28th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 10.30 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 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 Drury and Mr Giles.
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 Bonnett.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned staff employed at Parliament House, Canberra respectfully showeth:
That no parking facilities specifically for members of the staff are available immediately adjacent to offices in Parliament House and staff must park their motor vehicles in unlit areas some distance removed from Parliament House.
That members of all staffs in Parliament House are required to work long hours and on many occasions, having completed their duties must walk several hundred yards into unlit, unpaved areas where their vehicles have been parked.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that immediate action be taken to provide special parking areas for members of Parliament House staff and which will be appropriately designated and reserved, well illuminated and policed and immediately adjacent to Parliament House.
And your petitioners, as in duty, bound, will ever pray. by Mr Fox.
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 there are many people in Australia who are of the opinion that all Australians eligible to vote at elections be given a vote on any change in our National Anthem instead of only 60,000 as is proposed by the Government. Further, it is considered by us that ‘God Save The Queen’ should be included in the list of songs on which the vote is taken.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives will urge the Government to include ‘God Save The Queen’ in any referendum or poll held for the purpose of deciding the future of a national anthem.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Holten.
– In directing my question to the Minister for Defence I refer to the publication of 24 February this year of the ‘Sunday Independent’, a Western Australian newspaper. Has the Minister seen the report which has as its headline: ‘Huge Army Base for Western
Australia’? Among other things, it is stated in that article:
The official announcement of site, cost and details of the huge project is expected to be made next month as a ‘vote-catcher’ for Labor in the State election.
This is referring to a big army .base to be built near Derby. The article goes on to say:
An army infantry battalion -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not in order in quoting from newspapers. I understand that the honourable member might not be aware of this standing order, but it is essential that he does not base a question on a reading of a newspaper report.
– I appreciate the point Mr Speaker. I wanted to ask the Minister a specific question as to whether it is correct that a base will be placed there, and for that purpose I thought it appropriate to state -
-Order! That is out of order. You should phrase your question in this way: Is it a fact that there is a report? You should memorise the report rather than quote it from a newspaper. This is the correct procedure.
– I shall carry on and rephrase the question, Mr Speaker. Having regard to the report, I ask the Minister: Is it a fact that a big army base will be built near Derby and is it a fact that this project will be announced this month as a vote catcher for Labor in the State election? Is there any secret report within the Ministry for Defence proposing that such a base be established at Derby?
– The honourable member is in error in suggesting that a new army base is to be built in Western Australia. This is not factual. What has been under consideration within the Department of Defence - I have been interested in this project - is the acquisition of an area of land in the Yampi Sound district. That area of land would be used for training purposes. As the honourable member knows, the Government has determined as a result of the recommendations contained in the strategic base document that we would be devoting our attention to the defence of continental Australia. In these circumstances there would be requirement for training other than jungle training. Naturally the most suitable area for this purpose would be in Western Australia and for this reason I have been investigating the acquisition of a large area of land, as I have said, in the Yampi Sound area. Discussions have been under way for some considerable time. I hope that I will be able to make an announcement in the near future. Indeed, I had arranged some time ago to make a personal visit during March to look at the area and to discuss the situation and the possibility of acquisition with the Western Australian Government, the local authorities concerned and the Army authorities in that area.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. Has he seen a Press handout from the executive director of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Association, Dr Wylie Gibbs, who has predicted a severe shortage of drugs in Australia? In the same Press handout he blames the oil crisis and the increase in oil prices for that potential shortage. Will the Minister assure the House that the increase in the price of oil will not be used as an excuse by pharmaceutical manufacturers to increase the price of drugs to even higher levels, remembering that the cost of the oil used in the synthetic preparation of drugs must be less than 1 per cent of the total cost of the finally dispensed drugs?
– I have seen Press reports quoting Dr Wylie Gibbs who is the spokesman for drug manufacturers in Australia.
– Is he a former Liberal member of Parliament?
– He is a former Liberal member of Parliament. Whether the oil shortage can be blamed for the lack of supply of drugs is not under the control of government instrumentalities to any degree. If the drug firms like to say that there is a shortage of drugs due to the oil problem they can continue to say it. It is not a very plausible excuse, because surely if any priorities are given or any restrictions are set down by governments on the supply of oil the last one to be restricted would be a drug manufacturer; he would have top priority. With regard to the rest of the honourable member’s question, he can be assured that there is virtually no drug shortage in Australia and that in respect of those few odd drugs that may be temporarily in short supply adequate substitutes are available on the market.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for
Aboriginal Affairs. Can he explain to the House why the Department of Aboriginal Affairs has sought to excuse its failure to adopt established financial procedures because it was aware of many persistent and large ministerial expenditure decisions only when accounts were presented for payment? Does this mean that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs committed himself to expenditure or promised expenditure and then required the Department to honour his commitments and promises without regard for established Treasury and audit procedures?
– Was the report wrong?
– No. The report to the report may well be wrong and I think it would be most appropriate for the Public Accounts Committee to examine it. Firstly, Ministers do not have money to spend. Secondly, the normal procedures are that propositions are put to Ministers and they agree or disagree with them. They are then submitted to the Department and the normal procedures of implementing decisions are carried out there. As far as I can recall, that was the procedure followed in regard to any decision I made during the course of my responsibility as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The short answer to the first question is no.
– My question is addressed to you, Mr Speaker. I am very cognisant of the fact that I cannot put my question on notice and that it does ask for detailed information. How many offices and how much floor space are occupied by the Press in this Parliament House? How much is paid by each newspaper in rent and what are the implied or expressed terms of occupancy? Is it true that the secretariats of at least 2 statutory committees of this Parliament are being asked to seek accommodation outside this building? Will you confer with the President of the Senate to discuss the future of office space now occupied by the Press with a view to having it available for officers of the Parliament and/or members?
– As the honourable member suggested in his question, I will have talks with Mr President and will give the honourable member an answer at a later stage.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by saying that I find it passing strange that a Prime Minister can be so lacking in interest in Aboriginal affairs or the safety of officers of the Public Service that he did not call for nor receive a written or oral report the first time that violence or murder was threatened in a government department. Will the Prime Minister inform the House at what time and with which members of his staff he learnt of the affairs of Thursday last? Also, at what time and with which members of his staff did he discuss the matter, informally or otherwise?
– Order! The first part of the question consisted of comment and is out of order. The second part of the question, which seeks information, is quite in order.
– I will rephrase the first part of the question, Mr Speaker. I ask the Prime Minister why it was that he was so lacking in interest in either Aboriginal affairs or the safety of officers of the Public Service that he did not call for nor receive a written or oral report the first time that violence or murder was threatened in a government department? I will repeat the second part of my question. Will the Prime Minister inform the House at what time and with which members of his staff he learnt of the affairs of Thursday last? At what time and with which members of his staff did he discuss the matter, informally or otherwise?
– I am well aware of the interest in Aboriginal affairs which the Country Party has shown, not least the honourable gentleman who asks this question and who had a considerable but undistinguished period as Minister for the Interior. The interest of the Country Party in Aboriginal affairs is shown now that it is in Opposition by the squabbling over the Senate tickets in Queensland where Country Party senators and candidates will not serve on a ticket headed by an Aboriginal senator.
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Prime Minister is ignoring the common courtesies of the House by addressing neither you nor this side of the House but by addressing the far corner, which he always does when he is embarrassed.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– As I told the House yesterday, the first I heard of this incident was at the reception in the President’s suite after the Queen had opened the Parliament. I was informed of it by the Attorney-General. The only other person to whom I spoke during the rest of the day was the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I was completely satisfied with the way in which the Attorney-General and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs were handling this matter, as I am satisfied with the way in which they are handling all matters which were raised yesterday and the day before in each House.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware that a 3-year-old Australian citizen, Rudolph Weber, who was taken illegally from his Australian mother, is. being denied visits by his mother now in Austria? Will the Minister ask the Austrian authorities to end this unjust situation?
– I am aware of the honourable member’s concern because the Weber family lives in his area. Madonna Weber has been in Austria for some months now attempting to arrange the return home of her 3-year- old son, Rudolph, who was taken to Austria by the father without permission. This is one of the problems that are associated with dual nationality. I would say to the honourable member and to the House that the Australian Government, through all of its agencies, has given all the help possible to Mrs Weber in Austria. The problem at the moment is that the court has not given her access to the child in a formal way. There had been tacit access and the arrangement was going ahead nicely but access has now been withdrawn. The Australian Embassy has given all the assurances in the world that we do not wish to interrupt the course of justice and the hearings in Austria, but we have certainly said, through all the means that are available to us, that the mother and the child should be able to get together and I would hope that the representations that are being made in a continuing way to the Austrian authorities will persuade the Austrian authorities to recognise the rights of this Australian mother in this situation and also to act in the best interests of the child. Certainly in Australia the rights of the mother are sacrosanct, and we would hope that this would also apply generally to Australian citizens around the world.
This is only one of the instances that have given rise to concern. Another 2 Australian children at the moment are in Switzerland in a similar situation. What has happened lends impetus to the efforts that are being made by the Government to achieve some agreement with overseas countries that court orders made in Australia should be recognised in other countries and that the rights of Australian citizens in relation to children of dual nationality should be properly appreciated. I would hope that the best traditions of Austrian administration would recognise the rights of an Australian mother in relation to her Australian child so that the mother and child can be reunited quickly.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister. Is the reason he was satisfied with the way in which the McLeod incident was handled because there was something more in the incident than meets the eye? Can the Prime Minister assure the House that neither he nor any member of his personal staff nor his special economic adviser, Dr Coombs, was in any way associated with a conspiracy to ensure that the circumstances-
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I am used to the contemptible conduct of this honourable gentleman, even so contemptible a creature as the ex-Minister who has asked this question, but he has brought into a question without notice a man of honour and capacity who served successive governments.
-Order! (Honourable members interjecting.)
– Order! I mentioned this standing order only yesterday. As soon as the honourable member mentioned the name of Dr Coombs in a critical sense, I intended to take the point straight away to prevent the honourable gentleman from asking the question. If he wants to ask any questions of that nature, he must put them on the notice paper. The Standing Orders provide quite clearly that in no circumstances is an honourable member able to ask such a question without notice.
– This has already been said by the honourable gentleman, and the ‘reflection has been made by inference on Dr Coombs. It should be withdrawn by the honourable member.
– Order! The Chair has not the powers to control what is said about an outside person. The Chair has no jurisdiction in regard to what is said about an outside person. But I will insist that the name of a person shall not be mentioned in a question without notice that is critical of that person. I intend to pursue that standing order to the fullest degree. The question is out of order as it stands at present.
– The reason why I mentioned the name of the particular person is that I am not sure how many special economic advisers the Prime Minister might have currently on his staff.
-Order! I am making it quite clear that the inference was that he was engaged in a conspiracy-
– Those were the words-
– That is quite correct. The Deputy Leader of the Country Party had no right to mention any person’s name in regard to criticism of that person. I have no control
– He has not the guts to say it outside.
– You have not enough guts; is that it?
– Order! So, the question as it now stands is completely out of order in that sense.
– May I present my question again, please? Can the Prime Minister therefore assure the House that neither he nor any member of his personal staff was in any way aware of or associated with any conspiracy - a word that he used in this House yesterday - to create circumstances wherein any officer of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs might emerge with enhanced public stature, thereby enabling any disciplinary charges that might have then been under consideration to be dropped?
– Mr Speaker, the honourable gentleman’s capacity to astonish the House - and maybe the public insofar as it is aware of him - shows no sign of diminishing. (Opposition members interjecting.)
– The honourable gentleman intruded into a preface to a question a reference to a man in a way that he knows would not be tolerated in this House or in a former lowlier House, of which he was a member. He mentioned ‘the name of Dr Coombs who has given loyal and distinguished service to this country and to every post-war Prime Minister. (Opposition members interjecting.)
-Order! The interjections will cease. I will take the appropriate action if honourable members keep interjecting. If an honourable member persists in interjecting, I will give him a warning and then I will name him.
– Dr Coombs has served 3 Labor Prime Ministers and 4 Liberal Prime Ministers. Every one of them had complete confidence in his capacity and his integrity. The fact that successive Country Party Ministers, particularly successive Country Party Ministers for the Interior, found his attitude on Aborigines unacceptable and unpalatable is to Dr Coombs’ credit and to the discredit of the Country Party. (Country Party members interjecting.)
– Dr Coombs was one of 3 men chosen by Prime Minister Holt - the other two being Professor Stanner and Ambassador Dexter - to advise him as members of the Council of Aboriginal Affairs. They continued to serve in that capacity Prime Minister Gorton and Prime Minister McMahon. Prime Minister McMahon’s high opinion of Dr Coombs was shown by the fact that under him there was the first considerable increase in the appropriations for Aboriginal welfare.
– Why are you so sensitive about Dr Coombs?
– Order! The right honourable Leader of the Country Party will remain silent.
– I never-
-Order! I warn the Leader of the Country Party.
– If the honourable member who asked this question or any of the rabble who interject beside him-
– I resent the remark of the Prime Minister and his use of the word rabble’. I have listened to this tirade of abuse by the Prime Minister whose over-sensitivity about Dr Coombs, whose name was never mentioned-
– It was.
– It was not. His name was never mentioned in the question.
-Order! The right honourable member will resume his seat. No more business will be conducted until the House comes to order. Regarding the word ‘rabble’ being used, unless it is directed at any particular person I always accept the rulings of my predecessors when members have been classed as ‘communists’ and ‘fascists’ by members of both sides of the chamber that unless honourable members are specifically mentioned it is not out of order. I accept the practice of my predecessors. No point of order is involved.
– Mr Speaker, that remark was directed at me.
– I ask that it be withdrawn.
– Order! Unless the Prime Minister specified the Leader of the Country Party there is no point of order. I ask the Prime Minister also to address the Chair.
- Mr Speaker, the Leader of the Country Party, a former Minister for the Interior, was not the only person interjecting. At least another Country Party former Minister for the Interior was interjecting at the time. Dr Coombs was mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party in the preface to his question.
– He was not. That question was not ruled out of order. I did not mention his name in this question.
– If any honourable member interjecting - to their discredit, they all belong to the Country Party - has any suspicion or any scintilla of evidence that Dr Coombs was involved in any improper practice last Thursday or subsequently, I invite him to tell me or to speak confidentially to the Crown Solicitor or the Commissioner of the Australian Capital Territory Police. I have no doubt that the Crown Solicitor and the Commissioner of the Australian Capital Territory Police, both appointed by my Government’s predecessors, will do their duty and if Dr Coombs has broken the law or incited violence he, of course, should face the consequences of such acts. I resent the fact that a person who has my confidence and who has had the confidence of every person in my position for the last 30 years should have his name intruded in this objectionable unparliamentary way.
– Is the answer to the question no?
– I know of nothing whatever which would lead me to believe or suspect that any member of my staff or any departmental officers who advise me would have done anything tainted with any impropriety in the incidents out of which this question has arisen. There again, if any persons have any reason to suspect they were involved I invite them to tell me or, if they wish to act more confidentially, to tell the Crown Solicitor or the Commissioner of the Australian Capital Territory Police. I will not shield anybody in this Parliament, outside it, on my staff or anybody else’s staff who has broken the law or has in any way contributed to perverting the course of justice.
– What about Perkins? He can say what he likes.
– The Leader of the Country Party intrudes the name of Mr Perkins, a public servant. Therefore, in the Parliament we are free to bucket Mr Perkins if we like and he cannot reply. But when, outside, Mr Perkins, in the course of a television telecast of a large gathering, is invited to express his views of some politicians who in Parliament and outside have bucketed him and members of his race, he is put on a charge. If questions are to be asked about named persons I believe that those questions should go on notice. If allegations are to be made about named persons they should be the subject of a motion. There is a proper way to go about this. If anybody wants to say in the Parliament - where he can do it with impunity - things about Dr Coombs or Mr Perkins, there are procedures available. There can be questions on notice; there can be specific motions. But to do it in this way, in the course of a question without notice, is discreditable to the person involved and brings discredit on the whole of this institution.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. A great deal of emotion has been involved in the question and answer. At the outset of the answer the Prime Minister made references-
– What is the point of order?
– He made references to the Country Party and Senator Bonner. The implication from the answer given by the Prime Minister was to raise issues of race.
-The Leader of the Opposition is not in order in debating what the Prime Minister said. He is taking a point of order. I want to know what the point of order is.
– Mr Speaker, I am telling you. I would be obliged if you would listen.
– Order! I am very surprised that the Leader of the Opposition should use such a phrase. As he would be aware, I am quite prepared to do as my predecessor did when the Prime Minister was Leader of the Opposition. A certain amount of latitude is always allowed to the Leader of the Opposition but not to go to that extent.
– Mr Speaker, I am stating, so that you can understand, my point of order and then I will immediately follow it through. At the outset of his answer the Prime Minister spoke about Senator Bonner and the Country Party in terms that had a very real racial overtone. I am asking the Prime Minister-
– Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. The Leader of the Opposition has falsely stated that at the outset of an answer the Prime Minister made reference to Senator Bonner. The Prime Minister made reference to Senator Bonner in answer to a previous question which was answered some time ago.
– I take a point of order. Mr Speaker, I would like you to correct me on this but I understand your ruling to be that one cannot take a point of order on a point of order. I would like your ruling.
-If the honourable gentleman had been here in the two previous Parliaments he would have been inundated with the same points of order.
– The words of the Prime Minister had a clear implication of racial overtones which were designed to serve his own purposes but not to serve the interests of proper racial harmony between the 2 different groups. I ask you, Mr Speaker, to ask the Prime Minister to withdraw the words that were used because of the harm that they can do. If the words are withdrawn I would like them to be removed from any rebroadcast of this question time and from Hansard.
-I do not recall exactly what the Prime Minister said in regard to Senator Bonner.
– The honourable gentleman does not know, He had not materialised this morning when I answered the earlier question.
-Order! I shall have a look at the matter at a later stage but not at present, because I do not know the exact words that were used.
– Is the Minister for Urban and Regional Development aware that one of Australia’s rarest birds - a native of Victoria and the only bird exclusive to that State - the heLmeted honey eater, is threatened with extinction unless urgent action is taken to reverse the decline in its numbers? Is he aware that the area to which this bird is restricted is at Yellingbo about 65 km east of Melbourne in the Dandenong Ranges and that this land is threatened by encroaching urbanisation and by the clearing of land? Can he inform this House what action this Government is taking to preserve this unique species of bird life and whether an environmental impact statement will be prepared by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works which intends to lay a pipeline through this area in Yellingbo?
– I am aware of this rare species of bird. I am aware that a request has been made for 850 acres to be purchased jointly by the Victorian and Australian Governments. A letter has been forwarded by Mr Hamer to the Prime Minister containing this request. Prior to this, discussions had taken place between the Victorian Minister for Local Government, Mr Alan Hunt, and me and later between the Premier of Victoria and me on matters relating to this area. Preliminary discussions have taken place on the financing of the purchase of this area. It has been suggested that the land be acquired through the national estate funds, the suggestion being that the ratio of contribution should be $2 by the Australian Government, $1 by the Victorian Government and $1 by public subscription. This money will not come from this year’s National Estate allocations.
It must be clearly understood that the area, particularly the south-east area, surrounding Melbourne is a very delicate area environmentally. Already in this year’s allocation, following a special study by the Cities Commission, a $3m interest-free non-repayable grant has been made available to the Victorian Government to acquire land in the Dandenong Ranges,
Westernport and Mornington Peninsula areas. This area is environmentally delicate and requires action now to acquire open space.
I am not blaming the present Victorian Government for the lack of public open space around Melbourne. However, Melbourne has very limited open space area in the form of urban and national parks, unlike Sydney which has something like 4 national parks surrounding it such as the Royal National Park, the Ku-ring-Gai Chase National Park, the Lane Cove National Park and the Blue Mountains National Park. Even in New South Wales we are working in cooperation with the New South Wales Government to acquire land under the western sector of Sydney program. We have acquired land on the escarpment of the Blue Mountains to ensure preservation of that escarpment. So, it is a part of the general overall policy of the Whitlam Labor Government to acquire open space areas surrounding our capital cities. In regard to the area in Victoria which is the habitat of this unique bird, we hope that in the. coming year the joint co-operation between the Australian Government and the Victorian State Government with probably some public subscription will result in the acquisition of this land which will cost something like $2m.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Inflation is driving up wages. These wages are causing people to enter into higher wage brackets. The income tax collected by the Commonwealth is likely to be at least 25 per cent higher this financial year than last financial year. When will the Treasurer or the Government restructure the tax scale to reduce this incredible burden of income tax?
– I hope the former Treasurer will contain his patience until 20 August 1974.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Services and Property. Is it a fact that Reid House is now occupied by squatters and will the Minister advise the House of the present circumstances surrounding this matter?
– It is true that 2 blocks of Reid House have been occupied by students and some nondescripts. I understand that originally a dog also occupied it but the dog left first because of lack of suitable toilet facilities. The people behind the move are the Committee for Low Cost Housing. The principal promoters are a man by the name of O’Shannassy - a well-known Communist - and Dr Peter Hughes, the President of the Liberal Party in the Australian Capital Territory. I understand that both contested the presidency of the Committee but that 0’Shannassy won in a photo finish.
– In the dark.
– That is right, in the dark. There is no light in the place. The squatters had tried a link-up with the next adjoining building which is occupied by a cultural group, but this has now been disconnected. The wiring in the building occupied by the squatters is dangerous and the place is a fire hazard. I also understand that one of their companions yesterday pleaded guilty in the Canberra court to carrying drugs and was fined $100. In addition to this I would say that there is very little water. But there is no reason why some money should not be spent on these buildings and the normal services connected to them if the buildings were transferred to some location on or near the university campus where the students could be near their studies. However,, it would be a waste of public money to expend money on them at their present location. In giving that report to the House I would like to say that it is good to see the unity ticket that exists in the cause of the common good by the Liberal candidate for this Territory and his Communist friend and supporter.
– The Minister for Defence will remember that on a number of occasions he has quoted the advice of the Defence Forces Development Committee as justification for the Government’s defence decisions. Can he say whether he .received the advice of this high level Committee prior to his decision to scrap the DDL project and to cancel the building of a fast combat support ship? If so, what was that advice?
– The honourable membe is referring to the strategic bases document.
– I am not.
– Well, I think that he is connecting that with the DDL project. Perhaps I should ask the honourable member to repeat his question.
-Order! Would the honourable member repeat that part of the question which the Minister wishes to be repeated?
– The Minister will remember that on a number of occasions he has quoted the advice of the Defence Forces Development Committee, which is a committee comprising the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, the Secretary of the Department of Defence and the Chiefs of Staff of the Services, as justification for the Government’s defence decisions, notably when he announced the size of the Army of 34,000 which he has now cut back to 31,000 or something under that number. Can the Minister say whether he received the advice of this high level Committee prior to the decision to scrap the DDL project and prior to the decision to cancel the building of a fast combat support ship which are essential elements in our maritime capacity? If he did receive advice from the Defence Force Development Committee, what was that advice?
– I will deal with the question of the DDL project first. The DDL program was approved during the period of office of the previous Government. The program was approved in 1969 at a modest cost for each ship of between $20m and $30m. However, it was quite clear that, as a result of the modifications that had been requested by the Department of the Navy, the projected cost for each ship in the DDL program would not be between $20m and $3Om but would be SI 20m. That is an approximate cost of $360m. I would say that any responsible Minister for Defence would then want to have discussions with the Defence Force Development Committee to which the honourable gentleman referred, and that is exactly what I did. I had a number of discussions with this Committee during 1973.
This escalation of cost had occurred before the DDL program was on the drawing board, so we were again being asked to accept a situation which had applied some years ago to the Fill aircraft. The cost had escalated to $360m before the ship was on the drawing board. That was in 1973. Those who have had the positions of responsibility as Minister for Defence or Minister for the Navy, Army or Air Force in this Parliament will know that any project that is ordered must inevitably be subject to an escalation of costs because of the normal factors that apply to it. I believe that I acted responsibly when I asked that the Defence Force Development
Committee should curtail or defer the program for the DDL project. There was no opposition from the Defence Force Development Committee on that question.
It is quite clear that the Chief of the Naval Staff at that time would express some disappointment. It was his project. He had nurtured it and I have some sympathy for him. But I say to honourable gentlemen opposite that since the decision was taken to defer the program - I acknowledge that the Defence Force Development Committee did accept the project under the previous Government - there has been long, careful and useful consideration of an alternative destroyer program. I announced in the House last year that the Government has accepted and endorsed my recommendation for a destroyer program to proceed. But I was not prepared, and I want to state again that I do not believe that any responsible member of this Parliament would accept a project which began in 1969 at a modest cost of $20m to $30m a ship and had escalated to SI 20m a ship.
I come to the second part of the question relating to AOE a fast combat support ship. The facts concerning a fast combat ship are that in 1969 the previous Government authorised the building in Australia of a fast combat ship. This too was at the very modest cost of, I think, about $42m. Again, the Department of the Navy and the Department of Supply asked that the AOE be modified. It had to be lengthened and strengthened. Thereafter, of course, the whole program changed and the cost of that ship escalated to $69m. The Cabinet under the previous Government did not consider the modifications. It made no decision on the ship that had been modified as suggested by the Royal Australian Navy. Therefore we were faced with the proposition of building a supply ship which would cost $69m.
Finally, let me say that HMAS ‘Supply’ will remain in service until the end of 1980. In these circumstances, since the Navy was asking for the supply ship to be constructed by the end of 1977, it would have meant that we would have had 2 supply ships undertaking the same kind of work, which would lead to a situation where the ‘Supply’ would have been decommissioned 3 years before it was necessary to do so. I believe that I have indicated to the honourable member the reasons that these questions were re-examined by the Defence Force Development Committee and why it determined in both cases that the programs should be deferred. The honourable member is suggesting that this Government should accept automatically defence procurement programs which were undertaken by the previous Government. If the Fill purchase is an example, it is quite clear that we should thoroughly examine every defence procurement item that was under consideration by the previous Government.
– Will the Minister for Defence inform the House of the extent of the Royal Australian Air Force assistance given during the recent floods in north Queensland and the total cost of such assistance?
- Mr Speaker-
– Mr Speaker, I raise a’ point of order. Obviously this would be a Dorothy Dix type question and the Standing Orders rule against this type of business.
-Order! I think the honourable gentleman would know that the Chair is not in a position to assess whether a question is anticipated or not, or whether a question is a Dorothy Dixer.
– I have been asked a question by an honourable member concerning the contribution made by the RAAF during the period of flood disaster in Queensland.
– Clever anticipation.
– As a matter of fact, I will endeavour to answer the question without reference to any documents at all. The honourable member for Brisbane asked questions which naturally relate to statistics but if honourable gentlemen opposite feel that I should not refer to the statistics I will not do so. But what I will say to the honourable member is that-
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Is the Minister going to answer the question?
-Order! I call the Minister for Defence.
– Mr Speaker, may I suggest that the House might give the Minister an opportunity after question time to reply because then he would have had an opportunity to find the right document.
-Order! It is a matter for the Minister to decide.
– I acknowledge that I had had asked for some statistics concerning the contribution of the RAAF and the Army during the period of flooding, and I think that would be a natural reaction of any Minister. Most honourable members are fully aware of the contribution that was made in these circumstances but perhaps I could inform the House that the total contribution by the RAAF, including the use of its helicopters and its transport planes, reached a figure of $0.Sm and that some of these operations are still continuing. Indeed, the Caribou aircraft and the CI 30 aircraft are still being used to transport goods and other requirements to the Mount Isa area. It can be seen that the contribution of the defence forces has been a significant one indeed. As I indicated to the House, it has reached the figure of approximately half a million dollars. I do not believe that any honourable member in this Parliament would not acknowledge the contribution made by both the Army and the RAAF in this area. Since I was asked a question by the honourable member for Brisbane I think he is entitled to an answer which provides some of the statistics. There is one other matter that I should refer to because of the contribution made by the Services.
– Where are the statistics to which he is entitled? I thought you had them there.
– I certainly will make them available to the honourable gentleman. The main statistics relate largely to the cost which, as I have indicated already, is about $500,000. To conclude I think also that the House should remember that as a result of the contribution made by the Services-
– Ha! ha!
– I cannot help it, sir.
-Order! I will assist the right honourable gentleman if he continues that behaviour.
– Undoubtedly honourable members on the other side can find some amusement in this question, but I had intended to conclude by reminding honourable members that as a result of the contribution 2 airmen lost their lives and four were injured and 2 Army personnel lost their lives and two were injured. I am sure that all honourable members, despite the way in which they have treated this question, would want to join with me in expressing the deepest sympathy to the wives and relatives of those who lost their lives in these circumstances.
– I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
– We will proceed to the presentation of papers.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Personal explanations will be taken after the presentation of papers.
– It is very important that personal explanations be made immediately following the making of specific remarks.
– I intend to make a ruling that personal explanations will come after the presentation of papers. In the past I have had a stream of Ministers waiting to present papers. This is a matter for the Chair to decide.
– It should be a matter for the Standing Orders.
– Never mind about the Standing Orders at the present time.
Opposition members - Ha, ha!
– Honourable members know that I did not mean it in the sense in which they have taken it. The fact is that I have complete control as to when personal explanations will be heard. Personal explanations will be heard after the presentation of papers. I call the Minister for Transport to present a paper.
– I take a point of order. Mr Speaker, while you have occupied this position——
– Order! The honourable member will sit down.
– You have referred to your predecessors’ practice.
– Order! No point of order can be heard until the honourable member concerned gets the call. I have called upon the Minister for Transport to present a paper.
– Pursuant to section 41 of the Commonwealth Railways Act 1917-1968,
I present the annual report of the operations of the Commonwealth Railways for the year ended 30 June 1973. The financial statement of Commonwealth Railways operations for the year ended 30 June 1973 was tabled in the House on 27 September 1973.
– For the information of honourable members I present a second interim report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Protection of Privacy.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Australian delegation on the twenty-second International Conference of the Red Cross at Teheran. For some years the International Committee of the Red Cross has convened international conferences to consider and develop all aspects of any humanitarian law applicable in time of armed conflict. The first of these conferences took place in 1971, the second in 1972. Further consideration was given to this work at the twenty-second International Conference of the Red Cross, which took place at Teheran from 8 to 15 November. Consistent with this Government’s great interest in human rights, including the human rights of the individual in time of armed conflict——-
– Order! The presentation of a paper does not include the making of a statement. If the Minister wants to make a statement he will have to seek leave. I ask the Minister not to abuse the time for presentation of papers. He must seek leave if he wishes to make a statement.
– I present the paper.
Mr LIONEL BO WEN (Kingsford-Smith-
Special Minister of State) - For the information of honourable members I present the report on the development of the national archives dated September 1973. I seek leave to make a short statement.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– You can ask for leave later.
-I will not ask for leave later. Arrangements were made. You have repudiated an arrangement.
-The Chair is unaware of any arrangements that are made. The fact is that if a request is made for leave to make a statement and leave is not granted, I have no alternative but to refuse leave.
-The Minister can make the statement when ministerial statements are called on. That is when it should be made.
– The Opposition was given notice of the statement. Arrangements were made.
– That is not the point. Mr Speaker, on a point of order-
-Order! The Chair is not concerned about debating the issue of seeking leave. If leave is not granted, that is the finish as far as the Chair is concerned.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. .
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I claim to have been misrepresented by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). During the course of an answer to a question the Prime Minister asserted that, as a former Minister for the Interior, I had, to use his own expression, poured a bucket on Mr Perkins. I want the Prime Minister to withdraw the allegation because, so far as I am aware, the relationship between Mr Perkins and me, so far as I am concerned, has been cordial. I do not recall at any time saying a word derogatory of Mr Perkins. I ask that the Prime Minister withdraw the statement.
- Mr Speaker-
-Order! Does the Prime Minister wish to make a personal explanation?
– I was going to respond to the invitation.
– You would have to seek leave to make a statement.
- Mr Speaker, I. have asked for a withdrawal. On a point of order, all I can say is that there is something wrong with the forms of the House if the Prime Minister can make an allegation or an assertion of the nature I have outlined and I cannot obtain a withdrawal and a response while the Parliament is still in session. The practice is wrong. I propose to take up the matter with the Standing Orders Committee if there is no other way around it.
– Give him leave to make a statement.
– I will give him leave to make a statement, Mr Speaker.
-Order! I think honourable gentlemen will bear with me this morning. Owing to some of the scenes that have taken place, I could not get the gist of every word that has been spoken. I think honourable members would really appreciate that fact. I have told the Leader of the Opposition that I will look at the Hansard report of the matter that he brought up. I do not think any member would expect me to have taken cognisance of every word that was spoken this morning. I do not know whether anything detrimental was said in regard to the association between Mr Perkins and the Honourable member for Gippsland, so I will look at Hansard in regard to that matter.
– by leave- I made a reference to Mr Perkins in answering a question when an honourable member in the Country Party quarter - I forget who it was - shouted out his name.
– I did.
– It was the Leader of the Country Party. I do not believe that I said that the honourable member for Gippsland had bucketed Mr Perkins. I certainly do not recall any statements that the honourable gentleman has made adverse to Mr Perkins, and for what it is worth I have never heard that there were bad relations between him and Mr Perkins.
– I wish to make a persona! explanation.
-Order! Does the right honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. This morning, in answering a question, the Prime Minister misrepresented me. He said that I, the Leader of the Opposition, did not materialise until after he had started to answer the question. This is a misrepresentation. I was standing in this chamber, Mr Speaker, when you took the chair, and I was present for prayers. It is a fact that I was in the chamber before you were, Mr Speaker, and remained in it. The Prime Minister made a false allegation and statement when he said I was not here. I ask for that to be withdrawn.
- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement.
– I want the allegation withdrawn.
-The Prime Minister is seeking leave to make a statement.
– I have not agreed to leave being granted. It is a simple issue of fact. I was here; the Prime Minister alleged that I was not. He should withdraw and apologise. There is no need to make a statement.
-Order! What the Prime Minister said is not considered to be an offensive remark but I think that the Prime Minister might make an explanation in regard to it.
Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa- Prime Minister) - My interjection that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) had not materialised when I made the statement was made during an answer I gave to the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair). The right honourable gentleman was taking a point of order in respect to an answer I had given to an earlier question by the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon). For the first few questions this morning the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was at the table, not the Leader of the Opposition. If the right honourable gentleman asserts that when I was answering an earlier question by the honourable member for Gippsland that he was in fact at the table, I accept that assurance.
Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce - Leader of the Opposition) - Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I have been misrepresented along with everybody on this side of the House by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard). The Minister, as you will have heard, Mr Speaker, said that despite the way the Opposition had treated his answer it was a very serious matter. That statement was made at the very end of his answer at the time when he disclosed to the House that 2 members of the Royal Australian Air Force had lost their lives and 2 members had been injured, and that 2 members of the Army had lost their lives and one had been injured, in providing aid to flood victims. That is a matter which would evoke from this side of the House the utmost sympathy for the relatives of the men and more particularly we would want to offer tribute to the way in which the service was carried out by the armed forces. By saying that we had treated the matter lightly the Minister was implying that we did not have that sympathy and understanding of the circumstances. We were misrepresented. It is important for me to say that there was great amusement or embarrassment on this side of the House and amusement or embarrassment displayed by a number of people on the Government side because the Minister was shuffling through papers and was unable to answer the question for a considerable time.
– Now the right honourable member is debating the question.
– No, I am not debating it; I am putting it in its context, lt was that about which we were so amused. It is a misrepresentation to imply that the laughter at the Minister himself showed a lack of sympathy and understanding for the immense job done by the Army and the RAAF.
-Order! This is the way I saw this matter. At the time the Minister for Defence referred to the unfortunate fatalities which occurred during the flood devastation in Queensland, the whole House, including members of the Opposition and members of the Government, applauded the wonderful job which was done by the Royal Australian Air Force and by the military personnel and expressed sympathy in respect of the people who were lost. That occurred after the matter to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred and not before. I think that the right honourable gentleman has his facts mixed up because when the Minister for Defence mentioned this matter it was supported overwhelmingly by members on both sides of the House.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I acknowledge that I did ask my Department - I think quite properly - for statistics concerning the contribution of the Services during the disaster in Queensland. Those statistics were supplied to me. It is unfortunate that I did not have them immediately available in the course of answering the question. I expect that the Leader of the Opposition, despite his inference, has been in the same position on a number of occasions. I make no apology for that. What I did do was to give to this House a very frank understanding of the cost of the contribution that had been made by the Services in Queensland. Again, of course, the honourable member for Wannon wants to sneer but that is understandable. Honourable gentlemen on the opposite side of the House did, I think, treat this as a matter of very great amusement, which it certainly is not to me or to other honourable members on this side of the House. What I wanted to do was to pay a tribute to those who had served in this way, as I have said on other occasions-
– That has already been done, Mr Minister.
– … in circumstances I think in many instances beyond the call of normal service duty.
-Order! In his personal explanation the Minister should state where he has been misrepresented. I think all honourable members will agree with what the Minister has stated. Both sides of the House were in complete agreement in regard to this particular matter.
– Very well, Mr Speaker. I think that I concluded on a note on which the House would have wanted me to conclude. Implicit in the question asked by the honourable member for Brisbane was the need for my answer to pay that tribute and indeed to express our sympathy in respect of those who had lost their lives during this period.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the right honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In the course of question time the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) referred to 3 ex-Ministers for the
Interior who were Country Party Ministers. He referred to them as having racist antiAboriginal sentiments. This statement I resent. It is wrong in substance and it is wrong in detail. Firstly, only 2 of the ex-Ministers to whom he referred were substantially involved in Aboriginal affairs because they had charge also of the Northern Territory. I was the third ex-Minister for the Interior to whom he referred. I was not responsible for Aboriginal affairs under my portfolio at that time. So far as the other 2 ex-Ministers are concerned I believe that the record now shows-
-Order! I think the right honourable gentleman will appreciate that he is seeking to give a personal explanation in regard to himself only and not in regard to anyone else.
