28th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme. That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Snedden, Mr Drury, Mr Giles, Mr McLeay and MrWilson.
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 Graham, Mr Olley, Mr Ruddock and Mr Turner.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House ofRepresentatives 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 fromParliament 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 Connor.
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 status of the post office at Pemberton, Western Australia, is being down-graded.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the status of the post office at Pemberton, Western Australia, is not down-graded.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by MrDrummond.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives.
The petition of citizens of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory respectfully showeth that we seek to protect the natural environment of Jervis Bay.
We consider the construction of steel works or any other heavy industry requiring Tide Water Location to be the most immediate and serious threat to the natural values of Jervis Bay.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Honourable House will reject the Armco proposals or any other as stated above.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Kerin.
Australian Government Land at Wooloomooloo
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament Assembled:
The petition of the citizens of the City of Sydney respectfully showeth:
On the occasion of the first Wooloomooloo Spring Festival the residents of the City of Sydney humbly pray that your honourable House will immediately openly and willingly declare that the land that the Australian Government owns in Wooloomooloo will be used for the re-housing of the present and past residents of Wooloomooloo and that, the Parliament will work to ensure the co-operation of other landholders in the area, whether private or governmental in a co-ordinated reconstruction of stabilized human environment integrating all persons involved and allowing effective participation at all levels, so that the name Wooloomooloo will regain the pride of place that it so justly deserves.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Riordan.
To the Honourable, the Speaker, and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will move to immediately revoke all whaling licenses issued by the Australian Government and to reimpose a total ban on the importation of all whale produce.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Wilson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully shews:
Further, they believe that this economic support should be in the form of per capita grants directly related to the cost of educating an Australian child in a government school.
Your petitioners therefore ask that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should acknowledge the right of every Australian child to equal per capita grants of government money spent on education, and so instruct the proposed National Schools Commission.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Turner.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Is the honourable gentleman aware that at the current rate of inflation, generally accepted as about 13 per cent, in less than 6 years $100 will lose half its purchasing power, and $1 will be worth two bob in 14 years? Is he aware that this is so? Is he aware that at the rate of 20 per cent - does he see anything to prevent its rising to 20 per cent, say, by next Christmas - that in 4 years $100 would be worth half its present purchasing power, and $1 would be worth two bob in the space of 9 years? Is he aware of these facts?
– Order! Would the honourable gentleman put his question?
– Yes, Mr Speaker. That is the very purpose of this brief introduction. This being so, is the honourable gentleman surprised that fear is gripping at the hearts of retired people and those about to retire?
-Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to put his question.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is the deliberate purpose and policy of this Government to liquidate the thrifty middle class.
– I am as concerned as anybody else, including the honourable gentleman, about the problems of inflation. I do not think it is any solution of the problem to tell horror stories about it. I say here, as I have said on other occasions, that I am not making any forecasts as to what the rate of inflation will be in the next quarter, the quarter after that or at the end of the year, for that matter. I simply say to honourable gentlemen on that side of the House in particular that inflation is no new thing so far as the Australian scene is concerned.
– The present rate of inflation is.
-Order! Interjections will cease. The question has been asked.
– The present rate of inflation is lower than the rate which prevailed when the then Government, whose members were drawn from Parties which form the present Opposition, first took office in 1950-51. I simply ask honourable members opposite to recall that sort of circumstance.
On the other hand, any attempt that has been made from this side of the House to grapple systematically with the problem has been resisted by honourable members on that side of the House. That includes the recent prices referendum. I guess that we will have endless questions of the sort that the honourable gentleman has just propounded. I say, in the hope that at least there might be some sensible debate on this matter and not cheap scoring against each other, that unless we can get employer and employee groups together in trustful co-operation on this problem it will haunt us for a long time to come.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. Is it the Government’s policy to establish an Australian Government insurance office to underwrite both life and general insurance? In view of the many fields in which the Australian Government has insurance undertakings, such as the Export Payments Insurance Corporation, the Housing Loans Insurance Corporations and the Defence Service homes insurance scheme, which were in the main created by professedly non-socialist Liberal-Country Party Governments, does the Minister agree that there is an urgent need to rationalise these undertakings? Finally, will the Minister take immediate steps to bring these undertakings within the control of a single authority?
– I think there is an urgent need to rationalise insurance operations in Australia and I hope that in the 12 months or so that I have had some determination in the matter some improvement has been made. As the honourable gentleman is aware, at the moment a committee which is known as the Woodhouse Committee is in operation. I think it is dealing with a national rehabilitation and compensation insurance scheme. I hope that committee will present a report very shortly and when that report is presented, the Government will be prepared to look at the whole field of insurance, including the setting up of an Australian Government insurance office.
– In the interests of open government, will the Minister for Minerals and Energy table in the House the report of an assistant director of the Bureau of Mineral Resources which shows that only 35 per cent of the Australian mining and minerals processing industry is owned overseas? Why does the Minister refuse to use this figure, which has been so accurately prepared by the experts of his Department? Does it not paint a gloomy enough picture? Will the Minister see that both he and the Prime Minister in future use the correct figure and not a manufactured one.
– The honourable member might have saved himself a lot of embarrassment by addressing that question to me prior to the sitting of the House. In point of fact, the report referred to was first sought by his Government. He should be well aware of its contents. It is based upon a percentage calculated not merely on production but also on mineral processing. Mr Noakes, who was responsible for the report, will be shown, when I produce it and table it in this House, to have agreed that probably the ownership and control overseas of Australian assets is in excess of the 62 per cent that was quoted.
– Is the Minister for Minerals and Energy aware of claims by the Leader of the Country Party that the price of domestic crude oil should be increased? Has the Government any intention of heeding this advice which would seriously increase costs for the whole community?
– With the exception of Canada, Australia happens to be the only country in which a person can drive to a bowser and get a fill of either motor spirit or distillate. It so happens that the commercial contract - a very positive one - entered into by the former Government provided for a price which was excessive. It was far in excess of the price that was fixed for Australian indigenous crude and far in excess of the world parity. Events have changed that situation. We expect and believe that the producers of such oil will adhere to the contract. I have no reason to doubt that they will. I remind honourable members of the recent report released by Mr McNeill on behalf of Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd indicating that profits - profits, I stress - from oil production of BHP increased by 43 per cent. Is it suggested that they should be further increased?
– The Prime Minister will be aware of the very serious flood situation on the north coast of New South Wales where river levels have reached record heights. He will also be aware that cyclone Zoe is approaching the area raising fears of further disaster than that which has already occurred. Will the Prime Minister give his assurance that the Government will provide whatever assistance is sought by the State emergency services and that financial relief will be provided on the same basis as has applied to other recent floods?
– I hasten to give the right honourable gentleman the assurance he seeks. He was in touch with me over the weekend. I should like to add the sympathy of the Government to the men, women and families in his electorate, particularly in such large cities as Lismore and Murwillumbah, who have now been stricken as were so many people further north a month and two months ago. I have teen in touch with the Premiers of New South Wales and Queensland on this matter. It might help if I read the text of the telegram 1 sent them. It states:
For the purposes of the provision of financial assistance to your Government for relief and restoration measures the Australian Government is prepared to regard this further flooding as an extension of the flooding which occurred earlier in the year. Expenditure on extension to those affected by the renewed flooding of relief and restoration measures agreed between our Governments in respect of the flooding earlier this year will thus qualify for reimbursement by the Australian Government in the same way.
– Has the Minister for Transport seen a statement reported in today’s Age’ attributed to the Victorian Minister for Transport, Mr Meagher, concerning low cost road safety improvements? Is it true, as Mr Meagher claims, that there was delay in approving the grant caused by ‘bureaucrats in Canberra with an inordinate lust for power’? What is this Government’s program for road safety? Can Mr Meagher’s statement be substantiated?
– I was astounded this morning when I read a Melbourne newspaper to find that Mr Meagher was critical of our decision to make available to Victoria $840,000 for low cost improvements to roads that have a bad safety record. I wish this gentleman would check his facts with his Department before he races into print. He says that the Victorian Government put its proposition to us some 12 months ago. I would like to make the record clear. On 14 May last year I informed the States that the Australian Government was to make money available for low cost traffic improvement programs and sought their co-operation. The initial discussion held with Victoria in June last year outlined just what the survey was all about. I requested information on projects on 16 July and asked that it be forwarded to my Department within 3 weeks. May I emphasise that: I asked for the information on 16 July and gave the Victorian Government a timetable of 3 weeks to furnish the information.
All States with the exception of Victoria provided the information by midAugust. The result was that programs for all States except Victoria were approved in December last year. Victoria submitted information on its project on 11 October. Victoria wa.s asked for it on 16 July and given 3 weeks to submit it. We received it on 11 October. Discussions were then held with the Victorian officers on 22 November and the final program was submitted to us by the Victorian Government on 14 February and I approved it on 10 March. Details were released to the Press in Victoria on Sunday. The Minister for Transport in the Victorian Government talks about delays, but the facts I have outlined clearly establish that the most dilatory State in the Commonwealth in supply ing information is Mr Meagher’s own Govern ment. These facts are indisputable. I would bt pleased to hear what Mr Meagher has to say about the matter now. We had the same problem with Victoria when we made an offer to upgrade public transport. Victoria was nol going to accept it. All I can say to the Victorian Government is that if it does not want the $840,000 let it say so and we will reallocate it to the other States.
– I address my question to the Minister for Labour. In doing so I welcome the Minister’s statement that the criteria for payment of unemployment benefits are to be reviewed. I ask the Minister to consider in the review the present anomaly brought about by the payment of adult unemployment benefit to 16 to 18 year olds whereby a 16 year old girl receiving unemployment benefit in many cases is paid more than if she were an apprentice. Will either the benefit be reduced to juniors or the payments to apprentices increased so that a genuine incentive will be created for young people to work and to enter apprenticeships?
-I call the Minister for Social Security.
– I think it would be more appropriate if I answered the question because it relates to rates of benefits which are paid. The fact is that an anomaly already existed when we came into office in that people over 16 years of age who received an invalid pension were entitled to receive the adult rate. If they were living away from home they received supplementary assistance too if they were paying rent. However a young person living away from home who became unemployed went on to a particularly low rate of unemployment benefit without the right to supplementary assistance. This created grave distress. Frankly, $23 a week or $26 a week in terms of average earnings is not much money. It is not much money for a young person to live on in the major centres especially. Rather than it being a reflection on the rate of unemployment benefit in the way in which the honourable gentleman suggests, I think it is a reflection on the rates of payments which are made to young apprentices and young people generally. That is another area to be rectified.
I noted in the newspapers - I have not had a chance to talk personally with the Minister for Labour to get his comments - an article about tightening up on any slackers in relation to unemployment benefits. Of course we have consistently taken an attitude that people will not be allowed to abuse the system of unemployment benefits. A standing committee has been working on various aspects of the way in which unemployment benefits are administered. The situation has been under continuing review. What I would like to point out to the House, so that we keep the whole picture in some sort of balanced perspective, is that figures which I received this morning from my Department in regard to people who have been in receipt of unemployment benefit for months or more show than 62 per cent of these people are 25 years of age or older and that nearly 40 per cent of them are 45 years of age or older.
I would suspect, in the absence of a proper profile in depth survey of the nature of unemployment benefit recipients, that these, are the people who have become the casualties of structural unemployment in our society. When the Henderson report on unemployment is released it will show, for instance, that the highest proportion of poverty in the relative sense in this community exists in rural areas. When one takes these 2 things together - .the consistently high readings for unemployment figures and the low job opportunity rates in rural areas and the reverse situation in metropolitan areas - one appreciates the wisdom of the proposals put forward by the Minister for Labour for meaningful practicable retraining programs which can be applied in this community.
It is rather strange that in 23 years of opportunities as a government to do something for people who became structurally unemployed in rural areas, the Australian Country Party did nothing effective. The high level of poverty existing in rural areas and the disproportionate representation of structurally unemployed in those areas comes as a direct result of the neglect of years of Liberal-Country Party administration. It has been the Minister for Labour who has taken the first positive steps to do something that can help these people to be retrained and to be re-established in other parts of the community. He is to be commended.
– The Minister for Defence will have noted that Admiral Peek, who recently retired as Chief of the Naval Staff, has even more recently criticised the Government’s strategic assessment, particularly the assessment that there is little threat to Australia for the next 10 to 15 years. My question is: Where was Admiral Peek when this assessment was made? Was the assessment made against the Admiral’s opposition?
– I have pointed out to the House before that the strategic basis document was compiled by the Defence Committee. Its membership embraced the Secretary of the Department of Defence, the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, the Chief of the Naval Staff, the Chief of the General Staff, the Chief of the Air Staff, the Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department, the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs. So the honourable member will appreciate that this was a wide ranging committee which comprised not only the top members of the defence forces but indeed the secretaries of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of the Treasury and the Prime Minister’s Department as well.
– Was the Admiral a member of that Committee?
– A co-author of the report, of course, was Sir Richard Peek who had a long and distinguished career in the Navy. He was a co-author of and a signatory to the report. I received no dissenting comment to the report from Sir Richard Peek.
– Does the Prime Minister adhere to the view that in all circumstances recurrent payments to independent schools should be on the basis of relative need?
– Can the Minister for Immigration say whether it is true that the Australian Council of Trade Unions has banned overseas trade testing of migrants, particularly from Asian countries? If so, will the Minister state on what grounds the refusal was made?
– It is not true, as far as I know, that any such ban has ever been proposed or discussed. Over the years we have had the co-operation of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in trade criteria testing. There could have been some confusion about a specific mission for a very modest project involving 35 Filipinos which I understand has been dealt with by my colleague the Minister for Labour. Over the years there have been some gaps in the establishment of trade criteria for immigrants. In fact only 17 countries have been assessed adequately by professional trade union and employer missions. It was only in 1968-69 that the Tregillis mission was able to extend the testing of trade criteria to the 17 countries to which I have referred because previously it was almost exclusively a matter of recognising United Kingdom qualifications in professional and trade spheres. I might add that the 17 countries are all in Europe. All other sources - North and South America; the Middle East, including Lebanon; and other parts of Europe - have not yet been covered. As yet no trade and professional criteria have been established in Asia, especially in countries like India. I hope that in the future there will be a further mission along the lines of the Tregillis mission which will remedy the gaps in recognition of trade criteria in many countries. Certainly I am hopeful of the continued cooperation of the trade union and professional organisations and the employers which we have received in the past. I have heard nothing of bans. I think they would be most unlikely.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Is it not a fact that the Treasurer has said frequently that there is no magic about a day in August for economic management? If he believes that, why must the people of Australia wait until August for tax relief? Does he not realise that during the next 5 months the proportion of tax they will pay will climb and that the amount of money taken from them and put into Consolidated Revenue will injure their living standards? Why will the Treasurer not take action immediately to reduce income tax rates?
– I think that on about 10 separate occasions I have been asked this question, with slight variations, by the gentleman who was formerly the Treasurer. I will repeat, if he likes, what he began by saying: I do not think that there should be so much magic about Budget night. On the other hand, as he knows, some considerable difficulties are faced in changing income tax rates in the middle of a financial year.
– It has been done.
– It has been done very rarely - mainly to put it up on a flat rate basis, which honourable members opposite regarded as justice in the past. As I have said on more than one occasion, inflation persists in Australia at varying rates. It has never been below an average of about 2½ per cent in the whole history of Australia. I direct the attention of the honourable gentleman who asked me a question a while ago to an article which Professor Downing wrote in the ‘Australian Economic Review’. It shows that we have had inflation in Australia ever since Federation. What is alarming is when the rate exceeds what is thought to be tolerable.
– What is that, in your view?
– Sometimes when one looks at the rates to which it has gone it is pretty difficult to know what is the intolerable level of inflation.
– What is the tolerable figure?
– I wish the honourable gentleman would let me answer the question in my own way. The intolerable aspects of inflation are the injustices that it does between sections of the community. Inflation does not ruin everybody - and that is something upon which honourable gentlemen opposite ought to ponder. Inflation affects people differently at different stages of their lives. I can understand the honourable gentleman being concerned about the effects of inflation upon retired persons, but the duty of governments is to try to redress the imbalances when and where they can.
– What is the tolerable level in your view?
– Order! I am becoming intolerant of these interjections.
– I have been asked the question and I am attempting to answer it. In Australia we have had virtually the same rates of income tax - a progressive scale - applying since 1954. I am impressed by the zeal now of the former Treasurer to do something about it. He did not do much about it when he had the opportunity and the same sort of thing that he says is happening this financial year has happened in the last several financial years in Australia; that is, that it has been easy for governments to finance their programs because their revenues have been rising faster than prices have risen. This is inherent in the progressive scale as it operates. I said the other day and I will repeat it here that I believe that the scale should be altered quite frequently. As to how one will alter it precisely, I say again: Wait until 20 August.
-Did the Prime Minister announce before the last election that he would legislate to allow for the payment of certain social security benefits to be credited direct to a beneficiary’s credit union savings account? If so, has he made any progress in this matter?
– Yes. Before the Federal elections, I did undertake that the Government would allow the payment of repatriation and social service benefits to be made to credit union savings accounts in the same way, of course, as they have been able to be paid to bank accounts for very many years past. It is expected that the necessary legislation will be introduced in the present sessional period to permit this method of payment to credit union accounts. Discussions about the administrative arrangements have been held between Australian Government officials and the Australian Federation of Credit Union Leagues Limited. The Federation was invited to attend the discussions as it could represent the great majority of credit unions and credit union members. Following these discussions, the stage has been reached where, subject to the passage of the legislation in this period of Parliament, the first payment direct to credit union savings accounts will be of child endowment and they are planned to commence in July. It is proposed in the near future to advise all credit unions throughout Australia about the new payment facility and the administrative procedures associated with it. Suitable publicity will be arranged to inform departmental clients that their benefits may be paid to credit union savings accounts.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House of Australia’s present position in the diplomatic field in Cambodia or the Khmer Republic, and does the situation at this moment mean that the Australian Government has prejudged both the political and the military situation in that country?.
– The present Australian Ambassador to Cambodia is being posted to another country. I do not recollect whether agrement has been given yet so I cannot be more specific as to the country. In those circumstances, the Australian Embassy in Phnom Penh is in the hands of a charge. He is an experienced and senior man. In fact, at present, most embassies in Phnom Penh are administered by charges.
– In view of his answer to the honourable member for Chisholm, how does the Prime Minister explain the fact that, where the Commonwealth stands in the shoes of a State government as for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, it grants state aid in addition to the Karmel funds on a per capita across the board basis of 20 per cent of the cost of education in government schools? How does the Prime Minister reconcile that fact with his earlier answer?
– The Minister for Education will answer the question.
– If the honourable gentleman were to study the Karmel Committee report he would see that the Karmel Committee recommendations were made on the basis of the States continuing to make the kind of grants that they were making at that time. It was not envisaged by Professor Karmel that the funds would remain static forever, that regardless of changes in the value of money they would stay frozen at the level of when he made his investigation. The various States were making certain forms of grants, which Professor Karmel took into consideration when he was making his recommendations concern ing schools. The continuance by the Commonwealth of the making of grants to the nongovernment schools on its territorial grants side as distinct from its national grants side is a continuance of the carrying out of the Karmel Committee report.
– My question also is directed to the Minister for Education. I refer to recent reports that Brisbane Catholic systemic schools are likely to increase their fees this year. I ask: Has the amount of the Australian Government grants to those schools been greatly increased as a result of legislation introduced by this Government and passed last year? If so, can the Minister explain how the amounts paid to each of those schools is determined and whether the Australian Government grant has any relationship to the suggested increase in fees?
– The Karmel committee report gave particular attention to what would popularly be called Catholic parish schools but which in the terms of the report are called systemic schools. The amount of money which they were receiving in 1973 was $18m. It has been increased in 1974 to $26. 5m, which represents an increase of 45 per cent. It will be increased under the Karmel funding in 1975 to $3 8m, which represents a further increase of about 45 per cent over this year but more than 100 per cent over 1973. The grants to systemic schools are made to whatever Catholic authority or board administers the systemic schools as distinct from those Catholic or other non-government schools which stand as independent entities. The authorities administering the grants can make variations in its grants to the schools according to their need. We have no reason at the present time to question that they have been carrying that out in the spirit of the legislation, but if there were violations of the spirit of the legislation we would have to take the question up with the Catholic authorities administering it.
I would say that this represents schools in which 80 per cent of the children in nongovernment primary schools are enrolled. They are not in categories A to H under the Karmel report but they comprise two-thirds of the non-government schools. The Karmel funding, as I have said, involved an increase in their grants from Si 8m to S26.5m and then to $38m; so that there has been no reduction in their grants. Nobody could contend that the 43 per cent and then the 45 per cent increase in their grants would not keep pace with the rate of inflation of 14 per cent over the year. So if they are increasing their fees there must be other considerations involved than those that are attributable to the action of the Australian Government.
– My question is supplementary to the question asked of the Treasurer by the Leader of the Opposition. The Treasurer will recall using, in response to the question by the Leader of the Opposition, the phrase tolerable and intolerable rates of inflation’. I now ask the Treasurer, because I believe that it is a fair question to ask and to put on the record: Having used that phrase, will he explain precisely what he means by it, that is, what is a tolerable rate of inflation? Secondly, will the honourable gentleman indicate also precisely to this House that the present rate is totally intolerable? Having regard to his answer in which I think he refused to indicate what the future will be in relation to inflation, does not the Treasurer agree that it is fair to say that it is part of his function to develop forward economic forecasts as to the state of the Australian economy this year? In that context I ask the further question: What will be the rate of inflation for the year ahead, as he perceives it, based on information available to him from Treasury officials?
– This is a curious kind of game - to ask me what I think, firstly, the rate of inflation is likely to be and, secondly, whether I regard it as a tolerable or intolerable rate. When I used the word ‘intolerable’ I was suggesting that some countries in quite recent times have had rates of inflation as high as several hundred per cent per annum.
– Is that tolerable?
– If the honourable member will allow me to come to the point I will explain what I mean. The point is that the existence of that rate of inflation has not brought economic ruin to everybody in those countries. If one is to debate this sort of thing, I say that 10 per cent is a better rate of inflation than 13 per cent.
Opposition members - Ha ha.
– Candidly, I do not find the thing quite as laughable as do honourable members opposite. A nought rate of inflation would be preferable to a rate of 10 per cent. But I do not think that a country is made or broken whether the rate is 14 per cent rather than 12 per cent. What one has to look at is what are the causes of inflation, and I tried to suggest that in my previous answer. Some of the factors responsible for the accelerated rate of inflation in the last 12 months have been higher incomes going to the farmers of Australia via increased meat prices. Inflation in Australia and in other parts of the world will be aggravated in this current 12 months by reason of higher oil prices.
– The price of crude here is $2 a barrel.
– The cost of the crude which is produced locally - which supplies twothirds of our requirements - and of the remaining one-third - which is imported-goes into the cost of production. The honourable gentleman is the glibbest user of statistical information that I have ever seen. His own record was abysmal, but now he claims to have all the prescience about the future and that he would have done in the last 12 months had he been in government that he did not have, the courage to do in the previous 20 years. I am asked what is an intolerable rate of inflation. All I suggest is that we will survive in Australia if the rate is 14 per cent, 12 per cent, 10 per cent or less, and we will survive if, for any unfortunate causes the rate goes beyond those figures. But there is a responsibility upon us to see that we do our best to look after those who are adversely affected by whatever rate prevails. The Opposition claims that we have a lot of influence with trade unions. It is suggested on our side that the Opposition has a lot of influence with those who make prices. Unless - I have used these words here before - there is some attempt at reconciliation as between the price makers, who are comparatively few in the Australian system, and the price takers - price takers are legion and, for the majority, the. income recipients in Australia are wage earners - and unless some attempt is made to get those two groups together, we will have this vicious conundrum, if you like: Do prices affect wages or do wages affect prices? The truth is, of course, that there is interaction between the two. So far the Opposition has resisted every sensible attempt to do something systematic about prices.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for Services and Property. In view of the fact that legislation for the registration of political parties on ballot papers is pending, is the Minister aware of the possible confusion that could be created in the minds of electors by the constant changes in the names of political parties? If so, in view of the forthcoming Senate election, will he clarify the position ‘for electors in order to avoid confusion and informal votes?
– In view of the projected legislation dealing with the registration of political parties and, just as importantly the forthcoming Senate election, it is necessary for the people to know precisely the parties contesting elections in order that they may avoid in many ways informal votes. I am aware that certain changes have been made to the names of some parties, I think it is only fair that the people should know the situation, in order that they may vote inteligently and in view of the registration. I understand that it has been agreed that the Australian Country Party, which is represented now in this Parliament, will shortly change its name to the National Country Party of Australia. This will take place later in the year when the first conference confirms the change.
It will campaign - I say this for the benefit of the people and to assist the Country Party - in the Senate election in May under the name of Country Party, except in Queensland where it will run a joint ticket with the Australian Democratic Labor Party under the name of the National Alliance. I hope that everybody .follows that. But it is stated that senior officials believe that the Party will call itself the National Party in contesting seats around the major cities. So I ask the city dwellers to make sure that they vote for the National Party, and the country dwellers to make sure that they vote for the National Alliance because it is important that confusion does not force them to make what might be termed informal votes.
I understand that in respect of the 1974 Senate election, on 10 March the Country Party and the Democratic Labor Party announced that they would be running a joint ticket under the name of the National Alliance. I think a lot of us could give a different name for it but that is the official one. By the way, for the benefit of the people, those arrange ments will be for the Senate election only and do not imply any merger of the 2 parties. So the people should be aware that when they vote for the National Alliance they vote for 2 parties and, in effect they have struck the jackpot - 2 votes for one. I understand - this is where it is confusing - that the Country Party is continuing negotiations with the DLP for a permanent merger in Queensland under the title of the National Party. In Western Australia on Wednesday, 13 March, the leaders of the Country Party and the DLP will launch a joint campaign for the Western Australian State election under the name of the National Alliance. The name will change to National Party when constitutional changes in both Party platforms have been approved.
I hope people understand that lucid explanation of the arrangements and I think, in order to avoid confusion amongst honourable members also, it would be only fair if the Leader of the Country Party would say whether he represents in this House the Country Party, the National Alliance, the Nationals or the National Party because I would not like to use the wrong title. It is quite legitimate under the Electoral Act for any political party to change its name. I have been asked why this was done in this case. I suppose one could not blame the Country Party for changing its name in view of its record. But it is to the Liberal Party’s credit that it is carrying on regardless of its liability of a false name and its personnel. But I might say so far as the Australian Country Party is concerned - I do not want to incriminate its members in any way - that it is the usual practice of people convicted generally of false pretences or confidence tricks to change their name when their sins are found out. Far be it from me to imply that that would be the purpose of the Country Party. Unfortunately there is great confusion amongst voters. Today, I thank the honourable member for Blaxland for the opportunity to make clear to everybody the situation in regard to this change of name. I hope this explanation will avoid people casting a false vote and, in effect, will avoid people casting informal votes at the forthcoming Senate election.
Statement by Mr Speaker
– Members will be aware that much use is made from time to time of the Standing Orders which provide -for a personal explanation. It is a matter which has caused me concern as the process takes a good deal of the time of the House. Standing orders 64 and 66 allow a member to make a personal explanation in regard to:
It has long been the practice that when a member desires to make a personal explanation because he has been misrepresented in the previous day’s debate or misreported in a newspaper, he informs me of his desire to make an explanation and I see that he is allowed to do so before the business of the day is called on. This type of explanation usually presents no problems.
The explanations I am specifically concerned with are those which follow questions without notice. In regard to these, I stress that the primary requisite is to obtain the concurrence of the Chair. The words of the standing order are: ‘Having obtained leave from the Chair’. This leave should be obtained by a Member, if at all possible, by conferring with me in advance of his rising. There has been a- marked tendency for honourable members to seek to make explanations without first seeking the concurrence of the Chair and for these explanations to develop into a form of debate which is specifically prohibited by the Standing Orders. This at times has seriously held up the business of the presentation of papers. Honourable members must note that in a personal explanation a member explaining a misrepresentation or misquotation should deal only with that point and must not introduce new material. In this way I hope I shall have the co-operation of members so that we can get on with the business of the House as expeditiously as possible. For the present, if the leave of the Chair has been obtained, I shall continue to call a member after questions without notice for the purpose of making a personal explanation.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) in answering a question today in relation to tax said that I did not do much about it when I had the opportunity. That is a misrepresentation. I quote from my Budget Speech of 1972 three very short parts which will prove the misrepresentation. I said:
We propose to raise the minimum taxable income for individuals from $417 to $-1,041 per annum. The proposal will exempt from tax liability altogether about 600,000 taxpayers. . . .
I then said:
Last and most importantly, we propose to reduce the rates of personal income tax payable by an average of 10 per cent. In April we reduced personal income tax by, 21 pet cent; the reduction I now propose is on top of that.
I said also:
In total, the income tax proposals I have outlined will cost . . . $565m in a full year.
– For the information of honourable members I present an outline of my proposals for new superannuation arrangements for Australian Government employees. Because of the complexity of the matter, the Government has decided to seek the benefit of outside actuarial advice on these proposals.
– Pursuant to clause 8 of the Sugar Agreement 1969 I present the report on the operations of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee for the year ended 30 June 1973 together with the Committee’s financial statements and the AuditorGeneral’s report on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 19 of the Fishing Industry Research Act 1969 I present the fourth annual report on the operation of the Act during the year ended 30 June 1973.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Fishing Industry Act 1956 I present the seventeenth annual report on the operation of the Act during the year ended 30 June 1973.
– Pursuant to section 7 of the Tobacco Industry Act 1955-56 I present the eighteenth annual report on the operation of the Act for the year ended 30 June 1973.
– For the information of honourable members I present the interim report of the Australian Wool Commission for the period January to June 1973. When the final report is available it will be presented in accordance with statutory requirements.
– Pursuant to the provisions of section 23a of the Commonwealth Electoral Act I present a copy of the report with maps showing the boundaries of each proposed division by the Distribution Commissioners for Western Australia together with copies of the suggestions, comments or objections lodged with the Commissioners, and move:
That the report and maps be printed.
I might add, for the benefit of honourable members, that owing to unavoidable delays in printing I am unable to give all honourable members copies of these proposals today. However as soon as they are available they will be distributed. Honourable members will, of course, have an opportunity to debate the proposals when the Government’s resolutions are submitted to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - Honourable members will recall that on 8 March 1973 I made a statement in the House in which I gave details about the establishment, by the Australian Government, of the national rehabilitation and compensation scheme inquiry, under the chairmanship of the Honourable Mr Justice Woodhouse, D.F.C., the distinguished New Zealand judge. It will be recalled that, in the original terms of reference, the Committee -was asked to examine ways of rehabilitating and compensating every person ‘who at any time or in any place’ suffers a personal injury.
Recently I was advised that from the submissions received by the Committee of Inquiry it had become apparent that the plight of the sick could not be separated from that of the injured. As a result I agreed to the extension of the terms of reference of the Committee in order that it might inquire into and report upon an extension of the scheme to cover every person who suffers an incapacity as a result of sickness. The words extending the terms of reference of the Committee are as follows: and further to inquire into and report on an extension of the scheme for the purpose of rehabilitating and compensating every person who suffers a physical or mental incapacity or deformity by reason of sickness or congenital defect, together with the application of the’ scheme where death results from such sickness or defect.
The Committee had originally planned to complete its report by the end of this month but with this additional important responsibility it now hopes to be in a position to report its findings to the Government in June. I am grateful to the members of the Committee for agreeing to undertake this further task for” the government.
I would also like to express my thanks to the New Zealand Government and the New South Wales Government for releasing Mr Justice Woodhouse and Mr Justice Meares respectively for a further period. The Australian Government looks forward with anticipation to the report of the Committee which I am sure will be a significant social document.
– by leave- The Opposition supports the extension of the terms of reference of this Committee, lt would always concede the right of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) or any Minister to extend the terms of reference in this way. However we are disappointed, as I am sure is the Government, that this important report will not be debated this session because, as the Prime Minister said, instead of the report being delivered almost forthwith its anticipated date of completion is now June. I would have liked a further indication from the Prime Minister that those sections of the report which have been completed now might have been submitted to the Parliament for debate this session rather than holding up debate until the whole of the report is presented in June.
According to the schedule of the House, after the Budget is introduced next session it may well be October, September or November before this House debates this very important question.
May I say that the thrust of the Prime Minister’s remarks is supported by the Opposition. Indeed, as I have mentioned in public addresses that I have made on behalf of the health committee of the Liberal Party, the whole purpose of our consideration of a health scheme is not obsessed with what was known as the Hayden scheme of merely directing itself to ‘funding, but to the prevention of disease and sickness. This is an area to which the Prime Minister has referred and which we regard as very important. I am not persuaded, nor is any member of my committee, that people who are being discharged from hospitals or other places of rehabilitation are fit to take their place in the community again. This assertion can also be extended to cover a person who has suffered a stroke or a heart attack. That person goes into a hospital, undertakes a very short period of so-called rehabilitation and is then thrust back into the community with a view to finding a useful place in society again. This does not happen. One thinks of a person who is inflicted with a stroke, loses all control of his voice and cannot speak. It is months before that person is able to take his place again in society and follow a useful occupation, whereas his actual period of sickness from the stroke might last a period of only a week or 2 weeks. When one thinks of the implications of surgery on limbs for cancer and such diseases, one is not satisfied with the area of rehabilitation.
The Prime Minister adds mental incapacity to the terms of reference. The Opposition would thoroughly support that. I believe that there is an enormous number of people, particularly young people, who are incapable of relating to the society or the social unit in which they find themselves - whether that be the family, the marriage or whatever. They leave that unit and find themselves in a no-man’s-land. They drift into a degraded state, a degraded system of living, and end up in some sort of institutionalised home for the mentally ill. They are given brief treatment and discharged back to society without their having been properly rehabilitated. These social misfits are caught in this vicious circle over and over again without their being rehabilitated. Finally people who initially suf fered some mental illness end up on the surgeon’s table or in the physician’s waiting room because they have become sick people in the physical sense, when with adequate treatment for their initial complaints their subsequent conditions might have been prevented.
In conclusion I wish to join, with the statement by the Prime Minister, a remark made by, I think, the Treasurer (Mr Crean) this morning in answer to a question. He referred to the Woodhouse Committee and said that the Government was looking forward to the reception of a report. He also mentioned the establishment of an Australian Government insurance office. Until the Opposition knows what the Government’s proposals are in relation to the establishment of a Government insurance office, we will not pre-empt ourselves by being critical of those proposals; but the mind boggles when one looks at the program and the performance of socialised activities of the Government since it has been in office. Having in mind the establishment of a Government insurance office and the extended terms of reference of the Woodhouse Committee, especially the words ‘together with the application of the scheme where death results from such sickness or defect’, one wonders how open-ended the Government’s intentions are in this area of social welfare and social security. We would commend anything that is humanitarian but I would remind the Government that it is not a bottomless pit from which one funds social welfare payments. The social welfare state might be all very well in theory but someone has to pay for these benefits and someone has to fund this so-called Australian Government insurance office. After saying those words of caution, the Opposition would support the extension of the terms of reference of this important committee and support the Prime Minister’s thanks to the governments of New Zealand and New South Wales for allowing the distinguished gentlemen mentioned by the Prime Minister to serve on the inquiry.
-I wish to inform the House of the following nominations of members to be members of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs: Mr Ashley-Brown, Mr Collard, Mr Cross, Mr Fitzpatrick and Mr Thorburn have been nominated by the Prime Minister; Mr Jarman, Mr Ruddock and Mr Wentworth have been nominated by the
Leader of the Opposition; and Mr Hunt has been nominated by the Leader of the Australian Country Party.
-I have, received a letter from the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The serious consequences of the Government’s announced intention to end the bounty on superphosphate, adding further to the damaging effects of the Government’s rural policies.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places.)
– Since December 1972 the farm industries of this country and the people of rural Australia have been subjected to the most savage attack ever perpetrated by an Australian Government. Using the utterly fallacious excuse that Australian farmers have never had it so good, this Government has systematically set about dismantling a range of assistance and incentive measures which previous governments thought essential to the successful functioning of the farm industries, and essential for the just treatment of country people, thus assisting the economy and the consumers of the nation as a whole. The tragedy of this is not so much to be found in the individual measures that have been abolished or cut back. After all, according to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), the farmers have never had it so good, and anyway the Government thinks that only a few hundred or a few thousand people are hurt. The real tragedy is to be found in the total impact the Government’s actions are having on the national economy and on the farm sector in particular. The real tragedy is also to be found in the appalling lack of understanding by the Australian Labor Party of the fundamental nature of rural industry - its fluctuating, variable and unpredictable character. For years, until recently, Australian farmers went through a period that can only be described as sheer murder. Overseas markets were weak, there was over-production all around the world and seasons were bad. Today it is claimed by the Government that things are better, that they are the best they have ever -been. This is where the real disaster of Labor policy begins to .become apparent.
