28th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. 3. F. Cope) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost many citizens more, particularly single people and working wives.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalisation of health services which will lead to impersonalised and mediocre standards of medical care, the creation of a huge new bureaucracy, and will limit the citizen’s freedom of choice.
That the present health scheme can be amended to overcome existing deficiencies, and that the proposed scheme is totally unnecessary. Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Bonnett, Mr Corbett, MrDrury, Mr England, Or Forbes, Mr McLeay and Mr Wilson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the undersigned men and women of Australia believe in a Christian way of life; and that no democracy can thrive unless its citizens are responsible and law abiding.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will see that the powerful communicator, television, is used to build into the nation those qualities of character which make a democracy work - integrity, teamwork and a sense of purpose by serving, and that television be used to bring faith in God to the heart of the family and national life.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Bonnett.
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 Human Rights Bill will deprive free Australian citizens of religious liberty and freedom of worship, and parents and guardians of the right to choose the moral and religious education of their children in that:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House not proceed with the Human Rights Bill.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Edwards.
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 whale is an endangered species and should be protected by international agreement.
That whalemeat and all other whale products should be excluded from all Australian manufactured goods.
That no whale products should be imported into Australia.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will form appropriate legislation to protect the whale from commercial exploitation.
And your petitioners, as in duty, bound, will ever pray. by Mr McLeay.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned residents of Victoria respectfully showeth:
That it is not desirable to change the Australian flag from its present form.
That many people in Australia prefer ‘God Save The Queen’ as the national anthem.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian flag be kept in its present form and ‘God Save The Queen’ be retained as the national anthem.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Street.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth:
That jet aircraft operations have a detrimental effect by way of air and noise pollution on the environment and therefore on the lives of citizens living in the general area. That in close proximity to the proposed Galston airport site are the Berowra Reserves, the Hallstrom Nature Reserve and the Muogamurra Sanctuary, and areas of Sydney’s Green Belt, which would be so affected and should be preserved for- future generations.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that this House take appropriate steps to ensure that the Government does not proceed with the proposal to site the second International airport for Sydney in the Galston area or surrounding north-western suburbs of Sydney.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Ruddock.
Post Office at Cowell, South Australia
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 change of status of Cowell Post Office from official to non-official, will result in reduced services to the public in the form of letter deliveries, hours of service and employment opportunities for young people.
That the conduct of the Post Office by persons who are not career type Postal Officers, will be a retrograde step to the whole of the district.
That the loss of official post office status will be detrimental to the future development and tourist potential of the district.
That aged and invalid persons, and outlying farmers will suffer mostly from the proposed change.
That it is unnecessary to deprive the district of a type of post office that has been provided for nearly 100 years.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the Cowell Post Office and the present official status of it, which is functioning to the complete satisfaction of all the residents of the district.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. byMrWallis.
– The Minister for Housing and Construction will recall his statement to this House on 13 March concerning interest rates, in which he said in quite specific terms:
We know that people have been affected by the high interest rates. We want to restore lower interest rates as quickly as we can.
Then he said specifically:
We are taking steps towards that end.
As the honourable gentleman will appreciate, that statement has created considerable confusion in his own Department, in the Federal Treasury and amongst the public generally. I ask the Minister to outline to this House precisely what steps the Government is taking to reduce the high interest rates which presently prevail.
– I do not concede the credence which the honourable gentleman attaches to the question. The views of my own Department do not differ from the views that I have expresed. I have heard nothing from the Treasury or the Treasurer to indicate other than that it is now, as it always has been, the declared intention of the Australian Labor Party, in opposition or in government, to bring the cost of housing down to the lowest posible level. One thing is very apparent: The Government has an enormous task on hand to restore the equilibrium that was . so grotesquely distorted by its predecessor’s inflation of the money market. Many initiatives are being taken towards this end, but in the face of the world inflationary trends and the inflationary trends that prevail in Australia, it is no mean task. Nevertheless the Government will unrelentingly pursue its objective of turning out money for housing at the lowest possible interest rate.
– What steps is the Government taking?
- Mr Speaker, does the Deputy Leader of the Opposition want to answer the question as well as ask it?
– Order! I ask that interjections cease.
– One thing that is notable in respect of the Opposition’s approach to housing problems in Australia is that whilst it has been in opposition, as was the case when it was in government, not one constructive proposition has been put forward as to how order can be restored out of the chaos that it created when in government. We have in hand many initiatives that are designed to turn out housing at the lowest possible cost. They include such matters as our attempt to formulate a national house consultation code. A task force is working very objectively towards that end. We are also looking at the prospect of finding less expensive ways of building houses. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition can be cynical about this if he likes but the fact of the matter is that our predecesors in office created the situation in Australia where a lot more people are looking for housing than our resources can supply. In the face of this the present Government has taken the very realistic view that we have to break through the technological barrier. We refuse to accept the idea that because one cannot get bricks and bricklayers for housing one cannot go on building houses in one form or another. Honourable gentlemen might be interested to know that among the many and varied initiatives we are currently taking is the examination of close to 150 different ways - different systems - of building houses. That initiative has attracted world wide interest.
– What has this to do with interest rates?
– I say in respect to interest rates that there are many factors - inflationary factors and the like - that have come upon the Government.
– The honourable gentleman can laugh as much as he likes, but there is no question that the Australian people have the sense of confidence that the present Government will do everything it possibly can to get interest rates down to the lowest possible level.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Northern Territory. Is the Minister aware that as a result of cyclone Jenny some 300 persons, including approximately 200 Aboriginal children, elderly people and nuns, are stranded on the Daly River mission at Misery Hill in the Northern Territory? Is it a fact that the weather situation has been reported to be deteriorating? Will the Minister ensure that urgent action is taken to safeguard those people?
– Last night I received some urgent messages from the Northern Territory that cyclone Jenny had caused serious damage in the Daly River area and that, as a result of the rising of the waters, at least 300 people were stranded at the Catholic mission at what is called Misery Hill. Most of them are Aboriginal children, old people, nuns and missionaries. The situation has become quite desperate in the sense that they must be moved out of that area. I immediately contacted the authorities and today the Royal Australian Air Force is taking urgent measures to move the missionaries, the Aboriginal children and old people away from this area. Cyclone Jenny is continuing its course. It is heading towards Port Keats where, of course, it can do a lot more damage before it crosses the coast again and moves out to sea. I can assure the honourable member and the other members of the House that every possible step is being taken by the Air Force and other authorities to evacuate these unfortunate people from this area which is being devastated by the cyclone. Arrangements have been made with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to move these people to Batchelor where they will be looked after until more comfortable accommodation can be arranged for them.
– Is the Minister for Transport aware that the total Australian export shipment of oranges to New Zealand is at risk largely due to the discrimination exercised against Australian seamen by the New Zealand Seamen’s and Waterside Workers Union? What is the Government doing to preserve this valuable export shipment - in this case, worth $1.2m - for Australian producers in a situation where ample shipping would otherwise be available?
– In September of last year Sir Basil Arthur, the New Zealand Minister of Transport, and I had a long and most fruitful discussion in Canberra wherein agreement was reached on the basis of Australia’s participation in trade with New Zealand. Since then the waterside workers and maritime unions of both countries have agreed that Australian flag vessels manned by Australians as well as New Zealand ships will be permitted to carry cargo between Australia and New Zealand. A very clear and positive understanding on shipping exists between the 2 countries and the unions, which is something more than existed before the Australian Labor Party came to office.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware of allegations that there are now 30,000 people illegally in Australia? Is this a fact, and if so what action is being taken to rectify the position. If not, will the Minister clarify the position?
– The honourable member’s question is apparently based on a recent report that there are 30,000 illegal migrants in Australia. I might say that it was a rather fancy piece of guesstimating. It was based on a figure, which it quoted, of 18,000 illegal migrants who remained in Australia under the previous administration, having arrived between the years 1965 and 1972. I might also say that it was predicated on the idea that aU of those 18,000 people who represented hangovers from previous procedures are still here illegally and have still not regularised their status in this country. The actual number of illegal migrants from 1965 to 1972 amounted to no fewer than 25,000 people. That was a considerable number of people.
– Ha, ha.
– I am glad I have just woken the honourable member from Victoria. I am sure that he will be very interested to know that that was the figure from 1965 to 1972 under the administration which the honourable gentleman supported. The interesting thing is that as a result of the procedures which were then in force and which are now in force in the Department of Immigration, some 7,000 to 8,000 people were regularised by being encouraged to apply properly and return or by having their status regularised here. But to suggest that the hangover is of that dimension is a pure guesstimate. I hate to spoil a good story, but I must let the facts speak for themselves. The position is that firm action has been taken by this administration against racketeers and exploiters, and we will continue this action. The overwhelming majority of people who come to this country come in through the front door legally and properly and they settle well. I might say that the easy visa system which was referred to in the article which I think the honourable member for Batman may have seen is still functioning particularly well in 50 countries. I would encourage all of the people who wish to come to Australia to apply in the right and proper way and to come in through the front door and be accorded the extensive hospitality which Australians give to people from all nations.
– Mr Speaker, on a point of order, I ask for your indulgence under standing order 151, to ask the Minister as a supplementary question whether some of the racketeering might perhaps be going on in his Department?
-Order! There is no point of order. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– It is standing order 151.
-I know that the honourable gentleman is very smart, but he is not that smart.
– Mr Speaker, a point of order-
-Order! That point of order has been decided.
– Will that appear in the annals of the Parliament? He makes accusations against the Public Service. That is a most serious charge. I think it should be cleared up.
-Order! I have warned the honourable member for Mackellar time after time about taking points of order and making personal explanations. He abuses that privilege time after time. I am warning him again that if he does it again I will not give him the call in order to take a point of order or make a personal explanation.
– Can the Minister for Immigration reconcile his policy of an increased migrant intake in the next financial period with the published opinions of his colleague the Minister for the Environment and Conservation that Australia must limit its population growth? Is it a fact that the present policies of the Minister for Immigration are helping to exert extreme pressures on the environment, as stated by the Minister for the Environment and Conservation in an extensive paper published recently in the national Press under the heading ‘Staunch the Migrant Flow’?
– The honourable member has asked me 2 questions. I think he asked first whether I had made some public statement dealing with the migrant intake for the next financial year. I will put the honourable member right in that regard. The drill for considering the next migrant intakethis is for the financial year 1974-75 - is that the matter is first discussed by the program committee of the Immigration Planning Council. It is then discussed by the full Planning Council which then makes a recommendation to me. That recommendation is then studied and taken to Cabinet, and a decision is made and announced. I might say that up to this time I have had no report on the recommendations of the Planning Council.
The honourable member also referred to an article .by my colleague the Minister for the Environment and Conservation. I read the article with great interest. I thought that my distinguished colleague betrayed tremendous erudition when he said that the most important thing was to find out the facts of our situation in relation to population. Of course, what my distinguished ministerial colleague was saying was that we must take a long view of these matters. It is just for this reason that the national population inquiry, which was instituted, I might say, by my predecessor, the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition, has been continued by this administration. It has bees given additional facilities. It has held public hearings in all States. I hope that in June of this year - in July at the very latest - that report will be brought down. I believe that the final reference by my distinguished colleague was the most important. He said that at present we do not know enough about the effects of population development in Australia. We should have the information. I hope that in June or July we will have the raw material for long term decision making.
– Has the Minister for Social Security noted comments attributed to the Victorian Premier in relation to unemployment benefit allegedly paid to people who, he said, will not work? The Victorian Premier has said that some applicants for benefits have registered themselves as lion tamers, glass blowers, etc. What evidence has the Minister of this assertion?
– There is no evidence at all. In fact, when the suggestion first surfaced, possibly 12 months ago, that a person had registered as a lion tamer in Queensland to obtain unemployment benefits in the belief that he could not be directed to a job as a lion tamer, the Department of Labour and the Department of Social Security checked the report with all their offices in Queensland. There was no evidence of any such registration. This is one of the practices of reactionary people in the community who resent any efforts to liberalise social welfare benefits and services.
I find it more than a little curious that a party which aspires to the great traditions of small ‘1’ liberalism by putting a capital ‘L’ on its political designation should prove itself so reactionary, so repressive and so depriving in the way in which it approaches issues that affect fundamental rights in society. For so long - until we became the government, in fact - unemployment and sickness benefits in Australia were at a quite insufferably low level compared with average living standards in the community. Unemployment and sickness benefit rates were considerably lower than pension rates which, under the last Government, were well below the poverty line. We find no consolation at all in the fact that they are still below the poverty line; but they are increasing at a faster rate and closing the gap at a greater rate than ever occurred before, and the Government aims to close that gap.
I also find it rather curious that the reactionaries in the community who like to masquerade under the proud traditions of small T liberalism are always concerned about the problems of the idle poor in the community but are never concerned about the problems presented by the idle rich in the community. They are always concerned that someone may ‘fiddle’ a little somewhere along the line with social security benefits, but for more than 20 years they took no action in respect of people who fiddle in a massive way in the taxation scheme and engage in corrupt practices in business and commerce. I do not want what I have said about business and commerce to be misrepresented as an attack on business and commerce across the board. By and large people in business and commerce are quite responsible and conduct their affairs according to a high ethical code; but, as the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange showed, there are some people who are far from practising such ethical conduct.
The final thing I want to say about unemployment and sickness benefits, and about social security benefits generally, is that one has a choice in the way in which these matters are administered. One can be tough, inflexible and discriminatory because one is worried that someone may fiddle a dollar or two somewhere and, in the course of that, one will be extremely repressive, discriminatory and depriving against worthy cases in the community; or one can display some sort of tolerance and some sort of liberalism, according to the proud philosophical values of Mill and of the school of liberal thought, and help the people who are really needy.
I conclude by pointing out that a submission which has been presented to the poverty inquiry being conducted by Professor Henderson is based on a sample survey of the characteristics of people on long-term unemployment and sickness benefits. I believe that I will have the authority to release this later. I can assure honourable members that the evidence there shows that these sorts of assertions are grossly over-blown and I do not believe that the Liberal Party does itself any credit, if it claims to be a liberal party, by jumping on the bandwaggon of reaction where social welfare benefits and services are concerned and where peoples’ fundamental rights to self respect and dignity are involved.
– I address my question to the Minister for Overseas Trade. As a fellow Victorian who also enjoys Australian Rules football, I ask: What is the reason that the Peoples’ Republic of China has declined the Minister’s proposal, for which I commend him, of a visit to that country by an Australian Rules football team? Will the Minister explain to the Chinese Government that Australian Rules football is a pleasureable, fresh and entertaining game and that it is no more harmful or subversive than ping-pong?
– I think the honourable member is rather unwise to associate the game of ping-pong with Australian rules. That is normally done by Rugby supporters who un- fortunately have never had the opportunity, or rarely have had the opportunity, of seeing football played in the proper way. I have seen Rugby played and I have seen the ball disappear over the fence and the players not aware for about 10 minutes. Seriously, Mr Speaker, I did raise with the Chinese authorities the possibility of a visit to China by an Australian Rules football team. I was informed just recently that that visit is not yet possible. There are many reasons for this. I do not think there is any justification for people to think that this matter is a mystery or that there is something that has not been revealed. I know that the facilities that are available in China for visitors from other countries at the present time are very limited. For this reason alone it is physically not possible for the Chinese Government to agree to many of the requests that are made by people to visit China for medical reasons or for reasons such as this one. There are other factors that enter into it. The Chinese authorities have pointed out that the game is not known in China. The Chinese authorities have not yet completely given up reading the Australian Press, although I should imagine they soon will. However, they are not familiar with the character of Australian football.
– What did Confucius say?
– I am quite sure that whatever it was the honourable member for Mackellar would contradict it. I am concerned to assist Australian Rules football to become more widely known, especially in Australia, and I look forward to the possibility of a visit by such a team to China sooner or later.
– Is the Minister for Education aware of the statement which appeared in the Victorian Teachers Union journal made by the Director-General of the Public Works Department that the Victorian Education Department was wasting money on a crazy school building policy, had panicked and was building too many schools and that the school maintenance program was years behind what it ought to be? Allowing for the limitations placed on the building of schools by the shortages of materials and labour, can the Minister assure the House that there is sufficient accountability by the States to ensure that the increased funds flowing from the Karmel report will be used efficiently so as to result in better schools for primary and secondary school children and a gradual but certain end to the portable madness that has swept Victoria as a solution to the problem of accommodating the increasing numbers of school children, particularly in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne?
– The question of accountability is important from the point of view of the Australian Government. It is not a fact that the Australian Government Treasury transfers money to the Victorian Treasury and then waits to see whether the Victorian Treasury can spend it. What happens is that the money is made available as the State requests it with firm contracts and building programs, so that in a sense there is not necessarily a waste of money. For instance, Victoria has available $12,820,000 for the construction of technical colleges of which amount Victoria has so far requested $4,850,000. Victoria states that it will be able to request $5,500,000 before the end of this financial year. If it does so an unclaimed balance of $2,400,000 will be left. I do not wish to take as the criterion of efficiency the ability to spend money. The Karmel report does not do so and Karmel asks for the employment of outside consultants.
I draw the honourable gentleman’s attention to the fact that when a pyromaniac was burning schools in Victoria one of the schools burnt down was Princes Hill school. I understand credibly that the Victorian Department of Public Works said it would take 5 years to build the school. The Victorian Government, unusually, went to an outside consultant and the school was built in 21 months. Money was returned to the Victorian Treasury and the school was awarded an architectural prize so that in this case the lesser sum of money might have been indicative of greater efficiency. That is why I think the Karmel report asks for a diversity of construction of schools. I will admit that the builder in this particular case was a man of exceptional conscience; he was a Labor candidate. Of the Australian Government money provided for Victoria, mainly in relation to new school building projects, only $2,850,000 has been advanced as requested by that State in this financial year. About $ 13.5m is available. I am not prejudging what advances Victoria will ask for in the remainder of the year. It appears that both the Victorian Department of Education and the Victorian Department of Public Works have adverse things to say about one another. Generally speaking, I think the Department of Education feels that the Department of Public Works cannot build new schools and the Department of Public Works thinks that not sufficient attention is paid to maintenance.
As Minister I cannot sort out Victoria’s administration problems for it, but we are concerned that the money should toe spent on providing new facilities and upgrading existing ones as quickly as possible. The stimulus that we have given in the field of technical educa tion has been that where a State cannot spend its money we are prepared to make the money available to another State. I think that is the sensible arrangement.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that persons accepted to operate non-official post offices are officially named and accepted as postmasters? Is the Postmaster-General aware that postmasters at official post offices, acting under instructions from the Australian’ Postmasters’ Asociation, are changing from ‘postmaster’ to ‘postal agent’ the title on correspondence to postmasters at non-official post offices. Does the Postmaster-General endorse this action? If not, will he issue instructions to stop this petty action by the Australian Postmasters’ Association which is only causing unnecessary and added discontent within the postal service?
-I am not aware of the problem. It cannot have very much significance to the extent that it has never been brought to my attention. I know that often there is some jealousy between what is deemed to be ‘an official office and a nonofficial office. There is often an attitude of mind that all offices ought to be official. In fact, many of the employees in non-official offices are paid by the Department itself. I do not think the problem is of any real significance, but if there is any merit in the question that the honourable member raised I shall have a look at the situation.
– Did the Minister for Social Security note during February newspaper reports from Western Australia relating to claims made before the Western Australian Royal Commission into Aboriginal Affairs by a Mr R. W. Crosbie, District Officer of the Western Australian Community Welfare Department at Katanning, and other allegations made by Mrs B. Hayward of Gnowangerup? Has he had a chance to investigate these allegations? If so what are his findings?
– Withdraw that. Stop naming people.
-Order! I do not think that the names were mentioned in a critical sense. If they had been I would have stopped the honourable member.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. With great respect to your ruling, I think there ought to be consistency about this and if it is wrong for an Opposition member to mention a private person’s name, it is equally wrong for a Government member to do so.
– Naming people is disallowed only when it is done in remarks critical of a person or his conduct. I shall cite an illustration. Last year the honourable member for Casey asked a question in regard to inviting Patrick White on to the floor of the House. Was I supposed to rule that out of order? Do not be absurd. I call the Minister for Social Security.
– Yes, the allegations were investigated at my direction at the time I noted them in the newspapers. It is some time since I looked at the report but as my recollection serves me, in one case the allegations were based purely on hearsay and on inquiry could not be substantiated. In the other case there were certain vaguenesses about the allegations and they did not stand up. I am sorry, it is some time since I looked at the report but in both cases there was no substance to the allegations when they were investigated.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: What action has the Government taken to re-open post offices on Saturdays and to resume telegram deliveries and mail facilities on Saturdays? Has the Government taken any steps to deal with this disruption of postal and telecommunication services? What has been the Government’s response to the ultimatum issued by the postal unions in these matters 3 weeks ago?
– This subject was discussed in this House at length as a matter of public importance. Under the previous Administration, of which the honourable member was a senior member and I think an offsider to the previous Postmaster-General, a large number of post offices were closed. In fact all the official offices in Tasmania were closed on Saturdays during the honourable member’s regime. Further, one-third of the official offices in Australia were closed, an other one-third operated for an hour only and the balance operated for 2 hours only. So it v/as logical that with a post office operating on overtime, which was the situation, there would bc pressure that the personnel should not be obliged to work. The matter was the subject of negotiation. At this stage I cannot say any more except that I am hopeful that there may be some discussions which will result in giving more service in the sense of providing facilities, not only on Saturday morning but perhaps also all day on Saturday. The recommendations of the royal commission inquiring into the Post Office will have to be adequately canvassed. It will also require the co-operation of the trade union movement. As to the specific matters mentioned by the honourable member, I cannot see any ready solution to the problem he has raised.
– Is the Minister for the Capital Territory aware that an Australian Capital Territory ordinance prevents the appropriate procedures from being adopted in transferring body organs, such as kidneys, from a donor to a needy patient in the Australian Capital Territory? Would the Minister review this ordinance with a view to bringing the practice in the Australian Capital Territory into line with that now adopted by the States?
– I have had this matter brought to my notice and have discussed it with the Minister for Health. Unfortunately, the ordinances pertaining to this Territory are years behind, but of course still are miles in front of the political philosophies of the previous Government. We are working on a whole range of ordinances. I would regard this one as urgent and I will ask the Attorney-General to expedite its consideration after discussions with the Minister for Health.
PRICE OF CRUDE Oil-
– Was the Minister for Minerals and Energy correctly reported when he was alleged to have said: The Country Party’s oils and minerals policy would result in a doubling of the price of petrol’? Us it not correct that an increase of $1 a barrel in the price of crude oil would increase the price of super-grade petrol by about 2.75c a gallon? If this is so, would not the price of Australian crude oil have to go from $2.06 a barrel to approximately $22 a .barrel for the price of petrol to be doubled? What makes him think that the Australian Country Party was advocating such an increase? Why did he say yesterday of the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd that its profits on oil are tax free at this stage, while he knows - or at least he should know - that the holding company pays full company tax, and the shareholders of course are fully taxed on their dividends?
– The arithmetic of the honourable member for Farrer is very different to mine. The average Australian barrel of crude oil yields about 50 per cent to 55 per cent of motor spirit. Its price is $2.08 a barrel. The suggestion which was pretty openly canvassed was that the price of Australian crude oil should rise to the same level as Arabian crude oil.
– Who canvassed it? Only the Minister.
– It was well and truly canvassed. If one takes into account all the factors involved in the production, costing and treatment of crude oil, the statement that I made will be seen to be very close to being correct. An increase of $1 a barrel in the price of Australian crude oil would represent a gift of $161m a year. The suggestion was that its price should be increased by $6 a barrel above that level. That would involve an amount of $966m. This should be divided by the 2,500 million gallons of motor spirit which are annually consumed. I will leave the answer to the mental arithmetic of honourable members. As to the latter part of the honourable member’s question, he knows as well as I do that until the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd has fully recouped its capital expenditure, its income from motor spirit and crude oil in general is tax deductible.
– Can the Prime Minister indicate the nature of the reported renewed offer by the New South Wales Government to enter into negotiations with the Australian Government with a view to handing over temporarily State powers to control prices and incomes? If such an offer has been made, does it represent the prospect of a real breakthrough in the task of combatting inflation? Has any similar offer been made by the other populous State, Victoria?
– I saw a report of some such suggestion - I think it was in the ‘Canberra Times’ - by Mr Hewitt. All I can say is that I have received no letter, telex message or phone call from the Premier of New South Wales on this matter. I would he very happy to pursue the suggestion. I have made it plain all along that the co-operation or initiative of the 2 most populous States in Australia - New South Wales and Victoria - is crucial in this matter. They, of course, do not need the participation of the Commonwealth to carry out such a policy. But the simple fact at this stage is that not only has Victoria not responded - after all, I put it to the States 6 months ago - but New South Wales has not done so either.
– For the information of honourable members, I present a report from McKinsey and Co. Incorporated on the use of Australian Broadcasting Commission resources, dated November 1973.
– The honourable member for Boothby gave me notice yesterday that he intended to make a personal explanation in regard to a misrepresentation from an outside source.
– I claim to have been misrepresented by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on 2 occasions. I will be as brief as possible. The Prime Minister persists in saying, inside and outside this House, things about me and my colleagues which are untrue. In particular, I refer to yesterday’s question time, as reported at page 525 of Hansard. I asked the Prime Minister a question about political prisoners. The Prime Minister responded by saying something about me that was untrue. I thought that in his subsequent response he had withdrawn and apologised, but I find now, on reading Hansard, that in fact he did not. He said in his reply:
I cannot prove that he -
That is me - was the guest of the Smith regime.
He went on to say that it was an amazing coincidence that I happened to be there at that particular time. Then he finished up saying:
I accept his assurance.
Apparently that means an assurance that I had paid for myself. But he did not with draw. I just wish to place it on record thatI do not regard that as a withdrawal and I still resent his reference. But I shall not press the point.
However, I wish to refer also to the Prime Minister’s Press conference yesterday, when he responded to a question by a journalist and gave the very answer that I was seeking in this House. I make the point that the proper place for the Prime Minister to answer questions from members is in this House and not at Press conferences. We could have been saved a great deal of anguish if he had given that answer in the House. Not satisfied .with answering the question, he went on to further denigrate me, but not by name. I quote from the transcript of that Press conference-
– How do you know it was you?
– I appreciate the interjection. I know that the honourable member for Adelaide wishes to assist me. This is how I know: The Prime Minister said:
I notice there is a question on notice and there was also a question without notice from a man whose consistent scrutiny or even ill-will towards Tanzania are known to you all.
I am the only one who has a question on notice. I am also the only one who has asked a question without notice. So obviously it must refer to me. I say that this allegation is totally untrue. I have in fact put 7 questions on notice at different times in the last 12 months. One df them was about the United Nations Committee of Twenty-four, to which I received no answer. Tanzania happens to be a member of it. I asked a question without notice in this place about the imprisonment of the opposition in Zambia. The Prime Minister did not anwser the question properly. I doubt if he knows where Zambia is. In his answer he attacked the South African Government on apartheid.
The third one was a question on Ethiopia, which I put down on 13 December and which still remains unanswered. The fourth one was a question on the Sudan, which was answered. The fifth was a question on South West Africa, which the Prime Minister refers to as Namibia. The sixth was a question on Rhodesia, which he refers to as Zimbabwe. The seventh question, which is on notice at this moment and to which I hope eventually to get an answer is on Tanzania. So it is untrue to say, as the Prime Minister has said, that my scrutiny - even ill-will - has been directed towards Tanzania over a number of years. My scrutiny has been directed towards all of Africa and towards the United Nations. 3 know that the Standing Orders will not allow me to use the words that I would like to use to describe the Prime Minister and the way I feel about him but I will say that I regard him as being a chronic purveyor of untruths.
– On the same matter, Mr Speaker-
-Does the Prime Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, clearly, Sir.
-Does the Prime Minister seek to make a personal explanation?
