29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I have received the following message from His Excellency the Governor-General:
His Excellency the Honourable Sir John Robert Kerr, the Governor-General of Australia
The Honourable James Francis Cope, Speaker of the House of Representatives.
I have, by my Proclamation a copy of which is attached, convened a joint sitting of the members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives for the purposes, and to commence at the time and in the place, specified in the said Proclamation:
And I desire you forthwith to inform all Honourable Members accordingly.
Australia (Sgd.) JOHN R. KERR
By His Excellency the Governor-General of Australia
WHEREAS a Proclamation made on 11 April 1974 by the Governor-General of Australia then holding office recited that the conditions uponwhich the Governor-General is empowered by section 57 of the Constitution to dissolve the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously had been fulfilled in respect of the several proposed laws intituled:
AND WHEREAS, by the said Proclamation, the said Governor-General dissolved the Senate and the House of Representatives accordingly:
AND WHEREAS, since that dissolution and the election of the Twenty-ninth Parliament, the conditions upon which the Governor-General is empowered by section 57 of the Constitution to convene a joint sitting of the members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives have been fulfilled in respect of each of the said proposed laws:
NOW THEREFORE I, Sir John Robert Kerr, the Governor-General of Australia, do by this my Proclamation convene a joint sitting of the members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, to commence in the House of Representatives Chamber at Parliament House, Canberra at 10.30 o’clock in the morning on 6 August, 1974, at which they may deliberate and shall vote together upon each of the said proposed laws as last proposed by the House of Representatives:
AND all members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives are required to give their attendance accordingly.
Given under my hand and the (L.S.) Great Seal of Australiaon 30 July 1974.
By His Excellency’s Command, (Sgd.) E. G. WHITLAM
– 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 inParliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the undersigned persons believe that some literature and films being published and shown throughout Australia are detrimental to the wellbeing of the community.
Your petitioners thereby humbly pray that the Government will take steps to see that the publication and availability of pornographic and other material of that nature is restricted and that the people are made aware of the dangers to the community from such literature and films.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Beazley and Mr Garland.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
We the undersigned citizens of Australia do humbly petition the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia that it might take such steps as may be necessary either to direct the Commonwealth Banking Corporation to preserve and restore The Palace Hotel or itself acquire the said Palace Hotel, St. George’s Terrace, Perth on its present site so as to preserve and restore it in perpetuity.
Further we do humbly petition this honourable Parliament to make such funds as may be necessary available to purchase the entire contents of the said Hotel from the owners thereof.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Bennett and 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 ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Drury and Mr McLeay
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That inflation which now besets so many countries today and in Australia is now at the rate of 14.4 per cent per annum is most seriously affecting and making life intolerable for those least able to take corrective action to maintain their position, namely, pensioners and those now retired living on fixed incomes.
Whilst the Australian Government is giving effect to its election policy of making $1.50 per week pension increases each Autumn and Spring such actions have been completely nullified by the stated rate of inflation.
This fact of life impels your petitioners to call on the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
Make a cash loading of $5 per week to those pensioners who have little means other than the present inadequate pension eroded by inflation.
That each Autumn and Spring the increase in social security pension payments be not less than $3 per week to ensure that within a reasonable period the Government’s policy pledge to affix all pensions at 25% 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 Councilof 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 Calder and Dr Jenkins.
Political Prisoners in Indonesia
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 many Australians believe that thousands of political prisoners have been detained for long periods in Indonesia, without trial, legal advice or cultural and educational activity, have been subjected to forced labour and often suffered from malnutrition.
Thatany such prisoners would face difficulty in re-integrating into society on release.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Prime Minister to make known publicly to the Indonesian authorities when he visits Indonesia the concern of Australians about the plight of Indonesian political prisoners.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Bryant.
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 Mr Hurford.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfull showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that, as an interim measure, the Government will immediately increase the current grants being made to children in non-government schools to at least 50% of the cost of educating children in government schools, thus enabling the non-government schools to continue to exist and fulfil their function of educating Australian children.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Jarman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of electors of the State of Victoria respectfully showeth:
That ex-servicewomen who enlisted during World War II have been discriminated against in the interpretationand administration of the War Service Homes Act 1918-1971 … and Defence Service Homes Act 1918-1973.
Whilst on enlistment they were prepared to serve in any area, ex-servicewomen who did not actually serve outside Australia are at present debarred from War Service Homes rights.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that immediate acton be taken to grant War Service Homes rights to all wartime ex-servicewomen whether married or single and without restriction as to dependants, and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Jarman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the world’s supply of fossil fuel is limited, and that research into alternative sources of energy is urgent.
That nuclear energy is a source of dangerous pollution, and contains inherent threats to the very existence of mankind.
That solar energy is increasingly acknowledged as a possible alternative, and deserves the type of research for which Australia’s size and climate are particularly suited.
That the problems of harnessing solar energy could well be solved if efforts comparable with our atomic energy research were applied to it.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will reduce its current spending on atomic energy research, and urgently set aside sufficient funds for meaningful research into industrial solar energy, and take whatever steps may be necessary to see that this research is begun with the shortest possible delay. by Mr McLeay.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the whale is an endangered species and should be protected by international agreement.
That whalemeat and allother 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.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I ask: Will he stop bringing genuine attempts at wage restraint into mockery and disrepute by calling upon the States to do that which he is not prepared to do himself, namely, to cancel salary increases granted as much as 7 months ago?
– I would hope that the honourable member and some of his colleagues would prevail on some of their State counterparts to co-operate in the action which the Parliament took last week in this matter. I suppose the honourable gentleman is referring to an interchange of telexes between the Premier of Queensland and me. I telegraphed all the Premiers.
The Premier of Queensland, of course, is in a situation where he can bring about a change more readily than any other head of government in Australia. He has a majority in a one House Parliament. In his Parliament for the last 3 years there has been legislation which says that whatever percentage increase there hasbeen in the minimum adult wage in any financial year in the State will be automatically applied to parliamentary salaries for the following year. He believes, apparently, in indexation across the board. I do not believe many members of this Parliament would support that principle. Accordingly, I pointed out to him as I did to the other Premiers that what we do in this Parliament concerns about one-third of the people in the top echelons of government employment in Australia. There are over twice as many public servants employed by State governments as there are by the Federal Government. There are three times as many Ministers, members and judges in the State spheres as there are in the Federal sphere. Accordingly, whatever we may do here is minimised in its impact economically and psychologically if the States will not co-operate. I am glad to say that many of the Premiers are prepared to co-operate, but the Premier’ who would find it easiest to co-operate is the most intransigent.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, who represents in this chamber the AttorneyGeneral. Has the Government yet had the opportunity to consider the Rae Committee findings on the state of Australia’s securities industry? Does the Government accept the findings of the Committee and does it intend to take action to prevent such abuses as detailed therein occurring in future?
– The Attorney-General is, of course, responsible for the matter. I believe it is correct to say that it was his action some years ago that led to the coming into being of the Committee that in its report drew attention to the very unfortunate situation that exists in the securities industry in Australia. I think it is appropriate to say as part of the answer that the Government is very concerned at the state of affairs that was revealed. It indicates a lack of responsibility and an extent of dishonesty that are appalling. It can also be said, of course, that in many ways the industry is far more associated with the principles and the attitude to commerce that is to be found represented in the Opposition parties in this Parliament rather than in the Government Party. Although the Government is fully in accord with the main thrust of the Rae Committee recommendations it has not as yet been able to study the detailed submissions. The AttorneyGeneral has in mind, and has already initiated, action to begin the preparation of legislation that will try to put the matter right. But one is also prompted to say that apart from the abuses, exploitation and dishonesty that were revealed in the securities industry, one has seriously to challenge the utility of it when it operates in the way shown in the report. As a means of raising capital for a capital-hungry country like Australia the sheer inefficiency of the industry is something to be deplored and something that the Government hopes to do something about.
– My question is addressed to the right honourable - sorry, not right, just honourable - Prime Minister. I ask the honourable gentleman: Does he agree that a $15 a week rise being asked for toy the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union is probably not in excess of a reasonable wage claim? If he agrees that it is not in excess of a reasonable wage claim, is it the intention of the Government to give support to the union in its demands for that amount of money to be paid? I ask the honourable gentleman also whether the Government intends to take action in this House - I ask this as a matter of information - to allow or disallow the increase that has been awarded by the Public Service Arbitrator to the Third Division of the Commonwealth Public Service.
– In answer to the right honourable gentleman - to repeat the archaic title to which he clings, this colonial vestige which he treasures - I would point out, as I am sure he knows quite well, that any award by the Public Service Arbitrator can be disallowed by either House. The other question the honourable gentleman asks me concerns negotiations that are taking place between the employees and the employers in the metal industries. These have not yet come to arbitration where, of course, it would be possible under the Act for the Government to intervene. The Government has not considered what it would do if the matter came to arbitration. If it will help the honourable gentleman, I believe the claim follows too closely on the last agreement made between the same parties.
– My question is addressed to the Special Minister of State. I refer the Minister to a report published in the ‘Canberra Times’ on 18 July wherein the Director of the Museum of Transport and Technology of Auckland, New Zealand, asserted that because Australia had no national policy to collect items of historical technological significance it had become a shopping ground for collectors from other countries. Will the Minister inform the House whether positive action is being taken to collect and retain historical material presently available in Australia before the recently established Committee of Inquiry into Museums and Collections is able to complete its inquiry and report to the Government?
– It is true that there was no .national policy on the collection of items of historical significance or the establishment of a national museum prior to the election of this Government. That position has been reversed. A committee has been established under the chairmanship of Mr Peter Piggott. The committee is widely representative of all people interested in the preservation of a national collection. It is interesting to note that the comment to which the honourable member referred came from New Zealand which, to put it in its right context, is relatively small in size. It should be remembered that in Australia there are museums in all State capitals and in many country areas where there are excellent national collections. It is also important that we continue to cooperate with the people responsible for those collections so that the collections can be preserved. At the same time we are deficient in not having a national collection, particularly in the field of aviation and other aspects of modern transport. Yet it is on record, for example, that Australia led the world in aviation. I think an Australian was the first to cross every ocean but one. I think also that a memorial to those aviators is stored in some place somewhere in Canberra.
It is appropriate that we do something about the matter urgently. Nevertheless, the honourable member would want us to do it efficiently. The committee is in the process of compiling a report to the Government. In the interim, it should be recognised that the Government will do all it can to preserve whatever historical transport records and examples of means of transport that it can. It should not be overlooked that such records have already been preserved in a number of other capital cities. It is important that Canberra, as the national capital, should take a lead in this field. I assure the honourable member that every assistance will be given to the committee. I hope that it will bring forward a recommendation later this year.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister will recall telling me 3 weeks ago that he would table the following week documents leading up to the double dissolution of the Parliament.
I ask him when he now expects to table these documents-
– The right honourable gentleman is correct. I did promise - well, I forecast that I would table the documents. My exact words on 10 July were:
The documents leading up to the double dissolution of the Parliament are being printed and I hope to table them next week.
I have decided not to table them until after the conclusion of any litigation or until the time within which one could expect litigation to take place has elapsed. The matter has been discussed in the Senate. My reasons for not tabling the documents at this stage are that in view of subsequent statements which were made by, I think, the right honourable gentleman, but certainly by some of his colleagues and by one or more State Attorneys-General, it became clear that there was likely to be litigation concerning those matters. In those circumstances, I did not believe it appropriate that the course of action taken by the former Governor-General should be called in dispute in the Parliament or in public; secondly, I did not believe it appropriate that the Australian Government’s brief should be delivered to its opponents.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General by reminding him of the difficulty, expense and in some cases impossibility of extradition and the widespread abuses as revealed by the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange, which must surely amount to corporate criminal behaviour to say the least. I ask the Minister: Will he take immediate steps to ensure that brokers and controllers of any company in respect of whose conduct there are grounds for believing a complaint could be lodged be made to surrender their passports and be prevented from transferring money abroad, unless and until the Minister is satisfied that there is no danger of their leaving the country?
– The matter raised by the honourable member is indeed a difficult one. All honourable members are rightly concerned about the revelations contained in the report of the Rae Committee. I indicated this in my earlier answer to another honourable member. The difficulty in the problem arises from the fact that there are competing values. One does not wish to see people escape from justice to another country. On the other hand, one has to recognise the very important fundamental right of freedom of passage and the serious consequences which flow from the withdrawal of a passport. This Government has ‘been particularly determined to advance and to upgrade the concepts of civil liberties. That has perhaps been indicated by its attitude to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In that Covenant, there is declared the right that everyone shall be free to leave a country, including his own, subject to the normal operation of the law. The point raised by the honourable member is one that is receiving serious consideration. So long as what have to be called corporate criminals - people who commit white collar crimes, people with ample funds, people who can seriously disadvantage innocent people and then flee with their illgotten gains to other ‘ countries - the matter does deserve serious attention. The Government has already sought and has managed to obtain reform of the extradition laws of this country to overcome the problem in part.
– My question, which I address to the Prime Minister, relates to the textile industry and to his comments in the House last week about this industry. Will the Prime Minister give an undertaking that employment in the textile industry, particularly in Wangaratta and other decentralised cities, will be restored to the level at which it was prior to the election in May? Will the Prime Minister elaborate on arid indicate what he meant by 2 statements he made in the House last week? In the first instance, he said: ‘Wangaratta ought to have a decent commuter transport service with Albury-Wodonga’. His second statement was, in part, that many textile companies had endeavoured to blackmail the Australian Government even to the extent of grossly misstating their own economic position.
– The Government is concerned to see that employment is available to all men and women who want it. It is a fact that in many country towns, such as Wangaratta and a few other towns in Victoria and also some in the Hunter Valley, the main employment hitherto for women has been in the textile industry. It is quite erroneous to suggest that employment is not available generally in Australia for men and women who lose their jobs in the textile industry. The experience has been that where such people lose their jobs in the State capitals they are able to get other employment. In country towns, however, it is unfortunately true that there is not readily available alternative employment.
I take the opportunity to discount suggestions that in order to preserve employment in country towns in the textile industry we have to impose quotas across the board or prohibitive tariffs on textiles. The solution is not to penalise every consumer in Australia in respect of his or her purchases of textiles. The Government’s attitude towards employment in centres such as Wangaratta is to create employment for people in those centres or within reach of them. The Government is happy to cooperate with State governments in designating and developing growth centres. In Victoria the Government is doing that in respect of Geelong in particular; it has discussed it in respect of the Latrobe Valley in general; and of course it took the initiative in respect of Wodonga in association with both the Victorian and New South Wales governments.
It is futile, in the Government’s view, to suggest that there should be Government action to promote every individual town. In that way one just disperses the necessary public investment. The Victorian Government for the last 6 years or more has had recommendations before it from a skilled committee to develop 5 growth centres. Apart . from those I have mentioned, there are Portland, Ballarat and Bendigo. The Victorian Government has not designated Wangaratta as a growth centre. If the Victorian Government seeks to do so the Australian Government will very promptly and readily collaborate with it. This has been shown, I repeat, in respect of Wodonga and in respect of Geelong.
My comment about a commuter transport system between Wangaratta and WodongaAlbury stems from the experience that where there is a large growing manufacturing centre such as Newcastle or a large employment centre such as Canberra then all towns within 50 miles or even more from it prosper, but it is necessary to have public transport available for men and women to go to the growing, the big employment centre and to get home from it. Wangaratta is in very easy reach of Wodonga.
– How far is it?
– It was about 45 miles the last time I travelled it. That wes less than a year ago. It is an excellent road.
– Who will pay the fares?
– If the honourable gentleman puts up a proposition that in order to encourage or preserve employment in towns like Wangaratta the Government should subsidise the commuter service, I would be very receptive to such a suggestion. I believe that the men and women in Wangaratta would be advantaged by the range of employment available over the next decade in Albury-Wodonga instead of the restricted opportunities for employment which have hitherto obtained in Wangaratta. If government money is to be spent then
I believe it is more fruitfully spent in making possible public transport in circumstances like this than in subsidising industries which are not likely to become viable.
– I ask the Treasurer: Why did the Government permit the Reserve Bank of Australia to allow the certificates of deposit issued by the trading banks to reach such absurd levels in the last 6 months? Why, in the latter part of last year and in the early part of this year, did the Government permit the Reserve Bank to allow the trading banks to move into speculative investment loans whereby a liquidity crisis arose only to be covered by certificates of deposit at high rates of interest? Why was the bond rate moved to
II per cent to reinforce the general level of interest created by the absurd level that was being paid for certificates of deposit?
– The certificate of deposit is a relatively new form of transaction in Australia. I believe that it has enabled the trading banks to become more competitive in the total credit field than previously. I think that in some respects the medicine was a little bit heady to begin with but that things have now settled down somewhat. I hope that there will be greater stability in the use of those instruments in the future than perhaps there was in the first 6 months of their operation.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Will the honourable gentleman give an assurance that there is no chance of some of the Australian banks crashing if they continue their present policies? Does he agree that that is an absurdly stupid proposition to put because it can only lead to confusion or lack of confidence and could induce the result, which would be disastrous? Does he believe that an economic crisis is due in part to the interest rate squeeze induced by bank lending policies? Is it not a fact that the increased interest rates directly flow from a decision taken by himself, the Prime Minister and the then Deputy Prime Minister and present Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard, on a Sunday evening last year and announced as being a matter of policy adopted by the Government to control inflation? Is there some almost forgotten power to enforce greater control over bank lending? Is the honourable gentleman considering taking such action? If so, what is the almost forgotten power?
– The right honourable gentleman began his question by asking me about the stability of the banking system in general. I think that the term ‘safe as a bank’ is still relevant as far as any of the-
– You only think!
– It would do the honourable member for Griffith good to think occasionally.
– Do you agree that you should be quite unequivocal about that statement?
– Yes. I am unequivocal about it. I suggest that the term ‘safe as a bank’ is still relevant as far as any of the trading banks or savings banks in Australia are concerned.
– that there is no risk whatever of any of them crashing?
– Of course not.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman has asked his question.
– No forseeable risk.
-I ask the Treasurer to answer the question as put to him by the right honourable gentleman.
– As the right honourable gentleman would know, the banking system is regulated under the banking laws of 1945, which merely continued what had been done under regulation in the wartime security arrangements. If - I say ‘if quite advisedly - any difficulty were experienced there would be certain provisions of rescue, as the right honourable gentleman knows. All I suggest is that there is no need at this present point to invoke any such power.
– The interest rates are imposed by the decision you took.
– The interest rate generally. It is difficult in Australia, as it is anywhere else, in the face of inflation-I think the right honourable gentleman will acknowledge this - to keep interest rates down while the inflation rate is high. I suggest that if the right honourable gentleman looks objectively, as he ought to, at the overall situation, he will see that interests rates are no higher in Australia than they are in any of the other countries with which we like to compare ourselves. If the right honourable gentleman can persuade the public of Australia to lend money at lower rates of interest, I shall be happy to co-operate with him.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Overseas Trade, is concerned with the effect on domestic prices of reduced tariffs. Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to reports that the Australian Bureau of Statistics in compiling the consumer price index figures for the June quarter priced only Australian-made clothing, so ignoring the impact of cheaper imported clothing? Has he checked with the Bureau to establish whether or not this is a fact? If it is a fact, does this mean that as the volume of imported clothing has increased dramatically this year the 25 per cent increase in the price of winter clothing, as shown in the June quarter consumer price index release, in fact overstates the actual rate of increase in clothing prices and thus also overstates the actual rate of inflation?
– I have not seen any of the reports mentioned by the honourable member which show that the Australian Bureau of Statistics had taken into account only the price of Australian clothing in arriving at the consumer price index figures for the last quarter. On the face of it, it would seem to me that that is unlikely because it would be fairly difficult, I think, to distinguish one from the other. The surprising thing, however, about the price index number released last week is the high percentage increase in clothing and apparel. The increase is more than 7 per cent, I think, the highest component. That is very surprising. If it had not been for that the index would have been one-half of 1 per cent or so lower, I think, and that would have been significant.
It may well be, or it should be, that the price of imported clothing should be considerably less than that of comparable Australian manufactured clothing because the landed price is less than the Australian factory price, sometimes one-third, onequarter or one-fifth less. Trade union officials havebrought to my attention the fact that this is so in relation to a large number of items of clothing and apparel. They have also supplied evidence that the actual retail price of the imported commodity is often no less than the retail price of the Australian commodity, which may not be so in all cases but is so in some cases. I will have the matter investigated to see whether what the honourable member suggests did happen in the preparation of the consumer price index figures for the June quarter. If it is found to have happened we will see to it that a proper sampling of both imported clothing and Australian produced clothing is taken into account in the future.
– Did the Minister for Minerals and Energy suggest in Adelaide on 13 May that the gas reserves of the Cooper Basin which are to serve both South Australia and New South Wales could be severely depleted, if not exhausted, within 5 years? If this is correct, how can the Minister justify, in view of the fact that funds are not available for preschool education, the expenditure of some $1 65m to$200m of taxpayers’ money on a Cooper Basin-Sydney pipeline when a pipeline from Bass Strait to Sydney, with links to Wollongong, Newcastle and Canberra, would cost approximately $120m and give those cities a guaranteed supply from known reserves for at least 20 years? Has this alternative been examined by the Government? If so. why was it rejected?
– I do not agree with the honourable member’s logic or his statistics. In point of fact, the decision of the Government was taken long before the honourable member graced the House with his presence. When we first took office we entered into the concept of a construction of a trans-national pipeline. In so doing we were following the best of all precedents, that of Sir William Pettingell. I will produce to the House for its information, collectively as well as for that of the honourable member, a record of the conversation between Sir William and Dr McFadyen, the then head of the Fuels Branch. Sir William pointed out the resounding financial advantages not only to Australia but also to his company - the Australian Gas Light Co. - of the construction of such a pipeline. The present position is that at Gidgealpa there are about 3.5 trillion cubic feet of proven recoverable reserves. The dedication for the requirements of Adelaide and South Australia plus the contractual obligations of the consortium to the Australian Gas Light Co. is of the order of 4.4 trillion cubic feet. We believe that the extra gas can be found at Gidgealpa. In any event, it is our intention to proceed beyond Gidgealpa to Palm Valley where there are definitely between another 7 trillion cubic feet and 8 trillion cubic feet.
– Still no pre-school funds.
– It has nothing to do with pre-school funds. The position should be understood clearly. Australia’s energy requirements are met to the extent of only 6 per cent by the use of natural gas. The figure for the advanced Western industrial democracies is of the order of 21 per cent. We propose to increase the Australian figure accordingly. In so doing we will as an offset reduce the imports of crude oil from overseas which now supply a very substantial part of Australia’s fuel requirements. The price increases by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries are of the order of $400m for a full year. If we increase the consumption of natural gas as we propose by IS per cent, in terms of our total fuel requirements we will save $200m a year. We will pay for the cost of the pipeline in just that manner. As for the honourable member’s equating the expenditure on the pipeline with pre-school education, it is a complete fallacy both in logic and in finance.
– Is the Minister for Education satisfied with the manner in which various State governments, particularly the New South Wales Government, are dispensing special grants provided by the Australian Government for disadvantaged schools? Is he aware that some schools with grave deficiencies in terms of staff, accommodation and equipment have received no assistance as yet - and the position is aggravated by a high proportion of children of non English-speaking parents in the school population - and have been given no prospect of such aid? I cite as an example the Kogarah High School in my electorate.
– The States Grants (Schools) Act provides that the Federal Minister for Education needs to be satisfied with the list of disadvantaged schools which is provided by a State government. The Karmel report in respect of capital for disadvantaged schools, for which Karmel assigned $30m, suggested that it had been found by experience that between $150,000 and $200,000 was adequate for upgrading a disadvantaged school. Karmel had seen the transformation of schools by such an expenditure. This pre-supposes that Karmel had in mind about 200 schools but some of the States submitted lists which showed that in their areas there were more disadvantaged schools than that number. This would presuppose too great a dispersal of funds and no significant change in the particularly disadvantaged schools. It was not intended by Karmel that the position of every disadvantaged school in Australia would be remedied in 1974 and in 1975. He pre-supposed an ongoing program and wanted large expenditures on a comparatively small number of the most urgent cases. We have therefore not always agreed with the States’ lists of disadvantaged schools. My department and the Australian Schools Commission have discussed these matters with the State government departments concerned and the result is that there is an agreed revised list.
The State of New South Wales, to which the honourable gentleman referred in his question, has a disadvantaged schools grant of its own and the Minister takes the view that, as far as the general public in concerned, no good purpose is served by specifying what schools are being assisted out of Karmel funds and what schools are being assisted out of the State Government’s own funds. I would remind the honourable gentlemen that the system has been operating only since 1 January and under those circumstances I think it would be premature for me to start criticising State governments. We want to be able to look at this, matter more intelligently as the system gets going.
On the question of migrants, Karmel did regard migrancy and Aboriginality as signs of disadvantage in a school. There is no doubt that a large number of Aboriginal children in a school is a sign of disadvantage because of their poverty. Migrancy is a different question. A school is disadvantaged if it needs to put on extra teachers to teach English, but otherwise it has been found that because of the amount of backing in Italian and Greek homes, for instance, that a child gets - the headmistresses and headmasters of New South Wales schools have said this to me - migrant children in very many cases are among the least disadvantaged because their motivation to education is so good, and that almost invariably the disadvantaged children are
Australian children. They are the children usually of deserted wives, or the children of single mothers and so on. Behind the others there is a tremendous extended family backing which makes an immense difference to the child. We need to look at this question and have further discussions with the persons concerned.
– Four minutes.
– Four minutes - an abuse of question time.
– I am endeavouring to give a courteous answer to a question. It is a very common characteristic of members of the Opposition to ask 6 questions in one. There were a number of questions in the one I was asked. If I am ever again subjected to shouting when I am answering a question addressed to me by an Opposition member, I will not answer any of them.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report of the Prices Justification Tribunal dated 23 July 1974 on the price increases for butter and cheese proposed by the Southern Queensland Dairy Company Limited and others.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report from the Industries Assistance Commission on building materials, by-law dated 27 March 1974.
– Pursuant to section 18 of the Wheat Research Act 1957 I present the sixteenth annual report on activities under the Act for the year ended 31 December 1973.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report on liquefied petroleum gas as a motor vehicle fuel dated April 1974.
– Pursuant to section 21 of the River Murray Waters Act 1915-1970 I present the report of the River Murray Commission for the year ended 30 June 1973, together with the Commission’s financial state- ments and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements, statements of gaugings and diversions during the year furnished on behalf of the governments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The confusion and uncertainty created by the Prime Minister’s actions in dismembering the Department of Immigration.
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) -
– There can be no doubt that one of the principal responsibilities of any national government is the framing and administration of immigration policy. Immigration and its effects on a nation is not a short term phenomenon. The impact that migrants have had on Australia’s social, cultural and economic life, particularly since the Second World War, has been immense and worth while. I should point out that the effects will be permanent. Migration policies affect the life style, the composition and the very nature of the nation’s people. The results of immigration policies are irreversible. Decisions taken must be the result of detailed analysis and a keen appreciation of long term effects. To do less would be irresponsibility of the worst kind. Because the effects of changing migration policies and administration are so far reaching, the Opposition believes that the Government owes to the people of Australia, both recent arrivals and those who could claim to be native sons, a clear and detailed explanation of the reasons behind the recent changes wrought in the immigration field.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), acting as usual it would seem entirely unilaterally, decided to split up the Department of Immigation. The decision is an extremely strange one. I remind honourable members that some 4 years ago the then Liberal-Country Party Government set up one of the most detailed series of studies into determining long term population strategies that any country had undertaken. The National Population Inquiry, under the direction of Professor Borrie, has been carrying on its investigations supported firstly by the Liberal-Country Party Government and since 1972 by the present Labor Government. It is an extremely detailed series of investigations. The National Population Inquiry will make recommendations on the best possible size, composition and distribution for Australia’s population at various stages up to the year 2000. It is required specifically to take into account the following factors: The situation in countries to which Australia is linked through migration, trade, political affairs or geography; contemporary population theories and their economic, social and ecological implications; the natural growth potential of Australia’s population, variations in rates and patterns betwen different parts of the Commonwealth, and the influence of internal and external migration. This includes the Aboriginal population, both in the total situation and as a separate sub-study. The other factor is the impact of technological advance, together with changes in total population, on the use of resources and the distribution of Australia’s population; and, finally, factors bearing on the distribution of Australia’s population and the desirability, scope for and feasibility of effecting substantial changes in these distribution patterns. The possible effects of this inquiry’s recommendations in relation to future immigration policies and administration are obviously enormous.
The Committee was due to report to the Government this June, according to the previous Minister for Immigration, when he spoke about it last year. As far as I know it has not yet done so. But obviously, if not already completed, the report is near to hand. What an extraordinary and arbitrary decision to make such sweeping changes before public examination and discussion of such an important document. Should the report produce findings which are at some variance with the Government’s apparent present stance it is extremely likely that more disruption and further changes could become necessary. On the other hand, the changes already made could result in a reluctance to change again, and hence possibly diminish desirable changes recommended by the inquiry. Either way, the exercise of a little restraint by the Prime Minister could have avoided potential difficulties.
Let us now look at some of the other uncertainties and potential trouble spots created by the Prime Minister’s action. The final split up of the Department is still not clear despite the passage of some 6 weeks since the initial announcement. We have the continuing spectacle of various Ministers squabbling over the division of the spoils, and this division is still not finalised. The Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass), the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) and the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) are still battling for control of the population planning section of the Department. The interesting aspect of this struggle is that both the Minister for the Environment and Conservation and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development are avowed supporters of zero population growth, whilst the Minister for Labor and Immigration is responsible for manpower planning. We have only to think about this for a moment to see what extraordinary conflicts and contradictions could arise should the division of responsibilities take place.
Let us look at another field of uncertainty and unease - the relationship between foreign affairs policy and immigration policy. As we all know, Australia is an extremely large continent with great natural resources, a high standard of living and a small population. It is situated close to the subcontinents of the Indian and Asian regions and all the islands of the Pacific. Some of the countries in these areas are not very large, have not great natural resources, and in many cases have standards of living considerably below ours and in some cases have considerable problems of population pressure. It is essential that Australia’s relations with these countries be of the highest order. It is a fact of life that immigration policies do have some bearing on these relationships. However, the split up of the former Department of Immigration still leaves unclear the question of the issue of migrant visas. It is likely to lead to conflict and inconsistency in the future. Should the Department of Foreign Affairs be given the control of migrant visas it is not inconceivable that foreign policy implications may be given preference as a domestic economic and social consideration.
The Prime Minister is unclear as to his intentions or his wishes in this area. But I believe it is of extreme importance to the Australian nation that he should make clear his intentions and his wishes at the earliest opportunity. Again, the results of the Government’s emphasis on sponsored immigration and family reunion are unclear. I should like to point out at this stage that it was the previous Liberal-Country Party Government which initiated the emphasis on family reunion. I should also like to make it quite clear that when we once again win government we will continue to support such a policy of family reunion. However, the expansion of the definition of what constitutes family reunion has led to a remarkable increase in the number of sponsored migrants and a corresponding increase in those falling into the unskilled category. The growth in sponsorship and applications which at this stage have not yet been reflected in arrival figures, simply because of the administrative complexity of processing applications, could have very real effects on the composition and opportunities for employment of future migrants.
It has been asserted that the present policies in respect of categorisation of sponsored migrants could soon lead to effective lack of control over total migrant numbers entering Australia. If this Government has initiated a policy which will lead to a lack of control by the Government over the total numbers of migrants coming into this country, it is a very real responsibility which the Government will have to bear. In my view it would be an abrogation of national responsibility. No one would claim that the former Department of Immigration and its officers were perfect, but also no one would deny that the officers of the Department exhibited experience, expertise and dedication of an extremely high order. To support this view I have no less an authority than the former shadow Minister for Immigration, now the present Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) who is sitting at the table. I should like to quote what he said about the Department of Immigration on 7 May 1968, in his former position as shadow Minister for Immigration. At page 1124 of Hansard he said:
Here we have a department the officers of which act with a complete and thoroughly humane understanding of the problems of other people. I commend the officers of the Department. This Commonwealth is extremely lucky to have a department like the Department of Immigration. No other department in the Commonwealth acts so efficiently or with such great credit to its country as the Department of Immigration does.
They were the words of the present Minister for Labor and Immigration.
The difficulties of assimilation and integration of migrants travelling to a new country are severe. Problems are experienced by migrants from the time they enter Australia right through to and including the process of settlement. For 25 years they have had a single department to which they could turn. For 25 years officers within that Department, who had a personal knowledge of the migrants and ready access to full documentation in relation to individual migrants, were available to help them. The Department had the ability, the experience, the enthusiasm and the expertise to act quickly and decisively in response to crisis situations. There was a comradeship and a sense of purpose shared by the officers of the Department. Migrants felt that in this new and often strange environment they had a ready symbol of the Government’s concern for their particular problems - one they could turn to for assistance and one they knew.
This has all changed despite the assertions of the Prime Minister to the contrary. Assertions are not good enough. Migrants know that the inter-related nature of their problems can best be dealt with by a co-ordinated administration. Migrants feel that they have been betrayed by the dismemberment of the Department. They feel very strongly that their status within the country has been downgraded. Why were migrant groups not consulted about the decision? Why was the Immigration Advisory Council or the Good Neighbour Council not consulted about the decision? Why were senior departmental heads not consulted about the decision? It has been a sad and a very sorry exercise. Let us have a look at what the Prime Minister has achieved. He has achieved uncertainty and confusion amongst the migrants, making their task of assimilation that much more difficult. He has achieved uncertainty and confusion amongst public servants, leading to a loss of expertise, experience and dedication. He has achieved uncertainty among the general population as to the scope, direction, composition and extent of migrant intake. These are typical of the achievements of this Prime Minister and this Government.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. The honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) said that I was an avowed supporter of zero population growth. That is false. What I have continually stated, both in writing and in speech, is that over the past 23 years Australia’s growth in population has been 1.9 per cent - that is, 1.1 per cent natural growth and 0.8 per- cent growth from immigration. If that rate of growth continues till the turn of the century we will have a population of 23 million, which is an increase of 10 million. Most of these people would be absorbed in our existing cities. I have said that that is madness. I have advocated that we should work towards a 1 per cent increase in population which will include both immigration and natural growth. That is what I have said and that is what I have advocated. I will continue to advocate it. I do not want to be misquoted. I ask the honourable member for Warringah to quote me correctly. What I have said is on the record.
– I compliment the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) who has just resumed his seat. He is a very clever person. He has been given recently the position of shadow Minister for Immigration and so he is determined to see that a job is created for him in the unlikely event of the Opposition Parties attaining government - I do not blame him for putting up these phoney arguments in respect of a department of which, one day, he hopes he will be the Minister. Long before that unhappy day comes he will find that the present Department of Labor and Immigration has been so well integrated and will be working so well that to give him the portfolio that he is striving to obtain would be to create enormous chaos and impose upon the migrants unnecessary hardships and disadvantage.
– How do you work that out?
– I work it out in this way. I am glad to see that the honourable member for Boothby is interested in migrants. It is the first time I have heard him interject in a debate on migrants since he has been in this Parliament. One good reason is that migrants more than anything else want the right to be able to get a good job when they come to this country. If a migrant is not able to get a good job with the skills that he possesses when he comes to this country-
– What about the unskilled migrants?
– I am coming to that. That is what it means: If he does not have a skill, he is unskilled. If he is unskilled when he comes here and is not able to get the sort of job he would like to get, he would hope that he had come to a country governed by a Government that did something about retraining or training, as the case may be. This Government is doing something about that. It is terribly important to the future of migrants that they have close contact with a department that can provide them with suitable employment or, if suitable employment is not available for the type of training that they have had, that the department can provide training for them. It is sheer madness to have 2 separate departments to do these 2 separate jobs. Migrants do want this opportunity for employment more than anything else when they come to the country. By that function of Government being integrated into the former Department of Labor, they will get it in a much more effective way than they ever could have if the retraining and the employment opportunities department, if I may call the Department of Labor that for the moment, were a separate department and isolated in a sense from the migrant people.
What the honourable gentleman did not mention - and I do not blame him for not mentioning it because it would have gone right against his case - is that the main competitor with Australia for migrants is Canada which does have manpower and migration integrated. There is a Department of Manpower and Migration in Canada and it works extremely well there. It works so well that Canada obtains many more migrants than we do, much to our ill-content. But it is-
– You want more migrants?
– When we were looking for more migrants, we found that Canada was able to get more than we could. We were not able to get what we needed then because Canada was outbidding us. I am trying to make the point that Canada had no difficulty in welding manpower and migration to form a single department.
The honourable gentleman in the matter of public importance that he proposes for discussion - expressed in a very bland sentence - talks about confusion and uncertainty.
– Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to the state of the House.
-It is a funny thing that the Opposition which proposed this matter for discussion-
-Order! No comment may be made when attention has been directed to the state of the House. A quorum is not present. Ring the bells. (The bells being rung)-
– Order! A quorum is present. I call the Minister for Labor and Immigration.
