28th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Mr Speaker, the Government has been informed that the state memorial service for the late President Georges Pompidou will be held at 11 on Saturday morning, 6 April, at Notre Dame de Paris. I wish now to inform the Parliament that Australia will be represented at the service by His Excellency the Governor-General. His Excellency will leave for Paris today and will return to Australia as soon as possible after the service. Let me say that any differences we might have had with the French Government are transcended by this tragic event which has befallen the French people. On such occasions we remember and reflect on the traditional and strong ties which Australia has with France, our common values, our democratic way of life, our respect for and our affinities with the civilisation and cultural heritage that is France. All these things come to mind as we share with the French Government and people a common sorrow at the passing of a most distinguished world leader.
I was profoundly shocked to learn of the death of the President of the Republic. As an eminent world statesman who had carried on with such distinction the path charted by General De Gaulle, his passing will be felt by all Governments. I know, however, that his loss will be felt most sorely by that French people whom he had loved so much and whom he came to lead and serve. I wish to convey to you and to the French Government the sympathy of the Australian Government and the Australian people at this time of sorrow.
– I think it is appropriate that we should pay a mark of respect to President Pompidou, an esteemed statesman, a statesman by any standards, a man who had reached the pinnacle in his own country and as an international leader, a person capable of giving to the modern world a modern image, and a man who played a gigantic part in the task of building up modern Europe and giving it unity. Further than that, President Pompidou was the leader of a country which is a democracy and which is a traditional and close friend of Australia.
I regret that the course that we are taking today of paying tribute to President Pompidou was not taken yesterday, and that I was refused leave by the Government to make such a statement yesterday.
Monsieur Pompidou had a distinguished career in the public service. He was a teacher of literature. He was on the personal staff of General De Gaulle. In 1944 he played a prominent part in the victory of the French and the rebuilding of France from Nazi tyranny.
He became the Prime Minister of France in 1962 and remained Prime Minister until 1968 when there was a separation between himself and General De Gaulle. At the end of the Presidency of General De Gaulle in 1969 he became the President of the French Republic. He was the leader of a country which had been a close ally of Australia in 2 world wars - the leader of a country with which Australia should and does have the strongest ties of friendship. France has been a close associate of Australia in peace. The level of trade between Australia and France is high. France is the host to a very important organisation of which Australia is a member - the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, stationed in Paris.
France has pursued a course of international peace and security, as has Australia. In terms of aid, Australia and France are among the first four countries of the world as aid givers. In France there is the same sense of idealism as there is in Australia in the giving of aid to those less well placed with physical and human resources. In the Pacific area New Caledonia and Tahiti, and other islands, are considered part of metropolitan France and, as a result, France is, in a sense, one of our closest neighbours. We have had our differences - differences in relation to nuclear tests. I hope that these differences will have been made perfectly clear to the French Government that while we have these differences from government to government it makes no difference to us from the point of view of people to people relations. This is what the French Government and the French people should understand. The close ties of friendship between Australian people and the French people can and must continue.
I should add that when the French Government understands our attitude it should understand also that it relates to all countries and to all atmospheric tests. Our complaints about the French Government’s attitude apply equally strongly to the Chinese Government, and there should be no distinction between our attitude to those 2 countries. Simple because France is a democracy our claims are given wide publicity there. Our claims and arguments are given wide publicity in that democracy whereas in China no publicity can be given to the attitudes of the Australian people. The French should understand that.
– Is this an obituary, or what?
Mrt SNEDDEN - I find it extraordinary that when I speak in terms of the same attitude towards the French atmospheric tests as to the Chinese atmospheric tests Government supporters seem to disagree. They seem to think there is a different standard for the Chinese tests.
– This is hardly the time for this sort of garbage.
– We thought this was an obituary.
– He is a grub.
– Order! The honourable member for Robertson will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– Before the honourable member for Casey really does explode from blood pressure I should like to make it clear that the Opposition Parties - the Liberal Party and the Country Party - share with the people of France mourning in the loss of the President of that democratic republic.
– Mr Speaker, the death of President Pompidou marks the passing of an era in the history of France. President Pompidou was famous for many contributions to contemporary French life. He was an outstanding teacher, a notable anthologer of French poetry, a successful banker and an able French parliamentary deputy. His death this week robs France of a man gifted in sophistication, charm and ability. For long Georges Pompidou was largely the figure who ensured the survival of the De Gaulle Government during a period in France when the forces for the complete disunity of democratic government in France were at their greatest strength. His ability to control these forces were an accomplishment of supreme tactical skill which would have many admirers in this chamber at the moment. Although there have been differences between Australia and the French Government in recent years, the tragic passing of this great man robs France of a gifted President and the world of an outstanding figure particularly now when the role of Western Europe in the world is undergoing great changes. It is with sadness that we honour the passing of this great French leader.
– I think there is no member in this House who can claim any close personal association with the late President Pompidou and therefore we speak to France and not just as an obituary. We think of our ties with France of which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) so eloquently reminded us. We have had those ties and we have had those differences. In the tangled web of international affairs I think that nuclear control and disarmament form the great question which hangs over not only us but, indeed, the whole world and we have had our differences with France. We believe, and I think that the French people would also believe, that it is essential that we have effective control of nuclear armaments and effective disarmament. The French people also believe that sham control and sham disarmament are dangerous to them and to humanity. These are beliefs which we should and I think do share with them.
We have had our differences in regard to the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. Do not let us conceal this. Do not let us slur it over. But I think that we should apologise to the people of France for the fact that we have singled them out and discriminated against them for something quite relatively trivial that they have done in comparison with other much graver things that we have overlooked. I fear that some of the left wing influences to which this Government often lends too ready an ear asked us to single France out. One thinks for example of the fact that the Goverment, indirectly perhaps but by exhortation sporsored industrial disruption against French ships and approved all that was done to help Chinese shipping. The French people can hardly have failed to note this and I think that on this sad occasion we owe some measure of apology not because we want to approve all that they have done but because we have singled them out. When, now, we extend to the French people our sympathy on the death of their President we might perhaps, on behalf of the Australian people, offer concurrently some measure of apology for the way in which we have singled them out and the way in which our Government has co-operated with left wing elements in the community that have been singling them out for this treatment.
– As a mark of respect to the late President I invite honourable members to rise in their places. (Honourable members having stood in their places)
– Thank you, gentlemen. petitions
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound will ever pray. by MrDrury, Mr MacKellar, Mr McLeay and Mr Staley.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will move to immediately revoke all whaling licenses issued by the Australian Government and to reimpose a total ban on the importation of all whale produce.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Adermann, MrArmitage, Mr Katter and MrKeogh.
The Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners humbly pray that Part II, Section 3, of the proposed Bill of Human Rights, which now reads:
No one shall be subject to coercion which will impair his freedom to have or to adopt a belief or religion of his choice, as amended to read further: and no revenue derived in any way from any Australian citizen shall be appropriated by the Australian Government, or by a State Government, or by a Municipal Government, for the propagation or support of any religion.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Barnard.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in. Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the whale is an endangered species and should be protected by international agreement.
That whalemeat and all other whale products should be excluded from all Australian manufactured goods.
That no whale products should be imported into Australia.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will form appropriate legislation to protect the whale from commercial exploitation.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr McLeay.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Further, they believe that this economic support should be in the form of per capita grants which are directly related to the cost of educating an Australian child in a government school.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should acknowledge the right of every Australian child to equal per capita grants of government money spent on education.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by MrStaley.
MrKILLEN- I ask the Prime Minister: Has he formed the opinion that Senator Gair has held an office of profit under the Crown? If he has formed that opinion, can the honourable gentleman say when he first formed it?
MrWHITLAM - Section 45 of the Constitution, states:
If a senator
Directly or indirectly takes or agrees to take any fee or honorarium for services rendered to the Commonwealth his place shall thereupon become vacant.
Former Senator Gair agreed to take a fee, an honorarium, for services rendered to the Commonwealth as Ambassador to Ireland on the 14th of last month. The Governor-General on that date approved my nomination. On 14 March I delivered a letter to His Excellency the Governor-General in which I stated that the Government wished to appoint the honourable Mr Vincent Clair Gair as its Ambassador to Ireland, and on the same day the GovernorGeneral noted on the letter: ‘Approved, Paul Hasluck, March 14 1974.’
– I want to put a point of view to you, Mr Speaker.
– Order! No points of view are allowed at question time from any member. A point of order is not involved in this question at all.
– It is my view that by that time the former senator had agreed to take a fee, an honorarium, as Ambassador. The Governor-General on that day, acting under powers conferred on him last year by the Queen, appointed him. Of course, no announcement could be made at the time because the Government of Ireland had to be contacted and its agrément attained. When I was asked a question on this - the only question asked 2 days ago - it will be noticed that I said:
I am happy to inform honourable members that the Irish Government has given its agrément
That is the formula I used. It correctly states the position in my understanding that the former senator had vacated his seat at the time he was appointed and, as honourable members know from his own letter to the President of the Senate, the appointment by the GovernorGeneral was made with his knowledge and consent.
– Can the Minister for the Capital Territory inform me whether there is any legislation designed or proposed to control hen numbers in the Australian Capital Territory? Does the Minister agree that it is essential for the Australian Capital Territory to have a hen quota and licensing system framed in terms similar to that of the States which have now finally agreed on the necessity of the move? Is it a fact that the historical hen number of 85,000 in the Australian Capital Territory is exceeded by a large margin and that a quota of 140,000 hens would supply the Australian Capital Territory with eggs, would give an assurance to the local producers and would enable his department to examine the issue properly?
– As the representative of primary industry in the Australian Capital Territory I want to make several points to the honourable member about the question he asked. First of all he has my assurance, and he can assure the rest of the poultry industry, that we will not permit the Australian Capital Territory to become a beach-head from which some operators will be able to destroy the rationalisation of the Australian poultry industry. It is » very hard-won agreement - agrément even.
At meetings of the Australian Agricultural Council my colleagues from the States seem to regard the Australian Capital Territory as alien territory except when they want something. So I have assured them also that they will get no absolute agreement from me about the matter until they start to treat the Australian Capital Territory with a little more equality. However, we are producing legislation to ensure that quotas can be established by law. It is true that the present quota of 85,000 hens pertains. I have given my guarantee that that quota will prevail until we have arrived at a better agreement with the States. But about 140,000 to 150,000 birds are necessary to meet the requirements of the Australian Capital Territory. (Honourable members interjecting.)
– I think that my colleagues overrate their capacities in other fields. The situation is that the Australian Capital Territory is accepting the principle of rationalisation of the poultry industry. The Australian Capital Territory will not be used as a place from which some great operators can assault the rest of the Australian industry.
– What about the margarine industry?
– But I am not going to allow to continue a situation in which the industry in the Australian Capital Territory does not have parity with the rest of Australia. If the honourable gentleman who interjects asks me a question about margarine I will give him the sort of answers which he probably deserves.
– My question to the Prime Minister is supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Moreton; in fact it is a repetition of the part of his question which the Prime Minister did not answer. I ask: When did the Prime Minister form the opinion that Senator Gair was holding an office of profit under the Crown and what did he do about it?
– I believe that the Standing Orders preclude the giving of legal opinions, and I suppose that this would be asking me for a legal opinion. I have stated the facts. Honourable members will recall that 2 days ago the right honourable and learned Leader of the Opposition asked me whether an offer had been made by the Government to Senator Gair to accept the post, which would involve his resigning from the Senate. I have already quoted my reply. I was under no impression that his resignation from the Senate was required. I was under the impression that under the Constitution his seat had been vacated.
– What does the Minister for Overseas Trade regard as being the underlying reasons for the recent increases in imports into Australia? Are these increases in line with the Government’s policies on these matters? Does he consider that the consequences of these increases will be beneficial to the Australian consumer and to the economy as a whole?
– The most important part of the question is whether the increase in the volume of imports that has recently taken place will be of benefit to the Australian consumer. The increase in imports that has taken place in the first 8 months of 1973-74, compared with the first 8 months of 1972-73, is $ 1,023.7m or 38 per cent. This is a massive increase and it must have had a very great effect on diminishing the extent of inflation in Australia that would otherwise have occurred. Of course, the benefits of this massive increase in imports cannot be assumed to be proportionate to the size of the increase. In a number of instances we have had evidence of and complaints that the lower cost of imports because of the tariff cuts and the appreciation of the currency have not been passed on to the consumer. When demand is excessive there is a tendency, both in the wholesale and the retail trade, for the sellers to take full advantage of that demand. This is a matter of very great concern to the Government.
I have consulted with colleagues in several departments on this question and the appropriate departments have been asked to investigate avenues to establish whether the benefits of the tariff cuts are being passed on and to recommend to Ministers ways in which the Government can ensure that these benefits are not being withheld from Australian consumers and end users of the imported products. The Government is most concerned at the extent to which suppliers have taken advantage of shortages and of excess demand. The Government will do everything in its power to see that the benefits of the lower costs arising from tariff cuts and exchange appreciation are passed on to the consumer.
– The Prime Minister, in answer to the question immediately before the last-
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is question time. The right honourable gentleman is not asking a question; he started to make a speech.
-Order! I call the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Prime Minister, in answer to the question immediately before the last question, said that he had-
– Mr Speaker, I ask you to require the right honourable gentleman to ask a question and not to make a speech.
– Throw him out.
– Order! A few more honourable members will be thrown out in a moment if they do not keep quiet. I think that a short preface to a question is always acceptable.
– Mr Speaker, I take the point of order that during the course of this parliamentary week the honourable member for Hindmarsh has consistently taken points of order in a totally frivolous manner and I ask that he be dealt with.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The Leader of the Opposition will ask his question.
– The Prime Minister, in answer to a question-
– Mr Speaker, as you have pointed out it is possible within the Standing Orders for a short preface to be stated before a question is asked. But where the indulgence of the Chair is sought to give a short preface to a question, the person asking the question must indicate mat it is a preface to a question which is about to be asked. The Leader of the Opposition is not doing so.
-Order! I do not think that in every question with a preface that has ever been asked in this House, the member concerned has stated that he wishes to make a preface to a question. But I ask the right honourable gentleman to make his preface very brief and to ask his question.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister in answer to the question immediately before the last question said that he had been under the impression that it was unnecessary for Senator Gair to resign from the Senate because his office had been vacated, Senator Gair having accepted an office of profit under the Crown.
Did the Prime Minister on Tuesday, 2 April 1974, give a Press conference and during that Press conference was the Prime Minister asked this question:
Prime Minister, has Senator Gair officially accepted the position?
Did the Prime Minister in answer say:
Did the Prime Minister then add these words:
He hasn’t, I understand, resigned from the Senate yet.
Does that clearly indicate that what the Prime Minister has said today was his attitude then, is totally contradicted by his own words given at his own Press conference on Tuesday last?
– Order! I have issued my last warning in regard to incessant interjections. I mean to take the appropriate action if they continue. The Prime Minister will answer the question with silence from the House.
– I did use the words at a Press conference. In Parliament earlier in answer to the right honourable gentleman I had used the precise, appropriate, technical terms.
– My question is also to the Prime Minister, but on an unrelated subject. What is the known extent of the Russian naval combatant presence in the Indian Ocean prior to the possible re-opening of the Suez Canal, excluding those vessels which are working on the clearance of Chittagong harbour? What is the known extent of the United States naval combatant presence in the Indian Ocean prior to the possible use of Diego Garcia, similarly excluding any vessels pursuing non-combatant tasks? Is the Prime Minister now able to outline in greater detail the initiatives being taken by India and our own Government to seek agreement between those 2 powers that each should limit its presence in the Indian Ocean, or preferably facilitate a zone of peace there? Has he noted that, among others, Senator Mike Mansfield, the majority leader in the United States Senate, supports such initiatives?
– I do not have precise figures of the Soviet or the United States presence from time to time in the Indian Ocean. I have reliable information available to me. The Australian Government collects some of that information itself. It is given informa tion on the same subject by friendly powers. Some of the information, of course, I could not convey to the House. It is gratifying to the Government that the approach it has made in both Washington and Moscow to encourage the 2 super-powers, the 2 greatest naval powers in the world, to avoid an escalation in the Indian Ocean has been well received. There is of course discussion in the United States Congress and its committees on Diego Garcia.I would not presume to comment on the reports of evidence given by a succession of witnesses there or views expressed by the members of the committees.
It is clear, however, that right round and through the Indian Ocean there is the positive wish by all governments and, as far as one can tell, by all people that the Indian Ocean should not become an area of confrontation between the 2 super-powers, the 2 greatest naval powers in the world. Australia’s participation and in some cases her initiative have been warmly welcomed by all the countries in our region and by the 2 super-powers concerned.
– Mr Speaker- (Mr Hunt rising in his place)
– There is a Country Party member rising. It is the Country Party’s turn to ask a question.
– Mr Speaker-
-The honourable member for Gwydir has the call. This is a Country Party call. No arrangement was made with me about changing the order of the call. It is the Country Party’s turn. If the honourable member for Gwydir likes to give way that is all right with me.
– I give way to the Leader of the Opposition.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the Minister for Foreign Affairs refused to have any part in the arrangements for the appointment of Senator Gair as Ambassador to Ireland? Is it a fact that Senator Willesee insisted that the arrangements should be conducted while he was out of the country and the Prime Minister was the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs? Is it the fact that yesterday in the Senate Senator Willesee made this perfectly clear?
-The right honourable gentleman is out of order in reading to the House what happened in another place.
– He did not read it.
-The right honourable gentleman is out of order. He cannot read in House what happened in another place.
- Mr Speaker, I accept your ruling. The final part of the question is this: Was the decision to appoint Senator Gair as Ambassador to Ireland conveyed to any department other than the Department of Foreign Affairs? Was the Department of the Senate excluded from that information?
– None of the matters which the right honourable gentleman mentions are facts. I was the Acting Foreign Minister for the whole time that discussions were held with former Senator Gair and with the Irish Government. The Executive Council minute of 21 March left it to the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs to make certain determinations. I, in fact, left them to Senator Willesee to make on his return and he made them on his return. I repeat, I was Acting Foreign Minister at the time that the Government offered the post of Ambassador to Ireland to Senator Gair and I was there at the time that Mr Gair accepted it and was appointed to it. The Department of Foreign Affairs naturally had the conduct of this matter. The Department of the Senate is not concerned in this.
– Is it not concerned with an office of profit?
– It has been informed by the person who has accepted the office of profit. It should not be necessary to point out to honourable members that announcements of this character are not made and the information about them is not conveyed until the receiving country has given agrement and when agrement was cabled from Dublin on 19 March and was received in Canberra early in the morning of 20 March the cable also stated:
Irish Government would appreciate advance information of date of announcement.
I myself conferred on this matter with the Attorney-General of Ireland when he visited Australia. Accordingly, announcements could not have been made of this matter until agrement was granted and in courtesy to and at the request of the Irish Government no announcements could be made or should have been made until it was informed.
(Mr Cross proceeding to address a question to the Minister for Immigration)-
-The honourable member for Griffith will have to wait until I hear what the honourable member for Brisbane has to say before I can determine whether it coincides with the question on the notice paper. (Mr Cross continuing to address his question to the Minister for Immigration)-
– I rise to further point of order, Mr Speaker. I submit that the question is already out of order.
– Order! There is nothing in the question on notice regarding the treatment Of Fijians.
– There is in paragraph (4).
-The question is out of order.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In the Prime Minister’s judgment from what date does Mr Gair’s appointment -
– Order! In asking for a judgment I do not know whether the honourable member is prepared to pay a fee, but the fact of the matter is that it is out of order to ask for an opinion.
– May I substitute the word assessment’?
-Order! There is no difference between asking for an assessment and a judgment.
– Well, will the Prime Minister advise the House as to the date from which Mr Gair’s appointment as Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland takes place? If, in the Prime Minister’s view, the appointment takes place from 21 March 1974, has Australia had 2 Ambassadors to Ireland as from that date? If the appointment was effective from 21 March, why did the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Government in another place condone Mr Gair’s - or the then Senator Gair’s - sitting in that place until Tuesday, 2 April?
– And voting.
– And voting. In view of the Prime Minister’s stated support of the principle of open government, why did he not take the Premier of Queensland, if not this Parliament, into his confidence prior to 2 April after agreement, or agrément, had been received from the Republic of Ireland?
– I quote the opinion of the Solicitor-General - I will give that information to honourable members - that Mr Gair became Ambassador to Ireland on 14 March, the day when the Governor-General, exercising authority granted to him by the Queen, appointed him as such. The Premier of Queensland was not informed because relations between Australia and other countries are completely the constitutional prerogative, the exclusive prerogative, of the Government of Australia. State governments have no international standing whatever. That view was reinforced in a learned speech delivered in Canberra last night by Sir Victor Windeyer, a very distinguished public figure and a very distinguished judge before his retirement. I am asked about Senator Gair - Mr Gair - sitting in the Senate on Tuesday. He did so against the advice of the Attorney-General. (Opposition members interjecting.)
– Order! I have issued my last warning. Answers to any questions will not be given by any Minister, including the Prime Minister, unless there is complete silence. I will name somebody if there is not complete silence.
– I had overlooked another part of the question asked by the honourable member. He asked me whether it was a fact that there were 2 Australian Ambassadors to Ireland as from the date of Mr Gair’s appointment as Ambassador. The fact is, of course, that once an ambassador is appointed to a country the former ambassador ceases to be ambassador to that country. It is the constant fact that an appointment of a new ambassador is made before the former ambassador departs.
– I ask the Postmaster-General: Has his attention been drawn to recent Press reports in Newcastle that, following the introduction of FM radio, many thousands of television sets and antennas will have to be modifield to receive channels 3 and 5 in the Hunter region? Is this a fact? Will all sets be affected? Is it expected that the cost per set of such modifications will be in excess of $55 as claimed in the reports? Further, will his Department make technical advisers available at the time of changeover to explain the adjustments so as to protect the public against exorbitant and unnecessary charges by television service firms? What proposals are being formulated for a separate licence fee for FM radio users?
– Proposals concerning the possible introduction of licence fees for FM radio users have not been discussed at this stage. The introduction of FM means that some of the channels will have to be altered. I think that Channel 5 will be affected but it will not be affected for some two to three years. So there will not be any immediate problem in the area which the honourable member represents. At the same time, it ds apparent that some cost will be involved in adjusting antennas when these alterations take place. According to my advice a cost of $55 would be beyond all reason. A reasonable cost would be approximately $30. Nevertheless when any change is to be made adequate notice will be given, I should think about 6 months in advance. It should be understood that not everybody in the Newcastle area will be affected by the removal of Channel 5. Only those persons deemed to be fringe occupants of the area will be in any way affected. All of these matters will be taken into consideration when the report concerning frequency modulation is further discussed by Cabinet. Advice will be given to the people concerned to ensure that the acquisition of technical knowhow and the ability to implement any changes can be with the least possible expense.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is there in Dublin a man named Brennan who is titled Australian Ambassador to Ireland? If there is such a person in Dublin given the title of Australian Ambassador to Ireland has he been informed that he is no longer Ambassador to Ireland? Has he been given instructions to withdraw from Dublin? Has there been any communication between the Irish Government and Mr Brennan since the date upon which the Prime Minister believes, relying on the opinion of the Solicitor-General, that Senator Gair became the Ambassador to Ireland? For what period of time does the honourable gentleman believe that we will continue to have 2. ambassadors to Ireland?
– Even the right honourable gentleman should know that there cannot be 2 ambassadors to the one country. Mr Brennan sent to the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs the cable from which I quoted. It has been tabled in the Senate but I will quote it in full now. It is from the Australian Embassy, Dublin. It is headed: ‘Restricted - Immediate’ and is marked: ‘Personal: For the Secretary - from Brennan’. It reads:
Agreement for Gair has been given. Irish Government would appreciate advance information of date of announcement.
The time of despatch is shown as 19 March 1974 at 1645 hours local time and the time of receipt 20 March 1974 at 0238 hours local time. Mr Brennan was the means of communication between the Australian Government and the Irish Goverment. One might as well ask a similarly fatuous question: What was the situation of Sir James Plimsoll when I announced that Sir Patrick Shaw was to succeed him as Ambassador to Washington? What was the position of Mr Lawrey when I announced that Sir James Plimsoll was to succeed him as Ambassador to Moscow?
– But one was Ambassadordesignate.
– Order! The honourable member for Chisholm will cease interjecting.
-One might as well ask: What was the position of Mr Freeth when I announced that Mr Shann was to succeed him? What was the position of Sir Patrick Shaw when I announced that Mr Bruce Grant was to succeed him? The fact is, of course, that under the Constitution Mr Gair vacated his seat when he agreed to take a fee or honorarium for services rendered to the Commonwealth as Ambassador to Ireland.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is he aware of any changed circumstances since 23 March which could have rendered Mr Gair ineligible to hold a seat in the Senate? If not, would that mean that if he were declared eligible to hold a seat in the Senate after 23 March he could be Ambassador to Ireland and a senator at the same time?
– Clearly any member of Parliament who accepts appointment as an ambassador, a high commissioner or a consulgeneral - and such appointments were made, as my colleague the Minister for Services and Property pointed out in the case of 6 ambassadors, 6 high commissioners and 2 consulsgeneral by our predecessors - vacates his seat in the Parliament. The fact is that Sir Percy Spender could not have been Ambassador to Washington and continue as a member of this House. Sir Howard Beale could not have become Ambassador to Washington and continued as a member of this House. Sir Thomas White could not have become High Commissioner to Britain and continued as a member of this House. Sir Eric Harrison could not have become High Commissioner to Britain and remained a member of this House.
– After the announcement.
– Order! I warn the honourable member for Chisholm. One more outburst and you will be suspended.
– Sir Alex Downer could not have become High Commissioner to Britain and remained a member of this House.
Oppositionmembers - After the announcement.
– Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat. I will name the next person who interjects, and I do not care who it is. I call the Prime Minister.
– Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. I hear you raising your voice about the interjections and that is because you have to be heard over the interjections but I must draw your attention to the fact that the interjections are in response to the-
– Order! There is no point of order and the right honourable gentleman knows it. The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I call the Prime Minister.
– Mr Speaker-
– Mr Speaker, I take another point of order. We are entitled to be heard. My point of order is this: Interjections are part of the Parliament and it is not possible to eliminate interjections from the Parliament. Therefore, Mr Speaker, I am putting to you as a point of order that if you eject a person from the service of this House merely because he interjects when he is being provoked by false statements-
– Mr Speaker, you are not serving-
– Order! The right honourable member will resume his seat. I will name you if you keep on taking false points of order. I call the Prime Minister.
– To continue the list of Liberal members - Mr Dan Mackinnon could not have become Ambassador to Argentine, Uruguay and Peru and remained a member of this House. Sir Hubert Opperman could not have become High Commissioner to Malta and remained a member of this House. Sir Josiah Francis could not have become ConsulGeneral to New York and remained a member of this House. Mr Roger Dean could not have become Administrator of the Northern Territory and remained a member of this House Dame Annabelle Rankin could not have become High Commissioner to New Zealand and remained a member of the Senate.
– Was there a Country Party member?
– Yes, there was a Country Party member. In fact, there were two that I can think of. The Honourable Hugh Roberton could not have become Ambassador to Ireland and remained a member, even a Country Party member of this House. Mr Ian Allan could not have become a War Graves Commissioner and remained a member of this House. There were several other instances; they have escaped my memory.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. I draw your attention to standing order 303. It states in part:
If any Member has -
In view of those words, Mr Speaker, under what authority is it possible to name a person for one interjection when he might have been utterly silent for the whole of the previous proceedings?
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I am asking for a ruling, Mr Speaker.
– The honourable member will resume his seat. I call on the presentation of papers.
– Mr Speaker -
– Order! No ruling is required because the honourable member for Chisholm was asked several times to remain quiet.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker, you warned me only once.
– With the greatest respect, Mr Speaker, my point of order has not been answered.
– If the honourable gentleman wants me not to exercise any flexibility in regard to Standing Orders I will certainly do so. And I will tell the honourable member that the first time he raises what he describes as a point of order which is not a point of order I will name him.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on woven man-made fibre fabrics, which was forwarded to me on 7 February, 1974, together with copies of correspondence between the Chairman of the Commission and the Standing Interdepartmental Committee on Assistance to Industries.
Mr BARNARD (Bass - Minister for
Defence) - I table the report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Citizen Military Forces and seek leave to make a statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– It will be recalled that in April 1973 I announced the establishment of an independent committee to undertake a comprehensive review of the Citizen Military Forces. My intention was to initiate for the first time in the history of the CMF a thorough review of its role, the circumstances in which it might be used in the future, its organisation, conditions of service, training, title and its geographic disposition. This review was long overdue.
The Committee was led by Dr T. B. Millar, Director of the Australian Institute of
International Affairs and a former officer in both the Regular Army and the CMF. The other members of the Committee were: Major-General D. B. Dunstan, formerly Army Chief of Materiel and now Commander of Field Force Command; Major-General K. D. Green, a recently retired CMF Divisional Commander, who is Secretary of the Premier’s Department of Victoria; Mr W. A. Jarvis, a sociologist from the University of New South Wales; Mr J. G. O’Loghlin, a consulting engineer and former CMF officer, and Colonel L. A. Simpson of the CMF, a chartered town planner and surveyor from Hobart. At the time the inquiry was set up, I indicated that I was aware of serious problems of morale in the CMF. These problems were, and of course still are, a cause for concern.
They are, to a large extent, the result of the lack of interest in the CMF shown by successive Liberal-Country Party governments. The abortive re-organisation into pentropic divisions in the early ‘sixties played havoc with the organisation. However, the greatest damage resulted from the previous Government’s attitude to the CMF during the IndoChina war. Indeed the Citizen Military Forces were a casualty of that war. They suffered not at the hands of a foreign foe but of their own Government. In 1964, legislation was enacted to permit the CMF to be called out for continuous service, by proclamation, in a time of defence emergency. However, in the Vietnam conflict, conscription was used to provide junior officers and men when the size of the volunteer Regular Army was found inadequate for the scale of involvement which that government sought. The report says: _ There is within the Citizen Military Forces, considerable resentment of the fact that they were not called to active service in Vietnam and a general lack of confidence in the national intention to employ them short of a full-scale mobilisation, which is seen as a remote possibility. This lack of purpose is a fundamental cause for many of the present problems of the organisation.
This Government will never deploy conscripts while volunteer reservists, willing to serve, are unused. The previous government increased the injury and compounded its failure to keep faith with the CMF by making service in that organisation an alternative to conscription. Thus an organisation made up of people willing to serve their country in war were burdened with a large influx of recruits, many of whom were motivated by a desire to avoid active service. The CMF deserves better than that. It is a vital factor in Australia’s ability to expand our ground forces, should a threat develop. The Committee has undertaken an extensive examination of the CMF. It has obtained evidence from a wide range of sources including the general public. It has travelled to all Australian States, visiting units of the CMF. Some members made overseas visits as well. The Committee also conducted surveys of the attitudes and views of employers, trade unions, the public at large, and current and exmembers of the CMF.
The members of the Committee are to be congratulated and thanked for their efforts in producing the report. I am aware that they have all made many personal sacrifices in order to achieve the results I place before honourable members. This report will serve as an invaluable basis for decisions about the Citizen Military Forces, now and in the future. The CMF Committee of Inquiry’s report argues persuasively for the need to make substantial changes to the role, organisation and conditions of service for the CMF. In this regard a large number of recommendations have been put forward, many of which will be implemented quickly, but some will require further consideration by the Government. Some will require legislative amendments. Regarding the Committee’s general commentary on strategic factors, although there is much in the report with which everybody could agree, some judgments differ from those of the Government and its Service, defence and foreign affairs advisers. Insofar as the Committee’s recommendations depend on these judgments, this aspect will need further consideration.
The Government accepts the need for change to update the role, organisation and conditions of service of our citizen forces, which with the Australian Regular Army combine to form Australia’s ground force capability. That there is a need for change is not surprising when one considers the history of the CMF against the background of other development which has occurred since its creation in its current form in 1948. In the first instance, the strategic outlook is vastly different today from what it was in 1948. Secondly, there have been large changes in the size of our population, its skills and its distribution. Thirdly, there have been major developments in our industrial base which add to our potential for mobilisation. Fourthly, there have been a number of important changes to the size, organisation, composition, experience and pay and conditions of the Regular Army. These changes have not all been taken into account for the CMF.
The current position with the CMF is that it has no clear role. Its organisation is no longer appropriate to act properly as a reserve for the regular Army. Many of its units are not viably manned. Therefore I particularly welcome the Committee’s attention to the provision of a meaningful role for the Army Reserve. It suggests that the Army Reserve be responsible with the Regular Army for the ground defence of the Australian continent, that existing roles in defence emergency or mobilisation be retained, that in the event of commitment beyond the resources of the regular Army the Army Reserve be activated as the next force to be employed and that the Army Reserve have a role in civil emergencies. There is no practical alternative to the re-shaping of the CMF, if it is to be revitalised and be of value to our defence effort. The changes to be made by the Government will be welcomed by those who are genuinely concerned with the need to protect our national interests.
As honourable members will appreciate, the Government has had only a short time to consider the wide-ranging recommendations of the Committee. The Army and the Defence Force Development Committee have not yet had time to consider the report in the depth it deserves. The report, including the manpower and cost implications, requires further study and this is being pressed forward.
At this stage, I have approved the following proposals made by the Committee:
The title ‘Citizen Military Forces’ is to be changed to a name which more appropriately reflects its basic role and function - the ‘Australian Army Reserve’, or more simply ‘Army Reserve’. The new Australian Army Reserve is to incorporate other Army reserves as well as the present CMF - the Regular Army Emergency Reserve, the Regular Army Reserve, the Citizen Military Forces and the retired list of former regular and CMF officers.
These changes reflect the Government’s determination that we must have one Australian Army in the 1970s - a regular component and a reserve component. The acceptance of this concept, which the Committee calls the total force concept, will give the citizen soldier a much clearer understanding of his role and place in our defence forces; it will mean that his training, function, equipment and other support will closely resemble that of the Regular Army.
The Committee of Inquiry has obtained considerable evidence which demonstrates the current impractical situation of grossly undermanned CMF units. The fact is that, at present, many of these units are so deficient in strength that they cannot satisfactorily train. Accordingly, as proposed by the Committee, I accept as a matter of principle that units must be manned at viable levels although I hesitate to apply the suggested requirement of 70 per cent of establishment across the board without first examining whether there should not be differing requirements for different types of unit.
This means that it will be necessary to amalgamate a large number of units. At present the CMF has some 900 units, and over 90 per cent of these are poorly manned. I assure honourable members that we will endeavour to do this in a way which will preserve the best traditions and local identities of CMF units while taking account of the present and future practicabilities of having a viable reserve army.
These changes could come as a disappointment in some ways to members of some individual units affected. The Government is sensitive to these feelings. However, changes are necessary if the Reserve is to be more than a paper Army and be able to undertake the tasks it might be called on to carry out in the future. It is futile to continue the current practice of retaining battalions when in fact the reality is that the unit existing is something substantially less. Also, these changes must come because it is clear that many young men leave the CMF as they find the training boring, repetitive and unrealistic. The Committee has found that one very important reason for this is that units are so badly undermanned that it is not possible to provide realistic training at the level required.
The Committee has recommended a number of other important organisation changes including the creation of an Army Reserve Council and a Committee of Employer Support. I recognise there would be value in having such bodies, but before finally approving their establishment I wish further consideration to be given to their precise composition and role. I have ordered that this be done expeditiously.
Turning to the question of pay and conditions of service, the Committee has recommended a large number of improvements and changes. I accept the need for improvements and I want improvements implemented as quickly as possible. The Committee’s recommendations on pay and conditions will be given careful consideration in the appropriate Government machinery. Of course, such matters, involve other portfolios as well as defence, and it will be necessary for me to consult with my colleague the Treasurer (Mr Crean), and other appropriate Ministers.
Mr Speaker, let me assure you that there must be no doubt that this Government is determined to improve the CMF. It will give this country a reorganised CMF, which is not only attractive to the young men and women who wish to serve in it, but with the Regular Army will also provide a viable base for expansion should this be necessary in the future. Let me be quite clear that the CMF- in future to be known as the Army Reserve - is an essential and honoured component of the Australian Army.
The Committee will present to me in a few weeks’ time a separate report on the school cadets. I shall table this at an appropriate time. The House will remember that I did ask the Millar. Committee to take into consideration, at the same time as it was investigating the role of the CMF, the future role of the school cadets and other bodies.
– Are you going to cut this out?
– The Committee is currently dealing with this situation and, as I have indicated to the House - and I will repeat it for the benefit of the honourable member - the report will be presented to me in a few weeks time. I have no knowledge of what the recommendations are at this time. But I assure the honourable member that the report will be tabled as soon as possible. I present the following paper:
Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the CMFMinisterial Statement, 4 April 1974.
Motion (by Mr Enderby) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– I have had the report in my possession for only a couple of hours so obviously I have not had the opportunity to do anything except have a rather cursory look at the recommendations. I have been informed that Dr Millar asked for permission to brief me on the report and this was refused. The Minsiter for Defence (Mr Barnard) can correct that if-
– That certainly is not true.
– Well it might not have got to the Minister, but I am quite sure that Dr Millar was informed ‘by someone in the Minister’s office. We have become used to this sort of thing. I therefore think that it is vitally important that the debate should be resumed. I am glad to have the assurance of the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) that an opportunity will be given for a wide ranging debate at an early date, because there are a large number of members on this side of the House who have either themselves served in the Citizen Military Forces, which is now to be known as th: Australian Army Reserve, or who in the past have had ministerial responsibility for the CMF and have wrestled with its problems.
I must at this stage make a few preliminary remarks about what the Minister had to say.
First of all, I must condemn the Minister for his disgraceful statement - it is one of the worst I have ever heard by any Minister in 18 years in this House - when he accused the people who exercised the Citizen Military Forces option to national service as being motivated by a desire to avoid active service. These were people who were informed by the duly elected government of the country at the time that if they exercised the CMF option to national service they would be behaving in an honourable way and in the interests of the defence of the country. This was done and the option was brought in deliberately to bolster the numbers in the CMF. Yet the Minister chooses to accuse the people who exercised the option in the light of that statement by the duly elected government of the country virtually of being cowards.
– You are talking rubbish.
– That is what it means when he says ‘motivated by a desire to avoid active service’. What else is it but an accusation of cowardice by those people who took the words of the duly elected government of the day at their face value and exercised that option? Many country people, because of the problems of running a single unit property, felt that they could not afford to be away from their farms for 2 years. They joined the highly successful Bushmen’s Rifles. The Minister is saying that they were motivated by cowardice. I throw that statement back in his teeth, and everybody on this side of the House throws it back in his teeth. Having said that, the Minister also gave his version of the reasons for the present state of the CMF. Let me give the House another and, I believe, more accurate one. The reckless act of the Minister and his Government of eliminating national service in one stroke wrecked not only the Australian Regular Army but also the CMF. The Minister might or might not have had a mandate to eliminate national service.