– Yes. The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) has, from his own explanation, shown his preoccupation or obsession with African countries. He admitted yesterday that he had visited Southern Rhodesia - Zimbabwe. He is not the only person in his Party in this Parliament to have visited that country. It is quite clear from where his interest in these matters stems.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take the point of order that the Prime Minister is not indicating to the House the extent to which he alleges there has been some form of misrepresentation.
– Order! I ask the Prime Minister to explain where he has been misrepresented. I think honourable members would be aware that I allowed the honourable member for Boothby quite a lot of latitude in his personal explanation. I think he was quite entitled to make a personal explanation. I am waiting now for the Prime Minister to follow the same pattern.
– I will be very much briefer, Mr Speaker.
– I also rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. What you must remember when giving your ruling is that the honourable member for Boothby has in fact been completely misrepresented. There is no evidence before you or this House of misrepresentation by the honourable member for Boothby of the Prime Minister. I ask you to reconsider the decision you have just made, Mr Speaker.
-Order! I have asked the Prime Minister to come to the point where he has been misrepresented.
– Yesterday the honourable member for Boothby complained after I had concluded answering a question without notice by him by using the following words:
I must confess that the honourable gentleman’s interest in Tanzania and other African countries has never flagged since he was a guest of Ian Smith 3 years ago.
The honourable member for Boothby then objected to my saying that he had been a guest of Ian Smith. He assured the House that he had not been. I accepted his assurance. I cannot be expected to apologise, and I do not apologise, for my assertion that his obsession with African countries stems from his visit to Rhodesia at that time. He was not the only person to visit Rhodesia at that time. He is not the only person whose obsession with other countries in Africa has been made plain in subsequent years.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister has failed utterly to indicate where he was misrepresented. He is taking the opportunity to try to repeat, by implication if not directly, false and utterly unfair and unjust accusations. They demean the status and position of the Prime Ministership of this country.
– Order! I call the Prime Minister.
– The honourable gentleman went on television last night and in most unseemly terms made references to our distinguished visitor, the President of Tanzania. He made references to the President and his country on television in terms which would not be permitted in a question on notice or . . .
-Order! The Prime Minister is not allowed to debate the question. The only personal explanation be can give is about where he has been misrepresented by the honourable member for Boothby.
– The honourable gentleman is giving the impression that I have made an allegation which he has denied. I have accepted his denial on that point, that is, that he was the guest of Ian Smith. I cannot prove that. But it is at least appropriate to say that when the President was a guest of the Government at a parliamentary luncheon today the honourable gentleman declined to appear.
Mr McLEAY (Boothby)- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, on 2 counts by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). In the first place there were 2 reasons why I did not attend the Prime Minister’s luncheon. Both of them resulted from the Prime Minister’s attitude and what he said the last time at such a luncheon when we welcomed the Prime Minister of New Zealand. He accused everybody on this side of the House of abusing his hospitality, . and I object to that. In the first place, it is not his hospitality; it is the Government’s. In the second place, the Prime Minister’s accusation was a gross reflection on every member of the Opposition and especially on the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes), who took a point of order at the time. We do not want to go back over all that. That is the principal reason for my not attending his luncheon.
The Prime Minister accused me of making unseemly references on television last night to the President of Tanzania. I would like him to quote them because that accusation is another untruth. I have nothing personal against the President of Tanzania. I object only to the way in which political prisoners are treated in that country. I do not know whether the Prime Minister has any intention of responding, but I would like to hear him withdraw on that count.
Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa)- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the Prime Minister claim to have been misrepresented in connection with the same matter?
– Yes. The honourable member for Boothby has given as a reason for declining the Government’s invitation to attend the luncheon for President Nyerere what was said or done after the Government’s reception for the Prime Minister of New Zealand. The honourable gentleman’s refusals are selective. He has on subsequent occasions accepted the Government’s invitations to parliamentary functions, for instance, on the opening of the Parliament.
-Order! The Prime Minister is not permitted to debate the question.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the right honourable “ gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr Speaker. At question time today the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) misrepresented me and the Country Party in stating that our policy was to raise the price of Australian produced crude oil to world parity. This is a complete fabrication. It seems impossible for the Minister to say 2 words in succession without some deliberate misrepresentation. Respect for the truth by him does not seem to be evident. The policy of my Party is that there should be a review of the price of locally produced crude oil - no more and no less. Any statements to the contrary by the Labor Party and the Minister are purely a fabrication for political purposes. It does them no merit whatsoever.
Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) - Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I have been misquoted in the newspapers today. I take this opportunity to correct 2 paragraphs in a report of my Press conference yesterday. One reads:
I understand that whenever I go to any country . where there are, or are thought to be, political prisoners that I will ask questions about it.
What I said was:
I will be asked questions about it.
The other quotation related to a question in which I was asked:
Have you made any representations to the United States on this matter
I am reported as replying:
I have discussed it with their representative here.
I used the plural.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Do you claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do indeed.
– By whom?
– The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), speaking to the point of order in respect of my friend the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay), said that he believed that the honourable gentleman’s absence from the luncheon today was highly selective; that it was due to racial prejudice.
– That can be inferred; I did not say it.
– The Prime Minister says that was inferred. Of course it was inferred; none of us doubt it. I also was absent from that luncheon, and by inference I was absent also on account of racial prejudice. Let me say at once, Sir, by way of complete proof that this is wrong thatI had prepared a question today to put to the Prime Minister and I think that if I read a few words it will be perfectly apparent that racial prejudice had nothing whatever to do with my absence.
- Mr Speaker, I have the right to put the statement to show where 1 have been misrepresented by the prince who sits opposite.
– Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to resume his reat.
– Do I have no redress, Mr Speaker?
– I ask the honourable gentleman to resume his seat.
– I ask you: Do I have no redress?
– I ask the honourable gentleman to resume his seat, and I will not ask again. I will name you if you keep flouting the rulings of the Chair. Your name was not mentioned.
– By implication at question time-
– Order! Your name was not mentioned in any form.
– Well, I am leaving this thing that you call a Parliament.
– Order! I get used to some of the outbursts of the honourable member who has justleft the chamber, and I do not take him very seriously. I can assure you of that.
– Mr Speaker, I take the point of order that the comment made from the Chair concerning our very distinguished colleague the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) was insulting and should be withdrawn because, as I recall it, it made certain references to outbursts by the honourable gentleman. I am sure that you, Mr Speaker, would be the first to emphasise in this House that if there is any member on either side of the House who has been most conscious of the need to uphold the continuing traditions of the Parliament, it is the honourable member for Bradfield. I ask that the comment be withdrawn.
-Order! If I have offended the honourable member for Bradfield I will certainly apologise. If he takes offence, I will apologise. But I think you will all agree that since I have been the Speaker I have given the honourable member for Bradfield every tolerance that has been possible in this House. Probably I knew Mr Turner for a long time before any of the members of the Liberal Party in this House came to know him; he has been a friend of mine. But the fact is this: I believe that I have been very tolerant to the honourable member for Bradfield on past occasions in this House. Today he stood up in defiance of me for possibly half a minute whilst I was on my feet telling him to resume his seat. He refused to do it and he walked out in pique. If I have offended him I will certainly apologise if he asks for it.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to:
That the House, at its rising tomorrow, adjourn until Tuesday, 2 April, at 11 a.m. or such time thereafter as Mr Speaker may take the Chair, unless Mr Speaker shall, by telegram to each member of the House, fix an earlier day of meeting.
– by leave - I have twice before reported to the House on developments in regard to international monetary reform. I did so on 12 April 1973 and again on 23 October 1973. In pursuance of that practice of keeping the House in touch with this matter, I propose to say something; quite briefly, about the last Committee of Twenty meeting which took place in Rome in January of this year, and the prospects ahead.
In some ways the Rome meeting proved to be a critical one for this whole subject. At previous gatherings we have spent a good deal of time discussing plans for the longer term reform of the monetary system. These plans have been ambitious, both in respect of the breadth of subjects covered and the detail with which those subjects have been pursued. We have discussed such matters as the exchange rate system which should apply in a reformed monetary system. We have considered the rules which should apply in respect of the convertibility of currency holdings into primary reserve assets. We have examined the role of the drawing right - the SDR - in the monetary system of the future. And we have deliberated on ways and means by which countries could be persuaded, or coerced, into policies which would restore equilibrium to the international balance of payments scene more quickly and more effectively. We have looked into the implications of all this for the economic progress of developing countries.
I should say that, at times, I have wondered just how relevant all this was going to be to the real world. It has always seemed to me that the first task was to solve the immediate problem of imbalance in international payments. At the root of all our troubles was the persistent balance of payments deficit of the United States. The mirror image of this was the persistent surplus of Japan and the European countries as a whole. And, in a minor way, there was the continuing surplus of Australia itself. I have suggested that if countries took the necessary steps to correct their own balance of payments situations, a lot of the other issues on which we were spending a great deal of time would fall into place. And I was in a better position to take this point of view because Australia itself had already taken policy action in that direction.
The Rome meeting met in circumstances which were, in some ways, strikingly different from those of previous Committee of Twenty meetings. For one thing, the balance of payments prospects of the United States, on the one hand, and of Europe and Japan, on the other, had been transformed. The United States had surpluses in prospect. The European countries in general, and Japan, were facing deficits. The exchange rate adjustments of 1972 and 1973 had, after all, brought about a turn-around in the world situation. Talk of the dollar overhang, and of the need for institutional arrangements to be made to take care of it, became less urgent. All this was a vindication of pragmatism in economic policy making.
For another thing, however, the real world intruded upon the scene in the shape of the increases in oil prices. All countries were involved in this: America, Europe and Japan - developed and developing countries. The expected deficits of the rest of the world to the oil producers made the earlier United States deficits seem quite small by comparison. The increase in oil prices became the major international financial issue of the moment. As a consequence of these developments the
Rome meetings split into two parts. The first was concerned with the problem of monetary reform in the new context. The second was concerned with the new strains resulting from the oil situation.
As to monetary reform, the most important decision was the decision to wind up the activities of the Committee of Twenty. The next meeting of the Committee of Twenty, which will be held in Washington on 12 and 13 June, will be the last. The Committee of Twenty is to be replaced by a Council of Governors which will have the special task of managing and adapting the monetary system. The Council will oversee the working of the balance of payments adjustment process and will deal with any sudden disturbances which may threaten the system. This is not to say that monetary reform, as such, has been forgotten. Work will continue on it. But priority will be given to those aspects of reform relevant to recent developments in the world economy. Other aspects will be pursued and may be agreed in principle, though on the understanding that their operational provisions would be developed and implemented at a later date.
One aspect of reform with immediate relevance was the question of the special drawing right or SDR - the asset which it has been agreed in principle should be the main reserve asset of the reformed monetary system. If the SDR is to be the centre of the system it has to be a highly valued asset in its own right. What this requires in turn is that there should be some certainty as to the capital value of the SDR through time and that the SDR should bear an acceptable rate of return. It was agreed in Rome that the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund should work out some scheme for the valuation of the SDR which would maintain the value of the SDR in terms of a ‘basket’ of currencies. This would mean that the SDR would not appreciate in value as much as the ‘hardest’ currencies and would not depreciate in value as much as the ‘softest’ - it would maintain an average value in terms of several major currencies.
It was not possible in Rome to reach agreement on the equally important matter of the rate of interest which would attach to the SDR. Notwithstanding arrangements to give the SDR an average capital value, the present rate of interest of li per cent earned by those holding the SDR would not seem suf ficient to make the SDR the highly desired asset it will need to be in the future. This is something on which those who see themselves as prospective debtors - that is, paying interest on SDRs - take a somewhat different view. The Executive Board of the Fund is to pursue this matter further. Meanwhile work will proceed on other main aspects of reform with a view to having all work completed by June 1 974. These aspects include rules for floating, the role of gold, the link between SDR creation and development finance, and so on. It will not be possible to reach agreement on all these matters by June 1974 but I do not believe that should necessarily be regarded as a bad thing. After all, the discussion on the monetary system will continue but will be related more to practical needs. Monetary reform will become a matter of evolution rather than declaration and we have always believed that is the way it should be.
Furthermore, the important thing will be that consultation will continue under the auspices of the Council of Twenty rather than the Committee of Twenty. The world financial scene is a rapidly changing one and cooperation based on consultation seems to have more chance of succeeding than one based on acceptance of a firm and detailed book of rules. It is illuminating to consider, for example, that if a rigid system had been established, say, in 1973, it would almost certainly have broken down in the face of the pressures brought about by the recent oil crisis. What we essentially need in the present situation is a good deal of flexibility and pragmatism. It is to the credit of the Committee of Twenty that both these qualities were evident in the Rome deliberations. The Committee of Twenty includes Ministers of the industrial countries, the developing countries and the oil-producing countries. That agreement did not come easily is therefore scarcely surprising. What was encouraging was the measure of agreement that was achieved.
Perhaps the most important area of agreement was the acceptance of the fact that, for the time being, the oil-consuming countries would need to live with the fact that their current accounts would go into deficit as a result of the increase in oil prices. This is not to say that countries who were in overall deficit anyway should not continue to take action to correct those deficits, or that those countries relatively badly hit by” the increase in oil prices should not take early steps to set in train some reversal of the situation. It is evident, however, that if all oilconsuming countries endeavour to offset the deficit in their current accounts by competitive depreciation or some other policy measures, this would only succeed in aggravating everyone’s position, and could well contribute to a downward spiral in world trade.
The other important area of agreement was that the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank should examine the possibilities of finding some orderly means whereby these current account deficits might be temporarily financed. This applied particularly, of course, to the developing countries who, relatively speaking, were expected to be quite severely hit by the increase in oil prices. These investigations are currently under way. In the meantime there is some consolation to be found in the fact that the outproducing countries must invest their surpluses somewhere. The problem for the time being is more one of how these surpluses would be invested, and in what countries, than anything else. In the longer term, of course, more basic adjustments will be called for; it is too early yet to say of what kind and in what directions.
On the whole, therefore, I would not say that the Rome meeting of the Committee of Twenty was a disappointment. Reform of the monetary system in any ultimate sense now seems further off. But the sensible approach taken by the Committee of Twenty in Rome to the exigencies of the present situation gives some confidence that countries are willing, in general, to work together and to recognise their common interests. So long as this attitude prevails, there are prospects that we may be able to get through the period of adjustment ahead without too much real loss of world production or world trade.
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the House take note of the statement.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lynch) adjourned.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)I have received a letter from the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s failure to inform the House adequately of changes in immigration policy and of the consequences of those changes.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places).
– The subject I have raised this afternoon needs a good deal more light and a good deal more information than the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) so far has been prepared to make available inside this Parliament or outside it. The Minister does not mind issuing Press statements about his own activities. There are sheaves of them floating around the place - in his office, in the Parliamentary Library and in the files of the media. But if anyone searches through those statements for matters of real substance and matters that have come to cause concern to a large number of people in the Australian trade union movement and in the general Australian community, he will not find much enlightenment or much help from this Minister for Immigration. He is probably the most publicised Minister for Immigration that we have had and I would think almost certainly the most publicised of the present Ministers of the present Government.
– And the most popular.
– Popularity does not necessarily have substance going with it. The Minister might well be popular. But he needs to inform the Australian public and this Parliament of the substance of what he and his Government are doing. In short, immigration needs a dose of open government because for the last IS months it has had a good solid dose of closed, secretive government and of refusal to supply answers and facts.
Many statements have been made. We have seen circumstances in which the Minister has claimed as initiatives of his the introduction of matters which had earlier been announced by the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) or the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch). These concerned welfare officers, school programs, a special telephone service and expanded facilities for English language teaching. Even the policy of the reunion of families was first mentioned and emphasised by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) in 1968. Yet this is claimed by the present Minister as a new initiative. Migrant counselling was greatly expanded under decisions announced by the honourable member for Barker when he was Minister for Immigration. In all of these areas the present Minister has tried to take to himself the credit and the initiative for policies that had been announced significantly before December 1972.
But be that as it may. In the last 1 2 months the Minister has often refused to answer questions. One was first placed by myself on the notice paper on 26 September and was repeated in this session of Parliament. This question concerns details of immigration - it is question number 999 - such as the number of people coming to Australia and the number of assisted migrants. Admittedly the question requires a good deal of detail. But the Minister’s Department has had several months in which to examine the question and to answer it. On 11 October last year the Minister indicated that he was going to make a statement. That statement was ultimately tabled. It has been reprinted since. The Leader of the House (Mr Daly) indicated that the matter could be properly debated on the Estimates. But the Hansard record would show that the total debate for the estimates of the Department of Immigration lasted about 2 minutes less than one hour, and that does not comprise a proper debate on immigration. The debate was refused on that occasion.
On 14 March this year the Leader of the House made it quite plain that debate was not to be allowed on this issue and the Minister for Immigration was asked if he would make a statement on details giving the direction, the purposes and the consequences of Labor policy in these matters. So far there has been no attempt by the Minister to do so. A short while ago I wrote a letter to the Minister in which I said:
Would you please give me a set of the principal policy statements that you have made as Minister for Immigration. I would like a copy of these statements immediately. I would also like details of any administrative changes you have introduced. What are the changes in visa proceedings? How many people have taken advantage of the amnesty you offered? What are the main categories of migrants now coming into the country? How many from each category come from each country? How many assisted passages are being provided? From what categories of migrants and from what countries?
The Minister answered reasonably promptly and sent some documents with his answer. But the documents do not answer the questions. I would like therefore to look at the documents which the Minister sent. He sent a copy of the statement that he made on 11 October, the one that he tried to have incorporated in Hansard but which was tabled.
– Which document was that?
– ‘Australia’s Decade of Decision’, by the Hon. A. J. Grassby, dated 11 October 1973. There is nothing in that document which answers the questions with which I am concerned, with which the Opposition is concerned, with which the Australian trade union movement is concerned, with which the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) ought to be concerned and with which the Australian community is most certainly concerned. If anyone wants to read this document it is several pages of fine words, but again of no substance.
The next document the Minister sent to me was again a speech entitled: ‘A Multi-Cultural Society for the Future’. It can best be summed up by the . phrase that was taken from the document where the Minister expressed his conviction that the future of society is essentially hopeful. He ended with the proud phrase: Civis Romanus sum’. These were the Minister’s words. As an Australian Minister for Immigration I suppose he felt that was appropriate. The third document was entitled Australia’s Human Resources’ in which the Minister deals with people as resources. The document itself is fine. But it does not come to the substance, the purpose and the direction of Australian immigration policy. The fourth he mentioned was some remarks which he made which totalled about two and a half columns of Hansard which are contained I think in this year’s Address-in-Reply speech. There were one or two facts in that, to give the Minister his credit. The fifth was ‘Australian Immigration Statistics - March 1973’ - he said that these were the latest available. This document is fully 12 months old. The Minister could do no better than that. These are the documents which are meant to indicate policy and the direction of the Government’s activities. But none of them were directed to the administrative changes in detail - the significant changes in visa proceedings and the consequences of those changes; how many people have taken advantage of the different matters which the Minister has introduced; the main categories of migrants coming into the country; how many from each category come from each country, and matters of this kind. The direction, purpose and consequence of an immigration program depend upon the numbers of people who are coming to Australia and the countries from which those people come.
There are some facts that we do know. We do know that the Minister has been hurling abuse at a Fijian member of Parliament. That cannot be denied. It is in the Minister’s own statement. The Fijian member of Parliament is accused, at least by implication, of black.birding, which is a polite title. If that is the kind of thing that is to result from the Minister’s handling of the immigration portfolio it certainly is not going to result in great advantage to Australia. We have seen the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ expressed concern and the concern of the building unions. We have seen the Minister jeopardising union support for a continuing immigration program, which only the Minister for Immigration would be capable of doing. There were riots outside the Australian Embassy in Rangoon as a result of the Minister’s activities and the statements of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). Unfulfilled expectations have been aroused, and these unfulfilled expectations will not do Australia’s cause much good.
I come to specific questions. Does last week’s announcement mean that the Government is now embarking on a major campaign to recruit skilled persons from Asian, Pacific and South American countries? Does the Government’s actions last week mean that the Government intends a major change in the composition of Australian people or in the composition of skilled tradesmen in Australia? Have the consequences of such a policy been thought through? Have there been discussions with South East Asian countries about pending Australian efforts to attract skilled tradesmen from them? Does the Government believe that Australia has a greater need for such skilled tradesmen than their own countries? How does the Government intend to balance the potential wishes of skilled Asian tradesmen against the needs of their own countries? How many applicants have there been from the Philippines, Burma, Fiji and other Asian countries? To what extent is the Government actively seeking migrants from the United States of America? What is the present position of migrants from the traditional sources - the United Kingdom and Europe? Is the Government still actively recruiting in the United Kingdom and Europe? Are unskilled workers coming from the United Kingdom and Europe? Are unskilled workers welcome from Asia and South America? What is the present composition of the migrant intake? How many migrants are dependants? From what countries do they come? How many migrants are skilled tradesmen or professional people? Is the composition of the migrant intake being left merely to chance? Is it out of the Minister’s control as a result of the policies that he has introduced? How many people have abused the easy visa system? From what countries have they coma? We know the number is much more than the twelve about whom the Minister made a statement last week. The Minister has said that a very substantial number from Fiji have abused the system. What is that very substantial number?
There is the position in Colombia. Why did the Minister not act on letters which allegedly came to him from the Colombian Consul on 28 November and 12 December warning him of abuses from Colombia? Did those letters reach him? Were they sent? Why did he not act until very much later on the advice of Colombian authorities themselves? What is the process and what are the criteria for assessing applicants for permanent residence and temporary residence? Apart from family reunion cases is the Government limiting the migrant intake from all countries to skilled tradesmen or higher qualifications or are unskilled people still coming into the country? If so, from what countries? If so, what is the effect of this on the total migrant intake and the composition of the migrant intake? If the Government is limiting migrant intake, how does the Government justify the claim that there is no discrimination? What is the position in relation to free flow settlers from the United Kingdom? Are all United Kingdom citizens free to come to Australia for residence without prior authority? What has been the trend in South East Asian countries in inquiries and applications since the Government announced its new immigration policies? These are all legitimate questions and they are legitimate questions to which this House is entitled to have some answer.
There are other matters which the Minister has not touched upon. He claims that there is no discrimination, but I have had somebody approaching me about an assisted passage. I have not yet seen the letter - I am told I will get it - in which the Minister has said, generally speaking, that assisted passages are not available from Canada.
– That is right.
-The Minister says ‘That is right’. There is therefore discrimination against assisted passages from Canada. In what countries are the advertising funds of the Department spent? Is there discrimination in the spending on advertising? What is the distribution of assisted passages between countries, or is there discrimination in these particular matters? This House requires information and it is entitled to information. Despite the Minister’s claims and despite the statement of 11 October last year which was so full of words but of no substance, the Minister has not been candid with this Parliament or with the Australian people as Professor William Macmahon Ball pointed out within the last week. The Minister has not been candid with Australians; he has not been candid with Asians. Unless the Minister makes quite plain the Government’s intention, the future direction of policy and its consequences for Australia and the composition of the Australian people and unless the Minister is candid in these particular matters he runs the grave risk of losing continued union support for the migrant intake and he runs the grave risk of arousing expectations in Asia, if this has not already been done by himself and the Prime Minister, that will not be fulfilled and which will lead to a worse relationship between Australia and our near neighbours than we had before.
Finally, what weight does the Minister place on advice from the Immigration Advisory Council and the Immigration Planning Council? Have these matters been referred to those councils? Has the Minister had advice from those councils on these matters? I hope to hear that he has, but I suggest that he has not. Mr Deputy Speaker, this is a plea from the Opposition for information. It is a plea for information to which the Opposition and the Australian people are entitled. I can only hope that this Minister who is so ready to use words will give us some substance in answer.
– The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has just spent some time defending his own Party’s record and has made some personal observations. I want to say at the outset that the whole basis of his argument is as hollow as the excuse put forward. The honourable member for Wannon said that he was not informed of the changes. He also said that he had not heard of them. A few days ago he was totally unaware of the statement which I tabled in the Parliament on 11 October. I did send it to him. He emerges, I might suggest, as the Rip Van Winkle of this Parliament in relation to these matters for which he has some responsibility. In the statement of 11 October I enunciated the detail of new policies, categories, national need, reorganisation and associated matters.
The Honourable member is quite right in saying that he asked question No. 999 in relation to a whole series of matters. I inform the House that the answer to this question took 250 hours of work to prepare. It is only just finished. It will probably take up 20 pages of Hansard. He has waited 15 months to ask 20 further questions now. Since his original question, which has taken all of this time and preparation, he has failed to ask any single question without notice. As I say, Rip Van Winkle was a great figure in history. I suggest that the honourable member is emulating him in relation to the matters which he raised, even the matter of the Colombians. He said the Minister had warning. Of course the Minister had warning about dishonest operators in Colombia. Action was taken to close down their operations. The Australian Government did not suspect that Air France would have been used as a cover.
A reference was also made to Burma. I am glad it was raised, because it is true that something like 10,000 people turned up at the Australian Embassy in Burma showing great interest in Australia. Cables that have been received have indicated that there was a series of ridiculous rumours deliberately fostered by black marketeers exploiting gullible people. I wonder who is included in all those gullible people. But such are the rumours - a special series of ships were to take 20,000 workers to Australia at the drop of a hat. Incidentally, the Burmese Government has highly restrictive policies on permission to leave the country at all. The whole exercise was a local matter which was based on a deliberate attempt, apparently, by some people to exploit a situation.
I might say again that this is an incredible charge that has been laid against me personally that I have been reticent, that I have been silent and that I have not been explaining fully enough the new policies. I might say it is the first time this charge has been levelled. In relation to the easy visitor system about which the honourable member for Wannon has expressed grave doubts I believe he gave au impression - I put it at no more than that - that it should never have been introduced and perhaps it should be suspended now. I point out to the honourable member and to all members of Parliament that this was something that was introduced after considerable debate and considerable deliberation within the Department. First of all it was taken to our neighbours. It was discussed in Indonesia, in the Philippines, in Singapore, in Malaysia, in Japan, later in Thailand and also with the distinguished representative of Fiji. For those discussions I was accompanied by the Permanent Head of the Department of Immigration, Mr R. E. Armstrong, who was indeed one of the founders of that Department. The new initiatives by this Government were welcomed personally by the Vice-President, the Foreign Minister and other Ministers of Indonesia. They were welcomed by the President, the Foreign Minister and other Ministers of the Philippines. They were welcomed by the Foreign Minister of Singapore, by the late Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia and more recently in my presence by the Foreign Minister of Thailand. This is something about which the Opposition seems not to be very happy.
Let me say something in relation to the Prime Minister of Fiji. I have received a transcript of what the Prime Minister of Fiji said at a Press conference on Friday in relation to our initiatives in this matter. He said:
There is allegation our citizens have offended against immigration laws. We are not in very strong position to deal with questions such as this but I hope to persuade Australian Government that once they are convinced they can stop this type of racket that they think they’ve discovered, they should allow us to carry on with the easy visa system.
There is the endorsement, if you like, from our neighbours. Of course they all endorsed it and I am particularly proud that we were able to bring in something that was so universally welcomed in our own region. As far as the past is concerned - it seemed to me that the new initiatives were being questioned - I should like to draw attention to the fact that the initiatives we have taken and the reforms we have made have been designed above all to abolish discrimination. We spelled them out. The Immigration Planning Council, the Immigration Advisory Council and the other organs of advice which were established, incidentally, by the previous Government and which we have continued have continued to provide that advice. I understand that the Immigration Planning Council met today. It brings together employers, the trade union movement and everyone else- involved. They have reached a unanimous recommendation which I have no doubt in the fullness of time will be conveyed to me. This is the situation. There is no suggestion at all of the kind of wrangling that the honourable member seeks to bring to the migration policies in 1974.
