29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr G. G. D. Scholes) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we strongly oppose the easing of restrictions on the importation, production in Australia, sale or distribution of pornographic material whether in films, printed matter or any other format. That any alterations to the Television Programme Standards of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which permits the exploitation of sex or violence are unacceptable to us.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the existing Television Programme Standards or to permit easier entry into Australia, or production in Australia, of pornographic material.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr McMahon, Mr Luchetti, Mr Mulder and Mr Riordan.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That inflation which now besets so many countries today and in Australia is now at the rate of 14.4 per cent per annum is most seriously affecting and making life intolerable for those least able to take corrective action to maintain their position, namely, pensioners and those now retired living on fixed incomes.
Whilst the Australian Government is giving effect to its election policy of making $1.50 per week pension increases each Autumn and Spring such actions have been completely nullified by the stated rate of inflation.
This fact of life impels your petitioners to call on the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
Make a cash loading of $5 per week to those pensioners who have little means other than the present inadequate pension eroded by inflation.
That each Autumn and Spring the increase in social security pension payments be not less than $3 per week to ensure that within a reasonable period the Government’s policy pledge to affix all pensions at 25 per cent of the average weekly earnings be achieved.
In order that money may go to areas of greater need the Tapered Means Test ceilings of income and assets be frozen.
To allay the concern of social security recipients as to their future when in 1975 the means test has been abolished and replaced by a National Superannuation Act that there be an assurance by the Australian Government that the said Act will provide a guaranteed minimum income to social security recipients based on the policy of the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners’ Federation and that of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, namely, the payment of 30 per cent of average weekly earnings adjusted from time to lime in accordance with figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician and published quarterly.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McMahon, Mr Oldmeadow and Mr Peacock.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives inParliament assembled.
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Drury and Mr McLeay.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
We the undersigned citizens of Australia do humbly petition the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia that it might take such steps as may be necessary either to direct the Commonwealth Banking Corporation to preserve and restore The Palace Hotel or itself acquire the said ‘Palace Hotel, St George’s Terrace, Perth, on its present site so as to preserve and restore it in perpetuity.
Further we do humbly petition this honourable Parliament to make such funds as may be necessary available to purchase the entire contents of the said Hotel from the owners thereof.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Bennett.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the world’s supply of fossil fuel is limited, and that research into alternative sources of energy is urgent.
That nuclear energy is a source of dangerous pollution, and contains inherent threats to the very existence of mankind.
That solar energy is increasingly acknowledged as a possible alternative, and deserves the type of research for which Australia’s size and climate are particularly suited.
That the problems of harnessing solar energy could well be solved if efforts comparable with our atomic energy research were applied to it.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will reduce its current spending on atomic energy research, and urgently set aside sufficent funds for meaningful research into industrial solar energy, and take whatever steps may be necessary to see that this research is begun with the shortest possible delay. by Mr Giles.
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 humbly pray, therefore, that the Government will form legislation to protect the whale from commercial exploitation.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McLeay.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existing National Health Scheme involves a vast amount of public money distributed by private Benefit Societies and that it is necessary to join one of these to qualify for the full Government Health subsidy.
That it is far too expensive and discriminates against lower income groups a lot of whom cannot afford the cost of membership or private medical treatment.
That it is inequitable, inefficient and does not satisfy the needs of the community.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that you will urgently legislate for a Comprehensive National Health Insurance Scheme, financed from taxation, and covering everybody instead of only those who can now afford it.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Mulder.
Pre-school Education in Victoria
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned kindergarten teachers from Geelong and district respectfully showeth their emphatic wish that Victorian preschool education should continue to be administered in the Victorian Department of Health and that the report of the Victorian Consultative Council on Preschool Child Development should be implemented, facilitated by funds promised by the Australian Government for expansion of pre-school services.
Our petitioners therefore, humbly pray, that the Government will support the administration of preschool education in the Victorian Department of Health and will make finance available to allow the Victorian State Government to implement the recommendations in the report of the Victorian Consultative Council on Pre-school Child Development, and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Street.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Transport. Will up to$4m be made available now specifically to assist the Brisbane City Council bus services as the Minister promised and as he was reported by Alderman Jones to have promised at a meeting of the South Queensland Roads Federation in Brisbane on Friday, 26 April 1974? Was the promise, reported to have been made at that meeting, consequent upon an earlier conference between the Minister and Alderman Jones in Canberra in the first days of April this year?
-I have had discussions with Alderman Clem Jones, the Lord Mayor of Brisbane.
– Now then, cocky Cameron; your day will come - never fear. As I was saying, I have had discussions with
Alderman Jones, the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, concerning the problem which was created by a private bus company selling some of its buses, I believe-
– This concerns the Brisbane Council service; not a private company.
– All right. The problem was created by a private bus operator selling some of its buses to the New South Wales Transport Commission and the refusal of the Queensland Government to give the company any assistance whatsoever. This Government is prepared to assist it. At the present time, an application for buses to be supplied as part of the 1974-75 program is being considered. I am confident that money will be allocated for the purchase of the buses required to assist the Brisbane City Council to meet its responsibilities to the people of Brisbane, something which the Queensland Government was not prepared to do.
– I address my question to the Minister for Social Security. In view of the difficulties of religious and charitable organisations in raising adequate capital under the $2 for $1 subsidy arrangement for aged persons accommodation, will he consider a more generous arrangement for financing the operating costs for religious and charitable nursing homes so that they can improve the range of services such as those of therapists and chiropodists provided for the aged?
– Yes. In fact I have proposed that the capital subsidy should be increased from the present $2 for $1 basis to a $4 for $1 basis. Quite obviously, this would make for a substantial improvement in the capital position of charitable - religious organisations when they decide to establish complexes for the accommodation of the aged. We are very keen to encourage such organisations to improve the range of services that they provide for people in institutions that provide this sort of accommodation. I refer especially to nursing home services. Accordingly, we have entered into discussions with such organisations. I have a proposal which I hope will be introduced next year to deficit finance the operation of religious - charitable nursing homes. This means that according to a standard which will be mutually set so that there will be no extravagance, the Government would meet the deficits incurred in the opera tions of nursing home services. In turn, this would allow such organisations to provide not only bed type accommodation and the services immediately related to that but also the services of therapists such as physiotherapists, chiropodists, occupational therapists and others.
It should also allow for an improvement in the capital subsidy and the introduction of deficit financing and also allow such organisations to provide for the community other types of facilities, such as day care activity centres, on a day basis. This should mean that a major breakthrough can be made in the way in which services can be provided for the aged in the community. With other proposals that I have in mind and which I am testing with representatives of religious - charitable organisations, I expect that within a reasonable time Australia will have an excellent system of geriatric services based on a regional concept of community service involving local representation.
– 1 direct a question to the Prime Minister. There have >been splits between senior Ministers over economic policy. Now Mr Dunstan has said that the economic situation constitutes a state of national emergency. Does the Prime Minister agree with this statement? Will he make a comprehensive statement to this House forthwith setting out a single clear policy for economic management on behalf of the Government to be followed up by a full debate on the statement next week?
– I was very happy to receive from the Premier of South Australia last night a proposal which he discussed, on behalf of himself and the other Premiers, with the Treasurer and me. I am very hopeful that there will now be an opportunity for a properly prepared conference between the 7 Heads of Government in Australia. Our officials are working on the proposals that each of us could do in co-operation with the others. I hope that there will be such a conference as soon as this present sessional period concludes. The right honourable gentleman will have the opportunity of putting any points of view on these matters in the Address-in-Reply.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Has his attention been drawn to reports today which suggest that the arrival of more than 130 Spanish migrants in Brisbane has given rise to fears by State Labor Party leaders and trade union leaders that Australia’s immigration policy will aggravate the local employment situation there? Can he reassure honourable members that there is no likelihood that the arrival of these Spanish migrants in Brisbane will lead to an aggravation of the unemployment situation in the Brisbane area?
– This matter was brought to my notice by 2 honourable members from Brisbane - the honourable member for Brisbane and the honourable member who has just asked the question. Early .this morning they came to see me about this matter. I was able to make inquiries. I am waiting for the final result but I am assured that the migrants concerned would have b;en specially selected to do skilled work for which there were plenty of vacancies. They will therefore not affect other people’s work.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I refer the Minister to a statement earlier this year that no special measures were necessary to relieve unemployment in non-metropolitan areas. I ask him: Why is he only now, at this late stage, floating a regional unemployment scheme when non-metropolitan unemployment has been consistently high for well over a year? I specifically ask him once again: When will he be introducing measures to meet the serious unemployment position in nonmetropolitan areas?
– The right honourable gentleman will be glad to know that as recently as a fortnight ago the Prime Minister and I talked about this question of unemployment in certain regions. We do not concentrate just on country areas but on certain regions whether they be Hobart, Launceston or Ballarat. We are concerned about the matter and we are currently examining it. If We are satisfied that a case exists for a special local initiative program to be introduced to mop up unemployment in special pockets of distress of course we will do it.
– I ask the Minister for Services and Property whether, during his recent visit to Canada, he investigated the Canadian Election Expenses Act which provides for the disclosure of campaign funds to political parties. If so, will he state whether the proposed legislation already endorsed by the Australian Labor Party will follow a similar pattern and when it is likely to be introduced into the Parliament? Will he also state whether the proposed legislation will necessitate the revelation of the sources of all political campaign funds such as the huge amounts received by the anti-Labor parties from the mining corporations during the recent Federal election?
– I thank the honourable member for what is a very intelligent and interesting question. As a matter of fact I did study the Canadian legislation on disclosure of funds and I was very impressed by it. It is true that the Government has approved of somewhat similar legislation being introduced into this Parliament. I am hopeful that it will be introduced in the almost immediate future when drafting is completed. It will provide for the disclosure of all donations, particularly the source of funds received by all political parties and all candidates. It is made all the more important because of the huge funds from unknown sources, from both foreign and local interests, that went into an attempt to defeat this Government at the last elections, and fortunately it did not succeed. To give the House an indication of the kind of revelations that will be made under this legislation I shall quote from a letter on the stationery of the Leader of the Australian Country Party, Parliament House, Canberra and dated 19 April 1974. It is addressed to the managing director of a mining company and it says:
The Liberal-Country Party Opposition is preparing for one of the greatest electoral battles in its history. (Honourable members interjecting) - ; -
– Order! The Minister will resume his seat until the honourable gentlemen wish to continue question time. I point out to honourable members that the sitting will be suspended at 11.15 a.m. Question time will end at that time. If honourable members want to waste question time, that is their business. I call the Minister for Services and Property and members on the front bench will remain silent.
– This letter is on the stationery of the Leader of the Australian Country Party, Parliament House, Canberra, and is dated 19 April 1974. It is addressed to the managing director of a mining company. I can understand the concern of the Opposition at this. This is what the letter says:
The Liberal-Country Party Opposition is preparing for one of the greatest electoral battles-
– I rise to a point of order. It would be much more convenient if the letter were tabled. At the same time as that letter is being tabled, I would like to table a letter from Mr Clyde Cameron to Mr Crean.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition can seek leave to do that in the normal course of business but not as part of a point of order. I think that would be quite outside the Standing Orders.
– The only way that I can draw attention to it is by a point of order. Let us have both letters tabled.
– It is a little outside the scope of a point of order. I call the Minister for Services and Property.
– This letter states:
The Liberal-Country Party Opposition is preparing for one of the greatest electoral battles in its history. Because of this I am appealing for your help in 2 ways. One is by direct financial contribution to our fighting fund. The other is by asking you to talk positively to as many people as possible about what you believe the Opposition parties can achieve to improve Australia in the years ahead. 1 am sure you are well aware of the shameful treatment this Socialist Government has meted out to the mining industry. In the past 16 months the industry’s development has been set back many years, with a real and unnecessary loss of millions of dollars.
The Liberal-Country Party needs only a fraction of these staggering amounts for a vigorous and successful campaign to remove Labor from office and return Australia to economic security. Your support will be used purposefully.
I would be grateful for your help. You could make any donation cheque payable to - Australian Country Party Fighting Fund, c/- this office.
Then there is a ‘P.S.’ - listen to this:
You may be interested to know donations so far from the mining industry vary from amounts of $500 to $5,000.
It is signed by Mr Anthony - beautifully signed in one of his best handwriting efforts. It is endorsed ‘J. D. Anthony’ and signed ‘Doug Anthony’ in that homely way hoping it would entice more people to give. Then the Leader of the Country Party was reported in the ‘Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate’ of 15 May. He confirmed that it was right; he could not deny it since we had a copy of the letter. The newspaper reported:
The Country Party Leader said he was unsure of what response there had been to the Opposition’s canvassing in the mining industry.
The letters were distributed from Canberra to about 100 mining companies. About 500 letters were sent to people in country areas.
Then he was asked if he would be interested in the Minerals and Energy portfolio if the Liberal and Country Parties won the election. Of course, Mr Snedden still thinks he has won the election. The report continues:
Mr Anthony said: ‘My eyes arc not on any department. I’m making no comment’.
The letter to which I referred indicates the influence those interests would have had over any Country Party Minister for Minerals and Energy. This is the reason why we are bringing in legislation requiring the disclosure of the source of election funds. It will give the Country Party a chance to get rid of the skeletons in the cupboard and go straight in the future. Therefore the public should know of the sources of some of the funds that went in to try to defeat Labor at the last election. The only one who believes they did not waste their money is the Leader of the Opposition.
– Did the Treasurer receive a letter dated 27 June 1974 over the signature of Clyde R. Cameron? I ask whether the letter read:
– It is not in order to quote from a document when asking a question without notice.
– Is it customary for the honourable gentleman to be called dear Frank by dear Clyde? Mr Scholes, I will not quote from the letter exhaustively, only substantially.
– It is out of order to quote from it. The Leader of the Opposition may refer to it but not quote from it.
– -It is a rather lengthy reference, Mr Scholes. It states:
I promised I would write to you concerning the fiscal policy that I believe we should be following to deal with the present inflationary situation.
– I cannot allow the Leader of the Opposition to quote from a document while asking a question.
– In these circumstances it should be tabled. I am sure that the Government will agree to a letter from the Minister for Labor and Immigration to the Treasurer being tabled.
– The Leader of the Opposition is asking a question without notice. He must confine himself to the limitations imposed by the Standing Orders. The Standing Orders have always been the same. He may not quote from a document.
– The Standing Orders are interpreted differently at different times, Mr Scholes.
– Yes, I realise that, but they are not being interpreted differently now.
– It seems, Mr Scholes, that the answer to the last question involved the reading of a letter.
– You are now ruling that in a question immediately following a letter cannot be read.
– A Minister can answer a question in any way he likes. As a former Minister, the Leader of the Opposition is aware of that. An honourable member asking a question must ask it within confined limits. That is what the Standing Orders say, and it is the Chair’s responsibility to see that the Standing Orders are observed.
– Mr Scholes, my question is addressed to the Treasurer.
- Mr Speaker, if you do not mind.
– Are you the Speaker or the Acting Speaker?
– I am not an individual; I am the Chair.
- Mr Acting Speaker, it is customary to call the Chairman of Committees by his name, and I was conforming with that practice.
– That is in Committee.
– In Committee; that is dead right. The Prime Minister is right for once.
- Mr Acting Speaker, my question is addressed to the Treasurer. Did he receive a letter from the Minister for Labor and Immigration dated 27 June 1974 which referred to the fact that the Minister for Labor and Immigration had said that he would write concerning fiscal policies and what he. believes should be done to deal with the present inflationary situation? Did that letter contain 9 subsections? Is it of 4 pages, and have many copies of that letter been made available by various ways? Did the Treasurer make it available to the public or did the Minister for
Labor and Immigration make it available to the public? So that it can be known whether the copy of a letter which I hold in my hand is accurate and a correct fascimile of the letter from the Minister for Labor and Immigration, will the Treasurer undertake to table the letter?
– I did receive a letter. In fact, I receive a lot of letters from my colleague the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I have replied to this particular letter in equally friendly fashion. I began it: ‘Dear Clyde’. I did not reply at the same length as the letter I had received. I indicated that some of the matters that he had raised 1 found of interest and that they would be considered at the proper time and on the basis of full Cabinet discussion. For the information of the Leader of the Opposition I might say that I receive quite a number of similar letters from other Ministers.
– All telling you that you are wrong.
– No. They offer brighter suggestions than I get from the other side of the House. I am not responsible for the contents of the letter having been divulged somewhere else and I have no intention of suggesting that it be tabled.
– Following the decision by the banks to increase interest rates on housing loans, can the Minister for Housing and Construction confirm reports that in some cases extending the terms of loans will mean that some borrowers will never be able to pay off housing loans because of the increases in interest, rates?
– I have not been able to confirm these reports. It is interesting speculation but I think the speculation is based on the assumption that interest rates would stay as they are. That assumption is not necessarily corect. The speculation would be based also on the assumption that income may not increase. I think if one is to look at this question in fair perspective it would be necessary to take into account the Government’s declared intention to provide tax deductibility for mortgage interest rates which, if I remember correctly, the Treasurer contended in general terms would involve a reduction in interest rates in the vicinity of 3 per cent. If those tax deductibility benefits were applied to the liquidation of loans and if the other factors to which
I have referred were applied in the manner which I have suggested there is every likelihood that loans would be liquidated as quickly as they were originally intended to be.
(Mr Lynch having addressed a question to the Minister for Social Security)-
– Order! I think the question is out of order because it is outside the ambit of the Minister’s portfolio.
– Mr Acting Speaker-
– Order! The Minister will resume his seat. The question is out of order.
– I ask the Prime Minister the question.
– If the Prime Minister chooses to answer the question he may, but the honourable member is not entitled to the call again.
– The question, Mr Acting Speaker-
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. He has asked a question and it has been ruled out of order. He does not get a second chance.
– Well, if you want to protect the Minister, I understand.
– I am not trying to protect the Minister. Questions have to be asked of the relevant Minister. I call the honourable member for Port Adelaide.
– Can the Minister for Labor and Immigration inform the House of any developments that have taken place this morning concerning the industrial dispute involving the Transport Workers Union of Australia, the Professional Musicians Union of Australia, the Australian Journalists Association and the visiting American entertainer Frank Sinatra or, as the Minister may know him, Old Blue Eyes?
– I have received information from some of the unions involved. The Professional Musicians Union did take umbrage at some of the alleged remarks made by Mr Frank Sinatra about female journalists. If the remarks were correctly ascribed to him then I can understand the union’s being upset by them. There is a great deal of concern also, I think, in relation to the alleged thuggery that occurred at one of the concerts. I am asking for a report on this incident. I personally would like it to be placed on record that I have a very high regard for Frank Sinatra. We are both very much of the same age. 1 enjoyed listening to his crooning when I was a boy. According to the photographs taken yesterday of him sprinting across the aerodrome, his arthritis is not quite as bad as mine. The only other difference between us is that most people call me Old Grey Eyes.
– Will the Prime Minister confirm or deny that a letter was sent out to business firms, including mining companies, appealing for funds for the Australian Labor Party? Is it true that the letters, which were sent out by senior members of the Labor Party, asked that cheques be made out to the Whitlam/ Barnard trust account? Can the Prime Minister confirm or deny whether he received such cheques?
– Letters were sent out with my knowledge to a very great number of people in the community. They were not directed only to mining companies, nor were they directed in such blatant terms. Some cheques did come back. They were put to excellent use. They have all been accounted for.
– Has the Minister for Health received representations from the Victorian Minister for Agriculture regarding restoration of the free milk supply to Preston North East State School in my electorate because of the number of underprivileged children at the school? Should such requests coming from schools be channelled through State authorities, the local Federal member of Parliament or Federal authorities, or what is the machinery for such applications? Has a decision been made in the case of the school mentioned?
– Some States did actually provide milk for schools in areas of need before the national scheme was introduced in the 1940s. About that time there was evidence of widespread areas or at least pockets of malnutrition amongst Australian children. That evidence no longer applies and Australia is not unique in having discontinued or phased out this type of scheme. The same sort of decision was made earlier in New Zealand and Great Britain. At the time of the introduction of the Budget last year it was foreshadowed that this type of scheme would be discontinued and the States were asked to present well before the end of the last school year their submissions as to what schools, what classes or other groups they felt particularly needed continuance of this scheme at the Federal level. 1 held a conference to which not only Health Ministers but also Agriculture Ministers were invited, and the net effect was that they asked for retention of the scheme for certain broad categories of children - particularly children at the pre-school, infant, or early primary school levels, at schools for the handicapped and in areas where there are many Aboriginal children. The retention of the scheme for these areas was considered by Cabinet, but the proposal was not considered to be sufficiently discriminating to meet the areas of need. It was felt that more oppropriate funding could be made to families who were in special need through our social security program and other measures which the Government was undertaking. The States were informed accordingly.
For as long as 6 months later, I have been receiving representations from areas that I consider have special needs; for example, children’s homes which look after children younger than 2 years of age. None of these areas of need was drawn to my attention by any of the State Ministers. It is significant I think that on this occasion the statement was made not by a Health Minister but by a Minister for Agriculture. When a Minister for Agriculture starts promoting a school milk scheme for particular schools, I see in that more of the motivation of appeasing the dairy industry than helping areas of special need. (Opposition members interjecting) -
– I am sorry that the members of the Country Party cannot see that logic. I am still willing to look at any case that is made out by anybody relating to areas of. need - whether it be for nutrition, for Oslo lunches, or for giving grants sponsored perhaps by my colleague, the Minister for Education, to help institutions which have financial difficulties and which are bound to provide nutrition for children attending those institutions. I refer to child care centres, baby homes or schools. I think that would be a far more appropriate way in which to approach the problem. The States were notified of the termination of the school milk scheme, and there is no appropriate way in which to approach the Federal Government for aid under the school milk scheme because that scheme no longer exists at the Federal level. If the States wish to start such a scheme, I am quite happy to discuss their financial problems.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is he aware of the statement made yesterday by his colleague, the Minister for Social Security, that the Government was presiding over the destruction of the Australian economy? Is the Prime Minister further aware -
– Mr Acting Speaker, I would like to draw your attention to the assertion of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that I made a comment yesterday. If I remember the Standing Orders correctly, he has to authenticate any statement that he makes in this House.
– I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– Is the Prime Minister further aware of the growing uncertainty in all sections of the Australian community resulting from the developing in-fighting between senior Ministers over this Government’s economic policy? I ask the Prime Minister: Will he undertake to make a major and comprehensive statement on the Government’s economic policy to the House before the end of the current sitting? Is he aware that the Australian community is expecting from the Prime Minister of this country definitive answers on those matters which are significant to the Australian economy, and not the consistent and constant stonewalling of issues such as we have seen in the House during the course of this week.
– The Minister for Social Security and I take the attitude that public statements on the economy should come in the first place from the Treasurer.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing and Construction. As the Minister responsible for the administration of the defence service homes scheme, will the Minister tell the House whether there is any truth in a claim by the New South Wales State President of the Returned Services League, Mr Hines, that the Government proposes to limit eligibility for defence service home loans to 10 years after discharge? Can the Minister say whether there is any truth in this claim by Mr Hines? If there is not, will he reassure the tens of thousands of exservicemen eligible for such loans by issuing a firm denial?
– Like other honourable members and Ministers I have been inundated with expressions of concern by anxious ex-servicemen who have taken this statement seriously. Mr Hines, .the New South Wales President of the Returned Services League, contended that the Government planned to limit eligibility for defence service home loans to, I think, ten years after discharge. The effect of his statement was that Vietnam veterans would have only one year of eligibility remaining, and the veterans of the previous wars would no longer be eligible. This contention of Mr Hines is completely without foundation and already I have taken steps to inform honourable members that the Government had never contemplated such action. In fact, I have circularised every Returned Services League sub-branch in Australia to that effect. The Government regards defence service home loans as a reward for service and as a process by which ex-servicemen can be rehabilitated in respect of their housing needs.
– My question to the Minister for Labor and Immigration is supplementary to a question asked by the Leader of the Australian Country Party. Is the Minister aware that the new federal roads plan has been described by the Acting Premier of New South Wales, Sir Charles Cutler, as disastrous and that the cut-back in funds provided for rural roads will mean the retrenchment of about 2,000 employees of shire councils in New South Wales? Would the Minister confer with the New South Wales Minister for Local Government with the objective of ensuring that the savage reduction in the availability of funds for country roads does not cause the hardship of unemployment to 2,000 employees of shire councils in New South Wales? Will special grants be made available to local governing bodies in that State to enable them to try to initiate projects to compensate for the loss in funds provided for rural roads?
– No, I was not aware of the alleged statement made by the Minister in New South Wales. As to whether I will discuss the alleged complaint with the Minister for Local Government in New South
Wales the answer is no, I will not. This is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Transport, not for me.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Transport. Is it true that the proposal to fund States for the Commonwealth aid roads grants involves an increase of 37 per cent in funds paid to the States by the Australian Government? Is it also true that these funds will release State monies otherwise spent on shire and local roads for use by those shires?
– Under the previous Commonwealth aid roads agreement introduced by the former Government, the allocation from the Australian Government was $ 1,252m for a 5-year program. We are proposing to introduce shortly legislation which will make provision for $1,1 20m for a 3-year program which means that the allocations for roads will be substantially increased for the 3-year period. We are not proposing to follow the method applied by the former Government which had no interest in transport and was not prepared to give any leadership whatsoever or to ensure that this country had a national roads system, but which was prepared to allow the chaotic system which had prevailed over the years to continue. We are prepared to give leadership to the States and to set out what we want done as far as roads are concerned. The accusations made by Sir Charles Cutler in New South Wales are typical of the squealing which is coming from a number of State Ministers responsible for roads who are not prepared to examine the facts. The facts clearly disclose that we will have a roads system in this country, not the present chaotic situation. For example, if the present rate of construction of the Hume Highway - a national highway - is maintained it will be completed to a reasonable standard in the year 2100 - that is, if the States are left to go their own way about it.
– What about Mr Virgo?
- Mr Virgo is quite happy with it because he knows what is under way. As far as the honourable member’s question is concerned, the Australian Government will be paying in full the total cost of construction of national highways involved in this 3-year program - $400m. This will mean that the State governments will have money available to them to spend on programs which they wish to introduce. Another thing we propose to introduce in this legislation is an allocation for other urban roads. Previously there has been an allocation for other rural roads which has been squandered on the rich friends of the Country Party. You can always tell where the shire councillors and presidents and leaders of the Country Party live because they have good roads from their farms into the towns. We will make money available for rural towns as well as rural communities. The States, not having to allocate money for national highways, will be in a position of being able to allocate it for roads other than those in categories which we are laying down.
– I suspend the sitting to enable honourable members to attend the swearing-in of the Honourable Sir John Kerr as Governor-General of Australia.
Sitting suspended from 11.18 to 2.15 p.m.
– I present the Industries Assistance Commission report on passenger motor vehicles which I have just received. As printed copies are not immediately available for honourable members’ and senators’ use, I have arranged for 10 duplicated copies to be placed in the Parliamentary Library. Printed copies for the use of honourable members and senators will be made available as soon as possible.
Reports on Items
– For the information of honourable members I present the Tariff Board reports on -
Blades for Safety Razors (Dumping and Subsidies Act) dated 28 September 1973 and
Bright Round Steel Bars (Tariff Classification), dated 8 October 1973.
I present also a report from the Industries Assistance Commission on Fibreglass Insect Screening (Dumping and Subsidies Act), dated 5 March 1974.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the the Maritime Industry regarding the training of seagoing personnel.
’ PERSONAL EXPLANATION
– (Prospect)- I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. On Saturday 6 July the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ printed a large number of alleged replies by members of Parliament to the question, as the newspaper put it: ‘Would you accept substantial salary and allowance increases in the next session of Parliament if they are recommended by the Campbell Tribunal?’ Halfway through the article it states:
Dr R. E. Klugman (Prospect, ALP): ‘Completely in favour. I am very aggressive about this.’
May I put my point of view? In reply to the question as asked or approximately as asked and stated in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ - I have obviously not got a verbatim copy - I said: ‘Yes, I would’ - in other words, I would accept a salary increase - ‘and I do not feel guilty about it. My income as a GP in 1969, the year before entering Parliament, was higher than my present parliamentary salary and medical incomes have increased by over 80 per cent since then. When did journalists, editorial writers and newspaper and TV station proprietors last reject an increase in their incomes?’ The reporter said: ‘You sound very aggressive.’ I replied: ‘Yes, I am very aggressive about this. It annoys me when people who are continuously advising the population how to behave, such as leader writers, expect Members of Parliament whom they continuously attack to set a so-called lead when their own incomes are higher and increasing at a much faster rate’.
Debate resumed from 10 July (vide page 72), on motion by Mr Hayden:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Hotham speaking for a period of 45 minutes without interruption.
– I thank the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) and I thank the House. We are now about to enter the second of three historic debates which feature the opening of this Twenty-ninth Parliament. This debate is on the Health Insurance Commission Bill 1973 and the Health Insurance Bill 1973 which represent the so-called Labor health scheme. I want listeners to this debate to know at the outset that notwithstanding the momentous importance of this debate the Government in its unabated arrogance and its posture of contempt for this Parliament and all of its institutions has, by the force of its meagre numbers, decreed by use of the guillotine that this entire debate which affects every living Australian and indeed all Australians yet to be born will be concluded in just over 2 hours. The most ruthless example of Tammany Hall methods, the most contemptible modus operandi of the unscrupulous trade union boss and the incredible rules of that beloved Irishman named Rafferty have all been called into play by this panic stricken Government in its manic desire for self destruction.
This is a new Parliament with 17 new members in this House - democratically elected by more than 500,000 people on 18 May - who will be denied the opportunity to debate this fantastically important issue. I said a moment ago that this is one of 3 historic debates. I used the word ‘historic’ advisedly because it would appear that an inevitable consequence of these debates will be an event which is provided for in our Constitution - a joint sitting of both Houses of the national Parliament.
MrDuthie - And we will clean you up in that too.
