29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr Speaker (Hon. S. F. Cope) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
We the undersigned citizens of Australia do humbly petition the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australiathat 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.
Futher 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, Mr Bungey, Mr Collard, Mr Garland, Mr Hyde and Mr Viner.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost 4 out of 5 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 Kevin Cairns, Mr Drury, Mr McLeay and Mr Wilson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost many citizens more, particularly single people and working wives.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalisation of health services which will lead toimpersonalised and mediocre standards of medical care, the creation of a huge new bureaucracy, and will limit the citizen’s freedom of choice.
That the present health scheme can be amended to overcome existing deficiencies, and that the proposed scheme is totally unnecessary.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basicprinciples of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Viner.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
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 nowretired 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 time in accordance with figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician and published quarterly.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Armitage, Dr Edwards, Mr Mackellar and Mr Willis.
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 Program Standards of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which permits the exploitation of sex or violence is unacceptable to us.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the existing Television Program 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 Snedden, Mr MacKellar and Mr Wentworth.
The Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth that proposals have been made aimed at dismembering the repatriation system and transferring some of its facilities and services to other authorities and departments.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government does not allow dismemberment of the repatriation system nor the transfer of any of its functions to other authorities and/or departments.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Armitage.
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 undersigned persons believe that some literature and films being published and shown throughout Australia are detrimental to the wellbeing of the community.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take steps to see that the publication and availability of pornographic and other material of that nature is restricted and that the people are made aware of the dangers to the community from such literature and films.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Bungey.
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 problem of the lack of flood time access to the district must be rectified in the very near future because of
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government to provide flood-free access to Colo Shire, New South Wales.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Cadman.
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 up to ten million people are said by the UN Secretary-General, Mr Kurt Waldheim, to face death by starvation in the Sahelian region of Africa and that as a result of this drought, many nomads are being forced to give up their traditional way of life; and
That the resources of the Governments of this region are inadequate to cope with either the immediate or long-term needs of these people.
We your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge that the Australian Government grant both immediate emergency aid to a value of at least $10m and continue to assist in the long-term agricultural and social development of this region.
And that it take a leading part in initatives to set up a world food fund and world fertilizer fund at the World Food Conference this November. by Mr Enderby.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will move to immediately revoke all whaling licenses issued by the Australian Government and to reimpose a total ban on the importation of all whale produce.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Enderby.
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 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 sufficient 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 Wilson.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Urban and Regional Development a question. During the recent election campaign in Ballarat I was criticised by my Australian Labor Party opponent on the ground that I had not put sufficient pressure on the Minister to have Ballarat declared a growth centre. I ask: Where do I have to apply further pressure on the Minister to have Ballarat declared a growth centre?
– The Australian Government, in co-operation with the Victorian Government, has determined that 2 growth centres should be undertaken as joint projects in Victoria; that is, Wodonga as part of the Albury- Wodonga complex and Geelong. As to the other areas of Victoria, a study is being carried out at the present time jointly by the Department of State Development and Decentralisation and the Department of Local Government in Victoria and the Cities Commission to determine other growth centres. When further growth centres are to be determined an announcement will be made jointly by the Victorian Minister for State Development and Decentralisation and myself, after discussion with my cabinet Colleagues.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. He will have noted recent reports, even a newspaper editorial, claiming that the Government’s far sighted Australian Assistance Plan is to be scaled down or even forgotten. Is there any basis for such rumours and is there any reason why any regional council for social development that is working conscientiously on project evaluations and the drawing up of a constitution, such as the Southern Tasmanian Regional Council, should have to slow down its efforts? Finally, so that regional councils stay keen and do not become disillusioned, can the Minister reassure the House that the
Australian Assistance Plan remains a high priority of the Labor Government, in comparison apparently with the Opposition, whose spokesman in this area described the AAP this week as ‘squandering money’?
– The Australian Assistance Plan, which is a program for community based regional social welfare programs administered at the local level, retains a high priority with the Government. There has never been any suggestion that the program will be scaled down. Local regional councils should continue to push ahead with their planning and with the preparation of budgets and their ultimate submission to the Government. The Government and I, in particular, regard it as being one of our more important undertakings. It certainly will not be forgotten. I resent and reject strongly the efforts of the spokesman for the Opposition on welfare matters, the honourable member for Hotham, to denigrate this very important initiative-
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Every time the Minister for Social Security misrepresents me during question time I will get up on a point of order, even if you rule me out of order, Mr Speaker. Thousands of people are listening to what is being said now and they switch off their radios after question time-
– Order! Any honourable member who considers himself to have been misrepresented has adequate opportunity after question time to make a personal explanation.
– If the honourable member has become upset before I have said anything, what will he be like when I have finished? I resent and reject strongly the statement of the Opposition spokesman on welfare matters, the honourable member for Hotham, in the Parliament last week - or was it this week - in which he referred to this program as being a program of political patronage. It was not so long ago that he was speaking on the program in most favourable terms, as being the sort of program that a Liberal would be happy to develop. There has been no deviation from the principles outlined on that occasion. In fact, the development of the program - the application of the principles - has been refined greatly. The program is at varying stages of development in more than 30 regions. The stage of development is dependent upon the capacity of the local area to sustain the program. There will be 70 regions in the whole of Australia when it is fully operative.
I wish to warn the people in those local areas of what they could expect, in the light of the statement by the spokesman for the Opposition on welfare matters, if the Opposition were to become the Government. Quite clearly the Opposition has now changed its attitude towards this very worthwhile community based program of social welfare services, and if the Opposition were to be the government it would cut back that program. It would pare it to the bone. It would destroy it.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. As I said before, you have a heavy responsibility. I would like my point of order at least heard by you, Sir. It is well known that thousands of people who listen to question time do not listen to the parliamentary broadcast after question time concludes. You were in the Chair on Tuesday, and I ask you whether you intend to permit this Minister to continue to misrepresent me and the Opposition on its policies on social welfare.
– As I remarked before, no point of order is involved in relation to this matter. A Minister is entitled to answer a question in any way in which he deems fit. I repeat that there is ample opportunity for honourable members to seek redress if they claim to have been misrepresented in any way by a Minister when answering a question. In such circumstances honourable members are entitled to make a personal explanation after question time.
– I would not want to misrepresent the honourable member for Hotham. There is no need; he has Sir Robert Askin doing that regularly enough for him. The final point I want to make is that this Government has a desire to make a reputation for itself and there is a desire as far as I am concerned, if I may display a little vanity, to make my reputation by expanding and enhancing and improving our social welfare programs, and we are doing that. It is quite clear that the reputation of the Opposition spokesman on welfare matters, the honourable member for Hotham, will be made according to the way in which he can scale down these programs. That is the choice the Australian public has.
– I rise on a point of order. It has been the custom of this House to allow a misrepresentation to be pinned immediately after the honourable member who has made that misrepresentation -
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– Let me make my point of order.
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. No point of order is involved. I have just explained twice-
– Sir, I have not made my point of order.
– I know what the honourable gentleman is leading up to and I say that no point of order is involved.
– I think that an honourable member is entitled to say -
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. Are there any further questions without notice? I call the honourable member for Farrer.
– I rise on a point of order. Mr Speaker. Surely the Minister is not responsible for the policies of the Opposition.
– Order! I called the honourable member for the purpose of asking a question. Is the honourable member asking a question or is he raising a point of order?
– No, I am taking a point of order. My point of order is that the Minister is not responsible for the policies of the Opposition, and therefore I believe that the answer to the question was completely out of order and should be expunged.
– Order! I would remind the House that if honourable members want me to stick strictly to Standing Orders during question time, instead of the average number of 16 questions being asked there would not be 6 questions asked from both sides of the House that would be in order. I do extend some latitude in regard to both questions and answers. I am making it quite plain that if honourable members want me to stick strictly to the Standing Orders I will do so, but if I did there would not be 6 valid questions asked each day.
– Does the Treasurer recall the lectures that he and his colleagues used to give us about the evils of usury and the wickedness of usurers? Does he recall that at that stage the bond rate was less than 5 per cent? How does he regard himself now that the bond rate being charged is more than 10 per cent?
– I am afraid I regard myself as a vicitim of circumstances and the machinations of the capitalist system.
– Is the Minister representing the Attorney-General aware of recent reports which relate to the dealings of the New South Wales Government and Parkes Development Pty Ltd? Is there any process by which a full inquiry could be ordered into this association?
– I have read, as I imagine many honourable members have read, reports of allegations of an improper association between the New South Wales Government and Parkes Development Pty Ltd. It should be said that governments - whether they be State governments or Federal governments - should at all times be above suspicion of that sort and should appear to be above suspicion. One would think that when allegations are made by apparently responsible people, like the report from the President of the Sutherland Shire Council, they demand an answer and an investigation. In answer to the honourable member’s question, this Government can do nothing about the matter. It is completely outside our ken.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture. Is he aware of the serious threat posed to crops and pastures by the large numbers of locusts still being reported in many parts of Queensland and New South Wales and possibly other States? If so, will the Australian Government provide without delay the financial assistance to enable control measures to be continued? Can the Minister inform the House whether Australian Government assistance for the control of locusts has been limited to what is known as the Australian plague locust and no finance has been made available for the spur-throated locust which also poses a very serious threat to crops and pastures and which has now been declared a noxious insect by the New South Wales Government? If this is so, will the Minister take steps to rectify this absurd position and extend whatever assistance is granted by the Australian Government to cover all locusts where they are in plague proportions, as the matter is urgent? Finally, has a request been received recently from the Queensland Government for finance for this purpose?
– I call the Minister for Northern Development representing the Minister for Agriculture.
– He is the chief locust.
– If I had a head like that of the honourable member I would be one. Mr Speaker, as I understand the position, the Australian Government has agreed to provide up to $500,000 to the States to overcome the problems of the plague locust. There are 3 basic types of locust: There is the plague locust, and there is the spur-throated locust. I think that the honourable member for Kennedy knows what the spurthroated locust is. It has a peculiar shell type throat. There is also the migratory locust. Up to the present time financial assistance has been confined to the plague locust. Apparently that locust is prevalent throughout Australia. The spur-throated locust is confined mainly to the tropical areas - to Queensland and, I would think, also to some parts of northern New South Wales. The migratory locust is not as prevalent as the other two. As the honourable member for Maranoa knows, the Australian Government has already provided a lot of assistance to the Queensland Government with respect to the spur-throated locust. About 140 Army personnel have been in action and about 40 spray units and a large number of vehicles have been made available. This assistance has earned the thanks of the Queensland Government.
I am fully aware of some of the problems in central Queensland as well as in other parts of Queensland. Already there have been sightings of egg beds. The insects could thrive if the weather is conducive to hatching. As far as I know, up to a few days ago there had been no approach by the Queensland Government to the Australian Government to have this matter treated as a disaster in the same way as plagues, floods, droughts, cyclones or whatever the disaster might be. The Minister for Agriculture, in conjunction with other Ministers, is looking at this problem of extending the activities of the suggested Australian Plague Locust Commission; but as honourable members know, that is with respect to one species only, namely the plague locust, which is principally on a national basis. I suggest that the Queensland Premier or the Queensland Minister for Primary Industries approach the Minister for Agriculture in the Australian Government, particularly if it is expected that there will be a further disaster, to get specific help under the various conditions that are laid down between the Australian Government and the States for disaster help.
Br KLUGMAN - Has the Treasurer’s attention been drawn to a statement by Sir Robert Askin that he can get cheap money from his friends’ bank deposits in Switzerland and possibly Hungary? Does he think that an influx of so-called cheap money into Australia would help to control inflation? Does he realise that . Sir Robert Askin is the Treasurer of New South Wales and does he think that this is a responsible statement from a State Treasurer?
– At the moment an influx of money from anywhere would be running contrary to the policy being pursued by the Australian Government. I point out, too, that by reason of the operation of the variable deposit arrangement the money would not be borrowed at 8 per cent in any case, but at something over 10 per cent. I would appreciate it if Sir Robert Askin or anybody else would prevail upon people within Australia to lend money at lower rates than currently they seem to be demanding.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is there any substance in reports that his Government will be considering an anti-inflation package proposal, including the introduction of a capital gains tax, next Monday? Following next week’s full Cabinet discussion of the current economic situation, will he report to the House and to the nation on the result of that discussion in the form of a long awaited statement setting out the Government’s analysis of the economic situation and the specific measures that are planned to attack inflation and to implement a realistic program of price stability through wage restraint?
– The right honourable gentleman is always basing questions to me on various pieces of newspaper speculation. I think I know the particular piece of speculation on which he is basing his present question. The agenda for next week’s Cabinet meeting have not yet been drawn up by me. One of the factors in the economic context which honourable gentlemen might well anticipate we shall be discussing is, say, the conference called by Mr Justice Moore for the first full week in August. It is also quite likely that before the Cabinet meeting next week we shall have received the reports and determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal. Those are clearly matters which honourable members would expect the Cabinet to discuss.
The right honourable gentleman also mentions a question of a capital gains tax. This is the sort of matter which would be considered in the Budget context. Therefore, I cannot be expected to confirm, deny or modify any rumours on this subject. I have mentioned constantly for some months past that the Asprey Committee, which was set up by the right honourable gentleman,, has made its report and that that report will be considered by the Government when it is discussing the Budget. It will be tabled on the day of the presentation of the Budget. I have said those things and the Treasurer has said those things for quite some weeks and months past. There has been a very full legislative program for this sessional period engaging the full attention of the Cabinet up to this stage. I can assure the right honourable gentleman - he should know - that any capital gains tax legislation would require a great deal of drafting. There has been no drafting on it.
– I have received a lot of representations on this question from a number of organisations up and down the length of the Murray and also, I might say, from a number of members of both sides of this House. They are all a bit late. In fact, in March 1973, the Prime Minister called a meeting of the Premiers of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia to discuss this very problem. Needless to say, the South Australians are sick of drinking everybody’s sewerage. That meeting agreed, among other things, to set up a working party to look initially at the salinity problem which is the major concern of many of the farmers along that area, and also to look at the general question of the pollution of River Murray waters.
The working party met and deliberated for a long time. Finally, the steering committee of that body, which consists of the Ministers from each of the States and the Australian Government responsible for the administration of the River Murray Commission met at the end of last year to look at the initial report of the working party. Incidentally, that report was tabled in this House. Despite all that 1 have said in lengthy explanation of this matter, I am afraid that the report amounts to not very much.
The reality is that one does not have to persuade the Australian Government that these moves are necessary. We agree. At least one State agrees. But we are having some difficulty in getting the sort of consensus necessary to restructure the River Murray Commission.
For example, in the initial discussions it became clear that the problem of the water in the Murray arises from what is done along the banks of the Murray, and that factor largely relates to farming. But we were not allowed to say that. We cannot tell farmers that or we might lose votes. If we are not prepared to face up to these realities and yet at the same time all cry that the farmers are going broke because the water is no good, we will get nowhere.
So, I suggest to honourable members on both sides of the House that it is not necessary to put pressure on the Australian Government but to put pressure on the State governments, irrespective of their political persuasion, to make them recognise that this is a case where States’ rights are nonsense. It is people’s rights which are important, and that means all the people along the River Murray in all the States.
– My question is to the Minister for Defence. I refer to Mr Hawke’s latest demonstration of his power to dictate the policies of this Government, that is, the reversal of the Government’s announced decision to run down the work force in certain defence factories in the absence of orders to keep them properly employed. Will the Minister say whether this will be paid for out of the already inadequate defence vote or will additional finance be made available to appease Mr Hawke? When does the Minister intend to apprise the House of the Government’s plans, if it has any, for the control and future of the whole range of defence industries?
– The honourable member would know that as far back as last September there was a meeting which involved members of the trade unions and Ministers of this Government who were directly concerned. At that time it was decided that there would be a further review of the employment of workers in the Government defence industries as well as those in the naval dockyards. It was then decided that a committee would be established. That committee has already reported to the Government, but it reported in the short term on alternative work for the defence industries. The committee has now been reconstituted and it is looking at the problem from the point of view of providing alternative work in the defence industries in the long term. The committee will report to the Government in due course, and naturally the Government will make an announcement at that time.
The honourable member raised the question of the funding of the defence industries and asked whether the Department of Defence would be compensated for the amount that would be required to maintain the defence industries at their existing level of employment. This is of course a matter for the Government to determine; it is a question of policy. There is no question of an inadequacy of funds for this project at this time, and naturally the Government will give due consideration to the position if further funds are required.
– In other words, it will come out of the Defence vote?
– It always has.
– Is the Minister for Housing and Construction aware that a Queensland State Government spokesman has claimed that Queensland has had to ‘go it alone’ on the construction of accommodation units for pensioners because the Australian Government has refused to renew an agreement to provide $5m a year for this work? Can the Minister tell the House whether this agreement has been renewed and whether it will be altered in any way?
– I never cease to be amazed at the barrage of distortion and misrepresentation that emanates from the Queensland Government. This claim by a so-called spokesman of that Government is completely without foundation and in fact is at variance with understandings which I have effected with the Queensland Minister for Housing in respect to the States Grants (Dwellings for Aged Pensioners) Act, under which this agreement is made. The agreement, which provided $25m for the housing of age pensioners, expired on 1 July. Early in 1973 during the negotiations on the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement I gave, with the authority of the Government, an unequivocal assurance that this agreement would be renewed and that we would be considering expanding the eligibility to beneficiaries under the scheme and widening it in many respects. I know that on 22 April I wrote to the Queensland Minister indicating that it was my intention to proceed. I had hoped to bring this matter to finality in the autumn sessional period of the Parliament. The fact that it has not been concluded reflects only that we had disruption of the parliamentary proceedings - another costly delay brought about by the irresponsible attitude of the Opposition. This agreement will be reenacted and will be extremely advantageous to Queensland and each of the other States.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture aware of the grave and serious charges against the integrity of members of the Australian Wool Corporation made by a colleague of his, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, on a television program last night and repeated in this Parliament? Has he seen or is he aware of any evidence supporting the allegations that there has been collusion among members of the Australian Wool Corporation artificially to maintain wool prices at a high level for political purposes? If he is aware of or has seen that evidence will he produce it in this Parliament? If he is not aware of it or has not seen it will he inquire into the allegations and will he in this House declare his attitude towards the members of the Australian Wool Corporation and the actions of the Australian Wool Corporation in its present activities in the marketplace?
– I am not aware of the specific allegations that the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party has made but I can assure him and you, Mr Speaker, that I have the utmost confidence in the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, and I am quite certain that anything he said he would have backed with facts.
– Has the Treasurer received any comment on the actuaries’ report on his proposed superannuation scheme for Australian Government employees? In particular, has the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations provided him with comment? Will the Treasurer undertake to meet representatives of contributors as has been requested? Will the Treasurer inform the House when the future of the proposed superannuation scheme is likely to be determined?
– I have received a number of submissions from interested bodies following the tabling of the Melville-Pollard report. As indicated, an opportunity was given until 15 July, which has now passed, for interested bodies to make submissions. One submission was received from the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations which represents, I understand, some 16 employee and pensioner organisations. I am prepared to receive a deputation from this body in due course. After hearing the representations the matter will be considered by the Government.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether on 7 May last, he said:
We are sure the June quarter will confirm that the inflationary trend is downwards.
Are the same consumer price index figures for the June quarter ready for release to morrow? Will he make every effort to have those figures released today while the Parliament is sitting instead of tomorrow when the Parliament is not sitting? Do the June quarter figures, about the contents of which I am sure the Prime Minister already has information, confirm his confidence that the inflationary trend is down? Will this index be included in the Cabinet discussions he proposes for next Monday? Will he make a statement in the Parliament which states the Government’s proposed course of action to overcome the seriously damaging price escalation?
– 1 do not recollect having made that statement. I do not remember it. I do not confirm or deny it. I am not responsible for the date or the manner of the issue of consumer price index figures. That is done by officials and not by Ministers. I think the figures are due to be released this week. I expect they will show a rise. It would be quite improper for me or my colleague the Treasurer, to whom the Statistician is responsible, to try to accelerate or defer any statistics on this or any other subject. I will not attempt it.
– Is the Minister for Education aware that government primary schools at Victorian centres such as Antonio Park, Croydon North and Hallam in Victoria, which had expected to get primary school libraries with Karmel grants this year or next year, are now being told that these libraries will not be built until 1976 or later? Is he aware that since claims that this delay has been occasioned by slowness in the flow of funds from the Australian Government have been exploded, it is being claimed the delay arises through failure of the Australian Government to provide blueprints for the libraries concerned? Has the Government ever given an undertaking that blueprints of this nature were required or would be provided? If the Victorian Education Department is incapable of providing plans for libraries will the Minister consider amending the States Grants (Schools) Act 1973 so that grants can be given directly to the school organisations concerned and they can get on with the job?
– The honourable gentleman will be aware that the primary school library program began only this year. Over the 2 years 1974 and 1975 $20m will be expended. Hitherto the action of the Australian Government has been to assist secondary school libraries. I am not aware whether the inability of any specific school in Victoria to get its library in this biennium is unreasonable or it is taking its place in a queue and is being reasonably well treated. However, I can say that there is no imposition by the Australian Government of library standards on a State Government. At both the secondary and primary level the procedure has been to develop good standards for libraries. Generally speaking, the Victorian Government has claimed that its standards are better than those of the Australian Government. But it remains a fact that one of the disadvantages under which state schools have laboured in nearly every State is that non-government schools produce better libraries with the same amount of money. This has usually been because they have taken notice of the standards laid down by the appropriate Australian Government bodies.
The procedure and the structure of the legislation so far are that we do not enter into a direct relationship with any state school as we enter into a pretty direct relationship with non-government schools. I think that one of the other advantages of non-government schools is that they have not had the interposition of another authority to take away their flexibility. As the honourable gentleman suggests, it would require major amendment of the schools legislation to brush aside the State governments. I am not sure of the constitutionality of that. Queries have been raised by State governments on the innovations program where spontaneously from teachers in state schools brilliant educational proposals have come which the innovations body is prepared to fund. Certain State governments have entered into objections about the granting of money to those teachers. This seems to be rather contrary to their arguments about centralisation. But I shall consider the points which the honourable gentleman has raised.
– My question is also directed to the Minister for Education and concerns grants for 1974 and 1975. By way of very brief preface I remind the Minister that the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission in its report referred to the fact that because of time it was not possible to construct indexes to lay the basis for grants for the years 1974 and 1975. While acknowledging the manner in which many of the recommendations have been implemented and the conspicuous role played by my honourable friend, I ask: Does the Minister acknowledge that the formula given by the Karmel Committee of a few years ago is no longer adequate because of the ravages of inflation? Can the Minister say when the Schools Commission will present to the Government indexes upon which to base future grants?
– The Chairman of the Schools Commission has pointed out what is obvious, namely, that if there is a process of inflation then the sums of money which have been postulated for the biennium by the Karmel Committee will not purchase as much. But one rather wonders whether the greater problem is not physical. The honourable member may remember that the Karmel Committee did recommend that the State governments should have the resolution to divert building material to socially necessary projects like schools and hospitals rather than having the labor force and the building material going into the construction of high rise office development in central business districts.
I draw the honourable gentleman’s attention to the fact that $46m was appropriated by both sides of this Parliament for technical education. The honourable gentleman’s government provided S36m for the triennium and we added $10m to it. The termination of the triennium found New South Wales with $2,659,000 unspent, Victoria with $2,470,000 unspent, Queensland with $1,628,000 unspent and Western Australia with $475,000 unspent, but Tasmania and South Australia spent it all. I would hazard the opinion that this is because in Hoban speculative builders have not been interested in building skyscrapers, and the entire building force has been able to get on with the job of constructing schools. I really think that more than the erosion by inflation the countercompetition of other forms of building and the inadequacy of the size of the building force and the amount of building material are the main problems. However the Schools Commission is at present looking at the question of erosion by inflation. The honourable gentleman asked me about indices. The Schools Commission is not bound to repeat the Karmel indices which were for an interim form of assistance in 1974 and 1975.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing and Construction. It relates to the critical problem of emergency housing. Is the Minister aware that there is virtually no provision for emergency housing available from State housing authorities? Has the Minister given consideration to the possibility of alleviating acute housing problems by giving either direct assistance to local government authorities or voluntary groups which are prepared to organise small schemes or even specific grants to States for the purpose of emergency housing?
– It is true, as the honourable member says, that there is no provision for emergency accommodation in most of the States, except that often some priority is given to people who are deprived of their usual living circumstances. During the negotiations on the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement I raised with every State Minister responsible for housing the question of whether or not there ought to be some particular application of funds for emergency accommodation purposes. I indicated my own enthusiasm about this kind of matter, but in each, instance there was a negative response. The honourable gentleman asked whether I had sought to initiate anything in respect of aid to local government for emergency housing, and the answer is no. Up to this point of time I have taken the view that it is far better to centralise the Federal Government’s support for welfare housing. When I say ‘centralise’ I mean that I prefer to utilise the resources of the State governments. To depart from that can cause a considerable amount of confusion in the priority system. Probably the best way to allocate funds is through the States. The States through their central register are able to ensure that funds go out to the most deserving applicants.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– 1 claim to have been misrepresented by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) yesterday. In a personal explanation that the right honourable gentleman made yesterday he sought to give the impression that during the election campaign I had contended that every one of one million families would have a benefit to the extent of $250 a year conferred on it under the proposed scheme for tax deductibility of home mortgage interest payments. The right honourable gentleman quoted an extract from a Press release of mine of 2 May 1974. I would like to establish that the quotation was taken out of context and that the right honourable gentleman purposely, in my view, disregarded a paragraph which was only 2 paragraphs before the one to which he referred and in which, referring to him, I said:
Also, he has finally admitted that the Liberals will abandon Labor’s home mortgage tax deductibility scheme, so if the Liberals are elected the average home owner can write off $250 every year on his tax rebate.
I think that puts in proper perspective what 1 have been contending, namely, that the $250 rebate will be not for every one of the one million families but for the average family. Nine paragraphs prior to that, in the same Press release, I said:
Labor’s second proposal, the home mortgage tax deductibility plan, would involve annual tax rebates of about $250 a year for the average wage earner paying off his home.
Again I emphasise the word ‘average’. If I have given any wrong impression about this scheme, it has been because I have contended that it would cost $120m. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) now tells me that it is more likely to cost $130m and to benefit not the one million families I contended would be the likely beneficiaries but 1.4 million families. If anything, I have understated the benefits of this scheme rather than overstated them, as the right honourable gentleman has suggested.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr Speaker.
– Does the right honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Mr Speaker, there can be no doubt about what the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) said and there can be no doubt about the purpose in saying it. The purpose was to have the Australian people believe that the Australian Labor Party’s proposal about tax deductibility of interest on home mortgages would have an effect which it will not have. As to the effect that he claimed it would have, I wish to quote again from page 3 of his statement. Referring to me, the honourable gentleman said:
Mr Snedden does not seem to worry about the one million families who would lose $250 a year or $5 a week if Labor’s home mortgage tax deductibility scheme is not introduced.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Is the Leader of the Opposition making a personal explanation, Mr Speaker?
– He is, because his name was just mentioned.
– That quote stands on its own. The honourable gentleman from Hindmarsh
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The right honourable gentleman keeps contending that that statement stands on its own. The precise point of my personal explanation is that it does not stand on its own and that in taking that attitude the right honourable gentleman is deliberately taking the statement out. of the context of the total release.
– No point of order is involved.
- Mr Speaker, the misrepresentation of me is the allegation by the Minister for Housing and Construction that I have taken that statement out of context. The credibility of the Minister is clearly on the line. Does he speak the truth when he issues Press statements, or does he tell untruths?
– I remind the right honourable gentleman that I do not want this to finish up as a full debate. The right honourable gentleman is quite entitled to make a personal explanation about matters in relation to which he has been misrepresented, but he is not entitled to debate the amounts of money involved or anything of that nature except where it is to clear himself.
– The Minister for Housing and Construction referred to 2 other paragraphs in the 5-page statement. He referred, firstly, to the paragraph at the top of page 2:
Labor’s second proposal, the home mortgage tax deductibility plan, would involve annual tax rebates of about $250 a year for the average wage earner paying off his home.
That statement should be read in conjunction with this statement:
Mr Snedden does not seem to worry about the one million families who would lose $250 a year or $5 a week if Labor’s home mortgage deductibility scheme is not introduced.
Those 2 statements are not in contradiction; they are only a further implication that there are one million average wage-earning families, all of whom would benefit by $250 a year or $5 a week. The other paragraph to which the Minister referred is 2 paragraphs before the one I just read. It is as follows:
Also, he has finally admitted the Liberals will abandon Labor’s home mortgage tax deductibility scheme, so if the Liberals are elected the average home owner can write-off $250 every year of his tax rebate.
What he is there doing is making it perfectly clear that as a result of Government policies - Labor Party policies - home interest rates have escalated.
– The right honourable gentleman is now debating the question.
– A personal explanation should relate simply to where the right honourable gentleman claims that he has been misrepresented by the Minister for Housing and Construction. He should not debate matters of policy.
– That is right. The Minister for Housing and Construction quoted the paragraph to which I have just referred in order to allege that it in some way subtracted from the misstatement he made later on. I am saying that it had no relation to subtraction from the misstatement; it relates to something entirely different. Therefore he achieves nothing by quoting it, because what it demonstrates is that the interest policy of the Labor Party advanced home mortgage repayments of the home buyer by such an amount that the tax rebate of $250 as a result of this program does not compensate the home owner for the increased cost of higher interest rates, and that is the nature of the policy which this gentleman has supervised.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the. honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, by the Minister for Social Security for the second time this week. For the second time, he has arranged for one of his lightweights on the back bench to ask him a Dorothy Dix question. The Minister alleged that the Opposition and I were against the Australian Assistance Plan. On Tuesday, when the Minister was refusing to back-date benefits for nursing homes, I said:
The Opposition’s polices are responsible. We are determined not to allow pensioners to suffer because of inflation. We are determined to make sure that they do receive justice. The Minister for Social Security can hand out thousands of dollars under the Australian Assistance Plan. He can squander money on political patronage all over the country. The Minister-
– That is right.
– Did the honourable gentleman say: ‘That is right’?
– That is what you said. You are admitting it.
– The honourable member for Denison apparently either did not understand or did not hear me. I will repeat it. I said:
The Minister for Social Security . . . can squander money on political patronage all over the country.
The honourable member for Denison then interjected and said: ‘That is right’.
– That is what you said. You are admitting it.
– That is what I said all right, yes. I then said:
The Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) can hand out $1,000 here and $1,000 there for any kind of lightweight sports meeting. But, for some reason or other, the Minister for Social Security cannot bring himself to backdate to 1 June, as the Opposition wants, this increase in nursing home benefits to keep the aged and the sick inside homes.
That is what I said and I stick to it. When the Minister for Social Security produced the Australian Assistance Plan to this House I said on behalf of the Opposition - the Minister was correct in quoting me - that it was a good document and that it was supported by the Opposition. I think the words I used were that it was one of the most exciting and memorable advances in social welfare ever tabled in this Parliament. I stick to that. It is. We are not arguing about the principle; we are saying that the way in which the Minister is administering the Australian Assistance Plan is now beginning to border on a national scandal. The point we are making is that it is pork barrelling political patronage-
– It is nevertheless true.
– Order! The honourable member for Hotham must realise that this is not a political debate. It is a matter of explaining where he has been misrepresented. Unless he can establish that he has been misrepresented I will have to ask him to resume his seat.
– In his answer today the Minister clearly said that I and the Opposition were against the Australian Assistance Plan. We are not against the Australian Assistance Plan. We are against the pork barrelling political patronage of the way in which it is being administered.
– Give us some cases.
– In answer to the interjection by the honourable member for Robertson let me say that I have given notice that today I will be asking the Minister to come clean and tell the House exactly where these thousands of dollars have gone and for what purpose. Then I think we will be able to have a debate.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Hotham has re-stated what can only be described as a wicked attack on welfare organisations in the community and on sporting organisations, all of which have been benefiting and more of which will benefit from these programs.
– Order! I must ask the Minister to state where he has been misrepresented and not to debate the question.
– I point out that all welfare and sporting organisations in the honourable member’s electorate will be circularised with his comments today and . . .
– Mr Speaker, the Minister has just made a statement that all . . .
– Order! The right honourable gentleman must resume his seat. If he wants the call from the Chair he must explain what he wants the call for. What is it - a point of order?
– A point of order.
– Well, the right honourable gentleman should specify a point of order.
– On a point of order, the honourable gentleman has just said . . .
– What standing order?
– Order! The honourable member for Bowman and honourable members over in the corner should be quiet. I will start throwing quite a few people out if order is not maintained in the House.
– The point of order is that the honourable gentleman has just said - I draw attention to it immediately because of its significance - that every sporting body and every welfare body in the honourable member’s electorate will be circularised with the comments made by the honourable member for Hotham. I do not know whether he meant the electorate of the honourable member for Hotham or the electorate of the honourable member for Barker. He probably meant both of them. I want to know as a matter of great importance, whether taxpayers’ funds will be used for that purpose.
– Order! I wish that honourable members, instead of making personal explanations, would use the gymnasium facilities downstairs in the daytime.
– I raise a point of order. I would like to press the point that I was making during question time. Apparently, Mr Speaker, you do not want to have question time interrupted. I direct your attention to the terms of standing order 66. I know that it is not terribly specific but I think that it has been generally agreed that when a misrepresentation has been made the first opportunity should be availed of to correct it. I agree that standing order 66 does not refer specifically to question time but I think that by implication it does so. The position is that question time is listened to by very many people and the proceedings of this House are listened to by much fewer people. It is open to Ministers to sneer and smear at question time–
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– May I state my point of order?
– The honourable gentleman has stated his point of order.
– No, Sir, I have not.
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. He is starting to cast personal reflections in his point of order. I should like to inform the House that if the procedure suggested were adopted we would not deal with 6 questions in a day. Honourable members should not be so ridiculous with their points of order. They know it is a fact that we would not deal with 6 questions in a day if that suggestion were to prevail.
– Sir, let me continue with my point of order. What you have said is very relevant to the point that I am trying to make. It may well be, as you say, that we would not deal with 6 questions in a day, and that would be because Ministers, in answering questions, abuse the forms of the House.
– Sir, I am trying to follow the point that you made.
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. He wants to debate every point of order he raises. You behave yourself.
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
- Sir, I-
– The honourable member will resume his seat. 1 have listened to his point of order and I have given my ruling.
– You have not heard it yet.
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. I claim to have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) who accused me of asking a question that I had been requested to ask by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden). That of course is not true. The question was asked on my initiative. The Minister knew nothing about it.
– You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
– Why, for asking a question on my own initiative? The honourable member, however, was correct in describing me as not weighing very much.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to: That, in addition to Mr Speaker, ex-officio, Mr Berinson, Mr Bungey, Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Clayton, Mr Cohen and Mr Holten be members of the House Committee.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to:
That, in addition to Mr Speaker, ex-officio, Mr Cross, Mr Erwin, Dr Klugman, Mr Luchetti, Mr O’Keefe and Mr Wentworth be members of the Library Committee.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to:
That Dr J. F. Cairns, Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Drury. Mr Enderby, Mr Innes, Dr Jenkins, Mr Lucock, Mr Scholes and Mr Viner be members of the Committee of Privileges, five to form a quorum.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to:
That Mr Erwin, Mr Hodges, Mr Lamb, Mr McKenzie, Mr Mathews, Mr Millar and Mr Oldmeadow be members of the Publications Committee.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to:
That, In addition to Mr Speaker, the Chairman of
Committees, the Leader of the House and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, ex-officio members, the following members be members of the Standing Orders Committee, five to form a quorum, namely, Mr Anthony, Mr Berinson, Mr Bryant, Dr J. F. Cairns, Mr Drury, Mr Garland and Mr Sinclair.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to: That, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act 1946- 1973, in addition to Mr Speaker, ex-officio, Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Coates, Mr Duthie, Mr England and Mr Sherry be members of the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Accounts Committee Act 1951-1973, the following members be appointed members of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts: Mr Collard, Mr Connolly, Mr Graham, Mr Lusher, Mr Martin, Mr Morris and Mr Reynolds.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1959-1973, the following members be appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works: Mr Bonnett,Mr Garrick, Mr Keith Johnson, Mr Kelly. Mr Keogh and Mr McVeigh.
– I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Australian Country Party making a statement drawing the attention of the House to the serious charges made by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro against members of the
Australian Wool Corporation and as would prevent the honourable member for Eden-Monaro from substantiating his allegations with evidence he claims to have in his possession.
Last night, in watching an Australian Broadcasting Commission news telecast, I heard the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) make a statement which led to the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair) and me last night making personal explanations to dissociate ourselves from the charges which the honourable member for Eden-Monaro made. As I interpreted the ABC news last night and stated in the House, the honourable member’s remarks were as follows:
I have evidence that three senior members of the Australian Wool Commission have met with the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Country Party and these members of the Commission have said that they will keep prices up this week in order to embarrass the Government.
In the last few minutes I have received from the ABC a transcript of what was actually said. I quote the relevant part:
I think the first occasion I heard about this was about two weeks ago when somebody reported conversations that were purported to be those of senior members of the Wool Corporation’s staff. And then just recently in this last week I’ve received another account of conversations by three members of the Wool Corporation in which they said that they had discussions with the Leader and the Deputy Leader of the Country Party along the lines that they would support the market at an excessively high level in order to embarrass the present government. The facts are, of course, that the present Government has stood by the Wool Corporation’s buying activities and this is an interesting contrast to the situation in 71 when the Federal Government refused to stand by the Corporation at that time.
Of course, the latter part is a complete falsehood and anybody who knows the situation realises it. The Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party and I have both made our personal explanations denying any contact or association with members of the Corporation or staff of the Corporation. That is not the purpose of moving for the suspension of Standing Orders this morning. The purpose of the motion is to allow the honourable member for Eden-Monaro to reveal to the Parliament the evidence which he claimed to have last night in his answer to our dissociation from and denial of his accusations. I refer to this morning’s ‘Canberra Times’ because I have not had time to see yesterday’s Hansard. The article in the newspaper states:
That is totally untrue,’ Mr Sinclair said.
Mr Anthony said Mr Whan’s ‘wild allegation’ was. despicable and libellous.
In a further personal explanation, Mr Whan said he accepted Mr Anthony’s and Mr Sinclair’s explanations and was relieved to hear the conversation had not taken place. But he said he had a written description and verbal evidence of a conversation between three officials of the AWC at the Australian Club in Sydney.
Mr Whan maintained that the evidence showed the AWC officials had said they had met with Country Party leaders and had discussed pricing policy.
This is a very serious charge although not so far as we 2 members of Parliament are concerned. We expect extravagant statements to be made by the honourable member. We are used to these sorts of allegations. In his speech to the House on 16 July he asserted that there was an association between the Country Party and the Corporation. He said on that occasion:
It is no secret that there have been discussions oetween the Wool Corporation and the leaders of the Country Party to devise this method of embarrassing the Government.
That is, by keeping prices at very high levels. But now he has stated openly on television that 3 members of the Corporation have been associated with us in an endeavour to manipulate the Australian wool market, and has denigrated the standing and reputation of the Australian Wool Corporation. I imagine that it would be quite easy now to identify those 3 members of the Corporation because any 3 members of the Corporation who might have been in the Australian Club during the last month would be the 3 members concerned.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I point out that the Leader of the Australian Country Party has no right to debate all the pros and cons of this motion. He has only the right to give reasons why Standing Orders should be suspended to allow him to make a statement. That is a very simple proposition to which what the right honourable member is speaking about has very little relevance.
– Yes. I ask the Leader of the Australian Country Party to speak to the motion. Everybody who speaks to a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders wanders from the question, which is why Standing Orders should be suspended. I ask the right honourable gentleman to keep on the track and to give his reasons why Standing Orders should be suspended.
– I concur in your remarks, Mr Speaker; but I do not believe that I am deviating from the motion I have moved or from explaining the justification for it. The charge is a very serious one. It is that a con- spiracy is operating within the Australian Wool Corporation to manipulate the market and that this is being done for political motives. The implication is that this organisation has no standing and no integrity, and individuals on the Corporation must now be under suspicion. There are 9 members of this Corporation - 4 wool grower representatives, 3 special representatives, one Government representative and one Government appointed chairman. Of those 9 members, apparently, according to the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, three have been in collusion with the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Country Party. We have denied this entirely.
The fact of the matter is that if there is written evidence, as is claimed, this should be brought forward so that we can find out why this campaign is being conducted. Are there members of the Corporation who have been saying these things about the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Country Party? What are their motives for doing so? Are they trying to destroy the Corporation and its effectiveness in trying to maintain the market? We all know that wool prices are flagging at the moment. It is causing a great deal of questioning and concern across the nation. The newspapers have been full of it this week. There has been no party political propaganda on the matter. In fact, members of the Opposition, and of my own Party particularly, have welcomed the statement by the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson), representing the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) in this House, in which he has said that the Government will support the Corporation in the exercise of its commercial judgment on what the price levels ought to be for the remaining period of the wool selling season.
But when the honourable member for EdenMonaro injects politics into this issue and says, as can be seen in yesterday’s Hansard, that he has written evidence that there is collusion and a conspiracy to embarrass the Government and this statutory authority with the backing of public funds is not carrying out its job properly, a very serious charge is being made. I believe that the honourable member has a duty to present this evidence. He is not just any member of this House. He happens to be a senior member of the Government’s rural committee. He has had professional training in the Bureau of Agricultural Economics where he specialised in the wool industry. He knows the Corporation members and its staff.
For him to have made this allegation is no light matter. The accusation is serious and must be pursued, and the honourable member must produce his evidence. I can imagine very serious steps being taken unless there is a full explanation and the full evidence is examined so that we can ascertain why this campaign is being carried on.
– Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion seeking to suspend Standing Orders. I do so because during the time that I have been a member of this Parliament this is the most serious charge that has been laid against members of a statutory authority constituted by this Parliament. The members of that statutory authority are spending at the moment on behalf of the Australian Wool Corporation and on behalf of the Australian taxpayer a great deal of money in the exercise of the responsibility of the Corporation. The charge is one which we can sheet home only by the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) being given the opportunity to make a statement on the subject matter contained in his motion, and by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) being called on - indeed, being required - to produce in this Parliament the evidence which he claims to have and which supposedly supports the allegations against the integrity of the members of the Australian Wool Corporation.
The honourable member for Eden-Monaro last night in his reply to the claims by my Leader and myself to have been personally misrepresented stated that he possesses a written statement from one individual and a verbal description by another of a conversation which occurred between 3 members of the Wool Corporation and a leading farmer. He continued that the conversation took place in the Australia Club in Sydney. Apart from anything else, that statement means that any confidences that are supposed to exist within that club have been breached. Referring to that conversation, the honourable member continued by stating that in that discussion members of the Corporation claimed that they had had discussions with the Leader of the Australian Country Party and the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party, the purpose of which was to establish a floor price which was beyond commercial justification, purely in order to embarrass the Government.
The only way in which we can identify the whole of the substance of these totally unjusti fied and completely untrue allegations is to suspend Standing Orders and so allow a full and adequate explanation to be given from this side of the House as to the circumstances surrounding the charge, and to require the honourable member for Eden-Monaro to produce the alleged documentary evidence which he has supporting those so-called charges. Mr Speaker, it is absolutely imperative that the campaign which the honourable member for Eden-Monaro has been developing over the course of the last few weeks be brought to a head and, if there is any truth whatsoever in the allegations, that the substance of those allegations completely -
– Will you resign if they are true?
– I believe that they are completely untrue and, yes, I would resign, and I would -
– Order! The honourable member for Prospect, who is interjecting, is out of his seat.
– Not only would I resign but also would I expect the honourable member for Eden-Monaro to have the same intestinal fortitude and to do exactly the same thing. I expect the honourable member for EdenMonaro to apologise in this place not only to the Leader of the Australian Country Party and to me but also to all of the members of the Australian Wool Corporation. To compound the charge he not only has referred to the members of the Corporation, he has also involved every member of the staff of that Corporation in the statement that he made in the course of the ‘ABC News’ on television last night. The honourable member referred to conversations between senior members of the Wool Corporation staff. In other words, it is not only members of the Corporation who are involved; it is, in addition, members of the staff of the Corporation.
The honourable member for Eden-Monaro has laid charges against the Australian Wool Corporation. He has laid charges against members of the Corporation’s staff. The honourable member endorsed those charges further on the ‘Country Hour’ program on the ABC yesterday. He said then: ‘We have got written comments that the members of the Wool Corporation’ - not specifying just the members of the Wool Corporation, but later traducing the staff as well - ‘have identified themselves with the Country Party and, not only that, but they have colluded with the Country Party to establish an embarrassing position for the Government.’ These are serious charges. They completely deny the integrity of highly responsible members of a statutory body constituted by this Parliament. They cannot be left unanswered. I believe that the honourable member for Eden-Monaro has a duty in this House to apologise. If the allegations are untrue, I believe he has a duty to resign. I believe that there is no way by which this Parliament can come to the truth of the matter other than by agreeing to the suspension of the Standing Orders for the purpose set out in the motion moved by the Leader of the Country Party.
– Mr Speaker, the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony), supported by the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair), has moved:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Australian Country Party from making a statement drawing the attention of the House to the serious charges made by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro against members of the Australian Wool Corporation and as would prevent the honourable member for Eden-Monaro from substantiating his allegations with evidence he claims to have in his possession.
I quote the terms of that motion in order to show that this motion is a complete misuse, for political purposes only, of the Standing Orders of this Parliament.
– Where is the honourable member for Eden-Monaro?
– Where is he?
– Can he not reply for himself?
– Members of the Country Party have reason to hate the honourable member for Eden-Monaro.
– Oh, what nonsense.
– Did they not pull out of the New South Wales State Parliament the glamour boy of the Country Party, the member for Goulburn in the State House, and did not the honourable member for Eden-Monaro do him like a dinner? Today as the Leader of the Country Party–
– What sort of a dinner? That would be a really lousy meal.
– Order! The House will come to order. Honourable members will cease interjecting.
– Where is the honourable member for Eden-Monaro?
– Order! I know where the honourable member for Kooyong is. I can see him. I call the Leader of the House.
– I rise to take a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Government supporters - He is out of his seat.
– My point of order is–
– . . . that the Leader of the House is departing far from–
– Order! The point of order is not upheld. The honourable member is out of his seat. I call the Leader of the House.
– As the Leader of the Country Party moved this motion–
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I repeat my point of order from my proper place. In the course of the remarks of the last 2 speakers, you drew the attention particularly of the Leader of the Country Party to the fact that his remarks were getting rather wide of the motion. I submit to you that the political activities of the member for Goulburn have nothing whatsoever to do with matters relevant to this debate and that you should, in all fairness, ask the Leader of the House to pull himself into gear.
– I think that honourable members would be aware that not one person could speak for 10 minutes on any subject without getting off that subject matter. If honourable members want me to hold strictly to–
– But the Leader of the House can speak for 10 minutes without getting on the subject matter.
– Order! the honourable member will be quiet while I am speaking I repeat: If honourable members want me to keep the debate strictly to the terms of the motion which seeks to suspend the Standing Orders, they would not get a 2 minute speech let alone a 10 minute speech relevant to that motion. I have allowed a lot of latitude to the Leader of the Country Party I do not think that the Deputy Leader of the Country Party deviated very much from the terms of the motion. I do think that I alloweda certain amount of latitude to the Leader of the Country Party and that that latitude should be extended to the Leader of the House but I ask the Leader of the House to keep as closely as possible to the motion which seeks to suspend the Standing Orders.
– I can understand honourable members opposite not wanting to hear a defence against the propositions that are being put forward. When the Leader of the Country Party moved this motion he indicated a bias, a bitterness, an envy and a hatred for the honourable member for Eden-Monaro. That is the basic principle behind this motion today. Everything that the members of the Country Party have said in respect of their policies was put to the Eden-Monaro electorate at the last election and the honourable member for EdenMonaro magnificently triumphed over the rotten polices put forward by those opposite. 1 will tell the House why this motion represents a misuse of Standing Orders. Members of the. Country Party have had limitless opportunities to move an appropriate motion. Why, had they wished to discuss this matter today they could have moved for consideration of this subject as a matter of public importance. But, no, they have seen fit to let the. honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) propose for discussion as a matter of public importance the subject of industrial problems. If the subject of this motion to suspend Standing orders is so important, why did not members of the Country Party take advantage of that form of the House? They did not because they know that the Liberals are. not behind them in respect of this motion. No member of the Liberal Party has spoken to the motion; they do not support it. Furthermore- (Opposition supporters interjecting) -
– Order! If the interjections do not cease, I will take the appropriate action to see that they do cease.
– Furthermore, why did not members of the Country Party raise this matter in great detail on the motion for the adjournment of the House last night? Why did they not wait until the resumption of the Address-in-Reply debate if necessary, and I mention to them to show-
– The Minister knows that if we-
– Order! If the honourable member for Kennedy persists in ignoring my appeal to the House for interjections to cease, I will take the. appropriate action against him. I warn the honourable members to cease interjecting.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Leader of the Country Party and the Deputy Leader of the Country Party have moved for the suspension of standing orders in respect of a very serious matter, but this is being treated quite frivolously by the Leader of the House.
– That is a reflection on the Chair. I ask the honourable member to withdraw that reflection on the Chair.
– It is not my wish to reflect on the Chair whatsoever, but I reflect very much on the Leader of the House.
– Order! I ask the Leader of the House to keep to the motion and the reasons why Standing Orders should be suspended.
- Mr Speaker, I hope you will take note of the fact that my speech has been deliberately interrupted to prevent me from putting my case to the House. On 16 July, as recorded on page 261 of Hansard the honourable member for Eden-Monaro had this to say:
It is no secret that the members of the Wool Corporation have identified quite clearly with the political objectives of the Country Party. It is no secret that there have been discussions between the Wool Corporation and the leaders of the Country Party to devise this method of embarrassing the Government.
Would one not think that such remarks would have stimulated the moving of a motion of the kind the Country Party Leader has moved today? But the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) spoke on the adjournment on the same night on the same subject and never bothered to mention these remarks.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was not in the House when that particular statement was made but I have seen it in Hansard since.
– That is not a point of order.
– The fact of the matter is that the honourable member for Gwydir and other members of the Country Party woke up a day late. They have gone off like a delayed action bomb and now they want to suspend all the Standing Orders of the Parliament on a thing they did not think mattered when it was said.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister is constantly getting well outside the motion before the House. You have mentioned that the terms of the motion should be adhered to and I know the problem which you have. But I believe the Minister for Services and Property is now abusing privileges to a greater extent than they normally are abused. I ask you to keep him to the matter under discussion.
– Order! During every debate on a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders in the 19 years that I have been a member of this House the subject matter behind the motion has been touched on. It was also touched on when the Leader of he Australian Country Party made his 10-minute contribution to the debate. It is being touched on now. I ask the Leader of the House to keep to the reason why Standing Orders should or should not be suspended.
– I have mentioned why. This matter was raised the other night and the members of the Country Party did not even bother to refute the allegations in this Parliament. Furthermore, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro has no intention of evading anything in this respect. If the Country Party raises the matter at the appropriate time it will be debated. An Address-in-Reply debate is coming on later in the day. Why does the Country Party not bring it up during that debate, and it will be answered? I suggest that when political stunts of this kind are put up by the Country Party they have to be answered in the same way as they are raised. Fancy the Country Party ‘ eing offended at what the honourable member for Eden-Monaro said, when during the last election campaign it filled the newspapers of this country with the most rotten advertisements ever seen in political history. I tell members of the Country Party quite frankly that they are all as rotten as they look in the advertisements, which were contemptible.
– Order! I think that the Leader of the House would recognise the fact that political advertisements have nothing to do with the suspension of Standing Orders.
– I only point out how sensitive members of the Country Party become when they get hit themselves. Anything is good enough to attack the Labor Party on, but some fair and just criticism of the activities of those who manipulate the Country Party from their city dwellings and other places immediately brings forward this phoney storm of protest from the Leader of the Country Party. Have a look at the Country Party members. They would do anything to anybody and say anything about anybody at any time. Yet they are offended by a statement which was made in this Parliament which they never sought to refute for a couple of days. The Liberal Party does not even support them on this question. The Opposition usually has a speaker from both parties but this time the Liberal Party has moved for the discussion of a matter of public importance on a different subject. I congratulate the members of the Liberal Party for once on their sense and ability to see that the matter raised by the Country Party is a phoney proposition.
– Order! The time allowed for the debate has expired. The question is: That the motion be agreed to. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no.
Opposition members - No.
– Is a division required?
Opposition members - Yes.
– A division is required. Ring the bells. (The bells having been rung.)
– Mr Whan, your honour has been impugned. Are you going against defending your own honour?
– Order! The honourable member for Mackellar will cease interjecting across the chamber.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker, there is no Standing Order which prevents conversation during divisions. Standing order 55 does not apply. I am not addressing the House, Sir, I am only talking to an honourable member.
– Order! There is a standing order which prevents misbehaviour. I ask the honourable gentleman to remain silent and not to make these outbursts otherwise I will take action.
– I am not making an outburst.
– Order! The honourable member will remain silent.
That the motion (Mr Anthony’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. J. F. Cope)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s failure to establish a reasonable degree of industrial peace and the Government’s failure to protect the Australian public from the effects of industrial disruption.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places.)
– One of the great promises of the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) before the election before last was that because of the close links of the Australian Labor Party with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, with Mr Hawke and with the union movement generally, the Labor Party would be able to bring to Australia a real degree of industrial peace that had not been seen before. In the March quarter of this year we saw how that particular promise had been fulfilled. In that quarter 2.5 million man days were lost, running at the rate of 10 million a year; $45m in wages was lost in 3 months, running at the rate of $180m a year; and 77 per cent of the time lost in that quarter was lost as a result of strikes over wage claims. It was not lost over managerial policy. It was not lost over unionism or demarcation issues, as the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) are so fond of saying.
One in every 10 in the Australian work force - if honourable members look at it on a straight numbers basis - took part in strikes of one kind or another. This affects not just those working but every part of the Australian community. We know of the effects that the strike by the Institute of Marine and Power Engineers had on Tasmania and the mass unemployment that was threatened. The Gladstone alumina plant is facing a shut-down as a result of strikes that occurred a day or two ago. This has enormous implications for decentralisation. Gas supplies have been cut off to much of New South Wales. Armidale freezes. Almost every home in that part of New South Wales is affected. In Brisbane and in other areas milk supplies to housewives and children are being held up because of industrial stoppages. This situation is not remote from the average Australian; it is something that goes into every home and affects the wives and families of those who might be on strike themselves. It is a worsening situation.
The Prime Minister and the President of the ACTU have had more differences than agreements during the 18 months of Labor Government. The policies of the Government have made the situation worse. Inflation, high taxation and increasing taxation lead to a situation in which the average Australian worker finds it difficult to keep up. Dr Sheehan of the University of Melbourne has said that inflation will strike 28 per cent and that unemployment will strike 3 per cent of all Australians in the foreseeable future. All this comes back to the average wage earner who is worse off now as a result of inflation, high taxation and losses through strikes. In the first quarter of this year the metal workers lost $100 a head through their strikes. This is a rate of $400 a year and it will take 26 weeks of wages at the increased rate to catch up to where they were if they continue striking throughout the year at the same rate. This is a situation which takes no account of increased luxation and inflation.
If we go back to the middle 1950s we find that somebody on $8,000 a year then would have been paying the equivalent of $610 tax. Today he pays $2,020 tax. These amounts are stated in equivalent terms. Somebody on $4,000 a year would have paid $170 tax in those days. He pays $610 tax under this Government. This shows how higher taxation is hitting right at the heart of the average family in Australia. It is something which this Government has promoted as a conscious act of policy in order to rake off additional funds. I shall put this in terms which the Minister for Labor and Immigration might understand. Compare a shearer who coasts along and shears 100 sheep a day with a shearer who works a good deal harder and shears 150 sheep a day. The shearer shearing 150 sheep pays 50 per cent of the additional money he earns in tax. It is taken by the Minister’s friend, dear Frank, to whom, as we all know, he wrote a day or two ago. Inflation encourages larger wage claims. It encourages claims which give a certain after-tax takehome increase.
We do not know what will happen with the consumer price index which is to come out shortly. The Prime Minister said at an industrial relations seminar on the Gold Coast that 20 per cent wage increases could not continue. But that is all the Prime Minister said. Over a 12-month period wages and awards for members of the Builders Labourers Federation have gone up 36 per cent; for butchers 25 per cent; for carpenters 32 per cent; for public service clerks 38 per cent; for council workers 28 per cent; for postmen 39 per cent; and for storemen 35 per rent. And the Government thinks it can contain inflation: The Government thinks it can bring sanity back into an area where madness, and madness alone, reigns. It is true that the Government spoke out against the marine engineers. It has said something too about hostesses employed by Qantas Airways Ltd. But it has not said anything particularly effective about the strikes that occur from time to time and the continuing guerrilla tactics of the. Builders Labourers Federation which wants to re-open negotiations on its award. The Government did not say anything about the situation when deregistration procedures were going forward. It has not said anything in support of the judgment of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. A Press report on this matter states:
Mr Justice Joske, presiding member of the Full Bench, said in Melbourne yesterday the union -
The Builders Labourers Federation - had ignored the process of conciliation and arbitration. ‘Leaders of the organisation have peered at the notion of obeying the law,’ he said. There has been ‘intimidation on job sites on a wholesale basis,’ he added. “The organisation has been guilty of sabotage of these sites and has taken part in mob violence, causing destruction on industrial sites and the disruption of industrial projects.
Those were the reasons for deregistration. Neither the Minister for Labor and Immigration, nor the Prime Minister, nor any other Minister is prepared to tackle the Builders Labourers Federation or John Halfpenny of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union. The Government is prepared to tackle Qantas hostesses. What courage the Minister shows! The Government is prepared to tackle the marine engineers who do not belong to one of the great traditional labour unions from which the Government requires support and to which it owes allegiance and a duty and whose orders the Government must obey. The Government’s policies have contributed greatly to this situation of unrestrained expenditure which the Government thought it could fill, not realising that it all must come out of Australian pockets. There has been encouragement of demands, the pace-setting use of the Commonwealth Public Service and the national wage case which the Minister put forward and which was not approved by his Department, by the Treasury or by Cabinet. It did not go to Cabinet. I say nothing of the attitude of unions. The Prime Minister calls for restraint; John Halfpenny of the AMWU laughs at the words of the Prime Minister before they have stopped floating around in the air.
The Government says nothing of the Builders Labourers Federation and its guerrilla tactics. I regret that the Press in Victoria and, as far as 1 am aware, throughout Australia has said nothing about the highly responsible attitude recently shown by the Waterside
Workers Federation in Melbourne. Two weeks ago the branch made a decision to break its award and to have tactic strikes to press for a re-opening of the agreement which I think was signed on 6 May this year. It was signed a month or two earlier. There were members in the Melbourne branch who were obviously dissatisfied with breaking that agreement because over recent years the Federation has changed its record in relation to agreements and has done much more to keep agreements than at any previous time in its history. On Friday there was another meeting which was attended by four times as many people as attended the earlier meeting - 1,200 were present compared with 300 on the previous occasion - and the vote to stick with the agreement was unanimous. That was a highly responsible attitude in the present circumstances and the Melbourne branch of the Waterside Workers Federation deserves commendation for it. I think the Press of Australia would have done a public service if it had printed that story and given it the significance which it has given to decisions of unions who break agreements. So there are people in the union movement who understand their responsibility not only to their own members but also to the wider Australian community.
The great lack of responsibility is in this Government which has not provided the lead. It has not said in a meaningful fashion that restraint is a basic necessity. It has not said this in terms which can be realistic because it will not be realistic until the Government shows that it means to practice what it would like other people to do. Restraint is required. The Government needs to use its alleged, its claimed, influence in the trade union movement where there is no restraint to argue for restraint. If the Government is not prepared to do that, it will be the average Australian worker, the Australian family and the Australian housewife who suffer as - I am sure the Minister understands this - unemployment begins to loom. The Minister well knows what he has written. So often the Government’s approach in these matters has been one-sided. It attacks profits, but without profits an industry or a business cannot continue. The Government set up the Prices Justification Tribunal. I agree that this is an improved situation. It allows the Government to show that there is a check at that end of the scale, but because of tariff reduction there is greater import competition bringing greater pressure to bear at that end of the scale. AH the
Government’s pressure falls on profits and prices. It should be careful that this policy does not so squeeze industry that the mass unemployment which the Minister fears and for which he has taken out some personal insurance - I do not blame him for one moment - becomes a reality. This is something which the Minister well understands. Even though the Minister’s words have been quoted before in this House I think it would be only reasonable to quote them again. In writing to the Treasurer (Mr Crean) the Minister stated:
You will recall that at the beginning of the year I said that unemployment would rise before the end of 1974, but, on that occasion, Treasury officials saw fit to ridicule my forecast. I am convinced that I was right.
No wonder the Minister presses so hard for a retraining scheme, but as I indicated yesterday, that retraining scheme cannot be effective if there is general unemployment as a result of Government policies. It can certainly help individuals. It can help them to upgrade their skills. As the Minister well knows we support the concept. But if there are not shortages of labour in certain areas, when surpluses of labour appear there will be no other job for which these people can be readily trained and to which they can readily go. So this scheme can only be effective in helping to mitigate the effects of unemployment if that unemployment is structural and belongs to one industry and not to all industry. The Government runs the risk that the policies it is likely to pursue will lead to general harm, general hardship, general unemployment. If present attitudes prevail unfortunately inflation will possibly still prevail. I think that any person who understands the motivations, the beliefs, the hopes and the desires of the average Australian, would know that he wants a stable community in which inflation is reasonably under control, where there can be a reasonable and responsible increase in real wages - this certainly has not been despite the numerous increases in money wages - where prices can be stable, where there can be reasonable industrial peace, where housing can be available to the average person instead of its being harder to get than ever before and where the future can be predictable. But the Government does not seem to understand the situation.
The Prime Minister said that the price of costly homes has come down. What is a costly home to the average Australians about whom. this Parliament ought to be concerned? It is not costly homes they want, it is average homes. They are harder for the average Australian to get than they have been at any time since .the 1930s. They are more expensive. They are beyond the reach of more people than they have ever been at any time since the 1930s.
The greatest failure of this Government is its failure to show restraint in its own activities, in what it advocates, in its own expenditure and in its own grandiose plans, and its failure to use its claimed influence with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and with Mr Hawke. The Government’s arguments have gone the other way. The Government has pushed and encouraged people to make unreasonable wage claims, perhaps believing that that can give some real advantage, without understanding that it will cause real harm. What about this influence of the Prime Minister with the Australian Council of Trade Unions? The Government claimed that it had no powers. If it has no constitutional powers, it has its organic links with the ACTU, and surely in the Labor movement generally and in the Australian Labor Party that means something. It is time the Government used that influence. It is time the Government not only practised restraint on its own account through the measures I have mentioned through the course of these remarks and established restraint in other sections of the community but also used its links with the Australian Council of Trade Unions to see that the Builders Labourers Federation cannot get away with its claimed guerilla tactics, to see that the Amalgamated Metalworkers Union will not be successful-
– … in breaking the new award-
– Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– And to see that the Waterside Workers Federation-
– … is more-
– Order! I warn the honourable gentleman that if again he continues speaking when I have called for order I will name him. It is a deliberate flouting of the authority of the Chair, and I will not allow it.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I apologise to the Chair, but I was only trying to finish the sentence.
– When the Chair calls ‘Order’ the honourable member will resume his seat.
– I offer no objection to the Opposition using normal Opposition tactics to try to score political points from a government. That is what it is paid to do. That is what in fact it is doing. If out of the attack there comes some concrete proposition that will indicate how the Government has failed, what the Government did not do that it should have done or what the Government did that it should not have done, and more importantly what the Opposition would do were it the government, a debate of this kind would be immensely valuable to the Australian people. So far, however, we have not heard a single sentence from the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on what his Party would do if it were in government to deal with industrial unrest and to protect the Australian public from the effects of industrial disruption.
He talked about the pledge that the Australian Labor Party made in Opposition to use its links with the trade union movement to try to bring about a better industrial climate than was the case under the former Government. It was a very relevant point to make, because there was a lot of industrial unrest in the former Government’s reign of office and many more industrial disputes than under our Government. It was in that climate and in that context that we saw a need for something to be done. But what we said in promising to bring about a better industrial climate was that the first essential step towards bringing it about was to bring the Conciliation and Arbitration Act up to date in those vital areas that were responsible for the aggravation of unrest between parties. I mention two of them - the need to facilitate amalgamations of unions so as to obviate the need for the number of demarcation disputes that plague our industrial scene, the need to make and encourage the making of industrial agreements and the need to encourage the observance of industrial agreements. In respect of both those matters the Government acted promptly. In the early half of last year it brought in legislation to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in respect of those 2 matters, and in respect of both of them the Opposition rejected the proposals we put forward. It is not possible for the Government to give effect to its promise unless the Opposition is prepared to allow us to pass the necessary legislation that is required to bring the Conciliation and Arbitration Act up to date. The Opposition cannot blame us for not getting a better industrial climate so long as it allows the Senate to reject the propositions that we keep putting to this Parliament for bringing the Act up to date.
I know that it is said that we ought to use our industrial liaison with the trade union movement to bring about this better climate but I cannot understand the logic of the honourable member for Wannon. He spent about as much of his time calling upon us to bring about a better understanding with the trade union movement as he did in attacking the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) for attacking Mr Hawke. He said that the Prime Minister and Mr Hawke disagreed more often than they agreed, yet in the next breath he said that we are lackeys of the trade union movement. I cannot follow the logic or the lack of logic there.
It is quite true, as the honourable gentleman says, that there has been a sense of responsibility indicated or evinced by the Waterside Workers Federation in Melbourne. I applaud the Waterside Workers Federation for it, and I applaud him for applauding it for what it did, because it is sensible in industrial relations to give credit where credit is due and not always take an institutionalised attitude towards things and simply assume that employers are always wrong or always right, and vice versa in respect of the unions. But what the honourable gentleman should know, and apparently he does not know, is that the reason we are getting this more responsible attitude from the waterside workers is that as a consequence of their last wage negotiations they have now built into the wages clause of their agreement an automatic escalation provision which provides that the wages shall be automatically adjusted to 93 per cent of the average weekly earnings at periods indicated in the agreement. It was only because the leadership was able to remind the rank and file of the waterside workers of the enormous inbuilt advantage this clause would have and point out that they ought therefore wait until the escalation clause was due to come into play, that it was able to get the tranquility on the waterfront in Melbourne which the honourable member very rightly applauded.
In the time at my disposal I will have to move at once to the question of escalation in wages to deal with movements in prices. In March this year we found that there was a record number of days lost for any month, I think, since the coal strike of 1949. For the purposes of comparison with recent times, more man days were lost then than at any other time for many years. The significant thing about the time lost is that 71.3 per cent of the man days lost were lost in respect of wage disputes centred around price movements. That is the important point that I now want to stress. The figures show that 71.3 per cent of the time lost was due to wage disputes centred around price movements. The honourable member for Wannon said a lot about the attitude of the Government in the national wage case and quite wrongly said that the submission put on behalf of the Government by me or my representative in the national wage case did not have the endorsement of the Government. In point of fact it did. It was specifically endorsed by the Cabinet point by point. It is of no use for the honourable gentleman to blame the national wage case for any of the inflationary trends that now occur, because the national wage case decision was to increase the minimum wage by $8 a week, and both the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) on 3 May went on public record applauding that decision, saying that it was a proper decision. The Leader of the Australian Country Party said that it was a responsible decision and one which he hoped the public generally would follow.
The only other matter which came out of the national wage case and which had any immediate effect was the decision to extend the minimum wage to adult females. There we had from the honourable member for Wannon, who has just resumed his seat, a public eulogy of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission’s decision. I notice that he is nodding his head.
– It was your advice to the Commission that I did not like, not the Commission’s decision.
– The Commission’s decision was applauded by the honourable member for Wannon. He said that in that respect the Commission’s decision conformed to Liberal Party policy. Apart from those 2 things, what did the Commission do that caused inflation? Nothing.
The only other thing it did was to reserve for later in the year a conference of the principal parties appearing before it in the national wage case to discuss the remaining issue of wage indexation, as it is now called, or automatic quarterly cost of living adjustments, as it is more popularly known. The Government’s case to the Commission was that in a period of rapidly rising prices it is unreasonable to expect workers to have to wait for a whole year before they receive anything in their wages to compensate them for the erosion of the value of their wages that is caused by rapidly rising rates of inflation. We argued, therefore, that we ought to follow the lead of the countries of the European Economic Community and introduce a form of automatic cost of living adjustments. I think it would be better if there were automatic cost of living adjustments monthly rather than quarterly, but we lack the machinery that exists in Belgium and France ever to contemplate having a monthly adjustment as there is in those countries. We argued that we ought to revert to the quarterly cost of living adjustments that did so much for industrial relations in the 32 years in which they operated in this country. I believe that the only cure, when there is in existence a situation in which 71.3 per cent of all the disputes in one month revolve around the issue of rising prices, is to have those price movements reflected automatically quarter by quarter.
– I agree with you that that is part of the cure.
– Yes, it is part of it.
– I agree with you there.
– I thank the honourable member for Mackellar for that. The other thing of which one needs to be certain if there are to be automatic cost of living adjustments is that the unions will not try to have their cake and eat it too. They should not expect to be able to get quarterly cost of living adjustments to compensate for price movements as they occur each quarter and to be able at the end of the year to make wage demands based upon the price movements for which they have already received automatic adjustments quarterly. They cannot have it both ways. My proposition is that the unions should be prepared to give a firm undertaking that, in return for automatic quarterly cost of living adjustments to the wages of their members to compensate them for price movements as they occur each quarter, they will desist from making claims for wage increases based upon price movements for which they have already received compensation. I would not be prepared just to say ‘Yes, we will undertake to do it’ and then give a quarterly cost of living adjustment under every award. I do not think that a consensus of opinion will arise from the conference which has been convened by Mr Justice Moore and which has now been brought forward to August because I think that the employers have taken up a fixed position against quarterly cost of living adjustments and I do not believe that the unions are prepared to give the kind of undertaking that I think would be needed for quarterly cost of living adjustments to be introduced across the board. Therefore, I would propose that the Commission ought not to make automatic cost of living adjustments applicable to every award but ought to make the granting of quarterly cost of living adjustments conditional upon the applicant, which would mostly or perhaps invariably be a union, giving such an undertaking at the time application is made to incorporate automatic adjustment provisions into an award. An assurance like that would be taken as the complete pay-off for price movements for a stipulated period of time.
– That is not unreasonable, provided you can police it-
– It would be policed in the same way as was done in the national wage case of 1973 when, in return for a $9 a week increase in the minimum wage, the Government asked that the Commission write into every award a stipulation that the new minimum wage would not be the basis for overtime payments but that where the award rate was less than the minimum wage the overtime payments would be based upon the award rate. To the eternal credit of the unions, we have to say that they have accepted that and that there has not been one dispute since then over the basis upon which overtime should be paid. Since even now we have an average overtime rate of 3.7 hours per week per person, the fact that there has never been a dispute over the basis upon which overtime should be paid indicates that it can be done.
I make my position perfectly clear: If a union repudiated an undertaking that was required to he given in order to have the indexation clause incorporated into an award, I would ask the Commission to take it out again. I believe that the rank and file members of the work force have a healthy enough appreciation of the benefits of quarterly cost of living adjustments to want to keep them and I believe that, if there were any irresponsible attempt either at the factory floor level or in any other part of the union’s mechanism to try to take away from them the enormous benefits of automatic cost of living adjustments, common sense would prevail and they would insist upon the undertaking being observed. I wish that more time was available for me to expound more fully on what I have stated today.
– That is the most important principle - that there should be a penalty for strikes - and I agree with it.
– I do not agree with the last part.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– The Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) lives in a fairy tale world. He continually puts up propositions that he hopes will cure what is an endemic problem within the nation. The fact of the matter is that he has presided over the greatest deterioration in industrial relations, in terms of strikes and man hours lost, in the term of any Minister in the parliamentary history of this nation. That is the Minister’s record. His approach to industrial relations is to abrogate his responsibility. He did it again today. He did it in a speech to the Industrial Relations Society of Australia in June when he referred to employment relations in terms of a power struggle and a perpetual conflict that is endemic to the industrial situation. He suggested that recognition of this fact is necessary for a realistic industrial relations policy. What that is doing is to beg the question entirely and not to face up to the reality of the industrial difficulties occurring throughout Australia.
There are 2 basic and vital qualifications to this proposition. One is that we are not discussing a free market situation in which the price of labour is determined by pure competition; rather is there a cartel situation with unions and employer organisations together with important and often decisive outside in fluences, such as government intervention and legal judgments. To the extent that Government influence is important, the Government must accept a corresponding degree of responsibility for the harmony or conflict that results. That is where the Minister abrogates his responsibility. Secondly, the consequences of the conflict over wage determinations and working conditions are often unacceptable to the community. In short, the process of industrial conflict that is so passively sanctioned by the Minister is at times unacceptable in its cost to the community. That time has now been reached.
In the first 3 months of this year the number of working days lost due to industrial action was nearly 4.S times as great as in the same period in 1973. That is the record of the present Minister for Labor and Immigration. More importantly, a most striking feature has been the increased duration of the strikes, as evidenced by the increased number of days of industrial dispute per worker involved. Wage disputes were by far the most common cause of strikes, accounting for about two-thirds of the working days lost. Disputes involving wage settlements were of a much longer duration and involved more workers than disputes due to other causes. Since that is the case, we should start with the proposition that that degree of industrial conflict - 2.5 million working days lost in 3 months - is not acceptable to the Australian public. One can list a whole series of strikes in this category, such as that which has resulted in the situation where milk is unavailable in Brisbane, where Adelaide is similarly threatened; and where the strike by ships’ engineers threatens the prosperity of Tasmania while the Government and the Minister sit by idly waiting for the strike to break. The recent series of postal strikes is not acceptable and neither is industrial trouble affecting school construction as well as the construction of private dwellings. That being so, let us hear no more sanctimonious twaddle about the theory of industrial conflict, and let us have no more passive acceptance of the inevitability of this sort of unrest.
The Minister has said that the role of the Government is that of an honest power broker. Its role should be much more than that. A government can create a climate in which conflict flourishes or withers. It can determine the size of the market for labour and it can actively intervene, not to even up the balance of power but to influence actively and decisively the outcome of disputes. More importantly, the combined effects of the progressive and outdated taxation scale and the 14 per cent rate of inflation have eroded average weekly earnings to the extent that the average wage earner in 1973 was almost SI a week worse off in terms of take home purchasing power at the end of the year than at its beginning. It is in this regard that the Minister ought to start acting responsibly in curing the problems. Some unions are ahead in relation to this eroding purchasing power and some are behind, but the determination to preserve and improve relativities ensures constant struggle until the forces of disruption - taxation and inflation - are moderated.
Unfortunately the outcome is unpromising. An enormous cloud looms as structural unemployment starts to appear. This is already evident in the labour statistics, and it can be expected as the cumulative effect of taxation changes, tariff cuts and currency realignment work through the economy. If this forecast is true then the unions involved will most certainly provoke further industrial action, an effect hardly consistent with the balance of power argument, advanced by the Minister, which implies that increased unemployment should weaken the position of the unions. I suppose that is true to the extent to which those unions are not affiliated with the Australian Labor Party. Unfortunately and disgracefully, the Government has sown the winds of structural adjustment and will reap the whirlwind of consequent unemployment without a viable or available retraining alternative. It is not good enough for the Minister to say that he tried; he did not try hard enough to convince his colleagues.
The facts are clear. An interdepartmental committee set up by the Minister to recommend a viable scheme was sacked by him in December. A report by Professor Cochrane is sound in principle but is wide open to serious anomalies and possible inconsistencies. No regional employment scheme has emerged from Cabinet in-fighting. Yet another interdepartmental committee - the interdepartmental committee on structural adjustment - after a gestation period of more than a year has spawned the structural adjustment board that offers assistance to industry and employees disadvantaged by government measures.
Some questions which unions will want answered are these: How is ‘structural adjustment’ defined? Does it include currency realignments, monetary policy and changes in government procurement as well as tariff cuts and taxation reform? Is retraining assistance available to all or is it linked to the work of the board? How do apprenticeships schemes and university scholarships relate to the training scheme? What criteria are applicable to screening of applicants? Finally and most importantly, what happens to those people who are fired before these issues are resolved and the machinery is operative? Are. we to expect more industrial anarchy as a result of deliberately created unemployment by a government that regards unemployment as unacceptable?
Certainly the Government stepped beyond the role of honest broker when the Minister for Labor and Immigration appeared on television last year to support a 35-hbur week for power workers in New South Wales. Let us not forget that. Following that piece of provocation the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) then made the statement, which is demonstrably false, that unemployment was confined to New South Wales and to industries employed by the State Government, such as the power industry. The Government seems unable to resolve its attitude to its own employees. From a stance of industrial pacesetter the Minister now wrings his hands, as evidenced by his June speech, over the implications of a flat rate increase of $16 a week for the Australian Public Service. The Government’s submission to the Commission is based on economic nonsense, and this submission should be stated to be nonsense.
Indexation freezes relativities, distorted as a result of inflation, and has been condemned as inflationary by no less prominent a socialist than the Prime Minister of Britain. The proposed uniform productivity adjustment ignores the considerable productivity variations between industries that should not be averaged for the purpose of wage determinations and probably cannot be successfully measured. Flat rate increases may strike some sympathetic cord in the hearts of those determined to redistribute or more exactly to equalise society, to put it politely. Such increases strike at the heart of work incentives and individual performance. These measures are no answer to industrial unrest, and they carry the seeds of further conflict, not the least of which would be between the higher paid and the lower paid workers.
The Government must adopt a stance in industrial disputes that serves the wider ends of peace and justice, instead of attempting to strengthen the bargaining power of favoured unions. Perhaps most importantly of all, in a situation in which two-thirds of industrial unrest is due to wage disputes, it must moderate the impact of taxation and inflation as a high priority policy measure. Until this is done, until the taxation system is reformed and its impact lessened, and until inflation is brought right back, we will have a climate conducive to wage unrest and the community will reap the full social and economic consequences that flow from it. The Government and the Minister have failed miserably in honouring their promise to the people of Australia when they said that the Labor Party alone could reduce the industrial difficulties being experienced by the Australian nation.
– The matter of public importance which has been brought on by the Opposition is in these terms:
The Government’s failure to establish a reasonable degree of industrial peace and the Government’s failure to protect the Australian public from the effects of industrial disruption.
Finding that a completely insupportable proposition, the first 2 Opposition speakers moved far away from the matter of public importance that they alleged in the terms I have just read. The speeches of the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) might well be forwarded to every student of political science in this country because I believe it would be impossible to find a better example of an exercise in political arrogance, humbug and double talk than what they have put forward here this morning. During the whole time that they took wearying this House not one single suggestion was put forward as a possible solution to what they believe to be a matter of public importance. We did not see even a glimmer or have even a hint of a new policy on wages or a suggestion of a new policy on industrial relations. They simply stood before this Parliament, without speaking to the matter of public importance at all, and attempted to exacerbate the difficult industrial situation which exists in this community and in other similar communities throughout the world.
I want to contrast that with the attitude that has been adopted by the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron). It is never difficult to defend him against attacks, puerile as they may be, from the Opposition, because his record in the short time that he has been Minister for Labor and Immigration in this Parliament is, in my view, without parallel in the history of this Parliament. He has put forward amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which are designed to improve industrial relations, prevent strikes, and improve relations between the parties. Submissions for a new wages concept have been made to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Nothing like that ever came from the Opposition when it was in government. The Minister has put forward a proposition for a training scheme, which has been overdue for at least a decade. He put forward this week the outline of a manpower policy and, above all, he has put forward a scheme which is designed to train trade union officials at all levels so that they may exercise their power with responsibility and skill, and with the motive of ensuring that the rights of employees shall be protected and the rights of the community will not be harmed.
It is as well for this Parliament and for those who read the reports of this Parliament to realise that only a very limited power is given to the Australian Parliament pursuant to the Constitution to legislate in relation to industrial disputes. That power does not entitle the Government or this Parliament to legislate directly in respect of industrial matters; it may only establish machinery for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes. I hope that the current trend will continue, that is, that more emphasis will be placed on the prevention of disputes rather than on settlement.
For 23 long, weary, frustrating years the Opposition sat on the Government side and during all that time it took not one faltering step to give proper emphasis to the prevention of industrial disputes. Its role was to echo the voice of the multinational corporations, of the large employers. Its role was to kick the worker, to criticise the unions and to exacerbate industrial disputes. Of course the previous Government was serving the interests of its rich and powerful friends. I look at the 2 honourable members who are responsible for this motion this morning - the honourable member for Wannon and the honourable member for Gippsland - lounging back in their comfortable seats. As I listened to them criticising the percentage increase given to some humble workers in this community I realised that farm incomes have increased at almost twice the rate of increase granted to some employees to whom they referred. It would be interesting if those 2 farmers disclosed their incomes to this Parliament and compared them with the ‘mammoth’ increase they complain about which has been asked for by the postal workers, people who receive a rate of pay which in some cases is barely enough to keep body and soul together, while these 2 honourable members from their rich pastoral properties stand here and criticise. They have received an increase probably two or three times as much as the postal workers have claimed yet they stand here and criticise this Government and the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Somebody receives a small increase - small in money terms - which they manipulate by talking about it in percentage terms. Is there any wonder, when this sort of attitude is adopted in the Parliament of Australia, that there are disputes and strikes about wage issues?
Of course, those honourable members conveniently leave out of their proposition any reference to their friends in the State governments. After all, the Premier of New South Wales, Sir Robert Askin, must have the worst track record of any Premier in any State of Australia since Governor Phillip was here. He has the unenviable record of having provoked more strikes in more State enterprises than any of his predecessors have been able to do. The 2 honourable gentlemen opposite leave that to one side. They attempt to lump together all the stoppages, irrespective of whether the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has power to deal with them. What about the power dispute? Did they criticise their friend Sir Robert Askin? They made not one word of criticism. Did they criticise the New South Wales Liberal-Country Party Government over the avoidable disputes which have occurred in public transport in the New South Wales railways? Did they criticise the New South Wales Liberal-Country Party Government for its attitude to disputes in the building industry in that State - issues on which this Parliament is specifically excluded from legislating. What have they done about disputes relating to demarcation issues? They have frustrated every attempt made by this Government so far to pass legislation to remove that as a cause of industrial disputation.
Those guilty men who sit opposite knew for years and years the problem in what is known as the Moore v. Doyle case. It was pointed out by trade unionists, by employers and by the Industrial Court itself. What did the Liberal Ministers for Labour do about it? They put their heads in the sand because it did not affect their rich and powerful friends and therefore it was of no concern to them. It has been left to this Government and the Minister for Labor to try to unravel that situation. A great deal of progress has been and is being made. Honourable members opposite do not give the Minister any credit for it.