Motion (by Mr Daly) put:
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
The proposal is to construct a school to cater for an initial enrolment of 250 primary and 60 secondary students, with a further 50 children attending the pre-school. Construction will be of steel portal framing with concrete masonry wall panels, corrugated galvanised iron roofing, and aluminium framed windows and doors. The building will be air-conditioned. The estimated cost of the proposed work is$5m at June 1974 prices. I table plans of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Some newspapers report that I had said that banks would crash or something to that effect.I made no reference whatever to banks. What I said was the result of a question asked by some reporter who referred to private businesses financing housing and hire purchase. I said that in my opinion some of these companies that were at the fringe would be likely to be in difficulties. I did not use the word ‘crash’. The question in no way referred to banks, nor did the answer. The newspaper reports that refer to banks are quite inaccurate. What was reported was never said.
Re-development of the Tennant Creek Hospital, Northern Territory
– I move:
The proposal involves provision of new medical and paramedical facilities, new administration area, new ward block, new kitchen, accommodation units, and alterations to certain existing facilities to provide a modern efficient hospital. The estimated cost of the proposed work is$4.83m at June 1974 prices.
I table plans of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Australian Radiation Laboratory, Yallambie, Victoria
– I move:
The proposal involves the construction of a 2-storey air-conditioned building with supporting engineering services, landscaping, road works and car parks. Construction will utilise a precast reinforced concrete frame with external precast impill panels. Windows are coloured aluminium with a reflective double glass unit to reduce solar heat load. Roofing is insulated pre-coloured steel decking, supported on steel beams and purlins. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $3.6m at July 1974 prices. I table plans of the proposed work.
– Perhaps the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) can give us some idea of what this is all about and what the building is for. I am afraid that I have no information about it at the present moment. It may be that I am not opposed to the motion. I would just like to get some information, because the Government has not acted in good faith in regard to some of these major radiation matters. I am not clear in my mind whether this matter is concerned with matters where the Government has acted in bad faith or whether it is concerned with other matters. At all events, I would like to know more about this matter and what the building is for. Perhaps the Minister can give us some information.
– in reply - I do not know whether the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) listened attentively to what was said.
– I listened entirely to what was said. I wonder whether the Minister would add to it and let us know what it is all about.
– It is a very complex matter. The description I have read out is very much in keeping with the tradition of the Parliament in referring a matter to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. I might say that it is the usual habit of the Public Works Committee to go into an examination of such matters with the utmost care and present a report on them to the Parliament. In its examinations the Public Works Committee exposes the potential of problems and indeed the attributes in respect of all these matters. It is an effective parliamentary process to enable the most thorough examination of these matters. I believe that if the Parliament adopted the procedure whereby everything was to be explained at this stage to the satisfaction of every member it would be most unlikely if we ever got a referral through to that very effective examinatory body.
I can assure the honorable gentleman that if the word ‘radiation’ has appealed to his mind - I should imagine that that is the factor that is involved here - there has been a most careful study of these matters by my Department. It has also taken into account the precedents that operate overseas for proper insulation and for the proper treatment of radioactive materials matters. We take the view that every possible precaution is being pursued. In addition, I understand that there is a lot of parochial interest in this matter and attempts are being made to placate the anxieties of people. I think that this has been done with a fair degree of success to this point of time. So what we are talking about is the proposed construction of premises for the Australian Radiation Laboratory at Yallambie in Victoria.
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
– Order! Is the honorable member seeking leave to make a statement?
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar)- In that case, I would like to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member for Mackellar claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) misrepresented my position entirely. I am not suggesting that the House should examine at this point the matters that will come before the Public Works Committee. The motion before the Chair is mainly concerned with the reference of the proposed work to the Committee. I have suggested to the House that before this motion is passed the House should know what it is about. It is quite obvious that the Minister does not know one damn thing about it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Australian Post Office Administrative Centre, Perth
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1973, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Construction of proposed Australian Post Office Administrative Centre, Perth. (Quorum formed.) The proposal involves the construction of an 8-storey building to accommodate Post Office administrative personnel at present in leased premises. The building will be constructed of reinforced concrete with, generally, painted plaster internal walls. The building will be air-conditioned. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $7m at March 1974 prices. I table plans of the proposed works.
– Once again a very odd motion similar to a motion moved in this House in March last year has been moved in relation to this matter. Presumably this matter has been brought before us again because the Parliament was dissolved prior to the last election. I say that it is an odd motion because the fact remains that the Commonwealth has not yet obtained tenure of the land on which it proposes to erect this building. I have been advised that that is a very odd circumstance indeed. The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson), who is at the table, has not bothered to refer to that matter. At the moment he is busy chatting with someone else and is taking no interest in this matter, which is a matter of which he is in charge. As one of my colleagues has said, he probably knows nothing about it. Indeed, when my colleague the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Went worth) raised a question in relation to the previous motion before the House the Minister showed himself to be completely ignorant of the matter to which that motion referred.
However, to proceed with this matter, I wish to draw the attention of the House to the seriousness of the position concerning the proposed construction of this building in Forrest Place, Perth. It has been proposed that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works should conduct an inquiry into the construction of an 8-storey building across the northern section of Forrest Place, which is as near as Perth has to a city square. There are far more honourable members from Sydney in this House than there are from Perth. Would they seriously contemplate the construction of an 8-storey building across Martin Place in Sydney?
– Would that be regarded as being fantastic? That being so, surely this proposition must be regarded as being fantastic. But the point is the Commonwealth Government does not have the tenure of the land. The land is Crown land that is vested in the Western Australian Government. The Minister has given no indication of his having received the permission of the State Government in this respect. To my knowledge the State Government has made no announcement to the effect that it is prepared to co-operate in this scheme. So the motion that is before the Chair is surely a premature one.
Another very serious matter is involved in this proposition. When electioneering in Forrest Place on 17 November 1972 the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) made a promise from the back of a truck that he would provide additional space in this area and thereby make a wider public area of it by having a building known as the Padbury Building, which is down the eastern side of the area, demolished. But he said nothing about the taking away of other land. No quid pro quo arrangement was announced by him. I am happy to say that his words were taken down. I will read them to honourable members. I repeat that the Prime Minister made his speech in Forr est Place on 17 November 1972. He said:
The Australian Labor Party will create a central city plaza in Forrest Place.
He went on to say:
Any Commonwealth Government looking at expansion and the future of Perth would like to seea thoroughly adaquate and beautiful square in the centre of the city.
Then he said:
I believe that the Commonwealth could afford to forgo that contribution.
Those words were clearly envisaged as being a promise to demolish the Padbury Building. The honourable member for Perth agrees. Now we have before us a proposal that involves the demolition of that building, certainly, but also the taking away of a good deal of land that is at present open space and roadway for the construction of an 8-storey building that will block off the northern vista, which is so dear to the hearts of many people in Perth. I instance the objection to this proposal by saying that the New Heart for Perth Society and other organisations in Perth are deeply disturbed about this proposal. In fact many people in Western Australia had believed that this proposal was not going to be proceeded with until a newspaper advertisement that drew attention to imminent meetings of the Public Works Committee rather dispelled that belief.
Perhaps the result of this debate today will draw their attention to the fact that the Commonwealth is going on with this matter, that the matter is proceeding in an inexorable way, that apparently no objection is being listened to and that the Minister is prepared to continue with the proposal despite the fact that he does not have tenure of the land and, as I have said, has given no indication that he is going to get it. I really think that it is a disgraceful state of affairs that the Commonwealth should be proceeding with this proposal. I inform the Minister that I am going to do everything I can to raise public opinion against this proposal. I will offer all the resistance I can to it. I believe that it is a bad proposal. I believe that it will disadvantage the planning of Perth. I have risen in the debate on this motion to state that objection.
– That which the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) has just said was raised prior to the last election. I am not suggesting - nor does the motion suggest - that the building to which the motion refers ought to be constructed. Unlike the honourable member for Curtin, I understand the function of committees of this Parliament. It seems that whenever there is any doubt matters are referred to such committees for resolution. It is true that in the case of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works there is an Act which guides its operations and a requirement that certain works have to be referred to it for examination. The fact that a motion of this nature is moved in this place by the Government does not in any way pre-suppose that the motion is going to be a fait accompli. In fact I can recall quite a number of occasions on which proposals submitted to committees of this Parliament by the Government - as we are now talking about the Public Works Committee I should confine my remarks to it - have been returned to the Government in a different form from that in which they were submitted.
It seemed to me that the honourable member for Curtin was expressing a lack of confidence in the Public Works Committee. If he is to be taken seriously he could very well be saying that the Public Works Committee is a rubber stamp. It listens to the evidence presented by people, that evidence is given on oath, recorded and open to debate at any time. He is saying that all of those things will be done but then the project under consideration will proceed. I might remind the honourable member that one of the functions of the Public Works Committee is to protect the public interest. It stands as a watchdog between the actions of the Government or the Parliament and the rights of the people. As Chairman of that Committee it is my intention to maintain that tradition. The Public Works Committee is bipartisan and bicameral in its constitution. However, the members of that Committee, when the Committee is meeting, act as a group of Australian citizens looking after the interests of other Australian citizens. If the Committee were to deviate from that course I would be the first to stand in this House and express disappointment.
I cannot recall any instance since I have been a member of that Committee when the Committee has not taken note of objections raised by citizens against a project on very sound grounds. The honourable member may not be in a position to know that the Committee has deferred the hearing of evidence in relation to certain works to enable citizens to prepare their briefs in full so that their voices will be heard properly and not stifled by any bureaucratic action. 1 support the motion put forward by the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson). Its purpose is simply to refer the matter to the Public Works Committee. After thai is done other actions will be taken. The Committee determines the date on which the hearing will be held. When the date is set it is advertised widely and ample notice is given to those who wish to state their objections. If the honourable member for. Curtin thinks that the Public Works Committee will not follow the correct course, rather than stand up and carp about this matter which is very important to the people of Perth, why does he not do the honourable thing and move for the disbandment of the Committee in which he has no confidence and replacement of it with another. I think the matter should rest there. The motion should be agreed to and the confidence of this House should rest in the Public Works Committee.
Mr GARLAND (Curtin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Hansard record of my remarks when printed will show that I did not criticise the Public Works Committee, as the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) suggested. He said of me that I did not have an understanding of the working of the Committee and that I was saying that the Committee was a rubber stamp. I made no such suggestion. My criticism was directed entirely at the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) for moving this motion and, as ‘I said, doing so in the knowledge that he does not have land tenure.
– I think the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) has done a service to the House and to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works by raising the matter in the form that he has. I am assured by the remarks of the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) that all of these wider matters will be taken into consideration by the Committee. You know very well, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the Committee is inclined to look not at the fundamental policy of the Government, which it may regard as beyond its competence to criticise, but rather at the details of the proposal which the Government is bringing forward. It will not - it has not done in the past - take upon itself the role of a major critic of government policy. In the past it has looked rather to the ways in which this policy was to be carried out. I am very much reassured by what the honourable member for Burke has said because he tells us in the House now that the Committee will, if necessary, criticise govern ment policy, and that if it thinks that government policy is wrong it will overturn it. That is a very important statement from the Chairman of the Committee. I hope that that statement will be borne out in practice and that when the Committee thinks that the Government has made a mistake in policy the Committee will not hesitate in bringing the matter before the House.
As the honourable member for Burke said a moment ago, the Committee is the watchdog of the Parliament or the country, I forget exactly what he said but he did use the word watchdog’. So it should be a watchdog because, as I think the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) said a moment ago in another debate, it is not possible for the House to have time to debate all of these matters of detail. Very properly these matters of detail go to the Committee for consideration. But we now have the assurance that the Committee, beyond the consideration of these matters of detail, will consider also matters of principle and matters of government policy. I think that the honourable member for Curtin has raised very considerable doubts. I know nothing of the details of the circumstances of the Perth project but 1 feel that the citizens of Perth have a right to be represented. If the Government has a policy which conflicts with the interests of the citizens of Perth in regard to the development in the centre of Perth, then the Committee should take note of that and it should be prepared to overturn the policy of the Government. In a previous debate which took place a few moments ago I endeavoured to raise this point. I raised it, I thought, with all the brevity and courtesy that I could muster. I asked the Minister for an explanation of what his previous proposal was all about.
– Come along to the Public Works Committee hearings.
– Yes. I hope that in that case also the Committee will examine the policy of the Government and if it thinks the policy of the Government is wrong it will overturn it. At this present moment I am entirely ignorant as to what the Minister had in mind and he does not know either - I beg your pardon; he had nothing in mind - what the proposal was directed to. It was quite obvious that the Minister was making a proposal in this House without knowing what it was all about.
– I rise on a point of order. The honourable gentleman is not making just a passing reference to a previous debate; he is developing a very substantial attitude and contention in relation to a previous debate.
– I think it is relevant because we have-
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr KEITH JOHNSON (Burke)- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I do not wish to prolong the agony but I would not like to let it lie on the record unchallenged that I had said that the Public Works Committee would oppose government policy and, if it were found wrong, overturn it, as was claimed by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). What I said, as I remember it, was that if the Committee after hearing evidence found that the works were contrary to the public interest the Committee would report it. I do not want it to lie on the record that I oppose government policy or that I would do anything to overturn it. I did not mention it.
Central Health Laboratory, Woden, Australian Capital Territory
– I move:
The proposal is to provide the administrative and training headquarters for the Australian Capital Territory pathology services and to carry out a laboratory work for the Australian Capital Territory for public health and forensic services. The construction will be an 8-storey reinforced concrete frame building with external pre-cast infill and glazed panels. The building will be airconditioned with an emergency power plant to supply essential lighting requirements and to maintain a power supply to certain types of laboratory and engineering equipment. Car parking for 435 cars will be provided and the area will be landscaped to suit the existing hospital landscaping. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $4.4m at March 1974 prices. I table plans of the proposed work.
– I take this opportunity to commend the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) because of this case, reading from his brief, he told us the purpose of the proposed work. Of course, it is a proposal we would all support.
– We told you about the other one as well but you were not listening.
– No, you did not. The Minister called it a radiation laboratory. We were not told what it is to be for and what it is supposed to do. In this case we were told. I think everybody in the House would support the kind of purpose embodied in the motion as explained by the Minister. I commend the Minister, or perhaps I should say that I commend the writer of his brief, because in this case it is so markedly different from the brief he read out to us on >an earlier occasion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
New Telephone Exchange, Haymarket, New South Wales
– I move:
I hope that the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) knows what telephone exchanges are all about, because I do not want to take a lot of time explaining to him if it can be avoided. The proposal is for construction of >a building to accommodate telecommunications equipment for the Australian Post Office and comprises a basement, ground floor and 13 upper floors. Construction will be of reinforced concrete with pre-cast concrete external cladding units. Internal finishes will be of minimum maintenance coating applied to walls. The building will be air-conditioned. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $7m at April 1974 prices. I table plans of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Extradition (Foreign States) Bill 1974 International Monetary Agreements Bill 1974
Debate resumed from 17 July (vide page 291), on motion by Dr Patterson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Before speaking precisely on the contents of this Bill I would like briefly to make one or two observations associated with the Northern Territory and with the operations of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. I will commence by saying how grateful I am to the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) for appointing me as his spokesman and shadow Minister for Northern Development and the Northern Territory. Needless to say, as one who over his lifetime has been in touch with the people of those areas, I accepted the responsibility with immense interest and pleasure. I do not consider a shadow Minister’s role merely to react with hostility to the attitudes and activities of a Minister. Rather than be destructive I will regard my role as an obligation closely to examine the problems and the quality of life of the people at all levels and in all circumstances who live in those areas. As to the Northern Territory, I shall supplement the high quality of representation given by Sam Calder to the area in which he has spent the greatest part of his life. I say with deep conviction that it is the area that he most loves. He has dedicated his life to the people of the Northern Territory with an intense and immense honesty. We shall work together. If the policies of this Government continue io reflect and to project its contempt and vicious disregard for the people in distant areas the honourable member for the Northern Territory, the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) and I will provide the present anti-rural Ministry with a running fight that will never waver. However, I hope that the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) will not abandon the people of these areas but will fight incessantly, for example against the cruel decision to terminate the freight and fuel concessions which, for the young people-
Order! I have allowed the honourable member a reasonable degree of latitude in his opening remarks, but I remind him that the Bill deals with the establishment of a fully elected Legislative Assembly for the Northern Terri tory. He is traversing a rather wider field. I think he will appreciate that I have allowed him some latitude.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, you have been more than than tolerant. I appreciate your leniency and I will accede completely to your wishes. The Opposition does not oppose this legislation. However, the Opposition believes that many ramifications of the measure must be ventilated in this debate and answered by the Minister in an informative and constructive manner. Before dealing with those ramifications I will go over the history of the Northern Territory’s political representation. Between 1901 and 1910 the Territory was part of the sovereign State of South Australia and as such was represented in both chambers of this Parliament. The transfer of the Northern Territory to the status of a Federal territory changed that representation and the nature of the representation. Federal representation was granted to the Territory in this chamber and the Northern Territory Legislative Council was set up.
During the past 26 years there have been substantial changes in the nature of the Northern Territory Legislative Council. It moved from being a body in which there was a dominance of official appointees to a body on which 3 non-official appointees held the balance of power, and to the present Council of 17 members, 11 elected by vote and 6 public servant appointees. Each of these men in his own way and according to his own lights did a reasonably dedicated job. In some cases it was a tremendously dedicated job. This legislation will allow for the election of 19 councillors, one of whom will be elected as Speaker by his fellow councillors. Five of the councillors together with the Northern Territory Administrator will form the Administrator’s Council. This measure can be traced directly to a statement made in this place in October 1972 by the then Minister for the Northern Territory, the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt). What a splendid, intense and detailed job he did in the Territory. He tabled a paper he had prepared entitled ‘Northern Territory - Form of Government’.
The discussions which ensued resulted in support for the principle enshrined in this legislation of a fully elected Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. So far so good. But there, is no provision in the Bill - other than that I have enunciated, and that is very little, regarding the powers of the Assembly - for the formation of an Executive. There is no provision for resolution of the question of whether the Executive will constitute with the Administrator the Administrator’s Council. There is no indication that there will be a transfer of powers and responsibilities to the Legislative Council from the Commonwealth authority and consideration of revenue raising requirements consistent with the authority of the Council. I cannot see in this legislation any indication of the formation of electoral divisions in the Northern Territory or the nature of those divisions, and we must bear in mind that the election for the fully elected Northern Territory Legislative Assembly must be held before 24 October 1974.
I know that the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is responsible for this legislation, is caught in a cleft stick, to use his own phrase of some days ago, with regard to the 4 points that I have just mentioned. But I would like to point out that although the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory has been given a charter in respect of these matters it has a problem with that charter. The deadline is not a deadline for the Committee to present a report, it is a deadline for the election to be held before 24 October 1974. Does that make sense? I again say that it is not a deadline for the Committee to present its report. It is a deadline for the election to be held with great haste before 24 October 1974. A ‘swifty’ report on the Committee’s references will not be conducive to the future development of the fully elected Legislative Assembly. Surely a reasonable man - ‘most of us here at least claim to be reasonable men - would appreciate the fact that the Committee was given a matter almost of days to prepare its report but before the report is received there is a rush election. This is a tremendously important milestone in the history of the Northern Territory and I am sure that to the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) it is a culmination of a dedicated crusade, if you like. He must feel, as does everyone else in the Territory, that there is something questionable about the tremendous haste to hold an election almost preceding the Committee’s report.
Before discussing the points I have already raised I should like to refer to the proceedings of the 1973 Australian Constitutional Convention. This Convention may have been considered to be sterile in many respects. We do not see any great extension of the enthusiasm or the prelude of enthusiasm to this Convention. We are all wondering just what will happen eventually. I suppose the Convention was of considerable significance and of tremendous importance to those who were seeking some constitutional progress in the Northern Territory. At that Convention Mr Ward, representing the Northern Territory Legislative Council - an Australian Labor Party representative on that Council - said: . . the more the Territory is constitutionally developed, the less likely is that the Commonwealth will be able to retain it. Self Government must be distinguished from statehood, and the Territory will talk about statehood after it achieves self Government.
Someone has just not noticed that here is a statement contrary to the whole of the centralist policy, the destructive centralist policy, of this Government. It makes one wonder how Mr Ward retains his membership of the ALP. Under this legislation the Northern Territory is to get a fully elected Legislative Assembly but not self-government. That is a pretty important difference. Mr Ward has incorporated in the record of the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention the preliminary submission of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. I inform the Leader of the House (Mr Daly), who is at the table, that I did confer with my colleague, the honourable member for Dawson, who agreed to the incorporation of part of that submission. I now ask for leave.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL FOR THE NORTHERN TERRITORY
Preliminary Submission (o the Australian Constitutional Convention
Chapter VI of the Constitution probably received little detailed attention so far as the status and future of territories of the Commonwealth were concerned. The chapter is headed New States but confers legislative authority on the Commonwealth Parliament with respect to all territories whether or not they are capable of becoming new states. Over seventy years of history have shown up the inadequacy of chapter VI and the need for restatement.
Quick and Garran in their work ‘The Annotated Constitution’, assumed ‘as unquestionable that, whilst some of the Territories may permanently remain in a dependent condition subject to the dominion and exclusive jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, others. when sufficiently developed, and not required or appropriated for federal purposes, will be organized into new States having the special privileges of State government with State representation in the federal Parliament.’
Consequently it is thought that there is a need to classify territories and require a different attitude to each territory according to its classification. A tentative classification is:
Mandated or trust territories to be administered and developed according to the mandate or trust - for example, New Guinea.
Territories, the logical development of which, by reason of history, size, potential for development and other relevant factors, is in the direction of eventual political association with the States - for example, the Northern Territory of Australia.
Protected areas, not likely to develop in the direction of separate political existence within the federation - for example, Norfolk Island and Cocos Island.
The Australian Capital Territory.
Each of these categories requires different constitutional support. The carrying out of a mandate should be guaranteed by the Constitution; thi; development of communities capable of becoming viable political entities should also bc guaranteed; the Constitution should spell out the nature and extent of the protection which a protected territory should be bound to receive and the identity of the national capital as such should be preserved.
A change of status in the constitution of a territory should be the subject of a referendum within the territory and not, as now, entirely al the whim of the government in power at any given time. The holding of such referenda at stated intervals, on request, should be specifically commanded by the Constitution. Where political change involves the acceptance of a territory in any new sort of relationship with the States the change should also be the subject of a referendum in the States at large.
Section 128 needs revision in the light of the fact that residents of territories are entirely excluded from voting on a referendum to change the constitution under which they are governed.
There are no constitutional guarantees applying to the territory. The requirement of the payment of just terms (sec 51 (xxxi)) docs not apply in or to territories. The guarantees in section 92, 99, 116, 117, 118 and 119 do not apply in or to territories. Amendment of these sections is necessary to afford residents of territories the same rights as are afforded to residents of the States.
Even allowing for other constitutional changes in respect of territories, section 81 needs reviewing if the present Northern Territory legislature is to use and control local revenue raising powers.
– I draw the Minister’s attention to paragraph 5 of that submission which reads:
A change of status in the constitution of a territory should be the subject of a referendum within the territory and not, as now, entirely at the whim of the government in power-
I emphasise the words, ‘the whim of the
Government in power’- at any given time.
Knowing the anxiety of the man most concerned, the honourable member for the Northern Territory, who is the spokesman for the people of the Territory, to see the Legislative Assembly appointed with a new membership - I particularly avoid using the word ‘powers’ because after all we do not know what powers the Legislative Assembly will have - I would like to make it clear to the House and to the people of Australia that had there not been a danger that actions taken by us may have been interpreted as being obstructive, we would have done everything possible and, in fact, would have insisted on a referendum being held to ascertain how the people of the Territory themselves felt about this matter. There is a diversion of opinion and a diversion of attitude on this subject, but that is another story which we will get on to.
I should like to return in somewhat greater depth to the 4 major points I have raised with respect to this legislation. The first and second relate to the creation of an Executive and whether the Executive will constitute with the Administrator the Administrator’s Council. Will members appointed to the Administrator’s Council, presumably by election of the Council in full meeting, constitute the Executive? In other words, will they formulate a sort of Cabinet or Ministry?
Will the members be bound by the Council provisions that deliberations of the Administrator’s Council will be in secrecy? Schedule 4 of the present Act is to remain in force and I think this is extremely disturbing. 1 hope that the Minister will explain to us whether the secrecy provisions will persist. It would be an entirely intolerable situation for an executive council, in effect, to be gagged. Can anyone imagine members of an Australian government cabinet, even a Labor Cabinet with its dictatorial and autocratic attitude towards matters involving the nation generally, taking an oath of secrecy that no comment would be made by a Minister. According to the Schedule, he would be bound to secrecy. That would be unacceptable and I imagine that the Minister with good sense will explain to us his attitude and what he proposes to do in regard to this matter. How will the members of the Legislative Council answer for the decisions of the Council which will impinge on the everyday lives of every Territorian? This is the probing question. Would we or any normal, reasonable person be forgiven for thinking that perhaps all these matters will be subject to the result of the election?
If the Labor Party does get a majority no doubt considerable power will be given to the Assembly. If the Labor Party is defeated - I do not think there is very much doubt about the election - then of course the position probably will be entirely different. I submit that these questions need to be answered. I sincerely hope that the Minister will clarify these matters. I am sure that the people of the Territory, particularly those who are to take part in the proposed election and who will perhaps sit on the first fully elected constitutional body in the Territory, are anxiously waiting for clarification from the Minister.
The third area of contention relates to the transfer of powers and responsibilities to the Legislative Assembly from the Commonwealth, and also consideration of revenue raising requirements consistent with the authority, whatever it might be, which is given to the Council. What is going to happen after 24 October? Will the people be faced with a situation in which there will be 19 elected councillors with no defined tasks? This Government has gone so far in one area but has neglected to give the proposed Legislative Assembly greater power than the Council now has? Is it any wonder that the people of the Territory are poised anxiously waiting to have clarification on this point which is the crux of the whole matter. What are the powers of this newly elected body going to be? In 1972 the Government of the day offered the Northern Territory some areas of responsibility subject to general acceptance in the Territory. The first was:
Certain forms of community services were involved, including libraries, fire brigades, building standards, bus services and cemeteries. They are tremendous powers. The inspection of scaffolding and machinery was also included. The inspection of scaffolding and machinery is not a bad one to include because it is a buck-passing item in any case. Let us consider the second group. The Government also offered the Northern Territory control of certain forms of social legislation, including workers compensation, gambling - not that very much goes on in the Territory - liquor licensing, censorship and consumer protection. With respect to gambling and liquor licensing, as one who has been a neighbour to the Territory all my life-
– Steady now.
– Out of respect to the honourable member for the Northern Territory I will not probe very deeply into that aspect. If ever there was a need for consumer protection, if ever there was an example of how price fixing can completely upset the whole balance of penalty on the consumer, it fs in the Northern Territory. I was in the Northern Territory in the week before last. I deliberately drove 760 miles-
– I suppose you charged for it.
– It cost me about $150 for the weekend. I drove 760 miles to attend a meeting and then drove 760 miles home in the course of a weekend. I often wonder whether some of the members of the media, who present members on both sides of the House as being some sort of bludging group that spends weekends languishing on the beaches or enjoying themselves generally, would accompany any one of us for a weekend.
– Why did you vote against the salary rise?
– That question involved the highest possible principles. I could not help but comment on liquor licensing, censorship and consumer protection. Other arrangements made in 1972 concerned the rights of women and the rights of minors. I emphasise that the word is ‘minors’ and not ‘miners’ because the rights of miners was abandoned long ago. Also involved were control of daylight-saving and of firearms. The control of firearms in the Northern Territory is a very delicate question. Reference was also made to Crown law functions to the lower court level including criminal law administration but excluding the Supreme Court and control of companies. Electricity, water and sewerage operations and housing, excluding Commonwealth staff housing, were also included. If Commonwealth staff housing in the Northern Territory were excluded not much other housing would be left to be controlled.
The responsibility for the Northern Territory Public Service was to be handed over. The Northern Territory Public Service has been taken over by the ALP Federal Government, completely and naturally I suppose. Other areas included the Treasury, personnel administration, police - which has been taken over by the ALP Federal Government - the printing office, prison administration, Statetype taxation such as stamp duties and succession duties, urban land - taken over by the
ALP Federal Government - the acquisition, allocation and subdivision of land within the control of the Territory executive, urban arterial roads and urban traffic including motor vehicle registration. Included in these arrangements is the transfer of responsibility for a range of Northern Territory statutory authorities including the Housing Commission, the Tourist Board, Museums and Art Galleries Board and the Reserves Board, which has been taken over by the ALP Federal Government, but not including the Port Authority, because that might contain a few headaches which would be difficult for anyone to handle. However, I am sure that my colleague, the honourable member for the Northern Territory, will be making some reference to that.
Incidentally, I have heard of a huge and overwhelming reaction to the vicious comments made by the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron). An insinuation was made against the honourable member for the Northern Territory which would be totally unacceptable to any person in the Territory. Calder of the Territory is idolised in that part of the world. I strongly suggest to the Minister for Labor and Immigration not to set foot in that area for a long time to come, because he might come back-
– He might not.
– I was going to say that he might come back not quite as complete as when he went up there.
– Someone might get him at Alligator Creek.
– We have an alligator that will get him anywhere. To help finance these operations the Commonwealth said it would provide revenue grants to an amount which would enable a Territory Executive to provide services related to its function at a standard broadly similar to that of the States, provided the Executive makes a broadly similar effort to the States in raising revenue and controlling expenditure. I wonder, had a referendum been held on the matter, how that particular consideration would have been regarded.
Consistent with the Commonwealth-State financial arrangements the amount of Commonwealth financial assistance will depend on the Territory Executive increasing its revenue raising efforts to the level of the States. I wonder how that would be regarded by the people of the Territory. Revenue matters will be left to the Territory Executive to decide. However, if the Territory Executive elected not to match State revenue efforts its total revenue, including the Commonwealth grant, would not be sufficient to finance the same standard of service as the States enjoy. These are very complex questions. What would be the capacity of the people of the Territory, wiith a limited European population - I refer particularly to those who are subject to taxation - to meet what could be a sudden tremendous demand on their resources if such a body as the Treasury, as we understand it, was established in the Territory? Conversely, the Executive could opt to increase its revenue efforts above those of the State levels so as to secure total revenue that would permit a higher standard of service than the States provide. I wonder how that would have been accepted if a referendum had been held. The Government in 1972 also proposed to arrange for the financing by the Territory Executive of expenditure of a capital nature. This would also be similar to those pertaining between the Commonwealth and the States.
Since the present Government took power, the Northern Territory has lost power in respect of its limited government. Often there was great cry before an election about the neglect of our Government, which was anything but neglect because of the agitations of Calder of the Territory. The only real steps in advancing the constitutional independence of the Territory were provided by our Government. What happened with the present Government? It made all the promises in the world; it did all the stage-setting in the world, but it gave precisely nothing to the Territory. In fact, as I have indicated, this Government whittled away many of the existing powers of the Territory. For instance, the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy) has taken control of the Northern Territory Police Force. No reference of this decision was ever made to the Legislative Council. No wonder the Council gets disturbed and thinks of seceding. Members of the Council cross the border and talk to the Queensland Premier about that.
I intend to paraphrase what was said by an ALP member of the Legislative Council. I hope this sinks in and allows the people of Australia to know what was said by an ALP member of the Legislative Council. He said: the Northern Territory has a parliament without government, a government without parliament.
I pay full regard to the capacity of that member to sum up a situation as it really exists.
Making the Council fully elective will not convert it into a parliament unless it has the powers of responsibility. For the Legislative Assembly the raising of finance to cover its area of responsibility will be a major problem. I believe it will require substantial Commonwealth grants. Insubstantial grants will mean oppressive Territory taxation in order to ensure maintenance of essential services. Never mind about development and the branching out into a new attitude towards tourism, for instance. What will happen to the tourist industry once the effects of the removal of fuel subsidy are felt? The Labor Government will wreck this country from one end to the other. I believe that was one of the cruel and most illconsidered moves ever made. Such taxation would disinterest people in settling in the Territory and thus would be counter-productive to the Territory’s development.
Although the Northern Territory has had its own public service since 1928 it has, since the late 1940s, basically been atrophied as related to the staffs of the Legislative Council, the Police Department, the Prisons Department and the fire brigades. Greater administrative responsibilities for the Northern Territory - that is to the Council - will mean a costly escalation in the size of the Northern Territory Public Service. I submit that this expansion would initially be outside the resources of the Territory. We must keep these things in mind. There will have to be far more substantial grants of Commonwealth revenue to assist in this transition, if the transition occurs.
I turn now to the mechanism of the election. Forgive me if I get a little disturbed that the Minister for Services and Property appointed what he proposes to call a redistribution committee. We usually look forward to the establishment of a redistribution commission. The members of that committee appear to me to be men of quite some standing and well known. Two of them are senior public servants and one is a businessman in Darwin. The question we are asking ourselves is: Why was it done in this sneaky manner? It brings to mind the comment of the Minister for Services and Property that he would break the hearts of the Country Party. He made this comment about the redistribution even before the commissioners were appointed. Could we be blamed for suspecting that pressure may be brought in some way or other to the commissioners? I hope that the quality of the commissioners will be such that they will resist any attempt to bring pressure on them.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable gentleman should debate the Bill.
– I will get back to the Bill right away. In view of the committee shortly making its recommendations I believe the House should be given an assurance that the acceptance of the boundaries after the statutory time provided will not rule out the concept of total multiple or single multiple electorates.
I turn now to the mixes which have already been suggested to the Joint Committee to be introduced in any further electoral distributions. These are to ensure that people in isolated areas, particularly itinerant Aborigines, will have the opportunity to vote. With such a mobile population as that of the Northern Territory obviously these are problems which will require deep consideration. The Opposition welcomes this move and supports this legislation. We support the move but draw the attention of the Minister to some of the shortcomings in the Bill which I have endeavoured to expose. The Opposition recognises the very serious problems facing the Territory. Since the Labor Government came to power with its campaign of vandalism against isolated areas the territory has suffered grievously. The suffering is a poor reflection on the power of advocacy of the Minister for the Northern Territory in Cabinet and in Caucus. We know that he is more or less a loner in these forums which are of such great national importance.
At the moment inflation, I venture to say, is worse in the Northern Territory than in any other part of Australia. The wait for housing is the longest in Australia. Investment in development is declining because the Government’s financial and taxation measures are a real threat to private enterprise and to any other aspect of social functions. The Opposition supports a program of care and concern for the prosperous and healthy development of the Territory. The philosophy of our policy is underlined by the knowledge that as the Territory develops and the need for assistance at times grows there will be need for the Commonwealth to supply finance which will ensure that the Territory will be able to capitalise on all of its opportunities. At the same time the living standards, in conjunction with this, will rise for all Territorians. We support the supply of grants designed to ensure that essential services are available to all Territory citizens without those citizens having to pay in the form of excessive taxes.
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (12.54)- I support the Northern Territory (Administration) Bill which proposes to establish a fully elected assembly for the Northern Territory. However, at this stage I must say that I am not sure that the majority of Territorians are in favour of a legislature of 19 to 25 members, as mentioned by the Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson). There are indications in the evidence presented to the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory that there is a good deal of support for a Legislative Assembly of this size. It seems to me that it would be a big blow to the relationship that should exist between the Northern Territory and its people and the national government if provision were not made for an election to be held in the Northern Territory before 24 October next.
As a member of the Committee appointed to examine and report on measures that might be taken in the short and the long term to provide the Northern Territory with responsible self-government in relation to local affairs, with appropriate responsibility retained at the national level, I want to say that I have no intention of pre-empting any recommendations that the Committee may make. However, from my observation in the Northern Territory I am of the opinion that the great majority of Territorians believe that the expansion of local self-government is long overdue. It would be a blow to the relations that should exist if these measures were delayed any longer.
Another argument in favour of a fully elected Legislative Assembly in the Northern Territory is that this House will be able to get a report from the Assembly to consider at the same time as the report that is to be brought down by the Northern Territory Committee. I believe that this as a very important consideration if we remember that the problem has not been whether the Northern Territory should have selfgovernment or when it should be given to a local executive but rather how it should be given. The national Parliament will need every guidance in this direction. The Joint Committee itself has far from reached any con- elusion at this stage and I do not think this Parliament should rely solely on the report that is to be brought down by the Joint Committee. We will need to be guided by the people in the Northern Territory themselves.
The honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) has often looked at me and made the remark that he hoped I was making up my mind about these things. He has shaken his head to indicate that he is far from fixed in his opinion of what direction we should take. I can assure the House that there is a wide spread of differing opinions of what responsibilities and functions should reside with the Australian Government and what should be handed over to the Northern Territory. There is also a wide spread of differing opinion on what revenue should be collected in the Northern Territory and what should be the responsibility of the national Government. Also, there are great problems in relation to labour matters and, of course, industrial matters. It must be remembered that under the provisions of the Constitution in this field in general the powers of the Australian Government are limited, whereas in the Northern Territory the Australian Government has exclusive powers. The Australian States possess almost sovereign powers in their labour fields, in the industrial courts and so forth. From the evidence taken by the Committee it would not be easy to decide what the majority of Territorians favour in regard to where the line of demarcation should be drawn, what industrial codes should be followed and what standard of physical working conditions are to be observed in places of employment. Unless these things are handled with care, of course, instead of being of assistance to the Territorians the new step we are taking could be a handicap.