– Even the lay Methodist minister from Wilmot cannot stop being arrogant in this situation. I should like to remind him that this is a House of Parliament democratically elected and by this tactic the Government is denying the rights of every member of this House, including the 17 new ones, to talk about an issue that affects every Australian now living and every Australian to be born. If either Bill is rejected or both of these Bills are rejected by the Senate the grounds are then provided for a momentous and historic occasion. Yet we are told - not only members on this side of the House but also the newly elected Australian Labor Party members - like little children in primary school that we must conclude all our arguments on this momentous issue in just 2 hours. That is an act of a government which wishes to show in clear and unequivocal terms that it regards the parliamentary process as a farce. I have the unanimous support of both parties sitting behind me in this House and the members of both parties who sit in Opposition in the Senate that we will go to the barricades - any barricades the Government wishes to mount before us - to fight these Bills and to prevent the Labor health scheme being inflicted on the people of Australia.
The attitude of the independent senators of course will be made clear at the appropriate time but I want the Government to know on behalf of the joint Opposition the depth of our resistance. We do this realising the full political implications of our stance. We do it not to try to secure some political point or victory because that would be pointless at this time in the political scene. We do this as a matter of principle wearing the full garb of a responsible Opposition because we sincerely believe that if these Bills are passed they will represent a disaster to the health of the Australian people, present and future.If sections of the pro-Labor Press want to label us as obstructionist and if the Labor apologists in this socalled Press gallery again want to accuse me of being non-progressive or of over-reacting in opposing this scheme, if the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) or his Leader want to repeat their threats about the dire consequences of our continued opposition, let them do it.
We will accept those consequences whatever they are because the real issue here, and the only important thing, is how the people who become sick or injured, who are old or who suddenly contract a disease which takes away their health, are treated. That is the only important issue before this House at the moment. No one can be guaranteed good health for ever. Even this Labor Government cannot promise that we shall not grow old. No one or nothing except perhaps fate can change the direction of the motor car driven by the fool or the drunk which can decimate the future hopes of an innocent pedestrian.
Even medical science cannot guarantee us permanent protection from the predatory virus or the killer diseases of cancer and of the heart. These are the things which this debate is all about.
I hasten to add that 1 am not suggesting that the Minister or his Party in introducing this scheme do not have the same basic concern about these human values as we have on this side of the House. Of course they have. But we believe that in their sincere but misguided way the result they will achieve will be opposite to the result they want in the same way as their sincere attempts to ‘improve’ our way of life in the 18 months in which they have been in office have resulted in Australia being reduced to near chaos and disaster.
– Oh come off it!
– Will the Minister deny that the country is not near chaos or disaster? I would suggest he might confer with his colleague, the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), who is reported as having an entirely different view on the state of the country. But perhaps this debate on the health scheme will prove to be even more historic than the debate on the other 2 issues because there is a unique circumstance accompanying this debate. The electoral Bills are self-contained. If passed at a joint sitting of both Houses they will become law, and if they withstand challenge, are binding and operable on the Australian people.
However, these 2 health Bills we are now debating to implement the health scheme are not self-contained. They need complementary legislation. They need other Bills to be passed to provide money to pay for the scheme and those bills were not the subject of the double dissolution. Presuming that those complementary Bills meet the same fate as I hope these 2 Bills will meet, then that can truly produce an occasion of great history for this nation. The Government knows this and yet without consultation with the medical profession since the election, without consultation with the private hospitals, the States, the private health funds or with anybody else associated with the delivery of the health care system, the Government, with the persistence of the stupid, is pursuing this course of possible no return. It would lie a different proposition if the Government had a so-called mandate for this scheme - whatever mandate means. Perhaps the Minister who follows me in this debate might enlighten mc about what is a mandate.
– It means 2 elections held and won on this issue.
– The honourable member for Casey in his usual excitable way interjects. He is as pathetic as his Minister. His Minister, in his second reading speech, said:
The people of Australia have endorsed the objectives of such a program at 2 consecutive elections.
That is absolute rubbish.
– That is a matter of public record.
– Gallup polls show that of people having an opinion 56 per cent reject the Labor health scheme out of hand and only 44 per cent of people support it. Almost every professional body in this country associated with the health care delivery system-
– The doctors have lied about it to their patients.
– Let the Methodist lay preacher from Wilmot be on record with that Christian interjection. Everybody has condemned the scheme - all the associations of doctors, specialists, general practitioners, surgeons, private hospitals, nursing homes, public hospitals, the State governments, Catholic hospitals, the national conference of Junior Chambers of Commerce and almost all State Ministers of Health. The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) looks amused. Perhaps he would like to reiterate by telling us on this side of the House who the hell does support the Labor health scheme.
– The country supports it.
– There is not a responsible organisation which does support it. The list is endless. For the Minister to state that he has endorsement for this crazy scheme is sheer humbug. I thought it was significant of the arrogance of the Minister and of the Government when the Minister, in his second reading speech said:
The Government recognises that the successful operation of its program is dependent upon the cooperation of the medical profession, State governments and their hospital authorities and private hospitals. I wish to assure honourable members that it is the Government’s desire that co-operation and mutual understanding be achieved. To this end I would be happy to respond to proposals for discussions on the program with representatives of these bodies.
Why has the Minister not had those discussions since the elections? He is aware of the double dissolution techniques. The Minister can squeeze these 2 Bills through by the force of numbers. When this legislation has been passed, does the Minister then intend to stand over these organisations, all of which now condemn and oppose this scheme with all their strength? Does he intend to stand over them and bring in his scheme in that way? The Labor apologists will no doubt level , the charge of obstructionism at the Opposition. To this I reply: The Opposition has a viable health scheme which was enunciated before the recent elections - a scheme which cares for the sick people and is not obsessed only with funding. It is a scheme which is designed to give ‘the best of medical care, to maintain costs and not to regard the Treasury coffers as some bottomless pit into which some mystical goose continues to lay golden eggs. We have conceded that there are deficiencies in the present health scheme brought about by changing conditions which inevitably occur in a dynamic and growing society. If the Minister wishes to introduce the Opposition health policy, which has been commended by most of the organisations which I have quoted as being opposed to the Labor Party health scheme, we will expedite its passage. I have said before and I repeat now that there are some features incorporated in these Bills with which we concur in principle. I mention the increased financial assistance to public hospitals, the proposals to enable visitors to Australia to participate in the scheme on the basis of an appropriate premium, the concept of special .medical benefits for unusual or complex procedures, the right of doctors to appeal against decisions of committees of inquiry, the proposed increase of payments to private hospitals and the concept that pensioners and receivers of subsidised health benefits will be integrated into the scheme and be entitled to equal benefits with all other members of that scheme. We agree with all those refinements in principle. However, all of these .refinements can be introduced into this Parliament as amendments to existing legislation and if this is done I am authorised to say on behalf of the Opposition that we assure the Government that their passage will be expedited. However I repeat, we will not have a bar of this so-called Hayden or Labor health scheme because once it is implemented it will change the whole nature of medical care in Australia and will, in fact, produce an egg which a future government will find impossible to unscramble. Once this country has the Labor health scheme it has got it for ever. The Opposition will oppose it.
– Even if the people wanted it.
– In answer to the interjection of the Minster for Manufacturing Industry, we will go to any barricades that the Government wishes to mount on it, as we promised to do in November on this issue. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Social Security chickened out on the challenge that we issued in this House in November. That is on record in Hansard. If these Bills pass, Australia will have the Labor health scheme for ever, as Britain is now finding to its cost, as New Zealand is how finding to its cost and as Canada is now finding to its cost.
Mr Acting Speaker, I come now to the basic reasons why we are unequivocal in our opposition. Labor’s health scheme would do 6 things which we sincerely believe would be bad for the people of this country. Firstly, it would lower the quality of medical care for Australian families; it would increase total costs for the Government and thus for all taxpayers; it would increase total costs for the majority of taxpayers, because they could only maintain the present quality of their health care by additional heavy commitments for private insurance after having paid the 1.35 per cent super tax; it would reduce freedom of choice and it would jeopardise the future of religious, private and country hospitals. In fact, I would go further. I am sure that all my friends in the Country Party would agree that it would destroy the future of all small private and country hospitals. Finally, by design and intent, it would be the first stage of nationalisation of health care in Australia.
In dealing with these aspects, I am conscious that I am repeating some of the arguments made by myself and other speakers in the December debate but, unlike the Government, we recognise that this is a new Parliament and that there are elected representatives of the people here who have not necessarily heard those arguments or been allowed to participate in them. Therefore, I reiterate some of them.
Firstly, we claim that the Labor scheme will lower the quality of medical care for Australian families. For the purpose of making this point I would like to divide medical care into two of its main components - hospitals and medical practitioner treatment. I deal first with hospitals. This must be discussed in relation to both public and private hospitals. Let us see what the Hayden scheme will do immediately to public hospitals. These Bills entitle every person in Australia to free treatment without a means test in the public hospitals of Australia at standard ward level. Such admission at the moment is restricted to people on lower incomes, to pensioners, .to casualty cases and to those people suffering from diseases the treatment of which demands special and sophisticated forms of attention. For the sake of accuracy, I acknowledge that special circumstances obtain in some areas, for example, Queensland. But these public hospitals are already used to full capacity. This Bill, if passed, immediately entitles literally millions of additional persons access to immediate admission. That is a simple arithmetical fact, one that I am sure would be absorbed by the Minister who follows me. Public hospitals in the country are now full. This Bill will entitle to admission millions of other Australians who are not entitled to free immediate admission. The result is mind boggling. This simply means that overnight the already fully utilised public hospitals will be expected to cope with an enormous additional demand. Those kinds of people whom the Labor Party supposedly champions, who now have preferential treatment for free and immediate admission to a public hospital, would find themselves competing for public hospital accommodation with the more privileged Australians.
– I will explain it in a minute.
– How can the honourable member for Prospect look the pensioner, the person who is not well endowed, in the eye and say: ‘Now you have free and immediate admission to a public hospital. As soon as we bring our Bill in you will have to stand in a queue with the millions of other Australians’? This is supposed to be a Labor Government that cares for the underdog. What hypocrisy! What humbug this is for somebody to interject on that point. I have undertaken a quick survey in the city of Melbourne on the public hospital situation. In metropolitan Melbourne there is already a waiting list in the major general public hospitals of from 6 months to 18 months for non-urgent surgery and other treatment. How does the honourable member for Prospect, who is a medical practitioner, explain why, if already there is a waiting list in the public hospitals in metropolitan Melbourne he wishes a Bill to be passed which will give to the people of Toorak, Balwyn and Camberwell free access to a public hospital? What is going to happen to the poorer people who now cannot get into the already over-crowded and over-used public hospitals of Melbourne and Sydney? I would love to hear that kind of explanation from the honourable member. There is already a waiting list in these general hospitals of up to 6 to 18 months but the occupancy in all the public hospitals is upwards of 90 per cent. That is an extraordinarily high figure and places enormous strain on admittance officers when making the decision whether to admit patients with a reasonably urgent need. The honourable member for Prospect is a doctor. Let us assume for a moment that he is an admittance officer - God forbid - in one of the public hospitals in Sydney. Let us assume that the hospital has an occupancy of over 90 per cent. A government then passes a Bill which allows every Australian - it does not matter whether he is a millionaire - immediate access to the hospital.
What kind of dilemma does that place the honourable member in? What sort of impossible situation is that? Does not the honourable member understand the elementary facets of mathematics or fourth form arithmetic?
The casualty departments of those major hospitals have a work load which is constantly increasing. For example, I am told that the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne is now receiving 5,000 people a month into casualty of whom more than 50 per cent are attending mainly for consultation between 6 p.m. and midnight. The work of the outer perimeter public hospitals has already taken on a heavy, new burden with road traffic cases as ambulances are now stopping at these hospitals to deliver casualties rather than take them to the main public hospitals in the centre of the city. It is therefore onto this already over-worked system that the Labor Government now wants to impact an additional work load literally entitling millions of additional people to immediate admission. It is therefore a fact that there is no possible way by which the Labor health scheme can be introduced without conscripting the private hospitals either out of existence or into public service. The more I examine the actions of the Government the more I am persuaded that is its very intention. It wants nationalisation of medicine; it wants socialisation of the entire system of the delivery of health care in this country.
This additional demand on public hospitals must be heavy for 2 reasons. The first reason is that it is human nature for a person to conclude: ‘Well, if the Government is adding to my taxes to provide me and my family with free hospitalisation I may as well use it and get my money’s worth.’ On this basis I say that the Minister should answer this question: Does the Minister now deny that in Melbourne alone after the introduction of this scheme he will need to provide 1,000 additional beds in metropolitan Melbourne for standard ward treatment? He has never denied this claim.
– Why do you not make it 2,000 or 5,000- just pick a number.
– Would the honourable gentleman like to tell me from where he will pluck 2,000 beds per night?
– Two thousand?
– You said 2,000.
– That is inflation!
– Will the honourable gentleman tell me from where he will pluck them? Will he pluck them out of thin air overnight? I would concede that the honourable gentleman has far greater talents than I have, but 1 would not be prepared to concede that he is that good. Secondly, many people will find that they have no option but to go to a public hospital and have public ward treatment if they are sick because they will not be able to afford the additional heavy financial commitments for private insurance in an intermediate or private hospital bed, over and above what this Government intends to take out of them in its 1.35 per cent supertax.
The simple arithmetic of this equation is devastating. There will just not be enough beds in public hospitals to accommodate new demands. I will tell the honourable gentleman from Prospect what are the only 3 possible solutions available to his Government. The first solution is that new public hospitals will have to be built. This is clearly impossible and absurd in the time scale because a public hospital cannot be built overnight. The second possible solution is that the waiting time for admissions to public hospital beds for nonurgent cases will be considerably extended. I am informed and I ask the Minister or the honourable member who will follow me to deny this fact: Is it not true that in the United Kingdom scheme people with such non-urgent problems have to wait up to 3 or 4 years and beyond for the treatment of varicose veins, hernias, non-urgent gynaecological procedures and like complaints?
The third and most probable solution would have an even more disastrous effect. This is that Australia’s magnificently run private hospitals will have to be compelled, invited, persuaded, induced or seduced - choose your own term - to give up some of their intermediate or private beds and become part public hospitals. To understand the total ramifications of this course it is necessary to turn to the provisions of the Bill. I refer to the insidious Part 3 and in particular clause 34 of this Bill which allows the Minister complete authority, when a private hospital applies to him to offer some of its beds as public beds, to decide how many beds in such a hospital he wants as public beds. It gives him complete power to fix a sum, a supplementary daily bed payment. Clause 34 (4) of the Bill provides that this shall be at a rate fixed by the Minister. That clause makes no provision at all for the updating of that rate and provides no opportunity for that hospital to appeal against the Minister’s determination. In other words, the whole thrust of clause 34 puts the private hospitals of this country at the mercy of a Minister in Canberra. This means in simple language that as soon as a private hospital offers to the Minister a proportion of its bed capacity for use as public ward beds it can virtually place itself under the control of a Minister in Canberra. It is bad enough for the private sector to be at the control of a Minister in Canberra. But under a socialist Minister dedicated to the destruction of private hospitals it would be catastrophic.
– You are progressive, all right.
– The significance of this can be better understood if seen in the light of the present Minister’s intent. On 6 September 1972 he was quoted in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ as saying: the Labor Party is a Socialist Party and its aim as far as medical care is concerned is the establishment of public enterprise;
Secondly, his colleague the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) was quoted on 23 July 1972 as saying:
Private hospitals and private nursing homes are irrelevant to the Labor Party’s concept of a national health scheme and the vast majority of people could easily be catered for in the public and hospital sector.
The honourable member for Kingston interjected. He is a doctor. Why has he not got the guts to go on record like the Minister for
Social Security, the Minister for the Environment and Conservation and the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) and say that he is a socialist and declare where he stands on the question of private enterprise in the health care delivery system? Can he see any future for private hospitals in Australia? He knows that in his own State 70 per cent or more of people who are ill or injured are catered for by the magnificently run private hospitals. Let him get up in this House or in his own State and declare where he stands on this socialist plan.
The Minister for Health, in answer to a question without notice from myself on 6 December last year, clearly stated - I ask the House to listen to this devastating statement of Labor policy - thai he believed that the future of medical care in Australia will see at least 80 per cent of all Australians attending doctors on government salaries or at government-owned hospitals, with only 20 per cent still being interested in attending private practice, going to a doctor in a private capacity or attending a private hospital. As I said at the outset, these men on the other side of the House are socialists. They are proud to be socialists. They sincerely believe that nationalised health is in the best interests of the country. We on this side of the House categorically refuse to accept that. In answer to interjections such as that by the honourable member for Kingston, I point out that we do take a progressive attitude to the delivery of health care. We do not want to see the dead hand of socialism, which has ruined everything that this Labor Government has touched since it came to office in this country, applied to our health system. If the Labor Party is to try, and try as it might, to meddle, with its socialistic attitude, with medicine it will find the Opposition intractably opposed to it. We will be proud to oppose such an outrageous suggestion.
– The Australian people proved it on 18 May.
– I would ask the newly appointed deputy Government Whip to wake up out of his slumber at the beginning of my speeches rather than waking up half way through them. If he had done so on this occasion he would have heard me answer that interjection in the first couple of paragraphs of my speech. We categorically refuse to accept Labor’s proposal. We have a viable alternative scheme which still allows initiative, dedication and aspirations for high professional performance to be brought out.
The question might fairly be asked: ‘Why would private hospitals be foolish enough to allow themselves to be partly or wholly nationalised in this way?’ Why should they make such an offer of beds to the Minister, which is in itself an act of self-destruction? The answer is simple; they will be forced to, because they will be confronted with the uneconomic situation of having many empty beds. There are 2 reasons for this. I have mentioned the first, namely, that many who now use private hospitals will go to public hospitals because their compulsory taxes will entitle them to do so. The second reason is that very few people will be able to afford private health insurance over and above that provided by the 1.35 per cent super tax on taxable income. I remind people listening to this debate that this 1.35 per cent super tax will apply not only to the breadwinner but also to a wife who might be working. Also it will apply to every Queenslander who already has free hospitalisation provided by the Queensland Government. The private hospitals will therefore be forced to go begging to the Minister with the pathetic plea: ‘Take part of us over’. This must result in the end of autonomous administration of private hospitals. It must mean that any private hospital which makes any offer to the Minister is playing fly to his spider.
There is, however, another equally if not more serious consequence of private hospitals , becoming part or mainly public hospitals. The greater the number of private hospital beds which become public, the fewer will be the number of patients who can be treated by the doctor of their own choice in a hospital. For example, I quote the Mercy Hospital in Melbourne. This is a great private hospital with fine traditions and a magnificent record of service to the community. It has 200 beds. If half, say, of these beds become public beds, does the Minister seriously ask us to believe that the patients in those beds will be able to be attended by a doctor of their own choice? That would be an absurd proposition.
As far as the treatment of doctors is concerned, if we have a virtual end of the private hospital, if the growth of ‘free’ - I use the term with inverted commas - community health centres employing salaried doctors continues, if specialists are forced to work for the
Government on a salary as they are now being forced in Canberra-
– The Minister ought to know a lot about what is going on in Canberra. If the stated wishes of the Minister for Health are expressed in action - that 80 per cent of Australians will be attending salaried doctors - this will be the end of the doctor-patient relationship which we believe is the very foundation of good medical care.
The new second reading speech of the Minister for Social Security revealed yet further dangers to the integrity of the medical profession. In his speech the Minister spoke very vaguely about the right of a person to choose his own private doctor and be eligible for Commonwealth benefits. The use of the words ‘provided that the schedule fees are charged’ is highly significant. Does this mean a participating doctors’ scheme?
– That is what Prime Minister Gorton proposed.
– Well, for heaven’s sake, we are now in 1974 debating 2 health Bills. I would not have thought that what Mr Gorton or anyone else said in 1972 would be relevant to this debate in 1974.
– Were you in favour of a participating doctors scheme that Prime Minister Gorton suggested?
– This rhetorical question of mine has made the normally excitable member for Casey more excitable. I suspect that this is something which is embarrassing to the Australian Labor Party. I challenge the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, who is to follow me-
– I am not going to follow you.
– Well, I challenge whoever does follow me to say whether the Labor Party intends to bring about a participating doctors scheme. If it does, the Labor Party ought to declare itself now and be honest. In other words, why did the Minister use those words in his speech? If it does mean that, all doctors will be completely dependent on the Government for their total income, unless they wish to be one of the sacred 20 per cent of the Minister for Health catering for the very wealthy. I say this for 2 reasons: If you have the source of doctors’ income resting solely with the Government, which I am sure is the Government’s intention, if at the other end you have that amount which they can earn by a compulsory schedule of fees further determined by the Government or an instrument of the Government, and if you coerce people into forcing doctors into a bulk billing scheme with one health fund owned by the Government, that is nationalisation of doctors. That is virtually the nationalisation of medicine.
– What is the honourable member’s policy on scheduled fees?
– That sort of question from a so-called informed member of this House astonishes me. Those statements of mine have been published. They are printed in the joint coalition policy. They are there for everybody to read and understand. If doctors are virtually working for a salary determined by a bureaucrat or a socialist Minister, that is nationalised medicine. Let nothing I say on this point, Mr Acting Speaker, reflect in any way on the hundreds of doctors in this country who choose to work for a salary, be it in a government department, at a hospital, a community health centre or whatever. I believe that these people have the same intellectual integrity and dedication as doctors who work on a fee for service basis in private practice. But why take away the right of a professional man to work on his own initiative, driven by his own incentive, stimulated by both competition and altruism to improve his knowledge and to improve his techniques and thus to care the better for sick people? Why take that away from people who want to work for themselves? This Labor Government, when faced with any kind of problem, obsessively and maniacally turns to socialism as a solution. We concede there are problems in health in Australia, but socialism and nationalisation are not the answer. We have put up an alternative answer in our health scheme which is the antithesis of socialism and is best for the Australian people.
If this Government wishes to reduce the standards and quality of living in Australia to that of a socialist banana republic, it will nationalise the professions - not only medicine but all of them. I do not care which profession is involved - medicine, architecture, science, the law. Human nature being what it is, as soon as the rights of a professional man to practise in a free competitive society is taken away and he is forced to work in a government machine, creative achievements, ingenious new techniques, and the exploration of the perplexing problems of mankind will not be forthcoming and we all will be reduced to the level of mediocrity -
– Who wrote that for the honourable member?
– To the level of the honourable member who made that contemptuous interjection. Let him judge everybody by his own miserable standards and not try to impact those miserable standards on us or on the Australian people. Finally, I refer to the massive cost of the scheme. At a time of raging inflation Australia needs the additional incredible cost on the public purse of a health scheme such as this like it needs a hole in the head. I have quoted a survey by Philip Shrapnel and Co Ltd, a highly respected firm, which indicates that the scheme would cost hundreds of millions of dollars more than the present scheme. This is a survey which one day the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) tried without success to refute. To my knowledge the Minister has never denied this. That survey was taken last year. With the rise in inflation since then the costs to the Australian people of the scheme today would be astronomic. Again, human nature impels us to use things if they are free, whether we need them or not. Over-utilisation of services has been a feature of the British scheme and would be a feature of the Labor scheme in this country. At this time of inflation the Opposition is looking at ways of saving taxpayers’ money, not of squandering it like the Government is doing. Let the Government learn from the tragic lessons of the spiralling costs of its health scheme in the Australian Capital Territory. Let it face the fact that someone has to pay for it. We just hope that the Government recognises that the person who produces the golden egg, to whom I referred before, is the ordinary person paying income taxes. Let the Government recognise him before it kills him.
– At the beginning of this debate the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) moved that the time for the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) be extended to 45 minutes to take up more of the time given to the Opposition. I interjected that the honourable member was the only one who knew anything about the health scheme and that is why the Opposition put him on for 45 minutes. I apologise to the rest of the Opposition. Having listened to the honourable member for Hotham, he does not seem to understand our health scheme and he does not seem to understand the present scheme. In speaking about the propositions which we are putting up I make it quite clear that I do not think our scheme is the solution to the reorganisation of health care delivery in this country. But I make it quite clear that the honourable member for Hotham got up for his speech and talked about the Opposition’s scheme which would be terrific, which would change things, etc., and then he did not mention it again for the 45 minutes which he had. He did not mention any proposed change to the present scheme. So one can only assume that the Opposition proposes to retain the status quo. I suggest that that is fairly typical for the Opposition.
The honourable member for Hotham earlier in his speech referred to the fact repeatedly - I think it probably makes him feel revolutionary - that the Opposition will go to the barricades to defend the medical profession. He certainly seemed to indicate that the Opposition felt very strongly. I find it difficult to understand why the Opposition feels strongly about the present scheme in contrast to our scheme because, as I shall mention in a few minutes, there is no great threat to private fee for service medicine in our scheme. The day before yesterday I was sent by the Australian Medical Association its annual report for 1973. Part of that annual report covers the Freedom Fund which was set up to defend private medical practice. The Freedom Fund financial statement for the period ended 31 December 1973 - that is for one year - shows an expenditure of $431,211 to fight the Labor Government. Advertising amounted to $232,000. Political liaison amounted to something approaching $9,000 and political consultants’ fees amounted to $57,853. 1 will leave it to the imagination of honourable members in this House as to who received the political consultants’ fees and the political liaison fees. I am not suggesting that the honourable member for Hotham did. But I do suggest that members who were influential on the side of the Liberal Party, either inside the parliamentary party or more likely in the Senate, and in the departed Australian Democratic Labor Party, received a significant amount of those consultant’s fees for advice on how best to defeat the Labor Party’s health scheme. I think that is why there has been such unanimity and feeling about going to the barricades.
Before getting on to the question of our proposals I draw the attention of the House to what is happening in Canberra at the present time. The honourable member for Hotham referred to what he considered to be a terrible situation in Canberra. I think it is a terrible situation. The Government is proposing to bring Canberra into the twentieth century to make it possible for people to enter a public ward; that is, to become public ward patients in one of Canberra’s hospitals. Even the honourable member for Hotham did not suggest that there should be no public wards in hospitals. He suggested that admission to those public wards should be restricted on some basis - I assume the basis that presently applies in New South Wales - although that is not the basis in Queensland. At the present time in Canberra there are no public ward beds. They are all beds for which fee for service is charged. What the Government proposes after spending a lot of money on Canberra’s hospitals is to make it possible for people to choose whether to go into a public ward, an intermediate ward or a private ward. But what did the doctors of Canberra decide on 2 July? The vast majority of those in private practice signed a declaration. The Australian Capital Territory Medical Association outlined a course of action it wants to take at the date of commencement of duty of the first full-time salaried specialist appointed in response to advertisements for the staffing of the proposed Canberra hospital service scheme. It said:
Private practitioners will treat .only those hospital patients opting for private patient status.
That is fair enough. The Association continued: Service will not be provided by private practitioners lo patients choosing ‘free’ hospital service. Salaried specialists will have to accept full responsibility at all times for their ‘free’ patients’.
No assistance will be provided to salaried medical staff either in hospitals or health centres, in providing routine patient care, or in providing relief at nights, weekends or for annual leave. This means that no out-of-hours cover will be provided by private general practitioners to patients of salaried health centres.
There will be no professional association between private practitioners and newly appointed salaried specialists.
They have been declared ‘black’ and they will be sent to Coventry. The Association went on to say:
Where a patient of a general practitioner requiring specialist care declines to be referred to a specialist in private practice for treatment on a fee-for-service basis, in or out of hospital, the general practitioner will advise the patient to attend the out-patient department of the hospital for entry into the free hospital service scheme. This advice will be given verbally and no letter of referral or other documentation will be provided.
They will not even tell the doctor at the hospital what is wrong with that patient or what previous treatment that patient has had. It said:
Exception will be made in cases where referral is necessary to a staff specialist in a specialty not covered by any private practitioner.
The attitude is that if a specialty is not a paying proposition send them to the salaried doctors and that is all right. The declaration went on to say:
General practitioners will offer Pensioner Medical Service patients requiring specialist attention a choice of attending the out-patients departments for treatment by the salaried specialist staff or of being referred to a private practitioner on a fee-for-service basis. In such cases the fee may be waived by the private practitioner at his discretion.
That is what doctors have been after all the time. They can dispense charity. They can say to the patient: ‘We will let you off your moiety’. I notice that the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) is smiling at this. I think he is smiling in agreement because he was , once the Minister for Health in the McMahon Government or the Gorton Government. He certainly had enough contact with the medical practitioners to realise that what I am saying is correct.
This declaration is very long, so I will shorten it. ‘Except in most exceptional circumstances doctors will not treat an emergency case unless the patient or his relatives opt for private care on a fee-for-service basis’. If a patient is extremely ill the doctor will say to him or to his relatives: ‘Unless you sign a form to become a private patient on a fee-for-service basis I will not treat you’. I find it difficult to believe that the vast majority of doctors in private practice in Canberra were prepared to sign this declaration, no matter how scared they are of oppositions from salaried medical practitioners.
– They did not sign it.
– I understand that they did.
– No. It was a statement by the ACTMA
– No. I understand a large majority of the people attended and they agreed to it. Anyway, that was the proposition. This is a statement from the local medical association. I think it is a deplorable statement.
The honourable member for Hotham in his discussion of Labor’s proposition, “made 2 major points in criticising our scheme. The first referred to over utilisation and the second referred to the fact that if too many people wanted to have standard ward or public ward treatment in hospitals there would be a long waiting time. To some extent the 2 points overlap. Let us look at the case in the United States of America where comparable figures have been published. In that country there are 2 types of schemes Tunning side by side - feeforservice schemes and other schemes. People can opt for the fee-for-service scheme or they can opt for what are called health maintenance organisations such as the Kaiser-Permanente scheme and others in New York. We have to remember that the people opting for feeforservice treatment are the ones who are over utilising the scheme. They are not over utilising the scheme because they want their appendix or gall bladder removed but because their doctor has their appendix or gall bladder removed. If we compare the figures for nonmaternity surgical procedures in the United States we find the following: Group practice plans - which are ‘ non fee-for-service plans - have the lowest rate and the Blue Shield, which is the same as our present schemes such as the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia and others, has the highest rate with all surgical procedures running at 135 per cent higher under fee-for-service. That is not just 35 per cent higher, but 135 per cent higher. Tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies were 200 per cent higher; appendectomies were 50 per cent higher; cholecystectomies were 90 per cent higher; and female surgery was 77 per cent higher than in group practice. Female surgery included mastectomy, dilatation and curettage and hysterectomy. This contrasting experience was consistent over a 6-year period. Over a 6-year period these propositions were followed up and all these extras were found.
