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 GovernorGeneral:
My family and I were deeply moved by the resolution adopted by the House following the death of my wife, and I should be grateful if you would kindly convey to all honourable members of the House of Representatives our sincere appreciation.
– I move:
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death on 26 September 1974 of the Right Honourable Sir Eric Harrison, K.C.M.G., K.C.V.O., a member of the House of Representatives for the Division of Wentworth from 193 1 to 1956, and during this time a Minister of the Crown, Acting Prime Minister, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Resident Minister in London and then from 1956 to 1964 High Commissioner for Australia in London; and that it places on record its appreciation of his long and distinguished public service and tenders its profound sympathy to his widow and family.
The Right Honourable Sir Eric John Harrison, K.C.M.G., K.C.V.O., was Australian High Commissioner in London between 1956 and 1964, when he retired. He was Vice-President of the Executive Council, Leader of the House of Representatives and Minister for Defence Production from 195 1 to 1956. He was made a Privy Councillor in 1952. He was the member of the House of Representatives for the Division of Wentworth in New South Wales for a very long period-from 1931 to 1956. In 1956 he retired to become Australian High Commissioner in London.
Sir Eric Harrison was born in Birmingham. He was educated at the Crown Street School in Sydney. He saw service throughout World War I in the Australian Imperial Force- from 1914 to 1918. During World War II he was a captain and liaison officer to the United States forces. He was Minister for the Interior in 1934, Minister without portfolio in 1938 and 1939, PostmasterGeneral and Minister for Repatriation from 1939 to 1940, Minister for Trade and Customs from 1940 to 1941, a member of the Economic Cabinet from 1939 to 1941 and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia from 1944. He was Deputy Leader of the Opposition from 1944 to 1949 and Minister for Defence from 1949 to 1 950. That is a very long parliamentary career.
Anyone who knew Sir Eric Harrison knows that he was an exceedingly competent parliamentarian. I was a member of this House for a short period when Sir Eric Harrison was here, and I got to know him as a most effective Leader of the House and a most effective debater who was vigorous but who had a sense of humour that was apparent in everything that he did. He was one of the most competent leaders of this House that have been here during the 19 years I have been a member. He was much senior to me but I found him to be a person very easy to get on with and one with whom it was easy to talk. I watched him at work, often picking up ideas about how he went about his job.
Beyond his work in the House I hardly knew him, but I should imagine that his good nature and his awareness of how to deal with people would have stood his in good stead wherever he was. I found him to be a most likeable person. Later, whenever he returned from London, it was easy to take up with him again as though it had been almost the other day that one last saw him. The House will feel the loss of Sir Eric Harrison considerably. I express my sympathy to his widow and family and to all those who have had high regard for him.
- Mr Speaker, the death of Eric Harrison has left members of the Liberal Party in a state of great sadness, because Eric Harrison had a very special place in the memory of the Liberal Party especially, of course, the Liberal Party in New South Wales. Eric Harrison lived to an old age. Unfortunately Eric was rather ill during his last few years and was unable to pursue ordinary communications with other people as he had done in the past- communications which other people so enjoyed and which Eric also enjoyed. At a young age he went off to the First World War. He distinguished himself as a soldier during that war. After his immediate war service finished he engaged in sport. He represented Australia in servicemen’s sport in England after the war. He returned to Australia where he took on rowing. He distinguished himself in that sport as one would expect a man of his physical toughness and his mental toughness to do, because rowing is a sport that requires both those attributes, which he possessed and he showed them.
He then went into business and succeeded in business.
He entered the Commonwealth Parliament, as one would have expected, as a crusading breaker of the system. He came in as an Independent. He came in as a Liberal, but not at that time with the endorsement of the Party. He won because the people of his electorate recognised that he was a strong man, a man who had a lot to give and a man who would represent his electorate and build for himself a career in the national Parliament where he could contribute to the welfare of the Australian people. They are the circumstances in which he entered Parliament. In political terms Eric Harrison was very much in the mood of our political philosophy of today, namely, where the individual is entitled to be considered predominantly above the interests of the State, that the State exists to serve the interests of the individual and to create the environment for the individual to prosper and be able to fulfil himself as an individual on the basis that successful individuals will make a successful community, and that the community, from the success of individuals, will be able to do those things which it wants for the poor, the sick, people overseas and so forth. That was the sort of attitude that Eric had. He had a vigorous, independent state of mind and was a great supporter of individuality. He certainly showed very great individuality himself in everything he did.
He was the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party. He was a co-founder of the Liberal Party back in 1944 and he contributed to the building of that Party at all times on the basis of total loyalty given to Sir Robert Menzies who was in the true sense the political founder of the Liberal Party. But Sir Robert Menzies needed great support from his political colleagues in the Parliament and he needed immense support from the organisational groups representing different points of view and different attitudes which had to be brought together. Eric Harrison played an immense role in doing that. His contribution to the stability of the parliamentary system that we have today- the system of a government side and an opposition side- can only be measured by those who lived at that time and who saw his contribution. Those who entered the Parliament a little later, as I did, found that his contribution was still well-known and still well accepted.
He was a Minister. He served very well as a Minister. His record as an administrator is a fine one. It does him great credit. It is great credit to the memory of the man. I was elected to this Parliament in December 19SS and took my seat here in the first session in 1956. When I came in,
Sir Eric Harrison was Leader of the House and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party. I remember the warmth of his welcome and his determination that the ‘young fellows’ as he used to call us, who came in at that time, knew what it was all about, knew what the Parliament was about, knew how to conduct themselves, knew how to behave and knew how to avoid, as he used to put it, ‘a clip across the ear’. He thought that that was the way people would learn. If a person spoke out of turn it was necessary that that person, to use his term, be given a clip across the ear so that that person understood and knew the error and did not repeat it.
He had all new members into his office. He spoke to them. He wanted to know what personal problems and what electorate problems they had and sought to determine how he could help them. He gave instructions to the Government Whip of the day that young fellows with difficult electorates were to be considered favourably in terms of leave and that young members of Parliament who were wanting to exit from their business or professional careers or, if possible, to maintain their professional careers should be given assistance to do so. I benefited very much from the decision in that respect by Sir Eric Harrison. His instructions to the Government Whip helped me as I continued a law practice in those days.
Sir Eric Harrison was a tough man as anybody who was in the House in his time knows. He was an extraordinarily strong debater, given to the use of very many colourful phrases. He was a hearty man who, after the debate, would be able to join in a joke and in friendship with those whom he had vigorously attacked for their attitudes in the preceding debate. As Leader of the House, he ran a strong, tight House. He knew what numbers were and he used the numbers as necessary. But he always enabled the Opposition of those days to have debating time available to it to express its point of view, as is proper. He always did that. He was a man of great humour. He was very self-assured. He was a warmhearted man. I think he has been described as a strong-willed, bluff man who liked people and whom people liked. As his final public service he was High Commissioner in the United Kingdom. Many members of the House visited the United Kingdom while he was there and knew the warmth of the welcome he gave, his knowledge of the British scene and his capacity to put people in touch with those with whom they wanted to talk. Thus they were able to inform themselves, through him and his staff, in the best way possible so that they could derive benefit from their visit to the United Kingdom.
Sir Eric Harrison had a tremendous career; a tremendous career of contribution to Australia’s political and national development. I think I could truly say that anybody in this House who can emulate the contribution that Sir Eric Harrison made has the right to feel truly proud of himself. I am proud that I served with Sir Eric Harrison and that I remember him so well. He was a very great Australian. His family, in thenbereavement, and especially his wife, Lady Harrison, can feel that this House understands the contribution he made and will forever honour him for it.
– The Country Party joins with the Acting Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in expressing the deepest sympathy to Lady Harrison and her family. The Country Party long recognises Sir Eric as one of its great colleagues, both in Government and in Opposition. He was a man who had steadfast principles. He believed in conservative politics. He made a tremendous impact in pursuing his political beliefs. He had left Parliament by the time I arrived, but he was a very close friend of my late father and in his presence I once had the opportunity of meeting Sir Eric. I recall him as being a towering political figure. He was quite renowned throughout Australia as a great debater. He made his greatest political contribution, I would think, during his period in Opposition from 1941 to 1949, when he and a small handful of other men did their job very faithfully and with great dedication as members of the Opposition. He was a great Australian in serving his country in war, as a Minister, as a parliamentarian and as an ambassador. He was a robust debater. He loved Parliament. His contribution will be long remembered. He set a fine example to all of us as parliamentarians and we are pleased the he is remembered with the esteem that has been expressed today.
-Sir Eric Harrison was a very great friend of mine. Our friendship commenced in about 1930, at a time when I was living with a relative who was then one of the senior vice-presidents of the Nationalist Party and subsequently became a junior vice-president of the United Australia Party.
I well remember one of Sir Eric’s campaigns. At the time I was an articled clerk to a solicitor who finally sought and contested the seat of Wentworth but was defeated for the election by
Sir Eric Harrison. That is one of the memories I shall always have because of my interest in that election and the fact that I knew 2 men who I believe were among the great Liberals I have known in my parliamentary life. He was a very great friend of mine in another sense. During the time I have been the member for Lowe and while he was in Parliament he opened every election campaign for me. We had many memorable meetings. I can remember one with Billy Hughes and Dick Casey, when we were elected with a very big majority and I increased my vote substantially for the first time. But my most pleasant memory of him is of an occasion when I was responding in the House to Dr Evatt on the Communist Party Dissolution BUI. I well remember Eric coming up and saying: ‘ Can I ha ve a squiz at your notes for a minute’? I said: ‘Yes, you can, Sir’. I do not think I would have called him sir; I probably called him Eric. With that he tore them up and his comment was: ‘You are no bloody good reading speeches. Make it up. Let it come from the heart and it will not be long before you are in Cabinet’. So it happened that that night Sir Robert called me out of the House and said: ‘You are the next one in there,’ pointing to the Cabinet Room. That is one of my memories of parliamentary life and Eric Harrison that I will never be able to and will never want to forget.
I served with him for a little more than 5 years in the Cabinet itself. I well remember him as Minister for Defence Production. At that time I was one who thought we had to get the maximum efficiency with the lowest cost. The fights we had as to whether we would buy on the cheapest market or produce through Australian industry were arguments that had to be listened to. He never hesitated to disguise his feelings. He let you know what he thought with precise and more than adequate language.
You know, Sir, that in debates in this House when he debated against the late Eddie Ward neither of them stayed within the bounds of relevance, and they were the only people I knew whom that very great speaker, Archie Cameron, ‘ tolerated in their defiance of the Standing Orders relating to relevance. He permitted them to get stuck into one another in as hard, as tough and as ruthless a fashion as they were capable of doing.
As I said before, he was also a very great friend. Whenever you were in difficulty, having problems of a Cabinet kind or associated with the Party you could be absolutely certain you could go to Eric and present your point of view in order to ensure that in the upper reaches of the hierarchy your view would be known and would be listened to a little more attentively than your importance in the Cabinet system justified at that particular time.
I think it is worth while remembering that he was probably the only member of Cabinet who was appointed on a year’s sabbatical leave a resident Minister in London, accepting the responsibilities of the Australian High Commission in its relations with the United Kingdom Government. I learned then, as I learned subsequently during his tenure of the High Commissionership, that he had, and was probably the only person we had appointed who had, immediate access to Ministers of the United Kingdom Government. If you were in Great Britain, or even in Australia, and wanted advice, he would arrange immediate contact with the relevant British Minister and usually give you a reply immediately. I will always remember him, as I remember his first wife, with affection. I also remember Lyn and his 2 daughters. I shall always think of them with great affection too. They are people of charm and of good will, who are eternally friendly and anxious to help if they are given the opportunity to do so.
I finish on this note: He was a very great friend of mine. I might not have been here without him, although I hope I did a little to ensure my own position. If you had a quarrel with him the quarrel was forgotten the next day. He was then happy, bright and discussed problems with you in a robust manner, told you where you were going wrong and told you where you were going right. I must confess that his death has been a blow to me. I sincerely hope that Lyn and his family will ease their burden by remembering him as a great man. They can have comfort from the part that he played not only in the Liberal Party and the United Australia Party but in the destiny of Australia as well.
– Very briefly, I wish to be associated with the sentiments that have been expressed from both sides of the House. My first association with or memory of the late Sir Eric Harrison goes back to 1931 or 1932, long before I entered politics, when he was a notable member of the United Australia Party, as I think it was then. My first recollection of him was at street meetings in Spring Street, Bondi Junction, with him on one side of the road and Eddie Ward on the other. I think the highest compliment I can pay him is to say that he ranked with Eddie Ward as probably one of the great street orators, in particular, of our time. Of course, he gave better than he got. There was also great rivalry in this Parliament between them. In every way he was a redoubtable opponent both in the Parliament and on the public platform outside.
He was the first Leader of the House and it may please honourable members opposite to know that I have adopted many of his tactics. As the Leader of the Opposition said, these tactics were received by the Opposition with acclaim because of the justice that was associated with his administration. I always remember that one of his common expressions when Leader of the House was: ‘I will trade a horse’, and the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) knows that I do that quite often. In addition Eric Harrison did not appreciate it when Reggie Pollard used to stick his pipe in the inkwell as divisions were called in this Parliament. I do not smoke but I am told that this practice does a dreadful thing to one’s pipe. Eric Harrison always took umbrage at this practice when divisions were called and he and Reggie crossed to the other side of the House.
Later on Eric Harrison became Australian High Commissioner in London and I, with other members of this Parliament enjoyed his hospitality and talks. In every way he was a grand representative of this country abroad and he set an exceedingly high standard there as he did in the Parliament. As other honourable members have said, he was a tough political compaigner who gave better than he took. But one could never take exception to his conduct afterwards and the manner in which he put his case forward. I can remember too that he was one of the billiard companions of the late Billy Hughes. He was a regular billiard companion mainly because I think he let Billy Hughes win as Billy did not like to be defeated. I think that the late Eric Harrison was a very charitable sportsman in that respect. But it was a common occurrence to see them trading punches, as it were, in the old billiard room.
I just very seriously pay my tribute to a distinguished foundation member of the Liberal Party for his work in this Parliament, for his work abroad and his general service to Australia. With his passing a link with the past, from the depression days to this great age, has gone. In every way it is a sentimental moment for this Parliament to record the passing of one who served this Parliament and his Party generally with such distinction at home and abroad. I place on record my appreciation of the friendship we enjoyed and the association I had with him. I extend to his wife and family my deepest sympathy.
-May I as the present member for Wentworth and on behalf of my people extend to Lady Harrison and her family our deep sympathy on the passing of Sir Eric. Having heard the tributes paid by other honourable members I regret that my youth did not permit me to know him. As has already been said, he was the member for Wentworth from 1931 until 1956 when he became the Australian High Commissioner to London. He gave 25 years of great service. He is remembered by the people of his electorate for his independence of spirit, his devotion to their welfare and the great kindliness and friendliness with which he performed his duties. Some honourable members may recall that he held the electorate of Wentworth comfortably on all occasions but one. In 1943 he was challenged by the redoubtable Jessie Street and the then youthful but as always independent William Charles Wentworth. Despite such opposition he was able clearly to confirm his majority.
He is known to those who knew him as a man of integrity, loyalty and faith. I can find no better words to pay tribute to him than those used by Sir Robert Menzies when Sir Eric resigned from this House. On that occasion Sir Robert said:
He is a true man of singular character and of great straightforwardness, as we all know- never concealing a view and never going round a corner to say what he might have said face to face. He is a man of utter integrity. I am sure that I speak for all honourable members when I say that he carries with him our great respect, our affection and our good wishes.
The electorate of Wentworth joins in paying tribute to a fine member and a fine Australian.
-Mr Speaker, as one who entered the 19th Australian Parliament in 1949 to be welcomed by the Leader of the House at that time, Mr, later Sir Eric Harrison, I would like to add my words to what has been said today. Sir Eric Harrison was a constituent of mine at the time of his death and a personal friend. I endorse all that has been said about him, including the references to him as a debater in the House of Representatives and a campaigner in political campaigns. Mr particular reason for rising to say something today is that over recent years I visited him in his home at Castle Cove in New South Wales and at the Willowwood hospital where he was a patient, and the House would like to know of the great personal loyalty and devotion of Lady Harrison that I saw on those occasions. I mention this because in this case it was most marked and most constant. Many of his friends in this House who knew that I was in touch with her and with him from time to time inquired after him and his health. His illness was long and, having reached the great age of 82, he passed away. Yesterday in St James Church in Sydney, where so many distinguished members of this House were present, it was a wonderful experience to see and hear great tributes being paid to him. I should like to add my name to the names of those paying tribute here today and to make reference to this devotion and dedication to duty of Lady Harrison.
– My respect for Lady Harrison obliges me to join in the tributes to the late Sir Eric Harrison. I agree with the Leader of the Australian Country Party that Sir Eric Harrison was a man for opposition. It always appeared to me that he enjoyed opposition very much more than he enjoyed government. I was not quite sure whether he took government in the sense of policy statements very seriously, because he had been in Parliament for a long while, he had been through the Depression. I think he had seen every party in the Parliament reverse its position and he once commented to me on this. Although he often pronounced very confidently on policy, I do not think he always took it seriously. But what he did take seriously was Parliament itself. I think he had a tremendous respect for the institution, a tremendous respect for its significance. If 1949 was a vintage year that brought a particular quality of thinking into Parliament, quite definitely 1931 was another one. He belonged to the change in the Parliament which took place during the Depression and he dated back to that period. He had a very great respect for the late Jim Scullin, a former Prime Minister who was still in the Parliament when I was first elected. I always found Eric Harrison a seemingly tough opponent, but in fact a very warm-hearted and courteous man in personal dealings and it is impossible to remember him with other than affection. I do not think that anything he said in criticism was either intended to be or was hurtful. I believe he was a man who played the game of politics completely and singularly without venom and that was something that was conveyed to one even if he was criticising your position. It is a very great gift and it is one that he had.
-I would like to be associated with this tribute to Sir Eric Harrison and to extend sympathy to his family. I did not know him personally in the early days, the turbulent days of the All for Australia League, and the time of the formation of the United Australia Party; but I knew of him, for nobody who lived in those times would have failed to know of him. I knew him both as an opponent in a by-election and as a colleague, and in both capacities he was tough and straightforward because that was the way Eric Harrison was. Everybody who knew him will remember him in those terms. From 1949 onwards he brought to this House a great deal of his own character and I think he was responsibe for a great deal of the ethos of this House. In the days after 193 1 he was one of the people who pulled Australia out of that terrible depression which some of us remember with so much disquiet. I would like to associate myself with this motion, to feel that I can say of one who was at some time an opponent that I found him a friend in this House, and I feel a great deal of loss at his passing.
– I think this is the first time I have ever risen to speak on an occasion like this, but I do so for the reason that I believe that the passing of Sir Eric Harrison, a man of great distinction and a great parliamentarian, is something which ought to be commented upon by those who knew him well. When I first came to the Parliament we had a different Parliament from the Parliament we have now. There were not so many academics in the Parliament of those days and most of the great parliamentarians of those times were noacademics. I think Sir Eric Harrison was a nonacademic. The great names of the Parliament were names like Larry Anthony, Robert Menzies, who of course was an academic, and Billy Hughes, who somehow seemed to get a QC-ship. Earle Page was a medico. John McEwen was a great parliamentarian who was not an academic. Eddie Ward, probably the greatest of all parliamentarians- in my time, anyhow- was not. Les Haylen was not. Then, of course, we had Ben Chifley and Tommy White. All these men were great parliamentarians. So too were Archie Cameron, Arthur Calwell, and Percy Clarey, who resigned his presidency of the Australian Council of Trade Unions to come into this Parliament. Other great men of the Parliament included Artie Fadden, Reg Pollard, Dick Casey, Percy Spender, Harold Holt and Paul Hasluck. That Parliament was a very great Parliament indeed. Men like Eric Harrison helped to make it great, as did those whom I have already mentioned.
I am very glad indeed that the honourable member for Mackellar was defeated when he stood against Sir Eric Harrison, because I might not have had the pleasure of knowing Sir Eric Harrison had the campaign waged against him by the honourable member for Mackellar succeeded. One of the allegations that used to be heard nearly every week when the House was sitting was the charge by Eddie Ward that Eric Harrison was a member of the New Guard. I do not think it was ever proven. Sir Eric denied it always- sometimes not terribly convincingly, but nonetheless he did deny it. But the only time Ward upset Eric Harrison was when he used to call him ‘the dog walloper’, which no one, excepting the two of them, seemed to understand. I asked Ward to confide in me as to what he meant by the term ‘dog walloper’. It appears that at one time Sir Eric Harrison was employed as a shop walker, and Ward thought it appropriate that he should be called a dog walloper.
He was a great Leader of the House- the first Leader of the House. Perhaps it was unfortunate for some of those who followed that he was such a good leader. It is unfortunate for those who followed that we now have the only other man who I believe was better than Eric Harrison as Leader of the House. Both are very much of the same mould. Both would smile as they stuck in the knife and almost ask: ‘Isn’t it lovely? Doesn’t that feel good?’ As one looked at them one could not help but smile and say: ‘Yes, it is beaut. Do it again tomorrow’. They would always oblige. Sir Eric Harrison loved a fight here. He was a good debater. It did not matter how hard anyone hit Harrison, he never once asked for an apology. He never asked for one; I do not think he ever gave one. Eddie Ward- ‘Wardy’ we all called him- was the same. They could give punishment, serve it out, but they could take it. That is what I admired about both those men. They were tough debaters. They said tough things to other people but they accepted tough things being said against them. Harrison was that sort of man. I admired him as a parliamentarian. Naturally I was distressed by his policies, but he was nevertheless a great parliamentarian.
-I, too, would like to be associated briefly with this motion. Sir Eric Harrison was one of those men who once met would never be forgotten. I knew him when I was a school boy. It was in part from my association with him and Lady Harrison that I became interested in politics. Sir Eric was an individual who brought to the parliamentary system and to history a meaning to one who at that stage viewed it rather dispassionately and who thought that history was something to be read in books. In a condolence motion of this sort I think it is important for those of us who are parliamentarians to realise that it is through the person of such men as Sir Eric that this land of ours has been developed and the parliamentary traditions have been evolved.
I knew Sir Eric after his days as a parliamentarian and on the eve of his appointment as High Commissioner to London. Even of that appointment it is true that he represented a different age of parliament and a different age of politics. But whatever the events of his life, he acquitted himself well in them all. I knew Lady Harrison perhaps better than I knew Sir Eric. She was an outstanding individual who helped him considerably during the years of his term as High Commissioner in the United Kingdom. I know that she was a great comfort to him in the recent years of his illness. To Lady Harrison, to his children and to Judith, his step-daughter, I would like to extend my personal sympathy.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honourable members standing in their places.
– I thank honourable members.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation, as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
Whilst the Australian Government is granting freedom and independence to Papua and New Guinea, the once free Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are occupied by the Soviet Union and their citizens are continuously and brutally deprived of personal, civil and religious freedoms. We humbly beg to draw the attention of the House of Representatives to this fact and ask that the matter be raised in the United Nations by the Australian Government. The annexation and incorporation of the Baltic States by the Soviet Union has not been recognized by any Western democracy, including Australia. We beg the House of Representatives to continue such nonrecognition and to disallow any steps by Australian Government which would amount to recognition of aggression.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Snedden and Mr Wilson.
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:
Child endowment received by families has declined relative to average earnings so that today it is about 20 per cent of its value in 1949.
The Interim Report of the Australian Government’s Commission into Poverty recommended a substantial increase in Child Endowment as a way of alleviating poverty.
This report pointed out that increased Child Endowment deserved priority and would be advantageous to the community in the long run.
It specifically recommended increasing child endowment from50 cents to$ 1.50 for the first child; from $ 1 . 00 to $2 . 00 for the second child ; from$2.00 to$4.00 for the third child; from $2.25 to $7.00 for the fourth child; and to $8.00 for subsequent children.
Your petitioners humbly request that the Government increases Child Endowment in the September Budget.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Holten and Mr Mathews.
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 existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McLeay and Mr Wilson.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That up to ten million people are said by the UN Secretary-General, Mr Kurt Waldheim, to face death by starvation in the Sahelian region of Africa and that as a result of this drought, many nomads are being forced to give up their traditional way of life, and
That the resources of the Governments of this region are inadequate to cope with either the immediate or long-term needs of these people.
We your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge that the Australian Government grant both immediate emergency aid to a value of at least ten million dollars and continue to assist in the long-term agricultural and social development of this region.
And that it take a leading part in initiatives to set up a World Food Fund and World Fertilizer Fund at the World Food Conference this November. by Dr Cairns.
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 although the pension has been increased by $ 1 . 50 the high cost of living has effectively made this increase worthless, consequently special actions are considered to require urgent Australian Government action.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that a Nationalized Government and Private transport system be established. that Pensioners transport be made free within the Federation where the Government has constitutional powers. to make all Government and Private transport free within the Federation to Pensioners and all other underprivileged members of the community,
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrCrean
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 undersigned men and women of Australia believe in a Christian way of life; and that no democracy can thrive unless its citizens are responsible and law abiding.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will see that the powerful communicator, television, is used to build into the nation those qualities of character which make a democracy workintegrity, teamwork and a sense of purpose by serving, and that televison be used to bring faith in God to the heart of the family and national life.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Sinclair.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the Undersigned, being citizens of Australia, respectfully showeth:
That we strongly oppose The Family Law Bill 1974, which is being introduced into our Federal Parliament by The Honourable The Attorney General, Senator Lionel Murphy, because of the absence of protection for the human family in its natural and traditional constitution as the basic unit, the ostensibly permanent unit of human society.
We oppose the Bill because of the omission of a clearly defined clause like that which is incorporated in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and which declares that both men and women shallhave equal rights in marriage and that Parents shall have the right to choose their children’s education.
We oppose the Bill which is accredited to Senator Murphy, because either of the parties to a marriage, if the Bill becomes law, will have no defence, i.e., no legal objection, to a divorce which might be desired and instituted by the other party. In this conception of law, there is no justice, no humanity, and no recognition of the traditionally accepted standard of marriage and the Family, but there is a tremendously noticeable backward step in the civilisation of Australian people.
Whilst we oppose the Bill for abovementioned reasons, we see it as expressing the views of an individual, or the views of a minority of citizens or their Representatives, instead of the views of the majority of Australians. Therefore, we beg the rejection, and not the passing of this Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Kevin Cairns.
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 ( 1 ) We are strongly opposed to any reduction in the present 24 month separation period requirement now to be fulfilled prior to the date of commencement of the hearing of an application for the dissolution of a marriage.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will amend the proposed Family Law Bill in accordance with the points contained herein.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hodges.
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:
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 per cent of the cost of educating children in government schools, thus enabling the nongovernment schools to continue to exist and fulfill their function of educating Australian children.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Mathews.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed Universal Health Scheme is essential to the well being of all Australians, in so far as it will:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will hasten to introduce this much needed scheme so that health care services in Australia can begin to function equitably, efficiently, and economically.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: that a fundamental principle of a fair taxation system is that any form of double taxation should be avoided;
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the law be amended to allow tax-payers to deduct from income, for income tax purposes, all rates and taxes paid by them in respect of their primary home or land bought for the purpose of building thereon.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Wilson.
– I inform the House that the Treasurer, Mr Crean, will be absent from Australia from 27 September until 14 October attending the 1974 annual meetings of the Boards of Governors of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank which are being held in Washington. In his absence the Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden, will act as Treasurer. The Minister for Science, Mr Morrison, will be absent from Australia from 1 October until 7 October attending the South Pacific Conference in Raro tonga. In his absence the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, Dr Cass, will act as Minister for Science.
The House has already been informed that the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, will be absent from 27 September until 13 October on his visit to the United States of America, Canada and Fiji. I will act as Prime Minister until my departure for China on 4 October. The Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, will be Acting Prime Minister during the remainder of the Prime Minister’s absence.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the threat made by a Minister to a private member, as recorded at page 1728 of Hansard of 24 September 1974, be referred to the Committee of Privileges on the ground that it is a serious invasion of the right of members to speak freely in this House.
– My question is addressed to the Acting Prime Minister. If I might have your indulgence, Mr Speaker, I congratulate the Minister for Overseas Trade on attaining the post of Acting Prime Minister, which is an honourable one.
– Thank you.
– I ask: Did the Acting Prime Minister say last Friday that the Labor Government had acted wrongly in removing the superphosphate bounty? When will the subsidy be restored, to provide some relief from the extraordinary cost pressures that are built up on rural industries and to help to build up productivity in this vital economic area?
– Yes, I did say that. My own view is that this could have been handled better. (Opposition members interjecting) -
-A11 right. I do not see any point in saying one thing when one believes another. It is a practice around here, I know. I believe that there was very great justification for changing the way in which the superphosphate bounty was provided because well over 60 per cent of what was paid in that respect went to very few users- about 20 per cent of the users- and it was not getting through to where it was most needed. Because of that situation there was a very strong case for changing it. The matter has been referred to the Industries Assistance Commission and in due course- I hope it will be soon- a report will be available. The Government will then act, taking into account the advice that comes from the Commission. I think that the amount of time which necessarily will be taken by the Commission in handling this matter is an indication that the change cannot properly and quickly be made. I hope that we are in a position to be able to consider the matter before long.
-My question to the Acting Treasurer deals with a consultative committee on insurance. In a question to the Treasurer in July I asked whether, in view of the changes that could well follow the adoption of the Woodhouse Committee report the Treasurer would consider the establishment of a consultative committee to advise the Government on the effects which its initiatives might have on the insurance industry. Can the Acting Treasurer tell me whether consideration has yet been given to this matter?
-On behalf of the Treasurer I can advise the honourable member and the House that it has been decided to establish 2 insurance industry consultative committees, one for the general insurance industry and a similar committee for the life assurance industry. This decision has been taken in the light of the importance of insurance in providing protection and security to millions of Australians and, thereby, contributing to the effective working of the economy. The importance of insurance requires that the Government should be concerned both with the supervision of the industry in the interests of the community and also in being fully informed of the possible effects on the insurance industry of any proposed Government initiatives. It is proposed that the Treasurer will, from time to time, seek advice from the committees on matters related to current or prospective insurance legislation or on policy proposals by the Government which have significant implications for the insurance industry. The committees will also provide the industry with more formal machinery than has hitherto existed for informing the Government of its views.
It is intended that the committees will be standing committees and their members will be chosen by the Treasurer for their knowledge of the insurance industry. It is hoped that the various associations representing the insurance industry will assist the Treasurer in determining the members of the committees. The first matter on which it is proposed to consult with these committees is in relation to a full assessment of the implications for the insurance industry of the scheme outlined or contained in the National Compensation Bill to be introduced shortly by the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. The Woodhouse scheme clearly has significant implications for the insurance industry and it is important, both for the industry and for policy holders, that the nature and extent of such implications be understood.
– I address a question to the Acting Prime Minister and refer to his statement on Sunday evening urging Australians to produce their way out of inflation. Is the honourable gentlement aware that the whole basis of the Budget rests on the premise of a reduction in private sector activity? Is he also aware that no productivity incentives were contained in the Budget and many measures were directed against productivity? Further, is he also aware that under this Government real investment in manufacturing industry has fallen below the level established in 1964-65? Does he understand that the private sector has long since become tired of his expressions of sympathy for the plight of that sector which derives from the policies of his Government? Specifically and finally I ask: Is it not high time that the honourable gentleman, as a senior member of the present Administration, has the guts to put up or shut up on matters of central economic policy and matches his kind words with real and definitive action?
– I was under the impression that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had been saying for a long time that I had far too much to do with central decisions on economic policy. The Opposition and the Press have been having a lot of fun lately playing me up in contrast to other members of the Government, so the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, as usual, wants to have it both ways. I think he will find that in the end he will have it neither way. The question presupposes that we are going to have a debate on the Budget here and now. I do not intend to follow that course. I want to answer questions as briefly as possible, particularly when there is little in them. The question from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is based on a premise that he knows to be wrong. Press releases by both the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition recently have shown how wrong they are. The Budget is not based on the assumption that there will be a reduction in the private sector. Indeed, there will be an increase- and a significant increase- in the private sector. In fact, both gentlemen whom I mentioned have been saying that recently and have been saying also that the Government is in fact budgeting on a continuation of inflation and a continuation of the expansion of the private sector, which is a contradiction of the basic premise on which this question rests. I do not think the matter needs to be taken any further.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Environment and Conservation. I refer to reports in which it is stated that the Australian Government is to hold a public inquiry into the environmental effects of the establishment of the Redcliffs petro-chemical project in the Spencer Gulf area of South Australia. Can the Minister give any indication as to when it can be anticipated that the committee of inquiry will complete its investigations? For what period will the inquiry delay the intention of the South Australian Government to introduce indentures to cover this project? Can the Minister elaborate on the Press statements that have been given out?
– Last week, I had discussions with the Minister in South Australia responsible for this matter, Mr Broomhill, and we agreed that there should be a public hearing. It will commence soon after the report being prepared by the consortium on the environmental consequences of the proposal is made available to the South Australian Government and this Government. The public hearing will last for a couple of weeks and its report will be available in time for its implications to be considered by the South Australian Government before it presents the relevant bill to the South Australian Parliament.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister: In view of the undertaking by the Prime Minister before the United Nations General Assembly this morning that Australia will play its pan in helping to tackle the world’s food problems and will assist in the establishment of an international system of grain reserves, and in view of the statement by the Acting Prime Minister relating to the Government’s mistake in removing the superphosphate bounty, will the Acting Prime Minister impress upon his colleagues the importance of providing appropriate incentives and encouragement to Australian farmers to produce food and to increase their productivity, and the dangers that opposite action will have? Finally, will the Acting Prime Minister at least support a general referral to the Industries Assistance Commission of the application to have the superphosphate bounty reinstated in preference to the narrow selective application which is before the Commission at the moment?
-In relation to the latter point, I think that the Industries Assistance Commission, in terms of the present referral, can give the Government a full range of advice- all that it needs- in order to make a proper decision in this matter. I agree with the emphasis given by the Prime Minister in his speech reported this morning to the role that has to be played by food producing countries, of which Australia is one of the leading nations. I think that there is a tremendous future especially in the production of proteins in Australia. There are years of setbacks and there are years of boom. But, if one considers the trend over a period, that trend is going ever upwards as the standard of living of 2,000 million or 3,000 million people around the world rises rapidly. This is a characteristic feature of modern economic history and undoubtedly Australia has a great future in expanding its production of foodstuffs, especially proteins.
In this development, it has to be realised that primary production these days is essentially a high capital industry. The problems of primary producers are essentially and primarily the problems of getting enough capital to get going the operation that is necessary today. It is no longer possible on a small scale basis in any area. We have unfortunately in Australia many producers still who are trying to operate on a small scale capital basis.
– It is getting harder every year for them.
-Of course it is. Therefore, the economic forces about which I am talking are the forces which are changing this situation. I believe that the Government has a responsibility to assist this change and to provide encouragement for investment for technological progress that will achieve the result that is necessary both in the short run and in the long run. I have never been satisfied with the systems of subsidies and assistance that we inherited from previous governments. As I said in answer to the first question I was asked today, I think there was a very strong case to change that. The only fault I saw in the situation, looking back on it now- it is much easier to be wise after the event than it was at the time -
– We told you at the time.
– The honourable member would have attacked us for anything we did, no matter what it was.
– He would have been right, too.
– The honourable member does not have a greater share of being right than most people, although he acts as though he is right all the time. We have a responsibility to look at constructive measures for assisting the development of technology and capital application in primary industry in this country.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Minerals and Energy! The Minister, in answer to a question in this House, said that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission would, in future, have the responsibility for refining uranium in Australia. Is the Minister prepared to amplify his reply on this matter?
-I will amplify my reply of last week as much as is possible consistent with the submission which is yet to be considered by the Cabinet. To commence, let me stress one fact: By section 35 of the Atomic Energy Act the title to all uranium in the Northern Territory is vested in the Commonwealth of Australia. That was done by legislation of the former Liberal-Country Party government under the leadership of Sir Robert Menzies. It was supported by the Labor Opposition and it remains on the statute book. We intend to exercise that power and in the right of our ownership. In addition, we have control over uranium in the States by virtue of the defence power. There again our overriding consideration, of course, will be to ensure that uranium, when exported, will go only to countries which are fully accessories to and have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The uranium being the property of the Commonwealth, naturally the Commonwealth- if my recommendation is accepted- will establish its own milling plant. I mentioned a figure the other day. No matter what figure is mentioned, it will be criticised immediately. It will be related to the demand which will develop. The figure which I quoted happened to be the figure which was also quoted by Ranger Uranium Mines Pty Ltd. It is in the best interests of uranium that it be milled through one plant; otherwise we would have three or four smaller and relatively inefficient plants in operation.
In addition, I stress the fact that the total expenditure to date on exploration in the Northern Territory by the 4 major companies has been less than $12m. The value of the product involved is more than $7 billion. I note that the metropolitan Press of Australia passed over that figure. It did not want to accept its importance. As a matter of fact, the royalty which is payable under the mineral ordinances of the Northern Territory is of the order of 1 lA%. We will not be accepting that either. We will phase our development of milling to correspond with the market. We are anxious to sell. We are anticipating doing business with the Prime Minister of Japan when he comes here next month. Also we are interested in the remarks made by the Shah of Iran, with which we agree, that in matters of major trading importance we should deal on a nation to nation basis. We will proceed with all expedition to establish that milling plant. It will be operated and controlled by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, which has every possible ability to do so.
– Has the Acting Treasurer seen reports in this morning’s Press of a tax watch on Jews by Commonwealth taxation investigators? Will the Minister have the report investigated as a matter of urgency, and if there is any truth at all in the report will he have all vestiges of this abominable form of discrimination immediately removed?
– Yes, my attention has been drawn to the reports. In fact my attention was drawn to the reports by the Commissioner of Taxation, Sir Edward Cain, who is himself concerned and who has initiated an inquiry. He will be reporting to me later in the day. I would expect that the training manuals, or whatever they are, are of very long standing and certainly were not compiled in the course of this Government’s administration
-Is the Minister for Services and Property aware of the recently released book ‘Looking at Liberals’ in which one of the authors alleges that the Central Intelligence Agency channelled funds to the Opposition during the recent Federal election campaign? Does the Minister have any evidence to support this allegation? Has the Minister ordered an investigation of this serious charge and if not, does he intend to do so?
– I have heard of the publication which was launched in a spectacular fashion by the former Prime Minister, the right honorable member for Lowe. I understand that the allegations that the honourable member mentioned are contained, or are said to be contained, in the book, which I have not had the opportunity of reading. I do not know whether there is substance in them, but it is true that the Liberal Party at the last election obtained up to $2m to $3m from unknown sources in an endeavour to defeat the democratically elected Government. The mystery of those finances is something of great concern.
- Mr Speaker, as a matter of order, the Minister has admitted that he does not know. Why does the Parliament have to put up with his speculations? He does not know, so why must we have the smear?
– No point of order is involved.
– On that point of order, Mr Speaker, would you arrange for some information to be given to the Leader of the Opposition so that he will know what a point of order is?
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker, I think under the Standing Orders questions asked of a Minister must be on something within his administration. This matter is not within his administration and therefore I suggest it is an improper question.
– Order! I do believe it comes within the Minister’s province. Otherwise, I would have ruled the question out of order when I heard it.
- Mr Speaker, on the point of order, could I ask that the attention of the Leader of the Opposition be drawn to the Standing Orders which allow the Speaker to take action against members who raise frivolous points of order?
-Order! I call the Minister for Services and Property.
– My Speaker, as you said, the matter is relevant to my Department and the question of Party funds is a matter that concerns people, particularly if it is said that those sitting opposite did get money from the CIA. In Chile the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation played a prominent part in internal politics. I think there must be substance in the charge because honourable members opposite are so sensitive about this matter. If they have a clear conscience why do they want to stop the question from being answered?
- Mr Speaker, is it true that honourable member received funds from communist sources in Russia? Is it true -
-Order! The right honourable member will resume his seat. I have warned the right honourable gentleman on numerous occasions that he cannot stand up and talk without getting the call. He can only get the call by complying with the forms of the House. The right honourable gentleman must not act in the future as he has been doing. I have asked him on several occasions not to do so.
– I am not attempting to be provocative. The whole matter could be cleared up if the Opposition Parties tabled their balance sheets for the last Federal election. If this were done, we would know. As soon as the Parliamentary Counsel can complete -
– How much did you get from Mundey?
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will cease interjecting.