– Are you going to reintroduce it?
– I am talking about the way the Minister went about it. He did not have a mandate to wreck either the Regular Army or the CMF, and that is what he did. As a result of that immediate action, rather than reviewing the situation and making alternative arrangements, the CMF lost approximately 9,000 men overnight and became non-viable, to use the words of General Brogan, the pre vious Chief of the General Staff. I am putting forward an alternative reason for the current state of the CMF. Having destroyed the CMF and having made it non-viable, the Government set up the Millar Committee in April 1973 - nearly a year ago. Since that time the Committee has been used as an excuse for doing nothing in relation to the CMF. For instance, conditions of service have fallen further and further behind conditions for the Australian Regular Army. I have written to the Minister about this and his reply has been that the Government will do nothing until it receives the report of the Millar Committee.
For nearly 18 months the Government has left the CMF bleeding to death from the wound that it caused. This is all the more incredible because, the ARA having been destroyed as an effective fighting force, the state of the CMF became even more important than it had been previously. That being so, we find from the Minister’s statement that the Government still has no sense of urgency. The Minister has used words which suggest a Government commitment to the CMF, as he always does when he is talking about defence, but as always those words are not action - they are a substitute for action. He has announced a few minor decisions and he has given a strong commitment to the reorganisation proposals, but on the most important proposals he is silent. It is easy to understand why. Those proposals cost money. It is easy enough to accept recommendations which do not cost money, but these ones in relation to conditions of service cost money, and money is something that this Government is not prepared to find for defence.
The reorganisation and amalgamation proposals are controversial and require mature consideration and consultation. The proposals on conditions of service are not controversial and are absolutely vital if the CMF is to get the numbers to make any organisation work - whether it is the one proposed in this report or the existing one. Yet the Government is completely silent after waiting for 18 months and doing nothing. It has not even done what would normally be done to keep up with adjustments in conditions of service. How much longer will the Government remain silent? Until it announces decisions the CMF will continue to bleed to death, despite the Minister’s brave words. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable members I present the following report prepared by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads:
Assessment of Freeway Plans- State Capital Cities -1974
I seek leave to make a very short statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In March last year I requested the Chairman of the Bureau of Roads to make an assessment on the need for the freeway systems currently proposed or being pursued in the capital cities of Australia. Members of the House will be well aware that for some time now I have been a strong critic of the inner city freeway schemes, particularly those of Sydney and Melbourne. Prior to the last election I found it difficult to discover any in depth review of the freeway schemes which were causing concern to so many people. Accordingly, when I became a Minister, I initiated several studies. The report before the House today is a result of one of these studies.
I was concerned to initiate this assessment because it seemed to me that the priorities on which the designs for many freeways had been prepared were contrary to the priorities of the present Australian Government. This Government does not want to see a continuing build-up of the central business district in our major capital cities. This Government wants to use urban transport patterns to encourage the growth of new sub-centres within the existing metropolitan areas. This Government is opposed to the destruction of large parts of the inner city where there remains good housing stock. I will leave the statement there because I have little voice, but plenty of heart. I present the following paper:
Commonwealth Bureau of Roads: Report - Ministerial Statement, 4 April 1974
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Sinclair) adjourned.
– I present the report together with the minutes of proceedings from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Privileges in connection with the matter of the letter fraudulently written in the name of the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) published in the ‘Sun NewsPictorial’ on 6 December 1973.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That consideration of the report be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Monday next at 11 a.m., or such time thereafter as Mr Speaker may take the Chair.
Bill presented by Mr Charles Jones, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Bill is to honour the promise made by the Australian Government to accept a share in the responsibility for the public transport systems of Australian cities. It seeks to give effect to an Agreement between the Australian Government and the States to undertake improvement projects for the public transport systems of the major cities of Australia. The Bill is a milestone in the history of transport in this country, marking as it does the first allocation of finance by a Federal government for State urban transport systems. It is to the credit of this Government that in our first 18 months of office we have taken action aimed at a major Australian Government injection of finance to revitalise transport within our cities. It is to the everlasting discredit of the honourable gentlemen opposite who sat on this side of the House for 23 years ignoring the plight of our cities, and allowing the transport systems which daily serve twothirds of the population of Australia to become so run down that they are used only when the public has no. alternative.
Under the States Grants Bill an amount of S71.91m is appropriated for expenditure on urban public transport projects commencing in 1973/74. As the Treasurer (Mr Crean) stated in his Budget Speech last year it is intended that these amounts will increase rapidly in the future. The actual amounts to be expended in future years will be determined in the context of the Budget and included in annual appropriations.
In many overseas countries with comparable standards to Australia it has long been accepted that central governments must be involved in the provision of public transport services. In the United States the Federal Government provides up to 80 per cent of the cost of projects aimed at improving transport services. In Great Britain the Government provides up to 75 per cent of the capital cost of transport improvement projects and in West Germany the Federal Government sets aside 40 per cent of additional fuel taxes imposed in 1967 for this purpose. It is tragic that past Australian governments have failed to accept their responsibility in this field. They hid behind the tired old argument that it was a State responsibility.
For years the present Opposition neglected the needs of the State public transport systems while pumping money into road systems. Public transport has been allowed to run down to a condition where it is now hardly a realistic alternative to private motor vehicle travel. This has led to a situation where cities are less attractive places in which to live and work, and where congested roads and air pollution are the norm rather than the exception.
This Government is intent on rectifying this appalling situation and in the terms of the Agreement will contribute two-thirds of the cost of projects approved for assistance. Unfortunately certain reservations have been expressed by some States about their ability to fund their one-third of the costs. As the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has stated, the Australian Government is prepared to accept the transfer of responsibility for States railway systems. When such transfers are effected the Australian Government will fund the total costs of improvements to these urban rail systems.
Our predecessors stand condemned for their lack of action to assist urban transport. During the 10 years to 1970-71 public capital expenditure on urban roads was over $l,850m, but in the same period the amount spent on capital improvements to government owned public transport services was only $200m. That is just 11 per cent of the funds provided for urban road development. Surely no one could claim this was a reasonable allocation of funds. It is neglect on a grand scale and this neglect is reflected in the usage of these services.
The number of passenger journeys on government operated public transport services declined from 1,122 million to 948 million, a fall of 16 per cent during the 10 year period from 1961-62 to 1970-71. As urban population increased from 5.7 million to 7.5 million over that time the actual number of journeys per capita on government operated public transport declined by a staggering 35 per cent. In 1970-71 itself, capital expenditure on urban public transport was $30m of which one-third was for the Eastern Suburbs Railway in Sydney and the Melbourne underground. Capital investment for those systems actually in operation represented the ‘massive’ investment of 2c per passenger journey.
I believe the rate of this decline in the standard of urban public transport has increased over recent times. Public transport operators are caught in a vicious circle. Declining patronage reduces revenue, and increases the losses, so fares are increased and/or services reduced. These actions cause more people to turn to alternative means of transport so further increasing the losses which operators sustain. Whilst details of losses of the railways urban passenger operations are not available, the sorry story of urban transport’s financial position is illustrated by the results of government bus and tram operations. Between 1961- 62 and 1970-71 the losses on these services in the capital cities rose from $8. 2m to $19. lm, an increase of 133 per cent.
The agreement which we are seeking to ratify has been produced as a result of extensive discussions at both ministerial and official level and takes account of the interests and rights of all parties. One of the practical features of the Agreement is that it ensures that there is scope for discussion on any issues that may arise between the Australian and State governments. Another major feature of the Agreement is the provision for Australian Government representation on State Government bodies concerned with transport forward planning and policy development. It is through this representation that we will be able to facilitate the interchange of ideas between the States which has been lacking in the past. We will ensure as far as practicable that there is no duplication of effort between States in the urban transport field and we will be exercising our responsibilities to the taxpayers of this country in the expenditure of their money. Through this representation we will also be able, as a complement to our broad urban strategies, to put clearly to the States our objectives in urban transport and to have them taken into account in the development of their programs. /
I have spoken about the need for a program such as the one this Government has initiated. I would now like to briefly describe the types of projects that will be undertaken. In March 1973 the States were requested to submit their proposed program of capital improvements for the 5 years to 1977-78. The approach adopted by the Australian Government was to consider only those projects that were proposed to commence in 1973-74. This approach wll enable the program to maintain flexibility. As our knowledge of urban transport services and the requirements of the travelling public is improved programs will be altered to take account of these requirements. In determining which projects would be supported for commencement in 1973-74, the Australian Government had to consider the allocation of funds in its overall budgetary context and the demands that the projects will place on other industries, particularly in the area of construction. One major deficiency throughout the urban systems is the age, almost antiquity, of rolling stock currently in use. Over 400 units, or 80 per cent, of the Sydney trains are over 45 years old, over 100 of the Melbourne trains are at least 45 years old and some were constructed last century. Approximately half of the Melbourne tram fleet of almost 700 vehicles is over 40 years old. The Australian Government has allocated $ 17.26m, or 55 per cent of its proposed 1973-74 expenditure for the acquisition of new rolling stock. The New South Wales Public Transport Commission will be able to purchase 52 new double-deck passenger rail cars. In Melbourne, as well as providing over $3.6m for improving passenger railway stock and $0.1 5m for new trams we will provide over $0.5m for the purchase of 30 buses, to replace vehicles presently in use which are over 20 years old - well past their normal economic life.
In Adelaide, Perth and Hobart the acquisition of new buses is a major item in the 1973-74 program. There are of course, many other projects which we are assisting, including the quadruplication of the railway line between Granville and Penrith, costing $ 17.2m, which will greatly improve services to a rapidly expanding part of Sydney. A number of additional tracks will be constructed in Melbourne in order to relieve congestion on the rail system. When completed this extra capacity will enable the number of express services operated to and from the outer suburban area to be increased. In Adelaide and Brisbane we will be assisting with the electrification of urban rail links. There will be continuing benefits in terms of reduced operating costs and more efficient railway services arising from these efforts. Separate busways and bus only lanes are to be constructed in Sydney and Perth and the facilities for waiting passengers will be improved in most cities.
I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the allocation of Australian Government funds to the cities. Very briefly, it shows that the allocation under the present scheme is $3 1.09m and that in subsequent years it will be $40.82m.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows):
These are only the projects commencing in 1973-74. I have already written to the State Ministers for Transport requesting that they submit the program of projects proposed for commencement in 1974-75. There is no doubt that our commitments will increase rapidly in ensuing years. Indeed before the end of this program in 1977-78 we may have new rapid transit systems under construction in one or more of our cities. Before any project is approved by the Australian Government we need to be assured that all aspects of the proposal have been considered. All major projects are subjected to economic analysis by the Bureau of Transport Economics. The BTE evaluations of projects include such factors as construction costs, operating costs, maintenance savings and benefits accruing through reduced travel time. Social and environmental factors will also be given full consideration in selecting projects the Australian Government will support. Such factors as air pollution, noise reduction, social dislocation, employment opportunities and the generation of waste materials will all be considered in deciding whether particular projects should be approved. Similarly, we will ensure that approved projects are compatible with longer range plans for urban and regional development. During my overseas trip in June last year I made a point of looking at urban transport systems in Europe, Canada, the United States and Japan. Having seen the efficiency of the more conventional services in Paris, Munich, Montreal and Philadelphia and having examined the operation of and ridden on the highly sophisticated Bay area rapid transit - BART - system in San Francisco I am convinced that the commuting public has been most shabbily treated in the past. With the injection of finance into public transport through this Agreement we will be able to rectify this wrong which was, to a large extent, perpetrated by the honourable gentlemen now occupying the Opposition benches. At the same time as we are upgrading present systems to an acceptable standard, we will be examining some of the more advanced technologies which are at present on the threshold of operational practicability. I am attracted to such transport forms as rapid and personal transit systems and to dial-a-bus or moving walkways. We will keep abreast of overseas developments to ensure that our urban transport systems once upgraded remain equal to the best in the world.
Our initiatives in the field of urban public transport are not restricted to the scope of this Bill. The Urban Public Transport (Research and Planning) Bill which is on the notice paper is complementary to the States Grants Bill and will cover the matter of financial assistance for the essential planning to enable the proper formulation of the assistance program. When the scheme to improve urban public transport was first announced in February 1973 a commitment was made to consider assistance for central city undergrounds and provincial centres. Whilst city undergrounds must be regarded as an integral part of the improvement of existing public transport systems, support could not be committed to these projects at that stage. I believe that it is essential that the Australian Government should not commit itself to providing assistance for these projects without proper investigations. These evaluations are even more necessary when the magnitude of the expenditure involved is considered. They must be undertaken if the Australian Government is to make effective use of the available resources. A similar position exists with provincial centres. The 3 centres involved with populations over 100,000 - Newcastle and Wollongong in N.S.W. and Geelong - are becoming more and more integrated with Sydney and Melbourne respectively. I consider that we could no more ignore these centres than, say, ignore the public transport needs of the western areas of Sydney and Melbourne. But again any commitment must be preceded by comprehensive investigations.
I have previously referred to overseas experience and the significant technological developments that have occurred. One means by which it is proposed that these developments be introduced to the Australian people as soon as possible will be the development of an Australian urban passenger train. The new rolling stock to be acquired for Sydney and Melbourne will be a significant improvement on the aged vehicles being replaced. It is for this reason that the Australian Government has agreed to support their acquisition during 1973-74. They do not, however, appear to represent the best which modern technology has to offer. An example of the factors which give rise to concern about the current designs is the question of acceleration rates, which have such an important influence on the schedule speeds of trains making frequent stops. Let us compare the acceleration rates of the new Sydney and Melbourne trains with the latest trains from overseas. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing these acceleration rates.
-Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– For the interest of honourable members I refer to the fact that new Melbourne trains have an acceleration rate of between 1.3 and 1.5 miles per hour per second. When one compares that with the BART system in San Francisco and the Lin.denwold line in Philadelphia, which have an acceleration rate of 3 miles per hour per second, one can see what the position really is. If the acceleration rates of local trains could be improved to a level comparable with the overseas systems to which I referred earlier there would be considerable benefit to passengers in the form of reduced travelling time. The amount of time saved would, of course, vary between journeys. Maximum benefits would occur on the services where there are frequent stops. Let us take as an example a regular train service between Parramatta and Redfern which stops at 13 stations on the 14- mile route. At present this journey takes over 40 minutes. With improved acceleration rates it would be possible to reduce the journey by 10 per cent, that is, to about 35 minutes.
With regard to passenger comfort and convenience, neither the Sydney nor Melbourne new trains appear to represent an optimum solution. They are a mixture of good and not so good features in terms of modern technology. If we are to move to a standard basic design for railway passenger rolling stock it is possible to do better than either of these 2 current designs. I accept that local factors may prevent us from developing a completely uniform train design for all capital cities. These include ‘loading gauge’ differences, station and signal block lengths, performance requirements and passenger trip patterns of the various systems which may warrant the development of differing capacities of vehicles. But the answer to these problems lies in having one basic design and some approved variations. It is for this reason that we are developing the Australian urban passenger train of which a prototype is expected to be operational by the end of next year.
The approach will not be restricted to improvements to the hardware of the vehicle. We will seek to have the improvements accompanied by timetable reliability, comfort, safety, co-ordination and business efficiency. Designers of the new train are examining the use of lightweight materials, improved acceleration and braking, automatic train control, reduction in noise and vibration, direct communication between riders, drivers and co ordinators, and automatic ticket vending. Systematic development of the urban rail systems is seen to be a key factor to success of the Australian urban passenger train project. The feasibility of operating the Australian urban passenger train on new networks in metropolitan areas would be examined. I announced on 20 February 1974 that an Australian consultancy group had been appointed to provide technical leadership to the project. A contract was signed on 26 March 1974 to initiate the study group.
Recently the Prime Minister wrote to the Premier of New South Wales proposing that the Australian Government construct a distinct rail system using the Australian urban passenger train based on Parramatta. This system would serve the rapidly developing areas of Hoxton Park, Carlingford, Epping and Castle Hill. Such a system would reinforce the development of Parramatta as a growth centre, and this is an important aspect of our urban strategy for the western suburbs of Sydney. We have acquired a site in Parramatta for the development of a major Australian Government complex. Proposals for the construction of buildings on that site are at present being considered by the Government. The proposed railway line to serve Parramatta would be 24 miles long and would cater for a work force which is expected to rise from its present level of some 12,000 to 100,000 by the end of the century. There would be no costs involved on this line for the New South Wales Government for, although New South Wales has been requested to operate the system, the Australian Government would meet any losses involved. The Premier has agreed to discuss this proposal and discussions have already commenced between Australian Government and State officials. I am hopeful that agreement will be quickly reached so that funds can be allocated for the commencement of work on the system in the 1974-75 program.
I have described a number of the Australian Government’s initiatives to meet the pressing need to improve the urban public transport systems of our cities. I must state that the Australian Government’s goal is not for public transport to provide the only means of urban transportation. Such an approach would be as lopsided as that which has developed through the indifference, if not active co-operation, of the previous Government. There will continue to be many journeys which public transport should not perform. Rather our aim is the rational development of urban public transport. Each form of transport operating in the urban areas should be encouraged to perform tasks for which it is the most suitable, that is, to handle the higher density, regularly travelled routes. By expanding the role of public transport within the total urban transport system a significant contribution will be made to the quality of life in our cities. This Bill represents the first necessary step towards achieving the goal of increased usage of public transport. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Charles Jones, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill complements the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Bill 1974 which I previously introduced into the House. The Bill authorises expenditure of $lm on grants to the States for research and planning projects related to urban public transport. Under the terms of the Bill the Australian Government will meet two-thirds of the cost of approved studies.
The tasks to be undertaken under the research and planning scheme will assist both the State and Australian governments in determining our approach to improving urban public transport. It is our stated policy that no one transport mode should receive particular advantage over another and these funds should assist in achieving this end. We expect that there shall now be a far more thorough examination of alternative transport solutions to particular problems and that the States will use this money to evaluate the latest advances in transport technology with a view to the eventual implementation of these advances.
In the past there has been an unfortunate lack of research in this area. Whilst the Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics have been established to undertake research into transport matters these bodies have not exclusively concentrated upon research into urban transport matters. Their tasks have extended over the entire ambit of transport and consequently there is still much valuable research which needs to be undertaken in the field of urban transport. It must be appreciated that the States with their operating expertise are in the best position to undertake a number of the tasks that should be done. Unfortunately they have been prevented from doing this in the past because of a lack of finance.
The funds will also enable the States to keep abreast of developments in such transport technologies as personal rapid transport and dialabus which are presently on the threshold of operational practicability. Provision of planning funds will allow decisions to be made on a more rational basis than is presently the case, particularly in relation to the projects the States propose under the terms of the urban public transport assistance program.
It is envisaged that the investigations will extend beyond the examination of hardware proposals into such matters as software systems, including the examination of management techniques, and to studies of the relationship between modes. The long term results of this expenditure will be seen in an improved service to the public, through the more rapid introduction of new technologies, and through the most efficient allocation of resources within the public transport sector. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 20 March (vide page 650), on motion by Dr Patterson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– My colleague the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair) will be speaking on this Bill particularly in relation to matters raised by the transfer of fisheries power to Papua New Guinea and on what will flow from that transfer of power. This legislation is, of course, part of the transfer of power from Australia to Papua New Guinea, firstly through selfgovernment and later through independence. This Bill grants power to the Papua New Guinea Government to administer its own fisheries legislation. It is therefore all part df the transfer of legislative and administrative functions to that Government. In fact-
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I think that before we enter further into this debate we ought to ascertain the terms of reference of the debate. This Bill is designed simply to legalise a de facto situation relating to the definition of a foreign boat and whether it is under Australian jurisdiction or whether it is under Papua New Guinea jurisdiction in relation to waters in which the Papua New Guinea boats fish. I suggest that the debate be restricted to the amending provisions of the Bill.
– Order! I have been examining the Bill. There is no doubt that the Bill refers to the problem of definition of a foreign boat in the existing legislation. It was pointed out by the Minister in his second reading speech that, without amendment, during the period between selfgovernment and independence, Papua New Guinea boats would continue to be subject to Australian jurisdiction while in Australian proclaimed waters. Obviously this legislation is proposed in order to overcome the question of the definition of a foreign boat. I intend to restrict the debate to that subject.
– With great respect, on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, I assume that you have read the Minister’s second reading speech.
– Go ahead.
– Am I right in that assumption?
– That is correct.
– I refer to the first paragraph of the Minister’s second reading speech which states:
Honourable members will recall that on 23 August last year the then Minister for External Territories introduced the Papua New Guinea (Application of Laws) Bill. This legislation received royal assent on 30 October 1973. It enabled a smooth transfer of powers to Papua New Guinea which was selfgoverning from 1 December 1973. Some powers, other than defence and foreign affairs have not been transferred to the Papua New Guinea Government as the Application of Laws Act alone is not the appropriate vehicle. Powers under the Fisheries Act 19S2-73 are in this category. The Bill now before the House will enable Papua New Guinea to administer its own fisheries legislation and, I am informed, the Papua New Guinea Government wishes to do this as soon as possible. A Fisheries Act has been passed . . .
-Order! I have already made the point quite clear that I intend to restrict the debate to the matters covered by the legislation. I assure the honourable member for Kooyong that I have read the Minister’s second reading speech, despite his suggestion and inference that I had not. If the honourable member for Kooyong examines that speech very carefully he will note that the Minister said:
Powers under the Fisheries Act 1952-73 are in this category. The Bill now before the House will enable Papua New Guinea to administer its own fisheries legislation . . .
It is in order for that matter to be discussed because it comes within the province of the Bill.
– Thank you.
– Furthermore the Minister’s second reading speech - having read that speech and having checked the Bill at the same time, I say that this is undoubtedly the content of the Bill - states:
This Bill overcomes the problem of definition of foreign boat’ in the existing legislation. Without this amendment, during the period between selfgovernment and independence, Papua New Guinea boats would continue to be subject to Australian jurisdiction while in Australian proclaimed waters.
I intend also to allow discussion on that matter as it also comes within the jurisdiction of the Bill.
– I am most grateful to you, Mr Deputy Speaker. The reason why I asked you, Mr Deputy Speaker, whether you had read the second reading speech of the Minister - 1 shall take only a short time clarifying this point - is that the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) had implied that all the Bill referred to was foreign boats and changes of definition in the existing legislation. As you, Mr Deputy Speaker, have indicated the Bill involves more than that. It involves also the transfer of power.
– Further to my point of order, what I said was that the Bill before the House seeks to legalise what in fact is a de facto situation. Papua New Guinea boats are now regarded as foreign boats.
– That is right.
– The Papua New Guinea Government in fact wants its boats to be treated as foreign boats. Without the passage of this legislation the Papua New Guinea boats would be subject to Australian law in international waters.
– That is right. Dr Patterson - This amending legislation in effect gives powers to the Papua New Guinea
Government in respect of its own boats in international waters. Papua New Guinea boats will not be under Australian Government jurisdiction, not only in Australian waters but also in any other part of the world.
– That is right.
-Order! As I have already stated, I intend to restrict discussion in this debate to matters which come within the province of the Bill. These include the question of the definition of foreign boats and the fact that the Bill would enable the Papua New Guinea Government to administer its own fisheries legislation. I can assure the Minister, for Northern Development that I will be listening very carefully to this debate to ensure that no speaker departs in any way from the content of the Bill.
– On the point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, I think it needs to be recognised that this legislation embraces the transfer to the Papua New Guinea Government of all the powers that are contained in the Fisheries Act 1952-73. I appreciate full well that you are seeking to contain the debate within the ambit of the Bill and the Minister’s second reading speech, but I suggest that that ambit is extraordinarily broad. After all, the Bill itself is part of a series of Bills which are those necessary to transfer powers from the Australian Government to the Government of Papua New Guinea. Therefore, they cover the whole of the field of the Australian legislation plus the field that will be embraced by the Papua New Guinea legislation. I am apprehensive lest in my understanding of your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, you should unduly restrict the debate. I submit that if we are to talk about the fisheries legislation of the 2 countries, as the Bill purports to do in its transference of powers, it is an extraordinarily broad ambit within which the debate can be conducted, and not a narrow ambit.
-I assure the Deputy Leader of the Country Party that he need not be apprehensive. I will be very careful to ensure that I do not over-restrict the debate, but at the same time I will also make sure that I keep the debate to the particular contents of this legislation. Furthermore, the Deputy Leader of the Country Party mentioned that this Bill is one of a series of Bills to be presented to the House in the future. That is correct. At this time there is only one Bill before the House and that is the only Bill which will be discussed at this stage. No hypothetical future legislation will be discussed.
– I wish we could get on with it.
-Order! I call the honourable member for Kooyong whose time has been greatly wasted.
– Indeed it has. Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was using a similar introduction, but with a different form of words and perhaps with a little more detailed background of my own, to remind the House that involved in the transfer of powers to Papua New Guinea was the introduction of legislation in August last year by the then Minister for External Territories, as he was called until 1 December 1973. That was the Papua New Guinea (Application of Laws) Bill. That Bill provided for the formal transfer of powers in a number of spheres where they applied. But some powers, as the Minister himself indicated, such as defence and foreign affairs, have not been transferred to the Papua New Guinea Government yet as the Papua New Guinea (Application of Laws) Bill alone would not be the appropriate vehicle to do so. Similar to the question of defence and foreign affairs there is the question of power over and control of fisheries. The Papua New Guinea (Application of Laws) Bill was not the appropriate vehicle so this Bill, introduced by the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) is the appropriate vehicle not only for redefining the question of boats but also for transferring the fisheries power to the Government of Papua New Guinea. I want primarily to refer to the latter question. It is part and parcel of the transfer of powers from Australia to Papua New Guinea. What the Minister has said about de facto power is correct in many areas. The Papua New Guinea Government during this period of self-government has been acting without sufficient powers over waters and fisheries, although it has been able to enter into negotiations with companies for tuna fishing and other activities involving investment but it has done so in association with Australia. This legislation makes it clear that the power is transferred to Papua New Guinea itself.
I should like, of course, at another moment of time to raise the question of the transfer of powers related to foreign affairs and defence, but I will not do so during the debate on this
Bill. I shall talk about the transfer of powers effected by this legislation. I stress that it is symptomatic of the whole program that was determined during our period in Government. In relation to fisheries there were discussions between my honourable, and he is entitled also to be called learned, colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair) and myself - he as Minister for Primary Industry and myself as Minister for External Territories - with the Somare Government. We are not trying to take any credit but we point out the historical movement because it was the Liberal-Country Party Government which reached agreement with the Somare Government on the date of self-government to which that country moved. That date was no magical date. Powers were being accepted by the Papua New Guinea Government and there was a smooth and orderly movement towards self-government. This movement has continued since the Labor Government came to office.
Quite apart from the transfer of fisheries powers is the problem of a definition of a foreign boat. This matteris touched on in this legislation. The Bill is designed to overcome the problem to which the Minister referred. What is the definition of a foreign boat? A provision in the Bill will amend the existing legislation because the present position is unacceptable to Papua New Guinea which wishes its fishing vessels to be treated in the same manner as other foreign boats. Of course, what arises in any discussion of fisheries - unless fish have developed legs and are able to walk on land - is the whole question of the sea between southern Papua and the northern coast of Australia. What is involved is the contentious question of the border between Papua New Guinea and Australia. Evidently proposals have been put by the Premier of Queensland to the Papua New Guinea Government. He has suggested how the Governments of Australia, Queensland and Papua New Guinea and the people of the Torres Strait Islands can resolve this continuing problem between Papua New Guinea and Australia. The Somare Government, through its Chief Minister, has rightly said with respect to the proposal of the Queensland Premier that it can negotiate only with the Australian Government. Where the delinquency comes in so far as the Australian Government is concerned is that shortly after it was elected to power the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) indicated that he had power under the Constitution unilaterally to transfer that power.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The New Guinea-Australia border has no more relevance to this Bill than New Guinea boats fishing in the Black Sea, in Russia or elsewhere. The Bill changes a definition to enable Papua New Guinea fishing boats to be classified as foreign boats by the Australian Government.
Order! I have already outlined my view. I have afforded the honourable member a deal of latitude to ensure that there was no undue restriction on the debate. I have mentioned what the provisions of the Bill cover and have indicated that the debate should be restricted to those matters. Undoubtedly this Bill does not deal with the question of the Papua New Guinea border or with negotiations in respect of that matter. That question involves a different portfolio. Accordingly any reference to this matter should not be dealt with during the course of this debate.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I speak briefly to the point of order. I think it is necessary that there should be a definition of where Australian jurisdiction begins and where Papua New Guinea jurisdiction begins for the purposes of this legislation. I, of course, am speaking to the point of order. I want to advert to this question in my own comments later. I believe it is necessary for there to be sufficient latitude granted in this debate to enable speakers to discuss the question of the border between Papua New Guinea and Australia. After all this legislation is designed to pass to another country - an about-to-be independent Papua New Guinea - the right to adjudicate on boats that are fishing in waters which at the moment are said to be territorial waters of Australia but as to which there is a contention that they may well be territorial waters of Papua New Guinea. The whole substance of this legislation is whether in future Papua New Guinea or Australia will be able to enact legislation and to act within legislation pertaining to controlling fisheries in that area. I realise that this is a matter of some difficulty; nonetheless it is a vital matter if we are to consider adequately the implications of this question of a transfer of powers pertaining to fisheries jurisdiction.
I believe it is necessary that sufficient latitude should be given to the honourable member for Kooyong to enable him to canvass some of the issues regarding the border between the 2 countries.
– There is a border at present. It has not been altered.
-Order! I can only accept that comment as a point of order. I will deal with one point of order at a time. I thought I made it clear, and I thought it was agreed by the honourable member for Kooyong, that the Bill basically covers 2 important issues, namely, the question of enabling Papua New Guinea to administer its own fisheries legislation and, secondly, to overcome the problem of the definition of foreign boats as it appears in existing fisheries legislation. As I have pointed out, I do not want to unduly restrict debate but I think it is not proper to enter into a debate on the pros and cons of where the border of Papua New Guinea and Australia should be. Obviously this matter does not come within this legislation. Accordingly I intend to listen carefully to the debate. If the honourable member for Kooyong starts dealing with a matter that is within the province of the Department of Foreign Affairs - I assume it could be the basis of some future legislation for some future debate - naturally I will have to rule that he is out of order. I hope that he will not do this.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. My time has been severely cut into. After weeks of preparation of material I find myself in the frustrating position now of not being able to develop cases that I wanted to develop. I want to make some points in regard to the border between Papua New Guinea and Queensland and I do this specifically in relation to your point, Mr Deputy Speaker. I accept your definition. In his second reading speech the Minister said:
This Bill overcomes the problem of definition of foreign boat in the existing legislation. Without this amendment during the period between selfgovernment and Independence, Papua New Guinea boats would continue to be subject to Australian jurisdiction while in Australian proclaimed waters.
What are Australian proclaimed waters? They are the waters which are at present controlled by Australia having regard to the duly designated boundary between Papua and Queensland. Therefore there is no other conclusion than that when a Bill relates to Australian proclaimed waters I must be able to talk about the proclamation of those waters as they have been so proclaimed for many decades. The question that arises is whether there is a difference of opinion between Papua New Guinea and ourselves over the extent to which we should restrain our proclamation over those waters and the extent to which we should move the boundary. Only this week the Queensland Government put up a proposal. The Commonwealth Government has not responded to it but the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea has himself said that he must deal with the Commonwealth Government. My argument with this Government is not at the root of independence and transfer of power -
– I raise a point of order. We are dealing with the definition not of fishing grounds but of fishing boats.
– A boat has to operate in water.
– If I may I will make my point of order, with due deference to the honourable member for Kooyong. Whether a fishing boat is regarded as a foreign boat is dependent upon its port of origin and not the waters in which it fishes. A boat stationed in Papua New Guinea will be regarded as a foreign vessel. The definition of whether a boat is a foreign boat has nothing to do with the water in which it operates. It depends on the location of its home port.
– The honourable member for Wide Bay has said that this legislation deals with fishing boats, which it undoubtedly does, and not fishing grounds. That is quite true; there is no doubt about that. This Bill enables the Papua New Guinea Government to administer its own fisheries powers. It has already passed in its own Parliament an Act to cover its own fisheries powers. In effect this Bill will allow a smooth transition of powers. But it does cover the operation of boats and as the Minister said in his second reading speech:
Without this amendment, during the period between self-government and independence, Papua New Guinea boats would continue to be subject to Australian jurisdiction while in Australian proclaimed waters.
Accordingly, I would have to say that whilst this legislation covers boats it also covers the operation of boats in Australian proclaimed waters. I also remind the honourable member for Kooyong that the question of the Papua New Guinea border does not come within the provisions of this legislation, as I stated previously. That is anther issue altogether and would be subject to future debates in this Parliament. I ask the honourable member to refrain from infringing on that ruling.
– I raise a point of order. I thought that your previous ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, would make it unnecessary for me to take this point of order. I come back to the very quotation which you yourself used. The Minister in his second reading speech referred to jurisdiction over proclaimed waters. If we do not know what are the proclaimed waters, where they start and where they finish, how can we debate the subject of jurisdiction? The Minister referred to it. My point of order is that we are entitled to refer to it too.
Br Patterson - Speaking to the point of order, the proclamation of waters is not just related to Australia. If we accept the logic of the honourable member he could speak about the operation of New Guinea boats in the Hudson Bay area. This amending legislation simply allows New Guinea boats to operate anywhere they like under New Guinea law, not under Australian law. That is the purpose of the legislation. The Bill sets out the definition of ‘foreign boat’ and under this legislation a foreign boat comes within the jurisdiction of the New Guinea Government, not the Australian Government. It is irrelevant to talk about the New GuineaAustralian border or whether Hudson Bay is within international waters or anything like that whatsoever.
– You are deliberately stopping me from putting justifiable points on this /natter.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! I will try to clarify this matter. Let me put it in this way. Without a doubt the Bill now before the House, as stated by the Minister in the second reading speech, will enable Papua New Guinea to establish its own fisheries powers. It is proper for honourable members to discuss under this Bill matters or problems of fishing in waters which are related to this legislation.
– I have 3 minutes left.
-I do not think I have held up the honourable member. Honourable members from his own side of the House have taken most of the points of order. For the reason I put the Bill covers the 2 points I have already mentioned and any other matters or problems in respect of the fisheries legislation of the 2 countries.
– It is quite clear that the Minister has not put to the House an indication as to how we can debate this thoroughly, but I do not want to bog down my time. Almost half an hour has been taken up already and I have only two or three minutes left. The effect of the Government’s proposals relating to Australian proclaimed waters moving either south or north is in fact a continuance of the status quo; and that is not what Papua New Guinea wants nor is it what Australia ought to want. At least the Premier of Queensland has now put up a proposition to alleviate the difficulties in this area. The retention of the status quo is contrary to emerging opinions on international law regarding the rights of coastal countries to the resources of the seabed adjacent to their coasts. Papua New Guineans may wish to fish in these areas but when they push their boats out at low tide and travel a distance of only a few hundred yards in some areas they are in Australian waters. That has application here together with the international argument not only over the question of territorial jurisdiction but also the control of vessels in territorial waters. This legislation alone will not clarify that position. Clearly matters pertaining to the Papua New Guinea border will be taken to the United Nations and this Government will be condemned not just for curtailing an opportunity for me to put viewpoints on this matter but also for not seeking to find a proper solution to the problem itself.
I wanted to discuss the entire background of Australia’s jurisdiction in this area which the Minister describes in his speech as Australian proclaimed waters. As far back as 1 885 this matter was regarded by the British authorities in Papua as being unfair. Indeed in 1896 the British Government in an order in council adopted a new line but it was not put into legislative form because federation took place here. Visiting United Nations commissions, the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs of this Australian Parliament in 1966 and this new Australian Government have indicated that there ought to be changes but the last named has done nothing about it. So I wanted to develop the case that this procrastination will find its way into the councils of the United Nations after independence. It was legitimate to raise it because what is involved in this legislation is not just the transfer of fisheries control but the transfer of legislative and administrative functions to the Papua New Guinea Government and it relates to the jurisdiction over proclaimed waters - what we have referred to here as Australian proclaimed waters between Papua New Guinea and Australia. I would hate to think that, because my time has deliberately been curtailed, these points will not be made.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Fisheries (Papua New Guinea Boats) Bill is very simple. I did not think that consideration of it would take up much time of the House, but I put my name down to speak in this debate because I thought that honourable members on the other side might take the opportunity to introduce extraneous matters - no matter how important - which are not dealt with in the Bill. This Bill goes along with the wishes of Papua New Guinea, which wishes its fishing boats to be treated as foreign boats. So why should we quibble with the Bill as it is?
International waters are another question altogether. I knew that my friend the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) would try to develop an argument about where the border lies. The border has not been shifted; therefore, the waters remain as they were before. If this question is brought into the House it will be discussed. I agree with you, Mr Deputy Speaker, when you say that this Bill is very limited indeed. Consideration of it does not require anybody to discuss anything but the vessels fishing in these waters. The de facto situation will be legalised. This is what Papua New Guinea wants. Why should the Australian Government not conform with its wishes if we think they are in the interest of both countries, as we do. Papua New Guinea boats have been fishing in the area for many years; we have never restricted them. International waters are determined at present, and we should not be discussing whether we should alter the boundaries. I agree with the Bill and I support it.
– The Opposition supports this Bill, but it is concerned that in a discussion about fishing there should be a recognition of the implications of the transfer of powers, which the Fisheries (Papua New Guinea Boats) Bill is all about. There is certainly a specific exclusion of boats which are defined within the Australian legislation as ‘foreign boats’. It is intended to make sure that the foreign boat category includes boats of Papua New Guinea in the same way as Australian legislation now excludes all other boats. The actual reason for this legislation has been canvassed by the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) in his second reading speech. That is that the Bill is part of the transfer of powers to Papua New Guinea towards its exercising of the complete functions of a self governing independent country as from 1 December 1974.
It is important, however, that in considering the implications of fisheries legislation that we should first of all register that the fishing industry has 2 facets. Firstly, it is a small man’s industry. It has traditionally, as a small man’s industry, been the source of protein and of a significant part of the diet of many coastal peoples living around the world. Secondly, it is an industry which is progressively moving into a far more technical and sophisticated form, in the sense that the boats that are being used to exploit the waters of the world are becoming larger and processing plants are involving considerable capital expenditure. The capital expenditure means that the catch intake is significant and quite often can be prejudicial to the continued operation of the small boat fishermen who are fishing in order to keep their own communities alive, to feed their own communities and to -maintain their traditional way of life.
