28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. S. F. Cope) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That they oppose the Australian Health Insurance Program and any National Health Scheme;
That they wish to retain the right to choose their own medical care by selecting a General Practitioner, Specialist or any other medical classification of their own choice under the present conditions in private consulting rooms and also the right to choose an intermediate ward or private hospital of their own choice.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measure to interfere with the existing health scheme.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Adermann, Mr Bonnett, Mr Cooke, Mr Corbett, Mr Jarman, Mr Katter, Mr Killen, Mr McVeigh and Mr Eric Robinson.
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 many citizens more, particularly single people and working wives.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalisation of health services which will lead to impersonalised and mediocre standards of medical care, the creation of a huge new bureaucracy, and will limit the citizen’s freedom of choice.
That the present health scheme can be amended to overcome existing deficiencies, and that the proposed scheme is totally unnecessary.
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 Berinson, Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Peacock, Mr Reynolds and Mr Viner.
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 basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound will ever pray. by MrDrury, Dr Gun, Mr McLeay and Mr Wilson.
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 Les Johnson, Mr Bourchier. Sir John Cramer, Mr MacKellar, Mr Peacock, Mr Reynolds, Mr Ruddock and Mr Turner.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
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 Crean, Mr Lynch, Mr Gorton, Mr J arm an, Mr Oldmeadow and Mr Peacock.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned respectively, showeth that your Petitioners oppose the proposed reduction of Commonwealth per capita grants to independent schools on the following grounds:
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 Wilson.
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 immediately revoke all whaling licenses issued by the Australian Government and to re-impose a total ban on the importation of all whale produce.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Collard and Mr Peacock.
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 New South Wales and Victorian Governments a special grant for the purpose of the construction of a new bridge in keeping with modem day requirements.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Fisher.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will move to make available to the Tasmanian Government a” special grant for the purpose of securing Lake Pedder in its natural state.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Peacock.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Capital Territory. He will recollect that during the discussion of his departmental estimates he undertook to look into the question of 3 points of unpleasant pollution in Canberra. I now ask him whether he has had time to pursue these points and how far he has progressed.
– I referred the matter to the Department of the Capital Territory. Consideration has been given to what needs to be constructed in order to overcome the disabilities that flow from the disposal of garbage and such material in the Australian Capital Territory. The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation, too, has been looking at the situation. I think it is one of the things in which we should set an example for the rest of Australia, but I have to negotiate with a number of my colleagues on this matter. Some of the problems in the Capital Territory are rather confused in such areas as smoke. For instance, I understand that the chimney at the hospital is the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Health but the smoke from it is my fault. So I am taking steps to have this difficulty overcome. Within the next week or so I should have some definite answer as to what we propose to do to overcome the disabilities around the tip area.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Science by referring to alarming reports in Hobart last night and on the national news this morning that high levels of mercury had been detected by Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation scientists in fish caught in the Derwent River. Can the Minister verify these reports? What steps are being taken to ensure the safety of the people of Hobart?
– Earlier this year I released information concerning cadmium and zinc pollution in oysters collected from the Derwent River. The Tasmanian Government has already taken steps to ensure that such oysters should not be harvested. Following this I asked the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to make a detailed study of fish in the estuary. The maximum safe level of mercury is thought to be about 0.5 parts per million. Levels considerably above this in fact between 2 parts and 4 parts per million have been found in the preliminary analysis of fish in the Derwent River. Last Friday I advised the Tasmanian Minister for Agriculture of these findings. It was on the basis of this information that he released the statement yesterday. In consultation with the Tasmanian Government I have arranged for 4 CSIRO scientists to assist the Tasmanian Government’s Derwent River Pollution Committee in an analysis of pollution in the Derwent River. They are particularly directing their attention to the cause of the level of heavy metals in the river. There are some views that this level is caused by industry in the area, by the sewage output into the Derwent River, possibly by the run-off from galvanised iron roofs of which there are many in the Hobart area and also a possible combination of these factors with the naturally high levels of metal in the Tasmanian environment.
I assure the honourable member and the people of Tasmania that this Government will act responsibly in protecting the interests of the people of Tasmania. The announcement made by the Tasmanian Minister for Agriculture followed on the advice that we gave him on the basis of the expert advice available to the Australian Government and despite the difficulties this announcement may cause to the fishing industry in Tasmania I believe - it is also the belief of the Tasmanian Government - that the interests of the consumer must come first. We shall certainly follow up the work that has already been done by the CSIRO and by the Government Analyst in another part of the Department of Science in ensuring that the health and welfare of the people of Tasmania are fully safeguarded.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Tourism and Recreation. Does he agree that Australians have a long tradition of horsemanship, running from the stockman to ‘The man from Snowy River’, the Light Horse and beyond? Does he realise that, while the racing tradition is still vigorous, the majority of urban Australians have lost touch with the remainder of this tradition so that many city children have not even had the opportunity to touch a horse, much less ride one? Does he agree that it would be desirable if these older Australian associations with the horse were maintained and made more readily available, especially to city children from less affluent families? Will he also agree that the maintenance of this Australian tradition would add significantly to recreation opportunities for people of all ages and that it would be a significant tourist attraction? Finally, as a worthwhile gesture to mark the wedding of the Princess Anne, will the Minister support a proposal for the immediate setting up of a small committee of this House to devise and recommend means of achieving these objectives?
– I must admit that I do not know a great deal about horse riding The honourable member finished his question by asking for a committee to investigate the subject of encouraging horse riding in Australia to commemorate the forthcoming wedding of Her Royal Highness, Princess Anne. Perhaps .the question would have been better addressed to Princess Anne but I have a feeling that she will be too preoccupied for the next few days at least to send an answer to the honourable member. It is true that horse racing and horse riding in Australia have featured quite significantly in our poems. Perhaps one of our national days could be Melbourne Cup Day. There are so many aspects of equestrian events that it is difficult at the moment to decide which way to go. For instance, Sydney is trying to get the 1988 Olympic Games but one of the rules of the International Olympic Federation is that all events must be held in the one city and because of Australia’s quarantine laws that appears impossible. Polo, for instance, is a game that is followed generally by the big business people of Australia. I imagine that the honourable member indulged in it in his younger days. I have not noticed many process workers or wharfies indulging in that game.
To be serious, before the Department of the Capital Territory at the moment is a proposal to establish a national equestrian centre on a 200-acre site in Canberra. My Department is consulting with the Department of the Capital Territory. I think that the Department of Tourism and Recreation will make some contribution to the establishment of that equestrian centre, but the main costs, naturally, will be borne by the Department of the Capital Territory. My Department also has received a request from a pony club in Toronto, New South Wales, and another from a pony club in Tasmania, for assistance in equestrian activities. These matters and all aspects of recreation are under serious consideration by my Department at the present time and decisions will be taken as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security whether he has seen the pamphlet being circulated by the honourable member for Boothby and the advertisements appearing in his name which seek to implant a belief that our promise of free hospital care in standard wards of public hospitals is false and that this type of care would cost, according to one advertisement, $49 a week and according to the other $119 a week. Will the Minister inform the House of the true situation as there are many concerned people in South Australia who are worried about the honourable member’s scare stories?
– The honourable member for Boothby’s comments on health insurance are neither consistent nor reliable. I have asserted before, and the White Paper, which is a commitment for the Government and which will be backed by legislation in a few weeks time, makes it clear that we will establish a situation where public ward or standard ward, or as it is proposed in the White Paper it should be called hospital ward treatment, will be free of charge and free of means test to anyone in the community who wishes to use that form of treatment. We will take steps to establish the highest standards, in quality and quantity, of treatment and resources provided in those wards. The formula which will be introduced is a cost sharing formula with the States. No attempt has ever been made before to introduce cost sharing arrangements with the States in the financial support of their public hospitals system. Net of patient fees, we will meet SO per cent of recurrent costs of operating public hospitals. This is an extremely generous proposition and will mean many millions of dollars extra to each State Government from the Australian Government for the operation of their public hospitals. It is a bonanza. That is the only way in which it can be described. It is an $80m bonanza and the community will not have to pay. (Opposition members interjecting).
– The patient will not have to pay at the point of service; I am sorry. As what I have said has incited the Opposition I am in turn induced to make an addendum which I would not otherwise have included in my answer. Our program will be cheaper for three out of four families, including families in which there is a working wife. It will be cheaper for seven out of ten single people. Let honourable mem bers opposite do some arithmetic and put the 2 things together. Our program will be equitable in the way in which it distributes the costs of contributions. It is unconscionable the way in which the Opposition as a government for some 20 years during which it had health insurance in operation subsidised most generously the wealthiest in the community and gave least to those least able to bear the cost of health insurance - the low and modest income earners. It is unacceptable to us that over a million people at any given time are not covered by some form of health protection supported by the Government either by health insurance benefits-
– That is an incorrect statement.
-Order! The House will come to order. The Minister will answer the question.
– It is completely unacceptable to us that over a million people at any given time have no protection in the form of either health insurance benefits or repatriation or pensioner-type medical and hospital services. I inform honourable members, and especially those in the Opposition who like to perpetuate lies repeatedly in this House, that my assertion is based on a Bureau of Census and Statistics report. The reference is cited in a footnote in the White Paper. If the Opposition decries the accuracy of the Bureau of Census and Statistics, I ask why it did not do something about the level of performance of that Bureau in 20 years of its government and why it is that the Opposition has always used the resources of the Bureau and the findings of its surveys and reports without question, without hesitation, although not always with any great accuracy when it has suited it. The fact is that the program we have introduced supports private medical and hospital care. Comments and editorials throughout Australia are now lauding the proposal which we have brought in, and criticising the Opposition for the absence of any viable alternative to what we are about to introduce. Our scheme is a universal scheme.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Minister is not answering a question. He is debating an issue - an issue that ought to be the subject of a debate on die White Paper. Sir, if there is disorder it is because he is debating an issue and therefore provoking the kind of reaction that you must get from people who are precluded from debating that issue.
-Order! I ask the Minister to be brief in his answer to the question.
– I will conclude, Mr Speaker. Australia will have a universal health insurance scheme when the legislation is passed by this Parliament. It is one of the few coun-tries in the world which does not have universal cover, and the absence of this sort of protection, the absence of comprehensive health and welfare services that are available for all in the community who may have a need for those services, is one of the major reasons why migrants will not stay in this country.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware of the great difficulties, including transport difficulties, of people living in western Queensland, including the Channel country and the Gulf country? Is he aware of the value of production of meat, wool and minerals in these areas and their contribution to export income and consequently the standard of living of every Australian? If so, will he reconsider the proposal to deprive 14 airports in this area completely of the services they now enjoy, or will he hide behind the excuse that this proposal was being examined by the previous Government? Will the commuter services envisaged as a replacement for the Twin Otter services have any chance of being economically operated without the subsidies the Government intends to discontinue?
– I am aware of the production of western Queensland. I am also aware of the responsibilities that I have to ensure that at least subsidies are reduced to a minimum. The honourable member referred to a reduction in services. It is true that Trans-Australia Airlines is rearranging its services in western Queensland to reduce the number of flights in that area. It will be introducing smaller aircraft so that people will be given a service. Admittedly the service will not be that provided by the larger aircraft operating in that area at the present time. What the honourable member omitted from his question, I think, was the fact that for every dollar of revenue received by the airlines operating in western Queensland a subsidy of $8.50 is paid and that this matter was under consideration by the previous Gov ernment with a view to doing something about it. I am proposing to do something about it. As far as the present Government is concerned, a subsidy ratio of 8.5 to 1 is not a tolerable level. A subsidy will be paid to the smaller commuter operators. We are trying to interlock their operations with a Fokker Friendship service from Brisbane through Charleville, Quilpie, Windorah and Birdsville to Alice Springs, and also with the service from Townsville to Mount Isa and from Mt Isa to Brisbane. We are not neglecting the requirements of the people in central western Queensland but we are giving due consideration to the excessive subsidy which has been paid in the past.
– My question to the Minister for Minerals and Energy deals with the world fuel crisis. In view of the Minister’s efforts to expand fuel supplies for Australia’s economic needs, which also relate to his insistence on Australian ownership of our energy resources, will he cause a complete review to be made of our fuel potentialities? In this review, will he arrange a detailed study of the practical economics of the production of oil from coal and the reestablishment of the shale oil industry? Towards the latter objective will he have constructed, at moderate cost, experimental retorts in the Newnes-Glen Davis area for the purpose of improving retorting techniques?
– There is a world hydrocarbons crisis. The extent to which the various forms of energy sources are inter-related is not generally realised. Life itself is an equation in hydrocarbons, and whether we derive our energy from crude oil, natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas or from coal we are more than ever dependent upon the efforts of chemical engineers. A point is quickly being reached - it is in fact being intensified by the present crisis precipitated in the Arab countries in respect of pricing - when it will be as economical to extract oil, petroleum and other derivatives from suitable coal types as to produce them from the ground by drilling. That point will quickly be reached. It is one that I have foreseen, and it is one to which the policies of the present Government have been directed. As for the suggestion that we should have a further examination of the shale potentialities of the Glen Davis-Newnes area, I believe that we in this country can afford to neglect no possible source of energy. 1 will be very pleased to have further inquiries made as to the potentalities of that area, and also to have appropriate tests made. Undoubtedly very rich oil producing shale is there. Other problems that are involved may be capable of solution. I will certainly be happy to cooperate.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Northern Development by saying that the Prime Minister has informed me that the matter of finance for stage 2 of the Ross River dam project in Townsville is subject to investigation by members of his Department. Will the Minister have this investigation completed as soon as possible so that an early decision can be made? I remind the Minister that continuity of employment is the main purpose.
– I am very much aware of the problems in relation to the continued employment of the work force engaged on the Ross River Project and on some other water conservation and irrigation projects, particularly in the Bundaberg area. As the honourable member knows, the situation is under very close examination by various departments, including my own Department, the Department of Northern Development, and by the Snowy Mountains Corporation. I understand that the report is being finalised. As the honourable member knows full well, when that happens a decision will be taken. As I said, I am aware of the employment problems and the honourable member may be assured that the matter is being treated with the urgency it warrants.
– Is the Minister for Social Security aware of today’s statement from a source not noted for its sympathy to the Government, that under Labor’s health insurance program patients will enjoy the widest possible freedom of choice? Is he aware of statements from the same source that facts, as distinct from propaganda, do not bear out accusations that the program is a plan to socialise medicine? Is it a fact that these views are widely held in the community and that the majority of Australians are far more impressed by objective discussion on the merits of the program than by appeals to prejudice and fear?
– I noted the editorial in today’s ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, and it was encouraging. Of course, the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ editorial represents a fairly objective assessment, and a fairly correct one, of the implications of the White Paper and the program of universal health insurance that the Government is about to introduce. Certainly it is not socialisation of medicine or hospital services. My good friend the honourable member for Hotham made that- point himself at a meeting of the Australian Dental Association. It is on record. He was sick and tired of the carping and the misrepresentation from the ranks of his own Opposition members. He stood for truth and accuracy. He stood for some rational discussion on the issues currently before the community.
I am glad that the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ also raised the issue of freedom of choice. It has been made a key issue in the course of the misrepresentation conducted at great expense to the medical profession by the Australian Medical Association. Our program has always guaranteed freedom of choice of medical practitioner by patients - freedom of choice of the medical practitioner whom one wants to treat one in the surgery or by a home visit, in an intermediate or private ward in a public hospital or in a private hospital. Insofar as public wards in public hospitals are concerned, the restrictions that currently apply in this area have nothing to do with the Government. They are applied by State hospital authorities - in New South Wales and Victoria, by Liberal-Country Party administrations. Why does the Opposition in this House not make some protest about that sort of restriction and intrusion? What sort of freedom of choice is there for the patient at tb: present time?
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister is not answering the question, nor did the supposed questioner ask one. What we are doing is debating the Government’s health scheme. This ought to be done in a debate on the White Paper. To do so in question time is an abuse of the practices of this House.
-Order! There is no point of order involved. The Minister may answer the question in the way he wishes. I ask the Minister to make it as brief as possible.
– Yes, I will do so. As the Prime Minister points out to me, members of this House will have every opportunity to debate this matter in the course of the debate on the estimates of the Department of Social Security. I am reminded that last night only 2 members of the Opposition attempted to say anything about it. One did not understand the scheme and the other misrepresented it. But let me discuss the point of freedom of choice. What sort of freedom of choice is there for the patient who goes into a doctor’s surgery and sees a sign on the wall saying: ‘Pay before medical service will be provided*. Why has there not been some scream of moral outrage on the part of members of the Opposition that this is not only widespread but the tendency is increasing? The worst feature of it is that it is most apparent in the areas of low and modest income affecting people least able to afford to have this sort of discrimination against them. The people living in the fringe suburbs of the big metropolises find it extremely difficult and most expensive to go to the central city areas where the large hospitals are situated. What is the answer of the Opposition in the current debate except to carp and misrepresent? What would the Opposition do to remedy its scheme?
-Order! I ask the Minister to make his answer as brief as possible. A lot of people on both sides of the House are waiting to ask questions.
– Let me make 2 quick points. The efforts of Opposition members to cover over the defects of the subsidised health insurance part of their program failed. Their latest proposal is to include those entitled to pensioner medical services in the general, private health insurance scheme. My Department has carried out some costing and that scheme would involve another $160m roughly. We will have some very fine costing soon. That is the sort of remedy the Opposition has. The Opposition has no responsibility, no sense of financial obligation in the community. It just wants to plug more taxpayers’ money in to keep a totally discredited system limping along a bit longer.
– Has the Treasurer’s attention been drawn to a report in last week’s ‘Sunday Times’ published in Perth under the headline Anger in WA over gold tax rejection’? The report referred to a letter from the Minister assisting the Treasurer to Mr A. D. Motion saying that the Government had rejected the submissions put to the Treasurer for relief from the intention to remove the exemptions from taxation on the gold-mining industry? Is that report correct? If it is, has the Treasurer any proposals by way of rehabilitation or compensation to the industry for the removal of these tax benefits?
– Again I indicate that I get the latest information about the goldfields of Western Australia directly from my good friend and colleague the honourable member for Kalgoorlie. With him recently and in the company of the Prime Minister I received a deputation from Kalgoorlie which included the mayor of the city, the Premier of Western Australia and the head of the Chamber of Mines in that State. I indicated to them then that I did not see my way clear to withdraw the Budget proposals, but that when I received concrete propositions that this measure and other measures were causing detriment to the industry I would be prepared to reconsider the proposal. That is still the position. I intend, as early as the parliamentary session will allow, to visit Kalgoorlie and I know I will be as safe there as I am in most places in Australia. I suggest to the honourable gentleman who asked this question that the gold-mining industry in Western Australia suffers under difficulties that go back a fair amount of time. In some respects while this proposal may be regarded as the last straw, it is by no means the only weight on the camel’s back. I am interested in the future of Kalgoorlie rather than in the interests of the dividends of goldmining shareholders. We are preparing to look at this matter, as I think it ought to be, as a Kalgoorlie problem. We are a government that at least is doing something systematic about reducing the drift from provincial and country areas to cities. The honourable gentleman can be assured that the plight of this area will be fully considered in the right way.
– My question which is addressed to the Treasurer, is supplementary to one asked yesterday by the honourable member for Blaxland. Has the Treasurer studied a paper delivered to a meeting of the New South Wales Branch of the Economic Society last Friday by Dr M. G. Porter, who is an economist from the International Monetary Fund and who is currently working for the Reserve Bank of Australia? If so, is it a fact that Dr Porter concluded that if the previous Government had revalued the currency in 1971 the current inflationary pressure on the Australian economy would have been markedly diminished and there would not have been a need to raise interest rates this year? In view of this conclusion and in view of the fact that a recent report of the Joint Committee on Prices found the Government’s revaluation policy to have generally reduced import prices below what they otherwise would have been, will the Treasurer agree that the previous Government’s irresponsible exchange rate policy is the cause of much of our present inflation and that our rate of inflation would have been much higher that it is at present if the Labor Government had not had the courage to revalue our currency immediately on taking office and on subsequent occasions?
– I must say, Mr Speaker, that I agree with you that on many occasions answers should not be long. If I were to give a proper answer to the honourable member’s question, it would take a long time. I hope to be able to do so in about half an hour’s time, when certain urgency proposition is advanced from the other side of the House.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Under what terms and conditions is Mr Mick Young employed on his staff? What is his salary? Is it true that he is intended to act as a communicator between the Prime Minister and the Australian Labor Party? Does the Prime Minister see any wrong in using a man paid by Commonwealth funds for resolving problems within his own Party? Does the Prime Minister see any paradox between his declaring that he will act as a bridge between China and the outside world and his apparent inability to communicate with his own back bench?
– I do not know what Mr Young’s salary is. If the honourable gentleman wishes, he can put a question on the notice paper about that matter. Mr Young is just as much entitled to have an appointment on my staff as are members of any of the Opposition parties to have positions on the staffs of those members of the Opposition parties who are entitled to have more than the usual member’s staff. Mr Young is, of course, a member of the Labor Party. I am proud that he is. By the same token, a great number of the members of the staffs of Opposition leaders are members of the parties which they lead. It is not so long ago that there was on the staff of a leader of a political party which is not overtly represented in this House a man who was the federal secretary of that party; that is, a member of a party leader’s staff was doing something for the party outside the Parliament. Mr Young is not so acting. Mr Young obviously will help me in the job that I have to do - not, of course, in this Parliament. There are around the country a very great number of people who want to get in touch with me as Prime Minister or as Leader of the Australian Labor Party in the Federal Parliament and it will help me to have Mr Young having many of the interviews with them. It is just not physically possible for any Prime Minister to have a fraction of the interviews that people want with him. Mr Young, of course, is not doing anything with my colleagues in the Parliament. I am glad to have had the opportunity to repudiate this gratuitous suggestion.
– Has the Minister for Labour received a commendation from the Premier of Victoria, Mr Hamer, for the initiative he took in convening an industrial peace conference? Is he surprised at the cool reception from the Leader of the Opposition and the State Liberal Minister for Labour? Do they really want industrial peace?
– I have not yet received the letter of commendation from Mr Hamer but I expected it to come at any moment. It would be very odd for a person in Mr Hamer’s position not to commend me for the initiative which I have taken. I am suprised at the cool reception which my proposal has received from the Leader of the Opposition and from other honourable members behind him because having, listened to their questions and their criticism of the Government for allegedly not doing anything, one would have thought they would have been only too pleased to give the credit which is due to the Government for the initiative now being taken and to do everything possible to ensure that the conference is a success instead of throwing cold water on it before any of the constituent bodies have even had an opportunity to study the propositions that I am putting.
The Leader of the Opposition, without even discussing the matter or the possible reaction from the parties involved, took it upon himself last night to declare that the conference would fail to reach agreement on certain of the points. It is quite clear that that was a case of the wish being father to the thought. There is no doubt about that; the Opposition parties want the conference to fail. They do not want to see an end to industrial unrest. They think it suits their petty party political aims to have a lot of strikes because they believe that this is one way of trying to embarrass the Government.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour. Did the Minister say: ‘Industrial unrest cannot be solved by union leaders, employers and politicians sitting around a table of champagne and cigars, making grand and meaningless declarations and gestures on labour relations’?
– That was when you were in government.
– No, it was not when we were in government. Was that statement made earlier this week - on 9 November? Will the Minister for Labour cease grandstanding about . a long term parallel system for the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and get back to the gut issue which is that industrial strikes are tearing this economy to pieces and robbing the people in Australia of the services they are entitled to have?
– First of all, the right honourable gentleman is quite wrong in giving what purports to be a quote of what I said, I think, on 9 November or which was allegedly reported on 9 November. I did not say anything about politicians, employers and unions sitting around bottles of champagne in smoke filled rooms in the dead of night trying to work out industrial relations. What I said-
– Be careful. There is a Press statement.
– I am always careful. I am much more careful than the right honourable member is. What I have said was that we cannot expect employees to honour an industrial agreement about which they have never been consulted but which has been worked out behind closed doors with employers and union secretaries sitting around tables with champagne and cigars, or something like that. I said nothing about politicians or members of Parliament being involved. I do not think that politicians, especially ones like the honourable member’s good self, add anything to industrial relations or to a better understanding of them because they are always grandstanding, trying to think of what to say that will read well in the newspapers, and trying to score off the opposing parties. That is why I have been averse to the idea of bringing a whole lot of politicians and Premiers from the States into this industrial peace conference. I have the highest respect for Mr Pat Hills but I do not think he would add anything considerable to the conference that it is now proposed to hold on 10 December or 11 December. I do not think that Mr Hamer would add anything and, for that matter, I think that Mr Dunstan would be too busy to attend the conference. What we want to do is to have an industrial peace conference where the parties principally concerned with industrial peace” can go with a spirit of goodwill and understanding and not be plagued by damn politicians sitting there saying things that they hope to leak to the Press when the conference is over as representing what they told the other side. The less politicians are involved in this the better.
– That is right.
– I agree with that. It is fortunate that the conference will be held under the chairmanship of a statesman whose determination is to see that better industrial relations are achieved.
– Mr Speaker, I ask for leave to table the paper from which I quoted. It is a media statement made by the Minister for Labour which was embargoed until 7 p.m. eastern standard time, 9 November 1973. From this document I quoted the statement which the Minister for Labour has denied that he made.
-Order! I think that the correct procedure is to seek leave to table statements after question time. If what the right honourable member seeks to do were allowed every day question time would be cut into quite sharply.
– I refer the Minister for Social Security to various reports claiming that the Australian Government is not assisting aged persons to find appropriate accommodation and nursing home care. Is this true? What has the Australian Government done to provide adequate nursing home care?
-We have expanded the aged persons homes accommodation program which includes provisions for financial assistance for hostel and nursing home services. We have advised the voluntary, charitable and religious groups in the community that are engaged in this sort of commendable enterprise that if they wish to purchase an existing establishment - for instance, a private or a commercial nursing home or a private building that can be converted satisfactorily to nursing home services - they will attract a subsidy from the Australian Government on the basis of $2 for every $1 that they contribute. This is part of the program. We have also indicated to them that they would not be restricted as to the proportion of the total bed accommodation provided in complexes - that is aged persons independent living accommodation, hostel accommodation and nursing homes. They would not be restricted as to the proportion of total accommodation which must be nursing home bed accommodation. That is to say, they can vary it between 0 per cent and 100 per cent if they wish and they will still attract a subsidy from this Government. These are significant alterations in this program. They were alterations which had been sought over many years by the voluntary, charitable and religious groups in the community and had always been rejected by previous governments. One of the early things that we have done is to amend the procedures in this way to give greater opportunity to these commendable organisations to provide more accommodation and to do so quickly.
I am aware of a particular illustration in Queensland, for instance, in which the Metropolitan Fire Brigades Board has reported adversely on quite a number of private or commercial nursing homes as fire hazards. Because I am concerned about this - I was alarmed to find that the last Government had tolerated this situation for many years - this
Government has been encouraged on my recommendation to offer $1.2m to the State Government of Queensland to provide accommodation alternative to existing structures as quickly as possible for nursing home cases that might have to be transferred out of fire hazard accommodation. We have received a reply from the Queensland Government which is recommending another approach to this proposition. We are considering that. I make the point that we are exploring various ways in which we can improve the capacity of the voluntary agencies and State governments to provide this sort of accommodation. We are taking the initiatives. We will not be mean and restrictive as past governments have been in this field.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the submission of the Department of Urban and Regional Development to the Task Force on the National Estate.
– I ask leave to incorporate in Hansard a document entitled ‘Media Statement by Minister for Labour Embargoed until 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, 9 November 1973’.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Extracts from a speech delivered by the Australian Minister for Labour, Mr Clyde Cameron, at a meeting held in Sydney on 9 November 1973, in support of the candidature of Mr Bill Waters, The Australian Labor Party candidate for the electorate of Fuller in the forthcoming New South Wales elections. “The Askin Government’s union bashing “legislation” represents the last desperate measures of a government “on the skids” to save itself. It is a tactic similar to those which the McMahon Government frequently tried to employ prior to the Federal elections last year. This is the tactic of attempting to propagate, exacerbate and exploit issues which have a potential for dividing the Australian electorate sharply and bitterly. The people of Australia, and in particular, the people of New South Wales, emphatically rejected these attempts on 2 December last year. They will reject them again on 17 November.
Premier Hamer’s published proposals for secret ballots of strikers is an example of irrational policies formulated for political expediency. It would be too kind to Sir Robert Askin to suggest that his proposals could be seen in the same light. The people of New South Wales will see Premier Askin’s proposals for what they really are - a cynical piece of cheap political gimmickry.
Both of. these so-called solutions are but smoke screens designed to hide the barren nature of Liberal policies in the field of industrial relations. Premier Hamer’s proposals for a strike ballot follows last year’s pattern of Liberal gimmickry when the McMahon Government suggested amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to provide for this kind of thing. The amendment wasn’t followed up because it had already been shown to be unworkable.
Premier Hamer has not stated whether he would consider a strike to be legitimate if a majority of members voted for it in a secret ballot. One must presume that he would.
The Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Act already makes provision for the Arbitration Commission to order a ballot of members in any strike and this provision has been in operation for about 60 years. It has only been invoked on one occasion and on that occasion the strikers voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action. Where would this leave Mr Hamer?
Premier Hamer’s proposals for an “industrial peace conference” is more in the style of Premier Askin’s political gimmickry. One remembers the challenge that he threw out to the Prime Minister for the State Premiers to meet and discuss with the Prime Minister the question of controlling inflation. The Prime Minister accepted the challenge and when the conference took place Premier Hamer was among those who rejected the initiatives proposed by the Prime Minister.
Industrial unrest cannot be solved by union leaders, employers and politicians sitting around a table of champagne and cigars making grand and meaningless declarations and gestures on labour relations.
Better industrial relations comes from an overall strategy of making our conciliation and arbitration processes more effective in settling industrial disputes quickly and amicably. It involves continual changes to our systems of conciliation and arbitration so that they continually adapt to changing circumstances. The bona fides of the Askin-Hamer Governments in pretending to want industrial peace can be gauged by the actions of their colleagues.’
– I seek leave to make a statement of approximately equal length to that made by the Minister for Social Security on the matter of over 1,000,000 persons not being covered by health insurance.
-Is leave granted?
– I point out to the honourable member that the Health estimates are not finished. He still has an opportunity to speak.
– I find it intolerable that leave should be refused. There is a White Paper before the House-
– Order! No debate is allowed on leave being refused.
– I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, on 2 grounds by the Minister for Social Security, who stated when answering a question this morning that I had stood against the carping of my own Party on the criticism of doctors. This is a basic untruth. The Minister has read my speech, and nowhere in it will he find such criticism. I also claim to have been misrepresented, along with other members on this side of the House, as spokesman on social security. I resent the allegation that members on this side - and no doubt the Minister includes me - were perpetuating lies about the number of people not covered by the health scheme. The Minister tried to substantiate his allegations that we were perpetuating lies by quoting from the White Paper, which he will not allow the House to debate, an extract from a survey by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics that I happen to have on the table of the House.
– Read it properly.
– The Minister interjects ‘Read it properly’. This is the very point I am getting at. The Minister has dishonestly reported the surveys in his White Paper, and then he has the effrontery to suggest that people on this side of the House are perpetuating lies. There is an old saying that figures do not lie. That is true. There is also another statement that liars can figure. I suggest that in the White Paper some manipulation has been done with figures. The White Paper states categorically that the present scheme covers only 87 per cent of the population.
-Order! The honourable member is now debating the question. Honourable members are aware that when a member is making a personal explanation about where he has been misrepresented he cannot debate the subject. That is well known to all honourable members.
– Mr Speaker, with respect I am not canvassing your ruling. The Minister, on this very point, has stated that members on this side of the House have been perpetuating lies about the number uncovered. I am trying to anwer that allegation.
-Order! Unless the honourable member is specified as telling a lie no personal explanation is involved. The honourable member cannot seek to make a personal explanation for all of the members behind him. He can speak only in regard to himself.
– I have personally stated that the figure the Minister has given is wrong. Therefore by direct implication the Minister is calling me a liar and, Mr Speaker. I submit that I am entitled to answer mat.
– Mr Speaker, I can save a lot of time and confusion, if not blood pressure problems for the honourable member for Hotham, if he gives me the census report. I will read it out to him and show him where he is completely misunderstanding the position.
-Order! The Minister is not in order.
- Mr Speaker, I will not agree to that suggestion because I have serious doubts about the ability of the Minister to read. Mr Speaker, may I continue?
– Order! Only one honourable member can make a personal explanation at a time. I ask the honourable gentleman to keep to his personal explanation and not to debate the subject.
– I speak only to the allegation that more than one million people are not covered, and I am quoting from the Minister’s White Paper. In the survey, which he did not mention, Queensland was excluded from the 87 per cent. The Minister would know, because Queensland is his own State, that everybody in Queensland is covered and that the Australia-wide figure is nearer 90 per cent - 89.9 per cent to be exact. Also, I have taken the trouble of finding out the questions that were asked of people in this survey. They were asked: ‘Is your husband covered by a hospital or medical benefits fund?’ and Is he covered by any health insurance scheme which costs nothing?’ So the survey automatically excludes people in all institutional type care centres such as aged persons homes, hospitals, nursing homes and so on. It excludes also people receiving repatriation entitlements. The latter represent 2 per cent of the population. Obviously the figure is considerably in excess of 89 per cent. I am not here to quibble about 3 per cent, 4 per cent or 5 per cent, but the number happens to run into hundreds of thousands of people. I deeply resent, along with every member on this side of the House, the fact that while we are not allowed to debate the White Paper we are accused of perpetuating lies in challenging the Minister’s figures.
– (Oxley- Minister for Social Security) - Mr Speaker, I draw the attention of honourable members-
– Order! The Minister cannot do that. He should not make a circus of the place.
– I have been misrepresented.
– All right. The Minister claims to have been misrepresented.
– It is asserted that I misled the House not only in the White Paper but also in statements today. I draw the attention of honourable members to a publication of the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics which carries the reference number of 17.7. Page 2 of this publication contains a table entitled: ‘Table 1 - Non-institutional population (a): Coverage of hospital and medical expenditure assistance schemes (b), by State, August 1972.’ This table shows that the percentage of people covered is 86.5 per cent.
A footnote refers to definitions which appear on page 1 of the document. In this regard the document states:
In August 1972 a survey, based on the quarterly survey, was conducted throughout Australia in order to obtain information about the extent to which persons were covered by hospital or medical expenditure assistance schemes, i.e. contributory hospital and medical benefits funds and non-contributory schemes such as the pensioner medical service ….
That also includes repatriation medical services. The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp), who just spoke, has misrepresented the situation.
– Mr Speaker, this is a matter of some contention. Will the Leader of the House allow this side to debate the White Paper this week or next week?
– Opposition members did not debate this matter on the Estimates. They did not seek a debate on the Green Paper. They can debate the legislation in 3 weeks time.
– I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Earlier this morning the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) said that members sitting behind the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), who includes myself, were hoping that the conference which he was calling on labour relations would fail. I have never criticised the calling of this conference. I have only criticised the proposals which the Minister has said he was going to put before the conference, which if pressed unfortunately would mean the failure of the conference. I make it clear that I hope that any conference called will succeed.
Discussion of Matter of Public Importance Mr SPEAKER - I have received a letter from the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The ineffectual and potentially harmful effects of the Government’s monetary policy to counter inflation.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– The Opposition has brought forward this motion today because of its deep concern at this Government’s failure to adopt a balanced set of policies to combat the current level of inflation which, notwithstanding the measures taken by the Government, continues unabated. We specifically reject the present undue reliance on monetary measures because it is ineffectual and carries with it the dangers of harmful adverse reactions in the medium term. We place on record our condemnation of the Government’s failure to take corrective fiscal measures together with supplemental policies to restrain wage and salary costs; to ease the labour ‘market; to curb the growth in the Commonwealth Public Service; and to reduce the level of industrial unrest. The simple fact is that the Government has the responsibility for the present level of inflation. It must accept that responsibility. It simply cannot continue to neglect its clear obligation to co-ordinate all available economic instruments in order to confront the problem. After almost one year in government the blame for economic mismanagement lies nowhere except with the Government’s own policies.
The Reserve Bank, in its 1973 annual report, stated:
There is scope for further tightening in financial conditions but the gathering strength of private demand suggests it would not be prudent and. probably not sufficient to rely only on monetary policy to achieve the desired restraints.
That statement has been proved to be correct. It is a matter of great concern that the Government continues to pursue what can only be described as an unbalanced and ineffectual approach to inflation. Economists have increasingly pointed out the dangers of overdependence on monetary measures to maintain equilibrium within the economy. The fact is that the main burden of major economic adjustments should be borne by flexible fiscal measures with monetary policy having a supporting role.
In the 11 months since Labor came to power, interest rates have spiralled to levels far beyond the range of previous Australian experience. The Labor Government’s pursuit of its extravagant policy aims has induced the spiral. Constrained by ill-considered and inadequately researched electoral promises, the Government has been unable to co-ordinate its fiscal and monetary policies and, having introduced an inflationary fiscal policy, it has placed disproportionate weight on monetary control in a vain effort to control inflation. The interest rate policy so conceived has been in itself de-stabilising and has, in fact, tended to counteract the Government’s other attempts at economic control.
It is a matter of record that rising interest rates are as much a symptom of inflation as an attempt to control it. Empirical evidence supports the views of many eminent economists, including Professors J. R. Hicks and Milton Friedman, and of course Lord Keynes in earlier years, who have stated that rising interest rates anticipate burgeoning inflation. Put another way, this means that expectations of future price movements play a substantial part in promoting interest rate changes. But by using interest rates as a primary tool of economic management in a period of unfettered inflation, the Government is obviously placing excessive pressure on this already over-worked mechanism, producing the present circumstances in Australia today, with soaring interest rates adding significantly to the general cost structure, inducing further waves of cost-push inflation. The response of the Treasurer (Mr Crean) to the nature of Australia’s economic difficulties has been an exercise in vacillating apologia. He has steadfastly refused to confront the task of economic management with a set of strong and bal.lanced policies. He has, in fact, been prepared to preside over the most draconian monetary policy since Federation. The inadequacy of the Treasurer’s comprehension of this subject is best illustrated by his statement during the course of a similar debate on 17 September. In order to save the time of the House, I ask leave to have that statement incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
The measures we are proposing today have to be harsh until we get more effective means of regulating this quota, the volume of money.
