formed)
– Firstly I would like to congratulate the Treasurer (Mr Crean) on handing down the first Labor
Budget for 23 years. It was a reform Budget. It was a commonsense Budget. It was an honest Budget. It was a reform Budget because it was framed as part of our overall program to achieve what we had promised to the electorate. This Budget demonstrates that we are a Government that keeps its promises for we have tackled that program on a broad front. Spending on education is up 92 per cent on last year and continues to be the fastest growing component of the Budget. The means test for pensioners has been removed for those over 75 years of age as the first step to abolishing the means test totally, and pensions have been increased by S3 during our first year of office. Also SI 36m is provided for our cities initiatives in 1973-74. Even so, this and other expenditure marks only the beginning.
It is a commonsense Budget because it is financed by a reallocation of moneys within the public sector and by a reallocation of moneys from the speculative and profiteering area of the private sector to the community sector. The Government has not only achieved its aims; it has also managed a deflationary impact. We have answered our critics who for years raised the bogy: ‘Where is the money coming from?’ It is an honest Budget because it does not pretend to do what it cannot do, that is, control inflation by itself. This Budget cannot be seen and judged in isolation from other fiscal and monetary measures taken by this Government or foreshadowed by the Treasurer. Nor can it be seen in isolation from the promises and aspirations of the Government. To criticise this Budget in narrow terms of inflation control is to be myopic in the range of understanding that is required on the economy as a whole and inflation in particular. Yet this is the fault of the Opposition which talks of the Government’s inflationary gap only to display its own credibility gap of economic understanding.
Let us examine the present rate of inflation and what has caused it. Inflation is not new to the Opposition. In 1949 the Opposition won government on the promise to put value back into the pound only to lift the rate of inflation from 8.4 per cent to 13.6 per cent in its first year and to a record high, never since equalled, of 22.5 per cent within a further year. Now, with economic gymnastics that leave the experts gasping, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) tells us that he left the country with an inflationary rate of only 4.8 per cent whereas it is now running at 13.2 per cent. He has arrived at these dishonest figures by simply multiplying the artificially low December quarter increase in the consumer price index by four and presenting it as a final figure. Similarly, he has multiplied by four the exceptionally high June quarter increase in the consumer price index to arrive at 13.2 per cent. The Opposition has conveniently ignored that these quarters are unrepresentative for evaluation of the Government’s management of the economy. Until this Budget was presented the economy had been operating in an environment largely determined by the previous Government. The rises in the consumer prize index particularly in the first quarter are the lagged results of their Budget last year. Just as surely ar the high unemployment level of a year ago was the result of their stop-go Budget of 1971-72, so this flationary boom was largely caused by an irresponsible, vote designed, expansionary Budget of 1972-73. They failed to catch votes but they did bring hardship down on those on low and fixed incomes.
Inflation is not unique to Australia. It is common to most comparable industrialised countries, be they communist, capitalist, socialist or fascist. They are all struggling to contain it. Inflation is a little more complex than the Opposition would like us to believe and has some of its roots in events beyond the control of even this Government. Seasonal food prices are a case in point. Meat prices rose by 11 per cent during the June quarter propelled by export demand. Winter clothing rose by 11.1 per cent - another seasonal factor reflecting the surge in wool prices on the world market. Prices have also risen as manufacturers raised their prices and their profits before they had to justify price increases to the Prices Justification Tribunal.
The procrastination of the Opposition, its fear of planning in the long term and its sychophantry to profits have been the greatest of inflationary forces and the trade mark of its economic mismanagement. Remember the words of the former Treasurer when unemployment was at its highest for more than a decade: ‘We have achieved what we set out to do’. They certainly increased the rate of unemployment but the rate of inflation actually rose. The previous Government was mesmerised by the economic model of the Philips curve which in a nutshell trades off unemployment against inflation. The fact that the rate of inflation increased even though the rate of unemployment soared showed that forces other than wage increases have been a significant cause of Australia’s inflation in recent years as well as excess demand in times of full employment. The Labor Government will never increase unemployment to curb inflation. The price is too great and those who suffer most are those least able to bear that price. We question the application of the Philips curve model not only socially but also on economic grounds as it depends upon cost push factors being the major inflationary force. Even the Leader of the Opposition now recognises this. It is unfortunate for this country that the same honourable member, when Treasurer, had not been introduced to the Swan economic model which introduces the exchange rate as another variable. The pressures from his coalition partner robbed him of altering the exchange rate that urgently needed revaluation, so he was left with the unemployment trade-off.
In December last year we acted to appreciate the Australian dollar, thereby restraining price increases through increased imports without affecting the volume of exports or increasing unemployment. We have found it necessary to upvalue a further 5 per cent in face of a buoyant economy and to reduce excess liquidity. The Leader of the Opposition exposes his ignorance on what is meant by demand. He is concerned with the distribution of demand rather than aggregate demand which is the sum of private and community demand, which is more important in the macro-economic sense. The Leader of the Opposition would like to cut demand. Where would the Opposition like to curb community or public demand? Would it like pensioners to pull in their belts rather than pull in an extra $3 a week this year? Would it like to downgrade education? Do members of the Opposition not realise that they partly lost the last election because they failed to spend extra money on education on a needs basis to close the gap between the poor and the rich schools? They are devoid of suggestions because they cannot cut public expenditure. They are enjoying the luxury of opposition with irresponsible statements.
The Leader of the Opposition also has overlooked the fact that increases in necessary community spending have been financed largely by an increase in government revenue from a taxation schedule his Government established and by the closing down of uneco nomic subsidies and concessions and from a reallocation of spending priorities. This Budget can be described only as mildly deflationary, as the overall Budget deficit has decreased by $22m. Yet the Leader of the Opposition, through a false equation, attempts to have us believe that this is inflationary. He is the only person I have heard make such a claim. The falsity of his equation is exposed when it is realised that he has placed total increases in expenditure in money terms on one side and only new sources of revenue on the other. He has ignored increases in revenue in money terms from the present taxation schedule. The facts can be found at the bottom of page 2 of statement 1 attached to the Treasurer’s Budget speech. A better guide to the full thrust of any deflationary impact is to be found not in the absolute deficit but in the change in deficit over the previous Budget. Our change in deficit is $53m, whereas his inflationary Budget was a change to a surplus of $62Cm.
I think it is only right to say a few words on prices and incomes policies. In 1969 President Nixon inherited an inflation generated fairly quickly by excessive demand. His severe monetary and fiscal restrictions created high levels of unemployment that crippled production, and yet inflation continued. Two years later the President applied a 90-day pricesincomes freeze followed by a period of justified increases. Without analysing the differences between the United States and Australian economies, the Opposition would like us to follow the United States just as closely as we followed that nation into the Vietnam war. Yet our economies are as different as our roles in foreign affairs. There is no single cause of inflation in Australia but the Opposition sticks stubbornly to its rhetoric that cost-push due to wages is the sole cause of inflation. The rationale behind the imposition of phase 1 of the American controls was to break the expectation held by the people that inflation was inevitable and must be hedged by increased incomes and profits. The economy of the United States is largely independent and the cause of inflation largely cost-push, whereas Australia is an open economy with a significant part of its gross national product due to trade. There is more chance of breaking inflationary expectations in an economy that is largely domestic. Australia, on the other hand, experiences a high degree of imported inflation.
A successful prices-incomes policy in Australia can be exercised only if the Australian
Government has control over the increases in both wages and prices. The setting of wages in Australia is highly centralised and controlled insofar as award wages are concerned, and Commonwealth awards flow on through State determinations. However, the Australian Government is the only Federal government that does not have the power to control prices. On the other hand, it has the responsibility for achieving full employment, equilibrium of the balance of payments, price stability, an efficient use of resources, satisfactory economic growth and an equitable distribution of income. Strangely enough, it does not hold the key, the common denominator to achieve these often conflicting goals, and that is price control. In Australia, the constitition prevent the national government instituting price control. Unquestionably, the Australian Parliament should have legislative power over prices, whatever the government in power. The Australian Government can legislate on prices only in wartime under wartime controls. We are now fighting a war against inflation. The Federal Government must have the power of price control to win that war.
What is the alternative that now exists to those who advocate a prices-incomes policy without change in the distribution of power between the States and the Federal Government? If we have separated powers working in opposite directions the inflation could well be aggravated or bring about unnecessary profit squeezing. The Leader of the Opposition promises us the co-operation of the Liberal Premiers to carry out his phase 1 program. He is caught in a cleft stick because he will not agree to referring essential powers to what he terms a centralist government. What confidence can we have in his Liberal Premiers in a fight against inflation if they cannot agree with the Australian Government on the need to control land prices through a land price stabilisation scheme funded by joint land commissions? What confidence can we have in his cohorts if they see co-operation in terms of centralism and will not refer any powers over prices to the national government? They have nothing to lose, for it is a power they have never exercised. In their battle to protect State rights, they have entirely forgotten the only rights that matter - the rights of the people, a right to expect protection from inflation.
There will be no justice in a system that can restrict increases in wages via the Arbitration Commission and places no restriction on profits. Unless profits and prices can be controlled or modified, working people will be justified in treating any program with suspicion. The Opposition gives those on salaries and wages no reason to lift that suspicion. Any percentage increase in profits over a percentage increase in wages leaves the mass of Australian people worse off. The present distribution of the nation’s wealth is not equitable; 90 per cent of the Australian people earn through wages only 63 per cent of the nation’s wealth, whereas the remaining 10 per cent receive 36 per cent of the gross national product through profits. Any further shift in sharing in favour of the owners of production cannot be tolerated.
There may be arguments about the economic effectiveness of a prices-incomes policy but there can be no question that if they are to be effective they must be immediate and unchallenged. But I believe the Opposition, with its phase 1, phase 2 program, has put the cart before the horse. Studies of overseas pricesincomes policies show that success depends upon regulation of the economy before the imposition of any prices-incomes policy, and not afterwards. If this does not happen, the policy does not work and prices still rise. Furthermore, when the policy is relaxed there is a great likelihood of galloping inflation occurring immediately afterwards. The economy must be regulated and inflation slowed by curbing excess demand, increasing competition in the business sector and balancing external trade and the rate of exchange before any prices-incomes policies can be employed. Nowhere does the Leader of the Opposition tell us what machinery and administration he would create to implement a prices-incomes policy. He is also silent on details of his proposed economic regulation that he collectively titles phase 2. But of course this regulation is already in existence, prepared and brought to maturity since this Government came to office. While the Leader of the Opposition proclaims his new, bold, radical but questionable initiatives, the Government has already put a more feasible plan into gear.
Firstly, we recognise that there has always been a restriction on wages as increases have to be. justified in the eyes of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Secondly, we have established the Joint Prices Committee and the Prices Justification Tribunal to restrain unjustified prices increases. The Tribunal has the task of examining cost structures and the degree of competition in the market, and of submitting profits to a proper test. The Constitution may prevent us from introducing what the people want - price control - but if the Tribunal shows that any increases in prices are unjustified the Government will not hesitate to use its fiscal and purchasing powers to drive prices downward. This approach has the added advantage of avoiding any misallocation of resources or the creation of a black market price system that often accompanies overrestrictive price controls.
Thirdly, on the productivity side which is a measure of efficiency we will strengthen the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, an anaemic legacy from the previous Government. Cutting tariffs by 25 per cent has removed excess protection so that industries must compete more vigorously with increased imports, with obvious benefits to the consumer. The 20 per cent increase expected in imports, valued at about $800m, will also have a moderating effect on inflation by easing bottlenecks in domestic productive capacity. Undoubtedly the lack of control on credit and liquidity exercised by the previous Government has contributed to the current level of inflation. During 1972-73 the volume of money increased by 25.7 per cent compared with a 10.5 per cent increase in 1971-72 and 6.8 per cent a year earlier. A change in government in December also marked a change in the rate of increase in the volume of money. During the last 6 months it increased by only 7.7 per cent compared with a staggering 18 per cent in the previous 6 months under the previous Government. The last revaluation and proposed increase in interest rates will mop up further excess liquidity, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Federal Government must expand its control over fringe banking institutions if it is to control liquidity completely.
Mr Speaker, the Government has complemented fiscal action with a continuous and flexible monetary policy that adds up to an attack on inflation across a broad front without the disadvantages of widespread unemployment. But the full benefit can be achieved only if the Australian Government receives full cooperation from the States. Many words have been spoken by the Leader of the Opposition about promised co-operation from non-Labor State governments. Now is the time to turn words into action. I commend the Budget to the House.
– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb) said that this was an honest Budget. He referred to a 92 per cent increase in education expenditure but he omitted to draw attention to the takeover of tertiary education by the Commonwealth, which provides a significant component of that increase. I am sorry that I have not more time to deal with some of the other inadequate statements of the honourable member. We have heard a great deal in this debate along the line that the Budget will effect a large transfer of resources to the public sector.
This is clearly a primary objective of the Government but it is not the only objective that the Government is pursuing. That is an important point because it is linked directly with the key issue of the Budget, that is, that contrary to the argument of the honourable member for La Trobe this Budget does not combat inflation.
I have no hesitation in conceding that the Budget contains a wide range of appealing social measures such as increased spending on education, the beginning of the school dental scheme, increased pensions - but not sufficient to keep up with the rising cost of living - and welcome initiatives in the field of urban and regional development. But the greatest social benefit that the Government could implement would be to combat inflation. That would give substance and not illusion to higher pensions and real value for money in return for the sums allocated to other and important purposes such as the new growth centres, city transport, sewerage and so on. However, the Government not only does not make in this Budget a serious attempt to fight inflation. I go further and assert that it is not able to do so, which is a serious statement to make. It is unable because it is seeking to pursue 2 broad objectives which inevitably come into collision; at least they do when attempts to reach them are pushed too hard and too quickly.
The first of the 2 broad objectives is rapidly to expand the public sector by direct spending on goods and services, education, hospitals - or at least one hospital, in Parramatta - health services and the cities, but not defence. The promise to maintain defence expenditure at about 3.5 per cent of gross national product is not kept. I repeat that the first objective is rapidly to expand the public sector both by direct spending and transfer payments, increased welfare and social service benefits. The second objective fostered by the Government is to lift incomes, the wages and salaries, the real private spending power of the electorate which the Government professes to represent. I refer to the ordinary man in the street and his family, with their legitimate aspirations for a better house, a better car and 2 or more of them, and enough money not to have to pinch and scrape to clothe the kids and so on.
No one denies the importance of that second objective, but how much store is the man in the street prepared to put in the rhetoric of the Treasurer (Mr Crean) about our being much better at selling cars than providing decent public transport services. At least the Treasurer has adapted the familiar Gailbraithian line that we are better at producing cars than we are at providing decent roads on which to drive them. His is the up-to-date, more with it ‘Down with the freeways’. However, I suggest that Mr Average Bloke is also very interested in roads. The latter will say: Better public transport is good thinking but my own decent car comes first, and after that my second car’.
Like the Treasurer, I do not want to labour the point but honourable members should make no mistake. The conflict is a real one. Perhaps it is personified by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) who are keen on an enlargement of the public sector, and maybe the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) as the high priest of high wages, shorter hours and longer holidays, in pursuit of the other objective. So I stress again that the Government wants to enlarge the public sector by spending up on social welfare, city development and the rest, and Mr Clyde Cameron, together with, the broad mass of the electorate in a perfectly legitimate way, wants higher incomes and more money for the goods and services they choose to acquire; in short, they want more real private spending power. I contrast these objectives of enlarging the public sector, of spending up in the public sphere, and the perfectly legitimate aspiration of the broad mass of the electorate for higher incomes for more private spending capacity.
In his Budget Speech the Treasurer said that the priorities were all wrong. To whose priorities was he referring? Was he referring to the priorities of the Minister for Social Security for public sector spending or of the Minister for Labour for the private sphere? The Treasurer said that the priorities were all wrong and the Budget shifts the emphasis to the public sector. A series of Government supporters have stressed the fact that this Government will enlarge the public sector. ‘But will it? I would not bank on it. The Treasurer is clearly reasoning that the Budget provides for an increase of expenditure of the unprecedented order of 19 per cent. With inflation at 10 per cent built into the Budget he might reason that that should do the trick. A 10 per cent price and cost rise would still lead to real expansion of the order of 9 per cent That is greater, even with considerable economic growth, than the economy overall can possibly expand. The economy cannot expand in real terms - in terms of actual goods and services produced - by more than about 6 to 7 per cent, which is the Treasury estimate. We will be lucky to realise that target even with increased imports. If the public sector goes up by 9 per cent the private sector must increase by significantly ‘ess than that - perhaps of the order of 5 per cent.
How is this to be achieved? The Government will not increase taxes’, affirmed the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam); but taxes have been increased overtly through the hardy perennials of increased taxes on cigaretes, spirits and petrol. This is a real blow to the man in the street, perhaps raising the price index by the order of 1 per cent Taxes have been raised less overtly in the decision to commence to move towards a system Df collecting company tax by quarterly instalments. That will be of assistance to economic management when implemented but it means - I do not know how far the business community is awake to this - that a business will be up for about 125 per cent of its normal tax bill in this calendar year and at least that much again next year. That will have a pretty hefty impact in the approaching conditions of monetary restraint and for some businesses perhaps will cause a difficult liquidity problem.
More importantly than these measures or some of the other Coombs dismantling or culling operations that appear in the Budget, taxes have been raised by the more than proportionately increased tax take as average earnings rise by an anticipated 13 per cent. That is an increase in taxation which economists call the real rate of taxation. This was forcibly illustrated in the examples given by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) who showed that as the earnings of an employee receiving average earnings go up by 13 per cent the tax take will increase from 14 per cent to something greater than 16 per cent of his earnings. A person receiving $150 a week will experience an incerase of from 20.7 per cent to the order of 23 per cent. That is the tax take as a proportion of income. So, in this way, there is an increase in income tax. It is an increase which I would judge is probably against the swing middle income voters who put the Government into office. I base this on the fact that the rate of change in the current schedule of marginal rates of income tax is more rapid in the vicinity of the level of income received by the average wage and salary earner than on the higher income levels. So, as was stressed by my colleague the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson), there has been this increase in income tax.
The story does not and cannot end here. This is the hub of the matter and underlines the key point that the Government has not recognised or acknowledged the very great difficulty of effecting a significant shift in the pattern of resource use in conditions of full employment. Will the wage and salary earner acquiesce in this situation? Will he take lying down this, in effect, confidence trick so clearly illustrated in these figures? There is an increase in gross pay of the order of 13 per cent but the wage earner is then slugged by increased taxation. When this happens the 13 per cent increase is reduced to a smaller effective increase and what is left is all but completely cancelled out by the rise in prices written into this Budget. Will he take this lying down in this overheated economy, urged on by the Minister for Labour and with the pace setting Commonwealth Public Service out in front showing the way? I suggest that the answer is that there is not a chance. I would warn the Government that as part and parcel of the private sector in effect rising up to defend its share of the cake, with private consumption expectations and aspirations in the vanguard, if the rise in average earnings is held to just 13 per cent - they were up I2i per cent in the recent June quarter on a year ago - it will be some achievement, if not almost a miracle. If, in its turn, the public sector, finding it needs to spend more money to achieve its target purposes, does spend more money, the whole thing will be ‘on’ with a vengeance and inflation, with all its attendant social and economic ills, will accelerate.