It seems to me that the honourable member for Wannon, in wishing to return to the past, if that is his. idea, or wishing to suspend the easy visa system or wishing in fact to bring back discrimination, is out of touch with the majority of the Australian people and certainly does not represent the bulk of his colleagues because I have representations almost daily on behalf of the constituents of his colleagues, urging tolerance and urging that in fact as much as possible there should be if not an open door a friendly door, a good neighbour policy. That did not apply in the past. I had an assessment or a report from the Department the other day in relation to the old policy in which colour was involved. There were 3 interesting categories - Europeans, persons of mixed descent and non-Europeans. To make sure into which category immigrants fell we had to have photographs. God help a migrant if he fell into the hands of a bad photographer. What used to happen - this has happened and is on file - is that one brother would apply for immigration. He would get himself a nice light photograph, although he would be as black as the ace of spades, and he would be approved. But his brother who was quite light would get another photographer and his photograph would turn out as black as the ace of spades and he would be rejected. Then there would be another brother who would look for all the world like the honourable member for Wannon, and by the honourable member’s Government he would be admitted as a European. So there could be 3 brothers in the one family with different criteria applied to them. This was the old policy and it existed until we changed it. So much for international relations and good will, and so much for common sense.
Turning to other matters in relation to past policies let me say that we have had instances involving citizenship. We abolished all the discriminations in citizenship but we had some extraordinarily interesting cases on file. I have personally vetted 62 applications for citizenship, have had them re-investigated and have granted citizenship since I became the Minister for Immigration. Some of those people were extremely dangerous characters. Some of them were old age pensioners who had been in Australia for a generation. One of them, I might say, had the temerity to express radical opinions so he was denied citizenship for a decade and a half. When I looked into his case I found that he had expressed radical opinions and he had put them into operation in a frightening way - he had joined the Parents and Citizens Association. In fact when he was granted his citizenship he was the president of the Association. Nevertheless, he had been denied citizenship on purely arbitrary grounds. This was discrimination of the worst kind. It no longer operates.
Again on the question of citizenship, I had a report the other day about a man who was denied citizenship because he made the terrible mistake of parking his car in the wrong place when there were meetings suspected to be mass meetings of the Communist Party in a suburban home - a frightening thing. His car was observed to be parked in this position quite regularly. Then, to confirm absolutely this awful man’s tendencies, he subscribed to the ‘Tribune’. Obviously this was unforgivable. He waited until I reviewed his case. He has come forward and is a fine man, married to an Australian, has children, and has never committed any crime or done anything out of place. These are some of the things that we have changed. We proclaimed that we would change them and we have done it.
Suggestions have also been made that Australia has built up bad relations in our neighbourhood because of its immigration policy. It is very interesting to look back at history and find some of the comments that have been made by our neighbours about us in Australia over the years. A few years ago a leader of Singapore said:
Until the Australian Government changes its policies towards Malayans and other Asians, any mention of goodwill will be a mockery.
Then, we had a man who was not a radical; as a matter of fact I think that he was a Conservative Member of the British Parliament, Mr Malcolm Macdonald, the British
Commissioner-General in South East Asia in colonial times. He said:
Australia’s immigration policy has done irreparable harm not only to Australia, but to all European nations with interests in Asia.
Ti was that kind of policy and that kind of discrimination that we set out to abolish, and we have done it. Of course we have taken advice; of course we have proceeded carefully and in accordance with the platform of the Party to which I have the honour to belong which said that there should be an avoidance of clashes; there should be an avoidance of difficulties; there should be, above all, protection for the people who come to Australia and for the standards of the Australian community. We have proceeded on those lines. We have been criticised because we have not gone fast enough. Some critics have said: ‘You have not done enough’. Others have said that we have done too much. But on behalf of the Government I must say that we have abolished discriminations, but above all we have set out to preserve the aspirations as well as the rights of migrants. Above all, we have seen to it that there should be no challenge to Australia’s standards and to Australian tranquility. We have tried to do this in a steady and responsible way.
– What do you mean by that phrase?
– The honourable member asks me and I shall tell him. We have set out to ensure that under the criteria which have been set up in all categories - they have been publicised and are in the documents before the House - no one comes to Australia who has not a firm place in the society, in terms of work and accommodation, and also the capability of being able to integrate here successfully. I think these are basic safeguards that we have set out to observe. I am very proud of the way in which we have set about the work. Of course, we have not changed everything overnight. It is absurd to suggest it. I reject the suggestion.
I turn now to trade qualifications. It took us until 1968-69 to go beyond the United Kingdom in the establishment of trade criteria. We had been a federation then for 67 years. It took us 2 years to extend our acceptance of overseas trade qualifications. I pay tribute to the previous Administration in relation to the Tregillis Committee, which went to 17 countries in Europe and brought back a report which extended our acceptance of overseas trade qualifications to those 17 countries. We still have not yet extended our acceptance to trade qualifications of North and South America, the Middle East and important countries like Lebanon, Asia and some countries in Europe. So we must arrange to extend the work of the Tregillis Committee in those areas, and we have reached agreement to do that.
The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), who will speak later in this debate, has the responsibility of advising me, as the Minister for Immigration, on Australia’s absorptive capacity in relation to the work force. This is terribly important. I do not think that there is one honourable member on either side of the Parliament who would want to see the importation of unemployment. It is all right to say that jobs are available. Of course there are, but one does not get any thanks for putting square pegs in round holes. If a man with high qualifications comes into Australia and we suggest to him that his only place in the community is digging trenches for the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board, he hates us and he is unhappy and he goes home.
The Government’s initiatives are to obviate that situation. I could sum them up by saying that we set out to have migration without tears. I indicated the success of this policy the other day when I stated that the number of dissatisfied migrants returning home has been reduced. Surely that is a measure, in figures, of the success of the new initiatives and policies. I must say that I welcome this discussion on the matter of public importance because it has given an opportunity to review some of the problems. The honourable member for Wannon will have his monumental question answered’-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– My colleague the honourable member for Wannon concluded by saying that the purpose of raising this matter today was to get some clear information flowing from the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby). It is the view of my colleague on this side that the administration and the equivocation of the Government’s immigration policy has caused confusion both here and elsewhere.
Before starting to develop that point, it is interesting to note that the man who is going to follow me in this debate is the Minister for
Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron). But the man who was taking the keenest interest in what was being said by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) was the man who wrote the policy of the Australian Labor Party on immigration and was refused the right to administer it, the man who was stripped of his position as spokesman on immigration and refused permission on the Opposition side of the House to enunciate his views until the then Government gave him the right to do so. The Leader of the House (Mr Daly) sits behind these 2 Ministers, casting his beady eye and listening intently to every word that they say and contrasting it with the document which he produced and which was adopted as Labor Party policy. It is not only this side of the House that points to confusion in the implementation of that policy. Let me quote from John Edwards’ column ‘Politics’ in the ‘Australian’ of 5 March:
It’s not easy to reconcile the announcement that Australia has dropped its racially discriminatory immigration policy with what few facts are available about the results of Labor’s immigration program.
Mr Edwards goes on to quote the words of a very distinguished diplomat who seems to take a different view from the Minister for Immigration on the occasion of a fracturing or a likely fracturing of Australia’s foreign relations caused by the manner in which this Government is pursuing its immigation program. The column quoted a cable dated 22 February 1974 from the Australian Ambassador in the Philippines, Mr Henderson, to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Immigration as follows:
I believe it is a matter of some urgency and of real importance in terms of Australia’s relations generally with the Philippines that Australian administrative procedures of immigration be brought into line with the principles enunciated by the Prime Minister.
At least one aspect of the current procedures embodies precisely the kind of racial bias which we are claiming publicly that we have done away with’.
They are not my words. They are not John Edwards’ words. They are the words of the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines. So much for the friendly relations enunciated by the Minister for Immigration. Although the Minister produced a document challenging this assertion, John Edwards ended his article by saying: . . isn’t it odd that the Australian Ambassador on the spot, presumably advised by his Second Secretary who handles immigration, should have misunderstood so seriously what happens inside his own embassy.
They are not the words of this side of the chamber, but the words of John Edwards. Some allegations also have been made about the manner in which the previous Government conducted its immigration policy. Let us point again for supporting evidence to objective sources, such as an editorial which appeared in the Canberra ‘Times’ of 8 March which read as follows:
The white-Australia policy was buried by previous governments which abolished the infamous dictation tests and quietly began to increase the annual intake of non-European migrants.
The editorial then went on to refer to a point of interest in Labor’s platform. It stated:
Labor’s platform does exclude race, colour, or nationality as a criterion in the selection of immigrants, but Mr Whitlam would have been wise to tell the South-East Asians that it contains another criterion of selection -
The editorial then quoted from the platform -
The avoidance of the . . . problems which may follow from an influx of peoples having different standards of living, traditions and cultures.’ The editorial went on to state:
This, under another name, places definite restrictions on the admission of Asians.
There is no doubt that the Leader of the House, as I recall the words of the statement that he made under great sufferance from others on this side when they were sitting here, would have endorsed that remark. Finally, the editorial in the Canberra ‘Times’ states:
There is nothing wrong with this, but our ministers should be completely honest about it instead of inviting a backlash born out of unfulfilled expectations.
That is the sort of thing nailed by the honourable member for Wannon when he talked about rising hopes in other countries. This is a debate brought about by the failure of the Government to produce a coherent immigration policy. The Government’s equivocation is daily exacerbating a confusing situation - confusing to Australia and undoubtedly to the Philippines and no doubt to other countries such as Fiji, Burma and residents of many other nations, some of which were mentioned by my colleague, the honourable member for Wannon.
I enter the debate to plead with the Minister for Immigration to inform adequately this Parliament and the public. We on this side of the House, in the traditions under which migration has been debated in this Parliament for many years have no desire to spread denigration in this most sensitive arena and I will firmly resist any moves to foster debate on immigration along selfish, arrogant, intolerant or divisive lines. Yet, I would have to say that the Minister’s inspired incoherent and equivocal statements are having that very effect within our own community. This equivocation which fans divisions must cease if we - both parties - are to approach the matter in a rational light. The Government is creating confusion and it will grow and recur with the absence of a clear and coherent policy. It is from this confusion that the motley collection of people, arrogant and selfish in their extremes, racist in their attitudes, will fester - not honourable members opposite but people outside Parliament - while, the Minister continues with his equivocal statements. There appears to be a singular lack of managerial and administrative skill on the part of the Minister.
I have mentioned some aspects which bring about this incoherence in policy itself. Let us look at the background to the matters raised by the honourable member for Wannon. On the Prime Minister’s recent Asian trip, he assured the Philippines Government that Australia no longer had an immigration policy which discriminated on the basis of colour. As evidence of this, the Prime Minister made a personal decision to approve the emigration of 35 semi-skilled motor vehicle workers. These workers would be the basis of a pilot scheme for a much larger migration program. The Prime Minister was reported as telling President Marcos that no longer would double standards be applied to Australia’s immigration policy. On 15 March 1974, following discussions between the Prime Minister and the Ministers for Labour and Immigration and members of the Australian Council of Trade Unions executive, who themselves could get no coherence and, certainly until then, no consultation, the Government announced the shelving of the Leyland plan to bring in 35 semi-skilled Filipino workers. Instead, I understand, the Government will move to recognise trade qualifications for migrants from South-East Asia. South America and the Pacific region. But we are still awaiting the guidelines for such recognition. I understand that a mission is to travel through the areas and make recommendations.
The major area of criticism relating to the Australian Government’s actions on the question of skilled Filipino migrants concerns the lack of provision of adequate administrative measures to ensure that the scheme functions smoothly and is not harmful to either the participants or to Australian workers. This is another classic example, in this case touching on the area of foreign relations, where the Government acts and thinks of the consequences later. Why does not the Government weigh up the consequences and do its homework, not add to the rising flood of expectations and then so cruelly cut them down when it finds it must make changes? I have mentioned the attitude of the Australian ambassador and the fact that Australian administrative procedures were cutting across his role in the Philippines. The Melbourne ‘Age’ said to the Government, quite succinctly at the end of an editorial on 6 March that the ‘Government’s credibility is at stake’. As Mr Henderson pointed out, so too is Australia’s reputation abroad. Above all, I want to see an Australia growing in tolerance, trust and understanding, and recognising that there is a common and noble task for different sections of society to perform in harmony. Perhaps the Minister shares this aspiration, but his administration has been so bereft of skill-
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The 2 speeches made from the Opposition side would have been better not made at all. The Government is trying to organise Australian public opinion towards a more enlightened attitude to racial discrimination. It is a difficult task; it is a laudable one; it is one that deserves the full support of all right thinking people. But the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) have come into this chamber today, deliberately setting out to stir up racial hatred and racial intolerance because they believe that latent in the Australian community is an antipathy towards people with coloured skins or people of different races and origins. They are deliberately setting out to whip up and capitalise upon this latent element within the community - which they believe is still there and which they hope is still there, because if it is not their exercise today will have been wasted - so that they can score some petty political point from the Government in regard to the very humane, sen sible and rational attitude it has taken towards the question of racial discrimination.
The honourable member for Kooyong protesteth just a little too much, I think. It seems that he has something to hide. Under what seems to be a liberal exterior is the soul of a racist. The same is true also, I fear, of the honourable member for Wannon. They are people who detest anyone who has not been born with a white skin. We on this side of the House reject that, and we throw that sort of attitude back in their faces. They know very well, and the honourable member for Wannon
– Mr Deputy Speaker, the words that the Minister for Labour has used are utterly offensive to me”-* -
– Order! I ask the honourable member what he is doing on his feet.
– I was asking that the words that the Minister used be withdrawn, and a member is entitled to do that.
-The honourable member is entitled to do that; he is not allowed to stand up and make a speech, which is what the honourable member was doing.
– I was trying to point out - which I need to do to mike the point of order - that the words of the Minister-
-Order That is the first time since the honourable member rose that he has mentioned a point of order. Honourable members make a practice of getting on their feet and talking without making any reference to what they intend to do. If the honourable member finds the words offensive I ask the Minister whether he will withdraw the remarks.
– You are being asked a question.
– You sit down and I will answer it.
– -Order! The honourable member for Wanson will resume his seat. I ask the Minister to withdraw such remarks as have been found offensive.
– For a moment I thought I was at the Melbourne Grammar School and that my professor who taught me good manners was looking at me.
-Order! I ask the Minister-
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I will save you the trouble of going on as you were about to by withdrawing.
– I naturally also ask-
– If you will sit down I will withdraw.
– If you will sit down I will finish what 1 am saying.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Kooyong resume his seat.
– I would ask-
-Order! The honourable member has already asked.
– I would like to direct attention to what I am asking to be withdrawn.
-Order! I do not think that is necessary. The honourable member has asked that certain words that have been used be withdrawn. The Minister has indicated that he withdraws those remarks. I do not think it is necessary to compound the matter by having them read into Hansard again.
– I want to ask that the words under a liberal exterior-
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. I call the Minister for Labour.
– Under the Standing Orders I am obliged to withdraw those sorts of things, no matter how true they are. I move on.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask that there be an unqualified withdrawal.
-Order! The Minister will make an unqualified withdrawal.
– All right, I make an unqualified withdrawal. I have been trying to work out the real motive. We know that this matter of public importance has been raised by these 2 gentlemen to embarrass the Labor Government. If one looks at them one finds that they represent the heavyweights of the Liberal Party. They are the bluebloods of the Liberal Party. They are the people who regretfully, so they say, have to put up with the peasants from the Australian Country Party. That is how they describe their parliamentary colleagues in this place. What they are really trying to do is to sting the Country Party into explaining why it has drawn :i colour bar on the leader of the Liberal Party’s Senate team in Queensland.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I ask for the opportunity to make a personal explanation. I ask the honourable gentleman to withdraw those remarks.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. He said that he wanted to make a personal explanation. He can make it when the Minister has finished his remarks.
– On a point of order-
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. He rose and said that he wanted to make a personal explanation, and he is not entitled to do so now.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I regard the allegation that I personally and other people in my Party have used the words ‘peasants’ when referring to members of the Country Party as utterly offensive and I ask-
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Wannon that if he takes another frivolous point of order I will name him. He was not mentioned by name by the Minister and he is as aware as I am that he is not entitled to take that attitude.
– With the greatest respect, Mr Deputy Speaker, I believe that the Hansard record will show - if it does not show it I certainly will apologise to you - that the Minister said that was a word I used to describe our colleagues, the members of the Country Party and the joint members of a coalition government after the next election.
-Order! I call the Minister for Labour.
– I raise a point of order. I regard the words used by the Minister for Labour, when he referred to the racial policies of the Country Party, as grossly offensive. I ask him to withdraw them.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is as aware as I am that he is not able to ask for the withdrawal of remarks which reflect on a party. I suggest that the honourable gentleman might look at the records of this Parliament which will show the number of occasions on which previous Oppositions have moved dissent motions on such matters and he has voted to uphold the principle that they are not withdrawable. I call the Minister for Labour.
– Thank you, Sir. As I was saying, the Country Party is a racist party. It has made that perfectly clear in Queensland.
– I raise a further point of order. I believe that the honourable gentleman has misrepresented me personally.
-Order! In no remark that the Minister made then did he mention any honourable member personally. If the honourable gentleman is referring to that, he should resume his seat.
– He included me as a member of the Country Party and, as such, has grossly misrepresented me.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– You see, the Country Party-
– I raise a point of order. I happen to be a member of the Party which the Minister has referred to a racist party-
-Order! The honourable member will not address the House until he is called. The honourable member will resume his seat. I inform the House that if there is one more frivolous point of order on a matter which has already been ruled upon I will name the honourable member concerned. It is quite clear that there is-
– You might regard it as frivolous, but there are a few other people who do not.
-Order! I name the honourable member for Kooyong.
– I move:
That the honourable member for Kooyong be suspended from the service of the House.
-The question is: That the honourable member for Kooyong be suspended from the service of the House. I ask the honourable member whether he is prepared to apologise to the Chair. If he is, I will not put the motion.
– Of course I am prepared to apologise to the Chair.
-I will not put the motion. I ask the Leader of the House whether he will withdraw the motion.
– Yes, if an apology satisfactory to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, has been tendered.
– As I was saying
– I raise a point of order. I draw attention to standing order 77 which reads:
When any offense 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.
– May I express my point of order?
– Go on.
– The point of order I am taking is that, regardless of whether the phrase used by the Minister for Labour related to a specific person in the chamber, the charge made by him is, in terms of that standing order, clearly offensive to both parties on this side of the chamber. I believe that it is consistent with the purpose of the standing order that the Chair should seek its withdrawal.
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. Throughout the entire period that I have been a member of this House the same type of point of order has been taken regularly. The previous Opposition in this House, taking offence at a ruling given in relation to such a point of order, moved dissent from the Speaker’s ruling. All of the honourable members who are now taking points of order on the same grounds upheld the Speaker’s ruling by voting that reference to a Party cannot be taken to be personally offensive. I have ruled in the same way in accordance with the precedents set in this House by previous Speakers and other occupants of the Chair. I do not think that the point of order could possibly be upheld at this stage. I may disagree with the precedent, but the precedent has been upheld by the honourable gentlemen who are now taking points of order.
– Mr Deputy Speaker,-
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I was just going to move that the Minister’s time be extended because it is obvious that he was deliberately silenced.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The
Standing Orders do not provide for an extension of time being moved for an honourable member after his time has expired.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented in that, as a member of the Party, I have been accused of having racist attitudes and-
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I have just ruled on that matter. I do not intend to rule on it again. If the honourable gentleman disagrees with pay ruling he can avail himself of a method by which he can show his disagreement. I am not going to rule on the same question again.
– .-Not in regard to the Senate team from Queensland, Mr Deputy Speaker?
– Not in regard to any reference to a Party.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, there was a specific reference to a member of a Senate team in Queensland in relation to which I claim to have been misrepresented. It is not related to the previous point of order.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to quite a different point of order, but it is a most important one. I seek your guidance on this matter, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Minister for Labour was being belaboured by the Opposition and was unable to make his speech. As his time was about to expire I rose in my place to seek an extension of time, but you were on your feet, Mr Deputy Speaker, and in deference to you I did not want to interrupt you.
-Order! There is no point of order involved. There are also procedures in the Standing Orders to deal with that sort of situation. I have ruled in accordance with the Standing Orders.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. For guidance, would you advise me when one may move for an extension of time for aa honourable member who has not finished his speech if one cannot move it when his time has expired?
– Ask for an extension of time.
– It is a crook ruling.
-Order! I ask the Leader of the House to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I still think it.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I understand that the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) has spoken for only 1 minute of the 10 minutes allotted to him. For whatever reason, that is a fact. Therefore, I seek leave of the House to move for the suspension of so much of the Standing Orders as would prevent the Minister for Labour speaking for a period of 10 minutes.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for Labour speaking for a further period not exceeding 10 minutes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I do not propose to say all the other things I had intended to say about the Liberal Party because I do appreciate the charity of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) in relation to this matter. Perhaps I can leave that until a later time. I want to say something about the racism that is being whipped up in this chamber today by the Opposition. It is a sad thing, I think, that members of the Opposition should seek to whip up an attitude of racism just to gain some petty political point. I say no more about that. I say nothing about the reason for the Australian Country Party refusing to go on a joint Senate ticket with Senator Bonner, an Aboriginal. That is something I will leave until later.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Minister’s statement that the Country Party refused to go on a joint ticket with Senator Bonner is not true.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! There is no point of order involved. The honourable member is aware of that.
– I want to go at once to the Kirribilli Declaration that was issued on 15 March 1974. It will go down in the history of our country as one of the great declarations on human rights insofar as it relates to migrant tradesmen. Following a meeting between the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby), the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and my good self, together “with the executive officers of the Australian Council of
Trade Unions, this Declaration was issued. I would now like to read it for the purpose of having its contents incorporated in the official record. It reads:
It was agreed that a triparite mission to South East Asia and the Pacific region - drawn from trade unions, employers and the relevant Government departments - should proceed first to Manila. On its return from Manila it will recommend the criteria for the recognition of tradesmen for all Australian industries.
It was further agreed that a mission should also proceed to South America, commencing its work in Lima. Following the completion of the work of the missions Australian technical officers would be posted to the 2 regions, to operate from Manila and Lima. The Ministers and officers agreed to consult as required concerning the implementation of this program.
The Kirribilli Declaration has put an end to the discriminatory treatment, which had been the order of the day until the Labor Government was elected - or, to be precise, until the Declaration was made - that had been accorded to people making application to come to Australia on the grounds of the possession of special skills. No longer will their applications have to be sent to Canberra for processing. They can now bc processed in the city or country of application, as is the case with the 17 countries of Europe which were affected by the visit of the Tregillis mission to those countries.
The unions, far from being racist, are determined to see that the skilled tradesmen who have not had the advantage of being born in this country and therefore who are not in a position to understand what their rights are under the law, are not exploited. For that reason they have insisted on the provisions of the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act, an Act which was passed by this Parliament in 1947, being carried out and solemnly observed by the Government. All we said at Kirribilli was that the law of Australia is going to be implemented and observed. We propose now to send this mission to all of the countries in the South East Asian region and to South America and the Pacific region and have it lay down the criteria which will need to be followed by the resident tradesmen technical advisers in those countries in order that there will be no semblance of discrimination between people wishing to come to Australia from those countries and those who come from other countries.
Of course the Labor Government, in common with the Governments which preceded it, has laid it down, and very properly so, that people who seek to come to Australia must be able to be assimilated into the Australian culture and be able to fit into the Australian scene. It is for this reason that Australia, together with many other countries in the world, has rejected the constant and persistent pleas of the world organisation to accept some of the Albanian refugees who are in a camp outside of Belgrade. We have not rejected the Albanians because they are coloured. They are not coloured; they are white. We have rejected them for no other reason than the good enough reason that we were satisfied from past experience that Albanian people of this type who are in these circumstances could not possibly be absorbed into the Australian community. In Australia today there is a very heavy demand for metal and electrical tradesmen; so heavy indeed is the demand that we believe it warrants the selection of such tradesmen as migrants. We do not care where the migrants come from. We do not care whether they come from South East Asia, South America or Europe, or any other part of the world. Provided they have the necessary skills, we will welcome them to Australia because there is work here waiting for them. Indeed, my Department is not prepared to limit the number who will be admitted to Australia to 35, 45, or 55. The limitation will be determined by the need and the capacity to place them. I would hope that having regard to the urgent need for skilled tradesmen in Australia we can get many more than the 35 originally mentioned.
– Do you support the proposal to admit 1,000 skilled tradesmen to work for Leylands?
– My Department is not prepared to release skilled tradesmen to work at Leylands if the work they are going to be called upon to do is work which does not fully utilise the skills which they possess.
– Who is the boss - you or your Department?
– There is no boss between me and my Department; we work as a complete -team. Always we are completely as one with each other. There is no friction between me and my Department. I am the Department and the Department is the Minister. What do honourable members opposite think about that? How does that grab them? The reason why car manufacturers cannot get enough labour is the rotten, souldestroying, dehumanising monotony of the kind of work involved in assembly line production. I would like some of the honourable members opposite to work on an assembly line for only three or four hours, not for months or years on end, to discover what a soul destroying job it is. So long as the car manufacturers can get migrants from overseas in rotten, soul destroying conditions they will never bother to do anything about job enrichment. Therefore we are not prepared to allow them to escape their obligations in the way in which they would like. What is happening in Australia is very much the same as happened in the Pittsburg steel works more than 100 years ago. The steel manufacturers of the United States used to bring in boat loads of Yugoslavs until the Yugoslavs rebelled, then boat loads of Greeks until they rebelled and then boat loads of Italians until they would not stand it any more. They were always escaping and dodging their responsibilities as employers. We are not prepared to allow boat loads of people to come into this country to do semi-skilled work when we have 121,000 of our own people idle who can be trained to do this semi-skilled work for which there is such a demand. I say there is absolutely no element-
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– It is unfortunate that this afternoon the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) must raise the question of racial discrimination in such an important discussion as this. The very basis of this matter of public importance is spelt out clearly. The first point is the failure of the Government to inform the House adequately of changes in immigration policy. The second point is the consequence of such changes. In my political career, no Minister has used more words, made more Press statements, had more publicity - I do not blame the Press for this because we know he is a very colourful character - confused more people, indeed divided more people and changed the policy more frequently than the present Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby). This to me and to many people outside this place is certainly very worrying. The Minister said earlier that he was abolishing discrimination. I would like someone to explain what that statement means. The Minister seems to hide under the cloak of plenty of words and plenty of statements, confusing all, but there is little mention of a homogeneous population. He has prided himself on numerous occasions that he does not have a Press secretary. I would suggest to the Minister for Immigration that maybe he would not be in this position today if he had a Press secretary. Maybe he would not have made such conflicting remarks over a long period. Up until a year ago Australia, to my mind and in the minds of many other people, had a very successful and acceptable policy. Of course, some people criticised it but it is still the envy of many nations throughout the world.
This afternoon the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) posed many questions. They are questions that many people throughout this country and throughout the world are asking. Intending migrants want to know where they stand. Does the Minister realise that his decisions today, while it is true they can be changed tomorrow, will affect the living standards for decades, generations and no doubt forever. Australia is made up of migrants and dependants of migrants. Until the present we have had a homogeneous population. I wonder for the future. Unfortunately, some people cannot understand the difference between white Australia and a homogeneous population. Practically every country in the world which has no homogeneous population is in trouble. Unless we declare where we are going on some of these issues we could be in trouble.
It is true that we have admitted nonEuropeans, but we have done it successfully. We have limited the entry to those who will integrate and can be integrated into our way of life. Of course we have been selective and surely this is our right. No person will admit into his own home a person he does not want to be admitted. We as a nation have this right. We have naturally had a very strong leaning towards our British friends but today the Minister is leaning away from this position. I think I am correct in saying that he has placed an arbitrary date on British people residing in Australia to register to receive the full Australian benefits. Should these British people fail to register by a certain date they will have to go through the normal process of taking out naturalisation papers. No doubt the Minister will interject to indicate whether I am correct or otherwise.
– It is not quite in those terms. It is in the terms of the Act for which you voted.