We have faced an increase in the price of housing this year. The price of a house at the end of this year is likely to show an increase of 15 to 20 per cent on the price at the beginning of the year. I think at least it is a moot point whether it is better to pay 6 per cent on 120 units of currency when previously it was 6 per cent on 100 units, or to pay 7 per cent and keep the number of currency units involved to 100. This is what we are endeavouring to do by applying the drastic measures we have. Nobody does this willingly. I still go on record that in my view it would be better for a community as a whole if interest rates were lower than higher. But interest rates involve equity as between lenders and borrowers and you cannot just suddenly by means of a moratorium say that overnight all rates will be set at certain levels. We have not the power to do that. I am not necessarily sure that it would be a good thing to use it if we had it. But in the absence of any better mechanism we have applied the measures we have. People talk about using fiscal control and monetary control, and when they are used everybody criticises them. I do not want to say anything more than that.
– They are very sound words if you analyse them.
– The Treasurer alleges loosely that they are very sound words. He must stand indicted for that statement which honourable members can read in Hansard. It is a direct contradiction of the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) of 9 September that all interest rates would ultimately be set by the Government through the open market operations of the Reserve Bank. It makes a nonsense of the Treasurer’s foreshadowed legislation to control non-bank financial institutions. In short, this is typical of the muddled and inadequate performance of the Treasurer whose policies have added hundreds of dollars to the annual commitments of average home purchasers.
This is a Government which came to power promising low interest rates. To say that these measures have been applied in the absence of any better mechanism is simply untrue. This is a deliberate policy to squeeze the private sector in an effort to compensate for this Government’s profligate fiscal program.
Despite a series of monetary measures, the increase in the volume of money for the year ending September 1973 was recorded at 26 per cent. For the September quarter the growth was 7.2 per cent compared with 6.8 per cent in the corresponding period in 1972.
If overseas influences were an important contributor to the current inflationary situation, balance of payments must have been an important influence in the growth of the money supply. However, the Treasury Information Bulletin also shows that there was a net apparent outflow estimated at $59m in the September quarter, which more than offsets the current account surplus of $41m. In the first 9 months of 1973 there was an overall deficit on balance of payments of $305m.
The balance of payments had a negative effect on the money supply during the September quarter and during the whole period that this Government has been in office. During these periods the Reserve Bank has been a net seller of foreign exchange and therefore external influences have had a negative effect on the total monetary base, and thus on the total volume of money.
The reason for the increase in the money supply is the greatly increased domestic deficit of the Commonwealth Government, and the reluctance of the banking system in particular to increase their holdings of government bonds.
The Government is now attempting not to decrease its own deficit, but to force the private sector to finance its deficit spending through greatly increased subscriptions to Commonwealth bonds. The inevitable result of this unbalanced approach has been a massive rise in interest rates, and the Treasurer refuses to to say whether the process has ended.
The degree to which the Treasurer may seek to blame overseas pressures can only denote the ineffectual nature of his own policies since, as interest rates continue to ease overseas, in Australia they continue to rise indicating that in the development of corrective policies Australia is lagging behind the world’s developed nations.
What is occurring is a trade-off between monetary policy and fiscal policy. The fact is that the extent of the Budget deficit requires a higher level of interest rates in order that the Reserve Bank can sell sufficient bonds to hold down the rate of increase in the money supply. Because of deficit financing the Government has sought to increase interest rates of offset the fiscal stimulus.
In short, the Australian economy is faced with a situation in which inflation continues at an entirely unacceptable level because the Government continues to pump money into the economy and to use interest rates to cut back private sector spending.
This is nothing more than a circular policy. Fiscal policies arc working against, rather than complementing, the objectives of monetary policy. As long as the Government continues with its present pattern of public expenditure, interest rates will have to be forced to higher levels before they have a corrective economic effect. Unfortunately, the corollary of a monetary policy at odds with fiscal policy is that when its effects eventuate, they are severe. The Government must face the fact that restraint in public expenditure is clearly required. Its principal economic advisers have advocated the adoption of fiscal policies. However, it is a matter of concern that the Government apparently proposes that any fiscal measures will not incorporate restraints on spending but increases in income tax. The move to increase personal tax has been publicly advocated by a significant number of well-placed persons within the Australian Labor Party. I refer to the president of the Australian Labor Party and president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, more recently the Acting Treasurer and also, of course, the Government’s principal economic adviser, Dr Coombs. The Opposition believes the Australian public should be aware that this is a Government which is willing to exact the highest price possible in order to finance its spending program.
– All you want to do is increase unemployment.
– Is the honourable member for Corio supporting an increase in taxation?
– I am saying is that all you want to do is create a pool of 200,000 unemployed, as you did last year.
– I draw to your attention, Mr Speaker, firstly that the honourable member for Corio is out of his place, and is interjecting as usual. If he is willing to make an indepth comment on the question of taxation, let him either affirm the statement made by the President of the Australian Labor Party, or, conversely let him deny and reject it, for at the present time the honourable gentleman and his colleagues are very much sitting on the fence with both ears pinned to the ground.
– Mr Speaker, on a point of order. In view of your ruling that interjections are out of order - I acknowledge your ruling - is it not also out of order for the honourable member to address his remarks to a member of the House and not to the Chair?
– I am addressing my remarks through the Chair. Even without an increase in the level of the nominal taxation rate, the massive increase in the effective rates of income tax are likely to cause a decline in the community’s propensity to save and incentive to produce. This can have no other effect but a slow-down in the real growth rate. The Government’s stubborn refusal to reduce Federal spending has necessitated an over reaction in respect of monetary policy. Official interest rates are now set at the highest levels in history and yet interest rates throughout the community are continuing to creep upwards. Quite apart from the effects of this policy on investment, the sharp rise in the cost of housing finance is having serious effects on lower and middle income earners.
It is in the area of housing finance that Labor’s economic ineptitude is most evident. That is more than a little ironic, as this is one of the areas in which Labor chose to make some of its most extravagant election promises and, characteristically, it is also one of those significant areas in which it has failed to keep faith with the electorate. Since Labor came to power it has never been more difficult for the working man to finance the purchase of his own home. Under the Liberal-Country Party Government, however home ownership was within the range of the vast majority of wage earners. The Caucus apparently is prepared to force the Government to provide a differential interest rate in the housing sector. The Government’s failure to set out in a definitive manner what its intentions are is clearly creating considerable uncertainties and manifold confusion among home buyers. In the year to June 1973, the average Australian home loan was $14,000. As a result of an increase in interest rates from 8 per cent to 9 per cent enforced on building societies, a home buyer is now paying $117.49 a month on such a $14,000 loan repayable over 25 years, compared with SI 08.06 previously, an increase of 8.7 per cent. However, in the present market climate a loan of at least $16,000 is required to purchase the same house as could have been purchased with a $14,000 loan in 1972-73. Repayments on this loan are calculated at $134.28 monthly, an effective increase of 24.3 per cent - a staggering $26.22 a month.
As the Treasurer has pointed out there is, in fact, no simple and expedient answer to inflation. However, it is increasingly obvious that unless the Government is prepared to adopt a balanced set of policies inflation will not be curbed and the prospect of an economic slowdown and a period of stagflation will result. The Opposition has continually urged the Government to adopt a balanced multipolicy approach combining basic fiscal and monetary measures with supplemental action to restrain wage and salary increments, and to ease the labour market. A balanced set of economic policies would lessen the risks of adverse reaction to the present credit squeeze policy. Given the disadvantages of high interest rates or the problems of differential interest rates the task is to reduce the overall structure of interest rates. But this cannot be achieved without complementary fiscal measures. This Government stands indicted for its failure to take corrective fiscal measures along with those supplementary policies to which I have specifically referred.
– Perhaps if one had had time to read the speech just delivered by the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) one might have had an opportunity to analyse it. I begin by asking for leave to table one page of an answer to a question which I recently gave to the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti). It shows the history - -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! Is leave granted?
– It is one page which shows the history of interest rates in Australia.
-Order! Excuse me, is the Treasurer seeking leave to incorporate this page?
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– It shows the history of interest rates in Australia from June 1948 to October 1973, for Australian Government securities, for trading banks’ overdraft rates, for housing loans and for deposits in savings banks. It shows a history of continuing rise from 1951 onwards. I simply make that incorporation to indicate that this is not the first occasion on which interest rates have been adjusted in Australia. I think that this is the first occasion for the last 20 years on which members of the now Opposition have attempted to condemn interest rates. Yesterday I was asked to explain categorically how
I thought interest rates would operate in the future. I think it is necessary in this sort of debate, if it is to have any value, that we should try to get down to some of the taws in the game. On this side of the House we are just as concerned about inflation as is the Opposition. We in Australia are as concerned about its difficulties as is nearly every country in the western world.
A week ago I happened to have the opportunity to visit China. One of the things Chinese economists said was: ‘We have not got inflation in our country’. I said: ‘You have a lot of problems which I would not like to have in my country’. But that is beside the point. In grappling with inflation one needs to recognise that it has internal as well as external causes. I believe, sometimes, that external causes are a little exaggerated to the detriment of doing as much as one should about the internal causes. Nevertheless, the situation which we had in October 1973 was not something which arose only in the last several months. I am gratified by the references that- have been made during question time and in the financial Press in the last day or so about Dr Porter’s paper delivered at the weekend.
– He obviously did not know what he was talking about.
– Perhaps the honourable member might explain-
– I am glad that he is nodding his head and saying yes.
– The honourable member has been responsible for more recessions than anybody else in this country.
– The honourable member would not know.
-Order! The honourable gentlemen at the table are both listed to speak in this debate. I suggest that they allow the Treasurer’s remarks to be heard.
– They are taking up my time in the process.
– They are on your side, too, Sir.
-If the right honourable member for Lowe had listened to me he would have heard me refer to the honourable gentlemen at the table - one on each side.
– I can well understand that the right honourable member for Lowe, who was the former Prime Minister, may disagree with Dr Porter because after all Dr Porter, in essence, is condemning the economic policy which was carried out by the right honourable member for Lowe. I am trying to justify my policy and I can understand the right honourable member trying to justify his policy. The Opposition spokesman on economic affairs chose to take a single figure out of table 33 in the Treasury bulletin entitled. ‘Selected Financial Series - Indicators of the Formation of Private Sector Liquidity’. If I understood him correctly, he drew some kind of conclusion about a factor of $41m against a factor of $59m. The significant figure which the hon ourable member should have quoted but which he did not quote which is the largest one of all, relates to the increase in private sector primary liquidity. For the September 1973 quarter, which includes part of 1972-73 financial year, the figure was $J,144m. In 1973-74, when these matters partly came under my jurisdiction, the figure was reduced to $656m. There is a difference factor of approximately $500m, which is reasonably significant. Whatever one might like to believe about interest rates, they are part of the mechanism of a capitalist society, and that is still what I am presiding over.
– I am encouraged to hear that.
– Some people rather sneeringly call us a socialist economy. I think we are far from being that. I think we are better described as a mixed economy. I used to use those words when the Opposition was in government. I used to make great play on words by suggesting that it was a mixed-up economy. That is one of the difficulties that one faces when one tries to do justice to all sections of the community. It is not easy. After all, it is not as though we are talking about the interest rate. We are talking about a series of interest rates, and we are referring to lenders as well as to borrowers. This fact does not seem always to be borne in mind when one is considering in particular, the question of interest rates on housing. At least the Government has endeavoured to be selective as far as housing is concerned. We have attempted to limit the rate of increase to 1 per cent in the housing sector, whereas in most of the other parts of the economy there has been a 2 per cent to 2i per cent increase in interest rates. Despite what they might say to the contrary, honourable members opposite operated a monetary policy in other days. I ask honourable members opposite whether the operation of a monetary policy is a weapon. I think the honourable member conceded there were 2 weapons - the monetary and the fiscal weapons. If there is a monetary weapon, how would the honourable gentleman have exercised it in similar circumstances?
I think the point is well taken in Dr Porter’s paper, that if the previous Government had taken certain action in relation to the exchange rate which had something to do with the volume of money flowing in from overseas, the position might have been different. As far back as May 1972, when the Treasury was the present Opposition’s Treasury, not mine, it drew attention to this situation in a very full booklet on overseas investment in Australia. It pointed to the fact that if anything at that stage was moving towards fulfilling the classical definition of inflation - of too much money and too few goods - it was the flow-in merely of money unmatched by physical goods. That was one of the contributing factors, and it has been aggravated since by a surplus in our current trading account. Goods that are produced in Australia, in respect of which income is generated in Australia, are exported in greater quantity than goods are imported. That, too, makes more money and less goods. It is the volume of money on which one has to operate. In the process, some are hurt and some are advantaged.
But I contrast this position with the position in relation to the rate of interest on houses. If one is talking about the rate of interest on houses, I think one also needs to look at the price of houses, and that includes the price of land. To suggest that in the last 5 years it has been easy for what is called the small man to buy a house is a travesty of the facts. I believe that the most fortunate generation in Australia, as far as the purchase of houses is concerned, was that of the post-war era - from about 1948, when we began to overcome the wartime shortage of supplies, carrying on into the first 4 or 5 years of LiberalCountry Party administration - because there was control over land values, there was allocation of scarce resources to the various ends and there was an attempt to regulate interest at low rates. Since that period there has been a tendency to let her rip as far as the economy is concerned.
We have controls over banking. I believe that they are necessary. I believe that long ago they ought to have been extended to other areas of credit extension in this country, but they were not. When the Opposition jeers about remedies to control inflation, I point out to it a few words which Dr Porter used against the previous paper of Professor Argy. He said:
He points to a variety of factors and appears reluctant to ascribe weights to them.
I suggest that that is the fault also of the Opposition. It points to inflation and criticises each measure taken by this side of the House to do something about it, beginning with the revaluation in December 1972, followed by our decision not to revalue when the American dollar was devalued, followed by a further revaluation, followed by a variation in tariff rates and followed by the first call for many years to the special deposits via the banking system. I could continue. Prices justification was fought tooth and nail. Restrictive practices legislation is fought tooth and nail. The whole answer to the question ultimately is control of prices and wages. The Opposition is opposing the constitutional attempts to obtain power over prices and wages.
To the gentleman of the Opposition I say this: Inflation is not an easy problem; it is not a problem which will have a quick solution. The problem in November 1973 is different from the problem in November 1972 or November 1971. The Opposition would have faced the same reality if it had still been the Government. Dr Porter has gone on record as saying that, in his opinion, if the sorts of measures which we have taken had not been taken the’ inflation rate in Australia would have been nearly double what it is now. One cannot prove observations of that kind, but one can prove - I say this always to the Country Party - that if the consumer price index is taken to be the indicator of rising costs in the Australian community we should look at how that index has increased in the last 2 quarters in particular. More than half of the increase has been due to higher food prices, which means higher incomes to the people whom the Country Party represents. If members of the Country Party accept higher incomes then they are the last people who should rail about wage earners attempting to retain their capacity to buy the products they bought previously. Surely in the finish this is what the problem is all about. It is not about cheaper tax on an isolated commodity. The Opposition’s approach ought to be a down to earth contribution of what it would have done. It is pretty easy to say what it would have done, but when it had the opportunity to do it it did not do it. People are not disposed to believe those people who now say: ‘If only we had still been there we would have done what there was no impediment to do when we were there.
– After listening intently to the Treasurer (Mr Crean) I have to confess that I come back to the conclusion that I had formed before I came into the House. What we are supposed to be debating in this debate, which was opened up so well and so effectively by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), is the total incapacity of the Government to carry out the effective economic and financial management of this country. I go a stage further by saying that if honourable members believe what the Leader of the Government said yesterday that Parliament has enough power and what he has said before it is perfectly obvious that the Government does not need the powers for price and income controls that it intends to refer to the people by referenda during the course of the next few months. I have with me today a statement of his and I have another one made a few months ago from which I will quote. He said that the States have adequate powers. I add the words ‘if only they had the guts and the will and the wish to implement those powers and to do so effectively’.
– Tell it to your friend Askin.
– Do keep quite. Go back and lecture in the schools. With great deference to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I do wish that Mr Speaker himself was now in the chair because I want to use a word that I think would be more easily understood by him than by you. He is a man, as it were, bred and reared in the same locality as I was - Redfern - and will understand what I mean. The proof of the pudding of the Government’s failure to implement its policies and to manage the economy effectively is that the economy is now in an awful bloody mess. There is no more eloquent or easier way of putting it than that, and I think I will be able to prove it in a few moments. When we have a look at the conditions that exist today how many people do we find who are disenchanted with the activities of the Labor Government and the solo efforts of the 27 members of the Cabinet, each moving off in different directions at the same time? Yesterday we had the eloquence of the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) who disagreed with the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden). I believe he was rebuked - I hope he was not, because I would never rebuke a man as kind as he is - by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) for his statements in which I think he believed, although he was probably wrong. But who thinks badly of a person who believes something sincerely and who states his opinion? A clear illustration of the attitude of the Treasurer can be gained from the fact that he wanted to incorporate in Hansard a history of interest rates. We are not interested in the history of interest rates unless there are lessons that can be learned and put into practice for the future. This shows what is in the minds of people - regrettably, the Minister for Social Security, who is at the table, is getting to that stage too - who are living in the past and who are determined to stay there, feet, heart, soul and everything else associated with them.
I come back to the substance of what I wanted to put to the House today. I said that the economy is in a mess. On this second occasion I leave out the great Australian adjective because of the sensitivity of your feelings, Sir. I put it to the House that it has been adequately proved by the consistent and well thought out policies that we had, largely as a result of the work done by my colleagues when we were in government, including the then Treasurer, and the then Minister for Labour and National Service, that we could achieve all the economic objectives that any country would want to achieve, and that we did even better. Strangely enough we have never been able to get across the message of our economic success to prove to the Australian people the degree of that success and what it meant to them. I think that in a few minutes I will be able to explain to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, exactly what is involved here. When we ceased to be the Government, according to the implicit price deflator inflation was running at an annual rate of 2.2 per cent in real terms. What other country could equal that record? Yet who says much about it, even on my own side? We had achieved a rate of growth in real terms of production in the non-farm sector of 8.5 per cent. If these are not good records I think all of us ought to go home and do something a little different.
I want to point out how this was done. How did we achieve it? We did it because we adopted a consistent group of policies. We did not accept one, as the Treasurer is doing at the moment, for reasons that are beyond his own capacity to control because he is only one in a Cabinet. Regrettably he is not one in the top lot who can ensure that his voice is listened to. I doubt whether it is heard very much and to the extent that it is heard people do not take very much notice of it.
Our policy was consistently to apply pressures at a selected number of areas and through that means be able to ensure that we achieved the objectives and the results that we did achieve. If it had been demand that was causing inflationary pressure we would achieve control of demand by budgetary or fiscal policy. If it was money supply we would take action in respect of the quantity of money, the velocity of circulation and interest rate policy. If it was, and at the time that we were in Government it was in fact, the predominant inflationary force of wages, we would intervene before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and advocate wage restraint. There are other policies, such as, for example, the policies relating to tariffs which have been proved ineffective in the Labor scheme of things because the international trade cycle is on the way up. When the Labor Party did act, it acted too late and under circumstances where it was obvious that its policies were inappropriate or ill timed and would not achieve their objective.
What the Treasurer has forgotten, and what the Labor Party has never known, is that timing is particularly important. Whenever the Labor Party has introduced a policy it has been either too soon or too late, or done in an unco-ordinated fashion. I turn back to mention one or two of the policies that I think have been dangerous and then come to the question of whether or not prices and incomes powers should be given to the Commonwealth Government.
Let me speak first of all of me money supply. We know very well that unless we get co-ordinated policies we cannot expect monetary and interest rate policies to be even remotely effective. But Labor abandoned the Budget as an instrument for the control of money supplies. The Treasurer said that he intended to wash it out of his hair. He washed it out of his mind and soul as well. Consequently the Budget increased expenditure by 29 per cent when on all the facts and figures, and in accordance with the pleading of the Treasury officials who ought to know a little better than the average member of the government, a rate of the order of 8 per cent would have been appropriate. Not only did this boost demand when there was no necessity to do so but also it had the effect of increasing the money supply. As the money supply increased through budgetary action it minimised the effect of other complementary action taken by the Government, such as the control of capital inflows and action taken in connection with the reduction of tariffs. So inevitably it happened that the Labor Party’s policies were bound to fail. But with what effect?
Let me give a couple of illustrations. The first relates to interest rate policy. If we get into a position where shortages of supplies in the community develop, that is when demand is too high and supplies are too low, then no matter what economy-even in a communist economy - the price of goods and services in real terms will inevitably rise. In those circumstances interest rate policy itself largely becomes ineffective. As an illustration because the interest rates on housing authority loans have been driven to a relatively low level it will mean that money will not be attracted into the permanent building societies or into the savings banks. It will go where the reward will be greatest. Demand under present conditions will remain high and increasing. That has meant, as my colleague the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) has said, that a man who borrowed $14,000 for a home in June 1973 will now have to pay 24.3 per cent or $26.22 a month more. Now I come to the final matter to which I want to refer, and that is whether or not this has a bearing on the prices and incomes referendums-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The right honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Members of the Opposition should be the last to moralise to anyone in this country on the conduct of economic policy. No group of people has been more responsible than were they in their long years of government for more unemployment, for more bankruptcies, especially among small business and industry, for more lost production and for more human suffering by the heavy handed demand management to which they always resorted. They are confused at the moment because they do not see unemployment lines forming in the community. That was the traditional text of their programs which they always applied. They cannot understand why new approaches have been developed. We do not accept the discredited programs which were applied by previous governments in this country.
But how can we rely on what members of the Opposition have to say? The week before last the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) was asserting that rampant inflation was a serious problem in this community, and that it was out of control and not to be controlled by anything the Government did. Last week, no doubt after talking to someone in the Melbourne Club, he decided to change his tack.
It is now recession which will be the major problem. On 23 October, only 3 weeks ago, in this Parliament trie-Leader of the Opposition said:
The economy is in a shambles. Inflation ha.’ soared with no prospect of early relief.
It did not matter what we had done; it would work either moderately or too well. Now, only 3 weeks later, members of the Opposition are arguing that what we are doing is too effective. How can we rely on people who put such spurious arguments forward?
– You do not know what you are doing.
– What would they do in this situation? They have made some vague assertions about demand management - about fiscal policies. Do they mean savage increases in personal income tax? They have made assertions about increased social security benefits. Do they mean increased unemployment benefits and expectations of the effects of what their program would bring about? They stutter something about cuts in government expenditure, but on other occasions they have asserted, for instance, that defence expenditure as a percentage of gross national product should be restored to the level which applied last financial year. They have asserted that there should be an increase of some $300m in defence expenditure. They have asserted that there must be an increase in pensions. I agree. We will do it. But what do they mean? Are they aware that for every $1 a week increase in pensions there is an additional commitment by the Treasury of another $50m? They are talking about expanding their discredited health insurance program to cover people now covered by the pensioner medical service. The calculations by my Department show that this will cost another $160m. So I have quickly mentioned 3 areas in which we are talking about increased expenditure of the order of $500m.
Where will Opposition members achieve their cuts? The only suggestion I have heard from them is that the Gidgealpa-Sydney pipeline which we propose laying as a public undertaking is inflationary and a project which should not be undertaken. Do they not have enough intelligence, enough nouse, to realise that the money had to be spent in the community if the pipeline were to be built; that it was to be built by private enterprise, which of course had to spend money, so that amount of money was going into circulation, in the com munity? Do they have enough nouse to realise this: To the extent that the Government raises that money internally it moderates any inflationary effects which would have come from the investment of the Australian Gas Light Co. in constructing its pipeline, because AGL proposed to raise this money overseas? Their thinking, as it has been in relation to their programs in the past, is confusing, conflicting and unreliable.
Let us look at the situation we have inherited today through no cause of ours. We have inherited this inflation which, as the Treasurer (Mr Crean) pointed out, has been largely injected by overseas influences. Let me refer to an article by Mr Peter Jonson of the Reserve Bank in the latest issue of the ‘Australian Economic Review’, second quarter 1973, and to his table which I commend to the shadow Treasurer. The table shows that the proportions of influences in a total of 100 per cent come from various sources: From imported influences, 61 per cent; awards, 10 per cent; cash benefits, 20 per cent; tax, 7 per cent; and spending, 2 per cent. They total 100 per cent. But nearly two-thirds of the total forces coming into this economy towards inflation are coming from external factors. Mr Jonson, who is from the Reserve Bank, I pointed out, and who used the Reserve Bank’s dynamic model to do these calculations, says:
These results are quite devastating for the cost-push hypothesis;
Of course they are. They are devastating for the 2 speakers from the Opposition side who spoke before me in this debate, because those results have completely devastated the basis of the argument that they have put to this Parliament.
Let us look at the situation that we have inherited. How did it come about? It came about simply because in 1970, when the monetary squeeze applied by the Government of that time caused inflated interest rates as part of monetary management, the borrowers went overseas to get their money. They went overseas and they aggravated the inflow of capital into the country. So they undermined the whole purpose of monetary policy. If you contain the expansion of credit internally but the borrowers go outside for their money and then bring it into the country they inject increasing volumes of money internally into the economy. They are undermining completely the economic policy of the day, and that is where the seeds of the present problems were sown. If you add to this an undervalued currency, this in turn leads to speculative inflow, and we have the perfect ingredients for the problems that we have inherited. In the last financial year liquidity in this country increased by 26 per cent. Over 17 per cent of that increase occurred during the first 6 months of the last financial year, that is, before we became the Government. As anyone who understands economics knows there are lags between forces being set in motion and their starting to bite into the economy - and they are biting in right now.
The problem that we have is: How do we manage this inflationary position without causing the widespread suffering which has been symbolic of the management of the economy under successive Liberal-Country Party administrations? I can assure honourable members of this House that this Government has no intention at all of resorting to cruel, harsh recessionary policies which impose the greatest suffering and sacrifices on those least able to afford that sort of burden - the wage and salary earners and those persons who want to start a small industry or a small commercial enterprise. For too long these people have had to pay the full price of the muddling and the mess that has been made of economic management in this country under previous LiberalCountry Party administrations.
We have carried out a number of steps. They have been gradual, not panic stricken - and they will not be panic stricken. After each step a reasonable period has been allowed while we have assessed the effects of what we done before moving on to the next step. We would rather bear with a little bit of inflation - we do not like it, it causes suffering in the community - and gradually bring it back under control than to move in with a mailed fist and hammer down the economy, as was done in the past. Can there be any doubt that the problems have been injected into this economy by the mismanagement of the past? It has been pointed out, as I said, by Dr Jonson of the Reserve Bank. Let me quote Dr Porter, who is also of the Reserve Bank and who also uses the Reserve Bank’s dynamic model of the economy. I had the pleasure of being present when he spoke at the New South Wales Economic Society’s Winter School - curiously, held in November. He said this of his research work:
The implication - of his research work - is that if Australia had revalued earlier, say, in late 1971, then the current inflationary pressure on the Australian economy would have been markedly diminished ….
He said also:
We are thus left with the inflationary consequences of failing to revalue in 1971.
The substance of what he says is emphasised later when he goes on to say:
The main conclusion of the study is that in the first 6 months of 1973 Australia would have received about S860m speculative capital inflow. If unchecked by restrictive measures this would have augmented bank reserves by 20 per cent and, in turn this could have facilitated about $2,000m-$4,000m of additional expansion in the broad money supply, the exact amount depending on the response of the authorities and the size of the money multiplier. A marginal money multiplier of 3.3 (the average is over 5.5) would imply monetary expansion of over $2,800m, i.e. over 21 per cent over the 6 months period, or 48 per cent at a per annum rate.
What is happening with interest rates today is a direct effect of the sort of management that the Government has had to apply in this community, which became necessary because of the defects of the past. Having used monetary measures internally the Government has also had to use external monetary measures - not only appreciation and tariff cuts but also the variable deposit ratio on overseas borrowings. Without that we would be aggravating the mess which was set in train in 1970 by the inadequate approach of the economic policy makers of that period. We are clearing up the mess.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) quoted a. Dr Jonson at length. I think it fair to say that Dr Jonson’s views are not accepted by the Treasury.
– You have the wrong Dr Jonson. You are thinking of Professor Harry Johnson in Britain.
– Order! The Minister has spoken in the debate, and I suggest that he allow the honourable member to continue.
– The Minister may clarify that position. He certainly did not make clear which Dr Jonson he was quoting. The whole of his speech heaped confusion on confusion. He cited the Reserve Bank’s annual report but ignored entirely that section of the report which said:
There is scope for further tightening in financial conditions but the gathering strength of private demand suggests it would not be prudent and probably not sufficient to rely only on monetary policy to achieve the desired restraints.
The simple fact is that the Government’s policies so far have failed. The best means of describing the Government’s failure comes from a piece of doggerel that I read at the weekend. I would like to read it for the edification of honourable members. It says:
Prime Minister Gough and his missus
Through Asia were explaining their thesis.
As through Asia they trot
They both forgot
Australia was falling to pieces.
That piece of doggerel would be quite funny if it did not so truly reflect the serious situation in Australia. Every day headlines appear in the newspapers describing the seriousness of the situation. We have just heard the Minister for Social Security confusing himself and finally sitting down after 10 minutes of lengthy verbiage, having ignored the headlines that appeared this morning in the ‘Age’ newspaper - ‘Inflation near crisis: experts’. An article by Tony Thomas stated:
Australia’s inflationary pressure is building up to crisis proportions. This is the consensus of 3 separate economic forecasts released yesterday by business consultants.
The points are taken from November bulletins of the Syntec research group in Melbourne, management consultants W. D. Scott and Co.-
– Oh yes!
– The honourable member may interject and sneer if he likes, but it so happens that the Scott report of last year was one of the reports which the shadow Treasurer of the day, now the Treasurer (Mr Crean), used to quote as the Holy Bible because it was critical of the previous Government’s performance. Now because it is saying something critical of his own Government the Treasurer is sitting on the front bench sneering his head off. The article continued:
The Syntec bulletin said: ‘Within the existing long term interest rate structure, Syntec believes the Government and its advisers are now bent on bringing about a real money crunch before the end of this financial year - even to the point of seeing a rash of bankruptcies thrown up in the process, preferably in land development.’
It described demand pressures as ‘rocketing’ and said the credit squeeze alone would be unable to check the inflationary spending spree. Excess demand was now so severe that an acceleration of inflation was almost inevitable in the next 4 to 6 months.
Shrapnel’s ‘economic outlook’ said that even apart from food prices, ‘inflationary pressures are really building up in the economy’. Imports would give only slight relief, and the Government was doing virtually nothing about cost inflation or restraint of its own spending.
All in all inflation is going to get worse before it gets better.
He then went on to say, in effect, that this could prove to be a headache for the Government. I think that is the understatement of the year. The Government has failed miserably with its policy. The article from which I have just quoted has been stated in differing forms by differing authors for months, and the Government has failed to heed the message. There has been scarcely a reliable economist, banker, industrialist or businessman who has not pressed the same view. The simple fact is that the Government, from its inception, treated the economy as a plaything. As the position has worsened it has taken a number of actions that have proved to be selective by nature and a total failure in application. No government can keep on restating the actions it has taken and be convincing if the actions have failed. The actions which the Government has taken have failed.
The credibility of this Government is damaged because each ad hoc action has been greeted with large headlines as the cure for the inflationary problems, and each action has done nothing but selectively hurt a section of people and industry, and assist the others to profiteer. The first revaluation of the Australian dollar by 7.05 per cent last December was an example. It was stated to be a wonder stroke and an example of the Prime Minister’s new personal mastery of economics. Yet all it did was to cost exporters $200m and to fatten the profits of importers. Any unbiased study of the evidence given before the Joint Committee on Prices will show that only in rare cases was the lower price passed on to the consumer. I do not treat the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) as being an unbiased student, either. Since then we have had a 25 per cent tariff cut, which again failed to halt the rate of inflation but has done selective damage to industry. We then had a second revaluation which again has cost exporters dearly and has done nothing to halt the rate of inflation.
The Minister for Social Security was keen to quote Dr Porter. The question was asked concerning him this morning and there have been quotes all day of this great Dr Porter. The sheer nonsense of Dr Porter’s position is shown by the failure of the Government to halt inflation by revaluation. To argue simply that revaluation months earlier would have cured the present Government’s hangovers is sheer nonsense. It is economic stupidity. Having taken these steps the Government either argues that the problem is world wide and beyond its control, or it is because of the high price of meat and vegetables that inflation is soaring. Two points need to be made about that. Firstly, as proven by the evidence given to the sub-Committee of the Joint Committee on Prices which was inquiring into meat prices, the price of meat has only once again reached a point of equilibrium with average weekly earnings compared with the situation 10 years ago, proving only that farmers have been receiving too little for their product in past years. Secondly, while great criticisms were’ made about the original Meat Board report to the Government the Government members on the Committee, including the Member for Adelaide and particularly the member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan), who represents a rural electorate, recommended a heavy export tax on meat, but the Government accepted the minority report, fortunately, and did nothing. Now the Treasurer complains bitterly about the high price of meat and its effect on the consumer price index. He is the Treasurer who sat at the same table and made the decision to do nothing - such hyprocrisy. The real illness in the economy stems from the Government’s own actions and rapid expansion of the Public Service, particularly in the top echelons, combined with the jobsfortheboys mentality. This position was aggravated yesterday by the appointment of Mick Young at $17,000 a year plus expenses. I believe this to be the most outrageous, unethical and indeed immoral appointment in this nation’s history, an appointment not for governmental purposes but purely for party political purposes at the taxpayers’ expense. It is setting a bad example in national leadership.
The Government then introduced a Budget that was infamous for its attack on country people and almost without exception was seen by economists and writers as expansionary and inflationary. It has been quite apparent that the Government intends to use inflation to finance its own program. That was made clear by the Prime Minister in his policy speech. Regretfully his lack of economic knowledge has placed the Prime Minister in the position of not recognising the outflow of his own words. This ignorance on his part has added fuel to the Government’s present dilemma. Government policies have forced inflation to almost the highest. level in history. The Government is the pacemaker of inflation and has not bothered to look at the bad example it is setting. With individual Ministers supporting the strikes which are being held across the nation, the implementation of a 35-hour working week and attacks on many sections of industry, it is no wonder that there is turmoil in the electorate.
Instead of setting a good example by curbing its own excesses the Government has turned its attack to the private sector. Part of this attack has been by an increase in interest rates to a level never before seen in this country. Who in this House does not remember the promises made by the Australian Labor Party when in Opposition and its statement that it was a low interest Party. In fact, the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) stomped around the countryside promising loans totalling $50m at 3 per cent interest to farmers. Who will ever forget that? Certainly not the farmers. They will not forget it. They will take advantage of the next poll to show their disapproval of the Minister for Immigration. The fact of the matter is that the Government’s policies have failed badly. What it needs to do is call a conference with the Premiers. It should settle down and seek solutions to its multiplicity of problems. It should work out a policy in full instead of persisting with ad hoc solutions to the situation that we are going through at the present time.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from LI to 2.15 p.m.
– Before getting to the main part of my remarks, I should like to refer to 2 statements made by previous speakers in this debate. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) referred to the Labor Government’s economic ineptitude and the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) referred to a rash of bankruptcies which were supposed to occur in this country in the near future. I can only assume that both of these gentlemen have become confused between the policies of this Government and the policies pursued by the Government of which they were a part in previous years, because it is those governments which have shown economic ineptitude and which certainly have produced from time to time a rash of bankruptcies. One has only to think back to 1961 and 1962 to see a great rash of bankruptcies, from which many people in this country have still not recovered.
The matter of public importance which has been raised by the Opposition refers to inflation. It is a fact, which even members of the Opposition must be starting to realise, that inflation in this country this year has been largely generated by overseas factors. If we look firstly just at food prices, we can see that the increase in the price of food alone has accounted for S3 per cent of the increase this year in the consumer price index. This is more than half of the total increase. Obviously it is a substantial part of the inflation which has occurred but this has nothing to do with the economic policies of this Government. Blame for it obviously cannot be attached to excess demand or any other factor which can be attributed to this Government. In fact, it is one of the reasons for the prosperity of the country and the farmers and for the fact that farm income is increasing at such an enormous rate. There has been an increase in farm income of SO per cent in the last financial year and there are prospects of an increase of the same percentage in the current financial year. The increase in the price of meat alone has accounted for 34 per cent or one-third of the increase in the consumer price index in this calendar year. Again, of course, this has nothing to do with the policies of this Government. In the main, it is due to the overseas demand for these products.
Apart from food items, the overseas aspects of inflation have also impinged upon various other commodities in the market. For instance, the price of wool has increased substantially through this year, although I think it started to decline just recently. The price of wool obviously is determined by overseas demand for wool. The price of tallow, the basic ingredient in soap, has doubled this year. It has followed the increase in meat prices. We can look at the way rising world prices affect the price of commodities which we import rather than export or produce here. I refer to such things as imported timber which we use in the construction of houses. The’ cost of such timber has doubled this year. The price of cotton on the world market has doubled. The price of salmon has gone up enormously this year. There is a whole range of commodities on the world market the prices of which have increased tremendously this year and those increases are all having an effect on the rate of inflation in this country - an effect which would have been present just as strongly, indeed more strongly, if the previous Government were still in office. I will shortly explain why the effects would have- been present more strongly.
Also, the rising price of manufactured imports to this country affects the ability of Australian manufacturers to raise their prices. They can raise their prices higher if the prices of imported commodities are increasing because they can impose such increases without losing sales to competitive imports. It is a fact that the price of imported commodities has to some extent increased this year - again, under the influence of world inflation, because in all the developed countries of the world there is a substantial rate of inflation at present.
The importance of the international impact of inflation on the domestic economies of developed countries is increasingly acknowledged by economists around the world and surely by now should be acknowleded by members of the Opposition. Let us look at what this Government has done to offset the effect of these important international factors on the inflationary aspects of the economy. Firstly, in effect, the Government has revalued the currency 3 times. It revalued immediately on gaining office and, in effect, it revalued again in February when it did not follow the American dollar down and it revalued again, I think, in September. So this Government has had 3 revaluations. In effect, we are again revaluing now, because the American dollar is on the up and we are tied to the American dollar. So we are revaluing at the moment for a fourth time. I would agree that it is a fairly small revaluation, but if we continue to be tied to the American dollar the revaluation could become much more substantial.
So we have taken quite dramatic action in relation to the exchange rate to offset the effect of world inflation. This works in 2 ways. By revaluing the currency we reduce the price of imports and increase the price of exports. By reducing the price of our imports we get cheaper imports on the local market and it is more difficult for local manufacturers to increase their prices. It also means that demand for our exports is reduced and so there are more products available on the local market and therefore the price is likely to increase by a lesser amount.