An article relating to the Kaiser scheme shows that in view of the facts that the group practice surgeons - that is, the non feeforservice surgeons - are fully trained and, like all surgeons, interested in the surgical treatment of organic disease, but are not paid by the operation, a knowledgeable observer has difficulty avoiding the interpretation that a fee-for-service is a powerful, if subliminal, influence in the decision to operate and therefore is unnecessary hospital utilisation. In the opinion of some Kaiser-Permanente physicians, this is their main contribution not only to economic savings but to preventive medicine.
I completely agree with this. One of the most depressing aspects of medical care as delivered in Australia at the present time is the tendency to perform unnecessary operations and unnecessary treatment on people because there is an economic incentive. I hope that honourable members opposite will not argue that this is not the truth, as the Australian Medical Association sometimes does, because they would contradict themselves. The AMA says that the only way to achieve a good medical service is to have an economic incentive. When one says That economic incentive causes these things’ the AMA says: ‘But the economic incentive would not make us do that sort of thing.*
I refer again to over utilisation of and the need for many more hospital beds. The Kaiser-Permanente scheme which is the American scheme, is run on a non feeforservice basis. It operates on a ratio of 100 physicians per 100,000 members whereas the national average in 1970 was 155 physicians per 100,000 population. Hospital bed-days per 1,000 members ranged from 510 to 480 amongst the non fee-for-service people whereas individuals covered by Blue Cross or Blue Shield insurance or by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program have consistently had more than 900 hospital bed-days per 1,000 members. That is nearly twice as many hospital beds if fee-for-service is involved. The honourable member for Hotham said that if we introduce some scheme removing the feeforservice incentive for doctors to put a person in hospital we will run out of hospital beds. The opposite is the case.
– Is that a government body or a private organisation?
– This is a private organisation.
– That is interesting.
– I agree, and I was going to come to that.
– You people seem to be keen to remove private organisations.
– No. As I say, an important part of over utilisation is doctor induced. The expensive part of over utilisation is that it is expensive not only in the economic sense but also in the sense that the patient is introduced to drugs or is surgically treated for things which do not necessarily need surgical treatment. I think that is the important thing to remember when we are talking about health care delivery in Australia.
Let us look at the alternative to the methods of health care delivery in our sort of country. We have firstly, the fee-for-service type; secondly, the salaried doctors; and thirdly, what are called health maintenance organisations. There are all kinds of mixtures between the 3 types. In Australia at the present time we basically have a mixture of fee for service doctors and salaried doctors. Really what the Government scheme will do is to change slightly the proportion of salaried doctors to fee for service doctors. When I say ‘slightly’ I mean slightly, because it will affect doctors only as far as their hospital patients are concerned. If anything, our scheme will encourage doctors to see people outside hospitals. As honourable members know, people covered under the pensioner medical scheme at the present time are not covered for specialist consultations and have to receive specialist consultation at a hospital. Under our scheme they will be able to see specialists privately, so those specialists will not be suffering or disadvantaged in any way.
I agree that some medical practitioners, especially surgeons, will have fewer patients admitted to hospitals as intermediate or private ward patients if we remove the means test on people entering public wards in hospitals. On the other hand, of course, the doctors will be reimbursed, to some extent at least, because they will be paid for what is now called honorary work. They will be paid on a salaried basis, on a sessional basis in most cases. They will accept two or three sessions. At the present time an honorary surgeon performs a certain number of operations on public patients and he does not get paid for them. Under our proposal, of course, he will still perform the operations on public patients but he will be paid for them. He will not be paid on a fee for service basis but will be paid something of the order of $50 for a half day session. So he will be able to make a living. I do not think that many of us would really feel terribly sorry for him.
One of the important things which we tend to forget and which the Australian Medical Association especially tends to forget - I am sorry that honourable members opposite tend to forget it, because they are custodians of the public purse as much as we on the Gov- ernment side are - is that private practitioners, especially specialists, who are using hospital facilities at the present time are really being subsidised. I know that they perform certain services in hospitals for nothing under the honorary scheme, but they are being subsidised by having all the facilities provided for them. They have back-up services provided; they have radiology services provided; they have resident medical officers provided in most major hospitals; they have pathology services provided and they have theatre sisters provided. All those services are provided for them. They even have the patients provided an many cases because the patients are referred to them and then classified as intermediate once they are in hospital. Therefore I urge that we should not feel sorry for doctors, or certain groups of doctors, when their income drops slightly.
I am sorry to see that I have only 2 minutes speaking time left. I would just like to make one criticism of our scheme. My major criticism of it is that it does not alter things enough. I notice the new honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan), who seemed to be listening to me, looking worried about my statement. I would like to have a private discussion with him. The point is that our proposal does not alter things sufficiently. It does not alter the incentive, to a large extent, of over-treating patients. We will still have those sorts of incentives. All we are really doing, as I see it, is changing the method of financing the scheme. I would urge the Government at some stage to have a look at the matter and offer a third method of health care delivery to Australia, such as the type of scheme provided by the health maintenance organisations, on a competitive basis with the 2 schemes that are in use at the present time - the fee for service scheme and the salaried doctors scheme. The method of financing is obviously one of the difficulties that will arise. But let the patient indicate what sort of scheme he prefers. Will he attend one kind of doctor? Will he attend another kind of doctor? Let the patient have a choice. It is ridiculous for the Government or the Opposition to say that people voted for the Government scheme or against it in any particular fashion, because the people did not understand the scheme. One of the depressing things I have found is that even medical practitioners did not understand the scheme.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I do not propose to pursue the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) in his unending vendetta against his own profession, except to say that it confirms the impression that I have had for a very long time that one of the principal motivating forces in the introduction of this scheme is the innate hostility that the Australian Labor Party has for the medical profession. The last thing that motivates it is the welfare of the patient. Since this measure was last debated there have been very large increases in hospital and medical costs, with large increases in fees foreshadowed in both areas. In these circumstances, and in view of the tendency of some sections of the media to suggest that in some way these problems would be solved by the provisions of the Labor Party’s scheme - I noticed another ignorant and feeble-minded editorial along these lines in the ‘Age’ earlier this week - it is well to remind the House and the country that this scheme, this legislation, contains no solution to the problem of rising medical fees. It contains no solution to the problem of soaring hospital costs. On these questions the Bills are silent. They have no remedy at all.
If the new scheme, if it comes into being, should provide better protection to individuals at the lowest level of cover against these rising costs than the present scheme does, it will be because the Government has shamefully neglected to play its part in providing Commonwealth benefits under the existing scheme. In a cynical, despicable exercise this Government, to discredit the existing scheme and gain support for its own scheme, has deliberately exploited the sick, the suffering and the ill in a way which can only be described as a national scandal. Even the lesser cost to the individuals, I submit, would be illusory. In the absence of constructive proposals to hold down medical and hospital costs - as I have said, there are none - the cost has to be met by somebody. To the extent that it is not met by the 1.35 per cent levy - I ask how long it will remain at 1.35 per cent - it will be met by the same individuals as taxpayers. What a wonderful result for all the disruption, reduction in freedom of choice and decline in standards of health care that will occur under Labor’s health scheme.
Because the argument about this measure has been going on for a long time and there is a danger that the true issues have become obscured, I want to say something about the events which have led us to the point at which we find ourselves today. When this Government came to office in December 1972 people started to get frightened with the imminent introduction of its health scheme. They started to react. The Government found that people all round Australia were asking why the Government was trying to change a health scheme which the overwhelming majority of them have found to be perfectly satisfactory. It has given them good quality health care at reasonable cost, with freedom of choice, of doctor, of hospital and health insurance fund, with speed and compassion. It is a scheme in which they have genuine confidence. However much the Government may protest to the contrary, however much it may twist and distort figures, however much it may emphasise individual cases and incidents and attempt to make people believe that black is white, this has been the experience of the overwhelming majority of Australians. This is why the Government became worried. This is why it started backtracking and backing down, why the scheme contained in this Bill is a tattered, disreputable remnant of the scheme it started out with. It has begun to realise that the Australian people, most of whom, as I say, have found the existing scheme to be completely satisfactory, have risen up in anger as they have come to understand more clearly the implications of the Government’s intentions.
The reaction of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) was to say that these attitudes had been based on a campaign of misrepresentation. I throw that back into the Minister’s teeth. If we are going to talk about misrepresentation then this Minister and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) have engaged, in relation to health matters, in a campaign of misrepresentation which, in intensity and duration, equals any similar exercise in Australian political history. For 5 years now they have misrepresented, misrepresented and misrepresented again. I will have more to say about that in a moment.
It was bcause they had become conscious of the fact that the Australian people had seen through their barrage of propaganda that they were frightened into throwing the public a bone - a bone in the form of the so-called White Paper. The Minister has represented the White Paper as proof of his readiness to listen to public opinion, to be flexible, to compromise - a triumph for open government. Its theme is that all of the advantages of the present scheme and more besides can be achieved - or rather that is the impression it is designed to convey. I have no hesitation in saying that it is a dishonest document. It is deliberately designed to misrepresent, and does so to the extent that it gives specific undertakings which have been translated into this legislation. For example, I refer to the climbdown in relation to bulk billing, which undermines the very objectives which we have been told so often it was essential to achieve if Australia was to have an efficient health scheme.
Has the Minister forgotten how often he has railed against the administrative costs of the present health funds and used them as the justification for wiping out those funds and establishing one great, big, bureaucratic health fund? Has he forgotten how often he has given bulk billing as the main source of saving administrative costs? Of course, he was right, although I might mention in passing that exactly the same saving in administrative costs, if it were desirable, could be achieved by introducing bulk billing in the context of the existing health funds. But my purpose is not to debate here the merits or otherwise of bulk billing but to emphasise that administrative savings were to be one of the great achievements of the Labor scheme and that bulk billing was to be the principal means of achieving that end. Yet virtually all of the measures designed to make bulk billing a widespread practice have been abandoned. The Government has backed down on one of the elements which it told us made its scheme incomparably better than the present one. This basic principle has evaporated. It has gone; it is not in the scheme.
There are other climb-downs in the same category in the White Paper, that is, the Government does something specific which is translated into the legislation in order to allay criticism and, at the same time, abandons basic principles which were supposed to be of such fundamental importance that they justified the introduction of a new scheme. We know where we are in relation to these particular matters, but there is another category of statement in the White Paper which is far more dangerous. It is more dangerous because the matters covered do not appear in the legislation. They cannot because they are only vague expressions of intention or be lief that particular things which have worried people will work out in the way in which those worried people would like them to work out. In other words, it is a snow job.
Let me explain what I mean by way of example. Despite the soothing words in the White Paper there is no guarantee either in it or in the legislation that there will be sufficient standard ward beds for the people who want them when they want them. There is absolutely no guarantee that a doctor will be able to follow his patient into hospital, even if the doctor happens to be attached to the visiting staff. There is absolutely no guarantee that private hospitals will remain in existence, and still less guarantee in relation to subsidised community hospitals in my own State. There is absolutely no guarantee that large numbers of able specialists will not be forced out of private practice into salaried public service by economic deprivation. There is absolutely no assurance in the legislation that, in the absence of Government support for the special account in particular and other forms of Commonwealth Government assistance in general, insurance cover for private hospital treatment will not be so prohibitively expensive as to be out of the range of all but the very wealthy few. I could go on with this list but the items on it all have one thing in common. The White Paper makes reassuring noises about all of them, which does not mean a damned thing. Given the record of this Minister and this Government over the past 12 months, the Australian people would be extremely unwise to listen to or to heed reassuring noises of any description.
This is even more true if we consider the record of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Social Security over the last 5 years. I said a moment ago that they have misrepresented, misrepresented and misrepresented again in order to establish their scheme as a significant initiative in the public mind. Their tactics were clear: In order to clear the way for acceptance of their scheme they would denigrate the existing scheme and everybody associated with it. They set out to denigrate the health funds and the people associated with them, the doctors, the private hospitals, the profitmaking nursing homes, the State governments - you name it. Whoever was associated with the voluntary health scheme caw under the mr.-.t icious attack. Truth, objectivity and th. personal reputation of large number* people were the casualties.
I have constantly asked myself why all of this was necessary if the Government’s own scheme was as good as the Government said it was. Looking back, 1 think I understand. The original scheme was not the WhitlamHayden scheme; it was conceived by 2 young economists, Deeble and Scotton. Not unnaturally, being economists, the financial aspects dominated their thinking. It was only by constructing a scheme which was virtually entirely tax financed that there could be control of health costs which were burgeoning everywhere in the world. That is how the United Kingdom has been able to keep expenditure on health below 5 per cent of the gross national product. The British scheme was undoubtedly their model, although of course it was adapted to Australian conditions and to Labor Party political prejudices. Everything else followed, particularly the large degree of uniformity, government control and the dragging down of everybody and everything to the lowest level, which the Australian people will find so objectionable if this scheme comes into being. In other words, it is nationalisation, in fact if not in name. Deeble and Scotton sold this scheme to the Labor Party lock, stock and barrel. It emerged as Labor Party policy without a change of a dot on an ‘i’ or a cross on a ‘f. Deeble and Scotton did not have to work terribly hard to sell their scheme. It appealed to the Labor Party’s opportunist instincts.
The voluntary health scheme was going through a bad patch. There was some public dissatisfaction with the benefits it provided at the time when the Government was waiting for the Nimmo Committee to complete its work and the next great step forward could be taken. What better environment in which to launch this deceptively simple, superficially appealing and apparently cheaper scheme. It appealed not only to their opportunist instincts but also to their socialist instincts. Remember, it was essentially the British scheme - it was entirely tax financed - but it was wrapped in tinsel to disguise its socialist origins. It made some headway in the public mind, not on its merits, because the realities were hidden from the public gaze, but on the constant reiteration by the present Prime Minister that the then current difficulties of the voluntary health scheme were inherent in the scheme itself. I do not have to remind the House how the 1970 reforms following the acceptance by the then Government of most of the Nimmo Committee’s recommendations gave the complete lie to that assertion. We were able to produce the present arrangements which so many Australians have found so sensitively attuned to their health care needs, without abandoning the basic principle of voluntary health insurance. Almost overnight, the arguments on which the Labor Party based its proposition for a substitute scheme disappeared.
Faced with this position and with the ground cut from under their feet the Prime Minister and the Minister for Social Security decided to bluff it out and to misrepresent and misrepresent and misrepresent again. They decided to misrepresent the defects of the present scheme and to misrepresent the elements of their own scheme - in other words, the Goebbels technique. Let me give the House one example of each. Firstly, I refer to the health funds. I defy the Minister to deny that he and the Prime Minister quite deliberately set out to denigrate the health funds; that they set out to create in the public mind the impression that the health funds were profit making institutions operating for their own benefit; and that the large number of closed and friendly society funds were a source of extravagance and inefficiency and that they squandered money on excessive promotion and selfindulgence. I defy them to deny that at the time they said these things they knew them to be untrue.
Let me take another example, this time from their own scheme. They have constantly asserted that it does not mean the nationalisation of medicine. And yet they know - indeed, they have boasted - that under their scheme many more patients will enter the public wards of public hospitals. The Minister said it in his second reading speech yesterday. They have told us that the occupants of these beds will be treated by salaried or sessionary paid doctors, not on a fee for service basis. They know that most specialists in private practice depend on the fees they are paid for services rendered to patients in intermediate or private wards and private hospitals for the major part of their income. They know that the more people cease to be private and become public patients, the more specialists will be forced by economic necessity to become salaried doctors. If this is not nationalisation, I do not know what it is. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Social Security have said again and again that their scheme does not mean nationalisation. They know that to be untrue. This scheme deserves to be thrown out because it was conceived in deceit and perpetuated by misrepresentations unequalled in Australian history.
– I listened with great interest to the 45 minute address given to the House by the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). One of the remarkable things about the honourable member for Hotham is that he always seems to be able to tailor the contents of his speech according to his audience. When he is speaking outside this Parliament to a group of university students or to some other such group, he always projects himself, apparently fairly successfully, as a progressive and small ‘1’ liberal. However, when he comes into this House he realises that he has the eyes of his colleagues piercing into his back and that he must sound as conservative as possible and hence today we heard him berating the Government for what he called a socialist health scheme. He really took the Government to task on it. But for all the bluster and fist thumping on the table that we heard from the honourable member for Hotham I think that most of the indignation that he expressed about the Government’s proposals was spurious.
I should like to say a couple of things about what the honourable member for Hotham said in his speech. It seems that the main area on which he wanted to attack the Government’s proposals related to our intentions in regard to hospitals and particularly to our proposal to abolish the means test for entry into public award hospital accommodation throughout Australia. It is true that the proposals of the Government will provide public ward hospital accommodation to anybody who wants it, without fees and without means test and, of course, without the necessity for any private hospital insurance. In other words, what we are proposing to implement is pretty well the same scheme as has been operating for many years in Queensland. That scheme was introduced by co-operative action between the then Commonwealth Labor Government and the State Labor Government. It has worked well and is the scheme which we propose to emulate throughout the rest of Australia. I trust that nobody from Queensland would want to turn back the clock to a situation where the hospital system was mainly out of the hands of the government or was without a substantial degree of government financing.
I should like to refer for a moment to the situation in South Australia, which is the situation with which I am most familiar. The honourable member for Hotham said that the problem would be that by providing everybody with access to public ward hospital accommodation, we would not be able to cope because there are not enough public hospital beds. The fact is that it is the present health scheme which has resulted in too few public hospital beds being available. We have a situation in South Australia where people who would prefer to use public hospital accommodation - because, after all, it does provide superior facilities - know that they would be unable to obtain such accommodation. That is the situation which has been thrown up by the present voluntary health insurance scheme.
For many years in South Australia we had a Liberal Party Premier by the name of Sir Thomas Playford. While he may have had some merits, one of the things he was not very keen on was spending a lot of money on public hospitals. He was quite content to allow other organisations to build them and take the responsibility off his shoulders. This situation was very much encouraged by the system of health insurance which we have inherited. As a result, there are now many people in South Australia who would like to take public ward hospital accommodation but it is not available to them because of the system that we have inherited. Those people are forced, whether they like it or not to take out extra private hospital insurance - something that in many cases they are unable to afford and something that they will not have to pay for under the scheme which we propose to introduce.
When objecting to the Government’s proposal to remove the means test on public hospital accommodation, the honourable member for Hotham said that the Australian Labor Party could overcome this problem in the interim by conscripting private hospitals. What does he really mean by the term ‘conscripting private hospitals’? Before I proceed to that point, I might mention that it is interesting that the honourable member for Hotham is basing his opposition to our scheme not so much on the welfare of patients but on the interests of private hospitals. He had a great deal to say about the interests of the private hospitals and the interests of the Australian Medical Association and I think he even mentioned the Junior Chamber of Commerce. Heavens, we must not forget the interests of the Junior Chamber of Commerce. That body is a fairly vital element in the field of patient welfare. Speaking once again of the situation in South Australia, which I believe is especially relevant to this argument because that State has the highest proportion of nongovernment hospital beds of any State in Australia, I have had many discussions with various hospital representatives and other interested people in South Australia. There will be no need for any conscription of private hospitals to enable us to provide a sufficient number of public hospital beds. The community hospitals and certain other hospitals will willingly provide sufficient beds to cope with any increase in demand for public hospital accommodation. I cannot see for the life of me what is wrong with that. What is wrong with a non-government hospital providing that the Government pays for it? Has it not happened for years in Victoria? What about St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, a hospital that provides public hospital facilities but is essentially a non-government organisation. If one is to call that nationalisation or socialism, what is wrong with socialism or nationalisation?
I, for the life of me, cannot see why a government should not take a major responsibility for health care. Do we not do this in the case of education? Surely we take the view in the case of so many other areas that the Government has a basic responsibility. We do this with education and protection against fire. Surely we would not have a system of fire protection dependent upon where a private enterprise fire brigade chose to set up its premises. Quite obviously that would be an absurd proposition. I believe the same thing applies in the case of health care where the community must accept a major responsibility. If that is a socialist health viewpoint I wholeheartedly support socialist medicine.
The Bill that we are discussing of course has been before the House on 2 previous occasions. I do not suppose that there is much that can be said about it that has not been said before. The question has been resolved on 2 occasions by the Australian electorate which has given its approval to the Australian Government to go ahead with these proposals. Now that it is clear, in view of the likely result of the joint sitting, that the measure will go through, surely it is the duty of every body concerned to co-operate and to consult with each other to ensure that the transition to the new scheme is as smooth as possible and operates to the benefit of the community.
I was particularly encouraged quite recently by a public statement made by the newly appointed President of the Australian Medical Association in South Australia who made what I believe to be a very responsible and conciliatory statement. He conceded that the proposal has been endorsed by the electorate and it is up to everybody concerned to ensure that there is discussion and co-operation between all parties in the interests of the patients. I hope that that attitude is reflected by the federal officials of the Australian Medical Association. I believe that if they do not have that same attitude they will be acting contrary to the interests not only of the public but also to the interests and wishes of their members.
One point of this proposal which I think is worth reiterating in the light of discussions that took place at the recent Premiers Conference is the proposal to provide public hospital accommodation free of charge and free of means test. This is a significant factor to bear in mind having regard to the decision taken by State governments to raise hospital charges. Because of the shortfall in the State Government Budget public hospital charges in South Australia will be raised by upwards of $7 a day. Unfortunately this will mean an increase in the rate of contribution to voluntary hospital insurance funds, but it is worthwhile noting that this is only a temporary arrangement. After the Government’s national health insurance program comes in of course there will be no hospital charges or means test and there will be no need for hospital insurance. For that reason the people who now are required to pay increased contribution rates will not have to pay them when the Government’s proposals go through.
Not only will the scheme mean great benefit for the contributors and for the patients; it will also be of great significance to the budgetary problems of the State governments. As the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has pointed out, it is intended that there will be a cost sharing arrangement with the State governments to provide adequate public hospital accommodation. This will significantly alleviate the budgetary problems which the State governments now have. I have already mentioned that the scheme will be of great benefit to the patients as well, many of whom now are unwillingly forced to take private hospital insurance.
I believe the scheme will be of great benefit if it can be implemented quickly so that we can get on to devote more attention to some of the other problems of health care. I think that one of the unfortunate features of the fact that the debate on this measure we are discussing today has been so protracted, largely due to the activities of the Senate, is that a great deal of attention has been focused on the financial aspects of covering the costs of acute illness. It has diverted attention from other areas which are just as important and in some cases more important. I hope that the passage of this Bill, if it can go ahead quickly, will mean not the end of an era but the beginning of many changes which will have to be carried out.
We will have to look at some very radical changes particularly in the care of the sick aged in our community. The measure that we are bringing in today will continue the same type of assistance for patients, for example in nursing homes, already provided under the present voluntary health insurance scheme. The national health insurance fund will provide the same level of benefits for insured patients as the private funds provide at present. The same thing will apply for pensioner patients who are also to receive the same payment as insured patients receive from the private funds at present. I believe that something more must be done than just transferring the responsibility from the voluntary funds to the government fund.
This week the Minister for Social Security announced some very substantial increased benefits for nursing home patients. As we all know it was a very costly and necessary measure. But surely this is not the long term solution to the problem. The present situation is quite unsatisfactory. I am quite sure that the Minister for Social Security would be the first to agree with that proposition. Until now governments have abdicated the field of nursing home care. They paid private enterprise to carry on the care of the sick aged. The result of this has .been state aid at its very worst. It has meant open handed subsidies to private commericial ventures to carry on what I am sure everyone on this side of the House would agree is a responsibility of government, not necessarily Commonwealth government but also State and local government.
I have always found it rather difficult to reconcile the different responsibilities that governments accept between a patient who is in a public hospital and on the other hand a person who is discharged from a public hospital and goes into a nursing home. Frankly, I do not really see a justification for any greatly different financial arrangements at all. There is really no line of division between an acutely ill patient and a nursing home patient. There are lots of grey areas. For example, I do not think that one can say that an elderly patient with a fractured femur or something like that which requires prolonged hospital treatment is an acutely ill patient, but on the other hand he is not what one would call a nursing home patient as presently defined. There is a grey area. I should like to see the governments accept responsibility over a wide area and not divide it up into 2 categories between the general hospital patient and the nursing home patient. In one area the Government accepts great responsibility and in the other area pays private enterprise to take it off its hands.
In the field of general hospitals are public hospitals, community hospitals and religious hospitals. But only a very small area is the responsibility of private enterprise. In fact the number of private hospitals is becoming fewer all the time. As far as I am concerned that is a good thing. If the last private hospital disappears and becomes a public hospital I certainly will not shed any tears over that. But in .the case of nursing homes I .believe that the relative amount of treatment that is taken up by the public sector is not sufficient. I am sure that the Minister again would agree with this proposition. We should compare the situation of the general hospitals with other areas where the Government accepts that it ‘has a major community responsibility and I should like to see the situation where government of one sort takes a greater degree of responsibility for nursing home care.
I have long held the view that local government would be very suited to this area. Facilities are already available in the Aged Persons Homes Act for local government to set up its own nursing homes. Local government does not have to build new homes. It can buy from existing proprietors. I have communicated on some occasions with the local government councils in my own electorate but, unfortunately, I have not yet been successful in persuading them to take up this area of responsibility. However, I hope the time will come when they do so. I should like local governments in Australia to think about establishing their own nursing homes next time plans are presented for their approval for the construction of private nursing homes. I should like the councillors to think: ‘Why do we not do this ourselves and provide some good amenity at a lower cost to our own ratepayers?’ Apart from that, after the introduction of this scheme I should like the Australian Government to take an active role in financing and even, if necessary, administering nursing homes. In the past this has been left too much to private enterprise. Quite frankly, I do not believe, although acknowledging that we do have a mixed economy of Government and private enterprise, that the area of health - perhaps like defence - is one that should be managed by private enterprise. It is a responsibility which should be accepted by the community at large. I have much pleasure in supporting the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– The Opposition is completely justified in continuing its opposition to this particular proposal because of the principles involved and, more importantly, because of the developments that have taken place since this debate started about 12 months ago. Uncertainties and contradictions have developed in relation to the scheme as Ministers have tried to explain it and have kept changing their mind. The Government has attempted to deliberately deceive the Australian public. Why has it entered into these deceptions and contradictions? It has done so for one of 2 reasons - either to hide the real intention of socialising Australia’s health care system or possibly - equally correctly - because it is an unworkable scheme and it has to be continually modified.
It is immaterial which one of those 2 reasons one accepts because I think they are both partially true. The result will be the same. Australia’s health care system will be thrown into confusion and the health of Australians will be jeopardised if the Government continues its headlong rush towards implementation of the health scheme. Some Labor Party members earlier spoke of a mandate for this particular scheme. The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) effectively blew that claim when he said nobody could talk about a mandate because the majority of Australians really did not understand the scheme. In spite of several years of active promotion of this scheme by its supporters and by members of the Labor Party, there is no mandate for it anywhere in Australia.
The majority of Australians are opposed to this scheme. Gallup poll figures show that 56 per cent of Australians are opposed to it. The vast majority of those who are in the health care system in Australia are opposed to the scheme and are more firmly opposed to it now than ever before. They are opposed more firmly for very good reasons - because of the Government’s deceptions and because of the uncertainties and contradictions. Honourable members on this side of the House accept that the present scheme is not perfect. But it is by and large acceptable to the great majority of Australians. What is more, it is a sound base for the improvements which the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) has detailed from time to time and which can and should be made. These improvements can be made not on a socialist base but on an acceptable base, fitting in with the philosophy of a free society and a mixed economy. Any changes that take place to the health scheme should be evolutionary and not revolutionary because there are no grounds for revolutionary change to our health care system. The Australian people have never had accurately explained to them what the Government is attempting to foist on them.
– Government supporters themselves do not know.
– I agree that the Government itself does not know. That is why it keeps changing the scheme. The people should know, as a first principle, what the Government is attempting to foist on them. For example, no accurate costing of the scheme has been made. In these days of inflation that is of great importance. The White Paper set out certain figures. If one added up certain other figures that the White Paper left out, one would reach a certain sum. The State Health Ministers disagree with that figure. Phillip Shrapnel, an independent organisation, states that the Government’s figures were under-estimated by about $400m. No honourable member on the other side of the House has been able to refute that claim. In fact, I do not think honourable members opposite have tried too hard because they know they cannot do so. What is more, those figures were collated 12 months ago.
– Look at the escalation of costs since then.
– As the honourable member for Barker has said, look at the escalation in health costs. We have had the Health Insurance Levy Bill before us with provision that the levy shall be 1.35 per cent up to a maximum of $150 for the first year. I bet it is one year only before the sky is the limit. When this Bill is debated in the Senate I believe the Senate should refuse to actually engage in debate on it until the Government puts forward accurate estimates of the cost its scheme will entail and until it indicates how much income will be derived from the levy so that the people of Australia can see how much it will cost them as a society. When that is done, the people and this Parliament will have to take into account the other expensive proposals of this Government - education, preschool education, hospital construction, the new compensation scheme-
– Rural subsidies.
– This Government could never be accused of doing anything for the rural area so there is no need to include that in the list for consideration. There is the superannuation scheme, the base rate pension of 25 per cent of average weekly earnings and the continued abolition of the means test. All of these are expensive proposals irrespective of their merits or demerits. All of these expensive proposals come at a time when the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has informed the people of Australia that there will be no tax increases and he is calling for fiscal restraint. Yet all these proposals, together with the one before us, mesh in with those restraining parameters.
If people like to say that the scheme that the Government is proposing will cost less, one has only to look at the United Kingdom where a recent Press headline stated that $800m will have to be put into the United Kingdom national health scheme immediately to avoid its collapse. One also can look at the Australian Capital Territory to see the beginning of the real aim of this Government to socialise medicine in this country. At present there is a crisis situation in the United Kingdom where people are being forced into completely private hospitals from the mixed public and private hospitals that have been known in the United Kingdom and have been known here. It is polarising the community in the United Kingdom and it will polarise the community here. It is polarising the community in New Zealand. One can look at the increased amount of private hospital construction in New Zealand and the United Kingdom to see what is happening. When that does occur in Australia it will mean that a disproportionate share of those who are required to provide the health system - the nurses, the doctors and the other technical experts - will move into that system out of the public system to the detriment of the middle and lower income groups of Australia.