– In other words you are now starting to down grade the British people. Surely this is breaking the traditions. I think it was only last week that the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) raised some important questions. Like the honourable member for Lyne, I too have had many cases of a similar nature brought to my attention. They involve people who are being discriminated against for various reasons. One man cannot pass the employment test and yet a person is prepared to sponsor him, give him a home and give him employment. There are numerous things that one could say on occasions such as this and I regret that I have only 10 minutes to cover some of the points. The whole situation is confusing. I have a Press cutting from the Melbourne ‘Age’ of February 1973 which has the headline; ‘Little Nancy might be coming back.’ It states:
The Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) said last night: ‘If she’s still as nice as she was when we deported her when she was five, I’ll be delighted to welcome her back.’
What sort of a policy is that if he will welcome her back because she looks nice? Another headline in the ‘Age’ of 6 March 1973 stated ‘Grassby Gets Tougher’. The big man gets tough. The ‘Age’ of 25 February 1974 carried this heading ‘Minister “encourages illegal migrants” ‘. What a heading! The Bulletin’ of 23 March 1974 - it was released today - contains the heading ‘30,000 in migrant shambles’. Perhaps the Minister for Immigration and some of his colleagues can answer some of the questions which these headlines raise. A heading in the Melbourne Sun-Pictorial’ of 23 May 1973 reads Grassby: Migrant check to stay’. We want to follow up some of these reports because they are a little conflicting. The headline BHP is banned from recruiting migrants’ appeared in the ‘Australian’ of 16 June 1973. Another headline in the ‘Australian’ of 15 August 1973 stated ‘Towns to pick migrants: Plan will let locals find own settlers’. The Melbourne ‘Age’ of 10 July 1973 carried this headline ‘Come home call to our exiles’. Where are we going? The headline ‘ “Migrant goal is too low” says Hamer’ appeared in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ of 13 August 1973. A headline in the ‘Australian’ of 13 April 1973 stated ‘Migrant policy “causing industrial chaos” ‘. No wonder the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) entered this debate today.
The ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 20 February 1974 had this headline ‘“Social” immigration for a balanced Australian society’. The headline The Al and Gough black and white show’ appeared in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 13 February 1974. This matter was becoming serious at that stage. The Hobart ‘Mercury’ of 11 January 1974 asked this question in its headline How white Australia?’ A headline in the National Times’ of 20 August 1973 reads: If White Australia is dead Immigration isn’t saying’. But the Minister for Immigration has plenty to say. Why has he not answered this? The ‘Age’ of 15 September 1973 carried this headline ‘ “The future for Australia is black or multi-coloured …. if our people don’t realise it and stop Mr Grassby’s enthusiasm for coloured immigrants” ‘. Where will we finish if we adopt this approach? The last headline which I wish to quote appeared in the ‘Age’ of 22 January 1974. It reads ‘Door open for US Negroes’. This is a very serious situation. The article beneath the headline states:
American Negroes would be allowed to migrate to Australia under new plans drawn up by - the Federal Immigration Department.
The plans provide for the Federal Government to launch an intensive drive for skilled migrant workers in the United States.
They represent a bold change from the 20-year-old Liberal-Country Party policy of refusing to advertise for migrants in the United States for fear of Negro applicants.
But it is ALP policy to have a non-discriminatory immigration scheme.
I wonder just where we are moving. What has happened to the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly)? I think earlier this afternoon the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) in his remarks referred to the Minister for Services and Property because he had a very definite policy on immigration. I pay a tribute to the first Minister for Immigration, the late Arthur Calwell. As I said in this House 2 weeks ago, he would be classified as one of the most successful Ministers for Immigration, whereas the opposite applies to the present Minister for Immigration.
In conclusion, I say to the Minister for Immigration: On these issues the best way to fight fire is to prevent it. If he is not prepared to adopt a line of prevention on these issues, he must suffer the consequences. We must remember that migrants are not sheep. They are people with feelings. In the main they are dedicated in their efforts to make a success of themselves in Australia. This is the thing we have to remember at all times.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– The matter of public importance that has been raised this afternoon is just as ridiculous as every other matter of public importance that 1 have heard the Opposition raise since it became the Opposition. The simple fact is that the Opposition has to learn that it will never get back into office by making ill-founded criticism of the policies of the party which is presently in office. It will have to learn that it must devise policies which will be attractive to the majority of the Australian people. It cannot hope to achieve office while it continues its present practice of making meaningless and ill-founded criticism of the progressive policies of the present Government. The introductory remarks which were made this afternoon by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and his colleague the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) made it clear to me and I am sure to most thinking Australians that if both of these gentlemen were entrusted with thz responsibility of writing an immigration policy for the Liberal Party, each of them would produce a vastly different policy. I know which policy I would rather see appear as the Liberal Party policy, being closer to the Australian Labor Party’s policy. Without seeking to embarrass the honourable member for Kooyong, I must say 1 am sure that his genuine ideas on non-discrimination would be much closer to the Australian Labor Party’s policy than would the attitude and policies of the present Liberal Party spokesman on immigration, the honourable member for Wannon.
I want to refer to some of the remarks which were made by the previous Opposition speakers, particularly by the honourable member for Wannon who showed his ignorance and confusion to such an extent that he did not even know that there was a hands-off policy between Canada and Australia in respect of assisted passages. That policy has been in existence for more than 20 years. This afternoon the honourable member for
Wimmera (Mr King) and other members of the Country Party, including the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), got very upset when the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) made remarks about the situation in Queensland today. Without accusing the honourable member for Maranoa of being a racist - lam sure he is not a racist - or the honourable member for Wimmera, who spoke on behalf of the Country Party, of being a racist, I must put it on the record that there is no doubt that basically the Country Party in Queensland is a racist Party. It has had racist policies for years. It could not get its members to hand out how-to-vote cards for Senator Neville Bonner at the last Senate election in Queensland, and on this occasion they are not prepared to run with him on the same ticket.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. That is an inaccurate statement, as far as I personally am concerned.
-Order! There is no point of order. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I handed out how-to-vote cards for Senator Bonner-
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I was making-
-Order! Resume your seat. I ruled on this matter while you were not present in the chamber. I do not intend to do so again.
– The honourable member for Wimmera talked about a homogeneous population in Australia. He is 200 years out of date, because the Minister for Immigration has reminded me that there were more than 12 different nationalities in the First Fleet that came to Australia. If that is the progressive and enlightened policy of members of the Country Party, I am sure that they will have to do a lot more towards updating the policy before their Party will be considered as a real alternative to the present Government. I say quite clearly to the Opposition that it is entirely dishonest to claim that this Government has failed to inform the House adequately of changes in immigration policy. In my experience in this place I have never known honourable members opposite to be unable to get full details of Australian Labor Party policy. The policy is determined by our Federal Conferences. On numerous occasions - probably more frequently than happens with members of the Labor Party in this House -members of the Liberal Party and of the Country Party produce copies of our platform in the House. They did this particularly when they were in government. Following our Federal Conference in Surfers Paradise last year which, in many respects, updated our policy, honourable members opposite did not even have to wait for the official publication of our platform. The ‘Bulletin’, from which the honourable member for Wimmera quoted his speech this afternoon, produced the complete guide to Labor policies. When I tried to obtain another copy of that issue of the ‘Bulletin’ about a fortnight after it was published I found that it was out of print - no doubt due to the heavy buying by honorable members opposite so that they could have a copy of the Labor Party’s policy in their hands as quickly as possible.
The Labor Party’s policy on immigration has received the attention of honourable members opposite ever since we came into office. I will say quite clearly today that the recent announcements by the Prime Minister in the Philippines and the recent decisions by the Minister for Labour and the Minister for Immigration to initiate conferences with the Australian Council of Trade Unions in order to discuss the qualifications of overseas tradesmen are progressive steps on which those Ministers should be congratulated, and it should not be suggested that suddenly, overnight, new Labor Party policies have been devised. They are simply an extension of the policy that we have stipulated clearly in our platform, namely, the avoidance of discrimination on any grounds of race or colour of skin or nationality. Truly, the Government has put that policy into effect since it came into office. The policy is clear and unambiguous. It is a policy that has been analysed and clearly understood by the Australian people. It is a policy on which this Government was endorsed in the 1972 election.
Over a period of some years before our success in 1972, immigration in Australia had fallen into a state where successive Ministers for Immigration applied their own policies. The main policy on which they seemed to base the annual intake of migrants was to try to exceed the intake achieved by the preceding Minister. What sort of policy was that? For a period of 23 years the Liberal-Country Party coalition Government had control of Australia’s immigration program. Over a period of 5 years almost 25 per cent of the immigra tion intake was a wastage to the population growth of the nation. The people coming here were so disenchanted with conditions under the then coalition Government that they stayed here only long enough to organise themselves to return to their countries of origin. When we came into office this was the situation that confronted us - a 25 per cent wastage.
The Opposition today tries to argue that it initiated a policy of wiping out the old white Australia policy; that it initiated a policy of equal rights for allpeople to come to Australia. The facts show differently. It is only since this Government came into office that in the eyes of the world, more particularly in the eyes of the Asiatic nations, Australia has been genuinely regarded as a country which will accept people without discrimination and as equals. The triumphant visit abroad by the Minister for Immigration shortly after Labor came into office, followed more recently by the Prime Minister’s trip abroad, did much to elevate Australia in the eyes of the Asiatic countries close to our borders. Those visits have done much to allay the fears that people had for so many years that they were not regarded as equals by Australians and that they were not welcome to our shores either as visitors or, more importantly, as immigrants.
This Government and the Minister for Immigration, in particular, are to be congratulated not only by this nation but also by every decent, fair-minded human being because at last a credible and honest image has been established for Australia, particularly in the eyes of the Asiatic section of the world in which we live. It is terribly important for the future of this nation that Australia should be seen to accept these people as equals and not to persist with the sayings of the previous Government in falsely claiming that it had no policy of discrimination against these people. The effects of the immigration policy of the previous Government showed clearly that it did have such a policy.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The time for discussion of this matter has concluded.
– I move:
Honourable members will recall that on 23 August last year the then Minister for External Territories introduced the Papua New Guinea (Application of Laws) Bill. This legislation received royal assent on 30 October 1973. It enabled a smooth transfer of powers to Papua New Guinea which was self-governing from 1 December 1973. Some powers, other than defence and foreign affairs, have not been transferred to the Papua New Guinea Government as the Application of Laws Act alone is not the appropriate vehicle. Powers under the Fisheries Act 1952-1973 are in this category. The Bill now before the House will enable Papua New Guinea to administer its own fisheries legislation and, I am informed, the Papua New Guinea Government wishes to do this as soon as possible. A Fisheries Act has been passed by the House of Assembly in Port Moresby in anticipation of the transfer of the fisheries powers.
This Bill overcomes the problem of definition of ‘foreign boat’ in the existing legislation. Without this amendment, during the period between self-government and independence, Papua New Guinea boats would continue to be subject to Australian jurisdiction while in Australian proclaimed waters. This is unacceptable to Papua New Guinea which wishes its fishing vessels to be treated in the same manner as other foreign boats. The need for clause 2 of the Bill arises as a result of amendments to the principal Act not yet having come into operation. Sub-clause 2 (1) willprovide the immediate transfer of powers desired by Papua New Guinea and sub-clause 2 (2) will provide the permanent amendment to the principal Act when amendments passed in 1973 are brought into operation. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 14 March (vide page 442), on motion by Dr Patterson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The main purpose of this legislation is to make provision for the future program of research and promotion in respect of Australia’s greatest primary product. There has been a long history of co-operation between the industry and the previous Government in this field. As honourable members will be aware, there has been a joint fund into which both industry and government have contributed for the purposes of research and promotion. This, of course, is not the only fund of this type. Similar funds exist in many of our primary industries. This is one of the great constructive co-operative contributions of industry and government. Over the years, these funds have made a tremendous contribution towards expanding markets for our products and improving methods of production and the standard of the products themselves. In primary industry the function of such funds is particularly important because such a large proportion of our production is exported at ruling world prices. Our production has to compete on the world market unprotected. It has, therefore, always been considered reasonable by governments of all complexions that both government and industry should contribute to these funds.
As I mentioned earlier, the purposes of this particular fund are related principally to research and promotion. However, a further sum will be available from the fund raised by the tax on wool growers plus the government contribution to pay the. administrative costs of the Australian Wool Corporation. This is a minor amount compared with the sums which will be made available for research and promotion purposes. An amount estimated at $1. 7m will be required for the next year. It is as well that primary producers and their organisations should be aware of the administrative costs involved and should recognise that these institutions do not run for nothing. They have to be paid for by the industry concerned. My personal belief is that wool growers have got quite remarkable value for their money in the cost of running the Australian Wool Corporation. I think it is also a tribute to the administration of the Corporation that whereas its estimated cost for the current financial year which will finish on 30 June this year is as I understand it$1. 8m, in actual fact the cost will probably be nearer to$1.6m. The amounts forecast for the period of this legislation over the next 3 years have allowed only a very moderate increase of $1 00,000 per year.
The 2 main functions, as I mentioned a moment ago, of the tax on gross proceeds of wool are to finance wool research and wool promotion. I think it is true to say that in the last couple of years we have seen, or have begun to see, the results of research projects which are inevitably long term in nature, and promotion activities which although perhaps not so long term in nature inevitably cannot show an immediate return. When speaking of the research I am thinking of such research as that which went into machine washable garments, the development of non-fade pastel dyes incorporating drip-dry characteristics in woollen garments and work of that nature, much of which I am pleased to say and as I am sure you will acknowledge, Mr Deputy Speaker, has been done in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s wool-textile laboratories at Belmont in Geelong. With the final result of this research now becoming apparent in the type, range and variety of garments and uses of wool which are now appearing on wool markets, we are now starting to see a return for our money.
It is always difficult to put any precise figure on the results or the benefits which are obtained from the money spent in research because they will not be reflected immediately. But I think that the industry as a whole in Australia would agree that the immense efforts and dedication of the wool research scientists in recent years are now starting; to be reflected in a very tangible way in the returns that wool growers are getting from their products, and perhaps even more importantly in the much wider range of uses to which wool can be put and the much greater extent of easy-care characteristics which are being incorporated in wool garments.
It is probably even more difficult to identify with any precision at all the results of the money that has been spent in the field of promotion. But I think that what we can say is this: It used to be said that the price of competing fibres would always put a ceiling on the price of wool, that is, that the wool grower and the wool trade could not expect to extract more from the market than the market was prepared to pay for wool’s competitors. For some years this appeared to have a good deal of truth in it. Indeed, we heard such authorities as Mr Vines and others telling us on the basis of the best advice they could get at the time that wool growers returns would inevitably be tied to some extent to the price of competing fibres.
I think that the success of the promotional activities, particularly in respect of the Inter- ational Wool Secretariat, can be gauged by the fact that even though wool prices have risen quite dramatically in the last 18 months to 2 years it is still possible to clear out of shops the woollen goods made from that higher priced wool. The ultimate test is whether one can sell the goods to the consumer. In the last 18 months we have been able to do so. I think that all sections of the industry have to be very much aware that this happy situation will not continue of its own accord. It has to be fostered and encouraged, and that is going to cost money, quite a lot of money - in this case money put into promotion.
Australia historically has been the greatest contributor to the International Wool Secretariat’s funds, and that is a reasonable proposition because this country is the largest producer of wool. But I think it would be very dangerous to delude ourselves that the present reasonably satisfactory prices for wool existing at the present time will continue if we do not continually lay emphasis on promotion. After all, every other major product, whether it be textile or anything else, has to be promoted in the market place. I cannot see any reason at all why wool should be an exception to this rule. Indeed, I am quite certain that it is not an exception to this rule. We would reduce expenditure on promotion at our peril.
For some time now the International Wool Secretariat has been pointing out that due to increased costs and world wide inflation its effective funds available for promotion were not increasing at anything like the rate necessary to enable it to do the job which it felt it was able to do and should do. As a result of those representations the industry has agreed to the provisions for increased funds which are outlined in the second reading speech of the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson), who represents the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) in this place. The industry has accepted the substantially altered basis on which the Government and the industry will contribute to this fund in the coming 3-year period. These joint industry government funds have nearly always been provided on a $1 for $1 basis under which the Government would match with $1 each $1 contributed by the industry.
In the current situation it has been possible for the industry to meet its commitments by a tax on the gross proceeds of wool imposed at the rate of 2.4 per cent. As I explained a moment ago, this tax covers not only research and promotion but also the administrative expense of running the Australian Wool Corporation. As the Minister points out in his second reading speech, at current wool prices the existing levy of 2.4 per cent on gross proceeds would cope with the increased requirements of the research and promotion budgets. But, I think wisely, provision has been made to increase the rate of the levy to 2.75 per cent. As the House would be aware, the existing legislation makes provision for a maximum rate of 3 per cent so that the new level does not need fresh legislation as such. It is a measure of the industry’s concern over these issues that this increased levy has been unanimously approved by the major federal wool growing organisations and also by the Australian Wool Industry Conference.
As I mentioned a moment ago, while a levy of 2.4 per cent would be sufficient under existing prices, the lifting of the levy to 2.75 per cent should result in a surplus at the end of the next financial year. This will be carried forward quite properly in a trust fund to be used for the same purposes in the succeeding year. I point out that this is in marked contrast to the action which was taken by the Government when it first introduced the meat levy to pay for meat inspection charges and the eradication of brucellosis and tuberculosis. There was no provision in the legislation, until the Opposition rectified the position, for a trust fund to be set up. I am happy to acknowledge that in this case proper provision has been made for money raised by the levy which is surplus to the requirements of the particular year to be carried forward into the next year.
I should like to discuss very briefly the situation which might arise if wool prices fall substantially. When wool reached its rock bottom price a few years ago there was a major change from the traditional $1 for $1 contribution to the fund. In those circumstances my Party felt it reasonable, when the wool industry was really fighting for its very existence, that the Government should contribute $2 for each $1 contributed by the industry so that essential research and promotion projects for which continuity is absolutely vital would not suffer. It is important to realise that the industry’s contribution is a rax on gross proceeds, so that when the price of wool falls the receipts from the levy fall correspondingly. In those disastrously low price years the Government contributed $2 for each $1 from the industry. Happily the situation has improved since then and we have got back to the old $1 for SI situation. As I understand the legislation that method of contribution will be maintained for the next financial year starting 1 July 1974. After that there is a substantial difference in the method of financing. The Government, recognising that research makes a contribution to the national well-being, has thought it right and proper that it should bear 75 per cent of the cost of research compared with 25 per cent from the growers. On the other hand, because it can be reasonably argued that benefits from promotion flow more directly to the producers than to the nation as a whole, the industry should contribute 75 per cent of the costs of promotion and the Government 25 per cent. According to my arithmetic,- by the end of the 3-year period, this method will mean that instead of a 50-50 contribution the rate will be approximately 60 per cent industry and 40 per cent Government. Under the existing economic circumstances the industry accepts that commitment as reasonable.
I come back to the point I made a moment ago: What happens if the price of wool falls very substantially? The revenue raised by the tax is directly geared to the gross proceeds of wool. As I understand it if the gross proceeds of wool fall below about $800m a year, the statutory limit of 3 per cent on gross proceeds may not be sufficient to provide the budget which has been estimated as necessary by both those engaged in research and those engaged in promotion. In that case I agree that the Government would have to come back to thos Parliament to get approval for a tax rate higher than 3 per cent. On behalf of the industry I should like to make the point: When the industry struck trouble before our Government was prepared to ensure continuity of research and promotion programs by increasing the Government’s commitment beyond that of the industry. If prices should fall substantially in the future and if the statutory 3 per cent levy on gross proceeds was insufficient to cover the requirements for research and promotion, we on this side of the House, and I am sure the industry also, would expect an equally sympathetic appreciation of the situation by this Government. I have to say in all honesty that the track record of this Government does not give us any degree of confidence that the industry would get an equally sympathetic consideration from it.
We on this side of the House will be watching very closely indeed. If a grower’s income falls quite substantially but his wool tax commitment is increased to make up the short-fall in the requirements for research and promotion, it will represent a much larger proportion of his total revenue. Should the price fall far enough it may be a very heavy impost on the industry and on the individual growers. Having made that position quite clear and acknowledging that the existing legislation makes provision for a 3 per cent tax, we, in association with the industry bodies concerned, do not oppose this legislation. We merely make it clear that should circumstances arise which make it necessary to increase the tax beyond the 3 per cent allowed in the existing legislation, we will be expecting from the Government of the day a reaction as sympathetic as the industry received from us when prices fell to disastrously low levels.
On behalf of the Opposition I should like finally to pay tribute to the dedicated research scientists not only in our own Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation but also in Ilkley and in the Ichinomiya centre in Japan for the truly wonderful job they do on behalf of the wool industry. Having had a chance to see the work of the research scientists myself, I am convinced that they play a most valuable role in preserving wool as a major textile fibre of the world. They play a most valuable role in their research and promotion fields in ensuring that the Australian wool grower gains the benefit of new techniques and new technology. I am hopeful that the benefits will be translated into the grower’s pocket by way of increased prices. I think it is fair to say that recent experience shows us that a lot of the fundamental work which has taken so many years to come to fruition is now showing tangible results and I trust that the wool prices remain at a level which will not require the projected tax levy of 2.75 per cent on gross proceeds to be exceeded. The Opposition agrees with the broad level of recommended expenditures under the 2 main headings of this legislation.
– In speaking to this Wool Industry Bill, which seeks to finance research, promotion and administration so far as the Australian Wool Corporation is concerned, I should like to dwell for some time on the 3 functions that are the subject headings of the Bill. Firstly, in regard to research I believe that in the wool industry as in other areas of research, we ought to have a separation between administration, marketing and the research function along the lines that have been traditionally accepted; for example, as with the distinction between the Church and the State so far as Government functions are concerned.
It seems to me to be difficult to accept a situation in which research is conducted by an organisation which has a vested interest in the outcome of that research. This can be explicit or implicit. For example, in the case of the Australian Wool Corporation, it has a marketing function. It has a role to play in the marketing of wool. The profitability of that role will impinge in some way on its research functions. We find too that in regard to the Corporation the committees that are established to administer these research funds leave something to be desired.
We look at the Production Research Committee and find that 3 of the 4 members are wool growers. I have no objection to the idea that wool ‘growers should be on these committees. In fact it is very important that they are. But clearly when we administer research funds there ought to be people on the committees who have an appreciation of the requirements of research. There is one production research scientist on the Production Research Committee - a very busy production research scientist - who is in fact not now involved in research at all as he is employed by the Australian Wool Corporation in an administrative capacity.
I turn to the economic research group which gives advice to the AWC. We find here that the committee of four consists of two wool growers, one economic researcher who also is employed by the Corporation in an administrative role, and one production research worker who is the same person who is on the Production Research Committee. There are no people advising the AWC who are actively involved in research, who have an appreciation of the problems associated with financing research or who have an appreciation of the problems associated with setting the priorities of research. I believe this is one of the traps that can be sprung on Government funds when we find these functions of research and marketing embodied in the single organisation.
We find too that the attitude of the industry pervades very strongly the organisation of the AWC. Once again, there is no particular objection to be levelled at this because the Corporation’s basic function is in the market place where the attitude of the industry should to a large extent dictate the actions of the Australian Wool Corporation. But once those traditional attitudes of the industry leaders are established they are a great restraint on innovation. The industry leaders know how things worked in the past and they find it difficult to accept the view that there may be other ways of performing the functions that have been traditionally accepted in the industry.
So the Wool Corporation provides a very strong check on innovation in this regard. I have personally suffered from this restriction on the allocation of research funds. As a research worker in this field at one stage in my career I spent almost half of my time fighting the Wool Board and the Wool Commission because of the traditional stance they took against ideas which have now ‘been incorporated in a practical way into the marketing system. All of these ideas have recently come to a head in the activities of the Australian Objective Measurement Committee, which has now published 3 reports on the subject. As I have mentioned, the ideas embodied in those reports were pressed very hard against the traditional resistance in the group of people who had the responsibility of allocating research funds.
I have a very good example of this resistance which I shall cite to the House after dinner. This question of the separation of the functions of the Australian Wool Corporation is of extreme importance now situated as we are on the threshold of big reforms in the administration of wool marketing. I have no particular objection to promotion and marketing being bulked under the one organisation for they deal with the same basic function.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was covering a topic relating to research under the Wool Industry Bill which is the Bill under discussion. By way of example of the point that I was making before the suspension of the sitting, I should like to give details of an experiment which was not reported in the report of the Australian Objective Measurement Committee. It was not reported for a very good reason. It is a classic example of an experiment designed by industry people with industry experience, but having no understanding at all of the elementary requirements pf a research project. More significantly, the design of this experiment was carried out by the very people who are advising the Australian Wool Corporation on how to spend its research funds. The objective of the experiment was to quantify the role of a property of wool called ‘style’, which is a visual property which all research workers have tended to discount on the ground that it has not yet displayed any economic significance. Yet this experiment was designed not only to demonstrate that it was important but also to quantify in money terms how important it was.
In order to have an experiment at all, it was necessary to select a superior and an inferior batch in regard to style. It was also important to standardise other properties in wool, and this standardisation process was done on the traditional basis of subjective judgment which proved to be an error when the wools were finally measured. The experiment was conducted at the Port Phillip Mills Pty Ltd and I should like to quote the conclusions reached by those mills as set out on their experiment sheet. It states:
The tests show clearly that the trade is willing to pay, more for the superior type than the inferior and that the top also reflects a commercial premium for the superior type.
Fortunately, there were some scientists present who were able to carry out a control on this experiment. The very same wool was processed under controlled conditions by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and, in its conclusions, the CSIRO said:
Although the samples are similar in average fibre length and average fibre diameter, there is a much greater proportion of shorter fibres in the superior sample than in the inferior sample. This has resulted in reduced spinning performance of the superior sample compared with the inferior, which has performed normally for this type of wool.
The cost of the experiment was a relatively low $1,200; we can be thankful for that. But the cost of processing this wool in the Port Phillip Mills was $17,115. If ever we had an example of the need to separate research from the commercial functions, it is in this experiment - an experiment paid for from Government moneys which was not recorded in the report subsequently published which was, in fact, an account of all other experiments conducted under this project. Obviously, it was not recorded because it was a badly designed and advised experiment. It set out to prove something that had been demonstrated beyond all doubt by all other research in the past in order to justify a traditional position which had been found wanting.
– Did they give the proportions of top and oil in both samples?
– Yes, I will provide the honourable member for Corangamite with the complete details of this experiment. In this Bill the Government is taking an increased responsibility for research for the very sensible reason that research cannot be narrowed down to a specific area of activity. No matter what research is conducted, it has a bearing in all sorts of other areas, sometimes on the surface quite unrelated to the basic area of research. As the second reading speech of the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) quite clearly pointed out, this interrelationship between one area of research and another calls for a larger Government responsibility and I am pleased to see that this direction has been set in the present Bill.
One qualification I might place on this is that the absolute amount of money available in any one year for wool research is still tied to the wool industry funds. This particular method of funding research raises 2 problems. The first is that there is a variation in wool industry funds which of course is not related to the requirements of research. It is impossible to switch research on and off as, indeed, it is impossible to expect the wool growers of this country to live on an income which is switched on and off. Stability is required in both areas, but it is absurd not to provide stability for research when a change in the funding mechanism would provide that stability. So, we still have this difficulty of variation in research funds under the present method. I look forward to further refinement of the method adopted for financing research and I am sure that this will come.
The second problem - I have already hinted at this - is that no area of research can be confined to a specific subject. What we need today more and more is a systems approach to research when one area is seen in its relationship to others. For example, one might take the experience in the wool industry as a guide line to what is required. Today, we have big technological developments taking place in the wool market. Some concern has been expressed and some provision made for the retraining of wool classers to adjust them to this new position. However, no provision has been made for the retraining of wool buyers to adjust them to this new position. What we are finding is that buyers employed at the intermediate levels of the various firms in fact are sabotaging the economies that can come from the new marketing methods. They are discriminating against the new techniques because they see in these techniques a threat to their jobs. Given the fact that nobody has yet displayed any interest in relocating these people and in demonstrating that their skills are important and required in the new system, we can understand their reaction.
