28th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parlaiment 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 Corbett, Mr Drury, Mr McLeay and Mr Wilson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parlaiment Assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth that proposals have been made aimed at dismembering the Repatriation System and transferring some of its facilities and services to other Authorities and Departments. Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government does not allow dismemberment of the Repatriation System nor the transfer of any of its functions to other authorities and/or Departments.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Anthony.
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 Bury.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the 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 humbly pray, therefore, that the Government will form 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 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 Muogamarra 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.
– Yesterday the Minister for Social Security answered a question regarding the Government’s intention to raise the subsidy limits on aged persons homes and hostels. 1 ask the Minister: Will the Government also consider raising the subsidy limit on aged persons nursing homes and those under intensive care?
– There is currently a nation-wide survey under way to establish the pattern of charges for nursing home services. When this is completed, and in conjunction with the national wage decision, we will review the rates at which nursing home subsidies are paid.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Services and Property. Under proposed amendments to the Electoral Act which will enable listing of registered party names on ballot papers will the newly formed National Liberal Party be able to use this name because of its similarity in meaning to the Liberal Party of Australia, the National Alliance and the proposed National Country Party? Will there be scope for registration of breakaway groups from all political parties?
– I thank the honourable member for the question, which has a very close relationship to the proposed amending electoral legislation. For the benefit of the House, I might say, the name changing of political parties all started at the top, particularly in the Liberal Party. Sir Robin Askin changed his name to the more trendy Robert. The Leader of the Opposition changed his name to Bill - more trendy - and my old colleague the honourable member for Mackellar prefers to be known as William Charles instead of W. C. However, I think it is carrying it a bit too far and is very complicating in the legislation when political parties change their names to be with it.
I now refer to Senator George Hannan, the well liked and respected colleague’ of the Leader of the Opposition, who shocked his former associates yesterday when he announced his resignation to lead a 3-man Liberal team called the National Liberal Party at this year’s Senate election in Victoria. Of course it will complicate the legislation that I have under review. The legislation is already complicated by the announced change of name of the Country Party, which lists itself under a variety of noms de plume such as the ‘National Alliance’, the ‘National Party of Australia’ and the ‘National Country Party’. Furthermore I understand that some of these titles are on a week to week basis and subject to change without notice to meet the circumstances. This, of course, is not only intriguing but also makes it exceedingly difficult administratively and legislatively, and for the public to follow. It is only fair to say, however, that the less the public knows about the Country Party the more chance it has of winning votes.
The new National Liberal Party of Australia does complicate the legislation and, very regrettably, adds to the disunity in the ranks of this once great Party. To differentiate, it may be necessary to refer to Senator Hannan’s party as the ‘National Liberal Party - Nontrendy’ and to the Liberal Party of Australia as ‘Liberal Party - trendy’. From the sartorial splendour of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition I can see that he will be amongst the trendies. Whichever way one looks at it, it is a frightening prospect. But the public is entitled to know precisely the difference between the parties, and this will be covered by the legislation. Of course, there is no knowing what other changes will take place in the Liberal Party in Victoria. Even the Leader of the Country Party referred to the Victorian Liberals as ‘idiotic’ - and he ought to know. If I might borrow a phrase from the Leader of the Opposition, I would say that it is ‘all so confusing for me and the public’ and, if I might borrow a phrase from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I might say that ‘it is making a mockery and a farce of polities’.
I assure the honourable member that I will do my best to see that the legislation covers the many gaps in the ranks of the trendy Liberals and provides for any number of breakaway parties, because far be it from me to aid the disintegration of - if I may repeat - this once great Party. I would like to assure the electors that on the ballot papers the name Australian Labor Party’ will be clearly shown against many candidates. I assure them that there will be no confusion about those candidates. That Party is superbly led; it is united; its policies are magnificent; its rank and file are dedicated, intelligent, capable and successful. In quite a non-political way, to assist honourable members opposite in their hour of need and to avoid the confusion that exists between the trendy and the non-trendy Liberals, the Country Party Alliance, the National Alliance and the National Country Party, I suggest that the best way to make a formal vote in any following election is to vote No. 1 for ALP candidates.
– The Minister for Urban and Regional Development will no doubt recall his statement of early September 1973 in which he said that the Government had a unique plan for a mini-city on a site acquired at Parramatta for a Commonwealth office block. He added that the major part of the centre would be completed within 3 years of a decision to proceed, that the Government was committed to building such a centre and had now only to select the exact form. It is now some 6 months since that statement was made and since the Parramatta by-election. I now ask the Minister: Firstly, has all the site been acquired? Secondly, have working drawings been prepared and the exact form of the project decided? Thirdly, will he assure this House that this most important project is proceeding expeditiously, that moneys are available for it to proceed and that the first sod will be turned shortly?
– In regard to the site at Parramatta proposed for an office development, the original site known as Meggitts was purchased by the Department of Services and Property some 6 months ago. There were 2 further sites to be purchased - the baby health centre and a service station which is on the corner of George Street and O’Connell Street. There have been further discussions between the Department of Services and Property and my Department as to whether further lands should be acquired. Those discussions are still going on. In fact the matter is now before Cabinet which is discussing the type of development that is to be carried out in Parramatta. When a decision is made by Cabinet on the matter the House will be informed of it.
– Can the Minister for Minerals and Energy inform the House of the current profits made and taxation payable by the Esso-Hematite group on Bass Strait crude oil production?
– In the development of the Bass Strait -
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is perfectly obvious that the Minister has notes. The Opposition will give him leave to make a statement after question time instead of his wasting time now.
– I will proceed in due course. The question asked -
– Mr Speaker, are you going to permit this misuse of question time?
– Order! The same system has prevailed ever since I have been a member of this Parliament. My predecessor always said that he was not in a position to know whether the asking of a question was prearranged.
– In the development of Bass Strait the Esso and Hematite groups have expended respectively $309m and $189m. Under the terms of legislation introduced by our predecessors in office the whole of the groups’ capital expenditure and exploration costs can be offset against those profits. That has in fact been done. The BHP group exhausted its right to offset such profits about 12 months ago and this year will be paying about $32m in tax. The Esso group has declared profits of about $166m and still has about another $200m to write off. In the meantime, despite the fact that it has paid no tax in Australia, it has remitted $60m to its parent company in the United States, Exxon, which is one of the world’s largest profit earners. The whole incident illustrates the exorbitant and unduly generous allowances which have been made for petroleum exploration in Australia. It raises the further interesting question of what contribution is to be made to the national interest in petroleum exploration from the $4.5 billion which is yet to be earned from the recoverable reserves of crude oil and liquids in Bass Strait. Would it not be much better to have a special tax levied for that purpose than to accept the suggestion of the Opposition that petroleum prices should be further increased and Australian consumers further mulcted?
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister. In view of the general endorsement he gave last week of the advertising campaign to be conducted and being conducted by the Department of the Media at significant public expense, 1 wonder whether the Prime Minister would today re-endorse his general support of this campaign and whether he would affirm that he believes the advertisements which are being inserted by that Department to be accurate. If so, has the Prime Minister seen one of the earlier advertisements which says that the Senate acts as a check and a balance within the Australian parliamentary system? Can he reconcile that assertion, which I and I believe most of my colleagues on this side of the House support, with his own advocacy of the Australian Labor Party’s platform, which includes a clause for the abolition of the Senate, and also with his advocacy of the forthcoming referenda, one of which will involve a reduction in the terms of office of existing senators and thereby a reduction of the power and significance of the Senate?
– I regret that the honourable gentleman should not understand or should mislead on the referendum proposal concerning the Senate. The referendum proposal concerning the Senate does not, in fact, involve a reduction in the term of office of any senator who was elected 3i years ago, or in the term of office of any senator who will be elected before the end of June this year. The relevant Constitution Alteration Bill makes it plain that there will not be an election in the normal course to replace any senators until the election for the House of Representatives after next. In other words, if the House of Representatives goes its full term, then the senators who were elected 3t years ago will enjoy a term of office not of 6 years but of H years. Those who are to be elected before the end of June this year will also enjoy a term of office not of 6 years but of 7i years. The honourable gentleman should have been able to understand the Bill. He has qualifications in the law and he has had experience in 2 parliaments. The Bill is quite clear on those terms. The Bill does not provide for any reduction in the term of senators.
There is no proposal before the Parliament to abolish the Senate. Its abolition is a long standing platform of the Australian Labor Party. Everybody knows that it is a long standing platform of the Australian Labor Party. Since the Senate represents every State, any proposal to abolish the Senate would have to be endorsed by a majority of the electors voting in every State. Accordingly it would be a very difficult proposition to carry at a referendum. There is no proposal to put it. My own views on this are consistent with my Party’s views; they always have been. At the same time I believe in making proposals to the people which there is a good chance of carrying. The proposals which are being made about the Senate in this referendum are substantially those which were made in 1958 by the Constitutional Review Committee appointed under Sir Robert Menzies as Prime Minister and composed of equal numbers of people from both sides of politics from both Houses in this Parliament. It is a proposal which has been about for 15i years. It is about time the people were given an opportunity to express their view on it. The fact that the Senate has twice voted against it cannot prevent the people from expressing their view on a proposal made and supported by 11 out of 12 members of that Committee, including both members from the Country Party, as long as 15i years ago.
The honourable gentleman refers to an advertising campaign. I have seen one advertisement; I think it is on the House of Representatives. It appeared to me to be a factual and instructive advertisement. I also hear that a great number of school principals and teachers are asking for the whole of the series to be put in a booklet form for their pupils. If the honourable gentleman wants to make some political capital out of it, might I quote what was said a few days ago about the campaign by the chairman of the firm which handles the Liberal Party’s national advertising. I want to get it in the proper order. It is the Liberal Party’s national advertising, not the National Liberal Party’s advertising. It is ‘Liberal’ with a capital ‘L’ and ‘national’ with a small ‘n’. This gentleman is quoted as saying that the fact that the advertisements had been placed through the Department of the Media’s Government Advertising Advisory Council indicate the campaign’s non-political nature. The advertising agent who handles the Liberal Party’s campaign went on to say that he denied the campaign was political and would help the Government to hold office.
-I think the Prime Minister should put in those advertisements a portrait of me in the Speaker’s chair. If Al Grassby were the Speaker, he would do it; there is no doubt about that.
– I will pass on your suggestion to my colleague in another place.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration. Is it true, as alleged at the weekend, that there is difficulty in breaking down the figures for family reunion migrants and those arriving under the national need category because the biggest group of migrants arriving in Australia is completely uncontrolled, unselected and indeed not even interviewed, that is, migrants from Britain, Canada and New Zealand? If so, is this likely to mean that adequate planning will be impossible, with consequent hardship to the new arrivals and problems for the Australian community.
– There has been some misunderstanding about the category C or the national need category. The other day I saw a report which stated that category C applications - the national need migrants - had to be referred back to Australia if the migrants were non-European or of mixed descent. These categories have been wiped out; they have been redundant for 15 months. In fact, the only national need migrant applications which return to Australia are those which come from outside the 17 countries where the tradesmen’s qualifications have been established since 1968-69.
As to the other matter, the free flow of migrants, what the honourable member says is right, and I must acknowledge it. If I understand him correctly, he said that it is not possible properly to arrange both reception and the categorisation of free flow migrants because we have no notice of them, no arrangements for them, and this is a continuing problem. That is the position. It applies to people who are drawn from 33 nations in the Commonwealth of Nations. The matter is now under examination to make sure that in future all of those categories of people who are coming to Australia are properly counselled and properly arranged in their category so that we can properly assemble the statistics for the whole of the program. It is quite true that at the moment we cannot do that, but I hope that at a later stage this year we will be able to take care of that matter, that we will be able to arrange for all migrants to be properly counselled, properly put into their categories and properly assisted on arrival. It is a gap and it is being attended to.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Overseas Trade. I refer to the Minister’s announcements about new arrangements for export incentives and to the phrase ‘corporation or any related corporation or corporations’. I ask the Minister: Is it correct that the upper limit of $100,000 for export incentive payments is to apply to a group of related corporations even in cases where each is a fully self contained enterprise, manufacturing and exporting products entirely different from the products of any of the others - for example, one in tyres, one in textiles and so on - and each of which is expected to stand on its own feet and operate profitably within its own operation? As each of such corporations may, in itself, be a large business capable of developing large export volumes, would it not be more reasonable and equitable if the upper limit - if there must be an upper limit - applied individually to each corporation? I say that it would be more equitable and also good for exports, as something good for exports will be needed as the cumulative effect of rapid domestic inflation, revaluation and other measures moves the balance of payments into deficit.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is asking a question. He should not be making a debate of the issue.
– There will be no export incentive scheme after 30 June of this year.
– The proposed new scheme.
– What is proposed is a market development grant. The previous scheme was one in which financial assistance was given to companies in proportion to their exports. The obvious result of this was that a very large amount of the assistance went to very large companies. The truth is that some 80 per cent of it went to about 20 different companies and the remaining 20 per cent to about 2,000 different companies. That kind of inequity has been present in almost every arrangement that has come to us from previous governments. As the honourable member said, the present scheme is limited to a payment of $100,000 for the establishment of new markets or the establishment of completely new operations by existing companies in existing markets. It is a market development grant. There is a limit of $100,000 and in applying that limit the Government has to decide what is a company and what can be treated as a separate enterprise. Every case will be judged on its merits. Where it is clear that the business is a separate one and where the arrangement which brings it together as part of a group in a holding company is merely formal - although for very substantial reasons - I should think the decision, on practical grounds, would be that assistance would be given separately. As I said, every case will be judged on its merits. I recently made a decision in respect of a rather large concern that the Government would not treat some divisions of that organisation as a separate business.
– Is the Minister for Education aware of the nationwide concern which has been aroused by the delay in implementing the pre-school report despite promises that the Government would, as from 1 January, take over financial responsibility for establishing and operating pre-school centres and child care centres? Can the Minister indicate what is the revised program of the Government in this matter and about what date the Government will begin to take over these centres?
– The honourable gentleman is mistaken in talking about the takeover of the services. If the honourable gentleman examined the legislation of his own Government in relation to child care centres he would find that his Government - we have followed suit - established a direct relationship with local governments, churches and any private organisations that set up child care centres, without using the mechanism of section 96 of the Constitution and without using the States as a post box. An amount of $13. 5m will have been committed to capital construction works for child care centres between April 1973 and 30 June 1974. The Government has endeavoured to continue the program of the previous Government at an accelerating rate. Furthermore, more than $lm has been spent in recurring grants and nearly $400,000 on research in the field of child care.
With respect to pre-schools, the mechanism that is being used is that provided by section 96 of the Constitution. It has been made clear to the States that for the remaining 6 months of this financial year the procedure for them to follow is to put up their cases, whereupon money will be granted. Each State has been told what it will get between now and 30 June. The Government expects that the money will start flowing if the appropriations are passed by the Senate in April. Most of the States know that they will be getting $10m for preschool centres. In addition the Commonwealth is totally financing, without means test, all the fees and all the living allowances of everybody training for pre-school and kindergarten establishments. This comes to over $2m. The States know what money they are getting. The report of the Fry Committee had what the Government regards as many interesting and valuable suggestions which undoubtedly will be implemented. But the conviction of the Government was that what the Fry report recommended was not fast enough in view of the spread of pre-school education throughout Australia. Whilst this may have meant a few weeks delay, and whilst we have been getting a second opinion on the matter and also asking the Fry Committee to discuss this question with the Social Welfare Commission to see what can be done to accelerate the whole program, the whole intention of the Government is to accelerate. I invite the honourable gentleman’s attention to the fact that commitments and expenditure between April 1973 and 30 June 1974 will total well over $25m, so it cannot be said that we are doing nothing.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Education been drawn to charges made last evening on the television program “This Day Tonight’ that the New South Wales Government is hostile to distributing special Federal funds for disadvantaged schools on the basis of need as required by both the Karmel report and the Australian Government? Are the charges correct that the New South Wales Government is allowing disadvantaged schools only $1,500 to $2,000 per school from Federal funds and that the New South Wales Government refuses to undertake the research to guarantee that schools in low income areas actually get the benefit of the funds provided for them by the Australian Government? Will the Minister ensure that the needs of school children from low income families are fully protected by the Australian Government? Finally, is the Minister able to make public the list of disadvantaged schools as supplied by the New South Wales Government?
– Answering the last question first, if the New South Wales Government regards its lists as confidential I certainly cannot disclose them. The position is that, under the Karmel report, disadvantaged State schools in New South Wales - I am leaving aside at the moment the non-government schools - are allowed in 1974 and 1975 $9,830,000 for capital construction and $6,200,000 for recurring grants. The recurring grants that they would be entitled to in the first quarter of 1974 amount to $800,000. They have asked for $500,000.
The honourable gentleman asks whether there are objections. I think it would be fair to say that Victoria and New South Wales object to the Commonwealth earmarking educational grants for any purpose. When I twitted my distinguished colleagues, the Ministers from those States, that they had discovered this principle after the change of government, they indignantly denied this and said that they had vehemently protested to my predecessor about his policy of earmarking grants for libraries and science laboratories. The ideal from their point of view is a one line budget of a grant for education and for them to decide what they will spend it on.
However, on the question of disadvantaged schools, the minor States promptly said that the main expenditure was going, as far as they could see, to the inner city schools of Sydney and Melbourne. They said that if New South Wales and Victoria objected to earmarked grants they would like the $50m spread right throughout the Commonwealth on the basis of per pupil enrolment. This immediately converted New South Wales and Victoria to earmarked grants as far as disadvantaged schools were concerned. So I feel that basically those States do not have an objection to this arrangement. We have no information on the plans of the New South Wales Goverment to undertake research into the needs of disadvantaged children. I have written to all State Ministers for Education asking for the criteria on which they have nominated disadvantaged schools and the expenditure programs they intend to implement.
I am charged under the States Grants (Schools) Act of 1973 to satisfy myself that the appropriations that this Parliament makes for disadvantaged schools are spent on disadvantaged schools. I am not a rubber stamp for the plans that others may advance, especially if they have indicated that they object to the program. Mr Willis has only just replied. He has quoted the Karmel report criteria for disadvantaged schools but has given no indication of his expenditure programs for relieving disadvantage. The Schools Commission has been asked to discuss with the State Government officials their programs for disadvantaged schools. I hope to be able to report to this Parliament, if I am questioned on the matter, with the utmost integrity how the money is being spent. I say to the honourable member that taking the 400 schools which New South Wales has nominated as disadvantaged it would mean that the average recurring grant for them - leaving aside capital - would be $8,000 a year in 1974 and 1975. The 400 disadvantaged schools nominated is a pretty wide spread.
– Has the Treasurer made any determination whether the surplus of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund to be distributed to members and superannuitants will be subject to income tax?
– What will be returned to the contributors and pensioners will not be their own contributions but an accumulation of surpluses earned by the Fund. I have sought the advice of the Commissioner of Taxation on the matter and his advice to me is that he is of the view that the payment to contributors and pensioners under the proposed Superannuation (Distribution of Surplus) Bill 1974 would not be taxable under the income tax law.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that there have been 3 deaths recently in central Australia which are thought to have been caused by Murray Valley encephalitis? Is it a fact that the Department of Health in Darwin has issued a statement concerning the suspected outbreak of Murray Valley encephalitis in Alice Springs? Can the Minister inform the House where those 3 deaths actually occurred and what were the causes of death? What actions have been taken to confirm the existence of Murray Valley encephalitis in the area? What safeguards are planned to protect the local population?
– The report referred to by the honourable member has not come to my attention. I have no doubt that the doctors and the authorities on the spot will adopt the usual procedures in these cases, and that is to see that sera are flown to Melbourne and the other appropriate laboratories for identification of the virus concerned. It is very rare that this can be done in under a fortnight, because it is not sufficient to find antibodies in the blood; we have to find a rising concentration of antibodies over a period of usually 2 weeks. Nevertheless, if this is the virus concerned I have no doubt that steps will be taken to reduce the insect infestation which usually leads to this disease and which is quite likely to have occurred following the unprecedented wet season in much of Australia, and seems to be related to the migration of birds which carry this virus away from the wet areas. The virus is then transmitted to humans by certain kinds of mosquitoes. If these mosquitoes are prevalant in the area I am sure steps will be taken to reduce the infestation.
(Mr McKenzie proceeding to address a question to the Prime Minister) -
-Order! The question is out of order. The Prime Minister is responsible only for his own portfolio. He is not responsible for what is said by any other person.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. Is it true that India and Australia have agreed to convene a conference of Indian Ocean states? Is it true that the purpose of that conference is to persuade the United States of America and Russia to reduce their forces in the Indian Ocean? Is it true that India is making the arrangements for such conference and is making arrangements for representations to be made to the Soviet and to the United States on behalf of Australia? Is it true that India is giving leadership to Australia in this matter? Are the views of the Australian Government and the Indian Government the same?
– To answer in parliamentary terms, it is not a fact. The views of
India and Australia, and in fact of all the littoral states of the Indian Ocean on this proposal are identical.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. In view of intermittent threats of and previous experiences with so-called regulation strikes in his Department - and probably in other government departments - for example, in the case of postmen, I put it to him that if a regulation strike can cause havoc does that not suggest that the regulations should be changed? Will he have a look at the regulations so that effective work can be performed strictly according to regulations?
– lt is true that there is often industrial trouble on what is deemed to be an interpretation of the regulations. Many people interpret them differently. Someone has suggested that to give a person a regulation to interpret is about as safe as giving an open blade razor to a baby; one gets disastrous results. I have had much the same result in. the Post Office. A lot of regulations have been set out over a period of years with all sorts of interpretations. They do not go to any court of law. Nobody in any judicial capacity interprets them. Common sense is necessary and frequent consultation between the employees and the management is required.
The structure of the Public Service is not flexible enough to allow frequent consultation and this results in industrial strife. There is a lot of merit in the honourable member’s question. There is a lot of difficulty in trying to assess what would be the right way to interpret regulations. The most satisfactory thing to say is that there should be closer cooperation between worker and management, there should be more job enrichment, and there should be more opportunities for employees to have some say in the management. Until we get this type of structure in the Public Service we will probably still have some industrial trouble.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Housing and Construction been drawn to public criticisms that the Government’s tax deductibility scheme for home loan repayments is socially regressive and inflationary? Are these criticisms well founded? What action does the Government intend to take to assist low and middle income earners to bridge the rapidly widening deposit gap under his Government’s credit squeeze policies? Finally, is the Minister aware that in the Australian Capital Territory, for which this Government must accept some sense of responsibility, the average price of housing has risen by 21 per cent in the 6 months to January this year?
– The one million Australian families who are likely to benefit from the tax deductibility of mortgage interest rates will certainly not acquiesce in the honourable member’s contention that the proposal is socially regressive. My own experience is that this scheme is extremely well received and it is certainly a great improvement on the homes savings grant scheme which it will replace. I might remind the honourable gentleman and the House that whereas in the past some $21m a year has been spent on the homes savings grant scheme, something like $1 20m per annum will be spent on assisting people who are in the process of buying their own homes under the tax deductibility scheme. Whereas 40,000 grants were made in 1972-73 under the homes savings grant scheme, one million families will be assisted under the scheme I mentioned.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Is it in order for the Minister to give information which is not correct because it does not go the full distance?
– Order! The Chair is not in a-
– The House is being misled.
-Order! There is no point of order involved, simply because I am not in a position to know the accuracy of answers given to questions.
– It stands to reason that if interest rates are raised 2 per cent-
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– and if the cost of land goes up by $2,000 a block-
– Order! The right honourable gentleman is now debating the issue.
– How can there be-
-Order! No point of order is involved. The right honourable gentleman is now debating the question.
– People are being misled.
-Order! I ask the right honourable gentleman not to flout the rulings of the Chair. I know what the right honourable gentleman is endeavouring to do, but there is no point of order involved.
– There is certainly no misleading in my contention that the scheme proposed by the Government will confer a benefit aggregating Si 20m as against the $21m which was made available under the previous Administration. May I also say that the kind of anomaly one found in the homes savings grant scheme will not be in evidence in this new scheme. For example, there will be no age barrier. Our assistance will not be limited to people who are financing their first homes; everybody financing a home will benefit. There will be no barriers in respect of valuation levels. In many respects, this is a very greatly improved scheme. From the standpoint of people who are seeking their own homes, the Government’s objective is to stabilise the building industry to uphold many of the points which the Housing Industry Association identified yesterday. I should like honourable gentlemen to know that the Government, and particularly my Department, keeps in very close association with the various sections of the industry and to the extent that we are able, we will restore stability to this industry and overcome the inflationary characteristics which are the result of the previous Administration.
– On 7 March the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) asked me a question regarding the accommodation occupied by the Press in Parliament House and that provided for the secretariats of two statutory committees. I now inform him that press representatives occupy 22 rooms on this side of the building and 21 on the Senate side. The rooms on this side have a floor space of 3571 square feet, and those on the Senate side 2695 square feet. Prior to 30 June 1950 rent was charged for the rooms but after that date rent payments were discontinued by order of the then Speaker who held the view, which was agreed to by the then President, that the Press was here by grace and not by right. He further considered that if people pay rent they have tenant rights, and the Press should never have a tenant right in this place.
The secretariats of the Joint Statutory Committee on Public Works and the Joint Statutory Committee on Public Accounts are located on the Senate side of the building. Because of the urgent need for additional accommodation for senators consideration has been given to locating these secretariats outside this building, but until they can be suitably located elsewhere no decision in the matter will be made. It is not the intention of the President of the Senate or myself at this stage to accommodate members of Parliament or officers in the space at present occupied by the Press Gallery.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. During question time my friend the Leader of the House misrepresented my attitude towards my name, about which I happen to be rather proud. I assure him and the House that I will meet any initial difficulties in the same spirit as Winston Churchill met his. I note with pleasure that the Minister’s mind, like his electorate, appears now to be fully sewered.
– Following a question asked of my colleague the Minister for the Environment and Conservation on 5 March I wish to make available for the information of honourable members the Environmental Assessment - Proposed Aerodrome on Lord Howe Island. As copies of the report are limited I am arranging for 6 copies to be placed in the Parliamentary Library.
– For the information of honourble members I present a report on the Migrant Task Force in Tasmania chaired by the honourable member for Franklin.
– Pursuant to section 33(3) of the Criminology Research Act 1971, I present the First Annual Report of the Australian Institute of Criminology for the year ended 30 June 1973 together with a statement by the AuditorGeneral on the financial statements of the Institute.
– Pursuant to section 43(5) of the Criminology Research Act 1971 I present the First Annual Report of the Criminology Research Council together with a report from the AuditorGeneral on the financial statements of the Council for the year ended 30 June 1973.
– by leave - In accordance with my undertaking to the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) when answering his question on 12 March, I now table the following documents:
I draw the attention of the House to the comment in Mr Noakes’ letter in which he said:
In 1972, the BMR produced an internal paper, principally written by himself for discussion with officers of that Department and the ABS and, on a restricted basis, with some officers outside the service with particular interest in equity.
A copy of this paper had apparently found its way to the Press last year and, as Mr Noakes said, the way in which it had been used, rather than the paper itself, had caused embarrassment.
Honourable members will note that no article on equity had been published because the BMR was not yet satisfied with its figures.
Honourable members will also note that the concepts used by Mr Noakes were based not exclusively on the value of minerals as mined but also on value added in subsequent processing, and that his statistics referred to selected minerals as examples and did not include the whole mineral industry, excluding petroleum. I especially draw attention to Mr Noakes’ comment in the section of his discussion paper dealing with Australian ownership in terms of value of output as follows:
Similar compilations for later years - meaning after 1968- are not yet available, but the level of Australian equity in these terms would be expected to have fallen rather than risen since 1968.
I also table for the information of honourable members figures taken from report No. 4 of 1968 by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics relating to overseas participation in the Australian mining industry. A photocopy of table 6 on page 29 entitled ‘Overseas Control Mining Statistics’ shows that the value of total mining production by the establishments of direct overseas investment companies had increased as follows: 1964, 39.1 per cent; 1965, 44.6 per cent; 1966, 49.8 per cent; 1967, 52.9 per cent; 1968, 58.1 per cent. This item was discontinued after 1968. In a conservative extrapolation in 1973 the figure was quoted as 62 per cent, being a not unreasonable assessment following the deterioration of 19 per cent in the 4 successive years. I present the following paper:
Bureau of Mineral Resources - Ministerial Statement, 21 March 1974
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Fairbairn) adjourned.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman is now debating what was said by the Minister for Minerals and Energy. The right honourable gentleman is not in order in doing so. The motion that the debate be adjourned and that the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting has been carried. The right honourable gentleman is not in order in debating now what was said this morning.
– There is only one more point I want to make. I am not debating the issue.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman has craved the indulgence of the Chair and that has been granted to him. But the fact of the matter is the right honourable gentleman is not entitled to debate anything that was just said by the Minister for Minerals and Energy. That will have to be brought up in the adjourned debate.
– I acknowledge that. I am not debating what the Minister has said. I think the Minister will acknowledge that. All I am saying is that Dr Fisher said in his letter that there is confusion at the moment on the concept of equity and control. I am just asking the Minister to make a statement when the debate comes on next week in clarification of just how these things are defined.
– Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement concerning the survey of manufacturing activity conducted by the Department of Secondary Industry.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The fifth secondary industry bulletin was issued on Sunday, 17 March. Honourable members should by now have received their copies of this bulletin, which contains the results of a survey of manufacturing activity carried out by my Department in January and February 1974. I take this opportunity to comment on the survey results and to make a statement on certain important aspects of the Government’s policies for secondary industry.
In the December quarter of 1972, before the present Government came to power, there was a low level of manufacturing activity. Insufficient orders constrained output, capacity utilisation was at well below normal levels and manufacturers were generally pessimistic about their short term prospects. Since then, orders have increased each quarter and are now at well above normal levels. Capacity utilisation has recovered to normal levels and the labour market has become extremely tight, with record overtime being worked. At present the level of manufacturing activity is high and production and sales are well above normal. For example, steel production in the December quarter of 1973 was 9i per cent above production in the December quarter of 1972 and the production of television sets was up 19 per cent. Orders are well above normal and demand is buoyant. Employment at the end of December 1973 was 4i per cent higher than at the end of December 1972.
The most important problems faced by manufacturing industry are shortages of labour and materials and increases in costs. Manufacturers are demonstrating their long term confidence in the future of secondary industry by undertaking substantial increased investment. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported a record investment of $334m in manufacturing in the December quarter, which was 22 per cent above the level in the December quarter of 1972. The survey of manufacturing activity forecasts a further 25 per cent increase in investment during the 6 months to June 1974 in contrast to the usual seasonal decline. This resurgence in new capital expenditure is typical of the recovery of the economy in general, and of manufacturing in particular, in the last 15 months. Demand is expected to continue at very high levels and sales are expected to remain above normal. Manufacturers have strong order books, and have expressed a desire to increase inventory levels. In consequence they expect manufacturing activity to increase still further in the 6 months to June 1974.
Despite labour and raw material shortages, capacity utilisation is expected to continue to rise in this period, and manufacturers expect a level of 89 per cent close to maximum practicable utilisation, to be reached. The labour shortage is expected to ease slightly, with manufacturers expecting a 2 per cent increase in employment in the first half of 1974, double the increase considered normal in that period. A corresponding reduction in overtime, from the record levels being worked in the December quarter, is expected, but overtime will still remain at above normal levels. Manufacturers expect raw material shortages to continue, and do not see any substantial easing of the situation before the second half of the year. Only the normal 3 per cent increase in stocks of raw materials is expected in the first half of the year. Thus, in the short term, the level of manufacturing activity is expected to remain at a very high level.
Future Directions In the Growth off Secondary Industry
The future of business under a Labor Government lies in the direction of more efficient production, more rational allocation of resources, concentration on our natural advantages and increasing our competitiveness vis-a-vis overseas producers. The transformation of the Tariff Board into the Industries Assistance Commission is a major expression of our determination to have a more coordinated and rational approach to protection and assistance. The Commission will advise the Government in developing policies for improved allocation of resources in all sectors of industry. The establishment of the Commission is, however, only one of a number of institutional changes needed to ensure the effective operation of our policies. In this statement I shall touch on the measures we have introduced in regard to competition, tariff reform, adjustment assistance, technology, small businesses and Government communication with industry.
Out platform involves, in effect, a commitment to making secondary industry more competitive and efficient, and being much more selective in what we as a nation are trying to do. Labour’s programs for housing, social welfare, education and health services, and its emphasis on improved distribution of income and quality of life for all members of the community require more selective growth in the production of goods and services by our economy. Because resources are not unlimited we cannot afford to squander them on those industrial activities which are not really the ones best suited to conditions in Australia. To persist in spreading our efforts too thinly would mean a lower standard of living all round, in both material and welfare terms. Thus we are creating a more competitive climate through trade practices legislation and our prices justification tribunal. We are giving high priority to tackling systematically the question of unnecessarily high tariffs so that industries are encouraged to increase the efficiency and productivity of their enterprises. Implicit in this redirection of policy is a better deal for consumers, particularly wage earners and those on fixed incomes.
We have moved swiftly and decisively to tackle the problem of tariff reform and to provide the support policies necessary to cushion the problems of adjustment. It is only because of the confidence that trade unionists can have that a Labor Government will not tolerate unemployment and human hardship, that these necessary changes in our industrial structure can be made. One of the major actions taken by this Government in the tariff area was the 25 per cent tariff cut in July 1973. In the six months ended December 1973 the level of imports entering Australia was just over $2,700m - 37 per cent higher than in the second half of 1972. Thus with high levels of demand we have witnessed marked increases in imports, without any unfavourable impact on the levels of our own industry production and employment.
We have also made a number of important tariff decisions in relation to specific industry areas. These decisions have generally resulted in reduced tariffs and have been consistent with our objective of improving the efficiency with which the community’s productive resources are used. Important examples in this context have been our decisions on consumer electronic products and electronic components and domestic appliances. Other important policy decisions relate to specific industries. These include our decision on shipbuilding policy announced in December 1973 and our recent decision to terminate quotas on certain textile products and to accede to the new long term General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade arrangement on international trade in textiles. All of these decisions accord with our objective of ensuring a better use of the Australian nation’s resources.
The Government is fully aware that the economic changes brought about by policy decisions of this nature may be associated with hardship, inequity and economic dislocation, in particular industries or particular regions. We are aware, too, that the burden of such change can often rest on one group of individuals rather than the economy as a whole. It is the firm aim of the Government to ensure that these costs are minimised and that the necessary adaptation takes place as smoothly as possible. Following the 25 per cent tariff cut last July, a range of measures was introduced and a special tribunal appointed to handle cases of industry disruption. In the event, the call on these special measures has been very small indeed. Only about 50 persons have applied through the Commonwealth Employment Service for the special assistance and 6 firms have lodged formal applications with my Department.
At the same time we have been developing a more general and permanent long term program of adjustment assistance, a policy in step with the reality of change which characterises modern industrial development. We announced, at the time of the 25 per cent tariff cut, that a longer term program of adjustment assistance would supersede the special arrangements made in connection with the tariff cut. The longer term arrangements have been the subject of an interdepartmental committee report which I have submitted to Cabinet for its consideration. In addition, my colleague the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) in conjunction with other ministers and departments, has been developing other programs of general applicability as part of an integrated manpower policy.
One of the Government’s stated objectives is to promote in Australia ‘high technology industries with a significant world market growth potential’. This objective acknowledges that, while Australia looks toward continuing development in traditional industries, our best prospects for future growth may in many cases involve a rationalisation of our industrial structure with a greater emphasis on specialisation in areas where Australian industry can be internationally competitive. Already exciting developments are occurring in this area. Much of the new development in our resourcebased industries, for example, is aimed at meeting world demand.
Implementation of these aims will obviously, and importantly, depend to a large extent on the development, acquisition, and implementation by industry of more advanced forms of technology than are currently being utilised. Although, to an extent, this new technology can be purchased from overseas, it is obvious, if Australian industry is to become and remain competitive internationally, that a major part of innovation and technological development will need to be locally sourced. Included in the Government’s platform is a firm commitment to protect Australian science-based industries against takeovers.
The Government is concerned moreover that, in providing financial encouragement for technological innovation, the principle followed should be one of providing greatest support to areas of greatest need and promise. To this end, the industrial research and development grants scheme was amended in late 1973 to allow a greater measure of assistance to be provided to the smaller innovative companies, and to ensure that companies receiving large grant payments did so only on the basis that they could show compelling national interest reasons why such assistance was justified. These are interim measures pending the Government’s announcement that it was giving fuller and more detailed consideration to the whole question of Government assistance for industrial research and development. We are concerned that increasing future attention should be given to channelling assistance to areas showing the greatest technical and commercial promise.
