29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. 3. F. Cope) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measure to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Drury, 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 a pension scheme for males, bringing up and supporting their children, similar to that which is in operation for females in a similar position, be implemented immediately to alleviate the suffering of the supporting males and their children and whereas in the case of a parent (male or female) working full time and employing a housekeeper, the housekeeper’s total wage should be totally tax deductible. Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government take steps immediately to rectify this situation.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Dr Gun, Mr Nicholls and Mr Wallis.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the Human Rights Bill:
will tend to deprive free Australian citizens of religious liberty and freedom of worship, and parents and guardians of the right to choose the moral and religious education of their children in that:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House not proceed with the Human Rights Bill.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Hodges and Mr Kelly.
To the Honourable 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 annum is most seriously affecting and making life intolerable for those least able to take corrective action to maintain their position, namely, pensioners and those now retired living on fixed incomes.
Whilst the Australian Government is giving effect to its election policy of making $1.50 per week pension increases each Autumn and Spring such actions have been completely nullified by the stated rate of inflation.
This fact of life impels your petitioners to call on the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
Make a cash loading of $5 per week to those pensioners who have little means other than the present inadequate pension eroded by inflation.
That each Autumn and Spring the increase in social security pension payments be not less than S3 per week to ensure that within a reasonable period the Government’s policy pledge to affix all pensions at 25% 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% of average weekly earnings adjusted from time to time in accordance with figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician and published quarterly.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr FitzPatrick.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
We the undersigned citizens of Australia do humbly petition the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia that it might take such steps as may be necessary either to direct the Commonwealth Banking Corporation to preserve and restore the Palace Hotel or itself acquire the said Palace Hotel, St George’s Terrace, Perth, on its present site so as to preserve and restore it in perpetuity.
Further, we do humbly petition this honourable Parliament to make such funds as may be necessary available to purchase the entire contents of the said Hotel from the owners thereof.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Garland.
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 Universal Health Scheme is essential to the well -being of all Australians, in so far as it will:
it guarantees freedom of choice so that every Australian will be able to attend the doctor or hospital of his or her own choice;
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will hasten to introduce this much needed scheme so that health care services in Australia can begin to function efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Keogh.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the whale is an endangered species and should be protected by international agreement.
That whalemeat and all other whale products should be excluded from all Australian manufactured goods.
That no whale products should be imported into Australia.
Your petitioners humbly pray, therefore, that the Government will form legislation to protect the whale from commercial exploitation.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr McLeay.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That a fundamental principle of a fair taxation system is that any form of double taxation should be avoided.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the law be amended to allow tax-payers to deduct from income, for income tax purposes, all rates and taxes paid by them in respect of their primary home or land bought for the purpose of building thereon.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Wilson.
– Will the Treasurer affirm to the House that the economic measures announced by him last evening, specifically the increases in indirect taxes and charges, are designed to depress demand? Will he also affirm that his analysis of the current inflation concluded that demand was showing signs of easing and that costs were rising in excess of 20 per cent a year? I recall his term ‘wage explosion* in that regard. Will he, therefore, explain to this House why the Government has so far failed to announce a single major initiative to act against cost inflation?
– The measures contained in my statement last night were specific fiscal measures that can be taken now. On the question generally of what one can do about the wage-price spiral or cost-push or anything else, I indicated last night that there has to be a better realisation both on the part of those who take wages and on the part of those who make prices that the consequences do not begin and end with the participants and that there are flow-ons. I think it is well that the community as a whole should realise this. We drew attention last night to what can only be best described as, if you like, a wage explosion. I am sure nobody believes that if he gets a 20 per cent wage increase that is all real increase. There is a difference between real and nominal increases. I hope there will be more realisation of this fact in the future.
– What are you doing about cost inflation? What specifically are you doing?
– As the honourable gentleman well knows, there is to be a meeting in August convened by Mr Justice Moore specifically to investigate the wage area, which is central enough.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that next year is International Women’s Year? Does he agree that Australia should participate in this important event? If so, will he outline what Australia’s contribution will be?
– On International Women’s Day last March I stated that I welcomed the decision of the United Nations to designate 1975 as International Women’s Year. My Government is in complete accord with the objectives of the Year as enunciated by the United Nations. The Government has already established an interdepartmental advisory committee whose task it will be to develop and co-ordinate the activities of Government departments and agencies. A national advisory committee will soon be announced. It will advise upon themes for the Year and develop a national program. This committee will be composed of people from the community whose particular experiences and expertise can best assist in this function. The committee itself will provide a link between the activities of the Australian Government and the activities of non-governmental organisations and the community generally.
Task forces, whose members will be drawn from both the government and nongovernment sectors, may also be established to develop detailed programs and to arrange for them to be implemented. It is expected that these task forces will play an important role in investigating the special areas, such as Aboriginal, migrant, elderly and country women. The secretariat to service the committees ‘and task forces has been set up in the department of my colleague, the Special Minister of State. I have already approached the Premiers of each State. I confidently expect that both State and local governments will be glad to participate in the program. I intend to issue a more comprehensive statement announcing the membership of the national advisory committee in the near future.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Defence. I remind the Minister of his statements that Papua New Guinea is virtually exercising control over its defence forces. Bearing in mind that those forces have many hundreds of Australian servicemen seconded to them, what restraints has this Government placed on their activities within those defence forces?
– I know that the honourable member objects to discussions that have taken place, as he has suggested over a lengthy period, but I am sure that he will agree that these are necessary. The discussions are continuing both at ministerial level and at departmental level. The question of restraint is naturally one that is being considered. I am sure that the responsibility for any restraint that must be exercised by members of the armed forces serving with indigenous forces in Papua New Guinea will be conveyed to them, as it should be.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. In view of the changes that could well follow the adoption of the Woodhouse
Committee’s report and the Government’s proposed policy to set up an Australian insurance office, I ask the Treasurer: Will the Government take immediate steps to establish a consultative committee composed of members of the Government and the insurance industry to advise the Government on the effects which its initiatives may have on both the general and life insurance industries? Will the Government make available the financial resources and the expertise of the Australian Industry Development Corporation to assist the predominantly Australian owned insurance companies to strengthen their position within the indigenous market by the amalgamation of their operations?
– As the honourable member for Hawker rightly suggests, the Woodhouse Committee has indicated substantial implications for the operations of insurance in very broad fields in the future. I will give early consideration to his suggestion that a consultative committee should be set up to examine this and other aspects of insurance in the future. I will also discuss with my colleague, the Minister for Overseas Trade, the honourable member’s suggestion that the financial resources of the Australian Industry Development Corporation be. mobilised in the process.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Transport. What steps has the Government taken to rectify the industrial strife and bans on shipping, particularly Greek shipping, that have led to the delay of wheat shipments, resulting in a deferment of a substantial payment to wheat growers? These stoppages have already cost growers $500,000 in extra demurrage charges and will create chaos for producers whose budgetary and financial commitments have been based on the previously announced payments of 20c a bushel for the 1973-74 crop.
– It is perfectly true that maritime unions have placed bans on Greek ships because of the things that the Greek Government - or should I call it the Greek junta - has been doing in Greece.
– And in Cyprus.
– And in Cyprus, as the Prime Minister reminds me. We have done nothing about it, and what is more I do not intend doing anything about it. The thing to do is to have Australian wheat exports carried in ships other than Greek ships. Other ships are available and wheat exporters should endeavour to get away from Greek ships. We are doing what the previous Government did when similar bans were imposed.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry. The Minister is no doubt aware of criticism suggesting inconsistency between, on the one hand, the Government’s proposal to reform restrictive trade practices laws to encourage greater competition and, on the other hand, acceptance of advice from the Industries Assistance Commission for a greater rationalisation of manufacturing industry with fewer producers and consequently less competition. Does the Minister agree with that criticism?
– As the honourable member would know, there will be a debate on one aspect of this subject later in the day. I do not agree with the criticism. There can be no incompatibility between the role of the Industries Assistance Commission and the proposed legislation dealing with restrictive trade practices. The Government’s policies in this regard are well known. The Government hopes to facilitate the use of Australian resources in the most economic and efficient way in which they can be used. That involves the Industries Assistance Commission advising us and giving us recommendations that will produce that result if we accept the advice and as we give effect to it. The Industries Assistance Commission is in fact charged, as I remember it, with taking into account the need to have compatibility between the Government’s trade policies and the Government’s protection policies. As is well known the restrictive trade practices legislation is designed to ensure that industries that are efficient do in fact compete with each other and that the competition produces in itself a better and more economic allocation of resources. So the 2 roles, the one of the restrictive trade practices legislation and the other of the Industries Assistance Commission, are completely compatible.
– In view of the Government’s undertaking to reduce its expenditure in line with reductions in real terms imposed upon the States at the recent Premiers Conference and Loan Council meeting, can the Treasurer affirm that the Commonwealth Government will hold its expenditure in the 1974-75 year to the same ratio of expenditure last year as the total cutback financial grants to the States now have in comparison with the allocations to the States for 1973-74?
– In the first place, I think that there is a great deal of misunderstanding as to what actually happened at the recent Premiers Conference with respect to the States. If one takes into account all moneys payable by the Commonwealth, in fact there was an overall increase of 28 per cent in payments to the States this financial year compared with what was previously paid which, again, in real terms was greater than what had been contributed the year before. I suggest that the honourable member will have to bide his time in patience like everybody else until 17 September when he will see what the final outcome in this respect is.
– Did the Prime Minister note in the recent consumer price index very large increases in the index figures for clothing? In view of the substantial tariff reductions which took place some time ago, reducing the landed costs of items on which tariffs are applicable, can the Prime Minister inform the House whether there is any way in which the Australian Government can control the retail price of clothing and similar items? If not, is this power available to the States? If it is, why are they not exercising it?
– The Commonwealth’s power in this regard stems from its responsibility to legislate with respect to corporations, and also for trade and commerce with other countries. The Prices Justification Tribunal is empowered already to deal with the prices charged by large corporations. The Prices Justification Bill 1974, at present before the House, will empower it to legislate with respect to trade and commerce with other countries. In particular, as I pointed out in my second reading speech, the Tribunal will be entitled and encouraged to see that the reduced prices which importers have had to pay for imports since the reduction in tariffs are passed on to their customers in Australia.
The honourable gentleman points out that the State governments have the power - always have had the power - to fix the prices, or to regulate the prices, of goods being sold not only by corporations but also by firms and individuals supplying any products or any services within Australia. The price of textiles has risen greatly and unjustifiably as the consumer price index demonstrated last Friday. It is remarkable that there should have been such an increase in prices when imports of textiles have been so great and, so we are assured, so cheap, and at a time also when so many textile companies have taken the opportunity afforded by the recent election campaign to endeavour to blackmail the Australian Government, to the extent in fact of grossly misstating their own economic position.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. I ask: Does the honourable gentleman agree with the statement this morning of Dr J. F. Cairns, the Minister for Overseas Trade, that the measures he - the Treasurer - announced last night will not be anti-inflationary? The Minister for Overseas Trade was asked in a radio interview this morning whether the Treasurer’s measures were anti-inflationary and he replied:
Well, they are not. It’s very difficult to see what can be anti-inflationary. In the final analysis, the only thing that can be anti-inflationary is for people -workers like you and me in the community - who would have to make up their minds to take only a fair increase in wages, salaries and pay.
Does the honourable gentleman agree with the statements that were made by the Minister for Overseas Trade after his denial that the measures outlined in the Treasurer’s statement last night would be anti-inflationary?
– I have already answered one question which was asked earlier by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition - when the Leader of the Opposition was not in the chamber - and which covered some of the ground, but I will repeat what I said; that last night’s measures were for the most part fiscal measures that we were able to take in advance of the Budget. One measure in particular - namely, the variation in the age pension - was at least an acknowledgement that some areas are hurt directly by inflation. We have taken the opportunity to redress that directly. The measures as far as the postal services are concerned are not designed to be anti-inflationary. They are simply an acknowledgement that these services are not covering their costs. We are simply asking that those who use the services should pay for them rather than having them met out of general revenue. As far as the increases in the duty on tobacco and spirits are concerned, if people continue to buy the same quantities of those items at higher prices and their incomes are not adjusted there will be a deflationary effect.
– I address a question to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry. I ask: Can the Minister inform the House what success his Department has achieved and what difficulties it has encountered in establishing an alternative program of non-defence work for the Government defence establishments to offset the rundown in orders for defence materials and equipment? Does he expect that with the advice of the reconstituted alternative work committee and the experience of nondefence work already gained the defence establishments will be able to proceed on a sound basis and that substantial retrenchments will be avoided?
– The honourable member’s concern about the situation that has existed in the Government’s defence factories for some time is well known. The diminution in the workload coming from the defence factor has posed a problem for the Government’s defence factories. If they were completely dependent upon defence work that problem would continue . because, from all accounts, the overseas situation as far as the defence of this country is concerned remains good. The long term solution surely depends upon the finding of a non-defence type of work for them to do. The Department has been particularly active in seeking out that sort of work. I have been involved in the making of a number of public statements to that effect and they have produced a good response from the private sector of manufacturing industry generally. An increasing number of inquiries have been put to us as to whether we can do work for the private sector on a contract basis. That is very reassuring.
The Government is also investigating, and studying the relationship that exists between the Government’s defence factories and other Government departments when their procurement policies come into operation. The recent report of the Scott Committee - the Comittee of Inquiry into Government Procurement Policy - had things to say on that aspect. As far as the most recent problem is concerned, the Government recently reconstituted the Committee to investigate the medium and long term problems of obtaining non-defence work for the factories. Because the question is without notice I do not have with me in the House today the names of the gentlemen who make up the Committee, but they are departmental officers, trade union representatives and also representatives of private industry. It is my hope that they will pursue this task vigorously and that I will have a report in the very near future.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Overseas Trade. This morning on a radio program the honourable gentleman, when asked whether the Treasurer’s measures announced last night were anti-inflationary, said:
Well, they are not.
He went on:
It is very difficult to see what can be anti-inflationary. In the final analysis, the only thing that can be anti-inflationary is for people - workers like you and me in the community - who would have to make up our minds to take only a fair increase in our wages, salaries and pay.
Did he intend to use those words? Does he now affirm that he believes those words as stated? I refer particularly to his statement ‘Well, they are not’ - meaning not antiinflationary. In relation to the latter part of the statement, will the honourable gentleman agree that the only way to achieve wage restraint by ‘workers like you and me in the community’^- to use his words - is to have a national conference asking wage setters, price setters and government, which is the collector of great chunks out of a man’s pay packet, to exercise restraint?
– The answer to the first and second questions is yes. If the right honourable gentleman had listened to the Treasurer last night he would have heard him say, too, that the measures were not antiinflationary. I would have thought that by now the right honourable gentleman and his laughing mates would know what is inflationary and what is not. It was pointed out quite clearly last night that what was being put to the House was a proposal to improve the position of those who had suffered most from inflation - those whose pensions and other social service benefits were to be increased by $5; that that money had to come from somewhere and that it would come essentially from the luxury areas of spirits and tobacco. I think that an overwhelming proportion of the Australian people would agree with that. This is a practical measure to achieve a necessary obligation and undertaking of this Government.
For a long time now I have listened to the right honourable gentleman talking about inflation. The only thing I have heard or read from him is that we should reduce taxation by $600m to try to induce from wage earners and other people an undertaking not to increase their wages and salaries. I think that that is a pretty pious hope. Can inflationary effects be overcome by reducing taxation by $600m? That puts $600m more into the hands of the community to spend on a limited quantity of goods and services. The first impact of that would be clearly inflationary and it is based only on a hope that this would in some way induce restraint. I favour restraint. In that respect I have yet to hear the attitude of the right honourable gentleman in relation to, say, parliamentary salaries. What I said on radio this morning was the considered position that I have taken. It was perfectly consistent with statements made by the Treasurer. There has been no inconsistency at all, and I think that the right honourable gentleman should have known that.
Br GUN - Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to reports of the apparent success of microwave treatment and whole body hyperthermia in the symptomatic relief and even the cure of certain types of cancer? Has the Minister any information on the authenticity of these reports? Will he request the National Health and Medical Research Council to make an urgent investigation of the claims and, if they are soundly based, will he guarantee full Government support for the development of this type of treatment for all cancer victims to whom the treatment may be suited?
– The former Premier of Western Australia, Mr John Tonkin, indicated to me his intention to set up a wholebody diathermy facility in Perth for the treatment of cancer and he sent me some early case studies and other information from Dr John Holt, who is the Director of the Western Australian Institute of Radiotherapy. It is a promising new approach to the cure and curtailment of malignant growths, particularly cancer. My advisers are considering the assistance that should be given at the Federal level, especially as Mr Tonkin indicated bis intention to make the facility available to all Australians. The treatment, like local diathermy - that is, diathermy which heats only the affected regions of the body - is still in the experimental stage and the best guess available seems to be that ionic radiation or X-rays, cytotoxic chemicals, surgery and the local or whole-body heat treatments that we are speaking about can all play a part in some cases and reinforce each other. But it is likely that mainly the patients with a pessimistic outlook will be offered this treatment in the early statistical assessments.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. In view of the claims by the Treasurer and the Deputy Prime Minister that the actions taken last night in this Parliament were not anti-inflationary measures and in view of the Treasurer’s allegation that there was a wage explosion and a serious economic situation, I ask the Prime Minister: What action does his Government intend to take to try to arrest the inflationary spiral? Or will the situation be allowed to drift by until the Budget comes out in about 6 weeks time?
– It was because the Government was not wanting to allow the position to drift until the earliest date that the full Budget could be brought in - the postponement being due, of course, to the action which the right honourable gentleman snowed his Liberal colleagues into taking 3 months ago - that the Treasurer last night brought in another portion of the program which could be done at this stage. It was a part of the program midway in time between that which I expressed to the Premiers at the conference with them on 7 June and the program which the Treasurer will be putting within our legislative and fiscal responsibilities on 17 September.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Security. Did he hear the right honourable the Leader of the Opposition this morning on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s program ‘A.M.’ in which he grudgingly supported the rise in pension rates which was announced last night?
– Order! I draw the attention of honourable members on both sides of the House to the fact that in asking a question without notice it is out of order to quote what other persons have said outside the House. Earlier today I allowed the Leader of the Opposition to do so and therefore I will allow this question. But I ask honourable members not to do this in the House in future.
– I raise a point of order. A Minister, no matter which one of the 27 Ministers it is, cannot answer for what the Leader of the Opposition has said.
– The honourable member for Prospect is putting a preface to his question.
Br KLUGMAN- I ask the Minister: Did he hear the Leader of the Opposition state that pension rates would not be raised again for 12 months? Was the Leader of the Opposition then giving Government or Opposition policy on this subject?
– 1 think the Leader of the Opposition was probably putting the new and more liberal Opposition policy on this matter. It certainly was not the policy of the Government.
– Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. The fact is that this misrepresentation at question time will be rebroadcast. There has been deliberate misrepresentation of what I said and the Minister for Social Security is deliberately carrying on that misrepresentation.
– Order! I can see the point of order that the right honourable gentleman is raising, but I think that the appropriate time to raise this matter is after question time.
– Mr Speaker, the point I make to you is that you owe a duty to this House and in that duty it behoves you not to allow misrepresentations to be made when there is no opportunity to correct them in the same broadcast of proceedings. Tonight there will be a rebroadcast of question time. However, there will be no opportunity for me to make it clear that the questioner has deliberately misrepresented me and that the Minister has opened his answer by accepting that deliberate misrepresentation.
– Order! I did not listen to the broadcast this morning and I am not in a position to know whether there has been a misrepresentation. I should like to remind honourable members that a certain amount of latitude is allowed in the asking of questions. This latitude is extended to the Leader of the Opposition and to members on the Government side. When honourable members preface a question by asking ‘Does the honourable gentleman agree’, they are completely out of order as they are asking for an opinion. So, in future, I would ask all honourable members to frame their questions without using that phrase, because it is definitely out of order in that it asks for an opinion. To date, latitude has been extended to both sides of the House, but if we want to adhere closely to Standing Orders in future I would suggest that honourable members not ask for an opinion.
– I am sorry, Mr Speaker; 1 did not wish to enter into an argument with the Leader of the Opposition on Opposition policy. If it is not the policy of the Opposition to increase pensions within 12 months, that is its right. What I think is important is that the increases in pensions which were announced last night in real terms are the most substantial that have occurred-
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Would the Minister tell us whether or not he heard the broadcast of the program ‘AM’?
– As a matter of fact, I did hear the broadcast; I could not reach the switch in time. The increases are the most substantial and generous that have occurred for more than 2 decades. As was pointed out last night by the Treasurer and by myself, the standard rate pension is at about 25 per cent of the seasonally adjusted average weekly earnings. But I think people lose sight of just how significant has been the achievement of this Government in increasing social security benefits. For instance, if we take the period since this Government has been in office, there has been an increase of 20.7 per cent in the consumer price index. However, what is more important is that the married rate of pension has increased by 49.3 per cent; the single rate of pension and class A widow’s pensions have increased by 55 per cent; the class B and C widows’ pensions each have increased by 79.7 per cent; we have introduced the supporting mothers benefit; unemployment and sickness benefits for married couples have increased by 106 per cent, for a single person aged 21 or more by 82.4 per cent, for a single person under the age of 21 with no parent in Australia by 82.4 per cent, for persons between 18 and 20 years by 181.8 per cent and for persons of 16 and 17 years by 33.3 per cent; and long-term sickness benefits for married persons of any age have increased by 83.9 per cent and, for persons aged 16 to 20 years, by 138.5 per cent. All those increases are much greater than the 20.7 per cent increase in the consumer price index. I repeat that we will not allow those people who are most dependent upon decisions of this Government to bear an unreasonable degree of the burden of economic policies. It was the practice of past governments to do this. Pension increases mostly were geared according to the proximity of an election. In the more than 20 years the Opposition was the Government, there were more than 6 occasions on which for periods exceeding 12 months there were no increases in pensions, in spite of the fact that the cost of living had increased.
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. I refer to your ruling earlier seeking the cooperations of Ministers in being brief in response to questions. Is it in order for the Minister to make a speech during question time
– I think the point of order is well taken. I ask the Minister to be as brief as possible in his answer because there are other honourable members on both sides of the House who want to ask questions.
– Finally, as the Treasurer pointed out last night, ‘we shall again review pension rates and benefits in the Autumn of 1975*. If it is the Opposition’s policy to allow pensioners to wait more than 12 months for an increase in pensions, that is its business, but we certainly will not tolerate that sort of discrimination.
– My question to the Minister for Labor and Immigration refers to the Darwin dump barge dispute which for months has been steadily strangling a dozen or more towns and settlements along the 800-mile Northern Territory coast. What further action will the Minister now take to convince the unions concerned that their irresponsible actions in black banning the dump barges have almost brought coastal operations in and out of Darwin to a halt? Will the acquisition by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs of a controlling interest in the major barge operator have any effect on the unions’ attitude towards the barge ban imposed on V. B. Perkins and other barge operators?
– My answer to the last part of the question is, I do not know.
– I am just asking.
– I simply do not know. The honourable member is asking me whether it will have any influence on the unions. My answer again is I do not know.
Perkins has been deliberately setting out to bring about a confrontation with the unions. He has had the active support of the honourable member for the Northern Territory in this. I have had telegrams from the honourable member which clearly indicate that he is in a conspiracy with these people.
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. I demand an apology. I have been representing my constituents - thousands of them - along the north coast of the Northern Territory and this skunk - that is what he is - tells me that I am in a conspiracy. He and his Government have driven every barge off the north coast. That is what they have done and the Minister has no sympathy whatever for the people, black or white.
– Order! The Minister’s remark was a personal reflection and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I do. He was in spontaneous harmony with the company concerned. As a result of the spontaneous harmony which seems to exist between Perkins and the honourable member, shipping in the Northern Territory has been disrupted, and if the people in the Northern Territory who have been adversely affected by the disruption of shipping want to find the real culprits they ought to look at Perkins and the honourable member for the Northern Territory.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. The Minister will be aware that critics of the Government health centres in the Australian Capital Territory have been making extravagant claims that the cost of medical care in these centres is much higher than for care supplied by private medical practitioners. Can the Minister confirm or refute these claims?
– There have been a lot of allegations regarding these centres. One of the things that critics have failed to point out, of course, is that a much wider range of services is available in health centres than there is from isolated general practitioners who have not the team work available in health centres. One of the election opponents of the honourable member for Fraser, in comparing a private practice health centre with salaried doctor health centre, also made the error of comparing the number of patients registered at one centre with the number of attendances - patient visits - at the other. This has not been the only kind of absurdity that has come forward as a sign of either inability to understand the facts or a deliberate willingness to twist them. One accountant received considerable publicity when he estimated that medical care at the Melba centre would cost up to 126 per cent more than treatment from a private GP. I think he may have been spending too much time with his GP clients because he certainly relied on doctored figures.
Here are 2 examples of the unreliability of his figures: He estimated the value of the Melba site at $50,000, although he had been told that the Taxation Commissioner had valued it at $35,000. He added another $45,000 to cover the cost of planning and development at Melba and Scullin although the total cost figure had been given to him for both centres including that amount. At Melba it is true that in March the fee was $6.11 per consultation without taking notional amounts into consideration for rent. I forecast in May that this cost would drop as the centre became more fully utilised and this prediction has been confirmed. In April the cost of a consultation at the Melba centre was $5.72; in May it was $4.37 and in June it was $4.90. Obviously these figures now compare more than favourably with the proposed fee increase to $5.60 for some of the New South Wales GPs. Finally, this Government will not rely on the cost per consultation as an adequate measure of the value of health care. We believe in measuring also the quality of care and the preventive medicine aspects. With , these considered the centres will compare even more favourably with the traditional market place medicine, especially as delivered by the Society of General Practitioners, which says that health care is a luxury commodity and not a right except for human vegetables.
Br J. F. CAIRNS (Lalor- Minister for Overseas Trade) - For the information of honourable members I present a report from the Industries Assistance Commission on injection moulding machines (Dumping and Subsidies Act) dated 14 June 1974.
Temporary Assistance Authority Report Dr J. F. CAIRNS (Lalor- Minister for Overseas Trade) - For the information of honourable members I present a report by the Temporary Assistance Authority on mushrooms dated 5 April 1974.
– For the information of honourable members I table the interim report of the National Superannuation Committee of Inquiry.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Citizen Military Forces on the Army Cadet Corps dated June 1974.
– Pursuant to section 6 of the States Grants (Secondary School Libraries) Act 1971 I present a statement describing the arrangements in accordance with which payments under this Act have been authorised in 1973.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Yesterday the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan), during the course of a debate in the House, during which I was not present, as recorded at page 477 of Hansard, said:
That should be remembered in the light of a Press statement yesterday by the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) in which he castigated the Government for not instructing the Corporation to establish a fixed reserve price.
That statement is completely false. That is not what I said at all in my Press statement. I should like to read from it. I said:
The Federal Government is not firm in its support for the Australian Wool Corporation. Senator Wriedt’s statement as reported in the ‘Age’ newspaper on Saturday publicly accusing the Australian Wool Corporation, is disgraceful.
It is designed to cause loss of confidence in the Corporation’s activities in the wool market.
By publicly accusing the Corporation of defying the Federal Government in such a manner Senator
Wriedt can only bring joy to overseas wool buyers and heartbreak to Australia’s growers.
It is a clear indication that the Federal Government is not firm in its support for the Corporation.
If Senator Wriedt had any sense of responsibility at all he would keep in close contact with the Corporation instead of entering into a public display of different attitudes.
The wool industry is going through a difficult period and deserves the support of all quarters at this time - particularly the Australian Government.
That shows quite clearly that I never mentioned the term ‘fixed reserve price’ for wool nor hinted at it. What I was talking about was support for the Wool Corporation. On page 479 of yesterday’s Hansard, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro is reported to have said:
How can the Country Party rationalise the Press statement of the honourable member for Gippsland in which he insists, presumably without any commercial evidence whatsoever, that the reserves should be held at a particular level?
My Press statement again bears out that this is a complete misrepresentation on the part of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro. Finally, on page 480 of Hansard the honourable member for Eden-Monaro - all in my absence, mind you - said:
– You ought to exercise self-control.
– If you want to provoke me, I will tell you. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro said:
The honourable member for Gippsland, who issued a Press statement yesterday in an attempt to preempt decisions of this Government -
That charge is not sustainable as any fairminded member of the Government would recognise from reading the Press statement. I thank the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) for acknowledging that with a nod of agreement. Any fairminded supporter of the Government would recognise that my Press statement does not in any way pre-empt the attitudes of the Wool Corporation. All I can say is that it is a cringing cowardly attack typical of the deceitful member for EdenMonaro.
Discussion of Matter of Public Importance Mr SPEAKER - 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 man hours and time lost through industrial unrest and the Government’s failure to exercise the necessary national leadership in relation to industrial questions.
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)
– Last week in this House a matter of public importance was raised concerning industrial unrest and the difficulty that was causing many people in many different parts of Australia. It brought to the attention of the House the Government’s failure to use its alleged influence with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, in particular, to exercise restraint when Australia is crying out for restraint and some kind of leadership from the Federal Government. In that debate it was pointed out that in the first quarter of this year a record 2.5 million man days had been lost, 592,000 men had been involved and $45m were lost in wages as a result of the strikes. These figures might well have been bad enough, but figures released a day or two after that debate indicated a much more serious position - a worsening situation - for the first 4 months of this year as the April figures were unfolded. In April alone 936,000 man days were lost, involving more than 600,000 employees. That is the second highest monthly figure since monthly figures have been kept. If the January to April figures are taken together we find that there were well over 900 disputes - 937 disputes to be exact - involving 840,000 employees, which is about one-sixth of all employees. Last week I was challenged when I indicated that in the first 3 months of this year one-tenth of all employees had been involved in strikes. One extra month has increased that figure from one-tenth to onesixth of all employees. In the first 4 months of this year 3.4 million man days have been lost and $63m has been lost in wages - coming out of the pockets of the people involved. They are the worst figures for any 4 months since 1929. The Government cannot go back much further than that to make a record. It is a fine record of which I do not imagine the Minister is particularly proud. It needs to be emphasised that in all the years of the depression and all the years since there has not been a worse 4- monthly period than the first 4 months of this calendar year.