Honourable members opposite are very good at criticising the doctors just as they sometimes say of Opposition members that we neglect to consider unions and members of unions and do not treat them as real people when discussing industrial situations. Honourable members opposite say that that is an ignorant position because the industrial matters have to be considered with the union members and that without their co-operation the system will not work. The Government is neglecting that principle when it is discussing its health scheme. It does not matter what Government supporters say or think of those responsible for the delivery of the system, without their co-operation the health scheme will not work. Do not say that it cannot happen in Australia because it is beginning to happen in the Australian Capital Territory at the present time.
One of the interesting contradictions of many contradictions now apparent in this proposal is to be found in the Australian Capital Territory and that is the question of patient moiety in medical costs. The Minister said that in the Government scheme there will be a Government cover of 85 per cent with a gap of 15 per cent which must be met by contributors in respect of attending general practitioner consultations. The Government is increasingly establishing more health centres in the A.C.T. But it is not establishing those new health centres in areas of need. It is not imposing means test requirements and it is not charging patients any fee. What is the Government’s policy? Is it what the Government is doing in the A.C.T. or what it proposes to do by this legislation which is now before the Committee.
What about optometrists? The legislation before the Committee is in one form. Yet on 6 May the Minister for Social Security announced completely different medical rebate facilities for optometrists. What is the Government’s position there? Which proposal do we apply - what is before us in this legislation or what the Minister said on 6 May. What about the number of additional Bills that are required? In the Minister’s second reading speech last year he mentioned motor vehicle third party and workers compensation. Has the new compensation proposal overridden the earlier proposal? What about the legislation on individuals’ privacy? What about private hospitals? In his second speech yesterday, the Minister stated that private hospitals would continue to maintain their autonomy of operation in relation to such matters as admission, treatment policy and the number of patients admitted. Yet in clause 34 of this Bill the Minister states that once a private hospital agrees to admit public ward or standard ward patients the Minister himself will say how many are to be allowed-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Luchetti)
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. I call the honourable member for Perth.
– May I have the indulgence of the chair and of the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) to point out that the consideration of this Bill at the Committee stage will conclude at 4.10 p.m. If the honourable member for Perth will defer to my friend, the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), the honourable member for Perth may have the 10 minutes available for consideration of the third reading of the Bill. If he takes the call now he will have 3 minutes only available to him.
– Very well.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! I call the honourable member for Murray.
– I thank the Committee. The Bill provides in clause 34 that once a private hospital agrees to admit standard ward patients the Minister will decide how many of those patients will be admitted and what will be paid to that hospital. This makes a complete mockery of what the Minister had to say in his second reading speech yesterday. Which of these 2 versions states the correct position?
What about State-Federal relations and cooperation in this area? I understand that legislation is to be introduced concerning private health funds. What will be the position in Victoria where already extensive legislation covers private health funds? What will be the position of hospitals and health centres in relation to which on the one hand the Minister said that he will co-operate with the States but on the other the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said in his policy speech that his Government would press on with the establishment of community health centres where possible in co-operation with State and local governments? By no means did the Prime Minister restrict his Government to cooperation with the other levels of government or to the communities concerned.
I believe it is time that this Government became honest with the Australian people. If it can, it should tell the Australian people what it really intends to do through its scheme. I doubt that it will be able to do that because of the continuing alterations to that scheme. As a first principle, it should say how much the scheme will cost the Australian people and what it will mean for their health welfare. I believe that until the Government does this all Australians should continue to oppose this scheme as they are not being treated honestly or fairly by this Government. The health care future of all Australians is being placed in jeopardy by this Government.
Before this debate is concluded, will the Minister for Social Security at least indicate for the first time what other legislative measures will be introduced which will be complementary to these 2 Bills concerning health which are being debated today, so that the Australian people and this Parliament may know for the first time what other legislation is proposed. If this is known, we can decide our attitude on those aspects. Until the Minister does that, one can say only that those on this side of the Committee will oppose at every turn possible the passage of this and other legislation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Luchetti)
Order! The time allotted for the Committee stage of the Bill has expired.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr Hayden) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– The former Governor-General, Sir Paul Hasluck, in a very pleasant, if pointed, after dinner speech on Tuesday night, reminisced about what he called honourable members’ annual speeches. Today we heard the annual speech of the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) on this subject. I refer to his speech about the Labor health scheme meaning disaster not only for every man, woman and child in Australia but for generations yet unborn, generations not yet thought of and, one gained the distinct impression, even generations long since perished.
To that the honourable member added his 6-monthly speech on the disgusting use of the guillotine to cut short debate on this vital Bill after only 2 hours discussion.
In response to the 6-monthly speech of the honourable member for Hotham, let me give to him my 6-monthly reply, which goes something like this: I am all for adequate parliamentary debate. The question is: What does the word ‘adequate’ mean in this context? I think that when we talk about adequate parliamentary debate we are talking about discussion sufficient to air the issues, discussion sufficient to clarify any issues which require clarification for the public, and discussion adequate to allow the topic before the House to go into the community as well so that some feedback can come to elected members in this place. I believe in adequate parliamentary discussion in that sense and I think all of us should do everything we can to protect it. But we do not need lengthy discussions and parliamentary debates on this Bill at this time because every one of those preconditions has not only been met but has been met often and repetitiously and, as I think I may have said on previous occasions, even ad nauseam.
This is not a subject which has suddenly been thrown into the Parliament for a quick decision. In every essential detail of principle there is not one thing different in the Bill before the House from the propositions which were first enunciated in great detail by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) - then the Leader of the Opposition - as long ago as 1968. The implementation of the Bill was part of Labor’s election platform in the 1969 Federal election. It was part of Labor’s Federal election platform in 1972. It was introduced into the Par liament in 1973 after the most unusual, almost unique, possibilities for public discussion which came by way of a Green Paper and then a White Paper. The Bill was rejected by the Senate once; it was rejected by the Senate for a second time on the eve of the double dissolution, and in fact the Bill became one of the 6 rejected Bills on which the double dissolution was justified.
The circumstances of that second rejection are not irrelevant to the present debate, and to the continuing questioning by the Opposition as to whether the Government has or has not a mandate to proceed with this legislation and just how extensive, adequate discussion at this stage would have to be.
The national health scheme legislatioin was not introduced into the House of Representatives in April until after rejection of the Supply Bill, which meant that an immediate election had already become almost certain. The Opposition in the Senate then went out of its way to provide a second rejection expeditiously. It is true that for the purposes of a double dissolution the Senate does not have, to reject a second time. It would have been enough to fail to pass the Bill at that stage. Nonetheless an adjournment for so modest a time as a week or even a very minor filibuster leading the Government to adjourn the debate would have left the Governor-General very hard put to determine that there had been a failure to pass, and hence an additional justification for a double dissolution.
What this background adds up to is this: The national health scheme, which embraces the proposed new Labor health program, need not have been a causal factor in the double dissolution and hence it need not have been amenable to passage by way of joint sitting, as is now its inevitable course. That it did become the subject of these provisions can only be seen as a result of an Opposition decision, presumably deliberate, to again make the health scheme a major element in the recent election campaign. So it was. For the third: time, as in 1969 and 1972, this legislation was part of the package which the electorate supported when it returned the Labor Government. In response to the evidence provided by 3 successive elections and after 6 years intensive campaigning on this very subject, all that the Opposition can bring up is continued reference to some gallup poll which shows that a number of Australians - a majority if you like - are not enthusiastic about
Labor’s program. One thing that the Opposition has not done, of course, is to tell us how many people interviewed by the gallup polls were enthusiastic about the Opposition’s alternative health program. That is understandable. No questions were asked about the Opposition’s alternative health program because there is hardly anyone in the country who knows what it is. Yet I do not think that I am misrepresenting members of the Opposition when I say that they themselves concede that important elements of the existing scheme simply have to be changed if the scheme is to continue to operate efficiently and within the capacity of the community to support it.
Again I emphasise that the Bill we are discussing today is not the outcome of some vaguely worded election undertaking to provide a better health scheme, or some other such generality. It is precisely the Bill presented last year and represented earlier this year. It is the Bill which it was understood would again be represented in the event of the return of the Labor Government. In every basic essential, though certainly not in every detail, it conforms with .the statements, the policy declarations and the printed manifestos which have been issued consistently since 1968. I wish that that at last could be absorbed by members of the Opposition because they would then be able to get away from this constant harping about the absence of a mandate and the lack of adequate discussion, and to concentrate on the actual legislation itself.
I deliberately draw a distinction between the basic principles of the Labor program and the details of implementation. In respect of the latter, the Minister in particular has shown a remarkable and responsible degree of flexibility. Reasonable objections to elements of earlier drafts have been considered and amended in later drafts. I would have thought that one such amendment was the amendment relating to the absence of pressure for bulk billing. But the honourable member for Barker fDr ‘Forbes) apparently considers that as an undesirable amendment. Even objections which to my mind were unreasonable have been accommodated by the Minister. I .think that the outstanding example of that was the wholly artificial and cynical attack on the proposed medical cards as a threat to doctor-patient confidentiality. Even those criticisms, cynical as they were, have been accommodated by the Minister on the basis that they had aroused public concern.
– Order! The time allotted for the remaining stages of the Bill has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 10 July (vide page 75), on motion by Mr Hay den:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Health Insurance Bill 1973 is one of the Bills which will have to be passed if the Australian Labor Party’s health scheme is to be implemented. The Government’s health Bills have had a pretty lengthy and sordid history dating back before 1972. The Australian Labor Party made a broadly defined policy statement prior to the 1972 election. After that election the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) decided that a committee should report to the Parliament on how the scheme would be implemented. In a moment of graciousness he decided, six or seven months before the White Paper setting out the Government’s intentions was produced, that discussions could take place on the scheme. This period of time would have been useful had the Minister listened to what was put to him. But what happened was that the Minister regarded people who made observations and assessments to him as being intransigent and obstructionists. What the majority of Australians believe is that the Government has been intransigent about its policy in this area. That is why, despite the comments of the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson), the majority of Australians have been and remain solidly against this scheme.
– That is why we won the election, is it?
– The Opposition’s attitude to this scheme has been consistent and has remained so continuously. We are opposed in principle and in detail to the Labor health scheme. An interjection was just made in regard to the recent election. Of course, this was one of the Bills which was a subject of the double dissolution. Yet the Minister stood up in the House yesterday and said that the people of Australia had endorsed the objectives of such a program at 2 consecutive elections. One would have thought that we would have had enough of this nonsense that the Govern- ment has a mandate for every one of its policies just because it had won the election. What happened at the recent elections was that the Government’s majority in the House of Representatives was virtually halved. What the nation told the Labor Government was to get back and to try and solve inflation. That was the net result of the election held on 18 May 1974. The Government inherited an acceptable rate of inflation of 4.S per cent from the previous Government. This rate rose to about 14 per cent prior to the recent election. It is certain the rate will reach at least 20 per cent during the course of the year if the Labor Party continues to pursue the sort of policies which it is putting forward.
I want to say to the Minister for Social Security as one Queenslander to another that he ought not to be proud of this scheme, particularly as it affects his own State. At the last election 12 of the 18 Labor candidates for House of Representatives seats in Queensland were defeated. If the Minister had not been representing a safe seat he would have been in the same position as his colleagues the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) and the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) who are very lucky to be still members of this Parliament. We now have a situation in which debate has been limited. The fact that this is the new contemporary Parliament that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) wanted does not mean a thing. The Prime Minister does not want lengthy debate on this matter because he does not want to have the deceit of this scheme exposed. The Labor Government is going to bludgeon this legislation through in the hope that it will be dealt with largely unnoticed.
The health of the community is an important responsibility of government. The Australian nation is entitled to a high standard of health. This is a fundamental right of every human being. We ought to achieve a system which will work the most effectively and one which the nation can afford. It should be a scheme which gives us the greatest freedom of choice of doctor, hospital and fund with adequate hospitals throughout the community. We should not be discussing a system which will result in overcrowded public hospitals and which will interfere with private hospitals.
The nub of this whole debate is Labor’s obsession with socialism. Every time there is a problem which confronts the present Government the solution has to be another com mission or another committee. The Labor Party came into government with a health scheme which covered 92 per cent of the community. There was a problem with 8 per cent. The Government did not seek to improve the scheme. It did not even seek to consider improving it. The answer of the socialists had to be ‘Oh, no, let us tear it down’. The scheme gave an opportunity for private initiative. The Labor Government does not want to see private initiative encouraged so its attitude is: Tear it down. Do not worry about the 92 per cent. Tear it down on some pretext in relation to 8 per cent of the population’. Of course as with every growth of bureaucracy, with the heavy hand of socialism, there is increased taxation. Presently the recommended rate is 1.35 per cent. Everybody in this Parliament knows that is only a starting percentage with this Labor Government in office. One would think that the Government would have at least seen the experience in the United Kingdom and would have understood and accepted the problems of the United Kingdom socialist scheme. When the Labor Party came into office there was a health scheme which was successful. It was not perfect; it needed improving. We concede that readily. The Liberal Party in association with the Australian Country Parity set up a committee under the chairmanship of the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). That committee consulted and listened.
– In a closet.
– To the honourable member who interjects I suggest that when you stop squabbling in Caucus you ought to get this document ‘The Way Ahead’. It will be very good reading for honourable members opposite. They will have a better understanding of what this nation needs. We will be happy to supply a number of copies. Not only is this document the product of considerable consultation but also it goes into detail about the problems of the low income earners, the pensioner medical service and the paramedical services concerned with mental health and with all sections of the Australian community, particularly children. The Liberal Party scheme has support. It is important when one is trying to get society to accept something that one has the support of those people involved in it. We have the overwhelming support of doctors and hospitals because the Liberal-Country Party policy was born out of co-operation, not confrontation. There is a massive difference between those two approaches. We want society as a whole to have a very real role to play in health and not some centralised, bureaucratic control in Canberra. We are opposed to this Bill and we will remain opposed to it. On the basis of philosophy we are parties of private enterprise. We want to see private initiative developed. We are opposed to socialism. We want a policy and legislation which is effective and efficient and which gives due concern to the costs of the nation. We reject outright this bid for another bit of nationalisation by the Labor Government. If opposing this scheme to the ninth degree means that we are labelled obstructionist, every member on this side of the House will be very pleased and proud to carry that label. Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr Hayden) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time. Mr HOLTEN (Indi) (4.31)- I reaffirm the opposition which I and members of the Australian Country Party expressed to these health Bills during the debate on them in December last year. Of course the Bills as presented have not changed in substance. They still embrace the socialist principle which is followed by and which is a basic policy of the Labor Government and the Australian Labor Party. The correct definition of this scheme, in short terms, is that it is a political ideology translated into a health scheme. It will destroy private incentive, private endeavour and private initiative. The cost of health care to the taxpayer and to the nation will rise astronomically. This has happened in every other country which has introduced a similar scheme. It is happening in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Canada, New Zealand and every country which has a similar type of health care scheme. It is impossible for members of this House to assess the cost which will accrue to the taxpayers of the nation after the first year of operation of the scheme. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has consistently refused to make available to Parliament an assessment of the cost of the scheme after the first year. The costs he has made available have proved to be inaccurate. They have been questioned by private firms of economists who estimate that the scheme will cost a consider able amount more than the Minister has told Parliament. Even the Minister’s figure was a way above the figure put forward in his initial report. So the Australian nation and the Parliament are in an impossible position. We cannot even discuss how much the cost of the scheme will be.
– It would cost less. The scheme of the Labor Party will also require considerably more skilled professional people such as doctors, nurses and the wide range of people who are associated with health care in this country. These professions are short of numbers already. The proposals before the House will only make the position worse.
They will lower and not increase the standard of hospital and medical care for the majority of Australians. The Bills will create a further huge centralised bureaucracy in Canberra which will be both costly and unwieldy. The Bills will destroy the freedom of choice of doctor by the individual patient. Also, they give no legal guarantees to the States, the hospitals or the patients. Further, the Bills give no legal and definite undertakings as to the source and nature of the overall financial arrangements for the conduct of the hospitals. If the scheme follows the pattern of similar scheme in other countries many people will have to wait for a long period - for weeks - to see their doctors and for up to 4 years for common operations.
Implementation of the Australian Labor Party’s health scheme, two of the Bills for which are before the House, will create great staffing difficulties in country hospitals. People who are very knowledgeable in the field estimate that it could take up to 3 surgeons to do the job that one surgeon is doing at the moment. Of course this will be amplified and multiplied in the general practitioner and other medical fields. Such a situation can mean only greatly increased costs for country hospitals. There is no legal guarantee in the Bills that any patient in any hospital will have a choice of doctor in that hospital, much less the right to have his own private doctor. Private hospitals will lose their identity, particularly in the socio-moral field.
As many other speakers have said, the Government has no mandate whatsoever from the people to introduce these Bills. The latest gallup polls have shown that 56 per cent of the people reject the idea of Labor’s health scheme. Further, this scheme has been condemned by every organisation with any medical knowledge or connection at all, except for a few isolated groups of doctors who have been either brainwashed by the Minister for Social Security or financed or assisted in some way to put out their untrue and lying propaganda. I refer to an advertisement which appeared in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ on 14 May - the Tuesday before the election on 18 May. It also appeared in the Melbourne ‘Sun’. It starts by saying: ‘Over 400 doctors support the Whitlam health scheme’. The advertisement gives their reasons. This sort of propaganda put out to the public is untruthful and lying. Of course the Minister for Social Security supports what these doctors say. He has certainly not denied it. I give him the opportunity of denying the contents of this advertisement which appeared in the newspapers on the Tuesday before the election. It starts off in a misleading way by saying: ‘Poverty-stricken hospitals - serious doctor and nurse shortage - high hospital and medical costs - archaic outpatient departments.’ That may be true in some cases but no one can say that it refers to all those areas in Australia. It goes on to say:
Here are the facts about the Australian Labor Party health scheme: You keep the right to choose your own doctor.
That is a lie.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! I must ask the honourable member to withdraw the word ‘lie’. It is unparliamentary.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I withdraw it in deference to your ruling and say that it is untrue. The next point is:
Everybody, rich or poor, is fully covered for every single aspect of health care.
That is not true. It goes on to say:
The Australian Labor Party scheme has been costed in detail.
What absolute rubbish! I would like the Minister to produce that costing in detail, not just details for the first year but details of what it will cost the taxpayers over the next few years. What is more, once again I challenge him, as many others have done, to reveal the details of his costing. Reputable people have challenged the costing of the scheme as presented to the Parliament and to the public by the Minister. The Minister has never replied to the estimate that has been arrived at by independent sources.
The misleading advertisement goes on to say:
The scheme will introduce a new era of total, family health care - with easier, quicker access to the profession.
We have never had a scheme like this in this country, but anyone who takes the trouble to investigate access to professional health care in countries that have similar Health schemes will find that it is not the case that one has easier and quicker access to the medical profession and, by implication, to health care. As those of us who have looked into the operation of the schemes in other countries know, in many countries there are considerable delays for even the most common operations. The delay is up to 4 years in New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom and other places.
This advertisement, which is authorised by Professor Derek Llewellyn-Jones, is a disgrace to the profession and to the people associated with it. It is impossible to prove whether the Minister for Social Security knew of the advertisement, whether he assisted in drawing it up or assisted in financing it, but it is extraordinary that the contents of the advertisement follow so closely on the statements that the Minister has made constantly over a long period during which he has taken a great deal of trouble, through the mass propaganda means at his disposal, to make untrue and misleading accusations against extremely reputable people in many organisations and professions throughout Australia. I think that the Minister ought to be ashamed of himself for some of the things that he has said about people who have made a wonderful contribution to the medical skills and care of this country. He has consistently denigrated anybody and everybody who dares to oppose his scheme, particularly those in the medical profession.
He has also tried to discredit the present scheme in the eyes of the Australian people by unscrupulous administrative and financial means. In particular he has reduced the government percentage of contribution to the medical benefit funds from about 55 per cent to 47 per cent, which has meant that the contributor to the voluntary health insurance funds has had to be charged more. I think we have had about 3 rises in the premiums that people pay to the medical benefit funds since this Government came into office. I think there were 3 rises in 13 months. Of course the inflationary policies of the Government have contributed to these increases too. Above all, the reduced contribution by the Government in order to discredit the existing scheme has shown that the Government has no principle For the reasons I have outlined and the reasons that other speakers in the Opposition have outlined we in the Opposition maintain strong opposition to this Bill and will continue to d ‘ so until the bitter end.
– in reply - The speech which we have just heard from the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) is such an extensive and breathtaking misrepresentation of what the universal health insurance program is about that, coming from anybody else but him, I would say it would be wilful dishonesty. I do not want to waste time with the dull shadows. I want to move on to some sharper substance. T agree with the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) when he said early in the debate and early in his speech that this is an historic occasion for this Parliament. That is indeed true. But I would suggest that it is an historic occasion for reasons completely different from that which he put forward, namely, the possible joint sitting of the Parliament. Rather the historic significance on this occasion arises from one single fact. We are now taking the closing steps towards establishing a universal health insurance program in this country. Of that there is no doubt.
By about the middle of next year Australia will have finished with the so-called voluntary health insurance scheme, with all the inequities, all the injustices, all of the waste and all of the extensive public dissatisfaction for which it has been responsible. We will have instead a universal health insurance scheme which covers everyone in the community, a scheme which gives some meaning to the loose talk of freedoms, we hear from honourable members on the other side of the House. Under this scheme there will be freedom for all, including those among that minority of 13 per cent of the community who do not have health insurance cover. More than 1 million people are without health insurance cover because of the expense and the difficulties attendant on the present scheme of so-called private voluntary health insurance. Complete freedom will be guaranteed for people to choose the doctor that they want to treat them. There is no change in that. They can sack a doctor whenever it pleases them, and the doctor can advise patients, for whatever reason he feels is necessary and consistent with his ethical position, that he does not care to treat them or wishes them to go to another doctor - perhaps he is overloaded with his list of patients. But the fact is that complete freedoms are guaranteed in this scheme. Doctors will not have to worry about whether people can afford medical treatment. They will know that it is an automatic right that everyone will be covered.
Doctors in this country, within a relatively short period after the introduction of this scheme, will be saying the same things as Canadian doctors said to me when I was in Canada in February this year. They said that they did not understand why they could have ever opposed the introduction of a universal health insurance scheme there. In fact, an official of the Ontario Medical Association told me that if anyone were to try to reverse the situation back to what existed before the introduction of universal health insurance, back to a system similar to the one operating in Australia, there would be a civil riot. I use a bit of hyperbole to make a point. The significance is that the medical profession in Canada supports a system of universal health insurance, as do not only Liberal governments and Liberal oppositions at the national an’l provincial levels but also the conservative oppositions and conservative governments at the national and provincial levels.
For a change hospitals will have a guarantee of income coming in to cover their operating costs. We will meet 50 per cent of the net operating costs of public hospitals in this community. That is a major breakthrough for public hospitals. Public hospitals conducted by State authorities cannot operate much longer, such is the situation with the financial difficulties they face at the present time. The proportion of the total cost of operations which public hospitals have to meet has escalated enormously in the past decade and, additionally, has escalated significantly in the past few years. Of course, this is fairly consistent with the pattern of the advanced Western economies of the world. Health costs are exploding. New ways have to be developed to finance these systems.
– The time allotted for the remaining stages of the Bill has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 10 July (vide page 78), on motion by Mr Connor:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition parties once again oppose this legislation. They consider that this is a monstrous piece of legislation; that it has been badly conceived and poorly drawn up, that it gives unfettered, enormous power to an authority, a Minister and a government over which Parliament has little scrutiny; that it conflicts with many of the sovereign rights of the States in the handling of mineral affairs; that it gives to the authority and the Minister enormous power to acquire mineral projects in Australia; and that it gives the authority unlimited advantages which discriminate very severely against private mining operations in this country. These are some of the reasons why the Opposition has felt so strongly about the Bill.
The Opposition believes that if the Government attempts to pass this legislation through Parliament by the joint sitting process it could be acting illegally and contrary to the provisions of the Constitution. One strong view is that under section 57 of the Constitution an interval of 3 months must elapse between the initial rejection by the Senate and resubmittal by the House of Representatives before the Bill is eligible to form the basis for a double dissolution. This criterion was not met, and the issue will probably be tested in the High Court of Australia. The Bill also infringes on many areas of State responsibility. So it appears that even should the double dissolution criterion be accepted by the High Court it is inevitable that there will be a series of challenges by State governments as to the authority which is being taken by the Commonwealth.
This Bill is an important one and one that achieved some prominence during the recent election campaign. The question of mandate is closely associated with this Bill. It is a principle of logic that a narrow victory by the Government did not represent a complete endorsement by the people of the legislative program of the Australian Labor Party but rather represented a marginal result of a closely balanced election revolving around inflation. The Government has a mandate to administer this nation and to propose legislation to Parliament. The Opposition has a mandate to scrutinise that legislation closely and to exercise our individual and collective judgment. This we have done.
The Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill is basically concerned with 2 general functions. Firstly, the Authority is to act as a vertically integrated company in the area of minerals and energy with a nationally prominent position and a privileged role. Secondly, under the provisions of clause 8 of the Bill it is also to be a regulatory and advisory authority on the availability and usage of minerals and energy resources, as well as performing the role of providing financial assistance to other organisations. In relation to the first function, it is given a wide-ranging scope both in Australia and overseas not only to explore and to recover mineral and energy resources but also to trade in them, to transport them, to process them and to market them.
There are numerous detailed objections that can be raised in regard to the powers of the proposed authority. It is allowed or given the potential to exercise almost unfettered authority in its area of policy. Under clause 12 (m) it is empowered to take over our existing enterprises on such terms and conditions as the Authority deems fit. The safeguards are not there, except the ultimate constitutional guarantee of ‘just terms’. Under clauses 43 to 50 an act of gazettal and a ratification by a Justice of the Peace suffice to enable the Authority to explore for and to recover petroleum from a declared area. Compensation is payable in the form of royalties to the owner and it is by no means clear whether this would constitute total compensation. In assessing compensation the court would take into account work done in the area by the Authority. State rights are over-ridden to a very broad extent. Protection which State laws give to prospectors and those holding miners’ leases, as well as protection to property owners against damage by intrusion by prospectors or mining operations, is unclear, when this Authority is to enter into these areas of activity. Initial capital for the Authority is appropriated interest free, without apparent limit, and repayment of capital is quite indefinite. Working capital is also partially, or perhaps mainly, derived from similar appropriations of such amounts and on such terms and conditions as the Treasurer deems fit.
Under clause 15 of the Bill the Minister may give directions to the Authority, and while the Authority shall comply with those directions any losses it suffers as a consequence will be reimbursed by the Government. Such objections as these are important. I have spelled out only the major ones briefly because they have been well canvassed on previous occasions when I have spoken on this legislation. On those occasions I have highlighted many of the great weaknesses that are obvious in this Bill which was so rapidly conceived, without real advice and without any consultation with the industry or with State governments
The more important principle is whether such an authority is justified in concept under Australian circumstances. What has been the background to the Government’s efforts to have this legislation enacted? The background has been one of malicious and vicious attacks on the mining industry by this Minister and by the Government as a whole. We have seen virtually non-stop attacks on the industry by various members of the Government. We saw the famous Fitzgerald report which presented a distorted picture of the industry’s place in the Australian economy and which chose to ignore a large number of facts which would have presented a true picture.
I deplore the Government’s dishonesty and intemperate attacks on the mining industry and on overseas investment. What has been the result so far as the vendetta being waged by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) and by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam)? Take the oil industry. In 1969 263 wells were drilled in Australia; in 1974 90 wells will be drilled. Drilling equipment and expert and experienced personnel are leaving the country to go to places where they are made welcome and where they are not harassed and abused and denigrated by a stupid government. The oil search effort in Australia, in the middle of a world energy crisis, is being cut to ribbons by the blundering attitudes of the Minister and the Prime Minister. This Bill has frightened the life out of the mining and oil companies. If we did not want strong mining and oil industries, that would be all right; but we do want them. We need them desperately, and we particularly need oil. Without massive spending on exploration, our present ‘ 0 per cent self-sufficiency will, in a few years, be down to a low level, we will be paying fantastic prices for imported oil and we will be at the mercy of overseas oil companies and the Middle East countries.
The mining industry and the oil industry are of tremendous importance to Australia. They have served Australia and the Australian people well. They are the basis of decentralised development in many remote areas of Australia. They give employment to thousands of people. They make an enormous contribution to our prosperity and to the balancing of our economy. It’s time emotional nationalism that ignores Australia’s real interests was dropped in the name of sensible, sane- and good government. It’s time we stopped destroying our nation’s reputation as a stable, hospitable environment for investment and development that are good for us. It’s time we stopped driving our geologists and our expert explorers overseas. It’s time we stopped destroying the will of Australian people to invest voluntarily in high risk mining and energy ventures. It’s time we had a government that understands the value of these industries - industries that will work with us and not against us. It’s time we had a government that put the interests of the Australian people first, instead of indulging in shabby, unworthy, political hate-mongering against this particular industry. It’s time we got away from the attitude of the 1920s and moved into the latter part of the twentieth century - a time when energy resources, particularly oil, will be vital to the future wellbeing and living standards of the Australian people. 1 have noted before that the proposed Authority has a regulatory and advisory capacity distinct from its actual involvement in competition with the industry. Tn the findings of the report of the Senate Select Committee on Off-Shore Petroleum Resources, which was presented in December 1971, is the recommendation that an advisory authority should be established with Commonwealth and State representation. The Committee said:
The Committee believes that some form of federal control of a resource as important to Australia as petroleum, both economically and for defence purposes, is desirable.
The Committee also believes that the utilisation of this resource should be considered not as an individual resource, but as part of Australia’s total fuel and energy resources.
For these reasons the Committee believes that an advisory authority should be established with Commonwealth and State representation which would be empowered to make a comprehensive continuing survey of Australia’s fuel and energy needs and tender advice to Commonwealth and State governments on all matters relevant to the use and production of fuel and energy.