– I am beginning to think -
– How much from Gallagher and Carmichael? The Communist orthodoxy of this country provided the Labor Party’s funds.
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat. The House will come to order. I will take the appropriate action if incessant interjections come from either side of the House.
– A question of this nature is of importance to the public who want to know whether secret organisations control the destiny of governments or individuals and it is most upsetting when members of the Opposition who evidently have some skeletons in the cupboard keep on interjecting during the answer. Legislation will be introduced into this Parliament as soon as the Parliamentary Counsel can prepare it. I hope that it will be introduced during this session. Indeed I am certain it will be. Under the legislation honourable members opposite and parties will have to reveal the sources of their campaign funds. We will then know whether the CIA has contributed to the funds of honourable members opposite. The right honourable member for Lowe said that he did not know the Liberal Party had received any funds from the CIA. But in view of the sensitivity of the Leader of the Opposition I think it might have got some from that body last time. If this is not the case, why is the Leader of the Opposition so sensitive on this matter? But as I have mentioned, we will shortly introduce legislation into the Parliament which when it becomes law- and the Leader of the Opposition said that he will accept and support it- will give honourable members opposite the opportunity to abandon their sordid past and to go straight by revealing the source of the funds that they have received. That opportunity will be given. I hope I shall be able to introduce the legislation shortly, and when the legislation becomes law we will know just where the CIA funds went.
-Is the Minister for Defence aware that the effective strength of the Australian Army Reserve is now no more than 12,000, a reduction of more than 100 per cent since December 1972, and is falling week by week? When will the Government make a decision on the remaining recommendations of the Millar Committee on the Citizen Military Forces, or what is now called the Army Reserve, a report which has been in his hands for more than 6 months? In particular, when will he announce the Government’s decision on the recommendation that members of the Reserve be paid at the same rate as members of the Regular Army? Will he confirm that it is the intention of the Government to withdraw from the Army Reserve the right to tax-free pay despite the strong recommendations of the Millar Committee to the contrary?
– The honourable member has asked a series of questions about the Australian Army Reserve. He is in a position and has the right at any time to be fully briefed on these matters by officers of the Department of Defence. The honourable member for Barker would know that there has been some reduction in the strength of the Army Reserve, although I dispute the figure which he has given to the House. On the question of the policy that arises from the recommendations of the Millar Committee, he would also know that a number of these recommendations have already been instituted and indeed are now operating. Surely the honourable member for Barker would be in a position to read the Press release which I issued a few weeks ago and which announced an immediate increase of 12 per cent in the salary of those members who are serving with the Army Reserve. The question of a further increase in salary has now been referred to the Committee of Reference, that is, the committee which is established for the purpose of investigating salaries and other conditions of service not only of the Army Reserve but of members of the full time service as well. This Committee now has the matter under consideration and I expect a report to be issued to me in the very near future. The recommendations of the Millar Committee are matters which will be determined as a result of Government policy. I have indicated that some of the recommendations have already been implemented but those which clearly relate to Government policy will be decided by the Government and announced at the appropriate time.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry. Is the Minister aware of the report that the company Pilkington ACI intends to stop glass production for at least 8 weeks at its new Dandenong plant ? When were approaches made to the Australian Government by the company and for what purpose? Is there any action which can be taken by the Australian Government to ensure that there are not substantial retrenchments in this industry?
-The Government is aware of the announced decisions of the company. It became aware of them the day before they were announced in the Press. That announcement, of course, blamed the Government for what the company had decided to do. I saw officers of the company the day before the announcement and at that time, certainly in large measure, they left me with the firm impression that they had over estimated the demand for their product. It is a very odd feature of the decision taken that only a short time before, a few months, that great plant was opened with a very fine ceremony. Indeed, the honourable member who asks the question attended the opening, as did I. Apart from any over estimation of demand and any fault that might be traced to whoever did the market research for the company- on a contract basis, I understand- there is a set of circumstances that obviously affects the decision. We know that there has been a downturn in the building industry and we know that the building industry consumes glass; that downturn has obviously played a part. We also know that imports have played a role in it and we know that until early this year arrangements existed between Pilkington AO, overseas manufacturers and local glass distributors which had the effect of limiting import competition. We also know that the termination of these arrangements brought increased competition from imports of sheet glass, mainly from Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines.
As far as I know, no request has been received from the company for any form of assistance that might well be available to it from the Government. On examination, it could well be that assistance is available from the various schemes that have been set up. For example, any employees who might be retrenched could receive special assistance. They should apply for assistance to the Department of Labor and Immigration. The Industries Assistance Commission has recently reported on the need for assistance to the glass industry and this report is currently being examined by the Government. So there, too, legal powers, legal authority, would exist for action to be taken. As I say, to my knowledge and on the information available to me, no request or application has been made to the Government at this stage.
– My question is addressed to the Acting Prime Minister in his capacity as Minister for Overseas Trade. Is the Minister aware that despite devaluation, imports of many textiles, including some from the United States of America, will still be cheaper than similar articles produced in Australia by firms many of which are decentralised and are also efficient by world standards? What action does the Minister propose to take to correct this position? In the overall textile picture, why did the Government arrange to restrict the level of imports to those of the 12 months ended 30 April 1974 when it is this level which has caused the disastrous damage to the industry? Does the Government have any firm objective as to the level of employment it is aiming for in the textile industry, which it is gradually murdering, particularly in decentralised areas? Is the Minister aware that over 50 countries around the world use a quota system to protect and develop their domestic textile and clothing industries?
– The honourable member is using extravagant language. The Government does not aim to reduce employment in the textile industry. The honourable member’s description is not at all confirmed by the facts. There has been a reduction in employment in the textile industry in a number of areas, but in some of those areas it has not gone beyond the increase that took place in the year before. This includes the area of Wangaratta with which I understand the honourable member is particularly concerned. The Government does not yet know, nor does the honourable member know, nor does anyone know, what effect the depreciation of the currency will have upon imports. It will not have an effect on those imports that have already been ordered, but beyond that it will have an effect. We do not know what the effect will be, the honourable member does not know, and the industry does not know. It will reduce imports and it will give an added measure of protection to the industries in which he is interested.
The agreement made with the countries that export commodities to Australia in the textile and clothing area followed an inquiry by the textile authority. Immediately the report by that authority was presented, the Government acted on it without delay. The period was fixed to the end of April 1974 to meet with the requirements of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. This Government has an obligation to GATT, and I would imagine that an honourable member who is a member of the Australian Country Party would appreciate the reason for that. It is extremely difficult, if we are concerned to maximise our markets for meat and other commodities, with which the honourable member should be concerned, to impose restrictions when at the same time we are endeavouring to open markets that are limited by restrictions against us. It gives the other countries an argument which is exceedingly strong and this Government will endeavour as far as is possible in all circumstances to adhere to the principles laid down in GATT. I would imagine that a party that represents primary producers ought, even more than the Government, to accept that principle.
I am well aware that there are industries in this country that are efficient in the sense that they may produce as much of a physical volume of commodities, of equal value, as those produced by industries in other countries, yet those industries in Australia may not be competitive. I think the better word to use is ‘competitive’, all the time not ‘efficient’. If one says an industry is not competitive, then one does not provoke the kind of dissatisfaction that comes from people who believe, and probably rightly, that the industry is efficient. At any time a government has a responsibility to do what it can to see that the country ‘s industries are competitive so that it does not impose extra burdens upon consumers and taxpayers by tariffs and subsidies. That is a primary responsibility, and if it is necessary for us, as it is necessary, to maintain employment in areas where there is no employment, then I think it has to be done by more direct measures. As I said the other day when announcing the depreciation of the dollar, I hope that this will have the effects of stabilising and possibly increasing the level of activity of the industries in question. If that does not result, the Government will be prepared to consider more direct measures of assistance to them.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Can the Minister indicate what steps are being taken to provide further employment in Western Australia, particularly in the Perth area?
-The honourable gentleman and many other honourable gentlemen from both sides of the House have been very helpful in bringing forward proposals for completion under the Regional Employment Development scheme. The honourable member who just asked the question has already spoken with me about a plan by the Town of Canning for some local initiatives program. The RED Ministers have already met to discuss the proposition. The honourable gentleman will be pleased to know that they have given immediate approval to projects involving $75,000, employing 27 men, and that on Wednesday they will be looking at the other 2 projects submitted. I must compliment the Town of Canning on the excellent manner in which its projects were set out. All the material needed for a quick decision was provided and that is why a quick decision was given. I would like to pay special tribute to all those honourable members from both sides who have come to me personally and who have assisted in giving information to enable RED Ministers to approve the projects. The Ministers have agreed that, once a project is approved by the Ministers tentatively, the Ministers will ask- or I will ask on behalf of the RED committee- the local member, from whichever side of the House he may come, to have a look at the scheme. If he is satisfied that the scheme is one deserving of support then the final approval will be given.
– Can an honourable member propose a scheme?
-Yes. We will be glad to receive proposals from honourable members.
– Even if it is in the city?
-Provided it is in a region of high priority. The honourable member for Cowper has been particularly active and has been very helpful indeed in bringing proposals to my notice. I would like to thank him. Any honourable member who has as part of his electorate an area that has been declared a high priority area may either come directly with the proposition on behalf of the council or assist the local governing body concerned. We want the local member in the area affected to be satisfied that the scheme is worthwhile before we will approve it. All schemes will be sent to local members for their comment.
-My question which is directed to the Acting Prime Minister is a follow-up to the question by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Did the Acting Prime Minister say on Sunday night: ‘You can’t cure inflation in any situation by causing your economy to contract’? Does the Acting Prime Minister deny that the economy has already contracted to a serious degree? In view of this grave contraction, when may the people of Australia expect to hear details of the vague policies the Acting Prime Minister foreshadowed relating to productivity, investment, technological advance, exports, unemployment and unused capacity?
– The matters that the honourable member mentioned in respect of policy are matters that he would know require work before appropriate action can be taken. This has been under way. When the Government is in a position to announce effective policies on the matters that the honourable member has mentioned they will be announced. The contraction that it taking place in the economy today is a contraction that always takes place when a peak is reached, and much of what is happening today is as a result of the normal contraction of the economy that must take place. This situation has occurred on many occasions before. As distinct from the role taken by a number of our predecessors who were not as much concerned about unemployment as we are, our reaction is to moderate the contraction as far as possible and to take positive measures to see that employment is maintained. A government comprised of honourable members who now sit on this side of the House will never accept a policy of unemployment- mass unemployment or any other sort of unemployment- to deal with any economic problem.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. Will the Minister inform the House of progress made in the construction of the natural gas pipeline from the Cooper Basin to Sydney?
– Good progress is being made. As at 23 September the following work had been finished: Cleaning and grading of 118 miles of the route; trenching of 81 miles; hauling and stringing of 75 miles; welding of 53 miles; and backfilling of 35 miles. The sector that is the responsibility of the Pipeline Authority- from the Cooper Basin to Wilton- should be ready in a matter of about 104 weeks from now. That will be in accordance with the timetable. This work is of the utmost importance.
If honourable members refer to a minute that I tabled on 1 August of a discussion between Sir William Pettingell and Dr McFadyen, the head of the Fuels Branch of my Department, they will find set out the whole of the economics of the pipeline proposal. Far from being a pipedream, it is a very necessary job for the economy of the Commonwealth today. In fact, the cost of the whole transcontinental pipeline will just about equal the import cost of fuels. Australia at present is dependent to the extent of only about 7 per cent on natural gas as an energy source. For comparable countries the figure is 21 per cent. We can achieve that with the construction of the pipeline. In so doing we will reduce by over $400m the total cost of the imported fuels.
– For the information of honourable members, I present 2 reports prepared by the Industries Assistance Commission entitled ‘Woodworking and Metalworking Machinery’, dated 28 June 1974, and ‘Glass Fibre Rovings and Chopped Strand Mat’, dated 3 1 July 1974.
-( Lalor- Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Overseas Trade)- For the information of honourable members, I present the first report of the Australian Council for the Arts, January to December 1973.
– Pursuant to section 52 of the Commonwealth Teaching Service Act 1972-1973, I present for the information of honourable members the Commonwealth Teaching Service annual report for 1 973.
– Pursuant to section 5 of the States Grants (Technical Training) Act 1971-1973, I present for the information of honourable members a statement of payments authorised under the Act during the financial year 1 972-73.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests:
Wool Marketing (Loan) Bill 1974.
Wool Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 5) 1 974.
Wool Industry Bill 1974.
Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill 1 974.
Wheat Products Export Adjustment Bill 1 974.
Wheat Export Charge Bill 1974.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr Speaker.
-Does the right honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do. In answer to a question asked of him this morning, the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) referred to the fact that I launched a book in Melbourne on Sunday and to that pan of the book that referred to the possibility of the receipt of funds from the Central Intelligence Agency by the Liberal Party. It is obvious that neither he nor the honourable gentleman who asked the question has read the book. If they had, they could not possibly have either asked or answered the question. Mr Aitchison, in the closing passages of his book, said that when he was in the United States he heard that the CIA might possibly have made contributions to Liberal Party funds. He made no statement at all to the effect that it had received any such contributions.
– I did not get any.
– I am rather happy about that. Naturally enough, I was telephoned early in the morning on the day the book became available to the Press and the media, and I pointed out that the book had been written some months ago- certainly it had been completed more than four or five months ago, although additions might have been made since then. I said on television and on radio on several occasions that I could speak with some authority about the 1972 election campaign but not the 1974 election campaign. I said with authority that no moneys were received or could have been received from the CIA and that if an attempt had been made to pay the moneys they would not have been taken by the Liberal Party, that is by any organisation of the Liberal Party. I went on to say that, whilst I could not speak with authority as to the 1974 campaign, I had discussed the matter with representatives of the Liberal Party and I equally had been assured that under no circumstances would CIA funds be accepted by the Party.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Asian Development Fund Bill 1974.
Broadcasting and Television Bill 1974.
Papua New Guinea Bill 1974.
Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Bill 1974.
Wool Marketing (Loan) Bill 1974.
Election Candidates (Public Service and Defence Forces) Bill 1974.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The need for the complete withdrawal of the Government’s proposed surcharge on property income.
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 thenplaces)
-The surcharge on property income- the Spigelman tax- announced by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) on 1 7 September is a viciously inequitable proposal that is not only anti-social in its impact but also economically damaging in a time of serious cost inflation and falling investment. The application of this new tax would be contrary to the principles of equity and fairness which ought to be a feature of new taxation initiatives. It discriminates against those persons in the community who are unable to market their own labour. Those people are not the capitalists of Australian society; they are- in the main- the retired, the aged, the handicapped and those in ill-health. Many of those who are liable to this tax have invested a lifetime of savings to supplement inadequate pensions or superannuation payments. To describe such a tax as an ‘unearned income tax’ is as unjust as it is misleading. This tax is principally a tax that is directed against thrift, incentive and initiative in the Australian community.
The Australian public is becoming increasingly tired of the Government’s meaningless platitudes about social justice. We were told by the Treasurer that the Budget was designed ‘to make Australia a fairer society’. That statement has been accurately described by the President of the Australian Council on the Ageing as ‘meaningless’. The fact is that the average Australian family man has been deliberately programmed to accept a reduction in his real income this year. The minimum wage earner will increase his real earnings by only 1.6 per cent during 2 full years of Labor administration. Pensioners and superannuitants are literally being forced to the breadline by inflation, income tax and now by a super tax on their small dividend incomes. Mr Whitlam’s fine words are no comfort to these people. The decision to impose the tax was predictably leaked before the Budget, like most other features of that now discredited document. It apparently was dreamed up in the Prime Minister’s office to give the impression that Labor was endeavouring to soak the rich but this facile and ill-conceived propaganda strategy has been unmasked. For the rich the new surcharge will be nothing more than a minor annoyance but for the low and middle income earners the tax will be a severe handicap.
The Opposition parties have brought this debate forward today to make it clear to the Government and to the public that our view is that the proposal for the proposed tax should be completely abandoned. We are completely opposed to it; so is the country at large. In government we would never introduce a tax of this type and one of our first steps when returned to government will be to abolish the tax forthwith.
The proposed tax is wide ranging in its application. It includes dividends, rent, interest and royalties. It covers personal incomes, partnership incomes, unit trusts, trusts and trust estates. Nearly all Australian taxpayers are liable.
There is no justification on revenue grounds for the introduction of this surcharge. It is incredible that a government which has effectively increased income tax by 95 per cent in 2 years should now be seeking new sources of income. It is indefensible in circumstances where the massive tax burden is playing a major role in boosting the pressures of cost inflation. The surcharge will raise $35m during 1974-75. A significant proportion of that $35m is to be taken from Australia’s low and middle income earners. This revenue is being siphoned off from Australia’s small investors to contribute to the Government’s lavish spending but, of course, money is no object to this Government which is happy to see over $16 billion spent during 1974-75.
– It is throwing money around with a shovel.
– As my colleague reminds me, the Government is throwing money around with a shovel. In terms of equity, there is no justification for this tax. A significant number of people in the community rely to some extent on investment income. The fact is that low income earners, superannuitants, pensioners, widows and children without parents rely substantially on investment income to maintain their standards of living. To impose a super tax on those groups in the community, who generally are at a comparative disadvantage is totally without justification. The absolute inequity of the proposed tax was graphically illustrated on an open letter to the Treasurer written by the President of the Australian Council on the Ageing. This Council represents more than 900 organisations in Australia. I seek leave to have a copy of that letter incorporated in Hansard
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Dear Mr Crean
On the evening of Tuesday, 17 September, when you introduced your Government’s Budget for 1974-75 you stated that its proposals were ‘designed to advance our programmes and to make Australia a fairer society’.
To the hundreds of thousands of aged and older people in Australia for whom financial security is becoming increasingly more illusory, to whom salary and wage adjustments and indexation are not applicable, for whom inflation is aggravating the stresses and disabilities of the ageing process itself, your early Budget speech observation held some promise.
But, however promising that observation may have appeared at the time, to any one of 1.3 million men and women over pensionable age in Australia and the more than 600,000 people who are within, say, five years of it, your subsequent announcement of the Government’s proposal to impose a tax surcharge on income received by individuals from property rendered your statement of intention to make Australia ‘ a fairer society ‘ rather meaningless.
The uneasiness and sense of insecurity suffered by aged and older people in receipt of what in these days of inflation are- for all but a very few- only modest incomes, have become aggravated by the fear that their diminishing financial resources are to be still further depleted by deliberate Government decision.
This fear will only partially be removed if, as now reported, your Government and the Parliament decide that the proposed surcharge on taxation of income derived from the property should not be applied on taxable incomes below S5000 per annum.
Indeed, retention of the tax on incomes above $5000 in order to secure an additional $25m only in estimated budgeted receipts of $ 15,000m would reflect, surely, a political rather than an economic decision and one leaving any claim of fairness more than suspect.
As if to rub salt into the wounds of older people, the Budget speech suggests that the decision is justified because the income of an individual from property is ‘unearned ‘ income.
Perhaps in retrospect, it will be agreed that the choice of the word ‘unearned’ was unfortunate. It has provoked angry response and engendered deep emotional resentment.
It has bought bewilderment, sadness and confusion to those aged and older people who, by personal and sustained effort and thrift, have sought to convert to capital their savings of a lifetime from the income they earned in salary, wages or small business operations from the earnings of small amounts invested from time to time over many years; from the investment of a profit made on the sale of a home that has become too large and difficult to manage; from the realisation of assests no longer relevant to the needs of age but useful as an additional income resource against frailty or possibly infirmity, and against the growing impoverishment of inflation.
To the thousands of such people in Australia, the suggestion that their income in ‘unearned’ adds insult to injury. Each of these people in his or her own way has made a lifetime contribution of work and tax; each has ‘earned’, or been compelled by circumstances to accept, retirement.
To the extent careful management of their affairs during their working lives has enabled then to provide personally for that retirement and, thereby, avoid claims for Government support, they have achieved a measure of independence that many others have not deemed it important to achieve.
Surely, as a principle, thrift and the self discipline necessary to make if effective, should attract incentives and not be made to suffer disincentives.
Surely it was not intended that the Budget should penalise those aged and older people, and people approaching retirement, for whom the only means of minimising the effects of inflation now and in the future, and of meeting costs occasioned by the inevitable decline of faculties and capacity for independence, lie in maximising the earning capacity of their assets.
Surely the Budget was not intended wittingly to discriminate as between, on the one hand, those older people who have elected, or by force of circumstances were compelled, to plan, save for and manage their own source of income in retirement and, on the other those, perhaps more fortunate, older people whose conditions of employment in their working lives have provided superannuation sufficient to satisfy all the needs of their retirement.
This discrimination will persist even if it be decided to exempt incomes up to $5000, $7000, $ 10,000, or whatever, from the surcharge.
Annual superannuation or pension payments of these amounts are not uncommon. Increasingly, company superannuation funds and Government funds are moving towards providing for higher superannuation reflecting a percentage of salary in the later years of a career. Increasingly such funds are planning for inbuilt hedges against inflation in retirement.
Surely it is not suggested that a market gardener, builder, doctor, pharmacist, solicitor, architect, farmer or small grocer who, by careful management and improvement of assets built up in a lifetime, and their conversion- on which a capital gains tax could be payable- to income producing property, not requiring continued personal exertion or direct involvement, and returning say $8000 annually, should pay more tax than a retired company executive or public servant, in receipt of superannuation of the same amount.
Without seeking to take- or make- too fine a point, just when is income ‘unearned’? On the face of it, the Budget assumes it is when derived from such property as mortagages, rents, debentures, share dividends etc.
If this be so, by what principle has it beeen established that when the income earning assets are owned by the individual deriving the income such income is ‘unearned’, but when similar sons of assets are owned by the superannuation board, or fund, and income derived therefrom is paid to the superannuated member it is ‘earned ‘.
Incidently, will a superannuation fund be paying capital gains tax, supertax, or other tax on its business?
In passing, it could be observed that the individual who has, by his own efforts, built up his own source of retirement income of say, $8000 per annum, when faced with a need to buy and sell assets as a means of increasing that income to meet inflation, will need to continue, even as he ages further, to manage his assets and pay the capital gains tax where appropriate.
His net position and the problems of management will occasion him more concern and cost than would be the case if his $8000 annually were paid from an approved superannuation fund with his superannuation adjusted from time to time to counter the effects of inflation.
Whatever be the amount of income below which it is decided surcharge on property income will not be applicable, the tax will remain discriminating- almost punitive- in its effect.
It may well prove to be self-defeating and counter productive if its imposition encourages individuals, as it may well do, to so order their affairs as to avoid the surcharge and at the same time look to a pension, free of means test, to counter the effects of inflation.
If, at the same time, the source of some, at least, of the capital which Australia so badly needs, and which Australians are exhorted to contribute, should progressively diminish, no one will benefit- least of all governments, taxpayers and business.
Perhaps, worst of all, older and aged people as a group, growing in numbers within the community and as a proportion of total population, may well be discouraged from maintaining an active and constructive role in the community. To the extent older people of ability, experience, and means, become cynically convinced that any effort expended in maintaining a level of income to match their desired level of community service input, will be subject to special and discriminatory Government penalty, they will become less disposed to share the burdens of their group and more inclined to leave the carriage thereof to others.
Surely what remains of this unfair and selective tax should be abandoned altogether.
-I thank the House. I quote part of that letter as follows:
The uneasiness and sense of insecurity suffered by aged and older people in receipt of what in these days of inflation are- for all but a very few- only modest incomes, have become aggravated by the fear that their diminishing financial resources are to be still further depleted by deliberate Government decision . . . as if to rub salt into the wounds of older people, the Budget speech suggests that the decision is justified because the income of an individual from property is ‘unearned ‘ income.
Perhaps in retrospect, it will be agreed that the choice of the word ‘unearned’ was unfortunate. It has provoked angry response and engendered deep emotional resentment. It has brought bewilderment, sadness and confusion to those aged and older people who, by personal and sustained effort and thrift, have sought to convert to capital their savings of a lifetime from the income they earned in salary, wages or small business operations ….
The President of that Council which represents more than 900 individual organisations throughout the Australian community goes on, towards the end of the letter, as honourable members will see from its text in Hansard, to call not for an amelioration of the proposal but for its complete rejection by the present Labor administration, there is no justification for the tax on economic grounds. It will have the inevitable effect of raising rents as property owners seek compensation through increased revenues. The tax will be a further element in the price pushing process in the Australian community. This is a serious consequence in a period of cost inflation, but the tax has equally serious implications for the investment factor. The surcharge will undermine the community’s propensity to save and, equally, to invest. It is, in fact, a tax directed against thrift, savings and incentive. The tax goes to the very basis of Australian investment resources- the savings banks. The surcharge will therefore apply to interest earned on Australia ‘s 1 8 million savings bank accounts in spite of the fact that investors are receiving only 3% per cent interest from their savings.
The surcharge will, in the same way, apply to well over 100,000 small investors in many companies. For the purposes of my argument and for the edification of Government supporters I instance Broken Hill Pty Co Ltd. Of its shares 72 per cent are held by small investors with holdings of between one and 500 shares. When Ministers use BHP as a scapegoat for Australian capitalism they ignore completely the fact that small shareholders own almost three-quarters of that Company with investments of less than $2000 each. The imposition of a super tax across the whole structure of Australian investment will reduce economic growth and create a further barrier to capital mobilisation. I might say in passing that in Australia today there is already a serious problem in the area of capital mobilisation in the private sector. Under this Government’s policies real investment in manufacturing industry has fallen below the level established in 1 964-65. The imposition of a super tax on investment returns will therefore exacerbate an already critical investment decline. In short, the new tax will add to cost inflation and further depress investments.
The Opposition is not prepared to endorse any type of face saving exercise which we understand is now being conducted by the Labor Caucus. Caucus, of course, has discovered the hard political realities of the new tax. Apparently Caucus has decided to exempt all those taxpayers earning less than $5,000 per annum. This is a case of too little too late. The taxation structure of this country ought not be and cannot be determined by what Caucus may regard as the gut reaction. To draw an arbitrary line of $5,000 is totally inadequate when one sees the implication of the tax. An arbitrary exemption of this type meets none of the economic objections to which I have adverted and still includes Australian wage earners earning $1,500 less than the average. The Opposition Parties believe that the surcharge should be abandoned without qualification on grounds of equity and in terms of the economic position that I have put down.
This is not an area for compromise and fencemending operations on the part of the Government. The very principle that so-called personal exertion income should be treated differently is, we believe, repugnant. The whole concept of such a tax is at variance with the findings of international taxation inquiries. Government members may not be aware that the Canadian royal commission on taxation- the Carter Commissionstated quite clearly that every increase in economic power, no matter what its source, should be treated the same for tax purposes.
This new surcharge has been condemned by all sections of the Australian community. The Press has been very quick to highlight the community reaction. I refer first of all to the editorial in the ‘Australian’ on 18 September which said:
The extra tax on unearned income was certainly a piece of peripheral cosmetics introduced into the Budget for union consumption and nothing else. It is a needless piece of petty faction-serving which placates left-wing ideology at the expense of imposing a penalty on thrift and a burden on many people who will least be able to afford it. Just at a time when inflation is eating away the product of investment, people who have retired on their savings will face increased demands from the tax system.
The ‘Australian Financial Review’, on 17 September, in an editorial appropriately entitled ‘Unearned income tax; poor politics, lousy economics ‘ had this to say:
Beyond the very evident political inspiration of the proposed tax on unearned income, it is perhaps more valid for a newspaper anxious to see economic rationality have primacy in policy-making to question whether a tax that will have the ultimate effect of discouraging savings, and therefore investment, has any place in Australian Government.
The majority of the Australian Press, the Australian public and the Opposition Parties want this tax subject to total rejection and not some simple face-saving remedy of the type that we understand is currently before the Labor Party Caucus. We call upon this Government to abandon that tax forthwith, to reject the tax completely and not to be content with a cosmetic, face-saving, half-way house qualification. When the Acting Treasurer (Mr Hayden) speaks in this debate, it will be interesting to know what his personal views are. If we can hear the personal views of the Prime Minister designate, Dr J. F. Cairns, in this House today, let the Acting Treasurer now be man enough to tell us what his personal view is, to indicate to the Australian public what is happening in the Caucus and to be prepared in a statesmanlike way to reject the tax and to take it back to the Cabinet that conceived it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The climate of Opposition has certainly had a healthy effect on the honourable member who has just spoken. I welcome the conversion of the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch), late as it be, to concern for the more needy in the community. I think that there may be a distinction in many ways as to how he would define ‘needy’. I wish to discuss that point a little later. His definition of ‘needy’, in the light of developments which are taking place within the Government concerning the refined details as to how this tax should be administered, indicates that it is a very selective concern and that it is a peculiar description of need in the community.
Let us draw on the historical record to see how much genuineness there is in his assertions of concern about the needy in the community. Why not let us refer to the interim report on poverty in Australia by Professor Henderson. As I have mentioned many times in this House, his report merely states in more detail and in a more up to date way the extent of poverty in Australia which he identified in 1966 in published documents which never once sparked any reaction of concern or any reaction by way of policy amelioration for those people from a succession of Liberal-Country party governments. Indeed, if one looks at the long term position of pensions in this country over that period- I could take an even longer period, but let us keep it to that shorter, more recent period- one finds a disastrous and disconcerting erosion of the pension level in terms of the standard of living it can offer as against comparatively the standard of living being enjoyed in the community, down to about 1 9 per cent of average weekly earnings.
What satisfaction was there for that succession of Liberal-Country Party governments to have confirmed, now that those Parties are in Opposition, by Professor Henderson earlier this year that one person in every five in Australia was poor? What satisfaction was there for the Liberal-Country parties to find out in the breakdown of figures that every second single aged male was poor, that every second single aged female was poor and that one in every three aged couples was poor ? So the situation went. What should be borne in mind now is that we have lifted the pension levels for these peope to at least the poverty level and, in most cases, above the poverty level. That was at enormous cost to the community. That is why we carried out a redistribution of income in the community. Does anyone on the Opposition side quibble with that action? Does anyone protest against the rights that we have established for these people? I relate that as a first issue because the spokesman for the Opposition on economic matters has asserted a concern about needy people.
What sort of needy people will be affected by the surcharge on property income, in the light of developments which my colleague, John Armitage- the honourable member for Chifleyamong others has been responsible for in the course of discussing ways in which the administrative arrangements should be refined, if I can use a euphemism, so that people with a taxable income up to $5,000 will be totally exempt? I point out that, if exemption is to be extended to taxable incomes up to about $5,000, that means an actual income of approximately $6,000. Given that nearly 70 per cent of adult full time male wage earners in the Australian work force earn much less than average weekly earnings and that an actual income of $6,000 a year is above average weekly earnings, we are excluding the great bulk of people in the community. In fact, the figures which have been taken out will show that out of 6 million taxpayers in Australia only about 500,000 will be subjected through this refinement, to the surtax. That is about 8 per cent of total taxpayers. These are the people for whom members of the Opposition are expressing concern. Why did not members of the Opposition ever take action in this House when they were in government for so many years really to display their moral commitment to the needy in the community by acting to reduce the existence of poverty? As a government, they had the opportunity to do so. As an Opposition they could have initiated debate in this House on a number of occasions. But they know that that would have been embarrassing for them. I do not want to delay on that point. I want to go on to argue the justification for the exemptions that are being developed as part of the refinement of this program and for keeping some sort of surtax on property income.
The cost of this tax will not be of the level mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. We have slashed it in half and, because of this adjustment, it will be approximately $25m. But before I go on to the detail of justifying a surtax on unearned income from propery, let us see who among the aged are likely to be subjected to this tax- the people about whom the Deputy Leader of the Opposition spoke mostly. The later annual report of the Department of Social Security at page 141 has a survey of age pensioners from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. I ask honourable members to bear in mind that 73 per cent of people of pensionable age are now receiving pensions. That survey showed that only 1 1 per cent of these people have means as assessed of more than $1,400 a year. In other words, very few of these aged people have much at all in the way of assets. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is proclaiming his concern for the needynot for the people who measured according to some social economic index are clearly needy, but for the sort of people who had privileges in the past. I repeat that the exemption will exclude people with a taxable income below $5,000 from any liability and people with a taxable income between $5,000 and $5,500 will have a partial liability.
What is the case for a tax on unearned income from property? It is quite clear. Income that one earns from personal exertion involves certain outlays. It involves the outlay of personal exertion, whether physical or intellectual. Income earned from property does not involve this. Not the same sort of cost is involved in earning income from property investment as in earning income from personal exertion. Of course, there is the case of leisure forgone. What of the people who have made the great sacrifices about which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition speaksthe people who have inherited great parcels of shares and have accumulated bonus issues of shares from the various industrial organisations in Australia? What sort of exertion was there in getting, say, a two for one bonus issue- which sometimes occurs- or even a one for two bonus issue, if honourable members wish to put it the other way. These are the areas where there is a clear case for a surtax on unearned income from property for high income earners.
On the other hand, if we are to talk about equity, let us look at what we have done in a positive sense to introduce equity in this society. We have been responsible for tax cuts of $500m. The Treasurer has indicated that, if it is appropriate in terms of economic management, next year there will be further tax cuts. Everyone with an income up to $10,000 has received benefits through this tax cut. Let us look at a taxpayer earning $120 a week and with a dependent wife. He saves 9. 1 per cent of his tax- more than $ 1 10 a year. A taxpayer with a dependent wife and one dependent child and earning $100 a week saves $144 a year. A taxpayer earning $100 a week and with a wife and 2 dependent children saves $164 a year- 22.9 per cent of his tax liability. A taxpayer with a wife and 3 dependent children and on the same income saves $184 a year- 28 per cent of his tax liability. A taxpayer with a wife and 4 dependent children and on the same income saves $206 a year- nearly a third of his tax liability. That is the sort of equity we have introduced. It goes right across the board; it benefits all taxpayers. We have taken steps to establish a board to hear claims for exemptions from estate duty where hardship would be created and to hear claims for exemption according to the guidelines which have been outlined by the Treasurer for the matrimonial home for the surviving spouse. Surely these are valuable contributions in the context in which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has been trying to make a case.
We have abolished the television and radio listeners licences at a cost of $70m. How often have we heard from retired people that the absence of fringe benefits that are available to people enjoying the rights under the pensioner medical service is one of the things that they find most irritating, anomalous and unjust? That is an area where there will be no more irritation, no more anomaly and no more injustice. With the introduction of our universal health insurance scheme there will be no need for this sense of discrimination and sense of injustice in that the pensioner medical service is available for some retired people but not for all. Everyone will be covered by the scheme that we have brought in.
What we have also done as a matter of equitythis, no doubt, will cause members of the Opposition to scream because they regard it as further evidence of injustice- is to wipe out the fringe benefits that have been available to the executives of industry in the community. These were costs to taxpayers because tax collections forgone are a cost that other people have to bear.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. Most of the matters to which the Treasurer-designate, or whatever self-styled title he might like to think he has, are completely irrelevant to the matter that is before the Chair. I also take the point of order that the honourable gentleman should tell the people who are listening to this debate that tax is going up 45 per cent.
-On the first point, which was the point of order, the material being used by the Acting Treasurer is relevant to the arguments that were put previously in the debate. There is no substance in the point of order.
– I thought that members of the Opposition would try to prevent a discussion on how we had entered into an area of rackets that they had made available to some of their keenest and most generous supporters. I was making the point- it is directly related- that the whole basis of the case put by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was an argument of equity or justice. I think it is fair to point out that, if we substantially cut tax to increase people’s real disposable income across the board in a progressive and equitable way, we have made a generous contribution. If in the case of the surtax on unearned income from property we have made a major exemption so that only people on higher incomes will be making a contribution, then again we have made a major contribution.
We are talking about roughly 8 per cent of the taxpayers in Australia. I throw out the challenge again: Why did the Opposition, when it was in government, not do something about that greater proportion of the population- 20 per cent- which lived in poverty, suffered it and endured it, for many years while the Opposition was in government? We have done many things in this field and have practically overcome the problem of poverty as measured by Professor Henderson, and with the introduction of guaranteed income will have done so. I make the point that fringe benefits which have been exploited by business in the past are now being closed off. These were costs that the rest of the taxpayers had to bear, because tax collections were forgone in this way so that these rackets could continue.
That sort of cost will be distributed where it ought to be borne-by industry, which in the past has been avoiding this liability. I refer to company cars provided by employers and stocks and shares issued by employers to privileged employees. In addition deductions are no longer allowable in respect of expenditure on such luxury items as club dues, yachts and other boats. This is the sort of injustice, unfairness and inequity that the Liberal and Country Parties protest about. But they never protest against the exposed and denied position of so many people in this community. This position has been tolerated for altogether too long.
Finally, let me take up quickly one matter to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred, namely a deal with the unions in Australia. It is clear that at present one of the major challenges we have is to control cost inflation. It follows from demand inflation which has been brought pretty much under control and which was a symptom of excess liquidity being let loose into this economy by the Liberal and Country Parties in the last part of 1972. It takes time to control these things. But the cost inflation flowed from the demand inflation. Part of the cost inflation is the rate of average increase in wages and salaries, but we cannot ask the trade unions- and 1 would defend their position- to oppose any policy that does not equitably distribute the burden of restraint and self-sacrifice in this community and ask those most able to pay to pay most and accordingly distribute this liability fairly. We have introduced a capital gains tax at half the marginal tax rate so that it is a tax not on inflationary gains but on real gains. That is why we have introduced these other measures about which we have spoken, why we have introduced equity in restructuring the tax schedule and at the same time given increased real disposable income to wage and salary earners in the community. We are quite confident and we feel quite justified in our position on this surcharge on unearned income from property because it relates only to a small proportion of the community which by and large, is often made up of high income earners. In fact, if we break down the figures, we find that it is mostly the very high income earners.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
-What an amazing performance we have just heard from the Acting Treasurer (Mr Hayden). He spoke about poverty. He spoke about many things. But inflation, under this Government, has done more to destroy the small man than it is possible to imagine. Everything he said about poverty confirms every word said and proves every accusation and every charge made by my colleague the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch). The Acting Treasurer talked about a statement made by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage). What then is the purpose of the document that was presented to this House by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) the other evening? I understood that it was a Cabinet document. We then got a statement from a Government backbencher the other night that seemed to counter that document. What is the purpose of presenting it at all? What do government supporters do, write it today, think about it tonight and change it tomorrow? That is the way this Government has been going with its legislation since it took office and I think it proves very clearly that this Budget is a failure, a phoney, a fraud and a farce.
The penalty tax or the super tax on income from property, the capital gains tax- that development gain tax- are part of a monstrous deception that has been imposed on the Australian people. This Government has the gall to tell the Australian taxpayers that there has been a cut in taxation. The Acting Treasurer wallowed in figures. He talked about restructuring the tax scale. I shall cite just a few figures from the Treasurer’s own document. He talked of a tax cut of the measure of $430m or $500m. Yet here in the Treasurer’s own figures it is stated that anticipated revenue from pay-as-you-earn deductions will increase this year by $ 1 ,95 1 m, other taxation will increase by $525m and company taxation will increase by $526m. If that is not fraud and deception I do not know the definition of the words. It is an absolute phoney. With inflation running at an all time high, and increasing, I venture to say that not one Australian taxpayer will pay less tax and that everyone will pay very much more. To add to the Government’s massive confidence trick we now have these vicious new taxes. Surely in our inflationary climate, when we need investment and savings as we have never needed them before, when we need investors in companies to produce rises in productivity and increased employment, and when we need continued investment in housing and housing societies, there can be nothing as damaging and as stupid as a penalty tax on income from property or, as the Government likes to call it, ‘unearned income’. In the same voice government supporters call for an increase in business confidence. What phonies they are. To use a very ‘in’ phrase, what hoo-ha it all is.
This is extreme Big Brother socialism at its worst. The young people who have established a home savings account have already seen thengrant disappear and now they are to be penalised. The Treasury reaps more tax, prices continue to soar and their home ownership prospects disappear altogether. The responsible parents who preserve some savings for a rainy day to take care of unexpected illness or unemployment or even to send a child to one of those despised private schools, are belted for it. The pensioner or the aged person- the Cabinet has not yet told us otherwise- who has a savings account to provide for a decent funeral sees an avaricious government grabbing at his bit of interest. The aged who have saved and invested during their working life to ensure that they will not have to depend entirely on social security payments find the tax man reaping his share, after they have been taxed all the way through their working lives. Those who would start up or build up industry to increase productivity and provide employment, and who seek capital from investors, find that the Government is discouraging and even destroying the incentive to invest. Thrift, initiative, savings and investment are crimes to this Government. They are something to be stamped out. Even a trade unionist who invests in his own trade union society can also get the lash.