– The charge was made that 3 Country Party ex-Ministers were racist and anti-Aboriginal. This is a fairly serious charge. I believe that it does not apply to them and, in the light of experience, it has been indicated that there is a lot of satisfaction with the competent way which these men held their portfolio and their handling of their portfolios was certainly not a disaster.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I claim to have been misrepresented by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). I regret that he unfortunately has had to leave the chamber. In the course of his rather extraordinary and emotional response to my question he imputed the allegation that a man who is on his staff, whom apparently he can name and I cannot, had been charged in some way with complicity in a conspiracy to which he, the Prime Minister, referred yesterday. In fact, the words I used in my question were:
Was he, the Prime Minister, or any member of his personal staff including his special economic adviser aware of or in any way associated with . . .
I did not in any way impute any irregularity against the Prime Minister or any member of his personal staff. The allegations were accepted by the Prime Minister in a form that was not intended.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes I do. In the course of his emotional outburst the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said, as my 2 colleagues have mentioned, that 3 former Country Party Ministers for the Interior had shown racist antiAboriginal sentiments. I take very grave exception to this unfair allegation. I make it perfectly clear so that it is on the record that I am not a racist, nor do I condone racism. I am certainly not anti-Aboriginal. Indeed, I represent more Aborigines in this Parliament than 90 per cent of the people who sit in it. I have spent more of my time, since coming to this Parliament, concerning myself with the problems of Aboriginal welfare than with any other specific issue. I object to the remarks made by the Prime Minister. I resent them. 1 believe that the Prime Minister owes me a personal apology.
-Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– For the information of honourable members I presented the report relating to the development of the National Archives Commissioned from Dr W. Kaye Lamb, former Dominion Archivist of the Public Archives of Canada. Having considered the recommendations made by Dr Lamb, the Government has decided to upgrade and expand the operations of the Archives Office so as to develop a greater public interest in the wealth of historical material which forms part of our national heritage. To this end it is hoped during this session of parliament to introduce legislation to establish within the Department of the Special Minister of State an organisation to be known as the Australian Archives and to be headed by a Director-General. The legislation will provide that the Australian Archives have as its broad aim the development of a national archives system which, in co-operation with the States and other organis- ations, will ensure the preservation of archivan resources which document the history of the Australian nation and which are of national significance, research value or of general public interest. It will also provide for Australian Government agencies advice and assistance for the efficient administration of archives, provide and maintain the public right of access in accordance with Government access policy, and promote the utilisation of archival resources for informational, research, education, cultural and other purposes.
The position of Director-General of the Australian Archives is soon to be advertised and will be open to persons both within and outside the Australian Public Service. The position will call for a person with demonstrated capability in the establishment and administration of a new organisation, including the promotional activity necessary to present the Australian Archives as an organisation of interest and benefit to all sections of the community. When the Director-General has been appointed a small task force will be set up under his leadership to examine in detail a number of aspects of this new initiative. Other members of the force will be a senior academic, a State archivist, and representatives of the Public Service Board, the Department of the Special Minister of State and the Treasury. The task force will consult with appropriate authorities and within 3 months of its appointment bring forward for Government consideration specific proposals which will include the further development of the building program for the national and regional repository/ retrieval centres, the assessment of the organisation and staff requirements for these centres, a survey of the needs and interests of users, review of salary levels for archivists and senior departmental registry personnel in the light of the changing archival activities and a program for the recruitment and training of archivists. The aim of all these measures is to create an Australian Archives of a level comparable to that now provided by the National Library of Australia in its own field. I present the following paper:
National Archives Commission - Ministerial Statement, 7 March 1974.
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I refer to the matter of the procedures of this House, Will you, Mr Speaker, refer to the Standing Orders Committee the matter of the procedures of the House relating to the presentation by Ministers of papers before personal explanations? A new procedure has been introduced today. From an Opposition point of view, and 1 think that this would apply to some, members from the Government side also, it is an unsatisfactory situation if a member cannot ask for an explanation of a Minister when he has been misquoted by him. Ministers leave the House and it is most unsatisfactory to raise a matter when Ministers are no longer in the chamber. I would ask that this matter be examined by members of the Parliament to decide which is the most satisfactory and best method of resolving this problem. I noted today for the first time that Ministers were seeking to make statements. No doubt it is convenient for Ministers to present papers and then leave the chamber but if honourable members have been misquoted by a Minister during question time they have no chance of retaliating or making an explanation. I would hope, Mr Speaker, that you might give this matter consideration and perhaps refer it to the Standing Orders Committee so that it might express a point of view.
– Order! 1 would remind the right honourable gentleman that under standing order 64 an honourable member, having obtained leave from the Chair, may explain matters of a personal nature. This matter resides completely in the hands of the Chair. Concerning the. timing of the presentation of papers, today’s procedure was followed after several consultations with my officers. One day we had the spectacle of personal explanations occupying the best part of 40 minutes when several Ministers were waiting to present papers. As the right honourable member would be aware from his experience as a former Minister - a particularly busy one because of his portfolios - sometimes it is essential for a Minister to return to his suite as quickly as possible after question time to meet people, to have consultations or to perform some urgent work. Today several Ministers could not remain in the chamber because they had made prior arrangements. They had to leave the chamber. I am not opposed to any particular time being set for personal explanations but at present I have complete power to determine when they shall be made. I am not trying to be officious with respect to this matter. When recommendations from the Standing Orders Committee come before this chamber I would welcome such a suggestion being put by the Leader of iiic Country Party for discussion by the House. If his suggestion is adopted, I will not oppose it. 1 would accept the provision of a special time for the making of personal explanations, whether it be before or after the presentation of papers, but this would be a matter for the House to decide. I can assure the right honourable member that whatever is decided, I will not oppose it.
– Mr Speaker, may I take another point of order, following your advice? I accept your statement that it is difficult for Ministers to wait around to present papers. The presentation of papers is a mere formality and I do not know why a Minister should have to remain in the chamber just to present a paper. Perhaps some form of the House could be changed so that Ministers could defer presenting papers and so that there would not be an interruption between the time question time ends and honourable members make personal explanations. I think this would be a more sensible way of handling the situation.
– Again I would suggest that when recommendations from the Standing Orders Committee come before the House the right honourable member proposes his own recommendation. There is nothing to stop any honourable member of this House from proposing recommendations regarding matters not contained in the recommendations submitted by the Standing Orders Committee. I appreciate the views of the Leader of the Country Party. I assure him that I am not opposed to them. If he puts a suggestion to the House and the House, in its wisdom, sees fit to adopt it I certainly will accept it.
– Mr Speaker, I make one more point. A new procedure has been introduced today. Perhaps you could defer the implementation of this procedure until the Standing Orders Committee has time to look at my proposal, otherwise it may be some considerable time before it is considered and in the meantime there will be debate and acrimony if the present procedure continues. I should not like to see that situation.
– Regarding personal explanations, it has always been the practice, or should be, for any Minister or honourable member to approach the Chair and indicate that he wishes to make a personal explanation regarding something said in the chamber or appearing in a newspaper article. That is the correct procedure. If, for example, the right honourable gentleman was misrepresented by a Minister in an answer to a question and he approached me I would make sure that the Minister knew about the proposed personal explanation. I think that would cover the point raised by the right honourable gentleman.
– Mr Speaker, I do not intend to comment on this matter except to place on record that the Liberal Party certainly agrees with the propositions advanced by the Leader of the Australian Country Party. Members of the Liberal Party feel strongly about this matter, especially in the context of the proceedings which have taken place in this chamber today. One practical way by which this matter could be resolved is that it seems to me there is no necessity-
– Order! If this is not a rude question, to what is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition speaking? Is he seeking leave to make a statement?
– I am speaking to the point of order raised by the Leader of the Country Party. I suggest that the problem which has arisen today can quite easily be resolved by the Leader of the House tabling all ministerial papers which, in fact, are not subject to discussion as a normal course of events.
– Order! Does the Deputy Leader of the Opposition wish to speak to the statement of the Special Minister of State?
– I seek leave to make a short statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Opposition Parties welcome the statement of the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) and the report which has been prepared on the development of the National Archives by Dr W. Kaye Lamb, a man of international experience and a reputation in the field of archival services. Over a period of 20 years he was responsible for turning the Canadian National Archives system into a highly successful institution to serve the Canadian people. We certainly see this report as offering comparable development in Australia.
At the outset I pay tribute to and place on record the contributions made in the development of Australia’s archival services by a former Minister, the honourable Peter Howson, the former member for Casey. I am sure that the Special Minister of State will know and recall that the honourable Peter Howson initiated inquiries in this area. I believe that the work he undertook has led to the development of the report now before the House. The Opposition Parties, of course, recognise the need for the continued development of the National Archives. We certainly support the Government’s decision to expand and upgrade the operation of the Australian Archives. The development of the Australian Archives and its elevation by legal charter to the status of a separate statutory body will provide for the continued improvement of Australia’s archival services. It will help to promote an even greater public interest in, and an awareness of the need to preserve all historic material that forms so vital and important a part of our national heritage. We welcome the foreshadowing of legislation which, as the Minister has outlined, will expand the scope of the present archival system to ensure the preservation and documentation of the history of the Australian nation and the preservation of material of national significance, of research value and of public interest.
The report which has been presented covers a number of aspects of the archival service. It certainly will be examined in detail by the Opposition Parties. We recognise that it makes a number of worthwhile and advantageous recommendations. We hope that these recommendations will be incorporated in subsequent legislation and that legislation will be brought before the House in the near future.
– I have received advice from the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the Senate that he has nominated Senator Reid to be a member of the Joint Committee on Prices to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Senator Prowse.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to obtain Parliamentary approval for Australia to take up a special increase of $US41.14m in its subscription to the capital stock of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development - or, as it is more commonly called, the IBRD. However, only 10 per cent of this amount will be payable: The balance will simply remain at call.
As most honourable members will be aware, the main function of the IBRD and its 2 affiliated institutions, the International Finance Corporation and the International Development Association, is to promote faster rates of economic growth and development in their poorer member countries. This the IBRD does by extending loans on conventional terms to credit-worthy member countries to help finance soundly conceived and economically viable infrastructure projects in such fields as agriculture, irrigation, road and rail transportation, highways, port development, telecommunications, and electric power generation. More recently, increasing emphasis has been placed - especially by IDA but also by the IBRD to a limited extent - on projects with greater social implications and more direct benefits for the masses of needly people in developing countries, such as urban renewal, population control, public health and sewerage, and improved agricultural credit and extension services for small farmers.
The IBRD is by far the largest and most influential development finance institution in the world today. During the year ended 30 June 1973 it approved 73 loans to 42 countries totalling $US2,051m. This brought the total for all loans approved by the IBRD since it commenced operations nearly 30 years ago to a massive $US20,335m. Much of this lending has gone to developing countries of interest to Australia in the Asian and Pacific regions, including Papua New Guinea. The IBRD obtains the bulk of the funds it lends from borrowings on world capital markets, which it can arrange on relatively favourable terms - the benefits of which are then passed on to member countries - because of the IBRD’s own high financial standards and the backing it has in the form of uncalled capital subscriptions totalling more than $US27 billion at the present time from over 120 member countries, including all of the major industrial countries in the western world. However, another important source of funds available to the IBRD for use in its lending operations are the paid-in portions of members’ capital subscriptions. These currently total more than $US3 billion.
Australia joined the IBRD soon after it opened its doors for business in 1947 and has subscribed the equivalent of $US643m to its capital stock, of which 10 per cent, or approximately $US64m - in terms of current US dollars - has actually been paid in. As indicated previously, the balance remains at call as security for the IBRD’s own borrowing operations on world capital markets. In 1970 Australia, along with 74 other member countries, was granted a special increase in its quota in the International Monetary Fund following the regular quinquennial review of fund quotas in that year. As a consequence, all of these countries, including Australia, became entitled in the same year to take up special increases in their subscriptions to the capital stock of the IBRD so as to maintain the previous long-standing relativities between IMF quotas and IBRD subscriptions. The special increases authorised for individual countries are shown in the attached table, which I seek the leave of the House to have incorporated in Hansard.
Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– Most of the countries listed in this table have since taken up the additional shares to which they then became entitled. However, no action was taken by Australia in regard to this matter in 1970-71 because of the need for budgetary restraint at that time. In 1971-72 and again in 1972-73 the proposal was a victim of legislative and other pressures, with the result that Australia is now one of the few countries which has not so faT taken up the special increase in its IBRD subscrip- tion to which it is entitled. Consistent with its general attitude towards external aid to developing countries, the present Government is concerned to remedy this situation without further delay.
Australia is entitled to take up an additional 341 shares in the capital stock of the IBRD at a cost of SUS41.14m, allowing for the effects of the two United States dollar devaluations in recent years. As I mentioned at the outset, 90 per cent of this amount will remain at call and only 10 per cent, or SUS4.114m, is actually payable. Of the latter sum, SUS41 1,000 is payable in gold or United States dollars while the balance of SUS3.7m can be paid in Australian dollars, either in cash in a single lump sum or in the form of a promissory note which would subsequently be encashed on demand as and when the IBRD required the funds involved, or else as otherwise agreed with Australia.
In the normal course of events, consistent with past practice, we would use the promissory note technique of payment. However, it so happens that, as a consequence of the revaluations of the Australian dollar in December 1972 and September 1973, the IBRD is required under the ‘maintenance of value’ provisions in its Articles of Agreement to repay to Australia over the next few years an amount in excess of that which Australia will have to pay to take up this special increase in our subscription to the capital stock of the IBRD. It is therefore proposed to try to reach some understanding with the IBRD to offset these respective payments to and by Australia and thereby avoid any net impact on the budget of the present proposal to increase our capital subscription to the IBRD.
I might add that the proposed increase in our capital subscription to the IBRD will result in a slight improvement in our relative voting strength in that institution, although the effect will be marginal. Given Australia’s traditional bi-partisan support for the activities of the IBRD - and all that it stands for - and bearing in mind the various considerations mentioned in this speech, including in particular the financial aspects, I believe that it is in our national interests to take up, in full, the special increase in Australia’s subscription to the capital stock of the IBRD to which we are entitled. Accordingly I commend this Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Beazley, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill now before the House reimburses the States for abolishing fees in government technical education. It is the concluding part of a sequence of actions to make tertiary and post secondary education free. Honourable members will recall legislation passed in the Budget session of 1973 which gave effect to the Government’s policy of abolishing fees in universities and colleges of advanced education from the beginning of 1974. The Bill now before the House, the States Grants (Technical Training Fees Reimbursement) Bill 1974, rounds off this policy by abolishing fees also in technical education. The Government has a clear commitment to do this, based upon its belief that a student’s merit rather than a parent’s wealth should decide who should benefit from the community’s vast financial commitment to tertiary education. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his policy speech before the last general election stated explicitly that fee abolition would also apply to technical colleges.
The provisions of this Bill relate only to the first 6 months of 1974. The total program of assistance to the States from 1 July 1974 onwards for technical education is to be reviewed following consideration by the Government of the recommendations of the Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education. I expect to receive the report of that Committee within the next few months. It may, of course, be assumed that programs from 1 July 1974 will continue to provide for tuition and similar fees not to be charged in approved technical courses.
For the purposes of this Bill, fee abolition applies to full-time, part-time and correspondence courses conducted in training institutions administered or maintained by government authorities. For the information of honourable members, I have prepared a list of the institutions in which courses have been approved for fee abolition. I seek leave, Mr Deputy Speaker, to have this list incorporated in Hansard.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Authorities and Institutes in each State included in the Fee Abolition
– It is to be noted that the list includes some colleges of advanced education which, in addition to tertiary courses, provide courses at technician level. Consistent with the arrangements adopted at the tertiary level, adult education courses have not been included, as they are mainly of a hobby or general interest nature. Fee abolition applies not only to tuition fees, but also to related charges, such as examination, enrolment and registration fees. Other charges, including the fees of various student organisations, will remain the responsibility of the students. The determination of the courses and types of fees to which fee abolition applies was made in close consultation with the appropriate authorities in the States.
In arriving at the amounts for reimbursement, account has been taken of expected fee increases in 1974 and of current enrolment estimates. Should actual enrolments exceed the estimates substantially, the State concerned is expected to submit a case for a supplementary amount under clause 3. (1) of the Bill. The amounts shown in the Schedule to the Bill are affected to some extent by the fee collectionpolicy in each State. In New South Wales, a high proportion of the annual fees is collected in the first half of the year. In other States, collection is more evenly spread. Arrangements for assistance beyond June 1974 will be adjusted to take account of payments made in the first half of the year.
Corresponding provisions have also been made for the abolition of fees in certain institutions in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. These are the Canberra Technical College, the Canberra School of Music and the Darwin Community College.
This legislation demonstrates once more the determination of the Australian Government to open up opportunities to post-secondary education as a complement to its efforts for primary and secondary education. Technical education is an investment in national efficiency. Not only that, the investment in technical skill is often an investment in an individual’s creative satisfaction and happiness. In conjunction with the new means-tested living allowances for students admitted to full-time technical college courses, this legislation will help to remove the financial barriers of the past. I commend the Bill to the House.
– Before I move that the debate be adjourned may I on behalf of the Opposition welcome the Minister back and say how glad we are to see him. We hope that his health is completely restored.
Debate (on motion by Mr Fairbairn) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr Cass, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to correct some anomalies in connection with the conditions of employment of staff of the River Murray Commission. Because the River Murray Waters Act preceded the Officers’ Rights Declaration Act and the Superannuation Act, there have been problems in the application of those Acts to staff of the River Murray Commission. Furthermore, the Commission is not an agency of the Australian Government.
The proposed amendments will ensure that members of the Australian Government services will not be disadvantaged if they obtain employment with the River Murray Commis sion, and will enable staff recruited by the Commission from other sources, who are not covered by superannuation elsewhere, to be covered by the Superannuation Act 1922-1973. In addition, under the Remuneration Act 1973, salaries of statutory officers are now to be determined by that Tribunal. The section in the River Murray Waters Act is being amended accordingly, although under present conditions no salaries are payable to the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner.
I would stress that this Bill deals with amendments to the River Murray Waters Act which refer only to the Australian Government, and does not affect the River Murray Waters Agreement in which the three River Murray States are also involved. In addition, I should mention that a good deal of thought is being given to much more extensive amendments to the River Murray administration, but these must be expected to take a good deal of time to develop, and in the meantime it is desired to correct existing anomalies in staff conditions. I commend the Billto the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Fairbairn) adjourned.
Request to Senate to Resume Consideration
– I move:
The purpose of this motion is merely procedural or formal, to restore to the notice paper of the Senate 2 Bills which previously had passed this House and had reached the Senate.
– Last week the Queen opened this Parliament. This was an occasion which gave great pleasure to all members of the Parliament and to all Australian citizens. But the motion that is now before us, and others which according to the blue sheet are to follow, reveal the insincerity of this Government. Prorogation of the Parliament means a new beginning for the Parliament. It wipes the notice paper clean. It is now quite evident from the motion proposed by the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F.
Cairns) and the other motions which are listed on the blue sheet that the Government is merely rehashing its previous legislation. There is nothing new about it. The prorogation is now revealed as a sham, because the Government is only going back to square one, to where is was when we rose last year.
The Opposition will not be taking these motions to a division, but that does not mean that we approve of the Government’s action. I would like to put our views on record. One thing is already clear and is further evidence that nothing has changed. Even after only a couple of days of this new session we had proof yesterday that the Government intends to use its numbers quite ruthlessly to stifle debate and to push through legislation irrespective of the proper role of this Parliament. Yesterday we had the absolute farce of Parliament voting almost continuously for something like 3 hours due to the Government applying the guillotine to 5 Bills to alter the Constitution. This was legislation of fundamental importance.
– They could not even turn up.
– As my colleague the honourable member for Farrer quite rightly points out, even though the times of divisions were set out clearly on the notice paper, one Bill had to be recommitted at a later hour yesterday because Government supporters did not attend a division in sufficient numbers.
The Parliament will shortly debate the Address-in-Reply to the Queen’s Speech which was made consequent on the prorogation of the Parliament. Many members of the Opposition, and I have no doubt many supporters of the Government, will want to speak on that Address-in-Reply. Yesterday’s performance indicates quite clearly that the Government is liable to restrict debate on this very important issue as well. Should we force divisions on all of the motions listed on today’s blue sheet to indicate our displeasure at the Government’s insincerity, it is obvious that many members who would wish to speak will not be given the opportunity to do so. It is for that reason, and that reason only, that we are not taking these motions to a division. What I have said indicates that we certainly do not approve of the Government’s action and why we do not approve.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Request to Senate to Resume Consideration
(12.23) - I move:
I would like to say, in view of what has just been said about insincerity by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) who is at the table, that claims like this are very easy to make. It is easy to drop adjectives and nouns which reflect upon the attitude of one’s opponents. The honourable member did not even go to the trouble of suggesting his evidence or his reasons for using that term. He merely dropped the word. I think that there is far too much word dropping in this place. I think that the use of the word ‘insincerity’ in relation to the 2 Bills in regard to which I have just moved motions is quite unjustified.
Long before I proposed to this House that we should amend the 2 Acts of Parliament concerned - legislation concerned with the Australian Industry Development Corporation and the National Investment Fund - I outlined to the Parliament and to the public outside what was proposed. I notified the country of the substance of the proposal weeks before. I said that the Bills would be introduced into this House in June. That was notified publicly. As soon as I was able to do so the Bills were introduced. I said that I would allow the Bills to remain on the notice paper for a month or 6 weeks so that everyone in the Parliament would have adequate opportunity to examine them. Eventually they passed through this House, with the Opposition saying that it would not accept any aspect of the legislation. It was not concerned to make any suggestions for the improvement of the legislation. The Opposition simply came in with a statement that it was not interested in a line of the legislation. So in view of that it seemed that the Opposition did not want the opportunity that we had already given it to debate the measures. The Bills of course were passed through this place because we had the numbers, as every other piece of legislation that goes through this place goes through because the government has the numbers. I have been a member of this place for quite a number of years. During this time I have witnessed a succession of governments doing precisely the same thing because it is important for a government to get its business done just as it is important for an Opposition to have an opportunity to debate what is done.
The 2 Bills went to the Senate where they were debated at length. It was proposed in that place that the Bills be referred to the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control. I agreed that the Bills should be referred to that Committee. This action was taken at the end of the last session and the Bills have been before that Committee ever since. The Committee has spent I think four or five days examining the Bills. 1 understand that before very long a report will be made to the Senate. We will be interested to see what is contained in that report. I doubt - and this certainly has not happened in my time - whether this House, the Senate and the public have been given more opportunity to examine and discuss legislation than they have been given in regard to these 2 Bills.
I am very sorry that the Opposition took such a negative view of these Bills and that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) came in and said in effect: ‘We are not interested in a line of these Bills. We have no constructive suggestions to make. We are against them in principle’.
– If the Minister opens up the substance of the Bills we will talk about them now.
– I am answering what was said by the honourable member’s colleague in his absence. I would have said nothing if the honourable member for Corangamite had not made those remarks. The motion before the House is merely a formal routine matter to put the Bills back on to the notice paper of the Senate. I am trying to answer the suggestion made by the honourable member’s colleague that the Government was guilty of insincerity in what it was doing. I ask the House to support the motion that a message be sent to the Senate requesting the Senate to resume consideration of the Bill.
– All that I had to say about the other motion applies in the case of this motion. I would like to take up a couple of points put by the
Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns). Firstly, if I heard him aright, the Minister alleged that the time given for debating these measures when they were last before this Parliament was the greatest that had ever been allowed for debate.
– I did not say that.
– You did not? I am sorry. I was about to say that I have a clear recollection of a Bill that was under the control of my colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) - the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, during our time in Government. It certainly received longer time in debate than the measures to which the Minister has referred. I should like to clear up one point in relation to my use of the word ‘insincerity’. I make it clear that I was not referring specifically to the Minister for Overseas Trade or this piece of legislation; I was using it to expose the insincerity of the Government in proroguing Parliament. Proroguing Parliament wipes the slate clean. One is supposed to start again with a new beginning. All I was pointing out was we are not starting with a new beginning at all; we are starting where we left off last time.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! I think it should be made clear that the procedures being followed are in accordance with the Standing Orders. The question of the Government’s intention is disregarded.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resumption of Proceedings
– In the absence of the Treasurer (Mr Crean), who is unavoidably delayed in a conference, I move:
– I merely wish to put on record that my remarks on the other motion apply to this motion.
– I take the opportunity, with the leave of the Chair, to ask the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart), who is representing the Federal Treasurer (Mr Crean) to state the intention of the Government concerning this Bill. As the Minister will recall, in his second reading speech on the Financial Corporations Bill 1973 the Treasurer foreshadowed that that Bill would be subject to subsequent amendments in the House dealing with matters of substance. Therefore, taking the same view as my colleague the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), I believe it is a little curious simply to reinstate the new Bill unamended without indicating to the House when the Bill will be dealt with, or whether the amendments to it will be substantial. I would not have raised these points except that the Minister, being assistant to the Treasurer, is no doubt fully conversant with the full details of the measure before us. We are of course keen to seek some indication as to when the matter will be before Parliament for debate and the extent to which the Bill will be amended. I am sure the Minister will agree that this is pertinent to a realisation of the need for the Opposition parties to have an effective opportunity to assess matters and for legislation coming in to be foreshadowed over a reasonable period.
– I suggest to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) that the reason this matter has been brought back on is so that the Bill can still be studied. Amendments to the Bill that might be allowed or accepted would then have to be the subject of a new Bill so that the whole matter would be recommenced. My friend the Treasurer (Mr Crean) gave that assurance. I have known him now for over 20 years and I am certain that the promise the Treasurer made will be kept and that substantial amendments, if considered necessary and acceptable, will certainly be made to the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In the absence of the Treasurer (Mr Crean), I move:
As the House will be aware, this matter was referred to the Committee on 3 May 1973. The Committee had not concluded its inquiry at the date of prorogation. This motion seeks to refer the matter to the Committee again to enable it to complete its inquiries.
– This motion provides further evidence of the truth of what I was saying a moment ago. Having wiped the slate clean the Government is now busy writing it up again in exactly the same form.
– I move:
I think it will be generally agreed that the fixing of hours of sitting of the Parliament is possibly one of the most difficult problems that face governments no matter what political ilk they may be. The legislative program, the rights of private members, committee and party meetings and the electoral commitments of the various members in their constituencies all have to be considered. In addition there is also the prospect, as we have on this occasion, of holidays intervening - Easter and Anzac Day - and the distances of travel from far parts of Australia. These things do not apply in countries like England, for instance. There is the question of debating within reasonable hours and not sitting into the early hours of the morning. The question of adequate time for debate on very comprehensive legislation of interest to Government supporters as well as to members of the Opposition also has to be considered. These and a number of allied problems make the fixing of the hours of the Parliament an extremely difficult matter.
Allied to that, of course, are our Standing Orders which I think it has to be agreed could do with a modernisation in many respects to cut out - not to short circuit - many of the time consuming practices that are involved and which probably could be brought more into line with modern day thinking. When one considers that about 20 per cent of the members of this House are in their first term and are comparatively young members, and that about 40 per cent of the members of this Parliament have been here for slightly over 3 years, I think it can be reasonably said that there is a case for a complete review to see whether there could not be general agreement in respect to how we can face these problems and within the course of that review cope with all the matters that I have mentioned.
Since coming into government I have endeavoured - probably not as successfully as some might wish - to give as much time as possible, within limitations, to members to speak. No doubt every member wants to speak and it is probably preferable for every member to speak. But when they seek to exercise that right extensively it presents problems and means curtailment of the time of debates. I do not hesitate to say that the Opposition is entitled within its powers to use to the full the Standing Orders to put its case and to take exception to the conduct of the Government when it thinks fit. That, of course, must bring retaliation from the Government side All these things are accepted as part and parcel of the machinery of parliamentary debate. All of them of course have to be considered in the context of when we can sit.
Since coming to office I have endeavoured to see what could be done in respect of improving the possibility of providing honourable members with the opportunity to have their say, to have adequate debate and at the same time to fulfil the normal requirements for health and the commitments that I have mentioned. In case there may be criticism I just mention what was done during the legislative program of the Government last year. The House sat for 81 days, the highest number of sitting days for 23 years. It had not sat for so long since 1950. The average number of sitting days before that was 64. The House sat for 913 hours, the highest number of sitting days since 1912 - 61 years. While some parliaments probably sat for longer periods, only two in the world, namely the House of Commons in Great Britain and the House of Commons in Canada, sat for more hours than we did here. There was only one occasion last year on which this House sat after 11 p.m. I think that if a free vote were taken on that issue there would be fairly common agreement that that is a reasonable hour to finish to enable those who have responsibilities to carry them out. In previous Parliaments the average rising time was 21 minutes after midnight. In that time 253 Bills were introduced compared with an earlier average of about 142 with the highest figure being 169 under the previous Government. On 18 occasions matters of public importance were discussed and adjournment debates took place on 75 occasions. The average number of adjournment debates for the 2 Parliaments was 33, the highest number being 42 years ago when there were 67,
On every Thursday morning in the last session of this Parliament private members were given an opportunity to express their grievances. This took place on 11 occasions as against an average of 5 in the 2 previous Parliaments. Every motion which was put forward on private members’ day last year during the last session day was debated and taken to a vote. Some of them were most contentious issues associated with social matters and the like. The end of the Parliament last year was the first time in my memory that there was no unresolved general business on the notice paper. It is true that we sat on one occasion for a period of 6 weeks without a break. We sat longer hours and sometimes 4 days a week in order to give members the opportunity to speak on important issues. The legislative program was carried through with honourable members opposite exercising their rights to put their points of view on certain issues, sometimes with grim results, but that is part and parcel of the game. The legislative program “was one of the heaviest ever. Despite the restrictions imposed by the Standing Orders which certainly call for changes adjournment debates took place; urgent matters of public importance were discussed; grievance day and general business day practices were all given full effect to in that time. ‘I give that broad outline in order to remind honourable members what was done on that occasion.
Some honourable members criticised the period of time for, say, adjournment debates. I will cite some figures for honourable members to make a comparison between the position in previous years and what is now proposed. Last year there were 81 sitting days and on 75 occasions an adjournment debate took place with 305 speeches being made. On one occasion the debate lapsed because there were no speakers. On a couple of other days there was no adjournment debate because it was the eve of a holiday period. A total of 305 speeches were made in adjournment debates. In 1972 under the previous Government there were 60 sitting days, 16 of which went after midnight and only 36 adjournment debates with only 211 speakers taking part. In 1971 there were 74 sitting days, 29 went after midnight and 41 adjournment debates with only 206 speakers. In 1970 there were 73 sitting days, 23 going past midnight and 34 adjournment debates with only 201 speakers. In 1969 there were 51 sitting days, 18 of which went past midnight and 29 adjournment debates. In 1968 there were 67 sitting days, 20 going past midnight and 32 adjournment debates. In 1 967 there were 62 sitting days, 20 going past midnight and 28 adjournment debates. Those figures show that in the last session we had the greatest number of adjournment debates ever and the greatest number of speeches on the adjournment were made since I have been in this Parliament. Honourable members should not forget that all that took place before 11 p.m.
– I think the Minister might reserve those remarks for the next item on the business paper, the adjournment of sittings.
– I was stating the sitting hours and the reasons why we are proposing these times but I will be guided by your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker. I mention this in passing in order to show that we have given the greatest number of opportunities in respect of these matters. As you have asked me to move on, Sir, I will do so. The hours I have set will provide 26 hours a week during the autumn session compared with 241/2 hours in the early part of last year. The legislative program, as I said, is extremely heavy. It is one that we have endeavoured to implement within reason. I have had handed to me an amendment which the Opposition proposes to move. It refers to starting at 2 p.m. on Tuesday instead of 11 a.m.
– I have not moved it.
– I will speak on it later. In respect of starting time on Wednesday mornings, this is a matter that does concern us, as with Tuesday mornings. The Government has many responsibilities in respect of this matter. If this proposition is accepted it will mean sitting an additional 2 hours a week which will give an extra 6 hours sitting time every 3 weeks. That is a lot of debating time. Whilst it would have been nice not to sit on
Tuesday mornings, it is felt that by sitting the additional 2 hours members will have Friday to Monday in their electorates. It is not unreasonable to expect them to be here on Tuesday mornings. Quite frankly, there are 2 alternatives to not sitting on Tuesday mornings. One is that we could sit more days, and that may still be necessary even allowing for the additional 2 hours on Tuesdays if the legislative program becomes extensively heavy. It may also be necessary for us to sit longer because we may run out of time in respect of how long we can sit. The loss of that additional 2 hours on Tuesdays over a period means that it is just not possible to make it up. We are not forgetting the commitments members have on Tuesday mornings although we have eliminated in this proposal Wednesday morning sittings. Although members have commitments to their executives and matters of that kind, there is no reason at all why they should not be able to get here on the Monday’ afternoon or Monday night and attend to matters relating to their official positions in their respective parties. All these problems are allied to the business of government. We have endeavoured to give in every way possible some reasonable latitude for the time available to members. We have no desire to sit 4 or 5 days a week unless it is absolutely necessary because of members’ commitments in their electorates. But it will be seen from the program that I have sponsored that there is one Monday and one Friday sitting mainly because of the holiday period which was impossible to avoid. I think it is unreasonable to spend the money required to bring people here from all over Australia for only 2 days. A 3-day sitting week should be the minimum and that is the basis on which we have moved this proposal.
I will not pursue this comment any further in view of your suggestion, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will speak on the amendment when it is moved by the Opposition. I have given a broad outline of the sitting days. It is not intended to sit past 11 p.m. I hope that the Opposition will see fit to support this motion and to endorse the proposal we have put forward.
– When one listens to a recitation of the problems which the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) apparently is facing in this Parliament one is almost moved to tears. I resist the temptation however. The Leader of the House knows as well as I do that his problems are caused to a great extent by his own colleagues and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to whose direction he is forced to submit in this Parliament. On behalf of the Opposition Parties, the Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Country Party, we believe this to be an appropriate occasion to set down on the record the general principles which should properly govern the effective and responsible functioning of the House of Representatives.
The first is the provision of adequate time for all stages of debates on major legislation. The second is the responsible conduct of question time as a forum in which information can be sought. The third is an appropriate allowance of time between sittings for the deliberation of parliamentary and party committees. The fourth is the provision of time for the debate of all major ministerial statements. The fifth is the protection of members’ rights by non-interference with grievance debates, general business and adjournment debates. The sixth is the prompt and detailed response by Ministers to question on notice. The seventh is the provision to the Opposition parties of adequate notice as to the timing of major debates and the planned legislative program.
If one takes these principles and accepts that they ought to govern the proper functioning of a responsible and effective House of Parliament, then I believe that the Leader of the House would well recognise that there is considerable progress yet to be made. We on this side of the Parliament trust that during the forthcoming parliamentary session the Government will accept that parliaments and governments are judged not by the quantity of the legislation brought before the Houses but by its quality. It is absurd to sit in this House and listen to statements by the Leader of the House, and of course those of the Prime Minister, which amount to no more than a simple recitation of the number of Bills passed by the House. Apparently the Government believes, in some misguided way, that this constitutes a criteria of effective parliamentary government. I am reminded of an analogy, in the private industry, of a businessman who is so busy boasting about the activity of his business that he is busy going broke.
Legislation in this Parliament must be judged by its efficacy in meeting clearly defined objectives and by its impact on the Australian community. The Prime Minister and the Leader of the House appear obviously to be consumed by legislative statistics. One conjures up a vision of the Leader of the House, lying awake at night, feverishly thinking of how many bills he can put before the House next day, and calling hourly for the details of all the Bills that have gone through and the number of people who have spoken on the legislation without at any time sitting down and asking this fundamental question: Is the House operating effectively on the basis of the quality of the legislation which comes before it?
I want to record now the comments of the Prime Minister on 13 December when he said:
Since this 28th Parliament assembled on 27 February a total of 233 Bills have been introduced. That figure surpasses all records.
To emphasise the point he then stated:
This year the Bills introduced contained more than 2,200 pages - roughly 3 times the total last year.
We have the vision of the Leader of the House lying awake at night thinking about the number of Bills with the Prime Minister presumably going into detail about the number of pages in the Hansard record. The final absurdity is contained in the following statement by the Prime Minister:
Between January and November this year the Cabinet itself made a total of 1,675 decisions.
I regret that we do not have a resident Prime Minister; we would like to have one; it would be one of the new found phenomenons of 1974.
We need a Prime Minister who is prepared to take effective action to deal with the domestic problems, that obviously bedevil and confuse him. Clearly this non-resident Prime Minister considers that 253 Bills, 2,200 pages of legislation and 1,675 Cabinet decisions are the mark of an effective government.
– So they are.
– The Leader of the House says: ‘So they are’. I wonder about the large number of people listening to the broadcast of this parliamentary debate by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I wonder how they react to technicalities such as to the number of Bills passed. If they are pensioners they are concerned about the erosion of the purchasing power of the pension. If they are people seeking home ownership they recognise that that has become a totally sterile dream. Through the Chair, may I say with the greatest respect to the Leader of the House that the people of this country want answers. They do not want presentational answers which seek to be a technical gloss on a matter of this substance.
I do not want to interrupt the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, but we are dealing with the hours of meeting of the House.
– I recognise always the inevitable wisdom which all persons who sit in the chair possess. I would not have commented on the statistics except that this was all the Leader of the House could bring before the House as a matter of general substance. I want to close by saying that if one considers the state of the economy today it can only be considered that a certain number and proportion of these 1,675 Cabinet decisions obviously were totally misconceived and completely erroneous. The Prime Minister’s obvious fixation with the statistical record of this Parliament highlights the incapacity of this Government to tackle effectively the problems which this nation is facing at the present time. This country is seeking effective national leadership to solve the massive problems which arise.
I must ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to link his remarks with the question before the Chair, which is the hours of meeting of the House. That is the subject that we are expected to debate.
– I seek to draw a clear nexus between the manic preoccupations of Ministers and the desire of the people of this country to have effective answers. Perhaps with a further margin of leniency on the part of the Chair I could go on record as saying-
-I think I have been very generous.
– I would be the first to recognise your spirit of indulgence. I go on record as saying that we have a Prime Minister in this country who is thinking about the statistics which the Leader of the House has mentioned - that is relevant to the debate - and who seems to prefer going abroad as a strutting popinjay on the world scene. I would like to “see again a resident Prime Minister again in Australia.