I was interested to hear the honourable member for Wannon utter one faltering, hesitant word of praise for the waterside workers in Melbourne because of a situation in which a dispute was obviated. But I ask the honourable gentleman: What about the thousands of other industrial disputes which are settled without strikes or stoppages? He paints a picture of rampant union activity. He tries to misrepresent the picture by saying that unions are irresponsible and that a strike wave is upon us but he ignores the thousands of cases in which disputes are settled before any strike or stoppage occurs. Perhaps the most ludicrous statement that even the honourable member for Wannon has ever made was in his statistical acrobatics when he came up with the suggestion that one in every ten in the work force has been on strike. Have honourable members ever heard any more ludicrous proposition? He said that if the figures are extended out it will be found that one in ten in the work force has been on strike. That is sheer and absolute nonsense in the extreme, and he knows it. Of course it is possible to manipulate figures but that manipulation of figures and statistics does nothing to correct the problem.
This Government has a very good record. Certainly there have been strikes. There will always be strikes and stoppages. The job of this Parliament, as restricted by the Constitution, is to provide the means for the prevention and settlement of those disputes when they occur. That is its role. Its role is not to exacerbate problems.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded.
– I call the Minister for Northern ‘Development.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I have been misrepresented.
– The honourable gentleman will resume his seat? I have called the Minister. 1 cannot call 2 honourable members at once.
– I present the Marginal Dairy Farms Agreements Bill 1974.
– Can I take a point of order?
– The honourable member cannot take a point of order on the first reading of a Bill.
Bill read a first time.
– ‘Does the honourable member want to take a point of order now?
– Can I take a point of order? I point out that under the Standing Orders when an honourable member has been misrepresented, at the first available opportunity he should be given the opportunity to show where he has been misrepresented.
– That is correct. At the first available opportunity I will give the honourable member the call, but I cannot give him the call when I have called the Minister. I called the Minister before the honourable member even moved.
– I ask the Minister, in view of the fact that it would take less than half a minute to clear up this matter and it would then be out of everyone’s hair, whether that course would be possible.
– Yesterday my learned friend here held up the proceedings of the House for half an hour while he read from a document. I think the Minister made it quite clear-
– Order! I call the Minister on the second reading of the Bill.
– I move: That the Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this Bill is to extend to 30 June 1976 the operation of the Marginal Dairy Farms Agreements Act 1970, which will otherwise expire on 26 July; and to provide legislative authority for a substantial part of the dairy industry adjustment program announced by the Government on 8 April. Our earlier commitment to such a program was confirmed in the Labor Party Rural Policy Speech delivered at Goulburn on 1 May 1974, as follows:
The announced program comprises 3 elements: First, a continuation and broadening of the Marginal Dairy Farms Reconstruction Scheme;
Second, the provision of interest free loans with flexible repayment periods, to assist the changeover of producers to refrigerated bulk milk supply, with concurrent assistance as necessary to factories;
Third, relocation assistance for displaced dairy farmers and displaced factory workers.
The present Bill comprehends those elements of the program which can be brought into effect within the context and spirit of agreements made with the States under the Marginal Dairy Farms Agreements Act. A further Bill in the Budget session will provide for elements not included in the present Bill, principally the provision of assistance to factories. For reasons explained in the preamble, the assistance to be provided under the 2-year adjustment program from 1 July 1974 to 30 June 1976 will be exempted from the need for reference to the Industries Assistance Commission. In essence we believe the national interest requires that reconstruction already commenced should not be interrupted and that legislation for extending the adjustment process in accordance with announced policies should be proceeded with without delay. The question of Government assistance to the dairy industry after 30 June 1976 has already been referred for inquiry and report by the Industries Assistance Commission.
I turn now to the details of the Bill. The 1970 Act defined a marginal dairy farm so that the operation of the scheme was concerned predominantly with small scale dairy farmers supplying the manufacturing sector of the industry. The present Bill extends eligibility to marginal dairy farms in the market milk sector. It also maintains the authority for assistance for amalgamation of marginal dairy farm land and considerably develops and strengthens the existing arrangements. The new features, included in clause 4 of the Bill, are as follows. Provision is made for direct conveyancing in the amalgamation of land, thereby overcoming a mechanical difficulty that has caused delay in the completion of transfers of land under the scheme in certain States. Authority is also conferred to enable the writing-off of redundant assets on the home property. Previously the writing-off was confined to assets on the acquired property only. The arrangement now proposed will permit the farmer to make the best use of the structural improvements irrespective of where they are located.
Authority is provided to enable interest free loans to be made to dairy farmers so that they can purchase and install vats and make such other improvements on the farm as required to enable them to supply refrigerated bulk milk. The installation may necessitate such things as modification to the dairy, connection or alteration to electricity supply to the dairy, changes to water supply and so on. Such modifications related to the installation of a refrigerated milk vat would be eligible for interest free assistance. Improvement in the access road on-farm to enable the bulk milk tanker to collect the refrigerated milk would also be eligible for this type of loan where, in the opinion of the State authority, such improvement is warranted. Marginal farmers who supply milk in cans or whose vats are only water cooled will also be able to apply to convert to refrigerated bulk milk supply. The interest free loans will also be available to those who borrowed to install their vats on or after 23 July 1973. This date marked the announcement of the decision by the Government that bounty was to be phased out and replaced by enhanced assistance for adjustment. For grant of interest free loans only one test is to be applied: Will the producer have reasonable prospects of economic viability after assistance? If he lacks the prospect of viability, then it would be pointless to make assistance available to him out of public funds. Producers who would not be able to become economic will be eligible for relocation assistance, about which I will speak in a moment.
The Bill goes on to provide authority to enable the development of a marginal dairy farm into an economic unit including provision for carry-on loans during the period of development. These forms of assistance were not available under the 1970 Act. The Bill also strengthens the provisions for encouraging diversification. Where a marginal dairy farm is being converted in whole or part to rural uses other than dairying, loans will be available for the purchase of additional land, for making structural improvements, for buying livestock or equipment and for carry-on purposes during the period of conversion, and grants will be available for the writing-off of milking plant, bails and so on that would cease to be needed under the new form of land use. The Bill also develops the present scheme by providing for finance to enable the incoming producer, after amalgamation, to develop more readily the full potential of the enlarged property. The present Bill make provision for loans again for structural improvements, purchase of livestock and equipment and for carry-on loans during the development period after amalgamation. These forms of assistance for development and diversification will be subject to the test that the State authority would have to be satisfied that the person to be assisted has been unable to obtain a loan on reasonable terms from normal financial sources.
The Government has also given further .consideration to the welfare of those who will be leaving the industry. The Bill provides that out-going marginal dairy farmers can be accorded relocation assistance. It is intended that such assistance will be of a range and to an extent similar to that accorded to other out-going rural producers under the general rural reconstruction scheme. Of the $25m provided for use as needed under the original marginal dairy farms reconstruction scheme, some $15m has been expended to date. The Bill therefore provides for anticipated expenditure under the expanded dairy adjustment program by adding $28m to the amount already spent. However, because all of the money which could have been made available under the earlier scheme was not used and because of the difficulty in putting a firm figure on a scheme which involves voluntary participation, the Government is prepared to consider provision of further moneys if necessary after agreement between the Minister for Agriculture and the Treasurer.
I am pleased to acknowledge the assistance received from State Government authorities and from industry organisations in the considerations which led to the development of the present scheme. The States have been associated with the administration of the existing arrangements since their inception and the Bill provides for the continuation of this association under arrangements to be made by agreement with each State. Arrangements for consultation with them to make the necessary revisions to existing agreements are well in hand. It must be recognised that no single program will solve all of the problems being faced by this important industry in the rural sector. There should also be a ready acceptance that planning for its future is primarily the responsibility of the industry itself, but with support as appropriate from governments both Federal and State.
The program I have outlined represents the Australian Government’s contribution aimed at encouraging natural adjustment already under way within the industry. It seeks to make a direct attack on industry problems. In particular, the aim is to consolidate at a reasonable income level those who remain in dairying, whilst giving encouragement to low income producers who wish to do so to move out. It encourages diversification of less suitable dairying land into other uses and makes a direct contribution to the problems of cream suppliers. The total program will provide appropriately for necessary aid to factories where this is necessary in association with supplier changeover to refrigerated bulk milk delivery, and will give assistance to displaced factory workers so that they are treated equitably in relation to displaced producers. 1 commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Nixon) adjourned.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. In the course of his modest remarks, the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) said that my statement that one person in ten had been involved in a strike was ludicrous, fantastic, obviously and utterly wrong and a fabrication of somebody’s mind. In the March quarter of this year, according to the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician, 592,800 workers were involved in industrial disputes. That is roughly one-tenth of the Australian work force. I think those figures are better than the contradiction by the honourable member for Phillip.
Bill presented by Mr Charles Jones, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill, together with the Roads Grants Bill and the Transport (Planning and Research) Bill, makes provision for financial assistance to the States for road construction and main tenance and transport planning and research totalling SI, 126m over the next 3 years, 1974/75-1976/77. The delay in the introduction of this legislation was due to the. double dissolution which, as the honourable gentlemen opposite know, was not of the Government’s making. These 3 Bills will provide for the continuation of financial assistance previously provided or to be provided under a number of programs including: The 1969 Commonwealth Aid Roads Act; the 1968 States (Beef Cattle Roads) Act; the Urban Public Transport (Research and Planning) Bill 1974; the traffic engineering and road safety improvement programs; and specific assistance to South Australia to assist in sealing the Eyre Highway. The Government’s proposal is to restrict the period of financial assistance provided in these Acts to 3 years rather than 5 years, as has been the practice under previous CAR arrangements. The reason for this is that over the next 18 months we shall be working towards rationalising our separate road and urban transport assistance measures into a closely co-ordinated and integrated set of arrangements. It is intended to legislate further in about 18 months time to give effect to the new set of integrated transport arrangements. This will provide the States with about 18 months lead time for forward planning pending the commencement of the legislation and will be an important step in the introduction of a rolling program for transport development.
During its consideration of the new road arrangements the Government had before it the Bureau of Roads ‘Report on Roads in Australia - 1973’. As honourable members will recall I tabled this report in the Parliament on 12 December last. Comments on the report were subsequently obtained from the States at a meeting of Highway Ministers in Sydney earlier in the year and from representatives of State Local Government Associations and the parent body. The report having been made public, many local government authorities, motoring bodies, other organisations and individuals took advantage of the opportunity to provide their views on it. This is the first time that an Australian Government has sought and obtained the views of a widespread sector of the community interested in roads. It has been an especially important exercise in open government which the previous Government might well have engaged in when finalising previous road arrangements.
The Bureau’s report recommended the provision of financial assistance to the States of SI, 345m over the next 3 years and a number of major new initiatives which I shall come to at a later stage. The Government has decided to provide grants of SI, 126m for road construction and maintenance and transport planning and research over the next 3 years. This figure of $l,126m represents a significant increase of 30 per cent over the $870m provided for the various forms of road assistance in the previous 3 years. The Government in deciding the amount of road finance had to take account of its proposed commitments for other major transport initiatives, including urban public transport and the recently completed agreements for new railways joining Adelaide to the standard gauge railway and Tarcoola to Alice Springs. We also had to take account of our commitments to other programs of high priority such as education, health and social welfare and above all of the general state of the economy.
The 3 Bills together will provide financial assistance of $350m in 1974-75, $369m in 1975-76 and S407m in 1976-77. The States will receive the following allocations over the next 3 year period:
A further Slim is provided under the Transport Planning and Research Bill for distribution according to the merit of projects submitted.
I now want to turn specifically to the National Roads Bill which is a major milestone in the history of Australian Government road assistance to the States. Previous governments have repeatedly refused to accept the need to do something specific to upgrade major roads of national importance to acceptable standards. As I have said on many occasions Australia’s major highway, The Hume Highway between Sydney and Melbourne, is in a deplorable condition. Other major highways are similarly placed. For example, a National Highways Study Team, composed of Australian and State Government officials, has carried out a substantial study of Australia’s major arterial roads. It found that, in 1972, the Pacific, New
England, Hume and Princes Highways in New South Wales, the Hume, Princes East and Western Highways in Victoria, the Bruce, Warrego, Landsborough, Barkly and Flinders Highways in Queensland, the Eyre and Stuart Highways in South Australia, the Great Northern Highway in Western Australia, the Midland, Bass and Tamar Highways in Tasmania, the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory were significantly deficient.
Road sections were considered deficient if one or more of the following conditions existed or would exist in the year under consideration: Surface deficiency; width deficiency; structural deficiency; and alignment or curve deficiency. The Study Team in looking at a system of national roads substantially similar to the system eventually recommended by the Bureau found that many miles had one or more of the deficiencies I have just mentioned. Then on the assumption that no improvements were undertaken they worked out the number of miles that would be deficient by 1979 and 1989. respectively. The following table expresses the Study Team’s findings in regard to the number of deficient miles in the system as a percentage of the total number of miles in the system:
This Government is determined that the situation which I have outlined must change and has decided to adopt the Bureau of Roads’ recommendation to develop a national roads system. The Bureau of Roads in its report concluded that States tended to allocate road finance to all areas of the States and consequently it was difficult for the States to assemble the large resources to construct long segments of main arterial roads joining major centres. We agree with this conclusion. It should be obvious to any thinking person that without a major initiative by the Australian Government current State policies will continue and major arterial roads will still be neglected.
The Bureau envisaged the Australian Government financing 80 per cent of the cost of developing and maintaining the system with the States supplying the balance. The Government, however, has decided that the task is of such national importance to justify the Australian Government taking full responsibility for the cost, thus freeing the States to use their own sources of finance for the construction of other roads covered by the Road Grants Bill. In order that a substantial start may be made on developing and maintaining the system it is proposed to provide S400m over the 3 year period, with SI 03m being provided in 1974-75, S130m in 1975-76 and S167m in 1976-77. This is the measure of the Government’s determination to ensure that a significant start is made to arrest the continuing deterioration in the important roads of this nation.
The Bill provides for the following roads to be included in the system as national highways, that is, those roads which in the opinion of the Minister constitute the principal road between: Two or more State capital cities; a State capital city and Canberra; a State capital city and Darwin; Brisbane and Cairns; and Hobart and Burnie; together with other roads which the Minister considers justify inclusion on the basis of their national importance. The Government has also decided that the national roads system should include roads or proposed roads which facilitate, or if built, would facilitate the development of trade and commerce with other countries and among the States.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– These are referred to in the legislation as ‘export roads’ and ‘major commercial roads’. These would generally be intrastate roads serving seaports and airports in bath urban and rural areas. When this Bill comes into operation it is my intention to declare as national highways a series of roads which would give effect to that system recommended on page 158 of the Bureau of Roads’ report on roads in Australia, 1973. In brief these roads include: The Hume Highway between Sydney and Melbourne; a road between Brisbane and Sydney; a road between Brisbane and Cairns; the portion within the State of a road between Brisbane and Darwin via Mt Isa; a road between Melbourne and Adelaide; a road between Adelaide, and Perth; the portion within the State of a road between Adelaide and Darwin; the portion within the State of a road between Perth and Darwin via Port Hedland; and a road between Hobart and Burnie.
This system will directly serve over 150 towns with populations exceeding 2,000 people and a total urban population of 9.5 million, or about 75 per cent of Australia’s population. In 1972 the system carried about 4,000 million vehicle miles of travel. Preliminary discussions have been held with the States with a view to identifying roads which might be declared as export roads and major commercial roads. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) wrote to the then Acting Premier of New South Wales canvassing, in particular, the possibility of including access roads to the new Botany Bay port complex in these categories. We look forward with anticipation to a positive response from the State to this suggestion.
Periodicaly the national roads system will be reviewed with a view to determining whether new roads might be added. However, I venture a word of caution. The initial national highways which I propose to declare could take upward of about 10 years to develop to acceptable standards. The system comprises about 9,800 miles of road. About 100 miles of these roads are divided highways. Nearly 6,600 miles of roads have single carriageways with a sealed surface. The remaining 3,100 miles are unsealed. About 70 per cent of the system requires construction or reconstruction. It is therefore essential that an intensive effort be made to develop the initial system. The inclusion of additional roads in any number would be counter-productive and lead to a dissipation of effort similar to the present circumstances.
I would also point out that the ultimate routes of some national highways are yet to be determined. It is envisaged that a number of corridor studies will be necessary to determine the location of some parts of roads forming part of a national highway. As honourable members may be aware, the Australian Government has already taken the initiative to have a joint investigation made of a new route between Goulburn and Albury. The New South Wales Government has agreed to the study. I myself favour a more direct route via Wee Jasper, Tumut and Batlow and coming closer to the Australian Capital Territory. Such a road would provide a more direct link between Sydney and Melbourne and provide a considerable shortening of the road distance between Canberra and the new growth centre of Albury-Wodonga. The outcome of these investigations on the Goulburn-Albury route is expected to be known in about 6 months time. If a road on the new route is found to be feasible and desirable every effort will be made to have a substantive start made on the road during the life of this Act.
Other corridor studies are being considered. In this context the road between Port Augusta and Alice Springs will have a high priority. This road currently deviates to the south of the Woomera rocket range. A more direct route may be preferable. Other corridor studies that may be desirable include those for: A Newcastle by-pass; the road from Perth to East of Norseman - alternative routes are available which could save considerable distances - the approaches to Hobart, the location of which could influence the location of the highway north of the city; Broome in Western Australia to Katherine in the Northern Territory; and Camooweal in Queensland to Daly Waters in the Northern Territory. The Australian Government is to be responsible for the strategic planning of the national roads system. Given the Australian Government’s acceptance of the responsibility for fully financing the development and maintenance of the system this approach is fully justified. Furthermore, it is the only reliable way of ensuring that national objectives are taken fully into account.
Practical expression is given to the Australian Government’s intention to be responsible for strategic planning in clause 5 of the Bill. Provision is made there for the Minister for Transport, after consultation with the States, to notify to the States details of works on the system which the Australian Government believes to be necessary, the order in which such works should be carried out and the standards of construction and maintenance to apply. The States will then design the projects and submit them to the Australian Government for approval. Each year the States will prepare annual programs of construction and maintenance for approval. These programs can be modified by the Minister before approving them. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development will have the right to concur in the approval of any projects undertaken in the area of the Albury-Wodonga growth centre and such other growth centres as are declared for the purpose of this Act.
The development of a national roads system will bring with it major benefits to motorists using it. Very importantly, these roads will incorporate on a systematic basis accepted features of safety design. Safety will be enhanced not only for the motorists using the system, but also for the residents of those centres in which the hazards from heavy fast moving through traffic will be reduced. These benefits will arise from reduction in the likelihood of accidents and their severity. The design standards which will be examined for incorporation in the national highways system will include good sight distances, greater uniformity of standards, particularly the absence of dangerous curves and other unexpected hazards, the elimination of roadside objects, control of access and appropriate pavement markings and delineation. Where a 4 lane divided road with wide medians is provided, this will lead to a significant reduction in head-on collisions, side impacts and running into fixed objects.
Accident rates are markedly affected by the standard of the road. We know that in 1970 there were 3.2 accidents per million vehicle miles on New South Wales rural highways while the comparable rate on the SydneyNewcastle expressway was 1.4 accidents per million vehicle miles. On the Hume Highway in 1971-72 there were 838 casualty accidents. I expect this number will be significantly reduced, as much as by half, where the existing 2-lane sections of this road are replaced by a 4-lane divided highway.
Finally I want to stress that the selection of roads eligible for inclusion in this scheme has been based on the possibility that the State roads included in this scheme might in the future be constructed, at least in part, by the Australian Government itself. Legal advice indicates that constitutional authority exists to support Australian Government construction of many, if not most, of the roads to be included in this scheme. This will be explored further. One cannot rule out the possibility that in the longer term the appropriate course to follow would be for the Australian Government to be responsible in every way forthe conduct of the national roads system provided for in this Bill. On that final note I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Nixon) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Charles Jones, and read a first time.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the Roads Grants Bill 1974 is to provide $700m in financial assistance over the period 1974-75 to 1976-77 for the construction of rural arterial roads, developmental roads, rural local roads, minor traffic engineering and road safety improvements, urban arterial roads, urban local roads, and beef roads. Assistance for rural local roads, as in the past, will also include maintenance. As honourable members will appreciate from the categories of roads which I have outlined, the opportunity has been taken to consolidate in this Bill assistance previously provided under the 1969 Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, assistance for beef roads and the continued provision of assistance for minor traffic engineering and road safety improvements. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a table indicating how the States will benefit from the $700m.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I thank the House. Urban arterial roads will be the largest category of grants with $355m being provided for this purpose. The road needs survey conducted by the Bureau of Roads and State roads authorities showed that at June 1972 this category of road performed the major portion of the traffic task in urban areas by carrying the greatest volume of traffic and the highest proportion of heavy vehicles. Whilst urban arterial and sub-arterial roads constitute only 20 per cent of urban road mileage they carry up to 75 per cent of the total vehicle miles of travel in the cities. They also comprise only 2 per cent of all roads in Australia and carry about 50 per cent of all road travel. Approximately 780 miles, or 17 per cent, of the arterial and sub-arterial roads in built up urban areas are carrying traffic volumes in excess of 20,000 vehicles per day. Freeways a particular type of urban arterial road, have become the centre of controversy in nearly every State capital. Australia still has time to avoid the problems which massive programs have inflicted on American cities. A special report recently prepared by the Bureau of Roads, in response to a request by my colleague the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), identified many advantages of freeways over heavily loaded arterial roads. These advantages include very significant reductions in road accidents, decreases in the operating costs of commercial and private vehicles, savings in travel time and reductions in air pollution, noise and community disruption and very substantial improvement in route times for public transport. On the other hand the report found that many Australian capital cities have a radial pattern of railways and roads emanating from the centre of the city. The difficulty with this pattern is that as roads and railways approach the centre of the city, distances between them become less and less and the volume of traffic per lane increases. The inner areas are, as a result, polluted by noise and congestion and are dissected into areas which are too small to act as true communities. These adverse aspects frequently outweigh any potential advantages.
The report also analysed individual freeways on the basis of certain principles formulated by the Bureau for satisfactory freeway development and it took into account economic, social and environmental matters. There are indications that proposals for freeways in outer areas of capital cities are fairly limited and do not conflict with the Bureau’s principles. Some freeways in middle to outer areas, and more so in inner areas, will cause problems and may not be justified. Under these new road arrangements the Australian Government will look very closely at freeway proposals. We intend to ensure that detailed investigations are made into the environmental, social and economic aspects of freeway proposals. We shall only approve the construction of major projects of this type if we are convinced that they are justified.
Previous arrangements for financial assistance for roads have essentially ignored urban local roads. In the pre- 1969 legislation some local government authorities on the fringes of urban areas were treated as rural and thus had access to Commonwealth aid roads grants for minor rural roads. This represented nominal assistance only for urban local roads. This Government intends to redress this neglect and as an initial step we shall provide $30m over the next 3 years for this purpose. We shall be looking forward, in particular, to redressing problems identified by the Bureau in 4 broad areas of neglect. The first concerns the need to assist local government authorities on the fringes of urban areas which face difficulties in financing the road programs required to keep pace with development. In these areas local road development often precedes growth in local rates from which urban local roads are normally financed. The second situation relates to the need to assist local government authorities with special burdens on street reconstruction and with environmentally deficient streets caused by abnormal traffic condtions due to congested arterials. The long term solution of course is to provide arterial roads adequate to traffic needs. The third situation is to assist with areas such as the western suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne where the Australian Government has been implementing area improvement programs. Finally, these funds could be used to allow for initial road construction in system cities ahead of the availability of development capital and local government rate finance for this purpose.
I now wish to turn to the minor traffic engineering and road safety improvements category. This was one of the important initiatives in respect of road safety that this Government took soon after coming into power. We made a provision of $3m in 1973- 74 for a program of traffic management and other low cost improvements at locations with poor accident records. The long term objective of course is to provide properly planned roads designed with major safety features built in. However, much can be done at little cost in modifying existing roads to improve their traffic management and safety capabilities. For this reason we are providing $30m over the next 3 years with a view to accelerating this work. This represents a significant increase in expenditure in this area and it will undoubtedly pay substantial dividends in the short term. The money provided for minor traffic improvements is available for rectifying problems on both State owned roads and local government roads. It will also be available for use on roads in both urban and rural areas.
As for rural areas the intention is to provide $105m for rural arterial roads. Under the 1969 Commonwealth Aid Roads Act this category included the great bulk of roads which are now to be included in the national highways category of the National Roads Bill. However, the category has now been augmented by the transfer of Class 3 regional connecting roads which previously formed part of the ‘rural roads other than arterial roads’ category. These roads are those whose main function is to provide an avenue of communication between those roads which were previously classified as rural arterial, between important centres, and those that are of an arterial nature within 5 towns. The development of rural arterial roads is important. They play a major role in joining the cities, towns and principal centres of population in the regions, outside the capital and major provincial cities.
An amount of $156m is to be provided for the construction and maintenance of rural local roads. With the deletion of Class 3 interconnecting roads from this category these roads now largely provide an access function to residences within rural cities, towns and other centres of population and to farm properties. It is also proposed to have a developmental category comprising selected rural roads. These roads will be nominated by the Minister who can determine that up to 10 per cent of the moneys available under the rural arterial category be provided for their development. Developmental roads will include, for example, roads of importance to the tourist industries and roads serving growth centres.
I now want to turn to beef roads. The Australian Government has decided to continue this type cf assistance and has provided $24m for expenditure on these roads in Queensland. This action gives effect to the undertaking given by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his policy speech. In accordance with those promises it is also proposed to further develop the Fitzroy Crossing-Wyndham road in Western Australia at a cost of $5. 23m. The finance for this purpose will be provided under the National Roads Bill. I now want to make one particularly important point and this concerns the division of these grant moneys between rural and urban areas. There has already been a lot of uninformed comment about these road proposals favouring urban areas at the expense of rural areas. This I quite categorically deny. The following figures indicate quite clearly that the road arrangements decided upon by this Government show a greater proportional distribution of road moneys to rural areas compared with that provided by the previous Government under the last 3 years of the 1969 Commonwealth Aid Roads Act and that recommended by the Bureau of Roads for the next 3 years. The relevant figures are as follows:
There has also been a lot of uninformed comparison about the level of grants provided for certain categories in the 1969 Commonwealth Aid Roads Act compared with that recommended by the Bureau and this is likely to spill over into this Bill. Many roads previously included in the 1969 Commonwealth Aid Roads categories, rural arterial particularly, are now being provided for separately under the National Roads Bill. Furthermore as I indicated earlier, class 3 roads have been transferred from rural local to rural arterial. The only really satisfactory comparison is the overall percentage of rural versus urban which I have already given you. Secondly, these uninformed comparisons ignore the fact that the Australian Government has decided to take full responsibility for financing the construction of national roads. This will relieve State governments completely of any financial responsibility in that area and thus allow them to devote all their own resources to the categories covered by this Bill.
In this regard I want to make the particular point that previously local government authorities relied on Commonwealth Aid Roads grants. Whilst local government is still eligible for assistance under this legislation these authorities will now have to turn more to State governments for assistance. I emphasise what I said earlier, namely that with the Australian Government meeting the full cost of national roads, State governments will be able to meet this increased demand for financial assistance from their local authorities. The quota requirements in this Bill have been left much more flexible than that proposed by the Bureau of Roads which envisaged matching by categories in some instances. Thus States will have more freedom to augment the level of grants in those categories of roads on which they place their priorities. I might say also that the Australian Government after considering representations by the States has agreed to reduce the level of quotas recommended by the Bureau by an overall 10 per cent. This will relieve the States to a large extent of the responsibility of increasing user charges.
In any case, of course, there is no requirement on the States as to where they raise their own road finance funds. That is a matter essentially for them to decide.
Finally I want to turn to the program approval arrangements provided for in this Bill. It is intended that the States and local government authorities will, if required, be called upon to submit programs of all road works carried out in a particular category. There has been some criticism of this approach particularly from State premiers on the grounds that it infringes State rights. I must say that this Government could not countenance adopting the practice of the previous Government in introducing the 1969 Commonwealth Aid Roads Act. There they abdicated all responsibility for determining the road works to be eligible for assistance and the priorities to be attached to them. The realities of the current situation are that the Australian Government is becoming more and more involved in the provision of large sums of financial assistance to States for transport development. Apart from this Bill, the introduction of a national roads scheme and the development of urban public transport are 2 major examples.
The underlying philosophy of our approach to transport is to recognise the inter-connection of the various modes and to promote the development of a more rational approach to transport overall. It is therefore illogical to provide large sums of money in a number of important areas, as I mentioned, without recognising that roads built by States and municipal authorities form just as much a part of the transport system as do roads and other means of transport financed by Australian Government grants. In urban areas, for example, much of public transport, such as buses and taxis, travel on roads. Furthermore, there is a need for people to be able to park their cars at suburban railway stations and at ferry wharves so that they can use these modes of public transport. In addition, the public bus system timetabling must be coordinated and integrated with the urban railway and ferry system. All in all the Australian Government has a responsibility to associate itself more closely with the States in making decisions involving the significant disbursement of Australian funds. Only in this way can we achieve the development of our major transport goals.
In order to become more closely associated with the problems of transport planning in the
States the intention is to require Australian representation on State bodies responsible for programming and providing policy advice on matters relating to roads. As honourable members will be aware, the States agreed to this approach in the Urban Public Transport Agreement. Apart from giving the Australian Government a better first hand appreciation of problems associated with transport planning it will also give us the opportunity to inject some of our views in early planning stages. Finally, it will assist the Australian Government in considering its attitude to pro.gramm approvals in that it will remove the need for the provision of detailed information at the programming stage. The reason being of course that we shall have seen at first hand the development of solutions to particular problems over a period of time. This Bill in its own way brings a new era to the provision of assistance to the States for roads. Accordingly I commend this Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Nixon) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Charles Jones, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
This Bill complements the National Roads Bill and the Roads Grants Bill 1974 which I previously introduced into the House. 1 foreshadowed the introduction of this Bill when I recently introduced the Urban Public Transport (Research and Planning) Bill 1974. At that time I explained that that Bill only allocated funds for 1973-74 and was intended to operate retrospectively to authorise reimbursements for the States in respect of projects which they had initiated in anticipation of that legislation being passed before the end of the 1973-74 financial year. The Bill authorises expenditure over the next 3 years, 1974-75 to 1976-77, of $26m on grants to the States for research and planning associated with roads and urban public transport. Under the terms of the Bill the Australian Government, will meet two-thirds of the cost of approved studies.
As I have indicated on previous occasions, the intention of the Australian Government is to introduce legislation in about 18 months time providing financial assistance to the States for transport generally in place of separate programs of assistance for various modes. In other words, our intention is to ensure that the whole question of transport is dealt with as an entity with each mode playing its proper part in the transport task. In respect of planning and research, however, it is possible immediately to take the step of ensuring that road projects are considered in relation to their priority with urban public transport projects and vice versa. To this end this Bill covers planning and research for both roads and urban public transport. This is most appropriate and will be a step towards greater flexibility in the use of available transport funds in the area of greatest need. My Government took immediate steps when it came to office to draw together its various transport responsibilities into one department and under one minister. This Bill will, I hope, be tangible evidence to the States of our policy for integrated transport development and will assist them in a similar aim.
Much planning and research needs to be done to facilitate the development of the new transport initiatives of this Government and we are prepared to assist with a significant allocation of money to help the States in the huge task of updating Australia’s transport. There is a major need for more sophisticated planning and research in Australia in regard to all transport modes. The provision of assistance under this Act will be directed towards developing in the States more comprehensive planning processes than hitherto existed. There is also a need to look at the scope for rationalising our research and planning in Australia, exchanging information between the various authorities and developing data and information for use by interested research bodies.
Road research is an area where much needs to be done. Research into the physical attributes of various types of pavements and materials used for construction needs to be continuously developed along with research into road structures. This Government will endeavour to ensure that new areas of research into roads and road transport are developed. The financial assistance provided under this Bill will also be available to the States for use on road safety research. As honourable members will be aware, the Australian Government has decided to establish its own road safety authority to extend research into this important area. However, the provisions of tihs Bill recognise that there will still be a very significant role for the States also.
The inclusion of research and planning for roads and urban public transport in the one Bill is a logical step from many viewpoints. Much of urban public transport, especially buses and taxis, runs on roads. Furthermore road based public transport needs to be closely co-ordinated with the urban train and ferry systems. It is therefore appropriate that planning and research projects for both these areas be treated in the one Bill and that proposed projects impinging on these areas be considered together. This can only add to the understanding of the various transport modes, their relative merits and the interaction between them. This Government places considerable importance on the need to restore the place of urban public transport as a means of transporting people, especially in urban areas. Much therefore needs to be done in the way of research into new technologies, the planning of their introduction into service in Australia and the development of management techniques required to facilitate these developments.
I have mentioned previously in this House the necessity for studies to be undertaken into fare structures including the possibility of zoned fares, flat fare charges or a one fare structure for all modes. In addition, the applicability of technological advances, such as personal rapid transport, to our Australian conditions needs to be examined. The Australian Government has commenced some of this work with its own resources and members will recall my mention of the development of the Australian urban passenger train and of similar proposals for the development of new and improved urban buses. This Bill will assist the States in similar projects and enable them to investigate, for instance, the increased use of modern water transport in some cities, the use of special priority systems for buses and many other projects that will contribute to an improved quality of life for the majority of Australians dependent on public transport in our major cities.
The Bill provides for a basic allocation of
SI 5m among the States for expenditure on both road and urban public transport planning and research. Subject to the submission of acceptable projects a State can look forward to receiving the basic entitlement. In addition to this money the States will be able to submit projects for consideration beyond their basic entitlement. The Bill provides for additional assistance of Slim which has not been allocated between States. This will give some flexibility to the arrangements and allow projects competing for these funds to be judged on their merits.
I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Nixon) adjourned.
– I move:
That a Joint Committee be appointed to consider and report on -
That the committee have power to appoint subcommittees consisting of four or more of its members and to refer to any such sub-committee any of the matters which the committee is empowered to consider.
This motion is essentially the same as the one which I moved on 13 March last year and which the House passed on 29 March last year. The sole variation is an alteration in the composition of the Committee so as to take account of the demise of the Democratic Labor Party. The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence had 2 references before it in the last Parliament and a great deal of preliminary work had been done in respect of them. To allow such work to remain uncompleted would be wasteful of both manpower and money.
In this House yesterday both sides supported the motion to establish a joint committee to investigate a balanced system of committees for the Parliament. In regard to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, therefore, as with other committees which are being re-established today, the Government does not propose either to move or to support any motion which would give further references to the Committee. We believe it would be improper to pre-empt the recommendations of the committee proposed in yesterday’s resolution by extending the operation of the committees being re-established today beyond the references already before them.
In yesterday’s debate on the establishment of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) put the view that there was a need to curtail the excess expenditure of man hours and funds as a result of cross-purpose investigations by committees in the 2 Houses. We are aware of the problems associated with similar groups of experts, including members of the Public Service and the armed forces, appearing before different committees and giving the same or similar evidence; the competition for staff and related services by the different and overlapping committees; the call on the time of members in attending meetings of the committees - not necessarily resulting in a reduction in the call on their time which must be spent in the Houses themselves. The Senate had a standing committee with a title exactly the same as the joint committee being considered in this motion. Whilst references to such committees are not necessarily the same, it will be seen that some duplication of effort must occur in the functioning of the 2 different committees. They may call the same witnesses; they must have different staffs; they in fact in the last Parliament had substantially the same senators sitting on each. I trust that this motion will have the support of both sides of the House.
– I have very much pleasure in rising to support this motion. It is not very often that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and I find ourselves in such accord. I support this motion particularly because, in the new circumstances as they have emerged in the last 18 months, the good results which could flow from a committee such as the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence have been emphasised and underlined. This is not an executive committee. It is a committee which should operate to inform the minds of these honourable members who constitute it, and as such, since all the members are members of one House of the Parliament or the other, it will help produce a better informed Parliament. This has always been a good thing, but unhappily there are circumstances which make it even more desirable today than it has been.
In the past we could have hoped to have had some kind of bipartisan foreign policy. At the present moment I think it is unlikely that this House could evolve a fully bipartisan foreign policy. For that reason it seems to me to be desirable that we should have a committee which can obtain information - a committee which is not of the Executive character but which will help to inform members on both sides of the House of the realities of the situation. I say this with a very great deal of regret: It seemed to me, some 10 years ago perhaps, that this House could evolve a bipartisan foreign policy, but with the advent of the present Government some 18 months ago that hope seems to have been diminished to a very great extent.
For 23 years Australia had an alignment in foreign policy. For 23 years Australia was on the anti-communist side. But, through the actions of the present Government, Australia is now being taken on to the communist side under the pretence of non-alignment. That is a very serious matter which I hope the Committee will examine. I cannot hope that there will be a bipartisan approach on the Committee. The members of the Committee doubtless will be divided in their opinions. But at least they will be able to inform their minds of the views of both sides.
I express the hope that the Government will not use its majority on this Committee to prevent those in the minority from informing their minds on those matters that they think desirable. In other words, I hope that the Government will not use its numbers on this Committee to prevent those in the minority from sending for those persons and papers that they - those in the minority - feel would help them in evaluating their own position and in ascertaining the facts in relation to which a foreign policy should evolve. I appeal to the Prime Minister - I am supporting his motion - to ensure that the Government majority on the Committee does not use its numbers to prevent those in the minority on the Committee from following those investigations which seem to them to be important.
Maybe some self-restraint will be necessary on the Government side of the House because at the moment there is not a bipartisan Australian foreign policy. The Government cannot hope for people on this side of the House to come over to its pro-communist way of thinking or to follow the double standards that it has evinced in its conduct of Australia’s foreign policy. Let me give an example. It is something that I hope the Committee will go into. We have had a great deal of bother- about French nuclear tests. I think the fact remain’s that, whatever the legality of the situation, there has been gross deception on the part of the Government as to the extent of the damage that could occur in Australia from such tests. Indeed, on examining the matter I have found that the Government has taken positive steps to dismiss those of its technical advisers who were telling the truth which was unpalatable to the Government. In this regard at an administrative level there has been a certain amount of corruption in matters of the highest importance. I hope that the Committee will be able to go into matters of that character.
The Prime Minister’s great and powerful friends in Communist China let off a rather big bang only recently, but we have not been given the contamination figures from that big bang. The fact is that the contamination experienced in the northern hemisphere was many thousands of times greater than anything experienced here as a result of the French tests. The fact is that the effects of the Chinese bomb on Australia will be very much greater than the effects of the French tests. Although I do not think that its effects will be terribly important, they will still be many times greater than those of the French bombs. Those facts have been sedulously concealed from the Australian people. I hope that the Committee will have the opportunity of going into those facts, of finding out the figures and of making them public, even though it may discomfort the Government to have them revealed.
But, much more important than that, there is the double standard that the Government has evinced in this matter. With respect to the French tests we have had Government helped and sponsored protests, bans and all sorts of things. But, with respect to the Chinese tests, which have done very much worse both to Australia and to the world, we have had only formal protests. The Government has not sponsored any ban on Chinese shipping. It has not sponsored any holding up of the mails to China. That is the double standard at work. I hope that the Committee will have the chance of examining the details following this kind of thing and of exposing this kind of double standard that the Government evinces in Australia’s foreign policy.
I know that the Prime Minister has said that the Chinese are not signatories to the relevant United Nations documents and that therefore we cannot bring them before the International Court of Justice. But where are the protests about the Chinese not being signatories? Surely not being a signatory to those documents is or should be, on the Government’s reckoning, a far more heinous offence than not abiding by what the Government believes, whether rightly or wrongly, to be a violation. At least the French are in the system. It may be that we do not know what the Court will finally decide in these matters, but at least the French are there. The Chinese have refused to come to court. What is the Government doing about that? If it is so violently indigant against one side, why is it not showing the same indignation against the other? The answer, of course, is a very simple one - the double standard.
– You wanted to drop a bomb on China years ago. You advocated dropping a bomb on China a few years ago.
– - Under the pretence of following a non-aligned policy, the Government favours the communist side all the time. I am indebted to my friend the honourable member for Hunter for making an interjection which I hope you will allow me to follow up, Mr Speaker. Perhaps it is a little irrelevant, but I would like to follow it up. Yes, I do believe that when we had the chance to enforce nuclear disarmament we should have taken that chance. In my view-
– I think the honourable gentleman would always appreciate the fact that he has been granted quite a lot of latitude. I think he would appreciate also that the motion before the House relates to the appointment of the Foreign Affairs Committee. The honourable gentleman has been allowed quite a lot of latitude in that he has been debating the subject of foreign affairs itself. I ask him to return to the motion before the House which, as I said, is related to the appointment of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
– I very much appreciate what you have said, Mr Speaker, and I did mention myself that what I was saying was irrelevant but it was brought to my mind by the interjection which the honourable member for Hunter made a moment ago. I should have liked to follow that up quite definitely because I have nothing to apologise for whatsoever. I withdraw nothing that I said at that time. I believe that the honourable number is one of the guilty men who may be taking the world to the nuclear holocaust, because sins of omission are as bad as sins of commission in this regard. I believe that there may be many hundreds of millions of deaths to be laid at the door of people like the honourable member who refused to face the facts of possible Chinese aggression and who refused to enforce disarmament in the interests of world peace when it was enforceable. Now the horse is out of the stable; it is too late. The guilt lies on the conscience of people like the honourable member. By his interjection today the honourable member is compounding the guilt of his sin of omission of the past.