What is the end point? I would say to the Government, despite the protestations of the Treasurer, that if the Treasurer succeeds, when this time next year the whole process is added up, in expanding the public sector proportionately by 1 percentage point, I believe he will be lucky. I urge the Treasurer and the Government to take note, firstly, that in conditions of full employment and resurgent private demand, which is the position now, with vacancies in excess of registered unemployed - a truly full employment or over-full employment situation - a significant enlargement of the public sector cannot be achieved without an increase in tax rates carefully and honestly explained to the electorate. I recall a speech some months ago by the Minister for Social Security who said this straight out.. He was honest about it.
Secondly, I would say that the course that the Government is presently embarked on, without truly draconian measures of monetary policy, will lead to an acceleration of inflation unprecedented and not tolerable in this country. Last weekend we had measures of monetary policy announced. This will result in a rise in interest rates. Perhaps this is just the beginning of the rises that may be seen. When the effect of that policy starts to show up in increases in mortgage repayments, when the bond rate goes up to 8i per cent and when the lending rates of institutions such as building societies and insurance companies operating in this field go up to 10 per cent or more, the man in the street and in particular those people who were led by election promises to expect not higher mortgage repayments on their houses but an effective reduction as the interest component in that was to be made tax deductible, will rise up in anger at the actions of this Government in seeking not to attack inflation in this Budget but in this way to throw the whole weight of attacking it onto monetary policy.
I urge the Government to take stock of its spending plans. The honourable member for La Trobe asked honourable members on this side of the House to nominate what expenditure they would cut. I do not propose to enter into that process, because it is the Government’s responsibility. Perhaps the Government could start with the pipeline. The Government will have to cut its spending plans or - perhaps this is not so far off - introduce a mini Budget to increase tax rates. One or other of those ways is the only sound course for demand management which, as the Leader of the Opposition said, quoting the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, is at least 60 per cent of the inflation control problem. Contrary to the assertion of the honourable member for La Trobe, I suggest that the Government will have to work in cooperation with the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria - not necessarily with Bjelke-Petersen - and its Labor counterparts in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, to institute a freeze on prices and incomes and indeed hours of work with a view to breaking the inflationary expectations building up in this country in a truly alarming way. The Government does not want to do it because it shies off the task of controlling not only prices but also incomes. But every day this is becoming more and more essential as these expectations build up. In conclusion I ask the Government whether it can be serious about inflation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The remarks he made after the expiration of his time will not be recorded.
– It was a change to listen to the quiet presentation of the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Edwards) which contrasted with the continual cacophony of cackling and caterwauling that we have heard from the cockies’ corner in recent weeks. I seem to have heard some of his words before. The honourable member spoke about combating inflation, about the real value of money and about putting value back into money and purchasing power. I recall when I was first out of high school in 1949 that those were the words being put forward as the aims of the organisation led by Sir Robert Menzies, as he is now. It seems strange that the newly arrived member is now proposing the same kind of things that were proposed in 1949. Whom does the honourable member think he is fooling? If he wants to do something about prices why has he not appealed to his colleague in the State sphere. Sir Robert Askin, -who has the power but not the inclination? He has the power to do something about fixing and controlling prices but he certainly does not want the responsibility that that action would entail.
– I have spoken to the Premier, and our offer is genuine.
– I thought that the honourable member might have taken the opportunity here to issue a challenge to his State colleague to take up his power to institute price control in New South Wales. This Government will bring more real purchasing power to the mass of Australians. The Budget presented to this House by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) on 21 August is an historic document. It represents the first part of a 3 part program of a reappraisal of Australia’s needs and priorities, a move towards improving the lot of the lesser endowed, the underprivileged, the deprived and the needy at the expense - for want of a better term - of the ‘fat cats’ of the Australian community. For too long the lesser privileged citizens of this nation have had to bear an inequitable share of the cost of providing the necessary facilities and services of today’s society. For too long the economic structure of this nation has had to operate under a hesitant, stop-start system of financial management which was influenced in the main by how best the interests of the supporters of the Liberal-Country Party coalition Government could be served.
As a newcomer to this place I have found it quite strange to watch the antics of honourable members opposite, particularly members of the Australian Country Party who protesteth most strongly at a rearrangement of financial priorities which will bring social and economic justice to millions of Australians. They scream at being asked to share an equitable portion of the cost of our national services, at having to pay the same level of charges as urban users of telephones and postal facilities. At a time when the rural sector of the economy is enjoying record prices for most of its products, the ‘rural rump’ who have ridden on the back of their weak, divisive Liberal Party colleagues for almost a quarter of a century, wail like jackals because now they are being asked to stand on their own 2 feet. For too long the industrial sector of this nation has had to carry the burden of sectional non-directive subsidisation of rural interests and the propping up of some obviously uneconomic primary industry activities. But they have not the political courage to come out and oppose the positive benefits that this Budget will bring to the majority of Australians. Will they express their opposition to the massive increase in funds to be made available for the education of Australian youth? Will they oppose the increases in age, invalid and widow pensions and the allowances to repatriation pensioners?
– We agree with you.
– I thought the honourable member said that they were not able to. Will they oppose the abolition of the means test for pensions for persons 75 years of age and oyer? What we have heard to date from honourable members opposite has been simply an exercise in hypocrisy. In 1972 the Australian Labor Party presented to the electors of Australia well thought out and well expounded policies for the development of this country in the best interests of Australia and Australians as a whole and this Government was given a clear mandate to implement those policies. Despite the bleatings of honourable members opposite, those policies will be implemented.
One of the greatest areas of neglect of the previous governments of the past 23 years has been in the sphere of local government. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), in presenting the policy speech of the Australian Labor Party at Blacktown on 13 November 1972, said:
We will give local government full access to the Loan Council and Grants Commission - not only because the burdens borne by taxpayers as ratepayers must be reduced, but because the inequalities between regions must be attacked by the national Government acting with and through local government.
Already major steps to fulfil that promise have been taken. Over the years since World War II, there had been a consistent expansion in the needs of local government authorities accompanied by a steadfast refusal of the Federal Government of the day to assist in meeting those needs. The development of the concept of regionalisation in local government is one of the major advances made by this Government. A basic drawback of local government has been the multiplicity of local authorities of varying sizes in terms’ of area, population and income. The provision of financial assistance to councils on the basis of regional submissions presented by recognised regional bodies will progressively uplift the quality of services available to ratepayers in the. less privileged areas and help to equalise rate levels. In Australia we have approximately 900 local government authorities. In 1969-70 their total expenditure, excluding the operating expenses of business undertakings, amounted to about $720m. This was expended as follows: Approximately 63 per cent to capital items, 26 per cent to current goods and services, and 11 per cent to interest on debt. [Quorum formed] I thank the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) for his courtesy in bringing an audience into the chamber. I hope that there will not be a continuation of the cacophony from cockies’ corner. The source of the funds used was: Local taxes and fines, 53 per cent; operating surpluses of business undertakings before deducting depreciation, 15 per cent; State government grants, 13 per cent; increased indebtedness, 19 per cent.
Since World War II we have seen in Australia a massive increase in local government debt. It is only when its growth is compared with the level of State and Australian Government debt that the magnitude of the increase becomes apparent.
In the period 1948-49 to 1970 Australian government debt was virtually eliminated: Debt of the States increased four times to $3, 885m whilst local government debt increased tenfold to $1,6 19m equivalent to a debt of $132 for each Australian. This Government is to be congratulated on its recognition of the problems and difficulties of local government in Australia and the speed with which it is acting to assist in overcoming those problems and difficulties. The whole status of local government is being uplifted. It will be taking up its proper role as the third level of government in this nation. Already councils are forming into regional groups in anticipation of recognition on a regional basis.
I turn now to another matter in the Budget. Among the numerous advances in the field of health care and social welfare provided for is the amount of $7,675,000 in grants for the school dental scheme in 1973-74. This is in accord with the announcement made earlier this year by the Government of its intention to develop an Australia-wide school dental scheme. In co-operation with the State governments it is anticipated that by 1980 all primary and pre-school children will be covered by the scheme and later it will be extended to provide for all secondary school children under fi 5 years of age. At present it would be unusual to find a child in Australia who did not need some form of dental care. The moneys provided in the Budget will allow for the development of the first stage of a planned program. That will result in a much needed improvement in the dental health of the children of this country, a matter which has hitherto been sadly neglected by previous governments. It is proposed that the present school dental scheme which is operating in several states, will be progressively extended. The service wai offer free dental care and treatment to each child at least once a year and dental health education would be provided to ail school children. Treatment will he generally provided at school dental clinics of either fixed or mobile design and the services will be staffed basically by school dental therapists working under the general direction and control of dentists. Already 26 student dental therapists have been sent to New Zealand for training. Whilst the state health authorities will he responsible for the actual implementation and administration of the service, the Australian Government will be responsible for providing overall leadership and coordination of the scheme.
I think every member of this. House will be aware of the heavy financial impact that befalls the family man should one of his children require dental treatment under present conditions. Indeed, charges for dental services are so high that often much needed preventive dental care is not availed of because of the cost, with the result that when ultimately the trip to the dentist has to be taken, permanent damage to teeth has occurred which could have been avoided. Then it becomes a double extraction - an extraction of teeth and an extraction from the patient’s pocket to meet what can only often be described as prohibitive charges by dentists. We hope that the Australian school dental service will save a lot of children’s teeth as well as a lot of taxpayers’ dollars, because at the present level of dental charges many parents just cannot afford to send their children to the dentist for preventive dental care.
Included in the vote of $1,675,000 for the New South Wales Government is an amount of just over $lm to provide for the construction of a training school for dental therapists in the Sydney suburb of Westmead. This school, which will train 30 therapists a year is expected to take its first - batch of students in September, 1974. In addition to this approval has been granted for the commencement of the planning of a further 2 training schools in New South Wales, one to be located at Sylvania and the other at Shellharbour. I am particularly pleased that temporary facilities for a dental therapists training school to be located at Royal Newcastle Hospital have been approved. The cost of alterations to existing facilities and provision of necessary equipment is in the vicinity of $80,000 and it is expected that the first intake of students for the 2-year course will be in January 1974.
This is great news to the people of the Newcastle region, irrespective of the electorate in which they reside, and the dental therapists trained at this school will do much to alleviate the tremendous need that exists in the region at present.
Earlier today we heard the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) talking about promises not fulfilled, but no party in government has had a more scandalous record of unfulfilled promises than have the Liberal and Country Parties. He mentioned the many things that had been done by the governments of which he had been a member, but what about the greatest unfulfilled promise of all - the 1949 promise of abolition of the means test for pension purposes? What happened to that promise? What did he do about it when he was in a position to do something? He probably did what he did today - talked and rambled and avoided concerning himself with the 1949 promise to assist the aged people. It has taken 24 years and a change in government to see the first steps taken towards a complete abolition of the means test. This Government is honouring its promises, but even it, fast moving and capable as it is, cannot in a short 39 weeks overcome the 23 years of shortcomings, of selective neglect and stopstart government that this country has experienced. At last this country is being managed in a manner that will benefit the great majority of Australian citizens.
People have been misled by the false cry that there is something different about country people. If there is the Country Party has made it so and convinced itself that it is so by its own deeds as partners in a coalition government of obsolescence. As I said earlier, we have heard all the caterwauling and cacophony opposite, particularly about the proposed equalisation of telephone rental charges and postal charges. But I ask: Why should metropolitan telephone subscribers have to pay more for the same service than their country cousins do. Already there is a distortion in telephone charges that operates against urban clients of the telephone service. The Opposition would like to see even greater distortion in postal charges in favour of rural subscribers. The fallacious argument put forward by the Country Party that rural telephone subscribers have less access to other subscribers for a local call than do metropolitan subscribers will not stand examination. If there were a case to subsidise rural telephone services then it should have been financed by all taxpayers from Consolidated Revenue when the Opposition was in government, not by other telephone subscribers.
What greater proof does one need of the ineptitude and inadequacy of 23 years of Liberal-Country Party government than simply to listen to the plaintive cries of those who now sit in Opposition. In a period of record prices for primary products and after 23 years of their own administration it would appear from their comments that the rural sector of Australian industry is about to collapse, so whom are they fooling? The metropolitan customers of the Post Office are very happy that charges are being equalised and that they will enjoy the privilege of paying the same rates as country subscribers. The Budget is a blueprint for real growth, equity and justice for the people of Australia. I commend it to the House.
– The Treasurer (Mr Crean) continually tells this House and the public that the Budget is only one part in the Government’s overall economic strategy to manage the economy. From having read the Budget it is quite apparently not a significant part of the Government’s strategy. We are also continually told by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Treasurer tha’, inflation is the most serious economic matter commanding the attention of the Government. But even the merest look at the Budget shows that the Treasurer does not see it as a significant economic tool for combating inflation. There is very good reason for this. From the total perspective of monetary legislative and fiscal actions taken by this Government and the 2-man Whitlam-Barnard Government since 2 December the inescapable conclusion is that as an act of deliberate political policy the Budget was not intended to dampen or to curb inflation. In fact the inescapable conclusion, I believe, is that this Government, in order to finance the massive increase in Government spending has deliberately relied upon an accelerated rate of inflation in the Australian economy.
When the 2-man Government that I have mentioned came to power inflation as indicated by the consumer price index was diminishing and was then at an annual rale of 4.8 per cent. Within 4 months the index had accelerated, by the end of the March quarter, to an annual rate of increase of 8.4 per cent. By the June quarter it had increased even further to an annual rate of 13.2 per cent. Some might argue that the consumer price index is not a true indicator of inflation in the community; but it is one which the people know and which they recognise.
This Government can be .seen as having deliberately embarked on a policy of inflation to finance the social programs which it so proudly trumpeted to the world. Without inflation those programs could not be financed. This Government has deliberately allowed the Australian economy to reach a lew plateau of inflation. This has been done is a calculated act of government policy. The December action of appreciating the Australian dollar by 7.05 per cent was taken quite obviously in the knowledge that inflation would accelerate under a Labor Government. AH the public statements of the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns), when speaking of inflation, speak of an ‘acceptable’ rate of inflation but never has any of them had the stomach to tell the Australian people what rate of inflation they believe to be acceptable.
Immediately this Government came to office it embarked upon a deliberate policy of higher wages. By calculated actions it allowed wages in the private and public sectors to run away uncontrolled. We have often heard the Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) speak of the Commonwealth Public Service as being the pace setter of wages and conditions of employment. The inevitable result has been an accelerating and compounding effect upon the whole of the cost structure of the Australian economy. But when the election statements of the Prime Minister are remembered - when he said often enough that the Australian Labor Party’s spending programs would be financed out of Government revenue without any increase in taxation - and when one sees now in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech the statement that it is necessary that the increase in outlays budgeted for be more than covered by increased receipts; when it is realised that the runaway wage increases inevitably move wage and salary earners into higher progressive tax brackets with a corresponding amount of income tax paid into the Treasury; and when the swelling effect this has on Government revenue is observed, there is again an inescapable conclusion that this Government actively sponsored in the Public Service, in the national wage case and in its dealings with unions, an inflation of wage and salary earnings in Australia and that the sponsorship was for the purpose of providing the increased receipts necessary for the Treasury to receive in order to cover the massive increases proposed in the Budget spending.
These actions happened too soon in December 1972 and following, not to be capable of identification as calculated, deliberate acts to foster inflation. It has been said of any government which in post-war times uses unemployment as an economic weapon or tool to manage the economy that it must be an evil government. I heard that description a number of times from one supporter of the present Labor Government. It can equally be said - I say it of the present Government - that any government which uses inflation as a deliberate act of policy to support its spending programs is equally an evil government. The present effects of inflation upon the people are not so dramatic, not so publicly evident, as the sight of a man or woman on the dole but they are no less insidious and no less damaging to the individual and the nation.
I can view with only the utmost scepticism and observe as the sheerest hypocrisy the kind of statements that we heard from the Prime Minister over the weekend in announcing the policy of putting the Reserve Bank into open market operations deliberately to force up interest rates.
– He did not understand what he meant by it.
– I am sure that he did not. In fact, the example that we saw this morning of the Prime Minister trying to give us all a lecture on elementary economics showed how difficult that job is for him. But this deliberate policy of the Government in putting the Reserve Bank into those open market operations, knowing that that action will at best be a short term palliative but must inevitably lead to further inflation as it runs through the whole economy, shows this Government for what it is. The Prime Minister is well known for his lack of economic knowledge and understanding. We saw in question time this morning, as I have just mentioned, how he refused to pad up to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and passed the bat to the Treasurer. Later we saw his exercise in incompetence in his bumbling attempt to explain to the House what he acknowledged to be elementary principles of bond raising in Australia.
It has been rightly said by the Leader of the Opposition that this Budget is expansionary and inflationary. If any more proof be required than the penetrating analysis of the Budget by the Leader of the Opposition, the Government’s own actions last weekend in further revaluing the Australian dollar and deliberately forcing up the interest structure supplies the necessary proof. If the Budget had been truly antiinflationary those actions would not have been necessary. The Budget itself took no fiscal action necessary to curb the obvious inflationary forces operating in the economy. I quote from the Treasurer’s Budget Speech. He said:
The Budget too must fit into the overall antiinflationary .policy.
That must be one of the most laughable statements ever to come from a Treasurer. He continued:
With that in mind the Government came to 2 major conclusions.
First, despite competing demands for resources, the whole thesis of the Government’s policies requires that there be some increase in the share of resources going to the public sector.
Secondly, given the need to avoid adding, to net pressure on resources, it is necessary that the increase in outlays budgeted for be more than covered by increased receipts.
Those statements by the Treasurer bear out what I said earlier, that this Government was committed to a massive increase in public sector spending and that in itself is inflationary. It is one of those elementary things of which the Prime Minister is ignorant and, it would seem now, also the Treasurer. Therefore, the Government had to take anti-inflationary action outside the Budget but, and this point cannot be over-emphasised to the people of Australia, none of the action taken by this Government either last weekend or in the months before can return Australia to the pre-election rate of inflation, diminishing as it demonstrably was at that time.
Australians must come to terms with the fact that this Goverenment deliberately sees the economy as moving on to a new plateau of inflation. All the so-called anti-inflationary action by this Government has been on the monetary side. It started with the currency realignment in December and the appreciation of the Australian dollar, then by the Government in February refusing to follow the United States dollar down, the control over inflow of overseas funds, the 25 per cent across the board tariff cut and the further 5 per cent revaluation of the Australian dollar last, weekend. Now we have the lifting of domestic interest rates. The Government speaks little of its Prices Justification Tribunal as a real weapon against inflation. That is openly acknowledged by commentators and economists, as well as politicians with vested interests, to be a toothless paper tiger. The Joint Select Committee on Prices can only be even less effective. It will be a watchdog no better than a yapping Pekingese. By no stretch of the imagination can we recognise in the Chairman of that Committee, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), a Winston Churchill in command of a British bulldog. Mr McLeay- Without any teeth.
– Without any teeth, as my colleague said. The picture is now clear. It is an ominous one for the private sector, for businessmen big and small, from the major corporations to the self-employed man or woman. This Government has put the squeeze on business like no other government in Australia’s history. All the fanfare, all the glib propaganda by the Prime Minister to the business community throughout 1972 telling them that his Party was and his Government would be a friend of business, that they had nothing to fear from him, can be seen for what it is, a loud sound coming forth from an empty vessel. If any businessman in Australia today was prepared to trust the Whitlam Government when it came to office he surely cannot trust it now.