Let us look at the situation. ‘You have never had it so good,’ says the Prime Minister; yet a quarter of a million cattle are dead because of the Queensland floods. ‘You have never had it so good,’ says the Prime Minister; yet the ground in north-western New South Wales, a sea of mud a few weeks ago when there was a disastrous flood and an enormous stock loss, is today so dry and hard that it cannot be ploughed for a new wheat crop. You have never had it so good,’ says the Prime Minister; yet Australian farmers are in debt to record levels. Now that they have at least some chance for the first time in a long while to start to get themselves out from under this enormous burden built up over so many tough years, their capacity to do so is being ruthlessly sabotaged by this Government. You have never had it so good,’ the Prime Minister says to Gippsland farmers who have just seen his Government lop the dairy subsidy and taxation incentives on fodder, fences and water supply, and axe the superphosphate bounty at a time when they are still getting the same price for milk products as they received 2 years ago while costs under this Government have skyrocketed. ‘You have never had it so good’, says the Prime Minister, when industrial trouble has reached record proportions throughout the community, so much so that farmers cannot buy nails, fencing wire or machinery, even if they had the money to do so. ‘You have never had it so good’, says the Prime Minister when the Leader of my Party, the Right Honourable Douglas Anthony, who was to lead for the Opposition in this debate, had to depart unexpectedly this morning to fly to Lismore which is in his flood-wracked electorate.
The farm industries are now feeling some of the effects of Labor’s policies. The real effects of these policies are being masked to a significant extent by a market situation which in general is certainly better than it was a year or so ago. The crunch - and it will be a vicious crunch - will come when primary industry enters a downtrend, the kind of trend it always experiences because of its very nature. That is when the farmers of this country will not only understand what a Labor government is, but what a Labor government will not do as it applies its energies to the implementation of its socialist political philosophies. In nothing is the Labor Party’s determination to attack primary industry more clearly demonstrated and nowhere is the Labor Party’s frightening lack of understanding of agriculture so damagingly shown than in the decision to abolish the superphosphate bounty. To a rural sector which is reeling under a rain of blows from this Government, this decision has come as just about the last straw. The fact that it is the last straw is quite evident from the fantastic goings-on amongst the Labor Party’s rural members. All the betrayals of the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) over rural finance, as bad as they are, pale into insignificance beside this action on superphosphate.
– What about the honourable member for Eden-Monaro?
– Yes, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) is stunningly silent on this issue. I do not think that he is even on the list of speakers. At least not many people took the Minister for Immigration very seriously when he talked about $500m for farmers at 3 per cent apart from the people of the Riverina, who believed the Minister, much to their cost. The people who studied the Labor Party’s published policies did place some credence in them. How have they been rewarded for their faith in the Labor Party? There has been no rural credit of the kind promised in writing by Labor and no bounty is to be paid on superphosphate despite Labor’s published policy on this point. That is how the Labor Party rewards those who believe what it says.
Superphosphate is perhaps the most important input that goes into Australian agriculture and even, I would suggest, one of the most important inputs to the Australian economy. But the Government will say that the farmers are well able to pay the higher cost of fertiliser when the bounty goes. Let us have a look at what the cost is likely to be. First of all we can forget about the Prime Minister’s meaningless gesture in referring the question of tariff protection on imported superphosphate to the Industries Assistance Commission. It no doubt sounds good to talk about taking the tariff off superphosphate, but when no superphosphate is being imported, and none is likely to be, the whole thing becomes quite irrelevant.
The price of superphosphate in Australia at present, according to which State one is in, ranges up to about Si 8 a ton after deducting the bounty. The last price that I saw for imported superphosphate - when one could get it - was about $40 a ton. Removing a 6 per cent or a 17 per cent duty from that price obviously means nothing as far as the Australian farmer is concerned. Yet I suppose that, when you are in the kind of mess the Labor Party is because of this incredible decision, anything is worth a try to get out of it. The Government arbitrarily reduced tariffs on machinery by 25 per cent. I note that the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) is listed to speak in this debate. I would like to hear him list the items that are being reduced in price as a result of the 25 per cent reduction in the rate of duty. As far as I can ascertain the prices of most of the items purchased by the farmer have gone up since the 25 per cent tariff reduction. So again it is meaningless to talk about the advantage that is given to the farming industries.
The basis of success of any enterprise, and any economy, is productivity. This is simply not understood by this Government. In a country like Australia there cannot be adequate productivity from our phosphate deficient soils unless there is added to them a phosphatic fertiliser in large quantities. At present we are using superphosphate at the rate of 3 million tons or more a year. Productivity does not simply mean volume, but what production you can get at what cost. The superphosphate bounty is important to farmers in keeping their costs down to some degree and thus allowing them to sell their products to the consumer at a price which is lower than it would otherwise be. It is an extraordinary decision of the Government to say that it is concerned about consumer prices and at the same time to take away the one input that might help to reduce those prices. It does show, as the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) said, the double standards of this Government.
Higher fertiliser costs, first of all, will reduce fertiliser use and reduce both production and productivity. This will force up the prices which must be charged for farm products. This will happen both directly and indirectly. It will happen directly because of higher production costs and reduced production, and indirectly because of the effect of higher feed prices on the cost of other farm products. For example, wheat will become dearer and, consequently, so will poultry, eggs and pigmeats. The different approach taken to the long term needs of the Australian economy and the Australian people by this Labor Government can be judged by a resolution of the United States Senate dated 25 February of this year in which the Senate recognised that there is a direct correlation between the demand for and supply and price of fertiliser and the supply and price of food paid ‘for by the American consumer. I am referring to resolution No. 289 which was carried on 25 February this year.
What of the much vaunted Industries Assistance Commission, that body of impartial review which was designed to prevent capricious decisions both to introduce and to end assistance? The Prime Minister said that this overworked body could not examine the superphosphate question due to its commitments. Yet the Government apparently now feels that this body is capable of assessing the circumstances of the entire aircraft industry, but not the superphosphate bounty question. What the Prime Minister really meant to say was that in his assessment of priorities, the examination of the superphosphate bounty was less important to the Government than other issues he wishes to refer to the Industries Assistance Commission.
What has the Government done for the 30 per cent of sheep producers with incomes under $2,000; for the 27 per cent of dairy producers, for the 26 per cent of pig producers, the 27 per cent of beef producers,. the 41 per cent of wine and grape producers and the 16 per cent of wheat producers? What has happened to the much vaunted rural reconstruction scheme that would have helped these people? The answer is ‘Nothing’. What indeed has happened to the concept of stabilisation which the Government has ended after a period of bitter confrontation with the wheat growers? What has happened to the new rural unemployment relief scheme foreshadowed by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) in September last year? The Minister for Labour has been pregnant with promises, but he has not delivered the goods yet. What has happened to those members of the Labor Party rural rump who thundered so loudly from the Opposition benches in 1972? Where is the Minister for Immigration who used to come in here caterwauling week after week last year and who went out at election time making promises a mile long and who has delivered nothing? He ought to be ashamed of himself, representing the people of Riverina as he does in this place, junketing around the world, and sending out Press releases by the million on matters quite irrelevant to the facts of life of the nation. Where is the Minister? He is not in here answering to this Parliament for his failure to stand up for those whom he represents in this place when he has been at, or absent from, Cabinet meetings? Why has he not raised these matters both at a Cabinet level and in this Parliament? It is because he squibbed it - he simply and truly squibbed it. The Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) and the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) used to stand up here often and make grand speeches attacking the previous Government. What has happened to them? Where is the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, this new-found saviour of farming enterprises?
– He is here, listening to your lies.
– Why is he not speaking? Why is he not attacking the Government’s decision?
-Order! The honourable member for Eden-Monaro will, withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– The honourable member for Eden-Monaro and the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin), who are both in this place, have been yowling around the country- ‘ side about what the Government has done. They and the honourable member for Dawson - the Minister for Sugar or whatever he is - have been almost on the point of resigning from the parliamentary Labor Party over it, but when the crunch has come, as with everything else, they have squibbed it.
I state unequivocally that those people in the country electorates who voted Labor were sold down the river and they now realise it. I have received a letter from Mr Mike Howlett about a public meeting that was held in Bairnsdale in my electorate. It says:
This meeting protests against the ill conceived Government decision to end the superphosphate bounty. The removal of this and other incentives to production based on sectional, short-term prosperity will adversely affect rural industries, country business and all consumers. We demand that IAC reports on the superphosphate bounty before any final decision is taken.
There have been protest meetings in all parts of my electorate - at Yarram, Traralgon, Sale and Bairnsdale. There have been protest meetings throughout Australia on the lack of knowledge and lack of understanding of this Government. The simple tragedy is that those people have been betrayed. The tragedy is not only that the Australian Labor Party members of Parliament who are supposed to represent, protect and advance the interests of their electorates have, through neglect or inability, failed; the tragedy is that the policies of this divisive Labor Government introduce a very alarming note of economic and social discrimination into the administration of the nation.
– I can understand that there should be protest meetings in country areas about the removal of the superphosphate bounty, but the question that should be being asked and, I hope, answered, is: Why should this one item of farming costs be singled out to be given an artificial price?
– To produce more food.
– I will come to that in a moment. I have a little more confidence in the farming community in Australia than to believe that it will cease to use superphosphate if the bounty is removed.
– Will they not reduce their use of it?
– I would have thought that if a prudent farmer - one must be reasonably prudent to be a successful farmer - received more in return by using superphosphate than the superphosphate cost he would continue to use superphosphate. What the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) did not say was that this subsidy, at an estimated annual cost of $60m per annum, has cost $337m in the 10 years since 1963. He said that because of this $60m being shifted from the favour of the farmers - to the detriment of the revenue of Australia - this will have some untold consequences.
The latest figures I have for the gross value of rural incomes for the period ending June 1974 show that they are some $6,200m. After all, $60m is a pretty small part of the value of rural production in Australia.
– A vital part.
– It may be vital but, with all respect to my friend, there is a great deal of inequality in its distribution. The information with which I am supplied shows that the larger the enterprise the greater is the total subsidy. The largest 200 farms in the high rainfall sheep zone used an average of 200 tons of superphosphate in 1969-70, the value of the subsidy to each being about $2,400 or an estimated $500,000 annually to those 200 farms. So one would ask, in view of the high price that is being received for meat and so on, whether it is justifiable to pay a nice little bonus of $500,000 to 200 of the largest sheep farmers in Australia.
Let us have a look at another way in which the benefit is distributed. I am sure that this will be of some interest to my friend the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) and to wheat farmers in particular. I have taken these figures from the Coombs report. What astonishes me is that nobody seems to have read until now what this document - which I said a long time ago could have been left in a tram - forecast as far back as last August. It shows that the average payment from the Budget to commercial wheat-growing properties for the 3 years to June 1972 amounted to some $968 per property. That amount is obtained by averaging the cost. But of the almost 38 per cent of these producers - or two out of five - with a net farm income of less than $4,000, half received less than $400 each. On the other hand, some 6,700 growers with a net farm income of over $10,000 averaged a direct subsidy of over $1,850 each.
– Did the primary industries committee agree with that?
– All I am suggesting is that the bounty has gone, with rather unequal distribution, to the small farmer and has gone, I am trying to suggest, with greatest advantage to the large farmer. Surely this is the whole point. The Government is not arguing about whether superphosphate ought to be used. I hope that the argument will not be put in that way. When the bounty was introduced originally as far back as 1932 it was designed to encourage people to use superphosphate. Presumably, even though many farmers still vote for the Australian Country Party, they are a little better educated in the use of superphosphate in 1974 than they were in 1934. I am told that the annual consumption in Australia is about 4.5 million tonnes. The annual net cost of the subsidy is of the magnitude of $60m. Roughly one-third of the superphosphate is used in wheat production and twothirds in pasture use. Given that the farmer is receiving fair returns from each of these uses, why should there be an artificial price for artificial fertiliser? That is basically what the argument is about. I am astonished, considering all the suggestions I receive from honourable members opposite about reducing Government expenditure, that when the
Government takes the step of reducing it by some $60m a year there is a concerted attack to keep it there.
– It is a one-sided reduction.
– It has been a one-sided and not even-handed distribution of the $60m annually that it is costing. I would have been happy if the honourable member for Gippsland had justified his argument on the basis that it was saving farmers from starvation and assisting food production to the advancement of the rest of the world, but that point has not been made.
One other interesting thing - again I rely on information from outside this country - is that at the moment we face an overall world shortage of fertiliser. To me it seems highly illogical that members of the Australian Country Party should be encouraging the use of superphosphate in this country at a price below the market price. They are great defenders when it comes to market prices for what they sell but apparently they take a different view of market prices for materials which they use to produce what they sell. I would have hoped that we might have had that kind of debate here on this occasion.
Surely not all farmers are greedy people. I do not believe they are. But I believe that on occasions they ought to be logical people. Perhaps it would be a better thing to use the $60m that is spent in this field in subsidising some of the poor who Professor Henderson has revealed exist in Australia to the extent of something like 10 per cent of the Australian population, and who exist in quite large numbers in rural parts - not on the farms but in the rural towns. Who gets the main advantage of the$60m? It is the fellow with the biggest wheat farm and the fellow with the biggest sheep property who receive the major part of the advantage, yet honourable members opposite are prepared to justify that bounty at a time when the selling prices of those fellows have never been better. If there were a rural depression there might be a case for introducing a bounty if one did not already exist. But these bounties are provided at certain periods for certain purposes, and if the purpose no longer exists, why should the bounty continue?
I think that we in Australia must get used to the idea that although a benefit of this kind may have a good rationale when first introduced, its withdrawal ought not to be acknowledged with squeals when that rationale no longer exists. After all, some $60m is being distributed, nakedly if you like, to people for whose need of that money it is very hard to make out a case. On the other hand, I am met with all sorts of demands for the expenditure of that and lesser sums and I believe, on the overall basis of equity in Australia today, given the kinds of things that are revealed about the existence of pockets of poverty and deprivation in this so-called affluent society, that we really would be regarded as a laughing stock if we continued to pay sums of that magnitude to people who at the moment have no obvious need of it. That is the ground on which we rest our case here, not that we do not think that superphosphate should be used or that yields from the farm go up because farmers use it. As I said before, I have enough faith in my friend on the other side of the House representing the back parts of Queensland to know that he will continue to use much the same quantity of superphosphate, even though he has to pay a little more per ton for it because if he does not use superphosphate he knows that his income at the other end will fall and I am sure that he will make a sensible sort of balance between the two alternatives. I came across a farmer the other day who said to me: ‘I receive $2,400 from the superphosphate bounty but I would be far happier if you did something to reduce the wages of the people who work on my place’.
– Are you going to?
– Well, why not subsidise the wages of the rural worker? After all, that would have some effect, perhaps even on population. But when the honourable members opposite choose to pick out superphosphate, rather than fencing posts or petrol or some other component of the costs of production, and are prepared to justify the retention of the superphosphate bounty, even when the income side of the transaction makes it apparent that farmers do not need the bounty, I regard it as a rather selfish attitude.
The question that faces governments in Australia - I was asked a number of questions about this matter this morning - is the effects of inflation. One would think that no one else but the former Treasurer knows what inflation is. I think we are all as concerned as he apparently is that something should be done about inflation. But if inflation does persist, one must do a certain amount of redistribution. In my view, the superphosphate bounty is the opposite of the sort of social redistribution that
I believe is required in the Australian community. I think we are paying a larger sum of money to people who do not need it and, at the same time, we are limiting our capacity to implement the real sorts of social redistribution that will make this country a better and happier place for more people.
– The Treasurer (Mr Crean) spent virtually all his time speaking about superphosphate. I want to refer to a wider field than that. However, I feel that I should reply to some of the comments he made. The Treasurer said: ‘Why should superphosphate be singled out as a special case?’ Obviously, the Treasurer is ignorant of a paper, which is shortly to be published, coming from one of the Government’s own authorities, and which shows a definite close correlation between the price of superphosphate and the amount which is used. If we raise the price of superphosphate, people will buy less; that is the short message to be gained from the report. The Treasurer then went on to say that the superphosphate bounty benefits the large farmer most. But of course, what he does not realise is that although the large producer buys more superphosphate his rate of application per acre is almost certainly lower. The small farmer must make every acre of his property produce. He may. use less in total but his per acre application will be higher than that of the large farmer and it is this farmer, the small farmer, who will be hardest hit by the reduction or the abolition of the bounty. As a proportion of his total costs, the cost of superphosphate to the small farmer will assume frightening levels. If he uses less, his income is affected far more on a percentage basis than the income of the large farmer. Certainly, the larger producer will be able to get by because his gross income will allow him to. He has the area which enables him to reduce his production and still make a reasonable living. The point I make is that it is the small farmer who must make the most of every acre on his property who is going to feel hardest the abolition of this superphosphate bounty.
It really is an extraordinary debate on primary industry when we do not have one Government primary producer on the list of speakers. I suppose that is not surprising because the Government does not have a primary producer within its ranks. So, if the Government had had to rely on its primary producers to speak in this debate, it would not have been able to put anybody up at all. But what is surprising is that the Government has not put anybody up who represents a rural electorate. This is an extraordinary situation. The only explanation can be that any Government supporter representing a rural seat would commit political suicide if he stood and tried to defend the Government’s rural policies. I do not think the reputation in this House of the Minister for Immigration, the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby), is one that could be based on reticence, but where is he today? There is not a sign of him. There has not been a peep out of the honourable members for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan), Hume (Mr Olley) and Macarthur (Mr Kerin). I am sure that they are all fairly bursting to get up and defend the Government’s rural policies.
Australia’s primary producers have learned how to cope with fire, with flood and with drought. They have learned that, on occasions, they must pull in their belts at times of low prices. This is all part of Australian rural life. It is not easy, but primary producers have learned to overcome these difficulties. What they do not know how to deal with and what they cannot cope with is an ignorant government headed by somebody who, in the field of primary industry, is the most ignorant of the lot.
– It is not only in primary industries.
– No, it is not only in the field of primary industries, but I am specifically identifying primary industry today. There was that famous quote from the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam): ‘You have never had it so good’. Was he not aware of the devastating droughts which had hit virtually the whole of eastern Australia and severely affected parts of Western Australia from 1964 to 1972? Was he not aware of the years of rural recession that sometimes occurred at the same time as droughts? I despair of a government that is led by a man who shows so little knowledge of the problems faced by rural producers. Those years of drought and those years of low prices have meant accumulated debts by many properties that are not going to be effaced by one or two good seasons. They are going to take a long time to eradicate. Rural producers will need sympathetic and understanding policies to enable them to do so. The combination of revaluation and lower prices in America has led to the ludicrous situation of America, which is our largest market for meat, selling meat to Japan, which is our second largest market for meat, thereby undercutting our own beef.
The greatest contribution which any government can make to primary industry is economic stability and responsible government because exporters live and die by the combination of export prices and domestic costs. Of course, in the field of export prices their returns have been lower because of revaluation and in the field of domestic costs, with an uncontrolled rate of inflation, their costs have been rising at a frightening rate. That is what has happened under a government whose leader has said that no government has done more to reduce costs. Whatever reduction there has been due to cuts in tariffs and to revaluation making imports cheaper has been engulfed by rural incomes being reduced, as I mentioned a moment ago, by revaluation and by a domestic economy that is completely out of control due to economic mismanagement and incompetence. The Government is now in a position where it is finding that it is impossible for it to pay for the programs it promised prior to the election. The Government just does not know where to turn at the moment to raise the money that will enable it to pay for those programs. It is short of money. For example, the achieving of the objective of raising pensions to 25 per cent of the average male weekly earnings is receding because of the vast costs involved due to inflation and the enormous demands on revenue.
Where is the Government going to get the revenue to pay for these things? Let us have a look at some of the measures it has taken against primary industry and then have a guess at where it hopes to raise at least some of the money to pay for its extravagant programs, lt is just a short list. By the elimination of the supply of free milk to school children the Government hopes to save $12m. By a reduction in the bounty on butter and processed milk products it hopes to save $9.8m. The Government took those measures without conducting any prior inquiry to ascertain what effects they were going to have on the rural communities involved. That was the action of a government which was never going to make ad hoc decisions concerning primary industry. There was no inquiry in relation to those 2 measures. By abolishing accelerated depreciation measures the Government hopes to save $12m. By abolishing tax concessions for water and soil conservation work and the provision of fodder storage it hopes to save SI 7m. There was no inquiry. The Government did not even know the economic consequences of the withdrawal of those concessions. By abolishing the investment allowance as it affected primary industry the Government hopes to save $8m. By the measures it took in relation to the meat inspection service and the brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication campaigns - not that I am complaining about those two - it hopes to save a total of $20m. By reducing the concession on the price of fuel in country areas the Government hopes to save another $3m. Finally, by the abolition of the superphosphate bountythe Government hopes to save $58m. By my arithmetic a total of roughly of $140m is involved. There will be no prizes for guessing who is going to pay for the Government’s extravagant promises.
I find the Government’s attitude to be incomprehensible. The rate of productivity improvement in primary industry, about 4 per cent, is double that of the national average. In the face of difficulties being experienced by no other section of the community that is a phenomenal performance. If all other industries were to show a similar achievement most of our national problems would be well on the way to solution. Yet this ignorant Government is doing its best, and unfortunately succeeding, to put more and more obstacles before and to place heavier and heavier burdens on Australia’s most productive industries. I wonder what any overseas observer would say if he were to come here and find that the Government is putting these burdens on industries which are the best performers, perhaps better than their counterparts anywhere else in the world, certainly better than any other section of Australian industry. He would think that such a government was ignorant and stupid and he would be quite right because that is exactly what this Government is.
– This debate is about the elimination of the superphosphate bounty - a bounty which in 1970-71 was costing the people of Australia >$40.8m, which had risen by 38 per cent in 1972-73 to $56.6m and which would have gone up to well over $60m if it had been continued. The rate of increase in the cost of this item is far greater than the rate of increase that can be found in almost any other item. For instance, the expenditure on social security and welfare in Australia increased by only 14 per cent during the same time. I want honourable members to compare the level of farm income when it began with the level of farm income at the end. When the subsidy was S40m the farm income was about $700m to S900m. This year the farm income will be at least $2,000m. Presumably the Government is expected to go on paying the superphosphate bounty although during the time it has been in existence farm income as a whole has doubled.
Australian government for many years has been a record of one group after another using the power of government to benefit itself. That, of course, is the record of government in many countries. Higher wages, social security, tariffs, subsidies, tax benefits - an amazing array has been built up in Australia during this time. Everything existed behind a protective wall and everything was subject to potential competition from the outside world. Competition was always there and we always knew it. There is not one of us who has not wondered just how long it can go on. There is a growing acceptance of the view not only that the cost has become too high but also that we would all be better off and it would be fairer if more of us were to stand on our own feet and pay our own way, as many of those who secured the benefits of legislation like this were far better off than those who were paying for them.
The Treasurer (Mr Crean) has already quoted figures to show the completely unselective nature, the inequality and the inequity of a bounty of this sort. We have seen figures that show that 15 per cent to one-third, depending on the type of use, of the users involved are small farmers. They would not have received more than 10 per cent or 15 per cent of the value cf this bounty. We have seen figures that show that 200 farms each receive $2,400. Half a million dollars was paid to 200 farmers. We have seen figures that show that the average cost of the subsidy to wheat growers was $968 and that 38 per cent of that went to people with an income of less than $4,000. Less than $400 was the amount of subsidy one-half received. But there were 6,700 wheat growers with an average income of over $10,000 who received an average of $1,850 in subsidy. The unselective nature and the basic inequality of this has to be attended to. I should think that practically every member of the Australian Country Party would come into the low income group of the community and not into the high income group that he is defending when he defends a bounty of this sort. Let the high income people be located in this Parliament. They are not in the Country Party. They sit opposite me.
It seems to be accepted now, as I have said, that there must be a limit to what any industry, what any farmer and what any worker can expect the rest of the community to pay to it or him through a tariff or subsidy or through some other form of assistance. This justified and widespread belief in Australia has been given effect by the Government’s reduction of assistance to secondary industry. I wish to point out the differences here. Without any direct losses so far it has been reduced as a result of the reduction in tariff by at least S600m a year. The reduction in the subsidies to primary industry as a balancing of and offset to that, even taking the figures of the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), are not more than SI 40m. The reduction of assistance in the tariff area is about 5 times as great as the reduction in the subsidy in the primary industry area. Do not honourable members opposite want the rural area to pay any share of it at all, or do they want other people to pay the lot?
Farmers have gained much more and potentially much more from the tariff cuts than they may have lost from the subsidy cuts. But that is not just the end to it. We are prepared to produce an effective system of rural development not one that is being misused. But there is not only that to it. The Government’s policy has been associated with a remarkable increase in exports this year. The total value of exports this year will be up $600m to S700m on last year. Not one cent of that has been taken away from the farmers by any tax measures or by one of the proposals which were recommended and which were designed^ to enable us to stabilise prices. Farmers have got thi full and whole benefit of that increase in the total value of exports. They have not lost a cent. Do not honourable members opposite want anything to compensate for that? Do they want to be on the receiving end in every way? Does the Country Party want things in every sense to be running in its favour?
Let me look at the major growth items. Most of the countries to which I am about to refer are countries with which this Government has negotiated long term trade agreements. For instance, in relation to wheat, we have negotiated long term trade agreements in which we have contracted for the sale of 3 million to 4 million tons. Has that not had anything to do with the fact that wheat output this year will increase from 6.6 million tons under the preceding government to 11.6 million tons this year? That means that an extra 5 million tons of wheat has been grown, and the money obtained from selling that extra 5 million tons of wheat is going to the farmers. Do not honourable members opposite want to contribute anything? Do they want to take it with both hands all the time? The agreements and contracts which the Government has been able to negotiate are the factors which underlie this increase in the production of wheat.
Let me take China as an example. There were no sales of wheat to China last year, but so far this year we have sold $17m worth of wheat to China. There were no sales of sugar to China last year, but so far this year we have sold $6m worth of sugar to China. Last year we sold $6.9m worth of wool to China. This year we have sold $19.4m worth of wool to China. We sold $ 11.5m worth of iron and steel to China last year, and this year we have sold SI 3.1m worth of iron and steel to China. The total value of those few items that we have sold to China has increased from $19.3m to $58. 5m - about a 3-fold increase. What a benefit that has been. Previously there was hardly any trade with China.
I will take another country, Czechoslovakia. The value of the wool exported to that country has increased from S5.3m to $12.7m - more than a doubling in the value. The value of the wool exported to France has increased from $53m to $83m. The value of the wool exported to Italy has increased from $45m to $75m - an increase of about twothirds in value. Honourable members opposite talk about the policy of this Government and the results of that policy being harmful to the farmers yet they have benefited from the increase in the value of these exports. The value of meat exported to Japan has increased from $78m to $189m in less than a year, and the value of wool exported to that country has increased from $22 1m to $501 m in less than a year.
– All done by the Government?
– All consistent with Government policy. Of course, I am not claiming that it has all been done by the Government, but I am claiming that the Government’s policy has had something to do with it, and the Government ought to be given credit for that policy. It should not simply be alleged, as the 2 Opposition speakers in this debate have done, that the Government’s policy has been of no benefit whatsoever to the farmers.
I want to make one final point. Superphosphate is of great importance to primary industry in Australia, but the supplies of superphosphate that have come from the sources from where we have received them before, such as Nauru, Christmas Island and Ocean Island, are running out, and everybody has known that. Nearly 2i years ago a Press statement was issued by the previous Minister for Trade, Mr Anthony, I think in conjunction with another Minister. It stated:
The Minister said that in 1964 the Government encouraged the search for phosphate deposits in Australia because of the rise in demand for phosphate, its vital importance in Australia’s well being and the diminution in reserves on the traditional island sources of supply.
This has been known for years, but almost nothing has been happening about it. For instance, the Broken Hill (South) Ltd estimates its reserves in Queensland alone at 2,000 million tons. Australia can be self-sufficient in superphosphate. Yet over the years nothing really has been done to put the superphosphate industry in Australia on an indigenous basis; on a basis that would give us a satisfactory result. Instead, we have been able to draw on supplies from the islands where poor people live, where native people live, at less than world prices; at low prices all that time. Those who have consumed superphosphate in Australia have benefited from these low prices. I think that the position of the Government is that we must get away from this system of handouts, this system of benefits and this system of assistance which has not always produced the desired result and which has not had built into it a constructive program for the future.
Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– Nothing illustrates better the double standards and the anti-rural attitude of this Government than some of the examples used by the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns). In his concluding remarks he said that somehow or other it was wrong for us to import superphosphate from Christmas Island or Nauru, hinting that we were getting it from cheap labour countries. Yet his whole tariff policy regarding the textile industry in Australia has been designed to open the floodgates of Australia to textiles from cheap labour countries. Why have one standard for one section of the community and another standard for another section? The Minister talked about the development of the Australian superphosphate industry. Nothing will retard the development of this industry and of these deposits in North Queensland more than the present minerals and energy policy of this Government, and let the Government bear witness to that as time passes.
The important factor concerning the announcement of the ending of the superphosphate bounty is that it is a watershed for the non-metropolitan areas of Australia. No longer will anybody outside the great metropolitan areas of Australia give any credence to anything that this Government does. They will accept everything that this Government does as being against their interests. The ending of the superphosphate bounty comes as the king hit after all the preceding measures which the Government has taken and which have been aimed against the rural sector of Australia. No matter what vacillations take place in the final determination of what will happen to the superphosphate bounty and no matter what plaintive cries come from members of the Labor Party who supposedly represent rural electorates, the action which the Government has taken against the rural sector will be seen clearly and precisely by the people in the country and their attitude will be expressed at the next Federal election.
It is of some interest to note that the termination of the superphosphate bounty is a watershed not just because the bounty is to end but because of the way in which the termination of the bounty was announced. How much consideration has been given to the views of the so-called champions of rural industry on the Labor side of the House? The fact that none of them is to speak in this debate is a clear indication of what I am saying. Along with the 2 Opposition speakers who have taken part in this debate, I exclude the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) from any criticisms that I make in this regard because he is away on urgent business connected with the floods. But perhaps he does not have to be here because one of the contradictions and ironies of the present situation is that there was a definite announcement that the superphosphate subsidy would end but there was no statement on the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty. That bounty comes up for review at the same time as the superphosphate bounty. The nitrogenous fertiliser bounty applies basically to the sugar industry and the fruit industry. Perhaps it means that of all the socalled rural members in the Labor Party, the only one with any clout is the honourable member for Dawson who often is referred to as the minister for sugar.
One thing which the last speaker, the Minister for Overseas Trade, could have said, was that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) would make a clear statement about what is to happen to the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty, seeing that he was so concerned that primary producers should be given plenty of warning about ending the superphosphate bounty. If the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty is not to end, does this mean a one-sided policy again? If it is going to end, I think it shows up how hollow are any claims by any rural member of the Labor Party that he represents his electorate. As a challenge to that statement, I urge all rural members of the Labor Party in this Parliament to distribute in their electorates the speeches of the Prime Minister, the Treasurer (Mr Crean) and the Minister for Overseas Trade who represent those 3 well known rural electorates. If it shows nothing else, it shows that these Labor members who represent rural electorates either are not counted - and obviously they were not counted when the decision to end the superphosphate bounty was made - or they are not prepared to stand up and continue to say things that they cannot fulfil, as the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) has done for many years. He has shown himself to be a hollow statesman. But the problem with the Government’s attitude to rural industry is that it is based on false assumptions because the Government is ignorant of the nature of rural industry.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was saying that the disastrous approach by the Labor Government to agricultural policy is based on its ignorance of the facts of the rural situation and the big city bias of its strength within the Party, which is shown by the fact that not one rural member from the Government side will be speaking on this issue. These facts have led the Government to base its arguments today on certain false assumptions. The first one is that it takes a short term view of agriculture when agriculture is basically a long term industry involving the questions of seasonal variations, cyclical fluctuations in overseas market opportunities and so on. The figures cited by both the Minister for Overseas Trade and the Treasurer have been based on only the last 2 years. If they had looked at the figures over the last 10 years there would have been a very great difference. One could then see that one has to look at rural industry on a long term basis. In that 10-year period the average income of primary producers was less than the average income of all Australians. I believe that in this present period this will still be the case. In addition, what the Government has done, culminating in the withdrawal of the superphosphate bounty, is to put into motion such disincentives to continue to update agriculture which will not become obvious for some years, but will act to the detriment of Australia over the long term both in reducing income to farmers and in increasing the cost of food to consumers.
Even if we accepted the argument put forward by the Government, if Government supporters were honest and sincere they would have to say that if conditions were so prosperous for agriculture at the moment that a bounty was not needed, then in return they would guarantee that the moment prices dropped the subsidy or bounty would be reintroduced. That would be the minimum position they would have to take to be seen as being sincere and logical, and not by referring the question to the Industries Assistance Commission which may or may not agree with the Government’s proposal. But to do exactly as the Prime Minister did on the question, namely, to say that the subsidy would be discontinued without the guarantee that the moment prices dropped the subsidy would be reintroduced, is wrong. This Government so far has not been prepared to do this. One can only deduce from this that it is not sincere.
The second false assumption is that Government supporters believe that too much has been done for the farmers in Australia and that somehow or other they are redressing the balance by their actions. In debates in this House we have heard examples cited of other countries in relation to their health system, their education system and other things. If one continued to compare other countries with Australia one would see that in every advanced agricultural country such as those in the European Economic Community, Canada, the United States of America, New Zealand and South Africa, support measures and incentive programs for agriculture are greater than those in Australia. So if one wanted to use an international comparison, even for the period when we were in Government, Australia would not come out of it well, and would certainly come out in a very poor light at present. This is because agriculture is different and requires different policies.
The Government’s inability to understand the problems has led to the third false assumption. The Treasurer used the argument that if we are to have this payment system we should have it on a welfare basis. He cited the cases of big sheep farmers or wheat growers. The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) made the point that in percentage terms it helps the small farmers more than it helps the big farmer. But in addition to that, there are 2 other arguments. The one time that this Government has put this policy of welfare into play in agriculture it has been disastrous. That was with one of its fruit compensation schemes because of currency revaluation whereby it paid $12 a ton up to the welfare cutoff point on the one hand, and on the other hand took away $10 a ton right across the board. Nobody in the fruit industry wants a repeat of that welfare performance. The Government also misses the main point, namely, that if $60m is being expended on a superphosphate bounty it is up to the policy formers to see that that $60m is spent as efficiently as possible. The most efficient way to spend it is on an industry basis to produce the most food and the cheapest food for the people of Australia and the world. The Treasurer also said that the way the bounty was paid hurt the poor people in the country. The policy the Government is carrying out is hurting the poor and ordinary people far more because fertiliser contractors, fencing contractors and service people in rural industry are losing their jobs because of the Government’s policies on agriculture.
The Government also tried to claim credit for the upturn in world food prices. That started in 1972 and was a result of natural circumstances. If the Government can claim credit for droughts in other countries, it should go on the international stage and say so. But the point in this debate is that this action, coming on top of the other actions of an antirural nature by this Government, is a watershed which has meant that no longer will people in Australia place any trust in or give any credence to anything this Government does. It is ruining the long term incentives that are required for agriculture to remain efficient and to continue to produce food cheaper in Australia than in any other country in the world.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The three Opposition speakers - two Country Party, one Liberal Party - have mentioned my part in this decision. I am therefore coming into the debate, this despite the fact that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), and the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) and Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair) have not spoken in the debate. It ill becomes members of the Opposition to specify that to-
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was explained to the House earlier that the Leader of the Country Party was not-
-Order! No point of order is involved. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– Mr Speaker-
-Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to resume his seat and not to flout the Chair. There is no point of order involved.
– He is intellectually dishonest.
– Order! It does not matter what was said in that respect. There is no point of order for the Chair.
– Two of my Ministers have been named as not participating in the debate. Members of the Opposition have had the good grace to acknowledge that the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) cannot be here because he is on ministerial business in Queensland. They have also mentioned the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby). They have not had the grace to acknowledge that he has ministerial commitments and is presid ing over the Commonwealth Immigration Planning Council meeting in Melbourne this afternoon.
I do not propose to pursue the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) in his aspersions in this way. I commend to him the revelations in the Melbourne ‘Sun’ today as to the sparring for position between the Liberal and the Country parties to speak on this subject and the way a secret deal was made between their shadow Ministers last Friday as to who was to propose the matter for discussion. One of the Country Party shadow Ministers gave the story out that the Country Party was going to propose the matter for discussion. Accordingly, of course, there are a lot of silent protestors amongst the Liberal Party here. There is very good reason why members of the Liberal Party, including the Leader and the Deputy Leader, will not speak on this matter. It is that they support the decision. They know it would be monstrous at a time of rising rural incomes to mulct the taxpayer for further subsidies overall for the use of superphosphate. The Liberal Party by and large supports the decision the Government has made. There are very good reasons why the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Country Party will not speak on this matter. The present Leader of the Country Party has spoken on this issue once before and the arguments that he advanced then are valid still.