This Government, with all its multiplicity of Treasurers, goes along with ad hoc decisions from day to day. It has a lot of spokesmen. We notice that the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant), the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) have spoken on this matter and now the Government has added to its list that all-wise, that learned, that profound honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage). We must be getting near the bottom of the barrel shortly. How on earth can we take this Government seriously when the Treasurer presents a Budget and gives us certain statements and then the honourable member for Chifley, of all people, starts to expound economic measures and Caucus decisions in this House. With all the authority of the back bench we are now told what the position is to be. What can we believe? Is that the official announcement? Does Cabinet make one Budget and Caucus another? Honourable members should remember that it is all right for such changes to be made in the Caucus Room and flung into this House, but if the Senate- the Senate the other House elected by the Australian people- makes one suggestion or one amendment it is obstructionist and unreasonable. What inconsistency?
Does the Government think that by performances such as this it can buy back the confidence lost by people it has betrayed, by putting up the honourable member for Chifley who, among other things, prattled about social justice. He asked whether I believe in it. I will answer him now. If his definition of social justice is rampant inflation, crippling interest and record and untold misery I will have nothing to do with that sort of social justice. That is the result of this Budget and that is the result of this Government. He fooled no one and he won back not a single vote. This is a rotten, wicked, unjust and indefensible tax. It has been condemned by all sections all over Australia. We do not even know yet what the decision is to be. The Treasurer has not made a statement in this House on it. His only statement is contained in the Budget.
This super tax could not have been introduced at a more inopportune or inappropriate time. It is directed against those people who are willing to invest in Australia and Australia ‘s future- that is, if there are any left. This super tax is the height of stupidity and irresponsibility. Instead of fooling around with adjustments, which make the principle no less immoral, it should be abandoned completely and immediately. Take the case of shares in Australia today. If we are to believe the Government and the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) and the Treasurer who say: ‘Invest, there are better days ahead. Salvation is just around the corner’, then on Budget day, valuation day, every share in Australia was at its lowest ebb. So not only is there to be a surcharge on the interest and dividends from those shares, but also every sale will be caught up in capital gains tax when that sale is made.
This Government gets it each way, every way, both ways; the Australian public is getting it no way. In the first place, to bring in a Budget which proposes such things is a totally irresponsible action by the Government. To give an official announcement- I take it it was that- from the back bench about some Caucus change reeks of irresponsibility and mismanagement. That is the measure of the sort of government the people of Australia are getting and will get until they remedy the mistakes of 1 972.
-The honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) seems to be a little uptight. In the House last Thursday night I did mention a recommendationI repeat, a recommendation, and I never suggested otherwise- of a Caucus committee. I emphasise that I stated then, and the honourable members will see that it is recorded in Hansard, that this is still a matter for decision by Cabinet and Caucus. I should mention, as I mentioned then, that before raising the matter in the House I first went to the Treasurer (Mr Crean) and he agreed that I should make that announcement. What the honourable member for Fisher does not seem to be able to appreciate or understand, being a member of a party which was virtually a complete dictatorship for so many years under Sir Robert Menzies and other Liberal Party Prime Ministers, is that this is not a one-man Government. Every member on the government side of the House has a right to partake in policy making. Accordingly, that is what occurred. The Australian Labor Party is a democratic Party, and the people who elected its members know that we go into this Parliament and work hard at policy making. We do not go in and act purely as cyphers as has occurred in previous governments when the Prime Ministers and the senior members of the Cabinet made all the decisions and the cyphers sitting behind them, the marionettes, were simply dangled there without any possible capacity or ability to influence the course of government. That was the case with previous governments; it is not the case with this Government. Furthermore, we are a flexible party which is always prepared to reconsider a decision. We do not stick our heads in the sand and say: ‘Right oh, the decision is made. We will stick by it whether it is right or wrong’. We are always prepared to have another look at a decision.
The tax surcharge on unearned income was first introduced in 1915 by a conservative government. It was abolished in 1954 at the behest of the wealthy supporters of the Liberal and Country Parties no doubt because the costs of campaigns had increased a great deal at that time. It is true that reconsideration is being given to the details of the surcharge so as to ensure that no hardship is occasioned to the aged, the invalid and so on. I think that the principle involved in the surcharge when it was introduced and espoused by a conservative government was that those who earned income through working should pay less taxation than those who earned income without working. That was the simple principle involved but it has been repudiated today by Opposition members. They think it is electorally popular to repudiate it. It is true that consideration is being given to the proposition that people with a taxable income of $5,000 per annum will be exempt from the surcharge and that there will be a phasing out of the surcharge in regard to people receiving incomes between $5,000 and $5,500 per annum. This would exempt some 800,000 of the 1,300,000 taxpayers who would have been affected by the original proposal. A huge heap of letters from people all over the country approving of the proposal I have outlined arrived in this morning’s mail. As I have emphasised, it is simply a proposition at this stage and is subject to a decision of Cabinet and Caucus.
There is a growing body of people today who, because of some windfall of wealth such as being fortunate enough to own rural land which is rezoned for industrial, commercial or housing purposes, to win a lottery or to be successful in speculation on stock exchanges, are able to retire early, thus depriving the nation of their working capacity. In other words, the nation is losing their productivity at a time, as the Acting Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) said only the other day, when it is vital in the interests of Australia that Australia should work its way out of inflation. Members of the Opposition are always expressing concern about cost inflation. Without a doubt, the Government took over a demand inflation situation. We are now getting to the consequential cost inflation era with which we have to grapple. We should not forget that this Government originally took over a demand inflation era from what is now the Opposition. If you cast your mind back you will recall the extreme shortages that existed at that time. Everybody agreed that the economy was grossly overheated and corrective action had to be taken. We had the courage to take it.
The House, and particularly members of the Opposition, should give consideration to the negotiations at present going on between the Government and the trade union movement for a compact of wage restraint. Naturally the wage and salary earner is arguing that if his wage increases are to be restrained so too should unearned profits or incomes made without any personal exertion on the part of the income earner. In other words, the person who works with his hands or his brain for his income considers that it is a reasonable proposition that if he is to be asked to restrain any increases in income that he may receive so too should those who earn income without any personal exertion be restrained in respect of increases in their incomes. That is the basic reason this proposal was introduced. It is a most effective way to introduce restraint on unearned income. It can be argued that a compact should be entered into to restrain increases in income derived from personal exertion because it is vital to get the co-operation of all sections of the community in the fight against inflation. But we cannot expect only one sectionthe wage earner- to bear the brunt of that fight. Members of the Opposition should have a look at themselves. Are they to continue with their advocacy of fighting inflation by hitting only the little people- the wage and salary earners who earn income out of personal exertionand leaving it to the big and powerful alone to exploit the weak?
The honourable member for Fisher and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) referred to the fact that we are calling this Budget a social justice Budget. There is no argument about this. If one looks at the whole content of the Budget one can see that it is a Budget to redistribute resources and to remove poverty. The Budget removes the inequitable poll tax on television and radio licence fees and grants tax relief of $500m for those people in what could be called the lower and lower middle income groups. There is no doubt that the Budget intends- and we make no excuse for this- to redistribute income and to remove poverty. If poverty is to be’ removed the cost has to be met somehow. I repeat for the benefit of the honourable member for Fisher that the Labor movement is a flexible one which is always prepared to reconsider a decision it has reached. The Government is not inflexible. The Government is not going to hide its head in the sand. It is not a one-man government in which, once a decision has been reached, that decision cannot necessarily be varied.
Finally I would ask members of the Opposition to look very carefully at their consciences. Are they going to co-operate in trying to get a compact for wage restraint? Do they realise that this is not a one-way show and that if such restraint is to be obtained it must be shown by them that they also are prepared to restrain unearned income.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 12.58 to 2.15 p.m.
-Mr Speaker, we are debating a matter of public importance introduced by the Opposition. It reads:
The need for complete withdrawal of the Government’s proposed surcharge on property income.
This tax, which has been described as a 1 per cent penalty tax, appeared in the Budget. We believe that it was conceived somewhere in the kitchen cabinet, maybe in Spigelman’s scullery, but certainly somewhere in the reaches of the kitchen cabinet. Having been conceived there, it was castrated by Caucus last week but today, throughout the whole of the country, we are in a state of total confusion about what the Government does or does not intend with this 10 per cent tax. The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage), came into this House after dinner last Thursday night and stated that the recommendation which the Caucus committees were making about the 10 per cent surcharge would go to Cabinet and to Caucus. He said that he had no doubt the proposal would be accepted. I quote: ‘I have little doubt that the decision of the Committees will be accepted by Cabinet and Caucus. ‘Little doubt’. He comes into the House today and says that it was a recommendation. It is just as well that he said it was merely a recommendation, for it is entirely unclear just what the recommendation was. The honourable member said in the House last Thursday night that he spoke with the expressed approval, the concurrence, of the Treasurer. He stated:
The Treasurer (Mr Crean) has authorised me to make this announcement: A joint meeting of the Caucus Economic and Trade Committee and the Welfare Committee, of which I am the Secretary, was held today with the concurrence of the Treasurer and with his agreement has recommended -
He then went on with the recommendations. What has been widely believed in the Australian community and in the Press to have been the recommendations is that taxable incomes of up to $5,000 per year would be exempted from this surcharge on unearned income, but in fact if you read on and find what the Treasurer authorised him to say, this is what the honourable member said:
The proposal of the joint meeting of the Committees is that income from property of under $5,000 a year will not attract the 10 per cent surcharge.
The honourable member for Chifley- the ghost of Chifley- when he put this proposition to the House did not make it up as he went along. He read it out, and that is what he read out: The proposal of the joint Committees is that income from property of under $5,000 a year will not attract the 10 per cent surcharge. Somehow or another it got across to the Press that it was a level of taxable income of $5,000. Now, what in the hell is it? What is this Government doing to the people of Australia? This Government is leading the opposition to the people of Australia; that is what it is doing. It is leading the opposition to the great majority of the decent people of this country. We have before us the latest illustration not only of the confusion of Caucus, of Cabinet, of the Government of this country, but we have an illustration of the way in which Caucus and the Government are leading the opposition to the Australian way of life.
This measure is bad on at least 4 grounds. It is bad on the ground that it hits at saving and investment. I do not care where they draw the line, because it will still hit at saving and investment. Even the Acting Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) has been quoted in newspapers over the last few days as saying that the only real way out of inflation is for Australia to produce her way out of it. What does this Government do? It produces a tax which hits at production because it hits at investment, it hits at saving, and in today’s climate a tax which hits at saving and investment is a despicable tax in view of the needs of this country. The second point I would make about this tax is that it is Robin Hood in reverse. The Government has put it to the people as a tax which robs the rich and pays the poor. In fact it is Robin Hood in reverse because it will hit the poor harder than it will hit the rich. It will hit the poor harder than it will hit the rich in terms of aggregate amounts which will be taxed, and it will hit the poor, the saver, the person on a modest income, quite directly. If the Government wishes to hit the rich, let it have the guts to raise the level of direct taxation on the rich. Surely that is the way to hit the rich if that is what it really intends, not to produce a general tax which hits both rich and poor and indeed, as I have said, hits the poor hardest. Let the Government have the guts to produce taxes which effectively hit the rich, because the rich are paying the great burden of tax in this country. The top three per cent of taxpayers, on the latest figures available, pay 23 per cent of tax in this country. So there is not much more you can get from the rich without completely destroying them and making them poor too.
The point is that even if we accept the modification, the tinkering with this tax that Caucus may or may not be proposing to the Government- nobody knows what they are proposing, as I say- we find that for income earners on between $5,000 and $15,000 a year-and I have to go on the latest available figures which are the 1971-72 figures produced by the Treasurer with the Budget- the amount that will attract tax on unearned income is $522m. The rich-and for argument’s sake we will take those getting $ 1 5 ,000 a year and above as the rich, and somebody might question that- will pay tax on an amount of $ 184m. So the tax hits the $5,000 to $15,000 a year group three times as hard as it hits the $15,000-plus a year group. It is a tax, then, which will take much more from the middle-income earner and, as originally proposed, would have taken still more from poorer and poorer income earners than it will take from the rich. This makes a very strange device in what is intended as a tax which slugs the rich and helps the poor.
-The Sheriff of Nottingham.
-The Sheriff of Nottingham. This tax also makes a mockery of the Government’s claim that it has reduced taxation on those whose incomes are up to $10,500 a year. It has boasted about the reduction of tax in that group. You are a little above the group, Mr Speaker; you are doing rather better. What the Government is doing here is, in a sense, robbing Peter to pay Paul. No, it is worse than that; it is more than robbing Peter to pay Paul. It is a case of that which the Government gives it takes away, not once or twice but three times. The extra tax which the people of Australia will pay to the Government this year vastly overreaches the modest deductions which the Government is allowing to the taxpayers of this country.
My final point is that this is old-fashioned ideology at work. It involves an invidious comparison of classes of income. It is based on fundamental old-fashioned Marxist premises. It invokes propositions that there is a capitalist class and a proletariat. It divides the Australian community down the middle but, tragically, it does it in a most cruel, a most ineffective, a most uneconomic, a most disgraceful way.
– If I were to try to correct all the distortions which have come from the Opposition in this debate, I would spend the whole of my 10 minutes doing so. I will correct a few of them on the way, but I must start off by correcting the absurd statement by the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) that the tax on unearned income is a tax on the poor and not a tax on the rich. This is quite clearly utterly absurd. In his arithmetic he took no account of the number of taxpayers in each of the groups at which he looked. If he divided the incomes earned in those areas by the total number of taxpayers, of course he would see that it was in fact a tax which would have a much greater impact on higher income groups, that of course it would have a much greater effect on those with much more property, because it is in fact a tax on property income. We all know that property is distributed far less equitably than is income in this country.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) said that this was a new tax. It is not a new tax. It is a tax which was introduced by a conservative government and which operated in this country for something like 38 years.
– What did it do?
-If you listen, I will tell you quite a bit about it. Ten years ago a book was produced in this country by four of the most eminent people in public finance. They were Professor Downing, Mr Boxer, Professor Arndt and Mr Mathews. I think they are all professors now. This book is called ‘Taxation in Australia’. On page 23 the book gives a little history of this tax in this country. I will read a small section. It states:
In 19S3 the tax differential against property (unearned) income, which had applied at the Commonwealth level since 1915, was abolished and today no distinction is made between property income and personal exertion (earned) income. Commonwealth tax rates were originally about 70 per cent higher on property income and, by 1939, the gap had widened to more than 100 per cent over much of the income range.
This was introduced by a conservative government, which applied a 70 per cent differential, not the 10 per cent we are talking about at the moment. The book goes on:
The States also imposed heavier taxes on property income, but to a lesser extent. With the substantial increase in overall tax rates in World War II it was inevitable that the differential against property incomes should decline. By the early 1950s the maximum differential was down to about 25 per cent . . .
It goes on to state that the tax was abolished in 1953 but that it remains in force in a number of countries, including the United Kingdom. The fact is that this is not a new tax in this country. It operates in a few countries, including the United Kingdom. When it was introduced previously in Australia it had much higher differentials than are involved at the present and went to even higher levels later on.
There is a general case for the incorporation of property into the tax base. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the principle of this tax was repugnant to him. I can understand that he would say that, because he was a member of a government which consistently refused to tax even capital gains. One can well understand that a Party which refused to tax capital gains would have a total objection to incorporating property in any way into the tax base. The fact is that many countries in the world- most countries in fact- incorporate capital into the tax base in some way or other. Many of them incorporate it through a net worth tax; others do it by incorporating unearned or property income into the tax base.
In making his statement about the repugnance of the principle the Deputy Leader of the Opposition also referred to the Carter Commission in Canada as being one authority which had rejected a tax on unearned income. It certainly did that, but it also said that there should be a capital gains tax, something which I had said his Government refused to introduce.
The general case for incorporating property into the tax base is more or less twofold. Firstly, we can say that people are better off if they have property than if they have not. If 2 people have the same income and one person gets his income from investing in property while the other one works 40 hours a week for 48 weeks of the year and expends a considerable amount of mental or physical exertion that person is certainly wearing himself out in a way that the other person it not. The other person might just go fishing every day. I am taking the example to the extreme, but it is a fact that a person simply sitting back and watching the dividends coming in is not expending in any way the same kind of effort as the person who is earning income through personal exertion.
Property also has other advantages. These advantages are referred to in the book which I previously mentioned. On page 109 it states: . . . . property confers advantages on its owner independent of, and additional to, the income it yields: it serves as a reserve of spending power in emergencies and thus reduces the need to save out of income, it provides security for old age and heirs, it provides opportunities for reducing income tax liability by income-splitting, it gives the owner access to credit, it is a necessary condition of business enterprise, and it confers social status and prestige.
For all those reasons there is a case for bringing property into the tax base. In fact the authors recommended in the book that a net worth or wealth tax be established, but they went on to say that if a country could not have a net worth tax or a wealth tax then it was best to have a tax on property income. I will say a bit more about that in a moment.
I have said that the difficulty is to know what is the best way to go about bringing property into the tax base. We could introduce a net worth tax. As I have said, many countries have done this. About 14 countries in the world have a wealth tax. Nine of them are in Europe. They are Sweden, Norway, West Germany, Austria, Finland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland and Luxembourg. A wealth tax also exists in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Colombia and Uruguay. Alternatively, we could introduce a tax on property income, which is what is involved in the Government’s proposed legislation.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that it is inequitable to introduce a tax on property income. In fact the reverse is the case. As Downing and company proved in the book ‘Taxation in Australia’, it is utterly inequitable not to incorporate property into the tax base. My personal preference would be to have a wealth tax. This would be a very difficult thing to introduce in the short term. A tremendous amount of hard work would have to be done in working out valuation, people’s net worth, etc. It would be a long term project. In the meantime, it makes sense to do what is recommended by the authors of this book, and that is to introduce a tax on property income.
In saying that, I realise that there can be difficulties for 2 groups of people, low income earners and retired people. Those 2 sections could be affected. For low income earners who have property income, there is of course the foreshadowed amendment which has been talked about in this debate. It will provide that people with taxable income below $5,000 will not have to pay a surcharge on any property income they have. I stress that it is taxable income. The way the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was speaking one would have thought that it was gross income. What the amendment in effect will mean is that if all the tax deductions of an ordinary wage earner with dependants were added to his taxable income his income of $5,000 would be up to the level of something like average weekly earnings. So what we are saying is that roughly two-thirds of wage and salary earners earn less than average weekly earnings, and they in general will not have to pay a surcharge on any property income which they may have. So we have looked after the low income earner with this foreshadowed amendment.
The other group which may have some kind of problem is the group consisting of retired people. They are protected to a large extent by the amendment relating to low income. But insofar as they are people who have retired and who have invested a lump sum and are living on the proceeds of it they will be affected if they have a taxable income above $5,000. It is also relevant and very pertinent to bear in mind that they will also get, if they are not already receiving it, a means test free pension. They will have to have a tremendous amount of property investment for the surcharge on their property income to be so high that it would counteract what they will get from a means test free pension. Practically every retired person in this country will be far better off as a result of getting a means test free pension from this Government, even if he has to pay a surcharge on all of his income.
So I suggest that the tax is quite defensible. Indeed, it would be totally improper, in the absence of a wealth tax, not to have some such measure as this. As I have said, it is important to protect low income groups, and they will be protected by the foreshadowed amendment. I think the retired people must bear in mind that they will benefit greatly from the means test free pension they will receive, if they are not already receiving it.
-The discussion is concluded.
Bill- by leave- presented by Mr Hayden, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is identical to the one which the Treasurer (Mr Crean) introduced in the House on 1 9 March 1974. The earlier Bill was passed by the House on 3 April 1974. It was subsequently introduced into the Senate, but it lapsed on the dissolution of Parliament on 1 1 April 1974. The principal purpose of this Bill is to implement the Government’s proposal to extend the charter of the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia to provide finance for tourist development projects, especially smaller projects in selected areas. The tourist industry is an important contributor to the overall economic prosperity of this country. The key to the industry’s continual growth to satisfy the needs of both domestic and overseas tourists is its ability to obtain adequate investment funds on reasonable terms. Most operators in the industry seeking development finance are experiencing difficulty in obtaining new funds on satisfactory terms, particularly for smaller undertakings in remote areas, and the proposed legislation is designed to help alleviate these problems.
Under the current legislation, the Commonwealth Development Bank’s principal function is to provide finance to assist primary production or to establish or develop industrial undertakings, particularly small undertakings in cases where in its opinion finance is desirable but would not otherwise be available on reasonable and suitable terms and conditions. The proposed amendment to section 72 of the Commonwealth Banks Act will widen the Development Bank’s function to enable it to provide finance for the establishment or development of undertakings, particularly small undertakings, providing accommodation or transportation for tourists or other facilities designed to attract tourists. The provision of such finance will be subject to the same statutory provisions as those applicable to the Bank’s existing lending operations, including the requirement that the Bank should be satisfied the finance would not otherwise be available on reasonable and suitable terms and conditions. The amendment to section 72 will also empower the Development Bank to provide advice and assistance to tourist enterprises.
The Development Bank will be particularly concerned with financing smaller enterprises involved in the development or improvement of tourist facilities away from main population centres. In accordance with the Government’s wishes the Development Bank will consult as appropriate with the Departments of Tourism and Recreation, Urban and Regional Development, and Environment and Conservation in carrying out its financing role in the tourist industry.
This Bill also brings into line with the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973 the provisions in the Commonwealth Banks Act relating to the determination of the remuneration payable to members of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation Board and the various statutory office holders under the Act. In particular, the amendments effected by clause 4 and the Schedule to the Bill will thus formalise in the Commonwealth Banks Act the requirement that the remuneration payable to the statutory office holders concerned be determined in future by the Remuneration Tribunal established under the Remuneration Tribunal Act. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr McLeay) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Clyde Cameron, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Bill now before the House remedies the legal problems arising from the famous, or notorious, Moore v. Doyle case of 1969 when, as a consequence of a dispute between what was thought to be the State branch of a Federal organisation and the Federal organisation, the Industrial Court held that there was no dispute between the State branch of the Federal organisation and the Federal organisation. What in fact had occurred was a dispute involving a State union which had its own corporate status, its own legal personality and its separate entity, as to whether the State organisation which had always believed itself to be a State branch of the Federal organisation was in fact a separate organisation. That was in 1 969.
The decision taken by the Industrial Court on that occasion brought out into the open the defect in the law which industrial lawyers knew about for many decades but which no one had ever sought to bring into the open for fear of losing control of the arbitration systems if the full consequences of the law were made known. At the time the Industrial Court drew attention to the great problems that would arise from the results of this case and asked the then Government to give very urgent attention to amending the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in such a way as to make it possible for the system to work as for more than 60 years people had believed it was working, and at the same time to suggest that a working party be set up to formulate the kind of complementary legislation that would be needed from the 4 State parliaments which have registration systems that give to bodies that register under them a corporate status. Those were the States of Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia.
As I have already pointed out, the Court made it clear that in these 4 States a State branch of a Federal union which becomes registered under the laws of the State concerned in almost all instances acquires a separate legal personality and a separate corporate position of its own. There is some legal doubt as to whether this applies in New South Wales, but that is not the view taken by the Industrial Court. To the extent that the decisions of the Australian Industrial Court conflict with the decisions of the State industrial tribunals or to the extent that they conflict with, for example, decisions of the Supreme Court of Queensland, which takes a different view, the view of the Australian Industrial Court would by virtue of the Constitution of the Commonwealth always prevail.
This has thrown up some very serious problems indeed. For instance, it is almost certain that the rules of most Federal unions which have State branches registered under State laws are invalid. It is almost certain that among the rules that are invalid are the eligibility rules of the Federal organisations which have State branches already registered under State industrial laws, whose eligibility rules are different from the eligibility rules of the Federal body and who send delegates to the responsible body of the Federal union which made the alterations to the eligibility rules. For instance, when the Australian Workers Union altered its eligibility rules to include all those additions to the eligibility rules that had been made since its first State branch became a registered body, that action undoubtedly was invalid for the reason that a decision taken by a body that is improperly constituted is null and void because a body that is improperly constituted cannot make a valid decision. If people who had no right to do so sat on the convention of the Australian Workers Union or on the executive council of the Australian Workers Union which altered the rules, the altered rules would be a nullity if challenged.
In this legislation we seek not only to correct the problems created by Moore v. Doyle but also to provide machinery for validating all of the rules made and all of the decisions taken by the various federally registered unions that might otherwise be invalid. One easy way in which to defeat a decision of the Federal executive of a union is to use the Moore v. Doyle argument, which was repeated in the case of Steuart against the Australian Workers Union, that the decision was null and void because the body taking the decision had sitting on it strangers who had no right to be there. They were strangers because their only right lay in the position that they occupied in the State registered union and there was no place on the Federal executive or the Federal convention for a representative of a strange or foreign union. We believe that, if the rules of the Federal unions which have State branches registered as separate entities and whose delegates have attended the governing bodies of the Federal organisation were to be contested, most of them would be struck down as being invalid. We want to correct that situation.
There are, of course, quite a number of other problems as well. The courts have watered down the general common law ruling- namely, that a decision taken by an improperly constituted body is null and void- by saying: ‘Yes, but insofar as this rule relates to the operation of trade unions it is null and void only to the extent that the bodies concerned are exercising judicial powers and not when they are exercising administrative powers’. So, if the body were to expel a member from the organisation or purport to expel a member from the organisation, the constitutionality of the organisation or body could be. questioned and, if the objection were proven, it would mean that the decision would be struck down. If the decision taken were merely an administrative decision, the courts have held that the organisation would be exempt from the normal rule about the unconstitutionality of bodies making those decisions.
The problem in New South Wales arose from the fact that the State organisation in New South Wales, which, I repeat, believed itself to be the State branch of the Federal organisation, had taken into its membership owner-drivers and taxi drivers who, by virtue of many decisions of the High Court of Australia, were not eligible to be taken into the membership of a federally registered union. The High Court has ruled on many occasions that the test that has to be applied as to whether a person is eligible to become a member of a union is whether he is an employee and whether he is engaged in an industrial pursuit. Curiously enough, the Court’s rule for determining whether a person is engaged in an industrial dispute is not to test the work that the employee is doing but to test the calling or the business carried out by the employer. It is an absurd and stupid ruling which only the High Court could give. No one else would ever dream of applying the sort of principles that the High Court applied in the fire fighters case of not so many years ago, but it has done so and we are stuck with it. So long as we are stuck with the present occupants of the High Court we are stuck with these absurdities.
– It is the law.
– I know that the honourable member for Moreton becomes terribly upset whenever I talk about the High Court. The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) also seems to become very upset, in fact all lawyers seem to become very upset, whenever one points to the absurdities of the High Court. Whether they think that one day they might have to appear before the High Court or, better still, might themselves be members of the Bench and they want to establish beforehand for the institution a kind of prestige that they will be able to enjoy later is something which has always bewildered me. Nonetheless, I have discovered that that is what always happens. So it was always held that people who were not employees could not be accepted into the membership of the Federal body.
An amendment dealing with this matter was passed to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act last year by the Senate. I do not know why the Senate passed it. It must have been because the Senate did not understand it. It usually throws out anything good. This is something good that the Senate did not throw out. Perhaps, as I have said, the Senate did not understand the amendment. But that amendment will permit Federal organisations to allow their State branches to accept as members people who were not entitled to belong to the Federal body as employees or, by virtue of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, for the purposes of obtaining an award. The Act now gives them the right to belong to the organisation as members but not to enjoy the benefits of obtaining a Federal award. So, if the State Transport Workers Union in New South Wales were to affiliate right now with the Federal body it could take into the Federal body all of its members, including the owner-drivers who are not entitled ever to get a Federal award, and its decision could not be struck down on that account.
There are 155 Federal organisations registered with the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. In fact, unless we get organisations to register with the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission the system just cannot function. One hundred and seventeen of those 155 organisations have branches registered in one or other, or in some cases all, of the 4 States which have the separate system of registration. As I said earner, we need to have representative bodies of employers and employees in order to make the system function. In its decision in the Moore v. Doyle case the court had this to say:
We have decided to refer our judgment in this matter and these remarks to the Attorney-General for the Commonwealth in the hope that it may be possible after consultation between Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General, the trade unions, both Federal and State, and other interested Government authorities to arrange for the examination of the important organisational matters to which we have referred.
The former Liberal-Country Party Government did something about that, but not very much emerged from what it did. It held a series of conferences. It is true that no one really knew what he was searching for. Because the decision had thrown up such complex questions of law, no one in the days immediately following the Moore v. Doyle case really knew what he was searching for. Because no one knew what he was searching for, he was unable to find it. It is as simple as that.
A few months ago I sought the permission of Cabinet to appoint a special committee of inquiry of experts to study the problems involved and to report back to the Government. I saw the question primarily as a legal question- a matter of law rather than a matter of industrial relations, though it was a law that was vital to the industrial relations. The primary task of that committee was to unravel the skeins of law which had been so badly crossed and tangled in the course of the Moore v. Doyle case. What better could one do, I suggest, than to appoint His Honour Mr Justice J. B. Sweeney, who led the case for the State Transport Workers Union against the Federal body, and Mr R. J. McGarvie, Q.C., who was senior counsel leading for the other side? So we appointed Mr Justice Sweeney assisted by Mr McGarvie to study the problem and bring up a solution. They were the 2 gentlemen, if I may say so with great respect and deference, who between them managed to get us into the situation we are now in by their brilliant advocacy. In the case of Mr Justice Sweeney, Mr Sweeney, Q.C., as he then was, the advocacy was really brilliant. I hesitate to call on the GovernorGeneral ‘s opinion to support this view but he has personally told me that the case put by the then Mr Sweeney, Q.C., was really a masterpiece of legal advocacy. So it was. I have read the 1,400 pages of the transcript and know what I am talking about.
These gentlemen came up with the solution which is set out in their findings and in their recommendations which were supplied to all honourable members some several weeks ago. The Bill now before the House is the result of those recommendations put into drafting form by the Parliamentary Counsel, Mr Comans. They are essentially, and in fact everything, that was recommended by Mr Justice Sweeney. I place on record my deep appreciation of the work that Mr Justice Sweeney and Mr McGarvie did in this matter. No one else would have unravelled the problem. Now that they have unravelled it, it is our job to give this Bill passage as quickly as possible. I believe the States will follow with complementary legislation. I have talked with Mr Hewitt of the New South Wales Government. He is sympathetic towards the proposal. I have talked with Mr Campbell of the Queensland Government. He promised that the Queensland Government would reconsider its previous opposition to the proposal when I pointed out to him some of the intricacies of the law and some of the enormous difficulties that would be thrown up for Queensland if it did not pass complementary legislation as the New South Wales and South Australian Governments have promised to do. The Western Australian Government has said that it will be guided by what New South Wales does. Mr Hewitt’s information to me suggests that Western Australia will follow the line taken by the New South Wales Government. The problems are graphically outlined in the Moore v. Doyle judgment. A passage from that judgment- it appears on page 120 of volume 15 of the Federal Law Reports- is well worth quoting in full. It states:
The cases in both State and Federal jurisdictions and the rules of many organisations and trade unions show that the constitutions of the Federal and the corresponding State body often differ to some extent so that membership of the trade union and the State branch of a Federal organisation, if full use is made of the range of eligibility, must be different. The cases also show that the rules of the Federal organisation and the corresponding State trade union each provide for a contribution fee but in all or almost all cases only one fee is collected and this is treated as satisfying the requirements of membership in both the Federal and the corresponding State registered body.
Very frequently the rules of the Federal organisation and of the trade union on other matters are different from and inconsistent with one another and often the rules require different offices to be filled in the State branch of the Federal organisation and in the trade union.
In the great majority of cases the trade union and the branch of the Federal organisation are administered as though they were the same body with one set of assets, one system of banking, one set of books, one register of members, one set of officers, one election of officers for both bodies, and one system of meetings of a committee of management to handle the affairs of the trade union and the State branch of the organisation.
I interpolate to indicate that where the word ‘organisation’ is used it is intended to correspond with the definition of organisation under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. We are talking about the Federal union when we use the word ‘organisation’. The quote continues:
Despite differences in the constitution rule of the Federal and the corresponding State body, members of one who are not eligible to be members of the other are often treated as members of both and often vote in elections of the body to which they are not entitled to belong. Generally one application form is filled in and this sometimes satisfies the provisions of rules of the organisation and the trade union, but often there are different rules as to applications. Sometimes, as the cases show, the real and effectively-operating body is the State branch of the Federal organisation with the corresponding trade union existing as a mere fiction and it has occurred that a trade union has been held to be non-existent and liable to be deregistered by the State authorities. In other cases it is the trade union which is the living body and the State branch of the Federal organisation may be a shadow or fiction having no real existence. In yet other cases the affairs of the State branch of a Federal organisation and of the corresponding trade union are administered under some practicallyevolved set of rules which are an administrative amalgam of the registered rules of the State branch and the trade union but are not the actual rules of either.
In the Committee stages I want to explain in greater detail the meaning of some of the clauses. Time will not permit it to be done now. In any event the Committee stages are more appropriate for dealing with the respective clauses. One clause, new section 142a, is the clause designed primarily to deal with demarcation issues between the Federal union, if I may use that term instead of using the word organisation, and the State union, referred to in the Bill as the associated body, because once this . Bill goes through and complementary legislation is passed by the various States it will become necessary, before the job can be completed, for these separate State entities to formally amalgamate with the Federal bodies in order that it may be completed. I am pleased to note that although the honourable member for Moreton seems to be asleep the honourable member for Stirling is nodding and seems to be following what I am saying. Mr Justice Sweeney in his report elaborates on the problems. I quote from page 23 of his report as follows:
The immediate difficulties on registration are obvious but the position inevitably becomes further complicated as the years pass. The rule-making bodies in each case are different. In the case of branches of a Federal organisation the rulemaking body is, except for quite isolated and often accidental exceptions, a body entirely within the State, either a council or a meeting of members. Circumstances have arisen in many cases where different decisions have been made by on the one hand the Federal rule-making body and on the other hand the State rule-making body.
In addition, in each case the validity of the change of rules depends on some form of registration and/or approval of the change and in some cases one registrar has approved while another has rejected a proposed change. This has led to a position where in very few, if any, cases are the registered rules of the two or three bodies identical in form. Taking one of the most important rules, that specifying the persons eligible for membership, an examination of the position of 24 major unions in New South Wales comparing rules of the State registered body with rules of the Federally registered body showed that in all the cases examined there were differences- some small but most great. Some had wider coverage in the State field, others the reverse. This leads to a position where different persons are eligible for membership, different persons are entitled to attend meetings, different persons are entitled to be elected to office and indeed the electorates are different.
Mr Justice Sweeney in his report, which I know everybody has read from cover to cover, goes on to show how the effect of this position could undermine the whole award system of Australia’s industrial relations machinery.
I quote again from the report by His Honour. This time I quote from page 24, at which His Honour says:
The effect of this position can be very great. In the Federal system most awards are now made in the settlement of a dispute arising from the service of a log of claims by an organisation of employees on an organisation of employers and /or individual employers and the subsequent rejection of that log or vice versa. But the log must be validly adopted by the organisation concerned.
So, if the body which adopted a log of claims was improperly constituted by virtue of having on that body foreigners or strangers or people who may be described as honourable members like who had no right to be sitting on that body of the organisation because they were in effect officers of a separate State entity, the log of claims would not have had the necessary authorisation and the award therefore would be invalid.
The report continues:
If there have been invalidities in elections such as a failure properly to elect a returning officer . . . or a returning officer having been elected by people who have no right to have participated in the election of that person- I am adding that to what His Honour says; that is something I just thought of myself and it is very relevant, of course: . . or in the conduct of an election such as the calling of nominations at the wrong time or the closing of the election at the wrong time or if persons not entitled to be admitted to membership or if entitled not properly admitted to membership, vote or are elected to office, there may be no validly constituted committee of management or officers. No log of claims will have been validly adopted, no industrial dispute will have arisen, any award will have been made without jurisdiction.
Similar considerations arise in State jurisdictions.
Honourable members would appreciate, therefore, the magnitude of the problems which exist under the present laws and the consequent importance of this Bill which seeks to rectify the situation. It is important to note, however, that the problem is not simply one of academic or legal interest. Events subsequent to the decision in Moore v. Doyle show that it is in the interests of industrial harmony that the -
– I do not want to interrupt the Minister but I am happy to move an extension of time for him.
– You are only making a joke of it.
– I am not. It is an important piece of legislation.
-Order! The honourable member for Wannon will resume his seat. The Minister’s time has not expired.
– It is not far off it.
– The honourable member cannot move an extension of time at this point.
– I take the point made by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) who says that the honourable gentleman is trying to make a joke- a big joke- out of a very serious legal problem. Here he is, getting up before my time has expired. He knows the procedures very well. No one knows the Standing Orders better than the honourable gentleman knows them. Yet, he gets up, interrupts me, and seeks to move an extension of time when he knows perfectly well -
– I rise to take a point of order. What the Minister said is quite unnecessary.
-Order! What is the point of order?
– Perhaps I should make a personal explanation.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– Can I make a personal explanation?
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. He rose to make a point of order and quite obviously did not intend to make one.
– Can I make a personal explanation?
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The answer to his question is no. I call the Minister for Labor. The Minister’s time has expired. The question now is: ‘That the Bill be now read a second time’.
– May I ask whether the Minister wants an extension of time to complete his remarks?
– It is too late unfortunately.
– I have already proposed the question for the adjournment of the debate to be moved.
– I move:
That the debate be now adjourned. and I ask leave to make a personal explanation.
-You cannot move that way.
– Can I make a personal explanation?
-You cannot move that the debate be adjourned and that you be given leave. You will resume your seat. You have moved that the debate be adjourned -
– And separately I have asked -
-Order! I will deal with that. The question is: ‘That the debate be now adjourned’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. The Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) was approaching the end of the time available to him for his second reading speech. I thought that he ought to know that the Opposition would have allowed him to have an extension of time to complete his remarks, which were plainly uncompleted. That was the reason I rose when the lights on the clocks, showing the amount of time remaining to an honourable member is under one minute, came on, and for no other reason. The Leader of the House (Mr Daly) and the Minister chose to take that gesture in a way quite different from my intention. So be it. It is up to them. But the Opposition was prepared to allow the Minister proper time in respect of a matter which the Minister rightly described as important and significant.
-Order! The honourable gentleman has made his point.
Bill- by leave- presented by Mr Stewart and read a first time.
– I move:
On 19 March 1974 1 introduced a Bill to amend the Australian Tourist Commission Act 1967-1973. Debate on the Bill was subsequently adjourned and the Bill lapsed on the forced double dissolution of Parliament. It is now necessary to reintroduce the Bill. For the benefit of honourable members, I refer them to my second reading speech on this Bill which appears in Hansard of 1 9 March 1 974 at pages 548 to 550. 1 refer also to the debate which took place on this matter on 3 April 1974 at Hansard pages 941 to 965.
The main objective of the Bill is to enable the Australian Tourist Commission, hitherto restricted in its activities to the promotion of Australia overseas, to promote Australia for Australians. Although there are at present a diversity of organisations already concerned with the promotion of Australian tourism their responsibilities are limited in their scope. For instance, the interests of State tourism authorities are primarily concerned with encouraging tourism in their own States. Similarly local authorities are preoccupied with tourism in their own areas. There has, therefore, been a considerable gap in the promotion of Australia to Australians and this gap can be readily filled by the Australian Tourist Commission.
Over the past few months through funds allocated in the 1973-74 Budget to the Department of Tourism and Recreation, the Commission, as the agent of the Department, has been involved in this very task. The first part of the domestic promotion campaign, which has been directed towards young people, has been warmly received by the travel industry and the promotional material has met with great demand. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Killen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 19 September (vide page 1554), on motion by Mr Beazley:
That the Bill now be read a second time.
-The House resumes the debate on the Bill to amend the Australian Universities Commission Act. The amending Bill was introduced by the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) in a very short speech; his speech occupied but 5 minutes. On a casual glance, that brief speech might indicate that we are dealing with a matter of no great importance. In the opinion of the Opposition this is not so. We are dealing with a Bill which seeks to introduce important amendments to the Australian Universities Commission Act. The speech made by the Minister a week or so ago would not be regarded as containing any substantial element of controversy. It was a 5-minute speech that would not rouse anyone from a slumber induced by a quiet Sunday lunch washed down by a pint of beer. But the Bill is one of importance. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill and seeks to give it a speedy passage. But, by the same token, the Opposition takes this occasion to raise with the Minister and the Government certain activities as far as tertiary education is concerned in Australia.