We also introduced earlier this year a variable deposit scheme for capital inflow. The deposit was established at 25 per cent and it has now been increased to 33 per cent. This has had a substantial effect on stopping the capital inflow into this country which was so dramatically boosting money supply and thereby feeding the inflationary fires. We have cut tariffs by 25 per cent. Again, this has a direct effect by reducing the price of imports, and also an indirect effect on the manufacturers of importcompeting products in this country. What else could this Government have done to offset international inflation? Clearly, we have taken all the obvious measures to offset international inflation, apart from directly forcibly preventing exports from leaving the country and diverting them onto the local market.
At the domestic economic level, we have raised the statutory reserve deposit ratio by 3 per cent in an attempt to reduce the money supply further. We have established the Prices Justification Tribunal and, despite the sneers and jeers of the members of the Opposition, particularly the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), this body is much more than a prices exemption tribunal, as the Leader of the Opposition has been pleased to describe it. If he were prepared to do his homework by looking at all the notices of exemption which have been published in the ‘Australian Government Gazette’, he would see that there has been a tremendous number of price notifications to the Prices Justification Tribunal. When the applicants were threatened with public hearings, the prices became exemptions at a much lower rate than the original price notification to the Tribunal. The Tribunal is having a substantial effect on the rate of inflation in this country, an effect for which the Opposition has given it no credit whatever.
The Government has raised interest rates by 1.75 per cent or thereabouts and, in the process, has done its best to protect home buyers by limiting their interest rate increases to one per cent. The reason for the rise in interest rates was the excessive rate at which the money supply had been increasing. It had gone up by 26 per cent during the financial year 1972-73, of which 17 per cent occurred in the first half of that year when the previous Government was in power. This figure was well above the previous rates of increase in the money supply. The reason for that dramatic increase in the money supply has been well explained by Dr Porter who has already been mentioned in this debate. He said that the previous Government’s domestic monetary policy was completely offset indeed, more than offset by speculative capital inflow which was due to its refusal to revalue the currency, even though we had excess reserves. This then became re-enforcing. Capital inflow raised reserves higher. That induced further speculative capital inflow, so raising money supply by an even greater amount. Furthermore, attempts by the Reserve Bank of Australia to remove excess liquidity and to reduce the money supply by Reserve Bank open market operations were in a substantial degree selfdefeating. The Reserve Bank sales of bonds mopped up some money, but raised interest rates and thereby induced further capital inflow. This increased our reserves and thereby stimulated further speculative capital inflow. The whole thing was feeding on itself because of the refusal of the previous Government to stop capital inflow directly by a deposit scheme, such as the one this Government has introduced, and also by revaluing the currency.
On page 12 of yesterday’s ‘Australian Financial Review’ there is a table in Dr Porter’s paper, which he delivered last Friday, in which he states that if there had been no revaluation and if the actual monetary policy of the first 6 months of this year had applied and capital controls had been ineffective or inoperative, the money supply would have increased at an annual rate of 48 per cent. In fact, because of the measures taken by this Government, the annual rate of increase is 16 per cent or an actual rise of 8 per cent. This is a tremendous difference. The Opposition has opposed revaluation of the currency, our monetary policy and capital controls.
– Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded.
Mr DALY (Grayndler - Leader of the
House) (2.25) - The matter under discussion is the report of the Committee of Privileges relating to an article published in the ‘Sun’ dated 18 September 1973, together with minutes of the proceedings of the Committee. Prior to moving a motion on this matter, I wish to report officially to the House a tragic happening, namely, the sudden death of Mr B. J. Tier, the former editor of the ‘Sun* who was involved in this inquiry. I know that all members of the House regret his passing. To his family we extend the sympathy of the House on a very unfortunate occasion. Naturally, it is significant that his untimely death occurred before we could discuss this matter. Therefore, the Government has decided, among other things, on certain procedures which we hope the Opposition will support. I therefore formally move:
That the House agrees -
with the Committee in its findings,
that, in view of the death of Mr B. J. Tier, the former Editor of The Sun’, no further action be taken with respect to the Committee’s recommendation seeking publication of an apology, and
that Mr Speaker should communicate with the President of the Parliamentary Press Gallery as recommended by the Committee
I make no reference at this stage to the action proposed to have been taken against the former editor, the late Mr Tier, other than to state briefly that I hope the members of the Press Gallery will take note of the findings and deliberations of this Committee and in future exercise a great degree of caution in relation to publication of documents, particularly documents of this kind, before they are released to this Parliament. I hope that that caution, which is incorporated in the finding of the Committee, will be borne in mind by all members of the Press gallery and editors of newspapers, who I trust will not only realise the importance of maintaining privacy on these matters until the time due for their publication but also appreciate that it does not enhance respect for the parliamentary Press Gallery or Parliament itself for that matter if such details are released in advance when their publication at the due time would be adequate.
– My Committee colleagues on this side of the House have suggested that I should rise on their behalf as well as for myself to indicate our support of the motion that has been moved by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly). I join with him in expressing our sincere regret at the tragic and untimely death of Mr Tier and in offering our deepest sympathy to his family and relatives.
When Mr Tier about 3 weeks ago appeared as a witness before the Committee of Privileges his attitude could not have been more helpful or co-operative. He came readily of his own accord and immediately he willingly accepted full responsibility for that premature publication in the ‘Sun’ newspaper of Tuesday, 18 September 1973.
Having said that, I should like to invite attention to one or two other matters, particularly paragraph 15 at the top of page 6 of the Committee’s report. This paragraph expressed the very grave concern with which the Committee viewed the action of the unknown person who made available to a journalist, Mr O’Reilly, the recommendations of the parliamentary committee dealing with the stabilisation of meat prices. As all honourable members know, under standing order 340 of this House this premature disclosure was a clear breach of privilege and a contempt of the Parliament. The Committee regards the action that led to the premature publication of the recommendations referred to, 2 days in fact before the actual presentation of the report to the House, as one of the utmost seriousness. It is a matter of very great regret that the person concerned cannot be identified, thus enabling the House to take appropriate action against him. If by any chance the culprit - and I call him that - were indeed a member of this Parliament, he would, as honourable members know, be subject to very stringent action and the consequences to him could be dire indeed. He was, to borrow a legal expression, the causa causans of the whole episode. If it had not been for the premature disclosure by this unknown person to Mr O’Reilly, we would not have had to hold this privilege inquiry and we would not be speaking today on the report submitted by the Committee. Therefore the responsibility devolving on this unknown person, whoever he may be, is a very heavy one indeed and I hope that his conscience pricks him hard.
The second point to which I refer concerns the membership of the Committee of Privileges. If honourable members look at the top of the first page of the report before dealing with the report itself, under the heading ‘Membership of the Committee’ they will see that in addition to the Chairman, who is the Minister for Secondary Industry and Minister for Supply (Mr Enderby), other members of the Committee were the Treasurer (Mr Crean), the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), a former
Minister who is at present overseas, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) who is the Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees and the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) who was the former Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees. Under the Westminster system of parliamentary government the Committee of Privileges has always been regarded as one of the most important committees of the House, if not the most important. Of course, in essence the purpose of parliamentary privilege is to give such protection as may be necessary to enable honourable members to carry out their duties on behalf of their constituents and the nation and to uphold the dignity of the parliamentary institution. We all know that the front bench members on both sides of the House are extremely busy men who carry a heavy load of responsibility and a big work load every day, whether the House is sitting or not. I pay a compliment to those very senior members of this House who make, their time available to serve on this important Committee. I should very much like to see participation in this work by more senior members on this side of the House in accordance with the best Westminster tradition.
Finally, I pay a tribute to the new Chairman of the Committee for the capable way in which he has handled his task. As one who occupied this position for a number of years, I am very conscious indeed of the delicate and sometimes difficult situations with which a Chairman of this Committee can be confronted.
– As a member of the Meat Prices Sub-committee of the Prices Committee and a person very much interested in- this report, I should like to say a few words on it. Firstly, I accept the recommendations of the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) and the motion as put to the House in the terms in which it is printed. However, there are one or two aspects of the report and of the whole activities surrounding it on which I should like to comment. In the course of the parliamentary debate in this place certain allegations were made against - to use the plural term - members of the Australian Country Party. As the only member of the Country Party sitting on that Committee, I have no doubt that those allegations were pointed fairly straight at me. The only thing I am sorry about is that the Committee did not go deeply enough into discovering where the report came from. From what I understand of the evidence it appears that quite a number of the Government’s advisers were privy to the findings of the report prior to its publication. I do not know whether the Privileges Committee bothered to take up that point and to study its ramifications and importance. Having made the point I shall let it go at that, other than to say that the allegations made by one member of the Government about members of the Country Party are quite unfounded and in fact have been proved to be unfounded. That is a point about which I am very pleased. The other matter I wish to raise relates to the dignity of the House itself. It seems to me that having undertaken this inquiry - mark you, I was in favour of the inquiry - the dignity of the House has been somewhat impaired by the inquiry itself. I make no reflection on the honourable members conducting the inquiry. I am saying that there are other matters of a much graver nature which have tremendous financial implications for the commercial world. I refer to leaks from Government sources, from Cabinet Ministers, from advisers and from others.
It would be much more worthy of the dignity of this Parliament to investigate such matters than to undertake an inquiry into the publication of what was after all, only a set of recommendations to the Government about one aspect of the total scheme of things. I have in mind leaks of the report of the Coombs Task Force, the so-called demolition task force that has wreaked havoc, as it turns out, on the countryside by the implementation by the Government of certain policies which are typically anti-rural in nature. I suspect that the Government leaked that report so that when it brought down its Budget the number of recommendations on which it moved would seem to have less impact than would the total recommendations in the Coombs report. It is a sneaky old-fashioned trick. I suspect that was the base motive behind the leaking of the report. But a more serious matter and one closer to today is the leaking of the Tariff Board report on the importation of colour television sets.
-Order! I point out to the honourable member for Gippsland that we are debating a subject which has nothing to do with a Tariff Board report.
– I appreciate and respect your ruling, Mr Speaker. What I am trying to do is to point out the sharp contrast between the way in which the House can take into its own concern its dignity on matters of substance and on matters of lesser substance. The point I am making is that the House took as a matter of concern the leaking of a report which apparently had a comparatively wide distribution - the report on meat of the Joint Committee on Prices- than it did in regard to the Tariff Board report which is confined, in its distribution, within the system. I was a Minister of the Crown and a member of the committee of the government of the day which studied these reports and I do not think that in our time we suffered a breach of confidentiality of such a serious nature as occurred on this occasion. The point I am making - I think it is relevant- is that when the House is considering its own dignity it ought to consider the relevance of these matters. The leak of the Coombs report, and the leak of the report on colour television are so serious in commercial terms as to be worthy of consideration by this Parliament. I say that having regard to the importance of the breach of privilege in regard to the report on meat prices by the Prices Committee, which apparently was published in the Sydney ‘Sun’ one afternoon. That is the only point I wish to make. The House has not exhibited the dignity it deserves.
– As a member of the Privileges Committee I support the remarks that were made by the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury). I am impelled to speak at this stage by the remarks of the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) concerning some other documents. I simply say that in a parliamentary atmosphere allegations are very easy to make; they are often very difficult to refute. Whatever is referred to the Privileges Committee, I hope we will never get to the stage at which every allegation that is made in this House will be thought to be a matter for consideration by the Privileges Committee. Otherwise the Privileges Committee would be meeting very often. One of the interesting things about the Privileges Committee is that it does not have to meet very often. Sometimes we find that when it does meet it considers three or four cases that seem to happen more or less simultaneously, but then it is a long time before there is another case to be considered.
I suggest that the honourable member for Gippsland consult the transcript of evidence of the Committee. He will find that some of the things to which he referred were asked of the witnesses in the course of that investigation. I must say as a general observation that I find it hard to know what is gained, or what is thought to be gained, by publishing a few days or a few hours in advance something that will ultimately become public information. I agree with one point made by the honourable member for Gippsland, namely, that the danger - in this case I think the matter was comparatively trivial in its impact when the document was finally revealed - is that on other occasions a very few can gain at the expense of the very many. I regard it as an obligation of the Press to protect the rights of the many rather than sometimes just take a scoop that will advantage a few.
– I rise because during his remarks the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) made a statement which I think the House must take note. He suggested that the persons responsible for the leaking of this document may have been parliamentary officers or officers of the Joint Committee on Prices. I suggest to the honourable member that whilst the Committee was not able to identify the person who leaked the document, the Committee was fairly substantially of the opinion that it had been leaked by a member of the Committee. I do not think that any member of the Committee was of the opinion that any officer of the Committee or officer of the Parliament had been responsible for this leak. I do not have the transcript of evidence with me, otherwise I would verify the fact that it was indicated that a member of the Committee leaked the information although the name of that member is obviously not available and there is no way in which the Committee would be able to carry out the sort of investigation that would be required to find the name of the person who leaked the information. However, I think it should be made quite clear that there was no evidence before the Committee which would suggest that any officer of the Parliament or of the Committee was responsible for the leaking of the information. Unless it is proved otherwise or substantive evidence can be given otherwise, I think the Parliament has to accept the responsibility and such odium as there is of the fact that a member of the Committee is the most likely person responsible for the leaking of the information. I do not think that it does the cause of anyone any good to try even indirectly to pass the blame on to someone else who is not able to speak in this House.
The honourable member for Gippsland made great play about the dignity of the House. I do not know whether the House does itself justice when it inquires into these matters, but the House has established its own Standing Orders and it certainly would do itself less than justice if it allowed those Standing Orders to be ignored and flouted without taking any action.
I understand that honourable members on both sides of the House, and certainly those in the honourable gentleman’s own Party, were fairly insistent that this matter be referred to the Privileges Committee. The honourable member for Gippsland raised a number of other matters that he felt should be the subject of similar inquiries. Standing Orders provide the means by which the honourable member could at any stage initiate those inquiries. If he could make out even a prima facie case of breach of privilege, the Privileges Committee would be obliged, on reference of the matter, to inquire into it. I think it is fairly cheap politics to come into this House and make a speech that has nothing to do with the report of the Privileges Committee. It is, in fact, playing politics to suggest that the Committee could have inquired into something else. 1 repeat, if the honourable member for Gippsland could have made out even a prima facie case he could have had it referred to the Committee. Instead, he has made slighting remarks about the House and the officers of the Parliament.
– It is easy to make them about members of the Opposition, too.
– If the Leader of the Country Party reads the honourable gentleman’s speech he will understand what I am talking about. This particular reference has had an unfortunate ending and I would join other honourable members in expressing my sympathy to the wife and family of Mr Tier. It is extremely unfortunate, indeed tragic, that such an event should occur, and even more unfortunate that it should occur in such circumstances as those that now concern the House. My personal belief is that the House cannot afford to allow its Standing Orders to be flouted, and that it should take action wherever substantial evidence is available. However, that action must be in accordance with the circumstances existing at the time, and I believe that the motion moved by the Minister meets the present circumstances.
Mr NIXON (Gippsalnd) - Mr Speaker. I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented
– Most grievously. The honourable member, for Corio (Mr Scholes) alleged that I was charging parliamentary officers and officers of the Privileges Committee with possibly leaking the contents of the Committee’s report. That is far from the truth. What I said in my speech, as the honourable member for Corio will find if he looks at Hansard when it is available, was that I had been told that it appeared in evidence - it has now been shown - that the report had a wider circulation than among members and officers of the Privileges Committee. It was not. my intention to say, nor my thought, that officers of the Parliament or officers of the Committee were guilty of such an act. I do not believe that for one moment. However, as I say, I understand that the report of the Committee was spread much wider than has been suggested, going possibly to the Prime Minister’s Department and the Department of Primary Industry, as examples.
– As Chairman of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Prices and as the person who was responsible for moving the motion that put this matter in the hands of the Privileges Committee, I thank the Committee for the job it has done. Naturally, I have read the Committee’s report from cover to cover with great interest, and I endorse entirely not only the words of the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) but also the reasonable words of the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury) who was, of course, Chairman of the Privileges Committee when his Party was in government. I agree with him in particular that the main culprit - the choice of the adjective ‘main’ is mine - was certainly the person who showed this report to Mr O’Reilly, the senior reporter of the Sydney ‘Sun’. I cannot see any advantage that would have been gained by any member of the Committee giving this report to Mr O’Reilly. I have to agree with the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) that I heard nothing in his remarks that reflected on any officers of the Committee or officers of the Parliament. I believe that this was a misunderstanding on the part of the honourable member for Corio.
However, having said that I must say also that I believe the honourable member for Gippsland has been guilty of rather debasing this debate by making allegations about the wider distribution of the report of the Privileges Committee. If I have read correctly the evidence given, I think I was the only member of the Prices Committee, of which I was Chairman, to appear before the Privileges Committee. I say to this House, as I said openly, honestly and truthfully, to the Privileges Committee - even though the transcript has not been tabled - and I have not seen it, obviously the honourable member for Gippsland has heard of what was said - I went for personal advice outside the Committee itself. I believe that this is something that is done on every committee, and by every member of every committee. I say that because I was a member of the sub-committee that looked into the matter under investigation, but I had particular responsibilities as Chairman of the Committee looking at the recommendations of the subcommittee in a short space of time.
I believe it is something that every normal person would agree is the normal thing to do. I think every member of the Privileges Committee realises from the evidence that I gave truthfully, honestly and openly to them, that in seeking that personal advice, the circumstances were such that this could not have been responsible for the leaking of the recommendations of the Prices Committee. I repeat, I am happy to say this to the Parliament as I said it to the Committee, and I regret that the honourable member for Gippsland has used this occasion to try to make that sort of implication.
There are 2 lessons to be learnt from this report. One is that as members of Parliament we must all look at the security of our documents. We must look also at the security of our offices. I have learnt only recently that some honourable members lock their offices and I think that this is something that should be commended to all honourable members. It is something that I shall certainly take into consideration henceforward in the stewardship of the documents that I have before me. The other thing to be learnt is that the members of the Press Gallery in this Parliament have responsibilities also. They are given privileges, but they have responsibilities too, and one of the great results which I hope will come from this Privileges Committee report is that those responsibilities will be highlighted.
If I have read the report correctly, Mr O’Reilly stated in evidence that he was not aware of the position at the time. I trust that he is now aware of it, and that all his colleagues are aware of their responsibilities in these matters. These are the positive achievements of the Privileges Committee.
All I seek is leave of the House to have incorporated in Hansard the findings of the Committee, which I think might well be recorded as part of the proceedings of this debate.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows):
The findings of the Committee are as follows:
That a breach of privilege and a contempt of the House of Representatives occurred when -
an unknown person, on Tuesday, 18 September 1973, made available to Mr N. E. O’Reilly, a copy of the draft report on Stabilisation of Meat Prices,
Mr N. E. O’Reilly transmitted his article to the ‘Sun’ on Tuesday, 18 September 1973, and
the article was published in the ‘Sun’ newspaper on Tuesday, 18 September 1973.
That Mr B. J. Tier, Editor of the ‘Sun’, and Mr N. E. O’Reilly, journalist employed by the Sun’, are both guilty of a contempt of the House of Representatives.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1972, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to Parliament:
Construction of a research laboratory at North Clayton (Monash), Victoria.
The proposal is for the construction of two 3 -storey laboratory and office blocks and two single-storey blocks as stage 1 of the development. Construction is generally to be of reinforced concrete, with floor slabs and concreteblock load-bearing walls. The buildings will be developed to achieve a similar appearance to the university campus opposite. Stages 2 and 3 will be developed in accordance with similar principles. The estimated cost of stage 1 of the proposed work is $4.5m.
The Committee concluded that there was a need for the work, that the site was suitable, and that construction of the work should proceed. The Committee also recommended that stages 2 and 3 should proceed along similar lines of construction as stage 1 without further reference to the Committee. Upon the concurrence of the House to this motion, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation for proposed expenditure announced.
Bill presented by Mr Crean and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
We have introduced Supply Bill (No. 3) 1973-74 in order to obtain further appropriations totalling $35,944,000. These are needed to enable urgent payments to be made pending the passage of Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1973-74. In previous years, the Appropriation Bills have usually been dealt with and passed a good deal earlier than this. A recent exception was in 1971, and additional supply was obtained then. I mention also that since Appropriation Bills have to be passed by both Houses - the Senate as well as the House of Representatives - the operation of the Senate Estimates Committees is a factor to be considered. I understand that the Senate Estimates Committees will not finish their deliberations until at least the end of this week.
Supply Act (No. 1) 1973-74 appropriated a total of $1,556,348,000 for salaries, administrative expenses and other services of departments in the period 1 July 1973 to 30 November 1973. In a number of instances, and for a variety of reasons, these appropriations have proved insufficient.
Salary increases amounting to some $46m which have had to be paid in the supply period have been funded under section 4 of the Supply Act (No. 1) 1973-74, but there are some substantial salary requirements which cannot be met from that provision, such as salary increases to staffs of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Australian National University and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. These amounted to $5,288,000. Not only have there been substantial increases in rates of pay, but also staff changes resulting from the re-structuring of departments, the establishment of new departments and an increased tempo of activity have put additional pressures on the supply appropriations.
In other areas, too, the level of expenditure has been higher than could have been reasonably anticipated. For example, the Department of Education requires an additional $1,834,000 to meet payments under the assistance scheme for isolated school children, and for Aboriginal secondary grants and study grants. In those cases, the numbers of applicants coming forward during the period have been greater than was estimated.
The Department of the Army requires a further $3,733,000 to meet additional gratuity payments and bonuses on re-engagement as well as to compensate for an under-estimate due to a change, as from 1 July, in the method of accounting for recoveries of charges for rations and quarters. For similar reasons an additional $2,243,000 is being sought for the Department of Air. An amount of $2,691,800 is required also to meet a claim from the State of Victoria for advances for servicemen’s housing - a claim which normally is made much later in the financial year.
The remaining items detailed in the Schedule to the Bill are in general required to cover costs of staff increases and underestimates of other requirements pending the availability of the amounts included in the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1973-74. I commend the Bill to honourable members. I seek leave for the debate to continue.
-Order! Is leave granted?* There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– I want to speak for a few moments to the Supply Bill (No. 3) 1973. In essence, it is not unusual that at times the estimates that have been prepared by the Department of the Treasury do not meet up to expectations and it has been necessary to introduce a further Supply Bill to meet certain exigencies. In this instance $35m is needed urgently before the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) is passed by the Parliament so that the necessary finance is available for the following 6-month period. I question why consideration of the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) is running so late. Maybe I am a little cynical when I suggest that it is being delayed deliberately so that it cannot be challenged at a time which would enable the Government to have an election with the proposed referendum to be held on 8 December. Honourable members are aware that a certain time has to be provided for election preparations. If the Appropriation Bil.1, is delayed sufficiently it will be quite impossible to have an election with the referendum on 8 December. Perhaps that is not the reason why the Appropriation Bill is being delayed, but I must question whether it is the reason.
The reason for the introduction of this Bill, as the Treasurer (Mr Crean) has pointed out, is to meet the substantial increases in the rates of pay, the restructuring of departments, the creation of new departments and the increased tempo of activity. I think all honourable members will agree that there is no doubt that the increased tempo is required, but I think it is also one of the things which is causing a good deal of concern in the community. We are seeing a rapid growth of the Commonwealth Public Service. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has said that the rate of growth of the Commonwealth Public Service for 1973- 74 will be only 5 per cent. I point out that this is in excess of the growth rate of the private sector of the community, which is only approximately 3 to 3i per cent. If a 5 per cent growth rate is maintained for a period of 5 years it will mean virtually a 50 per cent increase in the size of the Commonwealth Public Service. People are worried about the increasing expenditure on Government administration and they are concerned about the fact that the Commonwealth Public Service appears to be the pace setter for fixing wages and conditions for the rest of the community. We live in an economic situation of serious inflation, and it ill behoves the Government to say that it is serious about controlling inflation when the Commonwealth Public Service is being used as a pace setter for the rest of the community. Conditions that are awarded to the Public Service flow on and have a considerable impact on outside industry. Honourable members have referred to the increased size of the Public Service. There is no area where the increase has been more dramatic than in the area of the Second Division officers. In the 13 month period from June 1972 to 30 July this year - the period for which the latest figures are available - the number of Second Division officers has increased from 876 to 1,121. In other words, in 13 months there has been an increase of 28 per cent in the number of these very highly paid officers of Commonwealth departments. If one looks at certain departments it will be seen, for example, that in the new Department of Urban and Regional Development the number of Second Division officers has increased in that period from nil to 28; the number in the Department of Minerals and Energy has increased from 11 to 25; the number in the Prime Minister’s Department has increased from 25 to 38 and in the Department of Social Security the number of Second Division officers has increased from 15 to 28.
But we hear about things which are even more alarming than that performance. The Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) has spoken of the need to have 200 Second Division officers by the end of next year and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) speaks in terms of about 50 Second Division officers for his Department alone. If it finished at Second Division officers we might not feel so alarmed. But Parkinson’s law applies and for every Second Division officer there are junior officers and there have to be stenographers. This is the reason why we have this enormous growth in expenditure and in the size of Commonwealth departments. We must question whether it is really necessary to have as many government departments as there are today. There are about 38 departments, which is an increase of ten or twelve since this Government came to office. This has created many more job opportunities. We wonder why it is necessary to have, for instance, a Department of Northern Development when most of the work seems to be done by the Department of Primary Industry, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics or by the Department of Minerals and Energy.
There is redundancy. There does appear to be a degree of extravagance and this seems to be wasteful. No doubt this is the reason why the Treasurer has found it necessary to bring in a third Appropriation Bill to meet his additional commitments. It is true that not all the expenditure is due to the increased size in the Public Service alone. The point I want to make is that this Government must become more cautious to ensure that it does not increase the impact of the public sector on the economy as a whole, as there is a limit to the amount which the private sector can take.
– This Bill seeks parliamentary provision for a further appropriation of $35,944,000. The Opposition does not oppose this legislation. However, we register our particular concern that this appropriation is needed to provide for extensive increases in the Commonwealth Public Service. In addition, we place on record our view that this appropriation should have been submitted to the Parliament at an earlier date to cut out the delays in many Commonwealth payments which have occurred. As the Treasurer (Mr Crean) has pointed out, a precedent to this Bill was established by the former Government in 1971. However, legislation was passed in that instance in sufficient time to prevent the delays in Government payments which have occurred this year. The Treasurer has been prepared to allow a situation to develop which could have been pre-empted by the introduction of a similar Bill some time ago.
The Government has asserted that the pressure of the Government’s legislative program can be blamed for the delay in the passage of Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1973-74. The Government, after all, has the responsibility for the legislative programming of this House. If the main Appropriation Bill had been given the prirority which it warranted, there would have been no need for supplementary measures of this type. I do not want this to be taken as an argument for cutting down speaking time on legislation and the Estimates. We have had far too many examples of the Government using its numbers to stifle debate on important issues. What I am saying is that it should not be beyond the capacity of the Government to ensure that it does not run out of money and at the same time provide adequate time for debates in this Parliament.
It is difficult to understand why the Treasurer claimed that the increases in salaries, administrative expenses and other services of the Commonwealth Public Service could not reasonably have been anticipated. It is clear that some Ministers have just been unprepared to accept the constraints of budgetary responsibilities in their desire to build up the capacities of their Departments and agencies. The Opposition has made continual reference to this over a considerable period, and I do so again today. The Opposition parties believe that the Government should reimpose the former growth limit on the Public Service as part of an overall program of fiscal restraint. However, we have always adopted a responsible attitude in opposition and, consistent with that approach, we will not seek to hold up the passage of this legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Crean) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 12 November (vide page 3164).
Department of Health
Proposed expenditure, $65,797,000.
Proposed expenditure, $507,387,000.
Department of Social Security
Proposed expenditure, $86,084,000.
– Last evening when I commenced my remarks on these estimates I was referring to the distribution of pamphlets by some voluntary health organisations. Mention had been made by previous speakers of the cost of those pamphlets. I should just like to bring the attention of the Committee to other expenditure being incurred by the Australian Medical Association and voluntary health organisations in relation to the printing and distribution of the pamphlet The Universal Health Program: The Plain Facts’. We all know that the AMA’s Sim fighting fund has been subscribed to by doctors to finance the campaign of misrepresentation, fear and deception that it is waging against this Government’s health care proposals which are just and which will bring into operation 2 great principles. The first is the principle of capacity to pay. The taxpayers will share the cost of the health proposals according to their ability to pay as expressed by 1.35 per cent of taxable income. The second principle is the freedom from fear of illness - a great fear that exists amongst our aged people and those who are in less fortunate circumstances. The universal health insurance program will remove that fear. That ought to be an entitlement of all Australians. It is particularly noticeable and despicable that the Society of General Practitioners has concentrated its efforts on the aged, on the pensioners, by threatening to withdraw their services and in a few cases withdrawing actually their services.
I would like to mention a letter that is being distributed in the Newcastle region by one member of the Society of General Practitioners. The letter reads in part:
I find it is necessary tor me to take this action because of the impending Nationalisation of all Health Services in this country, by the Labour Government.
I heartily recommend that you join a Medical Fund or Medical Benefits only, as you will continue to receive free hospital care.
The cost to you will be approximately 55c per week and I am sure a lot of you can afford this amount, particularly if you smoke cigarettes.
Your medical fund rebate cheque will be accepted as total payment at all times.
The distribution of that kind of letter to aged people who worry about their health is indicative of the kind of campaign that is being waged. Before I move on to the health organisations’ pamphlets may I say that I would like to be certain that the funds that are being contributed to this campaign by the medical profession will not be listed as part of the advertising costs of their practices. I should like to be certain that doctors’ contributions to the AMA fighting fund do not come under the heading of advertising expenditure and so become a tax deduction, because if this is to be the case it will mean that most of the $lm that they are putting up - at least half of it, anyway, because of the rate at which doctors are taxed - will have been subscribed by the taxpayer. Voluntary health insurance funds are spending a lot of money distributing pamphlets. Again I am sure that the members of the funds have not been asked what they think about that expenditure. Their advice has not been sought, and certainly their permission has not been sought, to authorise the expenditure of fund finances on what can only be described as a pamphlet that attempts to create fear, deception and confusion in the minds of our aged and sick people.
– I again raise a protest on behalf of the Opposition at the way in which I, as Opposition spokesman on health and social security, and all honourable members on this side of the Parliament are being forced to debate a document which is one of the most important documents that has been tabled in this Parliament in many years. I refer to the White Paper entitled ‘The Australian Health Insurance Program’ - a 71-page document written in first class English, with no waffle and well edited. The only opportunity that members on this side have of debating it is in a 10-minute speech on the estimates. That, I believe, borders on a parliamentary scandal. This White Paper, as has been said by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) and the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), contains virtually what will be in the Bills to be presented in two or three weeks time. I would have thought that the purpose of laying a White Paper on the table is to allow interested organisations to comment on it, to put their views forward through the elected members on both sides of the Parliament so that the Minister and his advisers can consider constructive criticisms when drafting the legislation. I regard the tabling of this White Paper as a farce. What concerns me about it is that it does little to allay the fears of those on the Opposition side of the chamber about the Government’s proposed health scheme. Of course there is some sugar coating in it here and there. There are a few extra dollars for private hospitals and so on, but the fundamental thrust of the Australian Labor Party’s health scheme remains in its naked form.
Let me comment on one or two things. We had an argument this morning about whether 87 per cent of Australian people were covered by health insurance or whether 92 per cent were covered. That argument at this time is relatively unimportant, although the difference between the 2 percentages represents some hundreds of thousands of people. No matter what the figure is, for the sake of argument let us take the Opposition’s figure and assume that 90 to 92 per cent of Australians are already covered voluntarily by health insurance by going into an insurance fund at their own option. The Government says: This is no good. We will disregard the wishes of 90 per cent of the population and we will force those people to pay insurance into a Government health fund through the taxation mechanism’. If the Government had argued that universal health cover is desirable and that the 8 per cent to 10 per cent who at present are not covered by health insurance should be covered in some way and had set about devising some means of getting that 8 per cent to 10 per cent into the scheme, that would have had my total support. But instead of looking at the 8 to 10 per cent, the Government is looking at the ones who have already, opted voluntarily for insurance and will add to their tax.
– We had to.
– I did not get that intelligent interjection.
– It is not voluntary. You have to be in it.
– That is probably the most ridiculous interjection I have ever suffered the misfortune to hear in this House. I think the honourable gentleman would be better served if he stuck, to the Australian Capital Territory or whatever he is administering at the moment. There is a further implication of this compulsion. If a person is paying additional tax and that entitles him, allegedly free of means test, to go into a public hospital, human nature being what it is, there will be an enormously increased demand on the services of the public hospitals in this country, which are already overtaxed and at top utilisation.
– The honourable pugilistic gentleman interjects and says: ‘Nonsense’.
– Why do you not pick the right fellow? It was not I who interjected.
– Maybe he would be better served in the pursuit he followed last week than in commenting on a health scheme. The figures as accepted by Drs Deeble and Scotton are that there are now 3.5 beds per 1,000 people in the Melbourne metropolitan area. A concession is made by the Government’s advisers that on the implementation of its scheme there will need to be an additional 800 to 900 beds for public or standard ward patients. I ask .the Minister where the additional beds will be coming from in the initial stages. Is my information incorrect that an additional 800 to 900 public ward beds will be required in metropolitan Melbourne? If it is incorrect, let him say so. If it is correct, where will he get those beds? There is only one place he can get the beds and that is from the private hospital sector
He will destroy a system which has served this nation fantastically well for years. I can see the deal. The great private hospitals of Melbourne - the Mercy, the Saint Vincent’s, the Freemasons and so on - will have this proposition put to them: ‘We will give you X dollars. We will give you some incentive provided you give us half your beds for standard ward care’. That will be the carrot held out in front of them. A private hospital then will have half its beds public and half private. What happens to that private hospital then? It will lose all its character. Does the Minister intend to spend taxpayers’ funds in equipping that private hospital with the extraordinarily sophisticated equipment that a public hospital must” have? If he is to do that, that is a waste of resources. If he does not do that, the standard of beds in private hospitals will be such as to cater only for people not requiring emergency treatment. Private hospitals will deteriorate into nursing homes and their whole character and the dedication of the people serving in them will be destroyed.
I have touched on 2 subjects that arise from a 71 -page report and already 7 minutes out pf my 10 minutes have gone. The Minister states in the report that the Government scheme will be cheaper for three out of four families and seven out of 10 people. This is a half truth. If he is talking about the 1.35 per cent tax his figures may be correct. I have not checked them, but he can rest assured that I am having them checked. But what about the amount coming out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which originally under the Deeble-Scotton scheme was to be $1.25 for every $1 contributed by the public? I understand that the ratio is now to be $1.50 to $1. The contribution from the Consolidated Revenue Fund is increasing all the time. This is a hidden cost on every taxpayer. Who will pay it?
The Labor Party says that it is for the underdog, the underprivileged. This scheme will work against the very people it is supposed to champion - the people on a low wage, who now can be admitted to one of the great public hospitals of this country - the Royal Melbourne, the Alfred and so on - without being subject to a means test and can be treated for emergency illnesses. Now they will have to compete with everybody else in the community who is wealthier than they and who normally would not be admitted to a public hospital. How does this help the working man? How does it help the person on the lower income?
He said that admission to public hospitals will be free of a means test. The whole of the White Paper is riddled with means tests. The very contribution is a means test.
There is so much more I want to say. I conclude, though, with one statement in the White Paper that secrecy will be guaranteed in the data bank of the health insurance cards. I respect the Minister’s undertaking that he will not divulge the personal information on those cards about a person’s medical history. Let me read to him something from Rydge’s journal of September 1973. I would be fascinated to receive his denial of this statement. The article says:
The large scale IBM computers of the Department of Health in Canberra were churning through prescription data being sent down land lines, when their .printer stopped and began to list out airline reservations.
Meanwhile, at TAA’s headquarters in Melbourne, TAA’s Univac computers faltered from their daily task of processing airline reservations, unable to handle some chemists’ prescriptions just arrived over the line from Brisbane.
That makes a farce of what the Minister had to say about complete secrecy. I am not alleging that- the Minister will divulge these things. As a Liberal, I am concerned about this personal information being on record.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Martin) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to reply quickly to the points that have been made in the course of the debate on the estimates for the Department of Social Security, which has gone well over 3 hours, well beyond the time set down for this discussion. Some mention was made of aged persons accommodation. I agree with those honourable members from both sides of the House who expressed the view that there was a need to review the limit to which subsidy is paid by the Australian Government. A working party is currently assessing this matter. I had hoped to have its report by now, but there have been some complexities. I should have it fairly soon. Nonetheless, this will be only an interim report. The inquiry being conducted is an extensive one. After that inquiry is completed a policy decision will be required to be made. I am afraid that the limits will have to stand as they are until then. But honourable members will recollect that in the autumn session this year I indicated in this House that the Government was reviewing the whole concept behind the provision of aged persons accommodation. Without taking up the time of the House, I draw the attention of honourable members to a table, which I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Martin) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– This table shows the percentage of money going towards the cost of aged persons accommodation and coming from private organisations, which is contributed by residents under the designation of residents’ donations. It has increased in recent times. It has increased over the years. In the July-September period this year 87 per cent of the money being provided for those organisations was coming from contributors donations. This leaves me with a very uneasy feeling and justifies the inquiry which the Government is carrying out.
The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), among others, raised the important point of the situation of deserted husbands. All of us who have been associated with this matter are concerned about these people. The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) raised the point of a man deserted by his wife and left with 5 children, who receives $65 a week and pays $16 a week rent for accommodation for himself and his children, leaving $49 a week for all of them or a little over $7 for each of them. He attracts no benefit from the Department of Social Security. A woman in the same position without any other means besides income who is deserted, would attract a pension benefit of $45.45. Clearly there is an injustice here. I hope that we can do something to fix it. One of the galling things which the honourable member for Mackellar discovered, and which I have discovered, is that resources are limited but demands are unlimited. We do not really know how much it will cost. I have heard estimates varying from $9m or $10m to around $25m. Of course, this raises questions about priorities, for instance in relation to the domiciliary care allowance of $14 a week.
Both the honourable member for Chifley and the honourabile member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) criticised this scheme for exempting people under 65 years of age from the benefit. I know full well that there are many people under 65 years of age who have, it seems to me, a very compelling case to attract this benefit, if we apply the same objective medical criteria which are applied to people over 65 years of age. This is something that we have under review. I do not know when we will be able to act on it. I am not going to suggest that it is something which we can act on in the next Budget, for instance. A rough calculation - that is all one can do in this area because there are so many unknowns - reveals that it could cost as much as $35m or even as much as $50m if we were to provide this benefit for the whole community. We just do not know. The Government is being lectured by the Opposition on cutting down Government spending. In that climate the situation is not particularly encouraging and one wonders what support the Government would receive from honourable members opposite.