The Government provides a measure of financial assistance to the Inventors’ Association of Australia to assist the Association in its efforts to encourage Australian innovation and invention. I am presently considering proposals for possible Government assistance for worthwhile Australian inventions. I hope the Government will soon be in a position to make decisions on the measures of assistance that will be introduced.
The broader question of general Government encouragement for small businesses in Australia is also worthy of comment. The Government recognises that a healthy and efficient small business sector is necessary for the sound development of our economy. This sector comprises a substantial proportion of our economy and is often the source of new products and services. Apart from that, this sector is overwhelmingly Australian in ownership and control and a vigorous small business sector will ensure the sound development of Australian owned and controlled industries.
We have carried out a Labor Party policy undertaking by deciding to establish a national small business bureau which will have a responsibility for the development of a comprehensive and co-ordinated program to assist the efficient development of the small business sectors of Australia’s secondary and tertiary industries. This policy provides, for the first time, a channel of communication between Government and the small business sector of Australia, and a facility which will assist small businesses to increase their efficiency.
The bureau, which will shortly be operational, will be progressively developing a program to assist entrepreneurs of smaller firms in management, technology and other matters pertinent to the sound growth of their firms. This program will involve policy development and research as well as the provision of advisory services for marketing and management techniques. The bureau will also advise new firms on industry and regional prospects and will assist in developing technical and economic information.
Government Communication with Industry
During its term of office the Government has established industry advisory panels in a number of important industries. The establishment of such panels is an important part of the Government’s policy for the development of secondary industry. The function of the panels is to advise the Government on matters affecting the development of the industries concerned. Membership of the panels includes representatives of industry, trade unions, consumers and the Department of Secondary Industry, thus bringing together the collective experience knowledge and ideas of a wide cross-section of the Australian community.
Industries in respect of which panels have already been established are the textile and apparel industry, the footwear industry, the printing and allied industries, the chemical industry and the foundry industry. Panels will shortly be established for the heavy engineering industry, the automotive industry, the electronics industry and the metal manufacturing industry.
Those panels that have been established have met regularly and have submitted reports to the Government on a number of matters. For example, the textile and apparel industry panel has been closely involved with the Government in a new GATT arrangement regarding international trade in textiles. Industry representatives attended sessions of the GATT working party.
Finally, as the Minister responsible, I have been personally active in establishing contact with secondary industry. Immediately after taking up my portfolio I began a series of meetings with businessmen in secondary industry and their associations, which still continues. In addition to my day to day contacts with industry, in the last 4 months I have visited not fewer than 30 major industrial establishments throughout Australia to get a first-hand knowledge of industry and leaders of industry and their problems. I have held discussions with the Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council about possible reforms and means of relating MIAC to the work of the industry panels. I would add that I would see virtue on occasions in other Ministers, with relevant responsibilities, joining with me in regular consultations with MIAC
I repeat that the Government’s aim is to involve industry in the whole decision-making process and in the formulation of policies for the future development of Australian secondary industry. In talking of involving industry I speak not only of firms but also of trade unions and consumer interests. I commend to the attention of honourable members the Secondary Industry Bulletin No. 5 incorporating detailed results of the survey I have outlined above which has already been distributed to them. Both I and my Department place substantial importance on this survey as an aid to the Government in policy formulation and as a source of information for industry and the public at large. Further information from the survey about individual sectors of industry will be available shortly. This will be supplied to honourable members on request. I present the following paper:
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
- Mr Speaker, in speaking to the motion to take note of the paper I wish to offer a few comments on the speech of the Minister for Secondary Industry (Mr Enderby). In the statement the Minister gives an account of the objectives of ‘the Government in respect of manufacturing industry and what it sees as its achievements to date. The Minister speaks, in terms one can only applaud, of the Government’s objectives for greater efficiency in industry, a better allocation of resources, the fostering of high technology and greater specialisation in industry, and also of its plans for adjustment assistance and so on. He refers, as an important initiative, as the Government sees it, to the decision to establish a small business bureau, and we have heard of the industry advisory panels that have been set up.
In this statement there is much talk, but I fear not too much of substance, and when one gets down to the substance, the nitty gritty of what the Government has done, the negatives would, in the opinion of many, out-weigh the things to which the Minister has referred. For instance, there has been the removal of the investment allowance in new plant and equipment. This is not a short term measure to be turned on and off in accordance with current business conditions. The purpose of the investment allowance in a competitive world - greater concessions that are available in many countries with which we have to compete - is to provide an offset to high labour and other costs and to foster investment in plant and equipment and the mechanisation of production with a view to increasing productivity. But the investment allowance has been withdrawn.
There has been the 25 per cent tariff cut to which the Minister has in fact referred. Its effect on inflation in all the circumstances has been pretty minimal, but on the other hand its adverse impact on the long term planning and long term expectation of business has been very significant. There is the very high rate of inflation itself and the veritable - as one journalist put it the other day - wage-pay rocket that is about to take place and all that that implies for the competitiveness of industry - of
Australian manufacturing industry competing with imports and of Australian industry seeking to compete on export markets.
There has been the revaluation of the Australian currency. I am not suggesting that the Australian currency should not have been revalued, but the extent to which it has been revalued - to the point where it has been revalued practically more than any other currency in the world - is open to query, and it is a serious inhibiting factor on the possibility of securing markets for Australian manufactured exports. The Minister also referred to the trade practices legislation. During the last session of Parliament he castigated members from this side of the House - I will not debate the issue; it is before the Senate - for pointing to uncertainties and difficulties with this legislation and for seeking more time to work it out and to suggest appropriate amendments. But what happened? The Government, of its own initiative, introduced about 100 amendments into the Senate, but still the uncertainties remain as to what constitutes a market and so on. This is just another factor in the adverse effects on the development of secondary industry offsetting the factors to which the Minister referred.
Also there has been the halving, as I might put it, of the export incentives scheme to which I made reference during question time this morning. The Minister referred to the fact that manufacturers are demonstrating their long term confidence in the future of secondary industry by undertaking substantial increased investment. I have not the precise figures, but reading from a graph it seems that the figure the Minister quoted for the December quarter 1973 concerning investment, claiming that it demonstrates the great confidence of manufacturers in the Government’s handling of the economy, only brings the level of that investment back to what it was in 1971. I very much doubt whether this is real evidence of a resurgence of confidence. Since 1971 there has been no growth in the level of investment. Obviously what has happened is that business put off investment quarter by quarter until the time came when something had to be done to keep operations viable. I suspect that such a point has been reached in a wide range of industries and that this largely accounts for the December upswing to which the Minister referred. I have doubts as to how much of it is investment for real expansion.
There is no need for the Minister to remind me or to spend time telling the House that industry has been going like a bomb. I concede that point. The Government, as he said, has fostered high levels of demand - too high, and hence a major cause of the current inflation. Owing to world wide shortages imports have been slow in responding to the revaluation and the tariff cuts. What is and will be increasingly critical is what the impact on industry will be when these chickens - the excessive revaluation of the currency and the tariff cuts - begin to come home to roost. This is another major shadow under which secondary industry operates.
The Minister said that he seeks greater specialisation of Australian production. I applaud the objective. I suggest that it will be achieved only if industry can take an increasing part in exports. As I have said, the revaluation and the halving or significant change in the export incentives are hardly the right way to promote greater participation in exports which will enable this greater scale of operation - this greater specialisation - which all honourable members would seek. I make only one further comment. In his statement the Minister referred to the transformation of the Tariff Board into the Industries Assistance Commission as a major expression of the Government’s determination to have a more co-ordinated and rational approach to protection and assistance. As the Minister will be aware, the Party that I represent concurred in and supported that change.
– That is one of the best things it has ever done.
– The Minister says: That is one of the best things we have ever done*. Nevertheless the procedures of the Industries Assistance Commission up to now have been such that manufacturing industry may have cause for some uncertainty and fears. I noted that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in a speech the other day wherein a large number of persons were listed as rendering assistance to the Government stated:
We have appointed 4 noted businessmen - Mr Dudley, Mr Hampel, Mr George Johnson and Mr Grace - to the Industries Assistance Commission.
He takes this as evidence of the Government in sympathy with secondary industry. This is perhaps a somewhat delicate matter but on my understanding and my information, of these gentlemen referred to in that statement three were appointed as associate commissioners and of those two, Messrs Dudley and Hampel, were previously Tariff Board members. It would appear that these 2 gentlemen at least have been demoted for reasons about which one can only speculate. So far as I know, this leaves no person of experience in the practice of manufacturing industry as a full member of the Industries Assistance Commission. I mention this as a procedure not likely to inspire confidence in secondary industry.
– Firstly, 1 should like to thank the Minister for Secondary Industry (Mr Enderby) for making a statement bringing us up to date with the Government’s secondary industry policy. I believe this is the first statement that the Minister has made relating to secondary industry.
– I have made speeches.
– The Minister may have made speeches, which he seems to do at the drop of a hat at any time, but this is the first statement of Government policy and it is an important document which enables people to gauge the Government’s attitude. I see this document as being almost a duplication of a document that I could have prepared while I was Minister for Secondary Industry. There is nothing new in it with the one exception that a small business bureau is to be established. This I commend, but this has been as a result of an inquiry carried out by Mr Wiltshire and information provided to the Government which I supported suggesting that such a bureau should be established. The remainder of the document is nothing more than rhetoric. It is part of a Government program to win the hearts of the businessmen of Australia.
In Sydney last week we saw the pitiful performance of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) at the annual conference of the Institute of Directors where he made a speech which went off like a lead balloon. In it he begged the business community to have confidence in the Government because the Government wanted to help business. He suggested there should be a close and warm relationship between the two. But how could business have an affinity with this Government at the moment, this Government which is creating uncertainty and confusion within the business community? There is just a mul titude of decisions, statements and legislation coming into the Parliament which is creating this predicament for the business section. People in this sector are not sure whether they should invest in expansion of their bus.nesses or just take a standstill position in the hope that the Government will not remain in office too long. Do you wonder that they should hold such an attitude when they see the burgeoning Commonwealth Public Service and the wages and conditions which it is being given which, when they flow on to the public sector of the community, will make it nearly impossible for businessmen to show any degree of profit? They will be in the red very soon if they have to try to balance their books with the wage conditions that are now being established by the Commonwealth Public Service. Do you wonder that they are apprehensive and concerned when they see this rather useless Prices Justification Tribunal operating and giving nothing more than official approval for price rises ali the time and not attacking the multitude of price rises which go on in chain stores and small businesses, which the Tribunal knows is a practice which it is hopeless to try to control? Already the Tribunal is overburdened with work in its examination of the large companies which it is trying to control. If the Tribunal holds down prices too much people just will not produce. If the Tribunal fails to allow normal economic circumstances to prevail then we will not get production.
Because of the Government’s policy and the industrial trouble that is taking place we are seeing a growth in shortages in materials and goods such as we have never seen in this country since the immediate post-war years. It is a nightmare for business and manufacturers to try to keep up with the boom demands that exist at the moment and to get adequate supplies of machinery. Do you wonder that they are concerned when you hear of a Government’s support of a proposal to introduce a 35-hour week, when you hear of the government wanting to bring back quarterly adjustments of wages which will mean that there will be a ratcheting effect on costs and prices every quarter which will lead to an alarming inflationary situation? The Minister for Secondary Industry tries to paint a rosy picture of the economic buoyancy. But heavens above, would there not be some buoyancy with inflation running at least at 13 per cent per annum? Goodness knows what the rate of inflation will be by the time we finish this year.
The honourable member for Berowra (Mr Edwards), who spoke before me in this debate, pointed out the implications of the revaluation of the currency, two of which were no more than arbitrary decisions of this Government to try to redirect resources away from export industries to import industries. But that has been a dismal failure, because we have not seen any reduction of import prices as a result of that decision. All we have found is that a greater impost has been placed on the export industries, of which manufacturers make up a considerable part. We have seen a series of doctrinaire type legislation being brought into this Parliament which can do no more than put fear into business that there will be greater Government intrusion into their affairs and that they will be directed what to do and in some cases fears that their industries could be nationalised. It is little wonder that they are worried about this Government when interest rates are skyrocketing, making it more difficult for them to be able to meet their commitments. It is becoming more difficult to obtain equity capital because people do not want to invest in basic industries at the moment. They are seeking out more speculative high return areas of the economy rather than putting their money into sound long term investments such as our secondary industries.
These are some of the reasons why secondary industry is concerned about the attitudes of the present Government. Certainly the Minister has not been too deeply involved or outspoken about secondary industry up to now. I hope that he does not get too deeply involved or interested because we can see a path of devastation that he left behind in the Australian Capital Territory when he thought he knew how to run the affairs in Canberra. Let us hope that he does not get too deeply involved and that he allows things to run their normal course in secondary industry. A rate of inflation running at 13 per cent is causing great concern to manufacturers. The effect of this is that a great deal of industrial trouble is being caused. It is normal that industrial trouble will arise in such circumstances.
For the last quarter of 1973 243,000 days were lost due to industrial disputes in the manufacturing sector. This was an increase of 42 per cent on the same quarter in the previous year, which was the last year of the LiberalCountry Party Government. If that rate of time lost due to industrial disputes is to increase then costs must go up and shortages must get worse. The signs of structural unemployment, with the high level of unfilled vacancies, as well as about 98,000 people unemployed, must be causing great concern in some sections of industry.
The Minister has referred to the development of a more general and permanent long term program of adjustment assistance as well as an integrated manpower policy. What has happened to this integrated manpower policy? Perhaps we should have had that spelt out with the decision set out in the Minister’s statement. We know that the Government’s policy is broadly to cut all tariff protection by 25 per cent. No doubt there was a need for a quick examination of the levels of protection for industries that had been examined for a considerable period of time to try to offset some of the inflationary pressures in the community. But there was no discrimination whatsoever. If ever it was highlighted how ludicrous it was to make such a broad band decision this was done last week when the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns), who is the Minister responsible for handling Tariff Board matters, brought forward recommendations which suggested a certain level that the Tariff Board had recommended on top of which there was to be a further 25 per cent reduction because the examination of these items had taken place when the Government had made its decision. This means either that the Tariff Board was too generous in its decision or else the Government’s reduction of a further 25 per cent will impose an unfair penalty on industries which are trying to establish some protection against imports overseas. Is it any wonder that the secondary industry sector of the community, which relies on protection, is so concerned when we get these sorts of crazy decisions being made by the Government which are completely unfair and unjust?
We have the situation now, because our export industries have been hurt and imports are tending to come in to a greater degree, that our balance of payments position needs to be watched very closely. Sir John Crawford drew attention to this factor last weekend in a statement that he made. He pointed out that the fall in capital inflow posed dangers for the economy. On present local and overseas trends Australia’s external current account surplus of $677m for 1972-73 may be replaced by a considerable current account deficit for 1973-74. Perhaps this deficit will considerably widen later on ‘this year. In the 5 months that ended November last imports of transport equipment were up 58 per cent. Imports of textile products were up 50 per cent and exports of iron and steel were up 95 per cent. We ought ‘to be able to produce enough Mee in this country to satisfy our demands. But of course, there is not much encouragement being given by the Government for investment in the steel sector.
The relatively high rate of inflation in Australia compared to overseas countries is going to make our competitive position more unfavourable and the long term effects of revaluation and the tariff cuts will be felt by the manufacturing sector of the community. The present business buoyancy must be looked at in the context of a quite alarming indication of a wage boom this year. The announced intention of the Treasurer to increase the Government’s slice of the national income cake, the high level of inflation and the considerable shift in our balance of payments situation make this area worthy of very close attention.
Average weekly earnings for the December quarter rose by 3 per cent which means that the annual wage increase for 1973 was about 15 per cent. This is a cold and frightening fact when we consider it is the largest wage increase since 1951. It is also frightening to realise that these large increases in wages are being absorbed almost entirely by the outdated tax scale and the rapid rate of inflation. Between September 1972 and September 1973 the average weekly earnings increased by about $14 a week. Yet, for a married man with 2 children the tax on that amount increased by $3.50. Allowing for the effects of inflation, that man’s real income in terms of purchasing power after tax was up 66c. That was all the increase a working man with 2 children got during the year. Is it little wonder that there is restlessness amongst the working class people in this country. This is what is causing the industrial trouble. This is what is giving the militant trade unions an opportunity to mobilise the working people to hold strikes and stoppages. Yet this Government seems to treat inflation as though it does not matter, as though it is a natural phenomenon with which we have to live and as though it is endemic all over the world. The Government takes the view: ‘Let us not worry about inflation’.
The Treasurer a week ago said that he thinks he could live with a 10 per cent or 12 per cent rate of inflation. What greater irresponsibility can there be? We have seen some definite decisions by the Government to deter the incentive to invest in secondary industry. The investment allowance has been removed. Honourable members talk about improving technology and installing modern plant and equipment. One of the best decisions that the previous Government made for secondary industry was in this field. It helped to remove a lot of the obsolete machinery which had been in use for years and improved not only production but also the working conditions of men and women across the nation.
Debate (on motion by Mr Daly) adjourned.
– by leave - I wish to report to the House on 2 developments relating to the administration and future direction of science and technology in Australia. I do this conscious of the fact that in recent years public disenchantment has risen wi:h the part played by science and technology in developments of dubious value to mankind. I am not talking only of the more obvious examples, such as military applications, nor even of space research, which though it has an endless fascination for the man and woman in the street has nevertheless come to be regarded by many as an enormously expensive deviation from the search for solutions to mankind’s most pressing problems. In an increasingly environment conscious society, it is now apparent that science and technology have themselves created problems.
It is my belief that these problems can be solved only by the application of a redirected scientific and technological effort, and the Government is moving on several fronts to achieve this result. The Government recognises that the complexities of science and technology on the one hand and of society on the other will demand in the future a more coherent national approach to the development and utilisation of Australian science and technology than in the past. For this reason, it is the Government’s intention to establish an Australian science council, whose broad purpose will be to assist the
Parliament and the Government on science and technology.
The governments of many industrialised countries have adopted, during the past decade, machinery through which they have received integrated advice on broad scientific issues of national significance. While the structure of such advisory machinery has varied from one country to another, the common purpose has been to enhance the economic and social gains from the resources that each of these countries devotes to its national scientific program. No comparable step had been taken in Australia until the previous Government, in the last year of its term of office, formed an advisory committee on science and technology. The concept and other factors associated with that committee were not in accord, however, with the approach of the new Government and it was therefore disbanded. Mindful of the problems which have beset similar committees in other countries and conscious of the need to take fully into account the views of interested groups within the community, the Government has moved with care in formulating its plans for the creation of a science council. As a first step, shortly after the Government took office I invited the Australian scientific and technological communities, through appropriate bodies, to offer comment on such aspects as the proposed council’s charter, composition and organisation, and the mechanisms through which the council’s advice should be conveyed to, and considered by, Government. Much thoughtful and valuable advice was received though, not surprisingly, some differences of view emerged in relation to specific aspects of the proposed council’s functions and modus operandi. For example, most of those who offered comment urged the creation of a body with wide-ranging responsibility to advise the Government on policies and priorities in the total scientific’ endeavour of Australia. However, in relation to the social sciences, medical sciences and defence science, there were divergences of view as to what the nature of the council’s role should be.
Some of the issues on which no clear-cut guidelines have yet emerged are of sufficient importance to warrant seeking further expressions of view from the community, even though this would entail some delay in establishing the council. In addition to the ambit of matters on which the council should advise the Government, other aspects on which further reflection and comment would be welcomed include: Standing arrangements through which the Government should receive and consider the council’s advice; the desirable relationship between the council and other bodies already set up to advise the Government on aspects of the national scientific effort or on closely related matters; whether at least one member of the council should serve on a fulltime basis, and whether Australian Government employees should be eligible for membership of the council; and the desirable mechanism for establishing the council, whether through legislation or by governmental administrative actions. Against the background just outlined, I have decided that the differences of view which have been identified should be publicised for examination and open debate. To this end, I am issuing a discussion paper entitled ‘Towards an Australian Science Council’, which I now table for the information of honourable members.
In deciding to follow this course, I have been mindful of the fact that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development - OECD - is about to make a review of Australia’s scientific and technological activities. The decision to invite this review was made public in a statement that I issued in October last. Since the role and structures of science advisory machinery in a number of other countries have been the subject of special studies by the OECD, that body should be well placed to examine and comment, from an independent standpoint, upon the various matters that are traversed in the discussion paper which I have just tabled. I will therefore be inviting the examining panel which the OECD has appointed to undertake the review, to include the question of an Australian Science Council in the matters that it will be addressing in the course of its tasks. For the information of honourable members, the 3 member OECD examining panel will be commencing its discussions in Australia on 25 March. It will comprise Dr A. King, formerly Director-General of Scientific Affairs with the OECD; Dr F. Schneider, Director-General of the Max Planck Society of the Federal Republic of Germany; and Dr Wautrequin of the Prime Minister’s Department, Belgium.
In the period up to 11 April, the examiners will be holding comprehensive discussions with representatives of the Australian and some State Governments, the universities, industry, trade unions, learned academics and professional bodies, on the whole range of scientific effort in Australia. Regrettably the length of time that the panel can spend in Australia will not permit it to visit centres other than Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne, but whenever practicable the groups with which they will be meeting will also include persons drawn from other parts of Australia. During the Easter period, the Panel will be formulating its preliminary views. These will then be the subject of discussion at an assessment meeting to be held in Canberra on 18 and 19 April. Representatives from the sectors already mentioned will be invited to participate in this meeting. The aim will be for the examining panel to gain reactions and comments on its tentative conclusions, which will then be taken into account in writing its definitive report. That report will be discussed at a meeting at the OECD headquarters in Paris later in the year, and I would hope to receive the OECD’s final report on the review before the end of the year.
Since effective chairmanship of the assessment meeting could be a key factor in ensuring a fruitful exchange of views between the examiners and Australian representatives, the Government has invited His Excellency Sir Mark Oliphant to chair the meeting. I am delighted to be in a position to say that Sir Mark has agreed to assist in this way. While the Government sees the impartial scrutiny by independent experts of Australia’s present scientific and technological situations as being of great value, it will be obvious from what I have said that we will not be relying solely on the advice of the overseas experts in developing policies to chart the future course of the development and utilisation of science and technology in serving national needs. The OECD report will however represent the first full scale review of scientific effort in Australia. In that sense it will be a milestone in Australian science and technology. I believe that the House will endorse the action that the Government has taken.
– by leave - The Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) has hidden in a fair few words a complete inability to make decisions in these matters.
In a fit of pique or disgruntlement - I am not sure which - he cancelled the decisions of the previous Government which had established an Advisory Committee on Science and Technology. He said today that the terms of reference or the purposes of that committee were not in accordance with the Government’s view.
– I said the concept.
– Well, that the concept was not in accordance with the Government’s view. That would hardly accord with the view of the honourable member for Lang, the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart), who at the time spoke for the Opposition in these matters and warmly endorsed the statement that the then Prime Minister made in this House on 27 April 1972. Because the Minister then endorsed what the Prime Minister at the time had said, I want to remind the House of the purposes of the Committee. The then Prime Minister stated:
The primary function of the Committee to which I have referred and which will report to me through the Minister for Education and Science will be to make recommendations to the Government on Australian efforts in civil science and technology. It will assess on a continuing basis Australian requirements, resources and potential in civil science and technology and will provide advice on these matters.
The Government intends that the Committee should make wide-ranging and comprehensive assessments of the scientific and technological situation. It will advise on such facets as long-term planning, new areas which are of importance to Australians, the priorities that should be assigned to specific projects or areas of research, the means for improving efficiency in the use of resources and the effective development and utilisation of scientific and technological manpower. The Committee will be empowered to undertake studies on its own initiative, in addition to providing advice on specific matters that are referred to it by the Government.
That was a fairly comprehensive statement of the terms of reference for that Advisory Committee. It had a membership of highly distinguished people who would have been well equipped to advance the cause of science and technology in Australia. A sensible course for someone with the present Government’s philosophy, would have been, I believe, to continue the work of that committee, to broaden the membership of that committee if he liked - I would have had no objection to that at all - to place distinguished members from the trade union movement on that committee and to broaden its scope. But the Minister for Science did not take that view. He chose to cancel the committee in February of 1973 in the most abrupt and short-handed manner. That action seems to be in contradiction of the view that the honourable member for Lang took in 1972. Speaking after the Prime Minister of the time, the honourable member for Lang said:
It was a speech which I would feel proud to hear from my own Leader.
That is the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam).
It showed a great deal of commonsense and indicated a desire to see that Australia is prepared for the future scientific and technological developments that will come. The proposal referred to in the speech is an excellent example of planning-
The praise of the honourable member continued. He then proceeded to quote significant sections of the present Government’s policy and a speech of the then Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Werriwa, the present Prime Minister. The Minister for Tourism and Recreation on page 2124 of Hansard then went on to say:
Having given these two or three examples from the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition at a symposium on 11 September 1969 and the Prime Minister tonight, I want honourable members to note the similarity of phrase - the closeness of thought. What the Prime Minister said tonight is almost a direct steal of Labor policy.
What is the matter with that, if there is an area in which Labor policy is sound and sensible? But the point to be made is that the honourable member for Lang believed that what we were doing was fully in accord with Labor policy and only praise was offered for the proposal. The present Minister for Science of course does not accept that view. I think it is a pity because the Committee could have been doing very useful work over the 15 months that have been wasted by the Minister’s equivocation and by the continued equivocation which will occur until this matter is finally determined. The concept that the Minister had, as I understand it, was that the various scientific bodies would elect their own representatives to a particular committee.
– Precisely not.
– That is a concept included in an article -
– You said: “The Minister’. I do not have that view and I am opposed to it.
-The Minister tells me that he does not have that view and that he is opposed to it. I am glad to hear it because it is not a sensible view. But that was a concept involved in an article written by the present Prime Minister in a journal called, I think, ‘Science’, speaking in a policy area for the present Government. I am glad to know that the present Minister for Science is not in accord with the views of the Prime Minister, the honourable member for Werriwa. So now we have the Minister not in accord with the views of the honourable member for Lang or those of his own Leader. That is fine, but let us hope they sort it out and get a sensible solution to meet the objectives which are required in these areas because it is important that decisions be made.
There are 2 other points that I should like to make. The Minister for Science has approached this question in the concept of open government. I suggest that he is publishing these documents because he is in difficulty with his constituents in his particular area of responsibility. I suspect that he is finding it hard to come to an agreement on a proposal that accords with his view - one that he could also perhaps sell to the Prime Minister and other members of his Government. But he might find it hard to get a view that is in accord with the various scientific bodies and others around Australia. I had been involved in this area on 2 occasions as Minister for Education and Science. The proposal that was adopted was sensible. It was not the first time that a proposal had been put forward for discussion within the group of people who might have been concerned. But since the Minister is taking the view that there should be public discussion of these matters and since he is plainly one of the few Ministers to embrace the concept of open government in this area - another marked difference between the Prime Minister and the Minister and one for which the Minister is to be praised - I only hope that the advice of the Chairman of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the advice of the head of the Department of Science will be made public. They are 2 of the most distinguished and notable scientists and administrators in Australia who have closely and personally studied the scientific organisation and developments overseas. I think it would be most unfair of the Minister for Science to proceed in this matter, promoting a public discussion while requiring silence from 2 most eminent scientists and administrators.
– Who said I was going to do that?
-The Minister interrupts and asks: ‘Who said I was going to do that?’ I am only expressing the hope that since there is to be a public debate he will allow them to speak publicly and enter this public debate. I would feel much more confident of the outcome if the Minister is prepared to undertake that course. I hope I am accurate if I interpret his interjection as indicating agreement with me that they should be allowed to speak their minds publicly on this issue. Is that right?
– Quite right.
-The Minister says: ‘Yes, that is right’. Again, I praise the Minister for that very noteworthy attitude. There is one other area, Mr Deputy Speaker, where I must break the unity ticket with the Minister at the table. He is inviting the examining panel of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which that organisation has appointed <to undertake the review, to include the question of the establishment of an Australian Science Council. I have no objection to that. I certainly have no objection to the OECD visiting panel looking at these matters. But I hope the Minister for Science is not embarking on an abdication of responsibility, authority and decision making in this area. I hope he is not opening the door to getting himself off a difficult hook on which he has placed himself because of his decision of February last year when he abandoned the former Government’s proposal and that he is not therefore adopting the attitude that: ‘Well, they will recommend something and I will embrace that and that will solve my problems in getting agreement in Australia’. That would be an abdication of governmental responsibility. I think that an examination by the OECD is fine. That body can make its report, but we can agree or disagree with that report as we see fit. I hope that the Minister for Science might again agree with me and that he will not be taking that report unseen into his heart. I hope he will judge it on its merits and that it will not have an overweening influence on the future determinations that the Government might make. These must be Australian decisions to suit an Australian purpose and examiners from overseas might not necessarily be able to make the best judgments about those particular matters.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 20 March (vide page 680), on motion by Mr Hayden:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I rise to resume a speech that I commenced last night and, unfortunately, through lack of time was unable to finish. At that time I was talking about the dishonesty that I believed had intruded into the debate on social services. I would hope that just occasionally there would be some honesty in political debate. Inaccurate and distorted charge and counter-charge lower the level of debate and, instead of some reasoned discussion taking place, the debates become an exercise in trying to top each other’s distortions. Since I have been in this House I have used figures prepared by the Parliamentary Library on inflation, unemployment, pensions and average weekly earnings. I have never deliberately distorted or misquoted those figures. I have never distorted what members of the Opposition did or said, although I reserved the right to interpret those statistics or policy pronouncements. I believe that to be legitimate parliamentary debate.
But, as I said last night, during the last few days we have seen Liberal Party spokesmen deliberately distorting both the policy and the statistics surrounding this issue under debate. Let me quote some instances. It was said that the policy of the Australian Labor Party on pensions was to increase the pension to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. That is quite true. But what has been implied consistently by spokesmen on the other side is that we intended to implement the increase in our first few months in office. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said quite clearly in his policy speech in Blacktown that this was a commitment over a 3 year term. Yet members on that side of the House have consistently thrown this promise at us as if we had intended it to be introduced within days or weeks of coming into office. It would be as dishonest for us to say to honourable members opposite that they intended to abolish the means test on the day they got into office. They made that commitment. We made a similar commitment. I believe it is only fair if there is to be any sort of interplay in this House and any sort of reasonable discussion between parliamentarians for statements to be accurate. By all means, attack us on those things on which we are weak but, please, I ask for some reason. At least quote what we said we would do. If honourable members opposite say that that is not sufficient, that is legitimate, but do not distort what we have said.
In the earlier part of my speech I mentioned that the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) said last night that the current rate of inflation was the highest rate that has ever existed. That simply is not a fact. It simply is not true. As I said last night, a 25 per cent rate of inflation existed in the early years of the Liberal-Country Party Government. There may have been some very good reasons for that; I think there were. There were high prices for wool and other economic factors operating at that time. But it was a fact. I was disappointed that the honourable member for Hotham of all people on that side of the House should have said what he did last night because it simply was not fact.
This debate has been raging around average weekly earnings. One honourable member said last night that although he accepted that pensions now represented 22 per cent of average weekly earnings, in fact, from the time that such a pension level was introduced, it would start to deteriorate. That is quite true. But the point that I want to make and that the Government has made is that we stated that the pension was 22.6 per cent of average weekly earnings at the time that the increase was granted. We have also compared that level with statistics that existed when the LiberalCountry Parties were in office. We said in 1972, before the last Budget of the previous Government, the pension was 18 per cent to 19 per cent of average weekly earnings and that after the Budget it was 20 per cent of average weekly earnings. It is equally true to say that immediately honourable members opposite introduced a rise in pensions, as average weekly earnings started to rise, the pension gradually deteriorated as a percentage of average weekly earnings before the next rise. This is why I ask for some honesty, if honourable members opposite must quote statistics. In fact, this has been , the case ever since comparisons have been made between the rate of pension and average weekly earnings.
As I said last night, under the LiberalCountry Party Government pensions languished between 18 per cent and 19 per cent of average weekly earnings and reached 20 per cent just prior to the last election. Using the logic of honourable members opposite, as I said I could easily argue that under the LiberalCountry Party Government the pension languished even lower than the level I have already quoted. However, last night I used the same figures in showing what Labor has done as I did when illustrating what occurred under the Liberals.
– And that was all wrong.
– The honourable member for Wimmera says that it was all wrong. The figures are there; they were prepared by the Parliamentary Library. He keeps making this charge that they are wrong. The facts are that all the statistics available show that the pension now- stands at 26.2 per cent of average weekly earnings.
– The average weekly male earnings are based on the December quarter and that is the rate you are quoting.
– Of course they are based on the December quarter. They are the last figures available. The point that I should make and can legitimately make at this stage is that, traditionally, the December quarter represents the highest period of earnings ‘because of overtime, Christmas pay, holiday pay and so on. In fact earnings normally drop in the March quarter and have done so year after year. If they follow the normal pattern, instead of being 22.6 per cent of average weekly earnings, pensions should rise to about 23 per cent but I will not cite that figure because that would be a dishonest distortion of figures.
– Do you think that will happen?
– I have no way of knowing, but it has happened every other year and I see no reason why it should not happen this time. The point is that at this stage the pension has been increased to 22.6 per cent of average weekly earnings at the last average weekly earnings announced.
– You did not say that last night, did you?
– The honourable member says that I did not say that last night. I spoke for only 5 minutes last night out of my 20-minute speech. I am making those final points now.
I want to make one correction to my speech last night. I said that the pension rose by $4.50 in the last term of the Liberal-Country Party Government. That was incorrect. It rose by $4. I also said that this Government had increased it by $4.50 in the first year. That was not correct. It was in the first 16 months. I would like those corrections to be noted. The Government is now moving inexorably towards a pension rate of 25 per cent of average weekly earnings and that point should be reached in August or September last year.
– What was that?
– In August or September next year.
– You said ‘last’ year’.
– I apologise. It was a slip of the tongue. Pensioners are now guaranteed 2 rises a year, which will ensure that pensions will never drop below that proportion of the nation’s wealth. They will never be dependent on the whim or the political fortunes of any government - Labor or Liberal. They will never again be used as a means to innate or deflate economies. We will get rid of one of the most obnoxious features of politics in this country whereby pensioners were guaranteed a rise only in an election year and afterwards were ignored. To a certain degree this method will take politics out of pensions. There will be plenty of room for debate.
The honourable member for Hotham asked: What is magic about 25 per cent? I agree that there is nothing specifically magic about it, but the point is that it is 6 per cent or 7 per cent better than what was given consistently by the Liberal-Country Party Government. It will be a guarantee that pensions will have the 25 per cent relationship. The Government has a lot of social objectives which the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) is gradually introducing. We would like to have been able to do everything in the first year in office. Clearly we must have an order of priorities. I hope that at the next Labor Party Federal Conference - which will be held in Terrigal, I believe - new debate will ensue in the Labor Party about what should be the next steps in our social objectives. I personally would like to see a greater concentration on those sections of the community which are receiving the very base standard rate of pension.
The Government intends to abolish the means test. That should be completed by the time we go to the people in 1975. It will bring great benefits, particularly to those people in the community who are now receiving a modest income. Some fairly wealthy people will benefit from it too, but much of that will be taken back in tax. The abolition of the means test will improve the lot of people in the middle sector. I believe that in future years the Labor Government, having achieved those 2 desirable social objectives, should then start to concentrate on that section of the community which is receiving just the base rate.
I hope that the Government will look at the need for a much greater extension of low rent housing and some increase in the rent allowance. At some date I would like to see a new pension introduced which would be similar to the rent allowance, payable to pensioners who have only a home and very few other assets, to help them pay their rates. The Government will of course be concentrating on other aspects that will improve the life of pensioners. I refer to health services and the provision of a range of health centres throughout the community. I believe that in my area of Gosford-Wyong there will be a greater extension of recreation and activity centres to help the very large number of people in that area who have a lot of time on their hands to enjoy fully their leisure time. This is something that our society must look at in much greater detail because it is something that has been ignored over a long period. I will deal with that in another debate.
Finally, I think that the Liberal Party has a duty to spell out exactly its policy. Honourable members opposite are saying that there is nothing magic about the figure of 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. If one reads closely the speech made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) the other day one will see that he indicated - I will not say ‘stated’ because I do not want to put words into his mouth - that the Liberal Party is thinking seriously about abandoning the concept of 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. In my visits to pensioners meetings in recent weeks I have heard them say: ‘We know what will happen under a Labor Government; we will receive the 25 per cent. That will be a big improvement. But what happens if Labor goes out of office?’ Let me tell honourable members what I said to them. I believe I was being politically honest, lt would have been easy for me to say: ‘The Liberals will abandon it.’ I said: ‘I do not believe that they will. I do not believe that they would be politically courageous enough to abandon the concept of 25 per cent, which I believe is a very good concept.’