So these 2 fields of fishing can come into conflict. In passing the powers from the Australian Parliament to that of Papua New Guinea the legislation does not canvass the implications of fishing and the intertwining of fishing rights in areas that are adjacent to both countries. The Bill does refer to Australian jurisdiction being maintained in Australian proclaimed waters. Indeed, the necessity for the legislation to recognise licences granted under Australian legislation for boats registered in Papua New Guinea comes out of the specific exclusion that is within clause 4 of the Bill. The agreement arrived at in initial discussions that took place between Chief Minister Michael Somare, my friend the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), who spoke a few moments ago, and I for the purpose of trying to establish a basis by which Papua New Guinea boats could operate in Australian proclaimed waters has largely been adopted in subsequent discussions between the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and Chief Minister Somare.
It is a difficult area because the boats that are operating from Papua New Guinea waters fall into the 2 classes to which I have referred. There is no dispute about the rights of the indigenous Papuan New Guinea fishermen operating in waters in the Torres Strait and elsewhere where the 2 countries traditionally or Papua New Guineans in particular and people from the Torres Strait Islands have exercised their fishing interests. Of course the very nature of their fishing is somewhat primitive by contrast with the more sophisticated means of modern trawlers. The difficulties that have emerged have come out of the very natural desire that Papua New Guinea has had to see its fishing responsibilities extended into a viable commercial arena. Some Middle East capital has been invested in fishing operations in Papua New Guinea. There have been some difficulties in that in our Australian legislation we sought to maintain - when we were in office - an Australian identity in the exploitation of waters adjacent to Australia and there has been some dispute between Australian fishing trawlers and those of other countries.
We were conscious in the discussions with Papua New Guinea that it was necessary that we try to meet the twin objectives of encouraging Papua New Guinea’s commercial development of a fishing industry on a larger scale, but equally of not prejudicing the operation of Australian fishing boats. A reasonable compromise has been reached and I hope that in the operation of future agreements that will be necessary for fishing in Australian proclaimed waters it will continue to be possible for a reconciliation of the difficulties that we see in meeting these twin objectives, namely, that of encouraging Papua New Guinea’s commercial development and a commercial fishing industry without prejudicing the operation of Australian fishing boats, particularly in the Gulf of Carpenteria.
Fishing in the Gulf has a far wider connotation than perhaps the word indicates. The most important part of the fishing industry in the Gulf of Carpentaria is not concerned so much with fish as fish, as it is with the various species of prawns that cyclically are available in the waters of the Gulf. Unfortunately the actual pattern of availability of prawns is such that, as on land, there have been shortfalls as there have been very bountiful years. The industry at the moment is still not certain why there should be this cyclical pattern of excess and then famine. Generally better catches of banana, king and tiger prawns are made when there are very wet seasons. The general nature of the fishing industry and the fact that the prawns are very readily salable have meant that the industry in the Gulf of Carpentaria has attracted a good deal of investment. Much of that investment has been subject to very severe flooding in recent months and as a result quite extensive losses have been incurred by Australians operating in the area and by those who have funds invested there. While there is the prospect of a good prawn year ahead as a result of a wet season, the nature of the industry does create difficulties in terms of determining how we are to ensure best the balance of utilisation of these resources.
This legislation, of course, does not encroach specifically on the problem of fishing in the Gulf of Carpentaria. But I did want to advert to fishing in this area because I believe that we have an interest in Australia in helping Papua New Guinea towards the establishment of a commercial industry. I hope that account will be taken of the difficulties that are already facing those who are operating in the northern waters of Australia when licences are granted for prawn works or fish processing works. I hope that these works might be rather complementary to the existing plants and perhaps competitive with them. This, of course, is always a problem where 2 countries share waters and fishing areas. It is a particular problem because of the dispute which still exists between Papua New Guinea and Australia over the future territorial boundaries between the 2 countries. I share the concern of my colleague, the honourable member for Kooyong, that there is still no long term resolution of this issue. I hope that such a resolution might be capable of being reached because the passage of this legislation highlights one of the consequences of there being no long term resolution of the territorial boundary question. I know and respect the attitudes and views that are held in Queensland on this question. I have a good deal of sympathy for them. Certainly the people in the Torres Strait Islands have a continuing and very real interest in being confident that the territorial question will not remain unresolved forever. Rather they would hope that it can be settled in this present form and that it will be acceptable. This is an area in which the Government needs to take the initiative. This is not a matter for resolution by the Queensland Government or the Government of Papua New
Guinea. It is something which needs to be resolved if the transfer of powers by this fisheries legislation is to be meaningful.
The final thing I want to say is that the transfer of fisheries legislation is virtually an administrative and detailed measure that does not appear on the face of it to have any great consequence. Yet I believe that the fishing industry generally is one which probably has a greater future in this part of the world than almost any other industry. We have become accustomed to hearing and reading of fishing boats which are owned by countries of the northern hemisphere such as Taiwan, Japan and Russia. We are aware that much of the knowledge of the fish resources of the Pacific is or has been developed as a result of work and research undertaken by scientists from those countries. I think it is important that we recognise that a great deal needs to be done for a country like Papua New Guinea, as for Australia, to ensure that there is adequate knowledge of what the fish, sea and ocean resources might be before the full advantages of this other form of natural resource can be exploited.
I hope that in the transfer of power there will continue to be co-operation in the field of developing an understanding of what ocean resources exist, to what extent they might be available for exploitation and how they can be best turned to the commercial advantage of both Papua New Guinea and Australia. This is a field of which I think we in Australia have been neglectful in the past. I think that we need to know a great deal more about both the ocean and fish resources. I think that apart from the general aid that we provide for Papua New Guinea, meaningful financial assistance can be provided specifically in this field, in order to ensure that both countries understand their ocean resources and that both countries can utilise them in terms of the exercise of their own sovereign responsibilities - that which is about to be exercised as a result of the passage of this Bill and that which is still exercised and will continue to be exercised by Australian governments in the exercise of their residual fishing responsibility within our own constitutional responsibility and within our own territorial waters and proclaimed waters.
It is of course also true that as far as ocean resources are concerned the question of the rights of countries which have extensive ocean boundaries is under discussion within various law of the sea conferences that are being conducted around the world. I believe that Australia and Papua New Guinea would have a common interest in ensuring the maximum possible jurisdiction over fishing within this legislation. I think that for some years Chile has propounded a submission suggesting that the old 12-mile fishing zone might be extended to some 200 miles. Whatever the resolution of the extent of territorial waters, I believe that it is important for countries like Papua New Guinea and Australia not only to gain the maximum jurisdiction over these waters but also to ensure that they take advantage of the fishing rights within those waters. As I have said, it is also important that Papua New Guinea and Australia maintain a research program and a co-operative effort. I believe that we have to be very conscious of the effect that any licenses which are granted for the commercial exploitation of fishing waters, particularly those Australian proclaimed waters to the north in which a commercial industry operating in Papua New Guinea might wish to fish, might have on the interests of indigenous Australian fishermen. This is an area which generates a great deal of emotion. Many people who operate fishing boats in our waters have come from small buildings. In many cases they have invested their life savings in trawlers. Theirs is a hard life. Accordingly, this is an area in which I think a good deal of sympathy and understanding is necessary in the administration and interpretation of laws. I believe that the transfer of powers therefore, while nominal in form, is very substantive in content. The Bill simply transfers to Papua New Guinea a responsibility which in the past we have exercised. Of course, there can be no debate, either on the reasons for the transfer or on the consequences of it. But in the exercise of the responsibility which henceforth will be that of the Government of Papua New Guinea there is I think a necessity for both of our countries to maintain the closest possible liaison to ensure that the fishing and ocean resources can be exploited to the mutual advantage of both of our countries.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the Prime Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I was misrepresented by the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock). The honourable member stated that the Government had done nothing since coming to office to resolve the border dispute between Australia and Papua New Guinea. Honourable members will remember that for many years in Opposition - at least half a dozen years - I raised this matter. On IS December 1972 when I was half the Government I wrote to the Premier of Queensland suggesting that officials of Papua New Guinea, Queensland and the Australian Government hold discussions on this issue. The Premier replied that he could not see that any good purpose would be served by such a meeting. Since then ministerial and official discussions have been held between the Australian and Papua New Guinea Governments. There have been consultations with the Torres Strait Islanders, and discussions have been arranged between the Torres Strait Islanders and the coastal people of Papua New Guinea. Arising out of these discussions, proposals have been put forward for an agreement between governments which would protect the environment of the Torres Strait Islands and the way of life of the Islanders and the coastal people. Queensland officials have been kept informed of these proposals. The issues have not yet been discussed between the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments.
The Australian Government is hopeful that the concept of an environmentally protected area can contribute to a satisfactory settlement. When this week the Premier of Queensland proposed to telephone the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea about the matter, the Chief Minister got in touch with me and I encouraged a discussion between him and the Premier. He realises that it is not possible for Papua New Guinea to reach a separate agreement with Queensland. When Papua New Guinea becomes independent, presumably before the end of this year, negotiations will take place - as international law negotiations can only take place - between the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments only. However, in view of the Premier’s changed attitude about discussions with the Papua New Guinea Government, I have again invited him to take part in official discussions with the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments with a view to reaching an agreed settlement.
– This Bill transferring jurisdiction for Papua New Guinea fishing boats is relatively short but its implications are considerable. It is only in fairly recent years that Australia has become aware of the fisheries resources around its coast. It is only fairly recently that we have discovered some of the most profitable resources, such as the prawning ventures which were referred to earlier in this debate. Like Australia, Papua New Guinea is an island, and many of the comments which apply to Australia apply also to Papua New Guinea. Just as in this country the fishing industry is one of the most rapidly developing primary industries, so I am sure the development and exploitation of the fisheries resources will be important to Papua New Guinea. Historically the industry in Papua New Guinea has been a fairly simple one - simple in the sense of the equipment which has been used until now. As in Australia there is a growing emphasis on larger vessels and more sophisticated equipment, this change in emphasis will apply to Papua New Guinea, although perhaps not to quite the same degree. Gradually the purchase of more sophisticated equipment and the training and the experience which the fishermen will receive will enable them to exploit their own fisheries resources to a greater extent than has been possible previously. Of course historically these resources have been a considerable source of protein in Papua New Guinea, and that will continue. But if experience along the northern Australian coast is any guide - I am sure that it is - there must be considerable opportunities for Papua New Guinea to develop and expand an export industry in fisheries products. (Quorum formed.)
As I was saying, there will be every opportunity for Papua New Guinea through development of its fisheries resources not only to make a valuable contribution to its own food supplies but also, if experience in northern Australian waters is a guide - I said I thought it would be a guide - to develop export possibilities for the fishing industry. I hope that the eventual result will be that this industry will make a great contribution to the economy of that country. Certainly in the earlier days of independence Papua New Guinea will have difficulty finding the research funds which will be necessary to determine all that needs to be known about its fishing grounds, the types of fish available, their habits and so on. It is also true that a great deal of the research in Australian fishery resources is being carried out in waters adjacent to Papua New Guinea “waters. My friend and colleague the Deputy Leader of the
Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair) mentioned this in his speech. With all that research going on up there, basically for our own purposes, I hope that as results that could be valuable to Papua New Guinea become available the Austraiian Government will see to it that that country is kept informed of the latest results of our research in those waters so that in turn Papua New Guinea can benefit from it. No doubt eventually Papua New Guinea will initiate projects of its own, but in the early days I believe that Australia can make a valuable contribution without any additional expenditure of money - merely by seeing that what benefits we have gained from our research are, if applicable, communicated to Papua New Guinea.
One of the problems that I imagine Papua New Guinea will face is that of meeting the export standards of many countries. Here again I imagine that our own Department of Primary Industry and perhaps the Department of Health could be of considerable assistance in advising Papua New Guinea on standards required in processing plants and the testing of samples to make sure that they comply with international world health standards. Inevitably that will be an area of difficulty for Papua New Guinea in its early years of self government.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– The Bill before the House is of very great significance because it facilitates the full administrative arrangements necessary in the self-government of Papua New Guinea in respect of the fishing industry. I am sure that this House would want to assist the Government of Papua New Guinea to the greatest possible extent in the smoothest possible transference of powers of this kind. The fishing industry has particular significance to Papua New Guinea. Firstly, there is the circumstance that fishing is really part and parcel of the sustenance of very many people around the coastline of Papua New Guinea, and in particular it is of great importance to their welfare and their future stability in terms not only of sustenance but also of the gradual development of commercial fishing. In that area lying between the territory of Papua New Guinea and Australia there has been a degree of concern as to the future of the actual line of demarcation; in other words, the border between the 2 territories. This in itself raises very significant considerations. This legislation does not deal directly with that matter but the import of it does relate to that matter.
I believe it is a matter of extreme importance from the point of view of our relationships with Papua New Guinea to co-operate in every way to ensure that the administration of the fishing industry avoids any of the sensitive areas of administration which so often cause friction between countries. If we consider the history of fishing around the world, there is no doubt that the most sensitive area in terms of the administration of fishing in proclaimed waters of one country or another, or, for that matter, fishing in international waters, raises great complexities. We recall how quite recently there have been great traumas in the North Sea, in fact to the extent where there have been almost open hostilities between one country and another. This is a matter to which this Parliament should pay special attention because the early relationships between our 2 countries must, as far as we can make it possible, be harmonious and be effective from the point of view of avoiding at all costs any misunderstandings. There are very good reasons for us to recognise that currently a border does exist and that, who knows, the actual border may or may not be varied. I certainly do not want it to be varied from its present location.
We must take another aspect into consideration, namely, the carry through of what I was saying about the importance of fishing to the individual Papua New Guineans along the coastline. Those of us who have visited that country have observed over the years the skill and attributes of the indigenous people in their attempts to win from the sea food for themselves, their families and their villages. This in turn produces for them very necessary protein and virtually is an indispensable aspect of their well being. With the advent of scientific techniques in fishing around the world and with the gradual development of standards in Papua New Guinea, undoubtedly a situation will arise in which more sophisticated equipment will be used than hitherto has been the case. The time will come when the spear and the barbed apparatus used from a trimaran or some other kind of vessel will be replaced by the sheer weight of the need to follow through with technology and an extension to these people of the results of research around the world. I believe that the Minister for Northern
Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) who is at the table is conscious of this point because he did emphasise that this Bill deals particularly with matters relating to boats and their use. This, at once raises the very important consideration of the provisions of this legislation and legislation which I have not seen but which was referred to in the Minister’s second reading speech. I refer to the legislation which has been enacted in the Parliament of Papua New Guinea. I presume that there is a close relationship between the 2 pieces of legislation. I presume too that we have assisted to make possible the best law for Papua New Guinea and in so doing have ensured that the interpretation of that law will apply in the interests of both countries, because it would be folly indeed for us to have a situation in which there was any variation in interpretation of the fishing laws of Australia and the fishing laws of Papua New Guinea.
I believe that it is proper for me to make one particular observation in this regard. My own electorate is a coastal electorate in northern New South Wales. It has some 200 miles to 250 miles of coastline, and over a long period I have had a close knowledge of the fishing industry on the east coast of Australia. In the last 10 years, there have been numerous occasions on which difficult problems relating to the intrusion into Australian waters of foreign fishing vessels of either Japanese or Taiwanese origin have arisen. Very often it has been necessary for both Federal and State authorities to undertake special patrol work and to try to persuade the operators of foreign fishing vessels to observe the territorial waters and, in so doing, to observe the fishing laws of Australia. These intrusions have caused a good deal of friction between Australian fishermen and the operators of foreign fishing vessels. Under Australian conditions, we have usually found a fairly calm solution to the problem, notwithstanding the threats that have issued from time to time from professional fishermen who have said that if they find one foreign fishing vessel that is cutting the anchors from their fish traps or interfering with their fish traps, set lines, set nets or whatever it may be, and if they can get close enough to that vessel then woe betide the persons they find, no matter what their nationality. These are Australians who are usually pretty responsible people. One can well imagine similar situations arising in the waters of Papua New Guinea, bearing in mind that undoubtedly commercial fishing ventures will be developed in Papua New Guinea waters. These commercial ventures could be undertaken for the very good reason that the fishing grounds of Papua New Guinea have already been assessed and shown to have good resources in the various categories of fish.
Commercial enterprises, undoubtedly, will become a factor in the growing economy of Papua New Guinea. Certainly, I would assume that Australia, as the country that has the greatest responsibility to assist Papua New Guinea, would want to help with the development of an effective viable commercial fishing industry in that country. In so doing, we need to ensure that fishing operations based there do not unduly intrude into the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria or into our own sphere of fishing which is so important to the commercial fishing industry of Australia. I believe that there can be an effective relationship between our 2 countries provided that Papua New Guinea does not grant rights that are too easily won, or should I say that do not involve reasonable conditions and restraints on those who might want to go into ventures that the Government of Papua New Guinea may propose or that others may propose to it. I think at once of the problems and complexities of the joint ventures in northern Australian waters a few years ago. The Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) was a great critic in those days. He attacked the previous Government for not having effectively allowed joint ventures in fishing in northern Australian waters. At that time he did not put forward clear reasons for his criticism but I hasten to assure the House that my recollection is clear. The previous Government’s administration of its joint ventures was most effective and the Government was able to protect the Australian fishing industry from any undue intrusion. At the same time during the period of the joint venture operation we were able to gain benefit from outside people coming to Australia to join in ventures.
Under Australian enterprise and Australian leadership some very effective commercial fishing operations have developed in the Gulf. I find that fishermen from my own electorate go to that area regularly. Some of them have made their stay there permanent - as permanent as it can be in a place like Karumba or Normanton. Their interests are important to Australia. They are important to the future success of a viable commercial fishing industry. We do not want to see undue intrusion into those waters by interests based on Papua New Guinea. I trust that the Government has considered this aspect carefully in the drafting of this legislation and in its negotiations with the Government of Papua New Guinea.
There are of course other considerations. The future growth prospects of the fishing industry in the South Pacific depends on the support the industry receives. At the same time there is a need to ensure that there is not over-fishing or exploitation but that an effective industry is developed in the South Pacific. There is a need for a better type of vessel - in many instances for a larger type of vessel - that carries modern, sophisticated equipment such as sonar to make it possible for fishing grounds to be utilised effectively and for species of fish and fishing zones that should be avoided to be avoided. I hope that we will be co-operating closely with Papua New Guinea to ensure that it too observes this most necessary precaution - a precaution that could well mean that in the long term we preserve an effective supply of fish, fish oil and other fish products to sustain the protein requirements of big consumers of fish and at the same time to participate in the world market for the supply of fish from the seas.
To achieve this situation we must keep 2 factors in mind. Firstly, we must ensure that the best scientific advice is followed and, secondly, that we co-operate with Papua New Guinea in the construction and the standards for construction of boats. The scope of ship building in Papua New Guinea is limited. I can recall seeing a small slipway at Madang where efforts were being made to construct fishing boats of the kind that could be operated in the waters of Papua New Guinea. I do not know what has happened to that venture over the last couple of years but it is the kind of venture that we should do all we can to support and encourage, not in terms of creating competition for our own fishermen but in terms of creating a capacity in fishing that will ensure that the waters of Papua New Guinea are not unduly exploited but that an effective approach, to the care of fishing grounds is considered. I hope that this legislation will also take into account the need for close Australian liaison with Papua New
Guinea on standards for boats and standards in the administration of fishing laws. I acknowledge that the Minister indicated that this aspect had already been under consideration in the drafting of the legislation.
Finally Australia, of course, is assisting Papua New Guinea financially to a very great extent. I hope that where it is proper so to do, we will keep in mind that some of the finance provided as part of our assistance to that country will be directed especially to the fishing industry, and in particular towards assisting that fishing industry to develop standards compatible with our own and a relationship compatible with our own. In the long run this will produce for the area north of Australia and the regions around Papua New Guinea, which are important to Australia, a fishing industry in the best interests of both countries.
– I would like to thank the Opposition for supporting this Bill. I do not think there were any serious objections to the overall objective which the amendment will achieve. Various points of view were put forward regarding some vital issues in relation to future determinations about territorial boundaries and fishing in so-called international waters lying between Australia and Papua New Guinea. The honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson) also sounded a note of caution with respect to not only Papua New Guinean boats but boats from other countries coming into the grey areas of Australian proclaimed waters such as those off the coast of New South Wales, Tasmania, the Great Barrier Reef and the Gulf of Carpentaria. It is certainly the Government’s hope that in the future, perhaps at the law of the sea conference, a number of contentious questions will be ironed out more satisfactorily. If the Bill is passed it will of course give Papua New Guinea complete control of the administration of its own fishing laws. I believe that that is what all political parties in Australia want. Under the present laws any boats from Papua New Guinea in Australian proclaimed waters come under the jurisdiction of the Australian Government. This amendment to the Fisheries Act will alter that and will mean that boats from Papua New Guinea will be treated in exactly the same way as all other foreign boats coming into Australian waters, fishing zones, territorial sea waters or whatever it might be, keeping in mind of course any bilateral agreements which might exist between the 2 countries.
The honourable member for Cowper raised a point regarding the type of legislation that was passed by the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly. That legislation is mirror legislation of the Australian Fisheries Act. This hope was that it would allow for co-operation between Australia and Papua New Guinea or, for that matter, any other country. That certainly can be achieved and will be achieved by the Act that has been passed by the Papua New Guinea Government in relation to the Australian laws. As I pointed out before, in practice there was a de facto relationship in that the Government of Papua New Guinea really had autonomy regarding the operation of its boats in adjacent waters, but, as has been pointed out, that is not correct in terms of law. This legislation will alter the situation.
Mention has been made of the Gulf of Carpentaria. This Bill, if passed, will in fact legalise the unrestricted entry of boats from Papua New Guinea into the international waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria, that is, outside the 12-mile limit. The same situation applies to other countries. The governments of the 2 countries recognise the problems that can be caused in areas such as the Gulf of Carpentaria. It is the Australian Government’s hope that a bilateral fishing agreement will be ironed out between the Australian Govern- ment and the Papua New Guinea Government which will allow for the rational management and husbandry of the fishing resources in the areas’ which lie in common ground between the- 2 countries. In speaking about the Gulf of Carpentaria I would like to pay a tribute in passing to the fishermen and others who operate from the Karumba area, which was devastated a few months ago by the worst floods in the history of the white man in that area… They almost destroyed Karumba. But the people up there - those who run the fishing and processing companies and the fishermen themselves - have joined together to rebuild what is a very important fishing area as far asexports are concerned.
We have been talking mostly about northern Australia in relation to this legislation. It will also mean, of course, that boats from Papua New Guinea, which will be able to fish anywhere in the world, will as far as Australia is concerned, be able to fish anywhere off the coast of Australia - not just in the Gulf of Carpentaria or the Torres Strait or in waters adjacent to northern Australia but adjacent to any part of Australia - as long as they are in international waters. It will be a matter between the 2 governments as to whether some bilateral agreement will allow them to fish in Australian proclaimed waters. In considering this matter we should not restrict our arguments to northern Australian waters but also should take into consideration the proclaimed waters off the shores of Australia and the international waters outside the 12-mile limit. As has been mentioned by the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), there are problems that will have to be faced. Although they are not the central issue of this legislation the Government, as the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has said, is well aware of the grey areas that exist in the future determination of proclaimed waters. It is to be hoped that this matter will be amicably settled between the Australian Government and the Government of Papua New Guinea. As the Prime Minister has said, he has invited the Premier of Queensland, Mr BjelkePetersen, to take part in discussions aimed at arriving at a suitable and acceptable solution to a problem in relation to which I believe there will have to be a bit of give and take if a mutally satisfactory conclusion is to be reached, that is, the problem of fishing in the Torres Strait area.
I think that those are all the matters that I wanted to raise in replying to the questions asked of me. I can only say that this is just one more decision - another issue - of which we must take note. We must remember that right on our shores is the emerging independent nation of Papua New Guinea. This is another piece of the legislation that will have to be passed by the Australian Government in recognising this emerging independent country. I believe that with sensible government by the 2 countries concerned we will in fact be able to evolve fully co-operative fishing laws and other laws that will enable the development of sound conservation principles in relation to the exploitation of the waters which lie adjacent to and between Papua New Guinea and northern Australia. I think all members of the Parliament will welcome this Bill, which will allow Papua New Guinea to be the complete master of its own fishing vessels.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr Patterson) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 19 March (vide page 548), on motion by Mr Crean:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition parties support the Superannuation (Distribution of Surplus) Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to distribute the surplus of $70,015,000 which has accrued from contributions made by Commonwealth Government employees to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund during the 10-year period ending 30 June 1972. The level of surplus was determined by the tenth quinquennial investigation of the Superannuation Fund, undertaken by the Commonwealth Government Actuary. Distribution of the surplus was recommended under the terms of the Superannuation Act 1922-1971, following the principles adopted for the distribution of the 1962 surplus.
The surplus of $70,015,000 as at 30 June 1972 included the undistributed surplus as at 30 June 1967 of $14,779,000, which by 30 June 1972, had accumulated to $19,749,000. In the report tabled on 21 November 1973 of the Australian Government Actuary it was stated that $52,525,000 of the total surplus was attributable to contributors and $17,490,000 to pensioners. The surplus of assets over liabilities has arisen essentially because the earnings rate on invested funds has been higher than the future long term average earning rate of 5 per cent projected by the Actuary in his previous investigation for the quinquennium ended 30 June 1967. It was also higher than the 5i per cent projected for the recent tenth quinquennial investigation. The Actuary’s report in November did not make recommendations with respect to the $52,525,000 surplus attributable to present contributors. The Actuary did, however, recommend that the surplus of $17,490,000, attributable to pensioners, be distributed. The Superannuation Board in its accompanying report recommended that the surplus of $70,015,000, reported by the Commonwealth Actuary, should be distributed in cash to both eligible pensioners and contributors.
Although the Opposition supports this legislation we place on record our general concern at the protracted delays associated with it and the considerable confusion created by this Government. Public statements by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) and the repeated failure of the Cabinet to accept the Superannuation Board’s recommendations on at least 4 occasions have led to widespread anxiety amongst both past and present Commonwealth public servants and their families. It is a matter of regret that the distribution of funds provided for in the Bill now before the House was subject to delays arising from the Government’s failure to agree on its future superannuation plans for the Commonwealth Public Service.
The passage of this Bill cannot be viewed as any solution to the issue of Commonwealth superannuation. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) has, of course, recently endorsed the holding of a new independent inquiry. The Treasurer named Professor A. H. Pollard, Director of Actuarial Studies at Macquarie University, and Mr G. L. Melville, a consulting actuary in Sydney, to undertake the study and to report as early as possible in May. The inquiry will consider a number of proposals that have been put forward for the restructuring of the existing superannuation scheme.
In this context, it should be noted that the Treasurer has already made a number of proposals based primarily on the majority report of the Treasury Committee on Superannuation of March 1973 which was headed by Mr R. C. Davey, the Assistant Secretary of the Retirement Benefits Branch of the Department of the Treasury.
The need to undertake an inquiry into the whole field of Commonwealth superannuation was appreciated by the former Government. That Government initiated the process of reform.
It is always great to have support from wherever it comes, if I might say so. Even the children of Australia are concerned about the tragedies of the Whitlam administration. I am glad to have that as a matter of record. If the interjection to which I have referred causes confusion for Hansard, I should state that it emanated as a cry from a child in the public gallery.
In October 1971 a Treasury Superannuation Committee, with representation from the Department of the Treasury, the Superannuation Board, and the Commonwealth Actuary, commenced a full investigation of existing superannuation arrangements provided under the Act. In December 1971 the Committee was enlarged to include representation from the office of the Public Service Board. In March 1972 the then Treasurer, now the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), shortly to be the Prime Minister of this country, in tabling the reports of the ninth quinquennial investigation outlined the nature of the Treasury investigation and invited interested parties to put forward recommendations. The results of this exhaustive inquiry were produced a year later in March 1973. The Government, however, has shelved the matter for more than a year and, in doing so, has caused unnecessary public concern. That comment, of course, goes far beyond the matter of superannuation. It extends to cover the many fundamental matters of real concern to the Australian community which have been successively shelved by a Government which apparently knows no better. The Opposition does not oppose the passage of the Superannuation (Distribution of Surplus) Bill 1974 but, in doing so, we certainly urge the Government to adopt a more responsible approach to the question of superannuation.
– A popular myth with the Liberal-Country Party Opposition today - tactics in this Parliament being what they are - is that the Public Service ought to be knocked for political gain. Because of misleading propaganda, this myth has arisen. I will show in the course of my remarks that there is no substance at all in the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) to the effect that pro.tacted delays have occurred or that anything has been shelved. So many emotional campaigns, similar to this one against the Public Service, are far from the truth. That is why I am happy to take this opportunity to say a few words in this debate about the distribution of the $70,015,000 surplus in the Australian Public Service Superannuation Fund.
Let me make this quite clear: I do riot believe that the Government ever had any alternative but to distribute this surplus for the benefit of member contributors to the Fund on the one hand, and to pensioners on the other hand. All superannuation funds in the private or in the public sphere are and should be quite sacrosanct - separate, viable and independent from their parent body. The various taxation Acts ensure that this is so in the private sphere. I believe that the principle must be maintained in the public sphere and it will be maintained in the new superannuation scheme which will be drawn up later this year. Every indication, every representation from representatives of public servants or, should I say more accurately, representatives of member contributors to the fund, shows that those member contributors would prefer that the surplus of or the benefit from this Fund should be distributed in cash.
In his second reading speech, the Treasurer (Mr Crean) indicated how this surplus came about. He stated 2 principal reasons and they bear repeating as it is some time since we heard that second reading speech,. Firstly, when the Actuary gave his advice on the setting up of this Fund, or when the last appropriate recalculation was made, he had assumed that the future long term average earning rate would be 5 per cent. Along with everyone else, the Actuary has been proved to be wrong. The long term earning rate has been higher than 5 per cent. Secondly, the Actuary has had to take into account the new long term interest rates in making this new calculation. His assessment as at 30 June 1972, known as the tenth quinquennial investigation, was made at a time when he was obliged to assume that the future long term interest rate would be in the region of 5i per cent. For these 2 principal reasons we have, what seems to be on the face of it, a massive surplus of $70,015,000.
I say that it seems to be a massive surplus because when we take into account in this assessment the massive size of the Fund itself, there is a new perspective. Thousands of members and thousands of beneficiaries are involved in the Fund. When one examines what each contributor or beneficiary will receive ‘by way of an increased benefit, the result does not look quite so impressive or massive, which is the word that I used. The matter as I said is put into better perspective.
The first breakdown noted by the Treasurer in his second reading speech, to which I referred earlier, is the breakdown of that $70,015,000.
On the one hand, the sum of $52,525,000 goes to the contributors - that is those who have not yet retired but are still contributing to the Fund - and on the other hand, the sum of $17,490,000 will be distributed to the pensioners, that is, those people who have already retired. I have done my sums and note that these 2 amounts do add up to $70,015,000. Indeed, the distribution has been actuarily calculated on the basis of members contributions. Of course, where citizens have taken lump sums and have left the Fund, they cannot benefit from the distribution. I am glad that the families of deceased members who were, at the time of their death, either beneficiaries receiving benefits from the Fund or indeed were contributors due for lump sums are to receive a benefit from this distribution.
Another point well worth mentioning relates to the fact that $19,749,000 of this massive sum of over $70m surplus - something in the region of 28 per cent - is directly attributable to surpluses accumulated prior to the previous quinquennial assessment, namely, the surplus assessed at 30 June 1967. At that ninth quinquennial assessment calculated as at 30 June 1967 the surplus was $14,779,000. Because this was not distributed it has accumulated by the addition of interest to the $19,749,000 or 28 per cent of the total that I mentioned. This is a large percentage of the total being distributed. I question whether these surpluses should be distributed every 5 years rather than 10 years; in other words, after each quinquennial investigation has taken place. I note that the last distribution of the sort allowed for in this Bill took place in 1965, which is 9 years ago. This followed from the eighth quinquennial investigation as at 30 June 1962. Two points should be made here. At least the Labor Government has got around to distributing the surplus after the tenth quinquennial investigation much more smartly and swiftly than our predecessors, the LiberalCountry Party Government, got around to distributing the surplus after the eighth quinquennial investigation. I repeat the question I asked: Should these distributions not be every 5 years rather than every 10 years? I believe this point makes nonsense of the argument of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who spoke about protracted delays. The time taken to bring this Bill to the House is a far shorter period from the quinquennial investigation, from the end of the period that has been investigated - namely, from 30 June 1972 - than was the period to the previous distribution from the investigation which took place as at 30 June 1962. More than that, the Liberal-Country Party Opposition must be condemned for the fact that no distribution was made after the quinquennial investigation which took place as at 30 June 1967. The previous distribution which took place as at 30 June 1962 was only after a 5-year period in which this surplus accumulated.
We must assume rising interest rates and more surpluses; that is why the point I make that we should think in terms of distributions every 5 years is valid. If one examines recent history and what is happening abroad and one looks, for instance, at Conservative or Labour governments in the United Kingdom or Democratic or Republican administrations in the USA one sees that the ruling rate of interest has been rising. Indeed in those 2 countries and in most other countries it is above the ruling interest rate in Australia. Our political opponents in the Liberal and Country Parties may win future elections in Australia, although I very much doubt it, and they may resort to their deflationary tactics if they do win - that is, by cutting government expenditure, creating unemployment, slashing prices and bringing misery and wastage to this country. These were the tactics they employed as recently as 1971. They may win an election, although we doubt it, and do all this over again, but the people of Australia will bitterly regret the day they allow this to happen because all this achieves is wastage, unemployment and misery. Certainly inflation is not cured. There are no instant cures for inflation. There are time lags between measures taken and their effects.
– What about coming back to the Bill?
– I am explaining that we are bound to see increases in inflation and I am talking about the consequences arising therefrom. Inflation will be curbed to an acceptable level by the end of this year if we continue with an Australian Labor Government, as 1 believe we will. This will be particularly so if the people give this Government workable numbers in the Senate so that its reform measures can be put into effect. This brings me back to the point I have just made for the benefit of the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay). If the superannuation fund that exists at the moment continues there will be future surpluses and my view is that consideration should be given to distributing them more often. However, we are all aware that the future of the superannuation fund is in the melting pot right now. A government committee has reported. The Treasurer has made some proposals arising from what was, I believe, a Treasury committee report. These proposals are now being studied by outside actuaries. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition mentioned the names of the 2 actuaries who are studying these proposals. In his second reading speech in introducing this Bill the Treasurer said:
No adjustment of interest rates is contemplated pending a final decision by the Government on the new superannuation scheme.
Unfortunately for those concerned it is unlikely that there will be any decision in this sphere until much later this year. If the rumours I heard prior to standing in my place to make this speech about supply being stopped or curbed there will be even further delays, as there will be delays in supplying this country with the necessary funds to get on with tasks in the fields of health, education and many other areas where this Government has made such a mark in such a short space of time. In the meantime it is realised that the existing rate of contribution is greater than is needed for the benefits payable under the existing scheme. Again I point out that surpluses will eventuate.
What is important is that the surplus arising from this tenth quinquennial investigation belongs to contributors and pensioners and is to be paid out. The Superannuation Board expects that it will be able to make payments to the pensioners during September and October - I trust that any news of elections will not delay that - and to contributors by the end of this year, perhaps as a Christmas present. I have said that the surplus belongs to member contributors and also to the pensioners who are receiving benefits now. I want to dwell on this aspect. I know that some people in the community have suggested that the $70,015,000 could and should be better used on social services. The question has also been asked whether if there had been a deficit in the Fund this would have been offset by member contributors paying into the fund. Initially this is a most attractive concept for those of us not in the Fund. Certainly the $70m-odd could be well used in social welfare payments because the needs are great, but the concept does not bear close study. As I understand it, this surplus has arisen from the member contributors’ own contribution. There is a de facto, if not a de jure, contractual obligation between those member contributors on the one hand and the Government on the other hand that these funds belong to the contributors. If the member contributors were entitled to only a 5 per cent long term interest rate on the money they invested in the past, even though they may have been able to achieve a greater return outside the Fund, and if the surpluses were to be transferred to Consolidated Revenue, this should have been clearly set out by our Liberal-Country Party predecessor Government at the time the contractual obligation was undertaken. It was not so set out and that is why I assert that the Australian Labor Government has taken the only possible course in making this distribution to all those who have contributed and made the surplus possible.
For the reasons I have put I am very pleased to support this Bill. I trust that nothing that takes place in politics in this country in the coming weeks or in the coming months will delay the payment of the benefits to the pensioners, in September-October, as promised by the Superannuation Board, or indeed the surplus which has been promised to the contributors by the end of this year. I trust that nothing will delay this payment and I trust that there will be no more talk from Opposition spokesmen about protracted delays or anything being shelved because the record of the Australian Labor Government in this matter is so much better than the record of our predecessors. Our predecessors delayed for 5 years the distribution of surplus funds disclosed by the previous quinquennial investigation and in spite of that we have got on with the job of distributing surplus funds disclosed by the tenth quinquennial investigation so much more quickly than they distributed surplus funds disclosed by the eighth quinquennial investigation.
– I listened with attention to the words of the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) and I can assure him that nothing that happens politically - and I think things may well happen politically in the next few months - will delay in any way the distribution of this surplus in the Superannuation Fund. Indeed, the parties on this side of the House will support wholeheartedly the idea of this distribution. The honourable member spoke of celerity in distribution. He hoped he would not hear anything more about delays. He is going to hear a word or two but only a word or two. It is not delay that has been worrying the public servants; it is the new concepts that the moneys should be taken from them and used for another purpose.
These concepts were floating about in the Government ranks. I am glad that pressure from this side has deterred them from the injustices which they proposed to inflict on the Federal public servants by taking away their money and giving it to some other people. A few moments ago the honourable member for Adelaide referred to these concepts as attractive alternatives and things like that. I know that under pressure from the Opposition the Government Party has rejected such concepts and I am glad that it has done so. I congratulate the Government on taking that view even though I know that some supporters, even the dominant factions in its Party, would have supported those concepts. The only reason that the dominant factions do not support them now is that they are frightened of the political consequences that would follow from putting their own philosophy into action.
I turn to the Bill itself. Of course we on this side support this Bill. It does, within the framework of the existing superannuation arrangements, justice. But does it really do justice? I look at the earnings of 6 per cent and 7 per cent and I compare that with the rate of inflation which is 14 per cent at present and rising. So public servants do not really have a positive rate of interest; they have been suffering from a negative rate of interest. Certainly, in money terms their nest egg has increased by 6 per cent or 7 per cent but in actual terms the purchasing power has gone down by 14 per cent and the net loss - the negative rate of interest - is of the order of 7 per cent.
This is bad enough for one year - the disastrous Labor year - but if this Government were allowed to continue in office it would be a far worse position next year. The negative rate of real interest under the Government’s policy would be round about 14 per cent or 15 per cent at least, and that is not good enough. I know that the proceeds of this Fund have been invested mainly in Government securities and semi-government securities and it has therefore been cash at the disposal, directly or indirectly, of the Commonwealth Treasury. I venture to suggest that the arrangements which have been suggested for the reform of this Fund do not go to the root of the matter nor do they go far enough.