The honourable member for Mackellar raised the point about young families. I endorse his view. I think in some ways some disproportion has developed.
In this Parliament all parties have consistently expressed great concern about the needs of the aged. That concern was and continues to be justified. Much has been done but it is still not enough. More needs to be do.ie. But we have not done much about families. I hope that the Australian assistance plan, which the Government is in the process of implementing, will assist greatly here. Its fostering of local initiatives and its support for services as distinct from benefits should help a lot. In fact I assert that it will help a lot. As to benefits, I would like to scrap the Social Services Act and to introduce a simplified statement of entitlement for benefits as a right, and not to categorise people into different sections as the present Act does. But we cannot do this until the inquiry into poverty is completed, because key recommendations will come, for instance, from Professor Henderson and Professor Gates, among others - they are the 2 key people in this area where benefits are concerned - and their recommendations will largely gear the direction we take in the development of future benefit rates.
I come now to the health insurance program. It is clear that there is still a great deal of error and confusion in the interpretation of what we are proposing. I would have thought that the White Paper would have assisted greatly here. The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) asked me 5 questions and I will answer them. He queried the error of $10m on doctors’ fees. He queried another error in relation to individual doctors incomes on average. It is true that there was an error. By the nature of these sorts of calculations, errors do occur. For instance, from time to time the Bureau of Census and Statistics has to revise some of the statistical data that it presents. Sometimes this is because of a lag of information. At other times - not often, but sometimes - it is because of an error. If we are going to make an issue of errors, I would remind honourable members opposite of the $26m error made by the Australian Medical Association in calculating .the total cost of increased medical charges. The AMA understated the total cost by about S26m. I remind honourable members opposite also of the error of the previous Government during the 1 969 election campaign when it said that the common fee plan would cost an additional $l6m after 12 months experience. Early in the next year, 1970, after the election it had to revise its estimate and add another SI 3m to that total. Then when the Budget was brought down we found that the total cost was not about $30m but closer to $40m. So we arc all capable of making errors. If we take a comparative scale of error, this Government’s errors do not happen often and they are on a much less significant scale than those of the former Government.
The honourable member referred to the number of people who are not insured. I stand by my assertion that about 87 per cent of the community is insured. I do not accept that because Queensland has free hospitalisation there is a distortion. We are comparing unlikes. People not insured who have to use the public hospital system in Queensland have to wait at outpatients clinics, with all the attendant inconveniences. That is scarcely comparable to the private insurance cover for private medical treatment. Under the Government’s scheme everyone will be covered for private medical insurance. They will have the choice of obtaining treatment from a private doctor of their choosing on a fee for service basis. I think those were the main questions asked by the honourable member for Boothby.
He queried something about the estimate of cost of the health scheme made in October 1972. I can only assume that he is talking about a total costing. I remind him that, in the nature of financing, in any national obligation or public undertaking there is a growing cost burden and that the cost estimates for 1972 are not applicable this year or the following year. What is comparable is the total cost of the present private health insurance scheme plus the cost of the repatriation and local medical officer services, pensioner medical services and pensioner hospital services.
A comparative assessment shows that we will cover everyone in the community for the same total cost as the present scheme, which we assert covers only 87 per cent of the total population. Even if we were to allow the 90 per cent or 92 per cent that the honourable member for Hotham suggests are covered, there would still be more than one million people in this community who are not covered by the present system. The White Paper is very clear on this. In the last sentence of the last paragraph it says - I have said this before; I guess I could say it another 100 times and the Opposition would still be asserting otherwise - that the total net cost to the Budget, including the effect of tax deductions, will be approximately the same as would be the case under the existing health insurance scheme. So there will be no extra cost to the exchequer. Finally, I come to the comments which have been made by the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). He said that the White Paper is a farce in the sense, to be fair, that-
– I said that the way in which it was being handled was a farce.
– Yes. I was about to say, to be fair, that he said that it was a farce in the sense that there has not been any debate on it. I remind the honourable member that it was never proposed that it would be a paper for debate. We have always stated that it was our clear intention that it would be a comprehensive indication of the sort of legislation we would be introducing, that that legislation would quickly follow the White Paper and that that would be the appropriate time for an exhaustive debate on the program.
Mir Chipp - Can you guarantee an exhaustive debate or will you gag it like you gag everything else?
– The Leader of the House (Mr Daly) is in charge of those affairs.
– Why do you give such undertakings when you cannot carry them out?
– I would regard it as an exhaustive debate, but members of the Opposition want to debate things in perpetuity. I think the honourable member will find that the debating time allowed to the Opposition will be much greater than the debating time ever allowed to us when we were in opposition. In the 12 years in which I was in opposition honourable members opposite were quite ruthless with the gag, the guillotine and any other sort of restriction or obstruction on open debate. We have been much more forebearing and much more tolerant than honourable members opposite ever were. It is just that honourable members opposite still think that they should be able to assert themselves in every way, as they did in the past.
The point about the White Paper is that it is a comprehensive statement of our intent. Several months ago we presented a planning committee report, which in the idiom of the moment has been called a Green Paper. There has been a continuing debate of several months on that report. Because of the views we gleaned from the community on the attitudes and some of the problems that the community foresaw, we have finally bought in the White Paper, which diverts in quite a number of significant areas from the recommendations put forward in the planning committee’s report. I want to stress that there was a continuing debate - at times a rather vigorous one - in the community. I always thought that it was remarkable that members of the Opposition never tried to join in that debate by initiating anything in this Parliament. I ought to say, in fairness for the record, that the honourable member for Hotham was not the Opposition’s spokesman on health affairs during most of that period. Nonetheless, that is a fact. The first occasion of which I am aware that any debate has been initiated here was last week. It was initiated by the honourable member for Boothby, who is a back bench member of the Opposition. No one from the front bench of the Opposition sought to join in the debate. That is not our fault. If we get the clear impression that there is not much interest - no particular alacrity - in joining in a debate we must accept it. The Opposition has to make its own way in this business. It cannot expect the Government to lay down a path of roses for it. It has to indicate whether it wants to debate the matter. The Government would have been happy to accommodate the Opposition at any time, although it has always understood the Opposition’s reluctance to debate this.
The honourable member for Hotham made the point that we were disregarding the wishes of those people who are currently in private insurance by introducing a universal scheme and then, as he put it, forcing them into the universal scheme. He calls the private scheme ‘voluntary health insurance’. Those are words around which a fair bit of debate can take place. There is not such of a volun tary nature in the present system of health insurance. One either joins it or does not have cover. One either pays the rates set by the present Government and, in previous years, the former Government and gets the benefits which the present Government or former Government set or one does not get anything. There is nothing voluntary about it. One cannot afford to take the risk of missing out, except in those cases - they are all too often - where one is too poor to afford the expensive nature of such insurance.
I should point out the inequity of the present scheme. One is a very generous contributor to it as a taxpayer - I say that because $2 out of every $3 that goes towards the cost of medical services comes from the taxpayer - but if one is not a member of a medical benefits scheme one gets no benefits from either the scheme or the Government. If one belongs to the scheme but goes to the outpatients’ clinic of a public, hospital one gets no benefit from these funds because the medical profession has been successful in controlling the amount of the market which is covered by the scheme.
The honourable member for Hotham said that we ought to put into the present scheme the other 8 per cent to 10 per cent - his figures - who are not covered. That is the whole point of the exercise. Our scheme :s a more efficient way of raising the same total volume of money and of covering everyone in the community. It will cover them in this way at the same total cost because of the efficiencies of operation. We will not waste enormous amounts of money on commission rates and allocations to reserves. We can slash nearly in half the cost of the operation, which is about IS per cent of contributions to medical schemes merely by having a universal collection. That is something honourable members opposite never explored when they were in Government, and it is something which they ought to have explored because they may have been able to make some sort of saving grace for the present system of health insurance. All the money saved will go into improved benefits in the community. If we were to try to expand the present scheme to bring more people into it we would incur more costs, that is, we would be going beyond the cost of our universal scheme. I point jut that it has been estimated that to cover those people presently enjoying pensioner medical service entitlements with the present private health insurance scheme would cost an additional J 160m. From where are we going to get the money, especially when members of the Opposition are hectoring us on the need to cut down on expenditure?
There are a couple of other .points I want to make. One question which was asked was where were we going to get the increased public ward beds to meet the increased demand. There is, toy and large, no shortage of hospital beds in the Australian community, and there will be no increase in the bed utilisation. People will not .be rushing into hospitals to have amputations, hysterectomies, tonsillectomies or whatever they are because they are free. Those things are done because they are needed. In most cases they are done on referral. There will be a change in the pattern of distribution of beds between, say, private and public wards. But that is something which will be determined by public choice and not by imposition. The extent to which the public will be able to go into a public ward free of charge, free of means test, as a matter of a free exercise of choice indicates an expansion of choice over what currently prevails. We are making arrangements with the private hospitals and will continue to do so to ensure that there is adequate provision of public ward beds in the community.
The scheme we are introducing is cheaper, as we have asserted in the report, for 3 out of 4 families, including those in which there is a working wife, and for 7 out of 10 single people. As I have indicated, the amount of money coming from Consolidated Revenue for this scheme will be no greater, approximately, than would go into the present scheme. The ratio is not l.S to 1 in the first year, as the honourable member for Hotham suggested, but 1.28 to 1. The increase comes about because of the more generous .bed-day subsidy to the private hospitals, especially the charitable, religious and community ones which we believe have a most important role to fulfil in our society and which we will do a great deal to support. I hope the honourable member for Hotham does not oppose .that.
Finally, the honourable member for Hotham said that the contributions represent a means test. Yes, I suppose they do. One pays according to one’s means - not as under the present scheme where the wealthier one is the less one pays and where the more one has a need because of one’s limited income the more one pays. Secrecy will be preserved in the present scheme. I think the things that went wrong and that the honourable member for Hotham talked about relating to the Department of Health and Trans-Australian Airlines probably went wrong under his Government’s administration. I am not sure about that. I will check on it. That does not change the fact that defects can happen. But the fact is that this information will be fed in on code numbers and only those who have access to the unit where the identifying number is held will be able to bring together the information that is being fed in, which will be nothing more than, for instance, ‘consultation’ or an item number. Therefore nothing personal will be revealed. Only those people can do it. They will be largely medical members.
If I can give the honourable member for Hotham one warning, currently I am investigating the practices of the Department of Social Security developed under previous governments of the releasing to a whole range of authorities of what I regard as very personal information by people who use the files of that Department. That report should soon be completed and when it is, I will be releasing it because I have been appalled and stunned to discover the extent to which honourable members opposite, who now say that they are concerned about the rights to confidentiality of the individual and the secrecy of personal information held in Government departments, permitted information to be released to all sorts of outside agencies. Not only law enforcement agencies but also, in some cases, even debt collecting agencies have been able to obtain information from the Department of Social Security. The extent to which this has happened is scandalous and I will be making a public statement about it. This happened under the previous Government.
- Mr Chairman, I raise a point of order. What the Minister for Social Security just delivered was a king sized smear against the previous Government and previous Ministers.
– Would the Minister be prepared to-
– Order! If the honourable member for Hotham rises to speak in the debate, I will give him the call. He cannot base a point of order on that type of statement.
– Well, the Minister should not have made such a statement until the report was ready.
– Order! I call the honourable member for Chisholm.
– In the mouth of this Labor Government, open government seems to mean that you tell all the so-called secrets of the previous Government and hide all your own. I challenge the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) who has just made that absolutely unsubstantiated smear to give the Parliament any of the information upon which such a scurrilous claim is based so that it can be judged by this House. It has become absolutely and completely typical for the Minister for Social Security again and . again to smear people. He smears the previous Government, he smears us, he smears doctors and the health funds. He smears anyone to suit has purposes because he knows very well that his precious health scheme is in tatters. The evidence of the health scheme toeing in tatters is the latest White Paper which he has put before this House and which he refuses to allow this House to debate.
It is odd that the Minister can give us the costing of a Liberal proposal for the reform of the present health scheme. He costed a proposal which we had made at $160m. But he gave us no costings whatever in order to back up his claims about how the Government’s health scheme would be cheaper for 3 out of 4 people. Even if it is true - I very much doubt that it is and the Minister does not have the guts to give us the figures upon which he bases such statements - it would still be more expensive for one in 4 families and for 3 out of 7 individuals. So, what about this open government? How about stopping the smears and giving us some genuine open government?
Anyone who heard the Minister for Social Security speaking a few minutes ago about the problems of aged persons homes and hostels would, I think, clearly understand precisely what terrifies us about the Labor health scheme. Here we have a situation of raging inflation, meaning that approvals for new homes and hostels for aged people have had to come to a stop. They have ground to a halt in the offices of the Government. Because the Government is unable to increase the subsidy for as yet it has not been able to find the money, it has effectively stopped plans for the building of new homes and hostels for elderly people in our community. That is what we face in that area; how much bigger is the health area as a whole. If the Government cannot find money for that area, how on earth are we going to be able to trust it to find the sort of resources which would be necessary under its new scheme. Surely this in itself is warning enough of what happens when government gets too much of a grip on basic community services.
In Britain, for instance, where the health scheme is funded by the national Government, I understand that the percentage of the national income spent on health is smaller than in any comparable Western nation. That in itself would be part of the reason why in Britain they have such difficulty with their health scheme. This suggests that the more the responsibility for basic services such as this one is shifted away from the people and placed in the hands of governments, the less efficient the services will become and the less the community can provide the resources necessary to run such services successfully.
The Minister said that he stands by his assertion that about 87 per cent of the community is covered by the present health scheme. This statement of the Minister is at least colligative, if not worse, because what the Minister has done in his White Paper on this scheme is to extract a figure from th: figures provided by the Bureau of Census and Statistics - a perfectly responsible and clear summation of the evidence - and from its tables. The Bureau of Census and Statistics states clearly:
Because of this circumstance, the proportion of persons covered by such schemes was lower in Queensland than elsewhere, being only 66.4 per cent, whereas in the rest of Australia coverage was 89.9 per cent, the combined figure for all Australia being 86.S per cent.
The point is that it is only fair when picking one figure out of a sentence to pick also the other figures which make sense of the whole sentence. The Minister simply cannot say that what is going on in Queensland with respect to the free health care that is available in that State is not relevant to the question of voluntary insurance. Of course it is relevant. Everybody knows that it is relevant.
– Hear, hear!
– My friend, the honourable member for Griffith, who is from Queensland would completely concur in this.
The reference to Queensland was also interesting for precisely the point that the Minister made. He said that, in Queensland, people have to wait at an outpatient clinic of a public hospital and that such outpatient clinic services are not comparable to what one would receive through a private doctor’s clinic. Of course, this is the sort of point we make again and again. It is in this area that we have basic objections to the Government’s health scheme. People want and are entitled to the best quality and the private quality care. It is interesting that even in Queensland, so many people bother to belong to private insurance funds. Another point made toy the Minister for Social Security is that one of the main reasons why migrants will not stay in Australia is that we do not have a universal health scheme.
– As my friend again suggests, it is absolute garbage. There is no evidence to support this proposition. Indeed, on all the evidence I have ever heard, the Minister has got it back to front. Thousands and thousands of migrants came to Australia because they believed that this was a free country, a country where the individual mattered, where the private life, thoughts, beliefs and relationships mattered and could matter in the most intimate and important of human relationships such as health care, education and similar matters. This Government still allows us the choice of the automobile we want to drive. When is it going to decide what sort of car we should drive? It is in the most important matters of life that the Government is refusing our freedoms. It is running against the whole tenor of Australian history - the sort of things which have made us a proud and free country. As I say, it is this sort of thing that has drawn people to Australia and it is precisely the sort of scheme that the Minister wishes to establish in this country that they were escaping from when they came here. They left places like Britain with its nationalised health scheme and still they tell us horrifying stories about that scheme. If I had time I would deal with them chapter and verse.
As is admitted by the architects of the scheme which Labor seeks to introduce in this country, it is fundamentally an amalgam of the British and Canadian schemes. It cannot be denied that it entails significant extensions of nationalisation or socialism in this country.
The point is that in Britain the backlog of cases is absolutely appalling. If it is an urgent case for hospital treatment, the patient might get into hospital within a year or two. If it is in the not so urgent list, a patient could wait up to 5 years, or I understand in particular cases, even 6 years. I recall the case of a girl who told me she went to her local doctor who thought that she had a malignant growth in her stomach. He said that he would write to the hospital to see whether he could get her an appointment for the specialist. She said to him, ‘For God’s sake, can’t you rmg him up? I want to see him right away.’ The doctor replied, ‘Of course not. I am going to do it as I am told how to do it.’ He wrote, and 6 or 7 days later he got a reply saying that she could call in 6 weeks to get an opinion from the specialist. Instead, that girl went the next day to see the same specialist privately and paid him for an opinion, which was a good one for her. However, she had to pay for that opinion from her own resources. So much for a government scheme. So much for nationalised medicine.
– The plans of the centralist socialist Government to nationalise medicine have been very well publicised at the taxpayers expense, but from the public reaction to this exercise in socialism it is crystal clear that, like braces without pants, this. misuse of public funds will serve no useful purpose. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has rapidly gained a reputation for reciting platitudes - principles without programs. Never have so many words been uttered to say so little. The people of Australia will prove to the Minister that bread and butter will beat power and money. The Minister’s ideas are getting a low candlepower reception from the Australian public. That this should be so does not even raise the eyebrows of thinking people. The Minister has made many frenzied attempts to defend the indefensible and he has cried the plaintive cry of misrepresentation. It is true that there has been blatant misrepresentation, not from this side of the House but from the Government and from its cohorts. Stripped to its essentials and casting aside the verbiage, Labor’s health scheme is not a worthwhile effort to improve the quality of Australian health care. Rather, it is an exercise in political philosophy framed in economic terms which change the costs every time a new announcement is made.
The Minister has stated that the new arrangements will be cheaper for three out of four families. We claim that this is a deliberate misrepresentation of the mandate that the Government says it has from the Australian people. I shall tell honourable members why. I read from the Australian Labor Party’s policy:
A Federal Labor Government will introduce a universal health scheme. It will be administered by a single health fund. Contributions will be paid according to taxable income. An estimated 350,000 Australian families will pay nothing. Four out of five-
Not three out of four - - will pay less than their contributions to the existing scheme. Hospital care will be paid for completely by the fund in whatever ward the patient’s doctor advises.
We claim either that this is deliberate misrepresentation by the Government or that it has conveniently forgotten what it went to the people for. The statement that four out of five people will pay less is completely denied now, even by the Government. It has changed this to three out of four. The Government said that it will pay for hospital care in whatever ward the patient’s doctor advises. The plan does not allow for this. I take issue on the claim that the people will not be paying any more than they do at the present time, because nowhere in the policy speech is any allowance made for contributions from workers compensation and third party insurance funds. Therefore we claim that this was not a true statement in the policy speech. There was no statement in the policy speech of a contribution from the national revenue. The Minister has stated that in 1974-75 it will be 1.28 per cent. I ask the Minister to explain by simple arithmetic his statement that three out of four families, and seven out of ten individuals, will pay less. In fact they will be paying 1.35 per cent plus a contribution to workers compensation and third party insurance, plus their ordinary share of national revenue which they pay through income tax.
There are a lot of dun grey areas which the Minister has not explained to the public or the Parliament. People are worried, particularly in Queensland, where the fulfilment of State responsibilities by a government capably led by Mr Bjelke-Petersen and Sir Gordon Chalk has thwarted the efforts of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and guaranteed the preservation of State rights. Their stand has been a critical one for the defence of the people’s rights. In answer to a question by me yesterday, the Minister scathingly referred to Queensland as having a second class hospital scheme. I take umbrage at this statement. I know that many excellent people - doctors, administrators, staff both trained and domestic, and patients - will throw this statement back into the teeth of the Minister at the next election. It is to the everlasting credit of the Queensland Minister for Health, the Honourable S. D. Tooth, that notwithstanding pressure from informed groups to amend the method of its financing to bring the hospital scheme into line with that applying in other States in the Commonwealth, this step was never taken. I repeat that hospitalisation in Queensland in public hospitals has been free for over 30 years. Let the Minister deny that. One cannot have any method that is cheaper than absolutely free.
Additionally, in Queensland dental facilities are available, subject to a means test, in 141 dental clinics scattered throughout the State. I take issue with the Minister’s rather irrational reply to a question from me yesterday when he described Queensland’s hospital system as second rate. The Minister obviously does not know the facts. He has not even paid that system the compliment of examining it, so I will give him some of the facts taken from the Scotton and Deeble report which he commissioned, although he has not admitted its findings in regard to Queensland hospitals. Scotton and Deeble found that the bed ratio in Queensland - 7.3 beds available for each 1,000 of population - is the highest in Australia. Notwithstanding that high ratio, Queensland incurs the lowest cost for occupied ‘beds. Victoria, with the lowest bed-population ratio, has a daily cost about 50 per cent above the Queensland figure. It is also a fact that on most elective surgery, the waiting list in Queensland hospitals is considerably shorter than it is in other States.
The Minister in his various statements has made significant play on the fact that one million Australians are not covered by health insurance. I ask him whether this figure includes the 50 per cent of Queenslanders who, on account of the excellence of their system - ‘ a choice between free public and private hospitals, and freedom of choice of doctor - do not need to be covered by health insurance as provided by the private insurance organisations. Why do they need to be covered when they already have, for nothing, medical services in hospitals similar to those provided by general practitioners and specialists in private practice? It is an obvious tribute to the dual system of free public hospital medicine and private enterprise medicine that there have been no major upsets within the system. The dual system can work in harmony. Many of the specialists and general practitioners in private practice also join the staff of hospitals on a sessional basis. In rural areas, doctors in some centres take on the post of medical superintendent of the local hospital with a right of private practice. Incidentally, Queensland insurance fund figures indicate that there a large number of people insure medically only. This indicates that they want the doctor of their choice, but they still opt for free public hospital service when they require hospitalisation.
I repeat that there will be no freedom of choice of doctors for hospital patients in standard wards. It is true that midwifery cases may be fortunate - at long shot odds - and get their own doctor, but it is highly unlikely. This matter is dealt with in detail in section 4.22 at pages 47 and 48 of the White Paper. As I have indicated, Queensland people have signified their desire to have a choice of doctor. No amount of hoodwinking by the Minister can camouflage this salient fact. The private patients in public hospitals in Queensland pay the lowest rates in Australia for private and intermediate ward treatment - $19 a day in a private ward and $16 a day in an intermediate ward, all inclusive. This enables many people to take advantage of privately operated hospitals and still gain full benefits from health insurance.
The proposed national health insurance scheme will tax all salary and wage earning Queenslanders an extra 1.35 per cent of their taxable income to provide an inferior choice of service for their hospital and medical needs. I charge the Minister with political sleight of hand as far as Queensland is concerned. We will not fall for the carrot he is dangling. He wants Queensland to sign an agreement to provide the same system as is now operating but with the addition of the 1.35 per cent extra tax and other indirect taxes. The Minister’s bait of an extra $35m for Queensland is purely-
The DEPTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Mackellar) - Order! The honourable member’s time hasexpired.
– There was one thing which came ringing through the speech of the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), that State rights transcend human rights. The only thing that matters to members of the Opposition is that power shall be distributed to their friends. We do not have much concern for the protocols and precedents of the constitutional situation here; we are concerned with the rights of people. One of the other astonishing things was his very great admiration for the Queensland hospital system under which, I understand from what he said, some people can actually receive hospital treatment free. From what I have heard from the other honourable members opposite, this will mean that the hospitals will be flooded with Queenslanders and the hospitals will not be able to cope with the situation. I should have thought that in coming here to help the nation the honourable member would have been anxious that the principles behind that scheme - or those that shone out from his speech - would be extended to the benefit of the rest of the continent.
Now I want to speak briefly on behalf of my colleague the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop), who I hope will be back on duty next week. Those things which were raised from both sides of the chamber in referring to the Repatriation Department’s estimates will be given serious consideration. The honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) had something to say about eligibility for cancer treatment. My Party campaigned for a long while on the question of eligibility for cancer treatment. I know that people in the medical profession may say, just because we cannot say what causes cancer, that there is no obligation to accept cancer as being war caused. I suppose that as a grim sort of logic one can accept that. But a long while ago we started campaigning for this eligibility when we were further back and much closer to the war. It is a belief on this side of the chamber and, I would expect, on the other side of the chamber and in the community generally that, in a situation where a serviceman is beset with one of the most grievous of illnesses, there is little room for logic; what we want is compassion and humanity. One of the first things we did on being elected to office, after campaigning for it for years, was to extend eligibility for treatment for cancer to those who had served in a theatre of war.
The honourable member for Indi challenged that proposal. He said that it was illogical and that we should either not give it at all or we should give it to all ex-servicemen. Perhaps that is so, but our proposal is in line with the general principles upon which many of these benefits are extended; that is, they are given to people who have served in a theatre of war. This applies to the Service pension and also to tuberculosis benefits. The honourable member for Indi raised the question of what is an actual theatre of war. Perhaps it is time that we gave serious thought to the extension of these benefits right across the board to all those who had service in the forces and decided that the lines that were drawn on the map back in 1942 and 1943 were not necessarily valid. 1 shall ensure that that matter is taken up by the appropriate parts of the Government in an examination of this matter. It is also relevant to the questions raised by my honourable friend from Swan (Mr Bennett) who, I think, referred to a person who had served in the Merchant Navy and one who had served with the Americans. My own belief is that it is a question of service; it is not a question of where one was. It is not even a question of the quality of service as represented by rank or distinctions, but the fact that one has served. It is our objective continuously to extend repatriation benefits so that all doubts are removed. I would guess that in that objective we would have the support of honourable members from both sides of the chamber.
The honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) raised several questions which we shall have examined. Firstly, I think that he was probably being a little unkind about the repatriation system in suggesting that rehabilitation benefits were not available and that the benefits of modern medicine were not available to the repatriation beneficiary. There is a research section of the Department which continuously examines the ways in which members receiving benefits shall be able to get better treatment. In reply to his remarks I would just pass the comment about compensation - that is of course what it is all about - that perhaps now, after almost 60 years since the foundation of the repatriation system, it is time that we started to look at compensation as having some value other than that simply of monetary return. For most people these days probably satisfactory medical treatment and services of that sort are more important than small pensions. A question was raised about the administration of the system. The repatriation system has been under continuous scrutiny since its inception. On the front page of the Repatriation Act it will be seen that there have been about 60 amendments to the Act over the years in an attempt to find a satisfactory system of administration and satisfactory rates of pension.
The question has also been raised of what sort of pensions ought to be paid and what is meant by adjusting pensions proportionately. We were asked what the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) meant when he said this in his policy speech. He mentioned that the basic compensation payments under the Repatriation Act should be given a fixed relationship to the Commonwealth minimum wage so that the special rates for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen are equal to the minimum wage, the general 100 per cent rate is equal to 50 per cent of that wage, and other pensions, rates and allowances are adjusted accordingly. In determining what proportion these should be it was considered that an increase of 25 per cent was appropriate. This was in line with the proposed increase of the special rate from $48 a week, when the Government took office, to the current minimum wage of $60.10 a week. I assure honourable members on both sides of the chamber that these matters will be examined thoroughly. I can assure honourable members that all the ideas that have been thrown into the ring on this occasion will be given much more serious consideration than has been the case in the past when this chamber has been the battleground for many ideas about repatriation but not too many initiatives have been taken by the previous Government in this regard.
– I shall make my remarks very brief in accordance with the undertaking I have given to the Leader of the House (Mr Daly), who is at the table. I have already spoken of the manner in which the Government’s health scheme will affect the people of Queensland. But these comments I wish to direct towards the efforts of a Mrs Doreen Farrar of Heidelberg Street, East Brisbane, a constituent of mine, who, like a great number of Queenslanders, has been very disturbed at the Government’s proposals in relation to its health scheme. This woman, without being paid or asked, and not being associated with the Liberal Party, the Australian Medical Association or any particular doctor, has probably created a national record in that up till last weekend she had personally collected 7,554 signatures against the Government’s health proposals. The use of petitions is a democratic right of any citizen, but I should like to pay tribute to her for the manner in which she has gone out and worked so hard for something in which she believes. I hope that these petitions have not simply fallen on deaf ears as far as the Government is concerned. I thank the Minister for allowing me to mention this woman in my speech.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to.
That the question be now put.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, I suggest that the order for the consideration of the proposed expenditures agreed to by the Committee on 12 September be varied by postponing consideration of the proposed expenditures for the Department of Immigration and the Department of Labour.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Mackellar) - Is the suggestion of the Minister agreed to? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
Department of Northern Development
Proposed expenditure,$1, 198,000.
– I appreciate being able to speak on the Estimates for the Department of Northern Development. This is the first time that we have had a specific estimate for a Department of Northern Devel- op ment, and it allows me the opportunity of mentioning a matter that I have been following closely for a number of years. It is nearly 6 years ago that I first advocated for the Ingham district in North Queensland, a reafforestation scheme which could prove of benefit to the north and to Australia’s economy generally 6 years of feasibility studies and correspondence between State Ministers and Federal Ministers. I submit the proposal again today as one in which the present Federal Government could well become interested as a national project, and which would benefit our domestic paper industry in the future. At the time I first proposed this scheme, I mentioned that there would be a definite requirement for paper pulp for many years to come. This statement has been proved correct in the light of the alarming paper-pulp shortage throughout the world. Had we the foresight, Australia could have developed an industry that would have filled our domestic requirements and gained us important overseas markets.
Since the present Government has occupied the Treasury benches much has been said about decentralisation and urban and regional development. I have no quarrel with these policies but, in my opinion, decentralisation plays a vital part in planned development, and to achieve this sensible use of available land must be made and sensible thinking in the planning for long-term projects must be undertaken. Combining these thoughts of long-term planning, the use of land, planned development, decentralisation, benefits for the community and the State and the national interest, one industry to which I feel more attention should be paid is forestry. This should be high on the list of priorities for national development. Unfortunately the softwood planting program in Queensland, for instance, has been restricted considerably by the lack of finance, and although I appreciate that reafforestation is a State concern, unless the Australian Government can reconsider its approaches to State forestry allocations, finance will always be the problem, and the situation regarding insufficient softwood forests to meet our requirements will remain the same.
I mentioned the district of Ingham as a site for a reafforestation program for northern development for the following reason: The State Government already has a softwood nursery and some plantations in the Kennedy district just north of Ingham. This establishment is highly successful, but there is a definite need for expansion. The climate is such that softwoods can mature in a period of from 10 to 15 years and to ensure that this industry is viable and really worth while a project of planting would have to be undertaken on a major scale. This would require a fairly large amount of land. In this respect 100,000 acres are available in the Ingham district, which could be utilised for such a reafforestation scheme. As I mentioned earlier, the climate is such that there could be no doubt that softwood would flourish in this area.
Looking at the project in the light of longterm planning, I believe that when this timber is approaching maturity a pulp mill could be established and this, combined with the waste fibres from the sugar industry, known as bagasse, would produce a paper pulp that would develop into a healthy and prosperous industry, both for the domestic and the export markets. Coupled with this reafforestation project, another industry could be developed, which would be of decided benefit to our economic activities. I refer to the export beef industry. Northern Australia produces the major portion of our beef industry’s exports, and further development could be nothing but good. The reason I couple the beef industry with reafforestation is that recently the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in North Queensland, in the course of its pastoral research, has developed a pasture which thrives in a forest such as the softwood forest project I mentioned. Store cattle could be brought from the western districts and fattened for the export market with no difficulty whatsoever. As the Ingham district is within striking distance of the largest of our export meatworks, this reafforestation scheme could fulfil a double purpose.
The previous Minister for National Development was keenly interested in this scheme, but it was realised that the State Government would decide whether such a scheme was satisfactory to it. In the past Commonwealth assistance towards reafforestation has normally been in the form of finance for plantings between what is known as base-year acreages and annual plantings. For instance, the Queensland Government would finance plantings of 4,060 acres, making a total of 9,700 acres. Unfortunately there was reluctance on the part of the States to allocate sufficient funds for their share of these plantings, and consequently the Commonwealth’s financial allocation was reduced. I am aware also that the selection of areas to be planted under any program is a matter for decision by the appropriate State, and in Queensland the State Minister in charge of forestry regards the possibility of planting starting in the Ingham district as a sound investment. However, the problem of sufficient finance being available from the State’s Treasury is such that the acreage of plantings would not be great, and it is because of this that I suggest to the Minister for Northern Development that a reafforestation scheme of the size I have mentioned be undertaken as a national development project by the Australian Government. The opportunity exists for a project of national importance to be developed in the north, and I think it is plainly a case of a decision by the Australian Government in co-operation with the State Government of Queensland, which could establish a paper pulp industry and expand the beef industry. This would certainly prove of benefit to the national interest for many years.
Another extremely important aspect of northern development that will have to be faced up to by this Government in the near future is that of water conservation. For far too many years this matter has just been talked about, and although I concede that some important feasibility studies on this subject have been undertaken, nothing positive has developed. In the southern areas of Queensland we have seen the establishment of the Fairbairn Dam at Emerald and the Bundaberg water conservation project; and in central Queensland we have had the Fitzroy basin investigation. However, too little has been done to increase the water supply for agricultural development and pasture improvement, and in the interests of industry and people in an areas that could be developed for the benefit of the State and the nation. I speak now of water conservation in the Burdekin basin, which also would provide sufficient water for the expansion of industry in Townsville and District. Again I realise that the final decision on the location of an area for water conservation rests with the State, but I feel that if the Federal Government were to display sufficient interest in the project as one that would benefit the national interest, the Queensland State Government would be more than willing to listen. For many years the construction of the Burdekin Dam in the interests’ of water conservation has created a great deal of controversy, and I cannot help but feel that it is lack of foresight that has prevented this dam from being constructed. If this project had been established when it was first brought to the attention of governments, north Queensland would be enjoying the benefits of such water storage at the present time with resultant improvement to our economy. But from the latest reports it would appear that the establishment of this water storage project is as far away as ever it was.
But supposing this is the case as far as the Burdekin is concerned, I can see no reason why other water storage projects should not be constructed. One of these projects, which has already received a favourable report and which could be within the financial capabilities of the State and Federal governments, is the Urannah Dam scheme. This scheme is well known to the Minister for Northern Development who, I am sure, realises its potential. This project, small as it may be in comparison with the size of the Burdekin scheme, would fulfil a great need for the agricultural and pastoral industries in the Burdekin basin, and would probably also assist in overcoming the problems of water shortage for people in Townsville.
No longer will I accept the reasoning that the Federal Government has to wait for the /State Government to make its bid on priorities for water conservation. If this Federal Government is honest in its intention to develop the north - and it has appointed a Minister solely for this purpose - the initiative rests with the Australian Government.
– There is very little difference between what the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) says and what I think.
– This is not concluding the debate?_
– No, it is not closing the debate. But in order to do justice to the debate I will answer as quickly as possible the specific questions that are asked. I do not disagree with what the honourable member for Herbert said about the reafforestation scheme at Ingham except in regard to the procedures to be followed. Last July, I think it was, in the company of the honourable member I met many people in the Ingham district. I personally received a deputation from the 2 local authorities concerned and the various development bureaux, and I was impressed by the well documented case that was presented by the officers in the development bureaux. Without having investigated the proposal or knowing the details of it from the Federal point of view I said that it appeared to be a project which deserved priority as a northern development project.
As I explained to the councils, to the bureaux and to the honourable member for Herbert, and as honourable members opposite well know, our hands are tied unless a request comes from the Queensland Premier supported by the Queensland Government. Up to the present time there has been no request for support, for funds or for any investigation of this project. Under the present system relating to Commonwealth-State finances and procedures, there is nothing I can do about the matter. We have to wait until the Queensland Government submits a proposal. I have alerted the specialists in the various departments who are concerned with reafforestation, and I can assure the honourable member for Herbert that when this case comes down to Canberra it will be given very careful consideration as a northern development project. If it is a sound project within evaluation terms, obviously taking into account the environmental factors, I will have no hesitation in putting it up in the normal way for support. But I impress upon the honourable member that he must get the Queensland Government to put the proposition forward.
– It shall be done.
– Very well. As regards water conservation, the honourable member for Herbert expressed sentiments about the Burdekin area which incorporates indirectly the Ross River or the supply of water to Townsville, the Urannah scheme and the various catchments in the Burdekin basin, such as the Bowen River. The honourable member knows the history of this matter. I point out that there is more Federal activity going on in that area now than there has been in the past 24 years. The Snowy Mountains Corporation, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, the Department of Northern Development and various State departments are presently either directly or indirectly working in the area in an attempt to put forward a proposition for the systematic development of the area which will benefit not only the Burdekin area but also the people of Townsville. The proposal for the Urannah scheme which the honourable member mentioned has been submitted, I think, for quite a number of years. But no evaluation has ever been done by Federal authorities and there are available no figures on which one could prepare a case. This matter is being investigated. The same is true of the Burdekin project and the Bundaberg project which is partly in the electorate of my friend the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen); these projects have to be evaluated.
The honourable member for Herbert also mentioned the resources in the great Burdekin basin. Of course, there are tremendous resources of land and water and other natural resources. I suppose I can say with some bias that if Captain Cook had landed, or if Governor Phillip had established his settlement in the Burdekin area instead of in Sydney, we would have had a different pattern of development and settlement in Australia today. Millions of people would have been settled in that area because of the resources of water and soil, and the climate. They are factors which are important in settling a new area. I can assure the honourable member for Herbert that I have no difference with him regarding the point he raises. I again suggest that in respect of the Ingham reafforestation proposal he should get the Queensland Government to put forward the proposition so that it can be considered quickly by the Federal Government. Unless the Queensland Premier puts it forward and it is supported by the Queensland Government, I am afraid that there is nothing I can do about that project.
– I should like to enter this discussion of the estimates for the Department of Northern Development. It is difficult to debate the activities of the Ministry of Northern Development. To do so, would be to debate intentions, aspirations and inquiries. It is not a debate on activities because as far as we can see there has been very little activity in the Department of Northern Development. What one can say about the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) since 2 December 1972 is that his only real visible activity has been to issue approximately 33 Press statements - roughly 3 a month. What one can say about the Department of Northern Development is very limited because the first Bill that the Minister has introduced to the House has only now been put on the notice paper. That Bill is to provide some money for a weir.