This Government has openly said that it will not try to control at any level union demands, within the private or public sectors, for increased wages and salaries or for increased working conditions which inflate costs. All the controls, all the monetary and fiscal actions of this Government, are directed squarely at private business -and the ordinary working man, as has been shown by other speakers from the Opposition side. It is the family man who is hurt by this Budget and this has been amply demonstrated by speakers from the Opposition side. Ironically it was the London stock market and the financial writers of London newspapers who realised, before Australians just what this Budget did to them coming on top of all earlier actions. Australian stocks on the London market were mauled overnight. The full implication for business of the actions of this Government came home to Australians only by the events of this last weekend. Australian stock markets then were devastated.
The Treasurer in his first Budget was caught in a political straightjacket. His Government was committed to an array of social programs requiring massive expenditure. They had to be put into effect irrespective of the current economic climate. The Government has been so anxious to show itself as a government of action and an instrument of radical reform that it has rushed headlong into the most disastrous disruption and dislocation of the economy Australia has ever seen. It is worse than anything that happened during 23 years of Liberal-Country Party Government. The Treasurer is another political casualty at the hands of the Prime Minister, caught as he is between the Treasury on the one hand, which is committed to sound, non-inflationary economic management and which recognises the inflation fed by this Budget, and, on the other hand, the commitment of a Prime Minister, whose economics have always been suspect, to a program for an instant political porridge of policies requiring a massive increase in public sector spending. This course is the very antithesis of sound economic management when introduced into an economy known to be under stress and under intense inflationary pressure. The Treasury recognised this in its statement No. 2 when it said:
The overriding consideration in framing the Budget was that the economy at the outset of 1973-74 was already under stress, with inflation the dominant worry. The major problem, therefore, was one of ensuring that the diversion of resources to the public sector needed to get major programs under way did not add to total demand pressures.
The size of the transfer of resources from the private to the public sector must in itself amount to a serious and sudden dislocation of business as well as an impetus to existing inflation. The size of that transfer can probably best be judged and measured by the 2 sectors, private and public, as a proportion of gross domestic product and by assessing the change on a year to year basis. The Budget Papers indicate the size of this transfer, firstly in the rate of growth in total Budget outlays from an annual average between 1963-64 and 1972-73 of 10.3 per cent to 14.3 per cent in 1972-73 and to an estimated 19.3 per cent in the current year. This is a record, as was said by one of my colleagues. Similar trends are evident in regard to Government receipts. During the 10 years ending 1971-72 receipts increased at an average annual rate of 10.7 per cent. In 1972-73 they increased by 6.4 per cent and in the current year under this Budget it is estimated that they will increase by 20.6 per cent.
That the public sector growth rate is likely to increase as a proportion of gross domestic product is confirmed by the estimated growth of the public sector of around 20 per cent compared with one unofficial estimate of the increase in the gross domestic product in 1973-74 of around 13 per cent. Combined with the monetary actions that I have already mentioned directed straight at the private sector, this transfer of resources from the private to the public sector must have a serious and dislocating effect upon industry in Australia. Business can see then that :t has been caught in a deadly squeeze by this Government, a squeeze which is insidious in its perception, relentless in its application and destructive in its operation. We have seen 2 further actions taken over the weekend, 2 actions that could be foreshadowed if the sole area of action that this Government has dealt in since it was elected were followed the credit squeeze and the move against food prices, particularly meat. What more can the Government do? What then after the effects of the squeeze and the action taken against meat? All that is left for this Government now is the area of wage inflation. That area is totally untouched by a Government which has now exhausted all the monetary action that it could take. The Treasurer cannot much longer ignore this area. He has been known to say that through the arbitration system there is a system of wage justification which provides sufficient control over wage increases but he must know, as the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb) must know, that that is not true because wages are open-ended in the over award rate area which the militant unions enter so rapidly.
The Treasurer obviously needs the continuing inflationary stimulus of a 13 per cent rise in average earnings to provide him with the receipts which he needs to cover his outlays in the Budget, but does he really believe that such a rate of increase in earnings is not inflationary? Is 10 per cent - the figure mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) - the new plateau of inflation accepted by the Treasurer, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Overseas Trade and Secondary Industry? It is the height of political hypocrisy and the quintessence of economic sophistry for the Treasurer to ignore the inflationary effects of the earnings rise which his Budget relies upon - an earnings rise of 13 per cent.
What Australia needs is to produce itself into prosperity. Australia cannot inflate itself into prosperity, but that is the fallacy upon which this Budget proceeds and upon which the Treasurer, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Overseas Trade proceed.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In a debate such as this it is rather interesting to hear the comments from various speakers particularly on the Government side of the chamber. I was rather amazed a few minutes ago when I heard the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) say - I will try to quote him accurately - that the question of country telephone subscribers not being able to have access to the same number of local subscribers as subscribers in metropolitan areas would not stand up to close examination. I say to the honourable member that he should have a look at the financial statement which has been put out by the Postmaster-General’s Department. I want to say something to the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) who appears to be about to leave the House. Having criticised the honourable member for Shortland I will just make brief reference to something on the credit side. I want to pay a tribute to the Deputy Prime Minister for his response to a request made this morning by my colleague for aid for those people who are suffering from flood damage in northern Victoria at this time. I will not go into much detail because I feel that there has been a little too much adverse publicity given to this problem at the present time but I do want to say to the Deputy Prime Minister on behalf of my colleagues and myself: Many thanks for your immediate attention to this all-important matter.
– The Minister may now leave the House.
– In reply to my friend the honourable member for Wakefield I point out that there are one or two other issues in the Budget papers on which I should also compliment the Deputy Prime Minister. I know as many members in this House know his great interest in the field of repatriation. I am glad to see that he has made some strong moves in this field. However, if I get the opportunity there are a few points I would like to draw his attention to that perhaps may not be quite so favourable as the ones in the Budget.
Since Federation many Budgets have been introduced into this House. There have been popular budgets and unpopular budgets. I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr Crean) on reaching his goal of introducing the first Labor budget for many years. But judging by the comments of a number of people, not only people in this place but outside it, I wonder whether this might be a case of one budget and only one budget. I hope my remarks are not too severe on him. It might be one of very few Labor budgets. If the future were based entirely on this Budget then I am sure that it would be Labor’s one and only budget. But as we all appreciate a government must displace its Treasurer or the people may displace the government We may not get the opportunity to displace the Government as early as many of us would like. However, this Budget will make the files of history, not because of its good features but because of the very reverse. This Budget is certainly a very, very frightening one. The people are frightened. They do not know what is going to happen next. As somebody mentioned a few minutes ago, the Treasurer referred to the fact that Australia was to have a special export levy of one cent on meat.
-One cent per lb.
– We were to have a levy of one cent per lb, on export meat. But what has the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) done less than 2i weeks after that announcement? The Minister has introduced a Bill to impose a levy of not one cent but of 1.6c. Where is this country going? Who is running the country? It is an old custom that an opposition never amends a Budget because of the financial measures it contains. Where do we now stand as an opposition? One minute the Government says there will be a levy of one cent and then a little later it says it will be 1.6c. I am reminded of the headline I read a few minutes ago in the ‘Daily Mirror* of today’s date. It read: ‘Canberra May Get That Airport.’ There is nothing very significant about that until one reads on and sees that the article is from Steve Dunleavy in New York. Who is running the country, New York or Australia? This Government cannot even decide where we are to have an airport. I had better get back to my notes otherwise I will run out of time in this debate.
– What about the honourable member for Riverina in regard to action taken on the wine industry?
– I could go on and talk about the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) or, to give him his full title, the
Minister for Immigration, because he jumps side to side, from the back to the front or any way at all over fences. He makes numerous statements and now nobody seems to know what is the present immigration policy of this country. I am reminded of an occasion - and you Mr Deputy Speaker will possibly recall it - when we were privileged to be in New Guinea and we were trying to get some news but all we could get was what was being broadcast in the local language. I recall this occasion very clearly. The chap broadcasting the news said:
The Australian Minister for Immigration, he now visit one of the islands-
Perhaps it was Singapore or the Philippines - and him talkum plenty.
I think there are plenty of people who would agree with that. The Minister does talk plenty and no one knows exactly what he means. This Government has been boasting for some time together with many of its supporters on the question of decentralisation but all the moves in this Budget will have a reverse effect. They will kill decentralisation at every turn. There is no need for me to spell out in detail all the moves. The point is that the Government is killing free flow. It is killing free enterprise. No country can expect to decentralise if it kills free enterprise. The whole basis of this Budget appears to me to be one of control from Canberra. If this Government can get that control then of course that will be the stone end of any decentralisation.
I was interested in a report which appeared in the ‘Australian’ of today’s date. The headlines read: ‘Job switch orders for 10,000 public servants’. They further state: ‘Cabinet approves major clean-up’. The article states that the Government is only going to transfer these people. What is the good of doing that? When I look at some of the names of the departments which are mentioned I start to wonder. I start to wonder whether this will be another belt to the rural areas. The article states that public servants in the Departments of Defence, Primary Industry, Immigration, Housing, the Taxation Office and Repatriation will be transferred to new jobs. It says that their former work sections will be scaled down or abolished. I wonder what all that means. I do not know what it means. All I know is that the Government is not reducing the numbers so costs will not be reduced.
What has happened as a result of major decisions that have taken place in recent times?
I refer to the tariff cuts and the revaluation of our currency. These moves cut right across moves that have been made in recent times in order to try to build up decentralised areas. I was interested to note that the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) also criticised the increased rate of excise on fuel. What will this increase do? It will increase the cost of fuel but it will not cut inflation. It will increase costs and ruin anything that assists regional development. The stock exchanges have collapsed. What is more, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) brushed this off yesterday on the grounds that it was a case of the people leaving the stock exchanges because Government bonds were more attractive. How weak can you get? The Treasurer has appealed to people to hang on to their shares. Notwithstanding this the Prime Minister says that Government bonds are more attractive. Of course they would be if the Government is to put up the interest rate.
Where does the Minister for Immigration stand now? I thought I remembered reading something about large quantities of money being made available to primary producers and home owners at 3 per cent or thereabouts.
– It was $500m at 3 per cent.
– Is that right? I am informed that $500m at 3 per cent was promised. Where has this gone? This morning’s newspapers indicate that the rate of interest on housing loans could even reach 11 per cent. What a ridiculous situation we have. I do not have time to quote all of the newspaper reports that I have with me. One is headed: ‘Go forward with Mr Grassby’. All right, we go forward and up go the interest rates. But what about the poor old primary producers and the huge overdrafts that they have been carrying in recent times? This load is still increasing. As I said before, they have been belted right around the area. Every move that the Government makes should support decentralised industries but we find that just the reverse is true. The honourable member for Robertson a little while ago quoted from some Press cuttings to show how favourably the Press had received the Budget. Let me quote a few. The ‘Ararat Advertiser’ states: Budget disappointing to country people’. Another states: ‘Free enterprise nation will drift to socialism’. Another headline is: ‘Budget belts country people’.
– What is the name of this paper?
– Oh, they are good country newspapers. These are the papers which incidentally are sure to get belted and will have great difficulty in competing with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. ‘Planned elimination’, says another one. I could go on and quote many more. Another says: ‘Blast on the Budget’. Another which appeared in the ‘Nhill Free Press’ of 23 August - .and this is pretty close to the date of the Budget - is a beauty. The editorial of this paper is headed: ‘Budget ballyhoo’. It states:
Could there be anyone in our rural community who is happy about the Labor Party’s Budget which has just been brought down much to the detriment of most country people? Inflation has been an ever increasing problem in our affluent society but the Budget has not aimed to improve this.
I wish I only had time to quote more of this article because there is plenty of good stuff in it.
– You have another 10 minutes left.
– That is right. I have another 10 minutes, but I have a lot more to say too. I want to spend a little time on something which has attracted much comment from both inside and outside this place, that is, the reasons for inflation. The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) made, I believe, a very good comment in relation to this matter. But I want to take it from a different angle. Government supporters repeatedly have said that the costs which cause inflation are basically brought about by the prices of foodstuffs, particularly those of the meat industry. I suppose that if one looks at the present day prices of meat and compares them with the record low prices that prevailed, one could say that there has been a substantial increase. I have no argument about that. But people must be fair when they make such comparisons.
– It is only consistent with average weekly earnings.
– The honourable member for Gippsland has made an appropriate comment in regard to this. I would just like to make a few comments and comparisons. I have a document put out by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics entitled ‘Seasonally adjusted indicators 1973’. At page 89 of this document we find that in 1963 average male earnings for the March quarter - I will stick to the March quarter because we have to have some guide - were $46.90. In March 1973 this bad gradually increased to $97.50. I would like to refer now to another Bureau of Agricultural Economics document - I do not think that anyone disputes the accuracy of these publications - which contains variations in the price of meat. This document is the statistical handbook of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics for 1973. I have taken out a precis of the relevant figures in the document and I seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard.
Order! Is leave granted? There being n’o objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– In this schedule I have taken out some averages because if one wants to quote variations in price then one can make any old argument fit a case. I think that the price variation, which is based on Newmarket saleyards prices for lambs, ranges from about 30c away back in 1953 to 28c last year.
– Would there be 3 per cent in it?
– I would not think that there is 3 per cent. One certainly would not get 3 per cent from this Government. There is only one true comparison and that is, as I have said, to make one’s calculations over an averaging period. What I have done has been to divide the 3 types of meat - lamb, mutton and beef - into 3 equal averaging periods of 1959 to 1963, 1964 to 1968 and 1969 to 1973. Taking lamb as a basis for the month of August, which is the month just ended, the average between 1959 and 1963 was 18.7c per lb; the average between 1964 and 1968 was 24.7c per lb; and the average between 1969 and 1973, honourable members will be amazed to note, was 23.8c per lb. Therefore the average for the last 5-year period actually dropped. I will say in fairness that for the month crf August this year the price was high.
In the mutton sector the price for the first averaging period was 9.6c for the second averaging period it was 12.6c; and for the last averaging period it was 14c. If one is looking for a rapid or exaggerated increase all one has to do is to compare the almost record low of 8.9c per lb in 1971 with the price 2 years later where the figure is as high as 30c per lb. But if one averages it over the 3 averaging periods we find that the price has risen from 9.6c to 14c. So it is very easy for people to say that at the present level meat prices are too high; they are only comparing them with what was a record low of a couple of years ago. When it comes to the problem and the answer as far as meat prices are concerned we must consider a few fundamental points that many people overlook.
– Such as supply and demand.
– Yes, as my colleague has said, such as supply and demand. This is a basic fundamental that one must remember all of the time. We must remember that there is a world shortage at the moment of meat, wheat and rice production. Surely if people in Australia believe that because of these conditions they will get cheaper types of food they will have another think coming. It is only natural that if we belt into the man who is producing these commodities - it does not matter whether he is producing rice, wheat or meat in Australia or any other country - the simple ABC of the thing is that before long there will be nothing for him if he continues to produce that product and he will reduce his production further. This in turn will create a shortage and in the long term we will finish up with a higher price than in the past. There is no doubt that Australia produces the cheapest meat in the world. What is more I think that we are either the top or the second top biggest meat consumer in the world.
– The second biggest.
– The honourable member for Gippsland says that Australia is the second biggest meat consumer in the world. There is no .doubt that the Australian people are better connoisseurs of meat than the people of any other country. As far as I am concerned, there is no alternative other than to leave the meat industry alone. The meat industry - the grower organisations - do not want any interference.
They have been going along very happily. They have accepted the high prices as well .as the low prices. The same thing applies to other food producing industries. We hear a lot of people criticising the Australian Country Party and the country people for demanding subsidies for this and that and as soon as there is an increase in a grant, there is a hue and cry from a lot of people. Yet the strange thing is that the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) has been trying to convince people that there has been an increase in subsidies provided for rural industries.
At present a very big contribution is made by primary industries to consumers in this country. Let us take as a simple example the wheat industry. At present the international price is about $3.87 a bushel. What does the consumer pay for his flour? Does he pay the equivalent of the international price?
– No, of course he does not; he pays less than half. Australia consumes something like 60 million bushels of wheat a year. Let honourable members work that out. There is an example of a contribution from a very small section of the community to the entire community because most people eat bread or flour of some description. This benefit is indirectly passed on through many other commodities. For instance, wheat provides a cheap feed for stock. So, those people who are so critical of primary industries being subsidised should remember my final . words: The wheat industry at present is contributing a huge amount to the community.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Perhaps it is time the Whip got cracking. I should like to say a few words about this Budget which has pushed members of the Opposition to the verge of hysteria. As I heard the remarks of my colleague, the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King), I felt a little like the man who had been a feeding a dog on steak for a week and the first time he went to pat it, it bit off his fingers. Having agreed to allow more speakers from the Opposition and having agreed to stand down for them, I find that members opposite have treated this generosity as a weakness. Well, we can always amend this. .
I should like to comment on what was said by the honourable member for Wimmera. He spoke of meat and said that the meat industry had been doing very well on its own, without any assistance. I do not know that this is altogether correct because quite an amount of assistance has been given to the meat industry by this and previous governments. But when the honourable member said that if we place ties on people and on production, sure enough we will find that the people are going to want this food, my mind went back a little over . 12 months and I thought of those wheat quotas which were introduced and how people were told that they could not sell their wheat. We know what went on in black market dealings in wheat and we knew that before the season was out, people would be crying around the world, looking for wheat to sell. This is the position.
– Tell us about the’ $40m dairy subsidy which you promised during the last election campaign.
– If the honourable member for Murray could show any proof that I promised $40m to any dairy industry I would be very happy to see it. I would remind him, when he is talking about dairy industries, that in the last Budget his Government reduced assistance to the dairy industry by $13m - not $9m - and it did not make any arrangements for any part of that money which was taken from the dairy industry to be used for readjustment purposes for the industry. No assistance at all was provided by the previous Government, and $13m was taken away from the industry. I do not remember too many cries coming from that corner of the House on that occasion, 12 months ago. Honourable members opposite should cast their minds back. The honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson) attended a meeting with me in Ipswich and he will tell honourable members opposite what I said. I referred to the phasing out of assistance to the industry and the way it is being done at the moment.
– You said you would fix it when you were in government, and what did you do?
– The honourable member for Cowper is in the chamber; he would know this and could verify what I have said. Someone at the meeting asked me whether the Labor Party would be phasing out assistance and I said yes.
– You did not; tell the truth!
– Mr Deputy Speaker, is it not about time honourable members opposite shut up and let the speaker have a bit of a chance?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! I think we might have a little more decorum.
– What some people do not seem to understand or will not admit is that this Budget was prepared to produce the greatest good for the greatest number of people. The emphasis has been changed so that it assists those people in need. There is a reference in the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) to broken promises. In this Budget - the first in 24 years by a Labor government - the first step has been taken in the alleviation of the means test. In 1949 the Liberal-Country Party Government promised to lift the means test and 24 years later, the first step has been taken by a Labor government. Value in the pound! Let us not talk about inflation; let us compare the 1949 pound to the $2 of today or, if you like, the $2 of 6 months ago. The facts are that the Labor Party in a little over 9 months in office has done more for the people of Australia in equating the distribution of assistance and wealth in Australia than the Liberal-Country Party Government did over a period of 23 years.
It is a time honoured tradition in Budget debates to go through the pages of the Budget with a fine comb and seek out and enlarge out of all proportion some new and daring measures that the Government proposes. There are new and daring measures. This Budget represents an altogether different approach. The easiest form of criticism is to paint a terrifying picture to the public of the immediate poverty facing them. Just a few moments ago I was speaking to the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) and he told me that in the past month there was a record amount of overtime worked in Australia. What was the picture 9 months ago, just before the election? Over 120,000 people were looking for jobs and could not be placed in jobs. Under Labor these people have a job. Honourable members opposite can worry about inflation, but if we give people an honesty of purpose to allow them to work and to be able to pay their debts as they come around, it is more important than inflation. This is what has happened in this Budget.