I turn to what the Bill seeks to do in principle. The Bill seeks to make provision for the appointment of a Deputy Chairman of the Universities Commission. Those of us who have been familiar- some members of course, with a greater degree of intensity than others- with the work of Professor Karmel will realise that it is high time that he received some extra assistance. The sustained vigour, enterprise and initiative shown by him point to a record of distinction. Even though people may not always agree with some of the conclusions reached by Professor Karmel, the fact remains that he has served this country in a very distinguished fashion. That is a small amendment and one which the Opposition in no way opposes.
The second provision of the Bill seeks to amend the definition of a university. It might be of some assistance to the House, in considering the case, if I were to trace the origin of this matter. The 1959 Act establishing the Australian Universities Commission defines the form of assistance that can be given. Section 4 of the Act of 1959 provides:
The Minister may, by instrument under his hand, direct that this Act shall apply in relation to an institution or proposed institution in Australia specified in the instrument, being an institution or proposed institution for the provision of higher education . . .
That provision remained in the Act and was not disturbed until 1971, when the section was amended to include the following sub-section:
The reference in the last preceding sub-section to higher education shall be read as not including a reference to education that is advanced education for the purposes of the Australian Commission on Advanced Education Act 197 1.
As I said before the Minister came into the House, we do not oppose the provisions; they are not matters of controversy. But I want to refer particularly to what the Minister proposes by way of the definition of a university. Under this amending Bill, section 4 of the provision of 1959 and the subsequent provision of 1971 disappear. The new provision which is placed in its stead states:
The Minister may, by writing under his hand, direct that this Act shall apply to an institution or proposed institution that he is satisfied is to be constituted as a university within Australia by a law of Australia, a State or an internal Territory.
I come immediately to the point of mild anxiety here. I should like to know from my honourable friend why the words ‘that he is satisfied’ are used? I suggest to my honourable friend that surely this should be a matter of objective criteria. Something should be a university and determined so by objective criteria, and it should not be exposed to subjective criteria. I am not taking some mean point of punctilio with this. I believe that the House is entitled to an explanation as to why we now depart from something which we have looked at since 1959 and said: ‘There is a university within the accepted understanding of that term’. Now we are, in a measure, retreating to say: ‘We give the Minister power to determine what in fact is a university.’ The proposal- this was referred to by my friend in his second reading speech- to identify a university as a university commands my wholehearted approval and, I am sure, the approval of all honourable gentleman in the Opposition.
I take this opportunity to say to my honourable friend that one of the concerns regarding tertiary education and activity today is the tendency by some people to regard numbers in universities as being a reflection of competence and of excellence. For my part, I have watched with a measure of disquiet the diminution in the vocational attitude towards tertiary education. Regrettably, many of us have been inclined to the view that universities have been nothing more than degree factories. I know my honourable friend’s attitude to this. He certainly would not be one who would seek in any way to diminish the importance of people coming out of a university with an attitude and a philosophy towards life. If people come out of a university and regard what they have as a means whereby they can secure some material pleasure and nothing else out of life, it seems to me that we must rethink our attitude towards university education. It is not dewy-eyed sentiment on my part at all when I say that what is left of Western civilisation will not be sustained and revived by what may be described as a vagrant intellectualism. We must get a sense of vocation back into our universities, so that people come out with a commitment certainly to advance themselves and also to advance the community in its corporate state in battling with the problems that beset the community and the world at large.
The other aspect I draw to my friend’s attention regarding tertiary activity is that, quite apart from the disposition to diminish or discount the vocational aspect of tertiary education, there is allied to that something of a temptation to break up the professional standing of people. This is to be seen in a variety of ways, not the least by the proliferation of specialised activities within professions. I am indebted to a most thoughtful paper given by Sir Benjamin Rank this year in the Ernest Joske Memorial Oration. Ernest Joske was the father of Mr Justice Joske who sat in this House with many of us for a number of years. In that oration titled ‘The Professional Man and his Institutions ‘ Sir Ben amin had this to say:
Come what may, despite the fragmentation of knowledge and the consequent trend to spawn separate splinter groups, the parent organisations must maintain some comprehensive intellectual harmony in their institutions. In matters technical and scientific, they can and should be most liberal in fostering group activities at the highest scientific level, but there it must cease. They must resist at all costs the tendency for specialist groups to be separate and self-contained in all matters professional and ethical. Unfortunately it does not end there, for they soon become involved in matters policital. Indeed, it is a sad fact that some have been created for that very reason.
Far be it from me to seek to inflict reading on the Minister for Education, but I think he would be stimulated by the views offered by Sir Benjamin Rank in the most thoughtful paper which he presented by way of a memorial oration this year.
The next matter that I should like to refer to the honourable gentleman is this: We have an interim report dealing with the open university. I speak on this matter with some tender feelings myself, having been in a very real sense a product of an open university. I am delighted to find that in some universities today there is a readiness by university authority to allow people, after they finish secondary schooling, to go out into the world for 12 months or 2 years and then to enter the university. I am delighted and I wish this experiment well. I shall watch it with considerable interest. I take the view that many people go to universities today who in a very real sense are not fitted. I do not say this offensively or patronisingly, but people who have had 12 months or 2 years experience in the outside world have, I think, a more mature approach to university life. I think they value the resources provided by the Government, by the taxpayer, and I think they have an entirely different approach. There are people who are late finishers. There are people who in their early formative years, at 18 or 19 years of age, just do not seem able to grasp what it is all about. Yet after a period of time they show a significant and percussive sense of originality and they are people who distinguish themselves academically. I assure my friend that I will watch this development with considerable interest indeed.
The last matter to which I would refer is expressed in the language of my friend in his second reading speech when he referred to what is the principal outstanding difference between us today; that is the assumption of full responsibility by the Commonwealth for university or tertiary education. I will not persist with projecting the argument to the honourable gentlemen this afternoon. I shall await a more propitious moment when I may possibly be able to persuade him to my view of things, but that for another day. Persistence will have its own reward, I assure the honourable gentleman. The fact remains today that all universities in Australia are dependent upon this place. What must be resisted is the temptation for a government of any kidney to regard universities as being merely another department of State, another government department, that is to be put under the suzerainty of government control. It is of the very nature of governments to regard all of their actions as having the closest possible affinity with virtue. Regrettably it is of the very nature of Ministers of the Crown- or at least most Ministers of the Crown- to regard that their words are drawn from an immense reservoir of wisdom and destined for immortality. The temptation is there, and it is overwhelming, to reach out and to want to control.
I know my friend ‘s view on this, if I may say again without being patronising. It is a very robust and old-fashioned view regarding the independence of universities, and I hope he will long be spared to maintain that view, be it on the Government side of this chamber or in the near future on the Opposition side. Hope does spring eternal. This was referred to quite recently by a distinguished Australian university authority, the Vice-Chancellor of the Melbourne University, Professor David Derhan. He criticised the grants scheme as such. One might get the wrong impression from reading what the Professor had to say. My apprehension is that his concern is simply that for the first time, as he puts it, the universities have one paymaster and little or no capacity to make decisions about their own revenue. That is an Australian professor’s view. It has been echoed by a number of his colleagues who have the responsibility of administering universities in various places in Australia. It was quite graphically described in the report of the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education published in April of last year. Speaking of the United States of America, the members of the Committee said this:
External authorities are exercising more and more authority over higher education, and institutional independence has been declining. The greatest shift of power in recent years has taken place not inside the campus, but in the transfer of authority from the campus to outside agencies.
The point I make is simply this: It is one thing for us to be conscious of the danger that resides in complete government expenditure on universities, for universities to be dependent in their entirety upon government enterprise and government hand-outs. To recognise that is welcome indeed but what would be more welcome would be our ensuring that it does not lead in any shape or form towards government seeking to reach out to control the activities of those who work within universities.
– It is not my intention to delay the passage of the Universities Commission Bill to any degree. But over the past week I have taken the opportunity to read the 1959 Hansard dealing with the establishment of the Australian Universities Commission by the Liberal-Country Party Government. I also read the speech by the present Minister for Education (Mr Beazley). I am quite sure that when he spoke then in support of that legislation he would have been pleased to know the quality of ideas that have come out of the Commission over the years and have been applied through the universities and of course in turn to our community. The Bill then was successful, and I am quite sure that the changes that are anticipated now will also be successful and are necessary.
The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) mentioned the 3 areas of change in the Bill. I think the first one, the appointment of a second full time Deputy Chairman, is quite justifiable. The work load over the years has increased and I think that areas of abolition of fees, new programs, the developments in special education, etc., and the provision of allowances for needy children emphasise the fact that this work load has increased, changes have taken place and that it is necessary to expand the membership and the work of the Commission. The second change proposed by the Bill interests me a great deal, and that is the definition of universities. Universities are now, I believe, to be defined as those institutions only that are established by State and Australian governments. I believe that this definition is probably quite reasonable. But I believe that there must still be a place in the Australian community for private institutions. The reasonable way to provide for private institutions would be by setting standards rather than by definition. I think that the way to control universities, whether they be government controlled or privately sponsored institutions, is by the setting of clear guidelines in regard to the standards that should be applied to those institutions.
In adding my support to the Bill I would ask the Minister to give the reason why the word ‘Australian’ is being deleted from the title of the Australian Universities Commission. The Minister in his second reading speech mentioned that this change is in line with Government practice. However, it appears to me that it has been the practice of the Government since it took office in 1972 to add the word ‘Australian’ to much of its legislation rather than to remove the word. The Australian Country Party supports the Bill as does the Opposition. The Australian Universities Commission has played an important and vital part in education in this country. I believe that the appointment of a second full time Deputy Chairman will add to its effectiveness.
– I take the opportunity of this debate on the Universities Commission Bill to speak on a matter which I think is of extreme importance- that is the question of housing for students in tertiary institutions. Many grants have been given for special purposes, such as social planning and health centres, which are extremely worth while and which we have supported. However, there is on the doorstep of each tertiary institution another problem that has been so far ignored. That is, of student housing, the availability and quality of which needs to be raised.
Traditionally student housing, other than family housing, has been the colleges and halls of residence. These have either been secular institutions attached to the university or institutions administered privately by various religious denominations. During the 1960s this type of housing became less appropriate for the student culture as it was evolving. It will be remembered that there was a massive inflow of students into tertiary institutions. More and more students wish to live in non-collegiate housing and rented accommodation close to the universities. This created many problems for the students and, as I understand it, is causing a very great deal of concern within the Australian Union of Students.
The campuses- their academic buildings and their facilities for study- reflect the large amount of money which was put into them by LiberalCountry Party governments in the 1950s and 1960s following the formation of the Australian Universities Commission. Unfortunately, there has been a growth of accommodation problems off campus which often leave students living in depressed conditions which border on the squalid in some circumstances. The demand for accommodation is increasing. For instance, in 1973 at Monash University, which happens to be in my electorate, the student housing office had 1,097 inquiries for housing of which only 502 were successful in being housed. Up to the end of June this year the demand had increased to 2,300, yet only 910 students had been housed in flats and private accommodation.
The problems of student housing appear to be sub-divided in 3 ways. The first problem is related to the accommodation now being provided not being appropriate to the wishes of very many students of today. These students do not wish to live in the collegiate surroundings. They see the terms of occupancy as being determined by rigid formulae worked out by the Federal Government. The problem is being added to because the responsibility for hostel funding has been removed from State education departments in respect of teachers’ colleges. Hostels have been closed at the State College of Victoria in Melbourne and in Bendigo the fees have almost doubled. At the Armidale College of Advanced Education the rentals have gone up and many of the students are living in makeshift accommodation. It is up to the Government to realise that it must give consideration to funding more informal accommodation than that which is available at present and which is more in keeping with the lifestyle of the modern day student
The second problem is that with rising prices as a result of the inflationary spiral, costs for student housing have escalated. The subsidy from the Government is of the order of $2,500 per student place, this being given on the basis of half cost. However, the actual cost per student place is approximately $7,000 to $8,000 and, therefore, the subsidy has become inadequate if the current formulae are to be followed. Many of the campuses are in inner city areas- obviously this includes the University of New South Wales, Sydney University and Melbourne Universitywhere prices are such that the problem is grossly aggravated. The cost of buildings is tied to expenditure on new ‘bricks and mortar’ and precludes the development and renovation of existing buildings. Therefore problems arise. In inner urban areas, where so many of the older universities are located, the construction of new buildings is often at odds with the aesthetic requirements of the inner urban area. Yet it is here that so much of the student housing must now be developed outside the confines of the university. Adaptation of old buildings may be preferable to demolishing huge areas to put up collegiate style accommodation which is not acceptable to local government resident associations and other interested bodies within the area. It is also not the desired type of accommodation preferred by many of the students.
The third problem is that of rental. Students, whether they are on a fixed allowance or not, are caught up in the rising rent charges. The average rents vary a lot from a minimum of $5 per week per room in Adelaide where there is a university subsidy, to a maximum of $33 in Armidale. The Australian average is about $ 12 to $ 1 5 per week which is for a room without anything else. This must be seen in the context of the tertiary allowance of $31 per week. Further rent charges are now to be aggravated by the surchage of 10 per cent on so-called unearned income that the Government seems intent on inflicting on the Australian population. This must further raise rents. Students will not be the only sufferers, of course, but it is in that context that I am now speaking. Despite the amendment announced by the Caucus economic expert, the honourable member for Chifly (Mr Armitage), it still leaves students with the problem of having to pay rents beyond their means because the exemption relates to the owner of the rented accomodation not to the student. They are thus being forced into substandard quarters by reason of the fact that they cannot afford anything better.
In an affluent society, students living in caravans or in gymnasiums is not a pretty sight. The social problems which arise are evident if policy provides the apparatus of education without providing the social environment conducive to academic study. To force students into an ‘artist in a garret’ situation may be passed over as romantic remembrance by some, but for those who will be socially affected- perhaps those who fail their examinations- it is an indictment of the noncomprehensive and short-sighted nature of the tertiary education policy. We should not seek only to build the bricks and mortar. We should take into account the social consequences surrounding the universities and the colleges of advanced education which we promote. In the tertiary sector we should make an urgent reappraisal of this whole situation. The beautiful new campuses must not be surrounded by ghettos of student disability. Landlords themselves may be under pressure, not only through the surchage on income but also by the problems which inflation brings in terms of increased local government charges. Here lies a very real interest of students in arresting inflation and having sensible tax laws.
The Government should look at these 3 problems in concert and develop policies designed to correct these anomalies and create a more contemporary response to the issues which we face. Only then will the students of Australia be able to reap the benefits of their tertiary education effectively. It is not merely a direction designed to assist students, although it certainly will and I strongly support the legislation for that reason. But the public will benefit. The subject of this legislation is no different from any other aspect of education. The interests of the individual serve the broader purposes of the community.
-As the House has already been advised by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) and the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher), the Opposition is in agreement with the proposed amendments to the Australian Universities Commission Bill 1974. The proposal to establish a full time deputy chairman is obviously essential to enable the Universities Commission to carry out the most important functions which have been established by its statute.
It is worth remembering, however, that the Universities Commission was established in 1959 by the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, who will go down in history undoubtedly as one of Australia’s greatest minds and a man who certainly appreciated the need to establish in this country a soundly based tertiary education system. We are told by the Minister for Education in his speech that there are now 17 universities and there should be another four by the end of next year. This is a fantastic growth when it is considered that after the Second World War we had only 6 universities. It is however symptomatic of a trend which has been seen throughout the rest of the western world, in fact the entire developed world today, that university and tertiary education are no longer the right of the few but of the many. This is the context in which we have to consider these amendments because the Australian electorate is being asked to carry more and more of the cost of university and tertiary education.
It is worth remembering that in the 1974-75 financial year the Government proposes to spend $892.4m on tertiary education, which includes expenditure for universities. Therefore this House must consider in some detail exactly what we are trying to achieve with our university system and to decide whether or not the system as it is presently constituted is meeting the needs of the Australian community; in particular, whether or not the present system is able to build for Australia’s future and whether or not we are producing the type of people who will be able to lead this country into the next century.
A university has traditionally been seen as an institution devoted to the pursuit of knowledge, the solution of problems, the critical application of achievement and the training of students to a high level of academic and professional excellence. I think those 4 criteria speak for themselves. But I also believe that it is in the context of those 4 criteria that we should look at the existing legislation, look at the amendments which are proposed to see whether in fact it is living up to expectations.
The second amendment foreshadowed in this Bill relates to the definition of a university. We are told that it is intended to restrict the meaning of the word to institutions established by the Australian and State Parliaments. The reason this amendment has been included is to prevent so-called self-styled universities or private coaching or teaching colleges blossoming across the land, as they have in some other countries, and lead to a general lowering of standards. The important thing is the question of standards, and if we are to regard this as an amendment of substance, as I do, we have to consider in great detail whether or not we should necessarily have a system which means that all universities for all time must be State or Federal institutions. I question the logic of this, and, above all, I question the need for it. Surely the essence is standards, and that is where we have to draw the line.
In the United States and Japan, for example, there are a substantial number of institutions which are not classified as government controlled to any degree. There are 2,626 United States universities, of which 1,474 are private and 1,152 are public or state controlled institutions. A similar statistic can be found for Japan. Now, is anyone in this House able to say that Japan and the United States have been backward in the development of scientific and technological achievement? Have their cultures and their societies suffered because of the existence of private universities? Obviously not.
I therefore submit that in Australia ‘s long term future development it is better that we leave the door open on the presumption that at some stage in the future there may be private organisations willing to take on the substantial financial burden of developing universities. I do not see any purpose at this time in closing the door by having a definition as rigid as the one proposed by the Government.
Benjamin Disraeli once said that a university should be a place of light, of liberty and of learning. I would hope all members of this House would accept that liberty of thought and expression is indeed the breath behind man’s ultimate progress. Therefore I think it is very important to place on record the need to ensure that whatever administrative system is applied to make certain that our universities have sufficient funds to carry out their most important work, that an administrative machine does not develop into some sort of monster which will dictate all aspects of university life. I recommend that members of this House should read in some detail the reports of the Australian Universities Commission, which contain not only a plethora of detail about institutions in Australia, about our various universities, their strengths and their weaknesses, but also point out where we have to look for the future. For example, they have examined in some detail in a report the concept of the open university.
In my opinion, the future of the open university requires detailed thought and is something I support generally. In my opinion, the objective of education is to prepare people for life and to help them through life. The second criterion in particular means that people need to be retrained through life. We are aware that the Government has proposed various retraining schemes which primarily cover the blue collar sector of the community. What has not been done, what has not been adequately covered, is the fact that every professional today, whether he be an engineer, a doctor, a dentist or a lawyer, must have some degree of retraining throughout his professional career.
This brings me to the question of whether or not universities as presently constituted are capable of giving the degree of retraining necessary for the existing professions in addition to supplying the basic knowledge required, the undergraduate faculties and also the opportunity for post graduate and research work. I would submit that the situation we find today is not wholly satisfactory. On the contrary, there has been a tendency in the last 3 years throughout Australia for institutions to reduce the numbers involved in socalled part time study. I think it is fairly clear that, if we are going to consider seriously a system of professional retraining, part time study is the only real method by which it can be carried out. A man with a family is obviously not able to take one or two years off to go back to university. On the other hand, he can find two or three nights a week. I think it is a very poor situation indeed when I discover in some universities that the tendency to discourage part time studies is becoming more the rule than the exception. I earnestly suggest that this whole question should be examined in great detail. It is not simply a case of making tertiary education free. That is fine for the 17 or 18-year-old who has just left school and who has no administrative and family responsibilities. It is not satisfactory for the man who has to make his way in the world, who already has family responsibilities, who is probably already a partner in one institution or another and who must make the effort in his own time to re-educate himself to keep up with the tremendous strides in knowledge that are taking place today.
It has been estimated that since the Second World War man has increased his totality of knowledge by more than he did in the previous 150 to 200 years. That speaks for itself. It shows, if any evidence is required, that any person of any profession who got a degree 10 years ago will be hopelessly out of date today, unless through his own efforts he is able to retrain himself and keep up with the changes which are obviously taking place. The essential point I wish to make on the whole question of our tertiary education and in particular our university education is the need for high standards.
There has been some suggestion in the Press and in other sources that because we are taking a larger input of students standards are falling. I personally have no evidence to back up this theory.
On the contrary, it could be shown that in various faculties- we must make the point clear that in certain universities certain faculties are more highly regarded than others- if anything, standards have gone up. Certainly the amount of academic work, the number of essays, the number of class practical exercises and the number of examinations which students have to take have certainly increased in recent years. Unfortunately, however, in Australia we also find that one in three university students fails.
This brings me back to the point I made earlier, namely that the Australain population is being asked to carry a greater proportion of the financial bill for tertiary education. Any government which is prepared to take on this responsibility must be prepared to consider in some detail why it is that one in three Australain university students fails, and why those students who go in for a 3-year or 4-year course take up to 6, 7 or even 8 years to graduate. Is that a cost which the university can sustain? Is that a cost which the community should be prepared to bear indefinitely? Will those figures go up or will they fall? In some universities they have fallen in the last 2 years and in others they have risen. This is a very serious problem. It is a question of utilising the brain power and the capacities of the universities to the maximum extent possible.
Perhaps one of the reasons we face a problem is our method of teaching. For many years there has been a tendency in universities to grant status to those university professors and lecturers who have been outstanding in research work. Unfortunately, many great researchers are hopeless as teachers. Perhaps the line needs to be drawn. Perhaps we need to apply a different definition. Perhaps our post-graduate students should be encouraged to make a fundamental decision. If they are going to be professional academics, which line should they take? Should they be teachers, should they be researchers, or should they be a bit of each? I do not have the answer, but I suggest that in finding the answer we might go a long way towards discovering why it is that so many students fail in Australia’s universities.
Yesterday I visited the University of New South Wales and I asked many questions of students specifically because of this debate. I wanted to make sure that what I said was at least up to date, because members of this House and others have often been accused by university students of being out of date. Therefore I thought it was necessary to check my facts. I was appalled at the number of students who said to me: ‘We have spent 4 years here, and most of the time we wonder why we are here at all. We wonder whether we are wasting our time’. Surely, if the system is what it should be, if universities are indeed supposed to be, as Disraeli said, places of light, liberty and learning, we should be able to give the students at these institutions at least a feeling of belonging; at least an appreciation that the time they are spending there is well spent, that they are not just there for rote learning, that they are not just there to be part of a conveyor belt producing degrees, as though a university were some sort of a giant degree factory. But this is what many students feel. I think their attitudes towards universities are very important.
If the student, who is the ultimate product of the university, finds the system wanting, then I think we are being very stupid and short sighted if we stand back and say: ‘We are right, because that is what we have decided. The student must be wrong, because anyway he is just a student who does not know what he is talking about’. If we have given those people the right to vote and if we have given them the right to have the taxpayers’ money spent on their education, then let us at least be prepared to think and examine in detail their complaints on these matters. If we are not able to produce students who are successful, quite obviously our society and the depth of our knowledge and understanding will also fail to meet the test.
The problems facing the world are too great for us to be in a position to allow people to spend years of their lives in a university unless their time there is well spent. When I say ‘well spent ‘ I mean that the individual student should feel that he is making a contribution to himself, his university and to the society of which I am sure he is willing to form a part. Until we have achieved that we have not reached the essence of the definition of a university.
Perhaps the time has come for a reconsideration. Perhaps we need a new stratification between the secondary education level and the tertiary level. We have seen in the last few years the advent of the institution of the college of advanced education. This is certainly a step in the right direction. But I do not think it solves the whole problem. If we take on the major task of re-education, which I mentioned earlier, perhaps we will need to put some people, especially graduates in the existing universities, and put in many now at the undergraduate level in another college system which can be placed in between the universities and the colleges of advanced education. This has been tried in various countries. It has been tried in the United States of America. In some places it has been successful; in others it has not. But I submit that to continue a system which allocates thousands of students to a handful of faculties and to expect the academic staff to be able to give to those students individually the degree of attention which they obviously need is ignoring the realities. It cannot be done at the present time, nor in the foreseeable future.
Perhaps we should be looking for university institutions of approximately 14,000 students. We should have far more universities rather than fewer universities which have great numbers of students. I realise it is a matter of cost, and I also appreciate that the Australian Universities Commission pointed out in its recommendations that it is more expensive to have more smaller universities than a few bigger ones. That is fine, but it is not entirely a matter of cost; it is a question of results. Unless our universities are able to produce the quality of graduates which this country needs, and unless the youth of Australia attending those universities can complete their time there feeling that it has been well spent, then indeed we need to re-examine our concepts in this regard.
– in reply- I would like to answer some of the points raised in this debate. Actually, this debate has ranged very far beyond the question of the structure of the Australian Universities Commission. It has brought in matters like student housing and university standards, which, while I find tempting to answer and to which I will make some passing reference, are not actually germane to the Bill. However, I want to answer one or two of the points that definitely relate to the Bill. Really, the criticism of the major Opposition spokesman on this matter was concentrated on the definition of a university in the legislation. It states:
The Minister may, by writing under his hand, direct that this Act shall apply to an institution or proposed institution that he is satisfied is to be constituted as a university within Australia by a law of Australia, a State or an internal Territory.
In other words, I cannot by instrument in writing under my hand raise to the status of a university those sorts of bodies concerning which I am receiving a great deal of pressure at the present time. These bodies are awarding degrees through the post. The change in definition has been caused by a self-styled university with very questionable standards. It was issuing a degree which would not be accepted by any Australian university or by the Australian Public Service. People were being deceived into paying money to get degrees. It has to be made perfectly clear that the Australian Universities Commission at no time accepted this body as being a university. The definition of a university appears to have confused the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly), who suggested that a university could not be established by private initiative because of this law.
There are 7 governments to make laws- not my Government’s laws, assuming I stay in government, nor those of my successor when I do not. The States can constitute a university, a body which they do not finance. I invite the honourable gentleman to turn his memory back a few years to when it was proposed by the Catholic Church in New South Wales to establish a university. The Catholic Church approached the Government of New South Wales to legislate that that university had university status, that it was accepted as a university and that its degrees would be recognised. Assuming it had a medical faculty, the State would have to recognise its medical degrees to allow people to practice. The same principle applies in all the degrees that such a university would award. Even if it were established by a private initiative it would be recognised by the Crown.
That is really the story of all English universities. The motto of Oxford University- ‘Dominus Illuminatio Mea’ or ‘God is My Light’- reveals its theological origin, but the monarchy always established colleges in which students could reside and underwrote them financially, and wealthy people endowed them. I think that the honourable member for Bradfield was giving us a pipe dream when he spoke about the private establishment of universities.
I date back to the original Interim Council of the Australian National University and also in this Parliament to the original Act. The Chifley Government, in what appeared to be a princely gesture, provided that £350,000 a year would be the minimum grant to the Australian National University. I thought that that was pretty good because the University of Western Australia when I attended it cost £20,000 a year to run. If honourable gentlemen look at page 1888 of Hansard they will see that this year the Australian National University cost a cool $50,656,000. If one looks at the growth of expenditure on the Australian National University one does not have the complicating factor of the States making grants to it. One has a strict line of comparison of like with like- one institution financing it. Generally speaking, that is the whole trend.
I want to refer to student accommodation. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has become a convinced socialist as far as student housing is concerned. He says that under benefits to students the Commonwealth Goverment is to provide houses for students all over the Australian nation. I presume that he means the Australian Government. He will be giving the universities an appalling problem if they are to become housing commissions for houses scattered all over the cities where they are and if the onus for the administration of all those houses falls on the vice-chancellor. I suggest that if there is to be public provision of housing it would have to be by the Australian Government. I do not rule out that possibility. This is a matter that the Universities Commission and the Commission of Colleges of Advanced Education need to look at.
But I also invite the house to look at the question of student fads- fads about where they want to live and where they do not. Remember that when we are talking about tertiary students we are talking about the most privileged sector of young people in Australian education. If a person graduates at a university he has cost the taxpayer $64,000. If a person leaves school at 15 he has cost the taxpayer $4,000. The Leader of the Opposition is now suggesting the expenditure of some millions of dollars more on student housing, very nimbly saying that the vast proliferation of universities with their beautiful campuses was the work of the Liberal and Country Parties in the last 23 years but that the predicament of students in slums is the work of the Labor Government in the last 2 years. That is a lovely little touch that has nothing to do with reality. The predicament of students, if it is as bad as he suggests, would obviously be the development of a number of years.
Honourable members can write me off as a conservative in this if they like, but I believe that the Universities Commission made a mistake in the last triennium in not continuing to develop at as great a rate as before halls of residence and university colleges. Let us take Armidale which is the centre where grievance concentrates most, where people are exploiting students with rentals of $90 a week and where four or five of them share one house in crowded conditions. I have received representations from university colleges in Armidale which have been left half-empty- as they have been left half-empty they are moving towards a very serious financial position- that they should be subsidised financially. A couple of years ago University House was half-empty. The standard of accommodation for students at University House leaves any Oxford college for dead. I am not speaking about accommodation for dons. When the previous Government built University House- it began in our time but it was completed in your time- accommodation per student cost £6,000. That would be $12,000, and $12,000 back in 1954, so it would be a very great sum today. For a time the place was left halfempty. The fashion has gone back again and I understand that it is full. Up in Armidale one finds that quite fine residential colleges are left half-empty.
Of course, from the same area comes a demand for 2 beautiful libraries to be built- one for the teachers college, which must not affiliate with the university, and one for the university, which has 3 times as many teacher-trainees as the teachers college. In this town with a population of about 15,000 apparently we are to spend $4m or so on a couple of libraries. I do not want to satirise the position but really in the Australian educational spectrum there are other urgent needs. I want the Universities Commission to look genuinely at student needs. I am not certain that it can turn itself into a major housing commission merely because, as the Leader of the Opposition informs us, there is a new student life style and they do not wish to live in halls of residence. However, the point about the definition is that it does not give me capricious powers to ignore private initiatives that are recognised by the States should they become universities. It does not give me the power to recognise in the States what the States would not recognise as universities, about which they have not legislated and declared to be universities. I think it has rather the opposite meaning of what was suggested.
The honourable member for Bradfield spoke about some kind of hostility to part-time students. The number of part-time students is not declining in either the universities or the colleges of advanced education, but if there is a faster growth in the number of full-time students I think it is because our student allowances are encouraging people more to be full-time students. Let me restrict myself to the universities. In 1964 there were 42,087 full-time students at universities. This year there are 86,200. In 1964 the total number of part-time and external students was 29,000. This year the estimate is 41,560. I imagine that any sort of development of an open university with a reinforcement of external studies with all sorts of modern techniques and a federation of universities to do this sort of work- I do not want to anticipate the report but that is a possibility- obviously would be a method of encouraging this sort of student. The whole field of tertiary education is expanding very rapidly.
If I were to say something about standards I would talk about the celebrated case of what would now be called a college of advanced education and what was once called an institute of technology going through the roof and becoming a university. That does not worry me in particular. My impression is that the major colleges of advanced education are leaning over backwards to prove that their degrees are superior to university degrees in the fields in which they award them. They are not awarding doctorates of philosophy and so on, I think that they are imposing very high standards. I certainly think that that is true of, for instance, the degrees awarded by the Western Australian and South Australian Institutes of Technology. I do not think that there has been a compromising on excellence. I cannot follow the honourable gentleman in this debate, but I would like to present to him an analysis of the argument that was advanced in the ‘Bulletin’ about the high failure rate among Australian students in comparison with students in the United Kingdom. He would find that the comparisons are invalid for very many reasons. He would also find the analysis quite interesting.
I want to say that we agreed- one honourable gentleman was kind enough to quote my speech in this respect- with the previous Government’s establishment of the Universities Commission as an objective advisory body which would look into the problems of universities, examine them and report upon them in a public document that would become advice to the Government, and if the Government rejected that advice the public, in particular, could compare the reasons advanced by the Universities Commission with the Government’s reasons. In fact we were so impressed by that procedure that we believed in its extension into other fields, as, for instance, with respect to the Schools Commission. There is no attempt to get round the Universities Commission.
To those people who suggest that we want to direct a university I say that when an archbishop writes to me about student pornography I am glad to be able to say that the universities are autonomous bodies and that it is therefore a matter for them, and that when students are indignant because the vice-chancellor has called the police on to the campus to deal with the latest sitdown I am glad to be able to say that I am not going to intervene against the vice-chancellor as universities are autonomous institutions and they have to solve those problems and their relations with their students in their own context. Of course, if students go round smashing buildings it becomes a matter of public order. But in the States and in the Australian Capital Territory the taking of the initiative in the summoning of any police has always been with the university authorities themselves. I do not want to discuss these matters beyond saying that I doubt whether the trend of governments is to want to interfere. Who wants to put his hand on a porcupine in relation to some of these problems?
The interference that might be feared would be if universities and colleges of advanced education were to be denied the money that would enable them to carry on. The Universities Commission discusses with the universities what they propose as courses and, if it regards them as being valid areas of study in demand, it recommends that they be funded. I should be very happy if the millionaires who used to endow American education could be found in Australian to pour vast sums of money into universities.
– Under this Government?
– I do not think that they have been conspicuous in the making of grants to universities in Australia ever since the advent of modern taxation. I happened to go to a university which was established really by the endowments of Sir Winthrop Hackett, but he lived in the days before modern taxation. I do not know whether the present Government is being accused of raising the level of taxation, which it has not done; but I do not think that taxation, even at the level it was the day the previous Liberal-Country Party Government fell, would produce vast sums of money from private individuals to universities. Bequests are made and sometimes they are quite significant; but what sort of bequest would it have to be to enable the running of the Australian National University at a cost of $50m a year? That would be impossible. I am afraid that the idea of governments not financing universities is a dream. What I think we have to do to meet the requirements of the honourable member for Bradfield, which are valid ones, is to have an independent body like the Universities Commission publicly advising and studying the problems of universities, and otherwise to leave them as autonomous bodies.
I hope that the universities will always be devoted to excellence. That is the purpose of a university. There must be the excellence of study in a university to produce the excellence of research workers or the excellence of scholars, even if it is in something that people do not regard as being very practical. There must be that excellence if they are to be repositories of the best in human thought. I wish that they fully estimated themselves in that way. My complaint about university students is not that they overestimate themselves but that they underestimate themselves. The community is really looking to them for first-class thinking about all sons of problems in the community. I think even of the Aboriginal problem. It is rather depressing if what one gets from where one expects excellence of analysis is only a repetition of slogans. But I do not want to get on to that subject. I believe in universities as places of excellence of study and I think that our provision for them in the Budget at least set free to do the job the people who should be able to carry that through. The Universities Commission is being strengthened by this legislation to help it to do its job.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 3 (Title).
-As a gentle display of curiosity on my part, I would be glad if the Minister could explain to me why he dropped the term ‘Australian’ from the title ‘Australian Universities Commission’. The Minister has spoken of Government practice. The practice of the Government in the last 20 months or so has been to substitute the word ‘Australian’ for the word ‘Commonwealth’. I think it has done so on very questionable grounds. If a writ were to be served on the Government would it not be served on the Commonwealth of Australia and not on the Australian Government? This is just simple curiosity on my part. What does the Minister mean when he says that it is the practice of the Government?
– As far as the 3 commissions are concerned- that is, the Schools Commission, the Universities Commission and the Commission on Advanced Education- we are dropping the word ‘Australian’ because it is not necessary. It adds a mouthful. They are not bodies which are in juxtaposition with similar State bodies, which would have required in the past the use of the word ‘Commonwealth’ instead of the word ‘State’ or the word ‘Australian’ instead of the word ‘Queensland’. It is simply the ‘Universities
Commission’. It is analogous to the United Kingdom, which does not keep on talking about the ‘British Universities Commission’ or the ‘British Schools Commission’, if there is one there.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole.
-I would like to ask a question concerning clause 5 and the Minister’s announcement today that an agricultural college is to be established in Katherine, for which I am sure we must congratulate the local member, who has made such tremendous efforts in this respect in many years past.
– The honourable member for the Northern Territory?
-No, I am talking about the member in the Legislative Council, Mr Les MacFarlane.
– What about the local member in the Federal Parliament?
– I am a very modest member. I am very pleased that the Minister has made this announcement. I wonder whether the provision of this institution is covered by sub-clause (4) of clause 5 and whether this sort of thing can happen without it being considered by this Parliament. Who are the people concerned with the setting up of this commendable institution?
-With reference to clause 5 1 make it clear to the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) that I support him completely regarding an attempt by a ‘university’ to seek to put pressure upon him, upon the Government or upon the Universities Commission for support when it does not meet the requirements of a university. There is no ambiguity about that. I support the Minister completely but I put it to him that at some time in the future when he is not the Minister- we seek immortality in our own curious way but my imperfections press upon me very much- some other Minister if he is satisfied has only to give a certificate that he is satisfied and the provisions of this Act would have force with respect to a questionable university. I ask the Minister to meditate upon this overnight. I think he will then agree with me tomorrow morning. At the moment I invite him to agree that he would look at a university and ask, on objective criteria: Is this a university or not, or is it some confectioned organisation that styles itself as a university and seeks to put political pressure upon the Minister and upon members of Parliament to have access to financial assistance from the Universities Commission? I invite my friend to agree that he is defeating his purposes by putting into an Act a discretion which is available for some time in the future. As far as the honourable gentleman himself is concerned, I have not the slightest anxiety, but not all of the gentlemen who will occupy the office of Minister for Education will necessarily be driven or controlled by the same instinct.
– I can direct that this Act applies only to what is a university if it is a university constituted within Australia by a law of Australia, a State or an internal Territory. I gather that the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) got sidetracked on to the Katherine Agricultural College and what he was trying to ask me was whether an internal Territory could establish a university; that is, whether the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory could do so. This certainly leaves the way clear whereby if in the future some territorial authority established a university I could acknowledge it as a university. The real point seems to me to be that universities have always been an Act of the Crown, either through what honourable gentlemen opposite prefer to call the Commonwealth, a State or through the Legislative Assembly of a Territory.
I am sorry that I am totally unaware of having received any pressure from the member for Katherine that the Agricultural College should be at Katherine. It would be a wicked thing if it were pressure that determined its location at Katherine. I believe that several committees which have examined this proposal decided that Katherine was the ideal place for this type of institution. It will be in close proximity, for instance, to a Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation agricultural institution which will be of great assistance to this institution in the future. However I do not want to be sidetracked. Several committees in the Northern Territory which have reported have had a crossbearing on that location. I am not deriding the local member but I am not going to say that it is due to his pressure that Katherine has been selected. I would say it is due to a study by a great many people. The decision was unanimously supported by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Beazley)- by leaveread a third time.
Debate resumed from 19 September (vide page 1 553), on motion by Dr Patterson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-I have pleasure in speaking to this Bill which the Opposition supports. The Bill’s intention may be regarded as a mere formality requiring approval of funds totalling $279,000 to permit the Queensland Government to proceed with the original program of beef road construction. I thank the Minister for Northern Development and the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) for promptly making this amount available so that the Queensland Government may, so to speak, trim off the edges. I take this opportunity to comment on the subject of beef cattle roads because it is an opportunity we do not often get. I should like to stress a few points about beef roads. I suppose that I have a special responsibility because almost the entire beef cattle roads system in Queensland is in my electorate of Kennedy and as shadow Minister for Northern Development and the Northern Territory I am obviously further involved.
The Menzies Government brought the beef roads system into existence in 1961. 1 regard this Bill as the culmination of the first era. I should like briefly to examine the way the scheme was presented, some of the interesting highlights of it, the thinking of that particular time and the contribution that beef roads have made. In 1961 the Menzies Government decided to introduce what has become known as the beef roads system. The accent was on northern Australia obviously because in that part of Australia are the great beef cattle producing areas of this nation, more particularly in the Northern Territory, the northern part of Western Australia and the great beef producing State of Queensland. Subsequent events reveal that the original decision was more than justified. Vast distances and remoteness from the main centres of consumption have made the beef cattle industry in northern Australia exceptionally reliant on transport for the integration of store cattle production and fattening and the delivery of cattle in good condition at the main export meatworks and domestic outlets. The seasonality of turn-off creates peaks in demands for transport which add to the difficulty of providing cheap and efficient transport services to the industry.