Such a body could also recommend methods of transportation for petroleum. When necessary it should be capable of arbitrating in disputes over the transmission interstate of petroleum products and could also have other regulatory powers. The evidence would suggest that regulatory and advisory responsibilities of an authority in the field of interstate trade could include -
These are the recommendations of the Senate Committee -
In evidence to the Committee Professor Richardson considered that the interstate commission would be an appropriate body to carry out such function and visualised an even wider charter for the body. The Opposition believes that the establishment of such a commission is worthy of serious consideration. Since the Governor-General in his speech referred to legislation to establish an interstate commission the Opposition asks the Government to clarify the relationship between the commission and bodies such as the Pipeline Authority.
From recent evidence it appears that the Pipeline Authority may be assuming the role of common carrier. There is a need for a national direction over a pipeline grid in the sense of regulatory control, but there is no need for the Commonwealth to own the pipeline and for it to acquire the gas it transmits. If the Pipeline Authority is to become simply a common carrier and not to exercise its acquisition powers effectively we should be told so. It would seem more sensible for one commission to exercise power over all aspects of industry including pipeline construction than for a multitude of authorities to exercise particular functions, as exists at the moment and as would exist in the future if this additional piece of legislation is accepted. In summary, the concept of a central authority with broad regulatory and advisory functions is one that we do not dismiss, but it is not a compatible function with associated powers of competition, particularly discriminatory competition, in the industry.
The Commonwealth Government, under the Seas and Submerged Lands Act 1973, claims sovereignty over offshore areas, although is subject to challenge by some States in the
High Court. The Commonwealth is now attempting to reinforce its claim with associated authority over minerals in the offshore areas. If the Commonwealth position is upheld, it would be able to recover royalties independently of the States and to become the designated authority in terms of lease allocation. At present, in Bass Strait for example, under the 1967 legislation royalties are split between the Commonwealth and State governments, while offshore lease policy is essentially a matter for the State governments.
There may be a case for revision of offshore lease policy and for a more unified approach to royalty policy. In the United Kingdom, in offshore United States of America and in Alaska the designated authority grants non-exclusive exploration licences which permit companies to undertake, geophysical analyses. Armed with this information companies then submit sealed bids in competition with other companies for the right to drill and develop. Strict conditions are imposed in terms of individual acreage and work commitments. The bidding is a competitive affair related to the total value of the estimated reserves, future trends in the market, capacity of the bidders and the expected rate of profitability.
There are some disadvantages in applying this system to Australia, such as the lack of geological knowledge, but it is a lucrative source of revenue as has been proved in the North Sea, offshore areas of the United States of America and Alaska and in western Africa. Consideration of offshore policy raises the question of the small Australian company which would tend to be disadvantaged by such a system. The problem of a small Australian mineral company is one that should be urgently and sympathetically looked at. Not generally appreciated, certainly not by the Minister for Minerals and Energy, is the extent to which present economic circumstances are disadvantaging Australian operators. The Sydney Stock Exchange market capitalisation of oil stocks has fallen from nearly $600m in early 1973 to a catastrophic level of $230m at the end of last month. The total mining excluding the oil group, during the same period has fallen from $5,000m to $3,400man enormous drop. This makes the raising of new issues and even debenture raising extraordinarily difficult and is associated with restrictions on capital inflow which have been recently only marginally lifted, and a severe credit situation.
So, for the Australian company trying to buy into an overseas owned operation or to muster money for oil exploration and mining prospecting and development, the situation at the moment is extraordinarily difficult, if not gloomy. In short, the present situation is advantaging large foreign owned multi-national corporations to the. disadavtnage of small Australian owned companies. One major stated justification for this legislation is the necessity to maintain and, if possible, increase the present degree of Australian equity in the industry. On a careful study of the available evidence the main conclusion to be drawn is that during the middle 1960s the percentage of overseas ownership and control of the mining industry, as carefully denned, increased.
Talcing a broader definition of the scope of the industry, later calculations by the Bureau of Mineral Resources would suggest that at least two-thirds of the minerals industry in terms of value of output is owned by Australian interests and that this is probably an underestimation of the situation. Of course, the position varies considerably between individual commodiies. The Minister has indicated recently that in the allocation of future offshore leases he would insist on a major Australian equity. The United Kingdom Government has gone through much the same soul-searching in the North Sea area where it is tending toward insistence upon a 51% share in new leases on the Norwegian pattern. The industry there has advanced a counter proposal, suggesting a special profits tax of 80 per cent.
In broad terms the choice is between government participation through adequate revenue collection or through direct ownership. More particularly, if ownership is sought is it to be government ownership or public ownership? This whole issue deserves close consideration but we believe that the benefits of ownership in areas under Australian government jurisdiction can be achieved by insistence upon a satisfactory government take as well as by a quality of control that matches the expertise of international operators in this area.
We believe that majority Australian participation is a worthy objective but in association with a sensible taxation policy such participation must be administered very flexibly. Today the Industries Assistance Commission’s report on the Australian motor vehicle industry was presented to the Parliament. Whilst I have had only an hour or so to look at this very extensive report, I have found that it deals in one section with Australian participation and equity, The Commission made a 2-page comment on the subject Which I would like to read. It is strange that if one reads this report, bearing in mind the principles enunciated by this government Commission on equity and Australian ownership, and replaces the words ‘motor industry’ by the words ‘mining industry’, it lays down a very sound policy which is rational and sensible and one I hope the Governmen will enunciate. I hope those who read the comments later might visualise the words ‘mining industry’ wherever the words ‘motor industry’ occur. On pages 13 and 14 the report states:
The Commission noted that there was considerable Australian participation in the management of the firms within the industry. However, all the vehicle manufacturers and assemblers are wholly owned subsidiaries of major overseas producers with the exception of AMI (50 per cent Australian equity) and Chrysler (3 per cent Australian equity). The component manufacturing sector has a much higher degree of Australian ownership.
Proposals to increase Australian ownership usually flow from a desire for greater control of an industry to ensure that its operations are in accord with the interests of the local economy. However, it is open to question whether increased ownership is the best means of obtaining control of firms in the industry or even whether a locally owned firm’s actions would be necessarily more in accord with the interests of the local economy than those of a multi-national firm.
In the motor vehicle manufacturing industry, a high degree of control will usually only be obtained when more than 50 per cent of the total equity is held locally since there would be only one other shareholder, the overseas parent company. Some influence on the policy of the firm might be achieved by a minority Australian holding accompanied by n seat on the Board of Directors but this would not meet the objective of control.
An alternative method to increase local equity in the motor vehicle industry would be for local capital to establish a new firm which would compete with the existing multi-national firms operating in the industry. The problems involved in following this alternative would be formidable. The firm would have to establish the skills required, acquire the technology and undertake a large capital outlay. There could be little expectation that the venture would give an adequate return for many years, if ever.
So the return from a government’s becoming involved in the motor vehicle industry, as far as the Industries Assistance Commission is concerned, would be most unrewarding. The report continues:
A policy of obtaining control by increasing Australian equity in one or more of the major vehicle manufacturing firms would be a costly undertaking. Government policy can ensure that the firms in the industry adopt policies which conform with broad economic and social objectives of the Government at a lower cost by legislation in areas such as taxation, environmental and safety standards, and restrictive trade practices. Such legislation should, and in some cases already does, set standards with regard to the conduct of not only the multi-national firms but of all firms within the industry.
This basically says, and the principles apply to the motor industry, to the mining industry or to any other industry-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! The time allotted for the second reading stage of the Bill has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– The speech we have just heard by the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony)-
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman. I seek your guidance. I think it is traditional that the Opposition spokesman always gets first call from the Chair. In a debate as limited as this I think it only fair that the Opposition spokesman should have the call first. As the debate has been limited to only half an hour it is only fair that a spokesman from the Opposition be given first call. Not to do this is a complete break from precedent.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Luchetti) - That is not so. It is quite proper for the chair to see either side and in this particular case I saw the honourable member for Blaxland.
– You are one-eyed.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party will withdraw that remark.
– I am not the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - I am glad that that has been corrected. The honourable member will withdraw that remark.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, in deference to the Chair. I withdraw the remark.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I call the honourable member for Blaxland.
– The speech we have just heard by the Leader of the Australian Country Party is the type of speech I would expect from him as an apologist for foreign owned interests in this country. It is similar to the speeches that were made in this place 50 years ago by the likes of his predecessor Sir Earle Page and Stanley Melbourne Bruce when they were defending importing interests against fledgling secondary industries in Australia. Now we have the same argument again on the basis of whether we ought to have Australian ownership and control of our extractive industries or whether we should have predominant foreign control of our extractive industries. From the way that the Leader of the Country Party speaks, it is clear that he presumes that it is unheard of for any government corporation to be active in the fields of minerals and energy. He seems to forget a few notable examples, not the least being the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Ltd which a Labor Government set up and which, 32 years later in 1952, a government of his ilk disbanded. Who knows, had it not been disbanded then the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Ltd may have had a premier role in all oil and hydrocarbon exploration and production in this country. But it was abandoned. Similarly, the Bureau of Mineral Resources was drilling for oil in the 1950s and the rigs were sold to Wapet, which found oil in 1954.
This is another example of the attitude of the Liberal and Country Parties to any government initiatives in the field of energy. One can go to any number of overseas countries for similar examples. Italy has the famous Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi Organisation which searches for all hydrocarbons and minerals, not only in Europe but also throughout the world. It markets its fuel under the organisation known as AGIP. Britain has the British Petroleum organisation which has a majority ownership by the British Government. It also searches and mines for minerals and hydrocarbons and markets them. France, Norway, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, South America, Iran, Iraq, Japan, New Zealand and many other countries have government owned corporations in the energy field.
Yet the Liberal and Country Parties want to deny us as Australians the right to have a similar corporation operating in Australia’s interests. To illustrate exactly how far out of step the Leader of the Country Party is with the more progressive conservative interests in Australia I should like to remind the Committee of a quote from a speech by the Victorian Premier, Mr Hamer, which the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) gave yesterday. Speaking to a group in London last Thursday Mr Hamer said that he did not think we would ever see the day again when there is foreign investment in any part of Australia on an unrestricted basis. To make the Leader of the Country Party squirm even further, he said:
As far as the Federal Government is concerned, they have indicated that their policy in the energy field is 100 per cent Australian ownership. That indicates it is unlikely they would permit the importation of foreign capital to exploit energy resources anywhere in Australia. That’s that. We would not want it any different either.
They are the words of the Victorian Liberal Premier. How out of step is the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) with his Victorian colleague. How much does this illustrate the complete lackey attitude of the Leader of the Country Party and that lobby organisation, the Australian Country Party, to the foreign-owned companies operating in Australia? When the Leader of the Country Party took this issue, along with other issues, to the Australian people at the last election, the Australian people judged him to be what he was and what is Party is - an apologist for foreign-owned mining companies. So he now takes the other tack in this House. Today he is all sweet reason, and gives us examples of the Norwegian model in the North Sea exploration off the coast of Britain. But he talks about leases for exploration areas. I remind the Leader of the Country Party that we had what he called a graticular system in Australia where an area was subdivided into 9 equal parts and private companies had the right to explore 5 of the parts. The other 4 parts reverted to the Government. Yet that system, where there could have been bidding for the 5 portions which were to go to private enterprise, was tipped over by the administration of which he was a Minister and in which he had a dominant influence. It was tipped over for a miserable 1 i per cent royalty across the board. So sweet reason does not hold up after any scrutiny of the record of the lousy administration of the Liberal and Country Parties when they were in office.
Wherever honourable members may look there is no record of achievement on the part of the Liberal Party or the Country Party in the field of minerals and energy, other than on behalf of foreign mining corporations. The Leader of the Country Party described this legislation as a naked socialist instrument. Rather, it is a statutory corporation able to operate independently by itself or in joint ventures or partnership with appropriate commercial interests. Present world economy distortion will flow from the over-dependence of some of the world’s largest industrial nations on imported crude oil from the OPEC countries whose trade surplus could increase from $US7 billion to SUS65 billion from higher crude oil prices. (Quorum formed). The calling of a quorum is a device employed by the Country Party to stop me speaking or so that I will run out of time. Members of the Country Party cannot bear to hear any cogent arguments against their own faulty position. What has the Opposition ever done? It has obstructed every sensible move that this Government has made to give Australia control over its petroleum exploration and its production. It has opposed the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill whenever it has been presented to this House. It has said that the Government of Australia has no right to legislate in relation to the off-shore areas of Australia. The Opposition wants to see that power reside with the States so that corrupt city-State governments like the Queensland Government can let the contracts to private companies.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Luchetti) - Order! The time allotted for the Committee stage has expired.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr Connor) proposed: That the Bill be now read a third time.
– Although this Bill has been before the House on two previous occasions it has never been debated. The Committee stages have never been held and so the details of this Bill have never been examined by this House at any time. I believe that this is deliberate on the part of the Government. I believe thai the Government is trying to prevent debate upon the details of this Bill. It has done so by the use of the guillotine. The Government’s use of the guillotine is entirely beyond precedent. I refer to May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’, page 445 which states:
An allocation of Time
Which is the guillotine - … is not usually moved until after the second reading of a bill, and often not until the rate of progress in committee has provided an argument for its necessity.
That is the practice but this Government has brought down a guillotine preventing any discussion during the Committee stages of this Bill. We have never looked at the Bills. We have never been allowed to look at them. It is a most appalling situation. I shall not go into all the details of this Bill. It will not be possible for me to do so. I want to refer to only a few of the clauses including the financial clauses - clauses 32 and 33 - which seem to give to the Minister an almost unlimited financial power. But I want particularly to refer to clauses IS, SO and 30. Clause IS states:
The Authority shall comply with the directions (if any) of the Minister in relation to the performance of a function or the exercise of power by the Authority under this Act.
The Authority is a sham. It does what the Minister tells it to do. This is almost without precedent. The Authority is able to enter on to anybody’s land. It can do this under clause SO by obtaining a simple authorisation from any justice of the peace. Any justice of the peace may give the authorisation to do so. Does the public think that there is no compliant or corrupt justice of the peace who the Government could select from among the many thousands in Australia? There is no right of appeal against such an authorisation. This is something we would have been able to examine and expose in the Committee stages of the debate but we have never had a chance to do so because the Government has gagged and guillotined debate. This is a most scandalous practice in regard to this Bill. But the worst of it is what the Authority can do when it gets a warrant from a single justice of the peace, without appeal, and can go on to anybody’s land. What the Authority can do is set out in clause 1 4 of the Bill, the Authority may, for the purposes of this Act -
That is, the Authority may:
manufacture and work materials of any kind. Let me read on. That clause provides further:
That is, the owner: . . . shall not, without reasonable excuse, obstruct or hinder the exercise of the powers or rights of the Authority under this section.
This provision does not just apply to the land of big companies; this is not a Bill just about big companies. This is >a Bill which gives to the Minister for Minerals and. Energy the power to issue instructions to his Authority, if he can find among the many thousands of Justices of the Peace in Australia just one complacent or compliant or corrupt, to go on to anybody’s land, to destroy anything. These are matters inherent in the details of the Bill and we have never been allowed to discuss the Bill.
This is the really apalling aspect about this Bill. I have mentioned one or two matters of detail but there are many other details which should have been examined. The Parliament exists so that honourable members can look at the details of the Bills which are passed and which affect the lives and liberties of Australian people. The Government has consistently violated every canon of parliamentary decency by preventing discussion of the details of these Bills. I repeat that when these Bills have been before this House honourable members have never had an opportunity of examining the details of the Bills in Committee. There has been no debate upon them. I believe that this is part of a plan. I believe that this has not happened by chance, that the Government is concealing its real purposes here as elsewhere. The Government is accumulating in its hands all sorts of dictatorial powers which maybe it has not used as yet, but which it is holding in reserve to use against the Australian people under the form of semblance of law.
This is a Bill which the Government has told the House it will try to put through a joint sitting where the Government will have the numbers. Maybe the Government will be able to do that. I do not know whether the constitutional forms have in this case been properly observed. But if it does that - if it is able to do it - let the people know that they are suffering under a law which this Parliament has never examined in detail and never debated in detail. There are in this Bill all sorts of provisions of the kind that I have mentioned. If we had been allowed to debate and examine the 54 clauses of the Bill on an earlier occasion I imagine that there would have been some 20 or 30 matters which the Opposition would have brought to the attention of the Parliament and about which the Opposition might have been able to inform the Australian people before they voted at the last election.
– We have not looked at one of them.
– My honourable friend reminds me that we have not looked at one of these matters. We have not been allowed to look at them. We know about them, sure. We have been trying to debate them. But the Government, using its numbers, using the deceit which it has practised on the Australian people, is trying to put through Bills whose effect is unknown.
– Order! Th: time allotted for the remaining stages of the Bill has expired -
– Well, this is simply an example of what is going on under this corrupt Government.
– Order! The question now is: That the Bill be now read a third time.
Question put -
The House divided
– Mr G. G. D. Scholes
Ayes 61 Noes 53
Majority . .
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
The reason for moving this motion is the crying need for the Government to make a single clear statement to the House and, through this forum of the Parliament, to the Australian people on the Government’s analysis of the state of the economy and on its policy to correct the critical situation. During question time this week the Opposition has continually sought clarification from the Government as to just what its economic policy is. We have sought to obtain from Ministers reconciliation of contradictory statements made about the economy between them as Ministers and between them and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam).
No person can be ignorant of the confusion and worry in the community directly resulting from the Government’s failure to spell out a comprehensive policy. Nobody can deny the need for the Prime Minister to reject statements which are contradictory to Government policy for the maintenance of economic management in this country. The editorial of the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 8 July 1974 stated:
What the Labor Cabinet urgently needs to do is to draw up a white paper on Australia’s inflation problem, which also spells out just what it intends to do about it.
The lack of agreement between Ministers is both obvious and astounding. It would be laughable, if it were not for the tragic implications for this country of the Government’s failure to give leadership with a sound economic policy. The Opposition parties have made constructive proposals. Nowhere has the Government set out in a speech or published paper just what the Government’s policy is. It is totally impossible for any person in the community, no matter whether he is an ordinary citizen, a commentator, a member of this Parliament, a member of the Government or a member of the Government parties, to go to any document or any group of documents and say: ‘This document or this group of documents represents an analysis by the Government of the present economic crisis and the policy proposals which the Government will put into operation in order to cure the ills which we are now living through*.
It is a disgraceful situation when a government is so incompetent that it cannot even state its intentions. If those intentions were stated the Australian people would be able to see the purpose of the Government. They would be able to know what the future holds for them and the way in which they could co-operate with the Government in order to achieve a correction to an extremely bad situation. The people have a right to know. Nobody can deny that the people do have a right to know. But they are unable to know because a statement has not been made.
Surely the situation has got to a critical stage when a senior Minister, the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), who is fourth in the order of precedence in the Labor Government, can tell a meeting of his colleagues that the Labor Party is ‘presiding over the destruction of the Australian economy’. Questioned about the statement this morning both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Social Security failed to confirm or deny the statement. The Minister came to the table quite clearly able to deny the statement if it were untrue. But he failed to do so and returned to his seat. The clear consequence of what is that the Australian people must accept it as true and as stated until it is denied. Until it is denied we have on record the statement by the fourth senior Minister of the Labor Government that the Labor Government is presiding over the destruction of the Australian economy.
– I rise on a point of order. I had intended to wait until the end of the Leader of the Opposition’s speech to make this comment. However, 1 point out that the report in the paper is not accurate and obviously it is misleading. I hope that the Leader of the Opposition desists from this misrepresentation.
– There is no point of order.
– I am glad that the Minister for Social Security did not have that statement left on the record if it is not true. if it were true it is the most despictable thing a Minister could say about his Government. One wonders why he left it until now, at 5.55 p.m., to deny the report which appeared in the Press this morning. Why did he not take the first opportunity - that is in the House today - to state that it was false.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Acting Speaker. There is a very simple explanation. The Acting Speaker who is now in the Chair would not allow me to explain this morning.
– The Minister for Social Security still has not stated that the report was false. He said that it was wrong. Was it false?
– I raise a point of order.
– Order! All honourable members will resume their seats. The
Minister for Social Security will not address the House until I call him. When all honourable members are silent I shall call the Minister on the point of order he is taking but not before. I call the Minister.
– I have already indicated that it was not an accurate report. It was misleading and obviously it has misled the Leader of the Opposition. He is supposed to be moving a motion on the economy and he is debating why he was wrong.
– The Minister for Social Security should not take that type of point of order again.
– This is just playing with words. That is what the Government is doing constantly. What we are asking for and what the Australian people are entitled to have is a clear statement of Government policy. They should not have to rely on piecemeal reports, partial withdrawals and statements which misrepresent. What we want is a clear statement of Government policy. While there are no statements of Government policy we must plainly assume that the Government does not know what it is doing, that it is as confused as the public is as to what its course of action should be. The people of Australia are entitled to a clear statement. While no clear statement is made the Government and the Leader of the Government, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), are clearly abdicating their responsibilities to the Australian people. While they continue to leave the matter unstated there is confusion and uncertainty in the economy which is making the present critical position worse.
As the economy deteriorates there is only one area to which people should look to place the blame fairly and squarely and that is to the Government. We have made it clear that we will co-operate with the Government in tackling this national problem. But we cannot be asked to co-operate until the Government states its attitude. How is it going to handle the matter? How can anybody in the community be asked to co-operate while there is this abysmal abandonment of responsibility by the Government and an abdication of any sense of responsibility to the Australian people. The people and the nation deserve to be told what the Government believes is in store. The people and the nation will respond if asked to do so by the Government. All they need is for the vacuum to be filled. That is why I moved the suspension of Standing Orders so that the vacuum can be filled and a positive program for economic management can be put down by the Opposition, which is what the Government refuses to do. For those reasons I have moved the suspension of Standing Orders.
– Is the motion seconded?
– Yes, I second the motion. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) today has taken the unusual course of seeking the suspension of Standing Orders because during the election campaign the Leader of the Opposition made inflation and the economy an issue. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) did not want to respond to such an issue. He was like an ostrich with his head in the sand until some, of his Press cronies warned him that the people of Australia were concerned about the economy. Finally, the Prime Minister came out and made several statements on inflation about which the people of Australia were concerned. On 27 April the Prime Minister stated:
We are winning the battle against prices. Our policies for cheaper imports-
– I raise a point of order. Is the honourable member for Gippsland addressing himself to the reasons for the suspension of Standing Orders or to the debate which he wishes to initiate if the motion is carried?
– I think that most probably the honourable member is a little wide of the mark. But in view of the motion it is pretty hard to be relevant. I suggest that the honourable member refer to the reasons why Standing Orders should be suspended and not to the general character of the other remarks in the motion which are not relevant at this time.
– The tactics which are being adopted are quite clear. It does not worry me. The simple fact is that the Leader of the Opposition made this an issue before the election. The Prime Minister finally took it up as an issue and he claimed that inflation was being reduced. The Government’s action since it came back into power has been one of confusion heaped upon confusion. Since the election all that we have had has been a series of statements from a variety of ragbag Ministers giving their views on the state of the economy. The people of Australia want to know the state of the economy. Is there or is there not inflation? Before the election the Prime Minister claimed that inflation was on the decrease. When the Premiers came to this table in this chamber a few weeks after the election they found out how inflation was on the decrease! They were treated in a frightful manner. I would like to repeat the real words which the Premier of South Australia used as he was circling in an aeroplane over Canberra. But let us look at what is being said by a variety of Ministers. All one has to look at are headlines. When one sees these headlines one can see the concern of the people of Australia. Some of these state:
Crean: squeeze to last a year. Cairns rejects an inflation hardline. Curbs to stay for some time, Crean says. Cairns: time to ease squeeze.
Then we have other great spokesmen of the Australian Labor Party such as the President of the Australian Labor Party and the Premier of South Australia. A headline states:
Dunstan hits out at Labor tariff policy.
Mr Dunstan and Dr J. F. Cairns , what a duo , were together in South Australia. A headline states:
PMs policy wrong: Dunstan.
Then we come to that grey haired old mare, the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) who put in his 2 bits worth. Another headline states:
Whitlam and Cameron clash on employment.
The Prime Minister in one of his more generous moments at dinner where he was sipping orange juice said ‘There will be no unemployment’. Immediately the Minister for Labor and Immigration, who is supposed to be the expert on this matter, was asked a question about the Prime Minister’s statement and he said: ‘I do not agree. There will be severe unemployment’. How can the Australian people ever understand the state of the economy when the Ministers themselves do not know what is going on in the Government and what is Government policy? There are more of these headlines. There is headline after headline. Finally we come to a couple of leading articles. One is in the ‘Australian’ of 3 June. It states:
A little less from Dr Cairns and more from the Prime Minister. 1 think that is a very fitting headline in relation to what has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition. He has sought the suspension of Standing Orders so that the Prime Minister can come in and at least lay down a paper and tell the people of Australia what this matter is all about. I am reminded very much of something I read last year about an article in ‘Time’ magazine. It is still relevant because we still have the same Ministry to which ‘Time’ referred. I shall read one line of the newspaper articles which referred to the comment in Time’. It states:
The members of Australia’s Federal Cabinet were generally an unimpressive group of long-serving party hacks, ‘Time’ magazine said today.
They are long-serving party hacks all right. But it is time they realised that they have a responsibility to the people of Australia. The first part of that responsibility lies in telling the people of Australia the state of the economy. It is time. It is time the Prime Minister came in here and told the truth instead of this House having a mish mash of policies from a ragbag ministry.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Government opposes the motion. This suspension of Standing Orders is another misuse of the procedures of this Parliament, which is becoming a product of the Opposition. Only yesterday one Opposition member took a similar course on a very frivolous matter. Tonight the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has sought to move the suspension of Standing Orders to discuss a matter which it takes about 5 minutes to read. On this side of the Parliament when a Minister seeks leave to make a statement on a matter of this nature he is required, under the procedures and traditions of this House, to give 2 hours notice. The Opposition will not debate a matter unless that is done. But so weak is the argument of the Leader of the Opposition that he seeks, by means of an element of surprise so that no answer can be given, to spring things on the Government.
The resolution is a phoney one. At the last election that collection opposite who sit there and think that they won the election, won 61 seats, and it takes 64 to carry a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. The last time such a motion was moved and we had a vote in this House the Opposition raked up 53 members because the rest of them had gone home to bed. That is the phoney approach of the Leader of the Opposition. He could have discussed this matter yesterday in a motion before the House moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) in regard to the economy. He did not even bother to speak on it. He knows well that this is just a political proposition. Yesterday, on the opening day of Parliament, the Opposition put 25 notices on the notice paper for business to be discussed later. Do honourable members know what priority the Opposition gave to the economy? They gave it number twenty. The honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) gave notice that on general business Thursday No. 20 he would move as follows:
That this House believes the Government has failed the nation in the management of the national economy by failing to control inflation causing loss of public confidence by failing to exhibit concern for the future and causing hardship to many by raising the spectre of widespread unemployment and by denying Australians an equitable share in national economic growth by failing to reform the taxation system.
Do honourable members know when that will be discussed? It will be discussed at about the election after next because there will not be enough general business days to get to it sooner. That is the priority the Opposition gives to the economy at this time.
Everybody knows that the Leader of the Opposition fought the election on the issue of inflation, so he said. But he is still reading his own speeches and thinks he won. That was the issue on which the Opposition fought the election. We are the Government. In the Senate the Opposition has swapped 5 Democratic Labor Party members for one Steel Hall and it still does not think it has lost the election.
Honourable members opposite talk about lack of communication. I remember during the election campaign that the Leader of the Opposition and the Country Party leader got a bit out of focus in regard to communication. The honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), who was the last speaker in this debate, was party to doubling the price of crude oil, which would have increased inflation tremendously and placed an impost on every person throughout the length and breadth of the community. Ever since the Leader of the Australian Country Party said that, he has been running around the country crying for mercy for making, as he said, the silliest statement he has ever made, but the action would have increased inflation tremendously. Honourable members opposite have also spoken about the dangers in the economy and the inflation that goes with it. Most of this started under their disreputable government of this country.
– I take a point of order, Mr Acting Speaker. I hesitate to pull up my friend and colleague, but as a matter of relevancy it might be necessary for him to speak in relation to the suspension of Standing Orders rather than the other farcical matter.
– I point out that I gave the Leader of the Opposition an extreme amount of latitude on this particular question. I think that the Minister is entitled to answer these matters. I ask the Minister to try to be relevant to the motion.
– I thank you, Mr Acting Speaker. The wisdom of your choice is apparent to anybody from that decision. The only thing missing from the resolution moved by the Leader of the Opposition is the umbrella. Everything under the sun is mentioned in it. It even speaks of the Government’s failure to give honourable members time to discuss these matters by the use of the guillotine. The present Leader of the Opposition once put through 19 Bills in 17 hours. Bradman at his best could not have matched that speed at cricket. They even doubled him when they were in office. The most ruthless use of numbers and guillotines in the Parliament occurred when that Leader of the Opposition was Leader of the House for the Government at that time. Honourable members opposite say that they have not had time to discuss these matters. They have had 40 hours in which to discuss the Bills that the Government has put under the guillotine. All they sought to do, because of the money that flowed into the Country Party coffers, was to stop those who now control the minerals resources of this country, and others, from being obliged to allow for more Australian equity in these resources. This is a real cover up in every sense of the word. The Opposition has had ample opportunity to debate these issues.
I will mention another matter. Next week the Address-in-Reply debate will be continued. Why could this brilliant glamour boy who is supposed to lead the Liberal Party not have prepared a decent speech instead of hiding under the pretence of moving the suspension of Standing Orders and spoken in the AddressinReply debate? He knows full well that the scope is there for him to do that. He could have spoken yesterday on a motion, but he did not. He could have asked the Opposition Whip to have brought forward his motion on the economy instead of having it wail for 3 years, as it appears from today’s notice paper will happen. The reformation of honourable members opposite since they changed to that side of the chamber is remarkable. In a way I admire them for this respect they now show for the rights and freedom of the people, for inflation and for those who suffer under it. Fancy honourable members opposite thinking that the Government has done nothing about inflation, when they gave pensioners an increase of 50 cents a week to meet the increased cost of living. The man who has moved this motion - the Treasurer at that time - gave pensioners an increase of 50 cents. He is a man who is greatly concerned about inflation!
– It is a lie.
– Look how disturbed he gets. The man is under great stress. He should not become disturbed. He hands it out, but he does not like taking a bit of it.