The other day the Deputy Leader of the Opposition indicated that the Liberal Party was looking at another form of indexation. He talked about price indexation. 1 do not know whether that is what the Liberal Party intends to do. Does it intend to abolish what Labor is working towards or to dismantle it? Will it go back to the old system of giving rises off the top of its head? Does it intend to introduce some new scheme of its own attached to the cost of living? I think that the questions the pensioners are asking are fair and reasonable. This Parliament is entitled to know the answers. The Liberal and Country Parties should be saying something about their policy. Maybe they will continue Labor’s scheme. I hope they do. Maybe they will try to build upon it. That would be even better. But I think they have a very real problem ahead of them if they do not state categorically what is their policy with regard to pensioners.
– It ill behoves the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) to try to distract attention from the problems which the Labor Government is facing in fulfilling its election promise to increase pension rates to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. When one considers the figures closely one finds that the Government is losing the battle. It ill behoves the honourable member to talk about other people being dishonest in their use of figures when on a number of occasions this morning his figures were shown to be incorrect and he had to admit it. A further examination will show that the basis of the speech of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) was incorrect.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. The honourable member said that my figures were incorrect. I made a slight correction to the figures I gave last night, but the basic figures I cited were not incorrect. They were totally correct.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)There is no point of order involved.
– The Australian Country Party supports the Bill and wishes it a speedy passage through the Parliament. My Party supports it because, with the Liberal Party, it believes that it provides the minimum amount necessary to provide any justice for pensioners in the present inflationary situation. However, in agreeing to do this we on the Opposition side were unaware that the Minister would devote half his speech to a desperate political attack on the Opposition. It is obvious why he devoted so much of his speech to this attack. Gone are the days when one could consider a second reading speech to be a description of the contents of the Bill and to be a help to honourable members on both sides of the House who would speak in the following debate. It was an attempt to distract attention from the detail of the speech and the detail of the figures provided. On close consideration one finds that those figures are a sham and, I believe, dishonest. If anybody refers to dishonesty it should be people on this side of the House in relation to the speech of the Minister last night.
The Minister’s speech highlights that, with the evil of runaway inflation, the increase of $3 is the minimum figure necessary. One can only use the word ‘trotting’ to describe the rate of inflation at present, because if one uses the word ‘galloping’ now one will not have an appropriate word to describe the rate of inflation that will be in existence later in the year. Inflation in this country will really take off in the latter part of the year. Pensioners comprise the section of the community that is the hardest hit by inflation. Proof of that is the Australian Labor Party’s original promise that by granting twice yearly increases of $1.50 a week it would achieve its objective of increasing the pension to 25 per cent of the average weekly earnings. The Labor Government has already had to double that rate of increase and it is still not gaining on its objective. A further problem for pensioners in the present inflationary situation is that there has been no comparable alteration to the supplementary benefits. The base rate pensioners who have no other income and who need and deserve assistance, whether it be in the form of supplementary rent assistance or the payment of so much for each dependent child, are the ones who are being hit the hardest. There has been no alteration to the supplementary benefits. Because of the present rate of inflation rents are being increased and it costs more to rear children.
The rate of inflation from which the country is suffering is the responsibility of the Government. If the Government is to claim credit for the announcement of a $3 a week increase in the basic pension - and it is claiming credit - it must also accept the condemnation of pensioners and the community generally for allowing such an inflation rate to occur. Pensioners are suffering not only from the failure of their pensions to keep up with the rate of inflation but also from the loss in purchasing power of any savings they might have. As I said before, those on the base rate who are also dependent on supplementary benefits are being affected because the supplementary benefits have not been altered. If one wants to examine the rate of inflation in Australia one has only to look at the figures which were published recently by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on its 24 member countries. The latest figures show that for the 10-year period between 1961 and 1971 Australia had the second lowest inflation rate of the 24 member countries of the OECD. In 1973 Australia moved from its position at second from the bottom of the table to eighth from the top, which was a tremendous turn around. I think that anybody who wishes to make a safe bet should bet on Australia being in an even higher position in the list this year.
The Government has claimed that this $3 a week pension increase is one of the most generous in history. The Minister for Social Security said in his second reading speech that when the Liberal-Country Party Government lost office in December 1972 the pension was 20 per cent of the then average weekly earnings. Those figures are for the December quarter of 1972 which, of course, was 3 months after the previous pension increase. We have been told that the pension rate has now moved to 22.57 per cent, which is halfway to the magical figure of 25 per cent. But the Government is being dishonest in its comparisons. It is using the figure for the average weekly earnings in the December quarter and relating it to an increase of $3 a week which will not become operative until April. That it will not become operative until April is stated in the Minister’s second reading speech. If the Government were to be honest it would have to use a percentage based on the average weekly earnings in April of this year or the figures for the March quarter of this year and not the figures for the December quarter of last year.
In actual fact the standard rate of pension that is paid to pensioners in Australia at present is 19 per cent of the average weekly earnings. It has been estimated that by the time the increase is being paid in April the standard rate of pension will be not 22.57 per cent of the average weekly earnings but about 21.5 per cent and that by the time the next increase takes place in October, after what happens in the March quarter, the June quarter and the September quarter is taken into account as well as the fact that during that period there will be a national wage case decision and a metal trades award agreement which will further accelerate the inflation rate, the standard rate of pension would have dropped to 19 per cent of average weekly earnings. So much for Labor’s brave claim that the pension will be increased to 25 per cent of the average weekly earnings by, as the honourable member for Robertson said, August of next year.
The Minister for Social Security has claimed that the Government is gaining on the 25 per cent objective. He has used dishonest figures to justify his claim. That is not just my view. If one reads an article in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 9 March headed ‘Pension ann weighed down by inflation’ by Warwick Bracken, the newspaper’s economics writer, one will see that even though he has been charitable in suggesting that there will be only a 3 per cent rate of inflation a quarter such an objective will not be achieved. The pension rate now is 19 per cent of average weekly earnings. It will be 21.5 per cent when the increase becomes effective and not the 22.5 per cent that the Government is suggesting. It will also be under 19 per cent by the time the next alteration takes place in October. What a sham! The Government’s figures are not as good as those that were achieved by the previous Government; yet it is claiming to the people of Australia that it is gaining on this 25 per cent objective.
– Tell us what you did from 1968 onwards.
– When the honourable member for Melbourne finishes his prattle I will complete my speech. Another subject referred to by the Minister in his second reading speech was that of unemployment benefits. I think that the people of Australia are rather confused at the moment as to what is the position of the Government on the criteria for the payment of unemployment benefits. Two weeks ago we had statements by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) and the Minister for Social Security that they are going to take a tougher line on the payment of unemployment benefits. Yet in his speech last night the Minister for Social Security seemed to dissociate himself from a tougher line attitude. The confusion in this respect is similar to the confused situation which reigns in the field of immigration at the present time in that the Minister for Labour appears to be adopting a different line from the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby).
The question that has to be answered at the present time is whether the Government intends to toughen the present procedure for the payment of unemployment benefits in this country. If it is, let us hear what the procedure is and get on with the job. If it is not it should stand up and say so. Will the Government continue to try to justify the present position to the people of Australia? In my electorate of Murray the payment of unemployment benefits has been the biggest issue for several months. It has now been joined by the superphosphate bounty issue. Right throughout all classes of people in the electorate, particularly the ordinary working people, it has been the biggest issue against the Government for some time. Those people are seeing at first hand the abuse of the present system of paying unemployment benefits. They are seeing physically fit young people turning down work that is offered to them because it is not suitably equivalent to what they claim to do. They are claiming that they are clerical people, but they are fit enough to do physical work. Others who have shown up for a job, as requested by the authorities, have not bothered to wash or dress properly. Those who are refused jobs, and justifiably so, by employers because of their appearance are obtaining unemployment benefits. If there has been a change of policy in this respect let us get it out to those in the areas where this is happening.
There is also the problem of the double payment of unemployment benefits. There have been a couple of cases of this happening recently in my electorate. Those who have been found guilty of receiving double payments have been dealt with. I congratulate those who found them out. Not only do we have physically fit people who are not bothering to work at all because the work does not meet their requirements but also we have the question of the positive identification of the people who apply for unemployment benefits. What is required of a person who has applied for unemployment benefits to show that the name and address he uses are not phony ones? That has been happening far too often. I understand that positive identification is not required or requested. I know that this can be difficult, but why not require the presentation of a driver’s licence, which would appear to be a fairly common basis of identification that is carried around. How much investigation is being conducted by the Department of possible unfair practices or unfair claims? I believe that there has to be far more investigation. There is also the overall philosophical problem of the incentive to work. What incentive is there for 16 to 18-year-old single people to work when they are being paid the adult rate? In some cases this rate amounts to more than they would get if they were doing an apprenticeship. What incentive is that to work? I believe that there should be a differential unemployment rate for juniors.
I return to the question of the pension increases. The Labor Government is caught in a cross-fire between an election promise to raise pensions to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings and runaway inflation. An increase of $3 a week, which is offered now, will not improve the position of pensioners. But the Government has raised the expectations of pensioners by raising their pensions $3 per week on this occasion, and with inflation increasing, they will demand that this high rate of increase continue. The honourable member for Robertson promised that the pension target of 25 per cent of average weekly earnings will be achieved by August-September of next year. The Minister for Social Security said in effect: We have been in office for half the time in which we promised the target would be achieved and we are over half way towards the magical figure’. The only way this Government can really help the pensioner is to reduce inflation, because no matter what it does in the present inflationary situation the pensioner cannot gain. Pensions are down to 19 per cent of average weekly earnings now, they will be 214 per cent when the present increases become operative, and they will be down to under 19 per cent by the time the next rise comes. So $3 a week is the minimum necessary figure.
The Country Party supports it, but the Government is only toying with the problem while the present rate of inflation continues.
– I feel obliged to comment in the first place on the mechanics, that is to say the procedures, which have been adopted in discussing this Bill. Last night the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) suggested to us that if this Bill were put through at once it would enable increases to be paid a fortnight earlier than would otherwise be possible if the normal week’s adjournment were taken. The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) agreed to co-operate, and as a result the Bill is to be put through this morning with a minimum of debate, and indeed with almost none. I disagree with this procedure today as I have disagreed on the three or four earlier occasions on which this precedent was set. I believe it to be inconsistent with our duties as a Parliament.
I have 3 reasons for raising this objection. In the first place we have to realise and accept the responsibility of dealing with quite astronomic sums of money. We are in this Bill providing for the disbursement of $220m. If the challenge of the honourable member for Hotham that we should hasten on to the 25 per cent target were adopted in this Bill, although he himself strangely enough does not adopt it, we would be talking in figures of $450m or $500m, and if concurrently we were to go the whole way and abolish the means test finally, as is to be done in any case within 18 months, we would be talking about a figure obviously closer to a billion dollars than to half a billion dollars. I have not bothered to take out exact figures. I do not think for the moment that that is the important thing. Whatever the precise figure is, it is an enormous one.
Our attention at this time is primarily and properly directed towards the recipients of these payments, the social security beneficiaries. I think we have to realise when we are dealing with finance of this order that we also have a responsibility to those who will provide the sums involved, those who will pay. For all our desire to reduce tax burdens in some areas, it is precisely this sort of major legislation which will increasingly make that impossible. I hope it will be apparent without my needing to say it that that does not in any way suggest an argument against major social security advances. It is on the other hand, I hope, an argument for a proper scrutiny of amendments to social services legislation in order to ensure that maximum benefit is achieved. I repeat that I believe that Parliament is the proper place for that scrutiny and consideration to take place.
I ‘believe there is a second reason for objecting to this rush procedure. What I say is no reflection on either the Minister for Social Security or the honourable member for Hotham. It occurs to me that the way to demonstrate real concern for social welfare recipients is not by advancing the implementation of a single increase by a fortnight, hut by ensuring that increases are in fact adequate to the need and directed as quickly and effectively as can be done to areas of maximum need. It seems to me that this matter calls for maximum rather than minimum discussion, not only here but in the community as well. We, as a central forum have a role to play in stimulating that discussion outside the House.
My final objection to this procedure is that it is unnecessary even for the purposes of achieving its own objective. I believe that we are not restricted to a choice between forgoing adequate consideration and debate on the one hand and delaying pension increases by a fortnight on the other hand. There is a third alternative and that is to take the ordinary adjournment and adequate debating time and make any increase retrospective to the date of introduction of legislation rather than make the increase payable from the date of the legisation’s enactment. I have urged that course of action on the House before and I again urge it on the House today. I hope that in future this course will be adopted when dealing with similar questions.
– Why do you not move that the debate be adjourned and be fair dinkum about it?
– Because I am not now in the position to move that the provisions of this Bill be made retrospective. I have already pointed out - perhaps the honourable member for Hotham was not in the House when I did so - that I am not saying this in any way to be critical of him. I have identified the procedure as one agreed upon between the Minister for Social Security and the Opposition. I am not in any way putting my argument on a factional basis. I am putting it on the basis that for future purposes we should not repeat this procedure, but should make the legislation retrospective to the date of introduction. I am sorry if the honourable member for Hotham was not in the House earlier to hear me make that clear.
I will restrict myself to indicating some questions which have raised themselves in my mind as a result of the major increases proposed in the present Bill. These are not questions which arose under previous governments when the odd 50c increase did nothing more than barely hold an existing border line position for pensioners. On 7 occasions 2 years were allowed to pass without any pension increase at all, so that the value of the pension over that period actually fell. What we have had since the election of this Government, particularly in this Bill is a qualitative change as well. This raises entirely new and different questions to which, I suspect, we are still not properly adjusted.
I take as a starting point the Press reaction to the earlier announcement of the $3 increase. Without exception and in spite of concurrent calls for cuts in Commonwealth expenditure, the Press reaction was universally favourable. For the more cynical among us, that alone might be enough to make us wonder whether we might not have overlooked something. But the Press reaction was universally favourable. The general comment was along the lines of an editorial in the ‘West Australian’ which said that no one would or should begrudge this increase to social service beneficiaries. Indeed one would think that no one would begrude this increase to pensioners, yet some have - and they have ‘been pensioners themselves. These people - I do not pretend to know how representative they are - have said that even on an across-the-board basis, the increase is not enough. Most significantly, they have added that more attention should have been given to increasing the supplementary allowance, if necessary at the expense - and this is the most significant remark of all - of a lower across-the-board increase.
I believe that reactions like that really require us to go back to first principles and to re-examine some of the assumptions on which our approach has until now been based. We might come across a number of factors which, until now, have not appeared relevant. For example, the honourable member for Hotham made an interesting combination of comments on the question of our 25 per cent of average weekly earnings pension goal. Let me refer to his comments of last night. He said, in the first place: ‘Why have you chosen the 25 per cent target? What is magic about that?’ Having slammed the 25 per cent target, he demanded to know why we were not moving to it more quickly. Then he added, to top it all off, that his own Party of course accepted neither the target nor the timetable, in which case one wonders why the need to urge us to achieve it even faster. His performance in this part of his comments reminded me somewhat of the defence one hears about in some celebrated defamation cases: ‘I did not say it; if I did say it it was true; if it was not true it was privileged’.
In any event, the starting point of the honourable member for Hotham was: What is so special about the target of 25 per cent of average weekly earnings? In response the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) suggested that it was better than 18 per cent or 19 per cent, which was the best that the Liberals had done in their term of office. The honourable member for Hotham responded that that was irrelevant. I suggest that it was not really irrelevant, although in the context of that sort of shorthand exchange of views it might well appear so. It was a shorthand way of saying that our target was to at least reverse the erosion in pension standards which had occurred under the Liberal Government. In round figures the amount of 25 per cent was what was achieved by the last Labor Government. In the interim period the amount had been allowed to fall below that level, and we want to put it back. One of the thoughts that has occurred to me is that although an erosion of pension values did occur over the period, strictly speaking we may not be comparing the comparable when we speak in these terms. In order to try to indicate what I have in my mind, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table which was prepared by the Parliamentary Library. It shows the standard rate pension and the standard rate pension plus supplementary assistance, and also each as a percentage of average weekly earnings.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– As the table shows, any comparison of pensions alone without reference to supplementary benefits which were introduced only in 1958 tends to distort the picture. Moreover, given the strictness of the means test in the 1940s as opposed to the tapered means test now, a. comparison of the 1940s base pension with the present total of base pension plus supplementary allowance might, on investigation, prove to leave us with groups of people who are more accurately comparable than the whole class of base rate pensioners in 1948 and 1974 respectively. In that case, we will see that that group of pensioners already receives more than 25 per cent of average weekly earnings - in fact, 26.2 per cent
This raises, in turn, a number of possibilities, and I can raise them as no more than possibilities at this stage. First is the possibility that 26.2 per cent - let alone 25 per cent - is insufficient for supplementary allowance pensioners. That is more than a possibility; that one is almost certain. Secondly, that we should be seeking to advance the supplementary pension more quickly than what is generally referred to as the base rate pension. Thirdly, that the very strict and limited test for the supplementary allowance should be somewhat relaxed as it has remained on its present basis for a very long period during which money values have declined very markedly, and on its present basis it is starting to lose its reality. Finally, the question is raised as to how long it will be before the public comes to begrudge increases as large as those proposed in this Bill, if they continue to be granted on a purely across-the-board basis. This is always a possibility when the means test is abolished, as it will be next year. These very large increases in pensions will then go to people who obviously and demonstrably already have very high incomes. But even now we need to realise that the full base rate pension, including the full current increase, will go to some pensioners who are relatively better placed than very many non-pensioners.
I give only one example of this because time is so short. Under the present legislation a married couple will be entitled to receive, between them, the full new rate of $44.50 a week while they already have between them an income of $34.50 a week, making a total of $79 a week. At the moment there is before the court an application for an increase in minimum wages which, even if it is successful in full, will not produce a minimum wage of $79 a week, yet that conceptually is to provide not only for a married couple but for 2 children as well. I believe we have to recognise that we cannot go along for too great a period unthinking of the feelings of people who are earning less than amounts like $79 a week but who are being called on, through their taxation contributions, to meet these acrosstheboard pension payments. I regret that time today is so short, because it is really unfair to be put in the position of trying to state a quite difficult case in an abbreviated and rushed form. These are not in any sense con clusions at which I have arrived on the basis of recent developments, but they are questions which have raised themselves in my mind and to which I think we will have carefully to apply ourselves before very long.
– I agree with the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) when he says that this Parliament ought not be placed in the position in which a matter as important as this is passed with too little debate. What he said is clearly a criticism of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) and of the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) because it was quite open to them to have the Bill and the papers ready for introduction into this House on an earlier occasion than this, but they were unable to do so. That demonstrates either administrative incompetence or a wish to short circuit debate. I prefer to believe that the reason was the former. I agree with the honourable member for Perth in his attitude about wanting a reasonable debate.
There is only one matter to which I want to address myself, and it concerns the area involving increases in unemployment benefits. Of course, there are no objections to the increases. They are something that ought to be passed in the present circumstances. For those who are genuinely unemployed, the situation must clearly be a difficult one. But there has developed a situation which indicates a very deep difference between the Minister for Social Security and the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron). There is clearly a running fight between the two of them over the payment of unemployment benefits. It began in February of last year when the Minister for Social Security said that he had told his Department to adopt a new philosophy towards social welfare payments and gave the direction to his Department that merely because an employer did not find a registered applicant’s appearance acceptable, it was not sufficient reason to debar him from unemployment benefits. The whole tenor of what the Minister said then - it was reported in several newspapers - was that the payment of benefits was going to be relaxed very considerably and that it would be easier to qualify for unemployment benefits than it had been in the past.
In answer to a question on notice quite recently the Minister gave to me and to the House some information which shows that the number of people who have been on benefits permanently - or, if you like, for over 3 months and under 6 months, or for over 6 months - has risen very greatly in a period when general unemployment has been falling quite considerably. If one takes the figures from February 1971, or May 1971, or August or November 1971 up to June 1972, for example, or even September 1972, one finds, on the average, that approximately 7 to 8 or 9 per cent of those unemployed have been unemployed for 6 months and over. But the last figures which the Minister was able to give me for the period up to 1 December last year indicated that the percentage had risen to 19 per cent. That indicates a very significant increase in the proportion of people on unemployment benefits for a considerable period.
The next step in this argument between the 2 .Ministers was the issuing of a statement by the Minister for Labour only a few days ago. Again it was widely reported in the newspapers.
The article stated:
Slackers Told: Work or Lose Cash. Cameron warning*.
The Labor Minister, Mr Cameron, warned last night that ‘slackers’ might lose unemployment benefits.
He said he had no time for people who remained on unemployment benefits rather than getting jobs.
Mr Cameron said he also had been thinking about cutting unemployment benefits for people who were out of work and refused to be re-trained for other jobs.
And I’ve got no sympathy for people who can be described as professionally unemployed, who treat the benefits as a satisfactory alternative to working’, he said.
Mr Cameron said he and the Social Security Minister, Mr Hayden, were examining the conditions under which people got unemployment benefits.
We are looking at whether the formula or the criteria attached to the work test can be tightened,’ he said.
That, of course, is the criteria or the work test which the Minister introduced when he announced the new philosophy - announced it, as I understand the position, without consultation with the Minister for Labour.
– That is not true.
– I am glad to know that there was consultation with the Minister for Labour, but the Minister does not say whether there was agreement. The other part of this particular matter involves criticism by the Minister for Social Security of the Victorian Premier. The Victorian Premier had said almost precisely that which the Minister for
Labour had said and, therefore, the criticisms of the Victorian Premier are equally criticisms of the Minister for Labour. This is the first time we have seen a situation in which one senior Minister literally and irrationally attacks another senior Minister over this particular matter. On 20 March, only a day or two ago, the Minister for Social Security in this House said:
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. . . . There was no evidence of any such registration.
He went on to attack the Victorian Premier, but to know what was really in the mind of the Minister for Social Security instead of his comments applying to the Victorian Premier they should apply to the Minister for Labour. This is a curious business because on 27 February a letter was written by the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) on behalf of the Minister for Social Security to a colleague of mine on this side of the House. In that letter he admitted quite plainly - I quote:
The Government shares the concern that some people must be abusing or attempting to abuse the new provisions of the *work test’ which are aimed at removing what are regarded as unfair and discriminating practices. . . .
The Government obviously is concerned that some people are abusing the system yet the Minister for Social Security said that there is no evidence of that at all. The letter, signed by the Minister for the Environment and Conservation continued:
My colleague, the Hon. Clyde Cameron, Minister for Labour, is also concerned about this matter and he and the Hon. W. G. Hayden, Minister for Social Security, have set up a joint working party. . . .
That working party is to examine the matter. Why has the Minister for Social Security agreed to this proposal if there is no evidence at all of such abuse? Plainly there is evidence.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I claim to have been misrepresented.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The Minister will resume his seat. He cannot make a personal explanation during the debate.
– There is a serious and clear difference of opinion between the 2 Ministers. The Minister for Labour has made a statement which, I suggest with a great deal of respect, has incurred the hostility of the Minister for Social Security. There are other instances where the same sort of clashes have occurred. A person in my electorate was unemployed for a certain period. After some discussion with and representations to the Minister for Labour he passed the man’s claim on for reference to and payment by the Minister for Social Security. The Department of Labour accepted the claim but the Minister for Social Security promptly rejected it. Possibly one might describe that as a reverse kind of situation because generally it is the Minister for Social Security-
– In your electorate it has to be simple and easy but in other electorates tough.
– I am referring to the matter of a difference between the Minister for Social Security and the Minister for Labour. There are administrative problems between the 2 Ministers and between their 2 departments. The Government’s public statements in relation to individuals or in relation to factual situations should be the same and should be consistent. On these occasions it is the Minister for Labour who has shown public responsibility and the Minister for Social Security who has shown public irresponsibility for attacking the Victorian Premier in the way he did, but basically attacking his own colleague for his colleague’s statement of a few days before. Mr Deputy Speaker, I do not know whether it would be in order to have these reports incorporated in Hansard.
– They are newspaper clippings. I normally do not object but this is a bit-
-Order! What is the honourable member for Wannon seeking?
– I am asking the Minister whether he objects to these reports being incorporated in Hansard. He objects.
– Is leave granted?
– The report I now hold was the one from which I read partly.
– Is leave granted? Mr Hayden - Yes.
– There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
The Labor Minister, Mr Cameron, warned last night that ‘slackers’ might lose unemployment benefits. He said he had no time for people who remained on unemployment benefits rather than getting jobs.
Mr Cameron said he also had been thinking about cutting unemployment benefits for people who were out of work and refused to be re-trained for other jobs.
And I’ve got no sympathy for people who can be described as professionally unemployed, who treat the benefits as a satisfactory alternative to working,’ he said.
Mr Cameron said he and the Social Security Minister, Mr Hayden, were examining the conditions under which people got unemployment benefits.
We are looking at whether the formula or the criteria attached to the work test can be tightened,’ he said.
The ‘work test’ determines whether a person is unable to get a job and is entitled to unemployment benefits.
Mr Cameron said: ‘I am not satisfied that there are not some who are just remaining on unemployment benefits rather than accepting work - especially young people.
I want to get rid of slackers who are on unemployment benefits and who just won’t work. We have 97,000 people right now out of work, and 91,000 jobs waiting for people to fill them.’
– I thank the House. I conclude by saying that these matters should be clarified. They are important and there is public concern. The Minister for Social Security has placed himself in a somewhat equivocal position in relation to them.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, is this the time when I seek leave to make a personal explanation?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Yes. Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) claimed that I have asserted that there was no evidence of abuse of the system of unemployment benefits. There has always been evidence of some abuse of this system. What I said was that there was no evidence of a person registering as a lion tamer as had been asserted by the Premier of Victoria. The other point I should like to make while on my feet is that the rate of unemployment benefits of $26 a week for a single person and $45.50 for a married person is less than what the honourable member for Wannon would spend on a day’s entertainment.
-Order! I think the Minister has strayed from the point of his personal explanation. He should confine his remarks to that personal explanation.
Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon)- Mr Deputy Speaker-
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I have been misrepresented because the last part of what the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) said was not a misrepresentation at all. He was offering a view of his own which was unrelated to anything I said.
– Undoubtedly the main impact of this Bill is related to pension rates. After the luncheon adjournment I hope to deal with that in more detail. At present I refer to a couple of matters which may seem peripheral although I think they are important. I listened with attention to what the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) said about the inadequate time for debating this Bill. AH honourable members know that this Bill must be passed quickly and the Opposition certainly will facilitate its speedy passage. The honourable member for Perth thought that this situation could be cured if when a Bill like this is introduced the debate should be allowed to continue but the pension increase should be paid retrospectively. I am not altogether in favour of that procedure partly because of administrative difficulties, partly because the pensioner wants to get this cash because he is not always in a position to continue until he receives the increased pension and it is better for him to have it in money straight away, and partly because of the necessity to keep within reasonable bounds the debate in this House on a matter concerning the pension rate. I appreciate the point the honourable member made but I think that possibly there is a better solution to the problem. It might be better to bring in a separate Bill containing only one clause - a clause relating to the pension rate - and keeping the other matters for a different Bill. I think it essential that we should have an opportunity of discussing those other matters in greater detail. I am with the honourable member for Perth in his objection but I think that the better cure probably is to confine Bills of this character in the future to the one matter of the pension rate and to introduce concurrently other Bills dealing with administrative and other questions which should be considered in greater detail.
I think it is high time the Parliament considered the Social Services Act as a whole and had it redrafted. When I was Minister it was one of my regrets that I was unable to persuade my colleagues to follow this course. I felt that the Act that I was administering was outmoded in many respects. It was confused and complex. After all, this is an Act relating to pensioners. If honourable members find it difficult to follow the convolutions of the Act how can they expect a pensioner to find out his rights or obligations under the Act? I would favour rewriting the Act in much simpler language and in a much simpler form. I believe this can be done as soon as we can get rid of the means test for at least the people over 65 years of age. I hope the Government will keep to its promise to do this within the life of this present Parliament. But that is by way of aside.
I should like to agree with what was said by the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) and to go a little bit beyond him to say that I think the whole Act should be rewritten. As the Minister for Social Services I endeavoured to do this. It is one of my regrets that I was unable to persuade my colleagues to take this course. I am not suggesting that in this rewriting we should change the substance of the Act. Changes of the substance of the Act are a different matter altogether. I am not trying to suggest that there should not be changes in substance. But I would hope that quite apart from those changes in substance the Act would be put into some more reasonable form.
Sitting suspended from 1.2 to 2.15 p.m.
– The main impact of this Bill is, of course, on the pension rate. Before I deal with that, let me deal with one other aspect - not minor but perhaps of lesser importance - that of unemployment benefits. The rates of unemployment benefits are being increased and my Party is supporting that increase. I am a little disturbed at the unemployment situation as it develops. While there is an overall shortage of labour there also seems to be developing a certain amount of structural unemployment and the ratio of unemployment benefits to registered unemployed is abnormally high. I will not have an opportunity to analyse this aspect at present but I hope to do so in the future. What is happening by reason of the great economic disturbances this Government has caused is that when work opportunity is offered, perhaps in fields which do not fit those who are registered for employment, the registered unemployed are unable to take these jobs or do not want to take them because they feel they are unsuited.
I also mention the great impact of these unemployment benefits upon the Aboriginal community. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) was generous enough to say something in regard to this matter in the past. I will not go over it. I have never thought that Aborigines should in any way have less than anybody else in the community, but what I have advocated and will continue to advocate is that unemployment benefits should he kept out of the areas where Aboriginals live by the simple expedient of making jobs available at the point where the Aborigines are. This should take precedence of giving unemployment benefits. I have said in the past that unemployment benefits for Aboriginals are like measles; it is not something which kills many European people, but when loosed on an Aboriginal community it can have a large amount of fatality associated with it. Our community, with some exceptions - hippies and so on about whom the Minister has spoken - can stand up to unemployment benefits. It does not suffer the devastating effects that the Aboriginals might suffer. I say, in the interests of the Aboriginal people of the north particularly, that unemployment benefits must be kept out of these areas, not by penalising them, but by making certain that work is available for the Aboriginals at the places where they live. I would not advocate bringing Aboriginals into Darwin or any other centre in order to give them employment opportunities. Employment opportunities should be made available where they live.
Let me come to what I believe to be the main issue of the Bill, the raising of the pension rate and the associated benefits. We welcome this, but I point out to the House that the Government is not really living up to its promises. This has come about because of the immense rate of inflation which has been generated by certain factors which we are not going to talk about today. This immense rate of inflation is a fact of life. I will not go into the causes, with which everybody has to deal. Because of inflation rises in the pension rate have become inevitable and desirable. They must cope with the situation. Earlier on the Government was talking about raising pensions by $1.50 every 6 months until they reached a certain level. It has become obvious that since that time the rate of inflation is such that by raising the pension rate $1.50 every 6 months not only will the pension rates never reach the desired level but they will continue to fall further behind it.
I turn now to the figures. Let me point out to the House that when we refer to the December quarter price level we are really referring to the level of prices of 15 November. The December quarter price level is the price averaged over that quarter. The figure that is published for the December quarter is most nearly related to the mid-point of that quarter, 15 November. The same is true of average male weekly earnings. The figure published for the December quarter - whether or not it is seasonally adjusted - relates to the midpoint of that quarter. If one looks not at any theoretical figures but at the actual figures at the moment which affect the housewife who is going into the supermarket or the corner store to buy her goods, one comes up with some figures which are quite at variance with those which the Government has been citing.
Let me look first at the real value of the standard rate pension. I am going to ask in a moment - I spoke to the Minister about this - for permission to incorporate in Hansard 2 little tables which show the real value of the pension. I am going to look at the purchasing power of the December quarter figure when the consumer price index, commonly abbreviated to CPI, was 144.6. That is the latest published figure. I will refer to the purchasing power of the pension as expressed in those prices. In mid-November 1972, which was just about the date of the last election, the pension rate was $20 and the appropriate CPI for that date was 127.7. At current prices the November 1972 pension which we left for this Government would have a purchasing power of $22.64. That is the purchasing power at today’s prices of the pension of S20. I move on a year to 15 November 1973 when the pension rate was $23 and the CPI appropriate to that date was 144.6. The purchasing power in terms of those prices was $23. Now we move on to 15 March 1974, 4 months later. The pension is still $23 but the CPI has risen.
There is no actual published figure but it can reasonably be said that the CPI would be about 151.0. The purchasing power of the pension as at 15 March last in terms of the same prices was $22. That means that between November 1972 and November 1973 the real purchasing power of the pension rose - it is true - by some 36c. It is just about stability, but it was a little rise.
Today the real purchasing power of the pension is down to $22, in other words 64c below the figure of 15 November 1972. Pensioners are complaining because their pension does not buy as much as it did. The Government says that it has made these big increases in real value. This simply is not true. The Government - I won’t say it has faked the figures - has misquoted figures because it has always quoted its prices in retard. The Government talks about the December quarter and it applies the December quarter figures to the present pension. But in point of fact the December quarter figures relate to 15 November which was 4 months ago. In those 4 months there has been one hell of a shift in prices. So let us get it straight and be accurate about it. The real value of the pension fell by about 64c between 15 November 1972 when the previous Government went out of office and 15 March 1974, a week or so ago. This is the fact and it had better be realised. The pensioners realise it. They know what is happening to them.
Let us take the other measure that the Government uses - the standard rate of pension as a percentage of average weekly male earnings. The pension rates are the same. But, again, the average weekly male earnings should be related to the mid-point of the quarter. When one does this one comes up with these results: On 15 November 1972 the pension had a real value of 20 per cent of average weekly male . earnings, on 15 December 1973 the percentage was 20 per cent - unchanged - and on 15 March 1974 t was 19.2 per cent - down, not up. It is perfectly true that the Government will, as it should, correct this position by the increases which are incorporated in this Bill. But that will not be enough because the inflation is still going on. If it goes on at the present rate, by September or October next, when the next 6-monthly rise is due, the pensioners will be worse off than ever. The donkey is chasing its tail. I ask leave to have a table showing the real value of the standard rate pension since 15 November 1972 incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I thank the House.
– Anything is better than listening to you read it.
– I know that the Minister does not have a conscience but if he had one he would find the table equally uncomfortable whether spoken or read. The Government has been not quite fair or honest in regard to this. The basis of this dishonesty is the fact that the figures for prices are kept 4 months in retard. Because of that the values the Government cites are altogether wrong. I think that the Minister for Social Security in his second reading speech stated that as a result of the rise provided in this Bill the pension rate would be up to 22.6 per cent of average weekly male earnings. I am sorry; the correct figure, allowing for this retardation of 4 months which the Government has not spoken of, is a little over 21.5 per cent. So although the Government says that it has gone half way to its objective of raising the pension to 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings in the lifetime of this Parliament, it has not done any such thing.
I want to conclude shortly because I know that we want this Bill put through. The pensioners need their money. God knows, they need their money in the face of rising prices which have followed upon the policy - particularly the industrial policy - of this Government. I shall not delay this House any longer and particularly will I not delay the pensioners getting the rise which they deserve and which in point of fact they need.
– in reply - I wish to make very brief replies because it is essential, as I pointed out in this House last night, that this Bill should get to the Senate as quickly as possible. The Parliament will be in recess next week and if the Bill is not passed by the Senate tonight there will be a delay in the date from which payment of pensions can take place. All of us, I believe, want the pension payments to proceed at the earliest possible date.
The comments I make refer to some of the more significant points made by a series of speakers. Perhaps I ought to commence with the observation of one of my own colleagues about the time limitations on the debate on this subject in the Parliament. Firstly, I guess it is a matter of fine judgment as to just how much debate there should be on each of the issues in the Parliament. Taking it at its extreme one way, should there be unlimited debate? Of course there ought not to be. The proceedings of this House could not proceed if that were to be the situation. On the other hand, we do not want the other extreme where there is no debate. But it seems to me that on many occasions honourable members here - I have done it myself; I have been guilty of it often - speak for the benefit of the folk back home whereas our major responsibility is to analyse legislation before the Parliament. That in turn raises another important principle. Is this House, as a debating chamber, any longer competent to perform that function, given the technical nature of so much of what we have to handle, as effectively as it was conceived of being able to discharge it in the earlier history of the parliamentary system of government? I doubt it very much.
By and large as I watch the proceedings of the House, especially during questions without notice - I have watched them for 13 years now - I think many of the functions of this Parliament have become considerably diminished in their relevance to the functions we are supposed to perform. Perhaps, as I argued when I was in Opposition and as I still believe, now is the time for some sort of major structural reforms of the way in which we operate. Perhaps we should consider an effective committee system to review legislation.