This reaction is reinforced by the traditional attitudes which processors overseas are expressing in Australia and is undermining, as it were, the confidence of growers in what fundamentally is a proper and economising direction in which to take the wool market. So we need to pay some attention to the social aspects of technological change in industry. We need to have research in this area and I would be very pleased to see under the wool research program more emphasis placed firstly on systems research, considering how each part integrates with the other; and secondly on social research insofar as social aspects are affected by technological changes in the wool industry. There are some clear areas for examination. I instance the one that I have mentioned - the situation of wool buyers. A precedent has been established with the wool classers and, indeed, some concern needs to be displayed towards the wool producers and the overseas processors. I recall that there was some difficulty in having the reports of the Objective Measurement Committee translated into Japanese. This is an incredible situation when we consider the large role that the Japanese play in the wool industry.
Turning now to other areas of this Bill, we find that the next major item is the question of wool promotion. Currently, an investigation is being conducted into the efficiency of the International Wool Secretariat. I believe that this is long overdue. It is very important for the industry to see exactly how its money is being spent. It is clear that the function of promotion is required in any marketing operation but I have grave reservations about the efficiency of the International Wool Secretariat, Too many of my colleagues who have been employed in the economic section of the Wool Secretariat have made fundamental complaints about the way in which the Secretariat operates. I believe that the independent examination which is now being conducted within the Secretariat and which is supported by this Government, the New Zealand Government and other partners in the International Wool Secretariat is long overdue and may provide us with a sound basis for at least a reassurance of the efficiency of the International Wool Secretariat, if not a restructuring of it.
Wool promotion is a subtle thing. It takes a great deal of examination to find its impact. It needs to be geared to individual markets, and therefore it is difficult to evaluate. But we can judge the quality of the information that is fed into the wool promotion system. We can judge the quality of the research work produced for the people who make judgments about wool promotion. It is a condemnation of the whole system, of the International Wool Secretariat and of the whole Australian Wool Corporation that this information has never been published and that the people who provide this information have never been exposed to the rigours of criticism by their contemporaries.
All this information has been regarded as confidential and secret. Most of it is purely functional, in the way it describes the wool market, and it should have been exposed to the criticism of the peers and contemporaries of the research workers employed by the International Wool Secretariat and the Australian Wool Corporation. I find great cause for complaint about this aspect of the activities of the International Wool Secretariat. I hope that the current examination of the promotional activities of the International Wool Secretariat and the Australian Wool Corporation will result in a freeing of research activities in these areas and that we can be privileged to read, if we care to, exactly what are the inputs of these organisations.
I turn now to marketing administrative costs. Under this heading in the second reading speech the administrative costs of the Australian Wool Corporation are covered. I have no complaint about the way in which the Australian Wool Corporation is operating. Indeed, I believe that its predecessor, the Australian Wool Commission, carried out a marvellous operation in the wool market. It is perhaps some cause for regret that the $53m paid in a wool deficiency payment was not used to purchase wool. It is easy to say that in retrospect, but the blame for that action not taking place at that time lies nowhere. However, there is a lesson for the future. I would be very disappointed if in the case of another slump in wool prices we did not allow the Australian Wool Corporation to move more heavily into the wool market and to purchase considerably more wool that it did in the last operation.
History has shown that the wool market is subject to variations. History has shown that it will be extremely difficult to average out wool prices. History has demonstrated the need for an insurance-type operation in the wool market. In the Australian Wool Corporation we now have the mechanism by which we can carry out such an insurance operation. I hope that that particular function of the Australian Wool Corporation will not close the eyes of the industry to the fact that it can carry out that function without being a monopoly in the total market. For example, it would be a tragedy if in wool testing, as in wool research, the Australian Wool Corporation called the tune. Consider the position of a wool grower who had some argument with the specification of his wool. Under a wool corporation which purchased that wool and which also ran the only wool testing authority, to whom would the wool grower appeal? The wool corporation would make its judgment in regard to the specification on which the wool grower’s income was based. The wool grower would then have to turn to the wool testing authority which was run by the wool corporation. Clearly this would be an unsatisfactory situation for the seller of wool. It would be equally unsatisfactory for the purchaser of wool who might have some argument with the specification of the wool. Wool testing, like wool research, needs to be separated from the marketing function and carried out by a separate organisation. More than that, wool testing needs to be carried out in a competitive atmosphere in which there is more than one wool testing operation so that individuals who are in the market place - the seller and the buyer - can have the testing checked.
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– This Bill aims at continuing the wool research and promotion programs initiated in previous years by the Liberal-Country Party Government. From those programs in the past have flowed research studies which have lifted the productivity of growers, the economic efficiency of moving wool and its consequent marketing, and the processing of wool. From the funds diverted to promotion has come greater consumer acceptance of wool throughout the world, particularly as an apparel fibre. Basically, the changes in this Bill will mean that in 1974-75 the Government will contribute on an equal basis with wool growers towards the cost of both research and promotion. In 1975-76 and 1976-77 the Government will change the level of its contribution payments. I will have more to say on that later. In both these years the Government will pay 75 per cent of the cost of approved programs of wool research. However, it will provide only 25 per cent of the total funds for wool promotion on the ground that, as the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) said in his second reading speech, ‘the benefits from promotion activity accrue more directly to producers than to other members of the community’.
The Government will contribute on the basis of the following maximum levels: For 1974-75, $22m; for 1975-76, $20m; and for 1976-77, $21m. These figures have been rounded to the nearest $lm. In the same 3 years industry will contribute $23m, $30m and $32m. The breakdown of funds for wool research and promotion is shown in the table in the second reading speech. We see that in 1974-75 $13.2m will be spent on research, $29. 3m will be spent on promotion and $1.7m will be spent on marketing costs, making a total of $44.2m. In 1976-77 that figure will rise to $53. lm but the Government’s total contribution will not rise. The contribution by the grower to the wool promotion and research scheme is by means of the Wool Tax Act. The present tax under the Act is 2.4 per cent. Because of the possibility of fluctuations in wool growers’ returns, the Government has decided to raise the tax rate to 2.75 per cent - that is, 2.75 per cent of the value of wool shorn by a grower.
Any surplus funds will be credited to the Wool Research Trust Fund, to which section 62 (a) of the Audit Act applies. A report on the operation of the Fund must be furnished to the Parliament annually, and any surplus does not flow to Consolidated Revenue but is held as a reserve against contingencies in any future year. I believe that is a good principle. It is needed as a safeguard. I hope that this policy will be continued in matters of this kind. The new wool tax rate will apply from 30 June and will be changed by alteration of the Wool Tax Regulations, which can be done by the Treasurer. At some stage during the currency of this new research and promotion scheme the question of the Government’s contribution to the scheme is to be referred to the Industries Assistance Commission for examination and report. Whether there will be a new scheme after 1977 will be largely dependent on the report of the Industries Assistance Commission.
The other amendments in the Bill deal largely with machinery measures which stem from the changing nature of the Corporation since its setting up by the Liberal-Country Party Government in 1972. For instance, the term ‘interim chairman’ is to be dropped; payment for members of the Corporation will be determined by the Remuneration Tribunal, except for the Commonwealth’s representative on the Board who is a senior public servant; and payments of remuneration will be made from the funds of the Corporation.
The Wool Industry Policy Committee of the Australian Wool Industry Conference was advised some weeks ago of the provisions of the Bill. The Committee has expressed no objection to it. However, the point should be made that it is possible that after the Industries Assistance Commission has looked at the scheme towards the end of the current period it could be whittled down, that inflation will erode the financial efficiency of the program and that no commitment has been expressed by the Government to keep the program going at its projected rate if wool prices go down. The increase in the tax rate and the Labor Government’s lowered financial interest overall in the scheme once again reflects its lack of appreciation of the contribution of farm industries. The funds used in research will need to be increasingly directed towards resolving production cost problems which, because of the Government’s actions, are of critical importance to the producer. Those are some of the factors to which very serious consideration will have to be given.
In dealing with this Bill I also want to make a few points that I believe must be taken into consideration by the Government when it takes the sort of action that it has taken in stepping down from the commitment to which it would have been committed if there had been no alteration. The wool industry’s greatly improved position - I acknowledge that it has improved greatly, but it had to improve greatly otherwise those who are still in the wool industry would not have been able to carry on - is being eroded so fast by rising costs and falling prices that profitability in the wool industry could be very meagre in a comparatively short time. That is no flight of fancy. Costs are continually rising but prices are remaining static or falling. No one can accurately predict what will happen in the world markets. No one can -guarantee that prices will be any better in the future than they are at the present time. But there does not appear to be any indication of the Government taking any action to limit the excessive rate of inflation.
The Government is doing nothing about reducing Government expenditure, except depriving rural areas of taxation concessions, depriving rural industry of the superphosphate bounty and limiting and eliminating the subsidies on developmental and essential rural air services, in addition to gathering in some extra revenue by imposing prohibitive charges on the installation of telephone services. The total revenue benefit to the Government from these measures is very small in relation to the total revenue (received by the Government. The Government is attempting to make a small saving on expenditure at the expense of a small section of the community. There does not appear to me to be any likelihood of a reduction in the future of the present crippling rate of inflation, which is going to fall very heavily on the rural community because it cannot pass on its increased costs. There will be a decreasing profitability in rural industry because of the extra costs that I have just enumerated. There will be decreasing profitability in the rural industry as a result of inflation, falling prices, droughts and floods.
The cost to the wool grower of the measures envisaged in this Bill is highlighted by the figures given by the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory in his second reading speech, which shows that under the present arrangements the Government will be finding $2 1.3m out of a total expenditure of $44.2m in 1974-75 on wool research and promotion but only $20.9m out of a total expenditure of $53. lm in 1976-77. In other words, while the expenditure on wool research and promotion will increase by some $8. 9m in 2 years the Government’s contribution will fall by $400,000. That is the approach which the Government is adopting in its efforts to squeeze a little bit more out of rural industry. All in all the financial arrangements in this Bill are just another example of the con.santly demonstrated policy of the Government of bleeding rural industry with every consideration or reconsideration of rural policy. Those are the figures. There is no getting away from them. They are set out in the Minister’s second reading speech for anyone to see. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) ran on in very technical terms, but he forgot to mention that the people, who have to provide this money will have to get it in their incomes in the first place if they are to continue to provide it.
I think it is a crying shame that this action has been taken by the Government so soon after the long years in which the wool industry suffered so severely. The wool industry is only just recovering from those years of suffering. It has also been hit recently in many areas by really devastating floods. I am not dramatising the position; I am stating cold, hard facts. I do not know why the Government could not have continued to contribute to wool research and promotion at the same rate as previously. Surely it would not have hurt the Government to have gone on doing that for the next 3 years. That additional expenditure would not have been a major issue in the whole Budget strategy. Why, every day one sees the costs of the Government rising at an unprecedented rate. I am not arguing the merits of some of the increased Government expenditure. All I am saying is that the Government is prepared to carry the burden of those increased costs but it is not prepared to do something about promoting a very worth while industry which contributed very much to the soundness of the national economy before the present Government came to office.
The wool industry fs now being treated in such a way as to raise doubts whether the Government is very concerned about its continued existence. If the Government were concerned, surely it would not have decided to chisel this extra amount of money away from the wool growers at a time when they are only just recovering from poor seasons. The important point is that the Government is prepared to take this money from the pockets of the wool growers despite the fact that many of them are still in the throes of trying to meet the debts which they incurred in the periods of drought and low prices. There is no one, however efficient he might be, who could have done anything to prevent losses over those periods. The industry is at present carrying half of the cost of the research and promotion work. Why could the Government not have carried the other half of the cost for a little longer? The point I want wool growers to realise is that this measure is going to cost them extra money. The wool growers will have to meet the additional burden of an increased expenditure of $8.9m while the Government will be reducing its commitment by $400,000. I believe that that is an indictment on the Government. It is another example of the Government’s lack of consideration for rural industries - in this case the wool industry.
I support the comments of the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) when he paid a very well deserved tribute to the scientists who are operating in this field. There is no doubt that there are many people who are very dedicated to their work. I very sincerely join the honourable member for Corangamite in the tribute he has paid to them. I would like to include also in that tribute a reference to the dedication of those officers in the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and in the departments of primary industry in the various States with whom I have had dealings. I have found that they are in the main - there are probably exceptions to the general rule - completely dedicated to trying to promote the welfare of primary industry and that they do not spare themselves when there is need for a special effort in that direction.
This Bill is necessary to enable the continuation of the very essential wool research and promotion program. It is indeed with very great regret that I note the Government is taking the opportunity to make it just a little tougher for people who engage in primary industry to survive.
– I will not reply to all the points made by the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), but I would just state that I think it is rational for industries to pay for their own promotion, given that we have a free enterprise mixed economy. I think that if the Government finds that it has to promote one industry it therefore follows that there is no sound reason why it should not promote all industries. I do not think that would be a tenable position.
When I spoke on a Bill to amend the Wool Industry Act in 1973 I mentioned that I was of the opinion that more than the 3-year forward programming of wool research was desirable, and I mentioned then 5 years. I am still of that opinion. I also spoke of the lack of detailed analysis of the effectiveness of wool promotion. Since then we have received a report from the International Wool Secretariat. Although I am unhappy with the lack of figures and facts in the report, it is some justification for the promotion activities the IWS undertakes. The reason why the report is not rigorous in its arguments and discussion of its achievements - it is rather descriptive - is that promotion is so often in the non-quantifiable area. This aspect of marketing is of prime significance and I will be devoting time later to this aspect, this subjectiveness.
Officers who have left the International Wool Secretariat informed me that not enough attention is paid to the findings of the men on the ground by London, the headquarters of the IWS. It seems that the International Wool Secretariat calls for more facts and figures from its employees and then tends to justify its own promotion activities without itself using facts and figures. As I said, perhaps we are in a subjective area and there is not much we can do about it. There seem to be many contradictions in the. whole area of wool promotion. One writer, Mr A. S. Watson of the Melbourne University - be was working with the IWS for 3 years - claimed that the promotion policies of the International Wool Secretariat have probably made wool prices more unstable because the IWS has concentrated on making wool appear to be different from and superior to synthetics in a limited section of the market. It is this that has made it more subject to fashion swings. It seems to me that the IWS often in its statements has expressed the thought that high wool prices were a bad thing. In fairness, emphasis on promotion of blends is getting away from this factor. I still believe that a lot more scrutiny has to be applied to wool promotion overseas by Australia.
Another point I made when I spoke on an amendment to this Act previously was that promotion and research should be separated. The Minister for Northern Development and
Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) spelled out the Government’s approach, which emphasises my belief that greater grower contributions will mean more scrutiny on behalf of those paying. As the Government will now contribute only 25 per cent of promotion expenditure, expenditure on research will go up. This is to be welcomed.
Part of the moneys allocated by this Bill relates to the marketing costs of the Australian Wool Corporation. I would like to spend most of my time on the future activities of the Corporation. As honourable members are aware, the Corporation has recently produced a report on the marketing of Australian wool. The matter has been quietly discussed over the past 2 months. In depth public discussion will take place today week at Melbourne University, and this will be followed by a meeting of the Australian Wool Industry Conference on 10 April. The Conference will be asked, among other things, to decide whether growers will be willing to finance the new AWC marketing scheme to some extent if it is agreed to. Discussion that has surfaced on reports so far has shown that many grower organisations favour it, that brokers are divided and that buyers are opposed. The responses have been largely traditional and reasonably expected. The brokers, of course, still have a massive vested interest in the status quo with some $3 26m at present in advances to the industry from the pastoral houses.
At the outset I want to say that I believe the report to be the best produced by the Australian Wool Corporation or its direct predecessors. Although I defer to the knowledge and experience of my colleague, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan), I did not think the report was quite as bad as he thought. When it comes to governmental decisions on the report I believe we will be left with a purely political judgment and a lot of information will be lacking if a political judgment has to be made, because the nub of the report, to my mind, centres on marketing rather than economics, and here we are back in the subjective area. There is a lot in the report that is not objectively substantiated. For example, it is not established clearly that the scheme would improve returns in the long term. Financial requirements are difficult to estimate and are not really estimated. How would grower equity be maintained in the early stages if growers were required to build up reserves and as a consequence some growers might not see this to their future benefit?
Most people would have the scheme described as acquisition, but it is best described as an export marketing system, the fundamental aim of which is to increase the influence the Australian wool industry has over the supply and price of its product. The ownership of all wool destined for export would at some stage prior to export pass to a single marketing authority and this authority would also be required to provide a minimum floor price for wool and effectively control the level and rate of upward price movements. While absolute price stability is said to be neither practical nor desirable, the report contends that price variability needs to be contained through regulation of the sale and distribution of Australian wool.
In broad terms, the operation of the scheme would involve the majority of growers delivering their wool directly to the authority and receiving payment according to a schedule of prices. The authority would be responsible for subsequent disposal of wool and would employ a number of alternative selling methods as well as holding inventories as part of its marketing operations. The need for a change in the existing methods of marketing wool is based on the conclusion that in the 1970s the textile industry entered a new era requiring different marketing techniques. While the report acknowledges that there are many opportunities for improving marketing efficiency without any major restructuring of the industry, it asserts that considerably more influence over the price and supply of raw wool is in the long term interests of wool and is necessary to overcome the main deficiencies in the current system, which are held to be undue price variability from time to time, key users of wool being unable to be assured of the supplies they need at predictable prices, and inadequacies in the transmission back to growers of the types and values of wool needed by the textile industry.
It is not certain whether the report implies that processors in the synthetic area of the textile business possess the ideal for which wool should aim when wool in fact undergoes many processes, or whether the report is a marketing model for any product in a situation of diverse producers and diverse processors. In my own mind there is this contradiction. I have not made up my mind on the report but I would be inclined to say that there is as much going for it as there is against it - which says very little. Although it can be argued that the late 1960s and early 1970s were a unique period in terms of the disastrous downturn and that too much emphasis cannot be placed on this, it could equally be argued that now with better prices and the need for more stability this is the time to act.
There are several areas in the report which cause me concern: firstly, the supply and price variability; second, the problem of second markets; third, the concept of key users; and fourth, finance and the subjectivity of many evaluations of issues that the report discusses. I do not think that it is an economic fact that the market by itself is the main reason for variation in price. It should be pointed out that both supply and price have been problems to wool users only in the past two or three years. Of more significance are relative price and supply variability which are directly related to fashion trends and market shares, that is, wool versus synthetics, in the textile market. The scheme will not attempt to defy market forces but will supposedly resist short term variations. This may be OK in normal conditions but when prices are pushed to particularly high levels, there will be problems of both the payments fixed for the growers and the development of second markets. In trying to predict prices for growers, the Corporation will also be trying to predict end use patterns and the success of firms using wool. That will be extraordinarily difficult. It has more or less indicated that it will be attempting to predict prices 12 to 18 months ahead and I have doubts as to how this operation could be done.
Much of the report is elegantly argued, particularly on inventories, but when questions are asked of it and one reads further, one always tends to get subjective answers. The Corporation would say that it will be able to forestall the possibility of second markets, that the major proportion of price variation is due to the market and that no one will ever eradicate fluctuations. It would also say that there have always been middle men but that wool will remain for the true user in the market. It would say that in asking for proof, one is asking for more than any company does in making a major business marketing decision or a major investment decision. It would say that until it gets into the market place and uses its skill it will never know. The concept of key users in terms of the importance of supply assurance is stressed in the report. Page 77 of the report states: a case exists to change the present system to ensure a wool marketing authority is in a position to exercise significant control over the supply of wool so that, under all circumstances, key sectors of the industry receive an adequate supply of wool at a price determined sufficiently forward to be known at the time fibre selection is made.
But if this policy were applied it would be necessary to identify key users. This would additionally require predictions of corporate success and the role of firms as industry leaders as well as predictions of the relative market position of specific wool end users. Furthermore, it should be noted that the report, on page 4, declares that the most significant decision makers with respect to choice of fibres are the fabric and garment manufacturers. It is not clear how the authority would propose making sure that these users, who are considerably removed from the raw wool stage in the textile pipeline, could be assured of the supplies that they need. It also needs to be noted that the statements concerning allocation, on page 8, and key users, on page 77, seem confusing and, to some extent, contradictory. In particular it is unclear whether it is proposed that in times of allocation key users would continue to get their requirement or be rationed along with all customers. Again we are faced with subjective answers to hypothetical questions if we subject the report to a lot of scrutiny in this area.
In terms of finance, I cannot really see why the Treasury should be all that concerned, but I suppose it will be, as it is already funding a large amount of wool being held by the Corporation. All that really will be needed is government guarantees for the Corporation, and then it may be able to fund itself from the domestic or possibly the international money markets. The allocation of wool and the concomitant inventory of wool that will be needed in any other than normal periods of supply and price will mean that the Corporation must always be able to give the impression that it is in a strong position. It cannot ever be seen to be placed in a weak position because this would put the buyers in a much stronger position.
I think it could be argued that the Corporation will have a low probability of both’ excessive gains and losses and that other than in exceptional periods contingency funds, which may be provided by the industry, would suffice. I am quite sure that the growers will not want a bar of the Corporation if the Government is seen to be directly running the Corporation. Given this, the growers may be prepared to provide these contingency funds or reserves. Some estimates of funds required have been made, and the amount for inventory could go as high as $120m, with possibly only $80m ever being required as a revolving fund. It is about 98 per cent certain, in my opinion, that no more than $300m would ever be needed in the most dire situations, but I would not like anyone to ask me to prove that.
Many growers will ask more selfish questions than the ones I have asked, and many minor technical matters need to be resolved. Unfortunately, I think that these can be resolved only by the scheme getting under way. I have pointed out the main deficiencies that I see in the scheme and also the problem of subjectivity. As a person who believes, along with the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, that more objectivity is possible in wool marketing, perhaps I am being too optimistic about the possible success of the scheme. However, I believe that if the scheme is implemented many of the projections in it could - and I emphasise the word ‘could’ - occur purely and simply because of an attitude of self-fulfilling prophecy. This would occur only if the major consuming countries see merit or advantages in it for themselves and largely co-operate in the first year.
As Japan acts almost as a centrally planned economy and as true centrally planned economies are becoming larger users of wool, there is some hope of acceptance. But this in turn gets back to the question of whether the growers will be prepared to take more risk as a quid pro quo for greater stability. If, when talking of this proposed scheme, we are only ever going to be talking subjectively of a marketing, wheeling-dealing organisation - one which will keep its figures to itself by definition; one which will be working in the market place - and if it is agreed politically that the scheme is worth a go, then we have to be assured that we will have .the personnel. A few key men will be what makes it work or not. So all we need is the wisdom of Solomon and the right men to do the job.
– In rising to speak in this debate which concerns the wool situation, firstly I point out that I am pleased that the Government is carrying on the support to the wool industry in the most important areas of research, promotion - the marketing of the industry - and we support the Government’s action. Looking back at the wool industry in Australia I think that all of us, no matter from which political party we come, realise the importance of the wool industry. Those in Australia who, in the past, have said that Australia has been carried on the sheep’s back have been speaking the truth. The wool industry has been an important industry to Australia, and I believe that it will continue to be important in the future.
The importance of the wool industry can be gauged by what has happened in the economic field in Australia over the last few years. When the rural industries, particularly the wool industry, turned bad a couple of years ago, although we had an excellent government at the time, we experienced an economic downturn that we had not experienced for a number of years. Because of the actions of the Australian Wool Corporation and because of the strong action which the former Federal Government took in supporting the Corporation, the wool industry has picked up today. I do not know whether we can relate this to the prosperity in Australia today, but I believe that it had a lot to do with the present position. Despite the present Federal Government, we find that once again we have a very prosperous Australia.
To me it is very significant that the Federal Government is to continue to support the wool industry. This demonstrates just how important the wool industry is to the Commonwealth of Australia, because, let us face it, in the last 12 months the Federal Government has acted in a very adverse way to every other rural industry in Australia. This point was well and truly made by my colleague the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) and also by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street). I will not go through the sad history of what the Federal Labor Government has done to rural industries in the last 12 months. The continuation of support of the wool industry at almost the same level as the previous Federal
Government provided support is an indication to me that the present Federal Government regards the wool industry as a tremendously important industry.
We know that there is to be increased participation by the farmer and grazier in the proposed scheme for the wool industry, and I believe that it is heartening to find that the industry unanimously said that it was willing to participate in additional expenditure in order to ensure the continuation of the scheme.
– A very responsible attitude.
– Yes. I think it is the type of attitude that all rural industries strive for. A few years ago those engaged in rural industries did stand on their own 2 feet; they would much rather have direct control of their own industries. It is only over the last few years that the situation in Australia has completely changed. There has been a need in Australia to build up secondary industries, and protection, by way of tariffs, was given for this purpose. But we have also found that because of rising costs, fluctuating overseas prices and over-supply in the market a number of our primary industries, which are imperative to our export income earnings and which are the producers of the wealth of the nation, at certain times have had to be assisted in one way or another in order to maintain their stability and growth. One thing that governments have had to do and have done in order to keep the industries viable has been to provide a measure of support for them. As I have indicated, the wool industry is prepared to bear an additional burden which has not been required of it before. It is prepared to do so when it is enjoying a time of prosperity. At this stage of the game one cannot know what will happen to the world price of wool and, if there is a dramatic downturn in price and the 2.75 per cent tax visualised in this legislation does not provide for the levels of research and promotion necessary to carry out the programs, it would be fair enough for the Government to examine the situation again. This was adverted to by the honourable member for Corangamite, who led for the Opposition in this debate.
During the last four years the wool industry has been through an adverse period. I shall not dwell on this aspect because all honourable members are aware of it. Even though the prices for wool, grain and meat have picked up, this is not an easy time for most rural producers. The prices enjoyed over the last 18 months have been of great value to the farmer and the country and have provided a tremendous incentive to the rural industries, but those prices have not prevailed sufficiently long. Farming is a long term operation. To visualise one season of good prices wiping out all rural debt and the backlog of troubles through which rural industries have passed is not on. One swallow certainly does not make a summer. One needs only to look at the amount of rural debt today to realise that rural industry has a long way to go to get its nose in front, which is the position in which we would like to see it. Many honourable members have enlarged on the present taxation system and the way the Federal Government’s policies have reacted against rural industries, although the Government will not admit it. I believe that the wool industry has shown a great degree of responsibility in accepting the increased charges without qualms at this moment; but it has worries for the future. I would expect the Government to take this factor into consideration if there is a great downturn in wool prices.
– -Naturally, I rise to support this Bill which indicates that the Government is appreciative of the remarkable and unique part that the wool industry plays in Australia’s economy. Rural industries, in fact, are responsible for 50 per cent of our export income, and wool accounts for 40 per cent of that. As has been said, this last season was excellent for the wool industry; so much so that the total income to growers for 1973-74 will be of the order of $ 1,200m. This will be distributed throughout the economy. All honourable members are glad that this is so and that the price held up sufficiently to provide this sort of return after two or three disastrous years. In excess of 60,000 Australian wool growers will share this total income. This season the total rural exports of Australia will approximate $3,000m, which emphasises the tremendous part rural industries play in our economy.
I turn now to some of the comments made by honourable members concerning this legislation. It always amazes me that whenever a Country Party member rises to speak he looks for something on which to bash the Government - something to criticise and to gripe, moan and grizzle about. Country Party members must be Australia’s greatest grizzlers although I join with them the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) who is the expert. In my years in this House I have never known an Opposition which has been so negative, destructive and bitter and so lacking in ideas as the present Opposition. Honestly, most Country Party members - not all of them, for I exclude the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) and the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) who are tolerant men - would, if given a suit of clothes for Christmas, grizzle about its colour. They would find something wrong with it.