The Government cannot shrug off the issues; it cannot put them aside and suggest that they are of no consequence, of no importance. It cannot wave false solutions in the air and pretend that they are real solutions. The Government and the Australian Council of Trade Unions need to get together on these issues not only in the interest of employees but in the interests of every Australian. If the Government and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) have a concern for every Australian, if they have a concern for the public interest, which the Treasurer (Mr Crean) mentioned for the first time in question time today - public interest in relation to wage settlements and disputes^ - they will take a different view. The Prime Minister and the President of the ACTU need to put aside their repeated and often public differences to come together to try to achieve a better position in Australia.
In April in the metal trades alone 356,000 work days were lost. In the construction industry in April alone 422,000 work days were lost. Metal workers lost over $100 each at the rate of $400 a year for the first 3 months of this year. For the increase they got, without increased taxation, and if there are no other strikes, it will take about 26 weeks for them to catch up. The Builders Labourers Federation has been deregistered as a result of industrial problems. I mentioned this last week. Mr Justice Joske said:
Leaders of the organisation have jeered at the notion of obeying the law. There has been intimidation on job sites on a wholesale basis. The organisation has been guilty of sabotage of these sites and has taken part in mob violence, causing destruction on industrial sites and disruption of industrial projects.
What does the Government say about that? The only thing the Government has ever said about disputes involving the Builders Labourers Federation has been in condemnation of the Master Builders Federation and it has attempted to bring down every penalty in the world on the master builders. But an independent judgment has been given on the activities of the Builders Labourers Federation. It is in marked contrast to the activities of the Government. It ought to be noted that the Press statement released at that time by the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) had been written by the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron). If he had not written it, at least he claimed at. that time that he had toughened it up a bit. The Builders Labourers Federation has since indicated that it will use guerrilla tactics to reopen and to break its present agreement and to get improved conditions. The Australian Metal Workers Association is heading towards a renewed strike situation to try to reopen the agreement that was signed earlier this year, only two or three months ago. In this situation we find the Minister for Labor and Immigration, the Prime Minister and others willing to condemn air hostesses but not the AMWU and John Halfpenny and not the Builders Labourers Federation for what they might want to do in terms of guerrilla tactics and industrial anarchy right around Australia.
As a result of this we have a quite fantastic and dramatic loss of time. Productivity is now actually falling. In the March quarter of 1973 it rose by 1.9 per cent, in the June quarter it rose by 1.1 per cent, in the September quarter it rose by 0.5 per cent and in the December quarter it fell by 0.3 per cent. With the time lost in the first part of this year productivity must inevitably have fallen. Production itself has fallen in gross terms. Between December last year and April this year coal production fell from 5.4 million tons to 4 million tons, steel from 700,000 tons to just over 500,000 tons, and cement from 493,000 tons to 433,000 tons - positive falls in production as a result of disputes and unrest.
As a result of 18 months of a Labor Government, there is an underlying sickness in the Australian economy for which the Government is responsible. Production and productivity are falling as inflation rages. I charge that the Government is substantially responsible for that because it has unleashed unreasonable expectations not only on its own account but also on the account of private individuals. Inflation has been recognised by the Treasurer as wage induced. There is a Prices Justification Tribunal. There will be more effective provisions with regard to trade practices. There is greater import competition. All of these bear on prices and profits, which the Government holds to be evil, but the danger is that to bear just on that side of the coin runs the real risk of leading to significant unemployment. The Government needs to recognise that it must tackle inflation psychology if it is to tackle the problem of industrial unrest. High interest rates lead to expectations of even higher rates. Expectations without limit put unreal pressure on resources of governments and of the community at large. As money values fall, the expectation comes that money values will fall further in the future. People say: *I will not buy next year, I >will buy now because goods will cost more next year.’ Having established an inflation psychology as a result of its policies, the
Government has the enormously difficult job of re-establishing restraint which above all is required in Australia at the present time because expectation of inflation creates inflation. That is the Government’s gift to Australia. Inflation is not overseas caused. It is largely wage induced under present circumstances. If the Government wants to argue against that view, I challenge the Treasurer to ask his own Department to analyse the causes of inflation and to publish the document. How much inflation is overseas induced? How much inflation is caused by events within Australia?
Yesterday the Treasurer brought down a package. His whole statement reeked of that package being anti-inflationary. Every word, every line - even the concluding two or three sentences - were to the effect: ‘This is an antiinflationary package’. But the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr Cairns) and the Treasurer today said at question time that it is not an anti-inflationary package. If it is not, why is the Government taking these steps? How can it be an anti-inflationary package when the Government is collecting an additional $270m in revenue and proposing to spend an extra $340m, all of which will be spent because of the direction in which the Government is going. In those circumstances the actual financial impact of the measures which the Government announced last night would have to be inflationary, because it is spending more money- than it is collecting. That is the ABC of inflation from a governmental point of view. The Minister for Labor and Immigration has said that if the Conciliation and Arbitration Act were changed the situation would be improved. That is a false and unreal argument. The Minister would be better not to delude himself that he can escape in that way, because the law, except in matters of agreement between the Government and the Opposition, is the same as when the Liberal-Country Party Coalition was in power. I think that those mutually agreed changes have improved the law; they would not be a cause of greater unrest. The law is the same as when the Liberal-Country Party Coalition was in power, but the industrial situation is infinitely worse. If the Minister says that the cause is the law, it must be his administration of the law that has led to a worse situation because the law itself has not changed. When the Minister argues that a worse situation has arisen because the Opposition opposed certain industrial changes that the Government wished to introduce, he is arguing again from a false basis. The Minister seeks a changed basis for agreements between employers and employees. The Opposition will argue that aspect further when the proposal comes before this House on a future occasion.
Basically what the Minister is proposing is not supported by the Australian Council of Trade Unions or by the bulk of union leadership and was not supported by the Industrial Peace Conference, which quite deliberately stated: ‘We want no more changes in these matters. Let the present situation work itself out. Let us gain experience from it’. The Conference did not want more changes. Participating in that Conference were employers, employees and the ACTU. The Conference expressed the view that all members of organisations, both employers and employees, should participate in the making of agreements. The Opposition certainly agrees with that proposition. But it ‘is not possible to lay down hard and fast procedures which will be appropriate in all cases, which is what the Minister wants to do. The Conference took note of the changes in the recent legislation affecting the certification of agreements and their duration. It felt that experience should be gained in the working of these provisions before any changes were considered. That Conference was held in late January or early February 1974. Neither employers nor employees have expressed any changed view on that account.
If the Minister argues that easy amalgamations have led to industrial disputes, I would point out that the record hardly indicates that is so. Already the 10 largest unions cover 40 per cent of people paid under Federal awards and the 16 largest cover, I think, 64 per cent of those people. Demarcation disputes and managerial issues are not the great strike issues which cause the majority of lost time. The majority of strikes lost time is due to wages issues. Therefore, it is beyond doubt that inter-union issues are not the major cause of strikes. If the Minister argues that greater peace is achieved by unions joining together, let him look at the record of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, which is an amalgamated union. Has that union amalgamation really moved towards industrial peace when in the March quarter that union and other metal trades unions were principally responsible for the loss of 2 million work days and $37m in wages with 381,000 men being involved? In the same group of unions in
April 356,000 days were lost. It is nonsense to suggest that that amalgamation has promoted industrial peace. Anyone who sees and hears the philosophy of John Halfpenny on television or anywhere else could hardly believe that he is working towards that end. The Government has been too complacent in regard to these matters. The public interest has been too much ignored. In the first 4 months of this year nearly 1,000 disputes have occurred involving approximately 1 million employees and the loss of 3.4 million man days and $63m in wages. It is a shameful record. It is a result of an inflation psychology created by the Government and industrial lawlesness permitted by the Government. It is time that the Government took the matter seriously and protected the interests of the great bulk of the trade union movement, who do not approve of these measures, and the general Australian community.
– Once again we have had this weekly dissertation from the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser). He does not, however, offer any solution. He just keeps talking about the troubles as he sees them. Not once in the whole of his talk today and not once in a similar talk by him last week did he devote one syllable of his contribution to telling us what those on his side of the House would do were they ever in government. The reason he did not do that is because he cannot do it. The Opposition has not a solution to industrial turmoil. It has never had a solution to industrial turmoil and it never will have one for the simple reason that it does not understand the cause of industrial turmoil.
The honourable gentleman said that the majority of time lost was lost over wages issues. He does apparently understand that much about industrial disputes. But he did not go on to say what solution he would offer since the majority of industrial disputes, as he correctly puis it, are over wages issues. Having identified what causes the majority of disputes, one would have expected him to have gone on and to have told us ‘how he would cure those industrial disputes; but not a word. In fact, the only utterances that have ever fallen from his lips that might obliquely approach a possible cure for the number of disputes caused by wage demands came when he said that he disagreed utterly with wage indexation. In point of fact, if one is going to settle the majority of industrial disputes caused by wages issues, one has to face the fact that wage disputes will continue to occur so long as one ignores the cause of dissension and the cause of the pressures which are building up on the factory floor in respect of wages. The causes are simple enough. All of us know what the causes are. They are the continual rise in prices and the absence of adequate machinery to give automatic effect, by way of wage adjustments, to the provision of compensation for those rises.
That is why the Government advocated in the national wage case the reintroduction of automatic quarterly cost of living wage adjustments to compensate for those price movements. Until that happens one can expect unions not only to demand wage increases to cover prospective movements in prices, also to .seek, hopefully, to obtain increases to cover prospective movements in prices. With the strength that the unions now have, not only in this country but also in other countries of the world, as measured against the power of capital to resist those demands, the sellers of labour are -in the position of living in a buyer’s market. There are more people wanting to buy labour than there are people wanting to sell it. That is another fact of industrial life that the honourable member for Wannon will have to face up to. In the power game that is played inside industrial relations all over the world the trade unions are calling the tune, and they are going to go on calling it. So we will have to come to accept either quarterly cost of living wage adjustments, whereby wages are adjusted automatically every quarter, or a continuation of the present system under which the strong unions especially will not only demand wage increases at regular intervals to take care of price movements that have occurred retrospectively but also will have the industrial muscle necessary to anticipate prospective prices movements and get them.
I want to see the reintroduction of the automatic quarterly cost of living adjustments system that operated so well in Australia for more than 30 years under which adjustments were made automatically to compensate for the erosion of wages. One just cannot expect the .people who sell their labour to bear the cost and the disadvantage that comes from the erosion of the value of their wages. Those are elementary things that the honourable member for Wannon will have to recognise first of all before he can claim to be an expert on industrial relations. I will say again, as I have often said in this Parliament and out of it, that although the honourable gentleman has a few blind spots - the one that I am now discussing happens to be one of them - generally speaking and curiously enough for a man who was educated at Melbourne Grammar and finished up in Oxford, a man who has had all the advantages of being the only son of one of the richest squatters in the Western Districts of Victoria, he does seem to know more than any of the other honourable members on the other side of the House about labour relations. That does not necessarily mean that he is terribly good on the subject. It just indicates how much or how little they know.
I must say that when the honourable gentleman talks about the number of man days lost in March I have to agree with him. It was, if not an all time record, a record for very many years. It came about because of the factors to which I have just referred, that is, because March represented the end of the agreement which was made between the metal unions and the Metal Trades Industry Association of Australia last year. There being no automatic arrangements to compensate for wage erosion due to price movements, there remained only one way in which the unions could obtain compensation for what had occurred and for anticipated movements in the future, and that was by strike action. That is what they did. I do not dispute the number of man days lost as indicated by the honourable member for Wannon. The honourable member said that the number of man days lost was 2 million. I do not know whether that is right or wrong. In saying that I did not dispute it, I did not want it to be understood that I agreed with what he said; but the number of man days lost was a lot.
– That was in the metal trades alone.
– No, 2 million man days were not lost in the metal trades alone. Perhaps 2 million man days were lost right throughout Australia.
– Two million man days were lost in the metal trades alone and 3.4 million man days were lost throughout the whole of Australia.
– As I have said, I cannot verify the figures, but I know enough about the figures to know that the number of man days lost was too high and that the number of man days lost in April also was too high. In that instance 980,000 man days were lost.
– Would you like to see the statistics?
– Yes, I would. Thank you very much. What the honourable gentleman always conveniently overlooks and what everybody else who criticises the amount of time lost through strikes overlooks is that when the Labor Government came to office the number of people registered as unemployed, translated into the number of man days lost to the production of the country, represented no less than 51 million man days per annum. The honourable member can complain, as he has every right to, about the fact that more than 2 million man days were lost in one month, which was the worst month, but he has to remember that when he and his colleagues banded over the running of the economy to the Labor Government the area of unemployment was so high that it represented in lost productivity the equivalent of 1 million man days a week.
– Have a look at the figures in 3 or 4 months, Clyde.
– The honourable member for Mackellar should not refer to a Minister as ‘Clyde’, even though the Minister used to be a shearer, unlike the honourable member. When we are in the House we try to observe the niceties. The honourable member for Wannon talked about productivity falling. In that respect he was able to do something that nobody else has been able to do, that is, to give us a precise outline of the fall in productivity quarter by quarter. I wish he would tell the Commonwealth Statistician how he did it because the Commonwealth Statistician does not know how to produce the figures that the honourable member has just produced.
– He did not go to Oxford.
– That may be. That is where the honourable member for Wannon has an advantage over the Commonwealth Statistician. The Commonwealth Statistician has informed me that he will not be able to give me precise figures on productivity movements before February 1975 and that then they will be very rough and ready figures, but the honourable member for Wannon has risen in his place and blandly told the House that there has been a fall in productivity. In point of fact the production of some of the things that are in short supply in the white goods, which is another way of describing cookers, washing machines, refrigerators and clothes dryers, went up by 23 per cent last year. In the case of clothes dryers production went up by 61 per cent. So productivity has in fact increased considerably in many areas. In the case of the coal miners I should say that the output of the coal mining industry per man is now more than double what it was a little more than 10 years ago. The same is true of the other people who, I think, the honourable member generally euologises, that is, the waterside workers. Their output in the handling of freight is very much higher than ever before. It is true that a lot of the disputes are caused by amalgamation or demarcation arguments, but those arguments would be overcome if we were to adopt the Bill I propose to reintroduce tomorrow. That seeks to make for easier amalgamation so that we will not have 303 different unions covering the work force but will have a very much smaller number than we now have. Industrial agreements have been referred to. The honourable member for Wannon will have another opportunity of looking at that legislation also tomorrow. I will be bringing in a Bill which will be in exactly the same terms as the one introduced earlier in the year. He will be able to read out the speech that Mr Derham and Col Polites wrote for him last year and which, because of the dissolution of the Parliament, time did not permit him to read.
– Who are they?
– The honourable member once asked me whether I knew Mr Derham and said that he had found him to be one of the most knowledgeable people on industrial relations; so I assume that the honourable member knows him.
The Government will be taking an active part in the conference which is to be held on 7 and 8 August by Mr Justice Moore. We will be putting to the Moore conference that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission ought to reintroduce quarterly cost of living adjustments and that in return the unions ought to give the undertaking that once automatic quarterly cost of living wage adjustments are reintroduced they will not include in any wage demands from then on any element that is related to the movement in prices. This will restrict the rest of the elements that will be taken into account to things like movements in productivity, changed circumstances, changes in skills and anomalies that may emerge, as they do from time to time as technological changes occur. If we can persuade the unions to undertake to eliminate from their future wage demands any element relating to movements in prices then we will have got rid of the major number of industrial disputes. As the honourable gentleman very rightly said, the greatest number of industrial disputes are due to demands over wages. Eliminate those, and what is left can be handled through the machinery of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission much more easily than is now possible with wages going the way they are.
Nothing will be achieved by trying to hold back the system of wage indexation that I am talking about. The big unions will go on demanding wage increases to cover not only retrospective movements but also prospective movements. Once a year the weak unions will pick up a small amount in the national wage case, but that will be infinitesimal compared with what the bigger unions will obtain under the system operating at present. It is no use talking about adopting a system under which the Commission in the national wage case will give to unions only the difference between the amount that it considers is justifiable and the amount which the unions have already received in the intervening 12 months. That is called absorption. It was tried in 1967 and the Commission had to reassemble in 1968 to rescind its decision regarding absorption in respect of amounts given at the national wage level. It will not work. We ought to remember the lessons of 1967 and 1968. If the honourable gentleman does not know.Colin Polites I think that he knows his father, George Polites. He ought to ask him whether he thinks absorption will work.
– Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon)- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Minister said that I had not proposed any solution. He and the Government have a special relationship with the Australian Council of Trade Unions. If that influence cannot be used-
– I take a point of order-
– That is all I wanted to say about that misrepresentation. The Minister said that I had disagreed utterly with wage indexation.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member is now debating the subject. There has been no misrepresentation of what he said. He has given his point of view and the Minister for Labor and Immigration has given his.
– The point of order raised by the Minister for Transport is a valid one but I thought that the honourable member for Wannon said when the Minister for Labor was taking a point of order that that was all he wanted to say on that particular point. I take it that the honourable member claims to have been misrepresented on a further point?
– Yes. The Minister said that I had issued a statement in which I said that I disagreed utterly with wage indexation. I had not. I said that I disagreed utterly with wage indexation on top of the present madness - and there is a very considerable difference between the two. The other point can wait for a debate.
– A few minutes ago the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) attempted to chastise - if I may use a kindly term - the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) for not talking about remedies. I think that the honourable member for Wannon quite clearly explained to the House and to the people of this country that there are differences between the statistics of man-hours lost through industrial disputes under this Government and those of man-hours lost due to similar industrial situations when the Opposition parties were in government. One of the things that the Opposition aims to do today is to make these comparisons. The honourable member for Wannon is not the Minister for Labor; the Minister at the table is.
The Opposition is not short of policy nor ‘has it ever been. Statistics may prove that point very well when I come to compare them in a minute. I ask honourable members to exercise patience because, as the former honourable member for Riverina used to say, statistics cannot lie. Having established that point, let me say that the other thing that I see as the Opposition’s role - evidently the Minister sees it differently - is to insist on bringing before this Parliament and before the people of Australia problems, anomalies and, in our view, wrongful doings. The Opposition’s job is to promote that role. It is not the Minister’s job to wipe his hands of the problems. It is not his job to say to the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) ‘I do not know about these things’ and at least to imply - I hope I am not being unkind - a disinterest in the question which the honourable member for the Northern Territory posed to him only this morning.
The Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) rose in this House and said: ‘You did bo better. What we are doing is what you did. I do not intend to intrude on industrial events that are taking place now.’ But the very point of this debate is to reveal to the House that the conditions are far from the same. The conditions that apply today are extremely serious. Honourable members on this side of the House would be derelict in their duty as members of the Opposition if we did not make this point to the House today. That is what we intend to do.
A while ago the Minister for Labor and Immigration said that the honourable member for Wannon was all talk. I would like to draw to his attention an article from the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ dated 19 September 1972 headed ‘Less Industrial Strife’ under ALP. Is that not all talk? What do the figures show? I will come to them in a minute and I will make my point very plain. The Leader of the Opposition at that time, who is now the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), tried to point out to the people of Australia that they could expect industrial peace if the Australian Labor Party were elected to government. What is the sorry record since then? I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard Table 2 of the latest issue of statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics in Canberra. The table gives a breakdown of different industries year by year from 1969.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– The only matters I wish to draw from these statistics are the following: As the honourable member for Wannon just said, in April 1974 there were 936,100 working days lost in Australia as a result of 239 industrial disputes involving about 600,000 employees. This was the second highest number of working days lost in any month since monthly figures became available in October 1969. It follows the record level of March. Honourable members ought to stop to consider what the statistics will show for the months of June, July and August. The second point I wish to make is that in April the metal products, machinery and equipment industry lost 356,400 working days, due mainly to stoppages in all States in support of claims for a new metal trades award. Comparing the period January to April 1973 with the period January to April 1974 we find that the number of working days lost went up not by 20 per cent or by 100 per cent but by 20 times. Looking at the statistics in the table which I have incorporated in Hansard I find that for the construction industry the number of working days lost, comparing the period January to April 1973 with the same period in 1974, has risen by 9 times. That is the sorry record with which we are faced today.
I suppose it is apposite to the debate to see what strikes are excluded from the official statistics. They exclude strikes of under 10 days’ duration, go-slow strikes, rolling strikes, overtime bans and working to regulation. Those figures do not include those people who had been declared redundant or who had been put out of work because of a lack of materials which arose from strikes in other fields or in other factories.
Let me refer to some of the strikes ‘that are not included in this table. The whole of South Australia recently ground to a halt - to the grave disadvantage of all sorts of people including the consumers, those in hospitals and those in nursing homes - because there was a bakers’ strike and a strike in the milk industry at the same time. One could debate the pros and cons of that situation. I would have thought that the Government in that State and the Arbitration Commission or the wages authority had their necks out a long way when they gave to bread carters a much higher award than was given to the people who make the bread. I think this is elementary. But this is the sort of thing we find happening in many fields today. It makes one wonder whether people should undertake retraining courses. One also wonders whether people should worry about getting qualifications because frequently those without qualifications are paid more than those who have qualifications. But that is another matter again.
This strike that upset the whole of South Australia to a dire extent was, as I understand it, of short duration. The figures for man hours lost in it would not be included in the official figures which are available. Yet surely one would have to go a long way to find a strike situation which upset the ordinary people in the community more than the twin strikes that took place in South Australia simultaneously. They are examples of the number of man hours lost due to strike action which would not be included in those official figures to which I referred. Another example is the strike by the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers which upset the whole of Tasmania and caused unemployment. There is also the present barge strike taking place at Darwin. I understand that all but one of the barges which are normally employed around the coast of the Northern Territory have been brought to a standstill. The union secretary who is involved in that strike has already stated that if all the barges were in use an additional 10 people could be put on to the wharves. Quite frankly our only complaint about this sort of thing - and a lot of it is caused by the Government’s economic policy - is the lack of leadership shown by the Government both on the industrial side and more importantly on the economic side.
I suppose that one could go a stage further and get back on to a hobby horse which I hope I have played in low key at any rate before today and say that today in State parliaments and to a lesser extent in the Federal Parliament there are many ex-trade union secretaries. This applies more particularly to the State parliaments. It has always eluded me completely why these ex-trade union secretaries having been elected to parliament seem to divorce themselves from any responsibility in industrial relations other than the one they previously had. Time and again we see perfectly good trade union secretaries - even though to some of us their accents might seem to be extraordinary - elected to parliament but once they are elected they forget their new responsibilities and still think they are trade union secretaries. I would like to see these sorts of people do something for the good of the community. I should like to see them try to exercise their seniority and their judgment to ensure that stupid and irres ponsible strikes do not continue to the disadvantage of the community. It is not good enough for these members of Parliament to come into this place unless they alter their thinking and understand that their role and responsibility now is to look after the community and not just the unions from which they came.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– We are now accustomed to hearing the diatribe from the terrible twins across the road - the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) - ‘who are belatedly the Opposition spokesmen on industrial matters. Up to this time I would have! thought that the honourable member for Wannon was of the view that a union was something that happened behind a high school shelter shed after hours. These 2 individuals who came from great pastures and who have wonderful backgrounds in industrial relations would not know the first thing about industrial matters and their contributions in this place this afternoon are indicative of their thinking on this subject. One would think that butter would not melt in the mouths of employers or employer organisations. The Opposition says that the whole burden of industrial disputes rests on the factory workers. This great paragon of virtue, the honourable member for Wannon, would probably create more industrial disputation if his policies or the policies of the Liberal Party of Australia were given effect to than we have had in any period of industrial history.
The whole thing is taken out of perspective when one talks about the number of man hours that have been lost. Let us look at this for a moment and at the atmosphere of different periods of strike action. I ask the honourable member for Angas to tell us what he would do or what the Liberal Party would do. What is the Opposition proposing? Not one proposition has been put to this House. All that those opposite do is to belly-ache about what happens when industrial disputes take place. But an industrial dispute is a fact of industrial life. Industrial disputes will continue to take place because that is the name of the game. As the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) pointed out, we are living in a society in which there are labour markets. The price of labour is equally as important to a worker as is the price of minerals to the mining industry.
– We all understand that.
– From your contribution to the debate I do not think you do. The Opposition says the whole responsibility for industrial disputation rests completely with the unions. But let us have a look at what the Opposition’s record was when it was in office. It had only one solution to industrial disputes. That solution was not to cultivate conciliation which is of prime concern under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act but to encourage employers to disregard conciliation entirely, not to look at the possibility of reaching agreements in anamicable way and not to adopt the position advocated by some of the great exponents of conciliation such as senior Commissioner Chambers and others. What should be done is to set a minimum and then to go out and encourage employers and employees to settle their differences amicably by negotiation and conciliation. But what the Opposition did was to create a pool of unemployed. When the officials stepped in to try to alter the system it threw them in gaol, as it did Clarrie O’Shea. That was the Opposition’s solution when it was in office and that will be its solution again if, heaven forbid, the Opposition spokesmen on industrial matters rise to the heights of becoming either Minister for Labor under a LiberalCountry Party Government or a deputy of some sort. All that has been put by the Opposition in this debate is sheer hypocrisy. There are 2 entirely different climates to be taken into consideration. The Opposition’s solution is to create a pool of unemployed and to invoke the provisions of the penal clauses set out in the industrial legislation. Our policy is far removed from that. There has been talk about initiatives. The initiatives that have been taken by the present Minister for Labor and Immigration are to be commended. We have the Moore inquiry being held in order to bring people together. Discussions are taking place between all sections of the community to ascertain how we can overcome industrial problems without disputation.
In regard to man hours lost, prior to 1972 approximately 3 million man hours were lost due to industrial disputes. For every 66,000 persons unemployed about 13.7 million man hours are lost. What is the economic advantage in that sort of situation? One cannot just quote the figures which have been used by the 2 previous speakers on the other side. The industrial figures for 1974, taken quarter by quarter, include the figures for one serious dispute which took place in the metal industry and which followed the course of a fact of industrial life about which the honourable member for Wannon and the honourable member for Angas would not know the first thing. When agreements come up for review, this sort of skirmish takes place. Until such time as honourable members opposite can control the other end of the spectrum, namely, the prices of the commodities, they have no right whatsoever to say to workers at large: ‘You cannot sell your labour to the person who is prepared to pay the highest price’. Honourable members opposite deal with their cattle or whatever they sell down on their properties and then say to the workers that that is not their right. Honourable members opposite have not acted in respect of prices. They rejected price control; they do not want to be part of that. They do not want the Prices Justification Tribunal to work. All they want to do is hammer the workers into submission by all the means at their disposal, by imposing penal clauses and the like.
The Opposition has put up a phoney proposition and has argued the point about this, that and the other. But let us have a clear look at the record of industrial disputes. Between 1967 and 1971, the number of disputes increased by 280 per cent. If honourable members considered the situation in 1973 in terms of a percentage of work days lost per 1,000 employees, they would see that the percentage was less than it was in 1972.
– What about interest rates?
– Interest rates! What an inane remark. It shows clearly the level of mentality and understanding of the honourable member for Wannon in regard to industrial affairs. He would not know what day it was. Let us look at the other question of industrial disputes prompted for political reasons - something that members of the Opposition made great play of. The Askin Government prompted industrial disputation over the 35-hour week, purely for political gimmickry. I see the honourable member for Wannon leaving the chamber. He does not want to hear the truth. Let us look at this situation in terms of the public interest. Sir Henry Bolte, Mr Hamer and the like have all played this game. That was the name of the game. And here we have that giant intellect, Senator Rae. Newspaper headlines have stated: ‘Rae’s Next Target may be the Unions’. They have always been the target of conservatives like honourable members opposite and people who represent vested interests. Amongst other things, Senator Rae said to a reporter: ‘I would like to be part of a select committee to investigate the trade unions in Australia’s society and economy’. Why does he not include the employer organisations? Are they in some exalted position that they should not be placed under public scrutiny? The Donovan inquiry in the United Kingdom looked at all aspects of this matter. Why does Senator Rae not include employer organisations in the terms of reference of such a select committee? The reporter pursued Senator Rae about a number of other things he would like to do. The report states:
When I remarked that the third one seemed the most interesting, he rummaged in the wastepaper basket and handed me a copy of the morning’s Launceston ‘Examiner’. It was headed ‘Rae Eyeing the Unions’.
Of course he is eyeing the unions. That is all he has ever intended to do. That is all the honourable member for Wannon and the honourable member for Angas want to do. They do not want to produce a solution. We challenge honourable members opposite to put on the line what they would do - not merely voice criticism of the tremendous job being done by the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron). Again I challenge honourable members opposite. The next time they get on their feet for the next thrilling episode of ‘Blue Hills’, which we hear day after day, and refer to the twaddle that is on the blue sheet at present, let them, particularly the honourable members for Wannon and Angas, who would not know anything about trade unions, try to reach conclusions and not talk a lot of drivel.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded.
Debate resumed from 16 July (vide page 234), on motion by Mr Enderby:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) said when debating this Bill in its previous form on 7 November 1973:
This Bill represents a fundamental departure from previous approaches to restrictive trade practices legislation in Australia.
In that hurried debate, speakers on this side of the House pointed out the vagueness and uncertainties which surrounded this legislation and the need for it to be amended. The Government, however, would have been quite content and in its haste was pressuring the Opposition to pass the Bill in its then very unsatisfactory form. In December it came before the Senate but the debate on it did not proceed and the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) was urged to consult with interested parties.
Events have shown that the Opposition’s refusal to be hurried into the passing of this legislation was completely justified because in March this year the Attorney-General brought the Bill forward again in the Senate with over 100 amendments. These, though still inadequate, have served to give it greater clarity. In its important trade practice provisions the sections have been completely revised due to the Opposition initiative. This experience should serve to warn the Government that it should not seek to push complex legislation through this House in haste and without sufficient time for debate and representation by interested parties.