I move now to the points relevant to the Bill before the House. The spokesman for the Opposition, the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) in response to my challenge said that the Opposition’s pension policy would be, if I have interpreted him correctly - he certainly implied this - to commit itself to whatever poverty level is established by the Henderson inquiry into poverty. I find this a rather remarkable observation because the Henderson poverty level was in fact established in 1966 by Professor Henderson and his colleagues. From then until 1972 the Opposition, as a government over that period, had ample opportunity to establish the poverty level as its minimum pension rate. The poverty level is higher than the single rate of pension has been since 1966.
The proposed increases in pension payments bring the rate closer to that level and closes the gap more effectively than has occurred at any time since the findings of that inquiry were announced. We are half way through our first term in Government. We have proceeded more than half way towards our objective of raising the pension rate to 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings. I move on quickly to the more valuable points which have been made by the Opposition in the debate. They were made by the former Minister for Social Services, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) who has just concluded speaking. He referred to structural unemployment. I am not sure of the full context of his remarks, but I heard his earlier comments on the radio in my room as I collected some papers to bring to this debate and heard him refer to structural unemployment as I was coming into the chamber. If he was suggesting that in Australia there is a problem of structural unemployment I would endorse his remarks wholeheartedly.
It seems to me that there is a very serious problem of structural unemployment. We have only very preliminary figures at the moment but, for instance, I have seen figures concerning beneficiaries of unemployment benefits. As a percentage of the total number of unemployed females in the State of Tasmania, aged under 25 years, represented 78 per cent of the total. Back in 1964 they represented about 65 per cent of the total, and continually over that long term they have represented between 60 per cent and up as high as 80 per cent of the total number of unemployed women receiving unemployment benefits for more than 6 months. I am quite convinced that a serious structural unemployment problem exists. When I look at the unemployment figures of those people on unemployment benefits for more than 6 months who are under 25 years of age and note that the number of women are a proportion several times higher than is the case for males, clearly a structural problem exists. Some of the information I have been able to analyse confirms this. Young girls leave school with no job prospects, often in small country towns, large provincial centres and not infrequently in the distant suburbs of the large capital cities. Their next social step of importance in life is to get married and in the intervening period between when they leave school and they become married they have been continually on unemployment benefits because of a structural unemployment problem and a lack of job opportunities. I find myself appalled confronting such a situation.
Let us consider the situation in some of the rural districts. For instance, I have seen one assessment - it is a fairly rough one - of a rural area just north of Sydney where there is a high degree of unemployment and people or. long term unemployment benefits, and note that unemployment benefits, plus money which had been paid under the unemployment relief program promoted by the last Government, represented more than Sim to the local economy. In fact, a social welfare approach, whether it was in the form of unemployment benefits or a relief program such as the one I instanced, combined or separately, assumed major influence in the local economy and I would suggest that this was rather an unhealthy sort of situation to have occurred. I find imbalances in the figures, as far as I have been able to look at them. A high proportion of people who have been on long term unemployment benefits are people over 45 years of age. But we also find that there is quite a high proportion of young people in this category. However, this has not occurred just in the last 12 months or 18 months. The figures show that This trend has been developing exponentially since the beginning of 1970. But going back before that, I have seen a graph on these figures and the trend indication is something that has been developing for some time in this country. A very similar trend indication is shown on the graph line for the United State of America.
What this boils down to is that we need to have much more hard social data on what are the constituent elements of long term unemployment in this country and not be diverted by simplistic sloganeering and by rather harsh methods which will not solve the problem at all. The fact is that this developing, increasing proportion of people on long term unemployment benefits as a proportion of the total unemployed is something that has been going on well before we came into office so, clearly, there is a fundamental change taking place in our society within the work force and we need to know a lot more about it. Of course, retraining of workers is going to be a key element in anything that is done in that area, but that alone will not solve this problem. Again, I refer to some of the evidence I have seen. It seems that there are quite a few people who have physical and, if I can put it this way, intellectual disabilities. Some people are quite neurotic and no amount of retraining is going to help them to re-establish themselves in the work force. They need support from health and welfare services at the community level. We are doing something in that direction under the Australian assistance plan. But I feel that the deep embedding of this sort of problem is a social problem rather than one of distributing strictures in the community and moralising. This sort of problem is going to require a quicker response than the rate at which we can develop the Australian assistance plan to handle it.
Accordingly, we in the Department of Social Security are carrying out quite an extensive survey to find out what the pattern of distribution is between sexes, age groups, occupation groups and geographic parts of the community of these people who are on unemployment benefits. In the meantime, I would try to encourage the community to take a more enlightened approach to what seems to be a worrying change which is taking place within the work force - worrying in the sense that there do seem to be social defects which are becoming increasingly embedded within the system. We need health and welfare services to help many of these people. We need retraining programs for others, but in other areas we do not really know what we need. This area has been neglected for too long in the fact of a developing trend that would have been obvious to anyone who was seriously concerned about it.
The former Minister for Social Services, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) referred to another problem that has erupted. He asked whether the payment of unemployment benefits aggravates cultural disintegration amongst Aboriginals, as well as other tensions which are affecting their communities. Again, my Department has been doing a great deal of work in this area. We have been exploring ways of trying to respond to this new challenge that we see. The changes for which we as a Government have been responsible in the payment of unemployment benefits to Aboriginals were merely marginally liberalising a practice which already existed. So, we both - the last Government and this Government - share the responsibility to be concerned with and respond sensibly to this challenge. The earliest I will be able to get away will probably be in about 4 weeks or 5 weeks time, but I intend to go to a number of areas with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) to view this situation at the scene where it is supposed to be occurring and then, after appropriate consultation, to suggest, I hope, programs which at this stage in a very preliminary way we have in mind.
The final matter that the former Minister mentioned was the erosion through inflation of the spending power of pensions. He juggled a lot of figures around and threw them about with a great deal of dexterity. Figures are only figures. It is the way that they are used which is interesting. As I listened to him I was reminded of, I think, Disraeli’s famous statement:There are statistics and statistics and damn lies’. I would suggest that it would be better to look at a simple quote I made last night in Parliament where I pointed out that the increase in pension for which we are now responsible represents a 30 per cent increase over the rate which was applying at the time that we became the Government. Based on the increase in the consumer price index as far as we are able to measure it to this date - that is the December quarterly figure, seasonally adjusted - even allowing for the figure for this quarter which will not end until the end of this month, the pension increase will be well behind that 30 per cent increase, while at the December quarter it represented only a 13 per cent increase. If pensions had been increased as the last Government proposed in its election policy speech to increase them according to movements in the consumer price index and if pensions were to move for the third time through biennial increases they would now be only at $22.64 a week with the passage of a Bill similar to this one - that is, pensioners would be some $3 a week worse off under a Liberal-Country Party government than they will be under this Government.
I want to say no more on this Bill except to restate that the Bill must go to the Senate and must pass through the Senate today if we are to maximise the benefit of these increases to the pensioners. But I do thank honourable members from both sides of the House for their contributions. I think it is appropriate to acknowledge particularly the contribution of the former Minister for Social Services, the honourable member for Mackellar, who continues to maintain a responsible and informed approach on this subject.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hayden) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 20 March (vide page 673), on motion by Mr Barnard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 2 measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– The Opposition supports this legislation, namely, the Repatriation Bill and the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill, and has no desire to delay its passage through this House. However, I again express my disappointment that the special compensation allowance is to be abolished. I seek the assurance of the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) that this particular category of repatriation pensioner will not suffer financially. I agree with the decision of the Minister for Repatriation regarding the payment of board members for a specific period not exceeding 2 years as I know that this matter has caused problems in the past. I agree with the decision that their salaries and those of the members of the assessment tribunals will be determined by the Remuneration Tribunal. I would appreciate it if the Minister would advise me how, under the present Government, members of the repatriation boards will be appointed and of any details of their specific duties. As I said, the Opposition has no objection to this legislation and, accordingly, will assist its passage through the House.
– The last 15 months have been a time of great activity in repatriation. Many people will be aware of the numerous improvements that the Government has introduced since it came to office. The fact that it has been able to achieve so much in such a short time is due in no small way to the support and assistance provided by ex-servicemen’s organisations. It is well for us to remember that Australians fought in the Boer War, the First War and the Second World War, in Korea, in the Malaysian emergency and in Vietnam. There are nearly 800,000 veterans of these campaigns in Australia today and over 210,000 of them are receiving compensation for disabilities that are related to their war service. There are also many widows, mothers, sons and daughters of those who made the supreme sacrifice. It was for the disabled and for the families of those who died that the repatriation system was created over 50 years ago.
I do not want to delay the Bill but I want to remind the House of a few things, the most important being the change that the Government has introduced in the extension of repatriation benefits to the regular peace time forces and to national servicemen. We recognise that the range of activities and location of the regulars and national servicemen often mean that they are exposed to potential personal injury not ordinarily encountered in civilian occupations. The legislation also provides an important improvement in the conditions for service in Australia’s defence forces and will help to ensure that a Service career holds as many advantages and attractions as possible to young men and women. Repatriation benefits will be available to regulars and national servicemen broadly on the same basis as for ex-servicemen who served only in Australia during the Second World War, for incapacity or death arising out of or attributable to service on or after 7 December 1972. The Government has extended this benefit to all of these kinds of servicemen, not only to ex-servicemen. The ex-servicemen and women are in effect given concurrent status as members of the forces under the Repatriation Act and as employees under the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act. Any entitlement under one Act is offset against that acquired under the other, so that the person is at all times eligible for the maximum benefits available under either Act.
The Repatriation Department has a network of modern and sophisticated treatment facilities throughout Australia. The repatriation hospitals and other institutions provide a very high standard of care which is at least equivalent to and often exceeds that which is available elsewhere in the community. The Government is concerned to have these extensive - and expensive - facilities used to their maximum capacity. This would also have the effect of helping to relieve the general shortage of such facilities in the community. In moving quickly to widen the availability of medical treatment under repatriation, the Government has been able to achieve both these aims. Veterans of the Boer War and the 1914-18 War now receive free treatment for all disabilities whether related to war service or not. The Returned Services League and other organisations have been asking for this for yeans. The full range of repatriation treatment facilities, including general practitioner services, out-patient and in-patient treatment, specialist services and the supply of artificial aids and appliances are available to these veterans. Free treatment for malignant cancer is also available to ex-servicemen and women who served in a theatre of war. I hope that it will not be too long before we will be able to take the further step of making cancer an automatic war caused disability.
The Government has also recognised that, whenever there is spare capacity in repatriation hospitals, it is sensible to make these facilities and the expertise of repatriation treatment services available to the community generally. This is being done in a number of ways. Where there is spare bed capacity in repatriation hospitals, ex-servicemen who are already in hospital for a war related condition will also be treated for any other conditions if this is considered medically desirable. Nonrepatriation patients referred from the repatriation artificial limb and appliance centres may also be admitted for treatment. In addition to making spare bed capacity available, the Repatriation Department is working closely with a number of other health authorities to achieve greater use of some specialist facilities such as pathology, radiology and renal services. The role of the repatriation artificial limb and appliance centres has been expanded to serve the whole community by providing artificial limbs free of cost for those who need them - both to ex-servicemen and women and to civilians. This is a highly specialised area where the Repatriation Department is well equipped to provide a first class service and also to broaden the base of its operations.
One point which the Government would like to emphasise is that under all these new arrangements for the use of repatriation treatment facilities, ex-servicemen and their dependants, for whom the Repatriation Commission has a statutory responsibility, will retain first priority. Facilities will be used for non-entitled persons only when there is spare capacity after providing treament of those entitled under repatriation legislation. The measures I have mentioned in outline are some of the initiatives which this Government has introduced into repatriation over the last twelve or fifteen months. The list is by no means complete. A number of other changes of no less importance have been made. These include continuation of war pensions for children in full time education, regardless of age, the recognition of de facto wives and ex-nuptial children and continued payment of
Service pensions overseas. All of these changes were long overdue.
As is known, last year Parliament approved legislation to enable the determining authorities under the Repatriation Act to give reasons for their decisions. I know that that matter is very dear to the hearts of many ex-servicemen. Ex-servicemen’s organisations have for a long time been seeking arrangements such as these, and I am sure that they will find it gratifying to see their efforts rewarded. A number of determining authorities have been preparing reasons as a trial measure. This is to allow the authorities time to adjust to the new requirements and to enable any necessary administrative and other changes to be identified. It is proposed to introduce the advice of reasons for decisions gradually so as to avoid delays and inconvenience to claimants and appellants. Once the trials have been completed and the results evaluated, regulations will be made to enable applicants to be notified of the reasons that led the determining authorities to make the particular decisions.
I turn now to the increases in pensions and allowances, in particular, related to the Bill before the House. Shortly after being elected to office the Government announced that there would be increases in a number of repatriation pension rates. When the new rates were brought into effect in March 1973 they were backdated, as promised and as honourable members might well be reminded, to 7 December 1972. Pensions were again increased in the 1973 Budget. It was also announced at the time that there would be further increases during the current session of the Parliament. The Biil that is before us at the present time provides for the third increase in about 12 months. One of those increases was backdated 3 months, that is, the one made last March.
The increases sought by the introduction of this Bill are an increase in the special, or what is known as the TPI, rate pension by $4.50 a week to $60.10 a week, an increase in the intermediate rate pension of $2.25 a week to $41.05 a week, an increase in the general rate pension of $3 a week to $22 a week, an increase in the war widow’s pension of $3 a week to $26 a week and an increase in the service pension for single persons of $3 a week to $26 a week and for married persons of $2.50 each a week to $22.75 each a week. The latest increases will again bring the special or TPI rate war pension up to the level of the minimum wage, which is at present $60.10 a week. The TPI pension was first brought up to the level of the minimum wage by the Government in March 1973. That was in keeping with a pledge by the Government that it would always keep the TPI pension rate equivalent to the minimum adult wage.
– And they are not taxable.
– As the Minister for Defence has reminded me, those pensions are not taxable. In just over 12 months the TPI pension has been increased by a total of $12.10 a week. The general rate pension, as we know, was neglected by the previous Government for a number of years. As a result of the implementation of the increases which have now been proposed the general rate pension will have been increased 3 times under the present Government and the maximum - 100 per cent - rate will have risen by $8 a week from $14 a week to $22 a week, which is a faster rate of increase than has ever previously been achieved. The Government’s stated aim is to continue to increase the general rate pension until it reaches SO per cent of the minimum wage. That is a contract for the future.
Most other repatriation pensions and allowances have been increased by the present Government since it came to office. These include the war widow’s pension and domestic allowance, the pensions for war orphans and widowed mothers and the allowances under the soldiers’ children education scheme. They have all been increased. One of the first acts of the new Government was to increase the funeral benefit from $50 to $100. A good deal of the Government’s attention has been given to service pensions and major advances have been made in this field. Single and married service pensioners will have received 3 increases, including the one now proposed, bringing the total in increases since 2 December 1972 to $6 a week for a single person and $5.50 each for married people. The service pension will continue to be increased until it reaches ,25 per cent of the average weekly earnings. The Government has undertaken to do that in the lifetime of this Parliament.
Abolition of the means test, which is an important policy of the Government, has commenced. Service pensioners 75 years and over can now receive a pension free of any means test. The first step has also been taken to disregard war pensions in the assessment of service pensions. All service pensioners now have 25 per cent of their war pension dis regarded in cases where the means test still applies. That is for all those under 75 years of age. I understand that later in the year it will be reduced to cover those under 70 years of age. All of these increases have increased the repatriation expenditure by a previously unheard oi amount. However, certain priorities had to be set in the allocation of the funds available for distribution in this area. The Government has been unable within these priorities to increase the pension rates for wives and children. There are one or two things that I would dearly love to see done in that respect but the priorities have to be taken into consideration. One of them is, of course, the granting to wives of TPI pensioners of free repatriation hospital and medical treatment. In many cases they will be able to avail themselves of the measures I indicated earlier, where there is an excess capacity; I believe that they deserve absolute top priority. It is doubtful whether so many dramatic and, for that matter, drastic improvements have ever been made to the repatriation system in such a short time. That shows that the Labor Government is concerned about the welfare of exservicemen and their dependants. The Labor Government is concerned about ensuring that Australia’s veterans are justly and adequately compensated for their sacrifices. I heartily support the Repatriation Bill and the associated Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill. They can only be of great advantage to the recipients of the benefits provided by them.
– The Australian Country Party supports the Repatriation Bill and the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill. But I wish to say at the outset that the Government has shown its contempt of the Parliament by the manner in which it is trying to force this legislation through the Parliament at short notice. I know that there is a good reason for doing so. I know that the Government wants the recipients of the benefits provided by this legislation to receive their increased payments as soon as possible. But surely these Bills could have been brought into the House earlier in the session so that more time could have been given to their proper consideration and debate. Of course, we of the Opposition are becoming used to the arrogant and contemptuous attitude adopted by the Government to the House of Representatives and therefore to the people of Australia. The Government boasts about the number of Bills that are going through the
House. It is easy to put a record score on the board when one guillotines and gags most of the Bills going through the chamber.
The recipients of the increases provided for in the Repatriation Bill and the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill will, of course, welcome them. Goodness knows they need them because of the fact that inflation is running riot in this country, largely because of the actions of the Government. Some of the recipients of these benefits must have an uneasy feeling about the general inflationary effect of the reckless pumping by the Government of more and more money into the economy with extravagant abandon. Mention has been made from time to time of preelection promises. I want to refer to two of the pre-election promises of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). The first one relates to the fact that prior to today the special or TPI pension has not kept pace with and has not been equivalent to the minimum wage. It is today. The TPI pension will be equivalent to the minimum wage, but the minimum wage we are talking about in this respect is what has been accepted as the minimum wage for nearly a year. So the Government has not lived up to its promise in this respect. I will deal with that a bit more fully in a few minutes. An excuse was given for this in an answer given by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard), who is sitting at the table, to a question I asked of him in May 1973, but it does not bold water because it contradicts what the Prime Minister said in his policy speech. I asked the Deputy Prime Minister on that occasion about the special rate pension not being made equal to the minimum wage. The Deputy Prime Minister said that other factors had to be taken into consideration and that the Government could not put up the minimum wage straight away. He said that no one would expect an immediate decision to be taken. His answer appears in the Hansard record of May 1973. He said:
Surely no one would expect that this ought to be an immediate decision, but naturally since it is a policy matter it is now under consideration by the Minister for Repatriation. Again, in line with other decisions relating to social security and repatriation benefits generally, this will be part of budgetary decisions . . .
That is what the Deputy Prime Minister told me in May 1973. In a speech in 1972, prior to his election to office, the Prime Minister said that the basic pension rate will no longer be tied to the financial and political considerations of the Budget. Therefore the Prime
Minister has given an undertaking that it will not be necessary to wait until a Budget is brought down in order to adjust pensions. The other matter to which I wish to refer in relation to the comments of the Prime Minister prior to the election is his specific reference to repatriation. He said:
The basic compensation payments under the Repatriation Act will be given a fixed relationship with the Commonwealth minimum wage so that the special (TPI) rate equals the minimum wage. . . .
It has not equalled the minimum wage. It will after today. But for how long will it equal the minimum wage? He goes on to say: and the general (100 per cent) rate pension equals SO per cent of the minimum wage-
It has not reached that level yet. Then comes the sentence that I have been asking continually to be clarified and amplified in a statement by the Government. The Prime Minister said: and other pension rates and allowances are adjusted proportionately.
What does that sentence mean? I again ask the Deputy Prime Minister, who has taken a great interest in repatriation matters over a number of years, whether the Government will make an explanation in a statement to members of the House as to what the Prime Minister meant when he said: and other pension rates and allowances are adjusted proportionately.
That is an extremely vague statement. Whilst the Country Party supports the overall provisions of the Bill, there is still need for clarification and amplification of the relevant words in the Labor Party’s policy speech. I ask the Deputy Prime Minister to rectify this situation. The Minister says that the TPI pension will again be equal to the minimum wage. I query the word ‘again’. I want to know for how long it will be equal to the minimum wage. It is only being raised to this level now on the eve of a decision being announced in the national wage case, which is being heard at the moment by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. There is no doubt that the minimum wage will have to rise because of the galloping inflation caused to a large degree by the financial, social and industrial policies of this Government. The TPI pension will fall behind again unless the Government acts to keep to its word in the preelection speech. The 20,000-odd TPI pensioners will be 12 months behind again, probably by this time next year.
– Next week.
– It will happen next week; that is quite right. But if the Government runs true to form, there will not be any adjustment to bring pensions up to the minimum wage until this time next year. The Prime Minister, in his pre-election speech, definitely implied to the 20,000 or more TPI pensioners that if the Labor Party was elected the pension would be immediately raised to the minimum wage and kept at that level. However, this promise, like so many others, has not been kept. The TPI pensioners have been underpaid by about $12m over the last 10 months because of this Government’s failure to honour its promise. Further, a decision on an increase in the national wage is pending. I ask the Government to give an assurance that it will adhere to its pre-election undertaking to meet its obligations and immediately adjust the TPI pension to the new minimum wage. The Minister tries to give the impression that Labor is keeping its promise, but deep in his heart, and being the type of person he is and being interested in ex-servicemen, he knows that Labor has not kept its promise to TPI pensioners in regard to the minimum wage.
The general rate pension is in a similar position. The Prime Minister said that Labor would raise the general rate to 50 per cent of the minimum wage. What has been the Labor Party’s performance? TPI pensioners will still be $8 a week short when this payment goes up to $22 a week. Of course a lot of the pensioners in the 75 per cent to 100 per cent range will not receive any increase and have not had any increase for a year. The Government is still $8 a week or about $32m a year short of paying pensioners 50 per cent of the minimum wage as it stands at the moment. If the request from the trade union movement is met, the minimum wage could move to $70. Then the general rate of 50 per cent of that wage will be $35 a week, so the Government will be $13 a week or $52m a year short. Add the anticipated TPI pension shortfall and the general rate pension shortfall and the Government will be $62m short of its promises.
There is no more deserving section of the community than war widows. They are the women whose husbands gave their lives in the defence of their country. I speak in the broader sense. We all know that certain women have become war widows at varying times for various causes, but it is my opinion that both the Government of which I was a member and the present Government have not treated war widows generously enough. They should have been treated more generously over the years by many governments. I was happy to be the Minister responsible for introducing the special arrangements for chronically ill war widows, who can now receive treatment, and attention for their chronic illness for the rest of their life for what they consider and I consider to be a very reasonable sum. I hope and I am sure that the present Government will carry on those arrangements relating to chronically ill war widows. Nevertheless, the war widows should be concerned and should watch closely the movements of the Labor Party in relation to their pension. I note a proposal - I do not know whether it was a resolution - made by a section of the Labor Government at the ALP Federal Conference that the Government should extend to civilian widows the same pension rates as those given to war widows. I hope that members of the Labor Party and all members of this House will resist any such move at any time in the future.
– That came from your Senate Committee. A member of your Party was Chairman of the Committee.
– The members of the war widows community should enjoy the respect and admiration of this community until no more are left. I register the interjection from the Deputy Prime Minister. I was saying that this matter was proposed and considered at the Australian Labor Party Federal Conference. Many people are concerned about the future of the Repatriation Department. No definite statement has been made by the Government yet giving a guarantee that the Repatriation Department will remain as a separate entity while this Government is in office. In the second reading speech there was no mention of it. The Deputy Prime Minister, referring to this matter, said:
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.
That does not give the Repatriation Department or the ex-servicemen and women of this country any guarantee that the Repatriation Department will continue as a separate entity. Many moves have already been made by this Government to take the Repatriation Department more and more into the social security field. The Government has opened the military hospitals to the civilian population. It has granted former national servicemen war service homes. The Government has said there will be an automatic acceptance of cancer victims for treatment in Repatriation hospitals. I will deal with that matter very briefly in a few minutes. The Government has opened the artificial limb centres to all civilians at no cost. These are all moves towards putting the Repatriation Department more and more into the social security field. The fact that the Government is opening military hospitals to civilians is, of course, in line with its desire to control all the hospitals throughout this country. Why would it not do this? The number one objective of the Australian Labor Party is to achieve the democratic socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange - in other words, government ownership of industry, production, distribution and exchange or, in simpler terms, of everybody and everything. That is stated as the number one objective in the official platform of the Australian Labor Party.
In 1973 the Deputy Prime Minister gave another undertaking, that the determining authorities in repatriation matters would give reasons for their decisions. I understand that a trial is still being conducted, but surely the time must be coming when a sufficient trial has been given in order to reach a definite decision on the question. We will look forward with great interest to the decision that is reached on whether determining authorities in repatriation matters will give reasons for their decisions.
In the last Budget the Government introduced the proposal to automatically accept cancer for treatment purposes - not for pension purposes - for those who had served overseas. What a ridiculous anomaly. There are about 675,000 surviving ex-servicemen from the Second World War and practically every one of them volunteered to go overseas. Many of them did not go overseas through factors beyond their control. But the Government brings in-
– Mr Speaker, can. I take a point of order? Can you tell me, Sir, whether there is any way that I can stop the honourable member from stonewalling so that these people can get their increased pay in the next fortnight? Otherwise, they will not get it in the next fortnight; they will have to wait another month before they get it because the Senate will rise shortly.
-Order! There is no point of order.
– I can understand the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron). He has never had any interest in the ex-servicemen of this country, and he has just confirmed that by taking that point of order. It is all right to automatically accept cancer for treatment purposes in the social services field, but I do not think that it fits in with the principle of repatriation. But the Government has decided to adopt the proposal. Surely a line should not be drawn between someone who was sent overseas to Canada or Rhodesia or some other country and someone who served on the Atherton Tablelands or in Darwin or somewhere like that. Why should there be a differential? There is no medical reason for it. I again register my protest.
– Of course there is.
– There is no difference at all.
– Mr Speaker, somebody has just said that the honourable gentleman is a hypocrite.
– I do not know from where the interjection came, but it is out of order.
– Mr Speaker, I do not know who it was, either, but whoever said that I was a hypocrite is not telling the truth. Unfortunately, time is running out. As I have said, the Government is rushing these Bills through the House, and we are concerned that they were not introduced earlier. But the increases in pensions for which the Bills provide will be welcomed by the recipients - they certainly need them. However, many responsible people realise that the Government is hooked on the promises that it made to repatriation beneficiaries. The Government is caught between its irrational and irresponsible promises and the expenditure in which it is involved now and in which it will be involved in the future. The increases come on top of greatly increasing expenditure in the Repatriation Department. 1 say to the Deputy Prime Minister: You made the promises, but you are not keeping the promises that you made. If you are men of your word you would keep the promises that the Prime Minister made on behalf of the Labor Party in his pre-election speech in 1972. Of course, if the Government keeps its promises it is adding further substantial fuel to the roaring inflation which already exists in Australia. It all boils down to the fact that the Labor Party fooled the Australian people in 1972 with a slick promotion campaign which glosses over the misleading and wildly irresponsible promises contained in the pre-election speech which was delivered by the Prime Minister. The next time when the Australian people have a chance to show what they feel they will not be fooled again. They will throw the present Government into political oblivion mainly because of its utter irresponsibility in its management of the finances of the nation.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable gentleman who has just resumed his seat - I always seem to think that that is an odd sort of a phrase; anyhow, the gentleman who has just sat down - said that I had no interest at all in the returned soldiers. Anyone who knows me knows how untrue that is. My purpose in asking the honourable member to cut his speech short was to ensure that the returned soldiers got the increased money in their next pay. The Senate is about to end its sitting for the week, and unless we get this Bill through quickly -
– Order! It is not a personal explanation. Now the honourable gentleman is debating the issue.
– Honourable members on this side of the House are not opposing the Bill and we are not endeavouring to hold it up. I point out to the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) that the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds), who is on his own team, spoke for his full 20 minutes and waffled on about the same things to which the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) referred in his second reading speech when introducing the Bill. The people who are to receive this money are not satisfied with the proposal. The amount of boasting that is going on about the number of times that the Government has raised pensions is all very interesting, but honourable members opposite have forgotten to mention how much inflation has increased and eroded any benefits which the people will receive. Honourable members opposite have referred to the fact that no tax is imposed on war pensions, but they have imposed tax on ordinary pensions, which means that the Service pension is taxed.
I will not go very much into the amounts that will be given to recipients - they have been repeated and repeated - but I should like to draw the Minister’s attention to a couple of areas that should be looked at. Firstly, the wife of a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner receives an extra allowance of $8.10 a fortnight. I understand that this has been the standard rate of allowance for many years. I would think that when one considers the way in which money has been devalued by inflation over the years, the allowance should at least be doubled; it should be about $16.20 a fortnight. With the present means test, a TPI pensioner is allowed to have a miserable $840 in the bank to qualify for the TPI pension. That is quite inconceivable when the amount is compared with the amount of money that an ordinary pensioner is allowed to have in a bank account before he is affected by the means test. I am well aware, as is the Minister, that the TPI pensioner is receiving an added income by way of a war pension but, nevertheless, with the value of money today, $840 is a miserable amount to have in the bank to qualify for a TPI pension. This matter should be looked at and the amount could be increased perhaps to $2,000 or $3,000.
Then I come to medical entitlement cards for wives of TPI pensioners. At the time when this benefit was restricted or taken away by the previous Government, there was sufficient differentiation between the amount of income that their husbands were receiving through the pension and the ordinary pension to make it unnecessary to give medical entitlement cards to wives of TPI pensioners. But surely to goodness, with the increased cost of hospital beds today and considering the fact that these wives are not entitled to receive the ordinary medical entitlement cards, it is time that this question was reviewed, with a view to assisting wives of TPI pensioners because many of them are reaching the age where they themselves are becoming old through the obvious complaint of old age, and they are suffering the usual sicknesses that occur with that unfortunate circumstance. The problem is that their husbands who are TPI pensioners obviously are afflicted in some way. But these’ wives cannot look after their husbands, and the cost of having them looked after would be more than the amount of pension which they are receiving. I think that this is one area at which the Government should be looking in an endeavour to do something. I do not think that the cost would be great, but the benefit would be tremendous and it would be greatly appreciated by the people concerned.
Another area that concerns me, as it must concern many members on both sides of the House if they operate properly within their electorate, refers to the number of problems that are brought to the attention of members of Parliament by members of the returned Services - those who are in receipt of totally and permanently incapacitated pensions, temporarily and totally incapacitated pensions and 100 per cent pensions. Persons over age 60 years - there are probably more now over age 60 than under that age - in receipt of these pensions are called up for a reassessment or another medical check. They find subsequently that their pension has been cut. I cannot understand how it can be suggested that a man of 60 who has been on a TPI or TrI pension has suddenly improved in health to the stage where he can return to work. If his improvement has been such, where will he get a job? Is there no common sense approach to this matter? Surely it is about time the situation was examined and it was determined that once a man reached a certain age his pension level could only be increased, not decreased.
There is also the matter of reassessments by appeals tribunals. Again problems arise. A war pensioner treated by his local repatriation doctor is advised to apply for a reassessment of his pension because that doctor thinks he is totally unfit for further work. If he is aged more than 60 or retired he believes that because of his ailments he should receive an extra pension. His local doctor sends him to Melbourne where his examination by a medical officer at the Repatriation Department is brief. I am not suggesting that the medical officers at the Repatriation Department are inefficient; I realise that they are probably extremely busy. The problem is that after that brief examination the person returns to his home and subsequently receives notification that nothing further is wrong with him. In fact, it often happens that such people are advised that their pension has been reduced. This is the same situation as applies with respect to normal reassessments, as I have mentioned earlier. It is time there was some hard line policy that when a man reaches a certain age his pension should not be reduced because through the use of good medicine his health has slightly improved. Unlike the honourable member for Barton I do not want to speak for 20 minutes waffling about unnecessary items. The Opposition supports the Bill. I only hope that the Government takes action to correct the anomalies I have mentioned.
– I do not wish to delay the passage of this Bill especially as the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) outlined briefly the Opposition’s attitude to this measure. There are one or two questions I should like the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) to answer. I refer first to the alterations proposed to the various rates of pensions or allowances covered by this Bill. The totally and permanently incapacitated pension rate will be increased by $4.50, from $55.60 to $60.10, the intermediate rate by $2.25 and the 100 per cent or general rate pension by $3. I want to know why there is a variation in the amounts. I can appreciate and understand the increased amount for the TPI pensioner but as the intermediate rate pension is higher than the general rate pension why is it being increased by only $2.25?
The honourable member for Indi compared the present situation where repatriation benefit rates are to be tied to 50 per cent of the minimum wage with general social service benefits which are tied to average male weekly earnings. The Minister for Defence may recall that on the last occasion on which the House was considering repatriation matters I raised this matter but did not receive a reply. Why should there be this difference? Why is it that social service benefits are tied to or are based on average weekly male earnings? The Government has been most vocal on its decision to tie such benefits to average male weekly earnings but with repatriation benefits that procedure is disregarded and such benefits are tied to a minimum wage. It is for the Minister for Defence to make the position clear by way of answer. Many people want to know why there is a difference. Does this mean that the Government is trying to establish a different type of rating for repatriation benefits? I question the future of the intermediate rate pension. The mere fact that it is being downgraded in the proposed increases suggests that it is being given a lower priority by ‘he Government. If that is so, what will this mean in the long term?
In considering this matter I am reminded of the report from the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare concerning repatriation. I am sure that the Minister for Defence is interested also in this report as
I believe he is of the same opinion as I am on this matter. I believe that the report should be burned because the recommendations contained therein are not in line with the requests of most political parties and certainly not in accord with the views of branches of the Returned Services League throughout Australia.
– Nor are they in accord with the views of ex-servicemen’s and ex-service women’s organisations.
– That may be so, nevertheless it is a report from a parliamentary committee. Some people have suggested that the recommendations should be implemented. I should say in fairness to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) that I read the other day that he said to some exservicemen’s organisation that he was not interested in implementing the report. However I do not think we can accept that; we want more of an assurance than that contained in a statement made outside the Parliament to an ex-servicemen’s organisation. All we know is what we read in the newspapers. I should like someone in this chamber to say where the Government stands because it is not sufficient for someone outside the Parliament to say what will happen because Caucus can completely change such a decision. We are aware of instances of decisions being changed by Caucus and that is why 1 want an assurance from the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation in this chamber. Some of the recommendations in the report are not acceptable to many people outside the Parliament. Recommendation 1, for example, states that:
Payment of repatriation pensions be made through the Social Security Department and that the Repatriation Commission be retained to handle the determining of claims, reviews and administration.
That is all very simple and it does not mean much to the average person, but it certainly could be the first nail in the coffin of the Repatriation Department. I make that clear. The recommendation relating to lump sum payments seems good when one first reads it but the important question, as I see it, is whether this is the beginning of the breakdown of the whole system of paying individuals what I classify as their entitlements due to incapacities they may have suffered in rendering service. Another recommendation suggests that:
Repatriation hospitals be integrated into a National General Hospital Scheme.
What does this mean? In the past an exserviceman has had the right to treatment in a hospital of his own choice. This recommendation could result in a watering down of that right. I appreciate that there are bed shortages in hospitals and that full use should be made of the beds available, but exservicemen should retain that right. Finally, and I do not want to take up any more time-
– Hear, hear!
– Keep going.
– I am advised to keep going and I am advised to sit down. In response to the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), I might say that I am a little surprised that he should have made the decisions he made earlier in the day. After all there is no good reason why some of these measures should not have been introduced before last evening. It may be true that the Government is experiencing difficulty in getting Bills prepared, but in my opinion that is no excuse. There is no reason why these Bills should have to be passed by ‘ both chambers in considerably less than 24 hours. I think the Government should be thankful that the Opposition is co-operating. It is not right that the Minister for Labour should come into this House, as the honourable member for Indi said-
– He wasted my time before.
-i-He did and, as the honourable member said, the Minister knows nothing about repatriation. There are plenty of members on the Government benches who make a farce of these things. They are two-faced. The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen), for instance, spoke about taking politics out of pensions. I have never heard anything so two-faced. I could use stronger words, Mr Speaker, but you would rule me out of order if I did so. Nevertheless, that is how I feel about it. The honourable member for Robertson believes that the Government can introduce a scheme so that in future there will be no decisions made in this place. This is a ridiculous situation. No matter what sort of pension scheme we have in operation the Parliamentary Government must have the power to alter, amend, reject or accept what it likes when it likes. It is a whole lot of nonsense for the honourable member for Robertson to say that the Labor Party is going to take politics out of pensions. After all, someone must make decisions. How would you tie this to a formula unless it is introduced by the
Government of the day. Therefore I say that the question raised by the honourable member was certainly an absurd one. It is one that should be disregarded.
I would again appeal to the Minister to answer some of the questions that I have raised today because there are many people outside the Parliament who want to know the answers. I think it was the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bouchier) who referred to the various types of pensions in relation to taxation and means tests. I think most people appreciate the difference between a repatriation pension and a Service pension as far as the means test is concerned. It is no use my making any pronouncement because I do not have the authority that the Minister has on behalf of the Government. Some people are confused about the provisions of the altered means test which affect pensioners over 75 years of age - and we hope it will not be too long before the age limit is reduced to 65. I would like the Minister to explain this to me. Other than that, I and my colleagues support this Bill.