– They would not like maroon suits.
– The suits would have to be made of wool, of course; but they would grizzle about something. That is a terrible attitude to adopt in this Parliament.
This is an excellent Bill. What is it all about? The Government proposes a few changes with respect to payments for research and promotion for the wool industry. Up to the present the Government has paid SO per cent of the promotion costs and SO per cent of the research costs. This is being changed in a most interesting way. The Government will provide onequarter of the promotion costs and the industry three-quarters. But the Government will even that up by altering the payments with respect to research; Three-quarters of the total cost of research will be provided from Government sources and one-quarter will be paid by the industry.
– That will not even it up.
– It may not quite, but if the honourable member wants to grizzle about $400,000 from a total income of $ 1,200m he is splitting straws. He would be the best straw splitter in this place.
– The difference is millions. I am pointing out that it is not an equal split.
– The honourable member’s arithmetic is very bad. I shall give the total amounts. In the 3 years from 1974 to 1977 the Government will be providing a total of $6 1.4m and the industry a total of $8Sm.
– That is a bit different from $400,000.
– They are the total amounts that will be committed by both groups in the program. The industry has approved this pro posal. Country Party members do not even read the reports of the Wool Industry Conference which has agreed to the changes the Government has proposed in the allocations. They grizzle and gripe; yet the industry is on our side, not their side. That is a change, is it not? They think they have all the growers in their pocket. They think they have every farmer in Australia in their pocket. But they will come a thud. The farmers are not all with the Country Party.
– We will have more than you at the next elections.
– We will see about that. At any rate, that is the main change contemplated by this Bill. The wool tax is to be increased by 0.35 per cent to 2.75 per cent for the next year. As the original Act provides for a maximum rate of tax of 3 per cent the proposal is still well below the maximum rate at 2.75 per cent. Any surplus from this tax is to be paid to the Wool Research Trust Fund, where it will be carried forward to help finance expenditure in future years. I suppose honourable members opposite thought that the Government would pocket that excess, but it will not do so. The excess will go back to the industry through the Trust Fund. This is a very good decision. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) who introduced this Bill said:
It is the intention of the Government that the question of Government assistance in rural research and promotion generally -will be referred to the Industries Assistance Commission. The Government’s policy in relation to the continuation of assistance for wool research and promotion beyond June 1977 will be determined in the light of the report of the Commission.
I sincerely hope that this new Commission will have settled down by then and will know where it is going in respect of rural industries. I hope that it will not be responsible for altering adversely Government decisions contained in this legislation.
– I hope that it will look at promotion, too.
– I hope that the Commission will look at promotion. What I really hope is that the Commission has the expertise to look at these things. I am still very suspicious of the IAC. When it comes to rural industries I wonder whether the Commission knows the difference between a bag of wheat and a bag of oats. The Commission consists of a brand new team. I do not know of any champion rural man on that team. I shall be watching the activities of the Commission with great interest. It could be that the reference of the superphosphate subsidy question to the Commission may result in a dead end. I hope that this is not so. But 1 have great suspicions about the Commission’s capacity to handle the rural industry. As the Minister pointed out in his second reading speech, the Government intends to refer the question of Government assistance in the field of rural research and promotion to the IAC. But I hope that the Commission does not dismantle some of the provisions made by this Government in regard to research and promotion. I hope that the Commission will recommend that the allocations should be increased and not decreased.
The next point I want to mention is that the Government in this legislation and in other ways recognises the tremendous importance of wool in the rural and national economy. Secondly, the Government recognises the urgency of a continuing research program. We cannot afford to be blase or over-confident about the place or future of wool in the national economy or in consumer demand. To slacken our research program because we may think wool is eternal or that our total production will always be sold automatically and inevitably, would be the beginning of the end for the industry. Research therefore must be a continuing, vital program. I would like to refer to a submission compiled by the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council dated February 1974. Under the heading ‘Production Research’ at page 26 of this excellent report the Council, in paying a tribute to Australian agricultural research workers which it claims are pre-eminent in the world - and I will go along with that - states:
Their efforts have enabled huge technological gains in the fields of pasture improvement, plant breeding, plant and animal nutrition, pasture establishment and management, soil chemistry, animal genetics and animal reproduction.
That is a summary of what has been going on in the field of production research. We must continue this research all the time because, like death, disease will never be beaten. Research will still be needed in this country in a thousand years because disease in sheep and cattle and the like will never be beaten. Germs inhabit animals just as they inhabit humans. This Government recognises that although there has been progress in this field there will always be a need for research.
The Government has recognised the paramount importance of promotion in wool production and marketing programs. For instance, I believe it would be suicidal and disastrous to spend >millions of dollars on production and research and to neglect promotion and marketing. What we produce in quality and quantity must be sold. Wool has had a remarkable record in that we have been able to sell all of our production. But had we not had a research and promotion program we would not have sold all of our production. This production would not have been sold automatically just because it was wool or just because it was wool that came from Australia. It is misleading to say that we have sold our wool in total year by year if we do not pay a tribute at the same time to the fact that the promotion activities of the International Wool Secretariat and other groups have made it possible to get rid of our total production. If we did not sell this wool then our economy would be truncated. What we have to sell must be publicised, advertised and promoted with continuing vigour, expertise and dedication.
I pay tribute tonight to the International Wool Secretariat. Mr Maiden, the Managing Director of the International Wool Secretariat, has addressed our Primary Industry Committee. I have great faith in him and I pay tribute to his knowledge of the industry and his work in the International Wool Secretariat. When one reads the report introduced by Mr A. C. B. Maiden entitled: ‘Wool Promotion - its Role, Cost and Effectiveness’, one has a feeling of pride that we have people working overseas in many countries on behalf of our wool growers. This is a fantastic document. I do not have time to read all of it to honourable members, but I would just like to mention what the report has to say about the role of the Commission in respect of promotional activity. The report states that activities in this area include:
The development of processes and treatments to improve the performance of wool during manufacture, to impart improved characteristics to wool products, to make wool more economical to process and to develop new products offering additional outlets for wool.
The provision of technical services to manufacturers, so that they can make the best possible use of new and existing technology and can incorporate desirable properties or treatments in wood products.
The provision of styling and f ashion services to wool users to stimulate the use of wool in highly competitive products.
The creation of marketing programs which ensure that manufacturers make the best use of those services and that retailers stock the product in their stores and market them effectively.
Quality control and licensing operations to make sure that products conform to specifications and performance standards and are identified on the shop counter by a distinctive and trustworthy label.
Advertising directed both at consumers (to see that the public is aware of the wool goods which are on offer in the shops, to stimulate demand and to foster consumer preference for wool goods) and at processors and distributors (to persuade them of the advantages of tying in their efforts with IWS promotional cover).
The person, group or firm that does not advertise is like a boy winking at his girl in the dark. He knows what he is doing but nobody else does. That is a fact; members of the Country Party should try it sometimes and see what sort of response they get. It is true that if one does not advertise one is winking in the dark and no one knows what is happening.
Someone asked the IWS: ‘Why promote at ali when wool sells so readily? Is not advertising largely a waste of money?’ Of course it is not. Only a fool would say that. I do not think that growers are fools. Growers in dozens of countries have been spending money on promotional activities. The Secretariat on page 4 of its report states:
At present, we are involved in the commercial introduction and promotion of a number of major advances in technology, including full machine washability; with shrink resistance and much faster colours, and methods of achieving improved flame resistance in wool carpets and fabrics.
The report further on states:
At the same time, however, one of the most basic lessons from the wool industry’s experience in demand promotion has been that research findings and technological advances rarely find their way into widespread application in the textile and clothing industries without promotional support
If one has something new one has to sell it. In order to do this one has to promote and advertise that product. The report continues:
Without advertising there is every chance that the improved produce will fail to be manufactured or sold, or will fail to achieve quantity production soon enough to survive, thus wasting the funds invested in research and development.
If people do not market properly or promote properly they will be last in the selling race. The report goes on to give the countries where Australian wool has been sold. Part II of the report states: ‘IWS Promotion Campaigns in Action’. Some of the figures are quite remark able. For instance, Germany has had success with ‘Country Look’ styles. The report states:
In the first season, 1969, one million running metres of ‘Country Look’ fabric was produced. This was pushed up to 8 million running metres in the autumn-winter season of 1971.
The report states that in 3 years the IWS directly accounted for the use of 19.1 million lb of wool in Germany including 10 million lb from New Zealand. As a result of this fashion based promotion, 60 German weaving firms are now producing fabrics for 500 garment manufacturers collaborating in the Country Look’ project. Another heading in the report is: ‘Austria: Revival for a Traditional Fabric’. Under the heading: ‘France and Italy: Style Boosts Wool Sales’ the report states:
In 1970, there were 30 garment manufacturers involved producing 60,000 ‘Woolstyle’ garments and in 1971 the output rose to 200,000 garments.
The report continues:
The Italian branch of IWS has used ‘Wool Trends International’ designs from the International Wool Fashion Office to achieve remarkable results based on style.
The Italian branch has increased its garment sales to 346,000 metres of pure new wool cloth. Other headings in the report are: ‘United States: Superwash Stimulates Single Jersey’ and Japan: Old Barrier is Removed’. There has been a worry about the washability of wool. This has now been solved and ‘Woolmark’ wash cycles are now incorporated in 70 per cent of the output of the Japanese manufacturers.
The United States again has done a lot with crimp in carpet. Special wool has been produced in Australia for the production of carpets in the United States. Fifty major carpet retailers have sold more than 80,000 square yards of Australian made carpets. Every one of these stories in every country shows a remarkable increase in the last 12 months to 2 years in the use of Australian wool in various forms. I pay a tribute to the International Wool Secretariat for its tremendous promotional campaign and the success of it overseas. For instance, the IWS now has 12,998 licences in 39 countries - 500 more than last year. It started with no licences in 1964. In the first 7 years of the ‘Woolmark* label campaign $13,000m worth of textiles used the ‘Woolmark’ label. That fact in itself tells a tremendous story of success. I repeat that in 7 years $13,000m worth of textiles have used the Woolmark* label which was introduced in 1964. I believe that this legislation, with its concentration on research, promotion and marketing research and in new end products, is a tribute to those who designed it and brought the legislation to us. I know that the industry itself is in favour of it.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hallett) adjourned.
Bill - by leave- presented by Mr Hayden, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill more than honours the Government’s commitment to provide bi-annual increases of at least $1.50 per week in the basic pension rate until it reaches 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. I mention at this stage how much I appreciate the co-operation of the Opposition, and in particular the spokesman for the Opposition in matters of social security, who has agreed that the Bill should be introduced tonight and should proceed through this House into the Senate.
The Bill also makes allowance for financial assistance for certain persons outside Australia not qualified to receive an Australian social service pension and provides for payment of child endowment, pensions and similar long term benefits to the credit of savings accounts with approved credit unions and also the payment of pensions and similar long term benefits to the credit of bank accounts, as has been the case with child endowment since its introduction in 1941. Honourable members will recall that when I introduced the Social Services Bill (No. 4) on 11 September 1973 I said that the Australian Government was determined to achieve its goal of a standard rate pension of 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings and, if necessary, the pension increase for the autumn session would be greater than $1.50 per week. After due consideration of all the factors we have decided that increases considerably in excess of $1.50 are justified. The standard rate of pension for aged persons, invalids, widows and supporting mothers is to be increased by $3 per week to $26 per week. The married rate is to be increased by $2.50 per week to $22.75 per week, or from $40.50 to $45.50 per week for a couple.
By any measure these increases are the most generous in pensions in Australia for more than 20 years. In absolute money terms they are the highest increases awarded since age pensions were introduced over 60 years ago. Unemployment and sickness benefits rates will also be increased in keeping with the Government’s policy of a common benefit rate for all pensions and for unemployment and sickness benefits. The rate of unemployment or sickness benefit payable to unmarried persons is to be increased by $3 per week to $26 per week. The rate payable to married persons is to be increased by $2.50 per week to $22.75 per week and the rate of additional benefit payable in respect of a dependent spouse is also to be increased by $2.50 per week to $22.75 per week. The proposed pensior increases will flow to persons receiving sheltered employment allowances and rehabilitation allowances. These allowances are also payable under the provisions of the Social Services Act.
Let me give some examples of the effects of the proposed increases in rates. A class A widow or a supporting mother will receive a basic pension or benefit of $26 a week, together with a mother’s allowance of $4 a week and additional pension of $5 a week for each child in her care. As all honourable members are well aware the rate of mothers allowance is increased to $6 a week if she has a child under six or one who is an invalid. Thus a mother with 3 children over 6 years of age will now receive a maximum pension of $45 a week; this amount would be $47 a week if she were entitled to the higher rate of mother’s allowance. The same rate of pension will be payable to a single age or invalid pensioner with children. Moreover, if the pensioner or supporting mother is paying rent, the rate of pension or benefit may be further increased by $4 a week supplementary assistance. A married pensioner couple will also qualify to supplement the basic married rate of pension for $45.50 a week by an additional $5 for each child in their care.
I should mention that whenever the basic rate of pension is increased it has the effect of raising the limits of income and property at which pensions cease to be payable, thus enabling many people who are excluded from pension entitlement to qualify for the first time. As a result of the proposed increases a single person without property affecting his pension will retain some pension entitlement until his income reaches $72 a week. A single pensioner without other income will be eligible to receive some pension until the value of his non-exempt property reaches $37,840. For a married couple the equivalent limits of income and property will be $125.50 a week and $66,060 respectively.
A widow with one child and no property affecting will now be able to receive income of up to $96 a week before losing her entitlement to widow’s pension, or up to $100 df her child is under 6 years of age or an invalid child requiring full-time care. If she has no income affecting, a widow with one child may have property to the value of $43,600, or $45,680 if her child is under 6 years of age or an invalid requiring fulltime care, before her entitlement to widow’s pension is extinguished. These pension increases will mean that single people with income of between $66 and $72 a week and with no property affecting will now qualify for part pensions for the first time. They were previously just outside the field of eligibility. Married couples with income between $115.50 and $125.50 a week, and with no property affecting, will also now qualify for part pensions for the first time. There will be a corresponding widening of the field of eligibility for people whose means consist of property rather than income, or of a combination of both.
The new standard rate of pension will be 22.57 per cent of average weekly male earnings, seasonally adjusted for the December quarter 1973, of $115.20 a week. For married couples, the new combined pension rate will represent 39.5 per cent of average weekly earnings. Let us reflect that when this Government took office 15 months ago, the standard rate of pension was 20 per cent of seasonally adjusted average weekly earnings. In other words, half-way through our first term in Government, we have passed the half-way mark towards achieving our goal of raising the basic pension to equal 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. Moreover, the percentage that the pension rate will represent of seasonally adjusted average weekly earnings will be the highest it has reached since 1950 for the December quarter, the latest for which figures of average weekly earnings are available. We know, however, that pension increases - even record pension increases such as we now propose - are only part of the answer to the problem of how to improve the quality of life of the less privileged in our community. I can promise the House, Mr Speaker, that we will not be content merely with lifting the basic pension to a quarter of average weekly earnings. We will not then sit back and congratulate ourselves that what we have promised, we have done.
Searching inquiries into various aspects of our social security programs and allied fields are currently being undertaken by a number of expert bodies set up by the Government for the purpose. As their reports become available, I can assure honourable members that the reports will be given most careful consideration. Before leaving pensions and turning to another of the progressive steps introduced by this Bill, I would like to give the lie to some rather snide comment which I am sure all honourable members will have noticed in the Press recently. I have seen cartoons, and other comment, which imply that old people would be better not to get married - to ‘live in sin’ as I have seen it distastefully expressed - because the single rate of pension is higher than the rate paid to each partner of a married couple. With the present increases, the standard rate of pension, at $26 a week, will represent 57.1 per cent of the $45.50 payable to a pensioner couple. I am sure that on this occasion, honourable members opposite will join me in deploring this sort of irresponsible comment. The allegations I have spoken of are simply not true. The reason for granting a higher rate of pension to a single person is that a married couple can share the costs of daytoday living whereas a single person needs a relatively higher rate in order to enjoy the same living standard.
In continuing to award differential pension increases, the Government has maintained a policy which has been followed in Australia for many years and is an almost universal feature of overseas pension schemes, lt has been alleged that this differential amounts to a financial penalty on marriage. This allegation goes too far. Two single people could not beat the system by simply living together as man and wife. We could not countenance this. Our view, and that of our predecessors in office, was that a couple who live together in this way are, in effect, married, and they are treated accordingly by the Department of Social Security. I am talking about a male and a female in a de facto relationship. I am in no way reflecting a moralising attitude. It merely represents a realistic appreciation of the facts of the situation for what they are. I hope we will see no more of this nonsense in the Press.
I now return to the provisions of the Bill before the House. Honourable members will recall that in June last year the Social Services Act was amended to provide for the payment of pensions generally overseas to pensioners who left Australia after the legislation came into operation, that is, from 8 May 1973. This legislation did not rely, as did the provisions of the law which it superseded, on the conclusion of reciprocal agreements. Its basis rested on the principle that, having qualified for a pension in Australia, a pensioner was entitled to continued payment on leaving Australia, wherever he chose to live.
In our considerations associated with the introduction of portability of pensions generally, the Government became aware of individual cases of people overseas who had left Australia before 8 May 1973 and had lived here for long periods. These people could not satisfy the conditions for payment overseas and are suffering hardship. This Government, being a responsible and compassionate Government, saw the need to provide financial assistance to relieve hardship of such people. Accordingly, it is proposed to amend the Social Services Act to enable the grant of pensions to people overseas who are in special need and who would, if they were in Australia, be entitled to pensions. This will apply to applicants who have lived in Australia for a total of 30 years and left the country after reaching age pension age or were within 5 years of reaching age pension age at the time of departure. The 30-year residence qualification will not apply to people who became permanently incapacitated for work or widows in Australia. In anticipation of Parliament’s approval of this proposed measure, we are at present providing pensions in these sorts of circumstances on an act of grace basis.
I now leave pensions and address my remarks to other features of the progressive Bill before the House. At present child endowment is paid either by cheque each four weeks or by credit to a bank account at 12-weekly intervals. It is proposed that payment of child endowment be made to the credit of savings accounts with approved credit unions. An approved credit union would be one registered under the law of a State or of the Australian Government. Preparations will be made to introduce this new method of payment for child endowment later this year. Although initially it will be possible to pay only child endowment to credit union accounts, eventually the new provisions will extend to other payments under’ the Social Services Act which will include all pensions, supporting mother’s benefit, sheltered employment allowance and rehabilitation allowance. There will also be provision for the payment of pensions and similar long term benefits to the credit of bank accounts.
– Long overdue.
– I appreciate the comment of the honourable member for Barton who in fact contributed much to this decision. Honourable members will know, of course, that child endowment may already be paid in this way. Initially it appears that only a 12-weekly credit service will be available for pensions. However, negotiations are continuing with the banks and I hope that a more frequent payment cycle can be obtained.
There is a little matter I would like to raise here before I conclude. At least, it seems a trivial issue in so far as the Opposition is concerned for they never address themselves to it, namely, what is their policy on pensions? Do they commit themselves to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings for the basic rate of pension? If they do of course we congratulate them on arriving at this goal - behind us. After 23 years of government they could not identify it. After 15 months of opposition they have been able to discover it, if in fact this is the case. They have been most painstaking as an Opposition in indicating to us as a Government ways in which we can improve every conceivable aspect of public administration. But they made little effort to remedy these defects when they were a government.
They are far more valuable to the country in Opposition than they ever were in Government. In Opposition they can see the defects of past administrations of their political colour, but could you trust them to be as active in Government again? They have a split personality. They showed that in their 23 years of government they did little and they especially neglected the pensioner. If ever they were to return to government they would revert to type. In Opposition they are at least noisy and critical even if they are not constructive.
But let me pose the question again: What is their policy on pensions? Their then leader as Prime Minister at the last election said that pensions, if his Government at that time had been returned, . would ‘be increased in line with increases in the consumer price index’. He added: ‘The adjustment will be automatic every half year’. Now let us get to the nitty gritty of this promise. What would “it have really meant for the pensioner? The first thing that the community must bear in mind and that pensioners must be especially aware of is that the consumer price index increases at a much slower rate than for instance, average weekly earnings. When we came to office in December 1972 the standard or single rate of pension was $20 a week. Between the December quarter 1972 and the December quarter 1973 the consumer price index, seasonally adjusted, increased by only 13 per cent per year, compared with average weekly earnings increasing in the same comparable period by over 15 per cent.
A 13 per cent increase in that $20 would mean that today, the third occasion on which, if a Liberal-Country Party government had been re-elected, it would have increased the pension rate since the 1972 election, the pension would stand at $22.64 for the standard rate pension. The increases in the pension rate for which we have responsibility today are not only greater than the increases in the consumer price index; they are also twice as great as the rate of increase in average weekly earnings which was even greater than the movement in the consumer price index. The standard rate will now stand at $26, a 30 per cent increase over the rate which existed at the time we came to office, a rate of increase far greater than either that which would be contributed by merely tying the pension movement to the consumer price index or even to the average weekly earning movements.
Let me put it in another way: In cold hard money terms pensioners are nearly $3 a week better off under Labor than under the cautious proposals of the Liberal-Country Party. Do the Liberals and the Country Party still stand behind the proposal put forward by their last Prime Minister or do they endorse Labor’s program of 25 per cent of average weekly earnings as their goal for the standard rate of pension? It is our goal. We have committed ourselves to it. We have expressed it and we have no intention of revoking it. We are proceeding towards achieving it. At the halfway mark now in our first term of office we have proceeded past the halfway mark in achieving this goal.
Of course now the Liberals are languishing in the irresponsibility of the sort of Opposition they present. They present that Opposition in a way which has not been seen in this Parliament for more than 2 decades. They will probably give a quick hip fire response of an even more generous nature than we are proposing when they are pressed as to what their program really is on pensions. However, they have not outlined it yet. However, the important thing is for them to discover where they do stand, what their commitment really is on this, and then let them explain their target date and their costings - the same sort of difficulty and rigorous disciplines we had to undergo as we developed our policies in Opposition.
We want to know the price to the taxpayer of the Opposition as a proposed government. Our policies were responsible in Opposition, a claim proved by their practicability now and the support they received in 1972. The country needs a responsible Opposition today so that it can benefit from a clear analysis of, and from constructive challenges to, the nation’s administration. It is good for the Government; it is good for the public. Now is the time for the Opposition to respond to this great public need. Now is the time for the Opposition to give an undeviating commitment that we will never have a regression to the sort of treatment pensioners knew in the past where on 6 occasions under LiberalCountry Party administration there was no increase at all - not a brass farthing in pensions - for more than a full calendar year. I scarcely need’ remind “honourable members that not only are we committed to achieving 25 per cent of average weekly earnings as a standard rate of pension, but also that we will have eliminated the means test by the 1975 Budget. We will take the second-last step in our next budget and we will assuredly eliminate the means test for age pensions over 65 in our 1975 budget.
I should like to make one or two quick comments in relation to the payment of and eligibility for unemployment benefits. There has been considerable misrepresentation and a determined effort by some of the less enlightened people in the Opposition and in parties of the same political colour in State parliaments to create in the public mind a belief that there are large numbers of people who are wrongly receiving unemployment benefits. The fact is that there is a fairly stringent work test applied by both the Department of Labour and the Department of Social Security to ensure eligibility for unemployment benefits. I mentioned this afternoon during question time that a sample survey which was commissioned has been completed and submitted to the national poverty inquiry relating to the pattern of long term beneficiaries of unemployment benefits and the definition of ‘long term’ covered people who had been receiving unemployment benefits for 6 weeks or more. The evidence is overwhelming that there is a clear need for social engineering in this area and there is a need for the support of great numbers of people who are receiving unemployment benefits either because they are inadequately equipped to handle the stresses and challenges of our society or because they need retraining or assistance in re-location. The proportion of people who could possibly be identified as wrongly exploiting the system is insignificantly small.
I would remind honourable members that until we came into office, it was part of a conscious policy pursued by previous LiberalCountry Party governments to maintain unemployment benefits at a depressed level so that there would be enormous financial pressure and social stress on families - the people who had to live in the inadequate rate of benefit - to go and take any sort of work at all, no matter whether it was of a lower status than that which they normally pursued. This was not true in all cases. For instance, it certainly was not true in the case of professional and semi-professional people who not only were better treated but in fact also had a separate section at the employment office of the Department of Labour and National Service as it then was catering for their needs. I believe it was called the ‘Higher Employments Section’ of that Department.
However, people who are less happily placed in our society - the skilled tradesman, the semi-skilled worker, the completely unskilled worker and the case which should give us the most concern, that of the unskilled and inadequate in terms of handling the pressures of our society - received much less favoured treatment and were subjected to a work test which I can term only as one which imposed indignity on them. Many of them were forced against their better judgment and often against their values to take employment which was quite unsatisfactory for them. All of these points have been detailed in that sample survey which has been submitted to the poverty inquiry and I repeat that I hope that very soon I can release that report so that we can kill some of this most obnoxious, unfair and in too many cases thoroughly dishonest misrepresentation which has been broadcast in the community in an effort to discredit the development of a comprehensive system of social security benefits and social welfare services which are based on a truly liberal philosophy in which the dignity of the individual is respected and his right to self-realisation and achievement in society is fostered in every reasonable sort of way.
Of course we will not tolerate the ‘bludgers’, as they have been termed in the Press in recent times, and of course we want to encourage people to go back into the work force. But we will not impose the horrid sort of repression that was an essential part of the philosophy behind unemployment benefits until Labor achieved office. It is a notorious fact that, until Labor achieved office, unemployment benefits in this country were well below the updated poverty line established in the 1966 survey by the Melbourne University. In the words of Professor Downing in his role as a senior office bearer of the Melbourne University Institute of Applied Economic Research, the treatment of people on unemployment benefits in those days was a national scandal and disgrace.
The Labor Party has always been proud of its public identification as the party of conscience and of moral concern. Its achievements in social welfare services and benefits to date, in really such a short time, are so significant and are such an advance on what has gone before that the public confidence and respect in identifying the Labor Party in this way is clearly well placed. In accordance with the usual practice, it is proposed that the pension increases provided under this Bill will operate from and including the pay days following royal assent. The increases in unemployment and sickness benefits will, as usual, operate in respect of the benefit week ending on the date of royal assent and each benefit week thereafter.
The cost of the pension and benefit increases is expected to be $222m per annum or$50m for 1973-74. The estimate of$50m for the remainder of this year has been based on the assumption that payments of the proposed pension increases will date from 18 April in the case of age and invalid pensions and from 23 April in the case of widow pensions. I again place on record my genuine appreciation of the complete co-operation of the honourable member for Hotham in arranging the progress of this Bill through this House tonight and through the Senate tomorrow. If the Parliament can pass this Bill quickly - it appears that it can do so through the co-operation I have mentioned - we will be able to make the increases effective from earlier pay days, in which event the estimated cost for 1973-74 will be of the order of$60m. If it proves impracticable actually to pay the increases on the first relevant pay days after the legislation receives royal assent, arrears will be made available subsequently. I am sure that all honourable members will consider this expenditure well justified in terms of the manifest improvements in social security introduced by this Bill. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Chipp) adjourned.
Bill - byleave - presented by Mr Barnard, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, in little more than a year the Government has done more for repatriation pensioners than any other previous government did. The Bill currently before the House is designed to give legislative effect to further improvements in pension rates to bring them in line with or move them towards the levels promised by the Government. In fact the special (T & PI) rate will again be equal to the adult Australian minimum wage and the general rate will now move further towards 50 per cent of that wage. There will also be substantial increases in pensions payable to war widows. In addition to the increases in war pensions, there will also be increases in Service pension rates that flow automatically from proposals that my colleague the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has already announced.