What can one say about his influence on Cabinet thinking and decisions? On 24 August 1972 the present Minister for Northern Development said:
It must be remembered that the burden of any appreciation of the Australian dollar would fall more harshly on Australian companies than foreign owned companies. It is a fact of life that it is most difficult to write contracts for Australian exports in the mineral field and the primary industry field in Australian dollars.
He went on:
Appreciation of the Australian dollar, in my opinion, is not the answer to Australia’s inflationary problems.
Despite his views, the Australian dollar has been extensively revalued. What efforts did he make to prevent this happening? What does he have to say about today’s news that Australia has lost a major northern development project because of the policies of this Government? Because of the revaluation of the Aus tralian dollar we have lost a huge alumina refinery planned for Weipa - a project valued at $300m or more. Did the Minister, before members of his Cabinet, use the same brave words that he used when he was a private member? Here is a giant project to which many people have been looking to augment the development of the north. Now we have lost that project apparently because the Government does not share the views of the Minister for Northern Development, or the Minister has been unable to convince the Government that his views are correct or worth listening to. Despite this Minister’s views on the writing of minerals contracts, the Minister for Minerals and Energy criticises such contracts being writen in United States dollars and calls our mining industry leaders hillbillies and mugs. Is he suggesting that the same description should be applied to this Minister? The Minister for Northern Development said in this place on 14 September 1972 that he wanted to see better aircraft services in Queensland particularly in the outback areas of that State. But what has happened? His Government is reducing aircraft services and making it more expensive for those airline companies which can continue to operate. Is this a real contribution to northern development?
On 27 July 1973 the Minister for Northern Development issued a Press statement calling on cattlemen to give full support to the campaign to rid herds of tuberculosis and brucellosis. In that statement the Minister said that the Australian Government had recently approved increased finance over the next 2 years to eradicate brucellosis and tubercolosis, His statement concluded on the comforting note:
This was an encouragement to make cattlemen aware of the importance that Australia placed on their growing industries.
Where was the Minister when the Government decided that the industry would have to pay for the program itself. How much has the revaluation of the currency cost our Australian beef industry and our veal exporters? Most of the cattle producers in northern Australia export to United States markets because those markets accept a lower quality of beef. It is MX type meat. This year we are exporting to the United States market alone something like $352m worth of beef. But had there not been any revaluation and had they been able to claim the difference which has subsequently been brought about by revaluation - the difference is something like 25 per cent as against the United States dollar - there would have been $80m to $90m more in the pockets of Australian beef producers who sold beef on the United States market alone, not considering other markets in the world. The alteration to the United States market has penalised beef producers in northern Australia very severely. The Minister for Northern Development has previously stated that this would have a severe effect on our beef producers, yet he is prepared to sit back and let this Government take this sort of action against this industry. However, I give him due credit because prior to becoming a member of this Parliament he served as a member of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics trying to foster the development of this industry in the north. But we cannot say now that the Government with which he is associated and the policies that he has to pursue are really helping the cattle industry in northern Australia because cattle producers are being asked to pay the full cost of inspection services for cattle which are slaughtered in the campaign against tuberculosis and brucellosis, and for the harsh economic consequences of the Government’s realignment of currency policies.
We were told that the Minister has begun studies on the industrialisation of the Bowen basin region and the Pilbara region, but what has he actually done to help develop the north? Will fiddling with the exchange rate really help the north? I have pointed out the effect on the development of an alumina refinery and on the cattle industry. Will the policies of the Minister for Minerals and Energy help develop the north, particularly the open cut coal fields in Queensland? Will the restrictions, on capital inflow into the mineral industry help develop the north? The Minister announced some time ago that a study group would investigate the industrialisation of the Pilbara region but since then the Minister for Minerals and Energy has effectively preempted that study. The Minister for Minerals and Energy proposes a petro-chemical com-, plex, a gas stabilisation plant and a refinery. What part has the Minister for Northern Development played in these considerations? What liaison occurs between him and the Minister for Minerals and Energy when that Minister announced this grandiose scheme for the north-west shelf? On 30 July this year the Minister persuaded Qantas Airways Ltd to serve Australian rum, but what has he really done to help northern development? That was the essence of one of his 33 statements during the year. There has been one Bill and 33 statements, one persuading Qantas to serve Australian rum. How many times has the newly established Northern Development Council met? How many programs is it considering? What about the absurdity of the situation for which it is now recognised? To quote from the title of a famous book, it is The Northern Myth’.
We have heard a good deal about sugar sales to China. These are welcomed but I think it is necessary to keep it all in perspective because we are selling 4 times as much sugar to the United States as we are likely to be selling to China under this new long term contract, and we are selling 10 times as much sugar to Japan. I would welcome as much effort being put into a long term contract for the sale of sugar to Japan as has been done in respect to China. I think that the Minister for Primary Industries in Queensland made the point well when he said that this Minister should not be trying to play so much political football with the sugar industry in claiming all the credit while the Queensland Sugar Board has been responsible for a good deal of thees negotiations over the past two or three years.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr MacKellar) - Order! The right honourable members time has expired.
– The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) is carrying on in his normal fashion - like a little boy who has just lost his toffee apple.
– You have said that 3 times in this place.
– Well, it is a truism. It happens to be true because apparently honourable members on the other side of the House, including the right honourable member, just have not yet got used to the fact that they are no longer in office. I do wish that the Leader of the Country Party who made a series of nasty, catty, snide remarks about the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson), would lift the tone of the debate and try to bring something into it which would add to the dignity of this chamber.
In speaking, to the estimates for the Department of Northern Development I should like to refer to some historic episodes which have occurred in recent years. The first historic event which assisted the development of the north of Australia occurred when the Director of Northern Development in the Department of National Development decided that he could implement his ideals in a more practical manner by becoming a member of this Parliament. That person was Dr Rex Patterson who resigned his position in the Commonwealth Public Service, and after an election for the seat of Dawson became a member of this Parliament in February 19.66. The next historic episode occurred when, after the election of a Labor Government on 2 December 1972, the Ministry of Northern Development was created and the honourable member for Dawson became its first Minister.
Over the years many pious platitudes and trite statements have been made about the need for northern development. Statements have been made that we must develop northern Australia because its comparative emptiness is a threat to our security. There may be some truth in this statement, but it is usually made in a context which implies doubt about the intrinsic worthiness of northern development. I would like to quote from an address given by a former Minister for National Development, Sir William Spooner, a member of a former Liberal-Country Party Government, in May 1964 at a symposium on the development of northern Australia. This is indicative of some of the trite statements which were made and of action which was not taken. He stated in part - and this is true:
Well over a million square miles of Australia - nearly 40 per cent of the total area of the continent - lie north of the Tropic of Capricorn. More than half of Queensland and over one-third of Western Australia are in this area. Only 20 per cent of the Northern Territory is south of the Tropic.
This was a trite remark he made:
Australians have for a long time been interested in their undeveloped northern areas but never before in our history has the challenge presented by this area been felt so strongly. Only in recent years have we become truly conscious of the great contrast between the high level of development achieved in the more densely populated parts of the continent and the relative emptiness of our undeveloped areas.
That is a trite statement if ever there was one. It is true that constitutionally the Queensland and Western Australian governments have the primary rights and responsibility for developing their own States, the Commonwealth being directly responsible only for the Northern Territory. But the Commonwealth has an important contribution to make also throughout the whole of the north. Un fortunately the Australian Governments in the past have not fully met that responsibility. Members of the former Liberal-Country Party governments for the past 23 years should hang their heads in shame for not accepting that responsibility. In the years I have been in this Parliament I have heard the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr (Mr Hansen), the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) and the honourable member for Dawson, now the Minister for National Development, pressing the need for development of the northern areas of Australia, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. Rarely have I heard some members opposite, and particularly the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), raise this matter. The honourable member for Kennedy was a Minister in the previous Government and he should have been able to achieve much, but he sat as silent as a mute.
The lack of development in the north of Australia has been the result of apathy, lack of interest and the ineptitude of the LiberalCountry Party Ministers who preceded this new Government. I agree with the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett), who led for the Opposition in this debate, that too little has been done. I quote his exact words. He said:
Too little has been done by preceding governments.
He was a supporter of those governments. He was not .a front-bencher; he was not a Minister. He has criticised his own Party and the lack of interest shown by the preceding governments in the development of northern Australia.
Some evidence of the results achieved by the Minister for Northern Development since his entry into this Parliament in February 1966 can be obtained from details of the amounts of Commonweath funds allocated for the construction and improvement of certain roads used for the transport of cattle, known as beef roads. The construction of these roads is aimed particularly at increasing the numbers of beef cattle for export. In the 5 years preceding 1966, the year in which the Minister came into this Parliament, a total of $23m was allocated for the construction and improvement of beef roads. But in the 5 years succeeding his entry into this Parliament the figure jumped to $3 3m. No doubt the Minister, with his well known modesty, will disclaim complete responsibility for this. Maybe it is a coincidence, but the facts are there. There has been a dramatic increase.
Commonwealth grants for the investigation of the water resources of northern Australia have been lacking. Vast water resources have been allowed to run into the sea when they could be utilised for the arid sections of this continent. Much has been said over the past decade about the harnessing of the waters of the Burdekin River in northern Queensland. What has been the record of 23 years of Liberal-Country Party Governments in regard to the Burdekin River? It has been precious little, if anything at all. In its first year of office, this Government did something. It did not just talk about it. Four months after coming into office a decision was made, and I read it so that it will be in the record. The decision was made in April 1973 by the Australian Government to participate in a joint FederalState Burdekin project committee to undertake a comprehensive study of the Burdekin River basin in Queensland with particular reference to water availability and the requirements of urban irrigation, power generation, industrial and flood mitigation purposes and, against the background of such a study, to develop proposals for the future development of the region. Funds were allocated for this project for this study, by the Labor Government only 4 months after coming into office. Again, quoting from the Budget Papers, I would like to give some details of the special appropriations for the year ending 30 June 1974 for northern development. This financial year, the first under a Labor Government for 23 years, an amount of $46,647,950 has been allocated for special projects in northern Australia. Last financial year, under a Liberal-Country Party Government, the amount was $29,510,693. So in the first year of a Labor Government the increase in the allocation for special northern development projects has been $17m, an increase of 60 per cent - another dramatic increase. I wish that the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony), who was setting out to denigrate the work of the Minister for National Development, were here to hear these figures, because he was the Deputy Prime Minister prior to the Labor Party’s coming to power and was partially responsible and, I would say, would have had a big say in the lack of development in the north. He was in a position of power. He was in a position to influence policies, and history shows that he did not do so. He stands condemned, as do all other members of the Ministries of those years, for the travesty that has gone on in regard to the lack of development in the north of Australia - a country that is arid, that needs development and that needs a ton of money pushed into it. I admire the people in the north who have to put up with inconvenience, particularly in the grazing community, the cattle men, the ones who have battled for years, who have pressed their own Party - the Country Party - and who have pressed the Government of the day for money to be allocated. They have had to sit back and watch as drought hit them. They have had to suffer the indignity, the loss of finance and everything else because the Government of the day was inept, did not have the courage and did not have the foresight to push money into a part of Australia that sadly needs developing.
– I cannot hope to match the eloquence and oratory of the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin), who has just sat down. I am afraid that I cannot even meet him on untriteness and untruisms, which he so rightly deprecates. I was a little distressed by what the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) said about the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson). One knows that the Minister has had his disappointments and that his ineffectuality has rather soured him. But I do not think that it is altogether cricket to lay into him as the Leader of the Country Party laid into him a few minutes ago. Rather let us extend him a little sympathy. This question of northern development is always bedevilled by a number of difficulties. One thinks, of course, of the interests of our Aboriginal people in the north, and one hopes that the policy which the former Government implemented of involving Aborigines in the advantages of development will be continued and maintained.
But I want to mention one or two specific matters. The first is this: The world food shortage it seems, is now becoming endemic since population apparently has overtaken the margin that was afforded us by the impact of the green revolution. If this is so, food production in the north may become more important than we have been inclined to think. Meat, of course, is the primary food product of the north. I do not know that it will always remain so. Rice cultivation may still come into the north. With areas in the north being suitable for the long-grained rice and with an assured water supply, the north may turn out to be the main rice bowl of Australia.
The honourable member for Banks remarked that this northern country was dry and arid. Of course, he could not have been more wrong. The north of Australia has not only the highest rainfall in Australia but also it has the most regular rainfall. It is true that it is concentrated over a few months of the year with the monsoon, but it is .till a high and regular rainfall and it can be utilised for production. I say, therefore, that in the future the top of Australia may well be one of our most important food producing areas. I well remember going to Alice Springs - I think it was in 1950 but certainly it was many years ago- and speaking to people who alleged they were experts in pastoral and agricultural projects in the Northern Territory. In referring to the Top End- that is, the Arnhem Land and Daly River areas - .they said: ‘There is only one thing to do with it and that is to get a bulldozer and push it into the sea’. They could not have been more wrong, because that high rainfall area will turn out to be the food production area, in the major sense of the term, for the Northern Territory.
Cape York Peninsula as well as the Northern Territory has immense possibilities, both in its eastern and western falls. In parts of Western Australia - although the land is not as promising as that in Arnhem Land or Cape York; the surface is not as good - in some of the valleys, particularly in the Ord River valley, there is a chance for major development. But overshadowing food production is the possibility of mineral development. I believe that we have not yet been paying sufficient attention to the possibility of phosphate development from the southern tip of the Gulf of Carpentaria. This is an area north of Mount Isa. Its possibilities have not yet been sufficiently evaluated.
I know that there is always difficulty about a port on the Gulf of Carpentaria because nearly all the water around its shores is shallow. In the past there was a tendency to believe that the deep water port would be to the west of the Gulf by Borroloola at the Pellow Islands there. This was thought to be where at would go. But with the possible development of high volume phosphate exports from the eastern side it may well be that the deep water port will have to be established in the Burketown area. Wherever and whenever it is established, there is a large hinterland which, not only from the agricultural point of view but even more from the mineral point of view, will be susceptible to major development.
I wanted to draw the Government’s attention to the need to develop a deep water port on the Gulf of Carpentaria and to the possibilities of mineral exports from it, particularly the large volume phosphate exports from the very considerable phosphate rock resources which lie in that whole area. That area is one of the most highly mineralised areas of the world. Mount Isa has been found, but I believe that there is every reason to expect that other Mount Isas will be found in this area. We have here a mineral treasure which I consider to be one of the great assets of Australia.
Finally may I say something about the roads and communications to the north. At present there is a good railway to Marree and a rickety railway from Marree to Alice Springs. The past Government decided, and I believe the present Government will continue with the plans, to abandon that rickety railway from Alice Springs and put a line up from the Kingoonya area, from the transcontinental railway, along higher ground, passing to the west of Oodnadatta and going up into the Alice Springs area. I think that this is probably a good decision. But when it is made and when the old rickety line is abandoned, as it will be, the road should go up from Marree roughly via the line of the old railway line, because the old communities cannot be left stranded without communication.
I had an opportunity only recently of travelling along this road. I believe that there is some misapprehension about the difficulties of the area and the way in which they can be met. The area is, for a large part, swampy, low-lying, muddy and difficult to get through. But with modern earth-moving machinery it is possible to bank up the road. What would have been expensive before we had this modern earth-moving machinery is now a comparatively cheap method of building an all-weather road. The clayey loam in the area, if heaped up and allowed to consolidate, will be a solid and permanent base. Not much water runs through it, and the major streams that do run through it can be met effectively with concrete dish drains or later on with larger permanent bridges. There are not many of them, and the engineering difficulties are much less than were previously supposed.
I suggest that when the correct decision is made and the railway goes up to the west, the road from Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney should be taken up through the Marree area. This would be the proper line for a road into the Northern Territory. I will not go into the details of it. I can only tell honourable members that I have been over the area. I happen to know the area personally and I am quite certain that this is the correct thing to do.
– As with the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett), I have no disagreement with what the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) has said. His comments have been constructive. I know that he has a deep interest in many of the problems of northern Australia. That interest has been achieved from a first hand investigation and study of many of the problems. The honourable member knows as well as others do of the difficulties of development of those areas and in particular of many of the projects which originated from proposals which he has advanced. I repeat that I welcome the constructive arguments that he has put up.
But I would like to comment briefly on the usual destructive arguments put up by the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony). I do not know what it is about me that causes him to go completely overboard - to lose his calm. As described by me and by others last week, he puts on an amazing performance. I am not concerned very much about whether he criticises me but I am concerned about the criticism of officers of the Public Service and especially officers of my own Department.
– He did not do that.
– If the honourable member reads Hansard tomorrow he will find that he did.
– They have no opportunity to reply.
– That is true; they have no opportunity to reply. This is something that honourable members should not do. They should not take advantage of their office deliberately to attack public servants who cannot reply. Let me say this: The head of my
Department is a man of excellent reputation. Ironically, he is the same person whom the Leader of the Australian Country Party, when he was a Minister, congratulated for his work over the years in his position as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Trade. That just shows the hypocrisy of the right honourable gentleman. I do not intend to waste time even answering his comments about the Bowen basin and the Pilbara. The objectives of these investigations are there to be read. He can read them if he wants to. It is hoped that the joint Commonwealth-Western Australia feasibility study of the development of the Pilbara will be in our hands next year.
I wish to comment again on the statements by the Leader of the Country Party about sugar. He has again mentioned China. It seems to me that he just cannot take it. Surely he must be aware that on Friday I met for 6i hours with the industry and explained in as much detail as it wanted the basis for the formulation of a long term agreement involving the sale of at least 300,000 tons of sugar over 5 years. Surely he must be aware of the fact that the industry issued an official Press statement welcoming the initiative I have taken in allowing this to be done. Surely he is aware that the industry asked me to secure permanent access for Australian sugar to China. Is he not aware that for some years the industry had been trying to do that without success? Of course he is aware of it. The same thing applies to the bulk handling of sugar.
The Leader of the Country Party made 2 statements that have to be challenged. Firsly, he said that Australia sells four times as much sugar to the United States of America as it will sell to China.
– Ten times.
– No, he said four times. That is completely wrong. We sell approximately 200,000 tons or a little over 200,000 tons to the United States of America. We shall sell at least 300,000 tons to China. He then went on to say that we sell ten times as much sugar to Japan as we will sell to China. That would mean that we sell 3 million tons a year to Japan. We sell approximately 600,000 tons to Japan, which is twice as much as we will sell to China. So the Leader of the Country Party was completely and utterly wrong in those points that he made. I will say no more about him, other than that I think that if the Leader of the Country Party had offered the constructive advice - perhaps criticism in some respects - of the honourable member for Herbert and the honourable member for Mackellar, the level of this debate would have been much higher. I have no doubt that the Leader of the Country Party is aware that some of the honourable members who sit behind him are openly disgusted with his attitude towards the sale of sugar to China.
– I would like to comment on some of the arrant nonsense that was spoken by the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin). It is obvious from his reference to the whole of the Northern Territory being an arid, uninhabited area that the honourable member for Banks knows nothing about it. But I do thank him for the compliment he expressed when he said that he admires the cattle men who live and have to battle for their existence there. I will accept that. North of the latitude of Daly Waters across Australia is what can be referred to as a high rainfall area. As the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) said, that is where the heavy carrying and the large food growing programs will take, place in the future. In respect of whatever else he said in the same vein, the honourable member for Banks does not know what he is talking about.
There is one other comment I would like to make on the speech of the honourable member for Banks. He claimed that the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) was responsible, as a back bench member of the Opposition, for the introduction of the beef roads scheme in northern Australia. No doubt he had something to do with it when he was in the Northern Division of the Department of National Development. But it was Sir Charles Adermann who was the father of the beef roads scheme in the north of Australia and not the present Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory.
In response to the claim by the honourable member for Banks that the Minister should be given full credit for what has happened I point out that the previous Government was responsible for the construction of the beef roads. I shall mention only the ones for which it was responsible in the Northern Territory. It was responsible for the upgrading of the Stuart Highway, which after all carries a lot of beef, at a cost of $5m a year. It sealed 250 miles of road from Wave Hill to Katherine. It sealed 300 miles of road to the Gulf of Carpentaria from the Barkly Highway. It sealed 100 miles of road to the Gulf from Mataranka. It sealed 260 miles of road from Katherine to Wave Hill. A road from Timber Creek to the Western Australia border - Dingo Gap as it is called - is under construction at the moment. It has been responsible for the construction of numerous bridges. Almost all of that work has been done during the 6 years I have been a member of this Parliament. I know some of it was commenced earlier than that. But it was still carried out by Country Party members, Country Party planners. So let us get that right. I would like the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory to continue that program. Its continuation will lead to proper development of the north. While I am on that subject I urge upon him to do battle with the Coombs report, which is aimed directly against northern development. One has only to go through it item by item to see the devastating effect that its implementation will have on the north.
The honourable member for Mackellar spoke of the sealing of a road from Pimba, which, is in the Woomera area, as the Minister would know, to Alice Springs. I certainly would not recommend that it should go via Marree and alongside Lake Eyre because the rivers are three times as wide in that area and the sandy soil is quite often very wet. I urge the Minister to give consideration to this matter, together with his colleagues from South Australia and the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones). It is becoming a hazard to drive in that area. It has rained more frequently in that area this year than it has for many years. That road, even as it runs at the moment alongside the watershed 100 miles west of Oodnadatta, is a hazard. I ask him to give consideration in his future planning to this matter as well as to the continuation of the upgrading and sealing of other gravel beef roads in the Northern Territory. While on the subject of the road from Port Augusta to Alice Springs I want to point out that we on this side of the House have asked on numerous occasions for permission to be given to travellers to go through the rocket range because by doing so they can cut off quite a lot of distance and quite a lot of the bad wet weather road in the vicinity of Lake Harris as it starts to go north at Kingoonya. I ask him to give consideration to that.
While on the subject of northern development I want to discuss the port of Darwin. The honourable member for Banks said that the previous Government had done nothing about development of the north. It instituted the studies with regard to the development of the port of Darwin and voted $21m for this work. That was no doubt in train and under discussion at the time the previous Government went out of office. On 2 April I asked the Minister for Northern Development a question concerning this matter. He gave me an assurance that it was under consideration by the Department of the Northern Territory and the Department of Transport. He also said at the time that he could not give me a firm answer. I ask him to bear in mind that the port of Darwin is certainly one of the best in northern Australia. It is 2,000 miles closer to many of the areas to which we export our goods. I ask him to urge his colleagues to treat this matter very seriously.
With regard to railways in the north, I know that the previous Government had the Tarcoola to Alice Springs railway line under very serious consideration and that it was only because of the South Australian Government that the matter did not come to fruition. But it has been announced that work will now go ahead. May I point out to the Minister that in 1966 the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), when advocating the completion of the DarwinAlice Springs-Port Augusta railway line, also advocated the construction of branch lines to Mt Isa and Wyndham. I asked the Prime Minister whether he would still stand by that and whether it was still Labor Party policy. He said that it was:
It is part of the Platform of the Australian Labor Party to undertake the construction of the NorthSouth standardised rail link in the interests of national defence, national development, and to provide feeder services for the cattle raising resources of the Northern Territory and the western area of Queensland.
I would ask the Minister for Northern Development to again take up that matter as it was an undertaking given in an answer to a question I directed to the Prime Minister.
In the few moments remaining to me and because anything to do with Darwin has to do with northern development or, certainly, the other part of the Minister’s portfolio, I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that in the Estimates last year an amount of $5.6m was set aside to be spent on stage 4 of the Darwin steam power station to 30 June 1973. In this year’s Estimates there is provision for an amount of $5m to be spent, and I believe that the Joint Statutory Committee on Public Works has either looked at or is going to look at this proposal. I also inform the Minister - he has no doubt heard - that I wrote to him today about this situation. I do not expect him to have taken any action on my letter because I wrote it only today. November in Darwin is called the suicide month. There have been recent power failures at the Stokes Hill power station. Only recently, the station got back into going order again but now apparently there have been main bearing failures in the alternator and the generator, and I believe that there is also boiler trouble. I would urge the
Minister, as I have done in my letter-
– He is very worried about it.
– I am sure that he is. He could not be anything other than worried. I am asking the Minister to strain every nerve to get the Stokes Hill power station back into operation again. It is a matter of urgency. I have received numerous telegrams, one of which I will read to honourable members. It states:
Owing to power crisis workshop and office facilities losing S hours per 24 hour day. What action do you propose to take to prevent any further inconvenience and financial loss . . .
This is happening all the time in Darwin. Let us face it, this Government and the previous Goverment have spent a lot of money on the Stokes Hill power station. I do not know how this Government can rectify the situation but I do ask the Minister to use all his influence, knowledge and sympathy for the people of the north to put this matter at rights because from November until the rainy season sets in it is sheer hell living and working in Darwin. I know that people used to live in Darwin at this time of the year with rags wrapped around their wrists. I have done it myself. However, they are used to air conditioning, and because of the power failure, none of the offices have fans or air conditioning.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Duthie) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I do not intend to enter into an acrimonious debate about the origins of the beef roads scheme. This is fully documented. Nor will I in any way be drawn into criticising Sir Charles Adermann for whom I have always had the highest respect. Sir Charles was the Minister for Primary Industry when the second beef roads proposal was put forward. As the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) probably knows, I think it was in 1946 under the Chifley Government that the first beef roads scheme was put into operation, principally for the Channel country. However, it was under Sir Charles Adermann as the Minister in charge that the beef roads scheme as we know it was launched. The beef roads scheme was based on a tremendous amount of work. For example, from 1947 to 1960, countless investigations were conducted throughout the Kimberleys, the Northern Territory, the Gulf country and the Cape York Peninsula. Practically every cattle station in relation to land classification was studied. Various proposals were put up regarding the movement of beef by air and consideration was given to whether the air beef scheme in operation in Western Australia should be expanded. We considered whether a railway line should be built from Dajarra to Birdum, across the Barkly Tableland. However, all the evidence pointed to the fact that the best way to move cattle in the future would be on wheels. A series of submissions was made to a Permanent Heads Committee in 1960, further investigations were carried out and various Cabinet submissions were written. I think that I know the story better than do most people. In regard to the continuation of the scheme, I have nothing to say other than that I fully support what the honourable member for the Northern Territory has said. I believe it is one of the Commonwealth’s schemes that has proved itself beyond doubt to be of major significance in the development of northern Australia, opening up the country not only for the cattle industry but also allowing more and more people to go into those areas.
The point made by the honourable member for the Northern Territory regarding the port of Darwin is noted. As he well knows, there are a lot of problems with respect to this port, but this matter is being examined by a fairly active committee. The last point mentioned by the honourable member related to the Darwin power supply. This situation certainly is very critical at present. He suggested that I have not taken any action, but I can assure the honourable member that I have taken action. I have asked the head of my Department to give it the highest priority with the Department of Works to try to overcome the problem which exists. We have even had investigated the possibility of an oil rig in the harbour generating power for the Darwin area, but the rig generates direct current whereas the commercial transmission is alternating indirect current. It is also being suggested to me that perhaps we should divert a battleship or even a submarine to the area to generate sufficient power for Darwin. I can assure the honourable member that this is being given very serious consideration. We are working around the clock to try to overcome the problem. A Swedish engineer is in Darwin. He has all the resources at his disposal that we can give him. It appears that the problem is due to the collapse of bearings and certainly, as the honourable member has said, there are boiler problems as well. But the problem is being looked at seriously and I assure the honourable member that although I have not received his letter, I can do no more than I am doing at present. If he or anybody else has any suggestion of how suddenly to overcome the problem which has arisen, whereby a major part of the supply of power to Darwin will be cut off because of the collapse of this unit, I can assure them that I will look at it very seriously.
I have even investigated this afternoon the possibility of using top experts from the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation who I thought perhaps could help because they have a tremendous knowledge of matters relating to power. However, this is a mechanical problem and one which we must solve in terms of ancillary power units. We are looking at the various resources of the Navy to see whether the Navy can supply equipment by transporting it quickly from Navy land depots. We are looking at the possibility of closing off or minimising some of the drains on the power by, say, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Radio Australia and such operations. However, I can assure the honourable member that this matter is being given every consideration.
– The first thing that I want to say is that my Leader did not in any way reflect on the officers of the Department of Northern Development. I happen to know that he has the highest regard for those officers. May I add that, in my experience with the Department in the current year, I have had the utmost assistance. The Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) gave me an open door to his departmental officers and those men have given me every assistance. I must say categorically that in no way did the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) reflect on any of those gentlemen. While on the subject of the Department, I think the decline in the stocks of the Labor Party was triggered off by the treatment that has been meted out to the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson). Nothing is more glaringly obvious than that he is the one man who is qualified by knowledge and practical experience to understand and to present to this House realistic proposals that would lead to effective decentralisation and a stimulation of industries beyond the metropolitan areas. Because of this very fact he was gagged, and the whole of Australia reacted to that treatment. It is obvious that the desire for power by a small group of people, particularly the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard), led them to take that action as they considered the Minister to be a threat to them. Now we have the unacceptable situation that the Minister can make recommendations on a proposal, but not a decision. That is an indictment of the tyranny that permeates the Cabinet which governs this nation.
I wish to touch on a few matters on which I seek the Minister’s support. We have spoken about some of them, and others have been the subject of correspondence. The first I should like to bring forward is the subject of water conservation. I did have a comment to make on the Burdekin Dam. My colleague the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) has discussed that, and we have had a reply from the Minister. One unusual project of particular significance not only to my area of Australia but also to the whole economics of the mining industry in this area is the Julius Dam. It is a particular project for a particular group of companies. If there is a repetition of the drought years, which must inevitably come, one major mining complex and one or two other mining concerns could well depend on the development of Julius Dam. It is going ahead, but in such a manner that eventually the ratepayers of Mount Isa might be called upon to make an exorbitant contribution. Please understand that I am not being parochial in this matter. I shall constantly contest that this work is a precedential proposition. It is not. It is part of a pattern of economics which is vital to the economy of this nation. There was some support by the previous Government and the terms of repayment have been made a little easier by this Government. That is where the matter rests at the moment I feel that by assisting, the Government would not be creating a precedent; it should certainly reconsider the matters and make an actual grant for the financing of the Julius Dam. I shall not speak any more on that dam as I want to raise one or two other matters: it is well konwn to the Minister and his officers, and I seek his earnest support in making it possible.
I know that a lot of people are doing hard work on the Bundaberg irrigation scheme and that the Minister is interested in it. The honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) has been constantly bringing this matter forward and I would not attempt to encroach on what they have been doing. An extraordinary situation has arisen: a dam has been built, but the waters in that dam will not be brought into use in the most effective areas. There is a stalemate. If I am wrong in this, I ask the Minister, as he has been doing in the course of the debate, to explain the position in regard to a continuation of the Bundaberg irrigation scheme. If there is a bottleneck somewhere in State government recommendations, let us hear about it.
The road system has been referred to as an important element in northern development. I recall the Anglican Primate of Australia during the first visit to this country of Her Majesty the Queen suggesting that an effective memorial to her and her visit would be a national road from the north of Australia to the southern areas. Such a project was under discussion by the former Government and we had hoped for a new era of national roads. As yet, there has been no declaration of policy on roads by this Government. I hope that we shall see a great national highway linking the northern part of Queensland with the southern area, and the construction of the links which are now missing particularly to central Queensland. I agree with the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) that a road leading up to the Centre from South Australia is also urgently needed. Both of these matters were under consideration by the former Government. I hope that sanity and good reason will prevail, and that the present Government, putting aside all political considerations, will earnestly consider these proposals. I am sure that the Minister will see the benefit to be derived from such roads.
Ever since I have been able to reason things out I have protested vigorously about the lack of support for secondary industries associated with our primary industries. This is one of the subjects that I feel emotional about. The great primary industries - the beef cattle industry and the merino wool industry - are in inland Australia, and now huge mining enterprises have been established in the inland. It is all right for the toilers out there to sweat it out, produce the raw product, put it into some sort of conveyance and send it to the coast where secondary and tertiary industries provide the white collar work and the more-amenities type of operation thousands of miles away from the place where the products have been extracted, produced or grown. Economists and academics who have talked about this point would probably agree with me that the time is now ripe for the establishment of secondary and tertiary industries in the inland, in association with existing primary industries.
One example that immediately comes to mind is the phosphate rock deposits at Lady Annie, north of Mount Isa. The honourable member for Mackellar also referred to this matter. When these deposits are developed, as they inevitably will be, and the proposed huge expenditure of $300m or more becomes an actuality, careful consideration should be given to the establishment of secondary industries in the area. This should be right within the province of the Minister for Northern Development, but unfortunately he can make only recommendations, not decisions. This grave injustice highlights the imbalance of the present Cabinet and shows the strong grasp and dictatorial power exercised by the Prime Minister and one or two of his colleagues. I urge the Minister to make the strongest possible recommendation, as only he can, on this matter. I am sure that the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) could not do so unless someone wrote out the recommendation for him. Let us be reasonable. The Minister for Minerals and Energy lacks the practical experience and knowledge of the Minister for Northern Development. I urge the Minister for Northern Development to recommend that fertiliser be produced in the north near the site of the rock deposits. It must be kept well in mind that there will be wholesale develop ment in the northern part of the Northern Territory.
It has been proved that Townsville lucerne is the best legume for the local area. With the establishment of a fertiliser industry in the north, fertiliser would be distributed on a scale that has never before been visualised Why should fertiliser not be produced in that area? This is a good example of a place at which a secondary or tertiary industry could be established in association with an existing primary industry.
Ten minutes is a ridiculously short time in which to deal with the many matters affecting northern Australia. I shall close on a human note. I and others have been urging for years that pensioners and similarly situated people living in the north and the west should receive some sort of parity commensurate with that enjoyed by workers under ordinary industrial awards. This is a matter on the human side for which I seek the Minister’s support. I want some sort of parity for all kinds of pensioners in those areas. They are deserving of some sort of equality so that they might be able to meet the high costs associated with freights and the like for people living in northern Australia.
– The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) has mentioned water conservation. I remember him speaking about Julius Dam, but I did not quite hear another place he mentioned. He did not mention Three Moon Creek?
– It is a fact that the present Government provided finance to the Queensland Government for its part in developing Julius Dam, and it is true that the present Government has laid down somewhat better terms and conditions for the repayment of the loan. Some months ago in the presence of the Commissioner for Water Supply and Irrigation, Mr Haigh, and senior officers of my Department I met members of the Mount Isa Council and discussed with them various proposals that had been made. As the honourable member said, it certainly will be a burden on the people of Mount Isa if they have to pay back the full cost of the provision of water - capital works and reticulation costs - because of the peculiar problems associated with the deficiencies of water in that area. This matter is being looked at. I asked the Mount Isa Council - I am under the impression it is doing it - to put forward a further case to justify its claims. There is very much competition for the finance available for water conservation projects throughout Australia. It is my impression that the Mount Isa Council is collecting information to put forward a further case, through the Queensland Government, to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) for further assistance for the provision of water which will minimise or alleviate the repayment problems of the people living in Mount Isa. The Mount Isa mining company also has contributed substantially to this scheme.
The Monduran Dam project at Bundaberg, of course, has been going on for some years. It is one which a number of honourable members have repeatedly raised with me. It is within the electorate of the honourable member for Capricornia, the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham), but part of it eventually will also be in the electorate of the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen).
– Kennedy also.
– Yes. The Bundaberg scheme has been designed to minimise the effects of drought in an area which over a long period of years has suffered from recurring droughts with monotonous regularity. The cumulative loss of income over the years which has been sustained directly on the production of sugar and cattle production, and indirectly from the multiplier effects of that loss, is very large.
I think that the honourable member for Kennedy should have given us a few more facts. The delay in making a decision on this project is due to 2 facts. It is true that the previous Government helped this project by providing finance. But it is also true that the interdepartmental committee which considered this project judged it to be totally uneconomic, the same as it did with the Eton irrigation project, without any investigation. This Government refused to accept that conclusion without an investigation. The premise on which the previous decision was taken that the project was uneconomic was that if there is a drought in . Bundaberg the deficit could be made up by a surplus above peak production in some other part of the cane growing areas of Queensland. As is well known today, in the last few years in particular we have wanted every stick of sugar cane harvested. We have reached the stage where we have not sufficient sugar to satisfy the world market at the present time.
It is a very tight market. Consequently the premise, in judging the Bundaberg irrigation scheme to be uneconomic, is in fact incorrect. One of the first things this Government did after assuming office was to negate that decision.
We have not any figures to substantiate my hypothesis that it is a good project. The honourable member for Wide Bay, the honourable member for Kennedy, the Minister for Health and I all think that it is an excellent proposition. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) has been one of the most trenchent critics of governments over the years for mak. ing decisions which have not been backed at least by investigation into the ‘ economics of such decisions. This Government, in its policy speech before the last election, made it clear that in all these types of projects there would be evaluations. One of the first things I did at the change of Government was to call for an evaluation of the Bundaberg proposition. I knew that this project was in trouble.
– What about the Three Moons proposal?
– Wait a minute. We are dealing with the Bundaberg proposal. There was no evaluation. I can assure the honourable member for Kennedy that this evaluation is going ahead at full speed. The resources of my Department, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the State departments concerned are investigating, as a matter of priority, the Bundaberg irrigation project. We must have an evaluation first. I think that I have answered the honourable member’s remarks about road construction in answer to 2 previous speakers. Road construction in the north is one of the most progressive and constructive investment propositions that any national government can undertake. This investment has more than proved itself in terms of the economic benefits that have been derived by the national Government from time to time and also from a regional point of view. As the honourable member for Kennedy knows full well, the economics of the phosphate rock deposits project are being investigated by the Broken Hill South company. Those concerned with the project are looking at it very closely. One of the problems is to transport phosphate in a slurry form or some other form, by a pipeline or some other method of transport, to market it in an economic fashion.
The honourable member’s point regarding the pensioners I will bring to the notice of the
Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden). The honourable member well knows that it has been brought to the Minister’s attention many many times not only by honourable members on the other side of the chamber but also by honourable members on this side. We appreciate the very high costs involved in freight, and also the higher cost of living. One of the problems of the pensioner who lives in Borrooloola or Burketown or somewhere else in the north is that he or she is faced with a considerable increase in the cost of living in buying essential goods as compared with people who live in other parts of Australia. But again this matter will be brought to the attention of the appropriate Minister.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, I suggest that the order for the consideration of the proposed expenditure agreed to by the Committee on 12 September be varied by postponing the consideration of the proposed expenditure for the Department of Minerals and Energy.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury)Is the suggestion of the Minister agreed to? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
Department of the Media
Proposed expenditure, $90,040,000.