The Bill is divided into 2 major sets of provisions - those relating to trade practices and those relating to consumer protection. The Opposition’s attitude to the Bill may be stated by dealing separately with each of these categories. The Opposition will not oppose the trade practice provisions in principle. However, as I have indicated, the provisions of the Bill are still unsatisfactory in a number of important respects and we shall propose amendments aimed at giving the legislation greater clarity and making it more effective in the public interest.
I will deal first with the trade practice provisions which in some respects overlap with those concerned with consumer protection. They are found in Parts I to IV and VI to XII of the Act. The Opposition has already made clear its view that there is a need for reform of the existing provisions. The Opposition when in government pioneered the existing trade practice law. It was designed to bring about the restriction of such practices when contrary to the public interest. There is no question therefore that the Opposition is fully committed to the principle of freedom of competition. It is basic to our philosophy that free competition should be preserved so as to ensure an adequate supply of goods and services to the public at the lowest practicable prices. Free competition is the servant of the people and it is in the public interest that it be protected. Corporations which are capable of exercising power to control the market in such a way as to impair that freedom are accountable to the public interest. Indeed, in our society, all should be committed to it and all should be so accountable. The Opposition believes that there is a need for legislation which will prevent union action from impairing competition and seriously damaging the public interest. However, it is unlikely that the Government, unable as it is to contain union action causing the spiralling of wages, would take these steps in the public interest.
The Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Enderby) in introducing this Bill asserted that the existing Act had proved to be one of the most ineffectual pieces of legislation ever passed by this Parliament. These intemperate remarks are completely unjustified. It is sufficient answer to refer to what was said by the Commissioner of Trade Practices in his 1973 report. He stated:
The current legislation, which is clearly coming towards the end of its time, has nevertheless served a valuable role. Among other things, it provided an entry into 3 field substantially untouched for many years. It brought the problems to public and business attention, and it became a means of moving towards principle and demonstrating the need for further legislation. It was also an important vehicle for the development of constitutional law in this field and beyond it.
The implementation of the existing law was impeded for a long time by constitutional challenge. Honourable members will recall the Tasmanian breweries case, the concrete pipes case and the Mikasa case, each of which was won by the Government of the day and each of which represented a vital step forward in establishing the constitutional validity of the legislation. During the course of those challenges it was not easy for the Commissioner of Trade Practices to enforce that legislation. It was also necessary to acquaint our businessmen with it, its scope and operation. In 1971 the Opposition when in Government outlawed resale price maintenance. The Opposition has already indicated its view that price fixing agreements should be outlawed. This attitude is strongly supported by the steps which the
Commissioner of Trade Practices has taken under the existing Act. As he says at page 6 of his report for the year ended 30 June 1974, tabled in this House last week:
From the beginning my office has spent much of its time going into one price agreement after another, and it has considerable experience of their operation, their effects and their basic similarity. Many industry groups have given up their price agreements following investigation and discussion with my office, and the tempo has increased as the constitutional position has improved and as experience of agreements and their operation has grown. It has been clear for some time that the climate has changed and that the attitudes of businessmen generally are different from what they used to be. It seems no longer to be believed that price agreements are essential. I think business accepts now that price agreements in general must go. ,
There can be no doubt therefore that the existing legislation far from being ineffectual has proved greatly effective in the vital area of horizontal and vertical price fixation. However there is a need to reform it. We are committed to reform. We shall therefore not oppose in principle the trade practices legislation before this House. The Government has, on several occasions and as recently as last night, stated its view that the trade practices law is an instrument against current inflation. With the proposition that in the long term such legislation is an aid to combat inflation, one could agree. However, in the current crisis its value at the most is minimal.
A sober consideration of this law throws up a spectacle of long hearings, lengthy pre-trial investigations, uncertainty on the part of business as to its provisions, procedural delays, long complex judgments and heavy constitutional challenge. It is most unlikely that it will be fully effective for some time to come.
But, quite apart from that, its value in the present crisis must be minimal because until the spiralling of prices and wages is stopped the legislation cannot hope to work effectively. Free competition is completely inhibited at this moment by its greatest enemy, rampant inflation, with rising prices chasing rising costs and wages. The solution to that problem is only partly economic. It depends in the main on strong Government leadership producing co-operation between all sections and replacing self-interest with a sense of community responsibility. This is a national crisis. Pious hopes expressed in the Treasurer’s statements and elsewhere that all parties will restrain themselves are doomed to disappointment. The Prime Minister, if we are to survive without too much damage, must bend himself to the task and become a Kissinger in bringing the various interests together for the public good. If he does this but does not succeed, he should then consider proceeding to use the wide powers which this Parliament has over prices and wages and introduce a temporary wageprice freeze. But to suggest that this legislation will really help is a vain hope held out to make it appear that the Government is doing something about inflation.
I now wish to address some remarks to the more important provisions of the Bill and to indicate the nature and purpose of the more important amendments which the Opposition proposes to move. First of all, I would like to draw attention to clause 45. It is appropriate to point out at the beginning that clause 45 has been completely redrawn since it was presented to this House in November last year and that, of course, is due to the fact that the Opposition insisted that the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) think about this again and have consultations in relation to it. We know that this law has an American origin and we know that this section and other provisions are found in the Clayton Act, the Sherman Act and in the Robinson Patman Act of the United States of America. The hope of the Government, one understands, is that the same sort of principles will be applied in its interpretation here as have been applied in the United States. Of course, we have known a doctrine of restraint of trade in this country inherited from the common law and one of the problems with clause 45 and its interpretation will be whether the courts will apply to it the common law doctrine. In the view of the Opposition there is a great need to import into clause 45 a rule of reason which will indicate to the courts, to the business world and to the public the basis upon which this rule of reason is to apply. Accordingly the Opposition will suggest an amendment which will indicate that a contract arrangement or understanding is not in restraint of trade unless the restraint has, or is likely to have, a significant effect on competition.
In the existing provision put forward by the Government, the Government has included what would be called a de minimis provision. That is to say, a contract would not be caught by the section if it has only such a slight effect on competition as to be insignificant. This in itself is not sufficient to give an indication to the community and to businessmen of the intent as to how this particular provision shall effect his business interests or when it is that the public interest is affected. The purpose of the trade practices law should be to ensure that there shall not be a significant effect on competition. In the United States of America this rule has been applied. It has been expressed in different ways. However, it seems to the Opposition that this is the most appropriate way to express it for the purposes of our law and so we will suggest an amendment to clause 45. It will be a very important amendment aimed at bringing certainty and clarity to these provisions. We will also suggest amendments to clause 45 which will make it clear that price fixing is, per se, unenforceable unless the de minimis provisions apply or, in other words, unless the effect on competition is so slight as to be insignificant. We will also put before this House an amendment regarding the severance of obligations so that if a particular agreement happens to be in restraint of trade it shall not otherwise be unenforceable by virtue of this provision. There is no reason why a trade practices law should strike down the other terms of an agreement. It may be that a court looking at it may come to the view that it ought to be unenforceable because the trade practices restriction is taken out of it. But that is not a reason for its being left uncertain as to the effect which this Act itself would have on such provisions.
Clause 46 deals with monopolies. When it was before the House on the last occasion the Opposition emphasised the fact that it had proposed that a monopolies commission be established. The Opposition still believes that it would be in the best interests of the public if there were a monopolies commission. The Government does not appear to agree with this. However, if this particular provision is to proceed the Opposition feels that it should be amended in such a way as to provide a definition of ‘competition’ and we will be proposing such a definition, again in order to bring greater certainty into the law regarding the definition of ‘monopoly’. We suggest that the following be included in the Bill:
For the purpose of this section, a corporation in a position substantially to control a market for goods or services includes a corporation which by reason of its share of the market, or of its share of the market combined with availability of technical knowledge, raw materials or capital, has the power to determine prices or control production or distribution for a substantial part of the goods or services in that market.
So this would be a definition which would indicate to the public and to businessmen when they were in a position of monopoly under clause 46. Another proposal that we shall put forward in relation to clause 46 - a very important one - is that the authorisation and clearances provisions should apply to it. In the House today a question was asked in relation to the motor car industry. It was quite clear as far as the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on that industry is concerned there can be monopolies which some people can regard as beneficial in the public interest. Therefore, it is desirable that under clause 46 those who are in a monopoly position or who think they might be, should be able to take their case to the Commission to have it either authorised or cleared in the same way as may be done under clause 45. We shall put that forward again as a substantial amendment in order to make a substantial improvement to those provisions in the public interest. Clause 47 deals with exclusive dealing. Clause 48 deals with resale price maintenance and is substantially the provision which the Opposition, when in government, introduced into the present Act which has worked effectively and has been, after the Mikasa case, the subject of some court cases.
I want to draw attention to clause 49 which is a provision which comes from the RobertsonPatman Act. To some degree it is an unsatisfactory provision because it is broad in its terms and its operation could be given meaning only after considerable thought and concern on the part of the court. It will require a great deal of interpretation and it may be some time before business knows what this clause really means. Again, the Opposition feels that this provision ought to be the subject of clearance and authorisation. Furthermore, we think it should be phased in to allow business to become familiar with it. There are many patterns of business in Australia today that would be covered by this provision and business should be able to adjust itself to this Bill over a period. We shall suggest that this clause, like clause 45 and clause 47 should be brought in after a period of 4 months from the time of the Bill’s proclamation as an Act. Clause 50 is very wide. It deals with mergers. It states:
A corporation shall not acquire, directly or indirectly, any . . . assets of a body corporate where the acquisition is likely to have the effect of substantially lessening competition in a market for goods or services.
Quite clearly that could apply to a case in which a businessman wishes to acquire 2 very large machines in order to double the size of his output, which might well have the effect of substantially lessening competition in a market for goods or services. I am sure that the Government does not intend that that sort of situation ought to be covered by this provision. It is designed to stop the accumulationot assets of businesses so that share merger provisions cannot be avoided. The Opposition will seek some clarification on this question.
The Opposition will propose other amendments to the Bill. In this second reading speech I do not propose to deal with them all. We suggest that clause 29 should be amended by deleting sub-clauses (1) and (2). The Opposition does not see any reason why the Attorney-General should be able to give directions to the Commission in relation to its functions. The Opposition takes the view that this should be left quite outside the political arena and the Commission should be left to perform its functions in accordance with the way they are set out in the Bill.
I turn now to clause 76 which, of course, is the offence provision. That clause contains a number of statements about actions which will amount to a contravention of the proposed Act. There are 2 respects in which the Opposition will propose important amendments. Firstly, we will suggest that clause 76 (f) should be deleted. Clause 45 previously contained in it a provision in relation to conspiracy. Clause 76 (f) refers to a person who ‘conspires with others to contravene such a provision’. Conspiracy having been left out of clause 45 as it now is, the Opposition sees no reason why it should be brought in through the back door, as it were, through clause 76 (f). There is no need for it. Apparently it provides for recovery of penalties in a civil action. There seems no need to complicate clause 76 in this important respect by importing the doctrine of conspiracy which are very complex themselves.
Clause 76, having a quasi-criminal effect, might also be said to require proof beyond reasonable doubt. It may be that the Government would not dispute this. However, the Opposition feels that this should be expressly stated in clause 76 so that those who are charged with an offence under that section will have the benefit of that provision, namely, that if any offence is to be held against them they shall be shown to have committed it beyond reasonable doubt.
Another important amendment to be proposed involves an insertion in clause 85 which is a similar provision to section 365 of the Companies Act. It provides that where the court thinks a person has acted honestly and reasonably and ought fairly to be excused, the court may exercise its discretion accordingly. We feel that it is appropriate that in a trade practices law such a provision should be included. We shall propose an amendment to clause 90 in order to adjust the provision more closely to the intent of the Bill. As the Opposition would see it, the intent of the Bill is to avoid restraints of trade when they would have a significant effect on competition. Therefore, we suggest that sub-clause (5) of clause 90 be amended to provide that an authorisation will be granted unless the Commission is satisfied that the particular contract is likely to result in a detriment to the public instead of having the English test which is there at present and which uses the words ‘is likely to result in a specific and substantial benefit to the public’. The reason why the contract should not be of detriment is hard to understand because if the freedom to contract is to be retained subject to the public interest then if there is no detriment to the public surely the contract should remain on foot. That is the purpose of the Opposition’s proposed amendment.
We shall propose a clause 155A as a provision to enable discovery on the part of a person who is being proceeded against under this Bill. The right to discovery against the Crown is, of course, a matter of debate. The Opposition feels that a person who is charged with an offence or a person against whom proceedings are taken should be able to have produced to him any documents that might support his case. The proposed new clause 155A is designed to enable that to be done in such a way that it will protect the public at the point where the question of matters such as confidence, secrecy of government documents and the like can be protected by the court. So much for the provisions relating to trade practices. I have endeavoured in what T have said to indicate the approach of the Opposition in relation to those provisions that I have mentioned. I have stated that we will not oppose them in principle and I have indicated the nature of the proposed amendments.
I want now to deal with the consumer protection provisions which are contained in Part V of the Bill. The Opposition is strongly in favour of provisions which will give adequate protection to the consumer. At the same time it is vital that those provisions which protect him should not leave him in a state of confusion. Throughout the Commonwealth there are already a large number of provisions in force in the States, under State legislation, which cover in broad terms the same areas as those covered by Part V of this Bill. Later in this speech I shall endeavour to assist honourable members by referring them to a number of State provisions which support this contention. The Government’s proposal is to introduce yet another set of laws which by themselves might be unexceptionable but which if left, as is intended, to operate side by side with State law will leave the public - the consumers - in a state of complete confusion. The Opposition therefore while not taking any exception to the provisions themselves will move for the deletion of these provisions from the Bill.
This does not mean that the Commonwealth has no part to play in consumer affairs. We on this side of the House think the Government has a vital role to play. For instance, there is much to support the view that the Commonwealth should have legislation to establish quality standards for consumer products. That is something. The Commonwealth should, through its control of the Territories and under other powers, be encouraging greater uniformity in consumer protection laws between the States and between the Territories and the States. At the same time it should provide funds to enable the States to establish consumer affairs bureaus to advise consumers of their rights and to provide them with legal aid in appropriate cases. We suggest that the Government agree to delete these provisions from the Bill and to hold consultations with the States with a view to the adoption of uniform laws throughout the Commonwealth to remove confusion. We are not aware of any consultations having taken place with the States by this Government in relation to this matter in order to achieve uniformity. We on this side of the House would co-operate in this endeavour so far as our co-operation was needed. We would not, of course, oppose these provisions applying to Commonwealth Territories. There are 3 reasons why, in the interests of the consumer, the suggested provisions in Part 5 of the Bill are unsatisfactory. First, they would produce confusion of the character I have mentioned. In his second reading speech the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Enderby) said:
The existing law is still founded on the principle known as caveat emptor - meaning ‘let the buyer beware’.
I do not know whether the Minister himself prepared that speech. It is not an accurate statement. It is not true for there are a large number of provisions of State law which give great protection to the consumer in the areas which this Bill covers and which do not simply leave the consumer in the position of ‘buyer beware’. Clause 53 of the Bill deals with fraudulent advertising and fraudulent representation. One has only to refer to some of the provisions of the States to see that they have legislation which covers this particular field. In New South Wales they have the Consumer Protection Act of 1969 which contains provisions on false trade descriptions, false representation, false and misleading advertising and the like. In Victoria the Consumer Protection Act, in Queensland the Consumer Affairs Act 1970-74, in South Australia the Misrepresentation Act 1971, in Western Australia the Trade Descriptions and False Advertising Act 1936 and in Tasmania the Goods Trade Descriptions Act 1971-72 contain provisions similar to those contained in this Bill.
Pyramid selling is dealt with in clause 61 of the Bill. New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, have passed legislation to cover pyramid selling. The matter of unsolicited goods is dealt with in clause 64 of the Bill. Appropriate provisions are in preparation in New South Wales in the Consumer Protection Act. There is the Unordered Goods and Services Act in Victoria, the Unordered Goods and Services Act in Queensland, a similar Act in South Australia, the Unsolicited Goods and Services Act in Western Australia and the Unordered Goods and Services Act in Tasmania. So there is already a broad area of consumer protection law in the States covering - if one were to make a close study of it - very much the same field as that which this Bill purports to cover. Quite apart from that there is the Sale of Goods Act. Division 2 of Part V purports to introduce warranties in relation to the sale of goods. These simply duplicate, although there are some differences, those provisions which are already in existence under State law. (Extension of time granted.)
Some of the State provisions are even more comprehensive than those now proposed by the Government. There can be no result from such a situation other than confusion. Let us take an example of a consumer who is the victim of false advertising by a trader. If this Bill becomes law, the position would be this: If the trader was an individual the consumer must sue under State law because this particular Bill relates only to corporations. If the trader is a corporation the consumer will have a choice between suing under State tew and suing under Commonwealth law. However, if he sues under State law the trader will have a constitutional defence. The defence will be that the State law is inconsistent with the Federal law and so the consumer will be plunged into constitutional challenge. In other words, confusion will be added to confusion. It is true that in clause 74 of this Bill there is an attempt to save the State laws but that attempt may well be vain because under section 109 of the Constitution, if it operates it operates, and no law of this Parliament can exclude it. In other words, we are adding confusion to confusion - not only the confusion of having State laws which operate in this area but also the confusion into which a consumer will be plunged because he will be faced by a multiplicity of cases of constitutional challenge. Every State provision which could be said to come within the ambit of these provisions would be the subject of a challenge. It could be said that the Commonwealth law covers the field and that the State law is therefore inoperative. The Opposition believes that this sort of confusion into which the consumer could be plunged should not be permitted. It is for that reason also that we would support, and seek, the deletion of Fart V from the provisions of this Bill.
But there is yet another problem which this legislation creates for the consumer. At the moment in the States of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria there are either provisions for consumer claim tribunals or there are provisions in the course of preparation. For all I know, there may be provisions in the other States in the course of preparation. The development of consumer claim tribunals is a very significant development in the field of consumer affairs, because these tribunals enable a person who is officially appointed by the Government, no doubt with a legal background, to have brought before him claims by members of the public who claim to be affected by consumer protection provisions. Fortunately for the consumer, he can go there without the aid of lawyers. He can go there without the problem of legal costs. He can go there and have his claim dealt with in an administrative way by this particular officer. Imagine a person, a small consumer, who has a claim for $200. Obviously he will not be put in a position where he has to pay some thousands of dollars or even $500 for legal costs in order to fight his claim before a court. These consumer claim tribunals enable these types of disputes to be settled to the satisfaction of the public and in a way which does not involve expense to the individual or expense to the public. Under the Constitution this is just not possible at the Federal level. Such a question can be committed to a consumer claim tribunal in the States; yet in the Federal area it cannot be committed to such a body. It would have to be committed to a Federal court, and that court would have to consist of a person or persons appointed for life. The very idea of setting up consumer claim tribunals consisting of officers who are appointed for life only has to be stated to indicate how ridiculous it would be.
So this Bill deprives consumers, because of the constitutional position in the Commonwealth, of the right to what is a very important and significant development in the law in relation to consumers, namely, consumer claim tribunals. Therefore we in the Opposition, although we are not against consumer protection provisions - I have asserted that and I assert it again - say that this Bill is not in the interests of consumers. Therefore we would encourage the Government to leave these provisions out. We will oppose them. As I said earlier, we would encourage the Government to discuss them with the States and try to work out uniform law throughout the Commonwealth in the field of consumer protection and introduce those provisions in the Territories. If the Government is not prepared to do that, it is the Opposition’s view that the consumer is better off as he is at the moment under the law of the States. At least there is a movement in the States - apparently the Commonwealth does not participate in it at the moment although it used to - to achieve uniformity. If one goes through the States’ laws one will find a great degree of uniformity due to the fact that there are constant consultations between the State Ministers involved. So we in the Opposition will not oppose the trade practice provisions but will seek their amendment in important ways, and we will seek the deletion of the consumer protection provisions.
– I must say that I am appalled but not surprised by the tactics of the Opposition in seeking the deletion from this Bill of all references to consumer protection. I suppose during the election campaign one had the balmy dawn of the Opposition, for the first time in over 23 years, actually mouthing words like ‘consumer protection’ and ‘the interests of consumers’. It produced in its book called ‘The Way Ahead’ - obviously it is now ‘The Way Backwards’ - reference to bureaus of consumer protection and it mouthed words in favour of protecting the interests of the consumer. But today the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) indicates that this was a false dawn. Quite obviously the Opposition is more concerned with the interests and the rights of manufacturers and the people it represents than in protecting the rights of consumers.
The Government has regarded this legislation as a composite package. Is the honourable member for Wentworth telling me that we can divorce from consumer protection the enforcement and penalty provisions under Part VI, which give consumer protection the powers and penalties that are not in much of the State legislation about which he talks? The Opposition is seeking to take out what we deliberately put in, namely, teeth in the consumer protection provisions. Can he say that the other Parts of the Bill, particularly Part IV, which deals with resale price maintenance and price discrimination, are not in the interests of the consumer?
As I said, this Bill was framed as the first Bill to be introduced into this Federal House to deal with consumers and consumer protection. The whole concept of the administration was that the Trade Practices Commission would provide the most effective form of administration for protecting the consumers’ interests. We have developed a program for the use of the Trade Practices Commission in the interests and on behalf of the people of Australia. By one amendment the Opposition seeks to delete the whole of the consumer protection provisions in this Bill.
The honourable member for Wentworth talks about confusion. At the moment the 6 States have their own legislation on consumer affairs. We have 6 different approaches to consumer affairs and protection of the individual. Very few of those State Acts have the sorts of penalties that will bring manufacturers and retailers into line. Very few of them give individuals the right to take action for damages. So the Opposition is looking at the confusion of the States and saying to the Federal Government: ‘We will not allow you to introduce your consumer protection provisions because your Bill happens to be confusing’. If the Opposition has its way we will have 6 pieces of legislation in the States which have added to the confusion and have affected the rights of the consumers in this country.
I was not surprised that the honourable member for Wentworth came forward with the old States rights argument. I do not believe that we should be talking about States rights or Federal rights. What we are talking about is the rights of the Australian individual. A Queenslander buys and eats or uses the same sort of product as a Western Australian. Australia is not 6 separate markets but one large market. Consumer protection is a national problem and requires a national solution. Anyone genuinely concerned with the interests of consumers should welcome legislation that will greatly increase the protection available to consumers. That is precisely what the Opposition is not prepared to allow. I am sure that the honourable member for Wentworth has read the appropriate parts of the legislation, but I make the point that where there is inconsistency between consumer protection provisions in this legislation and the provisions of State law, this legislation will of course prevail. But we have provided in the legislation that it will not necessarily displace State legislation in the same field. Clause 75 - I think the honourable member for Wentworth referred to it as clause 74 - expressly provides that the provisions of the Bill are not intended to displace or limit the concurrent operation of any law of a State.
What we are seeking to do is to reduce the confusion. The enactment of the Trade Practices Bill will provide on an Australiawide basis - not as the sum of the 6 States - for the protection of the individual, the Australian consumer. We look forward to active co-operation with the States in implementing this program. But if we undertook to implement the proposals of the honourable member for Wentworth it would be the year 2001, if we were lucky, before we could get effective representation throughout Australia for the Australian consumer.
As I mentioned, this is the first legislation at the national level in Australia which is expressly aimed at protecting and reinforcing the individual consumer’s position in the market place. The consumer protection provisions will provide a new deal. It is about time we had a new deal, because for 23 years not one word came from the Opposition when it was the government. It is time we had a new deal for consumers throughout Australia. The provisions will provide greatly increased protection to consumers against a wide variety of unfair, misleading and deceptive practices and will strengthen the position of consumers in many of their day to day dealings. It will provide powerful reinforcement for, and give great impetus to, efforts already made to protect consumers and to develop consciousness of consumers’ rights. It will give Australia up to date and effective protection on a nationwide basis. The Bill recognises that consumers have a fundamental right to fair and honest dealing in business, with that right to be enforceable by law. The Bill prohibits outright deceptive and unfair practices. It stops businessmen, by using the fine print in contracts, taking away conditions and warranties given by the law to protect consumers. It makes the businessman comply with product safety standards and generally requires him to stand behind and be responsible for his product.
I think we all know that consumers are the largest but regrettably the least organised economic group in the community. Every one of us, by definition, is a consumer - from when we get up in the morning and squeeze our toothpaste tube until we go to bed at night and turn off the lamp. But more often than not, we are quite ignorant of our rights and privileges as consumers. What we are proposing in this Bill is a consumers’ charter, that is, a bill of rights for Australians as consumers. We, as consumers, have first the right to be safe, the right to protection against products which could harm our health or endanger our lives. Secondly, we have the right to know. The march of technology has brought added difficulties as well as benefits to the consumer. The housewife today is required to be an amateur mechanic, electrician, doctor, chemist, food technologist and mathematician, but all too rarely is she given the information she needs to fill these roles. Our consumers’ charter gives her the right to have access to the facts, free from fraudulent or misleading information, whether in packaging or advertising.
Thirdly, consumers should have the right to choose, the right to select between goods and services at competitive prices. Our charter protects the consumer against shady business practices which restrict the basic right to get value for money. Above all, the consumer must have the right to speak and to be heard, where his interests are at stake. The consumer must he certain of full, fair and sympathetic consideration in the formulation of Government policy, and a voice in the administrative tribunals of the Government. To recapitulate, related to this Bill and involved in this Bill are four fundamental rights: The right to be safe, as proposed in clause 62; the right to know, as proposed by clause 63; the right to choose, and the right to be heard.
The Government has taken action outside the provisions of this Bill, but related to the Bill and predating the Bill, for the consumer to be heard. Last year at the time of the preparation of the federal Budget, for the first time consumers were brought into Budget discussions. The previous Government had brought into earlier Budget discussions manufacturers, retailers, trade unionists and so on. But never once in the discussions that preceded the consideration of the Budget at Cabinet level had the voice of the consumer been heard. The Government proposes to follow that practice which it inaugurated last year. That practice will again be adopted this year.
The Government has, as the House knows, set up the Interim Commission on Consumer Standards and I will be bringing down the report of that Commission in the near future. One of the functions of that Commission was to ensure that the voice of the consumer was heard. The committees of the Standards Association of Australia, particularly its Consumer Advisory Committee, which had not met under the SAA for three or four years was revitalised and the executive officer of the Interim Commission on Consumer Standards became the Chairman of the Consumer Standards Advisory Committee of the SAA. The Government has also arranged for the representation of consumer groups on 12 of the technical committees of the SAA.
In consultation with my colleague the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) consumers have been brought into the work of the National Health and Medical Research Council. In conjunction with my colleague, the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones), there are consumer representatives on the Commission on Vehicle Safety and Standards.
Consumers are involved in the work of Codex Alimentarius, a body which covers international food standards. The Government has also actively encouraged the establishment within Australia of the Australian Federation of Consumer Groups.
I hasten to point out that although the Government encouraged the formation of this group we made it clear that the Government does not see this group, or wish it to be regarded, as a Government instrumentality. The Government has provided certain facilities to bring together the consumer groups throughout Australia. The Government met representatives of consumer groups and, after giving them some indication of why we wanted them to give a voice to us when we are framing legislation which is of vital interest to consumers, we left the meeting and the representatives proceeded to draw up the ground rules for the Australian Federation of Consumer Groups. I understand that the constitution of that body will be available in the near future. The Government asked the chairman of the drafting committee to appear at the Budget discussions.
Consumer representatives have also appeared at the meetings of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices. Honourable members will recall that on 10 April 1974 the Prime Minister announced that assistance would be given to consumer groups which wished to present submissions to the Prices Justification Tribunal. These are effective efforts undertaken by this Government to ensure that the voices of representatives of consumer groups throughout Australia are heard.
I turn to the approach adopted in the Bill. The Bill prohibits a wide range of specific practices which have come under notice, including false representations, bait advertising, referral selling, pyramid selling and the assertion of a right to payment for unsolicited goods. It is not possible however to specify in advance the nature of all undesirable practices, as sharp operators continually evolve new schemes for duping the public. For this reason the broad prohibition of misleading or deceptive conduct in clause 52 is of great importance. That is one of the clauses which the honourable member opposite has suggested should be wiped out. The courts will be able under that provision to take action against conduct which may not fall within the more specific terms of other provisions. This will provide the flexibility necessary if legislation of this kind is to be able to deal with evolving market practices without the constant need for legislative action to catch up, often after much damage has already been done, with new practices that are harmful to consumers.
In view of its generality, there are no penalties provided in relation to clause 52, but injunctions will be available to restrain breaches of the provision and damages will be available also. Under clause 28 the Government will also be able to require the Trade Practices Commission to inquire into and report on the need for new legislation to protect consumers from a particular abuse. The Trade Practices Commission, with its close contact with trading practices and consumer problems, will be well equipped to assist the Government in this way. That is precisely the way in which the Government intends to work, a way in which it will not be possible for the Government to work if the amendment which is proposed by the Opposition is carried. The Bill also prohibits all deceptive or misleading conduct in trade or commerce. The practice of pacakaging products in enormous opaque cardboard containers and labelling them ‘giant size’ or ‘king size’ is common. It is impossible these days to buy anything which is ‘small size’. It is also common for a consumer’s anticipation of large quantities or bulk within the cardboard container to be completely unwarranted. The implication that the quantity is significantly greater than is in fact true and therefore represents greater value is obviously intended by this type of packaging and labelling. Such deceptive practices will be prohibited. Where the nature of the product is such that it subsides after packaging we propose to have Plimsoll lines on the packets to indicate at the point of sale the level from which the subsidence of the material inside the packaging has taken place.
We have been concerned also about the extravagant performance claims of manufacturers. We have been concerned also about the type of arrangement where one thinks one is getting a discount because there is a tag showing that the product has been marked down from 50c to 30c when the goods have never been marked at 50c; about the paid advertising; about the offers of gifts or prizes and the general deceptive practices that any Australian housewife is only too familiar with; about the conditions of warranties; and about the occasions when any time anything happens the small print is brought out and one has had it because one has been conned all along the line. Those are the essential characteristics of what we have built into the Trade Practices Bill. Product standards and information standards, as I have mentioned, action against pyramid selling, coercion at the place of residence and referral selling are also matters of concern to the Government.