The opportunity will be taken in this Bill to abolish the payment of special compensation allowance which was introduced by the previous Government in 1968 and which this Government considers to be an anomaly in the present pensioning structure. Provision has been made in the Bill to permit members of repatriation boards to be appointed or reappointed for a specific period not exceeding 2 years. Currently, members of boards cannot hold office for a term of less than 2 years. This has created problems where it has been necessary to appoint members for short terms. The Bill will not affect the tenure of office of members of boards holding office before the commencement of the new provision. The Bill also provides that in future the salaries and allowances paid to members of statutory authorities set up under the Repatriation Act will be fixed by the Remuneration Tribunal established under the Remuneration Tribunals Act. At present the members of these bodies receive such remuneration as is determined by the Governor-General. The amendments made by the Bill preserve the existing salaries of these persons pending a determination by the Tribunal. I will now outline to the House in more detail the increases proposed and the other provisions of the Bill.
The Special Rate War Pension
This Bill provides for an increase of $4.50 a week in the special (T and PI) rate, taking it from $55.60 to $60.10 a week, once again bringing this class of pension to the current level of the adult minimum wage. The special (T and PI) rate pension is also payable to the war blinded, certain sufferers from pulmonary tuberculosis and to those who are temporarily totally incapacitated. About 20,000 will receive the proposed increase of $4.50 a week at a cost of $4. 3m in a full year. I might add that war pensioners are not subject to income tax, so that the real value of the special rate is in excess of equivalent earnings. In addition, some pensioners may also be eligible for the recreation transport allowance, the attendant’s allowance and certain other fringe benefits. Therefore, the weekly income of these pensioners is well in excess of the net value of the minimum wage after tax.
The Intermediate Rate War Pension
The intermediate rate pension is designed to compensate those who, because of service related incapacity, are able to work only part time or intermittently. It is proposed to increase this pension by $2.25 a week, taking it from $38.80 to $41.05 a week.
The General Rate Pension
The policy of the Government is that the general rate pension should be equivalent to 50 per cent of the minimum wage. The proposed increase in this pension will take its level closer to our goal. It should be remembered that about 190,000 ex-servicemen and women receive their pension under this rate at percentages ranging from 10 to 100. Consequently, while it is the intention of the Government to restore the value of this pension, it must be done progressively. As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, in the last 15 months, the general rate will have been increased on 3 occasions. This is in marked contrast to the record of the previous Government, which left this particular pension unchanged for 8 years.
The Bill provides for an increase in this rate of $3 a week from $19 a week to $22 a week at the 100 per cent level. There will be corresponding increases at lower levels. The cost of this increase for a full year will be $ 12.3m. As I mentioned earlier, in conjunction with these increases it is proposed to abolish the special compensation allowance. Although most pensioners currently receiving this allowance at the maximum rate did not receive an increase in the Budget and will not under this Bill, I should mention that they will not suffer any reduction in the amount of compensation they presently receive. After the allowance has been eliminated, they will thereafter participate in general rate increases in the same way as all other general rate pensioners.
The War Widow’s Pension
The Government’s program in this area is to ensure that, by means of progressive increases, a war widow is adequately compensated for the loss of her breadwinner as a result of service related causes. As a further step in our program it is proposed in this Bill to increase the war widow’s pension rate by $3 a week from $23 a week to $26 a week. As honourable members are aware, a war widow may also receive a domestic allowance if she has a child, including a student child, or if she is 50 years of age or is permanently unemployable. Approximately 97 per cent of war widows receive the domestic allowance, which is currently payable at $9.50 a week. I should also like to point out to honourable members that, in addition to the war widow’s pension and the domestic allowance, about 21,000 war widows also receive part age or invalid pensions. The cost in a full year of the proposed increase in the basic war widow’s pension will be $7.9m, affecting approximately 50,000 widows.
Service Pensions Generally
The proposed increases in age and invalid pensions foreshadowed by my colleague the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) will, under the provisions of the Repatriation Act 1920-1973, automatically flow on to Service pensions. There is no necessity to amend the Repatriation Act to provide for the proposed increases of $3 a week for a single person and $2.50 a week for each of a married couple. The proposed increases will take the maximum Service pension to $26 a week for a single person and to a combined total of $45.50 a week for a married couple. The cost of these increases will be $13.4m for a full year.
Date of Effect
The Bill provides that the increased rates of payment will be effected from the first pension pay after royal assent.
Cost of Increased Pensions
The total cost of increases to which I have referred is estimated to be $8.8m for the remainder of this financial year.
The Bill appropriates the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the extent necessary to provide during the current year the additional payments to which it gives effect. It gives me considerable pleasure to introduce this legislation. It represents further steps in the Government’s program adequately to compensate those who have served in the defence force of this country and their dependants. Contrary to continuing and unfounded rumours, the Bill confirms the Government’s continuing and vital interest in the welfare of those who have served their country. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Chipp) adjourned.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek some guidance from the Government. What is the next Bill to be debated? The Opposition has bent over backwards -today to co-operate with the Government to get the Social Services Bill 1974 through this chamber and presented to the Senate tonight for early passage to give pensioners an opportunity to enjoy the increased pension rate 2 weeks earlier. The Opposition has done that at great personal inconvenience. Many honourable members on this side of the House have declined to speak on the Social Services Bill, although they wanted to speak on it, in order to get the Bill through this chamber. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) has just walked into the House and has taken up 10 minutes of the time of the House on making a second reading speech on the Repatriation Bill although he knows that, because of the Standing Orders debate on any legislation will have to cease at 10.30 p.m. tonight. I asked the simple question: Is there going to be a cognate debate? I was told no. Who is running the show on the other side of the chamber? The Opposition is prepared to co-operate, but what does the Government want? The Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) is now presumably to make a second reading speech on the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill 1974, which is not listed on the blue notice paper. Does the Government want that Bill to be debated and passed tonight or does it want the Social Services Bill to be debated and passed tonight or does it want nothing to be debated and passed tonight? Will someone please tell us and we will co-operate?
– If the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) sits down I will tell him. He is taking up the time of the House unnecessarily. I appreciate the co-operation that has been shown by the Opposition in relation to the legislation which has been introduced tonight. The honourable member knows that the Bills which have been introduced tonight are complementary Bills and that it will be necessary to get the Repatriation Bill 1974 through at the same time as the Social Services Bill 1974. The Bill that the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) is about to introduce is the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill 1974. Again, it is complementary to the Repatriation Bill. The Government appreciates the co-operation that has been shown in this respect. I believe that there are honourable members on both sides of the House who agree that the procedure which I have suggested should be followed, that is, that the debate on each Bill should be adjourned and that each Bill should be taken separately, except in the case of the last 2 Bills, namely, the Repatriation Bill and the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill, which can be taken concurrently.
– Then what is the point in making a second reading speech tonight? The Government could have got the first Bill through tonight if it had not gone on with this useless exercise.
– We will get the lot. The Government appreciates the Opposition’s co-operation.
– The Government will not get the lot through by asking for 3 Bills to be debated and passed in 10 minutes.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The House will now proceed to the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Charles Jones, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill relates closely to the Repatriation Bill. It is to give effect, so far as seamen and their dependants coming under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act are concerned, to Government decisions that provide for further increases in war pensions and allowances to be made early in the present sittings. It also gives effect to the Budget decision to abolish the special compensation allowance for a serious incapacity, and removes from the Act the power to prescribe the remuneration of members of the Seamen’s Pensions and Allowances Committees, in consequence of the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973.
Under the Bill the existing intermediate rate of war pension is to be increased by $2.25 a week to $41.05 a week. This is the rate paid to seriously disabled persons whose war caused incapacities render them incapable of working other than on a part time basis or intermittently. The Bill also increases the general rate pension in respect of Australian mariners by a further $3 a week to $22 a week and the war widow’s pension also by a further $3 a week to $26 a week. The Bill does not have to provide for the increase of $4.50 a week in the special (TPI) rate, which brings it to $60.10, or for various increases in the weekly amounts payable in respect of the serious disabilities set out in the Fifth Schedule to the Repatriation Act as the increases in rates under that Act will apply automatically to seamen pensions by virtue of section 22a of the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act. The special compensation allowance introduced by the previous Government in 1968, and regarded as an anomaly in the pension structure, was halved under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act (No. 2) 1973. This Bill completely phases out this allowance. Elimination of the existing allowance, however, will be off-set by the increase in the General Rate pension.
The principal Act makes provision for prescribing the remuneration of persons appointed to Seamen’s Pensions and Allowances Committees. The Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973 established a tribunal to determine the remuneration of, inter alia, the holders of such statutory offices. The Bill therefore omits this provision and inserts appropriate new provisions. The Bill does not appropriate the funds required to cover the increased benefits, as they are included in the appropriation under the Repatriation Bill. The increases in pensions and allowances will be payable on the first pension pay day after the date on which the Act receives the royal assent. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Chipp) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 672).
– As I mentioned a moment ago, the Opposition has bent over backwards to expedite the passage of the Social Services Bill, because if the Bill is passed tomorrow, as I understand it, age pensioners and widow pensioners will receive their $3 increase - $5 for a married couple - 2 weeks earlier. It is certainly the wish of the
Opposition that that should happen. We are pleased to co-operate with the Government on that, notwithstanding that many members of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party wanted to speak on this very important issue of social services. They were prepared to forgo their rights tonight so we could get the Bill through. It is now 3 minutes past ten and it is a matter of some doubt whether this Bill will be passed tonight, but hopefully it will be passed tomorrow in time to be sent to the Senate and passed there.
I received a draft copy of the Social Services Bill at 6 p.m. tonight, As with all Social Services Bills it is fairly complex in parts, and I take it from the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) on trust that there is nothing in the Bill in fine print that is not in his second reading speech, because the Liberal Party has not had a full opportunity to go through the text of the Bill as we would have liked to do as a responsible Opposition. There is one thing on which I would like to criticise the Goverment - it is a matter of procedure - before I get to the substance of the Bill. That is the difficulty we are finding as an Opposition in being able responsibly to comment on the intentions of the Government. There are many ways in which the Government is releasing information to the public. One is by the well-established process of leaking either out of Cabinet or out of Caucus. Another procedure is through a Press conference held by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) or Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) after a Cabinet or Caucus meeting, and the third method is by a ministerial statement outside this House or a statement by a Minister without documentation through the Press. I place on record, as far as my area of responsibility is concerned, my strongest objections to the fact that the Opposition, but more particularly, the Parliament, is not being paid the courtesy of being told of the Government’s intentions.
I do not want to be unduly critical of the Minister for Social Security, who personally to me is the soul of co-operation, but I was astonished - if I may intrude this matter - to be telephoned by a representative of the Press tonight at 9 o’clock just before I was about to speak and asked: ‘Would you care to comment on a statement just made by the Minister for Social Security on private health insurance?’ I said to the member of the Press gallery: ‘But I have been in the Parliament and listening in. The Minister has not made a statement’. He said: ‘No, he has issued one to the Press gallery. I have the statement in my hand’. What is the situation when Parliament is sitting and the Minister issues a statement on private health insurance which is a basic attack on the life insurance funds and does not make it to the Parliament? The Minister knows that if he had asked for leave to make such a statement he would have got it in a flash. We would welcome a debate on this issue. I deplore the habit of the Government of treating Parliament in this way.
The Bill we are debating is a Bill to increase age pensions, widows’ pensions, unemployment benefit and the like. I would like to refer to some statements made by the Minister for Social Security which I regard as rather pathetic. I almost felt sorry for him as he said them because the poor chap, when he announced that there was to be a $3 increase in the pensions said:
By any measures, these increases are the most generous in pensions in Australia for more than 20 years.
– It is true.
– It is true. He went on:
In absolute money terms they are the highest increases awarded since age pensions were introduced over 60 years ago.
That is also perfectly true. What is also perfectly true is that they have to be the highest in absolute money terms because since federation this country has never seen a rate of inflation equal to that which we see at present because of the maladministration of this Government. It is absolutely pathetic of the Minister to say: ‘Here is the biggest increase that you pensioners have ever got’. He did not say: ‘In money terms’. He has to pay a $3 increase to pensioners to bring them up to the level on which they were in 1972. The Minister did a lot with his figures later in his speech, but figures will not impress the pensioner. Let him ask any pensioner who goes to the supermarket today whether he is that much better off under a Labor Government than he was under the Liberal Government of 1972. To prove the point, I refer to some figures given to me by the research service of the Parliamentary Library. These figures show the index of purchasing power of the standard pension rate as of now compared with that of December 1972. If one could believe the Minister and the gaggle of figures that he presented, one would think that the pensioner today, under Labor, under this
Party of conscience and social concern’, to quote the Minister, would be able to go into a supermarket and buy all the goodies that he could not buy under a Liberal-Country Party government.
– Hear, hear!
– The Minister says: ‘Hear, hear’. Let him challenge the statistics released by the Library, whose integrity and independence I do not think he would query. The Library tells me that if the December quarter of 1972 is 100 as an index of purchasing power, as of tonight, 20 March 1974, the purchasing power of the pension is 97.9, which is a drop of 2.1.
– What happens when you add the S3?
– If the honourable gentleman will restrain himself for a moment I will come to the $3 which the Government is adding. He is pathetic, too. He asked: ‘What if we add the$3 that we are adding tonight?’ Of course, that is a different thing. Notwithstanding the Minister’s claim that the pensioner is better off, the point I am making is that today, in the supermarket, the pensioner is worse off than he was in 1972 in terms of purchasing power. Tonight the magic happens. The Government shovels on another $3 a week out of desperation because the economy is right out of control, and the pensioner gratefully receives the $3. We are helping the Government to give the pensioner that $3. But what will happen to the pensioner next week if inflation is maintained at a rate of 13 per cent or more? What will happen to him next week, next month or in the next quarter? There will have to be another massive increase in the pension, as there is now. That is one of the reasons why we as an Opposition, caring so much for the lot of the pensioner, encouraged the Government to bring in this Bill tonight and to expedite its passage so that pensioners can be paid the increase as soon as possible.
I will deal with one or two aspects of inflation as it affects the pension. This criticism is not levelled necessarily at the Minister for Social Security who, as the Minister responsible for pensioners and the indigent, cares for them. The Minister, being so shocked and dismayed at the dismal economic performance of his Government, has had to take action to remedy the damage that has been done to pensioners. This is not criticism of him, hut it is certainly criticism of his Government. When one looks at what this Government, by its irresponsible management, has really done to the lot of the pensioner and of the person on a fixed income it makes we writhe a little when I hear the Minister claim that his party is a party of conscience and social concern.
I should like to speak for a moment on the effects of inflation on those kinds of people. We know that one of the effects of inflation is that there is a redistribution of income and wealth - an arbitrary redistribution, an inequitable redistribution, since some incomes and asset values rise much faster than others, and some do not rise at all. The main losers in inflation are the lenders and the cautious savers, and the Minister with his knowledge and study of economics would be the first to admit this. Is it a party of conscience and social concern which allows thrifty people, who have saved through their lifetimes and who have some little nest egg for when they reach the age of 65 years or 60 years to have their nest egg completely dissipated because of the Government’s inflationary policies? I would have thought that that was a party completely lacking in conscience and social concern. The interest savings that such people accrue might rise by a couple of per cent because of the high interest rates, but they do not rise enough to compensate for the fall in the purchasing power of their capital. The real rate of their return is negatived.
I ask the Minister: What happens to pensioners who have invested all their lives in life assurance policies and private superannuation schemes, which normally provide a lump sum on retirement? Let us go back 10 years. Let us take a pensioner who insured himself by sacrifice so that he would get, say, $10,000 on retirement. That person when he was 55 years of age would have said: ‘When I am 65 I will get $10,000’, which in those times would have been a reasonable nest egg to look forward to. Because of the Government’s policies, what sort of a nest egg would $10,000 be to that person today? I have great sympathy for that type of pensioner who because of his thrift or some other means, is receiving an extra weekly payment from a private superannuation fund to add to his pension. To hundreds of thousands of elderly Australians this means the difference between living on the bare pension and being able to afford one or two things that might make life a little more comfortable. The value of that weekly supplement they have earned has been completely eroded. It is all very well for the Government to maintain relativity between the age pension and the cost of living but that does not help people who have saved for themselves.
Those who gain most from inflation are borrowers - that is, those people who have already purchased homes, consumer goods and capital equipment. The burden of their repayments is much reduced by inflation, and it is only partially offset by the currently higher interest rates. The people who really benefit are those who invest or speculate in real assets like land, buildings, precious metals, and art works which are non-perishable and relatively limited in supply. It is a very hollow claim when a man, who says he belongs to a party of conscience and social concern, allows his Government to follow policies that benefit the speculators - those who invest in land, precious metals and art works. Are there many pensioners who can invest in land or precious metals or works of art? Do they benefit from the policies of the Government? One wonders about this claim of being a party of conscience.
Socially, of course, inflation causes a redistribution through individual gains and losses, and that tends to create bitterness, social divisiveness in the community and antagonisms. Industrially, it causes more antagonism and wasted time as more time is devoted to struggle to beat inflation, either past or anticipated. Normal business operations are hampered through inflation. Time is wasted in adjusting prices and wages. Faith in long term contracts involving money values is eroded. Inflation makes business investment decisions -more difficult due to future price uncertainties and unrealistic profit figures from historical cost accounting.
Inflation distorts resource allocation. Energy and resources .are diverted from normal production and savings into hedging against inflation, usually by speculation in existing assets rather than in new production since they show the fastest price rises. Inflation has a danger of escalation which again affects pensioners and those on fixed incomes. At present firms anticipating inflation accelerate the rate of inflation by raising prices, and unions, in their bid for increased wages, anticipate inflation and bid higher for increased wages than a normal responsible union might wish to do. Therefore, inflation, as it is now being practised, with the Treasurer (Mr Crean) talking about rates of 200 per cent being not acceptable but not saying what he regards as an acceptable rate, is self-fulfilling, selfpropelling and self-destructive for those in the community who are thrifty and who make an effort to do something about their old age. This inflation later may become hyperinflation - a flight from currency into commodities and real assets, driving their prices even higher. The longer the control of inflation is delayed, the longer may be the recession and unemployment required to control it eventually.
I come to the other feature of the Bill before the House which deals with unemployment benefits. The Minister could find himself, as could his colleague the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), with an astronomical bill for payment of unemployment benefits unless inflation is halted in some way by this Government. My colleague, the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), will be talking about that part of this Bill which affects his area of responsibility - unemployment benefits - and in particular about the difference of opinion that apparently exists between the Minister for Social Security and the Minister for Labour. One says that there are loafers and bludgers, but the other denies their very existence. One would like this position to be clearly defined by each of the Ministers. My colleague from Wannon will refer to this aspect tomorrow.
In conclusion, I respond to the taunt of the Minister for Social Security to my Party about its attitude to the Labor Party’s claim for pensions to rise to 25 per cent of the average weekly male earnings seasonally adjusted. The Labor Party has claimed that that is its goal.
– Not claimed, stated.
– Perhaps one day the honourable gentleman will explain to me the difference between the 2 terms. I will not quibble about it. I will say: The Labor Party states that that is its goal. It is a magical figure. As spokesman for this side of the House on this matter, I have not said that we agree or disagree with it. What is magical about 25 per cent? Is there some magical feature in it?
– It is better than 18 per cent.
– I am sorry; I did not hear the interjection by the honourable member for Robertson. I yield to him.
– I said that it is better, than 18 per cent or 19 per cent.
-Order! The honourable member for Robertson will cease interjecting. He is down on the list to speak next and he can make his contribution then.
– It is strange that the Government is now obsessed with this magical figure of 25 per cent. Why should it be set at 25 per cent? At present there is an inquiry into poverty and the real social needs of the community. This inquiry is being conducted by Professor Henderson. I remind the Minister that we, as a Liberal-Country Party Government, appointed this inquiry before he came into office. He now seems to regard it as his own personal property and brainchild; but it was appointed by us. What if that committee recommends another figure? Will the Labor Party say: ‘No, we are stuck with our magical figure of 25 per cent’? What nonsense it is to taunt the Opposition tonight and to say to us: ‘Why do you not come out with a figure?’
We will consider very carefully the recommendations in the Henderson Committee report and without stating a position now and indicating any magical or non-magical figure, we will be guided by the recommendations of that Committee. This, I believe, is a far more responsible attitude than that taken by the Government. I do not think it does the Minister any justice to taunt the Opposition, as he did at the completion of his speech and especially in the way he did. My friend the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) has taken a massive interest in social services since he first came into this Parliament. In fact, he regained his seat because the people of Sturt recognised his interest and qualities in that area. He desperately wants to speak in this debate. He came to me and asked: ‘Do we have to take this kind of provocation when the Government is wanting a favour of the Opposition?’
I conclude by saying that the Opposition supports this Bill. It supports the amount recommended in the Bill. It deplores the reasons for such a huge increase being necessary. I plead with the Government to take action in the next quarter, not in the area of social security but in the area of government generally, to think of the pensioners, to be a party of conscience and social concern and to give some social concern to the people who are desperately affected by inflation, namely, the thrifty pensioners and the people of substance who have made this country what it is.
– I am disappointed in the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). I have always considered him to be one of the few honest members on that side of the House. (Honourable members interjecting) -
-Order! The honourable member for Robertson should know that such a remark is unparliamentary. (Honourable members interjecting) -
-Order! I am telling the honourable member that it is unparliamentary. Are members of the Opposition trying to exacerbate the position?
– I apologise, Mr Speaker. I thought that what I was saying about the honourable member for Hotham was complimentary. I have always regarded him as an honest member of this House.
– But you were talking about the rest of us.
– If the cap fits, wear it. Tonight we saw from the honourable member for Hotham an exhibition of yelling. I assume he thought that if he yelled long enough and loud enough he would make his argument sound sincere. Previously, he has always used honest argument. Tonight he said that Australia has the highest rate of inflation that has ever occurred. In fact, in the previous Government’s second year of office the inflation rate was 25 per cent. That was in 1951. At present it is about 13 per cent - almost half of what it was in the first few years of the Liberal Government.
Frankly, I find it quite sickening to hear the new found friends of the pensioners who must be deeply touched and deeply moved by their newly won friends in the Opposition. Let us examine the record of the Opposition when it was in government. In 1963 it gave pensioners a $1 increase. In 1964 it gave an increase of 50c in pensions. Of course, that was a Senate election year. The following year, 1965, it gave the pensioners nothing. It can be seen that increases occurred in election years - elections for either the Senate or the House of Representatives. In neutral years nothing was done. In 1966, an election year, the pensioners received an increase of $1; but in 1967, a non-election year, nothing. In 1968 pensions were increased by $1. In 1969, an election year, the increase was $1. In 1970, which was not long ago - let us not forget that there was a fairly hefty rate of inflation then - the Opposition in government gave an additional 50c to pensioners. This was oneninth of what this Government has given pensioners this year.
What I say is correct. The Opposition in government gave pensioners 50c in 1970. Honourable members will recall the momentous day here when the Gorton Government fell, when the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) was forced to resign and the new Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) in an effort to take the heat off the Liberal Party, gave pensioners an extra 50c. In 1971 the pension rose by $1.25. This was less than 3 years ago. In that year there was a disastrous Budget that caused unemployment. Shortly after, in the new year, there was a mini Budget and an attempt to solve not the problems of pensioners but the problems that the then Government’s bad business management had created, including unemployment. An extra $1 was added to the pension to boost consumer spending and the pension reached the grand sum of $18.25. Finally, when honourable members opposite saw the writing on the wall and inevitable defeat facing them, there was the first decent hike in pensions in years - $1.75 - and the pension reached $20. In my first term as a member of this Parliament I saw the pension rise by $4.50. In the last 16 months, during Labor’s term of office, it has matched that amount already.
Honourable members opposite quote statistics. No one denies that there has been inflation; but the fact of the matter is that pensions languished between 18 per cent and 19 per cent of average weekly male earnings under consecutive Liberal-Country Party governments, whereas pensions are now 22.6 per cent of such earnings.
– The pension is not.
– It is 19 per cent.
– It is 22.6 per cent of average weekly earnings right now and it will reach 25 per cent. This figure has not been claimed but it is a stated guarantee that this Government has promised. The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) asks what is magic about it. The only thing that is magic about it is that it is 7 per cent higher than what was mostly given by the Government of which he was a member.
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 7 March I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I want to complain once again about the practice which has grown up since this Government took office of announcing Government policies to the Press before they are announced to the Parliament. We have 2 classic examples this week where Government policy on major items has been announced at Press conferences or by Press handouts by Ministers, and there has as yet been no statement in the House on these matters. Last year I asked a question on notice of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) which appears at page 119 of Hansard. I asked the Prime Minister whether he would ensure that during sittings of the Parliament all announcements of Government policy are made in the House simultaneously with their release to the Press so that members may be informed of Government policy before reading about it in the newspapers. The Prime Minister gave the following reply:
Wherever possible I arrange for the Parliament to be informed ahead of announcement elsewhere of any new major policy decisions. To the best of my knowledge other members of the Government follow the same practice.
A further question without notice was put to the Prime Minister by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) on 15 May 1973 in which he chastised the Prime Minister for announcing policy decisions at his news conference with members having to read about them in the Press the next day. The Prime Minister in reply to that question admitted that the honourable member had sought him out, because he realised that it is essential for parliamentary government that Government policy should be announced in this House so that it can be known by the members, so that it can be discussed and so that the public has an accurate record of Government intention on policy matters.
I would now like to move on to the 2 breaches of this basic parliamentary practice which have taken place this week. I refer to the announcement by the Government on Monday, following a Cabinet decision, of its proposal to make interest on home loans tax deductions in certain cases. This was reported in newspapers on Tuesday morning. The House sat on Tuesday afternoon. There was no statement about this matter in the House on Tuesday. I thought that perhaps it was because we sat only in the afternoon and therefore a statement might be forthcoming from the Treasurer (Mr Crean) or from some other Minister today. I have waited all day in the hope that a statement would be made. I waited because there were some clarifications in the newspapers this morning of the policy which the Treasurer had announced on Monday.
– Almost contradictions.
– Yes, almost contradictions. If we are to gather from the newspapers what the Government’s policy is, far from its being a benefit to millions of home owners as it was announced with a fanfare of trumpets on Tuesday morning in the newspapers, we can well find that it turns out to be the greatest swindle since the South Sea Bubble burst many years ago. This morning the Brisbane Courier-Mail’ carried the story: ‘Crean admits income error’. It is only in this morning’s newspaper that the Treasurer tells the people of Australia that this scheme will work only on a family basis. In other words, if a man has a working wife her income is added to his income in order to assess eligibility for this tax deduction scheme. That is a glaring example of the inaccuracies and the inconsistencies of Government policy when it is announced through the newspapers. Over and over again we find that Government policy is leaked to newspapers before it is even announced by Cabinet after its meetings and certainly before it is ever announced in this Parliament. We are lucky in this House to find Government policy stated in the second reading speech of a Bill which implements that policy.
If we have not caught up with what is contained in the newspapers we are completely unaware of what the Government is doing. Certainly the Prime Minister might say: ‘Well, members get copies of the Press statements’. That is right, but we get those copies about a fortnight or a month after they have been issued to the newspapers and then, of course, the subject is a dead issue. It has been covered by the weekly or daily papers a week or a fortnight before and nobody in the newspaper world is interested in rehashing the old story; it is dead news. Once it is dead it is impossible to revive any interest in it by pointing out that the actual statements from Ministers are very often different from the stories let out in the newspapers.
I would like to refer to the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) because he has been guilty of 2 breaches of parliamentary practice in this regard. Before the House sat in February there was a story released in the newspapers that the Government was considering sharp rises in nursing home subsidies. This statement which received wide circulation in the newspapers buoyed up the hopes of many people who have relatives or friends in nursing homes, and who have been faced with rising nursing home fees since December last. They have been in the position where their pensions, if they are fully dependent on pensions, are insufficient to meet their nursing home care, particularly if they require intensive care. This announcement - and this is one of my complaints about this Government - is not attributed directly to the Minister. It is one of these anonymous leaks in which phrases such as “The Government is considering’ and ‘Sources close to the Government believe’ are used. This is the sort of innuendo that goes on through the whole of government practice since this Government took office.