As you very rightly said, Mr Speaker, these things are irrelevant to the motion in front of us and I do thank you for the courtesy that you have extended to me to enable me to reply to the rather peculiar interjection which I had from the honourable member for Hunter. We are debating, as you have said, the appointment of the Foreign Affairs Committee. It is an appointment which is of particular importance and relevance at this time when Australia unhappily cannot have a bipartisan foreign policy. I believe that this split goes right outside this House, but with this difference: In this House the pro-communist faction is in the majority; in the electorate outside I believe that the anti-communist faction is in the large majority and would not have voted this Government into power if it had realised what was involved. So this polarisation makes it particularly important that this Committee should be established at this time. Therefore it gives me the very greatest pleasure to support the motion which the Prim; Minister has brought forward.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) said that my attitude towards the use of nuclear weapons could bring about a world holocaust. T want to make it clear to this Parliament and the people of Australia, and to the people of the world, that I am passionately in favour of the decisions of the United Nations being implemented, and that is the attitude that my Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has taken. He has protested to France and he has protested to China about their experimenting in the atmosphere with nuclear weapons. But the honourable member for Mackellar, to my utter disgust to the day I die, stood in this Parliament some years ago and, I believe to the disappointment and disgust of the Prime Minister of the day. Sir Robert Menzies - advocated that the time was ripe for dropping a hydrogen bomb on the people of China.
– The honourable gentleman is now starting to debate the matter.
– I want to describe the honourable member for Mackellar in his proper colours.
– The honourable member for Hunter has the call of the Chair, provided that he states in what regard he has been misrepresented. I do not want him to debate the question but simply to state in what regard he has been misrepresented.
– I have never been, and I never will be, a party to the indiscriminate use of nuclear weapons. I favour the outlawing of them, as does my Government and my Prime Minister, and I will continue to do so as long as there is breath in my body and as long as my vocal chords are able to ring out. The honourable member for Mackellar wrongly described me, and I am grateful for the opportunity to correct the false impression he tried to give to the Parliament as to my attitude on this vital world question.
Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar)- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented
– Yes. May I just say that at no time did I imply that the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) knew what he was doing.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Crean) agreed to:
That a Joint Committee be appointed to inquire into and, as appropriate, report upon -
That the committee consist of four Members of the House of Representatives nominated by the Prime Minister, two Members of the House of Representatives nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, one Member of the House of Representatives nominated by the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the House of Representatives, two Senators nominated by the
Leader of the Government in the Senate, one Senator nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and one Senator nominated by the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the Senate.
Dr PATTERSON (Dawson- Minister for
Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory) (3.11) - I move:
That a Joint Committee be appointed -
financial arrangements, and
During 1973 the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory was appointed and subsequently took evidence from a number of persons and organisations but had not submitted a report before the double dissolution. The Committee lapsed with the double dissolution, and the purpose of this motion is to reestablish that Committee. I stress that it is the Government’s wish that the Committee be limited in its operation to concluding those references which were before it at the time of the double dissolution.
In accordance with the Government’s undertaking to give the people of the Northern Territory a fully elected legislature by the end of this year I introduced a Bill yesterday to amend the Northern Territory (Administration) Act to provide for 19 elected members. As I explained in introducing that Bill, its purpose is to enable the election for the fully elected Legislative Assembly of 19 members to take place when the next elections in the Northern Territory are held, and this is to be before 24 October next. When the new Assembly takes office, discussions will be held with the members concerning future government of the Northern Territory. Such discussions, the Government believes, can be more meaningful if they take place against the background of a report from the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Northern Territory. I am hopeful that the Committee will be able to finalise its report in time for the discussions which are to be held with the new Assembly.
Honourable members will appreciate, of course, that there is a continuous exchange of ideas between me and the members of the present Legislative Council, as well as other interested people and organisations. The reestablishment of this Committee as proposed in the motion has importance in furthering the Government’s policy of providing the Northern Territory with responsible self government. I am also aware of the fact that some of the members of the Committee have questioned whether there is a need for the re-establishment of this Committee. This matter has been given careful consideration, but it is felt that the Committee should be re-established in view of the fact that a lot of evidence has been taken and, even more particular than that, that it will give all the people who are interested - all the people in the Northern Territory, as well as people living outside the Northern Territory - an opportunity to express to the Joint Committee their particular views on how responsible self government in the Northern Territory could best be achieved. In those circumstances, and after weighing up all the matters, the Government believes that the reconstitution or the re-appointment of this Committee with the same terms of reference under which it operated previously will be beneficial to making further decisions, not only in the interests of the people of the Northern Territory but also in the interests of the people of Australia generally. 1 therefore commend the motion.
– I would like to make just a few comments about the re-forming of the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory. Yesterday the Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) introduced into the House the Northern Territory (Administration) Bill which, to a great extent, will do away with the duties of this
Committee. Earlier in the year he announced that a 19-man Legislative Assembly would be elected later in the year, ft also will take away the importance of the decisions to be made by this Committee. The timing of the introduction of that Bill into the House - which will ensure that members will be elected on 24 October so that there can be a fully elected Legislative Assembly before the end of December this year - hinged on the statement of policy that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) made off the top of his head that that would be so. Anyone who knows anything about the Northern Territory knows that that date for having a fully elected Legislative Assembly - by that 1 mean one with executive authority and not just 19 men milling around the Assembly chamber with no policy, no leadership, no means of introducing government business, no means of asking questions and no government member in there at all - makes a farce of the Committee and of the Bill.
I know that the Minister for the Northern Territory has been caught in a cleft stick by the Prime Minister’s statement as to the date of introducing this measure. Naturally enough, everyone in the Northern Territory is keen to have greater responsibility for the Territory by territorians, but to have it thrust on them in this cavalier way is somewhat of an insult. Almost every submission that was put to the Committee by councillors and witnesses from various sections of the community stressed - they went to great lengths to say it - what sort of responsibility should be taken by an incoming Legislative Assembly which would have to have some executive authority. This has not been considered. I think that the Committee spent a lot of time taking evidence with this point of view. Now there is to be an election without there being any executive. No doubt there are thoughts of it but the Assembly will be elected on 24 October and no one will really know which way they are going or what will be run by whom in the Northern Territory. I refer to such matters as health, lands, finance and transport. Every government department down here seems to say in its evidence: ‘It is all right for the others to have the authority transferred to the Northern Territory but it would not be suitable for us.’
I think that the Committee’s position has been weakened considerably. It will be trying, as the Minister has asked it to try, to come to a considered opinion But I must point out that the original decision to have that Assembly by the end of this year with responsibility is quite impractical and wc all knew it. But the Prime Minister’s great words of wisdom have to be followed out. That is why the rush is taking place and thai is why the territorians and the members- of the Committee are being insulted by this measure. The Committee is trailing events by a long way, to say the least.
There is something else that I would like to mention to the Minister now that he is here. Such committees as this one take evidence and, although the proceedings are public, the evidence that is given should not be used for political purposes before any sort of decision has been taken by that committee. I ask the Minister to instruct the incoming chairman to see that various members of the Committee do not play politics to the extent in the Committee of forcing their political opinions on people giving evidence and then turning round and using that evidence in parliamentary debate long before the Committee has made any deliberations. Surely that is not the right way for a joint committee to act if it is seriously trying to find out how a greater measure of responsibility can be given to the people in the Northern Territory. I think that that is n very serious breach of committee etiquette, if nothing else. I hope that the Minister will look at this question.
– I rise to support briefly the resolution and to support the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) in the sentiments that he expressed. He expressed some concern about the speed with which the progress towards executive responsibility in the Northern Territory is taking place. I do not want to recount the full program that was offered to the Northern Territory as the result of a statement that I made, as Minister for the Interior, in this House on 25 Otcober 1972. But after some months of negotiation and discussion, both within the various responsible departments and between the Ministers responsible for those departments and the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory, we came to a package arrangement which was designed to transfer executive responsibility to the Northern Territory legislature. At its June sitting in 1972 the Northern Territory Legislative Council passed a resolution in the following terms:
This Council, notwithstanding its expressed dissatisfaction with the extent of constitutional changes discussed in the recent conference between delegates nf this Council and Federal Ministers, asks the
Commonwealth Government to make a firm offer of the changes in form of the Government for the Northern Territory it is now proposed to make and of any other progressive proposals to which it is prepared to commit itself for future constitutional development. This Council acknowledges that transfer of executive powers to the Northern Territory would carry with it some responsibility for appropriate revenue raising.
Of course, the statement that was made on 25 October was in response to that resolution. The full offer is contained in the booklet entitled ‘Northern Territory Form of Government’ and it was recorded in Hansard at that time.
I go back over that ground for the purpose of showing that for some considerable time, both in the term of the last Government and since the Whitlam Government assumed office in 1972, discussions have been going on as to how we can transfer executive responsibility to the Northern Territory Legislative Council. If my memory serves me correctly, the Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) was pretty much in agreement with the offer that was made at that time.
– He said that it did not go fast enough, it did not go far enough, and if the Labor Party came in it would do a lot more, more quickly.
– That is true. I remember his contribution to the debate in October 1972, when he was critical of our Government for not having gone fast enough. In a sense I felt that perhaps we could have gone a little faster than we had gone, but I was mindful of the enormously complex problems that existed both within the structure of the Public Service and in trying to define the areas of relative responsibility as between the Commonwealth Government and a Legislative Council with executive power. I know that this Committee will press on with its hearings and try to achieve a recommendation that it can put to this Parliament and ultimately to the Government as the basis of further discussions on an enlarged Legislative Council. Of course, we did recommend in October that the Legislative Council be enlarged, that it be a fully elected Council and that it have executive responsibility. My hope now is that there will not be much further delay. 1 am pleased to see that in the Australian Capital Territory, for instance, there are moves towards embodying executive authority within a fully elected legislature. In the same way I believe that the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory has a right to determine the order of priorities that it considers best for the people of the Northern Territory. If there is to be in the Northern Territory an elected legislature with 19 or 20 members - it does not matter how many - it must assume responsibility for determining the priorities for expenditure and some responsibility for raising the revenue, or at least some of the revenue, to meet those priorities. I know that in the Northern Territory there has been a fear that if too much power is given to the Legislative Council it will mean a much higher cost and tax structure for the people in the Territory. I do not altogether go along with that, because if the elected representatives prove to be unacceptable to the people of the Northern Territory undoubtedly they will be voted out of office at the next election. That, of course, is how the democratic process should work.
But I cannot stress too much the need to get on with the job. I do not believe that the actions which have been taken to date have been good enough. The suggestion that the Northern Territory should have two 3-year senators in my judgment does not compensate in any way for the slowness in achieving a form of constitutional advancement for the Northern Territory. I am sure that the Minister quietly agrees with the line that I adopt. I hope that the Committee can get on with the job as I am sure the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) would be wanting it to get on with the job. I will bet London to a brick on that when the Committee finally comes down with a recommendation it will not be too far away from the recommendation contained in the 1972 report to this Parliament.
– As Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory in the last Parliament I thought that I should say something on this matter. We are debating the re-creation or re-formation, if I may put it that way, of that Committee. The Committee, prior to the double dissolution, was half way through taking evidence and completing an important report which was to contain recommendations to the Parliament on the setting up of a fully elected Legislative Council in the Northern Territory and the powers which should be exercised by it. To make it clear to those honourable members who may not be so interested, let me say that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), in his usual desire to honour his promises to the Aus tralian people, stated in his pre-election speech in 1972 that by the end of 1974 the Northern Territory would have a fully elected Legislative Council. All honourable members are, or should be, aware that the Northern Territory Legislative Council, as it is now constituted, has 11 members elected by the community and 6 nominated members. I regretted to learn that one of my colleagues on the Committee, the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), introduced into this debate an allegation that some members of the Committee were playing politics on the Committee. I have sat on several committees and I have been proud of the fact that the introduction of party politics into their proceedings is minimal.
– Why don’t you listen to the Senate debates?
– I have not the time. I use my time for more important things.
– Fix that up with Senator McLaren, will you?
– The honourable member for the Northern Territory refers to Senator McLaren. The honourable, member, if I might make a further comment on his allegation of the introduction of party politics into the proceedings of the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory when it was functioning previously, is very sensitive on one very important political question facing the nation, as has been revealed in the House in the last week. One of the terms of reference of this Committee is to inquire into greater political representation for the Northern Territory. Sometimes witnesses giving evidence before the Committee are asked questions, particularly by a senator in another place who is a good, hard working member of the Committee, about their attitude towards Senate representation for the Northern Territory. All honourable members know how sensitive the honourable member for the Northern Territory is to that type of question. With all due respect to the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), whilst I would not embarrass him by asking him to agree with my submissions, I believe he is so honourable that deep in his heart he, too, knows how sensitive the honourable member for the Northern Territory is to that type of question.
– Why should I be sensitive?
– -Listen and you will learn. The honourable member for the Northern Territory is as sensitive as a new born -baby’s bottom on this question because his Party, the Australian Country Party, for a long while has opposed Senate representation for the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. He said today that some members of the Committee were playing politics. Had he not introduced that matter I would not be spelling all this out now. I have had to spell it out because he has provoked me. That is what he calls playing party politics on this Committee. The honourable member would not go further and say that the Chairman of the Committee has played party politics because both he and the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) are well aware of the impartial attitude that I have taken as Chairman of the Committee. They are well aware that 2 of the witnesses whom I cross-examined most firmly were Labor members of the Council. They congratulated me on my impartiality. I believed that the 2 Labor members had said provocative things, and that caused me to cross-examine them vigorously. I regretted it. I possibly humiliated them too. But that is the attitude of the Chairman of the Committee. I do not think that you, MiMinister, need to warn me, as Chairman of that Committee, about being impartial. Although I have no qualifications as a jurist, I know the essential qualifications of a jurist and a chairman of any committee. These, I say in conclusion, are: To hear courteously, to answer wisely, to consider soberly and. above all, to act impartially.
Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) has tried to point out how politically sensitive I am, according to him, about Senate representations from the Northern Territory. He would be aware -
– A point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.
Mr CALDER . . . that it has been in my platform since 1966.
– I have taken a point of order. With all sympathy for the honourable member for the Northern Territory, he is now participating in a debate on the subject. This is not a personal explanation of a misrepresentation.
– You have not heard him. He has only risen to his feet.
– He has had a go.
– Order! I suggest to the Minister for the Capital Territory that sufficient time should be allowed for us to hear the alleged misrepresentation complained of by the honourable member for the Northern Territory so that the Chair can give a decision on it.
– Now, wait a bit -
– Order. I remind the Minister that, to this moment, all that the honourable member for the Northern Territory has done is to repeat a statement that was made by the honourable member for Hunter. I assume that that is the point on which the honourable member for the Northern Territory claims to have been misrepresented. I suggest to the Minister that the honourable member for the Northern Territory should be allowed to say sufficient to enable the Chair to make a decision on whether he is debating the matter or pointing to where he has been misrepresented. I call the honourable member for the Northern Territory.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was pointing out to you and to honourable members that the honourable member for Hunter insists that 1 am not interested in Senate representation for the Northern Territory. That was as far as I had got. That has been on my platform since 1966. That is the point that I am making. I draw attention to the fact that paragraph (1) (a) of the motion moved by the Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) states in part:
That is one area of the reference to the Committee on which it is asked to report.
– A point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– It says nothing about the Senate whatsoever.
– Has he stopped, Mr Deputy Speaker? Very well. My point is made. He made no personal explanation. He tried to justify himself.
– I suggest to the Minister that he has been a member of this House long enough to know the points on which a personal explanation claiming misrepresentation can be made.
– I know when someone is trying to get in out of turn, too.
– The Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) when introducing this motion made the point that there was at least one member of the former Joint Committee on the Northern Territory who expressed some concern about the re-appointment of that Committee. I make no secret of the fact that that person was myself. 1 will outline the reasons for my concern. One is, as the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) has said, that there is a great degree of pre-emption. The Government - I am not being critical of it - has taken certain steps that have overtaken the Committee. For instance, the Committee was asked to advise the Government as to the manner in which the proposed new legislative assembly should be elected, what the proposed electoral divisions should be and what kind of electoral system should be introduced. In the meantime the Minister, for reasons I can understand - I am not being critical of him - had to move in and set the wheels in motion for a redistribution to be held.
The Committee was asked to give specific attention to the kind of representation that should be given Aborigines. In this instance again the Minister has had to take action to set the wheels for redistribution in motion, making it impossible for the Committee to recommend a system of Aboriginal representation. I am not arguing whether that proposal is right. But that action has made it impossible for the Committee to make recommendations on some of the aspects that it was asked to study. That is one of my reasons: The Committee has been overtaken by events.
There is another reason for my concern - this is a very much more important one - and I ask the Minister to pay particular attention to it. The Minister has said that the proposed new legislative assembly will have 19 members. Its membership was one of the matters upon which the Committee was asked to arrive at a decision. The Minister has had to make the decision and the proposed new assembly will have 19 members. Then the Minister, with the Committee’s report in hand, is to have a discussion with these persons who will be elected under the redistribution, the machinery for which he has set in motion. The problem of the Committee will be to arrive at the kind of sensible report that will be needed if the Minister is to use that report as an aid in coming to his decision.
Let me give some examples of this aspect. When the Committee took evidence, all departments in Canberra made their position clear. They said: ‘Yes, we understand the position. It is a very good thing that the Northern Territory is to have self-government. But it does not apply to us.’ All departments in Canberra believed that they had a much wiser and superior view of matters than did the local Northern Territory people. They said: ‘The decisions are likely to be better made in Canberra than in the Northern Territory.’ Throughout all of its sittings this is the problem that the Committee came across; and it is still very much on our plate. Let me give an example with regard to health matters. The proposal is to grant local self-government. The Department of Health is asked: ‘Do you wish health matters to be run by the Northern Territory Administration?’ The Department replies: ‘Oh no. It would not work because of the difficulty of retaining medical people in the Northern Territory.’ I admit that it is a very real difficulty. Yet, what kind of selfgovernment is it that does not have control of the health of the community?
Another problem is education. If one asks the local people in the Northern Territory about education, they say: ‘Yes, we must be in control of education - of primary education at least. That must be a function of selfgovernment.’ Is self-government worth anything if it does not control education in the primary and secondary field? Yet, we know there are very great difficulties in attracting and retaining a small teaching service. I am not arriving at a conclusion; I am just telling the Minister of the overwhelming difficulties of the task that still awaits the Committee. Yet the Minister is asking for a report to be on hand when he goes to discuss the newly elected legislative assembly.
Let me give an example relating to Aborigines. About one-third of the population of the Northern Territory is Aborigines. When one asks the local people of the Northern Territory: ‘Do you want control of the Aborigines?’ they reply: ‘Oh no, that is too hard. Leave that to the Department of
Aboriginal Affairs in Canberra.’ Yet, what kind of self-government is it if one-third of the people in the area being governed are outside the control of the local selfgovernment?
– They are permanent residents too.
– They are permanent residents too, as the honourable member for Hunter and the chairman of the former Committee says. Another example is the police force. All honourable members on the Committee know the urgent and active interest that the honourable member for Hunter has taken in this field. Should the Northern Territory have control of its own police force? People in the Northern Territory say: ‘Well, if selfgovernment means anything surely it means having control of the local police force.’ There are good reasons why this is difficult and the chairman frequently draws attention to them. For instance, if we have local self-government we have to have a separate civil service. This means very great problems of arriving at a system with Australian civil servants on the one hand and local civil servants on the other. The question bristles with problems in a way in which I have never seen in any other term of reference to a committee. I have worked on other committees. I pay a tribute to the Chairman of the Committee, who hounds us. He appears to be benign but he makes us work far harder than I like to work. But whatever he does to us he cannot, because of these problems, make us prepare a sensible report that will be of benefit to the Minister by the time he goes to discuss the matter with the newly elected House of Assembly.
I want the Minister to realise that 1 will not sign an ill considered report. When I am given a reference to discuss I like to consider it as thoroughly as I can. I think it would be quite wrong for us to come up with a report and say to the Minister: ‘You have asked us to report on these things and 1 know you are in a hurry so we will just make a few slick comments’. I can understand why the Minister is in a hurry. I did not want the Minister to reappoint the Committee because I know we will have almost overwhelming difficulty in bringing in a report of the quality he wants. However hard the Chairman of the Committee flogs us we will not be able to do it.
One of the other problems we have to consider is whether we are to have one vote, one value. We, it is hoped, will express an opinion on that. In such a system electorates would have an average of about 2,000 people. There was a lot of argument for having a multiple electorate so that people of the required quality could be drawn to do this quite difficult job of forming a responsible administration in the Northern Territory. That question has been taken out of our hands. I can understand the reasons for that. But to expect us almost to trot alongside the Minister, who is certainly making decisions ahead of us, and then to discuss those terribly difficult problems and make available to him the condensation of the Committee’s wisdom by the time he wants it, I think is impossible. The only reason I agreed to accept nomination to the Committee again is that I did not want to leave the Chairman and the rest of the Committee half way through an impossible task, and I do regard it as an impossible task. I warn the Minister that because of the nature and the complexity of the decisions involved he ought not to expect too much. We cannot give him the kind of report that he wants in the time scale in which he wants it.
– I should like to thank honourable members for the constructive thoughts that they have put forward with respect to this most important matter. I listened carefully to the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly). I can assure him that I appreciate the problems which he has mentioned. On the other hand, I think that the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Northern Territory can bring forward, even if it may not be in 6 months time or less, a report on the rather extensive terms of reference referred to it. It will take a long time to carry out this process of giving self-government to the Northern Territory. The report will be in time. I believe that the recommendations and conclusions that the Committee reaches will be of great benefit to those making decisions.
However, I should like to deal with some of the points made by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) most of whose comments, in my opinion, were destructive. Firstly, he said that the Bill to provide for a fully elected Legislative Assembly of 19 members has in fact taken away the value of the Committee. Self-government for the Territory is only one aspect into which the Committee inquires. There are quite a number of terms of reference to the Committee, as the honourable member for Wakefield has said. I think the most remarkable criticism by the honourable member for the Northern Territory is that the Government and I have rushed this Bill through. I say very clearly to him that every action that I have taken with respect to the time-table for the establishment of the new Legislative Assembly has been taken in full consultation and co-operation with the present elected members of the Legislative Council. I have worked with them. I have consulted them.
– It is not rushing the Bill through; it is the time allowed for it to be put through here.
– I listened to the honourable member in silence. I have consulted the Legislative Councillors and they have agreed unanimously with what I have done - every member of the Legislative Council, from all political parties. The honourable member for the Northern Territory does not seem to understand that there is a time-table. I have no alternative, as I was caught in a cleft stick, as the honourable member for Wakefield said. I have no alternative. If I am to honour the promise, the policy of the Labor Government I have to take positive action. I discussed the proposal with members of the Legislative Council. I asked them whether they were prepared to extend their terms of office until the Committee reaches some conclusions. This may be in 3, 6 or 12 months. They deliberated on this question and to a man and to a woman they said that in no circumstances would they agree to any significant extension of their term of office, and that they were elected by the people of the Northern Territory for 3 years.
– They did not say, to a man. Several did and several did not.
– I can assure the honourable member that when I discussed the matter with them they may have agreed to an extension for a few weeks or two or three months at the very most. But they would not agree to any substantial or significant extension of their terms of office, and the honourable member knows that is right.
– That is not what they told the Committee.
– Who told the Committee that?
– Read the transcript and you will see.
– Obviously, whomever the honourable member is referring to, I was told something different. The members of the Legislative Council themselves told me they were not prepared to have a significant extension, which may have been 3, 6, 9 or 12 months. Quite frankly they said that it would be deceit on their part to accept such an extension. That is perfectly true. They were elected for 3 years and 3 years only. If we had another election in the circumstances of the 1 1 elected members it would make quite a farce of the situation. The members deliberated and agreed that they wanted to achieve a fully elected Legislative Assembly by the end of the year. They talked of 24 October as the date for elections to be held under the Northern Territory ordinance. This planning of course involved a lot of splitsecond timing. Commissioners have to be appointed to work out the boundaries of the 19 electorates. The passing of this Bill through both Houses of this Parliament means that when the boundaries have been established and when the reports of the Commissioners have been made they will have to lie on the table for a certain time for objection and so forth. It is a matter of clockwork, as the honourable member for the Northern Territory ought to know. That is why I had to treat the introduction of this Bill as a matter of priority. But I do not believe for one minute that this will prove to be a retrograde step.
I said that I had hoped - I use the word ‘hoped’ - that the Committee would bring out its report in time for us to discuss the next steps with the members of the Legislative Assembly. But even if the report is later than that it will still be of immense value, in my opinion. As I said before, I am discussing; there is an exchange of views between the members of the Legislative Council, myself and others as to the best way of handling the question.
As the honourable member for Wakefield said, it is an extremely delicate and complex situation. I believe one has to crawl before one walks in this matter, and that is what we are doing. But I can say that every step that I am taking is taken in full consultation and co-operation with the organisations in the Northern Territory and the Legislative Council.
– Would you rather have a quick report or a good report?
– I want a fully considered report. I want to say something about the allegations of the honourable member for the Northern Territory about politics. T know nothing about this, or of who may have brought politics into it, or of any abuse of evidence. I have the greatest respect for and confidence in the Chairman of the Committee. I have the greatest respect for and confidence in the former Chairman of this Committee. I have received reports from members of the former Committee and people and organisations in the Northern Territory about the impartial way in which the former Chairman of the Committee conducted his investigatiions. In view of the fact that the honourable member for the Northern Territory raised the matter of Senate representation, I say to him that I am not concerned with what he as an individual thinks about Senate representations for the Northern Territory. His Party, the Country Party, is bitterly opposed to giving the people of the Northern Territory a voice in the Senate. As far as I am concerned it is a scandalous situation. It is no good the honourable member for the Northern Territory saying, as a member of this House, that he is in favour of giving the people of the Northern Territory a vote in the Senate when his Party is opposed to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That a Standing Committee be appointed to inquire into and report on -
Honourable members will recall that during the life of the previous Parliament we saw the tabling of 2 important reports from the Select Committee on Road Safety. The first of these was entitled ‘Road Safety: A National Authority, The Constitutional Position, Statistical Needs’. This was presented in September last. The second report entitled ‘Road Safety: Roads and their Environment’ was presented on the last day of the previous Parliament. It is important to note that the Government took immediate action arising from the recommendations of the first report in announcing the decision to establish a national authority on road safety and standards. This body is to work with the States to achieve more effective and co-ordinated action in road safety at the national level than has been possible in the past. In March of this year a seminar on road accident information was conducted by my Department, on behalf of the expert group on road safety, my specialist advisory body in this field. The seminar was planned to stimulate the interchange of ideas between representatives of police, road and traffic authorities, licensing and registration authorities, road safety experts and government officers to focus attention on how accident data and related information can be used to reduce the toll of death and inquiry on the roads. The Committee’s first report had, of course, previously highlighted the importance of good information in developing measures for road safety.
The Government is glad to have the Select Committee’s second report available at this time. The physical nature of the road system and the roadside have an important bearing on both the occurrence and the severity of accidents. I would hope that the Select Committee’s report will be the subject of much greater attention than was possible at the time it was presented. Road safety is a nonpolitical issue of great and continuing importance to the Australian community. Despite the encouraging reduction in deaths from road accidents from their peak of 3,798 in 1970, to 3,590 in 1971 and 3,422 in 1972, the efforts towards improvement must be continued, particularly as we are now seeing a rise in fatalities once more.. In 1973, 3,679 people were killed on Australia’s roads. The means must be found to ensure that fatalities do not again reach the record levels of 1970. The work of the Select Committee forms an important part of the national effort against the road toll. It provides interested persons and organisations and the experts in the field with an opportunity to present their views before an independent inquiry and to have their ideas subjected to impartial scrutiny. It is proposed that the Committee be limited in its operation to concluding those references which were before it at the time of the double dissolution. I commend to honourable members the proposal to re-appoint the Select Committee on Road Safety.
– I take this opportunity to make a few comments in relation to road safety. Of course, all members of this Parliament endorse the creation of this Committee and endorse also the work it has done in the past and the suggestions it has made. However, while the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) is in the House I want to raise a matter about which I wrote to him some months ago. At that time he wrote to all members of the Parliament requesting that we write back to him drawing to his attention those particular areas in our electorate which we regarded as being accident prone. This is a case of Commonwealth Government, Federal Government or Australian Government - whatever honourable members like to call it - involvement in another area which previously was the province of the State governments and local councils. With all the imagination in the world I find it hard to come to the conclusion that it is not a waste of the nation’s resources to have local governments, State governments and the Commonwealth Government all involving themselves in a decision concerning where a zebra crossing may be placed, where flashing warning lights above pedestrian crossings should be provided, or where lights should be installed at intersections.
Road safety is a field of specialisation. All State governments already employ people with the knowhow who have come to the conclusions which the Minister is seeking from members of Parliament. I, for one, do not regard myself as a specialist in deciding which of the corners, hills and all those other areas which make up the traffic ways in the 1,157 streets in the Federal electorate of Griffith, on the south side of Brisbane-
Order! I remind the honourable member for Griffith that the motion before the House does not allow for a general debate on road safety, nor does it permit representations to be made to the Minister on varying subjects. I suggest that the honourable member might consider that the debate on the previous motion to reappoint another committee unfortunately involved matters that did not really concern the House. That debate was a little broader than it should have been. I suggest that the honourable member for Griffith leave to another time the matter he is raising at the moment.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. What I was going to say, before you interrupted me - perhaps rightly so - was that the Committee might care to examine the proposition I am putting to the House and decide that the Commonwealth
Government should not be involved in these areas when the States already have machinery in existence. The simple answer to the problem is that if the Commonwealth Government has the money today to meet the extra cost of research into road safety, that money should be handed to the State governments - ever if it were tied to section 96 of the Constitution - with a request that the money be spent on road safety.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. How much longer are you going to allow the honourable member for Griffith to flout your ruling? The motion before the chair at the moment is for the reappointment of a select committee on road safety. It has nothing to do with this Government’s decision to allocate S3m in the last financial year to investigate road safety problems. The remarks made by the honourable member have nothing to do with that and you, Mr Deputy Speaker, have so ruled.
– Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Griffith that the matters he has raised after I pointed out to him the subject matter of the motion before the House could either be presented to the Minister or to the Committee after its appointment.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will take your advice. I hope that the Minister also will take some of my advice.
– I support the motion. I shall speak for only a moment. In relation to what the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) said, I mention in passing that paragraph (2) of the motion moved by the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) states:
That the committee recognise the responsibility of the States in these matters and seek their cooperation in all relevant matters.
We have in fact done that. It is important to note that the letter from the Minister for Transport to members of this House dealt with the question of road safety. I point out quite clearly that all the Minister sought was recommendations from local councils as to what were dangerous intersections and danger spots on the roads. It is depressing that the honourable member for Griffith, who no doubt had an extremely difficult electoral compaign to fight, did not have-
– Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Prospect that he is now raising matters which I have ruled as not being relevant to this debate.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I accept your ruling. I realise that it may not have been the honourable member’s tough election campaign. Maybe he cannot read, or perhaps he does not read letters in full. But the important point here is that the letter quite clearly pointed out that the Commonwealth Government did not want either to make decisions or -
– I point out to the honourable member for Prospect - as the Minister for Transport himself pointed out - that the letter which the Minister wrote has no relevance to this Committee. I suggest that the honourable member for Prospect does not cover that matter in any comments on this motion.
– I shall go off that letter. The point is that the Committee received submissions from local councils, State governments, etc., on how to improve road safety. The Australian Government has come into the matter by the decision of the Government, with the co-operation of the Minister for Transport, in asking for suggestions on where an amount of money - I think he mentioned $3m - should be spent in the meantime until some overall plan can be brought in with the co-operation of local councils and State governments.
– In the Bill I introduced into the House today $30m is provided.
– That is a large amount of money which will be available for road safety. I think that is important. It is a great pity that one of the reasons why road safety is not going ahead in Australia and why we on the Committee are not able to get all the information which we need, is that there is such a diversion of power at the present time between local councils, State governments and the Australian Government.
Mr DONALD CAMERON (Griffith)- I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr Deputy Speaker.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, grievously so. The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) suggested that I was in a state of nervousness during the last election campaign and that that cut into my ability to understand the text of the letter of the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones). Just because the Minister’s name is Jones and my opponent’s name was Jones, it does not mean that the Minister has to go out in sympathy.
– Mr Deputy Speaker. I raise a point of order. We do not want a personal explanation. We wanta psychiatrist.
– Order! The Minister for the Capital Territory will resume his seat. I suggest to the honourable member for Griffith that he and one or two other honourable members are possibly in a state of confusion in relation to this legislation. They will be in another state if they keep trying to disobey the requests from the Chair.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Mr Deputy Speaker -
– The honourable member for Griffith will resume his seat.
Motion (by Mr Bryant) agreed to:
That a Joint Committee be appointed to -
Motion (by Mr Bryant) agreed to:
That the Standing Committee be appointed to inquire into and report on matters referred to it by resolution of the House, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs or by motion of the committee within the following terms:
– I move:
That a Standing Committee be appointed to inquire into and report on -
I make the point that the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation in its operations will conclude the references which had already been placed before it before the double dissolution occurred.
-1 support the motion moved by the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass). I had the privilege of representing not only this side of the House but also my electorate of Bendigo on this Committee last year. 1 compliment the Minister on the excellent work carried out by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) who was Chairman of that Committee. I think the people of Australia are aware - this House is certainly aware - that as a result of some of our inquiries quite a lot has been achieved, particularly in Central Australia around Ayers Rock. I congratulate the Minister. I sincerely hope that the good work is carried on this year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– 1 move:
Customs Tariff Proposals No. 6 (1974)
Customs Tariff Proposals No. 7 (1974)
Customs Tariff Proposals No. 8 (1974)
Customs Tariff Proposals No. 9 (1974)
The Customs Tariff Proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed amendments to the Customs Tariff 1966-1973. Customs Tariff Proposals No. 6 (1974) provide for the addition of further goods to Schedule A of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. The changes operate from 1 January 1974. Proposals Nos. 7 and 8 (1974) formally place before Parliament, as required by law, tariff changes introduced by Gazette notices on 23 April, 14 June and 28 June 1974. The changes contained in Proposals No. 7 (1974) arise, in the main, from the Government’s decisions on reports by the Tariff Board on textile bags, and cigarette paper. In its report on textile bags the Board recommended that wool packs and jute bags of standard cornsack size and larger remain free of duty, bags of man-made fibres be dutiable at 30 per cent and bags of other materials as well as jute bags of under standard cornsack size be dutiable at 10 per cent. The Government considered the implications of the Board’s recommendations for the continuation of protection on jute bags of under standard cornsack size in the wider context of Australia’s trade with developing countries, especially India, Thailand and Bangladesh. The question of the removal of the recommended duty was raised with the Chairman of the Industries Assistance Commission who advised that it was unlikely that there would be serious effects on local production and employment if duty on all jute bags was reduced to free. The Government consequently decided to provide for free admission of all jute bags. The other recommendations were accepted by the Government and as the report was signed prior to the 25 per cent tariff cut in July 1973 the recommended rates were reduced by a quarter.
In regard to cigarette paper the Government has accepted the Tariff Board’s recommendation that a reduced rate of duty of 20 per cent should apply and that filigrained cigarette tissue, which is a specially patterned and embossed paper, be admitted free of duty under by-law. Action has also been taken in these Proposals to remove the expression shafting in relation to steel bars. This follows from a recommendation of the Tariff Board, in its report on Tariff Classification - Bright Round Steel Bars, that the use of the term should be discontinued. The opportunity has also been taken to align the size of bedspreads admitted at concessional rates with a standard recommended by the Metric Conversion Board. Customs Tariff Proposals No. 8 (1974) introduce complete new Schedules to the Customs Tariff to operate on and from 1 July 19 4. The new Schedules show opposite each tariff classification in the Customs Tariff the rates of duty arising from the 25 per cent tariff cut on 19 July 1973 or those resulting from subsequent decisions by the Government on recommendations of the Tariff Board or the Industries Assistance Commission. With ad valorem duties the rates resulting from the 25 per cent tariff cut have been simplified, to the extent permitted by international commitments, by rounding to the nearest whole percentage number all rates with a decimal component other than . 5; rates with a decimal component of . 5 remain unaltered. Fixed rate duties have been simplified, as necessary, by rounding the rates to the same number of decimal places as existed prior to the tariff cut.
Proposals No. 8 (1974) also contain extensions to the list of goods granted tariff preferences when imported from developing countries. At the same time, certain products of the printing industry have been removed from the scheme of tariff preferences for developing countries to maintain protection for the local industry. These proposals also contain amendments to bring the size of imported vessels eligible for admission at nonproactive rates into line with the size of vessels eligible for subsidy when built in Australia. Proposals No 9 (1974) implement changes arising from the Government’s acceptance of recommendations in the Tariff Board’s reports on ‘propylene oxide derivatives, and Film Processing Industry; Advertising Film (Value for Duty)’, and the Industries Assistance Commission’s report on ‘Paper’. These changes will operate from tomorrow. In respect to propylene oxide derivatives acceptance of the Tariff Board’s recommendations will mean that a rate of 23 per cent will apply to the principal products covered by the report, that is, polyols (which are used in the manufacture of polyurethane foam) and glycols (which arc primarily used in the production of polyester resins and surface coatings). The Board recommended that there be no change in the duties applying to the remaining goods under reference. There will however be a minor variation in rates applying to some chemically pure surface-active agents.
Minimum rales of duty will apply from tomorrow to all goods covered by the Tariff Board’s report on ‘Film Processing Industry; Advertising Film (Value for Duty)’ except exposed and developed plates or film (other than cinematograph film). Changes relating to these particular plates and film are being withheld at this stage pending completion of international negotiations.
In accordance with the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on ‘Paper’, the duty on certain uncoated and coated printing and writing papers is being varied and a rate of 20 per cent applied. Wrapping papers covered by the Commission’s report will be admitted at minimum rates. A comprehensive summary of the changes and duty rates is being circulated to honourable members.
I commend the proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr Peacock) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 17 July (vide page 3393, on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron: That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This debate began last night, but the normal rules of the House interrupted it. Since that is so, briefly I would like to cover again the main points that I sought to make last evening before coming to the final part of what 1 wanted to say. The Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) began his speech by suggesting that the measure he was introducing was a simple one, a technical machinery measure. In one sense it is. It is a measure that extends the temporary provisions relating to the waterfront, not for another year, as he did a year ago, but for a further 2 years. But really the matters lying behind this Bill are much more complex than that, and the Bill ought not to be passed through this House without some concern being expressed, because many people believe that the 1967 arrangements on the Australian waterfront have not worked to bring greater efficiency to the waterfront.
The Minister expresses the view that because of technical changes that are still under way it is difficult to bring in a permanent Bill at this stage, but I think that view is one this House ought to accept only with a great deal of reluctance. The Minister has a report from Mr Norman Foster. I would ask him to publish that report so we can all see what Mr Foster, whom we would well remember, has recommended. I have no doubt that the Stevedoring Industry Council and the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority have also made reports on the future organisation of the waterfront. The Waterside Workers Federation and the Association of Employers of Waterfront Labour would have their views. I have no doubt that their views are all on the record. It is time that the Minister came forward and brought to this House some final proposals which can be examined by this House and by the industries concerned.
I suspect that one of the reasons why the Minister is now seeking a 2-year reprieve - a great departure from the confidence he showed in May of last year, when he said that he had no doubt he could bring in final arrangements within the next 12 months - arises because of the difficulties that arose over the negotiations for the port of Darwin. I am advised - I think it has been reported in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ - that the Minister had wanted ASIA to be the sole employer but that others, the Waterside Workers Federation and Mr Fitzgibbon, objected to that. Again, as has been reported in the Press and never denied, an appeal was made to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and an arrangement came to be made between the Prime Minister and the General Secretary. There are reports in the ‘Maritime Worker’ of 9 July that would give some support to that point of view.
Why is it - this is what this Parliament ought to address itself to in part - that it is so hard to bring forward final arrangements? Some say it is because technical changes on the waterfront are not complete. They will never be complete if the waterfront is to become as up-to-date as it can be and conditions further improve, as on some wharves they certainly need to be. I have seen for myself that while in some areas the facilities for waterside workers are good, in other areas, I believe, they are still deplorable. Twenty per cent of those employed on the waterfront are not employed under permanent arrangements, and industrial relations on the waterfront are certainly not as good as they ought to be. But these are not reasons for putting the matter aside, for putting it into the ‘too hard’ basket and saying: ‘Let us just forget it for another 2 years’.
A number of solutions have from time to time been suggested. One is nationalisation. Another is that all labour ought to be controlled by the ASIA. I have no doubt that if that were done the Waterside Workers Federation would believe that the ASIA ought not be the sole employer and the sole disciplinarian. They might be matters that could be overcome. Then there are suggestions that the Prime Minister and Mr Fitzgibbon came to an agreement over the discussions concerning Darwin that if nothing was done for some time the WWF would later agree to a new stevedoring industry commission. What does that mean? What powers would it have? What difference would there be between that and the ASIA as it exists at the present time? The Association of Employers of Waterfront Lab our says and argues that the arrangements on the waterfront introduced in 1967 have been successful, but there are others who doubt that very seriously.
Indeed, in this context in this discussion, I pointed out last night that the associations which determine the policy for the AEWL and the source of its power need close examination. The Association claims that it is an Australian organisation. I would believe that it is an organisation dominated by overseas shippers. I went through the arguments last night to indicate the reasons I have for that view. Significant Australian shippers and employers such as the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and the Australian National Line, where they are acting as stevedores, are not members, and they are not members of other organisations which flow through in the AEWL spectrum. The Association stands apart. If it truly and properly represented Australian interests as well as overseas shippers, surely the Australian National Line, BHP, the British Phosphate Commission and others could well be represented, but they are not represented.