– This is the first time that the estimates for the Department of the Media have been brought before the Committee in an Appropriation Bill, because the Department has only recently been set up by the present Government. This debate gives us an opportunity to concentrate on policies in this field. I want to make 2 preliminary observations about the media. The first is their all-pervasiveness. I speak of the Press, radio and television. A second quality that they have is the quality of monopolisation. Because it is so expensive to establish newspapers few exist and still fewer new ones come into existence. So far as radio and television are concerned, the ether waves are limited. Therefore the number of channels that can be established is also limited. These are 2 features of the media to which I wish to draw attention to begin with.
Dealing first with the all-pervasiveness and the power of the media, I would say that technology makes this field as important as, say, the development of nuclear weapons, or jet aircraft, or modern earth-moving equipment, or the electronics industry - for example, in the field of computers. The difference is that instead of effecting the movement of mountains, the killing of millions of people or the speed of movement, it affects the minds and attitudes of men, and this is obviously a vitally important matter.
I want to refer to only 2 aspects of the activities of the media. What are their effects on morals and attitudes in the community? We have seen in the commercial field the merciless exploitation of youth, for young people have money in their pockets and the advertisers on commercial radio stations and so forth have sought to coax it out of the pockets of the young and, in so doing, have had no regard whatever for anything but the profit motive. We have seen the growth of moral depravity, of pornography and all kinds of undesirable developments in this field. We have seen petitions presented to this House recently - I think most honourable members have done this and I certainly have presented a number on behalf of my constitutents - in regard to this aspect of television and radio in particular.
There are 3 ways in which young people are educated. One is in their homes. Unfortunately not all homes can provide the best education for the young. Another way is in the school, and the third way, and perhaps the most important of all, through the media. The idea that children, young people, are like adults who can pick and choose and know what is good and what is bad obviously has no basis in reality. So the sacred cause, the sacred name of freedom of speech, and the horrible word ‘censorship’, and so forth, have been utterly perverted and misunderstood. If one is dealing with children, censorship is entirely justified and freedom of speech, in the old sense, has to be modified.
May I mention two or three of the most famous thinkers in the field of education over the centuries. In ancient times there was, of course, Plato. Then there was Vittorino da Feltre, the great humanist educator in Italy during the Renaissance; Arnold of Rugby in the last century in England, and Sir Richard Livingston in our own day, the writer of that classical work, ‘Education in a World Adrift*. I merely pick at random great figures in the field of education over the centuries, and none of them has had any doubt whatsoever that one should indoctrinate children with the ideas of excellence. I use the words particularly used by Sir Richard Livingstone: They should be surrounded by that which is excellent. Those great men had no doubt that that kind of indoctrination was not merely justifiable but also essential if worthwhile citizens are to be produced.
So I think we have to revise our views about censorship and freedom of speech when we talk about the media, and particularly about radio and television, as they affect our future citizens. That is all I want to say on that issue. It is a matter of fundamentally rethinking the position. I do not suppose anybody will think about it at all, and that we shall go downhill steadily as we have been doing in the past. At least, I put it so that there can be no doubt that there is this issue.
I talk next about the effect of the media on the democratic process. First of all, in general terms, we now have a Minister for the Media. This, of course, conjures up immediately the name of Dr Goebbels. We look with great doubt and suspicion upon a person who is a. Minister of a government and who has power in this field, because anyone who seeks to establish power in perpetuity in the political field looks first of all to the media. It is what Hitler did, it is what Mussolini did, it is what is done in Russia, and it is what is done in China. It happens wherever one looks. Therefore, one must regard this Ministry with suspicion and as something that requires eternal vigilance if one is to prevent the same sort of deterioration here.
But the effect goes beyond this. Parliament is no longer reported in the newspapers. What we have instead are commentaries. As a result, parliamentary debate has deteriorated, for everybody knows that the speeches they make here will not be reported and therefore they ask why they should bother to make speeches that matter. This has had a most detrimental effect on the Parliament, and there has been a deterioration of debate - almost the demoralisation of the Parliament - as a result. I have mentioned the power, the all pervasiveness and the strength of the media. They provide a tremendous platform for those who can use them.
Who are they? The commentators in the newspapers and the people who conduct public affairs programs, say in television and on the radio. They have a tremendous plat form from which they can exercise their own particular predilections politically and do; or if one likes to put it this way, the political predilections of the people who employ them. It may be said that it is the newspaper proprietors, the television proprietors, or whatever: I do not mind which way it is put, but I say that there is enormous power in these unelected persons. Power has moved from elected persons to unelected persons inasmuch as this platform here, the Parliament, no longer matters, and instead this tremendously elevated platform is being used by unelected persons who can use it to express their own biased views.
When it comes to television performances, it is the executives of these organisations who choose the subject, who choose the timing, who choose the participants and who direct the debate. I need not mention the various platforms provided in this way, but I say that it is utterly wrong that this kind of platform should be given to these unelected people to use for their own particular political prejudices. What are their criteria? I believe that members of this Parliament, coming here from their electorates, being sent by peoples who have their own problems and their own ideas, and being conscious, as honourable members must be, of the aspirations of those people, come to this place to represent the aspirations of those with whom they are in touch. What do the media people represent? Their criterion, above all, is entertainment. This involves personalities, rows - these are the things in which people are most interested - and trivia. We had a little talk in the past day or two in this place about sugar. I think one honourable member came up with his grandmother’s prescription for all kinds of wogs. I think it required a mixture of sugar - and what else?
– It induced virility.
– It was a mixture of sugar, rum and onions, and it was supposed to give people virility and so forth. This trivial thing is what hit the newspapers. I am simply making the point that the criteria of these people are not the criteria of this Parliament. I think that great damage is being done to this institution as a result of our not giving careful thought to where we are moving in this field.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I also am conscious of the fact that this is the first time separate estimates for a Department of the Media have been presented. I think this is a most interesting development and it is worth while quoting, from the first annual report of the Department, the Secretary’s comments on the presentation of the report. He says:
The Department of the Media is unique. It has no precedent in older countries overseas, for until now they have tended to ignore, or had scant knowledge of, the need or the appetite of the public for more information about their own country and about Government: about what Government is doing and why it is doing it, about rights and privileges.
Every democratic country has similar divisions to those embraced by the Department of Media. Coordinating these divisions for the public benefit is an Australian initiative.
I welcome this development for some of the reasons which the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) has advanced. I refer to the power of the media in the community today. The media is faced with a frightening responsibility in carrying out its duties. I think that the honourable member for Bradfield was rather unfair in saying that honourable members probably did not think about these matters. The problem is that we think about these matters but the guidelines are so difficult. On the media there must devolve a high ethical standard. And who decides what is an ethical standard? There must be accuracy of reporting because there can even be distortion of visual reporting, as occurs on television. There must be a responsibility of action in presenting cases. But as soon as one tries to lay down guidelines, the horrible ogre of censorship or the Goebbel’s type propaganda rears its head in public discussion, and I believe that this is probably what deters a great deal of discussion and action in the field. So one trusts that the media itself will soundly think about this matter, and that many of the shocking examples of the media’s irresponsibility that we have seen of late will not recur.
I wish to comment on the television and radio sections of the media, but not so much in the field of the national network of broadcasting and television stations, nor of the commercial network, both of which we trust will be able to preserve their high degree of autonomy. I think that these networks are essentially for entertainment and, to some extent, for the presentation of news. But I believe that we should give a lot more impetus to the introduction of a third system, both for radio and television, which might well cater to minority groups and which would serve a very useful purpose. It should be a system that serves the educational process. It could be integrated with the functioning of schools and with the concept of an open university. I know that educational programs are shown on the national network at the present time, but to me they are inappropriately placed there; they would be better in a separate system. A great deal of information could be given about government functioning and parliamentary functioning, whether it be in the Federal or State spheres.
My other criticism is of the traditional news and current affair services that are provided at the present time. There are many good programs in this field, but they occur at regular times; when they will be seen is preordained. Because of this they lack much in freshness and originality. One of my early impressions in this field was gained in 1968 in America. I happened to be there at the time when Robert Kennedy was assassinated. It was very interesting to see the news services that were given at that time. Regular programs were dropped and the television stations devoted themselves to giving the facts of what was happening and what was proceeding from it. Shortly after that time students at the Colombia University took over the administrative building. One of the television stations, instead of proceeding with its usual soap operas and so on, did a current affairs program on the spot at the time of the occupation of the building, with rebellious student leaders and conventional student leaders being interviewed there and then. The program was visible on the television screen to millions of people, and it really conveyed the sense of what was happening in what was a fairly ugly situation. This service could be provided in Australia through a third system. Many other features in cultural areas and so on could also be accommodated. I think there is room for a third system. I think that we have to look at this question, and perhaps the new Department of the Media might give added incentive in this regard.
One could go on and talk about the problems that we will face with frequency modulation and colour television. Undoubtedly other honourable members will speak on those subjects. Fairly recently there was introduced a points system which attracted a lot of hysterical reaction in the media. I think that position has settled down now. Reference to the system is contained in the first report of the Department of the Media. It is clear from the report that the system was introduced in a genuine attempt to ensure Australian content in programs on radio and television and increased use of Australian material as well as of artists. I think that the system is to be commended and not condemned in an hysterical manner.
One other area that comes under the Department of the Media is the Australian Information Service. The Australian Government Publishing Service does much in publishing many Government publications, some of which like Hansard are undoubtedly widely read, while others are of a more topical nature on Australian areas and Australian happenings. But the Australian Information Service has as one of its vital functions the job of conveying the Australian story in other countries. It does this in a variety of ways. I want to offer a word of commendation to the Australian Information Service for what it does overseas. Recently a member of my family was living in the United States for 12 months and he, as an Australian visitor, was expected to talk on and give a picture of what was happening in Australia. The Australian Information Service has regularly supplied material to him on current happenings in Australia and that material has been presented to the American people. It is presented in an excellent form, it is easy to understand and it tells the Australian story. In fact, the material so attracts the American people that they would like to be regular receivers of it. I think that we should look to expanding our Information Service overseas so that it is available to a much wider range of users.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I was very interested in the speech of the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner). I thought that it covered the subject extremely well. I should like to take up the same subject because it seems to me that in a comparatively short time the relationships between the Parliament and the Press have taken almost a full circle. It was only in 1771 that the House of Commons prosecuted some poor, humble printer in London because he dared to distribute a document relating to debates that took place in the House of Commons. That happened in 1771, which was really not such a long time ago. It was only in 1845 - just over 100 years ago - .that the Press Gallery was able to establish itself in the House of Commons. To strike a somewhat sour note, I point out that it is now 1973 and we have the situation where the Australian Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) reports on many issues to the Press Gallery rather than to the Parliament. I think this is the point that the honourable member for Bradfield was trying to make. I do not blame members of the Press Gallery. It is the Prime Minister’s fault. I think that generally the relationship ‘between the media and members of Parliament is not always as bad as it appears to be.
I share the view which was expressed by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) that many of our problems are similar to those faced by members of the Press Gallery, particularly in regard to the cramped accommodation which we are forced to accept in this building. We all work long hours and we all have deadlines to meet. This applies both to journalists in the Press Gallery and to ourselves. I think those pressures have produced certain features which I believe are undesirable in this Parliament. I refer particularly to the habit of distribution of prepared speeches to the Press Gallery before the speech is read in the Parliament. There are times when this is necessary. I accept that and I realise that this would apply in the case of Ministers. But anybody could have written those speeches. We do not know who writes some speeches. I think, as the honourable member for Bradfield said, that this is one reason why we are losing all the sharpness of debate. It seems to me that it is much better for honourable members to come into this place and make a dreadful speech from notes or off-the-cuff than it is to make a perfect one by reading a speech which may have been prepared by somebody else. I recall that in the dying stages of the previous Parliament a member who is still a member today had a prepared speech that he wished to deliver on the adjournment debate. At midnight, Mr Speaker stood up and apparently because he did not see the honourable member standing left the chamber. The next morning that member’s speech appeared in some daily newspapers although it was never made in the Parliament. The honourable member had to make it the following night. That is hardly the purpose of debate. That is one of the bad things that has come out of the system under which we operate in this place today.
I commend to honourable members a recent Inter Parliamentary Union report called, I think, ‘Press and Parliament’ which dealt with this matter. There are many interesting features mentioned in that report which apply to the situation in Australia. In some countries things are even worse than they are here. As one honourable member mentioned, in Britain journalists receive copies of speeches on the Budget and on the Estimates 24 hours before the Budget is delivered and I do not think there has ever been a single leak. In Canada journalists receive copies of speeches in the same way but all the journalists are locked up. Apparently in that country there is not the same confidence as there is in Britain. In Congo-Brazzaville whatever is dished out by the Government has to be reported that way by the journalists.
– What would you suggest we should do here?
– I suggest that if we could arrange to have some sort of reporting system which would put the views of both sides I would be very happy. We all like to be reported. I take it that all members of Parliament like to be reported and talked about although we do not always like the things that are said about us, but that is part of the game.
There are a few matters about which I would like to complain, in respect of some sections of the media, at any rate, on the odd chance that some of them may be listening. One matter that is high on the list of complaints is what I believe to be a continuing campaign against the Leaders of my Party - the Liberal Party.
– Oh, come, come!
– I do not say it is by all sections of the Press, but it is carried out by a significant portion of the Press. This has been happening for several years. It happened firstly in regard to the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) and it also happened in respect of the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) when those gentlemen held the office of Prime Minister. It is happening now - ‘and I am complaining about this most bitterly - to the Leader of our Party in Opposition, the honourable member for Bruce (Mr Snedden). I am sure that most honourable members here will remember about 2 years ago when the then Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Lowe, was travelling to a conference in London and because he did not travel the whole of the way with Qantas Airways Ltd - I think he crossed the Pacific with some other airline - a tremendous amount of criticism was levelled against him. The only way he could travel across the Pacific was to use the facilities of some other airline. He travelled with a staff of six with some other company, Pan American Airways or something like that.
– ‘How many went to Japan?
– I appreciate the interjection because in the last couple of weeks we saw the Prime Minister of this country charter a Boeing 707 to travel to Japan and China. This is the second occasion on which this has happened. He had an entourage of over 50 people and I believe there was an enormous quantity of champagne and lots of other perks. Yet there was no criticism from the media. I believe that a Prime Minister should travel in some sort of style. But if we are to criticise previous Prime Ministers who travelled in a most humble way then let us criticise the present Prime Minister. The proposed appointment of Mr Mick Young who comes from my own State and who is a very successful operator - no one knows better than we do - may warrant criticism. What would have happened when we were in Government if one of our Prime Ministers had appointed the Federal Leader of the Liberal Party as his personal adviser on the best way to keep in touch with Liberal Party branches?
– They would have killed us.
– There would have been criticism to high heaven. There has not been a word of criticism about this proposed appointment. As the honourable member for Moore says, they would have killed us. But of course none of our leaders has ever done that. I have been dying to say something for years about broadcasting talk-back programs. We have these wretched programs in the State of South Australia. I take it that we face the same problems as do other States. I do not listen to them very often, but whenever I do I do not think an occasion goes by without hearing someone being defamed or libelled by some anonymous person. I think this is a field which radio stations should take some steps to clean up. It is easy for somebody to telephone a radio entrepreneur and defame someone who is in public life. It has happened to me more times than I can remember. A further aggravation is the fact that many of the people who run these talkback programs are ministers of religion. I have yet to hear one of them preach the gospel on radio talk-back programs; it is all politics. I think this is a retrograde step in the media.
It is unfortunate that we have only 10 minutes in which to speak in estimates debates and that time seems to fly. I should like to be somewhat critical of the way in which the media have reported the French nuclear tests. I believe that the media has been highly selective. I think the reason for this is that it takes a great deal of technical knowledge to understand all the aspects of reports on such tests.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 6.14 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting we were discussing the estimates for the new Department of the Media, and the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) made some comments and complaints about the media, criticising leaders of his own Party. I think that the honourable member for Boothby merely reinforced the observation made by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) that perhaps the media was spending too much time on trivia. In speaking to the estimates of the Department of the Media I think it is appropriate that in the first instance we recognise the fact that it has been operating for only a few months. It is a completely new and refreshing department. It is a department with awesome responsibility. It embraces, and is responsible for, the totality of broadcasting in this country. At this stage it is worth reminding ourselves that the Department has become a reality in the 50th year of broadcasting in Australia. This in itself is a notable occasion and one that serves to remind us of the conspicuous contribution to our society made by broadcasters, both national and commercial.
I referred earlier to the awesome responsibility of this Department; and indeed it is awesome. Let me illustrate this point. The area of responsibility embraces the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the Australian Film Development Corporation, Film Australia, the Australian Information Service and the Australian Government Publishing Service, to mention just a few. I want to deal more specifically in the time available to me tonight with its functions and powers in relation to broadcasting. Let me deal firstly with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Commission is answerable through the Minister for the Media to this Parliament, but its independence is guaranteed by Act of Parliament. Although in recent years it must be conceded that this independence has been challenged, and indeed on many occasions has been threatened, by some very curious and spurious suggestions, the first Minister for the Media, Senator Douglas McClelland, has made it clear that the independence of the Commission will be guaranteed. This is a view that I personally have supported since I have been in this Parliament, and I have no intention of departing from that attitude now.
The attitude of the Government to the ABC is manifest in many ways. Not least is the decision to provide this year an extra $ 10.2m for increased expenditure. This is in dramatic contrast to the proposition floated by the last Government to reduce expenditure by the ABC in the field of public affairs, but fortunately this exercise was withdrawn after debate and protest in this Parliament. Of this $ 10.2m, some $5.2m will be available to improve and develop radio and television programs in many fields and to improve the accommodation of ABC staff. It is in the field of programming that the greatest satisfaction must emerge. It is this field that is of particular interest to me because I have long advocated the expansion of news services and public affairs programs by the Commission. Let me just cite one or two instances where expansion will now occur as a result of this increased allocation. A regional television service has been provided for the Wide Bay district in Queensland. An ABC newsroom with a full time journalist will be established in Burnie in Tasmania as soon as suitable premises can be found and an experienced journalist appointed. Offices will be established in Brussels, Peking and Wellington in New Zealand. The journalists located in these centres will provide news and voice reports for domestic programs and Radio Australia. This indeed is a welcome breakthrough. Radio Australia staff will move into new leased accommodation in Merlin House, Melbourne. New radio studios and recording facilities will be provided. The
Commission’s Victorian newsroom and record library will also be established in Merlin House, thus enabling the ABC to vacate the present unsatisfactory accommodation in which it is housed in Lonsdale Street in Melbourne.
Of particular interest to me is the ability, through this allocation, for the extension of public affairs programs. As a result, for the first time on ABC television in February 1974 there will be programs to replace the normal programs such as ‘This Day Tonight’ and ‘Four Corners’, which normally go into recess towards the end of the year. I have made submissions from time to time about the increase of personnel in various orchestras maintained by the ABC throughout the country. Due to this increased allocation, it is proposed to increase the permanent strength of the Adelaide Singers from 12 to 16. The strength of the South Australian Symphony Orchestra will be increased by 9 full time players. I am glad that one representation I have made has been received in the way in which I think it ought to have been received, and that the strength of the Tasmanian orchestra wil also be increased by 2 full time players. These are very worthwhile and notable contributions to the expansion of the ABC. The Australian Broadcasting Commission, in its 41st year of broadcasting, has contributed much to our society and to our cultural development. It has certainly made a great contribution to contemporary events and the transmission of great and significant debates. It will make mistakes - indeed we all do - because it is staffed by human beings, but the record will show that its professionalism and integrity are unquestioned.
In the area of responsibility the Department of the Media has an obligation and duty through the Broadcasting Control Board to scrutinise and maintain the standards, both technical and programming, of the commercial stations. I suggest that it would be fair comment that the establishment of the new Department of the Media has been favourably received by ‘ the licensees throughout this country. They have responded to the wishes of the Department, particularly with regard to Australian content. They also feel with justification that the staff of this Department, with its long experience in commercial radio and television, is sympathetic to their problems and can interpret them with intelligence and an understanding of the complexities of this industry. I suggest that Australia has been very well served by the dual system of broadcast ing, and it is my belief that this newly established Department of the Media will serve as the agency that will ensure that broadcasters of this country, whether they be national or commercial, will be encouraged to look forward to another SO years of successful broadcasting in the interests and general welfare of the people of this country.
– Some things have been said by the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) with which I would not agree. On odd occasions he and I have had a difference of opinion on other subjects, but I certainly agree with him in what he said about the system we have in Australia of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and commercial radio and television. I think that under this system we get the best of both worlds. There are certain things that can be done by the Australian Broadcasting Commission that cannot be done by commercial stations. In exactly the same way, there are certain things which the commercial radio stations and television channels can do that may not be quite so easy for the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
I want to speak on the estimates for the Department of the Media in relation to broadcasting and television. Before doing so, however, I want to comment on some of the things that have been said by honourable members on both sides in relation to the responsibility of the media in all spheres - in the spheres of the Press, radio and television. Today many things are happening on the world scene and it is necessary to have a well informed public. I believe that the responsibility of the media today is far greater than it has ever been in world history.
I now refer to commercial broadcasting and television and sound a note of warning about some of the steps that are being taken by the present Government in these fields. A little while ago when discussing increased charges for land lines and the various other increased charges by the Postmaster-General’s Department, reference was made to profits that are made by radio interests. I appreciate the fact that radio and television must contribute in some way to the costs of these services provided by the Postmaster-General’s Department. It was then mentioned that commercial radio and television companies were being formed so that they might make a profit. Those who say this should look first of all at metropolitan broadcasting and television compared with country broadcasting and television.
The policy of the previous Government in the initial stages was to endeavour to have radio and television under the control of people in the area which those media served. I believe that this was a wise policy. I realise that there are many difficulties and complexities in the establishment particularly of television with its high costs. Factors have entered into the situation which have necessitated the joining together of some television channels. This policy is to the advantage of the people in country areas and the television channels. But the original plan of the previous Government was to have local people in local control. If control were to come from a centralised point it would be detrimental not only to the television industry but also to the people in particular areas. The major point is the service given to the area served by both radio stations and television channels.
I will not deny that these companies desire to make a profit. After all, I suppose that is one of the facts and realities of life. But if one looks at radio and television in this country one will find that a great deal of the time of the radio stations and television channels is spent in community effort. I am thinking particularly of times of flood and other emergencies in country areas when the only means of communication has been radio. I know of a number of instances in which lives have been saved and stock have been saved because the radio station was able to broadcast a warning about a river rising and the danger of flooding in the area. As I say, radio and television provide community services. I recall to mind that only a short time ago the 2 television channels in my electorate held a special charities appeal. An amount of money was raised and interest was created in this field of charity. While I do not deny that the commercial stations are interested in making a profit and in providing a return to their shareholders, I believe that the aspect I have just mentioned should be given consideration also. That is why I believe that the policy being followed by the present Government endangers the future of some radio stations and television channels in country areas.
I said earlier that I thought it might be well for people to compare the profits made in metropolitan areas with the profits made in some country areas. I have suggested that the national advertisers should have a look at this when they are allocating their advertising expenditure for a particular year. They might also take into consideration the fact that on a per capita basis, although the country station may not appear to cover the same number of listeners or viewers as a metropolitan station covers, sometimes there is a greater return in advertising in the country area than there is in a metropolitan area. I come back to the service to the community which I believe is part and parcel of country radio and country television.
At a time when costs in these fields are increasing, the Government has made a move which will reduce the income of these stations. Although I do not agree with it, I will not comment on the moves to eradicate cigarette advertising over a period of time. I know that arguments both for and against this question have been put in many quarters and in many countries, but this move will have an effect upon the income of country radio stations and country television channels. At the same time the increase in costs that is being faced by the media is creating something that could cause a lessening of the capacity of these stations to provide services. In many of the country areas the only means by which the country people have a link with sporting activities and other events, including the news, is through the media of television and radio. Of course, the Australian Broadcasting Commission has many advantages because it is linked to many of its regional stations throughout the State and even throughout Australia. In its attitude and thinking, the Government should give consideration to these factors so that radio and television in country areas can continue to play a part in serving the community.
– I want to maKe a few comments on the estimates for the Department of the Media. My electorate represents over half of South Australia and takes in most of the remote areas. The extension of television services to those remote areas is something that occupies the minds of many of the people living in my electorate. Television services in the more populated portions of the electorate have been available to viewers since about 1965 in the case of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and from about 1966 in the case of the commercial channels. Although these 2 television channels now extend further down the eastern part of Eyre Peninsula and are able to provide a service to approximately 80 per cent of the electorate of Grey, there are still many areas which receive no television service.
It is a fact that in phase 7 of the plans formerly of the Postmaster-General’s Department and now of the Department of the Media to give a television coverage to as much of Australia as possible there was provision for the establishment of 38 remote area stations. Two of those remote area stations are in the electorate of Grey. One is at Ceduna, which is on the west coast of South Australia and the other is at the Woomera rocket range, which has an isolated population of about 3,500 to 4,000. The one at Ceduna was opened in the final stage of phase 7 about last June. I received word during the week from the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) that the station at Woomera will be opened on 30 November. Both stations are small. They have a very limited range. They have a maximum range of about 12 to 15 miles. Both stations will serve a very limited number of people.
As I have already said, there are possibly 3,500 to 4,000 people at the Woomera rocket range. There are probably 3,000 to 3,500 people in the Ceduna area. But a great part of the Eyre Peninsula, which has an area of more than 40,000 square miles, will receive no television coverage. Although this area is sparsely populated it is nevertheless populated. It is an area in which there are a number of towns of possibly 600 to 800 people - some towns are smaller and others slightly larger - which receive no television reception. I have raised this matter with the previous Government in the past. I have also taken it up with the present Minister for the Media. Various reasons have been given as to why it is not possible to service these areas. One is that the actual cost of the provision of television services compared with the number of people receiving those services does not justify the outlay of the finance that would make such a television reception possible. I hope that this area will receive its due share in the next phase of the program for the provision of television services in remote areas.
It is hoped that with technological advances in the television field it will be a lot easier to provide areas such as those to which I have referred with a decent television service. I know that a considerable amount of discontent is being created among the people of these areas because television facilities are provided to others around them but those who live in the vast hinterland of the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia are left out. I do not know the technicalities of the situation, but it has been put forward in the past that a large television station placed right in the middle of the area would give a coverage to a considerable part of the area. Of course the question of the cost involved has been raised and again that has been related to the number of people who would be served. It is a fact that the east-west broad band microwave link passes through this area. I certainly hope that it will be possible for these areas to receive a television coverage in the near future.
I have stated in this chamber in the past that I believe that we should not have colour television until such time as the more remote areas are provided with some television reception. I know that I might be bashing my head against a brick wall by saying that at this stage because we all know that possibly at the beginning of July next year we will have colour television. I have had the opportunity of watching colour television and I know that it is very attractive, but I hope that in all of our moves to provide colour television to the more populated areas we will not forget about those isolated areas in which there is no black and white television at the present time. I hope that technological advances and improvements in the field of television will permit the extension of the coverage to those areas that do not receive any television service at present.
I have always been an admirer of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Commission does not rely on the sponsorship of its programs and so forth. It has the responsibility of providing a general coverage on a wide range of programs to a large number of people. I have always had a high regard for the range and diversity of the programs the ABC provides. It has to provide entertainment for all classes of people. I think the Commission is to be congratulated on the coverage it provides throughout Australia. That applies more so in the broadcasting field than in the television field. As representatives of large electorates would realise, no matter where one goes in Australia one very rarely is in the position of being out of the range of an ABC radio station, although one can often move out of the range of a commercial radio station. I think the Commission is to be congratulated on what it has done in the past and, from what has been said recently, will be able to do in the future.
I return to the subject of television. I know that it is generally held that a grave mistake was made in the provision of an extra channel in the major cities. Various people and organisations have expressed the view that the fourth channel that exists in the major cities and so forth should have been reserved exclusively for educational purposes. I fully agree with them. I think many experts now agree that the wrong step was taken in providing a third commercial channel to the major cities and ‘that this channel should have been reserved for use for other purposes. I wish to make just a few more comments before I finish my speech. I was most interested to hear the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) comment on how harshly his former leaders had been treated by the media. I do not know whether the media treated them harshly, but I certainly think that some of the people who sit behind them treated them a bit harshly. The honourable member also commented on the talk-back programs. I agree with the honourable member in this respect. I do not often have an opportunity to listen to talk-back programs. The only occasion I do is when I am listening to the wireless whilst sitting in my car. Irrespective of what the honourable member said, I think the people who run the talkback programs, in South Australia at least, are very anti-Labor and not anti-Liberal. So, although I agree with his criticism of the talkback programs, I think the boot is on the other foot in that respect.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, the time set aside for the discussion of this subject was one hour. As that time has already elapsed, I move:
That the question be now put.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Luchetti) - Order! The question is That the question be now put’. Those of that opinion say ‘aye’; to the contrary ‘no’. I think the ‘ayes ‘have it.
– The ‘noes’ have it.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Is a division required?
– The ‘noes’ have it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - The question now is “That the proposed expenditure for the Department of the Media be agreed to’. Those of that opinion say ‘aye’; to the contrary ‘no’. I think the ‘ayes’ have it.
– The ‘noes’ have it.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Proposed expenditure, $18,170,000.
Dr FORBES (Barker) .(8.28> - I should like to say a few words about the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department. Because I was absent overseas at the time I did not have an opportunity in any of the debates on the various Bills implementing the Government’s Budget decisions to make my protest at what I regard as a most vicious kind of discrimination in which the Government has indulged against the people who live in country areas. I refer particularly to the increase in telephone rentals, the abandonment of the decision to construct at departmental expense a line up to a radius of IS miles and various other minor irritants, such as the increase in private bag services and that type of thing as well as the decision of the Government on a wholesale basis to downgrade the official post offices to nonofficial post offices and, in some cases, to cut out nonofficial post offices altogether. I want to raise this matter because I do not think that the Postmaster-General or the Government which, no doubt, agreed in Cabinet to his recommendations to do these things, even begins to perceive some of the problems faced by country people in this sphere or that they begin to perceive that there are involved what I would call quite important issues of principle.
The first of those is that this Government does not appear to recognise that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department provides a community service and that community services should be provided to those who need them most. Who can deny that people living in isolation need these services of the PMG Department more than people living cheek by jowl in a suburban street in a metropolitan city in Australia? They need the services for business; they need them in the case of an emergency because of their isolation; they need such services for social contact; and they need them for all the amenities of life which people in the metropolitan cities can obtain in other ways. In this sense, country people are the disadvantaged people in the Australian community. Yet this Government and the Postmaster-General himself, in answer to questions and in other ways in this House, have gloried in emphasising what I would call the cash-nexus approach to the provision of services by the PMG - a sort of approach which would do justice to some of the worst characters out of a Dickens novel or to the traditional American robber barons of the 19 th century. This approach has made it more difficult for people in the country areas of Australia, who suffer from all these disadvantages that I mentioned, to obtain a telephone. The Government’s aproach is: To him that hath shall be given. That, in essence, is how I would sum up its approach.
What would honourable gentlemen opposite, including the Postmaster-General, say for instance if we on this side of the House applied the same system to health insurance and established a system that the greater the risk one was and therefore the more expense that was likely to be incurred on one, the more one would have to pay? They would scream to high heaven, and quite rightly. Yet that is exactly what honourable members opposite are doing to country users of the PMG Department. The Minister says: ‘It costs more so you pay more’. That is a principle on which he works. I believe that mine is a valid comparison. It is setting back 23 years of progress by a Liberal-Country Party government which was aimed progressively towards the goal of bringing the amenities of the city to people in the country, of reducing the disadvantages and the dangers of isolation and improving productivity in, for instance, my electorate. When I first became the member for the electorate of Barker 18 years ago, one could not ring on the telephone from where I lived to the other end of the electorate without a delay of eight to ten hours. As a result of the expenditure by the Government to which I had the honour to belong there has been an instantaneous telephone service available for many years. Virtually every telephone exchange is an auto<matic exchange. We brought in improvements, such as providing free to country subscribers 15 miles of telephone line, which concession this Government has now removed. We brought in the extended local services area system, improved the mail runs and introduced new post offices, all moves aimed at reducing the isolation and the disadvantages of people in the country. Now this Government has set out on what appears to be a deliberate attempt to set the clock back.
The other important principle that I will mention briefly - I believe it to be important but the Government has departed from itis that if one does not get the same services from the PMG Department, one should not have to pay the same amount as somebody who receives more services. That was a principle on which we worked in respect of rentals paid by country telephone subscribers. They paid a rental which was related to the number of people they could reach with local calls. If they could not reach as many people as somebody who was a subscriber in another exchange district, they did not pay as much in rental. That seems to me to be perfectly reasonable. Such people are not receiving as good a service so they do not pay as much. Yet this Government has abandoned that principle. For this reason I want to protest on behalf of my Party and my constituents at the decision.
The final matter that I want to mention in the few minutes left to me is the wholesale process of which the Postmaster-General has given notice of downgrading official post offices to non-official status. I should like to mention just some of the post offices so affected in my electorate of which I have been notified. They are Goolwa, Kalangadoo, Meadows, Milang, Port Elliott, Robe, Willunga and Yankalilla, all of them vitally important centres to ‘ the people who use them. Two or three of them are new post offices which have been built only in the last few years and all of them are placed in situations where, if they are downgraded to non-official post offices, the people who at present use them will have to travel 30, 50 or 70 miles to obtain the services that they can obtain only from an official post office.
– That is not so and you know it.
– Well, I will be very glad to give the Postmaster-General some details indicating that in many cases that situation will apply. But I am saying that I do not believe the Postmaster-General should downgrade one single official post office.
– What did your Government do?
– In response to the Minister’s question, I cannot say absolutely, but I think I am right in saying that I do not believe a single post office in my time when the previous Government was in office was downgraded from an official to a non-official post office.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Luchetti) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I raise a point of order. I refer to the debate on the estimates for the Department of the Media which has just been concluded. When you put the question, I said ‘No’. When you said ‘The ayes have it’. I said ‘The noes have it’, and I requested a division both on the motion that the question be put and on the question itself. When no steps were taken to have a division I did not force the issue because I felt that there might have been an agreement with the Leader of the House that there would be no division on the motion that the question be put and that it had been agreed that a certain time should be allocated for debate on the estimates for the Department of the Media. The honourable member for. Petrie was on his feet. I have since found out that no agreement was made. I register a protest that there was no call for a division in the Committee stage.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Luchetti) - Order! I think the honourable gentleman would know that the point of order is not valid. The estimates before the Committee at present are the estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The honourable member, a very experienced member of this House, had his opportunity when the question was put to the Committee. I asked then whether a division was desired. There was no response.
– There was a response, Sir.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - I proceeded to deal with the next business. The business before the Committee at the present time is the estimates for . the Postmaster-General’s Department. I call the honourable member for Hunter.
– I am pleased to contribute to the debate on the important estimates of the Postmaster-General’s Department, for which the Treasurer has allocated an amount of some $l’8m for the next 12 months. The honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) sought to emphasise that country people have been persecuted by the withdrawal of certain concessions they had in regard to telephones. His remarks called to my mind that when the Bill dealing with this matter was before Parliament, the Liberal
Party took very little objection to the minor rise in telephone rentals and costs to country people. The main protest by Liberal members when the Bill went through the House was directed against the higher charges levied on country newspapers. To my mind the honourable member for Barker, probably because of his extended time as a member of this chamber, puts himself forward as just another professional politician.
– And a good one, too.
– He might be in your view, but that would not be the view of the majority of members in this chamber. The Opposition is trying to establish that the slight increases in telephone charges imposed on country people are cruel and unjust. I do not believe that they are. The people I know in the country feel that they have been very kindly treated by the Parliament over a long period of years. However, the Liberal Party would never have acceded to the concessions granted to country people had it not been for members of the Country Party who imposed their influence on the Liberal Party in the coalition that ruled this country for so long. The Country Party, in its desire to hold seats for its members, sought unjustifiable concessions for country people. These became embarrassing to country people, making them feel that they were imposing on the people of the metropolis and people in industrial areas. The concessions granted to country people embarrassed them.
Because the Postmaster-General’s Department has a substantial say in the administration of radio and television, I put before the Committee a matter from my electorate concerning the memory of a great Australian, the late Sir William Dobell. To all Australians, from the time they leave their mother’s breast until they go to the great architect above, the name Dobell is synonymous with greatness. Sir William Dobell lived in the industrial coalmining area of Wangi Wangi in the heart of the Hunter electorate, and shortly before his death I had the honour of enjoying the richness of his company, which was something the Liberals did not have. His home, where he did most of his paintings, is being preserved for posterity. I should like to read from a letter that was written to me by a public spirited man, Mr Ray Lloyd, of Wangi Wangi, who says:
As you know, I am the Wangi representative on the Sir William Dobell Memorial Committee. You may he aware that we are buying this home and studio as an historical memorial to one of Newcastle and districts great men. We borrowed the money from the NSW Bank of $10,000 and are paying it off at $120 a month.
I should imagine that it would be a great thing if this letter were read over the media, which is virtually under the control of the Postmaster-General’s Department. If some television or radio station would do this it would be a good thing, but of course they are under the control of private enterprise and there would be no profit in reading a letter like this. I have no doubt that if the contents of the letter could be made known, the response from the community would relieve the plight of the administrators of the Dobell home. The letter continues:
Most of this money is being obtained through entrance fees and sales. A big percentage of our visitors are large groups of school children, throughout the area. These are presented with a pictorial record of material which we have acquired. We would like to improve this facility of showing great numbers of coloured slides of a complete range of his craft and also a coloured movie loaned by Qantas depicting Sir William painting and discussing his painting in his studio at Wangi plus a dialogue on various examples of his work.
I am asking whether this letter could be read over the media, which is under the control of the Postmaster-General’s Department. Therefore it is relevant to the estimates before the Committee. Mr Lloyd continues:
We have just written a similar letter to the Australian Council for the Arts hoping they could supply us with a grant to aid us to get a sound projector and similar aids to carry out these ambitions.
Mr Lloyd then said that he was writing the letter in the hope that I might be able to assist him.
– Did that cost him more than 15c?