We have kept our promise not to increase personal income tax. What has been the pattern over the last few years under a Liberal-Country Party government? Income tax has gone up by 2.5 per cent, down by 2.5 per cent and up by 2.5 per cent again. It has been up and down like a yo-yo, or, as it was described by one of my colleagues, like a toilet seat at a mixed party. This is what has been happening. It is true that there have been some changes and people have been asked to make some contributions in other respects. They have been asked to pay a little more for the spirits that they drink or for the cigarettes that they smoke. But it is in their hands to control how much tax they pay in that regard. It is up to the people to control their own excesses and determine how much tax they will pay. Perhaps petrol might be regarded as a necessity. But, as the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen) said very rightly, the people associated with business can claim the cost of their petrol against their income tax. However, the wage earner cannot claim the petrol that he uses to go to work.
– Well, what about him?
– That is right; he cannot claim it, yet honourable members opposite say that the wage earner is being helped along while the people in other areas are being prejudiced. The wage earner can also control his consumption of petrol and he would be far better off paying a little extra excise on petrol than he would be paying an extra 2.5 per cent in income tax that may have been imposed by a Liberal-Country Party government. Income tax may even have been put up a little further by such a government. It is very seldom that it would be reduced.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was referring to the benefits passed on by the Budget and how the emphasis has changed with the present Government. Under the former Government expenditure did not go to assist the people most in need and was not allocated with some sort of equity within the Australian society, but the emphasis has been changed by the Labor Government. I pointed out how people could, by controlling their excess desires, limit the amount of indirect taxation they would pay. I was referring to the purchase of cigarettes, tobacco and spirits, and to some extent also to the use of petrol. Revenue is obtained from excise not merely to annoy the public. It is used to carry out policies which the previous Government did not have the courage to introduce. It preferred to drift along, postponing social reforms that it may have deemed necessary but did not have the initiative to implement. It remained simply as a belief, without action being taken.
The Labor Government has vastly increased expenditure on education, including the introduction of free tertiary education. This is surely an epoch making step which is unprecedented in the Western world. The community should reap enough benefits from that move alone to offset the measly few cents excise added to cigarettes, alcoholic drinks and petrol. In this country for ages we have been paying lip service to the maxim that Australia stands or falls by its education system, that only a high level of brain power will enable us to match the rest of the world in science, technology, and pure research. Now we have decided to move towards equality with the other developed countries and members of the Opposition are screaming their heads off about the cost. One could be led to believe that their platform, and their negative policies of the past are more appealing to the uneducated and the ignorant.
I notice that some Country Party members have come into the chamber. I would like to read to them from a report of the Country Party Conference which includes a reference to the presentation by a select committee of a 23-page document on ways of halting inflation. The report was released by Mr Mike Evans, the Queensland Secretary of the Country Party. He advocated the imposition of limits on the growth of Federal and State public services; elimination of deficit financing so that all governments would have to balance their budgets; and foreign investment to be confined to where it would result in an increase in production. That is a laugh.
He advocated that investment allowances be confined to areas leading to greater productivity and not to those likely to encourage non-productive capital works or speculation, and also that there be moves to discourage speculators in land and buildings in urban and rural areas. I do not think that that proposal would get much support from the Premier of Queensland in view of his reaction when the Queensland Minister for Lands and Forestry commendably co-operated with the Brisbane City Council to halt land speculation.
The Premier on his return to Queensland hastened to disclaim anything that Mr Rae, the Minister for Lands and Forestry, had said. He said that the move would interfere with the right of private enterprise to make profits. The Country Party also advocated a national review of tariffs to be speeded up as opposed to the ineffectual, arbitrary acrosstheboard reduction recently applied. That is after 23 years of Liberal-Country Party government.
The Budget also contains important housing provisions and I am pleased to note that the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) is now at the table. I congratulate him on what he has achieved in reducing the waiting time for homes and making homes available, particularly in areas where they are most needed and to people who in many cases are unable to purchase a home of their own. I also congratulate him on the action he has taken on interest rates. For the first time for many years the Minister for Housing has initiated a housing agreement with the States making available to them at 4 per cent over 5 years sums of money that have never been equalled in the past and which exceed previous allocations. In this Budget up to $2 18m is being allocated for housing and at a 4 per cent interest rate which is fixed for 4 or 5 years. Previous rates of interest in housing agreements between the Commonwealth and the States have been tied within 1 per cent of the bond rate. I congratulate the Minister for Housing for what he has done in this regard.
With experts assuring us that leisure time is certain to increase, possibly to 3 clear days a week soon, it would be irresponsible not to start catering for the recreation needs of our community. The allocation of $6.2m for recreation and sport is probably small when compared with the massive efforts of many other countries but I again proudly remind honourable members that it is the first time in the history of this Parliament that such a need has been acknowledged and moves to meet this demand have been started.
Tourism is yet another field where the Budget shows a more enterprising spirit than the so-called free enterprise Opposition ever did in its 23 years of power. Through various establishments and means, the Government will make grants and loans available to the tourist industry in the hope of revitalising it. Some honourable members may feel that tourism is a private matter better left to the individual. They may ask: Why bother about it? At this moment the Australian tourist industry is earning approximately $2,400m a year and it employs about one-tenth of the work force. This capacity must not only be maintained but should be stimulatively increased. This section of the work force employs a large number of unskilled female workers, particularly in many country towns. Through a number of measures the Government hopes also to attract more overseas tourists to Australia, thereby reducing the awesome travel gap that now stands at a deficit of about $220m a year. The aim will not be to restrict Australians in their overseas travel, but to lure more overseas travellers to Australia. From that, a’ host of industries will benefit. I instance accommodation, service industries, airlines, manufacturers and so on.
The honourable member for Lang, .the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart), described this Budget as ‘a very Australian Budget’ and I agree with him. The Budget clearly puts Australia’s interests ahead of any other interest. It hopes to make life better and happier for the majority of the people even if, in the process, some totally undeserved and unfair old privileges for a few have to be chucked overboard. I thank the Minister for Tourism.
I commend this Budget to the House. I realise that not everyone can be pleased with everything that the Government does. Some of the measures that have been introduced I perhaps would prefer to have seen introduced with a little more notice but I believe that Australia has a sympathetic government which recognises the problems of the people and realises that something must be done in certain spheres and it has acted. If the Opposition points out that all our election promises have not been carried out, I remind it that the Government has at least 2 more years in office. This Budget is the forerunner of many more Budgets that will be introduced by Mr Crean as the Federal Treasurer. I have much pleasure in supporting the Budget.
– I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
Mir HAN ROBINSON - Yes. The honourable member for Wide Bay, before dinner, referred specifically to me in this House and said that I could verify a statement he made at a mass meeting of dairy farmers at Ipswich in Queensland late last year to the effect that under a Labor government the dairy industry subsidy would be gradually reduced. I have been grossly misrepresented by the honourable member for Wide Bay because having attended that meeting -
– Mr Speaker, the honourable member for Cowper is referring to something that I said. How have I misrepresented the honourable member for Cowper? I said that he would recall it. If he does not recall it, I am not responsible for his memory. But if I have misrepresented him I would like to know how. I might have misrepresented his memory, but not him.
– Order! The honourable member for Cowper has the floor.
– The honourable member for Wide Bay is becoming almost hysterical in his efforts to explain away his own dilemma. I just want to repeat to this House that he misrepresented me inasmuch as he said that I would recall his statement. I want to make it perfectly clear that I recall his statement clearly, but not in the way that he asserts I would. 1 recall his statement.
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. It is apparent that the honourable member for Cowper has not yet been able to come to the part where he has been misrepresented. It is probable that he is waiting for more than one Liberal member to be in the House, as there is only one present at the moment.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– I will proceed to make my explanation which I think I have made clear to the House but about which honourable members opposite are apparently so concerned that they continue to rise taking groundless points of order. The honourable member for Wide Bay, at the meeting to which he referred and which he alleged I would recall, said that under a Labor Government the dairy industry subsidy would be increased to a level of $40m. He knows this to be the truth. I have been misrepresented inasmuch as he has endeavoured to implicate me. I remember something quite different from and in fact directly opposite to what he has claimed in this House this afternoon.
Mir HANSEN (Wide Bay) - Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I appeal to the memory of the honourable member for Cowper. Apparently it is not very reliable.
-It is a lot better than Fred Daly’s. He cannot remember even for 24 hours.
– I told you on Sunday night that it is not the one that gets out of the box first that wins the race, so you get back in your box.
– It is not the one that tells lies.
– I ask that that remark be withdrawn. You said I was telling lies.
– No, no. Mr HANSEN - What did you say?
– I said that it is not the person who tells lies who becomes renowned for telling the truth.
– I have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Cowper and I challenge him or anyone else in his corner to show me any proof that I said that the Labor Party would increase the dairy subsidy to $40m a year. If he can do that I will give $40m - I do not have it - to any charity he likes to name. I claim to have been misrepresented by him because I never said it. His memory is obviously very poor. I will refresh his memory by asking him whether he remembers someone from the floor of the meeting asking me whether I referred to the Labor Party and the phasing out of the subsidy.
– The honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) in a wide-ranging speech - one could call it a provocative speech - mentioned both direct and indirect taxation and said how well his Government had budgeted for this coming year. He mentioned direct taxation and said that the Government had not broken any promises made prior to the last election not to increase direct taxation. I would like to remind the honourable member for Wide Bay and others on that side of the House that direct taxation has been increased, contrary to the promises of the Government, particularly for private companies and also for pensioners. Direct taxation has been imposed upon pensioners in direct contravention of the promises of the Labor Party before the last election. He also mentioned indirect taxation. I think it should be apparent even to the honourable member for Wide Bay as well as to other members of his Party that indirect taxation, as everybody should know, hits harder at the lower income earners because they are less able to afford rises in indirect taxation. Rises in the cost of whisky, rises in the cost of beer that will come later and rises in the cost of petrol and cigarettes will affect most greatly those least able to afford them - in fact, those members of the community which the Australian Labor Party professes to represent.
Like others in this debate, I wish to speak about inflation as it occurs in Australia today and I would like to start with this quotation:
There cannot be one person in Australia who would not feel that inflation is our biggest problem and that the Government must do everything it possibly can to deal with it. Inflation -
Here is the definition of it - rapid increases in the cost of living - adversely affects every worker and person in Australia. The lower his income the worse he is affected. No government can remain inactive about inflation.
No responsible person would argue with that statement. In fact this is what members of the Opposition, a number of other people and a whole host of economists have been saying for some months now. It is a statement that could have been made by any person horrified about the present state of the Australian economy and the people responsible for bringing this state about. It is a statement that demands that the Government undertake responsible and effective measures to combat this inflation, even at the risk of alienating its traditional support, and it should do this if it is to have any credibility in the eyes of the electorate as a whole,
– Who said that?
– I will tell you in a second. It is certainly not a statement, as I am sure honourable members would, agree, of a supporter of a government claiming to have kept effective control of the Australian economy. The honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) wants to know who made the statement. It was the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns). He made it less than a month ago. He is the No. 3 ranking Minister in the second Whitlam Ministry, a man supposedly intimately concerned with and involved in the development and implementation of Government policy. He went on to make some other points, most of which were erroneous, but then said that the Government found itself confined almost alone to further currency appreciation or to tariff reductions to deal with inflation. I believe it is worthwhile to look more closely at the causes of inflation in Australia today, the possible solution and what actually has been done by this Government. Firstly, it should have come as no surprise at all to the Government that inflation could get out of control. The ‘ANZ Quarterly Survey’ of January 1973 laid it on the line. This is what it said:
The intransigent problems of the Australian economy are inflation of costs including wages and salaries and of prices.
The survey went on to point out that inflation can destroy the fruits of greater activity by eroding the real value of the rewards to workers and other income receivers, impairing business confidence and creating uncertainty in budgeting and forecasting for large scale or long term enterprises. It then warned that policies of seeking full employment by boosting government spending and encouraging private spending might so augment monetary liquidity that inflation trends already too strong to tolerate - this was said in January this year - may be further aggravated. It further pointed out that the revaluation carried out by the new Government in December ‘however attractive as a piece of political oneupmanship’ had still to demonstrate its economic efficacy. As a means of countering inflation import costs are a very small and slowly rising component of Australian costs.
This warning and many others were disregarded. The Government continued to support and indeed encourage union demands for increased wages at high levels and for additional substantial working benefits such as the introduction of the 35-hour week and extra leave. Public sector spending increased as though money was going out of style. Eventually however, I am pleased to say, the message began to seep through. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) on 22 June was moved to predict:
Inflation seems certain to occupy the centre of the stage as the key economic problem.
The Australian Industries Development Association bulletin No. 242 of June 1973 put it more strongly. It said:
There is no question that inflation is the major crisis facing Australia. Finding a means of bringing it back to acceptable levels is or should be the major pre-occupation of governments, Federal and State, and of employees and employers.
The bulletin believed that the main antiinflationary effort must come from the
Federal Government and said that the Federal Government acknowledged that position in its submission in the last national wage case. A review of the growth in the inflation rate must take into account movements in wages and salaries, in prices and productivity, in money supply and in fiscal policy. The great debate, the great point of difference between the Government and the Opposition rests on the place that costs, particularly wage levels, have had in boosting the rate of inflation. The influence of costs on prices is a crucial area of difference. The Government would try to persuade us that price increases are the chief cause of inflation and that wage claims and increases are merely attempts by the unions to catch up. On the other hand, we of the Opposition have argued consistently that large wage increases have had a very great influence on inflation by forcing the prices up.
I believe that this requires some examination and that we should examine the basis of this difference to see where the truth lies. It is reasonable to argue that wages should keep pace with inflation and should also gain some reward from increased productivity. If one takes this basis for assessing realistic and fair wage increases - a basis which in fact was agreed to by the present Treasurer (Mr Crean) - an index can be constructed showing increases in wages and salaries plus the rate of productivity gained, and it may be compared with the rate of increase in the consumer price index. If we then compare the result with the actual wage and salary increases we can quickly see whether wage rises have forced up prices or vice versa. Using this formula we find that for all but the last 4 years - in fact through most of the decade of the 1960s - wage rises and productivity rises stuck very closely to rises in the consumer price index. Of course, during this long period the average rate of inflation was 2i per cent a year. In fact this rate of inflation was the envy of comparable industrialised nations throughout the world. This rate of inflation, I hesitate to remind honourable members, was achieved under a Liberal-Country Party Government. In 1968-69 the rate of productivity growth diminished and consumer prices changed only slightly as did the increase in the rate of average weekly earnings. But in 1971 the position changed with productivity low, wages and the consumer price index both growing, but significantly with wages increasing at a much higher rate than the consumer price index.
If we use the base of 1966-67, in December 1972 price increases and productivity gains would have justified an increase of 38.7 per cent in average weekly earnings on the March 1967 figures. The actual increase was 61.5 per cent, showing that wages and salaries had far outstripped prices. The position, of course, has worsened a great deal since December 1972. During the last year the quarterly consumer price index over the year showed a steady decline - that was up till December last year - and inflation was reduced to a manageable 4.8 per cent a year. Since this Government came to power the rate of inflation has risen to a yearly rate of more than 13 per cent and the Budget implies an acceptance of an annual rate of inflation of 10 per cent.
And what has happened to wages and salaries? They have continued, with the active assistance of this Government, to expand at a rate far in excess of rises in prices. This has shown without a shadow of a doubt that, using the Treasurer’s own formula, the Government’s refusal to acknowledge the impact of wages and salaries has been fuelling the raging inflationary fires. What then has been the Government’s attitudes and actions to this problem admitted by the Treasurer and by the Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns) to be the chief problem facing the Australian economy? It has undertaken two revaluations amounting to an upward valuation of the Australian dollar of approximately 12 per cent. It has undertaken an across-the-board tariff cut of 25 per cent and it has set up a Prices Justification Tribunal and yet another commission.
Let us examine each of these measures. Firstly, revaluation. We have heard previously and during this debate about the antiinflationary nature of revaluation and the effects it will have in containing prices. Yet the Treasurer just recently, on 22 June last, said that the primary purpose of revaluation was not to moderate the rate of inflation but to correct a fundamental disequilibrium in Australia’s balance of payments. Australia under this present Government seems to be the only country worrying about its overseas reserves. Germany does not worry about it; Japan does not worry about it; the Americans when they had this problem did not worry about it. But the Australians under this present Labor Government seem to be terribly concerned about it.
When examining revaluation as an antiinflationary measure it is worth keeping in mind that the tertiary sector is leading in generating money incomes. This growth in the tertiary sector does help with any unemployment problems but it has a relatively low productivity growth potential compared with the primary and secondary industries. Of course, this means that real growth is slow. We should also remember that the tertiary sector employs about 53 per cent of the total labour force and enjoys a large degree of natural protection from any competition from other countries. Therefore, in terms of service costs and charges, which contribute a large proportion of the increase in the consumer price index, revaluation should have little effect in restraining inflationary pressures which arise from rising monetary incomes in the tertiary sector. Of course, it will have a real effect on our export industries in both the primary and secondary sectors. These are the areas of greatest potential productivity increase, an essential development if we are to cope in any way with inflationary pressures.
It is very problematical whether or not revaluation will make imports cheaper. It certainly will make exports more expensive. Even if some imports are cheaper, are they the ones which are necessary to slow down the rise in the consumer price index? Even the Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns), the man who is never consulted about revaluation - it is a pretty good bet that as soon as he leaves Australia we can expect another revaluation; it has happened twice now - admitted that the increased imports may not be the ones we need.
– He is frightened to leave the country.
– That is obvious. Cars, radios and stereo sets may be fractionally cheaper but ask the housewife how much these goods have contributed to her rising weekly costs and she will quite rightly laugh in our faces. The other major initiative has been the 25 per cent across the board tariff cut which was, of course, directly contrary to the frequently stated policies of the Minister for Secondary Industry and the Treasurer. But breaking undertakings seems to be the rule rather than the exception with this Government. However, one could perhaps excuse the action if it led to the result that was intended. Let us see whether it will. Professor Hogan,
Professor of Economics at Sydney University, had this to say:
The decision to reduce tariffs by 25 per cent is the most remarkable one taken so ‘far by the* Labor Government in the economic sphere.
Professor Hogan states that the reason advanced for the cuts - that is, to increase competition and efficiency and to stimulate more imports in order to dampen inflation - has little relation to the main stimulus of rising prices and expanding money incomes in Australia. He believes that the main causes of the current inflationary burst in Australia are to be found in the rapid growth of prices for foodstuffs and many industrial raw materials, largely reflecting demand conditions in world markets, the adverse fiscal position of recent months and mounting wage demands. He, quite logically, puts the proposition that reducing tariffs will have little direct impact on any of the features I have mentioned. He goes on to detail 2 interesting points. He believes that the expectation that tariff cuts will contribute to greater efficiency and competitiveness is surprising because there is much evidence of the competitiveness of many protected industries. In those cases where this situation is not the case surely selective tariff reductions would have been the fairest and most effective action.