There are also allegations from time to time that, although there was meant to be a ballot every second year for the membership of AEWL, no ballots have ever been held or organised. So it comes back to the fact that there seems to be, on all evidence except on the word of AEWL, an organisation in which there is significant overseas control and influence. That being so, what are the consequences of that? If it is an extension of overseas shippers it will not be very concerned about costs on the Australian waterfront. It will be concerned about getting ships moving in the shortest possible space of time, and that could mean what the Minister has termed on more than one occasion - it is a term which the Government has used over the last day or two in another context - a sweetheart deal. The arrangements earlier than 1967 envisaged employment under the National Stevedoring Industry Conference arrangement, weekly hirings , and provision for those employed in the 36 non-permanent ports on the pre-1967 arrangements. If the 1967 arrangements had worked as intended the proportion working under the NSIC arrangements would have risen, but it has not; it has fallen. At the same time, those on weekly hirings at permanent ports have increased in number. I have pointed out that there has been a continuous process of change on the waterfront. Mechanisation began long before the introduction of containerisation. The process of improvement in the productivity of the work force has been continuous, at least since the middle 1950s. But in many areas the agreements of 1967 have not worked as many people had hoped. I think that this needs to be borne in mind when trying to come to a decision about what ought to be done in the future.
The 1967 arrangements for permanent employment have not really operated in the terminals for which, I have been advised, they were in fact designed. Those working in the terminals are largely employed on a weekly basis. In the AEWL’s planning it was believed that there would be an equalisation of returns across the waterfront after 1967; but, according to the latest figures I have, those working in the terminals get an average wage of about $139 a week and those working at conventional ports, often in worse conditions because the ports are older and the facilities are not as good, get an average wage of about $1.07 a week. Under the NSIC arrangements of 1967, costs would have broken even under the old proposals if the average hours worked had equalled thirty-five. But, since they have averaged about twenty-nine in the last year or two, it is plain that the present arrangements are costing more. I have taken the original cost estimates of the AEWL in coming to that conclusion.
In terms of discipline and industrial peace, the circumstances at the major ports before 1967 were roughly twice as bad as those at the non-permanent ports. The same relationship has remained between what are now the permanent ports and the non-permanent ports. If the new arrangements were to lead to a greater degree, of industrial peace one would have thought that the permanent ports, as a consequence of the changes, would have had a better industrial record than the non-permanent ports that continued to operate on the old basis. But there seems to have been no real advantage in that context. The 1967 arrangements were not meant to lead to a virtual monopoly of stevedoring, but in some areas they have led virtually to that kind of monopoly. There are vast differences in container handling costs between Sydney and Melbourne - Sydney’s costs being, I think, roughly twice those of Melbourne - but the changes made in both ports are the same. I cannot really sec why Melbourne ought to pay for the. additional costs in Sydney. It may be that there are other reasons for that. That would seem to indicate that this matter warrants investigation.
The 35-hour agreement of 1972 has, under present circumstances, had one significant result: Less time is worked at ordinary rates and more time is worked at overtime or premium rates. The Minister for Labor and Immigration himself is on record as having said that he is not in favour of 35-hour arrangements if all they mean is an increase in the number of hours worked at the overtime rate. But that is what has happened on the wharves in recent times. Sometimes there have been very large idle time payments because there have been too many men in relation to the amount of work available; and at other times, including in the early part of this year, the idle time payments have been very much Jess but there has been inadequate labour on the waterfront.
The waterfront has been recruiting throughout this year. There are some aspects of the recruiting that need watching closely. Some proposals have been put forward by the Waterside Workers Federation to the effect that preference ought to be given to friends and relatives of present members of the waterfront work force. I think that is a short sighted view. I hope that it is not one that will be pushed too far. Imagine what a tragedy it would be for Australia if the Commonwealth Public Service were to seek to have the same role adopted in Canberra. Australia would come to be governed by hereditary public servants, with the sons of public servants taking their places. However good the Public Service may be, we do not want that kind of class to be built up within the community, which is what would happen if the rule that the WWF is trying to apply - not necessarily very strongly - were in fact to be applied in other areas as well. I can see little justification for that sort of rule to be applied in a particular area or industry.
The ASIA reports from 1968 to 1973 draw attention to the standard of supervision by employers and say how much it has fallen off under the new arrangements. The 1972 agreements between the AEWL and the WWF also failed to arrive at adequate dispute settling procedures. I have been advised that very often matters just go by default. There has been an interesting change in the area of productivity. The supporters of the present arrangements say that there have been great improvements in productivity. There were significant improvements from 1957-58 to 1966-67, but in the first 2 years of the new arrangements productivity fell - and fell significantly. It was not until 1970-71 that productivity regained and passed the level, in terms of tons per man hour, that it had reached in 1966-67. Therefore, it would not seem that the improvements in productivity have been as a result of the new arrangements introduced in 1967, but rather that they have been as a result of a continuous trend in mechanisation over a much longer period. The fall-off in 1967-68 and 1968-69 may well have led to a new growth of industrial unrest that came about after the 1967 arrangements had been introduced. It is worth noting that in the 2 years preceding the 1967 arrangements industrial unrest on the waterfront reached lower levels than almost ever before in the waterfront’s history. That might have its own short story and its own implication.
Throughout this year there has been a tremendous shortage of labour in many industries, as the Minister would recognise. But when, in March 1974, there were advertisements calling for applicants for the waterfront there were many more applicants than there were positions available on the waterfront. That would seem to indicate that to many people at least it is an attractive job. Let me give an example. In Sydney there were 1,000 applicants for 150 places and in Melbourne there were 2,000 for 100 places. So, under the conditions that have prevailed, it has been quite possible to attract people to the jobs that are available.
One of the great problems, as I have mentioned before, is that the ship owners regard stevedoring as being a subsidiary of shipping, as being an extension of shipping and as being less important than shipping. I think that arguments could well be adduced that stevedoring, and what happens in and around the wharves, should be regarded as a ports industry and not just an appendage that is necessary so that ships can operate and carry their cargoes. I am sure that we need to rid the Australian waterfront of whatever overseas influence there might be. I had hoped that the Minister would have used his influence to achieve that and not go along with any sweetheart agreement that might tend to perpetuate overseas influence. I had hoped that the Waterside Workers Federation also would have wanted to achieve the same objective.
I said last night that if the Minister were to bring into this Parliament long term proposals that the Opposition believes to be sensible he would have the full co-operation of the Opposition in achieving their implementation. I hope that the Minister will be able to show the perseverance that he has shown in other areas in getting some success in that respect. Because the Opposition believes that this is an important matter and because we believe that it ought not to be allowed to rest for another 2 years, the Opposition intends to move in the Committee stage 2 amendments that will, if carried, extend the temporary provisions not for 2 years but to 1 April 1975 and provide that permanent arrangements for the stevedoring industry should be submitted to the Parliament before the same date; that is, 1 April 1975. I commend those proposed amendments to the Minister. I hope that he will feel able to accept them. I hope also that he will make available the information from Mr Foster and others that I understand is in his possession at the present time, so that we will all be able to turn our minds to a vexed and difficult problem that needs solution in the national interest and in the interests of not only Australian shippers, exporters and importers but also members of the Waterside Workers Federation. There are conflicting interests which have to be put together in an overall package which meets the Australian national interest. That is a formidable task. If the Minister turned his mind to it, I think he could achieve it.
– I suppose this debate has ranged much more widely, following the speech of the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), than was intended when the measure was first brought before the House. The Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Bill seeks only to extend for a further period the provisions in the Act that have existed since 1967 in order to bring about - it is the very opposite from what the honourable member for Wannon was saying, as I understood him - a lasting and permanent arrangement on the waterfront for the employment of waterside labour. The honourable member for Wannon foreshadowed amendments -which he intends to move during the Committee stage of consideration of this measure. As I understand those amendments, all that they seek to do is to limit the period of time over which this measure will be operative. In other words, they seek to try to buffalo the Government into a position in which obviously it does not want to be at the moment.
It is quite clear - and I think the honourable member for Wannon made it quite clear - that the waterfront, because of the type of work carried on there, is an area that has always been subject to disagreement and conflict. It would be very difficult to say who was to blame for that disagreement and conflict, although if one listened to honourable members opposite one would always believe that it was the waterside worker himself who was to blame. In concluding his speech the honourable member for Wannon made mention of overseas influence on the waterfront. He did not elaborate on that comment. I suppose the reason he did not elaborate was that he could not. It is an expression that has no signficance at all. It is a pity that the honourable member did not go a little further and, instead of making some sort of blithe accusation such as that and skating off from it, try to explain to us what he meant by the term ‘overseas influence’, because I am sure that his explanation of that term would itself have been the subject of a very lively debate.
The waterfront, by its very nature, has always been regarded as one of those areas to which people come to work when work was available. When work was not available and employees were no longer required they were no longer employees. Their position might have been all right in the. days before mechanisation but their position has worsened with the onset of mechanisation on the waterfront. With the mechanisation by the ship owners and the many different ways of transporting cargo, people who belonged to unions other than the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, were performing tasks which were very similar in nature to those tasks once performed by waterside workers but which, because of the introduction of technology and mechanisation on the waterfront, are now in fact vastly- different tasks. So the traditional waterside worker was put in a position of some isolation because in many instances the task that he performed became less relevant than it was at an earlier time.
So the waterside workers who operate on the waterfront around Australia today are not like their counterparts of previous years who came forward when the ship came into port, unloaded the ship, went home and waited for another ship to arrive. Nowadays, waterside workers work on the waterfront constantly in the same way as people working in manufacturing industries around the country, and as such they spend a lifetime on the waterfront. It is perhaps the only industry in which people are engaged for their whole lifetime. So it seems incongruous that these people should still now be regarded as temporary, part-time or casual employees. Yet, without the provisions of the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act to protect them, that is exactly the position they would be in. So their right to be regarded as permanent employees is being protected in the interim by this Bill.
The bringing about of a permanent scheme of employment for waterside workers is not a matter in relation to which the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) or his advisers, or anybody else, say to those who work on the waterfront: ‘These are the conditions under which you will work’. That, I am sure, is the attitude of honourable members opposite. They would like to say that this Government should go to the waterside workers and say: ‘These are the conditions under which you will work’. It has always been my understanding of industrial relations that this sort of situation would be tantamount to trying to put out a fire with a can of petrol. The best way to bring about peace and harmony amongst those who are employed on wages or salaries is to allow those people to have a very broad and a very deep say in the conditions under which they will work.
Clearly there must be some agreement between the Government, whose job it is to administer these regulations and these laws, and those who will work under them, because if the Government becomes autocratic or if the Opposition, persisting with its amendment, should push the Government into doing something which does not meet with the agreement of the Waterside Workers Federation, then of course there will be immediate conflict. I think that is the tactic of the Opposition, but it is the sort of situation which it seeks. It pushes people into positions of conflict so that it can come into this House and bring on another matter of public importance, talk about things that have no relevance to the matter of public importance, and highlight all the time the strikes and stoppages that are taking place around the country. These things seem to obsess the Opposition more than anything else.
The Government has adopted an entirely different approach from that. It is true that as yet agreement has not been reached in relation to permanent provisions. So, by means of this Bill, we are simply asking the Parliament to extend the temporary provisions, which are working very well at the moment, for a further period until agreement can be reached. If that course is followed no question of conflict will arise. Those people who will have to work under the permanent provisions will be party to them, and it is very difficult to argue against something to which you have been party. But it is also very essential that such an agreement be satisfactory to both parties, and in this case the 2 parties comprise the Government, on the one hand, and those who are engaged on the waterfront, on the other.
Many changes are taking place in the industrial scene, as in all other scenes. I know that my colleague, the Minister for Labor and Immigration, is very anxious that many of the difficulties that have arisen in the past between various unions, because of the multiplicity of them, should be resolved. This was not made any easier by the previous Government. In fact, it was made nearly impossible. When the Minister for Labor and Immigration brings forward further proposals later this year many of the difficulties that have arisen in the past and could arise in the future will be resolved, simply because we will no longer have the ludicrous situation of one union arguing against another union in relation to work to be done, which is commonly known as a demarcation dispute. To obviate all of these difficulties that could arise the Government has taken a decision - it is a decision which I support entirely and commend to the House - to extend the provisions that exist in the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act for a further 2 years only. Any difficulties that might exist at the moment will be resolved in that 2-year period and the whole situation will be resolved not only to the satisfaction of the Government but also, more importantly, to the satisfaction of those who are actively engaged in this industry.
It is a short Bill. If I were to digress as far from it as did the honourable member for Wannon I suppose I too could take 20 minutes of the time of the House, but having made the pertinent points I will leave it to the good judgment of this House to make its decision as to whether the Government is in fact correct in putting this very short and machinery measure before the House for ratification.
– As the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) explained in his second reading speech, the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Bill 1974 is designed to provide for an extension of the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act for a period of 2 years pending the introduction of permanent legislation. As the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said, the Opposition is recommending, as I understand it, that this time be shortened to 31 March 1975. To hear the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) talking one would think that the idea of providing a scheme of permanent employment was not a desirable thing. Already we have had a period of 12 months in which these negotiations could have taken place. If the Government is sincere in wanting to provide a scheme of permanent employment for the stevedoring industry it should tell us what is the trouble. Why does the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) not tell us where he is running into all this trouble?
I am not by any means convinced that the people who sit on the opposite side of the House, or indeed the trade union leaders, always represent or even often represent the opinion of the people who are working in industry. But even if they did, why does the Government want all this time? Why is it necessary to take all this time to reach an agreement to provide something which the Government claims it wants to provide - a scheme which in the main will provide permanent employment on weekly hiring watersiders in major ports? What the Opposition asks is that the Government gets on with the job of providing something which, as I understand it, honourable members on both sides of the House seem to want.
I do not for one moment take the attitude that all the things that are desired for the people engaged in the stevedoring industry come from the other side of the House. On this occasion the Opposition is anxious to see that they receive the benefits contained in the Bill. The Opposition is asking only that the scheme be completed in a reasonable time. If the Government cannot complete it in a reasonable time - that is, by 31 March - let it say why it cannot. Let the Government admit its incompetence in this field. Let it admit that it is not able to continue the negotiations with the Waterside Workers Federation. If the Government has the competence that it claims to have, or the goodwill, it should be able to reach the agreement in that time.
Finally, if the Opposition is satisfied that the Government has made every effort to reach that agreement, it will not obstruct the Government in trying to obtain an extension of time. All the Opposition asks for is that the Government does a reasonable job in this field. That is why we have imposed this time limit. As the Minister said in his second reading speech, it may come well before that time anyhow, and he is not precluded from achieving that if it is possible. He said that an earlier date for permanent legislation was desirable. Of course it is. We agree. But we want to see the Government urged on to do something about it.
As I have said, the Opposition has no basic objection to this legislation. The introduction of this Bill, however, gives the opportunity to point out one or two things which have a bearing on reaching the type of agreement which is desirable. I refer to some of the factors that are probably causing difficulty in arriving at what would be the best conditions under which permanent engagement can be provided. As I see them, two of the problems are port congestion and industrial disputes. These are causing friction all the time. The newsletter of the Chemical Importers and Exporters Council has highlighted industry dissatisfaction with the position and the lack of forward planning. That is what the Opposition is asking for. Port facilities in Sydney, Melbourne and other major shipping ports are inefficient. This adds to the difficulties and the losses caused by industrial disputes.
I want to say something generally about the importance of our port facilities. The import boom, as a consequence of the 25 per cent tariff reduction and extensive revaluation of the Australian dollar, has led to a dramatic import upsurge that has taxed the outdated facilities to the full and has led to extensive lags in the chain between export delivery and retail outlet. These are the sorts of things the Opposition wants to see improved for the benefit of the people working on the waterfront and for the benefit of the Australian community. The Stevedoring Authority itself is responsible for employment in the stevedoring sector of the industry and seems to have been reasonably successful in that field. I am sure that the Authority is anxious to reach agreement if the Government shows the same initiative as it pretends to show.
However, the industry itself is plagued - even the honourable member for Burke admitted this - by a continuing high level of industrial unrest often resulting from demarcation disputes between unions. The level of these and other disputes on the waterfront can be illustrated by the fact that in the first 2 months of this year 100,000 man hours were lost as a result of unauthorised stoppages, compared with 40,400 for the same period last year. This shows the tremendous importance of trying to achieve some harmony on the waterfront. That is what the Opposition is trying to do for the benefit of all concerned. If honourable members want some examples of how this problem is hitting everybody let me quote from the Newcastle ‘Morning Herald’ of yesterday, 17 July. An article headed ‘Silo troubles hit sorghum growers’ goes on to say:
Shipping delays in Newcastle had cost sorghum growers $350,000 since April, an official of a rural firm claimed yesterday.
That was Mr Thorburn of the Farmers and Graziers Co-operative Co. Ltd. The article continues:
Continuous industrial trouble is delaying deliveries, affecting sales and accentuating storage problems.
Surely we want to achieve harmony on the waterfront. I believe that the permanent employment provisions will contribute to that harmony. In the same newspaper there is an article headed ‘Sorghum ship’s 33-day wait off port’. Surely we must try to avoid these sorts of things. The article reported that Captain Son of the ‘Maritime Brilliance’ had loaded 12,000 tonnes of sorghum in Brisbane before coming to Newcastle and it had taken one day to load the cargo in Brisbane. He had been told that even when the silo workers resumed there would be a delay in getting this ship away because much of the cargo was still in country storages. I know that that is another problem.
I say in fairness to the waterside workers that it is not all their problem, but it is absurd that we are in a position in this day and age where a ship will have to wait 33 days. That will mean an enormous cost to the exporters, the importers and the shipowners. The cost will eventually be passed back to the Australian public. It will hit the people whom honourable members opposite claim to represent as hard as it will hit anybody.
As I mentioned, the high level of industrial friction that we are trying to avoid has been exacerbated by dissension over wage increases as a natural response to crippling inflation and taxation, largely brought about by the incompetent economic policies of this Government and its inability to handle them. The 13,500 waterside workers were recently offered $22.50 a week increase as well as a fixed link to the increase in average weekly earnings. So they can scarcely say that their claims have been ignored. In fact they have been well treated. However, it is the question of port inefficiency that I am stressing, as well as the question of industrial disputes.
Inherent in the logic of the Government’s efforts to stimulate imports is the assumption that the increased tonnage from overseas suppliers could be made available for Australian consumers. That is a desirable objective. But what has happened? In retrospect it seems to have been naive on the part of the Government to assume that a price stimulation could readily be translated into an increased volume available to the community without taking into account the lags in the shipping process. Waterside hold-ups are one of the major factors of this. As a result of the overtaxing of our port facilities the imports that will eventually become available will have been subjected to the higher costs of wharfage and storage, in addition to the costs of industrial troubles. As I say, that is all passed back to the Australian community. They are the people about whom we are concerned. They are the people whom the Government should be considering, even in this Bill.
I realise that this area is essentially under the jurisdiction of State governments through such bodies as the New South Wales Maritime Services Board. Nevertheless, I think it is important to point out that there appears to be strong evidence that national priority should be devoted to forward planning in our port facilities in association with future expectations of trade and to the provision of financial assistance to upgrade those facilities for the benefit of the Waterside Workers Federation and for the benefit of the Australian people. I have mentioned the delays that occur. There are plenty of examples. I will cite one more example. The Port of Sydney, which serves as a port as well as a harbour, is limited in size to the tonnage of ship with which it can cope. The limitation on a tanker of 70,000 tons appears somewhat ridiculous when it it considered that Japan has a 1 million ton tanker on the drawing board. We want to see the Government exercise some forward planning. Let it show that it has some efficiency by completing this agreement in the time suggested in the amendment which will be moved in the Committee stage of the Bill. There are many examples of problems in Melbourne and Tasmania.
This area is very important, as policy measures in relation to imports and exports must be associated with policy decisions regarding the facilities to handle them and with giving conditions to the waterside workers to enable them to provide the service to the community that I believe they themselves desire to give. I trust that the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Labor and Immigration are working in close co-operation - perhaps that is too much to hope for from this Government - on the associated aspects of future port upgrading and labour relations. In fairness, let me say that I do not pretend for a moment that the causes of industrial trouble and port congestion are simple. They are deep-rooted and complex, and generalisations can be misleading on a highly technical subject such as this. The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Opposition generally have considered this matter and have given what we regard as a reasonable time and more than sufficient time for the Government to achieve the objective which we are aiming to achieve and which I hope the Government will try to achieve too. Nevertheless, I think it is a subject to which more priority should be given and on which a greater degree of Commonwealth-State cooperation would not go amiss.
To conclude, let me say that I see no fundamental objection to this Bill, and I am sure the Opposition does not either; but I draw attention to employment in this industry and the costly level of industrial trouble, as exemplified recently by the ships’ engineers strike. It is no good the Minister for Labor and Immigration saying, as he did in a speech in June, that industrial conflict is a natural consequence of our economic system. It may be a natural consequence of the economic policies of the Government. Such a passive acceptance of a problem that is so costly in economic, social and human terms is disgraceful. I trust that the review of the stevedoring operations will provide a sound basis for future stability in this industry to the advantage of those engaged in it, the importers and exporters and, through them, the community as a whole.
– I remind the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson), who spoke a little while ago, that we are not arguing about whether permanency is a good thing. We introduced it when in government. It is a good thing in theory. The difficulty is to make it work, and the awful fact is that since it was introduced in 1967 permanency just has not worked as well as we all hoped it would. We have had an escalation in the costs of handling conventional cargo at the rate of about 30 per cent a year. Many problems have followed the agreement of 1967, and I will spell out some of them in the few minutes for which the Whips have allowed me to speak. One of the problems is the sweetheart agreement. It is actually the problem. I would like the honourable member for Burke to listen to this because he criticised the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) for not talking about what was really meant by ‘overseas interests’ in the context of overseas action and overseas capital on the waterfront. I thought the honourable member for Wannon spelt it out with crystal clarity.
The fundamental problem on the waterfront is the sweetheart agreement between the Waterside Workers Federation and the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour. The Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) knows, as we all know, that there is a sweetheart agreement. The employers of waterfront labour know that they are dominated - not owned - and controlled, because of the business linkage, by the overseas ship owners who because they are in the Conference system are able to pass the costs on. The sweetheart agreement between the WWF and the AEWL is the root of our problem, and the Minister knows that. He has often criticised sweetheart agreements in the past. This is a classic case. Let me illustrate why it has not worked. Nothing I am about to say will be my own opinion. I am taking it from what I would call neutral sources. Firstly, there is the problem of redundancy. The idle time bill rose from S824.000 in 1968 to S8m in 1972. It will fall to some extent this year. The reason - the chief reason - for this levy which is being continued is to pay for the idle time that is logged up. Even in time of full employ ment there will be some stevedores short of labour and others with a surplus of labour. Some stevedores will have labour permanently employed but at home sitting down doing nothing while another stevedore somewhere else will be short of labour.
That is the kind of thing that we cannot afford and the economy cannot afford. It is the kind of thing that unfortunately has followed permanency of employment on the waterfront. We have the situation that it costs about $3,000 a year for each redundant waterside worker’s idle time. These are the figures of 2 years ago. I have not checked on them recently. Yet under the agreement there was a golden handshake arrangement whereby redundants among waterside workers could be given a golden handshake of $3,000. No one can say that that is mean treatment. The fact is that hardly anybody has been declared redundant. Why is that? Here I do not give my own opinion; I quote from the 1971 report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. The reason why people who are employed incur these costs in idle time is that the Stevedoring Industry Authority can declare these people redundant only on the recommendation of the AEWL and the AEWL just will not face up to the industrial strife that might follow such action.
Honourable members should not take my word for this. I quote from the report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, which said:
On every occasion when there has been a need to implement the agreed redundancy arrangement the employers have been threatened with industrial dislocation by way of stoppages, bans on overtime and weekend work and go slow tactics. In the face of these threats the AEWL has not been prepared to make an application for a declaration of redundancy except after some agreement with the Federation. For its part, the Federation has been successful in limiting retrenchments to those men willing to accept the redundancy benefits payable under the agreement
That is, the $3,000 handshake - plus in the most recent cases the additional financial inducements offered, and leave the industry voluntarily.
That is one of the problems, and I guess the Minister is well aware of it. One of the other parts of the problem is the lack of discipline on the waterfront. Those who know the waterfront well will agree that what I am about to quote is correct. I am not giving my own, others might say, biased opinion; I am quoting from the annual report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority - a government institution - for the year ended 30 June 1971. It stated:
There was no evidence of any improvement in industrial relations during the year. Discipline has deteriorated to the extent that in most cases it is now almost entirely related to the degree of responsibility exhibited by the men themselves. The expectation that the Conference arrangements would result in better industrial relations, freedom from industrial disputes and a reduction in unit and total costs has not been fulfilled.
I repeat that this is not my opinion but the opinion of the Government Stevedoring Industry Authority. Let me give another example. Here I will quote from the transcript of evidence given before Mr Justice Moore. There was a discussion about a waterside worker who was accused of being drunk on the job. I am not pretending that all waterside workers are in this category, or that even many of them are; but this is a classic case of lack of discipline. The foreman was asked why he started this drunken man on this day. The foreman replied:
No. I do not have to start him. As a matter of fact, I should not start him, but under the new system the man is supposed to be paid for the full shift irrespective of whether he works it or not. The ship owner is loath to put anybody off because of this. They have had occasions when men have been put off and the union has said ‘If you do not reinstate them we will pull the whole port out’.
That is a sample of the problem. The Minister would be well aware of it. I have here other quotations showing how agreements which were entered into have been broken but, because of the time factor and the discipline that I am under, I am unable to cite them. I will say this: The Minister knows that the waterfront is in a mess. The costs are going up. Discipline is bad. We all know that some solutions can be put forward and at which I know the Minister will be looking. One solution is the nationalisation of the waterfront. I say no more on that matter except that even that solution - it does not attract me - would be better than going on as we are. Another solution is to have a Government stevedoring industry company. I do not think that that solution would work because I think the ship owners would not deal with it.
The one solution I keep coming back to is to put all waterside workers, whether they be clerks or members of the Waterside Workers Federation, under the control of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority to get some control and discipline in the industry, so that we will not have the problem of locked-up labour and of people being paid for sitting at home doing nothing when other employers are short of labour. I know that that is one matter about which the Minister will be thinking. I repeat it: Put all waterfront labour - clerks and everybody working in this area - under the control of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. I know that the Minister is aware of the problems. I just urge him to grasp the nettle. Because I want the Minister to grasp the nettle quickly, and because matters cannot continue as they are going at the moment, I support the amendments proposed by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) for consideration at the Committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Mr Chairman, I propose to move 2 amendments to the Bill. The first seeks to insert a new clause after clause 2. The second seeks to omit certain words from clause 4. The relevant part of clause 4 reads:
I ask for leave to move my 2 amendments together. If leave is granted, they may be voted on together.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
- Mr Chairman, I am sorry that I cannot accept the proposed change in date. Now, 1 April is April Fools Day. I think that date was deliberately put in the amendment to test the Government to see how foolish we really are. Well, we are not quite so foolish as all that. For that reason, and for many other reasons, we cannot accept such an odd date. It is the aim of the Government to introduce permanency in the stevedoring industry as quickly as possible. We will do that before April Fools Day if we are able to do it physically. That is the aim of the Government. We will not be helped or hurried to reach a sensible conclusion of these negotiations by simply writing into an Act of this Parliament that it be all fixed up by April Fools Day. I can assure the honourable member, if it is any satisfaction to him, that we will continue to bring the thing to a sensible conclusion. I wish Standing Orders would let me comment on what honourable gentlemen have said about the control of the stevedoring companies by the overseas shipping companies. I can get this much out without involving you, Mr Chairman: I agree entirely with what the honourable gentlemen have said in that regard. I regret that the Government cannot accept the amendments.
That the amendments (Mr Malcolm Fraser’s) be agree’d to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron) - bv leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 11 July (vide page 1 70), on motion by Mr Uren:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not oppose this Bill which relates to historic land in Sydney which was owned by the Church of England authorities in Sydney and, I understand, was leased for 99 years over a century ago. The lease has now expired and the land has fallen back into the disposition of the Church of England authorities. As might be expected the lessee, who in turn rented by sub-lease the houses on the land, did not spend a great deal of money on repair and upkeep of the properties during the time that the lease was running out. As a consequence the houses fell into disrepair. I think it is fair to describe this part of Sydney as bordering on a slum area which if left would certainly develop into one. Apparently there was no way in which this situation could have been corrected. However, ultimately it will be corrected by proposals contained in this legislation which will permit the Commonwealth to buy the land from the Church of England authorities, to develop the land and to put the houses into good, habitable condition.
The Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) gave the 4 main objectives of the purchase of the land in his second reading speech. The first objective is to avoid the sudden displacing of the exisitng population and to avoid any disruption to existing community networks; second, 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; third, to improve environmental conditions and social conditions of residents of the estate and surrounding area; fourth, to preserve the townscape and sympathetically rehabilitate it. In so far as the Bill provides the money and the purchase contributes to these objectives the Opposition supports the Bill. The objective of urban renewal projects should be to benefit with the minimum possible disruption those residents who live in the area. The Minister has said that this is a pilot project. As a pilot project it is very important that the real issues involved here should be closely examined and debated. If it is to be a pilot project, we need to know what we are putting ourselves in for, whether we are doing it the right way, whether it will serve the interests of the community in the broad and of the people in particular, or whether it will be contrary to their interests even though on the surface it may appear to be in their interests.
But is that the real test? At present some very exciting developments have been taking place in the architectural, town planning and sociological fields, all related to medium density housing and especially to medium density housing in the inner areas of great metropolises. In Sydney, of course, we have one of the world’s great metropolises. There are very old areas in Sydney and also in Melbourne. In those inner areas people have lived for many years and have seen development move into the outer areas. They have remained in the inner areas and have seen commercial and industrial growth around them.
Other people have moved to the outer suburban areas to have their quarter acre of land and, on that quarter acre of land, their villa. This has contributed greatly to a rapidly increasing rate of cost for the provision of services such as sewerage, roads and electricity. There is not only the cost of providing these facilities as a public service but also the cost to the people using them. A perfect example is the cost of transport to and from work to those people who live in the outer areas. A consequence of this development is that attention is being turned by architects, town planners and sociologists to the development within the inner metropolitan areas of medium density housing closer to the centre of the city and closer to places of employment. The excitement that many people connected with those fields are feeling depends upon their opportunity to see big development projects go ahead.
This Bill deals with an area of 47 acres. 1 do not know how many hectares that area involves. It is important that when there is an opportunity for a large area like this to be used as a pilot project it should be treated as such. It should be an example for development elsewhere by private, municipal or State developers. The proposed development can serve as an example to them. What is perfectly clear from what is proposed by the Government, is that the dwellings in the Glebe area will all be repaired and reoccupied. They will be exactly the same shaped dwellings as they have been since they were first built. Many of them were built more than a century ago. Not the slightest thought has been given to the possibility of redeveloping the whole area in the way that magazines and professional writers have suggested to the Minister and to me. I regret that there has been no such consideration. Many of the houses in the Glebe area are old and will be unlikely to respond satisfactorily to the rehabilitation process of repair, etc.
When one considers what could be done with 47 acres of open space, green leaf space or community open space and one appreciates the whole range of community services that could be provided it does seem that not enough consideration has been given to that prospect. I strongly favour the development of medium density housing in the inner suburban areas. In saying that I do not think of medium density housing as being interpreted as high density housing associated with high rise apartment-type dwellings. That is not what I am arguing for at all. I am arguing for medium density housing which could be anything from 20 to 40 and perhaps even 50 people to the acre. In fact, the density of this area is more than 50 people to the acre. There is a population which I would assess to be about 2,800 and there is an area of 47 acres. That works out at more than 50 persons to the acre and that is getting to the very high level of medium density housing.
I have in mind medium density housing of a lesser type. I see villa-type development or attached-type development. At the most the buildings would be of 3 storeys, preferably of 2-storeys with walk-up approaches to the second storey. It is important to understand that a great counter movement is starting to develop in Australia. Instead of people constantly moving into outer suburbs and into their quarter-acre blocks, thereby exerting pressure for further services, there is a very substantial movement into the inner city areas. A tremendous job is being done in rehabilitating and restoring old houses, and very attractive they are.
– Why can Botany and Balmain be rehabilitated but not Glebe?
– I am not saying that rehabilitation in Glebe is not a treatment which was available. I am saying that nowhere in any speech the Minister has made has he indicated that he gave consideration to any other treatment of the area other than the rehabilitation of the existing houses. He said it is a pilot project. If it is, the Minister ought to have made available to this House the considerations that were available to him and should explain why he chose to do certain things. No mention is made of any environmental impact study in the second reading speech.
– Can I just explain to you?
– Please do.
– The survey of the architects who made the original survey has already been tabled in this Parliament.
– The Bills and Papers Office does not know about it.
– You have plenty of copies. Nobody else can get them.
– Order! I think the Minister, when he replies, will explain these matters.
– The next point I wish to make is that the appropriate authority to undertake this development would be the New South Wales Housing Commission in consultation with local authorities. This would increase the opportunities for lower income residents in the inner city area to have the added advantage that many of the tenants could actually deal directly with people on the spot, such as local government or the New South Wales Housing Commission, instead of having to deal with people who are Canberra based.
It is very important, when considering this area, that we do what we can to provide for the people in the houses the opportunity for ownership of them. The people ought to have the opportunity for their own equity. There is no opportunity for that at all. The Liberal and Country Parties believe a housing guidance bureau should be established to provide information to people about their options for housing - what is available for them to buy and what finance is available - and to advise them what their needs are in housing expressed by their capacity to pay. The fact that the Labor Government does not choose to have such a bureau is simply due to the fact that the Labor Party believes in tenanted houses instead of home ownership. The whole drive of the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) who is at the table, is to convert Australia largely into a country where people rent homes instead of staying in the proud position we have now of - so far as I can check the records - the highest home ownership of any country. That is what we wish to continue.
Having said that, the Opposition believes the Government has the perfect opportunity in the Glebe estates to implement a pilot project for an urban renewal program of the type we have in mind. I regret to say that it is an opportunity which is being missed. We believe that the Government’s approach to the problem is incorrect. We support the purchase of the land. We support the concept but we reject the approach which the honourable gentleman has adopted. I think it is important to examine some of the facts surrounding this matter. The total cost of the purchase of the Glebe estates is$1 7.5m. This represents a price of$372,000 an acre, or $93,000 a quarter acre if honourable members like to put it in those terms.
The average cost of the 700 houses being purchased - bearing in mind that many are in a state of extreme disrepair and that most are old terraced houses - is $25,000 a house before improvements. On a conservative estimate - it must be taken as a very conservative estimate - the average improvement cost would be around $8,000 a house, bringing the cost for each house to around $33,000. Honourable members can imagine how much rent subsidy will be involved in having people live in the houses. Let us accept a modest 10 per cent return, given that the interest rate on money borrowed to buy one’s home now is 1 1 per cent. The overdraft rate is 1 1 per cent and 13 per cent. What return on money invested is being received for rented homes I leave open to the imagination. But there is a minimum capital cost of at least $33,000. Taking 10 per cent as a conservative amount, giving an annual rental of $3,300, how can these sorts of people pay that amount of money for rent?
– What about the maintenance thereafter?
– What about the maintenance thereafter, as the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) reminds me. The consequence is that there will be an enormous rental subsidy element. If we multiply that rental subsidy element across the totality of the rented homes owned by all governments in Australia the cost will be monumentally large. There is no reason to believe that a particular group of people should be preferred over a different group of people. I do say that, not in any way to criticise the residents of the Glebe area but just to make it clear that a government ought not enter into a project of this kind without understanding the ramifications of it. Are we to understand that this is to be a pilot project for massive rent subsidies for all rented homes and that this Government intends to do what it can to advance the number of rented homes instead of those homes which are owned by the occupants? Let us assume that each dwelling accommodates 4 people. There is no reason to assume that that would be the case because, in many instances, there would be just 2 elderly people, pensioners, perhaps, or 2 people whose children have grown up and left home. There is no reason to assume that it would be 4 people, but making that assumption there are 2,800 people in the area. We must remember in relation to this land that, on the assumption of a population of 2,800, there are nearly 60 people on each acre and there are about 7 houses to the acre. The amount of open space for facilities for community services is quite limited.
– They are not interested in the environment.
– The honourable member for Petrie says that they are not interested in the environment. When it is seen that this is to be a pilot project, one wonders just how much interest there is. We strongly support increased availability and improved standards of accommodation for people of limited means, particularly the. aged in the inner city area, if this is where those people want to live. If I may put the matter in these very important social terms, which the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) used in a very impressive maiden speech the other night, we are concerned about these people as individuals. We are concerned for their social welfare, their security, and their happiness. It is important that we be sure that when we make these efforts in their interests that is really what they want and that we serve their interests best.
– Not living as a conglomerate mass in a commune.
– Living in a conglomerate mass in a commune is perhaps overstating it but nevertheless there are implications when you go into the details of the matter. We want to make sure that not only are the aged and poor helped in this way but also that great range of people who want to live in the inner city area and whose jobs require them to do fo - the people on night shift, for instance, the people working in the factories and industries around the area. They should be given the opportunity of living close to their place of employment. I want to state to the House the policies of the Liberal and Country Parties. I shall read the relevant part of those policies. It is as follows:
The Liberal and Country Parties recognise there is increasing community awareness of the need to improve the living environment of major urban centres. Equally there is growing community concern to protect land or buildings which contribute to ,he quality of the living environment . . . Clearly, extremely complex issues arise when judgment about the needs of growth - for example, for freeways, highrise developments, for altered land use - must be balanced against the interest of longterm residents, special interest groups, existing facilities and so on. The local nature of these issues underlines the Liberal and Country Parlies’ conviction that decisions affecting local land use patterns must be taken by State or Local Government.
You cannot make decisions in Canberra. A man looking over Lake Burley Griffin does not understand the problems of people in inner metropolitan Sydney. We welcome programs in which the Commonwealth, through State and local governments, will assist the development of strategic land use plans in the existing urban areas of major cities. We want the Commonwealth to encourage public participation projects involving State and local government together with the local residents. This approach ensures that urban renewal projects are developed with due regard to community aspirations. We want the Commonwealth to assist conservation projects within the cities in response to requests by State governments. We want it to encourage the preservation of historic environments and public parklands which are so essential to the character of cities. We want the Commonwealth to maintain important historic buildings and areas.
We of the Opposition do not believe that just because something is old it has historic merit and should be preserved. In fact I have seen some old buildings which are quite ugly. What we need to do is to preserve historic buildings which have charm and grace and represent an era. There is no need for the intervention of an extra level of government in the form of the Department of Urban and Regional Development, or, as it is more popularly called, DURD. We would make it clear that regional development has quite a different purpose to that of urban improvement. We have established our spokesmen, our front bench, and we have deliberately and positively separated - I think this will be of great benefit when we come into office - regional development from urban improvement. They are quite different concepts.
There is no need for the Commonwealth Government to become a giant landlord. I have no doubt that the Minister for DURD would like to become a giant landlord. If he wishes to do so he will be trying to change the entire social characteristics of the Australian people. The Australian people want to be their own landlord; they want to buy their own houses, not to have a landlord which is a Commonwealth government, especially when the chief of it lives in Canberra and is supposed to understand the problems of people throughout Australia.
The Minister said in his second reading speech that the application of a number of professional skills would be needed in the
Glebe area - planning, architectural, building trades and social work. It is to be hoped that these professionals will not be Canberra based or Canberra directed. We reject any concept that the people of Glebe will be swamped with a team of experimentalists sent to use them as human guinea pigs in a pilot project.
There needs to be local decision making. Both local government and State government need to be involved in a realistic way. Not only will localised decision making result in better decisions made with a greater understanding of the aspirations of the people of Glebe, but also it will avoid unnecessary duplication. Nowadays, the way this Government is operating, it sets up a team of fellows in Canberra to put such demands on municipal government and State governments that the State governments and municipal authorities then have to employ a team of people to interpret what the people from Canberra tell them to do. You finish up getting a flow of correspondence one way and the other and people are employed merely to understand and reply to each other. The mirroring of public servants and government at the 3 levels is really growing to a stage where it will represent a very serious departure from efficiency and the social and economic needs of this country.
No evidence has been given that States or local government authorities have been fully consulted. The Minister said in his second reading speech that he rejected a statement by my colleague the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), who is the Opposition shadow Minister on conservation, that the Glebe purchase had been made without consultation with State government or local government. The Minister said that in considering the purchase he wrote to the New South Wales Minister for Local Government and Highways and to the Mayor of Leichhardt Municipal Council and that officers of his Department and its consultants discussed the project with officers and aldermen of the Leichhardt Council and officers of the New South Wales Housing Commission. I am informed that the only written communication to the New South Wales Minister for Housing and his Department was a telegram sent in June 1973 informing them of the intentions of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development to study the possibility of the Glebe purchase.
Quite clearly there has been totally inadequate consultation with State and local government. It is a perfect example of bureaucracy gone mad when people in Canberra, and the Minister in particular, take decisions because they have a popular flavour and the Minister wants the credit for the Federal Labor Government. But the Minister is unthinking about the way in which it should have been done through State government and local government consultation. There is a need for greater and not less local government participation in urban renewal and improvement. There is a need for the national Government to involve itself, not by directly overseeing urban development projects and becoming a giant landlord and developer, but by providing additional funds to local government for capital works programs such as day and child care centres, recreational and care centres for children both after school and during holiday periods; parks, gardens and flora and fauna reserves; family and community counselling facilities, particularly among migrant communities; library and recreational facilities; health and welfare centres, including family planning and infant health centres; sewerage and drainage schemes; and road, street and bridge works.
With the greater community awareness of social issues and rising expectations of social welfare, local government has been required to provide many of the facilities and services I have mentioned. The financial burden of such ventures cannot be. borne solely by the rate revenue of local government. There needs to be Federal financial participation in their implementation. The Liberal and Country Parties believe that funds should be made available to the local government through the State on a no strings attached basis. We do not believe that there should be a constant policy of auditing by Federal Government officials of elected local government officials. Quite clearly those people elected to office in local government are able to make their decisions close to the people affected. That is where the responsibility ought to be and where the service can best be provided. Whether it is financed by local government, State government or the Commonwealth Government, that ds where it ought to be provided. We do not need duplication, and we most certainly do not want policy auditing by the Federal Government. The Liberal Party believes that these funds should be made available on a no strings attached basis.