One of the important provisions of this legislation is the provision of penalties. Under section 79, which is in another part of the Bill, we have provided for penalties of between $10,000 for individuals and $50,000 for corporations to ensure that they adhere to the standards that we will be setting under the provisions of this legislation. We shall also provide under the Act for legal aid to consumers so that they may have the Government on their side in redressing the imbalance in their great fight against the vested interests that quite obviously still stand behind the Opposition. This Bill seeks to establish the principle that a consumer has a fundamental right to be dealt with honestly and fairly when he does business. He asks for nothing more; he is entitled to nothing less.
– This Bill, as has been mentioned by honourable members, is basically of 2 parts. Part V, which relates to consumer protection, is the Part to which the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison), who has just resumed his seat, addressed himself. I wish to point out - I will talk about other parts as well - .that the Opposition is by no means uninterested in the protection of consumers, but that it believes that these provisions are not practical and that they do not meet the situation, as the Minister has asserted. The Opposition believes that it is clear that the position needs much more examination yet in order to find the right formula. The Minister made the point that this is the first time that any steps have been taken in this House for the introduction of consumer protection provisions. That is quite true. But because it is the first time does not necessarily mean that this is the best possible proposal. It certainly does not necessarily mean that these provisions will be satisfactory.
At first the Opposition was quite attracted to the notion of these provisions, but the more it looked at them the more it came to the conclusion that they were impractical, that they would not work, that the States had some laws which were, at any rate in part, effective and that it would want to go into the matter much further. It is no real argument to say that there are 6 sets of law operating in a particular field of government. That argument taken to its logical conclusion, means that we should not have State governments at all. Although that is probably the view of some of the supporters of the Government I do not think that it is the view of ail supporters of the Government. Let us be clear. If we are going to criticise the States for having different laws, although I do not believe that they are fundamentally different in this area, the logic of that argument will take us quite a long way.
For my part, I think that there is perhaps a need for this Parliament to pass laws in relation to consumers. From the discussions I have had in respect of this proposal however, I do not believe that these provisions are adequate or practical. The jibe is so often offered in this House that in many fields nothing was done for 23 years under the administration of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government. Was the honourable member commenting about consumerism 23 years ago? Of course not. Honourable members hardly would be thinking about it then. The issue has. become more and more alive as time has passed. Nobody needs to apologise for not having thought of everything 23 years ago.
As a person who has been a member of this Parliament for only 5 years I will not take any responsibility for what happened in the years prior to that. For that matter, to take the point a step further, if I were to come to a different conclusion about a subject on which I made a speech 3 years ago I would not see any inhibition in my coming into this House and contradicting what I said earlier - I hope with some acknowledgement of what I had said earlier - and pursuing a new policy. I do not think that it really gets us very far to say in a debate that the LiberalCountry Party Government had 23 years in which to do X, Y and Z. Of course situations change. The thinking today certainly is that there is a need for laws to protect consumers, but we have to ensure that they will achieve beneficial results and that they are fair. I know that the Minister has received some praise from consumer organisations about his role as a proponent on their behalf. All praise for that. But I remind the House that practical results of that intervention have yet to be seen.
I believe that the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, which was passed 2 years ago, is a good piece of legislation. I believe that it would have been a better piece of legislation if the amendments which were proposed by Senator Greenwood and which would have toughened it up had been passed and had been put into effect. Part of the parcel of proposals he put forward concerned the setting up of a separate monopolies commission. I think that his proposals were better than these for the reason that their implementation would have enabled a more profound view to be taken of the situation because it would have enabled an investigation of all the facts.
There would have been much more certainty of a practical application being inserted into the world of trade than there will be if this proposal becomes law. This Bill goes straight to controls and to coercion. I think it has come from people who have a moderate knowledge of what is happening in the market place. In that respect I suggest that it is typical of the approach by the Labor Party. I say that because we have seen in the past Labor Governments, as well as in the present Government, a reaction to every situation in terms of: How can we control it? How can we hold it down? How can we bring everyone below to a common denominator? How can we coerce as much as possible?’
– Does the honourable member mean ‘hold up’?
– In response to the interjection by the Minister for Manufacturing Industry I say that the longer the Labor Government remains in office the more we are going to see coercion and an attempt to set up a unitary system of government in Australia.
– You are frightening the kiddies.
– I think that comment by the Minister for Services and Property is deserving of incorporation in Hansard. The adoption of Senator Greenwood’s proposals would have created more certainty. The primary point one has to make about this Bill is the tremendous uncertainty that is involved in it. As recently as yesterday Senator Murphy tried to imply, as reported at page 338 of the Senate Hansard, that if this Bill were passed it would be the end in the main of the problem of inflation. How ridiculous can one get? I know that he is a lawyer and that possibly he has not been outside of the study of law for many years, but the control of inflation, as the Treasurer (Mr Crean) and the Minister for
Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) have made clear in the last few days in this House, goes a great deal beyond trade practices. Important though it may be, in its influence it certainly is only a long term measure. It is a very long term measure. I remind the House that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development - the Government is very fond of quoting OECD documents when it thinks it valuable - has made it very clear that legislation regarding trade practices has an effect on inflation only in the long term.
That brings us to the position in which we have before us legislation about which there is tremendous doubt about every main operative provision. There will become certainty only when the courts have had years of chewing on it. It means that every phrase used and every application to a practice in trade has to be determined by the courts. It is only the courts that can do it, and the only way that can be done is for people to enter into litigation to find out exactly what the law means, how far they can go, what is illegal and what is not. That is where this legislation really is a farce as an influence on inflation because obviously if it takes that length of time to help consumers and business people to determine what are their rights, it will take all that time before it will have any effect on prices, insofar as that is an objective, and have an effect on inflation. Further, the courts cannot hope to deal with all the economic influences involved. Commerce and trade are very complex. They are even more complex than this House or any one honourable member can comprehend at the one time. So I question the value of this legislation. I question whether those who have been responsible for drafting the Bill have had much experience in that area. I know they have had experience in the law of that area but experience in trade and business is another matter. .
Let me point to one or two other relative details. The primary object , of the Bill is to increase competition. It wants to increase competition whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. I think that this illustrates that dogma, if taken too far, always gets one into trouble. Competition is not always a good thing for the public. It is not always in the public interest. The Government itself is the greatest monopolist. Obviously the Government is at odds with itself. As the Minister for Manufacturing Industry would know, the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on the motor vehicle industry has recommended, particularly in the components section, that there be some rationalisation in the industry. Rationalisation means merger, closing down - in other words, lessening of competition. It is in direct conflict with the object of this Bill as it has been stated.
– You could not have been listening to my answer this morning.
– The Minister should read the speeches that have been made in favour of this Bill and he will see that that is the case. I think that the Government can try, in another sense, to rationalise the situation as much as possible but it really is not entirely clear about which way it wants to go. I for one think that there are segments of this economy in which rationalisation is necessary. I happen to believe that one of them, as the Minister might be interested to know, is the aircraft industry, and rationalisation in that industry seems to be taking a long time to reach fruition. Rationalisation is sometimes necessary. Competition is not always a good thing. I hope that nobody will accuse the Opposition, particularly members of the Liberal Party, of arguing that competition always comes first. Obviously we believe that it is the driving force in much of the productivity in the country and that in most cases it ought to be allowed to have as free a rein as possible. I think it will be a long time before we have much competition in the steel industry, for instance, in this country because, after all, our economy is not so very big as to make that desirable. So there are 2 arms of government that are contradicting one another. How the matter can be reconciled is something which would not only be of interest to the Opposition but would be of help to the country.
I come now to one or two points relating to the Bill in particular. I support the amendments as they have been outlined and as they will later be presented in more detail by the Opposition spokesman. It is clear that some of the enforcement provisions are very strong. The standard of proof required is much too harsh. One sees that particularly in clause 76 in which the Opposition proposes to delete the words ‘if the Court so orders, liable to pay’ and replace them with the words ‘upon proof thereof beyond reasonable doubt liable, if the Court so orders, to pay’. I know that the
Minister will have a close look at that amendment and indeed at all the others that have been presented. But my point here, linked with what I was saying earlier, is that throughout this legislation is a pretty blind attempt to coerce, and in some cases for coercion’s own sake.
I think that one of the most important provisions is contained in clause 49. The Opposition proposes some amendments to that clause to give it some more certainty. Yet there is a basic contradiction in this clause because it is dealing with price discrimination. It is clearly at some variance with the provisions and the objects of the Bill - that is the encouragement of competition. The opinion that that provision conflicts with the encouragement of competition has been expressed by a number of learned people - by the report of the Attorney-General’s National Committee which studied the anti-trust laws in the United States of America in 1955, by the Neal report more recently in 1969 and by C. D. Edwards, a noted authority on price discrimination laws. Yet the Government has sought to insert this clause with all its accompanying vagueness.
I know that there are people in the community who want to be protected in this way but I know equally that it is inconsistent with that overall objective. I hope that the Government in replying in this debate will make some attempt to reconcile that matter so that the House will know what is the general policy and approach. It must be recognised that industry is entitled - after all, people in industry are citizens too- to have as much knowledge as it can of the Government’s intention and to have introduced as much certainty as possible into this area where there is at present so little.
Another area is that of clearances and authorisations. Why those provisions were never made applicable to the monopolisation provision and the price discrimination provision in clauses 46 and 49 I cannot understand. Surely it is a question of fairness. Surely the Government would not wish to prevent a company or an individual from having his situation examined by an objective body. Surely an objective review is reasonable. As I was saying earlier, this goes to the heart of Labor’s attitude to so many things. Its attitude must be to over-kill and over-control. The Government takes the position that everyone engaged in that practice is doing something which is wrong, and therefore it must be illegal.
– Engaged in free enterprise?
– Surely in the complexity of human life there must be some cases in which it is not against the public interest. Surely they can be examined ad hoc. I see that the Minister is trying to mock this situation but I do not hear any rational reply coming from him. Those are the observations which I wanted tc make in this relatively short debate on the most complex set of provisions. I hope that the Government will provide time for the debate to be continued so that the 25 proposed amendments can be discussed. After all, that is one of the objectives of Parliament. I conclude by saying that in principle I support the Bill because it recognises - I think we all recognise this - the need for Government intervention in some way in this field. That, I might add, is entirely consistent with Liberal principles which recognise that in order to create or to preserve freedoms in the community it is often necessary to inhibit the activities of some within it. The first question is: How far do you go? The question is: Is there adequate justification in the public interest? One can only answer that on a case by case basis and in this case by looking within the general field of trade practices. But I think that the amendments that the Opposition has put forward - proposed by an eminent committee, I might add - are constructive and give much more certainty to the Bill and on that basis would improve it.
– I was surprised earlier to hear honourable members on the Opposition side attempting to claim the credit for the initiative in having this legislation presented to the House. I simply say that they must have forgotten Sir Garfield Barwick and his efforts in 1962. They do not seem to realise that the existing legislation is what is left of what he set out to implement in 1962. I was astounded to hear the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) say that competition is not always a good thing and it is not always in the public interest, particularly as the comment came from a member of the Party that claims to represent the ideal of free enterprise in our nation.
This Bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation ever to come before an Australian Parliament. Its passages into law and implementation will bring direct benefits to a vast number of Australians and it is unfortunate that the Opposition in another place saw fit to defer and delay the almost identical Bill that was first introduced into the Senate in 1973. It is pleasing, in spite of my earlier comment, to note that the Opposition has now indicated its support in both places for the legislation - in the main, that is. There is no doubt that had the Bill of September 1973 been passed millions of dollars that importers, distributors and retailers have received in savings as a result of the currency revaluation and tariff policies of this Government would have been passed on to the consumers. We need look no further for evidence of this than the report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices which was tabled in this House on 9 April of this year. Referring to flat glass the Committee on page 25 of its report recommends that the Parliament should:
Clause 49 of this Bill deals with the prohibition of price discrimination as between purchasers of goods of like grade and quality. The protection that this clause will provide to the smaller businessman, particularly the independent food retailer, is most welcome and long overdue. No sector of business has suffered as much as the independent food retailer because of the lack in the past of effective trade practice legislation. Whilst the turnover in food retailing rose from SS 1.600m in 1956-57 to $3,273m in 1968-69 the total number of establishments selling food declined from 138,000 to 57,000, a drop of 81,500 outlets or 59 per cent. It is true that the sharp decline in the number of food retailers could not be attributed solely to the restrictive trade practices of suppliers but trade abuses such as boycotting, price discrimination, hidden discounts, hidden co-operative advertising allowances, resale price maintenance and exclusive dealing operated to the severe detriment of independent retailers.
The Opposition when in government presided over the destruction of small business by its refusal to enact positive legislation to prohibit the abuses I have mentioned. During the 23 years of Liberal-Country Party stewardship of this nation small businessmen in their thousands were virtually run out of town through the collusive and collective action of their competitors and suppliers. Clause 49 of the Bill expressly prohibits discrimination in relation to:
And I would take this section of the clause to cover items such as co-operative advertising allowances -
There are economies of scale to be derived from differing means of delivery of goods, differing destinations and large drops as compared with small drops but these ought not to be used as a screen for price discrimination as between purchasers of like goods. The latter sections of clause 49 prohibit this practice by making only reasonable allowance for such economies in determining prices. There is added strength in clause 49 in that a person is prohibited from seeking discriminatory prices. So, in effect it is double barrelled. A corporation is prohibited from practising price discrimination and a would-be purchaser is prohibited from attempting to obtain discriminatory prices. It is worth noting that while criticism has been made of the fact that the discriminatory dealing provisions of this Bill have been based on the Robinson-Patman Act of the United States it is a fact that this legislation aims to maintain competition of a much broader kind than is provided under that Act because much to the chagrin of the Opposition this Government is committed to the strengthening of competition in the Australian economy.
I want to turn now to Part V of the Bill, that Part dealing with consumer protection. It is in the field of consumer protection that every Australian stands to benefit at some time or other from the enactment of this legislation. The absence of strong national legislation on consumer protection has allowed Australia to remain a paradise for imported and homegrown spivs, sharpies and confidence men for far too long. Sharp practices and smart selling tricks perfected overseas have been even further improved upon in this country. Perhaps I can best describe the objectives of these people by quoting from the final paragraph of a document titled ‘Sales Presentation - The Key to Success’, which was distributed to salesmen of a home cladding firm last year. I will quote the suggested trial close of a selling interview. It reads:
Now I’ve shown you the brick, and you like it, right Mr Jones (Nodding.) and you did state that you were happy with the advertising - so if I measure up your home, work out the cost, put it through the advertising scale, and if we can fit this to your budget, I then have myself a model home.
Mr Jones (Jump up and shake hands, Nod.) Go out, measure up (With Mr Jones.) Work out prices and then close.
Then comes the final paragraph setting out the selling spiel. It reads:
Fill in the contract,-
This is the part I really like - happy selling and may the flood gates of abundance open up and pour over you more money than you ever dreamed possible. GOOD LUCK- L.B.
That document setting out instructions to salesmen says that the’ Commonwealth Department of Trade and Industry commissioned the University of New South Wales to test the product. This is used as supposed evidence in support of a sale. It was issued in late 1973. In fact, it was in use in my electorate in late 1973. The document to which the firm refers, after having introduced it as being commissioned by the Commonwealth Department of Trade and Industry, is headed ‘Approved by Independent Research’ and the address shown is ‘C/- University of New South Wales, Barker Street, Kensington, N.S.W.’. I cannot read the signature because the photocopy of the document is not a clear reproduction but the relevant thing is that it is dated 7 July 1965 which is 8 years earlier than when the sales presentation example was being used. Naturally that kind of representation would be prevented under the provisions of our own consumer protection legislation that is currently before the House.
Various States have consumer protection laws of varying degrees of effectiveness. It is not intended by this Bill to displace State legislation and this is expressly stated in clause 75. I would say by way of comparison that in Canada and in the United States there is very strong consumer legislation at the national level as well as at the State level and in some cases even at the local government level. The fact that there exists in these countries 3 sets of laws does not inhibit the effectiveness of the legislation. In fact, it all adds up to more protection for the consumer.
In our economic climate of national marketing and national advertising, it is appropriate that controls should be administered on a national basis. It is probable that time will show that State legislation will tend to concentrate more on anti-consumer practices at the State and local levels. Practices prohibited under this part of the legislation include misleading or deceptive conduct, false representations - as I mentioned earlier - deceptive offering of prizes in connection with the promotion of goods or services, bait advertising and referral selling. If a person is fortunate enough to live in a weatherboard house which needs painting he will be constantly in receipt of proposals to have his house clad with aluminium or brick and there will he constant calls at his door. The. survey to which I have referred was carried out - in the Newcastle area, at least - on weatherboard houses. Other prohibited practices are accepting payment without intending to supply as ordered, misleading statements about home operated businesses, coercion at place of residence, pyramid selling, inertia selling, such as unsolicited goods being delivered, and certain practices involving entries in business directories.
I have no doubt that many honourable members have had instances brought to their attention of the prohibited practices I have just mentioned. In the short time at my disposal I want to draw attention to the heartbreak suffered by many citizens unfortunate enough to have been victims of pyramid selling schemes, such as Holiday Magic and Dare to be Great, to mention two. People have lost their life savings and their businesses, and families have been broken up, all as a result of participation in pyramid selling schemes - schemes that were presented as sure-fire successes but which, as far as the participants were concerned, were doomed to failure. Despite existing New South Wales legislation, various adaptations of pyramid selling were still operating in my electorate as recently as a few months ago, when an instance was brought to my notice of despair in a family, where the parents were divided over propositions put to them for pyramid selling schemes.
It does not matter how good the New South Wales legislation is, ways have been found to circumvent the law. I am informed that the way around the 5 day cooling off period for door-to-door sales in New South Wales is to sign up the purchaser on a Thursday evening and be sure that the invoices and contracts show only a box number and not a house address. The salesman signs up the purchaser on a Thursday evening. It is too late for the mails and there is no address for the purchaser to go to and so, if he wants to register his revocation of the contract and withdraw from the sale, all he can do is write to the vendor. Since there is no Saturday morning delivery to mail boxes the vendor can readily claim that the revocation was not in his mail box on Monday. He collects it on the Tuesday and thus effectively beats the provision for a 5 day cooling off period.
– You are the ones who withdrew Saturday deliveries. Why do you not resume Saturday morning mail deliveries?
– I should think that the vendors are probably Country Party people. In this way the vendor effectively gets around the provisions of the New South Wales consumer legislation. But they will not be able to get around the provisions of this legislation. I repeat that this legislation is intended to reinforce, not to clash with or duplicate, the legislation of the various States. The honourable member for Wentworth has suggested that we should get together with the States. We have all heard how the States like to get together with the Federal Government.
– They cannot agree on daylight saving.
– The Minister for Services and Property says: ‘They cannot agree on daylight saving’. I cannot think of a better instance. They cannot even agree on what time to milk the cows. I conclude on this note: If the States had been able to implement effective legislation for consumer affairs, it would not have been necessary for legislation to be before this House at this time to bring benefits to Australian citizens. There is a need for this type of legislation and I hope that the Opposition is sincere in its indication of support for it.
– I will not delay the House for long, but I wanted to explain a few facets of the attitude of the Opposition and the Australian Country Party to this piece of legislation. It has been said this afternoon that, for reasons that apparently were related to our intention to remove the consumer protection section of this legislation, we in some way are not sympathetic to the cause of consumer protection. Equally, it has been suggested, perhaps because of the reservations we have in regard to some aspects of this Bill, that we might be sympathetic to big business. Indeed, one of the concerns of members on this side of the House lies in the way by which the Labor Government has provided an economic climate which is sympathetic to big business only, and one of the reasons we support this piece of legislation is that we see that unless this type of legislation exists, it is big business that is going more and more to monopolise the sinews of industry in this country, in cohorts with the nationalised enterprises sponsored by this Government. This will mean that instead of the small man - the person who substantially we on this side of the Parliament represent - being able to maintain his effective operation, he is likely to go out of business.
Without going into the matter in great detail, the point I make is that the policies of a credit squeeze and high interest rates are particularly penalising the small business man - the man with less than 10 employees and the self-employed person. These are the people who are suffering at present under the economic policies of this Labor Government. One of the reasons why we have felt it necessary to change and extend the Trade Practices Act at this time, for all that we have some reservations about some aspects of it, is that unless this type of legislation exists, it is big business that is going to grow out of all proportion, because it is only big business and the Government that are able to operate in circumstances of tight liquidity, and high interest rates and are able to sustain themselves until conditions turn again. So, quite contrary to the allegations of Government supporters, we in fact by supporting this Bill are demonstrating that we are certainly not in cohorts with big business. However, we recognise that big businesses and small businesses all have a place in the community but that, if there are undue monopolisation and business practices which are injurious to the individual citizen, they need to be regulated.
The second thing I want to say is that we are concerned that in this legislation there has been a change from the pattern that was laid down in the previous Act. We are concerned because the reports of the Registrar of Trade Practices under the old trade practices legislation did not demonstrate that the exemption type of function had proved to be a failure. Rather, the reports demonstrate that by some modifications to the old legislation, rather than necessarily some of the changes which are entailed in this legislation, there could have been incorporated in the legislation a very effective manner of restricting those trade practices. Almost universally, the Parliament supports their restraint. Nonetheless, the Opposition supports the changed procedures which have been the subject of this legislation because it sees that it is necessary for this legislation to be passed. The Government has reasserted its intention not to deviate from its original change of direction from the specification of practices under the old legislation. Therefore, we are prepared to go along with this legislation, subject to the amendments which my colleague, the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) will move in the Committee stage.
One area about which we are concerned, however, is Part V of the legislation which relates to consumer protection and which refers specifically in the Commonwealth area to forms of protection for the citizen, which we endorse but do not believe are appropriate to this particular piece of legislation. There is an alternative in that the States can maintain, and indeed should extend, their present practice. One area in which I think that the benefits of Federal law have been most apparent is that each of the States has pursued a slightly different form of consumer protection. For example, whereas in Queensland there has been a move in one direction, in South Australia there has been another and there has been a possibility for experimenting in different ways by which the rights of the consumer can best be protected. Experimentation will not take place where there is confusion about which law applies, and I believe that once a Commonwealth law applies, as it will through this legislation, rather than protect the consumer it will confuse him. The Opposition does not believe that the interests we seek to assert, that of the consumer, would be best served in the resultant confusion.
Under a Federal system with each of the States enacting its own specific consumer protection legislation, the rights of the citizen are best protected. However, we believe that the Commonwealth has a role and I submit that it is necessary for the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison), who among other things is responsible for consumer affairs, to call together those responsible in this specific field, be they attorneys-general or other persons, to try to ensure that there is increasing uniformity in State legislation and that developments in specific States which have individual advantages can be applied then to other States. I believe that with co-operative federalism the consumer is far more likely to be protected than he is through the application of a single law, as would be the case if Part V of this Bill were passed. The Opposition is therefore opposed not to the principle of consumer protection but to the manner in which this Bill seeks to implement that protection. The Opposition supports this piece of legislation. It is opposed to the various practices which this legislation outlaws. However, it believes that the consumer protection provided by this portion of the legislation is far better provided under State legislatures with the type of overall surveillance which Commonwealth Ministers can enact through co-operative endeavour.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
– I move:
In sub-clause (3), after ‘47 (1)’, insert ‘and 49 (1)’, and in sub-clause (4), after ‘47 (1)’, insert ‘and 49 (1)’.
The purpose of this amendment is to bring into operation clauses 45, 47 and 49, four months after the date the Act is proclaimed into force. I have already explained the reasons why the Opposition seeks this amendment.
– The Government has not had an opportunity to look at these amendments at length. The Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) and I have had the amendments forless than an hour. However, I indicate that they do require further consideration and the Government will be opposing them at this stage, certainly the amendments relating to Part V. Some of the amendments obviously do require much more consideration.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 6 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
– I move:
At the end of the clause add the following new sub-clause: “ (5) A person shall not be appointed as a member of the Commission unless he appears to the Governor-General to be qualified for appointment by virtue of his knowledge of, or experience in, industry, commerce or public administration.”.
The purpose of this amendment, as I have already indicated in my speech in the second reading debate, is to ensure that the members of the Commission have proper qualifications when they are appointed. This provision is included in the existing legislation and it seems to be something that was perhaps overlooked by the Government when drafting this legislation.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 16 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
– I move:
At the end of sub-clause (1) add: “ Where a member discloses an interest in any such business or body corporate and the body corporate carrying on any such business is concerned in any application before the Commission the Chairman shall disclose to it the interest of the member.”.
The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that, where a member discloses an interest in a particular business of a body corporate or in the body corporate itself, that interest is in turn disclosed to the body corporate when it comes before the Commission. It seems to be a very reasonable suggestion that the interest be not kept just to the chairman, otherwise the consequences would be that the person affected by that interest would never know of it. He should be in a position where he can object.
– For the reason I indicated before, the Government will oppose the amendment at this stage although the amendment obviously does require further consideration.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 18 . to 28- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
– I move:
Omit sub-clauses (1) and (2).
The purpose of this amendment is to exclude the right of the Attorney-General to give directions. I have already indicated during the second reading debate that we on this side of the House consider that the Attorney-General should not have that right. The Commission has its functions to perform and it ought to perform those functions independently and outside the political arena. These provisions should be omitted from the Bill. If he has this power the Attorney-General can give directions on all sorts of matters. As we see it, there is no reason which could be suggested for giving the Attorney-General a right to interfere with the functions of the Commission. As the existing Act operates, the Commissioner of Trades Practices is a person with an independent mind and capacity and he has functioned very well. The Opposition suggests that there is no need for these provisions and that they should be omitted from the Bill.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment and will oppose it. It is well known that this provision in the Bill relates only to matters of priority and not to anything of a judicatory nature. There could be no harm done by or misgivings about this provision, as was suggested by the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott).
– You give an assurance that that is the only role in which it could be used.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 30 to 39 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
When a member of the Tribunal, other than a presidential member, is informed by the President that the President proposes that the member shall be a member of a Division of the Tribunal in any proceedings, the member shall, to the best of his knowledge, disclose to the President any direct or indirect pecuniary interest that the member has in any business carried on in Australia, or in any body corporate carrying on any such business, being an interest that could be in conflict with his duties as a member of the Tribunal in those proceedings.
– I move:
At the end of the clause add the following new sub-clause:
Where a member of the Tribunal discloses an interest in any such business or body corporate and the body corporate is concerned in any application before the Tribunal the President shall disclose to it the member’s interest.
The purpose of this amendment is similar to the purpose of the proposed amendment to clause 17, namely, to ensure that a body corporate which is affected and comes before the tribunal is given notice of any interest of any member of the tribunal so that it can object to that member sitting. We suggest that this is a very reasonable amendment.
– For the reasons I have given, the Government opposes the amendment at this stage although what the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) proposes does have appeal to me. However, it will have to be considered in another place.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 41 to 44 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
A corporation shall not -
– I propose to move an amendment to clause 45. I pointed out to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Enderby) and the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) that the amendment circulated should include at the foot of clause 45 (2) the following words: ‘but nothing in this sub-section prevents a corporation enforcing or purporting to enforce any provision in a contract which is not in restraint of trade or commerce.’ The purposes of these amendments are as follows: As I indicated during the second reading debate the purpose of sub-clauses 1 and 2 is to ensure that the effect of the unenforceability of a contract will not be to make unenforceable the other provisions. This may indeed be clear as a matter of law already but it ought to be made clear specifically in the legislation. That is the purpose of the amendments to sub-clauses (1) and (2) as further amended by what I have already read into the Hansard. The amendment to sub-clause (3) is for the purpose of inserting, as I also indicated in my second reading speech, a rule of reason which is that a contract will not be in restraint of trade unless the restraint is, or is likely to have, a significant effect on competition. However, this provision leaves out of that sub-clause price fixing agreements which are covered by proposed new sub-clause (3)(b). Only the de minimus provision will apply to those. This is a very important amendment. Its purpose is to give clarity to business and to the public and to indicate those circumstances in which a restraint of trade will offend the provisions of the measure. I move:
Omit sub-clauses (1), (2) and (3), substitute the following sub-clauses:
A contract in restraint of trade or commerce whether made before or after the commencement of this sub-section is unenforceable in so far as it confers rights or benefits or imposes duties or obligations on a corporation but nothing in this sub-section shall render unenforceable any provision in such a contract which is not in restraint of trade or commerce.
A corporation shall not -
make a contract or arrangement, or enter into an understanding, in restraint of trade or commerce; or
give effect to a contract, arrangement or understanding that is in restraint of trade or commerce, whether the contract or arrangement was made or the understanding was entered into before or after the commencement of this sub-section; but nothing in this sub-section prevents a corporation enforcing or purporting to enforce any provision in a contract which is not in restraint of trade or commerce.
(a) Subject to paragraph (b) of this section a contract, arrangement or understanding isnot in restraint of trade or commerce for the purposes of this Act unless the restraint has or is likely to have a significant effect on competition between the parties to the contract, arrangement or understanding or on competition between those parties or any of them and other persons; and (3)(b) A contract, arrangement or understanding fixing or controlling or providing for the fixing or controlling of, the price for, or any discount, allowance or rebate in relation to, any goods or services supplied by the parties to the contract, arrangement or understanding, or by any of them, in competition with each other, to persons not being parties to the contract, arrangement or understanding is in restraint of trade or commerce for the purposes of this Act unless that restraint has such a slight effect on competition between the parties to the contract, arrangement or understanding and on competition between those parties, or any of them and other persons as to be insignificant.
– The Government opposes the amendments, particularly the one dealing with the amendment to sub-clause (3). We take the view that the amendment would bring about a substantial diminution of the purpose that is sought to be achieved by the legislation, and for that reason it is bad. To restrict the provision only to significant effects on competition would be to lessen the purpose of what we are trying to achieve. On the question of the separability of the restraint provisions and the proposed amendment to sub-clause (1), the Government has taken the view that the common law is sufficiently firm on the point. ‘The clause will be given further consideration. However, we oppose the amendment at this stage.