Professor Hogan also points to the irony of the situation where the Government, increasingly critical of foreign-owned companies operating in Australia, is pursuing policies which will encourage local firms to seek offshore assembly and manufacturing facilities in other countries in our region. Even if they are ineffectual at least these measures were attempts to reduce the rate of inflation. Let us look at the reverse side of the coin. We all know by now the Treasurer cannot drive a car. He has said so repeatedly. He would therefore not know that it is very bad driving, it is expensive and it does not get you very far if you put one foot hard on the brake and the other foot hard on the accelerator.
– Oh, this is the trouble
– This is the trouble because this is exactly the way the Treasurer is driving the economy. On the one hand , we have revaluation, tariff cuts, prices justification tribunals and credit squeezes which are designed to curb the inflationary spiral. Honourable members will notice that there is not one action designed to cut down on large wage demands or opposition to job conditions which are certain to add to costs and reduce productivity. On the other hand we have a deficit Budget - an inflationary Budget - pouring money into the non-productive sectors of the economy. It will give a tremendous boost to public sector spending. It provides for measures the direct effect of which will be to the disadvantage of the private sector - the wealth and productivity sector - of the community. We have the Government supporting wage demands, demands for extra leave and a 35-hour working week.
Those are all measures which can only add to costs and hence eventually to prices. In fact, we have the Government crowing about the public sector being the pace setters for the rest of the country. We can only come to 2 conclusions: either the Treasurer and the Government have no conception of the necessity to take all embracing action to curb inflation even if it means becoming unpopular with their political masters; or, on the other hand, the Prime Minister and the Government are cynically cold bloodedly and deliberately generating a state of economy designed to lead people to the conclusion that the Federal Government has not sufficient power to deal with inflation and therefore that the Australian people in desperation will acquiesce to the demands for total centralised power in Canberra. This appears to be what they are seeking .Such a course of action would be, in my view, despicable in the utmost sense of the word. The people of Australia must not allow themselves to be hoodwinked by such a cynical, dangerous, heart-breaking poverty producing exercise in achieving the centralised socialist dream.
– I would like to commence by congratulating the Treasurer (Mr Crean) on his Budget not only because it is sound and progressive but also because of its recognition of and confidence in Australia and Australians. The Treasurer has displayed a measure of courage and determination to achieve social justice as well as fiscal responsibility. His efforts deserve the sympathetic support of all.
Honourable members interjecting -
-Order! If the House does not come to order I will take the appropriate action. I assure honourable members of that.
– The attack which has been launched and which is carried on now in a completely undignified way, in a manner which gives little credit to honourable members opposite represents a premature condemnation which has had no other significant effect than to cause some uncertainty and some confusion in the economy itself. Certainly no one could accuse the Opposition of having made any constructive suggestions that the Government might consider in respect of the question of inflation. (Quorum formed.) The attack made by the Opposition on the Budget has been negative in approach and petty in its scope. Of course inflation is a matter of serious concern. The Treasurer has made it clear that he acknowledges this fact and is anxious to attack it not by mouthing platitudes, giving forth with the vocabulary of the jackass and the cockatoo, but rather in sensible economic terms. It would be well for the education of some of the honourable members opposite if they had stopped talking for a while and had listened when the Treasurer was explaining the policy of the Government in this regard.
The causes of inflation are varied and the solutions are complex. The Opposition would have far more credibility if it acknowledged that the causes of inflation flow mainly from international factors. Part of the problem rests with prices exploitation - with the concept that a price is justified as long as the consumer is prepared or can be forced to pay. When the Opposition was in government it did nothing to protect the consumer against price exploitation. It encouraged monopoly and closed its eyes to unjustified and artificially high prices. It did nothing about resale price maintenance until it was forced to do so. It condemned those outside the Parliament who forced it to take appropriate action. The present Opposition claimed during its long period of office to be advocates of and adherents to the free enterprise system. But it allowed our industries to engage in practices which were far removed from free and open enterprise. It promised the Australian people effective laws against restrictive trade practices but the legislation it introduced was practically useless and had extremely limited effect. It practised the philosophy of liberal laissez-faire economics. The result is that today we pay the penalty.
The Opposition in this Parliament has been reckless and irresponsible in the way that it has attacked this Budget. Instead of putting the public interest above petty Party politics it has done the opposite. The Opposition has ignored the basic central facts. It has chosen to ignore the massive increase in funds made available for education. This Government has provided an extra $404m this year for education, which represents an increase of 92 per cent oyer the amount spent on education last year. Whilst the Liberal-Country Party Opposition, consistent with its outdated philosophy, regards this as a cost burden the Government regards it as a vital investment. Our philosophy is that money spent on education has a twofold benefit. Firstly, it will result in a better educated population which is able to produce more goods and services thereby increasing our total national wealth. Secondly, it equips people to cope with society, allows them to appreciate the better things of life and helps to develop more human happiness. I ask the rhetorical question: How can one measure in terms of financial cost the benefits which flow from the result of additional funds being used on the training of handicapped persons - people who were neglected and ignored by the coldhearted government of recent years, people whose lives were left alone to be looked after as best they could themselves in their handicapped state? Governments have a responsibility to develop human skills for a better life. Gross national product is not an end in itself; it is a means to an end and a method of achieving a better life. The Government recognises these basic central facts.
The fact that education and training have been neglected for so long is the cause of some of the problems inherited by this Government from its predecessors. In many industries today the shortage of skilled labour required to produce the goods and services desired by the Australian people is creating the inadequacy of supply which is an important element in rising costs and prices. This Government has already released additional funds which will have a significant effect in this regard. It will take some time before the beneficial effects of this action are felt, but they will be seen in the near future. Recently the Liberal Party Minister for Education in New South Wales accused building construction employers of contributing to the shortage of skilled tradesmen by their reluctance to employ sufficient apprentices in the industry. He advocated financial incentives to encourage the employment and training of more apprentices. He did nothing, but advocated that course. For many years it has been obvious that this serious and acute shortage of skilled tradesmen would occur. Everybody, apart from the previous Government, could see it arising as a direct result of the introduction on a widespread basis of the sub-contracting system in the building construction industry. The Liberal-Country Party coalition did absolutely nothing either to encourage or require an adequate training method or the establishment of appropriate facilities.
One of the first steps taken by the present Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh) in the Whitlam Government was to introduce certain conditions concerning government building contracts. One of those conditions was:
In allocating contracts consideration shall be given to- Cd) the quota of apprentices the contractor by established awards is entitled to employ and the number employed
Did the Liberal and Country Party Opposition seek to encourage the Minister and the Government in their efforts to overcome what is a critical need in our society? Did it adopt a broad national outlook about the need to train more of our youth in the skills required to produce more housing for the Australian people? Certainly it did not. It launched a censure motion on the Government. I am happy to have been here to participate in the debate on that ill-conceived and petty motion and to have seen it completely rejected by this House. Honourable members opposite complain now about the result of their own ineptitude.
Those who suffer as a result of these failures are the homeless and the young married couples who face rapidly increased housing costs as a result of shortage and maximisation of profits by the building constructors. Honourable members opposite attack the Government on the one hand for spending too much and on the other for spending too little. They have criticised the fact that the Government has decided to keep expenditure on defence within reasonable limits and to spend what is consistent with our actual rather than our imagined needs. The way to reduce Government expenditure is left for Australian citizens to ponder. We reject any suggestion that less could be spent on social welfare. Those who rely on pensions and social welfare payments would not survive if their payments were reduced or were not increased with increased living costs. The fact is that those who are in this unfortunate position are in urgent need of the increased rates contained in this Budget.
The first step has also been taken in this Budget to abolish the socially iniquitous means test. The amount allocated for cultural recreation is an investment in good health. Money spent in this direction will be saved in the reduced need to provide medical services in the future. It follows, in my view, that it would be difficult significantly to reduce spending in this Budget without creating social injustice. This Government is not prepared to adopt the inverted role of Robin Hood, as some members of the Opposition would if they had the chance - that is, to rob the poor to pay the rich. This Government stands for equality in all fields.
One aspect of increased living costs which is causing deep concern in my electorate is the very serious and savage increase in water rates which has occurred in certain suburbs of Sydney. This unreasonable increase has been imposed because of the inflation of property values in the Coogee-Randwick area and the insistence of the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board to adjust the rate. Ratepayers in this area are being forced to pay almost double the rates they paid last year. Some are required to pay more. These are not the occupiers of large and luxurious homes. I am speaking on behalf of residents who live in small houses and home units. Many of these people are simply unable to meet the higher charges and are being forced to leave the area where they have spent their lives. Some are being forced to abandon the environment of their choice, to leave their homes and to move many miles away in their evening years and either make new friends or perhaps spend their fast years in loneliness.
The New South Wales Government has shown a callous and cynical lack of interest in the plight of these people. The method of rating is grossly unfair and the system of determining valuation is most inequitable. It is a deceitful method of imposing an unreasonable tax in an unacceptable manner. The cost of sewerage treatment has for many years required serious review. In my electorate we have some of the best beaches in the world, but this great natural resource is becoming polluted because of inadequate sewerage treatment.
In the city of San Francisco a different approach has been made to the problem. The local authority is required to provide only 20 per cent of the cost of providing the facilities for sewerage treatment. The other 80 per cent of the cost is met equally between the State and Federal governments. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) has recently announced that a sum of $30m is to be made available for sewerage work. Of this amount $ 11.2m is to be made available to New South Wales. He has made it clear that part of this money is to ‘be used for sewerage treatment. At least we can look forward to cleaner beaches, particularly in the summer months when they are used most and the prevailing breeze and tides play havoc with the effluent by sweeping it into the swimming areas.
The other very significant feature of this allocation is the term of the loan. Instead of the current local government interest rates and repayments over periods to the order of IS years, it will be spread over a period of 30 years. The Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board presently spends half its income on loan and interest repayments. This new approach by the Australian Government should significantly assist authorities concerned with the provision of sewerage. It is interesting to compare the different and discriminatory treatment of the people who live in Sydney. In the rural areas of New South Wales SO per cent of the cost of sewerage is met by the State Government itself. This is in sharp contrast to the method of financing the sewerage works in the city.
On the broad question of rising prices, members of the Opposition have displayed a peculiar attitude. Although during the whole period of their reign in government inflation was a problem, they have only found any possible solution since they were swept into Opposition. The plain fact is that the present level of inflation is due in no small part to economic dissipation and the political idleness of previous governments. Members of the Opposition are still stumbling along in the darkness of economic absurdity just as they did when in government. They now put forward very simplistic solutions to complex economic problems. Their suggestion now is to have a freeze. The people who were unemployed in the reign of the last Government certainly had a freeze and they will not forget it. For years honourable members opposite have argued that to control prices was ineffective and would create artificial shortages of goods and services. Now they claim to be in favour of a freeze of prices. How such a freeze would be successful in Australia when similar steps have failed in other countries is left unanswered. The question of this Parliament’s having no power or authority to impose such a freeze is also ignored in their scramble and desperate attempts to gain some political favour in the electorate. In the scramble they are being shown to be dismally unsuccessful.
Members of the Opposition claim to favour an incomes-prices policy. Again they show their ineptitude by being unable to do more than recite the slogan. No detail is given about how such price and wage control is to ‘be administered or what safeguards are to be contained in order to prevent inequities. The assumption is that the status quo is reasonable. Let me say again that there is no case on record in Australia of wages being increased in anticipation of a price increase. Wage increases have always followed an increase in prices. The opposite has never been the case. The main areas of price inflation are to be found in food and housing. There is no significant cost factor in the price spiral in either of these items.
Land prices have skyrocketed without any cost push element. It is a classic example of exploitation and profiteering. Similarly, uncontrolled rents have created real hardship for many. Again it can be shown that the price is determined exclusively on what the tenant will pay or can be forced to pay. Food prices are being determined solely by the level of demand both in Australia and overseas. Meat prices have skyrocketed under the influence of overseas demand. Food and shelter are items which are essential to life and expenditure on them cannot be avoided. It is difficult to preach the philosophy of consumer restraint when we are discussing the first and basic level of needs. Food and shelter are the essentials of life. The continued spiral in prices for these items is causing serious difficulties in the work place. As costs and prices rise, so the demand for higher wages follows. It is a selfperpetuating cycle.
Many industries are seething with discontent as workers have the feeling that they are not earning sufficient to maintoin an acceptable level of purchasing power. Increased prices in respect of items which are not related to cost increases have the effect of forcing up costs in industries where the goods and services produced have prices which are related to costs. A simple example is when a worker cannot buy meat on the wages that he is receiving, he makes a demand on the industry for higher wages which in effect pushes up costs in that industry. It is useless suggesting the type of incomes-prices policy which failed in Britain,
Canada and the United States, but our geniuses of the Opposition who failed in government and are now stumbling along in Opposition cannot come up with a solution except to mouth slogans which are meaningless. What is required at present is to reverse the cycle of wages and prices movement. What we need today is more stability.
– Why do you not do something about it?
– The honourable member will see in the next couple of days some very positive steps to do something about it. The honourable member might surprise this side of the House by adopting an unpredictable attitude and doing something constructive. This Government has not been inactive. It has been very active in attacking inflation. The Prices Justification Tribunal has been established as has the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices. Tariffs have been reduced and the currency has been revalued. All these steps have been taken and it will take some time before their effects are felt. But they will have an effect on prices to the benefit of the economy and the Australian people. Price control and an extension of income regulation are inevitable. However, that is not a wages-prices policy as mouthed by the Opposition. Truth has a power of its own. It cannot be suppressed. It will win out in the end. The ingenuity for masquerade shown by the Opposition will not mislead the Australian people.
– Probably my first memory of a political crisis occurring was in 1939, when the then AttorneyGeneral in the Lyons Government, R. G. Menzies, resigned from Cabinet because he claimed that the Government had not honoured its election promise to bring in a national superannuation scheme. Thirty-four years later we now see the beginning of such a scheme coming into effect in this Budget with the abolition of the means test for those over 75 years of age. I have been one who, during my time in this House, has consistently advocated the abolition of the means test and the setting up of a national superannuation scheme, a scheme to which all will contribute during their working lives and from which all will benefit in retirement, not as a handout, but as a right. (Quorum formed)
I should like to thank my friend, the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson), who was obviously so ashamed that the Labor
Party Benches were empty that he called a quorum so that his colleagues could come to hear what I have to say. I am sure he did not do it in order to take up the time to prevent my being able to get over all the points I would wish. I know how hard it must be for the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), who was the former Minister for Social Services and who fought so hard for the introduction of such a scheme as has been brought in by the present Government. It must give him considerable satisfaction, however, to see a scheme, of which he is the virtual author, introduced by this Government. I am glad that the honourable member for Mackellar has come into the chamber. I know how much effort he put into bringing forth this scheme and I am glad to see that the Labor Party has learned from his example and has emulated it. Both the former Government and the present Government promised in their policy speeches that the means test would be abolished within 3 years. I congratulate the Government upon taking this first step in honouring that promise.
However, like most other honourable members, I was concerned that this Budget made no attempt to deal with the fundamental problems with which this nation is now faced - those of runaway prices and crippling inflation. When the present Government took office last December inflation was running at about 4.5 per cent per annum. It was not the best of situations but it was one with which we were able to live. Now, after 9 or 10 months of Labor administration the rate of inflation is estimated at about 13.5 per cent and some people predict that by the end of the year it could well reach 20 per cent. Inflation has certainly reached alarming proportions and firm steps should have been taken in the Budget to combat it. Inflation is not peculiar to Australia. It is a world wide problem and it would be unfair to blame the rapid increase solely on the actions of the present Government. However it is true to say that the policies of the Government have done little to constrain inflation and have, in fact, aggravated it.
One can well understand the frustrations of the Government and of various Ministers, such as the Minister for Urban and Regional Developmen (Mr Uren), Ministers who have been in Opposition for so long and who suddenly find themselves in a position to achieve those things which they have desired to do, but this does not excuse the bringing down at this time of a Budget which does nothing to contain inflation and which, on the contrary, will add to inflationary pressures. The Budget papers themselves forecast wages to rise by 13 per cent in 1973-74 whilst productivity is expected to grow by only 3.5 per cent, which implies notionally an inflation rate of 9.5 to 10 per cent over the year. Apparently the Government has decided quite deliberately to live with a 10 per cent inflation rate in order to promote its policies and it has framed the Budget accordingly.
One finds it hard to understand the Treasurer presenting such a Budget at this time. As a graduate in commerce he must know that in times of inflation the proper application of Keynesian economics demands that increases in government expenditure should be kept to an absolute minimum and that there should be a considerable domestic surplus in government accounts. This Budget has been framed in the worst inflationary period for 20 years, yet it provides not for a surplus as the Keynesian theory requires but for a record deficit and the biggest increase in Government expenditure for 20 years. Obviously the Government decided against using the Budget to fight inflation, at least until after the Senate election early next year. The Government apparently reasons that by that time the economic situation will have become so dire that a horror mini-Budget, with all that that will ential, will be unavoidable. Having refused to take orthodox steps to fight inflation in the Budget, what has this Governement done or what does it intend to do at least to restore the economy to the position it was when it took office?
One measure introduced in the Budget was the 25 per cent arbitrary across the board cuts in tariffs. The Government’s announcement came like a bolt out of the blue following the release of figures which showed inflation running at 13.5 per cent. One leading businessman was quoted as saying: ‘Someone in Canberra must have pressed ali the panic buttons at once’, and that is exactly what happened. No one would argue had the Government, following a proper inquiry, reduced tariffs on specific items designed to increase competition and reduce prices of products in industries which, were largely responsible for the prices spiral. To cut all tariffs across the board without due heed to the effects may have ‘been spectacular action, but it also bordered on the irresponsible. Reductions in the prices of imported cars, imported television sets, textiles and similar products will do little to counter the soaring meat and food prices, fares, rates, building costs, service charges and prices in all the other areas where inflation is running strongly. There is little doubt, however, that the tariff cuts will irreparably damage a number of Australian industries, such as the textile and footwear industries, which will find it impossible to compete with similar products from low wage Asian countries. This decision will throw thousands of employees in these industries out of work. It is all very well for the Government to say that these people will just have to readjust and find employment elsewhere. Readjustment is not easy, particularly for older employees who may be trained in no other trade. Readjustment may even mean selling one’s house and moving to another area to gain employment. The whole manoeuvre was a panic one which will not only do little to alleviate the problem of inflation but which gives no consideration to the personal effect on the workers and the small businesses involved. To put people on unemployment relief is poor compensation for upsetting their lives.
The 5 per cent revaluation of the Australian currency announced on Sunday will have the effect of reducing the prices of imports and of increasing the quantity of imports. It will also increase the price of our exports to other countries, reducing the amount of goods which we export and hence reducing our overseas balances. Once again, it was an ad hoc panic decision to make it appear that this is a government of action. But what was the effect? The Melbourne ‘Sun’ carried this headline yesterday:
Black Day For Shares- $800m Down.” Share prices fell sharply in a black day on the Australian stock exchanges yesterday.
The people who own these shares are the little people who live in electorates such as Deakin and Corio. These are the people who are suffering by these arbitrary acts of the Government. It is said that most of these unhappy panic decisions could probably have been avoided had the Goverenment adopted a sound economic policy in the Budget. Another step taken by the Government was the setting up of the Prices Justification Tribunal. What value has this body, other than making it appear that something is being done? Even the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions has said that the organisation has no teeth. It can deal only with corporations with a turnover of more than $20m a year and it has no power to enforce its eventual decisions. It is just a costly propaganda exercise to make it appear that the Government is doing something. At the very best, the Prices Justification Tribunal can defer but not prevent price rises.