This is not the only decade when there has been a subsidy on superphosphate. There was a subsidy on superphosphate during the 1940s. It was introduced by the Curtin Labor Government during the war for good economic reasons. In 1950 it was taken off by the new Liberal-Country Party Government. The Bill to take it off was introduced by the future leader of the Country Party, at that time the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, Sir John McEwen as he later ‘became, the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. He brought in the Bill late in the calendar year. He made the cancellation retrospective to 30 June previously. At least this Government has given fair warning that when the bounty expires at the end of this calendar year we do not propose to extend the legislation. More than 10 months notice has been given. Sir John McEwen did it retrospectively over 4i months. We gave notice in anticipation for I0i months. Sir John McEwen gave very valid reasons for cancelling the earlier superphosphate bounty.
I refer honourable gentlemen to Sir John McEwen’s speech of 29 November 1950. He said:
As honourable members will recall, the bounty was first introduced … for two purposes. The first of those purposes was to encourage the use of superphosphate at a time when it was not widely in use, although it was known to have an enormous potential value for Australian agricultural and live-stock husbandry. The second purpose was to reduce costs of production in the industries in which it was used.
Sir John McEwen said further, in cancelling the superphosphate bounty- (Country Party members interjecting.)
– Order! I ask members of the Country Party who are interjecting to remain silent. When honourable members from the Opposition were speaking in this debate earlier they were heard in comparative silence. I ask members of the Country Party to extend the same courtesy now to Government members speaking in this debate. If that courtesy is not extended I will ensure that Government supporters are heard in silence.
– I am quoting what Sir John McEwen said in cancelling the superphosphate bounty when his Government came into office. He said:
Today, it is generally acknowledged that there is no longer any need for the bounty for educational purposes because the value of superphosphate is now widely recognised. Nor does any need now exist for the payment of a bounty to encourage the use of superphosphate, because at present it is in short supply and is rationed in most of the States. In addition, there is no longer any justification for payment from public funds of a bounty to reduce costs of production when for the overwhelming percentage of users it has ceased to serve that purpose. No one would suggest that it is needed to reduce costs of production in the wool-growing and fat lamb industries.
The present Leader of the Australian Country Party recapitulated these reasons on 28 October 1963. I shall quote the words of the right honourable Douglas Anthony, present Leader of the Australian Country Party, in justifying the cancellation of the superphosphate bounty at a time of rapidly rising rural incomes. Mr Anthony said:
This Government did eliminate the superphosphate subsidy in 1950 because the primary industries which were then receiving the benefit of the subsidy were in quite a prosperous state. . . .
What is the whole object of a bounty or a tariff or a subsidy? It is to help a person or an industry when there is need to give help. But surely you will not continue to give that help after the problems have been overcome. If a person becomes unemployed there is a need to give him help. But when he gets a job you do not continue to give him unemployment relief.
– Who said that?
– The right honourable Douglas Anthony, now Leader of the Australian Country Party, in justifying the cancellation of the superphosphate subsidy at a time of rapidly rising rural incomes. Mr Anthony continued:
Tariff protection is given to an industry so that it can stand on its own feet. After the industry begins to make substantial profits do you continue to give it tariff protection? Of course not! A similar argument applied in 1950 when the superphosphate bounty was eliminated.
I must confess that, like most honourable members, I am at a loss to understand the logic of the Leader of the Country Party on economic matters. Yesterday, unveiling in Opposition a minerals and energy policy, the Leader of the Country Party said that the price of petrol was unnaturally low and therefore it should be increased. Of course, it so happens that the price of superphosphate is unnaturally low - but it is taboo. After all, all taxpayers must pay for any subsidy for superphosphate and this cannot be justified at a time of rising rural incomes.
I will give the figures. When the Country Party led the cancellation retrospectively of the superphosphate bounty farm incomes had risen in the preceding 3 years by 168 per cent, at an average rate of 39 per cent a year. In the 3 years to June this year rural incomes have risen by 223 per cent - an average rate of 48 per cent. In those circumstances, if there was an argument for the Country Party to cancel the superphosphate subsidy at a time when rural incomes were rising, when it came to office, there is a still stronger case to cancel the superphosphate subsidy now when rural incomes are rising more rapidly still. There can be no question that they are rising. Tn 1970-71 net farm income was $892m. The superphosphate bounty in 1970-71 cost $40,800,000. In 1971-72 the respective figures were $l,146m and $45.8m. In 1972-73 the respective figures were $l,888m and $56. 6m. The estimates for this current financial year are $2,885m and $65m. Never have rural incomes risen so rapidly. Where are our priorities if, in these circumstances, we pay somewhere between $60m and $70m to keep the price of superphosphate artificially low? If the present rate of subsidy is to continue, in the next 3 years we will be spending $200ra in subsidising superphosphate. It would be economic idiocy. The arguments which persuaded our opponents when they cancelled the superphosphate subsidy are more valid today.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the business of the day be called on.
– The question is that the motion be agreed to.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The Leader of the Australian Country Party has been grievously misrepresented and he is not here. I seek to use the forms of the House to make a personal -
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. Personal explanations can be made only by the person affected.
– Mr Speaker, I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would preventme explaining the position of the Leader of the Australian Country Party in respect of his absence today.
The Leader of the Country Party was grievously misrepresented by the Prime Minister.
– Also -
– Order! I warn the honourable member for the last time for flouting the authority of the Chair. I again warn him seriously. If the honourable member does it again I will name him. I have a motion before the Chair and that is that Government business of the day be proceeded with. The question is: That the motion be agreed to.
– No, Mr Speaker-
– Order! There is only one motion before the Chair at a time. The question is: That the motion be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr NIXON (Gippsland)- Mr Speaker,I seek leave to make a short statement to explain the reason for the absence of the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony).
Bill presented by Mr Whitlam.
When any offensive or disorderly words are used, whether by a Member who is addressing the Chair or by a Member who is present, the Speaker shall intervene.
Mr Speaker, by not intervening you judged those words not to be offensive.
-Order! No point of order was taken at the time.
– Sir, -
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume ‘his seat. I think he would be aware that if the Chair were to take notice of any person breaking the Standing Orders, for instance at question time, very few questions would be asked. This has prevailed since I have been a member of this House. If an assertion is made against an honourable member he must ask for a withdrawal at the time of the occurrence, otherwise no point of order is involved.
– I raise a point of order. I did, Sir, at your request withdraw certain words. On reflection, Hansard shows that last week those words were used by the Prime Minister himself and you, Sir, from the Chair did not seek a withdrawal of words that I believed at the time to be unparliamentary.
-I think I have just explained the situation.
– Sir, if I can finish my point of order -
– Order! There is no point of order involved. It is a repetition of what the honourable member for Mackellar has just said.
– A matter of great principle is involved. It depends on the Chair, the rulings of the Chair and the performance of this House. I think a matter of some precedence is involved. Last Thursday the Prime Minister referred to my colleague as a contemptible creature.
– That was right too.
– Who said that?
– It was said by the rabble from the background who is not worth his salt.
– Mr Speaker. I ask the honourable member to withdraw those words.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker.
– Order! There is one point of order before the Chair.
– There is a point of order before the Chair, thank you. A matter of some precedence and importance to the performance of this Parliament is involved here. Mr Speaker, I did at your request a few moments ago, withdraw with reluctance the words ‘contemptible creature’ used in relation to the Prime Minister. I hold the view that he is a contemptible creature but I withdrew the words at your request. I find that the Hansard record shows that the Prime Minister used those words last week and you, Sir, from the chair did not seek their withdrawal. I ask now that the Prime Minister apologise to my colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, for the use of those words last Thursday.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. I have already explained the situation. If any honourable member feels that he has been personally reflected upon he should take a point of order at the time. No point of order was taken when those words were used last week.
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. My name has been mentioned constantly in this connection.
– As a contemptible creature.
– I suppose that it has been mentioned with the deliberate objective of people hearing it over the air. I did use the term ‘contemptible creature’ in referring to the Deputy Leader of the Country Party in these circumstances: He was addressing a question without notice to me, arid despite your repeated rulings on the matter, Mr Speaker, he interpolated the name of an individual into the question and in particular he asked me to give an assurance that my special economic adviser, Dr Coombs, was in no way associated with a conspiracy. In those circumstances I took the point of order, and I believe that in those circumstances the point of order was justified and the description I used was justified.
– Order! I am not concerned about what has been said today in regard to what was said last week. The point of order must be taken at the time. The Chair has made that completely clear time after time.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I take gross offence at the impudent and disdainful fashion in which this character sitting across the bench here has repeated an assertion made in an unparliamentary fashion last Thursday, and I ask that you request his immediate withdrawal of it. He too is such a contemptible creature.
-Order! The Prime Minister just read from Hansard what occurred. The point of order should have been taken last week. I repeat that no point of order is involved now.
– Mr Speaker, on a point of order, I ask that he withdraw those words.
-Order! I am not taking any more points of order on this matter. I will not give the call to any honourable member raising a point of order on this matter. I call the Clerk.
– I ask that the Prime Minister withdraw the allegation against me which he has reinforced now.
-Order! I am not asking the Prime Minister to withdraw anything because the request for a withdrawal should have been made last Thursday.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to move dissent from your ruling.
– Why do you not apologise to Dr Coombs and be a man?
– You yellow cur.
– Mr Speaker-
– I withdraw it.
– The honourable gentleman used the words ‘you yellow cur’ in referring to some honourable gentleman. I require him to withdraw them.
– He has withdrawn them.
– I have done so.
-I call the Clerk of the House.
– I move:
Mr Speaker, I have moved dissent from your ruling that the remarks just made by the Prime Minister should not be withdrawn. I do so, firstly, on the premise that under the Standing Orders of this chamber you, Mr Speaker, by not asking the Prime Minister to withdraw the assertion unjustifiably made about me last Thursday, thereby made those words parliamentary. Secondly, I do so because in my explanation to this House and in my question 1 in no way made aspersions against any individual. The Prime Minister apparently believes that there is an assertion of impropriety by including in my question the suggestion that he or any individual on his staff had any knowledge of or was in any way associated with a conspiracy which he himself asserted might have existed, in these circumstances. The Prime Minister now has re-made the assertion about the propriety of my conduct. He has suggested by the re-use of those words now that those words were justified. I regard that as completely-
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I understand that the question to which the honourable member is referring is the subject of a court case. Summonses have been issued and certain people have been charged. I suggest therefore that the matter the honourable member seeks to canvass is sub judice.
– The question before this House is not the substance of the fact to which the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) is now referring; it is an imputation which the Prime Minister, shame him, has made against my name and my character and against this House and every member of this House. I believe it is necessary for 3 things to be established. First of all, the words were used by the Prime Minister in a fit of pique last Thursday. Those of us who have been in this House for some time have rarely seen him so incensed and so little able to control himself. We have rarely seen him in a position where language was used not with rational control or meaning but only for the sake of demonstrating the petulant response which some of us on this side of the House have come to expect him to use in matters such as this.
The second thing, Mr Speaker, was that you today have asked my colleague, the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), to withdraw certain words. You said that my colleague should not use those words because they impuned the character and the reputation of the Prime Minister. I think it is necessary first of all to have a look at the facts that the Prime Minister has now reasserted and in the doing of which he has re-emphasised the whole of the character denigration which is part of this exercise. I think if one looks at page 1S2 of Hansard for last Thursday, 7 March, the matter can be seen better in formal presentation. At that time I explained that I did not in any way impute any irregularity against the Prime Minister or any member of his personal staff, including his economic adviser. The allegations by the response of the Prime Minister, and by the response of the Prime Minister alone, were made to seem as unseemly as they were. If this House is to be run by name calling and by having a man like the Prime Minister use one set of words and have every other member of this House denied the right to use those words then this would prejudice the proper function of this Parliament. It is for that reason that I have moved dissent from your ruling.
I believe that the Prime Minister by reasserting what he said to be the circumstances surrounding the question without, I might add, even repeating the question correctly, has added to the character assassination which is involved in the use of those words. If the Prime Minister cares to look at the question he will see that I specifically asked not only whether certain persons were associated with but whether they were aware of certain things. The form of the question was whether the Prime Minister or any member of his personal staff, and in the first instance Dr Coombs, was in any way aware of or associated with any conspiracy. The Prime Minister’s anger came out of the fact that one man’s name was referred to. I withdrew that name and in fact I specifically stated on that same day that no specific inference was intended by denigrating that man as being more aware of or in any way associated with a conspiracy than any other. Rather that it was obviously unnecessary for me to refer to other economic advisers of the Prime Minister - and there are others - because those other men were in no way associated with Aboriginal affairs.
I put it to you, Mr Speaker, that the ineference that the Prime Minister has made here today is unparliamentary in form, unparliamentary in character and completely unjustifiable in both those circumstances and the present ones. I find his reassertion of it today personally offensive and personally abusive and I believe that he should be man enough to get up and withdraw what he has said. There is no justification in this place for men who are prepared to carry on in that form. Indeed, I think all of us last Thursday realised the lack of ability that the Prime Minister has to control himself in circumstances where one probes the administration of his Department or his own deficiencies. It is obviously that which provoked the anger and irrational response which this House was so amazed to see last Thursday. I put it to you, Mr Speaker, that because the man in angry, because the man is incapable of controlling his emotions and his words, that does not make those words parliamentary
– I rise to order. My point of order is that the question before the Chair is a dispute of your ruling and the contents of remarks can be relevant only to that ruling. For the last 5 minutes we have heard a stream of abuses against the Prime Minister. But these comments have nothing to do with your ruling at all.
-Order! No point of order is involved.
– The reason for my dissertation is the use of the words ‘contemptible creature’ about me, the repetition of those words a few moments ago by the Prime Minister, and your request that my colleague the honourable member for Gippsland withdraw those words when this man is able to get away with using them without having the same request made to him. Mr Speaker, there are not 2 standards in this Parliament. The Prime Minister for a very short time happens to be the Prime Minister of this country. He sits on the front bench as the Leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party - shame on them. The Parliamentary Labor Party has appointed him for the time being as the leader of the Government. But that gives neither him nor any of his Ministers or parliamentary members of his Party any greater rights in this place than any member of the Opposition. His position gives him a style and a title, but it also should give him a sense of responsibility. Obviously the position has not given him that sense of responsibility.
Indeed, I believe that the abuse of parliamentary privilege, the use of those words and the manner of his abuse of the privilege reflect ill on the man and his character. If a man who is Prime Minister is unable to control his emotions and is unable to respond in a clear and rational way in this Parliament, if he is unable to use the forms of the House and make correct and proper statements, then it ill behoves him to be either the leader of the Labor Party or the Prime Minister of this country. I believe there are few things which this Prime Minister has done which have contributed to the well being of this country. However, what he did last Thursday must lead to doubts as to his ability to lead it at all.
Mr Speaker, 1 believe that there is a necessity for you as the Speaker of this House to control the procedures of this House. I believe it is necessary in heated moments if members run to excess in the form of words that they use that you should request them to withdraw those words. I took grave offence to the words used last Thursday. I take equal offence to their use today. I requested their withdrawal today. You have refused my request. Yet these words were used against the Prime Minister in a completely justifiable form. The Prime Minister today made allegations against the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) in respect of his absence from this chamber. The reasons for this absence were explained. The Prime Minister nonetheless, before the explanation was given, was aware of the reason for his non-participation in the debate. The Prime Minister’s use of those words and his making of those assertions, in my opinion, gave the honourable member for Gippsland complete entitlement to call that man a contemptible creature.
I would suggest that if the words were upparliamentary today they were equally unparliamentary last Thursday. The words were even more unparliamentary today because of the manner they were reused in regard to a question that I addressed to the Prime Minister last Thursday. The question that I addressed to the Prime Minister in no way imputed any allegation against any man. My question rather was intended to ensure that this House and the people of Australia could be assured that the conspiracy which the Prime Minister himself indicated might have been present, was not in any way known to him or to any of those associated with him. I do not believe - and I did not at that time - that this was so. I wanted to be reassured that the Prime Minister felt so. Instead of responding in a normal low key responsible fashion, the Prime Minister responded in a completely opposite fashion. If this House is to be treated to the spectacle of the Prime Minister losing control of himself - of course we have seen it before - is this man fit to be Prime Minister?
I believe that in your refusal, Mr Speaker, to request the Prime Minister’s withdrawal of these words today you are compounding the felony - and it is nearly a felony - of this man’s position. It is important in a place like this and it is important in Australia that we have a man whom we can look up to. Would you look up to this man? It is important that we have a man who uses proper parliamentary procedures and language. Does this man? If words are to be used by one member of this chamber then surely they can be used by any other member of this chamber. The words were unjustified last Thursday. They are even more unjustified today. If they are unparliamentary today, they were unparliamentary then. I believe that the Prime Minister’s use of the form of words he used then and today is in complete contempt of this place. I request now, as I did earlier today, that he withdraw them.
I believe that the form in which the question last Thursday was addressed in no way contained the inference he imputed, but rather it was an attempt to obtain, to the satisfaction of this Parliament and the Australian people, facts that it was necessary to bring to light. The imputation that the Prime Minister himself had made was the origin of the question, and the association of those who work with him was the basis of its being directed to him. If he felt that it was so unjustified why did he respond in such an angry way? Is he so unable to control himself? If he is so unable to control himself, what happens in urgent and substantial matters of state? Surely there, too, he must be unable to control himself. To my mind this is the critical part of my disagreement with your ruling, Mr Speaker: The man who is Prime Minister should not be given a different right in this House. Indeed the man who is Prime Minister should be required to comply with the forms of the House in exactly the same way as every other honourable member is required to do. I think it ill behoves the Prime Minister to act as he has and for that reason I disagree with your ruling - that he should not now be required to withdraw that completely inaccurate, unjustified and contemptible allegation that he made against me last Thursday and reasserted today.
– Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and associate my Party wholeheartedly with this motion of dissent from your ruling, Mr Speaker. On this, as in everything, the Opposition is completely united. We dissent from your ruling, Sir, because we believe that in this case you employed a double standard - one standard for the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) by means of his office the powerful member of this House, and another standard for those of us on this side of the House. The Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair) explained the facts. Let me briefly recapitulate them.
Last Thursday the Prime Minister called the Deputy Leader a contemptible creature. He was not required to withdraw those words. Today the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) used the words ‘Contemptible creature’ and he was required to withdraw those words. He used them against the Prime Minister, which makes what has happened even worse. The honourable member for Macakellar (Mr Wentworth) raised a point of order on this issue after you had said that your attention was not drawn last Thursday by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party to the use of those words by the Prime Minister. In other words, Mr Speaker, your defence in this situation, in which it is attempted to censure you this afternoon, was that your attention was not drawn to the words, a point of order was not taken or a personal explanation was not made and that in the case of the honourable member for Gippsland your attention was drawn to the use of the words.
The honourable member for Mackellar took a point of order. He read out standing order 77. It says:
When any offensive or disorderly words are used, whether by a Member who is addresing the Chair or by a Member who is present, the Speaker shall intervene.
It says nothing whatsoever about your attention being drawn to it. I believe that you said to the honourable member for Mackellar that no point of order was involved. The Opposition believes that that point of order is extremely relevant. In your own right - without attention being drawn to a matter without complaint - you have an obligation to protect the interests, the rights, the good name and the characters of private members of this House.
In a situation in which you have a mob of bullies on the other side led by the Prime Minister - people who are prepared, rather than to support the good name of this House, to use their numbers to support the bullying tactics of the Prime Minister and people like the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) - a very great responsibility rests on you. This House will be destroyed if you as Speaker are not prepared to exercise the sort of authority that you are given under that standing order to protect the rights of private members, and it will not be long before every member of this House, is cowed into a state of silence and submissiveness by these bullying tactics, used in an attempt to silence and prevent them from doing their duty by seeking to impugn their characters in the way in which the Prime Minister has been doing constantly since he occupied that office. For” all these reasons and because this is a great issue of principle the Opposition supports the motion of dissent from your ruling.
– From listening to the mover and seconder of the motion one would never believe that it was a motion of dissent from your ruling, Mr Speaker, as both the disgruntled members who have just spoken have taken advantage of the opportunity to get their own back in respect of certain statements that have been made. It is interesting to note the star players in this motion, particularly those from the Opposition. First of all the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is accused of not withdrawing remarks several days old in which he referred to some honourable member as a contemptible cur.
– Contemptible creature.
– A contemptible creature. In the course of a discussion today the mover of the motion, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) called an honourable member on this side a yellow cur. It is recorded in Hansard at page 52 that on 5 March the seconder of the motion, the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes), said to the Minister for ‘Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren): ‘You filthy swine’. Is it not strange that all these characters, including the Prime Minister, came from the same A category school? Is it not amazing also that the mover and the seconder have their animals mixed up?
Last week the honourable member for New England sat here when he was supposedly insulted by the Prime Minister. He was the big tough guy. He took it. He did not worry. He thought: ‘Nobody is going to worry me with statements like that’. And today he has gone off like a time bomb - a week later. This slow old mind ticked over, and he said to his wife at the weekend: ‘I was insulted last Thursday’. Unfortunately somebody reminded him today and so we found that, in synthetic anger, he rose in his place. Exercising that control which he said the Prime Minister did not have, he pointed to one of my colleagues and said: ‘You yellow cur’. What restraint this man has in a crisis. He said: ‘We all get upset occasionally’. But this is the gentleman who took exception to what the Prime Minister said a few days ago. He said that an honour able member should be able to control his words and he said that the Prime Minister should be a man to whom people can look up. Can honourable members imagine how he looked up to little Billy McMahon and thought that he was the greatest? This is a gentleman who said that a Prime Minister ought be be looked up to. Is it not a farce? No two men in this Parliament use language that is insulting and unparliamentary more than the mover and the seconder of this motion use. No two members hand it out more and no two squeal more when they are hit, and that is precisely what happened today. There is an old axiom in this Parliament: If you cannot take it, do not hand it out. Members of the Australian Country Party always squeal like stuck pigs when they are on the receiving end and that is precisely what happened today. The fact is that this matter has arisen out of a fit of pique, 5 days after the event - delayed action. Let us look at the gentleman who raised this matter. Let us look at what the honourable member
– Tell us what you said when Gough handed it out to you on immigration.
– The honourable member for Barker has had his go. I listened in silence when he was speaking because I was trying to understand what he was saying. However, it has not registered yet. The situation is that last week in this Parliament, on 7 March, the honourable member for New England - do not forget this was said about someone who could not reply - had this to say:
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-
Fancy that! An allegation was made against a man who did not have the right of reply and who served several Prime Ministers on both sides of the Parliament. The honourable member for New England, the fellow who cries for mercy today, took the contemptible action in this Parliament - I will leave the other bit out because he is sensitive - of attacking Dr Coombs while under privilege, and despite what the honourable member has said today, he did not withdraw that allegation against Dr Coombs. Is it any wonder that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), exercising the high degree of integrity that we all know he has, rose in this place and defended Dr Coombs? Even you, Mr Speaker, said:
Order! I mentioned this standing order only yesterday. As soon as the honourable member mentioned the name of Dr Coombs in a critical sense-
These are your words, Mr Speaker -
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 circumstance is an honourable member able to ask such a question without notice.
That did not stop this great defender of the rights of members of this Parliament - the man who objects now to these words - from attacking a man whose reputation in this country is unequalled probably by any member of the Public Service anywhere. He knew full well-
– You must be joking, Fred.
– Did you hear what he said? He said: ‘You must be joking’. He is persisting his attack on Dr Coombs.
– The honourable member for New England said: ‘You must be joking’. He still makes allegations against Dr Coombs, by way of interjection. You, Mr Speaker, from the Chair, in replying to Mr Uren, went on to say:
The Chair has not the powers to control-
And you then referred to certain things. The honourable member for New England then said:
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.
The honourable member for New England did not care whom he smeared, no matter who was there. Yet when he was supposedly insulted the other day, he sat there, and then, 5 or 6 days later, he wants the statement withdrawn when nearly everybody has forgotten it. Is it any wonder that the Prime Minister rose in his place and defended Dr Coombs in regard to this matter? That is when the words, to which the honourable member for New England then took no exception, were used. That is when the Prime Minister used the words that the honourable member for New England sat in his place and beard but to which he did not take any exception because on reflection at the time he realised that they were right in view of the allegations he made against Dr Coombs. That is why he did not ask for the words to be withdrawn. He was quietly ashamed of his conduct. However, he would not ask for the words to be withdrawn because he knew the charges he had made against Dr Coombs could put him within the category of what was said by the Prime Minister.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Leader of the House persists in asserting that I made a charge or an allegation against Dr Coombs. I made no such charge either on Thursday or today.
– I only read the question and I ask the House to judge whether it was not an imputation against Dr Coombs. Was it any wonder that the Prime Minister rose when that charge was made against Dr Coombs and said:
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.
The honourable member for New England sat there as silent as the grave, except that he was sneering and saying: ‘What a tough guy I am. That is what he thinks of me but I am not offended’. If the honourable member for New England did not take exception to the words then, why should he come in here and cringe and cry for mercy, 5 days later? The honourable member for New England knows full well that he is just putting on a stunt. He was prepared to undermine the integrity of Dr Coombs who has no right in this place to reply to the honourable member. The honourable member for New England then said that he withdrew the charge against Dr Coombs. But, of course, one must read Hansard for another 9 pages to find out what was said at page 152. I will read to the House what was said. If this is the kind of apology made by the honourable member for New England, he can keep on insulting me because there is no withdrawal in this. The Hansard reads:
Mr SINCLAIR (New England)- 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.
Does anybody think that is a withdrawal of the imputation made against Dr Coombs? That is what the honourable member for New England said today. A man who makes a charge against Dr Coombs in that manner -
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I notice that the Leader of the House is constantly failing to refer to the withdrawal by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, at the point at which you asked him to withdraw. It was not 9 pages later but was when the actual incident occurred. He withdrew during the actual discussion that was taking place.
-Order! I did not ask for any withdrawal on this matter last Thursday.
– Not even at that late stage of the debate did the honourable member ask for a withdrawal of the words about which he said he became insulted at the weekend. I think that the honourable member for New England is associating with highly sensitive people over the weekend because in the middle of the week he was not offended at all and now he comes back here today and wants the words withdrawn and we have to revise all the records of Hansard to find them. Consequently, I cannot find anything but a synthetic fury in his approach today to this problem, however the honourable member for New England was not adverse to dropping a few buckets on you, Mr Speaker - if I might use that term - on the way through. He endeavoured to reflect on you. It was mentioned by his supporters that you, Mr Speaker, should stand every time and protect them when someone from this side answers their vile charges. But no, nothing is too hard for the Opposition when it feels that it can in any way undermine the prestige of this parliament, particularly with bad language. If I wanted a lesson in unparliamentary language, I would spend a lot of time in the Country Party corner, particularly in the company of the honourable members for
Barker and New England, because if there are two specialists in this Parliament who have all the filthy language that should not be used in this Parliament, they are the two one would look at.
Opposition Members - Withdraw!
– Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. I ask that the honourable gentleman withdraw that remark. He imputed against my colleague and myself an inference that both of us use language in this place which I would suggest cannot in any way be substantiated by the facts.
-Order! I ask the Leader of the House to withdraw that allegation.
– Does the honourable member for New England want me to withdraw filthy’ or ‘language’?
– The imputation that both of us use such language in this place.
-Order! I ask the honourable member to withdraw.
– I agree, Mr Speaker. But I just point out to this House that-
Opposition Members - Withdraw!
– He withdrew it.
– I conclude on this note: If honourable members feel they are offended by something that is said, there is an opportunity for them to ask for withdrawal at the time. As long as I have been in this Parliament, if exception was not taken at the time a statement was made, to my knowledge no Speaker has ever revived the matter after that time. Honourable members are entitled later to make a personal explanation if they care. But I would say that if exception is not taken at the time, the matter lapses in regard to offence being taken to insulting language. Mr Speaker, you in this Parliament have exercised the wisdom of Solomon on a number of occasions. I admire your judgment and I respect the decisions that you give, Mr Speaker. I am only sorry that your, tolerance and understanding are occasionally mistaken by honourable_members on the other side of the House for weakness and that they are not accorded the sort of justice which, in my view, they deserve. Having said -so much and confirmed what I think is the practice in this Parliament in respect of this matter, and as I think that there has been enough talk in this debate and that the business of the Parliament should proceed, I move:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. J. F. Cope)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the ruling be dissented from (Mr Sinclair’s motion).
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Majority . . ..11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the Bill is to establish a Development Assistance Agency to have responsibility for the administration of all of Australia’s bilateral aid and our participation in all programs of multilateral aid to developing countries. The Minister for Foreign Affairs will be responsible for the Agency.
The Government’s decision to establish the Agency was announced in September 1973. Honourable members will be aware that as an interim measure, pending legislation, and in order to provide for continuity in our aid arrangements with Papua New Guinea, administrative arrangements were made to bring together from 1 December last the aid work for Papua New Guinea and aid matters handled by the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Agency to be established under the legislation will complete this process of unification by absorbing aid functions carried out by other departments including the Department of Education and the Treasury.
The decision to reorganise the administration of our economic aid programs is based on the view that improvements in aid must be affected in almost all aspects of our aid endeavours - in the machinery for formulating policy, in ensuring greater attention to the welfare and distributive effects of our aid, in evaluating the effectiveness of our various schemes, in bringing greater expertise into our staffing arrangements and in more directly associating the community with the program.
Over the years, there has been a great increase in the volume and complexity of Australia’s economic aid and in the number of developing countries which benefit from it. Australia helped to found the Colombo Plan in 1950 and Colombo Plan aid is still an important part of our bilateral aid programs. Since 1950, however, the range of Colombo Plan activities has expanded, and Australia has also taken on new aid responsibilities, under the Special Commonwealth African Assistance Plan, the South Pacific Aid Program and other bilateral programs. Our aid for Papua New Guinea has risen very sub stantially over the years and will continue at a high level.
In addition, Australia now participates in an extensive range of multilateral aid programs. We contribute to financial institutions like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, and to a variety of international and regional programs like the United Nations Development program, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the South East Asian Ministers of Education Organisation and the World Food Program. We are active participants in the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
In monetary terms, the £10m of our economic aid in 1953-54 increased to over $260m in 1973-74. My Government, in recognition of the responsibilities that lie on all of the richer nations to assist the poor and undeveloped countries, has undertaken to achieve by the end of this decade the aid target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1970. As honourable members will know we have undertaken to provide a united Papua New Guinea at least $500m over the next 3 years.
In this 20 years of growth and diversification since the founding of the Colombo Plan, the organisational structure to administer our expanding aid programs developed in an ad hoc fashion, with functions distributed and shared among various departments. Up to December 1973, the Department of External Territories administered aid to Papua New Guinea. Bilateral aid to countries other than PNG was administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Department of Education administered the Commonwealth Cooperation in Education scheme, and played a substantial role as a training authority for government-sponsored trainees under all aid schemes. The Treasury maintained an interest in all Australian aid proposals and was responsible for relations with those international financial institutions concerned with aid matters. Many other departments, though not connected primarily with the aid function, had activities with aid aspects or implications. The solution was cumbersome and clearly in need of review.
Because of the inadequacy of these arrangements, in March of last year I commissioned a task force ‘to examine all the options for a unified administration to administer all aid, including multilateral aid, all bilateral aid and aid to an independent Papua New Guinea . . .’ In carrying out its work the task force had the benefit of the report on ‘Australia’s Foreign Aid’ of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, together with the transcript of evidence and departmental depositions before that Committee. Honourable members will recall that the Committee report, which was tabled in the Parliament on 6 March 1973, included the following conclusion and recommendation:
The existing structure involving dispersal of aid functions among several departments needs to be substantially reviewed in the light of the increased complexities and sophistication of development assistance and to accommodate the administration of aid to an independent Papua New Guinea.
Also the report said:
Consideration be given either to the strengthening of the Aid Branch of the Department of Foreign Affairs to administer all aid, including multilateral aid, and aid to an independent P.N.G., or to the establishment of an authority responsible to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
In its report, the task force examined a number of possible structures, ranging from an expansion of the existing aid branch in Foreign Affairs to a separate department with its own Minister. After examining these possible options, the Government had decided to place before the Parliament the one it considers best suited to our modern needs, namely a statutory body responsible to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Bill now before the House is designed to implement that decision.
Parts I and II of the Bill provide for the establishment of the Agency, and set out its functions and powers in terms I have already described. Part III provides for the appointment by the Governor-General of a DirectorGeneral of the Agency and makes appropriate provision for such matters as his remuneration and other terms and conditions. The appointment will be for a period not exceeding 5 years. The Director-General will exercise his functions subject to the directions of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. This provision will ensure co-ordination between foreign policy and aid administration, and will enable the Minister to establish a requirement for consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Part IV of the Bill covers the establishment of a Development Assistance Advisory Board, to advise the Agency and the Minister regard ing the Agency’s operations. In aid matters, as in many other fields, my Government is keen to have the benefit of advice of interested members of the community. The Advisory Board to be set up will include members of the public, the trade unions, the business community and voluntary organisations interested in aid matters, so as to enable the Agency and the Minister to obtain advice and objective criticism on aid operations. Part V of the Bill covers staff matters and provides that the permanent staff of the Agency will be public servants. Part VI of the Bill establishes a Fund to which moneys appropriated for aid projects will be paid. This will assist in achieving continuity of aid activities and takes into account practical complications in planning and implementing projects jointly with foreign governments. The annual estimates of the Agency will of course be subject to consideration by Parliament in the normal way. The Agency will submit to Parliament each year a report on its operations, and the operations of the Fund will be subject to audit by the Auditor-General, as set out in Part VII of the Bill.
The Government is confident that the establishment of the Agency on the lines proposed will be welcomed by overseas countries in receipt of Australian aid and multilateral organisations with which we are associated. I am pleased to say that the decision has been welcomed by the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea, Mr Somare, who has said that he looks forward to a fruitful and friendly relationship with the Agency. The Government believes that the Agency will contribute to the achievement of a more efficient aid administration, to a comprehensive and systematic approach towards the increasingly complex range of Australia’s aid activities, and not least to the formulation of aid policies which will take up the challenges of the future. The Government will look to the Agency for the development of innovative policies responsive to the needs for economic self-reliance and social justice in developing countries. It will expect the Agency to maintain the high standards set by Australia in some fields of our aid and to develop expertise in other fields appropriate to our resources. We look to an aid program in which the community will feel involved, and of which the community will be proud. I commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Peacock) adjourned.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation for proposed expenditure announced.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to seek the appropriation of sums totalling $168,575,000 for salaries and payments in the nature of salary, including the appropriation to specific divisions of a block sum of $32.5m appropriated in Appropriation Act (No. 1) 1973-74. Honourable members will be aware that it is normal practice to seek appropriations for salaries and payments in the nature of salaries in Appropriation Bill (No. 1) which are based on rates current at the time. That normal practice was followed with Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1973-74. Since that Bill was introduced, rates of salary, pay and allowances, both of members of the defence force and of civilian employees, have been extensively affected by a variety of new awards, determinations and related decisions. The major part of the additional appropriations in the present Bill - in fact, approximately $100m of it - is required to meet these changes. The need to introduce the Bill at this stage, prior to the time the additional estimates are normally introduced, arises essentially because of them.
Of the total appropriations sought, $41. 3m is for pay and allowances payable to members of the defence force and $127.2m for salary and payments in the nature of salary for civilian employees of the Australian Government. The additional funds for Defence Services are to meet increased rates of pay, reengagement bonuses and other allowances for members of the force. The amount of $127.2m for civilian employees includes the amount of $32.5m provided as a bulk provision in Appropriation Act (No. 1) 1973-74 for the payment of salary increases to officers of the Second and Third Divisions. The amount was appropriated on the condition that particulars of the allocation of it would afterwards be submitted to the Parliament. The Bill provides for specific appropriation, Department by Department, of that bulk sum already appropriated. It also includes some $58.7m required to meet salaries and payments in the nature of salary for civilian employees as a result of awards and determinations made since Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1973-74 was introduced.