In the past lack of efficient transport was a key factor which inhibited the development of cattle properties and delayed the introduction of better management practices. Railways, of course, helped change this pattern. Cattle walked to railheads but out our way railheads can be some distance from cattle properties. For instance in the Northern Territory and in Queensland many properties would be 100 miles from the nearest railhead. This is not an exceptional situation. Long journeys, either by walking or in road trains have still to be made from many properties. Droving was the traditional means of moving cattle in the past era. But it became obvious that something had to be done to bring cattle to marketing centres in good condition. The obvious solution was to turn to creating roads which would carry the cattle trains that were beginning to emerge. What we were looking for and what the Government was looking for in those days in 196 1, which is not so far back, was a permanent system of road transport. People who were going to produce cattle in large numbers and hoping for a developing market would have the security of knowing that cattle could be transported to markets almost anywhere at any time. It was the ‘at any time ‘ aspect which was important.
Let me deal with one or two interesting side lights. As I said, I will not occupy a great deal of the time of the House. The transporting of cattle by roads was not a development which first occurred in 1961. As far back as the late 1920s, cattle were moved by motor transport in the Meekatharra area of Western Australia. Compared with present day standards, the vehicles were small; neither vehicles nor roads were suitable. That is pretty obvious to everyone. The large scale use of road transport for beef cattle had to await the development and the use of high powered diesel operated vehicles and the building of suitable roads. I suppose it is an unfortunate fact that the impetus that led to this development was the Second World War. The war did necessitate the building of such roads as the Darwin-Mount Isa road. The whole concept began to take shape. People saw that large vehicles, be they wartime or other vehicles, could be used under almost any conditions to these remote parts of Australia.
Philip Ward of Banka Banka Station in the Northern Territory possibly pioneered the transporting of cattle by road on a large scale. I know that Banka Banka is not in Queensland; I will deal with Queensland in a moment. Banka Banka is a property of about 1,300 square miles.
It is about 400 miles north of Alice Springs. Ward began sending fat cattle by road transport to Alice Springs every week and from there they were railed to Adelaide. So, he proved the point. He was getting his cattle to market in good condition, getting them there promptly and whenever he wanted to get them there.
I come specifically to the State with which this Bill is concerned, Queensland. I refer to the magnificent contribution made by successive LiberalCountry Party governments to the building of beef roads. I am pleased to know that the continuation of the grants for beef road purposes has been approved already and that moneys have been made available. Up to 1967, Queensland received $ 11.95m in grants and $8.55m in the form of an interest bearing loan. So, there were some handouts and some loans. The point I want to stress is that 600 miles of roads were completed. Work was in progress on another 600 miles of these roads. In 1968, $39.5m was given to Queensland over a 7-year period. This time, the sum was in the form of direct grants.
Let us seek to appreciate the tremendous advance that has occurred in this area. No factor has contributed more to the ability of the beef industry to meet requirements than the construction of these beef roads. Let us face the fact that what we know and describe as beef roads could have been called defence roads, tourist roads or classified as the ordinary sort of road which permits a man and his family to get into their motor vehicle and drive, for instance, from Mount Isa to Brisbane, on bitumen all the way.
I wish to deal with one further aspect which concerns a specific road in Queensland. I will do so with the hope that the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory will bring this to the attention of the Government. We must admit frankly that he does receive advice from the State Government concerned. But I do feel that what I seek could be achieved if pressure came from Canberra and co-operation was achieved between the responsible Federal and State Ministers. I refer to the necessity to complete the Winton-Boulia road.
I know all these beef roads. There is not one beef road that I have not traversed. I had not travelled on some until three or four months ago. Beyond any doubt, the missing link on the Winton-Boulia section presents a very serious situation. May I explain it to the House? The usual direction of transport out of Darwin and the Northern Territory has been traditionally to Alice Springs and then into South Australia. Mr Deputy Speaker, you would be delighted to know, as you are a South Australian, that one meets South Australians everywhere. It is becoming more and more the habit now to travel from Darwin down into Queensland, through Mount Isa and on to the other eastern States.
In the course of the great floods which occurred earlier in the year in Queensland and the Northern Territory, these roads were cut in many places, I must confess, when the flood waters were at their peak. At least the existence of these beef roads did permit communications, the value of which could never have been envisaged. Without these links, the situation would have been quite hopeless. But a problem- a critical factorarose because of the one missing link, some 50 miles of road between Winton and Boulia. This stretch of road has not been completed. This fact upset the whole of the communication system, as the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) well knows. He and I were in touch almost daily in the course of those floods trying to work some way or some detour by which commodities could be moved through the country.
The crisis was one of immeasurable proportions which affected areas south and east of Darwin in the Northern Territory. As the Minister for Northern Development well knows, the whole of the Gulf area in the Northern Territory and Queensland was thrown into disaster conditions. Transports which could have brought badly needed commodities to those areas were unable to do so. Let us forget about the Northern Territory for a moment. If that road between Winton and Boulia had been completed, the task of those of us in Mount Isa and in the far north west of Queensland would have been infinitely easier. What was utterly frustrating was the fact that these great road trains would go as far as Winton and no further. Their drivers knew that they could go to a point along the road from Winton to Boulia only to where the bitumen ended. For the sake of a fairly small mileage of road, those supplies were denied to us. I make a plea today for the completion of the beef road from Winton to Boulia. After all, it has been in the beef roads program for years. I would say that the additional funds, over and above the $279,000 provided in this Bill, could be found to carry out that work.
To illustrate further the tremendous advantage of this beef roads system and to stress further our appreciation of the fact that these funds are being made available, although the amount is limited when compared with the $39.5m provided in the 7-year program, I draw the attention of the Minister to one road to which he, when he originally reported on beef roads, gave a good deal of priority. That is the Lynd Charters Towers road. It is my job, I suppose, to stress and to stress again the immeasurable importance of this beef roads program. I am sure that the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) will appreciate fully what 1 am about to say. I must repeat again and again the importance of this work. With respect to the Lynd Charters Towers road, I point out that the Gulf country had been traditionally the breeding country for beef cattle. Until recent years, there were all sorts of difficulties in this area such as calf mortality. Properties were not fenced. I could speak on that subject alone for the further five or six minutes for which I propose to address the House. More recently, as a natural consequence of the advance and the development of modern techniques, a great impetus has been given to the breeding capacity, the efficiency and the general growth of the cattle industry in the Gulf and near Gulf areas. People who are actively engaged in the industry and whose job it is to plan the future of the beef cattle industry could see that the traditional practice of bringing cattle down into the Channel country was beginning to change a little. Cattle were being brought down into the Charters Towers and eastern areas.
The further grand design is to have the Clermont-Charters Towers Road sealed so that cattle can be brought right down to the central highlands of Queensland where it is hoped- I say ‘hoped’ because these days the rural areas are terribly depressed and the people there are wondering just what the future holds- that with a change of government and with a new aspiration and hope for the future we could visualise at least lot feeding or intensive feeding on a scale different from that which exists now. The Nogoa Dam, as it was originally called, or Fairbairn Dam as it is now called, has given new life to the area. When the scheme eventually reaches its culminating point we hope to see many additional farms- I say farms rather than station properties- emerge in that area. So, a beef road has a classification of a development road now, but I have always hoped that common sense would prevail and that the Clermont-Charters Tower road would be reclassified as a result of a recommendation being made to the Federal Government that it be brought into the beef road scheme. Then cattle bred in the Gulf country could be brought down through the Lynd to Charters Towers on the existing beef cattle road and then into the central highlands of Queensland.
I point out to the House and to the people of Australia that I have expressed my appreciationI think honourable members will agree that I have done so in a fairly generous mannerand given the Government credit for what is an extremely small amount. I would like to stress that these roads will not be terribly useful in the future unless the petroleum differential subsidy is reintroduced. I particularly appeal to the Minister not that it be reviewed but that it be reintroduced immediately. Furthermore, if honourable members read the Coombs Report with its vicious onslaught on people living in nonmetropolitan areas, they will find one or two very ominous recommendations that have not been put into effect. To be quite honest about it they number nineteen. One of them would effect most seriously the provision of diesel fuel. We feel fairly sure about that being implemented. But, even under existing circumstances and under existing pressures on country people, the beef roads will lose their significance if beef trains do not roll over them.
Many Labor parliamentarians, particularly the Ministers- I am not referring specifically to the Minister for Northern Development- have a habit, if something that they know in their own area is unpopular, of threatening to resign. It has become almost like a Madame Melba contributiona farewell. I suppose the Prime Minister says to his Ministers and members representing the rural areas: ‘There is a bit of rough legislation coming through which will hit your crowd again. We are not very worried about them. They have not got that many votes. We know that we will not win the votes back. So when this rough legislation come in you had better threaten to resign again’. So the Minister threatens to resign. But honourable members will note that he never goes on with it.
I am stressing the point that if this sort of attitude towards country areas persists beef roads will become obsolete. No one will want to use them. They could be used for tourism, of courseif anyone can afford to buy a gallon of petrol. I think we are paying 72c a gallon at the moment. This is of particular assistance to the ordinary working man who depends on his car to come down to Brisbane! If beef roads are to be effective there has to be a lot of supplementary re-thinking in Cabinet. It is no good Ministers and backbench members of the Labor Party coming out with sanctimonious statements time and again objecting to some particular measure that has been brought against the people of the non-metropolitan areas. The crunch is in the Cabinet and in the Caucus. If a decision has been made in the Cabinet or Caucus to hurt my people and to hurt the people of other rural electorates I say that these Ministers and these members have abandoned their electorates and they should pay the penalty.
-I have no wish to oppose this Bill. There are a couple of pertinent suggestions which I would like to make and which Will take only a few minutes. The purpose of this Bill, as I understand it, is to be commended. It is to extend the period laid down in the Act from 30 June 1974 to 3 1 December 1974 in order to overcome the delay in the construction of beef roads due to the heavy flooding experienced in Queensland earlier this year. I should like to know- I ask the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) this question- whether this Government will be making further finance available for the beef roads program after 3 1 December 1974.
I have always been a very keen supporter of the beef roads program which was introduced by the previous Government, as the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) stated. I have always regarded this as one of the most progressive benefits introduced by a federal government to assist Queensland, the beef industry and the people of the outback who contribute to the industry. The beef industry was one of Australia’s greatest export income earners and I am confident that, despite the recent setback, it will be so again. For this reason I appeal to the Government to continue with the beef roads assistance plan in order to maintain this important export income earning industry.
One of the highest rates of exports of beef would be through my electorate. It is to the advantage of North Queensland. This satisfactory state of affairs has been assisted considerably by the construction of beef roads which has enabled livestock to be transported quickly from the grazing lands of the north-west to the processing works at the various ports. In order to maintain and improve the industry this situation must be allowed to continue. To enable this to happen, appropriate finance for road maintenance and the construction of new roads must be made available from Federal resources. I would recognise this as proper usage of taxpayers’ money for the benefit of the nation’s economy.
I mentioned construction of new beef roads. I remind the House and the Minister for Northern Development that some time ago I submitted a plan for 2 new beef roads that would assist considerably in the transport of stock from the north-west to the eastern seaboard. I mention it again to the Minister in order that he may see the logic of this reasoning and assist in implementing this new program as soon as possible. The closest beef road to our eastern pons runs north and south on the other side of the Great Divide. Access to these ports is by highways at the northern and southern ends of the road. While this is a great improvement on the situation that existed prior to the beef roads being constructed, transport of stock could be made simpler still and could guarantee the stock arriving at the processing works in even better condition. The situation is wide open at the moment for the construction of 2 new beef roads to achieve this end. A link road from the Ingham district and another from the Tully area to join the north-south beef road would make this possible.
Apart from speedier transportation of stock in this green belt there is plenty of land which could serve admirably as holding areas, which in turn could ensure that stock arrived at the processing works in prime condition. Apart from benefiting the beef industry, these 2 link roads would give access to thousand of acres of fertile country that could be utilised for a variety of agricultural purposes. Also they would give access to land which could be used for reafforestation, and goodness knows we have neglected this aspect of our natural resources long enough. And again, these link roads could be of real value to the tourist trade. Instead of tourists having to be restricted to the north-south highway on the eastern side of the Divide, scenic circuits would be made possible by using these roads. In fact, development of a number of types would be possible just by the construction of these roads. The beef road system in Queensland is without doubt one of the most useful developments we have gained, but it could be made more useful still by the addition of these two short roads. I ask the Minister in all sincerity to make a close study of this suggestion and if there is any further information that he may require I would be only too happy to supply it.
The Minister mentioned in his second reading speech that the Australian Government has pledged its assistance to Queensland in its flood restoration efforts and has adopted a positive and constructive approach in this matter. I am extremely pleased to hear it, for he would be well aware of the damage caused to Queensland’s beef road system by the unusually heavy and long monsoonal season we experienced late last year and early this year. And if I read the signs correctly, we will experience a similar situation this season. In my opinion finance spent on the restoration and the maintenance of our beef road system is certainly not wasted and does much to maintain the industry and our economy. As the Minister well knows, north and north-western Queensland contribute a large share towards the nation’s economy and this effort must be sustained. This Bill may, as the Minister states, deal with a minor amendment to the Act, but there is nothing minor about our beef road system and if, as the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) has stated, the Australian Government wants more say in the use of finance for the construction of roads, I suggest he can cut his teeth on the suggestion I have just made regarding these link roads leading from the Ingham and Tully areas. I am delighted to support this Bill.
-I am not opposed to the States Grants (Beef Cattle Roads) Bill and to facilitate its passage through the House I shall restrict my remarks to a few observations on the beef cattle roads. In that respect I was very gratified to hear the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) declare in his second reading speech that the Government’s attitude to the matter of grants for beef cattle roads is a positive and constructive one. Although this Bill in itself is only for the purpose of extending the period of application of the scheme it is assuring to learn that the Government recognises the great importance of the beef cattle industry to export earnings and to domestic strengthening of Australia’s economy. The provision of $39.5m to Queensland by Australian Governments over a period from 1967 to 1974 highlights the importance of the project. The beef cattle roads scheme introduced into an area of vast distances gave a high mobility and flexibility.
The roads could well be described as the arteries of the cattle industry. If we accept the proposition that the life blood of the beef industry pulses through these arteries, should not the Government, with its self-declared positive and constructive attitude towards the industry immediately address itself to the treating of the acute anaemia induced by the collapse of the beef market? I would suggest that as a logical continuation of the beef roads exercise the Government should give very urgent thought to the provision of financial assistance to those producers who are seriously threatened by the industry failure. Of course many of them have been unbelievably handicapped by the record floods experienced earlier in the year. This country of ours in the future will need the beef production in the areas served by the beef roads. Now is the time for the Government to act in the interests of the nation as a whole.
It further has a great responsibility, as I mentioned before, to meet in prospect the demand of a world in which two-thirds of the population is currently denied normal subsistence levels or in actual fact is poverty-stricken and starving. I am informed that in the next 3 weeks the population of this world will increase by 4 million. It seems monstrous that we should not be continually mindful of our responsibilities, as a food storehouse of the world, to maintain our capability. In this respect the beef cattle roads keep us quite adequately poised to accelerate our actions in this direction when the need arises. They serve an area of Australia where the cattle in the main are produced under range grazing conditions. This brings in another rather important consideration. In this world in meeting the nutritional requirements of its population we find to a considerable extent the misuse or the inefficient use of grains and certain other foods which are processed through cattle to produce beef, whereas the benefit from this food could be greatly increased by directing it to direct human nourishment. But in these areas of Australia beef is produced, in the main, under range conditions. Therefore, this frees grain protein for more beneficial application.
The roads give us mobility and flexibility, which must be a decided advantage. Should foot and mouth disease, a continuing threat to Australia, strike the industry the roads would give us mobility to control and isolate affected areas. The roads have an incidental defence benefit which is not inconsiderable. Honourable members would be well aware of the handicaps under which we have laboured in directing our defence forces to our most exposed areas, which coincidentally seem to be those least populated and least normally maintained. The question of agistment in drought conditions needs no amplification. In all respects the beef roads scheme has been an outstanding example of cooperation between the Federal governments of the day and the State governments. The end result can only be one of outstanding benefit to all concerned so long as we maintain a continuing sense of responsibility towards the entire project. I support the Bill.
– in reply- The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) said, according to my interpretation- perhaps I misunderstood him- that the amount of money made available in this program is only small.
– No, for this project.
-For this beef roads project In the next 3-year period the Queensland Government will receive $24m and Western Australia will receive $5m over the same period. The rate of expenditure is significantly higher than that of the previous beef roads programs. Admittedly inflation and increased costs come into the question but certainly the program over the next 3 years is equal to if not greater than the rate of spending, taking into account the inflationary factors, in the previous programs. This is, I believe, as it ought to be.
I should like to deal also with the suggestion of the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) regarding the more concentrated link-up with the breeding and fattening areas behind the Ingham and Tully areas on the other side of the range. The whole objective of the beef roads program is to integrate areas or regions to allow store cattle to be moved quickly straight off their mothers, that is, weaner cattle to the fattening areas, or alternatively to allow cattle from the fattening areas to be able to be moved swiftly to meatworks. At the same time in the breeding areas the roads allow a lot of cast for age cows that would obviously not be able to walk by droving on stock routes to get to markets. The whole of the beef roads program is a long term plan. In fact, the first beef roads program started in about 1943 with the meat encouragements agreement between the Australian and British governments to increase beef production. Some millions of dollars were spent in the channel country roads. There was a lapse then until the early 1960s, when the beef roads program, as we know it now, came into force.
In this Bill we are dealing specifically with Queensland. The Gulf Country is recognised as one of the most outstanding and safest of the breeding areas of Australia. One objective is to increase calf survival, which in many areas is still very low- a figure of 35 per cent is not uncommon in places around Burketown- by allowing young cattle to be moved off their mothers as fast as possible into the fattening areas on the coast of Queensland, or into the brigalow and associated areas around the Rockhampton, Burnett, Mackay, Belyando and Suttor areas. The roads were designed for this reason.
The Normanton-Julia Creek road was the first to be built. This road, of course, made a tremendous contribution to this Gulf area not only in terms of cattle being turned off but also in terms of allowing people to move into areas where roads previously were not good, particularly during the wet season. The further link-up with the Burketown area towards Cloncurry also allows cattle to be moved in another direction to be railed at one of the stock rail heads. On the eastern side the very important road from Lynd to Charters Towers, which has been referred to, allows cattle in the basalt areas to be moved into the fattening areas of Charters Towers or, as the new program unfolds, into the developing brigalow areas, particularly area 3 of the brigalow scheme. This, of course, involves a further extension of the road from Charters Towers to Mount Coolon and then into area 3, the northern part of which is centred on Nebo.
At the same time the development of area 3 has been helped with an arterial beef road from Dingo to Mount Flora which goes right through the middle of the MacKenzie-Isaac countryright through some of the most uninhabited cattle country in Australia until a few years ago. This road has completely opened up the country. Together with a feeder road from May Downs on to the old Bruce Highway, it allows cattle to be moved either from Dingo by rail or road train into one of the meatworks at Rockhampton. It allows store cattle to be moved from the northern areas- from the Charters Towers and Belyando Suttor areas- into the brigalow country, it also allows fat cattle or store cattle to be moved into the meatworks and the fattening areas of the Mackay region. In other words, the whole of the beef road system is one of integration. Of course, the idea of beef roads in the Channel country is to allow the utilisation of the Northern Territory bitumen across the Barkly Tablelands. These roads in the Channel country were built to enable cattle to be moved both in and out of the Channel country to railheads that service Brisbane or Rockhampton or north to Townsville itself.
When the current 3-year program is completed there will, of course, be a tremendous increase in access to many areas that have suffered greatly in terms of non-availability of access for the movement of both store and fat cattle, particularly in the brigalow areas of Queensland where there is a joint Commomwealth and Queensland Government project to develop huge areas of brigalow country which in their native or virgin state are almost useless. The carrying capacity of many parts of the brigalow areas 1, 2 and 3 in their virgin state was perhaps one beast to 100 acres. Now they are producing anything from one beast to 4 acres to one beast to 8 acres depending on the composition of the improved pastures and, of course, the seasons. One of the great benefits of beef roads is that cattle is able to be moved off particularly during adverse seasons. Perhaps the value of beef roads has been no better demonstrated than in the Channel country itself because one of the great problems of the Channel country was the difficulty of getting young cattle that had been brought into the Channel country from the Northern Territory out of that area in periods of drought. Unless this can be done they could be caught in this area and tremendous losses would occur. Despite periodic droughts the availability of wheeled transport now allows cattle to be moved out when the necessity arises.
I think that I have dealt with the main points. I have not mentioned roads in the Northern Territory or the Kimberley region because this Bill does not pertain to them. But it is obvious that the principle I have enunciated in regard to this legislation must apply to those roads, and that is the need to be able to integrate breeding areas with fattening areas and fattening areas with the meat works or railheads. I am pleased to say that the Government has accepted the beef road program as a vital part of the development of Northern Australia and that it will certainly increase the rate of spending in areas where there can be no question that there is economic justification for this money to be spent.
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 Dr Patterson) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 19 September (vide page 1 552), on motion by Mr Crean:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The States Grants Bill relates to Tasmania and it is particularly on the current plight of Tasmania that I wish to speak. I feel that I should let the people of Tasmania as well as their representatives in this place speak for themselves. I wanted the people to speak for themselves. Therefore, several months ago I asked the people of Australia through their local councils what was their reaction to the current economic situation. The response was as substantial as it was depressing as a catalogue of the consequences of this Government’s economic management. Of over 800 local government councils in Australia well over 500 replied and, as the replies came in over a period of time, it was perfectly obvious that the credit squeeze and the impact on local government was mounting very markedly. Now it has reached a stage where local government is in great difficulties. Not only is local government in great difficulties but the people of Australia are in difficulties. It is about the Tasmanian people that I wish to speak this afternoon.
The results that I received, as I have mentioned, were a catalogue of the consequences of the Government’s economic mismanagement. I would like to quote what was said by the people of Tasmania themselves. The people of Ulverstone on the north coast of Tasmania said:
Even with the severe increase in rates, Council will have to cut its works program for 1974-75 year to the absolute essential services and works.
Council will in all probability have to seriously consider staff retrenchment owing to the high rate of interest on loan money.
One such project which will be vitally affected is an improved water supply for Ulverstone ratepayers, failing a satisfactory reply from the Federal Government to make money available for a Regional Scheme for the North West Coast of Tasmania. For Council to increase the holding capacity of the headworks and put in a nitration plant at the present time would be far beyond its capacity and capability on present day high rates of interest.
That is the experience of all places throughout Australia. It is interesting to note that, at a time when this Government’s Budget increases Government spending by 32.4 per cent, local government bodies are having to cut their public works to absolute essentials. But it is the local government bodies that provide services to so many people of Australia. So it is the people of Australia who will have the services withdrawn from them. It is an interesting somersault in action for the Labor Government in Canberra to increase spending by 32.4 per cent while the ratepayers in these areas are so badly affected.
During the last election campaign I saw a deputation from those concerned with seeing the water scheme I have mentioned implemented. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) did not even bother to see them. He refused to obtain at first hand the relevant information. The Budget gives no satisfaction and provides no money for them. The honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) has explained the Government’s reluctance to help by accusing the North West Municipal League of not having a properly documented submission. I have seen their submission; it is detailed. There has been plenty of time for the Federal Government to query any aspect that has not been fully explained. There have been many opportunities. So much for the concern of the Canberra Labor Government for Tasmania. Then there is Penguin, the home town of Mr Davies, the honourable member for Braddon. Here is what the council clerk said in reply to my query:
Council has also found difficulty in accepting reasonable tender prices for materials and contracts. Tenders received for buildings and the provision of essential services are at least SO per cent higher than estimates based on costs 6 months ago.
I repeat, 50 per cent higher than estimates of costs 6 months ago.
The National economic trends caused Council to investigate the possibility of reducing staff to a minimum, curtail essential works and reduce capital expenditure. With the curtailment of this expenditure must come resultant unemployment, although Council feels that the full impact of the inflationary period has not been felt in Tasmania. Council has no desire to curtail essential works but the factors mentioned and the increased interest rate on capital works expenditure leaves very little by way of an alternative.
Interest rates in Australia today are at their highest in the entire history of the country and those high interest rates were deliberately achieved by this Government. One night there was a meeting in the Lodge of the assembled economic wisdom of the Labor Party. There were three of them there: The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the Treasurer (Mr Crean). They announced proudly: ‘We are going to increase interest rates’, and this is the problem which has been put upon the Australian people through local governments, on State governments, and of course on those people who are borrowing for their houses, borrowing on overdraft, borrowing on hire purchase or personal loans. The Labor Government thinks Braddon is safe, so it adopts this attitude. The responses I have had indicate that the people of the north-west coast are not satisfied. They are not satisfied with their representation and they are not satisfied with the quality of the policy decisions being made by the Labor Government.
Let us turn to the west coast and the municipality of Gormanston, an area which many would think traditionally votes Labor. I quote the reply from there. It says:
Ordinary business houses are pegged down on credit only on gilt-edged securities. Not as bad here as the 1961 credit squeeze -
Remember that this letter was dated 4 August, and the credit situation has worsened since- but tomorrow it could be -
I am warned, and it has become worse.
– Where are the Tasmanians?
-Where are the Tasmanians? I am asked. The honourable member for Deniston, Mr Coates, is the only Tasmanian representative in the House at the present time. Tasmania, because of shipping and transport, could be in dire trouble in a short time. That was the warning in August and it now is in dire trouble. When the Canberra Labor Government decided to raise the freight charges the first time the Tasmanian Labor Premier heard about it was on the radio. The Tasmanian Labor Premier was not informed that there were going to be freight rises, he had to listen to it on a news service.
– They were not game to tell him.
-My friend Mr Nixon, the honourable member for Gippsland, says they just were not game to tell him. I think they were ashamed to tell him. It is a great example of cooperation between a Labor Government in Canberra and a Labor Government in Hobart. The Minister for Transport, the distinguished incumbent from Newcastle, talked in an offhand manner about increased imposts on sea freights to Tasmania. Mr Jones said:
The Government believes it is unfortunate but nevertheless unavoidable that these increases have to be introduced. It is just a fact of life that increases will have to be introduced unless we are prepared to subsidise the service which we are not prepared to do.
Notwithstanding a statement made by the Prime Minister, when asking the Tasmanians to vote for him, that he would make sea freight transport costs to and from Tasmania the same as mainland rail transport costs, there is the Minister for Transport, who is supposed to fulfil the policy undertaking, the election promise, saying the Government is not prepared to subsidise in any way. It is equally a fact of life that sea freight is the lifeblood of Tasmania. If the Government wants to choke Tasmania the best way to do it is to zero in on sea freight. That is where it can do the most damage to Tasmania and that is where it has chosen to do the most damage.
The Tasmanian members were concerned enough then to protest belatedly. The fact that one out of five of them is in the chamber for this Bill shows that the protest was rather short-lived. I received a long apologia from the member for Bass, the Minister for Defence, the former Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard). All it contained were vague words about the Prime Minister seeking further information. What further information can you need than the report of all the local councils of Tasmania, of the State Government of Tasmania? He can receive information at any time he wishes but to suggest he can do nothing because of a lack of information is merely to misstate the truth. I can only describe it as the classical fob-off. Two weeks later the Acting Prime Minister, Dr Cairns, who has finally visited Tasmania, announced that the Australian National Line will maintain the old rates for all northbound general cargoes until the Nimmo report on transport is available. Why only northbound cargo? The Government is desperate.
Tasmanians have seen too many short-term policies. They now want meaningful long term solutions for the problems that we all recognise Tasmanians have to overcome. The Prime Minister has incessantly repeated the promise to make shipping freight rates across Bass Strait no more than rail freight charges in other States. It was an election promise; it has not been honoured and there is no intention to honour it. The Government has set no time limit on the duration of the Nimmo inquiry. Prior to the election in May I said that we would require a report within 3 months, even if it were an interim report. Three months would have meant that the report came in last August, and we could have had the proper policies, but the Government is not concerned to pursue the matter. Let me turn to Brighton, and I immediately wish to take this opportunity of congratulating that community on achieving its 150th anniversary of foundation. Brighton is in the south of the State, it is in Wilmot, the electorate of Mr Duthie. I use it to illustrate the fact that the malaise in Tasmania is not confined to the north. The local government in their reply to me said this:
Higher wages are causing councils concern as the rate revenue will need to be increased to overcome this burden, together with no or little increase in Government assistance.
The Warden of Brighton refers to an instance which illustrates the problems of high interest rates. He said:
Council entered into an agreement to repay the total cost of a sewerage treatment plant and water reservoir of $380,000 as by way of an interim loan to the Department over 4 years. Interest rates were based on 6.3 per cent, an amount that Council felt at the time it was too high, but enabled Council to fix rates at a reasonable level. Since that time, however, the costs have escalated to $627,000 and the interest rates have increased 4.05 per cent -
This means that council is paying 10.35 per cent on loan money to service the ratepayers of the municipality. Rates have to go up, other services have to be cut down and there will be a retrenchment of the workforce. Is this not a staggering indictment of the Federal Government’s economic policy? No matter that the agreement was with the State Housing Department, it reflects the consequences of the Labor Government and the policies that in the end are passed on to the ordinary citizen, the ordinary ratepayer, who has to be abide by them and be burdened by them. Is it any wonder that the Labor Party is unpopular in Tasmania and increasingly so? I refer now to Huon in the electorate of Franklin. The honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) has not bothered to come into the House for this debate. This is what the Deputy Council Clerk had to say:
I would point out that employment opportunities in the Huon Valley in recent years have been concentrated on apple and pear exports and associated works. Now, with the collapse of this industry and the rapid removal of orchards under the Federal tree-pull scheme, employment opportunities have disappeared.
This is surely a classical case for structural adjustment assistance and the Opposition supports this concept. This assistance must be given, but where is the evidence that the Government is doing anything except making high sounding speeches? The Government has failed lamentably to get this scheme off the ground while the need for it increases daily.
Let us look at Launceston, the heart-land of Bass, the electorate of the former Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence. He has not bothered to come into the chamber for the debate. There is much unemployment in Launceston. It is affecting the whole of the city, and its effect is extending beyond the city into the adjoining areas. The ‘Launceston Examiner’ editorial of 5 September states:
Personal pleas, letters, telephone calls, facts before the socalled task force inquiry into the calamity that has hit the textile industry and dozens of telegrams have achieved nothing. Nobody in Canberra cares.
Is it any surprise that the honourable member for Bass- the former Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence- the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) and the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) are not in the House when the ‘Launceston Examiner’ can say- and it is worth repeating-
Personal pleas, letters, telephone calls, facts before the socalled task force inquiry into the calamity that has hit the textile industry and dozens of telegrams have achieved nothing. Nobody in Canberra cares.
The editorial meant that nobody in Government in Canberra cares. No Labor member of the House of Representatives and no Labor Senator from Tasmania care, but the Opposition does care. To see a thriving town brought to its knees by what was seen by Labor Ministers to be a nice, clean economic decision to cut tariffs is not a pretty sight. Unemployment is not pretty anywhere and I remind honourable members that unemployment is the greatest way to create poverty in a nation. This Government has deliberately opted for unemployment, to bring about poverty. Today after 20 months of a Labour Government, unemployment, measured by the same index as it was measured by in August 1 972 when honourable members now on the government side were screaming that unemployment seasonally adjusted- which is the only way to measure it- was 117,000, has reached 134,000. We know that unfortunately it is to get worse.
The Labor Party is the party of unemployment. It chose the unemployment option last October. I warned it of what it was doing, but it persisted with its decision and it is persisting with it today. Unemployment is not a proper option; it is a very debilitating social and economic experience for those affected by it. One of the members participating in the decision was the honourable member for Bass, who is a Cabinet Minister and a former Deputy Prime Minister, and another member participating in the decision is a Labor senator from Tasmania, the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt). Those 2 members from Tasmania participated in the decision to cut tariffs and to bring Launceston’s community to the debilitated state that it is in. It does not matter how innocently the honourable member for Bass may say he was involved; he was involved. He is bound by the decision and he remains bound by the decision. No amount of talk that he would like the decision changed but that he cannot get to through the Cabinet or cannot get it through the Caucus will alter the situation. If that is the position, then the people of Launceston need to change their representative.
Blanket cuts in tariffs may look very neat to the men in Canberra when they announce them, but when no demographic or other disability is considered in the decision and when the social consequences are not considered, then how hollow do the protestations of these men sound? There was no consideration of whether an affected industry was a decentralised industry, whether it employed women, what was the skill of the people in the work force, whether they would be absorbed elsewhere, whether the industry was already in competition with imported goods and what its level of profitability was, and whether there had been a Tariff Board inquiry into the industry shortly before. Those things were just ignored and the 25 per cent across the board tariff cut affecting textiles was adopted. The honourable member for Bass, the honourable member for Braddon, the honourable member for Wilmot, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Coates), the honourable member for Franklin and the Labor senators from Tasmania all know of this unemployment. Certainly the Minister for Defence knows all about it. I wonder whether he was one of the ‘nervous Nellies’ about whom the Prime Minister was talking in his speech on Monday of last week.
– I rise on a point of order. The Leader of the Opposition has had a pretty fair and free rein, wandering well away from the Bill. It is the States Grants Bill 1974 to grant additional financial assistance to the State of Tasmania. It is not about local authority government. It is not about tariff cuts. The right honourable gentleman is speaking as though he was speaking to the Budget. He has mistimed his speech or has misunderstood the matter. The Budget debate will be resumed later. I suggest that his speech is out of order.
-I would ask the Leader of the Opposition to keep to the context of the Bill itself.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, this is a States Grants Bill involving a grant to Tasmania. I am talking about the state of affairs in Tasmania which the Labor Government has created and of the need for a much bigger grant to Tasmania. A whole range of policies is needed, not just this grant. I wonder whether the Minister for Defence was one of the colleagues who the Prime Minister said accepts and peddles lies about tariff matters.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This has absolutely no relevance. If it is necessary, I will keep taking points of order until the right honourable member has finished or until he gets on to the Bill.
-Order! The House is discussing the States Grants Bill 1974. It provides for the allocation of finance to the State of Tasmania. I ask the right honourable gentleman to keep within the context of the Bill.
– I am dealing with the problems of Tasmania, problems which have been created by, among others, the Minister for Social Security, who has taken the point of order. He is one who took the decision which has put Tasmania in its present terrible position. Now he does not want anybody to talk about it. He is ashamed of it, and properly he should be ashamed of it. I cannot understand how the Minister for Defence, the honourable member for Braddon and the honourable member for Wilmot can continue to sit on the Government side of the House. When they sit with the Labor Party they totally endorse the Labor Party’s policies in relation to Tasmania, and there is no way they can use words which will excuse them from that association with those policies which have done so much harm in Tasmania. Even Hobart has been affected. I have a letter from the Lord Mayor, Alderman Soundy. I emphasise that the date of the letter is 12 June. Things have worsened very much since then. I will read the whole letter. It is a short one. He says:
As far as I can observe in Hobart we are not seriously affected by the credit squeeze at the moment-
– I take a point of order, Mr
Deputy Speaker. The Leader of the Opposition is incapable of doing anything -
– That is a frivolous point of order.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! I call the members of the Opposition to order. It is for me to decide whether it is a frivolous point of order. I call the Minister.
– They are taking up the time of the Leader of the Opposition. I am not responsible for the interjections. The Leader of the Opposition is not addressing himself to the Bill before the House. He is incapable of developing a speech from his own knowledge of an issue. He can only read a prepared text from a member of his staff.
-Order! I have already asked the right honourable gentleman to speak to the Bill. He was straying from it earlier but I think that his more recent remarks were related to the Bill.
– The letter reads as follows:
As far as I can observe in Hobart we are not seriously affected by the credit squeeze at the moment -
That is, at 12 June- with 2 exceptions. From discussions I have had with representatives of the real estate business, it is apparent that young people are finding it almost impossible to obtain loans to either purchase or build houses, and commercial undertakings are experiencing great difficulties. If this obtains for any length of time, it is apparent the building and subsidiary industries must be affected by unemployment.
Secondly, information I have received from longestablished fruit farmers in such areas as the Huon Valley, gives rise to grave misgivings in that industry- indeed, some go so far as to suggest that the industry for Tasmania is finished completely.
On the reverse side, Hobart, because of its few industries and high proportion of public servants and white collar workers, is slower to feel the effect of such a recession, which in itself is not usually so severe.
At local government level, we have had no problem raising finance this year, but are concerned for the next financial year -
That is, this financial year- about the availability of Loan Funds and the high interest rates that may be applicable. For the present, spiral of costs is of serious concern. Our wage increases will be approaching $lm over 12 months, and there will be a serious increase in our rate for the coming year. Trade in the city is buoyant and employment good.
That was in June. The position has markedly worsened in Hobart. These men whom I have enumerated- the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies), the Minister for Defence and the honourable member for Bass, the honourable member for Wilmot, the honourable member for Denison and the honourable member for Franklin- purport to support a Government that claims to have the solution to urban Australia. Their Party claims that it can improve living standards. There has been no greater shock to the living standards of Australia than there has been over the past 20 months of this Labor Government.
This myth needs exposing. The Labor Government has not improved standards anywhere, certainly not in Tasmania. They have worsened. On the other hand the Liberal Party has outstanding members representing Tasmania in the Senate. I refer to Senators Rae, Wright, Marriott and Bessell and to Senator Townley who recently joined the Liberal Party. There are no Tasmanian representatives in this House at the moment but after the next election I expect that there will be no Labor members in this House. At the next election the people of Tasmania will redress the balance. We in the Liberal Party will redress the balance in policy. A blueprint for Tasmania is sadly needed and it will be provided. We, the Liberal and Country Parties, will develop that policy blueprint for Tasmania.
Australia is a remarkable country in that, spread out throughout Australia the standard of living of the people in the north, south, east and west, from the suburbs to the inner city areas and the outer metropolitan areas is very equally distributed. But we are in danger that the population of an entire State- Tasmania- will suffer a decline in their standard of living. We in the Liberal and Country Parties are not prepared to let that happen. We will develop our policies in cooperation between our own shadow Ministers and the Opposition in Tasmania, so ably led by my friend Max Bingham. Tasmania is entitled to equal opportunities for all its people- in employment, housing, industry and tourism. It is entitled to the protection of its great rural and fruit industries. Transport is at the very heart of that protection and that lift in standard of living. We in the Liberal and Country Parties will ensure that Tasmania does not suffer from the fact that its boundary is the sea and not an artificial mark on land. We are determined that the representation that has been given to the Tasmanians in this House will be better. We are determined that we will have the right policies. I am glad that the honourable member for Wilmot has come into the House. I will now repeat what I said earlier I cannot understand how he, the honourable member for Braddon and the Minister for Defence can continue to sit with that Party which has done so much damage to Tasmania and to its people.
-Unlike the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), I will speak mainly to the Bill before the House. He came in here and abused the forms of the House to give a general economic discussion of matters affecting the whole of Australia and to give a sort of Tasmanian policy speech, it seems, instead of speaking to the Bill. He did not mention one word about the Bill. Now that he has made his little contribution he has left the chamber.
The Bill is about States grants to enable Tasmania to be no longer a claimant State at the Grants Commission. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned not one word about that but instead gave a general speech full of crocodile tears. Apparently after his 18 years in this Parliament he has finally discovered that Tasmania exists. He said that local government is crying out about the problems it has. Of course, it has been doing that for many years. Which government has done something for local government? It is the Labor Government elected in 1972. It is now providing grants through the Grants Commission to local government councils based on the recommendations of that expert and nonpolitical body. It does not believe in the sort of ad hockery that the Leader of the Opposition is suggesting. The Government is providing special assistance for local government.
The Leader of the Opposition mentioned the shipping situation and the increase in the Australian National Line freight rates which the Government has now corrected by the $2m subsidy announced last Friday to enable the Australian National Line to carry on its operation without the increase that was proposed. It has to propose the increase as a business operation. The Government, as distinct from the Line, has now stepped in to assist. The Opposition when in government frequently increased ANL freight rates and did nothing to subsidise the operations to reduce the effect on Tasmania. At the time when the present Government has provided this assistance he tries to pretend that it has not happened, and still criticises the Government despite the assistance it is giving.
He knows that the Nimmo royal commission of inquiry is being held into Tasmania’s transport operations, yet he says that he would have a report in 3 months. I remind the right honourable gentleman that the Nimmo inquiry is a royal commission appointed by the GovernorGeneral on the recommendation of the Government and it is not all that usual to tell a royal commission in this sort of situation just when one wants a report. The Commissioner, Mr Nimmo, is in Canada at the moment examining their means of providing assistance on a ton-mile basis for particular areas that are disadvantaged. We are not doing things in an ad hoc way. We are making sure that there is a proper report from the royal commission. It will report as soon as possible. We anticipate that action will be taken on the basis of the recommendations contained in the report within the 3-year period of government that we expected to elapse from the time of the announcement of our policy in December 1972.