It must also be remembered that the Northern Territory comprises one-sixth of the mainland and it has a mushrooming population. It is a geographical entity but politically and constitutionally it seems to me to suffer from too many controls. The regional parliament that exists at present is empowered to make all day to day laws for its people but it lacks any executive authority or machinery to enforce its laws or implement its decisions. It seems to me that the greatest weakness is in the lack of any advisory or research system on which to base its policies or legislation.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was pointing out that I felt the greatest weakness in the proposal for self-government in the Northern Territory appeared to be the lack of advisory and research facilities on which to base its policies and legislation. On the many occasions I have had discussions with people from the Northern Territory it has seemed to me that they are not much different from the people in my own electorate. All they wish to have is a meaningful say in their own affairs. I believe that the people of the Northern Territory are entitled to take part in the decision making process of government. It seems to me that the strongest and most common argument against self-government is the degree of financial dependence the Northern Territory would have on the rest of Australia. It does not matter where the money comes from, in the long term the maximum value for Australia and the Territory will be obtained by involving local knowledge and experience in the social and economic processes of government.
– I rise, of course, to support this Bill. In so doing I point out that the Bill, as presented, is so sketchy and so lacking in information that it has thrown the citizens of the Northern Territory and the legislative councillors into confusion.
– Which councillors?
– I am referring to the legislative councillors. Why does the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) not go to the Northern Territory and find out how these people feel?
– Which people?
– The Government has caused confusion.
– Do not talk nonsense.
– I will tell the Minister later the names of the legislative councillors to whom I am referring. Since the Minister has been interjecting incessantly I will cut short the speech I had prepared so that I can tell him what some of the people of the Northern Territory think about him and his performance which has been absolutely poor. The Government, when in Opposition, was critical of our Minister when he produced something which was of value to the Northern Territory. This Government has produced nothing of value for the people of the Northern Territory. I hope that the Minister will say something in relation to this matter in this debate. I think he will have to do so.
– I will be saying more than the Opposition ever did.
– On page 309 of the Northern Territory Hansard appears the statement that the Minister should have reconsidered and that he did not have further discussions with Legislative Council members.
– Who said that?
– The Minister can get the Hansard and find out.
– Who said it?
– You are the Minister; you ought to know who said it. I am not going to continue a running argument with the Minister. He can reply to me when he makes his speech later. Since the Minister for the Northern Territory continues to interject I will take the time out of a worthwhile speech to answer him. Another legislative councillor said that the Minister was far too busy to go to the Northern Territory to discuss matters with the elected member who had the courtesy to write to him indicating that urgent discussions were needed. That member went on to say:
That is what the people in the Northern Territory think of the Minister. That is what they think about him in the Legislative-
– Why do you not say who it is?
– The Minister can get the Hansard and find out.
– It is a member of the Country Party.
– It happens to be a person who supports the Labor Party.
– Who is it?
– Mrs Lawrie.
– She is a great supporter of yours.
– The Minister is interjecting but so far his Government has done nothing for the Northern Territory. I am only hoping on behalf of the people of the Northern Territory that this Government will produce something for the Territory. The Government has done nothing but confuse and dismay the people of the Northern Territory. The previous Liberal-Country Party Government introduced a form of government for the Northern Territory which could have been followed and developed by the Labor Government. If it had done so, the Government would not be in the predicament it finds itself in now concerning the timing of the introduction of this Bill and whatever powers are to be offered to the Legislative Assembly and the election of members of that Assembly. The Minister for the Northern Territory, who is sitting at the table, is eloquent when he criticises and asks questions about the Northern Territory. But he never goes up there, so I suppose he does not know very much about what happens in the Northern Territory. On 25 October 1972 when the proposal was introduced by the previous Government to give the Legislative Council greater responsibility in relation to selfgovernment of the Territory, the Minister for the Northern Territory, as he is now, said that a Labor government would introduce selfgovernment step by step. He also emphasised that the statement of the Minister who was then responsible for the Northern Territory, the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), did not deal with the functions of the Northern Territory public service. No mention has been made in this Bill about these sorts of responsibilities. There is a complete lack of confidence in the Minister and the Government because they do not say what they are going to do about giving the Northern Territory responsibility for administering its own affairs.
The Minister for the Northern Territory said that another glaring omission from the statement of the then Minister in 1972 was the mention of power to deal with land and minerals. But what has his Government done about this point since it came to office? It has done nothing. What is the Government going to do about it? The Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh), the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory, the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) and even the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) visited Arnhem Land in chartered aeroplanes to study something or other some months ago. They crept back to Canberra. What did they do? When the Government sends 5 Ministers, including the Prime Minister, in DC3 aircraft to Jabiru, Oenpelli and other places surely it intends to produce something of benefit for the Northern Terri tory. What is the Government going to do about the responsibilities of those Ministers in relation to the Northern Territory? Each Minister who made a submission to the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory seemed to think it was all right for other Ministers to have their affairs of state taken over by the legislature in the Northern Territory, but not all right to have his affairs taken over. I ask the Minister to examine that question. My colleague the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) has spoken about the Northern Territory form of government and I will not go through it again. I think the Minister should study what he said. In the matter of urban land, which is vital to the Northern Territory, especially in the Darwin area, the Government has made a hash of the acquisition of an area of 32 square miles and has won itself no friends at all. The Government has also removed the administration of the police force from the Northern Territory and has placed the responsibility for the force with the Attorney-General in Canberra. I ask the Minister for Northern Development and the Northern Territory to consult others who are responsible in this area, including the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) who is sitting beside him, and to work out what the position will be. The Minister for Minerals and Energy has made some extraordinary statements about minerals. His attitude to mining, mining companies and the people who operate them is cruelling the whole of the Northern Territory; let us face that fact.
In October 1972 when the new form of government for the Northern Territory was being discussed, the present Minister was inquiring very strongly as to what the Administrator would do under the new arrangements and what his role would be. We heard so much about this matter, just as we heard the Minister saying that what was proposed did not go far enough and that action was not being taken fast enough. Nearly 2 years later, the Minister has produced a Bill which in actual fact provides nothing. I know that the Minister can say: ‘We are going to do this, this and this’. But the Bill certainly does not contain any provision of the type mentioned. The Bill, as introduced, is nothing but a farce. We ask the Minister now to put the matter on the line.
– Vote against it. You have not the guts to vote against it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order!
– Try to stop being childish.
-Order! While I realise that the Minister should not interject, the interjections are somewhat prompted -
– Absolutely out of order; 1 could not agree with you more.
-Order! The interjections are somewhat prompted by the provocation of the honourable member for the Northern Territory.
– How provoking was the Minister -
– I rise on a point of order. What is involved is not so much an exchange of comments between the Minister and my colleague, the honourable member for the Northern Territory. Do you regard as parliamentary the use of the expression ‘You have not the guts’ by the Minister of the honourable member for the Northern Territory?
– No point of order arises and the honourable member well knows it.
– He will need to watch himself. In the second reading speech -
– I rise on a point of order. The Bill before the House deals with the provision of a fully elected Legislative Assembly for the Northern Territory. Practically everything that the honourable member for the Northern Territory has said so far has no relevance to the Bill. If he does not like the Bill, let him vote against it; but he will not.
-The latter part of the Minister’s comments does not relate to his point of order. I suggest that the honourable member for the Northern Territory concentrate his remarks on the provisions of the Bill.
– I am concentrating on the provisions of the Bill. If the Minister cares to misinterpret my remarks, that is his affair. In the second reading speech, what did the Minister say about the Administrator’s Council? We want to know the answer to this and other questions. We want to know where the responsibilities will lie. What executive power will be given to the Administrator’s Council? In one small paragraph of the second reading speech, the Minister does say that 5 members of the new Assembly will be elected to the Administrator’s Council. In the original scheme, 2 official members and 3 elected members of the Legislative Council were members of the Administrator’s Council. What is the Executive to be? Will the Minister take notice of what Mr Ward, a member of the Northern Territory Legislative Council, said in the debate in the Council on this matter? Mr Ward made the very good suggestion that the 5 Assembly members elected to the Administrator’s Council should have responsibility for 5 of the departments responsible for administering various matters in the Northern Territory. Perhaps the Minister has not read that debate; I do not know. These are some of the matters to which answers must be given.
What is more, there must be a notice of intent to give sound administration and to back up the decisions of any Legislative Assembly, any Cabinet or other form of authority. The Minister and the Government must come clean about this matter. They must say what they intend to do and where the responsibilities will lie. The election for the proposed assembly is to be held on 19 October, if that is practicable. The men and women who will seek election at that time time for the purpose of trying to help in the development of the Northern Territory will want to know the answer to this practical question: Where will responsibilities lie. One question that they will wish answered - I am reluctant to discuss the subject - concerns salaries and allowances. I know that ‘salaries and allowances’ is a horrible phrase at the moment but, after all, these people will need to come distances of hundreds and hundreds of miles to Darwin. The present legislative councillors are not very well remunerated. I do not believe that people of the desired quality will stand for the new assembly unless the Government is prepared to pay them appropriate salaries and allowances.
The Minister must consider that aspect and look at the whole matter from a practical point of view. Some serious thought must be given to co-ordination between the Commonwealth Government and the Northern Territory legislature, whatever it may be called, as to who will introduce Government business, who will answer questions and who will introduce business that must come from the Federal Parliament to the Assembly. The Minister has given no indication of what is proposed. The legislative councillors are aware that nothing has been done in this regard.
They stated their views in the debate that took place in the Legislative Council last week. Those views were stated most strongly. They condemned the Minister for not showing any real interest.
In the time remaining to me, I point out that if the Government does hold the election for the new assembly on 19 October - the term of the present Legislative Council expires on 24 October and the Minister is under the whip, as it were, of the Prime Minister to produce a fully elected body prior to the end of the year - the date proposed for the closing of nominations is 11 October. That is 8 days before polling day. What I will now say has the backing of almost every member of the Legislative Council to whom I have spoken. The electoral officer for the Northern Territory would be in absolute dismay at the thought of only 8 days between the closing of nominations for the new body and election day. For the purposes of the last Federal election, he had 20 days in which to work from the date when the time allowed for nominations closed, 29 April 1974, to pollingday, 18 May 1974. We have heard criticism about the number of people who in the Northern Territory were disfranchised because postal votes did not reach their destinations, were not returned in time or reached electors after polling day. But the electoral officer had 20 days in which to organise for that election, after the close of nominations. I ask the Government to look very hard at this aspect. The work required to be done in those 8 days will tax the staff of the electoral officer. I hope that the Minister will say in reply that the staff of the electoral officer will be enlarged and that he and his staff will be given more room in which to work in the electoral office at Moonta House in Mitchell Street in Darwin where at present the office space available is completely inadequate, although his staff works very hard indeed. The 8 days available between close of nominations and polling day would make their task an impossible one. These are not only my views; they are. also the views of members of the Legislative Council with whom the Government apparently has not conferred at all. So while we will support this Bill we want to know the details of what is proposed and an indication of what the Government proposes to do. On behalf of the people of the Northern Territory and their Legislative Councillors, I say that the Minister is duty bound in reply to tell us the answers to these questions. I will quote from the Legislative Council Hansard. Mr Withnall said:
You can take 19 elected members, 2 teaspoonsful of hope and a dash of finance and you can have instant government. Of course, this is completely ridiculous.
He also bore out exactly what I am saying about the fact that you have to come to the point of working out how you can co-ordinate the operations of the Federal Government in co-operation with the Council. He said that if nothing is done about this urgently - and he went on to say that nothing has been done so far - the situation will become chaotic. If the Minister has not read the Hansard of the Legislative Council of Thursday, 25 July, I would suggest that he should have a good look at it.
The members of the Council, including the Minister’s own supporters are, as I say, disappointed, disgusted and dismayed at the attitude that the Labor Government and the Minister have had. Also they are very critical of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Northern Territory in that it will not be producing a report on the advice it will give to the Federal Government until well after the elections for the Legislative Assembly. They consider that this is a completely ludicrous situation. They can see that the Committee is just a sop. Although it may make some very good recommendations, they will be two or three months too late. So the Government is urged by these councillors to go and speak to them and ask them questions to find out what they have to say, because after all they are the direct representatives of the people of the Northern Territory.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I just want to make a few remarks. I have had a little to do with the subject that the House is discussing at the present time. I was a member of yet another of the committees that have visited the Northern Territory to have a look at the general question of the future of the Territory. I was a member of a sub-committee of the Australian Constitutional Convention which visited the Northern Territory earlier this year to examine the constitutional implications of moves by the Northern Territory towards selfgovernment and possibly eventually towards statehood. Before I come to the main thrust of my remarks, I would like to refer to a couple of remarks made by the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) when he opened on behalf of the Opposition. He referred to what he called the centralist policies of the Labor Government in never wanting to do anything to confer self-government upon the Northern Territory. I can only say that it is true that when I visited the Northern Territory there was criticism because of what was believed to be a lack of action by the Government in relation to moves towards self-government for the Northern Territory. The criticism of the Government’s action is not one with which I would agree. I must say that the people in the Northern Territory were equally critical of previous Liberal-Country Party governments for what they believed to be a lack of any bona fide attempt to confer genuine self-government or statehood upon the Northern Territory.
So let us not get the impression that any criticism of Canberra is levelled specifically at the Labor Government. It has been levelled not only at this Government but at previous Liberal-Country Party governments which for 23 years failed to do anything genuine about achieving statehood or self-government for the Territory. In fact, when I was in the Northern Territory I saw perhaps the clumsiest example of interference from Canberra. It came not from this Government but from the Country Party Opposition. The House may remember that last year a Bill dealing with abortion was debated in the Northern Territory Legislative Council. As it happened, a couple of Country Party members of the Council indicated their intention to vote for the Bill. Yet pressure was applied by the Leader of the Country Party in Canberra to try to persuade those members by the Country Party in the Legislative Council to vote against the Bill. I thought this intimidation and pressure was the clumsiest piece of interference from Canberra that was obvious during my visit to the Northern Territory.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
– I can understand that members of the Country Party would object to what I have to say.
– The attention of both the honourable member for the Northern Territory and myself was drawn to the fact that we were drifting away from the Bill. The honourable member for Kingston is not even referring to the Bill.
-I uphold the point of order taken by the honourable member for Kennedy. The honourable member for Kingston is drifting somewhat away from the Bill. I suggest that he should get back to the subject matter of the Bill.
– I was only mentioning parenthetically that here was an example par excellence of clumsy, bureaucratic interference by the Country Party in Canberra in the affairs of their own members in the Northern Territory.
– I rise on a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Kingston is ignoring you.
-The honourable member for Kingston was just winding up.
– I want to make a couple of points about this Bill and the implications of it. One of the things that the Committee of which I was a member did when it was in Darwin was to hear evidence from members of the Legislative Council about the future role of an autonomous local government in the Territory, lt caused me some degree of disquiet to hear the attitude of some of the elected members of the Legislative Council, because I fear that if their views are able to prevail in a future self-governing Northern Territory we might have a situation of tyranny by the majority of the minority in 2 particular respects. One has been referred to by previous speakers in this debate, and that is the relative rights of the mining interests and Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. One member of the Legislative Council who appeared before the committee seemed to take it upon himself to be the spokesman for the mining interests. I thought he made it abundantly clear that if there was to be a conflict of interest between the mining companies and the Aboriginal community, in his view the interests of the Aboriginal communities would have to come second.
He said that the mines needed to be developed for the benefit of the Northern Territory. I questioned him about what would happen if there was a conflict of interests between the mining industry and the Aborigines, and his view was that perhaps the mining companies could put off going ahead with the mining for a few years, but then he went on to say that eventually the would have to go ahead with the mining irrespective of the interests of the Aboriginal communities. I believe that we cannot disregard the interests of the Aborigines so lightly. I believe that it is contact with European culture that is largely responsible for the condition of many of our Aboriginal fellow-Australians. I do not believe that if these sorts of views are allowed to prevail in a fully self-governing Northern Territory they will be in the interests of the Aboriginal communities or, in the long run, of the Australian nation as a whole.
The other matter that concerned me was the matter of land acquisition referred to by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). Another member of the Legislative Council - from memory I think it was Dr Letts - expressed concern about the rights of people who had had their property acquired by the Government in Canberra. He said that not sufficient concern had been shown for the landholders. What worries me is that nobody seemed to be speaking up for the rights of people who do not have any land, people who want to acquire, housing at reasonable cost in a town where land prices are excessively high. I believe that if we are to have autonomous local government in the Territory we will have to maintain some body which can speak on behalf of the people who are not able to speak for themselves as articulately as are the landholders and the mining companies. I believe that the views of the latter group are far too predominant in the Territory at the present time.
Of course a government in the Northern Territory would have to be elected by the majority. We must have majority rule. But I urge the Government to look at the question of the rights of minority interests, because I fear that at the present stage of the political development of the Northern Territory we. might well find that people in tie underprivileged minorities will have their rights trampled upon. I am not talking about the minorities that try to tyrannise everybody else everywhere else in Australia. How we can get a compromise on this I am not certain, but one thing I would like to suggest is that consideration be given to having a system of proportional representation voting in the proposed Legislative Assembly, which I think would give a greater chance of guaranteeing a say for minority interests which have a very legitimate interest in the future of the Northern Territory.
Mr KELLY (Wakefield) (2.45>- The purpose of this Bill is to provide for the election of a fully elected Legislative Assembly for the Northern Territory. It is a part of the Government’s promise to grant self government to the people of the Northern Territory by 1974. Today we have to look at the implications of such a decision and to ask ourselves what they are going to govern. Self government is not just a phrase that is plucked out of the air; in essence it means the handing over of responsibility for the administration of some sections of government in the Northern Territory. It would have been better if the people of the Northern Territory had known before the election takes place for the proposed Legislative Assembly on 24 October what the task of the new Assembly would be.
One can imagine the embarrassment that will occur at a political meeting if someone were to ask a candidate from the back of the hall what he is going to do when he is elected, and what his task will be when he is elected and the candidate were to say: T do not know. This matter is under examination.’ It would be better - this may be a counsel of perfection - if it is known before the election is held what will be the duties of the people who are elected at that election. But unfortunately that is not so because the Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) has made it clear that after the election in October he is going to approach the members of the newly-elected Legislative Assembly and they are going to sort out some of the problems as to the form of government they are going to administer.
Everybody knows that self government is an eminently desirable thing. In this respect I remember a letter which the Chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Northern Territory wrote to the media of the Northern Territory to try to make the people there concentrate their attention on the problems of self government. With his usual perception he knew that if he asked the people of the Northern Territory whether they were in favour of motherhood they would say yes. Everyone knows that motherhood is a thing that is not easily arrived at, that it is bought at a price and that it is painful - or so we are told.
He pointed out that the people of the Northern Territory have to realise that the self government to which they have looked with such hope and expectation is really going to be an additional duty and responsibility on them. Obviously the Chairman’s letter was designed to get the people of the Northern Territory to concentrate on the responsibility as well as the opportunity.
When the Minister discusses with the members of the newly-elected Legislative Assembly in October what they are going to govern, he is not going to have an easy task. These are some of the problems about which we ought to be thinking and about which I hope the Minister will be thinking. I repeat that if self government means anything it means the taking of decisions. About what would decisions have to be taken? Firstly, there is education. Surely the responsibility for the making of decisions about primary and secondary education must be an essential function of self government. I think that everybody would say: Yes, of course that must follow’. But when one faces up to the problem of how to attract and to keep fully qualified teachers in a teaching service one comes hard up against the problem of whether the teaching service ought to be run from Canberra or from the Northern Territory. The Department of Education was quite open about this matter when it gave evidence to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Northern Territory, lt said: ‘Self government certainly is a good thing and, generally speaking, we believe in local involvement, but policy decisions about Northern Territory education ought to be made in Canberra.’ Despite that we are promising self government to the Northern Territory.
The same applies with respect to the field of health. If self government does not mean being responsible for the administration of health matters and for looking after the health of the citizens what does it mean? I suppose everybody would say that health is something that must come within self government, but when one comes to thinking about the problems of attracting doctors to a separate health service and of keeping them in it one comes hard up against the problem of making the administrative system work. Should the real responsibility for Aborigines rest with the Government in Canberra or with the self governing body in the Northern Territory? Many people say: “The Aborigines problem is too hard for us to handle and is too expensive for the Northern Territory to carry. It should be the responsibility of Canberra’. But approximately one-third of the people are of Aboriginal descent. Are these not going to be the responsibility of the self governing body?
That would mean that there would be self government for two-thirds of the people and government from Canberra for the other onethird.
What about the police force? The Government has decided that the police force should be run from Canberra; yet if one asks any citizen of the Northern Territory whether self government means anything he will certainly say that it means the taking of decisions about law and order in one’s own area. What about mining? What is going to be done about the administration of a mining policy? It is said by some that self-government certainly is a good thing but the people of the Northern Territory must not have control of mining in the Northern Territory because that is a very awkward policy area. Does that mean that any decisions that have to bs made about how the resources of an area are to be developed and controlled can be better made in Canberra than in the Northern Territory? I am not expressing an opinion on that. All I am saying is that when the people of the Northern Territory heard about the granting of self government to the Northern Territory they thought that self government meant what it implies, but all of the departmental officers with whom I have had discussions have indicated to me that self government means everything except the administration of the area in which their department has a superior expertise. If self government means anything surely it means the administration of one’s own affairs.
There will have to be quasi-Ministers of some form in the Northern Territory. What kind of ministerial system can one have if one does not have a civil service for the local ministers to control? If self government means anything at all it means that inevitably there is going to be a separate civil service. That is a problem which bristles with the most frightening complications. Tf one asks the people of the Northern Territory whether they want self government they will say yes, but if one also asks them whether they want a separate civil service they say: ‘Certainly not. We did not mean that’. They did not know that the gun was loaded. What kind of problem would be posed concerning the administration of land development? People say that if self government means anything it must mean control of the urban and rural land. Yet if one says to the people in Canberra whether they think that that ought to be so they will say that self government is splendid but it should not entail the control of the development of urban land. Apparently the people in Canberra think they are better fitted to make decisions about the way in which the city of Darwin should be developed. I am not saying that they are wrong. I am saying that we really have to think with extreme clarity and urgency about what is being talked about in this Bill.
We will have to come to a decision on this matter by the end of October. The Minister will have to have discussions with the members of the newly-elected Legislative Assembly. He admits that he does not know what they are going to have to do. He intends then to clarify in his own mind how self-government will operate. He says - I pay him the tribute that he means it - that he hopes to have a report from the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory to give him guidance when he comes to making this decision. I have to tell him again - I gave this warning before when we were discussing the establishment of this Committee - that there is no hope of the Committee, in spite of the dedication of the members to their task, giving the Minister by the end of October the kind of report for which he is hungry. I can assure him that we will do the best we can. But no matter how hard we bend ourselves to the task there is no real expectation that we can do the job properly, as it ought to be done.
The tragedy of the situation, although not of the Minister’s making, is that we have gone into this matter of self government too jolly fast. We should have taken it more slowly. We should have said that we would give self government to the Northern Territory at a later date in order to give us time to think out the problems. As the position stands now, neither the Minister nor the Committee will be able to give the kind of guidance and wisdom that will be necessary. It may be that the Minister will say: T am sorry that I reestablished the Committee. I did not establish it initially; my predecessor did. I asked the Committee to give me guidance in relation to the number of members of the new Legislative Assembly and in relation to how the Territory is to be divided into electoral divisions.’ The Minister has taken those 2 decisions out of the hands of the Committee and, having done that, obviously he has to take into his own hands the decision as to what form of self government the Northern Territory will have.
I want to conclude on a word of caution. We really ought to think about this matter more as a parliament. I would have thought that in a case like this a good principle to follow would be to ask the citizen what he thinks. Before the luncheon suspension of the sitting the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) referred to a request made by Mr Ward when speaking to the Constitutional Convention on behalf of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory. In his submission to the Constitutional Convention Mr Ward said:
A change of status in the constitution of a territory should be the subject of a referendum within the territory. . . .
If this belief is as popular as it is said to be and if it is as wise as it is generally thought to be, one would have thought that there would be considerable benefit in asking the citizen what he thinks. Just to strengthen that point of view, I point out that the Committee heard evidence from Mr West, the Secretary of the Northern Territory branch of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association, who came out categorically and flatfooted against the establishment of a separate Northern Territory civil service. He came out by implication against self government. He has just sent a telegram to the Chairman of the Committee from which I understand that a survey was made in April which indicates that only 41 per cent of the people in Darwin feel that the Northern Territory should be given self government in the next 5 years. Following on from that, it would not be a bad idea to ask the citizen what he thinks, whether he wants self government, because the propositions I have put to the House show that, although self government is an easy subject to talk about, it bristles with the most frightening problems when moves are made to put it into effect in the Territory.
Those of us who know the Territory know the kinds of feelings that one can easily arouse. Wave the flag of self government in front of Territorians and they charge like a wounded bull. But when we are considering the problems of making it work month after month and year after year, paying for it themselves, it is a dreadful picture. The Legislative Councillors will be paid out of the pockets of the Territorians themselves and not out of Canberra’s allowance. When these decisions are to be made, when it is spelled out what self government means to a Territorian, maybe it would not be a bad idea to ask him whether he wants self government. It may be that he will have one look at this machine that he is suddenly asked to drive, not from the back seat where he has been doing most of his work for years but in the front seat taking the responsibility, and decide that he would like to have a closer look at it. I am not saying that self government is a bad thing but I am saying that we ought to be thinking about it. We should have been thinking about it for years. From now on there has to be concentration of thought. I am told that nothing clarifies the thinking of a person more than the knowledge that he is to be hanged in the morning. The stage is being reached in the Northern Territory now where, although they are not going to be hanged, they will have the responsibility hung around their necks.
I am not being critical of the Minister; I am not being critical of anybody. I am just stating the kind of position that we face and should have faced previously. I trust that the Minister is aware of the problems we are facing. I am sorry that he is being pushed by a time-table which in my opinion was fundamentally unwise although electorally attractive. That being the case, I want to assure him that the Committee which he has recently re-established will do its best to advise him on one of the most awkward problems that I think any Minister has ever had to face. I hope that the members of the Northern Territory Assembly, when they are elected, will also realise that self government is not just something about which to make speeches but something which creates infinite difficulty and pain before eventually it is made to work. It will come about not by shouting loudly from the rooftops, not simply by getting an easy column in the Northern Territory ‘News’ but only by people doing the kind of thinking which is needed to meet this kind of responsibility.
– in reply - I thank the House for the general support expressed for the principles of the Bill. The various criticisms that have been made, most of which I believe were made in good faith, will certainly be taken into account. The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) asked: ‘Why is it necessary to hold an election for the Northern Territory legislature before the end of the year?’ The answer, of course, is a simple one. The Northern Territory (Administration) Act requires that an election be held no later than 3 years after the last preceding election. This means that the election must take place before 24 October 1974. In ‘addition to that the majority - I stress the word ‘majority’ because apparently the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) believes that there are some members now in the Northern Territory Legislative Council who do not hold this view - of the members of the Northern Territory Legislative Council to whom I spoke, and I spoke to the great majority of them at length, made it very clear to me that in no circumstances would they agree to an extension of this 3-year period.
– Have you seen them since the Federal election?
– I acted in good faith on the undertaking given to me by the members of the Legislative Council. If some of them have changed their minds, why have they not let me know? Why have they not written to the Government? Why have they gone through the honourable member for the Northern Territory?
– Have you spoken to them since the federal election?
– Order! Both the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for the Northern Territory know that all interjections are out of order. I have been somewhat tolerant about some of the interjections.
– You have been pretty tolerant about this.
-Order! That is a reflection on the Chair. I ask the honourable member for the Northern Territory to withdraw.
– You gave the Minister-
-Order! I have asked you to withdraw.
– You gave him far too much latitude.
-Order! If you do not withdraw I will name you.
– I withdraw.
- Mr Deputy Speaker-
– We want less bias from the Chair, that is all.
-I name the honourable member for the Northern Territory. His interjection was, ‘We want less bias from the Chair’, and that is my reason for naming him.
– Because what was said was said in a rather heated exchange, Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask for your indulgence. Would you ask the honourable member for the Northern Territory whether he would like to withdraw?
-The honourable member for the Northern Territory.
– Yes, I withdraw.
– It must also be pointed out that if there is to be >a change in the 3- year term of members of the Legislative Council there must be an amendment to the parent Act. Given the advice by the Legislative Council - what the elected members wanted - I acted in good faith. I can assure the honourable member for the Northern Territory that I will certainly make it. my business to find out which members of the Legislative Council now have gone back on their word. The honourable member for the Northern Territory has mentioned one of them. I will find out exactly what Mrs Lawrie said. She is in contact with me from time to time. The honourable member for the Northern Territory has said that they have gone back on their word. Quite frankly, I do not believe it and I shall find out the truth as soon as I leave this chamber.
The honourable member for Kennedy raised the question whether the members of the Administrator’s Council would constitute the Executive in the future Northern Territory constitutional development. He also asked about the powers that would be transferred to the new Assembly. When I became Minister for the Northern Territory one of the first things that I did was to sit down with as many members of the Legislative Council as I could. I asked them about their priorities in the constitutional field. Without question, without any shadow of doubt, their number one priority was to get what they had been striving for for a very long time - a fully elected Legislative Assembly. The suggestion was made to me by lawyer members in the Legislative Council that we should go slowly, that the first step should be to get the fully elected Legislative Council. They said that we should go slowly and tread our way carefully as to the question of executive powers. That is what we are doing. They did not believe it was right that the present members should be the ones to negotiate the constitutional reform in the Northern Territory from the point of view of the electors of the Northern Territory.
They wanted to wait until the new Legislative Assembly was formed and then to sit down with me and others to work it out. I accepted their view, but according to the honourable member for the Northern Territory that is not what they want now. There is a double standard somewhere and I will certainly find out where it is. I am in constant contact with members of the Legislative Council and I have not had that view from them.
– What does the majority want? That is the point.
– I know what the majority wants. The honourable member for Kennedy asked why the Redistribution Committee was appointed in such a sneaky manner. What was sneaky about it? The views of the Government were made clear publicly. A Press statement was issued after full consultation with members of the Legislative Council in respect of appointment of the Redistribution Committee. We knew full well that the Redistribution Committee as regards the 19 electorates could not in fact function unless this Bill became law. We knew that. Did the honourable member for Kennedy want me to wait until this Bill has gone through the Senate before I appointed the redistribution commissioners? If the honourable member looks at the timetable he will see that that would be completely unacceptable to the Legislative Council. We would not then be able to fulfil what the current members of the Legislative Council want. We just could not do it within the time.
– Did you call for objections?
– How could I, until the Bill has gone through the House? The Bill has to go through the Senate. The honourable member knows full well that the redistribution has to be made public.
– ‘That is right.
– Then there will be any objections that are necessary.
– But how can they object when you have already redistributed?
– We have not redistributed. Redistribution has to be acceptable by law.
– How will you have your elections without a redistribution?
– I suggest that the honourable member examine the redistribution machinery. I thought that he would know it.
I want now to deal with some of the points made by the honourable member for the Northern Territory. The honourable member supports the Bill and then goes on to condemn it. We saw his performance in this House when we were debating the measure to provide Senate representation for the Northern Territory. He did the same thing then. He says he supports Senate representation for the Northern Territory but his own party - the Country Party - is bitterly opposed to it. On that occasion did he divide the House to show where he stood on the issue? Of course not.
– Get on with the Bill.
– He cannot take it. Now we have the same situation. The honourable member condemns the Bill and yet supports it. When it comes to a vote let him divide the House, condemn the Bill and vote against it. Of course he will not. He will support the Bill to the hilt just as he has done all along with his double standard. Let me deal with the point made by the honourable member for the Northern Territory that the Government has produced nothing in the way of constitutional reform for the Northern Territory. I point out to him that in a period of 12 months we produced more in this field, and we are doing more now, than the Liberal-Country Party coalition Government did in 23 years, and he does not like it. It may be that we do not have now as we had before the backing of all the elected members of the Legislative Council. I admit that the honourable member could be right, but it comes as a great surprise to me, because until today I believed that this measure had the full backing of the members of the Legislative Council. I will soon find out the correct position. I shall have the greatest pleasure in letting the honourable member know which members of the Legislative Council support the honourable member in his opposition to a fully elected Legislative Assembly toy the end of this year.
After listening to the honourable member for the Northern Territory it is quite obvious that he wants to delay the implementation of the principles in this Bill. He wants to delay giving to the people of the Northern Territory a fully elected Legislative Assembly by the end of this year. Yet the elected members of the Legislative Council, who represent the people of the Northern Territory, put that as their number one priority for constitutional reform in the Northern Territory. That is what I and the Government are trying to do. We are trying to give them what they have been striving for for a very long time. But I will take to heart what the honourable member for the Northern Territory said. I will look very carefully into his statements that this measure is being pushed or bulldozed through with almost immoral haste. I will give his statements every consideration. If necessary I will give serious thought to withdrawing the Bill, but the full responsibility for such action will rest on the shoulders of the Country Party member for the Northern Territory. If he speaks for the elected members of the Legislative Council and for the people of the Northern Territory he has told us what they want, but I frankly do not believe it.
– Have you spoken to them since the federal election?
– The honourable member is saying that since the election the members of the Legislative Council have said that they do not want it.
– You ask them.
– Make no mistake; I will be using the telephone when I leave here, but I know what the answer will be. It is their number one priority. It is what they want. All that the honourable member is doing is playing cheap politics. Let us test it. Let us put it to the vote. You call for a division and you vote against it.
Order! I have been very tolerant during this debate. The honourable member for the Northern Territory has been interjecting continually. At one stage he made a gross reflection on the Chair. I would suggest that he restrain himself.
– The Minister is being extraordinarily provocative.
– I know that you have just come into the House.
– He has been sitting here patiently all the time.
– I am very glad that the honourable member is appreciative of the good speech I am making on behalf of the Government. As I was saying, the true test of the sincerity of a member of Parliament is how he votes. When I close the debate we will watch with interest to see who, on the other side of the House, calls for a division and we will watch with interest to see which way the honourable member for the Northern Territory votes. I know how he will vote. He will do exactly as he did in respect of the Representation Bill. He will be all in favour of this legislation despite the fact that his Country Party colleagues are deeply opposed to it. On this occasion he is supporting the legislation yet he condemns it. We will see how he votes on it.
I thank the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) for his remarks in this debate. I know, as I said previously when speaking on this subject, that this is a difficult proposition. I am guided, I have been guided and I have taken notice all along of the elected members of the Northern Territory Legislative Council. If they did not want what this legislation proposes it would not be done at this point of time. I could have put to the Government that there should be an amendment to this legislation to give the Government and the members of the Legislative Council more time to consider the matter. But when I put this to the members of the Legislative Council they said: ‘We were elected for 3 years and only 3 years. It would be utter deceit to defer an election for say 3 months, 6 months or 12 months.’ I agree entirely with what they said. They are the elected representatives of the people of the Northern Territory. They were elected for 3 years. There will certainly be. problems in respect of the powers of the new Legislative Assembly; we know that. This is not new in constitutional reform in Australia or anywhere in the world, for that matter, which has had this problem. We see it happening all the time in developing countries. But I can assure the House that the Government will be discussing these matters with the members of the Legislative Assembly. I have taken certain action to get from Council members their views on a number of things to be faced in this transitional period. I have raised with the members of the Council the problem as to the best way this could be handled both in the short term and progressively in the longer term.
Reference has been made to the question of fees and allowances payable to members of the proposed Legislative Assembly in the Northern Territory. This matter is in hand. I received from the members through the President of the Legislative Council a submission on this subject. I have taken action. This is before the Government at the present time. Make no mistake about this. I am completely sympathetic to the proposals which have been put up by members of the Legislative Council. I want to ensure that members of the Legislative Assembly are given a decent salary, as good a salary as is possible, in order to attract to it the best possible men and women in the Northern Territory. This can only be done by providing good conditions, a good salary and allowances, good accommodation and good secretarial help. This matter is being looked at very carefully at the present time. I can assure the honourable member for the Northern Territory - he knows what 1 say is true; forget the politics of it - that I want to see members of the Legislative Assembly get the best possible conditions in terms of financial reward, accommodation or whatever it might be so that they can do the best possible job for the people of the Northern Territory.
I thank the honourable member for Wakefield for his remarks about the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory. Yes, I would like to see the Committee furnish its report before the new Legislative Assembly is elected. The Committee has been established now for some time but there have, of course, been some unavoidable delays due to no fault of committee members from either side of the House. But certainly as far as the delay which has been caused by the election is concerned, we would put the full blame on the Opposition. On the other hand I say to the honourable member for Wakefield that I do not want a report to be furnished to me by 24 October if it is a rushed report, not a sound report or df it has not been well thought out because that type of report could do irreparable damage if the Government acted on some of its conclusions which were not soundly based. If there is a delay in the presentation of the report there will be no criticism as far as I am concerned nor, I think I can say, as far as the Government is concerned. I want to see the best possible report handed to the Government. It may be that the Committee will give consideration to making available some aspects of the report or some of its conclusions instead of waiting until the overall report is completed.