Clause agreed to.
A corporation that is in a position substantially to control a market for goods or services shall not take advantage of the power in relation to that market that it has by virtue of being in that position -
For the purposes of this section, a corporation shall be deemed to be in a position substantially to control a market for goods or services if that corporation and any related corporation or related corporations are together in a position substantially to control that market.
– I propose to move 2 amendments to clause 46. They are numbers 8 and 9 on the list of proposed amendments which has been circulated. The first is to add after the words ‘shall not’ in clause 46(1) the word ‘wilfully’ so that that portion would read: ‘A corporation that is in a position substantially to control a market for goods or services shall not wilfully take advantage of the power . . . ‘ That is to say, there must be a conscious taking of advantage. That, of course, would be the only proper circumstance in which a corporation should be guilty of monopolisation. There would be circumstances where the corporation may have power but exercise it unwittingly. Therefore, the word ‘wilfully’, we suggest, should be inserted. The other amendment is the insertion of a sub-clause (2) (a) for the purpose of indicating a definition of a monopoly position. Again, as I indicated in my second reading speech, the purpose of this is to give clarity. The Government may of course think that there is a better way of doing it. It may suggest other words. Of course, we are prepared to listen to those words when and if they are suggested. At the same time, we suggest that this is the appropriate form of amendment in order to give greater certainty to the Bill. I move:
In sub-clause (1), after “shall not”, insert “ wilfully “.
After sub-clause (2), add the following new subclause: “(2A) For the purpose of this section, a corporation in a position substantially to control a market for goods or services includes a corporation which by reason of its share . of the market, or of its share of the market combined with availability of technical knowledge, raw materials or capital, has the power to determine prices or control production or distribution for a substantial part of the goods or services in that market. “.
– The Government opposes the amendments. The addition of the word ‘wilfully’ would impose a limitation on the behaviour that is sought to be made accountable. Of course there are difficulties always, as anyone who practices in the courts knows, about establishing a state of mind, especially as to the wilfulness of a corporation which can act only through servants. For that reason and for others, the Government opposes the measure.
Clause agreed to.
– Amendment No. 10 in the list of amendments circulated proposes the addition to clause 47 of a sub-clause (6), which is in similar terms to clause 45 (6) of the Bill. This purpose is to ensure that there is a linearity between the 2 provisions. In other words, the provision would not apply where the only parties engaging in the exclusive dealing were two or more bodies corporate that were related to each other. In these circumstances we propose the amendment because there seems no reason for distinguishing between clause 45 on the one hand and clause 47 on the other. I move:
At the end of the clause add the following new sub-clause: “ (6) This section does not apply to a practice of exclusive dealing where the only parties engaging in it are two or more bodies corporate that are related to each other.”.
– The Government opposes the amendment to clause 47. It takes the view that it is unnecessary, almost certainly, but if it were not unnecessary the probabilities are that other parties could be affected by the conduct envisaged and that that would be struck down by the amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 48 agreed to.
Clause 49. 49. (1) A corporation shall not, in trade or commerce, directly or indirectly discriminate between purchasers of goods of like grade and quality in relation to-
the provision of services or facilities in respect of the goods; or “ (h) such other acts, things or provisions as may ties provided in respect of the goods, if the discrimination is of such magnitude or is of such a recurring or systematic character that it is likely to have the effect of substantially lessening competition in a market for goods, being a market in which the corporation supplies, or those persons supply, goods.
– The proposed amendments numbers 11 and 12 on the list circulated apply to clause 49. The first amendment would substitute the word ‘knowingly’ for the words ‘directly or indirectly’. The second amendment would substitute the words ‘reasonably believed to be’ after the word ‘benefit’ in clause 49 (2) (b). The purpose of the first amendment is again to indicate certainty to the corporation’s position. It requires that to come within the provisions of the sub-clause the actions of the corporation must be done knowingly. That is, it must knowingly discriminate. It is appropriate, as the Opposition sees it, so to require in this legislation to give corporations protection in situations where actions are taken without any real knowledge on the part of the corporation. It is the purpose of the second amendment, to sub-clause (2) (b), to incorporate in the clause a test which is contained in United States law requiring that the benefit offered be one which is reasonably believed to be offered by a competitor of the supplier. 1 think the Government, on analysis, might find that both of these are appropriate amendments to make to this Bill. I move:
In sub-clause (1) omit “directly or indirectly”, substitute “ knowingly “.
In sub-clause (2) (b), after “benefit”, insert “ reasonably believed to be “.
– The Government cannot accept this amendment. It takes the view that the behaviour of price discrimination is generally, in those circumstances, so much against the public interest that to delete the words ‘directly or indirectly’ and to substitute for them ‘knowingly’ would so weaken the legislation as to be a bad thing for Australian consumers and people seeking to obtain the benefits of the legislation the Government has introduced. I repeat the remarks I made before about the difficulty of proving that something is done knowingly in the case of a corporation. As to the second amendment moved by the honourable member for Wentworth, that the words ‘reasonably believed to be’ be inserted, this introduces a subjective element into the question. We believe it works unfairly to the advantage of corporations indulging in this sort of practice. I say that carefully knowing that the Government wants to be fair in the overall situation towards corporations as well as to the people affected by their dealings.
Clause agreed to.
After sub-clause (1) insert the following new subclause: (1A) This section does not apply to an acquisition of assets in a corporation in the ordinary course of business.’.
The purpose of this amendment isto clarify what perhaps is implicit in sub-clause (1) of clause 50, the merger provision. As I indicated in the second reading debate, it is possible under the provision, as it is at present drawn, for it to cover a position where a company merely acquires some additional assets which have the effect mentioned in sub-clause (1) of clause 50 and not to cover the usual case that must be intended to be covered, namely, where a company acquires the assets in toto of another company or perhaps the goodwill of the other company with the assets that go with the goodwill - in other words, acquires its business, and so puts itself in a position where the acquisition is likely to have the effects stated in sub-clause (1) of clause 50. The purpose of this amendment is to exclude those acquisitions from another company in the ordinary course of business - acquisition of machines and the like. Again, the Opposition suggests that this is quite a reasonable amendment. Business ought not to be put to the trouble of having to seek a clearance, for instance, or an authorisation in respect of every purchase of machinery that might, in the future, have the possible effect of substantially lessening competition.
– The Government opposes the amendment at this time because it is clearly a matter that requires careful consideration. There may be merit in some of the matters put forward by the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott). On the other hand, one can at first blush think of a situation where it would weaken the legislation considerably. One wonders why, merely because a matter was in the ordinary course of business and it produced a substantial lessening of competition, it should not he prevented. The Government opposes the amendment at this time.
Clause agreed to.
– I move:
At the end of sub-clause (2) add the following paragraph: “ (h) such other acts, things or provisions as may be prescribed by regulation.”.
My amendment, which has been circulated, will add to sub-clause (2) of clause 51a further paragraph. The purpose of sub-clause (2) of clause 51 is to indicate matters as to which regard shall not be had. The Act provides a number of matters to which regard shall not be had and it seems appropriate to the Opposition that there should be a provision for the
Governor-General to exclude, by regulation, other matters which might not have been thought of at this stage and which, in the course of the practice of the legislation, might be found to be matters as to which regard should not be had. Again we suggest that this is another reasonable amendment.
– The Government opposes the amendment for the reasons I have previously given.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 52 to 75 - by leave - ‘taken together.
– I move:
Leave out clauses 52 to 75.
The purpose of this amendment is to delete the whole of Part V relating to consumer protection. 1 know that the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) weeps at the thought that he will not, if this amendment is carried, have the capacity to become the Ralph Nader of Australia, as no doubt he would like to become. At the same time, in the second reading debate we indicated our objections to these proposals. They have nothing to do with our protecting big business. Our only concern is the consumer. Our real concern is to ensure that the members of the public will not be put in a state of confusion and also to ensure that they will be adequately protected by certain laws. It is all right to have a grandiose scheme which would enable one to place an umbrella over every consumer in Australia who deals with corporations. It looks very good. But when one comes to examine the proposal in the way I did in my second reading speech, the Opposition suggests that it leads to complete confusion and a situation in which the consumer should not be placed. It is an important matter, but the provisions do not cover the corner shopkeeper or the individual shopkeeper. If there are laws which are to relate to businesses then the consumer should have the same protection against all those conducting businesses. Of course, there are many individuals apart from corporations who carry on business in our country. This is another objection which the Opposition has to Part V of the Bill.
– For the reasons explained in my second reading speech and also in the second reading speech of the Minister for
Manufacturing Industry (Mr Enderby) the Government strenuously opposes the amendment moved by the Opposition. Perhaps I might enlighten the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) with respect to the consumer protection provided in Part V of this Bill amending the Trade Practices Act. It was always the intention that it be administered by the Attorney-General. The arrangements proposed ensure that the Trade Practices Commission would, in fact, carry out most of the work of a bureau of consumer protection. We strongly oppose the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wentworth.
Clauses agreed to.
A person who -
– I move:
Leave out Paragraph (f).
I have moved 2 amendments to clause 76. One is to omit the act of conspiracy as one which could be the subject of action under clause 76. The other amendment is to require proof beyond reasonable doubt. In my second reading speech I indicated our reasons for wanting these amendments.
– The Government opposes the amendments. The Government takes the view that the question of conspiracy, as contained in paragraph (f) of clause 76, is a very necessary part of the legislation. On the other point raised by the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) the
Government has given considerable thought to whether the test should be on the balance of probabilities - the normal civil test in litigation - or whether it should be the criminal test of beyond all reasonable doubt, which the honourable member for Wentworth seeks to have inserted. The Government believes that the civil burden of proof is the proper one although it appreciates and expects that tribunals giving effect to that language will apply the normal tests of making a finding according to the civil test but where the consequences are such as are spelled out in this legislation.
Clause agreed to.
– I move:
Leave out ‘at any time’, insert ‘within 6 years’. The purpose of this amendment is to require an action to be taken by the Attorney-General or the Commission within a period of 6 years instead of at any time, as is now proposed in sub-clause (2) of clause 77.
– The Government opposes the amendment for the reasons I have given. The matter will be given close study.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 78 agreed to.
A person who contravenes a provision of Part V other than section 52 is guilty of an offence punishable on conviction -
– I move:
Leave out the clause.
This is a consequential amendment on our amendment seeking to delete clauses 52 to 75.
– The Government opposes the amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 80 to 84 - by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Subject to sub-section (2), in a prosecution under this Part in relation to a contravention of a provision of Part V, it is a defence if the defendant establishes -
In a proceeding under this Part in relation to a contravention of Part V committed by the supplying of goods that did not comply with a consumer product safety standard or in relation to which the supplier did not comply with a consumer product information standard, it is a defence if the defendant establishes -
– I move:
Leave out the clause, insert the following clause: 85 (1) Where in any proceedings against a person under this part it appears to the Court that he has or may have done an act in contravention of a provision of Part IV or of section 76 of this Act but that he acted honestly and reasonably and that having regard to all the circumstances of the case he ought fairly to be excused the Court may relieve him either wholly or partly from liability to any penalty or damages on such terms as the Court thinks fit.
In this section “person” includes the corporation’.
The purpose of this amendment would be to substitute provisions similar to provisions contained in the Companies Act which enable a court, in considering whether a person has been liable for an act done in contravention of, for instance, the Companies Act- in this case the Trade Practices Act - to determine whether he has acted honestly and reasonably. We suggest that the amendment is appropriate in the context of the trade practices legislation where people may be involved in an action honestly and reasonably and in circumstances where they ought to be excused. The courts should have a discretion in relation to it to exonerate them.
– The Government opposes the amendment. It takes the view that the defences are quite liberal as spelt out in clause 85. Clause 76, which has already been dealt with, provides for all relevant circumstances, including circumstances in which conduct takes place, to be taken into account on the question of penalties.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 86 and 87 agreed to.
The Commission does not have power to grant an authorization under sub-section (1) to a corporation to continue to be a party to a contract, arrangement or understanding unless -
11284/74- R- 
– I move:
The purpose of these amendments is to enable authorisations to be obtained in relation to matters under clause 46 dealing with monopolies and clause 49 dealing with price discrimination. I have already given the reasons why we seek these amendments.
– The Government opposes the amendments sought. The Government believes that there is sufficient flexibility in the legislation in its present form. It also takes the view that it is also almost inconceivable that conduct of this kind could be in the public interest. These amendments would give rise to enormous problems of practical administration.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 89 agreed to.
– I move:
In sub-clause 5, leave out “results or is likely to result in a specific and substantial benefit”, insert “does not result or is not likely to result in a detriment.”.
The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that sub-clause 5 in clause 90, which deals with the question of when an authorisation should be granted, is brought into line with what we suggest is the appropriate approach to the question, namely, that an authorisation should be granted unless there is detriment to the public resulting from the particular conduct. We do not agree with the provision that an authorisation should not be granted unless it is likely to result in a significant and substantial benefit to the public. Our amendment would be consistent with the view that freedom of contract be preserved unless a particular contract is not in the public interest. We suggest that that is a very appropriate amendment to make in the circumstances.
– The Government opposes the amendment for the reasons I have given.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 91 agreed to.
Clauses 92 and 93 - by leave - taken together.
– I move:
In clause 92, leave out sub-clause (2), insert the following new sub-clauses: “ (2) Where a corporation so gives notice to the Commission, the Commission shall within 30 days after receiving the notice (or within such longer period as the Corporation may agree) give notice in writing to the Corporation stating whether or not the Commission considers that the contract, arrangement or understanding is or would be in restraint of trade or commerce within the meaning of section 45. “ (2a) Where a corporation has given a notice to the Commission under sub-section (1) and the Commission gives notice to the corporation in accordance with sub-section (2) stating that the Commission considers that the contract, arrangement or understanding, or the proposed contract, arrangement or understanding, is not or would not be in restraint of trade or commerce within the meaning of section 45 the contract, arrangement or understanding shall be deemed not to be in restraint of trade or commerce for the purposes of this Act. “.
The amendments provide for a period within which the Commission has to give notice. It seems appropriate that it be required to give notice within a particular period so that a businessman would know where he stands and would not have the threat of conduct being declared lawful or unlawful, or enforcible or unenforceible during a particular period. We have suggested 30 days. Another period might be suggested. Perhaps the period should be 60 days. We suggest that it is an appropriate amendment in the circumstance. The amendments also seek the addition of a clause 92a. The purpose of that is to enable a clearance to be obtained in relation to clause 46 (1). There is no such provision at the moment. Clause 46 relates to monopolisation, and, as we see it, there seems to be no reason why monopolisation should not be covered. The third and fourth amendments are similar in substance to the amendment relating to the addition of a period of time within which notice has to be given. The final amendment seeks to insert a new clause 93a, again to enable clearances to be obtained in respect of conduct which might offend clause 49 relating to price discrimination. I dealt with that in my speech at the second reading stage. We submit that all these amendments are appropriate amendments.
– The Government opposes the amendment for the reasons I have given. They will be given close attention.
Amendments and proposed new clauses negatived.
Clauses agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
– ‘I move:
After clause 155, insert the following new clause: “ 155a (1) In any proceedings under this Act instituted in the Court bv the Attorney-General or the Commission, or in any application to the Commission under Part VII for an authorisation or to the Tribunal under Part IX for a review of a determination of the Commission, the Attorney-General or the Commission shall at the request of a party to such proceedings or of the applicant disclose or furnish to him any documents or information in the power possession or control of the Attorney-General or the Commission which establishes or tends to establish the case of such party or applicant. “ (2) If the Attorney-General or the Commission does not comply with a request under sub-section (1) the party or applicant making such request may apply to the Court to compel the Attorney-General or the Commission to do so and, subject to sub-section (3), the Court shall order accordingly. “ (3) The Court may refuse to make an order in respect of the disclosure of any document or the furnishing of any information (or part of such document or information) which it considers will unduly prejudice any person whether or not a party to the proceedings or application or for any other reason that the Court considers appropriate in the circumstances. “ (4) Before the Court makes a determination under this section it may require any person to produce the documents or furnish the information to it. “ (5) Any order under this section may be expressed to be subject to such conditions as are specified in the order.’.
The purpose of this amendment is quite simple. It is to require the Crown to make documents in its possession available to a person who is being sued. It seems a proper procedure. I submit that the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Enderby) would readily agree that the defendant should know what is in the possession of the Crown. No doubt the Minister has often used that argument himself. The amendment purports to protect the Crown from any disclosure relating to confidence and the like. It gives a discretion to the court. We therefore suggest that this is a very appropriate amendment to make to the Bill.
– The Government opposes the amendment at this stage. It is an interesting concept in this context and will be given very close study.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Morrison) - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– I have received messages from the Senate concurring in the resolutions of the House relating to the appointment of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, Joint Committee on Prices, Joint Committee on the Northern Territory and Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, and agreeing that the resolutions have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
– Mr Speaker, pursuant to section 7 (7) of the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973, I table the Remuneration Tribunal 1974 Review.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Lionel Bowen, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the Remuneration Tribunal’s recommendations for increases in remuneration and allowances payable to judges and to holders of certain offices and appointments. Section 6 (2) of the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973 requires the Tribunal to report on the remuneration payable to judges and it is necessary to legislate to give effect to any increases recommended. This legislative procedure will have to be followed in respect of future Tribunal reviews of judges’ remuneration.
With respect to the Bill’s provision for remuneration and allowances payable to holders of certain offices or appointments, this is neces- sary because these are offices or appointments which are not at present within the Tribunal’s jurisdiction and thus require legislative action to give effect to the increases proposed. For reasons which I shall outline in a moment, it will not be necessary for such action in the future.
Honourable members will recall that the Remuneration Tribunal was established by an Act of the Parliament in December 1973. The Tribunal’s Review provides the first work value assessment of the remuneration which should be payable to members of Parliament and to the holders of senior public offices. The Tribunal’s functions are to report on the salaries payable to Ministers, the remuneration payable to judges, and to determine the allowances - including allowances in accordance with section 48 of the Constitution - payable to members of Parliament, the allowance payable to Ministers, and the remuneration payable to officers of the First Division of the Public Service and to holders of statutory offices. There is a number of public offices in the higher salaries area which, while not formally within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, were intended by the Government to be so. The Government proposes to introduce into the Parliament during the Budget session amending legislation to extend the jurisdiction of the Tribunal to cover all offices in the higher salaries area. Pending this amendment, the Government requested the Tribunal to provide indicative determinations in respect of these offices. Therefore the Tribunal’s first review which was tabled in the Parliament today, includes a set of indicative determinations for a number of offices that are not within its jurisdiction, in addition to the reports and determinations required under the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973. The date of effect of the remuneration and allowances contained in the Tribunal’s first review is 1 August 1974.
Legislation is not necessary to give effect to the Tribunal’s 3 sets of determinations, which are in respect of salaries and allowances payable to members of Parliament, the allowances payable to Ministers, and the remuneration payable to officers of the First Division of the Public Service and holders of statutory offices. The Remuneration Tribunal Act 1 973 provides for these determinations to come into operation on such date as the Tribunal specifies in the determinations, this date being 1 August 1974 on this occasion, with the provision that either House of Parliament may within 15 sitting days after the tabling of the determination pass a resolution disapproving of it. However, it is necessary to legislate to give effect to the Tribunal’s recommendations on remuneration payable to judges - including the President of the Trade Practices Tribunal, the Chairman of the Prices Justification Tribunal and the President and Deputy Presidents of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission - and to give effect to a number of indicative determinations with effect from 1 August 1974. This is the purpose of this Bill.
In the Parliament’s consideration of this Bill, I would like to draw to the attention of honourable members several of the comments which the Tribunal has included in its first review. The Tribunal states that its assessments have been made with regard to a degree of moderation and restraint. The Tribunal is not of the view that in the current inflationary climate, members of Parliament, senior public servants and holders of statutory offices should be paid a salary less than what may otherwise have been determined. The Tribunal considers that the salaries it recommends should follow, rather than give a lead, to those paid in the private sector of society. In arriving at its recommendations the Tribunal has had regard to salaries in other areas in effect at the date of its review. It is clearly stated by the Tribunal that there is no justification for its determinations and recommendations being used as an argument for an increase in salaries for the Second and lower divisions of the Public Service, the Public Services of the States or any other persons in the community. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Sinclair) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 16 July (vide page 249), on motion by Mr Enderby: That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Speaker, the Opposition will oppose this Bill both here and in the Senate. It did so when the Bill came before the Senate earlier this year and it will do so again. The Opposition’s rejection of the Bill is based on principle and on its determination to ensure, as far as it can, that Australia has the most effective and efficient judicial system our Constitution will permit. A great deal has been made of the fact that the proposal for a Superior Court originated with the previous Liberal-Country Party Government. The fact is, however, that all lawyers in that Government who were first attracted to the idea rejected it once the proposal was examined and subjected to close scrutiny.
It is no secret that the Chief Justice of Australia, who, as Attorney-General, propounded it, and Mr Justice Bowen, who introduced the first Bill into the House, have since expressed/their opposition to it. Successive Attorneys-General - Barwick, Snedden, Nigel Bowen, Hughes and Greenwood - have rejected it. It is to their credit that they did. May I add that the proposal is one with which I disagreed from the moment I first considered it as Solicitor-General. I have encouraged Atorneys-General to abandon it. I have no difficulty in identifying myself completely with my Party’s decision to oppose it.
Before explaining why in principle the Opposition takes this stand it may he helpful if I remind honourable members of the Bill’s main provisions. It is to be a Superior Court of record, that is to say, the highest type of court. It will have power to fine and imprison and enforce its own orders. It will have power to fine for contempt. It will consist of a Chief Justice and other judges appointed from time to time. There will be 6 divisions with a Chief Judge for each division. The divisions are: Administration, Bankruptcy and Insolvency, Commercial, Family, General Division and Industrial Division. There will be an unspecified number of districts with a Chief Judge for each district. Since there is specifically established an Australian Capital Territory District and a Northern Territory District one assumes that there will at least be one district for each State, that is, in all at least 8 districts, each with a Chief Judge. On my count that makes 15 chiefs. One wonders how many indians there will be. Indeed, it is a grand concept. Let me remind honourable members that the judges of this court will be appointed for life because it will be a Federal court and under section 72 of the Constitution, as that provision has been interpreted by the High Court of Australia, they must be appointed for life.
There will be an original and appellate jurisdiction. The original jurisdiction will come from sections 75 and 76 of the Constitution. A great deal of the court’s work will come from matters arising under laws made by the Parliament. By way of example one can point to clause 20 of the Bill, which relates to matrimonial causes. There are special provisions to give this jurisdiction in time to the proposed court and to take it away from the State and Territory courts in which it has been vested since the Matrimonial Causes Act came into existence in the federal area in 1945 and certainly since the Federal Matrimonial Causes Act came into existence in 1959-60. The appellate jurisdiction will include appeals from judgments of the court itself when not sitting as a full court. It will include appeals from judgments of a supreme court of a Territory and appeals from State courts, other than supreme courts, where this is an exercise of federal jurisdiction. So it will be a court of wide jurisdiction.
Clause 23 of the Bill is designed to give the court jurisdiction in associated matters. It is a dragnet provision aimed at attempting to overcome a problem which possibly cannot be overcome, namely, of giving the court jurisdiction in matters which are not matters of federal jurisdiction. But the provision is there, nevertheless. There are also provisions to transfer the existing jurisdiction from the existing courts - from the Australian Industrial Court, the Federal Bankruptcy Court, the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory and the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, and from the High Court insofar as that can be done. There are provisions for the transfer of jurisdiction from the State supreme courts - for instance the taxation jurisdiction which was vested in those courts last year.
To some small extent the State courts will retain concurrent jurisdiction. There will be provisions for appeal from this court to the High Court, but only by leave. Constitutional cases which arise in this court can be transferred or removed to the High Court by the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth. There will be provisions for registries, registrars and people called marshalls who will exercise the task of enforcing the Federal writ in Australia, as happens in the United States. According to the Bill the practice and procedure will be handled by regulation until 30 June 1975 and thereafter an Act of Parliament is to provide for the practice and procedure.
Practice and procedure are to be removed from the jurisdiction of the judges and left to us, the politicians, to determine. There will be provisions for juries and provisions for the enforcement of judgments.
I have gone through those provisions quickly to remind honourable members of the scope of this Bill, of the size of the court and of the types of jurisdiction it will exercise. That summary of the Bill is sufficient to indicate not only the grand design to which this court is to be constructed but also that in size it must ultimately be the largest court in this country whose writ will run throughout the Commonwealth and its Territories. It is intended to exercise and would exercise tremendous power over our citizens. It would add a large court to the already complex judicial system that exists in this country. It will be expensive. It will eventually entail the support of a large number of judges and their staffs. It will entail the provision of courts, registries and jury facilities in every State capital and large centre of population. It will involve the employment of law enforcement officers and the construction of gaols for those convicted before it. It will be a court on a grand design that will have to have many institutions attached to it if it is to carry out its work and enforce its writs.
The reasons put forward by the Government for pressing this measure, as appear from the second reading speech of the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Enderby), are threefold. Firstly, the policy of the Australian Labor Party so provides. Secondly, the Government believes that the areas of major Federal law should be administered by a Federal court established under legislation enacted by this Parliament and should not be left to be administered in the State courts. Thirdly, it is proper that the Australian Government should be able to be sued and to sue in its own courts. Those reasons are political, theoretical and, in a sense, ideological. None of them appears to be concerned with the question of what sort of court system can best serve the people of this country.
Yet this, I suggest, is the only proper question to ask. An effective and serving judicial system must satisfy a number of tests. Firstly, it should be independent. It should be accessible, financially and geograpically, to all the people all the time. It should be simple and not complex. It should be such that the ordinary citizen can understand it and how it works, where to find it and the types of judges sitting in it. It should enforce all the law of the land and, as far as possible, enable the citizen to have all his rights, whatever the source of the law, determined in the one trial court.
In a federation such as ours, which is designed to express the unity of the Australian people it is vital that we have a court system for the enforcement of State and Federal laws which is as unified as circumstances permit and not one that is divisive. In a federation a judicial system can be a cohesive force. In almost every respect the Government’s proposal to set up a superior court fails to meet the basic conditions that I have mentioned. Although independent in the traditional sense, the establishment of a large superior court would accentuate the division of this country into 2 court systems - one dependent upon the State governments and the other dependent upon the Federal Government - with the consequent division. In the initial stages the new court could not hope to be accessible to all our people - for instance, those in large provincial towns. It must be a long time before this court will be able to service people in country towns. At the moment, of course, there is being erected in Sydney a building that could house this court. But for the time being there is no provision for it in the large country towns of New South Wales and all the other States and it will be a long time before this court will become known to all and accessible to our people. It will be strange; it will be unfamiliar.
Such a court would add complexity to our court system in many respects. In the first place, it would provide for 2 systems which, quite frankly, are explicable in terms only by an expert on constitutional law. As will be shown, technicalities will abound. There will be judges of different tenure from those who sit in other courts in the States. They will sit for life. The other judges may be appointed until they are 70 or 65 years of age. There will arise a diversity of decisions and concurrent jurisdiction between the State and Federal courts. Inconsistency in the administration of criminal law is sure to abound because the superior court is intended to become a court of criminal law, and one can be sure that there will be a divisiveness in the administration of that law between the Federal and State judges. That has been so in the United States. It will become so here. It is most undesirable.
There will be different law enforcement officers. There will be marshals in the Federal area and sheriffs in the State area. We will have repeated here the same system as exists in the United States. The confusion that must abound as a result of it need only to be thought about to be agreed with. As I shall demonstrate, it will not enable people to have their rights determined in one court irrespective of the law, Federal or State, which is the source of those rights. It will be divisive. It will cause friction between the State and Federal judicial systems. It will cause friction not only between the 2 systems but also between the judicial officers of the 2 systems. It will deprive this country for many years, if not for centuries, of any real opportunity to have a unified system of courts.
Furthermore, none of the reasons given by the Government for this measure is worth the price that we will have to pay. The first one was that it is Labor Party policy. That in itself, I may say, hardly commends it. It has long ceased to be a reason to commend anything. Secondly, it is said that areas of major Federal law should be administered by a Federal court. The State courts have been doing this since 1903 and there is no suggestion of any complaint by the Government that the State courts are not administering Federal jurisdiction properly.
The third reason given is that the Australian Government should be able to sue and be sued in its own courts. Surely this is pedantic medieval ideology, an attempt to revive the notion that the king could be sued only in his own courts. In a democracy no government is above its people. Where its people can sue and be sued it is proper that it too sue and be sued. It has been so since Federation. Why does the Australian Government suddenly assert that it must rise above its people? The courts should administer the law of the land, all the law, State and Federal, against people and government. It is only by this means that the rule of law in our Federation can be fully realised in practice.
Covering clause 5 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act which says that the law of the Commonwealth shall be binding on all State courts, is an expression of the idea that all the law shall be enforceable in the State courts. The idea is that all the law, State and Federal, shall be enforceable in the one court. I need not stop too long to explain the complexity of the judicial power in Australia - honourable members will be familiar with that - which surrounds the jurisdiction exercised by courts in this country. Briefly, there is Federal jurisdiction, which is created under chapter III of our Constitution. Federal jurisdiction is the authority to decide federal matters. There is State jurisdiction - the jurisdiction which is exercised by State courts. It is the authority to decide State matters. Territorial jurisdiction is that which flows from section 122 of our Constitution. It is the authority to decide territorial matters. Federal jurisdiction is notoriously complex. In the Constitution in chapter III there is provision for it to be exercised by 3 distinct bodies - by the High Court itself; by a Federal court created by this Parliament, and that is what the Government is seeking to do under this Bill; and by section 77 (iii) which provides the means to enable rights and duties under Commonwealth law to be enforced in State courts.