– in reply - A number of points have been raised by members of the Opposition concerning the Repatriation Bill which I introduced into this House last night. The first thing I want to say is that we appreciate the fact that there has been an element of co-operation by the Opposition in allowing the passage of the legislation. The honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) complained about the restricted time for the debate. He said that this had curtailed debate on the Repatriation Bill. But if he had studied the Hansards for the last two or three years he would have known that on every occasion Repatriation Bills were introduced I, as the spokesman for the then Opposition on Repatriation matters, immediately allowed the passage of the legislation. It was introduced and debated on the same day. It is interesting to note that when the previous Government was in office repatriation legislation was introduced only during the Budget session. When those who now sit on the other side of the House had the responsibility for government repatriation legislation was never introduced at any time except during the Budget session. Therefore the honourable member knows the position only too well.
I want to pass on to a matter which was raised by the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King). The honourable member has spoken consistently in this Parliament on repatriation matters. When he spoke as a supporter of the previous government I always thought that he did so fairly and constructively. I think that he spoke today in much the same vein. The honourable member quoted at great length from the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare which investigated the Repatriation Act, in particular the provisions of the Repatriation Act relating to the payment of pensions. But I want to say to the honourable member that this is a report from a Senate Committee and it has nothing to do with this House. The Committee’s report is a matter for interpretation by honourable members of this House or by members of the Senate. The report has not been considered by the Government. Indeed, I persistently requested the honourable member for Indi, who was the Minister for Repatriation at the time, and his Government, to establish a committee of inquiry to investigate the Repatriation Act, particularly that section of the Repatriation Act which relates to the payment of pensions. The then Minister agreed to establish a committee of inquiry headed by Mr Justice Toose. Any responsible government would await the report of a committee that had been agreed to by this Parliament and which over the last 18 months or so has been investigating the Repatriation Act, what improvements ought to be made and how it ought to be adjusted. We expect that the results of that investigation will be available to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) in due course. As soon as it is it will be considered by the Government and in the normal process, of course, tabled in this Parliament for the information of all honourable members. This is the report that the Government will consider. The Government is not bound to consider the report of the Senate Committee. When this matter was raised in the House I agreed that there were aspects of the report which I would not under any circumstances agree to or support as a responsible Minister of this Government.
So let me dismiss the Senate report because we will be looking to the Toose Committee to report to this Parliament under the terms of reference that this Parliament agreed to and which I believe will enable that Committee to give comprehensive recommendations on matters relating to ex-servicemen and women in this country. I would now like to turn to a matter raised by the honourable member for Indi who had great difficulty in dealing with questions of repatriation allowances and pension increases. The honourable member was a responsible Minister in the previous government which sat back year after year and allowed the general rate pension to remain unaltered. In fact, it remained unaltered for 8 years. What did the honourable member for Indi do during that period in which there was no increase at all in the general rate pension? He was happy to pick out a small increase for those who are in receipt of compensation allowances in order that there would be the minimum amount payable to ex-servicemen in this country who suffered between 75 per cent and 100 per cent incapacity.
– This is 14 per cent.
– As the honourable member for Barton has reminded me, only a very small number of pensioners were able to gain some increase as a result of previous legislation during that 8-year period. So what humbug it is for the honourable member to talk in this way about what his Government did about the general rate pensioner.
The honourable member for Barton a few moments ago quoted the number of exservice men and women pensioners in this country who are in receipt of the general rate or 100 per cent pension. A study of the figures will show that a great proportion of these pensioners receive pensions below 75 per cent. I reiterate what I have said consistently in this House as the spokesman on repatriation matters for the then Opposition that I do not agree with the compensation allowance. I said that when we became the Government we would remove it because it could not be applied fairly. As ‘I have said, this allowance has been applied to people in receipt of the pension in the 75 per cent to 100 per cent category. Who could justify without difficulty, in terms of a person’s medical condition, without any division of opinion on the part of the ex-serviceman concerned or the doctors, whether that serviceman should receive a 70 per cent or a 75 per cent pension. I believe that this could never be done. A person in receipt of a 70 per cent pension under the previous Government received a payment of $9 less a week than a person who is on the 75 per cent rate. We have removed that injustice.
Finally, I want to remind honourable members on the other side of the House not only that members of the previous Opposition sought the removal of the special compensation allowance, but also that this was requested by the Returned Services League itself. It was put to the former Minister for Repatriation that he should remove the allowance. As a result of this legislation the compensation allowance will now be phased out. It is true that for pensions between 75 per cent and 100 per cent there will be no increase under the terms of this legislation. As the honourable member knows the 100 per cent pension will be increased under the terms of this legislation by $3 a week giving a total increase of $8 a week and taking the pension rate to $22 a week.
Let me turn to another point which was raised by the former Minister for Repatriation. He referred to the fact that we would raise the pension rate to 50 per cent of the minimum wage. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said in his 1972 policy speech that we would seek to bring the general rate pension up to 50 per cent of the minimum wage. There have been 3 increases in 15 months, and we are nearing that goal. The previous Government left the rate unaltered for 8 years, so I am sure the repatriation pensioners can appreciate how difficult it is to increase the pension rate to 50 per cent of the minimum wage as quickly as we would like. As I say, the rate has been increased on 3 occasions. The special rate pension is in excess of the minimum wage. It has been kept in excess of the minimum wage since we became the Government. Indeed, the first increase in the special pension rate moved the payment above the minimum wage. It was increased again in the last Budget session. The rate is still ahead of the minimum wage. The increase that has been announced in this legislation will again bring the special rate pension above the minimum wage. The point is that when we were in opposition, and now when we are in government, we have said that we would ensure that the TPI special rate pension did not fall below the minimum wage. If it falls below the minimum wage appropriate action will be taken at the appropriate time to restore the purchasing power of that pension.
I am sure that the honourable member for Indi, in the whole of the time that he happened to be the Minister for Repatriation, certainly never received a communication such as this one which was addressed to the Prime
Minister on 4 September 1973 by the National Secretary of the RSL. The letter reads:
Repatriation provisions contained in the Budget coupled with improvements introduced earlier in the year have provided historic advances in the repatriation system.
It is not the kind of letter which I received from the RSL when the honourable member was the Minister for Repatriation. At that time I received letters of condemnation. It has been said by other speakers that it is necessary for this House to pass this legislation so that it can go to the Senate this afternoon. No one would wish to retard the passage of the legislation either in this House or in the other place. I concede that this has been accepted by the honourable members from both sides of the House.
I would like to deal with a number of other matters which have been raised. The question of repatriation boards was raised by the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett). Those boards will not be disturbed in any way. There will be no change to repatriation tribunals, entitlement tribunals and assessment tribunals. Salaries will be fixed and determined in future by the Higher Salaries Tribunal. Appointments will still be determined by the Governor-General. The only alteration in regard to appointments to the repatriation boards is that this Bill provides for an amendment which will allow us to appoint members to a repatriation board for a period of less than 2 years. Previously the period was restricted to 2 years. That is the only alteration in this respect. I believe that as a result of the passage of this legislation - it is the third Bill introduced by me on behalf of the Minister for Repatriation in another place - the promise made by the Prime Minister in 1972 on behalf of the then Opposition will be kept.
We have faithfully discharged our obligations to the servicemen of this country. I acknowledge and would not deny that some improvement can still be made, and we intend to do that. I believe that we should have an opportunity in many other fields of repatriation to examine recommendations that almost certainly will bs made. I refer in particular to the report that we expect in the near future from Mr Justice Toose. I believe that report will give us the opportunity to effect some of these improvements that I believe can be made generally to the Act. In terms of the rate of pensions and, indeed, our attitude towards ex-servicemen, their provisions and their facilities, I believe this Government has discharged its responsibilities in a way requested by the ex-servicemen’s organisations in this country over the years.
I think there is just one other matter that was raised by the honourable member for Indi. He referred, I thought in a wide and disparaging way, to the actions of the present Government in relation to the provision of assistance to amputees in this country. He remarked on the use of facilities of the repatriation hospitals to provide artificial limbs to anybody in this country. What the honourable gentleman does not realise and what he does not appreciate, despite the fact that he was formerly a Minister for Repatriation, is that in the repatriation hospitals there is expertise in this field which is not available in any other hospital. Why should the repatriation hospital facilities not be used for this purpose? The repatriation hospitals themselves wanted the facilities to be used to a much greater degree. After all, members of the medical staff of repatriation hospitals benefit from any extension of their services in that way, not only through providing artificial limbs but also by extending the facilities which are available and which can be provided to patients. We gain from that, the Repatriation Department gains and, certainly, the medical staff in the hospitals gain. These are all important matters.
The honourable member raised the question of cancer. He would know ‘that the action that we have taken in this matter results from a request by the RSL. The honourable member would know the reason why we provide a service to those servicemen who have had service overseas. Having been a Minister for Repatriation he would know that there are shocking cases involving exservicemen - particularly prisoners of war in the South East Asian area - and that it would be almost impossible for medical authorities to determine whether or not their cancer was war caused. We accept the proposition of the RSL. We accept its argument. We take the view that when the cause cannot be determined we should provide medical assistance. That has been done.
– Will the Minister tell me whether the RSL had put a similar proposition to the previous Government?
– The RSL not only put the proposition to the previous Government but also put it to me.
-Order! This is not a private debate.
– So, this has been done. Let me conclude by paying a tribute to the present Minister for Repatriation, Senator Bishop. He has been the Minister for Repatriation for 15 months and one can say with justification that he has discharged his icsponsibilities with a compassion and feeling for the ex-servicemen of this country. I believe no other Minister for Repatriation during the past 23 years has given so much thought or consideration to the terms and conditions under which ex-servicemen ought to be treated in this country. I congratulate the Minister for the legislation which has been introduced into this Parliament on this occasion and which has been supported by honourable members from both sides of the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Barnard) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 20 March (vide page 675), on motion by Mr Charles Jones:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Barnard) read a third time.
Bill presented by Mr Clyde Cameron, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This will be an extempore explanation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill and for that reason I apologise for the fact that I will not be able to present the Opposition spokesman, who incidentally I notice is not even in the chamber, with a copy of a written speech. I can explain that the Bill deals exclusively with the question of industrial agreements, the making of industrial agreements, the encouragement of the honouring of industrial agreements and the cancellation of industrial agreements. The Government has deliberately excluded from the Bill other matters relating to the Government’s program for bringing the Conciliation and Arbitration Act up to date because we want the Opposition to be given every opportunity to understand the Bill and to debate the Bill and to assist us in making a contribution towards a better understanding in this very sensitive and highly complex area of industrial relations.
– The debate will not be gagged?
-So far as I am concerned the debate will not be gagged. Of course, I am not in charge of the House but the Leader of the House (Mr Daly), who always adopts a very reasonable attitude provided that time permits, has never been unreasonable in the time that he has given. But if the Opposition tries to stonewall as it has done on previous occasions, the Leader of the House has to take charge of the business of the House and make sure that the Government’s program is brought up to date. I talked with the Leader of the House this morning about this matter and he said: ‘Yes, if the Opposition adopts a reasonable attitude towards this matter and does not try to make Party political capital out of a matter which is non-partisan in character, then of course I shall allow the Opposition to have the full opportunity it needs to debate this matter in Committee.’ So I am pleased to be able to make that announcement to the House. I hope that this Bill will be debated in a non-partisan manner. There is no need for us to get all het up about Party politics when we are talking about something that is of vital concern to management and labour alike. Anyone who tries to inject Party politics into a debate on conciliation and arbitration is not doing his country much good. He is not doing management any good at all and he is not doing labour any good. He may feel that he is getting some Party political advantage over the Government or the Opposition, whichever he is opposing, but let me assure him that this country will never remember him as one who contributed something of which that person and those who follow him have any reason to be proud.
The Bill is essential to meet the trend towards collective bargaining in Australia. When I tell the House that of something like 700 awards and agreements that are operating in Australia in the Federal sphere about 90 per cent of them are direct consequences of agreements of some kind, the House will begin to see how terribly important it is that we should encourage these agreements to be made in an atmosphere of goodwill, free from the impediments that come through the formal proceedings of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission itself. I want to clarify what I have just said about agreements. Even though some of these agreements take the form of consent awards nonetheless in reality they are still agreements. Nowadays not many awards are not consent awards. The honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke), being a very highly qualified lawyer, is perhaps the only one on the other side of the chamber who understands the significance of what I have said. But perhaps he can help me by explaining later on the difference between a consent award, an agreement and an ordinary award, to my friend from Wakefield (Mr Kelly).
The Bill is absolutely essential if we are to inject into this poisoned atmosphere of labour relations in Australia today - of which neither side in some industries have much to be proud - a bit of commonsense and reasonableness. We in this Parliament have to make our contribution. We have to stop injecting a poisonous note into the debates and we have to try to make the Conciliation and Arbitration Act work better than it does. On a matter like this we ought to be reasonable enough to accept the fact that though the Government’s program is not entirely in line with everything that the Opposition did when it was in government, and if it can be shown that the program being put forward by the Govern ment is the program which was contained in the Government’s printed platform when it went to the electorate, then unless there is a very compelling reason for doing otherwise, the Opposition ought to be democratic enough to say: ‘You have a mandate to do it. It is not what we would do. We are not clairvoyants in this question. What you are proposing, though it sounds odd to us, may nonetheless be the answer to the problem that we have.’
– How do we encourage the parties to honour their agreements?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for that interjection because I will come to that in a moment. That is terribly important. It is absolutely crucial that parties to an agreement should honour the agreements that they make. Part of the Bill that we are introducing will show how we can get a greater acceptance of agreements once made”, and it will show why it is that agreements once made in certain circumstances which I will outline later are not being honoured. We want agreements to be honoured and we are going to explain to the House why there is an urgent need for a certain amendment to the Act in that regard.
This Bill is absolutely essential to the Government’s overall plan to bring about a better climate in industrial relations. This and the proposal which we put last year in 2 Bills, the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill (No. 1) 1973 and the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill (No. 2) 1973, contained provision for the easier amalgamation of unions. How much longer are we going to allow these demarcation disputes to tie up industry simply because the facilities and means do not exist by which 303 unions - inefficient unions, some of them - are able to amalgamate into fewer and more efficient unions. However, I can make only a passing reference to that because this Bill precludes any debate on amalgamation, since the long title of the Bill makes it clear that the Bill is confined to the question of the making, encouragement, cancellation and honouring of agreements.
This represents the third time that some of the clauses contained in the Bill now before the Parliament have been put to the Parliament by me on behalf of the Government. On one of the previous occasions the Bill was rejected by the Senate, unfortunately without there being even a Committee stage debate. On the second occasion some sections of the
Conciliation and Arbitration Bill (No. 2) 1973 were rejected without a real understanding of why the amendments sought were so absolutely essential. I have been so sincere about this matter that I have taken into my confidence the spokesman on these matters for the Australian Country Party, the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon). I have explained to him what it is we are trying to do. I have put all my cards on the table. I have allowed him to travel with me over a journey of my own experience in the trade union movement. I have shared with him the lessons that I have learned from my own personal experience and there are not very many members in this Parliament who can claim to have the same experience in the field of industrial relations as I have. I have an experience in trade union activity and in labour relations that is almost without parallel in this Parliament and I am sincere in saying that what I am putting here is in my considered opinion quite crucial if we are, to use a term I use repeatedly, to pull ourselves out of the tail spin that we have now got ourselves into.
We want to encourage agreements by cutting out the delays that occur by the settlement of disputes through the formal machinery of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission itself. However, we cannot under the Act - the Act could not give us the power, because the Constitution would prevent that - avoid some of the delays that are built into the system by the Constitution. For example, we cannot settle a dispute unless it is of an interstate character. We cannot settle a dispute unless it is purely industrial in character. We cannot even start talking about a dispute until we have completed the formalities of serving a log of claims. Although we can make an agreement, we cannot register an agreement, which is all we are talking about in this Bill, until certain procedures have been followed. People can do what they like outside the Act, but this Bill deals with what one has to do to get an agreement certified because until the agreement is certified in accordance with the terms of the Act the agreement does not assume the authority of an award and it cannot be used as the basis for prosecution or enforcement. However, an agreement cannot be made in circumstances that would preclude the Commission from making an award. So since the High Court of Australia has said that the Commission cannot make an award unless there is first a log of claims served and cannot make an award in respect of a matter of an intra-state character or that contains matters or deals with matters that impinge upon managerial prerogative, then you cannot under the law, under the Constitution itself, under the Act or even under my Bill, certify an agreement that touches upon matters that cannot be dealt with by the Commission. So the Bill contains that safeguard.
I will point out later why what I am saying is of importance. Perhaps I can come to this matter at once. Why it is important to make that qualification is to show the House that any alteration that the House approves for the making of an agreement has to be an alteration that is kept within the confines of what the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission itself can do under the Constitution. That is a terribly important safeguard as well as being a very important and damaging handicap, not only to people who want to get agreements registered; it is also a serious handicap to people who want to use the facilities of the Commission to settle disputes by arbitration. However, it is a handicap that we cannot remove and we have to try to live with it.
One of the amendments which I put forward last year and which was rejected by the Opposition I will concede was an amendment that was imperfect. I do not think it merited complete rejection, which turned out to be its fate. However, it did merit some refinement. The amendment which I put last year was in line with my Party’s platform, namely, that once an agreement reached its date of termination, it automatically expired on that date. For the wrong reason - the Opposition did not give the reason that I am about to mention - the Opposition rejected the amendment. But the rejection of the amendment was something which brought me to the point of trying to discover a compromise that would enable me to put the proposal again to the Parliament with, I think, every chance of its being accepted. The difficulty about the clause of the Bill that I put last season was that once we include a provision in the Act that decrees that an agreement automatically expires at its termination date, we immediately create at that moment a hiatus which cannot be filled until the agreement is renewed or replaced and during that period of hiatus there is a situation in which at law employees would not be entitled to claim any of their accrued annual leave or sick leave rights or long service leave rights, if long service leave happened to be a feature of the agreement. That of course was not what I intended last year; so now I am submitting the proposal to the Parliament in a different form. I now propose that the agreement shall continue to operate after its termination date until such time as a party to the agreement serves notice on the Registrar of that party’s intention to terminate. If a union -wishes to terminate the agreement before the agreement has been replaced by another satisfactory agreement, the risk that the union takes is one with which it will have to live. So by this amendment that I am proposing the great difficulty that exists in the present Act will be overcome. The present Act says that, once an agreement is entered into, that agreement goes on in perpetuity. It can never be cancelled by one party to it. It can of course be cancelled by the agreement of all parties and it can be cancelled by order of the Commission. But, short of those 2 situations, once made there is no way of getting out of a registered agreement at the moment. This is one of the reasons why many unions hesitate to enter into agreements of this character which will bind them in perpetuity to the conditions of the first agreement.
– Do they not have a terminating date?
– Yes, they do. They have a terminating date, and so does an award have a terminating date. But the Act says that an agreement, once registered, has the full force and effect of an award. Then the Act goes on to say in a later part that an award shall continue to operate until it is cancelled by the Commission or replaced by another award, which means that the same thing occurs in the case of agreements. That is one of the big impediments in the way of making agreements. The Bill that I am presenting will not prevent employers and unions from incorporating an enforcement clause in an agreement. The enforcement clause can nominate the enforcement provisions of the agreement. For instance, there are in existence now some agreements which actually carry their own penalties. The agreement says that if there is a dispute involving a stoppage of work of more than 6 hours in any one week the employer may impose a penalty equal to 10 per cent of the wages of all his employees or of all the employees affected by the agreement. He does not have to go to the court. He does not have to lay an information. He simply takes the 10 per cent fine out of the pay envelope himself at the end of the week because the agreement authorises him to do it.
The Government is not seeking to prevent agreements containing provisions of this kind. If the parties to the agreement care to enter into that kind of agreement, well and good. That is their business. However, what the Government says is that if one wants to have this kind of bargaining accepted one has to make it perfectly clear that what is being prohibited is a strike against the settlement terms that are dealt with specifically in the agreement. The unions that have entered into these kinds of agreements are simply saying: ‘We undertake that we will not repudiate the agreement insofar as it relates to the things contained in the agreement.’ But under the Act as it now stands the employer can say: ‘That is what you might have meant when you agreed to that, but since then we have found that you have gone on strike for an annual leave loading. It is true that annual leave loading is not mentioned in the agreement. It is true that it is an entirely different matter from any of those that your agreement determined, but nonetheless you have agreed that if you stop for any reason at all you will be subject to the penalty.’ People will not agree to enforcement provisions if by so doing the whole spectrum of the agreement will be opened up, as being subject to penalties.
– You could also have an agreement as to how to settle subsidiary disputes if they arise later on.
– Yes. I am obliged to the honourable member for that interjection because that is the more common form of enforcement provisions that one sees in agreements today. There may be, for instance, a clause which says that the parties to the agreement undertake that there shall not be on the part of the employees any stoppage of work except in the case of safety measures - which have always been excluded - unless in the first instance the shop steward has been to the foreman and sought a settlement from him. If they fail to reach a settlement at that level the employees are obliged to refer the matter to their branch secretary who is obliged in turn to discuss the matter with the managing director, manager, general manager or whoever is nominated in the agreement. I have given the example of a 2-tier system of settlement. There could be a 3-tier or 4-tier system of negotiations that must be completed before employees can ultimately go on strike. But if they break any of those they are in breach of the agreement, and the agreement can nominate what the penalty shall be.
The Government does not set out to stop that. It is seeking to encourage it by telling people who enter into those sorts of agreements that they are not sticking their heads into a noose which will be tightened on them in respect of a matter which they did not have in mind at the time they made the agreement. They can safely enter into these agreements from now on and they will be applied only to the matters which were the spirit of the agreement. The Australian Council of Trade Unions does not encourage the making of agreements of this kind. On the contrary, the ACTU will go so far as to say that, as an organisation, it will never make an agreement containing such an enforcement provision. Any agreement made under the auspices of the ACTU shall be an agreement without such provisions. But the Australian Labor Party has never turned its back on the making of these agreements. It says that that is a matter’ for the parties concerned. The Government wants the Act to be amended so that this great experimentation in collective bargaining can be given a fair chance of success.
Indeed, a motion was put directly to the Australian Labor Party Federal Executive in Townsville a couple of years ago. It sought to direct a future Labor government to legislate against these kinds of provisions, and it was rejected. So I have the positive support of the decision of the Federal Executive of my Party when I say that my Government has no objection to the parties voluntarily entering into them.
– You were against it, that is why it was defeated.
– No. The honourable member has got me wrong. I went too far. I said: ‘We do not mind even if the Act contains a penalty that will apply automatically when there is a breach of agreement.’ Members of my Party rejected that. I was told not to go too far on this. I was trying too hard. They said that it would not work, and I had to concede that they were right. But this proposal will work if it is given a fair chance. Let me read from the official platform of the Australian Labor Party about the agreements. It says:
Good industrial relations will be best achieved by agreements initially arrived at between trade unions and employers.
It is fundamental to a successful system of collective bargaining that voluntary agreements, freely negotiated, be honoured by the parties thereto.
Those 2 paragraphs were written into the platform of the Party on my recommendations. I wish time would permit me to deal with further aspects of the platform, but unfortunately it will not.
The Government wants the Commission to be in the position that it will not interfere with or stand in the way of the registration of these agreements unless it is satisfied that a major detriment to public interest would result. After all, let us face the realities of the situation. If there is a dispute which is finally settled by an agreement between the parties to the dispute, unless there is some major detriment to the public interest arising from that dispute the Commission ought to keep out of it. Otherwise what would happen? You would disallow an agreement that was reached in order to settle a dispute and you would immediately, as a consequence of that, re-create the dispute. That is axiomatic. It follows that that is what would happen.
The only issues on which we say the Commission ought to step in are where it can be shown that included in the agreement are matters that relate to such fundamental issues of industrial relations as the female minimum wage or the female rate of pay. If the Commission were to decide in the national wage case now before it that there ought to be equal pay, completely, it would be a matter of major detriment to the public interest if an agreement were to give less than the Full Bench decided was now proper for female labour. I would say that it would be a major detriment to the public interest for an agreement to include provision for a 20-hour week, to put one side of the coin, or a 50-hour week to put the converse situation.
Those are the kind of things - tout only those kind of things - which clearly represent a major detriment to the public interest and which the Commission would have the authority to disallow. We would want to allow a single member of the Commission to certify agreements that include matters which are to be dealt with under the jurisdiction of the Full Bench but which previously could not be dealt with except by a hearing of the Full
Bench, which was nonsense really. Where a member of the Commission believes that an agreement contains a matter which would be a major detriment to the public interest he would refer that agreement to the President of the Commission who would decide whether, to refer it to the Full Bench. Once that was done the Full Bench would determine it, if the President so determined that it should go there; otherwise it would be sent back to the presidential member for settlement.
I have to end off now because my time has run out, but I will deal more fully with the Bill in the Committee stage if honourable members want more information. The Bill before the Parliament is a genuine desire by the Government to alter the Act in such a way as to make the system work. I plead with the Opposition not to try to take political advantage of it by way of debate or whatever else the Opposition might be tempted to do. Even if members of the Opposition do not agree with all of what the Government has put forward they should at least give the Government credit for having a clear mandate for doing what it seeks to do.
In view of that mandate there need to be pretty weighty reasons for the Opposition to reject out of hand or emasculate the Bill that is now before the House. I commend the Bill to the House.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, prior to moving that the debate be adjourned may I say that I am sorry that I was not present in the chamber when the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) began his second reading speech. I had not been advised that he was going to make it at this time. I thought that the matter would be coming on this morning after question time. I was otherwise occupied at the time it came on. The Opposition will study the Minister’s extempore second reading speech with interest.
Debate (on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser) adjourned.
– I move:
That, in accordance wilh the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1973, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investiga tion and report: Construction of proposed Post Office administrative building, Perth, Western Australia.
The proposal involves the construction of an 8-storey building to accommodate Post Office administrative personnel at present in leased premises. The building will be constructed of reinforced concrete with generally painted plaster internal walls. The building will be air-conditioned. The preliminary cost of the proposed work is $7m. I table plans of the proposed work.
– The Opposition takes the quite unusual step of opposing the motion that this proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report. I have never heard of a debate of this kind taking place. This is not something that the Opposition does lightly. I will now set out as clearly as I can the reasons why the Opposition is opposed to the reference of this work to the Public Works Committee. All references that I know of to the Public Works Committee - I am speaking as a present ViceChairman of the Committee, the past Chairman of the committee and a former Minister for Works - have been accompanied by documentation. The Public Works Committee met and discussed this matter this morning. It was told that the documentation in relation to the matter referred to on today’s notice paper would not be ready for another 10 or 12 weeks. The Committee had to ask itself why it will not be ready. The Committee had to decide what it would do if it did receive the reference. It had to decide whether it could advertise the proposed investigation and put other matters in train. It was resolved without a dissentient voice that it would be quite impossible to do anything further because the documentation was not ready. The proposed investigation could not be advertised and the Committee could not take any of the steps that it would normally take when it receives such a reference from the Government because the documentation was not ready. Why has this reference been approached in this manner? Why was the decision made to refer it to the Committee 10 to 12 weeks ahead of the timetable that has been followed in every case of which I know?
– There is an election on.
– It is because there is to be an election? I have heard rumours of there being an election towards the end of the month.
– In Western Australia. Is it because the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has had to turn down the Alwest project and wants to be able to say to the Premier of Western Australia: ‘We are going to give you a building instead’?
– How could you be so uncharitable?
– The honourable member has a suspicious mind.
– It may be a matter for some levity, but I would point out that the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson), who is at the table, as a former member of the Committee, would be more aware than most of the standards that the Committee has set itself and that its procedures stand above policies. In May 1972, when I was the Chairman of the Committee and the Minister for Housing and Construction was a member of the Committee, he led a very logical and rather telling attack on the then Government. I shall quote what he said. Apparently the principles that one has in Opposition sometimes disappear when one becomes a Minister. The Minister for Housing and Construction, as a member of the Opposition, had this to say on that occasion:
The Public Works Committee is not a mere sycophant to act as a rubber stamp and to acquiesce with the Prime Minister. It is there to do an earnest job; lt is not there just to toe the line and to show its preparedness to engage in a facade of democracy.
– Who said that?
– The Minister for Housing and Construction when he was a member of the Public Works Committee.
– Things have changed.
– Things seem to have changed indeed. He went on to say:
If this Parliament is to delegate serious work to a Committee which can examine all the evidence on the matter and bring down a useful and reliable report, we must ensure in the future that the Prime Minister, the Minister for the Navy and every other parliamentarian come to understand the independent nature of the work to be undertaken. So, I express concern that the Prime Minister has transgressed in this way. I hope that he will give an explanation, if not an apalogy, to the Public Works Committee and to the Parliament for the manner in which he has violated the great and important traditions of the Public Works Committee.
– Who said that?
– That was the Minister who has just ‘moved that a matter be referred to the Public Works Committee when the documentation is not ready. The Minister said that on 24 May 1972. I have been proud of the traditions of the Public Works Committee, and it grieves me beyond end to see its traditions prostituted in this way. Principles are principles, whether a member is in opposition or in government. I cannot understand how the Minister, having uttered those fine phrases, could take the action he has taken today. The debate from which I have quoted and in which I also spoke dealt with the matter of pre-emption. The then Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, had gone to Perth and made a statement which, in the opinion of the Committee and the Chairman of the Committee, as I then was, and particularly of the then honourable member for Hughes, had to some degree pre-empted the work of the Committee. As the then Chairman of the Committee, I regarded that as a serious matter. I too joined in the debate, and I think that the Minister will agree that I played my proper part as Chairman of the Committee in upholding the traditions of the Committee. I have in my hand a Press release under the Prime Minister’s name, and I shall read it.
– Not all of it.
– I shall read just one paragraph. It states:
A new plaza will be created in Forrest Place, Perth. In addition, the Australian Post Office proposes to construct a new Administration Centre adjacent to the existing Perth GPO. The 2 developments will be made possible by an exchange of land between the Australian Government and the Perth City Council.
I leave it to other honourable members to discuss the exchange of land. But if that statement is not a pre-emption of what the Committee is expected to deal with, I do not know what is. It is much more definite than the pre-emption that was contained in the previous Prime Minister’s speech. Let me read what the Minister for Housing and Construction said on that occasion about pre-emption and what 1, in more halting language, supported. I would like the Minister to listen to his own unexampled exposition on how important it is not to have a pre-emption. Talking about a statement by the then Prime Minister in Perth, he said:
The effect of this statement is, of course, to pre-empt the decision of the Public Works Committee, and the Prime Minister in the same release has indicated that he is quite aware that this is the wrong thing to do.
On this occasion the Prime Minister has made no reference to the Public Works Committee examination. He has made a great fellow of himself in Perth, or at least so he thought, by making a statement which pre-empts the decision of the Committee. Honourable members can imagine what will happen when this project comes before the Committee for examination. The Labor members of the’ Committee know that their Prime Minister has promised the building to the people. What kind of examination will it be? On the last occasion that this kind of matter arose I mentioned that this is the kind of thing of which governments and Ministers have to be aware. They must not do it. The most eloquent and logical person who dealt with the subject was the Minister, who said that pre-emption of this kind dragged the name and tradition of the Public Works Committee in the dirt. Now that he is a Minister he is doing exactly the same thing. Is it any wonder that the Opposition opposes the reference to the Committee at this time. It seems to me that it is a case of the traditions of the Public Works Committee, and indeed of all standing committees, being traduced in a way that I find most regrettable.
On a personal note, I cannot understand the actions of the Minister, who when he was a member of the Committee was a shining example of industry and also keeping the Public Works Committee above politics. I think he would pay a tribute to the Public Works Committee, as well as to others, for the fact that we did that well. What kind of example is it to us when the Minister does what he did today with an open admission - this is the information that was provided by the staff of the Public Works Committee - that the documentation will not be ready for 10 or 12 weeks. We are supposed to accept the position that the matter will go to the Public Works Committee for political purposes. I want to say to the Minister that I am ashamed of him.
– Firstly, let me say that I respect the principles which the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) is seeking to protect, but I want to add at once the thought that the fears that he has expressed so strenuously are exaggerated. I hope to be able to demonstrate that thought as I proceed. In the first place, he asked why the Committee should have this reference ten or twelve weeks before plans and documenta tion are finalised. He ascribes that, it seems, to a transparent election device. I think we will find, even as this debate proceeds, that it is not the sort of question which will be regarded as an unqualified electoral asset to either side, because if one went to Perth today one would find a heated debate proceeding on the details of the plan that has today been brought before us. If the Government were concerned only with temporal electoral advantage, I would think that, if anything, it would have postponed the presentation of this detailed plan for consideration, leaving it all on a basis of general principle, with which there can be no argument. I suggest that this is a useful exercise to present to the Committee at this time in advance of plans and documentation because what I think the Committee will find when it proceeds to Perth, as I am sure it will if it has this reference, is that what it has before it on this occasion is an unusual reference. It is faced not simply with a question of deciding on the pros and cons of a building in practice, but much more important than that, it will be involved in decisions on the question of the site for that building. As I hope to go on to show it will be a vital part of the work of the Committee to arrive at a decision on optimum siting of the General Post Office administrative block first, that is to say, in advance of its decision as to the nature of the administrative block itself. Although I am not a member of the Committee I would assume that that would be a reversal of what its normal procedures would involve. I have already said that we have in Perth today an intensive discussion on this very question. Not the least of the contributions which the Committee reference now would make, particularly by sittings and hearings in Perth, would be that it would provide a most important focus and forum for that discussion and also provide an impartial body which could hopefully proceed to rational consideration and an impartial decision.
I want to refer to only one other comment made by the honourable member for Wakefield, and that is his reference to the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), by his announcements, is pre-empting all the work of the Committee. Going back to his announcements starting in 1972, the historical detail of which I hope to cover because it is a matter of considerable interest and certainly of personal interest to me, there is, I believe, only one unalterable commitment already made by the Prime Minister in respect of this proposal, and that is to transfer the Padbury building site to the State or to the City Council, whichever is the most appropriate, for purposes of providing Perth with a major city square or plaza. That is the only unalterable commitment. There is no unalterable commitment, as far as I am yet aware, as to the site or the nature or the height or the capacity of the proposed GPO administrative block.
Having said that in response to some of the comments of the honourable member for Wakefield, I want to go on to give some further background to his general question and I hope that the House will understand and bear with me if some of the comments that I make at this point are frankly and quite unabashedly subjective. The truth is that I have a particular personal interest in this project, and the reasons for that will become apparent from the comments that I make. In October 1972, I first approached the Prime Minister, who was then Leader of the Opposition, to ask whether he might be interested in a suggestion for his forthcoming election platform. I must tell honourable members that the suggestion was not met with instantaneous delight; on the contrary, I was fixed with something approaching a baleful glare and I was told that my assistance would be welcomed much more if I could suggest to the Prime Minister how he might reduce the existing list by ten or twelve suggestions rather than by adding another one to it. Nonetheless, I persisted undaunted. I have just been advised that the Prime Minister is anxious to make a statement at this stage. I will leave honourable members in suspense to hear the result of my undaunted and continued efforts on this question. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement on the Senate election and the referendums.
– Is leave granted? Leave is granted.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, honourable members will be aware that to fulfil the requirements of the Constitution the next Senate election must be held before 30 June 1974. Accordingly, the Government has advised His Excellency, the Governor-General, to communicate with the State Governors proposing that the next Senate election be held on Saturday, 18 May 1974. When replies have been received from the States, I shall inform the House of the full timetable proposed for the election.
I also inform the House that I have advised the Governor-General that in respect of the following proposed laws - Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) 1974, Constitutional Alteration (Mode of Altering the Constitution) 1974, Constitution Alteration (Democratic Elections) 1974, and Constitution Alteration (Local Government Bodies) 1974 - the conditions in the second paragraph of section 128 of the Constitution have been complied with. I have recommended that His Excellency should submit them to the electors.
His Excellency has informed me that he accepts the advice I have tendered and that he will submit the proposed laws to the electors. It is intended that the referendums be held concurrently with the Senate election.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask leave to make a short statement in relation to the referendum proposals.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is granted.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the questions which will be put to the public in the referendums will be the long title to the Bills. There are 4 referendum proposals. Unfortunately, each of those questions which will be put to the public in terms of the long title to the Bills will not properly reflect what is contained within the Bills, so that what each person going to the polling booth will have before him is a question which does not accurately reflect what will be the result if he votes ‘Yes’ to that question. This is a very wrong way in which the questions should be represented to the public. It is deceptive to the public that they should be put in this fashion. The public will be aware that when these Bills were before this House on 2 occasions, on each occasion all 4 Bills were guillotined through this House.