– Mr Acting Speaker, I ask whether it is in order for the Minister to lie in the House.
– I suggest that the honourable member show some respect to the House and not deliberately provoke the Chair. That was not a point of order. The honourable member is aware of that, and I ask him to resume his seat.
– Let me summarise the reasons why the Government will not accept this motion. Firstly, there will be ample opportunity to discuss the subject in the Address-in-Reply debate. Secondly, there was ample opportunity for the Leader of the Opposition to speak on this matter yesterday. Thirdly, had honourable members opposite co-operated in respect of the Bills for which endorsement is now being sought in another place they might well have had an opportunity to debate them at great length today. In addition to that, the Government will never accept the fact that the Opposition won the election. If it will not dawn on the Leader of the Opposition that that is the case he can be shown only when he puts up motions like this and they are defeated by the vote of the majority elected by the Australian people. Whatever he says about inflation, whatever he says is wrong with the economy, whatever he says is wrong with respect to Ministers and about other things, let me tell him that the Australian Labor Party was endorsed at the recent election against his leadership.
When he talks about disunity he talks as an expert. Honourable members over there are eating out of each other’s hands - right up to the elbow. Look at the gorillas that sit in that corner waiting to gobble up those over there. They sit side by side now, but what they say about each other I will bet would make a thriller and a best seller. In Western Australia 2 Liberal members replaced 2 Country Party men. The only sad thing about it is that the country went further back.
I condemn this resolution as a phoney one. I say to those who sit opposite: If you persist in the misuse of the Standing Orders as you are doing the Government will be forced to adopt the tactics that you adopted on one occasion, which stopped anybody except Ministers moving the suspension of Standing Orders. The Government does not want to stoop to that, but take the word of one who knows and who has the numbers - if you persist in these frivolous kinds of things you will be in real trouble and you will not be moving the suspension of Standing Orders. I would expect the Leader of the Opposition to set an example and a ‘high standard of parliamentary representation and not to misuse the Standing Orders of this Parliament in order to bring forward phoney resolutions and issues on which he was defeated at the last election. As I look at the honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) I realise that he was right about leadership. He was easily the best of the lot of them. Sitting behind him is another man. Quite frankly, one would not have to be much good to be better.
– Order! The time for debate has expired.
That the motion (Mr Sneddon’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Acting Speaker - Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the negative. Sitting suspended from 6.23 to 8 p.m.
– I move:
The purpose of this motion is to change the times of sitting provided for in the Standing Orders, which at present are 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday and 10.30 a.m. on Thursday. Parliamentarians have many calls on their time, such as committee work, both parliamentary and party, electoral duties, in addition to their being required in the chamber. This motion seeks to set some balance between those calls on the time of honourable members. If carried this motion will have effect until the end of the session or until it is changed by a further motion. The times of sitting may need revision during the Budget session, but for the present, the suggested hours are thought to be the most convenient for honourable members. I hope that the Opposition will agree. I think honourable members opposite will agree that the Standing Orders which were designed for a Parliament of about 75 members present problems in allowing adequate discussion in a Parliament of this size during the limited sitting times. However, I submit this as a proposal to the House for the sittings of the next 3 or 4 weeks, and I hope that it will be agreed to.
– The Opposition does not oppose this motion. However, in not opposing it the Opposition hopes that in the conduct of debates in this chamber members of this Parliament might be given an opportunity to debate legislation rather than having it forced through. In concurring with the Government’s motion, we see it as a means by which the members of the Parliament are given an opportunity to do just that. We on this side of the House strongly object to the tactics which the Government has pursued, even in this, the opening stages of a new Parliament. Regrettably, in the last 2 days we have seen a succession of major Bills presented and forced through the House with minimal opportunity for debate. Indeed, there has been no opportunity even to call for a division on matters on which we feel very strongly. The only reason we have not divided the House is that to have done so would have limited further the opportunities for those few honourable members on this side of the House who wished to express a point of view.
Whilst we agree with the hours of sitting which the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) has now suggested, we would suggest to him that in moving this motion he has a responsibility to ensure that the members of this chamber have an adequate opportunity to consider all legislation put before them. I regard it as most regrettable that during the course of the last 18 months there has been an increasing trend for the other House of this Parliament to be given the major opportunity to consider amendments to legislation, particularly at the
Committee stage, and even to debate substantially legislation at the second reading stage, which is the occasion on which members of the Parliament should be given the chance to express their attitude towards legislation advanced by the Government. Our concurrence with the motion is in a spirit of cooperation, and one would even hope that the Leader of the House might respond in a reciprocal fashion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
I appreciate what has been said by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair). I do not know how this problem of allowing adequate time for debate will be solved, but I would like to see the Standing Orders of this House amended in such a way as to provide, by agreement or some other means, for the termination of debates and the setting of times for certain debates. No doubt in due course a committee of the House might well look at this matter. It does present problems. Private members need time to put forward their views, and the adjournment debate provides a very adequate opportunity for them to do that. I am sympathetic to this problem, and in proposing for consideration this motion in relation to the adjournment I have tried to ensure that the rights of private members to put a viewpoint on a regular adjournment debate are protected. Quite frankly, the time set aside for this purpose will never be enough because many more honourable members seek to speak than time permits. However, I think something might be done about reducing the time for which an honourable member is permitted to speak during the adjournment debate, which would help.
Since I have assumed responsibility for the leadership of this House there have been more regular adjournment debates at regular hours, instead of in the early hours of the morning in the way we experienced previously. I do not offer great criticism of the previous Government, but I think that if an honourable member is raising a matter during the adjournment debate it is nice for him to know that the debate will finish at a reasonable hour and that he will have a reasonable chance of presenting his case and getting some coverage in his local Press in another part of Australia. In the 1973 autumn sittings there were 34 sitting days and we had 29 adjournment debates. In the 1973 Budget sittings there were 47 sitting days and we had 46 adjournment debates. In the 1974 autumn sittings there were 16 sitting days and we had 14 adjournment debates. That is a reasonably good record, in my view. Apart from this opportunity to raise matters, private members were given the opportunity to debate on certain Thursdays the Bills and the matters of concern to them. Without offering any criticism of previous governments, let me say that I have endeavoured to see that some protection is given to honourable members in the presentation of their cases to this Parliament. For my part, I would prefer to sit for extra days rather than sitting long into the night. I think it is generally agreed that 10.30 p.m. is a reasonable hour at which to put the question for the adjournment, leaving half an hour for the adjournment debate each night.
– It is not long enough.
– It is not long enough, certainly, but it gives every honourable member an opportunity to get home at a reasonable time. If we sit into the early hours of the morning, quite frankly it is just not possible for honourable members on the front bench opposite and Ministers on this side of the chamber to carry out their duties when they are tired and have lost their concentration from lack of sleep. I realise that the proposals I have put forward are not perfect but I am always open to suggestions from honourable, members opposite as to how we can deal with more business in a reasonable time in order to give all honourable members adequate opportunities to speak. However, it is not an easy problem to solve. My proposals are a short term solution, probably, but they will not keep any honourable member here after 1 1 p.m., which I think is a reasonably fair proposition to both sides of the chamber.
– The Opposition does not oppose this motion. While accepting to some extent the expression of achievement of the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) I think there are 2 aspects of this motion that need to be stated. The first is one in which I think even members of the Government might concur, namely, that the members of this Australian Parliament have a big problem in that few of the people in their electorates realise Canberra is located far from the homes of the members of this place and consequently it is necessary for us as members of Parliament to try, within those hours which the Parliament sits, to devote as much time as possible to the business of this place. This means that our working hours are quite outside the normal conception of the regulated 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or the other specified 6, 7 or 8-hour day concepts. But the consequence of our being here and being so far from our homes is that we must necessarily return to our electorates as soon as the House rises. That means that during the weekend break and during those weeks when the Parliament is not sitting, members of this Parliament travel in many instances thousands of miles in order to attend to their electoral or other responsibilities. In giving consideration to a motion such as that just moved by the Leader of the House, we are looking at a way in which the Government has seen that it is desirable for the Parliament to rise at a predetermined hour, to wit, 11 o’clock.
As a second point let me say that the Opposition, in accepting this motion, is concerned that there should be an adequate adjournment debate. One of the obvious problems in having a fixed hour of adjournment is that by its very nature an adjournment debate quite often becomes a vitriolic attack by one side of the
House or the other against individuals, either within the Parliament or outside of the Parliament. If these attacks are made immediately prior to the adjournment of the House, because the time of adjournment is regulated it is impossible for a member from .the other side of the House to respond.
Equally, it is difficult within the time between 10.30 p.m. and 11 p.m. for many speakers to obtain a place on the adjournment roster. Nonetheless, under the Standing Orders there is certainly an opportunity for a regular adjournment debate and this, of course, being one of the few opportunities when private members are a’ble to raise matters on their own initiative which are of importance to them or to their electorates, it is a very valuable procedure available to the members of this chamber. The Opposition sees a half hour adjournment debate as causing some difficulty. It would be concerned if, in order to extend the opportunity to members to speak, the regulation 10 minutes per speaker were reduced. We would hope that if members had concluded whatever their aguments might be, they would be prepared to use less than their full time and that therefore the time of 10 minutes be considered only a maximum. The Opposition does not object to this procedural motion. However, it does express a view that it is necessary, whatever future amendments are considered to Standing Orders, that the opportunity for private members to speak on an adjournment debate should always religiously be protected.
– I wish to add comment on the motion before the House. A few months ago the Government changed the hour at which the motion that the House do now adjourn was moved. Since that time we have heard many miserable moans from Government supporters. Under the system, the adjournment debate commences at 10.30 p.m. each evening and concludes at 11 p.m. which means that members of the Opposition on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights commence the adjournment. Government supporters occupy the middle section and Opposition members the concluding 10 minutes. This meant that Government supporters had only 3 opportunities a week to bring before the Parliament matters which they felt should be brought “before the Parliament. I take this opportunity to remind Government supporters who constantly sit silent whenever the Minister for Services and Property and
Leader of the House (Mr Daly) brings forward changes to the Standing Orders that the Minister who is now putting forward this program is the person responsible for the lack of opportunity for debate.
This afternoon and yesterday in this Parliament we witnessed a most deplorable incident when the Government introduced Bills to change the Commonwealth Electoral Act, the Health Act and another Act and set the guillotine’ on the proposals. Many new members of this Parliament who have just arrived and who have no fixed ideas on these matters were not given an opportunity to express their viewpoints and to hear others and yet had to vote one way or the other. Government supporters were in this position but they suffered in silence. If one reads the Hansard record of proceedings of a few months ago one will see that only one person in this Parliament at that time objected to changes to the orders relating to the adjournment proposed by the Leader of the House and that was I. I do not claim to have been gifted with great wisdom or forward thinking but at that time I saw that it would be the ordinary back bench members of this Parliament who would be the ultimate sufferers. My friend, the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), who is now a shadow Minister, came to me after I had spoken on that occasion and said: T did not see that happening, but now that you have drawn it to our attention, it is likely to happen’. It has been Government supporters who have suffered by this change in the Standing Orders.
I conclude these few remarks by saying simply that if in the future members on the Government side feel deprived of opportunities to speak on the adjournment debate they should not regard it as the fault of the Opposition. They are living and suffering under a prescription written by the Leader of the House who is a member of their Party. If they feel that democracy is suffering, may I respectfully suggest that they put this question on the agenda for their next Party meeting so that Mr Daly as Leader of the House will be aware that Government supporters have in recent months been complaining about the situation which presently exists. As far as I am concerned, if honourable members want to introduce a system which would involve Government supporters and Opposition members taking it in turns to commence the adjourn ment debate on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings so that we have an even balance of opportunity to speak, I would be utterly opposed to it because the system under which honourable members opposite presently are suffering is their own.
– In regard to the motion before the House, I should like to say that on 99.9 per cent of occasions I have been a strong supporter and admirer of the honourable member for Grayndler and Leader of the House (Mr Daly) in the way he has carried out his duties but 1 am not happy about this motion. As one of the back bench members on the Government side 1 often used to look forward to participating in adjournment debates. If I understood correctly the proposition put by the Leader of the House to the Parliament, it means that we will have an adjournment debate from 10.30 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays, as has been the custom in the past. As far as I can recall, under the LiberalCountry Party Government very seldom was there an adjournment debate on the first sitting night of the week. This would not have been appreciated by most honourable members anyway, because although we usually look forward to adjournment debates we are usually tired before 1 1 o’clock on Tuesday evenings, having travelled long distances to the Parliament. But on Wednesday and Thursday evenings we of the back benches look forward to having a bit of a lash out.
– You are pretty good at it too.
– But I can take it, too. At least I never squeal about copping it. I dish it out and I am prepared to take it and you know it. If I recall correctly the situation which applied in the previous Parliament, when the adjournment debate commenced members of the Opposition used to have first bite at the cherry. They used to lead off. The maximum time allowed for each speaker was 10 minutes. If I recall the situation correctly, on Thursday night the adjournment used to commence at 10.15. Now I understand that the motion moved by the Leader of the House will reduce that time by a quarter of an hour and that this time will be lost to back bench members to talk in the adjournment debate. We are to be restricted to half an hour on Thursday nights, instead of the three-quarters of an hour which operated previously. If Government supporters continue to follow their same high code of ethics by allowing
Opposition members to be first cab off the rank, then the Opposition will occupy the first 10 minutes from 10.30 p.m. to 10.40 p.m. A member from the Government side will speak from 10.40 p.m. to 10.50 p.m. and an Opposition member will speak during the remaining 10 minutes from 10.50 p.m. to 11 o’clock. So we backbenchers from the Government side will have only one adjournment speaker on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights.
– You will get a chance to strike out only once every 3 months.
– That is right. As the honourable member for Scullin says, a Government member would get the chance to strike out only once every 3 months. I do not feel happy about this situation. Often, I have given my speaking time on the adjournment debate to other members who are less well known to the people, perhaps because they have something to expound in connection with their electorates, where false impressions may have been given to their constituents regarding the activities of the Government. It is very difficult to give false impressions of Government activities to my constituents of Hunter because they are so politically astute, as honourable members would be well aware. That is why because of their superior political knowledge they returned me to this House with 73.6 per cent of the votes cast at the polls. But still, they like to hear my voice occasionally in this Parliament.
– But the adjournment debate is not broadcast.
– We rebroadcast the tapes in the electorate. One has to be quick. The honourable member for Robertson has not had witness stand experience. I am not really happy although I am a great admirer of the Minister for Services and Property and the way in which he carries out his duties. This proposal will restrict Government back benchers from talking or making an outburst and replying to the misleading statements made from time to time by the Opposition. We will get one gallop - if I may use the Australian vernacular - on 2 successive nights to speak in the adjournment debate if this motion is carried. I am most unhappy about it.
– I am a non-admirer of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) 99 per cent of the time but in this case I am not so much against him as is the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James). I think there is something to be said for the proposals the Minister makes and they are not to be opposed. However, he rightly said that the proposals were to be regarded as interim measures and they could be improved. I think that they could be improved in two or three directions. One of them, I believe, is already in the Minister’s mind; that is - I feel that it would not be an imposition - to shorten the time of adjournment speeches. They would not have to be shortened drastically. Perhaps they could be cut down from 10 minutes to 7 minutes or something of that character.
Secondly, I would hope that on the Thursday night, or another night, we would start the adjournment debate at 10.15 p.m. instead of at 10.30 p.m. The main point I am trying to make - as the honourable member for Hunter said a moment ago - is that on some nights a matter is raised in the adjournment debate which needs discussion by a number of members of both sides and it is hard to cut the debate off in an arbitrary fashion. We know that there has to be some limit to the debates and I see merit in the 11 o’clock adjournment. I hope that the Minister will consider my proposal. I do not intend to put it forward as a formal motion now, but I hope that some kind of a compromise might be brought in. Probably something could be done along the lines of a new clause (f) to provide for either the Leader of the House or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to move the motion once a week that the time of the adjournment debate be lengthened, say 15 minutes, so that if, as happens sometimes, there is a live topic running on the adjournment we can have a small and reasonable extension.
As the motion is drawn now, as far as I can see, except by the suspension of the sessional order it would be very difficult to extend the adjournment debate on that odd occasion where there is a topic of interest which we should continue discussing. Perhaps the Standing Orders Committee could examine something along the lines that I have suggested. I would not want too much of an extension. I think that in general the 11 o’clock rule operates fairly and reasonably well. A little flexibility is all that is required. If we were to shorten a little the time of adjournment speeches we could have one or two more speakers on the adjournment. These are the matters that I put forward in a very tentative way for consideration.
– Very briefly, I thank those who have made constructive suggestions. I am not unmindful of the point of view of my friend opposite, which is quite reasonable. In regard to the remarks of the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), I appreciate the need for back benchers to have time to speak in the adjournment debates. The reason why 10.30 p.m. was chosen was for consistency. Under the previous arrangement honourable members might not get mixed up but could quite easily miss out on speaking because the time for the adjournment motion to be moved was 10.15 p.m. on one night and 10.30 p.m. on another night.
Quite frankly, I realise the problems of trying to give everybody an even go, particularly in private members’ time. I would like to see some form of committee of this House review all the Standing Orders, without any disrespect to the Standing Orders Committee. In this enlightened age there is a need to revise a system which provided for 75 members of a House and which now is applied to 127 members. Parliaments have this problem all over the world. With due respect to the House of Commons and others, we probably get a better go on private members’ views than others.
I should like to see the Parliament talk at great length. I regret somewhat that it is not possible to have the Committee debates in this Parliament that we had when there were 75 members. They were great debates because all members participated. I shall keep in mind what the honourable member opposite just said but it is difficult to provide these opportunities when one decides the times of sittings. I think everybody agrees that to sit after about 1 1 o’clock at night becomes a bit of a farce in certain circumstances. At least these rules provide for an adjournment debate at a given time which preserves the right of private members.
In regard to the suggestion of the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) I hope that in the course of this Parliament we will get round to establishing a committee which will objectively examine all the proceedings. In general debates on important measures I should like to see a system whereby we could by mandate say that 2, 4 or 6 hours shall be given to discussion and we would not have many of the things which we now have that are time-wasting and which in the course of politics have to be debated by the Opposition.
I shall keep in mind what the honourable member for Mackellar said and endeavour to see what can be done. I know that in days gone by the honourable member initiated a lot of good debates on the adjournment, particularly in the unity ticket days. They went well beyond 11.15 p.m. and they were his greatest hours. I am not unmindful of what was said. I assure honourable members that I shall think of the suggestions. Possibly we will have some form of discussion outside of the Standing Orders Committee that will increase for all of us the opportunity to participate in debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
This is just a machinery measure applied generally in the course of parliamentary sittings after the establishment of new parliaments.
– The Opposition accepts the need for this motion. It is necessary for sales tax Bills of this character to be debated together. It is necessary that they be introduced and debated together and passed without any warning being given to those who are involved commercially in the sales tax field because of the advantage which some could wrongfully gain from notice that something was to be done in that field. For that reason we support the measure as indeed it has been supported by Oppositions for all the years stretching back to 1963.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Connor, and read a first time.
– I move: That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill provides a Mining Code being the legal framework for the exploration and exploitation of the offshore mineral resources in exercise of the Australian Government’s sovereignty as proclaimed through the Seas and Submerged Lands Act 1973. Honourable members will recall that the former Government clearly foreshadowed the introduction of a mining code on 16 April 1970. This code was not introduced. The Seas and Submerged Lands Act Parts I and II are almost identical with the. Bill introduced in 1970. The mining code in this Bill follows the text of that to which the then Minister for National Development referred.
The Bill now before the House constituted’ Part III of the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill 1973 when it was first introduced on 10 May 1973. That Bill was carired without amendment on 17 May 1973 and introduced’ into the Senate on 22 May 1973. The Senate adjourned debate by vote on division until after 1 August 1973. However, when the Senate failed to resume debate I reintroduced the Bill into this House for the second time on 1 1 September 1973 and it was again passed without amendment on 19 September 1973. It was reintroduced in the Senate on 25 September 1973 and the Senate subsequently passed it with amendment on 27 November 1973, the amendment being the deletion of Part III of the Bill.
In accepting the amendment deleting the mining code, I said that the battle would go on. The Bill now before the House covers that part of the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill 1973 which was rejected by the Senate. In this respect there will be early proclamations under the Seas and Submerged Lands Act 1973, of baselines in parts of the New South Wales and Tasmanian Coasts, from which the Australian territorial seas should be measured. Many of the salient features of this Bill and the associated Minerals (Submerged Lands) (Royalty) Bill were outlined in my second reading speech on the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill on 10 May 1973 and I see no point in covering the same ground again. The mining code embodied in the Bill will establish rules governing the exploration and exploitation of our offshore mineral resources and the issue of the related titles. The passage of this Bill will be a further significant stage in the exercise of the Government’s sovereignty in respect of the offshore mining industry. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Killen) adjourned.
Bill presented’ by Mr Connor, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill which is consequential upon the Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill 1974 was also introduced into the House on 10 May 1973, under the title Seas and Submerged Lands (Royalty on Minerals) Bill 1973. It was carried without amendment on 17 May 1973, introduced into. the Senate on 22 May 1973 and there adjourned. Together with the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill it was reintroduced into the House for the second time on 1 1 September 1973, again passed without amendment on 19 September, reintroduced into the Senate on 25 September and failed to pass when Part III of the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill containing the mining code was deleted from that Bill. I now introduce the Bill again under the title Minerals (Submerged Lands) (Royalty) Bill 1974 and commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Killen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to obtain parliamentary approval for Australia to take up a special increase of $US41.14m in its subscription to the capital stock of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development - or, as it is more commonly called, the IBRD. However, only 10 per cent of this amount will be payable. The balance will remain at call. Most honourable members will recall that this Bill was debated and read a third time in this House in March of this year. It did not, however, get beyond the second reading stage in the Senate before Parliament was dissolved prior to the recent elections. It is therefore necessary to re-introduce the Bill in this House, where I hope it will attract the same degree of support from the Opposition as it did previously.
As most honourable members will be aware, the main function of the IBRD and its two affiliated institutions the International Finance Corporation and the International Development Association is to promote faster rates of economic growth and development in their poorer member countries. This the IBRD does by extending loans on conventional terms to credit-worthy member countries to help finance soundly conceived and economically viable infrastructure projects in such fields as agriculture, irrigation, rail transportation, highways, port development, telecommunications and electric power generation.
More recently, increasing emphasis has been placed - especially by IDA but also by the IBRD to a limited extent - on projects with greater social implications and more direct benefits for the masses or needy people in developing countries, in such fields as education, urban renewal, population control, public health and sewerage, and improved agricultural credit and extension services for small farmers. The IBRD is by far the largest and most influential development finance institution in the world today. During the year ended 30 June 1973, it approved 73 loans to 42 countries totalling $US2,051m. This brought the total for all loans approved by the IBRD since it commenced operations nearly 30 years ago to a massive $US20,335m. Much of this lending has gone to developing countries of interest to Australia in the Asian and Pacific regions, including Papua New Guinea.
The IBRD obtains the bulk of the. funds it lends from borrowings on world capital markets, which it can arrange on relatively favourable terms - the benefits of which are then pased on to member countries - because of the IBRD’s own high financial standards and the backing it has in the form of uncalled capital subscriptions totalling more than $US25 billion at the present time from over 120 member countries, including all of the major industrial countries in the western world.
However, another important source of funds available to the IBRD for use in its lending operations is the paid-in portions of members’ capital subscriptions. These currently total more than $US2.5 billion. Australia joined the IBRD soon after it opened its doors for business in 1947 and has subscribed the equivalent of nearly $US640m to its capital stock, of which 10 per cent, or approximately $US64m - in terms of current
United States dollars - has actually been paid in. As indicated previously, the balance remains at call as security for the IBRD’s own borrowing operations on world capital markets.
In 1970 Australia, along with 74 other member countries, was granted a special increase in its quota in the International Monetary Fund - IMF - following the regular quinquennial review of Fund quotas in that year. As a consequence, all of these countries, including Australia, became entitled in the same year to take up special increases in their subscriptions to the capital stock of the IBRD so as to maintain the previous long-standing relativities between IMF quotas and IBRD subscriptions. The special increases authorised for individual countries are shown in the table attached to the copy of my speech that will be circulated to honourable members. I ask for leave to incorporate that table in Hansard.
– Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Special Increases in Subscriptions to Capital Stock of IBRD Authorised for Individual Countries
Most of the countries listed in this table have since taken up the additional shares to which they then became entitled. However, no action was taken by Australia in regard to this matter in 1970-71 because of the need for budgetary restraint at that time. In 1 971-72 and again in 1972-73 the proposal was a victim of legislative and other pressures, with the result that Australia is now one of the few countries which has not so far taken up the special increase in its IBRD subscription to which it is entitled.
Consistent with our general attitude towards external aid to developing countries, the present Government is concerned to remedy this situation without further delay. Australia is entitled to take up an additional 341 shares in capital stock of the IBRD at a cost of US$4 1.1 4m, allowing for the. effects of the 2 US dollar devaluations in recent years.
As I mentioned at the outset, 90 per cent of this amount will remain at call and only 10 per cent, or US$4.1 14m, is actually payable. Of the latter sum, US$411,000 is payable in gold or US dollars, while the balance of US$3.7m can be paid in Australian dollars, either in cash in a single lump sum or in the form of a promissory note which would subsequently be encashed only as and when the IBRD required the funds involved, or else as otherwise agreed with Australia.
Consistent with past practice, we propose to use the promissory note technique of payment. It so happens that, as a consequence of the revaluations of the Australian dollar in December 1972 and September 1973, the IBRD is required under the ‘Maintenance of Value’ provisions in its Articles of Agreement to repay to Australia over the next 4 years an amount in excess of that which Australia will have to pay to take up this special increase in our subscription to the capital stock of the IBRD. By using the promissory note techniques, it will be possible to offset these respective payments to and by Australia over a period of 4 years and thereby avoid any net impact on the budget of the present proposal to increase our capital subscription to the IBRD. I might add that the proposed increase in our capital subscription to the IBRD will result in a slight improvement in our relative voting strength in that institution.
Given Australia’s traditional bi-partisan support for the activities of the IBRD, and all that it stands for, and bearing in mind the various considerations mentioned in this speech, including in particular the financial aspects, I believe that it is in our national interests to take up, in full, the special increase in Australia’s subscription to the capital stock of the IBRD to which we are entitled. I would accordingly commend this Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Killen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill has 4 main purposes, each of them quite different. One is to close off avenues for avoidance of withholding tax on interest on foreign loans. Another is concerned with the liability to tax of allowances and benefits received by members of the Defence Force under the new pay code. The third is related to deductions for contributions for retirement benefits by members of this Parliament and servicemen. The final purpose is to complete, in 2 stages, the phasing-in of arrangements for the collection of company tax by quarterly payments. With the exception of provisions concerned with collection of company tax, the Bill is in all substantial respects identical with an Income Tax Assessment Bill, introduced last April, that lapsed when the Parliament was dissolved.
I announced on 2 July 1973 that the Government had decided to introduce amendments to the Income Tax law to correct an apparent deficiency in the interest withholding tax provisions. The broad effect of these provisions is to impose a moderate withholding tax of 10 per cent on interest paid to overseas lenders by Australian residents or by nonresidents who use overseas borrowings in an Australian business. There are some exemptions from the tax. One relevant to this Bill is for interest on money borrowed for use in a business that is Australian-owned and controlled to an extent specified in the law. Another exemption relevant to the Bill frees from withholding tax interest on foreign loans that are used overseas by Australian enterprises in conducting a business through a foreign branch. Some financial institutions with foreign branches have sought to use this latter provision to obtain exemption from withholding tax in respect of loans raised through the branches for use by any Australian clients at all, that is not only those that are Australianowned and controlled to the required extent. Not only could the loss of revenue from leaving the law as it stands be significant, that course could also lead to a complete frustration of the fundamental policy of the withholding tax that interest paid from Australia by firms that are not sufficiently Australianowned is to bear Australian tax. The Government therefore considers that the changes provided in this Bill must be made.
The primary effect of the Bill is that withholding tax will be payable on interest paid from Australia to a foreign branch of an Australian institution where the institution concerned chooses to arrange its foreign borrowing transactions in such a way that the interest it receives from on-lending the borrowed funds in Australia is derived as income of a foreign branch. The Bill will make the interest subject to withholding tax in these circumstances only where it would have been subject to the tax if it had been received by a non-resident. As I announced on 2 July 1973, the amendments will apply to interest payments made after that day.
Complementary amendments of a technical kind are proposed to clarify the circumstances in which interest paid to non-residents can be said to be incurred in carrying on an overseas business, and thus not subject to withholding tax. As explained more fully in the explanatory memorandum being circulated to honourable members, a related series of technical amendments is also proposed to forestall tax avoidance in 2 other areas of the law which are modelled on the interest withholding tax provisions. One of these relates to the source of royalties paid to non-residents, and the other to the source - for the purpose of provisions designed to close down Norfolk Island as a tax haven - of both interest and royalties.
I should mention that none of the withholding tax amendments will affect the exemption for interest on ordinary savings bank or fixed deposit accounts kept by non-residents at overseas branches of Australian banks. The amendments relating to defence force allowances are in the main the result of changes in the Service pay structure based on recommendations in the final report of the committee of inquiry into Services’ pay, known as the Woodward Committee.
One change of particular significance from the tax standpoint is the withdrawal of the general entitlement of members of the defence force to receive free rations and quarters when living in Service establishments, or substituted benefits in the form of cash allowances when living elsewhere. This development, together with a proposal to provide a specific exemption for the value of rations and quarters that are still provided free of charge in a limited range of circumstances, has made unnecessary a provision that fixes the taxable value of defence force allowances in the food and shelter category at $2 a week. Accordingly, the Bill proposes that this provision be repealed.
Another provision of the income tax law governing the exemption of dependants’ allowances and exchange allowances of defence force members is to be amended. One purpose of this is to ensure that, in the limited range of circumstances in which board and quarters are still available free of charge, their value will be exempt from tax. Another purpose is to facilitate the provision, or continuation, of exemptions for allowances paid in reimbursement of certain abnormal expenses incurred by defence force personnel in complying with duty requirements. The Woodward Committee contemplated that these allowances would not bear tax.