This type of fund seems to have had its genesis in a period when prices were relatively stable and justice could be done because there was no dominant inflation to do injustice. Inflation falls unjustly on those who have money claims and those in the Superannuation Fund are people who have money claims. They saved. They put their money aside ten, fifteen or twenty years ago when the position was different and they see in this year - this year of economic disaster - inflation rising at a rate which will make their past savings, which were real when they made them, of no future economic significance. This is not good enough. I venture to suggest that the kind of fund that we have, which was sensible enough in its structure at a time when prices were relatively stable, a time when people could have stood perhaps a 2 per cent or 3 per cent average annual rise in prices which we had during the time of Liberal and Country Party governments, is utterly inappropriate to the 14 per cent, 15 per cent and 20 per cent type of inflation which seems endemic today under this present Labor Administration.
Superannuation always has to be in the form of a money claim. What are we to do about it? I think that there is a reasonable alternative and that is to adjust superannuation payments to meet changes in the price level. This is something which I have advocated for a long time and something which I believe to be only elementary justice. It can be done ‘by the Commonwealth Treasury in a way which nobody else is able to finance because the Treasury does get its receipts automatically augmented by any rise in the price level. So it is quite prudent for the Commonwealth Treasury to undertake this type of forward commitment though it would be utterly imprudent for any other organisation.
I think it is true that an insurance fund is able to invest to some extent in equities and by so investing to ride on the wave of inflation itself, at least to some limited extent. But private funds, even the biggest funds, cannot do this with prudence because the liquidity of its equities may in the future be insufficient to meet its commitments. In the case of the Commonwealth Government the whole of the investment can remain in money claims - money claims against the Treasury in which the funds, directly or indirectly, are deposited. I think it would be utterly wrong to use these funds to dominate private investment or to use them in a way which put the contributors at risk. But surely it is not wrong to use them in the Commonwealth Treasury as a source of finance for public works and to pay out in terms of the current price level, because the Treasury always gets the liquidity which comes from any price rise.
I now turn to something which is important for Australian public accounts. In the Treasurer’s current Budget there are set out - honourable members can find the information by looking through the printed Budget papers - more than $2,000m worth of capital works. Here is something where the funds, whether they be superannuation funds or other funds, can reasonably find a profitable home and they can do it without disturbing or dominating the investment market or making it easy, as a big fund could do in the Treasurer’s hands, to socialise through stealth. Of course that is one of the things which the present Administration is out to do. By putting out all sorts of fancy schemes about investing in equities it is trying to bring the private sector under its control. But there is a fundamental inequity in putting our Commonwealth superannuation simply in the form of money claims and then not giving any real compensation for the rate of inflation or the rise in prices. So far as the Commonwealth is concerned there is no technical reason why this fundamental inequity should not be corrected. There is no difficulty about investing the current contributions in money terms inside the Commonwealth Budget. Because the Commonwealth Budget itself must always benefit from any increase in prices, whatever it may be, a hedge against inflation can be reasonably given to contributors to a Commonwealth superannuation fund.
I say this because I think that we are still too much bound to the past. It is not for me to go into the Treasurer’s mind beyond what be has published, but it seems to me from what he has published that the proposals that the Treasurer is considering do not go to the root of the matter and are really bound in a past which is, whether fortunately or unfortunately, long behind us. Of course I do not anticipate that when the Government changes the current rate of inflation will continue - anything but. But at present under this Government there is not only an increasing rate of inflation; there is a momentum in that increasing rate of inflation. Not only the first but also the second differential coefficient is going up. Because of this it will be hard to stop the momentum overnight. In all fairness, I do not think that we will promise that in the week we come in as a new government everything in the garden will be lovely. It will not. This Government has created so much economic havoc that it will take a substantial time to repair the situation.
I know that as soon as we gain office the rate of inflation will fall, but I would not hold out the promise that we will be able to reduce it to zero overnight. Even if we were to do so, one has to look at the long term secular fall in the value of money which seems to be endemic in most economic systems. So even though we can promise Commonwealth public servants and the public that with the change of government which will shortly occur the rate of inflation will substantially diminish, will taper off with reasonable economic management, we still have to face the fact that there is this two or three per cent secular fall in the value of money rate of inflation which seems to be built into economic systems not only in Australia but indeed overseas too.
Because of that I say that we should be rethinking our approach to this problem along the lines that I have suggested, taking advantage of the fortunate circumstance that in the Commonwealth Budget there is an immense amount of revenue to be devoted to capital works which can absorb the contributions, taking advantage of the fact inherent in every budget that the government of a country need not fear the pay outs from inflation because inflation will increase its revenues correspondingly. I say that believing that the holding of inflation within reasonable bounds will be the first job tackled by the incoming government and a job which we will tackle successfully. We regard with horror what the present Government has done to the economy and the way in which it has destroyed the foundations of Australian prosperity.
Finally, I come to what may seem to be a technical matter. I have said that our superannuation arrangements are, in a sense, outmoded because they were laid in a very different kind of economic climate. They were also arranged at a time when an instrument called the computer had not been invented. So our actuarial practices in regard to them are outmoded, and the complication of accounts is quite unnecessary. Because of this quinquennial revaluations are really nonsense. They are technical, and a tremendous amount of expertise is engaged in carrying them out.
Really they amount to damn all. The real position of the Fund goes forward irrespective of them. Even when they are made, it takes time to distribute the surplus. I suggest that with the computer we have the instrument to cut down these delays by remaking the mechanics of the Fund. The much more important point I want to make is that I believe that the basis of the Fund should be changed so that the pay outs are geared to the current price index at the time when those payouts are made.
– I was very interested to hear the remarks of the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) and also those of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch). After hearing their remarks I could forgive myself for thinking that maybe the present Government has been in office for 23 years instead of only 18 months as it has been in reality. The things that honourable members have suggested the previous Government has had 23 years to implement, and failed to do so. The provisions of the Superannuation (Distribution of Surplus) Bill which we are discussing now are partially the outcome of the ineptitude of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government in not facing up to the problem of not only the surplus that arose from the quinquennial investigations which have gone on, but also from the Superannuation Act itself as it applies to the whole of the Commonwealth Public Service. The report of the Superannuation Board points out that this surplus of $70,015,000 as at 30 June 1972 has been caused by increased earnings from investments of the Fund at rates of interest above those recorded in previous investigations. The report said also that the continuation of this trend can be expected if earnings from investments continue at a high level.
The first thing that strikes one when we look at the results of this quinquennial investigation - and quinquennial means 5-yearly - is that these net results arise not necessarily from a 5-yearly investigation but from a 10- yearly investigation, because the results of the previous quinquennial investigation were such that no action was taken by the previous Government to distribute that surplus, which, added to the existing surplus over the past 5 years, has resulted in what is a huge surplus. I think that honourable members will agree that $70m is a huge surplus.
I think that one has to go beyond the words which were used in the report of the Superannuation Board in order to find the answer to why there is a surplus of this size. Granted, there has been an increase in the interest received from investments made by the Superannuation Fund. I think what is patent is that for too long members of the Australian Public Service have been paying too much into their Superannuation Fund. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) acknowledged this fact in his second reading speech when he said:
It follows that members’ contribution rates are now higher than necessary to finance their share of the benefits provided under the existing scheme.
That is quite true. Having spent 34 years in the Public Service before coming into this Parliament it was patent to me that the rate of my own contributions was too high. This situation has been exacerbated by the inflationary spiral in which we are living, and, despite what anyone says, the inflationary spiral in Australia is not as bad as inflation is in the rest of the world. Statistical observations from other parts of the world will establish that.
I have seen examples in the Australian Public Service where relatively senior officers in their fifties have a take home pay of what would be less than the basic wage for the simple reason that they were forced by circumstances to contribute to the Superannuation scheme. When these men received salary increases they were automatically entitled to take out additional superannuation units, and because they did not know what the future would hold they felt, for the protection of their wives and families, that they had to take these units and contribute to the Superannuation Fund at higher rates. I know that many of them were living in relative penury and were just praying for the day when they would retire. Many of these men had reached the stage where they could not live at a reasonable standard because they were forced to contribute to the Fund at a rate that was much higher than it should have been because of decisions taken by the Government of. the day. This is a criticism of the previous Government. If the Government of the day had faced up to the issue of the recurring surpluses - and it should have been very obvious to it that the Superannuation Fund as it then was needed a decent looking at - this situation would not exist today. But it was left to the Labor Government when it came to power to have a look at the Superannuation
Fund. That it has done. This Government set up a Treasury committee of inquiry to look at the Superannuation Fund in depth. The committee of inquiry brought down a report which was presented in this Parliament on 8 May 1973. The report has been considered by this Government as well as by the various unions and associations within the Australian Public Service. A new scheme has been suggested by the Treasurer. This scheme has been temporarily deferred by the Cabinet for a further actuarial check.
I am concerned about one aspect of the present Bill. If my reading of the Bill is correct the only persons who will gain from the distribution of the surplus are those who have already retired from the Public Service - and their share of the surplus will be $17,490,000 - and the present contributors who are within the Public Service, whose share of the surplus will be $52,525,000. What has happened to the surplus which has accrued in respect of those previous officers of the Public Service who have resigned? Take my own case - and I am not paddling my own canoe, although some honourable members may think so. I was a member of the Commonwealth Public Service for 34 years before I resigned to enter the Australian Parliament. All I got out of the Superannuation Fund was the contributions which I had paid in myself. I did not receive any interest. I did not receive the employer’s share. I received nothing in addition to what I had paid in. There were people far worse off than I was, who had been in the Service for a lot longer than I had. I suggest that a large content of the overall surplus of $70,015,000 would be applicable to those people who resigned from the Public Service, irrespective of how long they had spent in the Service. I suggest that it is unjust that no portion of this surplus which has been accrued partially by their moneys which they paid in is to be distributed back to them. I was hopeful that the Treasurer might have had a look at this question before the Bill was introduced. Apparently this is one of the things that has slipped through and is not in the Bill or the Act. I think it is an inequity that people who have spent a long time in the Australian Public Service and who have contributed to the Superannuation Fund should receive only when they resign a refund of the contributions they made, and not even any interest on them. We have to remember that the Superannuation Fund has had the benefit of that money to invest. Granted that the present surplus will be dis tributed to pensioners as well as to present contributors; but if there is to be any equity at all I believe that people who have resigned from the Service should receive some benefit from the surplus.
I believe that the surplus could have been dealt with in other ways. There are various ways in which a surplus can be disposed of. One way is to distribute the surplus to the people concerned - that is, to the pensioners and to the present contributors. This is what is proposed in the legislation now before us. Another method is to distribute it to those who need it most by way of increased superannuation rates or pensions to the widows of officers who have died during their period in the Public Service. In many cases orphan children should receive some greater benefit because often they are in great need. I believe that some effort should have been made to look at the possibility of distributing part of the surplus to these people who are very much in need of assistance.
The surplus could have been distributed in another way. I believe this is something which could be looked at when the new superannuation scheme is being discussed. I know that for many years the various associations and unions within the Australian Public Service have tried to get a succession of Governments to allow the Superannuation Board to lend money to terminating building societies set up with the contributors’ own money for the purpose of assisting contributors to purchase homes. The State Public Service of New South Wales has a scheme under which the State Superannuation Board lends considerable sums of money to building societies and this money is available only to contributors to that superannuation fund. This is one respect in which the previous Government was recreant in respect of doing something for the benefit of the contributors to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund. If the present Government has not looked at this idea I believe it should do so when it is drawing up the new superannuation scheme. Consideration should be given to the need to widen powers to allow the Superannuation Board to invest in terminating building societies so that the members of the superannuation scheme can gain some benefit from their funds.
I do not hold with the idea that the bulk of the funds should be invested in Commonwealth loans. I know that at various times the Superannuation Board has lent money out on mortgage. There was one infamous case during my time in the Australian Public Service when many millions of dollars were lent out to David Jones Ltd. That company could not be classed as a great friend of the Australian public servant. Right and left it has fleeced not only Australian public servants but also most people. It certainly is not in need of any assistance. A firm like David Jones Ltd was able to receive funds from the Superannuation Board yet the Superannuation Board in its wisdom - I do not know whether it is precluded by law from doing so - would not lend out money to its own contributors. It was their money that the Board was lending out.
I think that a fault in the superannuation system that has been in existence for the Australian Public Service is that the Government of the day does not make the contribution at the same point of time as the contributor makes his. That is to the Government’s discredit. Only at the point of retirement or the point of death does the Government assume its responsibility in relation to the superannuation fund. I know of no other mutual superannuation fund that operates on the same basis. Invariably in private enterprise with life assurance schemes of superannuation the contribution is made by the employer at the same time as it is made by the employee. In that way it costs, the employee less. If that had applied to the Superannuation Board for Australian public servants the contributor - the employee - would have paid far less to the superannuation scheme than he pays now. I suggest that that is one of the reasons why we have this huge surplus.
Frankly, I think it is disgraceful that a surplus of $70m could occur. Obviously there is something wrong with the scheme when we find surpluses like that. The scheme cannot be properly costed if we end up having to distribute to the people who paid in an amount of $70m after a period of 10 years. For example, let us look at what this quinquennial review - even though it is a 10- year period - .has thrown up. I seem to have been critical of previous governments and of my own Government in this matter but I believe that it is constructive criticism. That is the role of a member of the Parliament. In my view, criticism should never be destructive; it should be constructive. It should be something for the advisers to the Government and the Ministry to think about. I hope that some of the points I have made today will be brought to the attention of the Treasurer and to the attention of the Superannuation Board when the new superannuation scheme is being considered. A new Superannuation scheme will be introduced under this Government. Should the Opposition be foolish enough to refuse Supply, I know what the result will be. Labor will still sweep the polls because in a short period the Australian people have seen the benefit of good government compared with 23 years of maladjustment, malfunction and bad government. In 18 months this Government has shown what it can do. I suggest that the points I have raised be considered by the Treasurer when he is considering the new superannuation fund.
– I rise to support the Superannuation (Distribution of Surplus) Bill which is now before the House. At the same time I must express some concern at the accumulation of such a large amount of money in a fund such as this. It seems to me that there needs to be a close investigation of the workings of the fund because it is obvious that other people’s money which could otherwise have been used by the contributors is being put into this fund. Let me say firstly that there has been some discussion in this debate as to what should be done with this particular fund. I make my position quite clear - the money obviously belongs to those who contributed to the fund and it should return to those people who have contributed or to their dependants, whichever the case may be. Of course, because of the lapse of time, probably many people who have contributed to the scheme will not now be able to enjoy the benefits of it, but the majority of them will.
It is interesting to note when talking about the growth of the surpluses that the fund has been running since 1922, which is some SO years. In its first annual report the Board recorded contributions of $256,254 from members of the scheme at 30 June 1923. This seems to be a modest sum when compared with the amount of contributions paid for the financial year 1971-72 of $56,083,196. The comparison of numbers is equally striking, with the number of contributors increasing from 26,876 in 1923 to 174,353 at 30 June 1972 and the number of pensioners increasing from 299 in 1923 to 30,450 at 30 June 1972. 1 cite those figures from the 50th annual report of the Superannuation Board for the year 1971-72. From those figures it will be seen that a considerable amount of experience has been gained over the 50 years, but we now find a surplus of the magnitude of $70,015,000. I stress that somewhere along the line a thorough investigation should be made. I understand that it has in fact been going on, but after 50 years a thorough investigation should be able to find better ways and means of collecting and returning moneys than has been the case in the past. The recommendation from the Superannuation Board, made following an investigation, stated quite clearly in the summary on page 10 of that report that the most appropriate course of action would be distributing cash on the basis of surplus assets of $ 0,015,000, as reported by the Actuary at 30 June 1972 as follows: Eligible pensioners $17,490,000 and eligible contributors $52,525,000.
As I said previously, that is a tremendous amount of money to be lying in a particular fund. It has been made available by the contributors - that is, the public servants. I think that we will always have some problems with superannuation funds of this nature because, as has been mentioned earlier today, there are the problems of variations in our currency and our inflationary rates which we are finding very high at the moment, and of the opportunity for people making contributions to such a fund over a number of years to enjoy the same standard of living, or near enough to the same standard of living, on their retirement that they have been used to while being employed. It is obvious when one looks at the simple mathematics of superannuation funds that the younger public servant in the early stages of his employment in the Public Service is paying quite a small contribution compared with what he pays at a later stage if he is to pay in sufficient to give him an appropriate standard of living at the end of it all. This is a problem to which I have given a lot of thought over the years and it seems to me that any superannuation fund of this type must be extremely flexible in its operation if we are to arrive at the point of making available to people a sum of money which would be considered as being reasonable on retirement, not only for the contributor but also for his dependants, if that happens to be the case.
I would hope that those who will be responsible for looking at this question in the future will ensure that surpluses of the magnitude with which we are dealing today do not accumulate again. Superannuation funds and similar funds are not meant to build up huge surpluses. This does not mean to say that they need not be in a sound financial position but being in a sound financial position is completely different from building up surpluses of some $70m-odd about which we are talking today. The people who earn the money should be entitled to that money. I make that point very strongly. No more than is necessary should be taken on their behalf to keep the Superannuation Fund in a sound position. I point out that we are talking now about members contributions and not the contributions which are made by the Government because, as has been stated in the reports, the Government does not make a contribution until such time as it is required.
As I see it, the accumulation of this surplus represents a serious situation. Obviously, after 50 years experience in this field, if we have not been able to arrive at a better system than this, we should start all over again from square one and have a completely new look at the whole system. I think it has been mentioned that the Fund could be administered by the Treasury. This is possible, of course, because finances and Budgets are considered each financial year and any payments which are to be made would be appropriate to be considered in that Budget. However, if this is done obviously it is fairly reasonable to suggest that some contribution would need to be made at a later date by those who are recipients. I feel that perhaps a combination of both schemes can be worked out whereby the person making contributions to the Fund, or his dependants whichever the case may be, can enjoy at the end of his working life and continue to enjoy a reasonable standard of living while at the same time during his working years making a reasonable contribution to the Fund which would not result in this type of surplus which we are considering today.
– I was very surprised to hear a member of the Country Party criticising the administration of the Commonwealth superannuation scheme because the facts are that the Country Party was a coalition partner in government for 23 years administering the scheme. Furthermore, members of the Country Party were supporters of the Government which was responsible for the accumulation of this surplus in the Superannuation Fund. They were responsible for this overcharging of public servants. Yet they now have the gall to come into this House and be critical of the whole proposal. I think that most public servants today - I have had a lot to do with the public service because I was in a statutory body of the Commonwealth Public Service until 1961 - would be saying: ‘Father Christmas has arrived’ because all serving members of the Public Service will receive in December of this year a total of $52,525,000 while pensioners will receive in September-October of this year a sum of $17,490,000 which as the Treasurer (Mr Crean) pointed out in his second reading speech is a total of $70,015,000. Without a doubt, had the Fund been properly administered during the 23 years that the previous Government was in office, it would not have been necessary for this refund to be made to those who are contributors to the Fund. There would not have been a situation in which members of the Fund would have been consistently overcharged in respect of their contributions to the Superannuation Fund. That is a fact of life.
While dealing with this point, I should also like to discuss a few other matters relating to what this Government has done for the Public Service in its short period of 16 months in office. The desires and wishes of the Public Service have been implemented in a manner not seen in the entire 23 years of office of the previous Government. All the demands and requests which had been made year after year by the Public Service were refused by the previous Government and it was no wonder that the great body of the Public Service voted on 2 December 1972 for a change of government.
– No surprise at all.
– No, it was no surprise at all. The honourable member for Burke would have done the same. Furthermore, let us consider what this Government has done in its short period of 16 months in office. It has granted 4 weeks annual leave to the Public Service. Keep in mind how many years the Service has wanted that benefit. Of course, it was a New South Wales State Labor Government which provided 4 weeks annual leave before its defeat in 1965. It was to. have been the very beginning of this principle which was to have spread out far beyond that point. This Government has also implemented a 17) per cent loading on annual leave, and has provided maternity leave, paternity leave and improved long service leave benefits in that the qualifying period for long service leave has been reduced from 15 years to 10 years.
– Order! Keeping in mind what the honourable member for Chifley said earlier today, I would advise him to keep to the subject matter of the debate.
– I am glad to hear that you are learning so quickly, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was wondering when you were going to pull me up. I have dealt with most of the matters I wished to raise and it is a pity that I cannot mention the only other one, namely, the pro rata entitlement contained in improvements to Commonwealth employees’ compensation legislation. However, I will not deal with that at this time. I think it would be reasonable to say without going into the details again that, in regard to increasing and improving the conditions of employment of members of the Public Service this Government has been the best government of any government in the history of the Commonwealth of Australia. Since 1901 no other government has done as much for the average public servants, particularly the thin cats, as this government has done.
– Self praise is no recommendation.
– Somebody must put the case for this Government because all we have heard over the last 16 months, particularly from the Country Party benches, has been the greatest lot of hypocrisy than probably has been heard for many years. Members opposite have harped and harped at, and criticised the actions of, this Government but they have completely ignored and forgotten the fact that they did not undertake any of these reforms in their 23 years in government. Somebody must put forward and place on the record just what has been done during this very short period of 16 months and compare it with what was done in the long period of 23 years that the previous Government was in office. I think that we might have the opportunity to test what the people and the public servants have to say on this matter in the very near future. As I have said, no government since federation has done more for the thin cat - the average public servant - than, this Government has done. I am proud to be associated with a government which is prepared to do that.
Of course, the time is very close when we will reform the Superannuation Fund itself. The proposed new superannuation scheme has been before the Cabinet which has referred it for actuarial determination. I do not have the slightest doubt that when the legislation is implemented for a new Commonwealth superannuation scheme the Public Service will also be very pleased that this Federal Labor Government came to office. I have cited a few of the achievements of the Government. I am sorry, Mr Deputy Speaker, if in doing so I was out of order. I did not realise that I was out of order. I thought it was reasonable to state the record of the Government.
To go back to the basic contents of this Bill, I once again make the point that excess funds amounting to $70,015,000 are to be distributed to all serving members of the Public Service and those receiving pensions under the present superannuation scheme. Of that amount $52,525,000 will go to contributors. It is expected that they will receive that as a Christmas present next December - a very nice Christmas present indeed. A special effort is to be made to give pensioners an earlier payment, because I think most people would agree that they deserve it. They will receive their share in September-October this year. The total to be allocated to pensioners is $17,490,000. Needless to say a great deal of concern has been expressed by members of that section of the trade union movement associated with the Public Service. I do not think too many honourable members did not have approaches made to them about the $70m-odd. Concern has been expressed about whether public servants were to get back surplus contributions. The important thing is that the Labor Government has not abrogated its undertaking to those employees. I would like to believe that the Opposition, had it been in government, would have done what this Government has done. On past record, on past history, one could not help but have some doubt.
I commend the Bill to the House. I believe that it is a sound piece of legislation and that the sooner it is passed through this House and goes on to another place the better it will be in the interests of all people concerned.
– I would like to take part briefly in this debate, which is really a narrow debate on a Bill dealing simply with the surpluses which have been accumulated in the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund and what should be done with them. I would like to comment briefly on the remarks of the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage), who is now leaving the chamber. He went to some trouble to say how much the present Commonwealth Government has done for the Public Service. He said that it is the best government for the Public Service. It seems to me that what he should be able to say that it is the best government for Australia and Australians, because it cannot be both. I would dissociate myself from the sentiment the honourable member expressed. He also made a great play about the 4 weeks annual leave that has been introduced into the Public Service, the 17i per cent loading on annual leave, the maternity leave which I understand is 12 weeks a year, and paternity leave which I believe is 1 week, and long service benefits.
– I rise on a point of order. I am happy for the honourable member to advertise what the Labor Government has done, but when I raised this matter, Mr Deputy Speaker, you called me to order. I think you should do likewise with the honourable member from the other side of the House.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MacKellar)Order! The point of order is sustained. I ask the honourable member to confine his remarks to the subject matter of the Bill.
– The point is that these are all charges upon the community of Australia and they will eventually flow on to the private sector which is the only productive sector. Therefore, I would not put that point forward as a great claim to fame. The honourable member for Chifley referred to the fat cats and the thin cats. The House might like to be reminded of the quotation of a former President of the Australian Commonwealth Officers Association. He said: ‘It is better to be a “fat cat” than a thieving rat’. Of course, we all know to whom the gentleman was referring. Frankly I am not in favour, and perhaps I am the only one in the House who is not in favour, of this process of disposing of these funds. I believe that the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin), who spoke earlier in the debate, probably has very much the same views. I thought that with the exception of his attack upon David Jones it was a good speech. The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr
Hurford) as usual quoted the thoughts of everybody else except himself. He referred to the surpluses being transferred to Consolidated Revenue. That can never be done because, as the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) has pointed out, the money and the interest on the money belongs to those who are present and past contributors.
In my view we should not be proposing the action that we are at this moment. In the first place, I do not think we should be doing anything until the report of Professor Pollard and Mr Melville is placed before this House. There have been a series of reports by Treasury committees and sub-committees, but I think that mistakes were made for the first time in the Superannuation Board report of 30 June 1972. I would like to draw attention to this matter because I believe that sometime in the future those of us who are not happy with this method of disposal will be proved to be correct. On page 4, clause 22 of that report, the Superannuation Board states:
On the assumption-
I emphasise the word ‘assumption’- that the decision by the Government for the introduction of a new scheme would not operate so as to reduce the reported surplus, it seems to the Board, that the most appropriate course of action would be to distribute the surplus, in cash, to eligible pensioners and contributors, on the basis of the amount of $70,015,000 as reported by the Actuary;
In fact that is what we are talking about today - recommendation is made accordingly.
The point I wish to make is that the Superannuation Board at that time assumed that the Government at that time would have a particular point of view. I think that this is an assumption that one should never make. I believe it was an undesirable assumption.
The honourable member for Banks is a very good example; he served in the Commonwealth Public Service for 34 years and when he left he received nothing except his contributions. Now the proposition is to distribute funds, some of which would have come out of his salary. I do not believe that this is the proper course; I believe that the course that has been adopted by the South Australian Government is a much better one. The honourable member for Chifley made a great play about what the Labor Government has done for public servants. I would make the point that the Government in South Australia is a Labor Government. What has happened in South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland is that sur plus superannuation funds, instead of being given back in cash to contributors and pensioners will be and is being used for the benefit of contributors and pensioners in other ways. What concerns me is that what may happen - in fact I am sure will happen - in the future is that contributors will find that their pensions are not high enough and pressure will be put on the then government to increase the Government’s contribution. That would mean increasing the contribution of the taxpayers. This is clearly spelt out in the March report of the Treasury committee that investigated superannuation. It comments on the Tasmanian plan. Tasmania also has a Labor Government. Under the heading Financing’, clause 3.17 on page 27, the report reads:
Contribution rates have been designed for the Fund to provide two-sevenths of the benefits, with the other five-sevenths being paid by employers. Pension increases are also financed in this way. However, should contribution rates by employees be insufficient to meet two-sevenths of the benefits, the rate will not be increased but rather the shortfall will be met by the State Government employers.
I imagine that that is what would happen in the Commonwealth field if there were a shortfall. I think that the scheme in South Australia, which has a Labor Government, is a relatively sound one. I must repeat that South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania do not pay back any surpluses in cash. Instead they are used in another way. For example, the South Australian fund pays to pensioners an annual cost of living bonus calculated at the rate of 3 per cent per annum. That is what I think ought to happen to these funds. That uses up 30 per cent of the South Australian surplus. That is an effort to provide a hedge against inflation, which was mentioned by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). It would be impossible to accommodate the real inflation rate because the fund is not large enough. This surplus also will be used to reduce the rate of escalation of the contributions of persons still working. The new scheme is to be introduced in South Australia on 1 July. Under it someone, who is at present paying 7 per cent of his salary in contributions, will after July pay 6 per cent. The subsidy will come from the surplus which is being retained and not distributed in cash.
The points I really wish to make are as follows: Should Commonwealth public servants be treated any differently from anybody else? Should the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund be treated any differently from private funds? Why are private funds not allowed to distribute their surpluses to their members? If that happens, is any taxation payable on the surpluses distributed? If the Treasurer (Mr Crean) is about the place I would like him to respond to that point. It has been estimated that each member of the Fund will receive an across the board refund of $300. That is an average. Some will receive $100 and others will receive $1,000. I would like to know whether those refunds will be subject to the payment of income tax? I am probably the only one in this House who will strike a discordant note on this matter, but I think it is in the interests of the contributors, the pensioners and the nation to retain the funds and to use them in the way I have described. I think that the distributon of these funds will only add to the rate of inflation. Naturally I will not vote against this measure because my Party is in support of it, but I wish to place on record the concern I feel.
Mr HURFORD (Adelaide) - I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr Deputy Speaker. I claim to have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay), who has just resumed his seat. The honourable member made 2 charges against me. One was that in my speech on this Bill I quoted from many sources but did not give my own views. In fact there was one quotation of a few words from the second reading speech of the Treasurer (Mr Crean). The second charge was to the effect that I had said that the surplus should be transferred to Consolidated Revenue. We in South Australia know that the honourable member for Boothby does play with the truth. His version is the exact opposite of what I said. It is a pity that he cannot understand the English language.
– As has been said already, the matter with which the House is dealing today is the distribution of the surplus that has accumulated in the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund. During his address to this House the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) spoke of the accumulation of this vast sum as though it was something that happened overnight. He was rather horrified to think that such a large amount of money - $70m - should have ‘been allowed to accumulate. It is unfortunate that the honourable member for Canning did not go all the way and say to the House that this amount has been accumulating since 1967. It should be remembered that it was not until 2 December 1972 that Australia gained responsible government. Until that date Australia was in the hands of people who had no knowledge of how to govern or had any intention of governing. This sum has been accumulated over a period of time. The reason why it has accumulated is that the contributions by the employees and the Australian Government as their employer have been invested at a far more favourable rate than the Commonwealth actuary expected them to earn. As a result there has been an accumulation of funds amounting in total to $7 Om.
I agree that this surplus ought to be distributed back to those who have contributed to the Fund during the period under review. However, I think it should bear mentioning that this very situation points up the failure - I suppose that is the correct way to describe the situation- of the existing superannuation schemes. It is to the credit of the present Government that some attention will be given to this matter and that a scheme that is far more equitable than the one that has existed for a long time will be introduced. The fact that a fund that covers only public servants can accumulate a surplus to the extent that this Fund has brings to mind the thoughts that the funds of the community could be marshalled for the good of the community if there were a scheme to which everybody contributed instead of one to which only those who are employed by the Australian Government and who are thereby covered by the Public Service superannuation scheme contributed.
The mind starts to boggle when one thinks of the huge sums of money that would be available for lending to the community for community projects and community works. There could be a constant well to which each constituent part of the community could go with its bucket and draw its particular part of these funds. There is nothing strange about that I know that the funds of the present scheme are loaned to local government bodies for capital works, such as the construction of sewerage systems and a number of other things and that the money borrowed is paid back with interest. The actuaries have worked our very well what rate of interest the local government bodies should pay for these funds. That in turn has contributed to the rather large surplus about which we are now speaking.
In the interim we have to ask ourselves for what purpose these funds have been used and how they attract an interest rate which enables the accumulation of a surplus of some S70m. In that respect the Fund has performed a public service in so far as it has enabled a number of statutory bodies throughout the length and breadth of the country to perform specific tasks that they would not have been able to perform had these. moneys not been available as a source of borrowing. I touch on that only lightly. It is a subject which is not the subject matter of the Bill before us at present but a subject which would bear very deep and intense debate.
The fact that the Fund has been able to accumulate a surplus of $70m now seems to be the subject of the debate. The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) made mention of the fact that the present Government has been very generous to public servants. He went on to say that the present Government should be saying that it is the best government for Australia and Australians. I am not sure who the honourable member thinks public servants are, but I would like to remind him that public servants are recruited in Australia and are Australian people and that they comprise a very large section of the Australian community. In fact they comprise a very leading section of the Australian community because the things which accrue to public servants generally flow on to the community. So there is a great benefit there.
The Government has looked very carefully at the whole question of superannuation and the distribution of the $70m surplus about which we are speaking today. If the scheme were as good as ‘has been said I suppose it would not have accumulated a surplus to that extent. The excess contributions by the contributors, the excess contribution of the Australian Government and the fact that the earning rate on those funds has been higher than anticipated must of necessity have contributed to this surplus.
In order to resolve the question the present Government not only in its wisdom but also, to some extent, in its generosity, decided to contribute the sum of $70m to those who have been contributing to the Superannuation Fund for the period under review. If the scheme were a good one or, I suppose, one could say if it were properly organised, a surplus of this magnitude would not accrue. From my knowledge of superannuation funds they just do not accrue surpluses to that extent. Of course, one would not want superannuation funds to have a deficit.
The purpose of superannuation funds is for people to contribute money, which is an enforced type of saving. Having contributed that money, a pool of money is then created which is available to approved borrowers in the community who can use the money to perform other important works. The money contributed to the Superannuation Fund does not lie in the Treasury coffers or in a bank vault. It is in fact put to work for the benefit of the community. That, to me, is the saving grace of all superannuation schemes. It is true that in the present financial climate - it ‘is not an exclusively Australian climate but it is a financial climate that exists around the world, from Iceland to Spain, to Turkey, to Australia, to the United States of America and to all the so-called Western countries - all countries are experiencing the phenomenon of so-called inflation. As I have said, inflation is not endemic to Australia at all. Inflation is a world-wide problem.
Honourable members who seem to take great delight in and make great play of this phenomenon of inflation in Australia, ought to look at the situation prevailing in the rest of the world. They will find that Australia’s rate of inflation is not as bad as it is in the rest of the world, although that is no justification for the situation which exists in Australia. The financial future of Australia could not be gauged by the actuaries who set themselves up as the wise judges of what would happen in the future. It is the actuaries who on the basis of statistics claim that they can foresee how investments will go in the future. Life insurance and superannuation schemes in Australia exist because of the forecasts of actuaries. These people have obviously either misjudged the situation or could not see that Australia’s financial position would become as buoyant as it has become. So, the surplus in the Superannuation Fund is now in excess of what the actuaries consider it ought to be. Our job today in this House is to determine how the surplus is to be distributed. There does not seem to be a great deal of opposition to the method the Government has employed to distribute that surplus but still Opposition members want to talk about the matter. Under the guise of speaking about the distribution of the surplus in the Superannuation Fund, they always manage to get in their snide little political shots and have a go at the present Government.
– They are prone to doing that.
– Yes, they are prone to doing that. I think it stems from some envy and some jealously of the zealous way and the proper way in which the present Government is performing its tasks. But still the Australian community should not be confused and it will not be misled by carping criticism that is in no way constructive.
The Government has determined that these funds will be distributed to those who have been contributors to the Superannuation Fund. I can see no fairer way of distributing the surplus funds than that. I would not like to have the task of determining whether the contributors had contributed too much money, whether the Australian Government, as an employer, had contributed too much money or whether the actuaries had in fact underestimated the earning rate of funds that they had at their disposal. The final point I would like to make in relation to this matter - again I turn to the point that I made originally - is that a surplus to this extent in the Superannuation Fund must lead any reasonable person to believe that were every working person in the Australian community able to take advantage of a superannuation scheme - as do in fact the Australian public servants - the size of the fund, the pool of money that would be created by all those contributions would, to use a colloquial expression, make the mind boggle.
If every Australian contributed to a superannuation fund no more would we have to worry about where we would find funds to lend to the statutory bodies which need to do the very important capital works in our community. The money would be available. The funds would be earning a very good rate of interest in the present financial climate, certainly better than the 5 per cent that was forecast by the actuaries when the Superannuation Fund was introduced. I do not think there is any really serious opposition to this Bill. I think the members of the Opposition have been filibustering on this matter. They have been dragging the matter out for some reason known only to themselves. It is incredible that the Opposition is not opposing this Bill yet speaker after speaker from that side of the House still rise in their places and find something to say for 10, IS or 20 minutes. It is incredible. It escapes me why Opposition members want to do this. This tactic is certainly not one that is employed by the Gov- ernment. It is a tactic from which I would dissociate myself and one in which I would not be engaged. I commend the Bill to the House and say that I am astounded that there should be opposition to it.
– The history of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund iri Australia has been one of neglect by the previous Liberal-Country Party governments of its own employees. An illustration of that neglect is that the enormous surplus produced by this scheme, is in fact money which was owed to Commonwealth public servants and which was never rightfully returned to them because the Government of the day - the Liberal-Country Party Government - was not interested enough to introduce a Bill of this nature to implement a distribution after the last quinquennial investigation report of 1967, which I have here in my hand. The last distribution made by the previous Government was in 1965. Since then, of course, this money has just piled up and has earned interest. In fact, it has earned interest upon interest. Now, as a result of that, we have the staggering surplus of S70m in the Superannuation Fund. What must be brought to mind is the fact that contributors to the Fund were in fact socked too hard.
The previous Government never made any attempt to adjust the rate of contribution to ensure that no excess would occur in the Fund or, alternatively, it never made any attempt to increase the benefits so that a more equitable distribution of the earnings of the Fund would be made. In either case, had the previous Government taken action, the surplus which is now evident in the Fund would not exist at all. The whole history of the Superannuation Fund has been one of neglect by previous Liberal-Country Party governments and, in fact, one of stinginess from the premise on which the scheme is based. This is one of the very few superannuation schemes available to public servants. (Quorum formed.) It is a sad reflection on the Opposition that it needs to refer to that provision in the Standing Orders to stop a Government supporter making a point about such an important matter as this Superannuation Fund. The point is that the previous Government never really made any attempt to cater for the benefit of Commonwealth employees. I was about to say, when I was so rudely interrupted, that this is one of the few superannuation schemes catering for public employees to which the
Government has never made a contribution itself in match or in line with the contributions made by the contributors to the Fund. In other words the contributions to the Fund were made purely and simply by the employees themselves. No matching government contribution was made until the pension was paid at the time of someone retiring from the Commonwealth Public Service. The Commonwealth benefit was available only at the point of retirement. Had the Commonwealth payment been available to match the contributors’ contributions to the Fund at the same time as those contributions were made this would have swollen the assets of the Fund and, naturally, the earning capacity of the Fund. Consequently from a greater earning capacity greater benefits would have flowed and the contributions would have been cheaper.
A few years ago an interesting point was raised by the then honourable member for Kingsford-Smith, now the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen), when he asked the Treasurer of the day, Mr Bury, how much money the Commonwealth would have needed to have subscribed in any number of years to have made the Commonwealth contribution equal to that of the contributions of public servants. In 1964-65 the amount the Commonwealth would have needed to have subscribed was $58m and in 1969-70, $82m. I do not have the figure for 1974 but it would be approaching $100m. Instead of $100m coming annually from the Commonwealth to match the employees’ contributions to the Fund that amount is absent. All that ever has been paid by the Commonwealth is a benefit at the point of retirement.