This latter matter is one of considerable importance. This provision was inserted in the Commonwealth Constitution; it is not found in the American Constitution. I took the trouble to find out what was in the minds of our founding fathers when they put in that provision. It is evidenced by a telegram which Simon sent to Sir Samuel Griffiths on 1 April 1897. It was said of this proposal to vest Federal jurisdiction in State courts that the object was ‘to avoid the needless creation of Federal courts in all the States and the consequent degradation of State courts and avoid the difficulties of litigation which exists in America’. They regarded the power to establish Federal courts, more by way of reserve if any State should close its courts or obstruct the determination of federal matters’. The use of State courts was therefore seen by the founding fathers as a means of maintaining a simple court system within the Federation with the High Court as the supreme court of Australia. The founding fathers obviously saw the creation of Federal courts as unnecessary except in the last resort. The arguments which were used then are valid now.
For instance, there is no suggestion that Federal law is not being properly administered under the present system. The general jurisdiction has been exercised by the State courts for 74 years and, as I said a moment ago, there are no complaints. The State courts have exercised taxation jurisdiction for many years and in the last year they exercised it almost exclusively. From my own experience, they appear to be exercising it well in favour of the Commissioner. They have also been exercising industrial property jurisdiction - another matter of Federal jurisdiction - and exercising it well for many years. I think it is appropriate to say that any specialised Federal jurisdiction that needs a special court could be vested in the Industrial Court that now exists. For instance, the jurisdiction under the Trade Practices Act could be vested in the Industrial Court. The resale price maintenance jurisdiction has been exercised by the Industrial Court. The Mikasa case came before it. Administrative review appeals jurisdiction could be exercised by the Industrial Court. There is absolutely no need to construct this large, grand court that the Bill proposes. There is no need for the institutional framework with all its expenses and grandeur. There is no need for a multiplicity of judges receiving salaries of the nature of those we have heard about here tonight.
The’ proposed court would degrade the Supreme Courts, stripping them of their existing jurisdiction. I ask honourable members to consider what will happen to the present State jurisdiction if the Government’s intended legislation comes into force. At present the State courts exercise matrimonial causes jurisdiction. That will be taken away by this Bill. At present the State courts exercise jurisdiction in company matters. If the Government has its way and brings in a national companies Act the State courts will have removed from them the companies jurisdiction. If this Government has its way the consumer protection laws will not be enforced by the State courts. If this Government has its way in terms of accident insurance and jury cases, motor vehicle cases will no longer come before the State courts. I do not necessarily disagree with that, but I just want to show what will happen to the State courts if this Government’s legislation is carried through. This is an extremely important matter. Industrial accident and workers’ compensation jurisdiction will be removed; taxation jurisdiction will be removed; industrial property jurisdiction will be removed. I ask honourable members: What will be left of the great common law courts of the States of this country? They will be nothing but property courts with an inferior status. This needs to be borne in mind when honourable members consider the effect of this proposal.
One other matter which is extremely important and which has created a tremendous problem in the United States of America is that if the Human Rights Bill finds it way into Federal law, and in the unlikely event of the High Court upholding it to be valid, this Superior Court would be able to direct its writs to the judgments of the State Supreme Courts, with consequent tension. The result would be that they would be in the position of inferior courts. There will be the creation of a parallel system of law enforcement officers - marshals who rush in with a federal badge as distinct from sheriffs who rush in with a State badge. There will be a duel criminal system with its consequent effects. That is enough to indicate that if this legislation passes into law the State courts system will be denuded of its jurisdiction. The State courts will become inferior in status. If that is what this Parliament wants to do I suggest that it should think again. It is an extremely good reason why this proposal should be rejected.
I have not stoppped to mention the difficulties of litigation in this court. The problem of what is Federal jurisdiction in a Federal court is an immense one. It is not just academic. It can arise at any time. For instance, if one sued in relation to a simple contract debt one could not sue on that :n a Federal court but one could sue on a cheque because the rights under the cheque are ascribable to the Bills of Exchange Act under Federal law. If one sued on a trademark matter one could not add a count of passing off. What about third party claims based on State law? There are problems of when Federal jurisdiction arises. As a matter of constitutional law, Federal jurisdiction does not necessarily arise when the case starts; Federal jurisdiction may arise when the case is half way through. You may find a case starting in a State court and the result will be that half way through it has to find its way into Federal court. What an extraordinary situation this legislation will bring about. There are other problems. For instance, this Bill enables the Federal court to exercise original Territory jurisdiction. There is the very difficult constitutional problem as to whether Federal courts can exercise original Territory jurisdiction. There is a case way back in our history in which the Justices of the High Court disagreed on this question. They were three all. It is still outstanding. Recently when it was mentioned some of the judges of our own High Court took differing views.
Another important question is what law will apply. If the court sits in Brisbane does the law of Queensland apply? If it sits in Adelaide does the law of South Australia apply? It is a question of a choice of law. There can be no applicable common law throughout Australia in relation to general jurisdiction if this Bill becomes law. I ask: Can the right of appeal to the High Court he taken away? I ask that question because the judges of this court are officers of the Commonwealth just as judges of the Federal Industrial Court are officers of the Commonwealth and they are subject to the original jurisdiction of the High Court under section 75 (5.) of the Constitution. I have mentioned those matters because they only indicate that there are constitutional problems with this court as well.
We have in addition the American experience of problems of competition between the State and the Federal court systems in that country. I personally have had experience of the jealousy and resentment which exists between justices in those 2 systems. A good ‘deal has been written about this. My personal experience would lead me to think that it is not a desirable thing to create in this country. One also has to ask what effect this would have on the development of the Territory Supreme Courts. The proposal under this Bill is to take away the Northern Territory Supreme Court and to put its jurisdiction within the Superior Court. Some day some of us may hope that the Northern Territory will become another State. I realise quite well that those on the other side of the House do not want the Northern Territory to become a State and therefore they have no trouble with this proposition. But if those of us who want the Northern Territory to become another State in our Commonwealth are concerned we will be concerned about the fact that the Territory Supreme Court is not being allowed to develop with its own judges. There is no need for there to be an appellate court within a Federal court in order to satisfy the problem of appeals from Territory courts. There is already in the Australian Capital Territory a Full Court and if the judges were appropriately appointed it could handle appeals from the Northern Territory and then there could be appeals by leave to the High Court, thus giving the ideal of having 2 appeals. <This analysis should be sufficient to indicate why the Government’s proposal as a matter of principle should be rejected. But our attitude, soundly based as it is, is not just one of opposition. There are positive steps we should be taking towards the establishment of a more efficient, more united judicial system in this country. That this is the ideal is irrefutable. Sir Owen Dixon in 1935 in criticising the constitutional concept of Federal jurisdiction said:
Now in such a state of affairs, it would appear natural to endeavour to establish the Courts of justice as independent organs which were neither Commonwealth nor State. The basis of the system is the supremacy of the law. The Courts administering the law should’ all derive an independent existence and authority from the Constitution.
There are steps that we can take now. Except in special circumstances all superior Federal jurisdiction should be vested in State Supreme Courts. Special circumstances might exist in relation to trade practices and administrative review but in relation to taxation there are no special circumstances. Taxation law involves property, trust and partnership law, the sort of law that the State courts are used to enforcing. The State courts are used to industrial property matters. The State courts are used to enforcing company law. They have been doing so since the beginning. Any need for specialisation can be provided in a State court itself under an arrangement that certain judges will exercise particular jurisdictions. Constitutional questions should be dealt with in State courts unless they are of such significance that they should be removed into the High Court, and this can be done under provisions which ought to be inserted in the Judiciary Act by way of amendment.
Secondly, we would suggest that an independent judicial administration should be established and funded by the Commonwealth. This idea has been on the drawing board for a long time. It was on the drawing board of the previous Government. It may for all I know be on the drawing board of this Government. The Federal and Territory judges should administer their own courts. It is time that they were able with their own budget to determine how their courts should be administered, to appoint their own officers and in that way run the courts in the full sense of the word. State judges exercising Federal jurisdiction should be invited to participate with the Federal judges in a permanent judicial conference funded with Federal money. Amongst other things that conference would consider questions on the reform of the law in areas over which judges exercise jurisdiction. It would consider and report to Parliament on the state of the judiciary including the exercise of Federal jurisdiction by State courts. It would hold seminars for judges and it would review rules of court, practice and procedure with a view to achieving uniformity and efficiency throughout Australia. We should avoid a proliferation of judges appointed for life.
But this is not all we can do. In the Constitutional Convention we in this Parliament have an opportunity to work with the States to set up a system of courts in Australia which will enforce all law, State and Federal. It will require a creative effort on the part of all - parliaments, legal profession and judiciary. I do not suggest it would be a simple task, but it is practicable if approached with the interest of our people at heart. We are a modern country and our people deserve and need a judicial system free of complexity, accessible to all and able to enforce all the law of our land. The Opposition is convinced that if this Bill is adopted-
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– My friend needs just one minute.
– In view of the novelty of my friend’s backward-looking approach I move:
That the honourable member be given an extension of time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr Speaker, thank you. The Opposition is convinced that if this Bill is adopted by this Parliament it will be a retrograde step. It will remove, for the foreseeable ‘future, the creative opportunity to improve our judicial system and it will seriously weaken our State courts, divide our judiciary and confuse our people. We will not agree to it but to the positive creative steps of the character I have mentioned we will agree.
– I rise to support the Bill but I do not intend to traverse the arguments that have been extensively put by the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Enderby) who is sitting at the table. My basic purpose in this debate is to amplify and give weight to the series of questions put on the notice paper to the Minister relating to the need for a national companies Act and also for a special division of the Superior Court. It is my belief that there is a crucial area within which the Superior Court can play a very constructive role provided that we get a national companies Act. Because of the blatant breaches of State Companies Acts, the ineffectiveness of the much vaunted uniform Companies Act and the more recent puerile attempts by New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland at rationality and logicality in the now moribund Companies Interstate Corporate Affairs Commission Act 1974, there is only one solution and that is to introduce an Australian companies Act. The second plea I make to the Minister is to establish a special division of the Superior Court. The current ramshackle fragmentation of company law in this country and the recent attempts by the 3 eastern seaboard States for a tripartite corporate commission was scathingly summed up earlier this this year by the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) when he said:
If the 3 States need to unify their legislation then clearly it does not stop there; Australia needs uniform legislation.
That is, in terms of company law.
Let me pass 2 quick observations on this matter. It is my belief that the current ramshackle company law system in Australia is structured to protect the criminal to the detriment of the. honest. If the States had any semblance of political honesty, they would retitle their company Acts ‘Company Directors Protection Acts’. Mr Taylor, Q.C., in a recent paper which appeared in the ‘University of Queensland Law Journal’ dealing with section SI (xx) of the Constitution and in referring to the powers of the Federal Government in regard to a Federal companies Act had this to say:
As a practical matter it may be assumed that the Federal Government will not attempt to enact a Federal Companies Act unless the States default in the responsibility cast upon them in this field or sufficient political pressure demands such action. But the seeds of such pressure have already been sown: the so called ‘uniform’ State Companies Acts are rapidly becoming less and less uniform. The unnecessary expense of registering in many States and administering the companies in those States is a great burden. The business community of Australia will not now tolerate the lack of uniformity in company legislation which existed fifteen years ago. In addition, some State Governments have shown themselves loathe to regulate corporate affairs when such regulation was manifestly warranted. If the States1 do not seek to rectify these faults, the Commonwealth may be encouraged to enact a full Federal Companies Act. It is the opinion of the writer that section 51 (xx) of the Constitution will provide the requisite constitutional power so to do.
I believe his argument is strengthened by the decision in the Rocla Pipes case of 1971. Just how blatant are breaches of the current Companies Act? I suppose the classic breach was the Barton scandal this year, I raised this matter in the Parliament 14 days before the criminal left for overseas. While I am very impressed with the recent legislation of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) in regard to reciprocity of extradition, I would have been a little more impressed had we tightened the laws of this country to ensure that criminals like Barton did not leave but could stand trial and be indicted. Looking at the reports of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange, I do not think there is any doubt that this nation needs an Australian National Companies Act. Let us presuppose that this takes place.
– Order! I would remind the honourable gentleman that the use of the word ‘criminal’ without a person being charged and found guilty is out of order. I would ask him to use some other phrase.
– Yes, Mr Speaker, perhaps I should contain myself. I should like to deal now with some of the problems that arise, particularly in the States’ jurisdictions. I believe a problem arises where an offender is left at large to commit other offences or to make arrangements to avoid apprehension. There is a lack of availability of prosecutors experienced in commercial practice, which results in no action being taken in instances where, with a proper understanding of what has happened, other action could and in many instances should have been taken. The present practice of deciding what is an offence and what is not is outmoded and ineffectual.
I should like to refer to some of the problems associated with the incorporation of companies under State legislation. Under existing State legislation, it happens that companies of the same name, but unrelated, can be incorporated in separate States. Problems arise when companies of the same name carry out business in the same State, whether lawfully or not. Jurisdiction makes administration restrictive. It could happen that a company incorporated in one State carries on business in another. If offences are involved in the State in which business is carried on, but the directors or officers of the company are resident in another State, many actions are not proceeded with because of the lack of jurisdiction or of the problems involved in taking action in the other State because of jurisdictional difficulties. Although there are reciprocal provisions in those States with uniform companies Acts, the difficulty still exists. The example of Commonwealth law versus State law perhaps is best evidenced by the instance of a person obtaining a ticket from Trans-Australia Airlines or Ansett Airlines of Australia Ltd by false pretences and failing to meet his obligation. In the case of TAA, the person can be prosecuted under Commonwealth law in any State of the Commonwealth, whereas in the case of Ansett he can be prosecuted under State laws only in the State where the offence took place. Here we enter the realm of cloud cuckoo land.
Let me deal now with the problems of issuing prospectuses. The practice, which is at present approved by the relevant State Registrar, of promoting a company and issuing a prospectus in one State covering business to be carried on outside the State of incorporation could be subject to much greater protection of the public if only one authority, namely, the Australian Government, were responsible for approving the issue of prospectuses. It never fails to amaze me that when somebody wants to float a company and issue a prospectus, the respective Commissioners for Corporate Affairs throughout the States do not instigate an inquiry into the credibility of the. company and attach an accreditation certificate to the prospectus.
I should like to refer to some scathing criticisms contained in a recent report by Mr Connolly, Q.C., of which the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) would be well aware. Mr Connolly, Q.C., was appointed by the Queensland Government under the Companies Act to inquire into the activities of Queensland Syndication Management Pty Ltd and 3 associated companies.
– A most distinguished and able counsel.
– Of course he is. The honourable member for Moreton should read the document. Mr Connolly, Q.C., referred in rather blunt terms to the unscrupulous activities of the manipulators. The transactions involved the public in a loss of well over $400,000 by a system which Mr Connolly, Q.C., states is: . grossly and cynically ill-managed and .blatantly illegal and which plainly made its principal appeal to the greed of the investor. As a society we either throw the foolish investor to the sharks or embark on a conscious and sophisicated program of public protection, of forestalling the company shark and stopping him before he gets too far. It will however prove more rewarding than efforts to chase the horse 6 months after it has left the stable in the hope of recovering the saddlebags.
I find it singularly odd, to say the least, to discover that the activities of this group of companies are in parallel with a South Australian company called Australian Syndication, whose directors are presently under arrest. The same fraudulent transactions were being perpetrated in my State but no action was taken. As I understand it, the advice of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department was that no action was warranted. The company continued operations for 2 years and ultimately collapsed. Mr Connolly goes on to say, referring to the Queensland Act:
The machinery inserted in the Act for the protection of the public failed to operate. The case is a classical example of the danger in legal matters of thinking in terms of labels, rather than applying the provisions of the Statute to an accurate analysis of the fact. While on the subject of enforcement of the law, I feel constrained to suggest that the time may well be approaching when our society must reappraise its traditional approaches to the criminal law, at least in relation to the complexities of the commercial world. I cannot but feel that the type of evidence which must be adduced in cases such as this is largely beyond the understanding of the common jury. It may be that the expedient adopted in the Bankruptcy Act of making all offences tri-able summarily unless the court itself commits for trial by jury should be considered. Under the Bankruptcy Act, summary trial leads to a lesser penalty than may be imposed on conviction or indictment, but certainty of conviction may well be the dominant consideration.
Mr Connolly makes reference to the presentation of evidence by accountants. Dealing with the facts, he has this to say:
They may indeed speak for themselves, but they speak to a very limited audience. If the books of account are not to serve as a cloak of invisibility for the embezzler, it may be that the expert should have more latitude in explaining what is recorded to those who no matter how well informed in other areas usually have no knowledge of accountancy. Again, if I may say with all respect, not only the jury but the court itself may be hampered by lack of familiarity with commercial practice. It is high time that the Superior Court provided a permanent commercial division for the rapid untangling of corporate problems. The judges of such a division should be as well equipped to penetrate the smokescreen of the ‘round robin’ as to adjudicate on claims to set aside preferences, and both should be done without delay. Such a division could handle the summary trial of company offences.
Might I say that this proposal is not unique. As I understand it, the Admiralty Court and the marine courts of inquiry would never sit in judgment without advisers or technical assessors. In my view there are many abuses in relation to company affairs; that fact no longer can be denied. No doubt the proposed Securities Exchange Commission will deal with that matter and will provide better protection to prospective shareholders from the offering and transfer of shares by unscrupulous manipuulators. But what of the people who, having become shareholders, are subject to other abuses and mismanagement by the controllers of companies? It is well known that since the ownership and the control of large companies became separated, new problems have arisen which the present company law has not successfully dealt with. The owners of the company, that is, the shareholders, under present laws have no effective say in the way in which their money is used and have in effect no control over directors. Company meetings are an empty charade; the opinions of shareholders are seldom sought and even then are rarely heeded. Such provisions as the present law makes for the expression of shareholders’ opinions are inadequate and can easily be bypassed by those in control of the clerical and financial machinery of the company.
If the company and its controllers wrong shareholders, the remedies are almost illusory. If any exist, their enforcement is slow and exceedingly expensive. Better protection must be given to shareholders. But they are not the only ones who must be safeguarded. The interests of employees and of the public are not regarded in the present outmoded structure of company law. A company’s division of the Superior Court could play a vital part in the protection of shareholders from the controllers of companies, and an influential part in the development of new concepts of company law in the interests of workers and of the public. In other fields it has proved useless to confer abstract rights, however enlightened, upon people without giving them also a tribunal to which they can go, confident in the knowledge that their rights will he cheaply and speedily enforced.
Such a court must have the power to examine the substantial merits of the cases before it, and must have the power to base its decision not only on the terms of so-called free contracts, which are usually forced upon shareholders by managements, but also on equity and justice. It must not be a conventional court bound to apply rigid rules of law because the controllers of companies will continue to frustrate it in the same way as they are frustrating the courts at the moment. Our present machinery of justice has proved to be ineffective, inefficient and totally inadequate in the field of company law. I suggest that we create one which will work, even if it means departing to some extent from our traditional ideas of what courts should do and of what kind of persons should comprise them. That such an innovation can operate fairly and effectively is shown by the experience of the credit tribunal in South Australia which has already proved its worth in that other great source of abuse, consumer credit. A similar approach to the control of companies would be no less effective.
I summarise by putting some questions to the Minister and inviting his comments, particularly in response to my last question. As I analyse the Bill, the Superior Court will be organised in several divisions. Two of these will have a direct ‘bearing on company law - the bankruptcy and insolvency division, and the commerce division. Another, the general division, may possibly have to deal with some cases having a company law element. Leaving the general division aside since it is not particularly relevant for my purposes, I ask the Minister: Is it his intention to organise the court in this way and to assign judges to those divisions according to the subjects in which they have particular competence? If so, can one assume that the bankruptcy and insolvency division, and the commerce division, would be staffed by judges who, apart from their other qualifications, have particular knowledge of company law? Does the Bill specifically contemplate that a judge may be assigned simultaneously to more than one division? Is it intended that a judge may not be removed from a division to which he has been assigned without his consent? Finally, can the Minister give an assurance that he will create a special division of the Superior Court and invest it with adequate powers to safeguard the interests of shareholders, employees and the public? I ask all honourable members to support the Bill.
– Having regard to the fact that the benches on all sides of the Parliament hardly disclose an eager and thronged attendance, one would hesitate to say that this is a measure which is causing tumult throughout the country. I cannot recall for the life of me in years when such a measure has occasioned such massive disinterest. But be that as it may, this in no way diminishes the importance of the measure, and I will turn to the importance of it later. I excuse myself for the present from answering the academic arguments put by the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi), with, I thought, his customary courtesy and sense of punctilio. I turn instead to what I would describe as being the most substantial argument that has yet been offered by the Government in support of this Bill and in a word it is this: This Bill-
– One word.
– Come now. We are entitled to a mead of extravagance on both sides. The Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Enderby), who is in charge of the Bill, has said that this Superior Court of Australia Bill was introduced by a number of distinguished Australian Attorneys-General. He shakes his head feverishly at that proposition.
– I say they are fine men.
– He agrees with me. They are fine men. I ask the Minister to nod his head. I prefer that movement to his shaking head. It is a great argument that the Minister used. When he introduced the Bill he said that Sir Garfield Barwick first proposed it. That is a proposition I do not contest.
– It goes back earlier.
– Let us stop with Sir Garfield Barwick. If Sir Garfield Barwick first proposed the Bill and ergo it should be accepted then everything else proposed by Sir Garfield Barwick should be accepted.
– I did not say that.
– If you do not mind my saying so, your logic has reached a curious stage.
– I think the honourable member should address the judge and not the other counsel.
– And as I look at the judge I say: ‘Justice I have now before me, august and pure’. What a curious reaction from the Minister. After all, it was Sir Garfield Barwick in his role as Attorney-General who introduced the amendment to the Crimes Act. If I may recall, with the imperfection of memory, the most vociferous complainants about these amendments were the members of the Australian Labor Party who on that occasion sat on this side of the House.
– Quite right.
– The Minister’s logic is not merely curious; I think it is thoroughly embarrassing. But put that to one side. One of the distinguishing features of the Liberal tradition adverted to by the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) in a conspicuously refreshing speech this evening is the assertion that if one is convinced by argument, surrender. And if I may without offence to my distinguished and gallant friends who sit on the Country Party benches, I include them as well. The Australian Labor Party’s view is: Never mind the quality of argument, capitulate. That is the difference between the two. Sir Garfield Barwick was thoroughly convinced of the inadequacy of the proposal of a Superior Court when it had been argued before him. How frequently has it been the Minister’s experience that when he has appeared before a magistrate or a judge or a full court and has put a proposal to the court, the court at the outset has been dead against him? No counsel worthy of his salt should resile from that. It should encourage from him all of the instincts and skills at his command to beckon that court to a different view. And this is precisely what has happened in this instance.
Sir Garfield Barwick, His Honour Mr Justice Bowen, the former Attorney-General and my very dear friend, Tom Hughes, who was one of the ornaments of the parliamentary institution, did not have to be convinced about it but my honourable friend on that occasion was convinced. Take any one of them today. They have all abandoned the views that they held. To abandon a view is not to indicate some intellectual inadequacy or some weakness. Not at all. I am grateful to my friend for indicating assent to that. But what I express concern about is the person who says: ‘I have made up my mind. Whatever argument you present to me it will have no effect upon me’. It is not as though this Superior Court of Australia Bill deals merely with courts. It is not as though we are dealing with something which is the arid subject of discussion by lawyers. We are dealing with something which involves the whole character or the nation.
At first blush that may seem to be an extravagant statement. I am not one of those who marches in step with M. Chauvin, that distinguished soldier in Napoleon’s army who gave rise to the word ‘chauvinism’. I have a tremendous love for this country and for its institutions. During nearly 20 years that I have spent as a member of this Parliament I have sought, I should like to think above all other considerations, to present the view that the country should encourage an appropriate priority for national consciousness whatever our provincial affinities and whatever our provincial links and allegiance may be. It has not always been a very popular case to pursue. Speaking for myself, it has not always been a very restful policy to pursue. But if I thought for one moment - I say this to my friend the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, who is in charge of the Bill - that this Bill would in fact encourage a proper priority for national consciousness I would support it with my voice, with my vote and with my commitment My colleagues on both sides of the House would know that that is no idle declaration.
But I take the view that this Bill does in fact have the very opposite effect of encouraging the sense of national consciousness. In the few moments which are left to me I shall seek to demonstrate just that. The function of law is to regulate the rights of citizens between and among themselves and their relationship to the State - that is to say, to the State in its corporate sense. Law in this sense has a corporate character and the supremacy of that law is absolutely vital for the maintenance of the nation’s stability whether we are talking about this nation or any other nation. If we are going to determine our law by prejudice, by instinct, by volition, or by spontaneous response, then, as the great Edmund Burke reminds us, we will finish in disaster because man cannot enjoy the rights of a civil and an uncivil society together. One must opt for one or the other. This may be a little old hat, but we deserve to be reminded of some of these old views in an age that is inclined to the attitude that it knows all, understands all and is resentful of any intruding attitude which smacks of the ancient. Before federation the 6 Australian colonies shared one thing in common. What was that? It was the common law.
– No. Other things too.
– Yes it was - above all other things they shared the common law. When the colonies became States and entered the Federation they still shared that and the Federation was the inheritor of the common law. So the 6 colonies, in their corporate sense shared one institution above all other considerations - the common law. A recognition of that fact led to one of the most singular developments in the world. That development was described by 5 judges in the High Court in the boilermakers’ case in 1955, led by Sir Owen Dixon, then Chief Justice of Australia and probably the greatest exponent of the common law the world has ever known. With 4 other justices including McTiernan, Fullager and Kitto agreeing with Dixon C.J., he described this as the autochthonous expedient. Please forgive the word. It is not mine but their honours’. The autochthonous expedient - native to the land, indigenous. This has been one of the great expedients in Australia common to no other country where a federation has come into being and federal jurisdiction has been conferred on the components of the federation. What has been the effect of that? It has not had the effect of pulling them apart. There has been no centripetal force at work at all.
– Around the other way.
– I am sorry. I should have said ‘no centrifugal force’ - pulling to the centre. There has been a pulling to the centre by dint of that. It has not flown apart. For example, in a matrimonial causes case which is heard in the State of Queensland a point of law may be ruled upon by a judge in that State. A similar case may arise say, in the State of my friend the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi), South Australia. The judge hearing the case there may say that he will listen to counsel on the point of law in question. It is pointed out that the Chief Justice of Queensland, His Honour Mr Justice Campbell had something to say on the point. What is the answer to that? There has been a continuation of the common law in this sense that there has been a pulling together of the attitudes of those involved. It has been quite peculiar to Australia - the autochthonous expedient. My friend the Minister for Manufacturing Industry is a man - I say this in no patronising sense - of immense compassion. He is a man who, with respect, is prepared to recognise that where merit of argument does exist there is absolutely nothing to prevent him from accepting the argument. I say to my friend that it cannot be shown that what we have done here in Australia has been to the detriment of Australia. Why should we seek to break with this? When we go to litigate, any one of us, we do not go into a court to inquire what is the jurisdictional base upon which the court exists. A man or woman goes to court to have his or her rights litigated or responsibilities settled, not to have some dry jurisdictional problem settled.
– They get that now.
– No. I feel angry about the matter. I am entitled to feel angry about it because in this country we do not have it now but what we do have we should seek to diminish and not to increase, to intensify and to exacerbate the difficulties. That is what I say to my friends opposite. The influence upon the whole country by the experience has been a refreshing one. It has inclined to encourage what I have described as a proper priority for national consciousness. Under this Bill what does the Government seek to do? What it seeks to do, as my friend the honourable and learned member for Wentworth said, is to reduce the status of the State Supreme Courts. Why not give to the Supreme Courts of the States all the work which the Government seeks now to give to the Commonwealth Superior Court? At a time when this Parliament and the country is conscious of demands upon the resources and money, why not give them the work? Surely no person sitting in this Parliament with 2 wits to rub together would gainsay that all the paraphernalia of courts cannot be set up without immense expense. Nothing turns on this. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, the people at Wooloomooloo, Kings Cross, Rocklea or St Kilda are not in a tumult over this issue.
– Even Eccles.
– Even Eccles, that most percipient of minds, has not been ruffled by it. I say to my friend with no sense of acrimony and no sense of partisanship that nothing is to be gained by it. I have referred to His Honour the late Chief Justice Dixon who led the High Court when he described the unique Australian experience of the autochthonous expedient. May I read to the House what His Honour Sir Owen Dixon said many years ago, on 14 March 1935, in a lecture entitled ‘The Law and the Constitution’ delivered in Scots Church Hall, Russell Street, Melbourne. This was at a time, of course, when the sins of this generation were not understood. He, in his own wonderful, immaculate way, propounded views which reach out, I would think and suspect, for all generations to grasp and I hope understand - even our generation. He wrote about the development of the 2 systems of courts and he said:
But neither from the point of view of juristic principle nor from that of the practical and efficient administration of justice can the division of the Courts into state and federal be regarded as sound.
That voice reaches out to this Parliament today. This was no ordinary man. This was a giant among lawyers. That voice reaches out to this Parliament today and sounds a note of caution. I hope we have the sense of sense and of history to respond to it.
– In speaking in opposition to this Bill I support the remarks of my friend and colleague, the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). One of the problems which have confronted this country in the last 18 months or so is that the new Government came to power with a belief that everything that previously stood needed to be upturned and changed before we could get some semblance of organisational efficiency. This nation’s courts have stood for nearly threequarters of a century with the imperfections which exist and have, during that time, teased and troubled the minds of successive Liberal Party Attorneys-General. The Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Enderby) and the present Government get delight from making reference to previous Liberal Party Ministers who, in the past, have been advocates of the Superior Court. However, each and every one of these early ministers has, at a later stage, changed his mind. Yet the present Government comes to power and very early during its occupation places on the notice paper its intention to introduce the Superior Court Bill. I ask: How much thought has been given to this most vital change which is being proposed - a change which can turn the State Supreme Courts into courts of petty sessions, virtually overnight? I further ask the Minister to inform this House what he has in mind, when this monstrosity is eventually created, to replace the efficient country circuits which presently exist throughout the various States. The Minister for Manufacturing Industry comes from the very small area of the Australian Capital Territory.