– No, although it would have been cheap at that. As the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has control of radio and television, this is a matter that falls within these estimates. Having visited Latin America in 1962 I was convinced that all Australians should be proud of our Postmaster-General’s Department. I had posted some letters in Brazil, a Latin American country, 3 weeks before leaving for home, but when I got home many of those letters had not arrived. I sent telegrams to people in different parts of Latin America, and they arrived 2 or 3 days after I had sent them. I think it is a great advantage to members of Parliament after they go overseas to come back and be able to draw comparisons between the efficiency of postal departments in other parts of the world and that of our own Postal Department. If we all were frank and for a moment could drift away from professional politics I think we would all admit that we are proud of our PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
While I was a member of the Public Works Committee I had the pleasure of listening to executive officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department giving evidence before that Committee. I was satisfied that they were dedicated, highly qualified men. I believe that the Postmaster-General’s Department will continue to maintain its very high standard of efficiency, particularly under the administration of the present Postmaster-General who I believe will exceed in efficiency any other Postmaster-General who has held this high office in the past.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Luchetti) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) delivered a very informative speech. His understanding of the country people quite took my fancy. To go into a rural electorate today and suggest that country people were embarrassed by the previous Government’s attitude towards them and at their getting a reasonably fair go over the last few years from that Government-
– And blaming the Country Party for it.
– Yes, and blaming the Country Party for it.
– You made the country people feel that they were imposters.
– Quite seriously, if the honourable member for Hunter went into a rural electorate today - if he went into mine, for instance - and suggested this I do not think he would be applauded. I think he would find that the people in the rural areas would suggest that this Government has endeavoured to make them second class citizens. Much has happened since this Government gained office on 2 December. Much has happened to the rural sector of Australia, not the least being the adverse measures that have been initiated by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. There has been a general raising of postal and telephone charges, an increase in telephone rentals and so on. I believe that the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) put the points very well. However, I should like to elaborate on just a couple.
The latest attack, if I could so describe it, by the Government is manifest in its intention to close down a number of official post offices or change them to non-official status. Seven of these post offices are in my electorate - Balingup, Capel, Cranbrook, Nannup, Pemberton, Tambellup and Yarloop. There are 36 post offices in Western Australia on that list. I was really amazed when I first saw the list. These 7 towns in my electorate I know particularly well. They are towns of some size and in the main they are growing towns. I appreciate that the Government will make much of the supposed fact that services and standards will not be lowered in the changeover from official status to non-official capacity. But I believe that the experience and training of the career postmaster must fit him to provide a more varied and efficient service to the public than is provided by the untrained person who is placed in charge of post office services under non-official conditions.
In many instances services will be withdrawn purely because of the lack of knowledge and/ or skill required to perform a particular task. It is argued that the reduction in status of the post offices is prompted by financial considerations. I believe that a close study of this aspect will reveal many anomalies. We are all aware that it is necessary to provide an economic service. But the accent should be on ‘service’ with the lesser emphasis on ‘economic’. This has been highlighted by the recent decision in this Commonwealth Parliament when the Budget proposal to increase charges for uneconomic services - I refer to postage rates on newspapers - was not approved. This measure was disallowed as we in this Parliament believe that the delivery of newspapers was a service and was in the best interests of the public generally.
If the PMG is to operate on a purely economic basis only, we will see the closing of many other services, particularly in remote areas. Under existing financial arrangements the Australian Post Office is required to pay interest on advances from the Treasury for capital or operating expenditure. For the year ending 30 June 1972 the interest charges for the postal services division alone amounted to $13,767,230 while the loss of the division, after providing for depreciation, superannuation, long service leave and interest payments was only $11,253,385. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen), in a paper presented to Parliament during the Budget session, indicated that a substantial proportion of the loss sustained was due to the concessional rate of postage allowed on newspapers. Yet we in this Parliament, as I have mentioned, disallowed the move to overcome the operational loss. The Postmaster-General, I thought, was very happy with the Opposition’s amendments once we had explained the need for the continuation of the concession on category A material. This must confirm my contention that the Post Office should provide a public service, in some instances providing all means of communication to people in all walks of life. Incidentally, the savings resulting from the downgrading of the 300 post offices suggested is estimated to be $2m - not a particularly significant amount when the estimated loss on newspaper postage over the next financial year is estimated to be $10.5m.
The Australian Post Office, as part of the Australian Public Service, has always been advertised as a career service for junior staff. Many of the staff recruited aspire for promotion to postmasters and undertake many years of academic study and service in remote places to fit themselves for this position. Promotional opportunities within the Post Office must be reduced considerably by the Government’s proposals. The ranks of postmasters in Western Australia will be cut by nearly 25 per cent and by approximately 20 per cent throughout Australia. As the Post Office offers one of the few opportunities of employment with a future to the young people in country areas, any reduction in that opportunity will have far reaching consequences on the community in general. Also, withdrawal of official Commonwealth Government representatives in the form of Post Office staff in any area will be a retrograde step not only because of the withdrawal of the provision of a complete and effective postal service but because of the loss to the many associations which rely so much on the official staff for assistance.
In small towns postmasters and postal staff usually take full part in the activities of the towns, in service clubs and the like. The loss of the purchasing power of the postmaster and his staff must be felt by any local traders in these small towns. I realise that small post offices have been closed or reduced to nonofficial status over the years in rural areas. But now we are contemplating closing post offices in towns of a good size, and some which really provide a service for whole districts - not, as in the past, in outlying areas closely associated with towns. Some of the towns are reasonably isolated, and some of them are growing. I realise that this recommendation is based on a preliminary survey that was conducted in 1970, more than 3 years ago. For this reason and for the other reasons I have given tonight, and in view of the time lapse since the survey was made, I hope that no post office is changed in status before a thorough and detailed examination is made of all the relevant factors involved in its operation. In conclusion, I emphasise to the Postmaster-General that in many instances these post offices are the life blood of small towns, and those towns will lose a tremendous amount when and if their post offices are closed.
– A perusal of the annual report of the Postmaster-General’s Department discloses that the Department has planned well its important operations. It has done this with a view to making use of the improved techniques that are available in order to maintain a high standard of service and to provide such service through a government department that has a tremendous growth in its operations. The conduct of Australia’s largest business operation places a heavy responsibility on the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) and the officers of his Department. The report to which I have referred records the success of their endeavours on behalf of the people of Australia and it reflects the efficiency of the staff from the top administration level right through the various staff grades.
I am aware that there are knockers of the Postmaster-General’s Department and that in this House there are some quite vocal knockers of this important department. I point out, however, that the Opposition in this Parliament says on one hand that the Government should curb government expenditure, and on the other hand it argues that the Government should finance, subsidise and carry the people in country areas in the provision of telephone services. Rather than pay attention to those who are in the minority, I will deal with facts and pay tribute to those who deserve credit for a job well done.
I have mentioned the growth rate of activity in the Postmaster-General’s Department, and I refer to just a few items in support of that contention. First, there has been an increase in earnings from $858.5m to $937. lm, or a growth of 9.2 per cent over the financial years 1971-72 and 1972-73. The remarkable increase in telephone services provided in the same period represents a rise of 23.2 per cent. Increases in telephone calls ranged from 5 per cent for local calls to 24.5 per cent for international calls and there was an increase of 13.4 per cent in national telex calls and 32.8 per cent in international telex calls. All this, has been achieved, I point out, with an increase of only 3.2 per cent in full time official staff. From time to time one hears comments from honourable members opposite about the activities of those who work in the Australian community, but when one finds this remarkable growth in the operations of the Postmaster-General’s Department and then comes to understand that all this has been achieved with only a slight increase in the official staff, I would submit that one must agree that it is an outstanding feat.
I listened to the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) speaking about the alleged effect of Government policies on country people. What he failed to state or make reference to was what effect the policies of previous Liberal-Country Party governments had on city dwellers. His contribution illustrated his attitude towards city people, whom his Government fleeced in order to provide and maintain services in some country areas. I submit that members opposite should come clean in regard to this matter. I ask: Do they want the Government to conduct the Postmaster-General’s Department as a business operation or as a service subsidised in order to maintain sectional services? They cannot have it two ways. They cannot object to the Government’s spending generally and then press for government expenditure in a selected area. I believe that any great problems that exist within the Postmaster-General’s Department were inherited from a lazy, incompetent, don’t-care government, which was thrown out of office on 2 December 1972. We now have a government that is tackling the problems and, under the sound management of the PostmasterGeneral, will succeed in putting the operations of the post office on a sound level.
Most honourable members would be aware - although perhaps it is not generally known - that the staff of the Postmaster-General’s
Department, numbering 115,420 persons, represents about half of the total staff employed in the Australian Government service. The magnitude of the operations of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is reflected in its financial turnover. In the financial year 1972-73 earnings were $937.1m and expenditure $895.9m. The net value of the Department’s fixed assets at 30 June 1973 was $3,012m. I believe, therefore, that the efficiency of the postal department is outstanding. When one considers that during the financial year 1972- 73, 2,828 million postal articles were handled, one comes to realise that very few complaints are forthcoming about the postal services, and the efficiency of the staff becomes most evident. From my own observations and experience I cannot recall having received a complaint about mail going astray or about bad service from the Department.
– You must be joking.
– I may be fortunate in that the people who have been directing correspondence to me are intelligent enough to address the mail correctly, and I have found that if that is done, the postal staff carry out their duties very well. I pay tribute to the people who work in the Postmaster-General’s Department, particularly in view of the great volume of work that goes through that Department and the efficient way they carry out their duties. I know that a lot of comment has been made about the Redfern mail exchange in Sydney, which was established some years ago in an attempt to make inroads on the cost of mail sorting operations. This was a move to endeavour to tackle a problem that was facing the whole of Australia at the time. The mail, exchange demonstrated that some aspects of mail handling could be mechanised and it was, in fact, the testing area in this country for this, sort of operation. It is important to realise that experience gained from this operation has proved to be of great assistance in planning for future mail handling operations, not only in Sydney but also throughout Australia. The size of the Redfern exchange operation is to be limited as a means of bringing about a more economical arrangement in the area of mail handling.
I was pleased to learn that an interim mail handling centre is to be provided at Artarmon on Sydney’s North Shore. According to reports it is likely that several other mail handling centres will be established in the Sydney metropolitan area. It will be interesting for the other people throughout Australia to learn that improvements in mail handling operations have occurred following the establishment of 15 letter preparation lines in the main capital cities. These letter preparation lines take away much of the tedious work formerly performed by trained and knowledgeable staff, and permit those officers to carry out other responsible duties for which they are qualified. The Labor Government is moving in other areas of the Postmaster-General’s responsibility to provide the maximum benefit from improved technology. This is being achieved through improvements in day to day organisation. Computer based management information systems include the computerised analysis of faults in external line plant and radio telecommunication installations. Through the use of technology and the productivity of the PostmasterGeneral’s staff, better services are being provided for the people of this nation. I pay a tribute to the men and women of the Postmaster-General’s Department who work by day and night on behalf of this nation and its people. I congratulate the PostmasterGeneral who has shown in less than one year that he will prove to be the best PostmasterGeneral that this country has ever had.
– Speaking to the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department, first of all I should like to draw attention to something that I have mentioned previously, and that is the problem of providing telephones in rural areas. I know that the Postmaster-General’s Department has trouble in meeting the demand for telephones throughout the whole of the Commonwealth, and I accept that, but I repeat that I believe the need for telephones in rural areas is much greater than it is in the metropolitan areas and, therefore, the installation of telephones in rural areas should be given a higher priority than this Government is prepared to give it. In addition, the cost of providing telephones in rural areas is beyond the capacity of many people who urgently need telephones for their own businesses and for the protection of their wives and families.
Under the previous Government the first 15 miles of a telephone line was provided free of charge to the subscriber, but today that installation would cost the subscriber more than $5,000. This indicates how difficult it is for many people to get a telephone installed. It might be considered that people ought to meet this cost if it were not for the fact that the cost of installing a telephone has increased because of the upgrading of the standard of telephone services. I believe that it is wise and necessary to upgrade the standard in those areas where subscriber trunk dialling will be provided within a measurable time, but in many areas it seems to me that subscriber trunk dialling will not be provided for many years. In the meantime these people who are a long way removed from the metropolitan areas will have to conform to this very high standard although they will have to wait indefinitely to have their telephones converted to subscriber trunk dialling. So I urge the Government to look at the problem facing these people and to try to provide telephones for them at a much lower cost than that which they are presently being asked to meet.
The Government constantly is limiting and eliminating the services that are provided for people who live outside the closer settled areas of the Commonwealth. Surely we should look at the development of this nation from a national point of view and not merely be concerned with those people who live in and get the benefits of living in the closer settled areas. Sometimes members of the Australian Country Party are accused of thinking only about this matter, and the inference is that no one else thinks about it. I should like to quote from a letter which I received from the Queensland Branch of the Australian Postmasters Association. I noticed that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen) looked up when I mentioned that. I hope that he will take notice of what the Association says. If he will not take notice of what the Country Party says, he might take notice of an unbiased view expressed by the Australian Postmasters Association. The Association’s letter of 11 October 1973, which was addressed to me, states:
The vacant position of official Postmaster at Windorah was gazetted after representations had been made to the Assistant Director (Postal) in Queensland by this Association. However, the position was not filled although, I understand, many applications were received. It is now proposed to reduce the status of the office and fill the vacancy by appointing a non-official Postmaster.
Reduction to non-official status will mean:
Official Post Office facilities will be withdrawn.
There will be no official Federal Government representative in the town.
Local people will be denied the standard of service provided by a fully trained and experienced permanent career officer of the PMG Department.
Official Postmasters in an office of this status are mostly young married people with young families attending the local school. They take a keen interest in local affairs and are generally active on local sporting and charitable organisations.
Under official conditions there is generally an avenue of employment for local school leavers. Many of today’s Postmasters commenced their careers in small country towns.
The Post Office building and residence will probably be sold. It would be unlikely to receive the attention it does as an official office and local expenditure on upkeep by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will cease.
Those fairly good reasons for maintaining the present position come not from a member of the Country Party but from the Australian Postmasters Association. In order to give an idea of the difference in attitude between the previous Government and this Government, I shall quote another paragraph from the letter. It states:
About15 years ago -
During the time of the previous Government - the Department saw fit to spend approximately $35,000 to build a new Post Office and residence at Windorah thus indicating it had faith in the ability of the area to maintain an office under official conditions then and in the foreseeable future.
But because of the increasingly severe conditions required to be met if official post office status is to be maintained under this Government, this looks like going by the board. I shall quote another paragraph from the letter; it falls into line with the comments that I made earlier today. It states:
The value of the primary products of this area, wool and beef, to the State of Queensland and the Commonwealth of Australia are tremendous and the need to maintain Windorah as an official Post Office to provide a complete postal service under official conditions is essential.
In this letter one can almost hear the Country Party speaking, but in fact the letter contains the views of the Australian Postmasters Association. So it indicates that we have people who are prepared to look at the position because they have members in these areas and they want to see that justice is done to the people in the areas. I commend very warmly the Queensland Branch of the Australian Postmasters Association on its broad-minded attitude to this matter.
I also refer to the fact that approximately 1,000 non-official post offices are listed for examination with a view to closing them. It is true that from time to time post offices in certain areas need to be closed, but when the position of 1,000 non-official post offices throughout the Commonwealth is to be examined, I am sure that one will find that among them are post offices which are sorely needed. But, as I have said, they are to be examined with a view to closing them. I refer to the 300 official post offices which are listed for examination with a view to declassifying them to non-official post offices. Here again the Australian Postmasters Association was active in an endeavour to help people in these areas to maintain these post offices, in spite of the completely selfish and unsympathetic attitude of this Government which looks at the matter purely from an economic point of view. What about the Treasurer (Mr Crean) taking a little bit of his own medicine? He is constantly hammering away at the Country Party in particular and at the Opposition in general and saying not to look at things in isolation. I appeal to the Government not to look at things in, isolation, but to look at the development of Australia as a nation.
I will explain in a few minutes just how far this matter has gone. I. will take as an example the town of Injune, which is a town of no fewer than 404 householders. By virtue of the efforts of the people who live in the area, Injune has a doctor and a hospital. It is a thriving community centre. What does the Postmaster-General’s Department think about providing a post office for Injune? The post office in this town is one of those listed for examination with a view to reducing it from official to non-official status. There is no official post office within 0 miles of Injune. How does the Government know - how does anybody know - that when these post offices are reduced to non-official status we will be able to get the people to keep them operating?
I pay a tribute to the excellent work of the non-official post offices and to the postmasters and postmistresses throughout my area. They have done an excellent job, but they are getting a bit tired of trying to live out in this area under the conditions which are being forced upon them by this Government. So we will find that we might have greater difficulty in maintaining these post offices after they have been reduced to non-official status. When the post office in a town like Injune has to face the possibility of being reduced to nonofficial status, I think that it is going too far. How much further will this go? Decisions have been taken on the score of economy. How is the economy being achieved? In the main it is being achieved by sweating the people who are serving as non-official postmasters or postmistresses. That is how the sav ings are being made, and this Labor Government is prepared to do that. It is prepared to save money because it cannot run those post offices, and it is essential to maintain them, as cheaply as they can be run by somebody else. This is the argument that the Government uses to try to force non-official post offices on the people who do not want them. If the people want them, then let them have them by all means. If they do not want them, if they want to maintain the status of their towns, and if the town happens to be a town the size of Injune with 400 households, a hospital and a doctor, then I say it is up to the PostmasterGeneral and this Government to look at these things a bit more broadly and from a national point of view.
– Due to my constant petitioning of the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) - I think he takes it as persecution sometimes - I am now known as the member for Campbelltown telephones. Before I get on to that subject, as the Post Office is now undergoing an inquiry into all of its activities - I am sure it will touch on many of the areas that honourable members on both sides of the House have been raising - I thought it might be a proper time to speak briefly on the Post Office as an institution. The Post Office is a service and it is easily the biggest enterprise in Australia. Historically it has been a government operation because no private organisation could run postal services at a profit. It is proper that the Government should be involved in central operations of the nation’s communications whether they be post, telephone or telecommunications. The real value of communications cannot be assessed simply in terms of profit and loss. The criteria for efficiency in communications, especially in a land where distance is the central fact of life, must be service. That is the ultimate product. Communication is something in which the whole community shares and from which the whole community benefits. It is too important to be thrown into the market place where standards of right or wrong, adequate or inadequate service, cannot be determined simply by profits.
There are many fallacies behind the criticisms of the Post Office and these are often based on the view that it should be run as a business. Certainly we should strive, as I know the Postmaster-General’s Department does, to run it efficiently. The service provided should be at the lowest cost and it should involve the minimum number of people. There is a need to ensure that we do not spend money foolishly. It would be absurd to establish an automatic telephone exchange to service a few homes. Nevertheless, communications in this nation are too important to be left to businessmen. Businessmen are profit oriented. That may be all right in its place. However, the principal communication systems of this country are run by the Post Office. They meet needs and requirements, the importance and significance of which are unknown to a profit oriented organisation. Service oriented management is very different from profit oriented management. I say quite firmly that in my view the Post Office, by its nature, should maintain a direct and clear responsibility to this Parliament. It would be a fundamental error, in my opinion, for us to be deluded by slogans about running the Post Office efficiently or on a proper business basis.
We must recognise clearly that the communications systems in this country serve many social purposes, so obvious that they go unnoticed. Communications are the central infrastructure of our social, economic and business systems. Unfortunately, in my opinion the composition of the inquiry into the Post Office suggests that there is an over-emphasis on business notions as opposed to the social objectives which should and must underlie a proper national communications system. The idea that the Post Office should be removed from politics is very old. As to the question whether the Post Office can be removed, this has been tried in the United Kingdom and the United States of America without many noticeable effects. In fact, in the United Kingdom the Conservative Government found it necessary to sack the head of the so-called independent postal authority because he proposed to levy postal rates at a level that even that Government considered to be unacceptable. Overall, Australia at the present time compares well with other countries in relation to the cost of the postal services which it provides. But I would like to say as a matter of philosophy that if the commission of inquiry supports the setting up of a statutory corporation there will be immense problems.
In analysing the Post Office I believe that there are 2 central factors to be considered: Firstly, it is a service organisation of the highest significance and the ordinary profit and loss notions of efficiency are simply irrelevant and inapplicable in a nation of great distances.
Secondly, we must ensure that in our search for more effective organisation of postal and telephone services we keep clearly in mind that it is a community service of such importance that this Parliament cannot abdicate either its responsibility or its control. I think one could almost say the worst crime we could commit in this area would be to establish an independent, supposedly efficient, authority which later was shown to operate as a gigantic Government underwritten monopoly. I think if we had this situation we would have an authority that would become contemptuous. Already there are too many unions in the PostmasterGeneral’s area of operations. I think we could get a worse situation if we had a Post Office statutory corporation. This is only my personal opinion but I think there are great problems in whatever recommendations come out of this inquiry.
Our role - the role of this Parliament - is to ensure that the Post Office gives good service at minimum cost. We must see that it remains genuinely responsive to the communication needs of the country. I believe that the political process is the best way democracies can deal with non-rational matters and that as the Post Office cannot perform on totally rational criteria it should remain under ministerial control. But I look forward to the recommendations of the commission which is working assiduously on the matters that many honourable members have raised. I also point out that some people are criticising the Post Office because courier services, for example, are supposed to deliver letters more quickly in cities. This seems to be a matter of confusion in the minds of many because the Post Office has to provide a service to all of Australia. If organisations can come in and simply skim the cream off the top, then they are not providing a service. I am not saying that the Post Office remaining under ministerial control should not aim at efficiency, cannot be improved or that the structure itself cannot be made more efficient. It may be essential to separate the postal departments from the telecommunications area.
But the Post Office - I think we all must acknowledge this - faces immense problems. The demand for telephones is running at an all time record level and growing exponentially. Last year some 322,000 new telephones were connected, and some 263,000 were installed the year before, making a total of 580,000. Last year $392m was spent yet we find that at 30 June this year 89,617 telephones still remained unconnected, and that is an increase of 24,000 on last year’s figure. This year an amount of $454.6m will be spent on telecommunications plant and equipment. Delays in connecting telephones are great and in this context there has been a need for a second look at some of the practices of the previous Government. I believe that .the average household telephone connection costs between $1,500 and $2,000. Most household telephones do not yield a profit during the life of the telephone or the life of the household. What are the alternatives? Should we put up the connection fee immensely, abolish rental charges and increase telephone rates slightly? Should we aim for an overall tariff throughout Australia such as we have with postal facilities? All these things are under constant review. I am sure that the Postmaster-General has officers in his Department working on them.
I must compliment the postal and telephone managers in the electorate of Macarthur. The electorate is growing fast. One area, Campbelltown, will have nearly 250,000 people by the end of the century. There will be about 500,000 people in 3 towns in the district. The services are getting better even during the nine or ten months I have been privileged to be the member for Macarthur. They are getting better in the Shoalhaven area, but again at great cost. It has been estimated that it will cost between $80,000 and $100,000 to connect 40 new subscribers. There is a problem in some areas of the electorate of Macarthur where people have sold out in the city areas at great profit and have installed themselves down on the coast with a low priced block of land and immediately demand a telephone service. There is also a problem in regard to a lack of planning, a lack of phasing planning and a lack of co-ordination between the Australian and State governments. For example, in the Narellan area there was industrial subdivision without any consideration of whether telephone facilities would be available.
As I said at the beginning of my short speech, telephone services in Campbelltown are my biggest problem. At the present time Campbelltown is just on the edge of the Sydney telephone district. The fact that it is in another charging zone causes constant dis sension among people in the Campbelltown area, particularly business men who find that their telephone bills are virtually double what they would be if their telephone installation was a mile closer to Sydney. If the straight lines which at present delineate the Sydney telephone district were replaced with a circle Campbelltown would be just inside the Sydney area. But Camden, Appin and the other major growth areas, the other major extensions of Sydney which are presently in the Campbelltown district, would be left out.
The problem that the Postmaster-General faces is that if he extends the Sydney zone call rate to Campbelltown it would have to be extended to all the marginal areas of all capital cities, and this would cost at least another $llm. If the call rate were made cheaper in all these areas the immediate demand on the telephone facilities would be such that the lines would jam. Campbelltown is one of the key areas of the Government’s planning in the south-west sector, and I think that the Department of Urban and Regional Development must give the matter I have raised special consideration. A small concession has been given in telephone call rates but yet rentals have gone up. It may be reasonable that rentals throughout Australia should be the same, but this is causing real problems for pensioners.
Again I must thank the Postmaster-General for the measures he has undertaken so far with respect to the undergrounding of aerial telephone lines. This also is a matter that has caused immense problems in the Campbelltown area, but in Campbelltown the council is able to phase in telephone lines underground with the electricity lines, and the flat development code has allowed this service to be carried out much more cheaply than in other like areas. I thank the PostmasterGeneral for the concessions he is now making and the way in which he has been able to work with other authorities.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– On 27 September 1973 during the debate on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill I drew the attention of the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) to the fact that the change that the Post Office had made in the maximum weight of a letter which may be posted at the ordinary rate would be a tremendous imposition on the
Australian people who, in their customary habit, send greetings via Christmas cards. At that time the Postmaster-General retaliated by saying, as reported at page 1691 of Hansard of 27 September:
The industry was advised as far back as last May of the metric weight allowance for Christmas cards;
He uttered these words together with a few others in answer to my statement that night. On reflection this would indicate that the Postmaster-General and his Department had given the Christmas card printing industry a forewarning of the provisions of the Budget. Yet the Government prides itself on the manner in which it kept secret the contents of the Budget. I would like the Minister to elaborate at some stage this evening why his Department, some 5 months after his Government came to power and some 3 months before the Budget was brought down, told Christmas card manufacturers that they had to make changes because his Department would change the allowable weight.
– The change was made in the previous year. You are 12 months behind.
– The Minister has just interjected and said that the changes were made in the previous year. I will pick that one up. Why on earth did the Minister issue a Press release a few weeks ago stating to the people of Australia that suddenly he had changed his mind and that if Christmas cards weighed a little more than 20 grams they would be allowed through at the lower rate? These are some of the things we would like to have clarified, because it seems that there is a degree of inconsistency at the present time. I notice my friends in the Country Party agreeing with me.
There are a number of other questions I would like to raise tonight. This is the first Estimates debate that the Minister has had to face in this Parliament as PostmasterGeneral. These are the questions I ask: Firstly, why is it that it costs 21 cents in United States currency, which is equivalent to 15c in Australian currency to send a letter weighing i oz from the United States to Australia when it costs us in our currency from 30c to 35c to send a letter to the United States?
– It is all wrong.
-It is all wrong. I believe that there is a system working between the Postmaster-General’s Department - I am not necessarily saying that the
Postmaster-General is responsible - and Qantas Airways ‘Ltd to ensure that the letter writer in Australia is subsidising Qantas for carrying mail between Australia and, say, the United States and England. The Postmaster-General’s predecessor explained in this Parliament or to me privately once that because of the amount of mail that was coming out of the United States it was a lot cheaper for people in that country to send letters overseas. But I do not believe that that is so because the freight rate per lb or kilo, or whatever weight one wants to apply these days, should be the same regardless of the quantity. The freight rate is not cheaper if more letters are sent. This is a point which I would like the Postmaster-General to explain later on. I recall sitting here for 6 years during which the Labor Opposition cried for a royal commission into the inefficiency of the Post Office.
– That is right.
– My friend from Balaclava says that that is right. He was here at the same time. When the Labor Government came to power it carried out its promise and set up a royal commission into the Post Office. But before the royal commission has made its findings the Government has introduced increased postal charges. Up go the charges without the Government even examining the causes of increased costs in the Post Office. Furthermore I recall how the Labor Party, when in opposition, cried that it was time we separated the postal functions from the telecommunications section of the Post Office and how these 2 inefficient organisations had to be broken up. Furthermore we heard that it was high time that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department ceased paying interest to the Treasury on capital. Yet a whole year has passed since the Labor Party gained power, and the Postmaster-General has complained about the fact that his Department has had to pay $179m in interest to the Treasury. Nothing has been done. No changes have been made. Everything is exactly the same.
I found it amusing to listen to the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle) this evening defending the Post Office mail exchange at Redfern, when for years the Labor opposition decried the inefficient manner in which the previous Government had run that section of the Post Office. Tonight the boot is on the other foot. Honourable members on the Government side are defending this section of the Post Office in anticipation, but we on the
Opposition side, with vision and wisdom, have remained silent, because we know what is the Government’s problem. When in Opposition, honourable members opposite indulged in cheap criticism. I look at the PostmasterGeneral at the table. I like him.
– He is a good-looking fellow.
– Yes, he is a good-looking fellow, and I genuinely like him as a person, but the manner in which he is running his Department reminds me of a young boy with his first stamp collection. The greater the face value marked on the stamp the better the collection he thinks he has, but no one has yet told him that when the stamps are splashed needlessly with ink the real value of the collection drops. Since he has taken over the Department the smudge on the stamps has spread, and so has the cost of making any collection grown. He forgets that the more he needlessly increases the cost of postage the more people become reluctant to use his system.
– ‘Look at the Government of which you were a supporter.
– The Minister says that I should look at my Government. If he turns to the Hansard record of the debate on the Estimates in 1970 he will find that when I sat on the other side of the chamber I said to his predecessor that no longer could he count on my vote for an increase in postal charges without my previously carefully and scrupulously investigating the reasons for the increase. I believed then that the Post Office had become a cumbersome, ineffectual, expensive, burdensome machine. It is time that the. Postmaster-General started to look at these costs. If the costs are increased people will become more reluctant to use the Post Office. Just as mass production makes the cost of manufacture cheaper, so the initial cost falls when people use the Post Office more. The more letters that are posted the more the initial cost of handling letters should fall. But this is not happening. The Government has resorted to increasing the costs, and this has turned many people away.
In conclusion let me say to the PostmasterGeneral that he perpetrated one of the greatest tricks I have seen in this Parliament in 7 years. He refused to increase the initial cost of 7c for posting a letter but he cut the weight from 28 grams to 20 grams under the guise of metric conversion. Then he made the cost of the next 20 grams 8c. If I go to a shop to buy 2 apples and I am told that one apple costs 7c and if I want to buy 2 apples I will have to pay 15c, I will quickly tell the shopkeeper what to do with his apples.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Quite often these days it seems to fall to my misfortune to have to follow the clown - I mean the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron). He passed some remarks this evening about how he threatened the former Postmaster-General and told him that he could not count on his support if he continued to raise the postal charges. I will have a few words to say about that later on. I remind the honourable member for Griffith that he is lucky that he is on that side of the chamber and not on this side, because if we had the misfortune of having a continuation of the previous style of government he would have had the avertion laid on the line and he would have been forced to prove whether his deeds were as good as his words. I remind honourable members of what the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen) said when he introduced the documents relating to postal charges at Budget time this year. I quote from the ‘Post Office Prospects and Capital Program 1973-74’. He stated:
It has been decided that the drain on taxpayers and other Post Office customers in subsidising a number of concessional and uneconomic services could be reduced substantially. The priorities which must be given to other Government programs affecting social welfare, education, and urban development, as well as the heavy demands for Post Office, services, especially in and near the metropolitan areas of the capital cities, are such that there must be a substantial redistribution of and increase in both the income and expenditure of the Post Office. Because these demands for service are urgent, these changes must be made quickly.
I congratulate the Postmaster-General for saying that. I congratulate him for realising the urgency of these demands in the metropolitan areas of the capital cities. Quite frankly, one of the gravest problems I face and one of the most extensive problems I face throughout my electorate-
– Is the Liberal Party.
– That has not worried me one bit. The most extensive problem I have faced in the last couple of years has been the irresponsible attitude of the previous
PostmasterGeneral in respect of the metropolitan areas where people have been demanding telephones and finding that their demands are not being met. Let me refer to the introductory remarks of the PostmasterGeneral when he spoke of the commission of inquiry that he set up earlier this year. Before the honourable member for Griffith leaves the chamber I suggest that he listens to this. He will hear what his Government had in store for the country if it had remained in power. A Press release issued by the Postmaster General stated:
Mr Bowen said that the previous Government proposed in its plan to increase postal charges and telephone charges by a further 20 per cent to 25 per cent in 1974 . . . Elaborating on the uneconomic service, Mr Bowen said that in 1970 the then Government recklessly adopted a policy of providing uneconomic telephone services.
It is that policy that has caused this problem in my electorate and in other electorates on the fringes of metropolitan areas. The article continued:
The Cabinet of the day was warned that unless special Treasury resources were provided for this purpose there would be most severe repercussions in all activities of the Post Office.
Earlier tonight I heard the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) talking about rural telephone services. It is well that he paid some attention to the brainchild of the Australian Country Party that it fostered and foisted on the last Government and forced the Liberal Party to accept. How well did his electorate do out of this service that the last Government provided, to the detriment of the metropolitan telephone service for which people are waiting 2 or more years to have connected, under the plans put forward by the previous Government?
At Miamba near Miles in the Maranoa electorate, an automatic exchange was established for 1 1 new applicants and a total of 52 subscribers at a cost of $216,000. The revenue was estimated at $8,000 or less than 4 per cent, and this would not even meet the interest charges on the capital, let alone its operating costs. At Taroom, in the same electorate, it will cost in excess of $200,000 for 19 subscribers and 18 applicants, with a revenue return of approximately2½ per cent without operating costs. The Government does not deny that these people should receive telephones. The PostmasterGeneral has made that plain. But what he has made clear is the totally irresponsible and dishonest policy that was maintained by the previous Government because it was not game to let the taxpayers know that they were paying for these things. They should have been provided for out of money that should be available for people now being denied their telephones in the metropolitan areas.
I congratulate the PostmasterGeneral for tackling this problem which hundreds of people in my electorate face, in finding that telephones that they should be able to have connected to their homes in metropolitan areas, just as easily as water or electricity services are connected, are not available. If honourable members want further proof that this is one of the reasons why the people in metropolitan and outer metropolitan fringe areas have found themselves without telephones, I will quote from a letter that 1 received from the Acting Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Queensland. It was not sent to me during the short life of this Government but it was sent to me on 13 July 1972. Mr Hosken said in reply to some of the matters that I raised:
The position is particularly acute in Queensland -
He was talking about the lack of telephone services in my electorate - in comparison to other States as we have had a relatively high level of demand for telephone service over a lengthy period. The recent legislation governing the provision of rural telephone services has also resulted in a huge departmental commitment in Queensland relative to most other States.
There are the facts. That is the truth of the situation that has been revealed in figures which show that at 30 June deferred applications in Queensland numbered 6,415. Of course, these are only deferred applications where new lines and equipment are required. This was an increase from 3,734 in the 1971- 72 financial year. The estimated demand for telephone services in Queensland in 1972-73 where new lines and equipment were required was 41,000. The actual demand was 53,949. That was an increase of demand over estimated demand of more than 31 per cent. What do these people do? Their telephone services, as estimated in the figures given to the Parliament by the Postmaster General (Mr Lionel Bowen), cost the Post Office some $1,600 to provide.
– Are they profitable?
– Some of the telephone services in the electorate of the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) cost up to $10,000 to provide. A prominent official of the
Country Party had a telephone connected - I do not know whether it was in the electorate of Maranoa, but it was certainly in Queensland - and it cost more than three times $10,000. That is the roguery that the previous Government got up to, conned by the rump party, the Country Party, that supported it. Hundreds of people on the fringes of the metropolitan area of Brisbane and throughout the areas of the capital cities and major cities and towns, particularly along the eastern coast of Australia, wait for their telephones.
I believe that the urgent action which has been taken now by the Postmaster-General is very timely. I congratulate him on facing up to the responsibilities that the previous Government was either unable to face up to or unprepared to face up to because of its dependence upon the Country Party to keep it in office. I suggest that certain action in addition to what has been done can be taken to assist further people in the metropolitan area. One of the things which the PostmasterGeneral can do is take action - I hope he will - to contact local authorities where subdivisions are put on the market so that he can prevent the subdividers from hoodwinking the people into believing that a telephone service is available.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I had some regard for the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh), but after tonight’s performance I think he is a fool. Surely the honourable member would not dare for one moment to argue against someone of real competence. I refer to Mr Giles, the Chairman of Directors of Elder Smith Goldsbrough Mort Ltd. He is a man who lives in a city and has mainly city interests, but he has some understanding of the interests of the nation. He is not the petty, parochial, mean, miserable and little type such as some members opposite. He is no relation of mine so I can be left out of this. At some time or other in this place members have to stand and speak on behalf of the nation. I am fed up with the determination of the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen), nice and ineffective though he is, to get stuck into my colleagues from the Country Party at every available opportunity. I want the Minister to know that the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) and I and a lot of other people on this side of the House believe in exactly the sort of things that my colleagues from the Country Party have been saying. We are equally fed up with the determined attack by members opposite on the Country Party for their own cheap political purpose. Honourable members opposite seem to think that by attacking one group they can gain some advantage from another. They are adopting a mean and despicable tactic. Members on this side of the Parliament have no time at all for the sectional politics that bears no relation to the interests of the country whatsoever.
We have heard the Postmaster-General in the last few months, when answering questions, say in some cases that it would be cheaper to buy the farm than to connect the telephone. I am not sure whether that statement is correct or incorrect. But I am concerned when any political leader or any Minister of the Crown suggests that that is a proper and decent method of judging who should have the telephone connected and who should not. Does it never occur to members opposite that the very people they are abusing are the ones who have to put up the majority of the line themselves and pay for it. Those who live in isolated areas - not living cheek by jowl, as the honourable member for Barker said a little while ago - are prepared to put down real cash, even in this day and age, in an endeavour to have a telephone connected, yet the Government, in a supercilious fashion, refers to the fact that it would be cheaper to buy the farm than to connect a telephone. What a despicable method of trying to get equity across the board in relation to these matters. I do not blame the Country Party or my own colleagues for taking the attitude that they have taken to this matter.
I want to run over one or two matters of concern to me in relation to the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department. Firstly, I refer to the attitude - an example of which I have already given - of the PostmasterGeneral to an area of the nation in which the previous Government had an unrivalled record. There are not many rural areas today whose telephone exchanges have not been it least programmed for rural automatic facilities. What does the future hold for them? The Government has said that funds will not be made available to outlying areas, some of which were programmed for conversion quite soon from manual exchanges to rural automatic exchanges. On behalf of the people of my electorate, which is nothing like as outlying as those of some of my colleagues, I would like to say that many of them are fed up with having to pay full fees year in and year out while getting only a limited manual telephone service.
– A few hundred subscribers.
– That is right. I must say that in many of the areas of which I am thinking there are a lot fewer than 100 subscribers. No doubt the Postmaster-General will ultimately tell us how uneconomic it would be to provide the service for them. But I get back to the marvellous speech tonight by the honourable member for Barker, who pointed out that one basis of evaluating how charges are to be imposed should be the extent of the availability of opportunities for people to telephone on local charges. Many of these people have to go hundreds of miles before reaching an area where they could number more than 20 or 30 people on a local charge rate. Surely to blazes that is one factor which should be taken into account in any consideration of equity as to who should or should not be programmed for help.