Another instance of the neglect by the Liberal and Country Party Government of Commonwealth employees with respect to superannuation concerns the earnings of the Fund. One of the reasons for the surplus being available under this scheme is that it was actuarily assessed that the benefits would be about 5 per cent of the investment. The Fund has been earning in excess of that rate. But compared to other superannuation schemes for public employees the performance of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund has been dismal. Over a period of years earnings of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund have averaged about 5.48 per cent compared with 6.36 per cent in the New South Wales superannuation scheme - a difference of almost 1 per cent. The increased earnings in New South
Wales are not due to the imaginative investment policies of the superannuation board in New South Wales.
Under the Superannuation Act members of the Commonwealth Superannuation Board were not limited with respect to how money was to be invested on behalf of contributors. Of the 3 members of the Board only one was a contributor representative which is why imaginative investment policies were never undertaken. As a consequence the earning capacity of the Superannuation Fund, which has assets at present of about S600m to S700m, was drastically reduced. Had the previous Government been interested in the earning capacity of the Fund, had it asked the Board to display some imagination in its investment policies and had it, in fact, subscribed money to match contributions and not at the point of retirement, Commonwealth employees would have been provided with greater benefits for a greatly reduced contribution rate. However the former Government was not interested in this matter and its members today, as an Opposition, try to stonewall this legislation which provides for the return of $70m to Commonwealth employees. The only thing wrong is that the money is being returned too late.
In his second reading speech the Treasurer (Mr Crean) said that he did not intend to make any adjustments to contribution rates as a result of the earning capacity of the Fund. Admittedly the contribution rates could be reduced but because the Government is contemplating a new superannuation scheme the Treasurer suggested that it is reasonable not to adjust existing rates of contribution at this time. The truth of the matter is that Commonwealth employees have been socked to leg for years. The last Government, now the Opposition, has cared little about these employees. Opposition members are now crying a few crocodile tears because the Government seeks to distribute this surplus. I remind the House that the former Government never bothered about the superannuation scheme because there was no provision for government contributions to match employee contributions. There was only a government benefit at the point of retirement. The investment policies of the Superannuation Board were unimaginative in producing an investment return of only 5.48 per cent. If any commercial organisation had a superannuation fund returning only 5.48 per cent the managers of that fund would get sacked smartly. The former Government was prepared to see the situation continue year in and year out. Investments were being made by the Board to companies which, I believe, were getting the benefit of Commonwealth employees’ money at a cheap rate of interest; certainly not at the market rate which investments were earning at that time. How much money was being invested in semi-government authority loans because this was regarded as a safe and easy way for the Board to make investments? This reflects the complete disdain with which the last Government treated Commonwealth employees with respect to superannuation. This Bill is the forerunner of a new scheme. I am not able to say when that scheme will be introduced.
– Come on; give us a lead.
– I do not know. I am not a member of Cabinet and it is not a decision for me to make. The main point is that this legislation gives back to Commonwealth public servants money they should not have paid in the first place. I commend the Bill to the House.
– 1 shall be brief. I would not have spoken but for some of the outrageous comments made during this debate by members opposite with an air of authority which would have done credit to people who know what they are talking about. The need to distribute the surplus from the Superannuation Fund is a clear indictment of those who now sit opposite and who previously for up to 23 years sat on the Government side of the House. Simply put, the Fund has been charging too high a contribution for the benefits which have been available to contributors.
– For how long?
– For the last 7 years. The previous Government diddled and dawdled and would not make the necessary adjustments to pensions as they became due. As my friend and colleague, the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), said, it is hoped that a new superannuation scheme will be introduced in the immediate future. That scheme, once introduced, should obviate the need for future disbursements of this kind, lt may be necessary to make one further disbursement in order to cater for the changeover period. The over-charging which has occurred for so many years has meant a great deal of hardship to many public servants, par- ticularly those who started in the Public Service on low incomes and finished on moderate to middle incomes. The result has been that many employees in their late fifties feared to get a wage increase. They were terrified of a wage increase because, in some cases, it meant that they took home less pay. After tax was taken out and the increased cost of taking up additional superannuation units was deducted there was less in the pay packet than before the wage increase.
The proposed disbursement will be done as quickly as possible. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) made it clear that no avoidable delay will occur. However some 200,000 separate calculations must be made and the money has to be distributed among all employees and pensioners. The new scheme will come in without undue delay. The Treasurer announced this week that 2 independent actuaries had been engaged to check the new scheme. They are Professor Pollard and Mr Melville. Professor Pollard will be recalled as the person who drew up the original report which led to the proposed new scheme. The 1 July is the date which many of us hope will be the day on which the new scheme comes into effect.
The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) came into this place this afternoon with an outrageous proposition which he thought would be of great benefit. He said to this House in all seriousness that what we should do is follow the lead of the South Australian scheme which he said, and I take his word for this, includes a provision whereby pensions are adjusted by 3 per cent per annum. He must have been asleep for the greater part of last year because this Government introduced legislation last year to adjust Commonwealth superannuation pensions in accordance with consumer price index movements. The Government he supported, that old tired worn out Government that got the sack by the Australian community in December 1972, had a marvellous scheme which used to adjust pensions on what it called a notional basis. That is a word which in this context means: ‘Your guess is as good as mine’. But it used to do it on what it thought would be a regular basis. In other words, whenever somebody thought of it, and that was every 4 or 5 years. In the inflationary situation that we experienced under the previous Government that meant severe hardship. It also meant that instead of the pensioners getting a benefit from this Fund they were denied the benefit and therefore the surplus has built up over the years. The surplus is there to be distributed because the contributors to the Fund did not get the amounts to which they were entitled. 1 mentioned earlier that some wage earners were scared of receiving a salary increase because of this difficulty and I remind this House that some contributors under this old scheme, this inequitable scheme which is about to be thrown out by this Government to give public servants a new deal, were paying up to 40 per cent of their wages as contributions for superannuation compared with the normal figure in private employment to which previous speakers on the Opposition side have referred of about 5 per cent in addition to an employer contribution of 10 per cent and in some cases higher than that. I remind honourable members opposite that the lump sum payments for some of the tall poppies in private industry amount to SI 00,000 and $150,000, 95 per cent of which is tax free. Under the scheme fostered by the previous Government many people who at present are employed in the Australian Public Service are denied the right to be in this Fund. Some of them are in the Provident Fund. Some of them are in nothing. Those who are admitted to the Provident Fund are at a distinct disadvantage compared with those who are members of the Superannuation Fund. This causes friction. It has caused inequities and of course the Opposition saw nothing wrong with that when it was in government.
– Why are they in the Provident Fund?
– I do not mind taking another minute to relieve the honourable member’s dreadful ignorance. Those people are in that fund because the restrictive rules and schemes which your Party imposed will not allow them to join the Superannuation Fund. A clerk who uses his right hand and who has a crippled left arm is not allowed into the Superannuation Fund. A person with some affliction who happens to get through the stringent admission tests to the Public Service cannot get into that Fund. A person who suffers bad health is in the Provident Fund. I remind the honourable gentleman of that.
– Why? Because Bert Evatt and Ben Chifley could not understand your argument; that is why.
– Because your Party refused to amend the scheme in accordance with modern day concepts. The honourable member for North Sydney lives in a past generation and every so often he tries to drag himself up to date. He cannot recognise that the era about which he is speaking was an era when very few people in this community had the benefit of superannuation. In fact, at that time it was a privilege almost exclusively the preserve of those who worked for government and public organisations. Today the position has changed. Today many hundreds of thousands of employees are members of superannuation schemes. Let me remind the honourable member for North Sydney who now shows mock concern for the Australian public servant that the other great thing that his Government did for the public servants in the field of superannuation was to introduce one of the most inequitable schemes imaginable - the socalled non-contributory unit which was available only to those who elected to retire at age 65 and those who for one reason or another found it necessary to retire at age 60 and had to fix their pension on that basis were denied any benefit from that so-called and much vaunted improvement.
The other anomaly which has caused some of this surplus has been the inability of single mothers in some States to have their dependant children included as beneficiaries under the scheme. For example, in Victoria the law allows single mothers to adopt their little children and they then become beneficiaries. But in that State of great enlightenment and progress, Queensland, from which we have heard much in the last day or so about enlightenment, we find that dependant children cannot become beneficiaries. We find that the child must have a mark on it for life and that in the event of the death of the child’s mother on whom it could be completely dependent it is denied, under the previous Government’s miserable scheme, the benefit for which his or her mother has paid out of her salary - in many cases a payment which could not be afforded. I da not want to belabour the issue but I was stirred into speaking in this debate because of the misleading propaganda and some of the quite inaccurate statements which have been made by members of the Opposition during the course of this debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Daly) read a third time.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to an amendment made by the House of Representatives to this Bill.
Debate resumed from 2 April (vide page 879), on motion by Mr Crean:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and Appropriation Bill (No. 5) 1973-74 as they are related measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both Bills? There being no objection, I shall allow that course to be adopted.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, we will oppose both these Bills. In his second reading speech on Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1973-74 the Treasurer (Mr Crean) said:
This Bill seeks appropriations totalling $100,480,000 for expenditure in the current financial year on administrative expenses and other services. . . .
In his second reading speech on Appropriation Bill (No. 5) 1973-74 he said:
This Bill seeks appropriations totalling $70,362,000 for expenditure in the current financial year on items of capital works and services, payments to or for the States and certain other services. . . .
Both appropriations are additional to the appropriations made in previous Appropriation Bills. We will oppose both these Bills. In opposing both these Bills we expect that they will be opposed in the Senate. If in the Senate all members of the Liberal Party, the Australian Country Party and the Democratic Labor Party oppose the Appropriation Bills they will fail to pass. If they fail to pass it will mean that the Government must go to an election. There must be a dissolution of the House of Representatives. We would then make suitable arrangements for the appropriations now sought to be passed after the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) had announced that there will be an election and a dissolution of the House of Representatives. We would take that action because it is perfectly clear to the whole of the Australian people that there is something drastically wrong with conditions in Australia today. There is a very real fear in Australia today at the direction in which Australia is being forced by this socialist Labor Government. lt is necessary only to point out some of the matters. Firstly, at the present time inflation in Australia is running at 14 per cent a year. This is higher than the rate of inflation of the other industrial developed countries of the world. It is 3 times the rate of inflation which we left when we were defeated in December 1972. At that time inflation was about 4i per cent a year. It has trebled.
I should point out to the House something which every member of the House knows and every housewife knows, that is, that food prices have gone up by 5 times what they were in December 1972 - in the course of these 15 or 16 months. There are shortages. Every person wishing to buy goods or to obtain services finds that there is a shortage of those goods. There is not a supermarket in which there are not shortages. There is not a factory in Australia which is . not experiencing difficulty in obtaining the supply of goods to keep that plant and factory operating. At a time when there are shortages of goods there is not the capacity of manufacturers to supply the shortfall. There are shortages of all services. Anybody with the most simple problem - a fault in a television set, a washing machine, a dryer or whatever it may be - is having difficulty in obtaining the services to repair it.
The effects of inflation can be catalogued very simply. Inflation is only a statistician’s measure of price rise. While the people in the street may look at the statistician’s figures, they can measure inflation themselves more directly by the costs they have to meet. The effects of inflation need only to be stated - increased prices, shortages of goods and industrial turmoil and strife.
What is not so readily recognised, and I must make clear, is that inflation has the capacity to redistribute the assets and the income in the community. Assets are redistributed without any regard to equity or fairness to the people in that community. Anybody who has retired and is depending upon his savings or his superannuation or an insurance policy will find his relative standard of living and assets diminishing. Any person who works in a job which has not a powerful trade union will find the level of his income going down compared with the amount received by persons working in jobs where they are represented by a powerful union.
There are certain people who can handle inflation. The powerful and the wealthy can handle inflation and out of inflation they can become more powerful and more wealthy. The people who are poor, the people who are weak, become poorer and weaker. The great tragedy of it is that the people whom this Government claims to represent and who put it in office, those who are poor and weak, are the very people who are being ignored by this Government, and this Government is allowing them to become weaker and poorer. Inflation, therefore, benefits the rich and the powerful at the expense of the poor and the weak. We are not prepared to allow that position to go on and worsen. The time has come to put it to the test of the Australian people.
Everybody knows that inflation causes a distortion in the nature of the growth of Australian industry. Inflation has other effects. Who does not know the increased burden of personal income tax? This financial year, 1973- 74, on the Treasury’s own figures, personal income tax will rise by $ 1,500m - an increase of one-third over last year’s. No wonder people find income tax crippling. No wonder people find that when they earn extra money so much of it is taken from them and when it is taken from them, along with the increases in prices, they are actually worse off today than they were 15 months ago.
The next point which I want to make is that taxpayers on average will this year pay $200 more in tax than they did last year. They are being milked at a time when prices are growing so much. It gets to the point where, at a meeting I had last Monday, a young woman with young children told me that the burden of taxes and prices on her family was such that though she did not want to do it - she wanted to remain home with her young children - in order to preserve her family’s standard of living she was going to be forced to take employment. That is the sort of social implication of Labor’s policy for Australia.
The Government is aiming to increase greatly spending in the public sector. The Treasurer said that he would continue to do it. In answer to a question from me he said that he would continue to expand the public sector, backed by a combination of inflation, increased interest rates and increased taxes. When we have a Treasurer of this country warning everybody that this is what lies in front of us has not the time arrived for us to put the matter to the test? The Government has no concern to control inflation; the Government has a concern only to harvest inflation and to take from the product of inflation this grossly inflated sum of personal income tax. Interest rates today are at the highest level in Australia’s history. The 6 per cent long term bond rate grew to 8i per cent. And this is a Party which before it came to office went out to the public and gave a solemn undertaking that in government it would reduce interest rates. It took it just 9 months to increase the bond rate by 2i per cent. There is not a person in this community who has a mortgage, not a person who is buying anything on hire purchase, not a person who has borrowed money for any personal purpose or to put goods in his household, who is not finding the increased interest rates a burden.
On the subject of housing, who is there in this Parliament who does not believe that every Australian ought to have the opportunity to own his own home? What the Labor Government wants to do is to reverse all that. This is the echo of a former senior Minister in a Labor Government who said that he did not want Australia to be a nation of little capitalists. What the Government wants to do is to have rental homes and nothing else. In housing there has been accelerated price rises, higher interest rates and a widening of the deposit gap. Young people especially find that when they wish to purchase a house the price has gone up, the interest rate has gone up and the amount they have to find as the difference between the mortgage and their own money is growing ever wider and they cannot afford it. A credit squeeze has resulted in a plummeting of loan approvals and commencements of housing. The Housing Industry Association President has warned that Australia faces a crisis in housing unparallelled in the post-war period.
The immigration administration under the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) has been a failure. There has never been a Minister administering any portfolio who has been so keen to have personal aggrandisement and personal advertisement and been so unconcerned about the success and administration of his portfolio. There has been a fall in the numbers of migrants. There have been false hopes raised with other countries which have now to be changed. This leaves a sour taste in the mouths of those other countries and has an effect on the relations between Australia and them.
The aboriginal affairs policy has been described by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) himself as a disaster. We have not had a single statement from the Prime Minister as to how this disaster is to be cured or how it will be changed. The Minister is left to lumber along in the morass of a disastrous policy. Social security programs have been shattered by the Government’s own inflation as the report of the Henderson commission on poverty published only yesterday in this House pointed out quite clearly. The health scheme lies in ruins. This scheme was opposed by the medical profession, by the hospitals and by the health funds. The purpose of a health scheme is to deliver health care. How can you deliver health care when the people who are responsible to deliver it will have no truck with the scheme which is put forward?
The Labor Party promised to spend 3.5 per cent of the gross national product on defence. The Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) had to come into this chamber during debate on the last Budget and admit that that promise was broken and that the amount to be spent would be only 2.9 per cent of the GNP. We know that with inflation, in real terms it will be much less.
I now come to oil exploration. This is the most extraordinary and unique performance for Australia. At a time when the world knows of the difficulties in oil, fuel and gas this Government has achieved a unique position. We are the only country in the world where exploration for oil and gas has gone down. Every other country has expanded its search for these products. The reason why our exploration has dropped is the total lack of confidence in this Government and because of the actions of this Government. I repeat, the reason for the downturn in exploration is a lack of confidence in this Government by Australians and by overseas exploration companies alike. There has been a withdrawal of any subsidy, of any encouragement to people to take this high risk adventure in exploring for natural resources.
When we come to industrial unrest, we find that already the working days lost due to industrial disputes is up by 31 per cent. The amount of production lost is fantastic at a time when we have shortages of goods. But remember the promise made by the Prime Minister before he became Prime Minister. He said that there would be fewer industrial disturbances under the Labor Government because, he said: ‘We have an understanding with the unions’. They have an understanding; they certainly do. They positively encourage a growth in wage rates which they know cannot mean a real increase in the standards of living of the Australian people. They know that this growth can only cause higher and higher price rises. They are unconcerned about it because, as I have said, they want to harvest inflation.
The Government has put the rural industries under attack. Their whole purpose is to drive a cleavage between the rural communities and the urban communities. They want the rural communities and the urban communities to feel that they are adversaries, that they are against each other, whereas the truth lies in the fact that the future of Australia depends on the success of both sectors, and both sectors must be partners in the advance of Australia. The Labor Government has tried to put one sector against the other. In government we would prevent that happening. We would make those sectors understand that there must be a unity.
There has not been sufficient progress in urban improvement. There is a total unrealness about the attitude of the Labor Government that in some way or other regional development is going to be a substitute for urban improvement. The fact is that urban improvement is a fundamental necessity in this country and must be pursued vigorously, and we cannot blind ourselves to the need for urban improvement by talking about grandiose schemes of regional development. We must have that regional development; we are committed to it. But we are not going to allow our commitment to regional development to blind our eyes to the need of urban improvement.
Inflation redistributes assets and incomes to the strong and the powerful against the weak and those on fixed incomes. Any person over the age of 50 approaching retirement must live in constant fear as to what his living standards will be in retirement. It is not right that a government should put them in this state of uncertainty.
And now we have had this shameful episode - this deceitful episode - about the appointment of an Ambassador to Ireland. Australians have seen the Prime Minister degrade the office of Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is now desperately trying to extricate himself from the constitutional and political crisis he has created by attempting to appoint Senator Gair Ambassador to Ireland. In doing so the Prime Minister has today further misled and misinformed the Parliament and the Australian people. He is prepared to sacrifice any other person to save his own embarrassment. He has contradicted his Foreign Minister (Senator Willesee) and his Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) and, strangely enough - no, not strangely enough, expectedly enough - he has even contradicted himself. The Prime Minister is entangling himself, his Government and his Party in a web of deceit and of shame.
At his Press conference on Tuesday the Prime Minister was asked the question:
Prime Minister, has Senator Gair officially accepted the position?
The Prime Minister replied:
For reasons best known to himself he added these words:
He hasn’t, I understand, resigned from the Senate yet.
In answer to a question in the House of Representatives today the Prime Minister stated that he considered no resignation was required and that Senator Gair’s seat was vacated when, it was alleged, he accepted the offer of the appointment on 14 March last. Why did the Prime Minister say the opposite on 2 April - two days ago? Because he has changed his attitude in order to try to protect himself. He has changed his attitude today. He has misled the House. It is reasonable for the Australian people to ask: Who is the Ambassador to Ireland? The Prime Minister states that Senator Gair became the Ambassador to Ireland on 14 March. He said further that at that point the former Ambassador ceased to be an ambassador to that country. That is, the Prime Minister has said Mr Brennan is not Ambassador. If that is correct, the Prime Minister must now explain on what authority Mr Brennan, who still remains in Dublin, in the Chancellery in Dublin, with the title of Australian Ambassador, has continued to communicate on behalf of the Australian Government with the Irish Government.
The Prime Minister stated what was obvious to all - that there cannot be 2 Ambassadors to Ireland. Senator Willesee today in the Senate said that Mr Brennan is still the Ambassador to Ireland. Senator Willesee says that Mr Brennan is the Ambassador, the Prime Minister says that Mr Brennan is not. The Prime Minister says that Senator Gair is the Ambassador.
We can ask: Who has the authority to determine the commencement of Senator Gair’s appointment? The Prime Minister indicated today that the Executive Council minute of 21 March left it to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Willesee, to make the determination. The Prime Minister said:
I, in fact, left them-
That is, the determinations - to Senator Willesee to make on his return and he made them on his return.
One of the determinations was as follows: Such appointment commences on and from a date to be determined by the Minister for Foreign Affairs’. The Prime Minister indicated that Senator Willesee made this determination. Today Senator Willesee said that Senator Gair is not Ambassador. The Prime Minister insists that he is. Clearly he has no authority for his claim. In fact Senator Willesee said today that he appointed Senator Gair to take office as Ambassador on the day he arrived in Dublin. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister say opposite things. I accept the word of Senator Willesee - not the word of the Prime Minister.
The shame of the appointment is now worsened by the deceit in this Parliament. The Prime Minister stated today that Senator Gair sat in the Senate on Tuesday, 2 April, against the advice of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy). If that is so, why did the AttorneyGeneral not immediately raise the issue with the President of the Senate on that day? It is to be assumed from the Prime Minister’s statement today that the Government believes that Senator Gair sat illegally in the Senate from 14 March. When did the AttorneyGeneral first issue this advice to Senator Gair? Was it prior to 14 March or was it only prior to the sitting on 2 April?
It is now apparent to all Australians that the proposed appointment is coloured with very serious overtones. It is a matter of the gravest misuse of power and the gravest misrepresentation to the Australian people and to this national Parliament. All members of the Australian Labor Party must be ashamed and disgusted. If they are not, they do not deserve to serve in this national Parliament.
The Opposition has positive policies to deal with inflation. We would cut government spending by cutting the growth of the Public Service and ending government involvement in projects which ought to be left to private enterprise - such as the Gidgealpa pipeline. In the first 10 months of the Labor Government 205 Second Division positions were created; the number of departments increased from 27 to 31; 157 new divisions and branches were created; and overtime payments went up by 60 per cent. There was a 29 per cent growth in the salaries and allowances to public servants. There were 95 new boards, commissions, inquiries and task forces created. On the figures supplied to me in answer to questions on notice, the cost of salaries for the new public servants - not the increases in salaries of the old ones - in the first 10 months of office was enough to give almost $3 a week to every pensioner in Australia.
We would defer low priority programs. Curiously enough, that is the advice the Government received from its own economic adviser, Dr Coombs. We would reduce government spending to ease interest rates and cut taxes, as the reduced demand by the public sector would eliminate the need to squeeze the private sector. Honourable members on this side of the House want co-operation, not confrontation. The private sector must be allowed to grow because the private sector creates the wealth in this country so that it can be distributed throughout the community.
We would call a national conference, including Federal and State governments and employer and employee groups, to discuss cooperative restraints on wage and price setters. There is no reason why we cannot revert to the performance of the 1960s when inflation of less than 3 per cent was achieved under conditions of full employment. That would be our objective and we would achieve it.
We want an independent and flexible exchange rate policy. We are not prepared to allow our exchange rate to be determined by the internal and external affairs of the United States of America. We would lift the 33i per cent deposit requirement on capital inflow. We would encourage foreign capital, with clear guidelines setting out the conditions by which we expect to preserve Australia’s national interest. We would establish a foreign exchange market in Australia to facilitate Australian investment abroad and to develop our own capital market.
Our housing policy would assist every Australian who wishes to own his or her own home. We would establish a bousing guidance bureau and would encourage medium density and co-operative housing. We would investigate the restructuring of mortgage loan payments to ease the burden in the early years and increase the payments at a later time when they were better able to be met. We would provide direct financial assistance to those who need it.
We would be concerned with social welfare, health and education programs, and we are determined that there would be no better systems of social welfare, health and education in any other country.
We have already published our tariff policy which supports revues by the Industries Assistance Commission. We would not take ad hoc decisions. We would cut taxes. We would cut back government spending in Public Service growth. We would examine the timing of expenditure programs. We would not strangle trade practices legislation.
We have published our policies on preschool education and child care. We would have sound, practical manpower policies and retraining programs. We would have a manpower program, which this Government has been unwilling to adopt.
The role of women in Australia would be advanced. We would do this by creating a branch in the Public Service Board to make sure that obstacles and discriminations were removed. We would revise the widows training scheme. There would be a revised role in the Commonwealth Employment Service. We would review discriminatory aspects of taxation against women.
In the field of minerals and energy we would restore exploration. We would create a national institute of energy research. We would restore private enterprise as the driving force to develop Australia’s natural resources. We would assess the extent of our resources. We would map our energy resources and we would provide priority for joint ventures in development.
We would encourage small businesses as the very basis of the protection of the free enterprise philosophy in Australia which has developed Australia so well and will continue to do so. We reject all those philosophies which would take away from the individual his right to express himself, to succeed, to be innovative, to be inventive, to be enterprising and to work hard if he chooses to do so. We would establish a national economic council. We would establish a national disaster relief fund.
We have rural policies which have already been published. We would strengthen and honour our alliances and rebuild our defences. As a government we would never allow Australians to become hostages to international fortune. We would make sure that our defence forces can answer the claims likely to be put upon them.
In urban and regional development we would increase the availability of land. We are opposed to land banks. We support growth centres, regional development and urban improvement. The problems of the cities will remain, and we would deal with them. We would do it in co-operation with the States - in Commonwealth-State relationships. (Extension of time granted.)
We would act to improve the environment and the quality of our life by actions, not by mere words upon which this Government relies. In Commonwealth-State relations we would have co-operation with the States, not confrontation. We stand irrevocably committed to the concept of Australia as a nation composed of the 6 States which make up the Federation. We are a federation, and we would make it work as a co-operative federation.
He would return to the States the freedom of their own action. We would provide for them a predetermined share of income tax, and they would be responsible for their own decisions and would answer to the public. We would reduce the extent of tied grants by which some bureaucrat in Canberra now fixes all the details and the determinations of the expenditure of State funds. We would minimise the conditions upon which grants are made to the States. In local government, we would provide an expansion of the responsibility of those local governments which now have a responsibility to provide services, and we would provide for them the capacity to discharge adequately the provision of services. They would have a predetermined share of revenue which would be distributed through the States, and the States would set up their method of distributing it - no doubt through some form of local government grants commission. We would support local action groups in local government.
That is but a small recitation of the whole range of policies which we would put before the Australian people at an election. Australia is facing a crisis. That crisis relates to domestic affairs and to foreign affairs. In domestic affairs it is an issue of inflation and the social and economic well being of Australia. If the wrong decisions continue to be made the damage which will be done to Australia socially and economically will take decades to repair. We already have a rate of inflation which is too high for any country to endure. Australia has had a history of low inflation, Australia has had a history of social peace, Australia has had a history of incomes and assets being more evenly distributed than the distribution of incomes and assets in any other country. That is now in peril. We do not want to leave it to happen just by chance. Now is the time to put it to the choice of the Australian .people.
In foreign affairs this Government is determined to move Australia out of the orbit of the free world in which we have lived for so long, and in which we have been proud of our contribution and our association. We want to continue Australia’s role in the free world as a free contributing democracy. We do not want to pursue the course by which Australia will inevitably be converted into a socialist country, finding its natural allies in the uncommitted third world of socialist countries. That is not to be our destiny unless the people of Australia opt for it. When we go to an election we will put clearly before them the alternatives - this in the economic and social field, and this in the foreign affairs and defence field. The people of Australia did not give a mandate to this Government to change the whole nature of the Australian democracy. If that is to happen, it can happen only by the freely expressed will of the Australian people. The only way to determine that is by an election for the government of Australia. That is the course we want; that is the course we will pursue. We will oppose the Bill in this House. We expect it to be opposed in the Senate. If it is opposed in the Senate it will be defeated. Then we would make appropriate arrangements for the money to be made available after the Prime Minister has announced a dissolution of this House and the calling of an election so that the people can decide.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, it is not just time for the election of a government of Australia but for a parliament of Australia - an election of the whole Parliament of Australia. If the. Senate rejects any money Bill - the first time that the Senate would have rejected a money Bill in the history of our nation - I shall certainly wait upon the Governor-General and I shall advise the Governor-General not merely to dissolve the House of Representatives but to dissolve the Senate as well. For too long the Government elected by the people in December 1972 has been frustrated by senators elected by the people in December 1967 and December 1970. The way to have a completely contemporary Senate, representing the will of the people and responsive to the will of the people, is to dissolve the Senate. There will be an election, as things stand, for the Senate on 18 May. The Senate, elected in December 1967 and December 1970, will continue in being until the end of June. If a Senate, so archaic in its election, can refuse supply at this stage, it could refuse it again after 18 May. It could refuse supply up to the end of June, including those Supply Bills which must always be passed before the end of the financial year and to cover the first months of the next financial year.
Let there be no equivocation about it. If the Senate rejects any Supply Bill I shall certainly wait upon the Governor-General. He will be back in Australia on Wednesday. I will advise the Governor-General to dissolve both Houses and to issue writs for elections of both Houses on 18 May. At this stage, as honourable members know, there are all the ingredients for a double dissolution. There are no ingredients for advice being given by the Prime Minister to the Governor-General to dissolve the House of Representatives alone. The House of Representatives was more recently elected. The Government, composing the majority, has never been defeated in a division in 16 months. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) should know that it would be completely irresponsible for any
Prime Minister to advise a Head of State to dissolve a chamber in which a government has never been defeated or under threat of defeat. For all the bluster that the right honourable gentleman committed this afternoon, he knows perfectly well that the Appropriation Bills which we are debating will be passed by this chamber. If the Senate rejects them, not only is there a powerful argument of those matters which the Senate has already twice rejected and been twice passed by the House of Representatives but also there will be the additional powerful argument for the Prime Minister to give to the Governor-General that the Senate is deliberately withholding Supply - an unprecedented action.
In those circumstances, if the Senate refuses Supply I shall certainly wait upon the Governor-General. I shall advise that he issue writs not only for an election of the House of Representatives on 18 May but also for the election of a new Senate on 18 May. A writ for a Senate election issued by a Governor-General of Australia subsumes any writs issued by State governors - colonial governors. So, until the Senate has rejected Supply, there is not one scintilla of ground for me to advise the Governor-General to dissolve the House of Reps. But if the Senate gives me that ground then I shall certainly also have reinforced grounds - grounds which have never been available in the 73 years of this Federation - as well as those for rejection of Bills for advising the Governor-General that there should be an election for the whole of the Senate as well. It is time for us to have a contemporary parliament. We have a contemporary Government. For too long it has been frustrated by senators elected two and five years before - 6) years and 3i years ago. On 18 May we can have a completely new Parliament. (Opposition members interjecting)-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! If the honourable gentlemen on my left do not come to order I will start dealing with them Some of them have already been warned today that I will not give them further warnings. It is all right to interject; this is an important question. However, I do not consider that the House should be brought to total uproar as some members of the Opposition are attempting to do. I would suggest that members of the Opposition should remain silent. I would also suggest that members behind the Prime Minister should remain silent.
– We have witnessed a very historic occasion where the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has demonstrated his hitter annoyance and frustration that the national Parliament of Australia has 2 houses - an upper House and a lower House - and that he wants to bring about the downfall of the Senate so that there is complete power in one chamber so that he, the Prime Minister, can lord it over the Australian people as well as this Parliament.
– Are you going to dingo out now?
– Dingo! Go on, dingo!
– Name him.
– Order! I do not need anyone to tell me what to do. The Minister for Transport will withdraw that remark. It is a personal reflection on another member.
– With respect to the word dingo’ I will withdraw.
-Order! The Minister for Transport will make an unqualified withdrawal.
– I withdraw it unqualifiedly.
- Mr Speaker, those remarks did not have any impact upon me. I thought they were referring to the honourable member’s own leader. The Prime Minister by his remarks has threatened the Sena 1 3 that if it votes against the Appropriation Bill which we are now debating or any Appropriation Bill he will dissolve the Senate. We have no equivocation if this is to be the outcome of the Prime Minister’s decision. It is questionable whether he has the right to call for a double dissolution. Mr Speaker, let me assure you that if this is the decision of the Governor-General, it will produce no fear in us. We believe that the Australian people are sick and tired of the present Government and have no confidence in it whatsoever. The Australian Country Party will oppose this Appropriation Bill as it will oppose Appropriation Bills in the Senate, and if the combined vote of Liberal, Country Party and Democratic Labor Party senators defeat the
Appropriation Bill, there is an obligation on the Prime Minister to take the Parliament to the people to resolve the issue.
We believe that the Australian people are deeply concerned about Government policies, about its attitudes and about the direction in which it is taking this nation. What the people want is stable, honest, humane government. On each one of these questions the Government is a dismal failure. There is instability, there is uncertainty, there is fear in the minds of the Australian people. The ravages of inflation are causing great hardship to many people who have not the capacity to fight against inflation. If this situation is to continue for another 18 months, many people will be at a very stricken level of living. There will be areas of poverty and the ultimate level of unemployment which must follow the boom brought about by the forced inflation of Government policies will cause great hardship to many sections of the Australian community.
In regard to honesty, we have seen the lack of it exposed this week and today as we have never seen it exposed before. We have seen the Whitlam Government involved in a complete breakdown of principles and political morality when it bought over Senator Gair by appointing him as Ambassador to Ireland. The motives and the machinations associated with this appointment reveal such a decline in political standards that the Labor Government oan no longer have the confidence and the support of the Australian people. The Prime Minister and his Government have been too smart by half. The Government has stooped to a level which indicates that it will stoop to any level to try to gain power in both Houses of this Parliament to entrench itself in office and it will tell any untruth and will deceive the Parliament in trying to excuse itself for what it has done. The people should be allowed to express themselves on this issue.
In Parliament today the statements by the Prime miinster on this matter were later contradicted in the Senate by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee). The Whitlam Government clearly is in a state of confusion and internal disputation. By this latest sordid episode its unfitness to remain in office has been confirmed. It is the view of the Australian Country Party that the behaviour and record of this Government since its election have been such that the grounds for an election have existed for a long time. This week’s events have strengthened our conviction that the Prime Minister can honourably take no other course than to call an election. He should live up to his words which he uttered here today, but I have doubts whether he will because we heard the same threatening remarks used when the Electoral Bill came into this Parilament. What the Prime Minister tried to do then was to intimidate and put fear into the senators that if they voted against the Electoral Bill there would be a double dissolution. Where is that double dissolution?
-Order! Will the right honourable gentleman address the Chair?
– Yes, Mr Speaker. Let us look at some other matters in respect of which the Prime Minister and this Government have prostituted the laws of this country and this Parliament and have held both in contempt. Let us go back to the notorious ASIO affair, the raid on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. That happened a year, almost to the day, before the Gair affair began, so I am told. There is no doubt at all in my mind that by carrying out his raid on ASIO Senator Murphy broke the law. Yet the Government, using the force of its numbers, prevented him from being brought to account for his part in that affair. Senator Murphy acted illegally and placed himself above the laws of this Parliament; but the Government, using its numbers-
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order.
– . . . prevented an inquiry from being held.
– I raise a point of order. I regret that I had to raise my voice in the way I did to the Leader of the National Alliance - I do not know what to call his Party these days - but I thought that if he wanted to have a shouting match I would join him. My point of order is that he just made the statement that Senator Murphy acted illegally in raiding ASIO. Such is not the case. These people in the other place used their numbers to appoint a committee and that committee has not yet reported. No court has yet found the honourable senator guilty or that he acted illegally.
-Order! No point of order is involved.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. If I recall correctly, Sir, you ruled earlier today or yesterday that it was not in order for a member of this House to reflect on a member of the Senate. That is what the Leader of the Country Party has done in suggesting that Senator Murphy broke the law and acted illegally. That is what he said.
-I think the point of order is well taken. Under no circumstances must the Leader of the Country Party reflect on any senator.
– Is this kind of unprincipled government that the Australian people have had foisted upon them the government that they really want? The people should be given a chance to make up their own minds. They certainly have been duped and hoaxed by this Government and they ought to be allowed to express a fresh opinion.
We hear so much about the so-called mandate of this Government. This Government was elected with a very small majority. In fact, it did not even get a majority of the votes of the Australian people. It won the election principally by the votes of people in Sydney and Melbourne, but nowhere else in Australia; yet it claims that it has a universal mandate to bring forward whatever form of legislation it wishes. When the Senate rightly uses its authority to check or prevent legislation which it believes is not in the best interests of the Australian people, the Senate is accused of blocking legislation and of frustrating the Government. That is the very purpose of the Senate. Now, when the Senate has had its confidence completely shaken by the dishonest actions of the Government, it has a right to exercise its ultimate power of rejecting this Government by stopping the Appropriation Bills. This is what it intends to do in order to force the Government to the Australian people so that they can make up their minds on whether they want to continue with a government that has caused so much disruption, uncertainty and confusion, or to return to the type of government which led this country along a sound and stable course for 2 decades.
The only thing that the Australian people gave Mr Whitlam was a mandate to form a new government; nothing else. It is quite wrong for Mr Whitlam or anyone else to claim that the Labor Party was given a mandate for a new health scheme, for making the Australian Industry Development Corporation an instrument for the socialisation of industry, for changing the electoral laws, or for any of the other things for which he claims a mandate. If Mr Whitlam claims a mandate for anything he must claim a mandate for everything he is doing, and he simply does not have such a sweeping mandate. For example, did the Australian people give the Labor Party a mandate for such a big swelling in the ranks of the Commonwealth Public Service? Did they give it a mandate for smashing the assistance to rural industries? Did they give it a mandate for the criminal white-anting of Australian defences?
On what basis did the Labor Government get into office? It got into office by a very small majority in this House but not an overall majority of the Australian people. Did it have a mandate to go and abuse our international friends and allies? Did it have a mandate to destroy the confidence of business and industry? Did it have a mandate to sabotage Australia’s oil exploration program and then to risk the people’s money on chancy and costly oil drilling ventures? Did the Australian people give Labor a mandate to centralise more and more power in Canberra, or to seek to change the Constitution to help Labor even to water down the process of bringing about changes in the Constitution? Did the Labor Party have a mandate to break the firm commitment given by the Prime Minister and others in respect of Labor’s education program? Did it have a mandate to make changes in the exchange rate that will prove very damaging to Australian industry? Did the people elect a government with a mandate to follow financial policies which are contributing so significantly and damagingly to inflation? Let us not have too much nonsense from Mr Whitlam about his so-called mandate.
-Order! I would like the right honourable gentleman to refer to Mr Whitlam as the Prime Minister.
– Let the Australian people be thankful that there is a Senate ready to do its job of scrutinising and amending, and if necessary rejecting, legislation which it thinks is not in the best interests of the Australian people. Let us ask ourselves by just how much more the Labor Party would have exceeded its alleged mandate but for the responsible course followed by the present Senate. The Prime Minister now is asking the Australian people to make the Senate nothing more than a rubber stamp. Let us not forget that every State election and every by-election since December 1972 has seen the Australian people rebuking the Labor Party in the clearest terms. If the Labor Government is to be prevented from running completely wild, the restraining hand of the Senate must be applied - and it has been applied. However, things have now reached the point where in the Senate and in this House there is no confidence left in the integrity of the present Government and its Prime Minister.