– No, he does not, that is not true.
– The Minister for Manufacturing Industry, who is sitting at the table, held the portfolio of Minister for the Capital Territory but the Government had to transfer him to another portfolio so that he could continue to hold the pocketsized borough, the Australian Capital Territory. I come from a State, the second largest State in Australia, which could virtually swallow a thousand times over - even more - this little Capital Territory pocket. The people living in the outback are burdened - I use the word ‘burdened’ selectively because the legal system regrettably is far too costly for the average man - with court problems. However they are fortunate in that in my State there is a visiting court. What does the Minister suggest that those people do in the future? Does he suggest that they pick up their goods and chattels and travel to one of Australia’s capital cities to fulfil the requirements of a Government that decides from Canberra what is best for the nation? At a time when the rest of the world and other federations, such as Australia, are returning to a true federal system, we are still going through the immature stage of embarking upon a path of no return.
I conclude where I commenced, by making again a plea to the. Minister to hasten slowly because decisions which have been reversed by successive previous Liberal Party AttorneysGeneral were not made lightly. When a man changes his mind and says: ‘Yes, originally I thought that was good but, on reflection, I recognise that it has flaws and is not so good,’ I give full marks to him. I cannot but wonder just how much thought the present Government has given to this huge change it is proposing. I hope that common sense will prevail and that Government supporters will not continue to think: ‘We have got the numbers now. We are going to make this country as we want it, with as little thought as is necessary.’
– in reply - The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) speaks as though Queensland were not part of Australia. By way of an introduction, perhaps I should assure him that my own experience has not been confined to the Australian Capital Territory. I have had experience in London, England and-
– We are lucky.
– You are lucky. I have had experience in the State of New South Wales, in Sydney in particular, for many years and also in many parts of country New South Wales. I have perhaps gained somehting from my experience since coming to Canberra, which is surrounded by an artificial sea called New South Wales.
– The lake.
– No, not the lake. That experience directed my attention to certain aspects of the administration of law in Australia that are perhaps not widely known, except to lawyers. They are certainly not known to laymen. I believe that these aspects are very much to the detriment of Australia. With respect to the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) and the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott), who up to a few years ago were colleagues of mine in the legal profession, I suggest that the legal profession is essentially very conservative. We take a great deal of delight in having mastered a set of rules, a set of jurisprudence, and in then being able to say: ‘We know it. It is ours. We are on top of it. For God’s sake, do not change it or we will have to start all over again.’
Let me just remind honourable members of some aspects where a price is paid - a price that I regard as absurd - for the division of functions as it exists. For example, my friend, the honourable member for Moreton, talked about the need for one country. No one needs to persuade me of that. But may I remind him that in his own State of Queensland the honourable member for Wentworth, who is a well known and respected member of the senior Bar of New South Wales, probably cannot practise. I do not know whether he has been admitted to the Queensland bar, but almost certainly he has not. I certainly could not practise in Queensland. Why? I could not practise because Queensland operates a closed shop.
– You could in federal jurisdiction.
– That is what we want to correct. Does the honourable member for Griffith know that in his own State of Queensland they practise a closed shop? May I put another aspect that I regard as quite absurd. It concerns the situation the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), perhaps to his amusement or perhaps to his cost, found to exist when he was offended by a piece of defamation that was directed at him here in the Australian Capital Territory, this part of Australia surrounded by an artificial, legal, fictitious line. What was said about him was heard 8 miles away in Queanbeyan, which by virtue of being a legal entity, a legal fiction in large measure, is another part of Australia called New South Wales. The right honourable member found that whether he won or lost a case of defamation depended on whether a person listening happened to be on one side of a non-existent line or the other. The situation is quite absurd as it exists. We have 6 States. I think it was the honourable member for Moreton who made the point that we want to move towards one Australia. It is absurd to have, say, 8 different sets of hire purchase laws, 8 different sets of sale of goods Acts, 8 different sets of laws on defamation, 8 different sets of motor traffic laws and 8 different sets of company laws. It is good for lawyers; it is wonderful for lawyers. I did well out of it.
– It has nothing to do with lawyers.
– It has a lot to do with lawyers and the attitude of mind that is created by them. A lot has ben made of the fact that in my second reading speech I quoted some very esteemed previous members of this Parliament and of the judiciary in Australia who had supported the proposition that the Government now brings forward. I quoted Sir Garfield Barwick, one of the great lawyers of the country and now the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. In a ‘Federal Law Review’ article he supported the concept. I quoted Sir Kenneth Bailey, another great Australian jurist, who in an article in the ‘Australian Law Journal’ in 1963 - I am going back as far as that - also supported the proposition, although I have to admit only in part. Of course one has to go back even further, because the very basis for what the Government seeks to do was laid as long ago as 1900, when the Founding Fathers, of whom so much has been said, wrote it into the Constitution on the assumption that some day a government would do it. It was assumed that there might be cheaper ways. It was assumed that, as Australia was a young country and an immature country at that time, the problem could be solved, and the Founding Fathers used the autochthonous expedient - an almost unpronouncable term - to bring it about. It is justice on the cheap, if you like. They did it, but they assumed a time would come when the Australian Government would get around to creating its own courts and then Australia would become one country, not 6 artificially divided groups as though Queenslanders were not Victorians, New South Welshmen were not South Australians, South Australians were not Tasmanians and the people of the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory were not Western Australians.
– Foreign States.
– I am indebted to my friend who interjects. That is what we are regarded as in law. My good friend, the honourable member for Wentworth, will concede that in terms of international law, conflict of laws, private international law, call it what you will, Victoria and New South Wales are as foreign as France and the Soviet Union.
– The Superior Court Bill will not cure that.
– A start has to be made somewhere. Before I go on to talk about the start this Government is trying to make, let me say that to my way of thinking - I put this to all right thinking honourable members here - the situation as it exists, although it is often glossed over, is quite absurd and throws back to an earlier day. It is not we who look back; it is honourable gentlemen opposite who look back. To use a hackneyed phrase, they are States righters. They talk about these fictitious but legal entities called the States but pay little or no regard to the people who live on this continent called Australia. I was mentioning some of the Australian jurists who had supported the concept we bring forward now. A member of the New South Wales Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Bowen, a previous Attorney-General, supported it.
– He now disagrees.
– I will come to why they disagree. In an article in the ‘Australian Law Journal’ in 1967 - I am coming forward in time - he said:
May I say that all the arguments which have been advanced against the idea have been carefully weighed and considered along with the arguments in favour of it and a decision has been taken to establish the court.
Indeed, he introduced a Bill into this House, accompanied by a second reading speech, which sought to establish the Court. Mind you, honourable members will remember that at about the same time the Australian Labor Party began to espouse the idea as well. Hansard will record that fact. Of course, it is fascinating to reflect on the change of mind by some of these eminent jurists who were also politicians and members of the Liberal Party. When they were in office they talked in glowing terms about the need for a Commonwealth or Australian Superior Court but, once it looked likely that there would be a change of Government and that a Labor Government would come to office, they suddenly lost their enthusiasm for the idea. It is a valid point to make, and I put it forward. It is amazing how often measures were brought forward but not completed by the previous Government, espoused with enthusiasm and put forward as the solution to many of the country’s ills but hot completed for one reason or another, often as a result of pressure put on the previous Government by vested interests, State or otherwise. Then the Australian Labor Government came into existence and the First Whitiam Ministry and the Second Whitiam Ministry said: ‘We were persuaded by your ideas. They are good. We will do just that thing.’ Now the Opposition says: ‘We did not mean you to do it’. Opposition is mounted.
It has to be conceded that there will be problems in the administration of such a new court, but may I put it to honourable members that there is a growing awareness in this country that it is absurd to have the divisions that exist. My friend from Wentworth makes the point: Why have this system?
– Just one system of courts.
– Yes, I am reminded of the speech that the honourable member for Wentworth made before the sitting was suspended this evening when the House was considering the restrictive trade practices legislation. The honourable member was opposing in that instance the Government’s proposals to have some forms of consumer protection enacted on an Australia-wide basis. The purpose of that action is to treat the people of this country as the people of one nation and to get away from the absurd divisions by which the States for proprietary international law or conflicts of law purposes are treated as foreign states, almost foreign national states. We must make a start somewhere. That was the thinking of Nigel Bowen, Barwick, Windeyer, Bailey - all of them - as they spoke on it in the years immediately before the change of government.
– It certainly was not the view of Windeyer.
– I am told that it was not the decision of Windeyer. May I pick him up in this document.
– You had better be careful.
– I have read it carefully.
– You might make a mistake.
– I have the reference here. My honourable, friend might be good enough to find it for me. It is one of the underlined passages. Surely the point is this: Although the honourable member for Moreton talks about massive disinterest - one can understand massive disinterest in respect of something which, on the face of it, seems to be legal - behind this concept is a pretty basic attempt insofar as it is open to this Australian Government to act, to establish a set of courts to which Australians can have access.
One of the previous speakers in this debate pointed out that he did not even know which laws would apply in this new set of courts. I remember a case - perhaps my good friend from Wentworth may well remember it - in which I was involved. It was the case of Suehle against the Commonwealth of Australia and was heard in 1967 or 1968. It was the case of a workman who was electrocuted. He happened to be electrocuted in South Australia where one set of laws applied. But he was employed by the Commonwealth. One would have thought if one had a rational system that it would not matter, but he happened to be living in the Australian Capital Territory - that is how I came into the matter - which had a different set of laws. He commenced his proceedings in the Australian Capital Territory Registry of the High Court. The situation might have been produced in which the laws of the Australian Capital Territory applied in order to determine whether he succeeded in claiming a very substantial sum of damages or whether he received nothing. The High Court decided to sit in Sydney. Mr Justice Windeyer had this terribly complex but fascinating problem, from the point of view of lawyers, which was posed by the fact that the man had been electrocuted in South Australia and that he had been driving a truck, the ladder of which had extended and come in contact with electric wires. The man was very badly hurt. If contributory negligence had been a defence, he might have received nothing. If it was just a means of reducing the verdict by a certain amount, he would have received a substantial sum of money.
– This is Federal jurisdiction.
– All right, and we are. trying to do away with that. The solution to the problem depended on which set of laws applied to this Australian who was employed by this
Australian Government. There were 3 probable different answers. The judge made his decision. It was the decision of a single judge. He opted for the law of New South Wales, as I remember. He could have selected the law of South Australia or the law of the Australian Capital Territory and in each instance a different result would have followed. This problem was posed by the trial judge: He said: T suppose out of convenience I had had to say to counsel and the litigants that I was terribly sorry but they would have to come across to Western Australia where I would give my judgment because I was required to be in that State for the hearing of another case’. There would have been a different result in that State. How absurd can the situation get?
I fully appreciate the remarks of the honourable member for Moreton. Every honourable member in this House, although we do not always agree with him, acknowledges that he has not only great eloquence but also a sense of history, and he spoke about that tonight. He talked about our logic. He talked about a sense of history. He talked of the autochthonous expedient. That is what it was - an expedient. Our founding fathers included this when Australia’s population was 3 million and not 13 million as it is now. At that time Australia was not a nation. It consisted of 6 colonies bound separately to the British Crown. In what other way could this be done? The founding fathers foresaw that a time would come when attempts would be made to create in Australia a national system of justice. That is what this Government seeks to do by this legislation. We are taking the first step.
I am reminded of other steps. For example, the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) spoke about the need for company legislation. We all know the absurdities resulting from the fact that so many different company laws apply in Australia. We know the opportunities for abuse that these different laws provide. Opposition spokesmen say: ‘Go and sit down with the States, talk with them and come to some agreement.’ As the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) said in this House today, we would be here until the year 2001 before agreement was reached even about a time at which to meet.
– It took 2 years to get a uniform company law.
– It took 2 years to get that law, and how long to lose it? Think of the abuses of company law? I have dealt with the question of defamation and the other aspects of the law in Australia which to my mind and to the mind of the Government, are wasteful and unnecessary. We believe strongly in diversity. We believe in the enrichment which can come from diversity, but not when it comes to waste; not when it comes to atavistic, backward-looking theories which come back in over-simplistic terms to States rights as though States were people. States are not people. States are artificial lines drawn on maps around certain geographic areas. They do not even represent regions of people in Australia, with the possible exception of Tasmania which is an island.
– They just happen to be part of the Constitution; that is all.
– They are part of the Constitution, and we do our best to work with it. Make no mistake: Australia pays a very great price for this division, this conflict, that is built into the system. We must start somewhere. For example, may I make the point to honourable members that, in the last week or so, the report of the Rae Committee - the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange - revealed in the Senate the scandal with respect to securities and exchange. That report showed a scandal. It talked of the massive waste of funds, fraud, deceit and all manner of like activities, even of the waste of money. It spoke of $300m having been subscribed to 200 companies for the purposes of exploration and development. That money was wasted, all thrown away. Crooks got it. Why? Because the States really do not want to but cannot basically enact legislation appropriate, to that purpose. This Government can. The Liberal-Country Party Government when it was in power did not because it does not believe in or attach much importance to that aspect. We will.
We must have at least a beginning towards a set of Australian Government courts where matters of this sort can be determined. Already we have Australian Government courts dealing with bankruptcy and industrial matters. We have the original jurisdiction of the High Court which that body does not want and which it asks be taken from it. We have the matrimonial causes jurisdiction. I remember the legal convention that was held in 1967 or earlier at which eminent counsel including Watson, Mr Justice Toose and others - the present Solicitor-General, I think, was one of those present - all pleading that the present division, this cheap autochthonous expedient, be brought to and end or, at least, phased out. Here, as so often ‘happens, we take the first step. But, also as so often happens, the opposition comes from honourable members opposite. The statement that I intended to read - I am indebted to my friend from Wentworth for finding it for me-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! The Minister’s time has expired. (Extension of time granted.)
– I thank the honourable member for Wentworth and the House. This passage is under the name of Sir Victor Windeyer, one of the great jurists of this country, an eminent legal historian. The passage I had in mind reads:
I venture to quote what Mr Justice Holmes said in the Supreme Court of the United States some time in the 1920s. It is a well known passage. He said: When we are dealing with words which are also a constituent act like the Constitution of the United States we must realise that they have called into life a being the development of which could not have been foreseen completely by the most gifted of its begettors. It was enough for them to realise or to hope that they had created an organism; it has taken a century, and has cost their successors much sweat and blood, to prove that they created a nation.’ He was, of course, speaking of the United States. The passage continues:
We may apply that to our experience since Federation. The position of Australia in the world today forces this more and more upon our attention. The idea of ‘federal jurisdiction’ is not readily understood by people today, unless they be lawyers. The very word ‘federal’ is losing significance. We used to talk about the ‘Federal Parliament’. We now call it the National Parliament’. We used to talk about the Federal Capital’. It is now the ‘National Capital’.
It is with those sentiments that the Government is in complete agreement. It has put forward this measure as a beginning to help to bring them about.
Question put -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. J. F. Cope)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– With some very considerable reluctance I agree that the Bill be taken as a whole, because I have a number of questions to ask. I know that I stand in splendid certainty of getting pretty dull answers from the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Enderby) who is in charge of the Bill. Now I will start the questions. If the Minister looks at clause 5 he will see that the Bill says:
The Governor-General may appoint a Judge to be the Chief Judge for a District or Districts.
I want to ask the Minister: How many districts has the Government in mind? Further, may I ask the Minister: How are the districts to be determined? Are they to be determined with regard to States or regions, or are they to be determined according to accessibility of judges? That is the first question.
– Order! There is too much audible conversation.
– Mr Chairman, with great respect, this buzz, this hum, indicates that the tumult that I suggested earlier in the evening did not attend this Bill does in fact attend it. I come to the second question. I would love to keep the Minister here for three or four hours but I am left with the impression that he has little information in that direction. Would the Minister mind looking at subclause (10) of clause 5 which says:
A person may hold office at the one time as a Judge of the Superior Court and as a Judge of another court, or of two or more courts, created by the Parliament.
– Are we looking at the same clause?
– Yes. Would the Minister mind explaining that to me?
– We must have different clauses.
– That may be so on your part - not on mine. I am looking at the Superior Court of Australia Bill 1974. I want to know what sort of judge the Government has in mind who can sit as a judge of the Superior Court and as a judge of another court. Would the Minister mind giving me some illustrations of it? That is the second question. I think I put it with perfect restraint on my part. I have already dealt with the question of how many districts. Because of the exigencies of time and my own indulgence in the matter I take the Minister on to clause 20 sub-clause (2) which says:
The Governor-General may, by Proclamation, fix a date as the date on and after which the jurisdiction of the Court referred to in sub-section (1)-
That is dealing with matrimonial clauses jurisdiction. Would the Minister please tell me the reason for the delay in this matter? Why can the Government not fix a date - for example, 1 January - and say: ‘From this date henceforth all jurisdiction will be exercised by this new court’? It is a simple question. I am sure that the Minister will be only too keen to answer it.
Sub-clause (8) of clause 20 deals with a party to proceedings under the Matrimonial Clauses Act which have been instituted under the existing provision. It says that that person ‘may apply to the Superior Court’. I want to ask the Minister: What happens if the person does not apply? I am left with the impression, with my limited experience, that those involved in matrimonial engagements do not have under their pillows the Superior Court of Australia Bill 1974. 1 have the gravest of doubt that they would know that this power is available to them. That is about three or four questions. I could go on to a number of other matters but I am wondering whether the Minister in charge of the Bill would mind answering, as a special personal favour.
– Would you like me to answer?
– Failing that, if my very dear, my very close friend, the Leader of the House (Mr Daly), could be persuaded to rouse himself from what I could describe as the splendid state of the Egyptians, perhaps he could answer.
– The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) asked 3 questions. The first related to districts in clause 5. There is no reference to districts in clause 5. The second question, relating to subclause (2) of clause 20, asked why the Government did not name a date now. It is for the very simple reason, as my honourable friend would know, that the reference is to pending actions and it is to give freedom of choice to the litigants. As far as sub-clause (8) of clause 20 is concerned - the question dealt with the words ‘may apply’ - the same comment applies.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Enderby)- by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16 July (vide page 215), on motion by Dr J. F. Cairns:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the National Investment Fund Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
– Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate on the 2 measures? As there is no objection I will allow that course to be followed.
– The 2 Bills before the House, the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and the National Investment Fund Bill, are both pieces of legislation to make a conglomerate organisation to enable a financial institution to be set up to help Australia have the greatest possible local equity in the development of resources or for joint ventures with overseas interests. The AIDC legislation had its genesis during the Gorton-McEwen era when it was decided it was necessary to have such a corporation to help mobilise funds principally from overseas to enable Australian interests to develop resources or to maintain a fair equity share in association with overseas interests. Since then there have been moderate changes to the Act but last year with a change of government a new Bill brought into the House did bring about some quite significant changes. It brought into being the National Investment Fund, extended the operations of the AIDC and also included the national interest clauses. However, tonight we are examining another Bill which really amends the Bill that was brought in last year.
The Opposition has approached this legislation conscious of its own concern and the concern of the Australian people that Aus tralians ought to participate as fully as possible in the development of their nation’s industry. This broadly has been the stated purpose of the AIDC legislation. Yet we have also been aware that many sectors of Australian industry had legitimate fears that the legal powers proposed for the Corporation and the intentions of the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) went far beyond this worthy objective. These apprehensions were understandable in view of the philosophy of the present Government and the awesome scope of the legislation. A broad cross-section of interested views was obtained on this subject in the hearings of the Senate committee which was established last year to review the legislation that was then before the Parliament. The Opposition recognises that the considerable amendments that have now been brought forward by the Government are largely in response to suggestions made at that inquiry and also the amendments that were presented by the Opposition when the AIDC legislation was previously debated in this House.
These amendments do not. alter substantially the awesome potential of the Corporation, nor do they in themselves provide a safeguard against Government attempts to use the Corporation in a discriminatory or inappropriate manner. Yet it is a fact that many of the unacceptable features have been deleted or amended and that this legislation now attracts a fair degree of support in the community which, if not unqualified, is at least there. The Opposition has been at pains to try to separate the mythology from the reality of the talk about foreign investment and Australian equity. Yet we must be responsive to the mood of the nation while acting responsibly to ensure that safeguards are provided.
The Opposition accepts that the Government has made important amendments to the legislation since its introduction to the House of Representatives last year. No doubt these amendments reflect to a considerable extent the conclusions to be drawn from the evidence compiled by the Senate committee reviewing this legislation. The Opposition believes that it would have been proper for the Government to delay reintroduction of this legislation, if necessary until the Senate committee was reconstituted and able to present the formal outcome of its previous deliberations and the Senate itself had made a decision. However, given the Government’s intention to press the issue at this stage, the Opposition has carefully reviewed the legislation in the light of the amendments presented.
The amendments proposed by the Government to the 1973 legislation related largely to the Australian Industries Development Corporation Bill, and of course added to that Bill the National Investment Division. The first amendment expands the functions of the Corporation to include the development of technology. The Opposition has no objection to this amendment in this new legislation.
Clause 6(A) of the previous legislation allowing the Corporation to raise monies otherwise than by borrowing, is deleted so that the sole source of the Corporation’s funds would be borrowings both from within and outside Australia. One area of ambiguity that needs to be clarified is whether the Corporation would be required to adhere to the variable deposit ratio - the VDR - requirement as it applies to finance raised overseas. There is a question on notice about this matter, but as the AIDC is associated with the Australian Loan Council agreement this aspect needs clarifying. I would hope that, when the Minister replies he will give the House an appropriate reply.
Under Clause 6 (i) of the new legislation, the Corporation shall have regard not only to the current monetary policy of the Australian Government but to its policies in relation to trade practices, the environment, industrial relations and the efficiency of industry. In themselves, there can be no objection to these guidelines unless there was some positive Government direction to the Corporation associated with them. The Opposition is assured that this is not the intention, and that they are in fact broad guidelines to be considered by the Corporation in its activities.
Indeed, the Opposition notes that the legislation does not empower the Minister or the Government to give such directives. The expansion of Clause 6 (iii) is a significant amendment in that it confines the horizons of the Corporation to areas of national importance so that in deciding whether to provide finance to a particular company or engage in a particular project, the importance of the industry to the Australian economy would be one of the 2 criteria to be considered by the Corporation. In other words, this imposes some restraint on the narrowness of interest of the Corporation in the nation’s industrial structure.
Perhaps the most important amendments are those in clauses 6(iv) and 6(v) of the new Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill. Clause 6 (iv) provides that, at least on an annual basis, the Corporation will review its holdings of shares in companies and where the Corporation holds a substantial number of shares in a company and is satisfied that retention of the shares is not necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the Corporation, the Corporation will seek to dispose of those shares unless this involves doing so at a loss. The exception to this provision is where money is invested by the Corporation to meet operating expenses.
Clause 6 (v) provides that the Corporation shall not seek to acquire a controlling interest in a predominantly Australian company except where this acquisition is necessary to prevent foreign interests acquiring this controlling interest, or where the acquisition - and this is very important - -takes place with the consent of the board of directors of the company. This provision constitutes a substantial amendment and will considerably allay fears in the business community of a marauding enterprise operating in the marketplace without discrimination or co-operation. Many representations have been made on this aspect. It was feared that the Government might use the Corporation to intervene against the wishes of the principals of a company. It is a great relief to find this clause in the legislation.
The Opposition understands that, if as a result of its annual review the Corporation does dispose of its share-holdings, it would be on the basis that it was not to foreign interests. I certainly hope that the Government would not find it necessary to do so, but it could occur that the only buyer it could obtain when disposing of shares might represent overseas interests.
No change has been made to the Bill as it relates to the national interest division. It provides that the Minister may write to the Corporation requesting consideration of involvement in a particular industry. Where the Board decides that it is unable to participate, but the Government feels that the project should be carried out and the Corporation should be involved, the Minister may, with the concurrence of the Treasurer, provide suitable guarantees to enable the Corporation to raise the finance. Provision is made also in this national interest section for moneys to be appropriated by Parliament to the Corporation for this purpose by way of loan or otherwise.
It is important that these guarantees of appropriations be approved by Parliament so that there is a Parliamentary check on public funds being used for these purposes. I do not think it is understood by some people in the public that if the Minister is to exercise this direction that consideration be used for national interest involvement, legislation would need to pass through both Houses and Parliament would have to give its approval. This section of the legislation would presumably be invoked if the project were to large for the Corporation or the return on capital were delayed to an excessive extent. In any event, it would involve the use of public money to assist a project proposed by the Government which, in the judgment of the Board, was not appropriate for the AIDC to be involved in.
For understandable reasons, the Opposition expresses the most severe reservations in relation to this division, although we note the ultimate safeguard of Parliamentary approval for the appropriation of public moneys. The very nature of the projects which could be involved is such as would have to involve huge sums of money or involve investment proposals where the social returns to the community were thought by the Government or the Parliament to exceed the return to the individual investor. The making of such judgments is not easy and should be made in the context of an overall policy approach to national development. The Opposition would expect that government policy as applied to this Division would be consistently applied in its taxation and regional policies.
We certainly call for a statement of policy from the Government as to the criteria it will adopt in assessing the national interest, and the application of these criteria to other areas of policy. We are very conscious of the burden placed on the Government’s decisionmaking apparatus by this Division and of the responsibility of Parliament in agreeing to the necessary appropriations. While not opposing this section of the legislation outright, we take this attitude on the understanding that informed public debate on this subject will be assisted by a statement of government principles and that this section will be used mainly in the context of joint public and private participation for nationally important projects.
We would expect that the National Interest Committee, which is given the task of advising the Minister on national interest projects, would have available clear terms of reference and would consult with a whole range of financial intermediaries. This Committee has a somewhat shadowy role and composition in the legislation, and the Opposition will be moving an amendment to provide that its members should be appointed by the GovernorGeneral instead of by the Minister so that the Parliament has the power to override any appointment. I may say in passing that it would be appropriate if reports by the National Interest Committee to the Minister were made publicly available so that debate can be facilitated.
In summary, the Opposition recognises that the Government has made substantial amendments to this Bill and we believe that it is a timely recognition of the role of Parliament in general and of the Opposition in particular that these amendments substantially cover the objections raised by the Opposition at the time of the Bill’s introduction last year. This illustrates clearly the need for adequate consideration of complex legislation so that all interested organisations may be involved in the process of comment and revision. It is true, of course, that the activities of the AIDC are associated with what we could call 3 different ‘aspects of the combined legislation. The first is the National Interest Division, which should be involved in specialised projects at the instigation mainly of the Government, but possibly also of the Corporation. Subsequent sale of mature national interest projects could be made to the National Investment Fund if the Government so chose and in that event the proceeds from the sale would accrue to the Government - hopefully at a satisfactory rate of return. A key component of the whole structure is the National Investment Fund, with its various divisions and sources of revenue.
A supervisory council is designed to protect the interest of subscribers to the Fund and, although the National Investment Fund Bill is little different from the comparable 1973 legislation, the amendment to empower the Governor-General to appoint one of the nonofficials members of the Council to be the chairman is important in view of the functions of the Council, which are broadly to supervise the administration of the Fund and determine investment policies. The Opposition recognises that the detailed operations of the National Investment Fund are only sketchily outlined in the Bill. Clearly, the operations of the various divisions of the Fund and the administration decisions have yet to be fully determined by the Government, although there have been many reports over the past few months of discussion between the Minister and financial institutions as to government requirements.
These are matters of great importance as by far the major contributions to the National Investment Fund are to be derived from domestic equity raisings through a savings scheme, investment bonds and any superannuation or retirement plan. Clearly here is a direct case of proposed competition with established bodies such as life assurance companies and private investment funds. To the extent that the supervisory council was successful in attracting money for the National Investment Fund, the Fund could be involved in various activities in the economy.
Such competition with existing bodies and involvement in the economy carries with it certain inescapable implications. The most obvious is that to the extent that the whole structure is successful in attracting savings, those savings will not be available to other organisations for other purposes. This can be accepted if any reallocations are the product of reasonable competition. The Opposition believes that industry itself would not adamantly oppose that concept. On the other hand, if compulsory mobilisation of life insurance funds is intended and if preferential tax concessions are granted to any investment bond scheme, for example, then obviously an additional distortion in the capital market has been created and discrimination would occur between borrowers on this market.
The Opposition recognises that there are not grounds for opposing this legislation on the basis of these apprehensions, because this legislation does not suggest that these things will happen. Such measures would have to be introduced in separate taxation legislation, and we give clear notice that if this is attempted, the Government can expect strong opposition. As it is. there is already a considerable degree of preference provided in the legislation for exemption from stamp duty and other State taxation, although we understand that it is the intention to pay rates. This is an area of the legislation that no doubt the Senate will want to examine more closely.
I have stated that the Opposition, on the basis of the legislation before us, cannot see a basis for objection to the National Investment Fund so strong as to cause us to prevent its passage by opposing it at all stages. On the other hand, we express severe reservations as to the positive requirement under Australian economic circumstances for the establishment of an institute of this nature. To make clear our concern, I want to state that we are opposed to the passage of this Bill until such time as we have the advantage of examining the Senate Committee’s report, and until we have the benefit of the considered views which the Committee no doubt will want to have on the National Investment Fund. The executive chairman of the AIDC, Sir Alan Westerman, in evidence to the Senate Select Committee, implied that the National Investment Fund was unlikely to raise the Australian savings rate significantly. Presumably this rate could be stimulated by Government incentives for investment in the Fund, but the distortions this would create would be severe and detrimental to broad economic objectives.
If the savings rate is not to be stimulated, then a significant diversion of Australia savings is intended. As this involves re-cutting an essentially limited cake, it is important that there is clarity as to the purposes and intentions of the Fund. Any buy-back program would be wasteful and would not achieve its purpose in the total sense, as existing equity would only be spread differently throughout the economy. We believe that the AIDC in the total sense of word, would be well advised to concentrate on strengthening Australianowned enterprise. We see it as a development financier adopting a mobile role in the capital market to the benefit of Australian industry, particularly in areas of prospective growth, high risk and new technology. It can usefully serve this role by acting as a banker and as an investment corporation.