Having refused to use the Budget to fight inflation, the Government now has the temerity to ask the States to hand over the power to control prices. As a rider, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has said that the Commonwealth would accept also the power to control incomes but he has carefully refused to commit the Government to using that power. It has since been leaked to the Press that legal experts are said to have told the Prime Minister that constitutional problems would prevent the successful exercise of controls over wages. We are told that it would conflict with the Commonwealth industrial power under which the arbitration system was established. One can well understand a Labor government which relies so heavily on the trade union movement for finance and support refusing to take any steps to control wages. But wages are a large part of production. The Budget Papers predict a 13 per cent rise in wages in 1973-74. If wages continue to rise at that rate, and prices are pegged, the situation will become chaotic. Black markets will develop and all sorts of shady practices will occur.
A prices and incomes freeze is a drastic remedy for inflation. It can create more problems that it remedies and at the best can have only a short term effect. The Dean of Economics at Harvard University, Professor Galbraith, who is at present visiting Australia and who is a world authority on economic matters, has . stated publicly that a wage-price freeze would not miraculously cure Australia’s inflation. Professor Galbraith has said that the 2 elements needed to combat inflation are increased taxation to dampen demand and a system of wage-price constraints. But the present Government has not taken the initiative either to dampen demand or to control wage costs. All it talks about is price control. Anyone who lived under the last socialist Labor Government from 1945 to 1949 with its rationing and its controls knows the evils inherent in such a policy.
Inflation is a great social evil, and this Government will stand indicted for all time if it refuses to take action to contain it. Every sector of the community likes a wage gain and higher incomes, even members of Parliament, but what is the use if the increased income buys less and less, as is the position under the present Government? What does it profit the pensioners to receive a measly SI. 50 rise in the Budget only for it to be eaten away by inflation even before it reaches their pockets? What about those on superannuation or small fixed incomes who during a lifetime of work saved to provide for themselves to live in reasonable comfort in their retirement, only to find rising costs eating into their small resources? The heavy increases in this Budget of indirect taxes and charges on such things as petrol, cigarettes, soft drinks and spirits will hit the low wage earner, the pensioners and those on fixed incomes just as it will hit the wealthy. The only difference is that the wealthy are better equipped to absorb such charges. These charges are adding to the cost of living and are thus contributing to the inflationary spiral. We are already being told that, due to the increased petrol taxes, air fares and taxi fares will rise.
Private companies which have been singled out to pay higher taxes will naturally pass these charges on to the consumer, again contributing to inflation. The higher tax on insurance companies will mean that the small person with an insurance policy will receive less by way of bonuses. Of course, the Labor Party probably does not care about these people who like to provide for their own comfort in their old age and do not want to be a charge on the state. Coupled with runaway inflation we are experiencing runaway bureaucracy. Already the boosting of ministerial and departmental empires is causing public concern. The proliferation of boards and committees which are flourishing under this Government all have to be staffed and serviced. Every minor matter now seems to be examined by some committee or other set up specifically for the purpose. While the work force will grow in the private sector by only 3i per cent in the coming year it is estimated that the Public Service will grow by somewhere between 7 per cent and 10 per cent. At the same time it is estimated that the total Public Service salary bill will increase by 24 per cent. It may be hard for a socialist government to accept, but it is a fundamental economic fact of life that the private sector of the economy generates the wealth which allows the public sector to expand. If the public sector outstrips the private sector, productivity suffers. Greater productivity is the most successful weapon against inflation
The Australian people are paying a high price for the centralist doctrinaire socialism of this Government. Probably the worst example of this ideology is the allocation of SI 07m to nationalise the Gidgealpa to Sydney gas pipeline. Apparently the remaining $100m needed to complete the project will be allocated next year. At a time when the nation should be restricting public spending as part of the battle against inflation, this Government is outlaying $207m of taxpayer’s funds on a pipeline that private enterprise was building anyway. When reviewing the Budget, Tony Thomas, the economics writer in the Melbourne ‘Age’ said:
This pipeline was going to be built in any case by the Australian Gas Light Company, but the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) preferred to use public funds. He offered nothing to justify his choice but some socialist rhetoric.
He ends his article with the statement: ‘This disastrous Budget has. a quality of its own.’ Perhaps the most pertinent comment came from Allan Barnes of the Melbourne ‘Age’. He said that the Budget was ‘unashamedly socialist’. The Opposition has moved an amendment attacking the Budget on 8 grounds, any one of which by itself provides sufficient reason for passing the amendment. This Government stands condemned because, with inflationary pressures intense, it has failed to adopt any policy to bring inflation under control. I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden).
Motion (by Mr Hayden) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Question put:
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Sneddens amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-
-Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Original question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
– In accordance with standing order 226 the Committee will first consider the Second Schedule of the Bill.
– I suggest that it might suit the convenience of the Committee to consider the items of proposed expenditure in the order and groupings shown in the schedule circulated to honourable members, which are as follows: Parliament
Consideration of the items in groups of departments which have a functional association with one another has met the convenience of the Committee in past years. I take the opportunity to indicate to the Committee that the proposed order for consideration of the estimates of departments has been discussed with the Opposition, which has raised no objection to what has been proposed.
– Is it the wish of the Committee to consider the items of proposed expenditure in the order suggested by the Acting Leader of the House?
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition informs me that discussions have taken place and agreement has been reached with the Government. We have no opposition to the proposals.
– There being no objection that course will be followed.
Proposed expenditure, $6,741,000.-
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of Professor Loss on proposals for Australian companies and securities legislation, together with the text of a statement on the report made today in the Senate by the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy).
Debate resumed from 29 August (vide page 523), on motion by Mr Whitlam:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Some years ago in England 2 young men were charged with murder. They were aged respectively 16 years and, as I recall, 19 years. The circumstances whereby they came to stand in the dock were these: They broke into a warehouse late at night and they were apprehended by a caretaker. The young boy 16 years of age had a revolver with him. They sought to escape from the caretaker. The elder boy called out to the younger one: ‘Give it to him, Dick. Give it to him.’
– The lead or the pistol?
– I thought we were dealing with a matter of high principle; not with a matter of comics. The young boy pulled the trigger of the revolver and shot the warehouse keeper, who died. Both of them were charged with murder and both of them were convicted. The young boy who had pulled the trigger and who was in fact responsible for the death of the caretaker, because of his age could not be sentenced to death and the elder boy, who was in fact an accomplice, a party to the offence, the one who had called out: ‘Give it to him, Dick. Give it to him,’ had the sentence carried out upon him. I give that narrative because I believe that it points to the dilemma in society’s consideration of whether or not the death penalty should be retained. I will come back to it in a moment or two.
A few months ago I went to the funeral of a young daughter of one of my very close friends and while we were waiting for the cortege to arrive at the cemetery in Brisbane I stood beside the grave of a man who was hanged in Queensland some years ago for bushranging. His name was .Patrick Keniffe I stood beside his grave with a .man who. has appeared in hundreds of murder trials, and there are very few people living in the Englishspeaking world today who can say they have appeared in hundreds of murder trials. He is Mr Daniel Casey of the criminal bar, a very distinguished Australian and one of the greatest defenders of liberty this country has ever known. I could not help but think as I stood beside the grave of Keniffe: ‘Could you have pulled the lever to send this man to eternity?’ As the coffin of this young girl was lowered into the grave the thought came to me, as I believe it comes to most of us, that the most tremendous event in life is death. No matter what our sense of belief may be, whether we are squeamish about the idea of dying or not, whether any one of us is gripped with any sense of thanatophobia or not, the greatest event in life is death. I went back to Keniffe: ‘Could you have pulled the lever to send this man hurtling to eternity?’
The statistics are dead against those who assert that capital punishment is a deterrent against capital offences, . that it discourages people from committing crimes of great or exacting violence. I must confess that this has been one of those intellectual and philosophical torments through which I have gone. I suppose it is something that all of us from one time to another pass through. I must confess that I remain today unconvinced that fierce penalties do in fact discourage people from committing offences. When one comes to the central core of what lies before us surely there is on the one hand this question: Does the preservation of capital punishment discourage and should society seek to preserve it? I must say for myself that when I reflect upon the outrageous crimes that can be and are committed during times of war, I unhesitatingly say that capital punishment should be preserved for those who would seek to so outrage their country as to hand it over to the enemy. But then I remind myself that in times of war most of the laws of society do in fact disappear or, if they do not disappear, are certainly put in jeopardy. This seems to me to be the question that this House should decide this evening. We can legislate only with respect to the 2 Territories, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Statistically can we be sure that we are right? It is very comforting to look at a great range of figures and say: ‘I think perhaps you are right in contending that capital punishment has not led to any decrease in substantial crime, say, in the United States of America or the United Kingdom and, ergo, that will be our experience here in Australia’. I do not think that that is the way we can approach it. What we have to consider is whether or not our society can accept that form of retribution which seeks to extinguish life. That is the proposition as I see it and I respect those who take one side or the other. I have thought earnestly about what society should do to a person who, for example, would insure his mother-in-law, put her on a plane, put a bomb on the plane and blow up the whole plane. I have thought about the circumstances where an individual would place a bomb, say, under the central control tower at Mascot aerodrome when aircraft were manoeuvering in close proximity, either coming in to land or taking off; or where a bomb is placed under the central signal station at the Central Railway Station when half a dozen trains were coming in to their respective positions and the enormous calamities that would result from the detonation of that weapon. That is a consideration and it is a matter for utter conscience.
I do not think that any political doctrine can bind any person to any particular view on this. It is quite beyond political doctrine no matter how expansive, no matter how definitive that doctrine may be. I think we all have to work these questions out for ourselves, in our own way and however imperfectly we may do it. There are a few of us who have appeared in trials involving capital offences. For myself I have always found them to be most harrowing experiences and, at the risk of selfindulgence, I recall the occasion when I appeared for a railway fettler charged in Queensland with wilful murder. He was seen by 2 people to put 6 bullets into a man. He admitted to the fact that he had done so to 3 others, including a doctor, a sister at a hospital and an ambulance-bearer. The only defence available to that man was that of intoxication, to seek to reduce the charge to manslaughter. I failed, and the effect of that failure upon me was very significant. It was not up to me to measure its effect upon the man. But what has always remained with me is the thought that if when the jury brought in the verdict of guilty, the judge, as he would have in years gone by, had imposed the one sentence available and sentenced this man to be hanged, I would have found that utterly unconscionable having regard to all of the circumstances. I must confess that that personal experience of that one murder trial has taken me very considerably away from the position I once held, whether rightly or wrongly.
I know there are those who are probably of stronger fibre, of stronger character, of stronger mind, who would not feel squeamish about that sort of thing. But to have lived through the days with that man and to have seen the sense of anguish and indeed to have felt it is not an experience that can be lightly described nor, speaking for myself, lightly dismissed. On the other hand I have had the experience of appearing for people who, because of the way the events fell, because of what one may describe as ‘the luck of the conduct of the trial’, escaped.
Of course it is not up to any counsel to determine whether or not his client is in fact guilty. Indeed if a client does admit to his own guilt the duty of the counsel is plain - he must put the Crown to its proof. But the difference between days gone by and today seems to me to be this: We contend that we are enlightened although I have the greatest of doubts whether in fact the reality bears out our intention. But I think we should give some indication that we are striving to bear out our contention and that we are enlightened. We live in a world that has become desperately inured to the tragic loss of life. We live in a world where human values and regard for human values are very much in jeopardy and taken for granted. I suppose the constant search of mankind today, as it has always been although never made quite clear, is towards seeking to create that form of society in which there is a very genuine regard for human values and the supreme human value, surely, is that of human life.
I come back to where I began. Death is the greatest event in life no matter what our belief may be. It is very hard to ask people to destroy life. This is not some vague, some empty sentimentalism. To ask a person to go and to take life in war is a matter which, of course, we take for granted and we are not emancipated by the fact that we do take it for granted. But during the course of peace surely something else is the search of us all. I have not had an opportunity of examining the amendments which have been circulated in the name of my friend the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair). I assure him that I will examine them. I express to the House that at the moment I hold to the view that in cases of treason the extreme penalty should be maintained. I confess without any sense of shame that I have very considerable misgivings with respect to what should be done to those who commit heinous crimes involving the loss of a great deal of life either by the blowing up of aircraft or by the blowing up of those control mechanisms which lead to calamities.
This is the position in which I find myself: Crimes of passion such as murder which has been brought about by provocation are in the ultimate intelligible and one seeks to understand them. The development of the law has been such as to seek to offer some form of mitigation. Indeed, one only has to mention provocation to realise that in certain circumstances where provocation has been established that mitigation does reduce the enormity of the crime and as a consequence relieves the person who is involved of facing the extreme penalty. This is a matter of great gravity but beyond that it is a matter of simple blunt conscience and no matter how hard we may strive to escape our conscience it is something to which we are tied, and tied for all time.
– I rise to support the Bill. I do so knowing that this is the third time that this House will have dealt with a similar Bill. It seems rather strange that on 2 occasions it should have been rejected until one realises that one can either take a party line or exercise a free vote on such a matter. I will be taking that up later. It is also relevant that this debate takes place now when there are 2 men waiting capital sentence in the Australian Capital Territory. I cannot claim to have had the close association with the law that the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) has had but I can understand his wrestling with the problems involved and wrestling with his approach to consistency as to the value of life and the role of a government in upholding that value.
I can understand how many governments have changed their stand and how many individuals have changed their stand on this matter. I myself was equivocal on it when I was quite young but with maturing years and maturing attitude I think I have taken the only right objective conclusion and that is to support the present Bill. Therefore it was interesting to come across the words of someone who is vitally concerned with the matter of the repeal of capital punishment. I am referring to Sir Ernest Gowers who was Chairman of the United Kingdom Royal Commission on Capital Punishment. He wrote in his book ‘A Life for a Life: The Problem of Capital Punishment’, published in 1956 after the Commission had published its report:
Before serving on the Royal Commission, I like most other people, had given no great thought to the problem. If I had ben asked for my opinion, I should probably have said that I was in favour of the death penalty, and disposed to regard abolitionists as people whose hearts were bigger than their heads. Four years of close study of the subject gradually dispelled that feeling. In the end I became convinced that the abolitionists were right in their conclusions - though
I could not agree with all their arguments - and that so far from the sentimental approach leading into their camp and the rational one into that of the supporters, it was the other way about.
There are many reasons why we should oppose the retention of capital puishment. The death penalty is a barbaric practice which has no place in a society claiming to be civilised. It is derived from a crude desire for revenge which is made doubly abhorrent by the fact that should justice go astray and a mistake be made it can never be corrected. It seems strange to me that the charge of those who would like to retain capital punishment is directed to the abolitionists by saying that the abolitionists have too much concern for the murdered and not enough for the victim. They would rather appease their sense of revenge and extend to the murdered the hurt that was suffered by the victim. If the victim was murdered, capital punishment is not going to bring that victim back to life or in any way improve the situation of those who have suffered. Some people may prefer to retain the death penalty for such other crimes as rape. To liquidate the rapist is certainly not going to reconstitute the virginity or wholesomeness of the victim. It is only because they wish to feel a sense of revenge that they carry out the death penalty for severe crimes of a like nature. If they were concerned perhaps they would have extended their attention to relieving the hardship of the remaining family or of the victim if close to death. In fact, I find in my readings and studies that it is the abolitionists who are more concerned with the victim and would like to see changes made in the law that would give compensation and other forms of assistance to offset the harm and danger to the victim.
The move that we are making here is only another step of a member nation of the United Nations to follow one of its recommendations. The United Nations involvement in the question dates back to a resolution adopted by the General Assembly in 1959, a recommendation by the United Nations Economic and Social Council 4 years later that governments remove capital punishment from the criminal law in the case of crimes to which it was in practice not applied, and a further recommendation in 1971 that the main objective to be pursued is that of progressively reducing the number of offences for which capital punishment might be imposed with a view to the desirability of abolishing this punishment in all countries. A similar affirmation was approved by the United Nations General Assembly.
I understand that the Australian Capital Territory has not carried out the death penalty for some time. So it is certainly one of those penalties which not being applied would well and truly come under the recommendations of the United Nations. I came across a report issued recently in the name of the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations, Dr Kurt Waldheim. En this report he lists 23 countries, including Britain, that have abolished capital punishment. I understand that Venezuela was the first in 1863, followed by Portugal of all countries 4 years later and the Netherlands in 1870. The report also noted that since the United Nations charter was signed in 1945 only a few countries have abolished the death penalty, but we notice that in those are countries very similar in culture to our own. I refer, in addition to Britain, to Austria, Finland, Israel, New Zealand, Malta, Peru, and among the non-members of the United Nations, West Germany.
Of the 50 States of the United States of America 15 are abolitionist, and of the 32 States and territories of Mexico 29 are abolitionist. Strangely, in Australia 3 of the 6 Australian States and Territories are abolitionist. Gradually the States have been loath to carry out their death sentences upon convicted murderers. Queensland was the first State of Australia to abolish the death penalty. It did so in 1923, after its last hanging in 1913. New South Wales followed in 1955 with its last hanging - I nearly said ‘celebrated’ - in 1939. Last year the Northern Territory passed an ordinance abolishing the death penalty. So we can see that there have been advances not only internationally but in our own country.
One might ask then what are arguments in favour of the retention of the death penalty. Once again in my reading - this has been quite extensive - I have tried to boil it down to principles. Although specific exemptions have been given - and I understand that is probably the content of the amendments to be moved to this Bill - I find that they can boil down to two, and they are correlated. The first is that the death penalty is a unique deterrent. Secondly and consequently, there is not a suitable alternative. The people who adopt the attitude that it is a unique deterrent have yet to show that it does reduce the incidence of crimes. If we take the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory we find that the number of those imprisoned and sentenced in the Northern Territory is about 17 times that of the Australian Capital Territory although at the time of these comparisons both had retained the death penalty. It is when we consider these comparisons of territories of a similar population but with vastly different cultures and social fabrics that we realise it is not a question of the crime or the circumstances of that crime but that the reasons for crimes go well into the fabric of society. It is here that we should be looking for the causes. Instead of lopping the scab off the sore we should be trying to heal the disease - the cause of crimes.
We find that in those countries which have abolished the death penalty there has been no change in the incidence of crimes caeteris paribus - that is, other things being equal. In fact, probably there has been a marginal decline in the incidence of crime. But still we have the death penalty retentionists telling us that there should be exceptions in the case of the killing of prison officials and politicians. I was fortunate to come across some evidence which would suggest that the retention of the death penalty does not lower the incidence of murder against officials. I am referring to the work carried out by Professor Sellin in the United States who shows that in 265 cities - that is in 11 death-penalty States and 6 abolitionist States - where the police had always been armed, death penalty or not, in the abolitionist States there had been 1.2 fatal attacks on policemen per 100,000 of the population and in the capital punishment States the rate was 1.3. Commenting on this Professor Sellin holds:
The claim that if data could be secured they would show that more police are killed in abolition States than in the capital punishment States is unfounded. On the whole the abolition States appear to have fewer killings, but the differences are small. If this is the argument upon which the police rest their opposition to the abolition of capital punishment, it must be concluded that it lacks any factual basis.
We also find that the retentionists would like to retain the death penalty for such crimes as hijacking, drug trafficking and treason. I must differ with the honourable member for Moreton in regard to treason in respect of which he argued that the death penalty should be maintained. 1 would like to ask him what would have happened to George Washington if America had lost the War of Independence? Would he have been tried for treason? This is the kernel of the argument that the death penalty should be retained for treason. The fact is that it is a highly political matter; it is very vague in its terms and is left entirely to the discretion of the extremists - the John Birches, the nazis, the communists and those of extreme ideologies who would use such vagaries and such interpretations for their own political causes.