I accept the fact that a degree of interdependency is involved in many of these things particularly in respect of the powers of the Legislative Assembly. I am not bound, nor is the Government, by the decision to have 19 electorates, but it should not be less than nineteen. The experts of various political parties tell me that in respect of voting you would need to have at least 19 members. The figure of nineteen was the unanimous decision given tome by members of the Legislative Council. I accepted that figure; the Government accepted that figure. We have done everything that we could to meet the wishes of the elected members of the Legislative Council and we will continue to do so.
I accept without argument that the change will not be easy. It will be difficult during this transitional period. But the Government is determined to give self-government through a fully elected Legislative Assembly to the Northern Territory. Without question, as thehonourable member for Wakefield pointed out in respect of some of the problems, there will be restrictions. I do not know the answer. I do not know whether, for example, the Aborigines in the Northern Territory should come under national control and national administration. I personally believe they should. I believe that the administration of the Aborigines of Australia should be under one Federal Minister, but I accept what the honourable member for Wakefield said because he also said he did not knowthe answer. I accept his view because after all he has listened to the evidence which was presented to the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory. I do not know what the honourable member for the Northern Territory has said. He is close to the Aborigines in the Northern Territory. I do not know what he thinks about it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Mr CALDER (Northern Territory)- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I claim to have been misrepresented by the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson). The Minister stated that I am not in favour of a fully elected Legislative Assembly for the Northern Ter ritory. This is quite incorrect. What I am trying to get for the people of the Northern Territory are the facts in respect of what the Government intends to do. It is just a simple inquiry about the facts. I am all for the Bill but it says nothing whatsoever about the facts.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr Patterson) read a third time.
Mr HAYDEN (Oxley- Minister for Social
Security) Pursuant to section 16 of the Social Welfare Commission Act 1973 I present a report by the Australian Government Social Welfare Commission on Project Care: Children Parents Community. Because of the limited number of copies available at this time I have arranged for 10 copies to be placed in the Parliamentary Library for use by honourable members.
Debate resumed from 16 July (vide page 222), on motion by Mr Whitlam:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Bill before the House seeks to extend the operational scope of the Prices Justification Tribunal. It provides for the Tribunal to be given a general power to inquire into and report on prices charged by companies irrespective of their turnover, or the industry concerned. That is, companies with annual turnovers of less than $20m are no longer to be excluded from the ambit of the Act. The Bill does propose, however, that the size of a company be taken into account in determining which companies should notify price increases. It provides that the notification procedure is to operate solely in respect to companies with turnovers in excess of $20m.
Apart from widening the Tribunal’s field of operation the legislation also proposes that its influence in examining prices be extended. As an alternative to stating that it does not intend to hold an inquiry in the case of a particular price increase, the Bill empowers the Tribunal to notify the company concerned of any lower price that it considers to be justified. In this regard the company is to have 7 days to notify the Tribunal whether it accepts the lower price or prefers to proceed to public inquiry. Where the Tribunal exercises its general power, it will have 4 months to conduct its inquiry and furnish its report. The Bill - subject to the agreement of the company concerned - also extends the period of 21 days available to the Tribunal to decide whether or not to conduct an inquiry.
The Government has clearly indicated that the Bill before the House is designed to enable the Tribunal to operate in 2 additional areas - the pricing behaviour of retail firms and the sale of imported goods. The other alterations by the legislation before the House include an expansion of the Tribunal’s staff, the addition of a new Deputy Chairman, and the extension of the maximum period for appointment of members from 5 to 7 years.
The Opposition will not seek to reject or amend the Bill. We take this opportunity, however, to place on record our strong disagreement with the manner in which the Government has operated the Tribunal. It has, in fact, failed to integrate the Tribunal into an overall policy of incomes and prices restraint. The absence of such a policy has severely impeded the Tribunal’s capacity to influence the level of prices. Professor Reddaway, the Director of the Department of Applied Economics at Cambridge University and now a consultant with the Prices Justification Tribunal, recently made the following observation:
Prices justification is a peripheral matter in controlling inflation. Unless some means is found to moderate wage increases you will not produce much in the way of results by controlling prices. After wage increases have been granted then you cannot do much to hold down prices because goods will not be produced unless they can be sold at a reasonable price. People who call for an extension of powers saying it will solve all the problems are usually wrong. Things usually become worse and the Tribunal could cease to be efficient.
The Opposition fully supports that point of view. Our policy in respect of the Prices Justification Tribunal is clear. The Opposition’s economic policy, published in May, referred to the Tribunal in the following terms:
We will retain the Prices Justification Tribunal as part of our policy of wage and price restraints. The long-term role of the Tribunal will bc reviewed in the light of changing economic circumstances and our co-ordinated program of economic management.
At the present time, the Tribunal is not part of any integrated program of wage and price restraint. This, we believe, is an indefensible situation. Last week the Treasurer (Mr Crean) told the Parliament that costs were rising at a rate in excess of 20 per cent and that the economy was characterised by a wages explosion. Yet, irresponsibly and inconceivably the Treasurer failed to propose a single measure designed to deal with the problem of cost inflation. In fact, he announced that the Government now proposes to invite the Tribunal to scrutinise with care price claims that are based on wage costs in excess of awards. No economist of any standing has ever advocated that a prices review mechanism ought to bear the sole burden of moderating wage claims.
Last week, the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) admitted in a series of statements that the Government’s mini-Budget was in no way anti-inflationary. With incomes accelerating at a potentially disastrous rate, the Government is apparently prepared to stand aside from any corrective or remedial action. It is prepared to announce a series of initiatives as anti-inflationary on one day and to repudiate the aims and intent of those initiatives on the next day. The Australian public is being told by the Government that inflation is a matter for grave national concern and, at the same time, that no positive anti-inflation initiatives will be implemented until 17 September. This is a total repudiation of national responsibility.
Just as irresponsible was the Government’s refusal to abandon or defer the recommendations arising from the Remuneration Tribunal. It is almost inconceivable that members of a Government Party, charged with the clear obligation to develop an effective anti-inflation policy, could have been prepared to vote for a 38 per cent increase in their own salaries. The action by the Senate has now opened the way for the Government to seek incomes and prices restraint throughout the country. But that challenge is apparently to be abandoned. The Minister for Overseas Trade, at the recent Victorian Conference of the ALP, advocated substantial increases in wages and salaries to the point of endorsing the Metal Trades Unions most recent claims.
The Bill seeks to change the operations of a Tribunal which has the capacity to fulfil a useful function not only within a national program of incomes and prices restraint. The Tribunal has the capacity to examine the pricing behaviour of Australian companies against a framework of nationally agreed prices guidelines. The Government, however, consistently rejects the type of national strategy for which the Tribunal would be best suited. Even the British Prime Minister has publicly recognised the positive value of national restraint. Mr Harold Wilson, speaking to the recent Conference of Socialist International Leaders on 1 July, referred to the concept of voluntary restraint as an answer to inflation in the following terms:
In a free society, we believe that a voluntary consensus between Government and the citizen - a consensus which must be based on acceptance that the Government is taking effective action to create a fair and compassionate society - is the only long term way of dealing with the problems.
But the Australian Labor Party has steadfastly avoided any move towards a consensus approach to inflation control. The Opposition does not, of course, advance this approach as a panacea for the economic problems which presently bedevil Australia. Voluntary incomes and prices restraint is, of course, found to be ineffectual in the absence of correct fiscal and monetary policies just as the Prices Justification Tribunal must be virtually ineffective in the absence of an overall incomes policy. Until such time as the Government is prepared to initiate a co-operative dialogue with the State governments, trade unions and employers there can be no progress towards any program of national restraint. For some months now the Opposition Parties have adverted to cost inflation as the primary impetus to current price increases.
The Treasurer had, until recently, consistently rejected that fundamental proposition. He persisted with the thesis that prices were responding to demand pull forces due to an excess of money over available supplies. In his statement last week the Treasurer, for all intents and purposes, completely abandoned his earlier analysis. He adverted, for the first time, to the very serious nature of the present cost-push pressures and agreed that there was now evidence to show that demand may be easing. But the policy measures which he announced will in no way, of course, act against cost inflation. On the contrary, the increases in indirect taxes and Government charges will simply add to costs throughout this country. It is worth noting ‘also in this context that the financial restrictions applied to State Budgets for 1974-75 will add to costs by forcing the States to raise new revenues to meet their existing commitments. In the same way, the increased borrowing rates authorised by the
Loan Council in respect of semi-government authority and local government financing will drive up consumer charges in areas such as sewerage, water and land rates. Not only has this Government failed to direct a single policy towards the moderation of cost pressures - it has, in fact, recently, on 3 separate occasions, contributed directly towards increased costs throughout the country.
There is today, I believe, little disagreement among Australian economists about the urgent need for incomes restraint. For example, Professors Henderson and Downing of the University of Melbourne referred only last week to the causes of inflation in the following terms:
We are suffering from a cost inflation, or more precisely an inflation of incomes. This will not be curbed by a reduction in demand. We need measures to restrain the growth of all incomes.
Notwithstanding the Treasurer’s own analysis of cost inflation the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), in introducing the Bill before the House, stated that it was regarded as an important measure to combat inflation. That statement clearly evidences the Government’s capacity to indulge in economic ‘tokenism’ in preference to seeking soundly based and coherent solutions.
This debate is, I believe, an appropriate opportunity to examine some aspects of the Tribunal’s operations since its establishment by this Parliament. In assessing the efficacy of the Prices Justification Tribunal it is necessary to look at the relationship between profits and price inflation. Where other costs are rising and profit margins are maintained prices and profits will rise by similar proportions. Increasing profit margins can be an independent factor in cost inflation, but they can be a permanent influence only if they continue to increase. Profit margins may be excessive in certain areas at any one time ‘ but their reduction to ‘reasonable’ levels will not permanently affect price inflation. Abstracting from cyclical fluctuations, there has been no long-term tendency for profit margins to increase in recent years; indeed they are more likely to decline in the future than to increase. Income restraint rather than profit restraint is the key to future price stability. An attempt to concentrate anti-inflationary programs on price control will either be ineffective or will lead to the rapid reduction of profit margins to levels insufficient to maintain sound economic growth in Australia.
In examining the pricing behaviour of large firms over which it has jurisdiction the Tribunal has of course been forced to make quick decisions with limited staff. This has led inevitably to a certain arbitrariness in decision making under these particular circumstances. It is to be hoped that proposals to increase the Tribunal’s staff will assist in alleviating this problem to some extent. On the surface the Prices Justification Tribunal appears to have had a restraining effect on price increases of a number of major companies. However, there is in my view no evidence to show that it has been instrumental in restraining price increases in any aggregate sense. Price increases which have been notified to it have often been considerably higher than the recommended price which the company has accepted. At this point I seek the leave of the House to have incorporated in Hansard a table setting out notified price increase of various large companies and the lower price recommended ‘by the Tribunal.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– The problem is that this may not reveal the complete picture.. It is quite possible that a company, knowing that it is normal for the Tribunal to suggest some cutback in the notified price, would over-state the price. This is not surprising since the significant delays which are caused in the administration of the Tribunal lead to companies suffering substantial losses as they are unable to put price increases into effect immediately. Companies can, of course, notify the Tribunal of significantly higher prices than they normally would have so as to ensure that the Tribunal at least recommends a level of price which it considers to be reasonable and which simultaneously would cover any losses which the company incurred as a result of being forced to delay its price increase.
A system of prices justification has important implications for the allocation of Australia’s natural resources. Naturally, resource allocation policy covers a much wider range than merely prices justification or trade practices policy. Anti-monopoly and mergers, tariffs and other industrial assistance measures, foreign investment guidelines, regional and environmental questions all enter into general resource allocation problems. Long-run resource allocation questions are usually left to be sorted out by the price mechanism. Government intervention should not be on an ad hoc basis; it should be the result of long and careful investigation. Thus the extent of investigations made by the Industries Assistance Commission into particular industries are more likely to improve government policies than expeditious ad hoc decisions such as the general 25 per cent tariff cut and the present method of setting direct foreign investment proposals.
The Tribunal runs the risk of introducing new distortions in the allocation of resources by making quick ad hoc decisions. On the other hand, the dictates of anti-inflationary policy mean that there is a premium placed on making quick decisions. Moreover, there may be a conflict between the type of criterion required for long term resource allocation needs and those used for short run antiinflationary purposes.
In this regard there is an urgent need to co-ordinate the activities of the various authorities dealing in resource allocation policy, for example the Trade Practices Tribunal, the Industries Assistance Commission, the Prices Justification Tribunal, the inter-departmental committee on foreign takeovers, the Treasury and Reserve Bank review of direct foreign investment, the Structural Adjustment Board, the manpower policy programming, the Department of Urban and Regional Development and the various State bodies concerned in this field. Two areas of co-ordination are important: Avoiding wasteful overlap between different studies of the same industry, and ensuring that the policies of particular agencies are not inconsistent with each other. Consideration ought to be given to the pooling of research studies on international industries and the establishment of a co-ordinating review section in Treasury whose main function should be the consideration of resource allocation policy.
Two other areas of the Tribunal’s operations merit further comment during this debate. Firstly, the question of the criteria which have so far been developed by the Tribunal. It has been made clear that it does not intend to lay down a formula or detailed code which can be applied automatically to determine justified prices. The principle reasons given by the Tribunal for not adopting this practice are, firstly, because it is a prices justification tribunal and not a price fixing authority; secondly, because there is no one set of agreed guidelines used in other countries; and, thirdly, because a particular code which may bc appropriate for one company or set of circumstances, may be quite inappropriate for another company or another set of circumstances.
In the absence of a formal code the Tribunal has developed certain criteria based principally on the concept of justifiable cost increases. This concept has been developed on the basis of a series of price components, adverted to by the Tribunal in its public hearings, which it has generally held to be unjustified as reasons for authorised price increases. Accordingly the Tribunal has generally not accepted the following cost components: Those which cannot be demonstrated to be unavoidable; those which cannot be offset by greater efficiency; those which arc. based on average costs per unit of output rather than total costs; and1 those which arise from the practice of cross-subsidisation. The Tribunal has also sought to deal with the very complex problem of what constitutes a fair profit’.
Justifiable costs can be passed on only if such a policy is necessary for the company to earn a reasonable rate of return. This implies a consideration of the concept of ‘fair profits’. If profit levels are judged to have been excessive in the past, then justifiable costs may not provide a reason for price increases. The Tribunal itself acknowledges that the concept of fair profits is not an easy one to seek to define in practice. The Tribunal made the following comments at the
Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd hearing in March of this year:
It is useful to pay regard to profits from 3 points of view, namely in their relationship to the goals of
efficient resource allocation and optimum growth;
price stabilisation and;
equitable income distribution.
It may be in looking at profits from these different points of view that conflicts could arise in assessing what levels of profits might seem to be justified.
The Tribunal also stated, at the same hearing:
In our opinion, in assessing a company’s level of profits it is relevant for the Tribunal to pay some regard to that company’s level of profits in comparison with average profit figures. Average profit figures may be those of the industry to which the firm belongs if the industry is made up of more companies than one or those of industry as a whole. For this purpose, comparisons with the Tariff Board’s and Reserve Bank’s series (using their definitions) are useful. However, such comparisons may in some cases be of limited value, and each case must be decided on its own merits.
Even where a company is earning what may be regarded as only fair profits and the cost increases submitted are justifiable, price increases may not be justified. The company may not be operating at a reasonable level of efficiency in meeting consumer demand and therefore changes in techniques or policies may be suggested in order to reduce costs and avoid the need for a price increase. This question was given special prominence in the General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd hearing where it was suggested that the company policies of producing a large range of models with many individual options and of regularly changing models had increased costs unnecessarily.
In the Shell hearing, reference was made to the inefficient nature of the distribution system and the excessive number of retail outlets as factors unnecessarily raising costs. In the Lever and Kitchen Pty Ltd hearing, attention was paid to the high level of costs associated with packaging and advertising. In short, it is clear from an examination of the Tribunal’s operations that broad criteria are being established which will serve to assist both the Tribunal in its deliberations and Australian business in its dealings with the Tribunal. It is to be hoped that this development will speed the review processes of the Tribunal itself. The delays experienced by companies in seeking to pass on justified costs increases have, in themselves, added substantially to overall costs in the Australian economy. The provisions of the Bill before the
House quite clearly have the capacity to add a further dimension to the time element already directly involved in the Tribunal’s operations. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table setting out details of some of the major delays which have been so incurred.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Is leave ‘granted? There being no objections, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I thank the House. To illustrate the additional costs incurred by companies during periods of review, that is costs in addition to those already being met at the time the last price rise was made, I have obtained the following company estimates. I recognise, of course, that I cannot in a sense endorse this information. It is provided by very reputable and distinguished companies in the Australian market place. The estimates are: Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd- a total of S40m; Mayne Nickless Ltd - a total of SI 7.2m; Shell- a total of $73.7m (1974); and Carlton and United Breweries Ltd - a total of $6.7m.
The Tribunal, by its very nature, is in fact a cumbersome and bureaucratic organisation. The Opposition believes that the Government and the Tribunal itself must pay very careful attention to the additional costs created by the process of prices justification. A continual extension of the jurisdiction of the Tribunal would, in the long run, prove totally incompatible with its stated aims. Having said that, the Opposition does not oppose the Bill. We again place on record our very serious criticism of a government which has failed to place the operations of this Tribunal against the much needed concept and application of an overall effective and positive incomes and price restraints policy for the Australian community.
– That advertisement for the Opposition was brought to us by exactly the same people who opposed the prices and incomes referendum. They talk about national action but every action that we have sought to take has been torpedoed by the Opposition. Perhaps it is time we thought again of the issues that were involved in . the prices and incomes referendum - a referendum that was vehemently opposed by the Opposition and by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in a broadcast to the nation on the subject of the referendum said:
Don’t let us fight inflation with one arm tied behind our backs. The powers we seek are essential powers. The national Parliaments of all comparable countries have these powers - and use them. In Australia, the States have the powers - but they have not used them. They have refused to refer them to the national Parliament. We believe that if such powers are to be effective they must be uniform, immediate and unchallengeable in their application. Only the national Government can act in this way. Inflation is a national problem which demands national answers.
In response to that appeal from the Prime Minister of Australia to give this national Parliament the powers that are enjoyed - not only enjoyed but exercised - by every other national Parliament in the world, the Opposition successfully sought to defeat the transfer of power. Inflation is a national problem. This national Government has only very limited powers. The State governments have the powers to take action. Apart from action taken in one or two areas - and particularly noteworthy is the action that the South Australian Government has taken in certain areas - the State governments have done nothing but criticise this Government for failing to take action, conveniently forgetting that they, not the national Government, have the powers. The State governments m the exercise of their normal powers have added to the increase in the cost of living.
If one examines the consumer price index one will see that there are sizeable weightings for matters such as fares. The weighting for train, bus and tram fares, for instance, in the consumer price index is 2.483 per cent. Any change made not by the national Government but made by the State governments in fares is reflected immediately in the consumer price index. Other areas of control which come under the State governments are car registration and drivers licences. They are areas over which this Government has no authority and no influence. This Government has been criticised also - certainly it receives the blame - for increases in local government rates and charges. Again, these are areas of the consumer price index which have a very powerful effect on the cost of living. By referendum i his Government sought powers to enable it to pass funds directly to local governments to assist them. Any honourable member who has any direct contact with local governments will realise the difficulties that local governments are having. We cannot blame them for putting up rates and taxes in their areas. We as the national Government sought from the Australian people the power to give funds directly to local governments so as to assist local governments in meeting these costs. But the Opposition went out to the country and asked the people to vote ‘No’. This was another torpedoing device used by the Opposition which says it is concerned about national action, but every time we propose national action that will have an effect on inflation, the honourable gentlemen on the other side of this table vehemently oppose it.
I think we all realise, although the Opposition is not inclined to say it, that inflation is a world-wide problem and that there is no easy answer to it. We on this side of the House do not accept the traditional recipe of the Liberal and Country Parties-
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I draw your attention to the state of the House. (Quorum formed)
– Before the inspired interruption, I was pointing out that every effort that this Government has sought to undertake in the national field to fight against inflation has been torpedoed by the Opposition. It is impossible for any government to undertake a fight against the challenges of inflation with, as the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said in the earlier debate on this legislation, ‘one arm tied behind its back’. But, in attacking inflation, we are not prepared to accept the traditional recipe of the Liberal and Country Parties of a cool pool of unemployment; nor do we accept as the Liberal and Country Parties did that those who are not able to protect themselves should carry the community burden.
If one examines the percentage relationship over the years of the pension to average weekly earnings it will be noted that in periods of rising inflation the Liberal and Country Parties required the pensioners of the community to carry the sacrifice of inflation programs. But on Tuesday of last week this Government made it clear in its announcement that in seeking to fight inflation it was not prepared to put the whole burden on those who were unable to protect themselves. For the first time for a quarter of a century, pensioners are now receiving 25 per cent of average weekly earnings in pension payments.
We have been concerned to ensure also that wage and salary earners are able to keep up with the cost of living. If one relates the increase in the average weekly earnings to the increase in the cost of living over the last quarter, it will be noted that the increase in average weekly earnings has been at the rate of 17 per cent and the rise in inflation or the cost of living as measured by the consumer price index has been 14.4 per cent. In those areas in which the Government has had the authority to operate, it has operated and acted both deliberately and promptly.
For many months in 1972, before the election of this Government, the Country Party and the Liberal Party were fighting over whether Australia should revalue. Because they postponed that decision they were responsible for the increases in overseas funds which came into Australia and which fed the fires of inflation. But as soon as the Labor Party came into office we realised that there was no way better in the immediate future to cut back inflation than by revaluing. This we did. One of the worries of those of us who are concerned with consumer affairs - let us take the revaluation by itself - is that the exchange rate on goods imported from the United States of America should reflect revaluation changes. Goods costing SI 00 before revaluation should be available on the Australian market for $80 following revaluation.
This Government also has introduced tariff cuts. When one looks at these 2 actions by this Government one sees that prices in Australia of imported goods should have been up to 20 per cent cheaper. We were most concerned that the savings from both revaluation and tariff cuts were not being passed on to the consumer. No doubt, substantial sections of the Australian business community, particularly importers and retailers, were able to reap tidy, additional and unearned profits by failing to pass on to consumers the savings flowing from the actions taken by this Government. It is in this light that we have proposed that the Prices Justification Tribunal shall launch inquiries as appropriate into the prices of imported goods and, in particular, the extent to which savings from tariff reductions and currency revaluations have been passed on. In order to do this, the Tribunal will obtain necessary information on landed costs in consultation with the Department of Customs and Excise, the Department of Overseas Trade and other relevant departments. In conjunction with the other amendments proposed by this legislation - in particular that whereby the Tribunal will be permitted under section 16 to inquire into and report on its own initiative into all retail prices charged by companies without restriction as to turnover - the new measure will substantially improve the ability of the Tribunal to ensure a fair go for the consumer who purchases imported goods.
In the context of the amendments that we are making to the Prices Justification Tribunal, we are hopeful that the Federation of Consumer Groups, in the establishment of which the Government has played an important part and which it certainly has encouraged - will exercise a valuable watchdog function. Obviously the Tribunal will not have the resources to inquire at random into the pricing policies of each and every retail outlet at which imported products are offered for sale. It will be looking to direct its energies to where they can most usefully be employed. The Federation of Consumer Groups, by virtue of its specialised interest and the skills of the many well-qualified people whose services will be available to the movement, will be in a unique position to eliminate frivolous or unfounded complaints, to pinpoint cases where there is prima facie evidence of price abuse and to bring these cases to the attention of the Tribunal.
As announced by the Prime Minister on 10 April, the Australian Government will give assistance to consumer bodies wishing to present submissions to the Prices Justification Tribunal in the public interest. Information and advice will be provided, and where appropriate we shall assist with costs involved in the preparation and presentation of the submission. We are happy to render such assistance in the knowledge that the consumer organisations are not creatures of any political party, and cannot be accused of political bias or the seeking of political favour or advantage in their representation of consumer interest. In short, we believe them collectively to be an impartial and incorruptible instrument in the cause of consumer protection.
The reputable importer and retailer have nothing to fear from this Bill. They will continue to do as they have always done - to take their fair profit in the market-place without recourse to sharp practice, unethical conduct or exploitation. However, we are determined to stamp out situations such as that which prompted such a reputable journal as the ‘Australian Financial Review’ to report on 14 June:
The consumer has received little benefit from the “ tariff cut or the revaluation of the Australian dollar. The benefits of cheaper imports are being absorbed along the distribution pipeline in many cases. Australian distributors and retailers expect to add much higher markups than do their counterparts in the United States.
It is the Government’s firm intention that the imbalance in the market place against the consumer will be corrected. We do not regard this Bill as the panacea of inflation, but we regard it as a valuable tool in our fight to stem inflation and protect the consumer. It is in this sense that the Government has put forward amendments to the Prices Justification Tribunal legislation. I commend the amendments to the House.
– We have heard a great deal from the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) in his remarks on this Bill about what the Opposition has torpedoed. What about the example you sought to set the whole nation last week in respect of the increase in parliamentary salaries? It is said: ‘Accept it all - no deferment or example’. All right, we torpedoed that, but we did not torpedo or seek to torpedo the Bill establishing the Prices Justification Tribunal, and we do not seek to torpedo the Bill at present before the House to enlarge the powers of the Tribunal. The Minister referred also to the referendum on prices and incomes, when the Government sought separate powers in relation to prices and incomes. Nothing was clearer at that time than the fact that the Government had no intention of using these powers. Certainly it had no intention of using the incomes power - and the one power is of no effect without the other. Indeed, was it not the President of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Bob Hawke, who was in the vanguard of the opposition to the incomes power? As I say, if the Government has no intention of using one, of what effect is the other? Price control on its own leads only to deterioration in quality, distortion in the allocation of resources, shortages, black markets and a huge bureaucracy.
We support this measure relating to the Prices Justification Tribunal as an intermediate procedure, which falls short of price control with all its attendant inequities and evils. My concern today is to keep it that way. I will come back to that. It is true to say, as my colleague the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) pointed out, that this Bill provides for a considerable expansion of powers. The main provision is that in clause 10 of the Bill amends section 16 of the principal Act to permit the Tribunal, either at the direction of the Government or on its own initiative, to inquire into and report on prices charged by companies irrespective of their turnover. It is still true, of course, that only firms with an annual turnover in excess of $20m are required to notify increases, but the Tribunal is empowered to inquire into firms of lesser size. I repeat that by and large the Opposition supports this extension of powers. There have undoubtedly been situations where the end manufacturer has had a turnover in excess of $20m but the companies supplying him with parts and material have had a lesser turnover, but the increases in the prices of the supplier’s materials has been the basis of the difficulties for the larger company, the one subject to the purview of the Tribunal. So this extension of powers to permit the Tribunal to look at companies of lesser size is undoubtedly a reasonable one.
Perhaps the other main thrust of the extended powers is that the Tribunal is empowered to take a close look at activities in respect of retail prices and the prices of imported goods. While supporting these measures, I think it is appropriate to look briefly, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition did, at the criteria that the Tribunal, in the short period of its existence, has evolved. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition pointed out, the Tribunal does not propose and has not proposed to lay down any formula or detailed code which could be applied automatically to determine what is a justified price. It has based its approach particularly on the notion of justifiable cost increases. A cost increase which is not justifiable is one which could be shown or be seen to be avoidable. But beyond that, as the Deputy Leader of the Oppo sition pointed out, the Tribunal has a notion of what constitutes a fair profit. Even a justifiable cost increase can be passed on with the approval of the Tribunal only if it is necessary to earn a fair profit. Indeed, further than that, even if a cost increase is held to be justifiable and the resultant price increase is apparently made in prospect of only a fair profit, nevertheless it can be subject to question if in the opinion of the Tribunal the company is not operating in a broadly efficient way. For instance, in this context, in the case involving Lever and Kitchen Pty Ltd the Tribunal referred to the high costs of packaging and advertising.
I go over that ground because the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in his speech introducing his non-anti-inflationary measures recently implied that the Government would propose to the Tribunal - I think ‘invite’ was the word he used - that it add to those criteria I have just been referring to in a way which, he implied, would toughen up the surveillance of prices that it carries out. He referred to the Tribunal scrutinising with care’ price claims that are based on wage costs in excess of awards and to scrutinising with care price claims ‘where profit margins exceed those operating in 1972, where firms are unwilling to absorb reasonable increases in wages and costs by improvement in efficiency, where prices are expected to contribute towards further capital expenditure or where selling costs, including advertising, appear excessive’.
The fact is, from the account given of the Tribunal’s activities, that, for the most part, it is already doing that - in short, it is scrutinising those matters with care. As I said a moment ago, there was explicit reference in that case to the high cost of packaging and advertising. That no doubt would have influenced the Tribunal’s final recommendation. So, like the rest of the Treasurer’s mini-Budget speech, that part of it also did not amount to very much. But it does draw attention to the key point that honourable members on this side of the House made at the time of the introduction of the original legislation, that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made in the debate a little while ago and that I again stress, that is, that the work of the Tribunal, if it is to be really meaningful and effective, must be integrated into a thorough-going overall policy against inflation, which of course we have not had from the Government or, alternatively, we have had half a dozen competing plans from as many Ministers! It must be integrated.
I would concede in this context, as the Minister for Science said a while ago, that there is no easy solution to inflation, but an overall policy against inflation must include effective demand management through a proper mix of fiscal and monetary policy, and it must include policies to encourage the growth of supply and especially the fostering of industrial investment. But within that main framework and especially with the alarming thrust of cost-push inflation at present there must be a program for the more direct restraint on prices and incomes. Thus in the area of prices and, indirectly, of profits we have the Prices Justification Tribunal whose scope and purview it is sought to enlarge by this Bill. But still there has been nothing on the incomes - notably wages and salaries - side. The Chairman of the Tribunal has himself cried out, as reported in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 10 July this year, at the frightening prospect of the reopening of the metal trades award and generally at the rate at which wages and salaries are rising in the community.
I have said that the Government has said nothing about that area of incomes control. In the Treasurer’s speech of the other night we had perhaps the beginning or a suggestion of action in this respect. The Treasurer spoke about inviting - hardly a strong policy initiative^ - the Tribunal to scrutinise with care price claims that are based on wage costs in excess of awards. In this, the latter part of my speech I would like to make a number of comments on that because I fear that thu might become the beginning of a move by the Tribunal along a path which would spell the end of its usefulness, as I believe it has operated to date. The first comment is that the suggestion that the Tribunal should scrutinise with care price claims that are based on wage increases in excess of awards might be all right so long as it is only a matter of scrutinising with care, but it would concern me if it were to be taken to reflect the view that over-award payments in particular are somehow abnormal and improper in the system. In fact in many respects and in many contexts they are not - indeed, sometimes they may serve very useful purposes. I would be very concerned if only wage settlements negotiated outside the Commonwealth arbitration system, as has been put, should be subject to careful scrutiny by the Tribunal. A consent award certified by the Commission, which is increasingly the norm in important wage and salary settlements, may be equally suspect although, as I have said, they are certified by the Commission and negotiated within the purview of the Commission. They may be equally suspect from the point of view of a coherent program of prices and incomes restraint.
I suggest that in this context there can be no escape from the necessity to propound a national guideline for wage and salary settlements. I have argued elsewhere that in the present situation it is urgent to proceed in this way. There is no other way in which to proceed, given the complexity of our system of wage determination - the combination of arbitral authorities and collective bargaining - and the wide diversity of circumstances and interests even within, let alone between, the major social groups in the community. There are no monoliths - neither the unions, the employers nor even the government - in this respect. There is no other way given also the multiplicity of wage fixing authorities. There are about six of them for Federal and State public servants. In those circumstances, in order to get some sort of order and some measure of restraint, there must be a national guideline for wage and salary increases with the lead coming from the Government, with every device of persuasion - publicity and the carrot and stick approach being brought to bear to publicise it - and being used to get agreement with it in as wide a context as possible and to encourage conformity with it. Of course, along with such a guideline there would be a guideline for prices, perhaps at some 3 percentage points below the former, thus guaranteeing built-in gains for employees.
By way of correcting a misrepresentation that has appeared elsewhere of my view on this matter, I take this opportunity to stress that I do not thereby advocate a guideline of zero - a wage freeze. In a context of 14 per cent inflation and a massive tax bite on income increases, how crazy would one have to be to suggest that? Nor even would I suggest 8 per cent, as I was once quoted ‘as saying. But, bearing in mind that wage and salary increases are currently running in excess of 20 per cent and that there will be correspondingly high price increases, it is probably necessary to think in terms of a guideline of as high as 12 per cent to IS per cent with a cut in personal income tax to encourage acceptance even of that.
A point I would make is that to such a guideline for increases in wages per employee the Tribunal might well advert disallowing, for the purpose of justifying a price increase, any increase in wages and salaries paid above that guideline.
But the final point I wish to make is that the policing, so to speak, of the observance by companies of such a guideline should not be a function of the Tribunal. That would surely involve a truly vast extension of the work of the Tribunal and of the bureaucracy to service it. In fact, as near as one could get it, it would be a comprehensive system of price control, the objections to which I referred earlier in my remarks. So it would involve, as I have said, a truly vast extension of the work of the Tribunal and a diminution of its capacity as a sort of roving investigator to make effective, acceptable judgments as to the appropriateness of price rises that would command respect by the very depth and authority of the Tribunal’s inquiry in the particular case.
To seek compliance with that guideline encouragement should be given through the tax system. Every company tax return would include a certified statement of the increase in that company’s wage and salary bill per employee during the previous 12 months and any excess over that would be either disallowed as a cost for tax purposes or could attract additional company taxation in accordance with the excess of the increase. I am convinced that the sort of proposal which I have just suggested is administratively feasible. It could be comprehensive, covering every company, and it would be every bit as effective in stiffening resistance to excessive wage and salary claims as the proposal suggested in relation to the Prices Justification Tribunal. Meanwhile the Tribunal, contained in size to a reasonable compass, would continue particularly the work which it is now doing with the degree of success which, as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development put it, is ‘encouraging’, namely, checking out prices and price rises in areas of the economy of weight and significance, in sufficient depth and with sufficient authority to. command respect and general acceptance.
– I consider that the Prices Justification Tribunal and the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices perform at least 2 very important functions in improving the efficiency of pricing in Australia. The first function is the surveillance of prices. Certainly this is the area that attracts the most publicity, and the performance of the Prices Justification Tribunal tends to be judged on its activity in this area. For example, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) referred to the success of the Tribunal in this area. In the short time since its inception there have been some 200 cases where price increases have been reduced by the companies involved without a further public inquiry.
The second factor though, which in my opinion will eventually become much more important, is the development of a body of knowledge about market price relationships within Australia. The classic economic concepts of competition and price efficiency are not really adequate to explain many of the pricing relationships in the fluid market under the varying circumstances that exist in the market place in Australia. The consumer tends to blame rising prices on the retailer because the conjunction of the 2 parties in the marketing chain is so close. Perhaps the more politically oriented consumer may transfer the blame to excessive wage rises or monopoly control, depending on his or her political affiliations. In fact, price relationships are a delightful blend of economic, political and legal influences which have received very little attention in the past.
As the body of information accumulates as a result of the inquiries of the Prices Justification Tribunal and the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices, I feel that attention will turn more and more on the whole sequence of price events which finally results in the consumer price. For example, one series of events which might typify the production and sale of a product could be as follows: The inputs of material, labour and services into a factory, the product then passing from the factory to the distributor and on to a retailer and then the consumer. The final price of this particular product is the result of influences at at least 7 separate pricing points in the flow of events in the process from raw material to the consumer’s table.
In addition to the classic supply and demand equations there are differences in bargaining power at each of these pricing points. Perhaps the best basic assumption in analysing bargaining power is that everybody is greedy, hence people will always attempt to get the maximum return from the position in which they find themselves. The relative bargaining strength of the different parties would involve such factors as the degree of fragmentation on either side of the bargaining process, the strength of the negotiator in the productive process - that is, does the negotiator have a monopoly over one supply or another - the choice of the bargaining position in the sense that the person bargaining can choose around what level he is prepared to negotiate the final outcome, the legislation that bears on the particular bargaining position, and the degree of understanding of issues involved in the bargaining process. The introduction of the Prices Justification Tribunal provides a flexible offset to existing bargaining positions. It can be brought to bear at any point in the price formation process. The present legislation widens the scope of the involvement of the Prices Justification Tribunal and thereby gives it increased flexibility to operate in any position in the market chain.
Through acquiring its knowledge from a wide ranging experience in marketing activities the Prices Justification Tribunal will be in a position to improve the bargaining process, provide a better consumer understanding of the pricing process and certainly improve the level of political debate on such issues as prices. Further, the Prices Justification Tribunal can act as an umpire in the very cut-throat competitive position that exists at every pricing point. We have an unstable position when we reach a level of efficient competition. On the one side we have monopoly domination. On the other we have a position which has been very adequately described in a book titled ‘How Much Price Competition’ by Milton Moore, who has carried out a study of the Canadian position.