In terms of overseas capital, the AIDC has a very important role to play - which of course it has played in the past - of mobilising large amounts of capital with the authority and security that any government body enjoys. I stress the importance of this role, as increased foreign borrowings can in turn be used to increase Australian equity. I take this opportunity of reiterating the Opposition’s attitude that the VDR requirement is inappropriate. Speaking more directly about the National Investment Fund, the Opposition believes that it is important that this fund should be limited in scope by the Parliament and that any subsequent growth should be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny and approval. We are very conscious of the potential power of this institution in the economy, and for this reason I will be moving an amendment to limit the net ability of the Corporation to issue investment bonds to a level not exceeding $500m, which would be the maximum difference between bonds raised and bonds redeemed.
I wish to conclude with a brief comment on the question of Australian equity, as this is a subject closely related to the Bill. It is also a subject about which a considerable amount of nonsense has been talked by the Government. Australian equity is a legitimate objective, but it should be clearly understood that there are appropriate ways of achieving it and that it is not sensible to cut off the national nose to spite the foreign face. There must also be a clear distinction between Australian participation and Government participation. In this sense this legislation differs very much from the Petroleum and Minerals Authority legislation, which involves complete reliance upon taxpayers money and contains unlimited scope for ministerial interference without any real parliamentary check. When that particular legislation was being debated, I pointed out the clear distinction between the necessity for government control and the desirability of Australian participation. The AIDC as a whole provides the opportunity for the Australian people to be involved in the growth of the economy. That is not to say that they do not have the opportunity already, and the depressed state of the stock market indicates that their current enthusiasm for this task has been substantially dimmed by the policies of this Government.
Nevertheless, we recognise that this legislation need not be unacceptable to industry and that it can provide an expanded instrument to serve a role complementary to other institutions. I can say this with the reservation that when the Senate Committee is reconstituted, its report will be about the previous 1973 legislation. That legislation contains some important differences from these Bills, but the area of overlap is sufficiently broad to provide the Senate with a basis for further amendment to the legislation. We will agree to this legislation provided that our amendments are accep- ted by the Government. We also add the proviso which should be carefully noted, that as the Government is not prepared to wait for the Senate Committee report, we are making this decision as an interim one pending detailed findings by the Committee. We have adopted a constructive attitude on this legislation now, as we have in the past.
I need to conclude by saying only that the record on these Bills is not one of extraordinary obstruction as the Minister claims, but one of careful study of the kind such legislation should warrant from the national Parliament. The large number of changes already made indicates the worth of questioning and scrutiny of this legislation by the Opposition. I thank the Minister for his willingness to enter into discussions on this legislation. I am sure that the people in industry appreciate access to the Minister to do this in contrast to the reception they received from the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). The importance of the amendments the Government has introduced is itself clear proof of the need for the national Parliament of this country to adopt a careful and considered approach to this sort of legislation. If that amounts to obstruction, then it is obstruction in the national interest. Our obstruction is not designed to delay this legislation or to frustrate it but to bring forward legislation that will act in the best national interest and help to maintain the higher degree of Australian equity in Australian companies without unduly affecting the normal market forces and the commercial interests in this country.
Debate (on motion by Mr Duthie) adjourned.
Motion (by Dr J. F. Cairns) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Tonight I want to draw the attention of the House to a phrase which has been used by the Government recently, a phrase which should not be allowed to pass unnoticed or unquestioned. The phrase is: The Government is creating the most effective, mobile and professional defence force in Australia’s peacetime history’. It is a good phrase. I should know for I coined it when I was Minister for Defence. For the Government to continue to use it when it knows that statement to be completely inaccurate is inexcusable. Let us look at how
Australia’s defences have slumped since December 1972 and it will soon become apparent how inaccurate this claim really is.
The strength of our defence forces is measured by a number of factors - the number in the armed forces, the number in the reserve and their quality and training, the quality and quantity of equipment, the state of bases, the strength of industrial backup. The story of the numbers in the armed forces is well known. When I handed over to the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard), the Army had 41,290 men and today it has 30,080, or 11,210 less. The Navy had 17,134 men and today it has 16,228, or 906 less. The Air Force had 22,769 men and today it has 21,551, or 1,218 less.
– How many squadrons less?
– One of the very famous squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force has been disbanded, of course. The Citizen Military Forces had 26,578 members and today it has 19,994, or 6,584 less. The Regular Army Reserve had 30,000 members and today it has about 20,000 or 10,000 less. We do not know what is the state of the Army Cadet Corps because we have been told that schools will lose their per capita education grants if they have compulsory army cadet corps. I have not been able to discover whether this is correct but if it is it is very bad. In equipment, it is of interest to note that so far during the 18 months in government the present Government has not ordered one new piece of equipment for any of the armed services. It has taken delivery of some equipment which we ordered such as the Fills and the Chinooks. It said, in a late pre-election bid for votes that it would order some other new equipment but up until now there have been no new firm orders.
As all the rest of the equipment is now 18 months older it must be more obsolete or obsolescent. Take the Air Force Mirage fighters, for example. When ordered they were extremely good, but with the passage of time their quality as an air superiority weapon has been superseded by newer aircraft. We had their replacement on a 5-year rolling program. The present Government decided not to proceed with this program, abolished, as I have said, one of the famous Royal Australian Air Force fighter squadrons and cut back desperately on flying time. Then, to add insult to injury, it sent the Minister for Defence and a number of hangers-on in an RAAF
BAC111 to Sweden to see the aircraft they had decided not to buy.
How much longer can we afford to see these planes gradually drifting behind the performance of other nations’ front line fighters? Surely the answer is that if we do not intend to replace them in the reasonably near future we should set about upgrading them. A vastly improved performance can be achieved at a not unreasonable cost. The Dassault company has already produced modification plans for both the engine and the air frame of the Mirage while the company making the Matra, air-to-air missile has improved the performance of this missile considerably. We should modernise these weapons immediately. Two years ago I announced that we were carrying out trials of 2 types of equipment with a view to their early purchase for the Services. These were the army tank, where the choice lay between the German Leopard and the M65, and the Neptune long range reconnaissance aircraft replacement, where the choice lay between the United States Orion and the British Nimrod. Now, 2 years later we still appear to be no further advanced towards a decision in either field.
Does this lead one to believe that the Government is creating the most effective, mobile and professional defence force in Australia’s peacetime history. It certainly does not. But the Service most disadvantaged by the new Government has been the Navy. Before we went out of office a decision had been made to proceed with the development of 3 DDL destroyers for the Royal Australian Navy at Williamstown. This decision was cancelled by the incoming Labor Government and nothing done until just shortly before the general election, when .it was announced that we were to purchase 2 patrol frigates from the United States. I point out to the House that the patrol frigate was looked at by the Royal Australian Navy and rejected as inadequate to meet its requirements. I refer honourable members to the report presented to this House in August 1972 which said that other navies were producing ships of severely limited capability with very particular roles to fulfil, such as the patrol frigate being planned at that time by the United States as a mid-ocean escort with capabilities directly related to that task, and the British Type 21.
The DDL, as finally planned by the Navy, would have had a much better performance. The Navy of course has also lost other ships planned for it, such as the logistic cargo ship and the fast combat support ship It has also lost, for the present anyway, the Western Australian naval support facility at Cockburn Sound, the development of which was proceeding with all speed. The facility was and still .s urgently needed by the Royal Australian Navy and its allies as we do not at present possess a naval base on the Indian Ocean. The Army has also had a reduction in the number of light helicopters ordered for it - from 84 to 56.
The Minister for Defence, of course, has broken 2 specific promises. The first one was a government commitment to spend at least 3.5 per cent of the gross national product on defence. Last year, after having been apparently rolled in Cabinet be told us that the Government would budget for an expenditure of only 2.9 per cent. As we all know, that it is impossible, to spend all the money budgeted for and as inflation is running at 16 per cent a year or more, the actual expenditure is likely to be not 3.5 per cent but about 2.6 per cent of the gross national product. The second broken promise was that whatever destroyers were ordered for the Royal Australian Navy would be built in Australia. No wonder morale in the Services has dropped to an all time low. The only explanation that has been advanced to me as to how the Minister for Defence can claim that he is building the most effective, mobile and professional force in Australia’s peace time history is a very devious legal quibble. It is said that since we had troops in Vietnam from about 1964 until 1972 we were then at war so Australia’s peace time history ended in 1963 when perhaps our forces were not as large or well equipped as they are today. But this argument is an attempt to deceive the public who know that our Forces are not a patch on the size, quality or morale of the Forces we handed over to Labor in 1972. I hope the House and the country will take note of this utter disregard of the nation’s defences by the Labor Government.
– I am angered that I am forced into a situation where I have no option other than to draw the following matter to the attention of the Parliament and the people of Australia. Because of actions bordering on corruption, and in one instance stupidity, I have no alternative other than to involve others to make my allegations creditable. Since the Australian Labor Party Government came to office, the Minister for Services and Prop- erty (Mr Daly) has commanded the agreement and respect of both sides of the Parliament for his efforts to improve the working facilities of members of the Parliament both here in Canberra and in the electoral offices. Regrettably, the compliments appear to have gone to the Minister’s head and he has lost sight of that which is right and that which is wrong.
Members are aware that one of the many improvements made, is that in each capital city, a pool of relieving secretaries has been created to assist members when their private secretaries are away because of illness, leave, or a more lately extended privilege, in the event of there being simply too much work for one person to do. His changes were welcomed because the system was crumbling. We have been verbally instructed that the pool of secrettaries is not to be used for political party campaigning purposes. However, an evil genius within the member for Grayndler, the Minister, raised its head in the weeks prior to the May general election. During the election campaign the entire secretarial pool of three was allocated exclusively to the Australian Labor Party machine in Queensland. Public servants were forced to work in an election campaign for the Australian Labor Party members of the House of Representatives and a senator at taxpayers’ expense. The only accusation that cannot be made is that the Minister was sneaky. It was done for all to see. After the election, when I challenged the situation with a departmental official from the Department of Services and Property, he told me that nobody else had asked for help. Others did not ask for help because of the instruction that had been issued relating to the misuse of the pool. I am, however, informed by a person who was at that time vitally associated with Democratic Labor Party exSenator Condon Byrne, that when he requested extra assistance during this period it was refused. Some departmental officers have short memories.
I recall very clearly that when I used one of the vacant offices in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices to place a voluntary worker for my campaign in less crowded conditions outside my office, I was told that there would be trouble and it was in the interests of harmony that the practice be ceased forthwith. Not a cent of government money was involved and yet the small minds went to work. I complied without grumble to avoid the understandable antagonism and tension that exists at election time, despite what I could see was happening elsewhere. Although I viewed the Government’s misuse of public funds with disgust, I was prepared to forget the matter so as to avoid involving individuals who had no alternative other than to be compliant with the heavy hand of the ALP Government in office and the directions of the Minister. I am informed that exactly the same misuse existed in Western Australia. I have not checked other States.
We did not have to wait to be further angered by misuse of office and power. Honourable members will recall that the Australian Labor Party did poorly in Queensland in the recent elections and lost seats. One exsecretary has been given a job in the relieving secretarial pool for members of Parliament. Surely every person in this Parliament and in the nation will appreciate that members of Parliament must expect complete neutrality from a relieving secretarial pool. There is a natural question mark upon a person who previously worked at the Brisbane Trades Hall and later became a private and confidential secretary to an ALP Federal member of Parliament. The Minister can only be condemned for this tactless and unfair appointment because it places all in a position of embarrassment. There are many other positions available but I consider such an appointment in such circumstances to be embarrassing on many sides. The Minister no longer has respect for the criterion of obvious neutrality. If you are Labor, you are hired; that is his rule of thumb. There are 27 Government departments but the Minister places her in an invidious position. My feelings would be exactly the same if the person had worked at Liberal Party headquarters and then for a Liberal member of Parliament, regardless of whether it was an ALP or a Liberal appointment.
Again, it had been my intention to say nothing, but recent events indicate that this Government will, voluntarily, stop at nothing and must be stopped. I now commence the next stage of premeditated stupidity. Since memory recalls, the Parliament has used as a rule to establish the seniority of back benchers the date of their first arrival in the Parliament. That means that in Queensland the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury) is our most senior member of Parliament. He is followed by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr
Killen), the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) and, despite the fact that he was out of office for 18 months, the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), who was first elected in 1963. I understand that ex-Ministers are entitled to priority over longer serving members. On this basis, the honourable member for Moreton is most senior. After the honourable member for Lilley, I am next on the scale and only Senators Keeffe, Wood and Lawrie are my seniors in terms of service in my State of Queensland. Mr Hayden and Dr Patterson are, of course, excluded as they do not come into these calculations because of their ministerial status.
When the Labor Party perverted democracy by endeavouring to pull a swifty with the appointment of Senator Gair to Ireland, the Minister for Services and Property personally directed that the senator’s large suite of offices reserved for a party leader be locked. But suddenly, last week, the Minister’s disregard for honesty in government reappeared when he allocated to a lately arrived ALP senator, Senator Gair’s party leader’s suite. This is not a question of sour grapes on my part because I do not qualify for the offices in question, but it is an abrogation of all that has been established in the past and pays not even scant regard to seniority, just party politics. I regret that I have no alternative but to allude to the senator, but he is but another victim of the lack of decency and honesty which exists within the Minister and if there is any embarrassment it is again the Minister’s fault. I will not remain silent forever.
Mr Speaker, 1 have accurately expressed the sentiments of the Brisbane based Opposition members and even the staff of the Brisbane based Opposition members feel this way. The wrongful allocation of the party leader’s suite is but one of the last straws that have broken the silence. The latest that has come to my attention is that on 15 June the Prime Minister (Mr Whitiam) tentatively agreed to a request by the Australian Labor Party in Queensland that he open a Press office in Brisbane. What is more, this Labor propagandist and apologist would be a charge on the public purse. The taxpayers would be footing the Bill for this very questionable exercise - an exercise in brainwashing the people of Queensland and to enable the Prime Minister and the Queensland Parliamentary Australian Labor Party to attack the Queensland Premier. This is a most blatant and disgraceful expenditure of the public purse. It says little for the integrity or the ability of the ALP in Queensland. Never before has a Prime Minister provided staff for a State parliamentary party. I am grateful to the person who provided this information. The lengths to which the present Government will prostitute itself and democracy in order to preserve what it considers its future are unbelievable.
In the early months of the Labor Government’s reign I was naive in that I truly and sincerely believed a sense of idealism existed. But that trust has been shattered by small happenings which are symptomatic of abuse at far-reaching levels. I reject the cry of ALP apologists who may say that the Liberals did the same, because we did not. The Prime Minister, the Minister for Services and Property and every ALP Minister has a duty to retain in Australia a semblance of honesty in government. I have no doubt that if the Liberal Party had done what I have referred to, the Minister for Services and Property would not have displayed the same patience and would have spoken out days ago. I hope that the Minister will take advantage of the next few minutes to try to answer some of the claims that I have made because they are causing grave concern in Queensland. People are concerned about the Minister’s attitudes and what might in the future be regarded as democracy. When the Minister for Services and Property has responsibility for such matters as redistribution under the electoral Acts, the democracy and the freedom of this nation are at stake.
– I do not mind answering the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron). He is one who had as secretary one of the most reputable members of the Public Service in Brisbane. After almost a lifetime of service the honourable member sacked her without any reason or principle because he understood she might have run against him in a pre-selection ballot. The honourable member has a contemptible and rotten record in respect of that matter and he knows, as well as I do, that he cannot stand up to public examination on it. The secretary that the honourable member sacked without any reason was recognised amongst members of the Public Service in Queensland and by mem bers of the Parliament as one of the most reputable of women. She personally told me that the honourable member for Griffith treated her in a contemptible manner. In addition, she told me he was a rotten member so far as representation was concerned. She said that the honourable member resented being informed of his incapacity as a representative of the people of his electorate. Yet, he is the individual who stands in this Parliament and tries to tell people-
– Order! The honourable member for Griffith was heard in comparative silence. I am going to insist on the Minister being heard in comparative silence.
– I will tell the honourable member for Griffith something else. When the Opposition was in office for 20 years there were no relief secretaries and no decent facilities for members. Members walked to and from airports if they could not afford cabs. When the Opposition was in office it gave members nothing. The honourable member for Griffith sat as silent as the grave while members were treated like lackeys and while Ministers lived in splendour. The honourable member for Griffith sat on the Liberal Party benches, behind the Ministers, as silent as a grave. He never complained about the facilities available to members nor about the lack of secretarial assistance, travelling allowances or anything else. The honourable member was looking for promotion to the Ministry. He was one of those up and coming young crawling fellows who might have won the acclaim of the Prime Minister. But the honourable member for Griffith is now complaining about the facilities that are available now.
I will tell honourable members what I have done since the Labor Government came to office. I have made available to members facilities unequalled by any Minister in the Parliament. The honourable member for Griffith occupies, in Brisbane, one of the best offices available to honourable members. He does so thanks to my intuition and thanks to the fact that I have made it available to him. The secretary whom the honourable member sacked helped him carry his baggage and bits and pieces to the luxurious chambers he now occupies. When the Opposition was in Government the honourable member sat on the Liberal Party benches and never raised his voice in support of facilities for private members or others. Now he stands in this Parliament going crook about what is not done. There was no pool of relief secretaries when the Opposition was in government. It would not give members proper facilities. Members could not get electric typewriters, roneo machines, duplicating machines, or even a dart board. The honourable member for Griffith now says that things are wrong. I do not allocate secretaries to people; my Department does it. Members of the Liberal Party and others have taken advantage of the pool that is available to honourable members in all capital cities. The honourable member knows as well as I do of the facilities that are available to members in the capital cities today. He knows that members who are short of secretarial assistance can apply for it. It is a matter of first in first served.
Unlike Liberal Ministers of days gone by, I am a busy man. The day to day administration of my Department is a matter for the Property Officers and others. Secretaries are allocated to those who apply first. If the honourable member checks he” will find that in every State of the Commonwealth Liberal members and others have had secretaries allocated to them as they have been required. If he was too slow to get secretarial assistance at election time, I cannot help it if the Liberal Party picks dull members like him. If it picks his type it deserves the kind of representation it gets. The honourable member said that I have allocated rooms in Brisbane. I have never been consulted about the allocation of rooms in Brisbane. That is not my problem. I am too busy to be mucking around with mugs like the honourable member and dealing with rooms and things like that.
– Order! I ask the Minister to withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it. I am too busy to muck around with fellows like him. Allocation of offices in Brisbane or anything of that nature is done departmentally. I am too busy to worry about details like that.
I do not know what seniority the honourable member has in Brisbane, but the matters he has raised are matters of detail. Before he makes charges of the kind he made tonight he should look at the sorry and deplorable record of the former Government for attending to the rights of members of the Opposition in the Parliament. He knows as well as I do that private members have never been better off. He ought to be the most appreciative of them because he has probably had better treatment that most members have had. He has a good office. I do not know what his secretary is like, because he sacked a good one in an unprincipled way. But if he has a crook secretary, that is all he deserves. Honourable members opposite are now screaming for research officers and extra secretaries. When they sat on the Government side they gave Opposition members beggar all. The honourable member knows that that is right. He was one of the worst because he sat silently and never complained.
I did not listen to all the honourable member’s speech tonight because I was elsewhere, but I will look it up tomorrow, and chapter and verse I will relate to him how wrong he is. I suggest to him that if he or any other member on that side wants to receive the consideration that private members of this Parliament deserve he should be more appreciative than he is tonight and should not make ill-founded charges about what this Government is doing for private members in the allocation of suites for members, because the facilities I have provided are miles ahead of anything that the former Government ever thought of. The only thing I resent is that when I bring improvements to this Parliament I have to give them to both sides, because I would like to treat the honourable member for Griffith like the former Government treated private members. It gave them nothing. For 20 years I sat on the Opposition side of the Parliament, lucky to have a secretary. I had poor accommodation and everything that goes with it, and the honourable member for Griffith was one who sat silently and did nothing about it.
I am unmoved tonight by the cries of the honourable member in respect of these matters because everything he said is unsubstantiated. During the recent election campaign secretaries were available to any members who applied for them. As far as I know they were available to those who applied. If some got in before others, that was their good luck. As I say, the honourable member is a dull kind of fellow. I would expect him to be the last cab off the rank. If he missed out, he was unlucky, because he is so dull. He should not come into this Parliament and make vicious attacks on people in a way that is quite unprincipled. If I had a record like his in the treatment of a woman who served him so well as his secretary, I would never speak in this Parliament on parliamentary affairs. I will look at his charges chapter and verse. I know what the answers will be. He does not help the cause of honourable members opposite when he continually raises these matters because his record is such a shabby and deplorable one.
Les Irwin in Mitchell, for instance, got an extra secretary during the 1969 campaign, but no member on my side of the Parliament complained. If I ran down the line I would find that the patronage of honourable members opposite has been of a nature that will not stand investigation. I say to the honourable member that if he thinks that honourable members on his side have anything to be pleased about in what they did for private members, he is a very strange character. The fact of the matter is that we on this side of the Parliament have effected more improvements to the conditions of private members and given them more consideration than has happened at any time in the history of this Parliament. I will give the honourable member for Griffith the good oil. Any request he makes in future I will look over personally, and it will be granted only if he richly deserves it. I have no time for any member of this Parliament who in any way attacks privileges that have been given to him, as I would say the honourable member did tonight in a mean way in an endeavour to gain political capital in the ‘Courier Mail’, which is notorious for support of the honourable member to the detriment of the Labor Party.
I say to honourable members opposite - and I see them sitting in various corners of this Parliament - that whatever they may say great improvements have been made in the rights of private members. Impartiality has been shown in the provision of facilities that are available, from transport right through to secretaries and the allocation of offices. The charges made tonight by the honourable member are quite unprincipled, quite unfounded and I would say quite in keeping with his character, but they must be refuted. I will make inquiries into what he said and I will expect a public apology when the facts are given. At the same time he should apologise for the rotten treatment he extended to his former secretary after she had given years of service to him. I say to the honourable member and other honourable members opposite that if they are seeking from me not favours but reasonable justice let them keep members of the type of the honourable member for Griffith from expressing in this Parliament views which are quite unprincipled, quite inaccurate and quite untrue.
– I rise because of the words which have been uttered by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) concerning my very good friend the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron). Some of the charges the Minister has made against the honourable member are quite unfair and untrue. The honourable member for Griffith presented a case about which he felt very strongly. He presented that case in a very balanced manner and without venom and bitterness. There would not be a person in this chamber who would not agree with his proposition. It was certainly not fair and not correct to charge the honourable member in the matter of his relations with his former secretary. That charge happens to be not correct. There are other matters which the honourable member for Griffith, given the manliness which is his, would disclose to no one. So I leave that where it is. It is very regrettable that such a matter was raised in this chamber.
The honourable member for Griffith has raised one or two issues which are quite important and which I know the Minister for Services and Property will answer because he is a man who has sought to do a great deal for members. As one who was out of this place for 16 or 18 months, a short period of time, I know that the Minister has sought to do a great deal for members in this place and especially for private members. But one would ask that that does not blind him from looking at a number of the points which have been raised by the honourable member for Griffith. The honourable member feels deeply concerning the matter of seniority. I had previously raised it with the Minister, and I understand that he will look at the principle of seniority. I would think that if he reads the words that were uttered concerning this matter as they are recorded in Hansard he will examine them in the way in which the honourable member for Griffith has presented his case - with a sense of decency, with a sense of justice, without any venom and without any bitterness.
– He was attacking a girl who could not answer for herself.
– You are being quite unfair, unjust and incorrect. I say that even though you happen to come from the famed western suburbs of Sydney. The honourable member for Griffith did not deserve the attack that was made on him. He is a man not of the type that he has been alleged by the Minister for Services and Property. He deserves better than has been meted out to him in the reply of the Minister tonight.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mouse adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am advised by the Board that it intends, as part of its monitoring of equality of opportunity for men and women in the Service, to add to its list of regular statistical bulletins one on the employment of women. This bulletin, the first of which is expected to be released shortly, will contain a variety of information, including details of Second Division offices occupied by women.
The Public Service Board has in recent times made available a substantial amount of information on the employment of women to, for example, the Joint Council sub-committee on women. I am sure the
Board would be pleased to supply the right honourable member with any available information of this sort on request.
The right honourable member will also be aware that the Terms of Reference of the Royal Commission to inquire into and report on the Australian Public Service include:
Inflation: Degree of Influence by External Factors (Question No. 145)
asked the Treasurer upon notice:
Will he outline the nature and extent of research undertaken by his Department to estimate the degree to which the increase in the rate of inflation since December 1972 can be ascribed to external factors.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
My answer on 8 November 1973 to Question No. 1132 asked by the honourable member in effect answered this question. See also my answer to Question No. 146, provided today.
As indicated in the answer to Question No. 1132 it has not been practicable, in the circumstances prevailing in 1973 and since, to demonstrate by analysis of the complex factors involved that a particular percentage of the overall rise in the price level can be ascribed to externa] factors.
Taxation Board of Review No. 2:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Inflation: Updating of Paper on Sources (Question No. 141!)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
Will he update the analysis on the sources of inflation published on pages 19, 20, 21 and 22 of the paper prepared by his Department entitled “The Australian Economy 1972.’
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The analysis referred to cannot be ‘updated’. It referred to a particular period and a particular conjunction of circumstances. Circumstances in the more recent past have been very different, with a number of factors judged unimportant in terms of their inflationary impact two years ago increasing greatly in importance. I refer here, in particular, to the excess liquidity which emerged following record capital inflow in 1972, to the big rise in export prices and to the growth in inflationary expectations. It is not practicable to quantify the effects of factors such as these on inflation.
It is, however, possible to update the table showing the direct contribution of import price increases to total price increases for goods which appeared on page 21 of The Australian Economy 1972’. The updated table appears below.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Acting Commonwealth Statistician has supplied the following information:
The November 1973 Labour Force Survey showed that 39 per cent of married women were in the civilian labour force.
A sample survey carried out in May 1973 revealed that 27 per cent of married women with at least one child under six years of age were in the civilian labour force. The percentage for married women with children under five years of age is not available.
The number of children in Australia at 30 June 1973 under five years is estimated to have been 1,277,300; and the number under six years 1,516,100.
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet: Training in Financial and Auditing Procedures (Question No. 329) Mr Snedden asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The detailed and specific nature of the information sought by the right honourable member- in this and associated questions is such that it is not collected centrally or published.
A great deal of statistical information on training within the Australian Public Service is presented each year in the Public Service Board’s Annual Report. The 1973 Report, for example, included at pages 163 to 168 details of central courses conducted by the Public Service Board, courses sponsored by the Board in conjunction with external institutions, courses conducted in the States by the Public Service Inspectors and courses conducted by individual departments at various levels and in a number of subject areas. Many of these courses included elements relevant to the honourable member’s question.
The Board’s 1973 Annual Report also included a statistical item on Study Assistance which indicated that a substantial number of officers had either completed or were engaged in external studies in accountancy and related fields.
This sort of information appears regularly in the Board’s Annual Reports.
In addition, it will be of interest to the right honourable member that the Public Service Board, the
Auditor-General’s Office, the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Manufacturing Industry are engaged in a study to review training needs and to develop new training programs for finance officers in the Service.
The right honourable member will also be aware that the Terms of Reference of the Royal Commission to inquire into and report on the Australian Public Service include:
personnel policies and practices, including eligibility, recruitment, selection, appointment, tenure, training (especially management training), promotion, classification, discipline, morale and conditions of service of members of the Australian Public Service, both generally and in relation to particular classes of persons.’
Domiciliary Nursing Care (Question No. 333)
asked the Minister for Social
Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Homeless Men and Women (Question No. 335)
asked the Minister for Social
Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) In my Social Welfare policy speech on behalf of the Australian Government at Melbourne on 1 May 1974, I said ‘the actual time of the introduction of this program will be a policy decision and accordingly will be announced once that decision has taken place.’
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
Has the Government considered providing a form of domiciliary benefit to those caring for children seeking admission, or those who would benefit from admission to training and accommodation centres provided for physically and mentally handicapped children but who are cared for at home by parents because such accommodation is not available.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
This question was considered during preliminary discussions on the 15 point program of assistance to the handicapped which I announced recently. It was decided that no action be taken pending further examination of the various factors that would have to be taken into account before introducing a new benefit of this type. The Government is constantly re-assessing its priorities in the social welfare field.
Handicapped Children (Question No. 337)
asked the Minister for Social
Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The information sought is not readily available to my Department. Before such details could be provided it would be necessary to contact each of the 301 training centres for handicapped children that have been approved by my Department up to 30 June 1974.
The cost of such an inquiry could not be justified in the absence of any explanation of the purpose for which the information was required.
From information that is available, I am able to explain that a wide variety of training facilities are provided throughout Australia for children suffering from all types of handicaps. The usual prerequisite for admission is that a child is so handicapped as to need special equipment and attention beyond that provided through general education services. The training provided is broad and includes vocational and prevocational training; remedial, educational, ambulatory and social training; and occupational and speech therapy.
The number of children attending each centre also varies greatly, ranging from about 10 to 300 and having regard to such factors as the location of the centres and the type of disability catered for. Some organisations provide for specific disability groups such as blind, spastic or autistic children while many others cater for all types of mentally or physically handicapped children. About 14,500 handicapped children attend centres approved by my Department throughout Australia.
From the available information there are comparatively few handicapped children on waiting lists for admission to day training centres although it is generally recognised that additional residential accommodation facilities are required.
This problem is gradually being overcome with the assistance provided under the Handicapped Children (Assistance) Act. Fifty-seven residential centres catering for about 700 handicapped children have been subsidised since the inception of the subsidy scheme. The development of more residential centres is expected to be considerably accelerated following the introduction of the extended range of assistance for handicapped people that I announced recently.
Establishment of an Arab League Office (Question No. 506)
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:
Ex-servicemen and Women: Free Treatment of Cancer (Question No. 376)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Repatriation and Compensation has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 July 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19740724_reps_29_hor89/>.