The Leader of the Opposition, in talking about Tasmania in general- he did not talk about the provisions of the bill- also ignored the fact that under all the new programs that the present Government has introduced during its short time in office Tasmania has received far more per capita in every area than has any other State. Whether the programs be in the field of housing, education, the environment, grants in relation to the national estate, roads or whatever, under the present government we have received far more per capita than ever before and than any other State. The Leader of the Opposition is just putting on an act, showing that he has finally discovered Tasmania in making a general economic discourse but not speaking to the Bill, and trying to give publicity to his Tasmanian senators.
Having said that, I will now devote the majority of my speech to referring to the provisions of the Bill, which the Leader of the Opposition did not do. The States Grants Bill 1974 seeks to amend the States Grants Act 1973 by providing for an additional grant of $ 15m to Tasmania for 1974-75. That $15m is to be additional to the financial assistance grants otherwise payable to Tasmania. The extra amount will continue to be paid next financial year and in subsequent years as well, increased by the same factors of population, wage increases and the betterment factor as applied to the financial assistance grant. There is to be a built-in increase, so the special grant will not remain at $15m. The simplicity of this Bill and the apparent simplicity of this additional grant to Tasmania belie the importance of the matter. It is a milestone in Tasmania ‘s history because this grant marks the end of Tasmania’s dependence on the Grants Commission. I am referring here to the traditional role of the Grants Commission and not to its new role of recommending revenue assistance grants to local government.
The Grants Commission was established under the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1933. It has been possible for special grants to be paid to the States on the recommendation of the Grants Commission since the 1933-34 financial year. The grants are, of course, made under the provisions of section 96 of the Constitution. The Act states that the purpose of the special grants is to make it possible for the State concerned, by reasonable effort, to function at a standard not appreciably below the standards of other States. The phrase ‘by reasonable effort’ has effectively meant that if a State raises less revenue per capita from a particular tax or charge than the standard States there is a negative adjustment or penalty in the grant from the Grants Commission. Hence it has meant that decisions made by the governments of New South Wales and Victoria on such matters as bus fares, hospital charges or revenue from gambling have had far-reaching effects on the decisions which subsequently have had to be made by the Goverment of Tasmania. They have affected the size of the special grant to Tasmania from the Commonwealth.
Despite that, Tasmania has been a claimant State continuously since 1933. South Australia remained a claimant State until 1 95 8-59 and applied again in 1970. Western Australia withdrew as from 1968-69. Queensland came in by applying for special assistance in 1971. So, for 40 years Tasmania has been a claimant State. But, following the agreement on the grant which this Bill implements, Tasmania has withdrawn from the Grants Commission system. In fact, Tasmania has been dependent on special grants for more than 40 years. Prior to the establishment of the Grants Commission in 1933- in fact, since 1912- Tasmania received special grants under section 96 of the Constitution. So withdrawal from the special grants system is indeed an historic event for the State. Tasmania actually seems to have become less and less reliant on the Grants Commission over recent years. In 1968-69 the grant was $19.7m; in 1969-70 it was $18.8m; in 1970-71 it was $9.6m and in 1971-72 it was $9.65m. Figures are not available for more recent years because of the procedure of making a final adjustment 2 years later than the advance payments, after all the calculations of the true financial position have been determined.
In view of the way in which the Grants Commission grants had been decreasing over the years, this grant of $ 15m may well be a very good deal as far as the Tasmanian Government is concerned. One of the problems is that it is impossible to calculate whether the agreement is better than what the State would have received if it had remained a claimant State. There are many factors which would have had to be taken into account and which depend on decisions yet to be made by New South Wales and Victoria. Perhaps the greatest advantage for Tasmania is that the final adjustment will not be made to the advance payments made for 1972-73 and 1973-74. It could be predicted- it is oddsonthat those final adjustments would have been negative adjustments. The adjustments had been negative for each of the previous three financial years. Certainly, even ignoring the possible advantage from avoiding the adjustments, the $ 15m is more than the $9.6m- the last known finally calculated payment; that for 1971-72- after taking into account the rate of inflation in the meantime. The Tasmanian Premier and Treasurer, Mr Reece, in his Budget Speech of 27 August this year, commented:
I am satisfied that the arrangement is eminently satisfactory so far as Tasmania is concerned. I believe that had we remained a claimant State, the special grant we would eventually have received in 1974-75 would prove to be less than $ 15m.
Mr Reece summed up by saying:
I am satisfied that the arrangement as a whole has been to Tasmania’s financial advantage.
Some people, including the Leader of the Opposition in Tasmania, have tried to belittle the agreement and have called for a fuller explanation. But, as I have stated, it is impossible to make anything like a precise calculation. I think it can be said that the attitude of the Australian Government is that if the Tasmanian Government is pleased with the deal it must be all right, and it is happy about it too. One point which should be made is that the State of Tasmania is still free to re-apply to the Grants Commission in the future. So the State is not precluded by the arrangement or by this Bill from becoming a claimant State again; although, of course, the special grant to be made by this Bill would be taken into account.
I refer now to the advantages to Tasmania of withdrawal from the Grants Commission, the agreement and this Bill as a package. I have pointed out already that this grant is likely to be greater than what the State would have received if it had continued to depend on the Grants Commission for special assistance; so there is that extra revenue for a start. But there is a more general advantage from the State’s point of view in that it has become more independent not of the Australian Government but of the standard States of New South Wales and Victoria. The Tasmanian Government can now select its own priorities within the fields of activity for which it is responsible without having to take into account the taxes and charges and the spending priorities of other State governments.
Tasmania has always spent more per capita on social services- in the widest sense- and had a greater loss per capita on its transport operations than have the standard States. This has resulted in a negative adjustment from the Grants Commission. If it has wanted to avoid a negative adjustment it has had to levy taxes and other charges at a similar level to the standard States, whether it liked to do so or not. Now the Tasmanian Government can more or less do as it wishes and levy, for instance, lower hospital fees or lower bus and train fares than New South Wales and Victoria, and it can determine its own spending priorities. I do not mean to paint a black picture of Tasmania’s reliance on the Grants Commission. The special grants system was very necessary for Tasmania and provided a great benefit- and it still can- but, having obtained this agreement on a grant of $15m, it can do without the system for the time being. However, it may turn out not to be in Tasmania ‘s best interests in the end and the State Government may turn again to the Commission for assistance. It is always there for when it is needed.
I should like now to survey some of the history which led to the announcement of the grant in this Bill made by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) on 1 1 June this year at the same time as the Premier, Mr Reece, announced the withdrawal from the Grants Commission and the dropping of the illfamed Tasmanian tobacco tax. I refer to the tobacco tax, because that is what it was really all about. Mr Reece said that for some time he had been considering putting up a proposal which would allow Tasmanians to get out of the Grants Commission but the issue really only arose out of the tobacco tax which turned out to be the lever for the agreement between the Australian and Tasmanian Governments. The Tasmanian tobacco tax came into effect on 1 January 1973. It was actually first thought up by the State Liberal Government during its short term of office from 1969 to 1972. It was not a popular tax and, being a consumption tax, it was widely thought that it might be deemed to be a sales tax or an excise and hence not constitutional for the State to collect. A challenge was mounted in the High Court by the Retail Tobacco Traders Association. In May of last year the Australian Government intervened in the case to oppose the tax. I opposed the tax itself as well as doubting the State’s right to impose it. However in its judgment on 1 April 1974 the High Court upheld the tax though it judged that the regulations in force to collect it were invalid.
The State Government quickly drafted some new regulations to get around the High Court judgment. It was those new regulations which really made the tax unpopular. In fact they made it a laughing matter because of the forms which purchasers had to fill in if they wanted to pay the tax on the tobacco as it was consumed, as was their right, instead of at the time of purchase. Some of the newspaper comment at the time is worth repeating. Mr Reece is quoted as saying that if the purchaser of cigarettes or tobacco chose to fill out the form and to pay the tax direct to the Commissioner of Taxation he must do so within 7 days of smoking the tobacco. If he passed the tobacco on to another person he must notify the Commissioner of Taxation of the name and address of that other person. Other newspaper comment at the time made the point that the public and retailers, apart from recognising the police state mentality of the collection method with shopkeepers and purchasers being responsible for consumers- not necessarily the same people- paying their taxes, also recognised the multitude of possible loopholes: Buy and not smoke the tobacco product; import tobacco from interstate and let Treasury prove it was consumed within 28 days of the importation; claim tax lost on unsmoked tobacco or purchase fags on Commonwealth property. It was even suggested that it was all right as long as a person smoked the cigarette in a telephone box as that was Commonwealth property.
What gradually happened was a massive show of civil disobedience. Retailers, almost to a man, refused to collect the tax and the whole matter was becoming unworkable. Opposition members tried to make a lot of political capital out of the issue, trying to give the impression that it was the Federal Labor Government which was responsible for it rather than the State Government. It was a legal tax but impossible to collect. Mr Reece maintained that he needed the tax in order to raise enough revenue for State Government operations, but the whole thing had become a farce. It became obvious that despite the opposition to the tax by me and my other Federal colleagues we had to do something to end the mess. I initiated the next move with the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) who agreed with me that we should propose to the Treasurer that the Australian Government should offer extra revenue assistance to the State if the tax were abolished.
The Minister for Defence took the matter up with the Treasurer and eventually, after much negotiation, the Australian Government offered extra aid to Tasmania if the tax were dropped. The deal was spelled out in statements made on 11 June and the result was Tasmania’s withdrawal from the Grants Commission system, the Bill which we are now debating and which provides a $15m grant and, thankfully, the end of the iniquitous and infamous Tasmanian tobacco tax. The last act of the affair is still being played out in the Tasmanian Legislative Council which apparently is intending to disallow the regulations rather unnecessarily relating to the tax, since all that has happened is that the tax is no longer being collected and the regulations are still theoretically in force though I doubt that anyone would ever dare reintroduce their operation. I am pleased that my initiative and that of the Minister for Defence in particular with our other colleagues supporting us has led to the agreement of the Australian and State Governmentsan agreement with which everyone involved now seems to be satisfied. I wish that the Leader of the Opposition had referred to this Bill, the subject of which was specific, but he did not. I support the Bill.
– The honourable member for Denison (Mr Coates) who preceded me constantly remarked that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) had not spoken to the Bill. That was an unworthy comment because the Leader of the Opposition spoke about the problems of Tasmania, a matter to which this Bill relates since it is a States Grants Bill. The purpose of this Bill is to authorise additional financial assistance to Tasmania. The Opposition supports this measure. In fact we recognise that Tasmania desperately needs financial assistance because it is in a serious economic situation. The Leader of the Opposition kept referring to the debilitated industries of Tasmania. I think anaemia has set in and if care is not exercised the whole State will collapse because of the attitude and policies of the present Labor Government directed at the basic productive industries of Tasmania. The Government’s policies are doing grievous harm to the rural, manufacturing and mining industries of Tasmania. It is only natural that the wealth of that State will decline if there is no incentive or encouragement for people to invest in the development of those industries. This is why we require almost emergency measures such as this Bill to try to alleviate the tremendous demands that are being placed upon the Tasmanian State Government.
In 1973-74 base grants worth $79m were paid to the Tasmanian Government with total financial assistance being worth $91m. In addition, special grants totalling $9m were paid on the recommendation of the Grants Commission. In 1973-74, Tasmania, Queensland and South Australia were the 3 States which received special grants from the Grants Commission. At the June 1974 Premiers’ Conference, the Premier of Tasmania discussed with the Australian Government the possibility of his State withdrawing from these special grants arrangements for reasons best known to himself. Following these discussions it was agreed that, to enable such a withdrawal, an amount of $ 15m would be added to the financial assistance grants payable to the State this financial year. As a result, financial assistance grants for Tasmania in 1974-75 will be worth $130m compared with $91m last year. This is a substantial increase of over 30 per cent, but on the other hand this additional $ 15m is to offset special grants otherwise payable.
Over a long period, the Tasmanian economy has steadily lagged behind the growth of the mainland economy. The Tasmanian percentage of the Australian population, employment and personal income has been steadily declining. The obvious conclusion is that the rate of growth of population, employment and personal income is lower in Tasmania than in Australia as a whole. During the 1960s personal income in Tasmania as a percentage of the Australian total declined from 3 per cent to 2.7 per cent. Over the same period while real income per head of population in Tasmania rose from $927 to $1751 by 1970-71, income per head was still 13 per cent below the Australian average.
Tasmania has probably 4 major disadvantages, which cause this lower standard of living. The first is Bass Strait, which is an expensive stretch of water with its associated problems of isolation, high freight costs, strikes and transport generally. The second is the limited natural resources of that State. The third is the small population, creating a limited domestic market for goods that are produced in that State. Lastly, there seems to be the lack of the bright lights and sophistication of the larger cities which seems to be important for some people, particularly young people, if they are to be stopped from migrating to the mainland.
On the other hand Tasmania has abundant fresh water. With less than one per cent of Australia’s area Tasmania enjoys 14 per cent of Australia’s water resources. In addition, Tasmania enjoys high quality timber resources, good natural harvests and a stable work force. In a nutshell then, the problem of Tasmania’s lagged development relates very much to the problems of Bass Strait transportation and limited employment opportunities. The potential exists for accelerated growth in the State. The future of Tasmania as a rapidly expanding and prosperous State of the Commonwealth rests, I believe, very much with the Federal Government.
The first major problem that calls for some action is the grave transportation problem which has in many respects crippled the development of the State. The lack of discipline in and the militancy of the Seamen’s Union and the Waterside Workers Federation have caused tremendous disruption, brought about an unreliability in transport and increased costs which have had a crippling effect on every person in Tasmania. I was gratified to note, however, that the Acting Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns), recently announced in Tasmania that the Australian National Line would now provide special rates to Tasmania which would now receive the benefit of a subsidy worth about $170,000 a month to Tasmanian exporters. However, this does not solve the pressing problem of the freight burden on imports to Tasmania. It is to be hoped that the Nimmo report on transport will make a contribution to this problem. There is an urgent need in Tasmania not only for a solution to the freight problem, which has been worsened by the recent ANL freight increases, but for some positive Commonwealth action to expand the employment base in that State.
Tasmania has traditionally experienced a large migration, particularly of its young people, to the mainland. It is this exodus of young people that is draining the lifeblood of the Tasmanian economy. It is in this area that I believe the Department of Urban and Regional Development has a major role to play. The Federal Government is making a contribution to AlburyWodonga on the New South Wales- Victorian border. This is to be the first major growth centre initiative. In addition, the Australian Government has agreed to assist South Australia in the development of Murray Bridge, while negotiations are proceeding on growth centres for Bathurst and Gosford. The prospects of Townsville are also under consideration, while Geelong will also be established as a growth complex.
However, I believe the Australian Government should be far more active in establishing the prospects for the accelerated development of Tasmanian regions. Launceston in Tasmania, for example, is the slowest growing city of any Australian non-mining centre with a population of over 20,000 people. I think that that is an indictment of the Government and the Federal representatives of that State, all of whom are Labor Party members, that they can allow Tasmania to stagnate to the extent to which it has. There just does not seem to be any positive move or impetus from Federal Tasmanian members to get the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) to have prepared any positive plans for the development of that State. There is no growth centre complex or any regional development plan suggested for Tasmania. At this stage, it is nothing more than words, words, words.
I mentioned earlier that Tasmania has lagged behind national development. There are great disparities in Tasmania itself. Between the last 2 censuses, the northern region of Tasmania, extending as far west as Elizabethtown and as far south as Woodbury recorded virtually no population growth at all. Imagine being a member representing those areas! The annual rate of population growth in that depressed area averaged only a little more than 0.1 per cent. This area includes the city of Launceston which I mentioned earlier. I would like to see the Commonwealth Government give a high priority to studying the possibility not only of making this area a growth area but other regions in Tasmania growth areas also.
The Tasmanian economy is relatively dependent upon rural production. It follows that much of its economy depends upon the prosperity of its rural industry. The value of rural production in Tasmania is a little less than one-third of the value of its manufacturing production, which illustrates in relation to other States its dependence to a significant extent upon rural industry. These rural industries are in many cases going through an extremely difficult time, largely as a result of the policies of this Government. The Tasmanian apple industry is beset by deeprooted marketing problems and is contracting in size as these bear more heavily on the growers. The beef cattle industry is experiencing a world market recession while the wool industry has been propped up with some Government support, but at a lower level than it should have been. These are the 3 major industries, along with the dairying industry, on which Tasmania’s economy still depends to a very large degree. Of course all incentives such as the taxation consessions, the subsidies on fertilisers and the dairying industry subsidy have been or are being withdrawn. Is it little wonder that Tasmania is starting to crumble because of the lack of support and encouragement that it is getting from this Government.
It is in the area of manufacturing industries too that I think we can all feel sorry for Tasmania. The textile and clothing industries are rapidly dismissing people in Tasmania. Well over 900 people were dismissed in the Launceston region last month and the number is being increased. Tasmania has one of the worst employment situations of any State. The most recent figures that I was able to obtain from the Bureau of Statistics show that, on the old definition, in the 3 months from May to August the percentage of people unemployed in Tasmania rose from 2.2 1 per cent to 3.4 per cent with the figure in some of the depressed regions being as high as S per cent. The Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) now talks about a scheme to help with unemployment relief. We have seen, him dodge the questions -
– I rise to a point of order. I know that the Leader of the Country Party did make a passing reference to the Bill. But he is getting well wide of its provisions now in his speech. Should he speak specifically to the provisions of the Bill?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! I think that the provisions of the Bill are fairly wide ranging. Some latitude is allowed when States grants legislation is debated. I would suggest that the Leader of the Country Party make some reference to the Bill occasionally.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was moving on to the question of unemployment on which this legislation has a very big bearing. One of the considerations which would have been in the Government’s mind in giving such a generous grant to Tasmania is the rapidly growing unemployment in that State. What I said was that the Minister for Labor and Immigration has been talking about unemployment relief. But he has been sidestepping questions from his own members from Tasmania about any form of relief to help unemployment in these depressed areas where poverty conditions are now starting to prevail for farmers and unemployed people.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
-This States Grants Bill provides for finance to be given to Tasmania to supplement the State Government’s finances. Before the sitting of the House was suspended for dinner I pointed out that the grant that is being given this year represents a considerable increase in an effort to help the State Government with its increasing financial difficulties. Probably no State in Australia is suffering more than Tasmania at the moment because of the declining economic circumstances.
– What did you do?
-The honourable member for Franklin pipes up- it is almost a reawakeningand shows an interest in Tasmania. What has been quite obvious in the lifetime of the present Labor Administration is that Tasmaniaa State which is highly dependent upon rural industries, particularly the apple industryhas been absolutely deserted by its Labor members. At present Tasmania is represented by 5 Labor members. Every House of Representatives seat in Tasmania is held by a Labor member. This is an experience that will be lived only once. As soon as Tasmanians have a chance of changing and rectifying the situation they will do so. Tasmanians have seen that the so-called rural rump which comes from Tasmania has no influence and no power whatsoever within Caucus to see that Tasmanian farmers, Tasmanian manufacturers and the Tasmanian mining industry get a fair go. It is obvious that the present Labor Administration is hog-tied to the powerful trade unions which exist on the mainland. Tasmania is left out on a limb without any great trade union influence. It is left abandoned in limbo, with the State suffering the worst recession that we have seen for a long time. It is progressively getting very much worse.
A deplorable state of unemployment is developing in Tasmania. Tasmania now has the highest level of unemployment in Australia. But it is the rate at which people are being discharged and dismissed that is causing the Opposition a great deal of concern for Tasmania. We feel that we have a duty to speak up on behalf of Tasmania because of what is not being done by its representatives. It is incredible that the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Wriedt, a Tasmanian, should have so let down the rural industries of that State. No State is more dependent upon rural industries than is Tasmania. Yet we find that every one of them -
– How strong is the Country Party there?
-Order! The honourable member for Prospect will cease interjecting.
– What about -
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Prospect.
– If we do no more than stir up among Government members a bit of interest in the plight of the unemployed and the declining prosperity of industries in Tasmania, particularly the manufacturing industries which are now unloading employees at a very severe rate, I believe that we will be doing some good. What is needed in Tasmania is real political activation. I hope that the people of Tasmania will recognise that to allow one party to have a monopoly situation is more or less placing themselves in the hands of people who do not really care because they think it does not really matter.
-The purpose of the Bill before the House, the States Grants Bill 1974, is to authorise the payment of an additional financial assistance grant to Tasmania. This seems to have been completely overlooked by the Opposition. The Bill provides for the payment of $ 15m in addition to the financial assistance grants otherwise payable to the State in 1974- 75 and for the incorporation of this amount into the base for the purpose of calculating the grants payable to the State under the formula in 1975- 76 and in subsequent years. The decision to provide an additional financial assistance grant to Tasmania followed a request made by the Premier of Tasmania at the Premiers Conference in June this year for discussions with the Australian Government to consider the possibility of his State withdrawing from the special grants system.
Before I proceed on this question of the special grant, I should like to answer some of the remarks that have been made in the course of this debate. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) produced a Press cutting from the ‘Examiner’ newspaper which is produced in northern Tasmania. He was quite right in saying that the newspaper said that I had made a comment at a meeting last Friday week in Ulverstone with the municipal leaders of the north-west coast and that I had said that the case for the regional north-west water scheme was not properly documented. But nothing is further from the truth.
– That is his usual form.
– I agree with my colleague the honourable member for Franklin. It suits the Leader of the Opposition’s case if he or one of his staff plucks an article out of a newspaper and says that this is what the honourable member for Braddon thinks and this is what he says. I did not say what is reported in that article. If honourable members compare the report in the ‘Examiner’ newspaper with the report of the same meeting in another newspaper, the ‘Advocate’, they will find that they are altogether different. I draw the attention of the Leader of the Opposition to the report of the same meeting in the ‘Advocate’ newspaper. He will find that I praised the submissions of the North West Municipal League in its case for Government support. If the right honourable gentleman looks at the article he will see that I said that the Government has firm commitments. I did not pick up the article in the ‘Examiner’ newspaper that simply suits the case of the Leader of the Opposition. One cannot reply to all the inaccuracies that appear in every newspaper.
I just want to quote a similar one which appeared in this northern newspaper and to which attention was drawn. This northern newspaper last week reported a statement by the Chairman of the North West Municipal League, which is dealing with this regional water question about which the Leader of the Opposition was so vocal. The Chairman of the North West Municipal League, of course, knows that no money can be granted this year. Even if the money were available we could not even put a pick in the ground. I will explain why in a few minutes. He said that Councillor Ray Duff was disappointed. This appeared in the same northern newspaper. Councillor Ray Duff never said anything of the sort. He was very upset about the report. He contacted me and apologised. He said that he hoped I was not upset about it. I said: ‘No, this is a northern newspaper and you can’t believe it’.
But how can one reply to everything? Last Friday, when my colleague the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) and I were in Devonport, the chief reporter of the newspaper in the area came up of his own volition and apologised for the reports. He said: ‘Look, I don’t know where they came from. Ray Duff got on to me and blew hell out of me. But I don’t know where they came from’. I said: ‘You should not report things that are not true’. It suited the Leader of the Opposition to pluck this one out of the air. If he looked into the newspaper he would find that it is full of inaccuracies. As I said, we picked this one up and corrected it. As I said, it was corrected by the leading reporter in the area.
We were criticised this afternoon by the Opposition for a lack of plans for regional development. I ask the House: What did the Opposition do when it was in government and had the opportunity to assist? It knew that the plan and report for this regional water scheme had already been presented but did nothing at all about it; it was left until this Government came in. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) went to the north west coast and found that the scheme suited his idea of regional development and was an excellent plan. It covers 8 municipal councils and will provide a supply of clean water for about 100,000 people until the year 2000. The 8 municipalities served by the project, which draws on the Emu and Forth Rivers think that this is a wonderful scheme. The Minister said that the plan is excellent and is in line with the thinking of this Government. But what a pity nothing at all was done by the previous Government. The Minister immediately sent some experts from Canberra to the north west coast and they conducted a feasibility study. They also found that it was an excellent scheme. What is more, the Minister went to the area on his own volition and spent 2 days doing an aerial inspection and also a ground inspection of the water scheme. He got in touch with the Tasmanian Government and on a government to government level put up a plan for financial assistance for this scheme.
– What are you going to do about it?
– The commitment is in the Budget. I will answer the interjection now. Nothing can be done yet because this is a new proposal. Only 2 water schemes in Australia have been assisted by this Government- there will be many, many more- the one in South Australia and the one on the north-west coast of Tasmania. Some sort of financial formula has to be agreed to between the States and the Commonwealth. Therefore the Minister for Urban and Regional Development is contacting his counterpart in Tasmania, the Honourable Michael Barnard, to arrange the financial agreements. Once that is done- I see my colleague nodding- the next step is that because of the magnitude of the scheme, which is to cost more than $10m, it has to be referred to the Public Works Committee of the Tasmanian Parliament. Departmental officers tell us this will take four to six months, so there will be a further delay. Even if the Tasmanian Public Works Committee reports favourably- we feel sure it will- the next step is that final design plans and specifications have to be drawn up, and the whole costing of the project has to be agreed on between the State and the Commonwealth, and in turn between the Tasmanian Government and each of the 8 municipal councils that form the region. So even if we had money in the Budget for this scheme we would not be able to put a pick in the ground this year. But we are hoping that these stages I have outlined may be brought forward sufficiently to enable us to put some money into the Supply Bills in the autumn to get a start on it.
This afternoon the Opposition criticised Australian National Line shipping. During the term of office of the previous Government ANL freight rates rose by 30 per cent and the previous Government did nothing about it. It did nothing at all to try to help Tasmania with freight subsidies. In fact, it blatantly refused to do anything to give us any subsidy to offset rises totalling 30 per cent in its time in government. Certainly Mr Whitlam made a policy commitment in 1 972 and in 1974, and that has been honoured, irrespective of what the Opposition says about his promise being broken. That is plain utter rubbish. Last year, soon after we were elected, a $lm subsidy was given to the ‘Empress of Australia’ for the passenger service. That subsidy is provided for again in the Budget this year. Sudsidies have been provided for 2 years. It is admitted that a few weeks ago the ANL applied to the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) for an increase in freight rates. It has been trying since 1972 to have freight rates increased because it has to run as a businesslike enterprise. It saw that it would lose $3m on the Melbourne to Tasmania run this year and $lm on the Sydney to Hobart run- a total of $4m. Because of increased costs it asked for an increase in freight rates of 25 per cent.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) acted very promptly and the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) when he came to the north west coast, which is mainly concerned with all this, said that a $2m subsidy would be provided to offset this increase. I repeat again that when the Opposition was in government freight rates rose by about 30 per cent arid it absolutely refused to give Tasmania a penny. Now, when freight rates have been increased by 25 per cent, a subsidy of $2m has been provided. It is based on a formula- a subsidy where a subsidy is required. I hear someone say ‘a miserable subsidy’. It is not a miserable subsidy; it is one that is absolutely necessary. The formula is not just plucked out of the air. Criticism has been made because it is to apply only to north-bound freight. The subsidy is worked out on a formula which is to be used until we can get the findings of the Nimmo Committee. There have been 6 reports on Tasmanian shipping since 1972. We hope to God this is the last one. This is the seventh. But one cannot force a royal commissioner to speed up the work and give us an interim report. He is over in Canada now looking at the differential in freight rates to the off-shore islands which are part of the sovereign territory of Canada. Their freight rates are equalised with comparable freight rates within Canada. We cannot speed up the report or tell the royal commissioner to hurry it up. So we have to use the formula worked out from the Bureau of Transport Economics study presented in March 1 973. The summary of that report states:
Comparisons with hypothetical road and rail links between Tasmania and Melbourne suggest a notional transport Cost disadvantage ranging between SI and $5 per ton for most classes of goods.
I point out that this is between Tasmania and Melbourne, north-bound freight. The summary continues further.
Tasmania suffers no disadvantage in the shipment of bulk cargo.
The Opposition is squealing now and saying that we have not given the subsidy to everyone; we have applied it only to general cargo. This transport study found that actually the freight variation was between $1.10 and $5.20 a ton. On an average it was $2. The ANL has told us that north-bound freight is about 1 million tons a year, so a $2m subsidy works out to be $2 a ton. This is based on the figures of 1972, when we came into Government. The average freight rate for a 40 cubic feet ton north-bound was not quite $8. So 25 per cent of that is $2. So this subsidy of $2m is the equivalent of wiping out that freight increase and taking the rates back to the 1972 figures.
But members of the Opposition should realise when they criticise that the Prime Minister said that the rates would be compared with road, rail and sea freights between comparable distances on the mainland. We have more than eradicated the 25 per cent increase. In the same time the average road, rail and sea freights for the mainland have risen by more than 35 per cent- more than the 25 per cent increase that the ANL put on to the Tasmanian run. So I maintain that this Government has more than honoured the Prime Minister’s promises of 1972 and 1974. The subsidies now are $2m for freight and $ 1 m for passenger services.
I turn now to the question raised of adequate shipping for Tasmania. I have dealt with the freight rates and shall now deal with the shipping services. Good heavens, what did the Opposition do when it was in government? It let the services run down. One cannot pluck ships out of the air. One cannot just walk into a shop and buy a ship as one can buy a suit. One cannot buy ships off the hook. This Government in this Budget this year, all compliments to the Minister for Transport, has provided $54.7m this year for shipping services. The greatest amount ever allocated before was under $10m for the ANL. The figure this year for new ships and equipment to expand the Line is $54.7m which is more than 5 times the amount allocated in any other year. What does the ANL plan to do with this money? It has on order from State Dockyard a 6,700-ton vehicle deck container sea coaster which is due for delivery in approximately 12 months time. Because the vessel will not be delivered for about a year the Minister for Transport has approved the purchase of a 5,400-ton unit load vessel at present under construction in Norway. This vessel will be in service at the end of the year. The vessel which is to be built at the State Dockyard and which we expect to be delivered at the end of next year and the vessel being built in Norway which we expect to be delivered at the end of this year will be supplemented by a third vessel which is a second sea coaster being built at the State Dockyard. These vessels will provide Tasmanian exporters with a more economic service of greater capacity. This is what we want. Tasmania needs more ships, more space and more economic service. We could not get these things under the previous Government because it allowed the shipping service to Tasmania to run down.
– Tell us about the tree-pull scheme.
– We heard criticism of the rural problems in Tasmania voiced a while ago. Only last week a New Zealand dairy marketing officer said that farmers in this country were punch drunk with gloom because of newspaper propaganda. What are the people on the Opposition side of the House doing? They are feeding on and fostering this propaganda. Members of the Opposition talked about the apple industry. But what did their government do when the overseas companies put up freights extortionately a few years ago? I know what happened because my people, as my colleague the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) knows, have been engaged in the apple industry in the Huon for 3 generations. The previous Government forced many people completely off the overseas market because it did nothing to try to contain freights on goods send to overseas markets.
– It pulled out the trees.
– As the honourable member for Macquarie said, the previous Government started the tree-pull scheme. Honourable members opposite have asked why we cannot make Australia a food bowl for the rest of the world. Good heavens, what did they do about food? They started the tree-pull scheme which could denude Australia of apple trees.
As my good friend from Franklin would know, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) said that the Government had done nothing. But the right honourable member sits on the State Executive of the Liberal Party in Victoria, a State which has a Liberal Government. What has he done as a very responsible person in Victoria to get the Victorian Government to remove its stupid and harsh restrictions on the import of Tasmanian apples by Victoria? We cannot sell apples to Victoria. The right honourable gentleman talks about what he wants to do and what he is going to do to help the apple industry, but though he sits on the State Executive of the Victorian Liberal Party he has never raised a finger to try to help us.
The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) more or less tried to blame the Government for the depressed prices for beef. Good heavens, the price of beef is a reflection of world prices. For God’s sake, let us come down and give some facts. The Leader of the Country Party tried to blame the Government for tins situation. This is the gloom I was talking about when I said that a New Zealand dairy marketing officer had said that farmers were punch drunk with propaganda. This is the sort of gloom that is put out and fostered by these people. Last year the price for export beef to the United States of America was 62c f.o.b. Devonport. This week the quote was 27.01c lb. That is the best that we could get. Of course we are in trouble. But this is the world price. Last year when prices were so high farmers purchased store stock at inflated prices. A lot of them were financed through the stock agents and so on. This year, pressure is being put on them by these people to sell their cattle at reduced prices in order to meet their financial commitments. Of course we are in trouble. But do not forget that the Government has supported a $ 1 50m floor price scheme which has been acclaimed by everyone in the wool industry. Also, do not forget the wheat deal with China that was initiated by the Government. One could go on.
Liberal senators were praised. But these are the people who blocked the Australian Industry Development Commission Bill and who ruined the chances of the people in my electorate of getting a vegetable co-operative. My time has almost run out but I will have something more to say on this when I speak in the Budget debate.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– If this debate has done one thing during the course of today it has flushed some of the Tasmanian members out of their holes.
– I rise on a point of order. I have no desire to interrupt the honourable member for Flinders but I point out that he is breaking an arrangement made with my counterpart on the other side in that earlier today he stood down to allow his Leader to speak.
-That is not a point of order.
– In addition to that it was arranged that the debate would conclude after the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) had spoken.
-That is not a point of order.
– I know that you have no knowledge of arrangements but I would like to notify the honourable member that he has broken the arrangement.
-The Chair has nothing to do with arrangements made between the representatives of both sides of the House. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has the call.
– I will take it, and I thank you for your ruling, Mr Speaker. I might say at the outset, in response to what the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) has said, that I was second on the Opposition speaking list and that I intended to speak in this debate because of a close personal knowledge of what is happening in Tasmania at the present time. It is true, as the Leader of the House has suggested, that I was approached on the basis of withdawing from the debate on a quid pro quo that the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard), a proposition put by your side of the House, would himself refrain from speaking. I approached the honourable member for Bass, who is sitting at the table- the former Deputy Prime Minister and now Minister for Defence- and I asked him across the table whether he intended to speak in this debate and he told me that he would if the Leader of the House -
– On a point of order. The honourable member for Bass would not have spoken if the honourable member had not risen.
-Order! That is not a point of order.
– What an extraordinary situation this is. I cannot help it if the Leader of the House is unable to keep his own troops in order and the fact is of course that very few Tasmanians spoke early in the debate. Now, of course, they crowd the chamber. They do so simply because they find they are under attack. The honourable member for Bass is belatedly in this chamber to seek to defend the discredited policies of the Federal Government which have had so adverse an impact on Tasmania. As to what the Leader of the House has put before this chamber, I say to him to get his own side in order before he comes in here with these loose assertions which are without foundation.
– You have broken your word.
– If the Leader of the House wants to ascertain what the facts are then he should ask the Minister at the table because I asked him whether he would be speaking in the debate and he said, without qualification, that he would. As the Chair has ruled, this is not a matter which is appropriate to the debate before the House -
– On a point of order, I say to the honourable member that I made the arrangement with the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair). This arrangement was made honourably and the honourable member has broken it.
-Order! That is not a point of order. I once again remind the House that the Chair has no jurisdiction over arrangements made between the representatives of both sides.
– Well, we will not make any more.
– I am very surprised that the Leader of the House should show so much personal upset in a debate of this type although, of course, when I think of the issues which have been raised I know very well why the Government is concerned about the course that this debate has taken during the afternoon.
At the outset let me say that the Opposition supports the Bill which makes provision for the payment of $15m in addition to the allocation of the Financial Assistance Grants to Tasmania. The Bill follows negotiations between the Tasmanian Premier and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) at the Premiers Conference in June of this year. The legislation effectively withdraws Tasmania from the process of advance and completion payments usually authorised on the basis of Grants Commission recommendations. But if we support the Bill- and we do- we recognise that it in no way provides any fundamental or significant response to the financial and economic circumstances of Tasmania at this time. Tasmania, as a direct consequence of the economic policies of the Federal Government in Canberra, is undergoing very serious economic and industrial difficulties. At the present time this
State has the highest rate of inflation in Australia; it has experienced the greatest increase in industrial unrest; it has the highest level of unemployment and it has the lowest level of average weekly earnings. On every major indicator of economic activity Tasmania is at this time bearing the brunt of the Federal Government’s economic mismanagement. Tasmania is in fact subject to a position of economic and industrial siege. Its S representatives in this House, including the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard), have stood aside while Tasmania’s economy has been systematically debilitated by this Government’s economic policies.
The Government has recently announced an increase in the freight rates to be charged by the Australian National Line. These rates are to increase by 25 per cent, or between $2.40 and $2.80 a ton. This decision will have a very severe impact on cost structures throughout Tasmania. The decision has been taken without reference to the Nimmo Committee, although the Prime Minister in his April policy speech had this to say:
We are particularly aware of the burden placed on the Tasmanian economy and on Tasmanians by their reliance on sea transport. We have appointed Mr J. F. Nimmo, a member of the Grants Commission, as a Royal Commissioner to inquire into the impact of freight rates on the Tasmanian economy.
That statement was made deliberately to gain votes in Tasmania. All Tasmanians would have assumed that no decision to increase freight rates would be taken prior to the completion of the royal commission. But the Government has chosen to pre-empt the commission and to disregard completely the assurances given to the Tasmanian electorate. In plain words, this disregard constitutes a sell-out of the interests of Tasmanians and is contrary to assurances which were put down by the Prime Minister earlier this year. On 17 September the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) reflected in this House the real views of this Administration so far as Tasmania is concerned. On that occasion he said:
The Government believes that it is unfortunate but nevertheless unavoidable that these increases have to be introduced. It is just a fact of life that increases will have to be introduced unless we are prepared to subsidise the service, which we are not prepared to do at this stage . . .
That statement shows that the Government is prepared deliberately to disregard the consequences to Tasmania of the ANL increases.
– Why was the Nimmo Committee constituted?
– The honourable member is very vocal now. He entered the chamber very late in this debate; he has not spoken. If he seeks to put his point of view there will be no objection from this side of the chamber. I am sure that the electors of Tasmania would welcome the views of the honourable gentleman on this subject during the course of the debate. They have not had the benefit of the advice of the honourable gentleman to this stage.
– I spoke last Thursday night.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Wilmot.
– He is a windbag.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Wilmot. Cease interjecting.
-Mr Speaker, the simple fact is that the members for Denison (Mr Coates), Braddon (Mr Davies), Wilmot (Mr Duthie), Franklin (Mr Sherry) and the member for Bass, the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) have been totally ineffective in seeking to have the decision reversed.
-That is a lie.
-Order! The honourable member for Wilmot will withdraw that remark.
– I will not withdraw it, because it is a lie.
– I name the honourable member for Wilmot
– Good on you. It is the first time, but I am not going to be lied about.
-Order! I name the honourable member for Wilmot.
– Good, I am glad you did.
- Mr Speaker, before moving for the suspension of the honourable member for Wilmot, I would suggest that the honourable member, who has a long and distinguished record in this Parliament, might consider withdrawing a remark that he made in the heat of the moment and apologising to the Chair.
– I have allowed honourable members once they have been named, to withdraw, after being named. If the honourable gentleman withdraws I will not proceed with the matter.
– I will withdraw this time.
- Mr Speaker, as I mentioned before that interjection, the members for Denison, Braddon, Wilmot, Franklin -
– You are a liar.
-Order! If the honourable member for Wilmot interjects once more I will name him and I will not withdraw the naming.
- Mr Speaker, as I mentioned before the course of that last interjection, the members for Denison, Braddon, Wilmot, Franklin, and the Minister for Defence, the honourable member for Bass, have been totally ineffective in seeking to have those decisions reversed. Why is it that members of the Caucus are continually prepared to overrule the Government and Cabinet decisions in this country, but all 5 Tasmanian members have let this decision pass without a fight.
The last available statistics on inflation indicated that the rate of inflation in Tasmania is higher than in the rest of Australia. At the end of the June quarter the consumer price index for Hobart showed an annual increase of 14.6 per cent compared to 14.4 per cent for the index as a whole. Both these rates are of course higher now. The increase in freight rates to Tasmania imposed by this Administration will ensure that Tasmanians bear the full force of the present inflationary spiral.
Tasmania is also being forced, along with other States, to pull back on its own expenditure programs and to raise its own charges and therefore, along with other States, to be involved in a price pushing exercise throughout the country at large.