In contrast to the monopoly position to which I have referred already we have the situation which exists in Canada. In Canada it is agreed that pure competition is quite rare and probably becoming even rarer. Unfortunately several of the remaining pure competition industries are by such ease of entry becoming chronically sick. A significant proportion of firms in the industry earn less than the opportunity cost of the capital and labour they employ. The labour is usually that of the owner and his family and it, along with the little capital employed, could earn more if moved to other uses. So we have this conjunction of events on the one side of the economic spectrum - a peasant farming type of industrial organisation where people eke out an existence because of the very nature of competition. On the other side we have a monopoly control and thereby a non-competitive pricing relationship. Clearly in this whole field of competition it is necessary to have an umpire and the Prices Justification Tribunal will become that umpire as it acquires more and more information and as it develops its experience and achieves a reputation amongst those people involved in the pricing processes.
– I support the Prices Justification Bill which extends the operations of the Prices Justification Tribunal. In doing so I recall some of the claims that were made when the Bill was originally introduced to the House last year. It was then said that the Tribunal would not in itself solve the problem of intiation but would, in effect, deal with the end problem of inflation. A Prices Justification Tribunal does not reach to the underlying causes of inflation. Unless some means are found to moderate wage increases and unless efforts are made to increase productivity, the Tribunal will simply review the effects of the Government’s failures in these areas.
This Bill, which provides for the extension of the Tribunal’s powers to examine prices arises from the experience of the Tribunal’s limitations. The giving to the Tribunal of a general power to inquire into and report upon prices charged by companies, irrespective of the industry involved and irrespective of the annual turnover of the industry, will only extend its charter, exacerbate its frustrations and increase its work load. However, if the Tribunal feels it can function more appropriately under its general charter, it should by all means be given the powers contained in this Bill. No doubt the existence of the Tribunal has had some moderating influence on price increases, if only for a short duration.
But it is the underlying, the interlocking, the interrelated forces that contribute to price increases that one needs to comprehend. Unless the Tribunal is part of a general overall policy on incomes and prices restraint, its influence on the capacity to reduce price levels and inflation will, I believe, be quite minimal. Once wage and salary increases have been given, as they are almost daily, often associated with industrial action, strikes, stoppages and so forth, the difficulty in holding down prices is almost insuperable, lt is stupid to believe that goods will be produced and sold at a loss. Unless there is a profit in production there will be shortages in relation to demand and thus a further thrust to the inflationary forces. I mentioned the problem of wage restraint and the effect on prices. I also mentioned briefly the need to increase productivity. One of the most serious problems facing Australia is our declining productivity. Australia now has one of the lowest productivity increase rates amongst the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. In 5 years our productivity gain has fallen alarmingly. It has shown a drop from 5.7 in 1968-69 to 1.4 in 1972-73. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table supplied by the Department of Labor and Immigration setting out productivity rates.
Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I have another table which shows the relativity between quarters from the March quarter of 1973 to the December quarter of 1973. It sets out the total productivity increase at the end of each quarter. I seek leave to incorporate this table in Hansard. It also has been supplied by the Department of Labor and Immigration.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– There is no earthly use attempting to steady the rate of inflation without giving due regard to ways and means of increasing productivity. In the last 12 months Australia has suffered the worst bout of industrial unrest in this century. We have witnessed strikes, lock-outs, work to regulations and go-slow tactics reducing our produc tion output and our general level of productivity. The. resultant shortages have contributed substantially to the alarming inflation rate. In 12 months we saw an average wage and salary increase of approximately 20 per cent. Yet after taxation only 2 per cent of that increase went to the Australian wage earners; therefore, the wage earners lost 18 per cent of their increases to the Australian Government because of its failure to adjust the income taxation scale. Those same workers have had to live with inflation raging at a rate somewhere between 15 and 16 per cent. It is no wonder that there is no incentive to work. It is no wonder that there is industrial unrest.
If this situation is allowed to continue we will see a serious development in the mentality and attitude of the Australian people that I believe could ultimately be irreversible. People are losing their will to work and their incentive to work. Their enterprise is being eroded. The Australian productivity performance is bad. Our production levels are not good. I cannot for the life of me believe that this reflects the general aspirations and capacity of the Australian people. They are caught in a whirlpool from which they must be rescued. If they are not rescued, they will be sucked into its core and we will all spiral to economic and social disaster. So far all attempts to control inflation and to arrest industrial unrest have failed. They have failed because of an ad hoc range of economic theories being applied which take no account of human desires, goals and qualities. Some of the economic measures being applied are conventional, outdated and irrelevant in today’s complex socio-economic structure.
There is a growing tendency to ignore the fundamental human malaise in our society, a major contributing factor to inflation, and to seek to reduce inflation by a range of monetary policies and indiscriminate tariff cuts presumably to allow a flow of cheaper goods into Australia manufactured in low wages countries. This is no doubt being done in the hope that the cheaper goods from overseas will arrest the cost problem. Such a program would no doubt be safe if it did not cause great unemployment, if our export industries had continuous access to a booming world export market, thus giving us sufficiently expanding overseas reserves. However, present trends show a steadily falling overseas trade balance. Our over-valued currency is making it increasingly difficult for some export industries to compete on world markets. A prime example is the beef industry.
There has been loose talk about the restructuring of industry, the re-allocation of resources and the re-training of employees who are retrenched by the tariff initiatives and other economic devices. But it is another thing to hope that human values will be satisfied by deliberately putting people out of work, out of the so-called undesirable industries in the hope that they will adjust in another area of employment, assuming that it is available. The Government in its zeal for change has attempted to re-structure the economy and our social order at too great a velocity. The end result has been confusion and economic disarray. I do not argue that all its policy objectives or all of its social policies are undesirable. However, it is one thing to achieve these objectives and another to generate a capacity to pay for them. Unless our productivity increase and our wealth producing capacity is encouraged, we will face economic collapse.
Already the strains of some of the Government’s policies are being felt. Governments do not make money, they spend it. In order to have it to spend a government must have access to a viable, profitable industrial wealth producing sector. Unless public and private companies and people privately employed can make good returns from their enterprise and work the finance to fund the Government’s policies and initiatives will not be available. Thus it is in the area of productivity and the development of human enterprise and endeavour that I wish to offer what I believe is a constructive, and hopefully, a practical suggestion. One of the main contributing factors in the inflationary spiral is surely the poor performance in most industries, both in output and productivity. I believe that the basic reason for that result is a general lack of incentive leading to poor performance by the workforce; insufficient capital investment in modern efficient equipment and machinery; inadequacies in management; and, last but not least, industrial disorder.
As a matter of urgency I call upon the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to implement a wide ranging plan to improve productivity and industrial performance after adequate consultations with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, employer groups, producing industries and select key tertiary industries. It has become clear that no stone should be left un turned to increase the incentive of the people and the productivity levels in all sections of industry. As a first step the Parliament should set up a select all-party committee to inquire into ways and means of increasing productivity and to report to the Parliament before the end of the year. In the interim a working party of unions, employers and producer groups should begin discussions on an overall comprehensive plan designed to increase productivity in Australia.
I firmly believe that the suggestions I am about to outline should be fully examined as a means of encouraging the incentive of people to work. There should be a substantial cut in taxation. The taxation scales should be adjusted on an annual basis to take account of inflation. The Government should offer substantial reductions of taxation on overtime earnings based on a minimum of weekly hours of work on the condition that the unions do not make any further claims for shorter working hours for a period of at least 5 years, and that the unions moderate wage demands. I suggest that the Industries Assistance Commission be given a special reference to examine, report on and recommend a range of taxation incentives and investment incentives designed to encourage more efficient production and better productivity, and that these incentives be applied in a flexible manner depending on the variable national needs from various industries. All future incentives granted should remain in force for only as long as it is nationally desirable. Every effort should be made to introduce the board-of-management concept in industry with union participation. There should be an examination of the possibility of introducing into Australian industry some profit-sharing scheme for workers in industry, based on productivity gain and/ or production output.
No doubt the proposals that I have put forward will be laughed at by the cynically minded and will be pooh-poohed by the left wing militant trade union leaders who do not want the present economic and social structure of Australia to last. They will be fiercely resented by some old-fashioned greedy capitalist fat cats who by their own attitudes are helping to destroy the system upon which they nourish their appetite. To them I say: They can jolly well laugh me out of court if they wish because I believe that every fair minded man and woman in Australia must consider some ways and means of encouraging and improving the general standard of production output in Australia. I believe that the incentive of the individual has been sapped and drained away, and unless we overcome the problems of the people, unless the people have the incentive and the will to dc a bit more than they are doing at the present time, no action that any government takes will overcome the problem that exists in our society at the present time. I put those points forward for consideration and I hope that they are taken seriously by the Government and the Australian people generally.
– Before commencing my remarks on this Bill I just say in relation to the comments of the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) that the popular catch-cry for increases in productivity is one which has been made by politicians, businessmen, statesmen and others over the years as a means of preventing inflation. Desirable as it may be in itself it has very little, in my opinion, to do with an anti-inflation policy.
– That is probably why we have it; they have not listened to the demands.
– I said that it is desirable but it has nothing to do with an anti-inflation policy. The Prices Justification Tribunal was established last year by this Labor Government as one of a number of innovative measures introduced by the Government to combat the inflationary timebomb planted under this economy by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government. Through its shameful refusal to revalue the Australian dollar at the end of 1971 or take other worthwhile action to stem the massive inflow of speculative capital into this country in 1972, the previous Government presided over a spectacular and potentially disastrous increase of 17 per cent in the money supply in the last 6 months of 1972, the inflationary effects of which this Government has been endeavouring to overcome ever since it took office. Of course, our difficulties were greatly exacerbated by a dramatic increase in inflation throughout the developed Western world with a concurrent boom in world commodity prices, and quite exceptional increases in food prices which were largely independent of the general inflation.
The increase in food prices in fact accounted for almost half of the increase of 13.2 per cent in the consumer price index last year. In addition to measures such as revaluation, restric tions on capital inflow and restricting credit, the Government, as I have said, introduced this Tribunal directly to supervise prices charged for goods and services by large corporations, that is, those with an annual turnover of more than §20m. This Tribunal was certainly intended by the Government to have an antiinflationary role, which it undoubtedly has, but it can also be seen as having an equity role in that its job is to ensure that proposed prices are in fact justified and thus consumers are not exploited. This latter role is quite separate from actions to limit inflation in that it is concerned with the reasonableness of prices having regard to profits and other matters, and therefore it would be just as relevant in a period of low inflation, as it is in a period of high inflation. This dual role is, I believe, a matter of considerable importance and one about which I would have liked to have said more if time had permitted.
I have said that the Tribunal has had a depressive effect on inflation and, like the other inflation measures which have been taken the validity of that assertion is not upset by the fact that inflation overall has increased. The fact is that without this and other measures the rate of inflation would have been even higher than is now the case. When the Bill to establish this Tribunal was first put before the Parliament in May last year, the Opposition derided it as being useless as a means of combatting inflation. Once the Tribunal began operations last August the Opposition, and in particular the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), lampooned the Tribunal as being a price increases justification tribunal. 1 consider those statements toy the Opposition to have been unfair. One can only assume that either the Opposition was utterly ignorant of the Tribunal’s actions or that it regards the Tribunal with a jaundiced eye for ideological reasons.
Objective analysis of the Tribunal’s operations over the last 12 months shows clearly that it has had a notable impact on the pricing behaviour of large corporations. In the period of almost exactly one year that it has been in operation the Tribunal has conducted and concluded some 17 public inquiries, and others are in progress. These public inquiries have generally involved major firms such as Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd and they have often resulted in significant reductions in the proposed price increases. For instance, last week the Tribunal announced, after a public inquiry, that proposed price increases by Kellogg (Aust) Pty
Ltd on various food products should toe reduced from an average 12.4 per cent to an average 6.7 per cent. Furthermore, although the Act does not contain penalties for nonobservance of the Tribunal’s decision by the companies involved, no company has publicly flouted the Tribunal’s decision by going ahead with increases greater than those found by the Tribunal to be justified, and this despite the fact that a number of companies have made no secret of their dissatisfaction with the Tribunal’s decision. This would seem to imply general acceptance of the Tribunal and its authority by business, assisted perhaps by the potential penalty of bad public relations that would flow from treating the Tribunal’s decision with contempt.
However, it has been suggested recently by GMH that some of its suppliers have increased prices by a greater percentage than those which they notified to the Tribunal and with which they were allowed to proceed without public inquiry. Whether or not this is the case I would certainly think the lack of penalties for non observance of Tribunal decisions was at least a potential deficiency in the legislation. But, as honourable members will be aware, such penalties do not exist in the legislation because of the grave doubt that exists about the Australian Government’s constitutional power to require adherence to the Tribunal’s decisions. Those doubts would not exist if the prices referendum had been carried last December, but unfortunately it was not carried because the Opposition’s ideological hang-ups in regard to anything resembling price controls led it to combine with business interests to oppose that referendum with all the vigour they could muster.
I have referred to the public inquiry aspects of the Tribunal’s operations but these are only the tip of the iceberg. By mid-March this year the Tribunal had received 2,390 price increase notifications, all of which are subject to scrutiny by the Tribunal. At that time some 2,058 had been processed to finality, of which 123 involved negotiated reductions in proposed price increases. In the case of those 123 the Tribunal, having analysed the proposed price rises, then consulted with the companies. After the Tribunal gave them the alternative of substituting a lesser price or having the whole matter taken to public inquiry, the companies settled for the lower price rise. As the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said in his second reading speech on this Bill, such substituted noti fications, as they are called, now number around 200. Of course there is also the factor that many companies would have put in to the Tribunal price notifications which would have been rather less than may have been the case if they were not going to have them subjected to some scrutiny, even though they got an exemption to go ahead with the full price rise. Thus the Tribunal can be said to have played a worthwhile role in the first year of its existence. However, in saying that one is not saying that there is not room for improvement. Indeed the experience of the past year has demonstrated to the Tribunal itself that its operations could be improved toy various amendments to the Act. It is those amendments which are before the House at present.
The most important of these amendments is, to my mind, that which enables the Tribunal to investigate companies with an annual turnover below the $20m mark, that is, if the Tribunal should desire or the Government so order. This provision is especially important in that it will enable the Tribunal to investigate retail prices and so ensure that what the Tribunal is effecting toy way of reducing price increases at the wholesale and manufacturing level is passed on to the consumer at the retail level. The Tribunal has, I understand, expressed concern at its inability to follow through to the retail level, but this amendment will plug that substantial loophope in the legislation. The desirablity of such an amendment is amply demonstrated by the quite inadequate effect on retail prices that resulted from the revaluations of December 1972 and August 1973 and the 25 per cent across the board tariff cut in the middle of last year.
In part, of course, as the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices has found, the price reducing effect was itself reduced by substantial increases in prices for our imports in the countries of origin, reflecting rapid inflation in those countries, or the greatly increased world price of internationally traded commodities which occurred last year. The effect was reduced also by deliberate actions of some exporters in overseas countries who simply raised their prices in their own currency to take for themselves the benefits of our revaluation. Of course some benefit in lower prices to consumers of some products, particularly clothing, textiles and footwear, should have come anyway because retailers switched orders from local manufacturers of these products to overseas suppliers, presumably because the goods from overseas were cheaper. Apparently however little benefit came by way of lower prices at the retail level.
The retail price of winter clothing, for instance, rose 25 per cent in the June quarter of this year, according to the consumer price index. May I say in passing that one wonders whether the price information collection techniques of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which compiles the consumer price index, are adequately reflecting the actual retail level of prices for such commodities. If they are, one can only conclude that retailers of clothing have made a stupendous killing by switching to imported goods and raising their profit margin. The Bill before the House will enable the Prices Justification Tribunal to investigate retailers’ profit margins on such items and so act to ensure that the consumers benefit from increased imports of goods, the landed cost of which is below that of their Australian made equivalent.
This measure and the other measures taken in the Bill to improve the efficiency of its operations and enable it to cover a wider field, will undoubtedly make the Tribunal’s operations more effective. To return to my earlier theme, the Act could, I believe, be further improved by restructuring the Tribunal’s activities to accord with the duality of roles it has to play. At present, in assessing a price claim, the 2 roles of the Tribunal are intermingled. One result is that important companies are taken to public inquiry almost every time they notify a proposed price rise. This means that the Tribunal is becoming bogged down in repetitious public inquiries for these large companies.
So far as anti-inflation action is concerned, price claims should be capable of rapid assessment without public inquiry. Such a process clearly should not involve reaching fundamental decision about the appropriateness of a company’s proposed price level, having regard to its efficiency, productivity, profitability and so on, but would involve brief analysis of the proposed price increase as measured against basic anti-inflation criteria. More detailed assessment, involving full analysis of the company’s position, could be conducted at a second stage which would not apply every time a company notified a proposed price rise. The second infrequent stage would be concerned not so much with anti-inflation action but rather with securing a just level of prices.
Because of the exigencies of time I am not able to go into the criteria which might be developed at this stage, but I hope to get that chance al some future date.
– It is my pleasure to follow the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) in this place. However much I should resist doing so, there are one or two comments he has made to which I would like to address some remarks in the few minutes which are available to me. I was intrigued at his first proposition which seemed to me to be an extraordinary one. He stated quite clearly that productivity had no effect on inflation and that there was no relationship between the two. I feel that he is not operating in the same Party as the honourable member for Hindmarsh, who is now the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron). The whole principle of the proposition of the Minister for Labor and Immigration concerning indexation is to utilise the process of indexation as a substitute for the cost pressures of wages due and the subsequent effects on price rises.
Having argued that point the Minister says that after the process of legitimate, constant wage prices is pursued there can be an argument concerning productivity. The certainty in which the argument concerning productivity is pursued is the certainty in which legitimate rise in living standards can be allowed. So the 2 gentlemen do not seem to be operating within the same party. The honourable member for Gellibrand should have a look at the philosophy of his own Minister.
The second point which intrigued me is that the only condition in which productivity would have no effect on inflation is when the overall aim of economic management is not to ensure constantly rising living standards. The third point in which the honourable member indulged - it is worth dwelling on for just a few minutes because the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) dwelt on it also - is the effect of the consumer price index in measuring the costs which can undermine real living standards. While the honourable member for Gellibrand was a famed advocate of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, I understand, in previous national wage cases, he is concerned that the consumer price index in a number of areas does not measure the prices which it has the duty of measuring adequately and correctly. I throw into that area one or two other propositions concerning the consumer price index. It is my understanding that as a cost of living measure the consumer price index is now totally inadequate. It makes significant errors on at least 5 counts. If the honourable member for Gellibrand is going to be concerned about this, I would remind him that on all simple available evidence the consumer price index considerably and seriously understates rises in the cost of living on those 5 counts.
As I have only 7 minutes available to me I shall not discuss those 5 counts but I shall mention one of them because the former Postmaster-General, who is now Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen), is sitting at the table. I have been puzzled at the fact that the consumer price index, since late 1972, has shown no increase in the index points attributable to charges of the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– That is true. Where were the increases?
– There were substantial increases in a number of fields last year and they affected great segments of the Australian community.
– Name them. You cannot do that.
– 1 do not know whether you receive bulletins or paper through the mail.
– You are talking; you name the increases.
– The Minister receives these bulletins through the mail and he knows that there have been legitimate rises in certain areas and they have not been measured as part of legitimate cost of living rises as measured by the consumer price index.
– Go and ask the consumers.
– The Minister must be talking to different consumers from those with whom we come into contact. The Prices Justification Tribunal was one of the creatures spawned by the Government during 1973. It was spawned in circumstances in which it was to be a principal instrument in the control of inflation in Australia. The simple fact is that it has not controlled inflation within Australia. It has not brought about a significant abatement in the rate of costprice rises which themselves undermine living standards. Living standards today, as well as living standards tomorrow, depend not only on what is produced today, tomorrow or next year; they also depend upon the rates of productivity increases which occur within a community. As the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) has pointed out, the Prices Justification Tribunal, as a principal instrument for bringing about abatement in the rate of inflation, has to fail in that total task in a situation where there is negative productivity growth in Australia. Negative productivity growth cannot secure real increases in living standards from one year to another. In those circumstances the Tribunal has an impossible task of looking both ways - of looking at the areas of private enterprise and at the same time dealing with those matters which come before it as principal ways of abating increases in costs which themselves are the end result of the inflationary process.
There are two propositions which one would suggest that the Tribunal might examine. I am very well aware of the exigencies of time which which have been placed upon me. It would be appropriate, I suggest, that when the Tribunal recommends any prices at the same time it should try to make a precise calculation of the productivity performances of those companies to which price rises have been awarded. That would fit in quite well with the current program of the Minister for Labor and Immigration, concerning his process of indexation. Where indexation applies and where increases in wages are awarded according to some measure of changes in costs, those companies which have had a significantly great increase in productivity ought to have that significantly great increase in productivity recorded because they demonstrate the price rises that are being avoided. I should like to see some rewards given to those organisations.
The second point which might be examined by the Tribunal is one that is appropriate to a government which has an interventionist philosophy of economic management of the economy. Those statutory corporations and public authorities which run services in substantial competition with private enterprise in the field ought to have, in the investigation of applications for price rises from private enterprise organisations, their pricing policies exposed in any intervention before the Tribunal. This would seek not only to keep private enterprise pure - ‘that is the way in which this philosophy has been presented by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) over a number of years - it would also seek to keep the pricing policies of both public authorities and statutory corporations pure also. One ought to look at one as one ought to look at the other.
I have 2 minutes left to me. While one would agree that the Tribunal has some difficulties in the way of being an umpire in this field, one has to say quite clearly that it is operating in a field in which more than half the team has not come out of the dressing room. For the Tribunal to be a principal instrument in the abatement of price rises while more than half the team is not on the field - the job which Australians were led to expect it could do in those balmy days of, I think, May 1973 - is just a legitimate and a clear impossibility. So the Tribunal has to concern itself with increases in prices which are the cause of cost pressures. We want all of those cost pressures examined. We want examined those public authorities in many areas which are themselves causing the most constant and the greatest long-term rises in prices since the last consumer price index figures. The last figures in 1968 would suggest that they ought to be examined. In those circumstances, within a socialist economy with an interventionist centralist socialist government, logic would say that that ought to be the object of the Tribunal. I think my time is up, short as it has been.
– in reply - Just briefly, because there are Committee stages of this Bill which are also to be brief, I thank honourable members for their contributions and I am pleased to know that the legislation is not opposed. At the outset let us make it clear that the Prices Justification Tribunal has been functioning since only about last August and it has dealt with a number of applications. There was some silent criticism of the fact that applications were taking longer than was deemed to be reasonable to be determined. But I have a chart here which indicates that a fair assessment of time for the determination of an application is about 8 weeks to 10 weeks. I do not think that is unreasonable by any stretch of the imagination. It was suggested from the Opposition that that was leading to further applications being made for price rises higher than was really intended. I would not think that was a valid premise at all.
From the point of view of the overall philosophy let us look at it this way: The real issue is prices, which we endeavoured to get power to control in a referendum. We were opposed by the Opposition. We did not get the power from the people. The power resides in the State governments. They refuse to use it but continue to abuse the Commonwealth Government and say that perhaps we should be doing something about prices. They know full well that they could do something about them if they were to work in some cohesive or co-operative fashion. Nevertheless, it would be a worthwhile proposition to have a registry of prices in order that people could know what prices were and how they moved. If one looks at the consumer price index one will see that in the food items particularly there has been an enormous increase. The Opposition knows we have no control over that.
The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) mentioned postal rates. Of course, they were not increased to the consumer; they were averaged up. Those who were receiving a subsidy had to pay more. That explains why there was no increase in the consumer price index for those charges. In other words, the person using the telephone and sending the letter did not pay any more on average but others who were paying less because of a subsidy had to pay more because the charges were weighted up. That is where the fallacy of the honourable gentleman’s argument is.
Finally, there was an unfair criticism made of the Remuneration Tribunal and the 38.7 per cent increase it recommended. The Opposition can play around with politicians’ salaries, and it is good political yokum to do it just on the basis that it will get a headline, but the Remuneraion Tribunal dealt with the salaries of a lot of other people, including the members of the Prices Justification Tribunal who, the Opposition must be delighted to know, are now getting less than the Secretary of the Tribunal as a result of the Opposition’s action. This applies right across the board. The Opposition cannot get any merit out of disallowing the increases when it never even made a submission to the Tribunal and waited in ambush to disallow its determination. I cannot think of anybody else in Australia who would have the audacity to get up in this Parliament and criticise the Remuneration Tribunal to which members of the Opposition never had the courage to make a submission. That is what ought to be said here. The members of the Prices Justification Tribunal have now had their salary increases disallowed and there are a great number of other people who are now in this position. That is the simple reason why in the Committee stage we will have to omit clause 6 of the Bill. Basically, the Prices Justification Tribunal will be much strengthened by these improvements and it will assist in the effort the Government is making to contain inflation with the limited legal powers it now has.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 - by leave - taken together and agreed to.
– I move:
That the clause be omitted.
The omission of the clause is a consequence of the disapproval by the Senate of the determinations made by the Remuneration Tribunal dated 19 July 1974. The omission of the clause will mean that the members of the Tribunal will continue to receive their existing remuneration and annual allowances as provided for in the Remuneration and Allowances Act 1973.
– The Opposition does not oppose the Minister’s proposal.
Clause 7 to 11 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 12. “(2) For the purposes of sub-section (1), the prescribed day is whichever is the earlier of the following days: -
the fourteenth day after the expiration of -
– I move:
At the end of proposed section 18a, add the following sub-sections: - “ ‘ (3) When the company receives a copy of the report by the Tribunal in relation to the price at which the company supplies or proposes to supply goods or services of a particular description in a particular locality -
As the Bill now stands a prescribed company will be required under section 18 sub-section 6 of the Act, as amended by clause 11, to notify the Prices Justification Tribunal of the prices at which it is supplying goods and services after an inquiry and report arising from the notification provisions of that section. The Tribunal will then be obliged to make particulars available to the public. There is, however, no corresponding provision relating to inquiries and reports of the Tribunal that do not relate to notified price increases by prescribed companies. This unintended omission, which does not exist in the present Act, is rectified by the proposed amendment.
– As the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) has pointed out this corresponds to a similar provision in section 18 of the Act. As I now understand it with this amending Bill there are 2 types of inquiry - first, that in relation to a notified price increase of a prescribed company and, second, that of any company including a prescribed company which is having its prices looked at, whether an increase has been notified or not. The effect of this amendment is to put the 2 types of inquiry on the same basis in respect of the companies and the Tribunal’s response after the inquiry by the Tribunal. The Opposition does not oppose the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) - by leave - read a third time.
Report on Early Childhood Services
Mr LIONEL BOWEN (Kingsford-Smith-
Special Minister of State) - For the information of honourable members I table the Report of the Priorities Review Staff on Early Childhood Services dated 25 July 1974.
Debate resumed from 23 July (vide page 510), on motion by Mr Daly:
That the House take note of the paper.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the right honourable Leader of the Opposition speaking for a period not exceeding 45 minutes.
– At a few minutes past 8 p.m. last Tuesday the Treasurer (Mr Crean) - charismatic Frank - walked into this House and made a statement entitled Ministerial Statement: Inflation’. That statement was an insult to the intelligence of this House and to the people of Australia. At a time when the nation is facing its gravest economic situation for decades and is crying out for government leadership, the Treasurer presented what was said to be an antiinflation package. Yet his own Deputy Prime
Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) described it the next morning as not inflationary at all and as having nothing to do with anti-inflation. Was that surprising? Honourable members may think it was surprising. In fact it was not surprising because the Treasurer himself within 2 ‘hours of making the statement appeared on television and said that it really did not have much to do with anti-inflation anyway. The next day the Treasurer found that the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Overseas Trade confirmed his statement made earlier in the morning that it had nothing to do with anti-inflation. To cap it all, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) then confirmed the views of both of them. It is the first time members of the Government have had a trinity of views for more than a year.
Let me remind the House of the circus of events surrounding this, the latest of the long parade of the Government’s economic fiascos. During the week before last the Government contracted a chronic case of the jitters about the impending consumer price index for the June quarter. The Prime Minister knew there was going to be a rise in the consumer price index. He told the Parliament that in answer to a question from me. But, of course, at that time he had no idea when the figures would be released that would show, as I said, that ‘only Whitlam has increased inflation by two-thirds’. The choosing of the date of the release of the June figures for the consumer price index was left up to a public servant. Strangely enough, this unusual person who is not responsible to Ministers, calculated that the best time to release this gloomy news was at 6 p.m. on a Friday night. It was another triumph for open government.
While this miserable subterfuge was proceeding, the Government’s propaganda machine was already in top gear softening up the Press and the public for last Tuesday’s non-event. The country was subjected to a barrage of leaks and seepages worthy of the most horrendous of Budgets - income tax up, petrol tax up by 10c a gallon, excise up on cigarettes and liquor, a capital gains tax, post office charges up and cuts in the rate of growth of government spending. All the ingredients were there. This was to be the great, if long delayed, anti-inflationary package. Let me recall just some of the headlines that preceded it. One headline was ‘Grim Crisis Plan Ahead’. Another headline read
Alarm in Canberra’. Yet another stated Cabinet to Halt MP’s Pay Rise’. I do not know what happened to that one. A further headline read ‘Govt Scheme to Curb Inflation’ and another one ‘Tough MiniBudget Forecast’. We then had economic comment and predictions from political commentators. I ask honourable members to listen to one such comment:
The Whitlam Government is determined to smash the psychology of inflationary expectations which threaten to lead to an inflation rate of more than 20 per cent.
The package of measures agreed to last night, if they pass the Caucus and the Senate, is the most calculatedly deflationary ever undertaken by an Australian government, or indeed any western democracy plagued by the same problem.
This is the yes-no government. It says yes some days and no the next day. lt depends who has command for the moment on how the vote comes out. After this sort of buildup the Treasurer came into this chamber at 8 p.m. last Tuesday evening with, if I may use the words of my colleague the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), ‘a lively anticipation that something was afoot’. The Treasurer was not even present. He was stuck in the Caucus room waiting for his riding instructions as to whether he could make the statement at all. He was almost withdrawn from the event by orders of the stewards on veterinary advice. Everybody knows he was a reluctant starter in any case. The Prime Minister had been set to make this great statement and all afternoon the battle waged. Ultimately the Prime Minister said to the Treasurer: ‘Frank, you do it*.
– Why was that?
– Because the Prime Minister wanted to make the statement if it truly was an anti-inflationary packet but he had no wish to make it if it was a sham and mockery, as it was. Unfortunately, there was no time for a rewrite. The Treasurer had drawn the short straw and he was left to read a statement which went into the anti-inflation battle like a lion in the opening pages and finished like a lamb in a bleat of excuses and inaction as the statement proceeded.
As a statement on inflation, it was a sham and an anti-climax. It was the statement of a Treasurer whose government has yet to present a clear statement of economic policy, if it has one. As a recognition of the problems in the economy, it was a belated confirmation of the complete failure of Government policy. As an attempt to provide a policy response to a serious situation which the Government, or should I say the Treasury, finally recognises, it was a complete blank. It was the statement of a fumbling, uncertain government, unable to analyse the situation, unable to agree on policy and preoccupied with ministerial infighting for personal publicity. The ‘Australian Financial Review’ on 8 July said:
What the Labor Cabinet urgently needs to do is to draw up a White Paper on Australia’s inflationary problems, which also spells out just what it intends to do about it.
Three weeks later, no progress has been recorded.
Less than 24 hours after the Treasurer’s anti-inflation statement in this House, it was publicly repudiated by the Deputy Prime Minister. Anti-inflationary - not on your life. Did the Treasurer protest? Not on your life. He agreed with that statement, notwithstanding the buildup. The Prime Minister agreed with both of them. The President of the Australian Labor Party drove the final nail into the coffin by giving his imperial edict from London by saying that it was not anti-inflationary. This is the only point that they have all agreed on for months. They have certainly been unable to agree on anything since. Last Wednesday’s great retreat is more and more taking on the proportions of a rout.
When my colleague, the former Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, announced the election date in 1972, the then Leader of the Opposition in one of his typical performances rose and said: Well, 2 December is the anniversary of Austerlitz’. All I can say is that he is now on the retreat from Moscow. The Prime Minister’s modesty prevented him from going any further on the way of his Napoleonic comparison. The proper comparison so much closer in time and place is with a man named James Scullin, who was Labor Prime Minister of Australia in 1931 in the life of the Twelfth Parliament. This is a more accurate comparison. The lack of agreement between Ministers is both obvious and astounding. We have Ministers with 5- point plans, Ministers with 6-point plans, Ministers with 9-point plans and Ministers with no plans at all. It would be laughable if it were not for the tragic implications to this country of the Government’s failure to give leadership with a sound economic policy.
The Opposition parties have made constructive proposals for many months. But nowhere has the Government set out in a speech or a published paper just what the Government’s policy is. Every cupboard in the ‘kitchen cabinet’ is empty. Not a person in this Parliament, not a person in the public, not even a Minister, can take a paper or a series of papers and say: ‘This is the Government’s analysis of the economic position. This is the Government’s policy for curing the problem.’ This is the greatest abdication of government in the history of this country.
All that the Australian people have been given since the election is a blow by blow account of ministerial infighting over economic policy. Surely the situation is at a critical stage when a senior Minister - the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) - No. 4 in the Cabinet - can tell a meeting of his colleagues in the Caucus of the Labor Party that the Labor Party is presiding over the destruction of the Australian economy. The ‘kitchen Cabinet’ met at Kirribilli House on the weekend of 25-26 May and really fell in the soup. It produced a decision to starve the States of funds and to make the States the scapegoats for Labor’s policies. On 2 July there was a meeting of selected Ministers over dinner with the Prime Minister and senior government officials. The Prime Minister has refused to indicate what went on at that meeting. No sound policy statement has emerged from either of those gatherings. The Treasurer’s statement of last week added nothing.
On the first day of the current sitting this year, in response to a question, the Prime Minister told the House that the Government expected to get the rate of inflation down to 8 per cent by mid- 1975. Yet the Treasurer said on 24 June, shortly before that statement, in addressing the Australian Finance Conference:
It would be optimistic to say that inflation can be reduced to a reasonable level in a period as short as 12 months.
Is 8 per cent reasonable? Does the Treasurer contemplate a higher rate? What has Mr Hawke said? He is the President of the Party. He said that any rate of inflation whatsoever would be tolerable to prevent an increase in unemployment. What has the Deputy Prime Minister said? He said at the end of May that the inflation rate could be brought down by 5 per cent in the first year - that is, to around 8 per cent, but on present figures it would be around 10 per cent now - but that this would probably be at the cost of throwing 350,000 people or 6 per cent of the work force out of work. Is he the Government spokesman on economics? Is the spokesman still the Treasurer or is it even the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron)? The only thing of which we can be sure is that the Prime Minister has abdicated his economic leadership. His Government has lost the power of decision. It has no will or ability to produce a genuine anti-inflationary policy.
Do honourable members recognise the words? They are words used by the present Prime Minister in 1972. They were written as Labor Party propaganda. But there was never a more appropriate prophecy made as to what that Party - the Labor Party - seeking government would come oy the middle of July 1974.
Let us examine what the Prime Minister said to the Second National Conference of Industrial Relations Society on 29 June. He did not get a very good reception, I might say. He lost his cool, abused people in the audience, demanded that they stand up and identify themselves - and they did, and they repeated their criticisms. They made him know exactly what they felt. But he said this:
Despite what our economic Jeremiahs might say, the last 18 months have been marked by exceptionally rapid growth.
Compare those words with what the Treasurer said at the Australian Finance Conference 5 days earlier:
The economy cannot, and should not bc allowed to, continue to grow at the breakneck pace of the past year if inflation is to be brought under control.
These people really ought to get together occasionally and tell each other what the other is saying.
As well, we had the extraordinary situation of the Minister for Labor and Immigration writing to the Treasurer and arguing that the Government had to change course. Somebody leaked the letter to the Press. Honourable members get no prizes for guessing who. But the Government refuses to allow that letter to be tabled or to be incorporated in Hansard so that there can be an official record of it. Everybody in Parliament House has a copy of it, except apparently the Prime Minister who said he had not seen it. He need only ask the doorman who would give him a copy of it. But this Government does not want that letter tabled or incorporated in Hansard. The Minister for Labor and Immigration has also been busy telling the Press and the Australian public that unemployment is going to rise and that he has felt that way for a long time now. Actually his last prediction was in late 1972, when he predicted confidently that unemployment in 1973 would rise to 250,000. At its highest point, it rose to about 128,000. In other words, he just manages to double things. He says that most professional economists are now predicting stagflation. Of course, he forgot to tell the Prime Minister that, because at a Press conference on 2 July the Prime Minister, although he had spoken extensively to the Minister for Labor and Immigration on the previous day, said he knew nothing of the Minister’s predictions. At the Press conference the Prime Minister was, as usual, refusing to answer questions on the economy. In one of the few answers he gave he assured the Australian people that there would be no increase in unemployment. Will he still guarantee that?