I make it clear that the Opposition parties intend to ensure that the Parliament performs its constitutional and democratic functions. We have no intention of allowing this House to become a cypher which merely records and rubber stamps legislation. What the Prime Minister omitted to mention in his speech at the end of the last session, and what the Leader of the House omitted to mention in setting the general context of this debate, is that in order to establish the record, of which he presumably so badly boasts, he authorised the guillotining of 19 Bills and stood aside while debates were gagged on a total of 103 occasions. We have no manic preoccupation with figures, but these are the real facts which point to the manner in which the House is being misused. Every major Bill introduced by the Government during 1973 was subject to a guillotine. The Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, the Australian Industries Development Corporation Bill, the Health Insurance Bill and the Trade Practices Bill are only marginal reflections of the totality of the 19 Bills of very great substance and significance which were guillotined last year. In short, most of the legislative proposals forced through this House were forced through without adequate opportunity for examination and debate.
I want particularly to place on record, in the context of the principles I have enunciated, the very clear need for the Opposition parties to have adequate foreshadowing of the Bills which we are expected to debate in a meaningful fashion. It is no secret that on this day, Thursday, with the expectation that the Address-in-Reply debate may well conclude on Tuesday next, we have no details of the Bills which are to be brought forward for debate on Wednesday. I know that the Leader of the House has problems in this regard. I do not blame him personally for that fact. But if this place is to operate effectively we need at least a three or four week cycle of the Bills that are coming forward. Otherwise the Leader of the House will find that the tactic of rushing measures in here will prove to be totally counterproductive. Action will be taken to ensure that it does not happen in the Australian Senate, which today represents the major inhibition upon the excesses of this centralist, socialist and nationalist inclined administration. I know that the people listening to this broadcast are thinking of a Senate election which will take place very shortly. I say to the Leader of the House, through you Mr Deputy Speaker, that they will not be thinking of statistics, but will be thinking of the substance of the disabilities and the problems which they have faced during the past 15 months.
Prior to this debate I put to the Government on behalf of the Opposition parties, after consultation with my colleague the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair), our firm view that there should be no curtailment of the time allowed for adjournment debates and that the House should not be required to meet on Tuesday mornings.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– The House is discussing a motion moved by the Minister for Services and Property in his capacity as Leader of the House to establish the sitting hours by procedural motion, which sitting hours will govern our procedures during the session ahead. In my closing comments immediately before the suspension of the sitting for lunch I emphasised the need, in the view of the Opposition parties, to have available Tuesday mornings for purposes of Party committees, and I foreshadowed at that stage an amendment which I will be moving that the House should in fact not meet until 2 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon. The decision to require the House to sit on Tuesday morning, we believe, will severely impede the functioning of the committee system, both the parliamentary committees and the committees of the Opposition parties. We believe that we have both a right and a duty to examine legislation in detail. This of course requires that each proposal for legislation should be discussed by a policy committee, by our executive and by our Party as a whole. In circumstances where the Government regularly expects to introduce legislation for debate within one or two weeks, there is an obvious requirement for adequate examination. The fact that Tuesday mornings are to be pre-empted by the parliamentary session will in no small way impede our capacity to consider legislation within the timetable set by the Government. I make it clear that, to the extent to which legislation is brought on for debate without adequate time for examination by the Opposition parties, action will be undertaken by us in this House, and more particularly in the Senate, to ensure that it receives the required scrutiny.
For the present there is a very real need for the Government to undertake a greater degree of programming for the passage of legislation.
Mr Speaker, as you would be very well aware, it remains excessively difficult to establish the nature of this Government’s forward program. If the Government seeks co-operation from the Opposition parties, it should of course understand that co-operation is a 2-way process. At this point the Government is apparently unable or unwilling even to indicate those matters which will come before the House for debate next week. That is a matter for total dissatisfaction on our side of the chamber. I know that it is appreciated by the Leader of the House, and I hope that he is able to organise his Ministers in such a way that they operate as a Cabinet Government and not as a public meeting of Ministers as we have seen during the course of recent weeks. I move:
I hope that this year we will see the Leader of the House able to exercise in this place the role of statesman and not simply that of a person instructed by various Ministers to deal with legislation according to their desires, but which is completely contrary to the need for the House of Representatives to have an effective opportunity to operate responsibly in the assessment of legislation which comes before the chamber. I would hope that in his later comments the Leader of the House might be able to indicate the program which he has in mind for next week and to endorse the comment that this program should be foreshadowed over a three to four weeks cycle.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment. I wish only to add a few words to supplement those of my colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch). Firstly, might I say that I am rather surprised yet nonetheless delighted that at his somewhat advanced age and stage in life the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) is still so able to appreciate figures. The figures that he presented are not figures that those on this side of the House can still appreciate, but we are perhaps a few years younger than he is. I think it is true that the statistics of the record of the last session and the last Parliament in terms of the volume of Government business show that a significant amount of legislation passed through this chamber. But as one who is concerned about the status of Parliament I do not see that the numerical record of legislation passed through this House is the only criterion by which we can judge whether a Parliament is undertaking its correct task of exercising adequate supervision over the excesses and abuses of a government by adequately examining legislation an ensuring that the legislation meets the needs of the Australian people.
The consequence of the interpretation of the statistics presented to us by the Leader of the House is that this chamber has in fact not been able to exercise that which I have just stated to be its democratic responsibility. Indeed, the consequence has been to upgrade the other place so that it is in that chamber rather than in this chamber that significant pieces of legislation are given the scrutiny which public interest and political responsibility should require us to undertake here. The members of the Government Party for long have asserted
Within their policy statements and elsewhere the necessity for a unicameral system for considering legislation, yet by their actions they deny the meaning of this place which they seek to upgrade to become that unicameral legislature. It ill behoves the Leader of the House to quote statistics in the form that he did to demonstrate the volume of legislation that has been passed. Rather I believe that he should interpret and listen to the statistics that my colleague quoted to show the number of occasions, and the frequency of the occasions, on which the Leader of the House has found it necessary to guillotine, gag, suspend or accelerate debate so that the legislation could be thrust over to the other place, as the Constitution Alteration Bills were only yesterday, so that the other House could have an adequate time to analyse the Bills in detail and present a considered judgment on them when it came to a vote.
It is regrettable that the Leader of the House, even in this day and age, has forgotten his early rewarding years in that delightful little country community, Currabubula. For those who live in the city, the significance of Currabubula is not that it is so close to the boundary of my electorate - it is in fact within the electorate of my colleague, the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) - but that it is one of those communities from which access to this Parliament is not as easy as it is from the Sydney-side address that the Leader of the House now affects. It is not so convenient to get back to electorates such as that in which
Currabubula is situated on a Friday morning. After all, a significant number of members of this House, in fact all the members of my Party, represent such electorates. Equally, it is not so convenient to return to Canberra from such an electorate on a Tuesday morning. Part of the reason for my seconding the amendment is that I believe that for those members who live in localities somewhat remote from Canberra and from which there is difficulty of communication, additional time on Tuesday morning enables them to return to Canberra, having left their electorates largely on a Tuesday and in many instances on Monday, instead of their having to leave on Sunday, as an 11 o’clock start so frequently requires. I am sorry that the Leader of the House has forgotten his antecedents and the fact that he comes from the beautiful little community of Currabubula because I feel that had he not forgotten he would have been only too happy to accede to the amendment that my colleague has moved.
It is important in the functioning of this House that those who are listening on the radio and those who perhaps are not aware of the nature of parliamentary responsibility recognise that the House of Representatives has committees and that the 2 houses of parliament have joint committees. I understand that three of those committees - significant committees - meet on a Tuesday morning. They are the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, the Public Accounts Committee and the Public Works Committee. It is important that there should be adequate opportunity for those joint committees to meet and deliberate. Perhaps for many the committee work of this Parliament seems to be unseen and unheard. Too little are its praises sung, but it is that committee work which adds meaning to the substance of our parliamentary duty, and those additional hours on a Tuesday morning when Parliament is not sitting, given the difficulty of getting from various localities around Australia to Canberra, are significant. If it is necessary for the Parliament to assemble at 11 o’clock, a committee commencing at 10 o’clock or perhaps 9 o’clock on a Tuesday morning has insufficient time to carry out a meaningful work load without sitting during the sittings of this Parliament. The attendance of honourable members in this House at this time demonstrates how necessary it is for members to be outside the chamber rather than in it. I believe that if there were adequate time for members to pursue their committee endeavour outside the prescribed sitting hours perhaps the attendance of the Government Party, which has no more than about 6 members in the House at present - the Opposition Parties do not have any more members present than that - might be somewhat better.
Another point I make is that I agree completely with the request made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the Leader of the House give note, as I know he is endeavouring to do, to the real necessity for members on this side of the House to have some forewarning of the legislation which will be introduced in the following week. On a Thursday afternoon, if one has no idea of the following week’s program of legislation, it is extremely difficult to arrange adequate speakers’ lists and, because of the somewhat curtailed speaking time that has so often been allocated to us to enable members to prepare the sorts of speeches that they would like to give to represent their electorates and to present their own points of view on significant policy matters.
It is important that such notice be given. I know that the Leader of the House is endeavouring to provide something of a forewarning of the program which is ahead of the Parliament. I trust that he will be successful in that regard. I see it as a very necessary part of the efficient working of this House. If the hours of sitting are to be as the Minister has prescribed and the incidence of the guillotine and gag being applied for which precedence has been established is to continue it becomes all the more essential for adequate preparation of speeches so that in the few minutes available to members they can avail themselves of that time to the maximum degree.
The proposals relating to the adjournment of the House are not perhaps specifically included in this motion nor is it encompassed by the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I trust that in the session that lies ahead there will be adequate opportunity for members to use the adjournment debate. In the practice of parliament, the expression of views of the private member is as important today, if not more so, as it has ever been. The volume of Government legislation, as I explained when I commenced to speak, is not the basic criterion upon which the excellence of a parliament should be judged but rather the opportunity for the expression of point of view by those who are members of it. Private members should and must be given a chance to express their view on matters that cover a wide compass and the adjournment debate is one such opportunity.
I believe it is essential that there should be the maximum time available for members from both sides of the House to use the adjournment debate 3 nights a week so that they can raise such matters as affect them or their electorates on the occasions that they request. I endorse the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I believe the amendment that he has moved to be fit and reasonable and to fit the working needs of this Parliament and its members. I suggest that perhaps the Leader of the House, in his naturally sympathetic manner, might give due consideration to this proposal and perhaps even adopt it.
– Listening to the speeches made so far by members of the Opposition one cannot help being struck by the contradiction which is involved in their position. They are asking for greater time to discuss and debate legislation in the House and are proposing to vote to reduce the amount of time which will be available for this purpose.
– We want more sitting days, more sitting weeks.
– I think that the honourable member for Wimmera, now sitting in Opposition, sat in Government long enough to hear members of the present Government, then in Opposition make the same pleas day after day, week after week, for more sitting days. The previous Government did not accommodate the former Opposition. I think it is fair to say that members of the Opposition now, just as the members of the Opposition then, have not been all that unhappy that they were not accommodated. They were able to make their proper pleas for more time for debate and also to spend the time that they wanted to spend in their electorates. I think that is the truth of the situation. It operated when other people were in government, as it operates now.
The point I make is that all members will find an earlier sitting time on Tuesday somewhat of an inconvenience. We would all like to stay in our electorates longer. But if we want to participate and have some reasonable time for debate - and it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Parliament, because of the pressure of legislation which is passing through this Parliament, to have the sort of time that is desirable - it may well be that some time in the not too distant future the procedures may have to be seriously looked at so that adequate time can be made available. But the major point about this matter is that the Opposition Parties must make a decision whether the committees to which they have referred are as important as the Parliament itself. The remarks made so far by Opposition members have suggested that the committees to which they referred are more important than the Parliament and that if it is a choice between the Parliament sitting and the committees sitting the Opposition believes the committees should sit.
The adjournment debate has been mentioned. I personally agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) that it is important that members have the opportunity to speak on the adjournment in order to put their points of view. But as one who spoke on the adjournment fairly regularly in previous parliaments I would prefer to do so between 10.30 p.m. and 11 p.m. than as previously occurred, between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. It is difficult for members to make a valid point at that time. The time allocated for the adjournment debate is 30 minutes each night. There are some recommendations to the Standing Orders Committee, which are not before the House, on speaking times. But 30 minutes each night for debate on the adjournment will provide an hour and a half of debate each week. The amount of time allocated in the last session for the adjournment debate was 45 minutes on 2 nights and 15 minutes on the other night, so that the difference between the 2 procedures is 15 minutes a week. I suggest to the House that this is a more rational approach.
So far as the Opposition is concerned in relation to this question of adjournment, the time under the normal procedures of the House will be allocated on the basis that the Opposition will get one hour of the hour and a half available for debate on the adjournment motion each week and Government members will get 30 minutes. That one hour available to the Opposition Parties will at least be equivalent to the amount of time that the Opposition had on the adjournment debate in the previous Parliament. So the arguments about reduction in time should come from this side of the House, where, if a Minister intervenes in the adjournment debate, Government members will have a very limited time to speak in that debate.
I think that arguments on this kind of motion are fairly pointless. I believe that members are elected to participate in the activities and debates of this Parliament. I do not believe that any arguments put forward which suggest that we should restrict the sitting times of the Parliament to meet some other form of convenience are valid. The Parliament does not have time to deal with its business. The sitting hours are being extended in a very minor way. There will be inconveniences. As I have said before, all of us like to stay home on Monday nights and when winter comes we will not be game to do so. Government members have more problems than Opposition members in this respect. If Opposition members do not get here on time, that does not really matter.
– We have further to travel.
– That is not true, either. The honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton), who represents the Queensland electorate furthest removed from Canberra, is a Labor member. That is another question.
I support the motion. I believe that it is unfortunate that the Opposition is seeking by its amendment to alter the sitting times of the House in a manner which would restrict the hours available for debate. The other point which I feel I must make is this: I would like to hear from the Opposition whether it is proposing to compensate for the sitting time that would be lost if its amendment is accepted by moving further to extend the sittings hours, as was done in the past, into the wee small hours of the morning. I doubt that members on the other side of the House honestly want the automatic adjournment at 11 p.m. to be dropped. I think that we should continue with that procedure. It is to the credit of the Leader of the House that he has stuck rigidly to that adjournment time irrespective of the pressure of business before the House. If we are to maintain the procedure whereby the House rises at II o’clock each night, which is at least partially civilized, we must put up with some inconvenience by sitting earlier in the day. If members opposite suggest that the House should sit beyond 1 1 p.m. I should like to hear them say so.
– I refer briefly to a matter which was introduced into this debate by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) and to which some reference was made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) and the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair), namely, the volume of legislation which was passed in the last session of this Parliament. The Leader of the House seems to take a great deal of pleasure from, or perhaps I can accuse him of boasting of, the great volume of legislation which was passed. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition pointed out, surely we should be concerned with quality rather than quantity.
The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) said that the Leader of the House stuck rigidly to the 11 o’clock adjournment. He certainly did, but at what cost? At a cost to members who had a point of view to express. Earlier today the Leader of the House said that he was all in favour of giving honourable members the maximum amount of time possible in which to express their points of view. At the end of each session the government of the day, whichever it happens to be, issues a set of figures showing the volume of legislation passed, the days and hours on which the Parliament sat and so forth. I want to quote figures for the life of the 3 years of the previous Government and compare them with figures for the first year of the Labor Government. As honourable members can imagine, some of these figures have been provided by the present Government and probably by the Leader of the House. In the 3 years during which the previous Government was in office it applied the guillotine on 4 occasions. During one year only of the rule of the Australian Labor Party the guillotine was applied 10 times. Even yesterday, which was only the second day of sitting of this Parliament, the guillotine was used. During the 3 years of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government it used the gag on 223 occasions. Last year the Labor Party used it 103 times. When it comes to the use of the guillotine and the gag the previous Government was like a team of schoolboys playing in a big league. We were amateurs up against a team of professionals. I shall not refer, as did the 3 previous speakers, to the adjournment of sittings and the adjournment debate because that is the subject of the next motion on the notice paper and I will say something about this matter when that motion is before the House.
– I speak briefly to the amendment. The Opposition has moved that the House on Tuesdays meet at 2 p.m. instead of 11 a.m. I have been amazed at the conciliatory speech of the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair). He sounded complimentary and quite friendly. It was nice to see him in that mood after his outburst this morning. This motion is concerned with the convenience of honourable members. I certainly should like to be able to accommodate the honourable member. He said that members from country districts have difficulty getting to Canberra by 11 a.m. on Tuesdays. I point out that there are country members from this side of the House - I instance the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) - who also are inconvenienced. To meet the wishes of those members who live some distance from Canberra presents great problems. The situation is that we must debate the legislation and for members of the Opposition to insist on additional time being available for all manner of debates and then move to reduce sitting hours by 2 hours a week is something I cannot fathom unless they have a reasonable alternative. Do members opposite want to sit until, say, 1 o’clock each morning? If that happened they may be too tired to get to Canberra on Tuesday mornings. Can they suggest some other way of meeting the problem? Would they like to sit on Fridays or Mondays? By all means they can submit this amendment, which is idealistic, but how would they make up the time lost? Of course, when they were in government those who sponsor this amendment never gave the then Opposition the time it sought for debate.
The position is that Ministers and private members from this side are involved in committee meetings and other work yet they find time for those other duties even with the Tuesday morning sittings. It has beer suggested that if the House met at 2 o’clock in the afternoon 3 days of the week that would be an alternative, but this would mean about another hour a week would be lost. This all adds up. A certain amount of time only is available and it must be used. There is an alternative to meeting on Tuesday mornings. The House could meet on Wednesday mornings, but there would be the cry that that would interfere with the regular party meetings. That is a reasonable claim.
I should like honourable members opposite to consider all other avenues before proceeding with this amendment. I do not know what they think about the House adjourning at.
II p.m. I think it is a reasonable hour. I would prefer to sit an extra day or extra week so that general debates could finish at 10.30 p.m. and the adjournment debate conclude at 11 p.m. This would enable honourable members to be home at a reasonable hour. If the Opposition proposal is adopted the time available for debate will be reduced by 2 hours a week. Frankly, the Parliament cannot spare that time. A heavy legislative program is proposed. I will deal with this in a later speech. Much as I should like to accept the amendment for the convenience of members of my Party and members opposite, the Government cannot accept it for the reasons I have mentioned. Whilst I commiserate with those from far distant parts of Australia all must make some sacrifice.
I might mention also that the Parliament sits only 3 days a week. We are arguing whether it should sit for 2 hours of a Tuesday morning, meeting at a time by which most workers have completed almost half a day’s work. I do not think members would get much sympathy from the public if this amendment were carried. We are obliged to be here when times are set for meeting. This is our working place and we should be here. Whilst I am sympathetic to the proposition and would be delighted to be able to adopt it I cannot from the point of view of practical politics of the workings of this Parliament do so without curtailing discussion time that should be available to honourable members.
I put it to those who propose the amendment that they can have less debating time or sit later into the night or sit on Mondays or Fridays. They are the only alternatives if we are to maintain the program we envisage. As I have said before, the sitting and debating times for the Parliament were fixed when there were only 75 members. I was a member at that time. Over the years there has been little change except for some shortening of the time available to members in which to speak, yet there are now 125 members in this chamber.
I believe that the answer to the problem we are discussing is to have some kind of all party committee review completely the workings of the Parliament to see whether, in some way, there cannot be common agreement on what debates take place and what are good sitting hours. In that way ultimately we may find a solution acceptable to all. I am sure that time will come because the Parliament will not be able to get through its business as thoroughly as everyone would desire unless there is some review resulting in some proposal acceptable to all. Whilst I am not unsympathetic to the amendment, the practical politics of the running of this Parliament make it impossible for me to accept it.
– I make one brief point. Inevitably, of course, the amendment will be defeated, the numbers game being what it is, unless some reason prevails on the other side. A number of honourable members from both sides of the House are committed to meetings of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs which meets on Tuesday mornings. Undoubtedly other committees also are involved. I would ask the Leader of the House (Mr Daly), the Deputy Leader of the the Opposition (Mr Lynch) or whoever may be in a position of influence in determining the timetable of these statutory committees to do something about the meeting time of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs ‘because it will be something of a farce if that Committee meets at 10 o’clock and its members have to dash off at 5 minutes to eleven. I recognise the inevitability of what will happen with this amendment but I strongly urge that something be done about the timetabling of committee meetings.
– 1 wish to support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) and seconded by the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair). Perhaps I could commence by congratulating the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) upon successfully introducing a new scheme last year in relating to the rising of the House at 1 1 p.m. Without a doubt, this practice has been accepted by honourable members on both sides of the House. Also I go along with his closing remark that it is about time we had an all-Party look at this situation. I am afraid that the Minister has overlooked the interests of a lot of people within this nation. I represent a fairly large electorate which, geographically, is not a great distance from this place but there are other honourable members - particularly on this side of the House - who will have great difficulty in servicing their electorates and from time to time keeping up with some of the suggested extended hours. I refer to sittings on Mondays and Tuesday mornings and occasional Friday sittings. This makes things very difficult.
Frequently in this House the Minister for Services and Property has referred to the question of one vote one value. I am not too sure what he means by that. My interpretation of one vote one value is that the people in the various electorates have the right to contact their local member of Parliament. This is most important. It is all very well for the Minister to say that if we do away with Tuesday morning sittings we will have to find some more hours. This is a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face. If honourable members cannot get back to their electorates to inform their constituents what is going on in this place the only opportunity they will have will be to speak in this House and hope that they get the message across in that way. I do not think we would be saving anything at all.
When I refer to the various electorates throughout Australia whose members have great difficulty I immediately think of honourable members on the Government side such as the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard), the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis), the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) and the honourable member for Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick). There are only four of them. When I look at the Opposition side I find the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher), the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), and I suppose there are others, who are finding great difficulty. I include my own electorate of Wimmera. Geographically, the electorates of Gippsland, Mallee and Wimmera are not very far from Canberra. Honourable members whose seats are in Sydney can literally jump in a car, 5 minutes later they are in a plane, and three-quarters of an hour later they are here in Canberra. This does not apply to some of my neighbouring colleagues. They do not have an air service. As one colleague says, they have to walk. That is not quite as silly as it sounds, because some of them have to walk part of the distance. T suppose I should be sticking to my own electorate in this instance.
– No. Bring us all in.
– Not necessarily? I will use my own electorate as an illustration. When the House sits on a Monday the only way in which I can get here is to leave home on Sunday. This applies to plenty of other honourable members. I do not think that this is altogether a fair attitude for the Government to take. In normal circumstances, even when the House sits on Tuesday afternoon, I actually leave my home at 8 o’clock on Monday morning. I know that if my colleague the honourable member for Mallee wants to spend any time in his office he virtually leaves home at 1 o’clock on Monday morning to get here by Tuesday afternoon. These are the points which I am afraid the Minister has overlooked.
I am suggesting that in no circumstances should the Parliament consider sitting on a Monday at all. That is the first point I make. The second one is that we should not be sitting on Tuesday morning. My final point on the issue is that we should not be sitting on Fridays either. Mr Speaker, you will know from experience that little government business is done when this House sits on Friday. Experience has proved that. If the Minister wants more sitting hours there are plenty of weeks in the middle of the year when this Parliament does not sit. It is all very well to say that Ministers have to go flitting around the world to visit this and that. From my experience, Australia would possibly be in a better position if some of the Ministers stayed at home.
Whilst the Minister for Services and Property may be wanting to do the right thing and to get all his legislation through, if he wants to push through hundreds of different Bills as we did last year he must also consider Opposition members who, unlike members of the Government Party, have no opportunity to study the Bills. I think that this is terrribly important. If all the spare time is taken up for sittings of the House, what chance do the Opposition Parties have of studying the legislation? Those people who have difficulty in getting here on a Tuesday would find it difficult to attend the various committee meetings. Of course, they are only a small percentage; most honourable members can come here on Tuesday mornings. That is one of the reasons why I support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I am sure that it is a reasonable one.
I also agree with the Minister when he says that it is about time we had an all-Party discussion on this issue. I hope that honourable members opposite and the Minister for Services and Property will give every consideration to some of the issues I have raised and to the issues which my colleagues, the honourable member for Kennedy, the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Country Party have raised because after all they are very important matters. I repeat that we have a responsibility to our electors. If we do not have the opportunity to get home and speak to them personally then we have no alternative but to take up the time of this chamber and try to put over our point of view so that they in turn at least know what is going on.
– I rise briefly to support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch). I want to make 2 points: Firstly, the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), in a very friendly way, said that if we do not have a sitting that begins before 2 o’clock on a Tuesday the public will think that we work for only a few hours. Surely, after all his years of experience in this Parliament, he ought to be the last person to put that construction on the actual responsibilities of a member of Parliament. I believe that it typifies his failure to recognise just what is involved in honourable members attending to their electorates .and attending the sittings of this House here in Canberra.
That raises another point. Since the advent last year of new hours of sitting which mean that the House does not sit beyond 1 1 p.m., he has had to find more days for honourable members to spend in Canberra. This has greatly limited the capacity of honourable members to service their electorates. It must be a matter of concern to both the Government and the Opposition. I remind the House of a question asked this morning by a Government supporter concerning accommodation in Parliament House. I think the implication was that the services provided for honourable members were limited in relation to the work load that they have to carry. I hope that the all-Party committee which it is suggested should have a look at this matter will take into account, along with sitting hours, the facilities for honourable members to do their job, to attend committees and to be effective on those committees. This must surely involve consideration of the manpower resource for honourable members te work effectively as representatives of their respective electorates. Undoubtedly the power base should be this national Parliament. But we find too often that members cannot get their work done as they would like to do it because of inadequate accommodation, and yet we find a tremendous growth in the other services within this building. We find that the administration has expanded tremendously, but not the administration directly related to the work that a member of Parliament does. I think that it is in this direction that a great deal of serious attention must be directed and perhaps, Mr Speaker, you yourself might have a look at this important matter. If we are to conform to the new hours that have been proposed, I believe it is imperative that there be an additional provision to assist members with their office work. Certainly, it needs updating in regard to the opportunity members have to call upon not only typists but also research assistants. Certainly the Parliamentary Library is to be commended on what is now available to a member but the limiting factor is in terms of time to go personally to the Library and to follow through what one might set out to do in that sphere of research. All this impinges upon the requirement, really, of being in this chamber as much as possible.
I should like to remind the Leader of the House that in recent times there has been increasing evidence of lack of attendance in this chamber of both Government and, I will admit, Opposition members. But I should like to say on behalf of my colleagues who receive a lot of criticism from the Minister - he often criticises the Australian Country Party - that the Country Party’s record of attendance in this House certainly far exceeds that of the other parties. If we have a look right now we see evidence of that, yet we are the ones who have the problems of time and distance to a far greater extent than many other members, particularly those who come from metropolitan areas. But I do appeal to the Minister to endeavour to take this into account when he is making determinations concerning sitting hours and days. I hope that if a committee is to look at this problem - it is suggested that this will be done - it will be done at a very early date and that the whole aspect of what is involved in a member doing ‘his job is taken into account, and that the matter is not passed over as was done earlier in the debate with the suggestion by the Leader of the House that people outside Parliament might think that we were working only a few hours a day if we were not in fact sitting in the chamber before 2 p.m. on Tuesdays. The facts of the matter are that most committees begin their sittings at 9 a.m. and, of course, relating that to the time of travel and all the other responsibilities of a member, certainly it would be a very wrong impression indeed if that were to be the view taken by the public.
– I feel obliged to enter into the debate on this very important question because I have been listening attentively to all that has been said and it seems to me that the arguments being put by honourable members opposite bear within them a very great contradiction. Over the last couple of days that this Parliament has met it has been made very clear by honourable members on the other side of the House that they feel they have been given insufficient time to debate the very important measures that are constantly coming before this Parliament. I interpolate here to say that all of the measures introduced by the present Government are of course important measures. But I am sure that the very vast audience which is listening to this debate today will realise the contradiction. We have just had 2 Opposition speakers in succession and every speaker who has spoken from the Opposition side of the House has criticised the extension of the hours of the sittings.
It seems to me that the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson), the previous speaker, was more concerned with being in his electorate than he was with sitting in the national House of Parliament, which he was elected to do. I think that view is justifiable, but the fact is that he was not elected to be a social worker in his electorate. He was elected to come to this Parliament and speak in this chamber. I recognise that the social worker part of his job is very important, but we do not live in an age where communication is carried out by smoke signals. We live in an age where people can move rapidly from one part of the country to another. My heart bleeds for those members who talk about the number of hours they spend travelling to this place in this day and age. I would invite them to go back to previous days and see the time that was spent by members to come to this Parliament to perform the duty which the electors gave him.
I have been in this House long enough to remember a previous occasion when, under a former government there was a debate conducted in this Parliament as to whether the Parliament should adjourn at 10 p.m. or 10.30 p.m. each evening. I also remember on that occasion - the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) was Prime Minister - it was alleged by all the parties that there was a free vote on this issue. There certainly was a free vote by Australian Labor Party members but I well remember about 2 or 3 members of the Cabinet - I do not think they were prominent members, but they were Ministers at the time - who sat themselves down amongst those of us who were voting in a particular way. Apparently this was in contradistinction to a view that had been taken earlier by the Cabinet because the then Prime Minister came and wagged his finger at them. A vote was taken on the very issue we are now talking about, namely, curtailing the hours of the House so that we would not sit into the early hours of the morning when we have had the spectacle of members lying underneath their bench because they were exhausted, and having to be propped up when a division was taken so that the tellers could see them. That used to occur at about 4 o’clock in the morning. We do not get a lot of sense out of Liberal and Country Party members in this Parliament at the best of times, but to expect to get sense out of them at 4 o’clock in the morning or beyond 1 1 o’clock at night I think is justing asking for a little too much.
I commend the Leader of the House (Mr Daly), who is at the table, for the introduction of the 1 1 o’clock rising procedure. I also commend him on the proposition which he has placed before honourable members today and I urge honourable members to vote solidly in favour of it because I have heard no valid argument today to the contrary. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) put to us that the criterion for legislation was quality and not quantity. Frankly, I could not agree with him more but whatever yardstick one cares to use for measuring the legislation that was introduced into this Parliament last year, I am quite satisfied that it would measure up to any one of those yardsticks, whether on the quantitative or qualitative aspect.
So I would seriously urge all members of the House to support the proposition put by the Minister. It carries with it a lot of sense. It provides continuity and a timetable that will not be introduced into this House one week before the event. It is a timetable that is available to every member now so that their diaries can be arranged and their times in the electorate arranged accordingly. It is not as if on Friday honourable members will receive a telegram or a telephone call instructing them to be in this House on Tuesday. Members now know the days on which they will be required in this House for every month of this year until June. ‘I commend the proposition to the Parliament. The arguments that were put against it were quite specious and emotional and without any foundation in fact.
– in reply - I wish to reply only briefly to what has been said. It has been a rather harmonious discussion although there have been some barbs. But I should like to reply generally to what has been said. The honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson) spoke a few moments ago. I do not know whether he was suggesting that we should sit past 1 1 o’clock at night. Personally, I would not like to see that procedure introduced again. I do not look upon that as a reasonable alternative. I also noted his comments in regard to office work, research assistants and all that kind of thing, and without taking any personal credit for it I think that honourable members will agree that since the present Government came to office there has quite rightly been a commendable improvement in the facilities extended to members of Parliament. Without being over-critical, I think that was one avenue associated with members that the previous Government neglected, I think to its cost and to the cost of the people because we lacked the necessary facilities. Naturally, we would like to increase those facilities, particularly, as the honourable member for Cowper mentioned, the number of office assistants and all that kind of thing. But it is pretty difficult to do these things when we have been constantly criticised for the growth in the Public Service. I wonder what the reaction of the public would be now if every member were provided with 2 extra research assistants or secretaries. I would hate to be here with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) criticising us for this action. I am a sensitive one and I would not like to risk that. So honourable members opposite will agree that that presents great problems for us. But honourable members can rest assured that I and the Government will continue to see that members have the facilities which are available in most cases to the average executive of any business in the country to enable them to carry out effectively their responsibilities.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) in speaking to this motion said that Parliament’s hours should provide adequate time for a proper question time, full discussion on all legislation, full discussion on all ministerial statements, the right of private members to have discussion and so on to be maintained, Ministers to provide adequate and full and complete answers and adequate notice of a planned program of legislation. As I listened to the honourable member I could not help but ponder what a few months in the wilderness does to people. It works wonders, because every one of those things was denied to us when we were on that side of the fence for about 23 long weary years. I do not want to revive the past; I hate to do it. But you will not mind, Mr Speaker, if I make passing reference to it because these are things that I lived with for a long time. I agree that they were not good things. It is true that since this Government came into office it has embarked upon an extensive program. But we have endeavoured to fit that program within the confines of the Parliament and to give the opportunity for adequate discussion. I will not repeat the figures again, except to say that a record number of 305 speakers spoke on the motion that the House adjourn during the last session of Parliament. That is an excellent record. Also, private members’ business has been discussed on every occasion. In addition, this business has been brought to a vote. Discussion on matters of public importance time and again has been allowed. In every possible way we have endeavoured to give private members a better go.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that we are more concerned with legislative statistics than we are with achievement. We do not have much to beat in this respect because 100 Bills was a pretty good number for previous governments to introduce in a year. When we took office there was so much to be done after such a long time of inertia that we had to build a record not only of a long legislative program but of achievement. In addition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition mentioned that the debate on the AddressinReply should go for 3 or 4 weeks. It is possible that it will. How does the honourable member know that it will not go for that long? Debate on the Address-in-Reply has not commenced yet. The Speech by Her Majesty the Queen was an excellent one, easily the best address by Her Majesty I suppose in our time. I think that people should spend a lot of time pondering such a speech.
Under the previous Government’s legislative program we were given roughly a week’s notice of proposed legislation. We were expected to debate this legislation the following week. I believe that there is a lot to be said for an arrangement under which a government could tell the Opposition or its own members intimately what its legislative program would be 5 or 6 weeks ahead. But practical men know that a government cannot do that. Such matters depend on draftsmen and others. But within reason we shall endeavour to meet the requests of the Opposition in this regard. As is the usual and established practice in this country we will expect these matters to be debated after the Opposition’s first Party meeting-
– At least.
– After they are brought in. The honourable member says ‘At least’. This is a system that has grown up after 23 years. I cannot get out of it. I thought it was good. The previous Government brought it in and I just cannot get out of my system the belief that honourable members opposite would not want to change it. Evidently they do want to change it now. Honourable members opposite now speak of guillotines and that sort of thing. One honourable member opposite said that the previous Government moved the gagging of debates 222 times. We have put on only 100 so far in one year. We are 122 behind. No wonder the previous Government was in trouble - the honourable member cannot count. By the way, the honourable member is recorded in Hansard of 4 May 1971 as voting for the then Government when it put through 17 Bills in 19 hours. Surely that is not the distinguished democrat whom I heard a few moments ago. I could not break that record if I set out to do it. It will stand for all time.
The Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair) also spoke about the ruthless use of the guillotine. But he is indelibly recorded with the honourable mem.ber for Henty (Mr Fox) and others as having voted at that time. The honourable member for Henty is really guilty because he counted the numbers. He was the teller who would not let a man escape the use of the ruthless guillotine against a Labor Opposition. But now he is reformed after 5, 6 or 12 months in the wilderness. He says that things ought to be decent now. The Opposition speaks about freedom of speech. Who will ever forget the one day meeting of the Gorton Government? Will honourable members ever forget it? We adjourned on 26 September 1969 for an election. On 25 November this free speech Opposition that sits opposite called Parliament together for one day. This was after a period of 2 months. The then Government introduced the Governor-General’s Speech which lasted for 59 seconds. The 21 -gun salute that went off was 20 seconds longer than the Speech. These are the people who talk about free speech. In addition, the honourable member for Henty made one of his best speeches. He moved the Address-in-Reply in 2 minutes dead. He was followed up by the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) who excelled himself. Everybody was breathless as he spoke for 20 seconds and seconded the motion moved by the honourable member for Henty.
The then Government moved 6 gags on the same day. It went right through the routine of electing everything. But now the Opposition says that we are not giving enough time for the discussion of legislation. By heavens, Don Bradman was a record breaker in his time but he had nothing on those opposite. There were just on 30 pieces of general business - unfinished business - on the business paper when the Government of those opposite went out of business in 1972. Hardly one matter worth mentioning was ever discussed in regard to general business and certainly nothing was ever brought to a vote. In the Budget session general business day was never called on by those opposite. Yet the present Government did not interfere with grievance day or general business day at any time last year. So when honourable members opposite speak of what ought to be done, when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition asks for these great reforms, while I am a terribly sympathetic man I am not unduly moved. The only thing that inspires me to see that Parliament gets a good go is not the Opposition but because on this side we are democrats. We believe in the freedom of speech and discussion and the right of members to say their piece.
I can tell honourable members opposite, having listened to them for quite a long time, that a lot of them would go a lot better if they did not talk at all. As I have said, honourable members opposite now have some suggestions to make in respect of what ought to be done. But the situation is that many endless hours are wasted in this Parliament by people who speak unnecessarily only for obstructionist purposes. Only yesterday the Opposition, when asked who wanted to speak on a piece of legislation, put down everybody on the list. When we have to chop the debate off they say that we have chopped off 20 speakers. Just as we are going to stop the debate they bob up an ex-Prime Minister. They say: ‘Look, you would not gag an ex-Prime Minister, would you?’ Then when Mr McMahon disappears they bob up Mr Gorton and they say: ‘You are not going to gag another one?’ Then you get to the stage where you wonder when they are going to run out of ex-Prime Ministers. This is an old gag.
Yesterday when we asked for speakers on a Bill we were given, from memory, 19 from the other side of the House. It would have taken 680 minutes to accommodate all of these speakers. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) is one member who constantly opposes what he says is the gag or the guillotine. After all, the House of Commons, which is the mother of parliaments, uses these methods. My godfather, do not tell me that those who have turned back the sands of time and still want ‘God Save the Queen’ want to turn against the mother of parliaments. Last year the honourable member for Mackellar spoke for 14 hours. We have only been going here for 2 days and he has spoken on 9 occasions and a total of 66 minutes. Yet he will stand up tomorrow and tell you that he is not getting a fair go. He spoke 24 times on the adjournment of the House, and now he complains about free speech. It would not be so bad if we knew what he said, but nobody has yet worked out what he has talked about in all that 14 hours in the 24 times he has spoken in adjournment debates.