The amendments proposed will permit the allowances that are to be paid free of tax to be prescribed by regulations made under the income tax law. In the same way, it is proposed to prescribe, pursuant to this amendment, that a re-engagement bounty payable to a member of the defence force is to be exempt from tax. The Bill will also remove references in the exempting provisions to service exchange allowances. These allowances have long since ceased to be paid. None of the amendments will affect the tax treatment of allowances payable in respect of service before the date of commencement of the new pay code.
The provision of the law that authorises the allowance of income tax deductions for contributions to superannuation funds needs to be amended because, under recent legislative changes, contributions for retirement benefits by members of this Parliament and by members of the defence force are paid directly into Consolidated Revenue. The amendment proposed by the Bill will ensure that tax deductions for these contributions continue to be available, notwithstanding that they are not paid into separate superannuation funds.
The last matter dealt with in the Bill is the scheme for the collection of company tax by quarterly instalments. As announced in my 1973-74 Budget Speech, the Government proposes that the scheme will be in full operation by 1975-76. When it is in full operation there will be 3 quarterly instalments payable in a financial year before the due date for payment of the assessment of company tax on income of the preceding year. The balance of the assessed tax - in effect, the fourth instalment - will be payable on the due date of the assessment, the other instalments being credited against the amount assessed.
As a first step in implementing this scheme, most companies were required to pay an instalment of tax in January 1974 for later crediting in the 1973-74 financial year against tax due on 1972-73 income. This Bill amends the provisions covering this first stage of the scheme so as to provide machinery for implementing the later 2 stages. The Bill will provide for the collection of 2 instalments of company tax during the current financial year, 1974-75, and 3 instalments during each subsequent year. Each instalment will be calculated so that it approximates as closely as possible one-quarter of the full tax liability against which it is to be credited.
Companies will receive a notice specifying the amount of instalment payable and the due date for its payment. The due date will be at least 30 days after the date of service of the notice. The Commissioner of Taxation will not be sending notices this year where the amount of an instalment would be less than $250. As a general rule, tax on the 1973-74 income of a company that for this reason remains outside the instalment scheme will be payable in full on a date falling somewhere between 14 February and 30 June 1975.
The earliest due dates for payment of instalments in 1974-75 will be 15 November 1974 for the first instalment and 15 February 1975 for the second. As already explained, the remainder of the tax to be collected on 1973- 74 income will be payable on the due date for payment of the tax assessed as shown on the notice of assessment. Where a company has been called upon to pay at least one instalment, this date will not, in normal circumstances, be earlier than 30 April 1975.
A similar pattern of collection will be followed in 1975-76 and subsequent years except that an additional instalment of tax will be payable. This will be due for payment by a date not earlier than 15 August in the relevant year. Company tax collections will then be spread fairly evenly over all 4 quarters of each financial year thus reducing the size of the seasonal swings in tax payments. The strains on final-quarter cash resources of companies should be much less severe than they have been during the years in which the collections were concentrated within one quarter.
More detailed explanations of the proposed amendments are set out in an explanatory memorandum circulated in my name for the information of honourable members. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Killen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill, which is complementary to the Income Tax Assessment Bill 1974, is of purely technical import. It will repeal existing legislation that declares the rates of withholding tax on dividends and interest paid to nonresidents, and will re-declare those rates. The Bill is necessary only because the existing legislation has a title consistent with the present scope of the withholding tax as a levy exclusively on income of non-residents. As I have explained, the Bill I have just introduced has the effect that, under the sort of arrangement I described in my earlier speech, interest withholding tax can be payable on interest paid to a resident. This Bill will ensure that the rates legislation is expressed in a manner consistent with that position. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Killen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Clyde Cameron, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill is very simple. It is to extend the operation of the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act 1967- 1973 for a period of 2 years. The Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act was enacted in 1967 to give legislative effect to the agreement entered into by the National Stevedoring Industry Conference which was set up by the previous Government under the chairmanship of Mr A. E. Woodward, Q.C., as he then was, with the object of achieving longterm improvement of conditions in the stevedoring industry. The principal features of the National Conference proposals were: A scheme for the permanent employment, on weekly hiring, of waterside workers in major ports; a pension scheme for regular waterside workers; arrangements for coping with anticipated redundancy; new procedures for handling industrial disputes; and disciplinary procedures appropriate to conditions of permanent employment.
These proposals involved significant changes in the role of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, whose functions in relation to permanently employed watersiders were to be largely transferred to the stevedoring companies. The necessary enabling legislation was originally introduced for a trial period expiring on 30 June 1970, by which time it was anticipated that legislation providing for permanent arrangements in the industry could be introduced. This temporary legislation has since been extended on 3 occasions. The reason for these successive extensions of the legislation was that at no time was it feasible, in the face of a continued rapid rate of technological change and because of associated financial and redundancy problems, to evolve permanent legislative arrangements for this industry.
On the last occasion that the legislation was extended I indicated that this Government hoped to be in a position to introduce permanent legislation for the industry prior to 30 June this year. While this was not possible a great deal has been done in the interim to examine possible forms of organisation which might be adopted for the industry, and to obtain the views of the parties concerned. This, in turn, has required an extensive study of the legal and administrative problems which, while at an advanced stage, has not yet been completed. It is therefore proposed that the present temporary legislation be extended for a further period of 2 years. While recommending an extension of the temporary legislation for a further 2 years, it would be my intention to indicate to the Parliament the Government’s proposals for the industry well before the expiry of that period. Extending the life of the Act -will not of course preclude the introduction of permanent legislation at an earlier date if this proves feasible. Indeed, an earlier date for permanent legislation is desirable. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Killen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Uren, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this Bill is to provide Parliamentary approval for construction of the Googong Dam and associated works in New South Wales as the next major water supply for Canberra and Queanbeyan. The existing water supply for the Canberra-Queanbeyan region will cater for a population of 225,000 people. There is a need for an immediate start to this project, as current population projections indicate that a population of 225,000 is likely to be reached in the Canberra-Queanbeyan area as early as 1975-76. The Googong project, in conjunction with the existing Cotter system, will meet the requirements of a population of 450,000 people. This population is expected to be reached in the region between 1982-85. The urgency of this project was recognised by the Government in August 1973. At that time Cabinet agreed that enabling legislation should be introduced which would authorise the project to be carried out by the National Capital
Development Commission. Due to the dissolution of Parliament it was not possible to introduce this urgent Bill as had been intended and it is therefore now introduced as a matter of priority.
The Googong project will be completed in 2 stages. It will include a regulating dam, pumping station, a treatment works near the dam, bulk supply mains to Canberra, a power supply ‘and an access road to the site. When the project is complete, it will impound approximately 26,000 million gallons of water. This compares with 20,000 million gallons which is the capacity of the present Cotter system. The latest estimate available for the first stage of the Googong project, which is the major part, is $26. 5m. The second stage of the work involves augmenting the water treatment works and pumping station. The dam site is located on a short gorge of the Queanbeyan River approximately 5.5 miles from the main road bridge in the city of Queanbeyan. Five alternative schemes were carefully evaluated. A report on these alternatives prepared by the Department of Housing and Construction recommended that the Queanbeyan River should be developed as the next major step and that the dam should be built at Googong.
The report concluded that the Googong proposal had a marked economic advantage over the other proposals examined, took advantage of a separate rainfall pattern, and provided water for irrigation and maintaining the water level in Lake Burley Griffin during drought periods. The preparation of this Bill has required contributions from numerous New South Wales and Australian government officials. This demonstrates that major public works projects can be successfully coordinated across Federal and State boundaries. The Seat of Government Acceptance Art 1909-1973 gives the Australian government paramount rights over the waters of the Queanbeyan and Molonglo Rivers and the right to undertake such construction works as are required for the use of these waters.
The proposed works will be located within the State of New South Wales. This Bill, as well as adding the planning and provision of the Googong Dam project to the existing functions of the National Capital Development Commission, will also extend the Commission’s charter to enable it to operate within the Googong Dam area for the purposes of this project. Direct negotiations between the relevant Australian and State authorities have focussed upon the important matters of land acquisition, provision of future water supply for Queanbeyan, regulations for control of the catchment areas and the interests of owners and occupiers of land downstream of the dam. It was necessary for the Australian government to acquire an area of approximately 4,900 hectares, or 12,000 acres, in New South Wales. This acquired area will include the reservoir, dam and building sites, and an area about a half-mile in width around the top water level of the reservoir and extending about 4 miles upstream on the Queanbeyan River and Burra Creek. The land was formally acquired and gazetted on 17 October 1973.
Although the water from the Googong Dam area is intended primarily for the Australian Capital Territory, this Bill allows the Australian Government to provide water to Queanbeyan and other places in New South Wales. I might mention that the future growth of the Canberra region will mean that much more consideration will need to be given to regional water supply systems. Ownership of land in the catchment other than the acquired area will remain with current landholders under New South Wales State law. Catchment regulations have been developed by New South Wales authorities in consultation with Australian Government officials. These regulations will be enacted by New South Wales. While these regulations will apply at the outset, the Australian Government will retain the right under the Bill to make its own catchment regulations within the acquired area. The main catchment area consists of 81,000 hectares, or 200,000 acres of land. It has been largely devoted to grazing and cropping. The circumstances in which compensation for owners or occupiers of land who suffer loss or damage as a result of this project may be paid is explicitly defined by this Bill, particularly in section 13.
The basic purpose of this project is to ensure an adequate supply of high quality water to meet the needs of a rapidly increasing population in the Canberra-Queanbeyan region. The passage of this enabling legislation is urgent so that tenders may be called for the project as soon as possible. This will ensure that impounding of water starts not later than May 1977. It will also reduce the possibility of water restrictions in the region during drought. The project has been developed with careful consideration for the protection and enhancement of the natural environment.
Measures designed to protect the natural environment will include a soil conservation program to reduce erosion in the catchment area and sediment deposit in Lake Burley Griffin; the preservation of permanent geological features including the London Bridge; a natural limestone bridge over Burra Creek which is a geological feature with tourist potential; and the undergrounding of pipelines.
The project will provide the opportunity of making available additional recreational, picnic and scenic areas close to the growing cities of Canberra and Queanbeyan. Undoubtedly, the creation of this large new expanse of inland water will present an opportunity for public enjoyment of it. A comprehensive environmental impact statement was prepared to consider the main environmental effects of the Googong Water Supply Project. I have emphasised a wide variety of positive results which will be derived from this project. However, the environmental impact statement identifies a number of areas which will require careful attention during the development of the project.
Two areas which should be mentioned are the mine waste pollution from Captains Flat and the sewerage effluent from Queanbeyan. In this area, the Minister for Mines and Power, representing New South Wales, and myself as Minister for Urban and Regional Development, representing the Australian Government, convened a Joint Technical Committee on Mine Waste Pollution of the Molonglo River. A report of that Committee has stated that unless remedial work is undertaken at the mines there will be increased pollution from the waste dumps and that this could effect the usefulness of Lake Burley Griffin.
In addition, the report has concluded that the construction of the Googong Dam could marginally increase the concentration of mine waste products in the lake under some circumstances. It should be stressed, however, that the basic source of the pollution is the abandoned mine workings and is not due to the construction of the dam. The report recommended remedial works to improve the water quality of the Molonglo River. The Committee estimated the cost of these works at $2.5m. In May of this year, the New South Wales Minister for Mines and Power agreed with me that the Committee should proceed to tender readiness for the implementation of the works as recommended by the Committee. I will shortly be discussing with him the method of financing these works.
The problem of sewerage effluent from Queanbeyan has also been carefully considered. Possible solutions to this problem include the construction of a more advanced waste water treatment plant for Queanbeyan, or the acceptance of Queanbeyan effluent into the Canberra sewerage system. This problem will have to be faced irrespective of the Googong Dam project. I am awaiting a report resulting from the Canberra-Queanbeyan investigation set up by my Ministry which has been carried out by the National Capital Development Commission in association with the Queanbeyan City Council and the Yarrowlumla Shire Council. The effects of both the mine waste pollution and the sewage pollution will be lessened if necessary by releasing water storage reserves from Googong. Such releases are possible only until such time as the regional population of 450,000 is reached. However, both problems must be resolved at their source. My previous remarks should make it clear that the Australian Government is concerned to achieve this.
Mr Deputy Speaker, early passage of this Bill is necessary to ensure that an adequate water supply is continuously available for the rapidly developing Canberra-Queanbeyan region. Tenders will be called in September 1974. In this way advantage can be taken of seasonal conditions to raise the dam embankment through its critical levels during the expected dry season between September 1976 and March 1977. Impounding of water will then start in May 1977. The Googong Dam project is acknowledged by both the Australian and New South Wales Governments as essential to the future development of the Australian Capital Territory and the surrounding regions. The building of this dam shows what can be achieved through co-operation between New South Wales Government and Australian Government Ministers and New South Wales and Australian officials. As the nation’s foremost growth centre, the Canberra region is in a position to draw off population from the major urban areas of Sydney and Melbourne. The construction of the Googong Dam is an essential condition for the adequate water supply of this region for the next decade. J commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Uren, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this Bill is to appropriate $15,750,000 for the purchase of certain lands at Glebe in Sydney, New South Wales. (Quorum formed.) The land is presently owned by the Glebe Administration Board of the Church of England. It is known as the Bishopthorpe and St Phillip estates in Glebe. It covers approximately 19 hectares, or 47 acres, on which stand more than 700 dwellings.
– Where is your power to do this?
– The church itself, the Leichhardt Municipal Council and resident groups have all asked the Australian Government to ensure that this unique leasehold estate should not be fragmented in ownership but should be retained in single ownership. The present Government is unlike the previous negative Government of which the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), who interjected earlier, was a member. It was negative for so many years. It would not act to acquire land, out of consideration for people. The opportunity to purchase this land came about in April 1973 when the Church of England suggested in its submissions to the poverty inquiry that it would be willing to sell the property to a public authority. My Department employed consultants to carry out a feasibility study for purchasing and rehabilitating the property. My Department also carried out an economic evaluation of the proposal. Originally, the land was subdivided and leased for 99 years, mainly for residential purposes. As these leases have recently been reverting to the Church, the houses have been sold, particularly to private enterprise, which honourable members opposite so readily represent. If this process had continued, the inevitable result would have been fragmented ownership of the estates and this would have meant the further loss of low income housing close to the city centre. Public acquisition of the property and rehabilitation of a large number of dwellings presents a viable method of providing housing in the inner city for low income earners and aged people.
The main objectives of the purchase of the estate are to avoid the sudden displacing of the existing population and to avoid any disruption to existing community networks, and to retain the opportunity for low income earners and families and aged people to live close to the city as part of the wider community. The present Government is unlike the previous Government. When we came to office we found that in Sydney and Melbourne the people on middle class and upper class incomes were purchasing the terraced dwellings in the inner suburbs and of course booting the elderly people out to the outer suburbs. The Government has a real understanding of the problem. This is one of the reasons why we have purchased these lands. We wish to protect the residents that are now living within this area. I wish that the honourable member for Kooyong, who is interjecting, would have some real understanding of this, but of course he has never really had any understanding of people who really suffer. The other main objectives are to improve environmental conditions and social conditions of residents of the estate and surrounding area and to preserve the townscape and sympathetically rehabilitate it.
The Australian Government has decided to buy these estates as a unit and so prevent private sale which could lead directly to the displacing of low income tenants. The buildings on the estate have substantial economic value and their retention represents an overall conservation of the community’s resources. After a period of detailed evaluations and negotiations with the Glebe Administration Board, contracts were exchanged in May this year. I would like to express my appreciation to the Board for the co-operation it gave to officials of the Australian Government. The total purchase price is $ 17.5m, of which $1,750,000 was paid as a deposit in May. This Bill now seeks approval to appropriate the remaining $15,750,000.
As honourable members would know, the inner suburbs of our cities have long provided a substantial part of the housing stock available to the lower income residents of the cities. During the last 25 years, however - of course, during 23 of these years the country was governed by the conservative reactionary forces that now reside on the Opposition side - this accommodation has been steadily whittled away. Houses have been torn down to make way for offices and other commercial premises, for freeway routes, and for a variety of public institutions. Low income earners have often been displaced to outlying areas far removed from their places of employment and from their traditional community ties. In addition, low income earners and aged people have in recent years faced increasing competition from middle and upper income groups for the reduced amount of housing accommodation. The return of wealthier groups to the inner suburbs of our great cities, particularly the younger professional groups well represented by certain rather selfish elements on the Opposition side, has been a marked trend in recent years.
This trend has had some very good effects in some respects. As a result of it, many areas have been extensively rehabilitated; a greater degree of social mix has been introduced to the inner suburbs; and inner suburban communities have become better organised and more vocal in standing up for their rights against the many forces which threaten their homes. However, a continuation of the present trends will mean that soon very few low income people will be left in the inner suburbs to enjoy the improved conditions.
There have been many efforts to find solutions to these problems in other countries. There has, for example, been the practice of building high-rise accommodation close to the city centre. Experience would suggest that this is not the ideal solution and in some cases may be a harmful practice. We should not be too willing, on the one hand, to adopt overseas solutions, nor too reluctant, on the other hand, to develop our own solutions to these problems. The purchase of these estates offers this Government, the State Government and the local Council the opportunity to cooperate in the rehabilitation of a unique area in the inner part of one of our great cities.
This is a pilot project. The Glebe project is not simply an exercise in the renovation and construction of housing. It is also an exercise in community rehabilitation. It requires knowledge of the Glebe community. Our people must involve themselves at the local level in order to understand the problems of the Glebe community. It will require the application of a very great number of professional skills - planning, architectural, building trades, social work. These professional skills should blend with the environment of the Glebe both in its landscape and its community. The Govern ment is approaching the exercise in a spirit of exploration. While the Government has formulated certain objectives, which I outlined earlier, we remain open-minded on the ways and means of achieving these objectives. My Ministry will be working together with the Department of Housing and Construction on this project and my colleague the Minister for Housing and Construction and I will be jointly responsible for it.
As well as working towards definite objectives another critical aspect of the Glebe project is the day to day management of the estate. The Government will become involved almost immediately with the problems of the tenants, many of whom need support from various social services. As well as the physical aspects of the project, then, there are also the more human aspects and I can assure honourable members that the Government will be concerned to look after the individual needs of the residents of this area. The Government intends to establish an information centre on the estates; later it is expected that this will become useful as a community planning centre.
There is no doubt in my mind that this project offers governments the opportunity to develop policies for the inner city which have not previously been explored in Australia. As with a similar project at Emerald Hill in Melbourne, I am confident that in a co-operative way, we can advance the interest of inner city residents and of these 2 cities in general.
In conclusion, I would like to correct the misrepresentation of the circumstances surrounding the purchase of this property.
– Are you using a defence power for this?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! I would like to address a few remarks to the Opposition front bench. The level of conversation is too high and there are too many interjections. I have been fairly tolerant. The Minister is particularly sensitive. When he was in Opposition he was never known to interject. He was always very orderly. The interjections are obviously upsetting him. I would suggest that those honourable members sitting on the Opposition front bench keep the level of conversation down.
– In an address given to a gathering of the New South Wales Division of the Urban Development Institute of Australia on 20 June 1974, the honourable member for
Gwydir (Mr Hunt) stated that the Australian Government had purchased the Glebe lands ‘without consultation with State Government or local government’. This is certainly not the case. I wish that honourable members opposite would check their facts. It is indicative of the Opposition’s lack of interest in the problems of inner city areas that the honourable member did not make the effort to ascertain the facts, as I said. In considering the purchase, I wrote to the New South Wales Minister for Local Government and Highways, Sir Charles Cutler, and to the Mayor of Leichhardt Municipal Council, and I had discussions with the aldermen and the mayor of the Leichhardt Municipal Council. Officers of my Department and its consultants discussed the project with officers and aldermen of the Council and officers of the New South Wales Housing Commission. I can assure the honourable member that close liaison and cooperation with State and local government authorities and agencies will continue. It is of prime importance for the success of this project. Not only that but also the Glebe exercise will attempt to develop mechanisms of participation so that the people of Glebe and the wider community can have their say in how the project develops.
Mr Speaker, I believe that the lessons that will be learnt from the Glebe project, the detailed understanding of the problems of low income earners living in the inner city, and the solutions which emerge towards providing an effective way for the community to participate in shaping their environment will be of immense benefit to Governments, professional people and to all those concerned with improving the quality of life in our cities. We purchased the Glebe land to protect the people. We will seek their views on its future. We will enter into dialogue with them. We hope we can draw from each other. The Glebe project marks the commencement of a new spirit of co-operation with people, with people’s organisations, with local government and with State agencies. This is the spirit with which the Australian Government entered into the purchase of the Glebe lands. I commend the Bill to the House.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Minister quoted me as having said on 20 June that neither he nor his Government had consulted with the New South Wales Government over the acquisition of $17.5m worth of land at Glebe. The information that I have received happens to come from a Minister of the New South Wales Government, and I would like the Minister for Urban and Regional Development to table the evidence that he might have at his disposal to prove-
– I .think the honourable member may only point out in what respect he has been misrepresented.
– I am stating the truth to this House.
Mr UREN (Reid - Minister for Urban and Regional Development) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Firstly, I quoted the honourable member for Gwydir as having said the words ‘without consultation with State Government or local government.’ It is recorded in Hansard that I have written to the New South Wales Minister for Local Government and Highways and that I have also had discussions with the Leichhardt Municipal Council. That is on record. Let the honourable member for Gwydir prove me to be wrong. It is not a matter of tabling anything.
– What is the date of your correspondence?
– Rubbish. I have put it on record. Let the honourable member prove me to be wrong. I wish the honourable member would stop talking like a parrot and bring up the facts.
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. For the second time the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Bill is presented to Parliament in order to ratify an Agreement between the Australian Government and the States to improve the quality, capacity, efficiency and frequency, of the public transport in our major cities. A commitment was made by the Australian Government to accept a share in the responsibility for the public transport systems of Australian cities in the 1972 policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). We have always been determined to honour that commitment. The States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Bill is a milestone in the history of transport in this country, marking as it does the first allocation of finance by an Australian government for State urban transport systems.
All State governments have accepted the terms and conditions contained in the Agreement. The dates of signing of the Agreement were: The Western Australian and South Australian Premiers on 28 March; the Prime Minister on 29 March; the Victorian Premier on 4 June; the Queensland Premier on 11 June; the Acting New South Wales Premier on 12 June; and the Tasmanian Premier on 13 June. It is to the credit of this Government that despite delays we have taken action in so short a time to provide a major Australian government injection of finance in order that transport within our cities will be revitalised.
But let me stress that urban public transport has suffered no unexpected overnight demise. Rather these systems have painfully withered away over the last 50 years. It is to the everlasting discredit of the honourable gentlemen opposite, who sat on this side of the House for 23 years, that the plight of our cities was ignored. Consequently, the transport systems which daily serve two-thirds of Australia’s population were allowed to become so run down that they are used only when the traveller has virtually no alternative.
Under the States Grants Bill an amount of $7 1.91m is appropriated for expenditure on urban public transport projects that were scheduled to commence in 1973-74. Of this, $3 1.09m was intended to be spent in 1973-74. It is the responsibility of the honourable members of the Opposition that not one cent of these funds has yet been provided as this Bill would have been passed several months ago but for the recent double dissolution. The States have been forced to battle on their own for longer than was necessary.
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 cities. In the United States the federal government provides up to 80 per cent of the cost of projects aimed at improving these services. In Great Britain the government provides up to 75 per cent of the capital cost of urban public 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 Liberal and Country Party governments have failed to accept their responsibility in this field. They hid behind the usual old argument that it was a State responsibility. However, in their inevitable fashion the men of the past finally realised in preparing ‘policies’ for the recent election that the community demanded that the Australian government, regardless of whichever party it was, take action in this field.
For years the present Liberal and Country Party Opposition neglected the needs of the State public transport systems while pumping money into roads. Public transport has been allowed to run down to a condition where it is now hardly a realistic alternative to the private motor vehicle. The consequences of this approach, which was contrary to the policies and experiences of so many overseas governments, are that today’s cities are less attractive places in which to live and work. We are now in a position where congested roads and air pollution are the norm rather than the exception.
The pollutants emitted from the internal combustion engine are carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen and particulates. They result mainly from the incomplete combustion of the fuel and from high temperature oxidation processes. Some emissions are pollutants themselves, such as carbon monoxide, smoke and lead. Nitrogen oxides, while pollutants, also react with hydrocarbons in the atmosphere to produce other pollutants including photochemical oxidants. In the cities, motor vehicles are virtually the sole source of carbon monoxide, the main source of hydrocarbons and a large source of oxides of nitrogen. The relative volume of these pollutants emitted by various types of motor vehicles is shown in the following table which is based on readings taken in Sydney. The figures for hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen are for the period 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and for carbon monoxide, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the table to which I have referred.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– Reported levels for the larger cities in Australia of carbon monoxide and oxidants, the 2 pollutants most commonly associated with motor vehicles, are up to four and five times the World Health Organisation’s long term goals. In the present economic climate the Australian Government appreciates the need to exercise restraint in determining its expenditure levels and patterns. In order that our overall level of expenditure on land transport systems will not place excessive pressures on the demand for resources, the Australian Government’s allocation for roads over the current 3 years will be $1,1 20m, some $225m less than that recommended by the Bureau of Roads.
As the Prime Minister stated at the recent Premier’s Conference, we propose to press on with the urban public transport programs we have initiated. He reiterated the commitment the Treasurer (Mr Crean) made in the 1973 Budget speech, that is, that our outlays in this field will increase rapidly in 1974-75 and beyond as this major new capital works program gets under way. This approach will enable the public transport systems to begin to reduce the difference in the services that they provide as compared with that available to the private motorist.
I should like to illustrate the base from which this program must commence. The last large scale investment in urban public transport was in the 1920s and 1930s, when Sydney and Melbourne undertook electrification of their suburban rail systems. Indeed much of current rolling stock dates from that period. From that time there was little investment in public transport beyond the ad hoc acquisition of rolling stock until work was recently commenced on the Eastern Suburbs railway and the Melbourne underground. In 1970-71, for example, 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.
Australia’s history of inadequacy of investment is reflected in the decline in the usage of public transport. The number of passenger journeys on government operated urban 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. In fact, as the urban population rose 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. I believe the rate of this decline in the usage of urban public transport is increasing. The number of passenger journeys fell by a further 42 million in 1971-73, a decline in usage that was more than double the average rate of decline for the previous 10 years.
Public transport operators have been caught in a vicious circle - declining patronage, reducing revenue, and increasing losses. So fares are increased and/or services reduced. These actions cause more people to turn to alternative means of transport, that is their motor vehicles, thus further increasing the losses which operators sustain and aggravating the road problems thus further increasing congestion, pollution and the demand for parkings in central business districts. Such a circle means that delays to this program, such as that which resulted from the action of the honourable Liberal and Country Party gentlemen opposite in forcing the recent election, are even more intolerable. Delays make the base, from which the program must build, even lower.
Whilst details of losses of the railway’s 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. Take the period between 1961-62 and 1970-71. Losses on these services in the capital cities rose from $8. 2m to SI 9.1m, an increase of 133 per cent. Our initiative to improve the standard of city travel will have an impact upon the finances of the public transport systems. Under the terms of the Agreement the Australian Government will provide by way of non-repayable grants twothirds of the cost of projects approved for assistance. That two-thirds of the capital costs is provided without the operating authority being required to meet interest charges means that some projects included in the scheme will be financially attractive to the operator. However, even with the two-thirds contribution other projects will not improve the operating authority’s financial position.
The position I have outlined makes it all the more desirable that the States do not increase their charges. I am reminded of the events that followed the increase in fares in July 1971. Before that increase New South Wales had managed to halt the long term trend in the decline in the number of passenger journeys. In 1970-71 there was an increase in passenger journeys by rail of over 3 million in the number of passenger journeys in 1969-70. However, following the increase of fares in 1971-72 the number of passenger journeys fell by almost 25 million. As I previously noted the fall in usage of urban public transport in 1971-72 was more than double the average rate of decline over the previous 10 years. So by one action the New South Wales Government reversed a trend towards increasing patronage and greatly contributed to the steepest decline in usage of urban transport systems in over a decade. We cannot afford to have this experience repeated.
In the case of the overall State railway operations the Australian Government is aware that their annual losses are increasing rapidly. In 1970-71 these losses totalled $110m but by 1972-73 they had risen to $2 16m, a rise of almost 100 per cent in just 2 years. In addition a recent press release by Mr Morris, the New South Wales Minister for Transport, forecast a loss of $126m for the New South Wales railways in 1973-74, an increase of almost 60 per cent in that year. The Australian Government is mindful of these problems and the need to upgrade our railways so that they can undertake their share of Australia’s transport task.
On 8 February 1973 the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) wrote to all State Premiers offering to enter into discussions on the transfer of responsibility for State railway systems. Four States, New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, agreed to enter into discussions without commitment. I was disappointed that the Victorian and Queensland governments are so insular that they were not even prepared to discuss this major initiative which could have achieved significant benefits for everyone in Australia. I should point out that the Prime Minister repeated this offer at the recent Premiers Conference where the Premiers were bemoaning their inability to meet the financial demands placed on them. Yet so far only the Tasmanian Government has made a positive offer to the Australian Government to transfer its rail system. This offer is at present under consideration. It is regrettable that the Western Australian Premier has, since the Premiers Conference, indicated that he is not prepared to consider further the possible transfer of that railway system. In doing so he has reverted to a 19th century approach to railways and has denied his State the benefits of joining other States in the 20th century. Also with regard to rail the Prime Minister and the South Australian Premier have recently signed an agreement to construct a new standard gauge railway from Crystal Brook to Adelaide. When the project, which is estimated to cost about $80m, is completed all mainland capital cities will be linked to Australia’s standard gauge rail system.