– A point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Leader of the Opposition has asked for leave to make a statement in reference to the date of the Senate election and the referendum proposals. My point is that he cannot debate the issues and revive a debate which has taken place. He should confine himself to what the Leader of the Government, the Prime Minister, has stated in his reference. I think that he is departing from that at the present time.
-The point of order is quite valid. I was waiting for the Leader of the Opposition to develop his case, thinking that he would return to the subject matter.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I asked for leave to make a statement in relation to the referendums. I was given leave to make a statement in relation to the referendums.
-The Prime Minister made a statement on the fixation of the date of the referendums and the Senate election. The matter before the House is that precise matter - the date for the Senate election and the referendums. I would asked the Leader of the Opposition to try to speak within those provisions.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I asked for leave and was granted leave to make a statement about the referendums. I want to make that statement about the referendums because what is being put to the people is deceitful.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable gentleman followed the usual practice of asking for leave to make a statement on the same subject. Of course, the leave was granted. It is a sleight of hand to suggest that he was given leave to make a general statement.
-I have ruled in that manner, and I would ask the Leader of the Opposition to observe the ruling of the Chair.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, these proposals, as they will be put to the Australian people, do not give the people a full understanding of what is involved in the amendment to the Constitution-
-Order! I cannot allow the Leader of the Opposition to- proceed along those lines. He is required to observe the ruling of the Chair, and the ruling is quite explicit. The Leader of the Opposition has been granted leave to make a statement along the lines of the statement made by the Prime Minister. He is not entitled to go outside that scope.
- Mr Deputy Speaker-
-I want to say to the Leader of the Opposition that unless he conforms I will ask him to resume his seat.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, you have stated what I was given leave to make a statement about. It is, to my recollection, not an accurate statement of what I asked for leave to state, which leave was given, and Hansard will disclose that.
-Order! I ask the Leader of the Opposition to resume his seat. He asked for permission to make a statement on the statement made by the Prime Minister.
-Order! There was no other matter before the House. The matter before the House was the statement made by the Prime Minister. The Leader of the Opposition asked for permission to make a statement on the statement made by the Prime Minister. That statement deals with the date of the Senate election and of the referendum - a question of time. If the right honourable gentleman wishes to deal with that, he may do so, but he is not entitled to go outside that scope.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I move:
– No wonder George Hannan left you.
– I am sorry, did the honourable member say that George Slater left you? George Slater left because he knew you could not win 3 seats in Victoria.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. Let me say quite frankly that I think a mistake has been made. I was sitting here when the Leader of the Opposition asked for leave to make a statement on the referendum. I say this quite sincerely because I confess I was surprised, if I may say this, that the Prime Minister gave permission for the Leader of the Opposition to make that statement because I felt, when the right honourable gentleman asked for leave, that it was widening the debate beyond what had been said by the Prime Minister. I should think that there would be a record of this matter in Hansard. I am not saying that either the Prime Minister of the Leader of the House did not misunderstand the situation. I am not saying that in their comments they were not genuinely of the belief that this was the matter on which leave was asked for by the Leader of the Opposition to make a statement. I think this matter could be settled if the tapes, which would be recording the proceedings, were checked.
-Order! That matter is not relevant because there is before the House a motion of dissent. The question is:
That the Deputy Speaker’s ruling be dissented from.
– I have moved dissent from your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, because I specifically asked for leave to make a statement about the referendum proposals. The reason why I put my request in those specific terms was that these Bills were before this House on 2 occasions and on both occasions they were guillotined through the House. On each of those 4 Bills the Committee stages were confined to an effective 8 minutes of debate. They were confined to an effective 8 minutes because the debate was limited under the terms of the guillotine procedure.
-Order! I would ask the Leader of the Opposition to confine his remarks to the motion of dissent and not to canvass the question of the referendum.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I specifically put my request in the form I did because of these factors. There were 8 minutes for debate on the Committee stages of each of the 4 Bills. Thus, in the Committee stages-
– Mr Deputy Speaker, the motion is that your ruling be dissented from. Accordingly speakers must direct themselves to showing that your ruling was wrong. What the honourable gentleman has said is not a passing reference. The only things he has said up to now are irrelevant to the motion. Were you wrong in your ruling or not?
-The point of order is well taken. The Leader of the Opposition realises that I have already ruled along those lines. I ask him to observe the ruling otherwise I will ask him to resume his seat.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, you are very anxious to have me resume my seat.
I wish you were as anxious to have me explain the purpose for which I am standing here moving dissent from your ruling. I am on my feet to explain my dissent from your ruling. I asked for leave to make a statement about the referendums. I was given leave to make that statement. I wanted to speak about the referendums because I regard the questions that are put to the Australian people as deceitful. I wanted, in the Committee stages of the Bills, to move amendments to the long titles for the purpose-
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will have to speak to the dissent motion, which he is not doing now.
– I wished, in the Committee stages, to move amendments to the long titles so that they would present to the Australian people some reality of what would be the consequences if they voted yes and passed the referendum Act relating to alterations to the Constitution. I therefore couched my request in the way I did. I have no doubt whatever that the Hansard record will disclose this. Mr Deputy Speaker, if you do not permit me to make that statement in accordance with the terms on which I asked for leave and in accordance with the terms on which leave was granted you will not be serving the interests of this House. What you would then be doing is interpreting what might otherwise have been, but we cannot deal with what might have been, we must deal with the facts just as the people of Australia, when they vote, will have to deal with the facts and not with what might have been. Mr Deputy Speaker, I believe that if you persist with the ruling you have given you will prevent me using the national Parliament, the forum of the nation, to tell the people of Australia how they will be misled when they see the question on the ballot paper when they go to vote in the referendum on the 4 matters which will go before the people. The first concerns simultaneous elections. Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER-Order! I ask the Leader of the Opposition to observe the ruling of the Chair or otherwise resume his seat.
– You might just as well be tossed out.
-Order! Unless he does, I will be obliged to take action.
– Your ruling is wrong.
-The House will decide that.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, your ruling is wrong because I asked leave to make a statement about the referendums. I was granted leave. I then commenced to make my statement about the referendums and you ruled that I did not have leave to make a statement about the referendums. You interpreted that leave was given by the House in some confining fashion. As I remember it your words were to the effect that I was given leave to make a statement along similar lines to the statement of the Prime Minister, but there was no such mention of that at all. I suggest, Mr Deputy Speaker, that if you persist in the ruling you have given the Hansard record will show you to be monstrously wrong. I am moving dissent from your ruling because that is the only way in which I can bring home to you these arguments. It has been a long tradition in this Parliament that the person occupying the Chair should listen to the arguments. There is nothing to diminish from the dignity of the Deputy Speaker if he realises he has made an error. There is a simple way to show whether you have made an error - whether the error is one of interpreting the Standing Orders or whether the error is as to what you recall was said. I take the former first - that you made an error with the Standing Orders. I believe you have made an error with the Standing Orders. If honourable members like to examine the Standing Orders they will find that that is so. There is no need for me even to refer them to the appropriate standing order because a person does not have to be in this House longer than a week to know that when a member asks leave to make a statement he is either given it or, if there is a single dissenting voice, he cannot make the statement. Everybody knows that when you ask for leave to make a statement that is the one time at which there is no test of relevancy. That is why one voice alone can deprive a person of leave to make a statement. There is no test of relevancy involved except the very broad relevancy of the subject. I asked for leave to make a statement about the referendums. Therefore anything I choose to say about the referendum proposals is in order. That is the first point.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I happen to know that you have been in this House for over 20 years in which time you have given long and distinguished service. I have heard that you are about to terminate that service at the end of this Parliament. Whether that is true or not I do not know, but I believe it to be so. I would not like you to leave this Parliament having made such a dreadful error, because in fact it is a dreadful error. You have made an error of interpretation of the Standing Orders.
The second point is that you have ruled me out of order because you said I had been granted leave to make a statement on words which you used yourself and which were not the -words on which I was granted leave. In relation to the second matter I ask you to do what was suggested by the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock), that is, to test the record. The shorthand writer is here and there are automatic recordings of what is said in this Parliament. On both counts you are wrong, Mr Deputy Speaker. What I want to bring home to you is that if you do not permit me to continue you are not only sitting me down and silencing me but you are depriving all the people of Australia of the right of true democracy where the Opposition can state a point of view in this national Parliament.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I want to support
– Were you in the House?
– I want to support the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) because I think that an injustice is being perpetrated on him. I say that because I happened to be listening to the debate. I was listening to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) make his very important announcement. It was an announcement which I think arrested the attention of all in the Parliament. But I also heard the Leader of the Opposition ask for leave to make a statement referring to the referendums. There were no qualifications whatsoever on that statement. As every member of this House knows, if a member is given leave to make a statement he can make it as wide as he likes on the topic on which he has been given permission to speak.
If you are going to suppress the Leader of Opposition being able to amplify statements that he wanted to make, I say that you are trying to limit the functions of this Parliament and the right of an individual to express his opinion. We have already seen the debate dealing with the Constitution alteration legislation being suppressed as we have never seen legislation in this Parliament suppressed. We have seen it gagged through this Parliament. We have seen the disgraceful behaviour to allow about half an hour of debate in the second reading stage of each of the major Bills and about 15 minutes in the Committee stage.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek your indulgence to point out that the matter that the Leader of the Australian Country Party is debating is not why your ruling is wrong but the pros and cons of legislation that has gone through this Parliament. Whilst I know that he desires for once to show a display of unity, I do not think it should be tolerated.
-The point taken by the Leader of the House is valid and I would ask the Leader of the Country Party to confine his remarks to the dissent from my ruling.
– I will do that, but I am a bit fed up with the Leader of the Government trying to suppress proper debate and proper expression of a point of view in this House. I am particularly resentful that this should be done in regard to constitutional issues when we cannot put our point of view across to the Australian people.
The motion before the House, Mr Deputy Speaker, is dissent from your ruling. I think in good faith that you have made a judgment not realising the consequences of the decision that you have made. I believe that it is an error. I would hate to think that you are showing a bias in favour of the Government merely because the Prime Minister is in the House and merely because the Prime Minister has expressed an opinion that the Leader of the Opposition should not be stating a point of view about the title of the referendum questions on which the people of Australia have to make a decision. I hope that you would not be swayed by that. But at the moment there is an error. If you look at the record, if you get the tape or if you check with the Hansard report of what the Leader of the Opposition asked - that was the right to make a statement referring to the referendum - you will find that an error has been committed. In those circumstances I believe that you ought to give reconsideration to the judgment that you have made. Otherwise you are not doing proper dignity to the very important job that you hold in this House. If you can sit by and allow this to go on without examining the reports of Parliament then you have committed an error and you are not living up to the high status to which this House has elected you. This is an important matter because a constitutional matter is before the Australian people and the Australian people are entitled to have the points of view of the Opposition. They have to make a judgment whether they are going to vote for or against these matters. The Leader of the Opposition was merely trying to point out that when on 18 May the people have to make this decision-
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to order.
– They have got a chance of- (Honourable members interjecting)-
– I presume that what the right honourable gentleman said after I called for a point of order will not go in the record of the House. The whole of the motion turns on the correctness or not of your ruling. The right honourable gentleman is not directing his remarks to whether your ruling was wrong. He is canvassing matters which do not relate to your ruling in any way.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Prime Minister is trying to intimidate you.
-Order! I call the Leader of the Country Party.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order.
– No, I have called the Leader of the Country Party.
– Sir, I ask to be heard on a point of order and I ask for your ruling. Sir, 1 want to inform you that I have been to Hansard and I have heard a tape recording of what was said by the Leader of the Opposition. What I heard confirms what I said to you before this debate commenced.
-Order! The honourable member for Lyne will resume his seat.
– Sir, therefore the ruling is incorrect.
– And the Leader of the Opposition is justified because he was given leave to make a statement.
-Order! I call the Leader of the Country Party.
– The Prime Minister is the Prime Minister in this Parliament, but that does not give him a right to try to use the forms of this House to prevent an opposing point of view to his being expressed. This is what the dissention is all about.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask-
– What are you trying to conceal? What are you covering up?
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask that the honourable gentleman withdraw that reflection on me. I was granted leave to make a statement on a certain subject. The Leader of the Opposition then asked for leave to make a statement as we all would assume on the same subject. In accordance with the courtesies of the House I gave leave. I said yes’ when the Leader of the Opposition sought leave and nobody said ‘no’. Accordingly he had leave. Far from seeking to conceal or suppress any point of view I gave leave for the right honourable gentleman to make a statement. I was-
– You have no right to talk in this way. You are out of order.
– I ask the Prime Minister to state his point of order.
– I am not taking a point of order, Sir.
– Well, sit down. If it is not a point of order, sit down. What are you talking about?
-Order! The Prime Minister is on his feet.
– Sit him down, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker-
-Order! I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– The Prime Minister has said in quite clear and unequivocal language that he is not taking a point of order. I suggest to the Chair, also in the same clarity of language, that the Prime Minister has no right to speak at this stage. The speaker ought to be the right honourable the Leader of the Country Party.
– I am not taking a point of order.
Opposition members - Sit down.
-Order! I call the Leader of the Country Party.
– I am trying to make the point-
- Mr Deputy Speaker-
Opposition members - Sit down.
– Is it a point of order?
– Thank you. Why did you not say that in the first place instead of being a prima donna?
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I have listened-
– I draw attention to standing order 84. 1 read:
No member may interrupt another Member whilst speaking, unless (1) to call attention to a point of order of privilege suddenly arising;
The Prime Minister thinks he is above the law in this Parliament. Sit him down.
– I have risen, as I believe I am entitled to do, to ask for the withdrawal of a reflection upon me. Now, Sir, the Leader of the Country Party-
– That should be done at the end of the speech.
– The right honourable gentleman accused me of wanting to suppress a point of view. I believe I am entitled to ask for a withdrawal of that remark since I expressed that leave should be given for a point of view to be expressed on the subject where I sought leave and had been granted leave. Far from seeking to suppress a point of view I facilitated a point of view. If I had said no, or any of us had said no, the Leader of the Opposition could not have spoken. I was granted leave to make a statement and accordingly I reciprocated by granting leave to the right honourable gentleman. Sir, in accordance with practice it was leave to make a statement on the same subject matter.
-I now call the Leader of the Country Party.
– It is quite obvious from the tactics of the Prime Minister that he is trying to use up my very valuable time to prevent me from speaking. But if he thinks I am going to withdraw now -
– Mr Deputy Speaker -
– Let me reply to your point of view. If the Prime Minister thinks that he can intimidate me by the fear of the numbers on that side of the House to try to make me withdraw the remarks that he is trying to suppress opinions being expressed by this side of the House, he has another think coming. It is not going to be withdrawn. I stand behind what I said. He has suppressed the Leader of the Opposition today from making a statement referring to the referendum proposals. I want to quote the exact words which were said. They have been given to me in the last few minutes.
– Mr Deputy Speaker -
– Is the honourable gentleman taking a point of order?
– I ask for the withdrawal of a reflection on me. I press the point that I am entitled to a withdrawal of the allegation that I have been suppressing the expression of a point of view. When the right honouarble gentleman sought leave I said ‘yes’. In these circumstances, I object to the allegation that I am seeking to suppress a point of view. I was perfectly willing to give leave and I made my willingness plain by saying yes, so that the right honourable gentleman could express a point of view on the same matter on which I had been given leave to make a statement.
– I rise to order. It is very clear now Mr Deputy Speaker, on this point of order that the Prime Minister is now saying that he wishes to disagree and totally dissociate himself from the decision which you have given. Now, if he admits that, then of course there is a totally different set of circumstances. But let him be man enough to do so rather than sneak behind arguments which have to do with whether he said yes or ‘no’ and asking that the right honourable gentleman withdraw a statement that he made relevant to it. Mr Deputy Speaker, if the honourable gentleman would disagree with you, let us have a vote on it to see where his followers are. We will find sir, that the whole House then agrees with you and the right honourable gentleman is permitted to continue. That is the commonsense approach. Let us get on with it.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) put:
That the Leader of the Australian Country Party be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr A. S. Luchetti)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
– We all know that honourable members opposite are suffering under great stress today. Therefore, in order to give them an opportunity to recover their equilibrium, I move:
That the question be now put.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, before you put the question. My point of order is this: Is it fair for you to put a question which is asking members of the Government to follow you like a pack of whales to the beach?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– The question is: That the question be now put’.
– I claimed a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was on my feet before you put the question.
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr A. S. Luchetti)
Majority . . . . 8
That the Deputy Speaker’s ruling be dissented from (Mr Snedden’s motion).
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr A. S. Luchetti)
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce - Leader of the Opposition) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I am speaking by leave on a statement and you have ruled that I must speak in terms used by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). I interpret that as meaning that you are confining me to speaking about 18 May and whether 18 May is or is not a good day on which to have the referendums and Senate elections. I believe that that is far too narrow an interpretation. It is just impossible to believe that a statement could be confined to that narrow margin. When the Prime Minister asked for leave he made a statement.
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent me explaining why the referendum proposals have misleading questions directed to the electors for the purposes of deceiving them and hiding the real issues confronting the electors on the issue of the Senate election, namely, crippling tax, staggering interest rates and rampant inflation.
Are you in favour of an amendment to the Constitution so as - and then I quote the long title - - to alter the Constitution so as to ensure that Senate elections are held at the same time as House of Representatives elections?
The implication of that is that the only way in which one could have House of Representatives elections on the same day as Senate elections -
That the question be now put.
The second point is that, as it reads, the question to be put at this referendum would make people think that in some magical way every House of Representatives election would be for 3 years. That is not true. Under this Bill, what would happen is that the independence of the Senate which depends on a fixed time of 6 years-
Mr Daly - Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. (Opposition members interjecting.)
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)I accept the point of order and I ask the Leader of the Opposition to speak to the suspension of Standing Orders and not to canvass a general debate.
House of Representatives and the Parliaments of the States are chosen directly and democratically by the people?’ It is a fraudulent question, well known by the Government to be fraudulent and voted for by every member of the Australian Labor Party because it is not designed to create a democratic Parliament. It is designed as a giant Labor gerrymander, the greatest gerrymander that has ever been known in political history. That is not going to make a democratic House of Representatives.
– I wish to second the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) for the suspension of Standing Orders so that he may explain his view of the mode of the referendum proposals and the interpretation of those proposals. At this time of night there would be hundreds of thousands of people listening to Parliament on the radio. They must think that this national Parliament is quite a rabble because of the disruption and the noise that have taken place this afternoon. There has been a lot of disruption and the reason for that is that members of the Opposition have been trying to put across a point of view as to reasons for rejecting the referendum proposals. They have been trying to explain what is meant by these referendum proposals, and that is why we are asking for a suspension of Standing Orders. I hope the House will support the motion, but knowing that the Government has domination of this House, it will gag the matter and there will be little expression of opinion.
We have seen this suppression of expression right through the whole debate dealing with these constitutional questions. They have come before this Parliament twice and on both occasions the guillotine has been applied. The guillotine means that there is only a limited amount of time allowed for the discussion of each of these constitutional questions and the ludicrous amount of time that the Government allowed for discussion was half an hour on the second reading stages of the Bills, plus about IS minutes on the Committee stages. These are very complex questions and we feel bound as members of the Opposition to insist that a point of view should be put in the national Parliament. If democracy is to work, and if there is to be free expression by the people in this Parliament, we have a right to a certain amount of the debating time. The guillotine has been applied twice on these measures. It was applied for the first time when the Bills were introduced before Christmas and again this session. It is just not good enough for an ample explanation of the Bills so that the Australian people can make an intelligent and informed assessment of whether they are in the best interests of the nation. But, apparently it is the tactics of the Gov ernment and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to try to restrict as much as possible debate on these questions so that the people might go to the polls in ignorance of what ire the real consequences.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) within the few minutes that he had at his disposal today tried to point out to the House why there should be a suspension of Standing Orders. He went through the 4 questions that the people will have to consider at the referendums. He pointed out that the definitions or the long titles of these Bills are completely false and that the Australian people are being deceived. Apparently the Government is hoping that in the ignorance of the Australian people, these constitutional changes might be made so that greater power will be in the hands of the central government and so that the Labor Government might entrench itself in office by a gigantic manipulation of the electoral laws, a gerrymander such as we have never seen before in this country. It is little wonder that we feel so concerned and upset in this House. It is little wonder that the people who have been listening on the air for the last hour must have been disturbed by all the noise and rabble.
– You made it.
– Well, it has been rabble; it has been rabble by the whole Parliament because the forms of the House have not been obeyed or honoured and the only way in which we can get a say in this House is to try to stand up to the tactics of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) who are trying to restrict proper debate. So we make a plea on behalf of democracy and the proper working of this House that this motion for the suspension of Standing Orders be carried to allow proper debate on this question.
– i rise to oppose the motion. About an hour and a half ago I rose to make a ministerial statement on the proposed date for the Senate elections and on the submission of the 4 Referendum Bills to the electors. It was a short factual statement. It was in accordance with the practice of the Parliament that such statements should be made in the Parliament. There is no necessity for me to make the statement in the Parliament. I could do it in a Press statement; I need not tell anyone. All my predecessors in this office have told the Parliament what they have done in these respects. That is, they have told the Parliament what advice they have given to the Governor-General. They have told the Parliament what the Governor-General is going to do about any advice on submitting referendums. I followed the proper practice. I was given leave to make the statement. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) then asked for leave to make a statement. Everybody understood that it would be on the same subject. The technicalities are, of course, that if a person asks for leave to make a statement in sufficiently wide terms he can make that statement for the rest of the sitting day. If we are to believe the right honourable gentleman then we could have him talking about any subject until the adjournment is moved at 10.30 tonight. That is nonsense and the House showed by its vote that it knew it to be nonsense.
For the last hour and a half members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party, whatever their current names are, have been showing their exasperation and frustration at the fact that the people are being given the opportunity to express their views on proposed alterations to the Constitution which the Liberal and Country parties have used the last 6 months in an attempt to prevent.
– I raise a point of order. What we want is the people to be given the right to express their views in an election for the House of Representatives.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– The right honourable gentleman knows quite well that on some occasions it is possible for his colleagues or his confederates in the Senate to prevent the will of the majority of the members elected at the most recent Federal election, that it is possible for senators elected in December 1967 and in December 1970 to frustrate the will of the people expressed in the election of the House of Representatives in 1972.
– On a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, you were very tough on the Leader of the Opposition when he spoke on this motion to suspend the Standing Orders. The Prime Minister is getting right away from the reasons which were put forward by the Leader of the Opposition and is opening up a new subject.
-I ask the Prime Minister to speak to the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– Sir, I am giving reasons why the Standing Orders should not be suspended to enable the right honourable gentleman to discuss the matter he wishes to discuss if the Standing Orders are suspended. The right honourable gentleman says that he wants the Standing Orders to be suspended to enable him to put a point of view which he has twice had an opportunity to put on every one of the 4 Bills in the last session and within the last month.
– That is untrue.
-Order! I ask the honourable member for Mackellar to remain silent. If he fails to do so I will name him.
– I raise a point of order. The Prime Minister must know that what he is saying is a complete untruth.
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. There is no point of order and he knows it.
– The fact is that the people are now to be given, much to the chagrin of the Opposition, an opportunity to express their views on 4 matters which have been canvassed outside the Parliament for years, inside the Parliament in most cases since 1958 and during the present Parliament steadily for the last 6 months. The honourable gentleman and his colleagues have had 2 opportunities in this place and 2 opportunities in the other place to put all these arguments in relation to which they now want to suspend the Standing Orders in order to put them a third time. The right honourable gentleman stated that the titles of these Bills were misleading. In fact it is a correct description to use the term ‘simultaneous elections’ for elections of the House of Representatives and Senate which are to be held at the same time. They would be simultaneous elections. Is it a correct description. Secondly, the words Mode of Altering the Constitution’ - the title of the second Bill - are the very words which appear in the margin of every copy of the Constitution which has been printed since it was adopted in 1900. In the marginal note against section 128 - which is getting altered by this proposal - the words used are: ‘Mode of altering the Constitution’. If one is proposing alterations to that section of the Constitution one properly uses words which have appeared in the margin against that section for the last 73 years.
– I raise a point of order. The Prime Minister, being a learned lawyer, ought to know that it is a first principle of legal interpretation that you ignore the marginal note; so this has no reference whatsoever to the true interpretation of the document.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. That is not a point of order.
– The title of the third Bill includes the words ‘Democratic Elections’. I would have thought that not even the Liberal Party or the Country Party would now cavil at the use of the word ‘democratic’. The fact is that this Parliament and all the mainland State parliaments are not elected by democratic means.
– On a point of order, I would like you, Mr Deputy Speaker to clarify whether there are double standards in this House. You, Sir, consistently called the right honourable the Leader of the Opposition into line because he was not speaking to the terms of the motion to suspend the Standing Orders. This Prime Minister is getting off with murder. Either there are double standards or something is wrong somewhere.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! I ask the honourable gentleman not to reflect on the Chair. I ask him to withdraw that statement.
– All right, I withdraw it.
– The honourable gentleman who interjected represents the Mount Isa area.
– I raise a point of order. When the Leader of the Opposition was speaking you, Mr Deputy Speaker, were very careful to rule that he must not traverse the debate and that he must keep himself to the point. With great respect to you, Sir, I suggest that the Prime Minister’s remarks are quite irrelevant to the point at issue and that he is in fact canvassing the things that you would not permit the Leader of the Opposition to canvass.
-I ask the Prime Minister to confine his remarks to the motion before the Chair.
– I merely referred to matters which the right honourable gentleman himself was allowed to mention. The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), who took a point of order, represents the Mount Isa area. In the Queensland Parliament the Mount Isa electorate is the largest in the State. Now, that is not democracy. I would at least have thought that the honourable gentleman would believe that it is undemocratic to have Mount Isa as the largest electorate in terms of population and electorate in the State Parliament.
– I rise to order, Mr Deputy Speaker. My point of order is that the Prime Minister is not making any reference at all to the question put before the Chair - that is the motion that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition and seconded by the Leader of the Australian Country Party - and you have continued to fail to call the Prime Minister to order.
– Order! I ask the Prime Minister to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
- Mr Deputy Speaker-
– Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
That the motion (Mr Snedden’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr A. S. Luchetti) Ayes . . . . . . 50
Question resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 6.22 to 8 p.m.
– I call the Clerk.
– Notice No. 1-
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
-Order! I have called the Clerk.
That so much of the Standing Orders-
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. I call the Postmaster-General.
– I move-
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat or I will deal with him.
– I am moving under standing order 399.
-Order! Mr Wentworth - I invoke standing order 399.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat and he will not address the Chair when he does not have the call. I call the Postmaster-General.
The honourable member will not move anything.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, under standing order 399 I am entitled to move whether the Postmaster-General has been called or not.
– Standing order 399 is quite specific.
-Order! The honourable member is not entitled to move anything unless he gets the call from the Chair. He has not got the call from the Chair. I call the Postmaster-General.
– On behalf of the Prime Minister-
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to order. I would like you to recall your words. When the honourable member for Mackellar rose and tried to attract your attention on a point of order or to call your attention with the words ‘Mr Deputy Speaker’, you said, ‘I have called the Clerk’.
– That is correct.
– You called the Clerk and the Clerk then read the title of the Bill. I submit to you that you had already indicated the precedence that ought to have been followed by then taking the honourable member for Mackellar after the Clerk had completed his remarks.
-Order! The Clerk called Government Business. I called the PostmasterGeneral. In deference to the honourable member’s appeal, I will give the honourable member for Mackellar the call for the purpose of raising his point of order.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended
-Order! The honourable member will now resume his seat. The honourable member said that he was attracting my attention under standing order 339.
– No, standing order 399.
-The honourable member said 339.
– It is 399.
-Order! The honourable member does not have the call. I call the Postmaster-General.
– I move under standing order 399-
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– On behalf of the Prime Minister, I present the Australian Council Bill 1974. The purpose of this Bill is to establish a statutory authority- (Honourable members interjecting.)
-Order! I called the Clerk. The Clerk called on Government Business. I called the Postmaster-General in accordance with the original call for Government Business. The Postmaster-General then proceeded. The honourable gentleman is not in order in moving for the suspension of-
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to order. I had indicated to you before you made the call that I was proposing to move, as I am entitled to, under standing order 399 - not standing order 339. I read the standing order:
In cases of necessity, any standing or sessional order or orders of the House may be suspended, on motion, duly moved and seconded, without notice; Provided that such motion is carried by an absolute majority of Members having full voting rights.
-Order! The honourable member has taken his point of order.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I did indicate to you, and I was entitled under standing order 399 to get the call.
-Order! I will rule on the honourable member’s point of order.
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. The honourable member may move the motion which he claims he is entitled to move, provided that he gets the call from the Chair. The honourable member is not entitled to get the call from the Chair when I have called the Clerk, he has announced the notice for the introduction of a Bill and I have called the Minister for that purpose. Government business is before the Chair. The honourable member is not entitled to move any motion unless he gets the call. He did not get the call. I call the Postmaster-General.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to take a point of order. What you have said may have been the case. But Hansard will record that following that incident you . did, in fact, give the honourable member for Mackellar the call.
-I take the honourable member’s point of order. I mistakenly thought that the honourable member said he was moving under standing order 339. Under standing order 339 he must be given the call immediately under any circumstances. That standing order refers to strangers in the House. The honourable member explained to me that he was referring to standing order 393. I misheard him.
– It was standing order 399.
– Well, 399; it does not matter. It was not the standing order which I understood him to mention. Therefore, he does not have a right to the call, and the call for the Postmaster-General stood.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I have listened with great respect to what you have had to say. Standing order 399 says that in cases of necessity, any standing or sessional order or orders of the House-
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member that if he had been listening when the honourable member for Mackellar took the same point of order he would know that I informed him that he is entitled to move that motion provided he gets the call.
– But Mr Deputy Speaker, you gave him the call.
-I gave the honourable member a call in respect of a different standing order which I had understood him to cite. I have no option under those circumstances. I have given the call to the Postmaster-General and that will stand.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, on the point of order-
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. There are about six other points of order.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to order.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to take a point of order.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to order.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to take another point of order.
-Order! I call the Postmaster-General.
– I rise to take a point of order.
-Order! The honourable member will take a point of order only when he has the call.
– This is not a dictatorship. This happens to be a democracy.
– Yes. That is correct.
– There is a right for ordinary members of Parliament and it is about time you recognised it.
-The honourable member will resume his seat. I suggest to the honourable member that this is a democracy and he is not the only member of this Parliament. Three other members rose to take points of order. The honourable member had taken his point of order and I had overruled it. I call the honourable member for Perth.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, 1 want to speak to the point-
– Am I not allowed to take a point of order?
– Resume your seat. You are not entitled to take a point of order on a point of order. I call the honourable member for. Perth.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to speak to the point of order in the hope, perhaps, of clarifying the position, lt seems to me that speakers on the Opposition side are labouring under an illusion as to the effect of standing order 399. The honourable member for Mackellar and others read standing order 339-
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member that whilst he is endeavouring to be helpful to the Chair, I have already ruled on the point of order. 1 do not intend to have a protracted debate on it. I call the honourable member for Moreton.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, my point of order is a very brief one. You have admitted that you erred and as a consequence of the error you made you called the honourable member for Mackellar. You claim that your belief was that the honourable member for Mackellar had drawn your attention to standing order 339. It is perfectly clear that under that standing order if any member draws attention to strangers, the Speaker will rule automatically, although
I observe in passing that the standing order has not always been observed punctiliously in the past. But the simple fact is that after the Clerk had called on the business the honourable member for Mackellar drew your attention to standing order 399. My submission - it is made without any heat or acerbity - is simply this-
– I submit that you are trying to make a mockery of this place.
– I have been here a little longer than you have
-Order! The honourable member will resume taking his point of order and will ignore irrelevant interjections.
– Too long.
– And nothing the honourable member has done has disturbed it. Under standing order 399 the honourable member for Mackellar, once called, is entitled to be heard.
-I take the point of order that the honourable member has made.
– That is my simple point.
-I take the honourable member’s point of order. The Postmaster-General is equally, once called, entitled to speak. Only under the circumstances which I understood prevailed - I have acknowledged that I was in error - would I have to give the call to any honourable members under standing order 339. I do not feel that I am entitled to withdraw the call from an honourable member to whom I have already given it because of what I acknowledge to have been an error on my part.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to order.
-Order! The honourable member for Gippsland appears to think that he knows everything about the running of the House. I suggest to him that I have been completely consistent in this matter and I have been consistent with the practice of the Chair in the past. I call the Postmaster-General.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I do so not as an emotional response but purely and simply to draw your attention to what I believe to be the proper interpretation of the standing order. I refer to the booklet entitled ‘The House of Representatives: Short Description of Business and Procedures’. Mr Deputy Speaker, I agree with you - I think you are usually right in these matters - that an honourable member should not interrupt another honourable member who is speaking or after the time from which the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker of the House has called upon that honourable member to speak. If you look at Part 26 on page 50 of that booklet you will see that there is an exception. That exception is when an honourable member calls attention to the presence of strangers. In other words, that is an occasion when you are entitled, if you take the strict wording of standing order 399-
-Order! The right honourable gentleman has the wrong standing order.
Mr McMahon - If you look at that you will see that there has to be a particular set of circumstances which it is within your discretion to determine, but I believe that the proper course of action on this occasion is for you to decide that the honourable member for Mackellar was quite right in drawing attention to the state of the House and that he was quite right in interjecting or interrupting at the time that he did.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman does not appear to be dealing with the same standing order as we are. Standing order 339 is not in question. Standing order 399 is in question.
– With respect, I said standing order 399.
– Standing order 339 relates to strangers. Standing order 399 is not the same standing order. I call the Postmaster-General.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. May I say that I will endeavour to draw your attention to this matter immediately the Postmaster-General has finished his speech.
– For the edification of the House, I repeat what I have already said: On behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), I present the Australia Council Bill 1974.
Bill read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the Bill is to establish a statutory authority to administer Australian Government assistance to the arts. The authority will be known as the Australia Council. I regard this Bill as an historic development in the promotion of the arts in Australia. It fulfils a long-standing commitment to the arts which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) proclaimed in the Australian Labor Party’s policy speech in 1972 and which the Government has pursued since coming to office. I believe that the formation of an independent Australia Council will inaugurate a new era of vitality and progress in the arts, that creative artists of all kinds will enjoy a new measure of security and status in the community, and that the Australian people as a whole will have new and wider opportunities to participate in the arts and enjoy the emotional, spiritual and intellectual rewards which the arts alone can provide. The creation of an independent authority for the arts follows the approach adopted in other countries including Britain, Canada, the United States and New Zealand. It takes into account of the need for specialised skills and knowledge in the promotion of the arts. At the same time it recognises that a measure of freedom is needed to optimise opportunities for artistic achievement. I believe our proposals strike a realistic balance between these two requirements.
I can best describe the Government’s broad objectives for the arts by outlining the policies that we intend the new Council to follow. These are defined and set out in the Bill. They are consistent with numerous statements on the Government’s policy towards the arts which the Prime Minister made last year. It will be the first task of the Council to promote excellence in the arts. Next, we want it to provide opportunities for people to practice the arts and for the public to appreciate and enjoy them. We want to promote the general application of the arts in the community and foster the expression of a national identity by means of the arts. We want to uphold the right of everyone to freedom or artistic expression. We want to promote a knowledge and appreciation of Australian arts in other countries. We want to promote incentives for, and recognition of, achievement in the arts. Finally, we want the new Council to encourage the support of the arts by the States, local governing bodies and other persons and organisations.
The Government believes there has long been a need to restructure and improve Government machinery for assistance to the arts if they are to keep pace with the needs and aspirations of a growing population and rising levels of education. Government support for the arts has developed fitfully over the years. The Commowealth Literary Fund began providing pensions for writers in 1908, but no programs of assistance for practising writers were developed until the beginning of the Second World War. The Commonwealth Art Advisory Board existed from 1912 but there was little assistance for living Australian artists before the 1970s. It was not until 1967 that the needs of Australian composers were recognised by the Australian Government. It was only in 1968 that the Australian Council for the Arts was established to help, primarily, ballet, drama and opera.
Within weeks of the election of the Government the Prime Minister announced interim arrangements to replace the old ad hoc bodies so that support for the arts could be continued, commitments honoured, and the planning of new programs begun. Although there was some public comment about the speed with which these steps were taken, they were in fact dramatically effective. The past year was one of considerable achievement. Government assistance to the arts was twice that of 1972-73. New and important initiatives were taken in almost all areas. A reconstituted Australian Council for the Arts consulted with arts bodies and individuals involved in the arts with a view to developing proposals to put to the Government for a structure better able to administer Government support for the arts. As honourable members will recall, the Prime Minister kept the House informed of the measures being considered and the deliberations that were taking place.