The remaining amount of $36m covers other increased requirements for salaries and payments in the nature of salary arising from increases in staffs and additional overtime. Appropriation Act (No. 1) 1973-74, in accordance with normal practice, made no provision for increases in staff of civil Departments beyond establishments already formally approved at that time. Funds to cover increases which have since been approved are required by a number of Departments. In several cases, the increases have resulted from transfers of functions subsequent to the introduction of the Budget - for example, the transfer to the Department of the Special Minister of State of payment of personal staffs of Ministers and transfers to the office of the Australian Development Assistance Agency of staff positions from the former Department of External Territories and from the Aid Branch of the Department of Foreign Affairs. In the case of the Department of Education, teachers in Australian Capital Territory schools have been employed by it since 1 January 1974 whereas they were formerly employed, on a reimbursement basis, by the New South Wales Department of Education. Savings in a number of existing appropriations resulting from such changes total approximately $11m.
Bringing the foregoing items together, and allowing for the savings to which I referred, they add up to a net additional requirement of $125m. While it has been possible to meet the increased requirements so far from existing appropriations, these now need early supplementation if a number of Departments are to have sufficient funds to continue to meet salary costs. The present Bill also includes a provision similar to that contained in Section 4 of the Supply Act (No. 1) 1973-74, the purpose of which was to enable the Treasurer to determine and issue funds to enable salary increases arising out of awards, determinations and like approvals to be paid from the due dates, even though specific provision had not been made in the appropriations. Because of the substantial amounts involved, it has become increasingly difficult to fund such increases from the Treasurer’s Advance. One commitment that will need to be funded from this provision is the recent 17.5 per cent recreation leave loading. I will report to Parliament after the close of the year particulars of amounts issued under clause 5, in a manner similar to that in which the Parliament is advised of the final charges to the advance to the Treasurer Appropriation.
Finally, I emphasise that this Bill seeks appropriation of additional funds for salaries and payments in the nature of salary only. As is invariably the case, additional appropriations will also have to be sought for administrative expenses, other services, payments to or for the states and items of a capital nature. Additional appropriations for these purposes will be sought in further Bills which we expect to introduce early in April, which is when the Additional Estimates are normally introduced. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Charles Jones, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill merely amends the Airlines Equipment Act 1958-1973 by introducing metric units into the appropriate sections. This Act is one of the keystones of the two-airline system, and under its provisions the Minister determines the aircraft capacity required by Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Transport Industries Ltd to carry the estimated traffic on their competitive and non-competitive routes during a particular period. The air transport industry is progressively adopting metric units of measurement, and statistics will in future have the kilometre as the unit of distance and the tonne as the unit of weight. The basic unit of capacity and performance is the tonne-kilometre, which is one tonne carried one kilometre, and it is approximately equivalent to two-thirds of a ton-mile. Consistent with the general move towards metric conversion, it would now be appropriate to specify these metric units in the Airlines Equipment Act. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
– I move:
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report on -
As you will recall, Mr Deputy Speaker, a Select Committee on Road Safety was established by this House on 27 April 1972. It was reconstituted on 12 April 1973, following the general elections. Because Parliament has been prorogued it is again necessary for the House to reconstitute the Committee formally so that it can continue its important task. I commend the motion to honourable members.
– The Opposition supports the reconstitution of this Committee. It believes it has fulfilled a useful role in our attack on the problem of road accidents. However, I draw the attention of the House to the previous comments I made in relation to the prorogation of Parliament and the Government re-establishing items on the notice paper which were there in the previous session.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I present the Report of the Australian Branch Delegation to the Nineteenth Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference held in London during September 1973. I move:
That the House take note of the paper.
The Nineteenth Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference was held in London from 8 to 22 September 1973. It was attended by some 210 delegates and secretaries representing 87 branches of the Association with a total membership of over 8,000 parliamentarians, and by some 7 observers from the Congress of the United States, the Parliament of the Republic of Ireland, the European Parliament, the European Economic Commission, the Council of Europe, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Foundation. .Australia was represented by a delegate from each of the States and the Northern Territory and by 6 delegates from the Commonwealth of Australia Branch with myself as Leader and General Councillor, Doctor the Honourable A. J. Forbes as Deputy Leader, Mr R. H. Sherry, M.P., as alternate General Councillor, Mr A. A. Staley, M.P., Senator Cant and Senator Lawrie. The
Conference was opened in Westminster Hall by Her Majesty the Queen, who was introduced by Sir Alex Douglas-Home, the President of the Association, who was supported by Mr Edward Heath, the then British Prime Minister.
In her opening address, Her Majesty referred to the occasion when the Presiding Officers of the Parliaments of the Commonwealth assembled in Westminster Hall to celebrate the Seventh Centenary of Simon de Montfort’s Parliament, and observed that during the 700 years that followed, Parliament has developed its role through periods of change as the guardian of the liberties of the people. Her Majesty also referred to the importance of the Commonwealth in promoting bridges of communication, not only between its members but also between them and the rest of the world. This Conference followed the well-established pattern of plenary and committee sessions, except that on this occasion an innovation was the introduction of panel discussions on economic problems. This was a popular innovation which promoted lively and searching discussion on intra-Commonwealth trade, regional economic arrangements and international monetary reform. The headings of discussion in the Conference were: The Enlarged European Community and the Commonwealth’, ‘World Security’, ‘The Future of Territories in the Commonwealth’, ‘Commonwealth Immigration Policies’, ‘Parliamentary Government (in its various aspects)’, and ‘Economic Problems and Social Problems’, the last two being taken in committee session. Regrettably, because of parliamentary commitments, I and 3 other members of the delegation had to return to Australia, and this severely curtailed the Branch opportunities to take part in the discussions. Nevertheless, the delegation did take part in debate on the European Economic Community, World Security, the Protection of the Environment, Commonwealth Immigration Policies and the Status and Role of the Parliamentarian in contemporary society.
Outside the Conference forum itself, members of the delegation had many opportunities for informal discussions with their counterparts from the other countries of the Commonwealth. These informal exchanges are of the greatest importance in contributing to the resolution of differences within the Commonwealth and beyond it, and in strengthening the sense of community that exists in the
Commonwealth. There are, of course, many organisations working in the field of Commonwealth relations, but the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is unique in that it provides for a regular interchange of views between legislators on the broadest of bases of political affiliation, government and opposition, race, creed, custom and tradition. The Nineteenth Conference was the first Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference to be held since Britain formally entered the European Economic Community, and the first to be held in Britain since she opened negotiations to enter the Common Market. As could be expected, with the European Parliament, the European Economic Commission and the Council of Europe, all represented by observers, there was a full dress debate on matters affecting British, Common Market and Commonwealth relationships. Under the heading of ‘World Security’, the Conference welcomed the report from the South Asian members that India, Pakistan and Bangladesh had now seemed to reach a working accommodation, which has led to the easing of tension and created a climate in which the 3 nations on the sub-continent can now work together to fight the problems of want, poverty and development.
As I mentioned earlier, the pattern of discussions on economic problems made for succinct and incisive debate. Not all members had the same answers to the same problems, and some may have even had the wrong answers, but I am sure that all parliamentarians can gain something from the debate, and I commend this section of the report to the attention of honourable members of this House. Delegates found a great deal of common ground in their approach to social problems, particularly in their realisation of the threat of irreparable damage to the environment. Discussion on ‘Parliamentary Government’ generally showed that within the Commonwealth there were several divergent views, and underlined the fact that the Westminster model of parliamentary democracy is no longer a common characteristic of the Commonwealth. The debate, however, was conducted with tolerant understanding by the several proponents of differing forms of democracy, each recognising that the form taken in the separate countries of the Commonwealth must depend to a great degree on national life in these countries and the stan dard of education and culture and on their state of economic development. Honourable members will recall that when the report on the Eighteenth Conference in Malawi was tabled in this House a year ago, the delegation to that Conference instanced certain anomalies in the organisation of the General Council of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and its Executive Committee, and in the financial stability of the Association. Consequently, this branch prepared and circulated a paper which included certain proposals for the reorganisation of its managing bodies, and for improving its financial status. These proposals were based on our opinion that the composition of these bodies should reflect, firstly, some form of proportional representation of their individual members; secondly, regional representation of its several branches; and thirdly, the financial contribution of individual branches. Our proposals were put in 4 parts. That concerning financial contributions was accepted and even enlarged upon by the Executive Committee of the General Council without debate. I might say that at the annual general meeting our proposals, with several minor amendments acceptable to this branch, were adopted unanimously. I feel that our branch can be pleased at having these proposals adopted.
I think it is appropriate to record the generous tribute paid to this branch by the Honourable J. J. Connolly of Canada, a former President of the Association, when he graciously remarked that he considered that the Association: . . should be very much indebted to the Australian Branch for the initiatives they have taken in respect of the Constitution of the Association. They are the people who in 1965 originally proposed the establishment of the Executive Committee. That was a salutary step in the conduct of the affairs of the Association. It has been the Australian initiative again to see the matter through, to see exactly what the circumstances of the Association at this time required, that has led to these proposals. I simply say to you, Mr Chairman, and to the Australian Branch, that I hope they continue to keep a watchful eye on the Constitution of the Association.’
Before concluding my remarks I should like to pay tribute to the United Kingdom Branch and to its hard working Secretary, Mr Peter Molloy, for offering us such generous hospitality, making Conference arrangements and affording us every opportunity to meet and confer with fellow parliamentarians from all over the world.
I should also like to express our appreciation of the Secretary-General, Sir Robin Vanderfelt and his staff who conducted the Conference with their usual efficiency. Nor should I let this occasion pass without recording the assistance rendered the delegation by the Legislative Research Section of the Parliamentary Library and by executive departments in providing background material relating to the agenda items. I should like the officers concerned to know that this material, which they provide for delegations every year, is most useful. The delegation will also wish me to place on record its sincere appreciation of the help and hospitality extended to it by the Australian High Commissioner in London, His Excellency the Honourable J. I. Armstrong and Mrs Armstrong. I also express my thanks to the members of the delegation for their support in the presentation of Australia’s views.
Lastly, but certainly not least, all my colleagues of the delegation will join with me in thanking our indefatigable secretary, the inscrutabale Mr N. J. Parkes, the Clerk of this House, for his unobstrusive efficiency in anticipating all our requirements. I think a word of thanks might also go to Mr Ferguson, the Secretary of the Committee at home, for the ground work he did in preparing us for the conference in London.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 7 March (vide page 202), on motion by Mr Riordan:
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.
– Never, in contemporary times, have so many of the social, political and philosophical aspirations of our people been mouthed in such preten tious and false language as by the present Labor Party. Never before have so many promises been dishonoured in so short a time. Never in so short a time have our people become so bewildered and disillusioned.
It is time - time to think again; time to act; time - a little more than a year later - to give the Australian voter the opportunity to kick out this Labor Government; time to do so before irreparable damage is done to the fabric of the Australian economy and society.
I conceded willingly that many of thi speeches by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and other Ministers are elegantly written. I state emphatically that many are a miserable concoction of empty promises and irrelevant flights of imagination. I state, too, that they are deliberately intended to deceive sections of the voting public and to confuse the real issues and problems that face this country today.
The Australian voter is imaginative and wants to achieve the attainable values and highest quality of life of which this country is capable. But they want performance, not pieinthesky promises of a brand new but unattainable world of words and unrealizable dreams. They do not want to be swamped by legislation huge in quantity but - with some worthwhile and even very worthwhile exceptions - of doubtful quality. To put it in a nutshell, and in the somewhat picturesque language of the Leader of the House (Mr Daly), the voting public, or some sections of it anyhow, have had a year long flirtation with the Labor Party, have been kicked in the shins, the pants and other parts of the body as well and now, obviously, want a legitimately consummated marriage with their long trusted friends in the Liberal and Country Parties.
Let us take an objective look backwards, and let us begin with the GovernorGeneral’sSpeech at the opening of the First Session of the 28th Parliament. The four principal grounds of policy are stated in the opening phrases of that Speech. But what did the Prime Minister promise and what has Labor done? On foreign affairs he said:
My Government supports the proposal by members of the Association of South East Asian Nations for a zone of peace, freedom and neutrality in South East Asia.
The Labor Government did not achieve this objective and for understandable reasons.
The Prime Minister conceived a different kind of association to the present Association of South East Asian Nations. His concept was based on the idea that the People’s Republic of China should be included; the United States would be excluded. The South East Asia Treaty Organisation was to be demolished because in his opinion it was both moribund and unnecessary.
Before he was able to present his views in Djakarta he was disowned at a meeting of ASEAN powers in Manila. The countries intimately involved want ASEAN to remain and clearly indicated that it would be better for Mr Whitlam to stop sticking his nose into their people’s business - business which he obviously did not understand. And as should have been well known, Tun Razak, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, who so recently duchessed the Prime Minister in Kuala Lumpur, and not so long ago duchessed me as well, the author of the idea of a zone of peace, freedom and neutrality, has stated over and over again that his proposals are for the distant future and will require the guarantees of security, territorial integrity and independence by the super powers, the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China. Later the Prime Minister was disowned by his alleged friend ChouEnLai who wants SEATO to remain and a United States presence on the mainland retained.
The Prime Minister also went on to say that the Whitlam Government would honour the terms of the Five Power Arrangements with Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Despite this promise, under the compulsion of the left wing of the Party and because of a series of ghastly errors of judgment by him personally, the integrity of the Five Power Arrangements has been undermined and will, if Labor remains in power, be destroyed. The Army component has been withdrawn and the signal interception station in Singapore will be run down and removed to Darwin. The Royal Australian Air Force component will be retained at Butterworth for the time being. In the same vein Mr Whitlam went on to say:
The newly emerging situation in our region involves fundamental changes in the nature and purposes of the Australian defence force.
Earlier both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) had specifically stated that they would retain defence spending at around 3.2 per cent to 3.3 per cent of our gross national product. What are the fundamental changes? Far from ensuring the promised successful restoration of strong highly professional all volunteer armed forces in fact the defence vote in the first Whitlam Budget has been reduced to 2.9 per cent of gross national product - not the 3.3 per cent or 3.2 per cent promised. Actual estimated defence outlays will be $ 1,266m or 2.7 per cent of gross national product. Service manpower has been reduced from 81,144 in mid 1972 to a permanent force today of about 69,000 of which 31,700 only are in the Army. In our view a minimum of 36,000 permanents are required under contemporary conditions to ensure a viable Army. Male officer resignations have grown alarmingly since Labor has been in power. In March this year there were 68, in June 55, in September 64 and in December 106. The Minister for Defence, with his wealth of experience and knowledge of the Navy, scrapped the plan to build 3 DDL combat ships and one support ship in Australia. He did this on his own initiative, not on the recommendation of the Defence Force Development Committee.
By way of contrast all our neighbours, Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma, Laos and Cambodia have larger armies than we do. Singapore’s is somewhat smaller but with 3 armoured regiments and 7 well equipped infantry battalions. In all Europe only the armies of Luxemburg, Norway and Denmark are smaller. Our well-disposed and reliable allies are well aware of the fact that we in this pretty well endowed, moderately sized, and wealthy country have only a 2-battalion field force, no operational tanks and no antiaircraft defences. So within a year the Whitlam Government has abandoned the combination of realism and idealism on which our defence program has been steadily developed since the middle 1960s. Labor has abandoned the principles of the Guam doctrine based on greater self sufficiency and regional security. The Minister for Defence was guilty of a miserable concoction of empty promises and irrelevant flights of imagination when in January 1974 he said in Washington:
We are no longer able to behave as a junior partner . . .
It is not the intention of the Australian people or Government to sit back and rely on a powerful friend to safeguard and protect us.
There is a clear need for us to be more self reliant in defence.
The supremely important defence commitment to Australia and the area in which we live has been dishonoured. To sum up the effect of Labor’s policies I use the words of that distinguished writer Denis Warner. He said:
Australia has never been less well defended at any time in its history.
So much for Labor’s new approach to foreign affairs and defence.
Let me now turn to the economic problems facing this nation - problems, the severity of which could have been substantially reduced, problems which were in the main artificially created by sloppy economic management and lack of courage by the so-called intelligent and responsible members of the Labor Cabinet. The economy can now be best described as suffering from economic distemper. Demands for goods and services substantially exceed supply with the consequent effect on cost and prices. Shortages and bottlenecks are growing worse and those whom the Labor Party professes to want to assist most are most damaged. We in the Liberal and Country parties do care and it will be our policy to use all the means we can to reduce inflationary pressures, assist the less well off sections of the community and provide incentives to growth and development.
Budget action to reduce the present level of demand was and is of fundamental importance. It is the main Government instrument for restraining demand in the public sector and through the money supply. Yet at a time when demand needed some restraining the first Labor Budget increased Budget outlay by $1938m or 19 per cent. A rise of 10 per cent would have been more than adequate. The increase in the size of government expenditure in 1974-75 should not nearly approach this level of 20 per cent yet we hear that so many are the begging bowls and so great is the clamour by Ministers for more that increased government expenditure is likely to exceed 25 per cent. So this crucially important means of reducing inflationary pressures will not be used.
Perhaps the most significant indication of excess demand is found in the employment statistics for February. During that month the actual number of registered unemployed fell by 23,445 to 97,637 or 1.66 per cent of the estimated work force, and this at a time when under normal circumstances it would be inevitable that demand on the work force would be increased. On Christmas Day 1973 the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) warned of the imminence of widespread unemployment in the new year. He has cried wolf so often and has been wrong just as frequently that it would be impossible for any honest and sensible person to take any notice of him now. No one will deny that the Minister for Labour is intelligent and determined, but few will deny that foe uses all the techniques of the political commissar to achieve his purposes. Misrepresentation, intimidation and sheer muscle are part and parcel of his ingrained techniques, not for the purpose of achieving the public good nor in the best interests of the nation but to satisfy his own whims and misconceived ideas.
I turn to a critical element in inflation, that is average weekly earnings. They have increased from $104.10 in the December quarter 1972 to $119.90 in the same quarter of 1973. It must be obvious that the rise of about 13 per cent to 14 per cent is vastly in excess of the potential increase in productivity and must therefore have a direct and strong influence on inflation. These increases must be considered against the background that the man on the minimum award wage knows that his take home pay despite increases in wages, is buying less and that his standards of living are now falling. I repeat that these are the kinds of people we in the Liberal Party do care about.
These opinions are supported by the Australian Government Statistician’s figures. During 1973 average seasonally adjusted weekly earnings kept slightly ahead of inflation. Average weekly earnings rose by 15.2 per cent whilst the rate of inflation was about 13 per cent to 14 per cent. But in the December quarter the average wage rose by 3.04 per cent. In the same period the consumer price index rose by 3.6 per cent.
During the time the Labor regime has been in office the money supply has grown dangerously and the velocity of circulation has increased too. The volume of money including notes and coins increased by $4,5 10m or 22 per cent between December 1972 and January 1974. Growth in real terms, in material terms, increased by about 6 per cent. So this was fundamentally bad financial policy.
During the last quarter of 1971 and throughout the whole of 1972 it was necessary to liberalise the supply of money in order to stimulate demand and as a stimulus to business activity. Whilst commerce responded quickly to the liberalisation of money supply, retail trade did not do so until the middle of the September quarter of 1972. Unless the steady movement throughout 1972 to increase employment and reduce unemployment was to be set back it would have been imprudent, even damaging, to have taken action to reduce the money supply by the end of the year. By the end of the year however the economy was in good shape and did not need any stimulus.
Yet the Labor Government persisted in extravagantly increasing the money supply continuously throughout 1973. Belatedly Labor has turned to monetary and interest rate policy as a remedy for inflation. Growth in the money supply had by December shrunk to an increase of 2.87 per cent and official interest rates had moved from 6 per cent to an alltime high of 8.5 per cent. There can be little doubt that Labor is now using money and interest rate policy, revaluation and reduction in tariffs excessively. What are the likely effects of these policies and the Minister for Labour’s attitude to wage demands and quarterly cost of living adjustments?
According to the well regarded Syntec the Australian Government has written a ‘Prescription for Disaster’. Those are the authors’ words. The authors go on to say that in the face of world wide cost-push inflation we need some wage discipline. Instead we are going to get wage profligacy. I add that there will also be a substantial change in the international supply of goods which will deluge this market at a most unfortunate time for those who are likely to become unemployed. On the other hand local industry and employment - these again are the words of the authors - will increasingly be exposed to damaging subsidised competition from overseas through tariff cuts and a potentially overvalued currency.
We must consider this problem against the background that during the period under review international demand has been high and it has not been possible to obtain the required quantities of goods for use in Australia as planned by Labor when it revalued and cut tariffs. This condition is now changing and imports are rising rapidly. They were valued in February 1973 at $356m. This year in the same month they were valued at $5 10m. On a seasonally adjusted basis exports in the 3 months to the end of February 1974 increased 7 per cent in value. By way of contrast, imports rose by 11.4 per cent in value. A year before exports grew by 10.6 per cent and imports by only 3.6 per cent.
Secondly, we have not yet felt the impact of the oil crisis which will add at least $1, 250m a year to our international current account bill in 1974. We will have to earn overseas this much more money to break even in our international accounts. Thirdly, the Labor Party has not yet developed a resources policy or an effective policy to stimulate and encourage the production of oil. Modern incentives and subsidies to encourage the exploration and development of resources, particularly oil, and a modern industry investment allowance must be restored.
To sum up and put my own views, there can be little doubt that inflation will go on rising, despite the forecasts of the Treasurer (Mr Crean). Some have estimated a rise to as high as 20 per cent. Extravagant government expenditure and the enormous increase in average earnings including wages will ensure that we are now seeing a repetition of Labor in office in the post-war years - pie-in-the-sky promises, astronomical inflation and the development of a milk bar economy and chronic balance of payment problems.
What should be done? As I have pointed out in other speeches and in this one too, inflation can be kept within tolerable limits with the prudent and balanced use of all the economic and financial instruments I have mentioned. Inflation can be reined in and growth stimulated by proper and well thought out incentives by Budget policy, monetary and interest rates policies, restrained wage advocacy before the Arbitration Commission, the wise use of taxation and tariffs and the development of an anti-inflation psychology must all be used in the right proportion and in the right way. On the other side of the equation growth and development must be again stimulated by proper incentives and international co-operation. More importantly there is one imperative that must be hammered home to the Australian people - the Labor Party must be kicked out of office, and kicked out just as soon as it is practicable.
– I hope that the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) will stay in the House for a little while because if he does he will see just how attainable our proposals are and he will not continue with the delusions and the dream world that he is in now and which he was in when he was the Prime Minister of this country. By a Strang coincidence I was reading the ‘Far East Economic Review’ just before I came into the chamber. I hope that the right honourable member will stay and listen to what this publication said about his term of office as Prime Minister. The publication stated:
In McMahon’s case at least he was a trier, but somehow he never could quite get it right His last visit to South East Asia was meant to highlight the importance of Five-Power Defence. But in Jakarta he was primed to say defence pacts were unnecessary. Unfortunately a journalist asked the Singapore question in Jakarta with the result that Australian televiewers heard that the Five-Power pact was unnecessary.
Thus, after Menzies’ aloofness and Holt’s warmth, the track record of Gorton and McMahon was of prime ministerial bulls in the Asian china shop.
The right honourable gentleman has the temerity to criticise our Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) about foreign affairs. I might point out that the front page feature article in the Far East Economic Review’ dealt with the present Prime Minister’s recent trip abroad, and said what a fine performance it was.
Labor has now been in office for one year and 100 days and is approaching the half way mark in its first term of office for 23 years. A few months ago our opponents were howling for an election. With the 4 opinion polls released in recent weeks showing that the Government’s stocks have risen considerably, they are still calling for an election but with not quite the same enthusiasm. Despite their air of bravado they manage to convey, they are acutely conscious of the problems they would face in an election as day by day, week by week, voters become conscious of the new Australia that is starting to emerge as the Government’s program starts to imprint itself on the consciousness of the electorate.
I do not believe I am exaggerating when I state that the present Opposition must be easily the worst in this country’s history. For the past 465 days, the media have concentrated their attention on the actions of the Government. In a general election, unfortunately for the Opposition, that attention will focus on them. There is a limit to how long any Opposition can continue without a policy and even the most generous and biased among the electorate must be embarassed by what is purported to be policy statements by the Opposition during the Christmas recess. Horrifying as it must be to them to have to face an election without policies or programs, it must be even more scary when they think of who has to present nothing to the electorate. It is a measure of how desperately short of talent the Liberal Party is that it should have at the helm 2 men who had the dubious distinction of recording the biggest swings against them in any electorate in Australia. As a Labor member, I relish the prospect of an election campaign between the clown prince of politics, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and the best Prime Minister Australia has ever had. Quite apart from the lack of any domestic policies, one can imagine him recounting his sortie into foreign affairs. If he really has any feeling for Australia, he would be doing the country a great service by staying at home and restricting himself to just embarrassing his own supporters rather than the whole country. The plastic men of the Liberal Party commenced their caterwauling on 3 December 1972. Crisis, chaos, industrial anarchy, communists, fascists, centralists, spendthrifts, misers and a host of other phrases roll glibly off the tongues of these men as they continue on the same path of dividing the nation in Opposition as they did for 23 years in Government.
Despite the fact that people are now back at work, rural incomes have trebled, profits are going through the roof, our trade surpluses are embarrassingly high and look like going higher, tariffs have been reduced, the dollar is sound and more realistically valued, we are out of Vietnam, conscription has been abolished and our relations with Asia and Africa have now been brought out of the colonial era, social welfare is now taking its rightful place in our order of priorities, the 2 Jeremiahs of Her Majesty’s Opposition daily pronounce imminent disaster and chaos. One wonders what new words their over-worked image makers would use if something really did go wrong. Their hyprocisy reaches grandiose heights when they attack the Government for its failure to implement some new measure that they themselves failed to implement in 23 years. They really do insult the voters’ intelligence. We have had our prob- lems, we have made mistakes. I do not think we ever claimed we would be infallible.
Unfortunately and undoubtedly, inflation looms as the greatest single problem the Government faces. But I must say I find it amusing to hear conservatives on this side of the world claim that inflation is all the fault of the Labor Government while their cousins in the United Kingdom blame an even higher rate of inflation on world-wide economic conditions that transports inflation from one country to another. After 2 revaluations, 25 per cent tariff cuts, the setting up of the Prices Justification Tribunal and the Select Committee on Prices, together with the referendum on prices and incomes, no Government could have done more to contain inflation at 13 per cent. I would like to quote figures from other countries such as Japan, Italy, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Greece where inflation is higher - much higher - than it is here in Australia.
Today, however, I want to illustrate what this initial period of Labor government has meant to the people I represent, the 77,550 electors of Robertson and their dependants. I want to highlight to members the specific new benefits that have come to the Central Coast area of Gosford-Wyong, as distinct from the benefits that are available to every community. I believe firmly that if there is one way we shall be judged, it shall be the new commitment to improve the basic amenities that people use in their day to day living. First of all I want to go back to my first speech in this House on 5 March 1970. I said at that time:
We have a unique opportunity in the Central Coast to avoid the mistakes of the past - the mistakes made in all the metropolitan areas of Australia. We have the opportunity to avoid many of the problems that exist in today’s cities . . . Never a day passes without some new outcry against air and water pollution, traffic congestion, destruction of our flora and fauna, despoliation of our beaches and urban ugliness and visual chaos. Couple these crimes against nature with the continued shortage of amenities that affect the everyday lives of our citizens - sewerage, schools, hospitals, recreation facilities, roads and highways and one becomes aware of the ghastly lack of planning that has accrued since our society developed into primarily an urban society.
Where in the Governor-General’s address was there recognition that these problems exist?
That was in 1970. In my first 3 years in this place the electorate of Robertson - one of the major growth centres of Australia, with the largest pensioner population of Australia, one of the most popular tourist resorts of Australia and the area next threatened by the urban sprawl of Sydney and Newcastle; - received virtually no assistance with the problems that I have outlined. The Liberal-Country Party Government answered every appeal for assistance with the oft-repeated cliche: These are matters for State and local governments. 1 suppose, in fairness, I should state that the former Government continued to supply telephones and postal services, if somewhat tardily, and if my memory is correct grants were received for 2 science laboratory blocks for 2 schools in the area. Any other request was treated in that supercilious fashion that is so carefully cultivated by those who have such immense faith in their inherent right to rule. There is an old fashioned Australian expression to describe what we got when we asked for something.
Let me now contrast that with what has happened in the first year and 100 days of an Australian Labor Government. The Cities Commission, working in conjunction with the New South Wales State Planning Authority, has recognised Gosford-Wyong as a major growth centre that will absorb a- population of between 400,000 and 500,000 by the year 2000 A.D. It is assisting in the planning and national development of the Central Coast to avert the disastrous errors of ad hoc development so evident in all our major metropolitan areas and on the Central Coast itself. It has accepted the State Planning Authority’s recommendations of 2 properly planned townships similar to the Canberra style suburban development and has provided $3m in the last Budget to purchase land for these projects. It has also commissioned 5 in-depth studies of various problems that must be solved if the vast increase in population is to be absorbed smoothly with minimal dislocation of the natural beauty and present communities. I refer to the Gosford town centre study, the transportation study, the flood and drainage study, the conservation study and the market economic base study. The total contribution to these studies is about $200,000. This initial investment is only a fraction of the amount that will ultimately be spent in the area. Investment of this nature is not physically evident for a long time, as anyone who has studied the planning of Canberra by the National Capital Development Commission will know, but history will pay tribute to the foresight of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) and his Department.
In the field of education the results will be obvious much sooner. The Karmel Committee recommendations are being implemented at a rapid pace and within 2 years should have transformed the face of education on the Central Coast. Three hundred thousand dollars has been provided for a new Catholic girls high school at East Gosford. I am informed that they hoped to receive $80,000 from the previous Government. Both the Catholic high schools - the only private high schools in the Central Coast - were given H category status which resulted in the per capita grants being lifted from $104 for 1973 to $215 for 1975. The result is that school fees have not had to be increased for this year and school standards will be able to be raised immeasurably.
It is more difficult to pinpoint the benefits in the state school field as the moneys directed to education by the last Budget are allocated by the State Department of Education. However, the local State member and Teachers Federation officials inform me that in recent months a constant flow of money has been available for new buildings, heating and lighting, teaching aids, slow learners assistance and a host of other improvements that were never available in previous years. One of the most exciting developments has been the announcement that each of the major high schools in the area will receive a multipurpose activity centre which will double as a theatre or a gymnasium as well as being available for an assembly hall. These centres which are directly attributable to the Schools Commission finance will be used by the school during school hours and will be available to the rest of the community in the late afternoons, evenings and weekends.
I understand that the high schools will be coupled together, with one of the schools receiving a theatre complex and the other a gymnasium complex. The individual cost of these buildings will be between $180,000 and $200,000. Within a short while Gosford, Henry Kendall, Wyong, Woy Woy, Swansea, The Entrance and Erina high schools and the proposed new high school at Umina will be provided with one of these much needed amenities. I do not envy the job of the local Liberal Party trying to convince the electors of Robertson that the face of education has not changed since Labor came to power.
Having provided for a totally new look primary and secondary education, the Government has turned its attention to tertiary education. Late last year the Australian Government approved the finance for the development of a college of advanced education at Ourimbah in the heart of the Central Coast. Honourable members recall the abuse hurled at the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) and me by the New South Wales Minister for Education, Mr Willis, who claimed that we were trying to seek the glory’ for the project. He said: ‘After all, we selected the site. All the Australian Labor Government did was to provide the money’. I shall not repeat, what I said to Mr Willis at the time.
– No. It would be unparliamentary.
– That is right. So much for education. Now let us look at what is proposed for the people of Robertson in the health field - an area even more neglected by our predecessors than education. Last year, to its great credit the New South Wales Health Commission sent to the Central Coast a very well informed, progressive young doctor, Dr Howard Gwynne, to study the health facilities of the Central Coast and to make recommendations to overcome the glaring deficiencies he uncovered. Three factors were evident in his excellent report: The unbelievably high proportion of aged people, the growing numbers of young families with children and the need to provide improved health care in the community and at home. Health care is changing its emphasis to preventative methods and to treating people in their own homes rather than for prolonged periods in hospital. We all like to have a hospital near at hand in case we become ill but most of us prefer to spend as little time as possible in one. Patients respond infinitely better to the home environment and food than they do to the best of hospitals. A rapid recovery is more likely if the patient can be treated at home, particularly during the convalescent period. With this in mind, .Dr Gwynne recommended the provision of mobile pediatric and geriatric services for the Central Coast. The Australian Government provided $173,050 for this purpose during 1973-74.
Due to the high degree of loneliness and boredom suffered by the aged - the large proportion being widows or widowers - there is a high incidence of mental stress. The Govern- ment has provided initial finance for 4 mental health clinics at Woy Woy, Terrigal, Wyong and Norah Head. The two at Woy Woy and Wyong are to be main community centres and will be staffed by psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, social workers and experts in drug dependency care. The Terrigal and Norah Head centres will be storefront operations and will work in conjunction with the 2 main centres. A total of $96,750 has been provided for the establishment of these mental health clinics. The services to the community will be provided free to all patients.
However, the most exciting news is that the Government has agreed to finance the establishment of a series of community health centres commencing at The Entrance. A $50,000 grant has been made available for the first of these projects, and negotiations are in progress to purchase the site. It had been hoped that the centre would be staffed by salaried medical officers, but the New South Wales Government has little interest in a salaried medical profession as it bows to the interests of the Australian Medical Association and the General Practitioners Society at the expense of thousands of patients. Nevertheless they will provide a wide range of paramedical services free, financed by the Australian Government, such as those already mentioned. These will include an occupational therapist, social workers, community nurses and possibly a pathology department. Private practice doctors operating on a fee for service basis will be offered rooms in the centre so that patients will have available more complete community health care facilities. The Health Commission has placed an energetic and well informed young man, Mr David Briggs, in the area to oversee the implementation of this farsighted and enlightened program. Two further community health centres are planned for Woy Woy and Wyong. I remind the House again that under the Liberal-Country Party Government health care facilities of this nature received absolutely nothing.
On Sunday evening I had the pleasure of announcing a new grant that has raised immense interest and delight amongst my constituents. The Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart), who is at the table, informed me that the Government had approved a grant of $63,000 towards the building of a $300,000 youth centre which will be part of a magnificent plan to provide The
Entrance, Long Jetty and Bateau Bay areas with one of the finest recreational complexes in Australia. There are two reasons why this particular grant has given me a thrill, firstly, for the obvious reason that it will bring enormous benefit to the people of that area, and secondly because of the part I played in formulating the Labor Party’s sport and recreation policy in the latter part of 1972. The total plan includes playing fields, athletic track, an olympic swimming pool, and a multi-purpose activity and youth centre which will include indoor basketball courts and gymnasium. The Australian Government is already providing $180,000 to $200,000 through the Schools Commission for the activity centre which will be attached to The Entrance High School and is adjacent to the complex.
This centre will double as a community theatre and school assembly hall. The $63,000 is an initial grant towards the indoor basketball court and gymnasium which, as I said before, will ultimately cost some $300,000. I have been assured by the Minister that further contributions will be made by the Australian Government as the project proceeds and money becomes available after the August Budget. A lot will depend on how quickly the Wyong Shire Council moves to utilise the initial grant. This project has been on the drawing boards for some years now and I believe I am not exaggerating when I say that the decision by the Minister to make this grant, together with the initiative of the Schools Commission, will be just the incentive required to inspire the Council and the rest of the community to make this dream a reality within a very short time. At the risk of being repetitive, I again remind the House of the Liberals’ contribution to sport and recreation facilities - nothing.
Two further areas where the Government has taken new initiatives are in the road safety and social welfare fields. An amount of $20,000 has been provided for reflectorised markings on the Pacific Highway and for special turning lanes at the Tuggerah turn-off, and $5,000 has been provided for the Central Coast Social Welfare Co-ordinating Council. Time does not permit me to enlarge on these new initiatives in detail. However, I hope to have more to say on these matters in later speeches.
I believe that I have shown clearly today a new and widespread community involvement by the Australian Government that illustrates just how hopeless, how inadequate and how unresponsive was the previous Government to the very real needs of our communities. This is what has been achieved in 1 year and 100 days in my electorate of Robertson, and there is a lot more to come. I have no way of knowing accurately whether what has occurred in the electorate of Robertson has been repeated across Australia. Clearly, there were unique problems of growth, development and social and demographic structure that would not be repeated elsewhere. I understand, however, that what is happening in Robertson is occurring in many other electorates throughout Australia. In order to provide such widespread benefits, Governments often have to impose extra taxes and often have to change the order of priorities, but let me assure honourable members opposite who fancy their chances in an election that the Australian people are daily becoming more and more aware of just how many benefits are being planned and implemented in their communities. It is a program of which Labor members are justly proud. It is a program that I believe the Australian people, when given the opportunity, will overwhelmingly endorse.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) rightly expressed some concern and interest in his own electorate but he used one expression of which I believe we ought to take note. He said that the Government was not infallible. I believe it proper that he should, if he does nothing else in this place, try to educate his own Prime Minister and some of his Ministers, apart from one or two backbench members, about that aspect of Government activity. The fact is that neither the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) nor a number of Ministers and backbenchers recognise what infallibility is. They have never heard of the words modesty and humility and if the honourable member for Robertson is going to do anything at all for the national Parliament in his time in this place, he might spend some time educating them on that.