We are prepared to go to the people. We want to go to the people. We will tell the people that we believe that the best way for them to achieve satisfaction and purpose in their lives is to shun the handout mentality which socialism breeds and to apply their own energies and skills, their own drive, their own initiative, their own work and their own leisure. We will tell them that we believe in an economic system which is based on free enterprise. We will tell them that this system will reward those who apply their skills, who are prepared to work and to make an effort and that it is a system that will provide for those who cannot provide for themselves. We will tell the people that there is nothing to be ashamed of in profit - normal legitimate business profit; that the profit of enterprise is the source of all forward movement and is the basis of any democratic society. We will say that the real freedoms are the freedoms to think, to speak, to worship, to choose, to be ambitious, to be industrious, to acquire skills and to seek rewards - not the dull, stultifying reflections that come from the socialist philosophy that we are having imposed upon us today by this Government.
We will tell the people that we are nationalistic but that our nationalism stretches beyond the shores of Australia and demands an acceptance of our responsibility to mankind. We will tell the people that whilst we are nationalistic we preciously guard our freedom of government, our federal system of government, with State governments exercising specific areas of responsibility and acting, if necessary, as a check against the intrusion and the excesses of central government. We will tell the people that we cannot, as a nation, continue our maltreatment of the natural environment; that in damaging the environment we are damaging our capacity to keep a kind of living that we believe the Australian people deserve. We will tell the people that we are determined to maintain and to intensify our way of life and to protect our way of life. We can do this only if we have a responsible attitude to the security of this nation by maintaining our strong alliances with our allies and building up a defence service that will be capable of giving some protection to the Australian people if it is ever called upon to do so.
– Mr Speaker-
– How did you get on the batting list?
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Gippsland.
– A very great American, Abraham Lincoln, once said: ‘You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time’. We have just heard a valiant attempt by Liberal Party and Country Party spokesmen to fool all of the people all of the time. Let us reflect on some of the things that the last speaker, the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony), tried to put over. He talked of profit. Under the Government of which he was a member, profit in this country was at an all-time low. Under a Labor Government profit is at an all-time high. He talked of human rights and civil liberties. Under his Government they were at an all-time low. When this Government, through its AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy), introduces human rights legislation and anti-racist legislation, from where does the opposition come? From the Liberal Party and, in particular, the Country Party. Where does all the opposition come from to the promotion of the free enterprise mixed economy, public enterprise system of Australia? It comes from the Liberal Party and the- Country Party.
Where does the opposition come from the Government’s proposals for anti-restrictive trade practices legislation, legislation designed to encourage competition, to encourage the best features of free enterprise? It comes from the Liberal party and the Country Party. Who espouses it? The Australian Labor Party. The Opposition opposes it because it favours monopolies, cartels and restrictive trade practices. Under the previous Government’s administration what was the state of the Australian economy? Two hundred thousand people were unemployed; investment figures were at an all-time low; apathy in business was at an all-time high, and there was a lack of confidence. Australia’s international reputation was almost abysmally low; we were treated as a joke in international affairs. After 15 months of a Labor Government, as a result of dignified policies on foreign affairs Australians abroad now walk taller. Reinvestment decisions by Australian businessmen are at an all-time high. Reinvestment was up 22 per cent or one-fifth in the December quarter of last year. It totalled $330m, indicating increased confidence in the continued prosperity of Australia. It took a Labor Government only 15 months to do it. The Opposition had 23 years to do it and it was failing as time went by. Who put an end to unemployment? This Australian Labor Government did. Yet Opposition members have the gall to come into this chamber and speak in an hysterical manner and behave in the way that they do. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) is a study in vacuity - that is the best description anyone can give him. He is a study in vacuity every time he stands up here. The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) perhaps could not be described in the same manner, but he certainly is not candid, nor is he frank, and as I said-
– Dishonest. Putting it in the terms of that great American, Abraham Loncoln, he is trying to fool the people, but the facts will speak for themselves. Let us talk about the Senate. Who rejected the Commonwealth Electoral Bills? The LiberalCountry Party Coalition in the Senate did. Who even refused that small but important measure to allow the Australian Capital Territory, commonly accepted as the most underrepresented part of Australia, to have representation in the Senate? The Liberal Party and the Country Party did because they thought they might not win an Australian Capital Territory position. Their people in the Senate said: ‘No. We will not even let the Australian Capital Territory, with 200,000 people, have any senators - notwithstanding that Tasmania, say, has 10 senators.
Who refused the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill? Who refused the referendum Bills? The Government put forward 5 proposals that it says the Australian people should be allowed to vote on. The Opposition is entitled to take the view that the people should vote one way, but it is not entitled to say that the people should not consider the proposals. Yet that is what the Opposition is doing. The Government put forward a proposition that would outlaw gerrymanders and enshrine in the Constitution, if the people approved of it, the principle of one man one vote and the principle that electorates should Le as near as practicable equal. The Opposition is entitled to say that it does not believe in electorates being as nearly as practicable equal, it is entitled to say that it does not believe in the principle of one man one vote - and obviously by its actions it does not. Its whole electoral system rests on the principle of one man one vote not being so. But it is not entitled to let the Australian people be denied the right to think about it. Yet on every electoral proposition for a referendum that the Government has put forward to put a matter to the people to allow the people to decide, the Opposition has said no.
The Opposition cries ‘centralism’. The height of its hypocrisy is the opposition that it put forward to the proposal whereby an exchange of powers between the Commonwealth and the States could take place. When the Labor Government puts forward the proposition: Give us the power to give away power, to give power to the States, if they are minded to accept it and give something in return for if it meets with their agreement, the Opposition says that not even that should be agreed to; that that is centralism. It says that the power to give away power is centralism. How absurd can you get? I do not mind Opposition members being absurd, but when they say that the people shall not even consider it and they oppose the legislation here and they oppose it in the Senate, their hypocrisy should be seen and understood and appreciated. The very success of Labor Party policies, the success in restoring full employment, the success in restoring business confidence-
– You must be joking.
– Let the honourable member look at the surveys carried out by the Department of Secondary Industry.
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will remain silent.
– The best evidence of business confidence is two fold; record profits that speak for themselves and record decision to reinvest moneys in industries - ‘$330m or an increase of 22 per cent in the December quarter. That indicates the confidence of businessmen in this Government. When the Opposition was in power, the businessmen were screaming out: ‘God save us from them’. And we have.
The Leader of the Australian Country Party spoke about mandates. The techniques and the technology and the definitions of mandates need not concern us but think of one little point that I put. In the last few years under the previous Go.ernment estimates were given that the state of Australian education, that all-important matter of Australian education - our children growing up - was so sick and sorry that $ 1400m over 5 years was required to put it right. That was the result of a survey by State Ministers for Education and their respective bodies. Honourable members opposite could not do it; they would not do it. In our first year we doubled the spending on education. Sure, we took away $70m from the superphosphate bounty and sure, we took away $40m from the investment allowances, but our other policies produced the reinvestment figures I have just given. We found that the reinvestment allowance was not necessary so we put that money to good use. We spent it on education, housing and social services, the things the Opposition neglected for 23 years. We spent $700m, in round figures, on education in our first year and the success that has attended the efforts of this first Labor Government in so long is what produces the Opposition’s hysteria and its hatred, and causes it to resort to subterfuge, dishonesty and to trying to feil all the people all the time.
Let the listeners hear what the Opposition says and then weigh those words against the facts as they now know them - full prosperity in the Australian community, something that did not exist 18 months ago; full employment, something that did not exist 18 months ago; education being put right, something that was not being done 18 months ago; housing being put right, something that was not being done 18 months ago; social services being put right, something that was not being done 18 months ago. I could go on. That performance pro duces the Opposition’s hysteria and its opposition and provokes its hatred. Twentythree years produced an intolerance in the Opposition that does not permit anyone, whether a Labor Government or any other alternative Government, to come along and find the answers that it could not find.
One can see now increased expenditure for culture and the arts, a different attitude to oil exploration and the control of Australia’s resources. I remind the House that the previous Government was selling our resources to overseas interests. We know why. We know that the Opposition got its support in large measure from overseas interests and was selling our resources to them. We know the figures for the vital energy resources of Australia - oil and natural gas - which resulted from the Opposition’s deliberate policies which were designed to achieve, in the end, overseas control of them. But who tries to get them back into Australian hands? The Australian Labor Government. Who stops this sell off of Australia? Who takes steps through attempted amendments to the Australian Industries Development Corporation legislation so that Australia can be bought back from overseas control? The Australian Labor Government takes all the initiatives. But who opposes them? It is the Liberal Party and the Country Party which are consistent in their opposition to everything that is put forward by way of reform. It is pique on their part; it is hysteria on their part; and it verges at times on hatred.
There is one other problem which, I suppose, goes to the credibility issue. The last speaker, the Leader of the Australian Country Party, quite incorrectly said that the Labor Government was elected to power on the votes of the people in Sydney and Melbourne. In some measure it was. But implicit in what he said was that the rest of the people did not vote for us. How untrue. We won five out of five seats for Tasmania in the House of Representatives. How much better can one do than that in Tasmania? We won a majority in South Australia and in New South Wales. How much better can one do than that? It was a completely dishonest approach. When this Government comes along and says: ‘We take account of the fact that Australians are to be found all over Australia - in rural areas, big country towns, regional centres and cities - but in certain parts there is great need for attention’. The western suburbs of Sydney in particular and some of the suburbs of Melbourne require the expenditure of money. In large measure they are without sewerage and public transport, let alone educational facilities and hospitals.
Let us look at what is sometimes called public squalor’ which was so pervasive under the Opposition’s system of government. We set up a special Cities Commission under the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) and gave it funds to put these things right. In regional decentralisation, the subject that has been paid lip service for so many years, for the first time in Australian history an area has been singled out - Albury-Wodonga - and will be made a growth centre. Funds have been made available for it. For the first time negotiations have been taking place with the States over the best way to solve the urban housing crisis in Australia. These are things that the Opposition never did when in government. These are things it did not even put its mind to because its philosophy would not permit it to. The Opposition’s philosophy is: Sit back and let the exploiters continue to exploit. Hands off. Preside, take the status that comes from presiding, but do not govern, do not try to guide and do not lead. That is how the previous government got itself into the mess it was in. In IS months we have transformed this country, and make no mistake about it.
I come back to the point I made earlier about hysteria, hatred, pique and intolerance. The Opposition cannot permit these successes to continue so it resorts to blocking the Government in the Senate and using its numbers in a House that was not elected at the time that the people of Australia believed they were electing an Australian Government - December 1972. It is a House that was elected in part much earlier, in some cases 5 years before, when the world was different and when circumstances were different. The Opposition uses its numbers there to block the popular will, even to the extent of saying to the people of the Australian Capital Territory, my electorate: You shall not have 2 senators in that House’. There are 200,000 people involved and they have only one man in the entire Parliament and no State or local government. The Opposition blocks steps even to remedy that. This Government has achieved a great deal in its short time in office. It wants to continue doing a great deal. It has great schemes that it wants to put forward. It wants to continue doing the good work in controlling Australia’s assets in the interests of all Australians. It wants to continue to improve social justice in this country. The battle has not stopped.
It is basically true that the Opposition’s annoyance and intolerance comes not only from what we have done but also from what we are continuing to do. For example, we pledged that we would move progressively toward putting pensioners on 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. The Opposition wants us to stop doing that. It wants us to go back to the Liberal-Country Party system under which pensions averaged about 19 per cent of average weekly earnings. That is what the Opposition wants us to do. We pledged that we would abolish the means test within the life of the Parliament. We want to continue to move towards that, notwithstanding the cost. It is a promise we made and we want to continue that move. The Opposition through its sense of frustration, its pique and its hysteria wants that trend to stop. It would not have done it and the Opposition knows it would not have done it. We want to give out of a greater sense of justice and honesty, a system of interest rebates to home buyers. The Opposition wants to stop that. It cannot let the Labor .Government continue with its program of social reform. It cannot let justice be done to Aborigines and to low income earners. It cannot let this prosperity continue. It has to stop it somehow.
The difficulty will be, of course, that the Opposition has not got policies to replace our policies. In this short time - 15 months - that we have been in power I have yet to hear one proposal put forward by the Opposition on any of these major matters of social concern. I challenge anybody in this Parliament to name one. The Opposition cannot do so. There is deathly silence. It has not one policy on anything. It talks of spending less money and protests when we save money on the superphosphate bounty, the investment allowance or on some other matter and spend that money differently. I remind the House that our Budget of August 1973 spent less than the previous Government’s Budget the year before. The hypocrisy comes through. We were less in deficit in August 1973 than was the previous government in August 1972. It was S660m in the red and we were less in the red. The Opposition should reflect on that when it screams out that we are spending more money than it did. We are not. We spend it differently, for better purposes and on things that are more important.
Some mention has been made of the exchange rate. I would like to say a few words about the exchange rate and to add a few thoughts on tariff reform. I remember when the previous Government was faced with a crisis in, I think, 1970 that involved the exchange rate. If it had done the right thing then and reviewed the Australian dollar a lot of the inflationary problems now faced by the country would not have arisen. We know how Liberal and Country Party Ministers locked themselves away in a Cabinet room for a week. It is common knowledge that the Liberals were saying, on the best advice they had from the Treasury and from everyone else: ‘We have to revalue the dollar, otherwise we will be in terrible trouble soon’. Who would not let them revalue? The Country Party. There was no revaluation of any consequence.
Australia reaped the whirlwind in the second half of 1972 and in 1973 because the money supply in this country just quadrupled. Honourable members will recall the figures quoted by the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) a little while ago. The amount of money in the building industry alone quadrupled in the 1971-72 period because of uncontrolled credit. The money supply went up by from 25 per cent to 30 per cent in 1972-73 because of the previous Government’s refusal to take proper steps by way of economic management. It was left to the Australian Labor Party Government to revalue early in 1973 and in large measure to follow policies that produced a great allocation of resources to consumers, to purchasers of goods and to low income earners, because it meant that with the inflationary trends overseas the pressure on inflation was much less than otherwise it might have been. The best authority, of course, is Dr Porter of the International Monetary Fund.
The previous Government let the production of money get completely out of control in 1972. The Labor Government’s decisions on tariffs had to be taken for the same reason. The previous Government did not have the guts to do what had to be done. Those members of the Liberal Party who had studied these things knew what had to be done but they were frightened to do it and their Country Party colleagues would not let them do it. They were completely beholden to them. The Labor Government did what had to be done and followed up with policies that produced general prosperity and full employment in the country at the same time. Because of the very success of those policies the Opposition has used its numbers to oppose the reform of human rights, to oppose anti-discrimination legislation-
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– The speech just delivered by the Minister for Secondary Industry (Mr Enderby) can only be charitably described as a monumental exercise in selfdelusion. He quoted Abraham Lincoln as saying that you can fool some of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. Yet the discredited Whitlam administration cannot even fool some of the people some of the time. If the Minister for Secondary Industry and his gaggle of colleagues who represent the so-called Cabinet of this country are prepared to make loose allegations as to the success of their policies so far, let them face the music, let them go to a general election so that the people of this country will have an opportunity to record their vote, and to reject the discredited nature of the present administration. I remind the Minister for Secondary Industry that the Government came to power on the basis of policies of low inflation, low taxation and low interest rates. Of course, the facts today indicate that it is now a government of high inflation, high taxation and high interest rates.
The Opposition Parties will reject the Bills before this House in order to force the Government to call a general election and face the country - a decision which the discredited Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has so far refused to take, despite his vain protestations that he is in fact a lame duck Prime Minister. We will reject these Bills not because of the provisions of the legislation but because we believe that the Government has lost the confidence of the Australian people. In these circumstances no government with any sense of national responsibility could avoid the prospect of a general election. When that decision has been made by the Prime Minister we on this side of the House will not oppose the commitment of the funds which these Bills seek to appropriate.
The late John F. Kennedy said in April 1961 that the basis of effective government is public confidence. Today we have a government in Australia which has not simply lost public confidence but which, in the short period of 15 months, has effectively -destroyed it. The Government is destroying the national interest of Australia. Clearly the country should have the opportunity today to cast its judgment on the tragedy of the present Whitlam administration. Our action today is designed to ensure that this opportunity is provided.
The Government has exceeded whatever mandate it claimed on 2 December 1972. At successive elections since that date the Australian Labor Party has been decisively rejected. That was the case in the Victorian State election, the New South Wales State election and the Western Australian State election. It was also the case in both the Greensborough and Parramatta by-elections. In every major electoral contest in this country since 2 December 1972 the Prime Minister has campaigned on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. In every case his platform and policies have been subjected to decisive rejection. The Government also sought to place its program before the people by way of referenda. It is a matter of record that these referenda were subject also to decisive rejection. We believe, in fact, that it is a government which no longer warrants the public trust. It has exceeded its so-called mandate and dishonoured the promises which it had put down in the context of the last election campaign. It is a government which has treated the Australian Constitution and Parliament with authoritarian contempt.
The Government has failed to fulfil the community’s expectations in almost every area of public policy. As a nation we are now confronted with massive inflation and severe economic instability, the highest interest rates since federation, excessive increases in direct and indirect taxation, a crisis in the housing industry unparalleled since the immediate postwar period, record levels of industrial unrest, a severely reduced defence capability, a massive erosion of the purchasing power of fixed income earners and pensioners, uncertainty and stagnation in the mineral and oil exploration industries, an immigration policy which has heaped confusion upon confusion and a breakdown in communication between the Government and the major constituent groups in the Australian community. The extent and nature of these rapidly worsening national problems call for positive Government action.
The Government has refused to revise its programs and strategies. It has persisted with economic policies which have already proved to be damaging, debilitating and destabilising. Not simply has it failed to revise those policies; it has in fact sought to exacerbate their very effect. Instead of seeking fiscal adjustments the Treasurer (Mr Crean) has forecast a further major increase in the level of public expenditure in the next Budget. We believe that the Australian people have a right to cast their judgment today on the capacity of the Government to govern effectively. We believe that the people have a right to choose a government which will commit itself to the restoration of economic stability and the reduction of inflation throughout Australia. This debate does not really provide an opportunity to set down in detail the series of Opposition initiatives across the broad range of national policy. That is a task which will be undertaken in considerable detail during the course of the weeks ahead.
For 16 months the Government has pursued an economic program which has resulted in an inflation rate of 14 per cent. When the Government came to power the rate was 4.6 per cent and decreasing. I go on record tonight as saying that inflation is today, as listeners to the broadcast of these procedings will readily understand, this country’s most serious social and economic problem. It is a socially divisive and morally corrosive phenomenon. It reduces the national welfare.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Mr Speaker, prior to the dinner adjournment I was emphasising the extent to which this present Whitlam Administration stands indicted because of its total mismanagement of the Australian economy. Inflation is Australia’s most serious social and economic problem. It is, of course, socially divisive and a morally corrosive phenomenon. It reduces the national welfare. It causes the misallocation of economic resources. It redistributes the national income in a capricious and inequitable manner. It leads, in fact, to the arbitrary enrichment of some groups in the Australian community and equally to the arbitrary impoverishment of others. The Government and the Treasurer (Mr Crean) have sought to convey the public impression that Australia can withstand a 14 per cent rate of inflation. The Treasurer has claimed that some countries have coped effectively with inflation rates of 600 per cent. The Opposition parties totally reject any suggestion that the present rate of inflation is tolerable. We believe that the Government stands indicted for its refusal to adopt a comprehensive antiinflation program.
It is a demonstrable fact that economic growth and stability are basic to the attainment of social reform and the development of a just and equitable society. The House, of course, will recall that these are the supposed goals of the Whitlam Government. The Prime Minister’s policy speech promised a reformist, sympathetic and socially aware government. But the increased social welfare payments and other expanded forms of public assistance undertaken by the Whitlam Government are simply illusory money increases. The average Australian family has not been advantaged by this Government. Particular groups such as pensioners, superannuitants, fixed income earners and young home-seekers have been very severely disadvantaged.
In short, 16 months of Labor Administration have seen the progress of those with bargaining power and the decline of those without it. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Government’s capitulation to the powerful vested interests of the trade union movement and its attempts to weaken the statutory processes of industrial settlement. The Government’s industrial relations policies have taken no account of the national interest. The promised era of industrial peace under Labor has been exposed as a myth. Instead of promoting rational industrial relations, this Government has generated industrial confrontation. The Government itself has been the originator of the wage and salary pressures which are having such direct and severe effects on cost pressures throughout the community.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have been here for 18 years and I have never before seen a complete absence of every member of the Opposition except the member who is speaking. No one else is here.
– It is not a point of order. I have been here for a lesser period and I have never seen a major debate take place without the presence of the Prime Minister, who came in only briefly.
– How could you make it a major debate?
– How can you come into the debate when you have not been prepared to speak up.
-Order! The Chair is not responsible for the attendance of honourable member’s in the House.
– Mr Speaker, the Government itself - (Quorum formed) I can very much understand the sensitivity of Government supporters in the context of this debate. If Government supporters are prepared to put their policies to the test of public opinion they will urge their Prime Minister to call a double dissolution. This is what we are asking at present. The Government itself- (Honourable members interjecting)
-Order! The House will come to order. The Chair is not responsible for the attendance of honourable members in the House.
– This afternoon the Government had no members in the House.
– My colleague the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) has stated the facts clearly. This is a major debate, but the Prime Minister was not prepared to deign to enter the chamber until the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) had been almost completed.
The Government itself has been the originator of the wage and salary pressures that are having such direct and severe effects on cost pressures through ut the general community. By its endorsement of major strikes and other forms of industrial dislocation by making a pacesetter of the Commonwealth Public Service by flat rate wage increases, the 35-hour week and wage indexation the Government has contributed directly and markedly to the accelerating rate of inflation in Australia. Instead of calling with a sense of national responsibility, for the type of restraint that is essential in a full employment economy, the Government has provided a major impetus to the build-up of an inflation psychology. Where, in fact, is the justification for a government that, as a result of union pressures, is prepared to adopt a form of - economic indexation that favours those with strong bargaining power, but refuses to apply the same form of indexation to those of very real need in the Australian community.
– That is a flash word.
– It may well be a flash word for the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews), but he is a flash in the pan. I say to the honourable member for Casey that he is a temporary member of this House. He will not last very long and he might well understand that time is up in Casey.
-Order! The honourable member for Casey will cease interjecting and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will address the Chair.
– I am always very pleased to address the Chair, as you know, Mr Speaker, but sometimes the provocation to which one is subjected by certain honourable gentlemen, particularly the honourable member for Casey, who is the real flash in the pan in this House-
– He might explode.
– My colleague tells me that he might explode. I have no doubt he may do that. The Government’s ill conceived economic policies have also precipitated a serious crisis in the Australian housing industry. Again it is the comparatively disadvantaged groups in the community who are the most affected. Of those people seeking homes this year, 50 per cent will be unable to make a purchase. The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) has on successive occasions sought to mislead this Parliament. He has promised that home ownership will be within the reach of the average citizen in 1974. He has alleged that the Government is in the process of reducing interest rates for housing loans. The Minister for Housing has claimed that the Government is taking effective action to reduce the cost of housing materials. Each one of the Ministers’ statements has been misleading and irresponsible. The Government’s policy of high interest rates has had direct anti-social effects.
The pre-election promises made by the Government to implement a deliberate plan to reduce interest rates have been completely abandoned. I can see my colleague the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) on the other side of the chamber nodding his head in agreement. He knows full well that this is a sell-out to the Australian community and particularly to those who are in the greatest need. For both the demand and the supply of funds interest rate differentials unequivocally favour the larger borrower or lender; that is, the person with the greatest bargaining power. As a consequence, in times of rapidly rising rates of interest when the actual quantity of loan funds available is subject to very high levels of demand, those with the greatest bargaining power can negotiate the most favourable loan terms whilst the smaller borrower or lender is, at least to the same extent, arbitrarily disadvantaged. In fact, in times of rapidly rising interest rates the actual differential between rates tends to widen and the smaller borrower or lender is, to this extent, disadvantaged. A high interest rate policy is a socially regressive policy. I say to this Government that it came into power - as the radio listeners and the people who are sitting in the Speaker’s gallery are well aware - pledged to low inflation, low interest rates and low taxation. In fact, this Government has produced record inflation, highest interest rates in the history of the Commonwealth, and a rate of taxation that has been of particular disadvantage to the low and middle income groups In Australia.
It is a matter of record that this Government stands indicted for very many things. The Opposition Parties say to the Government in this chamber that the challenge tonight in this debate is to: ‘Put up or shut up’. If the Government believes that it can stand successfully on its record, let it put this to the test of a general election.
– After 15 months or 23 years - is that right?
– After 15 months, I say to the gadfly who represents the electorate of Riverina-
– Mr Speaker-
– The gadfly.
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
– Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition knows full well that under the Standing Orders of this House he is required to refer to any honourable member as an honourable member. 1 do not mind personal abuse but I think that his denigration of the Parliament and of the House of Representatives is too much of a habit. He should be ashamed of himself.
– Order! What is your point of order?
– I may just say mat if he wishes-
– Gadfly was a compliment to you. You ought to recognise it.
-Order! What is the Minister’s point of order?
– Mr Speaker, on the point of order-
– Does the-
-Order! The honourable member for Boothby will remain quiet. What is the Minister’s point of order?
– This is a disgraceful waste of time. What is his point of order?
– When you respect the House I will tell you.
– Oh, stop the playing-
-Order! The honourable member for Angas will remain quiet. I will manage this affair.
-Order! The honourable member for Angas will remain quiet for a moment.
– Mr Speaker, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the course of his remarks referred to me personally - I am the member for Riverina as well as the Minister for Immigration - as the gadfly, but he was also personally abusive. I have no objection to being called names by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition because an insult from him is a compliment. But I think he ought to observe the forms of the House. If he does not, he should be shown the door.
-Order! If the Minister for Immigration is offended by the word ‘gadfly* I ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to withdraw it.
– Well, if the honourable gentleman was offended by the use of the word ‘gadfly’, which I thought personally was a great compliment to him, I will withdraw it.
-I have a few in my electorate at King’s Cross. I know what they are like.
– If you have, Mr Speaker, you know exactly what the point is in referring to the gadfly’.
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s time has expired. (Extension of time granted.)
– I thank the House for its indulgence. I did not really think that the honourable member for Riverina, the Minister for Immigration, was so sensitive.
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. When an extension of time is granted to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition does it mean that he is required to assist the Government or can he speak as he did before the extension of time was granted?
-Order! When speaking to an Appropriation Bill an honourable member can even talk about his mother-in-law if he wishes.
– I appreciate that. I do not know whether the honourable member for Riverina has heard the story of a recent visit which was made to his electorate by a member of one of the Opposition Parties. The member concerned drove up to a petrol bowser in the area and was told by the attendant at the petrol bowser that the electorate of Riverina had produced a monster which was even greater than the Loch Ness monster. The member or the Opposition Parties said: ‘Well, this is rather a strange sort of situation’. He asked the attendant what he had in mind. The attendant said: ‘Well, look-
-Order! Before you go any further, is this clean?
– I could almost take a point of order on the basis that you, Mr Speaker, are insulting my integrity in this House. The attendant said to him: ‘Look, in fact, this electorate really can boast of many major achievements. A couple of years ago a couple of Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation scientists got together and they crossed a grasshopper with a bee and produced a ‘grassbee’ I would not say that that is the best story that has ever been told in this House but if the honourable member for Riverina wants to bring this debate down to a pedestrian level I think it is not an unreasonable story to put forward. In quite serious terms, because this debate is a matter of very considerable substance, let me say that the Opposition totally rejects these Bills not because of the financial provisions which are inherent in them, but simply because we believe that this Government should be forced to account to the electorate at large. We say this because in no uncertain terms this Government has been prepared to sacrifice the national interest. It has sacrificed that national interest to suit the cynical and narrow objectives of its socialist ideology and its political power basis.
The Prime Minister’s almost pathological preoccupation with power and authority has been reflected in the pervasive authoritarianism of his Government. The latest reflection of this has been seen in the Government’s cynical, unprincipled and irresponsible appointment of Senator Gair as Ambassador to Ireland. That appointment indicates the total cynicism with which this Government is prepared to buy support in the Australian Senate. This we believe and recognise has all the hallmarks of Tammany Hall and is unprecedented in the history of Australia. I have no doubt that- (Government members interjecting.)
-Order! I will ‘be glad when the kitchen staff gets back to work.
– There are some on the other side who could well make a powerful contribution as scullery maids when the staff does go back to work. I say in conclusion simply that we totally reject the Bills because we believe that this country ought now to have an election. If any member of the Government is prepared to say in this House that the Government’s policies and record of administration have been successful and efficacious, then let him put that policy, that record and that administration to the test. The Opposition parties reject the Bills.
Debate (on motion by Mr Daly) adjourned.
Suspension of Standing Orders
– I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent -
a Health Insurance Bill 1973 and a Health Insurance Commission Bill 1973 <a) being presented forthwith and read a first time together and one motion being moved without delay and one question being put in regard to, respectively, the second readings, the committee’s report stage, and the third readings, of the Bills together, and
the consideration of the Bills in one committee of the whole.
the Leader of the House making one declaration of urgency and moving one motion for the allotment of time-
– You are as silly as your ancestors.
– I rise to order.
-Order! The honourable member for Kennedy will sit down. A point of order cannot be taken when a member is moving a motion. I call the Leader of the House.
– I repeat paragraph (2):
The Leader of the House making one declaration of urgency and moving one motion for the allotment of time in respect of a Health Insurance Bill 1973 and a Health Insurance Commission Bill 1973.
Mr Speaker, the reason for the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders in order to permit urgent discussion of these measures should be obvious to every member of this Parliament, realising as they should the importance of this scheme to the Australian people no matter where they might be. A universal health scheme was a 1972 mandate endorsed by the Australian people. There is widespread discontent with the costly, inefficient funds run by privileged societies and others. Even President Nixon is about to introduce universal health insurance. Ours is one of the few nations without an extensive universal health insurance scheme. The scheme does not yet exist because that withered old opposition in the Senate, which will shortly no longer be with us, want it stopped because it represents the huge vested interests of this country. This will be an important issue in the forthcoming election campaign and if honourable members opposite are prepared to fight it they should vote for this motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. If they believe that the Austraiian people do not want this scheme let us suspend Standing Orders so that it may be discussed in another place. Undoubtedly it will be a major election issue and undoubtedly the Health Insurance Commission will be an important one. Therefore this legislation should be discussed tonight by this House. It should permit those gentlemen in another place to take their minds off ex-Senator Gair, their distinguished colleague to whom they object so strongly today, and let them discuss this matter of urgent national importance before the elections so that the people will know which is the party in this country that stands against good health insurance for the Australian people and so that they will know what is Labor Party policy.
I do not intend to take a great deal of time in discussing this issue. I just remind honourable members opposite that the longer I talk, the less they will ‘be able to talk and I hope that they will remember that as they answer me. The Government is introducing tonight this motion for the suspension of Standing Orders because these measures have been rejected in another place. It is time that members of the other place were given the opportunity to say where they stand. Those courageous men who sit opposite and who are simply dying to face th Australian electors will no doubt give them that opportunity by supporting this motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. Earlier tonight, on the most important issue which they said they have ever brought before the Parliament - when they challenged us to an election - the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) stood alone in this place with not one person behind him. He was out on his own like that famous cottage in the country. To put it in parliamentary terms, he was like a shag on a rock.
Tonight provides a chance for those in another place. Honourable members opposite should not forget that they are withholding supply and not allowing these things to be put to the Australian people. I hope that the great defender of the rights of this House against the Senate, the member for Moreton (Mr Killen) will give his advice on this question. I want the House to have as much time as possible to discuss the measures that are coming before us. Therefore having formally moved the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders I suggest that it will be carried if those opposite want to put to the Australian people one of the most important of election issues and to let those in another place know where they stand on this issue and let them know that they are against it and that they will not hide and run away from their responsibilities when they face the Australian electors.
They are members of a fighting Opposition - there is no doubt about that. They have a dozen parties and every member is eating out of his hands right up to the elbow. This is a chance for them to show they are statesmen - if they think they are - by supporting this motion and by letting the Australian people be the ultimate judges of these health schemes. I hope that the motion will be carried. I hope also that later tonight this House will again see fit to endorse the Government’s policy on these issues and send them to those decrepit members of the Opposition to see whether once again they will change their minds in the face of conflict and when they come to face the people.
– I rise to order, not to answer the extravagant language of the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) but to draw your attention, Mr Speaker, to the utterly scurrilous observation which he made about the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). It is not possible and it is not competent for a point of order to be taken during the moving of a motion. The observation made by the Minister is, in my respectful submission, scurrilous, utterly undeserving of this House and should be withdrawn. I draw your special attention, Mr Speaker, to standing order 77, which states:
When any offensive or disorderly words are used, whether by a Member-
– I rise to order. In what way is the honourable member addressing the Chair?
– Mr Speaker, I object to a point, of order being taken on a point of order.
-Order! There is a point of order before the Chair. The Minister for Overseas Trade must resume his seat. There is a point of order to be discussed now.
– I draw your particular attention
- Mr Speaker, I have a point of order which you have not heard yet.
-The honourable member cannot take a point of order on a point of order. I am listening to one point of order now.
– Is that why he is speaking? On a point of order?
-The honourable member for Moreton is speaking to a point of order. He is not speaking to the motion for suspension of Standing Orders.
– I draw your attention to standing order 77 which reads:
When any offensive or disorderly words are used, whether by a member who is addressing the Chair or by a member who is present, the Speaker shall intervene.
– Speak up.
– If I spoke in the language of God himself you would not understand.
– You are as close to God as you will ever be.
Mr Killen - The heathens know. I invite you, Mr Speaker, to rule on this point of order that what the Minister for Services and Property said about the forebears of the honourable and gallant member for Mackellar - an appellation that the Minister for Services and Property cannot command - should be withdrawn. I invite you to rule that the observation made by the Minister is objectionable, scurrilous and completely undeserved in terms of standing order 77. To those honourable members opposite who are interjecting I say that I have not yet begun to fight. They will wonder where they are when I do.
-Order! I am waiting for the House to come to order. Some honourable members are trying to advise me about the Standing Orders. Do they want me to apply them strictly?
– Mr Speaker-
– You sit down. In the first place the honourable member for Mackellar interjected on no fewer than 5 occasions when the Minister for Services and Property was moving his motion. I called him to order on 2 occasions. He completely flouted the authority of the Chair. Is it any wonder there is provocation when such behaviour occurs when the Speaker asks a member to keep quiet? He kept on interjecting. I am suggesting that there was provocation. What the Minister said he might have said in the heat of the moment. Probably he had no right to say it, but there was definitely provocation and the honourable member for Mackellar had no right to keep on interjecting after being warned twice by the Chair.
– Speaking to the point of order may I say that I take no offence if the Minister says I am as silly as my ancestor. At least he might add that I am as wise.
– It is an extraordinary procedure for the Government to move for the suspension of Standing Orders to enable two Health Bills to be debated without showing the courtesy of advising the Opposition spokesman on health. The motion is a total abuse of the Standing Orders, precedents and conventions of this House.
– The Minister for Immigration, who incidentally is out of his seat, may be more familiar with dictatorships than I am because he is a member of a Government which is seeking to run this House like a dictatorship.
– But not for long.
– As my colleague reminds me, it will not be for long. I suggest that the Minister is a temporary bird of passage in the immigration ministry. At this stage the Opposition parties are not aware whether this is new legislation or a resubmission of the 2
Health Bills which were before this House in the latter part of last year. I ask the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) to indicate whether these are the same Bills as those that came before the House in the latter part of last year. I take it that the Leader of the House is indicating by his gesture that they are the same Bills. Last year the Government indicated that should the Opposition parties refuse to pass the health legislation, then that would lead to a double dissolution. It is a matter of record that the Government backed away from that threat. The tactic and the technique tonight is to seek to defer the Appropriation Bills which were before the House and to camouflage that particular issue on which the Opposition parties stand in total unanimity by the introduction of these health measures.
It is no secret that there is disunity of purpose in the Government’s ranks with respect to national health legislation. This will be revealed in detail by my colleague, the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). Suffice it to say in general terms at this stage that the Minister for Social Security arranged last week for a meeting of private hospitals to be called in Melbourne and to be addressed by two of his departmental representatives, Messrs Deeble and Corrigan. That meeting was to be told of a new health proposition, not directly by the Minister but apparently by two of his own lackeys. It is rather curious that before that meeting concluded, according to my information the departmental officers sought to swear the meeting to secrecy on the basis that those present were led to believe that they should not be prepared to admit that the meeting had even taken place. Clearly what had happened, according to information directly from the caucus room, was that there was a major division about the national health scheme. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) had one view of what ought to proceed and the Minister had a second view. This led to a rather extraordinary meeting of the Private Hospitals Association. I am prepared to give the Minister the full details of that meeting if he has not been properly advised by his own departmental officers.
– He would not listen.
– He would not listen and he probably would not understand what they were putting forth on his behalf. If the Government wants to debate again on what is now a totally discredited health scheme, the Opposition parties are prepared to debate it tonight - that is, on the basis that it is the same legislation as that which came before the House in the latter part of last year. I need not speak in further detail. This is an extraordinary procedure. It is totally discourteous to the health spokesman on this side of the House. I should have thought that the very least the Minister might have done would have been to indicate to the Opposition health spokesman that this matter was to come before the House.
– The Government is running scared.
– Yes, because it is frightened by the prospect of a general election. Why on earth would Government supporters be here tonight if they were not frightened? The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) is-
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will address the Chair.
– I do so with the greatest of respect. I find it a trifle upsetting for the honourable member for Hindmarsh, the temporary and passing Minister for Labour in this House, to be pointing his fingers at this side of the chamber. I have been informed by my colleague, the honourable member for Hotham, that he has sought from the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) copies of the Bills which are now to be presented to the House. Apparently the Minister for Social Security is not in a position to provide copies of the Bills. This is typical of the total contempt with which the Government seeks to treat the people of Australia. It is prepared to introduce or resubmit legislation without providing copies of the Bills which are to be the subject of debate.
– They are beside you.
– They have not been presented yet. I say seriously to the Government, not that I expect Government supporters to be prepared to listen, that there are people listening to this broadcast on the radio and people listening in the gallery. It is strange that a defeat in Victoria, a defeat in New South Wales, a defeat in Western Australia and a defeat in the by-elections in Parramatta and Greensborough, do not appear to have taught this Government any lessons. Of course, we add to those defeats, the total defeat in relation to the referendum proposals. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), who is trying to interject, ought to be sat down or put out of the House. He has been a flagrant interjector during the course of this week.