So, looking for common principles in these exemptions from the abolition of the death penalty we must ask ourselves why one deterrent should work in some cases and not in others. This is what lies behind the argument. Why should the retention of the death penalty work when it comes to hijacking or treason, drug trafficking or lulling officials but not in other crimes in respect of which they agree that the death penalty should be lifted. For example, in premeditated murder we would find that if the people concerned were conscious of the penalties they would weigh up the chances of being caught. It is very rarely that a criminal of this nature thinks that he will be caught. In other words, the existence of the death penalty is not a deterrent. Of course, we cannot consider that the death ‘ penalty would act as a deterrent if people were not conscious of it. Most crimes of passion committed in the heat of the moment are those for which most people agree the death penalty should be lifted. Hijacking is a desperation move and usually has its causes in some desperation move due to some political situation. Of course, most people in this House would agree that the death penalty should be lifted for those murders by accident which can usually be dealt with by a sentence for manslaughter.
But I still ask those who would have exemptions why some crimes are more serious than others. It is nothing more than a value judgment and they pit that value judgment against the principle of the sanctity of life. It seems to me in summary that the barbaric penalties of death or flogging are always suggested when a particular crime goes out of proportion and frightens reasoned public opinion or reasoned politicians. It may seem strange to some of my opponents in the debate on the Medical Practice Clarification Bill for me to talk about the sanctity of life so I should like to repeat one of the principles which I enunciated in that debate and which 1 should like to apply to the debate tonight. I was talking in that debate about rights only being as strong as when protected by might - by the State and I said that once a State had conferred that right, it must use its might to protect it from then on. I stated:
The State that can confer the right to life and honour that right without question, such as to the viable foetus, will also honour that right at all times. The obligation is such that the principle be enshrined in law and capital punishment repealed and euthanasia continued to be made illegal. For, once the right to life has been conferred, life should not be taken unless by consent or when it can be proven beyond doubt that the taking of life was essential to protect the equal rights of another. The principle of right to life should not be granted cheaply and unless the right to life can be protected, its consistent application is the greatest legal protection against a government or a society developing a disrespect for all life.
I am arguing that to accept the death penalty is to invoke a disrespect for life.
I should like to summarise by running quickly through the main arguments for the abolition of the death penalty. Firstly, capital punishment and all that surrounds it is degrading and brutalising. It affects not only those who take a direct part in the proceedings, but the whole community. The publicity which accompanies it - there must be publicity if it is to be a deterrent - arouses a morbid sensationalism and lowers the general moral tone of society. Secondly, violence begets violence. Why should we be surprised when individuals solve their problems in a violent way when society solves its problems in a violent way? Thirdly, the act is irremediable and mistakes have been made. Fourthly, it facilitates the development of undesirable - that is, sadistic - drives and emotional states among the population at large. Finally, it allows people to allay their own guilt by enabling them to indulge in a sort of moral orgy of selfrighteousness. This could result in the taking away of attention from the real problem, a denying of any degree of collective responsibility, either for the conditions in society which may have been facilitating factors in the crime situation or for the reform and rehabilitation of the murderer. It is on that argument and for those reasons that I support the abolition of the death penalty in the Australian Capital Territory and territories under the control of the Australian Parliament.
To conclude, there are still those who may think this is an individual stand. But this is a collective stand of this Parliament. It is not a decision which has been taken by an individual in society; it is a decision which must be taken here and now because it is only this Parliament which can decide whether a man should lose his life. That is why I believe that the only right, consistent, collective responsible decision of this Parliament is to support this Bill.
– While I respect the point of view that has been put by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb) who preceded me in this debate, I think it needs to be said that society has changed, not necessarily for the better, over the last 2 decades. It was only in 1957 - a matter of 16 years ago - that the last person was banged in Australia, yet since that date the incidence of crimes of a heinous nature and the threats of further crimes have not lessened; they have extended. As a young articled clerk I oan remember attending in the Central Criminal Court in Sydney on the occasion of a man being sentenced to death. For all of us who have seen the trappings of the law there is a measure almost of archaic nonsense in the. garments that are worn and the somewhat uncomfortable and barren atmosphere that a court presents. Yet, until the judge puts on that black cap and pronounces sentence of death, there is still a sense almost of having seen it all before- of having listened to the proceedings on the radio or perhaps viewed them on the television.
I do not know in what way a House such as this can best examine questions of a legal and moral character. I do not believe that any of us is competent to make a judgment on an issue as critical as this. It is true that, in the terms of the enforcement of the death penalty in the past, the Governor-General, in his Executive Council right, has been the person responsible for finally exercising the death penalty. But we are here not to determine the fate of individual men or women; we are here to set the laws of this land. We are not judging on individual cases; we are setting the parameters within which others more competent than we - others who have the facts set out before them - might consider and determine in the circumstances which are there to be judged the nature of the penalty that should be enforced.
Neither on moral nor on deterrent grounds have I any objection to the abolition of the death penalty for a range of offences which I see as the product of society and attitudes towards our fellow men. I believe that there is a very real problem in our society which relates not only to the Bill that is before us and the enforcement of the death penalty but also to the enforcement of the law itself, the respect for the law, the nature of our penal institutions and the way by which, in a society where licentiousness generally is extending, there can be bred in the hearts and minds of the citizens of this world - not just of Australia - a respect for the rule of law. I know that one can turn to statistics and can demonstrate at least to the degree that statistics can demonstrate anything that the death penalty does not ensure that capital offences are less likely to occur where the death penalty is enforced. But equally, one cannot disprove it. Indeed, if one has a look at other countries - there has been a recitation in the debate tonight of a range of countries that have already abolished the death penalty - it can be seen, for example, that there has been no lessening of activities such as those of the Black September Movement because of the abolition of the death penalty. All of us are aware that there have developed patterns which we would see as almost unique in our time and if there is a greater condemnation of our society, perhaps it lies in the peculiar nature of some of the perverted crimes that exist in our world today. I have been interested in the Black September Movement. Debate interrupted.
-Order! It being 10.15 p.m., in accordance with the Order of the House I propose the question:
That the House do row adjourn.
– I wish to address myself to the Brisbane airport. I have done the right thing in advising the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) that I would be speaking on a subject that could be of interest to him. I wish to speak not so much about the Brisbane airport as about what the Government is not doing about the Brisbane airport. My interest in this subject extends back to the late 1960s when I entered this Parliament, appeared before the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise and presented to it in Brisbane a case on behalf of the residents of my electorate. I underlined the noise being made by the increasing number of large aeroplanes. The people of Brisbane were, to say the least, disappointed with the Coombs report, the document titled ‘Review of Continuing Expenditure Policies of the Previous Government’. We regret that the Brisbane airport was ever included in the survey conducted by the learned Dr Coombs and his committee. The report suggests that the work required on the Brisbane airport could be deferred for an indefinite period or a specific period. The Coombs report recites some facts which indicate the good faith of the previous Government in respect of building a new Brisbane airport. The report states that the previous LiberalCountry Party Government was spending $lm between 1973 and 1974; $13m between 1974 and 1975; and $18m between 1975 and 1976. That indicates that things were on the move.
In the short time available to me I wish to refer to various Press releases, the first of which dated October 1969 states: ‘A ray of hope for Queensland’. The report appeared in the Financial Review’ of 24 October 1969 when Mr Swartz, then Minister for Civil Aviation, announced that there would be a rebuilding of Brisbane’s international airport. On 23 January 1969 Sir Donald Anderson, that great DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation, sprang a surprise. A Press article states:
The Director-General of Civil Aviation, Sir Donald Anderson, sprang a surprise on Tuesday when he told a Melbourne Rotary Club lunch that the star part in his next 5-year airport development program would be played by Brisbane.
Five years have almost passed and the new Government has not announced that anything is to be done. On 15 May 1969 the present Minister for Civil Aviation said:
Brisbane airport is another facility that requires to be moved. It is obvious that there is a noise problem it Brisbane.
That is an understatement of the facts.
In 1971 the previous Liberal-Country Party Government set up a Commonwealth-State advisory committee with the Queensland Government and the Brisbane City Council in order to review the master plans for Brisbane airport. On 16 December 1971 announcements were made relating to the inquiry and the need to consider ecological problems. It was said that it was imperative to move the noise nuisance to the south west of the airport without causing unacceptable noise levels in other closely settled areas. In Brisbane the height of buildings has had to be restricted because Brisbane is on the direct approach path for many aircraft arriving there. The placement of the Brisbane airport is restricting the size of buildings in that city, thus adding to building costs. The number of floors and the number of tenants that can be accommodated in relation to the initial outlay on land are restricted.
It is rather amusing to look back to 1971 when the present minister for sugar - the Minister for Northern Development or northern sugar - was very critical of the previous Government.
-Order! He is the Minister for Northern Development.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. The present Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) made known to this House that he had learned that the Commonwealth was spending in Queensland only one per cent of the money spent on air terminals throughout the nation. He said that it was a shabby deal and that Queensland was being savagely discriminated against. Looking back now that one per cent seems generous. It is a pity that the Minister for Civil Aviation has squibbed the opportunity. Perhaps I should not say ‘squibbed’.
– Avoided the opportunity.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is a pity that he has avoided the opportunity to debate this issue. He avoided debating the new Sydney airport only yesterday and he has again avoided an opportunity tonight to reply to the irrefutable arguments that I am putting forward in relation to Brisbane’s getting a shabby deal. The time available to an honourable member in an adjournment debate is very short but I want to point out that the new Government foresaw what would happen. The Minister for Civil Aviation is a very clever man. He is difficult to pin down or to bring into this House to make a statement. He camouflaged the Government’s decision to shelve the Brisbane airport project by making an announcement through his Department that there would be need for a further inquiry. I refer the Minister to the Senate Hansard of 23 May which contains an answer given by his representative, the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh), to Senator Lawrie. Senator Cavanagh said of the previous study:
The Brisbane airport studies have advanced to the point where preliminary cost estimates are available for government consideration together with a quite comprehensive environmental impact statement.
As a member from the State of Queensland that this Government considers expendable I object most strongly to the manner in which the people of that State, and particularly of Brisbane, are being treated. The suburbs of Norman Park, Balmoral, Bulimba and others in my electorate are suffering increasingly from the noise made by aircraft. The new honour able member for Lilley (Mr Doyle) gained his seat by 35 votes at the last election.
– I will do better next time.
– The honourable member will not have to worry about airport noise next time because he will be back in his old suburb of Sandgate. The honourable member for Lilley has said hardly a word about the aircraft noise problem. There are suggestions that there is more concern about shifting the airport because certain traditional Labor areas might have to be moved. As the honourable member for Lilley had a majority of only 35 votes, it could be the kiss of death for him, or more importantly, for Labor in the electorate of Lilley. I repeat that we do not like the shabby treatment that is being meted out to the city of Brisbane. If the Minister for Civil Aviation cares at all about Queensland it is high time that he set about reversing the Labor Government or Cabinet decision to give Brisbane a very low priority in what it considers its great program.
I warn the Minister that just as I was tenacious when my own Party was in power in my endeavours to ensure that a new airport for Brisbane was built, so will I persist now and it will be so much easier for me to continue a campaign against the new Labor Government, not just on the airport issue but on many matters of policy which adversely affect the standard of living of the people not only of the electorate of Griffith or of Queensland, but of the whole of Australia. I hope he takes heed of this warning and that next week when Cabinet meets he says to those present: ‘This is absolutely stupid. We must reverse this decision because the people of Queensland deserve better.’ This will be the test of the man and if he does not do this I suppose he will never do anything.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I do not want to be pinpricking but I seek your advice. Is it not a long established convention of this Parliament and of the Parliament of Westminster that a Minister of the Crown should at least be in the House if not at the dispatch box when debates are in progress?
– It is an established practice and I am pleased that the honourable member for Hotham has drawn my attention to it. I wonder whether the honourable member for Phillip will see the Government Whip and inquire about a Minister being at the table.
– Because of various rumours and various interpretations that have been placed on the effects of the Budget on primary producers, particularly in regard to taxation concessions, I have gone to the trouble to have many of the points clarified by the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) and I should like to place them on record tonight. Firstly, the Budget has provided new credit facilities for farmers, particularly to keep farms together on the death of the principal, and also to provide funds for debt reconstruction. This money is available through the Commonwealth Development Bank.
The Budget changed a number of taxation concessions, particularly the capital expenditure that applies to depreciable items. In the past these items were subject to immediate depreciation in the year the expenditure was incurred. They are now deductible at prescribed rates based on the estimated life of these investments. There are 2 types of depreciation system - the prime cost method and the diminishing value method. There is a choice of the 2 methods. The items themselves can be deducted only by primary producers. The privilege does not apply to any manufacturer or other business person. Another type of expenditure which is incurred by” farmers involves non-depreciable items such as clearing, drainage and soil conservation. These previously were fully deductible in the year they were incurred. They are now deductible over a period of 10 years at 10 per cent per annum.
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I seek your ruling. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro is referring to various matters regarding which I have placed a question on notice to the Treasurer. It is question No. 832. Is it in order for the honourable member to refer to these matters in this debate?
-I do not think any point of order is involved. If the honourable member asked a question during question time concerning a matter on which a question was on notice he would be out of order. I do not think the honourable member is out of order in referring to these matters during this debate. I do not know whether the honourable mem ber for Eden-Monaro has perused the question on the notice paper and is using them for his benefit.
– I have risen during this adjournment debate tonight because there is great confusion among the farmers in my electorate and I am sure among other farmers. This clarification is necessary. I have gone to the trouble of establishing the facts. Indeed, the mechanism I have used was available to anybody who cared to do likewise. I intend to continue my remarks in order to clarify the position. Expenditure on non-depreciable items which are involved in capital investment in clearing land, as I have mentioned, is deductible over a period of 10 years. Expenditure incurred in the maintenance of farm facilities is deducted in the year of the expenditure. Such expenditure might include the removal of suckers in a paddock. The acceleration depreciation, which involves expenditure on plant and structural improvements, was previously subjected to a depreciation rate of 20 per cent. This has now been brought into line with other business practice and such expenditure is depreciated at rates prescribed by the Commissioner of Taxation. For example, there is a 15 per cent depreciation rate for vehicles. The question of accelerated depreciation has now been brought into line with other business enterprises.
Double deductibility for properties has been removed. One of the fundamental objectives of the particular reforms carried out in the Budget is to make it difficult for people to speculate in the development, improvement and resale of farm land. Double deductibility previously allowed a purchaser of land to deduct in the year of expenditure the money spent on its development and then when the land was subsequently sold to deduct again the same amount of money. This second deduction has now been removed and the original investment is depreciated over time in accordance with normal business practice. The investment allowance of 20 per cent over and above the normal deduction rate has been withdrawn in the 1973 Budget. This allowance applied not only to primary producers but also to manufacturers. It has been withdrawn for all parties.
There has been also a very serious misrepresentation of the comments of the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in relation to deductibility of rates. Among farmers there is a widely held view that they are included in the limit of $300.
In his Budget Speech the Treasurer specifically mentioned that householders’ private property would be subject to a limit of $300 for rates deductibility. Many farmers have questioned whether this limit applies to their farm operations, but this is not so. The limitation is only on private residential land and not on property from which income is derived. Special privileges have been extended to the farming community and the spirit of these privileges has been maintained in the $20m allocated to rural credit. This money will be available through the Commonwealth Development Bank. One privilege, which has long been enjoyed by the farming community, concerns income averaging over a 5-year period. This remains and is reinforced by the Government’s intention to develop long term credit for the agricultural sector. Privileges previously established for estate duties and sales tax exemption on non-alcoholic beverages containing wholly Australian fruit or vegetable juice also remain unaltered.
It has been necessary to develop these particular points, most of which were clearly enunciated in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech and which could have been deducted quite easily from that Speech, because they have been misinterpreted by members of the Opposition as they have gone about the countryside. There has been a clear and demonstrable attempt on the part of the Opposition to confuse rather than to clarify the position for the farming community. Members of the Opposition have chosen to capitalise on change, which involves considerably less in respect of a reduction in assistance than was true of the previous Budget. Honourable members opposite have chosen to capitalise on the confusion which they have created and aggravated. I feel that it is absolutely essential to clarify these changes in the approach to the rural sector in order to remove the confusion created by the Opposition.
– In my remarks this evening I want to start with a quotation which reads as follows: -And what of the socialists in high places? Departments, including the Department of Information, have been unblushingly used for the personal and political propaganda of Ministers. Public moneys, contributed by persons of every political colour, have thus been corruptly misappropriated for purely party ends.
That quotation was taken from the policy speech of the Honourable R. G. Menzies in opening the Liberal-Country Party election campaign in 1949. We can see how history repeats itself, for we find today that socialist Ministers are unblushingly using, for personal and political propaganda, the funds provided to the Commonwealth by the Australian taxpayer.
On 31 July the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) announced that he would be allocating $250,000 for the purpose of advertising not the Australian health insurance program but the proposed Australian health insurance program - a program which has not as yet been submitted to the scrutiny of this House or this Parliament, a program which has not yet been translated into legislative form and which may not ever be translated into legislative form. The Minister said that he proposed to use the facilities of the Australian Post Office to distribute the leaflets that he had published to promote the Labor Party’s health scheme. These leaflets, on which $250,000 has been expended, have been distributed to post offices. I was interested to read in the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ of about 10 days ago a letter which read as follows:
Sir, we have been concerned to receive a pamphlet through the post regarding the Government’s National Health Scheme.
On inquiring I found that this was not distributed under the householder system at a reduced rate, but that post office employees were instructed to place these in letter-boxes and private boxes.
Our postal and telephone charges are reportedly high compared with other countries and if postal facilities are to he used to distribute free propaganda with a party political bias I can see no future for a service to the public equal to elsewhere.
The letter was signed ‘R. G. Baldock, Saddleworth’. A day or so later another letter appeared in the ‘Advertiser’ which read:
Sir, Mr R. G. Baldock of Saddleworth expressed concern (4-9-73) that a New Health Insurance Plan leaflet available on post office counters should, under instructions, be delivered and placed in private boxes, when not a postal article.
These leaflets were supplied to post offices to be placed on the counter so they could be taken by members of the public when visiting the office.
The Saddleworth Postmaster, after receiving many inquiries and on his own initiative, went a step further by placing a leaflet in each private box (at the post office) for the convenience of box holders.
Our postmasters, particularly those in country towns, take an active interest in the affairs of the community they serve and I would not like to see unjustified criticism discourage in any way the personal touch which, in this instance, led to the postmaster’s taking a voluntary step to assist the public.
The letter is signed ‘A. H. Kaye, Acting Director, Posts and Telegraphs, Adelaide’.
I do not want to see the public spirit of the postmasters affected in any way, and I think that if they are concerned about an important national issue they should be able to play a part in making sure that information is available to the public. But if their concern is public concern they should be very anxious to make certain that all points of view are placed before the public and that all who have a point of view have an equal opportunity to express their attitudes to the public. With this in mind I wrote to the postmaster at Saddleworth in the following terms:
I refer to the letter to the Editor in today’s ‘Advertiser’ from the Acting Director of Posts and Telegraphs and note with interest ‘that you lake an active interest in the affairs of the community’. As you have already distributed pamphlets concerning the present Government’s proposed health scheme (a scheme which has not yet been approved by Parliament) I would be pleased if you would similarly distribute the enclosed pamphlet which sets out reasons why the proposed scheme should not be introduced. Would you place this on the counter of your post office and ‘take a voluntary step to assist the public’ by placing a leaflet in each box at the post office for the convenience of box holders.