The outlays provided in the Budget in respect of State governments are inadequate, and that comment applies to Tasmania. Enforced restraints applied to State budgets are a considerable contrast to the Federal Government’s expenditure proposals. This policy will add materially to cost inflation as State governments implement compensating increases in State taxes and charges. In the same way, the increased borrowing rates authorised by the Loan Council in respect of semi-government authorities and local government financing will drive up consumer charges in areas such as sewerage, water and land rates.
Not simply has this Government failed to direct a single policy towards the moderation of cost pressures, it has recently on at least 3 separate occasions contributed directly towards increased costs throughout the economy. The overall increase of 38 per cent in funds allocated to the States, including the Loan Council program, is misleading. Specific purpose grants have been increased by 67.7 per cent while general purpose grants have been lifted by only 22 per cent. In real terms, therefore, the funds provided directly for the funding of the States’ own programs have not been increased at all. If education expenditure is excluded from the total funds available to the States, then State funds, as a percentage of total Federal Government outlays, have fallen by over 3 per cent since 1972-73.
A good example of increased charges in Tasmania reflecting the general proposition which I put to this House relates to the increased freight charges recently levied by the Tasmanian Labor Government with respect to its railway services. Rail rates have been increased by between 25 per cent and 33 per cent, and I challenge the honourable member for Bass, the Minister for Defence, who will follow me in this debate, to indicate to this House whether he accepts as reasonable the problems to which the State of Tasmania has been subject and which have led directly to the forcing up of so many State charges throughout Tasmania because of the absence of effective policies from the central administration in Canberra. The suggestion that Tasmania is being advantaged by the combined administration of 2 Labor governments at both Federal and State levels is an absurd proposition which the people of that State will certainly reject at the next Federal election.
Inflation, imports, industrial unrest and the credit squeeze- all of these great issues which in terms of policy are directly derivative from decisions taken by the Federal Cabinet, of which the honourable member for Bass happens to be a significant member- have led to a direct weakening in the level of investment and overall industrial activity. The home building industry has been particularly hard hit by the present credit squeeze. Building approvals in August this year were down by almost 25 per cent compared with the same month in 1973. 1 ask the Minister for Defence, who will follow me in the debate, to tell the honourable members on both sides of this chamber and the people of Tasmania if the position is as bad as the objective economic indicators reveal that it is, and to tell the people of his State who bears the responsibility. Certainly no one in his wildest imagination would want to attribute the present circumstances to any policy which goes back to a former Liberal-Country Party administration.
Unemployment is already serious in Tasmanian industry. Of course, the level of unemployment in that State is accelerating month in and month out. Between April and August this year almost 1,500 persons were put out of work in Tasmania. At the end of August 4,5 1 7 persons were out of work- 2.9 per cent of the Tasmanian labor force is unemployed- the highest unemployment level of all the States. Unemployment will of course continue to worsen in response to the application of this Government’s credit squeeze, which we have called upon the Government to relax as a matter of urgency. Unemployment due to the Government’s 25 per cent across-the-board tariff adjustment is having serious localised effects in places such as Launceston, which is in the electorate of the Minister for Defence. On 9 September, the Minister’s office issued a statement on unemployment in Launceston. In part it stated:
Steps have already been taken to restrict imports reimpose tariffs and effect payments to retrenched employees . . .
No public announcement has been made of the reimposition of tariffs to protect the Launceston textile industry. If I am unaware of the thinking of the Government on this matter, then I invite the Minister to make the position very clear. The fact remains that unemployment is serious in Launceston. It has been caused by direct Government policy. If the credit squeeze is maintained unemployment will continue to spread. The situation will no longer be principally confined to Launceston ‘s textile industry; it will in fact be general throughout Australia. The honourable member for Bass is understood to have put a general case to his colleagues on the unemployment situation in the Launceston textile industry. The response of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to a report ostensibly prepared by or for the Minister is well known to members on both sides of this House. Mr Whitlam ‘s response was an accusation that some of his colleagues were involved in the business of peddling lies. Referring specifically to the report on Launceston, the Prime Minister had this to say:
I hope I don’t react too bitterly when I say that sort of fallacious allegation destroys some of the cases that are put to us.
The case ostensibly put by the honourable member for Bass has been rejected out of hand in a manner which is unprecedented in Cabinet history.
– Another nervous Nellie.
– I wonder who are the nervous Nellies. I invite the Minister in his response to indicate whether he thinks the Prime Minister’s comment was directed specifically to him. I have not touched on the very serious level of industrial unrest. I close my remarks by saying that the Government’s record in Tasmania can only be regarded, on the basis of all the economic indicators, as a complete, utter and total disaster. I invite the Minister to tell the House whether his
Government is prepared to bring into the House a detailed statement on the position of Tasmania and what effective remedies he and his colleagues are prepared to foist upon the Cabinet and the Caucus, which apparently are not prepared to listen to Tasmanian members at the present time.
The Opposition is committed in the terms of the proposition put by the Leader of the Opposition to reverse the appalling decline in Tasmania’s economic circumstances. That commitment has the unanimous support of the Opposition Parties, but those Members representing Tasmania in this chamber have failed that State. They have failed to have this Government apply effective and positive remedies and the sooner the people of Tasmania are aware of these facts the better will be the prospects of the Opposition at the next Federal election.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Cheap politics.
– I could begin by agreeing with the interjection made a few moments ago that the whole of this debate has been an exercise in cheap political activity on the part of members of the Opposition, who have sought during the whole of this debate to ignore completely the Bill that is now before the House in order to deal with what they believe are a number of issues that affect Tasmanians generally. When I speak of Tasmania I will not bow to anyone in this House in any way at all, having regard to my commitment to the State of Tasmania. Indeed I have been accused on a number of occasions, even when I was the Deputy Prime Minister, of giving too much consideration to Tasmania and probably to my own electorate of Bass. If this is criticism, it is fair criticism and I am not ashamed of my record. But I want to say to the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch), who has just completed his speech- a very carefully prepared speech- that he has had nothing to say about the Bill itself except in his opening statement.
The history of the legislation and the Bill which we now have before us highlights what can be described as the concern of Tasmanian members of this Parliament. As a result of the initiative which was displayed first of all by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Coates) and by me as the Deputy Prime Minister when we sought to have the tobacco tax that was being applied in Tasmania removed, we reached an agreement with the Premier of Tasmania. It is a well known fact that as a result of the discussions which took place at that time it was agreed that Tasmania would be compensated for the loss of the additional revenue which it was expected to incur as a result of the removal of the tobacco tax, and at the same time Tasmania would be able to cease going before the Grants Commission as a claimant State.
I listened to some of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) this afternoon, and quite frankly it appalled me that a Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition could sink to the depths to which he sank this afternoon. He had no thought at all for the facts, and no consideration for any kind of case that might arise from the Bill which we have before us. Indeed the whole of the right honourable member’s speech was one of sneers and certainly not tears for the people of Tasmania. After all, it must be remembered that those who now sit in Opposition formed the Government of this country for 23 years. During the whole of that period the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) was a member of this House and I was a member for about 18 years of that period. Therefore we can testify to the contribution made by the Government led by Mr McMahon and by all of those who led the Liberal-Country Party governments before him over that 23-year period. We know the kind of assistance that was given to Tasmania during the whole of that period. Let us compare the figures. I shall give to the House in a few moments the figures which will illustrate how the revenue for Tasmania has increased during the period of office of the Whitlam Government. If anyone wants to make a comparison I ask him to compare the contribution- indeed the very generous assistance- that has been given to Tasmania by the Australian Government under the Whitlam administration- with what was given during the period of the previous Liberal-Country Party governments.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) spoke about freight rates. Of course Tasmanians would be concerned about an increase in freight rates. Because of that concern the 5 honourable members who represent Tasmania in this House made an appeal to the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) and to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to have this matter reconsidered. It was as a result of the discussions between those 5 Tasmanian members, the Tasmanian Labor senators, the Minister for Transport and the Prime Minister that the decision was reconsidered and the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) was able to announce in Tasmania at the weekend that it had been agreed to provide a subsidy of $2m to Tasmania.
This is in addition to the Sim subsidy that has already been paid in respect of the passenger service between Sydney and Tasmania. So altogether a subsidy of $3m is now being paid by this Government to Tasmania because the Government acknowledges that there is a disadvantage.
I do not believe that any honourable member in this House, either on the Government side or on the Opposition side, would not acknowledge that Tasmania has a geographical disadvantage. It is one of the reasons why the Tasmanian members in the Federal Parliament had to bring this matter to the attention of previous governments. It is therefore quite surprising that the Leader of the Opposition should this afternoon refer to this freight increase of 25 per cent, conveniently ignoring the decision to provide a $2m subsidy and completely ignoring the increase in freight rates for which his Government was responsible in the period between 1970 and 1972. For the benefit of the House and for the benefit of the Leader of the Opposition I will recite them. In August 1970 the Government of the day- a Liberal-Country Party Government- increased the freight rate for all Tasmanian trades by 121A per cent. In July 1971, not quite one year later, it again increased by 12V4 per cent the freight rates from Sydney to Tasmania and from Melbourne to Tasmania. This was the Government of which the present Leader of the Opposition was a member. Yet he spoke as though his Government, of which he was the tragic Treasurer, had never been guilty of applying freight increases to Tasmania. There was an increase of 25 per cent in not quite 12 months beginning in 1970.
Let us look at the record in 1972. In August 1972 there was a removal of the concession for dense cargo between Melbourne and Tasmania and Sydney and Tasmania. It increased the freight rate by 25 per cent between Melbourne and Tasmania and by 12 per cent between Sydney and Tasmania. Again the concessions for heavy cargo were removed. That caused an increase of 22 per cent. I am talking about the Liberal-Country Party Government of which the Leader of the Opposition was then the Treasurer- the tragic Treasurer of the McMahon Government. In the same year there was a surcharge for hazardous cargo. That Government removed it. It caused an increase of 20 per cent. Then the concession for industrial machinery was removed. That meant an increase in freight rates of 18 per cent. In the same year the rate for newsprint machinery increased by 1 7 per cent. That is the record for 1970. If one goes back over the record of the previous governments- the
McMahon Government and those that preceded it- one will find that they consistently increased freight rates between Tasmania and the mainland of Australia but on no occasion did they meet that increase with a subsidy. There was no subsidy provided at any time. I challenge any one of the Opposition members to get up and say when a subsidy was provided in this way. There were increases in freight rates but no corresponding subsidy.
– They are humbugs.
-That is quite right, they are humbugs. As I said earlier, it was quite clear that the honourable members from the Opposition were not interested in debating a practical proposal that would provide generous assistance for Tasmania. I outlined earlier how this Bill arose. It arose because we believed that the Tasmanian Government was entitled to some improvement in its financial affairs. When we are debating a Bill which involves an amount of $ 15m it should be remembered that this is the amount that was asked for by the Premier of Tasmania- no more and no less. It was not reduced. The Treasury officials and I- at that time I was the Deputy Prime Minister- agreed that if this was the requirement of the Tasmanian Government it represented a fair proposal, and the $15m was granted.
The speeches by the honourable gentlemen opposite had precious little to do with the Bill before the House, which concerns the payment of an additional financial assistance grant to Tasmania. However, it might be as well to correct some of the misleading statements which were made. The Leader of the Oppositon referred at length to the financial problems being faced by local government authorities in Tasmania. He has suddenly become interested in local government. For 23 years honourable members opposite could not find it possible to make a grant directly to local government. Now with the advent of the Labor Government’s direct grants to local government it suddenly becomes popular and proper, but is criticised again by the tragic Treasurer of the McMahon Government.
Who will forget his administration in that period and particularly his last Budget of 1972? He referred to the problems of local government. It should be noted here that he conducted a gallup poll by sending telegrams to a number of local governments in Tasmania. I believe that some of them gave a fair and reasoned reply.
– At the taxpayers’ expense.
-The taxpayers paid for it. He considered it to be an accurate gallup poll. I believe that some of them gave a fair and accurate assessment of the position. Most of them, or a great number of them, were directed to members of his own Party. Surely no one in this House would seriously think that a member of his own Party to whom a telegram had been addressed would not reply in the terms that the Leader of the Opposition wanted on that occasion. Nevertheless the gallup poll was collected and it went out at the taxpayers ‘ expense.
It was noted by the honourable member for Denison that the Leader of the Opposition failed to mention the fact that the present Labor Government is the first Australian Government to provide funds specifically for local government. It has accepted the recommendations of the Grants Commission for payments totalling $56.3m in 1974-75, of which $1.7m will be for authorities in Tasmania. Both the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to shipping freight rates. I have dealt at length with this question. It will be interesting to hear the comments from the Leader of the Opposition tomorrow about freight rates generally and the extent to which freight rates were increased by the Government of which he was a member. We have asked that the Nimmo Royal Commission report to this Government on the problems of Tasmania. It is the first time that a royal commission has been established to examine freight rates affecting the State of Tasmania. We believe that it is correct and proper that the Government should wait for the report from Mr Nimmo. We have indicated that we expect the report to be provided to the Government as promptly as possible. When that report has been received the Government naturally will give consideration to its recommendations. In the meantime we as a government have recognised that Tasmania does have special problems and for that reason, as I have already indicated to the House, action has been taken to relieve any disability that may flow to Tasmania as a result of increased freight rates. While on the matter of shipping, mention can be made of the fact that the Australian Government has agreed to provide $ 1.4m to the State for the purchase of a vessel and some associated equipment and works to provide a shipping service to King Island. That is an important initiative which has been welcomed by those who have a genuine interest in the welfare of Tasmania.
The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) referred to the apple industry in Tasmania. Early in 1974 the Australian Government agreed to join with the governments of Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania in underwriting on a dollar for dollar matching basis the financial returns on apples exported at risk during 1974 to the United Kingdom and Europe. The grant estimated to be payable to Tasmania in 1974-75 is $2m. Can members of the Opposition point to any comparable assistance that was provided when they were in government? The Leader of the Opposition also referred this afternoon to the apple industry. The Liberal-Country Party Government was in office for 23 years. During that time it introduced in this Parliament legislation which required those who earned their living from their orchard operations in Tasmania to remove their fruit trees in return for the payment of a certain amount of compensation. If there is any disability in the apple industry in particular or the fruit industry in general in Tasmania, it is as a result of the inactivity of the former Liberal-Country Party Government over that long period of 23 years.
I have said that the present Australian Government has been generous to the State of Tasmania. Let us have a look at what it has done for Tasmania. Last year it provided $19m for education, which represented an increase of 1 1 1 per cent on the amount provided the previous year. This year the amount provided has doubled again. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a document showing the results of the Government’s activities in the field of health and its program for Tasmania.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– In the field of science, the Antarctic Division has been retained and developed in Hobart. The new housing agreement has meant an 86 per cent increase in housing expenditure in 1973-74 compared with the previous year. Over $2m has been allocated this year in the field of urban and regional development for the State-wide strategy plan. I have referred already to the $2m subsidy for transport. In addition, a $lm subsidy has been provided for the passenger service between the mainland of Australia and Tasmania.
I could go on quoting the advantages that Tasmania has gained since the advent of the present Government. For example, the general revenue grants are up from $101m in 1973-74 to an estimated $130m in 1974-75, which represents an increase of nearly 30 per cent. General purpose capital funds, comprising capital grants and Loan Council borrowings, have been increased from $64m in 1973-74 to $76.4m in 1974-75. Tasmania will, of course, share in a wide variety of new or expanded programs of specific purpose assistance to the States. For example, the grants for tertiary education have been increased, as I have already indicated to the House, from $11.4m in 1973-74 to an estimated $22.5m in 1974-75. The Budget includes provision for the payment of $ 1.7m to local government authorities in Tasmania, as recommended by the Grants Commission. As has been noted by the honourable member for Denison, Tasmania receives much more Australian Government assistance than the other States in per capita terms. For example, the funds for Tasmania in 1973-74 totalled $565 per head of population, compared with the average for all States of $335. We were told this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition that there is no generosity on the part of the Australian Government towards Tasmania. Those are the figures. Tasmania received $565 per head of population, compared with the average for all the States of Australia of $335.
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
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 Daly) read a third time.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Post and Telegraph Rates Bill 1 974 (No. 2 ).
Post and Telegraph Bill 1974 (No. 2).
Message received from the Senate intimating that the Senate concurs in the resolution of the House of 18 September relating to the appointment of a Joint Committee on he Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament and agreeing that the provisions of the resolution, insofar as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests:
Liquefied Gas (Road Vehicle Use) Tax Bill 1974.
Sewerage Agreement Bill 1974.
Queensland Grant (Ross River Dam) Bill 1974.
Julius Dam Agreement Bill 1974.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the amendments be taken into consideration in Committee of the Whole House at the next sitting.
Debate resumed from 26 September (vide page 1934), on motion by Mr Crean:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Snedden had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘this House is of the opinion that the Budget fails to tackle Australia’s economic crisis, in that:
1 ) unemployment is permitted to grow and the prospect for school leavers is prejudiced,
) inflation is accelerated,
existing poverty is ignored and new poverty is created,
personal income tax is increased 45 per cent,
living standards will be lowered,
private enterprise is stifled,
Government power is further centralised,
8 ) individual incentive and thrift is penalised, and
a double tax is levied on estates; and because the Government:
has made the Budget a socialist vehicle to intensify the attack on the Senate and break down the free enterprise system,
believes the absurdity that the Government can spend without people paying or can build without people producing, and
has preached private restraint but has threatened its achievement by its own Government extravagance ‘.
-When this debate was adjourned last Thursday I was making the point that very little recognition has been given to the new impetus in the funding of the State and local governments and of organisations generally by the Australian Government. In fact, so many people have been so busy fighting about national issues that there is a lack of awareness of how to go about applying for the money grants that are available to them. The appalling situation has arisen in Western Australia of some shires not even applying for grants under the first review by the Grants Commission, which for the first time allows for direct funding of councils by the Australian Government. In fact, the only published comment from the responsible State Minister, who incidentally is opposed to direct grants to councils, was that the grants were insufficient in some cases.
I ask: Just how long can this system of government that we know continue under this continuous barrage of mischievous and irresponsible misrepresentation? How can people be expected to respect laws made by a system so often ridiculed by the people participating in it? Of course they will not and so the system itself will break down unless we all apply ourselves seriously to making it work. We have people on both sides of the political spectrum who say the world is in an economic crisis and that the economic system under which we live has run out of wars to bolster its industries and to solve its employment problems. Whether this be true or not, there is no need to succumb to the constant fear mongering being promoted in certain sections of our community. This is one of the major causes adversely affecting the business community. I would suggest that in the interests of the people they claim to represent, solutions, not criticisms, be offered if they sincerely believe what they say.
I was particularly pleased with the Government’s intention to implement taxation relief on home mortgage interest payments. I was further encouraged by the fact that such proposal will favour those on a lower income, for they are the people who need relief most, not the people on the higher scales. I personally believe, and have been encouraged in this view by public expressions of opinion, that the tax must become a pay-as-you-earn deduction to give the maximum possible relief, for no matter what the implementation difficulty this could mean the difference in relieving heavy personal hardship in the community. I am personally aware of people who have their homes on the market because of increased home repayments. If we are to have any hope of wage restraint- to have any hope of taking the sheer desperation out of the call for increased weekly incomes to meet the sudden increase in home repayment pressures- surely the way to achieve it is through a weekly tax deduction system.
It has been said that the people who are suffering are those who have over-bought- those who have over-committed themselves. But the situation is that they have been encouraged to do this by previous administrations. I refer particularly to those people in the migrant community who have been brought to Australia with nothing but perhaps the proceeds from the sale of their life achievement- their homes. They have immediately been encouraged to purchase another home in Australia and as they have not sufficient money to buy a home without securing a first and second mortgage they have committed themselves for all their earned income, gambling on the inflationary spiral of wages continuing in order to make ends meet. Many have entered into hire purchase agreements for home fittings. The less cautious have secured personal loans. This system was government sponsored in the first place. Everyone knew what was occurring but now that the folly of the system has caught up with the situation it is not sufficient to say let the buyer beware, and abandon those people.
I appreciate that in Western Australia the State Government has appointed a committee to deal with real hardship cases but this in itself is not sufficient to solve the problem. The answer lies in the taxation system and in giving weekly relief to those people. If the Treasury cannot devise a scheme surely we should be prepared even to use consultants in this field. We should not be ashamed to admit to a lack of expertise in a given area. The benefit envisaged by this form of taxation relief will be $S00m in the first year, so I urge that the benefit be on a weekly basis. It is to be noted that those on the lower income scale will receive relief outside that planned for the home interest rate scheme. This will apply under the revised personal income taxation scheme which will ensure that the tax saving comes up to 40 per cent under the new rates to apply from 1 November 1974. In some cases this will mean that personal income tax will be abolished. The weekly abolition of tax payments would be of even greater benefit to other low income earners if a pay-as-you-earn scheme was brought in for home interest payments.
The subsidy for aged persons’ dwellings is to be increased to $4 to $ 1 for every home supplied by a building group. I hope that with this most generous increase in subsidy the welfare of tenants is safeguarded. I speak seriously of this aspect for many tenants are widowed people who sell their homes, with their memories of life’s endeavours, to pay the donations to the aged persons homes organisation which provides no capital of its own but which attracts donations from the people who become founding donors. Some people pay up to $5,000 and gain no equity in the home. They pay a weekly rental which is called a maintenance charge. This weekly payment is decided in most cases by nonresident members of the homes- by people whose incomes frequently are higher than the incomes of the residents. I appreciate that these people are voluntary workers who devote much time to assisting a community effort. However because often no residents of the homes are represented on the boards of management those boards lack the advantage of having the views of residents. I hope that those claiming subsidies in the future will be required to ensure such resident representation on the boards of management to ensure protection of residents in particular units, firm terms of refund to those vacating units and the establishment of criteria for determining weekly payments. Most importantly, there should be appointed an independent umpire to whom residents can appeal. Perhaps such umpire could be an officer of the Department of Social Security. The management committee, of course, should also be enabled to appeal to the umpire. The question of the resale of units will always arise with respect to those organisations long established. They should agree to try new terms in the interest of the people they serve.
Let us face facts, these organisations have been able to obtain freehold assets from founder donors and from government payments of taxpayers’ money. These homes belong not to the community but to the organisations which hold the title deeds. There is no reason why such organisations cannot capitalise on their assets by sale or by mortgages and as these assets are created by the expenditure of public money I believe it is only fair that action be taken to ensure the continued protection of public money so invested. The Minister’s intervention in that area would be appreciated not only by myself but also by the many residents and intending residents.
The extension of eligibility under the States Grants (Dwellings for Aged Pensioners) Act to include single repatriation service pensioners who are permanently unemployable or suffering from tuberculosis, single invalid pensioners and class B widow pensioners is a welcome and overdue decision. This will lead over a 3-year period to grants totalling $30m. Some of the people who have been asking for cuts in Government expenditure no doubt would suggest that the Government cut back in this area, but with such a backlog of this type of accommodation throughout Australia it would be inhuman to follow such suggestions. The Government has cut back its expenditure in the Public Service sector. Employment growth is restricted to 2.6 per cent which amounts to an effective increase of 1 per cent for the year ending 30 June 1975. It would be impracticable to suggest further cuts when one notes the increased work load on public servants because of the Australian Government’s continuing program of involvement in community affairs and its determination to give the Australian public a better way of community life. If, of course, the critics can suggest a staff saving in a particular area it undoubtedly will be implemented after proper examination.
One particular aspect which has brought many expressions of relief from people who have approached previous governments without success has been the granting of tax concessional reductions for dependants residing overseas. The magnitude of the personal relief to many of my constituents has been brought home to me by their expressions of appreciation.
It is to be hoped that sufficient funds will be found by the States to upgrade existing State housing commission homes. I have long been disappointed in the standard of many commission homes offered to people who have no other choice. When one considers the vast sums granted in this Budget- some $235m to the States in 1974-75- for such housing it is to be hoped that attention will be given to this area. I am pleased to note that in my State the Western Australian Housing Commission has programmed the upgrading of all rental properties constructed prior to 1966. This program will be implemented over the next 5 years commencing 1974-75. This would be possible only with the infusion of Australian Government funds. It is only by this direct interest and involvement that the Australian public will receive a fair share of this nation’s prosperity. Let the fearmongers, the national disrupters, cease their nonsense. They should do so in the national interest. Members of the Opposition claim that the Australian Government has failed in the defence area. I note that defence expenditure in 1971-72 when a LiberalCountry Party Government was in power totalled $1,1 64m. The proposed expenditure in the Budget now before the House on defence is $ 1,499m. This is a fantastic increase when one considers the situation today when there are no wars to support -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Swan (Mr Bennett) should know that the dollars that we were spending on defence meant something and that since this Government has been in power those same dollars have depreciated in value by approximately 40 per cent. He also ought to know unless he has been wilfully blind that the defence capacity of the Australian forces is virtually nil. The Navy will have the capacity to have no more than 3 naval escorts at sea at any one time by 1980. A task force could not be moved from Adelaide to Perth. There is no capacity in the Navy. The Air Force is often out of fuel because of industrial strife. The Army is having people pour out of it as quickly as they can go. That is a result of the policies of this Government. The views that were expressed concerning mere numbers of dollars were utterly meaningless.
More attention ought to be given to this Budget debate than to any since before the last World War because the economic situation facing Australia is more serious than any since before the last World War. Many people seem not to know why. There is a fear and concern for the future but a singular lack of a grasp of the central problems and an absolute lack of determination by the Government in seeking to do anything about the problems.
There are many advantages in Australia. We are a resourceful people. There are many natural resources. We have had abundant exportsprimary, secondary and minerals. It is a stable community- or was, before this Government came to power. There were high living standards. We had an employment record which any country in the Western world would be proud of. We had high overseas reserves and a stable economy. That was 2 years ago.
Now we have inflation which has run at 40 per cent over 2 years. Within 1 5 months we are facing international bankruptcy, on present policies. Unemployment stands at 134,000, seasonally adjusted. Why the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) persists in leaving out school leavers from the unemployment statistics, I will never understand. I would have thought that they are people as any other unemployed person is a person. That figure of 134,000, seasonally adjusted, is the worst total figure since 1946 when seasonally adjusted figures were first devised. I believe that the next monthly unemployment figures will show that unemployment has risen by as much as 30,000 or even more. Why has this happened? what has gone wrong? Is the cause some overseas event or is it this Government and this Government’s total and absolute mismanagenent of the Australian economy?
I think that it is important to trace some of the changes that have happened in Western society. Before Keynes- I know that is going back a long way- there was a gold standard and a concept of a balanced Budget and that was a cruel concept that gave not much hope. It was not an evil one because the people of those days knew no better. They did not understand that in times of a downturn in the business cycle a balanced Budget would make greater unemployment and greater economic difficulty worse than it would need to be. It was not evil because people knew no better; it was nevertheless cruel.
Keynes was born, preached and taught in the Great Depression. He taught and persuaded people, and politicians and governments that the concept of a deficit Budget was not an evil concept but that it was appropriate in times of slack demand in an economy for a government to spend more than it gained in taxes in any one year. It is significant to note that Keynes was born and taught in a depression because what he wrote was all directed to getting economies out of a depression. His philosophy was only narrowly accepted before the War, but became widely accepted after the War. It was a philosophy of hope for people around the world.
Up to 1965, 1 think it worked reasonably well. I think that we need to realise that during that time we nevertheless had the stimulus of recurrent balance of payments difficulties because our international solvency then largely depended on primary industries whose prices varied as the fortunes of world trade varied. As we got into balance of payments problems, it was easier for governments to point to the necessity for the nation as a nation to pull in its belt and to consume something less than it had been earlier. That stimulus, I think, probably made it easier for governments to maintain a sensible, sane balance in the economy.
But it needs to be noted, I think, that through the years to 1965 people came to believe and to understand that governments could provide a great many things, that there was a government responsibility to redress imbalances within a community and a government responsibility to look after those who needed some special help. Therefore, there began to be on governments a great demand for spending in this area or in that area. But that demand could be contained because of the stimulus of the public spectre of possible international bankruptcy occurring if the balance of payments situation were not watched. Of course, the balance of payments position going sour is the classic example of a nation living beyond its income.
The restraints imposed on those days- not asked, imposed- were accepted by the people of Australia. Since 1965, export income from iron ore, minerals and the production of our own oil has added enormously to Australia’s wealth. Up to the present time, the stimulus therefore of a recurring or possible balance of payments crisis has been removed from the Australian tale.
In addition, there were changed attitudes on the part of unions. Up to about 1965 or 1966, during the time of Albert Monk and before Bob Hawke, the trade union movement was extraordinarily sensitive in Australia to very minute changes in the general level of employment. This was a restraining impact on inflation. Now, the trade union movement knows full well that all governments are committed to full employment, or ought to be, despite what the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) says, and that even if there is significant unemployment the trade union movement can press its demands just as hard as when there are inflation and over-full employment. So there is no respite from pressure from that quarter, no matter what the state of employment or the state of the economy.
In the years after 1965, I think Australians began to believe that we could have the lot. One just had to ask the Government and the Government could perform- not even next year, but this year, half the time. It became more difficult to restrain that feeling. It became quite impossible to restrain that feeling after this Government came tc power. In the last 2 years there has been no restraint. There has been promise after promise and expenditure after expenditure without regard to resources, or capacity or to reason. That is not a commentary on individual proposals. But proposals that might be good individually, when taken in the mass, can mean and spell out utter financial irresponsibility and can be utterly wrong and, for the nation as a whole, quite evil.
In these circumstances, there is a greater obligation on governments to try to see that there is sanity and common sense in the community and in the management of national affairs. But this Government has said: ‘Well, ask, and we will give you what you want, whether it is for local government or some local community, whether there is a need, whether it is for roads or no matter what, so long as it meets a requirement of this Government.’ The Labor Government acts as though a problem can be solved by dollars, and dollars alone. That, I believe, is a cynical and evil philosophy. If there is unemployment, the Government says: ‘Add people to the government payroll but do nothing about the basic causes of unemployment’. If there are problems in housing and schools, the Government says: ‘Provide money but do nothing about resources and capacity in the building industry’. If the Government is short of money, it says: ‘Inflation will cure that particular problem’. If inflation hits people receiving welfare payments, the Government says: ‘Increase those payments but do nothing about the basic rate of inflation which erodes those same payments and makes them worth less than the lesser amount a year or two earlier’. If new programs are wanted by any Minister of this Government, the Government says: ‘Spend more money’, again without regard to the resources. That is the record of this Government over 2 years. Spending money is the universal panacea. It is a cynical philosophy and it is a false philosophy.
The great deceit practised by this Government is that it has spent more. It has said that it wants to spend more of the total share of national resources. It has tried to kid individuals that through higher wages they can increase thenown standard of living. Government spending was up by 20 per cent in 1 973 and is up by 33 per cent this year. According to the Treasurer, the Government wanted it to go to 40 per cent of gross national product. Of course this just cannot be done. There has to be a clash between the Government’s claim on resources and what private people want to spend for themselves. Unfortunately it is competition in which, with this Government, the Government must win because it will not give way. It is determined to press down on private people no matter who they may be or where they may be.
The result of this clash between Government .and individuals competing for resources is the unreasonable rate and pace of inflation which is doing so much damage to the fabric of Australian society at present. This competition will continue until the Government comes to its senses. While this competition continues inflation will go forward at the present rate. There are only 2 ways out. The Government can reduce its demands or it can permanently reduce the standards of life of every person in this country. The Government, so far, has opted for the latter solution but has sought to hide it all in the mists and mirage of inflation. Of course, it will not work because the private sector- private enterprise, whether it is a small company, a one-man company, a large company or one person working on the shop floor- is the great employer, the great producer and the great investor. Companies cannot provide for themselves the resources needed for capital investment for new plans for expansion. The Government cannot provide it through taxation without imposing additional intolerable burdens. It comes from household investment. Investment from houses, people and families throughout Australia provides the great bulk of investment for the expansion of Australia and the development of Australia and enables companies, small and large, to proceed into the future.
The Treasure (Mr Crean) chided private enterprise for losing its enterprise. But he has established the circumstances in which that has happened. We have the circumstance in which even the present mad interest rates will not cover inflation. There is no incentive to work for people on a shop floor who earn between $7,000 and $ 1 0,000 a year. Many have said to me that 3 days work a week is enough because taxes are too high if they work the rest of the week. Some say that they will work for maybe 4 days a week but not for 5 days a week. Absenteeism is one of the great problems of industry and one of the great difficulties in getting a greater degree of productivity and sense into the industrial framework. Markets are destroyed through revaluation, through lower tariffs and through the insidious and continuing inflation. The Government is unwilling to tackle that. Nothing has been done to solve these problems, despite a 12 per cent revaluation, or to solve the problem of the looming balance of payments crisis. Resources for investment are drying up. The generator of job opportunities is running down and the Budget is a tragic and barren instrument of this Government’s stupidity.
The Government says that the system is at fault, but the system worked well for 25 years. Does the Government want to alter the system? The Minister for Overseas Trade, in ‘The Quiet Revolution’, makes it plain that he wants to alter the system, to destroy stability and to destroy the savings of retired people and the assets of farmers and small businesses- of anyone who has a stake in this country. An economic crisis would then be created which Dr Cairns makes plain in the document is the ground work for revolution. If people do not believe that he wrote it, may be some of his colleagues should read the document, because it is stated there.
There are many contradictions in what the Government has proposed. The Minister for Overseas Trade said on 10 September that we have to have unemployment. On 1 1 September, after having a talk with Bob Hawke, he said that we did not have to have any unemployment. He does not even get into much trouble with the media for that gross contradiction. The Chifley Memorial Lecture which he gave not so long ago is an interesting document, quite apart from the fact that I suspect that it would make that Prime Minister turn with horror in his grave because what he fought for was perverted and distorted to support a philosophy which would have been anathema to everything in which that Prime Minister would ever have believed. One paragraph, which is worth quoting from the speech, reads:
The Australian Government at present possesses wide ranging powers for economic management. These include control over almost all public expenditure and revenue raising, over the currency, tariffs, the activities of the banking sector and over restrictive trade practices. The prudent -
Note the word- exercise of these should be sufficient to ensure economic prosperity and stability and an equitable distribution of income.
That lecture was given this year. So, the Government possesses enough power. It does not need more power. ‘Prudent’ is an odd word to use because if there is any adjective that cannot be applied to this Government it is the adjective ‘prudent’. The powers are there. He is not even saying that the system is wrong. But he wants the system to fail so that there can be changes that few people in this country would, 1 believe, want to see.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), of course, had a bucket dropped on him at question time this morning by his Deputy Prime Minister. He is not here to answer it. But he knows nothing of these matters. So, he needs to be put aside. Tragically, the Treasurer knows no more. One of the real tragedies of the present situation is that people would regard that not as a political statement but as a plain statement that is accepted from Tasmania to Thursday Island. The Minister for Overseas Trade has made it plain that there are powers for sanity, but he has not used them.
The Government sometimes says that the overseas influence of commodity prices affected inflation for a while, but commodity prices are now operating in reverse so far as Australia is concerned. It is government expenditure and government encouragement of wage claims that have resulted in the present situation. Overseas comparisons are invalid because overseas countries mostly affected by these circumstances have been enormously affected by the oil crises. The price of oil has risen from US$2 a barrel to US$8 a barrel in a 2-month period. None of that has affected us because of arrangements we made earlier. That means that, out of the Western reserves of $170 billion, $1 billion a week is being drawn off into Middle Eastern countries. There is a pending and looming international crisis in that area, which this Government utterly ignores. Funds are being drawn off; they are not being adequately recycled to finance developmental projects around the world. There is talk not of recession but of depression in this world of a kind that has not been seen for 40 years. There are urgent necessities at which this Government ought to look.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is overseas. There are 2 major things that he ought to be doing. He ought to be trying to persuade the Western Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries to have major conferences and to undertake ways and means of underwriting liquidity in order to maintain world trade and increase its volume and to establish and maintain sanity and confidence in the world monetary system. There is an absolute necessity that these things be pursued. The existing and established forums- the International Monetary Fund and other bodies- are, I believe, not sufficiently urgent for the task that lies ahead. Any official body becomes structured and set in a certain track. We want some special conference, some special approach to tackle a problem which is much graver than anyone in this Government would recognise.
Coupled with this there are liquidity problems. Does this Government realise that these are national and international and on a mammoth scale; that to finance business this year at the same level as last year an extra $6,000m is needed throughout Australia merely because of inflation? None of it will be there under present policies. The corner grocer’s store, the manufacturer large or small, will go to the wall if something is not done about this. The overseas circumstances added to the Australian circumstance would lead to a situation in Australia which this Government would regret while anybody in it lives. I only hope the Government comes to its senses and adopts some sensible policies before the people of Australia are put to the wall. If there is credit to this Government as a result I would gladly give it because the people of Australia are infinitely more important than credit to the Government or credit to the Opposition.
– We have been listening, with diminishing patience, to the makeshift economists on the other side of this House preaching the gospel according to Bill and Doug, all but claiming that the Budget is the dirtiest book since ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’. We have been amazed at the stupendous gall of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), who pretends to be the sole possessor of the secrets of the Temple, a man chosen by divine providence to see the light where for others, mere mortals, eternal darkness reigns. At least, these are the conclusions you should reach if you believe that this self-anointed economic Messiah is the only man able to cure all the ills of a troubled world.
During the Budget debate, bewildering facts and figures have been tossed around just like a ball in a hostile ping pong match; surveys and statistics have been quoted and the inflation rates from Switzerland to Swaziland rattled off. One should not be surprised if, in this smokescreen drawn by a frustrated Opposition, every single Australian got thoroughly confused and perplexed by this so-called intellectual extravaganza. Let us see, in plain languge, what the Budget is all about. As the Treasurer (Mr Crean) said, the Budget was designed to create a fairer and better Australia. Unlike the year by year ad hoc-ery of Liberal-Country Party attempts, the Budget is drawn up around carefully framed programs- education programs, health programs, social welfare programs, urban improvement programs and others.
The Liberal-Country Party governments of the past had not heard of or did not want to know about the ‘program approach’ to spending and, in Opposition, those Parties now find it impossible to come to grips with this concept. For 23 long years they were tinkering with Budgets, reforms and whatever else they managed to lay their aristocratic hands on, allowing this country to wallow in the political and economic wake of all comers, serving whatever vested interest had the greatest expediency for them. Now, when finally a series of comprehensive, inter-connected, logical, long overdue and socially just programs are being devised and gradually put into practice, they throw up their bejewelled hands in horror.
Yes, they deeply resent the fact that, after their 23 years of comatose indifference, our Government dares to interfere in Australia’s domestic affairs. To make things worse and the smokescreen thicker, they have managed to make a brew in which total lack of comprehension and a healthy dose of cynical lies are the main ingredients. Nowhere was this clearer than in the address delivered last week by the Leader of the Opposition, based on the famous Orwellian premise that black is white and lie is truth. The bigger the lie, Hitler’s infamous propaganda chief Goebbels once said, the more likely that people will believe it. So the honourable gentleman decided to invent some gigantic ones.
Inflation, he said, is primarily due to the Government’s expansionary spending policies. Both he and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) unleashed a barrage of savage criticism of the Budget- carping, negative, repetitive, unimaginative criticism. But what did they have to offer? The centrepiece of their alternative proposal was that the increase in Government spending should be cut to 25 per cent. That would open the way to massive tax cuts which we are asked to believe would cure inflation. No Budget is beyond criticism but the Australian people deserve some better appraisals than the Opposition’s. I accuse the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition of being practitionersincompetent practitioners at that- of the pea and thimble trick. If they mean what they said- and I suppose occasionally they do- the LiberalCountry Party would add to- I repeat, add to- the spending already provided for in this Budget.
Let us see now. To cut the increase in expenditures to 25 per cent would require a cut of $900m. This sounds fine, even frugal. But on virtually every specific item of expenditure the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to, the call was for more spending, not less.
The Leader of the Opposition said: ‘The second Labor Budget once again neglects Australia’s defence needs’ and suggested that we should be devoting 3.5 per cent of gross national product to defence. But that would necessitate an additional increase in defence spending of over $600m in the current financial year.
As for the States, more should be spent, we were told. The Leader of the Opposition said:
We strongly oppose the treatment handed out to the States. The Budget provides for large increases in spending by the Commonwealth. At the same time the States have been squeezed . . .
The Leader of the Opposition should really do some homework before uncritically peddling misleading information about our treatment of the States. If he had only looked at the figuresthey can be found in the Budget Document ‘Payments to or for the States and Local Government Authorities’, page 5- he would have found that in 1974-75 the States will receive grants and advances from the Australian Government to the extent of $6,033m, an increase of 38.4 per cent.