In supporting the Bill, the Opposition would like assurances that residents will be consulted fully about the Department’s intentions in their area. We hope but do noi expect, I regret to say, that the major decisions affecting residents will be made at the local government level. That is where they ought to be made. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development has acquired a reputation of being concerned for individuals and their welfare, and I pay him tribute for his concern. If he wants to demonstrate his true concern he will not arrogate to himself unilateral wisdom on all these things. He will understand that local government bodies and State Government bodies have tremendous wisdom to contribute and that they ought to take the decisions close to the people. He claimed that the Government remains open minded about achieving its objectives in the Glebe Estate area. 1 hope that he will be receptive to the policy proposals which I put on behalf of the Opposition Parties.
We support the Bill. It will be given passage through this House, but it is important that there be adequate debate in this chamber so that the people of Australia can know that there is understanding in Canberra that their needs will be best decided by people close to them and that the function of the Federal Government is to make available money and not policy auditing of the kind that is occurring in this Bill.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has declared that he supports the Glebe Lands (Appropriation) Bill 1974. It is the weakest kind of support that one could expect. While he supports the Bill, he admits that he has an attitude which represents the very antithesis and a negation of everything for which the Bill stands. Rather than rehabilitation of the Glebe area he would prefer to see it razed. His whole speech typified a bulldozer mentality. Because of our fear of this kind of approach, the Federal Government has decided to take, this initiative. In announcing the decision to enter into negotiations with the Church of England, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) and 1 stated jointly:
Public acquisition will increase the stock of rental housing for certain categories of needy people. Public acquisition will also advance the policies of the Australian Government in respect to the National Estate.
The Australian Government sees its acquisition of the Estates as a demonstration scheme for authorities to carry out large scale inner city renovation and restoration. It also wishes to use the scheme as a testing ground for new methods of community planning and participation.
I fail to see why there should be any enthusiasm for redevelopment in places such as Paddington in Sydney and in other inner city centres when it is done only in the name of profit and private enterprise. There is obviously u capacity to do it in the name of the people and of the decent things for which governments are supposed to stand. Where there has been redevelopment of this nature it has been of an undesirable standard, and far too often the redevelopment has taken place only to remove the people who traditionally lived in such areas and to facilitate the occupation of those areas by the privileged.
Our job is to ensure that the cities are revitalised and that the people who have worked there all their lives will have the opportunity to continue living there in uplifted environments. I have heard all kinds of comments and interjections, including some loud ones from the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) who makes jibes about the Government being opposed to home ownership. Recently I mentioned that the 2 censuses conducted over about a decade from 1961 indicated a drop” in the incidence of home ownership in Australia during the period that the present Opposition was in government. So the present Opposition’s record in government is not too good in that regard.
– What about the figures from the Queensland Housing Commission?
– Order! The honourable member for Petrie will cease interjecting. The honourable member seems to be following in the footsteps of his predecessor in that respect.
– He will go the same way, too.
– You try it.
– Order! The honourable member for Petrie has yet to make his maiden speech. When he does so, at some time in the future, he will have an opportunity to express himself.
– The interjections by the honourable member for Petrie seem to be very out of keeping and very incompatible with the very sensitive and aesthetic subject that we are debating at the present time. The honourable member for Petrie and the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock), who have both been making interjections about home ownership, may be interested to hear that the highest number of houses ever is under construction in Australia at the present time. They may also be interested to know that by 31 July of this year Australia almost undoubtedly will complete the highest number of houses ever to have been completed in our history.
– And at the highest cost, too.
– The honourable member for Petrie should make up his mind as to the premise on which he wants to argue this matter. He can have it any way he likes.
– You will lose whichever way it goes.
– Order! I ask the honourable member for Petrie to contain himself. Interjections are out of order. The honourable member will have 3 years in which to practise, but I ask him to serve an apprenticeship in the House first.
– I was saying that we are building a record number of houses this year. The incidence of home ownership being provided for is the highest in our history. So the Government does not have to be apologetic in this regard. I would say that always in evidence is the Opposition’s concern for the fact that the Government is also trying to provide some houses for and to care for the lower income earners in the community. The Opposition likes to think of houses and the basic human need for shelter as being a subject for rotten, ruthless exploitation. The Government believes that people are entitled to shelter in any circumstance. We believe that the people of Glebe are entitled not only to the kind of shelter that they have had throughout their lives but also to an uplifted environment. We want to use Glebe for pilot experimental purposes. We want to be able effectively to identify the role of government in this respect. So the Glebe project will be a pilot scheme which can be emulated and from which expertise can be acquired by public authorities.
I have also heard - predominantly by way of interjection but also by way of implication by the Leader of the Opposition - some contentions to the effect that proper studies have not been made of this proposition. Such studies ought to be made, of course, as it will involve the expenditure of $15. 75m, it will involve the utilisation for decent housing purposes of 47 acres of land and it will involve some 700 houses that are already in existence. As I mentioned yesterday when the House was debating the proposed Googong Dam project, it can be confidently expected of this Government that adequate documentation always will be available, that proper surveys always will be carried out and that it will always make available to the Parliament the environmental impact studies made in respect of such projects. I am pleased to be able to say that those things have been done by way of an excellent document which was tabled in the Parliament by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) on 9 April 1974. The incredible thing - I think this is worth saying because it might save us a lot of debating time in the future - is that honourable members opposite do not seem to know that documents which are tabled are available within the precincts of the Parliament. For example, they did not know that 300 copies of the document on the Googong dam had been printed, as they admitted. The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) acknowledged, I think, that he had not seen that document. There is little excuse for not knowing all about ‘this document because in tabling it on 9 April this year the Minister for Urban and Regional Development said:
For the information of honourable members, I present the report to the Department of Urban and Regional Development on the Church of England lands in Glebe, New South Wales. The Australian Government has decided to purchase these lands. Because only a limited number of copies of the request are available a copy has been placed in the Parliamentary Library for use by honourable members.
If honourable members opposite want a road map in order to find out where the Parliamentary Library is, we will be happy to assist them in that regard. In this case a very comprehensive report has been prepared by the consultant experts Jackson, Teece, Chesterman and Willis. They are very notable as architects, planners and building economists. The report sets out a number of very interesting facts. Although the Leader of the Opposition believes that the buildings in the Glebe area ought to be demolished and replaced with medium density development - no doubt what he is contending is of a desirable nature - I want the House to know what these competent consultants said about the Glebe area from an architectural standpoint. They said:
The architectural importance of the area is of a special kind. It does not consist of great houses or buildings of intrinsic architectural merit. Because of their unusual history as church property Bishopthorpe and St. Phillips have preserved, within an area large enough to continue to serve changing contemporary needs, the character of Australian town architecture of the third quarter of the nineteenth century - that important but yet insufficiently understood period, between the gold rush of the 1850’s and the building boom of the 1880’s.
Within the area, cottage types and terrace types of great importance for an understanding of the development of architecture in Australia have survived Set among them, in spacious, tree-lined streets, will be found some larger houses, corner shops, former hotels and stores, together with an important group of church and public buildings in the vicinity of the corner of Glebe Point Road and St Johns Road. Altogether the areas provide a traditional community precinct unique to Sydney, which still possess a vital community life today. With appropriate preservation, and some sympathetic development to increase the density of the areas, they could be made to serve the needs of the present day whilst retaining their traditional character as part of the nation’s heritage.
– At what cost?
– The mate of Sir Robert Askin asks: ‘At what cost?’ As somebody said recently, the New South Wales Government seems to have a complex about developers. All that that Government can think about is whether these things can be done by developers who think in terms of towering concrete buildings. I ask: What is the cost to the nation of the loss of this precious heritage? It seems to me that one cannot measure all these things in terms of money alone, yet there is much inclination on the part of honourable members opposite, particularly the honourable member for Parramatta, to do so.
– It is an irresponsible attitude.
– What does the National Trust say about it?
– Order! If this cross fire continues across the chamber I intend to take action against the first person who does it. I give a warning to everyone in the House.
– I will not read out the appealing propositions that are contained in this report. I simply want to say about the report that it represents a very complex study by some of the most eminent specialists in the city of Sydney. They spent considerable time in analysing the situation and identifying the prospects about rehabilitation. I believe that this development will provide an excellent example of the kind of rehabilitation that can be undertaken not only in Sydney but also in other parts of Australia.
I was interested to hear the suggestion from the Leader of the Opposition that there has been insufficient negotiation on this matter. Let me say, firstly, that no one can suggest that there is any high-handedness represented by the Australian Government’s involvement in this scheme, because the response which my colleague made in relation to this matter was made to the Church of England itself which, by the way of an inquiry into poverty, first of all, and, subsequently, by way of a public statement invited governments - any government - to assist it in its dilemma. It knew that it could not sustain the maintenance of the Glebe estate any longer. It knew that these very line architectural characteristics to which I have already referred were going to be systematically destroyed and undermined by private developers who were coming into the area. One can go to the Glebe and see evidence of this already. Great concrete monstrosities have emerged in this beautiful, historical townscape, blotting out the sun.
Development is not taking place in any organised way because nobody has been able to acquire large acreages of land. In fact, we have been told by some of our consultants that if this development were left to private enterprise nobody in this country would have the capacity to acquire the whole area, to enable the whole area to be pulled down if that were wanted and redevelopment to be planned in an overall way in order to achieve a sensible relationship of one building to another, thereby getting a proper sense of perspective in relation to landscaping, public amenities and things of that nature. So what has been happening, of course, has been this piecemeal replacement of the beautiful townscape by the most undesirable form of concrete buildings, without proper provision for green space and the like. But the facts are that these overtures were made, and fortuitously, they were responded to by my colleague. That is not to say that the only people with whom the Australian Government discussed these matters were representatives of the Church of England. I have in my hand a summary of correspondence with New South Wales State Ministers, the Leichhardt Municipal Council. New South Wales members of Parliament and others. Perhaps I could read the list. All the dates are here.
– What about tabling that document?
– Yes, I will be happy to table the document. I am always happy to table a document. This is a new syndrome for the Australian Government. It was never done very much previously but we do it now. I will be pleased to put this document on the table. My colleague has been in touch with several people and he has listed the dates of these communications and meetings with people such as the Mayor of Leichhardt, the Deputy Town Clerk of the Leichhardt Municipal Council, the State and Federal members of Parliament for the area. Also listed are letters sent to Sir Charles Cutler, to Mr Jago, the New South Wales Acting Minister for Local Government and Highways, to you again, Mr Speaker, as the local Federal member for the area, and to Mr Ragen, the Town Clerk. There is a considerable number of people listed here. As I have said I am very happy to table that document.
Before I say something further about the Glebe I would like to disparage the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition when he was talking about our alleged lack of enthusiasm for home ownership and said that we have shown no interest in the housing advisory arrangement. I simply want to say that this matter has been under official study since February of this year, and our plans in relation to a housing advisory bureau are now at an advanced stage.
In his second reading speech the Minister for Urban and Regional Development referred to this project as being not simply an exercise in the renovation and construction of housing but also as an exercise in community rehabilitation. As I have said, the purchase not only involves 700 houses but it also affects and involves the lives of some 2,500 people. The project can be successful only if its objective is to meet the needs of the residents. In meeting these needs we are concerned not only with housing but also with the wider concerns of the total human environment. These concerns vary significantly between community groups, such as the aged, single parents, Aborigines and students among others. The constitutional power of the Government in regard to these matters has been well established by the SolicitorGeneral of the time, who is now among us here in a different capacity as the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott). That in itself is a very interesting study.
Many people for whom the Australian Government has particular responsibility are included among the residents in the Glebe Estate. It will not be possible to adopt a uniform and simplistic approach to social organisation, planning and construction. We will need to determine the various groups in the area before deciding on the services to be provided to those groups. For example, if we take the aged people, we will need to cater for the aged people who are well, the frail aged and the chronically sick aged. The services and the infrastructure to support each group are markedly different. It will be necessary to examine, for each group in the community, how they live now, to find out what they feel is adequate, what new facilities are needed and what facilities need upgrading. The Government has formulated certain objectives but it does not want to fall into the same mistakes that have been made in the past by some housing authorities.
My time in this debate has just about expired but I want to say, as one who will be administering this scheme jointly with the Minister for Urban and Regional Development through our project boards and project managers, that we will be working in very close co-operation with the people, seeking to learn from them what they would like to see the Glebe become. There is no question that there will be a substantial rehabilitation program for a number of buildings. There will probably be some new buildings to enable us to accommodate people who are affected by the renovation program. We will be closing off streets. In some instances we will be creating lovely boulevards and playing areas which do not exist in those parts at the moment. We have contrived an innovation in terms of community experimentation which will provide for the whole of Australia very valuable lessons in the administration of communities that need rehabilitation.
Debate (on motion by Mr McLeay) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.13 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 16 July (vide page 243), on motion by Mr Young:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to;
May it please Your Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of Australia, in Parliament assembled desire to express our loyalty to thanks for the Speech which. His Excellency the our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to express our Right Honourable Sir Paul Hasluck, G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., K.St.J., as Governor-General, was pleased to address to Parliament.
- Mr Speaker-
– Your maiden speech?
– Not quite. I did that this time last year. I will be delighted when I hear yours. Mr Speaker, in speaking in the Address-in-Reply debate I would like firstly to extend to you my congratulations on being re-elected to the office of Speaker. Obviously the shock was far too great for you, because you immediately had to go away to recover. Of course, we are delighted to see you back on deck and we look forward to a good year under your control. I also offer my congratulations to those honourable members on the Government side who moved and seconded the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply, the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) and the honourable member for Henty (Mrs Child). Also, and particularly, I congratulate the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) on this side of the House. All three presented their maiden speeches and I congratulate them on their efforts. I am sure we will hear a lot more from them all.
The Governor-General’s Speech was made by the now former Governor-General, Sir Paul Hasluck. Unfortunately it marked the end of his reign as Governor-General. I believe that all of us in the Parliament respect the manner in which he carried out his duties and I am sure that we wish him well in his retirement from that position. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech, when one looks at it, is a very slim and almost insignificant paper. It has many fewer pages than the last one presented in 1973, which was full of many promises very few of which we saw carried out. This time we have fewer pages and fewer promises and perhaps we will see one or two of them fulfilled. Let us hope they come to fruition. It is pleasing that on this occasion we did not see the word ‘mandate’ that was bandied around so much last year. At last the Government has realised that it has not got the mandate it thought it had. On every occasion last year when there was some obvious flaw in the Govenment’s management - or should I say mismanagement? - and it was pointed out by the Opposition, all the Government could do was sqawk that it was the fault of the Opposition when it was in government in previous years. But after 16 months that has worn a little thin, so the Government has come up with a new one. It says now that it is our fault because of the hold-up occasioned by the double dissolution. I always thought that it was the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who called the double dissolution and not the Opposition. However, that is the excuse of honourable members on the Government side, and they are sticking to it.
The first part of the Governor-General’s Speech to which I draw attention is where he referred to protection for the weaker sections of the community. This is a very real and important problem facing us all, but let us look at the Government’s attitude to protection for the weak in the community. What is happening? Let us consider the social security area and the nursing home benefit. It took the Government over 16 months to realise that something needed to be done and when the Government finally decided to do something it was still far short of the required mark. When the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) announced in the House last week that new increased rates were to come into effect on 1 August, the Government was subsidising nursing homes to the extent of $67.90 per bed per week. However, for the new benefit to come in on 1 August the Government for some reason or other has picked the odd amount of $29 per week as an increase. The benefits are always given on a daily basis. Obviously the Government could not work that out so it gave a lump sum per week and instead of $28 or $35 a week which would have brought the benefit into line with other daily calculations, we find the amount of $29 a week. This lifts the total benefit to S96.90 per bed per week. Many may say that that is very good, that it is a large amount of money for the Government to pay by way of subsidy to nursing homes. But in most of these nursing homes the pensioners - unlike the position the Minister would have us believe to be. true, that is that they are left with $4 a week of their pension to spend - are having to meet a shortfall of $13.60 a week to maintain the charging rates set out and standardised by the Department of Social Security, not by the nursing homes. Then we have the Minister saying that it is the taxpayer who has to pay.
Let us look at the position of Government nursing homes, the ones that are covered by Federal Government grants, and compare it with the position of homes that are subsidised by the State governments. If that is not a subsidy by the taxpayer, what is? There is such an extreme shortage in the availability of Government homes that they are not able to house adequately all the people that need attention. Therefore there is a real need to provide and assist these private nursing homes. I believe it is up to the Government to lift this subsidy by at least another $5 or $6 per week to bring it to a realistic level. In fact the subsidy should be sufficient to make sure that a person who is on the pension should not have to pay any money at all to get into these homes and should not be left wondering where to go for care. The private hospitals and registered nursing homes - there are 2 types - are forced into the situation where the only people they can admit are those who can afford to pay. They are forced into that situation by a socialist government which claims to be dedicated to working for the people in need. But what does the government do? It forces the homes that are providing a place for people in need to cater only for those who are able to pay. What a ridiculous situation this is.
Some of the private hospitals, notably the ones that are run by charitable organisations, try to cover the gap and consequently we have a situation where people who cannot afford to pay are still able to enter. But the private nursing home, the one operated by the individual on the basis of charges laid down by the Department of Social Security - and you can bet your life that they are not over-profitable charges - cannot afford to subsidise these people and can take only people who can afford to pay. The Minister is totally wrong in his assessment of this situation and he should do something about it. It is a slight on the people who operate the homes to say that they are taking advantage of the situation in order to make money. The regulations laid down by the various State health departments and the hospitals and charities commissions stipulate that these homes have to be operated by qualified nursing people and under very severe regulations. There is no way that they can take advantage of people. They provide a service that is badly needed.
The next area I want to refer to is that of homes for the aged. Here the Minister is not aware of the situation at all. Like the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson), he has not realised that building costs have gone up. He is still trying to have these hostels for the aged built for $9,000 or $ 1 1 ,000 a unit when in every State the cost of building these units is roughly $13,000 or higher. We have a situation where the Minister for Social Security and this Government are prepared to offer a $2 for $1 grant up to $9,000. In the House the other day, after the Minister had appointed a commission to go right around Australia and make inquiries in every State about the needs in this area, and this was achieved, we had the reply of that commission given. It was that the ceiling needed to be lifted, the $9,000 subsidy limit and the ceiling cost per unit of $11,000 raised to a higher level to bring them into line with current costs. But what do we find? The Minister comes into the House and, probably off the cuff, says: ‘We are going to make it a $4 for $1 grant’. A $4 for $1 grant does not mean a thing unless the subsidy ceiling of $9,000 is lifted. Really all he is saying is that instead of a $2 for $1 grant, which I think represents something like $6,000 out of $9,000, the Government will give something like $7,200 out of $9,000. That is mighty; it is tremendous, provided one can build the places, but when the cost of building is limited, it does not matter whether one has all of the $9,000, one still cannot build the houses. The situation across Australia is that the building of none of these hostels can proceed. In Bendigo alone, 3 organisations are ready to go ahead - their plans are drawn up - with the building of homes for over 200 people. Those organisations cannot proceed with their building until the Minister is prepared to say that the ceiling price is lifted. That again is a a situation in which only those people, who can afford to pay are being catered for, because the differential gap makes these homes available only to those people who can afford to pay for them.
– Totally a policy of deceit.
– That is totally a policy of deceit, as my colleague has said. If the limits as well as the subsidy for accommodation were to be increased we could go ahead and provide urgently needed accommodation which in turn would take the strain off the program for building government homes and off other housing programs and would generally ease the whole problem facing aged people. This is a growing problem. I have some figures relating to the growth of the aged population from 1961 to 1971 in Australia. In 1961 there were 510,000 aged persons. By 1971 that had grown to 1,050,000 aged persons, an increase of roughly 100 per cent. During the same period the population of Australia increased by a mere 20 per cent. So one can see that this is a growing problem which must be attacked and attacked properly.
The Minister for Social Security has stated that he must wait for his Party to make a decision on whether he will be able to lift these ceiling limits. I believe that it is the prerogative of the Minister to do it, but he claims that he must wait on a decision. My colleague, the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp), suggested recently that the Minister should back-date payments for nursing home benefits. 1 suggest to the Minister that if his Government is vitally concerned to do something about this problem he should introduce the measures now to overcome the problems in respect of nursing home benefits and homes for aged persons. The Opposition would support those measures.
The Treasurer (Mr Crean) stated regularly last year that he did not believe that a Budget should necessarily be presented only once annually; he was going to make sure that various components of the Budget would be introduced when the need existed for that action to be taken. The need is here. This matter is supposed to be one of those social welfare needs about which honourable members opposite skite that they wish to take some action. But what do they do? Nothing. The excuse that they use is that they are waiting for the Budget. Perhaps they are. Perhaps they have found that they have overspent. Honourable members on the Government side talk about the protection provided to the weaker section of the community by this Government. What a great statement that is when the Government immediately proposes that in the next Budget it will cut the tax rebate for pensioners from $156 to $130. Is that an example of giving protection to the weaker section of the community? Is that an example of providing assistance to the aged? Not at all. That proposal is a complete and utter embarrassment to this Government. When the appropriate time arrives, our aged people will not forget that action. These taxation rebates should be increased, not reduced.
Last week, the announcement was made that war widows were to be deprived of their travelling allowance. I am sure that the Treasurer will find the coffers of his Treasury filled with the savings from that miserable decision. That is the most petty and miserable action since this Government took milk from the children of this nation last year. If honourable members look at page 11 of the printed copy of the Speech delivered by the former Governor-General, they will see in small type mention of defence. The GovernorGeneral said:
Under the direction of the Minister for Defence, my Government is creating the most effective, mobile and professional defence force in Australia’s peacelime history.
What a joke. Honestly, that would be the greatest joke. It is almost as funny as the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) is. The defence force is certainly mobile. There are no numbers to hold up its mobility. The defence force can be moved anywhere at any time by the use of a couple of caravans. Is it effective? It is totally ineffective. As for being professional, if one studies the figures coming from the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) one will find that increasingly the professionals, the real people who are required to operate and control our armed forces, are retiring.
I draw the attention of honourable members to a statement which appeared in the Melbourne ‘Sun-News Pictorial’ on 2 July this year. The article stated:
The strength of the defence forces fell further behind targets in May.
That was published prior to the presentation of the Governor-General’s Speech. The article went on:
Australia’s defence strength has fallen by more than 1,500 servicemen in the first 5 months of this year.
Mostly that comprises officers who have resigned. On 7 June 1974, in his opening address to the Premiers Conference, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) made a statement with respect to the defence situation, in which he said:
Retrenchments will, however, become necessary in certain areas - for one thing to keep the right sort of balance in employment. Where dismissals become necessary the Government will ensure that steps are taken to help the individual concerned to move into other employment . . .
I look at that statement and say: ‘Right, in
Bendigo we have the Bendigo Ordnance Factory’. 1 point out to the House that last year the Minister for Defence - he was also Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Supply, Minister for the Army, Minister for the Navy and Minister for Air; and he was so successful that he lost all but one of those portfolios - promised the world to a delegation that I brought here to see him. He said that there would be no more retrenchments in the Bendigo Ordnance Factory. He said this at the same time as he promised that no further retrenchments would occur in other ordnance factories and Government munitions factories throughout the country. But of course, he is no longer on the plate.
We have a new Minister in charge of this area- which is now covered by the portfolio of Manufacturing Industry. So, we must look to the new Minister to uphold that promise. I sincerely hope that he does carry out the promise that these people will not be retrenched. If not, I would like to know where the tradesmen at the Bendigo Ordnance Factory are to find alternative jobs in Bendigo without having to uproot their families and shift to the metropolitan area. There is no way in the world that they can do that. If that happens, it will be a total disaster. The Bendigo Ordnance Factory is the biggest single employer of people in Bendigo. We cannot afford to have such a situation develop. The Government should carry out the promise to find extra work and to provide additional contracts which it undertook to do last year, but did nothing about. It is time that the Government did something about it.
I turn to the reductions in tariff and the lifting of import quotas. This is a great example of providing a service to the nation. This action was designed to cut down the inflationary spiral. We all know the great effect that the action had. The inflationary spiral has continued to rise. Let me illustrate the real effect that this action has had on the Australian textile industry which employs 80 per cent women the majority of whom are married. A number of these textile firms are in country areas. What will happen to the people working in the textile industry if they lose their jobs? Are they to be retrained? If so, where will they go? Where will they find another job? Is the Government suddenly setting itself up as a body which will move whole families from country areas to metropolitan areas? The Government has promised to consider reintroducing quotas and increasing tariffs on textile imports. All right, let us see some action.
If I remember correctly, the then Minister for Overseas Trade and Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns), who is now Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Overseas Trade, came into the House and made the statement very dramatically that his Government had taken this great step of introducing a 23 per cent tariff cut across the board. This action was hailed as one of great enterprise, a marvellous action which took only a few hours to develop. Why does it take so long for the Government to work in reverse? Why cannot the Minister walk in here tonight or on the first sitting day next week and tell us that he is now going to reimpose those quotas? Why does he not increase the tariff to the former level? The Minister can do this as expeditiously as he lifted the quotas and reduced the tariff. The people in the country are waiting for the Minister to act because he mentioned that he was going to do something about it. He said that nearly 2 weeks ago. So far as we have heard or seen nothing further from the Minister. Let us look at the development of the Albury-Wodonga region by the Cities Commission. This is a typical example of Government bungling. Obviously, it looks like being another bad Government decision but we have come to expect this. The Minister who was-
– Do we do nothing good?
– Not very much. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) who was going to redevelop the Dandenong Ranges and was going to buy back all the houses in that area for that purpose rushed in and made a quick decision. Let me quote to the honourable member for Robertson, who is sitting in his wrong seat on the Government side, the words of the Minister who criticised that proposal-
– He has been looking at his holiday slides.
– Yes. The honourable member asked whether the Government did anything good. Who criticised the proposals of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development? It was the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) who said that the Federal Government had taken a punt on the choice of the site. He went on to say that the Government may have been wrong in choosing Albury-Wodonga, that the statement of the Minister for Urban and
Regional Development was a rash one and it was obviously a rushed decision. This is the type of Government that is in office. Government Ministers cannot even agree with each other. One Minister makes a statement and the Prime Minister contradicts it. Somebody else makes a statement and the next week has a different portfolio. This is the Government that is trying to convince us that it is destined to run this country. It is an utter and abject failure.
– I call the honourable member for Isaacs. I remind honourable gentlemen that this is a maiden speech and ask them to extend the usual courtesy.
– In opening my maiden speech, Mr Speaker, I ask you to accept my congratulations on your reappointment as Speaker and to pass on to the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) my congratulations on his re-election as Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees. I should like to thank the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) for enabling me to be on the floor of this chamber at this time. If it had not been for their obstruction of vital Government legislation during the last Parliament, I would have had to wait until the end of 1975 before joining the distinguished Government benches. In December 1972 the people of Australia endorsed the policies of the Australian Labor Party and, having seen that for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century a political party in Australia in government acted on its promises and cared about people not profit, on 18 May 1974 they re-endorsed the Government’s policies and the people who stood for them.
The electorate of Isaacs which I now represent is a heterogeneous dormitary suburb consisting in some areas of high level executives and in others of skilled and semi-skilled trades people. As the electorate has 22 kilometres of beach park on the shores of Port Phillip Bay, we are deeply concerned about the polluted creeks and rivers that flow into the Bay. A survey conducted by a research team at Monash University under Dr R. Birrell in 1972 showed that the E. Coli counts close to recreational beaches were high. Readings of 110,000 E. Coli per 100 millilitres of water were obtained off the mouth of the Patterson River and of 18,000 E. coli per 100 millilitres of water off Mordialloc Creek. The generally accepted international safety level is 200 E. coli per 100 millilitres. In other words, two of the water courses whose lower reaches are in Isaacs cause up to 550 times the generally accepted level of pollution as measured by E. Coli counts - and this is near some of our popular recreational beaches.
There is no doubt whatsoever what the main source of this pollution is. At the time of the survey there were 370,000 people living in unsewered properties in the Melbourne Statistical Division, and a large proportion of these are in the eastern and south-eastern suburbs drained by the 2 creeks I have just mentioned. The allocation of $13m of Federal finance to sewerage works in Victoria in the 1973-74 financial year was very welcome since not only was almost $2m earmarked for works in or very close to Isaacs but also much of the money for other areas will be of direct benefit in reducing the pollution of our watercourses and bays. I was pleased to hear the GovernorGeneral mention in his Speech last week a continued commitment to the national sewerage program. It is vital, if we are not to lose some of our accessible natural assets in Port Phillip Bay and its beaches, that sewerage and environmental conservation programs continue to receive substantial financial assistance from the Australian Government.
There are so many things wrong in our society as a result of previous administrations, which we have not been able to put right in 18 months, that it was not easy to single out one or two areas for mention at this time. The Opposition parties, when in government, seemed to believe that everything was fixed in about 1850 or before and nothing further needed to be done. Societies are not static structures but ever-changing inter-relationships between people and between people and their environment. One of the changes to be encouraged is in the relative roles of women and men in society. Historically, men have been the breadwinners and women have stayed at home as unpaid servants for the menfolk. This is changing. At present about one-third of the work force are women and the female component of the work force is growing at about twice the male rate. What is more, the composition of the female component of the work force is changing. In 1954, 30 to 35 per cent of female workers were married. By October 1973, the proportion was 62 per cent. These figures reflect not only the improvements in the employment situation which have taken place in the past 18 months but also a growing acceptance of the equality of men and women in society.
Immediately on taking office in 1972, the Labor Government reopened the equal pay case and helped to secure acceptance by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission of equal pay for work of equal value. The Government implemented this policy in relation to its own employees without waiting for the phasing-in period suggested by the Commission. The Opposition and employer organisations opposed the equal pay submissions all along and it was only the timely intervention of the new Labor Government that succeeded in getting the case reopened. One of the arguments put forward by the employer opponents of equal pay in the 1969 equal pay case was, by implication, that equal pay should not be granted because it would jeopardise the status of the male in the family unit. If the basis of the status of a man is that he can earn a higher income than his wife when this situation is maintained by the artificial and unjust construction of lower rates of pay for females it does not say much for the man as a person. Mind you, looking at the sort of men who represent employer interests on the other side of this House, it would be surprising if even this earned them any respect.
Women and men should be free to seek employment with equal opportunities in all occupations, or to stay at home if they wish. In many cases, both husband and wife will wish to go out to work through either necessity or choice. Difficulties often arise in such cases over the care of children. It is very undesirable that pre-school children be left in crowded, unstimulating surroundings, as often happens when they are left with neighbours or at cheap child minding centres. Worse still are cases where children of 2 and 3 years of age are left strapped in cots all day in bare rooms while parents are out at work. When such children get to school they come home to an empty house or have to roam the streets until parents return.
A comprehensive network of pre-school centres and after-school and holiday play centres is long overdue. Naturally these centres should be provided first in areas where, of financial necessity, both parents go out to work. But the aim of the Australian Labor Government is to provide such centres for all children, free of charge. Adequate controls will have to be provided to maintain the standards so that children attending them will benefit, while at the same time allowing enough flexibility to cater for local needs. An important factor to note here is that these preschool centres should be seen as places where children are educated. The socialisation process of learning to mix in a peer group, the discovery of the physical properties of common materials and objects and the learning of physical manipulative skills not only can be encouraged at the pre-school age but must be encouraged if the child is to stand a chance of developing to its full potential as a person later in life. The Governor-General put this in its right perspective when he referred to the provision as a major initiative in education.
The situation of women in the employment field and the provision of child care facilities are only one part of the social question of the relative roles of the 2 sexes in the society. Boys learning needlework and girls learning metalwork at school should be just as acceptable as vice versa. To reach this position obviously will involve changes in the attitude of school teachers and social pressures. However, if we are to give any meaning to talk of equality of opportunity and status in society for men and women, the change must come in the schools and even before. It is not sufficient to ensure that job advertisements must not specify that the applicant must be of one particular sex, necessary though such legislation is, if there is not the same opportunity to get the same standard of education in whatever field may be desired.
I look forward to the time when we have legislation prohibiting all forms of sexual discrimination as well as racial discrimination. Doubtless many men will feel uncomfortable at the thought of such an era, they are so imbued with the idea of their own superiority. Certainly it is probably very nice to come home to a meal all ready to eat, to children who are all ready for bed and who know that they must not bother dad because he has had a hard day at the office, and to an evening in front of the television. Easy though that is they should stop to think about what has gone into creating this feudal lordship atmosphere in the twentieth Century. It is no wonder that women in their 40s have the highest rate of consumption of drugs in the society. This is no reflection on the women; it is a reflection on the society which has kept them captive in a 13-square prison to minister to the every need of their male masters.
I have spent a short time discussing the discrimination against one very large section of the Australian society. I want now to turn to another form of discrimination which has existed for many years in Australia. I am referring here to the racist attitudes of the white majority in relation to the Aboriginal people. For more than 200 years the white rulers in Australia have treated Aborigines as less than human. Only in the last 18 months has an Australian government begun to recognise the rights of these people. The Australian people gave the Australian Government power to overrule the State governments in matters of Aboriginal affairs and to legislate on behalf of the Aborigines. The previous governments did not act in any meaningful way on that legislation. This is hardly surprising when we consider the stance taken by members of the previous Government in 1971. Honourable members may remember that during that year a team of white rugby players from South Africa visited Australia as ambassadors of apartheid. The people of Australia voiced their opposition to the tour, but so keen was the then Prime Minister to show his support for racism that he threatened to use the Royal Australian Air Force to transport the team if necessary to ensure that the tour continued.
In the sovereign State of Queensland, that great believer in equality and democracy, Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, considered the tour of such national importance that he declared a state of emergency for the duration of the tour in his State. Is it any wonder then, with such records for the governments of the 2 areas of Australia with the two largest Aboriginal populations, that these people are not getting justice? The Australian Government that took office in December 1972 has made some moves in the right direction in relation to the Aboriginal people. The Commission of Inquiry set up in February 1973 headed by Mr Justice Woodward brought down its report in April this year. It was tabled in this House only this week. The recommendations contained in the report go a long way to meeting the demands of the Aboriginal people within the limits of the terms of the Commission, which were essentially on the question of Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory. The report essentially recognises the rights of Aboriginal people to have control over land on which they live through a lands commission of Aboriginal people. The report does not deal with land rights in the States nor with other areas of recognition of the rights of Aborigines. But it is a step in the right direction and marks an advance over the attitude of previous Australian governments.
Another area in which we plan io take fairly immediate steps is in the field of the Queensland and Torres Straits Islands Acts. These pieces of legislation would be applauded by the Hitlers, Vorsters and Amins of this world. They are a disgrace to any democratic government. The crux of this legislation is the concept of the ‘assisted Aborigine’ in the legislation in force until December 1971. The term was removed from the legislation in the 1971 Acts but the essential effect and implications were virtually unaltered. For example, Section 1 3 of Part II in part states: ‘. . . before entering any dwelling house that is in the occupation of any person, the person seeking entry for the purpose of an inspection, investigation or inquiry shall obtain the consent of the occupier thereof or obtain from a justice a warrant that authorises such entry.
Section 36 of Part IV states:
Ensuing sections relating to management by a district officer of an Aborigine’s property gives the officer absolute control over that property. This sort of legislation makes a second-class person out of an Aborigine. How degrading to have to go to some local white civil servant for a loan knowing that the official can then have complete control over your life from then on or to have your home invaded by a white official at will or to have to ask the white official for permission to visit relatives because an alien white culture happens to have drawn an imaginary line between you and your relatives for their administrative purposes. Other powers of this Act include provision for the Director to refuse an Aborigine permission to live on a reserve. Such Acts are a disgrace to the community and I look forward to the passing of legislation by the Australian Government to supersede such racist laws.
– I call the honourable member for Wide Bay. I remind the House that thtis is a maiden speech and I ask honourable members to extend the usual courtesies.
– In making this maiden speech during the AddressinReply debate my thoughts are drawn to those who, through the history of this great institution, have stood where I now stand. My good friend Harry Bandidt, who graced this chamber, and many others conceivably would have felt, to some extent, what I now feel: A blend of pride and awe, of satisfaction and apprehension, and a fervent hope to prove worthy and a fear that one might not do so. In this spirit I wish to place on record my complete acceptance of the responsibility which I have assumed. I express my appreciation to the electors of Wide Bay for the confidence which they have placed in me. Mr Speaker, I offer you my congratulations on your appointment and I congratulate other honourable members who are in this House for the first time. In the course of my address I shall make observations, the acceptability of which will depend to a considerable extent on the credibility of their author. For this reason alone I shall make a brief excursion into my personal history. In this respect I say that I have never ceased to be grateful that I came into this world in time to experience as a mere child the final years of the infamous depression of the Thirties. My recollection of the human tragedy of those times has, I like to think, endowed me with an empathy for my fellows and an understanding and tolerance that perhaps otherwise would have been denied me.
Having started work at the age of 13 and having made such personal advancement as is evidenced by my presence here, I feel that I can with all charity say to those worthy shearers in the House and to others with similarly colourful backgrounds that experience of hardship and deprivation from which might arise a compassion and concern for the underdog is not the monopoly of any particular party. Further, I am of the opinion that more than a few of our social and economic problems can be traced to a society in which is to be found an increasingly influential generation which had the good fortune to be born into a world of comparative plenty. Over 25 years the spectres of fear, hunger and poverty have remained strangers to them, so much so that it is understandable that they have adopted an attitude that if you cannot get it for nothing, at least you can get it wholesale. In an aside I point to the abuse of the sickie as a testimony to our society’s culpability. From such a cynical philosophy has emerged a divided society with a continuing confrontation between the great metropolitan population and the interests of the provincial and rural areas. The city dweller within his concrete cocoon, insulated from rural realities, indifferent to the problems of the primary producer in coping with savagely escalating costs on trailing incomes, produces in the latter a resentment of the superior standard of living which is to be seen elsewhere. On the other hand, all too many city people instinctively regard primary producers as ‘ruddy squatters’ or ‘land barons’.
Believe me, Mr Speaker, even though it must be allowed that there are primary producers who, from time to time, temporarily prosper as fortune smiles upon them, there are countless farmers on modest properties who could well be described as the peasantry of the seventies. These farmers and their families have applied themselves diligently to their task, but they find the crush of economic adversity wearing them down. This assessment does not take cognisance of the current experience of graziers and farmers who face bankruptcy because of the collapse of the beef market. Anticipating a cry of ‘Why stay on the land if it does not pay?’, let me touch on the tragedy of the exodus from the country to the cities. I ask honourable members to consider the matter. There are diminishing rural populations arising from the amalgamation of properties to maintain viability. There are towns where young people are conspicuous by their absence. There are empty shops where owners have simply closed the doors and walked away. In many cases these are pleasant townships, often serviced with water and sewerage. They are places where one can physically and metaphorically breathe pure air, yet they are doomed to die because of the imbalance of social and economic entitlements, doomed in a country whose urgent need is to decentralise and populate its empty spaces, doomed in a country which ignores the fact that the average age of its farmers is 57, doomed in a country which, seemingly, is insensitive to the fact that there is only 3 weeks reserves of food on earth.
This nation can no longer luxuriate in indifference to the need properly to maintain and develop its primary industries. All the green papers in the world will be of little con- sequence if there is not a determination on the part of governments to adopt a policy that recognises the interdependence of all sections of Australian society. There must be recognition of the right of all Australians to a fair share of our national wealth. I ask honourable members to take note that I say ‘a fair share’ and not ‘an equal share’ as is often implicit in statements made by Labor Government spokesmen. There is a vast difference between the two. Of course, ‘fair share’ relates to a just entitlement for work or services performed, with due allowance for risk and the initiative displayed. This is the very basis of our free enterprise philosophy. On the other hand, ‘equal share’ becomes mixed up with all sorts of philosophies - many of a socialistic nature - which ignore the need of man for an incentive to give of his best. Equal shares can only work with equal effort. This of course is an impossible proposition. Our society must assume responsibility for the genuinely distressed, the halt and the maimed. But there is an increasing resentment on the part of those shouldering their social responsibilities of the extravagant behaviour of a government seemingly dedicated to penalising the industrious for the benefit of the indolent.
No greater tragedy could befall this country than to rob its people of personal ambition, initiative and the resultant rewards of material gain and personal satisfaction. We must resist the processes that tend to regiment our life styles. We must not become a dull, flat, grey society leaving all responsibility to a Big Brother centralist government. Already an air of disillusionment assails those who, but a few short years ago, were confident in their own sense of security. The realisation that soaring interest rates threatened to deny home buyers the right to own their homes has induced a trauma that makes them highly vulnerable to the injury that must inevitably flow from the Government’s current economic and social policies. The people of the electorate of Wide Bay have always made an outstanding contribution to the wealth and advancement of the nation. There is scarcely a facet of human activity and industry that cannot be found within its boundaries. From the magnificent sugar fields of the coastal plains, through the cattle and farming properties of the South Burnett to the famous peanut country in the west, one can see ample evidence of the initiative and industry of its people.
It is a gross injustice that their lifetimes of dedication and effort should now be negated by the incredible discrimination directed towards them by the Labor Government. The rapid escalation in costs over and above those in the major cities by way of increased freight rates, telephone and postal charges and exorbitant petrol price differentials, acts as an effective deterrent to people remaining in the country. Add to this the withdrawal of taxation concessions and the removal of consumer subsidies and we have a situation in which the conviction that the Labor Government has written off the greater part of the country must strengthen. The people of Wide Bay look to the Government to take steps to afford them relief from such savage impositions.