The problem that this country is facing is partly a problem of a Minister for Labour who can never ‘be serious about matters of substance in the House and partly a problem of a Leader of the House who has so little sensitivity to matters of national concern that he could go on stage in Perth and make an audience so hostile with the propositions put forward that he caused his own Prime Minister very great difficulty. This Govenm-t has not learned. We are prepared to brin to acount in terms of a general election. I case of the Government having to put . >r shut up. So far as this legislation befo ne House is concerned
– We got the challenge; we have not knocked it back.
– The Babbit member for Robertson will not be here for very long either. He would not last in an election. If the Government wants a debate on these Bills we will give it a debate, and we will bring it on right now.
– I support the motion which has been moved by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). I give full marks, however, to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) - that is the only post in this House that he has fulfilled properly - for the contrived distress that he has presented tonight. The fact is that the Health Insurance Bill which will be presented in a few minutes is the same Bill which we introduced in the Parliament in the closing stages of the summer session of the Parliament last year. We are introducing the Bill again to demonstrate clearly to the public that it is not our fault that a universal health insurance program is not in operation in Australia today. We took all steps to ensure that such a program was introduced. We involved the community in a wide and extensive public debate on the issues which were put forward initially in the early part of last year. We modified the proposals in the light of that debate. But what happened? The Senate, dominated by the Opposition and its acolytes in the Democratic Labor Party, sold out not to the public interest but to minority privileged interests in the community - to the Australian Medical Association, the Society of General Practitioners of Australia, and to the health insurance funds which are over stuffed with reserves which belong to the contributors
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have consistently and properly ruled that when a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders is before the House the debate should be limited to that issue and that issue alone. The Minister is obviously canvassing the Bill itself, and I suggest that he is out of order.
-It is perfectly true that when a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders is moved only the reasons for the suspension of Standing Orders should be mentioned in the speech. But I think the honourable member will agree that both of the previous speakers got a little wide of the mark. I was quite flexible in that regard. I did not stop the Leader of the House or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition from making any of the remarks that they made in regard to the Bills. However, I ask the honourable gentleman to keep within the scope of the Standing. Orders.
-We intend to demonstrate to the Australian public that it does not have a universal health insurance scheme because of the intransigence, because of the political opportunism of the Opposition and its camp followers in the Democratic Labor Party in the Senate. The best interests of this community have not been served by those people.
As was pointed c it by the Minister for Services and Property, Australia is one of the few countries in the world without a universal health insurance program. The Minister for Services and Property also pointed out that the United States of America, which has a President noted for his conservative attitudes and many faults, nonetheless is moving towards a situation where it will have a universal health insurance program. Every person in the community will be covered. But honourable members opposite and their partners in the Senate are not interested in community health. They are not interested in the obligation to insure-
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker.
-Order! The time allowed for the debate has expired. The question is: That the motion be agreed to’. Those of that opinion say Aye; to the contrary No. I think the Ayes have it. Is a division required? Since I must ensure that the motion is carried by an absolute majority, I order that the bells be rung. (The bells being rung) -
– What is going on?
-Order! No division has been called for. The bells are being rung to ensure that 63 members are voting for the suspension of Standing Orders, as required by the Standing Orders. If all honourable members present are in favour of the motion, there is no need for a count. Is the motion being opposed?
– I did not ask for a division.
– The motion is carried by an absolute majority. Question resolved in the affirmative with an absolute majority.
Declaration of Urgency
– I declare that the following Bills are urgent Bills:
Health Insurance Bill 1973
Health Insurance Commission Bill 1973
– The question is that the Bills be considered urgent Bills.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time
– I move:
That notwithstanding the order of the House of 7 March 1974, the time allotted in connection with the Bills be as follows:
For the second readings of the Bills, until 9.45 p.m. this day.
For the Committee stage of the Bills, until 10.00 p.m. this day.
For the remaining stages of the Bills, until 10.15 p.m. this day.
If these Bills had not been before the House previously and if they had not received adequate discussion on a previous occasion, the time allotted for their consideration might be considered not to be sufficient. But having in mind that these Bills were debated at length on a previous occasion, having in mind also that those opposite had adequate time to discuss them on that occasion, and having in mind all the details associated with them are known and that all the criticism that could be made by the Opposition was made and would only be repeated tonight over and over again parrot-like, there is no reason to extend the time allowed for a debate on these matter . I thought that honourable members opposi were anxious to get to the electors. So why should we delay them in this place that they seek to leave so quickly, even from the Opposition benches. I believe that adequate time is being allowed for debate. It was mentioned earlier that honourable members opposite had been given no notice of what was to happen tonight. I point out that we were given no notice of what happened before the dinner suspension.
Opposition members - Ha! Ha!
– They say: ‘Ha! Ha!’ As I iid, before the dinner suspension the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) presented what he had to say without notice to this side of the chamber, and I have returned the compliment this evening. When I am as complimentary and as decent as the Leader oi the Opposition in returning his favour I do not think there should be any objection. The funny thing about the Liberal Party and the Country Party is that they want all one way traffic. They can do what they like but everybody else has to go by the Marquis of Queensberry rules. The situation is that these Bills are to be introduced into the place tonight and they are to go to another place urgently. We hope they will be debated in another place before the coming elections and we hope that honourable members will see that this is one of the issues which must be discussed not only in this Parliament but also before the Australian people whenever they are allowed to vote.
I do not wish to take up the time of the House. But one thing about the Opposition spokesman on health matters is that on these issues he is co-operative in preventing the taking up of the time of debate by the making of speeches such as the one I am making. I thought I should make that broad observation in order that the Opposition might understand the purposes of these Bills and the fact that nothing new is contained in them. They are the same as the former legislation. They have been fully discussed. The House has had adequate time to deal with them and the time which is proposed to be provided tonight should be ample to enable honourable members opposite to speak and to let this legislation go to another place without delay. Quite frankly, I have no doubt what will happen to these Bills in this House.
– The Opposition is opposing each of these extraordinary steps that are being taken by the Government. In its efforts to deny proper deliberation on the Appropriation Bills the
Government has introduced a series of measures which it feels it would like to have debated in the Senate but not in this chamber. We will not divide the House on this issue. For the benefit of the many people who are listening to the broadcast of the proceedings, let me explain why. The process that the Government has introduced is. another one of the distortions of democracy. This is one of the reasons why we feel it is necessary to take the most unusual step of denying the passage of the Appropriation Bills. This motion is one of the measures that are designed to deny the Australian House of Representatives and its members any opportunity to discuss one of ‘the more fundamental changes to the Australian way of life that the Labor Party . in government has sought to introduce. We are totally opposed to the contraction of debating time. We are totally opposed to this distortion of normal parliamentary practice. We are totally opposed to the substance of the Bills, but that is a matter for debate by my colleague the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) and such other honourable members as may be given some minimal opportunity to speak on the matter later.
The Opposition finds it quite impossible to understand how any Australian elector could permit a government of this sort to distort our pattern of parliamentary rule as it is doing. It is for that reason that we oppose the motion which proposes to allot a very brief period of time in which to debate the legislation. This motion proposes that we will have until 9.45 tonight for the second reading debate on 2 major Bills - the Health Insurance Bill and the Health Insurance Commission Bill; and only 15 minutes is to be allowed for the Committee stage and for the third reading stage of the Bills. It is absolutely impossible. Let me reiterate the circumstances. The action taken by the Opposition earlier tonight arose out of a Machiavellian exercise by the Government which has developed into a situation where the complete incompetence of the Government has been demonstrated.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The waffle that the member, of the Alliance Party is going on with is not relevant to the motion before the Chair. I suggest that either we debate that or we proceed to the debate on the Bills. The member of the Alliance Party will be aware that in fact he is taking up debating time and this will diminish the time available for debate.
-Order! The question before the Chair is a guillotine motion which sets down certain times for debating 2 Bills. I ask the honourable gentleman to keep to the motion.
– ‘The guillotine is part of the dirty tricks campaign of the Government. This Government is not prepared to fight an election in a normal, open and honest way. The only way in which it is prepared to face the people of Australia and to run this Parliament is by using a series of dirty tricks, denying members debating time, distorting the patterns of democracy and denying parliamentarians an opportunity to express a view on a substantive matter. This is the reason why the Opposition opposes the guillotine motion. We will not divide the House on this motion, because if we did it would waste more time. But we are totally opposed to the contracted time that this guillotine motion proposes for a debate on 2 very substantial pieces of legislation.
– Mr Speaker, I do not propose- (Honourable members interjecting) -
– Order! No further business will be conducted until the House comes to order. I call the Minister for Labour.
– Mr Speaker, 1 need complete silence and the kind of respect that is due to a Minister who will be in office for a long time. I rise to say a few words of wisdom about the opposition which we have encountered to the proposal to treat these Bills as urgent. Qf course they are urgent Bills. The health of the people is an urgent matter. It may not be an urgent matter in the eyes of the Opposition, but to the Government it is extremely urgent.
In reply to the statement that there is not enough time to debate the legislation, let me remind the House that this legislation was put to both Houses of the Parliament before Christmas. It is exactly the same legislation. It was fully debated then. All that needed to be said about it was said then. Moreover, it will be no surprise to anybody in this House when I tell the House that the Opposition has decided already that, no matter what the Government says about the need for ensuring proper health cover for the people of Australia and no matter how long the debate takes place, the Opposition will reject our proposition. Moreover, the Opposition has decided that, no matter how much time is given for the debate, it is going to use its numbers in the Senate to reject the legislation when it comes before that place. Let us be grown up about this matter. Let us not be infantile about it. Let us be realists. Everyone knows that, no matter how long the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) gives for the debate and no matter what is said in support of providing a proper health scheme for the people of Australia, the Country Party and the Liberal Party are going to reject it. So, let us cut out the nonsense and get on with the business of putting the Bills formally to the Parliament and having a vote taken on them. Let the Opposition vote against the legislation, as we know in advance it will, so that we can send it to the Senate where it can be added to the long list of Bills that either have been rejected outright by the Senate or have been so emasculated as to render them inoperative.
Let us have a look at some of the things that the Senate has done already. It has rejected outright the Electoral Bill which provides that there will be no gerrymandering of the electorates. It has already done that. It has rejected arbitration amendments which would have eradicated the possibility of demarcation disputes occurring. It has rejected the proposals that the Government put to make it possible to encourage the making and the honouring of industrial agreements. It has emasculated the Government’s proposal in respect of restrictive trade practices. It has emasculated the Government’s proposal in respect of restrictive trade practices. It has emasculated the Bill dealing with the Australian Industry Development Corporation.
-Order! I remind the Minister that the debate is in regard to the allotment of time.
– That is a good point, Sir. This is a matter regarding the allotment of time, and I repeat that it would not matter if we gave the Opposition a month-
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– This device by the Government I can only describe as a last desperate thrust in a series of death throes of a dying government. Tonight we were in the middle-
– You are the greatest phoney in the place.
– Mr Speaker, are you going to permit that hypocrite from Blaxland to say that?
– Mr Speaker-
– Order! There was provocation on both sides. I think it is best for the Chair to forget the incident.
– I do not care. He ought to be damned. He called an honourable member a hypocrite. That has never been permitted in the annals of this chamber, Mr Speaker, and it is your duty to see-
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat. There was provocation in the first place.
– The issue that the House was debating before dinner was 2 Appropriation Bills. The present situation represents one of the biggest political crises that this House has seen since Federation. The House was debating the Bills and a vote was supposed to be taken tonight. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has come on and grandstanded and said: ‘We want a vote. If you want an election we will give you one.’ One can imagine that over dinner the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) and his cronies, over a very ulcer producing series of sandwiches, said: ‘What can we possibly do to divert attention from this national issue? What can we do to take the heat off a situation that is getting out of hand?’ Pathetically, the Health Insurance Bill 1973 has been brought on with a time scale for debate which will, after the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has given his second reading speech, mean presumably that there will be one, two or five minutes for the Opposition to respond to it, and then it will be guillotined.
Government members - Too long.
– Four members of the Labor Party said: ‘Too long’. That attitude is why the Government will be tipped out of office. Government supporters thought they could wear the jackboots, but they have gone too far. By acting in this way they have brought jackboot politics to Australia and this has outraged public opinion and has outraged opinion in this House. Yet they have not yet learned their lesson. What is the purpose of this exercise that has been brought on? When the Minister for Social Security brought this Bill in he and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said: ‘If the Opposition rejects this Bill we will regard it as a major Bill and we will take the Opposition to a double dissolution.’
– So we will.
– Well, you did not at the time. Responding on behalf of the Opposition I had the full authority of both of the Parties of this House to say, and the man who led for the Australian Country Party, the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) also had authority to say: ‘We accept your challenge. Minister for Social Security. We will reject this Bill. Now take us to the people on this issue.’ And the Government chickened out on it. Now we have this farce, this absolute farce-
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a debate about the times for the passage of this legislation, not an expose of the attitudes of the honourable member for Hotham.
– Order! The point of order is well taken. The honourable member for Hotham must confine himself to the motion before the Chair in regard to the time for the Bills.
– I accept your ruling, Mr Speaker. I have half a minute left to speak on this matter. Frankly, this tactic of the Government is playing right into our hands. It shows to the massive listening audience tonight - I am told it is the biggest listening audience this Parliament has had in years - the futility, the farcical situation that this Government has put this Parliament in and the fools that Government supporters have made of themselves over this empty gesture. This will be understood by the public listening to this debate.
– The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) has given the exact reason why the allocation of time is important. He said - I hope that some people opposite might be interested to know - that a double dissolution on this issue was threatened last year and should be held. Unless the Health Insurance Bill is again not passed through the Senate the conditions for the conduct of a double dissolution on this Bill do not apply. That would suit the Opposition very well because it could then have an election without taking the risk of this Bill having become subject to the deadlock provisions in the Parliament. The proposal which is now before the House is to pass these 2 Bills through this House and present them to the Senate, so that there can be no doubt about the matter if the Senate decides that it wishes to take the most unparliamentary action that has ever been perpetrated in this Parliament. If it does, it may as well appoint a Prime Minister from the Senate, because it would transfer the financial powers of this House to the Senate. More important, the Opposition is afraid to let its own leader make its policy speech because it thinks he is such a fool that the Australian electorate would not support him, and it has to put up somebody else to prop him up.
– Order! The time allotted for the debate has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills presented by Mr Hayden, and together read a first time.
Mr HAYDEN (Oxley- Minister for Social
Security) (9.8) - I move:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– I do not have a spare copy.
– Mr Speaker, may I speak to the point of order? The Minister says that he does not have a spare copy. Am I expected to respond immediately to a speech which I have not seen and of which I have not received a copy?
– Let me respond to the point of order-
– Order! It is not the responsibility of the Chair to rule on such matters.
– One of the Bills before the House is the Health Insurance Bill 1973. It comprises the principal legislation to enable the implementation of the Government’s health insurance program. The Health Insurance Bill 1973 provides for payments for medical benefits, hospital services and certain other specific services such as health program grants. I should emphasise that the Bill contains the same provisions as those outlined to this House when it was originally introduced in November 1973. Last year, it will be recollected, the Senate prevented this key promise of this Government from being realised in the public interest. The Government is now putting this Bill once more before the Parliament
I should point out for the rather suspicious minds that expressed themselves amongst Opposition spokesmen tonight that in fact the copies of the Bill are printed. The printing of Bills is not something that is whistled up over a morning. The Bills have been printed and available for several days. It has been our intention, and we are fulfilling that, to reintroduce this Bill because we regard health as an important issue at any election, but not the only issue. There are many other important proposals which attracted public support for this Government at the last election and which still hold powerful appeal to the community. We are quite happy to have this as one of several key issues to be debated in the course of this election.
When I mention a debate it reminds me of the fact that the honourable member for Hotham, who is the Opposition spokesman on health and welfare matters and who has followed these matters so closely in the last 18 months, would be well enough versed to enter into a debate of this subject without having a copy of what I might happen to say. I said that the Government is now putting this Bill once more before the Parliament. We are doing this because the introduction of an equitable and efficient health insurance program covering all Australians was one of our major election promises and one which was clearly approved by the electorate. Some members of the Australian public have perhaps been affected by the false fears which have been spread about the meaning of our program, but a great number of people have seen through the smokescreen.
– A point of order, Mr Speaker. It may seem to some people that I am raising a question of semantics, but the Minister is introducing a Bill for an Act. Clause 1 which refers to the short title of the Bill that he has introduced states:
This Act may be cited as the Health Insurance Commission Act 1973.
It is quite impossible for this Bill to become such an Act because the title is ‘Health Insurance Commission Act 1973’ and that calendar year has ended. The Government may still be out of date, but the short title is wrong. I submit to you, Mr Speaker, that the Bill is wrong.
– Does the Government know what year it is, Mr Speaker?
-Order! I would like the lawyers, if they would not mind, to stop interjecting. In particular I would like the honourable member for Stirling to stop the cross examinations that he has been so used to making all night. If he keeps it up I will certainly take action against him. Has that sunk into you at the present time? This is purely and simply a Bill which is identical to a Bill which was introduced last year. Similar things happened with the Bills to change the Constitution. So there is no point of order involved as far as the Chair is concerned. It is a matter for the House to decide.
– I submit to you, Mr Speaker, on a further point of order that even though it is a matter for the House to decide, you have jurisdiction over the House. A Bill has been introduced with a wrong title. A Bill has been introduced with a title that simply cannot ever be validated because it refers to a year past. The Government would have to produce a Bill with the correct year contained in clause 1. The short title is wrong.
– I suggest, Mr Speaker, that the honourable member should understand that this Bill is the re-introduction of a Bill which was brought into this House last year. In re-introducing it - and we had this program in mind some time ago, well before this session started - we are fulfilling a requirement to ensure that there is among other issues for a double dissolution this one. The Bill that we are now introducing is exactly the same as the one that we introduced last year - more than 3 months ago. Its rejection by this House and the Senate will make it an issue for a double dissolution.
-Order! The validity of the introduction of this Bill under the 1973 title is included under section 57 of the Constitution.
– I would like a ruling on the Acts Interpretation Act as against the Constitution. I know that the Constitution is supreme.
-Order! Mr Peacock - I simply submit this, Mr Speaker.
– Order! I have given my decision in regard to section 57 of the Constitution.
– Mr Speaker, I direct your attention to only one thing. Do not think that
I am being irrelevant. In the community we have a situation where we have funny money. Now we have introduced here a phoney Bill which is akin to what we are getting with our currency. This Bill was printed on 19 March 1974. How can it refer retrospectively as far as the calendar is concerned? It cannot.
– Order! If the honourable member for Kooyong, or any other person, likes to read section 57 of the Constitution, which is quite succinctly put, I am sure he will fully understand the matter.
– Mr Speaker, on the point of order, because of the enormous listening audience tonight and because of how farcical this situation must appear to those listening, could I ask you, for the benefit of the listening audience and, frankly, for myself, to read section 57?
– Certainly. Section 57 reads:
If the House of Representatives passes any proposed law, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, and if after an interval of 3 months the House of Representatives, in the same or the next session, again passes the proposed law with or without any amendments which have been made, suggested or agreed to by the Senate, and the Senate rejects or fajls to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, the Governor-General may dissolve the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously.
The latter part of the section does not apply. The fact is that the Bill is an identical Bill, and it is still within the confines of section 57 of the Constitution.
– Is it not more than 3 months since the Bill left this House?
-Order! I think that my Clerks are as conversant with matters of this nature as any member of the House - in fact more - and I am taking the advice of my Clerks in this matter. Because of section 57 of the Constitution, the Bill is in order as it now stands.
- Mr Speaker, a point of order. With great respect to the opinion of the Clerk upon which you are basing the viewpoint that you have just stated - I accept what is put in section 57 of the Constitution - there is one fact that cannot be changed. The Bill in toto can be resubmitted or re-presented to this chamber-
– A point of order-
– I am speaking on a point of order; you cannot take a point of order on mc. One thing that cannot be changed is the date 1973 to make it applicable, unless Parliament recognises that when this Bill is to be printed a change will have to be made. No amount of argument can convince me that this Parliament will enact legislation which will be called the Health Insurance Commission Act 1973 if it is submitted and passed in 1974. So the Government will have to move an amendment, but it has given no notice foreshadowing that amendment. It may seem technical - I introduced my point of order on that note - but, after all, we are being asked to spend a limited period of time debating a Bill which, frankly, is irrelevant.
– Now the honourable gentleman is debating the question. The point is that I have given my ruling in conformity with section 57 of the Constitution.
– Mr Speaker, as I was saying
– Mr Speaker, I raise one other point of order, and I refer-
-Order! I draw the honourable gentleman’s attention to the fact that I will not tolerate deliberate obstruction in the House.
– No, Sir.
– This will be your final point of order. If you are not satisfied with my ruling you can take the appropriate action. This is the last point of order that I intend to listen to from you because I think that you are trying to obstruct the House.
– I may just say - I think that I am entitled to say it on the basis of what you have implied to me there - that I do not think that that motive or that statement is worthy of you.
– Order! The honourable gentleman has taken about 4 points of order on the decision that I have already made in conformity with section 57 of the Constitution and in respect of which I have been given advice by my Clerks. I do not intend to make this go all night. That is why I believe that you are deliberately obstructing the business of the House. This is your last point of order.
– I accept that, Mr Speaker. All I submit is that under any form of reasoning and indeed under the Acts Interpretation Act a Bill must have a correct title. This does not have a correct title.
– I speak to the point of order, Mr Speaker, because I take it that you have not ruled yet on the point of order. I put it to you that, because of internal Liberal Party politics, this is an attempt by the honourable member for Kooyong to stop the honourable member for Hotham from speaking in this debate tonight, because the honourable member for Hotham pointed out that there was a good
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. Are you trying to obstruct the business of the House too? You will take your point of order according to the Standing Orders. Do not get up and ask to make a speech without getting the call.
– I was pointing out that some of the Australian public have perhaps been affected by the false fears spread about the meaning of our program. A great number have seen through the smoke screen, however, and it is apparent that organisations such as the Australian Medical Association have lost credibility with the public, and it will also be demonstrated in the future that political parties which align themselves with such narrow, sectional and ferociously conservative groups will similarly lose all credibility.
The whole debate on health insurance has polarised opinions roughly according to whether people have a progressive and socially concerned outlook or whether they are so conservative as to resist all worthwhile change. But there is one point on which there is general agreement and this is that in some way or other all Australians should have health insurance coverage. It would, of course, be possible to tinker with the so-called voluntary health insurance scheme to provide a patchwork coverage for the more than one and a half million people who do not have insurance coverage at present.
One proposal - that of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, which I understand has some attractions for the Opposition - would cost an additional $180m at least, which represents nearly a 2 per cent increase in taxation. Instead of opposing I would suggest that the Opposition tonight should go further than that and in the course of the debate and in the forthcoming election campaign it should explain exactly the cost of any proposals it has to rectify the defects in its scheme and indi cate from where the money is to be raised, given its clear undertaking that it will cut back savagely on public expenditure.
Nobody can pretend that the present health insurance scheme is either equitable or efficient. Moreover, it is not even comprehensive. One of our first concerns is to see that everyone in the community is brought into the system. The Australian Bureau of Census and Statistics figures show that the present scheme covers only about 87 per cent of the population. In absolute figures, having regard to the total population, this means, and I repeat what I said earlier, that over one and a half million Australians are not covered. Under the proposals in these Bills - and I point out that the Health Insurance Commission Bill flows from the Health Insurance Bill - everyone in the community will be automatically covered. As I mentioned, it would be possible to do a patch-up job on the present scheme to cover such people as pensioners and low income earners. I repeat again that the Democratic Labor Party seems to have some vague suggestions about how this can be done. The DLP may well be sincerely motivated in its proposals ‘but the fact is that they represent a poor solution to the basic problem to which they are addressed. The total annual cost of the DLP proposals which would seem to have so much attraction for members of the Opposition are of the order of SI 80m. That is an expensive “band aid’ exercise on this very defective system.
This would represent a very costly partial solution to the social challenge posed by the inadequacies of the present pensioner medical service and the plight of low income earners who are unable to afford coverage under the existing health insurance scheme. In practice the DLP proposals would have the effect of excluding from eligibility for free general practitioner care many pensioners who would be eligible for this free treatment under the existing pensioner medical service. The fact is that the present means test for deciding eligibility for the pensioner medical service for a couple without children is $86.50 a week, whereas a couple without children cannot be admitted to the subsidised health benefits plan unless they have a weekly income of $69.50 or less.
The Bill now before the House will enable the implementation of a program which will provide complete coverage, including specialist medical care, for all pensioners and low income earners for the same total cost as would be incurred in the continuation of the existing ramshackle array of health care schemes. Let me restate what I mentioned a few minutes ago. Tinkering with the pensioner medical service to cover pensioners under the subsidised health benefits plan will exclude great numbers of people who would otherwise have enjoyed the benefits of the pensioner medical service. Tonight let us hear clearly and in quite concrete terms what is the Opposition’s alternative program and how the Opposition proposes to remedy the serious defects in the present health insurance scheme.
Perhaps the single aspect of the program most frequently and blatantly misrepresented has been the matter of choice of doctor. Many people do genuinely appear to have been deceived into thinking that they will lose their freedom of choice. It therefore must again be emphasised that our program in no way alters the present doctor-patient relationship. Patients will be perfectly free, just as at present, to choose their own family doctor.
In the hospital situation, which is of course governed by State authorities, patients in public wards will generally be treated by sessional or salaried doctors, just as they are at present, and in intermediate and private wards they will be free to have the doctor of their choice by virtue of the extra insurance premiums they pay - which again is the same situation as applies at present. Attempts have been made fo cause fear in the public mind about the use of health insurance cards. I should rather hope that we will see no more of this discreditable propaganda following the report, tabled in this Parliament on 7 March, oy the Committee of Inquiry into the Protection of Privacy on the question of patient privacy in health insurance. But in case there is a lingering desire to debate this issue on the part of the Opposition let me remind members of the Opposition of the shocking degree of intrusion into personal records held by the Department of Social Security which I uncovered in the latter part of last year. This had been a long-standing practice tolerated by past governments until the time we achieved office.
The Committee of Inquiry into the Protection of Privacy made recommendations which are in line with the Government’s intentions, as spelt out in the White Paper regarding the use of health insurance cards. We had, prior to the report by the Committee, made it clear that the recommendations of the Committee concerning confidentiality of patient information would be included at an appropriate time in the health insurance legislation. A close examination is being made of the Committee’s recommendations in preparation for the introduction of appropriate amendments to the health insurance legislation, whether embodied in the Bill now before the House, in complementary legislation, or in interim amendments to the existing National Health Act.
The total costs of the program will be the same as those which will be needed for the present unco-ordinated series of health care assistance schemes. For individual members of the public the costs will be based on the equitable principle of ability to pay and they will mean that the great majority of the public will pay less for the benefits of the program than they at present pay for coverage under the so-called private health insurance system. It is true that those on the highest incomes will pay a little more than they do at present but most of those on low and middle range incomes will pay less.
The Opposition is welcome to the role of defending the present inequitable system by which those who earn least pay the most for health insurance coverage and those who earn the most pay the least. Opposition to our program has been expressed by many conservative groups during public debate over the last year or so. It is surely noteworthy that such groups as the AMA, the General Practitioners’ Society, the Association of Medical Specialists and the Voluntary Health Insurance Association, have vested interests in the continuation of the existing health insurance scheme. They may have ideological beliefs about the concept of universal health insurance financed through taxation, but it is very plain that their primary motivation is concerned with their perception of their own material interests. There are, of course, hundreds of unions and other organisations which support our health insurance program, many of them no doubt for reasons of ideology and because our proposals offer a materially better deal for their members. But it is significant that considerable support for the program has come from groups which have no political commitment to either side of the debate and no discernible material interests.
What of the Anglican Bishops, the Church and National Committee of the Presbyterian Church and the Australian Council of Social
Services, to name only a few? It surely could not be suggested that those people are biased in their support for our program or that they are naive or have a misplaced sense of social values. The plain fact of the matter is that they are people concerned with social equity and progress who, after honestly and dispassionately examining our proposals, have decided that the health insurance program will be for the general good of the community.
All of the deceit and distortion which has been injected into the community debate on our health insurance proposals cannot alter the fact that this Government came into office with a clear mandate for its program. The introduction of that program has already been delayed too long. Too many Australians are suffering too much hardship because of inadequacies of the decrepit existing scheme, cynically bequeathed to the public by the Opposition, for this Government to accept further delays.
I should mention that while the Health Insurance Bill is the main legislative instrument for the introduction of the Government’s health insurance program it is the Government’s intention that complementary legislation concerning such matters as the scope and operation of private health insurance and the introduction of levies on taxable income and on motor vehicle third party and workers compensation insurance will be introduced at a later date. We will also, I repeat, introduce complementary legislation on the subject of the protection of privacy in health insurance operations.
In conclusion, let me quickly sum up the main principles of this scheme. It provides universal cover and rectifies a serious defect in the present scheme which cannot be overcome except at enormous expense. Even then, there would still be gaps in coverage. The equity of cover in the present scheme should be intolerable to any community that claims to have a social conscience in that those people who can least afford it pay most for their health cover, and those people who are most able to afford it pay least. Perhaps most importantly of all - we lose sight of this - is the way in which the pooling of funds allows the whole community to be covered and allows an expansion of the range of services available to the community to be provided at no additional cost to that currently outlaid under the present system of private health insurance, repatriation and medical services and pen sioner medical and hospital services. That is one of the crucial points - I suggest that it is the most crucial point, which is consistently lost sight of.
The alternatives are to incur greater expenditure. That can be done only by increasing taxation, by reducing outlays in other areas, by an amalgamation of those things or by forgoing important priorities which could be included in general programs if a more efficient system of pooling finances could be undertaken as the Government is proposing in this universal health insurance scheme. When it is all boiled down, the real crux of the issues centres around the point that we are offering universal coverage to the community - something that belongs in most countries today; something that is being introduced in the United States of America; something that has been established in Canada for many years. I was there recently and was advised by the Ontario Medical Association, amongst other representatives of the medical profession, that they preferred a universal health insurance scheme-
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. The Minister is essentially a good guy and I am sure that it has just escaped his attention that this debate will be guillotined at 9.45 p.m. I appeal to him for a fair go and to leave some time for the Opposition.
– That is a fair enough point but I remind the honourable member, who is also a good guy, that many vexatious points of order were taken earlier that absorbed at least one-third of the time available to me. Out of respect for the honourable member, I will conclude. In Ontario, Canada, amongst other places where I spoke with representatives of the medical profession, they wholeheartedly embrace a universal system of health insurance based on fee for service private medical practice in the community. They would resist any effort to revert to the system that applied in the past in Canada, which would in turn be similar to the situation which applies in this country. I commend the Health Insurance Bill to the House.
- Mr Speaker, may I have your indulgence to do something unusual? May I ask the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) when his second reading speech on this Bill was prepared and typed?
– About a fortnight ago, but I condensed it so that there would be time available for the honourable member to speak tonight, given the fact that I realised during the suspension of the sitting for dinner that the guillotine would be applied. The condensing took place earlier in the day.
– I thank the Minister for his reply. It makes the situation even more extraordinary, because if the speech was typed 2 weeks ago why was I not given a copy? Why was the Bill suddenly brought on tonight? The hundreds of thousands of people who are listening to this debate on the radio must be confounded when they turn on their radio and listen to a health debate, a debate identical to the debate conducted last year. The challenge of the Opposition to the Government for a double dissolution is the biggest political news for many years. The debate on it was in full flight before the suspension of the sitting, and obviously this side of the House was annihilating the Government in the debate. So over dinner there was a hurried consultation on how the Government could divert the listening audience away from it tonight. During dinner time television programs were all obsessed with this biggest political news. And what did the Government do? It has brought in 2 Bills aged 1973, which have not been reprinted, just to take up the whole time tonight.
I, as the Opposition spokesman on health and social security, have been challenged to deliver the health policy of the Opposition. I said that the Minister was a good guy, and he is, but in this sense he must have been really joking to expect me in 7 minutes to deliver the health policy of the Opposition. I believe that the Minister has made a fool of himself tonight, because he is a good guy and he has been a fall guy. The Leader of the House (Mr Daly) tonight searched for somebody and said: Please get us out of a jam. Can somebody not go on and filibuster for an hour or two?’ The Minister is the fall guy. He has brought in a discredited Bill for a discredited scheme which this Parliament knocked out last year. Why has he brought it in tonight? He had the grounds for a double dissolution. He has them now. He has not used them. One wonders why he has been so stupid as to have been hoodwinked by his colleagues.
The introduction of this Bill tonight is, I believe, part of the dirty tricks campaign of the Australian Labor Party which has mani fested itself in recent days. I would like to trace the history of this particular health scheme. When the Opposition announces its health scheme, which I undertake will be next week, it will be seen that it is not a scheme, as the Minister’s alleged scheme is, concerned purely with funding. The Labor Party is obsessed with funding, with how to finance a health scheme. That is not what a health scheme is. A health scheme is caring about the health of the Australian people and how to prevent people becoming sick. I have the Opposition’s draft health scheme in my hand. It contains 120 paragraphs. Does the Labor Party expect me to announce that tonight? It will be announced at the appropriate time by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) as part of the campaign. It will be a real health scheme, one that concerns itself with the health of the Australian people. There is hardly anything in the so-called Hayden health scheme that directs itself towards sick people. The scheme is obsessed with insurance and the funding aspects of it.
Let us trace the history of the scheme. It is an amusing story. The Bills were defeated in the Senate last year. Then an amended version of the Minister’s health scheme started to appear around the place. I do not like reading from smuggled or leaked documents, but I have one in my hand which, frankly, has been leaked from 6 to 7 different sources. Honourable members on this side of the House have been literally deluged with copies. The document states:
I enclose . . .
Who the T is we do not know because it is not signed- a summary of the proposed amendments to the universal health insurance program, together with a copy of the present Health Insurance Bill.
It enumerates the amendments that somebody on that side of the House wants. It was addressed to the people at the meeting, and it was presented to the National Standing Committee on Private Hospitals at a meeting last week. It continues:
You mentioned some amendments concerned with machinery provisions for access to records etc., and the Minister had indicated that he is happy to consider amendments to these sections or accept an amendment to them in the Senate.
At the conclusion of the meeting, I am informed reliably, several if not all of the representatives there said they would not have a bar of the Hayden health scheme, even with amendments. When they said that, the officers present said 2 extraordinary things. They said: We want the copies of those documents back’. One copy was literally snatched from the hands of one of the delegates.
– ‘Under open government?
– Open government. Another person who was at the meeting said that he heard an extraordinary statement by the Minister’s representative, and it went along these lines: ‘If any of you people say that a meeting occurred here today we will deny that such a meeting occurred’. What sort of a government is this? The thing has reached scandalous stages because similar approaches have been made to the health funds. I have not time to devote myself to this subject, but my colleague and friend from Isaacs (Mr Hamer), my friend from Murray (Mr Lloyd) or my friend from Chisholm (Mr Staley) will deal with this matter if we have time. We will not divide oh this matter, as much as we would like to, because we still have a precious half an hour in which to show to the listening audience the contempt with which we regard this move. On the question of the secret meetings and the amendments, this gem appeared in this morning’s ‘Canberra Times’ about the new proposal being put to the people:
A spokesman for the Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden, criticised Dr Deeble today for having exceeded his brief.
The spokesman said that Dr Deeble, a special adviser to the Department of Social Security, had no authority to commit the Minister - as he had done in the document . . .
Presumably the document which I have in my hand is the document referred to- to proposed amendments to the scheme.
The proposals in the document were Dr Deeble’s and not Mr Hayden’s, he said.
What sort of a government is this? This document has been circulated. Men were asked to come from each State to a meeting in Melbourne. It was addressed by Dr Deeble and MrCorrigan. They behaved in this extraordinary way. I have in writing that certain amendments would be considered by the Minister. Telephone calls have been made by the health funds. I have a statement authorised to be made by Mr Jack Cade. Then this morning, because the heat in the kitchen got too great, the Minister or one of his officers authorised a disowning of the statements by the officers to whom I have referred. No Minister worth his salt would have allowed question time to pass today or this Parliament to continue today without confirming or denying the ratting on his own officers.
I think that this exercise tonight has been absolutely fruitless as far as the Government is concerned. It has denied listeners the right to hear a debate on national issues and has diverted the debate on to health. But I think that the Government is a born loser because, even by this desperate last throw attempt of introducing these pathetic Bills dated 1973 - it has not even updated the Bill - it has disgraced itself completely. We on this side of the House totally oppose these 2 Bills as we opposed them last year. I repeat that we will not divide, to save time and to allow colleagues in the Country Party and in my Party to discredit further this contemptible attempt by the Government to divert debate from a national issue - a big political crisis.
– Order! The time allotted for the second reading of the Bills has expired. The question is that the Bills be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills together read a second time.
– In the brief time which is all that the Government has left us, I wish to deal with clause 34 of the Health Insurance Bill. The Committee could consider this Bill for hours, clause by clause, and it would find serious errors and omissions and undesirable features in almost all of the clauses. The clause to which I refer particularly is clause 34 which deals with hospital arrangements. With the changed insurance scheme - the so-called new insurance scheme introduced by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) which is being proposed in this Bill - it is certain that there will be substantial changes in hospital bed use, and this will have significant consequences. There will inevitably be a great shortage of standard ward beds for many years, and poorer people who in some States, for example Victoria, have had special rights to beds in public hospitals will now have to compete with the richer elements in the community for these beds. So much for the Australian Labor Party’s claim that it has special consideration for the disadvantaged.
Many of the private hospitals are of outstanding quality. They will have to change their whole structure by setting up standard or public wards. This, in turn, will mean much greater Government control and the destruction of much that has made these hospitals great. A statement by the Board of the Freemason’s Hospital sums up the problem well. The Board said:
There appears to be no practicable way in which a hospital the size of the Freemason’s Hospital can combine public and private beds. The overhead and administrative problems involved when dealing with a mixture of patient classifications in a total of about 140 patients became out of proportion to the possible benefits. Accordingly it is submitted the White Paper scheme. . . .
That is the present Bill which has been resuscitated by the Minister -
This hospital is one of the finest in Australia. It is one that the Minister, with his scheme, would destroy.
How great the danger of the destruction of private hospitals is can be seen from a detailed examination of clause 34 of the Bill. Clause 34 (2) permits private hospitals to apply to the Minister for permission to open standard wards, and this they certainly will have to do under the Hayden scheme. Clause 34 (3) provides that the Minister will determine how many beds shall be taken over. The whole lot can be taken over if he so decides. Clause 34(4) provides that the Minister will decide how much a private hospital will be paid for taking in standard ward patients. Look at the sequence in clause 34. The Minister decides, the Minister determines, the Minister decides. What a perfect program for the takeover of private hospitals by the Government - for the socialisation of our hospitals scheme. Of course, we should not be surprised about this. The Minister has been quite frank about it. In the Sydney Morning Herald’ of 6 September 1972 he said:
The Labor Party is a socialist party and its aim as far as medical care is concerned is for the establishment of public enterprise.