Honourable members may be assured that we will preserve to the full their rights as private members. We will see that they are given adequate time within the time available for discussion. Legislation will certainly be telegraphed as far ahead as possible, not only to our own members but also to those opposite. Having sat on the other side of the House for a long time, I can say quite sincerely that it is difficult for an Opposition to get the trend of legislation. But one has to work in Opposition. One is entitled to facilities to do that, but one cannot expect the Government to run the Parliament to suit the Opposition, except to give it a reasonable go on things that matter.
I suggest in all sincerity to honourable members opposite that they should consider the record of this Government in respect to what has been done for discussion by private members. They should study carefully all the matters that come up for debate. This would be a much better place for discussion and everything of that nature if those members opposite who desire to speak spoke exclusively on the subjects in which there is interest and of which they have knowledge. In that way they would add not only to the Parliament but also to the debating capacity of the House.
I am sorry that I cannot accept the amendment. 1 understand the situation in regard to committees and all that those matters apply to. This part of the Parliament also faces those problems, and they are matters that cannot be overcome immediately. Some honourable members said that we have a long recess in the middle of the year. They should not be too optimistic because I have a shrewd idea that it will be a lot shorter. Consequently honourable members opposite may well find themselves back in this place long before the traditional middle of August. In that way we will make up time and probably meet the requests of those opposite.
As one who is a democrat, I hate to see the Deputy Leader of the Opposition threatening us with action in another place, unless we give way here on certain of our proposals. After all, the Senate is a House of review. It is the place of the States. Surely the Liberal Party and the Country Party would not use it for bad political purposes. Surely they would not use it for retaliation. I think it is monstrous for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to threaten us because of some action here in regard to hours. I could not believe that the Australian Country Party would get that low. Consequently that kind of threat I treat with a certain amount of disdain because I feel it is not the feeling of those who sit in the Country Party corner of the House, and they would not be a party to it in any circumstances, I am certain. Therefore, that idle threat will not force us to accept the amendment.
In any case, I hope that honourable members will appreciate the problems we have and will co-operate during this coming session and in that way relieve what some criticise as the guillotine and the gag, which are normal, traditional parliamentary methods of curtailing those who obstruct, without any objective, the ways of the Government and also the doing and proceedings of the Parliament. 1 commend the motion I have moved to the House.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Lynch’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
In moving this motion I do not intend to canvass the previous debate which covered the proceedings of the House. This motion deals only with the finishing times each night and the routine procedure which is to be applied. The only significant change to the previous order is that from now on each night the motion that the House do now adjourn will be put at 10.30 p.m. and the debate will continue until 11 p.m. The only purpose of this motion is to regularise the finishing time. We believe it is more acceptable to members of Parliament because it saves having different adjournment times each night. But the usual adjournment debate will take place and the finishing time for the business of the Parliament will be 10.30 p.m. with the final lifting of the Parliament taking place at 11 p.m. as happened in the previous session.
– I think I heard the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) suggest that there was no real change in the time for the adjournment debate. Is that correct?
– It will come on at 10.30.
– Would not this mean a loss of 15 minutes a week in view of the time that was previously available?
– Yes, it could.
– Previously the adjournment motion was put at 10.45 on Tuesday night and 10.15 on the other 2 nights with the finishing time at 1 1 p.m. Here we have disguised thinly but surely another attack on the rights of private members of this Parliament. The Leader of the House parades as a paragon of virtue and the upholder of democracy but as has been said before and will be said again, during his time as Leader of this House democracy is continually raped. Here we have once again the whittling away of the rights of private members. We had a ruling this morning by you, Mr Speaker, whereby personal explanations have to be made after the presentation of papers. This is another erosion of the rights of the private member. As far as I am concerned, the people of Australia do not elect Ministers, they elect representatives and that was an incursion into the rights of the individual members. The Leader of the House is taking away another 15 minutes of the time available for the adjournment debate. This is a terribly important time. It is when members of this Parliament, who are continually being subjected to the rigours and the firm-handed approach that the Minister has in regard to guillotining and gagging legislation, have the only opportunity to stand up and present their cases. This is also being whittled away. I call on all private members, including those on the Government side, to join with those on this side of the House when we oppose this move. Let the Minister stand alone. Give him time to reflect upon the action that he is taking.
-Order! The honourable member is not suggesting a stop work meeting, is he?
– I am not suggesting a stop work meeting. I am opposing this motion.
– Who are you?
– I am a fighter for the rights of members of this Parliament because the rights of the members of this Parliament are the rights of the people of this country. I respectfully suggest that the Leader of the House might care to move an amendment to ensure that an extra 15 minutes is tacked on to the time available on either Wednesday night or Thursday night. I would be most surprised to learn that members on my side of the House had agreed with this proposal.
– One of the great disabilities of being a Minister in this Government is that the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) will not let you speak. But I will pass a few remarks in this instance. First of all, I think it is important for us to regularise the way in which we meet and the way in which wc close. My own view remains as it always was - that 11 p.m. is much too late and we ought to knock off each day at 10 p.m. In this instance I support my colleague the Leader of the House in the march towards regularising the way in which we meet and the relationships between us. I sympathise completely with the comments by my friend the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) about debating time and so on in this Parliament. Shortly we hope to bring forward the report of the Standing Orders Committee and it will initiate a thorough examination of the way we go about our business. It seems to me on the arithmetic that it is almost impossible for us to carry out the 2 projects that are important to Parliament; that is, letting the voice of the representatives be heard and an examination of the legislation take place. We may well have to reconsider the way in which we meet in committee and so on. This is simply a step towards getting things regularised so that we knock off at a reasonable time and so that we know that the adjournment debate will be held at a regular time. I also think it might be well worth while to examine the question of whether we should reduce the speaking time for each participant in the adjournment debate to perhaps a short period of four or five minutes. I support the Leader of the House.
– I want to say on behalf of the Opposition that we are not opposing this motion, but I do want to point out quite a number of things. The Leader of the House (Mr Daly) said earlier today that he is in favour of improving the prospects of private members to express their point of view. I remind the House that when we on this side were last in government we gave a minimum of 2 hours each week for the adjournment debate. We had one hour between 11 o’clock and 12 o’clock on Wednesday evenings and one hour between 11 o’clock and 12 o’clock on Thursday evenings. The minimum time for the use of members was 2 hours. If they chose to take less, that was up to them. In the last session this Government reduced that period of 2 hours to13/4 hours by providing for the motion for the adjournment to be put at 10.45 on Tuesday night and at 10.15 on Wednesday night and Thursday night. So this Government cut down the speaking time on the adjournment debate from 2 hours to13/4 hours. This proposal cuts the time further to11/2 hours a week. This means that fewer members will be given an opportunity to speak on the adjournment debate because with only 30 minutes available each night only 3 speakers can participate in the debate.
The Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant) referred to a report of the Standing Orders Committee. That report has not yet been presented to the Parliament. There is no mention in this motion of any other speaking time so we have to take it on the basis that until something else is put forward speeches on the adjournment debate will last for 10 minutes. This means that only 3 speakers will be accommodated. Last night a motion to suspend the Standing Orders in order to facilitate the passage of certain Bills without delay meant that the House did not move to adjourn at 10.15 as should have happened. It was actually 10.47 when the motion was put and this meant there was only enough time for one speaker to speak on the adjournment. So
I say that the Leader of the House speaks with 2 voices. His actions do not match his promises. He says he wants to provide the maximum amount of time for members to express a point of view. He should put it into practice by tacking on a quarter of an hour to restore the available time to 2 hours instead of reducing the time further by a quarter of an hour.
– I want to make only one point. During the period of the previous Parliament to which the Opposition Whip referred I can remember waiting night after night for an adjournment debate. There was never an adjournment debate on a Tuesday night. The honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) suggests that 2 hours was available for the debate. Whilst the present times remain for the debate there will be 1 hour available to the Opposition each week on the adjournment debate which is at least as much and I think a great deal more than the Opposition received during the previous Parliament. 1 think we would find that would be the position if we took out the figures over a period of time. If we ascertained the amount of time in which members were forced to debate the adjournment motion after midnight I suggest that we would discover that the time available for honourable members was very much less than 2 hours or even 1 hour a night. I think we also have to take into consideration the fact that in the previous Parliament there was no adjournment debate on Tuesday night. Now, under this proposal, members will get half an hour.
There is one other point that must be made. Under the previous Government the grievance debate just did not happen. In one year we had a Grievance Day debate only 3 times. We now have a Grievance Day debate once in every 2 weeks of sittings. That is a far better time for honourable members to put their points of view provided their Whip is prepared to put their names on the program. If we include Grievance Day debating time, which was practically non-existent under the previous Government, under this proposal private members will have at least as much time available to them for the debate of private matters during adjournment debates or Grievance Day debates as they ever had before.
I suggest that it is a lot of humbug for members of the Opposition to suggest that they provided adequate time for private members to debate matters. They never allowed any general business to be resolved and they wiped out Grievance Day debates on every occasion on which it suited them. I suggest that honourable members opposite should look through the records of the Parliament and see how often that there was a Grievance Day debate.
– How many times already has the guillotine been applied?
– We are talking about the time of adjournment. I would not expect the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) to understand. Rarely do senior members of governments attend adjournment debates, they never attended in the time of the former Government. That is something that cannot be said about the present Government. Appropriate ministers at least come into the House and take note of what is being said. I think that this is a lot of humbug. Private members received no rights or consideration under the former Government. Under the present Government at least they are assured that general business matters will be brought to a vote. What is it all about if general matters are not brought to a vote? It is of no use coming in here and talking about general business matters and then not being prepared to vote on them. One member of the Government parties during the last Parliament brought up a general business matter, thundered about it with all the wrath that he could command, then walked over to the other side of the House and voted against enabling his motion being voted upon. That it what this is all about. If a member wants to put up a motion he should be prepared to vote on it.
This Government is giving the Opposition the opportunity and the responsibility of working out whether it is prepared to vote on some of the motions that come forward. Members are able to talk in the Grievance Day debate every second Thursday when the Parliament sits. That is something that no one on the Opposition side now can claim to have given to the previous Opposition.
– From listening to this debate and the previous debate it seems to me that despite the selfsatisfaction of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) there is a great deal of dissatisfaction among members of this Parliament about the proposition that the Minister put forward in relation to sitting hours which culminated in the particular matter before us - the cutting down of the time available to speak on the motion for the adjournment of the House. This is evidenced by the number of members who have risen and spoken about the inconvenience it causes.
We all understand the motive of the Minister. He wants to find more time to debate the Government’s legislative program. That is his prime and fundamental motive. The rights of private members are not the first objective of the Minister. He is not interested, for instance, in providing the Opposition parties and the Opposition executive with time to consider properly legislation which is brought forward or to put their point of view during the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House. In fact his motive is the very opposite, however he wraps it up.
I rose to make this point: Although I believe that the fundamental motive of the Minister is to use his numbers to benefit his own Party in this Parliament, there is also another motive and it is that motive that I want to say something about. I refer to the obsession of the Minister for upholding the reputation that he has obtained for closing Parliament down at 11 o’clock at night come what may. The Minister introduced this proposition and gained a certain amount of popularity for a while from some honourable members as a result of doing so. But I suggest that gradually, as time has gone by and as honourable members have seen what has flowed from this decision to close the Parliament down at 11 o’clock at night, an increasing number of people have been prepared to return to the old system under which we sat later if the Government’s legislative program or the rights of private members demanded. More and more members would favour that course.
I listened to the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant) say that the Parliament should rise at 10 o’clock at night. I do not know what sort of life other members of this Parliament lead in their electoral activities when they are not here in Canberra. Maybe the city majority of this Parliament are able to get home to bed regularly at 11 o’clock at night.
– You would have to be joking. I am a city member and I am never in bed before midnight at the earliest.
– All right, if that is true and the objective of the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin) in closing down the Parliament at 11 o’clock at night is not to preserve a life style to which he has become accustomed at other times, why distort the whole of the operations of this Parliament by closing it down at 11 o’clock? I accept the honourable member’s point that I may be incorrect in suggesting that city members can get to bed at 11 o’clock at night. For my part, as a country member, my regular routine is to be at a meeting until midnight and then drive for three or four hours before getting to bed at 4 o’clock in the morning. There is no skin off my nose about sitting until 11.30 p.m. or midnight. If, as the honourable member for Banks just suggested, that is the experience of city members also, why are we distorting the whole pattern of sittings of this Parliament? Why are we talking about taking away the time available for private members on the motion for the adjournment? Why are we talking about taking away the rights of the parties to consider legislation properly? Why are we talking about taking away the right of the Opposition executives to form their point of view? This matter was raised in order to bolster the self-esteem of the Minister for Services and Property who came in and suggested this arbitrary time of 11 o’clock at night for the rising of the Parliament.
In my view there is no justification for this proposition. It is the key point which has led to all the difficulties in which we find ourselves in respect to these particular proposals. If we did not close down the Parliament at 11 o’clock at night we would not have to sit at 11 o’clock on Tuesday mornings. I and some of my colleagues who live in far-flung areas would not be put to the disadvantages that we suffer. In particular, we could be more flexible about the time given for the debate on the motion for the adjournment so that honourable members who want to speak can do so. God knows, there was little enough time left for the debate on the motion for the adjournment in the last session of Parliament. Now it is proposed that there be a quarter of an hour less for no other reason than to satisfy the over-weening vanity of this - I was going to call him a clown, Mr Speaker, but you would regard that as unparliamentary - man, the Minister for Services and Property. As I have said, so that the Minister can maintain his reputation, the hours of this Parliament are being distorted and private members’ rights are being taken away. In fact, what is hap pening in this Parliament and throughout the country is that our rights are being what I would call ‘Whitlamised’ away.
– After listening to the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) everybody will know why we do not propose to sit past 1 1 o’clock at night. Is he not awful to listen to in the middle of the day? Fancy having to sit up and listen to him after midnight. He is one of the former Ministers who talk about freedom of speech but voted for 17 Bills to be debated in 19 hours. He is a great reform character. He is one of those reform characters for whom six or twelve months in the wilderness will do the world of good. He has never known anything about free speech in his life. He is never in the Parliament at 11 o’clock at night. We cannot find him when we ring the bells at that time. If we rang them any later he would be snoring his head off in the Hotel Canberra or the Lakeside. He is the honourable member who wants us to sit after 1 1 p.m. Why does he not move that we sit after 11 p.m.? He does not do so because his Whip has told him that his Party is supporting the motion. The Opposition being the harmonious group that it is, I suppose the honourable member can do what he likes outside the Parliament as long as he does what he is told to do in the Parliament.
Let us look at the figures concerning the adjournment debate. Nobody heard of the ex-Minister, the honourable member for Barker, but he was in the previous Government for a long time. Last year 305 speeches were made in the adjournment debate. There were 81 sitting days, and on 75 of them there were adjournment debates. On a couple of nights the Opposition did not take up the option; it had nobody to speak on the adjournment. Let us look at the record of the Government of which the honourable member for Barker was a member. In 1972 there were 60 sitting days, 16 extending past midnight, and 36 adjournment debates, generally between 1 o’clock and 2 o’clock in the morning. There were only 211 speeches. I suppose the honourable member can add up. I suggest that he should put that figure alongside 305. In 1971 there were 74 sitting days, 29 after midnight - the former Government was not game to reveal its policy in the middle of the day - 71 adjournment debates and 206 speeches. The present Government’s record last year is 100 ahead of that.
In 1970 there were 73 sitting days, 23 after midnight. No wonder the former Government lasted ‘for so long; nobody knew what it was doing. There were 34 adjournment debates and only 201 speeches. There were only 600 speeches were made in a few months. In 1969 there were 51 sitting days, eighteen after midnight - that is when all the adjournment debates took place, in the middle of the night - and there were 29 adjournment debates. In 1968 there were 67 sitting days, twenty after midnight, and 32 adjournment debates, every one after midnight. In 1967 there were 62 sittings days, twenty after midnight and only 28 adjournment debates.
Let me mention the Opposition Whip. I asked for leave to incorporate in Hansard figures prepared for me by the Parliament setting out every day on which there was an adjournment debate in the 27th Parliament. From these figures it will be seen that adjournment debates were missed on so many nights and the gaps between adjournment debates were so great that members ‘forgot how to speak on the adjournment. I ask leave of the House to incorporate the document. Is it granted?
– Is leave granted?
– I do not know what-
– The Opposition will not trust the Clerk of the House. I have here figures produced by the Clerk of the House which show the number of adjournment debates in the 27th Parliament and the number of speeches made by members. I ask leave of the House to incorporate them together with figures for last year. Under our Government 305 speeches were made on the adjournment, but the previous Government’s record in regard to adjournment debates is shocking. I invite honourable members opposite to let me put the figures in Hansard.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, may I say something about that?
– The Opposition is going to knock it back. In 1970 there were 201 speeches on the adjournment, in 1971 there were 206 speeches, in 1972 there were 21 1 speeches, and last year, under the Labor Party Government, there were 305 speeches.
– We must have been more active than you.
– Take the honourable member for Griffith.
– Order! The Minister has requested leave to have certain matters incorporated in Hansard. He has now gone further. The Chair is unable to determine what matters he is asking leave to have incorporated. Will he clarify the position?
– Yes. I ask for leave to include in Hansard the details prepared by the Clerk of the adjournment debates in the 27th Parliament. That is one document I wish to have incorporated.
– I will not refuse leave but I want to qualify it. I will not dispute figures produced by the Clerk, but I suggest that the figures which the Leader of the House has show the times or the dates on which adjournment debates were held. They do not show the number of times when adjournment debates were available.
– Order! The honourable member for Henty is now starting to debate the matter. I have allowed him some latitude. I ask him to resume his seat. Is leave granted for the incorporation?
– I am happy about one document but I refuse leave for the other document to be incorporated’.
– Leave is granted as specified. (The document read as follows) -
Occasions on which there was no debate on the adjournment: 27 February - Opening day 3 April - Lack of speakers 4 April - Questions put and negated 12 April - Easter Thursday 25 May - Friday sitting day 21 August - Budget night
Figures in the brackets represent the break up between the Autumn and Budget sittings.
In looking at these figures it must be remembered that, with only few exceptions, a Minister speaking on the Adjournment is in fact replying to matters raised ‘by members.
– The Opposition has refused leave to incorporate a document sent to . me with the compliments of the Clerk of the House of Representatives.
– Leave is granted to incorporate one of the documents which you specified.
– Leave has been refused to incorporate the document presented to me with the compliments of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. It shows the number of adjournment debates and the number of speeches made by members on the adjournment during the 27th Parliament. The Opposi tion does not trust the Clerk of the House. The document shows the contemptible, damning record of those who sit opposite. Adjournment debates were held 201 times in 1970 compared with 305 times last year. There were 206 adjournment debates in 1971 compared with 305 last year and 211 in 1972 and 305 last year. No wonder the Opposition does not trust the Clerk. He condemns the Opposition. Honourable members opposite know that when they were in Government they gave nobody freedom of speech. The honourable member for Barker talks about not getting a fair go. In 3 years the Government of which he was a member gave him 3 opportunities to speak on the adjournment - one in 1970, none in 1971, and two in 1972. He made 3 adjournment speeches in 3 years under his Government, and every one of them crook. Under the present Government, last year he made 7 speeches in a few months. T’ ; speeches were not any better but there wi e twice as many. The honourable gentleman is trying to interject, but I ask him not to talk to me. He would not let the truth be incorcorated in Hansard. He is a Duntroon man too. He is like all Liberals; they love to hide the facts, and their refusal to leave to incorporate the figures I have proves that. I invite honourable members opposite who do not like the proposal that the House adjourn at 1 1 o’clock to move an amendment to extend the sitting time. Can members not do what they like in the Liberal Party? They are free and independent thinkers. The Party does not bind them. Why does the honourable member for Barker not vote against adjourning at 1 1 o’clock? I would like to see that exercise in independence. He has condemned the 1 1 o’clock adjournment, and 1 invite him to move that we extend the sittings past 11 o’clock. If he takes such a course he will be sitting on his own like a shag on a rock because he is the only honourable member opposite who wants it that way. He is the only one not up when 11 o’clock comes; that is what gets me. He is the first one to get a pair at 11 o’clock yet he wants everybody else to sit here until 3 o’clock in the morning.
– You will use your numbers.
– Do not use foul language in front of me because I am more sensitive than Tommy Uren. The Opposition has never had it better in terms of amenities, the sittings of the House, days on which private members can raise matters and adjournment debate. The Opposition has never had it better. The honourable member said that he wants time to prepare, on the Opposition executive, in respect of matters which we introduce. For years he did not know that an Opposition had an executive. When in Opposition we were given little, if any, time. We were given no assistance whatever. Members on the other side of the House, in regard to sitting hours and all that goes with them, are given opportunities now for debate that were never given by any Liberal government. If any proof is needed of the guilty minds of honourable members opposite, they refused to take the word of the Clerk about the documents I sought to incorporate. I say that that was damning. If I had the time I would read what is contained in the documents because I trust the Clerk as nobody else does.
– Give them to me, Fred, and I will read them during the adjournment debate tonight.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! If the honourable member keeps interjecting he will not be here tonight to read them.
– In any case, I have shown from what I have said the situation in respect to this matter. I invite anyone in that free and independent Party opposite who does not like the proposed hours of sitting either to vote against them or to move an amendment to the proposal. Let us have a test of the sincerity of honourable members opposite.
– I rise to take a point of order. The Minister at the table is debating the question of the extension of sitting hours beyond 1 1 p.m. It is my belief that the matter under discussion is the curtailment of the time allowed for private members in the adjournment debate and I think that he is getting right off the track.
– Order! No point of order arises. The Minister is referring to the adjournment debate.
– I do not wish to detain the House, other than to say that the damning evidence which I have here, which time does not permit me to read, will not be inserted in the records of this Parliament because honourable members opposite have guilty consciences. I repeat again that any honourable member who sits opposite who wants to sit later than 1 1 o’clock should by all means move an amendment to that effect and we shall do it. If an honourable member wants to sit till midnight on an extra adjournment debate he should move an amendment to that effect. Any honourable member is quite entitled to do so. The honourable member for Barker, I am told, is an independent kind of fellow. This is a huge issue! The honourable member can risk his political career on it. But honourable members opposite condemn the hours we are proposing for the adjournment debate. The Opposition when in government had a shabby record itself in this regard. It refuses to move any amendments in keeping with the way it talks. The position is as simple as this, in language that every Australian can understand: Put up or shut up. Move the motion if you will, but if you do not do so, then support the one I have moved because you will not have put up, to say nothing about shutting up, unless you move a motion on the floor of this House today. In any case, it shows that the Government must not look for any gratefulness opposite. I have a shrewd idea that it might even be better to treat the Opposition in the same manner as we were treated when the previous Government was in power; then the present Opposition would appreciate what real ruthlessness is in this Parliament. 1 have moved my motion. An invitation is extended to the courageous gentleman, the honourable member for Barker, who sits opposite me, to stand up now and be counted as to whether he believes in it or not. But he should not ask the Labor Party for pairs at half-past ten every night.
Mr FOX (Henty) - I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Leader of the House (Mr Daly), pointing at me on more than one occasion, said that we did not trust the Clerk. I completely deny that. We do trust the Clerk. We accept his figures. But I point out that the honourable member has quoted the number of speakers who spoke during adjournment debates last year and he pointed out that the number was much greater than for any previous year. All that this proves is that we are a much more effective Opposition. The Labor Party had all the-
-Order! The honourable member is now starting to debate the matter. He has made his personal explanation as a matter of fact. I am willing to hear a personal explanation but not a debate on the subject.
– Without debating the matter, all I say is that the figures produced by the Clerk show the number of speakers who participated in the debate and the number of times on which the debate was held. The documents do not record how many times opportunities were available to members who did not have the spirit to take them up.
Mr DALY (Grayndler - Leader of the House) - I seek to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) has misrepresented me. I have presented in these documents which have been incorporated in Hansard the actual times when and on how many occasions adjournment debates took place. For the honourable member’s benefit I repeat those figures. Last year there were 81 occasions on which debates were possible and on 75 occasions they took place.
– You were too lazy to go on with them.
– They have been incorporated in Hansard. Does the honourable member know why 305 members spoke on the adjournment debate? It was because they had the time to speak. Under the previous Government only 200 honourable members had an opportunity to speak.
Dr FORBES (Barker)- I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do claim to have been misrepresented. The class-ridden Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) made 2 accusations about me. One was that I lived in the Canberra Hotel and the Lakeside Hotel. I deny that. I have never slept a night in either the Canberra Hotel or the Lakeside Hotel. The other accusation that he made was that 1 habitually sought a pairing in order to go home when the House sat after 1 1 p.m. I deny that also. In the 18 years I have been in this Parliament I have never failed to remain here until the House adjourned. The honourable gentleman, of course, is just imputing to other people what everybody knows he habitually did himself.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
As the House will be aware, this matter was referred to the Committee on 6 December 1973. The Committee had not concluded its inquiries on tv . date of prorogation and this motion seeks to refer the matter to the Committee again to enable it to complete its inquiries. In accordance with the usual practice, the motion also seeks to give the Committee power to send for persons, papers and records, should it require to do so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That the following matter be referred to the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings for inquiry and report:
As the House will be aware this matter was referred to the Committee last year. The Committee had not concluded its inquiries at the date of prorogation and this motion seeks to refer the matter to the Committee again to enable it to complete its inquiries.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Suspension of Standing Orders
– I move:
This motion is purely procedural and no immediate introduction of sales tax legislation is contemplated. Alteration of sales tax rates usually involves the introduction of 9 Sales Tax Bills. Over a period of many years the House has found it convenient for the Bills to be taken together. Standing order 291 permits these Bills to be introduced without notice. But it is necessary to suspend the Standing Orders to enable the Bills to be presented and dealt with together. When passed, the motion will remain effective for this session. By moving the motion at this time we will avoid the speculation which could result if a motion were introduced later in the year.
– 1 think the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) should give the House some further explanation of this motion. As I understand it the motion would have effect for the rest of this session. It involves the suspension of Standing Orders to enable 2 or more Bills to be taken together if they involve sales tax and sales tax changes. There could, of course, be a number of sales tax changes that might be quite different in their context and in their impact on the Australian community. It might well be that this Parliament would want to consider the measures separately. It would seem to me that the motion moved by the Leader of the House would prevent that occurring. Where it is sensible to take sales tax Bills together I should think the Opposition would be completely co-operative, as it always is, and give leave for matters to be taken together to enable a cognate debate.
What the Minister is doing is establishing a circumstance which enables him to get the Government’s business through this House whether it has the approval of the Opposition or not with less debate and with less opportunity for voting than ought properly be the* case. On innumerable occasions we have seen the Leader of the House move the guillotine. He is, in fact, the most guillotining of all Ministers. He has done this to restrict debate on a number of entirely fundamental and important matters that have come before this House and before the Senate. Everything the Minister has done has been designedly to hasten the process of railroading the Government’s legislative program and to minimise debate and criticism, whether it be constructive or destructive, on proposals that are entirely silly and alien to what should happen in Australia. Before we willingly accept this proposal the Leader of the House should give the Opposition further assurances that there will be adequate opportunity for debate and that if there are separate proposals there will be an opportunity to take them separately and not lump them together.
It may be that if there are a number of measures to alter the sales tax there may be some that the Opposition would support and others that the Opposition would oppose but, according to the brief introductory remarks of the Minister, there will be no opportunity to take the matters separately. He said there would be one debate and one vote on these particular matters. That again, I think, is an example of bypassing and belittling this Parliament and using it as a device merely to make sure that legislation which the Government happens to want is passed through this House with as little opportunity for open discussion and open debate as is possible. The Opposition is not inclined to agree to this motion unless there is a far better and fuller explanation of the Minister’s motives than has been given to this point.
– in reply - This has been a classic example of the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) speaking for the sake of speaking. For his benefit I point out that similar motions have been introduced every session since 1963. As a Minister of the former Government he apparently has let them pass unnoticed and has been a party to their introduction. As I mentioned earlier, this is a purely procedural motion. Generally there are about 9 sales tax Bills and this is a purely procedural motion to expedite them. All governments since 1963 have used this motion and consequently if there are behind it the sinister implications that the honourable member suggested his Government must have sponsored them earlier. To bring him up to date I think I should read my explanation again.
This motion is purely procedural and no immediate introduction of sales tax legislation is contemplated. Alteration of sales tax rates usually involves the introduction of 9 Sales
Tax Bills. Over a period of many years the House has found it convenient for the Bills to be taken together. Standing order 291 permits these Bills to be introduced without notice. But it is necessary to suspend the Standing Orders to enable the Bills to be presented and dealt with together. When passed, the motion will remain effective for this session. By moving the motion at this time we will avoid the speculation which could result if the motion were introduced later in the year.
Obviously there is no sinister purpose to this motion. It is the normal procedure followed by the Parliament. No guillotine will be involved. If I need advice on how to apply the guillotine I need refer only to the performance of the previous Government of which the honourable member for Wannon was a Minister. He voted for the guillotining of 17 Bills in 19 hours. The guillotine will not apply in this instance. I simply bring the honourable member up to date. I congratulate him and other members of the Opposition in improving their approach to democracy since they have spent 6 months in Opposition.
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! Is the honourable member seeking to make a personal explanation? Does he claim to have been misrepresented?
– No, but in view of what the Minister has said may I speak for a few moments?
-The Minister, in speaking, closed the debate. Does the honourable member seek leave to make a statement?
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In view of the explanation that the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) has given during his second speech the Opposition will not oppose this motion. It was not the same explanation as he gave the first time he spoke. He did not make it plain that he was merely following procedures that have been adopted by this Parliament for some considerable time. Now that he has given that assurance the Opposition will allow this matter to proceed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That a Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs be appointed to inquire into and report on matters referred to it by resolution of the House, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs or by motion of the committee within the following terms:
This motion seeks simply to revive or reestablish the Committee which operated in the last session.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Request to Senate to Resume Consideration
– I move:
That a message be sent to the Senate requesting the Senate to resume consideration of the Bill intituled “A Bill for an Act to establish a Petroleum and Minerals Authority”, which was transmitted to the Senate for its concurrence during the last Session of the Parliament, the proceedings on such Bill having been interrupted by the Prorogation of the Parliament.
The Government attaches great importance to this measure which is the key to the future mineral development of Australia both onshore and off-shore. The Government is resentful of the fact that it has been held up in a cavalier fashion by the Senate. The Government wants the matter dealt with. It is criticised by the Opposition because of lack of exploration in certain fields in Australia. This is criticism which the Opposition cannot justify and which, in fact, the Government can more than correct by the activities of the proposed petroleum and minerals authority.
The Government is concerned also that there is an ever-increasing development of overseas ownership and control of Australia’s minerals. In the case of off-shore deposits in Bass Strait there is 41.S per cent Australian ownership. In the North West Shelf it is a little more than 15 per cent. This is a position which is entirely unacceptable to the Government. In the case of minerals as a whole, foreign ownership and control is of the order of 62 per cent. The Government wants to correct that situation. It proposes to recycle the money which formerly was going to the wrong people by way of concessions under section 77 of the Income Tax Assessment Act and also the money which has been going to subsidise petroleum search and, in the majority of cases, into the hands of the major oil companies which would be the least entitled to it.
In the future the Government will determine, and so will the people of Australia, the sincerity of the Opposition by their attitude to this measure. The Government has been grossly misrepresented. It seeks nothing more than to enter into partnership, particularly offshore and in respect of the relinquished areas. Of course, misrepresentation is nothing new to our political opponents. Having said that, I ask that the motion be accepted by the House and, above all, that it be given urgency in the Senate. I particularly ask that the Opposition look at this Bill in the interests of Australia and not from the viewpoint of narrow party political advantage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1973, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Re-development of the Tennant Creek Hospital.
The proposal involves the provision of new medical and paramedical facilities, new administration area, new ward block, new kitchen, accommodation units and alterations to certain existing facilities to provide a modern, efficient hospital. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $4. 5m. T table a plan of the proposed works.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1973, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Construction of area school at Yirrkala, Northern Territory.
The proposal is to construct a school to cater for an initial enrolment of 250 primary students and 60 secondary students with a further 50 children attending the pre-school. Construction will be of steel portable framing with concrete masonry wall panels, corrugated galvanised iron roofing and aluminium frame windows and doors. The building will be air conditioned. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $4. 3m. I table plans of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr Riordan, for the committee appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen (vide page 9), presented the proposed Address which was read by the Clerk.
– I move:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen be agreed to:
We, Your Majesty’s loyal subjects, the Members of the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled, desire to thank you for the Gracious Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
The presence in Australia of Your Majesty and of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip has once again brought the greatest pleasure to Your Australian people. We, their representatives in this House, are grateful for this opportunity to re-affirm our allegiance to you as our Queen.
The Australian Government has shown a willingness to act with courage, vigour and integrity in order to achieve the basic objectives for which it was elected. In wide and general terms those objectives might be summarised under the following headings: Firstly, to build and develop a national identity; secondly, to re-establish basic integrity in the national Government; thirdly, to establish social justice in all its forms; fourthly, to develop economic resources for the welfare of Australians; and fifthly, to develop and improve the quality of life for Australians.
This morning the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) made some disparaging remarks about the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). He referred in an almost sneering way, which I thought was unbecoming to him, to the need for a resident Prime Minister. I have just heard a cry of ‘Hear hear’ from a very faint and distant voice on the far flung benches on the other side. I want to say this: Australia does not want a Prime Minister who sits by the fire at home doing his knitting. We have had some of those and we do not need any more. After only one year in office the Prime Minister has already been recognised as a great Australian. His efforts and those of his Government to create peace and goodwill with our neighbours are without precedent. The Prime Minister went to China before he was elected to be the Prime Minister. He was condemned for that, again by persons who are now members of the Opposition. He has subsequently been praised by the same people for his initiative. The attacks on this initiative of the Government have been narrow, at times vicious, and usually ill advised.
At a time when political democracy has been under its greatest strain, with political uncertainty in the United Kingdom, instability in parts of Europe and political scandals wrecking the great Government of the United States of America, the Australian Prime Minister has become the torchbearer of liberty and freedom in this part of the world. He is showing the way to reform without revolution; change without suffering; equality of opportunity without discrimination; and economic development without destroying human values or justice. In this noble task the Government has been attacked rather than supported by the Opposition. Honourable members opposite have displayed their narrow political bias rather than their concern for the national good. New markets have been developed and trade has increased. This has led to greater prosperity for the Australian people. It has led, of course, to economic problems and I will come to them a little later. New levels of prosperity have been established for Australia and new markets have been opened up in turn for our neighbours to trade with us.
The Prime Minister has been criticised particularly in respect to relations with our neighbours in Asia and the Pacific region. The Opposition has been destructive in its criticism. On 1 March last year the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) said that the Government was ‘injuring our reputation as a reliable ally’. On the same date the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) said that our friends in South East Asia were offended by his haste to ally himself with communist nations’. On 6 March the Leader of the Opposition said that the Prime Minister and 3 of his Ministers ‘have imposed totally unnecessary strains upon our alliances and friendships’. On 24 May the Opposition spokesman on foreign affairs claimed that the Prime
Minister was ‘insensitive to the interests and feelings of our northern neighbours’. He claimed there was ‘some concern and loss of confidence by our neighbours’. He named Singapore and the Philippines as being amongst the nations whose ‘confidence in our integrity and firmness of purpose’ had been shaken.
On 31 May the Leader of the Opposition said that the Prime Minister had been given a ‘rebuff and name-calling from Thailand’. On 23 October the Leader of the Opposition said that ‘We are no longer understood by our friends and allies and we are treated with suspicion’. On 20 November the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) claimed that relations had been harmed with a number of nations including Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. On 23 October both the Leader of the Country Party and the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair) expressed similar sentiments. What are the facts? The .facts are completely contrary to these wild assertions by the Opposition. The facts show that honourable members opposite are ill advised and their comments are ill considered.
On 29 January the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Abdul Razak, said to the Australian Prime Minister:
You have been a fresh wind of change in this part of the world and you have brought courage, vigour and a new vision to the problems which have been besetting us for so long. We welcome you not only as an old and valued friend of Malaysia but as a statesman who has made a vivid and constructive impact on the forces of this region.
He referred to the Prime Minister’s enlightened approach to the region’s affairs and his efforts for peace, stability and progress in Asia. He also .said:
The vigour and commitment you bring to the quest for a better tomorrow for our region has our admiration and our support.
The Prime Minister of Malaysia left no doubt that our Prime Minister is held in the highest regard in Malaysia. This refutes and answers absolutely the Opposition’s erroneous claim.
On 28 January Mr Sanya, the Prime Minister of Thailand, said:
Thailand warmly appreciates Australia’s concern and interest in the stability and progress of this country.
He also said:
I do believe that the further enhancement of our friendship is a continuing process which will ensure a vitality and vigour in our relations to our mutual benefit.
On 31 January the Prime Minister of Thailand said:
The personal ties of friendship between Thailand and Australia are also very close. . . . It is our belief that the distances which separate as do not prevent our hands from being joined in continued harmony and fellowship.
I remember the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) on 31 May last year talking about a rebuff and name calling from Thailand. Some rebuff! Some name calling! On 23 October the Leader of the Opposition accused the Government of insulting the Singaporeans. Mr Lee Kuan Yew said recently, referring to Australia’s change away from race and colour prejudice, that it was ‘a stand on principle which no successor Australian Government can find it easy to publicly go back on’. This illustrates on his part a sure suspicion and lack of confidence in the Opposition as a possible although forlorn alternative government. Mr Lee went on to say:
The impression your policies have given abroad is one of vigour. The optimism and enthusiasm in your dynamic approach to both domestic and external events and forces are well known.