More should be spent in country areas, we were warned. The Leader of the Opposition complained that the new taxes would hit many in the country areas. The abolition of the petroleum products subsidy and the superphosphate bounty was attacked. He would want to see significantly more expenditure by the Australian Government on the reintroduction of the petroleum products and superphosphate subsidies. But things would not stop there. The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) is on record as saying, in his election policy speech in May, thatshould they have won- consideration would have been given to the restoration of taxation concessions for agricultural producers of the kind abolished by us. These concessions had an annual cost to the general taxpayer of over $80m.
More should be spent on child endowment, we were admonished. The Leader of the Opposition complained:
The Budget completely ignores the major recommendation of the Henderson Report which concerns child endowment. . . . This area should have received higher priority in the Budget than almost any other.
The cost of those proposals is estimated in the Henderson Report as a net $48m. That net figure assumes that the present concessional deductions for children would be abolished, at a saving estimated in the report of $260m. Are we to take, it that the Leader of the Opposition is advocating the abolition of those concessions? Again, the Leader of the Opposition complains that the next step in abolishing the means test has been deferred for a year. Presumably a Government led by him would take that next step right now, and thus further increase outlays. But in any case he has the facts wrong again. They are quite simply: (a) We are now in the spring, (b) the next step has been promised for the autumn, and (c) from spring to autumn is 6 months, not a year.
Having in mind those major areas where the Opposition would increase public spending- and there are others- it seems fair to say that their limit of 25 per cent increase in Budget outlays involves a cut back from what is actually proposed in the Budget of vastly more than $900m. If more is to be provided for defence, more for the States, more for child endowment and child care, more for restoration of rural subsidies and reductions in taxation and all the rest of it, where is the huge cut back to fall? Perhaps there are clues to be found in the Liberal and Country Party election manifesto. I refer to the document called ‘The Way Ahead’, and aimed at taking the country way back- back to 23 years of misgovernment and mismanagement. I quote from that publication:
The main thrust of our policy is to reduce the acceleration in public sector expansion . . . We will make a careful scrutiny within the areas of lower priority to determine which projects should be cancelled or deferred.
What are these areas of low priority? Can anyone tell us? We have the word of the Leader of the Opposition that it will not be defence. It will not be subsidies to the rural sector- far from it. Bigger and better hand-outs will be the order of the day there, to appease the Country Party. It will not be Aboriginals or the arts. The Leader of the Opposition has been kind enough to say that he supports our increased allocations for Aboriginals and the arts. And so he should, even if this represents a hypocritical turnabout after 23 years of blatant neglect by the Liberal-Country Party Governments. It will not be the growth of the Public Service. The Labor Government is holding that growth to one per cent this year; the manifesto, however, talked of a 3 per cent increase.
The document offers the sham excuse for its shallowness that ‘it would be irresponsible to name the particular expenditure cuts without careful scrutiny which we will undertake in government’. We are not talking here about minor pruning of expenditures, but of a wholesale slashing and if the Opposition knows where it will slash and will not say, it is cheating on the electorate; if it does not know, it is cheating on the whole of the nation. One does not have to be an economist to realise that the Opposition’s pious call for restraint in public spending is a mere catch-cry, an appeal to the mindless minority in our midst who read merely the headlines but not the text, a play on emotions but not on reason. ‘Cut Government spending’ they say. That is fine. Everybody would be in favor of that until we get down to the hard decisions, the specific areas where these cuts have to be made. And in almost all of these areas the Opposition is clamouring for more, rather than less expenditure. What they need on the other side of this
House, is new and better cliches. Their repertoire is running low, despite the propaganda machinery they have installed with considerable razzamatazz.
The Leader of the Opposition is a fine man and a great success at his job- so great, in fact, that he is likely to retain that position for a long time. But he has one particularly irritating habit : Like the prophets, he prefers to speak in brief, staccato riddles and generalities. He does not submerge in details. Instead, he makes pronouncementsacclamations if you like- of the most imbecilic kind and leaves it at that. But deep down in his heart even he would know that his attitude is that of total cynicism, the epitome of negativism mixed with the most obvious yet awesome contradictions. Listen to him yet once again:
We need … to make progress with our other vitally important national objectives: The education of Australians; the care of the aged and retired; the complete elimination of poverty . . . first class medical care for all; help for the less developed nations; the protection of the environment; the improvement of our cities and towns. There are many more.
Does that sound like a prescription for cut backs on our programs or an expansion of our programs. And his co-called ‘national objectives’ are nothing but a hastily stolen, misunderstood and incorrectly interpreted version of the Labor Party’s policy platform.
Let us face it. The Opposition’s manifesto was drawn up not to cure whatever maladies this country may have but to try to win votes in all directions, even if in the process those maladies multiplied. The great economic plan of the Leader of the Opposition is a mere Trojan horse- a facade with no substance behind it, the same as it was for 23 painful years beforehand. It is safe to assume, from the righteous Jeremiads of the Opposition that, given half a chance, they would advocate savage cuts even in the most modest Budget allocations of my own portfolio. And that would be well in keeping with their astounding neglect of both tourism and recreation for almost a generation.
They- the so-called apostles of free enterprise, the harbingers of all good news to wheelerdealers who grew rich during their apathetic regime while millions lived below the poverty line- of all people, never even bothered to have a Ministry caring for the legitimate interests of the tourist industry. It took a Labor Government to start dragging the stuck waggon of tourism out of the caked mud, to give encouragement and financial help to what is, by and large, the private sector we are supposed to have doomed to an agonising death.
And what about sport and receation- leisure in short- which were not even thought of by the Opposition during its cosy 23 years in office, despite their oft heard claim of humane liberalism? In 20 months or so we have begun to melt down the ossified structure of sport and recreation in this country, as we sincerely believe that man does not live by bread alone, that a government should be at least partly responsible for the intellectual as well as physical education and well being of its people. Would the Opposition, given a chance, abandon all these programs, or would it, somewhat characteristically, jump on the bandwaggon it had not even known existed and start demanding a bigger slice of the cake just because the cake now appears appealing?
It seems patently clear that Australia, like the rest of the industrialised word, is experiencing economic problems. Only the very foolish would deny this. Our Government, within the framework of inter-related programs, is determined to cope with these problems. The Budget is only part of this overall plan, not the panacea to all our ills. If the members of the Opposition were sincere, if they decided, just for once, to place national interests and the future of our country above their personal interests, above their itch to govern at any cost, above their myopic party line, they would have to admit that Australian society is, on the whole, changing for the better and that we are trying to build a happier and fairer Australia for all, including our reluctant opponents.
– I want to make 2 comments before I speak on the Budget. Firstly, I am delighted to see the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) in the chamber at the moment because I want to say something about his work as the Minister for Social Services and Property. I believe that I have some justification in making these comments because as a Deputy Speaker in this House for 12 years I know that there were certain privileges attached to that office that were not given to back benchers. I want to place on record my appreciation of what the Minister has done for back benchers since his Government took office. I might disagree with him completely on his political philosophy, but I do say quite sincerely that he has done more for back benchers in this Parliament than any other Minister in the last 25 years. I would also like to take this opportunity of placing on record my appreciation of his leadership of the Australian delegation at the recent Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference at Colombo. He did a job; he led the delegation well and he presented Australia’s case and held Australia’s prestige high at that conference. I would also like to express my appreciation to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren). When he replies to people in my electorate who have written to him directly he never fails to send a copy of the letter to me. That is a courtesy I certainly appreciate.
Unfortunately, I cannot go on in complimentary terms about the Budget. I think it is the worst Budget that has been presented in this House during the time that I have been a member. If one looks in the Treasurer’s speech at the factors relating to the fiscal policies of this country I am sure one will shudder for the future of Australia under the present Government and under the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and Treasurer (Mr Crean). One factor in the amendment moved by the Leader of the Oppositiongovernment power is further centralised- is a criticism that I have made of government, of the Executive, not only from this side of the House in opposition but also when my party has been in government. I often wonder whether the people of Australia realise exactly what is happening in this country. I know a number of people have said: ‘Is it not better to have control in Canberra where you have one government? In matters concerning the whole of Australia it is better to have a decision made where one authority with one executive control can make that decision.’ But recently there have been a series of articles in our newspapers talking about the power of the Public Service and the control it sometimes exercises over Ministers in government. I believe that if this power were centralised in Canberra to a greater degree- and there is this tendency at the moment- then the bureaucracy would become so powerful that it would be dangerous to the future progress and development of Australia.
There are deputations going to Ministers in the State parliaments and some deputations coming to Federal Ministers. Centralise that procedure in Canberra- and I do not mind whether it is a Liberal Party-Country Party government or a Labor Party government in power- and it would be impossible for a Minister to see all the deputations and all the people who would desire to come to Canberra to place their case before him. In saying this I am not denigrating the Public Service. I believe it has its place and I believe it does a job in the government of this country, but if there is a situation where it is impossible for a Minister to see deputations and make decisions, and those decisions are then made by the bureaucracy, by persons who have no ultimate responsibility to the people, I believe that is dangerous and detrimental to the future progress of this country. I believe therefore that among the other comments in the amendment the comment that government power is further centralised reflects something that should cause concern to all people in Australia.
I said that the Budget was normally the presentation of the fiscal policy of a government. If after a period of time, after six or seven months, there should be some alteration in that fiscal policy then we have a mini Budget or a supplementary Budget presented towards the end of the fiscal year. We have seen within 10 days a decision made which we were informed today would ultimately go to Cabinet and be decided and evidently agreed upon. We-have seen a very important decision regarding fiscal matters in this country made by a committee of the Government, a Caucus committee, an economics committee, and the chairman of that committee is a member of this Parliament with no Cabinet responsibility. Yet this committee has considered the matter of the surtax which was to be levied on the income people receive from investments. Surely this changes a great deal the fiscal policy presented by the Treasurer only 10 or 1 1 days ago? Admittedly the Government says it made a mistake. If a mistake was made surely it was one that was obvious and one that we had pointed out on numerous occasions was detrimental to many people in this country. Unfortunately, I believe it indicates a danger point in the thinking of members of the Government.
Anyone who has money invested is to be attacked, in the minds of some Government members. Anyone who has saved money, who has made an effort to improve his situation, is someone to be attacked, according to some members of the Government. Surely this is something those people should have realised for themselves. There are literally thousands of people in this country, little people, who receive money from superannuation, who have been able under a Liberal-Country Party government to save money. The money they invested augmented their pensions and allowed them to have certain benefits, certain extras which they could buy with an income over and above a pension. In its desire to take away from anybody who has anything at aU this Government put forward the proposal for the surtax. It was only when the proposals saw the cold light of day and came out into the political realities of this country that the Government realised the people who were going to behit were people who would normally be supporting it. The Government turned round and within 10 days of the presentation of the Budget-
– A second-class Budget.
– As my friend and colleague the honourable member for Darling Downs says, a second-class Budget. Perhaps he is over complimentary to it. In this limited period of time a decision was made to alter one of the basic factors of the Budget, and surely therefore one of the basic factors in the fiscal policy of this country. Might I make some brief comment in regard to the investment factor. We heard a great deal from members of the Government, when they were in opposition, about the then Liberal PartyCountry Party government selling Australia to overseas interests. One of the suggestions made by the then Opposition was that there should be established a group or organisation in which Australians would be able to invest their money and this organisation could then ‘buy back some of the farm’. Having said that, in this Budget the Government then brings down a policy that is going to penalise the very people they want to help buy back the farm.
– It put the pensioners’ telephone rents up too.
– My colleague mentions increased telephone charges. I will have something to say about that at a later stage. These increased charges affect not only the pensioner but also many other people to whom a telephone is a necessity. Unfortunately the telephone service has deteriorated tremendously in recent months under the present Labor Government.
When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) was talking about the expenditure of the Government contributing to the inflationary spiral, one of the members on the Government side asked: ‘What would you cut down on?’ This of course is one of the catch cries that is put forward by members on the Government side when members of the Opposition say that the expenditure of the Government is far too high. First of all, let me say that it is most unwise to try to do everything at once, because if a government tries to do everything at once it ultimately does not achieve major progress. What is the value of spending$100m, for example, on education if we have a 20 per cent inflation rate that actually brings the net worth of that sum down to possibly $80m over a period? Surely it is far better for a government to have a sound, basic fiscal policy and spend $80m which it knows will have a value of $80m.
This is what the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of my Party, the Australian Country Party, said when they were campaigning in the recent election. If the Country Party and the Liberal Party formed the Government they would have a policy which would stabilise the economy, and the actual expenditure it would put forward would be a basic expenditure which would give a greater net return than the expenditure by the present Labor Government. When the Leader of my Party was making his speech on the Budget the other day he talked about people having put money away for a rainy day. Unfortunately, since the members of the Labor Party have come to the Treasury benches, they have not had merely a rainy day; they have had a tornado that is almost sweeping them away into the limbo of the lost.
My colleague, the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King), spoke about the increase in postal charges to the pensioner. There has of course been an increase in postal charges in general. I will accept the problem that confronted the previous Postmaster-General, who is now the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen), and the present PostmasterGeneral (Senator Bishop). I believe that a mistake was made by the Liberal and Country Parties when they were in government in making the Postmaster-General’s Department pay interest on capital expenditure. I have always argued that this was completely and absolutely wrong. I will accept the fact that that was a problem given to the present Government by the previous Government. But having said that, I believe that the present Government has approached the problems of the Postmaster-General’s Department from the wrong angle. I concede that the report of the royal commission into the Post Office which has been tabled in the Parliament and presented to the Postmaster-General’s Department still has to be implemented.
If Australia is to progress and develop as it should and if it is to overcome the problems of having approximately 6 million people in Sydney and Melbourne, without mentioning the population in the other capital cities, and a minimum population in the outer areas of Australia, we must tackle seriously the problem of decentralisation. This is one area in which I disagree completely with the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. I oppose completely and absolutely forced growth centres like AlburyWodonga. I think that they are among the worst things that can be proposed by a government. Local government should be given all the assistance possible and allowed to carry out its own decentralisation programs. I believe that the Minister for Urban and Regional Development has been in my area on occasions, but if he comes into my area again he will see local government authorities such as the Hasting Shire Council, the Manning Shire Council and the Taree and Wingham Municipal Councils and many other councils establishing and developing industries in their areas which are adding to the population. The Taree Municipal Council wrote a letter recently expressing concern at the effect the present Government’s policy would have on its programs of decentralisation. I believe that reforms in the field of the Postmaster-General’s Department can be one of the greatest contributing factors towards decentralisation.
– How much money did the local authorities in your area get from the Grants Commission?
-I will have a talk to the Minister afterwards about money, because I think that finance from his Department can be used to a far better and greater degree than it is. As I said, I believe that the Postmaster-General’s Department is one sphere in which a great contribution to decentralisation can be made. The Government is encouraging the establishment of industries in country areas but it is adding to the burden of their communication costs and has increased interest rates on their capital borrowings. It is all right to say that these costs are a taxation deduction for a business, but when an industry is establishing itself increased costs can frequently make a difference between that industry being a success or a failure. I would suggest to the Government that it have a further look at the assistance it can give to establish industry in country areas. The New South Wales State Government has made a tremendous contribution to decentralisation in New South Wales, and I believe it needs all the assistance and all the encouragement it can get, as industry needs assistance and encouragement to establish itself in country areas.
If we are to have people in country areas- we have said this many times before, but I believe it has to be said again- telephone and telephonic communication services for people in country areas is an urgent necessity. I do not say that these services are not needed in metropolitan areas, but in country areas, apart from any other factor, a telephone can frequently mean the difference between the life and death of a person. Therefore the Postmaster-General’s Department should approach the provision of these facilities in country areas in that light It should not merely look at the financial factor but at the service to the community. If this were done the ultimate gain and the ultimate benefit would come back to Australia as a whole. Not only would we be developing country areas but we would be developing and progressing in Australia as a whole. It is for these and of course many other reasons that cannot be covered in the time at my disposal that I strongly support the amendment moved by the Opposition and condemn the Government on its 1974-75 Budget.
– I rise tonight, in the 10 minutes or so that I have available to me before the question is proposed that the House adjourn, to congratulate the Government on the Budget it has introduced. I may have minor arguments with some of the details, but broadly speaking I think the people I represent in this House have benefited greatly in having a Labor Government in power for the last 1 8 to 20 months. As an introduction, I would like to deal with some of the benefits that the people have received. Recently 3 local government councils in my area benefited from allocations by the Grants Commission. The Fairfield Council received $792,000, Holroyd Council received $280,000 and Penrith Council received $330,000. In the earlier part of this year the Fairfield Council received $800,000 from the Department of Urban and Regional Development, Holroyd received $320,000 and Penrith received over $800,000. So one can see that large amounts of money have become available for this relatively poor expanding area in the outer western suburbs of Sydney. The Department of Health has begun community health programs for the area. Some $2m was allotted in the previous year and again this year, and extra money has become available for psychiatric health services. The Australian Government’s Department of Education has poured large amounts of money into the schools in this area.
When we are dealing with the Department of Health I think it is important to mention again the Westmead Hospital. I note from the Appropriation Bill, with approval that some $28m has been set aside by the Australian Government for a hospital development program. Last year it offered $4.5m to the New South Wales Government to complete the plans for the Westmead Hospital. The New South Wales Government could not even use that money. In the end $2.3m was used- not all of it- by the New South Wales Government and very little of it was used in regard to the Westmead Hospital. In 1968 the then New South Wales Minister for Health, Mr Jago -
– A good Minister, too.
-He was certainly better than the present one, but, just the same, quite incompetent. In 1968 he stated that the Westmead Hospital had the highest priority of any hospital in the State and that it would be completed in 1973, having some 1,200 beds. Then in 1972 he decided that it would not be completed until 1980 and that it would have a maximum of 800 beds. In the meantime, of course, tens of thousands of extra people have been added to the outer western suburbs. Expensive private hospitals and nursing homes have been built but the public sector has been ignored. Last year alone over 40,000 children from the outer western suburbs attended or were admitted to the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children at Camperdown. In addition, many from the Green Valley and Liverpool areas have an arrangement to be admitted to the Prince of Wales Hospital at Randwick. Those who know the geography of Sydney know that the people from the outer western suburbs have to travel a very great distance to visit their children or to take their children to hospital in urgent cases.
Relatively common conditions in children require fairly specialised treatment. Even such relatively common conditions as gastro-enteritis, burns, many types of poisoning, some types of nephritis and severe infections need specialist treatment. Many investigations for failure to thrive, orthopaedic conditions, severe asthma, convulsions and congenital malformations in some cases require immediate transfer at birth and have to be taken to the more specialised hospitals or, in some cases, require repeated attendance at a hospital with a proper pediatric unit, to attend the specialists and get the appropriate treatment. At present urgent admissions are often delayed by transport problems. The actual cost of transport for the parents- usually a mother visiting a child in hospital- is quite great. A 120-bed specialised children’s unit has been proposed in the new Westmead Hospital. What has the State Government done? It has done nothing.
– You have given them no money.
– We have given them money and they have not taken it. For the first time last year a federal government gave them the money and they could not even use it for planning. Waddy announced yesterday that he is still not going ahead. They still have the trotting track in the area at the showground. The Australian Government has now offered them the money to buy the area and the Australian Government was to erect the hospital. The State Government has rejected the offer. I will not go into the argument as to whether the Federal Government should be running the hospital, but the important thing is that the New South Wales Government has rejected the money, has rejected the offer and is doing nothing. It says itself that the hospital will now cost something approaching $100m and that it will not be ready until 1980 at the earliest. Since work has not started on it we have some doubts about 1980.
As the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) is sitting at the table I would like to point out that $3. 5m has been voted for the Department of Transport for the Parramatta railway. Investigations will be made about taking it out to the Hoxton Park area in my electorate to improve transport services out our way. Because the Minister is very keen about the environment may I say in passing that the construction of such a railway will involve also the removal of some houses and no doubt some rare species of plant and animal life will be affected, as at Lake Pedder. There may be effects to something such as the Merrylands weed which grows only in that particular area. We will have the same sort of self-appointed environmentalists, often led by the Communist Party of Australia, opposing the construction. I am just issuing a warning that, just because something is being put up by the Federal Government, we will not necessarily fail to receive opposition from people who like to oppose any proposition.
In the few minutes left to me tonight I would like to complain about the sanctimonious hypocrisy of the Opposition and the media in relation to unemployment. They pretend to be concerned but in fact they are pleased, because it is politically profitable for them. They use scare tactics in what to some extent become self-fulfilling prophecies. If one tells private industry long enough and often enough that there is going to be a depression or that there is going to be unemployment, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because they postpone necessary investments. I say ‘necessary investments’ because in the present free market economy which the Opposition and the media so strongly defend we have some unused resources at the present time and yet significant shortages of goods. Manufacturers claim that they cannot sell their products and yet retailers claim that they cannot get hold of products. So there is obviously something wrong there. I put it to honourable members that because of the panic stricken estimates about the future of the economy manufacturers- incorrectly, to my mind- are postponing investments and are therefore unable to supply their goods. This will lead to some unemployment because people are not being influenced to increase investments. If one wants to buy furniture or house fittings in Sydney, for example, one finds that our brilliant private enterprise economy makes one wait for weeks or months in some cases until they actually produce the goods.
– If you have a strike or two in the industry.
-Strikes are not the important issue at the present time. There have not been any strikes in the furniture industry for some considerable time. Anybody would think that each specific item was tailor-made. If one goes and orders a table or a bed it has to be made by the factory. They do not have any in stock. Let us look at the employment position more closely. Between December 1972 and June 1974 the number of employees in Australia increased by about 340,000 compared with an increase of about 70,000 a year, which would have amounted to about 105,000 in the corresponding 18 months period under the previous LiberalCountry Party Government. During the 18 months under our Government 340,000 extra people were employed in Australia compared with approximately 105,000 extra that would have been employed under the ‘progress’ made under the previous Government. Therefore there are still some 150,000 to 200,000 more people in employment now than there would have been had the previous Government continued in power.
– Ha, ha!
– It is all very well to laugh about it, but have a look at the actual number of people in employment. It is quite clear that a large number of extra people joined the work force last year. I think it is a good thing that they did. A large number of extra people joined the work force in the early part of this year. Some of them have become unemployed. The total number of people employed- this is the important thing as far as the country is concerned, although I concede that it is not the important thing from the point of view of the people who are presently unemployed- the total number of people receiving a wage in Australia at the present time is about 150,000 to 200,000 more than would have received a wage under the previous Liberal-Country Party Government at the rate at which they were increasing their-
– How many of those wage earners were previously employers?
– Employers? Mr Speaker, this may be an opportune time to adjourn.
Unemployment in Decentralised Industries- Nursing Homes
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 1 1 July I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
I call the honourable member for Wangaratta- I am sorry; the honourable member for Indi.
-The city of Wangaratta is a very important part of the electorate of Indi, Mr Speaker, and I appreciate your knowledge. Australian industry is in a mess. The textile and clothing industries are a significant part of this mess, as are such other industries as the housing, finance, footwear, chemicals, motor vehicles, electronics and glass industries. A host of other industries are bad or looking bad. But about all that the leaders of the Labor Government can say is that the system is to blame. The system has served the majority of people in this country well for many years. The people of Australia are slowly waking up to the fact that the alternative to the present system is the socialisation or government control and ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange- in other words, government ownership and control of everything and everyone.
The Australian Labor Party, particularly during the last election campaign, was keen to quote Sir Robert Menzies. Let me quote from a book written by Sir Robert Menzies some of his views on the subject of socialisation. The words I am about to quote were written by him in October 1944. They are just as true today as they were then. Sir Robert Menzies wrote:
Now, how were we to secure development? Clearly, we were to encourage thrift and saving, investment, and reward.
The principle of such reward, sometimes sneered at as exhibiting the profit motive, is the dynamic force of social progress and is of the essence of what we call private or individual enterprise.
In a vision of the future, therefore, I see the individual and his encouragement and recognition as the prime motive force for the building of a better world. Socialism means high costs, inefficiency, the constant intrusion of political considerations, the damping down of enterprise, the overlordship of routine. None of these elements can produce progress, and without progress security will turn out to be a delusion.
Let the Labor Party advertise that quotation and use those words of Sir Robert Menzies in its next election campaign. Every Labor Party member of Parliament has signed a pledge saying that he will support and advocate socialisation. Of course, no Labor leader ever mentions that, particularly during an election campaign. Private enterprise, endeavour, individual opportunity and encouragement and incentive to work and save will die under the Labor Party’s policies.
– But the Minister for Urban and Regional Development is not a leader. The textile and clothing industries are interrelated, interdependent and complex. It is not possible to detail or cover every aspect of those fiercely competitive industries in the few minutes I have at my disposal. Therefore I shall refer to those industries in a broad sense and relate my comments to the critical situation of decentralised industries throughout Australia, particularly in such towns as Wangaratta, Benalla and Shepparton in Victoria and Albury in New South Wales. Many decentralised industries in other parts of Australia are also suffering badly, such as the textile industry in Maitland, where my friend and colleague, the honourable member for Paterson (Mr 0’Keefe) has been doing such a magnificent job in bringing its problems to the attention of the Government.
The real trouble for the textile and clothing industries began when the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) made the dramatic announcement in July 1973 that Australia would cut tariff protection for all its industries by 25 per cent. The employment situation in the 2 largest industries in my home city of Wangaratta is more serious than it has ever been. Brack Australia Ltd, which normally employs 906 people, now has 660 people working for it, which represents a decrease of 27 per cent. Wangaratta Woollen Mills Ltd has 288 employees at present instead of the usual 570 or 600, which represents a decrease of 54 per cent. The 2 mills now employ a total of 948 people as against the normal figure of 1,476 people, which represents a decrease of 36 per cent.
That means that millions of dollars of the most modern machinery and many men and women are idle. They should be producing. Why are they not producing? They are idle and not producing mainly because of the Labor Government’s policies and the ill-advised and badly judged actions of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns). Those men are trying to pass the buck by blaming everyone else. But it is their fault and the remedy is in their hands. Brack and the Wangaratta Woollen Mills have invested millions of dollars in keeping their factories and machinery up to date with the rest of the world. One hundred and fifty-two of the 464 looms- one-third of the total- at the Brack mill are idle. I have been out to the mill and seen for myself the depressing situation there. A similar situation exists at the Wangaratta Woollen Mills. Government action must be taken to restore this efficient machinery and the men and women who operate it to full production.
Brack is suffering from problems caused by not only the low cost countries but also fabrics imported from the United States of America. Certain materials are coming into Australia from that country. I have samples of them with me. I do not have time to detail all of them. There are four different fabrics that are being imported from America all of which are between 7c and 45c a metre cheaper than what can be produced by the most modern machinery at the Brack mills. It is the volume of production that enables the United States to be cheaper; but if we are to build Australia’s we have to have jobs and build our domestic market. Australian workers and the Government cannot expect to have productivity, good wages, a goods standard of living and an expansion of educational, health, housing and other facilities, such as industrial amenities, and still have the luxury of cheap imports; in other words, the Government and the people of this country- the workers- cannot have their cake and eat it too.
The Deputy Prime Minister showed his lack of factual knowledge in an answer he gave to a question asked of him by the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) in the House on 2 August 1974. He gave an entirely false impression of the increase in employment opportunities in the textile industries of Wangaratta in 1972-73 when he said that he had discovered when he was in Wangaratta that many of the employees had not been working there for long. I have been told that he hardly spoke to anyone and that he therefore could not have had that information given to him by the employees. He implied that in the year 1972-73 a large number of extra employees had been employed by the 2 Wangaratta mills. Figures were supplied to me yesterday by the Wangaratta Woollen Mills and Brack Australia Ltd of the employment levels quarter by quarter for the last 5 years. Those figures show that there has been no noticeable change in the employment statistics from at least 1970 onwards. To save time, I seek leave to incorporate those 2 sets of figures in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
1969: January, 894; April, 917; July, 929; October, 927. 1970: January, 916; April, 929; July, 948; October, 932. 197 1 : January, 929; April, 863; July, 842; October, 827. 1972: January, 812; April, 807; July, 838; October, 849. 1973: January, 859; April, 895; July, 897; October, 906. 1974: January, 919; April, 906; July, 701; October, 660.
1969: June, 486; September, 493; December, 5 18. 1970: March, 561; June, 579; September, 599; December, 583. 1971: March, 566; June, 571; September, 576; December, 550. 1972: March, 545; June, 540; September, 573; December, 563. 1973: March, 560; June, 563; September, 610; December, 601. 1974: March, 572; June, 410; September, 288.
– The importance of those mills to a country town such as Wangaratta is shown in a table which I also seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-Instead of falling all over the Deputy Prime Minister, the leaders of industry in this country had better realise that he is the leader of the movement to get rid of private industry. If those industries do not return to thenformer level of productivity and profitability, the responsibility clearly will be with the Labor Government. It is its fault, and it is its responsibility to remedy the situation. The 25 per cent across the board tariffcut started the rot. The second hammering blow at the textile and clothing industries was the removal on 1 March of this year of the import quotas on certain articles. Once again the Government made a major misjudgment and blunder in that it underestimated the effect and had not carried out the appropriate investigations to ensure that adequate safeguards were introduced for those industries.
I challenge the Government to send any team of experts it likes to the 2 Wangaratta mills and to let those experts stay there for as long as they like investigating intimately the situation there and the machinery available, and let them come down with a report to the members of the Australian public showing where those 2 mills can become more efficient in the Australian environment. I bet the Government is not game to do it. The Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister, instead of careering around the world, ought to stay at home and try to solve domestic problems.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– For a number of days now I have been endeavouring to get the call of the Chair during question time. It is a sad reflection on the way the Parliament is running down that during some 7 weeks of sitting I have not been able to get a second call. A lot of honourable members on my side have suffered similarly. It is regretted that this has the effect of silencing democracy. The question I have been wanting to ask for days is one that would be directed at the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden). The question I have been seeking to ask him is: Is the Minister aware that the continuation of the present formula for determining the subsidy rate to be paid -
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Does the honourable member not realise that the reason he cannot get the call at question time is that the Leader of his Party has monopolised question time?
-Order! That is not a point of order.
-The reason I have not been able to get the call is that Ministers, such as the Minister for Urban and Regional Development who interrupted me, are not prepared to make statements in the Parliament and let the House debate matters. The question I have been intending to ask is: Is the Minister aware that the continuation of the present formula for determining the subsidy rate to be paid to pensioners resident in nursing homes has been rendered useless by the economic vandalism perpetrated by the present Government? Is the Minister aware that his deliberate procrastination in reviewing the rate is causing such havoc in Queensland that there is a strong likelihood 2,000 aged sick in Brisbane alone could be without nursing home care within a matter of weeks? Is the Minister aware that nursing staff recognise the situation is so critical they have voluntarily forgone salary increases to try to save the system from collapse and destruction? I was going to finalise that question by asking- I know it would have been in order Will the Minister, even if only in the name of compassion for the aged and sick, cease forthwith his ruthless, callous political vendetta towards private nursing homes which provide a definite service and recognise inflation is no fault of the people and raise the subsidy immediately to enable these unfortunate pensioners to pay fees which will enable the homes to continue and stay open?
Last Thursday my friend the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar) asked a question on this subject and got a most unsatisfactory answer in which the Minister tried to blame everybody from the previous Government to the State governments. The fact is that the inflation which we have witnessed under the Labor Government has become the root evil of many problems in Australia. Contrary to the views of the Minister, there is a heavy cost in administering nursing homes which are not returning great profits. In fact they have reached the stage where they are losing money. One nursing home in my electorate has 104 patients to look after and these require a staff of one hundred. It has reached the stage now where salary increases have risen so dramatically lately that it is costing that home an extra $4,900 each fortnight to meet its wages bill. This is just one example from the many homes in Brisbane and in Queensland. I believe it is an established fact that charitable nursing homes are probably the cheapest to run, private nursing homes are the next in cost and government-run homes are the most expensive. The Minister, because of his attitude towards national health, has indicated a desire for nationalisation or socialisation of everything to do with health. He is hell bent on closing every private nursing home not only in Queensland but also throughout Australia.
– That is right.
– A former Minister for Social Services agrees with me as do all members on this side of the House. The present Minister has a thing about private nursing homes. Opposition members freely acknowledge that in Australia there were some nursing homes which did not do the right thing. A small handul of homes could be categorised as exploiters but because there is one bad apple in a case it does not follow that one tips out the entire case. One simply picks out the rotten apple and if the remainder are all right one leaves them be. The facts are that these nursing homes are providing a vital service for our aged sick pensioners. The Minister’s attitude borders on complete callousness. I have letters from relatives of and even some of the very sick people in these homes pleading with me: ‘Please, Mr Cameron, what can be done to stop this man? Where are we going to go if the homes are forced to close?’
There is no joking about this matter. The homes in Queensland have reached the stage where they are on the brink of closing unless the sun rises with the promise of more financial assistance to the people living in those homes. In his reply to a question asked by the honourable member for Wide Bay the other day the Minister said that it would be wise for members on this side of the House to reflect upon this matter because they may one day return to government and would then be aware of the cost involved. A return of a Liberal-Country Party government would mean the return of some semblence of order in the economy. Nursing homes functioned well previously and I believe that under a Liberal-Country Party government they would again so function. One thing is certain; if the Minister continues along his present path there will not be many homes left to look after. The regrettable fact is that as well motivated as he may be, he is hurrying to the grave many of these people through their sheer worry and concern for tomorrow. None of us in this Parliament has the right to take upon himself such an attitude. The Minister is playing politics. He has a thing about nursing homes. I would ask the Minister for Urban and Regional Development to allow me to incorporate in Hansard 3 short letters from a couple of groups of matrons of these homes. They indicate that I am not here as a lobbyist for those who own private nursing homes; rather I speak on behalf of those affected. I seek leave.
-Is leave granted?
– The honourable member knows the courtesies of the House. The honourable member did not show me the letters before he started to speak. Leave is not granted.
-Leave is not granted.
-That is unfortunate. I believed that another honourable member would precede me in this debate but I got the call and did not have time to show the Minister the letters. One letter appeared in the ‘Courier-Mail ‘ of 24 September, another is dated 26 September, and the third, dated 30 September appeared in the ‘Letters to the Editor’ column of the ‘Courier-Mail’. The last letter was headed: ‘Matrons: We speak for our patients’. I will start reading it now in the little time I have left It states:
In reply to the Social Security Minister, Mr Hayden, we the matrons, wish to declare that we are in fact not the spokesmen for the private enterprise nursing homes, but are speaking on.behalf of our patients.
This is the crux of the matter They are speaking for the elderly sick people. The letter continues:
Mr Hayden must be aware the patient subsidy helps the patients, not the nursing homes, therefore an inadequate subsidy hurts the patients, not the nursing homes.
My time has nearly expired. I reiterate my plea to the Minister for Social Security to discontinue his procrastination and his political vendetta against yet another form of private enterprise and to recognise that on this occasion it is not simply a matter of shareholders who are being affected but rather aged and sick people. I do not believe that he really knows what he is doing. He appears at times to be a man of compassion, but, at the moment, he is forcing many of these people to an early grave.
– I rise to answer briefly a few of the words of criticism directed by the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) at the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden). Firstly, I think it can be said quite clearly that no Minister in the history of this Parliament has brought more real social justice to the administration of the portfolio of social services or social security than has the present Minister. In fact, the Minister for Social Security has lifted the rate of the single pension from a little above 20 per cent of average weekly earnings to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings, and he has done so in the 20 months that he has held office. No other Minister has been able to achieve that in his period of office.
The present Minister for Social Security has feeling and compassion. He has a real commitment to people. In fact, he realises the great difficulties facing nursing homes, the problems facing this Government and the problems created by the previous Government. Therefore, I think that one has to give credit to the role that the present Minister has played. He is a young man, comparatively speaking in political years, who has made a great impression not only on this Parliament but also on the nation as a whole through his contribution in the administration of his portfolio. I see in the House at present 2 members who formerly held the portfolio of social services. One is a former Country Party Minister for whom I have little respect.
– I have due respect for the honourable member. I am talking about his administration of the portfolio he held. I have respect generally for the honourable member.
– Thank you, Tom.
– I have little respect for your lack of compassion in your role as Minister for Social Services. You were a miserable failure because you were a hard-hearted man. The world knows it. This Parliament knows it. The position is a little different when I refer to the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). I disregard the differing attitudes on certain foreign affairs matters that the honourable member for Mackellar and I held. On matters of some internal politics, the honourable member has always shown a deep consideration, particularly in the administration of social security. I know that he worked particularly hard with a rather regressive government which could not understand the priorities he wanted to bring forward in the social security field. He cannot deny the fact that in the short period of 20 months in which he has held the portfolio, the present Minister for Social Security, in a very difficult inflationary time, has been able to lift the rate of the single pension to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. That is an important principle. Average weekly earnings have been rising, but the Minister has been able, despite these great difficulties, still to raise the pension to that level.
The result is that the single pensioners in particular will not really feel the pressures of inflation to the same extent as they did in former years. Even though the honourable member for Mackellar fought in the same way for social justice in his own Cabinet, he was not able to gain, I might say, the support of the Treasury or of his Prime Minister to introduce such benefits. He most certainly wished to give the benefits of a revolutionary change, if I can use that term, to those people who had been treated so badly for so long. He knew the injustices. He knew how badly they were treated.
I turn to the other point of criticism which I wish to answer. In his speech, the Deputy Liberal Party Whip, the honourable member for Griffith, argued that he had been unsuccessful in gaining the call to ask his second question in the course of questions without notice in the last several weeks. This same frustration is suffered by all who sit in Opposition. I know that even on the Opposition front bench this frustration is suffered unless a member is the Leader of the Opposition or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Great frustration is suffered in trying to ask a sufficient number of questions without notice. In fact, the average number of questions that we were able to ask when we were in Opposition in the last parliamentary session in 1 972 was four each.
What is the reason why the honourable members on the Opposition side cannot gain the call on a sufficient number of occasions in the course of question time? The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has asked 27 questions without notice in this session alone. How in heaven’s name can the honourable member expect to get the call when 27 long, dreary, dull, flat questions without any feeling are asked by his Leader. That is the reason for his problem. A revolt should be staged in the Opposition ranks. More intelligent questions come from the back benchers than from the Leader of the Liberal Party. It is about time that honourable members opposite rebelled against this man because he is monopolising question time. I see the Deputy Whip of the Liberal Party agreeing with me. It is about time that honourable members opposite took action against the dreary, dull questions asked on behalf of the Opposition by the Leader of the Opposition and demanded the democratic right of back benchers to ask questions without notice.
Unless honourable members opposite stand up to the Leader of the Opposition, they have Buckley’s chance of getting any opportunity to ask any questions. I have it on record that 27 questions without notice have come from the Leader of the Opposition. I might add that his deputy the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) has asked 5 such quesions while the honourable member for Griffith has asked only one question without notice. The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) has asked 12 questions without notice. The Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair) who is siting on the front bench now- he is a bit dreary himself- has asked 5 questions without notice. That is the reason why the problem has arisen. If honourable members opposite want democracy to function in this Parliament and they want the opportunity to ask more questions, thus enabling them to put their points of view through questions, it is about time that they told the Leader of the Opposition that he should cease asking his dreary, dull questions. The honourable member for Griffith has already agreed with me -
– I do not agree that the questions are dreary. They are good -
– You have already agreed with me. You can ask more intelligent questions than the Leader of the Opposition. I see the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) agreeing with me. He agrees that he also could ask more intelligent questions than the Leader of the Opposition does. So I think the 2 matters that have been raised by the honourable member for Griffith have fallen flat. First, he attacked personally the Minister for Social Security who in fact has made a real contribution to this Parliament. He has been one of the great Australian Ministers responsible for social services or social security. He is a man of compassion. His record, as proven by the percentage statistics comparing pensions with average weekly earnings, is one of which he can be proud.
The other matter with which the honourable member for Griffith and other Opposition members must deal is how they will assert their rights through the democratic processes available to them. I take it that his Party has a Caucus procedure and that in that Caucus he does have some democratic rights. He can at least say within his Caucus: ‘Look, it is about time that we, as back benchers of the Liberal Party in this Parliament, had the right to ask questions without notice at question time without that period being monopolised by the Leader of the Opposition’. I point out that the Leader of the Opposition monopolises that period not only by asking questions but also by taking frivolous points of order. At question time today, Mr Speaker had to call the Leader of the Opposition to order for taking frivolous points of order. He was told he had to wait until he was called, otherwise he would be -
-Order! It being 11 o’clock, the House stands adjourned until 12 noon tomorrow.
House adjourned at 1 1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 October 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19741001_reps_29_hor90/>.