Of course, this is why he is trying to socialise our entire medical system. This proposal was clearly rejected once by the Senate and by the people of Australia and it will certainly be rejected by them again. If the Government likes to have a double dissolution on this issue I am certain that it will be resoundingly rejected at the polls by the people of Australia.
That is only clause 34 of the Bill. There are many other errors and omissions contained in the Bill and I should like to deal with just a couple of them. I must say that there are a couple of good features in this Bill but they could easily be incorporated into the existing health scheme without the destruction of all the good things in the existing scheme and without the incorporation of the many bad features that are also in this scheme produced by the Minister for Social Security. I should like to mention just one other point. I refer to the proposed elimination by this Bill of the special account scheme. This would have a very unfortunate consequence. Under the existing health scheme members of a fund may be transferred to the special account scheme under which the Government pays their benefits in full. This may be done because of a pre-existing complaint, chronic illness or stays in hospital in excess of a specified period, usually about 84 days in any year. Under the Minister’s scheme, this special account is to go and long-term or chronic patients who have insured themselves for private or intermediate care will be thrown out of this accommodation after about 3 months. This is only another of the many iniquitious provisions in this scheme. The divisiveness and uproar which this Bill caused when it was first introduced in this House and will cause again now have diverted attention from the real areas of health care, as the honourable member for Hotham pointed out. The Bill does nothing at all to improve the standards of nursing home care to cope with the problems of people who have elderly relatives in nursing homes where they are being charged above the standard ward fees. The relatives of these people must pay for themselves. This is one of the many areas which this Government has done nothing to improve.
– That is dishonest. It is in the White Paper that we will meet the full cost.
– It is in the White Paper that the Government will meet the full cost but in 18 months in office the Government has done nothing to raise the amount of subsidy paid to nursing homes to bring them within the reach of people in them. What has happened is that this Government and this Minister have approved rising charges to patients but have done nothing to reduce the gap between the Governnent subsidy and the charges which the patients or their families must pay for themselves. This is typical of the way in which the Government in order to make its totally discredited scheme attractive is trying to destroy or damage the existing scheme through bad administration. The
Government’s aim is not to produce an improved scheme. It is to destroy the existing one.
I am sure that when the honourable member for Hotham explains, as he will soon, the improvements that we have in mind for our health scheme it will be seen as a very much better approach to delivering health care to people in Australia. What this Government is doing is concentrating on one area of the problem, namely, the health insurance scheme. lt is ignoring the real problem, which is how to deliver better health care to the community in Australia as a whole. We in the Liberal Party believe this is the key area of health care and this we as a government will achieve.
– Tonight we have only very few minutes to discuss this legislation. I realise that most other members of this House have had much more opportunity to speak on this Bill than I have had because I was away when it was last discussed. I should like to take up two or three furphies that have been raised repeatedly in connection with this Bill. The first one is the question of the patient’s right to choose his own doctor. Let us be quite clear about this. There will be no interference whatever under our proposed legislation with the present right of the patient to choose his own doctor. In fact, as I hope to show, there will be an increase in his right to choose. At present, many doctors who have been opposing this legislation pretend that under the present scheme the patient has an absolute right to choose his own doctor. Of course, this is not true if we are talking about repatriation patients in hospitals, public patients in hospitals and patients in psychiatric hospitals. If we realise that one-third of all beds in Australian hospitals are contained in psychiatric hospitals and if we further realise that none of these patients has ever had a choice of doctor we also realise that when doctors complain about a lack of choice under our proposed legislation they are just ignoring what is happening at present. If a person is admitted as a public patient into a public hospital in Sydney he has no right to choose his own doctor. If he is admitted into a repatriation hospital he has no right to choose his own doctor. If he is admitted into a psychiatric hospital he has no right to choose his own doctor.
I agree that this legislation does not represent the perfect method but what I am saying is that there will be no significant change in that area of health care. The only change will be in the area of health care offered .to pensioners. At present pensioners receiving treatment have a limited choice of a general practitioner. The choice is limited because some of the general practitioners who now talk big about the patient having the right to choose refuse to see pensioner patients and in this respect they do not give those particular patients the choice of seeing them. But under the scheme of the previous Government even this limited choice did not apply to specialists and pensioners had and still have no other choice but to line up at hospital outpatient centres and to be admitted into hospitals as public patients in order to receive their treatment, whether it be for yearly overhauls by a physician, for specialist treatment by an ophthalmologist or whatever the speciality may be that is relevant to the particular case.
Under our proposal, as honourable members opposite well know, pensioners will be treated in exactly the same way as all other patients. If a pensioner wants to go and see his specialist, or if he wants to pick out a specialist to see privately, he will be perfectly entitled to do so. He may see his specialist privately and the Government will pick up the tab. The Government will pay for it in the same way as the Government now pays for the pensioner’s visit to a general practitioner. In that way, of course, there will be a huge increase in the patient’s right of choice. A large proportion of our population - some 800,000 people who are part of the pensioner medical service as well as repatriation patients - will now have the choice of going to see their specialists. A patient will be able to see his specialist privately in his own rooms or even have the specialist call to his own home, if relevant, and under our proposal all this treatment will be provided for nothing. So honourable members can see quite clearly that in fact the patient will improve his choice. He will have a greater right to choose.
The main opposition to our scheme has come from the large funds. Such organisations as the Medical Benefits Fund of New South Wales have put in the money to prevent this legislation from going on to the statute books. They have paid for the propaganda against it. They pretend to be representing their contributors. During last week a manager of one of the funds wrote a letter to a lot of newspapers in New South Wales claiming that the contributors to the particular fund were represented. He said that all the directors were contributors but what he did not say was that those directors were not chosen by the contributors, in exactly the same way as happens with the Medical Benefits Fund of New South Wales. In the case of the Medical Benefits Fund there are 2 classes of contributor. Firstly, there are the ordinary contributors comprising about one million people plus their dependants; secondly, there are those called medical contributors. They are medical practitioners who are called medical contributors. They are chosen by the present board or council and they are the only people who have a vote in the election of the officers.
– Order! The time allotted for the Committee stages of the Bills has expired. The question is: ‘That the Bills be agreed to’. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it.
– Is a division required?
Bills reported without amendment; report adopted.
– I move:
That the Bills be now read a third time. I think it is necessary that I address myself to some matters because there was decided misrepresentation on the part of certain Opposition spokesmen in the course of their comments a few minutes ago. For instance, the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) was labouring the point that there is no provision for nursing home benefit cover, yet in the White Paper entitled “The Australian Health Insurance Program’, it is stated on page 26, paragraph 7.12:
There will also be $5.7m extra expenditure from consolidated revenue as a result of the transfer of the liability for nursing home benefits at present paid by hospital benefit funds.
This is a cost item completely separate from the cost associated with the operation of the health insurance program. As honourable members would know, this is a positive and helpful approach to a rather contentious area. In Victoria, for instance, the State Liberal Government has refused to accept the principle introduced in the legislation of the last Government, which is now in opposition, that nursing home benefits for non-pensioner patients ought to be covered by health insurance at rates decided by the Department of Social Security, and the rates charged are considerably higher than can be justified. To the extent that they are higher than can be justified they represent exploitation of the public. That is the first point to which I should address myself.
More important is the waffle. That is a legitimate description of the comments of both the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) and the honourable member for Isaacs in asserting that their concern is about the health care system, the health delivery system. They said that this system we are talking about is purely insurance. Of course it ls purely insurance. We have always asserted that just as the present system of private health insurance is purely insurance and nothing more, our scheme provides more cover, gives more benefit, gives more security to people in need of health protection and distributes the cost equitably. To the extent that it pools the total volume of money available and gives more service, it improves the health services system. It improves the health delivery system immensely.
These are important points. The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) pointed out how advantaged pensioners will. be. At present a pensioner can receive a consultation only from a general practitioner at a private surgery under the pensioner medical service. Under this program he will receive additionally cover for procedural items. He would have to go to a public hospital under the present scheme. Under our scheme he will receive cover for specialist medical services by a private specialist in that private specialist’s surgery. He will receive his medical care in hospital. This is a great expansion on the sort of services that are available.
– Could I have the Minister’s attention for 5 seconds? Can I have an assurance from him that he will leave 5 minutes of speaking time for the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd)?
– I will see how I am going.
– I want the assurance otherwise there are forms of the House which we can use to prevent the Minister speaking forthwith. I would have thought that in the circumstances it was a fair request.
– In the case of health care in the proper context, I will do my best to accommodate the honourable member for Hotham. On the issue of a complete system of health care, has any member in the Opposition yet heard of the Hospital and Health Services Coommission headed by Dr Sidney Sax? Has anyone in the Opposition yet discovered that in the last Budget money was allocated to the States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland and subsequently to Western Australia for the development and improvement of hospital planning services and the actual capital development works in New South Wales? Have members of the Opposition not yet been alerted that a report is to be tabled in this House from that Commission committing this Government to an increased program in support of hospital services? Have they not yet discovered that a report has already been tabled in this Parliament on community health services; that we have already committed ourselves to expenditure of more than SI Om; that we are now meeting 90 per cent of recurrent costs and 75 per cent of capital costs in community health centres where doctors backed by ancillary medical professionals can work to provide a comprehensive range of medical services to the community in a confined location? Are they not yet aware that the doctors have embraced this proposal wholeheartedly?
Do they not know that in the field of psychiatric health services, drug abuse and alcoholism about S7.5m has been allocated for the development of community services and that the States have taken this up with a great deal of enthusiasm because the States realise that public hospital services - ‘broadly, public health services, but more specifically public hospital services - cannot be maintained at a high standard of service with the limited finances available to the States? Already in numerous areas public hospital services are breaking down. This is critical because the central public hospitals, the teaching hospitals, should have the best standards and should maintain standards of excellence at all times in the broad spectrum of even the most expensive services the community may need, because without these high standards the community will suffer. No private hospital can provide the full range of services that the community needs. It is too expensive. Only the large public hospitals, and more especially the teaching hospitals, can provide this sort of service.
The honourable member for Hotham queried the report in some newspapers that one of my advisers had some meetings to discuss possible modifications of the proposals in the White Paper. It was made clear in .*ie newspapers this morning that it was made clear to that adviser, who was rather optimistic, ma, as a result of approaches made to him there were areas for negotiation and that he ought to go forward to commence negotiations to see whether some sort of communication could be developed to clear confusion on the part of some people. In doing that it was made clear to that gentleman that he did so on his own initiative without any commitment on the part of the Government merely to explore what these areas were. Having had one meeting he was encouraged to go and meet other groups. He did that on his own initiative and, although he exceeded his brief, I nonetheless commend the initiative that he displayed.
The Government has consistently shown that it is prepared to communicate, and to listen to points of views. That will always be the the principle upon which I will proceed. If at the forthcoming elections we were to be returned as the Government in this House, with sufficient support in the Senate to carry out health insurance proposals, I would still want to negotiate with all concerned bodies. I would still want to discuss the proposals in finer details with the Australian Medical Association, with the private and public hospital authorities throughout the community, and with the health insurance funds because I will try my best to accommodate those people within the context of a universal health insurance scheme.
This is the important point: It is a universal health insurance scheme. The former Government had more than 2 decades in which it could have rectified the defects of the present scheme. The only member of the former Government who was ever prepared to confront the powerful interest groups in the health insurance funds and the medical profession, who had cosy arrangements and in many ways abused the system, was the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton). He paid the full price for the courage he displayed. He was never able to fulfil the promise that he set about to fulfil, but at least he did try. I am well aware, from private discussions I have had in various quarters, how determined he was and how much better the scheme of health insurance that we have today - the private enterprise scheme of health insurance that is so defective - would have been if he had been able to win out in his battle with the powerful vested interests in the community.
There has been more than adequate opportunity for this Parliament to discuss this Bill. We introduced a Green Paper in the early part of last year and we allowed several months of debate to take place in the community before we introduced a White Paper in October or November last year. At no stage in that intervening period of several months did the Opposition seek to initiate any discussions in this House on that Green Paper. We allowed debate on the White Paper when we introduced the legislation. We are allowing debate now and we will be happy to debate this issue in the forthcoming election. I am rather intrigued - more than just a little curious - at the rather frenzied reaction of members of the Opposition to this issue being brought forward. The Government backs it fully. We are prepared to fight in the forthcoming election on this issue and the other key issues for which we believe we have a public mandate.
– When the rather garish events of this week reached their inevitable conclusion this afternoon, somebody in the Australian Labor Party pressed a panic button; and this is the first of the panic measures, the first of the pieces of legislation which will be desperately trotted out again to try somehow or other, to justify to the Australian public the return of the Labor Government. Of all the pieces of legislation to be trotted out again this is the most symbolic because nowhere else in all the Government’s legislation does the Government show the cynicism it has towards the health of the 13 million people in Australia. At no time has this Government tried, in any constructive and practical way that had any chance of success, to update the many aspects of health cover and nursing home cover, which was mentioned by the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer), to keep pace with inflation, or to overcome some of the weaknesses which we all acknowledge to be in the existing scheme - if the Labor Government cannot see them, we on this side of the House can easily show them to it - so that the problems of inflation that this Government has caused will not bring undue suffering to the people who need health care.
We have just had this discredited piece of legislation trotted out once again at the last minute. At no time during the period of office of this Government has the health of the people of Australia been put above the political opportunism of this Government in matters of health. Let us look at the whole sorry succession of events that led up to this legislation. We had the Deeble report which was never debated. If anybody tried to tackie the Government it said: ‘Well, it is not necessarily what we mean. We had a White Paper which was never debated. Again, if anybody tried to tackle the Government on what it meant we were told: ‘That is not necessarily what will be in the legislation’. Then finally we have this piece of legislation - one of the largest pieces of legislation we have had before this Parliament and, if we are to take this Government and this legislation seriously, one of the most important pieces of legislation - and we are given approximately one hour to debate it. How can we treat it seriously when that attitude is taken?
Instead of getting on with the job of keeping the health of the people of Australia within their reach by updating the various factors involved in it as this Government should have been doing - for example, updating the subsidised health benefits plan limitations to keep up with inflation, keeping the Government’s contribution to medical benefits schemes and hospital benefits schemes at a satisfactary level also to keep up with inflation, and increasing the bed allowance so that the States are not overburdened financially and so that the scheme can continue to run - this Government says that it has some grandiose scheme which somehow or other will solve all the problems of the people of Australia. But it is a scheme which has been defeated, and the Government knows it has been defeated. In reintroducing this legislation the Government knew that it had no hope of achieving success with it. The Government reintroduced it only as a desperate political gambit for the forthcoming election campaign. Instead of going on with this mockery this witless Government
-Order! The time allotted for the remaining stages of the Bills has expired. The question is: That the Bills be now read a third time. Those in favour say ‘aye’; to the contrary ‘no’. I think the ‘ayes* have it.
– The ‘noes’ have it.
– Is a division required this time?
That the Bills be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bills together read a third time.
Notice of Intention to Present
– Notice has been received from the honourable the Minister for Services and Property of his intention at the next sitting to present the Australian Capital Territory Representation (House of Representatives) Bill.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Because of the dirty tricks that have been played I should like the Clerk to repeat the notice so that members on this side of the House will know the intentions of the Leader of the House for the next sitting.’ The notice could not be heard because of the conversation.
-Order! There is too much audible conversation. I call the Clerk.
– Notice has been received from the honourable the Minister for Services and Property of his intention at the next sitting to present the Australian Capital Territory Representation (House of Representatives) Bill.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have ben misrepresented?
– I was misrepresented by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) during the recent debate. The Minister referred to something which I said in the Committee stage. During the Committee stage of the debate on the Health Insurance Bill 1973 I pointed out that the Bill did nothing to solve the problems of patients in nursing homes. The Minister contradicted this. I should like to make it clear that this Bill contains nothing about nursing homes. Nursing homes are not even mentioned in the glossary. The Minister does not even know what is in his own Bill. What he is referring to-
-Order! The honourable member is now out of order. He is debating the Bill. He has made his personal explanation.
Meeting in Forrest Place, Western Australia - Immigration
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to use the dairy industry as an example of how the ignorance of the Labor Government on matters of rural policy can cause considerable harm to a rural industry and also cause considerable confusion and distress. The Government is ignorant not only of rural policy as such but also of the ramifications of its policy. The Government is ending the dairy industry bounty. The bounty has played a major part in a stable dairy industry not only by its injection of income into the industry but also - this is where the Labor Government’s ignorance shows - ‘because the bounty was the foundation stone of equalisation. Equalisation returns are of vital importance to thousands of dairy farmers, even if they do not appear to be of any importance to the Labor members of Parliament: Equalisation is the mechanisation that averages returns between the various end products of the dairying industry. Mr Speaker, I find it difficult to speak above the babble that is going on in the chamber at present.
-Order! There is too much audible conversation.
– Thank you.
– Now the honourable gentleman knows what it is like when he interjects.
– My interjections are short, Mr Speaker. The bounty equalises the returns between home and overseas markets. It guarantees products for the Australian dairy market and for the Australian consumer at a reasonable price. It prevents predatory price cutting. There is no basic wage or benefit to provide a guaranteed minimum income for dairy farmers. No equalisation in the dairying industry would be the same as workers being forced to work without a minimum wage. As the bounty is phased out, the pressure in certain sections of the dairying industry to pull out of the equalisation scheme is increasing. These sections will gain short term advantage but they will create long term chaos for thousands of people in the dairying industry.
At this particularly difficult time the Government is offering no support for the industry. The Government will give no guarantee, that it will invoke the provisions of the equalisation referendum legislation if equalisation appears about to break down. Rather than phase out the dairy ‘bounty over a longer period of time and so assist the industry to adjust and overcome this dangerous situation, the Gov ernment has warned the dairying industry that it will abruptly end the bounty if there is any trouble at all. If equalisation does break down the bad days of the pre-Paterson plan era of dairying will return. By ‘pre-Paterson’, I do not refer to the present Minister for Northern Development and Member for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson); I refer to the former Country Party member for Gippsland who introduced and brought stability to the dairying industry in the 1930s. To use a comparison once again with industry, the breakdown of the equalisation scheme in the dairying industry would create a situation analogous to workers returning to the conditions that prevailed before arbitration court decisions were introduced and minimum wages were applied.
This confusion and uncertainty in the dairying industry will be compounded by another ramification of the Government’s rural policy. It is evident that there is now no dairy stabilisation scheme. Perhaps the most important part of that scheme has been the Government’s underwriting guarantee which has allowed the dairy factories to pay a reasonable monthly payment to dairy farmers so that they could meet their day to day costs. How would an employee working in industry like to receive only half of his income on a monthly basis and receive the rest of it perhaps 12 months or 2 years later. I am aware that last year the dairying industry did not require the complete guarantee to be fulfilled. But that was before there was any word given of the bounty being phased out and any word of the threat to equalisation. This Government has given no assurance to the dairying industry that it will continue any guarantee to that industry. By not providing any guarantee it is doing the same as if it refused to make advances through the Reserve Bank to the wheat industry to allow the first advance to be paid, or to the canning fruit industry to allow the initial payment for canning fruit to be made.
I understand that the long awaited alleviation measures promised by the Government in lieu of the bounty were to be introduced this session. Because of the proposed election it now remains to be seen whether they will be introduced. If the! Government is sincere in its desire to do something to help the dairying industry the first item in this alleviation program will be to re-introduce an underwriting guarantee to the industry and to put the industry back at least on the same level as the wheat industry and the canning fruit industry, with Reserve
Bank advances. The second major plank must be the Government’s solid support for equalisation and, if necessary, invoking the equalisation referendum legislation. If this Government does not take that action it will create chaos in the dairying industry. It will create chaos in the industry in the name of social welfare because it was in the name of social welfare - or so-called social welfare - that the Government changed these dairying industry policies. By bringing chaos to the industry the Government will bring misery to thousands of dairy farmers because no longer will there be any form of guarantee that a factory will be able to advance monthly payments to dairy farmers Nobody should believe that it cannot happen. There are hotheads in the dairy industry in all States who have brought the industry to the brink of a breakdown on equalisation. Fortunately there are also wise and experienced dairy leaders in the States.
A modified equalisation scheme which looks like being accepted for a 12-month period - perhaps it should be accepted for a longer period - with any luck will be introduced at least for the forthcoming season. But if some of these hotheads in the various States were to look at the differential in their own States between the returns for city milk and those for manufacturing milk and were prepared to bring about a modified equalisation of dairy products or of dairying generally within each State, they could do something constructive to help the industry instead of just trying to gain some short term advantage at the expense of another section of the industry in another State. We are all Australians and the industry is Australian, not just an industry that should be regarded in isolation as being in one State or even as providing city milk or manufacturing milk from different sections of the industry in any one State.
In the meantime, because, of this uncertainty, there has been interruption to the quality improvement programs and planning at both the farm and factory levels. Because of competition on world markets, which requires the highest degree of quality control, the capital improvement program necessary to keep ahead of the rest of the world - and Australia has been ahead of the rest of the world in quality control of dairy products - is being endangered. All of this uncertainty and possible chaos and misery to an industry which supports thousands of Australians have been brought to this brink of confusion and danger because of a Government that was so ignorant of rural policy and of the ramifications of its rural policy that it did not know what it was doing.
– I want to drawn to the attention of the House tonight, particularly to the attention of the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby), whom I thank for coming into the chamber, a matter concerning Fijians in Brisbane last weekend. The matter that I want to refer to is the dishonest ill-considered and ill-founded statements made by the Queensland Minister for Justice, Mr Bill Knox, at a Liberal Party conference held in my electorate last weekend. I rise to speak tonight not because of any desire to deal with Mr Knox’s flights of fancy but because he is in control of and responsible for justice in Queensland. The first irresponsible statement that he made was that 30,000 illegal migrants had arrived in Australia under the easy visa system in the past 7 months. He went on to say that among these people who have come, here-
– I rise to order. This morning the Minister for Immigration set up a Dorothy Dix question through the honourable member for Brisbane on this subject. I have a question on notice on this subject. Is it in order for the Minister and the honourable member for Bowman to set about exploiting the processes of Parliament in this manner?
– There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member would not be entitled to debate anything that has already been debated during this session. But in regard to a question on the notice paper, the honourable member, I believe, would be quite entitled to go ahead.
– If the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) were to control himself and hang around he might hear the answers to his questions.
– I take another point of order, Mr Speaker. I say this with great respect. The Minister for Immigration is famous for not answering questions on notice. This is a devilish evil way of going around the corner and trying to gain publicity foi himself in his own fashion. He will be looked after at the next election. He can be sure of that.
-Order! I have taken just about all I intend to take from the honourable member for Griffith. One more outburst like that and I will not accept an apology. He will be suspended’. I warn him that if he makes any more outbursts I will suspend him and will not accept an apology.
– It is no small wonder that the honourable member for Griffith gets excited about and is ashamed of the irresponsible statements made by the Queensland Minister for Justice. I would be ashamed if that Minister were a member of my political Party, so I sympathise with the honourable member for Griffith. At the weekend) the Queensland Minister for Justice said that there have been a few racial problems. He was referring to the immigration policy of past years. He said that despite claims that the policy was racist and represented white Australia, the undeniable fact was that it was a policy that was in the country’s best interests. So we know where Mr Knox stands. He stands for racial discrimination.
– That is a rotten lie.
– Order! The honourable member for Kennedy will withdraw that remark.
– Well, Mr Speaker-
– Order! The honourable member for Kennedy will withdraw that remarks.
– Well I withdraw the remark.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. We know where Mr Knox stands. He stands for racial discrimination. He stands for the policy of the past - the policy that judged a man on his complexion, on where he lived or on his beliefs. It was a notorious fact that for years under Liberal governments if persons wanted to come to Australia their right of entry into Australia depended on their racial origin, on a consideration of their colour as shown on black and white photographs they had taken of themselves, and on similar issues. Of course what upsets the Liberals today is that the Government has wiped out this policy of discrimination. We have wiped out considerations of the past that should stay in the past.
Tonight I refer to the irresponsible statements of the Queensland Minister for Justice about the Fijians who were in Australia, who came here as visitors and who breached the terms and conditions of their entry. Mr Knox, speaking in my electorate, said that these people were ill-treated when they were taken into custody. He made many complaints without probably realising that for most of the time they were in custody they were his responsibility as they were being held in the Brisbane prison. I shall summarise some of his claims, bring them to the attention of the Minister for Immigration and ask him to give me and the House tonight the facts of this incident that took place in Brisbane last weekend. Mr Knox said that the people who were here illegally were picked up too early in the morning; that officers forced entry into their houses without search warrants; that on arrival in prison - a prison under the control of the Queensland Government - they were stripped naked, searched and forced to wear prison clothes. I would be interested to know whether this is the usual practice with prisoners on remand or prisoners being held in the remand section. He said that while in custody they were treated like animals. The only custody they were in that I know of was the custody of the Queensland prison authorities.
He complained that they were locked up and denied the right to see anybody - any members of their families. He agrees with complaints made by spokesmen on behalf of the Fijians that they were starved for the 2 days they were held in custody and that there were inadequate toilet facilities. One spokesman suggested that there was one bucket to be shared by all 14 deportees being held in the prison. He said, of course, that the food could not be eaten, and Mr Knox agreed with this assessment of the conditions under which these people were held.
I ask the Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that such nightmare conditions exist in Queensland gaols. If these serious conditions to which the complaints relate do exist, will the Minister inform the House tonight of the investigations he has made? I am sure that he has made inquiries of the officers of his Department in Brisbane to ascertain whether these charges are responsible even in a small way. Otherwise, I would ask the Minister to give us here tonight the facts associated with this incident which occurred in Brisbane last weekend involving people who, before they came here, had given an undertaking that they would not work during their stay here, who had breached that undertaking, and who were given in a very humane way the opportunity to get back to their home country.
– First of all, I would like to mention that there appears on the notice paper question No. 729 which the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) is most anxious that the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) answer. The honourable member for Griffith has asked me to mention that matter briefly in the hope that the Minister later on tonight will have time to provide an answer to that question. I will be very brief in my remarks in order to accommodate the Minister.
I wish to refute strongly the impression given by many of the media and other people in their reports that farmers were mainly responsible for the disturbance in Forrest Place, Perth, last Monday week on the occasion of a political meeting which was held by the Australian Labor Party. The Western Australia farming industry has been vilified unjustly in Perth, interstate and overseas because of reports which I believe were exaggerated and grossly misrepresented the situation. The fact that 6,000 farmers, in an unprecedented show of unity, met at Subiaco Oval in peaceful and orderly protest the same afternoon has been given no or scant regard by the daily Press, while the antics of a group of alleged farmers demonstrating in Forrest Place have been blazed in headlines across the nation. It appears that because some farmers identified themselves by carrying placards the Press and speakers alike presumed that all the trouble was coming from farmers. Apart from those carrying placards I would like to know how the Press identifies farmers in a crowded mass of 10,000 people.
Many responsible farmers and non-farmers who were present and to whom I have spoken since are adamant that farmers, apart from not being the only ones creating a disturbance, were in fact less to blame than other groups and individuals in the crowd. From the number of farmers who later came to the Subiaco meeting I estimate that no more than 10 per cent or 15 per cent of people in the crowd in Forrest Place were farmers. I was at Forrest Place and perhaps was the first person to leave there and go to Subiaco Oval, so I saw the crowd at Forrest Place and then saw the crowd that arrived at Subiaco Oval from Forrest Place. The fact that no arrests were made and nobody was injured during the course of the meeting in Forrest Place indicates, too, that the extent of violence has been blown out of all proportion. When 10,000 people crowd together in a confined space there is certain to be some jostling and shoving. No farmer organisations were represented at Forrest Place, nor did they organise any farmer participation.
– The Minister for Services and Property was the ringleader, was he not?
– I will come to him. However, I am well aware that there were farmers there who were noisy. I do not condone the throwing of objects or unruly behaviour. But I stand by the right of anyone to demonstrate and, especially in these particular circumstances to demonstrate very strongly. I believe that responsibility for the turn taken by the demonstration rests squarely with the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and, in particular, the Leader of the House and Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). It is no thanks to them that the demonstration was not in fact a lot more ugly. In the Minister’s own way, as only he can do it, as we know him in this House so well, he incited the crowd to violence.
The Prime Minister set a mood for demonstration by his decision to snub farmers by refusing the requests for him to attend the Subiaco meeting which was arranged before the Forrest Place meeting was known about. He was first asked on 19 February to attend a mass meeting. No reply was received. A second request was made and when there was still no reply a third request was made for him or his representative to attend. The reply, a refusal, was received on Friday, 22 March, 3 days before the mass meeting. A representative was not sent. So while 6,000 farmers held their meeting at Subiaco the Prime Minister chose instead to address students at the university. If the Prime Minister had done the right thing by farmers and had gone to Subiaco I am certain he would have been given a fair hearing, and few, if any, farmers would have gone to Forrest Place.
Since the announcement that the superphosphate bounty would be discontinued the Prime Minister - has said that farmers have never had it so good, that their incomes have trebled. He has apparently alleged that farmers sponge, or words to that effect, on the community. Such statements demonstrate that he is totally insensitive to or has little or no knowledge of the problems of the farming industry. He ignores the fact that farmers are carrying record debt loads, that many farmers are still trying to overcome the effects of the recent severe rural recession and that farm costs have risen an estimated 30 per cent in 3 years. He disregards the major effects which his Government’s revaluation has had on the farming community. He ignores the fact that the real return to woolgrowers is little or no more today than it was 5 years ago. Why does he not visit some of the 3,000-odd developing farmers in Western Australia before he makes generalisations about farmers never having had it so good? Certainly, some farmers are doing much better but a lot are not. Certainly gross incomes have trebled but the farmers concerned have come up from the disastrous levels which applied during the recession.
When farmers demonstrated in Forrest Place their mood was conditioned by a number of things. They included the Prime Minister’s refusal to attend their mass meeting or to send a representative; his Government’s array of anti-farmer measures; his series of insensitive statements about farmers and farming, and the emotive expressions used in Forrest Place by him and by the Minister for Services and Property. Is it any wonder that farmers became upset?
In recent years Western Australian farmers have gone through a devastating drought and a harsh economic recession but their feelings have never been as aroused as they are now. Their feelings are now running so high because they feel they are being treated with arrogance and contempt by a prime minister and a government that neither cares about nor properly understands their problems.
I can imagine bells ringing tonight in Western Australia, people throughout Western Australia, both in the cities and the country, enjoying a feeling of wellbeing as the news gradually seeps through that we in Australia are to have a double dissolution. We are certainly going to have a change of government. We are going to see a return to rational government.
– At the beginning of the remarks of the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond) I was encouraged by his statement that the men of violence, the men who cut the microphone cord and the men who refused not only to listen to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) but also to the Western Australian Minister for Health, were in the main not farmers. I think that is true. When I read reports of the riots, the disorders and the violence in Western Australia I thought I was listening to a report from
Kampala, the capital of Uganda, and not a report from Perth, the capital of Western Australia. Whoever the General Amin was who. directed these men of violence and deliberately organised the demonstration should be thoroughly ashamed of himself. Whoever the organiser was - I call him General Amin but I do not know him - I am sure all members on both sides of this Parliament will reject violence and the practice of silencing people who have a point of view. I was encouraged by the statement of the honourable member for Forrest that the action was certainly not carried out by farmers. I cannot imagine farmers being unfair in that way. As far as the extremists are concerned, they spoke for themselves and they were rejected by the majority of the Australian people. I do not regard the political comments about the Government and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) as relevant to that matter. I think they are quite separate.
I am also very grateful to the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) tonight foi raising a series of matters in a detailed and proper way in relation to the statements made by Mr Knox. I must say that I am shocked and dismayed that any Australian in public life would be so blatantly racist in intent and words as Mr Knox. If his reported statements are true he wants an immediate restoration of racist discrimination such as existed for the past 23 years. He said:
The policies of the past were right. They may be regarded as racist, but the White Australia policy was right and in the country’s best interests.
This is obviously a call for the restoration of racist policies which would align Australia with South Africa, apartheid, Rhodesia - I think it goes further than that; Nazi Germany. That is an extreme statement and I have never heard the like of it anywhere. If that is Mr Knox’s view I believe he is out of step with Australia. We have always been a country of fair go and fair play and the nondiscriminatory policy puts the onus on the man as he is and not what he purports to be. Mr Knox made a statement to which the honourable member for Bowman referred and to which I have referred.
But he also said something else which I think should be dealt with tonight in the national Parliament. He made the extraordinary claim that 30,000 illegal people came to Australia in the past 7 months under the easy visa system. The facts are as indicated in my statement yesterday. The Department of Immigration computer records indicate that perhaps 960 or 1,000 people - that is all - came into Australia under that system, not 30,000. If Mr Knox handles justice in Queensland as he handles figures, God help Queensland. Of the 10 complaints put forward by the honourable member for Bowman - I tried to note them - three referred to the Australian Government administration. I undertake to probe them fully and completely and if there is any wrongdoing by Australian officers I will deal with it. But of the 7 other complaints against the Queensland Government officers and institutions which Mr Knox supports in an extraordinary way, I cannot rebut them. They are beyond my responsibility. Of the British, Americans, Europeans and other Asians deported from Brisbane in the past 3 years, there have not been such complaints on file, but from this group there are. I intend to set them out as conveyed to me and ask the Prime Minister to request the Queensland Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, to investigate them, just as I shall willingly investigate the complaint against Australian Government officers.
It has also been claimed by someone who is associated with the Queensland legal fraternity that under the past administration murderers and racketeers come in without let or hindrance. I also intend to probe that claim and that criticism of the past administration. I find it an extraordinary statement, but still in my position I think I have a responsibility to look at all these matters and to investigate all these statements that have been made not only in Brisbane but also in Fiji.
To the honourable member for Bowman I say: I believe that Mr Knox has defiled Australia’s reputation by his racist statement. I think Mr Knox and his blanket support for the complaints made by a minority of people has accepted severe criticism of his own officers and of State officers generally on 7 counts. It is true that he has also indicted Australian Government officers. I have made my position plain on that score. We will see to it that if there were any abuses they will be investigated. But we will see to it also that they are put right. I challenge the Queensland authorities to do exactly the same as I am doing myself - to call for a full and open report on the serious charges that were made, which are a stain on Australia’s good reputation. I do not put them forward; I do not sus tain them. But I am placing on record in this House that charges were made in another country and by residents of Brisbane which reflect on the good order and conduct of the Queensland Government and the Australian Government. I take those charges very seriously because I am concerned about anything that reflects on the good name of my country, and I would hope that that applies to all honourable members.
As far as I am concerned, there will be an inquiry. I would hope that when the Prime Minister presents - I am sure he will do so- my request to the Premier of Queensland, because that is the drill, the Premier of Queensland likewise will initiate the full inquiry that I am undertaking myself. I further call upon the Opposition in this Parliament and particularly the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), who at one time was the minister of State for Immigration, to tell us in this Parliament what their reaction is to the advice that has been given to this Government, to the national Parliament and to the nation by the Queensland Minister for Justice, Mr Knox - that we should return to the past, that we should discriminate, that we should repeal all the things that have been done to abolish discrimination and put it all back again. Mr Knox is entitled to his view, but I think also that it is very important for the present Leader of the Opposition in this Parliament, the right honourable Billy Mackie Snedden, and for his future that he should say exactly where he stands in relation to this matter. I invite him very calmly, very peacefully and very frankly to do just that.
– Wait until he is Prime Minister.
– There was an interjection Wait until he is Prime Minister’. Of course, if he is going to be Prime Minister and if he is going to return us to the dark days of the past, I think that would be a disaster not only for those of us here in the chamber but also for everybody in the Australian community. The Leader of the Opposition has a responsibility to say where he stands, and I have given him a very courteous invitation to express himself because a senior member of the Liberal Party has called for a return to discrimination, a return to racism and a return to past policies. If the Leader of the Opposition disagrees with that, let him come in here and say so.
The illegals claimed that they had only one bucket between fourteen persons. It seemed to me to be a mighty big bucket. But the bucket over Australia from our neighbours and the world if we return to the racist policies of the past would drown us all as good neighbours for an entire generation, and I think that the bulk of the Australian people will reject that.
– Taking advantage of the very short time that is available to me, I remind the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) who has just spoken that the Australian Council of Trade Unions is in a state of complete eruption over the Minister’s policies. During his term as Minister we have seen a display where previous policies were overturned, but slowly the Minister has recognised that there was some wisdom in the previous policies relating to easy visas and so on, and suddenly, under a great cloud of publicity, he is reverting to those policies. It is appropriate to remind the Minister that during the time when the previous Government was in power, thousands of non-white people migrated to Australia and satisfactorily settled into the Australian way of life. The Minister is nothing but a phoney, an absolute phoney.
– Mr Speaker-
– Oh, he does not like it - the Griffith grape.
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat. I think that the honourable member for Griffith should know better than that. He should not be so childish.
– I withdraw the statement that he is a phoney. No doubt there will be other phrases which others will use. But the point I want to make is that the Minister, who tonight claimed to be so concerned about his portfolio, has not answered question No. 729 on the notice paper relating to this very subject.
– When did you put that on the notice paper?
– On Tuesday. Also he has not answered the question that I placed on the notice paper on 21 March. I conclude by saying that I am sick and tired of being woken up by the Post Office early on Saturday morning-
– Order! The House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m. or such time thereafter as Mr Speaker may take the chair.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The activities of the Experimental Building Station and the Central Testing and Research Laboratory are:
In ‘the Technical Research and Services Branch there will be four sections dealing with:
Special Projects - to develop recommendations for housing of special groups (e.g. elderly, disabled, Aborigines) or for special types of housing (remote area accommodation, mobile homes, etc.)
The bulk of the activities in the Technical Research and Services Branch will be consumer oriented in its research and recommendations. The total staffing on current proposals is 24, including 17 professionals:
NSW - Subdivisional Enrolment Figures (Question No. 311)
asked the Minister for Services and Property, upon notice:
What were the subdivisional enrolment figures for each electoral division in New South Wales as at 28 February 1974.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The subdivisional enrolment figures for each electoral division in New South Wales to the latest date available are set out in the table below:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Prices Justification Tribunal has advised me as follows:
and (2) Pursuant to sections 16 and 18 of the Prices Justification Act 1973, the Tribunal’s policy is to treat each price notification from a company as a separate issue. For this reason there has been no cause to develop an index which would show average price movement across the broad spectrum of industries.
This is not to suggest that the Tribunal pays little regard to price movements and other factors occurring within any particular industry. In fact, the Tribunal is most interested in these aspects and is currently in the course of developing a system that will aggregate a great deal of the information that is currently held in separate company files.
Meantime, the available Information is limited to price movements that have been approved in respect of individual companies only and the Tribunal has no specific record on an overall industry basis which could be used to extract the lowest and highest percentage price increases.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 April 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19740404_reps_28_hor88/>.