Mr Lee complimented the Prime Minister on the Australian Government’s foresight in determining to harness and preserve Australia’s natural resources, particularly its energy resources. He went on to say:
I sometimes feel that perhaps I have looked at some of these problems with eyes grown jaundiced, perhaps because I saw too much of their negative and intractable side, thereby losing the zest and gusto which you have exuded at home in Australia and wherever you have travelled abroad.
These are not the words of a man who feels he has been insulted. These are the words of a friend, a man who has great respect and admiration for our Prime Minister.
On 2 February the Leader of the Opposition claimed that Australia had lost its reputation for reliability and working in harmony with its Asian friends, and on 23 October he claimed we had insulted, among others, the Filipinos. On 13 February President Marcos, the President of the Philippines, said:
I am very happy indeed that Prime Minister Whitlam has come to confirm and clarify the new and progressive policy of Australia We agreed in principle about the matter of an Asian mechanism to discuss between the different countries of Asia any problems in the region to strengthen regional co-operation . . .
The President of the Philippines continued:
We have really enjoyed this particular visit of a head of government and I must say that advance notices to the effect that Prime Minister Whitlam was somehow above the level of the controversies, the interests and the usual obsessions of the Asian countries have been disproved . . . The matter of SEATO came up and we both agreed that the orientation should be less military and more economic.
The President continued:
And frankly I cannot see how SEATO will even be of any use militarily now in view of the fact that the principal problem among Asian countries is not external aggression but internal subversion.
Two things emerge from an examination of these facts. Firstly, the Prime Minister has played a remarkable and statesmanlike role not only in establishing good relations with our neighbours but also in setting in motion the machinery for a new era of regional development, both economic and cultural, and for the reduction of international tensions. He has in the space of one short year made a significant contribution to history. His foresight, energy and vigour will have been recognised by leaders of Asian and Pacific nations already.
Secondly, it is clear beyond doubt that the present Opposition is completely out of touch with international affairs. It has illustrated its lack of knowledge, understanding and sympathy for the real needs, aspirations and desires of other human beings who live in the same world region. The Australian Government has established itself as having integrity in international affairs. The Australian flag now flies higher in Asia and around the Pacific than it ever has previously.
– The people of Singapore have made it clear through their Prime Minister that they regard the present Australian Government as a friend and the jealousy and envy of my friend, the honourable member for Angas, at that situation cannot be disguised. One of the great things that this Government has done has been to set out to establish real equality of opportunity. This has been a cornerstone of the Government’s policy. In the field of education, whether one looks at primary, secondary, tertiary or technical education, one can see a conscious approach and policy designed to ensure that the facilities provided by this great nation will be available to all. It will not be decided only on the question of income or on the question of social capacity but also on the question of physical ability because special steps have been taken and will continue to be taken to provide for the handicapped.
Efforts have been made to eliminate discrimination, particularly in the field of employ- ment, in the Government’s own service and in employment generally, whether discrimination be based on race, colour, sex or any other matter. Also, in respect of equal pay, the Australian Government has put aside the shibboleths of the past and has acted. In the field of wages and incomes, the Government has supported consistently the highest possible minimum wage so that there should be a fair and reasonable return for labour. In respect of migrants, the effort has been singularly attractive. Firstly, we see a conscious effort on the part of this Government, which was remarkably absent with previous .governments, to eliminate the exploitation of migrant employees, to overcome the question of the lack of language and the exploitation which occurs in terms of contracts and agreements because of lack of language knowledge. It must be remembered that Australia has received 3.1 million migrants since the end of the last war. Australia has the largest intake of foreign persons and has the largest foreign-born work force in the world, except for one nation, Israel.
In the field of social justice, the record has been remarkable. In terms of industrial relations, which I head broadly under social justice, I draw the attention of this House to a salient fact. Much has been said about an alleged increase in the rate of strikes during 1973. I draw the attention of honourable members to the fact that during 1973, 30 per cent fewer employees went on strike than went on strike during 1972. This is very significant. The hours of work performed were immeasurably higher. Many more jobs were created during 1973. Indeed, about 3 times as many jobs were created and filled during 1973 as were created during 1972. Better machinery for settling industrial disputes has been prepared and this Government has made it a clear policy that it will approach the industrial tribunals with its view through the front door. That singles out this Government quite distinctly from the attitude of the previous Government which said almost nothing in the front door but was always rattling on the back door, trying to put its view before industrial tribunals.
The Government has also set out to establish real co-operation between employers and employees. Already the Government has established the Industrial Peace Conference with the Minister for Labour (Mr Cameron) and under the chairmanship of Mr Justice
Moore. The Opposition claims that this Government has caused inflation. Already the Government has taken a number of significant steps, including the reduction of tariffs, the revaluation of the currency, the establishment of prices justification machinery and the like. But what is the attitude of the Opposition? The Opposition’s attitude is: ‘Let us reduce Government spending1. That is one proposition. Every item for increased Government expenditure which came before this House during last year was either supported or a move was made to increase it further. If that was not the case, where the Government sought to reduce Government expenditure in terms of defence and subsidies, the Opposition opposed it in every single case. Their hypocrisy is exposed for the people of Australia to see. What was the other great solution of the Opposition? It was to freeze wages and prices. But when the Government wished to put to the people a proposition which would give this Parliament power just to consider that proposition, the Opposition opposed it. Was ever an Opposition in greater disarray?
In terms of pensions, the Government has carried out its promise. The married couple age pension is now about 22 per cent of average weekly earnings. It is getting very close to the 25 per cent that was promised by this Government prior to the last election. I remind honourable members that this has been achieved after only one year. The first step has been taken in a significant way to eliminate the means test. The Australian assistance plan has been established. This involves a move to decentralise power and to decentralise assistance and to get community involvement in what is a true community responsibility.
Of course, there are many pensions and benefits which are now paid to people who previously did not qualify under the coldhearted, aloof previous Government. A health plan has been presented. Good health for all has been the cornerstone of this Government’s policy in this area. In terms of home ownership the Government indicated in the Speech read by Her Majesty that tax rebates on interest paid on homes will be brought forward in the very near future. It has also been the Government’s policy to continue to provide housing for the underprivileged of this country.
In the field of integrity one could go on for a long time. Frank and open discussion of major issues has been the norm in this Parlia ment. Development of the concept that people have rights which deserve no less protection than property has also been a radical approach brought by this Government, radical only in that it conflicts hard with the conservative line of the previous Government The promises which have been made have been either carried out or will be carried out. Electoral reform has been promised on 2 broad grounds - equality of voting rights for all our citizens and the need to disclose funds and to say from where the money is coming. It is also proposed to limit the amount of money spent in election campaigns so that no person because of wealth will have an advantage over a person who has not been so fortunate.
In terms of development of economic resources we have seen a true rationalisation, or an attempt to make a true rationalisation, of our productive capacity. Bold ventures have been undertaken. The Government has now put in train steps to ensure that unnecessary and avoidable hardship is not created as a result of those steps. Manpower policy is being developed. What a strange thing it is that efforts should at last be made in this country to establish a manpower policy. A retraining program is being developed to ensure personal security in employment. One could go on in this way for a long time. Foreign takeovers have been regulated.
The Australian citizens who look at their Government will see confidence in the future. They will see great development occurring both economically and socially. Health and recreation are as important to this Government as investment and employment. The Government is concerned to achieve the greatest possible degree of human happiness, peace and contentment for the Australian people. This was our charter; this is now the business that we are about.
– I second the motion. As a new member to this House last year I approached this Parliament and the record which was set out in the Governor-General’s speech that was made at that time with a great deal of hope. Right at the outset I must say that this hope has not been disappointed. The hope that Australians had has not been disappointed either. At that time I said that the Governor-General’s speech was a blueprint for social and economic change in Australia. Who could deny that a marvellous start has been made? The Government has lived up to the promises which it made through the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). I am proud to be a member of this Government and I am proud to be able to second the motion. I am proud to be a member of a Labor Party Government which has done so much for the people of Australia and which will do so much in the future.
Since the Government took office we have seen great increases in productivity and a great reduction in unemployment. We have seen all sorts of innovations introduced into this House by way of legislation. We are seeing moves to bring about greater equality in Australia for men, women and children and the various other matters which have been the main planks of our platform. There has been a new spirit of change since the election. Many outmoded methods have been replaced. The question that people sometimes ask is: ‘Are we going too fast?’ But I believe that it is more important to ask: ‘What have we accomplished?’ We have to ask whether we have done what we said we would do and whether we have carried out the promises which we made. I believe that this Government in the short space of 15 months has done that.
What are some of the features of this Labor Government? One of the principal features that did not apply to any other government for 23 years is that the elected representatives who sit on this side of the House help to decide what will be the Government’s policy. We meet together. The lowest and the newest backbencher has a vote equal to that of the Prime Minister when matters are discussed. That is true democracy, and that does not apply on the other side of the House.
– We will see how much rubbish it is. The Liberal Party introduced what I thought was a progressive change in the election of its executive. But I see from reading today’s paper that the Party has decided to renege and go back on the whole scheme. If ever the Liberal and Country Parties should again become the Government of this country the Prime Minister of that government will be open to all the pressure groups and the powerful forces that stand behind the Liberal Party.
The present Government received a mandate from the people in 1972. The proposals which we put before the people then were clearly stated. Our policy was available to the public. If the public chose to do so it could buy it. But these sorts of things seldom apply as far as our political opponents are concerned. The mandate that we received is only 15 months old. The mandate received by senators sitting in another place is either 6i years old or 3i years old. To whom should the people of Australia listen? If we took notice of some of the things that are said on the other side of the House, for instance the opposition to having Senate and House of Representatives elections held concurrently, we would have unstable government. Governments of the country should face the people every 3 years. This would give the people of Australia the opportunity to pass judgment upon those governments. But if an election is held every single week legislation will be thwarted and we would never get anything done in this country. We want to be able to put our program into effect. When we have done this we will be happy to face the judgment of the people, and I think I know what the judgment will be, because the people at that stage will be quite convinced and satisfied about what we have done.
I believe that one of the important features of debates in this House is that members on this side of the House should try to educate the Australian people and to let them know what is going on in government. This is why debates of the kind in which we are now participating are a good idea. Of course, people and institutions are conservative. People like to hold to things that they know and trust, and sometimes they do not like change. But there are things that have taken place in our society over 23 years which need change. The Australian public recognised this in 1972, and I believe that they will recognise it when this Government comes up for election again. It is easy to be conservative. But the philosophy of what is good enough for my father is good enough for me is not an acceptable one in a fast changing world. In fact, this philosophy has never been true. If it had been true we would still be living in caves.
Honourable members opposite and other people say that business is not doing very well. I came across a heading in the Melbourne Age’ of 1 March which stated: ‘TNT on road to another record’. The article in the newspaper stated:
Transport group, Thomas Nationwide Transport, bolstered profit 27.9 per cent to a record S4.099.9S6 in the half year to December 31 … it follows a 71 per cent revenue lift to $ 120.2m.
Another headline concerned a big pastoral company - one of those companies that benefit from the superphosphate bounty. My friends in the Country Party ought to listen to this:
New South Wales pastoralist Warra Developments announced a 13-for-2 bonus of $2 shares following buoyant results in the first half of 1973-74.
That is a company which has been struggling to pay dividends for the past decade. That is just one company. A little further down the page is a summary by one of the financial writers of this newspaper. Incidentally, there is a very interesting cartoon on the page. It shows a group of men sitting around a board-room table with a graph going predictably up. The chairman says: ‘The policy of this company is to vote Lib. and pray to God they don’t get in’. This page with about eight or nine different records on it shows exactly what this Government is doing for the economy.
The honourable member for Phillip mentioned price control. It was interesting to see that the Liberal Party joined with vested interest financial groups in Australia and successfully persuaded and frightened the people into the belief that price control would be wrong. I think a lot of people in Australia are having second thoughts about it. How can any national government control prices without the proper powers? However, we are doing what we can within the limits of the Constitution. There is a good deal of evidence that the effect of Government policies is reducing inflation. How we can control inflation with the sort of profit leaps that we have is difficult to understand. One of the things that this Government proposes to do, and has outlined in Her Majesty’s Speech, is to go ahead with proposals to expand the Australian Industry Development Corporation. This will allow the ordinary person, small organisations or business, activity to participate in the growth of Australia. But we hear objections from vested business interests and from the honourable members on the other side of the House. Do they believe in free enterprise? Do they believe that people ought to be able to invest in their own country for their own country’s good? They are not interested in free enterprise; they are interested in vested private enterprise, and there is a great deal of difference between the two.
This Government, through tariff adjustments, has attempted to stabilise manufacturing and manufacturing costs in Australia, Incidentally, this has been of considerable assistance to the rural sector of our economy. We have increased aid to under developed countries. We believe - this has happened in many cases, particularly with some electrical goods - that this will bring lower prices to consumers. There have been currency revaluations. We did things. We took the steps which previous governments were frightened to take although every economist of any note at all in Australia urged that that should be done. Of course what was happening was that huge amounts of so-called ‘hot money’ were pouring into Australia with drastic effects not only in regard to inflationary pressures in the economy but also in regard to the ownership of Australia.
One of the most important things that this Government has done has been in the field of social security. I shall not mention again the figures cited by the honourable member for Phillip, but I point out that with the increases which will be brought in during session, pensions for all classes of pensioners will reach the highest rates compared with average weekly earnings, certainly over the last quarter of a century. This is something of which I am particularly proud. Concurrently with that we have also taken steps to abolish the means test, which will be concluded in the life of this Parliament. The pension increases have kept ahead and will keep ahead of inflation. The Government has established the Australian Commission on Social Welfare and through it, the Australian assistance plan. The poverty inquiry has been expanded under Professor Henderson and a national superannuation committee has been established under Professor Hancock.
The honourable member for Phillip mentioned foreign affairs. 1 believe this Government has a proud record in this field. A lot of credit must go to the Prime Miinster of Australia for what he has done to make this country a progressive and friendly middle power in our area. This has conferred great benefits on to Australia. I point out to the House that hatred in international politics does nothing- but destroy. As a former teacher I am most interested in what has been done in education. Nowhere is the new spirit which is so evident more strongly epitomised than in what we have done in education. We have increased the amount of funds for education in the last Budget by 92 per cent. We have given assistance to needy students. We have helped special areas in education. In just one area, we have spent eight times as much money on primary schools in the State education system as was spent by our predecessors - eight times.
The Karmel Committee report was a marvellous document, well written and humane, and it contains a very substantial blueprint for what is to come. The permanent Schools Commission has been established. The preschools committee has reported and action will be taken on its report. The Government has taken over financial responsibility for all universities and tertiary institutions, and we are looking at technical education at the moment through a committee which has been established.
There has been a tremendous increase in trade. We have made long term contracts which will be of enormous benefit to the country as a whole and to primary producers in particular. These long term contracts will enable farmers to plan. I am sure that the Country Party will agree with me that it is most important that a farmer, as well as any other businessman, should be able to plan effectively. As far as minerals and energy are concerned, many of us were most disturbed that Australia’s wealth through its minerals was being sold overseas at bargain prices. The Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) and the Government have taken some resolute action to see that this sort of thing will not happen. How right the Minister was when he took that action. Since then we have had an energy crisis. If action is taken to set up the authority to drill for oil, and find minerals and so on, in addition to the other private enterprise drillings and minerals search, we can look forward to Australia being much better off in the future as far as minerals generally and petroleum in particular are concerned.
As a representative of an outer metropolitan area I am particularly interested to see what has been done in the Department of Urban and Regional Development. Action is long overdue if our cities are not to become completely choked. I was interested to see that mention was made in the Queen’s Speech of the setting up of a statutory authority to deal with road safety matters in Australia. This was a recommendation of this House’s Select
Committee on Road Safety which brought down a unanimous report. I pay a tribute to the members on both sides of the House who participated in the work of this Committee. It is important to note that only 20 days after this report was presented to the House the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) said that the Government accepted the recommendations of the Committee. How many times did that happen in the past? If this statutory authority carries out the work that I hope it will carry out - the Committee continues to meet and offer recommendations - I have every hope that the terrible - that is a much overused word - toll which is taken of human lives in Australia will largely be abated. It is impossible to mention everything. I would have liked to have touched on many of the other Ministeries to explain to the House and to those listening what this Government has achieved in the short space of IS months, but there is not enough time.
When I last spoke in an Address-in-Reply debate I said that the real question is whether we are prepared to organise properly to see that ideals are translated into action. Talk is cheap. This Government has shown that it is more than a government of words; it is a government of action. I am quite sure that as time goes on the sorts of things that are mentioned in Her Majesty’s Speech will come into fruition and will be of great benefit to the people of Australia; for instance, the protection of consumers against restrictive trade practices and the setting up of ombudsmen, one for civil personnel and one for defence personnel. This is long overdue. It was talked about by our predecessors many times in the past but it never came to fruition. These are allimportant things. I am, as I said at the outset, proud to be a member of this Labor Government which in the short space of IS months has achieved so much.
The Queen’s Speech continues to outline the program which was set out in the Governor-General’s Speech at the start of this Parliament. At my primary school we had a motto: ‘Not failure but low aim is a crime’. This Government will have its failures either through mistakes which are made from time to time or because our legislation is rejected in the Senate. But we can assure the people of Australia that we will stick by our word. We will carry out the program and we will do everything that we can to benefit the ordinary people who live in this great country of ours.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Deputy Leader of the Opposition speaking for a period not exceeding 30 minutes.
– On 27 February 1973 the Governor-General stated the principal purpose of the Whitlam Government as the attainment of a more tolerant, more open, more humane, more equal, yet more diverse society. In the passage of a single year those sentiments have become progressively more remote, more unattainable and more tenuous. The promised spirit of national co-operation has been supplanted by confrontation. The foreshadowed mutual respect between government and people has turned to increasing distrust. The goal of open government has turned out to be no more than a hollow electoral slogan. Economic growth and stability have been forfeited by debilitating inflation and speculative activity. The goal of an egalitarian and just society has been jeopardised by the progress of those with bargaining power and the decline of those without. The great social goals of Aboriginal advancement and environmental protection have been fractured by the self-admitted failure of government policies.
Where is the massive attack on the problem of land and housing costs? Where is the promised pension rate equal to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings? Where is the promised taxation relief for lower and middle income earners? Where is the party which offered the Australian people a deliberate plan to reduce interest rates? Where is the party’ which rejected increases in indirect taxation as anti-social and regressive? Where is the party which advocated the right of every Australian child to receive a proportion of government funds for education? Where is the party which promised to maintain a credible national defence capability?
The tragedy of the Whitlam Government is that Australia as a nation is now, as a consequence of misguided government policies and general mismanagement, confronted by crippling inflation and economic instability; a severely impaired defence capability; a crisis in the housing industry, excessively high levels of industrial unrest; a massive erosion in the purchasing power of fixed income earners and pensioners; uncertainty and stagnation in the mineral and oil exploration industries; the highest interest rates in the history of this country; and huge increases in personal income tax.
Australia today has a Government unable and unwilling to direct its attentions to domestic policies and led by a non-resident Prime Minister. Australia has a Government which has alienated almost every significant group in the community and which has adopted a deliberate policy of hostility towards the business sector and our primary industries.
The fine sentiments and cunningly deceptive policies, once offered to the Australian people, have been replaced by a dull catalogue of legislation enumerated in the Queen’s Speech - a speech which admitted that the Government regarded inflation as a most urgent domestic problem and then proceeded to dismiss that problem in a single line. The Government, we were told, ‘believes that the many antiinflationary measures it has already taken are having an important restraining effect.’
Inflation under this Government is the most serious social and economic problem which this country has faced in over 2 decades. It is a socially divisive and morally corrosive phenomenon. Inflation, in essence, reduces the national welfare. It re-distributes the national income in a capricious and inequitable manner. It entails the arbitrary enrichment of some groups in the community and equally the arbitrary impoverishment of others. It encourages speculative activities. It increases uncertainty causing forward planning in both the private and public sectors to be ineffective.
The Government has sought to obscure the simple and unassailable fact that economic growth and price stability are basic to the attainment of social reform and the development in our community of a just society. The increased social welfare payments and other expanded forms of public assistance undertaken this year will, in large measure, be illusory money increases. There is no evidence that the Government is prepared to reassess its economic policies. The Australian economy therefore, in the absence of direct Government initiatives, faces serious problems during 1974. There will, I believe, be an inevitable slow-down in economic activity in response to the continuing application of monetary restraints; continuing high rates of inflation resulting from unabated cost pressures; and a further increase in the degree of structural unemployment. This of course is the classic formula of stagflation. The Government’s assertion that existing policies are having an important restraining effect is clearly misleading and misconceived. They are not restraining the rate of inflation, nor will they do so in the future. The existing policies will reduce the level of private sector activity but not the level of inflation.
As a consequence this country today has the unenviable reputation of having one of the highest inflation rates among the industrialised countries in the Western world.
The Treasurer (Mr Crean) has affirmed publicly that the main thrust of the Government’s anti-inflationary efforts this year will lie in attempting ‘to inculcate a sense of restraint in those who determine prices’. The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) has claimed publicly that ‘a prices policy is an incomes policy’. These statements demonstate if they do anything, a complete misunderstanding of the nature of Australia’s inflationary problems. They demonstrate again that this is a government totally incapable of adopting a balanced and co-ordinated approach to economic management. A policy totally reliant on price restraint without any component directed towards a reduction of cost pressures must be ineffectual and lead to serious economic problems.
Rather than seeking to adopt a balanced program of restraint designed to curb both price and cost pressures, the Government has contrived to reduce price and promote costs. Average weekly earnings, based on the statistics for the first half of this financial year, will exceed the Budget forecast of 13 per cent by a substantial margin. The continued application of the ‘pace-setter’ principle for public sector wages and salaries, the endorsement of excessive union claims and the decision to seek quarterly cost of living adjustments must have an inevitable accelerative effect on costs throughout the private sector. In addition, the Government has made no attempt to dampen the very serious buildup of community expectations. Australia is now confronted by a firmly entrenched ‘inflation psychology’. Once expectations have been developed to their present level they are not subject to ready dissipation. The level of community expectations is not only a significant direct contributor to inflation; it is also a basic component of the excessive degree of industrial unrest. In short, the Government’s policies demonstrate a fundamental failure to appreciate the growing cost-push element of our current inflationary experience.
The control measures taken to limit domestic demand in 1973 relied excessively upon monetary mechanisms. That over-reliance on mone tary policy has already begun to produce pressures and distortions of its own within the economy. The latest Treasury Bulletin illustrates the extent of the monetary restraints in these terms:
There has been a marked slowing in the rate of growth in the money supply since September. In the first two months of the December quarter the volume of money grew by 3 per cent.
This means that the seasonal upswing in liquidity was considerably less than is normally the case. The Treasury has ascribed this development primarily to what it termed a turnaround in private capital transactions with the rest of the world and a reduced current account surplus’. This lower level of liquidity, coupled with ‘the early effects of the September monetary measures, produced a marked slowing in the rate of growth of most monetary aggregates in the December quarter’.
However, this severe restriction in liquidity will be further heightened by a number of other factors. Firstly, the massive turnaround in the high rates of growth has taken place with extreme rapidity. For example, the growth in real money balances - that is, cash in circulation and current deposits minus inflation - was 17.8 per cent in June and by December had shrunk to 2.87 per cent. The suddenness of this change dramatically increased the impact of the monetary controls. Secondly, the reduction in the rate of growth of the money supply is taking place in a period of the most intense inflationary pressures. The availability of money has been sharply curtailed at exactly the same time as the value of money available is being rapidly eroded. The economy therefore is caught in a two-way squeeze between the declining nominal value and the lower actual volume of money. In addition, the Government’s new policy of collecting corporate taxes on a quarterly basis has heightened the intensity of the liquidity cuts. In January, a further $262m was siphoned out of the economy as part of a new quarterly tax collection scheme. In short, the Government has applied a series of controls in which their combined effect may amount to nothing short of ‘monetary shock’. Such a sledge hammer approach to economic management is not conducive to economic stability. It is characteristic of a government upon whom all the subtleties and refinements of integrated and consistent policy-making are certainly lost.
The Opposition parties have continually warned against excessive reliance upon the monetary mechanism to control inflation. The lesson is now being brought home to the Government that its partial efforts of control, based upon a monetary onslaught against demand, can of themselves be counter-productive and de-stabilising. The Government’s economic policies go no way towards solving the total problem of inflation which must be met by a consistent and co-ordinated policy mix, directed at both cost and demand pressures.
As we look towards the balance of 1974 we recognise that cost-push inflation will be the primary economic concern of 1974. This manifestation of inflation was ignored and misunderstood by the Labor Government in 1973 and it is being ignored and misunderstood again. Statistics readily demonstrate that in little over a year of Labor Government inflation has leapt from just over 4 per cent to around 14 per cent now and with expectations of a further increase during the balance of this year. This increase of almost 10 per cent in the overall rate of inflation not only highlights but also quantifies the degree of economic incompetence which has been displayed. Great Britain, after years of the most extreme financial difficulties, has an inflation rate of 10 per cent. In the United States of America inflation last year was 8 per cent, in France it was 8 per cent, and in West Germany it was 6.5 per cent. Amongst comparable industrial economies Australia rapidly is becoming characterised for its comparatively high and excessive inflation rate.
We on this side of the House, Mr Deputy Speaker, have put forward a positive antiinflationary program. We believe that the following action should be undertaken by the Government at this time, action which I spell out to the House not in the degree of detail which I would prefer but as a general approach because of the time allowed in this debate. We believe that there should be a reduction in Government spending; a progressive reduction in the interest rate structure; the provision of taxation relief for lower and middle income earners; a revision of the migration program to attract skilled and semi-skilled migrants in areas in which labour today is in such scarce supply; the introduction of a retraining program to deal with the structural problems in the labour market; the introduction of a dual program to increase female job training opportunities and apprentice training schemes; the imposition of a growth limit on the Commonwealth Public Service; the abandonment of the pace-setter’ principle now applying to the Commonwealth Public Service; the introduction of a program of restraint for both wages and prices; the adoption of a flexible exchange rate policy to prevent a build-up of externally generated liquidity; the adoption of measures to increase the economy’s productive capacity; the flexible use of competitive policies; and the implementation of a national productivity program to narrow the gap between minimum money wage expectations and economic capacity.
Inflation cannot simply be subject to any dispassionate discussion as a national economic problem. Price increases, of course, have differential effects on various income groups. The Government is asking pensioners, fixed income earners and lower income families to cope with increases in food prices of 23 per cent a year. The Government is asking the average income earner, after allowing concessional deductions for a wife and 2 children, to pay some 40 per cent more in income tax this year. The Government has promised’ that the average Australian will be able to purchase a home this year.
– No way.
– Of course no way, because it makes that promise with the full knowledge that its monetary policies will prevent 50 per cent of the home seekers actually making a purchase. These are the hard facts which the Government has contrived to conceal. For example, the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) continues to mislead the Australian public in a reckless fashion. On 25 December last year he stated:
Major initiatives already taken and others in the process will restore stability to home building and bring home ownership within the reach of the average citizen in 1974.
– That was Christmas Day.
– It might almost have been Christmas Day because the simple fact is that this Government has failed to develop a cohesive and stable housing policy. The great Australian dream of home ownership has been shattered by the Government’s housing policies. Its monetary programs have restricted the availability of housing finance to the extent that building society loan approvals for the year ended January 1974 have fallen by 52 per cent. Housing today is in a state of very real crisis. The Government claims that it has adopted policies to reduce materials costs are fraudulent because we know, as a matter of record, that those costs are increasing at a faster rate than is inflation as a whole. The housing industry estimates that less than 50 per cent of Australia’s housing needs will be met this year. This means that some 100,000 families, covering I would presume 400,000 people, will be waiting for homes at the end of the year.
– The position is worsening.
– It is a worsening position. In short, the facts amount to a massive indictment of the Government’s general economic policies and its housing programs in particular. The Opposition has a positive response to the rapidly developing housing crisis but put forward as a general approach because the detailed aspects will be developed elsewhere. In Government we would provide Government assistance for those purchasing their first home; establish a housing guidance bureau in co-operation with the States; investigate the implementation of a home repayments scheme to guarantee loans and restructure loan payments for low and mididle income earners; progressively reduce interest rates; investigate programs of co-operative home ownership to assist low income earners; work with State governments to dampen the rate of increase in land costs; take prompt action to reduce the existing shortages of labour and materials in the building industry and consult with State governments and local government bodies to encourage medium density housing.
Just as this Government has placed a very heavy burden on young couples seeking a home, so too it has placed an intolerable burden on fixed income earners and pensioners. In December 1972 every Australian pensioner was entitled to expect that a Labor Government would raise pensions to a rate equal to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings, and thereafter that this parity would be maintained. But these expectations have not been met. The Government has apparently decided to increase the pension rate to $26. I assume from Press reports that the decision is a fact although, consistent with closed government, this House has not had an opportunity to receive a ministerial statement on the matter. But if one assumes that it is an increase to $26, pensioners have still not had their expec- tations fulfilled. At $26 the pension rate would be around 22 per cent of projected average weekly earnings for the March quarter.
– The highest ever.
– If the honourable member for Casey, who is out of his seat and who knows so little of the problems of pensioners in this country or even in his own electorate, were to check the facts, he would find that the percentage-
– I am in my seat I can interject. It is the highest percentage ever.
– If the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), who knows little or nothing about economic matters, were to check the record he would find that under his lamentable administration pensioners have had -their percentage of average weekly earnings subject to erosion since the Labor Government came to power except for this particular increase. It is all very well for this Government to back excessive wage increases before arbitration tribunals, but or course it is the unions today who have the strength and the bargaining power and, as I have said elsewhere, it may well be that before pensioners are able to receive their just entitlement of the percentage of the gross national product of this country they may be required to unionise. At $26 the pension rate would be around 22 per cent of projected average weekly earnings for the March quarter. From the date of increase the pension rate will inexorably fall back towards 20 per cent. This is totally unsatisfactory. The Government is prepared to support quarterly cost of living adjustments for wage earners but it is unprepared to apply that principle to those in the community who are disadvantaged.
– Are you in favour?
– Where is the logic of adopting any form of indexation?
-(Mr Martha) - Order! The honourable member for Casey will cease interjecting. He is out of his seat.
– I do not mind his interjection, because he might be prepared to listen and learn, but where is the logic of any government which is prepared to adopt a form of economic indexation for those with strong bargaining powers because the pressures are upon them, but at the same time refuses to apply that form of indexation to those who are in real need? There is no need to quote
Opposition spokesmen on the question of the pension to understand the degree of dissent at the policies of this Government. I quote the remarks made yesterday by Mrs Joyce Fleming, the Victorian State Secretary of the Combined Pensioners Association. She said:
The S3 a week pension increase is not enough. It would need an increase of $5 a week in the basic rate for pensioners to be as well off as they were this time last year.
That is a damning indictment of Government policies. Pensioners who may be listening to this debate will recall that the former LiberalCountry Party Government proposed that age, invalid, widows and war pensions would be increased automatically in line with the consumer price index and that is a form of indexation which we accept. That of course is the response to the charge made by the somewhat irate honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews). The present Labor Administration in truth is unprepared effectively to protect pensioners against the disabling effects of inflation.
– You gave them nothing for years and years.
Mir LYNCH - The honourable member for Robertson who is alleged to represent one of the largest pensioner groups in the Australian community might be better advised to stand in this House and tell the community that he advocates some form of indexation which will ensure that his people and those who may well have voted for him at the last election are better protected than they are under the policies of his Government at the present time. I can understand why Government members in this debate are getting anxious about an understanding and an appreciation of the real facts. The position today does not lie easy with the sentiments of egalitarianism which the Prime Minister has so loosely alleged. Not only has the Government failed to provide adequate compensation for pensioners. It did, of course, take measures in the last Budget to make approximately 20 per cent of pensioners liable for taxation. These Budget measures imposed a marginal rate of tax of 49.4c to 51. 6c in the dollar on all aged persons with taxable incomes between $3,224 and $3,847.
I have directed my comments today towards the central problems facing this country. They are the same deeply entrenched problems which the Government has contrived to ignore and which were given so scant regard in the
Queen’s Speech. As I mentioned at the outset of my address - I shall quote this passage again because of the Prime Minister’s attendance in this House - on 22 February 1973 the Governor-General stated:
The principal purpose of the Whitlam Government is the attainment of a more tolerant, more open, more humane, more equal, yet more diverse society.
But in the passage of only a single year we know in .this House, and those people listening to this broadcast will fully understand, that what has been promised has in fact not been produced. It is a matter of record today that in the passage of that single year this centralised socialist administration which has loosely alleged a sense of monopoly of concern for those in need in the Australian community has not produced that egalitarian society because the sentiments so loosely mouthed at that time have become progressively more remote, more unattainable and more tenuous.
Debate (on motion by Mr Stewart) adjourned.
– by leave - In this, the first week of the new session of Parliament, I wish to report to the House and to the Australian people on my recent visit to South East Asia. I believe that visit advanced Australia’s national interests in a region of continuing and increasing importance to this country. No one in this House would deny that Australia and the countries of South East Asia share profound and lasting common interests. No one in this House would deny that the maintenance of close relationships with these countries is one of several important challenges facing Australian; foreign policy. The confluence of our history and geography - our mainly European origins and our location on the edge of South East Asia - affords us a unique opportunity to demonstrate that countries with different cultural, ethnic, social and religious backgrounds can evolve intimate and lasting relationships. The Government is determined to seize that opportunity and to ensure that Australia is accepted as a good neighbour and a co-operative and helpful member of the Asian and Pacific region.
I visited Malaysia from 28 to 31 January, Thailand from 31 January to 4 February, Laos on 4 February, Burma from 4 to 6 February, Singapore from 6 to 9 February and the Philippines from 10 to 13 February. I also paid a brief visit to the Malaysian air force base at Butterworth where our Mirage squadrons are stationed and a brief private visit to Kota Kinabalu, at the invitation of an old friend, the former Malaysian High Commissioner to Australia and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and present Governor of Sabah, Tan Sri Stephens. I have now visited, in the IS months since the Government came into office, all the major countries in the Asian and Pacific region. No former Prime Minister has done more. Visits by the Prime Minister and other ministers symbolise the importance that the Australian Government attaches to the countries visited. But there is more to it than that; the results which will flow from my visit will, I believe, advance our interests and involvement in this region to a new level.
I had four main objectives in undertaking this visit. I believe I succeeded in fulfilling them. My first and perhaps my principal objective was to emphasise to leaders in South East Asia the continuing and undiminished importance which my Government attaches to its relations with the countries of South East Asia. I wanted to explain to them that what had changed was not the degree of Australian involvement in the region but the nature and direction of that involvement. I wanted to make clear that our emphasis had shifted from an involvement based mainly on ideological considerations and military alliances to one based on more enduring ties such as trade, aid programs, regional co-operation, economic cooperation, and the development of a network of cultural contacts and agreements. My second objective was to establish or reinforce personal contacts with South East Asian Heads of Government. I was able to have very frank and detailed talks with them. My third objective was to outline to Government leaders in the region the positive character of the Australian Government’s foreign policy and to dispel any misunderstandings about it. My fourth objective was to seek practical and enduring ways in which co-operation between Austrafia and the countries of the region can be strengthened.
In all the countries I visited Australia has, and always will have, an important influence. While our foreign policy interests have been diversified and our horizons are now wider than the United States, the United Kingdom and South East Asia - we no longer ignore, for example, the existence of Communist Asia, including China with its 800 million people - the fact remains that it is in our own immediate neighbourhood that we are most likely to find an effective role for Australia. I found that the new friendships which we have developed with countries like China and North Vietnam have in no way diminished our traditional friendships with the countries I visited. If anything, they have enhanced our standing in them and increased their interest in us.
Foreign policy cannot be created in a vacuum. It must grow out of national aspirations and patterns of events in our environment. We need to take account of the evolving Great Power relationships. In the sixties the main thrust of United States policy in this area was the containment of China by military involvement in Vietnam. But the United States has itself opened up new opportunities by abandoning these policies; it no longer looks to Australia to provide a mere supporting echo of policies which it has itself progessively abandoned. As Dr Kissinger, the most realistic and pragmatic negotiator to fill the office of Secretary of State, has shown, initiatives in foreign affairs open up new possibilities for progress and understanding. Such initiatives will not always produce predictable or entirely desirable results, but log-jams are broken, stale habits of mind are abandoned, and movement is often preferable to a dogged perseverance with an outmoded status quo.
Like most of the leaders I met, I believe that detente between the Great Powers must be made to work. The journey down this road has begun. It will not be smooth. Peace and security do not come simply because we wish them to come. But diplomacy must be based on realistic hopes rather than on resignation and despair. It was in this spirit that 1 went to South East Asia. And it was this spirit which evoked such a warm response. I recall, in particular, the remarks by the Prime Minister of Singapore at a dinner he gave for my delegation. I shall seek leave to table the text of that speech, and all other principal speeches during my visit, later this evening.
Trade and Economic Links
I turn now to trade. I believe that increasingly our foreign policy in South East Asia will be related to our efforts to develop mutually advantageous trade. In each country I visited I expected, and found, keen interest in closer trading and economic links with Australia.
Australia has long established and valued trading ties with all the countries I visited. Last year we had a favourable trade balance of $225m with these countries and we expect this favourable balance to increase in the short term. Our exports last year to these countries totalled $3 18m, of which over 40 per cent were manufacturers; our imports from them were $93m. It can be seen that this situation, while advantageous to us now, could generate friction if neglected. So in each country I made a point of explaining the 25 per cent tariff cut made by the Government in July last year and the greatly expanded scheme of tariff preferences for developing countries which came into force on 1 January. I told them of the special service which has been established in the Department of Overseas Trade to help developing countries in market research and commercial contacts. I arranged for experts from Australia to visit all the countries on my itinerary, as well as Indonesia, in March and April. This will ensure that new preferences and trading opportunities are understood and that the countries concerned can take full advantage of them. These experts will also visit a number of other developing countries later in the year. I elaborated on the statement on Australian investment policy which the Government issued on 22 January.
I emphasised that, for the first time, an Australian Government had adopted a cooperative and creative role in encouraging Australian investment overseas, particularly in South East Asia. I made it clear that such investment must accord with the social and economic objectives of the host country and be consistent with progressive labour relations and local environmental policies. I was also able to point to the expansion of the EPIC investment insurance facilities and the creation of 2 separate funds, one of $250,000 a year and one of $100,000 a year, to promote respectively, investment feasibility studies overseas by Australian manufacturers and investment awareness within Australia.