This Parliament meets at a time of great world anxiety and uncertainty. After opening this session Her Majesty has flown home to Britain to play a part in one of the most crucial elections in British history. Britain is in crisis. It seems to me that that nation is torn between the forces of moderation and extremism. It should be a lesson for us here in Australia. Are we so blind that we cannot read the writing on the wall? Are we going to allow this country to divide, to polarise? Are we going to allow issues to develop in this country that will split our people? Or are we going to seek to find and follow avenues of moderation on both sides in the interests of a united Australia moving forward in our times?
We need not look beyond America to see the sort of mess that democracies can get into. To see the greatest nation on earth caught in the throes of constitutional and leadership crises is tragic, and it can happen here as easily as it has happened there because the reason for Watergate, the reason for the whole American turmoil, is the unbridled chase for power. In Australia the power brokers in the trade union movement are active, ruthless men who would seize upon the opportunity of an unsettled world to catch this country off guard and create an atmosphere of dissent and dissatisfaction which will only lead to crises in Australia.
The unions are running free before the winds of unshackled power. They have been allowed to assume an uncontrolled position under the Government and they have been allowed to think that the economy is their oyster. All they need to do is threaten strikes and black bans or green bans and, while Government turns a blind eye, they can reap the unjust harvest so long denied them by stronger governments. It will be a bitter harvest, because it will be won by confrontation and not by co-operation, and already it leaves this nation divided and spiritless, with severely shaken foundations. And it will be this Government upon whose shoulders will fall the responsibility of leaving this nation weaker and less unified than when it found it.
I wonder what Ministers learn on their overseas trips. They certainly have not the capacity to observe world trends or they would return with a resolve to see that Australia at least will not experience the instability, the uncertainty, the weakness of leadership that so many nations are experiencing. Almost in spite of their knowledge and experience of overseas conditions, they return with the object of applying the formula for unrest in Australia, and with a determination and pace as yet unwitnessed in this country. Surely they must realise the wisdom of co-operation and of partnership in the job of keeping this country moving ahead. Surely they must realise that nothing but anarchy and chaos will be -achieved by the pig-headed determination to pursue this course of confrontation in the name of reform.
It is not reform by Government that is needed in Australia. It is an awareness by Government of the Australian people and Australian conditions, and a course of positive direction from which all Australians will benefit. It is pointless pursuing the short term ends - the redress of what this Government sees as imbalance in this society - when the achievement and realisation of those ends leads to the inability of the nation to progress further.
This Government has done nothing to inspire the people of Australia to fulfil their full potential. There has been no unleashing of the latent power of the work force to increase productivity. There has been no incentive offered to people to produce more. In fact the reverse has been the case. In most areas of the productive sector Government policy has been designed to reduce rather than actively to promote increases in productivity. This Government has failed to find ways for people to produce more and to be proud of it. It has done nothing to increase the pride of the individual in himself and in his work. All it has been able to achieve is the encouragement of greed and selfishness which has been evidenced by increased industrial action in record proportions and at enormous cost and great hardship to the community.
The Government has promoted the approach that the individual can always rely on the State for a hand-out or for assistance, if and when he decides that he does not want to work any more, or that he wants to opt out of the system. This Government has failed to arouse the altruistic ideals of Australians and the creation of a spirit in which people realise that service to others brings its own reward. Australia is suffering from the ‘I’m all right Jack’ attitude. The Government has failed to create a climate that will encourage the individual to have a go, to try something new, to back his own judgment with his own hard work, and his own money, seeking a fair reward. What we are faced with in Australia today is a situation in which people are encouraged to do as little as possible, to get as much for it as possible and let the Government look after the rest.
The Government has failed to unite the people. It has failed in its efforts to achieve a better understanding between black and white. It has created a serious backlash against the
Aboriginal population. This has been brought about by the implementation of policies which have been ill-conceived and ill-administered and has resulted in an appalling waste of huge sums of money, to the detriment of the Aboriginal people, who are supposed to benefit, and the white community, which will not tolerate the waste of money no matter on whom it is wasted. This problem will continue to grow as long as the Aborigines are unable to feel that they are part of the Australian community.
This Government has failed to create an atmosphere of encouragement for the poor and the pensioners, who have seen increases in incomes eaten up by rising costs. Under this Government these people have nothing to look forward to. Ten per cent of Australia’s population are pensioners and those 10 per cent have less purchasing power today than they had 18 months ago. What progress! What redress of the imbalance that Labor set out to achieve! These people will never catch up. Their incomes in real terms will never improve while the economy is being manhandled by this Government. It is the little people who are suffering. Their savings are being chewed up, as inflation rages, at a rate far in excess of the interest they are able to earn. Their superannuation payments become worth less year by year and month by month as inflation rages. Despite adjustments that may be made in the rate of pension, unless the inflationary spiral can be curbed the position of these people will continue to deteriorate.
This Government has failed to provide encouragement to the farmers of this nation. The man on the land, who is the backbone of the economy and is still the winner of half the export income that Australia earns, has been subjected to the greatest series of insults that have ever been experienced by any sector in such a short period of time. I have been told that the period is one year and 100 days.
– That is long enough.
– I agree entirely. The justification for the treatment of the rural community in such a fashion is - to quote the Prime Minister - ‘You have never had it so good’. How short is his memory? Is he unaware of the long years of drought and low prices, that almost brought the rural industries of Australia to their knees. In this the first season of improved prices and seasonal conditions the rural community is being denied the opportunity to restructure its massive debt situation, which currently stands in excess of $4,000m. It is also being denied the opportunity to reinvest and to recommence programs of pasture improvement and productivity increase. The recent abolition of the superphosphate bounty is a vicious anti-productivity policy. There can be no argument that the use of superphosphate on Australian farms has done more than any other single thing to raise the carrying capacity of pastures and to increase the returns per acre of this nation’s crops. Yet this Government, by removing the superphosphate bounty, will cause an effective loss in productivity growth. This is a retrograde step. It is almost impossible to comprehend a policy initiative , which can have only one effect, that is, a < reduction in productivity.
This Government has failed to create a climate of confidence, activity and prosperity in our great mining and mineral industries. There has been a slow-down in exploration expenditure and a slow-down in new moneys being invested with mining companies, and 1 therefore by mining companies in both exploration and increased production. This Government has created an atmosphere of uncertainty unparalleled in the history of the mining industry. To add to the uncertainty and confusion that now exists, this Government seems hell bent on sending its own authority into the field to find, develop and process Australian resources by using vast sums of capital which will have to be diverted from other important uses within the economy. This Government has no mandate to take the funds of the taxpayers and use them for risk investment in mining and allied enterprises. This surely is the role of the private sector, not the public sector, and there can be no justification for the Government putting up these vast amounts of risk capital when there are so many areas of the economy that are desperate for federal funds.
Labor’s policies of handouts and public sector activity, of the incredible boosting of the Public Service and of playing off one sector of the economy against another have led to the greatest degree of uncertainty, inflation and economic confusion for decades. Costs have risen alarmingly not only because inflation is imported, as the Government would have us believe, but also because of the gross 1 mismanagement of the domestic situation. < Labor cannot see that. In a sectional attempt to improve the lot of the worker the Govern- 1 ment has penalised the pensioner, the man on s superannuation, the man on a fixed income, the man with life assurance and the man with savings. All these people have had their incomes, and their assets eroded, and the worker has only just kept pace himself. What a record! This is a major upheaval; no one is any better off really, and thousands upon thousands are worse off.
Encouraged and spurred on by this Government the union bosses are taking Australia deeper into the depth of industrial chaos. Man-hours and wages lost are climbing to unprecedented levels and the community is suffering. Production is being disrupted. Concessions are being given, but at what cost? The Post Office, the nation’s largest single employer, has stopped providing a Saturday service. The Post Office is a great public utility - a great service with years of tradition, in supplying the public with a need - but it is being dragged down by the militants and by the power brokers who have no concern for the people.
– All in 12 months and 100 days?
– Yes. The Post Office tragedy smacks of non-co-operation, of man’s lack of consideration for man. The withdrawal of such a service is a great inconvenience for those for whom Saturday is the only real opportunity and time they have to conduct their Post Office business. But these people are not being considered. This is no achievement. This is a massive trade off of the public’s rights and entitlements.
This will benefit a few at the cost of many, but the Government will call it an achievement.
The attitudes that I have listed can only demean a nation. Clearly what this Government must do is maintain the national sense of identity, strengthen its sense of idealism and provide its people with continuing motivation. This cannot be done if the motivation is such that one is encouraged to work only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or less if possible - not to think too much and to look to big brother if one stubs one’s toe. Government must encourage, and support the things of real value in a community. History has proven that encouragement of the individual to feel free and equal and to stand on his own feet and not depend entirely on big brother goes hand in hand with a proper sense of independence and pride in oneself and in one’s country. None of ‘this prevents new thinking, new policies or new initiatives because a country will not be great without them. But a country will not be the greatest if it lacks the moral fibre and strength of character to stand up and fight for the good things that continue to exist in our society. Regrettably, this is a course on which Australia is presently set.
I began by speaking of the problems in overseas countries, of the way in which these countries were being divided over major issues, and of the instability that arises from this polarisation. I have referred to the importance of a strong, well managed economy to the creation of a climate for progress and growth and I have argued that this Government, through its acts and omissions, has created apprehension and uncertainty among the people. I conclude by urging this Government to see where Australia is heading. I urge it to refrain from following divisive and emotional policies which will rip this country apart and which will set group against group to the detriment of all. I urge it to follow a course of conciliation and moderation, as it is only through policies of this nature that this country will avoid the tragic economic and social effects of a divided community.
– I think all honourable members will agree with me when I say that we have heard that type of speech from the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) many times before in this Parliament.
– How did the honourable member get on in the election in Tasmania for the Australian Labor Party presidency?
– The parrot in the right hand corner of the chamber has been here for only a short time but has already established a reputation for himself as being a parliamentary bore. I have no doubt that he will embellish that reputation before long. The honourable member for Gippsland made two or three points that I think I should answer before I get into the substance of what I want to say. He constantly and consistently, like so many of his colleagues on the other side of the chamber, berates the Government for its extravagance in public spending and then says in almost the same breath that the increased pension payments which were announced last week are not sufficient. On what is the honourable member going to cut down? What sector of public spending is he going to reduce? He constantly uses this phrase about extravagant public spending, but we never hear from him what sector of public spending he would reduce.
The honourable member for Gippsland talked earlier about a lack of confidence in the community. I remind him and his colleagues that of 170 major companies in Australia 1 ..’ year, 138 announced record profits and dividends in that year. Does that suggest a lack of confidence? He also said that rural industries were being brought to their knees. That was the phrase he used. I remind honourable members that the honourable member was a senior Minister in the previous Government which, for 23 years, helped to send the farmers and rural industries to their knees. So I think that it ill becomes the honourable member for Gippsland to use phrases such as those he used in his speech today.
In opening the second session of the Twenty-eighth Parliament Her Majesty the Queen referred to the Government’s determination to continue with its policies of reform and innovation. I submit that this Government has been more innovative and reformist than any other government in Australia for more than 2 decades. It has succeeded in ridding the nation of the torpor and inertia of the past 20 years. Now we have a new thrust in a new direction attuned to the contemporary demands and aspirations of the Australian people. A study of Her Majesty’s Speech confirms this refreshing and energetic application by the Government.
What have been some of the tangible results of the Government’s policies in the past 15 months? In education - and no mention was made of this in the speech of the honourable member for Gippsland - we have seen dramatic increases in the Australian Government education policies. The Karmel Committee and the setting up of the Schools Commission have revolutionised education in Australia, with massive injections of funds to the tune of $700m being allocated. The Government’s commitment to abolish tertiary fees as of this year and similar proposals for technical education reveal the Government’s determination to bring a new deal in education. No reference was made to these measures or to these innovations by the honourable member for Gippsland. I think it would be unfair if I did not refer to the work of the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) in piloting through this hostile
Parliament the legislation that was so desperately needed in the field of education. The very real concern in the social welfare field was expressed and translated in the actions of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden). There have been a great number of activities in other areas but time will not permit any extensive comment on them.
I want to deal now with the specific benefits which have ben bestowed on my own State of Tasmania, and I hope that the honourable member for Gippsland can contain his humour and take in what I am about to say. I ask honourable members to bear with me as I enumerate some of the benefits which have been very substantial. Total payments to the Tasmanian Government in 1 973-74 for all purposes, including the State’s Loan Council program, are estimated at about $228m, which is an increase of $32m or 16 per cent over the amount in the preceding year. This represents a payment of $570 per head of population in Tasmania compared with average payments of $337 per head of population in all other States. This is equivalent to a margin of more than $90m in Tasmania’s favour, and this again is an indicator of the Australian Government’s recognition of the special needs and problems of the State. It was estimated in the ^Budget that in 1973-74 Tasmania would receive $87. 8m in general purpose and revenue grants and financial assistance grants.
– How much did it get from the previous Government?
– Nothing. In 1973-74 Tasmania will receive $8. 65m in special grants paid on the recommendation of the Australian Grants Commission. At the June 19.3 Premiers Conference the Australian Government agreed to provide $25m by way of special revenue assistance in 1973-74. Tasmania’s share is estimated to be $1.2m. Tasmania is estimated to receive general revenue grants totalling $97.7m in 1973-74. These are the tangible and real expressions of this Government’s assistance to Tasmania which was so sadly neglected by governments of which the honourable member for Gippsland was a member. It is to be noted that in per capita terms Tasmania receives considerably higher general revenue grants than do the other States, and this is a recognition of its special needs which are attributable to such factors as its relatively low capacity to raise revenue and its lesser ability as a State with a small population to spread its overhead costs.
Turning to general purpose capital funds, under decisions taken by the Loan Council at its June 1973 meeting in regard to the Loan Council program for 1973-74, Tasmania has been allocated $64m for State Government works in 1973-74. In per capita terms Tasmania is receiving more than double the average allocation - $161.1 per capita compared with $66.9 per capita for the 6 States combined. Thus, the State’s special needs are again recognised.
I turn to the field of primary and secondary education. The Australian Government’s payments will rise dramatically mainly, as I said earlier, because of the recommendations of the Karmel Committee. Grants for both government and non-government schools in the State of Tasmania are estimated to total $5.5m in 1973-74. This is an increase of $2.9m or 112 per cent over the corresponding period in 1972- 73. For tertiary education, payments to the State Government again will grow very rapidly, partly because of the assumption of full financial responsibility in this area by the Australian Government as of January of this year. Grants for tertiary education in Tasmania are estimated to .total $12.5m in 1973- 74 - again an increase of 112 per cent over the corresponding period 1972-73.
The Australian Government is entering the pre-school field for the first time. The Government has received the first report of the Australian Pre-schools Committee which recommends considerable payments for both pre-schools and child minding centres in all States. This Government has taken a number of new initiatives in the health and welfare sector, involving payments to the States. Some of these relate to community health facilities. The estimated payment to Tasmania in these areas is $900,000 in 1973-74. There is an estimated payment to the State of about $1.2m for a school dental scheme in 1973-74.
I turn now to the very critical area of housing. Advances totalling $16m will be made available to Tasmania in 1973-74 under the new housing agreement with the States, and this is an increase of no less than 82 per cent over the corresponding allocation in 1972-73. These advances are provided at very advantageous rates of interest- 4 per cent. In regard to cities, urban and regional development, again the Australian Government has taken a number of very important new initiatives comprising growth centres and other urban and regional development projects. An estimated payment of $500,000 is to be made to Tasmania for this development in 1973-74. In regard to roads, in 1973-74 Tasmania will receive a grant of $14m under the Commonwealth aid roads arrangement. This is another area in which the State does very well compared with the other States. In 1973-74 its grants will be about $35 per capita compared to the 6 States average figures of $24 per capita. The State’s special problems, such as the high cost of road construction and maintenance due to topographical conditions, are taken into account by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, which is responsible for making recommendations to the Government in this field. That is a very brief resume of the contributions to Tasmania made by this irresponsible’ Australian Government. I submit that the people of Tasmania would not agree that the Government has been irresponsible or insensitive to the needs of my own State.
I am rather sorry that the honourable member for Gippsland has departed for I shall now talk on primary industry. This Government has assisted the apple and pear industry in my State to the extent of $2m, entering into an agreement with the Government of Tasmania. This is in the form of special assistance and is evidence of the close partnership between the Australian Government and the State Government to assist an industry, if I may use the words of the honourable member for Gippsland, that was ‘brought to its knees’ by his inactivity. The Government responded to the critical situation facing the carbide works in Tasmania, one of the very few industrial complexes in my own electorate. By its action the Australian Government prevented the closure of this vital industry on 30 September last and the welfare of hundreds of people was sustained and maintained.
The decision taken by the Government to establish the Antarctic Division in Hobart was a wise and long overdue decision. The previous Government sought to have it withdrawn completely. The decision to subsidise the Australian National Line with an amount of $lm for the Line’s Tasmanian sector of the trade was warmly welcomed in Tasmania and one which was long overdue. These are the tangible results of the Australian Government’s determination to press on with its obligations and its commitments to my State. What is not remembered by many of our critics and oppon ents is that this Government was elected for a period of 3 years. We have in fact been in government for only 15 months, and I think the record stands for itself. I have cited positive decisive actions that have been taken by this Government. They are in sharp contrast to the indolence and lack-lustre attitude of our predecessors. The whole of Her Majesty’s Speech quite clearly outlines the vision and the determination of the Government to shed the tattered remnants of the past. It clearly indicates that there can be no return to the irrelevancies and the trivia of the past. It is remarkable to observe that after 15 months in opposition those opposite have not yet brought forward one substantial policy announcement. Indeed, they spent some considerable time last week, we are informed, in the Party room having very long, detailed and fruitful discussions on the Australian flag. They have also decided that the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) will now give his total support to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) because the Leader of the Opposition is, would you believe, opposed to communism.
If these are the sorts of deliberations and decisions that are made in that Party room on a Wednesday morning, it is no wonder that those opposite are occupying the Opposition benches. The Government, under the stewardship of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), will take this nation into a new era. The challenges will be met and they will be overcome because there is a new resilience and purpose in government which is evoking a response from the people of Australia who for so long were subjected to governments of ad hocery, lacking in purpose and purveyors of mediocrity.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition from speaking for a period not exceeding 40 minutes.
– The Queen came to Australia and while here was asked to present a speech to the assembled House of the Parliament. The purpose of the speech was to bolster the flagging chances of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) of winning support at the Senate election. Of course everybody realised that when the Queen spoke in kind fashion about the Government, the Government had put those words in her mouth; it was’ not any personal judgment of her own. We found that the speech as delivered was delivered in a most forthright way as one would expect of the Sovereign, but we found the speech lacking in reality in what the Queen was forced to say at the behest of the Government. She did her best, but upon listening to it, it was very difficult not to realise that the Government really had no plans for this coming session that would in any way improve the lot of the Australian people. What the Government claimed as dynamism and action has run out. The steam engine has lost its coal and there is no water, only the hot air that is left as a result of its former activities.
We found it necessary to move amendments to the Address-in-Reply. We put down the amendments in clear form. The amendments amount to a catalogue of mismanagement of the economy and to making a difference between social standings of people and their economic expectation. The Government has created a great deal of frustration and fear for the future. Those are the things of which we are afraid, not just us as a Party but also the Australian people. The Government has in fact pushed us into an abyss and we are likely to stay in it for another 2 years. This will be disastrous for us. So I ask the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) who is at the table to run a message to his leader and say to him: ‘The Opposition parties want an election of the House of Representatives to accompany the Senate election’. We want that election so that the people of Australia will have the opportunity to see what are the policies of the Labor Party compared with those of the Liberal and Country parties, and to decide whether they want to continue with this Government or would prefer to have us return to office. I have no doubt what the people’s choice would be. But they cannot be given the choice unless the Prime Minister is prepared to take that action. I ask the Minister to add to the message that he takes to the. Prime Minister - please do not get it wrong like the boy scout - what we are saying is: Have an election for the House of Representatives with the election for the Senate. If any support is needed in arguing the case to the Governor-General I will go out, taking with me whichever colleagues the Government wants, in order to persuade the GovernorGeneral that he should allow such a course; that it is the will of the whole of the Parliament and that it is the will of the Australian people that we put the question to the test now.
– The Country Party does not like that.
– The Country Party wants it just as much as the Liberal Party wants it. If the Government is afraid of an election it should understand this: If an election of the House of Representatives is not held with the election of the Senate, the Prime Minister and his Party are acknowledging that they will have to continue to govern the country with a Senate which they describe as obstructionist or hostile. If they do not want a Senate that is obstructionist or hostile, let them put the matter to the test now. But of course they will not do it; they are afraid. The Prime Minister, in a policy speech in 1972 as the Leader of the Opposition, said that the Labor Party would present ‘the most carefully developed and consistent program ever placed before the Australian people*. That claim has not been realised. It never had any prospect of being realised and certainly the past 15 months have proved that it has not been realised.
The first concern that we have about conditions in Australia today is for inflation. I want to quote the words of a prominent public figure to support me in my belief that inflation is the most important problem facing Australia today. This prominent public figure said:
Inflation is the major economic problem facing us today. It is altering the distribution of income in an arbitrary and often vicious way. It is robbing people by reducing the purchasing power of their savings. It is distorting resource allocation and encouraging a rush into supposedly inflation-proof real assets such as land or housing. It is anathema to all of us, and rightly so.
That prominent public figure was the Prime Minister of Australia. He said that in September of 1973 - 6 months ago. What has been done by the Government since? The inflation rate has continued to climb. In September, 6 months ago, inflation was at an annual rate of perhaps 10 per cent. Today inflation is at an annual rate of 14 per cent. That is the way in which the Prime Minister has responded to the responsibility which he knows he bears. I tell the House that it is my belief - and I am sure it is shared not only by members on this side of the House but also by members on the other side of the House, for whom the sole representatives are those who are about to lose their seats, with the exception of the
Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is at the table, and the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), who is likely to survive with a much reduced majority - that this is the importance that the Government places upon the resolution of the economic problems of Australia. Government supporters are probably out in the Caucus room having a fight, if the truth is known. But they certainly have no interest in this issue.
Inflation brings its greatest harm to the industrially weak, the fixed income earners, the students and the pensioners on fixed incomes. They have to rely upon a Government handout; they have to plead for increases. The aged and the poor have no opportunity to protect themselves against inflation. The Government, through the Treasurer (Mr Crean), today said with a flash of brilliant wisdom that a 10 per cent rate of inflation is not as bad as 14 per cent. Of course, nought per cent is not as bad as 10 per cent. That is the sort of thinking that goes on in the Treasurer’s mind. Those people who are superannuitants, who have saved during their lifetime and are now living in retirement on the proceeds of many years of superannuation payments or life insurance policy payments now see their standard of living crash about them. Anybody in Australia over the age of 50, who is approaching retirement, must be in very real doubt as to his future capacity to maintain his social and living standards. The Government has no care for these problems. The average wage earner is certainly being very badly hit as he tries to support his family. His wages are increasing but the price of goods and the personal income tax he pays are increasing even further. When the policy speech of the Labor Party was announced in 1972 no specific mention was made of inflation. The reason for that is that in 1972 inflation was not an issue. We, as a government, had inflation under control better than any other country in the industrialised world. When we were in government inflation was at a rate of 4i per cent. At the time of the 1972 election inflation was not an issue. The Government as it now is, the Opposition as it then was, made unemployment the big issue. But now inflation has climbed to 13.2 per cent on any measurement. It is the highest rate of inflation of any developed country. But while it was not an issue in the 1972 policy speech of the Labor Party, when the Queen made her Speech in the Senate she read out the words prepared by the Government, which stated thus:
My Government believes the economy is basically strong and buoyant.
Out of deference to the Queen, there was not amusement when she said that. She then went on to say for the Government:
Nevertheless, it regards inflation as a most urgent domestic problem ….
Yet, let honourable members search the Queens’ Speech if they like, but they will not find anywhere in it a program proposed by the Government to bring inflation under control. The Government has no policy at all to control inflation. Depending on the exigency of the time and what statistics the Government is defending, it will declare inflation to be an imported inflation or a domestic inflation. In the days of the imported inflation theory, the Government revalued the currency very greatly, imposed a onethird deposit on money coming into the country and told all foreign investors they were not welcome and to depart. The Government certainly achieved each of the aims that it wanted to achieve except that its actions had no impact whatever on inflation. There was an outflow of capital, our reserves dropped, but with no result on inflation.
Then the Government switched to the domestic argument. A 25 per cent tariff cut right across the board was implemented without any examination of the issues. That had no effect on inflation at all. If honourable members examine the quarterly figures for 1972-73 and the consumer price index they tell their own story. In March 1972 the consumer price index increased by 1 per cent, in June 1972 by 9 per cent, in September 1972 by 1.4 per cent and in December 1972 by 1.2 per cent. In the March quarter 1973 the consumer price index rose by 2.1 per cent, in the June quarter by 3.3 per cent, in the September quarter by 3.6 per cent and in the December quarter by 3.6 per cent. That is merely a measurement but people know the way prices have climbed.
I suppose there will be some hope in the Treasurer’s mind that the March figure may come down a little because the March quarter is traditionally a low increase quarter. But this will not mean that the underlying rate of inflation is declining. It cannot decline until the Government takes positive action.
The 1973 Budget was an expansionary Budget. In that Budget the Treasurer said that he expected personal income tax collections in this financial year to be $ 1,089m more than they were last year. From a base of just over S4.000, the Treasurer said that that would be an increase of 23 per cent. But he based his calculations on average weekly earnings increasing by 13 per. cent for the year. In fact average weekly earnings will increase by approximately 20 per cent. In fact, the amount of personal income tax which will be collected from the Australian public this year will be $ 1,500m more than it was last year, which is an increase of 36 per cent. That is the way in which the Government is harvesting inflation. It does not want to cure inflation. It wants to harvest inflation and to put that money into the the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
– Two hundred dollars a taxpayer.
– As I am reminded by Mr Lynch, the Deputy ‘Leader of the Opposition, that is an extra $200 a taxpayer. Wages have increased but the public has less purchasing power. Each dollar, as each year goes by, buys less. Tax scales today are quite irrelevant to real wages. This fact highlights the plight of lower and middle income earners. Mr Whitlam, as Leader of the Opposition in 1972, in introducing the policy speech of the Labor Party said - and I emphasise his opening words:
The most pressing need in the tax field is to retard the trend by which inflation has forced lower and middle income earners into the high tax brackets. The Liberals have imposed huge, silent tax increases by the simple expedient of leaving the tax schedules basically unchanged since 19S4.
We did not really know how to do it! The accusation was that we had done so. But in one year this Government has garnered $ 1,500m - an increase of 36 per cent in the tax revenue. The Government promised that it would not increase taxation, yet it has increased personal taxation by 36 per cent.
I shall continue to read the words of the Prime Minister. He said:
Inflation has done the rest, so that modest income earners of, say, $6,000, are being taxed at rates appropriate for very high income earners by 1954 standards.
No mention was made in the Sovereign’s Speech, the week before last, about this pressing necessity to give relief to lower and middle income earners. Not a single word was spoken about it. I should like the House to think of that figure which the Prime Minister used in 1972- the $6,000 earner. The $6,000 earner of 1972 is the $7,000 earner of today. What has happened to that chap? If he has a wife and 2 children his tax has risen, as a result of the extra $1,000 income, from $970 to $1,320. That is a $350 tax increase on a $1,000 wage increase. His net increase after income tax is 1 3 per cent. The proportion of his $6,000 wage in 1972 going in taxation was 18.8 per cent. The proportion of his $7,000 wage going in income tax today is 21.4 per cent. In fact, he has a net increase of 13 per cent. Is he 13 per cent better off? Not a bit of it, because prices have increased by 13.2 per cent. He is actually worse off. If one concedes that food prices have increased by 23 per cent and he has a wife and children to keep, he is positively worse off. This is what a year of Labor Gov,ernment has done for the average income earner, and there is no suggestion by the Treasurer that the man on $7,000 is in the lower income scale. He is the sort of fellow who will have his income tax increased.
In the 1972 Budget I, as Treasurer, announced a 10 per cent cut in income tax. That is the lie to the Treasurer today saying that I had been in office and had done nothing about income tax. In fact the 10 per cent cut in August 1972 had been preceded by a 2$ per cent cut in April 1972, which was additional. The total tax foregone was well over $600m as a result. Anything less than a cut of $600m today can be seen as nothing but miniscule. Unless there is a $600m cut immediately everybody in Australia will have to continue to bear a greater burden on their back until they can carry it no longer. When we were in government we established the Asprey Committee to examine all aspects of taxation and to give us advice on the restructuring of the tax scale.
What was the next thing to happen to this $7,000 a year earner? If he has a mortgage on his house and it is a building society mortgage he has found that the interest rate has increased by more than 2 per cent. What is the position of anybody who wants to borrow money for whatever purpose? Let us not forget that all of us borrow money at some time. It is no disgrace. In fact it is a way by which people can buy their standard of living now and pay for it later. The Government claims it is the cheap interest party. It spent years uttering the boring claim that it would provide low interest rates. It took it 9 months in office to increase interest rates from 6 per cent to Si per cent on the long-term bond rate and to a much higher level than 8i per cent on all other borrowing. There is nobody borrowing on a mortgage, borrowing on hire purchase, seeking a business loan or a personal loan who is not paying something like 10 per cent today.
– What about the young home owners?
– Yes. They find that when they can borrow money - there is a shortage of money because the Government has created a liquidity crisis - the cost of land has gone up, the cost of building has increased and the amount they borrow leaves a deposit gap between what they have to pay and what they can borrow. The result is that there has been a strong plummeting down of building approvals and especially of building commencements. The Labor Party, before it came to government, said that the worst thing a government can do is to deprive people of their own house. That is precisely what this Government is doing.
What has it done to try to conquer inflation? What it has done is to say that it supports automatic quarterly adjustments to wages according to the consumer price index. It does not call them automatic quarterly adjustments any more; it has a flash new name. It calls it ‘indexation’. All that means is that wages are increased according to the way prices rise. If costs are increased, prices rise. They force each other up. When we got rid of this system 20 years ago everybody in Australia said Thank goodness’ because it was so inflationary. Now, as a bold new initiative, this Government is to reintroduce it. The Government used that as a diversionary tactic in the referendum recently, but Australians were not fooled.
I turn now to the question of a 35-hour week. The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) says that there will be no 35-hour week for the Commonwealth Public Service. Dr Cairns, the Minister for whatever he has been reduced to, says that there should bc no 35-hour week for the Commonwealth Public Service. But the Prime Minister says that there will be a 35-hour week for the Commonwealth Public Service. No wonder there is contusion and uncertainty. That is one thing, but let us consider the broader field. The Minister for Labour has announced that the Government will support in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission a 35-hour week for the power industry. He encourages the application to be made and says that the
Government will support it, knowing that it must spread across the board. I cannot think of anything which has so much madness in it as encouraging a 35-hour week with the economy in its present inflationary condition, a shortage of labour and a shorage of supplies of goods and services. It is madness’.
If one considers the Public Service one finds an extraordinary growth which results really from a belief by this Government that all wisdom, strength and administrative purpose is here in Canberra. Only here are people sensible, apparently, according to the Government. There has been competition between Ministers to build their empires. In the first 10 months of 1973 - I do not have later figures but no doubt the growth has continued at the same rate - there was an increase of 2H5 Second Division officers in the Commonwealth Public Service. Each of these officers is in a salary range of from $17,000 to $27,000 a year. When one makes such an appointment that is not the end of the story. Each appointee must have staff to service him. He needs accommodation, furniture and capital investment in a building.
– The fat cats have kittens.
– I am told that the fat cats have kittens. In the first 10 months of 1973 there were created 157 new divisions and branches of the Commonwealth Public Service. The extra wages of public servants newly created - I make it clear that I am referring to newly appointed Commonwealth servants and their wages, not increases in the wages of previously appointed public servants - amounts to more than $150m a year. That is enough money to give every pensioner - invalid, widow and age - in Australia more than $2 a week extra. Where is the priority in the realities?
We would, in government, reduce public sector spending. We would arrest the growth of the Commonwealth Public Service. We would cut taxation. We would immediately restructure the tax scales. We would reduce the growth in the monetary supply. We would reduce interest rates. I recall the famous statement of the Prime Minister, or Leader of the Opposition as he was in 1972, in his policy speech:
Labor will deliberately plan to reduce interest rates.
That was an error; he meant ‘increase’. We would, in government, call a national conference which the Prime Minister refuses to do.
His own Treasurer today said that the Government will not tackle inflation until it gets the employers and employees together cooperatively. We need to do that. A conference is now half supported by the Treasurer. It is fully supported by the State Premiers and it is now fully supported by Dr Ironmonger of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research. Why will the Prime Minister not call such a conference so that inflation can be discussed and cured?
The Budget deficit for the first half year was $ 1,860m. In a high state of inflation the Budget deficit for a half year was $ 1,860m, some $300m more than it was last year.
There can be no area where there is so much confusion as in the resources field. It is exemplified in the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and in the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill. The Prime Minister said quite clearly 2 years ago - not now, not any more, but 2 years ago - that the Australian Industry Development Corporation Act would be amended so that the Labor Party’s socialist program could be achieved. That is the purpose. It is covered up with high sounding words about Australian ownership, but its purpose is the socialisation of industry in Australia. The Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill provides for the expenditure of $50m of the taxpayers funds. That is a lot of money, but $50m is nothing when you start out on oil exploration. It is a peanut when you look at the cost of oil exploration throughout Australia and throughout the world. This Government wants to make every taxpayer in Australia an unwilling ticket holder in an oil exploration lottery. We do not want that. It is an extraordinary thing. Honourable members may have heard the Prime Minister, on occasions when something has happened, say that it is a first. He seems to be very taken up with this idea of a first. I have another first from him. As the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) said today, in this time of oil difficulties, shortages of supply and high costs, Australia and Canada are the only 2 countries where a motorist can drive up to a petrol bowser and get his requirements. All other countries of the world are in difficulty and here is a first for Australia. It is the first and only country of the world which has cut down its exploration for oil.
– As my colleague, the honourable member for Hotham says, that is brilliant. It is a brilliant piece of insanity, a piece of insanity for which the Australian people will pay for decades to come. This is what this Government has given us.
I come to defence. Our national security has been jeopardised. The Government promised in its policy speech of 1972 that it would spend 3.5 per cent of the gross national product on defence. The first Budget, introduced in 1973, had a figure of 2.9 per cent. With inflation running at the rate it is, the real spending will be no more than 2.5 per cent. Inflation will cut back the spending on defence, but there are other cutbacks that have been made deliberately as an act of policy. I refer to cutbacks in personnel, both military and civilian, flying and steaming time, apprenticeship training, equipment programs and vital research and development. The DDL destroyer program has been scrapped, the Mirage squadron has been disbanded, morale has fallen and resignations are at a record level. The Queen’s Speech refers to the hope of the Australian Government for world disarmament. I can only conclude that it is starting with Australia.
In government we will restore defence spending, build up the armed forces, ensure military control of military decisions, reassess the armed forces equipment program and put special emphasis on the development of sophisticated research and development programs. There will be close liaison between military and non-military and scientific and Technological development. We will continue the assessment of the terms and conditions of military service and pay. We will look at retirement benefits as reported to us by the commission appointed to fulfil this task and we will increase the role of women.
We come now to Commonwealth-State relations. The whole purpose of this Government is to undermine the independence and responsibility of the States. There is no secret about the socialist ideology to concentrate all power in Canberra, to get rid of the second House - the Senate - and to make one man all powerful. That is the purpose of it. We, the Opposition parties, have a totally different view. The Commonwealth has exerted more control, more pressure, more strings and more conditions and has abused section 96 of the Constitution to try to make the States the vassals of the Commonwealth. Section 96 is necessary, but it is not necessary to apply such stringent conditions and to pretend that all wisdom lives on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. That is a pretence that we must throw away. State governments are elected. They have their separate responsibilities to their electors. For example, if the report of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads were adopted stringent conditions would apply to every portion of finance. All State Ministers, Liberal and Labor alike, have agreed that the States should determine their own priorities for road construction. How can a man sitting on the fourth floor of a building here in Canberra know the best place for a road in Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane or one of the regional cities?
The central point of Commonwealth-State relationships is finance. The Liberal Party is committed to a federal system. The nation should strive to achieve genuine co-operative federalism and not the conflict and confrontation which this Government has achieved. Possession of financial power by the Federal Government does not necessarily make it the sole source of administrative wisdom. The Liberal and Country Party Government will allocate to the States predetermined shares of finance. The State governments must maintain their independence, and we as a government will ensure that they do.