On that very same day the Minister for Labor and Immigration was engaged in the favourite pastime of Labor Ministers of leaking - not just any information but the June rise in unemployment and a record fall in job vacancies. He let the figures out 3 days in advance of the official release. Being always helpful, he gave the Prime Minister a hand. He gave him some assistance in making himself look foolish. We have even had the spectacle of the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) and the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant) making statements on the economy. I can understand their frustrations at the lack of any cohesive statement from senior Ministers, but that does not justify their adding to the existing uncertainty, particularly when we are told that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer will speak for the Government on economic policy. That has not yet been told to the Minister for Labor and Immigration and the Deputy Prime Minister.
If that is the case, will the real Treasurer please stand up? At last count this morning there were 6 Treasurers. There were the admitted disasters such as the Ministers for the Environment and Conservation. Imagine his impact statement on the economy. It would be bigger than the collected volumes of the British Encyclopaedia. Then we have the statement of the ex-Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the present Minister for the Capital
Territory. He is a great authority. Ask any turtle farm economist. Then there was the latter day Henry Georgist, the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Then there was the Deputy Prime Minister. He wanted wages restrained on Wednesday and he wanted them increased on Saturday. Just for good measure he warned everybody against putting their money in the bank because they could expect some bank crashes. Fortunately his credibility is so low that nobody took any notice of him. Australia would be the only country in the world where a statement of that character made by the Deputy Prime Minister would not lead to serious economic repercussions. His credibility is so low that what he said was just treated as a joke. Properly so.
Then there was the title holder himself, the Treasurer, the one who just failed to stand up. He is the Treasurer for no credit squeeze and non-anti-inflation. Then there was the Minister for Social Security. He, poor chap, was laughed out of the Caucus room for opposing salary increases for members of Parliament. Lastly there was the Prime Minister - Women and Children Last Whitlam. The contrast between the Government’s preelection propaganda statements on inflation and its post-election statements reveals an unprecedented deception. On 7 May the Prime Minister, in a written Press statement, said:
Our policies are now beginning to work . . . Price increases are now slowing down as government policies take full effect. This trend will be confirmed in coming months . . . We are sure the June quarter will confirm that the inflationary trend is downwards.
Compare that statement by the Prime Minister with his statement to the Premiers only a month later, well before the release of the June consumer price index. He said:
The outlook for prices remains ominous.
Compare it with this statement by the Treasurer last Tuesday night:
The Government’s hopes that the rate of price increase was slackening have proved illusory.
Compare it with the June figures themselves. Compare it with this statement in May:
Only Whitlam could reduce inflation by one-third.
He was so much better. In June only Whitlam could increase inflation by more than twothirds. Remember also the Treasurer’s unequivocal denial that he had any submission to raise interest rates in May, and remember the Prime Minister’s promise to reduce interest rates as soon as economic conditions permitted it. Compare that with the movement in interest rates since the election, as shown in the table on page 374 of the Reserve Bank’s June statistical bulletin. I ask for leave to incorporate this table in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– The table shows that the interest rate on a 5-year debenture at 10 July 1974 was 12 per cent. Who will forget the Prime Minister’s promises of his election campaigns of both 1972 and 1974 not to increase taxes? The 1972 promises were broken in Labor’s first Budget, and the Prime Minister’s erratic memory now fails him on promises which he made as late as 4 days before the election, when he said:
I see no reason why taxes, direct or indirect, need to be increased in order to pay for any of our continuing commitments.
– Who said that?
– That was the Prime Minister, who now forgets it. He has forgotten that - so he says. I remind him of it. Will he now deny he said it? This followed his promise to cut income taxes for low and middle income earners, whom he defined as those on incomes up to $14,000 a year. Twice on Thursday the Prime Minister dodged questions on this subject by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch).
Let us go back to the Whitlam policy speech of 29 April 1974. He said:
When Mr Snedden speaks of cutting back on government spending he means cutting back on schools, on health, on social security. They are the only fields where meaningful cutbacks can be made.
What a different tune the Premiers heard from the Prime Minister on 7 June, barely 6 weeks after the election, when the Prime Minister said:
The public sector is trying to increase its spending faster than the availability of resources will permit. This is especially true of capital expenditures . . . . We must now slow the rate of increase in government spending. Some phasing down or deferment of some expenditure plans must occur.
What was impossible and unacceptable before the election became, less than 3 weeks after the election, not only possible but totally acceptable. During the election campaign I consistently stressed the need for a reduction in government spending. I did so throughout 1973, when Labor first began the spending program to which its irresponsible 1972 promises committed it. I said that spending programs should be examined right across the board to achieve tax cuts and a domestic surplus Budget.
The Prime Minister attempted to ignore this during the election campaign. Instead, he made specific promises which were dishonoured by the Treasurer’s statement. I said during the election campaign that I could not match the Prime Minister’s promise on preschool education. I was honest and direct about it. The Prime Minister specifically committed the Government to a $130m program. That was abandoned in last week’s great retreat. Listen to these noble words of his policy speech- when referring to the Opposition’s policies:
Their policies mean that once again …. Australian children …. will be set back in their opportunities …. Let our opponents say clearly, honestly, unequivocally, that their weapons in the fight against inflation in Australia are to be the children of Australia.
What an extraordinary statement! The gymnastics of that somersault have never been equalled in my time in the Commonwealth Parliament. What was the most significant measure announced by the Treasurer? To put it briefly, as one writer did - women and children last. And what of the Government’s widely publicised promise to ease the means test in the 1974 Budget? That has gone too. Then there was the Prime Minister’s promise to make decisions of the Prices Justification Tribunal mandatory. That has gone too. On Wednesday, 17 July, I asked the Prime Minister in this House whether the Government intended to increase postal charges - a reasonable question. What was his answer? He said:
The Government has not considered any of the matters that the right honourable gentleman raises.
Less than a week later the Treasurer announced increases in postal charges. Is there any reason for anybody to call the Government other than a yes/ no government? Iri every matter it is yes and it is no. The same story applies to the capital gains tax proposal. There was evasion and then a decision.
Amongst the confusion, contradictions and paralysis of the Government’s actions in recent weeks there is but one clear trend, that is, if this Prime Minister denies one week that the Government has something under consideration we can depend on its being announced as a decision next week. If this Prime Minister makes a major economic promise before an election, we can depend on that promise being dishonoured after that election. He deserves no longer to be trusted. Every major economic promise that the Prime Minister made in 1972 now lies dishonoured. Inflation is higher, not lower, as promised. Taxes have been increased, not reduced, and further increases are coming, as the Treasurer has told us. Interest rates are up to record levels, not down, and the Treasurer has told us that they will be going up further.
Inflation has accelerated alarmingly since the Australian Labor Party came to office. The Labor Government inherited an economy in which inflation had declined to 4.S per cent, after having risen earlier. Under the stimulus of the 1972 Budget the economy was rapidly reaching full employment. In short, the Labor Government inherited decelerating inflation, a rate of wage increases which had been held in check, and full employment. Let there be not the slightest doubt as to the origin of our current economic problems. They are directly attributable to the actions of the Labor Party in government. The first indication of an increase in the rate of inflation was the release of the consumer price index figures for the June quarter of 1973. At that time I warned the Government in the following words:
Fortunately, the information comes at a time .when Cabinet Ministers are still considering the Budget. It’s a reminder to the Government to act responsibly.
But what happened? The Government’s budgetary policies throughout 1973 were the height of irresponsibility. Government outlays accelerated markedly during the first half of 1973. As the report of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on the Australian economy points out, that led to the 1972-73 Budget recording a domestic deficit of $2 15m instead of the $60m which was budgeted for in the Budget brought down under the leadership of the right honourable member for Lowe, Mr McMahon. By mid- 1973 it was blindingly clear to all, except the Cabinet, that the economy was under demand pressure and that a balanced mix of both fiscal and monetary restraint was required. In an address I gave on 16 July I said:
If Government spending is too big it will mean increased inflationary pressures - unless private spending is reduced. The first way to cut down private spending is by making money scarcer and therefore dearer. We’d be willing to do this only as part of an overall approach involving reduced government spending.
The Government ignored that. It put pressure on the private sector in order to send public spending sky high. Had that advice been taken inflation would not have taken off as it did, interest rates need not have been raised to unprecedented levels, income tax collections would not have increased by more than a third, with the prospect of income tax collections this year being double what they were 2 years ago, and the country would not have faced the wage explosion and the economic crisis it faces today. Instead, at a time when the economy was already under quite obvious demand pressure, the money supply rose to a seasonally adjusted rate of 30 per cent annually.
The Government’s budget deficit in the second half of 1973 was almost $2 billion - a deficit of $ 1,860m. One does not have to be an economics giant to know what inflationary pressures that creates. It was never believable that the acceleration of inflation in Australia was due to inflation overseas. We were told that the revaluations and tariff cuts had dealt with imported inflation. In truth, whatever their purpose, they have not prevented the steady acceleration in the inflation rate because it is home grown. The propaganda machine of the Australian Labor Party has tried to make the Australian people believe that our problems are all imported. Can honourable members imagine all those people in overseas countries who are busy parcelling up packets of inflation and sending them to us? If anyone ever did that he will have to stop doing it now because he will not be able to afford the postage. The causes of inflation are the initial takeoff in demand under Labor’s excessive government spending followed by the takeoff in wages. Escalating wages and costs are now the underlying factors behind the present inflationary situation. The rhetoric written by the Treasury in the Treasurer’s statement recognised that. The Cabinet accepted the words but fell at the hurdle and proposed nothing to deal with inflation.
It is ludicrous for the Government to suggest that the presentation of a flat rate of indexation of wages submission to the conference that is to be conducted by Mr Justice Moore represents a viable policy for wages. The Minister’s own Department of Labor and Immigration has argued against flat rate indexation. I do not think that he believes in it. The Treasurer has admitted that price rises will be very high throughout the remainder of this year because of wage increases already in the pipeline. If the Moore conference accepts indexation on top of the present wage fixation system, it will build further wage rises into the system and feed inflation further. If average weekly earnings rise by 20 per cent in 1974-75 - that is a modest figure; the rate is more likely to be 25 per cent -
– The Treasurer said on Tuesday that it was now 20 per cent.
– Yes, it is now 20 per cent and it is likely to rise to 25 per cent, but let us take the figure of 20 per cent as an example. If average weekly earnings rise by 20 per cent this financial year, the average wage earner will be receiving $150 a week at the end of the year compared with $125 a week now. Assuming that he has deductions of $1,000, his tax will rise by 43 per cent.
– How much?
– There will be a 43 per cent tax rise for the average wage earner. Is it any wonder that we of the Opposition argue for a taxation deduction. At a time when the country is crying out for leadership the only parties that can give that leadership are the Opposition parties. Income taxes must be cut, not increased, for the reasons that the Liberal and Country parties set out in their pre-election economic paper. They are: Firstly, rising taxation is adding to pressure for very large increases in money, wages and salaries; secondly, the personal income tax burden has become crippling under the Labor Government, which has, as a deliberate aim of policy, used inflation to push all income earners into higher tax brackets; thirdly, rising taxation is affecting incentives; and fourthly, rising taxation encourages tax avoidance and its resulting inequities.
I have taken every opportunity since last year to advocate tax cuts. Such proposals were in our policy and remain in our policy. They have received increasing support among senior economists as part of a program to tackle inflation. Eminent economists who have supported that program include Professor Hogan of the University of Sydney, Professor Whitehead of La Trobe University, Professor Weintraub of the University of Pennsylvania, who visited Australia recently, and Dr Lionel Ward of the Monash University. The Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research in Melbourne is advocating tax cuts and a national conference. The Organisation for Economic Development in its report on the Australian economy noted that there was no evidence of tax-push inflation using figures up to 1971 but noted as follows:
Increasing attention may have to be devoted to the possibility that inflation may be increased by the reaction of individuals to the impact of personal taxes on disposable income.
There is no policy from this Government. It is a vacuum. But like all empty vessels it makes the most sound. The Prime Minister told his Press conference this morning that he had twice as many Ministers as he needed. We think he has 27 Ministers too many. I wonder which of the Ministers he has in mind to drop. Does he have in mind the candidates for the position of Treasurer or would he have more in mind some others who have been silent on the economy? I think perhaps he has in mind the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) and the Treasurer who are sitting at the table. Old Change there would not have much of a chance, I would think.
The Government quite clearly recognises that its present credit squeeze policies will create unemployment. They have already created a serious downturn in the housing industry. Only yesterday the Statistician released figures showing a further fall in building approvals for June. The Treasurer’s statement clearly foresees unemployment. The Government has already made moves to disguise the unemployment statistics by the establishment of local initiative works programs. We do not believe or accept that a high rate of unemployment is necessary to bring down the inflation rate. We have advocated more modern and relevant alternative measures. We want to throw out the 40-year-old text books, which this Government insists on reading.
Economists are unanimous in their appeal for a wages policy from the Government. We are convinced that the only way to achieve the change of behaviour that is desperately needed will be to achieve a consensus through negotiation; direct controls never have worked and never will work for more than a limited period. The Opposition has given leadership for a policy of restraint. I seek leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard that statement of the Opposition’s policy contained in a pamphlet entitled ‘Economic Review and Assessment Mid- 1974’.
– Is leave granted?
– There being an objection, leave is not granted.
– I ask for leave to table the pamphlet.
– You can table it, yes.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– It is a curious thing that a government which itself has no policy is unwilling to allow the people of Australia who read Hansard to see the only policy that exists, and that is the policy of the Opposition parties. I propose to move an amendment to the motion that the House take note of the paper. I move:
That all words after ‘that’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words in place thereof: the Government should be indicted for its incompetence in economic policy and the control of inflation and its broken promises as exposed by: the Treasurer’s statement; the public disagreements between Ministers; the irresponsible and misleading pre-election commitments; and the total failure of its economic management in the past 20 months, demonstrated by price increases at 14.4 per cent in the past 12 months and the other grave difficulties currently facing the national economy.’
I move this amendment for the reasons that I have stated. The Government stands indicted for the reasons I have given in my amendment. That is why I press this amendment. This failing, fumbling Government has been in office for 3 months. It is without honour, without unity and without the strength and the will to give the leadership which Australia so urgently needs today. What a dismal picture for the future 33 months appears. It is led by a man who 3 months ago lent his picture to the statement ‘Only Whitlam has reduced inflation by one third’. That is the heading given to a full-page advertisement that the Prime Minister knew to be false at the time it was put in, that the Treasurer knew to be false at the time it was put in, and that every member of the Australian Labor Party responsible for the conduct of the election campaign knew to be false at the time it was put in. The people of Australia have now had it made abundantly clear to them that it was a false statement. But that was a statement upon which the Government relied to be re-elected to office. Mr Speaker, for the sake of posterity’s knowing what false advertising was made during the course of that election campaign, I ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard this advertisement.
– May I have a look at it?
– Order! I think it would be most difficult to incorporate that document in Hansard. If it were on the scale of approximately one-eighth of an inch to a foot I might accept it. That advertisement cannot possibly be incorporated in Hansard.
– I ask for leave to have the text incorporated, and to excise the head.
– I suggest that the right honourable gentleman reads that excellent document to the House.
– Is leave granted?
– There being an objection, leave is not granted.
– I will read it. The advertisement includes a very serious-looking face, properly advised as to the angle of the camera and so forth.
– Is the hair fluffy or sitting down?
– It is fluffy in this picture. The advertisement says in bold letters:
Only Whitlam has reduced inflation by one third.
– It is a lie.
– Order! The honourable member for Kooyong knows that it is unparliamentary to make such a remark. I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it.
– The text reads:
Only Whitlam has reduced inflation by one third. Whitlam didn’t just talk about inflation. He acted. Tariff cuts and 2 revaluations of the Australian dollar have now started to work. In the last quarter, inflation in Australia was down by a third to 2.4 per cent - the fourth lowest of the 24 countries for which official international figures are available. Last year, before Whitlam’s measures had taken effect. Australia’s inflation rate was the sixth highest. We can beat inflation and we will - with Whitlam. Whitlam is so much better.
That last part of the advertisement should read: ‘Whitlam is so much better at increasing inflation’.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– Order! The original question was: ‘That the House take note of the paper’. To this motion the Leader of the Opposition has moved as an amendment:
That all words after that’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words in place thereof: the Government should be indicted for its incompetence in economic policy and the control of inflation and its broken promises as exposed by: the Treasurer’s statement; the public disagreements between Ministers; the irresponsible and misleading pre-election commitments; and the total failure of its economic management in the past 20 months, demonstrated by price increases at 14.4 per cent in the past 12 months and the other grave difficulties currently facing the national economy.’
The question now is: ‘That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question’.
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) proposed:
That the debate be now adjourned.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. The motion “That the debate be now adjourned’ was moved before the amendment was seconded.
– Any person is entitled to move that the debate be adjourned at any time during the debate. The question before the Chair is: ‘That the debate be now adjourned’.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. How can you accept an amendment if the amendment has not been seconded?
– The amendment was seconded. The right honourable member seconded the amendment.
– The motion was moved before-
– Order! The amendment was seconded. I read out the amendment and then the honourable member for Bonython moved that the debate be now adjourned. I must put that motion. The question is: “That the debate be now adjourned’.
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Ordered that the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Sitting suspended from 6.13 to 8 p.m. (Quorum formed)
Debate resumed from 11 July (vide page 177), on motion by Mr Charles Jones:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-Mr 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 should like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Urban Public Transport (Research and Planning) Bill 1974 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 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 covering both measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– Introduction of this Bill sees the fruition of work that commenced 3 years ago when State ministerial members of the Australian Transport Advisory Council accepted my recommendation that the Bureau of Transport Economics commence a cost benefit analysis of returns from capital investments into a variety of programs to uplift the standard of urban public transport. At meetings of ATAC I told State Ministers for Transport that the Federal Government was keen to provide assistance to upgrade urban transport systems, but that before such investment would be made by the Federal Government we would need to measure the real value of such investment to the taxpayer and the commuter.
Furthermore, as an act of good faith on my part so that States could themselves assess the value of the findings, the BTE would report to State Ministers and not just the Federal Government. I am reminded of course that one State Minister broke faith with his other colleagues and gave a copy to the then Leader of the Opposition who immediately made it public. The tragedy of that event was, of course, that the report was not Commonwealth Government property. Unlike other BTE reports it was, as I have said, property prepared equally for the States’ Ministers and containing information given on a confidential basis by the States.
The act of the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was all the more despicable because the State Ministers had not indicated their agreement or wish for the report to be made public. The Prime Minister compounded this despicable act by claiming that State Ministers had sought its publication and I had refused. This statement was false as there had not been one letter, phone call or communication to me from any State Minister requesting or seeking publication.
I have recounted the history of events of that time to show how unprincipled the Prime Minister of Australia can be in his dealings with the States.
– Order! Those remarks are unparliamentary. I ask the honourable gentleman not to use them in future in his addresses to the House.
– I withdraw that, Sir. But the fact is that the Prime Minister showed scant respect and interest for the agreed procedures whereby the States themselves would approve publication.
The second reading speech of the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) is a pitiful document. It does him no justice and I pity the departmental writers who were forced to prepare it. Instead of being a correct technical document for the benefit of those interested in the principles of the Bill, it is a statement full of contradictions, self aggrandisement, misleading statements, misrepresentations, inaccuracies and political bias. It is a far cry from the traditional and proper practice expected from such a document.
The purpose of the Bill, is to make provision for the expenditure of $79.91m on a variety of urban public transport projects that are listed on the Schedule attached to the Bill. The expenditure is spread over a number of years, thus in the case of some projects minimising the disruption that will occur. I take it that each of the projects has been subjected to a cost benefit analysis by the Bureau of Transport Economics and doubtless, like the projects studied for the initial report of the BTE on urban transport, have shown a high yield.
Strangely the Minister’s second reading speech does not mention the work of the BTE in this regard.
Threaded through the second reading speech are at least 3 abysmal attempts by the Minister to try to demonstrate that the initiatives in this Bill are all his own handiwork. Well, he protesteth too much. Either he is extraordinaily ignorant of the files on record in his Department on this subject, or he is plainly trying to delude himself and probably those in the Caucus who elected him to the Ministry that he is a man of great initiative and enterprise.
Well, let everyone both inthisparliament and outside know that thethebasicgroundwork that results in this Bill was wellunderwayand agreed to by the previousGovernmentandindeed indeed were part of the LiberalandCountry Party policy speech in 1972deliveredbythe Right Honourable WilliamMcMahon.Indeed if the Minister checks therecordhewillsee that the principles governingthisBillwere developed by May 1972 andconsideredas Budget proposals. And so thattherealtruth of this matter is on the record andplainfor: future generations to see I want toexposethe Labor Party history on its interest inurban transport problems beforetheybecome wrongly a part of our folklore.
I have often read that thepresentPrime Minister has been a leader indemonstrating a real interest in urbantransportproblems. Indeed, the Minister forTransportwhois at the table has repeated again inhissecond reading speech an attack onthefailureof the Liberal-Country Party totackleurban transport problems down through23years of office. Let us put the recordstraight.The Right Honourable John Gortonspokeofour intentions to investigate andassistwiththe. problems of urban transport in his1969policy speech and the principles of this Billappeared in Prime Minister McMahon’s policyspeech.
The right honourable member forLowe(Mr. McMahon) had recognised and aacceptedthat the Federal Government wouldhavetoassist, and I want to place on recordthatnowhere down those 23 years did the LaborPartyhave either in its Party platform orinapolicy speech any recognition of thedifficultiesof urban transport. Indeed, thefirstappearance of the words was not as I hadexpectedinthe early days of Labor policy, norwasiteven in 1969 when the present Prime Ministerintroduced his first policy speechatageneral election. The plain truth is that Labormade no mention of urban transport policyuntilthe 1972 general election. So the PrimeMinister is very much a latter day saint on thisissue.
Now, as for the Minister at the table no one would be surprised that he wouldusethese initiatives in the Labor Party room toconvince those who sit behind him that hehas the makings of a statesman and is therefore worthy of being re-elected to theMinistry.Butitis plain balderdash, and indeeddishonest,for him to come into this Parliament orthepublic arena outside to make such a claim.Heknows as well as I do that he would nothavebeenin a position to enter into negotiationwiththe
States in February 1973 - 2 months after the election - had the proposals not reached such a forward stage. Furthermore it is to his everlasting discredit that it took him until March 1973 to get the Bill ready for Parliament. That delay was caused by both his pedestrian outlook in negotiation and his dogmatic and hopeless approach in trying to arrive at a schedule of arrangements for signature for attachment to the Bill.
It is quite clear from the original schedule of arrangements forwarded to the States that the Minister was seeking impossible conditions from the States as the price for Australian Government participation. It is to the everlasting credit of the officers of the Department that they were finally able to convince the Minister that to secure agreement he would have to move from his dogmatic, dictatorial and narrow ideological stance. So, for the Minister to say that the delay of 3 months caused by the election is the reason for not one cent being made available to the States by this time is pure humbug. The Minister takes the same miserable and dishonest approach in respect of the new Tarcoola-Alice Springs railway line. Even he ought to be honest enough to state the true position, when the previous Government had not only taken a decision to construct it but had also expended money on detailed plans and commenced the survey for the new line.
Similarly in respect of the Crystal Brook to Adelaide line he is either abysmally ignorant or deliberately trying to mislead the Parliament in his speech by trying to claim its construction as some new initiative by him. The simple truth about both projects is that the signing of the agreement was delayed by the South Australian Labor Government for purely political reasons, but the concept was complete and indeed agreed upon back in 1972. The Minister does appear, however, to have made one promise that will be welcomed and that is to build a railway line from Alice Springs to Darwin. I trust that this promise is real and not like some of the shabby promises that have been broken since the election. I trust that it does not turn out to be another empty pre-election promise.
The Minister bemoans the fact that the Premiers have not responded to a letter from the Prime Minister of 8 February 1973 wherein he sought a transfer of State responsibility for railway systems. One can hardly blame the States for being loathe to pass over control when they can see what a mess the Australian Government is making of its biggest undertaking and service industry - the Post Office. If ever there was a clear example that demonstrates the Government’s lack of capacity to handle large service industries, it can be seen in the handling of the Post Office with higher costs, less service and strikes.
– Go on.
– The Minister should not interfere. He was sacked as Postmaster-General after the last election. He is probably the reason for the present state of affairs. Those are all good examples of why the States would not be keen to give this Government administrative control of the nation’s railway systems.
Furthermore - this matter is even more important to the States’ financial position - the Federal Government is being very ambiguous about how it would compensate the States. For example, is it proposing to pay the true value of the real estate owned by State railway systems? The mind boggles at the amount of capital involved. Just think of the value of the acres of land at Flinders Street and Spencer Street stations in Melbourne, without the numerous tracts of land and buildings throughout the nation. Is it simply proposing to wipe out State railway deficits as a quid pro quo for the price of railway systems throughout Australia? If the Minister was to come clean on these matters he might more quickly get a response from the States. What is still more important is that centralisation of control of railways will not even pretend to answer the fundamental problems of transport in Australia.
Clearly the States would be abrogating their responsibility to the people if they were simply to hand over the railway system to the Australian Government because of financial problems within the States, unless guarantees in respect of service were given. Quite clearly, taking the Post Office as an example, such a handover would be tragic. Similarly it does not require centralised control of transport systems to achieve proper rationalisation of modes; indeed quite the contrary. Decentralised control should more easily lead to a system of simplified but satisfactory service to a given area.
It is particularly interesting to note in the Minister’s letter that Tasmania alone has made a positive offer to transfer its rail system to the Australian Government. Then he has the complete gall to chide Western Australia for joining all other States by withdrawing its offer since its change of government. It seems that South Australia must also have seen the light of day since its early delight with the proposal. It is obvious that the Minister has failed to convince even his own Labor eoi- leagues that there is any merit in his scheme.
There seems to be no end to the Government’s ambition. I note that in latter days the Minister for Transport, when talking to a trade union group, suggested that the Federal Government should take over bus services throughout the nation. Again the Minister goes to great lengths telling the States to halt the decline of public transport usage. In what is quite an over-simplification of the problem, the Minister ignores completely the growth in the rate of car ownership in Australia which carries with it the absolute and total preference for individual motivation as well as ignoring the vast sums of money put in by the States to improve their transport systems. Victoria, for example, has had an input for capital items on railways of over $160m in the past 10 years.
The Minister is more than naive in his pretence that the level of Australian Government participation proposed is going to be the cureall in this problem. For example, how the Minister can pretend that the purchase of 2 trams for Melbourne is going to change the trend is beyond me. But that is what the Bill provides for - 2 trams.
– Which route will they be on?
– I think the Minister might decide that in consultation with, his State colleagues. The Minister takes a very naive and over-simplified approach to the financial problems of the State transport systems. He completely ignores the high cost to the States caused by Australian Government policies that have promoted inflation and the Australian Government’s failure to solve industrial trouble. Indeed its encouragement of industrial trouble has led to exorbitant increases in costs for the States.
The simple fact is that in the 1972 election campaign the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, in his policy speech promised to undertake a $700m program of expenditure over 5 years to update urban transport systems. This Bill falls far short of that undertaking and with inflation running at IS to 20 per cent it is getting further behind. Also, what this Government fails to explain when talking so avidly about its generosity to the States is the States’ own contribution to their transport systems.
As I said earlier this Bill has its genesis in proposals that were worked over and agreed upon by a Liberal and Country Party Government. However with the change of government and a move from co-operation with the States, to diminution of the States, the States need to be on their guard. There are recent perfect examples of how a socialist and centralist government works, that is, to squeeze the States at Premiers Conferences, as we have just seen, and then to intervene with a tied section 96 grant. As the years roll on the squeeze becomes tighter and the intervention greater until finally the States are mere purveyors of Australian Government business. That is why 1 am curious to know whether the procedure as set out on page 8 of the Schedule for rebuilding of railway stations as specified by the Minister means that the Federal Minister can nominate projects of his own accord or, as is the understanding of the States, these projects are to be nominated by the States and agreed to by the Federal Minister.
Clearly if the Federal Minister has full say on this issue, one can see the squeeze at Premiers Conferences tightening and tightening until finally the only money available for programs in the States will be by way of tied grants. Furthermore it lends itself to pure political abuse and chicanery where a Federal Minister nominates for purely political purposes projects in certain electorates, ignoring the priorities or needs of the States and the fact that the States have to provide one-third of the funds. I ask the Minister whether he can nominate projects within a State or, as the Bill states, do the States have the right of total nomination?
– Do you want that question answered now?
– Question time will be at 12 noon tomorrow. If the Minister wishes to, he may crave the indulgence of the Chair.
– By way of official interjection, Mr Speaker-
– This is out of order.
-If it would help the cause-
-Order! If after the honourable member has finished his speech the Minister seeks the indulgence of the Chair to clarify a matter he will be in order.
– I seek the assurance of the Minister because I have an amendment which I propose to move if the Minister cannot give me that assurance. Therefore I shall be seeking your assistance, Mr Speaker, after the Minister has spoken, to move that amendment if necessary.
Now, Sir, let me turn to the second Bill, the Urban Public Transport (Research and Planning) Bill. This Bill seeks an appropriation of $lm to permit research and planning in connection with urban public transport by State governments on projects selected by a State government and approved by the Australian Goverment. That there is need for such research is without doubt. Before the States are able to commit themselves to the expenditure of large sums of money on alterations to their present public transport systems a great deal of study is required. One has only to take the various studies and reports made in almost any capital city, often with little result because of either political or financial reasons, to recognise that there is no easy path.
However, around the world there are a variety of fast moving large capacity systems that can be compared for suitability for Australian conditions and quite clearly long term decisions need to be taken by the State authorities whether they should be moving to the more sophisticated systems now being developed in Japan, America and on the Continent before committing themselves to the present system of fixed track with its limitations on load and speed. Clearly the development and use of a common urban passenger train, would bring increased passenger comfort compared with the old dog boxes now in use, as well as increased speed, but would nevertheless be many years behind systems now being developed overseas. Therefore, more complete studies need to be concluded before irrevocably committing enormous financial expenditure on what is a mere modernising of present systems.
Further research into control of traffic lights to keep traffic moving is also desirable. The example of Punt Road, Melbourne where traffic travelling at a constant speed can move from the River Yarra through to St Kilda crossing non stop should be repeated on every main artery. There is a difficulty, of course, on arteries that carry trams which do not have separate passenger waiting stands. Then all the traffic has to stop while the tram loads and unloads. Also where there are pedestrian crossing lights these need to be timed to co-incide with other lights along the road. Similarly there should be a feasibility study made of the provision of car parking at a number of outer metropolitan stations along each route, and a one ticket system that permits the commuter to go right to his destination even though it be by combination of train, tram and bus. Both these experiments have succeeded on the new Hamburg urban system.
The Minister, in his second reading speech, contradicts himself over the fall in the public use of transport systems. He quotes figures to show the continuing decline in patronage, then in the next sentence points out that New South Wales had reversed the trend in fall-off of passenger support. But there is an oversimplification in the Minister’s approach, which has been brought about by the individual motivation through the ownership of a motor car. In the 1940’s people sought to live as near as possible to public transport that would carry them almost directly to their place of work. However, today factories are built very often miles from the nearest train, bus or tram and employees travel to work by car. The common use of the motor car has permitted the luxury of living in one suburb and working in another that is not connected by public transport. For example in Melbourne only 150,000 people out of a working population of 1,200,000 work in the central business district or City of Melbourne. Doubtless the figures are similar in other cities.
Clearly therefore, the Minister is putting his head in the sand if he thinks the whole problem of metropolitan transport is bound up with the introduction of a new urban passenger train, or even updating of public transport systems that flow only from the central business districts. While individual motivation by motor car is desired and obtainable, people will continue to have the luxury of living in one area and working in another that is not connected by public transport. Therefore, it is essential that continuing work be maintained on updating and upgrading the road systems of the metropolitan areas. Only by this method will the problems of heavy cross traffic be overcome.
One final point needs to be made. It must be obvious that distribution points need to toe spread throughout the city if people are to use urban rail as a means of travel to and from work. Taking Melbourne as an example, it is apparent that having Flinders Street as the only exit or entrance point is unsatisfactory and that the concept of an underground tube circuiting the city with a number of pickup points must encourage large numbers back to public transport. I am disappointed that the Minister has shown so little interest in this aspect in his speech.
There is one area of work that still appears to lack successful control and the means of solution - and that is traffic noise. With all the modern community’s wish to overcome the pollution and environmental hazards in life, it amazes me that there has not been a greater outcry in large cities about traffic noise. The Australian Transport Advisory Council secured an Australian Design Rule on motor car noise to be introduced, I think, on 1 January 1973, with petrol trucks to follow on 1 January 1974, but quite obviously the level of noise pollution in cities from motor vehicles is below any decent standard that should be expected in the 1970’s.
There are a number of diesel trucks that are particular offenders. One is a German brand, a Deutz, and another the General Motors 2-stroke diesel. I would hope that if they have not come under a Design Rule by this stage that the Minister would encourage some urgent research on methods of control. There can be fewer more irritating problems for people living in large cities than the incessant noise from motorcars, trucks and motorbikes.
The Minister has not yet been able to indicate his attitude to my question earlier - I should like to ask him again - whether he clearly understands: Does the responsibility in thisBill lie with the States to put up propositions or does the Federal Minister himself have the right to nominate proposals? The clear understanding of the States is that only they can nominate propositions.
– What we want to do - and this is the reason why we want representation on the various planning authorities of the States and councils associated with public transport - is, as a Government, to feed information into them, put forward our propositions as to projects which we think should be undertaken and then after the planning authority has dealt with it, it is then up to the State government - because these are section 96 grants - to feed what decisions are arrived at back into us for approval.
– I remind the Minister that interjections are out of order.
-I thank the Chair for its tolerance in that matter because it is a very important point of principle. The States are concerned that whilst they have signed this agreement, and indeed it has been signed by the Premiers themselves, in most cases, apparently the Federal Minister is giving himself the right to go into an electorate and offer any member who is hard-pressed to hold his seat - I am looking at one - a couple of new railway stations on a purely political basis. I am relieved to hear what the Minister has said and therefore I will not press the amendment. The Minister said that the only way this can come about is by consultation, either through the committees set up by the State and Federal governments together or on the nomination of a State Government itself. Therefore I will not press the amendment I had proposed to move. The Opposition supports the Bill.
– The honourable member for Gippsiand (Mr Nixon) is a person whom we all like. Who could dislike such a very nice smiling face as his and what honourable member could have helped but be sorry for him tonight, when he walked in and when a quorum was called, just after the resumption of the sitting after dinner, to find that there was not one member of the Australian Country Party in the chamber to listen to him? In fact, I think there were only 2 Liberals-or was it one? - in the chamber and not one member of the Country Party to listen to him. He then launched forward with one of these-
– Order! The Bill before the House is the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Bill.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am glad you reminded the House of that. 1 think some of the honourable members opposite were beginning to forget that. Then we had that very pitiful attempt - the honourable member for Gippsland is a very nice bloke; he is so friendly with everybody, but it was a pitiful attempt - to try desperately to detract from this extraordinary initiative by this Labor Government. It is the first time such initiatives have been taken except for that period when the transcontinental railway was built by a previous Labor government.
– It was King O’Malley.
– That action was initiated, as the honourable member for Hunter mentions, by the late King O’Malley. That was the last occasion on which a Federal government endeavoured to do anything about our antiquated public transport system. This is the first time that anything has been done since the transcontinental railway was built. And we had all those years of conservative governments. Yet the honourable member for Gippsland comes into this House tonight and tries to detract from what is undoubtedly a first in Australia’s history since federation. The Federal Government has come to the assistance of the State transport systems.
– Mr Speaker, I rise to a point of order. Is it in order for the honourable gentleman to talk like this when everyone knows that the Labor Lord Mayor of Brisbane sought to deny to the children of Brisbane transport to school?
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. That is a point of view, not a point of order.
– It is not even a reputable point of view, Mr Speaker. The facts are that the honourable member for Gippsland endeavoured to detract from one of the finest policy initiatives that the Whitlam Government has introduced into this Parliament and one that has received the support of all the Premiers, whether they be Labor or Liberal supporters.
– Money speaks all languages.
– Yes, money does speak and the Opposition had 23 years in which to supply it.
-Order! The honourable member for Parramatta is listed to speak next in this debate. He will have 20 minutes in which to do so.
– Thank you for protecting me, Mr Speaker. I shall give an example of the delay which unfortunately was brought about by some of the Liberal-Country Party Premiers. I ask honourable members to examine the dates when the various States signed the agreement with the Commonwealth. The Premiers of Western Australia and South Australia signed the agreement on 28 March and the Prime Minister on 29 March. The Premier of Victoria signed on 4 June, the Premier of Queensland on 1 1 June, the Acting
Premier of New South Wales on 12 June, and the Premier of Tasmania on 13 June. So, in other words, 3 months went by - 3 months of inaction and delay. From the speech made by the honourable member for Gippsland tonight we can find good reasons for the delay that occurred. It was initiated as a deliberate attempt to frustrate the new policy initiatives of this Government.