All these policies and initiatives were warmly welcomed. I believe the ground is now laid for increased Australian investment in South East Asia. The obvious link between trade and investment and the general acceptance of Australia as a source of investment was widely recognised.
We have reached understandings that our trade agreements with Malaysia and the Philippines will be updated and that new trade agreements with Thailand and Laos will be negotiated. A feature of such agreements will be the establishment of mixed commissions of Australian businessmen and officials, who will meet their counterparts in the other countries on a regular basis to examine the practical problems of two-way trade and to seek their prompt resolution.
I also took the opportunity to stress the desirability, wherever practicable, of securing access to markets over a long term for the products of Australia’s rural industries. Since my visit, the parties directly concerned have met to explore the possibility of long term contracts for the export of substantially increased quantities of wheat and sugar to Malaysia. An inquiry for 500,000 tons of coal from Thailand is under consideration and export approval has been given by the Australian Government for 150,000 tons of coal to Burma. A number of countries I visited inquired about products essential to their economic development, including nitrogenous fertilisers, steel and engineering products. These are being dealt with as a matter of urgency. An Australian investment of over $4m in the forging industry in the Philippines was approved within a few days of my raising this question with President Marcos. In Thailand our offer to assist with the establishment and training of their Trade Commissioner Service was accepted and the initial moves are already under way, We are also examining, as a matter of urgency, requests received during my visit for extensions to our scheme of tariff preferences for developing countries.
All of this provides a practical illustration of our present objective of securing a thriving and well-rounded commercial relationship with the countries of South-East Asia. The Government’s decision last October to respond positively and constructively to interest in the ASEAN countries in Australian co-operation with agreed ASEAN projects was also well received in the ASEAN capitals I visited. In fact, all our policies and initiatives in trade were accepted as evidence of our strong continuing involvement in South East Asia and our willingness to assist our Asian neighbours in genuinely constructive ways.
During my visit I stressed on a number of occasions that although the emphasis of our policy is changing we still retain important defence interests in South East Asia. We no longer look on the countries of South East Asia as buffer states or as some northern military line where a possible future enemy should be held. Rather, we look upon them as countries having a common interest with Australia and New Zealand in consolidating the security and stability of the region as a whole.
I made it clear to representatives of the Lao Patriotic Forces in Vientiane that Australia was concerned that all foreign countries withdraw their forces from Laos. I also expressed the hope that the Great Powers would cease supplying arms to North and South Vietnam. I said so in the firm belief, which I have expressed before, that the opportunities which were lost after the signing of the Geneva Accords of 1954 should not be lost again. The prospects for reconciliation and for the formation of genuinely national governments in the countries of Indo China would be greatly enhanced if external interference of all kinds could cease.
We have pledged that the terms of the Five Power Arrangements will be honoured in full until a more enduring settlement is reached in establishing the peace, freedom and neutrality of the region. Our defence co-operation programs with countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia will be maintained. I also indicated that Australia’s Mirage squadrons would remain at Butterworth as long as they are relevant to the needs of both our nations and the realities of the region and that, as previously announced, this question would be reviewed, as appropriate, by the 2 Governments.
It has been suggested that because I believe our interests in this region have in the past been seen excessively in terms of defence, Australia is in some way drifting towards isolationism. I repeat categorically what I said several times in South-East Asia: Isolationism is not a policy option for Australia. It is precisely because I thought that we were isolating ourselves from a quarter of the world’s population in China, and to some extent, from Black
Africa and Europe east of the Elbe, that I have stressed, since December 1972, the Government’s wish to diversify its foreign policy interests. In fact, in both action and philosophy, I believe that my Government is the most genuinely internationalist government Australia has had.
Race, Culture and Immigration
The Government’s attempts to rid Australia of any lingering racist image are very warmly welcomed in South-East Asia. They are especially welcomed in Singapore and the Philippines.
Race is a transcending international and moral issue. I am not prepared to allow the bridges that have been built to the countries of Asia, and which are currently being widened and strengthened by the Government’s policies, to be undermined by the stigma of racism. The Minister for Immigration and his Department are working to ensure that there are no gaps between our enunciated principles and our administrative practices. As I said in Manila, we want no double standards in this matter.
I was particularly concerned in Manila to explain to President Marcos the Government’s uncompromising opposition to racism in all its forms and to assure him that the last remnants of racial discrimination in our immigration policy had been removed. I was able to announce that the Government had given its agreement in principle to the entry of 35 Philippine skilled workers for the Leyland factory in Sydney. A team is to go to Manila next week to help select the immigrants who will come to Australia.
The Government’s wish to negotiate cultural agreements with Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines evoked a warm response. As a result of my visit we have undertaken to double the number of cultural agreements we now have. We already have such an agreement with Indonesia. The new agreements will mean that we shall have cultural agreements with all members of ASEAN. This is a manifestation of the importance the Government attaches to promoting a distinctively Australian culture and excellence in the arts generally. It acknowledges that we have much to gain from the rich and ancient cultures of our Asian neighbours.
Contacts with youth
During my visit I sought, with members of my party, to establish contacts with student and youth leaders. I visited the University of Singapore, Nanyang University and the University of the Philippines, at which I delivered a major speech. In Thailand a senior Foreign Affairs official accompanying me and 2 members of my personal staff spent 5 hours in discussions with Thai student leaders. These contacts, unprecendented in a visit of this kind, were of value to both sides.
The discussions I had were, of course, confidential and lasted many hours. It would be impossible to summarise them all in detail. The roles of the great Powers - the United States of America, the Soviet Union, China and Japan - in the Asian region were discussed in each capital. I discussed my own visits to China and Japan and economic problems in the region, including the effect of the oil shortage and the energy crisis. I discussed the situation in Indo-China and general questions of security and stability in South East Asia. I found these discussions in total educative, valuable and of great interest. In Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines there was an acknowledgement that the normalisation of relations between China and the countries of South East Asia is inevitable. Burma and Laos already have diplomatic relations with China. In the other countries the issue is not one of principle but of timing.
Another common theme was regional co-operation. The ASEAN countries naturally attach priority to the consolidation of ASEAN, an organisation which Australia does not seek to join but which has our wholehearted support. I was encouraged, however, to find a widespread interest in the idea of a future wider regional association in which the countries of Asia and the Pacific could meet at a high level for informal discussions, much in the manner in which Commonwealth Heads of Government meet. The Philippines, in particular, fully agrees with this concept and President Marcos has advanced almost identical proposals.
I had the opportunity during the visit to discuss with a number of countries in the region their concern over students. The countries I visited - in particular Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore - continue to place importance on the opportunities for their students to study in Australia. The sponsored student program - that is, the Colombo Plan and other official programs - in the main run smoothly and suc cessfully. There are no difficulties in this area. There have been some difficulties, however, with private students in Thailand over the English test which is a pre-requisite to entry for study and the level of entry for their students. I have agreed to look into these problems and the departments concerned are at present conducting a review of policy with a view to resolving them. The Ministers for Education and Immigration have also had discussions with the Thai authorities on this matter.
In Singapore there were discussions on the return of private students and the so-called brain drain. Under our non-discriminatory immigration policy, private students enter Australia on the understanding that they will return home. However, if they can meet migration criteria they are allowed to remain in Australia. The Singapore Government was perturbed about this and has now decided to sponsor officially all private students coming to Australia. Sponsored students have always been required to return to their home country on completion of their studies and this has been at the express insistence of their home governments. I want to make it clear that if any student from Singapore is to be sent home, it will be as the result of his sponsorship by the Singapore Government and not as the result of a decision taken on its own acount by the Australian Government. Mr Lee also raised the question of students already in Australia and I have agreed to look into this.
I did not see my visit as an occasion for new aid commitments. I believe that visits by the Prime Minister and Ministers to neighbouring South-East Asian countries should be seen as part of a regular pattern of visits and not necessarily as occasions for important new aid agreements. Naturally, however, bilateral aid programs were discussed in each capital. In Kuala Lumpur I undertook to study Malaysian requests for assistance in preparing a feasibility study on the development of the Trengganu River Basin and on the development of the proposed Kuantan industrial area. In Vientiane I undertook that the Government would consider assisting that city in its proposed expansion of its city water supply. I stressed to the Prime Minister of Laos and the leaders of the Lao Patriotic Forces that Australia would do all it could to help in the postwar rehabilitation of Laos. In Bangkok I announced that Australia would support the
Pioneer Medical Volunteers Program of the Princess Mother. We will provide ambulances and radio transceivers for the pilot project. In the Philippines I was glad to announce that the Australian Government had agreed to enter a joint aid project with the Philippines Government for the construction of roads and related irrigation and agricultural development in Zamboanga del Sur. This is a large project which will cost the Australian Government approximately $2m a year for each of the next 5 years.
I take this opportunity of informing the House that the Australian Government has decided to contribute $18,150,000 to the Asian Development Fund. This decision, following as it does on our decision to join the Ministerial Conference for the Economic Development of South-East Asia and the South-East Asian Ministers of Education Organisation, and our decision to help finance agreed ASEAN projects, is a further manifestation of the Government’s growing interest in the well-being of the South-East Asia region.
I mentioned during my visit the possibility of sending Australian staff and other forms of assistance to Asian educational institutions. This would ease the demand for places in Australian universities. I expect it to become a more significant part of our aid programs. However, it would not mean that we would be unwilling to continue to assist in training the students and officials who come to us under the Colombo Plan and other aid schemes. The presence of overseas students in our educational institutions and in our whole society is a valuable means of furthering understanding between Australia and Asia. This view was also put to me by the Prime Minister of Singapore and the Prime Minister of Thailand.
I believe that during my visit I was able to affirm Australia’s genuine, continuing and growing interest in South East Asia. I was gratified that the leaders with whom I spoke, and their statements reflected in the newspaper commentaries in the countries I visited, saw fit to praise Australia and the Government’s policies in terms that went far beyond the normal requirements of courtesy to a visiting Head of Government. I believe Australia walks taller and stands in higher regard in South East Asia than ever before. Our policies are understood. Our continuing and growing interest in the region is accepted and appreciated. As one leading South East Asian statesman said to me, our present policies are approved and applauded’. I believe we are rightly regarded in South East Asia as a genuine and trusted friend.
I seek leave to table the 6 main speeches I made during the visit and the main speeches made by the 6 Heads of Government of the countries visited.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the House take note of the statement.
– On the understanding that debate on this matter will be resumed next Tuesday, thus providing an opportunity for my Leader to reply, I move:
That the debate be adjourned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed (vide page 202).
– In her speech to the Parliament last week Her Majesty said:
My Government . . . will continue its support for sporting and youth organisations.
These few words conceal a great deal of activity over the last 15 months and give a clear promise of further action that will embrace many imaginative and even exciting projects in the future. Since December 1972, recreation, sport and youth have received more governmental attention and more public recognition and have seen more action than even an optimist would have had the right to expect.
Operating with a modest budget of just over $6m and the smallest public service arm of any Ministry, I can proudly say that we have achieved some fine results. Not only members of this House but also members of our community in all States of Australia who are on at least nodding terms with recreation, fitness and sport, must admit that amazing, almost revolutionary changes have taken place in these fields in the last year of so. Amateur sporting organisations, for decades forced into a state of submissive stupor by non-caring governments, are coming to life again.
In our first, experimental year, we have been working with a narrow, possibly too cautious sports assistance program. But 1 know already that neither the present policy nor the token sum of Sim will be sufficient after next August to meet even the most urgent needs of Australian sport. I do not mind dropping a broad hint here to my own Cabinet and Caucus colleagues - not to mention the few highbrow critics with bizarre opposition to all forms of physical recreation - that we plan to introduce exciting new features in our program in order to bring Australian sport gradually in line with overseas countries of comparable standard. It took the Canadians over 12 years of trials and tribulations and many million dollars to develop their current successful programs. We should do it in half that time.
Our grants for a large number and variety of recreational facilities have benefited all sectors of the community - sprawling suburbia, farming regions, mining towns, schools and many existing organisations. This again proves the democratic nature of sport. While many issues divide our community, the love of sport brings people together. The ideal of equal opportunity our Government strives for in many fields like education, health, social services and race relations is already inherent in sport. We want to make sure that our policy of catering for the needs of the various associations and organisations and for the recreational needs of the urban and rural areas upholds this democratic principle. Places like Bogan Gate, Minyip, Savage River, Wynnum, Balga, Zeehan and Sorrento, possibly unknown to the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) who is interjecting and to many other members, as well as city and suburban areas in Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and all other capital cities have received and are receiving new recreational facilities through our program, at a cost of only $4m.
But we have literally hundreds of requests and applications for other places which we can satisfy only if and when this allocation is increased in tune with the demand. Let me add here that so far we have not even received a submission for one of those really superb stadiums which we so admire in other countries but which just do not exist yet in Australia. Here and there we have already succeeded in meeting the most urgent demands with a recreation complex, perhaps a swimming pool or a playing field. But these demands are not static; they are growing fast, parallel with or even exceeding the population increase and rising affluence of our people. I might add that there was a concealed bonus in all these activities. In most States, with whom we have co-operated extremely success fully, we have triggered off widespread interest and activity in the fields of recreational developments.
It is also a fact that many sporting and recreational organisations as well as local councils and even some of our State governments were caught with their athletic pants down; they were simply not ready to seek, let alone receive, government assistance. Somehow, it seems that they just could not believe that the day would arrive when a government would be prepared to help in their plight. And when the day did arrive many of them stood in stunned silence without knowing what to ask for and how much. Of course, this is changing fast and there is little doubt that these organisations are now wide awake and will flood us with requests for financial assistance. We want to be prepared for that. We want to stay a doing and giving portfolio from which the entire community can benefit and none can suffer.
The problems of our much maligned youth have also been placed under a new microscope, a microscope ‘built with professional care and without prejudice. With a massive survey now nearing completion, we have set out to probe into the lives, hopes, desires and needs of young Australians in all walks of life. We are presently awaiting the result of this survey - the first of its kind in Australia - which’ will, we hope, enlighten us and then guide us towards finding proper solutions to some of the recreational problems of young people in this country. There are early indications that some of the preconceived ideas and approaches to problems of youth need course corrections, that we might have been on the wrong track for quite some time. This survey will help us get back on the right tack. If we do have any worries and problems at all with young people in our community, if these youngsters genuinely feel that their voice has not been heard, we have provided for them the forum to speak and tell us just how they would prefer to spend their leisure hours, what sort of activities would hold their interest and satisfy their need for community recreation.
I would also like to mention some other projects which, in the past year or so, have germinated from mere ideas into plans or action. Next month we are holding in Canberra the first recreation seminar staged in this country, a 3-day meeting during which eminent Australian and overseas experts will examine recreational problems our communities are bound to face in the years to come. This is not going to be just another palaver or academic hairsplitting on esoteric subjects. It will be a down to earth discussion on the immense task of catering for the recreational needs, of our people, calling for planning and guidance to cope with the increasing leisure time at their disposal.
At this stage we are groping in the dark and second-guessing at best. Many of us are facing riddles and tend to talk in worn cliches like leisure, environment, quality of life and so on, without delving into the true meaning of these words. This seminar and the work that will follow will translate these terms into positive suggestions which all levels of governments can understand and mould into schedules.
In order to co-ordinate the multitude of needs and plans of Australian sporting organisations, the Government will shortly establish a Sports Council. Plans are also being prepared for a detailed study of the possibility of creating Australia’s first national sports university, with the multiple aim of education, research and training. Most advanced European countries have found similar universities of tremendous value not only to their sporting elite but to their entire sporting and recreation structure. We intend to find out now whether Australia is ready for this giant leap forward and, if she is, how we should go about it.
There is not much doubt that in sport and recreation Australia has entered a new, long overdue era, that our Government has, for the first time ever, openly and without bashfulness, decided to accept at least partial responsibility for the physical well-being and the leisure time recreation of its people. But much more needs to be done. As it is becoming fashionable nowadays, I would like to present the case for a pressure group, even if this group, for a change, is the vast majority, the silent majority of our country - the you, the you and the me; the hundreds of thousands of normal, ordinary, decent men, women and youngsters whose only crime’ is that for too long they have been taking it on the chin. These people are entitled to a fair deal from us and I am sure our Government will give it to them. Surely we can find money for this majority when large sums are available for extreme, sad or eccentric cases.
I know this is not a Budget debate so I am merely foreshadowing some of the requirements for a larger slice of the budgetary cake.
I sincerely doubt, with due respect to all my colleagues, that there is another Ministry which can provide so much good for so many people with so little money. Every swimming pool, playing field, indoor hall or basketball court we help provide is used by thousands of our people, by the young and the old, the fit and the ‘fat, in their leisure time and during their meal hours. What is that mysterious, so-called quality of life’ if not the caring for the people’s needs after their working hours in their leisure time? Ours is a solid, tangible opportunity to translate this often empty and confusing cliche into action and we can do that with a few million dollars.
I would now like to dwell on tourism for a short while, a subject of considerable controversy and not without some pitfalls. Everybody who has ever visited another town or city fancies himself an expert on tourism; most of us, at heart, are potential tourists. And yet, in recent years, the word ‘tourist’ appears to have acquired a dubious sound. Tourists are often equated with locusts and other pests, invading defenceless beaches and hamlets or cities, adding to the pollution problem, annoying the locals, crowding the seashores, forests or main streets. Even in places where tourism is an important economic factor for a community, where the livelihood of hundreds or thousands depends on the tourist dollar, the visitor himself is often only tolerated, if not openly resented. Ohe has the feeling that the ideal tourist would be the one who sends his cheque by mail and then stays home. In view of this, somebody could ask whether it is worthwhile to promote tourism. We think it is, even if we are aware of the potential excesses this industry is capable of producing.
The bulk of tourist activities in Australia are of domestic nature - Australians travelling to discover parts of their own country. This is admirable from every viewpoint. Shortly we will launch a campaign to provide new impetus to domestic tourism, to draw attention to the great variety of holidays available in many parts of our country. The Australian Tourist Commission, already an accomplished and efficient organisation in matters of overseas promotion, has been authorised to apply its know-how to domestic tourist problems. Next year, the Australian National Travel Association will mount a giant trade fair in Sydney, in co-operation with dozens of organisations interested in tourism. Both efforts, I am sure, will highlight a new awareness in the tourist potential of this country. Also next year Sydney will be host to the Pacific Area Travel Association Congress, one of the largest annual international gatherings of its kind. This will provide us with a fresh opportunity of attracting worldwide attention for our country.
In the past IS months we have made fair progress in offering Government assistance to the industry. Many grants have been made to Australiana projects - one only today for a historic building near Toowoomba for $70,000 - where the aim is to preserve or develop pioneer settlements, places of historic interest, fauna and flora sanctuaries; places our own people could visit and enjoy. This policy is to continue, possibly in an expanded form in the firm belief that many parts of Australia can offer attractions equal to those in neighbouring countries which are now so much in vogue with our own travelling public and which, I regret to say, keep widening Australia’s travel deficit to an irritating, if not alarming degree. I sincerely hope that our Government will increase the present $1.7 5 m now available for these domestic tourism projects and that a larger percentage of the many requests for assistance can be met after the next Budget.
Certain aspects of the travel industry which seem to have a growth retarding effect, are not under my jurisdiction. There is an almost constant outcry about the high international airfares but these are set by the International Air Transport Association according to its own rather complex formula. Australia’s remoteness from the main tourist markets could be regarded by some as a geographical catastrophe but not something any Government can rectify without Atlas carrying our country on his shoulders a bit closer to Europe or the United States of America. The repeated devaluation of the United States dollar did not help us either, making Australia a fairly expensive place to visit by Americans, still the world’s keenest travellers. So here is an instance where the strength of our economy and Australian dollar has an unfortunate effect on. one particular industry. However, I would like to assure the House, as well as those interested in the welfare of the Australian tourist industry, that these examples may be handicaps but they are not absolute deterrents.
In the present session of Parliament I intend to introduce a Bill which will effectively deal with the old problem of the registration of travel agents. We have an agreement with the various States that once this Bill becomes law, whatever State legislations may exist will be superseded by this Federal law. I very much hope that this will safeguard the interests of the travelling public against all kinds of shady malpractices and also help the industry to rid itself of its parasitic elements which, from time to time, stage spectacular collapses with disastrous results.
I also have high hopes that we will soon strike a firm partnership with our friends and neighbours, New Zealand, in the joint promotion of our region’s tourist attractions. During recent talks with the New Zealand Minister for Tourism, Mrs Tirikatene-Sullivan we have agreed in principle on close cooperation. The 2 departments are now working on the details. Let me add here that such a joint venture would be of great benefit to Australia; after all, New Zealand has been solving tourist problems for much longer than we even cared to face them.
Finally, it is our intention to acquire Government equity in suitable tourist projects where we feel the community’s needs warrant this step. The first such acquisition will be announced shortly, and let me add here that recent press reports speculating on its nature and whereabouts were pretty wide of the mark.
Mr Speaker, I intended to provide the House with only a brief summary of the state of my portfolio and I hope this will give an inkling of a busy year behind us and an even busier one ahead. I ardently believe in a bright future for both the Australian tourist industry and for Australian sport and recreation. I also know that our Government will want to speed up the action and expand the scope in 1974-75.
Sitting suspended from 6.14 to 8 p.m.
– The address prepared by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and delivered personally by Her Majesty to both Houses of the Parliament on 28 February was a disaster, to say the least, for the very future of this once great nation. It was obvious to me and to many others that he tried to please all in that address but it lacked detail and gave little or no mention to some of the important issues facing the nation in this vital period when the economy is sitting on a razor’s edge. Inflation rated less than 5 lines. Wheat stabilisation, another very important issue to primary producers, rated 16 words. Immigration did not even get a mention. I am amazed that one could prepare an address outlining the various issues that a government proposes to introduce from now until election time which could be so weak. I believe that immigration is a vital issue. Maybe it is the case that the Prime Minister could not keep pace with the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) and his policy which changes almost daily, if not at least weekly.
The records over a number of years show that one of the best Ministers for Immigration that Australia has known was the late Arthur Calwell. I think that the record will eventually show that the present Minister could be somewhat the opposite. It is fantastic to think that the policy of a nation can change so often. It is a case of: Yes, we have no discrimination; yes, we are not prepared to open the doors; yes, we will increase our intake; yes, we will decrease our intake. Surely this Minister must go down as a yes man. But he is not prepared to say yes to the creation of a homogeneous population. Late last year he decided that he would introduce a blanket amnesty on all those people who had entered Australia illegally, irrespective of who they were, where they came from and what record they may have. It was a blanket amnesty, yet whan it came to the Columbians there was an all-out blitz to deport them. At the same time people genuinely wanting to come to Australia have great difficulty unless they can satisfy many of the qualifications laid down, and in some cases that is almost impossible. This Government should not be proud of some of the policies laid down by the Minister for Immigration. They are inconsistent to say the least.
It was suggested some 12 or 18 months ago that this Minister could well become the Minister for Primary Industry. If ever I could congratulate the Prime Minister, I can congratulate him on not making that appointment. At present the Government is in shambles. We have been told all sorts of things about open Government and the like. But what do we find? It is open all right. Everyone is contributing, from Mr Hawke to the unions, the backbenchers, members of the Government and the odd Minister. They all have a say in relation to policy. Even just before the suspension of the sitting the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) was appealing in this chamber for consideration for his Department. This is not the place for a Minister to put forward his suggestions or requests to Cabinet. He should do that in another place. I remind the House of that famous statement: T am the greatest’, but he did not know the gun was loaded. How often have we heard that statement?
I believe that the Prime Minister is now completely out of touch. He is unaware of what is going on around him. The old cliche: A good boss never soils his hands, and if he does he has lost confidence in his team’ must always be remembered. It is obvious that the Prime Minister has lost completely the confidence of his colleagues for the way in which he has been making repeated statements about this, that and the other. I think the feeling is reciprocated so far as many of his Ministers are concerned. Time will not allow me to spell out all the details, but I can illustrate one or two. Being a representative of a very important rural area I naturally refer to the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt). It is obvious that he cannot secure the various things that he wants to assist the industry, or that he says he wants to assist the industry. Frequently we read and hear that he agrees with this decision or with that decision. But what happens? There is no result because too many people in other places - in the Cabinet, the Caucus and the rural rump - have a voice on the subject. So while he can make all the promises, I repeat what I said in this chamber not so many months ago: If a Minister makes a promise and .cannot keep it, then no matter how nice he may be - he can be a gentleman of the highest order - he would naturally be a failure as a Minister.
I refer to some articles that I read in the Melbourne ‘Sun’ of this morning. The heading on one is: ‘Super row is held off by PM’. What does all this mean? There should be no row about this. If a government makes a decision surely that is the end of the issue. If there is to be a difference of opinion it should be sorted out before the announcement is made. A little further down the page there appears:
Pensions Bid Fails. A Caucus bid to force the Federal Government to give pensioners an extra $1.40 a week, on top of the proposed $3 a week rise, failed yesterday.
Where are we going? Is it any wonder the people outside this place are losing confidence? I refer again to the superphosphate question. I do not want to go into all the details. I think most of my constituents know where I stand. I think most of the constituents throughout Australia know where the Opposition stands. But heavens above, they do not know where the Government stands. The announcement by the Prime Minister on this subject proves beyond all doubt his lack of knowledge of the electorate in relation to this question and his lack of knowledge and understanding on the practical side. I, like many of my colleagues, cannot understand why men like the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) and the Minister for Immigration can see what is going on and yet not have any influence.
Then we look at some of the backbenchers like the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) and the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin). Where do they stand? Do they really support their Government on this issue or are they trying to water down the decision? Other members from the Government side have made contributions to this debate. I should like to see just what the Government will do eventually. The Prime Minister suggested that the question could not be put to the Industries Assistance Commission because it would not have time to hear the case before the superphosphate subsidy was due for renewal. I remind honourable members of the actions of and statements made by some of my Country Party colleagues on this issue a few months ago. They virtually told this chamber and the electorate as a whole that it was a tragedy that they had to introduce a Commission such as this.
As to the actual merits or demerits of this question, I think it is pretty obvious to all and sundry - even those who were not in agreement in the early stages - that this is not a question of assistance to primary industries alone. This decision to remove the bounty will have a long term effect. It will have a deep effect on many sections of the community. It will affect the cost of foodstuffs. It seems that it will react strongly against the very people which this Government claims to represent. This Government has one goal and it is pretty obvious. Anybody who has had a bit of success and anybody who has a little bit of financial backing will suffer. This Government’s aim is: Let’s belt him’. Because primary industries are doing fairly well at the present time they also are included. It is a matter of: ‘Let’s belt the primary producer’. This has been borne out by the various actions taken by this Government, particularly in the last Budget. But the strange thing is that if one analyses the position of the primary producer on this question one will find that it is the small man who will get hit and not the big primary producer. The big primary producer will carry the burden, but at the same time he can diversify. He can cut production by not using sufficient quantities of superphosphate and it will not make much difference to him in the long term. But the small man cannot do that and he is the one who will be first affected. This is certainly a ridiculous situation.
The other point I want to make on this matter is that the subsidy payment is not due to cease until the end of the year. Why would the Prime Minister want to make a statement at this stage? The reason is simple. He was after some kudos within certain sections of the community, but it has rebounded. The primary producers can see that if the subsidy cuts out, because of other increases- in costs, they will have to pay approximately double for superphosphate next year. So they decide: Let us build our soil fertility with an added contribution this year. If this happens it will over burden the superphosphate companies and next year the reverse will be the situation. The companies will not be able to supply the quantities required this year and next year they will not be able to sell their superphosphate. Where do the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, the honourable member for Macarthur, the Minister for Immigration and the Minister for Northern Development stand on this matter?
I refer to some articles that I read in the tion I was rather amused to read in The Donald Birchip Times’ of Friday, 1 March 1974, an article headed ‘Two Views on Super Bounty’. The article sets out my view, which I will not repeat because most of my constituents know where I stand on this. But I want to read a few words attributed to Mr Smith, the endorsed Labor candidate for the seat of Mallee. The article reads:
Mr Smith, endorsed Labor candidate for Mallee, said Australian Fertilizer Limited’s profit for the current financial year was running at 97.8 per cent.
How can the expenditure of public money be justified when ali it is doing is jacking up private profits?’, he said.
The farmer had not been receiving the benefits of the subsidy.
That man has evidently been listening to the Minister for Immigration because I can recall him as the honourable member for Riverina saying in this House when he was in Opposition that the primary producer never got anything from the subsidy. What does it all mean? Last year the superphosphate companies had to put up a case to the Prices Justification
Tribunal. The Tribunal said: ‘You are entitled to an increase in your -price’. How can anyone work this out? Where does the Minister stand on this matter. It seems to be a ridiculous situation. I am surprised that a candidate for an electoral seat could turn around and follow the line taken by the Minister for Immigration. I suppose he was after a bit of free publicity. All I can say is that he is using the wrong angle to achieve any success.
– He will hang himself.
– No doubt he will hang himself if he follows the Minister for Immigration on matters of this kind. Time will not allow me to cover all the matters I would like to cover in this debate but I want to refer briefly to the Department of Social Security because I think there are a few anomalies that need to be looked into. For the purpose of social security recipients I divide benefits into 4 categories. They are: Help for the aged; help for the invalid; help for the unemployed and others - the ‘others’ being the little side issues to which the Department may attend. I think we can accept the principle as laid down by the Government because the Opposition agrees on the phasing out of the means test. I think I can say that the Opposition Parties generally support the principle of an increase in the various social security rates. The only question is what should be the increase. The recipients in the fourth category involve assistance for the unemployed. I am not too sure whether we all accept this one in toto.
I want to say at the outset that as far as I am concerned there are 2 different classifications of unemployed. There are those people who through no fault of their own lose their job. They are out of work and they cannot secure work. I think these people must be looked after. But there is another section of people who have no intention whatsoever of earning their crust when they find that we are giving them unemployment benefits on which they can live comfortably. One might say that no man can live on $23 or whatever it will be in a few weeks time - maybe $26 or $27 - and this would be true. If the person is married he can get the wife’s allowance. It has come to my notice - it is very difficult to be able to prove what I am about to say - that it is very easy indeed for an individual to register under one name in one centre and to register under another name in another centre. This means that he gets double the unemployment rate.
– Can you cite any cases?
– I just made it very plain to the honourable member who interjected that I cannot prove it. How can you prove these things? But the point is that we know it goes on. Of course we know it goes on. Anyone who does not believe it goes on certainly has not got his feet on the ground. He is certainly not watching the situation and he is certainly not talking to the employment officers in his area. This is something that I believe this Government must look at very closely. I think that if a person refuses to go out genuinely to look for work then he must be classified on some form of sliding scale. If the scale comes down low enough, sooner or later he will make sure that he does look for work. In my own area there have been fellows making claims to be and classifying themselves as worm catchers, lecturers, lift drivers and all this sort of thing, knowing only too well that there are no vacancies in the area. Yet when they go along to the employment officer, naturally everything is treated in a confidential manner. That is why I say that you cannot prove these things. Nevertheless it is going on and it is time that this Government took action.
– Tell us what you would do.
– I am telling you that it is time the Government took action. I am prepared to support a scheme which includes a sliding scale-
-Order! The honourable member will start to tell me about it.
– I am addressing you, Mr Speaker. I am trying to convince some of your colleagues on the Government side that they have not got their feet on the ground in relation to this matter.
Before I resume my seat I want to say that there are many other issues which I would like to mention. I notice that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen) is at the table. I could not sit down without saying something about his portfolio. The first thing I want to do is to compliment him. Despite the fact that he has made many errors he does make some reasonable decisions. I thank him for his decision to give consideration to retaining those post offices which were to be downgraded as a result of an investigation. I have a file here that I will bring to light one of these nights in the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House because I want to refer to the unfairness of the increase in telephone rentals in certain country areas. I will leave that until another time.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (8.21)- At the opening of the second session of the 28th Parliament Her Majesty the Queen referred to many measures that her Government intended to introduce for the welfare of our Aboriginal population. Unfortunately, at the same time a protest demonstration was taking place outside Parliament House in which representatives of the Aboriginal population were involved and an incident occurred which caused widespread criticism throughout the nation. There has been critical comment not only of the demonstrators but of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and this Parliament. I do not feel competent to pass judgment on those happenings and in any case I think they should be left to more qualified and experienced people who, after all, are the right people to handle these things. I refer to members of the police force and to our law courts. I would like to make it clear that I do not support any group demonstrations, whether carried out by members of our white population or our black population, because demonstrations often provide an opportunity for extremists to cause trouble. I would go even further and say that I believe that public servants should observe a certain amount of decorum when making public statements about their own departments.
Having made those statements, I do not think that any member of Parliament can shed his responsibilities. We have an obligation to consider the concluding remarks of Her Majesty when she said:
With confidence that you will fulfil to the utmost of your abilities the deep responsibility the Australian people has placed upon you, I leave you to carry out your high and important duties.
I think that we should ask ourselves this question: What is this deep responsibility and what are our high and important duties? It ‘is a well known fact that Australia is not amongst those nations which constitutionally or by other legislative means have defined the representational responsibilities of their members of Parliament. Nevertheless I think that every member of Parliament is conscious of some representational responsibility.
It seems to me that our primary responsibility is to ensure that this Parliament remains the home of democracy and that it does not vacate its power or authority to an unrepresentative, unanswerable and increasingly influential pressure group, whether it be European or of some other nationality. I point out that this does not mean that a group should not have the right to demonstrate, although, as I said before, I am not in favour of that type of thing. However, such action could well be a safety valve in our democratic system providing it is kept within certain limits and does not infringe the rights and safety of other citizens. I have mentioned before that the police forces and the law courts are the right bodies to handle these things. But if we are to endorse and support any laws and penalties I believe that we also have a responsibility to look behind the demonstration and see whether we can find the cause of it.
In fairness to the Aboriginal population, I do not think that I would have to go outside my own electorate to see things which would make any Aboriginal want to protest if he was genuinely interested in the welfare of his own people. I should pause to say that I do not want to be critical of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, because there have been improvements and successes. I think it is fair to point out that after 23 years of Liberal-Country Party government the present Opposition parties must take some blame for the sad plight of many of our Aborigines at the present time. It took too long for governments of the past to get started and when they did start they adopted a system of skimming the cream off the milk, of moving the best of the Aborigines into the towns and giving them an education and of trying to hide the rest of them away from public view.
I have said before in this House, and I will say it again now, that no system of Aboriginal advancement will be any good unless we can find a way of uplifting the whole body of Aborigines at the one time. When the present Government came to power Aborigines all over Australia complained bitterly that no one would take any notice of their views and that money was being wasted in all directions. Well, at least this Government has provided many more millions of dollars and has set up a joint committee to investigate the real position. It has” to be admitted that the Government has run into some real problems and that it really has not yet started to clean up the mess, but is this not always the case when one tries to clean up someone else’s mess?
I shall refer again to my own electorate. During the flood period I visited many areas and was very surprised to hear the Aborigines complaining that they were unfairly treated during the flood when they were moved in. I want to refute this complaint. I was there during the whole period and I could find no evidence of this. However, shamefully I think, many of our Aborigines were better off during the flood than they were prior to it. I shall refer to the Coonamble area. At Coonamble I was shown about 11 homes for Aborigines and they were well kept and in good condition but one Aborigine said: ‘What about having a look at some of the other places?’ Coonamble is a pretty little town with a lot of trees and that sort of thing but I found there a home that should be condemned. Three or four Aborigines were living in it. When I went further I saw another in a similar condition. I would say that I was taken into about twenty of these homes. If they were all in the one spot and someone could take a picture of them it would be a sorry sight. There is no doubt that the Aborigines are getting their backs up about this kind of thing.
At Wilcannia we have what they call the mission. There are some nice homes on the mission. There is the Home of Compasion there which is run by the nuns and there is a nice school. Someone built a levy bank right around the area to protect these buildings, and that was a credit to them. But if one looks over the levy bank and along the river one sees some shacks which are just propped up, with some sheets of iron and a few branches. They really are shocking things for any human being to live in. As a matter of fact, some of the Aborigines reminded me that they are human beings and not animals and that they deserve something better. I think that it was to the credit of the people of Wilcannia that during the flood they were moved to high ground and lived in tents, where they were much better off. This condition has prevailed for some considerable time. Although one or two houses have been built nothing has been done to assist the advancement of the main body of Aborigines. Seven years ago it was suggested that an intermediate building be erected.
I point out to representatives of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs that a group of local people could solve the problem in no time if a prefabricated building of a double garage type, with some alterations, could be put on the land that the Aborigines occupy. Such buildings could be their homes until better homes for them to move into are built. The Aborigines themselves are in favour of this. The shire authority is in favour of a system such as this. It does not want the Aborigines to move back into the other areas. I hope that the Department of Aboriginal Affairs will look after these things.
I think that Her Majesty’s concluding remarks about deep responsibility, and high and important duties are really food for thought. They seem to indicate to me that the elected parliamentarians, in the discharge of their duties, should have regard to the people of Australia as a whole and at all times endeavour to secure the advancement of the national welfare, including that of our Aborigines. I believe that the rest of the world and especially the developing nations will give us more credit for the way in which we assist our depressed groups than they will for the progress rate of our gross national product or our attempts to solve the problem of inflation. It is not enough for members of this Parliament to build a society in which only bad is sought out and punished. I believe we also have a duty to build a society in which good can flourish and grow. It seems that when it comes to the problem of our Aboriginal population too many people are too anxious to put Aborigines in gaol and not anxious enough to give them a decent home and permanent employment so that they can share the good things of life with the rest of the population.
I want to say something now about flood relief. I give great credit to the Australian Government for the way in which it supported the people in the country areas during the recent floods. I was in my electorate during the worst of the floods, and I must say that every time I made contact with the Federal Government I received an immediate reply. The Government said that everything was being done with the co-operation of the State authorities and the civil defence authorities, who only had to ask for something and they would get it. I sent a wire to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) asking that consideration be given to providing assistance for those who were victims of the flood, and I received an immediate reply that the Australian Government would match assistance provided by the States on a dollar <for dollar basis, and that if the States could not meet the expense the Government would be prepared to go it alone. I believe that the relief being provided will cost the Australian Government well over $100m. It is very gratifying for me to receive every day further letters from people who have been assisted not only by the Royal Australian Air Force and the Army, whose personnel were engaged in the flooded areas, but also in many other ways by this Government. They are gratified to know that the Government was very conscious of their plight during the floods.