I come now to the ministerial ineptitude which has been displayed to us. This will take a great deal of time. There has been a growth of inequality and disunity in the community. There is a lack of faith and confidence in the Government. As it is expressed constantly, What will it do next?’
I speak of the Prime Minister first. He said that there would be open government. That promise has been dishonoured. He said: ‘We want the Australian people to know the facts.’ Of course that was in December 1972. What in fact has happened? The interdepartmental committees which he promised he would make public, he has cloaked in secrecy despite his undertaking. There have been constant leaks. The Coombs report was left on a tram. Imagine, it was discovered on a tram. The Washington-Canberra exchange of cables about the bombing of Hanoi fell into the possession of one of the members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery and the contents were disclosed. Just by chance they fell into his bands. The Priority Review Staff report just by chance was disclosed in full in the National Times’. No ombudsman has been appointed. There has been no Freedom of Information Act. No Public Service restrictions have been changed; they have been left as they were.
There have been Caucus clashes. The Prime Minister has more than once put his job on the line. We expect it will become a weekly episode. It no longer attracts such public attention.
The Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) is a would-be Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Prime Minister said that only he would speak on foreign affairs. The Minister for Overseas Trade constantly talks on foreign affairs. Then there was that incredible contretemps between the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) and the Minister for Labor. The Minister for Immigration said: ‘I will ask the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council if I can bring in 20,000 more migrants’. The Minister for Labor said: No, do not do that. The biggest problem we face is unemployment’. He was saying that up until a week ago. Now he advises that labour is of such short store that we need more migrants. Mr Grassby, of course, has made such a fool of himself that he will not be able to recruit the migrants.
We had the Crean-Cameron dispute on the major economic issue. Mr Crean said it was inflation; Mr Cameron said it was unemployment. Then we had the clash between Mr Whitlam and Mr Hawke when Mr Hawke was asked: ‘Please do not come to the State Conference of the Australian Labor Party’. He is only the Federal President of the ALP, but he was asked not to attend the Conference.
Then we have example of the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) in whose field we have seen the dismantling of the defence structure, a reduction of expenditure, the collapse of morale and record resignations. The Minister now accepts that the North-West Cape installation is essential to Australia’s security. This is the base that the left wing of the Labor Party has never supported and never will support. In fact, members of the left wing of the Labor Party intend to go by bus to North West Cape next month to protest.
The Minister for Immigration has been a double failure. He has been an accomplice in attacks on the rural area which he represents. He has failed to live up to what he has promised his electors. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) - the Minister for Sugar - has done the same. Dr Patterson has let his people down. But the Minister for Immigration has gone over to Ireland and Italy. During his visits to those countries he sent back the most magnificient stories about the brilliant welcomes that he received. It has been discovered that he wrote them himself. The Minister has cancelled the easy visa system as it applied to Fiji. He must have taken this action against the advice of his Department. Today the Fijian Press is saying: ‘Was this a cruel hoax?’ What does such action do for our relations with the countries of the South Pacific? Then there was the special workers scheme under which the Minister said that we would take in skilled workers from the Philippines. Now it appears that this scheme has been abandoned. The Prime Minister went to the Philippines and grandstanded on the matter. The previous Government wanted reforms but it went about achieving them quietly and effectively. As a result we have now an intake of about 8,000 or 9,000 people who have been integrated into our community. The Prime Minister grandstanded on this issue. But the whole scheme proposed by the Government will collapse. There will be a reaction to it. What will this do to our relations with the Philippines?
The Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) is the man who said to the posties: ‘You can have a 5 day week’. Then when the other postal workers said that they too wanted a 5- day week the Postmaster-General represented himself as a hero who was going to sell money orders and stamps in milk bars. But the hero phase did not last long. It has gone, and now it is only the poor public that does not have the services. The Postmaster-General has always had this attitude. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to table a photograph which appeared in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 2 October 1973 in which the PostmasterGeneral is seen walking under canvases which say: ‘Five day week for all postal workers’.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– I now come to the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les
Johnson). I am glad to see that the Minister has found the time to come into the chamber. In his policy speech of 1972 the Prime Minister, who was then the Leader of the Opposition, read out these brave words:
The inability to provide housing for those who need it most threatens to reach crisis proportions.
This was said in 1972. But now, under the Johnson administration, this area really is in crisis. Housing statistics show an alarming falloff for loans and approvals. Building society housing loans were down 52 per cent in the year ended 1973. Building approvals in the 3 months to June 1973 fell by 12.5 per cent. The cost of building has gone up. The deposit gap has widened and the interest rate on every mortgage has gone up by a minimum of one per cent and mostly 2 per cent or above. Commencements for private dwellings fell 11.5 per cent for the December quarter.
Where is the promised tax deductibility scheme for interest rate payments on home mortgages which was an essential part of the policy speech on which the Government was elected? We have not seen hide nor hair of it since. What became of the plan to protect low income earners from rising interest rates? The Minister for Housing and Construction got up in this House and said when interest rates went up that Caucus would devise a scheme to protect people on low incomes from higher interest rates. The other day he said: The Government will not reduce interest rates until inflation is defeated’. (Extension of time granted). Recently the Minister made a self-confession about his failure in housing. There can be no doubt about it because the facts speak for themselves. The Minister might as well confess to his failure. People are now finding it harder and harder to get a house. Then they are finding it harder and harder to pay for a house. As I said, the Minister has confessed. He said:
I have watched with acute anxiety as an enormous amount of finance stretched the building industry to a point where human and material resources could no longer cope and prices soared astronomically.
The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has made promises in regard to pensions. He promised that pensions would represent 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. At the end of December 1972- the relevance’ of December 1972 is that this is the month in which this Government came to office - the proportion of the pension to average weekly earnings was 20 per cent. A year later, after this Government was going to increase the proportion to 25 per cent, it remained precisely where it had been a year before - at 20 per cent of average weekly earnings. Now, amidst the trumpeting of propaganda, the Government says that it is going to bring in increases of $3 a week for age pensioners. If we work that out it means that these pen.ioners, by the June quarter will receive 20.5 per cent of average weekly earnings, and this figure probably will be below 20 per cent by the time the next pension increase comes around.
The Minister for Social Security has an unworkable health scheme which has been rejected not just by the Senate and this Parliament but by his own Party because, search as one would in the Queen’s Speech, one can find no mention of such a scheme coming back in. The Minister says that he is responsible for unemployment benefit payments. The criteria for unemployment benefits were eased in January 1973. The Minister said:
According to my philosophy the bulk of people who are unemployed at the moment are not impostors seeking to exploit the public purse.
But now both he and the Minister for Labour are extremely worried. There is no point in going through the whole catalogue. However, I would just like to mention a couple more Ministers. The Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass), with the full sense of confession upon him, has said: ‘It is a glorious series of failures’. He was referring to his administration of that Department. He cited some examples including Black Mountain tower, Lake Pedder and the fact that there is no legislation requiring environmental impact studies to be carried out. He might just as well have drawn his money and dug ditches as the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) has suggested could be done by other people. He could just as easily have done it. He was contributing nothing, but he provided us with an insight into the Labor Party’s attitude towards those people concerned with conservation and the quality of life. He said: *we must assume we are all middle class trendy intellectual environmentalists. This is his regard for them. Speaking of confessions and failures, let me add that none could be greater than that of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
– Which one?
– The second one. I think he was actually referring to the efforts of the first one. I am not sure that he was coming to the confessional so much about himself as about his predecessor. He said, 1 think, I quote him correctly: ‘Labor’s policy has been a disaster’. He said that the implementation of Labor’s policy on Aborigines has been a disaster. What has the Prime Minister done about it? He has not done a thing. The other day he held a Press conference at which he said at first that he had seen Senator Cavanagh and then he said that he had not seen Senator Cavanagh. But in any event what it came to was that he did not have a single conversation with his Minister who had said that this policy was a disaster. I would have thought that the Prime Minister was pretty closely attached to the subject because in that 1972 policy speech he said that the thing by which the world will judge Australia pre-eminently, above all other things, will be its treatment of the Aborigines. Then his own Minister described the Government’s policy as a disaster.
In conclusion let me refer to the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy). He raided the headquarters of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation on 16 March 1973. He had enjoyed office for 3 months. So imbued with office was he that he gathered around him a group of policemen and he invaded ASIO headquarters. At the time people wondered what had gone wrong with him and whether he was off his head. In fact he was not that. In a world televised entertainment show - I think it was called ‘Frost Over Australia’ - the Prime Minister described one of his own Ministers as making the biggest mistake that the Government has made. But of course the Government had been in office for only 3 months at the time when that statement was made. The Attorney-General has made plenty of mistakes since then. I refer to the human rights legislation which says that everybody must by free to do what they want, and if they are not free to do what they want the Government will go to court and ask the court to decide whether they ought to be free to do it. I wonder what would have been the consequences for Senator Murphy if we had had the human rights legislation on the statute books before he invaded ASIO.
So one can go on with this catalogue of errors. I repeat that the only way to avoid 2 more years of the downward movement of the social and economic standards of this country, to get rid of the confusion and the uncertainty, to restore Australia to a strong path of growth and social justice where the poor and the weak can have an increase in living standards which they are not enjoying now, is to have an election. The irony is that most of those people who put this Government into office have been abandoned by it. The Prime Minister must have a Senate election before the end of June.
– He cannot dodge that one.
– He cannot dodge that. What he should do is ask the GovernorGeneral for a dissolution of this House and we can then have a general election. I move as an amendment to the address-in-reply:
That the following words be added to the proposed address-in-reply: but the House of Representatives is of the opinion and regrets that your Majesty was not informed by the Government of the true position in Australia in that it has:
created an intolerably high level of inflation and has taken no effective steps to stop it;
caused uncertainty and in its management of the economy is creating social inequities;
attempted to change the Federal system of the Australian Constitution by diminishing the responsibility of the States;
injured rural industries and the communities they support;
pursued defence and foreign policies which have seriously weakened our defence capacity; and
failed to fulfil the expectations of the Australian people because of its administrative incompetence.
Why can the people of Australia not determine now what they want for their future? That can be done by an election in the next month.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
Sitting suspended from 6.13 to 8 p.m.
-I wish to inform the House that this afternoon the Australian Broadcasting Commission sought permission to interrupt parliamentary broadcasts through station 4QR in Brisbane in order to provide emergency messages for people in areas affected by flooding near Brisbane and on the north coast of New South Wales. The ABC intends to maintain a 24-hour service on both its stations in Brisbane while the flood threat remains and 4QR is the ABC station which provides the best coverage to the Gold Coast area. After seeking the views of other members of the Joint Statutory Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings, I advised the ABC that parliamentary broadcasts could be interrupted if the need arose. I might also add that I did consult the Leader of the House and the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, the latter of whom assured me that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would also concur and that no objections could be raised to this procedure.
– In July 1973 an amount of $4m was allocated to the State of New South Wales as a grant for the purpose of building a new teaching hospital at Westmead in New South Wales. At the time the allocation was made it was estimated that the proposed hospital would cost $40m. It is now estimated that it will cost $60m and, possibly, before it is completed it will cost well over that figure. The health of the people living in the western area of metropolitan Sydney is at present cared for by 4 hospitals, situated at Penrith, Blacktown, Parramatta and - although to a lesser degree - at Windsor. The 4 areas cover a population of 536,000, well over half a million people. Within this area is Parramatta, which has a population of 140,000 with an annual increase in population of 1,400; there is Blacktown, with a population of 160,000 and an annual increase of 10,000; there is the Hills area with a population of 70,000 and an increase of 5,000 each year; Penrith, with a population of 70,000 and an annual increase of 5,600; Windsor with a population of 16,000 with an annual increase of 800, and the Holroyd area of 80,000 population and an annual increase in population of 2,500. The total population of the western area at present, as I have said, is 536,000 with an annual increase of 25,300. So, the 4 hospitals have a tremendous task to meet with regard to hospitalisation.
In order to relieve the situation, in 1965 - 9 years ago- the hospital at Blacktown was built by the New South Wales Government. However, housing commission development, war service homes development and development by private enterprise have created a situation which is becoming practically impossible to handle as it relates to hospitalisation. Over this period of 9 years, the Mount Druitt area within the Penrith-Blacktown area progressed from rural-country to an area with a population of 60,000 - an impossible situation for the Penrith and Blacktown hospitals to handle. Small additions and renovations have been carried out at the Parramatta and Windsor hospitals but the annual increase in the population of this area has far outstripped the ability of the hospitals to cope with the present situation.
At the moment, the western area of Sydney is over 2,000 hospital beds short of requirements. We find that in the Parramatta area the average waiting time to gain admission to the Parramatta hospital can be from 5 weeks to 6 months, except in cases of emergency. Parramatta averages 120 to 150 road casualties each weekend. In addition, it averages 160 medical casualties each weekend so that it is averaging, overall 250 to 300 casualty cases every weekend. As can well be imagined, the weekend pressure on staff extends into the normal hospital service on Monday and later in the week, adding further strain to hospital staff and administration. The daily average of occupied beds at the Parramatta Hospital is 226.5. The total number of patients treated over a 12-month period was 9,385. The number of registered outpatients increased to 64,288 as compared with 60,786 for the previous year. Most general practitioners today will not treat pensioners. Therefore, pensioners line up at these hospitals for treatment and in many instances wait all day and possibly two to 3 days before they receive treatment. The same set of circumstances exists at the Penrith, Blacktown and Windsor hospitals.
The Camperdown children’s hospital, an average of 20 miles from the centre of the western metropolitan area, where these 4 hospitals are situated, averages 100 to 150 child cases each day from this western area. As can be appreciated, with an average annual increase in population within this western area of 25,000 people, practically all of whom are young people with young families, the probems associated with the hospitalisation and care of children are practically impossible to surmount. The hospitals I mentioned are not equipped with the necessary specialists to deal with child cases and their journey to Camperdown hospital of 20 miles becomes a nightmare to the parents of the children, with waiting time after they get to the hospital creating a tremendous problem. No sketch plan has been presented defining what the Westmead teaching hospital complex will be like. No road plan has been laid down. A 1,000-bed hospital requires 2.8 people per patient, not including specialists. So, a 1,000-bed hospital would require a work force of 3,000 people and the traffic created by a hospital of this size would be tremendous. There would need to be a lot of planning before the hospital was built. One wonders what has been done in this connection by those concerned within the New South Wales Government, particularly the State Minister for Health.
The Australian Labor Party realised years before the 1972 election that these problems existed and emphasised the fact that on taking office its first consideration would be a grant to commence construction of the Westmead teaching hospital and to relieve the position with regard to hospitalisation within the area as quickly as possible. So, as I mentioned, in July 1973 a grant of $4m was made by this Government to the New South Wales State Government for the purpose of enabling the State Government to commence as quickly as possible the task of overcoming the problems associated with the hospitalisation requirements of the 536,000 people within this western area.
For many years the New South Wales Government has spoken of what it proposes to do. As far back as 1968 reports have appeared stating that the Government .was all bent on providing a hospital at Parramatta with all possible speed. The reports stated that the Government would approve a $40m plan, that the Sydney Hospital would be moved and made a teaching hospital, and that everything possible would be done. But today the position is still the same as it was in 1968. The only difference, of course, is that back in 1968 approximately 250,000 people were being served by these 4 hospitals, whereas today the number is 536,000. But there has been no increase in hospital facilities.
One might ask the question: What has the New South Wales Minister for Health, Mr Waddy, done with this money? According to the Parramatta ‘Advertiser’ of Thursday, 14 February, he advised that earthworks for the gigantic Westmead teaching hospital had begun and that the State Government would call tenders for the $55m first stage of the project within 6 months. He said that the New South Wales Government would be unable to spend the full $4m voted to the project because of lack of time. He only had 9 months in which to spend it. However, he said that tenders had already been called for demolition of buildings and general site clearance. He said also that tenders would be sought for landscaping and site drainage. However, it would appear that Mr Waddy was creating a false impression when he said that construction had already begun. The Labor member for Parramatta stated on 28 February that the earthworks which were under way at Westmead at that time were not taking place on the main hospital site. He said that those works were the start of construction on a unit to treat emotionally disturbed children and adolescents. The question asked of Mr Waddy by the State member for Parramatta remains unanswered. These question is in these terms:
The silence of Mr Waddy was very ominous. One would assume that no decision had been made with regard to the commencement date or a planning committee being set up, and that no expenditure had been made to date from the $4m allocated to the Minister. One asks: Is $2.1m of the $4m allocated for the Westmead teaching hospital to be used on additional facilities for Marsden hospital for handicapped children? Well, we do not know, but what we do know is that the Australian Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) has now decided to allocate $500,000 for extensions to the Liverpool Hospital. Apparently the reason is that the State Government does not want it for the Westmead hospital. I agree that the money should be used for such a worthy cause, because $4m cannot be left unused in a trust account when the whole of New South Wales is crying out for additional hospital facilities in every section.
The Interim Committee on Hospitals and Health Services, which is known as the Sax Committee, has decided, following investigation, to transfer to other States another $1.5m of the $4m that was originally given to the New South Wales Minister for Health, Mr Waddy, so that immediate use can be made of this money which apparently the Minister for Health in New South Wales cannot use. It would appear that the people in the western portion of the metropolitan area of Sydney cannot look forward to any of the relief of their hospital situation which has been promised to them since 1968. They cannot look forward to any relief from waiting from a week to 6 months before they can gain admission to hospital. Pensioners who line up for treatment and wait one, 2 and 3 days can be given no relief. No relief can be given to the hundreds of mothers who have to take their children 20 miles to the Camperdown Children’s Hospital each day because no hospital in their area has the necessary consultants who can deal with their children’s sicknesses.
It appears that no preparations have been made for the construction of this hospital. When one considers that a hospital of this size needs ingress and egress roads, that it will employ 3,000 people and that it requires 2.8 personnel for each patient in the hospital, one realises that serious work has to be done, before we even put down the foundations of this hospital, in relation to how we are to control traffic and how we are to meet this overnight increase in population at the hospital. The public will suffer. They have suffered since 1968 in regard to this very vexed question. From the information available to date, it would appear that plans and specifications for this hospital still have not been considered. It is said that it will take at least 2 years to have a look at these and then it will take another 3 years to build the hospital, by which time it will cost $90m. So possibly we can look forward to having a hospital to relieve the present situation by 1979. In view of the fact that the population in this area is increasing at the rate of 25,000 people a year, the health situation to which we can look in this area in the years to come is one of chaos.
I am very sorry to see that it has been necessary . for the Australian Minister for Health to decide, much against his will, to transfer money from the New South Wales Minister for Health to the extent of $1.4m because that money cannot be used. The Minister cannot leave the money there; he must use it elsewhere. I agree with that. So this amount of money, which was so generously allocated to meet the tremendous problems of hospitalisation existing today in that area, has been reallocated because of the inefficiency of the New South Wales Government and particularly because of the inability of the New South Wales Minister for Health to foresee the situation and to give to it the attention that was necessary in order to speed up the construction of this hospital as much as possible. The result is that we will lose this amount of almost $2m.
– On the last day of the final session of 1973 the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) bored this House for H hours by talking of the achievements of himself and his Government. If he had spoken with the same verbosity and the same dedicated loquaciousness about what he and his Government had failed to do or had done badly his speech would have been much longer. Let me illustrate what I mean. Interest rates have never been higher, despite the fact that the Party in office - the Australian Labor Party - prides itself on being a low interest Party. As Sir Henry Bolte has inferred, the Labor Party has no doubt put up interest rates so that it will be able to make a good fellow of itself later on by reducing them. Inflation is at its highest level for more than 20 years. Who has to pay for this? It is not the present wage and salary earners because their wages and salaries are adjusted to meet the rate of inflation, although they are paying far too much in taxes at the present time. I know that cuts will be made later in the year. The Treasurer (Mr Crean’ has said that this will be done. But wage and salary earners are paying far too much at present and the proposed cuts will not hi made retrospective. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) pointed out today that taxation collections from private income earners - not from companies - will increase by $ 1,500m over last year’s figure. That represents $200 for every person in Australia who pays income tax.
Today’s Sydney ‘Sun’ carries a story on page 4 entitled “The Extra Hours You Work To Pay Your Bills’. It lists a whole host of food items and shows how their prices have increased between March 1972, when the Liberal-Country Party coalition was in government, and March 1974. The increases go to as high as 92 per cent for potatoes. Surely they are a very staple diet. The article also points out that people now have to work 30 per cent longer to pay the same food bill that they had to meet when the Liberal-Country Party Government was in office 2 years ago. The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Birrell), who is interjecting, is all mixed up. He is like the fully clothed man who streaked through a nudist colony. The people who are feeling inflation most of all are those who retired on fixed incomes, whether they be superannuation or annuities, and those who left their money in banks or in some other form of liquid investment. They are watching the value of their savings steadily deteriorate. It is not of much use to them to receive 8 per cent or 10 per cent interest on their savings if the capital value is going down by 13 per cent or more each year. I am not suggesting that the actions of the present Government have been the sole cause of the inflation; that would be absurd. But I do believe that the Government has contributed to the present high rate of inflation in a big way.
Just consider the effect of the interest rates I have already mentioned on the inflationary spiral. Add to that the increased Government charges as a result of the last Budget. To mention just a few, I refer to the increased petrol tax, the increased postal charges and the limitations placed upon taxation deductions for land taxes and for rates. Add to that the cost of the increase by the Government in the number of departments by the net figure of ten and the very much higher number of divisions in the Public Service. Add to that the cost of the 35-hour week proposal, the 4 weeks annual leave proposal, the equal pay proposal and the 17i per cent Christmas loading as well as the increased wages. All those things are all right provided there is increased production, but without increased production there has to be inflation. Add to that the cost of industrial strikes, which has been very much higher during the period that the Labor Party has been in office than they were when the LiberalCountry Party coalition was in governme.it, and the consequential loss of wages. Add to that the cost of the Prime Minister and his Ministers and their retinue tripping around the world. Is it any wonder that the rat3 of inflation is so high?
The Government has not only greatly increased interest rates, which has made it very much harder for persons to buy their own homes, but also has kicked the young people in the teeth by phasing out the home savings grant scheme that was introduced by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government. It is of no use the Government saying: ‘But we are going to give an allowable deduction for interest paid on the purchase of a home’, because we on this side of the House also promised that in our policy speech. If we had been returned to government we would have introduced concessions with respect to the interest paid on the purchase of homes which would have benefited the poorer sections qf the community to a much greater extent than Labor’s scheme. The important thing to remember is that the Labor Party did not say in its policy speech when it announced these concessions that it proposed to phase out the home savings grants scheme that, as I have said, the previous Liberal-Country Party Government introduced. I believe that the Labor Party pulled a confidence trick on the young people of Australia. It is not only gradually depriving them of this grant but also has pushed interest rates to a figure which has made it very much more difficult for young people to buy homes. Perhaps that is because the .Labor Party still believes in the philosophy it followed years ago, that to encourage people to own their own homes is to create a race of liberal capitalists. The young people who fell for this confidence trick in December 1972 will not forget it when the Prime Minister chooses to give the people another chance to express themselves.
The Government has made a very big deal about the reduction in tariffs on domestic appliances. On 23 January of this year the Prime Minister issued a statement about this matter. For those honourable members who want to check it I point out that the number of the statement is 177. Leaving aside the fact that a reduction in the tariffs on imported goods could endanger the jobs of some Australian workmen, I believe that the Australian people were entitled to believe that they would be able to purchase imported domestic appliances at a lower price. What the Government did not tell the public was that at the time it reduced tariffs on a wide range of items from most countries it pushed up the tariff rates on goods imported from the United Kingdom. This fact has been brought to my notice by a Melbourne firm which imports from the United Kingdom refrigerators of a size which is not made in any quantity in Australia. I refer to 1, H, 2, 2i and 3 cubic foot refrigerators and the horizontal type refrigerator rather than the vertical type. The duty on them was increased from 15 per cent to 25 per cent. So anyone purchasing a refrigerator manufactured in the United Kingdom will pay more, not less, for it. Last night I received a telephone call from a friend who is importing 3-dimensional pictures from Japan. They are not being manufactured in Australia. He hired a team of Japanese photographers to photograph beauty spots in all States of Australia for reproduction of 3-dimensional pictures 11 inches by 14 inches. These people have taken their pictures and have returned to Japan. Because this man believed that the prices could go up this year he placed orders for his entire reequirements for 1974 during 1973. The rate of duty on them was 7 per cent. When it introduced its tariff cuts the Labor Government cut the rate of duty to 6.25 per cent, but only very recently it increased the rate to 35 per cent, which is 5 times as great as the original duty. I wish the Government would tell the people what it really means when it talks of tariff cuts.
The Government has reduced the value of Commonwealth secondary scholarships. It has made the means test so much harder to meet that it is almost impossible for a family in which the wife chooses to work to qualify because the family income is taken into consideration. The Labor Government talks about an assessed, seasonal or adjusted family income, which allows for a deduction of $300 for every child undergoing full time primary or secondary education. One can also take off a car allowance. This means that a person on an adjusted income of $4,545 per annum or $87.40 a week, which is very much below the average weekly male earnings, receives a Commonwealth secondary scholarship of the magnificent sum of $15 per annum. But the Government requires people who. are applying for them to fill in 5 pages of information before they can qualify. It asks them to estimate their income for 1974. I ask: How can anyone estimate what his income will be in a time of inflation that is as high as applies under the present Government? It is absolutely ridiculous. That is what is happening under a government that pretends it represents the battler. The Liberal-Country Party Government provided secondary scholarships to the total value of $400 of which $150 was free of means test. It has reduced the total value of a scholarship to $304 and has introduced a very tight means test. I believe that the answer to the problem lies here. We, in our last year of office, spent $8,500,000 on Commonwealth secondary scholarships. On the Government’s own figures, its estimated expenditure for this year on Commonwealth secondary scholarships is $3m.
I am sure that the primary producers will not forget the desire of this Government to phase out the bounty payable on superphosphate. By doing this it will be adding further to inflation because it will make primary produce more expensive. It will make food manufactured from primary produce more expensive. I am sure that people in country areas will not forget the inconvenience to which they have been put by the elimination of Saturday mail deliveries. The Post Office does not even sort mail on a Saturday so that people who pay for private mailboxes might obtain their mail deliveries as usual on Saturdays. The curtailment of mail deliveries on Saturdays affects all people whether they live in cities or in country towns. But many people in the country depended on the mail delivery on Saturdays to receive their local newspapers. Now they have to wait until Monday to receive them.
I am sure that the people generally will not forget the greatly increased postage charges imposed on all types of mail nor the closing of post offices on Saturday. I pointed out when a matter of public importance was being debated in the House that in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics which members of the Government are fond of citing opens its post offices on Saturdays and Sundays to give a 7-day week service to its clients. People will not forget that the Post Office will no longer hold mail or redirect mail without imposing a charge for this service which was previously provided free of charge. Migrants will not forget the door knocks which followed the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation fiasco last year when the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) raided ASIO headquarters.
Recently the Government caused a poll to be conducted of 60,000 people to find out what tune or composition they favoured for the Australian national anthem. The Government now boasts that the people voted overwhelmingly in favour of ‘Advance Australia Fair’. I have nothing against that song. But why did not the Government give the people an opportunity to vote on whether they wanted a new national anthem? It did not do so for 2 good reasons: Firstly, big brother in the form of the Australian Labor Party Government decided that it wanted a new national anthem. Secondly, the Government was afraid of the result of the poll. It knew that the people would vote overwhelmingly in favour of the present national anthem. The next thing that the Government probably will want to do is to change the design of the Australian flag.
– That is not right.
– I hear an honourable member interject: ‘That is right’. If it does I am quite sure that it will not give the people the opportunity of voting on whether they want to retain the present flag or not. During last year the Government sounded out the prospect of altering the form of observance for Anzac Day. But the Australian ex-servicemen made it very clear that they did not want a bar of the change proposed by the Government. Probably the next move of the Government in the direction of altering all presently accepted traditions will be to try to change the date of Australia Day. I say to honourable members opposite: Ask one of your Ministers if you do not believe this. If this is to be contemplated I hope that the people will be given a chance to vote on it. The Government is prepared to hold 5 referenda in conjunction with the forthcoming Senate election. If it is so fond of seeking people’s opinions on a host of matters, why does it not put its own credibility to the test and its future on the line by holding an election for the House of Representatives on the same day as the next Senate election? The Prime Minister wants to alter the Constitution to do this and he can do it now. This would give the Australian people a good opportunity to say whether or not they wanted to give a mandate to the present Government. But again, I suggest the Government is not going to put its performance on the line or its credibility to the test.
The Government has not been game to take a stand against the Aboriginal embassy on the lawns outside Parliament. I want to make it clear at the outset that I have nothing whatever against the Aboriginal people. I believe that they are entitled to battle for a far better deal than they are curenntly receiving. This does not mean that I believe that merely increasing the amount of expenditure is the answer to the problem. It is the questions of where the money is spent and how it is spent that really count. I “believe that the Aboriginal community ought to be consulted much more than is being done on matters affecting the welfare of that community. But it is my opinion that the erection of a number of unsightly tents on the lawns in front of Parliament House is a disgrace.
I make a suggestion to the pensions of Australia who are far from happy with the deal that they are presently receiving in view of the fact that the Government promised to increase the rate of pension to 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings. I suggest to pensioners that they also erect a number of tents on the lawns in the front of this building so that they can effectively protest. Why should not anybody or any organisation camp in this area without being molested? Surely the Government has given the green light to camping on the lawns outside Parliament House. Perhaps when tents stretch across the entire frontage of this building and right down to the lake the Government might be persuaded to find the courage to take effective action.
Before I resume my seat, I would like to bring some welfare matters to the notice of the Government. If it is prepared to do something about some of them it might help to repair its already badly dented image. The Royal Australian Air Force Veterans Trust Fund provides money to build homes for ex-members of the Royal Australian Air Force who are in necessitous circumstances. But, incredibly, members of the Women’s Royal Australian Air Force are not eligible because of the way in which the Defence Service Homes Act is worded. The present Government made an alteration to the Act to make national servicemen eligible for defence forces homes. This is something with which no one could quarrel. But I fail to see why the Government did not take the opportunity to include eligibility for WAAFs who, during the last war, volunteered to serve anywhere.
They served alongside men of the Air Force. Many of them did the same jobs. They lived under the same conditions. Why should ex-servicemen be eligible for Trust homes but not ex-servicewomen? I point out that men who enlisted for overseas service but who were not sent overseas are eligible. Women who also enlisted to serve anywhere but who were not sent overseas are ineligible. I do not believe that this is fair. I have been informed by one of these ex-servicewomen that a recent advertisement for the recruitment of WAAFs stated that they will become eligible for defence service homes. I ask: Why should women who serve in peacetime be eligible for these homes whilst those who served in time of war are not? I suggest that this is an anomaly which ought to be corrected immediately.
Recently, the Morrabbin Association for the Intellectually Retarded’ purchased a property to use as a day training centre for about 100 retarded children. The State Government is giving a $4 for $1 capital grant towards this project. But because of the priorities within the Victorian Mental Hygiene Department and its lack of funds this organisation will have to wait 3 years to get this money. In the meantime, it has had to borrow $80,000 for a period of 3 years. It has to pay interest on this money at the rate of 10 or 11 per cent. This means that virtually $25,000 of the funds of a charitable organisation is going down the drain. I have written to the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) about this matter asking whether he will be able to do something to make money available at a much lower rate of interest than 10 or 11 per cent. Personally, I would like to see the organisation get the money interest free. But if that is not possible any reduction in the rate of interest being paid will be appreciated.
This Government has a number of convictions. In addition to those to which I have referred, I could have referred to Labor’s broken promises with respect to defence spending and the visit of the Vietcong representatives during Anzac Week which I believe to be an insult to Australian exservicemen. I could have referred to the taxpayers’ money which is going down the drain in drilling holes in the search for oil when the money could have been better spent by spreading it around a number of companies. I could have referred to the amount of money which is being spent on a pipeline which could have been provided without cost to the taxpayers. I could have mentioned a great many other things, but time is running out. I believe that I have mentioned quite enough to show that the Government ought to be ashamed of itself and it ought to be prepared to face the Australian people at the very earliest opportunity.
- Mr Speaker, you must have been astonished to hear the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox), who has just resumed his seat advocating that the Australian people should be given an opportunity to express their opinion at referendums on a number of matters which are of great importance for the national sentiment developing in this country, when over the last 12 months the honourable member voted against the Australian people being consulted by way of referendum no fewer than 7 times. On the question of local government representation on the Loan Council and on the question of the control of prices and incomes - on no fewer than 7 separate occasions - the honourable member has voted that the Australian people’s opinion should not be heard. Sir, you would have been equally astonished to hear the honourable member for Henty advocating the discredited system of Commonwealth secondary scholarships which this Government has replaced with a system of bursaries for low income families. These bursaries will be used exclusively in order to provide a full secondary education for students who would otherwise have been obliged to leave school. It is well known that under the system of Commonwealth secondary scholarships the honourable member for Henty advocated, fewer than 4 per cent of the children who got awards would otherwise have been obliged to leave school. The system was a betrayal not only of logic and humanity, but also of the wish of Prime Minister Menzies that secondary scholarships should provide assistance for needy students and their families.
There are members of this House who will recall that Winston Churchill told the House of Commons in 1947 that democracy is the worst form of government except all the other forms that have been tried from time to time. Honourable members who attach an equal or greater value to the institution of parliamentary democracy must view with alarm the loss of confidence in those institutions which is being revealed at successive elections around the world. Even before the present stalemate in the House of Commons, public opinion polls revealed that a majority of the British people had lost faith in the ability of any leader or political party to cope adequately with the problems by which their country is confronted. Even before the Watergate tragedy that destroyed President Nixon and set in train the destruction of the Republican Party, opinion polls showed that between 1958 and 1970 the number of white Americans who believed that government is run by the people’s representatives for the benefit of the people had declined from 74 per cent to 45 per cent, while the number who believed that government is run by big interests for their own sake rose correspondingly from 18 per cent to 48 per cent. Among black Americans the number who believed that government is run by the people for the people declined from 78 per cent to 34 per cent, and the number who believed that government is run by big interests for the sake of big business rose from 12 per cent to 63 per cent. Increasingly in all the countries of the European Economic Community, in Scandinavia and throughout the Englishspeaking democracies, there is a mood of disillusionment and cynicism about members of parliament, the institution of parliament and the democratic process itself. Events are preparing the way for men on horseback who will echo Cromwell’s call to the Rump Parliament:
It is not fit that you should sit here any longer . . . you shall now give place to better men.
Depart, I say, let us have done with you. In the name of God - go.
In this as in so many other matters, Australia so far has been the lucky country, but we should not push our luck too far. Australians have not as yet lost all faith in their Parliament, but cynical displays of shadow-boxing such as those to which the House was subjected this afternoon by honourable members opposite will ultimately make the nation turn away from democracy in despair.
Is there any honourable member of this House who did not hear criticism during the recent recess of the larrikin conduct which led in the last session to a number of suspensions and would have led to even more suspensions if you, Sir, had not exercised forebearance. Is there any honourable member who has not had contemptuous comments made to him about the way in which precious parliamentary time has been taken away from legislation and other important business by points of order, personal explanations and wrangles over the allocation of hours for debate? Is there anyone who has not been confronted by angry constituents with the way misuse of statistics, distortion of facts, insult, innuendo and downright lies have been used to undermine legislative proposals of which no reasoned criticism could be offered.
Let me illustrate the sort of parliamentary conduct which arouses the indignation of decent, honest members of the community by referring briefly to the speech which was made in this debate last Thursday by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch). Let me illustrate by referring to an occasion on which, as an intelligent man, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition could not have believed a single word he said. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said:
The great Australian dream of home ownership has been shattered by the Government’s housing policies.
That was untrue, because the Deputy Leader of the Opposition knows that the rate at which houses have become available over the last year has been limited not by Government policy but by the resources of a building industry, which is working at full capacity, and the Government is doing everything it can to expand that capacity. Then the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said:
The Government’s 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
That was deliberately misleading, because the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was well aware of the fact that at a time when the resources of the building industry are already fully employed, reductions in interest rates on housing loans would serve not to increase the supply of houses but to force up the price of houses which are already available. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition promised that a Liberal government would provide government assistance for those purchasing their first home; that it would establish a housing guidance bureau in co-operation with the States; and that it would investigate the implementation of a home repayments scheme to guarantee loans and restructure loan repayments for low and middle income earners. But he did not enlarge on how these measures would help young couples cope with the problem to which he referred - the absolute shortage of housing, the inherited shortage of housing in Australia which is the product of 23 years of misguided housing policies. He did not explain how a Liberal government would help these couples pay the higher capital costs of houses in a market forced up by the availability of the low interest loans he was advocating. He did not explain what more a Liberal government could do. to bring down the cost of labour, land and materials for houses than the present Government is already doing. The origins of the present problems in the field of housing are well known. In the months before the 1972 election the then Prime Minister, Mr McMahon. and the then Treasurer, Mr Snedden, increased the supply of money circulating in Australia more rapidly than ever before in our history. If there is any doubt about it, let me quote from an article in the Australian Financial Review’ of January last. It stated:
There can be no denying the fact that the Labor Government upon achieving power in December 1972 was faced with an underlying growth in the money supply of more than 25 per cent a year. In the last 6 months of 1972, the money supply grew by almost 17 per cent. The growth for that full financial year, 1972-73, was over 26 per cent.