To be fair, I must acknowledge the Government’s pre-election undertaking to make available $4.4m for the offsetting of the escalated cost of phase 1 of the Monduran-Kolan irrigation scheme in the Bundaberg district. We look to the Government to consider favourably financial assistance for the implementation of phase 2 of that scheme, when released from economic appraisal, to prevent catastrophic losses from the recurrence of prolonged drought periods. The progress of the city of Bundaberg itself is impeded by the inadequacy of its current water supply, and further significant development of its industrial and urban sections is totally dependent on the implementation of the Monduran-Kolan scheme.
The Maryborough district offers a splendid opportunity for positive Government action for the establishment of a growth centre. This district is currently suffering the impact of the closure of the Maryborough shipyards which displaced in excess of 300 workers. Urgent representations to the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) have not as yet produced any indication of the Government’s intentions to implement its pre-election promise for the construction of a shipyard and engineering complex at Maryborough. The unemployment outlook is further worsened by the Australian Conservation Foundation which has indicated through its Director, Dr Moseley, a determination to have Fraser Island declared a national park. This would have the effect of rendering the timber industry at Maryborough nonviable, and a further 700 to 800 jobs of an otherwise permanent nature would be in jeopardy. Let me offer a few interesting facts on timber and the environment. Because of their remoteness from this area honourable members may be unaware of the impact of a timber milling industry in an otherwise natural environment. Fraser Island has been milled for timber for a period in excess of 100 years. It has been milled for the crop, not the capital - so much so that today one can fly over the island and find little evidence to establish that white man is even there. I offer these interesting facts so that honourable members may be better situated to form a judgment.
Timber, of course, can be perpetuated and is thus infinite, compared with its principal competitors, of steel and aluminium, whose resources are finite. As an example, by the year’s end, the local industry’s use of logs coming from the State’s plantations will be very close to 100 per cent of the wood. The trees will be completely used from 6 inches from ground level to 3 inches top diameter, and that portion of the tree above 3 inches, being bio-degradable, will return to humus in the soil. In log form, from 3 inches top diameter to 6 inches diameter will be used for chips for particle board. The bark will be removed from the stem and find its way to market as a soil conditioner and landscaping medium. The sawdust will be used for fuel to replace imported furnace oil, offcuts will be used as feed stock for particle board, while the sawn timber will find its market in a variety of products.
Compare therefore the damage to the environment by the use of timber as a building material with the use of, -say steel or aluminium. Both of the latter require to be quarried from a finite resource. The disturbance to the environment by any quarrying activity is self-evident. Both have to use prodigious qualities of fossil fuel, coal and the like - another quarrying operation from a finite resource - to convert the ironstone or bauxite into steel or alumina. Recent American investigation into disturbance of the environment came up with these figures: concrete products, 24 to 48 per cent; steel, 9 per cent; aluminium, 28 per cent; timber, 2 per cent. Anybody said to be concerned with the environment should be 100 per cent behind the timber industry in its campaign to become self-sufficient in raw material.
The conservationists, in addition, have enlisted the aid of the State executive of the Transport Workers Union to threaten black bans on the establishment of a dry mill at Maryborough for the processing of mineral sands from Fraser Island. All of these actions by the conservationists have been taken with a disregard for the immediate welfare of
Maryborough and over the strongest protests of its people. Indeed, at a protest meeting at Maryborough the Chairman of the Maryborough Branch of the Transport Workers Union was moved to acquaint the meeting of the fact that the Transport Workers Union State Executive decision to apply a black ban had been made without reference to the Maryborough Branch and further that the Maryborough Branch was absolutely opposed to the introduction of such a ban. He is to be congratulated for his candour and strength of conviction.
This evidence of excess zeal on the part of the academic orientated conservationists demonstrates again a lack of real appreciation of the basics of survival. The need to get on with the job of producing man’s requirements is a continuing one. That he should exercise thought and responsibility towards the environment in the process goes without saying, but in the final analysis man must eat and be sheltered. Too many persons, chiefly of academic background and blinded by their own erudition, display small sympathy for those engaged in the more modest pursuit of making homes, establishing careers and maintaining a life style based on secure employment and stability within their community. The business people of Wide Bay recognise the value of a viable primary industry and see their futures depending on such a condition. In the meantime they look to the Government to bring about stability in the economy. They join in the protest against withdrawal of fertiliser subsidies, knowing full well the continuing critical requirements of the Wallum country for such fertilisers. To have this commodity priced out of reach of primary producers must have a serious effect on the viability of many properties. Business men know full well the devastating effect on the economy of a rural decline.
I say in conclusion that since the beginning of time the men of the country have dealt in realities. They recognise the need from time to time for governments of all colours to implement measures which may not immediately be popular, and they will accept such measures when it can be demonstrated that they have been taken with such an attitude as to convince them that the measures are taken for the benefit of the country and not as discriminatory acts. Certain things that are done seemingly with spleen cannot be accepted. We in the country and all those people in non-rural activities in provincial cities look forward to going together with all Australians into a future for all Australians.
– Before 1 call on the honourable member for Fraser I remind honourable gentlemen that this will be his maiden speech. I ask them to extend to him the usual courtesy.
- Mr Speaker, might I extend my congratulations to you and your Deputy Speaker on your re-election. You can be assured of my full co-operation and support in carrying out your duties. As the first member for the new seat of Fraser, I must say that I consider it a great privilege to represent a seat which bears the name of such a highly esteemed past member of this House as the late Jim Fraser. In the short time in which 1 have represented Fraser 1 have come to realise the full extent of the extremely heavy work-load with which the late Jim Fraser had to contend in looking after the whole of the Australian Capital Territory in the absence of other traditional forms of elected representation by local government bodies and State governments. Since Jim Fraser’s time the population of the ACT has increased by almost 50 per cent and will have doubled in the space of another 2 years.
This leads me to the subject on which I would like to offer some comments this evening, that is, the question of self-government for the most under-represented community in Australia, the citizens of the ACT. There are 2 matters in the speech of His Excellency the Governor-General which bear on this question. One of course is the welcome announcement by the Government that it is intended to give the ACT a fully elected assembly in the life of the present Parliament. The other is an qually welcome statement of intention that the ACT is to be used as a focus for initiatives in urban affairs and public participation in community affairs. I believe that the quality of the form of self-government which is eventually decided upon or which may develop will depend to a very large extent upon the degree of public participation in community affairs and the extent to which decision making is delegated to locally elected representatives.
Let me make it clear at the outset that the advocates of self-government for the Australian Capital Territory do not seek a Statelike sovereign government. No responsible person who wants to see Australia develop to its full potential would wish to see any extension of this hangover from our colonial past, which so often provides an excuse for obstruction and irresponsible government. The tactics of the New South Wales Government have already created problems by impeding the development of the Australian Capital Territory and the surrounding region. If the borders that were drawn over 50 years ago are allowed to remain as inflexible barriers to joint action, the future growth of Canberra and the surrounding region could be seriously impeded.
Advocates of self-government for the A.C.T. generally recognise that any such government must operate under powers delegated to it by the Australian Government and that the Australian Government should have a power of veto which would be exercised only in exceptional circumstances, in much the same way as the State Government exercises a power of veto over local government councils in New South Wales. Similarly, most advocates of selfgovernment acknowledge the overriding role of the A.C.T. as the national capital and seat of the Australian Government and that the planning of these aspects of Canberra should rightly be the responsibility of the National Capital Development Commission and should not come within the ambit of a self-governing body. At the same time we see self-government as being something substantially more than the conventional municipal-like councils controlling such mundane functions as parks and gardens, garbage and dogs.
To restrict an elected body to such functions would not be acceptable to the citizens of Canberra as it would ignore the absence from the A.C.T. of a State legislature controlling functions such as education, health and law and order. What we seek to control are all those elements of government that are concerned with the A.C.T. as a social community with an identity of interests as distinct from those elements concerned with the functioning of the A.C.T. as the seat of government and of Canberra as the national capital. To deny to an elected body control over such elements would he in direct contradiction to the Government’s stated intention of achieving a high degree of public participation in community affairs in the A.C.T. I regard it as being most important, too, that there should be a high degree of co-ordination and integration between the planning function and the administrative function. To this end I suggest that any elected self-governing body should have a voice on the National Capital Development Commission.
I believe also that it is anomalous for Ministers who are responsible for over all nation-wide policy in a particular field, such as health or education, to be called upon to make decisions about domestic arrangements in their field in Canberra. Such decision making should be delegated to an elected assembly or to a statutory authority which should he responsible to the assembly rather than to the Minister concerned. Already we have in the A.C.T. an interim schools authority and an interim health authority. I am suggesting that those bodies ultimately should be made responsible to the elected assembly rather ‘ than to the responsible Ministers. To claim that statutory authorities made up of local citizens in areas such as health and education should be responsible to the Minister is to say to our citizens that we do not trust their ability to elect representatives who can make responsible judgments about the local administration of health and education. It is also tantamount to saying that a Minister of the Australian Government who has overall responsibilities for broad policy can he more responsive to the needs of local citizens than the representatives elected by and subject to recall by those citizens. I just cannot accept those as being reasonable propositions.
The division of responsibility for the Australian Capital Territory among several Ministers becomes daily more costly in terms of delays, uncertainties and differences of opinion and is often subject to the personal whims and fancies of individual Ministers who are not responsible to the voters of the Australian Capital Territory. The possibility of rational democratic government tends to become buried in administrative anarchy by the pressure of work on individual Ministers. Long standing members of this House may recall the administrative crisis that was caused some years ago by the need to decide which department should be responsible for the removal of a dead pig from an island in the flooded Molonglo River. I understand that the pig became considerably inflated before the question was resolved by top level conferences between 3 departments - the Department of the Interior, which controlled stock; the Department of Works, which controlled Lake Burley Griffin; and the Department of Health which was responsible for the quality of the water in the lake. It was eventually decided that as the. unfortunate pig had been living in New South Wales when it fell into the river it should be the responsibility of the Queanbeyan City Council to remove it.
The question of self-government for Canberra has important implications far beyond the borders of the Australian Capital Territory. As Australia’s first large inland city, Canberra represents the first serious opportunity to extend Australia’s social and cultural development away from the focus of the large coastal cities. It presents the opportunity of developing new relationships between country and city areas. It has already demonstrated the economic and social benefits of decentralisation - not the concept of decentralisation that was practised by the previous Government of transplanting individual industries from a city to the country but rather the establishment of the whole infrastructure of the urban industrial society in a rural environment. That is, it plans to marry the desirable characteristics of urban society in the form of well planned living, working, recreational and cultural facilities to the advantages of the Australian rural environment, to the ultimate benefit of both elements of Australian society. Now, of course, the inland city concept has been extended by the Australian Government to the development of new growth centres in places such as AlburyWodonga and Bathurst-Orange.
Just as the Canberra community is beginning to develop a sense of local identity and a cultural and social awareness as a community, 1 believe that the other growth centres undoubtedly will develop their own awareness and aspirations for a greater say in the administration of their communities. I am confident that they will not wish to be continually dominated by State governments which are entrenched in distant State capitals and which have denied them reasonable growth prospects for so long. So it is quite apparent that new administrative relationships will need to be developed between the Australian Government and the new regional growth centres - relationships that will allow for a high degree of community participation and decentralised administration under the broad policy direction of a strong central government. Canberra provides us with the unique opportunity of developing this relationship free from the obstructions of parochial State governments. With a wise measure of community involvement and delegated authority, we could encourage the development of indigenous art forms and other avenues of creative cultural expression which reflect the particular nature of the inland cities - cities built on a human scale and in harmony with the surrounding rural environment. Whereas it was once fashionable to condemn Canberra because it was unlike the older cities, we are now recognising that Canberra has its appeal precisely because it is not like the older cities.
There are, of course, many critics of selfgovernment in the A.C.T. It is frequently claimed that because the A.C.T. has been spared the poor government of the older cities it does not really matter whether we have undemocratic government and that a benevolent dictatorship by public servants and Ministers who are not responsible to the local electorate is the best of all possible worlds! I suggest that the very fact that this attitude is abroad is a timely warning that people can become conditioned to domination by non-elected bureaucrats and technocrats to the extent that they are willing to forgo their democratic right to self-government and to evade the acceptance of responsibility for their own government through elected representatives. I am confident that no responsible person would wish to see the people of the A.C.T. become so apathetic and submissive to domination that they would neglect the opportunity to accept responsibility for their own good government. Others have expressed great concern about the cost of selfgovernment; but can we really measure the intangible benefits of self-government in terms of dollars? I consider that the Australian Capital Territory legislature should be a full time, well paid assembly, but if its members do their job well there is great scope for very worthwhile savings by subjecting Budget projections to a much closer scrutiny than takes place at present. The present Advisory Council has already demonstrated this ability on several occasions.
Perhaps the greatest myth perpetuated in relation to the cost of Canberra to the taxpayers of Australia is that they subsidise the citizens of the ACT. The costs of administering Canberra, apart from the national capital and seat of government component, are presented in 2 notional accounts, namely, the Municipal Account and the Territorial Account which is broadly equivalent to State-like costs. The Municipal Account is met by normal charges for municipal services and is approximately in balance. The Territorial Account is paid for by the Australian Government, and it is this aspect that gives rise to the myth. But I hasten to point out very clearly that if the Administration of the ACT received the same per capita grants from revenue from the Australian Government as the Governments of Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia receive, then this amount would more than compensate for the deficit which appears in the Territorial Account. The people of Canberra do pay their own way and they do pay taxes in the same way as any other citizen. In fact, I believe that the average tax payment by ACT citizens is some 30 per cent higher than the national average. Yet the ACT does not receive any equivalent to the various revenue and special grants which are made to the States and, of course, all revenue from land sales or the sale of government houses goes into Consolidated Revenue and not into the Municipal Account.
I hope that I have conveyed the broad philosophy of the kind of self government which I believe to be desirable for the ACT. It is a unique opportunity for the Government to put into practice its desire, expressed in the Governor-General’s address, for public participation in community affairs, and 1 am confident that the Government will not be conservative or over cautious in resolving this longstanding grievance. I staled earlier that we were the most under represented community in Australia. To support this statement I would like to point out that in the States the number of electors for each elected legislator, including local State and Australian government representatives ranges from one legislator to each 387 electors in Western Australia to one legislator to each 1,182 electors in New South Wales; whereas in the ACT, even allowing for the proposed new assembly we would have only one legislator for more than 5,000 electors. I am confident that a government which has already increased our representation in this House and which is still trying to give us Senate representation against unreasonable opposition will not hold back in introducing a really effective form of self government.
I must say that the decision of last week to give the ACT an enlarged assembly of 18 elected people with no legislative powers initially merely means that a powerless body of 8 elected members is being replaced by an equally powerless body of 18 elected members. I trust that the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Australian Capital Territory will soon be reconstituted so that it can come to grips with this question and resolve it quickly, so that the proposed new assembly can operate as a really effective legislative body. The elec tors of Canberra have already demonstrated that they are quite capable of making sound political judgments and I have no doubt that they will continue to do so if given the opportunity. We as a government should not forgo the opportunity of demonstrating in Canberra what can ‘be done in developing new relationships which combine the benefits of strong central government with effective decentralisation of administration and decision making by the delegation of authority to local community representatives.
Debate (on motion by Mr Ruddock) adjourned.
– I have received messages from the Senate acquainting the House of the appointment of senators to the following committees:
Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings - Senators Coleman and Webster.
Joint Committee of Public Accounts- Senators Grimes, Guilfoyle and McAuliffe.
Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works- Senators Jessop, Melzer and Poyser.
Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs
– I wish to inform the House of the following nominations of members to be members of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs:
Mr Clayton, Mr Collard, Mr Cross, Mr Dawkins and Mr Thorburn have been nominated by the Prime Minister, Mr Jarman, Mr Ruddock and Mr Wentworth have been nominated by the Leader of the Opposition and Mr Hunt has been nominated by the Leader of the Australian Country Party.
Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation
– I wish to inform the House of the following nominations of members to be members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation:
Dr Jenkins, Mr Kerin, Mr Lamb and Mr Sherry have been nominated by the Prime Minister, Mr Bourchier and Mr Wilson have been nominated by the Leader of the Opposition and Mr I. L. Robinson has been nominated by the Leader of the Australian Country Party.
Standing Committee on Road Safety
– I wish to inform the
House of the following nominations of members to be members of the Standing Committee on Road Safety:
Mr Bennett, Mr Cohen, Dr Klugman and Mr McKenzie have been nominated by the Prime Minister, Mr Erwin and Mr Ruddock have been nominated by the Leader of the Opposition and Mr Katter has been nominated by the Leader of the Australian Country Party.
Debate resumed (vide page 425).
– The purpose of the Glebe Lands (Appropriation) Bill 1974 is to appropriate S15.75m for the purchase of lands at Glebe in Sydney, New South Wales. This extra appropriation will mean that the total price paid for this land is $ 17.5m. The land is presently owned by the Glebe Administration Board of the Church of England. The opportunity to purchase the land came about in April 1973 when the Church of England suggested in its submission to the poverty inquiry that it would be willing to sell the property to a public authority. Public acquisition of the property and rehabilitation of a large number of dwellings present a viable method of providing housing in the inner city for low income earners and aged people. The Opposition supports the Bill but we have very serious reservations in relation to it. We would not go about acquiring the land in this way. We believe that the method adopted represents competition rather than co-operation with the State of New South Wales.
I would like to mention two or three things covered in the second reading speech of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren). Actually, I have really just quoted directly from the Minister’s speech. The Minister deals with the main objectives of the Bill, and we agree with most of those objectives. It is like motherhood; who could oppose it? However, I would like to refer in particular to the second objective as stated by the Minister. It is, to use the words of the Minister, ‘to retain the opportunity for low income earners and families and aged people to live close to the city as part of a wider community.’ I think the key word there is ‘retain’ because the position is that this Bill will do nothing about increasing the number of people who live on that property. Not one single extra family or living unit will move to this property as a result of this Bill being passed and this development proceeding. To that extent we believe that the Bill could be improved.
The Minister then refers in his second reading speech to things that we already know. We all feel sorry about the number of houses that have been removed to make way for offices and commercial premises, as well as for freeways. We all know about the houses that have been knocked over in order to make way for public institutions and we all understand that many low income earners have often been displaced and have had to move to outlying areas. These are all things that we understand. We believe that what the Minister and his Government are doing will not alleviate this situation, but that the problem can be solved, or at least alleviated, only by making better use of the land that is available, and this is our complaint about this Bill. We do not think that the Government is making the best use of the land that is available.
– You did nothing in 23 years.
– The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in fact has made this very point on another occasion, namely, that you cannot make more land. You have to make the best use of the land that is available. Honourable members opposite keep trotting out the remark about 23 years. It is really like an old long-playing record that is worn out.
– You did not quote the fourth principle. We want to retain the townscape which is 100 years old.
– The Minister refers to the fourth principle. That is a luxury. I do not know whether we can afford universally to preserve the townscape and sympathetically rehabiliate it. We want some of that. We want redevelopment too. We cannot have total rehabilitation. I do not want to be. too harsh with the Minister, but his second reading speech was really an exercise in pious semantics.
The only other reference I want to make is to the second reading speech in which the Minister said:
The purchase of these estates offers this Government
He means the Federal Government- the State Government and the local Council the opportunity to co-operate in the rehabilitation of a unique area.
I suspect that in fact there is really no cooperation, that the Government has circumvented the State Government and with it the local authority. I would like to know - perhaps when the Minister replies he can tell us - the view of the New South Wales Government and of the Housing Commission on this redevelopment: I think that we would all be interested to hear his answer.
Before the suspension of the sitting the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) referred to the consultants’ report. He said that on a certain date in April - I think it was 9 April - the report was tabled in this Parliament and that several hundred copies were made available. I would like to make it clear that that report was simply not available - not in the Bills and Papers Office and not even in the Parliamentary Library. The only references I have are photostat copies of two or three pages because I was able to borrow from the Library a copy which was being used by another honourable member. This is relatively irrelevant, but the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) was the only one, so far as I can discover, in the whole Parliament who had a copy of the report.
– The procedure is that the Minister has to put 6 copies in the Library. I put those 6 copies in the Library and they were available there.
– I accept that but I think I should make it clear that copies were not available to us, as the Minister for Housing and Construction said they were. On the back page of the report by the consultants the assistance of certain organisations which helped them prepare the report is acknowledged. One was the Leichhardt Municipal Council. I ask the Minister and perhaps the Leichhardt Municipal Council whether the Council realises that once the Commonwealth owns this land the Council will no longer receive any rates and that other ratepayers in the municipality will have to make up the difference. After all, the people living on the Glebe lands will still want their garbage collected; they will still want lighting, footpaths, roads and other services supplied by local government. Will the Minister tell us what is happening about the Council rates? Will the Government be making an ex gratia payment in lieu of rates? This is what my Leader was referring to. The Opposition has not had anything like the proper information required to deal with this sort of Bill.
One of the interesting statements made by the consultants was that the State Planning Authority of New South Wales and the New South Wales Housing Commission helped to prepare the report. When the Minister replies I would like him to tell us what the submissions from the New South Wales Housing Commission was because I do not believe that the New South Wales Housing Commission would support this proposal in its present form. I would like the Minister to tell us whether he has sought a constitutional opinion - whether the way in which this land is being appropriated is in fact within the Constitution of the Commonwealth.
The planners also made recommendations on who they thought should be the authorities to administer the Glebe lands. They suggested the Leichhardt Council - I think that is a reasonable suggestion - or the New South Wales Housing Commission or the State Planning Authority. But the third recommendation they made for consideration is that a development corporation should be set up. I do not know whether that is in the Government’s mind - I do not think that it is - but if it is we would not be pleased about having another corporation set up in this country. As it is, over 100 of them have been set up since this Government was elected. We do not want to see any more corporations and trusts set up, very often to provide jobs for the boys.
We suggest that the Minister consider perhaps a co-operative arrangement. Is there anything wrong with that sort of suggestion? It happens to be part of the Liberal and Country parties’ housing policy but that need not be any inhibition on the Minister’s using it because, after all, the Government has used our policy for the rescheduling of loan repayments, which is the only part of the Government’s housing policy which we think is worthwhile.
Perhaps I could explain our parties’ attitude to this sort of development. We believe that those who make the decisions affecting urban development and rehabilitation should be the people close to those affected by these decisions. We believe that State and local authorities should make the decisions, not a government or a ministry remote in Canberra. We believe that the role of the Federal Government is primarily to provide funds and assistance to the States for the purpose of housing, land and other things so that they may control and develop imaginative housing programs. The Liberal and Country parties believe that the States are best equipped, through their housing commissions and other authorities, to obtain the best value in the purchase of land and in the construction of housing. Machinery already exists in the States for the effective, administration of accommodation for the less fortunate, the less well off and the aged. That applies both to rental and home ownership. The Liberal and Country parties believe that it should be a major national objective to encourage all people who wish to do so to own their own homes, and that alternative means to redevelop the Glebe lands should be examined to include medium density cluster housing and other forms of low cost housing.
These lands at Glebe occupy approximately 45 acres. Apparently the number of dwellings at the moment is 710. Unless my arithmetic is wrong, the acquisition cost per acre is $372,350. Just a couple of days ago in this chamber we heard the Minister for Housing and Construction criticise the Victorian Government for acquiring land close to Melbourne for housing redevelopment at $10,000 an acre. This Government is paying $372,000, and cost per living unit is $24,600.
– We bought Emerald Hill with the Victorian Government, which was 5 acres for $3. 5m. That is even higher per acre. It is in about the same situation in the inner city of Melbourne. We agreed with that.
– I did not pick up exactly the Minister’s interjection but I am sure that Hansard did. The important point I am making is that this Government has criticised other governments for paying very much less than this for development, yet the acquisition cost per living unit is over $24,500, to which must be added the rehabilitation costs of at least $8,000 a unit. That means that at Glebe the cost per unit will be at least $33,000 and not a single additional person will be housed. The Opposition believes that in any comprehensive plan for inner Sydney renewal or renewal of inner areas of any other city there must be a capacity for both rehabilitation and redevelopment. In Glebe, while retention of the area in its existing form retains the status quo, so far as the number of dwellings is concerned it does not achieve any significant addition to the housing stock or make any provision for the increased demand which the projected population increase will bring. I repeat, it will not provide one extra living unit, which was supposed to be the linchpin of all the policies of urban redevelopment expounded by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) before the recent election. I would like to make a comparison, in reply to the gist of what I think the Minister said in his interjection, between this project and what has happened in other States. In Glebe there are 700 living units on 45 acres. This works out at about 15 units to the acre at a cost of $33,000 each. Some will argue that these units are still old houses - more than 100 years old - and at some time in the future will still have to be knocked over and replaced.
In Victoria there is a development known as Warribar. In this development the area was bought and the houses erected by private enterprise. There are 78 living units on 5 acres. These are not just units or town houses but are houses, and they have achieved the same density as the Glebe project - about 15 to the acre. The cost of these living units, for the Minister’s information, was in April last year $15,750 each, that is, less than half the cost of each proposed unit at Glebe.
While the Opposition does not actively oppose the legislation we make the point that the Government could do very much better with the Glebe development and could build more than 2,000 living units on that area of land at a very much lower pirce - less than half. It may be of some interest to the Minister to hear of what could be done at Glebe; I refer to what has been done at Warribar Village at Cheltenham in Victoria. I have already mentioned the number of living units. Each of these units includes pre-installed outlets for telephone and television antenna connections, wall-to-wall carpeting and vinyl flooring, insect screens, 2 electric space heaters with thermostatic controls, a 60-gallon hot water unit, wall tiling in the kitchen and bathroom, doublebowl sinks, an exhaust fan, separate toilet, a laundry with taps for washing machines and a clothes hoist. Some of the houses have double carports and lock-up garage doors which are virtually the only optional extras that buyers have to buy at Warribar.
I think that the Government should have another look at the way it proposes to develop this area at Glebe. The Opposition believes that the State housing authorities are best fitted to administer the construction and management of domestic dwellings for elderly and needy people. We believe that the New South Wales Housing Commission should be involved. It is now building units for $19,000 all up, including the land. According to Housing Commission practice, the Glebe lands could be developed to accommodate three times the number now living on the estates and still provide community halls and other recreational facilities. The Opposition believes that this is what we should be doing and at the same time providing some units for rental and some for rental purchase. The Opposition supports the legislation because we recognise the urgent need for urban redevelopment. We do not think the Government is going about it in the correct way, and we are sure it is not the best way, but it is better than nothing and for this reason we do not oppose it.
Debate (on motion by Mr Mathews) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 16 July (vide page 225), on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not oppose this Bill. The justification for it is clearly set out in the second reading speech of the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) and I reiterate his reasons. We have to make a decision at some stage where the cut-off point should be when deciding whether a public work should be referred to the Public Works Committee. The decision has been made rightly that the cut-off point should be when Cabinet makes its decision on the work. The problem has arisen only recently because of the frightening escalation of building costs. The Government has found that a school which is estimated to cost under $2m will cost over $2m by the time it goes to tender. This is a by-product, and a very serious by-product, of the inflationary problems that face us. But it would be very difficult to fix the limit at the stage when the tenders come in, because we would have the situation where at the time of tendering the work was estimated to cost $ 1.75m and if the Act was not altered the work would have to be referred again to the Public Works Committee which, with all the expedition with which it could handle the referral, would mean a delay of many months and another increase in costs. For that reason I think the decision the Government has made is a wise one.
I put to the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) who is at the table if he would be kind enough to give me his attentiion, that it is important that the Parliament be made aware of how many times this sort of thing is happening. I would suggest that the Committee be asked to tell in its annual report to
Parliament of the numbers of cases where an increase in costs has occurred for this reason, that is, in respect of cases which since going to tender have come out at over $2m. I do not think it is necessary to have this requirement written into the Act. A suggestion from the Minister should be sufficient that the Public Works Committee in its annual report refer to the number of cases in which this happens, so that Parliament can be made aware of the problem. It may not be happening many times. It has been suggested on our side that we should press for an amendment to the Act and this step may be thought necessary when it is considered further. I do not think it is necessary. A simple statement from the Minister to the Public Works Committee advising the Committee that it should be one of its duties to report on this question in its annual report should be sufficient. The Opposition sees a lot of sense in the Government’s decision to amend the Act in this way and we certainly do not oppose it.
– I commend the measure that is before the House because, as I mentioned in a debate yesterday on a similar matter, the Public Works Committee Act has been ambiguous, so far as I can determine right from its inception, insofar as it gives no indication, although it mentions the cost of a work, of what that cost will be or at what point it should be determined. This matter has been discussed by the Public Works Committee, as the honourable member for Wakefield (Mi Kelly) has mentioned. The Public Works Committee has been concerned about this aspect because by Act of Parliament the Public Works Committee is charged with the responsibility of examining works referred to it by the Parliament. The debate that took place yesterday in this chamber concerning 3 schools in the Northern Territory need not have taken place if this amendment had already been made to the Public Works Committee Act prior to yesterday, because the amendment simply provides for a cut-off point. It simply defines the point at which the cost of a work can be determined.
It must be clear to everybody, I think, that there are many cut-off points from the inception of a project until its completion, which points can be regarded as the cost of the project. Those points can be legitimately determined all the way through a project. But only when all the design work has been done can one in essence say that on paper there is a complete plan for a project which has been reliably costed by the Department of Housing and Construction. In other words, an estimate has been prepared against which tender prices can be compared. It is only at that time that the cost of a project can in real terms be determined. The Bill simply does that. The Bill provides that after all the design work has been completed, the estimated cost at that stage shall be the cost of the project. Any event which occurs in the community after that design estimate has been prepared, such as the escalation of costs, shall be disregarded. I hark back to the 3 schools in the Northern Territory. The reason that matter needed to be brought to this House was that by the time the projects had been designed, costs in the community generally had risen. So when the tender prices were submitted the tenders exceeded the original estimated price. The tenders certainly would not have exceeded the current estimated price of the project, but they exceeded the original estimated price.
Let me elaborate on that point. It must be borne in mind that from the time a department of the Australian Government decides that it wishes work to be done until the time that work is actually executed can be a period of up to 7 years, depending on the size and complexity of the project. That in itself makes it obvious that in order to comply with the intention of the Public Works Committee Act there should be a point at which it is said: ‘This is the cost of the project’. That is all the amendment seeks to do. The Public Works Committee agreed that this was the point at which the cost of a project ought to be determined for the purpose of allowing the Government to decide whether this was a matter which should be brought before the Parliament. To go about this in any other way would allow the ambiguity that exists in the Act to remain. Until this amendment is agreed to the Australian Government, Australian Government departments and certainly the Department of Housing and Construction will remain in a state of uncertainty. 1 do not know whether there is any opposition to this legislation. I have not heard any. What is proposed is reasonable and sensible, and the only practical thing to do. The Public Works Committee deals with practical matters. I feel safe in saying on behalf of that Committee that it will be most grateful if this amendment is passed so that it will have a determinate point in the Act and will know precisely the cost of a project and how to define it. That is all that the amendment seeks to do. It simply adds a definition to the provisions already existing in the Act. I commend it to the House.
– I certainly will not delay the House for more than a few moments. The view of the Opposition has been stated by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) and there is no point in reiterating it. 1 wish to place on record that the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen), who is at the table, and I have had a discussion about one other aspect of public works that has occurred to us on this side during the course of the day, namely that the type of work that we have been talking about in this debate should in some way be referred to the Public Works Committee after the project has been completed and, therefore, all costs are known, so that the Public Works Committee can keep a record of those costs. Perhaps, when the Committee makes its annual report to the Parliament, those completion costs could be included as an appendix to that report so that the Parliament would then have a record of the work that was done and the cost in the context of the considerations applied by the Public Works Committee. The Special Minister of State has indicated that he agrees that this is a worthwhile suggestion. We do not wish to move any amendment to that effect. We will be satisfied if such a provision can be incorporated in the Bill in sub-clause form when it goes before the Senate. I wish to say nothing further except that I believe that the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) has a document that he wishes to table which, in a way, has a similar effect.
– I do not wish to prolong this debate. I say simply that the debate is about a most technical matter. I have the benefit of a statement explaining this technical-
Is it the intention of the Minister to table that document?
– I was just coming to that. I have a technical statement from my Department on this matter. Rather than read it and make a speech on it, I think it would be in the interests of the Parliament, and of the Public Works Committee in particular, to incorporate it in Hansard. The honourable member for Boothby has been good enough to indicate his concurrence to that suggestion. I ask for leave to incorporate the document in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
NEED FOR EARLY IMPLEMENTATION OF PARTICULAR RECOMMENDATION OF THE I.D.C.
This refers to the proposed amendment of the Act. This Bill is intended to more clearly define the definition of ‘estimated cost’ in the Act.
My Department prepares estimates of cost at a number of stages throughout the development of a project.
These estimates range from advice on the likely order of cost of a project at the very early stage when a Sponsor Department is first contemplating what work should be done, up to very detailed estimates of cost based on the final working drawings and specifications for assessing the reasonableness, or otherwise, of tenders received for the work.
In between these extremes of the design development, estimates of cost in progressively greater detail and with increasing reliability are prepared. These stages of estimates relate, generally, to the development stage at which necessary approvals are sought to proceed with design development, and later to ensure that the cost of the work is kept within the amounts approved by Cabinet or by Parliament.
The order of cost estimate could be described as an indicative cost estimate, and would generally be based on little more than an assessment of area requirements extended at an appropriate rate per unit area.
Following this, the sponsoring Department would produce a detailed functional brief which identifies requirements, and on this brief would be prepared a preliminary estimate; this estimate could be considered to represent a reasonably complete understanding and interpretation of the Sponsor’s requirements and would include assessment of particular site and other problems likely to be encountered. This type of estimate is considered reasonably reliable for Cabinet consideration as to whether the project should proceed; Cabinet approval is required for all projects estimated to cost in excess of $lm.
For those projects estimated to cost less than $2m,
Cabinet approval authorises my Department to proceed with design development to the stage where a limit of cost estimate is prepared and then to proceed with full documentation to the stage where tenders could be called.
For those projects estimated to cost more than $2m, Cabinet approval normally authorises my Department to proceed with design development to the stage where a limit of cost estimate could be prepared, at which time Parliament refers the project to the P.W.C. After report by the P.W.C., Parliament resolves that it is expedient to proceed with the project, and my Department then undertakes full documentation for the invitation of tenders.
The limit of cost estimate is prepared when the proposal has been developed to the stage where the main essentials of form, foundations, structures, external and internal finishes, engineering systems, and landscaping have been determined, and this cost estimate is a firm cost estimate within which the cost of the project can be contained excepting, of course, those general cost escalations within the building and construction industry which can significantly increase the cost before tenders are called, particularly as many of the larger projects can take at least a year to develop from the limit of cost (or P.W.C. stage) to tender readiness.
At present, my Department has three school projects in the Northern Territory which have undergone the design development and documentation stages just outlined, and on each of these projects detailed documentation was commenced, and completed, based on limit of cost estimates which when prepared were below the mandatory reference limit included in the P.W.C. Act.
The detailed pre-tender estimates, when prepared in March 1974, exceeded the mandatory reference limit due to cost escalations only, as the scope of the projects had not been changed from when the limit of cost estimates were prepared. Tenders were invited to ascertain whether the pre-tender estimates adequately represented the state of the market at the time, and the updated estimates were found to be representative.
The purpose of review by the P.W.C. is to consider those projects at similar times in their development stage, which exceed the cost limit provided in the Act. Further, reference of a proposal to the P.W.C. should be at a sufficiently early lime in the design development to minimise abortive work by my Department in the event of the P.W.C. recommending any alteration/ amendment to the proposal as submitted to them.
When major projects have been investigated and developed to the stage where a limit of cost estimate can be prepared, then at this time the P.W.C. should review the proposal if the limit of cost estimate should exceed the mandatory reference limit. This timing would, of course, not be mandatory if cost increases occurred due to a ch ange in the scope of the project after detailed documentation had commenced.
Obviously, projects are developed to meet occupancy targets necessary to meet Government requirements, and the design development and construction phases of a major project are closely tied to the Government’s overall priorities; there is no spare time in the projects time phasing for injection of unforeseen review stages. Of course, the design and construction timetables (work plans) of projects estimated to cost in excess of the mandatory reference limit at limit of cost estimate stage make provision for the P.W.C. review.
Once the limit of cost estimate stage has been passed, then the work plans for projects cannot be maintained if an unforeseen review by the P.W.C. can be injected at, say, the tender stage. The effect of such a review would be to make the project miss its required handover/occupancy target, not to mention increases in costs which would occur whilst appropriate documents were preparedto allow a P.W.C. review to be undertaken, and the subsequent need of the recalling of tenders.
The proposed amendment to the Act now before the House rationalises the timing at which the P.W.C. review is appropriate and resolves the situation arising in the future that has arisen with Anula, Katherine and Wulagi Schools.
– I thank the House.
– in reply - In closing this debate, I confirm that the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) did have the conversation with me to which he referred. The issue, as I see it, is quite reasonable. It could perhaps he a matter of agreement here, which I think it would be, as the whole issue concerns the words ‘estimated cost’. Prior to this matter arising, I would have thought that in the Parliament’s view the estimated cost would have been what was the estimate. It has now been said by some legal authority: ‘Estimates vary depending whether it is at the design stage or at the tender stage’. I have no doubt that there have been plenty of other estimates which, in the past, with extras have all exceeded the amount of the original estimate. I think I have clearly indicated that nobody wants to take away from the Public Works Committee its function. In other words, works within this range of costs ought to be referred to the Public Works Committee. If other works outside those limits arise, there is no reason why the Public Works Committee should not be alerted to them so that it could make an appropriate report to the Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16 July (vide page 217), on motion by Dr S. F. Cairns:
That the Bill he now read a second time.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, may 1 have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill, I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Customs Bill 1974 as they are related matters. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– I want to co-operate with the Leader of the House (Mr Daly). I shall attempt to do that, although it is somewhat difficult because I wish to move an amendment in the Committee stage. I want to explain the reason for that amendment, but I want to give the Government my co-operation because it is co-operating with us on another Bill. In speaking to the Excise Bill and the Customs Bill I take note of what the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) wants to achieve with them. They are designed to limit the opportunity for persons to profit from increases in customs and excise duties which are made from time to time, especially those normally varied in conjunction with the Budget. The Opposition does not oppose the broad principle of these Bills, but in the Committee stage I intend to move an amendment in relation to the variation or revocation of the quota by the Minister for Customs and Excise during the prescribed period.
I should like to raise one or two aspects of the Bill. I thank the Minister for Overseas Trade for the co-operation I have received from, the Department of Customs and Excise on some questions I have raised on these matters. The Minister said broadly that prior to the Budget, for example, some importers, manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers clear from bond excess stocks on which the existing duty is paid. If their expectations are correct and duty is increased, these excess stocks can possibly be sold at marked-up prices, although duty was paid at a lower rate, and an excessive profit - a speculator’s profit - can be made. The ordinary person in the street has to pay for that profit.
The solution afforded by these Bills, briefly, is that the Minister is empowered to specify a declared period during which restriction on clearances will apply and a description of goods or classes of goods which are to be subject to the restriction. He will be able to name a base period which would indicate normal levels of clearance and, having regard to normal clearances and other relevant factors, he will then establish a quota. The wish of the Minister and the purpose of these Bills is that, this will prevent, to a large degree, duty avoidance and profit therefrom. There is provision under which a person or company may clear goods in excess of the quota. But clearance of goods in excess of the quota will be subject to a penalty in that to clear these excess goods the person or company must lodge a cash deposit equal to the existing duty as well as having to pay the existing duty. If duty rises this additional duty is to be appropriated from the deposit and the residue is to be refunded.
I do not want to manufacture dissent, but there are certain deficiencies which seem to me to be inherent. If we accept the appropriateness of the base period and the question of a realistic quota being arrived at and note that there is a review tribunal to which a quota-holder can appeal against the Minister’s decision, we have another probability. Whether it is by media speculation, political leaks or whatever - we saw media speculation in one newspaper this morning - no rise in duty seems to be entirely unexpected, even if its degree is not anticipated. In expectation of such a rise we can well have the situation that the final consumer may enter into something of a buying spree, whether it is cases of spirits, cartons of cigarettes, drums of petrol, or whatever it may be.
With merchants and importers on an established quota, that quota could and probably would be exhausted. Where do we proceed from there? Either we can have a shortage or scarcity and perhaps even a consequent black market, or the merchants or importers etc. have to clear goods in excess of their quota to be sold within the prescribed period at a price based on a certain level of duty. They have to contribute a substantial cash security. Should duty rise, they have to subsidise this rise out of their working margin. In such an instance there would be no motive to avoid duty and profit. It is the result of consumer demand. The alternative is a dry-up in supply or shortages. So these Bills are not completely satisfactory or effective. I recognise that the Minister said that they do not go all the way and I recognise what the Government is trying to do.
The very specification of goods in itself most certainly would be rightly or wrongly taken by consumers as a loud and clear message that such goods would be subject to increased duty. This would naturally stimulate purchas ing in excess of normal expectations. This seems self-evident, even if we had a blanket specification of goods including goods not likely to be subject to duty increase. Unfortunately there is a limited field and some favoured goods usually attract Budget attention in this regard. One can almost bet on cigarettes and tobacco products, potable spirits and petrol being primary targets. I hope that the Minister will see that all I am trying to do is to put up a practical proposition, namely, that this is a very real and likely position and is a probable undesirable by-product which is contradictory to the aim which the Minister stated he hopes to achieve with these Bills.