The Prime Minister and the Premier of South Australia have also signed an agreement to construct a new standard gauge railway from Tarcoola to Alice Springs. This new line will replace the old narrow gauge line from Maree to Alice Springs that is subject to disruptions from flooding in the Lake Eyre Basin. The new line will avoid the flood areas where possible and will provide a vastly improved service to the centre and north of Australia. The cost of the line is estimated at about $85m and construction which will commence shortly will take about 5 years. The Agreement which this Bill will ratify has been produced as a result of extensive discussions at both ministerial and official levels and takes account of the interests and rights of all parties. One of the practical features of the Agreement is that it provides scope for discussion on any issues which might arise during its operation. Another major initiative contained in the Agreement is the provision for Australian Government representation on Stare government bodies concerned with the forward planning and development of policies relating to urban transport. In accordance with the Agreement all States have now made offers to the Australian Government for representation on bodies concerned with the planning and policy of urban public transport.
It is through this participation that we will be able to facilitate the interchange of ideas between the States, a practice which has been sadly lacking in the past. We will ensure that there is no needless duplication of effort between States in urban transport and we will be exercising our responsibilities to the taxpayers of this country in the expenditure of their money. Through the representation on the State bodies we will also be able, as a complement to our broad urban strategies, clearly to advise the States on our objectives in urban transport and to have them taken into account in the development of their programs. For our own part we are aware that Australia does not lead the world in transportation. Consequently, in December 1973 I accepted on behalf of the Australian Government associate membership of the European Conference of Ministers of Transport. This body, which discusses initiatives and problems in transport, could be regarded in many ways as an international equivalent of the Australian Transport Advisory Council. Like ATAC the ECMT meets twice yearly and I have recently returned from ECMT’S latest meeting in Vienna where extensive discussions were held on roads, road safety and railways. I have explained why the Australian Government believes that there is a need for a program to improve urban public transport. I would now like briefly to describe the types of projects that will be initially undertaken.
In March 1973 the States were invited to submit a program for capital improvements over the 5 years to 1977-78. For the allocation of funds in 1973 the approach adopted by the Australian Government was to consider only those projects that were proposed to commence in 1973-74. This approach will be con tinued throughout the years of the program as it enables both the States and the Australian Government to maintain flexibility within the program. As our knowledge of urban transport services and the requirements of the travelling public improves programs will be altered to take account of these requirements. At present the proposals for projects to commence in 1974-75, are being considered by the Australian Government. In determining which projects would be supported for commencement in a particular year, the Australian Government has to consider the allocation of funds in its overall budgetary context, and the demands that projects will place on other industries, particularly in the field of construction.
One major deficiency throughout the urban systems is the age, almost antiquity, of rolling stock currently in use. Over 550 carriages of the Sydney urban passenger rail system are at least 45 years old and more than 500 of the Melbourne carriages are over 45 years old with some having been constructed in the last century. The full impact of past lack of investment can be realised when it is appreciated that half of the suburban passenger carriages in Sydney and Melbourne are over 45 years old. In addition, approximately half of the Melbourne tram fleet of almost 700 vehicles is over 40 years old.
The Australian Government allocated $ 17.26m, or 55 per cent of its intended 1973- 74 expenditure for the acquisition of new rolling stock. Under our first year’s allocation, the New South Wales Public Transport Commission will be able to purchase 92 new double-deck passenger rail cars. In Melbourne, as well as providing $3. 63m for the acquisition of 30 passenger rail carriages and $150,000 for new trams, we will provide $540,000 for the purchase of 30 buses, to replace the 20-year old vehicles presently in use. In Adelaide, Perth and Hobart the acquisition of new buses is a significant factor in their 1973-74 programs.
Another major project which we have selected for inclusion within the 1973-74 program is the quadruplication of the railway line between Granville and Penrith, estimated to cost $1 7.2m. This project will greatly improve services to the rapidily expanding western area of Sydney; an area where it should be noted that the Australian Government is taking a number of initiatives. Additional tracks will be constructed in Melbourne on various lines 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 areas 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 bus ways and bus only lanes in Sydney and Perth are included in the program and the facilities for waiting passengers will be improved in most cities. The allocation of Australian Government funds for those projects which have so far been selected for inclusion is shown in a table. Mr Acting Speaker, rather than read the allocations, I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a table.
– Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I thank the House. These are only the projects which were to commence in 1973-74. As I stated previously consideration of the projects proposed for commencement in 1974-75 is underway at present. 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. During my recent overseas visit I had discussions on the rapid transit system which is to be constructed in Nancy, France. This system, which is proposed to be operational by 1977, represents a new concept in urban travel and is one of many which may well have application to Australian 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 evaluation of a project takes account of factors such 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 long range plans for urban and regional development.
During my overseas visits as the Australian Minister for Transport I have made a point of investigating urban transport systems in Europe, Canada, the United States of America and Japan. Having seen the efficiency of the more conventional services in Paris, Munich, Montreal and Philadelphia, having examined the operation of and ridden on the highly sophisticated BART system in San Francisco and having discussed the system to be built in Nancy I am convinced that the Australian commuting public has been 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, perpetuated by the honourable gentlemen opposite in the Liberal and Country Parties by their failure to act whilst in government and then in their shabby approach in forcing the recent election which delayed the introduction of our programs. As we upgrade existing systems to an acceptable standard, we will be examining some of the more advanced technologies which are at present on the threshhold 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 are updating our knowledge of overseas developments and will continue to keep abreast of these and further 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 this 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 when I announced the Australian Government’s initiative. I believe that it is essential that the Australian Government does not commit itself to providing assistance for these projects without adequate investigations. Evaluations such as the benefit-cost analysis undertaken by the BTE are even more necessary when the magnitude of the expenditure involved in these projects is considered. The evaluations must be undertaken if the Australian Government is to make effective use of available resources. A similar position exists with provincial centres. The 3 centres involved with the populations over 100,000 - Newcastle, Wollongong 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, large scale commitments must be preceded by comprehensive investigations. In this regard I am pleased to note that transportation studies of Newcastle and Wollongong and their links to Sydney have been commenced by the New South Wales Government. These studies will provide a basis for our consideration of the major initiatives required in these areas. 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 are introduced to the Australian people as soon as possible will be through 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 as part of the 1973/74 program. They do not, however, appear to represent the best which modern technology has to offer.
One example of the factors which give rise to concern about the current designs is the question of acceleration and braking rates which have such an important influence on energy consumption and the schedule times of trains making frequent stops. Compare the acceleration rates of the new Sydney and
Melbourne trams with the latest trains from overseas. They are:
With regard to passenger comfort and convenience, neither the Sydney nor the 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 two current designs. I accept that local factors may prevent us from developing a completely uniform train design for all capital cities. These factors include ‘loading gauge’ differences, station and signal block lengths, performance requirements and passenger trip patterns of the various systems which may warrant development of differing capacities of vehicles. But the means of overcoming these difficulties lie in having one basic design and appropriate variations. It is for this reason that we are developing the Australian urban passenger train of which a prototype is expected to be operational in 1976.
Our approach to the development of the Australian urban passenger train will not be restricted to improvements to the hardware of the vehicle. We will also seek to have the improvements accompanied by timetable reliability, comfort, safety, co-ordination and business efficiency. (Extension of time granted.) I thank the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) and the Leader of the House (Mr Daly). 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, driver and co-ordinators, and automatic ticket vending. Systematic development of urban rail systems is seen to be a key factor to the success of the Australian Urban Passenger Train Project. I would like to refer to State participation in this Project. Their close cooperation has been sought from the outset and, in this regard, the Australian Government is very much aware that collectively the State
Railways have vast experience in the urban transport field. Through regular meetings with the States a forum for open and constructive discussion has been developed. This forum has been, and no doubt will continue to be, invaluable in the design and implementation stages of the whole Project. I hasten to add that the States have to date co-operated fully in the Project. I very much appreciate their co-operation. I announced on 20 February 1974 that an Australian consultancy group had been appointed to provide technical leadership to the Project. The feasibility of operating the Australian urban passenger train on new networks in metropolitan areas is also being examined.
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 service 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. The Parramatta system would be constructed at no cost to the New South Wales Government. In addition, although New South Wales has been requested to operate the system, the Australian Government would meet any losses involved in its operation. The Premier has agreed to discuss this proposal and discussions have already commenced between Australian and State Government 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 financial year. There appears to be similar scope for the development of greater co-ordination in the approach to the design and standards of comfort and ride provided in Australia’s buses. Over the period of the program a large number of buses will be acquired and I am determined to see improvements in the standard of comfort for bus users. I would hope that it may not be long before buses are of high standard with features such as automatic transmission, more comfortable seating and possibly air conditioning.
I have described a number of the Australian Government’s initiatives to meet the pressing need to improve our cities’ public transport systems. 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 in difference of governments before our election in 1972. Rather our aim is the rational development of urban public transport. Each mode of transport operating in the urban areas should be encouraged to perform the tasks for which it is the most suitable, that is, in the case of public transport, 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 honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Nixon) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
Bill presented by Mr Charles Jones, and read a first time.
– I move:
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. As honourable members will appreciate this Bill relates to 1973-74. Because of the delays that have occurred this Bill must operate retrospectively. The Australian Government decided to continue with the allocation of these funds as the States have been made aware of our intention to support research and planning. Accordingly research and planning projects have been initiated by the States for which they, quite rightly, expected a two-thirds contribution of costs by the Australian Government. In order to honour our commitments I am now reintroducing this Bill.
The tasks to be undertaken under the Research and Planning Scheme will assist both the State and Australian Governments in determining their 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. The Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics have been established by the Australian Government to undertake research into transport matters but 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. Of course some of their work has been in the field of urban public transport. In this regard I will shortly be tabling the report of the Bureau of Transport Economics on Consumer Preferences in Urban Rail Carriage Design. This survey was undertaken throughout Brisbane during May and June of last year with the co-operation of Queensland Railways. A similar bus passenger preference survey will shortly be commenced.
As well as undertaking investigations into public transport the Bureau of Transport Economics has been investigating alternative fuel sources for the car. Studies into the use of liquid petroleum gas and electric vehicles have been undertaken and I expect shortly to receive the reports from the Director of the Bureau of Transport Economics.
However, I do not consider that the Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics should be expected to be the only bodies undertaking research into public transport. It must be appreciated that the States with their operating expertise are in the best position to undertake a number of the investigations that should be made into urban public transport. Unfortunately the States 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 dial-a-bus which are presently on the threshold of operational practicability.
As all Australians must be aware developments are proceeding overseas into new transport technologies. I am reminded of the work being undertaken to develop magnetic suspension systems. These include developments by Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm, the developments of the French Aerotrain and Krauss.Maffei’s Transurban and Transrapid systems.
During my brief overseas visit last month to attend the 39th session of the European Conference of Ministers of Transport I took the opportunity to inspect the progress made toward the construction of a similar system in Nancy, France. This system, which has been developed by the Otis Elevator Company, is expected to be carrying 110,000 people per day by 1977 and 165,000 people per day by 1985.
Even within existing systems there is scope for exciting developments. In most major European cities, for example, special priority systems operate for the exclusive use of buses including, for example, road use arrangements which allow for buses to operate in exclusive lanes against the flow of traffic thus allowing a faster service to be provided. These systems enable public transport to come closer towards providing a level of service comparable with that provided by the private motor vehicle. 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.
Studies could be undertaken into fare structures. Such issues as the desirability of zoned fares, fiat fare charges or a one fare structure for all modes could have a significant impact on the demand for public transport. The overall level of fares is another issue worthy of investigation. As it is generally accepted that urban public transport is not financially viable the level of fares should not reflect total costs but should also take into account such benefits to the community as reductions in road congestion and pollution from motor vehicles and the system’s ready availability. Studies on the level of fares should also consider the charges on alternative transport modes through such factors as the cost and availability of off-street parking. Indeed I would be pleased to co-operate with local and State governments in studies to determine whether to restrict the availability of such parking within central business districts.
I have pointed to the inter-dependence of the various transport modes. The Australian Government is determined to rationalise its approach to developing policies for transport.
This Bill allocates funds for only one year. Future research and planning funds for urban transport will be provided under closely coordinated and integrated arrangements in which funds for road research and planning and urban transport research and planning are made available within the one piece of legislation. This is a logical step from our initiative to combine all major transport responsibilities under one Minister and within one department. It is envisaged that investigations to be undertaken under this scheme will extend beyond the examination of hardware proposals. As I have outlined such matters as software systems, including the examination of management techniques, and studies of the relationship between modes will also be the subject of comprehensive studies.
The long term results of this expenditure will be seen in 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 honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Nixon) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Enderby, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Extradition (Foreign States) Act to permit the application of that Act to countries which offer reciprocity of treatment to Australia under their domestic law.
The Extradition (Foreign States) Act 1966- 1972 deals with extradition to and from countries other than those in the Commonwealth of Nations. The Act provides for continuation of former British extradition treaties and authorises the Governor-General to apply the Act to any other foreign state by regulation where an extradition treaty is negotiated after the commencement of the Act. It also authorises the application of the Act, again by regulation, where a treaty other than an extradition treaty, which contains provisions relating to the surrender of fugitives - for example the hijacking convention - comes into force between Australia and other contracting foreign states.
While some progress has been made in negotiating new extradition treaties it cannot be said that this has kept pace with the increasing mobility of criminals and other fugitives from justice. This is illustrated by the recent attempts to secure the extradition of the Bartons from Brazil in the absence of a treaty. Brazilian law provides that extradition from Brazil may take place where a treaty exists or where, in the absence of such a treaty, there is reciprocity of treatment.
The term ‘treaty’ is denned in the Extradition (Foreign States) Act 1966 as including a convention, agreement or arrangement. Before the request for the extradition of the Bartons was made it was suggested to the Brazilian authorities that a treaty within the meaning of our Act should be made quickly by an exchange of diplomatic notes. Brazilian law, however, provided no such flexibility in relation to the form of a treaty. We then sought to negotiate an arrangement with Brazil to enable the application of the Australian Act to Brazil with Australian requests for extradition from Brazil being dealt with under the reciprocity provisions of their existing legislation. So far the Brazilian au thorites have been unable to reply to our proposals in this regard.
What is proposed now is that the Extradition (Foreign States) Act should be amended to permit the Governor-General to apply the Act to a foreign country where he is satisfied that under the domestic law of that country extradition is provided where reciprocity is offered. The safeguarding of the human rights of fugitive persons in Australia sought by a foreign country are protected by the Australian Act. For example, the determination of whether a prima facie case is made out and whether a fugitive is a political offender are matters ultimately determined by the Australian courts. Nor can a person be surrendered if he would be prejudiced at his trial on account of race, religion, nationality or political opinion.
It is highly desirable for the Bill to be taken through all stages during the current session of Parliament so that the Act can be extended to Brazil without delay. This is not merely to secure the extradition of the Bartons but generally to close off Brazil as a haven for white collar fugitives from Australia. There area a number of countries, of which Japan is one, where extradition laws provide for extradition where reciprocity is provided. This legislation will enable Australia to offer such reciprocity if the need arises where no treaty exists.
It is not the intention of the Government to use this provision in substitution for the negotiation of extradition treaties. On the contrary we intend to press forward much more vigorously to negotiate new treaties where none exist and to negotiate new treaties where the treaties we have with other countries are inherited from Britain. Extradition is a 2- way process. It is necessary to ensure that extradition is not afforded from Australia in a way which is contrary to rights of the person sought by a foreign country. However, it is necessary also to ensure that justice be served and that fugitives be apprehended.
I would stress that the proposal that extension of the Act to a foreign country should be by regulation means that the same opportunity will be afforded to Parliament to scrutinise and disallow regulations applying the Act to any foreign country as apply to any other regulations made by the Governor-General. Since treaties are. applied by regulation in the normal course Parliament will have the same surveillance of regulations applying the Act to a foreign country under the proposed legislation as it has when the Act is applied pursuant to a treaty. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Ellicott) adjourned.
Meat producers - Trade Unions - Australian Medical Profession.
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House I propose the question:
– Tonight I speak in support of the remarks made last night by my colleague the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) in his spirited defence of the meat
That the House do now adjourn. Mr McVEIGH (Darling Downs) (10.31) - Tonight I speak in support of the remarks made last night by my colleague the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) in his spirited defence of the meat industry, with particular emphasis on the meat producer. In rural areas there is a fever of uncertainty over the ad hoc policies of the Labor administration for rural industries. The policies of the Australian Labor Party are both confusing and distressing to all people associated with rural industry and to people who live in rural towns. My colleague told the nation of the strike situation in Queensland where in a series of meatworks there is irresponsible trade unionism. I refer to the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union whose members are on strike. In another section of the industry we have the members of the Bacon Factory Employees Union who arc not on strike.
I want to make a spirited defence of the meat producers of Australia who seem to have had meted out to them by the Government a diagnosis which says: ‘In the final analysis you people must be the people who have to put up with our economic decisions, which are based on a policy of centralised, socialistic control’. I point out that the meat industry is a very important industry as far as our exports are concerned. It accounts for 22.5 per cent of the total amount of money received from the export of primary products. We all know how Australia depends for its economic viability on primary industries. We of the Australian Country Party are also concerned at the effect the price of meat has on the consumer price index. In the food group it is the largest sub-group and it accounts for 10.7 per cent of the consumer price index. I make the point that on the one hand we have a meat industry which is being rapidly forced into bankruptcy while on the other hand the consumers of Australia, the housewives - we are concerned for the housewives - and their families, have to put up with high meat prices.
What is the cause of the problem? Notwithstanding the great claims made by the Minister for Overseas Trade, who, in a deceptive and treacherous manner, seeks to mislead the people of Australia by saying that the Government has saved the wheat industry, those of us who have some practical experience in the industry know that long before he became a Minister the Australian Wheat Board sold not 4 million tons of wheat to the People’s Republic of China but 16 million tons. We also know that in September 1972, some 2 months prior to the socialist government being inflicted on this country, a delegation of Australian wheat farmers renegotiated a contract with the People’s Republic of China. I charge the Minister for Overseas Trade now with the very special responsibility of finding overseas markets for our meat. It is all right for the Minister to come in here, parade like a peacock and say ‘We have done this and we have done that’. I want him to find a market overseas for our meat.
We realise that because of the oil crisis and the slowdown in economic activity in, for .example, Japan, the housewife in Japan has less disposable income with which to buy foodstuffs. The American market could not be entered because the American producers supplied the home market with meat which should have gone to Japan. We realise that the European Economic Community has specific problems. On account of the tight Community outlook so many tons of local meat have to be bought by the consumers to balance imports.
The Minister should be able to get overseas markets for meat because he parades in this House and says that he can do so. Has he not heard that Canada has been a major importer of Australian meat and meat products? Is he completely unaware of the growing standard of living in South East Asia? Can he not approach these areas and obtain markets for us? I warn the Australian nation that Government interference in using overseas trade for cheap political gain is of very great significance and it must be avoided. However, we want this great trade disciple - the Minister - to do something about increasing our overseas markets for our meat.
Last year the Labor Party wanted to impose a tax on the export of meat. In 12 short months the price of meat on the local market has decreased from $50 per 100 lb to $22 per 100 lb for large bullocks. Cow beef dropped from $45 to $20. Vealer beef decreased from $45 to $26 per 100 lb. But the price of beef to the Australian housewife is still far too high. I shall tell honourable members why. It is because of the high cost factor in the butchers’ shops, high wages, and increased transport costs, due largely to increases in petrol prices which have been caused by this Government. In the last budget the price of petrol increased by 7 cents and now is to go up by up to 32 cents in distant parts of Australia.
As from 8 July transport costs in Queensland went up 30 per cent and there will be corresponding increases in other States. We have a situation where if $1 a week increase is granted in the butchery trade it costs the employer at least an extra SI. 50 a week because of his increased contributions for payroll tax, long service leave, workers compensation, sick leave and so on. It is intolerable when a Government sits idly by and allows a situation to develop which increases costs in the slaughtering trade in 12 months by 46 per cent for beef and 38 per cent for lambs. We have the situation where if the Australian producer gives a lamb for exactly nothing to the butcher it would cost the housewife across the counter 17c per lb to have that lamb slaughtered and dressed.
– Where is the honourable member for Eden-Monaro?
– I am reminded by my colleague the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) about the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan), who wanted to impose an export tax on beef. Yet, within 12 months the meat producer is practically bankrupt. I shall also say a little about the 1.6c per lb inspection lax which has been imposed on all meat and meat products exported. That may have been all right when meat was bringing $64 per 100 lb on the export market. But 1.6c per lb now on the export price of $28 per 100 lb is causing a great drain on the resources of the people who kill and export meat. I make the point that that the 1.6c per lb does not cover overtime payments for Commonwealth inspectors who are engaged in the inspection of meat.
There have been increases not only in freight costs but also in the packaging costs for meat. In particular there is one item of very significant and meaningful importance. I refer to the cost of cartons. Because of the inability of the Government to control irresponsible trade unionism we have an increase in the cost of the manufacture of cartons due to labour costs. There is also an increase in the cost of the necessary materials used in the production of those cardboard cartons. There are adequate supplies of paper in New Zealand, but because of the complete lack of knowledge of the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) in arranging adequate overseas shipping transport there is a large stockpile of paper in New Zealand but we have not sufficient ships in which to transport it to Australia.
– Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Tonight I wish to offer congratulations to 4 members of the Government Party for the courage they have displayed. I refer to the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham), who is the honourable member for Capricornia, the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass), who is the honourable member for Maribyrnong, the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) and the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman). The house will have perceived that I am offering congratulations to 4 genuine medical doctors on the other side - Dr Everingham, Dr Cass, Dr Gun and Dr Klugman. I do so because they are doctors and they have had the courage to defy their union by giving support to the Government’s health Bills and the Government’s health program. It requires quite a large measure of courage on the part of a Labor member to defy his union - to scab, as it were, if I may use the picturesque phrase, that labour employs in these matters.
I offer these congratulations all the more sincerely because I believe that the issue that they have chosen is a wrong issue. But that is not the point. The point is that they have shown great courage in allowing themselves to be associated with this action. They have defied their union. They have defied the organisation either to which they belong or which operates to control the trade and calling to which they belong. They have done this not because their union has as yet done anything illegal or anything of that character. It is only suggested that it might perhaps be taking a course of action which is perfectly legal but which would run counter to the Government’s health scheme. They have had the courage of their convictions. They realise that the requirements of what they believe to be the national interest - I do not believe it to be the national interest, but they do - should override all trade union obligations. I agree with them. This is a courageous thing to do. They will be named as scabs.
– I take a point of order, Mr Acting Speaker. I thought it was a peripheral remark that the honourable member for Mackellar was making about us scabbing on a union. May I point out that the Australian Medical Association is an employers organisation registered as such in the Arbitration Court.
– Order! That is not a point of order. I call the honourable member for Mackellar.
– I do not consider that to be a valid point at all. He is a member of this trade and profession. That is his calling. The trade and profession is concerned with its remuneration, its conditions of employment, its conditions of work. To take the trivial point that the honourable member takes is surely wrong. Anyway, I am congratulating him, so let the point stand. What he has done as a private individual defying the union is all the more meritorious because the union so far has done nothing illegal. The union is covered by the clause in the Constitution which prevents industrial conscription and the union, if it organises, is of course covered by a clause in the Constitution.
But what has been done is, in the jargon of the trade union movement, scabbing. It takes a great deal of courage, and I think the honourable members should be congratulated on the courage that they are displaying in this matter. It goes further than that, because they are supporting the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) who has gone on record recently as either himself encouraging the organisation of a scab union or alternatively encouraging the use of free labour in the medical field where the union itself has some kind of authority. I think it is a very good thing. I do not think that the union has behaved wrongly, but I think it is a very good thing that members of a union who believe it has behaved wrongly should have the courage of that belief; and they have exhibited high, fine courage in coming out and defying their union when remuneration for work is in question. They incur the danger of being named scabs and of being associated with the formation of what could be either a scab union, in the very unfair jargon of the trade union movement, or perhaps the organisation of free labour where the union had decided to withdraw its labour.
This is a most important principle and I commend it. We need more people who have the courage of these 4 doctors. We need more people who, when a union is wrong, when a union is defying the court, when a union is doing something illegal, will, as these 4 people have done, endorse the principle that the national interest is superior to union organisation and that the national interest should take precedence over union organisation. We need more people with this kind of courage who, when the union is behaving wrongly as some unions have recently behaved - indeed one union was recently castigated by the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) at this table yesterday - will stand up and say: ‘I will defy the union. I will work. I believe that my obligations to the nation are superior to my obligations to the union, and if they call me ‘scab’ - to use that horrible word - ‘then I have behind me the great example of these four Government supporters who have endorsed this principle, that a member has a higher obligation than his obligation to the union and that he has a duty now to be a strike breaker’. He has a duty to encourage free labour in a calling where, as the Minister for Transport said yesterday, the union is behaving in an outrageous and irresponsible fashion. I will not repeat the adjectives that the Minister employed. They were very strong adjectives and his statement was a very strong statement. Surely the members of the union to which the Minister referred now have the obligation to show the same guts as our 4 parliamentarians have shown, to defy their union and to work; because as the Minister has said, they are in defiance of the court. Their actions are illegal. Let them remember, as they are reminded by the actions of our 4 heroes tonight -
– There are five.
– Are there five?
– I am sorry if I have missed one. I apologise to whomever I have missed. Let me add their names to the heroic roll of honour. Let these people whom the Minister describes as workers who are in defiance of the court and who are doing horrible things remember that they have a higher obligation than their obligation to the union.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to thank the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) for his words of commendation and encouragement. He referred to the support by several honourable members on this side of the national policy of the Australian Labor Party in defiance of an organisation which, as he expressed it, acts to control the calling to which the medical people on this side of the House have all belonged. I must commend him, too, for his similar action on many occasions when he has had the courage to defy the rulings given in his own Party room and has moved across the floor to vote with the Australian Labor Party. I commend him further for his action, when he was a Minister, in very ingeniously working in some very good socialist legislation against the entrenched forces that for many years had prevented such things as he introduced from happening. I instance the rehabilitation scheme which he sold to his supporters as a means of getting people off pensions and sickness benefits but which do some good nevertheless. Of course the Government will expand it to all forms of rehabilitation.
I may add that the so-called union, the Australian Medical Association, which has been called the strongest union in Australia, is, as one of my professional colleagues interjected, not registered as a union but as an employer organisation and represents overwhelmingly those who employ other people to assist them in their private enterprise. The only point of major confrontation and difference between the Government and this so-called union is in relation to that issue of private enterprise being superior to the sorts of policies that the Australian Labor Government seeks to introduce and which are mainly for the upgrading of the public sector. I had handed to me by the Federal President of the Australian Medical Association this afternoon what I would describe as an ultimatum on behalf of most of the private practice doctors in the Australian Capital Territory, not acting as a union on behalf of people who are negotiating conditions of employment but as a body delivering an ultimatum saying that they refuse the right of the elected Government of this country or indeed any authority in the Australian Capital Territory to increase the public sector of health care in this community. They are living in a past age and do not recognise the need for a public sector in their profession.
No other profession acts like this. We do not have boycotts of the public sector by the private sector in the legal profession, among accountants or among teachers. People in these professions co-operate in an ethical way. Yet the proposal by Australian Capital Territory doctors is that the moment we move to expand the public sector by bringing salaried specialists into Canberra hospitals they will so far forget their professional principles as to refuse any communication, verbal or written, with a public practice doctor who takes over the care of one of their patients. This attitude jeopardises the patients’ welfare, according to any principles of medical practice. If he likes, the. honourable member for Mackellar can say that I am scabbing on the union. I would say that those doctors in private practice who are taking this stand in the Australian Capital Territory are not scabbing on any union; they are scabbing on their own patients who employ them to do something, namely, to perform a professional service which they are committed to do, which as professional people they have undertaken to dp as a service and not as a commercial enterprise.
– Do you consider that a professional man has a different obligation to society from that of a blue collar worker?
– Of course there are obligations to society. One of those obligations is to abide by the decrees of a court, as the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) has said, as the Government has said, and as the Labor Party’s published policy documents show.
– Why do they refuse to obey court orders?
– The honourable gentleman asks why they refuse to obey court orders. One would think that it was within the power of this Government or the alternative Government, which had 23 years to do it, to solve all industrial disputes and to prevent them by somehow going along to the union and saying: ‘Please, will you do what the court says? Please, will you be good boys? Please, will you abide by your agreement with your employer? Please, will you consider the national interest instead of your own selfish interest?’ What actions of any government have succeeded in doing this?
There has been a great outcry from previous Ministers for Labor who are now in the Opposition ranks about the terrible lack of national responsibility among unionists. What have they ever done to terminate that situation? What have they done with unruly unions? When they were Ministers they suggested that the Opposition do something about it. They appealed to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), when he was the Leader of the Opposition, to solve the problem for them. They appealed to Mr Bob Hawke as the President of the Australian Labor Party to solve it for them. What does the record show? The record shows that although the absolute number of stoppages has increased with the full employment that we have pro duced - this has happened under regimes throughout the world when full employment was produced - the absolute number of man hours lost has gone down. This is what honourable members opposite forget. Most stoppages are now for 24 hours or Jess. One of the reasons for these stoppages is, of course, that unless an industrial dispute occurs many of the arbitration courts cannot hear a case. If there is no dispute the matter cannot go to arbitration; so very often there is no option but to create a stoppage.
I resent the assumption that was made about somebody who refuses to sell his labour when he is not breaking any agreement. The honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) would uphold the right of the beef cattleman who is not getting any money back for beef when he takes it to the market to refuse to sell that beef. I resent the implication that a man refusing to sell his labour is acting against the national interest. AH stoppages are not against the national interest. If it were not for strikes, if it were not for union action, if it were not for the enforcement of union discipline, we would have the dark ages upon us today. I am sure that the honourable member for Mackellar would be in his element in such dark ages.
There is no national or communal responsibility in the action of the AMA which we are opposing. The AMA is showing irresponsibility. On the one hand it says that it wants more doctors in the Australian Capital Territory. It is only because we are bringing salaried doctors into the ACT that general practitioner numbers have increased. They have not increased in the private sector. When we demonstrate that we can increase the number of doctors the AMA claims that we are encroaching on the private practice of its members. In almost the next breath it is saying that doctors are overworked and that we need more doctors. We believe that it is the duty of a national government to increase and improve the public sector, and we will look with sympathy at any encroachment that our efforts make on a man’s private practice, but we are offering an alternative. I will negotiate with any individual or group the terms whereby practitioners may have sessional appointments at the hospital and the right of private practice.
– Order! It being 11 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Tuesday next at 2.15 p.m.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 July 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19740711_reps_29_hor89/>.