With the tetter I sent a pamphlet entitled Nationalised medicine hits you where it hurts!’ I hope that the postmaster at Saddleworth, and postmasters elsewhere, if they choose to display a public interest and place on the counters of post offices Labor Party - nevertheless Government-financed - publications, will provide the same service for those who hold a contrary view. I look forward to hearing that the people of Saddleworth have had the opportunity to receive the leaflets that I sent to the postmaster.
If the Post Office is going to provide this service I hope that it will be made clear by the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) and his Directors of Posts and Telegraphs around Australia that the same facility will be provided to public figures concerned with public issues to make available to the public their point of view on the same terms as the post office is being asked today to make available the views of the Labor Party, which are not yet the views of the Parliament of the Australian nation. If the Postmaster-General and his officers fail in their duty it will be clear evidence that history has swung a full circle and that what was happening in 1949 - it was one of the reasons why the socialists were cast out of office - is happening today in 1973, and that happening in 1973 will be one of the reasons why at the first opportunity available to the Australian people the Labor Party will again be cast out of office and put back on the Opposition benches.
– The remarks of the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson), especially those he made in the last few minutes of his speech, are rather remarkable. He may or may not have been a member of this House at the time, but he appears to have forgotten that the former Deputy Prime Minister, Sir John McEwen, circulated some 70,000 letters to dairy farmers putting forward Australian Country Party policy, at the cost of the taxpayers of Australia. This was justified on the basis that it was putting forward Government policy which people were entitled to know and which the Press would not adequately explain. Apparently the honourable member for Sturt was not aware of this. Apparently he was also not aware that the former Government distributed by post to every person in Australia details of its health schemes on at least one other occasion. This is an area where there is most likely more confusion being created by deliberately untrue statements-
– I am not saying that the honourable member for Sturt made untrue statements. I am saying that this area of policy is an area where there is more confusion being created by deliberately untrue’ statements than any other area of political discussion in Australia in recent times, possibly with the exception of the Vietnam issue which was an area of pretty doubtful morality as far as the political debate that took place in this country was concerned. There has been and continues to be a campaign mainly waged on behalf of private insurance companies and mainly financed out of funds provided by or supported by taxpayers, funds of the private health insurance groups and funds of foreign owned drug companies. I would suggest that the foreign owned drug companies are pouring money in very large quantities into the campaign against the Government’s health scheme because they feel that their interests and their profit margins may be threatened if more adequate scrutiny of their activities becomes possible.
I would suggest that if people are allowed to learn the truth about the Government’s scheme, this is a worthwhile activity for the Government to engage in. I am rather surprised that the honourable member for Sturt and other honourable members on the other side of the House seem to feel that it is all right for health insurance funds to use contributor’s funds without their permission to put out publicity which contains more half truths and deliberate untruths than any honest organisation should be allowed to publish whilst denying the Government the opportunity to put forward the facts about its scheme. If anyone doubts that the funds are using contributors’ funds for publicity purposes I suggest that he examine the amounts of money that are being spent and disclose the sources from which that money is coming. The funds claim that they are able to service the Australian community’s health costs economically. At the moment many are distributing circulars to their contributors stating that increases in their contribution rates are being caused because the Commonwealth is not prepared to meet increased doctors’ fees and, in Victoria increased hospital charges. It is said that the Commonwealth will not pay the additional cost out of taxpayers’ funds. It is said to be wrong that money should be collected by means of taxation for a Government health scheme but it is said to be right for the same money to be channelled to private organisations so that they can distribute the money.
Sixty per cent of the moneys paid out by medical funds to contributors comes directly from taxpayers’ funds and not from the funds of the contributors; 18 per cent of medical costs are in fact met by the contributors themselves from resources outside the rebate they get from the funds; SO per cent of the moneys distributed in rebates on hospital costs comes direct from taxpayers’ funds at the moment and a small amount of the remainder comes from the patient and the rest from the funds. So in both instances the funds are providing less than half of the moneys which are being paid to contributors. The difference between that set-up and the Government scheme is marginal. The only real difference is that under our scheme efficiency is guaranteed. In the present situation some funds are running a rort.
I would suggest that at least one major fund in New South Wales should be called before the Commonwealth Government and asked to explain its position with relation to special accounts. I think most members will be aware of the provisions of the special accounts legislation, which was a welcome relief - I do not deny that - to chronically ill patients whose rebates from funds previously had stopped after 12 weeks in hospital in any one year. The special accounts legislation enables the funds to transfer a patient to special account on their own initiative without reference to the Commonwealth when they consider that that patient is chronically ill. One fund in New South Wales - the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia - has 28 per cent of the contributors in that State but has 40 per cent of the special account patients. I think that any honourable member who is prepared to approach this matter in a rational manner and examine it will realise that this fund is in fact collecting taxpayers’ funds under false pretences. I am sure that an examination of its books will show this, because it is just not reasonable that a fund with 28 per cent of contributors would have collected together 40 per cent of the special account patients in that State.
This fund is -building up huge reserves by transferring its liabilities to the taxpayer through the special account and is using the revenue it is raising in this manner to run a scurrilous campaign of publicity against die Government. That is the way it is using the funds it is raising in this manner and I think it is about time a full investigation was made into this fund by the Commonwealth Department concerned. If it is found that what I have said is a fact the fund should be deregistered in accordance with the legislation. Both means of publicity are being financed by the public. The Government is providing information on a proposed health scheme. It is providing what is classified as a green paper in this House - a discussion paper - and shortly the Government will introduce legislation.
– Before the discussion or after the discussion?
– I am talking about public discussion, and I think the honourable member is aware of that as well as I am. T think it is a good thing that a government can provide for considerable public discussion on such a major scheme in order that faults and possible errors in planning can be eliminated before the scheme is introduced rather than trying to patch it up afterwards. I hope that the public discussion that is taking place will make sure that the scheme, when it is introduced, will be the best for the public, the best for the people in the medical services and the best for those people in Australia who have the misfortune to become ill.
– I do not think one needs to take too seriously the attempts by the honourable member for Eden Monaro (Mr Whan) to patch up what he himself describes as the confusion existing in the rural community. He blames us for it. I suggest quite seriously that he should properly blame the Budget for confusion. I think some of the confusion is being overcome rapidly.
Tonight I would like briefly to touch on one topic in terms of increased costs of production that affect every taxpayer, whether he be rural or non-rural. I wish to touch on the matter of the increased excise duty on motor spirit. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) in his Budget for 1973-74 said that the Government has decided to raise the bulk of the additional revenue it requires by increasing duty on a range of items, the most important perhaps being motor spirit but also including aviation gas, aviation turbine fuel and diesel fuel. The increase is to be 5c gallon in each case, except for diesel fuel which will suffer an increase that is fractionally lower. These revenue raising increases will raise an estimated SI 30m for the remainder of this year and $157m in a full year. The Government has also announced that under the petroleum products prices stabilisation scheme the maximum price will be increased from 3.3c gallon above city prices to 5c gallon. This, in effect, will mean an increase of 6.7c a gallon for fuel in non-metropolitan areas. I believe that this increased cost will be not absorbed but passed on to the consumer. The increased tax on petrol etc. will lead to the primary producer having to pay considerably more for his fuel, but in most cases not being guaranteed any comparable rise in the price for his product. This will not necessarily send a farmer bankrupt. For the sake of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro I am not saying that this could be so but I think even he will agree that it certainly will add to the hardship that the farmer faces in poor periods when prices are not as high as they might otherwise be.
I now wish to refer further to higher petroleum taxes and farm costs.
The consumption-distribution pattern of motor spirits for metropolitan and other areas is in the ratio of 4:1. For automotive distillate the suggested ratio is in the order of 5:3. Statistics indicate that national motor spirit consumption was 2,187j8 million gallons hi 1969-70; for automotive distillates the consumption was 737.1 million gallons. These figures come from the Australian petroleum statistics for the fiscal year 1969-70 as published by the Department of National Development. Co-efficients of the input-output table of the Australian economy constructed by researchers at Monash University indicate that 8.2 per cent of all petroleum products were consumed in farm business activities in 1967- 68. In the 1973-74 Budget, the Treasurer increased the rate of duty on motor spirits and diesel fuels by 5c per gallon. As can be seen from the following table it is estimated that this increase in duty will increase farm costs by approximately $12m. I now seek leave to have a table which I have shown to the Treasurer (Mr Crean) incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Total consumption in non-metropolitan areas in 1969-70 (gallons) . . 437,532,000 276.442^50
Total faim consumption based on 1967-68 input-output coefficient (gallons)………. 239.841,000
Increased revenue from farm sector from higher duty on petroleum products . . 811,992,000
Total non-farm consumption in non-metropolitan areas in 1969-70 (gallons) . . . . 713,974,250
Increased revenue from non-farm non-metropolitan consumption from petroleum products . . 835,699,000
– These estimates of increased farm costs are similar to those which can be calculated from Budget estimates - to prove the point - of increased revenue. Statistics presented in the Budget Papers indicate that, in a full year, revenue from higher duty on motor spirits and automotivve distillates will be $147.5m. If farm businesses use 8.2 per cent of all usch products, this means that direct farm opreating costs will increase by $12,095,000.
Increased petroleum product charges will also indirectly affect the farmer via higher transport charges on farm inputs. Statistics in the above table indicate that increased revenue from nonfarm non-metropolitan consumption of motor spirits and automotive distillates will be about $3 6m. It is unlikely that more than 25 per cent of these increased charges- or $9m - can be passed on to the farmer. Therefore, the additional duty of 5c per gallon on motor spirits and automotive distillates is likely to raise farm costs by approximately $20m per annum.
– They must be drinking the stuff.
– I think the stuff the honourable member uses is more likely to put people to sleep. The second matter to which I wish to refer is the petroleum product subsidy scheme. This scheme commenced on 1 October 1965. Under the previous Government, subsidies were paid to oil companies to reduce the wholesale price of motor spirit in nonmetropolitan areas to not more than 3.3c per gallon above capital city prices. In the 1973-74 Budget, the margin specified in the scheme was increased by 1.7c to 5c per gallon. This of course represents an onus to those who live in outback areas who have to carry increased prices as a result of the application of sales tax on top of the charge for every article which includes its transport and freight costs as well.
There are many examples of how this measure can more than undo all the so-called credit items that the honourable member for EdenMonaro mentioned a little while age. In fact, one can say that even my attempt to unravel the effects of petroleum charges now represent only a very minor increase charge to the community as a whole.
-Order! It being 11 p.m., in accordance with the resolution of the House the House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned s& 11 P.m
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Treasurer,- upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The anomaly which existed prior to 1951 arose from the interaction of the non-tapered means test then applicable and the conditions of entitlement to the pension and the fact that the pensions were free of tax. With the introduction of the tapered means test in 1969, the anomaly which had existed prior to 1951 would have ceased to exist even if the age allowance provisions had been wholly withdrawn. The rationale of the allowance disappeared in 1969 because it would no longer have been possible for a person not in receipt of a full age pension (because his other income exceeded the maximum permissible income) to be worse off after tax than a person) with a full age pension and maximum permissible income.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Intergovernmental Committee on European Migration (Question No. 779)
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
ICEM membership on 31 December 1973. The Director of ICEM subsequently advised all member governments.
Moreover, Australia will continue to play an active role as a member of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. It will also retain its association with the principal voluntary agencies in Australia whose counterparts in Europe have been deeply involved in refugee resettlement.
and (7) ICEM’s accounting is on a calendar year basis. Its financial transactions are in U.S. dollars. Australian contributions for 1972 were:
File No: 932/6/3 Min. No: Canberra, 7 March 1973
Dear Mr Thomas,
I understand that my representative in Geneva, Mr Corkery, has already conveyed to you my Government’s decision to withdraw from ICEM membership. I am writing to you now to confirm that verbal advice and to amplify the reasons for our decision.
I am aware that you have been working towards a mutually satisfactory resolution of the question pf ICEM services for migrant movements from Europe to Australia and I want to assure you that our withdrawal from ICEM does not reflect any dissatisfaction with the progress of your discussions. Nor does it indicate any lack of confidence in ICEM’s financial buoyancy. Indeed, it would seem that thanks largely to your own efforts most of ICEM’s previous budgetary difficulties have been successfully eliminated.
You will probably be aware that my Government is introducing a number of changes in Australia’s immigration policy and that we shall in future be giving priority to family reunion and sponsored migration. It is in keeping with these initiatives that we should attain self sufficiency in respect of movement of migrants from Europe. My Government considers, therefore, that with the changing pattern of immigration into Australia it is no longer appropriate for Australia to remain a member of ICEM and to participate in activities that are outside the scope of our own immigration objectives.
I realise that for many years ICEM has lent considerable support to Australia’s immigration programs and I wish to express our sincere gratitude for all the services that your organisation has extended during the period of Australia’s membership.
I am anxious that Australia’s withdrawal should cause as little administrative inconvenience as possible to ICEM and member governments. As Mr Corkery will have explained, we envisage that the effective date of withdrawal should be 31 December 1973 and that we will have ceased to use ICEM transport and pre-embarkation services by 30 June 1973. We wish to continue to avail ourselves, on a cost reimbursement basis, of ICEM assistance in conducting training programs for single women in Greece and language training in other countries beyond the end of 1973, until satisfactory alternative arrangements are made for these programs. I believe that these and other administrative implications of our withdrawal can be conveniently discussed through the Australian Mission in Geneva.
Mr Corkery has reported your wish to visit Australia after you have visited Hong Kong at the end of March. Unfortunately, as both my colleague, the Minister for Immigration, and I have heavy other commitments at that time, we will not be able to extend you a formal invitation. However, if you should see advantage in having talks at the official level on the transitional administrative arrangements, you will of course be most welcome.
Thank you for the invitation extended in your letter of 9 February 1973 for Australia to be represented at the meeting on 22 May to discuss the convening and preparation of a seminar on migrant adaption and integration. I shall be asking Mr Corkery to arrange for Australia to be represented but you will appreciate that the extent of our participation in such a seminar must necessarily be limited by the fact of our intended withdrawal from ICEM.
Yours sincerely, E. G. WHITLAM
Mr John F. Thomas, Director,
Intergovernmental Committee for
Geneva, Switzerland 23 March 1973
I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 7 March 1973 advising me of the decision of the Government of Australia to withdraw from membership of the Intergovernmental Committee for Euopean Migration at the end of 1973.
It is a matter of deep regret to me that Australia, as one of the founder members of ICEM in 1951 and as such one of its mainstays, should have reached that decision.
The desire of the Australian Government to discontinue the use of ICEM services for national migrants has been well known for a considerable time and negotiations on a bilateral basis between Australia and the European countries concerned for their transfer are now in their final stage. However, to our knowledge, the question of the discontinuation of ICEM services to refugees who might be seeking a resettlement opportunity in Australia has never been raised.
You will understand that the ICEM Administration will require time to study the contents of your letter and will be replying in full in due course. Furthermore, the ICEM Member Governments which, I am certain, will share my regrets, will have to be notified.
In the meantime, I look forward to coming to Canberra during the first week of April and to having discussions at official levels regarding the transitional administrative arrangements. I very much regret that your engagements will not permit a personal visit to you, but it is my sincere hope that, as on past occasions, I shall have the opportunity to meet the Minister of Immigration.
Accept, Sir, the assurances of my highest consideration.
The Right Honourable E. G. Whitlam, Q.C., M.P.
Prime Minister and
Minister for Foreign Affairs,
Geneva, Switzerland 19 April 1973
I have the honour to refer to your letter of 7 March 1973 in which you announced the withdrawal of the Government of Australia from membership in ICEM with effect from 31 December 1973. In my acknowledgement of 23 March 1973 I expressed my deep regret for such a decision.
Since that time I have had the privilege of visiting Australia and meeting with the Minister of State for Immigration, the Honourable A. J. Grassby, and with the Secretary for the Department of Immigration, Mr Robert Armstrong. Meetings were also arranged for me with senior members of the Department of Immigration and other high officials within the Govern ment. In Sydney I had the further opportunity of meeting with several of the voluntary agencies which support the immigration of nationals and refugees into your country.
In all of these contacts I found no reason to differ with the desire of the Austraiian Government to utilise its migration officers for the purpose of recruiting and transporting national migrants from the European countries which are members of ICEM. The resolution of this problem, I found, to remain a matter of bilateral negotiations with the concerned Governments, and the conclusion of these would be willingly complied with by ICEM. As you had indicated in your letter, there is no reason to believe that a mutually satisfactory solution to this question will not be found.
However, I did raise the hope during my visit that because of its long humanitarian tradition of welcoming refugees to its shores and its desire to insure there are no traces of racial, religious or other bias in its immigration policies, Australia might remain a member of the international community in ICEM in support of its program for the resettlement processing and movement of refugees. That ICEM constitutes the only international machinery which is capable of mounting such a resettlement operation is a point which may not have been recognised fully in all circles of the Australian Government.
You mentioned in your letter that you were anxious to cause as little inconvenience as possible to other member governments of ICEM. know that countries of first asylum in Europe have advised me that they depend upon the availability of ICEM’s resettlement machinery to be able to continue their present generous admission policies. I therefore expressed the hope that Minister Grassby would have the opportunity of studying the refugee aspects of ICEM’s operations more closely and that the outcome might possibly be for Australia to continue as a member of the international family of ICEM, with perhaps a different relationship than in the past.
I was most happy to note from your letter that you would wish to continue to utilize ICEM’s assistance beyond 1973 for certain sevices in Language or vocational training, and would hope that this might lead to further co-operation of mutual benefit. I was also particularly gratified that you considered Australia could be represented at the preliminary meeting to discuss the convening and preparation of a seminar on migrant adaption and integration. I took the opportunity of my visit to discuss this point further because it would be most valuable if Australia would share its wealth of experience over the years in this field with the less developed countries who are seeking ways to strengthen their own migration processes.
From the foregoing you will observe my sincere hope that your Government might be prepared to continue its support of international assistance for the resettlement of refugees adjusting its relationship with ICEM in such a way as to preclude complete withdrawal. An announcement of consideration of this revised relationship on the part of Australia might be made known at the forthcoming ICEM Executive Committee which is convened in Geneva on 23 May 1973. Such an Executive Committee Session, as you may know, is closed to the public which permits a frank and full exchange of views between Governments.
Accept, Sir, the assurances of my highest consideration.
The Right Honourable E. G. Whitlam, Q.C., M.P.
Prime Minister and
Minister for Foreign Affairs,
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Incidentally, as the Treasurer announced in his Budget Speech, it is proposed to amend this Act soon to increase the rate of the Australian Government’s subsidy to two-thirds of the welfare officer’s salary.
My Department has been giving a liberal interpretation to the terms of Section 10(1) of the existing Act. A welfare officer who devotes 75 per cent or more of his time to welfare services for the aged is accepted as being ‘wholly’ so employed and half of his salary is paid by the Australian Government. A welfare officer who devotes between 50 per cent and 75 per cent of his time to welfare services for the aged is accepted as being ‘mainly’ go employed and my Department pays half of his salary in respect of the time during which he is so employed.
asked the Treasurer upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 September 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19730912_reps_28_hor85/>.