At the very time when a great increase in the supply of money in the community was being engineered by the then government in order to win political kudos for itself in a difficult election year, the banks were being encouraged to lend money to all comers and for all purposes. There was, of course, a corresponding increase in demand not only for housing but also for the office blocks and other forms of commercial building which compete with housing for the resources of the construction industry. But while the then Government encouraged this great flow of money into the housing industry, it did nothing to provide the extra materials and skilled workers which the industry needed in order to cope with this extra demand, and as a result in the last few months of 1972 and in the first 6 months of 1973 housing prices took off in the classic inflationary spiral of ‘too much money chasing too few goods’.
The only way in which the new Australian Government could keep the demands upon the building industry within the industry’s capacity to meet them was by allowing interest rates to rise. I remind the honourable member for Henty that the Government of which he was a supporter allowed interest rates to rise in 1963, 1964 and 1970 for precisely the same purpose. In taking this difficult and utterly distasteful step, the Government insisted that increases in interest payments should be kept lower for home owners than for other borrowers. It arranged that in the coming Budget interest on home loans will be deductible for income tax purposes. It reduced the cost of home insurance where it was able to do so through the Commonwealth Bank, and launched a determined attack on costly bottlenecks in the construction industry, such as shortages of building materials and workers, outmoded methods and the excessive number of building codes. Mr Speaker, I draw to your attention a report which appeared in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ on 12 January and showed these moves had been successful. Last year’s steep escalation in housing costs is over, and the price of houses is actually coming down.
Another thing which makes Australians cynical about this Parliament is the Orwellian practice of rewriting history which members opposite have appropriated from the pages of “Nineteen Eighty-four’. The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is particularly zealous in trying to put over the idea that it was never the intention of the Opposition to exact SI 14m as the price of allowing passage for the $700m Karmel program of grants to needy government and Catholic schools. Unfortunately for the honourable member for Wannon we have not yet arrived at the stage when Big Brother can have a whole issue of Hansard pulped in the interests of newspeak, and the record shows on page 3890 that he said in debate on 27 November 1973:
The Opposition parties will be opposing the repeal of that earlier legislation … it is our conviction that it ought not to be repealed.
It was not until the morning’s debate that day was over and the Opposition parties realised the enormity of the action they had taken that the honourable member for Wannon came back into the House with the lame explanation that it was not $114m that was wanted at all but $7m or $8m.
The honourable member revealed by his stand on that occasion not only the depths of his own conservatism which are well-known in this House but also the fact that the conditions under which students at government and Catholic schools receive their education remains as much a mystery to him in Opposition as they were when he held the Education portfolio. Now, as then, the honourable member and those who sit behind him show a complete disinterest in the reports on conditions in government and Catholic schools which have been prepared by bodies such as the Inner Suburban Education Committee, the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare, various organisations of teachers and parents, the migrant education task force and the Interim Schools Commission itself.
The fourth matter I want to mention, because it plays so large a part in the attitude which the people of Australia take to this Parliament and the parties which operate within it, is the attitude the Opposition is taking to local government. In his amendment to the Address-in-Reply this afternoon the
Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) commented that the Australian Government had attempted to change the Federal system of the Australian Constitution by diminishing the responsibility of the States. Of course the Australian Government has set about changing the Australian Constitution. It set about changing the Australian Constitution so that local government, the third tier of the Federal system in this country, will be given a proper voice in the affairs of the country for the first time. Last year in pursuit of this goal we were able to bring in the Grants Commission Bill which gave local governments access for the first time to national revenues through the Grants Commission. I recall that the Opposition at that time was undecided. Its maverick members in the Senate were anxious to defeat the Bill. But wiser counsels prevailed at that time and the Opposition decided that it could not afford to bring down on its head the wrath of more than 900 local government bodies scattered throughout Australia.
Our second move in the direction of putting local government on the constitutional map was to seek to give local government representation on the Loan Council. Honourable members would know that local governments, far more than the Australian Government or the State governments, is dependent upon loan moneys for the work it does. Yet, extraordinarily, local government is the only level of government in this country which is given no say in the making of loan policy. So the Prime Minister proposed to the Premiers at their meeting last year that by consent local government should be included in the deliberations of the Loan Council. The Premiers, jealous of their political prestige and fearful that local government could grow up in the Loan Council to wield a political influence equivalent to their own, turned thumbs down on the proposal, making it necessary that a referendum should be held. The Opposition, instead of facilitating such a referendum as one might have hoped, instead of letting the Australian people have a free choice and a free vote on the subject of whether they wanted in effect a 2-tier federalism or a 3-tier federalism, opposed at every stage the Bill we brought in to make the referendum possible.
Everywhere I go I find local government people speaking with excitement and enthusiasm about the functions such as social welfare, health care, conservation and the development of leisure facilities, which they can perform so much better than either the Australian Government or the State governments. The Opposition threatens us with a great waste of dedication and enthusiasm at this level of government when it tries to revert to the old practice whereby local government was left to the mercy of State governments and divided an effective voice in national deliberations. The Australian people, I find, are simply- no longer willing to leave to Canberra, or in the case of my own State to leave to Spring Street, decisions which they know should be taken in their own community. This is why we are trying to facilitate to see that decisions are taken as close as possible to the people who will be affected by them.
– Do you think your Government’s policy would allow them to make their own decisions?
– The honourable member for Petrie interjects to query whether this Government’s policy would allow local government bodies to make these decisions. The honourable member will be aware that for 23 years and particularly for the most recent six of those years -
– Order! I am afraid you will have to tell him about it later.
– As usual we have been treated to a discourse by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews). I was interested in the honourable member’s speech because he comes out with the statements which he pursues, and has pursued, over the time that he has been in the Parliament. I was interested to hear his views on public opinion polls and the statistics contained therein. His very strong’ reference to the public opinion polls would lead us, and unfortunately the Australian people, to have no hope for recourse from this present Government because the public opinion polls show very clearly that if this present Government had the courage to go to the people-
– Which poll are you talking about?
-Order! The honourable member for Robertson will cease interjecting, and he is out of his place.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. He is out of his place and out of place. The Australian people would reject very firmly the continuance of the Australian
Labor Party in office and reject it for impeccable reasons. I was interested in the remarks of the honourable member for Casey on education. I thought it was very brave of him to bring up education today because if ever the Labor Party were caught with principles down, rather than its pants down, it was caught with its principles down at question time today when we had no less a person than the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) say that he agreed that grants to non-government schools should be only on the principle of need. Yet we find in areas administered directly by the Federal Government - by the Prime Minister - in other words the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, that the allocation of moneys to non-government schools is being made on exactly the same principle as that which the Prime Minister and the Labor Government as a whole have derided throughout this nation, in other “words, 20 per cent of the cost of government schooling. So where do they stand now? Where does this principled honourable member for Casey stand? Where did the Caucus come out? What decision did it make on this? So, as I have said, the Prime Minister, and the Government, were caught with its principles down when this was revealed for the first time.
We find a very unusual situation confronting the Parliament today. We have an Address-in-Reply debate in the second year of government of the Australian Labor Party. Why is this so? This is the sort of debate that takes place at the beginning of operations of a new Administration. Should it be suggested that the Prime Minister has suddenly become a monarchist? This is a suggestion that springs to mind but I cannot support it, of course. This is the man who said that a monarchy was irrelevant in today’s situation, so it cannot be that the Prime Minister has suddenly become a monarchist. Could it be, could we dare to suggest, that the proroguing of the Parliament, that the occasion for this Address-in-Reply debate, was to further the Prime Minister’s electoral aims? If we put forward this proposition perhaps we are getting a little closer to the truth because, of course, we all know that the speech delivered by Her Majesty in the Senate was not written by Her Majesty herself. In fact it was written for the Queen by Her Majesty’s Government, as of course it is always written for her or for her representative, the Governor-General, when she is not here. But it is a fairly shabby trick for somebody who professes to be a republican to try to hang on to the coat tails of the Royal Family. In fact, it had its success. Some people have been fooled. They believe that the speech delivered by Her Majesty was in fact written by herself and not written by her Government, in other words, the minions of the Prime Minister. Therefore, if it has had this success the Prime Minister can be counted as fooling some of the people some of the time.
But why did he prorogue Parliament? What is the reason for the proroguing of Parliament? We know that the effect of the prorogation is to take everything off the notice paper to allow the Prime Minister to orchestrate the business of both the House of Representatives and of the Senate, in a period when we are, as we know, approaching a Senate election. I think that we are getting close to the real reason. We have a Prime Minister who wants to orchestrate the business coming before the Senate so that he can falsely present to the Australian people an argument that the Senate is obstructionist, that the Opposition in the Senate is obstructionist and is delaying and refusing the passage of legislation which ought to be passed because of the mandate granted by the Australian people. Let us have a look at this argument. Is the Senate obstructionist? Let us just check the figures. There were 223 Bills presented last year. The exuberant Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) claimed a record of Bills put and Bills passed. If we have an obstructionist Opposition and an obstructionist Senate, we cannot have it both ways. If the Senate were obstructionist a record would not have been established. Let us look at the situation. Of the 223 Bills last year only three were defeated twice - only three. Only ten out of the 223 were defeated once or more. Some others were deferred or referred to various committees. But is this the action of an obstructionist Senate? Is this an Opposition in the other chamber delaying the mandate of the people? Hardly. Of the 223 Bills a total of ten were defeated once or more. Some were referred. Is this obstructionist? Now of course we have the opportunity for the Prime Minister, because he prorogued the Parliament to introduce some of the Bills that were defeated or deferred or amended or referred in the previous session once again. So he will attempt to build up in the minds of the people of Australia the thought that the Senate is obstructionist and therefore the Government’s candidates at the forthcoming Senate election should be returned. What absolute nonsense. What do the people think about this? The honourable member for Casey, who I notice has left the chamber, is very good at making a speech and rushing out of the chamber. He is not so good at making a speech but he is good at rushing out of the chamber. He is all for public opinion polls. Let us have a look at the most recent public opinion poll on the role of the Senate, an ANOP poll, which could hardly be said to be biased in favour of the Liberal Party or the Australian Country Party. In fact, it has been suggested that it should be renamed the Labor Party poll. It revealed that one per cent of the electorate at large believed that the Senate was obstructionist. So let us have no further nonsense of this business that the Senate is obstructionist. Let us face it, governments in this country, even the Liberal-Country Party Governments, operated with a lack of majority in the Senate from 1967 to 1972. Now we have the bleating of the present Government because it says that we have an obstructionist Senate. It is just nonsense. We have the Address-in-Reply before us. Its adoption was moved by the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan). I am sorry that he is not in the chamber this evening. I thought he did himself less than justice, and that is putting it nicely. I believe that the honourable member for Phillip was beginning to develop for himself something of a reputation in this House for contribution to debate. He destroyed that reputation in my view, and in the view of many others, in the 20 minutes contribution that he made in the Address-in-Reply debate. His speech was sycophancy to the point of nausea. He came in with a sort of Mark Anthony manner of saying: ‘I come to bury Ceasar not to praise him’. He did that. He certainly buried the Prime Minister in attempting to praise him. He spent all of his time praising the Prime Minister. I am sorry that the honourable member for Phillip did not make a more considered contribution to this House. He spent some time on the speeches that the Prime Minister made on his recent overseas trip - one of his many - and on the adulation, as he put it, that the Prime Minister received. I have read these speeches. I have copies of the principal speeches that were made. The speeches were delivered in Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Burma, Singapore and the Philippines. The speeches made to the Prime Minister by the leaders of those countries cover 6 pages. I also have a copy of the speeches made by the Prime Minister in those countries. He made 6 principal speeches which cover 57 pages. Here is a man who has obviously gone abroad and has talked more than he has listened. He has to talk a lot too, because the situation in South East Asia has been muddied more than somewhat by the efforts of this present Government in that area.
I believe that at this stage we should be looking at the duties of a government and considering whether this Government in particular measures up to those duties. I am talking generally when I talk about the duties of a government. I believe that, certainly, the principal duty of any government of whatever political persuasion should be to provide the nation with security so that development can be allowed within a civilised framework. A government’s principal duty is to provide security for the nation. Another main duty of a government is to protect the value of the people’s money. We will have more to say about that. Another duty of a government is to reward individual initiative, thrift and hard work among its citizens. Another principal duty of a government is to oversee change. How does this present Labor Government measure up to these duties which are by no means exhaustive but which are, nevertheless, principal among those which confront any government?
Firstly, let us look at security and the Services. From speakers on this side of the House we have heard about the parlous condition of the Australian Services at this stage. I do not need to elaborate those conditions. Let us have a quick look at them. In the Army the numbers are down and we have an increased rate of resignation. This is very disturbing because among those resignations - in fact, forming a significant proportion of them - are trained men whom the Army can ill afford to lose. The Navy is particularly important now that we have retreated within Australia’s shores. If, through any mischance, we happen to be involved in any serious problems the Navy will be required as an initial buffer to any attack which may come. What has happened to the Navy? The DDL program has been completely set aside.
– When the honourable member’s Party was in government the vessels used to bump into one another.
– The honourable member for Robertson interjects again. He is leaning there in somnambulant manner, out of his chair. He is practising being in the front bench, although on his present performance he has no chance of being on the front bench.
– Order! The honourable member for Robertson will cease interjecting or he will be dealt with.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, he is of no moment. Let us have a look at the Royal Australian Air Force. We can all remember those photographs on the front pages of newspapers throughout Australia of the mirage squadron saying farewell to its aircraft. Again, here we have an area in which defence spending has been cut about, as a result of which the security of the nation has been placed in jeopardy. We have armed forces, but before they can have any adequacy in terms of a confrontation they must be efficiently trained. We have an almost Gilbertian situation where destroyers have to steam on one propeller. We have had a Gilbertian situation where training could not go on because the fuel supply for the aircraft has run out. If the situation were not so serious it would be laughable. The morale of the armed forces - I think this cannot be refuted - is at an all time low. The resignation rate is something which should not only impinge itself onto the consciousness of members of the Opposition but also it should be seriously worrying members of the Government. I, as a backbench member of the Opposition, have received more letters in one year referring to resignations from the armed forces while this Government has been in office than I received in the 3 years prior to that mischance. We cannot assume that the pay increase for men in the Services and an improvement in their conditions - this is something which I wholeheartedly applaud - will take the place of the very real cuts which have been made throughout the armed Services. Without the esprit de corps and without the morale, this Government has turned the armed Services into, literally, military gigolos.
On the other aspect of security let us turn to our foreign policy and the question of alliances. I do not want to deal at length with this matter either because I do not have time. Suffice it to say that alliances are based on trust. The outbursts from various Ministers over the last 15 months have seriously jeopardised the relationships which we have built up over a number of years with our traditional friends and injected a feeling of suspicion, a feeling of distrust and a feeling of a lack of knowledge of the strength of this Government. I believe that this feeling of distrust and unease is eminently justified and that it is a very serious indictment of the present Government. The second duty I mentioned was preserving the value of the people’s money. Now and in the future we will hear a number of speeches on the rate of inflation, as we have heard in the past. There is no doubt that things have got completely out of hand. It is all very well to talk about inflation rates and percentages but I believe that people are not terribly aware of percentages. We can talk about inflation of 5 per cent, 6 per cent, 10 per cent, 12 per cent, 13 per cent or 14 per cent, which is the figure now, perhaps rising to 20 per cent as it has been alleged it will reach, but I think we ought to look at what this really means to the people and to the electorate as a whole. I have here a copy of a paper which was released today, Tuesday, 12 March 1974. 1 shall acquaint honourable members with it. The average wage earner in New South Wales has to work more than 30 per cent longer to pay for the same food items which he brought in March 1972. It now takes him more than 30 per cent longer at work to pay for these food items.
Let us have a look at some of the individual food items and forget about percentages and what the Government is doing about imported inflation and the cause of it. This is the real crux of the matter. This is what hits people. This is what they have to pay. In 1972 bath size soap cost 10c. It now costs 17c. Processed peas - I am just picking out some of these items at random - cost 9c in 1972 but they cost 17c now. Eggs - everybody eats eggs - cost 46c a dozen for the medium size in 1972 but they cost 75c now. The price of 1 lb of lamb chops in 1972 was 50c but the price is $1 now. Sausage meat - this could not be called a luxury item - in 1972 cost 20 per lb. Now it costs 40c, which is just double that amount. Potatoes which are not a luxury item cost 50c for 101b in 1972. The cost is now $1.20. This is where inflation really hits home. There is no doubt that the people who can ill afford to pay are most affected because of the financial irresponsibility engendered by this Government. What do the pensioners say? They are a group which could not be said to have supported the Liberal Party in the past. They are a group of people in the population which the Labor Party pretends - I use that word advisedly - to represent. I have here a letter from the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners’ Federation dated 27 February 1974 which states:
Whilst it is true that the Australian Government is honouring its policy pledge to increase all social security pensions twice yearly by payment of $1.50 per week, it is not true for anyone to assert that material improvement has taken place - the continuing and increasing rate of inflation has prevented improvement.
Inflation, now besetting so many countries, in Australia is making life intolerable for those most seriously affected. They cannot add to their income or assets to cushion the destroying effect of rising prices on the purchasing power of their weekly pension.
Truly, pensioners are the victims of inflation.
These are the people this Labor Government purports to represent. The financial irresponsibility of this Government is obvious for everybody to see. We have before us at the moment the glaring example of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Mr Deputy Speaker, as you know this matter is to be investigated by the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Public Accounts. It is a sorry record. It is a record of which this country and this Government should be ashamed. It is a record which places us, in terms of financial management, among the banana republics. I use that expression advisedly. It is a record which, coming after a period of 23 years of stability-
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, a review of the situation in this country after a little more than one year of Labor government is, I think, worth while. When the Labor Government took office unemployment in my electorate was such that high school graduates had been out of work for an entire year. They faced the prospect of going back to school or facing further unemployment. This was the position throughout my electorate. Today, of course, the demand for labour is so strong that the Leader of the
Opposition (Mr Snedden) is provoked to complain about the fact that we have over-full employment. The logical deduction will be drawn from that statement by the people who, when we achieved government, were unemployed - those people who had been educated to think and who had had plenty of time to do so. We have seen a major change in that state of affairs. It is an indictment on the humanity of the Government that ruled up to December 1972.
We have heard also today a great deal of discussion about the condition of the agricultural sector of the community. The facts are that since 19/1-72 gross agricultural income has increased from $3,986m to $6,220m - an increase of $2,234m. Let me refer to an impartial source for a review of what has happened in agriculture. I refer to a document entitled ‘The Farm Situation in Australia’ which is a background paper presented by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to the recent National Outlook Conference. Page B-24 of that document states:
Many of the key rural indicators confirm that the three consecutive years of rising gross value of producton and farm income have restored confidence to the rural sector. Farmers have been more willing to borrow funds, while some lending institutions, particularly the trading banks, have been more willing to lend. It also appears that the current situation has resulted in a higher level of repayment of existing debts.
This is not the opinion of any government supporter; this is the opinion of the impartial Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The document further states:
At the same time there has been a moderate expansion in machinery and farm implement purchases. Thus the improved economic position of farmers in the past three years has facilitated the replenishment of farm resources and has enabled necessary adjustments to be made in the light of changing market circumstances.
This is the condition of the farm sector today. Yet we heard the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) speak to us in such dismal terms about the performance of this Government in respect of the farm community. (Quorum formed) I am indebted once again to the members of the Australian Country Party for supplying my audience. As I was saying when I was interrupted, the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) informed us that invariably for the agricultural sector the crunch comes when prices are on the downturn. Who could speak from more experience about downturns in prices for the farm sector than the honourable member for Gippsland? He and his colleagues have presided over more downturns than any of other Country Party leaders in the history of this country. It has been stated also by the honourable member for Gippsland - quite astutely, I thought - that the markets and the agricultural sector need some sort of firm assurance. Indeed, that is exactly what this Government is all about. 1 quote again not the Government’s own opinion, but from the same paper produced by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. It states on page B-19:
Recently concluded long term agreements by Australia should also contribute to reduce uncertainty and instability.
The document is referring to the agricultural sector and it continues:
The long term wheat and sugar agreements recently negotiated between Australia and China, and the rice agreement with Indonesia, should be of value to Australian producers insofar an they ensure that a guaranteed quantity of each commodity will be sold over a specified period at world prices to China. In the case of wheat, the agreement provides for the sale of up to 4.7m tonnes over a three year period from 1 January 1974. For sugar, an arrangement has been reached for the sale of about 300,000 tonnes annually to China over a three to five year period.
One of the main advantages of long term agreements is that they can provide producers with greater confidence about future export outlets. This, in turn, should assist producers in their forward production planning. Since such agreements assure market access even in times of surpluses, they are likely to be of particular value should international trading conditions become more difficult and competitive. In general, such agreements introduce a certain degree of stability into the farm situation. Therein is the key to this Government’s agricultural policies. It is not the short term ad hoc reaction that we have become used to during the period of 23 years when the Opposition were in the Government benches. It is indeed laying the foundation for a firm development of agriculture in Australia.
I turn now again to a major change that has taken place partly because of the policies this Government has initiated. We, for the first time, have provided incentive for development in Australia. Naturally shortages will be created as all of the resources of the country are brought to bear in the interests of the community at large. Unemployed school graduates whom the Opposition was so callously prepared to throw on the junk heap will continue to find employment. Shortages will be created. The great problem of inflation will be the result. What is the Opposition’s answer to this serious problem of inflation? We see in this morning’s newspapers that the Leader of the Opposition has said that a Liberal government would reduce government spending. He has said that before. But he has failed to tell us in which fields such a government would reduce spending.
Does the Liberal Party support the Country Party in its desire to keep the superphosphate bounty? If it does, let us hear that from the Leader of the Liberal Party. Where will the Liberal Party reduce expenditure? Let us have these facts made public. It is possible, of course, that a Liberal government will have to reduce expenditure in all sorts of areas without necessarily reducing the amount of income tax collected - if the Liberal Party follows its previous philosophy of increasing Defence expenditure, as we have been told it will. It will probably start another war as well as order to channel off more funds. We hear though that the Liberal Party will reduce spending to enable it to cut back on monetary expansion without recourse to massive interest rate increases. ‘It will also allow us to cut taxes’, Mr Snedden said. How can this statement be believed until we find out how these actions are to be taken. What will be sacrificed? Will it be the high school graduates again? Will they be put out of work? It sounds like it, because in the same breath the Leader of the Liberal Party told us that we have overfull employment and that that is a dangerous condition.
The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) has informed us that the price which we pay for crude oil is too high. This statement is on a par with his comment on 26 February when, in making a plea for the same interests that members of the Country Party are now identifying themselves with, he referred to steel prices and said:
The argument will be raised that higher steel prices would be inflationary. No doubt they would be, but is the short term inflation factor the only one to be considered?
He has made 2 statements, one of which relates to steel prices. The Country Party made a plea for higher steel prices. In his statement today he made a plea for higher crude oil prices. The Country Party has made a new allegiance with the mining industries of Australia. What about farmers’ costs now?
The Country Party says: ‘Fine. It will be great so long as they do not complain about petrol prices or anything to do with steel’. What about the Country Party’s position in respect of tariffs, which it has failed to renounce since it has occupied the Opposition benches? I again refer to the document from which I have quoted. The effect of tariff reductions on farm costs has been established by the BAE at page B-l 1 of the booklet from which I have already quoted. It states:
However, figures that are available show that between December 1972 and May 1973 there was a 7 per cent reduction in the f.o.b. price of imports . . .
This statement is not a statement by the Government. It goes on: . . which perhaps importantly for rural producers included falls in the import price index for machinery of 12 per cent and for transport equipment of 1 1 per cent.
This is not the Government’s statement, it is the BAE’s statement. It clearly indicates that the reduction in tariffs has resulted in a reduction in the costs of farm machinery for the agricultural sector.
– Can you name any of the reductions?
– The BAE has named them for the honourable member. Members of the high protection Party who sit to our right and resolutely refused to reduce tariffs all the time that they were part of the coalition Government are now shown up for what they are - people who are prepared to protect the vested and narrow interest groups which feed on the community at large, particularly the agricultural sector. What about the energy policy of the Opposition? Recently it was made clear that if this Government had not given strong direction in regard to bunker fuel there would not have been enough such fuel for the agricultural exports of this country to have gone overseas. This is a fact. We are now guaranteed supplies. We have this fuel. Under the Opposition’s policy with regard to fuel we would more likely have been exporting petrol at a time when it was needed most in this country because the Opposition was not prepared to curb in any way the desires and greed of the international corporations which it allowed to farm our resources. Instead, we have a strong government lead in regard to the question of fuel, which is so important to the agricultural sector.
I turn to one other factor which has been introduced by this Government and which has affected the long term future of agriculture. In rural electorates the Government has been subjected to great persecution by the Country Party because of its taxation modifications. Let us consider now exactly what happened under the previous Government. I quote again from this impartial source, the BAE. It states at page B-17:
Manufacturers of farm machinery and equipment may continue to have difficulty in meeting the unexpectedly large rise in demand for investment goods because of low stock levels and the scarcity of materials and labour. Such difficulties are partly associated with the present full employment situation, but also with the instability of agricultural product prices which is transmitted to the demand for investment goods. It is difficult for manufacturers of farm machinery to cut back their production in one year in response to slack demand and then to expand production rapidly in a subsequent year to satisfy a much greater demand.
This situation existed under the LiberalCountry Party Government - a stop-start situation in which the people and the resources employed by the agricultural implement manufacturers in Australia were put on and put off in response to peak demands, engineered deliberately by the Government of the day when it was concentrating on expenditure in the most inefficient way over a very brief period. The farmer did not win. He had to pay more money because of the short supply position which was created by this action. It would have been far better - it will more likely be the case in future - to have this demand spread evenly throughout the farm production periods whether prices are high or low. The taxation modifications will have that effect, and in the long term the permanent farmers in the agricultural sector will be considerably better off as a result of this Government’s initiative in that area. It is worth quoting further from this booklet. I quote:
Shortages of investment goods in the current year may be alleviated to some extent, however, by increased imports, encouraged by the 25 per cent reduction in tariffs and the revaluations of the Australian dollar in 1972 and 1973.
So the chickens start to come home to roost. I turn to other areas in which there have been remarkable changes in my electorate of EdenMonaro. I refer to the grant for isolated children, the increased expenditure on schools, the assistance to local government and the preschool grants. AH these initiatives which have been taken by this Government have been frustrated by the Opposition, firstly in this place and then in the State. Sir Robert Askin leads a government which was proud to be returned on the electoral promise that it would deliberately frustrate Australian Government policies. How well the State Government does that. The pre-school grants which have been allocated by this Government have been frustrated in New South Wales because the State Government failed to do its homework. That Government had no basic commitment to the principle of supplying pre-schools. Therefore today its is completely unprepared to use the $3.7m which has been allocated to it for pre-schools.
We are told that a letter has gone to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) from the Premier of New South Wales, that it arrived 1 month after the Prime Minister wrote his letter and that it asked questions which had been covered in the pre-schools report to this Government and did not bother any other State. By the time the Premier’s letter had arrived the expenditure program was well under way in South Australia. I would be interested to learn how much money the New South Wales Government has allocated to pre-schools in the country. This figure will make an interesting comparison. I am waiting to find how the New South Wales LiberalCountry Party Government has allocated this grant. It will be interesting to see whether a city such as Queanbeyan, which has been completely neglected by the New South Wales Government, has received a portion of it. Queanbeyan is in dire need of pre-school facilities. I wait with bated breath to see whether the morality of the New South Wales Government is faithfully reflected by the morality of the Liberal-Country Party in this House. I believe that it will be.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I do not intend to waste a lot of time on the academic member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan), but he did say something about chickens coming home to roost and I am reminded of something he said at a conference in the Subiaco City Hall in Perth in July last year. He said:
The Minister for Primary Industry is currently in Canberra setting out the case for the retention of the existing assistance for agriculture.
Of the 3 groups involved in making decisions in a Labor Government it is the Caucus committee which provides the most direct contact for industry. In many areas of policy formation the Caucus committee precedes the Cabinet or Caucus itself. The committee works closely with, the Minister and receives advice from the appropriate department.
He spoke a lot of other platitudes too. He talked about machinery price reductions as a result of the tariff reduction. He has been challenged time and time again to name one such price reduction but as yet he has not done so. He is still skating around the issue of the superphosphate bounty and calling out to various colleagues of mine: ‘Where do you stand?’ but not saying where he stands. He is uttering platitudes all around the place. His rural electorate would love to know where he stands and I hope he will put his vote where his mouth is.
I want briefly to refer to a number of matters contained in Her Majesty’s address. It was an address delivered with regal dignity and grace but, of course, the content of that address was something in which Her Majesty had no choice; it was dictated by the Government. Firstly I mention the reference to the electoral proposals of this Government. I want to expose some statements that are just not true - distorted statements that Ministers have made, including statements by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in this House in a debate that was not a debate because the guillotine came down on the first day the session resumed. I refer to nonsensical distorted statements that he made to the national media in relation to some referendums that he proposes to hold. He could not resist the opportunity to attack the Queensland Government and its very fine Premier who so often, to the Prime Minister’s acute embarrassment, has exposed the motives of this Federal Government to destroy State governments, to usurp their rights and to centralise all control in Canberra. Again, as the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) and the honourable members for Lilley (Mr Doyle) and Bowman (Mr Keogh) so love to do, he mouthed and parroted a lot of irrelevant figures totally out of context, to wrongly and deliberately disguise the fact that the Country and Liberal Parties in Queensland are babes in the wood compared to the electoral machinations which maintained a minority government in Queensland under the Labor flag for about a quarter of a century. I refer honourable members to a speech they have not mentioned since it was made - a speech I made here on 4 April 1973. I was gagged during the second reading stage of that particular debate but I did get in a few words during the Committee stage.
I want to examine the Labor Party although not on its present utterances because it has been discredited time and time again on this basis. I will examine it on its own record. I will test its sincerity. We will use the very State which the Prime Minister chose and we will meet, fight and defeat him on his own chosen ground. He talks of democracy and of one vote one value. I remind him that that is not consistent with the record of the Labor Party in Queensland, the State that he chose. I want to show him what was the Labor attitude in that State to the question of one vote one value when it had every opportunity over a period of 25 years to bring in the system that he thinks was fair and right. I refer him to the 1956 State elections.
– Gair was the Premier then.
– Twenty-five years is a long time and there were a lot of Premiers. I am referring to Labor redistributions. 1 have the official figures of the Queensland Stat: general elections held in 1956. I have .a table showing the enrolments of each electorate in Queensland at that time. I was given permission to include these figures in Hansard and they appear at page 1073 of Hansard of 4 April 1973. 1 remind the House that there were about 9 seats called the shearers’ seats or the western seats with enrolments cf about 4,000 to 5,000 voters. These were interesting seats, mostly won by Labor, and the Labor Party wanted to make as many out of them :is it could. I can remember how the main roads gangs and railway gangs were moved about at election time just to make sure that the seats went as Labor wanted them to go. Over the years the Country Party in Queensland has done something to ensure that that situation cannot continue. Nine seats held by Labor had enrolments of from 4,000 to 5,000 or thereabouts. I remind the House that in Brisbane where the Liberal Party held a number of seats there was an interesting situation. Mount Gravatt had an enrolment of 26,307, Kedron 19,675 and Chermside 17,708. What is all this rubbish about one vote one value? The Labor Party has been discredited in Queensland so it ill behoves the Labor Party to talk about gerrymandering. If ever there was a mockery of democracy we have seen it in Queensland and that is why the Labor Party is rejected in Queensland and why the people of Queensland will throw out this referendum proposal without a second thought.
The Government talks about minority governments. In 1947 in Queensland Labor polled slightly less than 43 per cent of the total vote but won 35 seats. In the same year the United Australia Party-Country Party polled 44.26 per cent of the votes yet won only 23 seats - 2 per cent more than Labor polled but 12 fewer seats. That is the sort of distribution that the Labor Party wishes to inflict not only on Queensland but also throughout Australia. In 1950 Labor won 46.3 per cent of the votes and 42 seats, the Liberal-Country Party 48 per cent or 2 per cent more than Labor but 31 seats - 11 seats fewer than the Labor Party. For 25 years the people of Queensland had to put up with that sort of situation, but the Labor Party had an inbuilt power to destroy itself and the day came when Queensland was saved. Queensland knows the sincerity of the Labor Party that now goes to it saying: *We will give you democracy. We will fix the electorate so that you get one vote one value.’ That is a lot of rubbish. The Labor Party is discredited by its own record. Its members are the masters of gerrymander.
The Labor Party Government accuses the Queensland Government of being a minority government. It talks about the Country Party gaining 19 per cent or a little more than that of the total vote. In the light of what we have seen I do not know how the Prime Minister or any member opposite can afford to throw stones. Of course what they do not say is that that was the percentage of the total votes cast in all Queensland. The argument is not valid. The percentage is not relevant unless it is related to the number of seats contested by the Country Party. The Country Party contests only a few seats. A very different result would be obtained if the Country Party vote were quoted as a percentage of votes obtained in electorates where it fields candidates and then compared with the percentage that the Labor Party gains in seats where it fields candidates. The Labor Party still could not get a majority in Queensland. We must consider the combined vote of the Country Party and its colleague, the Liberal Party, to get some assessment.
– And the DLP.
– The Democratic Labor Party has no time for the Labor Party either. Has any Labor member ever been fair enough, in this House or anywhere else, to give that true and complete picture of the situation? Members of the Labor Party pluck figures out of the air, distort them, throw them around and level personal abuse at one Premier in Australia who has stood up to this Government and said: ‘We will not take this’. They denigrate a popular government. Theirs is the Government that is so callous about rural people that it would deny them any representation at all if it could. Queensland will show the Prime Minister what it thinks of this Government and its proposals when he puts these referenda, if he dares.
I turn to another matter, and that is the disastrous floods in Queensland. I endorse the very appropriate and pertinent remarks made by my colleague the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) in an adjournment debate speech last week, and for the only time in my life I think there are just a few remarks of the honourable member for Lilley with which I can agree. The honourable member for Lilley spoke of the disaster, the losses and the spirit of the people of Queensland. I agree with that, but on that point only do I agree. I deplore with utter disgust the rest of his speech, which was a blatantly political attack on the Premier of Queensland. It will be condemned by Queenslanders, whatever their political allegiance happens to be. I do regard his remarks as being worthy of further discussion, because he did just what he accused everybody else of doing. He tried to make political capital out of a frightful disaster.
I want to tell honourable members about some of the things that happened in my electorate. The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) can tell something of what happened in the vast areas of Queensland which we saw at first hand. In my electorate, which is predominantly a rural electorate, we know what happened to local authorities. We know the job that confronts them. Roads, bridges and drainage have been absolutely destroyed. A colossal cost confronts local authorities in their reconstruction. I want to tell of some of the people in the rural sections of my electorate. I saw rivers scoured out and I saw topsoil scoured away. I saw land that will never be brought into production again and craters up to 8 feet deep that had just been scoured out by the waters. I saw homes, in the country as well as in the city, inundated by the waters. I saw personal possessions absolutely lost.
But I saw more than this. I saw crops, the whole season’s crops, completely gone. I saw areas of 50 and 100 acres that were inundated by 8 to 10 feet of sand that had been brought there by the waters. The men in those areas have to get rid of that sand in order to get down to their pastures and try to cultivate the ground again. I saw crops lost and I saw men getting their tractors out of the water, drying them out, starting them up and going to plough in the stubble, to try again. I saw this wonderful spirit. I talked to many of them and they said: ‘We are not too badly off. We cannot complain, really. Look at the poor people down in Brisbane. Look at my neighbour down there.’ This is the wonderful spirit of country Queensland, and I am proud to represent people such as them. These are people who could not obtain any social service benefits. They could not obtain any unemployment benefit because they lost last year’s income. It was there in the ground - in the preparation of the ground, in the seed, in getting the crops to grow. It was gone. There was no income for next year because there was no crop. They received no social service benefit; they received no grant. I have made representations to both the Queensland Government and the Federal Government, and I hope that finance will be made available for these people, many of whom are already burdened down with mortgages. I hope that there will be at least long term, low interest finance. I hope that the Government comes up with it now and I hope that the interest payments will be delayed to give these men a chance to get on their feet again.