Another good example of the Government’s initiative is the fact that this legislation is providing $7 1.91m for public transport. Last financial year $3 1.09m could have been appropriated for public transport but of course the Senate, at the instigation of the Liberal and Country Parties, assisted by the Democratic Labor Party, withheld Supply and created a double dissolution situation. The Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones), therefore, could not introduce legislation to provide to the States at that point of time $3 1.09m to improve our public transport systems. In other words, the guilty men were delaying this legislation when the Government was endeavouring at every opportunity to press it forward. The guilt lies with the Opposition. Liberal and Country Party Premiers delayed the signing of the agreements for 3 months in the first place. Then the Liberal and Country Party senators held up the legislation for many months by their action in withholding Supply in the Senate.
This is the first time a Federal government has come to the assistance of the States in an endeavour to improve a chaotic transport system which has suffered through 50 years of neglect. It is an area which received no support from previous Liberal-Country Party governments or conservative administrations. The jackals in the Country Party can scream their heads off but they cannot deny those facts. We know of course that the reason- (Opposition members interjecting.)
– Order! Interjections will cease. If they do not I will take the appropriate action.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I can understand why Country Party members are so upset about this legislation. They are upset because it will .greatly improve the urban public transport system. We know how violently members of the Country Party react if the city ever gets a dollar or a quid. The facts are that the provisions of this Bill will greatly assist the urban transport systems throughout Australia. There have been 50 years of neglect of the public transport systems in Australia and 23 years of those 50 years were under conservative governments. This is the first, initiative taken by a Federal government in the public transport field. It is one of the finest initiatives ever taken by any Federal government, let alone by this Government.
I am particularly delighted that this legislation provides, out of the funds allocated by it, for the quadruplication of the main western railway line within the metropolitan area of Sydney. It will provide also for the main western railway line new rolling stock and new signalling equipment, particularly at Strathfield. In other words, this action taken by this Government - one of the many great reforms initiated by it - will remove some of the chaos of the railways which has been suffered by residents of the western suburbs and the outer western area who commute to the city and from the city to the areas west of the city, right through to Lithgow. This is very important indeed. I should like the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan), who is noted for skating down the railway line in his area, to travel in the trains in that area. He would see how packed they are. The conditions suffered by people who travel in those trains should not be tolerated by any decent human being. I think it would be a very good idea if the honourable member for Riverina were to spend a day on the trains examining the situation. Then he would not sneer at this legislation - a very important and necessary piece of legislation.
I think it should be remembered that our public transport system conveys two-thirds of our population every day. I think it is generally admitted and accepted throughout the length and breadth of this country that it is extraordinarily out of date. I think we should examine systems that exist in other countries. In Great Britain the Government provides up to 75 per cent of the capital cost of urban public transport improvements. In Western Germany the Federal Government set aside 40 per cent of additional fuel taxes imposed in 1967 alone for this purpose. Great improvements have occurred in the public transport system in the United Kingdom. There are a lot of people from the conservative elements of the world - from the United Kingdom and from Australia - who sneered at the fact that a previous Labor government in the United
Kingdom was forced into nationalising the public transport system of that country. Today a traveller can board a train in London and arrive at Edinburgh ‘ in Scotland having travelled for most of the journey at 90 mph. If that were attempted in this country, the train would not even stay on the rails. Dramatic improvements have been achieved throughout the United Kingdom. The reason is that the central government has come to the assistance of the public transport system. It is obvious that similar action is long overdue in Australia. It should have been taken many years ago.
The honourable member for Gippsland endeavoured in the course of his speech to state that this proposal had been initiated originally by the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon). The facts of the matter are these: Firstly, no action was ever taken by the honourable member for Lowe in his period as Australian Prime Minister to provide finance to the States to improve the urban transport system; secondly, it was only as the result of pressure from the State Premiers at Premiers Conferences that the right honourable member for Lowe finally ordered a study by the Bureau of Transport Economics. Everyone knows - the honourable member for Gippsland certainly knows - the history of reports presented to the previous Government. They ended in the graveyard. Whenever the LiberalCountry Party government was in a sticky situation, it ordered another study or another report and, when that report was presented, it was pigeonholed. Undoubtedly, if the results of this study had ever come to hand, they would have suffered the same fate. Any report would have gone to the graveyard of another pigeonhole. But the report having been presented, this Government took action. An undertaking was given by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in 1972; it was repeated in 1974. It is that promise, that undertaking, which is being honoured. We can understand why honourable members opposite are green about this action. They can recall that following election after election under their government none of the promises made was ever honoured. One after the other, those promises were repudiated. But Mr Whitlam and the Whitlam Government have a record of honouring the submissions and promises that it has made. (Honourable members interjecting)
– Order! Honourable members will cease interjecting. The honourable
Mr.ARMITAGE.-I can assure you not, Mr Speaker. As a matter of fact, I enjoy it. I Ithinkthatthe Bill represents the first step towardsthe goal of achieving increased public usageofpublic transport, reducing pollution frommotor vehicles and lowering road accidentrates. I believe that it is one of the great reforms that have been initiatedby this Federal Labor Whitlam Government. I believe that it ought to be supported completely and unequivocally by the Opposition. It is a pity thataperson of the stature of the honourable memberof Gippsland, a Minister in a Liberal- CountryParty Party government, should not at least acquiescein this proposal and admit that this isagreatreform, that it was well and truly overdueand that his government unfortunately nothing about it.
For these reasons alone, I believe that this legislation should be completely supported toy both sides of the House. It represents a great reform This is the first time ever that a FederalGovernment has entered this field of transport with the exception of the occasion when theFisher Labor Government initiated the building of the Trans-Continental Railway. In inotherwords, on the only 2 occasions when any suchinitiativeshave been taken a Labor gov- ernment has been responsible. In common with every honourable member on this side of the House I am very proud of this fact. I am deeply sorry that the honourable member for Gippsland tried to detract from that record andtherefore reduced the respect in which he waspreviously held in this House.
Mr.NIXON (Gippsland) wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
Mr.NIXON.- Yes. The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) misrepresented me onoccasions. Firstly, he said that I had done nothing about urban transport problems until the Premiers forced the then Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) to refer the matter to the Bureau of Transport Economics. In point of fact the matter had been referred to the Bureau of Transport Economics by me and agreed to before that Premiers Conference. I think that theminutes of the Australian Transport AdvisoryCouncil will show that fact.
Secondly, the honourable member said that I should be gracious enough to admit that this legislation represents a great reform. I did that at the outset of my speech by saying that this Bill brings to fruition the work that I commenced as Minister for Shipping and Transport and that therefore we are most happy to support the Bill. The third point relates to the claim by the honourable member that the only initiative ever taken in this area previously was by a former Labor government led by King O’Malley. Apart from the fact that since King O’Malley’s time there have been a number of Labor governments which obviously have done nothing in this respect, I point out that a Liberal-Country Party government initiated the standardisation of the railway gauge throughout Australia.
– Mr Speaker, I seek clarification on a point of procedure. In the course of this debate, after each speaker concludes, is someone on the other side entitled to rise in his place and then enter into debate as the member for Gippsland has done by claiming he has been misrepresented?
-I had been misrepresented.
Mir SPEAKER - At the outset, the honourable member for Gippsland alleged that he had been misrepresented on 3 occasions. He did mention the 3 occasions in his personal explanation without fully debating the matters.
– It is a pleasure to speak in this debate on these 2 important Bills. We on this side of the House do support the States Grant (Urban Public Transport) Bill 1974 and the Urban Public Transport (Research and Planning) Bill 1974. the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) has indicated, most adequately in my view, the role that honourable members on this side of the House played when they were last in government in initiating the programs that have led to these grants. I do not believe that the programs themselves should be seen as a great reform in the sense that they merely constitute grants from this Government to the State governments to enable them to carry out their proper duties. Looking at the very limited nature of these grants and the task that has to be done in each of the States, it must be realised that this is only the start of a long program. I do not believe that we will see reforms of any consequence for a long, long time.
If one listened to the speech of the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) and read or listened to the second reading speech delivered by the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) one would be aware that in respect of this matter there has been a great deal of huffing and puffing on the part of the Government in an attempt to bolster this program and to make it appear to be something more than it is in reality. I ask all honourable members to examine very carefully the limited number of projects and to compare them with the projects that have to be implemented in most States - in fact, in my view, in all States - to achieve a public transport system that will be adequate for years to come.
The honourable member for Chifley praised in this debate the Government’s performance in implementing its promises. He said that the Government had not broken any of its promises. I draw to his attention the fact that only a few days ago we heard a serious contribution in this House when the Treasurer (Mr Crean) informed us that the Government’s promises in relation to child care and the abolition of the means test on pensions would not be implemented in accordance with the timetable that had formally been proposed and that these reforms were being postponed. It is quite clear that the Government does not put great credence in its promises and it is prepared to break its promises when that serves its own end.
– That is a load of rubbish.
– It is quite true, as the honourable member should well know. If in his electorate, as there is in mine, there is much concern about child care I am surprised that he would even enter into this debate and make comments that would indicate that child care is of little consequence in his electorate. I would have thought that if the Government was looking for other expenditure to prune in order to be seen to be responsible it would have found something other than the grants for child care benefits and child care facilities. These grants are urgently needed and required and were of great importance during the last election campaign. If the honourable member for Robertson went around my electorate and looked in every bus shed and saw pasted on the walls the signs stating that Labor cares about child care-
– I think the honourable member has now made more than a passing reference to this matter. I have allowed him quite a lot of latitude.
– I appreciate that, Mr Speaker.
-I remind the honourable member that we are dealing with a transport matter at the present time.
– Mr Speaker, I certainly conform to your ruling, although I would have thought that the bus sheds may have had some relationship to the matter under discussion. In speaking to these important Bills I very much endorse the comments of the honourable member for Gippsland. He emphasised the support of the Opposition for a program which brings about public transport improvement in this important area. A great deal of play has been made of the delay occasioned by the election that intervened between the introduction of this Bill initially and today’s debate. These 2 Bills were first introduced into this House on 4 April. The agreement that is annexed to the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Bill at that time was not signed.
The honourable member for Chifley mentioned specifically the dates on which some of the Ministers for Transport, Premiers and Deputy Premiers signed the agreement. It is pertinent to note that the agreement was signed last by the Labor Premier of Tasmania on 13 June. It is pertinent to note that 13 June was not so long ago. I would observe that if at the conclusion of this debate the Bills were put through both Houses promptly, brought to the Governor-General and put into operation within a very short period of time there would have been a delay of only lj months. In fact, I think the argument about a delay is a very tired and trite argument to put up in this debate. It is only meant to score alleged political points.
Quite clearly governments of the opposite persuasion of the present Government have been involved in public transport matters in the past. It is pertinent that past governments have not endeavoured to try to tie the hands of the States by specifically making grants under section 96 of the Constitution. In the past the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) was one who was very instrumental in assisting to bring about a program for and a recognition of the need for standard gauge railways throughout this country. Programs were implemented which brought about standard gauge railways almost across Australia. In his second reading speech the Minister for Transport mentioned that only a small section of standard gauge railway from Crystal Brook to Adelaide has to be constructed to bring this to completion.
It is important to get this matter into perspective, because the Minister in his second reading speech placed great emphasis on the use of the motor vehicle and the problem we have with the use of the motor vehicle in our major cities. He mentioned the pollutantscarbon monoxide, hydrocarbon, oxides of nitrogen, particles in the air and so on, of which we are all very much aware, particularly those who live in Sydney and, I imagine, those who live in Melbourne. Undoubtedly, while that is a problem and a problem we all recognise, when we compare the expenditure under this Bill on urban transport and the sum that is to be granted later on to the States for urban roads and other roads we see that the figures are quite divergent. Certainly we do not see a program requiring expenditure in excess of $ 1,000m for urban transport, as is to be provided over 3 years for roads.
I do not in any way detract from the argument - in fact I think the argument is certainly valid - that a great deal more money ought to be spent on urban and public transport facilities, particularly those that are not polluting; but I think the matter has to be put into perspective because clearly, if the Government is holding this program out to be one that will solve the urban transport problem, it is deceiving the people. It will hardly provide the real solution to this problem.
The New South Wales Government seemed to be singled out for particular criticism in the Minister’s second reading speech. Mention was made of a failure by the New South Wales Government to come to grips with some of the transport problems over a long period of time. It is pertinent to note that the Minister referred to the eastern suburbs railway as being one of the few new programs initiated in New South Wales. My recollection, although it is not a very long recollection in these matters - perhaps it is more a matter of delving into history - is that we had in New South Wales governments of the same political persuasion as honourable members opposite. Those governments continually promised to build the eastern suburbs railway, but it was not until a LiberalCountry Party government came to office in New South Wales that the eastern suburbs railway was re-commenced. If condemnation is needed, I think the Australian Labor Party as much as the Liberal and Country Parties is deserving of condemnation. I believe this is an area in which political parties should join together, as the Opposition has joined with the Government tonight in supporting a program which, although it has in it defects, endeavours to come to grips with the problems we face.
I was pleased to note that under the Urban Public Transport (Research and Planning) Bill moneys are being made available to the States to initiate research programs. I personally see this as being the most important part of this program, because it acknowledges the importance of the States in this area. It is a pity that the sum involved is a mere $lm. When I contemplate the expenditure of $2m by the New South Wales Government to produce the Sydney Area Transportation Study, a full study of the transport needs of Sydney, I see the amount involved in this Bill as paling into insignificance. Let us look at the alternative. I am not being critical of the officers involved in the Bureau of Transport Economics, who are undoubtedly diligent in their duties and responsibilities and have produced many commendable reports, albeit reports on rather obscure matters, particularly those that have landed on my desk over the last several weeks. But those officers number a mere 59 persons. I have not been able to find in accounts I have been able to peruse any detailed breakdown of the amount of Commonwealth money allocated to the Bureau of Transport Economics. I have in mind that if reference cannot be found to such an amount it is probably a very insignificant sum. In those circumstances I am wondering how the Commonwealth could ever claim to have the capacity and the personnel to be able to embark upon the studies needed if these very necessary reforms are to be brought about.
A great deal of emphasis has been placed upon the city of Parramatta in the Sydney Area Transportation Study. In his second reading speech the Minister also acknowledged that there are many transport problems that impinge upon Parramatta in particular. Parramatta is a city which is going to grow quickly in the future. I think that is acknowledged by honourable members on both sides of the House. It is estimated that by the year 2000 there will be a commercial population of 100,000 in the city of Parramatta compared to the commercial population of some 15,000 persons at the present time. The Minister has mentioned in rather general terms in his second reading speech a large number of additional government proposals.
Implementation of those proposals is not provided for in this legislation. They are proposals that are designed to deal in part, I guess, with the transport problems of Parramatta and to relate the transport problems of Parramatta to the Government’s claim that it has done a great deal for the western suburbs of Sydney. Anyone who reads the Minister’s second reading speech will note that he has spent some time studying, in particular, proposals for rapid transit systems. He has obviously seen some of these on his trips overseas. The Minister has not related his proposals to a particular centre. Later in his speech the Minister mentioned particularly proposals concerning a railway line to serve Parramatta and to provide for transport from Castle Hill, Hoxton Park, Fairfield, Carlingford and Epping to Parramatta. Specifically he said:
Recently the Prime Minister wrote to the Premier of New South Wales proposing that the Australian Government construct a distinct rail system using the Australian urban passenger train based on Parramatta.
The Minister said that this system would service the rapidly growing areas I have specifically mentioned. He went on to say that such a system would reinforce the development of Parramatta as a growth centre. I think that we would all acknowledge the merit of such a development. Diagrams which I have in front of me and which appeared in the Press - I seem to learn more about most of these matters from the Press than I do in my capacity as the honourable member for Parramatta - indicate that there are in existence railway lines serving Parramatta. Anyone who examines the Sydney Area Transportation Study will observe what I know for a fact from living in the area, and that is, that Parramatta is rather poorly served by the existing rail system.
– Where is Parramatta?
– I am surprised that the honourable member for Banks should ask such a question. If that interjection is an indication of the knowledge of those honourable members opposite who claim to know so much about the western suburbs of Sydney I will certainly have pleasure in quoting it in the electorates of Parramatta, Mitchell, Chifley, Prospect and Reid, all electorates in which I understand the Australian Labor Party supposedly takes an interest from time to time.
At the moment Parramatta Station is almost an offshoot of the existing railway lines in the area. The Sydney Area Transportation Study put forward specific proposals, which I would like to commend to the House, concerning integration of the existing railway system with new rail system proposals. I cannot imagine how the Minister could propose, as he obviously has in his second reading speech, that a separate and distinct railway system ought to be developed with new facilities utilising perhaps the existing roadways, although I am not sure about that, that would come to Parramatta and that would be in some way integrated with the existing system but not be a part of it, that would utilise separate rolling stock and that would perhaps have a separate rail gauge, which envisages, as the Minister has said in some of his speeches, lighter carriages, different types of wheels and so on, to serve a major metropolitan centre such as Parramatta will be in the future. Although such a proposal is not contained in the Bill - and it is not the Bill that I am criticising; it is the Minister’s second reading speech and the Minister’s comprehension of the problems that exist in Parramatta-
– We are quadrupling the line for you.
– That is what the Government will be paying for, but it is certainly not what was mentioned in the Minister’s second reading speech. I invite the honourable member for Chifley to read it. To do so may enlighten him. I dare say that some of these proposals may affect his electorate as well. The proposals contained in the Sydney Area Transportation Study envisage the enlarging of the Carlingford railway line and, in addition, its linking to Beecroft. The Minister has in mind a proposal that, if implemented, would link Carlingford with Epping. He has not given me any details of those proposals, even though I have written to him and asked him for details of them. He has not told me whether the proposals he has in mind are the- same as those of the New South Wales Government. Although he continues to speak of them, as he has done in his second reading speech on this Bill, he has not indicated where the Government of which he is a member stands in relation to the Sydney Area Transportation Study, which envisages the integration of the existing railway lines with the proposals that the transport experts who compiled the study have in mind for Parramatta to achieve a workable solution to the transport problems of Parramatta. It is clear from the Sydney Area Transportation Study that Parramatta could have a railway station that would be capable of serving the city and proposals bringing to it the existing lines from Fairfield, the new lines from Hoxton Park and Castle Hill as well as being linked through Carlingford and the expanding area of Gosford. I believe that if the Government were to look at the program that the New South Wales Government has, and endorses it, a great deal in transportation reform would be achieved. But if the Minister continues to puff about these matters, as the honourable member for Chifley did earlier in this debate, we will see little progress being made in solving the problems and we will see the respective governments becoming less as one in reaching solutions. They will be apart and the problems will be neglected and will not be solved. If they come together and work to solve them, then as the New South Wales Government has shown in this instance, a great deal can be achieved in co-operation.
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I welcome the opportunity to speak briefly in support of the 2 Bills which are the subject of this cognate debate. (Quorum formed.) I thank the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) for his courtesy in seeing to it that we have a quorum present. I noted when the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) was speaking that there was a great shortage of members in the House. The honourable member for Gippsland delivered a tirade against the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones). I must admit that it was not until the end of his speech that I realised that the honourable member was actually supporting the Bill. I can well understand his chagrin at this Bill coming forward particularly, he said, in view of all the hard work that the Opposition had done when in government. A lot of words were spoken about it but of course there had never been any action in terms of money being provided.
I must admit that I was surprised to hear some of the comments made by the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock. It appeared to me that he was looking a gift horse in the mouth. I would have thought that as the representative from Parramatta he would highlight the quadruplication of the railway from Auburn to Penrith which, of course, is of tremendous benefit to the commuters in his electorate. I would have thought that he would highlight the point that it is the Whitlam Labor Government that is providing two-thirds of ‘the cost of that quadruplication which will be of such tremendous benefit to his constituents, but apparently the honourable member wants to play politics right down the line.
Like the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage), I congratulate the Minister, and of course the Whitlam Government, for bringing this Bill into the Parliament. It is an historic Bill because it marks the commencement of participation in the funding of urban public transport by the Australian Government. It is another of the great initiatives of the Whitlam Labor Government. I would point out to the honourable member for Gippsland that the difference between the Whitlam Labor Government and the governments that preceded it is that our action does not consist simply of words and reports; we put money where our mouth is. I would remind the honourable member for Gippsland that the report of the Bureau of Transport Economics, of which he made comment, came out in June 1972. The LiberalCountry Party Government had an opportunity to implement its recommendations in the 1972 Budget, had it wanted to go past mouthing empty words.
This Bill, of course, is long overdue, and this becomes clearly evident when we look at the practices of overseas countries with standards comparable to our own. I refer to countries such as West Germany, Great Britain and the United States of America. It has been long accepted in these countries that central governments must be involved in the funding of public transport services. As the Minister pointed out, the Federal Government in the United States grants up to 80 per cent of the cost of projects aimed at improving these services. In Great Britain the figure is 75 per cent. One may well ask why this tardiness and neglect has occurred in Australia. Despite the protestations that have been made by the honourable member for Gippsland, the only answer that I can give is the apathy and the lethargy of the Liberal-Country Party Government that preceded the Whitlam Government. For 23 years Liberal-Country Party governments watched the urban public transport systems of the States wither away and they did not give a cent to remedy the situation.
As the public of Australia is only too aware, a further delay was caused by honourable members opposite forcing an election earlier this year. They know that this Bill was introduced earlier in the year, and the unnecessary interruption of government by the election has forced the States to wait this further period for funds which are urgently required to upgrade urban public transport systems. There is clear evidence that the urban public transport systems in Australia will continue to run down unless there is a massive injection of funds from the Australian Government. The Minister rightly pointed out that the decline in the use of public transport is a reflection of the present inadequate investment in it. This decline has been alarming. In the 10-year period from 1961-62 to 1970-71 there was a 61 per cent decline in the use of public transport, and this was despite a rise in urban population in the same period from 5.7 million to 7.5 million. So, to be more accurate, we should be looking at the decline in the actual number of journeys per capita over that 10-year period, and we find that the figure is a staggering 55 per cent. Is it any wonder that there is such a decline in the use of public transport? Those of us who live in Victoria have only to take the Victorian suburban railway as an example. We know that the carriages are antiquated. Some of them were purchased way back in the 1920s and the 1930s.
– Even earlier than that.
– Yes. As the honourable member for Diamond Valley points out, some were purchased even earlier than that. They are cold, draughty, dirty and uncomfortable old trains. At the moment we find ourselves in a vicious circle of declining patronage, reducing revenue, and increasing losses. The result is that fares are increased and/ or services are reduced and this, of course, leads to a further decline in patronage. So the circle continues. Somehow the vicious circle has to be broken and this can be done, as I said, only by an injection of Federal Government funds. Then and only then will the public transport become a viable and realistic alternative. There must be improvement in quality, capacity, frequency and speed, and in the parking facilities that are available at railheads. The alternative is to expect continued increases in the number of commuters using cars, which at this moment are in danger of choking the road arteries leading to the great cities of Sydney and Melbourne and, to a lesser extent, other great cities of this Com monwealth. (Quorum formed) I appreciate the fact that there are 6 Liberals here to listen to me. I thank the honourable member for Barker for once again calling for a quorum.
I believe that the community is becoming increasingly aware of the problems attendant on the ever increasing number of cars congesting our cities. Pollution, whether it be noise or air pollution, the utter frustration of driving in peak hour traffic and the carnage on our roads are some of the problems to be faced, but I do not propose to elaborate on them at this stage. I am not for a moment suggesting that this Government is not acutely aware of the need to improve our roads. The Minister has made it abundantly clear in his second reading speech that we are aware of this need. He pointed out that in the next 3 years the sum of $!,120m is to be made available by this Government for the purpose of improving our roads
To state it precisely, the purpose of this Bill is to expand the role of public transport within the total urban transport system. In this way a significant contribution will be made to the quality of life in our cities.
In this Bill $7 1.91m is to be made available to the States for expenditure on urban public transport projects scheduled to commence in 1973-74. It was intended that $3 1.09m would be spent in 1973-74, but it was pointed out that this was not possible because of the delay caused toy the Opposition. Under the terms of the agreement with the States the Australian Government will provide by way of nonrepayable grants two-thirds of the cost of the projects approved for assistance. These Bills have tremendous significance for an electorate like mine. I said earlier to the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock), that I believe they are also significant for his electorate. My electorate is situated on the fast growing south-east corridor of Melbourne where it is anticipated that urban development will stretch about 37 miles from Melbourne in the very near future. I think it can be seen that it is absolutely essential that if people are to commute about 30 miles each way to and from Melbourne, to other suburbs or to industrial centres, there must be an attractive and realistic alternative to travelling by car.
I draw the attention of the Minister to at least 2 projects that I believe to toe worthy of his consideration and thorough investigation by the States. The first is the provision of adequate parking facilities at major rail terminals. Again speaking of my own electorate I can see a great need, for example, at Dandenong, about 20 miles from Melbourne, for such facilities to be established. I foresee that within the next 10 years there will be a great need at Berwick for the improvement of parking facilities. I expect that my colleague the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Hewson) would agree that there is a great need for more than railways radiating out from Melbourne. There is great need for an outer railway loop, particularly in the area where population growth is fastest; that is, on the southern and eastern areas of Melbourne. At present people are discouraged from using the railways to travel, say, from Frankston to Dandenong or vice versa, whether as regular commuters or as people going to the beach for the day. The distance between those two cities is a mere 14 miles, but to travel that distance by rail entails taking a train to the city, changing again at Caulfield on to another train for Frankston, a journey in all of over 30 miles. I foresee tremendous value in the development of an outer loop connecting cities and towns such as Frankston, Cranbourne, Dandenong, Ferntree Gully and Croydon. In commending these Bills to the House I stress that they are only the first step on the path to expand the role of public urban transport. It is a step from which there will be no turning back.
– The States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Bill and the Urban Public Transport (Research and Planning) Bill now before the House are indicative of a situation which we are finding to be rather common. This Government is rushing in legislation with very little preparation and certainly a complete absence of an overall plan or a fundamental approach to the problem with which it is purporting to grapple. We are well aware now of the problems of urban transport and have been for a long time. We are well aware of them because the State governments, which previously carried urban transport problems within the jurisdiction and handled them very well, have made it very clear to this Government and to preceding Commonwealth governments that the one great need has been additional finance for them to do their job properly.
In these measures a sum is being allocated for a very limited and specific job in a narrow field without any overall proposition. This to me seems to be a very dangerous precedent. I believe that it creates the circumstances in which this Government can intrude upon the administration of the State governments and without any plan that is overall in concept it can create real havoc for the future of urban transport and, for that matter, the future of rail transport in the States. In the second reading speech of the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) he said that he wanted to stress that urban public transport had suffered and that there was no unexpected overnight demise because of its present problems. He went on to say that the situation has been seen to exist for 50 years but in the very next sentence he said that in over 23 years m office the Liberal-Country Party Government had failed to do anything about it. What about the earlier 25 or so years of other governments, and 13 or more years of the preceding Labor Government? What did it do in this field? Of course, it is just a hypocritical comment by the Minister to say that there has been neglect in this field. The truth is that the Labor Party had no policy in this area until 1972. There is nc record of any earlier policy by Labor in the field of urban transport.
– I challenge the honourable member for Macarthur to state in this House any earlier policy on urban transport enunciated by the Labor Party. I ask him to show where anything of the kind presented in this House tonight ha?, been produced earlier. Certainly he cannot do it. State governments have been starved of financial allocation and this has really led to the dilemma of the railways systems. It is all very well to make a token start - that is the only way in which it can properly be described - with a limited section of the urban transport system. In New South Wales in particular the total railway system is an important consideration. Currently its services have been greatly curtailed. In my own area on the north coast of New South Wales in the last few weeks there has been a tragic curtailment of services simply because the State Government does not have the funds to do the job and because the unions in collusion with the Minister for Transport, who is now at the table, have another plan. I think it is time that the public was made aware of that fact.
– That is a deliberate lie.
– This is to deal with some unions and nol all the unions. I wish he would come to the north coast and tell the unions there.
– That is a deliberate lie.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! I ask the honourable member for Cowper to resume his seat. I ask the Minister to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the word ‘lie’ but I wish he would handle the truth more carefully.
– I acknowledge the Minister’s withdrawal. The unions - anyhow, those on the north coast of New South Wales - would be delighted to co-operate with an overall plan that woud assist the total railway system but they certainly cannot sec it in what is being put forward in this legislation. They are very concerned about it. I believe that the public are equally concerned about it.
– The State LiberalCountry Party Government is boxing it up and you know it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! I ask the Minister to remain silent.
– I did not hear the Minister’s interjection.
– I said that it was the State Liberal-Country Party Government that was boxing it up.
– I see. The Minister is going back to the old cry that the LiberalCountry Party has not done this or has not done that. If we look at what has occurred in the last 18 months we will find that the Labor Party is not doing anything of an effective nature about this problem. The honourable member for Holt (Mr Oldmeadow) was very critical of the present standard of rail services in Victoria. Undoubtedly the same situation applies there. An amount of $71. 91m for a specific project to be carried out in the Sydney metropolitan area will not make any useful contribution to solving the overall problems of the total rail system in New South Wales. What ought to be happening in respect of urban transport is that there should be some reality on the part of this Government in its efforts to assist State governments. If we look at what has happened overseas we will find that great cities such as Montreal have been afforded first-class rail systems because the city, state and federal authorities have worked together with an effective plan. In New South Wales because of lack of finance the major extension of the Eastern Suburbs Railway is unfortunately to be concluded. It will end up with a standard far below that which ought to have been accomplished in such an extensive project, the reason being a lack of adequate finance. Finance ought to be provided by Canberra; It ought to be provided by this Government if it wants to help in a proper manner.
I believe that there are so many loopholes in this legislation that it will lead to a real breakdown of the total rail system in Australia. In addition to that, we find in regard to other legislation before the House, namely the Roads Grants Bill, that the Minister for Transport in his second reading speech said that there are limitations in the matter of finance because of financial constraints. The money is not there. But under this legislation the money is to be put into a specific proposition. I believe that the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) hit the nail right on the head when he said earlier tonight that there was a lack of a comprehensive plan for an effective proposal and that there are far too many gaps in what is being put in this legislation.
– You did not even have any gaps in yours.
– The Minister said that we did not have any gaps in ours. What we did was try to give the States adequate assistance. What this Government is doing is leaving the States with a debt and allowing the railways business to fall off to such an extent that it will never be regained. The whole thing will be a complete disaster. If there is to be a form of take-over, it ought to be a proposition that encompasses the whole gambit of rail services including their financial structure and the debt aspect in particular. It ought to be done on a business like basis. But the proposition contained in this legislation offers nothing of that sort. I believe that the Minister who represents that very important industrial area of Newcastle will eventually regret this because the future development of that part of NSW is, of course, very much tied up with an effective transport system - an effective rail system to the west and to the north. The only way this can be developed is to have a viable total rail system for the whole State. This proposition aims in no way to provide for that situation. It should. If this Government fails to follow through with something of this kind, this whole proposition obviously falls to the ground.
The real problem of urban transport cannot be solved overnight. Anyone who is realistic in his assessment of what has happened in the great cities of other countries must recognise this. I believe it is proper that there should be research. I do not quibble with what is being done in that direction but let the research be total. Let it take into consideration the whole of the transport problem. Let us not have a repetition of rushing in and doing something and then finding that it does not fit a total concept which needs to be worked out. I compliment thehonourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) for his reference to the State report which appears from the legislation now before the House to have been ignored. If we are to have a situation in which there is a lack of proper coordination between the Federal and State governments in this matter then it must lead to real chaos in the long run, and expensive chaos at that.
I am disappointed that the Bill is presented in its present form. I am disappointed that the proposals put forward are not more comprehensive. I just hope that what we see today occurring throughout NSW anyhow - I know it does apply to some extent in some other States - is not an indication of what this Government is going to allow to happen, that is, a falling-off in rail services resulting in the eventual collapse of these services so that they are unable henceforth to serve the purpose for which they were intended and for which they should be given the viability to be able to provide because without that there is a tragic effect on commerce generally, on all types of industry particularly primary industries and on those people who live outside metropolitan areas. You cannot save a total system by patching up one small section of it as is proposed under this legislation.
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) put:
That the question be now put
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. J. F. Cope)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
– Certain features of our consideration of this Bill give me great pleasure particularly the reference made by the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones), when introducing the measure, to the completion of the standardisation of gauge proposals which were put forward in the time of the last Government with which I was associated. I am delighted that this standardisation program will he completed at last. I do not have time to say very much but there are certain things to which I should like to draw the attention of the Committee. First, it is important that we should have some rationalisation of our railway system. I think it is noteworthy that when anything sensible is suggested there is great trade union opposition to it, and there are threats of strikes and black bans. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has said that the railways must be run efficiently. I hope that the Prime Minister will make his opposition to this trade union activity very clear.
One important thing I should like to say is that we should be using our rail system to a far greater extent and we should be reducing freights and fares to marginal cost. Only a few days ago the Prime Minister put forward the proposition that railways should pay for themselves. By that he meant that railways should pay for all their fixed charges. This is insanity in the present situation, because it is an inflationary policy. What the Prime Minister is suggesting is not only wrong; it is diametrically and absolutely wrong. The marginal cost, the real outlay, of using an existing railway line to a greater extent is relatively small. If one is thinking of conserving real resources, whilst one must maintain the full rigours of cost benefit studies when one is considering new capital works and the utilisation of existing capital works in this period when inflation is such a menace now is the time not to increase fares and freights but to reduce them as a counterinflationary measure.
The principle that has been put forward by the Prime Minister when he requires these ventures, these enterprises, to pay their full costs in addition to their marginal costs is not only wrong; it is absolutely wrong. If we are to have economy in our transport system we should be making the greatest possible use of our existing capital facilities. Therefore we should give the public the power to use these capital facilities without charge for the capital that already has been expended. In this inflationary situation when we are trying to get costs down, it would be a very great economic benefit to reduce rail freight charges and fares to the marginal costs of operating the new services which would be required for the extended custom.
– What do you think of the termination of some rail services?
– I think a lot of rail services should be terminated. In most cases country passenger services should be very much reduced because they are not economic But I believe that the remaining services should be given at marginal cost so that we would get the full facilities and the country producers could get the benefit of cheap freight rates. One would hope that, for example, many of the country lines would be used simply as freight lines for heavy goods - perhaps livestock, grain and superphosphate - and that the mixed services would be cut out and the passenger services be replaced, as they should be, by buses. This would enable the country people to get a rail service at a very cheap rate and would reduce costs and be to the ultimate benefit of all the rural areas.
I come now to the urban areas. Here I say that so far as the Government is concerned a little knowledge has proved to be a dangerous thing. Some of the policies which it has advocated are good. For example, it is good that we should have more emphasis placed on proper public transport in the cities. But when one comes to the detailed application of these principles the Government seems to be a little astray. Every city has different problems because the pattern of every city is different. For Sydney - I speak now of Sydney which is a city I know, and I speak only of Sydney’s problems - the principles which the Minister for Transport has spoken of in regard to freeways, are not quite applicable because, as it happens, the most eastward crossing of the harbour leads to the heart of the central business district via the Harbour Bridge. Therefore the freeway system which bypasses the city, since it cannot go out to sea, must come in very close to the central business district. So it is important to get not what the Minister has been writing down as radial freeways, but bypass freeways which, as it happens, must not be very different from the radial pattern because of the geography of Sydney.
The other thing I want to say is that I believe we have to have a much better suburban rail system in Sydney. In some places, not all, it is most economical to go down into tunnels and keep the system underground. This is far cheaper, generally speaking, than putting the system on the surface owing to the costs and the inconveniences of land resumptions. I have had figures taken out, and there is little doubt that in Sydney sandstone, which is very suitable for tunnelling, a single track railway tunnel can be constructed for less than $1.5m per mile. This can be done by the new techniques of the ‘mole’ and other tunnelling devices which are now available. This is very much the cheapest form of track, because obviously one does not build double tracks; one builds 2 single tracks because this is the most economical way to go about it.
One would hope, for example, for my area - again I am being parochial and I speak of my own electorate - we would have a deep tunnel railway which would go under at Middle Harbour somewhere near the Spit and go under Sydney Harbour somewhere near the Bridge. By so doing we would relieve the 2 rail tracks on the Bridge of the new traffic and enable them to be developed to provide the better service for the North Shore, the Mosman and the Cremorne areas that they should have. I do not believe that the railway in my own electorate should go north of Dee Why, but I believe it could be fed by a system of buses, particularly by small mini buses which would give a high frequency of service. To many passengers this is the most important thing. The reason for low patronage of bus services, at least in my area, is very largely, their infrequency, whereas if we had a mini bus service in which the buses came every few minutes, they would be used and they could put service back into the system.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Mr Speaker-
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) put:
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Charles Jones) - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 11 July (vide page 179), on motion by Mr Charles Jones:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) in introducing this Bill -
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Charles Jones) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 18 July (vide page 379), on motion by Dr Patterson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition is not opposing this Bill. However, it believes the Government’s attention must be drawn to the parlous situation of the dairying industry which is being aggravated by this Government’s policies, and that is well known by many honourable members on the other side of the House. The past 21 months have seen the implementation of policies which necessitate the urgent passage of this legislation in order to bring some assistance to marginal dairy farmers who are being crushed in particular by the Government’s economic and rural policies. In the past 3 years no fewer than 10,000 dairy farmers have left the dairying industry. The majority of these dairy farmers have been forced to leave the industry because of this Government’s policies. If we examine the numbers, we find that in the space of 21 months the exodus has been tremendous.