It reflects great credit on the Government that it has not forgotten the people in the country. Some members of the Australian Country Party are trying to get over the impression that this Government is an antirural government. Of course nothing is further from the truth, because the Australian Labor Party, even before it came to power, sent a delegation overseas to win markets around the world. After many years of listening to the Liberal and Country parties saying that our trading partners could not pay any more, what happened? Not only did we win more markets, but as soon as the position became obvious to our old trading partners they found that after all they could pay more .for our primary products. Since the Government has been in power it is no longer a matter of where we will find markets but how we will produce enough to fill them. I do not want to take anything away from the speakers who will follow me because I am sure they will touch on these things, but I think that we of the Labor Party can be proud of the first 12 months of the Australian Labor Government.
– In one respect I rather enjoyed the speech of the honourable member for Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick). Unlike his predecessor who, I might say, lived steadily in my electorate, he does seem to have got around part of his enormous electorate. The gracious Speech had one curious and, in the circumstances, amazing omission because it glosses over everything and deals with a vast number of other subjects except the one which is gnawing the vitals of the nation. There is no recognition in that Speech that we are being carried rapidly by the doings, or lack of doings, of the present Government towards a point of social breakdown, because no country can see the value of its currency disappear and still remain socially stable. These dangers are far nearer to us than the Government or people in this House generally recognise.
The fact is that the captain of the ship in this respect is my old friend, the Treasurer (Mr Crean). When people raise this ugly question of inflation the Treasurer is remarkably complacent. He shrugs his shoulders and says: Of course, I am not totally responsible, and the present Government is not responsible for all the factors that make up inflation’. Of course this is basically true; he is not totally responsible. He says for instance. ‘Look at the forces which have hit us from overseas’. One must agree with this. There are some respects in which the forces and what has been occurring overseas would have made financial life extremely difficult for any government controlling Australian affairs. In the last few months we have been through a period of terrific boom in commodity prices. Prices, including meat and food prices, have gone up and down. In one respect we have done quite well - we have had a nice boom in export prices arid our farmers are doing well. But the other side to the argument is that it has increased the money supply and has vastly complicated the problem of dealing with inflation. The recent oil crisis and the other things that have happened in the world have all made the task of economic management extremely complicated and highly complex. In the end what we have to deal with is not all the forces we cannot control - we can adjust as best we may to them - but we have to do all those things which it lies within our power to do.
There is no need to stress to a knowledgeable character like you, Mr Deputy Speaker, the rapid rise in prices and what this means to ordinary people. Of course, if one lives in Kirribilli one is not so conversant with the immediate impact of what is happening in the supermarkets and to the prices of meat and groceries. But one must say to all these unfortunate people suffering from the price increases that these prices are now in the grip of forces which are steadily making an increased money supply and are making further rises in prices quite inevitable. No doubt this development is causing worry to these unfortunate people and worry to everybody in the community, particularly those on fixed incomes, on reasonably stable wages or on a salary. The unfortunate part about the fate of these people - that is, most of the community - is that no prospect of relief is in sight.
Firstly, in regard to money supply, I say that if the money supply is not properly controlled and it goes on expanding whatever else is done, whatever price control or whatever other measures are brought in, or whatever else may happen, a rise in prices is quite inevitable. It follows as night the day. In this respect the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) who frequently debates these matters and repeats his old story, which he hopes people will believe, I suppose, has made the point that the big expansion in money supply did in fact start in the last year of the previous Government and before the present Government came to power. One must admit that this was the case. An over-rapid expansion occurred in the money supply which ushered this new Government into office. But this cannot remain the excuse forever. The person who is guilty is the last person who had the responsibility and the capacity to save the ship from disaster. The increase in money supply which has occurred ever since the Labor Party came to office has outrun by far the increase of money supply in the terms of the previous Government.
The Treasurer (Mr Crean) has also had other serious problems with which to deal. He has had to face the tremendous pressure of the inward movement of capital. This has expanded the money supply to a large extent. It has been very difficult to deal with and, in point of fact, he has dealt with this so effectively that there is danger’ now of the position being reversed. What was a little while ago a very willing transport of capital to Australia to take advantage of Australian conditions and Australia’s stability now looks in danger of running the other way. This makes economic management very difficult. But at the same time events in Australia are, in the aggregate, far more influential on the situation than the influences which so far have arrived from overseas and which are of a kind which cannot be dealt with.
One must admit that the Queen’s Speech does refer to other actions taken by the Government such as reducing tariffs and a number of other spectacular measures which the Prime Minister particularly has sponsored. These measures suffer from a leading characteristic of the Prime Minister which is that of a great showman. The great facade of action when analysed really means very little in the total situation. One thing that the Prime Minister did do in early September was to initiate a rise in interest rates and a tightening of bank credit. This process has been the one really effective action which so far has been taken by the Government to put an effective brake on inflation. But even this measure taken by the Government has in fact been interfered with and inhibited by the action of the Labor Party Caucus.
In this House this afternoon Government speakers proudly announced: ‘Oh, we are a great democracy. Every member of Caucus has as much say as the Prime Minister’. In fact, this is too sadly true. Members of the Labor Party Caucus can gang up and no doubt fix the numbers and up-end the most carefully considered actions of the senior Ministers. This in fact is a tragedy. The Government has tried to separate interest rates on housing from the general level of interest rates. Government members suffer certain illusions. For moral reasons or for political reasons they believe that a market can be divided up, that certain controls can be placed on one section of it and that section told that it must conform to one law, while another section can go free. The fact is that the money market is largely one unit. This has added extraordinary distortions to the market.
One of the objectives of the Prime Minister’s original action - whether he understood it, I do not know, but he accepted the advice given to him - was to put up interest rates and to restrict credit. One obvious result of this action was to impose a tremendous strain on housing and house building. This is a very necessary part of any action to help to restrain inflation. But even this measure has not become effective. It has become confused by the action of the Labor Party Caucus. The result is the most messy situation with which we are now faced. Any honourable member who examines the latest housing figures and sees the tremendous and sudden drop in the construction of private housing throughout Australia can only be appalled at what the Government has done. This has been done by default and not by design by the Government which has demonstrated its basic economic incompetence in managing the affairs of the country.
This brings me to the matter of public finance. It is often said in this House - other honourable members have said it: ‘You say we are spending too much. You tell us where to cut our expenditure down*. All I can say in reply to this is that the Government cannot spend this huge amount of funds suddenly in an economy of our size. It will defeat itself somewhere. Government supporters boast proudly of the tremendous increase in funds allocated for education. It is true that large sums of money have been allocated and cheques have been signed for a huge increase in the money spent in education. But half of the schools proposed cannot be built and a lot work cannot be done because the resources to do them just do not exist The public will gradually come to realise that a large part of this action is an illusion.
Mir Coo Ike - It goes in teachers’ salaries.
– We all realise that what the honourable member says in that respect is true. But, at the same time, that is merely adding to the number of money payments, adding to the money supply, adding to the balance of purchasing power in the community. That purchasing power is chasing no more goods or services. In fact the result of some of the Government’s policies is the breakdown in supply of an even distribution of goods. That breakdown is only in its infancy now. Basically a great deal of the Government’s effort will be found and proved very shortly to be abortive. When it comes to what the Government has to reduce, the fact is that in real terms the money cannot be spent in such a hurry, so soon and so quickly. All the time this expenditure is adding to the breakdown of our financial system and inevitably to the growing increase in prices and to an escalation in the fears held by the public in relation to finance.
Another matter which affects the whole community is what the future policy of the Labor Party in this area will be. Here is an interesting situation. The Prime Minister in his policy speech showed himself to be a great expert at pulling the wool over people’s eyes. He does that very successfully. He has done so with Caucus and the Labor Party for years. He has persuaded the Communist that he will be a neoCommunist in foreign affairs. He has persuaded other people including business people that he is right wing, a very moderate man, and so forth. He has gradually worked himself into the position where he is extremely capable at creating illusions both overseas and in Australia. Let me illustrate one of the traps in which he will find himself. He undertook to devote all of these resources to various public purposes but not to increase taxation.
There is another school of thought in the Labor Party. The standpoint of the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) over the years has been that such are the benefits forthcoming from this kind of program that people should be willing to pay the taxes and put up the money for it. So there is a natural cleavage here between one school that thinks there should be fiscal honesty and that money and funds for paying for these things should be collected - in other words, the purchasing power should be destroyed to make room for the Government - and the other school that says: ‘Do not worry about all this: Just leave taxation where it is and hope for the best.’ In many respects the result of hoping for the best is that all the time the pressure of inflation is accumulating - accumulating basically at such a rate that no ad hoc measures, no sort of formal price measures and so forth have the least chance in the world of coping with it. The progressive effect is that gradually prices rise. One price rises and then another. Wages get built into the system too and as the whole thing loads up one price increase encourages another and there is no halting this kind of happening except by imposing very rigid and tough fiscal measures. Until we get a government or a group of men who are prepared to do this I am afraid we are in for a very bad immediate future.
– This evening I have been listening to some of the comments of honourable members opposite. We have been taken on a Cook’s tour. Much comment has been made which contained little if any logic.
– That is not your strong point.
– If we talk about strong points the honourable member would be the last person to whom I would turn for advice. I rise this evening to speak to the Address-in-Reply and to make comment on certain aspects of the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen when she opened the second session of the 28th Parliament. I refer to the concern expressed by Her Majesty of the Australian Government and of the people of Australia at the loss of life and property in the recent floods in Queensland and New South Wales. Her Majesty referred to the substantial assistance already provided by the Australian Government to those who. have suffered grievously and to the fact that assistance will continue to be provided. Speaking as a Queenslander I am sure I express the gratitude of the great majority of the people of my State. I pay tribute to the Australian Government for its magnificent contribution during and following the devastating flooding which occurred. I point out to the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke) who interjected that unlike the Queensland Government - the Government that was available and on the spot in the areas where the flooding occurred - the Australian Government took immediate action to have the position assessed. The Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) was in Brisbane immediately it became evident that flooding was occurring.
– lt was a week later.
– It is obvious that the honourable member was not in Brisbane for him to make such a statement. His mind is either fading or his recollection of what occurred is vague because the Minister for Science was in Brisbane within hours of the flooding occurring on Saturday, 26 January. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) was there on the Sunday. The Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland), the Postmaster-General (Mr Lional Bowen), the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) and the Treasurer (Mr Crean) were also there. Of course, the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) and the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) were present at all times. The visit by the Acting Prime Minister and the Treasurer resulted in the announcement of the largest and most generous scheme of assistance to people affected as a result of a national disaster in the history of this nation. Press reports told the story of the extent to which the Australian Government was prepared to go to assist the people of Queensland.
– And also the lack of interest by the Prime Minister.
– Of course that statement is completely incorrect. It is the smear type of comment that one would expect from somebody who has little interest in the victims of this devastating flood. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) showed interest at all times. His interest is borne out by the action taken by the Australian Government. The floodwaters did not commence to recede until mid afternoon on 30 January. The day before this, while the Hooding was still on, the Minister for Social Security cut red tape - this would be something that Liberals would never be prepared to do - and ordered his Department to make special arrangements’ to assist the
Queensland flood victims. He made arrangements to ensure the issue of duplicate pension and other social security benefit cheques to people who had lost original cheques in the floods. He made arrangements also to have special benefits paid to people who became unemployed as a direct result of the floods. It is to his credit that he had inserted in the newspapers of 30 January an advertisement providing information to people who may have been affected in these matters.
I am surprised to hear interjections from a Queensland member endeavouring to gain some political ground as a result of a disaster that affected the lives of many Queenslanders. It is not to his credit. The year 1974 had a very sad beginning for thousands of Queenslanders. The loss of and damage to property and personal belongings was immense. In time perhaps the value in dollars and cents of goods and property affected by flooding will be properly assessed. However, the anxiety, despair and heartbreak which resulted from the tragic floods can never be measured. How can one place some valuation on the grief experienced by the family whose home and all its contents were washed away? What recompense is there to erase the shock experienced as homes became submerged and as furniture and clothing was swept away in the raging flood waters? How is it possible to evaluate the effect on the future wellbeing of men, women and children who fall into the cold category of flood victims? This tragedy was a dreadful occurrence, the result of a cruel twist of fate, and imposed on many Queensland people a heavy burden of loss.
One feature that emerged from this disaster was the grand response from those not affected to the call for assistance for those who were. I can speak with knowledge of what occurred in Brisbane in this regard. I am aware that a spirit of compassion was evident among the large numbers who assisted in the rescue work and later with cleaning up and making homes habitable again for those people who could return. Men and women from all walks of life - office workers, labourers, tradesmen and professional people, some young and some not so young - volunteered for the mammoth job of cleaning up. At present much of this work still needs to be done but the point I make is that people generally were aware of what was happening and of the urgent need for action to be taken at that time. Among the great army of volunteer workers no doubt there were people with differing views on many questions and of different, attitudes, including political attitudes. Right wing extremists worked alongside left wing radicals, but politics did not come into the discussion. The job was to assist people who had undergone a cruel experience; politics could wait for another day and another arena. I believe this was the general view. It was a decent attitude and one to be commended.
The great scar on the whole of the wonderful work and assistance that was forthcoming from the people of Queensland and the Australian Government was the fact that the Country Party led Government in my State procrastinated in initiating moves to set up a relief fund. It entered into cheap politicking which shocked Queenslanders generally. The anti-city Government of Queensland endeavoured to use the misfortune of flood victims to further its political aims. In a cold and blatantly dishonest way the Government that is lead by the Country Party in Queensland made an effort to capitalise, for political purposes, on the greatest tragedy that has ever occurred in Queensland. It endeavoured to gain political advantage on the back of the Australian Government.
I refer honourable members to newspaper advertisements which appeared in the Brisbane Press following the magnificent action by the Australian Government in making almost unlimited finance available to the people of Queensland. With blatant dishonesty advertisements appeared in the Press headed ‘The Queensland Government: You may be eligible for a Cash Grant up to $15,000 if your home has been destroyed or damaged by flood.’ When protests were forthcoming because of this type of dishonest advertising by the conservatives in Queensland it was followed by another advertisement which was headed Your State Government in co-operation with the Commonwealth Government is providing every assistance possible to help flood victims throughout the State.’ It was signed ‘Joh. Bjelke-Petersen, Premier of Queensland’. So even when correcting the wrong that had been done by the Government of Queensland the Premier could not miss the opportunity to have his name inserted as the author of the advertisement for the purpose of indicating to the people of Queensland that it was the Queensland Government and not the Australian Government that was responsible for the amount of financial assistance that was being made available. I feel that the people of Queensland can have nothing but contempt for a Government that stooped to such a low level. No doubt the people of Queensland will remember the cheap political stunt entered upon by the Government of Queensland led by a minority Party.
Having made reference to the sad and sickening action of the conservatives in office in Queensland I now turn to some sweeter and fresher comments. I want to pay a special tribute to the Lord Mayor of Brisbane - that grand Queenslander, that dynamic figure in politics in Australia - who immediately took action to ensure that the problems of the victims of the flood in Queensland were alleviated.
– He had to. He had a moral responsibility in the matter.
– Of course he had a moral responsibility. He shouldered his responsibility. He grasped the nettle, took the initiative and immediately set up a fund to assist the people who had been affected by the flood. It is very difficult in Queensland to obtain a correct assessment of the amount of money contained in the Lord Mayor’s fund. I could find out, as could anybody else, by contacting the Lord Mayor or his office. The Queensland newspapers seem to be a little reticent in putting this information before the people of Queensland. Of course, the reason is very obvious. One week after the dynamic Labor Lord Mayor of Brisbane set up his fund the backward Country Party Government decided that it would set up a fund. I believe that currently, in the area in which the Brisbane City Council was able to have contributions made to the fund, it is almost Sim in front of the fund for the whole State of Queensland which was set up in a belated way by the Queensland Government.
– What about the money the Australian Government, as you call it, put into the Lord Mayor’s fund?
– I am very proud of that. This is the greatest effort by any Government in the history of this nation in assisting people who have been the subject of some disaster. I am proud of what we have done. If the honourable member wants to back the attitude and the action of the Queensland Government that is his business. I say that it is a scar on the whole of the wonderful work that was done in Queensland. There is another aspect of this disaster about which I want to make some comments. No doubt the people sitting opposite who represent these interests will not be happy about what I am going to say. Insurance companies are receiving criticism from many quarters following the devastation which occurred in Queensland. Those of us who take an interest in what is occurring there would be aware of this. There has been a sudden rude awakening as to the protection afforded insurance companies through the medium of cleverly worded policies in relation to insurance on dwellings and their contents. There has been uncovered the startling fact that the vast majority of policy holders were not covered for flooding which occurred as the result of heavy rains continuing and property and belongings being damaged.
I was somewhat amazed to see in the Press last Tuesday a report that the Queensland Government may act on flood insurance. This was four or five weeks after the floods receded. According to this Press report published in the ‘Courier-Mail’, the Queensland Government may act on flood insurance. On Monday of this week my attention was drawn to the case of a family who had been insured with the State Government Insurance Office, which is controlled by the Queensland Government of course. They are currently paying premiums in the vicinity of $200 a year. They made an application to the State Government Insurance Office in Queensland for insurance for about $450 as a result of flooding which occurred in the area and they were told by the representatives of this Government agency that they would receive no insurance. I submit that it is rather hypocritical for a government to tell the people that it may act - of course, the emphasis must be placed in the word ‘may’ - on flood insurance. People in the community who are progressive and who look ahead knew on past performance that insurance companies had very little if any intention of meeting the commitments that should have been theirs.
The Queensland Trades and Labour Council held a meeting on 6 February - one month before the backward Government of Queensland decided that it might do something - and called on insurance companies and the Government to ensure that insurance was paid to people who had storm and tempest policies with any insurance company iti Queensland. I am proud to belong to a Government whose Treasurer was able to announce earlier this week that action was being taken to ensure that there would be protection for people against this sort of disaster. This morning I was particularly pleased to read a report - no doubt the people of Queensland particularly will be interested in this - that the Australian Government will take action to set up insurance funds to protect people who at the present moment receive no protection from these insurance companies - in the main these great private enterprise bodies who back the people sitting opposite in this chamber. I was pleased to read of this because I am convinced that in Queensland alone, if people can be fully covered - they certainly have not been in the past by these organisations which claim to be insurance companies - they will rally behind the Australian Government, not merely because the rates of premium apparently are much lower than those currently being charged but because they can be assured of protection. I feel that action of the insurance companies in Queensland generally in backing away from their responsibilities in refusing to compensate people who through no fault of their own lost their homes and their belongings will certainly cause a great reaction in the community. I listened to the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury) who spoke before me giving us a discourse on economics. Such people might be able to explain to me how the Australian Government will be able to provide all this protection for a premium of about $11 when the great private enterprise companies apparently for a lesser coverage charge from $40 to $80 a year in premiums.
I congratulate the Prime Minister of this country, his Ministers and all those responsible for rallying to the Queensland people who were affected by the floods. I can have nothing but contempt for people who endeavour to make political capital out of this disaster, and I sincerely hope that in future, wherever Australians may live, through the actions of this great Federal Government which is currently in office, they will be able to look to the future knowing that they are financially secure from floods and from other damage to their homes and that their lives will not be wrecked because people will not shoulder their responsibilities.
– All members of the Parliament were tremendously pleased that the Queen came to Australia to open the second session of the Twenty-eighth Parliament. In studying the Speech delivered by the Queen, it is recognised that it was written for the Monarch by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and therefore is expected to be studied in some depth. Indeed, some extraordinary statements are contained in the Speech, many of which deserve the closest scrutiny and some of which will require the test of time. Under the second heading - the test of time - I should firstly like to quote from the Speech. It states:
It- that is, the Government- is reviewing the whole national approach to the handling of natural disasters.
That remark was concerned with the problems in Queensland and New South Wales. I am not going to talk at length about this. The nation is aware of the tremendous losses in both property and livestock. I am not going to canvass, as the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle) did, the question of what government performed in what particular manner. I think it is fair enough to say that, despite differences in emphasis and detail, both the State and the Federal governments did what they could to assist in that situation. The important thing is the future. We need government actions to diminish the risk and I would hope that members of the Australian Labor Party will be good enough to look at the flood mitigation Acts and agreements between the Federal Government and the New South Wales Government. We are not going to stop rain depressions and floods; what we can do is to build flood mitigation schemes which will diminish substantially the risk of damage to property and loss of lives. Under the current flood mitigation schemes, 40 per cent of the costs are met by the Federal Government, 40 per cent by the State Government and 20 per cent by the relevant local authority. There would be many sections of Queensland, not only Brisbane but also other areas, which would be very keen to see that sort of concept embraced.
Honourable members will be aware that, coming from an electorate which includes the Gold Coast, I have some interest in tourism, and in this regard there are two or three statements in the speech which are encouraging and which will require the test of time. I am pleased to see that the Government will make the Commonwealth Development Bank accessible to finance projects in the tourist industry, that the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation will insure loans for tourism, that travel agents will be licensed - a desire of the travel agents themselves - and that the Australian Tourist
Commission will now enter into domestic tourist promotion. It is a new Department and I wish it well. What we must see is just what sort of job the Government makes of the new Department. It started off pretty slowly. We are dealing with an industry which has substantial growth prospects throughout the world. We need to look carefully at the policies of tourism, both domestically and externally. There are many thousands of Australians travelling abroad and there is a net deficit in the balance of payments on tourism. I hope that this Government and the governments which succeed it will seek to correct that imbalance. An extraordinary passage in the Speech concerns the economy. It states:
My Governmentbelieves the economy is basically strong and buoyant. Nevertheless, it regards inflation as a most urgent domestic problem and will continue its efforts to contain it.
We have had a Labor government in office now for well over a year. We have inflation running at the rate of 14 per cent - more than 3 times the rate of the last year of the previous Government. Do members of the Labor Party think that the nation has forgotten a Budget six or seven months ago which saw Government expenditure in thatdocument increased by 19 per cent - probably, by the end of the current financial year the real increase will be substantially higher than that - that saw socialist programs embraced, such as the provision of over $100m to finance a pipeline between South Australia and New South Wales which private enterprise wanted to build and was able to build? Has the nation forgotten that it has a Government that has seen the growth of the Public Service with its obsession with bureaucracy and with the increased costs of all those new divisions and committees, estimated to be$150m this year? What a tremendous impact that amount would make on social services and other areas if it could be saved. There has been an enormous increase in the growth of the Public Service. There have been administrative incompetents in at least one department, with perhaps more to come. Interest rates are the highest they have been for decades. Young people - the people that the Labor Party sought to support it at the last election - are now paying substantially higher interest rates on their homes, the one major purchase people make in their lives, yet here we have in government a high interest rate party.
There has been support of unnecessarily high wage claims and regrettably at times the encouragement by senior Ministers of industrial stoppages. So much for the efforts of the Government to contain inflation. I should like to quote the Speech of the Queen in regard to social welfare: It stated:
The betterment of Australia’s social welfare system remains a major objective of my Government.
Indeed, what the Government’s financial policies have done has been to create substantial inequities in the social structure of Australia. People on fixed incomes today are in a dilemma to know how they can afford to live in reasonable comfort, particularly when they are not in a position to handle the inflationary spiral and when the tax scales are so outdated and unfair.
In regard to pensioners, I welcome the S3 increase. However, pensions are still a long way from being 25 per cent of average weekly earnings, at which level this Government has promised to establish pensions during its period of office. What would help pensioners and people on fixed incomes and the whole range of social equity in Australia would be a greater degree of government responsibility in managing its own financial affairs. The health scheme gets very brief mention in the Speech and I suppose that is understandable because I do not think the Government itself is quite sure just what sort of a scheme it is going to end up with. But one thing can be certain: It will be some kind of socialist centralised scheme with enlarged costs and an increased tax burden on the Australian community. It was not acceptable to the Government to look at the existing system that was in operation, that was good and that was functioning well but which certainly could be improved and had some simplification of administrative procedure made to it. But no, that was not good enough. We had to have some grand centralised bureaucratic approach to health.
Private enterprise’ are 2 words that one cannot find in the Speech. We can find many references to commissions, authorities and systems, but we cannot find the words ‘private enterprise’. One cannot even find in the Speech where the Government says: ‘We will co-operate with private enterprise for the good of the nation’ - the one system, the private enterprise system, that has generated the real wealth of this country over the decades, the system that has given us growth and productivity, the system that has given us real living standards and improved living standards throughout this country. This is where the fundamental and deep philosophical difference between the Government and the Liberal Party lies. For them the heavy hand of bureaucracy and the depressive hand of socialism, and for us the encouragement of all of the skills and enterprise of the individual to help develop a great Australia. I suppose that it is not really surprising that there is not any reference to private enterprise because this Government is antagonistic to private enterprise. Restrictive trade practices are also referred to in the Speech. Legislation of this type of operation was introduced by the Liberal-Country Party Government years ago. Of course we want to see monopolistic practices avoided. Of course we want to see the right sort of business conduct throughout this country. But the legislation proposed by this Government will simply frustrate the honourable businessmen trying to carry on their affairs in a legitimate way.
The Australian Industry Development Corporation is again a product of a LiberalCountry Party Government. The Corporation was designed to bring overseas funds into this country and to help Australian enterprises get financial assistance. It was not designed for permanent control of these enterprises. It was not designed to compete with private enterprise. It was not designed, as this Government is determined to use it, for the purpose of using taxpayers’ money in risk enterprises throughout this country.
– To socialise them.
Mir ERIC ROBINSON- This is completely socialistic in approach. We have yet to discuss in detail, and no doubt differences will emerge, the financial corporations Bill which we will have an opportunity to debate next week.
What does the Speech have to say about energy and minerals? It states:
My Government is paying special attention to the development of the use of various forms of energy.
What an extraordinary statement from a Government which has seen a decline in exploration for both oil and minerals during its term of office. There is uneasiness in the commercial and industrial community of this country. There is fear of what this Government might do next, and that is no more obvious than in the mining industry. What is the Government’s supposed special attention? At least the Government is consistent; it will set up another authority, another bureaucratic control. In this case the Government intends to set up the Petroleum and Minerals Authority. It does not matter that there is a crisis in the oil industry. It does not matter that oil exploration has diminished to a dangerous extent in this country. It does not matter that other mineral exploration is down. We have yet another example of naked socialism from the Labor Government.
There has been a continuation by the Government of its anti-rural attitude to rural industries. We all know that the Labor Government came into office largely because of the seats which it won in the two big capital cities of this country. We also know that shortly after the Government assumed office it attempted to push through a redistribution Bill which was designed to further diminish country representation in this Parliament. We know that the Government has disallowed depreciation and investment allowances and that a decision has been made on the superphosphate bounty which has, of course, created great turmoil within the Labor Party itself. While we can accept that the Labor Party is not interested in the rural industries of this country it is regrettable that we have a government that is prepared to be so lacking in concern for the national interest. The Government talks about decentralisation. Surely if we are to have decentralisation we do not want grandiose schemes in one part of Australia or the other. We want to see decentralisation right throughout the country with substantially strong rural industries helping to support fine rural towns and cities right throughout this country.
I would like to quote what was contained in the Speech in regard to defence. It stated:
In Defence, my Government will proceed with the major re-organisation and other reforms begun last year.
Well, they are sad words, are they not, for the defence of this country? One would expect that even the Labor Party would understand that the national security is paramount and that one has to have a sufficient defence capacity if one is to have national security. During the term of office of this Government we have seen a dangerous diminution of defence capacity and a lowering of morale right throughout the defence forces as indicated by the substantial resignations that have occurred at very senior level during the past year.
I would also like to make some reference to the referenda mentioned in the Speech. In this respect it is stated:
Bills will be submitted to alter the Constitution to ensure that Senate elections are held at the same time as House of Representatives elections; to alter the Constitution to ensure that the members of the House of Representatives and of the Parliaments of the States are chosen directly and democratically by the people ….
This all sounds very nice, but what does it mean? It means, firstly, that if the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in particular is genuine and if he wants to bring the elections for the 2 Houses together he is but a few short miles and a few short minutes away from Yarralumla, and I am certain that the Governor-General would accede to his request for a double dissolution. Let us go to the polls and let the country judge at a Senate election which will be held in May. There is no need to tamper with the Constitution. All it needs is a bit of courage. All it needs is for the Prime Minister and the Government to say to the people: ‘You be the judge of the record that we have been able to achieve in the little over a year that we have been in office’.
The second part of the paragraph contained in the Speech from which I have just quoted to the House refers to democratic elections. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) the other day made it perfectly clear that such a referendum has been proposed for one reason only - and I believe that this referendum has a very forlorn hope of getting through - and that is that the Labor Party hopes to be able to redistribute boundaries in its own favour. A Labor gerrymander is what this referendum is all about.
The Speech almost concludes with a reference to the policies of the Government for which, it is said, it has a clear mandate from the Australian people. One would reckon that they would give that one away. One would have thought that we would have had enough of that, lt is an erroneous argument to say that the Government has a mandate. If we look at the results of elections held in the various States we can see that the Government does not have a mandate from the majority of States. No government can claim a mandate for the sort of policies which it has enunciated during an election or in the years prior to an election. This Government does not have a mandate to have inflation running at near rceord level. It does not have a mandate to maintain social inequalities throughout the community. It does not have a mandate to interfere with this nation’s Constitution. It does not have a mandate to injure rural industries. It does not have a mandate to weaken our defence capacity. Nor has it a mandate for administrative incompetence, and we will see more of that as the year goes by.
The Liberal Party, and I know that the Australian Country Party associates itself with this, wants to give the nation the opportunity to judge. I share the view expressed in the Senate when, in moving an amendment in that place, Senator Withers said:
The Senate is of the opinion and regrets that Her Majesty was not informed by the Government of the true position in Australia.
– There are some things on which I would have some agreement with the honourable member for Mcpherson (Mr Eric Robinson), particularly in his good wishes to the new Department of Tourism and Recreation. I hope that this Department can achieve so much that it was designed to do. He referred to it as a new Department-
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I direct your attention to the state of the House.
Mir DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mir Scholes)Ring the bells. (The bells having been rung.)
-Order! The honourable member for Wentworth will not leave the chamber.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I am well aware of the Standing Orders.
– The honourable member will remain within the seats. (Quorum formed.)
– I thank the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) for inviting honourable members to listen to a speech to which I think it is well worth listening. It is only right and fitting that in her opening remarks Her Majesty should refer to her personal concern and that of the Government and the people of Australia at the loss of life and property in the recent floods in Queensland and New South Wales. It is true that the cost of the floods is not yet known. I come from a district which has experienced 2 such floods in the last 6 months. Perhaps if the individual loss in that area is not so great, on a pro rata basis, as it was in Brisbane or in
Ipswich it is because people have got to know how to live with these floods and emergencies. They can be thankful to God that the floodwaters did not rise in the night time as they did when they caught unawares so many people in Brisbane, Ipswich and many other parts of the State. This time the people had an opportunity, in the daylight, to move from the areas affected by the floods. Nevertheless, considerable damage has been done although the actual cost has not been assessed. I think it is a fitting tribute that as the flood waters were rising on the Sunday night, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) sent the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) to make an assessment of the position in the danger areas of Ipswich and Brisbane. On the following Monday the Treasurer (Mr Crean) and the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) conferred with the Queensland Treasurer and the Premier and cams to an arrangement there and then about the terms and conditions on which relief would be made available. The other day the Treasurer stated the amount of money for which this Government and the people of Australia are committed. It has been an open cheque. The floods have been recognised as a national disaster.
If there is any bright side to this disaster, it is the spirit of co-operation of people keen to help each other. This disaster has brought out the best in people. Everyone who was not affected went to help those who were affected. I spoke to representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation in Brisbane on the following Monday. They told me that on the Saturday they had organised working parties to go out and assist members of their union who were affected by the floods. When they got there they found that some of the people were doing quite well on their own, so they went to the place next door or further down the street and helped those people. There was no question about who the people were, what their station in life was, whether they were garbage collectors or company directors. People worked alongside one another and were very thankful for the assistance they received.
– What about the people who were flooded out weeks before that?
– I hope that the same spirit of co-operation operated with them. I saw it in Maryborough in 1955, and if it does not exist in other areas I would be surprised. This disaster has brought out the best in people. It is only a pity that this spirit of goodwill could not last a little longer. Even the Premier of
Queensland acknowledged that this Government was most generous in its offers of assistance. He has personally, in my presence, acknowledged this fact. There has been cooperation between the 3 spheres of government, namely, the national Government, the State government - I cannot speak for New South Wales but I have first hand knowledge of what happened in Queensland - and the local authorities.
There has been some criticism of what happened at the time of the disaster and suggestions that people could have been better organised. An ex-member of this House described the civil defence organisation as being worse than Dad’s Army. Nevertheless, these people were all trying to do something to help and it needs some form of cooperation and co-ordination to see that the best value is obtained from that spirit and willingness to assist. Not only did the Government recognise that there was a need to assist the people affected by the flood, it recognised also a need to assist those people whose livelihood was affected by the flood because they were not able to obtain employment. I pay full tribute to the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden). Within a few days he announced that those people who had lost employment because of the flood would be paid a special benefit by his Department without any waiting time. Voluntary organisations, State government departments and the local mayoral funds have provided assistance. One will always hear cases - these are generally highlighted - of someone who has taken advantage of this assistance. I think this is always the way when people are ‘trying to help. But we cannot deny those who are in need of the benefit because we are suspicious or have reason to doubt.
I pay tribute to the Brisbane City Council. I saw something of its operation and the way in which it scrutinised the applications for assistance. It knew that in some areas people who were not affected by the flood had made claims for personal assistance. That section of the Brisbane City Council was probably in a better position to provide information than were the building inspectors who, I understand, worked within certain areas of the City of Greater Brisbane. The Queen indicated in her Speech that the Government was reviewing the whole national approach to the handling of natural disasters. I agree with my colleagues opposite that the national Government is the only government that can handle the type of insurance that is necessary to safeguard people against natural disasters such as cyclones, hurricanes or even times of drought.
The same people who in recent weeks have been advocating the setting up of a fund - a special tax in some cases - to make money available for immediate distribution as a form of insurance are the very same people who are opposed to a form of insurance against the greatest disaster that can affect any one of us, irrespective of who he is, what he is or how much personal wealth he controls. I refer to the loss of one’s health. It is amazing that people can see as the only answer to natural disasters a form of insurance controlled by the national government when in the field of health they do not recognise the need for a national scheme controlled by the national government. Those people were in government for 23 years and did not think such a scheme was necessary, but I hope that enlightenment is seeping through and that they now see the need for it. Perhaps they will in a very short time see the need for a national health insurance scheme.
In Her Speech the Queen made mention of the Government’s committal to the greatest possible measure of Australian ownership of the nation’s industries and resources and said that to this end it would proceed with its plans to expand the activities of the Australian Industry Development Corporation and to establish a national investment fund. The Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Act will be replaced. I think that national ownership was one of the things through which the Australian Labor Party gained much support in the 1972 election. People were amazed at the way in which foreign companies could come into Australia, take over and develop Australian resources, and leave a mere pittance for the Australian people. I believe we have the full backing of the people of Australia in this regard. Her Majesty referred to the importance of the creation of a new Ministry of Minerals and Energy and said that this had been confirmed by the events of 1973. What does this actually mean? People have seen from a national control of our resources, by speaking on a national scale to those countries to which we were selling our resources and which so often join together to deal individually with people in Australia to the detriment of Australians, that for the first time, because of the election of a Labor Government and the appointment of Mr Rex Connor as Minister for Minerals and Energy, that they are dealing with another set of people. Mr Connor was responsible for an overall adjustment of IS. 9 per cent in the price of iron ore sold to Japan. That would not have been obtained if we had not gone along as one voice. He organised the mining interests of Australia and he dealt with the people to whom they were selling.
In the latter part of last year we had an energy crisis due to circumstances beyond the control of anyone within Australia. However, as a result, Australia has been in a more favourable position than most comparable nations during this crisis. The Government is pushing ahead with the establishment of the National Pipeline Authority so that no advantage will be taken by individual companies, many of which are overseas owned, in the sale of fuel - particularly natural gas - to industries and individual users throughout Australia. I believe that this turn of events alone has justified the creation of the Ministry of Minerals and Energy. For many years we have talked about a national minerals policy, but we should speak with one voice in this respect. I pay full tribute to the Minister for Minerals and Energy in respect of what he has achieved to date and I look forward to further achievements in the time that he will be serving with this Government.
Her Majesty referred also to legislation being submitted to this Parliament to establish an export bank and to permit loans by the Commonwealth Development Bank for certain tourist development projects. As the honourable member for Mcpherson (Mr Eric Robinson) said, the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation would be assisting certain tourist development projects. In recent years there has been speculation in land. Someone said: You cannot lose from buying land because they are not making it any more’. I, and I am sure other honourable members - particularly those representing areas along the coastline - have known of rural or marginal farm areas being developed. I do not particularly decry the developers, but there has developed within Australia within recent years the speculator who takes an option on a farm or farmlet in these areas and then proceeds to flog it to a developer for what he can get. I speak particularly about Queensland because I know it well and I know the land prices there. Some of them are very cheap compared with land prices in the south. People speak of building allotments selling for $6,000 and $7,000. That seems to be very cheap indeed, but to the local people it is not cheap. They realise that all these fringe benefits, such as free trips by aeroplane to see the land, are part of the cost. Developers selling this land have paid some money in the development of subdivisions, in the provision of channelling, kerbing and the like.
I have known, and I am sure other honourable members in this House also know, people who have taken options on a place, in some cases for as low as $15 or $20, and then proceeded to flog it to a developer, making something like 200 or 300 per cent profit. You would not get better odds at the racecourse. I dare say you would not get those odds in Vernon’s football pool. These people add nothing for the community or towards the development of this country. All they do is to push up the price of land. In the previous Budget in some respects the Government acted to prevent this type of speculation by announcing the introduction of a law providing that, above a certain limit, rates on lands that were not income producing or on land that was not used for the actual residence of the owner could not be claimed as a tax deduction. The Treasurer also made it quite clear in the last Budget that any profit on land sold within 12 months of acquisition could be treated as income.