I saw, too, where miles of fencing had been lost altogether. The worst part of it is that one cannot get a fence post or a piece of wire to put it up again. I have tried to help these people get these things. These are the sorts of things I have seen in Queensland and these are the things that I have brought to the attention of the Government. I have only a few minutes in which to talk tonight. If I had more time I could amplify these things. We are grateful for all that both State and Federal Governments have done to this stage. We do not condemn and criticise all the time. We are grateful for what has been done. But we want to bring the position of these rural people to the notice of this Government without for one moment denying the tragedy of Brisbane and Ipswich. It was a disaster and it was a tragedy, and every penny that was given to the people in those cities was well worth while. We wish it was much more. But this happened to all of Queensland, and I want this Parliament and this country to know it.
I want to make reference to one other matter that has caused considerable alarm and concern in my electorate. I do not condemn the Lord Mayor of Brisbane altogether. He came home when the Prime Minister did not, and he launched an appeal. I know that his whole interest was in the mitigation of the desperate plight of his city. But I take the Lord Mayor of Brisbane to task for taking what I regard as an irresponsible and calculated risk with the lives and property of people in Brisbane and in my electorate. The Somerset Dam is in my electorate near a town called Kilcoy. As the waters were going down in Brisbane that dam was very full. The water from that dam takes some time to get down to Brisbane. Every engineer told the Lord Mayor that the gates of that dam had to be opened and some of the water had to be let go because the dam would hold no more water. I know that the Lord Mayor was concerned about the water in Brisbane but he decided that the gates should not be opened. If there had been another cloud burst that night or that week in the catchment area of the dam - it was on the cards that there would be, and I am very thankful that there was not - there would have been a disaster. It was a risk which the Lord Mayor ought not to have taken. If there had been rain that night or that week there would have been a disaster, the like of which one could not picture, not only in Brisbane but also in the town of Kilcoy.
Kilcoy was cut off, with flooded creeks on both sides. Some of the creeks were up to a mile wide. The people of Kilcoy were isolated for 9 days because the dam was not opened and the water could not get away. Engineers have told me that this was a calculated risk which ought never to have been taken. They advised the Lord Mayor not to take the risk, but he decided to do so. I want to be fair, but I say that this was an irresponsible act and that the people in my electorate also ought to have been considered. The Kilcoy community was very frightened and concerned because if that dam wall could not have held the water or if more water had come over that wall, Kilcoy, many of the surrounding areas and very much of Brisbane could have been wiped out. As a result of the water being held in the dam the roads in the Kilcoy area were submerged for a very long period - nine or ten days; longer than they would otherwise have been submerged. Because of this the foundations gave way. The roads were damaged to a much greater extent than they would have been if the water had been allowed to get away. The Kilcoy Shire Council will have to bear tremendous costs as a result of that action. It will have to make the repairs. I think that the Lord Mayor’s action should be inquired into because statements of responsible men have been levelled at him and I think that the position ought to be clarified.
I would like to talk on many other matters, but I do want to say that the people of Queensland are sick and tired of a government which is trying to take away their rights and which loses no opportunity to denigrate their Premier and their Government and to impose a system that is not democratic but is the very antithesis of democracy. When these referenda proposals of which we have heard come before the people of Queensland, the answer will be so clear and definite that if there is any lingering doubt in the minds of the Government now there certainly will not be then.
– The speech which we have just heard from the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) would probably be regarded as one of the most curious speeches that has ever been made in this House. There is ample evidence of the attitude of the Australian people towards those unfortunate victims in Queensland and in the northern areas of New South Wales of the recent floods, and for that matter the flooding that is still occurring. The honourable member took to task some people and said that they were trying to make political capital out of all this. Having explained the bad position of all these people the honourable member then had a snide shot at the Prime Minister’ (Mr Whitlam) by saying that he was not there. I do not know what the Prime Minister’s presence would have done to ameliorate the position of the people who were caught in the floods. I do not think those people wanted him to mend their fences. I think they wanted Federal money to do that themselves. The Prime Minister certainly looked at the situation.
Then the honourable member for Fisher turned his attack on the Lord Mayor of the city of Brisbane and alleged that that man had not acted with all propriety in retaining the water in the Somerset Dam rather than letting it go. He did not bother to tell us what the consequences would have been had the water been let go. The honourable member then called for an inquiry into the matter. Surely he is not suggesting that this Federal Parliament could interfere in the affairs of a corporate city and inquire into the actions of the Lord Mayor of that city. The honourable member quite rightly said that the people whose land was inundated with water had lost their incomes for a year, and he suggested that they might even lose their incomes for next year. He was not in this House when those whom he now supports callously and needlessly threw out of work over 100,000 Australians. The families of 100,000 Australians lost their incomes, some of them for a year. For some of them it meant using all the savings they had accumulated over a number of years, and they are not yet back on their feet. But this attack is the curious sort of morality that we have come to expect from that corner of the House in which the honourable member sits.
The purpose of this debate is to consider the reply which was prepared by a committee of this House and very ably moved and seconded in this place by the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) and the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie). That reply was in response to an address made to this Parliament by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Queen of Australia, as she herself has said she is pleased to be known. Arising out of that reply the right honourable member for Bruce (Mr Snedden) - I think he is the Leader of the Opposition although I sometimes feel that somebody else is pulling the strings - moved an amendment in which he suggested that the Speech did not take into account certain things. One of the matters which this gentleman talks about quite frequently, and in his view quite fluently, is that of inflation. As an ex-Treasurer of this country who presided over one of our worst economic periods, a man-made crisis, he would probably know what he is talking about. He started to confuse me because he threw the word ‘inflation’ around very glibly and made me wonder whether he knew what it really meant. I am quite sure that the people who read about and listen to what happens in this House must be as confused as I am.
I believe that the Leader of the Opposition tries to convey to the average man that inflation means high food prices and high land prices. In some way or another he tried to blame the Labor Government for these too high prices. He led the fight in this House and outside it to encourage the people of Australia not to give the Australian Government the power to control prices. I think it was the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) who earlier today read from newspapers to show how prices had increased over the last 12 months. I think it is pretty significant that the prices which he did quote related to food. We all know who produces food. The farmers produce the food. Therefore the inference must be drawn - and I think it is quite clear - that the high prices being paid by the average city dweller for his food contribute greatly to the income of the average farmer, as was pointed out by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan). Yet these are the very same gentlemen whom honourable members opposite claim to represent, who are apparently reaping the benefits of this inflation. Honourable members opposite come into this House intent in every way to discredit this Government and to blame it for the inflation which it has inherited from the previous incompetent Government
In the case of high land prices we have to ask ourselves who is getting the benefit of these prices? Quite clearly, it is the owners of large tracts of land and the real estate developers. I do not think that any of these people are members of a trade union or that they are necessarily members of the Australian Labor Party. Nor do they contribute funds to the coffers of the Labor Party. I believe that quite the reverse is the case. So once again honourable members opposite come into this House and raise their voices about the high rate of inflation. They talk about the high price of this and the high price of that. Yet it is those who support them who are benefiting from the high prices.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) goes further and blames inflation on something called the high degree of government spending. He suggests that there should be a cutback in government spending. In one breath he says that the Government should cut back government spending and in the next breath he says that the Government has not increased the rate of pensions enough - and that involves government spending. He says that the Government is not spending enough on defence, and that again means government spending. He says that the Government is not spending enough money on this and that. The Leader of the Opposition wants to have two bob each way. He should make up his mind whether he wants the Government to cut down on spending or do the things that he is continuously telling us that we should do. What the right honourable gentleman says is a complete and utter contradiction. There is no way in which these two objectives can be reconciled. Yet the right honourable gentleman comes into this place quite regularly and continues to contradict himself day after day on these 2 very important issues.
The Leader of the Opposition then turned his attention to productivity. Probably it is fairer to say that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will raise this question of productivity. But he raised it in such a way that it carries the connotation that slothful workers in this country are the cause of low productivity. He went on to beat the drum about how industrial unrest and strikes destroy productivity in this country. I have some figures which I believe have come from a reliable source which show that time lost through disputes in 1971 was approximately 9.3 seconds per man hour worked whilst the time lost through accidents and so on was approximately 18.72 seconds per man hour worked, which is over double. The figures also show that the time lost in 1972 through disputes was 8.64 seconds per man hour worked and time lost through accidents was 20.16 seconds per man hour worked. It is pretty clear that it is not strikes and industrial unrest that are causing lack of productivity, if this is a contributing factor but rather industrial accidents, which occur nine times out of ten because the employer refuses to comply with regulations and make work safe for his men. We have to realise that there are two sides to the production process. There is not only the workman at his bench but also, as they care to call themselves, managers who do not necessarily require training to fill their positions. These people place themselves in the position of being responsible for the output of the factory and the organisation of the whole show. It is in the area of management and not in the area of diligence by its work force that Australia lacks at the moment. The work force in Australia is probably more diligent and more applied to its task than any other work force in the world, but it is let down badly on the management side. Very few people in Australia can justify bearing the title ‘Manager’. Let us not forget the dithering over revaluation when the Country Party would not allow the Liberal
Party some 2 years ago to revalue the dollar. They spent 3 days talking about that without coming to a conclusion. This, it is estimated, caused the transfer of about $ 1,000m from one section of the community to another, obviously from those who are not rich to those who are.
During the Address-in-Reply debate a great deal has been said about the 5 referenda that are to be put to the people of Australia. There seems to be some lack of understanding by members on the other side of the House as to what a referendum is all about. They seem to be under the impression that by introducing a number of these matters into the House somehow or other this House will pass judgment on them. In fact the Government is, in effect, asking the Opposition for permission to ask the people of Australia to pass judgment on them - not the parliamentarians but the people of Australia. Seven questions have been put before this House in the time that I have been here, and in the short time for which the Australian Labor Party has been in government those on the other side have consistently opposed us and said: ‘No, those questions should not go to the people. We do not need their advice on these questions. We know and we will vote accordingly’.
Mention was made earlier of gerrymanders and a lot was said about the position in Queensland under a Labor Government when a gerrymander took place and Labor governed with something less than half the total vote. The honourable member who said this neglected to mention that the Labor Premier of the time is no longer a member of the Labor Party but is in fact a member of the Democratic Labor Party - and that last Saturday, next Saturday or the Saturday after that he did or will marry into the Country Party. There will be a gorgeous alliance with people like the Premier of Queensland who sits in judgment on others, calls his State a sovereign State - nobody has yet explained to me what that expression means - and holds sway on something less than 19 per cent of the vote. He trotted off to London at the expense of the poor old taxpayers of Queensland and went to the Queen to put some sort of case. She had to smack him on the fingers and say: Look here, you naughty boy; Queensland is no longer a colony; it is part of the Commonwealth of Australia. You had better go back and behave yourself and realise that you now have a national government’. The honourable member who told us what was happening in Queensland under a Labor government forgot to say that the Playford Liberal Government of South Australia had been in government in that State for 25 years on 32 per cent of the vote. Even today we do not have a Labor government in Victoria because the ruling Liberal Party is governing that State on about 42 per cent of the vote. Honourable members talk about gerrymanders having been introduced by Labor but I am afraid that we were novices and did not do the job properly.
It is about time that the people of Australia were asked the questions which are proposed to be asked of them by referenda. The 5 questions obviously concern constitutional amendments for they deal with a Constitution which is more than 70 years old. The Australian Government will ask that this Constitution be reformed. It still has not reached the minds of many people sitting on the opposite side in this Parliament that Australia has grown up over the 70 years, that Victoria is no longer the Port Phillip district of the colony of New South Wales and that the 6 States in Australia have not been invaded by a foreign government. In fact, we have a national government. With the Whitlam Labor Government, for the first time in our history, we do have a national government. The States have a role to play but they certainly cannot claim to be sovereign States or anything of that order. The Australian Government, being national and international in character, is very aware of the role played by the third tier of government - local government. Once again it intends to ask the .people whether they want their local government - the level of government to which it is claimed they are closest- to have access to the Loan Council so that it may enjoy the same rights as the States and not be just a Cinderella and a creature of the States to be brought forward and disbanded at will.
Speaking about States rights, sovereign rights, national governments, national parliaments and asking people questions, it is my firm belief that under the rather loose system that operates in Australia so far as the States are concerned, it must be understood and it is understood that the Australian Government works in a rather tight straight jacket. For this reason the people must be asked whether that straightjacket ought to be loosened. I believe that any one of the 6 State parliaments could simply, by Act of Parliament, suspend all elections. That is the situation we have.
It is the sort of situation that cannot be allowed to continue. All the people of Australia would be asked a question during the referendum, not just the 19 per cent who vote in the very strategically placed electorates in Queensland to perpetuate the archaic Country Party Government in that State.
This Government has made advances in many areas, apart from the obvious ones of education and pensions. It has adopted a new attitude towards immigration. No longer can the old white Australia bogey be pointed at Australia. Australia walks much taller in Asia because of that. Let me refer to this Government’s attitude towards servicemen. Nobody ever tells us who is going to attack us but they keep telling us that we are going to be attacked, and they want us to double the size of our Army or something like that. I read in this morning’s Press that the ratio of officers to enlisted men in the Australian Army is something like one officer to every 6.3 enlisted men. That is the highest ratio in the whole wide world. I do not know whether it is suggested that we should double the number of officers so that every third bloke in the Army is an officer, or whether we ought to increase the number of enlisted men. Whichever way it goes, it has been claimed that the morale of the armed Services is low. I think that I have as much association with servicemen as anybody in this House has, and that has not been my experience. In fact the morale of those to whom I have spoken is high. They are pleased with the things that the Australian Labor Party Government has done for them. They look forward to more, and they can expect it. They are in no way deterred by the attitudes of the Australian Labor Party Government. In fact they are pleased that there has been a change of government.
The question of alliances always arises. I do not know alliances with whom and for what. But instead of talking about alliances between governments we ought to be talking about alliances between people and an understanding by people of people. Quite recently I was in one of the States of the United States of America and I thought I would question some American citizens about Australia to find out what they knew about it. Not very many had even heard of it. Some of them knew where it was. Some of them had heard of it and had a rough idea of where it was. When I asked people what they thought about affairs in Australia I found that they just did not care. So an alliance between governments is no alliance at all unless there is an alliance between people. At the moment there is no alliance between the Australian people and the American people because nothing is done to promote it.
But certainly there are alliances. The situation is entirely different in the South East Asian region. There is an alliance between the people of South East Asia and the people of Australia. Australian people know about their Asian neighbours. Our Asian neighbours know about us. There is an affinity between the people. We have heard enough - I almost said crap’ but I suppose that is unparliamentary - about the Governments of Malaysia and Singapore being angry with the Australian Government. Once again from speaking with these people I have found that Australia’s flag has never been higher in that area than it is now. Our esteem has never been higher. They are pleased that we have an Australian Labor Party Government. They are pleased that at last we have a Prime Minister who is not only national but also international, who is known in this area - not only well known but also known well. The attitude that Australia is now adopting towards the region is appreciated. Australians are complimented wherever they go. This is the way in which Australia should have been regarded for many decades past instead of our being allowed to drift along like a rudderless ship of state. But now, finally, a navigator of esteem has taken the helm and is steering Australia towards the destiny that is rightfully ours. No longer are we a European country or an appendage to Europe. We are an Asian country and we should be proud of that fact. Those who live around us are proud to know us and we should be proud to know them.
Debate (on motion by Mr Garland) adjourned.
– I have received the following message from the Senate:
Pursuant to the Standing Orders relating to the resumption of proceedings on lapsed Bills, the Senate requests the House of Representatives to resume the consideration of the Bill intituled ‘A Bill for an Act to Establish a Legislative Drafting Institute’, which was transmitted to the House of Representatives for its concurrence during the last Session of the Parliament.
Motion (by Mr Lionel Bowen) agreed to:
That consideration of the message be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– I have received the following message from the Senate:
Pursuant to the Standing Orders relating to the resumption of proceedings on lapsed Bills, the Senate requests the House of Representatives to resume the consideration of the Bill intituled ‘A Bill for an Act to determine the Site of the New and Permanent Parliament House, and to provide for the Grounds in the vicinity of the Parliament to be controlled by the Parliament’, which was transmitted to the House of Representatives for its concurrence during the last Session of the Parliament.
Motion (by Mr Garland) agreed to:
That consideration of the message be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– I have received a message from the Senate acquainting the House:
That the Senate concurs in the following resolution of the House:
That the matter of the televising of parliamentary debates and proceedings be referred to the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings for inquiry and report;
That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records for any purposes related to this inquiry.
Motion (by Mr Lionel Bowen) proposed:
That theHouse do now adjourn.
– The matter I wish to raise tonight in the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House concerns the Department of Immigration. I am delighted to see that the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) is in the chamber. I hope that he received my message this afternoon informing him that I was going to speak on this subject. I want to make it quite clear at the outset that I am in no way criticising officers of his Department about any lack of courtesy or assistance. Not only in this particular case but also in every case about which I have made representations they have been most helpful and have extended many courtesies. But this particular case is not the only one in which I have had difficulties in getting a reply and a satisfactory solution to my representations.
I will not quote the name of the individual in this case but it was first brought to my attention in October by a Cabinet Minister colleague of mine in the State Parliament whose State electorate covers part of my federal electorate. It was a request from a citizen of the area asking that her son and his wife and their 5 children should be allowed to come to Australia. The original application was made 12 months ago and was not approved. The folk concerned have written to the Department of Immigration but have received no reply. I sent these representations to the Minister on 22 October. On 5 November I received a telegram from him in which he said that the representations had been received and noted. He stated also:
Am inquiring personally. Will advise.
I advised the person concerned that the telegram from the Minister for Immigration had been received and that I would notify her as soon as I had received further information from the Minister.
– What was the date of that?
– That was 5 November last year. I received a further communication from the lady concerned dated 12 February 1974. Following this, I made further representations to the Minister for Immigration on 15 February pointing out that I had received a further representation and stating that I would appreciate the Minister looking into the matter as it was now a matter of some urgency. I might say that the husband of the lady who wrote to me about this matter is not in good health and the family is concerned that the son should be allowed to come to Australia before anything of a fatal nature happens to the father. Having received no reply from the Minister to my communication of 15 February, on 19 February I sent a telegram to the Minister stating:
Representations made 5th November, 1973 . . . As yet no decision given. Case is one of great urgency and see no reasonable explanation why a favourable reply not given. Awaiting urgent reply . . .
I received no reply to that telegram and sent a second telegram to the Minister on 22 February which stated:
Am still awaiting reply to telegram February 19th . . in relation to son’s passage to Australia. Appreciate your treating matter as urgent. Regards. . . .
On 22 February I received in a reply a telegram from the Minister for Immigration. At least I will say that he is prompt in replying by telegram. The telegram stated:
Telegram received. . . . Am endeavouring to finalise matter soonest. Will contact you again further.
There has been no further communication from the Minister in regard to this matter. From 22 October when my first letter was sent to the Minister for Immigration and I first made representations in this regard - I say nothing about the original letter written by this lady in September because, as I said earlier, it was written to my State colleague who forwarded it on to me in October - to this day, no final decision has been made on this matter and I believe that nobody would dispute my statement when I said that there was something wrong with the administration of the Department of Immigration. If there is some reason - frankly, I could not appreciate why there would be a reason - why this lad and his wife and family are not able to come to Australia and if that reason could be given, further discussion and representation could take place.
A great deal has been spoken about immigration and about all the various factors relating to immigration, yet here is a case which I think is - I use the word sincerely - a disgrace to the ‘Department, that over a period of time the Department cannot give a reply to a member making representations. As I said, I do not think this is the only case where in my opinion there has been some neglect of facing up to the investigation of matters which is required within the Department. In one case, I asked the Department to give the name of a gentleman in Sydney on whom one of my constituents could call, as that person was going to Sydney himself on a matter on which I had made representations over a period of I think, some seven or eight weeks. The Department willingly gave me the name of a gentleman from the Department in Sydney, but when this constituent of mine went into the office of the Department in Sydney he was informed that there were no papers or representations concerning the application he had made. Yet on exactly the same day I received a telegram from the Minister for Immigration informing me that the person concerned had been interviewed in the country where the application originally had been made and that it was hoped that very soon that person would be given permission to enter Australia. So, frankly, I think that this case, plus the other cases to which I have referred show a need for the Minister for Immigration to pay a little more attention to what is happening in Sydney than travelling around overseas telling everybody what a marvellous Department of Immigration and Government we have and what can be done. I informed the Minister for Immigration that I intended to raise this matter this evening because I think that the length of time it has taken is beyond all bounds of reasonableness. I hope that the matter will be brought to fruition very quickly and that the man, his wife and family will be allowed to come out and join his parents in this country.
– I did not receive the notification of the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) that he intended to raise this matter this evening, otherwise I would have come into the House and dealt particularly with the case in question. I regret that I did not receive that information as I would have been quite happy to have dealt with the case that he has raised. Providing that I can get from him the specific name of the person involved, I give him the undertaking that the matter will be put on record in the House and he will receive a reply to his representations.
There is in fact a delay of about 6 months in the finallisation of many of the matters concerning people coming from overseas, whether they are individuals or family groups. There are many reasons for that. Very often an application is made by people in good faith - I do not refer to this particular case - and they give an assurance in their application that there are jobs, that there is accommodation and that their nominees are good people in good health. Unfortunately, that is not always so. As a matter of fact, the officers of my Department are often very hard pressed to retain within the confidentiality of the Department some of the details which, of course, would be immediately accepted if they were known. I can think of one case that happened some months ago which involved a tragic series of events. We were not able to communicate with the people concerned because the case involved a very close member of the family having a very unhappy and miserable disease which it was not our responsibility to advise or to make known. Therefore it is very often necessary to try to go through a drill which will, in the first instance, safeguard the Australian community from susceptibility to the disease and, secondly, safeguard the members of the family themselves. Some of these matters are very personal and very difficult to deal with publicly. I have always taken the view that when an application is made to the Department of Immigration confidentiality should prevail between the applicant and the Department.
Other difficulties are encountered overseas. In relation to overseas nominations, depending on the country, other governments and other sets of laws are involved. I say to the honourable member quite bluntly that each month I get a report on the progress and correspondence. I might say that some of the matters have been outstanding for more than 3 months. When that happens I ask: ‘Why have these matters been outstanding for that time?’ In all, of the cases that I have probed I have found that the matters have been outstanding because details have not been forthcoming from overseas. Maybe the information which is needed from the host country is not being made available.
Sometimes one uncovers the reluctant immigrant. From time to time we get impatient letters from ardent suitors who ask: Why has my fiancee not arrived? Why is she not here? She is keen to get together with me.’ Of course, when one looks into the matter one finds that the ardent young fiancee has been seeking every way in the world not to come. It is not up to us to break the poor man’s heart and say: ‘She does not want to come. She does not turn up when she is called for interview. She does not really want to be with you after all.’ We do not do that, but we go through the drill and advise that perhaps the nominee has not completed the necessary applications. We use the very cold bureaucratic phrase: ‘Your nominee has not completed the necessary application’. I suppose we ought to say: ‘Your young fiancee has found somebody else or she has decided that you are not a desirable objective and therefore she is dragging the chain deliberately’. All of these personal matters sometimes cause delays. It is very difficult, as I say, to go to the well intentioned people concerned and to tell them very bluntly the reasons for some of these delays.
-What about the mislaid files?
– I accept that a file could be mislaid from time to time in view of the fact that some 28,000 cases and queries are raised annually with my office alone. If there was not the occasional case of a mislaid file I would think that I had a Department of saints and angels. Good as the officers of my Department are, I do not think that that is true. Of course one will find those, instances cropping up. But I do not know of any delays that have deliberately occurred. The honourable member for Lyne has tonight raised a sequence of events which indicate to me, without knowing anything about the case off-hand, that there are difficulties which will have to be overcome. The honourable member is right in pursuing the matter. He is doing exactly the right thing by his constituent. But I think he has prejudged the case by saying that it is a disgrace.
– Not when the application was made 6 months previously. I will admit that everything the Minister has said might happen, but those are not in any way extenuating circumstances.
– The fact that the period from 22 October to now has elapsed without any hint being given to the honourable member as to what the difficulty is would seem, on the face of it, to indicate that the matter requires investigation and explanation. I will certainly undertake to have an explanation furnished to the honourable member. If I can manage I will probably do so in the adjournment debate tomorrow night so that the explanation is on the record. I would like to say to those honourable members who raise cases that involve highly personal matters that are difficult to transmit on paper that I have always taken the view that I like to have the honourable member concerned in my confidence. If I know that a matter is raised in good faith and if these sorts of things have to be discussed I prefer to discuss them with the honourable member concerned and to give to him in good faith the information I have available to me. Very often I allow him to make the judgment as to whether the information will cause hurt and dismay to the people concerned. I leave it to his good judgment as to what he should do in those cases. That is the procedure I follow and will continue to follow. As a result of the raising of this matter tonight by the honourable member for Lyne, I undertake to have an investigation carried out and to provide an explanation to the House during, I hope, the adjournment debate tomorrow night.
– I wish to raise a number of matters that relate to the Western Suburbs of Sydney - in particular to the area improvement program for the western region that was announced recently and elaborated on by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren). In particular I wish to relate my remarks to the Parramatta River and the quite apparent way in which the necessary tasks of improving the Parramatta River have been ignored in the area improvement program for the western region. It is quite clear that any program of development for this area must involve a study and an understanding of this most important waterway, which crosses from the eastern shores of Sydney to the extremities of the Western Suburbs.
In the program that has been announced there is provision for some $5m to be expended. In January 1974 the Minister announced that moneys would be allocated for cleaning Duck Creek, some $30,000, and for repairing the sea wall on the Parramatta River, some $20,000. On 7 March the Minister issued a statement which was embargoed until 10 March and which indicated that a further $15,000 would be allocated to the Duck Creek project, through the Auburn Council, for stone work, that a further $10,000 would be allocated to the Parramatta Council for foreshore work and that another $10,000 would be allocated to the Parramatta Council for the Duck Creek area and for surveying. A total of $55,000 has been allocated for works associated with Duck Creek as compared with the sum of $30,000 that has been allocated for works associated with the Parramatta River. If one includes the gardens that are to be built around the Duck Creek area in the Auburn Municipality another $225,000 has to be added in the first grant. It is quite apparent that, notwithstanding the fact that these large sums of money are being spent in that area, nothing is being allocated towards the improvement of the Parramatta River as an important waterway.
When I made my maiden speech in the House I mentioned the importance of the Parramatta River in that area and I made reference to the establishment of a Parramatta River commission which I believe would be a desirable way of co-ordinating the activities that ought to occur along the river. I proposed on that occasion, as I had on previous occasions, that a Parramatta River commission be formed. I suggested that regional councils bordering the river be aided with finance in appointing rangers who could patrol the river and that councils should act in concert to acquire land for riverside parks. I said that this should be done along the whole of the river. Such a program of beautification and other activities is sorely needed.
I indicated that the program of regionalisation which we are having foisted upon us was not a program which would enable the Parramatta River to be dealt with adequately. There is a certain lack of purpose in what is being done in the western region. I would like to demonstrate to honourable members some of the activities which could be undertaken if there were such an organisation as a Parramatta River commission involving the State Government, local councils and a Federal Department. It could undertake cleaning of the river, including dredging. It could build embankments from the silt and so on that is taken from the River. It would be able to supervise the use of the river and patrol it to ensure that the river is not dealt with in a harmful way by people who pollute it or by people who dump car bodies into it. It would be able to organise the removal of hyacinths which become a very severe problem after storms. It is a problem that is quite evident to anybody who has seen the river recently after the rather minor flooding that has occurred.
This view that there ought to be such an overriding commission is supported very strongly by other local members and by the local chamber of commerce but no efforts have been made to date to bring about such a proposal. It is my belief that if we are to expend these large sums of money in the western region we need to have such a coordinating body. The river is an integral part of the western suburbs. Large sums of money are spent on roads. In fact, under the area improvement program, notwithstanding the aversion of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) to road programs, large sums of money have been allocated for bridges, roads and other constructions associated with road traffic in the western suburbs. But no money has been allocated for water transport. A hovermarine has been established. At the moment, this vessel is using wharves at Gladesville and Meadowbank. It is being supported very strongly by the State Liberal Party member for Yaralla, Mr Lerryn Mutton. It is a rapid transit system that is working very effectively in that area. One method by which the operation of the hovermarine could be extended to areas.- such as Ermington and Rydalmere which presently lack suitable transport facilities would be for the Department of Defence to make available wharf facilities that it has adjacent to the Silverwater Bridge at Ermington. The task of making available such a wharf to serve the public would be very small. It would merely require the removal of the present fencing and the erection of a cyclone fence, similar to that which is already there, some 30 feet back from the water to allow public access to the wharf. This hovermarine could very easily serve the western suburbs and link them with the city without the vast expense that is necessary to bring road transport, rapid rail transport and so on to that area. The people who are associated with the hovermarine and introduced it on the service have said that if loan moneys could be made available to them they would be quite prepared to embark upon the purchase of additional ferries to serve this area. It seems to me that the cost of acquiring additional marine craft of this sort would be far less than the cost of expanding the road systems in the western suburbs and, although probably the expansion of some of these road systems is necessary, the provision of additional marine craft on the Parramatta River would diminish the demand that is placed upon the present road systems. Wider use of the Parramatta River is necessary.
I believe that loan moneys could be made available through other government instrumentalities. I noticed that in the Speech delivered by Her Majecty it was suggested that the activities of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation were to be extended in order to ensure loans which are provided for tourist facilities. It seems to me that there would be no objection to extending the concept of a government loan guaranteeing body to cover loans for purposes such as acquiring hovermarine for this important area. If this question is not covered in the proposals that the Minister has received, there is a need for him to consider gingering up the councils ‘and asking them whether they will submit proposals for the building of a wharf - say, near Gasworks Bridge - in order to provide hovermarine facilities closer to Parramatta itself. These matters are very important.
In the few moments remaining to me I should like to mention a couple of other small matters that have arisen in the administration of these grants. Quite clearly, there has been a number of irregularities in the grants that have been made. To date we have seen that the Blue Mountains City Council has received a promise of a grant of $140,000 with which to build a regional shopping centre. We see in the new grants that the earlier grant has been removed and allocated for some other purpose. The Council itself was concerned that money would be promised and then withdrawn.
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I want to raise one or two matters tonight. The first concerns a proposal on which the Geelong Cultural Institute has been working for a number of years. It is a proposal to build a theatre complex in Geelong to replace certain properties which the Institute, which is incorporated under a Victorian Act of Parliament, holds. The proposal, which involves the expenditure of some $3m, will provide Geelong, which is a rapidly growing centre, with a much needed outlet for the creative talents of the performing arts. As I have said, this proposal requires the expenditure of a considerable sum of money. After some 2 years of negotiation the Victorian Government has agreed to provide up to $2m of the cost, and local government bodies have been asked to provide about $500,000. The remainder of the money is to be raised by public subscription.
Unfortunately, I think that the committee which considered this proposal overlooked the fact that subscriptions to this type of project are not tax deductible under the provisions of the Income Tax Act. At the time when inquiries were made it was no longer possible even to use a loophole, which had existed in the Act up to this year, by calling the proposal a war memorial. So the situation is that without tax deductibility the professional fund raising firms feel that it is not possible to raise by public subscription the sums of money required. For this reason a request is now before the Commonwealth Government for financial assistance towards the construction of this project.
It is an important project and one which is worthy of consideration. I recognise .that if the Commonwealth does give support to such a project it will be a completely new area of activity. This is something which cannot be entered into lightly because no demands can be taken in isolation. I make the point that Geelong has been designated as a growth centre. It is an area of some 140,000 people and would warrant the type of support that I have asked the Government to consider. I raise this matter tonight because the peculiar problem of raising funds which now confronts the committee is of some urgency. Costs are rising at a very substantial rate and delays must inevitably occur in the calling of tenders and the signing of contracts. I understand that the Victorian Government has placed an embargo on the procedures on this matter until such time as a decision is made by the Commonwealth Government. I hope that the Victorian Government is not acting in this way purely for political purposes, although I have a suspicion that that is the case. The point I make and which I wish to repeat is that the matter is of some considerable urgency and I hope that in the not too distant future a decision favourable to the Institute can be made by the Government
I raise one other matter. It also is of some consequence, although it is not of the same local content. Any one reading the Press today or listening to the public media over the last couple of weeks could be misled into thinking that the Australian people will be asked in the next few weeks to agree to cut out elections in Australia or in some way to change the electoral laws to give serious advantage to one party or another. What is being proposed is that a system whereby advantage exists be eliminated. One of the most interesting statements I have read is a statement by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) that large areas will be disadvantaged if population is used as a basis for any change in electoral laws. I merely point out to the House that the largest electorate in Australia is represented in this House by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard). It has the third greatest population of any electorate in Australia. I suggest that that electorate is disadvantaged by the counting of electors as opposed to population.
I make one other point on this matter. In Australia we have a situation where the Australian people have no basic guarantees that governments will hold elections other than for the Federal Parliament. In fact in New South Wales elections are not held for one of the Houses of Parliament. That House is an appointed House. There is nothing to. prevent various franchises from being introduced which restrict or deny the majority pf voters the opportunity to participate in elections. This has occurred in the past - this type of restric tion of franchise can be equally and easily applied to the lower House of any of the State parliaments where conservative governments have control. Where Labor governments have control this is not possible, because the Upper House in each of the States where there are Labor governments at present at least are so structured that conservative majorities are guaranteed irrespective of what way the people vote.
That is a democratic proposition. We have a situation in Western Australia, for instance, where in one Upper House electorate there are 85,000 electors and in another electorate there are 5,400 electors, a difference which represents an effective 15 votes for an elector in one electorate compared with one vote for an elector in another electorate. In the Lower House in that State the difference is 1,900 to 19,000. It is said that distance is important. But when governments are elected they are elected to represent people. When members who come here or are elected to any Parliament they are nominally at least, although not in practice in Australia in most State parliaments, representatives of the people who elect them. If one member represents 15 times the number of electors represented by another member who has equal voting on the floor of the Parliament, the Parliament is not democratically elected. One can rationalise that in any way one likes by using percentages, but the facts are that if the system is to be democratic every person who is above the age at which a vote is allowed and is an Australian citizen or a British subject is entitled to vote, and any diminution of that right to have a full vote in the election of a parliament is a denial of democratic principle. I make the point - I shall briefly mention exactly what the situation is in Australia - that it is said that every political party in Australia has engaged in gerrymanders - and that is true. It is all the more reason why there should be protection for people against such gerrymanders. I make this point: Queensland has no Upper House. It has a very badly rigged electoral system, a system which is capable of being rigged no matter which party is in power to provide almost perpetual electoral success. The only reason the present State Government ever got into power in Queensland - I would hope those people who are always crying would have mentioned this - is that there was a split in the governing party which enabled a change of government, which subsequently led to a reverse gerrymander so that the new governing party can stay in office in perpetuity. It is possible for that single House of Parliament, which is not elected by a majority of electors, to pass laws to restrict the franchise in any way it wishes. It could restore the situation that prevailed in England at the time of the great Reform Bill where one electorate with five -
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Speaker, I take the opportunity of raising with the House and with you, sir, an event which happened at question time last Thursday morning and which is recorded at page 149 of the Hansard of that day. You will firstly see a point of order there which I am sure you will recall that I took. It is actually recorded in Hansard under the name of Mr Staley and I should first say that it was I, not Mr Staley, who took the point of order. I have already notified Hansard of that. But the point at issue, and you referred to it again at question time today or soon after, is the right of an honourable member to take a point of order. I suggest that the position is that if an honourable member feels that the Standing Orders have been breached in any way by an honourable member, or indeed even by you, with respect, then he has the right to stand and call out ‘Point of order’ and expect to receive the call. Mr Speaker, you have in passing on previous days, and explicitly this morning, drawn attention to the situation and said that honourable members cannot proceed with a point of order unless he has the call. My purpose in rising, however briefly, this evening is to put the view that when an honourable member believes he has a point of order he has a right to be heard.
The practice in this House has been that when an honourable member said ‘Point of order’ the Speaker looked at him and the proceedings hushed while he spoke. He went on even though he did not get the call, and even though the name the honourable member for Curtin, for instance, was not said by the Speaker. Indeed, I listened to the tape on this matter and 7 seconds were given to me, which is quite a long time during a busy period in the Parliament for me to proceed But I was cut off because the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) had the call. I give you, Mr Speaker, if I may, that description of that event and I ask you whether you will consider it in due course?
-Order! It being 11 p.m., the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2.15 p.m.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 March 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19740312_reps_28_hor88/>.