The Minister might reply that proposed section 59B in the Excise Bill will deal adequately with that situation. I will not go into the question at any length because he knows the section in the Bill to which I refer, but in its present form I cannot accept that reply as an assurance. That is why I intend to move the amendment in the Committee stage. Briefly, the section provides that at any time before the expiration of the declared period or before the time for the expiration of the review period the Minister may revoke or vary a quota order. The Minister for Overseas Trade might say that this section would give the Minister for Customs and Excise the power to enlarge the quota to cope with stimulated1 increased consumer demand. But the section does not r.ive a guarantee; there is a threat ‘ of revocation. Variations in excise may be up or down and some retrospective penalty could be imposed as the section now appears. That may not be the intent of the wording of the section, but I believe that it is within the scope and the meaning of the section to create that exact situation.
Today I had discussions with the drafting section of the Department of Customs and Excise and received an assurance that the legislation covers this point of objection. I studied the information that was given to me; that the word ‘revoked’’ is deemed to mean that if there were a revocation it would mean that the revocation applied to remove the quota and that the merchant or importer would no longer have to worry about a quota. But that would not be the meaning of the word under the Bill. I do not think that the Minister would agree with that meaning of the word. ‘Revoke’ means to take away and leave without any. I was advised that in the Bill ‘revoke’ means putting a person on a nil quota. There is a very big difference between having to work without any restriction and having a nil quota. I put it to the House that that is important.
I shall be brief and try to finish my remarks quickly because we want to go into the Committee stage. I believe that the same thing could apply in the matter of variation of the quota and that a penalty could be inflicted on an importer or a merchant because of that situation. I hope that, when I move the amendment, the Minister will realise that I am trying to be constructive. We are not opposing the Bills. We agree very heartily with the principle of the Bills. We just want to remove something which may not be an attempt to do anything sinister under the Bills but about which we are concerned. I think that the amendment I propose to move can clarify that issue.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I present without further discussion an amendment to clause 4. The amendment has been circulated in my name. The Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the Committee are aware of its intent. I move:
At the end of proposed section 59B., add the following new sub-section:
No such revocation or variation of a quota order under this section shall be made which would operate to cause increased financial liability under this Act to any person acting in good faith who has cleared any goods of the kind to which the order relates, in quantity not exceeding the quota order applicable to him on the first notification of his quota to which the revocation or variation applies.’.
– The amendment of the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) is concerned with preventing a revocation or variation of the quota order from causing increased financial liability to any person acting in good faith with respect to declared goods. This matter has been carefully considered during the course of the day. The honourable member for Fisher, as he said, has had an opportunity to discuss the matter with departmental officers who drafted the Bill. I thoroughly agree with the honourable member’s point that a person subject to a quota order should not, by virtue of any revocation or variation of that order, incur any increased financial liability in respect of goods already cleared by him. The amendment is designed to provide a protection in relation to goods already cleared.
Looking first at the question of revocation of a person’s quota order I point cut that this can only be beneficial to a person. It removes all limits on the quantity of goods of the kind to which the revoked order relates that can be cleared by him. Looking at the question of the variation of a quota order, I point out to the honourable member that in terms of sub-sections (4) and (5) of section 59 of the Act - the section to which he refers - the Minister in varying an order has only 2 options open to him. Firstly, where the order is varied to enlarge the quota initially issued, the new order takes effect on and from the date on which the original order came into force. Secondly, where the Minister varies the order so that a lesser quota is applicable the new order operates on and from the date on which the variation was made. Accordingly, a person who is issued with a quota order and clears goods under that quota cannot suffer any financial disadvantage in respect of goods already cleared in the event that the Minister subsequently varies the original order. What that means is that once the original quota has been issued the person to whom it is issued can clear goods up to the limit of that quota order without any fear of any retrospective downward variation of his quota limit. Once the original quota has been issued there can be no retrospective downward variation. Therefore, I can assure the honourable member for Fisher that the points he has raised are adequately covered in the provisions of the Bill as they stand now. He need not fear any injustice in increased financial liability to any person as a result of a revocation or variation of a quota order. This being the case, I therefore cannot accept the amendment. I assure the honourable member that adequate protection is provided in the Bill.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Dr. J. F. Cairns) - by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 16 July (vide page 217), on motion by Dr J. F. Cairns:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I seek to explain to the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) that I am moving this amendment because I got 2 opinions today that were somewhat in variance. It was explained to me that one of the reasons the Government wanted this provision in the Bill - I can understand it - was that it did not want a mistake made. But in the event of that happening I think it is probably better to make a mistake in one quota for one person and have the provisions I seek in the Bill. I proposed my amendment because I wanted the Minister to give the assurance he gave in Committee on the Excise Bill. Therefore, without any further delay, I move an amendment to clause 6 as follows:
At the end of proposed section 132B., add the following new sub-section: “(10) No such revocation or variation of a quota order under this section shall be made which would operate to cause increased financial liability under this act to any person acting in good faith who has cleared any goods of the kind to which the order relates, in quantity not exceeding the quota order applicable to him on the first notification of his quota to which the revocation or variation applies”.
– I appreciate the care with which the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) has handled this matter. I think the concern he has shown is justifiable. His amendment is a genuine attempt to clarify a matter about which he was in doubt. I am assured and I give the assurance to the Committee and to the honourable member that there is no need for concern. Adequate protection is contained in the Bill.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Dr J. F. Cairns) - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 442).
– I do not want to take up the time of the House with too much debate on this matter as there is no opposition to it. However the Opposition has made a few points which I feel should be answered. The Glebe land takes its name from the present owners. It is a unique area of land very close to the centre of the Sydney city, yet unique in its topography. It is divorced in the form of a peninsula. It is a very valuable area of land and a very wonderful place for people to live in. Of course in recent times there has been a vast increase in the youthful population as people who are studying at the Sydney University find occupancy in this area. Much has been said about it. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) said that plans should be prepared so that we could have a better idea of what the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) proposes. The Leader of the Opposition then went on to criticise. He said that the people ought to be involved. This is the precise plan of the Government in relation to these Glebe lands. First of all, the 700 homes are there and they are viable. People are living in them as people have lived there for probably half a century or more. The people who live in these houses are entitled to expect that they will be able to live there for quite a lengthy time.
The Church of England, faced with the obligation to do something about this area after receiving the poverty report, approached the Australian Government so that the area would not be fragmented by developers who could put on the land high density development of the type about which the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) was speaking. This is precisely what we do not want. We want this land to be planned properly as a precinct, with one owner able to do the planning, so that the whole area can become a delightful place for people to live in. It does not need much imagination to think of what can be done. We could add to this area immediately another 300 homes so that we can house another 300 families. Being the sole owners, we could be able very easily to close roads and or make cul-de-sacs, create pedestrian ways and plan the area properly, as should be done. But if the Government or the Church of England allowed the area to be fragmented we certainly would not get the type of development we want.
A great deal has been said about the amount of money that will be spent to build new houses, town houses and medium density or high density type construction on this land. It is proposed that we shall buy the property for about §30,000 a home. If one were to go a short distance from the avenue and try to buy a comparable house one would pay twice the price. This terrace type housing which exists in Glebe has become very popular. In Paddington and in other areas of Sydney the houses are being renovated rapidly so that people can live in them. Extremely high prices are being paid for them. The Australian Government will lose nothing on this project. If we buy the houses and the land we will own the real estate and, at some time in the future - it could be the far distant future - if it becomes necessary we can redevelop the area in an orderly manner. But the fact of the matter is that we are actually getting the development now for the price of new homes. For that reason I think the Government has taken the appropriate action in this case. It is paying a fair price for this very wonderful part of old Sydney Town. We will preserve it. We will develop it. We will encourage resident participation in the planning and control of the area. I am quite sure that this area will become a model for many of the councils and local government areas throughout Sydney. One hopes that the New South Wales Government will take up this idea in an enterprising way and develop some of its areas rather than what we have seen over the years with the schedule 7 type development around the redeveloped areas of Sydney.
-! do not intend to take up much time at this hour of the night because I know that the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) is trying to get this Glebe Lands (Appropriation) Bill through the House before 10.30. I rise for 2 purposes. Firstly, I make it clear that I am not opposing the Bill and, secondly, I shall respond to a mention which 1 received in dispatches in the Minister’s second reading speech. It is not often that a lowly creature like an honourable member of the Opposition gets a mention in a second reading speech; nevertheless I was mentioned. The Minister joined issue with me for what I said at a meeting in Sydney of the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales where I gave a very distin- guished address on 25 June called ‘Co-operative Approach :o Urban Development’. I said that this Glebe project was undertaken without consultation with State or local governments. 1 said that up to that time there was no knowledge of what was planned or how the project would be implemented. I made that statement in good faith because that was the information, in a broad sense, which I received from the authorities in New South Wales. That is fairly correct, although it is not totally correct.
In chronological order I shall give the way in which the Minister and his Department have negotiated with the New South Wales authorities. At no stage has there been any official approach to the Minister for Housing or to the Chairman of the New South Wales Housing Commission, either orally or in writing, from the Minister for Urban and Regional Development in relation to the Glebe property. It is understood that some minor discussion took place between one or two officers of the Minister’s Department and officers of the Housing Commission. That was on a very shallow level. On 30 May 1973 the Minister wrote to Sir Charles Cutler relative to his proposal to commission a feasibility study. I have a letter attached to these notes which I shall table. In the absence of Sir Charles Cutler overseas the Minister’s letter was acknowledged by the acting Minister, Mr Jago, on 1 June. There was an attached letter which I shall also table. On 2 June the Minister for Urban and Regional Development sent Mr Jago a telegram advising that a firm of consultants had been appointed and that he expected to have their report by the end of July. Following personal representations to him by Mr Degen M.L.A., on behalf of the Leichhardt Municipal Council, the Minister wrote to Sir Charles Cutler on 27 August 1973 asking him to keep the Premier informed of developments at Glebe. No further contact whatever was made by the Minister or by his Department with Sir Charles Cutler or his Department. The next development was an announcement in the Sydney ‘Morning Herald’ of 8 April 1974 that Federal Cabinet had that day approved of the purchase of Church of England Land, 47 acres, at Glebe, at a cost of $17. 5m. On 17 May Sir Charles Cutler wrote to the Premier advising him that no further approach had been made to him. I seek leave to table the relevant corerspondence which demonstrates the points.
The honourable member for Gwydir, being a private member, wishes to table the relevant correspondence. He requires leave of the House to do so. Is leave granted?
– In order to show the discourtesy of a State Minister in disclosing correspondence of a Federal Minister without consulting that Federal Minister, I suggest that the correspondence be incorporated in Hansard.
– The honourable member for Gwydir requires leave of the House to incorporate the correspondence in Hansard.
– It is quite all right. The State Minister did not give it to me. I make that very clear. It came into my hands in another way. But I shall incorporate this correspondence in Hansard to satisfy the request of the Minister.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows) -
Minister for Urban and Regional Development
Dear Sir Charles,
I am sure you will be aware that the Church of England has recently decided to sell its Bishopthorpe and St Phillips Estates in Glebe, and that some sales of individual properties have already been made. However, in its recent submission to the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, the Church indicated that it would be willing to consider entering into discussons for the disposal of these estates with government or local government agencies. Suggestions have been made to me that the Australian Government should take up this offer.
So that I will be in a position to consider this matter properly, I have asked my Department to commission a study to provide the information necessary to decide whether action by my Government is warranted and if so, how it can be made most effective and what the financial commitment might be. I hope that it will be possible to brief consultants next week, and to have an interim report in one month and a final report in two months. As you will appreciate, the circumstances require me to act as quickly as possible.
The consultants will be particularly asked to take into account the views of the State Planning Authority, the Housing Commission, the Leichhardt Municipal Council and the Glebe Administration Board, and to consult with other State departments and agencies and with the community organisations with an interest in the matter. I would be most grateful if you would ask those organisations under your jurisdiction to facilitate the consultants work as much as possible, and if you would indicate whether there are any other bodies with which it would be specially important to confer.
When the study is completed I would like my Department’s officers to review its findings with the
State organisations mentioned and with the Council before I formulate my recommendations to Cabinet. Should the study indicate that joint action between our two Governments would be appropriate, I would then seek to discuss the matter with you personally.
I trust that I have your support in my proposed course of action, which is directed towards the conservation of a unique part of old Sydney and towards the protection of a community structure which has grown up over a long period of time.
The Hon. Sir Charles Cutler, K.B.E., Minister for Local Government and Highways, State Office Block, Phillip Street, SYDNEY, N.S.W. 2000.
Sydney, 17 May 1974
Dear Sir Robert,
I refer to your letter of 27th August, 1973, concerning the disposal of the Bishopthorpe and St Phillips Estates owned by the Church of England at Glebe.
No further approach has been made by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development since his letter to Sir Charles Cutler last year. However, you are no doubt aware of the recent announcement that the Australian Government had approved the purchase of the properties from the Church of England.
Acting Minister for Planning and Environment
The Hon. Sir Robert Askin, K.C.M.G., M.L.A., Premier and Treasurer,
In May 1973 the Federal Minister for Urban and Regional Development advised Sir Charles Cutler that he had commissioned a study to determine the feasibility of purchasing the Bishopthorpe and St Phillips Estates at Glebe which the Church of England intended to sell.
It was suggested that discussions might be appropriate following the study, and the Premier requested that he be kept informed of developments in the matter.
No further advice has been received but it was recently announced that the Federal Government had approved the purchase of the Estates.
The above final reply is recommended for signature. (Reference Registered Ministerial Letter No. 3902).
NOLAN Associate Chairman
Sydney 1 June 1973
The Hon. T. Uren, M.P., Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Parliament House, CANBERRA. A.C.T. 2600
Dear Mr Uren,
I refer to your recent letter concerningthe question of the disposal of the Bishopthorpe and St Phillips Estates owned by the Church of England at Glebe.
The comments you have made have been carefully noted and you may be assured that the consultants who will be undertaking the study into this proposal will receive every co-operation from Departments within my administration. 1 note that should the study indicate that joint action between our two Governments would be appropriate you would wish to discuss the matter with Sir Charles Cutler.
In this light 1 will bring your letter to his attention as soon as he returns from overseas on the 10th July, 1973.
Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) A. H. JAGO Acting Minister for Local Goverment and Highways
– I am glad that the correspondence is now incorporated in Hansard because it records for all time that in spite of the impression which the Minister for Urban and Regional Development has been giving of co-operating with the New South Wales Government, for reasons best known to himself he chose to hasten the process without getting his consulting firm to consult with any of the responsible departments in Sydney. Of course one of the great problems associated with this sort of exercise is that the Minister, his Department and the Australian Government are not taking into account the priorities for the expenditure of funds in a State, which is short of housing and which is having great difficulties in trying to get sufficient funds from the Commonwealth without strings attached, without paying high interest rates and without making homes dearer for the people. It is unfortunate that the degree of co-operation that the Minister set out to achieve in effect broke down. Why did it break down? I think it broke down because there was a desire on the part of the Minister to hasten this matter, hoping that perhaps some Cabinet resistance or resistance among his colleagues may not build up. However, the deed has been done. I do not object to the Australian Government’s adopting initiatives like this so long as it is being done in the interests of the people generally after adequate consultation - I emphasise the words ‘adequate consultation’ - with the State Governments concerned because undoubtedly the. Federal Government will need their co-operation to provide the total services that the people in the redeveloped Glebe will require. So I still adhere to what I said in the address that I gave, entitled ‘A co-operative Approach to Urban Development’.
– I realise that the time for discussion of this very important matter is limited because of the Government’s program, but I wish to make a number of small contributions to this very important debate which concerns everybody who has a care about Sydney as we know it and Sydney as we believe it ought to be. Many misconceptions have been proffered in this debate. For instance, the honourable member for Cook (Mr Thorburn) suggested that the Church of England must have owned the roads in the area and that the roads in the area would be available without further cost in this development. Another misconception relates to the value of homes in the area. The ‘Australian Financial Review’ indicated that a triple fronted, red brick, tiled bungalow in Glebe was passed in at $20,500. The honourable member for Cook therefore suggested that even though homes are being passed in at that price a person would not be able to buy a home at less than $30,000.
We know from the figures given in the speeches we have heard that the price for the land and the homes is $17,500,000 and that a further S8m is to be spent on renovation. By simple division we can calculate that the renovated home will cost about $36,000. I ask whether the expenditure of $36,000 on homes which may be bought for about $20,000 in that area today is reasonable. In its original submission to the Commonwealth inquiry into poverty the Church of England suggested when it offered the land to the Government that experiment with the provision of low cost housing along planned lines, was desirable, but the church said that it was not its task but rather the responsibility of government to subsidise low cost housing.
Yesterday we heard the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) say that New South Wales was getting itself into a subsidy quagmire in relation to land it was purchasing. I suggest that in what we are seeing here now and the plans that have been put before us the Commonwealth Government is getting itself involved in a subsidy quagmire. I think it is rather pertinent to look at the report on this project, because it speaks about the housing that exists on the estate and the works that will be necessary to put the properties in some order. It is rather pertinent to note that the sort of works that are required are minor structural repairs, some re-roofing, new bathrooms, new kitchens and redecorating; and I would hasten to add new wiring, new drainage, plumbing and so on. Yet it is suggested that in these days of inflation we will be able to purchase services of this sort and provide them within the costs that have been suggested. When some 30,000 people are waiting for Housing Commission homes in New South Wales and some 6,000 aged people are seeking aged persons and subsidised accommodation, I do not believe it is the right method for the Government to undertake this project. Surely by some rezoning of the property or even by the Commonwealth buying the properties and farming them out to people who want to buy them and renovate them within a set plan, we would be able to achieve a far better environment in that area. By all means preserve the historic buildings for posterity, because that seems to be the important message coming through. For people who require low cost housing let the Government embark upon a more ambitious plan in some other area where there are not historic homes involved and where we can achieve the objective for a reasonable cost and for the benefit of New South Wales house more people and maintain our heritage.
– In reply - I do not have time to reply in detail. Some question was raised about the purchase price of the property at Glebe as compared with its value. The Department of Services and Property valued it at more than $17. 5m. In other words we purchased at a price below the Commonwealth authority’s valuation. I wish that honourable members opposite would do a little more homework. Apart from the 710 dwellings, 12 shops and 25 commercial sites, there is another area on which to construct 250 new dwellings.
Frankly, I believe that history will prove that the decision to purchase this property is a very important decision. I hope that we can rehabilitate the area and get a general mix of people in the area, unlike Paddington and inner suburbs of Melbourne from which people on low incomes are being gradually forced out. I ask the House to support this decision because this is in fact an historic Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced
– by leave - Mr Speaker, I know that this will give you a great deal of pleasure because this property is in your electorate. I move:
– I thank the Minister for his kind words.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Personal Explanation - Wool - Sutherland Shire Land Development - Joint Committee on Prices
Motion (by Mr Uren) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honourable member for Cook claim to have been misrepresented.
– Yes. The. honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) in the debate just concluded said that I had said that, there being one owner of the property in Glebe, roads would be closed and this would not cost money. 1 made no such statement. I am well aware of the procedures in relation to closing roads. The Lands Department in New South Wales requires the concurrence of all adjoining owners before a road is closed and more recently ;t has required its own approval before a road can be closed to traffic. I merely indicated that, there being a single owner, it would be easy to have roads closed.
– As a representative of a large number of wool growers, I am very deeply concerned about the claim that was made by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) that 3 members of the Australian Wool Corporation had stooped to the level of completelydisregarding their responsibilities as members of the Corporation by conspiring with the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) and the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair), and thereby placing in jeopardy the welfare of the people engaged in the wool industry, in order to promote an attitude within the Corporation in regard to price levels for wool that was designed only to embarrass the Government.
The honourable member said that he has evidence which will substantiate his claim. I think that this is something which should be clarified.
It is a matter of great regret to me that this matter was not cleared up when the opportunity to do so arose today. I also regret that the honourable member is not present in the chamber. Representations were made to me about this matter and I tried to send word to the honourable member that I was going to discuss it. I will admit that it was very late in the evening that the representations were made. I am concerned about the effect that the honourable member’s claim will have on the wool industry and, indeed, on the wool market generally, because it is a very serious claim. It suggests that the Australian Wool Corporation is not using its commercial judgment in order to arrive at the price it should arrive at as a floor price for the wool that is being sold.
As you know, Mr Speaker, the honourable member and other members of the Australian Labor Party had an opportunity to discuss this matter in Parliament today. I must say that it is to the very great discredit of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro and the Labor Party that they refused to accept the challenge to debate this matter and shirked the issue. This matter is so vitally important to so many of my constituents and to so many people throughout Australia that I was very disappointed that such a debate did not take, place. I had not intended to raise this matter at this time but representations were made to me on it and I felt that, since this is the last time that I will have an opportunity to debate it before the House meets again next Tuesday, I should raise the matter. It is a serious matter that cannot be swept under the carpet simply by the actions that were taken today. I believe that the light of day should be placed on it. I believe that it is very necessary to have the matter finalised. Indeed, if the honourable member for Eden-Monaro has evidence to substantiate his claims I think that he has a responsibility to put that evidence before this chamber. A matter as serious as this one deserves to be given the light of day. It is not a matter that should be allowed to be lightly brushed aside.
A very grave reflection has been cast upon the Leader and Deputy Leader of my Party. As I see it, a very grave reflection also has been cast upon every member of the Austra lian Wool Corporation because, as far as I know, the honourable member has not named the 3 members to whom he was referring. 1 feel that I must ask why that was done. One can only assume that there is a reason for it. While the reason remains unresolved and while nothing further is done, people will be asking questions about the matter. In fairness to himself, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro should have disclosed the evidence that he claimed he had. I know that until it is disclosed people are going to ask themselves whether he has any evidence at all or whether he has just made a trumped up charge with the object of gaining some cheap political capital out of the attitude that he has taken.
Is it just a scheme to try to denigrate the Country Party? Only too often I have seen very savage attacks made in this House by members of the Australian Labor Party on members of the Australian Country Party. The Australian Country Party seems to have been specially selected by the Labor Party for attack. I do not mind having to take the normal criticisms that are made in the rough and tumble of politics. I am quite prepared to take them, and to give them.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your guidance. I understand that the matter under discussion at present is to be the subject of a censure motion of which notice was given today. I am wondering whether such a discussion is therefore in order.
– As the notice of motion that was presented before the dinner adjournment is not on the notice paper, the honourable member for Maranoa is quite in order in saying what he is saying.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I repeat that it is with very great regret that I have raised this matter in this light. I have done so only because 1 believe that 1 have a responsibility to do so. I have asked the question. I am sure that all people will be asking it. Has the honourable member for Eden-Monaro any evidence. Is it a scheme to denigrate the Leaders of the Country Party? Has the honourable member made these allegations because of his bitter opposition to the Australian Wool Corporation and all that it means to the great Australian wool industry and to the people of this country who are engaged in the industry? If he has evidence, I say without equivocation that he has the clear duty and the responsibility to produce it to the House. The cowardly action which was taken today cannot be justified. I blame the Labor Party completely in this regard, and I blame the honourable member for EdenMonaro for sheltering under the protection of the Party when the opportunity was given to him today to discuss this matter in full. 1 believe that the position was made much more serious because the Leader and the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, men whose standing in this country is as high as that of any politician in Australia, have completely denied the allegations. They did so before the opportunity was given to the Labor Party and to the honourable member for Eden-Monaro to disclose their proof. But the honourable member sheltered under the protection of the Labor Party. I say that it is a disgrace to the ALP. Until the honourable member proves that what he said is right, the Leader and Deputy Leader of my Party and the Australian Wool Corporation remain under a cloud of criticism which .should be dispersed as soon as it is possible for anyone to do so. I believe, that the responsibility rested squarely on the shoulders of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro and on the shoulders of the Labor Government to do so when it had the opportunity to do so.
The Australian Woo! Corporation today faces a very difficult situation. It is responsibly trying to maintain a satisfactory price for Australian wool. It has been charged with that responsibility. While these charges remain unresolved, the confidence that overseas wool buyers will have in the Australian Wool Corporation is undermined. If there is any truth in the charges it should be brought out, and the people responsible should be brought out, and the people responsible should be brought to book. But it remains a matter which has been thrown into the ring, without production of the proof which the honourable member claims that he has. This type of action should not be taken in this Parliament.
I regret that the honourable member was not given earlier notice that I intended to raise the subject. I tried to give him notice in the last quarter of an hour. His name was on the list of members who wished to speak in the adjournment debate tonight. He was to follow me. So I would have expected him to be present. At the same time, I could not let this matter go, because I believe that the seriousness of the charge in such that it has to he ventilated. I appeal to the honourable member for Eden-Monaro and to the ALP to face up to the responsibility that they surely have to clarify and resolve these matters so that the innocent people, as I believe they are, will be cleared of the charge which has been made against them. None of the antics of the second great comic actor in the Labor Party will lessen the seriousness of this charge, because it is a very serious charge. As 1 see the position, innocent people remain under a cloud until the honourable member for Eden-Monaro and the Labor Party, which protected him, live up to and prove the charges that they have made.
– I rise to speak tonight following my question to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Enderby) who represents in this chamber the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) about possible corruption in the Australian Country Party. I wish to draw the attention of the House to the situation that has arisen. In the last week or so a great deal of publicity has been given to the proposed Menai town centre development in the Shire of Sutherland in Sydney. I am indebted to the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) for his remarks, which were answered recently by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) who showed that Sir Charles Cutler, the Minister for Local Government in the New South Wales Parliament, had revealed confidential correspondence from the Minister to other people. This is exactly what happened in the case of the dealings of Parkes Development Pty Ltd with the Minister in relation to land at the Menai town centre.
The situation was that the Sutherland Shire Council, which had been responsible for the total development of a new town area - I understand that this is the first time that a local government was responsible for the development of such an area - had embarked upon the planning of the Menai town centre, an area to accommodate some 80,000 people. The Council set up a separate department within its structure, at great cost to itself and to the ratepayers, to plan and develop the Menai town centre in an orderly fashion. 1 might say that it has been acclaimed by the State Planning Authority which did not alter the plans that were submitted to it by the Council but approved them in toto. The town centre development represented about 350 acres, some of which was owned by private developers, some by the Sutherland Shire Council, and some by various small owners.
The Council made an application to acquire the whole of the town centre, the bulk of which is required for public utilities or government departments or roads in order to develop it in an orderly fashion. The Minister received a letter and gave the Council no reply.
– Who owned the land?
– The land was owned by various people, including the Sutherland Shire Council and Parkes Development. The next thing that happened was that the Council was approached by Parkes Development which suggested to the Council that the Minister had asked it to come to a conference so that he could discuss with the company the acquisition and development of the land rather than have Sutherland Shire Council do it. The Minister denied this and said that Parkes Development had heard that the proposition was on and had come to him. Then Parkes Development produced a letter which showed that it had been invited by the Minister for Local Government, Sir Charles Cutler, to a conference with him in order to discuss the development of this land without any discussion whatsoever taking place with the Council. It is ironic that Mr Charody, a principal of Parkes Development, recently accompanied the Premier of New South Wales on a perk trip overseas before the Premier’s retirement - paid for probably, by the people of New South Wales. Certainly the Premier’s trip was paid for. He was taken all around Europe and to Hungary and undoubtedly he was there the guest of the Hungarian financiers who have financed a great number of the enterprises of Parkes Development.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) recently said of the New South Wales Government that it was a government for developers. I do not think it is a government for developers at all; I think it is a government for speculators. I do not regard many of these people as being developers; I regard them as pure speculators. Just look at the record of the New South Wales Government. The State Liberal Government decided that it would levy a development tax of $1,000 or thereabouts on each block of land that was sold in the new town centres, and this money was to provide a very low interest financing fund to enable the local areas to provide community amenities. Money borrowed from this fund would be paid back at an interest rate of approximately 2 per cent. Legislation was enacted to give effect to this proposal. It resulted in a great hue and cry from all the speculators that this would increase the price of land. So the Act was repealed. That same land is now being sold at top prices. There has been absolutely no reduction in the price of the land taken up by the Menai town centre. In fact, it is being sold at more than $18,000 per block. Nothing has been done about this. The New South Wales Government is there to support its friends in land speculation. It is no wonder that the Australian Government has to step in and purchase land, such as the Glebe area, so that there can be orderly development. We all know what would happen to the land if it were given to these friends of the New South Wales Government.
– They would be knighted.
– Yes, they have all got knighthoods, every one of them. It is very notable.
– They have paid for them.
– Whether they paid for them or not, they have certainly been amply rewarded.
– Most of them should have been crowned.
– I agree that they all ought to have been crowned.
– Order! The honourable member for Cook is making the speech.
- Mr Speaker, I am getting a great deal of valuable assistance. It is a fact that the New South Wales State Government has assisted development companies in New South Wales in every way. This has meant that there has been land speculation and that the price of land in the Sydney region is at a premium - much higher than the price which people, particularly young people, can afford to pay. It is a deplorable situation when a Minister of the Crown goes to a private development company without consulting the local authority after the local authority has approached him concerning a proposition for the orderly development of an area. It is a deplorable thing when the State Government cannot be brought to account for what it has done to the people of New South Wales.
It is a deplorable situation that tonight we should find that this same Minister who has divulged this informatiion should encourage this private development company to go ahead and develop this area for its own profit and benefit against the best interests of people who will have to acquire land in the Menai town area, and of this Government which will have to provide various facilities and utilities. It is a deplorable thing that we cannot bring the State Government to account for what it has done. It is deplorable that tonight an honourable member is able to produce in this House documents which were written by a Minister of this Parliament to a Minister of the New South Wales Parliament. It is also deplorable that those documents have been divulged to other persons.
- Mr Speaker, I think that the most notable incident or lack of incident that has occurred in this adjournment debate tonight is the absence of any attempt by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) to come into this House and explain himself. A notice of motion concerning a very serious matter has been given. Here was an opportunity for the honourable member for Eden-Monaro to speak, but his place in this House is vacant; he is not in the chamber. Obviously he cannot answer the charges which he himself raised in an attempt to damage others in this place.
– A point of order, Mr Speaker. The honourable member for EdenMonaro is being attacked in his absence. I understand that he was down to speak on the adjournment–
– There is no point of order.
– I would like to come to the point of order. As I understand it, in the adjournment debate an honourable member is not supposed to raise something that is on the notice paper.
– Order! I quoted this standing order in reply to a point of order which was raised a moment ago. It reads:
A notice of motion becomes effective only when it appears- on the Notice Paper.
The honourable member for Maranoa was in order and the honourable member for Curtin is in order.
– The fact of the matter is, as you would know, Mr Speaker, from looking at the piece of paper in front of you, that the honourable member for Eden-Monaro had his name on the list as a speaker and it has been scratched out, presumably by himself. I think that gives the full answer to the point that has just been raised. This evening I rose to speak on another matter, although if the honourable member for Eden-Monaro had been here and had been willing to speak I certainly would have yielded my place because that is the urgent matter of the moment.
Tonight I rise to speak about the Joint Committee on Prices which has been set up by this House. Today when that Committee was reconstituted - it was first constituted in the last Parliament - the motion to set it up was brought in with a number of motions to set up other committees. As you would know, Mr Speaker, the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) and others wished that the business should proceed quickly, so I did not intervene in the debate at that time. But as a member of that Committee in the last Parliament and as one who is not continuing on the Committee, I want to make a few remarks about it before the opportunity to do so passes.
– Did you miss out in the ballot?
– I did not stand, if the honourable member is interested. That Committee was set up by this Parliament after the Government announced that it would be set up in order, it was said, to help consumers, to see that price rises were examined - in other words to represent the position of consumers by trying to keep prices low.
What has been the result of its activity over a year or so? There is no evidence whatsoever that any Minister has taken any notice of the findings or indeed of the evidence that has been produced at those committee meetings. In fact a number of reports were issued on a number of subjects. On 2 occasions meat prices - particularly beef prices - were examined. Honourable members opposite expressed a great deal of concern about that subject at that time. The Labor members of the Committee brought forth a number of recommendations. All of them were ignored by the Government. The recommendation which the Government accepted was the recommendation contained in a minority report written by the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) and myself. It was adopted by the Government although the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) said what his policy was before the Committee had actually decided what its recommendations would be. So much for his concern or even interest in the Committee’s proceedings.
Other Ministers, in respect of items which were examined by the Committee, have given no indication of their interest or indeed that they learned anything. When I put questions on the notice paper in the last Parliament asking whether they had learned anything from it, the questions remained unanswered at the end of that Parliament. The Committee has indulged in a good deal of advertising. Some thousands of dollars have been spent on advertising, on the employment of staff and so on. 1 take the opportunity to pay tribute to the work of the staff who, I think, did their best under impossible conditions. With some respect to the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), who I see is in the chamber, the result has really only been a platform for publicity by the Chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for Adelaide. He has made Press releases, he has been interviewed on television and so on. But he cannot tell me one other notable thing that has come out of the Committee, yet the Government comes into this Parliament and reconstitutes it.
The Government should be dinkum about this and Government members on the Committee should be dinkum about it. Either the Committee will be of some value or it will not. If it is going to be of some value then some notice should be taken of its proceedings. At least the Government should listen to the evidence because after all at some expense we call witnesses and examine them. At any rate the Government should have a policy formation. After all this is supposed to be conducted in the open air these days. Open government has become almost a laugh against the Government. At least it could take some interest in what the Committee or some of its members are saying and show that the Government regards it as important.
What has become apparent - this was said by members of the Opposition when this Committee was being formed - is that it was purely a stunt to make the public believe that something serious was being done. It was a stunt to make the public think that somehow or other members of Parliament would meet, examine items, look into the cost structure and somehow bring pressure to bear on prices and keep them down. Of course, the Government had another policy and that was to set up the Prices Justification Tribunal or, as others have called it, the Price Rises Justification Tribunal, which has now expanded into a large establishment. It has an expert staff and people engaged full time. In other words, it has a capacity for far more work and analysis than this Committee could ever hope for. If there were a body that could do anything constructive
– You opposed the legislation.
– I suggest that the honourable member read the record of the debate more carefully. His memory is failing him. If the Government intended to do anything constructive then that is the body - that socalled tribunal - to carry it out. I think it is right to bring to the notice of members and to place on record the experience of this Committee. I think that some members, perhaps all members at times, have endeavoured to get something practical and useful out of the Committee. But I do not believe that they have been really successful. Advertisements were placed in all daily newspapers. They were widespread advertisements which were placed at considerable cost inviting members of the public to write in and make complaints. Naturally, hundreds, perhaps thousands of letters were received. Naturally, they would be in these conditions of rampant inflation in this country. It was then the Committee’s task to try to sort out from the many avenues put forward what avenues they would examine.
As every member of the Committee knows, it would take literally 20 to 30 years at the rate of progress we were making to go through all the avenues which presented themselves. I come to my point that what was obvious at the beginning and throughout the hearings of the Committee was that there was a pretence to people that something would be done. The hearings were conducted at not inconsiderable cost. The new Committee does not contain very many members who previously served on it. I think that is an indication of the Government’s attitude as a result of the experience gained. I believe that the grandstanding that has gone on has not been in the interests of the country. Now that the Committee has been reformed I believe that some of its members will try to work for the benefit of the people. An effort must be made to examine matters on a narrower basis so that they can be looked into in more detail in order that something of real value and benefit may follow. I am glad to see that the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), the Chairman of the Committee, is to follow me in the debate. I shall be most interested to hear what he has to say.
– The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Prices to which the honourable member for Curtin (Mr
Garland) has been referring, had no knowledge of the unexpected attack that was to be made on the Committee by the honourable member. Consequently he will not speak tonight but no doubt he will do so later in the session. Let me say that one of the failures on the Committee was the honourable member for Curtin and we can understand why he made his comments tonight. He was not a very effective member of the Committee. His statements tonight have been misleading, incorrect and inaccurate. He failed to say that the Government has taken action on and notice of the proceedings of the Committee in a most commendable way. Complaints were made by many people to the Committee and were attended to following the deliberations of the Committee. The comments made by the honourable member tonight do him little credit. They are a very gross commentary on many of his own political colleagues who rendered great service on the Committee. It is unfortunate that he was not prepared to notify those members who were associated with him of his attack tonight so that it could have been more ably and extensively answered than I have done.
It is amazing that apparently there is no co-operation between members of the Liberal Party and members of the Australian Country Party. Tonight they criticised the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) for not being here but notice has been given of a motion tonight which takes about half an hour to read. I understand that the Country Party did not even want it debated until the next day of sitting and did not see fit to move that it be debated onight. If it is to be debated next week, why should the honourable member for Eden-Monaro raise the matter a week early when the Country Party did not even think it worth debating until next week? I ask honourable members opposite: Why do you not get together? Why do you not co-operate? Why do you not understand?
The Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) has given notice of a vote of censure of the Government in relation to the honourable member for Eden-Monaro but his supporters are going crook because we will not debate it a week earlier than he wants to debate it. How silly can you get? An honourable member who would talk under wet cement with weights on and who is one of those interjecting from the back bench on the Opposition side tonight wants us to debate this matter now when the Leader of the Country Party does not want it discussed for about another week. We do not mind. Why did he not move that we discuss it today? Why was not something done in that regard? Tonight a cowardly attack has been made on the honourable member for Eden-Monaro a week earlier than honourable members opposite want the matter debated.
– Order! It being 1 1 o’clock the House stands adjourned until Tuesday next at 2.15 p.m.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Will he make public the message he sent to the Amnesty International Conference for the Abolition of Torture.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question isas follows:
The message was published by Amnesty International Publications in the Final Report of the Conference held in Paris on 10-11 December 1973. I sent a copy of the report to the right honourable member on 19 April. (Question No. 13)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
During the Minister’s recent visit to Jakarta, did he (a) raise or (b) endorse the proposal for a quadripartite regional arrangement including Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
The answer to the right honourable member’s question is contained in the Final Press Communique of the Fifth South Pacific Forum issued inRarotonga on 25 March 1974. The relevant section of the Communique reads:
The Forum considered a paper, presented by Australia, outlining developments at the Conference of South Pacific Labour Ministers held in Sydney in October 1973. The Forum expressed support for plans to hold a seminar in Suva in 1974 on problems of industrial relations and a further Conference of Labour Ministers in New Zealand later in the year. The meeting stressed the impact of trade union actions on the Island economies and expressed the hope that trade unionists in Australia and New Zealand would increasingly take into account the implications of their activities. It noted with interest the possibility of involving trade unions in economic and budgetary planning.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice:
What is the Federation of Consumer Groups.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Interim Commission for Consumer Standards convened a meeting in Melbourne on 23 February 1974 which was attended by representatives of 27 consumer groups. They agreed to proceed with the estab- lishment of a Federation and appointed a steering committee to draw up a constitution for further consideration.
It is envisaged that the proposed Federation would be a focus for consumer opinion and would advise the Government on consumer matters. The Government will provide financial and other assistance to establish the organisation but it will be entirely independent of the Government in its operations.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, . upon notice:
What representations has the Australian Government made to the Governments of:
Indonesia regarding political prisoners.
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The question of political prisoners is one that lies within the domestic jurisdiction of the governments concerned. The Singapore and Indonesian Governments are aware, however, of the Australian Government’s opposition to the detention of persons without trial and to the imprisonment of persons for political reasons. I raised the issue personally with Indonesian Ministers during my visit to Jakarta in March.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
What action did Australia take to promote independence for (a) New Caledonia, (b) New Hebrides and (c) the Solomon Islands during 1973-74.
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
and (c) Australia voted in favour of General Assembly Resolution 3156 of 24 January 1974 of which the first four paragraphs were as follows:
The full text of this lengthy resolution is available in the Parliamentary Library.
Department of Foreign Affairs: Co-ordination (Question No. 133)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
What arrangements have been made for coordination between the Department of Foreign Affairs and the proposed Australian Development Assistance Agency.
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question: 1 and 2. Generally the foreign-aid functions formerly administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs have been transferred to the Australian Development Assistance Agency. The Department of Foreign Affairs maintains its close and continuing interest in aid policy and works in co-operation with the Agency and other relevant Government Departments and instrumentalities in this policy area.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
In a statement on 25 October 1973, the Treasurer announced that one of the steps being taken by the Government to combat tax avoidance and evasion by Australian residents through the use of so-called tax havens was the screening by the Taxation Office of exchange control applications for transactions between Australia and the New Hebrides. Exchange control approval is not given to transactions between companies and persons in Australia and the New Hebrides unless the Reserve Bank sights evidence that the Commissioner of Taxation does not object to the proposed transaction. Australian money being transferred to trustee companies in the New Hebrides would be embraced by this general screening process.
Tibet: Visit of a Parliamentary Delegation (Question No. 508)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
What was the average percentage increase in
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1) and (2)-
General - The Prices Regulation Ordinance 1949- 1973 (as amended) came into force on 10 May 1973.
Bread - on 5 June 1973 I declared bread to be a ‘declared good’. The Controller of Prices has fixed the maximum retail price of certain types of bread.
Petrol - on 30 July 1973 I declared Motor Spirit to be a ‘declared good’. The Controller of Prices has fixed the maximum wholesale and retail prices of premium motor spirit and standard motor spirit.
Beer- On 30 July 1973 I declared beer a ‘declared good’. The Controller of Prices fixed the maximum price of beer in a public bar-room.
Medical Services- On 10 August 1973 I declared Medical Services to be a ‘declared service’. The Controller of Prices fixed the maximum fees which may be charged for certain medical consultations.
Real Estate Agents- On 4 September 1973 1 declared real estate agents services to be ‘declared services’. No Prices Order has been issued by the Controller in respect to these services.
Caravan Parks - On 30 April the Minister declared Caravan Parks a ‘declared service’. The Controller is currently investigating the financial affairs of the A.C.T. caravan parks.
Items which have not been ‘declared’ but which are currently under examination by the Controller are:
Sand and Gravel
Retail margins on Transistorised Radios
Child Minding Centres
(a) The average percentage increase in the purchase price of houses sold to tenants during 1973 was approximately 49 per cent.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 July 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19740718_reps_29_hor89/>.