Perhaps I should demonstrate the point I am trying to make. The availability of services to the cheek by jowl section compared with the availability to many of those who live in the areas which I have in mind is amply demonstrated by the actions of the previous honourable member for Sturt. Many honourable members might remember him as being a somewhat riotous individual who left the Parliament for a very good reason, that is, he was defeated at the last election. He sent me a 40-line telegram from his office, which was next door to my office in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices in Adelaide. That shows how wrong it is to take the attitude that apparently the Government has taken, that somehow or other the previous Government deprived people who lived in capital cities of access to the facilities that people expect in this day and age. If the sending of a 40-line telegram to me from an office next door to my office in the Commonwealth parliamentary offices does not show not only how cheaply some people take the telephone charges and the balance of help afforded to them but also how cheaply members of the Opposition in the last Parliament took the entire process of the connection of telephones, I would like to know of an example that does. That shows how artificial and stupid really is the form of logic that the Government is trying to impress upon the Parliament tonight.
I must move on to another subject because there are several things that I want to say. I want to ask the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) and the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby), as well as the other honourable members opposite who represent country electorates, why they, together with the honourable members of the 2 Parties on this side of the chamber who represent rural seats, are not at least voicing their objection to the increased charges that are being levied in almost every way on the communications structure of people who live in outlying areas. It is a shocking thing to me to think that they are running quiet. I have no doubt that the electors in their areas eventually will balance out the situation. I have no time for people who do not at least try to put forward the views of their own electorates. I am shocked when I look around and see how many honourable members are keeping quiet tonight on this topic. When I say that, I might qualify it by saying that, if the Government did not have every intention of gagging this debate shortly because it is running scared, another 3 hours of debate would be available to members on this side of the chamber in which to punish the eardrums of Government members on what we regard as the injustice that is being visited on a sectional faction.
Before I sit down tonight there is one most serious matter to which I should like to refer, namely, that the South Australian Director of Posts and Telegraphs, Jack O’sullivan, who was known far and wide, died quite recently. He was a fine, affable, very sincere and highly respected man. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral, if he can and if he gets the opportunity, will pass on to the other directors and to anyone else who might be concerned the deep respects of honourable members from South Australia on the Opposition side. Jack O’sullivan was a man who had the complete confidence of members of all parties in the State in which he was Director. As I said a little while ago to one of my colleagues, he was so good at his job that I do not believe that any member of Parliament in South Australia did not privately believe that Jack O’sullivan was on his side, no matter on which side of the political fence he happened to be.
I regret that there have been real complaints which I have had to voice tonight, but perhaps I should conclude on that somewhat inconsistent note.
– I have to pay a tribute to the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) for coming to the defence of his country cousins. But, alas, where was he when the Post and Telegraph Bill, which provided for the increases in telephone charges, was being debated? On that occasion the whole of that section of the chamber where the Liberal Party members reside on odd occasions was vacant. I think one member of the Liberal Party was present and a few honourable members were in cockies’ corner. I have to acknowledge that. Let us have a look at the increase in telephone rentals about which the Country Party members are making so much noise and have waxed so eloquent. Why do not the Country Party members really tell the truth to their electorates and to their constituents? They should have a look at the increase in telephone rentals-
– We do.
– I doubt their capacity to do so. Telephone rentals have been increased from $27 to $55, which represents an enormous increase of 52c per week! I know that there has been a slight increase in the price of wool! There has been a rather larger than normal increase in the price of meat.
– What about the pensioners?
– I will come to the pensioners. I am very interested in the pensioners; I know that honourable members opposite are not. In spite of these relatively minor increases in the prices of primary products, this enormous increase in telephone rentals of 52c a week seems to be the major concern of the members of the Country Party.
– Thirty cents for pensioners.
– The pensioners’ share of that is about 17c a week. But the honourable member is not interested in the pensioners. He should tell the truth. Let us have a look at the other telephone rental, which went up from $38 to $55. That represents an increase of 34c a week. I hope that members of the Country Party can manage on that; otherwise we might have to increase the subsidy on wheat or pay a further subsidy on wool to make up the 34c a week for them. Why do honourable members opposite not do some thing about the position of the employee on the farm of the primary producer? He pays a higher rate of registration for his motor vehicle than does the primary producer. The primary producer pays a concessional rate. What are the State governments of the political persuasion of honourable members opposite doing about that? It is a terrible shame.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman. I would ask you to adjudicate on whether-
– What is the point of order?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock) - Order! If the honourable member for Bowman would cease interjecting we might find out.
– I will start my point of order again in case honourable members had difficulty in hearing above the chatter. Mr Deputy Chairman, will you adjudicate whether it is fitting and proper for a Government supporter to say things in this place which obviously are untrue. I refer to the remarks of the honourable member for Shortland about having to increase the subsidy to Australian wheat growers.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! There is no substance to the point of order. I suggest to the honourable member for Shortland that he should address the Chair. I also suggest to him that I would not like to live on 17c a week, as he suggested at one stage.
– I thank you, Mr Deputy Chairman, for your very wise ruling, but I think you misunderstood me. I referred to the increase in telephone rentals and said that the increase for a pensioner would amount to 17c a week. I am sorry that that was misunderstood. However, I do appreciate the point of order taken by the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), because he does have difficulty in knowing what is and what is not relevant. At the same time I was having difficulty in bringing to the notice of the people of this nation the truth of what members of the Australian Country Party are really saying. As I said, the reduced telephone rentals were applicable to country areas, and a large majority of telephone subscribers were asking why they should have to pay a higher rental than people in the rural areas who were receiving and benefiting from the best year ever in the history of this nation.
– That is not true.
– I do not know whether it is true or not. The honourable member for Darling Downs may stand and tell me that it is not true, but I can only relate to him what people I know in the country have said. I realise that the honourable member for Darling Downs has a limited capacity with figures and has difficulty in understanding what is relevant and what is not relevant. I take all those things into consideration. Is it not more reasonable that there be a general rental rate for all telephone subscribers? If it is a requirement and if it is in the national interest that certain rural areas should have a lower telephone rental applied to them because of a lower rate of telephone usage than the urban areas, would not one have thought that, after almost a quarter of a century of Country Party dominated government, that policy would have been evolved and put into operation rather than honourable members opposite imposing upon other telephone subscribers a higher telephone rental so that they could buy more votes? Is that not really what honourable members opposite have been doing in the country? We would have bought the farm but instead honourable members opposite bought votes with public money.
On the same point, in a long term evaluation of telephone usage and technology, would not one expect that, with progress in the field of radio and radio telephony, a better, more efficient and more economical method of providing communication to outlying areas would have been evolved? But honourable members opposite do not want that. They want to stand and scream about the telephone charges because they think it sounds good back home. What they are screaming about are increases of 34c a week .and 52c a week. I would hazard the guess that probably half of the people affected claim that increase as a deductible expense in the operation of their farms. They are not all pensioners, paying the increase out of their pockets. The taxpayer is still paying half the increase imposed in these areas.
Let us move on a little further to the night that this debate took place. I know that it is difficult for honourable members opposite to remember, but there were a few members present over in the Country Party corner of the House. Members of the Liberal Party were absent because they were not interested and they did not have the courage when they were in government to do anything about the situ ation. When members of the Liberal Party were missing, the Bill went through this House and little was said about telephone charges but a lot was said about postal charges. Certain members of the Country Party, I think, in one way or another are connected with country newspapers. The Bill went over to the Senate and it returned to this House in an amended form. When ft came back amended I can recall the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) standing and saying: ‘Well, we have to accept that there are increased charges’. The Postmaster-General was congratulated on his reasonable attitude. He was told what a fine gentleman he was, and it was said that these charges had to be accepted. But, stranger than fiction, during that second debate no mention whatever was made of telephone charges. Not one member of the Country Party opened his mouth that night when the Bill came back for further consideration. The honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) and other honourable members, including I think the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), were so anxious to support that Bill and rush through this place the reduced charge for country newspapers that they completely forgot their concern for telephone charges. Is it truthful for Country Party members to tell country people that they fought against increased . telephone charges?
– We did fight.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock) - Order! The honourable member for Darling Downs will cease interjecting.
– He has difficulty with his vocal chords from time to time, Mr Deputy Chairman. On that occasion the Country Party was mute for once. Its members were not concerned about telephone charges then, but they want to say now that they fought against them. They did not. They put up a sham. They were putting on an act.
– The honourable member for Patterson says ‘Rubbish’. That is the attitude of the Country Party to telephone charges. According to the Country Party, they are rubbish. They do not mean one word they say about them. Country Party members were not interested enough to open their mouths about this matter. They were so anxious to get through reduced postal charges for their friends who operate the country newspapers that they forgot about telephone charges. What are the country newspapers? They are nothing but a propaganda organ. Honourable members should get away from the cities and see what is published in them. Country Party members were concerned because they -.aw that their avenues of propaganda were being cut off. I only wish that the country people could come here and see the humbug being indulged in by representatives of the Country Party in relation to telephone charges. If they did so, they would realise their faith is being placed in the wrong people and it was time they put into the Parliament people who are genuine in their attitude.
– I have heard some rather strange addresses in this chamber over many years, but the last one really takes the cake. The honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) seemed to glory in getting stuck into the Australian Country Party and Liberal Party on the ground that they had taken no interest in telephone charges. Some of his statements are very hard to understand, and it is difficult to fathom his reasons for mentioning some of those matters. He said that we had put up a sham fight. Who was responsible for the change in rates for country newspapers? It was members of the Country Party and some of our colleagues in the Liberal Party, headed by the honourable mem-., ber for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), who secured it, although the first man to rush outside and claim credit for it was the honourable member for Riverina, who is the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby). Who was responsible for getting a stay on land line rates? Was it not the Country Party, which the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen) has been so generous in supporting?
I pay tribute to the personnel of the Postmaster-General’s Department, for whom I have terrific admiration. In spite of all the comments from various sources, to my mind these officers, both male and female, are genuine and hardworking. Though there may be an odd slacker towards the tail end, most of them are certainly hardworking and deserve all the credit that we can give them. I shall go further and apply these comments to the Public Service as a whole. There are far too many critics of the Public Service who do not understand the duties of public servants and do not know what they are talking about.
This has been an interesting debate in which Government supporters have made all sorts of strange comments. The first to set the ball rolling was the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James). It is strange how things have changed. Twelve months ago the Labor Party was terribly critical of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and everything that it stood for. Tonight, the honourable member for Hunter turned a complete somersault and tried to praise the Department. If any Government is entitled to credit for improvement in this Department, it must be the previous Government. There have been few changes in the activities of the Post Office since the Labor Party attained office; the real impact of any changes made by the present Government has not yet been felt. So any credit for improvement must go to the previous Government. The Country Party has always adopted the same line on matters affecting the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. No Party or individual members have been more critical of the various weaknesses in the Department than the Country Party and its members. Having said that, I want to say also that where credit has been due it has come from honourable members in this corner of the chamber. But we certainly will continue to be critical where we find that there is a weakness. The honourable member for Shortland has just said that we were silent on telephone charges. How silly can you get.
– You were not even here.
– Repeat that interjection. I did not hear it. The honourable member is not game even to repeat the interjection now. The Country Party and members on this side of the House who represent country electorates have always been vocal on issues involving postal and telephone charges for the very good reason that we realise the importance to country people of both the postal and the telephone side of the Department. I think of all the urgent occasions on which the telephone is so important. I think of the times when perhaps for health reasons, sickness, fire and business you just cannot walk out your front gate and go around the corner to do your business. In these outback areas you depend upon the telephone. This is why it is so terribly important to these people. The honourable member for Shortland and others on the Government side ought to remember the old saying: ‘The mail must get through’. This is why we in this corner of the Parliament are so critical from time to time of statements that have been made. I agree with the honourable member for Griffith (Mr
Donald Cameron) that the Postmaster-General is a nice fellow. Of course, he is a nice fellow; but I do not always agree with what he says or does. I was very perturbed, as many thousands of people in country electorates were perturbed, when he made that famous statement that it would be cheaper to buy the farm than to put a telephone on it.
Let me get back now to this question of increased rates raised by the honourable member for Shortland. It may be that we defended a case in favour of a reduction of postage rates for country newspapers on the proposal put forward by the Postmaster-General. I am not ashamed of that. I want the honourable member for Shortland to know that I have no financial interest in any country newspapers; I think that I can say that for the bulk of the Country Party members. The basic minimum postage rate for the average newspaper prior to the introduction of this Budget was l.Sc a newspaper. The proposal was to increase the charge to 1 lc over a period of, I think, 3 years. What sort of an increase is that? The Country Party could see what would happen. I must say that I am grateful to the PostmasterGeneral for listening to and accepting our recommendations. But even so, there is a 100 per cent increase. I do not think anyone could say we are looking after country newspapers because of our personal interest. The same consideration applies in regard to other increases. I have a vivid recollection of a previous occasion on which this Party objected strongly to some increased trunk line telephone rates. We succeeded on that occasion because we believed that they were unreasonable. The Postmaster-General and the Government of the day, which was incidentally a Liberal-Country Party Government, accepted the recommendation of the Country Party back bench members. We will continue to oppose any unreasonable costs irrespective of who introduces them.
I want to mention quickly some of the other postal rates. The simple, plain old letter used to cost 7c for 28 grams and the PostmasterGeneral says there is no change in the rate. That is right. There has not been any change in the 7c. But what the Government has done is to reduce the weight for the 7c charge from 28 grams to 20 grams. So for a letter weighing 28 grams that could have been posted prior to the introduction of the Budget for 7c you do not now pay 7c; you do not pay a slight increase; you do not pay double the amount; you pay more than double. The charge has increased from 7c to 15c. Do not tell me that that is not an excessive charge. I cannot see how the Postmaster-General or any other member of the Government can justify that one.
The other matters to which I want to draw attention is the reclassification of post offices. I know that many people from both sides of the House have been very critical because the Postmaster-General has instigated inquiries into the possible downgrading or reclassification of some 300 official post offices and the possible closure of 1,000 non-official post offices. Seven post offices in my electorate come within the first category and forty-six come within the second category. In all fairness I want to say that if the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has to increase rates because of a shortage of money or it is not making sufficient profit or, to put it in another way, it is showing a huge loss, any savings that can be achieved of course must be looked at.
I want to defend the Department in one respect. The Department is carrying out an investigation into post offices but this does not mean that there will be an automatic downgrading of 300 post offices to a non-official status. Each of these post offices will be looked at individually. No doubt some of these post offices will be downgraded, but certainly not all of them. My guess is that many of them will never be downgraded. When it comes to the 1,000 non-official post offices-
– They will have to look at them.
– Naturally the Department will have to look at these post offices. I have some figures which may interest honourable members. Some post offices in my electorate show a return against cost of as low as 27.47 per cent plus about 10 per cent income from their other activities. The situation in regard to nonofficial post offices is even worse. One post office in my electorate is showing a return of 3.65 per cent plus, naturally, a few other incidentals.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– At the outset I would like to thank the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen) for giving me the opportunity of saying a few things before the closure of this debate. I am rather reluctant to say this, but he must feel very sad in presiding over the demise of what was once a very proud area of ministerial responsibility. There is probably only one area or group which has a lower popularity than the Australian Labor Party in the eyes of the general public and that is the Post Office. Unfortunately the Post Office is seen very realistically as being unreliable, expensive and subject to crippling industrial disputes. This is reflected very clearly bv the growth of alternative services, particularly courier services, simply because the Post Office can no longer be relied upon to do the job it was set up to do, and that is to get the mail through.
I want to speak very briefly about an aspect of the work of the Post Office which has concerned me greatly for a number of years; that is the provision by the Australian Post Office of a domestic communication satellite system. I have noticed that the Minister has spoken about this communication satellite system. I want to draw his attention to the fact that I mentioned this matter first on 17 May of last year. Since that time domestic communication satellite systems have been put into operation in such countries as Canada. The previous Postmaster-General pointed out to me that one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world, the United States of America, did not have a communication satellite system. Since I raised this matter in the House early last year the United States has moved very rapidly towards acquiring a domestic communication satellite system.
Professor Downing recently spoke of having a communication satellite system in operation which will be able to beam directly into the houses of outback properties. I think that Professor Downing is probably excessive in his interpretation of the possibilities of the technology available to Australia at this stage. I seek once again - for the third time in 2 years - to obtain the assurance of a PostmasterGeneral that he will place before the Parliament and the people of Australia just as soon as he possibly can a complete analysis of the alternatives available to the Australian Government and the Post Office and a cost analysis of a. communication satellite system. I believe, for reasons that I have mentioned on previous occasions, that Australia would be greatly advantaged - not only those remote areas of Australia but also the communications system as a whole - if the existing communications sys tems were enhanced, upgraded and added to by Australia seeking actively and as quickly as possible to acquire its own communications satellite system. I again thank the Minister for giving me the opportunity to bring this matter once more to his attention. I seek from him an assurance that we will see as soon as possible a. cost benefit analysis and a statement on the state of the art in relation to this proposal.
– I thank the Committee for the opportunity to reply in a short fashion to many of the remarks that have been made. I thank honourable members for participating in this debate. On behalf of those employed in the Australian Post Office I express my thanks to honourable members who tonight publicly said how much they appreciate the splendid public service rendered by officers and men of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. They are a dedicated team who have done a splendid job in the past and they have many commitments to meet in the future.
In the process of replying, I join with the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) in paying a tribute to the late Jack O’sullivan. I express my appreciation to the honourable member for Angas for mentioning him. In the short space of time that I have held the office of Postmaster-General I had the opportunity of meeting Jack O’sullivan on more than one occasion. He was an outstanding public servant, an obvious credit to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and a splendid Director in the South Australian division of the Department. I am pleased that this matter was brought to the attention of the Committee.
A number of rather vicious attacks were made on myself and others on the basis of what is wrong with the Postmaster-General’s Department. The attackers forgot to mention, of course, that a royal commission is under way and looking at reasons why the Post Office has been in a rather poor financial position, and why it is so necessary to get a better technique to provide for more efficient business acumen in respect of matters that should have been dealt with by the previous Government of which honourable gentlemen opposite were supporters, some of them Cabinet members. On this score let us have a look at what is the real problem of the Post Office. It is burdened with an interest debt that was introduced in the 1960s by honourable members opposite who were then in power - an interest debt that has now escalated to $179m. The debt is one of the terms of reference of the royal commission. But what was the reason for its introduction? Honourable members opposite talk about worrying about the public and what they have to pay. The previous Government, decided that the Post Office should operate as a business proposition. To guarantee that the Post Office operated as a business undertaking, the Treasury said that the Post Office would have to pay interest on money advanced to it. So the Post Office has been saddled with this enormous debt since the 1960s. Honourable members opposite are responsible for this situation. I do not personally approve of it at all and I am hopeful that the royal commission will find that the Department should not be paying interest on the debt, especially in the postal section.
From the point of view of economics, the Australian Post Office is the one segment of government that has to operate within the revenue it generates. Honourable members have to understand that. I inherited postal losses of $20m. If I had not done anthing about the postal structure the figure would have escalated to $36m. How can one say that one is running an effective business when one knows full well that the losses must be borne by telephone subscribers? What a ridiculous situation it is to think that we have a business about which it is said: ‘We are losing on the postal structure. It does not matter. We will sock the telephone subscribers’. That is what honourable members opposite did. Look at the way they increased postal charges in 1967, 1970 and 1971. They were always, in this Parliament, seeking to increase postal charges.
My predecessor, if his Party had remained in government, would have had to come into this Parliament in this Budget session and seek to increase the minimum postal rate to 8c. That is what he had in mind. It was proposed next year to increase telephone charges by 20 per cent. That was proposed in order to try to plug up the holes in this creaking ship which has been torpedoed for years because there was no real acumen in business administration.
Last week the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) said what a dreadful thing it was to downgrade the post offices. Of course, 32 were downgraded in the last financial year under his government and he was a Cabinet Minister. There was one in his electorate named ‘Seacliffe’. He wanted that mentioned so we mentioned it for him. We looked at the post offices that Opposition members are now all worried about. My predecessor had them all under review in 1970 and he was closing them if they were non-official or downgrading them if they were official post offices. Statistics prove that every year post offices have been reclassified downwards. Every year non-official post offices have been closed down. In 1972, 280 were closed down, and in 1971, 279 were closed down. This is the whole problem.
Why is it that post offices are being closed down? It is because people are no longer patronising those services which the previous government made so dear. The number of money orders issued has slipped from 12,000,000 in or about 1968 to 4,000,000 issued in the previous government’s last year of office. Why? Because the previous government made the charges so high. In this Budget we have reduced the charges on rooney orders and streamlined their issue to more of a bank cheque system - not one word has been mentioned about that - in an effort to build the business back up. The previous government did nothing about it. It could not care less about making the Post Office a viable structure. These are the disasters.
I know that the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond) is a new member in this professional ring and we do not want to hit him too hard but he delivered a speech prepared by the Union of Postal Clerks and Telegraphists. They got him to make it. That is well known. He talked about the problems of the post office at Tambellup. It is taking in $6,900 a year and costing $20,000 to keep it open. That is the problem and this state of affairs cannot continue. If the people of Tambellup want a post office they should use it by getting in and buying the goods that the post office sells. But the honourable member should not come in here bleating that although it is losing $14,000 a year it should remain open. Something has to be done about it and it was under review by my predecessor in 1970. Let us get the facts clear. The same can be said of the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett). He is a professional in the field of worrying about country telephone lines.
– He is not here.
– He is not here now but he may come back. I will give him full credit for the country lines policy introduced in 1970. As a matter of fact the honourable gentleman with Senator Lawrie I think, issued a remarkable Press statement on .11 June 1970. Honourable members should bear in mind that the Budget for 1970 was not introduced until August. But in June the 2 gentlemen issued a Press statement. It happened to be after the Cabinet meeting which would have dealt with this matter. The statement said what a great thing it would be if there were a 15 mile radius for country lines. They had a remarkable insight into what was to happen. The incredible thing is that the Press statement was made 9 days after the Cabinet meeting and 3 months before the Parliament was informed about Cabinet’s decision. But they knew what was on and had a major win in their own interest. The Country Party pressurised the Liberal Party. It stood over my predecessor and he could not win in Cabinet. The leader of the Country Party admits it.
– That is a bit unfair.
– It is not unfair. The leader of the Country Party admitted it here during the course of a debate. That is why the statement is not unfair. Country Party members said what a dreadful thing it was in this day and age with drought and bad conditions in country areas that country people have to suffer this. Because of a resolution which was passed at the Talwood-Bungunya Branch of the Graziers Association it should get a gold award. Policy resulting from that resolution has cost $30m already. The Post Office was destined to spend $200m and run at a loss of $30m. The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) who is trying to interject was a member of Cabinet then. What did he say? He ought to know what his government was doing. It was running the Post Office at a loss of $30m and could not cover this loss without socking the people. What did the honourable member for Maranoa say in his statement? He is back again now. He stated: It has been said that, this is a big charge but we want to make it clear that this charge- ‘
– The honourable member was quick to say I was out. I have been here since 8 o’clock except for a short period.
-I said the honourable member was out because he was out. I cannot say he is in if he is out.
– You were quick to say that I went out. I have been here since 6 o’clock except for a couple of short absences.
-I said you were out because you were out. I could not say you were in if you were out. In your Press statement you and Senator Lawrie said that this dreadful charge on country lines should be borne by the whole community. Did you do anything about it? Not a thing. You let it be socked out of the other subscribers. My predecessor - I give him praise for this - tried very hard in every Cabinet submission, saying: ‘I cannot carry on meeting these expenses unless I get other resources from the Treasury’, but he was defeated every time. I give him credit for trying, but he failed because the Country Party would not allow it to happen in that way. Therefore it is of no use coming here and bleating about what is happening when you have created all these problems yourself, and knew about them. I think you even take credit for the 15-mile country line policy. You can, but take the odium of the financial structure that you created because the previous Minister said: T need special resources to meet this sort of challenge’ and they were never made available.
So we have this spectacle of trying to make the budget balance. As was said here, I was viciously attacked for trying to get some justice into the postal structure. In the registered publications field we are losing $10m a year. I merely tried to get a bit extra to meet those losses. That was the only thing in which the Country Party was interested in. I will give Country Party members this credit - it was the only Party in the Opposition interested in postal matters. But then they said: ‘Do not dare touch those country newspapers. Leave them alone’. They did not say a word about country telephones or anything else. They moved an amendment which I had to accept because, as is known, they had the Democratic Labor Party, which is the Country Party’s sleeping partner, sewn up in another place.
– Is that why you accepted the amendment?
– That would be one of the reasons for looking at it, sure.
– Why not stick to your principles?
-I was sticking to my principles, because the Country Party moved an amendment that was fair and reasonable. I give credit to the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) because without his business acumen in its ranks the Country Party would not have got anywhere. At least that honourable gentleman accepted some increases. The rest of his Party colleagues did not want to do anything except just go along in a sinking ship.
– Did you agree with the honourable member for Gippsland?
-I agreed with some of the submissions that were made because it was a way of getting some increases. Nevertheless, the facts of life are that the Post Office has to meet an increasing demand for telephones. Telephones, as is well known, are much more expensive in country areas, and we have to find the capital to put them on. If we are talking of other matters, such as electricity generation or reticulation in country districts, honourable members will be aware that many county councils make the people pay for the line. Honourable members know that but do not say a word about it. From the point of view of business acumen, some credence has to be given to the fact that there is only a limited supply of money and if you put all your money into an area where there will be no return on it you will find it impossible to meet the demand. That is the position in Brisbane to this day. It was brought about because resources were wrongly allocated - not allocated where there would be a demand. There is a 2-year delay in installing telephones in Brisbane, which is the biggest growth area. There was no planning, no consideration of resources, and the position now has to be met. That is one problem. Another is the burden of interest.
Coming to some of the other matters that were mentioned, I noted that the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) spoke of the problem of air mails, but I ask him to bear in mind that this country, which is in the southern hemisphere, has to run air mails right across the world before it gets into the other areas of business, whether it be in the United Kingdom, Canada or the United States of America. The United States, of course, can run lines to Australia, but it runs the short haul across the Atlantic where it has its main airmail services and picks up a lot of mileage and a lot of surplus money with which it can subsidise the Pacific route. It is for that reason, because we are isolated in terms of distance, that we in Australia cannot compete with the United States, just as we cannot compete with Denmark, Sweden or other countries which have relatively short airmail routes. That is the reason. The charge which we make is fair and reasonable. No hidden subsidy is going to what was deemed to be a corporation of the Government.
The honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) made a rather constructive contribution on satellite studies. Of course, we already have this matter under way. It is referred to at page 52 of the annual report. We have a feasibility study which clearly indicates that we should be into the field of satellites by 1978. It will be costly, but it will be well worth while. The Post Office is making great advances in that field. The research group in the Post Office has made a splendid contribution to a new concept of fibre optics and it is leading the world in that field. So we must give a lot of credit to Australian intelligence and Australian engineers and scientists who are working in the Post Office. They will not let the side down from the point of view of development.
Honourable members opposite should not talk about what they would have done. They had their chance. They failed. That was the result of their bad political structure. One of the comments made was that there was industrial unrest. There is no industrial unrest that cannot be solved if the management talks to the men. If the management cannot talk to the men, there is a lot of industrial unrest. This is one of the matters about which I feel that there will be some findings made by the royal commission. There are a number of other matters which are too numerous to mention. I cannot cover the lot. I welcome the opportunity to answer some of the many matters which have been raised. Perhaps on some other occasion we will have an opportunity to discuss them in more detail. I now move:
That the question bc rut: .
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr CORBETT (Maranoa) - I wish to make a personal explanation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Docs the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented? ‘
– Yes. On the public address system I heard the Postmaster General (Mr Lionel Bowen) say - he can correct me if 1 am wrong - that Senator Lawrie and I put out a Press statement which coincided with a decision which was taken by the Cabinet later.
– He said ‘earlier’. You made the statement after the Cabinet made the decision.
– I shall not proceed with my personal explanation if that is the case.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the House of Representatives to this Bill.
Motion (by Mr Lionel Bowen) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
Last week I spoke about some of the defects in the workings of our arbitration system. Tonight I wish to complete my remarks by making one or two concrete and definite suggestions for its improvement, I believe it is a good thing that in the case of any pending industrial dispute there should be a conference and that every effort should be made to settle the dispute on that level. But that type of system is not workable unless, if the conference breaks down, there is some kind of umpire who will be accepted by both parties. The umpire must be the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. So what we have to do is get the situation where the Arbitration Commission is accepted by both sides. For this to occur there has to be no sense of grievance on either side and, in particular, there must be no opportunity for a just grievance to be exacerbated into further trouble.
When I look at the operation of the system I see two kinds of grievances which may lead to employees not accepting the verdict of the umpire. The first of these grievances is the more important. It is the delay in getting a verdict in getting a new award or some kind of new determination. I know that in recent years these delays have been cut down very much, but they still exist, and I think that there is still a justified resentment at too much legalism in the arbitration system itself. I know that legalism cannot be eliminated entirely, but I have one suggestion which I think it is a fair suggestion. Where there is a delay there should be some kind of arrangement whereby awards should automatically be retrospective to, say, four or five weeks after the lodging of the original application. I think that this is a reasonable thing. It hasto be worked out. It is not something which can be taken and left at that. It should be worked out with some safeguards.
For example, I suggest that this privilege would not operate if, in the course of a hearing, there were strikes or other violations of an impending award of the Commission or even of an existing award. Therefore I suggest that, subject to such kinds of safeguards, which would have to be worked out in detail, it is a fair thing that awards should contain a retrospective content when they operate in order to increase wages or in other ways to improve conditions. I think that is something which needs to be worked out in detail, but it is a principle which I think we should consider.
The other matter is something which, to some extent, has been met by the amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) has introduced. I certainly commend his proposal in this respect The other matter which can cause an industrial disturbance pending a determination is a safety issue. One could well imagine that where there is a genuine safety issue there could be a disturbance or even a strike. What we want to do is to reduce and get rid of the genuine safety issues. This can be done by attaching to the Commission officers who can be skilled in particular industries and who will be available as. officers of the Commission to go and make some kind of interim determination on a safety issue. As I have said, I believe that the legislation introduced by the Minister has, to some extent, achieved this, but I think that we could enlarge upon his principles even further by attaching these safety officers to the Commission. Where these conditions are satisfied and where there are no delays or justified safety disputes, there is no reason why there should be a strike pending the determination of the Commission. I suggest that where these conditions are satisfied strikes should not occur.
Let us look at the general principles. A man has, and subject to the requirements of public safety should always maintain, the freedom to withdraw his own labour. This is a human freedom which I think honourable members on both sides of the House would support. He even should have freedom to organise in a union, subject, of course, to not violating a determination of the umpire, the Commission. I am not suggesting that there should never be a strike. I am not going as far as that. What I am saying is that in a proper system there should never be a strike against the decision of the umpire because the decision of the umpire should have this retrospective clause in it. I suggest that there should be this freedom to organise in unions and it should be maintained, subject to the arbitration authority and, of course, to emergencies which could be created by sudden withdrawal of labour in an organised fashion where the government must intervene.
Where there is an industrial dispute in contravention of either an arbitration decision or justified government intervention, the people on strike should not be considered to have rights maintained in respect of their employment; nor should they have any approval or support when they prevent other people from taking their jobs in such unjustified strikes. If we were to adopt principles of this character I believe that most workers and most employers would accept them, then I think we could get rid of the kind of industrial strife which is now marring our industrial output and preventing the attainment of higher living standards by all Australians. This, of course, would be subject to the good will of both sides, and that good will cannot be guaranteed if on the trade union side there are officials who are not trying to help their men, such as by getting them better conditions, but are trying to organise disruption as a plan for some kind of incipient revolution.
Therefore, I make this final suggestion: Where there has been a strike in contravention of the industrial arbitration authority or in contravention of government intervention, a small percentage of the members of the union concerned should be entitled to call for a ballot for the election of the officers of their union. There should be the right of recall when union officials have engaged in an unnecessary and illegal strike. That right of recall does not mean that the union would not have the opportunity to re-elect whatever officer it thought fit; but it would serve as a salutary brake on the excesses of certain union officers. I believe that this right of recall in the hands of trade unionists-
– We should have it for members.
– This may well be so and it may well be that we might think of it along those lines too. But I am not directing my mind to that at the moment. What I am saying is that the right of recall in the hands of members of the union, where there has been an industrial disturbance and a loss of wages might operate to alleviate industrial disputes.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The House will be interested to know that the Assistant DirectorGeneral of the Victorian Education Department has been authorised by the Victorian Minister for Education, Mr Thompson, to writeto schools in the following terms:
The sum of $X has been allocated to your school under a scheme of supplementary grants to disadvantaged schools as announced recently by the Government of Victoria. This sum is included in the enclosed cheque with your first payment under the new schools grants scheme.
Although this will be the only direct payment to your school under the supplementary grants scheme for the current financial year, the school will still be eligible to apply for further funds for the support of special programs designed to overcome disadvantage. Full details will be forwarded to all schools at the earliest opportunity.
The Education Department does not propose to direct schools as to how their supplementary grants should be spent. It is suggested however that a close reading of Chapter 9 of the Report of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission will be of advantage.
Schools will be expected to provide details of their supplementary grant expenditures as the Education Department is required to report this information to the Schools Commission . . .
There is nothing surprising in this evidence of the way in which the Victorian Minister consistently and with a total lack of scruple takes credit for the new forms of assistance for schools which have been introduced by the Australian Government. What is surprising is the evidence that on this occasion the Minister has overreached himself by spending money which requires the authorisation of this House and for which as yet this House has made no authorisation. What is surprising is the abandon with which the Minister is disbursing funds which are dependent in part upon legislation currently undergoing mutilation at the hands of his Party colleagues in another place.
The Assistant DirectorGeneral makes it perfectly clear in his letter that the funds to which he refers are those provided on the recommendation of the Karmel Committee.
In the second last paragraph I have quoted he refers school principals to chapter 9 of the report of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission. In the last paragraph I have quoted he explains that the Education Department is obliged to report to the Schools Commission on the expenditure of the cheques the principals have been sent. In fact, no State government or other school authority has been given permission to spend Karmel money in advance of this Parliament approving the establishment of the Schools Commission by which such spending is to be authorised. No State Government or other school authority has been given permission to spend the grants proposed by the Karmel Committee in advance of this Parliament passing the States grants legislation through which alone such grants can be made available. The whole prospect of these grants being made available promptly or indeed at all has been, thrown into doubt by the way in which the Opposition is endeavouring to deprive the Government of the advice of the Schools Commission for which it won a mandate at last December’s election. The whole prospect of the grants has been obscured by the evident intention of the Opposition to interpose its Senate numbers between the children of Australian schools and the Australian Government assistance which is needed if they are to enjoy an equal opportunity of developing the talents with which they are endowed. The Victorian Minister finds himself out on a limb, and I hope he will use his good offices with his colleagues both here and in the other place to see that they refrain from sawing off that limb by denying approval of the funds he has already spent.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.59 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Immigra tion, upon notice:
How many assisted passage migrants have had their fares paid to their final destinations by the Government because they wished to settle in nonmetropolitan areas since 4 December 1972.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
From 4 December 1972 to 31 August 1973, the latest date for which reliable figures are available, 1587 assisted passage migrants had their fares paid to final destinations in non-metropolitan areas by the Government.
All assisted passage migrants moving to nonmetropolitan areas are entitled to Government arranged transport but many are met at their arrival ports and airports by their sponsors and move privately.
asked the Minister for Min erals and Energy, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
How many assisted passages have been granted to coloured migrants since December 1972.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Figures are kept of assisted settler arrivals by nationality, country of birth and country of last residence. Tables showing these figures covering the period January to June 1973 are given below.
Figures in the form attached are available on a quarterly basis only and the Bureau of Census and Statistics does not expect to have them available for the September quarter until early December.
asked the Minister for the Northern Territory, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Immigra tion, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Americans liked Australia’s new image as a sturdy independent country subservient to no one, marching to no one else’s drum but seeking friendship as an equal with all others great and small.
Proof of the interest was to be found in the increased migration inquiries in the USA, now running at 100,000 a year.’
Department of Social Security:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
Will he provide a list of the interdepartmental committees, which have been established since 2 December 1972, of which officers of his Department are members.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No. On 20 September 1973 my colleague, the Prime Minister, informed the right honourable gentleman in reply to a question without notice about interdepartmental committees that, if he wished to know the composition and function of any particular interdepartmental committee, and for what period of time it had been active, the Prime Minister would be happy to provide him with that information.
If the right honourable gentleman wishes to have information about a particular committee on which my Department is represented, I will assist him as far as possible having regard to the Prime Minister’s answer to Question Nos 964 and 1057.
asked the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
Will he provide a list of the interdepartmental committees which have been established since 2 December 1972, of which officers of his Department are members.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
No. On 20 September 1973, my colleague, the Prime Minister, informed the right honourable gentleman in reply to a Question Without Notice about interdepartmental committees that, if he wished to know the composition and function of any particular interdepartmental committee, and for what period of time it had been active, the Prime Minister would be happy to provide him with that information.
If the right honourable gentleman wishes to have information about a particular committee on which my Department is represented, I will assist him as far as possible having regard to the Prime Minister’s answer to Question Nos 964 and 1057.
Department of Minerals and Energy:
asked the Minister for Minerals and Energy, upon notice:
Will he provide a list of the interdepartmental committees, which have been established since 2 December 1972, of which officers of bis Department are members.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No. On 20 September 1973, my colleague, the Prime Minister, informed the right honourable gentleman in reply to a Question Without Notice about interdepartmental committees that, if he wished to know the composition and function of any particular interdepartmental committee, and for what period of time it had been active, the Prime Minister would be happy to provide him with that information.
If the right honourable gentleman wishes to have information about a particular committee on which my Department is represented, I will assist him as far as possible having regard to the Prime Minister’s answer to Question Nos 964 and 1057.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What would be the estimated reduction in revenue consequent upon the abolition of provisional tax calculated for the 1973-74 financial year.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The estimated reduction in income tax revenue in the 1973-74 financial year that would result if provisional tax were not imposed is approximately $765m.
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Advisory Committee is concentrating on the Perth region and, among other things, this is expected to lead to identifying a site for Perth’s second airline airport.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
What plans are in hand for the resiting of Perth Airport.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There is no plan in hand to resite Perth Airport. However, I would also like to refer you to my reply to your Question No. 1158.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 November 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19731113_reps_28_hor86/>.