– It is a leak.
– It is a leak. One cannot get to the bottom of it. One cannot attack a Minister and say that he said such-and-such on a certain day because the Minister can say: 1 did not say that; it is a source close to the Government’, or he can say: The newspaper story is inaccurate’. But we never find a Minister coming into this House to correct an impression that has been conveyed either deliberately or accidentally by members of his staff by circulation in newspapers.
I recall when the Melbourne ‘Sun’ of 12 April 1973 carried a story on its front page under the heading: ‘Canberra cash to peg council rates’. The newspaper carried a full page story which indicated that the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr
Uren) had made the suggestion that the Federal Government would start a multimillion dollar loan scheme to curb council rate rises. This report which appeared in a Melbourne newspaper was not contradicted by the Minister. In the course of a debate in this House on the Albury-Wodonga series of Bills I mentioned this and pointed it out to the House. The Minister immediately stood and said that it was an incorrect statement and I ought not to believe what I read in the newspapers. This comes to the very heart of the bad practice. Unless statements are made in the House where members can hear them, where what is said is recorded, and where one can hold Ministers to statements which they make in the House and sheet responsibility home to them, then parliamentary democracy in this country has arrived at a very sorry note.
I come back to the Minister for Social Security. Notwithstanding the leak which was circulated about the nursing home benefit increase, which of course has turned out to be a complete furphy - the Minister has made a cruel hoax in buoying up the expectations of people who have been paying out over the months in order to keep their relatives in nursing homes - the Minister has made no statement about it. In fact, in answer to a letter I wrote to him on this subject he makes no statement of any intention on the part of the Government to review nursing home fees. This week he breached the procedure once again at question time. He was asked a staged question by one of his own members about aged persons housing. In answer to that question yesterday he made a major statement of Government policy in regard to home subsidies under those Bills. That is in gross disregard of standing order 144 which specifically states that questions should not ask Ministers to announce government policy, for the simple reason that those matters cannot be debated at question time. By failing to make statements in this House the Government is seeking to avoid any close examination and discussion of its policy. By putting its policy abroad in newspapers by unauthenticated leaks the Government also avoids any responsibility being sheeted home to it and gives itself ample opportunity to change its ground.
– Last Wednesday night the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald
Cameron) spoke in the adjournment debate in a fashion which was rather offensive to many people in the sense that in an oblique way he made reference to the crucifixion in terms which would have been more appropriate from a boxing promoter introducing a match. He also said that the Postmaster-General could be deemed to be one of the thieves and ought to have been dealt with at the same time. I think that denigrates the whole tenor’ of a debate and does no credit to the honourable member. If there is an argument to be developed it can be done without that sort of comment. I very much doubt whether the letter to which he referred could have been written in the terms which he implied. He said virtually that a charity which received a concession on telephone calls no longer enjoyed that concession. Let us deal with the situation as it has developed.
There is a regulation which the honourable member would be well aware of because he was a supporter of the Government that followed it. The regulation states:
Charitable institutions having for their object the relief of poor or afflicted persons in Australia which are supported wholly or partly by public subscription may, with the approval of the Department, be charged half the rates prescribed by these regulations for local calls.
That regulation has been in existence since 1933. Prior to 1933 there was a concession for half the rentals. Legally the position was altered in 1933 by that regulation and honourable members will notice it applied only to local calls and not to rentals. What did the then Government do? For years it just stumbled along on the basis that if an organisation was a Charity before 1933 it would pay only half the rental and half the local call charges and if an organisation was deemed to be a charity - it is a very confined description of charity - since 1933, it would receive a concession of half the local calls only.
Two lots of charities were getting 2 different concessions. The first situation was completely illegal. The matter had been raised for years by the Auditor-General. The Auditor-General said: ‘How is it that you can give a concession of the rental when there is no regulation which allows it to happen?’ Because of that it was brought to my notice, firstly on the basis that the concession was illegal and secondly because the definition of charity was so confined and restricted - the relief of the poor or the afflicted and the charity must be wholly or partly supported by public subscription. The concession did not apply to any Lifeline association, which was one of the organisations mentioned by the honourable member the other evening. It meant that many charities could not get any concession beause of the type of restriction. So it followed that it was necessary to alter the regulation and we did so last October, which seems to be the basis of the honourable gentleman’s complaint. We’ altered the regulation not to restrict it but to extend it. We said: ‘We will alter the words particularly in the restrictive sense so as to provide that where a charity is engaged in the relief of the poor and afflicted and obtains only one-third of its funds from public subscription, it will get the benefit of a rental concession but not a local call concession.
Secondly, we said that any charity can apply after this date for that concession on the basis that it is deemed to be a charity. So, we have an expansion of this situation. No recognition was given to that by the honourable member. For his own edification I will acknowledge that if there is a high local call rate the concession would not be as great. Of course the regulation referred to local calls. Subscriber trunk dialling was introduced in recent years and so all the concessions given for subscriber trunk dialling were again illegal because the previous regulation related only to local calls. It was impossible to determine whether the call was a local call or a STD charge. The Auditor-General had been complaining about it for years. There had been agitation that something should be done about it. If you want to look at concessions you should look at them from the point of view of where they come from - consolidated revenue. Do not look at them from the point of view that other telephone subscribers have to pick up the tab for charities. That is not the right way to approach the situation. We are merely carrying on with the regulation in the spirit of what was intended but we are expanding it in the interests of charity.
In 1970 when my predecessor was saying Won’t somebody please help me’ it appears from the interdepartmental committee reports that everybody else said: ‘No, no concession can be expanded. There will be no other moneys coming in from consolidated revenue. You will have to carry that particular burden”. It was for that reason that eligible charities were not expanded. It was for that reason that the Auditor-General was attacking continually and saying: ‘How can you, as a responsible Government, introduce budgets into the House when you are not even applying your own regulations?’ In other words, money had been improperly applied.
Let me make it clear that the regulation is now expansive enough to carry the concession to most charities. I again acknowledge that the same concession is not given for metered call charges. It was never intended to do so because it was for local call charges that the regulation provided. We have some interesting examples. The Chermside Hospital Board, because of its extensive lines, last year would have received a concession less than it will get this year, because of the rental it pays in relation to its lines. For the honourable member’s benefit, the concession now will be $1,940 for that organisation or charity as against $1,200 which would have been provided under the old regulation as interpreted by the previous Government. It should not be said that everybody is suffering damage. I acknowledge there is damage if the local call rate is high or there are subscriber trunk dialling calls which cannot be segregated. That situation can mean a reduction in the concession. More money is now being given to more charities because people carrying out the obligation of social welfare work or working with Lifeline do not work within the definition of relief of the poor or afflicted and therefore in the past did not receive the benefit. It is for that reason the concession has been expanded to cover many charities. So, a number of charities have been able to apply for the concession since October last. They would not formerly have been able to apply, or, if they had applied, they would have been rejected.
I will name 3 organisations that previously would have been rejected and which are now entitled to a concession. There is the Willoughby Community Aid and Information Centre, which provides counselling service on social welfare. This organisation was not entitled to a concession under the previous regulation. There is also the Brotherhood of St Laurence at Geelong which has an opportunity shop. All goods are donated free of charge and the proceeds of sales are used directly in connection with charitable works and more particularly with their homes for the aged project. There is the Crisis Centre at the Way side Chapel at Kings Cross. It is a youth counselling service with emphasis on drugs and drug abuse. This is the real issue with which we are dealing now. No credit was given by the honourable member for that. He probably did not even look at the regulations and probably did not understand why it had to be altered. Instead the honourable member made all sorts of references offensive to people who might be interested in Christianity.
What about all the other concessions- which could be given to these charities? No doubt organisations in Brisbane should get concessions for their gas and electricity. Do they receive those concessions or do they have to pay the full charges? Let us not relate concessions only to telephones, because most charities would say: Thank goodness we have been allowed at last to get a concession, because of the expansion of the regulation, whereas previously we were denied.’ It was so restricted and onerous that most people were rejected. That is the whole purpose of the regulation. If there is to be a concession, and that we recognise, I think the concession should be supported by consolidated revenue. Nevertheless, a concession is now to be extended to all charities. So next time the honourable gentleman makes a speech he should look at the facts and how they apply.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Very briefly, the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) suggested that what he described as an offensive letter which I read into the Hansard record did not exist. I would be quite prepared, when the Parliament resumes in early April, to show him that letter. It does exist. There are charities which, to use their own words ‘feel as if they have been crucified’.
– Because of the limitations necessarily on the adjournment debate I shall be brief. I do not, and I hope I will not, use this House as a forum to attack any person unable to answer or to defend himself in this House, except under extreme and unavoidable circumstances and emergencies. In this I hope I differ from some honourable members on the Government benches who continually and inaccurately and irresponsibly seize every opportunity 10 attack the Queensland Premier with accusations which are so wide of the mark that if they were made outside the House and not under privilege the honourable members concerned would be in very serious difficulty.
The purpose of my rising tonight is both serious and urgent. It is further to a matter I raised only a week or so ago in the AddressinReply debate. Honourable members will remember that I commended at that time the I-ord Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Jones, on bis concern and on his actions in the interests of Brisbane during the recent flood disasters.
But I was very disturbed at and critical of the action he took against the advice of all of his engineers in refusing to open the flood gates of Somerset Dam, the water level of which was dangerously high. I said that his action at that time, according to his professional engineers who expressed opinions in the media, placed Brisbane and a large area of my electorate at a tremendous and an unpardonable risk.
I am thankful that his gamble succeeded. I am thankful that no more rain fell at that time. I tried to point out in this House the consequence and cost of that action to the roads and drainage of Kilcoy Shire, the tremendous and natural concern of the people of Kilcoy and surrounding areas, and the possibility of a huge magnification of the disaster if that gamble - it was a gamble - had not paid off. I rise again tonight because of an article in yesterday’s ‘Courier Mail’. It is headed ‘Dam level gets blame for flood’ and reads:
Angry Kilcoy residents want the State Government to force the Brisbane City Council to lower the water level of Somerset Dam.
They claim the present level is causing floods never before experienced.
A deputation of townspeople is to meet the Premier (Mr Bjelke-Petersen) in Brisbane today.
The Kilcoy Anglican Minister the Rev. H. Dineen said the council had been approached but its response had been “negative”.
He said the level of the dam was raised about two years ago and was now ‘much too high’. “One house, which has been there ever since the dam was built, had 2i metres of water through it during the Australia Day floods”, he said.
Mr Dineen said townspeople could cope with flooded creeks but not with water backing up from Somerset Dam.
That was followed by another article in today’s ‘Courier Mail’ in which it stated that these concerned people went to the Premier. The article states:
A deputation from Kilcoy asked the Premier yesterday to withdraw control of Somerset Dam from the Brisbane City Council.
The deputation wanted control by another authority, such as the State Coordinator-General, who once controlled it.
I have not time to read all of the article. I rang the shire immediately I read the first article and I learned that the level in the Somerset Dam was considerably higher at that date than it should have been - I believe at least 2 feet higher. When one considers the area of the dam, that is a lot of water. Last week there was a good deal less rain but there was no storage capacity to take the additional water. Again creeks banked up and shire roads were inundated for three or four days under three to four feet of water. The D’Aguilar Highway which was badly damaged, still under repair, still chopped up because of its previous submersion, was submerged again. I know the state of . that road because I travel it regularly. The submersion is prolonged and the damage is magnified because the level of the dam is not reduced and because creeks bank up above the dam.
The purpose of my speaking tonight is to assist the people of the Kilcoy area and that shire in their appeal to anybody who will help and to Brisbane’s Lord Mayor to consider their safety and their welfare and to open, certainly under control, the flood gates to get the water level down. It has been predicted, and it is very likely, that cyclonic or heavy rain could fall again at any time. It is far too late to prepare for that event when rain starts to fall. That dam can be and is used for flood mitigation for Brisbane. If it had not been for that dam the last disaster would have been infinitely worse. Another dam in a neighbouring part of my electorate at Wyven.hoe which will inundate some of the best cattle country one can find anywhere, is also to be constructed, again largely for flood mitigation purposes, and to supply water for and to protect Brisbane.
Because these dams supply water to Brisbane and because they are for flood mitigation for Brisbane, it is no wonder that my people are disturbed, alarmed and incensed at the manner in which their welfare has been disregarded and their property damaged and put at risk. I hope that the Lord Mayor of Brisbane will spare the people some thought and some consideration and that he will provide a greater safety margin for his own city of Brisbane by lowering the level in the dam. I do not want to be in the position of being able to say: ‘I told you so.’ I do not want to have to criticise and condemn if he does not hear this plea and if another fall of rain brings disaster which could have been minimised. I voice here in this House Kilcoy’s concern and alarm, and I appeal as strongly as I can in this House and in any other forum that is available to me that now - not later when it is too late - he will take the action that he ought to take for the sake of Brisbane and for the sake of my people in Kilcoy and surrounding district.
– This morning the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) asked me a question. I regret that I misunderstood the question and gave him the right answer to the question I thought he had asked. The facts, as the honourable member knows are that some 20,000 tons of oranges are exported to New Zealand each year between June and January. Recently the growers sought a quotation from the Union Steam Ship Company for the carriage of fruit in the forthcoming season. Basically, the quote given by the shipping company was some 50 per cent higher than the freight charges last year. However, the Union Steam Ship Company offered to carry some of the crop on its roll-on roll-off ships, which would have been at a much lower price. However, the offer does not meet the requirements of the growers. The New Zealand importer was not prepared to accept the increase in freight charges which was proposed, so the exporters were left in the position of having to look for a cross trader. However, in discussions between my Department and the Department of Primary Industry, we have come up with a suggestion to the growers thai the Australian National Line may be able to assist in this matter by carrying the fruit in refrigerated containers. Accordingly, I suggest that the growers talk to the Line to see whether a satisfactory solution can be found to this problem. I shall be quite happy to give the honourable member for Angas and the growers any assistance that is possible to ensure that their crop of oranges is carried to New Zealand.
– Order! It being 11 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Department of Primary Industry:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The existence of faults in the general region of Lake Pedder has been known for many years and was taken into consideration by the Hydro-Electric Commission in carrying out a design study of the dams forming the new Lake Pedder.
Since the Lake Pedder Dams were completed, technology has provided a new method for studying geological faulting based on the study of photographs obtained by the Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS). CSIRO, in co-operation with the Mines Department of Tasmania and the HydroElectric Commission, is investigating whether ERTS can provide new information on faults that will augment that obtained from conventional field techniques. For the purposes of this study, Western Tasmania is being used as a natural laboratory in which detailed comparisons will be made of the geological information obtained from ERTS and that provided by conventional field mapping techniques. As photographs of the area are received, the imagery is being analysed as outlined above. However, the useful imagery obtained to date stops at some 45 kilometres to the north of Lake Pedder and no new assessment can be made of geological structures in its vicinity pending the receipt of the required photographs. While the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the United States has been requested to provide imagery over the Lake Pedder area, it is uncertain when this will become available due to the rare occasions when the satellite passes over Western Tasmania and the area is cloud-free.
The investigation in Western Tasmania was initiated by CSIRO in October 1973 and the results of the work will be reported as appropriate in accordance with the Organization’s normal procedure of prompt publication of its research activities.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
In the Northern Territory school facilities such as libraries, open space areas, classrooms, craft rooms and playing fields are made available to local communities for formal activities such as adult education and informal recreational and social activities. Local sports clubs use school ovals, courts and open spaces and fetes organised by local community groups and school holiday camps have been held for a number of years on school grounds.
The right honourable gentleman will be interested to know that in the third term of 1973 a survey was made of the community use of school buildings in the A.C.T. The survey showed considerable variation in the degree of use of individual schools by the community. In cases of little or no community use the survey suggested unsuitable facilities and prevailing attitudes as the main reasons for low usage. My Department is currently examining the results of the survey and, where inadequate facilities are identified, steps will be taken to rectify impediments to community use. As far as attitudes deterring community use are concerned, the Interim A.C.T. Schools Authority has initiated steps to encourage school principals and staff to facilitate community involvement in educational activities, including the use of school buildings for community purposes. The planned Melba College, due for completion by 1978, is intended to maximise use by community groups through its provision of specially-designed library, gymnasium, arts/crafts and multi-purpose facilities.
The extent of community use of schools in the Northen Territory varies from school to school but most schools are involved. All sixty-three primary, secondary and area schools in significant areas of population are being used in some way. The role played by the small pastoral property schools is difficult to assess. However, it could be assumed that almost all of the twenty-seven such schools contribute school facilities for community activities on some occasions.
In 1973, 1,374 students were working towards either the N.S.W. Higher School Certificate or School Certificate examinations in classes in A.C.T. school premises conducted by the Canberra Evening College. A further 125 people were enrolled in the ‘Public Service - October Clerical’ course, and 374 adults of widely varying ages and backgrounds were enrolled in non-examination courses. The total of 1,374 enrolments for 1973 compares with 1,234 for 1971.
In the Northern Territory approximately 3,000 people were enrolled in adult education classes using school faculties during 1973. In addition, many thousands used school facilities for recreational activities.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
A joint Australia/New Zealand sponsored meeting of member Governments took place in Wellington from 5 to 8 March 1974 to review the South Pacific Commission and procedures in accordance with the wishes of the Conference. The Wellington meeting approved a final text of a Memorandum of Understanding, ad referendum to governments, which provides that the Commission and Conference will in future meet jointly as the ‘South Pacific Conference’. Under this new arrangement the Commission will be reconstituted as a Conference committee of representatives of Commission Governments, which will consider and approve the administrative budget and nominate the principal officers of the Secretariat.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Figures for 1972 are not yet available. There is no available breakdown of the ‘expatriate’ category by country of origin. The figures given do not include unpaid helpers or domestic servants in private households.
Christian Revival Crusade (Papua New Guinea)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary industry has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Minerals and Energy, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
What contribution has -
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Papunya Aboriginal Community:Housing Program (Question No. 354)
asked the Minister represent ing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As indicated in my earlier reply on this matter my Department is developing a statement of Australian
Government Policy related to Nature Conservation which will encompass the aspects raised by the honourable member. I hope that this statement can be discussed with the Council of Nature Conservation Ministers at its next meeting planned for later this year.
Consumer Protection (Question No. 218)
asked the Minister for the
Capital Territory, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Consumer Affairs Ordinance 1973
Includes provisions relating to -
Consumer Affairs Council
Sale of Goods Ordinance 1954-1967
Door to Door Sales Ordinance 1969
Hire Purchase Ordinance 1961-1969
Lay-By Sales Agreements Ordinance 1963-1972
Pyramid Selling Ordinance 1973
Weights and Measures Ordinance 1929-1973
Weights and Measures (Packaged Goods) Ordinance 1970-1973
Prices Regulation Ordinance 1949-1973
Landlord and Tenant Ordinance 1949-1973
asked the Minister represent ing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
It is assumed that the question refers to the relatively new woodchip export industry. Woodchips have been produced for many years for manufacture in Australia of paper and particleboard.
There are four export woodchip companies currently operating in Australia, these are HarrisDaishowa (Australia) Pty Ltd, Tasmanian Pulp and Forest Holdings Ltd (TPFH), Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd (APPM), and Northern Woodchips Pty Ltd (NWC). In addition, W.A. Chip and Pulp Co. Pty Ltd will begin shipping woodchips to Japan in 1976.
Another company. Consolidated Forests (Lake Gordon) pty Ltd has commenced the export to Japan of pulpwood logs >(as opposed to woodchips). The raw material is being salvaged from Lake Gordon prior to its flooding in two years. This is a relatively small-scale, short-term venture.
The four established woodchip projects have chipmills adjacent to the port of export and are centrally situated with respect to the source of pulpwood. Harris-Daishowa exports through Twofold Bay, near Eden, New South Wales, APPM and NWC through Long Reach on the Tamar River in Tasmania, and TPFH through Triabunna, Tasmania. The new venture, W.A. Chip and Pulp Co. will draw pulpwood from an area around Manjimup in Western Australia and will ship woodchips from Bunbury Harbour. Consolidated Forests (Lake Gordon) is exporting pulpwood logs through Hobart.
The current annual production of woodchips for export is of the order of 3 million tonnes.
Each company’s permit for the export of woodchips is in the form of approval to export to Japan a specified maximum quantity at a specified minimum price each year for a number of years, subject to certain conditions.
The specified minimum prices are confidential for commercial reasons.
Harris-Daishowa has approval to export up to 750,000 tonnes green woodchips annually until 31 December 1976, conditional upon the installation of a pulpmill on or before 1 January 1977, of a minimum capacity of 510 tonnes of woodpulp per day and provided that the company keeps the Government fully informed of its plans relating to the pulpmil
TPFH may export up to 710,000 tonnes green woodchips per annum for eighteen years as from 1 January 1971. In granting the permit, the Minister for National Development took into account measures adopted by the Tasmanian Government regarding the preparation of a feasibility study for a pulpmill, as detailed in the Pulpwood Products Industry (Eastern and Central Tasmania) Act 1968-71.
APPM has permits to export some 975,000 tonnes of green woodchips each year until December 1978, and thereafter at an annual rate of up to 610,000 tonnes until mid 1983. This Company is obliged to commence a major pulping development of 510 tonnes pulp per day at Wesley Vale during 1978. Recently approval was also granted to APPM to export, prior to 1975, an additional 50,000 tonnes of woodchips to be derived from pulpwood salvaged from Lake Gordon.
The permit held by NWC allows the company to export up to 710,000 tonnes green woodchips per year for fifteen years, as from January 1972. Unlike the other woodchip companies which derive a large proportion of their pulpwood from Crown lands where reafforestation is the responsibility of the various State Forestry Commissions, NWC obtains its raw material from private land and sawmill residue. A special condition attached to this company’s permit is that it commence reafforestation at a rate of 5,000 acres per annum by July 1977. Approval to NWC is also conditional upon the company carrying out a feasibility study for a pulpmill, and if profitability is indicated, to commence the erection of the pulpmill by 1981 and begin production of pulp by 1986.
The W.A. Chip and Pulp Co., became the first company required to submit to the Australian Government an environmental impact statement together with its application for an export permit for woodchips. In August 1973 Senator Wriedt granted the company approval to export up to 750,000 tonnes green woodchips per year from 1976, at approved prices and in accordance with the amended Wood Chipping Industry Agreement Act (Western Australia). The company’s obligation to carry out a pulpmill feasibility study is set out in this Act. The licence was granted to the company on the understanding that should any new environmental issues arise out of the work of the Australian Government’s inter-departmental working party on the economic and environmental implications of the woodchip industry, which it would be reasonable to require the company to take into account, then the Western Australian Government will include such requirements in its arrangements with the company.
The New South Wales Forestry Commission has issued Harris-Daishowa with a Special Licence (No. L78005) to apply until 1990, granting the company the right to obtain pulpwood logs from a number of State Forests, Timber Reserves and Crown Lands in Parishes of the far south coast of New South Wales. The licensee is authorised to obtain a minimum annual volume of 457,000 tonnes of green round or split timber per annum.
In accordance with the Pulpwood Products Industry (Eastern and Central Tasmania) Act 1968-71, the Tasmanian Forestry Commission has granted TPFH a Special Licence conferring on the company exclusive rights to obtain up to 508,000 tonnes of pulpwood annually from a large pulpwood area situated along the east coast of Tasmania, and bounded by Dunalley, Colebrook and Gladstone. In certain circumstances, additional pulpwood can be taken from adjacent reserve areas inland. Under the
Act, TPFH has the initial right to obtain up to 7.6m tonnes of pulpwood from its Crown concessions over a period to eighteen years as from October, 1970. The company also may obtain a long term right to additional pulpwood from its reserve area for a period of eighty years, provided that it establishes a pulpmill within a specified period.
Otherwise, the company may be granted a continuation right such as may be agreed between the Minister and the company.
A Special Licence has been granted to APPM by the Tasmanian Forestry Commission, under the Wesley Vale Pulp and Paper Industry Act 1961-67, conferring on the company exclusive rights to pulpwood from a pulpwood area and a reserve area in northern Tasmania, and extensive water rights. The Special Licence specifies that afer twelve years the company must obtain at least 50,000 cords (approximately 100,000 tonnes) of pulpwood per year from the pulpwood area. The Commission will authorise APPM to obtain pulpwood from its reserve area, when the company demonstrates its ability to obtain 75,000 cords (approximately 150,000 tonnes) annually. The Licence specifies that after thirty years, the company must remove pulpwood at a minimum annual rate of 75,000 cords (approximately 150,000 tonnes) from each of the pulpwood and reserve areas, otherwise it will be denied the further use of the reserve area. Under the Act, APPM also has the right to take without charge some 10 to 20 million gallons ‘of water per day from the Mersey River system.
Northern Woodchips draws its pulpwood from private lands and sawmill waste. The company has not been granted a licence to utilize Crown resources.
Under the amended Wood Chipping Industry Agreement of Western Australia, the W.A. Chip and Pulp Co. Pty Ltd is to be granted a Forest Produce (Chipwood) Licence enabling the company to remove 680,000 tonnes of green chips from the licence area around Manjimup for fifteen years from 1976. The State is obliged to lease the company the chipping mill site, the stockpile site and must design and construct the berth at Bunbury Harbour for the priority use of the company. The company may be granted a licence to obtain pulpwood from alternate sources of supply if the existing sources of supply do not meet the combined requirement of its woodchip contracts and the future pulpmill.
Harris-Daishowa currently has a submission before the Australian Government to increase its existing export permits. A consortium Standard Sawmilling Company- Carter Consolidated Ltd, and another company Allen Taylor and Co. Ltd, each have submitted a proposal to export woodchips derived from sawmill and forest residues, to be exported through the ports of Brisbane and Coffs Harbour respectively. All companies have been asked to provide further information before their application can be considered by the Australian Government.
A recent survey by the Tasmanian Forestry Commission indicates that the supply of pulpwood from private forests is fully committed and it is not expected that any new woodchip export industries will be established in that State.
Harris-Daishowa’s submission was received in early April 1973. The submissions from the Standard Sawmilling-Carter Consolidated consortium, and
Allen Taylor and Co. both were received in December 1973.
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Urge intervention to end victimisation of 40 Griffith women thrown out of work as a result of black ban by Food Preservers Union of Victoria on onions peeled by Nugan staff members for delivery to frozen foods and other preservers stop this ban is in defiance of court ruling and victimised women who are trade unionists covered according to the law by the union recognised by the law stop Griffith unemployment has long been matter of concern particularly for women and this is an irresponsible and harmful ban for purely administrative reasons and would urge strongest possible action in defence of women who are my constituents and full trade unionists stop would appreciate your advice on possible action regards.’
He replied in terms of the following telegram:
I acknowledge your telegram of 12 February stop and having investigations made into this matter.’
I have also been in touch by telegram with the Australian Workers’ Union and the Food Preservers’ Union of Victoria. I released these telegrams to the media in my electorate.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
Peking - Embassy
Warsaw - Embassy
Port Moresby - Australian Office
Jeddah - Embassy
Sao Paulo - Consulate-General
The staff structure of these offices is as follows: Peking
Head of Mission 5 Political Officers 4 Administrative Officers 1 Clerical Assistant 3 Typists 2 Machine Operators 1 Building Service Officer
Head of Mission 2 Political Officers 2 Administrative Officers 2 Typists 1 Machine Operator
Charge d’ Affaires 2 Political Officers 1 Administrative Officer 1 Typist
High Commissioner (as from 1 April) 7 Political Officers* 8 Administrative Officers 2 Clerical Assistants 5 Typists 2 Machine Operators
Guinea Department of Foreign Relations and Trade
Assistance Agency 3 Aid Officers 2 Clerks
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Karratha Medical Service (Question No. 50S)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I understand that the doctor referred to in the honourable member’s question has since left Karratha and that a salaried medical officer for that town has been appointed by the North-West Medical Service of the Western Australian Medical Department.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 March 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19740320_reps_28_hor88/>.