The broad areas of the arts that the new Council will encompass are set out in the Bill. So too are the functions the Council will have to meet the Government’s objectives for the arts and the powers the Government believes are necessary to achieve those objectives. The Council will be a body corporate consisting of not fewer than 18 and not more than 24 members drawn from a broad range of artistic, community and related Government interests. The Council will be responsible to the Minister and to the Parliament for the conduct of its affairs, but the bulk of the day-to-day work will be carried out by a number of specialised Boards, which will be responsible for decisions relating to expenditure within their own budgets and for developing professional services geared to their needs. Subject to the directions of the Minister, the Council shall be required to delegate functions and powers to the Boards, and each Board shall be responsible for developing policies in its own area of the arts. Membership of the Boards will be broadly based. They will include a wide range of appropriate interests and a majority of artists or others closely involved in the arts.
It is our intention that Government support for the arts should not become the province of entrenched interests and that it should serve, in the widest possible way, the artistic needs and aspirations of the Australian community. Provision has been made, therefore, to rotate the membership of the Council and the Boards. The terms of appointment of members of the Council - other than Government members - and of the Boards shall not exceed a total of 4 years of continuous service, and at least one year must elapse thereafter before a person is eligible for a further term of membership. I emphasise that in all areas practitioners and others involved in the arts shall make up a majority of those called on to decide and give effect to arts policies. We hope also to attract wide public interest and involvement in the work of the Boards by periodically inviting all who are interested to nominate persons who might be considered for appointment. It is proposed that lists of names of those nominated shall be maintained at all times and the Minister shall be required to consider them when considering new appointments. In matters of staff and finance the Council will have the widest freedom of operation compatible with considerations of public accountability. The Council will engage its own staff and determine their terms and conditions subject to the approval of the Public Service Board. It will administer its own financial affairs and operate its own bank accounts subject to normal requirements of financial accountability and the presentation of reports to Parliament.
Artists have an essential role to play in society. No one can imagine a mature civilisation without their contribution. Australia has a rich and distinctive artistic tradition. We have produced many renowned and gifted artists - both creators and performers. The Government believes they should be able to work in their own country secure in the knowledge that the community and the Government place a high value on their contribution to our way of life. Unfortunately this has not always been possible. Too many of our finest talents have been lost to overseas. We want to ensure that our greatest artists remain in Australia and prosper in Australia, and that the whole Australian community is the richer for their presence. I believe that, through the measures in this Bill, we will create greater artistic opportunities for all talented Australians. We will be offering to all who by birth or choice have made this country their home the prospect of enriching their lives through participation in or appreciation of the arts. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Peacock) adjourned.
Deputy Speaker, I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for
Mackellar from immediately moving the following motion:
That the tape record of the right honourable the Leader of the Opposition’s request to make a statement on the forthcoming referendums be made available to all broadcasting stations for rebroadcast.
– Order! I would like to see the terms of the motion before the honourable member for Mackellar commences to speak to it.
– You will find my fair signature on it, Mr Deputy Speaker. I would have moved it but I deferred to my distinguished colleague.
-Order! The motion is in order. I think the honourable member for Mackellar was entitled to move it.
– I will not detain the House long. I regard this as a most serious motion in view of what happened in the House this afternoon. The whole debate this afternoon turned on the question of what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) had said when he asked for leave to make a statement. If in point of fact he asked leave to make a statement on the forthcoming referendums, he was in order in speaking on those referendums, since leave had been given, and the Chair was wrong in ruling as it did. I think this is a most serious matter. Never since I have been in Parliament, it seems to me, have Standing Orders been so much disregarded as they were this afternoon. I do not want to follow that up-
-Order! I think the honourable member is reflecting on a decision of the Chair.
– I do not want to pursue that line. I just say that if this statement is made available from the tape recording of the proceedings of the House so that it can be rebroadcast and so that Australia can hear the statement, the people of Australia-
-Order! May I suggest to the honourable gentleman that he is seeking to suspend Standing Orders in order to propose what he is now debating. I do not think he is entitled to debate the subject matter of the motion that he proposes to move if Standing Orders are suspended. I ask him not to do so.
– I will not do so. I am only trying to establish the importance of this motion. If the version of what happened this afternoon that we have heard from the Leader of the Opposition and other honourable members of this House is correct, it is of great importance that as many people in Australia as possible should be able to hear that statement. I have moved this motion for that purpose. I will not detain the House long. This will be the test of the good faith of Government supporters. If they have nothing to suppress they will not fear this motion and its consequences and they will be glad for the truth to be known. All I am asking-
-Order! I point out to the honourable member for Mackellar that the proceedings of this House this afternoon will be recorded in Hansard, which is a public document. I suggest that some of the remarks he is making now seem to indicate that he is suggesting that the Hansard record which will be published will not be accurate. I do not think he can make that charge in advance.
– I would not make that charge unless the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) stood self-convicted of an attempt to falsify the Hansard record in a most material effect and Mr Speaker in that Chair convicted him. The Leader of the House stands as a falsifier of Hansard-
-Order! The honourable gentleman will not debate that matter. What I am saying to him is that he will not suggest that any record that will be published of the proceedings of this House will not be accurate until he has evidence of that as fact.
– I am speaking of the evidence that I have. The evidence is that the Leader of the House, who does have some authority in these matters, did endeavour to falsify the Hansard record. This stands on the record. It can be proved in Hansard itself. Because of this, I would think that the records of Hansard might not be so free from tampering. I agree that Mr Speaker from that chair did call the Leader of the House to order and saw that the falsification did not occur.
-Order! The motion before the Chair is not a matter which involves the Leader of the House. It is not a matter in which I think the honourable member can suggest that the Hansard record is inaccurate in advance. I would suggest that the honourable member is very seriously challenging the accuracy of a Hansard edition which has not even been published.
– I am just stating the fact that the man who is the Leader of this House tried to falsify the Hansard record. If he did it once, he can try again. But, sir-
-Order! If the honourable gentleman refers to that matter again, he will not refer to anything else.
– The other point I make is that not all of the Australian people read Hansard. Perhaps that is a fault on the part of Australians. But I do think that Hansard is not as widely known as broadcasting stations are listened in to. It appears to me that most broadcasting stations, if they had this tape available to them, would be very glad to rebroadcast these few relevant minutes which would show whether what the Government is saying is untrue or whether what the Opposition is saying is untrue. ‘Let it be put to the test. Put it to the test of the tape. We have been hearing a lot about tapes from the United States of America and elsewhere.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is back where I pulled him up originally. He is debating the question.
If he does so again, I will ask him to resume his seat.
– I think I have made my point. I do not think there is any need for me to say more than this. I believe that if the Government is a government of good faith it will vote for my motion. If it is a government of bad faith, it will vote against my motion. We will see how honourable members opposite vote and the country can judge them on their vote in a few moments time. That is all I need to say, sir.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. My point of order is this: As I understand the terminology of the motion moved by the honourable member for Mackellar, it is out of order. Under an Act of this Parliament the only broadcasting med’a that can use any broadcast that originates in this Parliament is, in fact, the Australian Broadcasting Commission. No broadcasts from this Parliament can be used generally in the commercial media. Only this House can resolve whether that Act will be amended. On those bases I submit that the motion moved by the honourable member for Mackellar is out of order.
-Order! I do not think that the point of order has substance. I think the motion moved by the honourable member for Mackellar to suspend Standing Orders, even though the subsequent motion which may be moved if that motion is agreed to may be incapable of effect, is in order. If a subsequent motion is moved which is not capable of effect, I think the point of order could then be taken.
– This place is largely run by conventions-
-I take it that the honourable member is seconding the motion.
– Yes, I am seconding the motion. The conventions of this Parliament which are not defined and which are not written nevertheless remain clearly understood’. If those conventions are to be infringed and disregarded the whole of the running of this Parliament comes to a stop. No person who has sat in a Parliament for any length of time will argue against that proposition. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) has put forward a motion which seeks to have made available to broadcasting stations a copy of a tape recording taken by those officers duly appointed in this place to record such matters, of the interchange betwen the ‘Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) earlier this afternoon. If I may say, with respect, Mr Deputy Speaker, you would be quite in order in contending that if any person were to suggest that the officers of this Parliament would falsify Hansard that would be a gratuitous insult. It is not in that area where the anxiety immediately lies. No such insult is offered, certainly by me.
The urgency which rests upon us in this matter is that the people of Australia be given an opportunity to make an assessment of the issue now - not tomorrow and not in a week’s time but now when the whole concatenation of events falls down upon us. That is the question involved. It is the urgency of the motion moved by the honourable member for Mackellar that should attract the attention of this House. Of course, if any honourable member asks to make a statement and he transgresses the courtesy given to him by the House, he will not lightly be given that courtesy again. Let us be clear. It is through a corporate sense of courtesy in this House that governments control and regulate the making of statements. If an honourable member asks for leave to make a statement, he is granted leave and then that leave is trammelled in some extraordinary sense, the whole debate is gagged.
This is the question that the House of Representatives - I thought until this afternoon that it was a tolerably mature deliberative assembly, but I think we have lost command of those elements that should discipline us - has to consider. It is to that issue that I would ask the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) to turn his fecund mind. It does not do the honourable gentleman any good to walk across to this side of the House and to offer any threat or imprecation. I say this to the honourable gentleman: I have knocked about this country a little too long, and probably in rougher quarters than the honourable gentleman, to be moved.
– You spend most of your time in the Condamine.
– Would the Minister not be refreshed if he had an occasional swim in it?
– I did not show my posterior to the blacks in the Condamine like you did.
– At least I became known as the first streaker in the outback. There is a central question here. It is simple but it is a very important one. The next time anyone of my honourable friends opposite asks for leave to make a statement, do not think that it will be lightly given if honourable members opposite refuse on this occasion to respond to the great demands of parliamentary tradition. If an honourable member asks for leave to make a statement and he abuses it - I would like to conduct the Minister for Labour, and he would be in better turn in an hour or so if I could get my hands on him. Do not think for one moment that leave will be lightly granted in the future. The next time that the Leader of the House -
Mir DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes) - Order! The honourable gentleman will debate the question.
– I am coming to it.
– You are threatening.
– I may be threatening but you are deserving of every syllable of threat. The point is whether or not this Parliament now should turn to the urgency of allowing the people of Australia to judge who in effect this afternoon was telling the truth. Diogenes would -
-The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) has the initials of W.C. No man in this Parliament is more appropriately named. If any person’s parents had intelligence those who christened him did. No wonder he prefers to go under the name of William Charles. No man in this country with a more despicable record in ancestry so far as the exploitation of the people of Australia is concerned lives up to the reputation.
Motion (by Mr Killen) put:
That the Leader of the House be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr Lionel Bowen) proposed:
That the Minister for Services and Property be granted an extension of time. (Honourable members interjecting)-
Question put -
That the Minister for Services and Property be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . . . . . 14
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Mr Wentworth’s) to suspend Standing Orders be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Social Services Bill 1974
Repatriation Bill . 1974
Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill 1974
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)The honourable gentleman should have taken that point of order at the time.
Mr Nixon- Sir -
-Order! The honourable member for Mackellar rose, and I indicated to him that I was not able to deal with the particular matter because I did not hear it, and he accepted that. I do not really think that another member can take the same point of order on behalf of the honourable member for Mackellar.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, my point of order is this: When the words were used by the Minister, why did not theChair protect the rights of the member at the time of delivery? Sir, the member should not be beholden to seek a withdrawal; the Chair has a responsibility to-
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. He is arguing the point of order. The Chair is entitled to ask an honourable member to withdraw remarks if another honourable member finds those remarks offensive. If the Chair does not hear remarks and, as the honourable member for Gippsland has said, during a division -
– No, during the Minister’s speech.
-The honourable member said during a division.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I can recall to your mind the very words used. The Minister cast some aspersions on the ancestry of the honourable member for Mackellar who has a very noble ancestry-
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– You are selectively deaf.
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Balaclava that he withdraw that remark. The honourable gentleman has made a remark which is a serious reflection on the Chair.
– Sir, it has been happening all the afternoon.
-Order! If the honourable member does not withdraw I will be forced to take action.
– OK, take your action.
-I name the honourable member for Balaclava.
(9.1) - Mr Deputy Speaker, with the greatest pleasure I move:
That the honourable member for Balaclava be suspended from the service of the House.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. There the Minister goes again using offensive words. He has no right-
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– The Minister has no right to carry on like that
-Order! The honhonourable gentleman will resume his seat. The question is: That the honourable member for Balaclava be suspended from the service of the House. I ask, as I always do, whether the honourable gentleman will withdraw the remarks. I do not think it is. a serious enough matter for an honourable member to be suspended. I ask the honourable member to use his judgment and to withdraw the remark.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I say that the Chair has been selectively deaf all the afternoon.
Question put -
That the honourable member for Balaclava be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
If any Member has -
persistently and wilfully obstructed the business of the House; he may be named by the Speaker. . .
I refer to Chambers’s Twentieth Century Dictionary at page 739-
– I present the first report of the Publications Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Reference to Public Works Committee
Debate resumed (vide page 755).
– As I was saying in my most friendly and unprovocative manner when the ceiling fell in before dinner,
I approached the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in October 1972 with a suggestion for an election platform item. After some small initial encouragement from him I was able to proceed with an explanation of what I had in mind. I was able to tell him about Padbury Building, about the pending expiry of the lease thereon, about the relevance of that fact and of the possibility of extending Forrest Place into a major city square. I must say that in a very few minutes he had agreed in principle to the idea that was being advanced and had given me the authority to approach the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) and the State Premier for their co-operation. This, in turn, was forthcoming very speedily. The result was that on 17 November 1972, at an election speech in Forrest Place, Mr Whitlam made this project a commitment of an incoming Labor Government.
By introducing this topic I do not want to give the impression that I in any way claim credit for this concept of a city square by the extension of Forrest Place. In fact to my knowledge this idea has been advanced consistently by, among others, Mr Harold Boas, a well known and pioneer town planner in Perth. It was advanced also, very soon after his arrival, by Mr Paul Ritter, then the Perth City Council Town Planner, lt was adopted by the New Heart for Perth Society. I think that all these people should have their vision and their imagination acknowledged. I do that readily and with appreciation to them. I repeat that 1 would not be so immodest as to attempt to claim any originality for the concept. On the other hand I would not be so humble either as to suggest that my own part in the progress of this possibility was insignificant. It is one thing to have an idea and it is another to be able to implement it. My role was that of matchmaker so to speak, and it has been a source of great satisfaction to me to have been able to produce that result.
To bring events further up to date I need to refer to 20 February last when a proposed plan for redevelopment of the site was released simultaneously by the Prime Minister, the Premier of Western Australia and the Lord Mayor of the City of Perth. Immediately, and predictably I suppose, protests were forthcoming. Within hours there had been an instant analysis and condemnation from such well known and internationally recognised town planning authorities as Sir Charles Court and the editor of the ‘West Australian’. We heard, in very short order, how this proposal would lead to a black hole, an oven in summer, an environmental disaster and a claustrophobic squash court - just to mention some of the more restrained criticisms made at that time. At the same time, and on an obviously more political level, we had people such as a councillor of the Perth City Council saying:
I am sure the one thing that West Australians do not want today is further evidence of Canberra meddling in our city.
That is another example of the claustrophobics about which I had a few words to say earlier this week. Did I say claustrophobics? I meant centraphobics. In a moment I will be asking the Public Works Committee to keep an open mind about the plan which was tabled in the House this afternoon. Unlike others, I do not claim a professional expertise to make a final personal judgment either for or against this plan although I tend to believe that the existing plan will be vindicated in the end. But even without committing myself to the plan in its present form I think it should be said that the critics so far have been excessively ungenerous. Those people who have referred to excessive meddling by Canberra in State and city affairs might at least acknowledge that on the joint committee consulting on the preparation of the plan Commonwealth representatives were in a minority. They were outnumbered by far by representatives of the State Government and by 3 representatives of the Perth City Council, including the Lord Mayor and the City Planner.
As for the plan itself, it is too hard to explain to the House in detail without diagrams or models. I think that all I can do at this stage is throw in very quickly some of the criticisms that have been made and question whether they have been fair. For example, the criticism has been made that the proposed plan will leave a city square which is too small. One is entitled to reply to that criticism by saying that the open space in the proposed city plaza will be larger than the open space in Martin Place with which the plan often has been compared unfavourably. It is said that the proposed General Post Office structure will be an ugly building and that it will look like a cash register. That is presumably because it has been designed in a sloping terrace manner. Authorities, I think of equal standing, have ventured the opinion that that shape could lead to the possibility of an internal structural landscaping which, if anything, could add a great deal to the area. Probably the most insistent criticism has been that the nature of the plan, with the GPO building shutting off the northern end of Forrest Place, will result in the destruction of what otherwise would be a magnificent vista to the north. Again I say, only by way of a balancing suggestion, that other authorities have indicated that large enclosed city spaces can be quite as attractive in their own way as can the open vista, and the former in fact is the standard feature of European cities at which we often look with envy.
Having said all that - a great deal more could be said if so much time had not been taken up by other matters - in tentative defence of the plan I repeat my request to the Public Works Committee for openmindedness on the plan put before it. I hope that the question that members of the Committee will ask themselves will not be: ‘Does this plan meet the needs of the GPO administrative block?’ I hope the question will not even be: Does this plan meet the needs of the GPO block without unreasonable violence to the adjacent city environment?’ I urge the Committee to start at the other end and to ask: What is the ideal city environment in this area? Does the proposed, indeed could any, GPO block of the proposed capacity be accommodated here?’ I admit that this would be an unusual approach but the position is unusual. In fact it is unique. We have the opportunity of creating a spectacular civic enterprise and we must always make sure that full advantage is taken of this opportunity.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. (Quorum formed.)
– This afternoon my colleague the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) stated the Opposition’s objection to this motion. As Deputy Chairman of the Public Works Committee and as a former Minister for Works he spoke of the damage done to the independence of the Committee. I am not a member of the Committee. I am however a Western Australian and I think that I know something about this project. So I take this opportunity of saying that . I, too, oppose the motion for the reasons that I shall outline. I believe first and foremost that this is a bad plan. Of course, the reason for raising this matter at the moment is that it has been put to the Public Works Committee in most ususual circumstances. Those unusual circumstances are that the Commonwealth does not have any land tenure over the site at present and there is no documentation ready for the Committee to examine.
The honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson), who has just spoken, said that the reference of this work to the Public Works Committee would be a method of stimulating discussion about the project. I thought that in some respects he presented a balanced picture of the project. But of course, there are many ways of starting a discussion. Indeed discussion in Perth hardly needs stimulating because the whole matter is a raging controversy.
– I said that there was a forum.
– Very well. But I am just saying that there are many fora available for such a discussion and that this is a particularly inappropriate one.
Let me say quickly that it is proposed to build across Forrest Place in Perth, a traditional open space area in the centre of the city for which there is much public sentiment and attachment, a building to house, not a post office, but an administrative part of the Postal Department. That would be the equivalent of constructing a building across Martin Place in Sydney. I would hope that such a concept would not commend itself to any great degree to honourable members from New South Wales, lt has been said or implied by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and others that this proposal has been agreed to by all 3 parties. I emphasise at the beginning that it has not been agreed to by the Perth City Council. As I said, the Commonwealth has no land tenure. What exists is an agreement in principle between the Commonwealth, the State of Western Australia and the Lord Mayor of Perth and I think, as my opponent pointed out, the town planner. But it certainly does not have the agreement of the Perth City Council which unanimously carried the following resolution at a meeting last Monday:
That the Perth City Council wishes to advise ratepayers that any areas under ownership, care or control will not be authorised in the redevelopment of Forrest Place until the people have had adequate time for study and comment on any of the proposals for the future of that area.
This resolution was carried with acclamation and unanimity before the mover or the seconder could complete their addresses in support of it. I repeat that the Commonwealth has no tenure to the land and this has been regarded as a basic necessity before items can be referred to the Public Works Committee.
As I said, the proposed building is to be an administrative centre. Has this matter been put forward, for instance, because the Prime Minister, as my friend from Wakefield has already pointed out, is speaking of this as something that he has decided and he has settled on? Apparently we are not to worry about what the Public Works Committee may decide. Has this proposal been referred, for instance, to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) who takes such an interest in questions of decentralisation? Why does this building have to be slap bang in the middle of the city of Perth? Why cannot it be located in the suburbs or in the country regions such as Bunbury or Northam? The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) says there is structural unemployment in the country. Why cannot this administrative centre of the Post Office be located in such areas?
A sketch of this proposed building has been published in the local newspapers. I believe - of course this must be a subjective judgment - that it is an ugly building. I appeal to honourable members from New South Wales because there are so many more of them here to imagine a building of this sort placed in the middle of Martin Place. The suggestion has been made that in order for the building to have a northern vista, 2 floors of the building will be clad in glass. Really, how ludicrous can one be? The proposal is for this glass to be tinted. But, of course, the glass will create reflections which will cut off the northern aspect altogether. I can only say that the sketch is completely out of keeping with the Forrest Place area. The honourable member for Perth said: ‘Well, you know, this is something to be debated; it is something for the future’. I do not think that we can regard this matter quite that lightly.
I would like to quote to honourable members what was said by the honourable member for Perth on 19 March this year. At page 580 of Hansard, referring to this matter very briefly, he is reported as saying: . . it is an exciting concept not only because of the facility it will provide but because of the rare degree of Commonwealth, State and local government co-operation which it represents.
I have made the point that the Perth City Council as a body has not yet agreed to the proposal. He went on to say:
The Perth City Council will provide the present Forrest Place and the Commonwealth will contribute the very valuable and strategic Padbury Building site.
That is what is promised. I will come back to this in just a moment. A little earlier in his speech the honourable member said:
In respect of planning detail, the proposal is now the subject of quite heated debate.
Well, you can say that again, Mr Deputy Speaker. It certainly is. But surely we are not saying that to put a building across the northern entrance of Forrest Place and lock that area off is a detail.
Because I have only a few minutes left of the time available to me in this debate I would like to quote what has been said in Forrest Place. This is an area which we members of Parliament know fairly well because at election time we stand on a platform there and harangue anybody who is, perhaps, foolish enough to come along. On 17 November 1972 - honourable members will recognise that as a date just before the last Federal elections - the present Prime Minister made a speech in Forrest Place in which he said:
The ALP will create a central city plaza in Forrest Place.
He went on to say:
Any Commonwealth Government looking at expansion and the future of Perth would like to see a thoroughly adequate and beautiful square in the centre of the city.
He said that the Commonwealth’s rent from the Padbury Building was only $12,500 per annum. That was less than the cost of an average house. He said:
I believe that the Commonwealth could afford to forego that contribution.
Of course, the whole implication of that statement is that the Commonwealth - his Government - would give something. There was not the slightest suggestion that anything would be taken away - the northern part of the street or the open area. Those words clearly envisaged demolishing the Padbury Building and turning what is a wide and short street, although the nearest thing that Perth has to a public centre, into a square. So the proposal to construct a building which the Prime Minister has put forward in a recent Press statement as policy does not accord with the original promise.
I point out in passing that the opposition to this proposal has been stated in the clearest terms. I do not suggest that it is unanimous, otherwise there would hardly be a controversy. But certainly there is one. I refer now very quickly to the headlines in editions of the ‘West Australian’ newspaper last month. Some of the headlines are: ‘Doubt over plan for city centre’, ‘Black hole’, ‘New concept for Forrest Place’. This comment appeared in the editorial of that newspaper:
The proposals released yesterday of redevelopment of Forrest Place will come as a bitter disappointment to those who believe that the plaza should be part of an unbroken and harmonious link between the city and the planned cultural centre to the north.
There was a promise by the Leader of the Opposition not to proceed with the plan. One journalist heads his article ‘PS will be in the way’, and the opening paragraph of the article following reads:
If there is any land in Perth sacred to Western Australians, it is Forrest Place and environs.
The New Heart for Perth Society is totally opposed to the proposal. So one comes to the clear conclusion that this matter is put forward today, the last sitting day of this House before the Western Australian State eelctions on Saturday week, as a blatant political move, like that national gas business of the last few days. When one looks at the files and cuttings one realises that these matters are raised only at election time - in December or November 1972 and now early in 1974. I believe that the debate exposes the fact that the motion is completely a party political manoeuvre which is solely in the interests of helping the Labor Party in the elections on Saturday week.
– I shall speak only briefly because other matters on the business paper have to be dispensed with tonight. The Australian Post Office is involved in this matter, and what ought to be looked at calmly is that this is a proposal to build a new administrative centre for the Post Office. The proposal can be accepted or rejected following the investigations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. The proposal involves an expenditure of $7m. There should be a thorough investigation of any project which involves an expenditure of $7m. The Public Works Committee would take all the evidence and report back to the Parliament. I want to put it to the House that this is not a political issue which has arisen suddenly. The history of the Post Office shows that the site was acquired in 1911. It was subdivided to provide for part of Forrest Place and the problem of the Post Office, because of the expansion of that area is to develop a suitable alternative.
The Post Office acquired the hotel in Wellington Street. The solution then was to put up a 17-storey structure in Wellington Street. The Post Office put forward that proposal to the appropriate town planning authorities in Perth. That is the body to which the Post Office had to go, not to this Parliament, but that proposal was rejected. This is the fourth proposal that has been submitted. It is proposed to erect a structure across a section of Forrest Place not because the Post Office wants it but because of the town planning principles applying in Perth. They are not principles which have been introduced recently; let us make this clear. I am told that because of the pressures on the Post Office - and we must reject what the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) says as purely political - in 1971 the Department of Works was given a brief to undertake a feasibility survey on the development. Accordingly consultants were engaged as early as 1972.
One realises from the consultants’ report what they themselves had to do. They indicate clearly that their first 3 proposals were to incorporate a high rise maximum development on the Wellington Street site. This was rejected as being unsuitable, too massive, overbearing and unsympathetic. The consultants say that the City Council had a requirement that there should be certain access from Forrest Place through to the cultural centre at the rear. Wellington Street, of course, will be a 6-lane main highway running at the back of the development. If, in spite of the expenditure of public money in getting the plan to the stage of being available for consideration - which has to be done first - the Parliament says that it will reject the plan on the basis that it is purely political, that is a specious objection. This plan has been under development-
– The plan must be rejected if the Opposition refuses to allow it to go before the Public Works Committee for consideration.
– To go when the documentation is ready.
– Well, the documentation is actually in the process of being printed out. The objection here is that this is being used as a political issue. I want to make it clear that it has been on the stocks since 1971. A proposal - which involves the expenditure of $7m would need to be. It is the fourth plan to be submitted; it is a plan that has had to meet all the objections. The consultants say that the requirements of the City Council have now been accommodated This is important. Of course, the City Council has been consulted on this proposal because 50 feet of Post Office land will widen Forrest Place. It no longer will be 90 feet wide; it will be 140 feet wide. Fifty feet of the Padbury Building has been taken. Surely that has involved consultation. Surely that means that proposals had to be put up.
If the people involved have now changed their minds, the Post Office might want to change its mind. But we will know when the matter comes before the Public Works Committee for investigation what is the real situation. All we have heard so far is what has been created by the political climate in the west. Politicians have been making statements that if they are elected they will not approve of the structure. That may be their entitlement. But at this stage no one can say that it is a proposal which has been brought forward suddenly. It has been under consideration for more than 3 years. The consultants say that the City planner of Perth believes that Forrest Place should become a resting place and he approves of this development. The Town planning consultant, Professor Stephenson, considers that there is merit in building across the northern end of Forrest Place and he approves of this development. The State civic authorities have indicated their intention to provide an elevated pedestrian way linking the heart of the city to the cultural centre and they approve of this development on the basis that there is some access through to a section of it. So this proposal has been developed over a period of years. It has no more politics in it than that.
– It is not being rejected.
– Ha, ha!
– But surely if one looks at it from the point of view of 1971-
– Of course, that is always on.
– It is not always on. The Post Office has had to try to conform to the requirements of the Perth City Council. It has been obliged to do that. It has given 50 feet of its own land, and it really has to forfeit the Wellington Street site which it has bought on the basis that it may be required to put up a high rise building on it and not touch Forrest Place at all. Let us get it clear that the first 3 plans submitted were rejected. So the Parliament has before it now a proposal which has the endorsement of all of the planning authorities in Perth. The proposal did not get here just by political action. Perhaps the planning authorities have changed their minds. There is no risk about that, is there? Perhaps they have changed their minds until 30 March and after 30 March the proposal will be all right.
Look at it from a business point of view. It suits the Post Office to have its administrative centre in the one complex. Accommodated in the new structure will he 1,400 employees who obviously will be of some interest to the business acumen of Forrest Place. The development has been kept low deliberately. The development has had to provide for access across Wellington Street. One does not imagine that the Post Office would come with a proposal without having consulted all of the authorities. But the only objection of the Opposition at the moment is that it has not seen the plans. That is the whole issue.
Mir Kelly - I said that the plans are not ready.
– The plans would be ready; they would have been approved. The whole issue is that if the State elections were held on 30 May this proposal would not be debated now; it would be a formality. What is the point of having plans in the Parliament here tonight when the whole matter will go to the Public Works Committee for investigation.
– And we cannot take the evidence.
– Order! I ask the honourable member for Wakefield to contain himself. I will not warn him again.
– This matter has been under consideration for 3 years. All former proposals have been rejected. This proposal has the imprimatur of all of the town planning authorities of Perth. Perhaps there is approval because they have changed their minds. Now it is said that plans should be available. The plans are available in the sense that they had to be submitted to the Council. The detail from the Public Works Committee .point of view is a mere incidental. No evidence would be taken by the Committee next week. With that point of view in mind we are saying that here is a concept of a plan, not a plan for implementation but one which has the endorsement of all those responsible in Perth.
Mir Viner- No
– Yes. That is the evidence of the consultants. It is not the evidence of the Government. The consultants are Forbes and Fitzhardinge, architects and town planners. It is their evidence and it shows clearly that they have consulted with all the authorities. Are members of the Opposition now saying that evidence is not true.
– What about the town council?
– Yes, and the council. Surely one of the things which has to be applied is the council’s planning.
– They did not want it.
– They did not want it. They deferred it at the last meeting. The vote was six all and Councillor Dallimore had the pleasure of saying that he was not going to be controlled by Canberra. It has nothing to do with Canberra. It is a question of the Post Office putting up an administrative centre. There is one in Melbourne, one in Brisbane and there has to be one in Perth. It is logical to put it alongside the GPO site. What honourable members opposite are saying is that they want to accede to what Councillor Dallimore wants, to leave Forrest Place open and to have us prepare another plan for 17 stories in Wellington Street on the land we own. That proposal would have to go to the Public Works Committee.
How many plans are we going to put to the Committee? Is it to be a matter in which if Councillor Dallimore agrees we put this plan forward; if he does not agree we put another one forward; if the town planner of Perth says the administrative centre should be put on the Padbury Building site we have to put another plan forward? How many plans do we have to put to the Public Works Committee? We only put the plan which is the result of the consultants’ work. The consultants have taken all the trouble over the years - not only recently - to obtain the concurrence of town planners. That cannot be denied. That is the evidence. It is not much good us standing here and saying it is a sudden political issue. It has been made a political issue in Perth on the basis of Sir Charles Court saying: ‘If I am elected the Australian Government will not build if. That is right. We could not build it. We would not go against the State Government. Let me make it clear, we will drop the proposal if the Western Australian Government does not agree. Nobody in Canberra will ram a building into a street if the State Government does not want it. Nobody will ram a building in anywhere if a city council does not want it.
How do honourable members think this stage of development has been reached? Why was it proposed that the building be so low? Why have we gone to all this trouble and expense so that there can be a vista, an access and all these things which are required. We gave 50 feet to widen Forest Place. The Post Office has owned this Padbury Building site for years. It is quite suitable to be made available for the public. By the same token we have to think of the requirements and what is needed for the administrative centre. If the administrative centre is built 1,500 people can be accommodated there. At present those people are accommodated at eleven different places throughout Perth. The matter is as simple as that. It is purely a proposal which everybody in Perth has approved and we are merely bringing up the formal aspect of it, that it has to go to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report to this Parliament.
– The speech made by the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) and the great majority of the speech made by the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) would have been very suitable evidence to have brought before the Public Works Committee when it was inquiring into this particular project. We are objecting to the manner in which this matter has been brought before the Committee. It is completely out of line with the way in which a reference normally is given to the Committee. What I wish to point out as a member of the Public Works Committee and what the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) who is Deputy Chairman of the Public Works Committee was pointing out is the unusual basis upon which the matter was brought forward. That is the point at issue.
I am not arguing and I am sure the honourable member for Wakefield was not arguing tonight about the merits or demerits of this case. We are quite happy to have this matter come before the Public Works Committee. AH the preliminaries that the Postmaster-General referred to may have been necessary. I do not know whether they were, but probably they were. The point is: Why should this matter be referred to the Public Works Committee when, as was pointed out by the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland), it is a political move. I believe that it is, too. That is the reason why I believe the honourable member for Wakefield made his point.
The honourable member for Wakefield pointed out that when a similar matter was raised before and the Public Works Committee was in fact ignored, as it is now, by the former Prime Minister, the present Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) made great play of it and there was no political issue about it at the time. It was simply a matter of principle. When the Government attempts to break a principle - this has been ventilated quite clearly - and where publicity can be given to actions that the Government intends to take just prior to an election, we ask why the matter was brought to the Public Works Committee without the documents being ready. On the only occasion that this was ever done before evidence was given that the documentation would be available in 10 to 12 weeks. All of these things which have been said about the preparation may be so, but they are irrelevant to what we are arguing about.
We are asking why this matter was put before the House in a way which has not been adopted with any of the other references. Why did we not wait 10 or 12 weeks until documentation was ready? This is the way it is normally done when projects are presented for consideration by the Public Works Committee. There is no urgency concerning the 10 or 12 weeks on this project. So why was it brought up?
– We could not deal with it, anyhow.
– I agree. So, why was it presented today? One has to look for the logical reason. The reason was, I submit, to give publicity and political advantage to this Government in the State election and also in the Senate elections because of what it is going to do for the Western Australians.
– Do not tell me that the previous Government did not use its public works program for the same purpose.
– The Minister is interjecting. Let me quote something which he said on 24 May 1972. This matter was also referred to by the honourable member for Wakefield. The Minister said:
What an incredible thing!
This is the Minister who is sitting at the table who introduced this matter. He said:
The Prime Minister is prepared to pre-empt so far as the Public Works Committee, which has also engaged in a prodigious amount of effort, is concerned, and is able, to use his words, to turn round and foreclose on the options of the Public Works Committee; but in the same breath he said that he would not be prepared to do that in regard to the Randall Committee. Who are we in this Parliament? It is only a committee of the Parliament that he is prepared to pre-empt.
Mr Duthie interjected and said that it was sheer politics. It was sheer politics and the Public Works Committee was not ignored to anything like the extent that it has been on this occasion. The Public Works Committee agreed on this matter. We agreed with what the Minister for Housing and Construction said. It was right that the Public Works Committee should not be pre-empted.
I pay tribute to the honourable member for Wakefield, who was Chairman of the Committee and a supporter of the Government at that time, for the stand he took then. It was very similar to the stand which he has taken tonight. He took a stand then on that principle and on that principle alone - not on the merits of the work at all. I believe that on this occasion the stand has been taken by the honourable member for Wakefield and the honourable member for Curtin for the same reason. I refer now to the pre-empting and to a joint statement issued by the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam; the Premier of Western Australia, Mr Tonkin; and the Lord Mayor of Perth, Mr Lee-Steere. The statement reads:
The Prime Minister promised the creation of the new Forrest Place Plaza at an election meeting in Forrest Place shortly before the 1972 Federal elections.
That would not be political, would it? The statement continues:
The Western Australian Government has actively supported the proposal in negotiations over the transfer of land. The Australian Government will transfer to the City Council the land on which Padbury Building now stands and the building will be demolished.
I suppose that will occur irrespective of what the Public Works Committee has to say. The statement continues:
Forrest Place will be widened-
As the Postmaster-General said - and public space will be increased significantly. This is irrespective of whether the Public Works Committee agrees. The statement continues:
The old Central Hotel structure will be demolished as well as the Padbury Building and the new Administrative Centre will be erected on part of the sites and part of the northern section of Forrest Place.
That will occur, I presume, irrespective of whether we approve of the site or not. Could a committee be pre-empted more than that? Could a committee of this Parliament be ignored more completely than has been the case in this particular instance?
– Every Works proposal involves a pre-emption or you do not get a proposal. You know that.