Reduced export returns because of currency revaluation and the withdrawal of sup port measures - in other words, the subsidy - have accelerated the migration of dairy farmers from the dairying industry. I recall just over 21 months ago a very large meeting which was held at Ipswich in the southern Queensland dairying area. The former member for Wide Bay on behalf of the then Opposition, with a telegram from the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, said: Elect us to Government. Return us at the next election and we will guarantee 42c a lb and all your problems in the dairying industry are over’. Eighteen months later, he was the exmember for Wide Bay. I think that is some indication of what the Government has done to the dairying industry in its short sojourn. The migration of dairy farmers is having an adverse effect on the fabric of the nation because the dairying industry is an industry that is widespread and affects many communities. It is lowering our potential to capitalise on market opportunities that arise. This has resulted in formerly productive lands being turned into non-productive lands and creating a problem of unemployment not only for the farmers who leave the industry but also for the towns that were previously dependent on the dairying industry for the livelihood of the small commercial centres that are spread throughout Australia. This Government has directly caused towns which were formerly prosperous to become what might be properly described as ‘Hoovervilles’. If we think of what happened when there was this kind of control on farming in the United States of America some years ago, we can see the real dangers that arise from the actions that this Government has been taking.
The profitable dairying farm of yesterday is now the marginal dairy farm of today as a result of the policies of this Government. I stress that the Opposition is not opposed to reconstruction and to the production adjustment in marginal dairy farm areas because this is now essential, inescapable and vital. We are opposed, however, to the artificial creation by this Government of a situation in which we find that it has deliberately failed to stimulate the requirements of the dairy industry in the correct way and at the correct time. The industry, mainly because export returns are its principal ingredient, has for some years experienced income problems. I can well recall the efforts of the previous government to overcome the difficulty and the work done in Geneva to get a floor price for processed milk products. Those efforts resulted in a better situation for the dairy industry at this time. The opportunity was there. It was created by our actions. Yet in 21 months this Government has sacrificed the opportunities that were in fact created.
I recall the original marginal dairy farms legislation which was introduced in this House. The Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) then led for the Opposition and made a most interesting comment. He stated: 1 mentioned in passing that one of the great problems is the cost-price squeeze. There can be no doubt that, whether we are speaking of the dairy industry, the wool industry, the beef industry, the sugar industry or whatever industry it might be, this insidious increase in costs is the major problem for export primary industries and it is this which is really having an effect and eating away the very heart of them.
I recall those words to the Minister. He has now had 21 months to do something about this problem. What do we find? The costprice squeeze is worse than ever, and the effects of inflation and all that goes with it are worse than ever. The Minister for Northern Development nods his head. He has to acknowledge that these are the facts. But I remind him very clearly that, on this side of the House, 21 months ago, he had a very different point of view.
Recent surveys indicate that 25 per cent of Australia’s dairy farmers have a net income of less than $4000 a year. This figure, when viewed against today’s accelerating consumer price index and rising wages is in itself tragic. If we look at other figures, we find that the cost ingredient of food has fallen dramatically in the last few years. In the figures for the last 21 months or so that trend spells out very clearly that it is not the cost of food that is forcing up prices as we are experiencing them today. This is not the major contributing factor. Yet this Government believes that the farmer has never had it so good and that he should be kept screwed down. We see headlines which say that dairy farmers will get an increase. The honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) mentioned this to me earlier. Another headline states that dairy farmers are to get more. But what do we need? A very slight increase is to be allowed in the price of butter - not the amount that was applied for - and when it flows through to the dairy farmer he will get practically nothing; in fact, it might be a fraction of a cent. This is the kind of policy that this Government believes in. It is a policy which spells disaster for the man on the land.
The extension and the widening of the marginal dairy farms agreement with the States which is proposed by this legislation will give many of the farmers in the small, limited income bracket to which I referred earlier an opportunity to leave their farms with a measure of finance to start a new life, and allow farmers who remain on their farms the opportunity to build up their properties to a more profitable standard which will give them an adequate return on the level of capital investment to which they are really entitled. But, of course, it is too little and it too late if we think in terms of the fact that it is to be retrospective in some respects to 23 July 1973. The real propositions provided by the previous government were to operate in 1972. It was in that time span that there was such an incredible run-down in the number of dairy farms.
I believe that it would be wrong if I did not draw attention to some of the problems implicit in the Bill. The Bill talks about an economic unit but seeks not to define what an economic unit is. The diverse nature of the dairy industry is reflected in the fact that an economic unit at Grafton, Kempsey or Lismore may not be the same as an economic unit at, say, Rochester or an economic unit somewhere in Queensland. I make the point also that in the development of any definition of an economic unit it is necessary to take into account the alternative land use valuation for the unit which is seeking assistance. The Government has asked the Industries Assistance Commission to report on assistance to the dairy industry after 30 June 1976. The results of that report could throw into sharp contrast the objectives of this Bill as spelt out by the Minister. I believe that in the programming ahead for the operation of this marginal dairy farms agreement consideration has to be given to what could be contained in that IAC report in case there is a need for a sudden acceleration in assistance to the dairy industry under this scheme, particularly if the IAC recommends a downgrading in the level of assistance to the industry. Whichever way it goes, there needs to be some heed taken of the position now and not sudden action taken at that time.
In my earlier remarks, I referred to the valuation of land. The Bill provides that the price of land and any improvements is based on market valuations current at the time of disposal. This phrase could, I suggest, provoke problems in the administration of the scheme for the simple- reason that there is a tendency within the industry for marginal dairy farms to be located in similar areas. In other words, if there is a problem in a locality it is the total situation in that locality. These concentrated locations of marginal dairy farms have a downgrade drag effect on land values although the value of land nearby involved in other forms of production and similar in nature to the marginal dairy land may be selling at a higher rate. I would suggest that consideration and an answer need to be given to the argument that perhaps it would be better when the State authority purchases the land for it to purchase the land at a price which bears some relation to its alternative land usage and not to its present usage.
The changed economic climate that we find in the countryside today points even further to this requirement. What I propose provides problems for the final purchaser - the farmer who is taking over the marginal farm - but it seems unjust that a marginal farmer leaving the industry should leave it with a possibly depressed price for his farm. This could well apply under this scheme from now on in view of the very different circumstances from what we have experienced with respect to land values in the last decade. The problem could be overcome by the Government’s introducing a differential interest structure which takes into account the higher price of the land to the final purchaser under this system of valuation. These matters should be dealt with by the States and the Commonwealth in some kind of effective discussions in relation to the differentials which arise in various areas of the Commonwealth.
I believe that the Bill is welcome also inasmuch as it makes allowance for the provision of interest-free loans for the purpose of buying and installing refrigerated vats for the storage of whole milk intended either for use in manufacturing or for human consumption. It also makes allowance for the provision of finance to allow for the efficient collection of vatted milk. The widening acceptance of collection in this manner will be welcomed by all sections of the dairying industry, because it is the only way in which we can have a viable and economic industry henceforth. It was originally advocated by the Liberal and Country Parties in the 1972 election that there be specific assistance in this direction. 1 said earlier that we were pleased to see the Government now acting, but it has acted just this much too late. However I should point out that in the past year the cost of conversion to vat collection, according to industry sources, has risen very sharply. The cost for an average farm has risen in the past few years from S5.000 to 57,000, and even $10,000 in some instances, if a proper job is to be made of the installation of refrigerated vats, a road of access, and all the other necessary equipment to comply with the standards insisted upon by dairying industry authorities in all States that administer Acts in relation to standards in the industry. The increase in the cost of conversion over the past year is just part of the inflation in the economy and points up in sharp contrast what the Minister said on a previous occasion and what he now says. He said that something should be done about it, but he has failed dismally as a member of the Cabinet and as a representative of primary industry.
With relation to the provision of loans, there is a problem in the justification of the argument used by the Minister if the farmer to be assisted under the scheme has been unable to obtain reasonable terms from normal financial sources. The argument I have in this matter is that whatever section of the rural economy is involved it ought not to be on the basis of a star chamber decision on whether or not the person concerned is in necessitous circumstances. I think that the wording of the Bill will create a very severe difficulty in the administration of this scheme. Of course, it is all the worse now because of the Government’s credit squeeze and the policies which have created the difficulties of liquidity. It will be very difficult for farmers seeking assistance to find other assistance. In other words, the limitations under this scheme and the provision for certain specific purposes spell out very clearly the fact that farmers need funds for other purposes as well. I remind the Minister of what he said during the debate on the earlier Bill in 1970, when he particularly criticised the fact that there was not easier access to finance for farmers and that long term loans were not available at lower rates of interest. I just ask: What is the position today? It is worse than it was then, and certainly nothing in this legislation suggests that there is a move to assist generally the farming community in this important regard.
The extension of eligibility to marginal dairy farmers in the milk market sector of the dairying industry is also welcome, because I believe it is timely and necessary. As I said before, the profitable dairy farm of yesterday is the marginal dairy farm of today because of this Government’s policies. When this legislation was first introduced, there was no problem involved with relation to market milk producers. However, rising production costs and withdrawal of Government support for the industry is creating a major problem within the market milk sector of the economy, which has expressed itself as in need of assistance such as is now proposed in this Bill. For farmers seeking to build up their farms under this scheme the prospect of moving into other forms of production has been stifled by the fall in the export beef market and by other downturns in primary industry. The downturn in the outlook for beef has choked off the major alternative land use pattern for marginal dairy farmers and will, I believe, place added burdens on the implementation of this program. No matter where one goes in Australia that is the truth of the matter. If someone was to leave the dairying industry, what would he go into? Hitherto he would have gone into beef, but now the beef industry has altered so drastically that the whole spectrum has been altered.
The abolition of quotas in some States, the alteration of the structure of the dairying industry and the creation of milk quotas in other instances are all matters coming within State jurisdiction; but they are important considerations and must be taken into account in the administration of this important scheme. Also the position of the dairy farmer is not being aided by this Government because of its pell-mell policy of abolishing margarine quotas. The Labor policy on margarine quotas, it seems to me, is a result of the Government’s desire to pay off one of its multinational backers in the last election. The Government is ignoring the fact that it happens to be one of the world’s major margarine manufacturers and certainly is one of the multinational companies that so often come under criticism. But it is being assisted by this Government hand over fist as though it were the one cherished section of the community that deserves some special consideration.
The abolition of quotas will mean a possible further downturn of domestic sales of butter which could lead to a greater loss of employment opportunities on dairy farms and in the dairying industry. I refer not simply to the farmers but to those who service them and to those in the small towns and villages who depend upon them. I think the Government needs to recognise this, particularly when it piously talks about keeping unemployment to a minimum without doing anything about the problems of high unemployment in rural areas and the threat of even higher unemployment in areas where the dairying industry is of importance - problems caused by the inroads of margarine sales directly stimulated by this Government’s recent actions.
We have seen many assault campaigns against the dairying industry by this Government. The abolition of free milk for school children last year is but one example of these campaigns. The withdrawal of the subsidy for free milk, in spite of evidence that the milk fulfils useful nutritional needs for school children throughout Australia, has placed many farmers in a difficult position. As a result of this and other policies, the profitability of the dairying industry is at risk. In every sector of production the pressures on reconstruction and production adjustment as provided in the original Bill and this Bill will be intense. There will be need for human compassion. Since this Government was elected we have seen, as I said earlier, compassion expressed in the dairying industry in another way, that is, in the loss of 10,000 dairy farmers. I believe that it behoves the Government to treat the position of the dairying industry with a little hit of practical reason. No nation such as Australia can allow departures from the industry to continue at a faster rate in the near future. No nation can stand idly by and see people go into unemployment because of government neglect, whether they be dairy farmers or people indirectly dependent upon the dairying industry. This Bill helps to overcome some of the problems, but I warn the Government that unless it is more sympathetic to the industry the problems could worsen.
The Opposition supports the Bill, but we point out to the Minister that the pressures of the Bill, because of the Government’s neglect of the industry, could be much greater than the Government has anticipated. This is in itself a tragedy which reflects very poorly on the Government’s appreciation of the contribution of the Australian dairying industry to the Australian way of life. I support the Bill. but I hope that there will be recognition of the very many points which arise in it, many of which cannot be covered in the limited time in this debate.
Debate (on motion by Mr Whan) adjourned.
Motion (by Dr Patterson) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– It is appropriate at this time of the year to draw the attention of the people of Australia to the difficult situation in which local government finds itself. That situation has been quite definitely thrust upon it by 2 actions of the Labor Government, firstly, by its financial strangulation of the means by which local government stays in existence, and secondly, by its deliberate and rather blunt use of the instrument of power to dictate to the representatives of local government what their policies shall be, on what they shall operate and how they shall spend their money. At this time of the year many local government authorities throughout the whole of Australia are spending many hours on the preparation of their forthcoming budgets. Only recently I talked to Mr Fred Rogers, President of the Queensland Local Government Association, about this matter. Ihave also had numerous discussions about it with the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) and the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Hewson), who are both men who have devoted many years of their life to the most rewarding work of local government. They have drawn to my attention the fact that some local government authorities will have to increase their rates by up to SO per cent and that in many cases there will be a percentage increase of 30 per cent.
It will do us good to analyse the position and find out why it is necessary for local government authorities to impose such a high increase in rates. I point out that the funds available to councils are grossly inadequate for the tasks they are expected to discharge and that this inadequacy will increase over the years as they have more important and more pressing tasks to perform. We will have to accept the fact that local government will be more intimately involved in some of the very great social problems that seem to be prevalent in the Australian atmosphere. At the present time the total local government debt in Australia is $l,730.5m. On that there is an annual interest of some $99.5m. The interest rate in itself is a crippling blow. If we have to rely in the future on excessive loan raisings to meet the interest and amortisation of these debts, the burden of debt servicing in later years will lead to a crisis situation.
We of the Liberal and Country Parties want to do something about averting the situation that could occur in the future. We submit without fear of doubt that local government must get a share of Commonwealth funds. We want to draw the attention of the nation to the fact that the people of Australia did not deny that proposition in their vote on the last referendum proposals. What the Australian people denied was the right of a Prime Minister to force a dictatorship on local government. They did not deny the proposition that local government was entitled to a fair and just share of the Commonwealth tax pool. We submit that there is adequate provision under section 96 of the Constitution for local government to have access to the Commonwealth tax pool. On behalf of local government throughout Australia, I want to draw the attention of the House to the fact that a noted historian, Lord Rosebery, said: ‘He who wants to serve his fellowman cannot serve him in any better way than by engaging in local government’.
The Opposition parties want to know how the local government authorities are going to prepare their budgets because at this time they are completely unaware of how much money will be flowing through to them in the form of such things as roads and subsidies grants and because at this stage, notwithstanding many promises to the contrary, much verbiage and many statements by responsible Ministers who stand forever condemned as people who utter mere platitudes, not one dollar has gone through to the community in Grants Commission money. Those grants were to be a rate equaliser, as it were, between local government authorities in local government regions, but not one dollar of that money has gone out to where the people can spend it best, where its expenditure can be supervised by people who have local knowledge, who have the interest of the local people at heart and who make sure that they get a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. The only money that has been distributed by the
Commonwealth Government has come from the Department of Urban and Regional Development to a few suburbs in western Melbourne. That indicates clearly that the present Australian Government thinks Australia begins and ends in the western suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne.
I also want to draw the attention of the House to the very high interest rates that the Government has inflicted upon local government. Debenture rates for 4 to 6 years are now 9.85 per cent per annum, which represents a staggering increase of 4.15 per cent in the rate that was applied prior to 9 May last year. The rate has gone up by an astronomical 6.4 per cent since 1969-70. Interest rates have changed with alarming rapidity. There has been a change even since 10 June. A further change took place on 15 July. The rapid increase in interest rates is causing chaos and uncertainty in the administration of local government.
We of the Australian Country Party have definite plans to submit for the solution of local government’s ills. We want to make the point that we are diametrically opposed to all power being centred in Canberra. Shire clerks with whom I have spoken have reiterated to me on many occasions that they are utterly opposed to the provision that will require them to submit detailed plans and specifications to the Government sitting in its ivory tower in Canberra as to how and where they shall spend their money. I honestly believe that those men of principle will stand up and be counted on this most important issue and that they will refuse to submit to the dictatorial attitude that is permeating this Labor Administration. TheLabor Government has done nothing except make cheap talk about solving the problems of local government. It stands condemned in the eyes of all thinking Australian people. Those of us who sit on this side of the House maintain that the supporters of the Labor Government are merely a mob of political bikies who are pack-raping the local government associations of this country. On some of the issues about which we feel very strongly the Labor Government has deliberately by-passed the expertise and experience that is to be found in local government. I refer in particular to the Australian Assistance Plan. Local government has not been asked to provide the office, experience, expertise and local knowledge that is quite evident in that regard.
I want to draw attention to some of the cost increases that have been forced upon local government through those honourable members who sit opposite being completely incapable of controlling irresponsible trade unionism. In some instances wages have gone up by 30 per cent in the last 12 months. Electricity costs have gone up by 25 per cent in the last 2 years and 10 per cent in the last few months. We all know of the large amounts of electricity that local government authorities have to use on such things as water supplies. There are 900 local government areas in Australia. They provide 10 per cent of the work force but control only 7 per cent of the expenditure. Unless something is done massive unemployment will result in rural areas and these people of Australia will charge-
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am astounded at the illogical submissions made by the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh). Time will not permit me to dwell long on his remarks. However, every honourable member of the House must be aware that my Government, the Australian Government, put to the people recently two referendums, one of which was for the purpose of giving to local government bodies greater financial aid. The Party of which the honourable member is a supporter advocated the defeat of that referendum question. Despite that, local government is on the threshold of great achievements. The honourable member either told a lie or he-
– Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw that remark. He cannot use that unparliamentary phrase.
– He departed from the truth.
– Order! The honourable member will withdraw that phrase.
– I withdraw the phrase. The honourable member for Darling Downs stated a short time ago that the only local government to which the Department of Urban and Regional Development had made money available was an organisation or local government region outside Melbourne. I challenge that statement because if the honourable member for Darling Downs is prepared to consult my electoral neighbour, the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) he will find that the Department of Urban and
Regional Development is appropriating or has already appropriated the sum of Sim for the Hunter Valley regional councils. Most of the money is to go to the local councils in the electorate of Paterson. I ask the honourable member for Darling Downs to check up on that. However, time will not permit me to dwell any longer on what the honourable member said.
I rise tonight to disclose one of the main contributing factors to inflation. It is a well recognised fact that depressions are caused by lack of confidence and that such confidence can be destroyed by unscrupulous propaganda, lying rumours, or a deliberately conceived plan. A prime example of such tactics was furnished when the Bank of New South Wales accused this Government of introducing a massive credit squeeze. This untrue accusation swept like wildfire through the business and financial community. The man who must be held responsible for that scare campaign is the President of the Bank of New South Wales, Sir John Cadwallader. I propose to expose him in this House as one of the arch monopolists who has been responsible in my view for causing more inflation than any other person in the country. Sir John Cadwallader is chairman and managing director of Allied Mills Ltd. He is one of Sir Robert Askin’s great knights of the table, or under the table as some people describe them. Allied Mills has set out to establish a monopoly in margarine production in Australia. It has a near monopoly of the milling of flour in New South Wales and is responsible for almost half of the bread manufactured in Sydney and the metropolitan area. It sells its bread under the brand names of Buttercup, Sunbeam and Vogel.
The Bank of New South Wales is the principal banker of the Government of New South Wales and backs most of its overdraft which at the present time is horrific, if I may say so. Sir Robert Askin was responsible for the knighting of Sir John Cadwallader and has looked after his interests at almost every turn. He has granted him 5 increases in the price of bread in the last 12 months, the last one being as recently as yesterday. Another price increase of 4.5c has been promised. Sir John Cadwallader owns Vegetable Oils Pty Ltd, which markets Daffodil and Tulip margarine which are sold in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania. Of the present margarine quotas 53.5 per cent are held by Vegetable Oils Pty Ltd and its subsidiaries as it has bought out some of the smaller quota firms to get their quotas.
Sir John Cadwallader has tried to establish a monopoly over the manufacture of margarine not only through the quotas but also through the milling of the oil seed. He has done this by buying a controlling interest in Meggitts Ltd. He owns the largest oil mill in the country and has bought out its only competitor, Pacific Safflower Australia Pty Ltd. He has persuaded State governments to introduce legislation requiring all margarine to be manufactured from Australian made products. I also believe that he persuaded the Askin Government to set up an Oil Seed Licensing Board. But the only mills that will qualify for a licence will be the Cadwallader Mills. This means that his competitors have to buy their vegetable oils through his mills only. What an awful racket!
The only argument ever advanced in support of the margarine quotas is that they assist the dairying industry. That is a complete fallacy. Butter production is as dead as a dodo in New South Wales, particularly on the North Coast where it was once the major industry. In the past 3 weeks the GraftonUlmarra Butter Co-operative announced that it was going out of business because it was unable to obtain cream supplies. Margarine is the only stand-by the Australian housewife still has to keep the cost of living down. But the industry has been the victim of a vicious legislative war waged by State governments. The industry was producing what is called a universal spread consisting of non-vegetable oil margarine, specially softened for spreading purposes. The State governments introduced laws preventing the use of any colouring or flavouring and requiring the product to be labelled ‘consisting of 90 per cent tallow’ and heavily labelled ‘for cooking purposes only’.
Sir John Cadwallader is a great believer in political influence. He has engaged the services of the former Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales, Mr William Chaffey, as his political lobbyist and his principal instruction is to save the quota system and William Chaffey has virtually never left Parliament House in New South Wales since he resigned. The position has become urgent for them since the Commonwealth Agricultural Export Committee produced a green paper recommending that the quotas toe abolished.
Sir John Cadwallader has succeeded in tying up practically every State Minister for Agriculture in Australia. He is virtually known as a roping expert. He would win a roping contest at the Mount Isa, Katherine or Warwick rodeos. He is an expert and I am going to fill in a nomination form for him when these rodeos are next held. Through these State Ministers for Agriculture he exercises control over the decisions of the Agricultural Council on margarine quotas.
Sir John Cadwallader also owns the poultry industry. He has achieved this through a monopoly of the production of meat meal which is an essential poultry foodstuff. The price of meat meal has been increased from $80 a tonne to almost $300 a tonne in recent months. The result has been that, no fewer than 6 increases have been granted by the Askin Government in the price of eggs in the past 18 months, the latest being as recently as yesterday. The poultry industry expects eggs to sell at $1 a dozen soon. They already cost 92 cents a dozen. Sir John Cadwallader also has his tentacles in the frozen chicken trade, from the time they are in the shell until they are sold at prices dictated by him. He also controls most of the processors of frozen chickens. So when the housewife goes into the supermarket or chain store and buys bread, margarine, eggs or chicken, it is fair to surmise that she is paying tribute to Sir John Cadwallader.
By removing the quotas on margarine the manufacturers would be able te meet an unlimited demand and offer it for sale at truly competitive prices and the housewife would gain the benefit of the reduction in the cost of living. These are facts that I have researched myself. I can swear to their authenticity. I believe that men of this type should be exposed throughout the length and breadth of the nation.
– The honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) has made a very emotional attack upon Sir John Cadwallader. Suffice it for me to say that Sir John Cadwallader is a very respected figure in industry in New South Wales. He does not need me to support him. What emerged from the speech of the honourable member for Hunter was of course his attack on margarine quotas. The simple truth is that the one company which wants the margarine quotas destroyed, a company which obviously has the support of the Australian Labor Party, as was shown by the speech of the honourable mem ber for Hunter, is Unilever Australia Pty Ltd, a multi-national company. It is the only company that is really interested in the destruction of margarine quotas because it has about an 11 per cent interest at the moment. It knows that if it can destroy margarine quotas a truly Australian company like Allied Mills Ltd could be smashed and destroyed by undercutting. Such companies would be eliminated and there would be an opportunity to charge monopolist prices. That is the simple truth of the matter and the honourable member for Hunter knows it. He is supporting a multi-national company by his attack on margarine quotas.
Having dealt out short shrift to the honourable member for Hunter I turn to another matter of more importance to my constituents in Gippsland. I refer to the recent visit by Senator Brown as the representative of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) to Orbost, Lake Tyers, Nowa Nowa and Bairnsdale. The purported reason for the visit was to inspect the flood situation. I understand that the honourable senator has made a submission about the floods. I hope he has done so, but nothing has come out of it as yet. The second reason for his visit was to represent the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Senator Brown met Aborigines in Orbost, Lake Tyers, Nowa Nowa and Bairnsdale. He has been preceded by previous Ministers for Aboriginal Affairs who have made the same tour. I recognise that it is a very attractive area of Australia and I can understand the desire of Ministers to use a big Commonwealth car to traverse to the mountains, have a look at the lakes and meet the very congenial and hospitable people of Gippsland. The previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs undertook that trip, as did his predecessor, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). There is one difference about the visit of the honourable member for Mackellar. Everything that he said that he would do he did. That distinguishes it from the visit of the present Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant) when he was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
When he came to Gippsland we had a meeting at Orbost at which the main complaint lodged by the twenty or thirty Aborigines present at the shire chambers was the lack of housing. The Minister said - genuinely I think - that that was easily fixed. He said: ‘I have $11 3m to buy houses for you people. All that I need is a way to spend it*.
Being a very prompt and thoughtful member of Parliament I immediately proposed that the Aborigines present should submit their names to the shire secretary. I would take the list to Canberra, give it to the Minister and he would approve of the finance and send the money down to them. They would then get houses. The same procedure was followed at Bairnsdale. Sad to say, nothing was done. The Minister was sacked. Whether his intentions were good or bad we are not able to find out. The simple truth is that nothing was done.
The new Minister for Aboriginal Affairs passed the buck to the Victorian Government and it has gone backwards and forwards. Finally Senator Brown visited the area a couple of weeks ago and it is to that visit that I want to draw the attention of the House. Senator Brown followed the same course as that taken by the Minister for the Capital Territory, who is now at the table. Senator Brown was also alarmed at the state of the housing in the area. I hope that on this occasion something will be done about it. At the meeting at Bairnsdale about thirty to forty people attended including the local newspaper representative, who wrote a story about it. He will bear witness to what I am about to recount to the House. During the course of a long tirade lasting about forty to fifty minutes Senator Brown directed his remarks mostly to the alleged failure of the previous Government to do anything for Aborigines. Honourable members should remember that on that same day the honourable senator had launched his attack on Marshall Green, the United States Ambassador. He was probably under some pressure. He did not really know whether he would have any support in the Labor Party, apart from any coming from the left wing, for his attack on the Ambassador. He was probably a bit nervous. He was certainly uptight and I understand that he was a bit crabby at the meeting.
When the honourable senator finished his attack on the previous Government Mr Phil Pepper, a well respected and well known Aboriginal and a great friend of mine, got to his feet and started to rebut some of the points raised by Senator Brown. He pointed out that Senator Brown had been incorrect about when Aborigines got the vote. Senator Brown had said that if it had not been for Labor Party pressure Aborigines would not have had the vote a few years ago when they did receive it. Phil Pepper said at the meeting that his father had voted in 1908. Senator Brown replied by saying: ‘Look, if Aborigines had a vote in 1908 I will give SI, 000 to any charity you like to name. If I am wrong, you give SI 00.’ Phil Pepper agreed with this. He thought it was fair enough. He rang me from Bairnsdale the next morning and I said: T am sure they had a vote a long time ago but I am not sure of the year. I will check up.’ By the time I got through to the Department, Phil Pepper had driven all the way to Orbost - 60 miles - to see me about this serious matter.
In 1855 Aborigines got the vote in Victoria so Senator Brown was a little bit out. Friday was the day on which Senator Brown was making his attack on Marshall Green in Melbourne and it may be because of that that he has not replied to a telegram I sent him but I am not sure. But he certainly received the telegram because he let me know at the parliamentary luncheon that he was not too pleased about the whole thing. I think that his colleagues in the Labor Party ought to know and Senator Brown ought to know that we expect him to pay up. I sent him this telegram.
Have confirmed that Aborigines have had the vote since 1855 in the State of Victoria and logically from 1901 for Federal elections. Mr Phil Pepper has nominated the Save the Children Nowa Nowa Fund -
That is the local Aboriginal fund - to be the recipient of your thousand dollars offered at your public meeting in Bairnsdale on Tuesday night and witnessed by the local newspaper. I would urge that you expedite payment of this matter otherwise your integrity and honesty as a senator for Victoria will be under challenge.
Sad to say, there has been no response on this offer of $1,000 from Senator Brown. Mr Speaker, I know that if it were you who had made the offer, you would have a cheque in the mail the next day.
– I know that you would. I even think that the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant) sitting at the table would have sent down a cheque. He is a man of integrity and honesty. He might be genuinely misled about matters and he might promise things he can never deliver. Perhaps he has spent his money unwisely on turtle farms and a few other things but on this occasion I think that he would at least paup like a man of honour.
I have raised this matter because there have been 2 visits to this area since the change of government. One was made By the Minister for the Capital Territory who is sitting at the table. He promised homes that were never delivered. Now, we have had a visit from Senator Brown. He arrived in a big Commonwealth car with a staff and everything. That was something I was never allowed to do when I was a backbencher. He was representing the present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh). He made an offer to pay $1,000 to a named charity if he were wrong. I think that the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson), the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross), the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin) sitting on the back bench, the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), the Minister for the Capital Territory who is sitting at the table and even the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) would pay under these circumstances. I do not want the Aborigines in Gippsland to be disappointed any longer by the Labor Government. First there was the matter of houses. Now there is this matter of integrity. I want honourable members opposite to take up with Senator Brown the need to pay this $1,000 urgently if he has hot done so already.
- Mr Speaker, I have 2 minutes in which to deal with the remarks of the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon). Firstly, I state that Senator Brown can handle the matter raised by the honourable member for Gippsland for himself. But Aborigines throughout Australia received voting rights at different times. For instance, they received voting rights in Queensland only in recent years. So that point can be argued. The question of housing for Aboriginal people in Victoria has been bedevilled by the incapacity of the Victorian department concerned to come to the party with facts and figures. I think that the ‘best thing I can do in this matter is to have something prepared by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) setting out the procedures that are adopted, the number of nouses to be built and the reasons why those operations that we embarked upon or attempted to embark upon in the honourable member’s area were not carried out. If honourable members refer to Hansard of 11 October 1973, they will notice the difference between the number of houses embarked upon by the various States and that the ration for which Victoria asked was minimal indeed. One of the great difficulties in Victoria was dealing with the rather intransigeant Government down there.
– First if you please, your $1,000.
– I will deal with the turtles at a later time. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) launched the project. The previous Government put about $400,000 into it. It took us 10 or 12 months to salvage the whole situation after their rather eccentric approach to these matters.
-Order! It being 11 p,m. the House stands adjourned until noon tomorrow.
Mouse adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following treaties were deemed to have been presented on 30 July 1974, by command of His Excellency the Governor-General:
Treaties which have entered into force and to which Australia has become a party by signature:
Exchange of Notes between Australia and the United States of America constituting an Agreement concerning the disposal of United States Government excess property in Australia, signed at Canberra on 9 November 1973.
Exchange of Notes between Australia and the Netherlands amending the Agreement for the Establishment of Air Services of 25 September 1951, signed at Canberra on 5 October 1972 and 24 October 1973.
Agreement between Australia and Canada in respect of the Future Operation of the Trade Agreement of 12 February 1960, signed at Canberra and Ottawa on 24 and 25 October 1973.
Agreement concerning the Voluntary Contributions to be given for the Execution of the Project to -Preserve Borobudur, drawn up at Paris on 29 January 1973 and signed for Australia on 6 April 1973.
Agreement between Australia and Sweden on the Exchange of Senior Labour Market Officers, signed at Stockholm on 6 June 1973.
Trade Agreement between Australia and the German Democratic Republic signed at Berlin on 28 February 1974.
Exchange of Notes between Australia and Canada constituting an Agreement amending the Agreement for Air Services of 11 June 1946 and cancelling the Exchange of Notes of 16 March 1951. The Notes were signed at Canberra on 15 March 1974.
Arrangement regarding International Trade in Textiles drawn up at Geneva on 20 December 1973 and signed for Australia on 9 April 1974.
Exchange of Notes between Australia and Laos, constituting a further amendment to the Agreement of 24 December 1963 concerning the Foreign Exchange Operations Fund for Laos, signed at Vientiane on 30 April 1974.
Statute which has entered into force and to which Australia has become a party by acceptance:
Statute of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, drawn up at The Hague on 31 October 19S1 and accepted for Australia on 1 November 1973.
Treaties which have entered into force and to which Australia has become a party by ratification or accession:
International Sugar Agreement 1973, drawn up at Geneva on 13 October 1973 and signed and ratified for Australia on 19 December 1973.
Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms against Unauthorised Duplication of their Phonograms, drawn up at Geneva on 29 October 1971 and acceded to by Australia on 12 March 1974.
Treaties to which Australia is considering becoming a party by ratification:
Agreement between Australia (acting on its own behalf and on behalf of Papua New Guinea) and Indonesia concerning Administrative Border Arrangements as to the Border between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, signed at Port Moresby on 13 November 1973.
Agreement between Australia and Japan for the Protection of Migratory Birds in Danger of Extinction and their Environment, signed at Tokyo on 6 February 1974.
Treaties which have not yet entered into force and to which Australia has become a Contracting State:
By signature, without reservation as to ratification: Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat, drawn up at Ramsar (Iran) on 2 February 1971 and signed for Australia at Paris on 8 May 1974.
By accession: Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties drawn up at Vienna on 23 May 1969 and acceded to by Australia on 13 June 1974.
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:
On the expenditure side there are, of course, a great many decisions made by the Government in the course of framing the Budget and during the rest of the year. It would not be practicable to identify particular expenditure decisions and say that they derived directly and only from material provided in the Coombs Task Force Report.
On the revenue side, I refer the right honourable member to the list of proposals in the 1973/74 Budget Statement No.5, pages 84 and 85. Footnote (a) of the Statement indicates that each of the proposals to which the footnote refers was the subject of a separate Item note in Part III of the Coombs Task Force Report. The table shows the estimated increase in receipts in 1973-74 and in a full year for each proposal.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Are there any Departments or statutory authorities with overlapping functions.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question isas follows:
The question of functional relationships between Australian Government departments and between departments and other agencies was discussed in my Robert Garran Memorial Oration on 12 November 1973. As I then indicated, the Government has moved in the direction of organising departments on a functional basis, distributing responsibility in groups which are as homogeneous as possible. This has led in part to the amalgamation of some Departments. As I also indicated on that occasion, however, the Government has greatly increased its sources of policy advice by the creation of such bodies as task forces and commissions. Beneficial results have flowed from the interaction between the traditional Public Service departments and these new bodies.
asked the Minister for Overseas Trade, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Inquirers have sought a wide range of information, including details of the Australian market for specific products, the names of suitable importers, customs and quarantine requirements, and the advantages to be obtained from Australia’s system of tariff preferences for developing countries.
asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
What was the number of:
– I am informed that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
What percentage of wages and conditions matters before the Public Service Arbitrator and to which the Public Service Board was a respondent were resolved by consent during 1972-73.
– I am informed that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Between 1.7.72 and 30.6.73, the Public Service Arbitrator and his Deputies handled 141 matters concerning wages and conditions of employment to which the Public Service Board was a respondent. Of these, 118 (or 83.7 per cent) were settled by consent.
It should be noted that in these statistics multiple determinations concerning the one subject have been created as one matter. For example, there were 21 separate determinations issued up until 30.6.73 dealing with the implementation of the 1972-73 National Wage Case. These, which were issued following arbitration, are treated as one matter.
asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
What was the result of the study carried out in his Department to compile and assess material relating to household expenditure.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Responsibility for the official collection of information relating to household expenditure is vested with the Australian Bureau of Statistics. On 20.3.73, the Treasurer announced that he had authorised the Commonwealth Statistician to proceed with the development of a full-scale survey of household income and expenditure patterns. On 18.6.74 the Treasurer further announced that following completion of development work a major sample survey of households in all capital cities would begin the following day. The Australian Bureau of Statistics expects to publish preliminary survey results later in 1975, about three months after the completion of the collection period for the first survey. From the point of view of my Department the results of this survey will be an invaluable source of information for use in submissions to industrial tribunals.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) The establishment of an office of economic and social research incorporating a bureau of industrial information within the Department of Labor and Immigration is under consideration by the Government.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
In what ways has the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories charter and activities in the Australian market for ethical drugs been expanded since 2 December 1972.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories charter and activities in the Australian market for ethical drugs have not been expanded since 2 December 1972.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Is it the Government’s intention to establish an advisory council on drug use problems.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Yes. A National Drug Advisory Council will soon be appointed to provide a forum whereby a wider cross-section of the community may become involved in influencing people against drug abuse.
asked the Prime Minister upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Will he discuss with the Presiding Officers of the Parliament a change in procedure to have them host receptions in Parliament House for official visitors to Australia.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 July 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19740730_reps_29_hor89/>.