I believe that the measures taken by the Australian Government in its 15 months of office have been fruitful. It is true that we have not achieved everything we have set out to achieve, but I am indebted to the Minister for Social Security for pointing out that the recently announced increase in pensions will bring the Government half way towards its first term of office promise that it would bring pensions up to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. With the proposed increase pensions will be equal to 22.457 per cent of average weekly earnings for the December quarter 1973. The Minister pointed out also that that was much higher than was anticipated for the March quarter of 1974.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am sure that all Australians were pleased to welcome the Queen and Prince Philip, together with some of their family, to Australia and were particularly pleased that the Queen opened this session of the Parliament. We have heard a lot in recent times about what might be a change in Australian parliamentary and Australian Government procedures but I have yet to find a better system than that which we have at the moment, which is headed by the Queen of Australia. I sincerely believe that most Australians still think that way today.
There are a number of things- referred to in the Queen’s address to Parliament that I will mention but I want to refer first to some comments made earlier today by various honourable members. I have been listening to most of the proceedings during the course of the day and to this debate in particular. I think it was the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) who mentioned strikes. He indicated that there were less people on strike in the last 12 months than in the 12 months prior to that. Figures relating to strikes were quoted in this House last year on several occasions. I quoted them myself. It is quite obvious that the strike situation, which is very damaging to any economy, has deteriorated in the last 12 months. If the honourable member for Phillip really got around the country, perhaps particularly in Western Australia, he would find out what is going on and would ascertain that there are shortages in many areas. This makes it very difficult for production lines to be maintained.
– It is worse than during wartime.
– My colleague the honourable member for Fisher said that it is worse than in wartime and that is true. Recently I have been looking at this problem. Normally if one walks into a tyre repair shop in a country town, for instance, the racks are full of tyres. That has been the case in recent years. People have been busy servicing the great primary industries and other industries throughout our country. Now one can walk into such establishments and find that the racks are almost empty. Tractor tyres are almost impossible to obtain. The situation is getting very dangerous. More than strikes could be involved but throughout this country there is a drastic shortage of spare parts, tyres . and machinery generally, and that situation will not be rectified unless men work. The standard of living that we have enjoyed for so many years and the rate of building we have seen in this country will not be maintained unless men are prepared to work. That really is the whole basis of the economy, providing that it is handled correctly at the top. I doubt if it is being handled correctly and I will refer to that in a few moments.
Another comment to which I wish to refer was made earlier in the day by the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie). He said that farmers would be pleased because they would be able to plan ahead. I lost his train of thought. I could not quite follow him but that is what he said. At no time in our history have I known of greater uncertainty in industry - right across the board but especially on the part of farmers. At the time of the last Budget they were confused because of various amendments to the taxation scale. They did not expect them. In more recent times they have been confused even further by the removal of the superphosphate subsidy.
– Now they expect anything.
– They expect anything to happen, as my colleague from Victoria, the honourable member for Murray, suggests. The whole area is confused. For instance, prior to the last election promises were made about interest rates. It was promised quite openly at meetings held by Labor candidates which I attended that there would be a reduction in interest for farmers. Rates of 3 per cent or 3i per cent were mentioned. Today farmers are paying the highest interest rates they have ever paid in their lives. T fail to see how they can be sure of where they are going under this Administration. I have made those 2 comments about points made by previous speakers.
Even private members of Parliament are somewhat uncertain about what is happeneing. The public is uncertain about what the Government intends to do. I have been listening with intense interest since 2 December 1972 to what the Government has been saying but it is very difficult to follow. On 9 October 1973 - incidentally, that happened to be my birthday - I made a speech in this House in which I referred to proposals then being put forward by the Government about the gas pipeline. The Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) interjected while I was speaking. I had mentioned - I think some other honourable members had mentioned it also - that the Government would have been better advised to allow that project to proceed as it was to proceed instead of the Government taking it over. The Minister for Overseas Trade followed me in that debate on 9 October, referred to what I had said and said:
First of all, the Government has not spent any money on the pipeline so that could not have contributed much to the present inflation. So we would not have dealt with the inflation as it is by not spending money on the pipeline because we have not spent any on it
The Minister repeated himself. He said that on 9 October 1973. I did not think that my memory was quite as bad as that so I checked the matter out. I found that on 31 May 1973 the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) had said this in this House:
Five shipments of Japanese pipes, being of 34 inch diameter, have already arrived in Australia. Property in all pipes has been transferred to the Commonwealth and payment has been made by the Commonwealth on shipment.
I do not have the figure but I think the Government had spent about $20m-odd at that time, which was 31 May. On 24 May the same Minister, the Minister for Minerals and Energy, said this in a speech:
In fact we have taken delivery of the pipes progressively as they have come from Japan. We have paid for them. They are being stored in Commonwealth custody.
What chance have the industries of this country and members of this Parliament, or anybody else in this country, of knowing the real position when 2 senior ministers speak 5 months apart in this House, one saying that the Government has not spent any money and the other saying that it has spent millions? Obviously the Government had spent the money. It is the conflicting statements in relation to these things which is what is so confusing. I point out that the extracts I read are from Hansard.
Some honourable member suggests that I should get the Auditor-General to investigate this matter. That might be an interesting exercise because under the Constitution any moneys spent by a Government have to be spent as a result of a Bill being passed in this House. I doubt whether a Bill had been before us in May 1973 to enable us to pay for those particular pipes. It would be an interesting exercise. The point is that industry is confused, and why not? Industry leaders cannot find out what the Government means. The Government does not know itself. It is not as if the Minister for Overseas Trade is not a senior Minister. He is a senior Minister and we look upon him as a senior Minister. Although 5 months had elapsed, he did not know that the Minister for Minerals and
Energy was spending millions of dollars buying pipes. During the debate on the Pipeline Authority Bill a lot of statements were made about Australian ownership of industries and resources. Of course all in Australia would like to see as much as possible owned by Australians; that is automatic.
– Why do you not do something about it?
– If the honourable member for Chifley wants to interject I will accommodate him any day. This country has to be developed. Australia has not had in the past and will not have in the future the equity and the know-how to develop to the full the type of projects that need to be developed in this country. We have a fine team of chaps in the mining area and in the energy area today. This team has been built up over the years. We have a fine team throughout the primary industries which can do a magnificent job, but the type of money - I am sure this would not be known to the honourable members for Chifley - that is involved in the development of some of the projects in this country is tremendous. People are willing to come to Australia and do the work that needs to be done. It is interesting to note that only today the Prime Minister in this House referred to his encouragement of investment by Australians, in other countries of the world. That is fair enough I have no argument with it. Why is the Prime Minister encouraging investment in other countries such as the Philippines or anywhere else? If he thinks that it is bad for moneys to come to Australia and be invested to help us develop this country, why is it not also bad for moneys to go from this country to develop some other country? There has been a lot of criticism of this type of thing. If nations want to get together and get over the hurdles which have existed for so many years of not understanding one another, I can think of no better way than by assisting in the development of various countries around the world with the know-how, expertise and moneys which are available.
Some industries such as the off-shore oil exploration industry have been reasonably successful until recent times. If any member of this House or anybody else wants to make a study of the situation in that industry he will find that it is only through the resources and the experts around the world who have the knowledge to do what is in fact being done, that this industry has been developed. On the North-West Shelf in my own State drilling is being carried out in deeper waters than ever before. The techniques that are involved would not have been available in this country. They are techniques that are not available to any particular country. They are a combination of techniques. We find the north-west shelf project being jeopardised because of the actions of this Government. The project which has been successful up to date, is now able to go nowhere as far as delivery is concerned because it is unable to get a decision from this Government as to what the situation will be under legislation to be introduced, having in mind statements made by the Minister for Minerals and Energy. People responsible for projects in which hundreds of millions of dollars are involved want to know from the Government precisely what the ground rules are. The people involved in the north-west shelf project are in exactly that position. This applies not only to them but to many other people trying to develop Australia, trying to do a job of work to earn the real money to build this country. As I said before, there is only one place in this country to get it from and that is out of the ground. That is what those people are trying to do.
The Al West project in Western Australia has been held up because decisions have not been taken. I understand that some discussions have been going on this week in Canberra and perhaps in the last week or two. It is in relation to these sorts of projects that decisions have to be taken by governments. The Government presently requires 33 per cent of moneys coming into Australia to be deposited with Reserve Bank. That is the point at stake at the moment. As we see these things in Western Australia, where we have so many large projects, if the resources are not available from overseas we do not have the markets. I hope that the Government takes a decision on the Al west project very quickly. It has to do its research - I am not arguing about this - but Al west has been around for a long time and decisions could have been taken before today. Australian Iron and Steel Pty Ltd has indicated that it could be interested in building another major steel production plant at Kwinana in my electorate. This is another area in which the Government has to take a decision. I ask the Government what that decision will be. These are the questions being asked by industry, but industry is having great difficulty in getting answers. If the Government wants to see a country progress it has to have clear guidelines for industry, otherwise nobody will know where he is going.
Another industry for which we battled for years to get markets overseas is the beef industry. What do we see now? We fought to get into the American market. We got contracts with Japan. I heard something said today about long term contracts. People who speak about these things should look at what is going on. Beef exports are drastically grinding to a stop because of the actions taken by this Government over the last twelve or fourteen months or however long it has been in office. One of the major issues which we on this side of the House warned the Government about at the time was the 3 revaluations - two by design and one by default. The Government is pricing itself out of the markets, and beef is one of those commodities which is moving out. The costs within Australia have risen tremendously and that is another reason. Freights between here and overseas have also increased, in the main because of the oil crisis and other costs. Another reason is the export tax imposed by this Government. I have given 4 examples of the problemss associated with this industry. If you add them together you reach the stage - this was in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ tonight and has been in the Press before - that there is a slump of 60 per cent in overseas sales. These are the reasons. Is the Government going to look at the position or is it going to let the beef industry go under? If the Government thinks that by doing this sort of thing it will make cheaper meat available in Australia it is very much mistaken. One of the markets we gained over the years was the market for boneless beef. This was a by-product, in the main, from the dairy industry. It was also the northern meat that no one wanted. Australia did not want it and it was not saleable in many places in the world except in the form in which it was being sent to America. We will lose that market if the Government does not take note of the situation and do something about it. To a large extent the Americans have taken the Japanese market because of this situation, and therefore our chaps in Australia are being asked not to send any more meat or very little meat to that market at the moment.
I would like to mention a number of other things. I will have to skip some of them. In her address the Queen mentioned wool research. This is fine. I do not argue with this. One thing that worries me is that before the Australian Labor Party came to power it said it would do all sorts of things in relation to wool marketing if it came into power. I said very little during the first 12 months it was in office because I think a government needs a little time to find its feet. The Government is now in its second year of office and it is now time that it said what it will do. It has a report from the industry, and we want to hear something about what its intentions are. The wool industry is a great industry but it needs support by the Government in the form in which the previous Government gave it. I do not mean a subsidy. It has not had a subsidy. It is a matter of the industry having capital backing from the Government. All that has been borrowed over the years has been paid back by the industry. What the wool industry seeks is some backing and some understanding. It is another industry which requires understanding by the Government and by those in the industry itself.
On the subject of confidence in an industry, as I have mentioned, in the last Budget the Government altered sections 75 and 76 of the Income Tax Assessment Act. Those sections dealt with water and fodder conservation and other matters of that nature. Previously those who were developing properties in this country, especially in Western Australia, were able to write off in one financial year the amounts involved in the development. Now the normal tax scales are applicable to those people. This concession was not provided in the form of a subsidy. Honourable members must understand the whole situation in relation to the development of a country. If money is made available by those people who go out into these areas to develop that country, those people must have some sort of assistance. Taxation assistance of the type that I have just referred to fs the kind of assistance that they want.
Tonight, we have talked about national disasters. The assistance provided by the former taxation concession was an effort to assist farmers to help themselves by installing additional water and fodder storages. Now this assistance has been taken away. In the long run, the Government will be called on to meet the difference as a result of the catastrophes which may be in front of us. Over the years, we have seen the cycle of events.
Floods are occurring at the moment but the droughts of earlier years will be back. The removal of those sections of the Act will not help the situation one little bit nor will that action assist the development of this country, about which I have been talking tonight.
Country Party supporters - Hear, hear!
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I assume that the reason why Country Party members said ‘Hear, hear!’ is that the speech of the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) came to an end. The great difficulty experienced by the Opposition, after 23 years in government, in trying to get used to the change resulting from its loss of Government is obvious. (Quorum formed.) It is apparent that a member of the Country Party drew attention to the state of the House so that we would note that only 3 members of its partner in the coalition group, the Liberal Party, were in the House. Of course that was the reason why a quorum was not present in the House. If Opposition members would attend the chamber more often we would not have these sorts of problems.
– I rise to take a point of order. The honourable member for Chifley claims that only 3 members of the Liberal and Country Parties were present in the House. That is incorrect. Only 3 Government members were present in the House.
Mir SPEAKER-Order! I call the honourable member for Chifley.
Mir ARMITAGE - Thank you, Mr Speaker, I said the Liberal Party, not the Country Party. Evidently the Opposition was stung a little as I had commenced by saying that every one of us on this side, I know, can sympathise with the Opposition today. The Opposition is in a very difficult position indeed. It spent 23 years in government and now it cannot get used to being in Opposition. Opposition members still think they are in government. They cannot believe that the various methods by which they provided assistance to their friends are now being thrown out. In other words, the Opposition cannot get used to the winds of change. Members of the Opposition are still sticking to the old shibboleths of the past. They want to return to former practices. They do not realise that this is 1974 and that changes have occurred. It was a really delightful and wonderful experience for any person to sit in the Senate chamber last week and to hear Her Majesty outline an exciting program of innovations for the future development of this country. That program will overcome some of the inequities of the past. It comes after one of the most exciting years of government that Australia has ever seen. It is in fact the most exciting year of government that this country has ever seen. Accordingly, it is to be expected, I suppose, that the Country Party in particular, the most conservative organisation in Australia - I am reminded by a colleague that it is a reactionary party and that is quite the right description - is now joining with the Australian Democratic Labor Party, of all parties, and the National Civic Council. The Country Party is the most conservative party in this House and we must expect its members to squeal as they have been squealing here this evening. Of course there is change. There has to be change. The program announced by Her Majesty last week is one of the most exciting programs of innovation and reform that this country has ever known.
I should like to deal initially with a few proposals which have already been carried out. I think it is worth while mentioning some of these actions as it is so easy to forget the great works of the last 12 months. The relations of Australia with Asia have been immeasurably improved. Without a doubt the Prime Minister was the greatest Foreign Minister that this country has ever had. At the moment he is Acting Foreign Minister. Our relations with countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines have been restored to a position from which they should never have departed. We have very good relations today with the whole of Asia, even though the Opposition may not like that, and they are far better relations than those achieved by the Opposition when it was in power.
In particular, we now have very greatly improved relations with China, a country which was deliberately isolated from 1949 until last year. The former policies were policies of which any government should have been ashamed. In other words, extreme right wing attitudes were adopted by countries overseas. Instead of having the initiative and the courage to foresake those attitudes, as it should have done, the previous government just tagged along. I am glad to say that today we are in a position where our relations with China are vastly improved. That a quarter of the world’s population should have been utterly and completely isolated was crazy. That situation was not in the interests of future world peace. It could only lead to misunderstanding. Today our understanding of each other’s problems, each other’s ideologies and each other’s trade and country is starting to grow. If this can continue it means a far greater chance for peace, particularly in our sphere in Asia. For this reason alone, the work that the Prime Minister has done in this field should receive the acclaim of every Australian who has the interest of his country at heart and who does not simply want to tag along with the extreme movements which have existed in some other country. There has been a vast improvement in our trading relations, especially with Asia. This is something of which this Government may be justly proud.
I refer now to the area improvement program of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren). My electorate of Chifley in the outer western suburbs of Sydney has benefited greatly from the assistance provided under this program. On many occasions in this House I have referred to the dramatic development that has occurred in this region mainly from the activities of the Housing Commission. Time and again, however, I have referred to the provision of housing without the necessary improvement in facilities - in playing fields and rail facilities. I have mentioned the need for expenditure on roads because the developers of estates have not provided the necessary access to those estates. In the Budget announced last August $5m was allocated to the western suburbs of Sydney and a similiar amount to the western suburbs of Melbourne for a pilot project of area improvement where such improvement was needed. There was a vast need in those particular areas, as I well know.
The pilot project for the western areas of Sydney is to continue for 5 years. Already my area has received more than $lm of that $5m. The people and the local authorities of that area are grateful for the action of this Government and in particular to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. The expenditure of this money will remove comparatively quickly what can only be called the degrading conditions that existed under Liberal and Country Party governments in both
New South Wales and the Commonwealth. More importantly, this project is only a first step and I can foresee in the Budget next year similiar area improvement programs for a number of other parts of Australia. TBis is a pilot project - an experiment which is proving highly successful. Of course it is the first time in history that any federal government has taken the initiative to do something for local government. This fact should not be forgotten. This Government has achieved many firsts in a period of slightly more than 12 months. I ask honourable members to consider what has been done in the area of health. I instance the provision of community health centres, drug withdrawal facilities and necessary psychiatric facilities.
– That is good.
– Yes, the honourable member needs them. The Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) has provided various other facilities, including the means of treating alcoholism. This is the first time in history that an Australian government has moved into these fields. The Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) has not only moved into the field of road safety for the first time in history but has also provided for the State railway systems rollingstock as well as quadruplication of the line from Auburn to Penrith to try to remove some of the chaos that has existed there because of the inactivity of past conservative governments. These are a few of the projects which have been undertaken already. Of course we know of some of the proposals which are to come in future.
There will be legislation requiring the disclosures of political parties’ funds. All honourable members have heard squeals from the Opposition, particularly from the Country Party, about this proposed legislation. Did honourable members hear about the party for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) in Melbourne the other day? At that little party the Liberal Party collected almost a quarter of a million bucks. My golly, it must have been a pretty good sort of feed at that party.
– At $50 a head.
– Yes. Little envelopes that were opened after the guests left contained sums amounting to $250,000. In future when the proposed legislation is passed political parties will have to be registered.
– That will show them up.
– Yes. Political parties will have to disclose the source of their funds. Furthermore if any member receives a donation of more than $100 he will have to disclose its source. If he does not do so not only will he be subject to a severe penalty but it will entail the automatic forfeiture of his seat. Members of the Country Party had better watch out or the benches they now occupy will be vacant. I want now to deal particularly with some parts of Her Majesty’s Speech, particularly that part concerned with foreign ownership of Australian resources. She said:
My Government is committed to the greatest possible measure of Australian ownership of the nation’s industries and resources. To this end it will proceed with its plans to expand the Australian Industry Development Corporation and to establish a National Investment Fund. The Companies (Foreign Takeovers) Act will be replaced.
It will be given some teeth and will replace that extraordinarily toothless monster introduced by the previous Government simply for window dressing in the dying hours of the last Parliament. One of the purposes of the Australian Industry Development Corporation will be to start buying back Australia. This is an important proposal. Of course it attracts violent opposition from members opposite. Recently Sir Edward Dunlop, the Chairman of Directors of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company - I would not call him a young radical - resigned from the Board of the Bank of New South Wales because of what he called the bigoted political attitudes of other members of the Board who objected to his supporting the Labor Government’s proposal related to the Australian Industry Development Corporation. He does not regard the proposal as creeping socialism, as members opposite claim it is, but believes it essential in the interests of Australia. Sir Edward Dunlop resigned as a Director of the Bank or New South Wales, because as he said there were such politically bigoted people on the Board - people who support the Opposition at every possible opportunity. In her Speech Her Majesty also said:
My Government will also introduce legislation to fulfil its constitutional responsibilities with respect to banking, insurance and financial corporations. The Financial Corporations Bill will be reintroduced. There will ‘be legislation on new insurance companies and on the supervision -of insurance brokers.
In other words, some of the racketeers of the past will not enjoy as much leeway as they have had. I refer particularly to the proposed legislation to control what is called fringe banking and merchant banking. When the
Labor Government went out of office in 1949 approximately 80 per cent of the credit resources of this country came within the control of the Federal government. When the last Government went out of office the percentage had declined to below50 per cent. If a government is to have responsibility for the economic management of Australia it should have the necessary tools. The first tool must be that the Government shall be able to have some area of control over the credit resources of this country. We do not have it when 50 per cent of credit resources are outside the convential banking system.
Parliament House: Parking Facilities - Division Bells - Liberal Party of Australia - Electoral - Mail Services - Exchange of Information between Nations
– Order! It being half past 10 o’clock p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 7 March, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Tonight I wish to refer to 2 matters in the adjournment debate. The first of these is the lack of parking facilities for staff at Parliament House. I told the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant) that I intended to raise this matter tonight and I am glad to see him here. When I talk about the staff at Parliament House I am referring in particular to female staff. My secretary has been summonsed 11 times, each summons carrying a penalty of $4. She has received a final notice of $50. Another person, a member of the female staff on the Government side, has received 26 summonses, each carrying a penalty of $4, and a final notice of $50. Each of these girls has said that she would rather go to gaol than pay the fines. I am completely behind them in the stand that they have adopted.
There are 2 parking areas in close proximity to Parliament House but both of these are used by persons who are employed in East Block and West Block. The people who are employed in those areas begin work at 8.30 in the morning whereas the staff at Parliament House begin work at 9 o’clock. By the time they arrive here most of the area available, if not all of it, has been taken. The only other area available is Camp Hill. There are 2 ordi nances which, if they were enforced, make parking on Camp Hill illegal. Fortunately, these ordinances have not been enforced. To the credit of the Minister, I want to say that when I drew his attention to this matter he told me that he would consider it favourably.
I am concerned about what will happen in the future. Let us take the area of Camp Hill. Not only is it illegal to park there but also the area has a rough surface, it is not well paved, it is mainly unlit, there is a hedge which hides part of this area from the road, and quite a number of thefts have taken place in this area. I know that one employee of this House lost 4 wheels of his car. I am told that in recent months somebody else got into his car, started it, tried to drive it away and found that he could not. When he got out of it to inspect he found that the car hadbeen jacked up and that the 2 rear wheels had been taken. There have been other thefts of headlights, hub caps and petrol caps.
Last year I placed on notice a question which I addressed to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (MrUren). In answer to me he advised that members of staff should make use of Commonwealth cars. He also said that they could use public transport. The point is that after 11 p.m. the public transport is not the best in this Territory anyway and for some of the outlying areas in which these girls reside public transport is practically non-existent after midnight. Cars will be and are provided for staff who want to go home at late hours of the night but they are not provided to bring people to work in the morning. If a person happens to live in Queanbeyan or in areas like that he has to drive himself to work. What is the good of going home in a government car or taxi if he has left his car behind here and has to get to work the next morning? So these people have to drive their cars home.
If they did make use of Commonwealth cars this would place an even greater strain on the car pool which is already overstrained at peak hours. Honourable members themselves know that at times it is very difficult to obtain a Commonwealth car at the right time. I want to make it quite clear that if my daughter were employed in Parliament House I would not want her to have to go to her car between 11 p.m. and midnight if it were parked up on Camp Hill. I have given the reasons for this. The Government should not wait until one of thesegirls is molested before taking some action. I believe it is crazy that we provide parking areas, even though they are limited parking areas, for visitors to this Parliament. Some of them will be paying only one visit to Canberra and to Parliament House in their lifetime but we provide parking areas for them and we neglect the staff who work in Parliament House. I do not believe that the problem is insurmountable. When new buildings are built car parking space is provided. I think it is fairly generally accepted that this Parliament House building will have to suffice for another 10 years.
– I hope not.
– Well, a minimum of 10 years. Even if they said the word ‘go’ tomorrow for a new parliament house the opinion is that it would be 8 to 10 years before that building would be ready for occupation. We ought to be providing parking space in proximity to Parliament House for the staff who work here now. We should not have to wait another 10 years. I am referring particularly to female staff. I do not want to have to wait until someone is molested before the Government does something about it. I presented a petition to the House this morning. I know that the Minister is sympathetic. I hope that he will give earnest consideration to this matter to see what can be done.
The second matter to which I refer concerns the ringing of the bells of this House. I refer to the incident yesterday when the Government failed to obtain an absolute majority because the bells rang for only 1 minute and 26 seconds instead of for 2 minutes. I am satisfied that they rang for only that time because I listened to the tape myself. I put a stop watch on it. They rang for only 1 minute and 26 seconds. I want to make it quite clear that in what I am saying tonight I am not reflecting on you, Mr Speaker. I am not reflecting on the Clerks. I am not reflecting on Hansard. No reflection on anybody is intended. This is something that happened. I remember that 2 or 3 years ago when we were in Government we were counted out on one occasion because we failed to make a quorum within the 2 minutes allowed. I believe that 2 minutes is not long enough. I know that quite a number of honourable members find it difficult to reach the chamber within 2 minutes. I believe it is possible that on the occasion when we were counted out there was a malfunction. It is hard to explain but it could have happened.
Mr Speaker, I want you to carry out a further investigation so that the same thing does not happen again. You told the House yesterday, Sir, that after the investigation had been carried out the sandglass had been found to be operating correctly. There is no way in the world in which the sand could run through faster or slower than the normal 2 minutes. You made it quite clear on 2 occasions that you were not listening to the bells but were watching the sand. Theoretically, what should happen is that when Mr Speaker says Ring the bells’ the sandglass is turned, and when the sand has run out Mr Speaker says Lock the doors’. This is what should happen. I do not know what went wrong and I do not want to reflect on anybody or make any accusations. All I am asking is that, for the future working of this House - it does not matter whether it affects the present Government or the present Opposition - you, Mr Speaker, make a further investigation so that the same thing does not happen again.
-I would like to take just a few minutes to raise 2 matters. On 5 October 1973 in the ‘Australian’ there appeared an advertisement in the form of an open letter. It was headed: Open Letter To: John Gorton Esq., Former Prime Minister of Australia’. It said:
Your straight and forceful statement on ‘Federal File’ last Sunday deserves great appreciation of Australians who believe in the security, democratic institutions, free enterprise and respect of traditional ties- at the same time OBJECT to all the naked socialist and more and more communist-dictated TAKEOVER of this Country.
It was signed ‘G. S. Summers, 24 Sutherland Crescent, Darling Point’.
The next time we hear of Mr G. S. Summers is in the ‘Bulletin’ of 26 January 1974. The article refers to the fact that Mr George Summers, his wife Vera and his 2 teenage daughters spent the Christmas-New Year holidays with his in-laws in the provincial city of Hatvar, 60 miles north-east of Budapest in Hungary. However, in between those 2 occasions we now know that he floated a company called Vale Corporation Ltd and used part of the $600,000 which he obtained from Vale Corporation and which it is alleged did not belong to him, to publish the advertisement on behalf of the Liberal Party. Another person has been charged but it is alleged that he is being looked for, so I will not comment further on this question. But I should just like to point out to the House the sort of people who are signing and paying for advertisements on- behalf of the Liberal Party.
– No, this was Summers. He was on the list to get a knighthood from the previous Government but with the change in government he did not receive his knighthood.
During the second part of last year, as honourable members may recall, I was in New York attending the United Nations as one of the parliamentary observers. The State elections in New South Wales were held during that time. I applied for a vote in the State elections, as did my wife. We applied on the very first day h was possible to apply. However, we received our ballot papers one day too late. In addition, the ballot papers we received were for an electorate in which we were not enrolled and enclosed with the ballot papers were envelopes designed to contain ballot papers for the State electorate of Parramatta to be returned to the New South Wales State Returning Officer for the State electoral district of Phillip, Grosvenor Street. Sydney. So they made quite sure that we would not be able to vote in the State elections. Firstly, they sent the papers too late; secondly, they sent us ballot papers for an electorate in which we were not entitled to vote and, thirdly, they sent envelopes directing that the ballot papers be returned to an electorate which had no connection either with the electorate in which we were enrolled or the electorate for which we received ballot papers.
I complained about this matter and I received a reply last week which stated that the electoral office in New South Wales at the time of the elections was not aware of the rolls for the new re-distribution which was carried out by the Premier of New South Wale’s, as honourable members may recall, just before the last State elections to make sure that he would be returned again. This is quite fantastic inefficiency on the part of the electoral office of New South Wales. It is no wonder that there is now a case before the Court of Disputed Returns on the question of Coogee where a Labor candidate was allegdly defeated by 8 votes. If the postal vote applications in other electoral districts were dealt with in the same fashion as my own postal vote application it is not surprising.
– Did you get fined for not voting?
– No, I have not been fined for not voting but I expect to get a letter from the Electoral Office in due course. I have raised these 2 points on the adjournment debate. I will not speak any longer because I know that there are Ministers trying to reply to some matters which have been raised.
– I wish to address the House in relation to a most important and pressing matter concerning my electorate and a number of other electorates in the Sydney area. The problem concerns the strike or the black ban imposed by mail sorters at the Sydney Mail Exchange. The black ban is one that has banned the Parramatta Post Office and the post offices at Strathfield, Potts Point, Arncliffe, Annandale, Leichhardt and a regional centre at Artarmon from receiving mail sorted at the Sydney Mail Exchange. To date, this black ban has continued for some 5 days. I understand that mail is not being collected at all from the Parramatta Post Office and that to date some 150 bags of mail have accumulated in that Post Office. This is causing considerable dislocation in the major commercial area of Parramatta about which we hear so much in this place. It is creating problems in the areas of banking and pensions, and even in my own electoral office I have not received mail for some 5 days.
– Did you receive your cheque?
– No, I do not bank in Parramatta at the moment but I assume the cheque did arrive at my city bank. I might say that apparently this is not a demarcation dispute as it appears that the matter is within one particular union and it does appear to be a union black ban designed to eliminate efficiencies that have already been created in the Post Office. This action by certain vested interests within the Sydney Mail Exchange is designed to entrench the position of the employees of this particular union in the Sydney Mail Exchange.
I think it is worth saying that the Parramatta Post Office has sorted mail for a considerable period of time. In fact, I understand that that Post Office has sorted mail locally ever since the Post Office was built. But some 7 months ago that Post Office was created as a community mail sorting Post Office as part of a network that was established throughout the Sydney metropolitan region and I am informed that is was thought that the regional areas or the community mail post offices in the western area and other areas would fail in their mail sorting activities during the Christmas period when the load would be exceedingly heavy and that we would revert to the system which existed prior to that. Apparently during the Christmas period the mail was very effectively distributed and this caused an efficient distribution of mail throughout Sydney.
Certain allegations have been made by the unionists involved at the Sydney Mail Exchange which concerned, firstly, a complaint that the work practices in the banned zone were not up to the normal post office standards. That allegation was made a week ago. More recently it has been reported that the representatives of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union have suggested that their members at the suburban centres were doing work and taking in work that they were not qualified to do. In relation to the first allegation, that the post offices within the banned zone were not conforming to the normal standards, I would be somewhat surprised to find that this was true because the post office facilities, particularly in Parramatta, are of a very high standard and there appears to be an excellent relationship within the staff which has caused the very efficient handling of mail. Also, the facilities themselves were initially approved by the union.
In relation to the second allegation which concerns the qualifications of the staff, it is worth noting that at Parramatta, 2 post officers are of a grade 4 standard and have a total of S3 years experience in sorting mail. Nine other post officers who sort mail at Parramatta are of a grade 4 standard and have had a total of 81 years experience in sorting mail. There are only 2 other officers who participate in the sorting activities. One is a trainee and I am informed that the other is ready to sit for the barrier examination which all the others have already fulfilled. It appears that the people at Parramatta and the people in these other 6 areas are being used as a tool by the unionists at the Sydney Mail Exchange to bring about, a less efficient system, to break a system that is working efficiently and which has worked successfully for some 7 months. I think this is a very serious matter. It is only in the last 2 weeks that the union officers concerned have complained about this. It seems to me that there is a need for the Government to intervene strongly in this area to get the mails moving in areas such as Parramatta and the other areas that I mentioned and to ensure that people are not put to such dislocation as has occurred as a result of these particular events simply because the unions object to a more efficient system of working within the Post Office.
– I know that my ministerial colleague, the Minister ‘for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant) wants to reply to another matter, but I will take only a few minutes. I want to thank the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) for paying me the courtesy of indicating that he would raise this matter this evening. It is true that there are problems in the mail exchange because of what are called area mail centres which were established about 7 months ago. Parramatta was one of those centres. These centres have all been very successful. The whole idea of the centre was to keep the mail circulating within the district and to obviate the need for it to go to a central concept which we have said here many time is not necessarily a good one. The Parramatta centre has been clearing a half a million articles a week. I am able to say that the staff at Parramatta are qualified staff.
The real issue seems to be this - there is no point in pulling any punches: The overtime position could be affected at the Redfern Mail Exchange because an insufficient number of articles are going through that exchange. Because of the loss of overtime there has been a suggestion that a black ban should be imposed on area mail centres. This ban was imposed a few days ago at a stop work meeting which I was advised would be held. I suggested that if the employees went back to work I would be happy to hear any submissions that they wish to make. They decided not to go back to work and they are due to see me at 12 o’clock tomorrow. I am not confident that I will be able to solve this dispute because it has the wide ramifications that were mentioned by the honourable member. We are faced with the problem of trying to dismantle a concept which has always been perhaps a bottleneck. In my view area mail centres have a very worthwhile function to perform and they should remain because they are in the interests of the people. Their staffs belong to the same union.
I am not at all certain that the union itself will be able to solve the problem. The position is that if industrial trouble occurs in a large central position a large number of people are affected. I -was particularly distressed to learn this evening that perhaps 400 people are under dismissal because of the failure by the postal employees not to handle any mail. I intend to put the issue pretty strongly to the delegates when I meet them tomorrow. They are delegates who I am quite happy to see at any time. There has never been any lack of consultation. As a matter of fact, I see these people nearly every Friday and they always have something to tell me. On this occasion, though, I will be able to tell them that I want them to return to work on the basis that any matters they feel cannot be dealt with on an industrial basis should be dealt with through their union, or through the union and myself together if that is how they like it.
But the issue is clear cut. There is no suggestion of untrained staff being used. There are no problems in that regard at the area mail exchanges. The real issue is this: The amount of mail handled at the Redfern Mail Exchange has caused an overtime reduction at that complex. I think that is the real cause of the problem. I will undertake to let the honourable member know as early as I can next week the results of tomorrow’s conference.
– The honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) was courteous enough to advise me that he would raise this terribly tangled problem of parking around Parliament House. It is true that people have been receiving parking tickets. The situation is that the ordinances are, of course, my responsibility. Howeverr, the actual parking control is in the hands of officers of this Parliament, who in other words act as agents for the Department of the Capital Territory in that regard. I am going to do several things. I am going to check to see whether I will be inside my rights under the relevant ordinance to have an amnesty on those people who have received parking tickets. I am going to see if it is possible to do something about the Camp Hill site. Specifically, I will see whether it is possible to put lighting on it because it seems to me that for the time being we are certainly going to need extra parking space.
One of the problems about the illegality of parking on Camp Hill of course is the vexed ordinance - the Trespass on Commonwealth Lands Ordinance, or a title to that effect - which we tried to repeal last year but which the senatorial colleagues of honourable members of the Opposition prevented us from doing. However, I am sure that we can provide a parking place on that site. We will have to resolve this matter at a conference between the various authorities in this Parliament which handle the parking. The procedures concerning parking have been complicated because the House of Representatives handles parking on the House of Representatives side of Parliament House, the Senate handles parking on the Senate side and the Joint House Department handles parking in the front of the building. I will get them together to see whether we can achieve some rationale. I hope that by a proper approach to the various organs in this place we might be able to do something about public transport or the suggestion about using Commonwealth cars. There is no doubt that as a result of the eccentric hours which we work and the demands which we make on people it needs a special exertion on our part to make life here and transport to and from this place comfortable.
– In the few minutes that remain to me tonight I would like to draw the attention of the House to a matter which may seem academic but which I believe to be most serious - perhaps one of the most serious matters that affect us and the peoples of what we call the western civilisation. Talks have been taking place in both Helsinki and Geneva between Russia and the European nations including Great Britain. These talks were directed towards securing a greater freedom of interchange of information among their peoples. The position is now quite clear. We as a free nation give to communist propagandists among us freedom to write and say what they will; they are not subject to any arbitrary laws or censorship. But in Russia it is quite different. There Mr Solzhenitsyn and other people find themselves amenable to quite drastic penalties because they have written something which offends the Soviet Union; in fact, they have engaged in what is known as anti-communist propaganda. The balance has got to be held evenly; surely this is of the essence of the thing.
These talks at Helsinki and Geneva broke down utterly because the communist countries refused to give to the west, if I may use Chat shorthand phrase, any access to their people. The world, as you, Mr Speaker, know, is in a dilemma. Owing to the development of new weapons, nuclear or otherwise, either side can entirely destroy the other and neither can protect itself against the other. It is a truism that none of us want humanity to be destroyed. However, this tension exists and, sooner or later, if it is maintained, the unexpected spark will be struck and disaster will follow. The only way we have of removing this tension is by bringing about a change, on one side or the other, in popular thinking. Which side is it to be? We leave our people open to communist propaganda, and that would be a good thing provided there was some fairness and reciprocity. But inside the communist orbit there is no such freedom. We are not allowed to approach their people; we cannot try to make them see the freedoms and advantages of our system. We see fashioned there a totalitarian weapon, a kind of super Hitler, which threatens the peace of the world, and unless some fairness and reciprocity can be achieved I do not know what will happen. We must bring these systems together by inducing a change in the people, whether it be the people of the Soviet orbit or the people of the west.
A Mr Sakharov, a Russian scientist who is close to the centre of things and who has, in fact, been concerned with the production of nuclear weapons-
- Mr Speaker, you would regret as much as I do that this debate must be interrupted. I hope to continue it at a later stage.
– Order! It being 11 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Tuesday next at 11 a.m. or such later time as Mr Speaker takes the Chair.
House adjourned al 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 March 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19740307_reps_28_hor88/>.