– The fact is that all these proposals can be prepared and documented - and no one should know it better than the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) who is at the table - and then put before the Public Works Committee, as they usually are. Why has it been put up 10 to 12 weeks before there is a possibility of our being able to examine the plans and the proposal or to call evidence and so examine the plans and the proposal? The reason why it is normal for these proposals to be presented to. the. Public Works Committee with the plans and the documentation is that we can call evidence then, when we have time to have a hearing, and that evidence is available to the public. We cannot do anything until we get that documentation except look at the site; that is the one thing we could do. But we are already told in this document what is to be the site. So we are pre-empted as far as the site is concerned. There will be a delay of 10 to 12 weeks - and from experience it could be longer than that. We have often waited on plans. The Minister for Housing and Construction knows as well as I do that we have often expected plans long before they arrive. So in all probability - although this stir up might hurry them along a bit - the plans will not be there for 10 to 12 weeks. However, as a result of this debate they might be brought forward. I submit that much of the evidence given here tonight should have been given before the Public Works Committee, if the Public Works Committee is to act as it should.
During my 4 or more years on this Committee, the. Committee has never divided on party lines. I understand that this has happened over the years. As the honourable member for Wakefield said, we are proud of the tradition of the Committee. I pay full tribute to the Chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton), for his impartially and to every member from every party for the way they have handled proposals that have come before the Public Works Committee. With that record behind the Deputy Chairman of the Public Works Committee (Mr Kelly) does the Parliament or the public of this country think that he would be on his feet talking as. he did if he did not feel that he had sound reasons for doing it? I might submit that I too would not be talking without a sound reason, because it is not a practice in which we have indulged. I pay tribute tonight to the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) who stood alone in one reference. Finally we had to come back to his way of thinking. That was the type of action we have taken. If we are to take a party political line the real advantage, the great work of the Public Works Committee, and indeed that of any of the joint committees, will be lost. They are the watchdogs for the public over the Commonwealth expenditure on matters that are referred to the committees. We give the people an opportunity to come before us and if we cannot adopt a reasonably impartial attitude, as we should, then the Committee would not work as effectively as it should. That is the basis of the objection we raise. 1 say that this reference would not have been presented to this Parliament today except that the Government thought it might gain some political advantage from it. Otherwise, why do it? If the Minister for Housing and Construction is to reply, I ask him to tell us why it has been brought before the Parliament at this time. What is the advantage of bringing it before the Public Works Committee at this time? Why is every reference not given to us immediately, if this is the practice and the policy that the Government is to adopt towards the Public Works Committee?
It is with very great regret that I have to take part in the debate and talk as I have. The matter will now be up to the Public Works Committee and to the members from the Government side. I feel that they will be able to overcome this hurdle. We are faced with the Government trying to take party political advantage in a committee and thereby destroying the value of the committee. That is the basis of my argument. The PostmasterGeneral’s remarks, as far as I am concerned, were completely irrelevant, as were the great majority of the remarks made by the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson). At this stage I am not concerned whether the plan is good or bad. My job on the Public Works Committee, is to look at proposals in an impartial way to see whether the money proposed for them is being spent correctly, whether there is likely to be excessive expenditure, whether the site is a good one or that that is where the construction ought to be sited. These are the sorts of things that every member of the Public Works Committee does. To bring the matter on today 10 to 12 weeks before documentation is available to us is a blatant endeavour to gain some political advantage and we would not be worth our places on this Committee if we did not expose the Government’s action in this House.
– I do not know what brought this on. I have never before heard of it. Usually these arguments are raised after a report is presented to Parliament. The honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) spoke about an open mind. I can assure him that the Public Works Committee - I have been a member of the Committee for a long time - has always had an open mind. What has brought on the emotional aspect, I suppose, can be found in 2 things. Firstly, it is election time in Western Australia - and I will pull no punches as far as that is concerned. Probably this factor has incited the Opposition to raise this argument at this time. The other thing of course gave the Opposition an opening; that is referring a proposal to the Public Works Committee before the necessary documentation has been prepared has never happened before. But this has not breached the Act governing the Public Works Committee. It has not been done before; I admit this. But there is nothing in the Act to say that Parliament cannot do it. The Committee does not determine policy: Policy is determined by the Government. If the Government determines that Parliament shall refer this to the Committee without the documents being ready, that is its business. The only thing affecting the Committee, as far as I am concerned, is that we cannot proceed with this project until the documents are ready. That is all it means.
– Why now?
– I will answer the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) later. I do not want to delay the Parliament because it will have another go when the report comes forward. Why was it given now? The honourable member for Maranoa has hit the nail on the head. After all, the Committee is composed of politicians. As a unit at Committee meetings there have been ho divisions on party lines. Nevertheless we are all politicians, therefore everything we deal with is political. So the honourable member for Maranoa should not put his head in the sand like an ostrich and forget about it. Of course, we have political views. But a reference before the Committee is thrashed out by all members. I recall one reference concerning Darwin to which the honourable member for Maranoa referred on which only one member of the Committee was against the proposal. He stood out and his colleagues were not with him They supported the other side - it happened that the other side was in government at the time - and eventually we had to go his way, as he has said.
Of course the thing is political and that is why it is brought up here. I am not reluctant to say that. Why cannot the Government do it? There is nothing wrong with it. An election is coming up in Western Australia and if some advantage can be gained by this - I doubt very much that there are any votes in it - and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) thinks so, then why not bring it before the Committee ahead of the elections to let the Western Australians know that the money will be spent in Western Australia? I will be right behind that. But it must be remembered - and the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) must remember it - that the Committee cannot deal with this matter until the documentation is ready. We cannot advertise that the buildings will be constructed, because if we did advertise, anybody interested - that is, those with a community interest, local government interest or individuals - would write to the Secretary and ask for the documentation from the client department and also the documentation by the Department of Housing and Construction so that they could examine’ them. That means that all this is delayed until we get those documents, and then they will be made available to the people requiring them. I see nothing wrong with it. It is political and I think that the members on the other side have made it political. I accuse them of making it political in the Parliament. I hope they do not carry on this way within the Committee for if they do, I will be very disappointed in them.
I am not taking any political side on the question. I shall examine the matter as it comes before the Committee. When a recommendation from the Public Works Committee comes to the Parliament it is not political. In this case a recommendation has been made for Forrest Place. I think the honourable member forgot himself and said Martin Place. A site has to be proposed before the planners can do any drawing or get an idea of what the proposed building is to be like. A site put to the Committee is only a proposed site. Members of the present Public Works Committee might remember the last inquiry we carried out. Three sites were proposed for the Committee to examine - Cocos (Keeling) Island, Christmas Island and Norfolk Island.
A proposed site has now been referred to the Committee. We have not decided which will be the best site for the building. Sometimes the Committee rejects the proposed site when more suitable sites are available. When the Committee finds out through investigations and from the evidence of various departments that there are other suitable sites we inspect the other sites. In one case, in Wollongong, we objected to the proposed site. Therefore, I see no objection to the Government’s putting this proposal before us, except for the fact that the Committee cannot carry on immediately in the usual way; we shall have to wait until the documentation of the proposal is ready. Perhaps the Committee thinks that the proposal is political, but I am not going to hide my head in the sand. I say: If political advantage can be gained by it, why not? The honourable member for Maranoa would do it. Any other politician would do it. If he did not, he would not be a politician’s bootlace.
– If there were any need for me in debate to justify the assertion that the bringing of this reference before the House today was politically motivated in view of the Western Australian elections on 30 March, there is no need to do so now in view of the speech by the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton). He is saying: Politicians are politicians and they will take every political advantage that they can.’ So there is no doubt at all that this reference to the Public Works Committee on the last day that this Parliament sits before the Western Australian elections is, as I have said, politically motivated.
I refer to the statement made by my colleague the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly). Having known him the sh:rt time of only IS months that I have been in this House, I have come to respect the standards which he sets for himself as a parliamentarian. As Deputy Chairman of the Public Works Committee it is clear that he has seen the standards of that Committee breached by the action of the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) in bringing this matter forward at present. It is not without significance that the honourable member for Wakefield was able to quote against the Minister his very own statement in this House in 1972 condemning a former Prime Minister, not for the same action but for similar action.
The honourable member for Wakefield was especially concerned about the independence of the activities of the Public Works Committee. That independence should not be trammelled by any political motivation. It is that independence which he seeks to uphold in this debate tonight, and rightfully so because it seems that for the Minister, who is at the table, principles are principles only when they suit him and his political purposes. In that situation principles are not principles but degenerate to political expediency.
It has been said in the debate before that the plans and documentation upon which the Public Works Committee must act are 10 to 12 weeks away. I ask the Chairman of the Committee: What is the Public Works Committee to do in the meantime? Is it to do nothing about this proposal because it does not have the documentation? Why then should the matter be introduced into the House tonight? Why not introduce it at the time that the plans and documentation are available? The Chairman of the Committee said that a site has to be nominated and that the Committee cannot consider a proposal unless a site is proposed. I inform the honourable gentleman now that at present no site is available for this building. There may never be a site available. My colleague the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) referred the House to a resolution passed by the City of Perth Council on 19 March which decided not to agree to the proposal to make City of Perth land available for the purpose of constructing this Post Office building. The Council may never agree to make that land available. If it does not there can be no general post office administrative centre as proposed in this reference. So what is the purpose of moving this reference today when the Government does not know whether it will have land upon which to construct that building?
The third point to which I draw the attention of the House is a statement from the Premier of Western Australia Mr John Tonkin, a Labor colleague of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). On 28 February, some 8 days after the Prime Minister announced this proposal, the Premier was at pains to tell the people of Perth that there was no definite commitment to build an 8-storey Post Office administrative building across Forrest Place. He said that the people had not been presented with a fait accompli and added:
If it is but a plan to receive public reaction in Western Australia, what is the purpose of referring the matter today to the Public Works Committee of this Parliament? There is simply no purpose at all, because the City of Perth is not agreeing to the proposal at this stage and also Mr Tonkin, the Premier, is saying that it is not a firm commitment and that the. matter is simply for public reaction. The Premier went on to say:
It should not be difficult to influence the Federal Government to the line of thinking favoured by the people, of Perth - after all, Mr Whitlam is the one who has moved to solve a long Federal-State impasse in this matter.
Is the Minister for Housing and Construction, who is proposing to refer this matter to the Public Works Committee now, setting up the Public Works Committee as the arbiter of public opinion in Perth? Is that the function of that Committee? I would hesitate to think that it is, but the way in which this has been presented to this House today one could be excused for thinking that, particularly when one has regard to the speech made by the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) who with a great deal of righteous indigation said: Well, we are not doing anything wrong. This proposal has been agreed to by some architects, town planners and others. They have agreed to it, so why should not we put it up?’ But the Postmaster-General conveniently forgets these other things that I have pointed out, such as the fact that the land is not yet available and the fact that Mr Tonkin himself says that the plan is published at this stage only to get public reaction. I refer the PostmasterGeneral for his enlightenment to remarks made by a former Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr R. C. Stradwick. I refer the Minister to a long article published in the ‘West Australian’ of 5 March 1974. Mr Stradwick said:
That is, the proposal - has all the hallmarks of an expensive gimmick, yielding nothing of economic value or of any functional or organisational advantage essential to efficient Post Office operations.
The PostmasterGeneral, being a politician and not a person who has had the responsibility of administering the Post Office, I think I know whose opinion I would favour on whether or not this particular building is necessary for the administrative needs of the Post Office. Mr Stradwick makes the point in that article that there is no necessity for the administrators of the Post Office in Western Australia to be housed on this prime piece of city land and that they could well be housed outside the city, and this is perfectly true. This is perfectly true. Has any consideration to that proposal been given by the Postmaster-General or any of his officers? Forrest Place has a particular significance to the people of Western Australia and the future of the development of Forrest Place is of tremendous cultural importance to the people. It was abundantly clear when the Prime Minister came to Western Australia on 20 February that he was flying the political flag in the hope that he would be able to rally some support to Mr Tonkin, forlorn as that hope is now being demonstrated by the way in which the campaign in Western Australia is progressing.
The 7’eople of Perth reacted with justifiable, dismay and anger at the attitude of these 2 Labor leaders in making Forrest Place a political plaything. It does neither the Prime Minister nor the Premier of Western Australia any good politically to have this matter brought before the House today, obviously politically motivated, as it is, with the State election in view. The retraction of Mr Tonkin on 28 February to which I have referred in the face of public outcry and outrage at this proposal speaks for itself. So what will the Postmaster-General say now to Mr Tonkin, Mr Tonkin having heard his speech today? Is he going to telephone Mr Tonkin tomorrow and tell him: ‘Look, the Post Office needs this building in Forrest Place and you are going to have it because all the town planners and architects say it is a good plan’? And when the Postmaster-General speaks to Mr Tonkin, is Mr Tonkin going to give him a piece of his mind for half an hour as he said he gave the Prime Minister when the Federal Cabinet rejected the Alwest proposal? It is quite obvious that Mr Tonkin could not accept what the Postmaster-General has said here tonight because if he did he would again bring tha public outrage of Perth down on his head, and he would not want that only 7 days before the State election.
My colleague the honourable member for Curtin has already drawn to the attention of the House the kind of things that are being said in Western Australia by respected experts in the field of architecture, landscaping and town planning. Not even the respected Harold Boas referred to by the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) accepts the proposal being referred to the Public Works Committee A person well known to the honourable gentleman - Mr John Oldham - condemned this proposal as ‘the height of folly’, and so it is. The honourable member for Perth expressed the hope that there would be a balanced judgment, balancing this against that, in the consideration of this proposal. I think he is underestimating the people of Perth if he thinks he must express the hope that they would de that, because I am sure that they would do that without any call from the honourable member.
The action of the Minister for Housing and Construction in putting forward this proposal tonight displays a serious misjudgment of the sensitivity of the people of Perth, a misjudgment which obviously has also been displayed by the Prime Minister and the PostmasterGeneral. If I may say so, I would hope for the sake of the political future of the honourable member for Perth that he shows the same sensitivity to the feelings of the people of Perth as had the honourable Sir David Brand over the famous Barracks Arch issue. I see from the acknowledgment of the honourable member for Perth that he is fully aware of the implications of that kind of local politics. So, it is not simply a matter of building a building or of providing a house for the administrators of the Post Office in Perth, because the development of Forrest Place goes to the very personality of Perth.
It is a long time since we lost the complex - if we in Western Australia ever had it - of being sandgropers, although we do not mind people kindly referring to us in that way. It is a long time since we lost the complex of being the Cinderella State. We see now, as a result of a remarkable decade of development, Perth, the capital city of our State, reaching out to a new future - not simply in the sense of physical development of the natural resources which are so bountiful in our State, but into the total expression of its superb environment. We are very conscious of our comparative cultural isolation in Western Australia and we are prepared to lift ourselves up by our own efforts. We are a proud people, as no doubt people of other States are proud of their own States. We are proud of what we have done with the one-third of the land mass of Australia within our territorial borders, although we have a population of less than one million.
We are proud of our city which we are building on the shores of the Swan River. We are determined that the future will be planned in the image of the people of Perth - in line with the public feeling for what the personality of Perth should be. That feeling is not necessarily the feeling which town planners think it ought to be, because that personality will be built upon the inspirations of the people and the inspirations of the future that lies ahead of the people there. It is not to be messed up by political gimmickry. That is what we have seen here in this House today. Quite clearly, by all that has been said on the Government side it has been demonstrated to be an act of blatant political gimmickry, conceived and planned and put into operation by the Prime Minister and the Premier, Mr Tonkin, in the mistaken belief that it would give to Mr Tonkin an election-winning gift from Canberra. It is a gift which at the present time, in ,the paper in which it is wrapped, we do not want to receive, because we are sure that there are much better things we can do with Forrest Place-
– Order! The honourable member’s; time has expired.
– in reply -The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) has contended that this is a matter of expensive political gimmickry and he has mentioned the names of the Premier of Western Australia and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitiam). What he failed to mention, of course, was that this whole proposal has had the enthusiastic support of the Lord Mayor of Perth, Mr Lee-Steere. It is interesting to note that in a recent Press statement those 3 distinguished gentlemen together said certain things. I certainly will not read the whole statement; their hopes are expressed in these passages:
A new Plaza will be created in Forrest Place, Perth.
In addition, the Australian Post Office proposes to construct a new Administrative Centre adjacent to the existing Perth GPO.
The two developments will be made possible by an exchange of land between the Australian Government and the Perth City Council.
The Prime Minister promised the creation of the new Forrest Plaza at an election meeting in Forrest Place shortly before the 1972 Federal elections.
The Western Australian Government has actively supported the proposal in negotiations over the transfer of land.
The Australian Government will transfer to the City Council the land on which Padbury Building now stands and the building will be demolished.
Forrest Place will be widened and public space will be increased significantly.
This will transform Forrest Place into a public pedestrian plaza, enclosed at the nothern end by the proposed Post Office Administrative Centre.
The joint Press statement goes on to make many other comments and mentions the fact that the old Central Hotel structure will be demolished, as well as the Padbury Building, and the new Administrative Centre will be erected on part of these sites and part of the northern section of Forrest Place. A summary of what these gentlemen said, which also is contained in the statement, reads as follows:
We believe that the redevelopment will materially enhance the environment of Forrest Place and will complement conceptual plans of the State Government and the Perth City Council for die development of the ‘heart of Perth’.
It is useless for anyone to contend that this is a State election gimmick and to say in the same voice - what is true, of course - that the Prime Minister was strongly advocating this development back in 1972. The honourable member for Stirling has contended that it is a serious misjudgment of the people of Perth to bring this matter before the Parliament as early as is possible. I have had experience with the people of Perth in Public Works Committee inquiries, particularly in relation to the inquiry into the use of Cockburn Sound as the naval base, HMAS ‘Stirling’. I can tell honourable members that all the time the people of Perth can be given to stimulate their interest and to afford them opportunities to engage in a democratic participation undoubtedly will be warmly welcomed by them. I know that more than 30 witnesses, many of them from community groups, participated in the inquiry in respect of Cockburn Sound. I have no doubt that there will be a similar response on this occasion.
Is it an indictable offence for a government to give as much notice as possible? Is it a bad thing for a government to encourage such a matter to become an election issue? The State elections are imminent. One side of the State Parliament takes the view that this is desirable development but, from what I can gather, on the other side there is less or no enthusiasm about the proposition, despite the attitude of the Premier, the Lord Mayor of Perth and the Prime Minister. Why should such a matter now not become an issue in the State election campaign? When all is said and done, it seems to me that if a Court government instead of a Tonkin government is elected in the Western Australian elections, one of the sequels will be that the redevelopment of Forrest Place, Perth, will not take place. Perth will not get its Martin Place, its Post Office administration centre and some 1,900 employees, in the first instance, and a’ larger number subsequently will be deprived of decent working conditions. I regard this as a very important democratic component of the entire argument.
On many respects the whole question is academic. I think the only bona fide point of complaint that has been raised concerns the fact that the usual documentation is not available in the usual form. Of course, it is wrong for anyone to say that nothing has been presented. We tabled documents today. I do not know whether any member of the Opposition even availed himself of the opportunity to examine the documents that I laid on the table of the House. Probably members opposite have not studied them. Similarly, I doubt strongly whether anyone has taken the trouble to read the other documents or to learn what is available in this regard. These documents will be supplied to the Public Works Committee.
I say to the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), whose attitude about the activities of the Public Works Committee 1 uphold, respect and strongly support, that I believe he is off the beaten track when he tries to draw an analogy between this proposed work and that which was the subject of debate on 24 May 1972 - the proposal concerning HMAS ‘Stirling’ and the Cockburn Sound naval base. On that occasion all members of the Public Works Committee were in unison in their contention that there had been a pre-emption of the Committee’s options during the course of its inquiry. I am sure that the honourable gentleman has not lost sight of the details. They involved argument as to how much land should be made available in Cockburn Sound. Information was conveyed privately to the Public Works Committee by the Department of the Navy. In the course of events, the then Minister for the Navy went to Perth and made statements and pre-empted the options which were available to the Committee at that time. The then Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) acquiesced and in fact engaged in the same misdemeanour. We drew attention in the Parliament to the fact that if anybody else had committed that offence, under the Public Works Committee Act that person could have been fined, I think, some $400 or sent to prison for 12 months. That is one set of circumstances. But it is absurd to contend that what is happening with regard to this proposal is a parallel analogy. It has no relationship to what happened in 1972 with respect to the Cockburn Sound proposal.
The only cause for complaint here is that the documents are not available. But the fact of the matter is that the Public Works Committee probably will not even get a chance to look at this matter between now and the next 2 or 3 months. I know, because I have referred work to it, that it is engaged in an examination of the Yirrkala school project on Gove Peninsula and in an examination of the Tennant Creek hospital project. I understand that it is also engaged in an inquiry into a health laboratory project in Melbourne as well. So there is a great deal of work for it to do.
I want to comment on the subject of preemption and the very loose use that has been made tonight of the word. It is not appropriate to try to parallel the pre-emption that took place in 1972 with what is happening now. Let me put to honourable members quite affirmatively that every time a Minister sitting in a Cabinet meeting makes a decision about the referring of work to the Public Works Committee he is in effect engaging in a preempting process by saying: ‘I want this project undertaken on this site’. The rest of the matter is then turned over to the Public Works Committee to test whether the public interest is being served, and the like. There is no point in disparaging or seeking to disparage this project simply because the Prime Minister has demonstrated enthusiasm for it. A proposal has never gone to the Public Works Committee for which the Prime Minister of the day has not exhibited enthusiasm and the predominance of the Cabinet has not demonstrated enthusiasm. Is that to pre-empt? Of course it is not. But that is what honourable members opposite have been stupidly arguing this evening.
I did not intend to take up as much time as I have taken on this matter. A great number of inquiries have been conducted into this matter over a period of about 4 years by the eminent firm of architects, Forbes and Fitzhardinge of Perth. The matter has also been the subject of study by Professor G. Stephenson, a town planning consultant, and the City Planner. A very comprehensive document entitled ‘Environmental Impact Statement - Administration Centre, Perth, Western Australia’ is a summary of a considerable number of studies. The headings of the document will demonstrate to honourable members the extent to which this matter has been investigated. Let me mention some of the headings: Objectives of the proposal; examination of possible alternatives; project description; project location; impact issues; comments by local government authorities and consultants; visual impact; building operations; noise; wind effects; smoke emission; sunshine; waste disposal services; public transport; parking and traffic flow;economic impact; compliance with authorities. That list of considerations is as extensive as any that has ever gone to the Public Works Committee in respect of any proposal into which I inquired, and I was involved in, I suppose, 60 or 70 inquiries in the period in which I was a member of the Public Works Committee.
Let me say that no discourtesy is being shown to the Public Works Committee. When the Committee sets about its task it will have a very wide variety of material available to it. I believe that it will have the product of a cooperative endeavour on the part of local, State and Federal government. I believe that the Committee will preside over an inquiry which will be extremely democratic in nature - in fact, unprecedented in that regard. I believe that the people of Western Australia generally and Perth in particular will participate as they have never participated before. There will be no intrusion into the work of the Public Works Committee. 1 hope that as a result of this early application to the very great challenge with which it is confronted the work of the Committee will be more effectively facilitated and the voice of the people will be more effectively heard.
That the motion be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Manual telephone exchanges - Company Finances - Whitlam Government - Political
Order! It being past 10.30 p.m., and in accordance with the order of the House of 7 March, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Now that the House has come to order after a rather interesting afternoon and evening, might I commence my remarks by saying that I am disappointed with some of the actions that have been taken by senior members of the Government. The Leader of the House (Mr Daly) must realise that if he wishes to get Government policies and desires implemented he can only do so with co-operation from the Opposition. If the Government is not prepared to co-operate with the Opposition, it has only itself to blame.
Tonight I wish to raise a question in relation to the Post Office. It deals with the closing down of manual telephone exchanges as a result of the introduction of automatic dialling. First and foremost I do not want to see a situation where, because of closure, services cease. That does not mean that I am opposed to the upgrading of telephone services. Other members of the Australian Country Party and I believe that upgrading of such services is slow enough and anything one does that is inclined’ to hinder the upgrading of services will not be in the best interests of all. The sooner we can speed up an improvement in services the better. There are 3 problems associated with upgrading - materials, manpower and money. My concern relates to the closing of telephone exchanges and its effect on the community. When automatic telephone dialling is introduced, naturally a lot of alterations are made and there are a lot of teething problems. For instance, elderly people have difficulty because the system is new and it takes them a while to adjust.
Another worry, which is of equal if not more importance, is the future of the telephonists who have in many instances served the Department for a long period. These girls will eventually be thrown on the scrap heap because no jobs are available for them. In fairness to the Department, I must say that I believe that it does everything possible to assist in such cases. No doubt this assistance is appreciated. The Department offers the telephonist a transfer and reasonable superannuation but certainly nothing out of the box. It is not always practicable for telephonists to transfer from one exchange to another. I think immediately of married women who, for obvious reasons, cannot move to an exchange which the Department thinks would suit them. They must consider their families, their husbands and the occupations of their husbands. Naturally this creates a lot of inconvenience. In most cases it is an impossible situation. The girls finish up without a job.
The Department has on hand an inquiry section in the major parent exchanges, and the subscribers can ring this section to seek all the information which is necessary. I believe that this system has proved satisfactory. My guess is that because of the changing pattern in the Department the demand for information in a lot of these areas is increasing, not decreasing. I think again of the elderly. I think of the new complicated telephone directory. I believe that over a period the system will prove to be satisfactory, but in the interim people are having a lot of difficulty. Naturally there are many inquiries.
The Department, the Government, the Minister or someone has decided to centralise these inquiry centres which are known as manual assistance centres. The Department is centralising, not decentralising, which is the trend in everything else. We have heard a lot of propaganda from the Government about what it is doing to decentralise, but these assistance centres are typical examples of how the Government is centralising. For instance, western Victoria looks like finishing up with only 2 manual assistance centres, at Ballarat and Bendigo. There will certainly be centres in other parts of Victoria. I am informed that there will be a total of 9 assistance centres in Victoria. Anyone living a long way from these centres must telephone long distances, from perhaps 100 or 200 miles away. One might say that this makes no difference, that the people still dial a number, but the important point is that the local girls have the knowledge. As a result, a subscriber is more likely to get a satisfactory answer from a local girl.
My real complaint is that all these parent exchanges will eventually close. There are many in my electorate, apart from those in my neighbouring electorates. I think of cities such as Maryborough. The Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) knows of the position in Maryborough because he has received a deputation from people in that city. I think of centres in Horsham and Ararat, plus the centres in other smaller towns. They will be done away with over a period. I am suggesting to the Postmaster-General that if this trend continues the Department must give the telephonists ample notice. 1 have spelt out this matter to him fairly clearly, and I know that he has listened intently. I am not too sure of the action which he will take. I am not an engineer, I do not profess to know a great deal about the engineering angle of the Department, but no one has yet convinced me that it is impossible to retain on an economic basis these assistance centres in most of the major parent exchanges, without having to centralise them in places such as Ballarat, Geelong and Bendigo. The situation is arising where telephonists will not have an opportunity to remain in their local districts, and naturally they will not be able to give local information that they know only too well. As I said previously, it is a matter of working on the principle of centralisation, not decentralisation.
In conclusion, I appeal to the PostmasterGeneral to look at the situation not necessarily only in my electorate or in Victoria but also throughout the whole of the Commonwealth. As I have said, I cannot see any great advantage to the Department in the centralising of these assistance exchanges. In the long term it will create a lot of ill-feeling amongst telephonists, elderly people and those people who perhaps are not quite as capable as the general run of the public and find great difficulty in transferring over to a new system that they know little about. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to look at this matter. I am sure that he is a very co-operative Minister. I have received quite a deal of co-operation from him over a period of time, although I do not always agree with his decisions. However, I believe that he could be very sympathetic regarding the case that I have raised.
– I want to raise several matters in the limited time available to me. Two are of a minor nature and one is of a more important nature. Late last year I disclosed to the House that one of Australia’s greatest crooks had absconded from Australia and left shareholders in the lurch to the extent of $22.2m. The Commissioner of Corporate Affairs in New South Wales, Mr Ryan, in his report listed the following companies as having accumulated those losses: Bounty Oil Ltd, Citadel Mining, Halls Peak, Harbourside Oil Ltd, Hargrave Corporation and Westmoreland Oil. On the board of directors of four of those companies was a man named J. O. Bovill, together with two prominent men who have been sought by the New South Wales Government and who are now in South America. In the last few days it has come to my knowledge that Mr J. O. Bovill could possibly be seeking a passport so that he can leave Australia in the immediate future. If that is the case, I appeal to my Government not to issue Mr Bovill with a passport until this matter, which is causing great concern to Australians in general, is cleared up.
I applaud my Government for the progressive steps that it is taking in carrying out its pre-election promises. I believe that the action of my Government in bringing Dr Nyerere to Australia is worthy of the highest credit. Even the coldest hearted Liberal must have been impressed with the speech which that sincere man gave at the luncheon in the parliamentary dining room yesterday. I think we must all admit that he has a great struggle on his hands. He represents people whose average yearly income is $50, $60, or $70.
It was with regret that I learned of the tragedy that is occurring in the Liberal Party. A new breakaway party has been formed with a Liberal senator, Senator Hannan, as its leader. Senator Hannan has always been regarded by most members of the Labor Party as being a very truthful man. He claims to be leading a team of Liberals in a breakaway group which is to be known as the National Liberal Party. People who have been mentioned as intending to join this new party include Mr Neil Brown, a former member of this House. Mr Bill Haworth is another man who is reported as intending to join Senator Hannan’s National Liberal Party. Mr Alec Buchanan, who was very popular with members of the Australian Labor Party, and Mr Jess, a former member for La Trobe, and Peter Howson - all former members of this House - I believe are considering joining the new Hannan party.
– What about David Kennedy?
– I do not think David would join; his principles are too high for that; however, my main reason for rising is to reply to what I think was a very unworthy attack - I try to be modest in using the word ‘unworthy’ - by the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) recently when he accused our Party of being a ‘jobs for the boys’ Party. I have done considerable research since that speech was delivered by the honourable member for Boothby. The greatest tribute I can pay to him is to say that he had a very good father who was highly respected in this House and I do know that he shows some affection for his mother. I believe that he comes from good stock.
As a result of my research I have prepared a white paper which I want to refer to in the House. It sets out the names of outstanding members of the Liberal Party who got a payoff from the Liberal Government down the ages. Due to the very nature of the paper I shall start from the bottom. Mr Dan Mackinnon, a former member of this House, was appointed as Australian Ambassadaor to the Argentine. Dame Annabelle Rankin was appointed as Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand not so long ago. I shall make no further reference to the present GovernorGeneral due to the high position in the nation which he holds. Sir Garfield Barwick was another Liberal Party member. He was appointed as Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia because he got out of step with Sir Robert Menzies in relation to foreign policy.
– I raise a point of order. I seldom take points of order but when a member of the judiciary of this nation is under attack-
– He is not under attack.
– He is under attack in the most scurrilous and servile fashion.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member for Hunter will be out of order in any criticism of the judiciary.
– I cast no aspersions on the judiciary, Mr Deputy Speaker. I accept your ruling. I said that Sir Garfield Barwick was appointed by the Liberal Party as Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. He was a former member of this House. I make no reference to him being allocated a job in the manner indicated in the remarks of the honourable member for Boothby. Of course, the 2 legal eagles who diligently carried out their duties and did a good job for the Liberal Party finished up with appointments to the High Court of Australia. Mr Fred Chaney, a man for whom I have great respect, received from the Liberal Government an appointment as administrator of the Northern Territory. Mr Roger Dean a former member for Robertson - he was succeeded by the present member for Robertson, Mr Cohen - was appointed as Consul-General in San Francisco.
The honourable Gordon Freeth was appointed Australian Ambassador to Japan. Mr Bill Arthur, after he was defeated in the electorate of Barton, was appointed by the then Prime Minister the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), to his staff. Mr Brown, a former member of his House, was appointed to the staff of Mr Harold Holt. Sir Howard Beale, a member of this House years ago, was appointed by the Liberal Administration to be our Ambassador to Washington. I will pass no remarks about Lord Casey. We know the honour which was bestowed on him. He was referred to in my electorate as the Bengal tiger. I think he was appointed by the United Kingdom Government as the Governor of Bengal.
– He did a good job too.
– I am not talking about that. The subject is jobs for the boys from the Liberals. Sir Alexander Downer, one of the wealthiest men ever to be a member of this House, was appointed High Commissioner to London, Sir Eric Harrison, a former High Commissioner and member for Wentworth, was appointed by the Liberal Party, Mr Ian Allan, a former member for Gwydir for whom I have very great respect, was appointed Chairman of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission by the Liberal Party. Sir John Spicer was appointed Chief Judge of the Industrial Court by the Liberal Party. Honourable members can see the work that I have put into this white paper. Sir Hubert Opperman was appointed by the Liberal Party as our Ambassador to Malta. Percy Joske was appointed to the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. He is a former Liberal member of this House. Mr Frank Davis, highly respected by all honourable members and an outstanding Liberal, was appointed Chairman of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission in recent years by the Liberal Party.
– Did they do a good job?
– I am talking about jobs for the boys. The honourable member for Boothby had the temerity to raise this subject. I wish he was here tonight. I sent word to him through the Whip and I understand that he is missing although he had prior notice. I regret to learn that Joe Gullett is very ill. He is a former outstanding Liberal and he was appointed as our Ambassador to Greece. Mr Julian Doyle, a former Liberal MLA, was appointed a trade commissioner and was replaced by Athol Guy, of Melbourne, in the State seat of Gisborne.
– You really have a list there.
– I have a list. The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) was conditioned by the Liberal Party before being elected to the Parliament by being made a migration selection officer in London. The Liberals nurse them both before and after their service to the Party.
– Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I move that the white paper be printed.
-Order! No point of order is involved.
– In the few moments I have in which to speak I wish to refer to the Government’s removal of the superphosphate bounty. I wish to identify myself fully with those who spoke last Tuesday in the debate on the matter of public importance raised by the Opposition and to condemn the Government for its action. I believe that it will prove to be a disaster not only for the farmers but also for the national interest. An additional burden will be placed on the farmers and eventually it will be passed on to the community. The first downturn in prices for rural products will lead to a lessening of the use of superphosphate because it is the major, and perhaps the only, flexible item in a farmer’s budget. The removal of the bounty will lead to a downturn in production, with all its implications. It is difficult for us to grasp the thought of the world food shortage and the famines that are occurring in some countries; but we all know the situation that is developing, especially in view of the dramatic rise in population that is being experienced all over the world.
No one knows the situation better than the people of Western Australia. I refer not only to Western Australians who farm but also to those who think of their country and not in the narrow terms of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who thinks that Australia starts and finishes in suburbia. The Prime Minister has said a lot about the wealthier graziers - this also was mentioned quite often by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) - in the debate the other day who can afford to pay the full price for superphosphate. The plain fact of the matter is that one-third of the superphosphate used in Australia is used on marginal land in Western Australia. Starve Western Australia of superphosphate and we will be back to where we once were as far as land usage is concerned
-Order! It being 11 o’clock, the House stands adjourned 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 addressed to each member of the House fix an earlier day of meeting.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Department of Customs and Excise: Increase in Positions (Question No. 67)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
(a) First Division- Nil
(a) Permanent- 15 Abolished (net)
Department of the Environment and Conservation: Increase in Positions (Question No. 126)
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Special Minister of State, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Feasibility Study: Sources off Environmental Data (Question No. 131)
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
What progress has been made with respect to the feasibility study into an information retrieval system designed to make environmental information available to interest groups and individuals.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
An officer who was appointed to lead the small team to undertake the feasibility study commenced duty in the Department on 10.1.74. Due to his recent arrival and other staff resources not being available at this time, preliminary work only has been done so far. Part of that preliminary work has been a study which was undertaken by a firm of consultants to ascertain the sources of environmental data available in Australia. The result of that study was made available to the Department in mid February of this year.
Push-button Telephones (Question No. 357)
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Item 5695 (G) and Item 5696 (S)- Oophorectomy, salpingectomy, salpingo-oophorestomy or ligation of Fallopian tubes, not associated with hysterectomy in addition to curettage of uterus with or without dilation.
Note: The symbol ‘(G)’ following the above items refers to that procedure being carried out by a general practitioner or by a specialist where the patient has not been referred. The symbol ‘(S)’ refers to the procedure being performed by a specialist in the practice of bis specialty where the patient has been referred by another medical practitioner.
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, 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 right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Preliminary cost estimates would indicate the capital costs of establishing a baseline atmospheric monitoring station to be of the order of S1.4 million with annual operating costs tentatively estimated at $370,000.
Bulli Brick and Tile Company (Question No. 390)
asked the Minister for Social Security, unon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as fololws
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 March 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19740321_reps_28_hor88/>.